This Old Dinghy

Projects & Maintenance

A few weeks back I found an old cathedral hull dinghy on Craigslist. Ya gotta love Craigslist! It had the look of a Livington…but actual pedigree was unknown. The price was right and the dimensions gave me hope it would fit on deck. After talking with the seller, I learned the dinghy was being stored just a few minutes from work. I took my lunch break to perform a quick inspection. After minimal haggling I gave the man his money and strapped the thing atop my camper shell. I returned from lunch victorious, with an old dinghy and a bag of chips. Score!

Sure, it needed some work. It was better than the last one I brought home. Mainly, a solid cap rail/rub rail and a new coat of paint would make it a proper tender for the San Patricio. Thankfully I didn’t see any holes or leaks to cause concern. It was solid. I took the next few weeks to bring the dinghy back to life; during several early mornings, lunch breaks and weekends. With some left over paint, I painted the dinghy hull to match San Patricio’s top stripe – #38 Irish Green. Check out the montage:

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We named our spiffy, new tender “Pedrito” in honor of my uncle Peter who passed away 2 years ago. It’s a tribute to the amphibious, fun-loving guy he was in life. I know he’ll be with us for all the laughs we’re going to have motoring around to little coves, snorkeling and hunting lobster in the dinghy that is his namesake.

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The Iron Wind: A treatise on installing/re-powering an inboard diesel engine

Projects & Maintenance

The original Farymann 2 cylinder diesel was on borrowed time when we purchased the boat. I do give the Krauts credit for making a serviceable engine; many of the original parts can be disassembled, cleaned and reinstalled. However, without glow plugs the damn thing took real effort to get started and it huffed & puffed and made an awful racket. Thankfully, it worked just long enough to get us 90 NM down the coast on the initial delivery and putted along for few harbor cruises. Then whilst on the way to be hauled out for bottom paint the noisy German beast emancipated itself from the rusted port side mounts and let out a final death rattle before coming to rest on its side(cue Wagner’s Die Götterdämmerung WWV 86D Siegfried’s Death & Funeral March). Kaput!

The Farymann R30 - for evermore at rest.

The Farymann R30 – for evermore at rest.

I have considerable respect for sailors like the Pardys who have circumnavigated numerous times in two boats, both sans engine. As such,there are several valid reasons NOT to install an engine. One could easily win the argument against powering by alluding to ancient mariners and dropping names like Magellan or Slocum (although things ended poorly for them), all of whom achieved their glory without mechanical propulsion. The fact is, be it inboard or outboard, engines are merely a convenience…and only if working as they were intended. But, given the constraints of our modern marina and our strong opposition to crashing into expensive yachts…we will be replacing the old Farymann one of these babies:

Beta 38

Hot Dang! Our brand new, shiny, red Beta Marine 38HP diesel.

Do not assume that a yard will know how to properly install your new engine – even if they display a large vinyl banner emblazoned with the logo of your specific engine manufacturer. Every boat is inherently different, and likewise very few engines have the same footprint to allow a drop-in replacement. A re-powering job can be both labor & time intensive, so it benefits the yard to cut corners and perform substandard work to turn a profit. Although admittedly naive, we went to a reputable yard suggested by the Beta Marine Distributor and got this:


Forward/Strbrd Mount, Forward/Port Mount, Aft/Port Mount, Aft/Strbrd Mount

Forward/Strbrd Mount, Forward/Port Mount, Aft/Port Mount, Aft/Strbrd Mount

Unfortunately for us, we didn’t know the RIGHT way to do the job until we began researching all the things WRONG with the job the yard had done. Save yourself a very expensive & exhausting learning lesson and familiarize yourself with the intricacies of the installation before hand. If your chosen installer says, “I need the engine here to see if it will fit.” – RUN AWAY!


Needless to say, after the horrific results of having “marine professionals” install our new engine I decided to redo the job myself. If you’re literate, able to take measurements and have a general understanding of how stuff works (and your wife doesn’t mind the engine sitting in the salon for a few months) – you too can put an engine in a boat. Just follow these steps:

1) Remove the old engine….duh. Depending on your boom load tolerance and engine room location, it’s as easy as rigging a few guide ropes, blocks and mid boom 1/4 Ton chain hoist. It’ll take you all of 8 minutes to pull it out. Before the extraction, be diligent in labeling wires, hoses and cables to alleviate any guess work later. In many cases, your engine block or transmission case serves as the ground for your electrical system. Find a ferrous, bulky substitute to complete the circuit during the interim…


I put down a few carpet remnants and enlisted the help of a friend to help me carefully slide the engine into the salon…the cat supervised the whole process.

10 lbs. Cast Iron Barbell weight worked perfectly.

10 lbs. Cast Iron Barbell weight worked perfectly as a temporary grounding plate.

2) “Get Jiggy with it.” Using the provided manufacturer drawings construct an accurate alignment jig. This is perhaps the most crucial step, as it will help you gauge all the necessary modifications and ensure that your shaft is correctly aligned. Use your actual motor mounts adjusted the the manufacturer’s specified height and fashion it to bolt directly to your prop-shaft flange with nuts and washers. Drill a pilot hole dead center of the datum to sight precise alignment…

Plans for the alignment jig based off actual measurements of the Beta 38 engine drawing.

Plans for the alignment jig based off actual measurements of the Beta 38 engine drawing.

The Alignment jig.

Sha-Bam! An accurate, tangible representation of your new engine that doesn’t weigh 300 lbs

3) Pre-Installation Alignment. With your spiffy alignment jig installed study the angles and dangles of the new engine footprint in relation to the old. In our case, it became immediately obvious that we would have to modify our original engine bearers; building them out toward the middle and angled up in the forward section. The jig made it possible to measure the required incline…

That's about as close as you can get!

That’s about as close as you can get!

Using a piece of 1" x 4" I traced the new bearer angle along the edge of the aluminum sheet under the mounts.

Using a piece of 1″ x 4″ I traced the new bearer angle along the edge of the aluminum sheet under the mounts.

"The angle of the dangle."

“The angle of the dangle.”

4) Make a maquette. Although not mandatory, I figured it was better to work with cheap materials to refine our engine bed mods before getting crazy with hardwoods and fiberglass – just like Michelangelo whacked on the cheap rocks before chipping away at the spendy white marble! At the office, I had access to a pile of foam core presentation board that worked nicely to build up a semi-rigid form. This additional step gave me a 3-D scale model of what the new bed modification would look like, how they would fit in place and what they would potentially obstruct. In taking this step I realized the proposed mods would obstruct the fuel tank fill inlet. The easiest solution was to fabricate some custom engine feet to span a wider gap between the two bearers. A local welder knocked them out in a few hours…

Starboard side engine bed mock up.

Starboard side engine bed mock up.

We considered having special feet made to extend the engine footprint out an 1.5" on each side. Although this would cancel the need to build the bed out toward the middle, the extra length would add unnecessary leverage to the mounting studs.

We had special feet made to extend the engine footprint out an 1.5″ on each side. This would cancel the need to build the bed out toward the middle, obstructing the fuel tank fill inlet.

5) Surface preparation. For proper adhesion, any gel coat or paint must be removed. Sand, grind, scrape and sand some more. The angle grinder with a 60 grit pad made pretty quick work of things. BEWARE – that shit gets EVERYWHERE and unless you want to shorten your life expectancy invest in a full face particulate mask. Your brain and lungs will thank you.

The original beds - too short in front and not quite tall enough. Sanding has begun. Note: the gelcoat dust gets EVERYWHERE!

The original beds – too short in front and not quite tall enough. Sanding has begun. Note: the gelcoat dust gets EVERYWHERE!

6) Fabricate the new engine bearers. Differing opinions on what wood to use for your new bearers can lead to heated debates. Purple Heart seemed to be the best candidate but with little in the way of milling saws and fancy woodworking tools we had to find something more workable and budget friendly. We went with a tight grained Poplar and laminated 2″ X 4″ boards together with Gorilla Wood Glue. When all the shaping is completed, pre-coat the timbers with a few coats of epoxy to seal them up.


Applying epoxy pre-coat

Applying epoxy pre-coat

7) Rough Fit. Now is the time to make a final test fit before making things PERMANENT! Be sure to round off sharp corners so the fiberglass lays down correctly and tweak any tight clearance issues.

Strbrd side engine bed mods

Strbrd side engine bed mods

Port side engine bed mods

Port side engine bed mods

8) Glass it all in! I used epoxy thickened with finely cut fiberglass strands to glue the timbers to the original beds and engine pan. Once cured, I roughly sanded all the surfaces, wiped with Acetone and applied the fiberglass – 2 layers of heavy biaxial cloth, 2 layers of random mat and one final layer of cloth over it all – wetted out and covered with peel-ply for a smooth finish.

Engine bed mods ready for fiberglass cloth and resin

Engine bed mods ready for fiberglass cloth and resin

Bed mods nearly ready for final paint and engine!

Bed mods nearly ready for final paint and engine!

9) Paint, paint, paint! After sanding and surface preparation I rolled on 2 coats of BilgeKote – the second coat being applied once the first was tacky. In confined spaces you’ll have to work fast because the vapors are STRONG! If you haven’t done so already, replace/upgrade your prop if needed.

Sexy, ain't it?

Sexy, ain’t it?

10) Almost… Before you drop in the new beautiful engine, it’s a good idea to take the time to retrofit anything that would be doubly harder to do with the engine in place. With our limited bilge access, I took the opportunity to install a bilge pump crutch; adding a secondary pump and facilitating pump service in the future.

Bilge Pumps #1 and #2 mounted to the pump crutch.

Bilge Pumps #1 and #2 mounted to the pump crutch.

New "pump crutch" installed.

New “pump crutch” installed.

11) Drop ‘er in! With the proper modifications finished it was time to mount the majestic new engine atop its artfully sculpted perch. Attaching a come-along chain hoist to the boom, we ratcheted the engine up to clear the new bearers and slowly lowered the Beta 38 home (leave the hoist on). We installed a few pieces of 3/4′ King Starboard for shims/dampeners and rough checked the alignment. Everything was good – so I marked where the holes needed to be drilled for the 3″ lag screws. I then hoisted the engine back out, just long enough to drill the pilot holes for the lag screws straight and true – then back in the engine went and bolted down.

0-Beta3812) Final alignment. Although the alignment jig gets things pretty close, the fine tuning will take a while to get right. First, dial in the side-to-side alignment and tighten up the bolts to the bearers. With the transmission and prop-shaft flanges lined up, play with each adjustable stud until the gaps around the flange faces are the same. Be patient. If you get frustrated, and you will – take a union break and have a beer. Don’t rely on your flexible coupling to absorb any misalignment. You’ll know you’re there when all the bolts go in easy and the flange faces marry (nearly) perfectly to each other. Tighten it all down. Check it again. Tighten it all down again.

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13) Everything else. If you remembered to label everything you’ll have no problem hooking up all the hoses, wires and cables…and hopefully none of them are too short. Swap out rusty clamps with new ones. Inspect you batteries, check your fluids, prime your fuel filter, open the raw water seacock and let her rip! If it doesn’t start right up, you did something wrong. If she’s a runner, let her idle and check for any leaks. Is the waterlift muffler working? Give her some throttle and check for leaks again. With the dock lines and spring lines on put it in forward and reverse. Everything should be working splendidly. Go for a cruise. Upon your return check that the mounts are still tight. Rejoice! You’ve done it, and probably saved yourself $3000-$6000 in yard labor fees. That buys a lot of celebratory libation.