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One is the author of boat systems repair books whose pages are covered with the greasy fingerprints from generations of cruisers. The other has spent 40 years fixing more and more diesel engines and ancillary systems. Both are honest-to-goodness cruisers in their own right. After five years of teaching “Everything You Need to Know About Marine Diesel Engines” at TrawlerFest, we might as well call it the Nigel Calder-Steve Zimmerman show.

Nigel Calder, at top left, explains the workings of a Cummins engine.

Nigel Calder, at top left, explains the workings of a Cummins engine.

Calder and Zimmerman have deep roots in our magazine family. Calder has been SAIL expert for years before becoming technical editor for PassageMaker, often opining on lofty topics. Zimmerman, who writes the magazine’s Troubleshooter column, focuses his efforts on the nitty gritty of problem-solving and maintenance. Adolf Ellert is the top technician for Shearwater Marine of Stuart Florida, a division of Whiticar Boatworks and TrawlerFest partner.


Over the years, Calder and Zimmerman have forged one of the most impressive instructor-instructor partnerships in the world of marine education. They bring two distinct voices and a lot of much needed humor to what otherwise could be a leaden topic. 

Your next chance to see them is at TrawlerFest in Stuart, Florida, where their two-day diesel course kicks off the seminar series on Tuesday, March 3, at the Shearwater shop, a short ride from the TrawlerFest's main location at the Marriott Hutchinson Island Resort and Marina. Shuttle provided. 

Classroom instruction uses actual engines, custom mock-ups and a lot of bits and pieces of engines. The price of admission includes lunch both days and a graduation party, during which certificates of completion are awarded.

Class size is limited to 36, and the course nearly always sells out.

Here is a typical tribute to Calder from cruiser-author Carolyn Shearlock:

One afternoon, while Dave sailed the boat, I sat below with everything torn apart, reading Calder until I found symptoms that sounded like ours. I did the tests he described and concluded that our voltage regulator was bad. To be honest, I’d never heard of a voltage regulator before we’d bought the boat—and only heard about it then as we inventoried the spares.

And of course, our spare wasn’t identical to the one in use, so it wasn’t going to be a simple swap-out. No, I had to install a whole new wiring harness and everything. But — and this is big — after reading Calder, I understood what I needed to do. Between this book and the installation instructions that came with the regulator, I had no problems other than those occasioned by working on a moving boat.

I even understood what I was doing in programming the regulator correctly for our batteries (as opposed to a cookbook approach of “do this because I say to”). My confidence soared with that one episode, and I imagine others have had the same experience. I can’t tell you how many times we pulled out “Nigel” to figure something out. More than one page was covered in grease stains.

In-Water Boat Show: THURSDAY, MARCH 5–SATURDAY, MARCH 7, 2020. Show open 10 a.m. - 5 p.m. Thursday, Friday & Saturday.


Tickets: General Admission is $15 in advance, $18 onsite. Seminar tickets include General Admission to the boat show on the day of the seminar

Location: Marriott Hutchinson Island Resort & Marina
555 NE Ocean Blvd, Stuart, FL 34996. Parking is free.

Questions? Contact us at or (954) 761-8777


Pssssst...Here's the Best Deal

Every seminar except the diesel course, "Practical Marine Weather" and “Boat Handling on the Water” are part of our VIP package. Being a four- or five-day VIP gives attendees access to their choice of 24 other seminars. The cost is $449 for a four-day VIP pass and $549 for the five-day pass. Visit our ticketing site and do some math. You'll see how being a VIP maximizes your seminar buying power.