Foreword to the First Edition
Every year the rescue statistics published by the RNLI show that the most common cause of Lifeboat launches to pleasure craft is machinery failure. In the case of motor cruisers this does not come as any great surprise; one might expect loss of motive power to figure high in the list of problems. The fact that engine failure is also the most common cause of sailing cruiser rescues is less predictable and serves to confirm just how important it is to keep the engine in good running order. In response to these statistics, the RYA introduced a one-day course on diesel engine operation.
The syllabus is, very broadly, the material covered in this book, although the depth into which it is possible to go in such a short course is inevitably rather limited. The aim of both the course and of this book is not to create instant diesel mechanics, but to provide boat owners with a better understanding of how their engines work and what they must do to keep them working. While it would be great if everyone could carry out all the servicing and repairs on their own engines, this is not a realistic proposition; few boat owners have the time to become skilled mechanics and not many boats carry the tools, spares and equipment to provide the full workshop support needed for complex repairs.
What is achievable by every owner is an understanding of the importance of routine engine management, how to rectify the most common and relatively simple problems which occur and how to recognise the warning signs that an engine needs expert attention. Fortunately, most diesel engines are reliable and relatively trouble free in operation, so boat owners do not spend a high proportion of their time confronted by smoky exhausts, screeching temperature warning alarms or engines that obstinately refuse to start. Hence much of the knowledge acquired on a diesel engine course is seldom put into practice. This reinforces the need for a clear comprehensive reference book, both to back up the knowledge gained on a course and to provide a guide for those who prefer to teach themselves.
Foreword to the Fourth Edition
Whilst the last six years have seen minimal changes in the ‘nuts and bolts’ of diesel engine maintenance, mechanical failure continues to be the main cause of rescue call-outs to cruisers. The need for sailors to learn about engine structure and the processes involved with fuel, air, cooling, oil, electrical and control systems, is clearly as important as ever. This new edition remains a highly valuable guide, and can be read in conjunction with the RYA’s Diesel Engine course. It has now been updated throughout with colour photos and diagrams, all to further aid the understanding process.