Motorboat Expert

International Yachting Magazine

The reliability of a yacht is freedom

The reliability of a yacht is freedom or why a trawler

Updated on July 14th, 2024

Here’s the best advice you can give to buyers of motor yachts for long cruising: buy the simplest boat you can find. Don’t get caught up in complex electrical and mechanical systems. The more complex systems and built-in equipment you have on board, the more tied you are to the shipyard, which will continuously service and repair you under warranty or for a generous reward.

If, however, your boat is equipped with electric winches, crane beams or other remotely controlled systems, then it is highly desirable that all the same operations can be performed manually without any problems. Automatic blinds, retractable TV screens and other useless nonsense are best left for weekend boats because all of this will most likely break down anyway when you are on a long and difficult cruise.

What about electric yachts?

Well, today we are very close to traveling by motor at a constant acceptable speed of 7-10 knots for long distances without intermediate stops and refueling. There are yachts on the market such as Sunreef, Archipelago and others that use both solar energy to recharge the batteries, hydrogen fuel cells to run the intermediate generator. In fact, this makes these boats completely autonomous.

However, firstly, not everyone wants a catamaran for various reasons, and secondly, the onboard systems of these yachts cannot be called simple. Yes, electronics and electrical equipment made from high-quality components can serve well for many decades. And even if the electronics are not used for a long time, the only failure most often becomes a swollen capacitor, which you can usually diagnose and replace yourself. But everything changes when electrical systems encounter such an aggressive environment as the sea.

At the same time, diesel engines are incredibly reliable. With proper maintenance, marine engines can outlast several owners. You say fuel is expensive? Well, everything is relative. For luxury superyachts with thousands horsepower jet engines, this is certainly true. However, owners of family trawlers travel around the whole of Europe with just one gas station for several thousand euros. Of course, we are talking about real displacement trawlers now, and not about boats for coastal Sunday cruises like the Beneteau Trawler.

Plus, you can buy a lot of fuel with the two million dollars or euros you save on a solar catamaran.

Thus, according to our observations, the owners of steel fishing trawlers converted into motor yachts looked the most relaxed when traveling. Most owners have personally been involved in the conversion and refitting of these boats, so they are familiar with electrical wiring and all onboard systems. The main task, as emphasized by all owners without exception, was to minimize the amount of electronics and simplify the equipment. In short, the simpler and more brutal, the more reliable and durable. And this was easy to achieve, given the original purpose of the boats.

Of course, installing solar panels and an additional battery banks is standard practice today, but these are only auxiliary systems, so their failure or breakdown will not affect the main functions of the yacht.

With all this, we must note that electric motors themselves are many times more reliable than any internal combustion engines, and also require virtually no maintenance, except for occasional lubrication of drive parts. And, of course, no major repairs in the future (although expensive batteries will eventually lose capacity and will need to be updated).

Thus, many boaters who have knowledge and skills in working with electrical and electronic engineering will prefer to correct any fault in the electrical circuit rather than tinker with a dirty diesel engine if it breaks down. And they are also ready to buy an expensive and ugly solar catamaran to get rid of any fuss with liquid smelly fuel and planning refueling. Well, there are just fans of electricity at the hobby level.

Needless to say, hybrid engines further increase the number of potential points of failure. Although some systems, including those with parallel connections, can be considered as backup options. But you have to pay for everything.

So, for the majority of buyers of family motor yachts with an eye on long cruises, not to mention transoceanic crossings and circumnavigation, today we do not see a reasonable alternative to trawlers with time-tested diesel engine models and simple electrical equipment.

Solar boats may be an option if you only travel along the coasts of Florida or the Mediterranean when the sun is directly overhead. Otherwise, you will have a diesel generator constantly running. And completely forget about electric catamarans and any other multihulls if your cruise will take place in high latitudes, and even in the cold season.

But tomorrow everything could change.