Mailport December 1, 1999 Issue


Flag Failures & Disposal
When Nick Nicholson’s Offshore Log first started appearing, I concluded it was a clever and incestuous dodge that would help Nick’s cruising kitty but do little for average readers like me. As each Log demonstrates, however, I was dead wrong, and Calypso continues to serve as a test bed of substantial relevance to many of us (and the sea stories aren’t bad either).

One simple, brief and recent example is his observation of how quickly Calypso’s yacht ensign disintegrates when full-time cruising. Anyone enjoying a summer sabbatical or cruise down to the Caribbean learns this all too soon. Interestingly, flag manufacturers seem to have standardized on two levels of finish. The higher level, two-ply polyester with individually sewn stripes and stars such as made by Annin for West Marine, gets described as ‘top of the line’ but is only of limited cruising stamina as noted by Nick. Given this, perhaps a reasonable alternative is to accept fading as a natural consequence and sew folded 1" Dacron tape (1/2" per side) to the flag’s trailing edge. In my experience, it’s the damage at the flag’s tail that first results in the flag being unpresentable, and Dacron tape should last considerably longer than just adding a zigzag stitch in the existing weak cloth.

To answer Nick’s question about flag disposal, the National Flag Foundation (800/615-1776) publishes recommended instructions available by fax for the proper disposal of tired national ensigns. According to them, the U.S. Flag Code directs that ensigns no longer suitable for display should be “destroyed in a dignified way, preferably by burning.”

Jack Tyler
via e-mail

The proper way to dispose of a U.S. Flag is covered in U.S. Code, Title 36, the “Flag Code”. Check this site:

It says: “The Flag Code suggests that, ‘when a flag has served its useful purpose, it should be destroyed, preferably by burning.’”

For individual citizens, this should be done discreetly so the act of destruction is not perceived as a protest or desecration. Many American Legion Posts conduct Disposal of Unserviceable Flag Ceremonies on June 14, Flag Day. This ceremony creates a particularly dignified and solemn occasion for the retirement of unserviceable flags.”

Perhaps local Yacht Clubs could pick this task up as a public service to the boating community.

Ron Doescher
via e-mail

Regarding Nick Nicholson’s search for longer-lasting flags, Dave Ferguson of Minden, Ontario recommends Flags Unlimited of Barrie, Ontario at Reader Paul Later of West Hartford, Connecticut said that Prestige Flag & Banner Co., 7052 Orangewood Ave., Suite 1, Garden Grove, CA 92641, 800/876-5155, makes flags that last longer than any others he’s tried.

Seaward Water Heater
When replacing the water heater in my motor cruiser I chose a Seaward 11-gallon heater and have been quite satisfied with it. The engine typically runs cool, <130°F, yet we have warm water in less than half an hour. The unit heats fast on the genset and has a long cool down time. Obviously, my comparisons are limited to an unsatisfactory heater that I replaced and the one I purchased. Were I to have had your comparisons (February 1, 1999) I may have made a different decision but the dollar difference spoke loudly.

I did not add a galvanic isolator. I ducked this costly item by using a 12VDC relay from Radio Shack that is rated for 15-amp 125VAC. I rewired the heater switch to 12VDC. It energizes the relay which is DPDT allowing a switch of both hot and neutral. All water connections are non-conductive reinforced plastic.

I am glad to see Seaward’s response (April 15, 1999) relating to safety. I opted for inexpensive and got more. Were I cruising under sail I might be more critical but for those of us that leave shore power, do two to three overnights and return to shore power it’s not a bad choice with a $100 advantage.

Timothy Miller
via e-mail

Bad Balsa Fix
Regarding the July 1, 1999 letter, “Bad Balsa,” about repairs to the cockpit sole of a Morgan 46, I just went through this on my Allmand 31. I managed to cut the entire upper layer of glass out and remove it in one piece. Next step was to remove the core, which in my case was marine plywood, down to the bottom layer of glass. I then laid in two layers of fiberglass mat, 1/2" of high density closed foam, two more layers of glass mat, followed by the top layer of glass which I had removed initially.

To finish it off, I had to bevel the edges of glass along the cut, fill the cut, and then glass in the bevels, and fair the whole thing. To finish it, rather than try to match gelcoat, I used two-part Awlgrip with a fine non-skid sand component, followed by a second coat of Awlgrip.

We’ve some touch-up to complete, but the program worked well enough for a government job done by one who had never tried it before!

Art Kelsey
Sail Westbrook, Inc.
via e-mail

Adhesive Solvent
One very good adhesive solvent that was overlooked in the July 15, 1999 issue is paint thinner. Paint thinner is very effective, readily available, very affordable, and will not dissolve plastic, fiberglass, gelcoat or rubber gloves.

Curt M. Freedman
via e-mail

Reader Norman Pelton of Fremont, California recommends a product called “Lift Off #2 Tape Remover” from Mostenbocker’s Advanced Developments, Inc., San Diego, CA 92169. Others have recommended kerosene and gasoline.

Micrologic GPS
I have a Micrologic SuperSport GPS that became “very sick” on August 21. It will not pick up the satellite signals for a fix. I notice that the time and date are accurate and it shows the number of satellites that are available but it will not lock on. Since the factory in California went “belly up” I can’t find anyone to communicate with regarding my problem. Can any of your other readers help me?

Bob Shattow
Northbrook, Illinois

Your GPS has been victim of the “roll over” in the GPS system that occurred beginning with that date. Similar to the prophesied Y2K problem, this one was anticipated well by government agencies and was predicted to affect only older GPS models.

A reader with whom we corresponded said, “EPROMs for the East Coast version of the Admiral GPS can be had for $50 US from: Roy Wolfe, 3942 William St., Burnaby, BC, V5C 3J3 Canada, 604/299-8618.

“Following your request for the West Coast version I have put together all the information I can find on upgrading Micrologic GPSs. It can be found at this site: I have found several places that reportedly have the West Coast version.”

Also try Maritime Communications at 310/821-4958 or e-mail at Affected Trimble units may find assistance from Navigation Electronics at 318/237-1413. Garmin was flooded with calls; owners are advised to check the web at

Fitting Multiple Autopilots
Allow me to respond to Bill Olschewski’s letter of July 15, 1999 in which he had difficulties with two Autohelm pilots installed on the same boat.

The Raytheon Autohelm series of autopilots have been designed to be part of an integrated system. It allows the pilot to be installed with multiple control heads if required (for example a flybridge cruiser with two steering positions). In this situation, there is a master unit with a repeater (there may be more than one repeater). The master and repeater communicate by SeaTalk. When you press the Auto button, a message is transmitted on SeaTalk telling all pilots to go into Auto mode, and telling chartplotters and radars that the pilot is operating. If a repeater is required, the correct head must be used.

If two complete pilot systems are connected to the SeaTalk bus, e.g. an ST5000+ and an ST4000+, then both pilots behave as master pilots, and both will try to steer the boat. It is like having two people in a car, both having a steering wheel, so inevitably there will be conflict.

There are several methods of configuring a system with two autopilots. These systems require some additional components that can easily be sourced from Radio Shack. There are some basic do’s and don’ts for a system like this.

The basic requirement is to isolate the backup pilot from the SeaTalk bus whilst not in use. The active pilot will receive information from SeaTalk as usual, and the transmit rudder position, etc.

The fluxgate compass is the eye of the autopilot. Because of the small electronic signals, we recommend that each pilot system have its own dedicated fluxgate. We do not recommend that the signal lines be switched between pilots. A dirty switch contact would render the pilot inoperable.

The rudder reference is the finger of the pilot, providing feel. Again, the best practice is to provide a dedicated rudder reference unit for each pilot. However, it is acceptable practice to switch the wires between the autopilots. (The ST4000+ will operate satisfactorily without the rudder reference, but there will be no repeated rudder angle information on other instruments.)

Bob Sims, Product Support
Raytheon Marine Company
Manchester, New Hampshire

Forespar Harness
Regarding the harness tests conducted by the Sailing Foundation (November 1, 1999)…while the wearer commented that our front attachment plate moved toward his face to an objectionable degree, we have tested these harnesses and not found this degree of movement. In fact, the photo we have illustrates that the harness is rather loose and is possibly not sized right for the wearer.

We have sold roughly 2,500 harnesses a year since 1979 without negative comment from purchasers.

Art Bandy, Sales Manager
Forespar Products Corp.
Rancho Santa Margarita, California

We asked the Sailing Foundation to review their findings. Study author Matt Pedersen told us he again donned the Forespar harness, fit it snugly, and again found the plate slipping up under his lip.

Comments (0)

Be the first to comment on this post using the section below.

New to Practical Sailor?
Register for Free!

Already Registered?
Log In