When we bought Palomita, we were looking for something with a new engine, or a dead engine. We didn’t want something in the middle. We wound up with a dead engine – which we didn’t pay for – and immediately installed a new Beta Marine 50.
The first job was choosing an engine. There were quite a few considerations that eventually lead us to a Beta Marine 50, Small Sump:
- The engine room on a Sabre 42 is very small – narrow and relatively tall, just like the Westerbeke W46 that Sabre originally installed. The size constraints of the space eliminated many engines regardless of their price, reputation or suitability.
- We wanted to install an engine that utilized well tested technology – no common rail fuel systems please. Don’t get me wrong, common rail systems have wonderful advantages in terms of efficiency and emissions, but their reliance on a computer to control the injectors is, in my opinion, a liability on an offshore yacht.
- We wanted to try and limit our choices to naturally aspirated engines – a turbo charger allows more power in a smaller package, but adds a level of complexity. This point was more of a desire than a requirement.
- Ease of maintenance and availability of parts
There were a couple of engines that ticked most of these boxes, but we felt that the Beta 50 came closest to ticking them all. The biggest downside we’ve noticed with our choice is that the marinized parts come from England and unless the local dealer has them in stock, wait times can be a little longer that they’d been for the new Yanmar we put in our last boat.
The Beta is both shorter and wider than the Westerbeke. The mount locations are different about about 3/4″ on the width at each corner, and approximately 1.5″ on the height. The length of both engines is similar. To make up this difference, I fabricated steel shims to bolt down to the original mount points, with offset threaded holes for the new mounts. My original shims were 3/4″ high, but after doing quite a bit of searching, I discovered that the Aquadrive likes to be almost straight (a maximum of 4 degrees total angle is desirable), and my shims were too short. My rear shims are now 1.25″ thick, and the forward shims are 1.75″ thick. The angle I have is about 5 degrees. It is likely that the forward shims could be increased by another .5″. If you look closely in the following picture, you can see the first set of shims under the mounts
The second modification I made was to the cabinet. The Beta almost fit, but required a little extra space on either side to allow for sound-proofing. To get this space, I added a wider trim piece around the outside of both access panels and mounted them so that they sit on the surface of the cabinet instead of inset into the cabinet. This is only a difference of a 1/5″ at each panel, but made all the difference. The following picture shows the panel installation in the galley:
While I was at it, we also changed the routing of the exhaust – it now runs down the port side with the high point in the aft hanging locker. I believe that this is close to where it would have been originally, but is quite different from the run our boat had when we bought it. It is still 2″; I haven’t put a manometer on it to measure back-pressure, but it is probably a tad undersized. I also had to have a custom exhaust elbow made in order to get the injection point above the waterline.
Alignment…dealing with the Aquadrive
This part of the install was not as easy as I assumed it would be. Our first sea trial was not the experience we hoped for. The gearbox area was super noisy, and we didn’t know why. It turns out that Aquadrive CV shafts are not as tolerant of an out of alignment installation as a look at any front wheel drive car would lead you to believe. They like to be almost straight, and need to be installed within a very narrow length range. Finding specs for the unit the Sabre used to get the install within allowable tolerances was very difficult. Glen Chapin at Sabre is a wonderful resource and is usually very helpful – not in this case. He couldn’t even tell me what model they used, and directed me to Mack Boring who were even less helpful. I was left with trial and error and messed around with the engine angles until I eventually got the drive train to a reasonable level of rumble. That’s where it’s been for the last 3 years.
We decided to tackle Aquadrive service this fall. The most helpful person was a guy – Ken Hollowanky – at Coast Powertrain, a local drive train company. They do work on drive shafts and related components for anything from big rigs to hot rods, and had been a local source of Aquadrive customization over the years for the local Aquadrive dealer. He took my old shaft apart, cleaned it, inspected it, and re-assembled it. Over the last 30 years, it had sustained minor but noticeable wear on one of the joints and on the splines of the shaft. He charged me $125 to do this work, and it while it is probably still OK, we’ve decided to make it a spare.
Ken was also able to point me to “the guy” in town who’d been the expert at the local distributor. Phil, the expert, has since opened his own store – Three Branch Supply – leaving the official distributor completely bereft of useful information. Unfortunately, Three Branch Supply isn’t connected to Aquadrive in any way on the internet, so I never would’ve found him without Ken’s help. Fortunately, Phil knows what he is talking about and was able to not only tell me what I had, but also source a new shaft. Here is what you need to know:
The assembly in a 1987 S42 is a 20100. The shaft is a CV10 with a length of 173mm. This shaft is no longer part of Aquadrive’s catalog, but Phil was able to find on on a shelf somewhere in the Midwest. The optimum angle is 2 degrees per joint, for a total of 4 degrees. More is allowed, but service life is diminished as the joint angle is increased. The installation instructions state that the assembled length must meet the length spec. After machining a spacer I’ve shortened my installation from 176.5mm to 172mm, and have gotten my angle down to 5 degrees. The thrust bearing is an SKF product, and is apparently hard to find but available if you look hard enough.
Using the Engine
The engine has been great. It starts easily, even in sub-zero temperatures (remember, I’m Canadian – 0 degrees means something different to me than to anybody in the US ;-). It is quiet and pushes the boat at 6.5 knots running at 1900 RPM, with a burn rate of just over 3 litres / hour (just under a gallon an hour). We have a 3 blade Max Prop, which is not the most efficient prop due to the flat blade – a fixed or folding prop might be more fuel efficient. Service is relatively easy as most service points are on the starboard side which is where the larger access panel is. The oil filter is a little hard to reach behind the cabinetry, but the new higher forward shims I’ve put in to reduce the Aqua-Drive angle will help with this small inconvenience.
The other service points are also easily accessible – the heat exchanger core is accessible from both the front and rear of the engine without acrobatics, and the alternator comes off in about 5 minutes if need be. The only major component that will be hard to service if and when that time comes is the starter, which is buried under the engine on the port side.
Based on our experience to date, we would we do this again. The Beta went in fairly easily with only minor modifications. It was, and remains, good value as it is built on a simple, proven Kubota block, and the marinized parts look to be well-designed and made. In operation, the engine is reliable, easy to service and quiet. I know that there are other Sabre 42 owners wondering what to do with their old Westerbekes – I hope this information is useful.