Mailport January 1, 2005 Issue

Mailport: 01/01/05

Trolling Motor Experiment
[Re: "Alternative Auxiliary Power," PS Nov. 15, '04] I saw the the story on the trolling motor. I don't know how it's working out for you, but my story of using a trolling motor as an auxiliarly power source was a success.

After dodging the fishing boats at the Dana Point Marina ramp while launching my little Omega 14 sloop, I decided there had to be a safer way. Even a little Honda 2 hp was way more power than I needed (and too expensive anyway), so I turned to a Minn-Kota Endura 30 and an 85-amp hr., deep cycle marine battery from Wal-Mart.

Frequently, in low or no-wind conditions, I used the boat for harbor cruising under electric power only. Full throttle was best (about 5 mph), and I regularly ran up to three hours and never drew the battery down more than half charge.

What was amazing to me were the positive comments I regularly received from the owners of more expensive boats. Everyone liked the electric power and it worked great. Still does.

Art Grant
Dana Point, CA


I've been using an electric trolling motor with my small sailboat for some time. I got myself a boat that I could trailer, rig, and launch alone to enjoy sailing on nearby inland lakes—an American 14.6 with 340 lbs. displacement. I equipped it with a Minn-Kota RT42/S—42 lbs. of thrust and incremental speeds (5 f, 3 r). It's powered by a four-year-old group 24 marine battery that is always recharged promptly with a small Guest model 2612A portable, 10-amp, 3-stage charger, and I never delay more than a couple of hours to begin recharging the battery after use.

To be honest, I originally chose electric power for this little sailboat not so much to avoid bothering with fuel and trying to start an outboard, but mainly because a lot of small lakes and reservoirs in New Jersey where I like to daysail prohibit gas engines, but allow electric. Having experienced its silence and convenience, I would never hesitate again to choose an electric engine in these circumstances.

One final advantage that you didn't point out: It's a pleasure being able to motor through heavy weeds (very common in shallow lakes in summer). The prop, as Minn-Kota advertises, is quite good at not fouling, and it's also nice not having to worry about clogged cooling water passages. In short, I see no downside to the use of a trollingmotor in this application.

Ken Crossner
Via e-mail


For several years, we eased our 25-foot, 7,000-lb. sloop in and out of crowded marinas, narrow slips, and wind-free sloughs with a very reliable Yamaha 2 outboard. However, tired of expensive annual upkeep, noise, fumes, its uselessness in a chop, and stupid gas spills, we swapped it last yearfor a Minn-Kota RT55/S trolling motor and a top-notch, deep-cycle battery. Its long shaft, light weight, ease of attachment, immediate reliability, instant reverse, and environmental friendliness were the main attractions.

Once it overcomes the inertia of a 7000-lb. boat at rest, its thrust is sufficient for our needs. We use it now to get in and out of very sheltered Port Madison, about 1.5 miles in length, at 50-60% power, which enables us to glide silently past boaters snoozing the mornings away at anchor and missing the best time of day. Running our heavy, full-keel boat at this load has never taxed the battery (which we keep fully charged at dockside), nor made it run warm. It is not intended for any more challenging burden, that is what we have sails for. We can also drop it into the other runabouts and small sailboats we use with ease. As small as it is and working far past its design purpose, it has made our sailing days much more relaxed.

Tom Lonner
Bainbridge Island, WA


I understand that inflatables are often difficult to row, but move smartly with a motor. Perhaps their failure to row easily should be considered another reason to avoid inflatables.

While I am sure that my children would love to zip around the harbor in a powered dink, we don't use an engine, so they enjoy rowing and learning to row. I am amazed at how few oared boats that I see. People who don't learn to row won't row. Rowing is an enjoyable pastime and a most reliable way to get places on the water. I fear that it is becoming a lost art and I ask that you please encourage people to consider this method of propulsion.

Perhaps you could address such things as the various characteristics of the many types of rowable dingys in a future article. Often such minor improvements as adding a bow set of oarlocks thereby creating a forward rowing station will greatly improve the versatility of a dingy.

Joseph LaFreniere
Falmouth, MA


Watch Advice
[Re: PS October 15, '02] I read with interest your review of watches designed for the sailor. Since I have owned a Casio Sea Pathfinder for over two years, I wanted to point out some things that you did not pick up on in the article.

The crystal is not scratch-proof—a real omission in a watch selling for $200 (metal bracelet version). I was happy with the watch. It has really large numbers on the display, and a good racing start timer. It is bulky, but not as heavy as it looks. However, the thermometer function is completely useless: it measures the temperature of my wrist.

After two years, it was time to change the batteries. It turns out there are 4 of them, and they cannot be changed by a dealer. So I sent it off to the Casio Repair Center. The fixed charge for any repair is $80, with shipping and tax. Since they were charging me almost half the price of a new watch, I asked them to change the scratched crystal. They had the watch for 45 days, and when I received it, they had not changed the crystal. Yes, they will do it without additional charge, but now I have not had my watch since July 21 (this is the middle of October) and I have had to pay twice for shipping.

This saga with the battery change is something your readers might like to know about before they decide what to buy. I find it reflects incredibly bad design and even worse service.

Micheal LeVine
Port Jefferson, NY

Casio USA offered this explanation:

"We do not claim to have a scratch-proof crystal. I believe this is something that the customer wishes the watch had. Some models are mineral glass, but on the SPF 40 the customer had it is an acrylic crystal. This type is generally very durable, but can still scratch if there is enough force applied.

"Regarding the thermometer, to actually take the air temperature, the watch needs to be removed from the wrist. Otherwise your body temperature causes the temperature sensed to be elevated. This occurs with other thermometers also.

"Most watch manufacturers ask that the watch be sent back to them, even for a battery change. If a store does not have the silicon to regrease the seal, or breaks the seal when the watch is opened, the water resistance is no longer guaranteed. Then a $10 battery change turns into a total module replacement if the watch gets water inside and starts to rust. So most stores choose not to replace the batteries because they realize there is a good chance that they are going to damage the watch.

"The general charge for a battery change is $10 plus shipping and tax. However, if the watch comes in with a letter stating 'does not function,' the full repair rate may go into effect. In Mr. LeVine's case, the crystal was to be covered so the full rate applied, Unfortunately, there was an issue with the crystal replacement, and that was why we brought it back in to fix at no charge."

Michael O’Keefe
Casio USA


Mattress Management
[Re: "Boat Berth Bazaar," PS Oct. 15, '04] I have sailed my San Juan 28 on a number of trips to British Columbia and Alaska and found the moisture forming under the combination settee-berth an ongoing challenge.

I saw a HyperVent-like material (there is no breathable fabric on either side) a number of years ago at the Seattle Boat Show and purchased seven feet of it. My experience has been that it does put a barrier between the cushions and the surface, but doesn't halt the moisture forming on the hard surface underneath. (Additionally, after some years of use, the material may become compressed in some areas, undercutting its purpose.)

The hard surface normally requires wiping before returning the bunk to its settee configuration. To mitigate that, I now place a layer or two of newspaper underneath the HyperVent to absorb the moisture. It makes a decided difference.

On our 52-day Alaska trip this year, I experimented with placing the boat's custom cockpit cushions (1.25 inch foam) between the settee cushions and the HyperVent. Even though the cockpit cushions didn't cover the entire bunk, this additional layer greatly reduced the amount of moisture forming on the hard surface. It's not perfect, but it's one more improvement.

Mike Hirko
Gig Harbor, WA


Last spring we decided to replace the mattresses in the forward and aft cabins on our Morgan Out Island 41. My wife and I are in our 50s, and have become spoiled by the matteress we use at home, so I wasn't sure we could find something for 6-foot bunks that would satisfy us.

After several discussions with Steve Meadows at JSI in St. Petersburg, FL, we decided on the following:

The forward bunk, which originally had a 4" cushion, we replaced with one consisting of 2" of 50-lb. foam laminated over 2" of 30-lb. foam. (In over two months on board this summer, I heard no complaints.)

The aft berth, which had a single piece of 4" foam, we replaced with 3" of 50-lb. foam as a base, sitting beneath 2" of memory foam, with 1" of 30-lb. foam on top.

We topped both berths with mattress pads, and have slept quite well. The cost to replace these mattresses was just over $1,100, which was money well spent.

Gerald Cates
Fort Smith, AR


Your article on boat mattresses contained some defamatory comments about the qualities of kapok as a material for PFD flotation. While reading that, I was also catching up on newspapers, and found an interesting "60 years ago today" item in a local paper. That short piece described an effort on the part of local government to collect milkweed fuzz for use in life jackets. Apparently that material was deemed a sufficient form of flotation back in World War II, but I doubt they had plastic bags in which to seal it.

I'll not be discarding my foam-flotation or auto-inflating vests any time soon to start a stampede back to milkweed fuzz, although I suppose you could market it as a green alternative.

Chris Campbell
Traverse City, MI


Boat Review Feedback
[Re: "The New Centurion 40S," PS Nov. 1, ‘04] While reading your review of the Centurion 40S, I've been comparing it to my Beneteau Oceanis 390, also a Jean Berrett design, I think. The builders haven't changed some of the features that I find disadvantageous. For instance, the boats both have a minimum of galley or chart table drawers. My old boat—a Hallberg-Rassy Monsun31—had many more.

As you mention in the review, shallow storage under the chart table is a feature the 40S has in common with my 390. Galley storage space is also poorly organized on both boats. The chainplates inboard of the hull take up a lot of space that was available in the Monsun for food and utensils. On the 390, good sized holes are drilled in shelves in several places, but none of them in areas that are tall enough for a wine bottle! And this is a French boat!

On the 390, under-seat and bunk space is mostly taken up by water tanks and pumps. If you, as you mention, the 40S's water tanks are in the cockpit locker, that's an improvement.

It's disappointing to see that the inadequate fingerholds in the main cabin haven't been supplemented with more grab rails. I've only had this 1998 boat for five months, but I'll definitely be adding grab railings on the overhead.

I'm mostly live aboard and sail on San Francisco Bay. The Beneteau is fine for this. I have the version with the 4.5 foot wing keel. The shallow draft is good for the Bay and Delta, and the boat is surprisingly stiff.

By the way, I've cruised from Baja to Alaska and from the Bahamas to Nova Scotia. I've sailed transatlantic (eastbound) and spent eight years cruising all over Europe. My motto: KISS (keep it simple stupid), but the 390 may be too complex to manage at my age (83).

Jim Crittenden
San Rafael, CA


Lamp Lovers Beware
Some time ago my daughter gave me a Weems & Plath model 718 brass Atlantic Oil Lamp. The first time I got to use it, the glass chimney cracked. The Weems & Plath representative told me that I should warm the chimney in the palm of my hand before placing it on the lamp. Unfortunately, such an instruction was not included with the lamp.

Maybe in olden days sailors hugged their lamp chimneys before using them, but that seems passé today. I liked the lamp, but the company wants $21.45 for a replacement piece of glass ($13.95 plus $7.50 for shipping).

The Weems & Plath lantern is beautiful and makes a nice living room decoration, but I wouldn't take it to sea.

John Germer
Punta Gorda, FL


...Where Credit Is Due
To SailInfo: "Ten months ago I bought a 26' sailboat from a guy who'd bought it from a salvor. It had clearly gone down in a storm, but suffered little hull damage. It was stripped clean—the sails, spars, bow and stern rails, fuse panels, pumps, and even the starter, alternator and instrument panel were gone. But its size and relatively unscathed condition made it perfect for my particular needs as a summer liveaboard.

"The problem was that we didn't know who designed it or built it. There weren't any manufacturer or documentation numbers inscribed in the transom or forepeak, and with the stripped equipment went many identifying marks. I sent photographs to a dozen brokers, all my sailing friends, and even Ted Brewer, Robert Perry, and Mark Ellis. Then a friend suggested contacting Justin Thompson. Mr. Thompson of SailInfo apparently collects and resells brochures and blueprints for sailboats. I believe he has some 2,500 designs on file.

"For months, I'd been working in the dark, refitting a boat of unknown origin, guessing at the I,J,P, and E dimensions as well as the displacement—all very helpful numbers for buying spars, sails and rigging. I e-mailed him three pictures, pledging to pay for his time. He e-mailed back: 'I think it's a Caliber 28.' (It has a bow platform that adds 2' to the LOA.)

"It felt like the clouds parted and the sun blazed through. I thanked him profusely and asked what I owed him, as his business is selling data about sailboats already built. As he hadn’t actually sent me anything, he graciously declined. (I sent money anyway; we need to keep a resource like this in business!)

"If you need information on your boat, blueprints or reprints of brochures, e-mail him at"

—Frederick Corey, Duxbury, MA

To Forespar: "I asked the folks at Forespar to repair or replace the broken tiller extension for my Lido 14. They told me to send it along. They not only repaired it free of charge, but also sent me a new stainless U-joint to use with it. What's the catch here? This tiller extension was manufactured in the '70s! Thank you Forespar ("

—Don Rowley, Santa Anita, CA

To Lewmar: "I have a Dehler 39 in San Francisco Bay. It is a great boat and well-equipped. Its Cobra™ rack-and-pinion steering system attached to a 6 foot spade rudder makes it drive like a sports car. About a year after delivery, some cracking and chipping of the dry powder paint began to appear on the steering pedestal where it is bolted to the cockpit floor. I sent some photos to Lewmar asking what to do. They informed me that it was probably coated too heavily and would need to be replaced. I offered and they agreed that there was nothing functionally wrong with the monocolumn. It took a while, but a completely new pedestal—including a new Polaris Compass—arrived ready for installation. I definitely will continue to use products from this company ("

—Ed Morrelli, Richmond, CA

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