Mailport January 15, 2004 Issue

Mailport: 01/15/04

Pumps, Plotters, and Piloting
I just completed relocation to a new residence, plus a coastal delivery from Connecticut to Key West, so I'm just now catching up on back issues of PS in preparation for getting my own boat in shape for next year.

While getting ready to upgrade the potable water system on my 1986 Island Packet 38 I naturally turned to your June 2003 issue to research a replacement pump.

Although you discussed the pressure switch as the primary failure source and sang great praises of solid-state switches, your ratings chart did not include switching mode as one of the rated characteristics. I would recommend that if you discuss a feature in your text, especially one that is a significant factor in service life or performance, you should also include it in the tabulation portion of your findings. With this information, I could have made a buy decision from PS info alone, but now have to search the nine websites listed to nail down which of the manufacturers makes a pump with the characteristics important to me: tinned wire, quick-connect water fittings, and solid-state switching.

With complete information on switching, I can then go back to the PS article and see what information is available on flow rate, noise, and battery drain.

For your information regarding chartplotters [see April 15, August 15, and November 15, 2003 issues], I bought a Garmin 156C color chartplotter for this delivery, having used Garmin 48s and 76s over the past five or six years.  One of the main features for delivery work was/is the portability, plus the ability to use an internal or external antenna.

I have had excellent results from Garmin units used belowdecks at the nav station with the small external antenna with suction cup mount on a cabin window.  This avoids a temporary cable run through the companionway, which interferes with closing the hatches in bad weather. In good weather, the Garmin can live on top of the companionway, under the dodger, and be visible to the helmsman while using its built-in antenna. When things get nasty, it can live at the nav station using the suction cup antenna. The whole outfit can be packed up in a small canvas tool bag; however, the profusion of wires and electronic devices causes an extreme thrash at airport screening points—I get pulled out of line everytime, but I have learned to put the manual plotting tools (dividers, etc. with sharp points) with the checked baggage.

Apropos of your crusade to keep piloting skills alive, we had a few moments of consternation rounding Cape Hatteras when Diamond Shoals Light failed to appear on schedule. All seemed well with the GPS, but careful timing with a stopwatch to verify the identity of Cape Hatteras Light, plus some manually sighted and plotted bearings, were a comforting verification of our position.  Since the weather was unusually mild for Hatteras in November, we departed from our planned track (three-mile clearance around Diamond Shoals) and approached the charted navaid position more closely. On that moonless night we saw the bulky shadow of the structure at a range of about 1/2 mile, with a flashing red buoy close alongside as a temporary measure. 

This minor event also underscores a cautionary note when using waypoints taken directly from electronic cartography.  Those waypoints are the actual coordinates of the navaid. If "Auto" is doing the steering in conjunction with a GPS using these waypoints, hitting the navaid is a very real possibility.  I use these waypoints directly from my ChartPack only for "safe water" marks, and am careful to brief all helmsmen about the need to be alert as we approach. For major structures, such as Diamond Shoals Light or hazard buoys, I take the extra time to lay off a clearance circle and enter a waypoint with enough offset for safety.

As a retired USN submariner, I am probably more systems-oriented than most boatowners, and have found PS to be a reliable source for good information. I have been a subscriber for many years, and wouldn't think of making a major (or minor) purchase without consulting my PS archive.

-Alan Donn
Master, 1600T (Oceans)


Smith Mountain Lake
In your November 1, 2003 editorial you asked about the conditions on Smith Mountain Lake, VA during Hurricane Isabel. As an avid weather follower, I was watching our LaCrosse barometer as Isabel approached. As it dropped off from 894 Mb (altitude, remember?) to 860 and lower, as the wind built, I watched Sweetie, our 1964 Rainbow, bobbing at the dock. She is moored with whips to a floating dock, and spends all year in the water. We are at the widest part of the lake, about 3/4 mile from the dam.

The northern portion of SML is in Bedford County, and the county seat, Bedford, about 25 miles from the lake, received a lot of damage, losing power for about 2-3 days. On the lake we saw no damage. Wind and waves, leaves and small branches down, but nothing else that affected us. Power stayed on, and we just watched the Weather Channel as Isabel swept northward. We were lucky.

-Drew Dolak
Via e-mail


The eye of the storm had been predicted to track through Lynchburg and on to SML, packing winds with gusts to 55-65 mph.  I had gone down the day before the storm and removed the bimini, all canvas, and sails from our boat.  I added fenders and dock lines and slacked the existing dock lines.  I also checked the boat we share a slip with to see that they were adequately tied.

Instead, the storm tracked north of us (I hear Charlottesville got hit prettyhard) and we got quite a bit of rain and wind, probably in the 30-35 mphrange (if even that).  The two races our marina (Lake Haven Marina and KingsPoint Pub) puts on have packed as much wind and one with much more this year: The spring race ended with very stormy conditions with winds to 50 mph. (Luckily, many of the competitors were off the field when conditions worsened.) Our fall race was a windy one as well, with sustained winds of 25, gusting to 30.

Had Isabel's predicted winds arrived, I fear that hauled boats would have been toppled from their trailers or cradles and jack stands.  A bigger problem, I think, would have been damage from falling trees. For the most part our boats were much safer in the water tied to floating docks.

-Sherman Cravens
Practical Sailing Solutions
Lynchburg, VA


Vinyl Rubrail Cleaning
[Re: "Rubrail Protection," PS Advisor, November 1, 2003] I have discovered that Toluol (and elbow-grease) is excellent for cleaning up rubber-like things like rubrails and shore-power extension cards.  I can't say it protects after cleaning, but I have not experienced the sloughing Mr. Tesoro describes.  True, we don't have as much sun here in the Pacific Northwest as in Texas.

-Wil Anderson
Via e-mail

It's also known as toluene and methylbenzene—a very strong solvent and quite flammable, so take all wise precautions.


More Halyard Hell
Your editorial in the November 1, '03 issue "struck a responsive chord." I, also, have suffered the curse of the slapping halyards.  Our first boat had external halyards, which were easily tied off at night.  Our second boat, a Beneteau First 285, has internal (read infernal) rope halyards and control lines. From the top of the mast there are the main halyard and the topping lift. Because this is a 7/8 rig, two more halyards exit in the vicinity of the forestay tang: the genoa halyard and the flasher halyard.  Farther down the mast is the spinnaker pole topping lift. This makes five halyards and control lines in a small-diameter mast. (Fortunately, the wire to the masthead light runs up a PVC tube.)

If I snug everything up very tight, the slapping is reduced, but even a small amount of breeze sets the main halyard and the topping lift humming, and when the boat swings wide as it sails at anchor, the tight halyards slap as well as hum.

If I leave them all slack, any amount of wave action that rocks the boat sets them slapping. 

The only totally quiet situation is when we are in a well-protected marina slip with little or no wind coming from dead ahead, and we try to avoid marinas as much as possible.

I have received many suggestions from fellow cruising sailors over the past eight years, but none I was totally comfortable following. I also contacted Z-spar for suggestions, but they had no recommendation.

When I have asked people on larger boats (over 30 feet) they don't report having the problem, so I think it's more of a concern with small diameter masts, which would make sense.

-Doug McClennen
Plymouth, MI


DIY Bottom Painting
A PS Advisor on the back page of your November 15 issue discussed boatyard prohibitions against bottom-painting by the boatowner. This issue seems to be resolved, according to an item in the November BoatU.S. Magazine. The item appears on page 9— "NY Boaters Win Bottom Paint Battle."

-Bob Aitchison
Via e-mail

Several readers sent in notes about that article. Although it may have been a unique case, it's interesting, and could have been one in which our correspondent, Victor Mallia, was involved.

When researching our answer to Mr. Mallia, we exchanged e-mails with James Frye, executive director of the Marine Operators Association of America. He agreed with our answer, and said, "It's all about the liabilityassociated with pollution. Marina operators are liable for any and allactivity that takes place on their property, and responsible ones are limiting the kind of activity that your boat owner has historically done himself.It's an unfortunate circumstance, but a reality that exists."

In the case to which the BoatU.S. article referred, the New York Department of Environmental Conservation had put out a brochure saying that boatowners had to own or lease the property on top of which their boats were stored, in order to paint their own bottoms legally without a license. Customers of a marina in Brooklyn, whose owners had cited that statement as a reason to prohibit the owners from painting their own boat bottoms, went through regulators to oppose the Department of Environmental Conservation's statement, and the DEC backed down, agreeing that their statement was not supportable.

Yard owners can still prohibit owners from painting their own bottoms on yard property, but, at least in New York, they cannot point to that DEC regulation as justification.

Which brings us back to Mr. Frye's statement, and the problems of liability facing boatyard owners. This is not an issue that will ever disappear. In the worst case, we'll see a few yard owners who prohibit DIY bottom-painting and then gouge owners with overpriced required contract work. Others will prohibit, but charge reasonable prices. Others will allow owners to do their own work, but only under certain guidelines, e.g. the use of proper dropcloths, tools, body protection, and waste disposal techniques. And that will be the best case, because the only other scenario is a yard in which people use the ground under their boats as absorbent for copper paint, biocides, brushing thinner, and other pollutants, much of which will eventually find its way into the nearby waters.


Another For Bio-Diesel
I have mixed recycled cooking oil (soy diesel) with my regular diesel (1:5) for the past 12 years in my 3-cylinder Yanmar 3GM30F.  Not only does my exhaust have a waft of french-fry fragrance, but the particulate matter is markedly decreased—up to 80% according to some. One caveat: The biodiesel at 1:5 or 1:10 mixture will emulsify any algae, or whatever might be growing in your old tank.  Thus, your filters will clog up severely unless your tank is clean.  After all the algae is cleaned up (filtered?), you should have no problems in that department.

-F. Bryan, MD
Indialantic FL


Reports Exaggerated
Way back in the May 15, 2003 issue, in an article on chart kits, we said that Charlie's Charts, well-known in the Pacific Northwest, were the work of "now-dead" individuals. While Charles Wood, the originator, died in 1987, his wife and partner, Margo Wood, is going strong, and called to tell us so. She took over the project work when Charles died, and has been continually updating the guides (they're really more cruising guides than chart kits) ever since. See


... Where Credit Is Due
To Cramer Engineering, Vancouver, B.C. and Electro Systems, Victoria, BC: Shortly before our annual vacation, our older version Electro Systems propane sniffer was unable to open the new  (Electro Systems- recommended) solenoid consistently. A look at the circuitry diagram kindly provided to Errol Cramer of Cramer Engineering by Neal Dixon of Electro Systems, with no charge by either party, indicated the fastest cure would be to install a later version sniffer. Neal promptly sent one by courier in time for our scheduled departure, at a very reasonable cost. Both these fine gentlemen exhibited initiative and a concern for our economy well beyond expectations. Thanks to them, a great holiday was had without a hitch.

—Glynne Evans and Susan Ikeda, North Vancouver, BC

To Pettit Paint, Rockaway, NJ: When the Ultima SR bottom paint failed to adhere when applied over an improperly sanded Copperpoxy, Pettit sent a representative to examine this failure. Clearly the yard was at fault. Pettit sent, at no cost, two new gallons of SR. Now if only the yard can get it right. Thanks, Pettit.  

—John Fletcher, Kirkland, WA

To Sail Care, Inc., Ford City, PA: I recently had the sails of my Catalina 28 reconditioned by Sail Care of Ford City,Pa. Toward the end of the summer I noticed some stains from spiders that had nested while the mainsail was not in use (we dock near trees on an inland lake). I went after the stains with soap and water laced with a little bleach. It works on the deck, why not on the main? Boy, was I surprised when the sail was yellow after I was finished. I called Sail Care and asked for advice. First they admonished me to never, ever use bleach on sails. Then they told me to send the sail to them and they would see what they could do. Not only did I get the sail back as white as ever—they did it at no charge. I drove to Ford City to see their plant and to thank them.

—Fred A. Decker III, Charleston,WV

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