Practical Boat Owner's experts answer readers questions

Every month PBO’s experts strive to answer all questions sent in by readers.

Here’s a couple of the published answers that features in the September 2013 issue.

Choosing a motor

QUESTION: My 1979 Westerly Centaur has a Volvo Penta MD11C engine which, after a long career, has finally retired itself (big ends gone, scored pistons and crankshaft etc).
I’m looking for a replacement and it has been suggested that perhaps a smaller modern engine would be suitable.
Would you recommend going down that route, and if so could you suggest a suitable engine?
I really only use the boat for close inshore/estuary cruising.

H Robins Rochester, Kent

PAT MANLEY REPLIES: You’ll find that a modern engine will take up less room in your engine compartment and will be quieter too, although you may miss the distinctive ‘thump, thump’ of the slow-revving MD11.
Yes, I would recommend that you fit a new engine, but bear in mind it will not increase the value of your Centaur by the amount that you spend on it.

In your position I’d favour an engine based on the Japanese Kubota industrial engine which is used all over the world and seen in building sites and under the bonnets of tractors everywhere.
Two obvious marinisers of these engines spring to mind: Beta in the UK ( and Nanni in France ( Either the Beta 20 or 25 or the Nanni 21 would be suitable for your application

I suspect that replacement Volvo Penta or Yanmar engines would be more expensive options, and in any case both Beta and Nanni are well respected. For a small extra cost Beta will also provide engine feet to match your engine bed without you having to worry about it.
While the old engine is out I’d suggest you take the opportunity to refurbish the engine compartment by replacing any wiring and plumbing and refurbishing the stern gland. All these jobs are much easier when there’s no engine in the way.

Sloppy Spray steering system

QUESTION: I own a Spray 33 steel yacht with wheel steering via a traditional cogs and chain set-up to the steering quadrant. The system works, certainly, but allows for a substantial amount of play which is difficult to tighten up without the risk of snapping the chain. It gives a very sloppy feel to the steering.
Having read the article ‘Install cable steering’ in PBO’s Summer issue, I’m wondering whether a similar Whitlock cable system would suit my boat.

Jim Rhodes Crowle, Lincolnshire

MIKE COATES REPLIES: If the system is some years old both the chain gypsies and the chain itself are likely to be slightly worn and producing the play – even tightening the chain may not resolve the problem in this case. The play could be the result of the ‘cogs’- presumably keyed onto the shaft – being slightly loose, which will have resulted in wear of both the key and its slot in the shaft: another factor that will introduce play into the system.

Upgrading to a modern system such as the Whitlock should give a smooth play-free set-up and may be no more expensive than the cost of refurbishing the steering you already have.

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