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Engine for river cruising

I need some advice about the best sort of engine I'll need to cruise the East Anglian rivers - any make/model best? What cc and HP? My boat will be moored on the River Great Ouse.

Asked by: Paul Taylor  | 10.47pm, Saturday 23 June


WW says:

One of the key points is- what type of boat do you have? It is a cruiser, narrowboat, or widebeam boat? How long is it and wide?
If you can give us a bit more information, we might be able to help.
One thing you might want to consider though, is that when an engine is working hard (as you might also need to in fast running conditions) a freshwater cooled engine, with wet exhaust, rather than a keel cooled engine might give you a more stable engine temperature.
Let us know and we will try to give some more suitable advice.

Mark Langley  | 12.01PM, Sunday 24 June

Well, if you are looking at a 45 to 50ft boat (bearing in mind some of the locks off the Great Ouse are shorter than most of the network) then you are looking at a 30 to 45hp engine, in the 1.5 litre to 2.2 litre range.
A 45ft boat, with say a BL1.5 engine will be absolutely fine- in fact, it is better to run an engine hard, than have it running slowly. A slow-running engine can coke up, or produce sludge in the oil sump.
Most engines enjoy being run hard- the only problem is if the keel cooling tank (in reality a slab-sided tank welded to the aft swim of a boat) is too small.
Many keel tanks, which act as a radiator, convecting heat to the water, are too small for full output of the engine, being sized for canal, rather than river, working.
A freshwater cooled engine (with a wet exhaust) can avoid this, but are not as common on narrowboats.
If buying a new boat, it might be worth, if at all possible, to have the engine run up to temperature on a trial run (canal cruising), then, if possible, tied up in, say, a marina and run at nearly full load for 10-15 minutes, to see what happens to the temperature of the engine. If it gets too hot (over 95C), it may struggle should you need prolonged periods of cruising on a river in spate.
Most engines that you will find are good ones- however, any engine that has been neglected may suffer. A sheaf of service receipts, clean engine room, and no smoke when running under load suggest a good level of maintenance- but a full boat survey should pick up any issues with the engines condition.
Any further questions, please do ask- or more specific questions when you get down to your shortlist of boats. Good luck, and enjoy the cruising- the Great Ouse and Middle Level navigations are much underused and very peaceful- we love them!

Mark Langley  | 6.21PM, Sunday 24 June


Readers say:

Thank you. I will be buying (haven't bought yet so advice is so helpful, although, as I will be buying a used boat, I realise that my choice will be driven by what's on the market, a cruiser stern narrow beam narrowboat, some 45' in length. Perhaps up to 50' - no longer.

Paul Taylor  | 4.08PM, Sunday 24 June

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