Fiberglass Fuel Tanks
In the April 15 issue, George Simpson asked about fiberglass tanks for diesel fuel. I have two comments.
Years ago, I “apprenticed” myself to a master fiberglass craftsman, who, among many other things, taught me that in any lay-up there tend to be a few glass fibers that are not thoroughly wetted by the resin. Sometimes these fibers can form a seepage path from the inside of the tank to the outside, and diesel will leak out through any possible opening. This generally causes just an odor, but with diesel fuel, that is bad enough.
For fuel tanks or holding tanks, good practice is to lay up the tank, then after it has cured grind the inner surface smooth and lay another layer or two into it. The new resin on the ground surface prevents any seepage from one laminate to the other, and hence to the outside. This is easy to do, and gives a good margin against seepage.
The Caliber 40 LRC reported on in the April 1 issue uses fiberglass tanks for fuel, oil and waste. It seems that Caliber did a great deal of research on the construction of fiberglass tanks used for storing fuel, chemicals, etc. in industry prior to coming out with the LRC model in 1994. They utilized what they had learned to construct the integral tanks under the cabin sole. I have been living aboard a Caliber 40 LRC (hull #117) for the past year and one of the main reasons for purchasing the boat was the water and fuel capacity (179 gallons water; 212 gallons fuel).
I did not want to be like the many ocean-going boats I have seen with lots of jerry cans and jugs lashed to almost every spare inch of deck space. The built-in tanks in the Caliber are in effect a double bottom, offering protection from holing. The forward wall of the forward head is a fiberglass watertight bulkhead separating the forepeak from the forward head. This is touted as a collision bulkhead by Caliber and forms the interior wall of the huge holding tank. Again, like the fuel and water tanks, a hole in the bow would not endanger the vessel. I have never heard of the holding tank problems reported in your article and no other owners I have spoken with mentioned this problem. I have a friend with a 10-year old Caliber 38 with the same collision bulkhead/holding tank arrangement and he has had no problems.
I wanted a strong offshore boat with very livable accommodations: a large saloon with a dining table that could be easily folded up to create more living space, a stall shower so the head would not get hosed down when I did, no V-berth, lots of light and ventilation from seven opening hatches and 14 opening ports, and a sugarscoop stern.
My boat was the first with a Selden Mast, which is a double-spreader rig (not a single spreader mast as referred to in your review) with their Rod Kicker vang provided as standard equipment. My galley sinks are stainless and I believe this is standard on all new boats.
The owners of your test boat complained that fuel and water fillers are close together and unmarked. I marked them with vinyl adhesive letters, one color for diesel and another for water to further avoid confusion, although they were already clearly stamped “Diesel” and “Water.”
As a live-aboard in the Northeast, I installed an Espar heater and called Caliber for advice on drilling 4-1/2" holes for duct work. I half expected to hear the car dealer’s stock answer “You modify it, you void the warranty.” Instead, I was pleased with helpful, friendly advice.
As to handling under sail and power, the boat tracks like it’s on rails under power, minimizing the effects of wind and current when making headway. This makes docking much easier. Under sail, the boat has a seakindly motion and drives to windward like a locomotive. In strong winds, handling improves substantially with the staysail up. As to light air, I have found that 5-6 knots of wind (that’s all you get in July and August in Long Island Sound) is all I need to turn off the engine.
As an addendum to your article on RFI (January 15, 2000) here are a couple of good rules of thumb:
1. For VHF noise problems, look first in the ignition system. (Not a problem with diesels.)
2. For HF noise problems, look first in the alternator regulator system.
3. For autopilot jumpiness when transmitting or running electrical gear, solder in 0.01 microfarad disc ceramic capacitors (500- or 1000-volt rating) across the autopilot control cables’ individual leads to ground at the plugs. They are relatively cheap, small, and easy to install. I keep a pack of them onboard. It is a good idea to parallel one of these across your 1mfd capacitor at the alternator. Some of the larger capacitors do not get all the noise generated at VHF frequencies.
I spent 25 years installing, servicing, designing, and manufacturing aircraft communication, navigation, autopilot, and instrumentation systems.
Herman P. Miller, PE
Picture this scenario: Midnight in the middle of the Mona Passage. A failing breeze has caused us to power up to get to Puerto Rico before another 24 hours pass. As I come on deck there is light glowing and creeping through the engine cover beneath the companionway...FIRE!
The entire engine compartment is afire with flames licking at the dual diesel fuel filter system. The automatic Halon system didn’t go off, although the cylinder is scorched. Turning off the engine, batteries, two handheld Halon extinguishers and a lot of water allow my wife and I to put the fire out. We were close to abandoning ship.
The response from the US Coast Guard in Puerto Rico was “Call us every half-hour—you’re a sailboat, aren’t you?”
After a sailing friend towed us into Mayaguez, Puerto Rico, a closer inspection revealed a shorted, burned-out alternator ignition noise suppressor that had melted the entire electrical harness of the engine as well as all other wiring throughout the engine compartment. The device was installed prophylactically at commissioning of our Hans Christian 33 nine years previously. We haven’t replaced or missed the device while cruising the Eastern Caribbean for the past five years. Under NO circumstances would I advise the installation of such a device. Also, any automatic fire extinguisher system should have a manual release.
Laurence H. Coffin
As likely the only West Coast Canadian owner of a 1984 Freedom 32 (#68), I must agree with everything noted in your May 1 review of the Freeedom 32. Apart from a redesign of the saloon table (too bulky to lounge around), it is perfect as our third and likely last sailboat for gunkholing the Pacific Northwest.
As for the Reading, Massachusetts owner mentioning the large wheel being difficult to get around in the cockpit, advise him to try an Edson Wheel Storage Kit for $86 that stows the wheel outside of the railing when parked (page 859, West Marine catalog).
Vancouver, British Columbia
Dolan Springs, Arizona
Where Credit Is Due...
To Furuno USA, Camas, Washington: “During the second summer of use, my Furuno 1832 screen would briefly black out, especially at higher gain settings. A dealer advised that the problem was probably in the inside unit so, at the end of last season, I removed it and returned it to Furuno on warranty and headed home. Upon testing, Furuno advised me by phone that the problem actually had to be in the outside unit and would I please send that. I was stuck in Texas with the outside unit on my boat in Alaska, the radar vital for navigation in the spring, and no servicing dealers near Ketchikan. Furuno promptly offered to send a new motor and new circuit board so that I could address the two most likely problems when I outfit next spring. I have received these at no cost, along with step-by-step instructions. I am grateful that Furuno would deviate from their normal warranty process and for their professional and helpful attention.”
To Trident Marine Products, Canonsburg, Pennsylvania: “A couple of months ago I bought a Trident LPG Mini-Locker system for my Pearson 35. What with several hurricanes down here in North Carolina, I wasn’t able to install it until just recently. On finishing the mechanical and electrical installation I flipped the solenoid switch—no joy! No click of the solenoid and no gas flow. Because we were planning to leave shortly and head to Florida, this was a substantial problem.
“At about noon Friday, I called Trident and talked to a gentleman named Dan. I explained the problem and he said, ‘We’ll fix that.’ At noon Saturday a complete new solenoid/regulator assembly was in my hands via UPS Red. Voila! It worked like a jewel.”
Oriental, North Carolina