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By Roy McBride - Cape Town, South Africa

Oil Changes

Cape Town
December 21, 2005

From the desk of ‘Flying Cloud' - A ‘Dix 43’ Wood/Epoxy Sailing Cutter

An ‘Engine Oil Use’ Survey Result based on the personal experience of the writer, you may use your own judgement and take further advice from the supplier and manufacturers of which ever Diesel engine you own.... skip my diversions if you are not keen on true life stories and sea rescues!

A beginning with myself and marine diesel engines:

Farymaan Diesel engines from Western Germany , have been around a long time and due to a really once off special offer at the time, when the new local agents here in Cape Town, took delivery of their first stocks. I was one of the first place my order with them.This was about 25 years back!

The engine was what is termed a ‘V Twin’ and rated at 30 hp (horse power) it was raw water cooled. Once started that engine was unstoppable, due in the main to a Flywheel one man could not lift! This made for a truly economical motor to run……when the 'Endurance 37' yacht (Peter Ibold Design) it was fitted into was sold on, the Farymann engine had around 1400 hours on the clock and was in perfect condition. A good start to my life with marine diesel engines.

Being rather keen to maintain the engine in peak condition, I always changed the engine oil and filter at the specified period of every 50 hours, or as it said in the owners hand book once per year, which ever comes first. Which means I changed the oil 28 times! This was in Six years of ownership. So that was a oil change every few months, or 4.66 times per year to be more exact. A double transatlantic on the same boat went a long way to clocking up those hours.

Then we sold the boat, cleared our home mortgage (bond) and started looking for boat number two, which as fate would have came by surprise a week after one very dark and stormy night. We had on order a 'Tosca 36' hull deck and bulkhead set. A Trench (thanks Lorna) had been dug in our front garden, waiting to accept the boat's keel stub when the mouldings eventually arrived. The boat was a week late, then came the storm mentioned.

It was a very rough North Wester, which off the Western Cape here in Cape Town, where we live, means it was an onshore storm. For a reason never discovered, a yacht called ‘Gulliver of Knysna’ was out in the storm, sailing from their home port of Knysna further north on the east coast of South Africa. The boat was an ‘Endurance 37’ and from the same moulds as the one we had owned, so a sister ship of sorts. The yacht's owner and his three crew had been out for four days and as they closed Cape Town the weather became ever closer to the wind, It is fair to say that ‘Endurance 37s’ are not really at their best in such conditions.

With reduced sails and a three cylinder diesel providing extra power, the skipper carried on into one of the blackest nights to be remembered, such were the conditions that being out in them just made little sense, the option to turn to starboard before Cape Point and make for Simonstown was long gone. It was about 2am.

The skipper and his crew thought they were on course for Cape Town but in reality they were heading for Hout Bay, which is at the back of Table Mountain. They had been pushed inshore by possibly as much (no GPS back then) as four sea miles and a heading of 15 degrees lower than safety required. Visibility was close to nil. A recipe for disaster, which of course was not too far away… Off that coast is a light house called Slangkop, which is Dutch for sea snake, It can be seen from a long way off but with poor DR (dead recogning) navigation, compiled with the bad visibility, Slangkop light house was never seen by any of the four crewmen.

Slangkop light house is there for a reason of course, being is a very long reef, locally called a ‘Blinder’, which will crest and break only in very poor conditions, such as the night in question. The skipper was bang on course by now to find himself, yacht and crew inside this Reef. This is a favourite surfers spot, when conditions are right , when it resembles the waves in Hawaai. It was one of those wave sets that rolled the yacht right over and onto her starboard beam, the mast was lost, windows smashed, sea water was sucked into the engine, which seized solid in seconds. The boat and crew were now 'dead' in the water.

If they were not very quick and given a little luck, they would soon end up on the rocks around a half mile away. What happens next is amazing - while some crew went forward and deployed an anchor on a long line, a mayday was sent out on the yachts VHF, whose arial had been at the mast head. The mast being lost over the side meant that all that was transmitting was a stump of RG 59 coax sticking out of the Teak Decks!

South Africa's Station Eight sea rescue is situated around some seven miles away from where this drama was unfolding, somehow the mayday was received and a twin engined ski boat was sent out, with the stations cox and a crew of three others. At a press conference the next day it was stated that they expected to be on the scene in no more that 15 minutes, which highlights just how bad it was that night, as they took close to one hour!

Eventually ’Gulliver of Knysna’ was reached and anchored as it still was, it was decided, that given the bad seas going alongside was far too risky, so the crew were told to launch the yachts inflatable lift raft, board it and fall off free of the danger of the pitching yacht, where they would be picked up. That is what happened, the four men were taken on board the rescue boat and the boats pilot opened the twin throttles and headed for home.

Excepting that a huge wave picked them up and pushed the life boat backwards and drowned the two engines, one of which just managed to re start and an escape was made back to Station Eight in Hout Bay. This rescue was nearly one of disaster, the eight men could easily have been lost, the rescuers were recognized at a later awards evening and all four men involved from Station 8 received a citation to bravery.

What? I hear you say has this to do with oil?

Well by early morning the yacht was aground and holed on the port side, a total loss and written off the very next day by the insurance company that held cover on the boat, a deal was made and the boat was sold as she lay to a guy who wanted the lost boat's gear. It was some three days later that I went to see the wreck and realizing it was an ‘Endurance 37’, which are seriously strong boats. I bought what was left, being little more than a hull and deck but with a very large hole in it. My successful salvage and eventual re launch just 51 weeks later will make for a story some other time perhaps?

So we now have a very large full keeled 'Endurance 37' sitting in our front garden with a hole in it as mentioned. The Tosca 36 (angelo lavranos design) delivery was put on hold and I set to rebuilding my new boat, the family were just delighted.

The new engine that had been bought for the 'Tosca 36' now found a new home in the 'Endurance 37'. That was around twenty years back and the engine is still in her, having done close to 3000 reliable hours now.

Back to the Oil thing.

That engine is a BMW, a car and motor bike company who never really made diesel engines then? So they used a German Hatz Diesel, then marinized it with various sizes of engines based on the same block, adding cylinders to acheive more power, mine was the 32 hp in Line twin cylinder and just like the Farymaan engine very reliable and economical too.

While all the reconstruction and engine fitting was going on in my new boat I made a discovery, or perhaps revelation is a better term. In the BMW/HATZ owners handbook is the frequency of oil changes. Again each 50 hours or once a year, whichever is the sooner - But! It also said that if a specific higher grade diesel oil was used the oil could be used for 100 hours! That is twice the use on the same filling of course. So it was by now clear to me that an oil change each 100 hours was not realistic. In my case I used Shell Rottela Diesel grade oil but I suspect that oils to the same specifications will give the same results I had.

Roy Mc Bride - Founder -
email -
Cape Town
South Africa