Mailport March 1, 1998 Issue

Mailport 03/01/98

Debating Radar Height
Regarding Bill Brown’s letter in the November 1, 1997 issue, in which he claims that a radar should be placed “real high,” I must disagree. Placing a yacht radar higher does little to improve performance.

For both navigation and collision avoidance, the inadequate bearing discrimination (+/- 5°) inherent with a small scanner precludes useful long-range bearing data. GPS provides superior navigation fixes except in pilotage conditions. Short-range radar performance is actually decreased by increasing radar height, sea clutter increases and ultra short-range targets (buoys, beacons, dinghy, etc.) may be under the elevated radar beam.

The most cost-effective way to improve a sailboat’s radar is to have the scanner horizontal. Unfortunately, self-leveling mounts are actually more expensive than the radar itself. However, a simple manual leveling system is not hard to achieve, if the radar dome is at an accessible height on a post or an arch.

J.A. Hamilton
Mendocino, California

Rechroming Winches
This correspondence was prompted by the letter from Joseph Boyle of Edgewater, Maryland in the PS Advisor in the October 15, 1997 issue.

When I needed to rechrome my winches (chrome Lewmar 48ST) for our 1983 Morgan Out Island 41, I took them to a local electroplating shop and told them clearly, three times, that the rough surface needed to be sandblasted. When I picked them up the drums’ rough surfaces were practically smooth. The chrome process filled the sandblasted area, essentially rendering the winches useless. I was so disappointed.

I called Sally Morgan of Charles Morgan Associates to explain my dilemma. She sold us our boat and has provided invaluable leads in our restoration efforts. She told me to call Warren Pandy of Morgan-Catalina Yachts in Largo. Warren suggested I call Dave LaRose at Rhode Island Technical Plating (50 Libera St., Cranston, RI 02920; 401/946-1150).

Mr. LaRose explained the process: Send him the drums and he would strip them to bronze and send them to Ideal Windlass who would do the knurling and send them back to him for the chrome process. They came out absolutely beautiful and cost only $190 delivered COD to my door.

Junab Ali
Tampa, Florida

Cheap Inflatable Inflator
I noted the article on electric inflatable inflators in the August 15, 1997. This brought to mind that my electric inflator came free of charge, so to speak. Seems that the wife was cleaning up the cabin with her Dirt Devil ($24 at Walmart) and the dust bag filled up. I got to change it and took a good look at the exhaust tube. It didn’t take a rocket scientist to figure this one out. A local pool supply house had the necessary soft coupling and hose, which along with a bit of duct tape, made an effective inflator.

Yes, it uses 110VAC, and you might dirty your hands a bit, but then how often do you really need an inflator? And since she uses it to clean the cabin, she bought it and stores it. Now that’s hard to beat.

Karl Schmitt
Hillsboro, Missouri

End-Boom Sheeting Danger
In the December 1997 issue, your reply to Richard Knapp’s comment on the dangers of end-boom sheeting mentioned the death that occurred in the 1996 Antigua Race Week when a woman was struck by the mainsheet during a jibe. Similar jibing accidents occurred in the 1989 Marion-Bermuda Race and in the 1992 Cowes week, the mainsheet striking the head and killing a physician in each instance. Head injuries in sailing are more common than most people think and most but not all of them occur during accidental jibes, according to my collection of 36 serious head injuries on sailboats, half of which were fatal.

These findings led a panel of riggers, designers, safety experts and physicians, endorsed by the Commodores of the New York Yacht Club and the Cruising Club of America, to ask US Sailing to bring before the ORC a recommendation that permanently installed and easily connected preventers led back to the cockpit for quick release be rigged on boats competing in Category 0, 1 and 2 races. Although the ORC has not yet taken action, such a recommendation was made by the 1996 Marion-Bermuda Race Committee and in the Notice to Race for the 1997 Newport-Bermuda Race. Some Bowmans and Little Harbor yachts, and perhaps others, come with such preventers factory installed.

Should the question be how to rig the preventer line and get it back to the helmsman? Such a device would make the end-boom mainsheet safer.

Edwin G. Fischer, MD
Fleet Surgeon
Cruising Club of America
Boston, Massachusetts

It’s not the sheeting location…it’s the jibe!

Uncontrolled jibes have killed or injured many, independent of where the sheet is attached to the boom.

The best preventive measure is using a preventer (in addition to a vang) whenever the wind is abaft the beam. The best preventer is comprised of two high tech lines with eye splices in both ends, led from a bail near the boom end to a hook two-thirds of the way up each side of the boom. When sailing off the wind, unhook the leeward line, snapshackle in a stout line that is led as far forward as possible, through a turning block and back to a winch.

When doing a controlled jibe, ease the line on the winch as you trim the main, jibe and then reattach the preventer on the leeward side.

Walker Vought
Southport, Connecticut

Another solution is to install a boom brake. This eliminates all the hazards of an accidental jibe and allows the boom to be controlled from the cockpit. A brake is also very useful for MOB drills using the Lifesling in rough sea states, since the boom can be immobilized in any position or height with a block and tackle rigged to the end to lift the MOB.

Twin preventers are another option. Although about the same amount of money to rig, to keep the boom under control one would have to pay out one preventer while bringing in the other and adjusting the mainsheet—a difficult job. With a brake, you adjust the tension on the brake line to set how easily the boom can move, then pull in or let out the mainsheet. Much easier.

Since PS reviewed brakes in the January 1, 1994 issue, we have added four more models to our line, covering boats from 20' to 70', with becket versions for boats with soft vangs and non-becket versions for boats with rigid vangs. Our telephone number is 203/838-0375.

Martin Van Breems
Norwalk, Connecticut

High Cost of Spare Parts
Brian La Bute’s letter in the November 1, 1997 issue (in which he complained that a new compressor for his four-year-old Norcold refrigerator cost $100 more than an entire new refrigerator) invites comment.

I am not a bean counter, just a retired general manager of a scientific instrument and apparatus company with experience on both sides of the cost-of-spare-parts conundrum. The answer is simply that parts for manufacturing and parts for spares are derived from separate inventories with widely different time bases and, therefore, disparate costs. Does that suffice? If not, read on.

My experience includes refrigeration apparatus so replacement compressors can serve as an example of the logic in pricing spare parts.

Refrigeration units are manufactured by specialist companies and purchased by manufacturers of refrigerated devices. If, for example, a batch of 100 end-products is planned, generally only 100 units will be ordered. Granted excellent design, top quality control and timely delivery to Marketing at an agreed transfer price, then Manufacturing has done its job.

Note the agreed transfer price. Historically, Marketing informs Manufacturing that a market of certain size is available at a particular price level. Manufacturing examines its costs, including return on investment and, say, finds slack in certain areas, especially inventory control. Most PS readers will have heard of “just-in-time” parts delivery; well, it is only the natural development of minimizing cost of inventory for manufacturing. Why the emphasis? Because there is another class of inventory—spare parts.

Manufacturing inventory moves speedily—to be recovered as money. Money, the systemic nutrient of all business, has a time component. The shorter the time the lower the cost.

Spare parts inventory moves slowly, haphazardly, accumulating costs at the current price of money. Ironically, high quality products tend to keep spares on the shelf longer than low quality products. Ponder such a perverse incentive. Some entity must take up the cost of parts. Since Marketing is concerned about customer relations it is natural for Marketing to bear this money/time cost. But costs have to be recovered! From where? The market, of course. In other words, either the price of a spare compressor must be higher or the extra cost must be born by the original product, in whole or part. Marketing can ask Manufacturing to order five extra compressors for spares but cannot expect them to carry the inventory. It is a Marketing cost.

Now, inventory is an asset on the books until converted to cost of sales when sold. Accounting rules require aging inventory to be written down to a “reserve for depreciation.” It is a loss and will affect the financial report adversely. Eventually, inventory can be written down to zero value (total loss) but in the US tax rules then mandate its disposal.

Also, inventory as an asset (valued annually) increases federal and state corporate income tax. And, the unkindest cut of all, some states levy an inventory tax.

There are partial remedies for this situation. Marketing can insist that distributors carry adequate spares inventory; but that transfers costs to distributors and may hobble their willingness to give local price breaks.

Clearly, the spares situation should be discussed with the manufacturer and distributor before any substantial purchase. Scrutinize a parts list before ordering and ask about expected life of key elements. Get prices and a deal if you take some parts with the merchandise. Ask who makes major items—like electric motors, compressors, hydraulics—and whether they are standard or made especially for the manufacturer.

In North America, we scrap much that is technically repairable because economics of repair are contrary. It is better, therefore, to buy among the best, maintain it properly and expect to pay dearly in some cases if we choose repair over replacement.

However, that dear price reflects the real cost of producing and inventorying the part. The cost balloons, does it not, if you cannot get the part at all?

One may conclude that spare parts are good for customer relations but bad in every other way. A part given to a customer at no charge by Marketing is charged back to Manufacturing, if warranty. If not warranty, Marketing charges the cost to some other account, such as Public Relations, or Unrecovered Warranty Costs. Costs do not just vanish.

Summing up: Price of a spare part includes original cost of purchase or manufacture, cost of money idled by the part, storage costs, taxes and estimated write-down of unsold parts apportioned to parts sold.

And a word of appreciation for bean counters. Our accounting colleagues are vital to any business. They take care of the systemic nutrient.

Ivan Hills
Kinnelon, New Jersey

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