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Posted: Sun Jul 28, 2019 7:16 am
by Gannet
A recent post touched upon reliability and the relevance of having oars.
I suspect that the reliability of old, refurbished/restored Seagull is dependent to a very large degree on the skill, knowledge and experience of the person who has been working on it. There are one or two items that have deterioated with the passing of time, but the base design appears to be very sound. That and the quality of the materials, suggest the base reliability is very high. But, perhaps those with a longer involvement with Seagulls might be aware of random failures, caused by quality or design problems. Is that so or not?
I would suggest that provided early ignition coils have been replaced the reliability is probably as good as a modern outboard, provided that the maintenance and assembly has been carried out to a high and skilled standard.
Any comments to this suggestion?


Re: Reliability

Posted: Sun Jul 28, 2019 9:33 am
by Journeyman
Never rely on any engine inboard, outboard, vintage or modern, an engine is more likely to get you into trouble than out of it.

When I used a seagull outboard to do this years Pembroke Rally I also carried an Anchor with a length of chain and a rode, along with a good set of Oars.
Just as well as I picked up some fishing line that got between the collar on the prop shaft and the gearbox and locked the box up. No way to clear it on the water so ended up rowing.
Back in the workshop I had to punch the pin out of the collar, remove the collar to get at the fishing line that had welded itself together.
Is that a design fault highlighted by modern very thin fishing line?
Would the same thing happen to a modern out board?

The only certainty is that an engine will always find some way or other of causing mischief on the water!


Re: Reliability

Posted: Sun Jul 28, 2019 5:21 pm
by Chris B

These days my prime mover (when the boat's not under sail) is a neat little Mercury, with a carefully maintained 40 year old WSPCL on standby as a back-up.

The Mercury is generally preferred because it's very quiet and relatively economical - but there's always a sneaking feeling that it's hatching a cunning plan to lie in wait and suddenly choose a bad moment to break down.

The Seagull is noisy and relatively thirsty but it's what I'd call an honest and unpretentious engine. It has character, which is pleasing in an engine, but more importantly it's very trustworthy. I know from experience that a properly maintained Seagull is highly unlikely to break down. Incidentally, although it's jetted for 25:1 I run this one on 20:1 which it seems to like.

I feel that some modern outboards can tend to be a little bit neurotic, perhaps due in part to over-complicated design, but also as the result of under-engineering - an inherent fragility which presumably is for reasons of production economy and ultimately profit for the shareholders. In contrast to modern outboard design philosophy the Seagull is a very simple machine (simplify it any further and it probably wouldn't run at all), plus it's somewhat over-engineered, with generous bearing surfaces that are lightly loaded. The result of all that is a reliable piece of kit.

Despite having the pair of outboards I still carry a pair of long sweeps stowed in chocks on the coachroof. I suppose old habits die hard. When I was 10 years old I was taught to scull over the transom using one oar (handy for manoeuvring in confined spaces like narrow tidal creeks). Don't see much of that these days but it's a peaceful way of moving short distances. Getting back to the point, when all else has failed I've never known a pair of oars to pack up!

I think the root cause of most of the breakdowns and reliability issues that I've witnessed involving Seagull engines could be narrowed down to inadequate maintenance or user abuse, rather than anything fundamentally wrong with the engine design. The Villiers coils might be regarded as an exception - but in fairness Seagull were probably doing the best they could with what they had available at the time. As we know, those Villiers coils slowly "biodegrade" and are likely to eventually fail, but if an owner knows that a component has a reputation for failing then I think it's up to that owner to do something about it in good time. Which of course brings us back to maintenance.

All the same - especially if you only have one engine on board - don't forget to take the oars!

Just my two penn'orth.



Re: Reliability

Posted: Mon Jul 29, 2019 7:10 am
by Gannet
Thanks hris and Dave for your comments.
I certainly agree that you must be prepared when on the water - salt or fresh - with all the equipment and safety gear that you might need.
I certaInly agree with your comments about the inherent design simplicity and design integrity, and thus reliability of Seagulls.
My motive in posting this thread was to open a debate about the relative reliability of modern outboards and older Seagulls. I suspect that there is a feeling that Seagulls might not be as reliable, and thus their usage is reduced. This is a huge shame.
Would anybody else like to contribute their tuppence worth?


Re: Reliability

Posted: Mon Jul 29, 2019 3:09 pm
by charlesp
I'm pretty sure that the more modern smaller outboards are rather more fragile in general terms. I've seen Mariner/Mercury motors with holes in the water jacket, and I have had the top bearing break up in a 3.3 Mercury of my own. That one had a busted tiller arm, and more than once I've ruefully watched one of the irritating little cowling catches spiralling off into the depths. It has the collar which tightens to prevent rotation lose its threads, and a rusted carburettor float pin.

Seagulls generally are rather more solid, they were of course built to last.

It's just the coils, really, that let them down when they get old. A while ago there was an interesting discussion about converting the standard model to electronic ignition with a bolt-on device. For the life of me I can't remember what it was called.

Re: Reliability

Posted: Mon Jul 29, 2019 4:18 pm
by Charles uk
It was a device called an Atom made in Australia, I think, that just replaced the points.

Re: Reliability

Posted: Tue Jul 30, 2019 7:25 pm
by Gannet
Yes, I am sure a solid state electronic ignition is fundamentally more reliable than a points operated system.
Charles P, I agree old Villiers coils are certainly an issue. But when they have been replaced with a new one, which is the more reliable outboard? An old Seagull or a newish modern one?
I would contend that an old Seagull which has been refurbished/restored/reworked in a skilfull manner is going to be as reliable as a modern outboard, and might well be much more reliable.
If that is the case, then one shouldn't be concerned about using one's Seagull on the water instead of a modern one.


Re: Reliability

Posted: Tue Jul 30, 2019 10:25 pm
by cookie1
Many fishing vessels and work boats prefer the old school diesels for their rugged simplicity and reliability and I think the same could be said for Seagull . Most folk who are handy with a spanner can keep one going . On the larger modern engines if the computer says no they just stop or at best go into limp mode . Not handy on the sea !

Re: Reliability

Posted: Tue Jul 30, 2019 11:42 pm
by Chris B
"Many fishing vessels and work boats prefer the old school diesels for their rugged simplicity and reliability and I think the same could be said for Seagull . Most folk who are handy with a spanner can keep one going . On the larger modern engines if the computer says no they just stop or at best go into limp mode . Not handy on the sea !"

Absolutely one hundred percent correct!

As far as engine preferences and priorities go, simplicity and reliability are right at the top of my list. In a different thread I recently mentioned my old Gardner 6LX diesel. Weighed half a ton and churned out 150bhp at a lazy 1,700rpm. A dismal power to weight ratio by today's standards, but it was massively over-engineered, built with the precision of a Swiss watch, and it never ever faltered. Regarding self-sufficiency, the hydraulic fluid for that Gardner's remote controlled gearbox system was a mixture of diesel and engine oil, so you didn't have to go shopping for some exotic product - you simply made your own.

An all singing all dancing seagoing marine engine is no use to me if it fails 50 miles offshore in a howling gale and only a boffin with a laptop and diagnostic software can fix it.

Seagull engines resulted from the same sort of sensible "old fashioned" thinking that Gardner applied: keep it simple, build it tough, make it reliable. Which is exactly why I still regularly use a pair of Seagulls to this day. In fact I'll be using one of them tomorrow evening on the east coast, and although I haven't seen it for a couple of months I know it's going to fire up without any difficulty and run without any complaints... Famous last words....


Re: Reliability

Posted: Sun Aug 04, 2019 2:10 pm
by captin slow
regardinding relieabilty i have allways been happy with my seagull, the only reasen for it failing is me forgeting something

Re: Reliability

Posted: Sun Aug 04, 2019 5:19 pm
by Gannet
Hi Pete,
Yes, the human aspect is often the weak link. My favourite one is to forget to open the petrol tap after a short stop.
What is the model and serial number of your Seagull?


Re: Reliability

Posted: Tue Aug 06, 2019 12:10 pm
by captin slow
my seagull is a 102 with a diffrent head the rest is as standerd . not to shore how old the coil is becose it looks in good condition.

i was thinking of changing to contackless ignition . as it is my back up.

i will have a bisiy winter as my mainmotor will be servisted and my boat is going to be reforbed (new transem ect)

but it will keep me bissy this winter :mrgreen: