Bilge Pump Cycling
Art Michaelsen queried you concerning the use of a counter to monitor cycling of the auto bilge pump while the boat is unattended (February 15, 1998). I have employed a simpler strategy on two boats I have owned (Vineyard Vixen 29 and Nicholson 35). I simply raised the electric bilge pump up about 6" from the bottom of the bilge while leaving the manual take-up at the bottom. When I leave the boat I manually pump her dry and check the bilge when I return. If the bilge line is still below the electric pump, it is safe to assume I have not taken on any water and the electric pump has lain dormant.
In addition, the electric pump doesn’t suck up any screws, etc. from the bottom of the bilge, and has a slightly shorter lift, which improves efficiency. Whenever I go sailing I turn off the bilge pump.
Most of the float-type bilge pump switches use a small capsule filled with mercury to activate the switch. The switch may be installed in any number of orientations that make the float potentially sensitive to activation without water in the bilge. For example, if the switch has been installed athwartships it may be activated by an extreme angle of heel to the opposite side. A large number of additional alternate installations are possible that might be affected by heeling, heavy seas, pounding, etc.
As a quick and dirty test, I mounted a spare Rule-A-Matic switch on a board and found that it would activate when the float end of the board was raised to 35° above the horizontal. This would be roughly equivalent to a rails-in-the-water angle of heel and would be sufficient to activate an athwartship mounted switch. It would appear that the best installation to avoid this problem is to have the switch mounted fore-to-aft with the float on the “down” side of the slope.
Florham Park, New Jersey
Thank you for the excellent articles about 12-volt watermakers (December 1997 and January 1, 1998). Watermakers have become popular cruising equipment and your product review helps identify some key performance issues to address when making a watermaker decision.
I must, however, identify some points which have caused confusion for your readers. First, PUR watermakers are produced by Recovery Engineering Inc., not Sea Recovery. They are different companies. Second, the PUR PowerSurvivor 160 weighs 36 lbs. versus the 54 lbs. reported. PUR makes the lightest watermakers available. All PUR watermakers may, in fact, be installed above the waterline if a small 1-amp booster pump is used. Last, the 1998 PowerSurvivor 160 retails for $3,7970 versus the $4,440 price listed.
All in all, thanks for a great job. We appreciate your attention to this rapidly growing product category.
After reading the recent article raising concern over cable failure on Questus radar mount installations (March 1998), I noticed that the picture printed with the article clearly shows that Mr. Nicholson’s unit is not installed per the installation manual. In 1993 the mounting method was revised so that the entry of the radar cable into the mounting tube was on the opposite side from the radome. The recommended cable routing method was also changed. This photo shows that the unit in question is mounted with the cable entry hole on the same side as the radome. Having not seen the picture when first notified of Mr. Nicholson’s problem, I was unable to precisely determine the reason for the failure. However, the installation update was provided to Practical Sailor prior to the article’s printing and it is unfortunate that it was not included in the article. I do not know when the unit was installed to verify its compliance with the original installation manual, but would recommend that the mounting tube be rotated 180° and the cable be routed per the current manual to avoid future cable problems.
Being that the indicated problem could be a quality or application issue, I originally feared that customer concerns were not being reported to me. I contacted the major radar manufacturers to determine if reports of this problem were being directed to them. All indicated that they had no reports of this type of failure.
If original unreported occurrences do now surface, we will immediately take corrective action. As for now, we do not see the need for a gimbal locking device as suggested. I should note that the Questus mount has far more damping effect than other units on the market and that it would be the least likely to cause wear on the radar cable.
Product Manager, Hood Yacht Systems
Tandem Anchor System
In reference to your article, “Bruce Anchor Sets Best” (February 1, 1998), I agree that there is not one anchor for all bottoms, but I think there is a solution for all bottoms. Several years ago I read an old book in our club’s library that led me to adapt a technique that has never failed us even with several boats rafted together in a blow—tandom anchoring. In my case, I use a Bruce as my primary, with a Fortress on 10' of chain attached to the crown by a stainless steel locking caribiner.
This has several advantages over one larger (and heavier) anchor. The Bruce digs in fairly quickly; if it does not set quickly (eg., mud), it digs a furrow for the Fortress to bury deeply for incredible holding power. I don’t think this rig has ever gone more than a very short distance before digging in. And, you get the benefits of two types of anchors for the weight of one larger one—the Bruce for sand or rocks and the Fortress for sand or mud or weeds (where the Bruce prepares a furrow).
Negatives? Only once, in a relatively open area with swirling currents, did I find the chain to the Fortress with one wrap around the top of the Bruce, showing that the Bruce had dragged, but not the Fortress. The wrap did not cause a problem with holding.
About hauling two anchors, after the Bruce is stowed on its roller, the Fortress hangs down to be easily dealt with next.
The total weight of the rig is about that of a larger size Bruce, but produces greater holding over more bottoms. I find the minor hassle of dealing with the Fortress worth the peace of mind. This rig leaves the Fortress free as a lunch hook, too.
William S. Beery, MD
Having owned four sailboats and cruised the waters of Puget Sound and Georgia Strait over the past 30 years, I thought I had experienced all of the major problems associated with boating. Wrong!
My nephew and I were returning from a shakedown cruise in preparation for an extended sail up to Desolation Sound, BC. After entering the breakwater, we throttled back to about 1200 rpm. About 150 yards from our slip, the engine made what I term a “bad news” sound, following which water ceased to be expelled from the exhaust. We immediately shifted to neutral and killed the diesel. Our hope was that we had sufficient way to coast into our slip. As my nephew cleated the fore and aft mooring lines, I ducked below to check things out. My first surprise was to see about an inch of water covering the cabin sole.
Upon further inspection, we were shocked to discover our raw water through-hull had been sheared off, thus explaining why the boat was rapidly filling with water and why no water was being pumped out with the exhaust. A tapped-in wooden plug stopped the leak and the bilge pump emptied out the excess water. We now could take a closer look.
As required, our engine compartment is equipped with a blower to exhaust fumes. The pick-up consists of a pigtail, not unlike the ones on clothes dryers. Somehow, the pigtail got shoved down too far, was snatched up by the shaft coupling, wound around a number of times and snapped off. The end piece then flagellated around with such force it sliced off the engine’s wiring and completely severed the through-hull.
Happily, the damage was easily repaired, but it could have been a much more tragic story. My nephew and I learned a valuable lesson. Have you checked lately how your engine compartment blower is set up?
Earl Dangelmaier, MD
Cockpit Autopilot Tensioner
Read your latest on the upgrade efforts of the PS Tartan (December 1997). You can improve the delivered torque of the CPT pilot by using a pair of idlers. The idlers give you a much more acute angle into the drive pulley; you pick up more teeth on the pulley and eliminate slippage. In addition, the shock cord has some give and softens the trim corrections, which can be pretty abrupt. The rig is adjustable for wind velocity, etc., by pulling up on the shock cord or slackening off. The shock cord goes around the wheel shaft.
Fort Lauderdale, Florida