Mailport January 15, 2005 Issue

Mailport: 01/15/05

Wireless Technology
[Re: "Wireless Wunderkinder," PS Dec. '04] For several years at every boat show I attend I have been trying to interest control manufacturers in building a simple handheld product that combines steering, throttle, and shift. Except for very high end products, no one seems to be interested. The various electronic and electro-mechanical bits and pieces are all available, and combining them should not be rocket science. Most claim that wireless means possible interference problems, which in turn means possible liability problems.

Be that as it may, I am convinced that such a combination in the $1000-1500 range would have great acceptance in both the sail and power markets. I am sure I am not the only one who has difficulty single handing while anchor setting and retrieval, or docking in a cross wind.

Richard Pell
Sarasota FL


Mooring Machinations
[Re: "Hurricane Preparation," PS Advisor Nov. 15, '04] The discussion of mooring systems was certainly timely with the rash of hurricanes that have hit Florida. I have a 27-foot Island Packet sailboat moored in the Indian River about five miles south of Cocoa, FL. The boat and mooring have survived near misses from Charley, Frances, and Jeanne. Wind velocities during Frances exceeded 64 knots from three quadrants for about 15 hours. The wind velocity from Jeanne was about the same, but for a shorter duration.

My mooring system consists of a 250-lb. mushroom anchor set in firm sand in about 7 feet of water. Fifty feet of 1/2 inch proof chain (U.S manufacture) connects to a 5/8 inch swivel, set about one foot off the bottom. Twenty additional feet of 1/2 inch chain extend through a mooring bouy to the boat. The mooring bouy is set 12 feet from the boat. The 1/2 inch chain is connected directly to the two bow cleats on the boat by sliding the chain through the port cleat and shackling (5/8) it to the starboard cleat. This allows both cleats to share the load. The chain eliminates chafe, which could have been a serious problem due to the long durations of these storms. This system provides a normal scope ratio of about 7:1 and a minimum ratio of about 5:1 during storm surge.

The boat has not suffered any damage at all during these storms. I have checked the anchor and chain after Frances and Jeanne and have found the anchor is completely buried and the chain has no kinks or tangles. All components of this mooring system are U.S. manufacture. I recommend that the heaviest chain possible be used and that the chain size not be decreased. A single chain connected to two or more cleats on the boat eliminates tangles from a harness system and spreads the load between the cleats.

John Allis
Merritt Island, FL


Condolences to Tom Donovan on the loss of his boat to hurricane Frances. I found his story captivating and yet frustrating due to the absence of significant information—the devil is in the details.

We could all learn something from his experience. When a tragedy of this magnitude occurs, it's hard to sleep at night without determining what went wrong or what broke. Donovan obviously didn't follow the New England rule: "Nothing built too strong ever broke." I believe that goes for hurricanes too.

A 6-foot concrete square 1foot thick weighs approximately 5,400 lbs. at 150 pounds per cubic foot. I read somewhere that drag weights (concrete, rail car wheels, etc.) lose weight to a large degree when submerged, yet these are the items too many boaters use to build a mooring system on the cheap. Pure weight is not the answer in and of itself; the system must be secured to the bottom somehow. Unless secured to the bottom, Mr. Donovan's mooring had the horizontal holding power of something less than 5,400 pounds and the wind against the boat's length, beam, displacement, freeboard, and the bottom material (mud, rock, etc.) all come into play.

And how long had the 6-foot concrete square been on the bottom? It takes some time for this type of system to become buried. It is the rocking motion, over time, that buries it. Additionally, in this type of system the chain is usually just laid directly into the concrete, which places the chain in direct contact with the bottom's abrasive material, i.e., mud, sand, rock etc. This grinds away at the chain with every significant movement of the boat, weakening it over time.

Lastly, no matter how strongly you build a single-leg mooring, it has no redundancy. If I may paraphrase the old saying, you have only one hold on the bottom and that hold is only as strong as the weakest link. Stories of moored boats surviving high wind experiences have shown that multiple-leg systems are simply more secure.

Mike Hirko
Gig Harbor, WA


Traveling with PFDs
[Re: Mailport PS Nov. 15, '04] We have encountered similar problems while attempting to transport PFDs from Canada to the U.S. as checked luggage on commercial flights. In Canada, the transportation of Dangerous Goods is controlled by Transport Canada. It is interesting that their website has a very specific list of restricted items and also a list of exempted items, and a PFD is one that is left up to the discretion of the operator of the flight.

The greatest problem is that the security screening personnel are usually not aware of the exemptions, and the same applies to the airline check-in staff.

I think it would be a worthwhile investigation for Practical Sailor to undertake to determine what are the exact requirements for the transportation of the small CO2 cylinders. My investigation of the matter in Canada, and with carriers operating into Canada, raised some serious conflicting advice and opinions.

John Shortman
Via e-mail

Our response on this topic, which was printed in the Nov. 15 issue, advised calling the particular carrier in advance to find out their policy on CO2 cartridges. For the time being, that appears to be the most secure way of determining if you can travel with your automatically inflating PFD. Capt. Henry Marx offers some additional advice in the letter that follows.

I have had relatively no trouble over the past 18 months flying commercially with an inflatable PFD because I follow these precautions:

1. I call the airline prior to arrival at the airport and inquire about how they want it packed.

2. At the counter, I present the ticket agent with a copy of US SAILING's summary (you can find it on the web at: This generally requires a supervisor to be called, who normally directs me to the X-ray facility with my luggage.

3. The X-ray technician then looks at the summary sheet and says "Fine," and that is the end of it.

4. I never try to carry-on an inflatable PFD.

Last year flying back from England, I had more trouble with a sailor's knife packed in my checked baggage, than I did with the PFD!

Capt. Henry E. Marx
Via e-mail


Further Refining Fuel
[Re: "Reintroducing Mr. Funnel," PS Sept., '04] The article on the fueling filter points out a way to clean the fuel as it goes in to the the tank. It is the build up of humbugs after the fuel (especially diesel) is in the tank that is the problem.

My solution was a simplified (and small) day-tank along the lines of those used back in the '40s. The gunk drops out into the small container that can be drained easily and the much cleaner fuel goes on through the standard filters in the fuel line. The deciding factor on the size of the day-tank is the fuel flow required by the engine. The more fuel flow, the larger the tank to allow the gunk and water to "drop out" before the fuel moves on to the main filters and the engine.

C. Henry Depew
Tallahassee, FL


...Where Credit Is Due
To Mastmate: "I recently ordered a Mastmate (alternate step flexible ladder), and as a retired foredeck crew, I had to share with you the joy of once again having an aerial view. Halfway up to the spreaders on a Cheoy Lee 35, I could hold onto the lower shrouds as I went up the steps. With total ease I was able to sit on a spreader and replace a steaming light. The usual problem of not having the right tools resulted in several trips up and down, and that's when I really got the hang of climbing with this device.

"Going up to the masthead I couldn't reach the outer spreaders and had to hold on to the mast. I really didn't feel as secure above the spreaders, so I rigged my safety harness and tethered it to the mast. This improved matters greatly.

"The Mastmate cost about $350 total. In one use I've saved about $150 because I didn't have to pay an enthusiastic yard rigger who noticed and wanted to fix my steaming light. So, I'm halfway to breaking even!" (

—Gary Matthesen, Via e-mail

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