Without question the heart and soul of a boat is her engine room, and thanks to builder trends of the last 20 years, pump rooms. The evolution of engine room layout and organization was really driven by the custom builders that were building boats for longer distance travel and the experienced crews that maintained them, looked for ways to simplify, neaten and make the equipment and installation more efficient. The improvement of pumps and equipment also helped a great deal in improving the spaces.
Naturally, as the boats grew in size, the engines, generators, pumps and compressors grew as well to accommodate the added size of the boat and the increased accommodations. As things got bigger, the spaces needed to grow to handle the gear, so the riggers and mechanics that were working on these boats applied their skills to really clean up installations and integrate new components and materials that would last longer and have a more robust life cycle. Of course as the boats put more hours on, the gear had a better chance to prove itself and be weeded out if it didn’t last or couldn’t be repaired or replaced in a remote location.
Back in the mid 70’s I fished on what was at the time one of the bigger custom sportfish boats on the coast, “Anthracite” a 55’ Andy Mortensen nicknamed “the dude” by its owner, Dick Ryon because of its size for the time was an impressive rig. Although because of her age and bottom design it wouldn’t be a good fit for today’s horsepower, traveling and fishing, it was a comfortable 20 knot bruiser to the canyons that raised fish right up under the exhaust. With a pair of Johnson and Towers 12-71 TI’s, the engine room was packed, congested and with other equipment shoehorned in, it didn’t make it easy to work on any of it, especially with the main entrance under the galley floor. Back then for a young kid into boats, it was impressive as hell, today equipment engineering it would be considered a nightmare.
Two of the biggest factors that have improved engine room work space are the cockpit entrance and inclusion of a separate pump room to house ancillary gear such as A/C systems, refrigeration compressors, hot water heaters, water makers, head pumps, and the raw water pumps that feed them. Using the cockpit entrance, daily inspections, oil changes and mechanic visits are much easier and more efficient than walking through the boat to enter from either the salon floor, galley floor or from under the steps going below to the staterooms—all old school entrances and proven to be less than optimal for many reasons, not the least of which is keeping the boat clean.
The pump room when laid out with consideration to initial plumbing and electrical runs, daily function, serviceability and maintenance offers not only an increase in efficiency but a reduction in service costs as everything is accessible so maintenance and repair labor are reduced. Over the years few engineers sitting behind their workstation in their air conditioned office really consider the placement of pumps and “service needy’ equipment, yet they routinely find the perfect place that is full of obstructions and requires a contortionist to access it. Again, the input from experienced crew and the knowledge gained from the extensive travel and numbers of boats built over the last 25 years with shared information from builder to builder and crew to crew has helped dramatically to improve engine and pump rooms.
With the addition of good ventilation or even air conditioning, the service life of the equipment is extended as the heat build-up and constant exposure to heat is reduced. This is especially helpful to refrigeration and A/C compressors and chillers, not to mention it makes for a better work space for crew to clean and maintain the area on a regular basis. Many boats may not be large enough to afford a pump room, but knowing that end user service, cooling and proper ventilation are key to where and how equipment should be mounted amongst the engine room gear reduces maintenance and operational service costs. On smaller boats, say less than 50 feet that do not afford a pump room, if something fails that is in a precarious and hard to work on place—that is a prime opportunity to relocate the item and make your life simpler. Just because the boat builder put it there may not necessarily be the best for your situation, however, most of today’s boats are well thought out and there is a reason for where the gear is—most of the time…
It’s impossible for me to get on a new boat and not gravitate to the engine space to see what the builder has done—anyone can make a nice interior and an interior malfunction will rarely keep you from going fishing, but the boat won’t run without the gear in the engine room. The next time you get an opportunity check out the engine rooms of a custom builder like Roscioli Donzi, American Custom, Merritt, Jim Smith, Bayliss or Michael Rybovich and you’ll see thoughtful engineering along with fit and finish that rivals the boats exterior. And while you’re at it, check out a new Viking and see the thought and effort into making a purposeful, functional well engineered work space in a production boat that other builders should emulate—after all, its been said copying is the best form of flattery. If you get the chance to upgrade and improve your engine or pump room, pay attention to what these companies have done, you’ll be glad you did when you input their ideas into your refit.