RYA Diesel Engine Course

Nov 06, 2016




Practice marine diesel engine

Practice marine diesel engine

Have you ever reached for the starter key and had that mildly terrifying thought at the back of your mind…. ‘Is it going to start? … Please start!’? I guess it has happened to most of us at some point, particularly when on a boat that we may not be sure about, and certainly when we find ourselves in a situation where we really do need the assistance of the old ‘iron donkey’.

As a RYA Instructor, I cover the basics of engine checks onboard with the students. The word ‘WOBBLE’ (for more on this acronym watch out for a future post I’m planning) is often heard being muttered by a crew member in the morning as they skin their knuckles trying to retrieve the elusive dipstick. But the section in the Day Skipper syllabus that says ‘must be able to bleed the fuel system’ is a little bit more tricky to teach on the boat. Why? Well, in a strange way I’m a little reluctant to keep doing it for real as part of a demonstration on a ‘live’ and perfectly good engine. So we confine ourselves to describing the process and point out the various elements that need to be worked on.

So what if you want to know more, or you find yourself having to undertake such maintenance for real on a dark night in a moderate sea when you really don’t have the luxury of time on your side?

For starters, I would recommend the RYA Diesel Engine Course. I first took this course myself about 10 years ago and found it invaluable, so when I saw that my local sailing club and RYA Training Centre  (Penzance) was running the one day course as part of their winter programme I jumped at the chance of getting a refresher on a subject that I probably don’t think enough about onboard a sailing vessel. I’m so glad I did as I was reminded of one particularly important point in keeping your engine ready to go at a moment’s notice… more of that later.

The RYA Diesel Engine Course is a one-day practical course run in the classroom environment that allows you to get your hands on real engines and their important components and actually take bits apart (plus try  & put them back together again) .


Impeller inside seawater pump housing

So what are you going to learn? Here’s a quick summary of what we covered:

  • The Principles of the Diesel Engine
  • The Four-Stroke Cycle
  • The Fuel System
  • The Cooking System
  • The Air Systems
  • The Engine Electrical Systems
  • The Important of Check Lists
  • How to Undertake Winterisation and Servicing
  • Faultfinding

With a little mechanical and practical aptitude, you can learn a lot from this course and come away with the confidence to tackle the tasks that you may have been wary of. Fundamentals like being able to bleed the fuel system or change a damaged impeller become relatively straight forward as you get to try out the techniques in a very hands-on format.

Fuel Line Components

An example of a simple boat fuel line supply system

So, this winter I recommend that you find your nearest RYA Training Centre and get yourself enrolled in the Diesel Engine Course – the small financial cost could well be repaid many times over if you have the new skills to keep your engine running efficiently and reliably, especially when you really need it.

What was the one important aspect of keeping your marine diesel engine ready to go when you reach for the key that I was reminded of? Well, unless you have a unit that offers a manual crank and decompression levers, it has to be a fully charged, dedicated engine starting battery that is in good condition. More on this subject in a future post.

My thanks to Paul Kent at Penzance Sailing Club for his excellent tuition and ability to pass on so much of his knowledge and experience gained from a lifetime in dealing with diesel engines.

#RYA #pzsc




Post by Simon

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