Mailport August 2006 Issue

Mailport: 08/06

In Praise of Saildrives
I noted in past PS articles, and those in other magazines, comments on saildrives. One such story was in regard to the Niagara 35. It was described as a great coastal boat, but many comments were about the saildrives. I have seen many pictures of saildrives in various stages of corrosion, some beyond repair. We have owned our Niagara for 20 years now. It has a saildrive. Hearing these negative stories years ago, I actually purchased a spare saildrive at the Hinterhoeller factory in St. Catharines, Ontario, while touring the factory (now gone). I have never used this spare, and in fact, I finally sold it.

We have never had the corrosion problem described. Our boat is in the Seattle area in salt water. I installed a ground-breaking switch from the batteries to the engine, back when we brought the boat from fresh water to salt water. We always turn this switch off when we are at the dock and even when we are at anchor. It has never had a problem.

I would submit that this is what left us trouble-free and also think it would alleviate corrosion problems on many types of boats. We have also taken the boat to Hawaii, twice, and the boat performed perfectly. Our last trip, the roughest, took us through a handful of tough weather days including one period of 55-knot winds not far off the coast on our return. We hove-to and waited out the storm then continued on into Neah Bay to rest up for the remainder of the trip inland. Never once did I worry about the saildrive or the boat’s ability to hold up. I am very pleased with the saildrive and the dry engine room. So pleased, that I recently purchased a new D-30 with saildrive when we repowered. I am a fan of saildrives and Niagara. Sorry the company did not survive. We would have enjoyed moving up with the same manufacturer. Our boat is built very well, and after 43,000 miles, we are still enjoying it.

Randy Nau
Charmante, Niagara 35
Kingston, Wash.


Small Boat Hunting
I live on the waterfront property of a three-acre lake. I’d like to find a small, durable sailboat that I can use to scoot back and forth on the lake on those rare days when there is some breeze, and just pull it up on shore when not in use. Ideally, it would accommodate two people for sailing, and would have a transom that could accommodate a small trolling motor so that I could use it to do a little fishing as well.

I’m wondering if you might have a short list of suggestions. So far, I haven’t had much luck finding a site on the Internet that lays out all the available options.

Pete Dubuisson
Humboldt, Tenn.
Via e-mail

Given your penchant for fishing, you might start by looking at sailing dinghies, which are more versatile than your mainstream daysailer. Two classics come to mind immediately: the 10-foot Dyer Dink designed by Phillip Rhodes Sr. and still built by Dyer ( in Portsmouth, R.I.; and the Shellback designed by Joel White. Both are light, fun to sail, and row well. (You might not even want the motor.) Most small wooden boat boatbuilders will build the Shellback for you, though the price is steep. Alternatively, you could buy the plans from the Woodenboat Store in Brooklin, Maine, ( for $75 and take it on as a summer project. At the other end of the price and aesthetic spectrum is the Walker Bay with a sailing rig ( This rugged little boat is virtually maintenance free. We also welcome any suggestions from our readers on this subject.


Gimballed Butane Stove
About five years ago, I came to the conclusion that no commercially available stove would satisfy my criteria at a price I could swallow. So, I bought a single-burner butane stove online for $15 and made a gimbal-mounting setup for it.

We’ve been very happy with it. As you point out in your recent review of these stoves (July 2006), the heat output and flame control on these stoves are big pluses. Our’s has a lift-out burner tray, and I bought a pot retainer ring from Glo-Mate. I spent about $50 on the whole setup. Our boat is a 1977 Pearson 28 originally equipped, of course, with a two-burner pressurized alcohol stove. My setup fits in that space.

I have installed it on a pivoting frame, so the stove gimbals fore and aft, as well as athwartships. I used an ordinary plastic cutting board for the mounting platform and readily available hardware for installation. Scuba diving weights fixed to the bottom of the stove provide the necessary ballast. Finding the proper location to secure the weights for perfect balance was one of the most difficult challenges and required a lot of trial and error.

Phillip Reid
Miss Bohicket, Pearson 28
Wilmington, N.C.


Computer Displays?
Your recent article on small computers (July 2006) is very interesting. I have been searching for a way to use my laptop computer with my navigation software and display the data. This has been made more advantageous by the availability of downloadable charts.

The biggest challenge is finding a bright, sunlight-viewable display to place away from the computer so it can be seen by the helmsman.

This whole area of computers for less than large yachts (with large prices) is a mass of conflicting information. Thanks for tackling this issue.

Bill Barker
Hinckley 41
Westport, Mass.

PS also had a hard time finding an affordable display suited for marine duty. In a future issue, we intend to explore this subject in greater depth.


Forward Thinker
Your article on plotters/sounders (June 2006) was very good and timely as I am on the hunt for the right system. However, I have yet to see a sounder that addresses a concern of mine, one I repeatedly hear from fellow sailors. Is there a detector available that will warn of submerged or semi-submerged objects ahead? Specifically, I worry about shipping containers lost overboard.

I was appalled to learn how many of these little beasties are lost overboard. Many do not sink immediately, but drift around, waiting for a nice plastic hull to interact with.

I have seen boats with forward-looking sounders, but the pattern they display does not seem to cover these hazards, at least not at a sufficient range to allow avoidance maneuvers.

Are there such devices, and is it worth a review?

Russ Terry
Via e-mail

These forward-looking sonars only recently have made inroads into the recreational market. Two companies, Interphase ( and Pilot Marine Associates (, offer these units at prices ranging from $900 to $3,000. We have one contributor in the field with an Interphase unit, and he reports that it is best used for creeping into poorly charted areas. He wouldn’t rely on it to avoid shipping containers.


Watermaker Quest
I was wondering whether anyone has ever heard of, seen, used, or evaluated a "Waterlog" towed watermaker ( A few years ago, I saw one advertised somewhere. It seems to be UK-based and operates like a towed generator, but makes water and has an electrical plug-in possibility when sitting still. It seems to be an interesting idea, and it would not need to be "installed." I have never seen it mentioned in PS or other sailing magazines (except wherever it was that I saw that ad), and would be interested in any experience anyone has had.

Lee Campbell
Cambridge, Mass.

Stay tuned. We’ll order one for testing. If any readers have given it a whirl, we’d like to hear their feedback. At first glance, it seems like an awfully pricey piece of machinery to set dragging from your stern.


Quick Caulk
I’m responding to a letter from Jim Cook regarding leaky hatches in the June 2006 issue. For those of us who are too lazy, unable, or just plain flat refuse to remove and re-bed every piece of deck hardware on a leaky boat, there does exist a Plan B. Plan B is called Permatex Windshield Sealant (found at any auto parts store). What makes it special is that it finds and wicks into cracks or voids. The wicking action means that it does not require loosening the hardware or taking stuff apart (in our case, the deck hardware, chain-plates, and the rub rail/hull-to-deck joint on a MacGregor 26C). Just run a bead at the joint. Our seriously leaky boat has been dry ever since we applied our quick, "temporary" fix, and it’s been two years.

John Doherty
Carlsbad, N.M.


Radar and Lightning
I am writing in hopes that you can spare some of your readers the expensive lesson I have just learned. In 1997, I purchased a Raytheon 2kW Pathfinder radar, which, at the time, was touted as being state-of-the art technology. As mine was one of the first production units, I had some problems when I installed it in the spring of 1998. However, after these difficulties were resolved, it served me well over thousands of miles.

Last summer, while cruising in Croatia, we experienced a severe thunderstorm. Fortunately, our 35-foot sloop was not struck. However, several days later when I turned on the radar, the display showed a "SCANNER NOT RESPONDING" error message. Apparently, the radar had been damaged by the storm, although none of the other electronics on board were affected by the lightning, and there was no physical evidence of a lightning strike on the boat.

When I returned home in September, I sent the radar to the Raymarine repair facility in Merrimack, N.H. Their inspection confirmed that circuitry in both components was damaged, apparently by nearby lightning. Raymarine has a flat-rate repair policy, $300 for the display and $500 for the radome. The repair invoice indicated that an "earthing" kit had also been installed in the scanner unit.

Interestingly, the introduction to the "earthing" kit instructions states, in bold letters: "It is very important to check the scanner unit when replacing the IF or CPU PCB and to install the appropriate earthing kit...Failure to do so may invalidate the warranty on the spare PCB."

Based on information I have obtained from Raymarine, none of the Pathfinder model radars built between 1997 and November 2001, and sold under the name of Raytheon, Autohelm, and Raymarine, had grounding provision, and were therefore vulnerable to damage from nearby lightning. Units built after November 2001 had a grounding clamp that connected the shield of the inter-unit cable to a scanner mounting bolt, and their installation instructions do address the need for proper grounding of the radar.

When I purchased my radar in 1997, I duly registered my unit using the warranty postcard provided in the instruction manual. What I do not understand is why the manufacturer, after the need for proper radar grounding was recognized, never notified registered owners of the earlier model radars about the vulnerability of their units to lightning damage and of the availability of the inexpensive grounding clamp, which would reduce this vulnerability. I am certain that most owners would gladly pay a few dollars for this protection rather than having to pay $800 for repairs after their unit was damaged by lightning.

Sidney Shaw
Charleston, S.C


Digital Charts
I own a Raymarine C80 and use Navionics Gold cards, and in general am very happy with the system.

I did, however, just discover what I consider to be a problem with the Navionics charts that may be of interest. I found out from Navionics that their charts will be destroyed if the card is installed in a PC card reader (or so they say and I’m unwilling to try it). The only exception is the card reader supplied with Navionics’ own NavPlanner software, which, by the way, is not available.

Having been in the software business, I certainly understand the desire for copy protection for the product, but this seems to be extreme. It seems to me to be perfectly reasonable to be able to use the charts in a PC-based planning package and also on-board in my Raymarine C80.

Howard Ray
Via e-mail

It appears that the manufacturers are having trouble keeping up with demand for the card reader you need. At press time, we had not yet heard from Navionics, but Raymarine was expecting the imminent shipment of the Navionics multi-card reader, part No. E86026 (approximately $75), which will allow you to store waypoints and routes to a compact flash card. These waypoints and routes can then be imported to your PC. You can carry out planning with the free Raytech Planner Series software, (downloaded at or its full navigation suite, RaytechRNS 6.0. The waypoints and routes entered on your PC can then be transferred back to the C80 using your card. If you want the reader, call Raymarine customer service direct to order it at 603-881-5200. The part is not available via the website.

We do not expect that attempting to read a Navionics card in the wrong card reader will damage the card, but why risk it? Raymarine did not recommend writing to the card. Nor have we tried using a low level copy routine such as Linux dd or Casper to back up a Navionics card. Navionics’ license does not permit such a backup. This is a shame, since an archival backup is in the best interest of mariners. If the card was placed near a strong electromagnetic pulse, or physically damaged, its contents might become lost or inaccessible. That could be a scary proposition for a cruiser whose safety may depend on the charts stored on this card.


Stainless vs. Bronze
I readily agree that bronze is much better for use below the waterline ("Stainless vs. Bronze," July 2006). However, I disagree with the assertion that good bronze contains no zinc. While researching the subject a few years ago, I talked to four different manufacturers of through-hulls, Groco, Perko, Buck Algonquin, and Midland Metals, all of whom said they use zinc, around 5 percent, in their bronze through-hulls. ("Navy bronze" has the lowest zinc content, at 4.5 percent). I would guess that some of the imports contain considerably more zinc.

There are several reasons the manufacturers use zinc, including its pressure tightness, viscosity (ability to be poured), workability, ability to be machined, and cost.

The bottom line is that not even mighty bronze is impervious to the vagaries of life in a boat’s bilge. BoatU.S. Marine Insurance has had several claims for bronze fittings that failed as a result of stray DC current in the bilge. Boats have sunk when bronze fittings crumbled.

Fittings typically give a warning: a pinkish hue that indicates it is losing its zinc. The fitting must be replaced and the source of problem found and corrected.

Bob Adriance
BoatU.S. Marine Insurance


... Where Credit Is Due

Smooth Service
Some years ago, I bought one of the original SmoothTalker cell-phone boosters ( I used it for years with an AT&T wireless phone, calling home from some of the more remote locations in downeast Maine, where there is no signal for an unboosted phone. Last year, Cingular bought AT&T wireless and discontinued my current phone. I called SmoothTalker. Rather than selling me the company’s latest booster, Michael in tech support worked patiently with me to select a carrier and a phone that would work with my existing booster, with good coverage through eastern Maine and Nova Scotia. As you might imagine, the carriers themselves are less than helpful, so Michael’s help was invaluable. The only cost was for a new antenna adapter, less than $10.

Dave Pomerantz
Marshfield, Mass.
Via e-mail

Kudos for Waeco

While preparing for boating season, I found my Waeco/Adler-Barbour refrigeration not functional. I contacted Waeco (, which was very helpful with tests. I ended up sending the unit in for repair, expecting several weeks’ wait and a hefty bill.

Surprise! A few short days later, the unit was repaired and returned—at no charge, even though it was well out of warranty. Now there is a company that backs up its product.

Charles Scheibel
Olympia, Wash.

Thanks to Sail Tech
In August 2005, I purchased (through e-Bay) a Freedom Marine 25 Inverter. It was shipped from Sail Tech out of Kemah, Texas, and arrived at the end of the month. It sat on my back porch, in Silver Spring, Md., for approximately three weeks until I took it to the boatyard where it was going to be installed. Near the end of September, the boatyard called and told me that when they opened the box, they found that the inverter was damaged to the extent that it could not be used. I called Sail Tech and spoke with David Covert, who advised me to contact the delivery/shipping company to put in a claim for damages. Over the next couple of months, I spoke with Mr. Covert on a weekly basis as he and his staff negotiated with the shipping company as to replacing the damaged inverter. Finally, on Dec. 20, Mr. Covert informed me that the shipping company was sending him a check for the full amount and that he would send another unit, at no charge, that should arrive before Christmas. It did, and this time, it was in perfect shape.

Mr. Covert and the staff at Sail Tech ( were always courteous and helpful. I highly recommend them as they stand behind their sales.

Ira N. Brecher
Silver Spring, Md.

Weems & Plath Quality
I returned from 15 months service at the infamous Abu Ghraib Prison in Baghdad, and all I wanted to do was to get on my Irwin 42 ketch and put the dust storms of Iraq out of my mind. While getting the boat ready, I noticed that both of my Weems & Plath barometers had stopped working. I mailed both to Weems & Plath in Annapolis, Md., to be repaired. I received a package from Weems & Plath ( a couple of weeks later with one of the barometers repaired and the second replaced, all at no cost to me. I have always known that Weems & Plath equipment is second to none, but I never expected this level of long-term support. For me, whenever there is a choice in the future on any equipment for my boat, there will be no question what brand I will choose.

Maury Thompson
Charleston, S.C.

Shipping Solutions
I read about SeaDek, a stick-on, non-skid material made of closed cell foam ( in Practical Sailor, and decided to give it a try on the cockpit seats of my Waterline 38. While placing my order online, I was shocked at the quoted UPS shipping cost: more than $40 for two lightweight pieces of material.

Living in Alaska, I expect high shipping costs, but this was crazy, and that’s what I told employee Chuck Yates in an e-mail. The very next morning, Chuck replied, agreeing that $40 was excessive. He said he did some checking and found that the same two pieces could be shipped via priority mail for half the cost. I called Chuck and placed the order.

While the jury is still out on whether panels from the Florida company will survive an Alaskan winter, if the product is half as good as the company’s service, it’s got to be good.

Wally Soroka
Willow, Alaska

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