When you look at an engine do you understand it? Or like the former me, do you look at the mysterious lump of metal with a slight panic and fear, and then walk away and leave it to the experts?!
As part of my plan to upskill myself as much as possible, I’ve spent the last few weeks studying marine diesel engines. Spending my morning and evening commutes with my head in a book, studying intricate diagrams and models of pistons, cylinders, heat exchangers and thermostats. And then completing the RYA diesel engine course. Something, a few years ago I wouldn’t of ever imagined doing.
Like many people, I’ve always shied away from mechanics and engineering. I used to look at an engine and not have a clue as to how it works, what the parts are… where to even begin. So, I decided to do something about it.
“If you do what you’ve always done, you will get what you’ve always got.”
I truly believe that we all hold the key to our own future. If you want to learn about something, you can. We are so lucky in this age, that we have unlimited resources available to us through the internet, through books, and through the countless training centres worldwide, on all manner of subjects. So if you want to learn something you can. You and only you hold the key.
In terms of marine diesel engines, there are hundreds of books on the market that you can invest in, some assume no knowledge, and others are incredibly technical. The best place (in my opinion) to begin, if you’re a sailor/boater and want to learn the basics, is with the RYA Diesel Engine handbook.
The handbook is an excellent read, and is aimed at absolute beginners. Talking you slowly through each part of the engine, it all starts to make sense. The book also comes with a DVD, for those that like to hear a voice and be physically taught.
After weeks of reading I decided to go on an RYA diesel engine course, to cement my knowledge and build on it. I did this at Elite Sailing, at Chatham marina.
The company: Elite Sailing
Elite Sailing is a small independent sailing and boating business. They teach theory classes from a wide beam dutch barge (a ‘classroom barge’) in the marina. They offer a huge range of theory and practical courses, and have a wealth of knowledge and expertise.
The course instructor was a guy called Andrew, a solicitor by trade, Andrew has diversified to become an RYA instructor and has an incredible knowledge of engines and boating.
There were 10 on the course (I think this is a good upper limit), 4 women and 6 men. An interesting balance. Several people were studying for their yachtmaster, one guy had a twin diesel cruiser and just wanted to know a bit about it, and there was me who is trying to upskill and improve my knowledge and learn as much as I can.
It is for absolute beginners. You don’t need to do pre-reading, although I did and was pleased I did. It simply meant I had an excellent foundation on which to build. For me, the course cemented everything I’d learned. I think if you don’t do pre-reading your head might explode by the end of the day! It is a full on, fast paced day. 9am – 4pm of classroom learning on a subject that is likely to be outside of your comfort zone.
A balance of powerpoint, tinkering with an engine, and questions and answers, the course is quite engaging and interactive.
I would highly recommend the course to anyone who owns a boat, or is thinking of doing so, or to anyone who simply enjoys getting out on the water. It’s excellent in terms of learning how to service, maintain and troubleshoot a diesel engine. I’m really looking forward to putting my new found knowledge to the test. I know that I will use and apply so much of what I’ve learnt, both on and off the water. It’s quite an empowering feeling.
Don’t be put off by previous worries, or lack of knowledge. You will all be in the same boat on this one, literally!