Mailport February 1, 2004 Issue

Mailport: 02/01/04

Thanks for your write-up on using kellets on anchor rodes [Chandlery, December 2003]. They certainly improve the holding power of our anchors, especially in the deep mud lining the bottom of Irondequoit Bay, off Lake Ontario. We usually use a kellet on the race committee signal boat, not only for holding power, but also to minimize the distance an early starter has to go to get around us and back to the starting line.

We use a spare 20-pound anchor hung from a snatch block that rides down the anchor rode. We lower this improvised kellet one-third to one-half the depth of the water in which we are anchored. We take the retrieval line aft and cleat it off far enough from the anchor rode to prevent the two lines from intertwining over a long day or racing. Those racers who have noticed seem to appreciate this effort to make the race committee "transparent."

By the way, we also use light weights (3-5 pounds) hanging from eight- foot pendants on our course markers. The anchor lines are attached to these weights. The lightweight marks have very little pull on the rode, even in heavy air. By attaching these weights we take the anchor rode straight down, and out of the way of racers.

-Peter O. Allen, Sr.
Newport Yacht Club
Rochester, NY


Thank you for the excellent article. I have used a kellet for several years now, and find it valuable in crowded harbors, where it limits my swing and seems to help the holding power. That's hard to tell, as my 22-lb. Bruce is oversized for the boat and has never dragged.

My kellet is a 15-lb. mushroom anchor ($22 at West Marine) that I clip onto the rode with a stainless carabiner ($9 at West). The kellet's retrieving line is 75 feet of 1/4" nylon, rigged through a block and cleat on the pulpit. It's all a lot cheaper than a $200 toy.

Here in the Pacific Northwest we often have as much as 16 feet of tidal change, so I often anchor in 25 to 50 feet with 3:1 or sometimes 4:1 scope over various bottoms—sand, mud, rock, etc. I lower the kellet until it hits bottom and then a few feet more. In the softer bottoms and moderate conditions, the mushroom is the anchor that holds the boat; the Bruce never seems to get any strain at all, Over harder bottoms and in more severe weather the kellet seems to stay near the bottom, absorbing most of the surge in the rode.

When not in use, the kellet clips onto the pulpit and stores securely between the pulpit and the anchor roller. The way it's rigged, it is very convenient to add it to the anchoring routine: Lower and set the Bruce, then clip the kellet on to the rode and lower it. To weigh anchor, retrieve the kellet first, then raise the Bruce.

-Jimmy (F.E.) James
Kingston, WA


One major benefit that I have found for anchor rode kellets, which your article did not mention, is to keep the rode from fouling on the underside of the boat when anchored in light and varying winds or in a reversing current.  Suspend the kellet on the rode so that it is just off the bottom at low tide: The rode will point straight down when it goes slack as the boat moves above it, and will be less likely to snag on the keel, prop, or rudder.

-Norm Poulsen
Pasadena, MD


More Hurricane Prep
I read in the November 1, 2003 issue that you were looking for feedback on what worked and what didn't during hurricane Isabel.  Here is my input:

I own a 1986 C&C 35 Mk-III, Midnight Mistress, which is docked at the Hampton Yacht Club in Hampton, Virginia.  My boat is kept on an ancient, wooden, fixed dock, in a rather narrow slip. The slip is 14 feet wide, and contains my 11' 2" beam with little room to spare.  The dock is located approximately half a mile upriver from the main harbor area in Hampton Roads.  There is very little room for the wind to build up waves, so I was primarily concerned with high winds and the expected storm surge of 6-8 feet.

In light of the above conditions, I did not feel that I could safely secure my boat in the slip with enough slack to accommodate the storm surge, while leaving it secure enough to stay clear of the dock and pilings.  I arranged to have it hauled out three days before the storm arrived.

The boat was hauled out in Norfolk, Virginia, at Norfolk Boat Works.  It was blocked up and secured by eight poppets.  The ground was approximately six feet above sea level.  A concern during the storm surge was that the ground might become saturated and cause the poppets to sink into the ground (even though it was very hard and contained a fair amount of crushed oyster shells).

I removed the mainsail and boom vang, and lashed the end of the boom to the toe rail. All halyards were run to the top of the mast, with a single [messenger] line led to the center of the foredeck. This would lessen any damage from slapping halyards and reduce windage somewhat. I secured all the cockpit lockers and anchor lockers so none of them would fly open during the expected high winds.

Isabel arrived with a lot less wind than was expected.  Local area winds were in the 60-70 mph range, not the hurricane force winds that were predicted.  The storm surge was 6' or more, more or less as predicted. My boat withstood the winds with no damage.  The storm surge did not get high enough to reach the area where the boat was stored.

When I returned to my dock I noticed that several boats were damaged by contact with the dock or pilings.  The "dock rash" was clearly evident on boats that were not secured well.  Some had inadequately sized dock lines, old lines that had parted, or lacked chafing protection. One boat near mine had been pushed stern-first into the dock, where it rubbed a hole completely through the transom. The lack of spring lines may have been the reason.

Other boats suffered torn canvas and sails (that should have been removed). Clearly, some owners displayed no preparation for the hurricane, while others did all they could.

Unfortunately, one of my racing crew had his Catalina 27 docked a half mile away from my boatyard, and it was declared a total loss after a piling pierced the hull just below the toe rail.  He is repairing the boat himself, and learning a lot about fiberglass work in the process. 

I am confident now that I have the ability to protect my boat through at least a Category 2 hurricane. I could easily have weathered a much worse storm, but in anything above a Category 2 storm I would seriously consider unstepping the mast to reduce windage. Hurricanes worse than that will almost surely cause some type of damage, but I can only do so much.

My current dock is being replaced this winter with a floating pier.  I look forward to having a more secure facility to keep my boat in. The pilings for the new docks are supposed to be high enough that the docks will not become loose when a storm surge arrives. 

Our club has several sections of floating pilings that weathered this storm very well.  The boats on the floating docks suffered much less damage also.

-Jake Brodersen
Hampton, VA


Controllable vs. Variable
I spent 30 years in the U.S. Navy, either driving, training aboard, or inspecting ships. I served on four Spruance Class destroyers as main propulsion assistant, chief engineer, executive, and commanding officer.

Spruance destroyers and Aegis cruisers have "controllable reversible-pitch" propellers. FFG-7s have a similar propeller system with a "controllable pitch propeller." I inspected various other Navy ships with "controllable-pitch" propeller systems on them, including LSTs and MCMs.

I am writing to correct a common error among boaters, and even many professional mariners, concerning their use of the term "variable pitch" propeller, as I noted in the December 2003 Mailport.

Most propellers are variable in pitch. The term "variable" refers to the fact that the pitch is different at the hub than at the tip of each blade. Put another way, the pitch varies as you leave the hub and move toward the tip of the blade. To keep it simple, the reason for the variance is to prevent cavitation due to the velocity of the blade at the tip being greater than at the hub. If you look closely at most propellers you can see that the angle of attack is much less at the tip than it is at the hub; thus the pitch varies as you move from the hub to the tip.

On the other hand, when you can change the pitch to alter the of the propeller's thrust, you have a "controllable" pitch system, like those on the Spruance destroyers, Aegis cruisers, LSTs, and MCMs. This is what most people call a "variable- pitch" propeller, but the correct term is "controllable pitch."

-Steve Resser
Captain, U.S. Navy (Ret.)
Via e-mail


Speaker Leaks
If you're considering installing Bose 131 flush-mount marine speakers, you had better read the directions before cutting them into a cockpit bulkhead. At the first glance they would seem to be the perfect flush-mount speakers. If the speaker cone fails, it would seem that water won't be able to get into the boat. The fact is, though, that the air chambers that back up the speakers have opening ports behind the grill. These ports can take on water that ends up in the air chamber.

Bose directions call for drilling a 1/8"diameter hole at the lowest point in the chamber, to allow the water to flow out. In most installations, water will flow into the boat.

I reported this to Bose and they could not understand the issue. Most marine catalog dealers sell these speakers, and I sense they are not aware of the problem.

-Ted Wasserman
Brookline, MA

In our last review of cockpit speakers (January 1, 2003), we quoted a short bit from Offshore Sailing by Bill Seifert and Dan Spurr, and will do so again here, without the accompanying photos:

"Many owners whose boats have cockpit-mounted stereo speakers are totally unaware that they can admit sea water at the rate of almost 1,000 gallons per minute if deluged by a 1-foot wave on deck.

"Here's how to calculate the potential danger: Q = 3,600 (A) (H) in which Q is gallons per minute, A is the area of the hole in square feet and H is the height of water over the hole in feet measured to the lowest part of the hole.

"The calculation for 1,000 gallons per minute is predicated on two speakers, each having a 5" diameter hole. The area of a circle is Pi x R2. The diameter is 5" or .417 feet. Half of .417 is .208, so the math is: 3,600 x 3.14 (.208 X .208) x 1 = 489 GPM, per speaker.

"It is not uncommon to have more than a foot of water on deck. Sea water weighs 8.6 pounds per gallon, so one would get more than four tons of water below per minute with 1' high waves washing through blown-out speaker cones.

"Fortunately, it is relatively easy to install deck plates over existing speaker holes. ABI and Perko make chrome-plated, cast bronze deck plates with screw-in centers in 5" and 6" sizes. Beckson has plastic 4" and 6" screw-in deck plates.

"I bolt the deck plate through the speaker structure and a 3/4" thick plywood backing plate. Half-inch long screws hold the speaker (generally without the decorative grille) to the backing plate behind the fiberglass cockpit side. A black fiberglass window screen glued to the front of the backing plate makes an attractive speaker grille and will not corrode. With deck plates covering speaker apertures, one can enjoy music on good days while maintaining watertight integrity in heavy weather."


Mac-Based Cartography
A few months ago you put out a call for Mac users who use navigation software. I have been using Navimaq for three years and find it very valuable. Contrary to your compatability chart, Navimaq does read the MapTech raster charts (among others), which is what I have been using.

Navimaq used to crash every once in a while, but that is de rigeur for Windows apps anyway. Navimaq does not make use of the extra MapTech goodies such as aerial photos or depth charts.

I have upgraded to Mac's newer UNIX-based operating system, OSX, which is much more stable.  I have not yet used Navimaq enough with OSX to know how much of a difference it makes.  So far, Quintessence Designs (developers of Navimaq) has not put out a new OSX version, but the old one still works. I have not explored vector charts yet.

I have discovered two other Mac nav programs, both already with OSX versions: GPSNavX and TrueNav.  Both are featured on their own web sites. Prices are reasonable, and it appears at least GPSNavX will work with street maps and a GPS as well as nautical charts. It is not clear to me from the web material how compatible they are with MapTech, vector charts, the free government charts, or others.

I sail a Cal 2-29 in Narragansett Bay and coastwise as far as Cape Cod and The Race in Long Island Sound. The software communicates with two different Garmin GPS receivers when ashore to download waypoints, but I leave the computer ashore. Plotting and adjusting waypoints on the computer are much handier than directly on the GPS—by a factor of about 20.

I will at least download demos of both the GPSNav and the TrueNav before spring to try them out.

-The Rev. Peter Michaelson
North American Maritime Ministry Assn.
Via e-mail


Solder and Crimp
[Re: "Strippers and Crimpers," August 15, 2003] Over the past 50 years I have seen numerous scientific studies comparing the reliability of crimped connections versus soldered connections. Invariably in these tests, the crimped connections come out better than the soldered ones.  Over that same period of time I find that most engineers, technicians, and people actually doing work in the field prefer soldered connections. I think that the difference lies  in the tests where crimped connections are done using good tools, which give repeatable results in clean conditions, and soldered connections are done using hand tools with their questionable repeatability. Under field conditions, hand-crimp tools make less reliable connections which cannot be easily inspected.  Under field conditions, solder connections made by a good technician can be inspected and re-done until satisfactory.

What do I recommend? Use crimped connections with the besttools possible, then solder them. Under field conditions I have even usedVice Grips to "squash 'em" and then solder.  At least two such connections of mine are in space, still operating.

-Don Grayson
Indianapolis, IN


In the December, '03 Mailport, under "Prop Pitching In Comfort," we made an editorial error in Tom Wetherbee's letter, changing the name of his engine-maker from Sabb to Saab. Sabb is correct. Our apologies, Tom.

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