December 2013

Marine Water Heater Test

One challenge of installing a water heater is finding a product that fits a sailboat. Of the four contenders in our test—from left, Kuuma, Sigmar, Raritan, and Quick—the Quick was one of the easiest to fit and install, vertically or horizontally.

Subscribers Only In the December issue PS evaluates four water heaters that are new or have been significantly updated since our last test in 1999. Water heaters are one of those silent heroes that rank high on the list of comforts on a boat. The test field included the Kuuma 11842, an 11-gallon tank; the stainless-steel Quick Nautique BX2012; Raritan’s 1706; and the 30-liter Compact from Sigmar Marine. Testers considered each heater’s efficiency (using AC and engine-driven power), power consumption, construction quality, and ability to keep hot water hot.

Mix of Water, Amps, and Heat Calls for Caution

When plumbed into the engine’s cooling circuit, marine water heaters can raise temperatures to a scalding 140-degrees (above), requiring a mixing valve to add cold water. When temperatures lift pressure too high, a relief valve is supposed to open

Subscribers Only It is surprising to see equipment with no moving parts carry such an array of safety warnings. But any time water and higher-voltage AC electricity are mixed, there are details worth thinking about. The risk of shock can be lessened through a firm commitment to three-conductor wiring that follows the American Boat and Yacht Council’s guidelines. This includes maintaining the continuity of the green grounding that links the boiler and metal housing to the boat’s ground. Strict adherence to high-quality crimp connectors, appropriate wire gauge, and care in keeping the neutral and hot wires consistent with the vessel’s and dock’s power supply are paramount.

Installing Water Heaters

This Indel Isotemp water heater (above), a past PS Best Choice, has a pre-mixing valve at the tank. Teflon tape prevents leaks and galling on stainless pipe threads.

Subscribers Only The physical installation of a water heater may seem pretty straightforward, but the devil is indeed in the details. It starts prior to purchase with a search for adequate space that’s relatively near the engine and vertically as low as possible. Next is bonding in a well-reinforced surface to mount the water heater onto. The empty tanks are relatively light, but if you add 45 to 88 pounds of water, you can see why a sound support base is important in a rough seaway.

Construction Quality Draws Testers’ Attention

Subscribers Only Our testers began the evaluation with a close inspection of how each unit was assembled and what materials were used in their manufacture. The test field included stainless-steel, aluminum, and mild-steel boilers. When it comes to water tanks in sailboats, stainless-steel is favored over the other two metals, so we naturally asked ourselves why the water tanks in water heaters would be any different? To answer the question, we embarked on a series of bench tests and a long-term corrosion test to see how stainless steel, aluminum, and mild steel water heater tanks handle use in a salt-laden bilge-like environment.

Do-it-for-me Boatyards

A line of well-kept sailboats is a good sign that the yard and staff is adept at addressing the needs of demanding owners.

Subscribers Only The lure of sailing is a magnet that draws us toward boat ownership, but annual maintenance, and costly refits are a less-welcome fait accompli. Self-sufficiency will always be our emphasis, but we have also noticed that fewer recreational sailors have the time, training, or the inclination to tackle the big jobs. A common thread among this growing group of do-it-for-me sailors is the desire to become a smarter consumer of the services offered by a very diverse marine industry. Here, we offer an insiders guide on choosing the right boatyard and quality contractors.

For Big Repairs, Try Bellwether Boatyards

Ted Hood Jr. prepares a Hood pilothouse boat for launch from the boatyard his family managed for years in Portsmouth, R.I. Now it is run under the Hinckley name.

Subscribers Only A few years back, we profiled a number of excellent local boatyards ( PS , June 2009 ) that help do-it-yourselfers thrive. Here, we profile yards at the opposite side of the spectrum—facilities that specialize in keel-to-masthead care for their customers.

The Fight Against Head Odors Continues

After 30 months of testing, the bulk carbon in the Big Orange holding-tank vent filter (above left) was still going strong. This report offers PS’s findings after 2? years of testing vent filters and sanitation hoses in controlled tests and aboard a test boat (above right).

Subscribers Only A few years ago, we launched a series of holding tank odor tests, including evaluations of holding-tank vent filters and sanitation hoses. After 30 months of testing, we’ve reached some solid conclusions on the hoses and vent filters. The sanitation hoses we tested were Trident Marine’s 101/102 EPDM hose; SeaLand’s OdorSafe Plus, a PVC and acrylonitrile butadiene rubber hose; Raritan Engineering’s butyl rubber Sani/Flex Odor Shield; and Shields Marine’s Poly-X polyurethane sanitation hose. The four holding-tank vent filters we tested were our homemade system, Dometic SeaLand SaniGard, Big Orange’s 5/8-inch filter, and the Vetus No-Smell NSF16.

The Results of our Mini Test Tank Autopsies

The Shields Poly-X hose was the easiest to clean, while the Trident 102 was stained. Here are the hoses post-cleaning.

Subscribers Only When we wrapped up the testing of the miniature holding tanks after 30 months, we were tempted to just pitch the whole lot in the dumpster after draining their contents, but we thought taking the faux holding tanks apart and examining the components up close might yield some interesting findings. (The things we do in the name of product testing—yuck!) Here’s a breakdown of testers’ observations.

Protecting Clear Vinyl Windows

The testing platform comprised 11 samples of Strataglass 40 mounted on test boards.

When we last tested clear-vinyl window protectants, we raised the concern that some products might actually damage the vinyl. PS tester Drew Frye’s recent work with mildew cleaners brought up another concern: Can overspray from canvas cleaners and treatments, or other common chemicals, damage the clear-vinyl windows? We tested canvas water-repellents, cleaning chemicals, and common cockpit chemicals to see whether any overspray would harm Strataglass. A few totally ruined the window sample.

Test Driving New Nobeltec TZ

A pop-up appears when you tap on a waypoint. Across the bottom is the route’s distance, arrival time, and speed over ground.

Nobeltec, a marine-navigation software developer based in the U.S., recently released a new chartplotting app for the iPad: Nobeltec TZ. We took it for a weeklong test cruise and found it to be a good basic nav program with some significant strengths, and some notable shortcomings.

Mantus Anchor-chain Hook

Unlike some hooks we’ve tried, the Mantus Chain Hook (right) with the three-strand bridle did not unhook while rode was being deployed (above). However, the Mantus unhooked in light winds during field testing aboard a catamaran.

Subscribers Only Practical Sailor recently looked at various ways to take the load off the windlass and roller by means of a short rope snubber or bridle, but we did not talk about how to attach a snubber to the chain. The Mantus Chain Hook takes an innovative approach, and seemed particularly useful for catamaran owners with long bridles. Testers put the 1/4-inch stainless Mantus hook through more than 50 anchoring cycles and dozens of tide cycles aboard a PDQ 32. Find out how the Mantus fared.

Chandlery- December 2013

We’ve had good experiences with Walker Bay products, so we expected a lot from the company’s inflatable stand-up paddleboard (iSUP), the 12-foot Airis Hardtop Tour. Rated for 275 pounds, the board features a standard bungee tie-down strap for gear and a carrying bag.

Pondering a DIY Diesel Tank

I have often referred to (former PS Editor) Dan Spurr’s book, “ Spurr’s Guide to Upgrading Your Cruising Sailboat ,” and I was going to follow Spurr’s advice and build a plywood/glass tank to add auxiliary diesel tankage to my Morgan 382. But the Gougeon Brothers / West System website ( ) makes it sound contrary to standards and potentially damaging to insurance coverage. Terry Thatcher, Morgan 382 Portland, Ore.


Coast Survey also has launched a new product, free PDF nautical charts, on a trial basis and is seeking mariner input. From now through Jan. 22, 2014, sailors can download about a thousand high-resolution printable charts—nearly the entire NOAA suite—as PDF files. The PDF charts, which are almost exact images of the traditional print charts, will be updated weekly.

Where Credit Is Due: December 2013

While repairing a 50-gallon water tank on my 1995 Mason, I broke the Hart Systems Tank Tender penetration tube. Since this is such a small-priced item but does so much to help with monitoring tank contents, I sent an email to Hart Systems ( ) asking for help in obtaining the very small part.

Mailport: December 2013

Your tape test (PS, October 2013) did not include 3M 256, but I thought I’d pass on a “lesson learned” to your readers. Having recently completed painting my deck, for the first time in 37 years, I encountered an unforeseen problem.

Risks of Exploring New Places

The place PS call home is an office building and workshop in Sarasota, Fla., where we’ve been based since 2005. However, most of our tests take place where our testers live—from Marblehead, Mass., to Sydney, Australia. For this month’s water heater test, Technical Editor Ralph Naranjo’s basement in Annapolis, Md., resembled the boiler-strewn lot in Steinbeck’s “Cannery Row.” For our sanitation tests, tester Drew Frye’s Virginia backyard became the battlefield in a war against boat odors.

Inside Practical Sailor Blog

Mechanical Rigging Terminals: To Seal or Not

by Darrell Nicholson on May 19, 2015

Technical Editor Ralph Naranjo’s recent market survey of mechanical rigging terminals in the June 2015 issue of Practical Sailor demonstrated just how long these terminals can last if they are installed correctly. That report came close on the heels of rigger Brion Toss photo essay on what can go wrong if they are not assembled correctly, or assembled without any sealant. Yet manufacturer's are still not entirely clear where they stand on the use of sealants in these fittings.

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