Dry Stack & Engine Room Temperatures

10 years or so ago a new fiberglass fishing boat in Seattle, on its maiden trip, suddenly caught fire in the engine room. The crew ran her on the beach and were OK, but the boat was destroyed. The cause they believe was excessive non-vented heat from the dry stack.

In October 2000 Fred Hammond’s ALCINA (shown elsewhere onDas Site and in The Troller Yacht Book) caught fire and was destroyed.We don’t know what started it, but the fire apparently started in the engine room and that reminded me of the boat I just mentioned.

Engine exhaust gets very hot. Wet exhaust systems aren’t much of a problem because seawater is injected into it which cool sit right down. The modern exhaust pipe is rubber (they used to be metal) and as long as your seawater pump functions everything is “cool.” The exhaust hose can run wherever you want it, and from what I’ve seen, it appears that with water cooled exhaust engines in cramped and tiny engine rooms, even with very large engines, engine room temperature isn’t an issue.

Dry stacks are a totally different issue. Back in the 1960s I had a sailboat with an air cooled Lister diesel. It had a dry exhaust that exited the hull right at the waterline, the hope being that water would keep the planks from catching fire. It worked, but barely; the planks around the exhaust were black from the heat.And the pipe itself was wrapped in a 4″ cocoon of asbestos.

While the simplicity of this system has much to be said for it,I wouldn’t do it today. If I was going to use an air cooled motor I’d rig a seawater pump to inject water into the exhaust.But, I’d still make the system out of pipe rather than hose, and exit it to split the waterline. That way if the impeller failedI’d still be OK. Of course this is just my normal paranoia coming through because a water-cooled engine will melt the hose too if the impeller fails; I’ve done it. But the difference is, the air cooled engine will run without the impeller, and the water-cooled engine won’t. So, I’d never build an exhaust system that on its own can stop you. But in this country larger aircooled engines are rare in boats. The heat is an issue, as is noise. But they do work good, and the problems are solvable.A guy I used to know had a 6 banger Duetz in a 55′ powerboat, and liked it.

Anyway, back to the immediate subject; engine room and dry stack heat. As I said, a large water-cooled engine can be stuck almost anywhere, but our dry stacks as we’ll probably want in our powerboats really raise the temperature around them and this heat must be got rid of.

First, the stack. On my designs you’ll note the stack is inside a wooden box to hide it. The box is big enough so the stack can be wrapped in heat insulating material, and still leave several inches of air passage around it. This box ends at the pilot house roof, and then there is an external “chimney” the stack runs through. This chimney is also bigger than the exhaust pipe, and has large air vents in the sides.

On the first several trial runs I’d pay close attention to the temperature in this box. With good heat shielding heat shouldn’t be an issue, but perhaps a blower might be needed to be installed up in the chimney to help the air flow.
This box can also, when a blower is installed at the base of it, vent the hot air in the engine room itself, but an idea I saw that really appealed to me was plywood box “ducting,”about 12″ x 4″, that came up inside the pilot house about 18” off the sole (floor, you lubber), on each side of the house. This ducting had close able louvered vents that allowed air to flow into the pilothouse, and also, through the outside wall of the house.

In cold weather the vents are left open in the pilot house to provide heat. In warm weather the vents are open outside the house to get the heat away from the boat. A blower is installed in the base of each duct to force the air up and out.

I would also install a port lite in each side of the engine room. Aside from letting you see out, it brings in fresh air.