Mailport November 1, 2001 Issue

Mailport: 11/01

Ralph Kershaw
Our sport, the marine industry, and many of us personally lost a man ofhonesty, integrity, professionalism, and deep knowledge on September11, 2001. Less than two months after Practical Sailor recognized himfor his expertise in the battle against hull blisters (PS June) we all lost Ralph Kershaw of Manchester-by-the-Sea, Massachusetts. He was one of the passengers on an ill-fated flight from Boston to Los Angeles that was so cruelly cut short.

It was exactly ten years ago that I first met Ralph when I asked him tosurvey a boat I was considering buying. Although he was tough anddirect, he was also honest and forthright. So much so, that the sellerimmediately booked his services to survey the boat my seller intendedto buy. Since then, I recommended Ralph to others, all of whom agreedthat he was all one could want in a marine surveyor. I ended up buyingthe boat that Ralph surveyed for me, and had no surprises.

When I was in the market to buy again last year, it was Ralph I again turned to, seeking his knowledge and honesty. He was a little hard to get hold of as his customer base was worldwide. This time, Ralph saved me from being "boat struck" and suggested that the boat he surveyed was not what it should be. As I continued to work through the dilemma of whether the deal was salvageable, long after the survey work had been completed, Ralph went more than the extra mile to support my efforts to obtain a solid boat. I'm sure that this was not out of the ordinary for him, and goes to explain why far-flung customers would fly him anywhere for his expertise and opinion.

His is but one of many stories that will haunt us all from that awfulday where we sustained such tragic losses in New York, Washington, andShanksville. I feel privileged to have had the pleasure of brieflyknowing him. He will be sorely missed.

-Carl Gerstle
Westford, Massachusetts

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Of Polypro and Marline
I own and have used the Walker Bay dinghy and my overall experience has been the same as yours. It takes a licking and keeps on ticking.

One problem that I've encountered occurred when my daughter, 115 lbs., was rowing and I, 160 lbs., was seated in the stern. There was a 2-3 knot current running and she could not make any headway against it at all. When I joined her with each of us taking one oar we were able to make good progress, which may be attributed to an improved boat shape than to an increase in strength—she had to ease up to keep from overpowering me. Did you encounter this problem?

I can't see that it would have helped if I sat in the bow. We didn't try with me rowing and her sitting in the stern, but why does one have daughters if they can't row you around?

-Jerome Trupin
Scarborough, NY

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Two comments on your September double issue. In your editorial you mentioned tarred marline, of which I have a small supply left from the late '50s. However, I'm now out of codline, once ubiquitous, now non-existent, it seems. Modern ropes are fine and I use them gladly, but there are times when one wants to make up a lanyard or light lashing with a backsplice and eyesplice and without having to use a hot-knife or a match. Any advice?

The review of the Walker Bay dinghies came three weeks after my purchase of the eight-footer. I agree with your general conclusions and that it is nicely balanced with one adult rowing. However, I have written to Walker Bay suggesting that a second, forward rowing position be provided because presently the dinghy cannot be trimmed fore and aft with two adults on board. The foremost thwart is probably too far forward for the rower, but a removable, longitudinal seat clipping into the mast step and daggerboard slot would suit. I hope to obtain at least the oarlock plasticware from Walker and will make the seat of wood, if necessary.

My dinghy is kept in the water at a float in Rockland Harbor. Some marine growth has accumulated and I shall note with interest its extent and tenacity around mid-October. Somehow, antifouling paint seems inappropriate for a polypropylene boat. Would it stick, anyway?

-Ivan Hills
Rockland, ME


You can get tarred marline from Sailrite Enterprises, Inc., 305 W. Van Buren St., Columbia City, IN 46725, 800/348-2769. They have it in "thin" and "thick" varieties, so we might be able to assume that the prior equates to codline.

True, the Walker Bay 8 doesn't trim well with with two adults, unless the one sitting aft weighs a lot less than the rower (back to work, Jerome) or there's a counterweight forward. It would be tough for Walker Bay to arrange for a good forward position without using an idea like yours.

Walker Bay doesn't recommend using antifouling paint on the boats because paint doesn't adhere well to polypropylene. Stefano Rista, Walker Bay's product manager, says, "The resistance to paint also applies to the materials one tries to prevent from accumulating by applying bottom paint. I have found that when done properly with a pressure washer or by scrubbing, the boats can look as good as new—with less cost and effort than it takes to apply bottom paint."

As for the fit-in thwart, Rista says, "We have had similar requests. In fact, the Walker Bay 10 is designed to accommodate such an attachment, which is why there are two oarlock positions. We hope to offer it at some stage. Unfortunately, the demand does not exist for such products at the moment. Any design or accessory suggestions are welcome at 888/44-WALKER."

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Spade Anchor Update
In March of this year I bought an aluminum Spade anchor for the bow of our 40-ft, 10,000-lb (loaded) trimaran.  The 19-lb. Spade replaced the 35-lb Delta, a superb anchor.  It was replaced to lighten the weight at the extreme end of our necessarily very fine bows and not because of any deficiency.

The Spade, in slightly over three months in the Bahamas, anchored out, proved at least the equal of the Delta, and the reduction in pitching was noticeable.  We always anchored in sand and/or grass and never experienced winds at anchor over 30 knots. The anchor never dragged significantly and failed to set the first try only once—a remarkable record for 80 days at anchor.  We moved and anchored at least 35 times.

This notwithstanding, the shank of the anchor bent somewhere along the line, probably in Georgetown, Exumas.  This  leads me to the observation that the shank is a well-finished piece of aluminum plate and probably dead soft.  A forging with some bend-reducing shape and/or some heat treated alloy would be appropriate for this anchor, particularly for the price.

-Creighton Smith
Key West, FL

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Small-Battery Discharge Rules Set Straight
A number of years back, I became interested in what hurt nickel cadmium cells. As a professor of chemistry (PhD., Yale '76) who had also worked as an electronics engineer in aerospace, I was inclined to do some tests. Your article ("Small Batteries and Chargers," June) was very informative, but left some questions, as evidenced by Bill Beery's letter (Mailport, September).

While high currents and high temperatures hurt cells, reversing polarity by extracting more charge than the cell is capable of delivering on its own, even once, can absolutely kill a cell dead.

Most commonly, this occurs when a battery of two or more cells in series is discharged to exhaustion. In series, all cells lose the same amount of charge during discharge. If one of the cells has even slightly lower capacity, it will become exhausted and reverse polarity before the other cell voltages drop to zero and the current stops flowing. For this reason, a battery of two or more cells should not be discharged to a voltage less than one cell voltage drop (1.25 V for NiCd) below the battery's nominal voltage. Bill Beery's letter was right on this point: One should not discharge a battery of cells in series to absolute zero.

Nevertheless, discharging an individual cell through a resistive load poses no danger of polarity reversal. Thus an individual cell can be discharged to absolute zero voltage without harm (if the current and temperature do not become excessive). In my experience, this may help rejuvenate a cell that doesn't accept a full charge (i.e. showing "memory"). I agree with you that by totally discharging an individual NiCd cell periodically, one may increase its usefulness and extend its life.

Which leads me to my pet peeve: sealed battery packs. Individual cells are not accessible; cells can't be maintained individually; shorter lifetimes are ensured. When they fail, inevitably just one cell is found bad.

-Paul Engelking
Lowell, OR

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Desperately Seeking Sestrels
Can anyone tell me where I can obtain a Sestrel Grid Compass as depicted in your August 1, 2001 issue?

This compass appears to be a gimbaled and rather classy reincarnation of the ubiquitous P4 aircraft steering compass (in the WW II RAF, RCAF, RAAF, RNZAF air forces). 

As I recollect, the P4 was much larger but embodied the same principle.  It sat on a small pedestal on the cockpit floor between the two pilot seats within easy reach of the pilot.  One simply unlocked the grid ring, rotated it to the desired course (set in one degree increments) locked it, and turned the aircraft until the large compass needle lay parallel to and between the parallel lubber lines. The human facility for aligning straight lines with a split-second glance eliminated the need to focus constantly on a bouncing compass card.   

The P4 was heavily damped and virtually eliminated ordinary oscillation.  It was possible, in normal conditions, to maintain a heading within one or two degrees without using the directional gyro simply by glancing down at the compass.  This would not be possible with the silly little compasses in today's aircraft.

One serious hazard of which some careless wartime pilots were victims was "setting red on blue." The P4 compass needle and grid ring were coloured blue on the north end, red on the south.  If, in turning the aircraft to the desired course, one inadvertently reversed the needle between the lubber lines, the aircraft would then fly on the reciprocal heading until the navigator or the dozy pilot woke up to the situation. I did this once in a Vickers Wellington heavy bomber and was serenely heading for Scotland instead of our base in the English Midlands. When our closeted navigator couldn’t reconcile his electronic fixes with our intended track (yes, we had Loran and other magical black boxes in those days, believe it or not) he and the rest of the crew chastised me severely for my inattention.

If there are any North American sailors left who still have to steer a compass course manually, I believe they'd be amazed to discover the ease of holding a heading in a lumpy sea with a "P4" style compass.  Before I head for the Exumas this winter I'd like to install a Sestrel on my binnacle... if you can "steer" me in the right direction.  

-Maury East
Killarney, Ontario


The Sestrel Grid compass in our article belongs to executive editor Dale Nouse. It has generated enough interest that, were he to set up a bidding war, he could probably retire comfortably with the proceeds.

Sestrel has been taken over by SIRS Navigation in England and, alas, it seems that they're no longer making the Grid. (Robert Haddock, a reader in France, wrote to tell us this. SIRS has yet to confirm with us by e-mail, but it seems true.) Sorry for the teaser.

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