Yanmar powering solo circumnavigation of the world

A story by solo sailor Melanie Piddocke.

When the time came to replace the ageing Volvo MD11C in my Sparkman & Stephens 34 Lorelei, the choice of engine was clear. The reliability, reputation, and availability of parts for the Yanmar 3YM30AE made it the obvious choice. As I am refitting Lorelei for a solo, non-stop, westabout circumnavigation of the world, these qualities are particularly important.

I bought Lorelei at the end of 2016 and knew its engine would have a limited life. As a saltwater cooled engine which had been fitted to the boat when it was built in 1979, and which had had varying degrees of care through its life, it was beginning to show signs of its age. It had rust, leaked oil, and blew white smoke, but for the moment started every time and ran happily once it was going. The list of tasks to tackle on Lorelei was long, and as the engine wasn’t showing obvious signs of distress, replacement was pushed further down the list.

The old Volvo chugged along for another few years, until last year when it started to make strange noises and developed an oil supply issue. It also started occasionally sparking when starting up. I took this as a warning that it was on its last legs, so finally did what I always knew I would have to do – order a new Yanmar 3YM30AE. Unfortunately, my old engine chose to die in the middle of a pandemic, so there were some inevitable and unavoidable delays in waiting for the new engine to arrive. It finally reached Mackay at the end of November 2020, and Lorelei was lifted to have it fitted at the beginning of December. A new complication was added when the lifting strops were caught around the prop shaft during the lift, bending it nearly to right angles. This had also deformed the stern tube, which on Lorelei was stainless steel. So, before I could get on with the job of fitting the new engine, the old tube had to be removed and a new one fitted, together with a new shaft.

The new Yanmar engine fitted in Lorelei.

The stern tube was finally extracted by line borers, and we could get on with the original job of positioning and fitting the new engine. At this point it became clear that I would need to cut out the old engine beds and have new ones made to fit the new mounts. When Lorelei was built, they hadn’t skimped on the fibreglass for the engine beds – they were about three centimetres thick of solid fibreglass – which meant a hard and itchy job to cut them out. But it was a great opportunity to completely refresh the bilge, with a new coat of paint, and reposition and rerun all the hoses running to and from the bilge. The exhaust outlet was also moved from its position close to the water line to the transom, making it less vulnerable to flooding. The engine fitting and structural work was carried out by Jim Runge of Mackay Marine Services and John Sticklan of Vindaloo Multihulls.


Lorelei finally went back in the water at the end of March, and I am thrilled with the new engine. Its quiet, clean, smooth operation is such a pleasure after the noise and smoke of the old engine, and it’s a very neat clean fit in the boat. I am also relishing the novelty of finally having confidence in my engine! In time I will need to consider finding a better match in my propeller, but for now I can enjoy getting to know my new engine.