Mailport August 15, 2002 Issue

Mailport: 08/15/02

Radar: A View from the Bridge
[Re: Mailport, May 15] I am the Master aboard a 238' US research vessel, and have been sailing commercially in all the oceans for the last 13 years. I wanted to give you a shipboard perspective as to what the Mate on that big ship is seeing.

Targets at sea need to be picked up by radar, on average, at least 2 nmaway, so they are not lost in sea clutter. The effects of sea clutter and the need to desensitize the radar to reject sea clutter in most open ocean conditions make identifying anything but the largest targets difficult, at ranges less than this. If the seas are glassy and little swell is present, this clutter is absent and targets that appear to the Mate at closer ranges can be observed and tracked for collision avoidance. If I only worked in glassy seas, I doubt I would find many happy sailboats!

In significant sea conditions, this clutter area could easily increase to 4 or 6 nm This is also when it becomes harder and harder to see other vessels.

The presence of sea clutter, even though the operator desensitizes theradar for this clutter, cannot be eliminated. If it was, in my opinion,you are getting to the point where legitimate small contacts would also be lost.

A small amount of clutter close in to the ship is standard. A smalltarget that only appears on the screen at the 2 nm point, could also beconfused as clutter by a Mate who is less than diligent in radar watchkeeping.

My point is that the small vessel operator needs to take steps to ensurethat they are seen as soon as possible on other vessels' radar, and hopethat the other vessel is using a lookout method other than the "barking dogto wake the Mate" approach. A good target is one that appears where thereis no clutter, and repeatedly shows up on the scope. Intermittent targetsare often interpreted as clouds or ghosts (not the metaphysical kind).

I second Tim Rozendal's comments about X- and S-band radars andtransponders. We have installed an active transponder to the buoy at theend of a 6-km hydrophone cable we tow for science operations, but we know (confirmed by our own testing) this will only appear to the radar observer using a 3-cm radar (X-band). While most ships are fitted with both X- and S-band radars, they are not necessarily using both at the same time. Since magnetrons are not free, most ships work with one of their radar units on standby. The radar at standby may be the X-band unit.

-Mark Landow, Master
R/V Maurice Ewing


Bridge View #2: May Matters
I am a retired Merchant Mariner (Master) and have sailed tankers all my working life. Still do so today as a Marine Advisor to ExxonMobil in theoffshore Gulf of Mexico lightering operations with the "Big Boats" (VLCCs) transferring their crude oil to smaller shuttle tankers for distribution to the refineries in Baytown, TX, and Baton Rouge, LA. The glass remains more than half full at my age of 65.

My wife and I sail our O'Day 23 (built 1983) out of Jensen Beach, FL. The boat has given us a lot of joy now for some 18 years, and our grandchildren are starting to learn to sail on it and enjoy it as well. I believe the O'Day folks in Fall River, MA built a very fine boat for the money. A pity that several O'Day factory buy-outs drained the factory of profits and it closed. The good news is that we can continue to enjoy the well-built boat, and Practical Sailor, with its many valuable articles assists us in no small measure to continue to do so.

[Re: May 1 issue] The PS article on handheld VHFs is commendable and in the best tradition of PS testing. I purchased a Standard Horizon HX350S and find it of excellent performance offshore.

Praise to Nick Nicholson's article on engine spares.

The best comes last: The Lowenbrau Solution is most praiseworthy, and although Bud or Becks Light are my delight, the temperature recommendations are right on, and so is PS' delightful sense of humor.

Please continue to be encouraged by your fine and most helpful guidance for us sailors on lakes, rivers and offshore.

-Knut Riebensahm
Port St. Lucie, FL


Wildcat 350 a Good Value?
As a Wildcat 350 owner, I read Tim Cole's "You Pays Your Money..." (PS June) with interest. I had mine built in Durban by Charter Cats and it was launched in December 1999. While dealing with Eric Schoeman (the builder) has to rate as one of the most unpleasant experiences of my life, he does finally provide you with a yacht that has to rank among the best values on the marketplace today. Paying $120,000, as I did, for a new, extensively equipped 35-foot catamaran, built to withstand the rigors of sailing off one of the world's most challenging coastlines, is little short of amazing. The nearest competitors, like the Fountaine Pajot your reviewer mentioned, will cost you $80,000 to $100,000 more.

I found the build quality to be very good, with top-quality components like Lewmar, Icom, Raytheon, Profurl, Yanmar, and Telestar hydraulics being fitted. Unlike your reviewer I had no experience of delamination whatsoever. In addition to the build quality, the boat's wide beam of 21 feet makes it incredibly spacious for its 35-foot length. Space-wise it easily surpasses that available on any 38-foot catamaran that I know of and, indeed, of many 42-foot catamarans too. Many of the issues that your reviewer had can be avoided by making judicious choices at build time, such as fitting larger winches, larger hatches, boom preventers, cockpit cushions, a cockpit dinette table, battslides, etc. for a very reasonable premium. In general I believe that Tim ended up nitpicking in his review (e.g. a "poorly vented saloon" when it has double sliding doors to the cockpit). This is probably as a result of the steering problems that he encountered, but I do agree with him on the poor reliability of the hydraulics (an optional upgrade from the standard cable steering), especially as it is such a critical component. My hydraulic system had a very small leak and the ends of the hydraulic hoses started to rust as they were made of non-stainless steel. I fixed this problem by retaining the Telestar helm pump, hydraulic cylinders, and balancing valve, but replacing the copper tubing, compression joints, and hose end fittings with stainless steel ones at a cost of $1,000.

Despite any other issues that I may have with Mr. Schoeman (that were finally resolved by my appointing a lawyer to represent me in South Africa), he does make a very high quality yacht, perhaps with some rough edges when really pushed to keep costs down. I chose to accept some rough edges in order to keep $100,000 in my pocket, and I have been very happy with the yacht over the last two years. As the headline says, "You pays your money..." Just don't expect to get a $220,000 yacht for $120,000 and you should be happy, too.

-Mark Allen
Milwaukee, WI


Yeoman—A Fine Point
What your article ("The Yeoman Alternative," May 15) does not mention is the problem that is encountered when using pointed dividers, or compasses, on a paper chart that is placed on the digitizer. If the points of the dividers penetrate the paper chart, which is very likely, they may also penetrate the skin of the digitizer and affect its working. The damage to the digitizer is not repairable.

One of the advantages of the Yeoman, as you point out, is that tried and true methods of plotting using simple and familiar tools can be used. Just make sure the points of your instruments are not too sharp.

-Peter Evans
West Vancouver


Where Credit Is Due
To Florida Rigging and Hydraulics, Riviera Beach, FL, and to Lewmar, Hampshire, UK: "My Simpson Lawrence Horizon 900 Freefall windlass failed after two years of use on the ICW, Florida and the Bahamas. Lewmar referred me to Florida Rigging for repair of the unit. The unit was sent to them for repair and I was expecting a sizable bill. Instead, Tanya worked with Lewmar to get me a replacement unit under warranty and it was sent over a weekend from Lewmar to me in Marathon, FL. Great service, especially from Tanya, but also from Lewmar."

-Tom Burns, S/V Puffin

To Par Pumps/ITT-Jabsco, Costa Mesa, CA: "For many years our Par Mate 2.5 GPM automatic fresh water pressure pump worked reliably on our three-sink, one-shower Allied Mistress 39.  Perhaps it was normal aging and wear or perhaps it was related to the in-line installation of a pressurized accumulator tank a few years back, but our old faithful developed a fatal leak at the pump/motor joint.  We installed a new Par Max model #246010 just a couple of weeks before we were scheduled to embark on a six-month cruise of the Chesapeake from our home port of Savannah.  Imagine our dismay when the new pump developed bad leaks at the hose connection adapters and refused to shut off automatically. After a couple of frantic phone calls and e-mails to Oliver at the factory, I received overnight delivery of a quieter, more powerful, Par Max 4 that worked flawlessly throughout a great and undelayed cruise.  Hats off to Oliver and Par Max for a super product and superior support." 

-Fred Johnson, S/V Balloon
Savannah, GA

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