Why a Beta35?

Several readers have asked us to describe the process we went through when selecting an engine to repower.  I should have written about it a year ago when I was doing the research and we made the decision but I felt it was jumping the gun a bit at that time.  I won’t repeat some of the other reasons recounted in previous posts but will provide one perspective here.

I think I should start with the question “why repower?”  The Volvo Penta MDIIC that came with our Alberg37 is a good engine.  Its given many owners 30+ years of service and from what I’ve heard they were always reliable.  Our particular MDIIC is 37 years old and was recently rebuilt – by all accounts we could have left her in, cleaned her up, and powered away.  However, I look at the engine not as a primary mode of transportation but as a piece of safety equipment.  Plain and simple I don’t really care for the ability to put-put around compared to the need to power off a lee shore in the event of an emergency.  In such an emergency with high winds, big waves, lots of sloshing about, I imagine less than ideal circumstances for our poor engine and fuel system.  I’d like to have confidence that when I turn the key the engine will roar to life and be able to power straight into the wind and swell safely away from the cursed land.  I hope we are never in that situation and I hope if we are the engine will already be ready and warmed up and checklist of many other things nicely put away complete but the fact of the mater is I want to be prepared and this is part of that.

I just don’t feel like the 40 year old Volvo is ready for the above circumstance without another rebuild, a new wiring job and engine panel, some new parts, and, well, a lot of expensive, time consuming work.  I started pricing it all out and what I wanted to do was about half the cost of a new engine and a heck of a lot of time.  After all is said and done, the engine is still 40 years old when we set sail.  Alternatively we can spend a little more, save some time, and have a brand new, beautiful, reliable beast of a machine that we can depend on.

So, we made the decision.  It is the single largest cost of the entire refit and was not made in haste.  Now what?  What engine should we put in there?  Other Alberg37 owners have repowered with the Perkins 4-108 (40hp), Westerbeke W38B (37hp), Yanmar 3JH2 (B) E (38.7hp), Yanmar 3hm35 (34hp), Nanni Diesel (29hp), Volvo Penta D1-30 (29hp), Beta28 (28hp) to give some wide ranging examples (I’m sure there are more examples of repowers that I was unable to find).

We started by researching all the different types of engines and I became pretty frustrated trying to figure out the whats what of each.  At that time I reached out to my dad for advice.  He had just repowered his Bristol 41.1c with a Beta50 and he suggested emailing Beta.  He had a great customer service experience and was able to deal directly with the owners of Beta.  His only regret is that they didn’t repower earlier.  I emailed Beta and got a prompt, information filled reply from Stanley and the decision was pretty much made then and there.  We live in NC and we could potentially drive to Beta and pick up the engine to avoid shipping costs, their customer service is excellent, the engines are made to be serviced and would be very accessible with the Alberg’s configuration.  Once we starting getting into the nitty gritty we found other benefits like the 7 degree down angle transmission that can come standard with the engine and would allow us to drop the forward engine beds and level out the engine for optimal performance.  This gives us more room under the sink which means we getting a deeper sink!! Talk about a plus!  Beta is Kubota based and so parts are available around the world and not “marine priced” so hopefully we save some money down the road as well.  Seeing my parents shiny new Beta50 in their engine room may have had a positive impact on me but the customer service Stanley provided was the deal clincher for me.  I felt like I could handle this with someone to talk to who would take the time out to listen to our wants and needs and provide their expert advice.

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On the Beta website it recommends the Beta28 as a direct replacement.  That is accurate as our Volvo was a 27hp, however, I have also read countless stories of A37 owners who wished they had more power.  The next step up is the Beta35 but then I found out the Beta37 is the same size as the 35 so why not just get the 37 and have even more power?  Well, Stanley advised against this and suggested the 35 with a 2:1 TMC60A transmission and 17″X12″ three blade prop with 50% BAR would be perfect for us.  He said that according to their programs we would need 30HP to achieve hull speed and we decided to go with his recommendations.

I hope this is helpful to someone.  I think most of the diesels out there these days are pretty darn good.  I would say it comes down to what you want to spend and who’s going to do the work.  Since we are doing the work, we went with the manufacturer who was the most accessible with the best customer service that I found.


4 thoughts on “Why a Beta35?

  1. Thanks for this post, Ryan. I think I am leaning toward the exact same setup for my A37. I haven’t spoken to any dealers yet because, frankly, I don’t have the money to spend at the moment, but I anticipate I will in another 5 months. I think I could also pick up the engine from the West Coast dealer. If you’re comfortable, would you mind sharing costs?

    I have heard and read the modern diesels need to be run at operating temperature, that idling is terrible for them, and running them unloaded is essentially as bad, therefore overpowering (thus reducing the load) is counterproductive. This FAQ (http://www.soundmarinediesel.com/q_and_a.html), if it’s good information, has a lot of information that I found new and educational.

    I will be following your updates closely. Thanks for blazing this trail.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Curtis, Thanks for the note! Thank you also for the link, it looks like its packed full of great info!

      You are 100% correct that you should not idle diesels for extended periods of time and that they are happier under load. People who use their engine to charge batteries will end up harming the engine in the long run. We don’t plan on running our engine to charge our batteries or make hot water or any of the other low/no load situations so it is not a factor for us. However your right, I guess if you did want to factor that in getting an engine with less HP might (?) help. It’s bad either way and I honestly don’t know if one is worse or not.

      I contacted Beta YEARS before I was ready to purchase the engine and they were totally helpful! In fact, I contacted them before we even purchased the boat! haha. I recommend getting in touch 🙂 I don’t mind sharing costs at all but my information might be out of date. At the time I contacted Beta the retail price for the Beta35 was about $13,600. If you plan on having someone install it for you along with all the needed accessories I would double that number for a ball park all in cost. We are going to do the install ourselves and so I plan on spending a few thousand more than the engine cost. Beta used to have some discounts in place for DIY guys like you and me so make sure to contact them, they might surprise you 😉

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I’m glad to get your feedback on that. In rereading my comment, I didn’t do a good job of communicating that I was sounding those concepts off of you, rather than being prescriptive. Indeed, I thought I would want a 40 hp motor until I read about your repower plans a few posts ago.

    I know little about boats or sailing, and most of what I know come from sites like yours, and the guy who did Far Reach.

    Thank you for the information on the Beta Marine costs. I think John Turner had mentioned something like 14 or 15, so that’s what I was shooting for before I made any moves, but perhaps I should just talk to them, as you say you did, so I don’t operate in an information vacuum.

    You made good points about not using the engine for accessories, I hadn’t put “don’t idle the engine” and “a hot water accessory would typically be run at idle” together, but these are strong arguments for KISS.


    Liked by 1 person

    1. Curtis, I think the vast majority of cruisers use their engine to charge batteries so I don’t want to give any false impressions. Erin and I are being quite idealistic when we say that we don’t want to run our diesel to top off the battery bank. But, like you said, its not really ideal for the engine and I think your quite smart to try and factor that into your equation 🙂 Wouldn’t we all love to put a 40HP in their and zoom around! haha but with displacement boats it doesn’t really make sense… we are just trying to get up to our lazy hull speed and don’t really need the extra power. I love the “KISS” concept for many reasons, one of which is that it usually keeps costs down! haha. Hot water, pressure water, lots of electronics, refrigeration, the list goes on… it all adds up – bigger battery banks, more equipment, more charging needed, more maintenance, and so on… but it also adds a lot of comfort and some people really enjoy that comfort! I can appreciate that a lot! We just happen to be the rare type who would rather sacrifice all that stuff for other things 🙂


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