Mailport November 15, 1999 Issue

Mailport 11/15/99

Battery Tests
In reference to the PS Battery Discharge Tests, August 1, 1999, there is an error commonly made when attempting to compare the useable energy of various deep-discharge batteries. Amp-hour ratings and measurements are NOT energy values. Energy is volt-amp-hours, otherwise known as watt-hours. I believe that PS does have the use of an E-meter which actually measures and displays kilowatt-hour consumption of a battery. If your battery tests included this TRUE energy measurement you might have reversed your statement that gel cell batteries “are not as energy dense” (as compared to flooded-cell batteries).

Amp-hour ratings exist only because inexpensive accurate watt-hour instruments did not exist up until a few years ago. Now anyone can accurately make these measurements for themselves. The article correctly pointed out two important factors regarding gel cells that might point towards a test that would measure true energy rather than an amp-hour test that excludes an important variable. The terminal voltage of heavily loaded gelled-cells is higher (by an average often exceeding 10% for “equivalently sized” batteries)” and the internal resistance is lower. As a result, performance under the conditions that many modern cruising people “enjoy” is often improved with the use of the gel batteries having these noted characteristics. For example: One test using an inverter and a microwave oven with a 1,000 amp-hour-rated Rolls battery showed the battery voltage sagging to a lower value than a 200 amp-hour-rated Prevailer in the same installation. Using a windlass with the Rolls battery required a longer, slower recovery than with the use of the gel cell. The Rolls batteries have very high internal cell resistance and lower terminal voltage.

It is time to “retire” amp-hour ratings and measurements associated with lead-acid batteries.

Rick Young
Cruising Equipment Company
Seattle, Washington

Brass Nipples
Regarding the PS Advisor in the August 1, 1999 issue, I used five brass tube nipples in the seawater plumbing for my air conditioner system.

As a full-time live-aboard the system runs all night every night and all weekend for about five months of summer. The brass tube nipples failed after about three months of service. The inside wall of the nipple eroded away until pinholes developed at the root of the pipe threads. Most of the nipples came from West Marine and are yellow brass, not red brass. The tubes are above and below the waterline.

Bronze is the appropriate material for marine use, but nipples of bronze aren’t made. Bronze is a casting alloy and is easily identified by its rough surface texture. Parts are typically cast to near finished state and the threads are then machined. Tubing is made by drawing brass through a die. Bronze will not draw well through a die, therefore tubing isn’t made of bronze.

The proper material for tubing nipples in seawater applications is 90-10 copper-nickel. It is an alloy that will draw and machine well and has outstanding corrosion resistance. Most military vessels use this in all of their seawater piping in conjunction with bronze fittings. Years ago, I built fire pumps for offshore oil platforms and all of the piping was specified by the oil companies as 90-10 CuNi.

The problems with CuNi are expense and availability. For my boat I had nipples of the appropriate size fabricated. Due to the expense it is not a stock item anywhere, but made to size. CuNi tubing nipples are typically five to 10 times the cost of brass, but will last forever and are safe.

I had mine made up by a local machine shop to sketches I supplied. I sourced the material from an industrial supply house in Houston. The cost was about $90 for five 1" short nipples and one 3/4" short nipple.

I don’t think there is much demand for nipples like this in the marine field. Typically, plumbing is done with bronze hose barbs, through-hulls, and valves connected with hose.

On the other hand, I would be glad to make up nipples for people who can’t do a work-around with hose.

Buddy Sauter
St. Petersburg, Florida

Spade Anchor Experience
After about a four-month wait, I finally got the Spade (model A80) anchor I had ordered. From its appearance it is obvious that a great deal of effort went into its design and construction (hence the price of $387 plus shipping). I was able to use it over the weekend.

First, it fits nicely in my Ericson 32’s anchor well. Where I anchored, the bottom was the soft muck typical of Long Island Sound. After the first set, the anchor started to drag so I reset it with more scope and backed it down more aggressively. This seems to have done the trick. However, the anchorage was protected so I was not able the judge for myself the remarkable holding power reported by Practical Sailor (January 1, 1999).

On retrieving the anchor in the morning (following a 180° shift in boat direction), it appeared that it had become completely buried and would not break loose until I was directly over it, at which point it came up easily. One big benefit is that it “self cleans,” meaning that it does not come up with the gobs of mud that a Danforth-style anchor brings up.

Geoff Johnson
Rowayton, Connecticut

Hunter Owner Responds
I am a Hunter 40.5 owner, have been a loyal subscriber of PS for over five years, and eagerly await each issue. Your boat reviews self-evidently contain an anti-volume production boat bias (i.e., Hunter, Catalina and Beneteau). Indeed, you clearly prefer to lead a (non-wealthy) reader into purchasing a 25-year-old Tartan or Sabre rather than a seven-year-old Hunter or Catalina for coastal cruising. Since your editorial philosophy (and boat design tastes) evidently tilt toward the “traditional,” Hunter’s cutting-edge design innovations seem to disturb you the most.

In the past, your boat review bias has not particularly irritated me, since your points are well-reasoned, and your philosophy is espoused by a substantial number of knowledgeable sailors. I was not originally disturbed by the reference to the Hunter 450’s transom as “lacking aesthetic appeal” in your January 15, 1999 issue, since that is one widely held view, and I felt your author certainly was entitled to express this subjective judgment.

However, I am moved to comment by the “cheap shot” regarding Hunter designers made by you in the September 1999 issue in response to letters by Hunter partisans. You state, “(Some) designers go to school to learn the rules,” and imply that Hunter designers are ignorant of yacht design rules. I suggest to you that Hunter’s expert designers simply adhere to a design philosophy that you do not prefer, and that they are neither incompetent nor ignorant.

Robert R Vawter
Tampa, Florida

If we offended Hunter’s fine design team, we apologize. Our remark concerning formal education of designers was made in response to the letter writer’s exhortation that we avoid issues of aesthetics and “stick to the facts.” We believe that aesthetics are an important part of yacht design. The 40.5’s transom just didn’t do it for us. Sorry.

It’s hard to fall in love with an ugly boat. Aesthetics is a large part of sailing and the aft view of a boat should make a statement. The transom, whether raked forward or aft, should be free of clutter. It is a place appropriate for a flag staff, the boat’s name and a dinghy on davits. It is no place for a tenement staircase.

If you can’t climb a proper boarding ladder or do the boat’s work from one, buy a pontoon boat and take up macramé.

As to Hunter, I believe the concepts of aesthetics (classic or traditional) have eluded them completely.

Walt Hodge
Stone Mountain, Georgia

Where Credit Is Due...
To Garmin: In 1995, I acquired a Garmin GPS Model 210. In 1996 and after a season’s use I found the unit leaking. It was returned to Garmin for repair under warranty with no charge. In late 1998, I found the unit leaking again and returned the unit again. Since it was now out of warranty, the repair charge was $150 and that was fine with me.

In May 1999, I found the unit leaking again. At this point, I asked for someone to look deeper into the situation and discuss repairs with me. They did not call, but (to my delight) sent me a brand new unit with no questions and no charge! And what’s even as important, they downloaded all my waypoints from the original unit and uploaded them into the new unit. Now that’s what I call service.

A. W. (Lex) McCrindlem
Windsor, Ontario

To Kestrel: Two years ago I purchased a Kestrel wind meter made by Nielsen-Kellerman of Chester, Pennyslvania, that worked flawlessly until last week. In spite of the clearly stated one-year warranty, they promptly advised that there had been a batch of bad magnets and they would send a new impeller post haste. It arrived today…at no charge. Good people with whom to do business and they make a great product.

Kirk Nelson
Maynard, Massachusetts

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