Mailport August 1, 2004 Issue

Mailport: 08/01/04

Saildrive Advice
[Re: "Saildrive Pros and Cons," June 2004] The cutout in the hull of my Corbin 39 around the Volvo saildrive is wide (in order to admit the assembled drive) and deep (about six inches). But the boat, Insouciance, has sailed to New Zealand and back [from Australia] without any damage to the remaining hull thickness. This emphasizes how very thick the Corbins were built.

One word of caution, however, needs to be added to your excellent advice. If the hull has a core, like the Airex core in the Corbin, be sure to seal the cutout surfaces with epoxy to prevent water intrusion between the fiberglass layers.

Lester Helmus,
Via e-mail

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Tommy Tape
[Re: Chandlery, June 2004] Publishing the Tommy Tape phone number and website implies that there would be some purpose in contacting them.

They do not take retail orders via their website, although retail pricing is given for "value packs." And there is no list of retailers provided where the tape is available. Also, their toll-free number does not work.

Seems like a good product, but a screwed-up company.

-Chris Melton
Via e-mail


After we heard from you, we contacted Ted Vaccaro at Tommy Tape in Connecticut and he confirmed that the company's toll free number is currently not working. He said that’s because Tommy Tape is in the process of rebuilding its website. That seems a little confusing, we admit, but he did offer us some other sources for the company's products.

Evidently you can find Tommy Tape at Home Depot under the product name "Stretch and Seal." Only the 20 mil black model is available. Vaccaro also said that the product is carried by three other retailers—Walmart, True Value, and Ace Hardware stores—as either Tommy Tape or "Wrap Fix." He also mentioned that the company is in negotiations with a major marine retailer regarding distribution, so you may be able to find Tommy Tape more easily in the coming months.

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Globalstar Issues Explained
After publishing a reader's lengthy criticisms of the Globalstar phone system last month (July 1 issue Mailport), it's appropriate that we allow that company a chance to address some of those complaints. Herewith, Globalstar's response:


We're disappointed to hear of Mr. Turner's experience with Globalstar, and while several of his points are quite valid, we'd like to offer a little clarification:

Globalstar is most definitely aware of the fact that connectivity in the Caribbean area has been well below acceptable standards for many of our users. Our service in this region is by no means representative of Globalstar service in most other areas of the world, where connectivity is extremely high. The Caribbean has been a problem due to a number of technical factors, but we have already made substantial progress in correcting them, and hope to more or less completely solve the problem in the months ahead.

First, we are now installing a fourth antenna at our Puerto Rico gateway, which should substantially improve reliability, and we are about to begin construction of an entirely new gateway in Florida, which should bring Globalstar service in the region up to the very dependable levels seen elsewhere.

A couple of clarifications: Globalstar calls do not terminate once a satellite passes out of view, as Mr. Turner states. This may be true of other systems, but Globalstar is unique in offering "path diversity," which allows multiple satellites to track an individual call, handing off the connection from one satellite to another if the first satellite moves out of range or is otherwise blocked. As a result, we routinely process calls that last up to several hours with no interruption. What Mr. Turner is experiencing is a very different technical problem that is especially pronounced in the Caribbean, resulting in interrupted calls. It is of course annoying and unacceptable, but it is not a problem in the inherent design of our system. And it is being corrected.

Regarding Mr. Turner's points on the ergonomics of the Globalstar phone, this is a little more puzzling. True, the basic Globalstar phone unit is not designed to withstand severe maritime conditions, but we are no different than any other satellite solution, all of which require some sort of special weatherized antenna for use on open water. If you are close enough to shore to use a cellular phone, that's always going to be a better deal. But if you require voice and data connectivity beyond the range of cellular, Globalstar's extremely low-cost airtime (as low as 17 cents a minute) usually more than justifies the cost of a maritime kit.

Globalstar remains the most economical of any satellite provider, and once we correct our connectivity problems in the Caribbean in the months ahead, we will also be the most dependable.

-Mac Jeffery
Globalstar, LLC

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Fuel Additives
I'm having some problems with rapid clogging of my diesel's primary fuel filter and so I searched your past article data base for some help. (That's a helpful way for me to find articles in my growing pile of your past print issues.)

Your article titled "HUMBugs vs. the Pristine Tank" (Nov. 15, 2002) concluded the best approach was to eliminate tank water, and promised a future story on fuel additives. The only later item I found was the excellent Mailport message of Jan. 15, 2003 suggesting that additives are a waste of time.

One of my marina neighbors has installed a product called a De-BugTM Fuel Microbial Decontamination Unit that claims an "environmentally safe solution to the long-standing problem of dealing with bacteria, algae, yeast, and fungi growth in fuel and recirculating oils." His fuel tank, and De-Bug installation are both new, so he really doesn’t know if it works.

The web site at www.de-bug.com provides a lot of very professional sounding detail, and it all apprears to be too good to be true. You might want to look at this product and conduct some tests. I'm sure lots of PS readers would appreciate your evaluation.

-George Staples
Via e-mail


We tested DeBug and reported our findings in the April 15, 1997 issue. Back then we wrote that using this device produced "no discernable differences in contamination levels." What did work, we found, was a simple microbiocide. We continue to stand by both statements. As for the story on fuel additives, well, it's still in the works.

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Fee-Based Weather
The "Fee-Based Weather Forecasts" article in your May 15 issue overlooked what may be the most-popular of all services for cruisers in the geographic area covered. The Caribbean Weather Center was established in 1993 by David Jones, and has operated continuously ever since, except for a two-month hiatus when David died last November. This was during the time of your testing, and may have been the reason for the omission.

The Caribbean Weather Center provides cost-effective services tailored to individual yachts, including SSB Nets and daily regional e-mails. We also provide custom passage planning and forecasts and we have two products that are delivered via e-mail: a five-day forecast with 10-day outlook for $40, and a two-day forecast for $25. Both products examine several weather-related parameters: wind speed (knots) and direction (compass degrees true); sea state (height, direction and period of primary and any other significant waves); precipitation (rain, squalls, thunderstorms); and ocean currents.

Each parameter is handled in detail in the following fashions:

1. Users can validate the short term forecasts based on whether their current conditions match those in this analysis, and take appropriate short-term action to avoid squalls or other undesired occurrences.

2. Synoptic overview of major weather systems and their impact for the forecast period.

3. Forecast for each of the four parameters (wind, sea state, precipitation, currents). Format varies some, but wind and sea state are generally in a table format at 12-hour intervals, with ocean currents in a separate table plus text discussion, and precipitation in another text discussion.

4. Routing advice and general suggestions, including suggested waypoints, plus any necessary cautions or general assessment of forecast confidences and, if necessary, alternative forecast scenarios. It is important for the user to understand any aspects of the forecast in which we have doubt, and we help them formulate a back-up plan in case the situation changes.

These forecasts average 500-700 words, and are text-only, with the resulting e-mail 3k to 5k in size so it will download quickly on a satellite phone and pass without problem on any SSB e-mail service. These forecasts are available via e-mail, telephone, or SSB voice.

Even more popular are our SSB Voice Nets and daily regional e-mails. Due to increased demand for our services, we now offer six daily SSB Voice Nets from 6:30 to 10:00 a.m., allowing us to cover virtually (subject to the vagaries of propagation) the entire Northern Atlantic, US East Coast, Caribbean and Gulf of Mexico. And we also disseminate daily text e-mail forecasts similar to what I detailed above.

Your readers who are interested can find more information at our website, www.caribwx.com.

-Chris Parker
Caribbean Weather Center

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New Glass
I bought some New Glass-II about five years ago for our boat at that time—a 1974 Oday 23. We applied it in the spring after washing the hull and it looked great. We put on three or four coats. The applicator was a pad of some synthetic material. But after a while we also experienced the flaking we read about in PS.

At that time, we kept the boat in Noank, CT, on a mooring. The waterline was subjected to current running in the Mystic River, as well as the small chop and the wakes created by passing boats for the entire season. When we pulled the boat in the fall, we noticed that the New Glass had worn away from the bottom paint to about one or two inches above the boot top stripe. There was a thin, somewhat jagged line' where it had worn away. We cleaned that bare area and put some coats of New Glass in just this area before adding another coat to the entire hull. Unfortunately, there was still a bit of a ridge line in the finish.

You may want to look at this factor as part of any future study. If you don't have the test boat in a waterway that is similiarly active, it will probably look fine. I have a new old boat and keep it in a channel with a strong current so I won't even consider New Glass or similiar products, or at least until I see your final report.

-Brian Holzman
Via e-mail

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Crazing Problems
I have a 1976 Islander 36 that I've owned since 1982 and have been a subscriber to your publication all along, except for a few gaps. I have long contemplated restoring her non-skid surfaces but haven't yet run across a good way to fix crazing in the non-skid areas. We are using Sterling for the topsides and have had good luck with that product rolling and tipping on my 1965 Boston Whaler skiff (sort of our guinea pig). We are not opposed to grinding (we know it will be a big job), but don't want to make things harder than they have to be.

I recently bought Don Casey's book "Inspecting The Aging Sail Boat." It speaks of high-build epoxy primer as being the cure for this problem, but does not go into specific directions. I also looked in his book "This Old Boat," but didn't find the answer to this question. Is it necessary to grind out all the crazing on the non-skid areas, or can you just clean and scrub the surface and cover it with high build until the crazing doesn't show? We are interested in long term results since I have paid to have the boat trucked to my own property to get away from the boat yard expenses and have removed all hardware from the deck. It is also a given that the non skid will be rejuvenated since it is slick after 30 years of use.

As an experiment, we are going to try "Ultra Tuff" on the inside of the Whaler. I wonder if you or your readers have any feed back on that product?

This is the first time I have written to you and I have always enjoyed your publication. I have your Practical Sailor Library book set, one of them being "Maintenance and Repairs," which I refer to often. Thank you.

-Lorraine Hillman
Bellingham, WA


We usually respond to queries like this in PS Advisor, but your letter might prompt some useful discussion, so we're going to put our response right up front here.

We can appreciate the difficulties you face with crazing problems as we've encountered them in the past many times. We think you're headed in the right direction by referring to Mr. Casey's books. He has also written articles over the years that can assist boat owners like yourself with such DIY projects. In one of those, Casey stated that crazing is caused by one of three things—flex in the laminate, expansion and contraction of the laminate due to excessive heat and cold, and the possibility of faulty resin in the laminate. What he implies is that you have to arrest those problems before repairing the crazing will do any good.

Regarding the Ultra Tuff, no, we haven't used or tested it yet. But consider it added to the list.

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Water Repellent Redux
[Re: "Water Repellents for Fabric" June 2004] Reader Kim Faulkner of Brookline, MA, brought it to our attention that 303 Fabric Guard was also the winner when we tested water repellent coatings six years before (January 1, 1998). He also offered this admonishment about fumes: "You might have mentioned that the fumes just about require a face mask."

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... Where Credit Is Due
To Boatersland Marine: "I've been a member of the PS family for a couple of years now, having taken up sailing at age 56. I wanted to give one company a compliment, and also make mention of a very shortsighted electronics manufacturer.

First, the compliment. I ordered a Standard Horizon VHF radio model HX471S, a Garmin GPSMAP 76 CS, and BlueChart Americas from Boatersland Marine in Ohio. Their service, billing, communication, promptness, and price were all absolutely perfect. It’s a great company!

Now the slam. When the VHF radio mentioned above arrived at my home, it was missing the screw that holds on the belt clip. I wrote Standard Horizon (Vertek Standard) asking the company to please send me the screw. The reply was, 'Here's the part number, the cost is 7 cents (plus shipping), and we'll take MasterCard or Visa.' Thinking this was a joke, I called the company, and was told that it is company policy to charge for everything sent out, including gaskets, knobs, manuals, and, in my case, screws. I ordered the screw and then wrote an e-mail to thank them for the 'great customer service.' I got a call this morning from someone at SH, and they said that the owner of the company made the decision six months ago to charge for everything, and that despite pleas from the workers, he was sticking by this policy. I figured this is the kind of thing PS should know about. If nothing else, I now feel better."

-John GamelVia e-mail

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... Running Fixes
Running Fixes is a new department, in which readers can share information about competent people and worthwhile places they encounter in their travels—diesel mechanics and carpenters, riggers and painters, boatyards with reasonable policies and prices, well-stocked local chandleries, hard-to-find services, and so on.

Keep those tips flowing in. After we collect a goodly trove, we'll publish them, region by region.

Please send information by e-mail only. Write to us at practicalsailor@belvoirpubs.com, and put the words "Running Fix" in the subject line. And please, no commercials.

-The Editors

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