Mailport February 1, 1999 Issue

Mailport 02/01/99

3M 5200
After reading your review of marine sealants in the November 15, 1998 issue, I thought I would give you some observations concerning the use of 3M 5200, since the information is the result of taxpayer’s expense.

From 1988 to 1993 I was the naval architect for the MHC-51 coastal marine hunter, an all-fiberglass ship built in Savannah, Georgia for the US Navy. My duties included outfitting the ship, so the attachment of through-hull fittings, from sea chests and transducers to bollards and chocks, was my responsibility.

I used 3M 5200 for most “permanent” attachments and found that for most underwater attachments it remained watertight, even after being subjected to several docking/undockings and numerous destructive and non-destructive tests. However, the deck fittings were inspected at regular intervals and the 3M 5200, used as a bedding sealant, tended to crack and become chalky where it was exposed to direct sunlight. The fittings (bollards and chocks) are made of cast, high-manganese or austenitic steel that is non-magnetic. Other fittings were made from non-magnetic stainless steel or bronze. In every case, the 5200 worked excellent to good as both a sealant and a bedding compound, but the edges of deck fittings would, when subjected to heat and sunlight, make the 5200 chalky and brittle, then crack. In direct sunlight and heat, paint (especially gray and black) expands and contracts at different rates than the 5200. Add seawater and side loads and you can imagine that it is hard to keep paint protection on the 5200.

Similar problems occur where antenna foundations on pilothouse tops are sealed with 5200; if the constant whipping or motion of the antenna weren’t enough, add direct sunlight and heat and the sealant begins to break down. The best results are obtained by sealing the wires at the deck penetration and covering the sealant with a base or mount.

Incidentally, the MHC-51 class, when launched in 1990, were the largest fiberglass structures ever built, being 188' 10" LOA and displacing 800+ metric tons.

Robert Green
Pass Christian, Mississippi

VHF In The Cockpit
Per your response to Phil Meyers question on mounting a VHF radio in the cockpit (November 1, 1998), I would like to relate my solution to the same question. First, my sailing is between the Hawaiian Islands, often with several other boats. Due to the seas in the channels between the islands, we are often out of sight of each other. For several years I used an Apollo 510 handheld radio (which I mounted at the helm) quite successfully in most conditions. However, in an attempt to improve radio communications I installed a Standard Horizon Eclipse VHF (in a teak box I made) on a pedestal arm that allows it to swivel. I coupled this to a Shakespeare 5225 antenna.

The advantages are better range and power than the handheld, and even more important, a redundant system to my main VHF at the nav station with its masthead antenna.

Tom Clark
Canes Hawaii

On my Cape Dory 28, the previous owner fabricated a pivoting instrument arm that holds the GPS, Loran and VHF in a neat package, with all wire leads bundled in a neat and flexible umbilical cord. The arm not only pivots “around the corner,” but also allows adjustment of instrument viewing angle, all by means of convenient screw clamps. It swings out of the way for companionway access, and can be locked in any position.

The arm was fashioned from stanchion tubing and fittings plus one U-shaped piece of aluminum.

John Gadow
Madison, Wisconsin

We’ve made our own pivoting arms, too. Now, there is a line of aluminum swing-out mounts to hold a variety of instruments. West Marine sells them. Prices start at about $60.

As a compass adjuster, my perspective is a little narrower than most. All radios have permanent magnets in their speakers and most have them in handsets or mics. The steering compass should be reswung anytime you install electronics or electrical components within about 6' of the compass. This is also true of portable units, including cell phones and binoculars with a built-in bearing compass.

Sailing back to Newport after the 1981 Marion-Bermuda Race, one of my watch captains hung his personal pair of compass-equipped Steiners on the port side of the pedestal arch. At morning stars we were 40 miles west of the DR positon. Fortunately, we were still east of the Gulf Stream.

Bill Haimes
Lake Stevens, Washington

Portable Generators
When you tested “small” gasoline generators in the September 1998 issue, you missed the smallest of the small. I live aboard a Cal 25. Smallness is a requirement on this boat, including me (I’m 5' 4"). Last spring I found a gasoline generator that stores easily in a cockpit seat. It is a Chicago #35286 350-watt (400 watts intermittent) generator with 120-volt and 12- volt outputs. It is small: 10-1/2" W x 10" D x 11" H and it weighs only 13-1/2 lbs.

It does everything that it is supposed to do, like running my B&D Dirt Devil vacuum cleaner (2-1/2 amps or 300 watts). It even runs my 3/8" variable speed drill (3-1/2 amps or 420 watts), although it doesn’t like it when I load it heavily, such as when drilling a 5/16" hole in steel.

It was a Godsend when I diagnosed my Johnson 9.9-hp. engine with a blown head gasket three days before Hurricane Bonnie arrived. I found a wrung-off head bolt when I removed the cylinder head. I relied on the generator to power my drill to drill out the old bolt, which I then tapped and double Helicoiled. The engine was repaired the day before Bonnie, and I rode out Bonnie in my favorite hurricane hole with no damage.

This generator isn’t for everyone. It won’t run my toaster oven or my electric space heater. Nor will it handle an air conditioner or a microwave, but I don’t have these anyway.

A drawback I found is that the 1/2-hp. 2-cycle engine emits little spatters of oil out the muffler. To prevent this, I use an old piece of carpet where the exhaust blows and under the generator, too. I have never had a problem with the generator “walking” under any load conditions, with or without the carpet, and it is so quiet that boaters four slips away don’t even know I’m using it.

The cost: $199.95 and they pay the shipping. I bought it from Harbor Freight Tools, 3491 Mission Oaks Blvd., PO Box 6010, Camarillo, CA 93011.

Joseph Kozak, Jr.
Portsmouth, Virginia

Small Outboards
I have just finished reading the article in the October 1 issue about small outboards. I have a Johnson 2-hp. Most of what you indicate regarding small motors is true, weight, noise, etc., but I must protest. I have had my engine for three years, ever since my Seagull fell off the transom, a loss I much regretted at the time. However, since then I have never had occasion to regret the Johnson 2-hp. It has at least as much thrust at half throttle as the Seagull 2-hp. ever had, certainly enough for my dinghy. Any more and the bow goes up and the boat just digs a hole in the water without going much faster. Last summer, while heading up the East River on my way to the Long Island Sound, I had the occasion to lose the use of my diesel engine on my 26' Paceship sloop. What to do? I lashed my dinghy, an 11' 6" Bolger Cartopper, alongside until I was able to get the diesel going (which took about 45 minutes). That saved calling Sea Tow!

Reliable? It usually starts on the second pull when cold, and the first pull when warm, unless I forget and choke it. The only problem? At full throttle for more than a few minutes, say with a full load of passengers in my dinghy to keep the bow down, it tends to run hot. It will continue to run, but if you turn it off, then try to restart, it won’t start until it’s had time to cool off. Also, I added an in-line, throwaway fuel filter, available at any small engine repair shop for $5, replaceable annually. Finally, the steering friction does work to keep the dinghy in line with my hands off the throttle and still allows me to steer with the steering lever. Bottom line, would I buy one again? You betcha! It may be middle-of-the road, it may lack features, but it’s reliable as hell.

Cliff Moore
Rocky Hill, New Jersey

In the face of clear, compelling evidence that 2-stroke outboards are serious polluters of our waterways, you virtually ignored this aspect in your review. Certainly, more discussion is warranted than a short, afterthought comment (“Ecologists will be pleased to hear…”). I’m not an ecologist, but when I decided to purchase a 2-hp. outboard a couple of years ago and learned the difference between the polluting characteristics of 2-stroke engines (high) and 4-stroke engines (low), this became the single decision point for me and I bought a Honda. I think many other readers would, too.

Klaus Schaefer
Mississauga, Ontario

I was pleased to find the Yamaha 2.0 outboard rated highly since I already own one. I suggest testing motors for gasoline leakage when the motor is in its tilted position. If I don’t close the valve at the bottom of the tank before I tilt the motor, a stream of gasoline runs right into my boat.

Paul CorzattGreeley, Colorado

I believe that you missed the point. I don’t believe that any difference in the level of performance is meaningful for the vast majority of uses of these small motors. Rather, the only significant question is: Will it start and run? I purchased a new Mercury about four years ago, following which I spent probably two hours trying to start it for every hour it has run, which is less than a total of 20 hours. I now leave the motor home and have gone back to the oars.

In my opinion, reliability is the only significant factor to consider.

Joseph LaFreniere, Sr.
Lowell, Massachusetts

We don’t entirely disagree, though some seemingly minor features are sometimes significant. Unfortunately, one can’t ascertain reliability when doing short-term testing. Next time we’ll consider a Reader Survey.

Costa Del Mar Sunglasses
I recently read your review of sunglasses in the August 15, 1998 issue and noticed that you did not include the Costa Del Mar brand. Back in 1989 and ’90 I worked as a scuba instructor in Grand Cayman, a job that required me to be outside on a boat in the bright Caribbean sun most of the day. Many of the instructors swore by Costa Del Mar (800/447-3700). Their high quality polarized sunglasses were designed with boaters specifically in mind and really cut through the surface glare of the water. Many times I have worn my pair all day and have never experienced any eye strain. I’ve always found their clarity and color superior to the better known brands. My pair are nine years old and still going strong.

My wife and I have a boat on the Chesapeake Bay and do more sailing than diving now. I wouldn’t leave the dock without them and strongly recommend Costa Del Mar sunglasses to any boater.

Matthew JenkinsBowie, Maryland

Incidentally, the above-named Mr. Jenkins was not the author of the January 1 letter on repairing delaminated decks. The actual author was James Niemeyer of Gretna, Louisiana. We regret the error.

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