Mailport August 1, 2005 Issue

Mailport: 08/01/05

Triton Redux
[Re: "What of Pearson Yachts?" PS June '05] There was an omission in your PS Advisor on Pearson Yachts. The Triton was one of the first fiberglass production yachts. It debuted at the New York Boat Show in 1959, and the first one was bought by Walter Cronkite. It was designed by Carl Alberg as a wooden coastal racer/cruiser and the Pearsons bought the plans and decided to build it out of fiberglass—then a new and relatively interesting material.

Over many years, more than 600 were built on the East Coast and about 60 at Sausalito near San Francisco where we bought ours new in 1963. It is still in our family, having been raced for 28 years in the Pacific Northwest and cruised to Alaska, around Vancouver Island, down the coast, and up the Columbia River, etc. What a boat!

Richard Marshall
Seattle, WA

Former PS Editor Dan Spurr's recent book, "Heart of Glass," sheds light on this topic. He writes that the Triton was conceived as a fiberglass boat. Tom Potter of American Boatbuilding had wanted to build a boat similar to the King's Cruiser, but in fiberglass. He brought Alberg together with Clint and Everett Pearson, and financed the tooling for this project. Ultimately, 712 Tritons were built, about 200 of them on the West Coast.


Inflatable Boats
[Re: "Inexpensive Inflatables," PS June '05] I read with interest your article on inflatables under $1,000, especially since I had just purchased one, albeit not one of the reviewed models. I'm delighted with my purchase and thought you should know about it.

I purchased a new Korean-made, 9' 6", PVC inflatable with high-pressure air floor from an online retailer called Affordable Inflatables that sells through eBay. Remarkably, the cost was about $650. The boat is rated for up four persons and an 8-hp engine. It has 16-inch tubes, stainless-steel tow rings and a bow ring that doubles as a handle, non-feathering oars, marine plywood transom and thwart, and an inflatable keel. It also came with a patch kit, a good quality pump, and a valise style carry bag. It weighs about 60 lbs. The Korean builder is called Baltik boats. They seem to have a lot of stock in various sizes.

When I used the boat recently for shore runs (about 1 nm back and forth away), I was really impressed with the quality of the workmanship, and performance. With my 10-year-old, two-cycle, 8-hp Johnson, I was overpowered a bit when alone, but if I got my weight way forward I could get the boat onto a plane and it really took off. I clocked it with my handheld GPS at 8 knots. With my wife and two teenagers aboard, the boat still made over 5 knots, and was very dry. It also tracked really nicely.

I encourage you to have a look at these boats. They may be a real find. By the way, I have no affiliation with Baltik Boats, Affordable Inflatables, or eBay.

Bill Berner
Hastings-on-Hudson, NY


Battery Switches
["Battery Selector Switches," PS June '05] While I'm not able to critique the technical aspects of your article, I did enjoy the information. However, I would have thought you'd mention that ABYC now recommends using the 3-switch approach to battery switching over the 1-2-Both type of switch.

The Blue Sea 8080 switch panel is a nice implementation of this approach as it allows independent switching of starting load and house loads and includes a cross-connect switch that has a removable handle (key) for safety. Used with a battery combiner, the 3-switch approach makes it simple to operate by avoiding the issue of which battery to use today. The engine switch is either on or off. Likewise the house switch. When the charge wire from the alternator is directly connected to one of the banks, the 3-switch approach will eliminate the potential problem of disconnecting the charge load when the engine is running.

Coupled with a battery combiner, the 3-switch approach eliminates the issue of which is the house and which is the starting bank, as the combiner will ensure that the banks are balanced. The combiner will only connect the banks when a charge current is present and will manage the current flow so that a severely discharged bank will not drain other more charged banks.

If I were a charterer or shared my boat with another captain, I would insist on the 3-switch/combiner solution to eliminate or at least minimize one source of problems.

Warren Updike
Baltimore, MD


In operating a boat, one sometimes likes to start with one setting of your battery switch, and while underway change to another setting. In addition, small children, "helpful" friends, and landlubber spouses have been known to change the battery switch for reasons evident only to them. After all, it is big, and usually red.

I was always instructed that you could not change the position of a battery switch with the engine running the alternator. The explanation was that the alternator would burnout its diodes if the load on the operating alternator was interrupted for even a faction of a second. The solution was a battery switch that had two smaller terminals that would open whenever the switch was changed, and re-close when the switch was in a position to provide a load. These contacts were wired in series with the field coil on the alternator, thus interrupting the operation/output of the alternator during the operation of the battery switch.

Your article didn't test models with the field coil interruption contacts. Are they no longer required? And if so, why? Am I missing something?

Via e-mail

Most of the switches that we reviewed come in two different versions—those with and those without "AFD" (Alternator Field Disconnect). As the focus of our article was testing the amperage-handling capacity and internal construction of those switches, it did not make any difference in the outcome whether or not the samples that we tested had AFD contacts in them or not. Still, you are correct in stating that the position of the battery switch should not be changed while the engine is on. That is why all of the switches that do not have AFD contacts in them have a warning label on their faceplates. Blue Sea Systems' warning reads: "Stop Engine Before Switching to Off."


Seaberth Follow up
[Re: "Seaberths Examined," PS May 15, '05] In all my years of reading about seaberths, I've never encountered any comments about the potential for using a hammock slung at some point aft of the mast.

Allowing for clearance port, starboard, from the deck and overhead in the event of a knock-down or rollover, the hammock should swing clear and safely with its human contents. For sure, the ride should be smoother than most in any standard seaberth. Do other readers have any thoughts or comments regarding the use of hammocks as seaberths, or even some experience? I'm curious.

Ed Shea
Delray Beach, FL


Charting Inaccuracies
[Re: "Mailport," PS June, '05] Having run our charter operation, Sail Abaco, for the past 11 years out of Hope Town and Marsh Harbour, I have always been a strong advocate of Steve Dodge's Cruising Guide to Abaco. This annually produced guide (for the last 16 years), is the most reliable, detailed, and precise resource for the sailor or boater who chooses to experience the delights of this wonderful destination.

Steve's efforts are checked for every issue by those of us who demand intricate detail when sailing the shallow bounds of our islands. Not since the change of area code numbers in 1997 (from 809 to 242) have any of us found a reason to get on Steve's case.

A suggestion to Navionics: Ask permission to use Steve Dodge's information. It's accurate and it's really what everyone uses in this area. No other guide to the area is anywhere near as good.

Mike Houghton
Sail Abaco


Reader Alan Harries should not blame Navionics or Raymarine for the Bahamas chart inaccuracies. My electronic charts of the Bahamas from C-Map came with a clear warning about inaccuracies in the Bahamas. According to the warning, some areas of the electronic charts are based on paper charts from 1835.

I learned my lesson using C-Map charts in the Eastern Caribbean over the last few winters. While some harbors were very accurate, at many anchorages around the islands, my plotter placed the boat over a half mile inland. When I contacted C-Map about the problem I got the same response as Mr. Harries did for the Bahamas. I now depend on the electronic charts in the Caribbean only between islands and not close to shore.

Chuck Poel
Denver, NC


Fire Extinguishers
[Re: "Fire Extinguisher Test," PS June '05] I worked in safety and fire prevention (in buildings, not boats) before I retired. I thought you might be interested in my comments.

Rather than just relying on UL or other testing agencies, I thought your doing actual tests was a great idea. But I think the caveat you included regarding uncontrolled variables was important too. After reading the article, I wondered how important it is to use an extinguisher rated for electrical fires if the only electricity on the boat is from a 12-volt source. If I had the choice between extinguishing a fire with buckets of salt water, or losing the boat I'm not sure I would worry about damaging electronics or (since I have only a 12-volt system when I am away from the dock) electrical shock. Water, as you pointed out, is in nearly unlimited supply. Since it rapidly cools the ignition source water can prevent rekindling where some other agents might not. Also, once a fire involving electricity has been de-energized (electricity shut off), you can safely use an agent rated A or A,B.

I thought your comments regarding training and placement of extinguishers were right on. I also agree with your comments on the limitations of carbon dioxide as an extinguishing agent. The clean-agent extinguishers that aren't recommended for confined spaces are probably not recommended for that purpose because of the possible toxic effect on humans. But I wonder if those units might not be useful for an engine compartment where there are no people, and in that case, the smaller the space the more concentrated the agent and the more effective it would be.

My only other comment is quite general, and not specific to fire extinguishers, but I think still important. Fire prevention is the first and most powerful strategy for dealing with fires. If you find yourself fighting a fire then your efforts at prevention have somehow failed. In a building you should evacuate the people and call the fire department, and if the fire is small and you are properly trained, you may choose to fight it. In a boat the options are not so pleasant.

Jim Morrison
Hansville, WA


You recommended Kidde Spray Foam, but even the Kidde Co. doesn't know where it is sold retail. I checked and their website doesn't list retail sources. The marine suppliers and the fire extinguisher retailers I contacted don't carry it. West Marine can get it on special order, but that would take several weeks. Any suggestions?

Richard Bernstein
Via e-mail

We found Kidde Spray Foam available through a number of sources online. Try your luck on the following websites:


...Where Credit Is Due
To Yachting Services: "Not too long ago, you rated the Prop Protector as the top propeller rope cutter. Based on that review (PS 5/15/96), I purchased one for our boat. I ordered a clamp-on in February for a 1-1/4" shaft and received it within a week. When I went to put the Prop Protector on the shaft, I discovered I had a unit for a 1-3/4" shaft (it was clearly marked on the package). I called the US distributor, Yachting Services, and they immediately shipped the correct size unit to the boatyard—overnight air, with no questions asked. Their customer service rates No. 1, right up there with the quality of the product." (

Ardell Hoveskeland
Annandale, VA

To Caliber Yachts/Grohe: "I own a Caliber 40 LRC, and recently the water spray nozzle failed in the galley. I contacted Grohe with the help of Caliber Yachts to see if I could purchase a new unit. They asked when I took delivery of my vessel and I told them in 1997. To my total surprise, I learned that the warranty still applied and they would ship a new one at once. I not only received the nozzle assembly, but the whole galley faucet system as well. What a great company, and they make first-class products too." (,

D.R. Leuchtag
Medina, OH

To Blue Sea Systems: "While checking out my anchor windlass this spring, I discovered that the combination manual/thermal circuit breaker was frozen in the closed position. I contacted Schroder Yacht Systems, the outfitting yard for my Beneteau 331, and I was directed to Blue Sea Systems of Bellingham WA, the manufacturer of the switch. I told them the problem and they immediately offered to replace the switch and to ship it overnight express at no cost. My hat is off to Scott and Kevin at Blue Sea Systems for extraordinary customer service." (

Philip Trimble
Williamsburg VA

To Hood Sailmakers: "While in the market for new sails last year, I contacted leading sailmakers identified in your survey (PS Nov. 1, '03). Hood's Joe Cooper sent a detailed proposal that included specific responses to my goals for easing the hoisting and dousing of the main and for a reefing system that could be operated with ease from the cockpit. He also explained that a less costly 135% genoa, instead of the 150% I specified, would make more sense as it would retain better shape when furled in heavy wind. Through a series of faxes and phone calls with me and the yard where my boat was stored, Cooper walked us through all the steps and explained the hardware that would be needed to meet the goals of the recommended reefing system.

"How did it work out? We've just finished sailing our boat 90 miles from its winter storage to Milwaukee. We encountered several hours of wind in the high 20s and low 30s. On three occasions I was able to take in one or two reefs entirely from the cockpit in about two minutes, start to finish. Our cockpit has more lines than a bowl of pasta, but that is more than offset by the sense of safety and confidence my wife and I feel when the wind picks up. Hood is our sailmaker as long as Joe Cooper is there." (

George Mitchell
Milwaukee, WI

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