Mailport May 1, 1998 Issue

Mailport 05/01/98

New Glass Removal
Mr. Piccoli’s January 15 letter has prompted me to write concerning the removal of New Glass. Having a 22-year-old Morgan Out Island, a survivor of Caribbean sun and charter guests, I am intimately familiar with the restorative powers of New Glass. I can usually get about two seasons on the Chesapeake before its time to start anew. Using ammonia as suggested by the manufacturer is like moving a mountain by hand shovel—it does work, just not in our lifetime. “Armstrong’s New Beginnings extra strength floor cleaner,” applied undiluted by hand sprayer, does the trick. Spray it on, let it sit for a moment, lightly scrub it off with a white scrub pad and rinse. The result—absolutely clean gel coat. Do a couple square feet at a time and don’t let it dry out in the sun. I have found the brown water stain around the waterline (not related to the use of New Glass) is easily removed with Mary Kate “On and Off,” which appears to leave the New Glass untouched.

Dennis Borner
Deal, Maryland

Windvane Self-Steering
I’d like to respond to Jack Tyler’s letter published in the January 15, 1998 Mailport concerning windvanes and specifically to his comments about the Monitor.

Since 1992, my wife Dolores and I have cruised from San Francisco to Alaska and back, then south through the Panama Canal and up the East Coast. We spent this past summer as part of the Cabot 500 in Newfoundland and Nova Scotia, returning to South Portland, Maine, where our boat is awaiting our return. Prior to this, I completed two San Francisco-to-Hawaii single-handed Transpacs.

The windvane we’ve used to do all this was a Monitor that I purchased in 1979 from the original designer and manufacturer, Gene Merwin. Gene, whom I met years ago, developed the Monitor in the mid 70’s as an improvement to the Aries, a very popular vane manufactured by Nick Franklin in the United Kingdom. The major improvements were the use of stainless to eliminate the inevitable corrosion when aluminum and other metals are mixed, and open Delrin bearings which are water lubricated.

Contrary to Mr. Tyler’s assertion, neither the 304 stainless nor the welds have suffered over time. One only has to look at the aluminum masts and booms of 19-year-old boats to see the deterioration where bronze winches or stainless fasteners are used. Scanmar changed the material last year to 316-L for cosmetic reasons, which insures a shiny finish, not stronger welds.

Since 1979, our vane has been disassembled just once (1994) when I replaced all the bearings and had it electropolished.

Mr. Tyler’s comment about the use of a small electric autopilot being attached to the windvane is quite correct and is becoming more popular. Of course the reason to own and use windvane self-steering is to have a simple, strong, non-electronic system to steer on blue-water passages. Somehow, in my view, hooking up an autopilot with NMEA interface and GPS integration misses the whole point.

Robby Robinson
Mill Valley, California

Mr. Tyler says that the Windpilot reflects a whole new integration of vane steering with power generation. Unfortunately, he has accidentally attributed this unique feature of the hydraulic Windhunter to Windpilot, which is a mechanical windvane. Windhunter is unique among all automatic steering devices in producing power for the ship’s batteries, while steering at the same time, either to wind or to its own in-built compass. At anchor, the system converts to wind power generation. These hybrid Windhunter systems are no longer new, having been in production since 1990.

Since 1996, Windhunter systems, in addition to windvane steering and power generation, have a plug-in autopilot option, which costs $824. Although in the same price bracket as a tillerpilot, this has the significant advantage of being a powerful below-deck, hydraulic autopilot. It does not consume any power from the ship’s batteries. In fact, the Windhunter continues to charge the batteries in autopilot mode, something that cruising sailors will appreciate.

Sackville Currie
Windhunter USA
1210 SE 1st St.
Fort Lauderdale, Florida 33301

PVC in a Hypalon Boat
In March 1997, I purchased a new Avon Rover 3.11 from a dealer. As part of the sale, he demonstrated how to inflate, deflate and properly stow the boat. When we attempted to repeat his demonstration we found that the high-pressure inflatable floor (HPIF) would no longer hold air. The dealer and his technician determined that the problem was the improper installation of the air valve. The valve, which is a simple rubber flapper, was installed by cutting an X in the fabric instead of an open O. The points and loose strings from the cut were pulled into the valve by the rush of deflating air.

The dealer assured me of Avon’s prestigious reputation and promised to have a new floor inside the week. He kept his promise. However, the new floor had exactly the same problem! I tried to work with the dealer to get a functional floor, but the best he could do was to repair one. I found the repaired floor unacceptable (it looked terrible—he had used the wrong adhesive), and decided to contact Avon directly.

To make a long story short, I now have floor #9! Yes, nine floors have been exchanged since March. We are currently awaiting delivery of floor #10. Seven of these floors have been unable to hold air, one was an obviously used and patched floor, and floor #9 actually holds air but is almost impossible to deflate.

As a result, I have become quite knowledgeable about HPIF in the Avon 3.11. Here are some facts to share with your readers:

• Since the Avon HPIF is PVC, it shares all the shortcomings of a PVC inflatable. In other words, if you leave it in the sun, expect a very short life. I now wonder why I paid so much for a Hypalon boat if it will not last like one.

• The valve is a simple rubber flapper that is deflated by pushing a stiff piece of wire through the mating surfaces. I am convinced this will result in scarring of the mating surfaces so that they will eventually not seal.

• Avon’s current fix is to remove the valve and glue a screen over the back of the valve to keep out the fabric strands that get trapped during deflation. Unfortunately, this makes deflation almost impossible.

• This is Avon’s second generation HPIF. The first, which had a proper screw-unscrew air valve, was made in Korea and had an extremely high seam failure rate.

I must admit that Larry Curtis, Avon’s West Coast operations manager, has bent over backwards trying to resolve the problem.

Roger Elliott
Martinez, California

We asked Larry Curtis of Avon Marine for a response, which appears below:

As with any new product, there are often glitches and resulting learning experiences for the manufacturer. It has, unfortunately, become quite well-known in the inflatable world about the initial problems we had with the valve on our PVC inflatable floors.

While the engineers at our UK factory were in the process of redesigning the valve installation, problem units were being fixed locally on an interim basis.

The valve is now installed with a screen between the fabric and the valve, therefore eliminating the problem of threads from the fabric becoming caught in the valve chamber. Since this screen has been inserted there have been no known problems with the valve (neither inflation nor deflation).

In response to Mr. Elliott’s comments:

1. Avon inflatable boats are made of Hypalon fabric. The high-pressure inflatable floor is made of PVC. The thickness of the PVC fabric should ensure many years of trouble-free use.

2. To date, we have had no complaints of scarring on the mating surfaces of the rubber flapper. What Mr. Elliott describes as a “stiff piece of wire” is the deflation prong (which comes as part of the valve and cap). If this is used properly, there will be no scarring.

Also, for your information, valves with a similar deflation technique (A4 Valve) have been used by Avon for over 20 years with no problems.

3. Our interim fix was just that—temporary. We now have a stock of factory-manufactured replacement inflatable floors in both East and West Coat warehouses. Avon has honored all valid warranty claims.

In summary, the valve problem has been fixed. We are confident that the PVC high-pressure floors will live up to proven Avon quality standards.

Fluke Multimeter
A very important feature of the Fluke model 11 (not tested) was not mentioned in your November 15, 1997 comparison of digital voltmeters. This is the V-Check mode which is a low-impedance function. By measuring dockside voltage with a low-impedance meter, so-called “stray voltages” are no longer seen. The observation of these voltages, sometimes reaching 30 to 50 volts, are normal when using a high-impedance meter such as the Fluke model 73 because of the distributed inductance and capacitance that exist in home and boat AC loads.

An engineer or highly trained technician understands the reason behind these voltages and knows how to disregard them, but the average user will be totally confused by their presence and will spend a lot of time chasing problems that don’t exist. In the V-Check mode you don’t even have to switch jacks or select ranges in order to read AC, DC or ohms; the meter is auto sensing and auto ranging. Just connect the meter leads to any circuit of 600 volts or less and the meter will automatically provide you with the correct reading. In addition to a visual indication, an audible tone is heard when checking a good fuse. It is absolutely goof proof.

The high-impedance mode can be selected if circuit loading is a problem, such as on a critical electronic circuit. You were correct in stating that current measurements cannot be made with this meter but since an onboard meter is used mostly to check voltages and continuity, the ease of use of this meter greatly outweighs this one drawback. A separate meter can be used for the occasional current measurement.

I am employed by an electric utility company and after field testing just about every meter available, we have standardized on the Fluke model 11 for issue to our linemen and troubleshooters. The stray voltage issue has totally disappeared and troubleshooting is now quicker and much more accurate.

John Branch
Chandler, Arizona

I also use a Fluke multimeter. I purchased a model 23, the industrial version of the model 73. The operation is the same as the 73, but the case and electronics are more rugged. I understand the 73 is intended for use in a shop and the 23 in the field. The 23 costs a bit more, but I think it’s worthwhile.

You can buy a clamp-on ammeter accessory for the Fluke meters and probably most of the others. This gives you the ability to measure current without breaking the circuit without purchasing two meters. Both transformer (AC only) and Hall Effect models are available.

I purchased my latest meter directly from Fluke. It was a refurbished unit but came with a full warranty. I saved about $50.

Alec Ross, PE
Seattle, Washington

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