Mailport September 1, 2000 Issue

Mailport 09/01/00

Battery Gas Corrosion
Some comments on the battery-caused corrosion [described by Dale Botwin in the January 1, 2000 issue and commented on by readers in the May 1 issue]. It’s a well-known problem, although most professional battery experts say that the batteries cannot release hydrogen sulfide or sulfur dioxide. Recently run tests at Bellcore, now Telcordia, have shown that with excessive currents and temperature both gases are released in quantity. This is caused by either overcharging or shorted cells. It is important to fuse the ground line if using more than one battery in parallel. Also limiting the charging current is effective in some cases; it depends on the amount of stored amp-hours.

Hydrogen is an odorless, colorless gas that is highly explosive. Being lighter than air it quickly rises and will not accumulate in an open bilge. It does not cause corrosion.

Hydrogen sulfide (H2S), which some people can smell at concentrations as small as 10 parts per billion (ppb), will cause corrosion of copper connections and turn several types of wire insulation gray by reacting with the lead fillers in the insulation. H2S is used in a number of commercial gas corrosion tests at concentrations as low as 20 ppb to accelerate atmospheric corrosion in conjunction with other corrosive gases, i.e., SO2, Cl2, and NO2.

Rudy Schubert
via e-mail

Slap In The Night
I’d call this a Hint from Heloise, but my name isn’t Heloise, and that title is already taken. Let’s call this a Boat Byte From Bev. This concerns a problem that nobody ever mentions when they are defining the perfect cruising boat: How quiet is the hull of boat when you are sleeping aboard at anchor or at a dock? The only way to really know is to try it out, but if you can’t do that, I suggest you take a really hard look at any boat that has long, flat overhangs with sleeping quarters above the overhangs. Throw in catamarans that do not have enough clearance above the water in the center. Also include motorboats with chines forward, the kind of shape you see on fast planing boats, or the new hard bottom inflatables. Given any kind of wave condition, these bottoms will go slap, slap, slap, till you either learn to live with constant noise, go crazy, or sell the boat.

We never experienced this ourselves, until we got a RIB dinghy, but we heard the complaints from so many boaters who owned boats with beautiful, sleek modern lines, but were nightmares to sleep aboard. We hadn’t gotten used to the slap of our new dinghy, we were just tolerating it, being too lazy to lift it at night, when our son came to visit us. He slept (I should say, tried to sleep) with the noise just one night, took a long hard look at the front end of the dinghy the next day, and suggested that tying it by the stern might help the problem. We tried it and, voila! Problem was solved. Now we go to bed at night with the dinghy tied by its stern line.

I don’t know how this might apply to those of you who have the problem with the “mother ship,” but it is certainly something to think about. And remember, no matter how great a buy, or how much you love that boat you are hoping to buy, if she’s a “slapper,” you are going to regret it.

Bev and Dave Feiges on Cloverleaf
Sioux City, Iowa

Freeing Corroded Fasteners
I have never tried this myself, but a friend (whose knowledge of boats I greatly admire) once told me he loosens stainless fittings by using the boat’s battery. He hooks up cables to the battery, grounds the aluminum, and then touches the hot cable briefly to the head of the fitting. This way, the heating is very localized.

John Crozier
Nichols, Connecticut

Hoyt Jib Boom
Your excellent article on self-tending jibs (May 15, 2000) made mention of the Hoyt Jib Boom which was introduced for the staysail of the later model Island Packets. This boom retains the single line control yoke but, by restraining the lift of the boom, maintains a better sail shape off the wind and eliminates the topping lift.

Your readers may be interested in a modification that I made recently to my (pre-Hoyt) Island Packet 31 where I replaced the control yoke with a double sheeting arrangement using the same block locations as the original yoke. The two lines give me full port and starboard control over the position of the staysail, and also allow me to control the lift of the club to adjust the sail shape under most conditions. The sail is no longer self-tending, but this is little sacrifice for a small sail that can be easily managed from the cockpit. Each line is double purchased to make adjustments possible without the use of a winch.

Another benefit of dispensing with the self-tending feature is that I now have the ability to backwind the staysail jib when tacking or heaving to.

David Collings
Trumbull, Connecticut

Serving as the lyrics to a song is the most practical use I can see for a jib boom. This spring, as I made my annual visits to several boat shows, I noticed jib booms on several new boats. I wondered why anyone would sacrifice all that deck space forward for such an ugly appendage. When I opened my last issue of PS and saw the Alerion Express with the jib boomed all the way out, I wondered why anyone would want a boat with such an obvious man-killer aboard?

I thought about how to overcome the obvious danger. First I thought about a preventer, but came to the conclusion that anyone not willing to crank a winch, like a real sailor, would not be willing to go forward to rig a preventer. Then, my old navy experience came back to me. On navy ships, around the arc of gun barrels, they paint a red arc on the deck indicating the danger area. I am certain that anyone who is willing to have a jib boom on his boat is more than willing to paint a big red arc on the deck to warn the innocent that their lives are in danger by walking forward.

Maybe not a perfect solution, but it may stand up in court during the resulting lawsuits after your best friend gets his head knocked off.

G.A. Van Houweling
San Diego, California

Caliber 40
I was delighted to see your review of the Caliber 40 LRC in the April 1 issue. Having owned a Caliber 40 for nearly eight years, lived aboard for nearly four years, and cruised her for the past year, I find your review mostly fair and accurate. However, I must take issue with your evaluation of the “poor holding tank design.” Although there have been several problems with Caliber 40 holding tanks, the nature of these problems could more accurately be described as “manufacturing problems” rather than “design problems.” I, as well as another couple I know quite well who have been cruising on their Caliber 40 for several years, have not had these problems. I think the design is excellent. Not only does it provide a margin of safety by creating a collision bulkhead, it provides a holding tank with sufficient capacity to be useful on a cruising boat.

The problems that I am aware of with the holding tank were a result of crimped vent fittings. These problems were manufacturing errors. While I agree with your warning owners to be sure that the holding tank vent is clear (as one would with any other tank on a boat) I think your identifying them as design errors does a disservice to the boat and to potential buyers.

Concerning your comments about windward performance, pointing ability is a relative thing. There are not many moderately heavy displacement cruising boats that do any better—and many do much worse. Compared to full keel cruising boats the Caliber 40 does outstandingly.

I have been a subscriber to Practical Sailor for more than 20 years, and appreciate the great job you do on product evaluations and practical advice to sailors with boat problems. Thanks for the opportunity to express the opinion of a very satisfied Caliber 40 owner.

Jeff Huntington
Cruising on Sand Dollar
via email

Pearson Electra
In a recent issue a reader asked for feedback from other Electra owners. I’m not one of them, but I do own a 1974 Pearson 30, and I participate in Sailnet’s Pearson owners’ email exchange. It’s free, very active, and I know of a few Electra owners who participate. To join just send an email to “” and follow their directions. Another place for the reader to find fellow Pearsonites is through Good Old Boat magazine. They are on the web at

Steve Reevy
Casco Bay, Maine

In your recent test of waterproof handheld VHF radios, you tested the ICOM M1 with the larger battery. In your test, the radio failed the immersion test.

I must tell you of my experience with a M1. Three years ago, my three-month-old M1 went into the water at the Columbia Yacht Club dock in Chicago in 26 feet of water as I was leaving for the Chicago to Mackinac Singlehanded Race. Ten hours later, a diver retrieved the radio; when turned on, it worked perfectly. A race committee member brought the radio to Mackinac Island and used it to listen to finish reports until the battery eventually died as she did not have the charger (which was with me on the boat!).

Three years later, after untold abuse, several soakings and countless recharges, the radio still works flawlessly. My ICOM M1 is one of the single best pieces of marine hardware I have ever owned. Yours may have failed after some time in a bucket, but mine passed the ultimate immersion test; 10 hours in 26 feet of water.

Tim Kent
Brookfield, Wisconsin

I appreciated your recent analysis of handheld VHFs for water resistance. However, having experienced a dismasting at sea before finding our current boat (30' Cape Dory), we came to appreciate the value of having a handheld VHF on board as a backup. We chose the ICOM M3A because it promised the convenience of rechargeable batteries as well as the reliability of alkaline batteries.

The summary of our experience, however, has been one of unreliability and inconvenience:

First two weeks: Internal power failure, resulting in a complete replacement by West Marine.

Next two months: Charger unit failure required multiple battery changes which exposed the critical design flaw of this unit—the plastic battery pack clip breaks easily. The return work order from ICOM noted that the battery pack clip was replaced with a “less breakable clip.”

While preparing for an offshore voyage, inserting a fresh set of alkaline batteries seemed like a good idea…until the “less breakable clip” broke again. Duct tape got us through, and West Marine provided us with yet another battery pack.

We bought the unit for its feature of being able to pop in fresh batteries in an emergency at a moment’s notice; now this is the very thing we fear doing.

Teri Hamill, Ph.D.
via e-mail

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