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Introduction to the Hydraulic System

Since Prout Catamarans had no expertise whatsoever designing hydraulic propulsion

systems, my father turned to Diport AG, a.k.a. Swiss-Hydro, a specialized design bureau
that he found on a boat show. The representatives of the company reassured my father
that these sorts of propulsion systems were their bread-and-butter business and that we
could have a standard woring system in no time.
!mong other things, "iport !# chose our engine for us, since the $%& Perins model
has bolt-on compatibility with a 'exroth line of hydraulic pumps. The "iport !#
representatives also claimed that our boat would be able to travel at ( nots, and that
lobster pots would merely bloc the affected hydraulic motor without stopping the rest of
the system. This is the system that "iport !# had us install)
*ydraulic +ayout) ,ngine -at left. drives two pumps in series. ,ach pump is attached to a
separate motor.
/urther on, we discovered that the claims by "iport !# to be dubious at best. Perhaps by
now "iport !# has managed to gain enough experience at the expense of customers lie
us to improve the 0uality of their designs. !fter all, the number of fundamental mistaes
in their design made Prout Catamarans loo professional1 !fter "iport !# supplied all
the parts, Prout Catamarans managed to install them properly for the most part. 2et, our
system had some maddening flaws)
! fundamental transmission ratio error. 3nstead of copying readily available,
existing designs "iport !#s 4solution4 over-tor0ued our engine. 5ur transmission
ratio was 6.(7)6 instead of 8.9()6. 3t:s not surprising that with such a fundamental
mismatch the maximum boat speed was ;ust about as fast on one prop < =&&&
'P$ as on two at >6&& 'P$ -the max. the engine could attain under dual
propellers.... The fastest we ever went was %.7 nots, not (.
The hoses in the system 4sang4 because all of them were too small, causing high
flow rates and excessive pressure drop. !ll hydraulic hoses in our boat had to
replaced with the next size up1 ,ven more damning was our discovery in the
hydraulic oil tan where hoses two sizes too small were feeding the suction side
of the system.
The bypass valve settings were set too high - instead of stalling w?o illing the
diesel, a lobster pot wrapped around a prop causes the pump control cables to
;ump from their mountings. The whole system comes to a catastrophic halt.
+east annoying is the cacophony caused by the mounting method for the motors)
$otors and sail-drives are bolted directly to the hull, enhancing noise
transmission tremendously.
The engine was oversized to %& *p so that we would derive about =& hp of prop power
after hydraulic and sail-drive losses -(7@ and A7@ efficiency, respectively.. /orty horses
at the propellers were supposed to accelerate our Prout ,scale to about ( nots of speed.
The sail-drives are the 68&S model from Bolvo with an interface plate to accommodate
'exroth hydraulic motors instead of a Bolvo $S8 transmission. ! review of existing
Bolvo sail-drive combos such as the $"8&8& -a three cylinder 8& *P motor paired with
the 68&S sail-drive. shows a 8.7)6 transmission ratio. *owever, the name of the game is
to ensure that propeller size, pitch, and rotational speeds are e0uivalent, not ;ust the
overall transmission ratio.
Thus, if a Bolvo $"8&8& engines have a max. 'P$ of >,%&& and a overall 8.7)6
transmission ratio, the fastest their props will turn in water is 6==& 'P$ -6%4 diameter >-
blade folding prop, 66 degree pitch.. 5ur Perins runs up to =,&&& 'P$ and the
conse0uent transmission ratio -assuming we want to achieve the same propeller speed.
has to be around =&&&?>%&&C8.7D8.9(.
Since the sail-drive has a transmission ratio of 8.8)6, we can now calculate the
transmission ratio re0uired for the rest of the system. !s the variable displacement pumps
put out 6Acc oil for every engine 'P$ and since we use fixed motors, the calculation
becomes) 8.9( D -x?6A.C8.8 where x is the cc size of the motor.
!ssuming we want to achieve exactly 6==& 'P$ at the propeller, we:d need a 8=cc
motor. 'exroth still manufactures the !8/$ fixed motor line and the closest
displacement is the 8>cc motor. !nother, cheaper option would be to reduce the size of
the propellers yet again. !s designed, our boat carried 694 diameter, >-bladed $axProps.
Eanni "iesel uses 8& hp engines and a 8.8)6 transmission ratio from >,%&& 'P$ on 6=4 8
bladed propellers. *owever, upwind performance of the system would have been
!t the end of 8&&& we were looing at the following options)
Measure Cost Pro Con
current drive
system with
twin engines
Standard System
,nsures proper
Saildrive taen care
Cost -ouch1 ouch1 ouch1.
,ngines in living 0uarters
Cramped access
Replace 2,600
RPM, 6 hp
Per!ins "or
current engine
Slow 'P$s of
engine would allow
perfect propeller
speed in the water
*oses may be
Cost -ouch1 ouch1.
Saildrive still a problem
Golt pattern on engine is
different and would re0uire
a new plate
current #6cc
motors "or
2$cc models
Getter tor0ue
,ngine?Prop match
Could fix saildrive
Could replace
hydraulic hoses
3nstallation -need to re
machine mounting plate.
Cut down
propellers to
F=&& ,asy
6&@ loss of performance
going upwind
Saildrive still a problem
Install '(drive,
relocate engine
"urther )ac!
F%&&& Prout 4standard4
Potentially much
simpler to maintain
than hydraulic
system - certainly
easier to 4de-lobster
Potentially less noise
in hull due to
relocation of hull
2ou can lift H-drive
out of water during
sailing to reduce
drag, chance of
catching lobster pot
$uch better
Cost -ouch1.
3 have yet to find a H drive
long, strong enough for a
%& hp engine
$aneuverability isn:t as
good with H-drive as with
twin propellers
H-drive can come out of
water during storms and is
thus much less desirable
than propellers that are
deeper in the water..
The long bending moment
maes this 0uite a fragile
efficiency, lower
fuel consumption for
given boat speed
Goat would have
better front-to-bac
trim due to engine
being further bac
*essons learned along the way "or our propulsion system+
Ise a competent, local hydraulic design firm. $ost IS firms 3 have dealt with are
more forthcoming about fixing their mistaes... The current head of "iport !#,
$r. Gechler, was nice enough to review the system his company had designed,
came to the same conclusion regarding the inade0uacy of the design, yet did not
offer to fix it. Je had to buy the replacement motors, hoses, machine the
necessary parts, etc. ourselves. *e did provide a nice diagram though of a
installation cross section showing ;ust how different the next motor up would be.
"isallow the "iport !# mounting method. Jhile Bolvo installation re0uirements
call for the isolation of the sail-drive from the hull -using a rubber diaphragm and
mounting it to a suspended engine via the transmission., our sail-drive was
attached directly to a ring glassed into the hull. The effect) a lot of noise
transmission from the drives and motors to the hull, which are louder than the
engine -111..
,ven if the saildrive was tghe only option, "iport !# should have reviewed
existing installations and chosen 8>cc motors instead. !s shown above, "iport
!# chose not to mimic an existing product. /urthermore, the saildrive should
have been installed such that it would not touch the ground before the rest of the
hull did. This is an oversight on the part of Prout Catamarans...
3nstead of using a saildrive, we could have installed a simple stern tube and a 7=cc
hydraulic motor into the rearmost bilges. The benefits would have included a
more robust design -higher tor0ue no gearing., fewer transmission losses -no
fragile saildrive., better protected propellers -not hanging lower than the eel., a
standard interface for the Spurrs cutters -i.e. actually cut lines, not ;ust spin
ineffectively., etc. /urthermore, the slower turning motor would have produced
less noise and virtually no vibration since a stern tube setup produces much less
drag than a saildrive.
3nstall ade0uate hydraulic hoses. #iven the flow re0uirements, even a cursory
loo at the #ates or other hydraulic hose catalogs indicates that our !KG lines
should be L4 3", the S-lines 643". This was another fundamental, basic error on
the part of "iport !#. Gy one estimate, we are losing % psi of pressure for every
foot of undersized !KG hose M 68& psi per side. The suction lines are even more
3nstall a proper *ydraulic 5il 'eservoir, not one where L4 suction lines are
interfaced with N4 hose inside the reservoir while O4 return lines are hooed up
to L4 hoses. This was perhaps a installation error. Suction lines cannot tolerate
such pressure drop anywhere along the way to the pumps.
!ctually, the best option would have been to stay away from hydraulic drives and go with
dual 87hp engines and a huge diesel tan in the center nacelle. Gesides greater
redundancy, a dual engine set-up is standard across the world and would have made
servicing the system far simpler. The larger fuel tan would have given us better range.
*owever, installing engines into living spaces would have also re0uired some careful
venting -consider that proper venting is not a Prout Catamarans specialty. to prevent
smells and carbon monoxide from entering the cabin.
3n the end, we decided to repair the hydraulic system rather than replace it because it
seemed lie the less expensive option. ! more critical review of our propulsion system
after the flooding should have prodded us to bite the bullet and install twin drives instead.
To Prout Catamarans credit, they tried in vain to dissuade us from the hydraulic system
and use one of their proven set-ups instead...
Gest ,stimate for Time 'e0uired)
,iagnose over tor-ued engine 8 hours
Con"er with ,iport ./ re+ lac! o" per"ormance 6& hours
Review e0isting literature, search internet, consult colleagues,
arrive at solution
>& hours
1otal =8 hours
+atest Ipdate on Jednesday, $arch 6%, 8&&7
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