Coming About

by John Laskowsky

My wife, Rhonda, and I didn’t grow up around boats. But after moving to Florida and raising a family, we grew fond of the idea of buying a boat and perhaps one day sailing away. New to the world of wind and water, we started attending the sailboat shows. “How many miles does she have on her?” I asked at one time or another. If any of the boats we saw was on wheels, I’d surely have kicked a tire like I knew what I was doing. After looking for a few years, we’d gained some knowledge (not much, just some) and set our sights firmly on a new 2015 Beneteau Oceanis 35. I was enamored with its twin wheels and light-colored wood interior. Surely this was the boat of all boats, one that could take us anywhere and everywhere.

We didn’t pull the trigger on the Beneteau, stopped short by a little voice inside that told me to start small and learn to sail. I listened. And we bought a 1980 Tanzer 7.5 shoal-draft sailboat that needed some attention. After spending a summer fixing her up, I knew every piece of that boat, inside and out. We sailed her almost every day for a year before our affections turned to a neglected 1980 AMF/Paceship PY26 in need of a new engine and lots of fiberglass work. The electrical and plumbing were in dire need of updating. As I worked, I was able to compare the construction quality of the Paceship to that of the Tanzer. They each had strengths and weaknesses, I learned more.

Rhonda at the helm of a Paceship PY26

In addition to the keelboats, we played with sailing dinghies, a total of seven we owned over a five-year span, starting with a 1965 Vanguard 70-series racing dinghy that we sailed as often as we could. I loved the salty life and wanted to be immersed in it wholly. I wanted to sail for a living and deliver boats for people. I earned my Captain’s license.

By now I’ve seen and sailed many boats, some that smelled of fresh fiberglass, others of wood and diesel, still others of old roach and rat excrement. I have seen good old boats that looked decrepit, clean up to look new. I have seen new boats turn haggard in just a few years, plagued by rusty stainless, spider cracks, and gelcoat chipping.

I’ve come to realize that older boats, given enough blood, sweat, or tears, will offer up the years of knowledge and experience they carry. This is how and why we become attached. Not a day passes where I do not feel connected with our current (and final) boat: a 1974 Gulfstar 41 Ketch. We gained a better understanding of what we needed in a boat and she fits the bill. She doesn’t have the latest greatest gadgetry, but I can draw the electric, plumbing, and navigation systems with my eyes closed, forward and backward. I am even becoming a Perkins diesel mechanic (if it isn’t leaking oil, stop, it needs more).

I have learned it’s not the miles on a boat that counts, it’s how that boat is made. Good bones are essential. Having the latest gizmo aboard doesn’t matter, what matters is knowing how to use what you do have aboard. I have an older, smaller chartplotter that is a back up to my paper charts. I bought a sextant and I’m certain it will never go obsolete.

interior of a Gulfstar 41 sailboat

I still think that Beneteau we turned our backs on is a gorgeous boat. It just is. But I have outgrown it. I was once turned on by that boat’s open, airy interior, but now I’m drawn to the coziness and warmth of our Gulfstar’s ship lap and teak interior and how it is comforting and seems to embrace us in a loving hug as to say, “Don’t worry, I got you.” Two wheels are cool and do allow for great visibility, but two steering systems means twice the risk that something breaks. The Beneteau’s thin, lightweight deck and hull are great for speed, but I will take my heavy, slow, and seakindly boat as she is time proven. And she has secrets still to share…for just a bit more blood, sweat, and tears; a cheap price to pay for the wonder she has shown us.

John Laskowsky is a USCG captain and owner of Sea’s The Day Yacht Services in Hudson, Florida. When not writing, he spends his time delivering sailboats, restoring sailboats, and diving and cleaning boat hulls. He and his wife, Rhonda, enjoy sailing the Gulf of Mexico with their two Jack Russel terriers Lulu and Pearl in their fully refitted 1974 Gulfstar Ketch, Impatient Winds.

News from the Helm – October 2019

by Michael Robertson

Quick and Dry Boat Building Contest

Good Old Boat contributing editor Cliff Moore sent the following report from this year’s Boatbuilding Challenge held at the North Carolina Maritime Museum in Beaufort, North Carolina. The 2020 challenge will be held in August, in Belfast, South Carolina, so there is time to enter…

“Five professional teams, and six college, high school and middle school teams competed to build a quick-and-dirty flat bottom skiff. Using the same plywood and necessary building materials, station moulds, as much Sikaflex as necessary, and transom blanks, the contestants had to build a skiff, using hand tools and power tools, but no table saws, within the four-hour time period. The plans were from the National Boatbuilding Challenge Committee. Awards were given for fastest build time, quality of workmanship, and, just to make sure they don’t sink, winning the relay/rowing race.

“Each two-man team had the same 12 x 15-foot working space. The oars had to be hand-made by each team, but could be made in advance.

“Last year’s winner and this year’s favorites, Cody Keithan and Bruno Borzoni in Team 2 from Belfast, Maine, beat their previous World Record of 1:29:36 (Georgetown, South Carolina event in 2017) with a winning time of 1 hour and 26 minutes, from start to finish.”

  1. Teams start with plywood panels. They have to loft them from the plans before cutting, and can use any portable power and hand tools.
  2. Team 2 is shown dropping the ½” plywood bottom onto the sides. The chine has been slathered with Sikaflex to help seal it and keep it tight over time.
  3. As Bruno measures and cuts transom quarter piece, team mate Cody trims the bottom with a router. These battery powered tools work incredibly fast and, compared to AC tools, are very quiet. Nevertheless, they did have AC tools, and had prebuilt a crane from plywood to keep the wires up and out of the way. Very nice!
  4. Here they fit the skeg onto the keel.
  5. Fitting the inside gunnels.
  6. Cody is trimming the outside gunnel at the bow, followed by knocking down the sharp edges with a sander.
  7. Taking a water break at the finish. All essential construction was complete, in 1 hour 26 minutes.
  8. The finished boat, bottom side.
  9. The finished boat, inside, with thwarts and sternsheets fitted in place

Boatbuilding Challenge start

Teams start with plywood panels. They have to loft them from the plans before cutting, and can use any portable power and hand tools.

Team 2 is shown dropping the ½” plywood bottom onto the sides. The chine has been slathered with Sikaflex to help seal it and keep it tight over time.

Fitting the inside gunnels.

Taking a water break at the finish. All essential construction was complete, in 1 hour 26 minutes.

The finished boat, bottom side.

Someone’s Getting a Turn-Key Morgan 32 for a Buck

Morgan 32 sailboat

The essay contest is over and Bagheera owner Paul Koepf said it was huge success. He received many essays and is in the process of digesting them all to decide which writer earns the right to buy his beautiful 1981 Morgan 32 at a very good price. Next month we’ll tell the whole story in this space, including the reason Paul took his boat off the market to find her new owner this way. Oh, and we’ll share the winning essay.

Nautical Trivia

So, we all know what it means to have a square meal. But apparently this is yet another term with nautical origins. Square plates or platters are said to have been used on sailing ships for food service and this is where the term originates. But we wonder why they used square plates—and we think we have a good guess. For years we happened to use octoganal plates aboard our boat, it’s what was aboard when we bought her and we liked them. Over time, we grew to love them because we could stand them up on the drying mat, leaning against the galley bulkhead, and they didn’t roll on their flat ends when the boat rolled, not at anchor or underway. Maybe this is the reason for the square plates/platters? Something to ponder over your next square meal.

Great Canal Journeys (Docu-Series Review)

great canal journeys

“Great Canal Journeys,” More4/Channel 4 production (34 episodes)

Review by Rob Mazza

None of us is getting any younger, and some of us may have begun to ask ourselves how long we can continue a boating lifestyle. For an answer to that question I enthusiastically refer you to Tim West and Prunella Scales and their remarkable British television documentary series, “Great Canal Journeys,” now available on YouTube.

In 34 individual episodes, “Great Canal Journeys,” focuses on an active, but aged thespian couple who have canal boated (mostly in Britain) their entire married life, raising two sons along the way.

My wife, Za, and I dabbled in “narrowboating” in England a few years ago [“Narrowboat Adventure,” July 2016, Good Old Boat magazine] and enjoyed everything about the experience. But viewers needn’t have experienced canal boating to appreciate this charming and inspirational series that’s more than a travelogue and operates on many levels. Not only do you have a couple in their 80s operating different boats in canals and rivers of England, Scotland and Wales, France, Holland, Ireland, Italy, Sweden, Portugal, India, Thailand, and even the Nile River in Egypt and the Rideau Canal in Canada, but it’s a couple who are honest and straightforward about getting old along the way.

Tim and Prunella’s adventures are also a touching glimpse into a loving relationship that has matured through the years as Pru has developed dementia. At the beginning of each episode, Tim explains Pru’s “slight condition,” that it is “very mild, but she does have trouble remembering things.” Pru acknowledges the “nuisance,” but assures the viewer that her condition doesn’t stop her from remembering how to open a lock gate or make the skipper a cup of tea. But as the series progresses, Tim confides that Pru is increasingly “living in the moment,” which is why the canal’s familiar, but always changing, scenery and wildlife is so comforting to her. Their grown sons also make appearances to share their perspectives on the challenges their mother faces. And while Pru’s condition is an aspect to their story, it plays little part in the adventures they invite us to live vicariously.

Stuart Heritage, TV critic for The Guardian, describes “Great Canal Journeys” as “one of the most underrated series on television.” He adds, “Watching ‘Great Canal Journeys’ is like catching a glimpse of a lovely old couple holding hands in the park, except they’re letting you follow them around for an hour.” One of the aspects of the production that make it such compelling viewing is that both Tim and Pru come from strong theatrical backgrounds, so they are adept at expressing themselves before the camera. The show is not only a visual delight, but also an auditory delight.

And if the name Prunella Scales sounds familiar, it may be because you’re a fan of John Cleese’s classic comedy series, “Fawlty Towers.” Pru played character Basil Fawlty’s domineering wife, Sybil, with her familiar retort “Basil!?”

In Tim and Pru, I see my own parents in this series, but I also catch glimpses of Za and myself, not too far off in our own future on the water, making the very best of what time we have left. In that regard, this series is a true inspiration. Goals never die, they just evolve. Never surrender to age!

Rob Mazza is a Good Old Boat contributing editor. He set out on his career as a naval architect in the late 1960s, when he began working for Cuthbertson & Cassian. He’s been familiar with good old boats from the time they were new and had a hand in designing a good many of them.

Compass & Sextant: The Journey of Peregrin Took Book Review

Compass & Sextant: The Journey of Peregrin Took, by Phil Hoysradt, with Carol Hill (Yankee Publishing, 2019; 157 pages)

Review by Michael Robertson

Good Old Boat uses affiliate links and may earn a small commission if you purchase anything after clicking through one of them. This comes at no cost to you. 

This is author Phil Hoysradt’s memoir, covering the span of his life that begins in a Portland, Maine, classroom in 1968, when he dropped out of college to join the Peace Corp, and ends roughly seven years later, when he sailed into the Gloucester, Massachusetts, harbor aboard Peregrine Took, capping a near-circumnavigation.

Without giving too much away, nothing was easy. Peregrine Took was a 32-foot Tahiti Ketch that Hoystradt built on the beach with locally sourced lumber and plans he bought for $5 from Popular Mechanics magazine—all during his Costa Rican Peace Corp service, all for the express purpose of leaving Costa Rica aboard that boat. It was an unlikely dream that was realized against big odds.

And it wasn’t a solo effort, neither the building nor the sailing. Hoysradt enlisted a motley crew of characters from Puntarenas locals to fellow Peace Corp members to help build the boat and some of them joined to crew various parts of the voyage. And two of those voices are included in the book, with several passages written by the bylined Carol Hill or Spencer Beebe.

Compass & Sextant doesn’t use narrative devices to pull the reader along, but is simply a straightforward chronological telling, in short well-written bites, of what happened. Without a story arc, it will appeal most to those who can identify closely with the dream Hoysradt realized, either because they’ve lived a similar adventure or longed to do so. And it’s a look back, at a world that no longer exists and a set of circumstances that would not be possible to replicate today, and so there is also a nostalgia that will grip the right audience.

And the memoir perhaps couldn’t be told another way. As Hoysradt writes, “We never had any intention of sailing the globe while we were building the boat or even when we started out on that Christmas Eve. It just happened. At one point it just became better to keep on going than to turn around and come back.”

Nearly 100 black-and-white photos are sprinkled throughout, amply illustrating the story.

Michael Robertson is editor of Good Old Boat magazine. He’s currently between boats, but lives with his wife and daughters only 90 minutes from Mexico’s Sea of Cortez.

Mail Buoy – October 2019

Eye Patches for Night Vision?

I believe that the depiction of scurvy, salty, scalawags—buccaneers and privateers all, matey!—wearing eye patches is almost certainly a Hollywood trope, meme, or myth. I think that if a pirate could preserve night vision by covering one eye, wouldn’t that technique have trickled down to fishermen, merchantmen, and various navies? Wouldn’t a selection of stylish eye coverings in a variety of price ranges be found in every chandlery? Sailors on port call do talk about more than booty and rum and…parrots.

However, in defense of the idea that the patch has a night-vision-preserving function, the “MythBusters” cable TV show included this item in a pirate-themed episode. Following is a summary of episode 71. I recommend renting the episode, perhaps from Amazon, it’s quite entertaining!

Pirates wore eyepatches to preserve night vision in one eye. PLAUSIBLE

This myth works under the assumption that the eye covered with the eyepatch is already accustomed to low light conditions, while the other eye must take time to accustom. The MythBusters were sent into a dark room with light-accustomed eyes and were told to complete certain objectives. Their movements were hampered by the darkness and it took them five minutes to finish. When they went into a rearranged but equally dark room with an eye that was covered for thirty minutes, the MythBusters were able to complete the test in a fraction of the time. As a control test, the MythBusters then went back into the same exact room with light-accustomed eyes and ran into the same difficulty as the first test. The myth was deemed plausible because there is no recorded historical precedent for this myth.

Now the real question, not addressed by the MythBusters, is: Are pirates and ninjas truly mortal enemies? Aargh!

–Cory R. Carpenter, C22, Bright Eyes, somewhere just off the coast of Georgia

Helping Bahamians

We’re sad about what happened to the Abacos last month. It’s a tragedy and those wonderful people have a long recovery ahead, a recovery that will extend long after the news reports end.

I’ve done some research and found a charity that is doing good work there. It’s called All Hands and Hearts. They received a 94-percent rating from Charity Navigator, and all All Hands and Hearts donations earmarked for the Bahamas are being matched by Norwegian Cruise Lines. For more info:

Cover Kudos

The September Good Old Boat cover looks great! Thank you.

–Gino Del Guercio, s/v Andiamo

Carrying a Load

I need to haul out my 1975 29-foot Erickson to clean the bottom. I’ve read that her displacement is between 7,300 pounds and 8,500 pounds. My question is: what size trailer do I need (in terms of its rated load carrying capacity) to haul the boat a short distance uphill to a cleaning area at the yacht club?

–Jim Fish, Ladyfish, Lake Canyon Yacht Club, Canyon Lake, Texas

Hi Jim,

We don’t have a definitive answer, but our guess is that if the path is smooth, you could get away with using a trailer rated to carry much less. Keep in mind that it’s not just trailer ratings, but tire load ratings (from which a trailer rating may be derived?). Regardless, we suspect that any load capacity ratings are going to make allowances for high speeds, the increased loads created by bumps, and longevity. Hopefully a reader or two has better insight or experience.

If anyone has better advice information for Jim, contact him directly at:


sailboat steering cablesSteering Cable Thoughts

We know that planes are different than boats, that they operate in different environments. But they both use wire rope cables for controlling a rudder and it seems, anecdotally, that the failure rate for steering cables in boats is much higher than in planes. Is the different environment the reason? Other causes? So we put it to the readers, and we put it to Edson, the maker of sailboat steering systems for many decades.

We’ll give Will Keene, Chairman of Edson International, the first word, and Adam Cove, CEO of Edson International, the second word, as they both have great information to offer…  –Eds.


For the past 40+ years, the design and layout of steering systems for sailboats has been my principal occupation. Please consider the following regarding comparing steering systems and steering system failures on boats to those on planes.

  • You don’t need a license or training to own and operate a sailboat and there are no regulated inspection protocols in place for sailboats, no FAA regulations.
  • Sailboats can be built by anyone, literally, and many sailboat builders built boats in countries with very low labor rates, and accordingly low levels of knowledge of what a sailboat is and the environment in which it operates.
  • The American Boat and Yacht Council (ABYC) has standards, good standards, for steering systems, but they are minimums. For example, in addressing the minimum bend radius of ¼-inch 7×19 wire rope, it is permitted to pass over a 4-inch sheave. But designing to minimums is not optimal and many builders do it out of necessity, of one form or another. Sheave size is often dictated by the need to accommodate a fuel tank or berth under the steering pedestal. And until the past decade or so, there was little incentive to follow any rules; CE rules and ABYC standards have changed that, to an extent, in a good way.

Edson recommends changing steering system cables and chain every 7-10 years (just like the common standing rigging recommendation), depending upon use and maintenance. Typically, chain used in steering systems is likely to fail before cable/wire rope and this failure is typically the result of zero maintenance (and when I say zero, I mean zero).

When I hear of a steering chain failure, I usually ask how the boat owner enjoyed their trip to the Caribbean, where the salt in the atmosphere attacks all things stainless. The broken chain always lacks any sign of oil or crevice corrosion protection. When I speak at cruising seminars, I suggest all sailors headed to the Caribbean oil steering chain and cable after every two bottles of rum. I always get some laughs, but my point is serious. Every sailboat I’ve inspected that’s spent a winter in the Caribbean shows signs of rust on all the stainless steel aboard. We see the results of maintenance being neglected.

Edson steering systems employ 305 stainless steel steering wire that is pre-stretched to 60% of breaking strength. We specify 3/16th inch wire on boats up to 38-40 feet. Above 40 feet we specify ¼-inch diameter wire. This wire never breaks simply because the loads exceed the wire strength. Steering cable failure happens as a result of misalignment (a maintenance issue) in which the wire is left to chafe on the edge of a quadrant groove or sheave groove, and then it breaks strand by strand.

Failure is also the product of lack of necessary wire tension (a maintenance issue). Steering cables stretch over time. If you move your steering wheel back and forth and there is play in the system, it’s time to look at cable tension. The rudder should always move when the wheel turns, without slop. Steering system cables should not be taut like they’re in a musical instrument, but they should not droop when the wheel is turned hard against the rudderstops. And tensioning adjustments must be equal; two turns on the tensioning nut on the portside must correspond to two turns on the starboard side tensioning nut. Tensioning just one side will simply move more chain to one side of the sprocket, allowing the “short” side of chain to travel over the sprocket, which will ultimately result in failure as wire does not like to run over the teeth on the sprocket.

Steering cables should be lightly oiled each time they are inspected (2-3 times per season, at a minimum). Apply 30-weight oil to a pad of white tissues and run it over the wire to coat; any meathooks will be flagged by pieces of white tissue and indicate it’s time to change the wire, immediately. And don’t waste time replacing just the one wire, replace the chain and all wire rope at the same time. And don’t stop there. While the patient is on the operating table, inspect the idler plate under the pedestal; if you see rust, replace the plate. Any engine and transmission control cables on the pedestal use steel jacketed cables and these should be replaced at least every 15 years.

We recommend U-bolts/wire clamps as they can be easily installed and they allow you to keep the old wires as spares if they are in good shape. (And remember, when using U-bolts, never saddle a dead horse. The saddle of a U-bolt must be on the working end of the wire.)

Maintenance and attention are key, even for a properly designed/built system. Following are three extreme examples of how successful a well-designed system, properly maintained, can be:

  • Pelagic is Skip Novak’s extreme-latitude 50-foot sailing vessel. His (Edson) pedestal steering system is in for replacement after an estimated 500,000+ miles.
  • The BT Global Challenge fleet of 60-foot vessels (sailing around the world the “wrong” way) collectively completed over 2,000,000 miles without a steering system incident of failure.
  • Mike Plant’s first Vendee Globe sailboat, a 50-foot Roger Martin design, sailed the non-stop around-the-world race four times without replacing the steering system wire.

There is a story behind every failure and every success, and the words “proper design,” “inspection,” “maintenance,” and “neglect” come up in each story, just in different contexts.

I invite everyone to visit and look at the Product Support page. There we have Steering Inspection Checklists, Maintenance Guides, and Steering Data Sheets for many different boats. And if you don’t find information for your specific boat, please call as we can perhaps provide you specs or drawings for your boat’s system. Additionally, our EdsonMarine YouTube channel features dozens of videos, many of which cover steering systems.

Outside of work, I’m a guy who loves to buy and fix up old sailboats. After thru-hulls and hull integrity, I always tackle steering systems. I wouldn’t drive my car if I had any concerns about steering, and I apply the same logic to my boats.

If any The Dogwatch (or Good Old Boat) readers have any questions about sailboat steering systems, please call us. When you do, you very well might get me on the line. Edson values good old-fashioned customer service. In fact, if any readers need to reach me during non-business hours, please feel free to call me on my cell 24/7/365 at 508-353-5829. That is my way of saying “Thank You” for a wonderful 40-year career as steward of a 160-year-old company with a wonderful history and great customers.

Will Keene, Chairman, Edson Intl.

Before I graduated from Michigan’s Naval Architecture and Marine Engineering program, I studied Aerospace Engineering at Embry-Riddle. While aero isn’t my area of expertise, I can count on a ready pool of friendly pilots (commercial and recreational) and aero engineers to offer expertise.

Failures do happen on small aircraft, and they are due to the same cause as most failures on boats: lack of a proper inspection and a disregard for recommended replacement intervals. You could go dig through some FAA reports to see these, or check out any number of forums online, like this one.

I suggest ignoring the cases of the planes/boats that have been flying/sailing for 40 years without an issue. While steering systems can last that long, the odds of failure increase dramatically with time. Replacement intervals are meant to keep the operator safe from what is not feasible to inspect. With steering systems out of sight, they are often neglected and rarely inspected.

Every Edson system failure I have seen could have been prevented by proper installation, inspection, and replacement of equipment, with the exception of catastrophic situations like hard groundings and high-impact collisions. We produce equipment for one of the worst environments on the planet. Corrosion and fatigue are constant adversaries. Inspect systems and respect replacement schedules to win that battle. We also see improper installations. Boats are not regulated to the same degree as aircraft. Despite our specs and recommendations, we see poor installations on a regular basis (from the factory and modifications made down the road by others). Anyone is capable of buying our equipment and installing any way they want, without any inspection required by any governing body.

I love going into design details and speaking about our products. I would be glad to go into more details about specific failure cases, components, connections, and general theory, if anyone wishes to reach out:

We are available any time to assist. Our team is here to keep you safe on the water. We are dedicated to creating the best equipment and welcome your feedback. Steering has come a long way in our 160-year history, and we are excited to continue to push it forward with advances in materials and processes.

Adam Cove, CEO, Edson Intl.

As a pilot for 50 years (I once flew my two-place 65-horsepower 1946 Taylorcraft from Richmond, Virginia, to Tampico, Mexico), I can tell you that airplane cables, as well as most other parts, are built to a very high standard. You cannot just get out and walk if something breaks. I have also been a boater for over 70 years.

–Wm. H. “Bill” Hummel, Wilmington, North Carolina

Airplanes don’t typically live in salt water.

Joe Klerekoper

I am proactive and check the cables every once in a while when in the bilge (often). I found a meat hook (on one side, around the quadrant) and replaced the cable.

Dana Mace, Capricious, C&C 27, Marblehead, Massachusetts

Comparing light planes’ steering cables and boats’ steering cables is like comparing apples and oranges. They don’t exist in the same environment, including humidity levels, heat, and salt air exposure.

Having spent 10 years flying helicopters off the backs of frigates, I can tell you that old Navy helos (H-2s, H-3s, H-60s, for instance) didn’t last 40+ years operating in salt fog environments without way more than annual inspections. While at sea, we aircrew had to do a weekly stem-to-stern inspection to find corrosion opportunities, and to turn over every paint nick and corrosion sighting to the metalsmiths for action. Ashore, not so much, just bi-weekly corrosion inspections and freshwater washdowns any time we operated over water.

I’d suggest selecting more corrosion-resistant control cables, along with frequent careful inspections for wear, tear and corrosion, and scheduled replacement after exceeding manufacturers’ or experts’ service life recommendations, all would serve to prevent almost all failures.

Probably preaching to the choir, but hope this helps!

–Dave Lincoln

I have little to add as the cable in my 1976 Ranger 33, which is probably original, still appears ok, but I don’t know how to do a full inspection. The boat has been on freshwater its whole life. But I think comparing boat cables to plane cables is an excellent idea and I agree that the marine failure rate is too high. If the cause is cables that are under-specified, that would be a shame because I would think we could double or triple their diameter with only a increase in cost of less than $100.

–Damon, Stray Cats

Hi Damon, It sounds like the Edson site and YouTube channel are worth checking out for information about inspections. And it sounds like if you have any questions, both Will and Adam have made themselves available to give quick, reliable answers. We hope that helps. –Eds.

It is not just cable failure. I constantly hear (and read) of steering system failures on sailboats. I’ve heard and seen rack-and-pinion failing, hydraulic failing, self-steering wind vanes failing, gudgeon failing, electronic self-steering failing, single- and double-cable and chain system failures, tillers failing. Rudders themselves fall off or snap off. I’ve had some happen to me. When I teach sailing, I eventually get to teaching sailing without the rudder, and I think that is common practice. Because we all know that, if people sail much, they’ll eventually have to use that skill.

Obviously, none of these systems is designed to have the full unbuoyed weight of the boat fall against them. But that happens. Most are not designed to perform forever without maintenance. But that happens. Most are not designed to survive hull failure or flexure. But that happens. All are designed to survive very bad conditions, and without much regard to weight or cost. Well, even less regard for cost when weight is considered. That’s sailboats.

They appear to be designed as though lives depend upon them. And yet they each have been seen to fail at every point. Again, that’s sailboats.

I, too, don’t see why.

I would love to see a book, or a blog, detailing hundreds or thousands of sailboat steering failures. Especially if it was able to include, say, Edson’s and Lewmar’s vast knowledge of the subject.

–Isaiah Laderman

I broke a 25-year-old cable on a Tartan 40, but it took backing the rudder into something very hard on the bottom. That puts a very big turning force on the steering.

–James Doran

From my experience, nothing made of metal and exposed to saltwater or salt air has a long life aboard. As a retired airline and corporate pilot, I agree that the constant inspection of aircraft pieces and parts is also a factor.

–Joseph Haley

We have an ancient Morgan OI 41 that is steered by a cable system. I have no idea how old the cables are, but in the past 14 years we have owned the boat, we have had zero issues with the system. When we bought the boat, I inspected the cables by disconnecting them at the quadrant and pulling them back to the pedestal. (Of course, I had a small line attached so I could pull them back to the quadrant.) I did not find any meat hooks or rusted sections, so I reinstalled them. I suspect improper cable clamping or using the wrong cable are the main contributors to most cable failures. I have seen a lot of pulley failures, either the pulley rusted or the mounting pulled out. Use only high-grade aircraft control cable that is flexible. It can’t hurt to up-size the cable if your pulleys will handle it. Use saddle clamps instead of swages, it makes adjustment and repairs at sea much easier. Remember to have a length of cable and clamps on board to make repairs if something does break.

–John and Naomi Howard, Horizon, 1973 Morgan OI 41, Kadena Marina, Okinawa, Japan

I’ve owned my Catalina 30 (with Edson steering) for 32 years and have never replaced the steering cables. I occasionally spread winch grease on the cables and check for broken strands, but they still seem OK. But I’m nervous because I’ve had them so long and have considered replacing them anyway. Probably would do so if it were easier, not sure that “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” applies here because broken steering can be disastrous. It will be interesting to read what Edson has to say.

–Stan Galper

Hi Stan, we were impressed with the comprehensive answers we got from Edson and the invitations to readers to ask more questions of them. Sounds like it’s time to replace your cable and chain and look at your plate and it sounds like Edson is prepared to help you in any way. Best wishes. –Eds.

An Exhausting Sail

by Bert Vermeer

We had been sailing the west coast of Vancouver Island over the past 30 days. Our final day dawned hot and sunny without a ripple on the water, and so we motored our 1978 Islander Bahama 30, Natasha, out of Victoria’s beautiful Inner Harbour. I briefed my wife, Carey, our granddaughter, Natasha, and Trixi, the dog, about what lay ahead. The forecast called for a light southeasterly wind later in the day. The tides would be the dominate factor for our 20-nautical mile trip home to Sidney, a huge flood tide would generate 4- to 6-knot currents in the narrow channels and 2+ knots would be the average push through the entire Haro Strait. A lack of wind had plagued us for days and we’d relied on our Volvo diesel for nearly the entire length of the Strait of Juan de Fuca.

As we entered turbulent Enterprise Channel just out of Victoria, Carey went below for a moment only to call up with frightened concern in her voice. “Smoke’s coming from behind the companionway steps!”

The engine compartment! I throttled back to idle and we switched places, Carey at the wheel in the swirling waters of the channel and me opening the engine compartment. No smoke and nothing appeared amiss. The green Volvo idled along as usual. I wrote it off to an overly cautious imagination and put the steps back into place, more concerned with getting back behind the wheel and keeping us off the rocks in the narrow channel.

After throttling back up and getting my bearings while swirling currents pushed the boat around, Carey (not happy to be dismissed so casually) went back below, this time calling out insistently that there was smoke coming out of the engine compartment! Again we switched places and all I could see was a Volvo idling like a purring cat.

I had Carey turn off the engine for a minute so that I could tighten the alternator belt, it seemed a bit loose. Perhaps it had been slipping, causing some smoke. Nothing else appeared out of order.

When I was back at the helm, just as we were reaching the end of the channel, into calmer open waters, Carey reported smoke again! Enough already! I went below again and this time removed the side panel in the quarter-berth to have a look at the back of the engine. There was no smoke, not even a whiff of smoke. I called up to Carey to throttle up to cruising RPM. Immediately the compartment filled with a dusty grey smoke that billowed out from the exhaust riser at the back of the engine! Yikes! I had Carey shut the engine down.

We were now in clear, though turbulent, water, being swept along in the current away from any hazards. Common on many auxiliaries, our Volvo’s metal exhaust riser is wrapped (ours in fiberglass tape) to contain the dry heat of the exhaust pipe before the water injection point. Everything looked good. With a glove on I grabbed the pipe to give it a push. The whole pipe came off in my hands! The only thing holding it in place had been the fiberglass tape!

Houston, we have a problem!

As a timely light breeze floated over the stern, we raised the mainsail and gained some directional control. Back in the engine compartment I peeled the fiberglass tape off the exhaust pipe to discover that it had completely rusted through at the top of the elbow just before the water injection port. I opened a tin can, dumped the contents, removed the top and bottom and tried to connect the two halves of the pipe with the tin and aluminum tape. That didn’t work out too well, the fracture was right at the 90 degree elbow and with limited access, I couldn’t get the tin to wrap tightly enough to get even close to a seal.

Without an operating engine, our options were limited; head to the closest marina (Oak Bay) which was only 2 miles to port; try sailing back to Victoria (not going to happen against the currents); or try to make it home. The Oak Bay Marina was close, but being there would leave us stranded without transportation and it wasn’t a convenient spot for repairs. We opted for going home, where repairs could be undertaken at our leisure. The breeze had filled in a bit and the currents would be with us all day. Up went the spinnaker and off we sailed, through Baynes Channel and on to Sidney. A very quiet and enjoyable sail it was, right to the town waterfront, where the wind died completely!

Although it was a Sunday afternoon and there were plenty of boats nearby, I’m all about independence. We tied the dinghy alongside and with the 2.5 Yamaha pushing us along, powered into the marina and our berth. The next day I removed the exhaust pipe and discharge hose and took the pipe to our local marine mechanic. He welded together a new exhaust riser and within a few days Natasha was back in good health.

The interesting part of the smoke/no-smoke dilemma is that when the engine was idled back, the pressure inside the exhaust pipe was low enough that the smoke didn’t escape and the air intake sucked up all traces of smoke in the engine compartment before I could get the steps or side panel off. Carey had seen smoke, enough to cause concern. I should have been more diligent with my initial investigation.

We were fortunate that this failure occurred close to home. It could very easily have happened while we were out in the wilds of the west coast of Vancouver Island, far from any repair resources. That would have caused all sorts of grief. As a preventive measure, I now remove the exhaust riser/assembly every second year (every 200 engine hours) for cleaning and examination. An ounce of prevention…

Bert Vermeer and his wife, Carey, live in a sailor’s paradise. They have been sailing the coast of British Columbia for more than 30 years. Natasha is their fourth boat (following a Balboa 20, an O’Day 25, and another Islander Bahama 30). Bert tends to rebuild his boats from the keel up. Now, as a retired police officer, he also maintains and repairs boats for several non-resident owners.

Arrow’s Fall Book Review

Arrow’s Fall, by Joel Scott (ECW Press, 2019; 340 pages)

Review by Chas. Hague

Good Old Boat uses affiliate links and may earn a small commission if you purchase anything after clicking through one of them. This comes at no cost to you. 

Jared Kane and Danny MacLean are intrepid Canadian yachtsmen, sailing the ketch, Arrow, around the South Pacific. Although they are starting to run low of the funds they obtained from a previous adventure, described in the book Arrow’s Flight, they are not so bad off that they need to take on a charter from a pretty young woman, Laura Kennedy, to go looking for a lost shipwreck.

But then, Arrow is broken into, friends in England report a similar break in, a yacht-load of exceptionally bad folks starts physically attacking them for no (initially) apparent reason, and Jared and Danny decide to help find the second shipwreck of the Comte de Laperouse. Joining them on the expedition, along with Laura and her professor-of-archeology father, are Molly, on her boat, Tramp, a solo sailor; Elinor, a “hostess” on the rich man’s yacht, who jumps ship to join the expedition; and Sinbad, not-the-ships dog.

Of course, it cannot simply be an exercise in marine archeology. Turns out that the Comte might have taken a large quantity of gold with him on his last voyage, providing a reason for the bad guys to keep pursuing them. After a long section describing navigating South Pacific atolls and some technically detailed descriptions of free diving in very hostile waters, two new characters opportunely arrive with needed information and equipment at just the right time. Some of the treasure is found, just before the expected return of the Bad Guys. A gratuitously violent climax ends the story.

The book contains some very evocative descriptions of sailing and diving the waters north of New Zealand, and the challenges involved in sailing around the lagoons of atolls that are maybe not as romantic as they seem to the owner of a wood-hulled boat.

Arrow’s Fall would be a pretty good read for those boaters who dream of adventure off exotic Pacific islands with glamorous companions.

C.H. “Chas.” Hague is one of those Midwestern sailors who spends too much time reading and not enough time sailing. He sails his O’Day daysailer on that little lake you can see out the starboard side of the aircraft when landing at O’Hare.

Maiden: a documentary (Movie Review)

Maiden documentary movie poster

Maiden: a documentary, directed by Alex Holmes (PG, 1hr 37min)

Review by Ann Hoffner

Good Old Boat uses affiliate links and may earn a small commission if you purchase anything after clicking through one of them. This comes at no cost to you. 

When Tracey Edwards and her all-woman crew showed up with a boat for the start of the 1989 Whitbread Round the World Race, the ocean sailing world took their femaleness as an affront, and bet on how far the “girls” would get.

The Whitbread series was the first fully crewed round-the-world race, born in the early 1970s of an alliance between the British Royal Naval Sailing Association and Whitbread Brewery. Peter Blake, skipper of the New Zealand boat, Steinlager 2, which won the 1989 Whitbread race, said “You’ll be probably frightened at times, scared, worried. You’ll hate it, you’ll absolutely despise the fact that you’re involved and when you get to the finish, you’ll know why: because there’s nothing like it. It gets in the blood and you can’t get rid of it.”

In the era of the biopic film which dramatizes a story and casts actors in the roles of real people, Maiden stands out as a gutsy, visceral documentary of how these women changed ocean racing, made with video shot by hand, of Tracey as a child and of during her time as crew on other boats. There is lots of real-time race footage from her boat (named Maiden), and present-day interviews with Maiden’s crew and the journalists and others who figured in the original drama.

At the time, men didn’t take Tracey or her enthusiasm for ocean racing seriously. She sailed as cook in the previous Whitbread and, like many sailors who get a taste of ocean racing, she became hooked. But she swore she’d never go again with a bunch of men and she’d never go unless she could sail, which meant she needed her own boat. With a limited sailing network, she leaned on the one huge connection she had to drum up sponsorship: the King of Jordan. And she made history.

As a female skipper who started out cruising in the early 1990s, I know a bit of what Tracey went through. When I’d bring the boat up to fuel docks or into slips or circle waiting for bridges to open (while my husband stood on deck), I got lots of comments. Most were complimentary, but with that edge which indicated the individual thought it was a one-off accomplishment. And when I taught boatloads of women to sail, men felt compelled to give advice and comment on our work when we anchored the boat.

Yet, I loved sailing just as much as my male peers, and the documentary shows so well the same excitement and drive of Maiden’s crew, who thrived even in the extreme conditions of a round-the-world race. The documentary blows up the attitude that they wouldn’t make it far, that they’d drop out, that they couldn’t stomach the Southern Ocean (if they even got that far), that they were, in fact, to quote one journalist, a “tinful of tarts.” Maiden’s crew learned on the go, rebuilding a used boat rather than buying a new one, and they were still learning and coming together when the race started, yet they went on to win two legs, to be the first British boat to win a Whitbread leg in 12 years, and to have a credible chance at winning their division overall. (That they didn’t doesn’t take away from their accomplishment.) Twenty years later, Maiden’s crew still speak with fire in their eyes of the excitement of surfing on huge waves.

It’s not often we are invited into ocean racing so intimately, through so much live footage. Maiden might not still be playing at a theater near you, but check it out on your favorite streaming service. This is one you want to see.

Ann Hoffner and her husband, photographer Tom Bailey, spent 10 years cruising on their Peterson 44, Oddly Enough. They sold the boat in Borneo, returned to the US, and bought a Cape Dory 25 in Maine. Ann is a long-time contributor to sailing magazines, most often writing about weather events on passage and places she’s been.

Deadly Magnificent

by Linnéa Martinez

I was still green, having only a month ago traded my Great Lakes home in Michigan for the salty sea air and hot sun of the Caribbean. Now, here I was, crewing with a bunch of strangers aboard Windy and everything about sailing was new to me. And I had no complaints. Sunlight glinted on the tops of deep-blue waves while flashes of silver and a flutter of wings raced by the hull, a school of flying fish joining us on our 6-hour voyage.

Then we heaved to and the captain’s voice rang out from astern, “Hop in!” It was time for a quick cool-off swim.

I stood at the bow. The beautiful Caribbean Sea called out to me, and all I had to do was jump. I took a breath and leapt.

That first splash was bliss, the sunburn on my face and shoulders cooling to the saltwater’s touch. I paused to take in the peacefulness of being underwater. Then, feeling invigorated, I swam hard for the surface.

The bridge of my nose slammed into Windy’s hull. Pain erupted from behind my eyes and deep within my skull. I was dazed, confused — How did that get there? What was I doing underwater? — but I knew I had to move, to maneuver away from the boat and to get air.

Popping up alongside the hull, I gasped for air. And I couldn’t swim, my brain wasn’t working right. I could see the boat — two other crew on the bow, endless ocean and a white, brilliant sun and blue sky, but I couldn’t process it all, I couldn’t comprehend anything. Thinking back, it was the same feeling as reading a book and then realizing I’d not paid attention to anything on the past several pages and having to go back.

The crew was laughing. I could hear them wondering where I’d gone and why I’d swam under the boat. Later, they told me I looked normal then, maybe a bit confused.

“I need help,” I managed. The boat was drifting away. I knew I had to swim, but my body didn’t respond. I was just floating, my hands and legs still. My breathing was shallow. Help me, I remember thinking, I’m gonna drown.

One of the crew, May, dove in and swam towards me, asking me questions. I couldn’t respond. She wrapped an arm around my waist and started pulling me towards Windy. I heard the boat’s engine start and it moved closer. At the boarding ladder, I somehow pulled myself aboard and then plopped down on a seat, exhausted and dazed.

It took a couple cans of very cold beer on my very swollen face and some friendly chatter to bring me back to my senses. Then we started going over what went wrong.

I didn’t know about the currents, about how the boat was still moving slowly forward while hove to. I didn’t jump far enough from the boat, and not in the right direction. I started to think “what if?” What if I had blacked out and not surfaced? What if May hadn’t seen me or jumped in on time? What if I didn’t float and just sank?

I’d heard the captain earlier go on about the dangers of the ocean. Just a few days prior, another sailor had shared words of wisdom in the context of recounting experiences aboard in life-threatening storms: “She can turn on you in just a minute, one mistake can cost you your life.” I remember wondering whether I’d ever see and experience that kind of fury, but I missed the important message: even a placid situation at sea can quickly and out of the blue become dangerous. My experience helped me to understand this truth.

I will always treat the water and the boat with respect. I will maintain an awareness. Because I know, first-hand, that the sea is just as deadly as she is magnificent.

Linnea Martinez is a recent college graduate who left her small Michigan town for a sailing adventure in the Caribbean. While on board she’s learned the basics of sailing, knots, the importance of being aware of your surroundings, and the joys of working with fiberglass. With her degree in Multimedia Journalism, Linnea hopes to continue sharing stories of the people she meets as she heads further south.

Click here to read more of September’s The Dogwatch.

News from the Helm

Department of Corrections 

Introducing Ira Klurfield’s “Poem of the Month” in the August issue of The Dogwatch, we got our wires crossed, completely. Ira’s first boat was not a 1951 Dolphin 24 he found in 1975. In fact, as the folks at made clear, there was no Dolphin 24 built in 1951. In fact, Ira’s never owned a Dolphin 24. Ira’s first boat, as he made clear in the preamble to his poem, was a wood boat that was home-built in 1927 and that he discovered in 1967 (or a bit later). We’re sorry about that Ira.

Reminder: A Dollar and Some Words = a Morgan 32 

We’re running this a second month in a row, and the deadline is coming fast…

Do you want to own Paul Koepf’s Bagheera, a turn-key 1981 Morgan 32? She can be yours for $1, and a winning essay. Read on, this is good.

First, the essay. In at least 500 words (and no more than 1,000) you’ve got to tell Paul why you would be a worthy recipient of his beautiful Morgan, currently berthed on Lake Erie. Paul will receive and read all the essays. He alone will decide which essayist is most worthy. And he will sell his boat to that person for $1. (And we will publish the winning essay here, in a future issue of The Dogwatch.) That’s all.

Morgan 32 sailboat

Now, the boat. I’ll let Paul tell you about Bagheera. “We’ve sailed Bagheera in all forms of weather and she has never let us down: steep seas and gale-force winds, no problem. At fifteen knots and a broad reach, she will easily hit hull speed. Her new sails and genoa furler have weathered three seasons. Her cruising spinnaker is easy to handle in under 10 knots. She’s sailed three of the five Great Lakes, as well as the North Channel of Georgian Bay, on extended trips. We’ve enjoyed night cruising under a stunning dome of stars and adventures navigating and exploring anchorages at every turn. I’ve carefully maintained Bagheera’s mechanicals and her Yanmar diesel always starts on the first push of the button. Her depth sounder and hull-speed indicators are updated. Her 8-year-old autopilot is reliable.”

Paul wants to offer someone the opportunity he’s had, to sail a strong, stable yacht to dream anchorages. Are you that someone? Send your essay via snail mail or email directly to Paul. It must be received or postmarked by October 1, 2019, at or Paul Koepf, 8742 Holly Springs Trail, Chagrin Falls, Ohio 44023.

Paul offers the following specs and photos:

Morgan 32 sailboatMorgan 32 DeckMorgan 32 BowCockpit of a Morgan 32 sailboatvberth in a Morgan 32 sailboatGalley of Morgan 32 sailboatMorgan 32 HeadSettee of a Morgan 32 sailboat

Sail inventory: battened mainsail, jenny, storm jib, spinnaker, furling genoa

Helm: wheel

Galley: gimbaled oven/range top, sink, stowage

Other: electric bilge pump, manual bilge pump, hot water tank, enclosed marine head, shore power inlet, battery charger, swim ladder, cockpit cushions, electric windlass, spinnaker pole, hard dodger, davits

Disclaimer: Good Old Boat, Inc. is not administering this offer, only promoting it on behalf of the boat owner. We make no warranties about the condition of his boat. Accordingly, Good Old Boat, Inc. is not liable for any failure by the owner to fulfill his promise to deliver according to the terms outlined here. That said, we don’t think there is a sailor’s chance in a rum-filled bar that Paul will fall short in any way. Good luck.

Warning to Gasoline Users

living with Ethenol articleThis month, BoatUS sent a press release with the following headline: “Boaters Beware: Low-Price ‘Regular 88’ Gas is Bad for Boats.” The boating advocacy group has a strong political lobbying wing and has pushed to make known the unintended consequences of a 2005 Federal law that is now resulting in increasing levels of ethanol in gasoline, exacerbated by the EPA’s recent elimination of a summer blackout on higher ethanol levels. BoatUS warns that increasingly available E15 gasoline is not approved for use in marine engines and will void warranties. Click here to learn more.

Want to learn about the realities of ethanol at 10% levels, E10, which is now difficult for some mariners to avoid? Check out what Good Old Boat’s Drew Frye had to say in “Living With Ethanol” in the July 2019 issue of Good Old Boat. Need a copy?

Nautical Trivia

So, I heard something on NPR, while driving, just a part of something. It was fascinating, about the life of pirate Anne Bonney. At the end of the broadcast — and driving a 31-year-old truck with the stock radio, this is where I had trouble hearing — it seemed to make a blood-relative connection between the “lady pirate” and Billy the Kid, alternatively known (along with other names) as William Bonny. I was excited to share that in this space, but I can’t find anything to back it up online, only sites that debunk this theory. If anyone knows differently, let me know.


So I have this, instead, a pirate trivia tidbit:

The eye patches. Do you think it’s a Hollywood trope? If not, then did every pirate lose an eye at some point? Apparently, the patch was a thing, a way for a pirate to preserve night vision in one eye, for going below decks in a hurry. Hmmm. Could be. As always, I’m at


Click here to read more of September’s The Dogwatch.

Mail Buoy – September 2019

Isla Ventana

Distinctive Isla Ventana has long been used as a navigational aid by Sea of Cortez sailors. Raul Martinez III sent this photo from the 38th annual running of the Spring Regatta in San Carlos, Mexico, hosted by the Tucson Sailing Club of Arizona, in which Isla Ventana is being used as a race marker.

DIY Blues

I’m wondering if other readers are having a similar experience. I have an old boat, 1966 Tartan 27. She has an A4 engine, she was built a long time before ABYC standards. I’m trying my best to do a refit, by myself. Trouble is, around the Chesapeake Bay, at least on the eastern shore of the Bay, marinas are deciding they don’t want people like me in their yard. I moved a couple of years ago from one marina when I was informed that I couldn’t work below the waterline, in other words, I couldn’t even paint my own bottom. I found another marina further down the Bay and was happily ensconced and working at my own pace. Suddenly the owner decides to sell. The buyer is a dealer in small boats and now has announced a similar policy. So I’m faced with moving again. But where?

–Bill Wilson, Good Old Boat subscriber

Hi Bill, we spoke to a manager of one Chesapeake Bay boatyard to get his take, below. Our personal experience (West Coast-based) echoes John’s comments. Ventura Boatyard (Ventura, California) is our favorite, but we know there are many others that welcome DIYers. After reading John’s comments, check out this link to reader feedback on their favorite DIY boatyards in the February 2019 issue of The Dogwatch:


Oak Harbor DIY Marina

Fear not, there are still boatyards on the Chesapeake who appreciate do-it-yourselfers.

In the yard I manage, we believe that the better informed boat owners are about their boats and systems, the happier they are. To that end, we encourage DIY boat owners and enjoy talking with them about their projects and helping them through their challenges. Our customers may work below the waterline, although if their sanding gear is inadequate to contain bottom-paint dust (as required by state regulation and to maintain good customer relations), we will rent our highly effective dustless sanding systems to solve that problem.

The most important thing when searching for a new yard is to be honest and direct with the yard manager. Tell him or her exactly what you are doing and how you intend to do it. In our yard, knowing someone is going to embark on a long-term restoration means we will place the boat in our long-term storage area close to power and water to help facilitate the project.

I know there are still yards on the Chesapeake and the Eastern Shore that allow do-it-yourselfers, even below the waterline. You may have to do some research via road trip to find them, as many remain small and family-owned and perhaps aren’t as well-advertised as the big yards.

–John Clarke, Operations Manager, Oak Harbor Marina, Rock Creek, Pasadena, Maryland

Bowditch Plug, Bowditch Remembrance

Nice to see the plug for Bowditch (Book Review, The Dogwatch, August 2019). My first Bowditch was a 1966 edition, an invaluable basic earth-science reference for me in environmental policy investigations for Congress in the late 1960s, and still useful in environmental policy studies into the 1980s.

Gerald Schatz, J.D., Northport, Michigan

Like 30 years ago, I took celestial navigation at the Adler Planetarium here in Chicago. One evening, their chief librarian, wearing cotton gloves, brought out their second-edition (I think) Bowditch. The best parts were the scratch calculations on the flyleaves, where navigators 200 years ago had done their figuring. Very impressive.

Chas. Hague, s/v Tangent

Sunrise, Sunset 

Regarding the Nautical Trivia in last month’s The Dogwatch, one can also see the sun rise and set from Shacklelford Banks, Atlantic Beach, and Emerald Isle. All are southward-facing beaches on the North Carolina coast.

–Steve Addy

Second Favorite

We know that we publish the finest nationwide sailing magazine in Good Old Boat, that it’s the sailing magazine we, the staff, want to read, that it speaks to “the rest of us.” But we also know there are other great sailing magazines out there, so we were curious what Good Old Boat readers (and The Dogwatch readers), were also reading. So, we put it to the readers, in an online poll. Unfortunately, our list of mags/online periodicals to choose from was meant only as a sample of what’s out there, not a comprehensive list, and this wasn’t clear. So, we’ll do this again next year, and we’ll be more clear/comprehensive. In the meantime, below are the results from this imperfect poll, along with the write-in votes we got.

Even though it wasn’t the answer we were looking for (this was not intended as an exercise in self-congratulation), thank you to those of you who wrote in to let us know Good Old Boat is the only sailing periodical you read and there is no other. We’ll let John Fox speak for all of you folks in particular, and give him the first word, because he put Carly Simon and a great James Bond film into our heads…  –Eds.


I’m sorry, but I can’t answer your question; I don’t read anything but Good Old Boat. I’ve tried. But the alternatives contain either too much fluff, too many ads, or too much racing. I’ve pared down my reading of online sailing newsletters for the same reason; The Dogwatch is the only one. I just want to read about…well, what you already do. As the song goes, “Nobody does it better. Baby, you’re the best.”

John Fox

Now, the poll results (just a hair shy of 200 votes), followed by a few more select comments. Thanks to write-in submitters that include: Chris Abrey, Chris Campbell, Jim Caskey, Peter Fallon, Marilyn Kinsey, George Lemmolo, Dana Mace, Craig Maumus, John Ross, and others. The write-in pubs are included in the poll results below, but each certainly would have received more votes if they’d been included in our click-options. We’ll get it right next year.

Latitudes & Attitudes: 25%

Cruising World: 16%

Latitude 38: 11%

Chesapeake Bay Magazine: 8%

Sailing Anarchy: 6%

SAIL: 6%

48 North: 5%

Ocean Navigator: 5%

Small Craft Advisor: 5%

Spinsheet: 4%

Practical Sailor: 2%

Pacific Yachting: 1%

BoatUS: 1%

Sailing: 1%

Soundings: 1%

SpinSheet: 1%

Wooden Boat: 1%

Off Center Harbor: .5%

Yachting Monthly: .5%


Back in the day it was Good Old Boat, Small Craft Advisor, and Wooden Boat. However, as I’ve aged I just don’t see myself taking on another large boat, one that will require moorage and/or dock fees and necessary refits, so I’ve had to let Gold Old Boat go. Small Craft Advisor has become my favorite go-to publication. Please don’t be offended, as Good Old Boat is outstanding! It’s just that the articles and boats within have outgrown my needs and abilities.

Cecil Marmont, Stormbird, CP-16

My favorite sailing magazine (other than Good Old Boat) is Small Craft Advisor. The sailboat that owns me is a 1984 Starwind 19 by Wellcraft. Though somewhat smaller than most vessels normally included in Good Old Boat, its age necessitates restorative work and I will continue to benefit from the collective knowledge, wisdom, and creativity shared within the pages of Good Old Boat.

At 71, the sailing dream has not dissipated but has been somewhat downsized. It is through the pages of Good Old Boat that my dream is fueled and through the pages of Small Craft Advisor that my dream is kept “real.”

Paul D. Bohac

Good Old Boat is my favorite and primary. I read almost nothing else, but I read Good Old Boat from cover to cover. I’ve read articles from Practical Sailor, which is very good. Some articles in BoatUS are good as well. But [those magazines] are very hit or miss.

Bill Van Emburg

Next to Good Old Boat, my favorite sailing/boating magazine is Small Craft Advisor. I downsized from an Islander 28 to a trailersailer three years ago, a 1984 Com-Pac 19. Small Craft Advisor has lots of information and features that pertain to pocket cruisers. On the right is a photo from our vacation in Door County, Wisconsin, just after we bought her.

–Tony Rodriguez, Tulsa, Oklahoma

My favorite is Good Old Boat, mainly because of the articles on boat repair. I also enjoy the in-depth look at various boats, including the comparisons.

–John Ganann

The other sailing magazine is Sailing, from Port Washington, Wisconsin. Sailing has, among other things, Robert Perry reviews of new boats and designs, and good columns. My dad began subscribing way back in their black-and-white days and I have kept it up.

–Chris Campbell, Traverse City, Michigan


Click here to read more of September’s The Dogwatch.

Mail Buoy – August 2019

Me Too!

Wow, so others have run into power lines too (“The Fourth of July Meltdown,” The Dogwatch, July 2019)! Around 1968, my brother and I set off across Lake Huron’s Saginaw Bay from Bay City to Sebewaing, our first real cruise on the new-to-our-family 1961 Seafarer Polaris, Baker’s Dozen (hull no. 13). I knew that at Sebewaing there was a power line across the river. I knew that everybody turned hard right into the little dredged basin by the airport. I knew there was a ’53 Chevy in the parking lot with keys so sailors and pilots could get into town for meals or groceries.

We navigated across the Bay and found the entrance channel at Sebewaing and headed in under power. At the basin entrance, I saw no power line overhead. What the heck? let’s power up the river for a look-see. And up we went until suddenly the bow began to rise gently. Uh-oh, I thought, we’ve run onto a mud bank. But just then the sparks started flying. I was standing in the companionway and hopped below. My brother, at the helm, figuring he was dead anyway, just froze. Only when he realized he wasn’t dead did he join me below. And there we were, huddled in fear, with the faithful outboard holding us against the power lines that somebody seemed to have moved.

After a while, we realized that the sparks had stopped. Topsides, we saw the spinnaker halyard tied off to the bow pulpit, keeping the spruce mast upright despite the forestay having burned through. That was extraordinarily lucky because that spruce mast is heavy.

We took the Chevy into town, bought a bunch of gas, and the next day we powered home with the faithful outboard. Then it was time for a new forestay.

Baker’s Dozen came to us in 1968 and I’m in the 52nd season of sailing my old friend. I’ve done a few dumb things in the years since, but nothing quite like running into the power lines.

–Chris Campbell, Good Old Boat subscriber

Seeking a Boat

For about a year now, I have had my nose to the ground looking for my grandfather’s boat, a 1984 or 1985 Marine Concepts Rob Roy 23. My dad is gearing up to retire and it would mean the world to him if he had his father’s boat to devote some time to. The search has proven a bit over my head.

The Rob Roy 23 had a very low production number (less than 90 hulls were made, I believe). I know that the boat was purchased new somewhere around 1984 or 1985 in Orleans, Massachusetts, and resold either to Nauset Marine or Aries Pond boatyard (both also in Orleans) in the late 1980s. She had a dark green hull with tanbark sails and was named Sygnet. The one photo I have of her shows what appears to be an after-market ventilation scoop, possibly evidencing an installed head.

I have contacted the above-named boatyards, as well as several private owners of Rob Roys and the state of Massachusetts, but nothing has turned up. I’m not quite ready to give up.

If anyone has any leads, please contact me at

Jack Dodsworth, Solomons Island, Maryland

Image via Sailboat Data

Summer Sailstice (or Sail Summerstice?) 

We believe in Summer Sailstice, the worldwide annual celebration of sailing that was the brainchild of Latitude 38 publisher John Arndt. We think it’s important, getting people out sailing, hopefully taking the opportunity to introduce a non-sailor to sailing. So I put it to the readers, asking for your Summer Sailstice sailing story — and I promised to pick one story and send the writer a Good Old Boat hat.

Because he’s recently acquired his first good old boat and can therefore probably use some sun protection while sailing, we’re going to give Dirk Niles the first word…  –Eds.


Full disclosure: I had no idea June 22nd was Summer Sailstice. And yet, on June 22, my wife and I were on our maiden voyage aboard the first keelboat we’ve ever owned! We sailed with the sellers, who had lovingly sailed and maintained her (a 1981 C&C 34) for more than a decade. The weather forecast was crappy, but June 22 offered fantastic, sunny, breezy sailing weather! We reefed, practiced all the points of sail, docked with wind, everything! At dinner the sellers said our huge grins satisfied them that they’d found the right buyers.

Dirk Niles, Great Joy, 1981 C&C 34

Approaching Craig, Alaska, we worriedly determined that something was wrong with our autopilot. The GPS said we were going one way. The autopilot said something else. Our reliable old magnetic compass had a third idea. It was foggy, with 1-mile visibility, but we were several miles offshore with boisterous seas in the Gulf of Alaska. I didn’t know what to trust.

We saw islands and rocks at the edge of the fog, but which ones were they? Going slowly, we watched the depth and listened for danger.

Later, safely in our anchorage, we traced out the wires to the autopilot’s fluxgate compass. Lo and behold, two days earlier a speaker had flown off a shelf and I’d chucked it into a locker for convenience. It was now just inches from the compass. Speakers have strong magnets…

Dilemma resolved and autopilot recommissioned, we left, unaware that Summer Sailstice was celebrated without us.

Walter Heins, Golden Eagle

We held a raft up with the Clinton sailing club on Long Island Sound. Unfortunately, the wind was gusting 35-40 knots, so the few of us who made it motored more than sailed. And in these conditions, our planned raft-up proved impossible. We anchored close enough to enjoy some good company!

The sailing club has been hosting this event for past three Summer Sailstices! The first year was perfect, last year got rained out (we instead assembled at a Scottish Pub for some dark ‘n stormies), and this year we got what we got (which was fun!). Hopefully the weather is better next year!

–Lorie Eadie

Summer Sailstice weekend was a busy one, with three events planned over three days. The Friday night open house of our Fort Pierce Yacht Club. Saturday was a fun raft up. Sunday we watched the sinking of Voici Bernadette! Voici Bernadette is a small freighter that was cleaned up and sunk ten miles offshore to propagate a new reef. There was a post-sinking celebration.

We continued the Sailstice into July. The mayor of Fort Pierce, Florida, proclaimed July “Celebrate Our Waterways Month,” encouraging residents to join the Fort Pierce Yacht Club, “in celebrating the treasure of our waterways.” Then there was our annual boat parade (15 boats!) through the Intercoastal Waterway and our inlet to celebrate Independence Day.

–Joe Krivan

Chainplates Re-Done

Gemini sailboat chainplate replacement

by Ray Wulff

When my wife and I bought our 1983 Endeavour 33, we renamed her Gemini. They say it’s bad luck to rename a boat. They might be right.

Bringing her to her new home in Oyster Bay, New York, we slammed into a wave on Long Island Sound and I fell into the pedestal and it tilted forward. After ensuring we still had steering, I wondered what had happened. Soft deck? Fortunately, the problem was much simpler, two broken pedestal bolts. The aluminum bolts they used in 1983 were not a good choice for a saltwater environment. I replaced them with stainless steel.

Now I could get to the repairs I knew about.

The bilge pump and pressure-water pump were belt-driven diaphragm pumps that didn’t work well. I’d planned to rebuild them, but I found that the cost of the rebuild kits was greater than the cost of new direct-drive diaphragm pumps. I installed two new pumps. That went well. Things were looking up.

Next up were the instruments. All of them were 1983-vintage Datamarine models. The depth sounder worked, the speed and wind instruments did not. All the displays were dim. I installed B&G depth, speed (one transducer for both), and wind instruments and two Trident multifunction displays. The new system used one small NEMA 2000 cable for everything, allowing me to remove a ton of old cables. That was the end of my first year with the boat.

I started year two focused on fixing a rainwater leak. The problem was simple, a rotted hose that connected the cockpit scuppers to through-hulls in the transom. The fix wasn’t simple. Because I didn’t have an 8-year-old kid to fit into the space I needed to access, I had to hang upside down to reach under the cockpit to make the connection. After a few choice words I got it together. Then I called the boatyard and had them fix a small leak in the exhaust hose. They made short work of the replacement. I replaced the ancient VHF radio.

It was finally time to use the boat as I wanted.

Both my son and daughter-in-law are competitive sailors. The first time I took them sailing they told me the main sail had to go. They were right, so I bought a new main sail, and the difference was amazing. The boat pointed more than 5 degrees higher.

Life was good. I finally had a seaworthy boat that sailed well. Between sails, I wiled away my time tending to minor repairs and teak refinishing. I told my wife that the boat was done and that this year would be just for sailing and sunset cocktails. Don’t ever say that with an old boat.

This summer, my son and daughter-in-law were up from Annapolis for a weekend and I invited them on a short sail, eager to pick their brains about what kind of replacement jib I should get. My daughter and granddaughter joined us for this short before-dinner sail. We set the jib and the boat was moving well. It was Friday the 13th.

The BANG was the loudest I’d ever heard on a boat. Alarmed, nothing obvious was amiss. Then it was clear: the port-side chainplate that holds the upper and intermediate shrouds had ripped through the deck. My crew raced up to the bow and dropped the jib while I started the engine so I could keep the boat into the wind. With the jib down, my son and daughter-in-law attached the jib and spinnaker halyards to the port-side toe rail to stabilize the keel-stepped mast. The mast’s new slight bend to starboard was unmistakable. Dinner that night was somewhat somber until my son broke the ice by saying that I should just jack up the Windex and slide a new boat under it.

I had no idea what to do. The boat was safely on its mooring with the broken chainplate tied to the toe rail. Sailing friends suggested I call my insurance company to see whether the damage was covered. The adjuster took photos of the bulkhead where the chainplate had been attached and of the deck where it pulled through and told me he would get back to me in a few days. True to his word, he called a few days later with the good news and the bad news. They would pay to un-step, inspect, repair, and re-step the mast. I was on the hook for the damaged bulkhead as rot was not covered. I felt much better. Repairing the bulkhead was well within my skill set.

My plan was to cut out any remaining rot and rabbit in a new piece of ¾-inch teak plywood, but to be safe I would sandwich the new plywood between two ½-inch teak plywood panels. As added insurance, I designed new chainplates twice the length of the originals, so they would catch the repaired and unrepaired portions of the bulkhead.

My first step was to cut out all the rotted and delaminated plywood. This left me with a one-foot-square hole. I then realized that cabinet in the head at other side of the bulkhead had to go because the new bulkhead would be ½-inch thicker. (Only God knows how they attached that cabinet to the boat. No screw heads were visible nor were there any plugged screw holes. I know it went in after the chainplates because there was no access to the nuts.) After hacking the cabinet out of the head, I could look through my one-foot-square hole from the main cabin into the head.

While I was doing this work, Garhauer Marine was building the new chainplates I’d specified. I briefly considered making them myself, having once made the chainplates and gooseneck fitting for a 21-foot sailboat, but the thought of drilling 14 ½-inch holes in 3/8-inch stainless steel changed my mind. I did make the ¼-inch aluminum backing plates.

It was time to rebuild.

First, I rabbited one side of the perimeter edges of my one-foot-square hole. I then cut and rabbited a piece ¾-inch teak plywood patch to fit in the hole. To make my life easy, I attached them using the West System epoxy that comes in a caulking-gun tube.

To make the plywood bulkhead sandwich, I started on the head side, as that would be one piece. Because the teak-faced plywood I intended to use is so expensive, I first made an oak tag template followed by a 1/8-inch plywood template. I wanted this to be a cut-once job. After I’d screwed and glued that piece to the bulkhead, I started on the cabin side. That piece of my sandwich would have to be two pieces so that the chainplate would be on the same plane as the existing bulkhead.

To get this right, I knew I needed to position the new chainplate on the bulkhead. But before I could do that, I had to fix the hole in the deck. I made a dummy wooden chainplate, wrapped it in packing tape, and stuck it through the deck so that I could glass right up to it and create the right-sized hole.

When the two beautiful new chainplates arrived (I ordered two because I planned to do the starboard side too, proactively) I used the existing starboard chainplate to gauge the correct height of the port-side chainplate. Now I could bolt the new chainplate to the bulkhead. With it in place I completed my sandwich using the same technique I used on the other side. Except for cosmetic details, the port side was done.

The starboard side was going to be an afternoon job: just remove the existing chainplate and install the new one. Of course, when I removed the old chainplate I found rot underneath. I dealt with it.

So how long did it all take? Sixty days passed between the BANG to the day the mast was up again. Was it worth all the work? Of course. As those who sail older boats know, if the boat’s hull is sound, everything else is worth fixing.

Sailing? Well, there is always next summer.

Ray Wulff is a retired engineer who’s built two wooden sailboats and makes furniture as a hobby. He and his wife live in Oyster Bay, New York, where they sail their 1983 Endeavour in and around Oyster Bay and Long Island Sound.

News from the Helm

Morgan 32 sailboat

A Dollar and Some Words = a Morgan 32 

Do you want to own Paul Koepf’s Bagheera, a turn-key 1981 Morgan 32? She can be yours for $1, and a winning essay. Read on, this is good.

First, the essay. In at least 500 words (and no more than 1,000) you’ve got to tell Paul why you would be a worthy recipient of his beautiful Morgan, currently berthed on Lake Erie. Paul will receive and read all the essays. He alone will decide which essayist is most worthy. And he will sell his boat to that person for $1. (And we will publish the winning essay here, in a future issue of The Dogwatch.) That’s all.

Now, the boat. I’ll let Paul tell you about Bagheera. “We’ve sailed Bagheera in all forms of weather and she has never let us down: steep seas and gale-force winds, no problem. At fifteen knots and a broad reach, she will easily hit hull speed. Her new sails and genoa furler have weathered three seasons. Her cruising spinnaker is easy to handle in under 10 knots. She’s sailed three of the five Great Lakes, as well as the North Channel of Georgian Bay, on extended trips. We’ve enjoyed night cruising under a stunning dome of stars and adventures navigating and exploring anchorages at every turn. I’ve carefully maintained Bagheera’s mechanicals and her Yanmar diesel always starts on the first push of the button. Her depth sounder and hull-speed indicators are updated. Her 8-year-old autopilot is reliable.”

Paul wants to offer someone the opportunity he’s had, to sail a strong, stable yacht to dream anchorages. Are you that someone? Send your essay via snail mail or email directly to Paul. It must be received or postmarked by October 1, 2019, at or Paul Koepf, 8742 Holly Springs Trail, Chagrin Falls, Ohio 44023.

Paul offers the following specs and photos:

Morgan 32 sailboatMorgan 32 DeckMorgan 32 BowCockpit of a Morgan 32 sailboatvberth in a Morgan 32 sailboatGalley of Morgan 32 sailboatMorgan 32 HeadSettee of a Morgan 32 sailboat

Sail inventory: battened mainsail, jenny, storm jib, spinnaker, furling genoa

Helm: wheel

Galley: gimbaled oven/range top, sink, stowage

Other: electric bilge pump, manual bilge pump, hot water tank, enclosed marine head, shore power inlet, battery charger, swim ladder, cockpit cushions, electric windlass, spinnaker pole, hard dodger, davits

Disclaimer: Good Old Boat, Inc. is not administering this offer, only promoting it on behalf of the boat owner. We make no warranties about the condition of his boat. Accordingly, Good Old Boat, Inc. is not liable for any failure by the owner to fulfill his promise to deliver according to the terms outlined here. That said, we don’t think there is a sailor’s chance in a rum-filled bar that Paul will fall short in any way. Good luck.

Marine Museum of the Great Lakes at Kingston

The Marine Museum of the Great Lakes at Kingston has moved…back to its original location. The museum has reacquired its location on the waterfront in Kingston, Ontario, the location from which it was unceremoniously evicted back in 2015, when the Canadian government sold the land to a developer.

Why does this matter? Because the Marine Museum of the Great Lakes at Kingston holds the entire George Cuthbertson and C&C Yachts collection of drawing and documents, as well as the George Hinterhoeller and TBF Benson collections of drawings. In 2014, Good Old Boat sponsored an exhibit at the museum, the New Age of Sail exhibit that focused on the growth of the fiberglass sailboat industry in the 1960s, 70s, and 80s. The museum also partners with Sail Canada in managing and inducting members into the Canadian Sailing Hall of Fame, with the last induction of fourteen new members taking place in August of 2018.

Maybe time to plan a visit?

Nautical Trivia

Get this: the Florida Keys are the only place in the continental US where one can watch the sunrise from and set on, the ocean. Makes sense. Why are we realizing this for only the first time in our lives? Credit to Image via Sailing Chance.


The American Practical Navigator ‘Bowditch’ Book Review

The American Practical Navigator ‘Bowditch’, by Nathaniel Bowditch and National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (Paradise Cay, 2018; 1228 pages)

Review by Fiona McGlynn

If you’ve ever found yourself aboard, beyond cell phone reception, with a pressing question, you’ll no doubt appreciate the value of having a good reference book aboard. As you wrack your brain to remember, “How to calculate the distance between one point and another?” or, “What’s the difference between a flashing and occulting light?” you’ll reach for your trusty “Bowditch,” as sailors before you have done for 200 hundred years.

The American Practical Navigator was first published in 1802 and has enjoyed two centuries of uninterrupted publication. It has circled the globe on thousands of U.S. merchant and Navy ships and seen a fair bit of action along the way, including the British impressment of merchant seamen that led to the War of 1812, the Civil War, both World Wars, the Korean and Vietnam Wars, and Operation Desert Storm.

Though “Bowditch” is a part of history, the content of the latest edition hardly historical. Originally devoted almost exclusively to celestial navigation, it now also covers a host of modern topics, including: GPS, AIS, satellite communications, and electronic charts. In an effort to remain up to date on changing navigational requirements and procedures, the book lives digitally (and is available for download) on the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency’s maritime safety information web portal.

The 2017 edition has been updated for advancements in positioning and navigation and in some cases, previously removed information has been reintroduced. For instance, given the current interest in Arctic sailing, a chapter on polar navigation was added. Also, the growing popularity of using older techniques, meant that improvements were made to the celestial navigation and piloting chapters. The latest edition also includes updated graphics and higher resolution images.

Packing 2,000 pages of ballast, it’s fair to say that “Bowditch” is comprehensive. Chapters cover topics including piloting, electronic navigation, celestial navigation, safety, ice and polar navigation, oceanography and meteorology. It includes tables for celestial navigation, distance conversions, and barometric corrections, among others, and boasts a considerable nautical glossary, with words sure to stump even the smuggest nautical trivia buff.

Though the 2017 edition is likely unrecognizable to its 1802 predecessor, it remains as it was billed by its original author, Nathaniel Bowditch, an “epitome of navigation.” If I were limited to having only one book on my boat, this would be it.

Fiona McGlynn, a Good Old Boat contributing editor, recently sailed from Canada to Australia. This past summer, she was at the start line in France, reporting on the 2018 Golden Globe Race. Fiona runs, a site dedicated to millennial sailing culture.

Equal Angles, Equal Forces

Correct adjustment of your spreaders may save your rig

By Connie McBride

Next time you’re at the marina, look up. If there are enough sailboats around, you’ll likely find a variety of rigs, with masts sporting anywhere from zero to several sets of spreaders. And in that mix of masts, chances are there will be quite a few wonky spreaders.

Continue reading



Walking the dock has become a study in subtleties for the editors of Good Old Boat. Good old boats are everywhere, and we know ’em when we see ’em. But who was the manufacturer? Sometimes they still have a name decal or plate that’s visible from the finger pier. But sometimes we wind up studying the cove stripe detail for clues. Our own C&C 30 and other C&Cs have a clearly identifiable stripe. We began to wonder if other manufacturers were similarly consistent with their cove patterns. (Answer: it depends. Some were and some weren’t.)

In this section we’re posting cove stripes (some we’re sure about and some on mystery boats that we’re hoping you’ll identify for us). Please add to this collection. We’ll be doing the same thing as time goes on. Perhaps with your help we’ll create a useful tool for other dock walkers. We’re all in this together, as we are frequently reminded.







Newsletters are now Dogwatch Articles.

Delamination is not spelled d-o-o-m


Delamination is not spelled d-o-o-m

Story and photos by Bill Sandifer

Article taken from Good Old Boat magazine: Volume 1, Number 3, November/December 1998.

Deck delamination conjures up images of free falling straight
through to the bilge but it need not frighten the most resourceful
among us

The word “delamination” causes instant visions of a good old boat coming apart at the seams.
Worse, those visions may be equated with an unsalvageable hulk lying
in the mud of a river bank. Bad jokes have been published of a prospective
buyer falling through a deck or into the bilge. These visions and
jokes ring somewhat true sometimes, but does a delamination problem
predict the end of a good old boat? Is there useful life after delamination?
Let’s examine the causes, effects, and eventually the cure for this
common good old boat problem.

Layer below the fiberglass

The rotted core just below the fiberglass was not a pretty site.

Delamination is the separation of layers of fiberglass cloth and resin
from each other or from the core sandwiched between the layers. The
cause of delamination is usually physical stress to the fiberglass
surface. This ruptures the surface skin and allows water to enter
the laminate and migrate into the core. Delamination can also occur
from repeated surface impact even if the skin is not broken and water
does not enter.

Most delamination occurs on the decks or in the cabinhouse structure
of a boat, although it is possible for delamination to occur in the
hull itself, particularly if the hull is cored.

Some builders used cored hulls for rigidity, as well as for sound
and temperature stability. The core material (usually end-grain balsa
squares, occasionally plywood, and sometimes foam) separates from
the fiberglass skin above or below. Once the separation takes place,
the core deteriorates from water intrusion or turns to dust with repeated

When an area is delaminated, it is substantially weaker and
will feel soft when walked upon. An easy way to check for
delamination on a horizontal surface is to walk barefoot on the
surface and to dig your toes into the deck or cabinhouse. A soft or
giving feeling will indicate potential areas of delamination. These
can then be critically examined. A solid deck should feel like a rock.

Depending on the size and location of a good old boat’s
delaminated area, a cure may be possible, affordable, and prudent. It
is never cheap or easy. Commercial boatyards charge exorbitant sums
just to attempt repairs and usually will not guarantee their work.
The reason is that without totally disassembling the area, cleaning
out the damaged core, and recoring the structure, it is often
difficult to assure that all of the area has been repaired.

Easy fix?

Several technical publications recommend an “easy fix” which involves
drilling a series of holes through the top skin of the deck and
forcing epoxy resin into the holes until it fills the void and
emerges from another hole. This method is unsatisfactory for the
following reasons:

  • The delaminated area must be completely dry for the epoxy to bond to the top and bottom skin. There is no way, even if core samples are taken, to know if all of the area is dry.
  • Due to working “blind,” you cannot be certain that the epoxy completely fills all the voids./li>
  • A small solid, non-delaminated area may form a dam and restrict the epoxy from flowing into all areas of delamination.
  • The cost and physical effort required to attempt this cure are not justified, given the unknown final results.

There are two other methods to solve the problem and, though
costly in time and material, will guarantee a successful result. Depending
on the construction of the vessel, one or both of these methods may be used
to make the repair.

My own 1961 Pearson Ariel is a good example of both. In a nutshell, the
entire main deck and cabinroof were one spongy mess that gave under a person’s
weight. The foredeck aft to the chain plates had been destroyed over a number
of years by “deck apes” jumping on the deck in race conditions. The forward
cabin under the foredeck did not have a liner installed, so the underside
of the deck was fully visible. The sidedeck and main cabin area had an interior
liner which precluded direct access to the underside of thedecks and coachroof.
The side decks were delaminated as a result of improperly filled holes when
the genoa tracks were moved. The coachroof was delaminated due to the roof-mounted
winches, cam cleats, etc., being mounted, moved, and remounted without properly
sealing the original holes.

The mast was deck-stepped and had sunk three inches into the deck due to water-induced rot in the mast support beam. This was caused by poorly sealed fittings around the base of the mast.

If you have read this far, you’re probably saying, “What did this nut see in a totally destroyed boat? He must be crazy!” Well yes and no. I had very
little money (less than $2,000) and wanted a capable sailboat very badly!
The price was right. The Ariel was the boat I wanted, and I had a plan.
The boat’s past racing life, which had caused much of its problems, also
provided the method to afford the rebuild.

First the good news

The boat had eight good racing sails. I sold the six I did not
want for more than I paid for the boat. I made a $300 profit and
became the proud owner of a Pearson Ariel with an Atomic 4 engine,
(More about this in the January/ February issue of Good Old Boat),
a good mainsail, a good 120 genoa, hull, mast, boom, and rigging.
The only problem was the deck, maststep, and, oh yes, the bunk had
rotted out, and the galley area was trashed.

To get the boat home, I fixed the engine and felt I should be able
to sail (in case the engine quit). I used 4 x 4s and a hydraulic
jack to support the mast and push it back into its correct position.
And on April 1, 1990, (April Fools Day/Ship of Fools!), my wife
and I departed the New Orleans Municipal Harbor for home on the
Mississippi Gulf Coast, 11 hours away. Since I am writing this article,
we obviously succeeded in completing the voyage. Would I do it again?
Of course! There is little enough adventure in this world, and taking
the tried and true route is no adventure at all!

We were towing a dinghy with a motor to provide a third method of
propulsion (or lifeboat, if need be). We had picked a bright sunny
day with a good forecast, filed a floatplan with our children, had
a VHF radio onboard, and stayed close to shore in about eight feet
of water. We figured we could fill up but not sink below the surface.
You may be asking, “What does all that have to do with delamination?”
Everything. It shows that a boat can have an extreme problem and
yet be saved. Here’s how.

Start with the worst case

Side deck cleaned and ready

The side deck was cleaned, sanded and ready for a new core.

The first task was to remove the mast and all of the deck fittings, lifelines,
bow pulpit, and so forth. The foredeck was the worst case, so I tackled
it first. I determined what the camber (crown) of the deck was and laminated
wood beams to conform to the curvature and length required to span the
deck on the underside.

Once the beams were made, I cut out the entire underside of the deck fiberglass
laminate and core from below. I scraped all the coring off and sanded
it so only a very thin (1/16-inch) fiberglass skin remained. I cut waterproof
K-inch mahogany plywood panels into four sections in the shape of the
deck. Then I fitted new beams and plywood to the underside of the deck
and prepared to push them up against the underside of the foredeck, forming
a new wood deck beneath the old skin. I assembled the beams and panels
in the V-berth area, screwing and bonding them together with epoxy. After
a “dry fit” to assure that all was well, I coated the new deck with a
mush of epoxy mixed with chopped mill fiber (at a mayonnaise constancy),
raised it up, and propped it in position against the deck skin.

Working from a dink in the water to avoid putting any weight on the fragile
deck, I set stainless steel screws through the top skin of the deck into
the deck beam to assure complete contact between the interior wood deck
and the exterior fiberglass skin. The old deck skin was so thin it was
possible to be sure that there were no air bubbles to interfere with full

When the epoxy cured, I removed the props and taped the beams to the hull
sides for final strength. Next I removed the stainless steel screws and
filled the holes with the epoxy/chopped mill fiber mush, faired the deck
epoxy, sanded it, and painted it with non-skid paint. I used the same
method to refurbish the coachhouse overhead in the forward cabin.

Next side decks, roof

New core installed

The new core was installed on the side deck.

The sidedecks and main cabinroof area could not be worked from the
inside, due to the liner, so this time I started from the outside.
With a circular saw (carbide blade), I carefully cut the sidedecks
and roof out in one rectangular-shaped piece each. I lifted them off
as three pieces (two sidedecks and one roof). I scraped each clean of
the wet balsa core and set it aside. I removed the ruined core down
to the outside of the inner liner, sanded each area clean, and
allowed it to dry.

I cut strips of K-inch mahogany plywood about three inches
wide and the length of the area to be filled, taking care that the
strips landed on a solid support surface or bulkhead fore and aft. I
cut and fitted enough strips to build up the new area to the level of
the old roof and decks, with the exception of the “saved” pieces of
deck and roof. The strips were numbered, so they could be replaced
exactly where they had been fitted.

With all in readiness, I mixed the epoxy/mill fiber mush
mixture and coated the outside of the liner. I wet out the strips
with unmodified epoxy (no mill fiber filler), and set these into the
mush on the liner. I followed this process until I had reached the
desired height.

I coated the roof and deck panels with the mush and returned them to their
original positions on the hull. I allowed the epoxy to dry, taking care
to assure a complete bond between the strips and the underside of the
old panels.

The reason for using the old panels is twofold. First, it saves material
and, if carefully prepared, reduces fairing of the surfaces to the original
camber. Second, the roof panel incorporated the rails for the sliding
hatch which would have had to be remade in wood, bedded, and so forth.

I simply removed the mast step beam and replaced it with a new beam when
the coachhouse roof was replaced.

The final finish work was not as hard as you might imagine, due to the
reuse of the old skin panels. After a good fairing with a long board and
80-grit sandpaper, I rolled high build epoxy primer paint on the panels.
These were sanded and primed again, sanded a third time, and then painted
with three coats of polyurethane one-part deck paint, sanding between
each coat. I mixed the final coat with non-skid compound for a non-slip

More good news

Original deck piece replace

The orginal deck piece was replaced.

Did it work? The answer is a resounding “Yes!” After eight years of
12-month-a-year service, averaging three days a week, there have been
no failures, no leaks, and no soft spots. I’ve repainted the deck
once more for cosmetic and aesthetic value.

Was it worth it? Again, “Yes.” The boat became ours April 1,
1990, and we motored it out of the harbor. We have motored, sailed,
motorsailed, and used the boat ever since. The work on the deck was
done during intense weekends over a two-month period. The boat was
“out of commission” for two-week periods as each stage was
accomplished. The deck, beam, interior, and so forth were done afloat
between uses.

prioritized the work. The foredeck came first, mast beam next, bunk and
interior third, side decks and coachroof last.

Since we live in a southern climate, it was possible to complete all the
work over the span of one year. The non-structural work – replacing the
pulpit and lifelines, putting in new port lights and running lights, etc.
– was worked in as time and budget allowed.

When I review the refurbishment work done over the past eight years, the
volume seems overwhelming, but when viewed in small segments, it was achieved
and has not been onerous.

I had the assistance of family and friends some of the time, but the bulk
of it was done without help. Having the use of the boat while working
on it was a big plus and kept my spirits soaring. I believe if I had chosen
to lay the boat up until everything was complete, I would have become
discouraged and lost interest and momentum.

My wife loves the boat but hated the project “mess.” For this reason,
I kept one or two areas neat so she could feel comfortable while I messed
up the other areas. The V-berth area was torn up considerably, but the
main cabin and cockpit were usable and neat. Doing the sidedecks did not
mess up the interior, and the V-berth was completed and “neat” by that
time. The same is true for the coachroof.

Today, the boat is in excellent condition. Motor and sails are without
problems, and it looks great. Now, if I could just figure out how to stretch
the boat to a 36-footer in the same condition. Hmmmmm.

Bill Sandifer is
a marine surveyor and small boat builder who has been living, eating,
and sleeping boats since the early 1950s when he assisted at Pete Layton’s
Boat Shop, building a variety of small wooden boats. Since then Bill has
worked for Charlie Morgan (Heritage), Don Arnow (Cigarette), and owned
a commercial fiberglass boatbuilding company (Tugboats). Bill and his
wife, Genie, restored a Pearson Ariel from a total wreck. They are now
sailing an Eastward Ho 31.

Book Reviews – 1998

Book Reviews From 1998

Cruising Rules

by Roland S. Barth. $12.95
Reviewed by Dan Smith
Good Old Boat, June, 1998

image of Cruising rules: Relationships at sea

Sailors’ libraries are filled with every conceivable subject matter from dinghies to clipper ships – alcohol stoves to diesel engines, etc. but missing is a book to explain personal relationships at sea – or how to make a peaceful cruising passage with mate and/or crew members.

Roland S. Barth, a retired Harvard professor, has assembled a melange of mishaps on board and off, which actually occurred during his ownership of a vintage wooden Friendship sloop. These misadventures prompted Barth to discover solutions: “Rules for personal behavior at sea making it possible to stay on speaking, even friendly terms while confined in close quarters for an indefinite period.”

Cruising Rules is presented in an entertaining, humorous manner with the academic skills of a lifelong educator. Beautifully illustrated, the book is prefaced by the author’s reasons for writing about “relationships at sea.” It also contains a glossary of terms, a map of the Maine coastline, and a consolidated list of the 25 rules to be followed for compatibility and happiness on board.

Examples from the glossary:

  • Dismasting – cataclysmic act by which a sailboat is transformed into merely a boat
  • Winch handle – essential metallic, elbowlike appliance usually found (or lost) in mud at ocean’s bottom

I particularly enjoyed two of the cruising rules emerging from strained, onboard relationships:

Rule Number 6 – Non-discussibles may be discussed only within swimming distance of home port
Rule Number 10 – The gods protect beginning sailors and fools – sometimes both at once

Statements by William F. Buckley, Jr., author of Atlantic High, and Roger Duncan, co-author of Cruising Guide to the New England Coast, provide evidence this book is a must-read for every sailor.

Editor’s note: We were also very impressed with Barth’s work, and will be presenting selected chapters in future issues of Good Old Boat magazine. Personal favorite rules, based on our experience, include:

Rule Number 2 – Any story worth telling is worth telling often.
Rule Number 7 – The hand that holds the paintbrush determines the color.

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Dragged Aboard

by Don Casey (W.W. Norton & Company, 1998, $27.50)
Reviewed by Karen Larson, Minneapolis, Minn.
Good Old Boat, September, 1998

Before we contacted Don Casey to invite him to get involved with our new magazine, we decided to take another look at his best-known book, This Old Boat. Unfortunately, our copy wasn’t with our other sailing books. We wracked our brains. Had we loaned it to another sailor? Was it on the boat? Where could it have gone? Just prior to ordering a second copy, Jerry found This Old Boat in a most telling place: nestled in a large box of sandpaper.

Don’s newest book, Dragged Aboard – A Cruising Guide for the Reluctant Mate, is just as valuable but could wind up stashed in a variety of areas within the boat: galley, head, medicine kit, stowed with provisions, nav/communications center, or on the bookshelf as a trusted friend.

This Old Boat is aimed at the do-it-yourself boater – usually, but not always, a male. Dragged Aboard is meant for the not-quite-so-enthusiastic partner of a sailor — usually, but not always, a female. In a personal and friendly conversation with this reluctant mate, Don debunks cruising myths and fears and highlights the joys and benefits of the cruising lifestyle.

Worried about storms? Don says, “Thunderstorms almost never give a well-found and wisely handled cruising boat more than a jostle and a wash, but finding yourself on a boat in the middle of a particularly boisterous boomer can still be frightening. This is a good time for perspective. Images of solidly anchored homes reduced to rubble by wind, flood, mud, and tremor parade regularly across the evening news. By comparison, a cruising boat is virtually immune to weather. A well-built boat is incredibly tough: the roof isn’t going to blow off, the windows won’t blow in, and 40 days of rain won’t even wet the rug.”

Pirates? “They’ve found easier pickings selling cars, filing lawsuits, or sitting on city commissions. You might encounter a pirate when you’re cruising — if you need a new battery or your refrigeration goes on the fritz – but he won’t be armed with anything more lethal than the barrel he’ll have you over.”

Danger? “There is a violent crime in this country every 17 seconds. Assaults happen every 28 seconds, a robbery every 51 seconds. If you live in an American city, and a drug addict breaks into your home and slashes you with a knife, don’t expect to write a book about it. Odds are the story won’t even make the newspaper. The sad truth is that Americans can go almost anywhere else in the world and be safer than they are in their own neighborhoods.”

Cramped quarters? “If you have a nice house ashore, aren’t you certain to be less comfortable moving into a space smaller than your bedroom? The short answer is yes, but it isn’t the whole answer The cruising life may be less comfortable, but it is more luxurious. When was the last time you slept until noon? When have you spent an entire day with a good book? Do you know what it’s like to float for hours in warm, emerald waters? Do you know how wonderful bread is fresh from the oven? Is there a better combination than shade, breeze, food, and friends? How often do you toast the blush of sunset? Rare is the cruising day that isn’t, on balance, better than any day at the office.”

Don brings honesty and insight into conversations about getting along with your partner in a small space, making a boat a home (with a focus on accommodations, ventilation, lighting, comfortable seating, easy care fabrics), what to take and how to store it, stocking up (good tips for figuring out how much food to take along), staying in touch with folks at home, health and first aid, protecting your skin from the elements, cruising with kids, cleanliness aboard, and more.

If you’re afraid of misplacing your copy of this book (it could wind up anywhere, you know!) perhaps you’ll want several. The book was published by W.W.Norton & Company in late July. It’s listed at $27.50.

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Cruising 101: Avoiding the Pitfalls of Paradise

by Amy Sullivan and Kevin Donnelly (Free Fall Press, 1998, $17.95)
Reviewed by Karen Larson, Minneapolis, Minn.
Good Old Boat, September, 1998

If you ever wondered whether a long-term commitment to a small fiberglass home is for you, you’ll want to pick up Cruising 101: Avoiding the Pitfalls of Paradise by Amy Sullivan and Kevin Donnelly.

As first-time boatowners and cruisers, but not novice sailors, Amy and Kevin ventured from Southern California to Mexico, sampled the cruising lifestyle for 15 months, and returned home inspired to build their cruising account for further adventures. Many people do this, but Amy and Kevin chose to tell about it while the first-time experiences were still fresh in their minds.

Their tales are of “learning experiences” which nearly caused them to turn back, such as the financial blow when they lost their dinghy and outboard. They review the necessary lifestyle adjustments and intimate living arrangements which often bring cruising dreams to a premature end, and they take a look at the cruising etiquette practiced where liveaboards gather.

The authors talk of a three-month transition period when the adjustments are made. Once past this turning point, sailors will be more likely to follow through with their cruising dreams.

They discuss how to cruise for an extended period on a limited budget and refer to a noteworthy concept: “the disposable sailboat,” the boat you buy inexpensively, fix up, and could afford to lose if it came to that. And they break down the items you need aboard into three groups: safety equipment, required support systems, and comfort amenities. Safety equipment includes such items as man-overboard gear, fire extinguishers, harnesses, jacklines, and PFDs. Support systems include extra fuel and water containers, non-electrical cabin lighting, and so on. Their list of amenities is short and reflects their personal needs: GPS, stereo CD player, and a laptop computer.

If you’re planning a trip to Mexico, the book offers good advice on what foods and other necessities are available south of the border and what articles you might want to stock up on before leaving.

Sometimes the prose itself sails, as in this passage:

“Where we have been cruising, dolphins dance upon our wake, and manta rays glide above the surface of this prehistoric wonderland. Once settled into the lifestyle, sharing the magic with each other enhanced the quality of our experience.

“Under a brilliant canopy of stars, we found ourselves discussing joint experiences and planning new ones. The environment of communication, while nestled in a remote anchorage or running under light wind, has a magic that rekindles the excitement felt in many a newfound romance.

“Just as true is the intensity of emotion that can cause tempers to flare over seemingly minor disputes. Intense quarrels emanating from a neighboring vessel have disrupted the tranquillity of more than one evening. Some of those disruptions were our own.”

The value of this book isn’t in its prose, but rather in its perspective: two sets of fresh eyes tell what it was like to go cruising for the first time. This makes it a book worth reading.

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Illustrated Dictionary of Boating Terms: 2000 Essential Terms for Sailors and Powerboaters

by John Rousmaniere (W.W. Norton & Company, 1998, $23.95)
Reviewed by Karen Larson, Minneapolis, Minn.
Good Old Boat, September, 1998

Another little gem which has crossed our desks in recent weeks is a revised version of John Rousmaniere’s Illustrated Dictionary of Boating Terms: 2000 Essential Terms for Sailors and Powerboaters.

It’s not our plan to review nautical dictionaries, but this one is a good reference for those onboard arguments that can pop up about the proper spelling or meaning of a term. In our case, as new nautical publishers, the book has assumed a revered position right next to Webster’s, Roget’s Thesaurus, and the Associated Press Stylebook.

It has solved the dilemma of whether to say wing and wing, wing ‘n wing, wing in wing. John chooses wing-and-wing in other words, none of the above. And it has brought other nautical mispronunciations, which could lead to misspellings, to our attention: a mooring pendant (pronounced pennant), for example, is mentioned in Lin Pardey’s article in this issue. A sea chantey is pronounced “shanty.”

A sailor for more than 40 years, John Rousmaniere is the author of The Annapolis Book of Seamanship and was the writer-host of a video series based on this book.

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Winter Agitation

Winter agitation

By Don Launer

Article taken from Good Old Boat magazine: Volume 4, Number 5, September/October 2001.

Solving the problem of icing up in winter

Boat is protected from ice by a water-agitation motor

Mid-winter photo of the author’s schooner, Delphinus, at the dock next to his home in New Jersey. His boat is protected from ice around the hull by a water-agitation motor.

For those of us who live in the higher latitudes, the approach of the fall season reminds
us of an upcoming conflict between our boating agendas and the impending
deep freeze. For a fortunate few, this means stowing those summer clothes
on board and sailing toward warmer climates. But most of us will make
arrangements at the local marina for a haulout and winter cover or possibly
for wet (in-the-water) storage. Those who have their homes on the banks
of navigable water and have their boats moored at their own docks or at
the community dock of a condominium have yet another option: wintering
their boat in the water at her normal location near home. This option
requires appropriate preparation and equipment, of course.

One of the problems with wet storage in latitudes where the surface of the water can freeze
solid during the winter is the potential problem of ice damage, unless
proper precautions are taken.

With wooden hulls, water getting between the planks can freeze, spreading them apart and
allowing more water to enter and re-freeze until a major leak (and possible
sinking) occurs.

An agitation motor can be canted at an angle

If needed, an agitation motor can be  canted at an angle

The problems are usually less threatening with fiberglass boats. However, when thick ice forms
around the hull of any boat, damage to the rudder and prop is possible.
Also, when a boat is surrounded by ice, wind and current will cause it
to rock and pitch. The resultant grinding action of ice against the hull
can cut away at the gelcoat along the waterline of a fiberglass boat.
This can result in water incursion into the laminate and, at the very
least, an additional gelcoat repair job in the spring. With wood boats,
ice can wear through the paint and gouge the hull. Depending on the waterline
hull shape, major structural damage is possible. For all of these reasons
it’s important to prevent ice from forming around a boat that spends
the winter in the water.

To make sure the boat is floating in above-freezing water, a water de-icing system in the
winter is the answer. These systems are just as practical for an individual
boat at a private dock as they are for a large marina. For those who live
where the waters freeze during the winter, the “bubbler”
and underwater agitation-motors are a familiar sight, but how do they
keep the water from freezing around our boats?

Properties of water

The designer of our world certainly gave us a great gift when the physical
properties of water were promulgated. Water, one of the most commonplace
and familiar of all natural substances, is one of the most remarkable.
Compared with nearly every other substance, water behaves, physically,
in a unique manner.

Ice Eater, by The Power House

Ice eater by The Power House

Nearly every other material expands when heated and contracts when cooled, but water follows
this pattern only in part. As it is cooled down to about 39° F it does
indeed contract; but with further cooling it begins to expand again, and
when it begins to freeze this expansion is dramatic.

Let’s imagine what would happen if water did not follow this aberrant behavior. If water
and ice continued to contract, as does nearly every other substance, ice
would be denser and heavier than water. As ice formed at the cold interface
of water and air, it would sink to the bottom.

Other layers of ice would also sink as they formed, until the entire body of water would be
frozen solid. Since sunlight and heat don’t penetrate very deeply
into a body of water or ice, none of our lakes, streams and bays in the
northern latitudes would ever thaw out in the summertime, except to a
slight depth at the surface. Fish and nearly all forms of aquatic and
bottom-life could not survive, and our northern bays, lakes, and streams
would be useless as a food source, for recreation, or navigation.

When a body of fresh water is cooled, it gradually contracts and becomes
denser and heavier until it reaches 39° F. Then it begins to expand as
it’s cooled to the freezing point and is transformed into ice at
32° F or less. Although the temperatures given in these explanations are
for fresh water, salt water follows a similar pattern. In the case of
salt water, the exact temperatures at which these events happen are determined
by the water’s salinity.

A solution of salt
and water freezes at a lower temperature than fresh water. In fact, the
freezing point of a saturated solution of salt water is about 6° C,
whereas the freezing point of unsaturated ocean water (depending on salinity)
is around 21° F.

Agitation motor suspended at an angle at the author's dock

Agitator motor suspended at an angle at the author’s dock.

Since surface water cooled to 39° F becomes denser, it sinks to the bottom. It is then replaced
by warmer bottom water, which then follows the same scenario. Thus no
ice can ever be formed on the surface of a body of fresh water until the
whole body of water is cooled to 39° F.

This means that the water at the bottom of a deep-frozen lake is near 39° F whatever the temperature
of the air above the ice. De-icing systems take advantage of this physical
fact of nature, using this huge reservoir of “warm” water
at the bottom for their supply of de-icing water.

Bringing water up

The two popular methods of raising this bottom layer of water to the surface are the air-bubbler system and the propeller-agitator.

With the air-bubbler, a weighted, perforated hose is laid along the bottom and connected to
an air compressor (controlled by an air thermostat). The rising air bubbles
coming out of the hose carry along with them the above-freezing water
from the bottom, creating an area of unfrozen water above the bubbler

The propeller-agitator accomplishes the same result by using a hermetically sealed electric motor
with a propeller attached. These agitator units are also controlled by
air thermostats. Naturally, the deeper the water at the slip, the larger
the reservoir of warmer water and the more practical the de-icing system.

Kasco's agitation unit

Kasco’s agitation unit.

A bubbler system can be used equally well for an individual boat or a huge marina with
the physical size of the compressor and its horsepower dependent on the
length of the bubbler hose and depth of the water. Originally these compressors
were quite noisy and could be annoying in a residential environment. In
recent years, however, internal as well as external sound-proofing and
state-of-the-art compressor design has nearly eliminated this problem.
During the winter, compressors usually live at dockside and must be in
a location well above any possible flooding.

The underwater agitation motor is completely quiet, except for the rippling noise of the water.
If depth is sufficient, the underwater motor can be hung directly beneath
the boat. Alternately, it can be hung at an angle off the side of the
boat where the water is deepest, or at the bow facing aft. These motors
can be suspended by their own ropes, mounted to a rigid arm, or suspended
from a flotation unit. Most manufacturers of agitator motors have optional
dock or piling mounts and flotation-mounting kits. When the underwater
motors are mounted in the vertical position, these units produce a circular
pattern of unfrozen water. When suspended at an angle, the pattern is

Adjusting the angle of a rope-suspended motor is done by simply looping one of the suspension
ropes back one or two ribs on the propeller cage or through one of the
off-center holes in the housing placed there for that purpose. These underwater
motors have plastic propellers and replaceable zinc anodes for electrolysis
reduction and are available in 1/2-, 3/4-, and 1-hp sizes, depending on
the size of the area to be de-iced and the severity of the winters. Originally,
the motor cases were filled with oil, but recently synthetic dielectric
lubricating fluids that are non-toxic, biodegradable, and non-bioaccumulating
have been introduced.

Bags and debris

Although it would be nice if our waters were pristine, unfortunately underwater
plastic bags and other debris are a fact of life. If a de-icing system
is used in an area where large amounts of such things are present, the
chance of their fouling the propeller of an underwater motor must be taken
into account when selecting a de-icing system. Naturally, underwater debris
presents no problem to a bubbler system.

If you’re using a propeller-agitation system, the following practices are recommended:

  • It is usually easier to de-ice a boat by installing the de-icer at the bow and pushing
    the water toward the stern, since boats are designed for easiest water-flow
    in that direction.
  • If a boat is berthed in a river, de-icing from the upstream side will allow the current to
    help, rather than hinder.
  • When a boat is wintering next to a bulkhead, the motor can be hung off the free side
    and canted toward the hull.

Obviously neither type of de-icing system can possibly prevent ice around a boat if the
ice is being moved by wind or current.

Other considerations

De-icing systems are also very effective in preventing damage to pilings
and docks in tidewater locations. In these locations, when ice freezes
solid around a piling, the piling is frequently lifted inch by inch at
each tide change. This results in expensive dock and piling repairs or
replacements, come spring. Unfrozen water around the pilings can prevent
this costly problem, and marinas often use bubbler systems in their slips
whether or not any boats are present. This lifting or “jacking”
damage is also common in the lakes, where weather, wind, and changes in
lake levels can cause the same thing to happen.

Although we only think of water agitation systems for boating use, they are also used as aeration
units in fish farms. A spectacular and bizarre use of a motor/agitator
made world news when, in October 1988, whales trapped by ice at Barrow,
Alaska, were kept in an ice-free area until Russian and U.S. icebreakers
could open a path for them to open water.

Even though de-icing systems eliminate most of the problems associated with wintering in the
water, some other things to consider are the possibility of freezing problems
inside the hull. The relatively warm bottom water surrounding the hull
typically will keep the bilge free of ice, but in harsh northern climates
there’s no guarantee. Where electricity is available, many boatowners
use electric light bulbs or small heating elements inside the engine compartment
to help keep the packing glands around the prop shaft and rudder shaft,
as well as the cockpit drains, from freezing. Small, inexpensive, plug-in
thermostats are also available so the heat is not on during warm spells.

Light-bulb problems

Bensaco's engine compartment heater

BoatSafe: Bensaco’s engine compartment heater

People who use a light bulb for heat can encounter several problems. A
normal light bulb has a life expectancy of about 750 hours. This means
that if left on continuously, it will last about a month – not
nearly long enough to last through the winter. A long-life bulb, which
puts out the same amount of heat, but less light, has a more rugged filament
and less chance of burning out over the winter. It’s also much
less vulnerable to vibrations. An outdoor bulb should be used if there
is any possibility of water dripping on it. The problem with light bulbs,
in general, is that the very limited amount of heat generated is only
effective within a very confined space and where winter temperatures are
relatively mild.

There have also been cases where an exposed bulb has come in contact with flammable material
or has shattered and caused a fire. Marine-grade engine-compartment heaters
are a far better and safer way to go. These come in several styles and
wattages. Some of these heaters have their own built-in thermostats and
circulating fans and are in stainless-steel or aluminum cases.

Other items to check before in-the-water winter storage, are the condition of your automatic
bilge pump and supply of power. Is the float-switch free of debris? Can
the pump be left in a standby mode without leaving the main 12-volt battery
switch on for the rest of the boat? Is there a possibility of the bilge
freezing, rendering the float-switch inoperable? Can the batteries remain
in a charged – but not overcharged – state by use of a “smart”
battery-charger or trickle-charger? Have you added non-toxic anti-freeze
to the bilge and pumped it through the bilge-pump and discharge hoses?
Other than the cockpit drains, are the through-hull seacocks closed? Ice
can lift off a hose. While you’re at it, now is a good time to
see if those hoses are double-clamped and the clamps and hoses are in
good condition.

Even though you have done all the winterization tasks properly, an occasional mid-winter visit
inside the cabin is always a good idea to make sure everything is OK –
if only to assure your boat and yourself that there are warm breezes and
sunny days to come. After your checkout, a half hour curled up on the
settee with your hands wrapped around a hot cup of coffee as you plan
those summer cruises can be great therapy in relieving the depression
of those cold gray days of winter as you wait for spring to creep north
to reclaim the shoreline.

Resources: Manufacturers of propeller-agitation units:

Kasco Marine, Inc.
800 Deere Road
Prescott, WI 54021

Follansbee Dock Systems
Follansbee, WV 26037

Manufacturer of bubbler de-icing systems:
World Wide Enterprises
19 Cedar St.
East Falmouth, MA 02536

Pyramid Technologies LLC
45 Gracey Ave.
Meriden, CT 06451

The Power House, Inc.
20 Gwynns Mills Court
Owings Mills, MD 21117

Manufacturer of engine compartment heaters:
Bensaco, Inc.
3301 Myrtle St.
Edisto Beach, SC 29438

Don lives on a
waterway off Barnegat Bay, on the New Jersey coast. He keeps his schooner,
Delphinus, at dockside next to his home. Although Barnegat Bay and the
adjacent waterways frequently freeze solid, his boat has wintered in unfrozen
water for the past 21 years, protected by a water-agitation system and
an electric engine-compartment heater.

Wedging the mast

Wedging the mast

By Norman Ralph

Article taken from Good Old Boat magazine: Volume 4, Number 6, November/December 2001.

A small project that brings satisfaction and pride

Wedges that hold the mast in column

An acquaintance raised the question concerning those little wedges that hold
the mast in column on many boats. On a recent sail in blustery conditions,
the wedges on his boat worked loose and fell into the cabin. He wanted
to know how to prevent this from happening again.

An area of boat maintenance that is often overlooked is where a keel-stepped
mast passes through the deck. Perhaps the boatyard takes care of this
when the mast is stepped. But don’t count on it. In my case, the
yard stuck the mast in the boat, attached the shrouds, tightened them
sufficiently so the mast would stay in place, and left the rest for me
to do when the boat was in the slip.

I was left with tuning the rigging and the more pressing job of wedging the mast. If the mast
is not wedged snugly it will “work” or flex under the varying
loads on the sails. This flexing can weaken the mast. The common solution
is to drive rubber wedges between the mast and the flange (a turned-up
edge around the hole where the mast passes through the deck). On my boat
this flange is 3 inches high.

Cutting the wedges, makes 16

Cutting the wedges. Yield 16 wedges.

A newer technique is to use Spartite. After placing a temporary bottom or floor below deck
around the mast in the overhead, Spartite liquid is poured around the
mast from above. After this liquid hardens, the temporary bottom is removed,
the mast is held in place, and leaks are prevented. The precaution to
observe in using Spartite is to be sure that the area between the mast
and the deck flange has a slight taper outward toward the top of the mast.
If it does not or is tapered the opposite way, it will be difficult or
impossible to remove the mast without chiseling the Spartite out, as it
adheres tenaciously to the mast. With the proper taper, the Spartite will
come out with the mast and can be reused when the mast is re-stepped.


I use the time-honored rubber wedges on our boat. Since I bought our boat as a project boat, it
didn’t come with wedges. So I went to a store that carried rubber
products of all types and purchased a piece of rubber mat from their scrap
supply. (Shore hardness 40 to 50 is good.) This material was a foot square
and 2 inches thick. With the mast centered in the hole in the cabintop,
I had approximately 11Ú4 to 11Ú2 inches between the mast and
the flange around the hole. I marked and cut the rubber, using a band saw,
into wedges approximately 21Ú2 inches at one end tapering to 1Ú4
inch at the other end (see sketch). The wedges were approximately 6 inches
long. The piece of rubber yielded 16 wedges, far more than needed for the

Creating the canvas cover

Creating the canvas cover

I tuned the rig first and then loosely placed four wedges, one on each side of the mast. Then
I used a rubber mallet (you could use a piece of wood and a hammer) to
drive the wedges in tight. Be sure to drive them evenly, each a little
bit at a time, alternating sides. This will ensure that the mast stays
straight. After the mast is securely wedged, drive in an additional wedge
on each side adjacent to the first ones. More can be installed if desired,
although it might be overkill.

To prevent water from leaking below, I went to a tire store and purchased a truck-sized inner
tube. A used one will work as well as a new one. In this day of tubeless
tires, inner tubes are harder to find. I cut the inner tube into a piece
approximately 12 inches wide and a length equal to the perimeter of the
flange on the deck around the mast plus several inches. Using a large
stainless-steel hose clamp, I wrapped the rubber from the inner tube around
the mast with the bottom of the rubber approximately 8 inches above the
deck, I fastened the bottom of the rubber securely with the hose clamp.
Then I folded the rubber down over the hose clamp and over the deck flange.
I attached a second hose clamp, securing the rubber to the deck flange.
If you can’t get long enough hose clamps, hook two or more clamps
together to get the proper length.

Using a tube of silicone caulking and a caulking gun, I liberally caulked the top of the rubber
where it folds back over the top hose clamp next to the mast. This will
keep water from seeping down the mast past the rubber and hose clamp.

To cover up the unsightly black rubber boot, I took a rectangular piece of Sunbrella to match the canvas on the
boat and hemmed it on all four sides (see sketch). After hemming, the piece
was approximately 12 inches by 11Ú2 times the perimeter of the bottom
of the rubber boot. I stitched a 3-foot piece of 1Ú8-inch Dacron
line on the outside of each long side of the canvas close to one end. The
canvas was then wrapped around the rubber boot, the end without the Dacron
line placed first and overlapping itself to ensure complete coverage. Then
I wrapped the Dacron line around the cover and tied it with a square knot.
This completely covers the rubber boot and leaves a waterproof, yet attractive,
finished look. The silicone sealant is also protected from deterioration
from the sun.

When pulling the mast, all that is needed is to remove the canvas cover and the bottom
hose clamp. When the mast is pulled, the wedges will come loose and can
be collected for reuse.

This is not a high-tech project, but it is one that will give much satisfaction and pride. And
that is part of the enjoyment of owning a boat.

About that rig…

  • Record rig “tune” before you pull the mast.
  • Record location of any shims between the mast and the step.
  • Tune the rig fore and aft and side to side before wedging the mast.
  • Some kinds of rigs may benefit from wedges fore and aft as well.

Refer to Illustrated Sail
and Rig Tuning
by Ivar Dedekam for details on rig tuning.

A 1988 trip to
the Gulf Coast exposed Norman and his wife, Jeanette, to year-round sailing and sowed the seeds that initiated early retirement and a move to Lake Pontchartrain in Louisiana. Norman is able to rest in peace knowing his boat won’t leak (at the mast anyway).



By Jerry Powlas

Article taken from Good Old Boat magazine: Volume 1, Number 3, November/December 1998.

a fast, effective safety device

Vang preventer line diagram
Starboard vang released, port vang trimmed
How control lines lead to the helm station

Viewed from the bow, the photo above right shows the starboard vang released and the port vang trimmed. Photo at bottom shows the control lines led to the helm station. Notice the double-ended line.

I was guilty of contempt.
Never a good thing, in this case it turned out to be a serious error.
I had held a thunderstorm cell in contempt all morning. It was over there,
and we were over here. We had been sailing for hours in strong winds that
were probably feeding that cell, but it had been such a joyful ride I
couldn’t bring myself to quit. We had the 110 up with two reefs in the
main and were on a screaming reach. We had been flying like this for hours.
Occasionally we would have to tie a foot reef in the jib and put in or
shake out another reef in the main. But we were moving. Madeline Island
was to windward, and the seas hadn’t much fetch. But the wind was getting
over the island, and we had plenty of it.

At the bottom of
the island we headed up but kept our speed. Eventually we breasted the
red nun that marks the shoal, tacked, and fell off on another screaming

Karen is the smarter of the
two of us. I don’t deny that. She suggested that perhaps the storm cell
was moving toward us and we should probably shorten sail. I delayed.
Each gust seemed to offer a chance to explore new territory on the knotmeter.
It was intoxicating.

Finally Karen said we should
at least get our foul weather gear on. She went below first, perhaps
to set a good example. Then I went below to dress for the rain that
I had to admit was looking more likely. In the middle of my costume
change she said, “You’ve got about a minute.” That call was probably
accurate to within 10 seconds. I don’t know why I don’t listen to my
wife more carefully.

The squall hit. We were deeply
reefed but not deeply enough. The wind came from dead astern at maybe
60 knots. I looked out through the companionway and saw that Karen was
doing all she could do and doing it exactly right. She was steering
dead downwind, not letting Mystic jibe or broach. With that course and
speed Mystic would be a monument in downtown LaPointe on Madeline Island
in about five minutes, but I didn’t think we would make it that far.
Mystic’s beautiful spoon bow was being pushed down hard by the wind.
She was clearly outside the envelope. I popped out of the hatch without
bothering to replace the lifejacket I had removed in order to put on
my slicker. We always wear our lifejackets, but just when I needed mine
the most, there was no time to put it back on.

Control line and cleat
A flick of the wrist sets up the vang/preventer

Photo at top above shows the control line and cleat and the caribiner that eases the release and prevents premature recleating. Photo at bottom shows how a flick of the wrist sets up the vang/preventer.

I crawled to the mast and
cast off the main and jib halyards. Fortunately, they didn’t tangle
or catch; the beautifully simple jib hanks and mainsail lugs did what
they were supposed to do, and the press came off our spunky little Mystic
before she could pitchpole or broach. Bare poles were just right for
good speed and control. My arrogance would be forgiven – this time.

Lessons learned

As I look back on it, several
factors combined to limit that experience to a good scare and a lesson
survived. The person who designed our C&C 30 knew his business; my beautiful
wife used great skill in steering without broaching or jibing; the hanks
and lugs ran free and fast; and the vang/preventer did exactly what
we had intended it to do.

Vang/preventer? We knew of
no existing term for this rigging, and we had to call it something.
On Mystic, the vang/preventer is a pair of 4:1 tackles leading from
mid-boom to the port and starboard toerails just abaft the stays. A
single control line runs from both tackles aft through fairleads and
cam cleats port and starboard of the helm. Because there is only a single
line, as the boom swings off, line taken by one tackle is given up by
the other, so very little excess line clutters the cockpit. A flick
of the wrist controls the boom.

On Mystic the vang/preventer
is actually a better vang, a better preventer, and a better traveler
than anything else we could have devised. Mystic had a traveler when
we bought her, but it was a simple affair with no control lines. The
idea was to lift the detent pin and move the car stop to the new location.
The traveler was about two feet long and resided on a beam between the
cockpit seats just in front of the wheel. (Shown in photo.) It could
not be moved under load and was only useful when beating. It was too
short to help on a reach.

A message in this

The previous owner kept the
original vang in the starboard lazarette made up like a hangman’s noose.
After using it for awhile, I was convinced he had the right idea. The
people at C&C were not about to give up any sail area that could be
easily had, so Mystic’s boom sweeps very close to the deckhouse. This
leaves the (conventional) vang at a very poor angle when led between
mid-boom and the base of the mast. Fortunately, when the boom is close
in for beating, the vang is not necessary; the traveler controls the
sail twist. It took some getting used to – unloading the main to move
the traveler – but we managed and were glad for the lack of cordage
the simple thing offered. The real problem was the vang.

section of the mainsail

Adjust mainsheetto make trailing edge fly straight back

the mainsheet and vang(s) to make the trailing edge telltails
fly straight back.

Heavy air beat - Close reach, mainsheet controls angle
Light air beat - Trim windward vang to bring boom inboard
Broad reaching - Trim leeward vang to set up preventer, hold boom down

Heavy air beat – Mainsheet controls angle of mainsail
and twist. Close reach – Mainsheet controls angle. Trim
the leeward vang to remove twist; trim the windward vang to
add twist.
B: Light and medium air beat – Trim windward vang to bring boom
inboard; trim mainsheet to reduce twist.
C: Broad reaching and running – Trim leeward vang to set up
preventer, hold boom down, hold boom out in light air, and take
out twist.

We could lead
it to the toerail on reaches and runs, but doing so required the crew
to scamper about the deckhouse and side decks … sometimes in darkness
or heavy weather or both. A jibe demanded tedious choreography and a
minimum of two crew. We wanted better.

The night my good friend
stuck his head out of the hatch just as an eddy gust from the shore
jibed the main, was the last straw. We had been becalmed and so had
not set the vang as a preventer to the toerail. It was viewed as a bother
in any circumstance and certainly was not deemed necessary when there
was no wind. The blow of the boom could have killed him. He recovered
and finished the cruise, piloting us skillfully through the Apostle
Islands in a late October storm with near-zero visibility. We didn’t
have radar then or even GPS; we had Steve, the beginning sailor but
experienced aviator, and that jibe had nearly eliminated him.

Development of the rig

I wanted a way to set up
a preventer in a second – something that did not need to be removed
from the toerail in a jibe. Our vang/preventer was the answer. The first
version was 3:1 and used horn cleats. It was good, but not good enough.
At 4:1, we could get good downward force on the boom no matter what
position it was in. The bonus was that the preventer was now a good
sail trim control.

The purpose of a traveler
and vang is to allow good mainsail leech control. By moving a traveler
to windward on a beat in light air, the main can be given the twist
necessary for good performance. As the breeze picks up, the traveler
is let down in stages to leeward which, in combination with increasing
mainsheet trim, will give progressively less twist. In a blow just before
a reef is put in, the traveler is let down all the way to leeward, and
the main will luff a little near the mast and reduce heel. As the wind
goes aft, the vang takes over the job of pulling the boom down to control
twist. If the boom is mounted high enough, the vang can lead to the
base of the mast. But in the best of circumstances, the stresses are
high on the vang, boom, and mast because the angles do not favor the
task. With our vang/preventer we have a better traveler than if we had
an elaborate track, car, and tackles like a racer. In light air if we
want to add twist, we trim the windward vang. The boom lifts just as
it would with a fancy traveler. As the air picks up, we ease the windward
vang and add some mainsheet trim. When we are a little overpowered,
we trim the leeward vang, and the main untwists and luffs a little along
the mast. When we bear off, we ease the main and trim the leeward vang
a little more to keep the twist from getting excessive. A few telltales
on the main make it easy to see what must be done. As we steer farther
to leeward, the main is eased and the vang taken up. The preventer goes
on automatically in the course of getting good trim, so it is there
when we need it.

A jibe is a joy with this
rig. There is enough friction from the vang/preventer to keep a flying
jibe from being very fast, even if we just let it all go. We don’t do
that, of course. We ease the vang and trim the main until it pops over,
then we let out the main and set up the new vang – all very easy, fast,
and smooth. It is also very safe; no one leaves the cockpit.

On light wind days we used
to have trouble keeping the boom out on a run because the weight of
the mainsheet was enough to cause it to swing back in. With a vang/preventer
we just trim the boom out to where we want it, and it stays there.

The vang/preventer is a good
singlehanding rig also. I sailed Mystic alone for a couple of weeks
last summer in winds up to 35 knots as cold fronts pushed through the
Apostle Islands near our home port. The vang/preventer was handy for
this, since all the control lines, mainsheet, jib sheets, and both vangs
were within easy reach of the helmsperson.

Would we have jibed in that
thunderstorm without the vang/preventer? Other boats did. Would I have
had the courage to go to the base of the mast knowing that the boom
was free to jibe and wipe me off the deck? I think it made a difference.

Next time I’ll listen to Karen.

What is a Valiant 32?

What is a Valiant 32?

By Norman Ralph

Article taken from Good Old Boat magazine: Volume 2, Number 2, March/April 1999.

Jeanette Ralph aboard Bluebonnet

Jeanette Ralph enjoys her gorgeous “new” boat and the prospect of retiring in style.

The Valiant 32 was designed by Bob Perry as a smaller version of the successful Valiant
40. In the 1970s, a 30- to 35-foot boat was considered the optimum-size
boat for a cruising couple. In response to this demand, the Valiant 32 was
produced. About 67 were built in the late 1970s and early ’80s. The boat
is 32 feet on deck with a waterline length of 26 feet. The beam is 10 feet
5 inches, and displacement is 11,800 pounds. Ballast is 4,700 pounds, and
the displacement-to-length ratio is 283. This translates into a boat that
is moderate in displacement, yet extremely seaworthy. It has the traditional
Valiant lines with the canoe stern and moderate flare at the bow. The underbody
features a modified fin keel with external ballast and a skeg-hung rudder.
The hull is laid up in solid laminate, and the deck and cabintop is balsa-cored.

The interior, as you come down the companionway steps, has a U-shaped galley
to port with a forward-facing navigation station to starboard and a quarterberth
aft. Forward of the galley and nav station, are opposing settees with a
drop-leaf table around the keel-stepped mast. The port settee slides out
to make a small double/twin bed. There is storage behind and under the settees.
Farther forward, the head is to port with a large hanging locker to starboard.
The door to the head swings aft and will latch to the hanging locker to
give a privacy area for the V-berth. Our boat has an optional large hanging
wet locker with a storage shelf aft, instead of the quarterberth. We don’t
miss the quarterberth, and lee cloths on the starboard settee work very
well for a sea berth. Others have commented that they ended up with their
quarterberth being used as a storage area anyway.

The boat is powered by a 4-cylinder 25-hp, L-25 Westerbeke diesel. Ours
has never given us any problems. Tankage is 48 gallons of fuel and 80 gallons
of water. The engine burns a half gallon an hour at hull speed which translates
into a cruising range under power of more than 500 miles.

Most Valiant 32s are cutter rigged, which breaks the sail area down into
an easily managed sail plan. With the mast stepped aft for the inner forestay,
the boat develops weather helm when winds exceed 15 knots, but with the
first reef in the main, it balances nicely. The boat is a dry boat and sails
best with the rubrail (about 10 inches below the caprail) out of the water.
We have sailed in winds higher than 35 knots with two reefs in the main
while remaining fairly comfortable and never feeling out of control. The
standing rigging is very substantial for a 32-foot boat. The headstay, backstay,
and uppers are 5/16-inch 1×19 and the lowers, inter-forestay, and intermediate
backstays are 1/4-inch 1×19. A few late V-32s were sloop-rigged with the
mast stepped farther forward. This was in part to reduce the weather helm
and to cut production costs. We have installed a large “pelican hook”
on our inner forestay. For local light-wind sailing, we tie the inner-forestay
and staysail in its bag back by the mast and sail the big genoa as a sloop.

In overall appearance, the Valiant 32 is similar to the Pacific Seacraft
Crealock 34. Both boats have canoe sterns, but the form varies. The Valiant’s
stern is fuller and somewhat broader in the “hips,” while the
Crealock’s stern is more pointed. While the Crealock 34 is two feet longer
on deck, both boats have the same waterline length and beam. Displacement
is similar. Interior layouts are practically identical.

Since Rich Worstell, the present owner of Valiant Yachts, moved production
to Texas in the early 1980s, the Valiant 32 has not been in production.

Up the mast

Up the mast

Article and photos by Steve Christensen

Article taken from Good Old Boat magazine: Volume 2, Number 5, September/October 1999.

Ease that fear of falling:
Techniques for making a trip up the stick safer

Looking down from atop the mast

The only sure things
in life are death, taxes, and that – sooner or later – you will have to
go up your mast. Many people dread going aloft and will do just about
anything to avoid it, even putting off needed repairs or rig inspections.
But the trip needn’t be a white-knuckle affair. With the proper equipment
and technique, you can actually enjoy going aloft. I’ve gone from being
afraid of heights to looking for opportunities to climb the mast (anyone’s
mast) just for the view. Really.

There are two parts
to the problem. The first is how to get up the mast. Unless you have
a couple of strong deck apes handy to grind away on a halyard winch,
this can be a real concern. But this isn’t your only consideration.
Just as important is the question of what to use for support once you’re
up there.

Bosun’s chairs

For most sailors
the answer to this second part is the trusty bosun’s chair. For
comfort aloft it’s hard to beat a well-padded board. But bosun’s
chairs are also part of the reason most people hate going aloft. It
just doesn’t feel secure sitting in one of those things. You
are tense and apprehensive the whole time, worried that you might fall
right out of it. And in fact, if you lean over too far in many of them
(like when stretching to reach a spreader tip), you can fall out. Fabric
chairs with back supports, waist belts, and crotch straps give more
of a feeling of security, but you still aren’t secure.

John Vigor notes
in The Practical Mariner’s Book of Knowledge that he prefers
to use an ordinary wooden plank as a bosun’s chair "to
remain insecure and terrified on the theory that if I don’t feel
complacent, I won’t relax my guard." Avoiding complacency
is a good thing, but feeling terrified may keep many sailors from going
aloft, even when they need to.

Climber’s harness

Petzl Climber's harness

Wearing a climber’s harness, you could even hang upside down safely, not that you should do this on purpose. The Petzl ascender slides up and locks on a 1/2-inch line.

The solution to
this feeling of insecurity is not therapy, but a mountaineer-style climber’s
harness. It looks and feels a bit strange at first to be tightly strapped
into this contraption, but you get used to it. And the sense of security
that comes with knowing you can even hang upside down is fantastic.
It was a revelation to find just how relaxed I could feel aloft while
using one of these. An additional benefit to using a harness is that
the point of attachment is lower than with a chair. That makes it a
little easier to reach the top of the mast when working at the masthead.

The main drawback
to many harnesses is that they can be uncomfortable for long "hang
times," since your weight is supported by two-inch webbing. Choose
a harness with thick padding on the waist belt and leg loops (as shown
in illustration). The best I have seen uses a modified rescue harness
available from Brion Toss Rigging.


There isn’t
much you can do on a sailboat that is inherently more dangerous than
climbing the mast. So safety should be uppermost in your mind at every
step of the process. Don’t try any of these techniques until
you are sure you know what you are doing. Always use a "belt
and suspenders" approach, with a backup for the primary hoist
method. That usually means being hooked to two halyards when aloft,
preferably halyards with internal masthead sheaves. If using a climber’s
harness, hook both halyards to the ring provided. If using a chair,
hook the second halyard to a separate chest safety harness. (Note: for
clarity the extra safety halyard was omitted from illustrations on Pages
7, 8, and 9, but this is not a good idea in practice!) Don’t
depend on snap shackles! Use only screw shackles, locking carabiners,
or good knots to attach the halyards: a bowline, or better yet, a buntline
hitch – never a square knot (see illustration).

Before you ascend,
talk through every step with those on deck who are helping you, to be
sure that all of your commands are clear and understood. (The last thing
you want is for someone to release the wrong halyard.) Don’t depend
on self-tailers alone to belay halyards – use cleats. Tie all of your
tools to your tool bucket, as it annoys members of the crew to have
things fall on them. Finally, don’t get complacent when coming down
– take your time.

What techniques
are available for climbing the mast, and which is right for you? Some
of the things to keep in mind in choosing a method include whether you
need crew on deck, how much equipment is involved, and whether the technique
would work at sea in an emergency.

Mast steps

The most obvious
approach for getting up your mast would be to turn your mast into a
giant ladder using mast steps. These fixed or folding metal steps are
most often seen aboard shorthanded cruising boats and can make getting
up the mast as simple as climbing a ladder. The benefits are that they
are always ready, give easy access to the very top of the mast, and
allow you to climb aloft without the aid of crew. The drawbacks include
windage, weight aloft, aesthetics, potential halyard fouling, and the
difficulty of hanging onto the steps in anything rougher than a dead
calm. If help is available, you should always climb mast steps with
a second halyard attached to a safety harness or a climber’s harness,
and you should have someone taking up the slack in the halyard to support
you in case you fall. Once up the mast, you may still want a bosun’s
chair or a climber’s harness for support while working, as you can’t
easily reach the spreader tips from the mast steps. Overall, if you
are willing to put up with having steps on your mast, it would be hard
to beat the convenience of this method.

If you plan on using
mast steps to go aloft alone, you should rig an ascender on a fixed
line as a backup. An ascender is a piece of mountain-climbing gear ($50).
Well-known examples include the Petzl and Jumar. It fits around a line
(of about 1/2 inch diameter) and has an internal cam that allows it
to slide easily up a line, but locks in place if you pull downward.
If you have an available halyard of the proper diameter, you secure
it near the deck, fasten a tether from the ascender to your harness,
and slide the ascender up the fixed line as you go. If your halyard
is not the proper diameter, you will need to hoist a 1/2-inch line aloft
instead. Once you get where you’re going, you can allow the ascender
to take the load. To descend, you momentarily disengage the cam and
slide the ascender down a few feet at a time as you climb down the steps.

An alternative to
using a halyard or an ascender for a backup would be to clip a safety
line from your safety (or climber’s) harness around the mast
as you work your way up. Use a carabiner on the end, so you can unclip
as you pass the shrouds and spreaders. (An alternative to this would
be a lineman’s belt, or Mast Mate’s Tool Bag Workbelt.
If you fall, this line will jam up against the next obstruction on the
mast. But that still means you could drop from the second to first spreaders
or from just under the first spreaders to the deck. To be extra safe
(especially if it is turbulent), use a halyard with an ascender and
a safety line around the mast.

Mast ladders

Block and tackle ascenders, padded climber's harness

Steve’s current preference is using a block and tackle, ascenders, and a padded climber’s harness.

What if you don’t
want to mount those metal triangles on your mast, but still want the
simplicity of climbing steps? Then your best bet would be a mast ladder.
There are currently two of these on the market, the Mast Mate and Capt.
Al’s. These are essentially web ladders that are hoisted up the
mast with a halyard, then made fast at the deck. To minimize the side-to-side
motion while climbing, each has provisions for mounting sail slides
(which you provide) to the vertical webbing. You can then run the slides
up the mainsail sailtrack to give lateral support. The Mast Mate uses
two-inch webbing for its single vertical support strap. It has alternating
steps every 17 inches (there is also a 12-inch step version). The Capt.
Al’s uses three one-inch vertical web straps, with PVC tubing
placed over webbing between the straps to form the steps every 12 inches.

A mast ladder has
most of the advantages of the fixed mast steps, without the drawbacks
of windage, aesthetics, and potential halyard fouling. The major downside
to mast ladders is that they can’t easily be used underway unless
you either drop the mainsail or do without the sailtrack support. And
even if the main is down, it may be necessary sometimes to remove much
of the main from the sailtrack to mount the mast ladder. The safety
procedures for regular mast steps (a second halyard, ascender, or safety
line) should be followed here too. The Mast Mate is about $250 (35-foot
length) to $350 (50-foot length) while Capt. Al’s is about $150
(36-foot length) to $250 (50-foot length).

My Ericson came
with a Mast Mate left in one of the lockers by the previous owner. I
loved the simplicity of the approach and was eager to try it. But I
found the sensation of climbing a flexible ladder to be a little unsteady
for my taste (not surprising, since I wasn’t using any safety
backup that day), and I only made it to the lower spreaders before turning
back. By the time I needed to go aloft again, I had installed a batten
car system that blocked off my sailtrack – I needed to find another
approach. But a friend with a 45-footer regularly uses a mast ladder
and swears by it.

Halyard winches

Another method for
going aloft uses the boat’s halyard winch to hoist someone in
a bosun’s chair attached to a halyard. There are a few problems
with this approach. In the case of most sailing couples, the man goes
aloft and the woman stays on deck. Given the small size of most halyard
winches, there usually isn’t enough mechanical advantage for
the woman (or many men, for that matter) to be able to handle the load.
Furthermore, if the winch isn’t self-tailing, you need a third
person to tail.

One way to make
things slightly easier is to use a snatch block to lead the halyard
to one of the primary winches aboard. But even with a larger winch,
this approach can still be too much work. Of course, this method doesn’t
allow you to get aloft by yourself. And that’s one of the drawbacks
– you have to really trust the people at the winch, as they do
have your life in their hands. (Couples: don’t try this right
after an argument.)

After the experiment
with the mast ladder, we next tried having my wife hoist me aloft in
a bosun’s chair. But even with the help of our primaries, it
was just too much work for her. The only way I made any progress was
by wrapping my arms and legs around the mast and shinnying a few inches
at a time to create slack in the halyard. But this can lead to overrides
on the winch. We had to find another way.

Powered winches

Depending on the
equipment aboard your boat, there are a couple of ways to lessen the
effort of this grinding. If you have electric primaries, getting someone
aloft is as easy as pressing a button. Lacking these, the next best
bet would be to run the tail of the halyard forward to a powered anchor
windlass. If you do decide to try either of these options, be especially
careful with the last few feet of hoist near the masthead. Without the
feedback of a manual winch, it may not be obvious when you have "two-blocked"
the rig, and you can jam the shackles in the masthead halyard sheave
or even rip out the attachment rings in the chair if you aren’t
careful. This is why some people argue against the practice of using
electric winches or powered windlasses in this application.


An alternative to
having your crew winch you aloft directly is to attach a heavy counterweight
to one end of an external halyard (internals won’t work here)
and hoist the weight to the masthead instead. You then attach yourself
to the other end of the halyard and let gravity do the work as the counterweight
drops. This is supposed to be an old trick of singlehanders, who had
no one around to help with the grinding. And I suppose someone could
use this technique to get aloft if the crew weren’t strong enough
to handle the winch. Of course you should at least take care that you
weigh more than the counterweight, or you could easily get stuck up

I offer the following
as an example of just how ingenious sailors can be when there is a problem
to be solved, not as a recommended technique for getting aloft. My favorite
version of this involved someone hoisting aloft a large, empty, plastic
container with one end of a garden hose tied to the inside rim. Once
it was in place, the skipper turned on the water to fill the container,
and rode up the mast on the other end of the halyard as the container
filled. If you do decide to try something like this, please alert your
dockmates so they can have their video cameras ready.


Mastlift chain hoist makes going up a one-person job

The Mastlift chain hoist makes going up a one-person job.

What if your partner
can’t grind you aloft, and there’s never a deck ape around to help when
you need one? In this case you might consider the Swisstech Mastlift.
This is a chain hoist with a 10:1 gear ratio, except that the load-bearing
line is made of Spectra, not chain. In practice, you shackle the Mastlift
to a halyard, attach the load-bearing line to a bosun’s chair or climbing
harness, unroll the load-bearing line as you hoist the 15-pound cylinder
to the masthead, then cleat the halyard. Using the endless control line
(with double internal safety brakes), you then hoist yourself aloft.
This is easily a one-person job, with very little effort. It would be
a good idea to lightly fasten a line around the control line at deck
level to prevent it from blowing away and fouling, especially if you
go up alone. For safety you would want to use one of the backup methods
mentioned above.

Downsides to the
Mastlift? The first is that the size of the drum makes it a little more
difficult to get close to the masthead, as you are probably a foot lower
than when using a halyard alone. But the big drawback of the Mastlift
is cost. When I contacted the importer a couple of years ago, the introductory
special prices were $1,100 for the 45-foot hoist model, and $1,300 for
the 82-foot model. At that price not too many skippers will be buying
them for their personal use. But it would be a great item for a club
to own, if you could just figure a way around the inevitable liability

By the way, a solution
to the problem of not quite being able to reach the masthead from a
chair or harness is to fashion a pair of rope steps, each at the end
of a four-foot tether. Once you get as close to the masthead as possible,
attach the tethers to the crane with a carabiner. Then place your feet
in the steps, and stand up at the masthead. Hold yourself upright with
a piece of line tied around your waist and the mast. Mast Mate sells
a Workbelt patterned after a lineman’s belt that is designed
for just this application (see illustration). An alternative to the
tethers is to mount a pair of mast steps on either side of the mast
about four feet down.

Block and tackle

If your crew can’t
hoist you aloft, and you can’t afford a Mastlift, you might consider
putting together a block and tackle arrangement to help do the work.
The simplest version of this is to get a length of 1/2-inch line twice
the length of your mast, position a single block at the mid-point, and
haul the block aloft on a halyard. Attach one end of the line to your
bosun’s chair or climber’s harness with a good knot, grab
the other end, and just haul yourself aloft.

How much work is
this? Well, normally you find the mechanical advantage of any block
and tackle by counting the number of parts coming out of the moving
block. With no moving block, it seems as if there should be no mechanical
advantage to this simple rig. But for reasons that still confuse me,
there is a 2:1 mechanical advantage in this case, so that you are only
lifting half your weight. (The best way I can explain it is to point
out that you have to haul in 100 feet of line to raise yourself 50 feet.)
So this is actually easier than it looks. To reduce the effort further,
you add extra parts to the tackle, but that can add up to a lot of line.

I learned about
this approach from rigger Brion Toss at one of his seminars, and thought
I’d give it a try. To reduce the effort a bit, I opted for a
3:1 mechanical advantage. This meant putting together an upper single
block with becket, a lower single block, and a 1/2-inch line three times
my mast’s length, or 150 feet (see Figure A on the next page).
Brion also suggests using a Harken "Hexaratchet" ratcheting
block in the upper position, as it greatly reduces the effort required
to grip the line.

This tackle approach
will work with either a bosun’s chair or a climber’s harness,
but I use a climber’s harness knowing I need the feeling of security
it provides. After getting the line reeved through the blocks, I haul
the upper block aloft with a halyard, and shackle the lower block to
my harness. For safety, I use a second halyard attached to the harness,
but any of the backup methods would work.

Buntline hitch knotCarabiner hitch knot

Buntline hitch, at far left, and carabiner hitch. When using the buntline hitch on a halyard, for added safety, pass the line through the thimble, rather than the shackle, if it will fit. If not, tape the shackle closed.

Before hauling away,
there are two more techniques to mention. The first is how to belay
the line once you’re up there. You can make do by passing a bight of
the line through the ring in your harness and making several half hitches
with the loop. But I like the technique Brion uses in which the standing
part of the line is led through a carabiner at the harness and then
tied off using a special mountaineering knot – the carabiner hitch (see
illustration on next page). This carabiner hitch is easy to tie and
untie under load – a real advantage.

I added a second
technique as a way to feel even more secure. It involves mounting an
ascender on the hauling part of the tackle and then rigging a three-foot
tether between the harness and the ascender. Each pull aloft is made
easier by having the comfortable handle of the ascender, rather than
just the line, to grip. At the bottom of each pull, I hold the line
fast at the carabiner with one hand and slide the ascender back up the
hauling part with the other. The added security comes from the short
tether, as I could let go with both hands and only slide back three
feet at most. This addition also makes it easy to stop and rest along
the way. To get as close to the masthead as possible, I remove the ascender
from the line, two-block the tackle, and rig a carabiner hitch. To descend,
I just keep a wrap or two around the carabiner and slowly lower myself
to the deck.

This combination
of tackle, climbing harness, and ascender is a real joy to use. With
it I feel secure enough that I’ve been known to go up the mast
while underway just to take pictures from the masthead. (It’s
amazing how small a 38-foot sailboat looks from 50 feet up!)

This approach is
good for singlehanders, as you don’t need help from anyone on
deck. And that means you don’t have to depend on anyone else
for your safety. But if you do try this approach alone, give some thought
to keeping the tail of the line from getting tangled in the rigging
on deck. If the line gets caught, you won’t be able to lower
yourself down. Brion’s instructional video, Going Aloft, features
this approach. I highly recommend it.

Line climbing

Two block line climbing drawingStairstep line climbing drawing

      A – Two blocks           B – Stairstep

Inchworm line climbing drawing

           C – Inchworm

Two final methods
for getting up your mast are based directly on mountaineering techniques
and are probably the least familiar to sailors. In these, you climb
up a fixed line with your feet in rope steps at the end of tethers rigged
to the fixed line with ascenders. You could use one of your halyards
as the fixed line (if it’s the proper diameter), but since the
cams of the ascenders are hard on the line, I recommend hoisting aloft
a separate length of 1/2-inch rope to reduce halyard wear.

I think of these
two methods as the "stair step" and the "inchworm,"
based on the action used to climb the rope. The "stair step"
method is perhaps a little easier to understand. In this approach, two
ascenders are mounted on the fixed line, each attached to a rope step
on the end of a three- to four-foot tether. At least one of the ascenders
is also attached with a tether to your climber’s harness (or
to a safety harness if a bosun’s chair is used). To begin, position
the steps above the deck, place your feet in the steps, and grab the
ascenders for support. Then raise one leg and its corresponding ascender
at the same time. After that, step up onto that upper step, and finish
by raising up the other leg and its corresponding ascender to just under
the first ascender.

By alternating one
side after the other, you can "stair step" your way up the
line. You will need to adjust the length of the tethers between the
ascenders and the steps to suit your reach and height, or you can purchase
two triers at $24 each from a mountaineering store. These are short
web ladders with four to six steps in a line, about 15 inches apart.
One of the steps should be at just about the height you need.

By comparison, the
"inchworm" method looks a little strange. This method
works best with a climber’s harness, but a bosun’s chair
will work in a pinch. After rigging your fixed line, attach a short
tether of about three feet between your harness and the first ascender.
The second ascender is then added to the line underneath the first and
attached to a pair of rope steps, each on a three- to four-foot tether
(or a pair of triers).

To begin climbing,
position the steps above the deck, place your feet in the steps, and
grab the fixed line for support. First, slide the upper ascender up
the fixed line as far as you can reach, then sit back to put your weight
on the harness. Next, slide the lower ascender up the line as far as
possible while bringing your knees up. Finally, extend your body and
step up onto the steps, holding onto the fixed line for balance. After
that you extend the upper ascender up the line again and sit back into
the harness. Repeating these steps allows you to "inchworm"
your way up the line. You will need to experiment a bit to find out
how long the upper and lower tethers need to be for the most efficient

The "inchworm"
method is probably slower, but the motion is a little easier to learn
and uses the strength of both legs at once to do the climbing. While
the "stair step" method can be faster, it can take some
time to get the hang of the technique (sort of like the diagonal stride
in cross-country skiing). A drawback to both line-climbing methods is
that getting down can be a little slow, since most ascenders are a little
difficult to slide down a line as you descend.

With either of these
methods, be sure to practice a bit before tackling a big job. Both are
well-suited for use by singlehanders. You will, of course, want to use
one of the safety backup methods with or without crew on deck.

Which is best
for you?

Which approach is
best for you depends on your boat, your age, and your bank account.
Just like everything else in sailing, each approach is a compromise,
and no single method is right for everyone. I like my current block-and-tackle
rig, but if I could afford it, I would have a Mastlift instead. I strongly
suggest that you consider trying a climber’s harness for support
aloft – unless you like feeling insecure and terrified.

Above all, please be safe up there.

Steve Christensen, a research chemist, moved from Utah to Michigan and took up sailing to replace skiing. Steve and Beth sail Rag Doll, an Ericson 38, on Lake Huron. They spend each August cruising the waters of The North Channel and dream of retirement as liveaboards someplace warm.

A new toe rail for an old warhorse.


A new toe rail for an old warhorse

By Hugh Owens

Article taken from Good Old Boat magazine: Volume 4, Number 3, May/June 2001.

Beefing up a retired racer with aluminum

Racing caused wear on toerails

mate, Karlene, and I looked long and hard for a sailboat suitable for
world cruising that we could afford. I’ve become convinced that
boat speed is an important component of voyaging safety, so a major goal
in our search was to find a good old fast boat! In Tampa, Fla., we found
a neglected Cal 48 yawl.

This boat had been
raced hard and put away wet for too many years, and Karlene and I had
our doubts as we motored out into Tampa Bay for our sea trials. We hoisted
the baggy, tattered, but fully battened, main in a warm, 13-knot breeze,
and off she skipped at 7 knots. We unfurled the jib and were stunned as
she heeled gently and roared off at more than 9 knots. What fun! Concealing
our excitement, we made an appropriate offer that eventually was accepted.
In time, our Cal 48, renamed Koho, landed in Pocatello, Idaho, where we
started the refit.

If you examine enough
old classic plastic, you will find recurrent flaws and problems that span
a range of manufacturers. Our Cal 48 was no different. She was plagued
with stanchion and hull-to-deck leaks, as well as untabbed and broken
bulkheads, which are especially prevalent in older racers like Koho. Nevertheless,
we felt that our time and money would be better spent restoring a swift,
old, racing sailboat than a slower, more traditional, cruiser. We hoped
the payoff would be in sparkling noon-to-noon runs. The refit of Koho
has been total, but I’d like to focus on the structural solutions
changes that we made to the toerail and hull-to-deck joint.

Sealed holes

We stripped every piece of hardware off the hull and deck and sealed all
the holes with epoxy. Nevertheless, steady rains revealed persistent leaks
from one end of the boat to the other that were coming from the toerail.
Our toerail was an attractive piece of teak, 1 1/4 inches by 2 1/2 inches,
laid on edge and secured every 4 to 6 inches with 5/16-inch stainless
steel machine screws covered with teak bungs. The teak toerail also covered
the hull-to-deck lap joint. A first-generation mystery sealant bedded
the joint.

Near the cockpit,
a genoa track was bolted to the top of the toerail and secured by nuts
and washers below deck. Under the genoa track, virtually every bolt leaked
because of the substantial loads on the track from the huge sail. Reluctantly
we took the Sawzall to our beautiful toerail. We made attempts to save
the 4-inch stainless steel bolts, but most of them were severely corroded
in the anoxic environment of the leaky toerail. We then lifted the deck
off the hull, using dozens of wedges. Most of the bulkheads released the
deck with minimal fuss.

Once the joint was
free and the deck was lifted up a few inches, we could clean and blow
out the gap and apply 3M 5200 marine adhesive sealant, rebolt the hull
to the deck, and reattach the bulkheads with multiple layers of biaxial
cloth and epoxy resin on both sides of the bulkhead. Critical, highly
stressed bulkheads – such as the main bulkhead near the cap shrouds
and the ones under the lowers – were given additional layers of
fiberglass and epoxy.

Overkill, perhaps

Brackets used

Some of the brackets used, above. Clamping up prior to final mounting, below.

Clamping prior to final mounting

On the main bulkhead, a laminated deckbeam was epoxied and bolted to the
upper face of the bulkhead and epoxied to the underside of the deck. Stainless
steel carriage bolts from the top of the deck were then fastened through
this laminated beam. Strong? You betcha! Overkill? Perhaps, but I used
this technique on a 39-foot boat I built some years ago. During a bad
blow that boat was thrown sideways off a large wave and landed with a
shattering crash on her port side and sustained no structural damage.
The only downside to this technique is the time it takes.

The critical bulkheads
also received additional aluminum angle reinforcement where they contacted
the hull/deck joint, and bolts with backing plates and/or washers were
placed around the perimeter of the bulkhead to mechanically reinforce
the joint.

We next turned our
attention to strengthening and sealing the hull-to-deck joint. The upper
hull and decks on these Cals are thinly constructed, in keeping with their
racing heritage. We concluded that the only feasible fix was to fiberglass
the joint from the outside. To do this, the watertight but rough-appearing
hull/deck joint was faired with filled epoxy and sanded, then multiple
overlapping layers of biaxial cloth and mat were laid over the hull and
deck joint to a thickness of nearly a quarter-inch. More fairing, compounding,
and sanding was done to ease the transition between old and new glass.

Prohibitive cost

The next task was to design and build a new toerail. We looked at many
options. Commercial aluminum toerail was feasible but the cost was prohibitive
and what about all those holes every few inches in our now watertight
deck? Hal and Margaret Roth, on Whisper, used a clever method detailed
in their book After 50,000 Miles. They brazed Everdur (silicon bronze)
plates to the outside of the stanchion bases and then attached a 1-inch
by 4-inch teak toerail outside the stanchions to the Everdur plates. They
raised the teak 3/4 inch off the deck for water drainage. This seemed
like a good idea. Reapplying a wood toerail or bulwark remained an option,
but I wanted to avoid the leaks and maintenance associated with wood.

Years ago I worked
on commercial salmon boats in Alaska. I remembered how the aluminum gillnetters
used 1/2-inch by 2-inch flat bar stock as a toerail. It was welded edge-up
to an angle extrusion at the deck edge to stiffen that vulnerable area
from impacts with tenders and rough docks. I have long believed that aluminum
is the best material for cruising boats, but we were unable to find a
suitable aluminum boat that we could afford, and I began to wonder if
aluminum and fiberglass could be married during Koho’s refit, thereby
gaining the advantages of both materials.

We considered having
aluminum angle bent to match the outside curve of our hull and deck. We
had different angle extrusions bent at a local fabrication shop, but the
differing and constantly changing angles of the hull and deck made this
idea unworkable. We rejected welding as well.

Screwed and bolted

Scrrewed and bolted overlapping flat bar diagram

Eventually we settled on overlapping flat bar stock screwed and bolted
together. In some areas, the aluminum was prepped and epoxied together,
but the bulk of the construction used 3M 5200, 1/4-inch screws, and stainless
steel bolts attaching the plates to each other and to the hull. The most
useful and crucial part of the design is the 1/2-inch by 2-inch flat bar
stock that becomes the toerail. The sections are 12 feet long with 1/8-inch
gaps on the ends for expansion in the severe climatic changes we experience
in the Rockies. The toerail is stiffened at the joints where these flat
bar sections meet with brackets made from 1/4-inch aluminum angle, bandsawed
and sanded to a pleasing shape, and bolted to the toerail and deck using
oversized holes.

Holes are drilled
in this flatbar in key areas in a manner similar to the commercially available
perforated aluminum toerail. The toerail is supported at about 3-foot
intervals by the support brackets. Every other support bracket has a stanchion
base. Bolts fasten through the stanchion base, toerail bracket, and the
deck to aluminum backing plates beneath. Once bolted or tapped and fastened
together with machine screws and 5200, the whole assembly is astonishingly
stiff and robust.

After installing the
toerail, we attached a 1/4-inch by 4-inch aluminum plate to the hull so
that it fit directly under the toerail and in contact with it. This served
to cover the fiberglass overlap and strengthen the joint. We called this
piece the “hull plate.”


A final 1/4-inch by 2-inch flat plate was tapped and screwed to the toerail
above and the 1/4-inch by 4-inch hull plate below. This effectively joined
the toerail to the hull plate, making a very rigid structure that could
not have been cold formed in place if it had been a single piece.

A 3/4-inch by 2-inch
section of white UHMW (ultra-high molecular weight) polyethylene was fastened
with flat-head machine screws into tapped holes in this bar to form a
rubbing strake.

Tapping the aluminum
allows replacement or repair of the UHMW in the future. I considered wood,
aluminum, and PVC. We felt that UHMW offered a durable material that was
a more friendly surface against the tender topsides of fellow yachties.
I have high regard for UHMW. I’ve used it wherever friction needs
to be reduced. For example, I lined a chute with UHMW to feed our anchor
chain into the chain locker. The anchor chain glides into the locker as
if sliding on Teflon. We also used it in front of our deck cleats in lieu
of deck chocks to reduce chafe on the lines.

The aluminum bar
stock and extruded angles that I used were alloy 6061, which is the normally
available alloy for extrusions. This 6061 is commonly used in aluminum
yacht and workboat construction, but it is best used in above-water applications.
It has less corrosion resistance than the true saltwater alloys such as
the 5000 series. We plan to paint the aluminum for the sake of an improved

Plastic spacers

Plastic spacers keep copper alloys away from aluminum

We took great care to make sure no copper containing alloys came in contact
with the aluminum. Our stanchion bases are made of either bronze or 316
stainless steel. They were made locally and they have a thin plastic (UHMW)
spacer isolating the stanchion bases from the aluminum bracket beneath.
The aluminum was painted with epoxy and linear polyurethane paint, and
while that is probably sufficient isolation from stainless, it’s
not that much more work to put in a little polyethylene spacer.
We attached the genoa track to a 2-inch by 2-inch by 1/4-inch length of
aluminum angle bolted to the inside of our aluminum toerail. This tactic
alone saved almost 100 holes through the deck. The aluminum angle was
bent using a plywood template by a local steel shop to conform exactly
to the curvature of the deck. The track angle is braced additionally every
4 feet with aluminum angle bolted to the deck and glued with 5200. The
finished track seems sturdy and superior to what it replaced.

In our most heavily
loaded bulkheads I placed the toerail aluminum angle brackets over the
interior structural bulkheads. Additional aluminum angle pieces were bolted
to the bulkheads and fastened to the angle toerail brackets above to tie
all these components together. The oversized deck cleats were bolted over
the bulkheads to the aluminum angles below. This is considerably stronger
than just using conventional backing plates.

The majority of vessels
I’d examined weren’t husky enough to cope with the boisterous
high-latitude offshore sailing conditions we expect Koho to encounter.
I think that aluminum construction is superior to all other boatbuilding
methods if you want to wed lightness and strength. My concept during this
refit was to use this superb material to strengthen and stiffen an older
fiberglass sailboat, utilizing one of the most abundant elements in the
earth’s crust.

Hugh, an anesthesiologist
in Idaho, is completing a total refit of
Koho, a 1966 Cal 48. He and his
wife, Karlene, formerly lived and sailed in Alaska on their 40-foot home-built
Endurance. They are preparing Koho for a voyage to Antarctica
and New Zealand.

Breakproof Tillers

Breakproof tillers

By Matt Cole

Article taken from Good Old Boat magazine: Volume 4, Number 6, November/December 2001.

Epoxy, fiberglass, and a little cunning fix an old problem

Tillers in some boats
are known to break with regularity. If you’ve
ever taken part in a drill of this nature, I don’t need to explain
that it’s exciting. It’s a situation that leads one to look
for an effective and permanent repair. I’ve had two boats with a
history of tiller failures. But now I’ve got a fix that lasts.

Tiller straps, the weak point

The typical failure is at the forward end of the tiller straps. In most
boats this is an H-shaped affair that has a bolt to hold it to the rudder
head and two or three more to secure the tiller in it. The strap-to-tiller
connection is perpetually loosening, no matter what effort is made to
keep it tight. The cross-mounted fasteners (bolts, screws) must maintain
some load in order to stay tight. The load will actually cause some stretch
in the fastener. That stretch will not be very much (a few thousandths
of an inch), but without that stretch the joint will not stay solid.
When a non-solid connection is worked, the outer ends of the strap start
to bite into the tiller. This begins to break up the wood structure.
It does not help at all that this action will punch through the finish
and let water into the wood.

Cross-mounted fasteners

Salvaging a damaged tiller is a two-step process. You
do not need to start with a new tiller. First you will need to create
a structure that
can maintain the load of the cross-mounted fasteners. Wood won’t
do it. Epoxy loaded with a high-density, high-strength filler will do
quite well, however. Drill the fastener hole out to about double the
original size. Yes, you are going to drill a 3/8-inch hole out
to 3/4-inch. Tape one side, and fill the huge holes you just made
with epoxy that you have mixed with a high-strength filler – more
is better. Be careful not to trap air bubbles. A syringe with a piece
of small tubing helps. Wet the bare wood surfaces with unfilled mix before
you start. It is good if you end up with the fill slightly above the
surface. When the epoxy cures, drill new holes.

Short columns

What you have just done is manufacture short columns that are very much
a part of the tiller’s structure and quite capable of accepting
the compression load required to keep the fasteners from loosening
(losing the stretch required to keep the joint solid). These columns
will also now be the part that transfers the tiller load to the tiller
straps. You can stop at this point or go on to the second step. You’ve
already made a big improvement in your tiller.

Second step

The second step is to create a load spreader to mitigate the effect of
the tiller strap on the sides of the tiller. You do this by glassing
the sides of the tiller. You can take this step at any time even if
you have already drilled the holes through the epoxy plugs and used
the tiller for a season. Plane about 1/16 inch off both sides
(1/8 inch total) in the area where the straps fasten.

That is about right for four layers of 9-ounce glass
(most tape is 9-ounce). Taper this to about two tiller widths from
the end of the tiller plates.
If you use a nice clear epoxy to lay up the glass and as a finish coat,
it won’t show much. How you do this lay-up is not important. I’ve
used a bottom-cut taper (shortest piece on the bottom) so I can make
the surface relatively smooth.

The rest of your otherwise pretty laminated tiller is probably somewhere on the cockpit sole.

What on tiller usualy breaks

The sight at a moment you will recall

The fiberglass sides prevent damage.

High-strength columns allow the bolts to be tightened and provide a solid connection to the tiller straps.

How your repair makes it stronger

What you end up making

What you did in this step was to alleviate the problem
that engineers refer to as a “stress riser.” This condition
exists anywhere you have a structure that has a vast change of properties
in a small
area. This glass spreads out the load on the wood of the tiller in the
area of the tiller straps in three ways. It distributes the high load
caused by the end of the tiller strap so it will not break the wood fiber
and finish coating. It increases the stiffness that the glass beyond
the tiller plates brings to the tiller. And it transfers the tiller load
more directly to the strap and bolts without causing any high local load
on the wood of the tiller.

So far I’ve done this to four tillers. The oldest will be going
out for its tenth season this spring. It doesn’t even creak. It
is on a severely raced Tartan 30 that used to get three seasons at best
from a tiller. The owner still carries a spare on long races, but he
does not feel he has to carry the spare all season any more.

A moment you will recall

Call it what you will, a “moment of truth” or a “crisis:” once
the tiller you’re holding in your hand is no longer connected
to the boat, you’ll be wishing you’d taken the time
to strengthen it. Having been there, Matt calls this “a moment
you will recall.” He has learned from several experiences
with tiller stubs what causes the problem and how to prevent it.
It’s one of those “black box concepts” . . .
an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

Matt introduces himself as a lifelong waterman, licensed
mariner, and perpetual sailor who grew up in the boatyards of the East
Coast. He and his wife, Mary, sail on “sweet water” these days. They’re
the owners of S2-7.9 #1,
Bonne Ide.

A thing of beauty is a joy forever

A thing of beauty is a joy forever

By Ted Brewer

Article taken from Good Old Boat magazine: Volume 3, Number 6, November/December 2000.

People may be impressed by a millionaire’s rocketship,
but “ooohs” and
“aaahs” are saved for the classic

The Concordia: a timeless classic

The Concordia: a timeless classic

A British author once
wrote, in effect, that you can go away for a week’s cruise, and everything
goes wrong: your favorite jib blows out, the portlights leak water onto
your berth, the head plugs up, the engine only fires on half its cylinders,
the stuffing box springs a leak, and you run out of rum. Disastrous? Yes!
But as you row ashore from your mooring, you look back at your boat and,
if she is truly beautiful, all her sins are forgiven.

Beauty, of course,
is in the eye of the beholder, and this is just as true for boats as for
other art forms. However, with boats, particularly sailing yachts, art
must be balanced with function. Function can be beautiful, too, and perhaps
that is why the Folkboat (see illustration), as functional in her own
way as a World War II Jeep, has always appealed to me as a truly great
design and a very handsome craft indeed.

There are different
forms of beauty: the purposeful, clean-lined racing machine; the traditional
vessel reminiscent of the working craft of bygone years; the graceful
classic with sweeping sheer and long overhangs; the modern cruiser with
its short ends and purposeful lines. All can be beautiful in their own
way if the design is balanced and true to type.

Folkboat is functional

Folkboat: functional as a World War II Jeep

The Stone Horse with raised deck

The Stone Horse by Edey & Duff. Sam Crocker knew how to do the raised foredeck

1962 Ludes shows classic sheer and overhangs

1962 Luders shows classic sheer and overhangs

Fortunately for their
owners and admirers, most boats were designed in the days before rocketship
styling, bulbous curves, and radar arches became the fashion for boats,
power and sail. It is interesting to watch the reaction of the general
public when they see two large yachts, one a classic style and the other
a rocketship, close together. People are impressed by the obvious big
bucks poured into the millionaire’s custom rocketship, but they
always save their “ooohs” and “aaahs” for
the classic.

Classic ratios

The general “classic”
hull-shape ratios for sailing yachts (see illustration), as taught to
me by Bill Luders, were as below:

  • Bow overhang to stern overhang 3:4
  • Bow angle to stern angle 4:3
  • LWL to LOA 2:3
  • Bow to stern freeboard 8:6 or 9:6

With conventional
concave (hollow) sheerlines, the freeboard was the same amidships as at
the transom, and the low point of the freeboard was 80 to 85 percent of
the waterline aft. Generally, racing yachts have a much flatter sheer
than cruisers do, while workboat replicas have the greatest sheer, with
the average cruiser somewhere in between (see illustration). The concave
sheerline should be fairly flat forward, but never straight, with the
curvature increasing gradually to the low point and then rising to the
stern. It should never be the arc of a circle, as that is dull and unimaginative

Few contemporary yachts,
even the “traditionally” styled, will conform to the classic
2:3 LWL/LOA ratio. The newer designs, almost universally, have shorter
overhangs in order to obtain the speed advantage and increased accommodations
provided by added waterline length. The modern yacht is of lighter displacement
also, and that poses its own problems. With a longer waterline and lighter
displacement, there is less hull under water so the designer must use
higher freeboard in order to obtain standing headroom.

A straight sheer can look like a reverse sheer

A straight sheer can look as if it’s a reverse sheer

A workboat shows double-ended stern

This workboat type shows a plumb bow and double-ended stern

Late cruiser shows flatter sheer, reverse transom

A late 1970s cruiser shows a flatter sheer and popular reverse transom

Friendship sloop with clipper bow, raked transom

The Friendship sloop has a clipper bow, raked transom, and a traditional sheer

Raised quarterdeck and bald clipper bow on a 42-footer

A raised quarterdeck and bald clipper bow on a 42-footer

Double-ended schooner has a traditional clipper bow

This double-ended schooner has a pinky stern and traditional clipper bow

The higher freeboard
yacht can look good if given a somewhat flatter sheerline than the older
classics but, even so, I would not relish designing a 35-footer for any
of today’s NBA stars! High freeboard must be disguised by a judicioususe
of cove stripe, paint line, rubrails, and wide boot tops, all running
the length of the yacht in order to reduce the apparent height.

Slight hollow

A straight sheer rarely
works well on a sailing yacht, particularly one with long overhangs. The
bow and stern are farthest from the eye, so optical illusion will make
them appear to droop if the sheer is straight (see illustration). If a
long line is to appear “straight” it must be given a slight
hollow curvature. The Greeks knew this several thousand years ago when
they built the Parthenon, but the principle is rediscovered from time
to time.

For the same reason,
the lines of rails, guards, cove stripes, and paint lines should not parallel
the sheer or they will appear closer together at the ends than at midships.
A toerail should be highest forward, reducing height gradually to the
stern; cove stripes should be furthest below the sheer forward, rising
gradually to a lesser distance below at the stern. If the lines are truly
parallel, they will not appear to be so to the eye, and the result will
not be as intended by the designer.

The reverse sheer,
though rare, makes good sense for sailboats as it is very functional.
The freeboard is high amidships where it provides maximum reserve stability,
and the ends are low, reducing weight in the overhangs for maximum performance.
Despite the advantages, the style never caught on to any extent so reverse
sheer designs are few and far between, the Albin Vega (see illustration)
being one of the better examples.

The raised foredeck
is another style (see illustration) that never became popular although
S. S. Crocker designed many truly lovely examples of the type. It is a
style difficult to proportion properly (certainly I have never mastered
it) and that may be why all but a few designers have avoided it over the

True uglies

Usually, the raised
quarterdeck sheer is seen on craft with “great cabins” aft
(see illustration). A few have been quite handsome with well proportioned
aft decks, but far too many are true uglies with an excessively high quarterdeck
and boxy, tall deckhouses. As a rule, the stern overhang should be short
and the style should not be used on vessels smaller than 40 to 42 feet
(and longer is better) as it can look affected.

Bows take many shapes:
plumb, raked, spoon, clipper, and even the tumblehome bow as seen on a
few catboats. The long spoon bow can be beautiful but is now rarely seen
except on a few older yachts. Those vessels, with their long bow and stern
overhangs, were developed to suit handicap rules that favored short waterlines.
As the rules changed, the waterlines became longer and the ends shortened.
The resulting hull may not be quite as striking, but it does create a
yacht that has higher potential speed and more interior room as well and,
being functional, shorter ends are certainly good design.

Sheerlines, bow profiles, stern profiles

Sheerlines: raised foredeck and reverse sheer
Bow profiles: tumblehome, conventional clipper, and spoon bows
with high and low chins
Stern profiles: Luders’ ducktail and canoe stern

A spoon bow should
not be the arc of a circle as, once again, this is dull design. Just as
with the sheer, the bow should have an ever-changing curve, perhaps shallow
at the waterline with increasing curvature as it approaches the sheer.
If the overhang is short, this style looks good with a bowsprit. The alternative,
with maximum curvature at the waterline, decreasing toward the sheer,
always works well.

The clipper
bow has long been popular on traditionally styled cruising yachts but
it is not an easy shape to design, and I’m the first to admit that
some of my early attempts left much to be desired. L. Francis Herreshoff
had an eye for a clipper stem and his comments in his book, The Common
Sense of Yacht Design, are “must” reading for the budding
designer. As LFH points out, too many clipper bows are rather atrocious,
with excess reverse curve and ugly, exaggerated trailboards.

Refreshing change

Bald clipper bows
(no trailboards) as used by Philip L. Rhodes on his lovely Thunderhead
design can be very attractive also, and are a refreshing change from today’s
all-too-common straight, raked stems. However, I’ll also stick
my neck out and say that, despite the popularity of the Bayfield line,
clipper bows with trailboards and no bowsprits always look odd and affected
to my eyes.

Stern shapes come
in just as many varieties as stems and a few are shown (see illustration).
I have not illustrated a contemporary super-wide reverse stern with an
escalator leading up from the swim platform; functional it may be, but
beautiful? Never!

Reverse transoms do
have the advantage that they save weight in the overhangs and thus improve
performance. I may even be responsible in part for the popularity of the
style. Back in 1961 we were getting the 12-Meter Weatherly ready for the
1962 America’s Cup races. Bill Luders asked me to check how much
weight we could save aft if we chopped off her lovely traditional stern
to a reverse transom shape. I measured, calculated, and came up with a
“cut off” line that would save several hundred pounds where
it counts. That was enough for Bill. The next day the men were out there
with a chainsaw! Weatherly successfully defended the Cup and, suddenly,
reverse transoms were all the rage. Bill also designed the prettiest reverse
transom of all, the “duck tail” style, on American Eagle,
which we also used on many of his 5.5-Meter sloop designs (see illustration
on Page 21). Pretty indeed, but much too slippery for moonlight walks!

Despite the preponderance
of reverse transoms in contemporary yachts, the true cruiser can benefit
by the added cockpit length and lazarette storage of the more conventional
transom. This is particularly true if a quarter berth is fitted, as this
eliminates one cockpit locker. To the cruising skipper, the added stowage
provided by a big lazarette may be more advantageous than that extra 20th
of a knot and, again, function can win out over style.

Lack of buoyancy

Cruiser stern: rounded deck

The cruiser stern: rounded on deck when viewed from above

Heart-shaped transom of Herreshof's Bounty

The heart-shaped transom of L. Francis Herreshof’s Bounty and other designs

Deck structures: good and poor design

Deck structures: good and poor design

Streamlining may not offer good footing

Streamlining may not offer good footing

The short, double-ended
North Sea stern has long been considered suitable for bluewater cruisers,
but it has its faults. The buttock lines are usually well rounded up aft,
which can produce a slow boat and also one that may be prone to being
pooped when running in heavy seas, as it lacks reserve buoyancy above
the LWL. The ever-popular Tahiti ketch is an example of this type (see
illustration). My answer, when a client wants a double-ender for bluewater
voyaging, has been to develop a “cruiser stern” with more
fullness on deck, almost round when viewed from above, to provide additional
reserve buoyancy and ease the buttocks (see illustration). It is a functional
shape, but not the prettiest to my eyes. However, one New Zealand owner
of a 46-footer has put 170,000 miles under her keel in all weathers and
swears it’s the best boat ever built, so the cruiser stern may
have virtues other than function.

Long sterns, whether
counter or canoe type, always look pretty and have the virtue of good
reserve buoyancy. In effect, the stern tends to rise nicely as a big sea
sweeps under it, thus reducing the chance of being pooped. The long counter
also picks up waterline length as the boat heels and so adds to potential
speed – perhaps its main virtue besides appearance. The prettiest
sterns of all may well be the heart-shaped transoms with raised taffrails
designed by LFH for his attractive Bounty, Tioga, and Ticonderoga designs
(see illustration). This type of stern fits perfectly with the lovely
Herreshoff clipper bow. Big Ti, as she is called, is one of the most beautiful
yachts afloat, in my opinion.

The deckhouse can
affect appearance almost as much as the hull. A lovely hull with an ugly
trunk cabin will never be beautiful, but a well-designed deckhouse can
turn a so-so hull into a very acceptable yacht. The cabin should harmonize
with the hull, carrying out the flowing lines of the sheer. To achieve
this, the line of the cabin should have a flatter curve than the sheerline,
and the forward end of the structure should aim at the tip of the stem
or the rail, if such is fitted.

Boxy and insipid

A cabin line that aims up into the blue, as it would if it exactly
paralleled the sheer, can appear boxy. One that disappears abruptly into
the foredeck may look insipid. Neither looks as good as the cabin that
is designed to carry the lines of the yacht out to the stemhead (see illustration).
Generally, the cabin-roof edge should parallel the waterline or increase
slightly in height as it runs aft. It can appear quite awkward if the
house is lower aft than forward. The cabin sides should have tumblehome
(lean inboard), of course. One quarter-inch per foot of height is the
minimum often used on older yachts with squared-off cabin ends. However,
considerably more tumblehome is necessary if the forward end of the cabin
is “streamlined” and heavily raked aft. A problem of such
heavy tumblehome is the dollop of water you get whenever you open a portlight,
but this is what you must pay to be in fashion.

While on the subject
of portlights, round ports belong on ocean liners. A row of three, four,
or more round ports on a small yacht is uninteresting and unimaginative
design indeed, and such craft are much improved in appearance with elliptical
or oval ports. In any case, a row of ports should not parallel the roof
edge or the sheer. Rather, the row should be centered halfway between
the deck and the roof edge where they will aim at the stem head, along
with the other lines of the cabin and sheer, giving a harmonious appearance.

I suppose this
is the time to mention the “streamlining” of deck structures.
I’ve done it myself, with rakish cabins and matching window shapes,
in order to make a yacht more “moderne” looking! Streamlining
may make some sense on fast powerboats and on the rare large, ultra-light
screamer that can exceed 20 knots in ideal sailing conditions, but it
makes almost no sense at all to “streamline” the average
6- to 8-knot sailing yacht with heavily raked cabin structures. The saving
in wind resistance is minimal, and the practice makes little sense. Indeed,
a heavily raked cabin front has less interior volume and less deck space
than a more vertical front and can even be dangerous at sea as the illustration
shows (see illustration).

Gradual change

The rake of the deck
structures, windows, stanchions, Dorade boxes, and similar, should change
gradually. In many designs, particularly larger motor yotts (you cannot
call them yachts), there is no relation between the angles of these various
items, so the result is a hotchpotch that looks more like a cubist painting
than a yacht. A recent professional magazine showed an illustration of
two new Dutch motor yachts. The hulls below water were completely up-to-date
but, above water, one was styled as a lovely 1930s classic and the other
as an elegant 1950-ish craft. Both yachts will still be handsome 30 or
40 years from now. The same page showed a new super “streamlined”
motor yott, all corners and angles, resembling a space station more than
a boat. Some may have sympathy for the owners of such ugly vessels but,
in my opinion, they deserve what they get. I have found that the owners
of such craft are, all too often, the types who will roar close by at
25 knots, leaving you rolling and cursing in their wake.

Streamlining serves
no real function on a craft that moves slower than a galloping plow horse,
so it certainly cannot add to the beauty of the vessel. Excessive streamlining,
stripes, fluting, and similar non-functional trim have no place on a proper
yacht, be it sail or power. In future years, such craft will look every
bit as dated as an antique Buick with its ridiculous fins, portholes,
and tasteless chrome plate.

Yachts may be traditional,
classic, beautiful, handsome, functional, or all of these combined, but
they should never be ridiculous.

Ted Brewer is one of North America’s best-known yacht designers, having
worked on the America’s Cup boats, American Eagle and Weatherly, as well
as boats that won the Olympics, the Gold Cup, and dozens of celebrated
ocean races. He also is the man who designed scores of good old boats
… the ones still sailing after all these years.

Tanks:Easy to forget, too important to dismiss

Tanks a lot

By Bill Sandler

Article taken from Good Old Boat magazine: Volume 2, Number 1, January/February 1999.

Tanks: Easy to forget, too important to dismiss

Tnak pressure test apparatus

Pressure test apparatus

You’ve found your dreamboat, had it surveyed, and signed up for a long and happy relationship.
The broker said it holds 20 gallons of fuel and 40 gallons of water. He
didn’t say where the tanks are located. The boat surveyor’s
report didn’t mention tank condition. He did look at the tanks,
didn’t he? Well, not necessarily.

I just had my boat surveyed for insurance purposes, and the surveyor asked me how much
fuel and water I carry. He made a note of the quantities for his report,
but never looked at the tanks at all. He never asked me about their
location, or whether they were full or empty, tight, full of holes,
or anything else for that matter.

Most books on small-boat design gloss over and dismiss tanks with a paragraph or two. The designer
assumes the builder will create suitable tankage at the location designated,
yet tanks determine, in large part, the capability of our boats in terms
of range under power and the duration of fresh water availability.

Note: Tanks in the Fog

The following three articles offer three solutions to tank problems: replacement,
recoating the exterior, and repairing leaks with epoxy. All are
solid techniques for dealing with your tanks. Less clear-cut is
the choice of materials, if replacement is required. Two naval
architects we respect endorse the use of aluminum tanks, provided
attention is paid to the alloy (5000 series). At least one reader
is having a lot of trouble with her stock aluminum tanks (alloy
unknown). Stainless gets mixed reviews as well. One naval architect
said categorically that stainless should not be used for tanks.
Other authorities accept stainless, if the alloy is carefully
selected (Bill Sandifer says 316L or 317L). We all know “black
iron,” which is really low-carbon mild steel, rusts. But
it has a good record in cases where the tank was properly built,
coated, installed, and of course maintained. High density polyethylene
does not rust, but we have seen it fail mechanically where it
did not have proper support. A friend’s waste tank failed
at the inlet twice because of stress on the entry hole from the
fill hose. So there is no one perfect material. As in fog, proceed
carefully. The way is not clear.

I once owned a Cape Carib 33 ketch in Singapore. It was a Brewer-designed fiberglass sailboat,
ketch-rigged, with a Volvo diesel. The boat performed well under sail
or power, however we kept getting diesel fuel in the bilge after a rail-down
sail. I checked the fuel lines, the filter, the vent line, the fill
line, and all were tight. It was only when, under sail, I climbed into
the leeward cockpit locker that I could see diesel fuel running down
the outside of the tank on the leeward side.

When I illuminated the area between the tank top and the underside of the cockpit floor
(a very small area), I could see corrosion and holes in the tank top.
It only leaked when we heeled over. Apparently the tank top was dished
down and water accumulation had eaten holes in the black iron surface.
The only remedy was to replace the tank, which meant removing the engine,
a very large job.

This same boat had its water tank built into the wineglass section of the full keel. It
was simply the inside fiberglass cavity of the keel above the ballast,
dammed off and covered. The water that came from the tank was putrid.

In an effort to make the tank usable, I cut a large clean-out hole in the top and thoroughly
cleaned the tank and filled it with a mixture of G cup of bleach for
every gallon in an attempt to “purify” it. (Editor’s
note: Don’t exceed a teaspoon per gallon to purify.) My efforts
proved to be a big mistake. The tank was clean, and the water ran clear
thereafter, but it never lost the taste and smell of chlorine no matter
how many times I flushed the tank with fresh water. The fiberglass had
absorbed the chlorine and would not let go of the scent. Subsequently,
I learned that a solution of one quart of white vinegar added to every
five gallons of water in the tank and allowed to agitate for several
days, then drained and flushed will remove the chlorine taste and smell.

Here, on one boat, are two examples of tank problems that are more common to good old boats
than you might think. When fiberglass boats were first built, the tanks
were the same as those which had been traditionally installed in wood
construction: copper or Monel fuel tanks, and Monel, tinned copper,
or stainless steel water tanks.

If a wood boat was big enough to be fitted with a diesel engine (prior to today’s
small diesels), the diesel tanks were “black iron” (mild
steel) painted on the outside and pickled (by diesel fuel) on the inside.
These tanks served well and were suitable for their intended purposes.

My 30-year-old Pearson is fortunate to have Monel fuel and water tanks. Monel is a fine, long-lasting
material for tanks, but it has become hard to get and expensive in recent

I priced the cost of a basic 4-foot x 10-foot, 16-gauge sheet of 316L stainless steel
with 400 series Monel. The stainless cost $218 per sheet, while Monel
was $1,008 for a sheet the same size. The distributor told me this was
the best price he had seen for Monel in 30 years. Now we know why it
is not used for tank construction anymore.

With the advent of “economies” in the fiberglass boat business, fiberglass
boatbuilders began to look at the high cost of the metal tanks and decided
they could build tanks, particularly water tanks, cheaper with fiberglass.

No one knew of the porosity of fiberglass or the weakness of the bond between molded tank
bottom and top. Many, many tanks were built. As time passed, the fiberglass
“taste” in the water became a problem as did the separation
of tank top from tank sides due to boat motion and the sloshing of the
water in the tanks.

Most fuel tanks continue to be built of metal, but often of corrosion-prone aluminum
and stainless steel. Black iron is a good choice for diesel tanks, while
316L/ 317L stainless steel is superior for gasoline and water tanks.
Rotomolded polyethylene is another choice which has appeared on the
market in the last 10 years.

When we look at our boat tanks or the tanks in a boat we are interested in buying, what
should we look for? The first step is to find the tanks. Most fuel tanks
are located under the cockpit floor aft of the engine or nearby.

The water tanks
can be anywhere, but because designers are intent on keeping weight
low in a sailboat, the tanks will usually be under the V-berth, under
the settee or berths in the main cabin, or in the keel cavity. If you
follow the water supply line from the faucet in the galley or the head,
it will lead you to the tanks. All these locations are hard to inspect
and because the tanks are “out of sight,” they are usually
“out of mind” for most boat owners.

The only way to visually inspect the tanks is to hire a very small person with a strong
light and good eyesight or to be a contortionist. (I, myself, fall into
the latter category!) When inspecting the tanks, wear thin gloves and
feel as much of the tank perimeter as you can. Check the method used
to secure the tank in place: metal or nylon straps, fiberglass tape,
wood chocking, or mechanical fasteners. Check the structural integrity
of the tank hold-down and supports carefully.

Remember that water and fuel weigh approximately 8 pounds per gallon, so a 40-gallon tank
weighs 320 pounds when full, not counting the weight of the tank itself.
The same tank, if half full, contains 160 pounds of liquid. That 160
pounds is slamming up and down every time the boat moves. If, in severe
conditions, the boat were to fall off a wave and slam down, an inferior
tank mount could come loose or fail altogether.


Water Finder

Day Co. Water Finder
1 Prestige Place
P. O. Box 1004
Dayton, Ohio 45401-1004

Other companies,
such as Color Cut, also make water finder paste. It is usually
available from companies that provide service station equipment.
Look under Service Station Equipment or Service Station Supplies
in the Yellow Pages of your local telephone book.

If all looks good with no apparent leaks, you can do an air pressure test on the tank.
This can be performed professionally for a couple hundred dollars, or
you can do it yourself for an investment in time, energy, and a little
money. If you do it yourself, you will learn a lot about your boat in
the process.

Close the tank shut-off valve at the tank. (Oops, discovery number 1: It doesn’t have
one.) Remove the fill plate from the tank and check the O-ring seal.
(Oops, discovery number 2: The O-ring may be long gone.) Fit a shut-off
valve at the tank, and replace the lost O-ring.

Now make up a short section of pipe the size of the tank vent line consisting of the following:
1. A method of connecting pipes to vent line (example: hose and hose
clamps, screwed fitting, etc.).
2. A short section of copper tube or pipe with a tee fitting to fit
a large diameter, low pressure gauge (0 to 5 psi maximum). A ball valve
to fit the tube or pipe, a bicycle pump (hand style), and a method of
attaching it to the end of the pipe.

If the boat is your own and has been out of service for some time, do yourself a favor and
completely drain the fuel and water tanks. Be sure to properly dispose
of the old fuel. When I do this, I let the fuel settle out in a bucket
so I can observe the water that will inevitably settle out of the fuel.
I then decant the fuel into a plastic gas can using a Baja filter. Then
I pour the gas into one of my automobiles. The cars seem to have no
problem with the older fuel, and it is properly disposed of. The remaining
water that has been separated from the fuel is allowed to evaporate
into the atmosphere. The bucket is wiped clean until next time.

If the boat is not yours, you should still test for water in the fuel. However this time
you will have to use water finder paste. (See sidebar for contact information.)
You can hope that the fill pipe for the tank will be a direct drop into
the tank. Place the water finder paste on the bottom four inches of
a wood dowel, and slowly lower it into the tank. The paste will turn
a specific color up to the exact depth of the water in the bottom of
the tank. When I was a kid, I worked the fuel dock at a local marina
where one of my duties was to stick the large gas tanks every morning
with a rod and the paste to check for water. The water paste is very

While you’re at it, try to feel the bottom of the tank with the dowel. Is it smooth
or gummy? Does it feel like there are soft rocks down there? If it is
anything but smooth and clean, the least you will need is a thorough
tank steam cleaning by a professional firm that does these things. Check
your Yellow Pages under Tank Cleaning. If they do not do small tanks,
they can probably send you to someone who does.

Next, with the fill
plate closed, the discharge valve closed, and the ball valve open, pump
the bicycle pump to raise the tank pressure to 3 psi. Do not increase
pressure to more than 3 psi!


American Boat and Yacht Council, Incorporated
3069 Solomon’s Island Road
Edgewater, MD 21037-1416
Attn: Renee Lazer, Assistant Membership Coordinator
410-956-2737 fax

You must join
ABYC to receive a copy of their Standards and Recommended Practices
for Small Craft manual. Membership is $125. There is an additional
charge of $135 plus $10 shipping and handling for the manual.

The ABYC standards would be particularly helpful if a person were
going to build or rebuild a boat. The organization is a good source
of information and will help with obtaining insurance if the rebuilt
boat complies with ABYC standards.

Holding the pressure steady at 3 psi, close the ball valve. Note the time. Check the gauge
for several hours or overnight. If it does not move from the 3 psi mark,
the tank does not leak. If the pressure drops, the tank will have to
be completely emptied for the next part of the test. Prepare a mixture
of 90 percent water and 10 percent liquid soap in a small container.
Repressurize the tank to 3 psi. Using a clean 2-inch paintbrush, paint
the soap and water mixture over the fill plate, discharge valve, and
test assembly. Bubbles will indicate the location of a leak. If no leak
is evident in these areas, soap the seams of the tank and the fill pipe/tank
interface as well as the vent pipe and discharge pipe interface. If
you have good ears, listen for an air leak and try to localize the sound.
(My ears are bad, so I use the soap).

Pass your hand around the tank to feel for an air leak. Soap the supports (both sides) where
the tank rests on them. If you still cannot find the leak, soap all
tank surfaces, slowly – one surface at a time – and check
for bubbles. The leak may be a worn or corroded spot in the tank plating
rather than at a fitting or seam.

If it is a water tank, you can increase the pressure to 4 psi to make the leak more apparent.
If you are testing a fuel tank, do not increase the pressure.
Plan to remove the tank for repair or replacement.

Check underneath the tank with soap and a flashlight, if possible. If you still cannot
find the leak, repressurize the tank to 3 psi and wait several hours.
If the gauge again drops, the tank leaks and will have to be repaired
or replaced.

With a water tank, it may be feasible to open the tank, drain, clean, and insert a bladder
tank using the original tank as a container for the bladder. Tank location
and economics will dictate this decision.

Many good old boats had tanks that were literally built into the boat before the deck was
placed on the hull. This situation makes removal of the tank a large
job that will include major demolition and rebuilding of the interior.
Even when it is possible to remove the tank with little problem, the
tank may not fit through the companionway hatch for removal from the
boat. Measure carefully, and sit and think for a while. Do not rush
your decision.


US Coast
Guard Code of Federal Regulations

Printed copies of the applicable CFRs are available, at no charge,
U.S. Coast Guard
2100 Second Street S.W.
Washington, DC 20593-0001
Attn: Richard Gipe
Recreational Boating Product Assurance Division
202-267-4285 fax

If it is a water tank, it may be easier to disconnect the old tank and locate a new bladder
tank under the main cabin berths. Clean and dry the old tank and leave
as it is or use it for dry stores.

If the leaking tank is a fuel tank, there is no choice. It must come out. This is a job
for a professional mechanic, boatyard, or talented amateur. If you’re
up to it, here’s how. First, remove whatever is in the way of
getting at the tank. If this is the engine, be sure you know how to
remove and reinstall it. Carefully remove all fuel from the tank. Disconnect
the fuel discharge line from the tank, but leave the shut-off valve
in place. If the shut-off valve is not at the tank, leave it and the
line running to it alone. Disconnect it from the engine as close to
the tank as possible.

Open the tank fill pipe and fill the tank with water and a good emulsifying soap. Pump
out and dispose of the contents properly, as the liquid will contain
fuel particles. Fill the tank with water again. Disconnect the vent
line at the tank to be sure there is no space in the tank for a pocket
of fuel vapors.

Set up temporary blocking to hold the tank in place when you cut the permanent strapping.
Disconnect the fill line, vent, and discharge line, as well as the fuel
return line if it is a diesel tank. Disconnect the grounding strap.
Using non-electric hand, pneumatic, or hydraulic tools, remove the restraints
holding the tank in place. Once the tank is free of its permanent restraints,
check to be sure the tank is completely disconnected. If all is OK,
drain the tank again, collecting the drained water to avoid releasing
any pollutants overboard. Extract the tank from its bed and remove it
from the boat.

If the tank was satisfactory in capacity, you may take it to a tank shop to have a duplicate
made. However, before giving the shop approval to build a new tank,
give some thought to the best material with which to build the new tank.

Many companies make rotomolded tanks for fuel out of cross-linked polyethylene. These tanks
are immune to corrosion and are mass-produced, which makes them very
price competitive. They are tough and durable and come in many shapes
and sizes. It may be easier and cheaper to modify the tank bed to accommodate
a stock polyethylene tank than to buy a custom-made tank.

Fuel tanks must be made from cross-linked polyethylene. Linear polyethylene is the one
to select for potable water tanks. Be sure what type of tank you need
to buy. They are not interchangeable.

The downside of the polyethylene tanks is that they are subject to chafe, cutting, and
abrasion. The tank must be fully supported on the bottom and carefully
restrained. Nylon strapping is recommended, as it will accommodate the
tanks initial expansion upon first filling. If a poly tank will not
work, consider a 316L/317L stainless steel, a 6 percent molybdenum alloy
stainless steel, or a thick-walled black iron tank for diesel fuel.
The size of the tank makes a difference. ABYC limits stainless steel
fuel tanks to a maximum of 20 gallons.

Another alternative may be a flexible bladder tank. Today, many firms make flexible bladder
tanks that will hold fuel, water, waste, and many other liquids. They
are sometimes used to hold wine, vegetable juices, or chemicals for
industry. More than 20 different types of materials are used to hold
specific liquids. A tank made to hold water will not be good for gasoline
and so forth. These tanks are convenient to install, as they will conform
to spaces more readily. They will fit through a small access hole, when
empty, and require less effort to install. The volume of an empty flexible
tank is less than 5 percent of the filled tank. The low weight and great
compactness make installation and use very easy.

The technology of flexible tanks is well-developed. There are many tank manufacturers
supplying aviation and industry. The marine market for tanks is a very
small portion of the overall market. Flexible tanks can even be ordered
in custom sizes to fit your exact needs. They will be more expensive
and take longer to get, but they are a viable alternative to a custom
hard tank and are definitely cheaper. Keep in mind that the life expectancy
of a flexible tank may be substantially shorter than that of a hard
tank, depending on the conditions in which it is employed, but as replacement
cost is lower and installation simpler. It is a trade-off worth thinking

About a year or so ago I tried to fit two additional 10-gallon water tanks under the
V-berth of my Pearson. All the standard flexible tanks were too wide
to fit the space available. One manufacturer quoted a price of $130
each for the two custom tanks. This was double the cost of a standard
flex tank but much less than the cost of hard stainless steel tanks
which were quoted at $400 each. Flexible tanks have the same disadvantages
as rotomolded polyethylene tanks except more so. They are subject to
cutting, chafe, and abrasion. These problems can be overcome by careful
installation. The tanks must be installed on a smooth surface. If the
inside of the compartment where the tank is to be installed is not smooth,
it may be covered with a glued-down sheet of thick neoprene. The tank
is then mounted on top of the sheet.

Flexible tanks are usually secured through reinforced grommets at the four corners of the
tank. The grommets need to be fixed to a strong point on the hull, such
as a bulkhead or beam to make sure the tank does not shift. Even a 10-gallon
tank will weigh 80 pounds when full. When installing these tanks, be
sure to follow the manufacturer’s directions on allowing for
the movement of the fill, vent, and discharge lines when the tank is
full or empty.

Many cruisers use flexible tanks to carry additional fuel and water for a long passage.
This is a good use of the tanks, as they can be stored away in a small
space when not needed and yet provide great volume for the long haul.
Careful installation is the key to a long leak-proof life for a flexible
tank. Manufacturers include Nauta, Vetus, and Plastimo to name a few.
(See below for contact information.)

Back to our inspection of the existing tanks in our good old boat. If, after inspection and
the air test, the tanks in your boat or prospective boat pass muster,
you should consider how to keep them in good shape. Check the exterior
surface of each tank. Are there areas of abrasion, worn out coating,
rust, pits, or corrosion?

If the tank can be easily removed from the boat for coating, remove it, clean it, resurface
it, and reinstall it. If it cannot be removed easily, service it in
place. Wash it with soap and water, sand any pits and corrosion down
to good metal, wipe the surface with mineral spirits, repaint it with
a high-grade metal primer, and give it a finish coat. Removable black
iron tanks can be sandblasted clean and bright and electrostatically
coated with powdered epoxy for a long-lasting coating, or cold galvanizing
can be used to protect steel tanks after suitable surface preparation.

When replacing or servicing a tank, check the tank supports. Do they need reinforcement?
How about the tank hold-down? Consider new strapping with neoprene cushioning
between the tank and the straps. Finally, check fill and discharge lines.
Marine engines vibrate and can cause hard fuel lines to fatigue or crack
over time. Even flexible fuel lines with solid fittings can have problems.

Case in point: I was powering home one windless winter day when the engine stopped for
no apparent reason. I ran through the usual checklist and could find
nothing wrong. I tried the starter, and the engine ran for 30 seconds
then quit. By this time it was getting cold and dark.

We were in the river near our home with no other boats about. My son had his new girlfriend
out with us, and she was a nonsailor and cold. I tried the engine again,
and it ran for 30 seconds and quit as before. Our strategy was that
my son would steer while I started the engine. It ran, and we glided
along for 30 seconds under power and another minute on momentum. We
repeated this exercise for more than an hour and finally made the mooring.
Fortunately I had ample battery capacity. Still, it was a long night.

Two days later I still could not find the engine problem until, in handling the fuel
supply line from the filter to the fuel pump, I noticed a crack in the
bayonet fitting of the fuel line. This tiny crack in the fitting had
been allowing enough air into the fuel system to starve the engine under
power but still allow enough fuel flow to start it momentarily.

Always check your fuel lines as part of your fuel system. Rubber lines crack from age
and environmental effects. Wipe flexible hoses dry and check for an
odor of fuel. If there is any sign of deterioration, replace with U.S.
Coast Guard (USCG) approved Type A-1 (SAE F1527) hose for gasoline or
Type A-2 for diesel fuel. Metallic hoses must be USCG Type A-1 hose
for diesel return lines, USCG CFR 183.538, 183.540, 183.558 & 183.562.
(See sidebar.)

Always keep in mind that any fuel or oil discharge from a boat that causes a visible sheen
on the water surface is in violation of federal pollution regulations
and subject to stiff fines. The Oil Pollution Act (OPA1990) requires
that spills or even situations where fuel or oil has the potential of
being spilled must be reported to the National Pollution Response Center
(800-424-8802) as well as to the USCG. Reports must be followed up with
immediate action to prevent or clean up any spill.

The USCG requires positive steps to contain a spill. People who do not maintain their
boats, perform preventive maintenance, or cooperate with them could
be heavily fined. If a person does not report a spill, he or she could
face criminal penalties and may be liable for fines up to $250,000.
Spills caused by any gross negligence or willful misconduct may result
in fines of not less than $100,000. Preventive maintenance of tanks,
fuel, and oil systems are cheap insurance compared to the possible consequences.

There are many products in the marine market to help you comply with the laws. The 1998 BOAT/U.S.
catalog has an entire page (Page 415) devoted to accidental spill prevention.
Boat insurance policies will not pay your fine if you get one, but they
usually will provide emergency assistance in dealing with a spill. Asking
for help could mean the difference between a $500 fine and a $50,000

Oh, enough doom and gloom, already! Let’s recap. Take the time to inspect the
tanks. Test if you have any doubts about the tanks’ integrity,
particularly the fuel tanks, on your existing or prospective boat. If
you need new tanks, buy quality. Buy flexible, polyethylene, 316L/317L,
6 percent stainless, or black iron, depending on the tank’s intended
use. When I was building commercial diesel-powered workboats, we always
used heavy-walled mild steel tanks, cold galvanized on the outside and
pickled with diesel fuel on the inside. I was aboard one of my boats
the other day, and it still had the original tanks in fine condition
30 years after they were built.

Make sure your tanks are well-supported and secured for heavy weather. You may never see
a 25-foot wave, but years of four-foot waves can have the same destructive
effect. Think of your tanks as a system that includes fill pipes, vent,
supply lines, filters, and grounding straps. All are part of the essential
propulsion system on your boat. If you have metal tanks, keep them clean
and protect from bilge water, salt water, and chemicals.

There are many tank builders and manufacturers. The sidebar at right lists a representative
group. Check with boatyards in your area for recommendations on local
sources. Make sure your tanks comply with USCG requirements, CFR 183.510
through 183.590, and ABYC recommendations. Remember, a fuel tank must
be tested and certified as conforming to USCG requirements. Before you
commit to having a fuel tank built, ask the builder to show you his
USCG test program and the label he will provide to certify the tank,
CFR 183.514.

All fuels are dangerous and polluting to the environment. Be safe and sure in their storage,
use, and disposal.

Tank builders and distributors


Rayco Manufacturing Company
6060 28th St. East, # 1, Bradenton, FL 34203
Custom tanks: stainless steel, aluminum, and iron (fuel, water,

Holland Marine Products
3008 Dunbar St. West
Toronto, Ontario
Canada M6P 123
416-762-4458 fax
Custom tanks: stainless steel, aluminum, and iron (fuel, water,

Atlantic Coastal Welding, Inc.
16 Butler Blvd.
Bayville, NJ 08721-3002
732-269-7992 fax
Custom tanks: stainless steel, aluminum, and iron (fuel, water,

Florida Marine Tanks
16480 Northwest 48th Ave. Hialeah, FL 33014
305-621-8524 fax
Custom tanks: stainless steel, aluminum, and iron (fuel, water,

Todd Enterprises
530 Wellington Ave. Cranston, RI 02910
401-467-2650 fax
Tank manufacturer: polyethylene, stock sizes (fuel, water, waste).

Tempo Products Company
P.O. Box 39126
Cleveland, OH
Tank manufacturer: polyethylene, stock sizes (fuel).

Ronco Plastics, Incorporated
15022 Parkway Loop, Tustin, CA 92780; 714-259-1385; 714-259-9759
Tank manufacturer: polyethylene, stock sizes (water, waste).


884 S. Pickett St.
Alexandria, VA 22304
(fuel), Todd (fuel, water, waste), Sealand (waste), and Vetus
(water, waste).

West Marine
P.O. Box 50050
Watsonville, CA 95077;
408-761-4421 fax
Tempo (fuel), Todd (fuel, water), Skyline (aluminum fuel), Sealand
(waste), Kracor (waste), Jabsco (waste), Plastimo (water), and
Nauta (water).

Defender Industries
42 Great Neck Rd.
Waterford, CT 06385
800-654-1616 fax

Vetus DenOuden
P.O. Box 8713
Hanover, MD 21076
410-712-0985 fax Flexible
tanks (fuel, water, waste).

Supply Co.

1900 N. Northlake Way #10 Seattle, WA 98103
206-634-4600 fax
Tempo (fuel), Todd (fuel, water, waste), Jabsco (waste), Whale
(gray water), Vetus (water, waste), and Nauta (water).

Steve Christensen, a research chemist, moved from Utah to Michigan
and took up sailing to replace skiing. Steve and Beth sail
Rag Doll,
an Ericson 38, on Lake Huron. They spend each August cruising the waters
of The North Channel and dream of retirement as liveaboards someplace

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