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Engine Operating Information

Top | Engine Checks | Economy | Starting and Stopping | Indicators | Warning Lights

Cassiopeia's 55 HP Volvo diesel engine burns about 3 litres per hour at 2400 rpm. The 210 litre fuel tank provides a maximum cruising range of about 70 hours or 420 nautical miles under engine power only.   This is under ideal conditions and risks running the furnace or engine out of fuel.  When  that happens, the systems may be difficult to restart, even after refuelling.

Always keep a reserve of at least 50% above estimates to allow for idling, furnace use, changes of plan, late arrivals, rough seas, currents etc., and the possibility that fuel may not be available as expected at a destination.

Wise boaters never run the fuel tank below one-half and refuel whenever a fuel dock is convenient and the fuel gauge is down a third or more.  It is much easier and safer to refuel at leisure than to have to divert for fuel, worry about making it to the pumps -- or run right out of fuel in a narrows, off a lee shore, or 100 metres from a fuel dock.

Top | Engine Checks | Economy | Starting and Stopping | Indicators | Warning Lights

Daily Engine Checks

Remember to check the engine every day before starting.  

Check the oil using the yellow dipstick on the starboard side of the engine.  Access to the dipstick is from the main cabin by lifting the companionway stairs.

  • When  you do your first check of the boat before signing out, carefully note the oil level and remember it.  

  • Be sure to remove, wipe off and re-insert the dipstick all the way before removing it to check. Repeat if in doubt.

  • Call our base immediately if the level has gone down more than a half centimetre over several days of use.

  • To add oil, unscrew the black cap with yellow oil drop symbol, located in the middle of the top of the engine. (below right)

  • Add oil slowly and carefully .

  • Add oil only if the level is near the low mark near the end of the dipstick.

  • The amount of oil between the ADD line and the FULL line is a little less than one litre (or a U.S. quart).

  • DO NOT OVERFILL above the full mark.

  • Use ONLY 15W40 oil rated for diesel engine service.  Volvo recommends SAE15W/40 -- API CD specification.  This is a basic diesel engine lubricating oil and can be found anywhere.  The is a quart in an aft locker.  Don't confuse it with the outboard oil, also there.

  • The Oil Filler Cap is circled in red below. 

  • Below is a picture of a typical dipstick (lying on a plastic mat).  The crosshatch area between the Max and Min lines indicated by arrows is the safe operating zone..

Note: Cassiopeia's engine has not been consuming any oil, so if the level seems to be down more than a tiny fraction of an inch from when you signed out of Sidney, keep a close watch on the engine oil level thereafter.

Verify that you have not been running the engine above 2650 RPM and if you find that you have been, don't.

The level will naturally vary slightly with engine temperature and the length of time since the engine was running last as some oil stays up top and drains back down slowly.

Call our base for advice if the level goes down again after being topped up to avoid engine damage -- or being stranded.

Check the coolant level by removing the green twist cap to the right of the oil filler cap.

Make sure the engine is not hot to avoid scalding.  The coolant is normally an inch down and visible.  It is green.

If you need to top up the coolant, there is coolant stored in the starboard cockpit locker.  Mix full strength coolant and fresh water in a 1:1 ratio (half coolant/half water) before adding. DO NOT add full strength coolant.  Replace the cap and twist clockwise firmly by hand until it won't turn further.

Make sure belts, hoses and clamps are not loose or worn and please notify us if you see anything that causes you concern.

Inspect and clean the raw water filter daily before starting up. Ensure the engine is shut off.  The raw water strainer is a black canister with hoses coming in and out on the starboard aft end of the engine compartment (right).

The top screws off easily for checking and cleaning.  Check it daily and clean out any debris or scum and reassemble carefully.  Ensure the lid is straight and screwed down firmly hand-tight. A loose lid will result in air leaks and engine overheating.

Note: It is not normally necessary to shut off the raw water intake. The pickup for the water intake is a red lever on the port side of the sail drive unit, accessed from the port side through the aft cabin panel. (below right). If you do shut off the intake, be sure to open it again.

In any case, when starting the engine always make sure spurts of water come out with the exhaust.  If no water comes out make sure the strainer was assembled correctly and the lid is on properly.

Look for signs of engine water or oil leaks. Look under the engine for any new drips, pieces of beltsor filings. Check the bilges.

Additional Information

The water pump, with access to the impeller, is located at the forward starboard side of the engine.  To gain access, simply hinge the upper companionway steps up and then lift the lower section straight up and out.

The secondary fuel filter and oil filter can be accessed by removing the access panel located behind the starboard aft cabin door.

See the Itroubleshooting section for more information and engine troubleshooting tips.

Top | Engine Checks | Economy | Starting and Stopping | Indicators | Warning Lights

Starting and Running the Engine

Please complete the checks in the Checkout section above. and also read and understand this entire section before starting the engine.

To start the engine

To start the engine:

  • Make sure the engine cooling water intake seacock is open.

  • Make sure the engine battery switch is on. 
    (The main battery switch is normally always on)

  • Place the gearshift in neutral.

    The throttle/gearshift is located beside the starboard helm. Straight up and down is neutral.  Move the lever forward to engage forward gear and advance it to increase RPMs. Move the lever back to engage reverse.  Moving it further increases RPMs in reverse.

    Do not advance the throttle for starting.  This engine starts very easily and quickly.  If it does not, look for a reason.

  • Engage the glow plugs to pre-heat the engine by pressing down on the power on/off switch (circled in red at right). Pre-heat for 10 seconds (a bit more if the engine is very cold).  A light with a circle and zigzag symbol will appear when activating the glow plugs.


  • Switch the "Power"  toggle switch (circled in red) to "On" (up) and press the start button right below it until the engine starts, but not more than 15 seconds at a time. If the engine does not start right away or starts and quits, activate the glow plugs again for ten to twenty seconds and try again.

    Warm the engine at idle for a few minutes while preparing to cast off. Do not race the engine.

    To disengage the gears and advance the throttle in neutral -- for charging batteries, for example -- push in the black button on the single lever control.  This should never be necessary for starting this engine as this engine starts promptly at idle.

    Be careful not to race the engine. The maximum battery charge rate occurs at about 1500 RPM. Increasing the RPM beyond that wastes fuel and makes noise, but does not charge any faster.  Although the batteries can be charged with the engine this way if they are getting run down, the best charge comes when motoring or when connected to shore power.  If the instruments and extra lights are turned off promptly when not in use, the batteries seldom require charging this way.  Check the 12-volt panel from time to time to make sure something unnecessary has not been accidentally left on (deck light, plotter, autopilot, anchoring light...)

Once the engine has started:

  • Check for cooling water coming out of the exhaust on the port quarter just above the water line. If there is none, stop the engine immediately and see the Troubleshooting section below.  (After cleaning the raw water strainer, water will have run out of the lines and it can take a minute for the raw water pump to prime again and produce cooling water)

  • Idle the engine for several minutes while making last minute preparations, checking the instruments and rigging and untying.

  • When motoring, do not exceed the maximum cruise RPM (2600 RPM) to prevent engine damage and excessive fuel consumption.

  • When sailing, shift the gear lever to neutral to minimize wear to propulsion system. (You will hear some gear noise at high boat speeds.  That is normal)

  • Shut off the engine if any of the alarm lights or buzzers come on.

  • Note: Prop walk on Cassiopeia is very slightly to starboard when going astern.

To shut off the engine

  • Idle down,

  • Shift to neutral

  • Allow the engine to cool for two minutes while setting sail or tying up

  • Push the power on/off toggle switch down until the engine stops.

  • Release the switch.

  • If you are docked, turn off the instruments and plot at the DC panel and cover them.


    Some gear noise (whine) will be heard while sailing. This is normal.

    See the troubleshooting section for complete instructions and notes on engine use, reasons the engine doesn’t start, or other problems, such as a lack of cooling water.

Warning: Never crank the engine for more than 30 seconds.  If it does not start and there is need to crank again (maybe when eliminating air after running right out of fuel or doing engine service), wait a while.  The starter must cool and the muffler must drain before continuing or engine damage will result.

If you have to crank this very reliable engine more than five seconds -- ten at most -- something is wrong.

If this engine suddenly becomes hard to start after you have been starting it easily every time, you have a fuel problem -- either quality or quantity, a blocked filter, or a malfunction in the fuel delivery system.

Cranking and cranking and hoping will not fix the problem and could do serious damage.  Investigate and/or call the office.  This is not a normal situation.  Something is wrong.


Top | Engine Checks | Economy | Starting and Stopping | Indicators | Warning Lights

Fuel Consumption

Under most conditions, fuel efficiency, based on distance travelled per litre burned is highest at about 1800 RPM and falls off rapidly as the throttle is advanced.

Increasing throttle from 1800 (~5 knots) to 3000 RPM (~7 knots) only increases boat speed in the water by a few knots but increases fuel consumption from 3 litres per hour to almost 13 litres/hour! Advancing the throttle to gain a little extra speed not only consumes extra fuel, but also increases engine noise and vibration significantly.

Running at higher RPM may be necessary to make way over the ground when running against a current in a pass or tidal rip, but wastes a lot of fuel when the extra power and speed is not necessary. The dotted curve below further illustrates a boat's estimated fuel consumption at various engine RPMs.

From http://www.bektasoglu.net/teknik/t_d2_55.pdf

Engine Indicators

The fuel gauge is located at the aft end of the cockpit table underneath the chart plotter and above the depth sounder/knot meter, auto helm and wind speed/direction indicator. 

On a normal charter, starting with a full tank, it is unusual to consume more than half a tank of fuel.

The engine power control switches are in the panel with the tachometer beside the starboard helm.

At right: Tachometer, circled in red, switches (right) and indicator lights in the strip below the tach.

Multiply the tachometer reading by 100.

The manufacturer's recommended cruise speed is from 1800 to 2300 RPM

The engine can go up to 3000 RPM for short periods when necessary, but efficiency drops off and fuel consumption becomes excessive.  RPMs above 2650 do not increase boat speed much.

The engine alarm siren, is circled in red.

The power switch is circled in red. Power and panel lights on (Switch up) and Engine Kill (Switch down)

Alarm test (up) and glow plug (down), circled in red

Activate Glow pugs for 10 sec before starting when engine is cold

This switch also acknowledges an alarm and stops the siren. 

It does not solve the problem, though. The relevant warning light (see below) continues to flash until the malfunction is corrected.

Start Button. Press to start.  Do not crank more than 15 seconds.

This engine always starts within five seconds and if it does not something is wrong.

Listen or look for water splashing from the exhaust on the port stern side of the boat.  Water spurts show that the engine cooling system is working.

Top | Engine Checks | Economy | Starting and Stopping | Indicators | Warning Lights

Engine Warning Lights

In case of engine problems, a siren will sound and an indicator light will come on. The alarm is shrill and can be stopped by using the "Alarm Test" switch. 

The problem that set the alarm off will however not be fixed by silencing the alarm, and troubleshooting must start immediately to prevent engine damage.

Warning: Engine malfunction can be very distracting and draw attention away from navigation.


Attention to lee shores, traffic, hazards and collision avoidance is always the first order of business.  Attend to these risks and assign a lookout before troubleshooting the engine.


Shut down the engine and ensure the safety of the boat and all aboard by setting sails, anchoring, arranging a tow etc. before becoming engrossed in the problem. 


Call the Coast Guard by dialling *16 or calling for assistance on VHF channel 16 if engine failure presents immediate danger.


If you are towing the dinghy with the outboard mounted, remember that the dinghy can easily pull -- or push -- Cassiopeia at speeds up to 5 knots in flat water, no-wind conditions if the need arises.  Progress will be slower if there is wind or rough water.

Right: Warning light Panel. These lights are not very bright. Details below.


Engine overheat indicator.  Reduce engine speed to idle in neutral.  Check for a normal water stream from the exhaust.  Stop the engine if the temperature does not drop soon. 

Possible causes of overheating: Blocked raw water inlet, closed raw water seacock, plugged strainer, or raw water pump impeller.  A loose water strainer lid could also cause the cooling pump to lose its prime.  Investigate engine for leaks, etc.  Call base if necessary. Proceeding without correcting this fault could destroy the engine.


Low oil pressure indicator.

If the low oil indicator lights, stop the engine immediately and investigate.  Do not restart the engine unless certain the problem is solved. Call base if necessary. Proceeding without correcting this fault could destroy the engine very quickly.

Alternator not charging.  Presents no immediate hazard, but repairs must be made before batteries run down.  Check belts and pulleys and obvious wires on alternator. If no solution is obvious, seek a nearby repair facility and/or call base.

This indicator light comes on when glow plugs are activated.

Top | Engine Checks | Economy | Starting and Stopping | Indicators | Warning Lights

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- Home | Greeting | Features | Specs | Video | Marina | Cruising | Adventures -
- Forward Cabin | Saloon | Aft Cabins | Sails | Cockpit | Enclosure | On deck -
 - Plotter and Radar | Marine Head | Refue
lling | Seacocks| Engine | Batteries | Dinghy | Anchoring -
- Inventory | Manuals | US/Canada Border | Winter | Thoughts | Troubleshooting -