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.



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

Is there a metal yacht in your future?

Is there a metal yacht in your future?

By Ted Brewer

Article taken from Good Old Boat magazine: Volume 2, Number 4, July/August 1999.

Whether constructed of steel or aluminum, metal yachts deserve a second look

In the 1960s and early 1970s we rarely saw metal yachts in North
American waters. Steel yachts had been built in Holland and Germany
for many years but, with only oil-based paints to protect them, they
were not particularly long lived. Indeed, I’ve seen lovely 40-foot
steel yachts corroded to junk in 10 to 12 years. A few custom
aluminum yachts were built overseas as well and in a couple of
quality yards in the U.S. However, aluminum was considered to be a
material restricted to large and expensive craft; half the weight for
twice the price was the popular conception. Today however, due to
advances in the protection of steel hulls and the reduction in the
cost of aluminum, metal is often the material of choice for both
custom-built and amateur-built yachts, so steel and aluminum craft
are commonly seen in almost every harbor.

Each material has its advantages, but the racing skipper will
choose aluminum construction for its combination of lightness and
strength, of course. The cruiser, on the other hand, may prefer steel
for its greater strength and lower initial cost, or aluminum for its
longevity, low maintenance, and high resale value. Sailors interested
in a metal yacht need to know the pros and cons of the two materials
so they can make an intelligent choice, whether buying a used boat,
building their own, or having a new custom yacht built. I offer a few
points to consider.

Ultimate Tensile
Yield Strength
  Unwelded Welded Unwelded Welded
Aluminum 5086-H34 44,000 psi 39,000 psi 34,000 psi 21,000 psi
Aluminum 6061-T6
42,000 psi
30,000 psi
35,000 psi
19,000 psi
Grade A mild steel

58,000 psi

34,000 psi

Grade AH32 mild steel

68,000 psi

45,000 psi


The simplest comparison is that aluminum weighs about 168 pounds per
cubic foot and steel weighs 490 pounds per cubic foot, almost three
times as much. It is not that simple a comparison though. The
machinery, interior furnishings, hardware, rig, general equipment,
and stores weigh about the same for steel and aluminum craft, so the
overall weight advantage of an aluminum yacht is not nearly as great
as it might seem.


Comparing strengths is made more difficult because aluminum alloys
lose strength after welding while steel does not. The table below
shows the differences between some typical alloys.

Steel’s strength advantage seems obvious, but it is normal practice
to increase the scantling of an aluminum part to make up for its
lower strength. For example, a steel 40-footer would be plated with
.140-inch-thick steel, giving a tensile strength of .140 x 58,000 =
8,120 pounds per inch of plate. Her aluminum sister might be plated
with .1875-inch-thick material, giving a strength of .1875 x 39,000 =
7,312 pounds per inch of plate. The 10 percent difference in strength
is relatively inconsequential while the thicker aluminum still has a
substantial weight advantage: 2.63 pounds per square foot of hull
compared to 5.72 pounds per square foot for the steel yacht, less
than half the weight of steel.

However, as pointed out earlier, the overall weight advantage
might be only 20 to 25 percent in the long run due to the weight of
the other parts of the yacht. Still, that means the aluminum yacht
can be 20 percent lighter or carry extra ballast, and that translates
into improved performance.

Steel also has the advantage of being 60 percent harder than
aluminum, so it is much more resistant to abrasion in a grounding on
rock or rubbing up against a concrete bulkhead. And, it is more
malleable, so it will stretch farther in a collision or a hard
grounding on granite before rupturing. Aluminum, in turn, is more
resistant to abrasion than either fiberglass or wood and will stretch
a great deal more in a collision. In any case, I’m sure our readers
will never allow their boats to get into a grounding or collision
situation so this factor is not critical!

The Alaska 43 with double-chine steel hull

Brewer’s Alaska 43 is an example of a double-chine steel hull.

In the stretching category, I can tell of a 60-foot
ultra-light aluminum design of mine that had her anchor chain slip
the stopper while sailing into the teeth of a 50-knot squall, letting
the anchor drop 15 feet or so before it jammed. For close to an hour
the boat rose on each big sea and fell onto her heavy Bruce anchor,
yet the only damage was several 2-inch-deep dents in her light
.160-inch aluminum plating. This is certainly an unusual accident but
shows one of the solid advantages of metal yachts. I feel certain a
wood or glass hull would have suffered severe damage in a similar
situation. In any case, sailing aboard a metal yacht can be very
comforting when you are out on the deep blue competing for lebensraum
with floating cargo containers.

Too, both steel and aluminum yachts are essentially one-piece
structures without the annoyance of leaking hull/deck joints, leaking
chainplates or other weak points. Even cleats and other hardware can
be welded to the deck, or machine-screw fastened to pads welded in
place, to avoid bolt holes through an otherwise watertight structure.


Fully developed hull, round bottom, round bilge hulls

The marine aluminum alloys (5454, 5083, and 5086) used for yachts and
commercial fishing vessels are very different from the aluminum used
in your pots and pans at home. The marine alloys contain a
substantial percentage (3.4% – 4.9%) of magnesium, depending on the
specific alloy, and are highly resistant to corrosion in sea water.
They are essentially inert. Indeed, these metals are not even similar
to the 6061-T6 used in your mast. The latter is a heat-treatable
alloy that loses substantial strength in the vicinity of a weld;
hardly a quality we want in our hulls with their hundreds of feet of
welding. Nor is 6061-T6 as corrosion-resistant in a marine
atmosphere, as some sailors have discovered to their sorrow. Still
6061-T6 is favored for internal use by many builders due to its
stiffness and is used, suitably increased in thickness, for frames,
longitudinals, keel, knees, and other parts that will not come into
contact with sea water. Quality aluminum yachts are plated with 5000
series alloys on the hull and superstructure, of course, and are
all-welded structures.

Proof that the marine aluminum alloys are unaffected in sea
water is that many commercial fishing craft, and an increasing number
of yachts, are not even painted above the waterline. To paint or not
to paint is solely at the owner’s discretion. The aluminum will
darken to a gray color with age, but its strength and durability are
essentially unchanged. The interior of the aluminum hull need not be
painted either but, obviously, the bottom must have anti-fouling
paint applied to prevent the growth of performance-robbing weeds and

Steel, of course, rusts quickly in a saltwater atmosphere, so
a steel yacht needs to be protected inside and out. The interior is
usually painted with coal-tar epoxy, while the exterior can be
epoxy-coated or flame-sprayed with zinc or aluminum. In either case,
the steel must be sand-blasted inside and out with sharp silica sand
to provide a tooth for the paint or flame spray. This substantial
extra labor can offset the higher material cost of the aluminum to a
substantial degree. In talking to a couple of builders recently I had
one tell me that he would charge about 20 percent more for a
completed aluminum yacht over steel and another say that aluminum and
steel yachts come out very close in price due to the extra labor of
blasting and finishing the interior of the steel hull.

The same disagreement arises when "experts" are asked about
the benefits of flame spraying a steel hull to prevent corrosion. One
advises to flame spray, preferably with aluminum; another says that
an epoxy coating is better than flame spraying. I have seen both
methods give good results after years of service and, in my opinion,
it is simply up to the owner to toss the coin.

Whether steel or aluminum, both metals are well below copper
on the galvanic scale, and using bronze or copper in contact with
either is a no-no! Perhaps the epitome of this is the very famous
designer who, early in this century, built a large and expensive
racing yacht of aluminum plating on bronze frames. The vessel barely
lasted a year, much to the surprise and dismay of the designer and

So, no bronze seacocks, no copper bottom paint, and don’t
drop any pennies in the bilge of an aluminum yacht! Some designers
and builders use stainless steel seacocks, but I prefer the
fiberglass-reinforced nylon type, as I do not like to see stainless
steel used below the waterline in salt water if at all avoidable. For
anti-fouling protection, tin-based bottom paint is the best available
for metal yachts, the best available for any yacht for that matter,
but is outlawed in many countries due to its toxicity. Paint
manufacturers have come up with several alternatives, though, so some
research will be necessary if there is a metal boat in your future.

Hull shape

Peachy Keen Hull framework
Hull covered with steel plates
Steel Hull painted

Peachy Keen, in various stages of development, shows Brewer’s radius bilge with straight frames above and below the radius bilge. When plated, the radius bilge goes on in short sections while the flat areas are installed in long plates. Ready to launch, the boat’s a beauty.

Although European builders in the 1950s, and even earlier, had the
skills necessary to build fully developed hulls, this ability was
limited to a very few quality (read "expensive") yards in North
America. Thus, only chine hulls were readily available here and that,
of course, was another reason that metal boats were not popular.

In the early 1970s we designed a 35-foot steel sloop called the Goderich 35
and used a shape that was, essentially, a single-chine hull with a very
large radius at the chine. The radius started at the stern at about a 2-foot
radius and increased as it progressed forward to 4 feet or more. I don’t
know if we were the first designers to use this technique, but I had not
seen it done before, so it is possible that we did originate it. In any
case, the boat turned out quite well, a number were built and one 35, Globe
Star, skippered by professor Marvin Creamer, circumnavigated the globe
without instruments of any kind, using Creamer’s knowledge of currents,
drift, winds, and other natural phenomena to locate his daily position.
These methods proved surprisingly accurate and could have been known to the
very early navigators.

Shortly after the Goderich 35 appeared on the scene, other designers were
coming out with radius-bilge hull designs and, in a few years, it was not
at all uncommon to see radius-bilge steel yachts advertised as
semi-production boats or bare-hull kits for home completion. The
radius-bilge system caught on with aluminum boats as well, but a few
builders were already beginning to turn out fully formed aluminum yachts
as the softer 5000 series aluminum is somewhat easier to work with and
form than steel. Today there are a number of good builders who can produce
an excellent, fully formed aluminum hull, a few who can do the same in
steel, and many who can do a fine job on a radius bilge hull in either

Miscellaneous advantages

Both metals have their own unique qualities, of course. Steel is
easier to weld, especially under adverse conditions. Aluminum needs
to be kept hygienically clean while under construction, and welding
it requires considerable training and solid experience.

Troubador hull inside construction

A look inside Troubador while under construction, shows the shining ribs and curved frames of a fully developed aluminum hull. A visit to Troubador in the early stages might remind the uninitiated of a visit to a traditional wood shop – except for the missing aroma of sawdust and varnish.

Troubador outside plating

Troubador’s plating shows details of an elaborate construction process.

Aluminum is non-magnetic, so compass adjusting is easier and
auto-pilots work better, at least in my experience. Steel is
fireproof, while aluminum will melt if given enough heat, as the
Brits found to their dismay in the Falkland Islands war. It is still
more fireproof than wood or fiberglass, obviously. However, if
everything else aboard the boat burns, having a hot metal hull afloat
in the middle of the ocean may not be of any great comfort.

Built-in tanks work well in both materials and increase the
tankage capacity substantially. The 5000-series aluminum water tanks
do not need to be epoxy- or cement-coated inside to prevent
corrosion. Some people say an aluminum water tank can cause
neurological disorders (Alzheimer’s). I believe it can if you grind
it up and eat it, but we still use our aluminum cooking pots and
pans, and I would not hesitate to have aluminum water tanks on my
boat. An unusual advantage of metal boats is that the built-in tanks
are easy to repair. You simply cut a hole in the hull, repair the
tank from the inside, and weld the hull back up again. It beats
trying to wrestle a 50-gallon tank out of a 40-gallon opening so you
can get at it to fix a bad leak.

Emergency repairs on either material are fairly
straightforward. Not as simple as repairing a wooden boat, perhaps,
but certainly as easy as fiberglass. A repair patch can be quickly welded onto a steel hull and almost any out-of the-way port will have t
he necessary equipment to do it. Aluminum, on the other hand, can be
readily drilled and tapped so an owner can fasten a gasketed patch in
place until he can get to a port where aluminum welding facilities
are available.

Nomad has aluminum deck on steel hull
Sandingo with unpainted aluminum top and deck

Nomad (top) has an aluminum deck and house on a steel hull. Sandingo (bottom) is launched with unpainted aluminum topsides and deck.

Steel and aluminum each have distinct advantages. They can
both be built by amateurs, and I have had fine yachts, from 30 to 60
feet, crafted in metal to my designs by competent amateurs as well as
by professional yards. If the amateur can combine good welding skills
with reasonable experience in metal fabrication, there is no reason
why an excellent yacht cannot be produced at a reasonable cost. And
now, with sound 20- to 25-year-old metal yachts occasionally
available on the market, the older metal boats can take their place
within the fleet of good old boats as well.

Further reading:

  • Steel Boat Building, by Thomas E. Colvin, International Marine Publishing Co.
  • Boatbuilding with Steel, by Gilbert C. Klingel, International Marine Publishing Co.
  • Boatbuilding with Aluminum, by Stephen F. Pollard, International
    Marine Publishing Co.

Stanchion Repair

Stanchion repair

By Norman Ralph

Article taken from Good Old Boat magazine: Volume 2, Number 6, November/December 1999.

Bent stanchions and delaminated decks

Stanchion pulled away from the deck

When we were unloading our boat following a recent week-long cruise,
I noticed the midship stanchion on the port side was slightly bent
toward the stern. It was about an inch out of plumb at the top. While
docking in gusty conditions, the stanchion had taken the weight of
the boat, and something had to give. When I examined it closely, I
discovered that the stanchion was bent and the deck under the stanchion
was flexing. Clearly there was also structural damage to the deck.
Repairs were in order.

A bent stanchion requires replacement or straightening.
In this case, it was possible to have it straightened. Removing the
stanchion required
access to the backing plate, nuts, and lockwashers holding it. I
had to remove an overhead panel below the sidedeck. Another approach
have been to cut a hole in the panel slightly larger than the stanchion
base and patch it after the repair was finished. The structural repair
to the deck area under the stanchion was much more involved.

As a general
rule, boats built before the days of modern composites and high-tech
layup techniques are overbuilt. An exception to this
rule, however, is in the area of deck reinforcement in high-stress
areas. Where holes were drilled to mount hardware and stanchions in
a balsa-cored deck, it’s quite possible that moisture has invaded
the core. Even if adequate bedding compound was applied, the hardware
will have worked under stress, and moisture may have invaded the core,
resulting in delamination.

Dry below the stanchion?

Filling the hole in the deck with epoxy resin

Once I had removed our bent stanchion, I examined the damage to the
deck area. I was faced with two possible approaches to the repair,
depending on the condition of the balsa core under the stanchion. If
the core was dry and sound, the area around the mounting holes could
be repaired. This involves putting a bent nail in an electric hand
drill and enlarging the area in the balsa core around the holes. Do
not enlarge the holes in the top or bottom laminates.

Once the debris is cleaned out, you can begin strengthening the area.
Cover the holes below deck with duct tape. Mix up a small quantity
of epoxy resin/ hardener and add some high-density filler. Mix this
to a mayonnaise consistency. Using a plastic syringe (available where
epoxy materials are sold), inject this mixture into the holes from
above, filling the voids completely. This mixture will bond to the
surrounding core area and add structural strength while it seals the
core from any moisture. When the mixture has hardened, the surface
can be sanded smooth. Remove the tape from the bottom holes. Now you
can drill new holes and remount the stanchion. Don’t forget
to use bedding compound.

Wet under there?

Replace the core under the stanchion

However, if the impact caused the deck under the stanchion to delaminate
from the balsa core, or if the core has absorbed moisture, more extensive
repairs are necessary. The most satisfactory way to repair the deck
under a stanchion when the balsa core is wet is to replace the core
under the stanchion.

Placing the stanchion over the existing holes, outline the stanchion
base with a felt tip pen. Next, using a Dremel tool, remove the top
laminate by cutting around the outline. When the laminate has been
removed, dig out the wet balsa core material, digging back under the
edge of the laminate around the hole. Try to dig back to dry balsa.
Clean out the area of the debris and allow the area to dry thoroughly.
There are several ways to hasten the drying:

  • Use a hair dryer to blow in the cleaned-out area, being careful
    not to use too much heat.
  • Cover the area with plastic, held in place
    with duct tape, and cover the holes under the area with duct tape.
    Cut a hole in the plastic
    and insert and tape the nozzle of a shop vacuum cleaner to the plastic. Now turn the vacuum on and allow it to draw out the moisture from the core material. Be careful not to overheat the vacuum cleaner motor.
  • Flood
    the area with denatured alcohol. The alcohol will absorb the moisture
    and when the alcohol evaporates, the moisture will evaporate
    with it.

You can use any or all of these, but be careful that the alcohol
has thoroughly evaporated before using either the hair dryer or the
cleaner to avoid any risk of the alcohol igniting from the heat of
the dryer or the sparks of the vacuum cleaner motor.

When the area
is dry, cut a piece of marine-grade plywood the same size as the
cut-out hole in the laminate. The plywood should be slightly
thinner than the core material removed. You can use exterior grade
plywood, but be sure there are no voids in it. Cover the holes
in the bottom laminate from below with duct tape. Mix a small amount
of epoxy/
hardener. The amount to mix will depend on the air temperature
pot life of the mixture. Using an acid brush, thoroughly wet out
the repair area, making sure the edges of the balsa core material
are saturated
with the mixture. Wet out the piece of plywood to seal it from moisture.

Pourit in

Drill new holes to hold the stanchion

Mix some more epoxy and add some high-density filler to make a mayonnaise
consistency. Pour some of this into the repair area and spread it
evenly to about a quarter of the depth of the area. Force the piece
of plywood
into the area, displacing the epoxy putty into the area beyond the
edge of the hole under the top laminate. The top of the plywood should
be below the bottom level of the top laminate. Using a plastic syringe,
inject the epoxy/putty mixture into the area around the edge of the
plywood to fill any voids under the top laminate. Cover the top of
the plywood with the mixture but only to the bottom level of the
top laminate.

When the epoxy mixture has hardened, grind the edge of the hole with
a pad sander and 80-grit sandpaper. Grind the edge on a bevel back
about 1 1/2 inches from the edge of the hole. This will give an approximate
1:12 ratio (1/8-inch thickness of the laminate to 1 1/2-inch bevel).
Now cut a piece of fiberglass cloth the size of the outside of the
beveled area around the hole. Next, cut more pieces in decreasing
sizes down to the size of the hole in the deck. The combined thickness
total the thickness of the top laminate or slightly less. On a piece
of plastic, such as a heavy garbage bag, wet out the pieces of fiberglass
cloth with an epoxy/hardener mixture.

Stanchion reattached to deck

Starting with the
largest piece, first wet the cloth using an acid brush and a spreader.
Place the
next smaller piece on top of the previous
one until all the pieces are stacked and saturated, with any excess
squeegeed out with the spreader. Now wet the bevel and hole area
with the epoxy mixture and lay the saturated cloth over the hole, largest
piece down. This is important because if the cloth is damaged during
the final finishing and sanding, the largest piece, which ties the
whole patch together, will not be compromised. The layers of cloth
should bring the surface of the patch slightly lower than the level
of the surrounding deck. When the epoxy has hardened, the area can
be lightly sanded and leveled with a mixture of epoxy/hardener and
a fairing filler such as micro-balloons. After that has cured, the
area can be sanded smooth. I painted my repair with one-part polyurethane
to match the color of the deck.

Replacing the stanchion

I was now ready to reattach the stanchion. I
placed it in its proper location and marked the location of the
four mounting holes on the
deck. I then placed the stanchion aside and drilled the holes in
the deck. The bolt size was 1/4 inch, and I drilled the holes 3/8
in diameter. I then covered the below-deck holes with duct tape
and, using the syringe, filled the holes from above with a mixture
epoxy/hardener and high-density filler. This added strength to
the area and sealed
the plywood core from any moisture should the bedding compound
later fail. When the epoxy mixture had cured, I drilled the holes
to 1/4-inch diameter and installed the stanchion with a bedding
compound and the backing plate below. The resulting repair left
the deck under
the stanchion much stronger than when the boat was new.

A few closing notes and instructions

Use latex gloves when using epoxy. Over
a period of time you can develop an allergy to it. Also, be careful
not to breathe epoxy dust when sanding. Use a mask and goggles. The
same techniques can be used to repair or strengthen the cored laminate
under other deck hardware such as winches, halyard clutches, and
cleats. It is not only possible to repair your boat, but to make it
than new.

Is Your Boat Stable?

Is your boat stable?

By Ted Brewer

Article taken from Good Old Boat magazine: Volume 3, Number 2, March/April 2000.

Top designer Ted Brewer explains stability
and how it affects safety and speed

The speed of a sailing
yacht in any given wind is determined, to a large extent, by the amount
of sail she can carry. In heavier weather, that sail area is governed
by the ability of the hull to remain on its feet; in other words, her
stability. In extreme weather conditions, of course, the vessel’s stability
also determines her ability to recover from a knockdown, and thus it can
be a major contributor to safety.

The stiffer boat wins races

the advantages of a “stiff” or “powerful” sailboat beating to windward
in a good breeze. The heel angle of the stiff hull will be less than
that of a tender sister, so the sails will present greater effective
area to the wind, and the boat will move faster as a result. Also, the
lateral plane under water will be more upright, so it will be working
to its maximum potential, and the boat will be making less leeway and
perhaps pointing a degree or two higher as well. The sailboat that is
making better speed, pointing higher, and making less leeway than the
competition is bound to be a winner (see Fig. 1).

Stability, in essence,
can be defined as the tendency of a vessel to return to an upright condition
after it is inclined by external forces: wind, seas, weight shifts,
and so on. The inclination can be athwartships or fore-and-aft, of course,
but we’ll concentrate on athwartship stability as it is the prime factor
in both the power to carry sail and the safety of the craft.

Stability terms

drawing (Fig. 2) shows the basics of athwartship stability: a boat heeled
from her normal upright waterline condition to a heeled waterline with
no change in her displacement. The upward thrust of buoyancy always
acts vertically to the waterline but now it is acting vertically to
the heeled waterline. The shape of the hull moves this buoyant upward
thrust from its original centerline position (B) to a point outboard
(B1), where it exerts an upward force vertical to the heeled waterline
and equal to the displacement of the boat.

The righting lever

The center of gravity
(G), barring unforeseen circumstances, does not change position as the
boat heels and remains on the centerline, acting downward through the
heeled waterline. The horizontal distance from G to a vertical line
drawn through B1 is termed the righting arm, or righting lever, (GZ).
So with the buoyancy of the hull acting upward through B1 and the weight
of the hull acting downward through G, we have a force, or couple, tending
to return the boat to its upright position. This force is known as the
righting moment and is equal to the vessel’s displacement times the
length of the righting arm (Disp. x GZ).

To illustrate, if
our boat weighed (displaced) 1,000 pounds and the GZ was 1.75 feet long,
the righting moment would be 1,000 x 1.75 = 1,750 foot-pounds. It would
take that much force of wind on the sails to heel the boat to that angle
or, if no sails were set, it would require the equivalent in weight
shift Ñ 500 pounds of crew or other weight moved 3.5 feet to one side.

To sum up, the stability
of the boat is directly related to two factors: her displacement, and
the length of the righting arm. The heavier the displacement and/or
the longer the righting arm, the greater the stability. In turn, the
length of the righting arm depends on the location of the center of
gravity (CG) and the location of the heeled center of buoyancy (CB).
The lower the CG, the longer the righting arm. The further outboard
the heeled CB, the longer the righting arm. It’s that simple.

Shift weight to windward lengthens righting arm

a very stable vessel may be uncomfortable in a seaway, as it can develop
a snap roll. Back in the “good old days,” when there were still coasting
schooners carrying lumber from Maine to Boston and New York, it was
not unusual for the skipper to hoist heavy weights to the mastheads
on windless days in order to raise the center of gravity and slow the
roll. This was particularly necessary if there was a leftover sea or
swell from a storm offshore, as the snap roll of the heavily laden schooner
could damage the rig. With modern sailboats, however, we usually want
to increase stability to reduce the heel angle or enable us to carry
more sail in a breeze. One way to do this is to increase the displacement,
but bear in mind that the added weight must be near the original center
of gravity, in order not to raise the CG and thus shorten the righting

We can also carry
more sail if we lengthen the righting arm, and we can do this by moving
the crew to the windward side (Fig. 3), or by shifting weights, to lower
the center of gravity. It’s obvious that adding ballast low in the hull
(Fig. 4) will increase stability in two ways: by increased displacement
as well as by the lowered center of gravity.

Form stability

The shift of the
center of buoyancy as the vessel heels is called “form stability,” as
it is derived from the actual shape of the craft. Given equal displacement
and beam, a flat-bottomed scow has the greatest form stability, so the
closer a vessel approaches that shape Ñ with hard bilges and flat floors
with little deadrise Ñ the greater her form stability will be (see Fig.
5). Carrying the beam aft to a wide, flat stern that will begin to immerse
as the boat heels will also add to form stability.

A simple way to
design a boat with greater form stability is to increase the beam, but
this can create problems of safety if carried to excess. The stable
hull always tries to remain parallel to the water’s surface, but if
that surface is the face of a great wave at an angle of 50 or 60 degrees
to the horizon, then the super-stable boat is definitely in trouble
(see Fig. 6).

Basic hull shapes

craft with overly generous beam may be almost as stable upside down
as they are right side up, like Huck Finn’s raft. If they are rolled
180 degrees in extreme conditions of wind and sea, they may not right
themselves, or they can right so slowly that the hull fills with water
through hatches, vents, and other openings. When the boat eventually
does right itself, it may well be in a dangerously swamped condition.

Bear in mind the
Capsize Screening Formula: the maximum beam divided by the cube root
of the displacement in pounds (Max. beam/Displ. pounds.333). If the
result is greater than 2.0, the boat fails the test and may be considered
unsafe for ocean voyaging. Multihulls, of course, do have tremendous
form stability due to their extreme beam and are typical of vessels
that are just as happy upside down as right side up. To offset this
problem some sailing catamarans have floats or even inflatable bags
at their mastheads so they cannot be knocked down much past a 90-degree

Heeling changes buoyancy

Heeling in a wave chanages buoyancy

Though form stability
increases with beam, yachts with the same beam can vary widely in form
stability (see Fig. 7). The craft, with her maximum beam high up at
deck level and narrowing gradually toward the waterline, will have less
form stability than her equally beamy but wall-sided sister if the latter
carries her full beam all the way down to the waterline. Similarly,
given two yachts of equal waterline beam, the one with a U-shaped hull,
having flat deadrise and hard bilges, will have greater form stability
than her wineglass-shaped sister with deep deadrise and slack bilges.
It all boils down to the fact that form stability depends on the shift
of the heeled center of buoyancy, and the closer the vessel resembles
a raft, the greater the shift of the CB as she heels.

Tender hull vs. Stiff hull

Factors that decrease
form stability are soft bilges, deep deadrise angle, large-radius garboards
joining the hull to the keel, a fine stern (double ender) and narrow
beam. If these factors are not carried to excess, they may indicate
a more comfortable vessel in a seaway . . . one with an easier motion.
Many designers and owners believe that excess form stability is not
desirable for serious offshore work; it can create a harsh, snappy motion
that is hard on the crew and hard on the gear and rig and, as is evident,
can be unsafe if carried to extremes.

Another point to
consider in comparing section shape is “reserve” stability. This is
the increasing stability picked up as the hull heels over to a decks-awash
condition. Reasonably high freeboard is important to stability at higher
heel angles because once the deck-edge is awash further heeling will
move the CB inboard and shorten the righting arm. In open daysailers
and powerboats, immersing the deck edge allows water to pour into the
hull, where it remains on the low side and moves the CG to the low side
or to leeward. This rapidly shortens the righting arm to the point where
a capsize results if sail pressure is not relieved instantly Ñ as some
readers may already have found to their dismay. I did! By getting the
crew weight to windward, the righting arm is lengthened and stability

Hardek bilges can also increase buoyancy

straps and trapezes are simply means of getting the weight even farther
to windward and lengthening the righting arm even more. Having the deck-edge
awash is not disastrous on a decked cruising yacht, of course. However,
sailing with the deck awash does create considerable added resistance,
and a few more inches of freeboard might well eliminate the problem.
Indeed, high freeboard, if not carried to excess, can provide substantial
added reserve stability (see Fig. 8). Flush-decked yachts usually benefit
from this extra safety as they are generally given the highest freeboard
of any normal type of vessel.

Moderation is good

In general, sailing
yachts with moderate beam, moderate displacement, and ample ballast
are safe vessels and, usually, good performers. Cruising sailboats have
been designed with all-inside ballast, but this is unusual today except
in replica types and shoal centerboarders such as the Cape Cod catboat.

Where maximum stability
is desired, in order to increase the power to carry sail, the majority
of the ballast should be in the keel, with only sufficient inside ballast

trimming purposes,
perhaps 5 to 10 percent of the total. This trim ballast should be strapped
down to prevent it from moving in case of a knockdown, of course. Ballast
can be lead or iron, but lead is preferred for performance yachts as
its greater density allows the weight to be concentrated lower. Bulb
keels and wing keels also lower the ballast but, since these are generally
associated with shoal-draft yachts, the stability is not necessarily
increased. The amount of ballast will vary widely depending on the type
and use of the yacht; the table (Fig. 9) is a very general guide.

Boat type
Cape Cod catboat
Keel/centerboard cruiser
Keel cruiser-racer
Heavy auxiliary cruiser
12 Meter yacht
5.5 Meter sloop
Contemporary light, beamy cruiser
ratio %


Obviously, the yachts
with great form stability can perform well with a lower ballast ratio,
at least until they get into extreme conditions. In any case, if you
feel that your boat’s stability needs to be enhanced there is only one
way to do it. You cannot change her hull shape (unless you are very
wealthy or very handy) so the solution is weight; add ballast as low
as possible, reduce weight aloft in the rig and on deck, get rid of
that library of ponderous yachting tomes, and move weights such as heavy
batteries, machinery, tanks, anchor chain, and so forth lower in the
hull. You’ll be rewarded with added performance all around.

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.


Suffering from sealant confusion?

By Scott Thurston

Article taken from Good Old Boat magazine: Volume 3, Number 2, March/April 2000.

Your job requires a sealant. You don’t have to be a chemist to choose the right one

Sealant supplies on the shelf

In my experience, there are always two things trying to get into your boat
that you don’t want there: water and your annoying brother-in-law. While
there’s not much you can do about family problems, there is something you
can do about the water.

The old saw describes a boat as a hole in the water, but the reality is
that your boat is full of holes. Most of them were put there intentionally:
to drain rainwater or to let water flush through, to cool a motor or to
flush a head. But uncontrolled water is the stuff we worry about. It’s what
rots our balsa-cored decks, drips on our bunks on a rainy night, or causes
the boat to sink when we’re not paying attention. It can make us uncomfortable,
cost us more money than we want to spend, or, ultimately, destroy that which
we’ve worked so hard for and on.

Any time a hole is drilled, even partially, through a solid structure, it
provides a place for water to enter. That hole is probably at least partially
filled, either by a screw or a piece of hardware. The problem is that the
two parts, shaped to their own purpose, have different shapes, and it’s
rare for the two parts to match exactly. What is needed, whenever two or
more solid objects are fastened together, is something that will keep even
the smallest amount of water out, something to seal the two mating surfaces
and dam the trickle before it becomes a flood . . . in other words, a sealant.

The idea is not new. Historical records show that early boatbuilders were
confronted by the same problem. The rediscovered vessels of Native Americans
and Vikings show evidence that thickened organic materials were used in
the construction and repair of their hulls. This was usually a pitch- or
tar-based material, derived from the same sources as their other building
materials. They first used sap from trees, boiled to thicken it, and later
used steeped and rendered animal by-products, such as cartilage and horn.

Eventual decay

“Stockholm tar” is still fondly remembered mostly for its pleasant aroma.
This was used to waterproof hulls and rigging back in the days of wooden
ships and iron men. These old products worked reasonably well and (within
the technology of the day) demanded no more maintenance than did the rest
of the vessel. But because they were organic, they would eventually dry
out or decay. The basic families of these mastics are still available, even
today, under the generic title of “bedding compounds,” though their chemistry
has become a little more refined over the years.

But boats and society became more plastic, and boaters demanded more use
for less maintenance. Other industries, in particular the aerospace industry,
were developing materials to seal panels that made up flight surfaces and
withstand the rigors of flight and space travel. As the performance level
of boats increased, as speeds grew larger from more efficient engines and
lighter but stronger materials, the stresses and vibrations grew correspondingly.
Naval architects, who had looked to the aerospace industry for new building
materials such as glass-reinforced plastics and acrylics, also looked there
for materials to seal them.

Today, we have available a whole range of sealants and, though they are
designed to do much the same job, each has its own purpose. Some are quick-curing,
for convenience and to aid in the economics of construction. Others have
high bond strength, both to the part to which they’re applied and internally,
so the adhesion won’t break along the glue line. Over the last several years,
the distinction between sealants and adhesives has become blurred, as greater
experience with the chemical combinations bridge the gulf between the historical
tradeoffs of quick cure and strong bond.

Three families

Silicone sealant tube

Today, there are three basic families of chemicals used in marine sealants:
silicones, polysulfides, and polyurethanes. Recent advances in epoxy technology
are starting to increase their utility in boat construction, however. (See
sidebar on Page 15.) All of them are desig ned to adhere to a surface, cure,
and remain flexible. By doing so, they accomplish three things: they form
a water- and air-tight seal between two or more surfaces; they help join
the surfaces together, often with the aid of mechanical fasteners; and they
isolate the surfaces, to help prevent the passage of noise or electricity.


Silicone is perhaps the most basic of the three. It is created from combining
silica, one of the most useful of the industrial chemicals we have and one
of the most common building blocks of Planet Earth, with a variety of other
organic compounds. The stuff we squeeze out of a tube is chemically similar
to the spray lubricants we use, and we also find it in paints, waxes, and
other protective coatings and in electrical insulation. Common in household
and automotive applications, it is among the first things we think of when
we use the term “sealants.”


As the name suggests, polysulfides are derivatives of the element sulfur,
another common earth element. Early in this century, there was an explosion
in the use of sulfur for industrial and medicinal applications as the particular
properties of the element were explored. Heated nearly to the boiling point
and then immersed in water, it forms a clear, sticky material that, when
combined with other compounds, has high adhesive properties and is not particularly
affected by long-term exposure to moisture. It’s easily identified by its
strong aroma and good tooling properties.


#m Marine adhesive

Like the other two sealants, polyurethanes are blends of other materials
in a base, this time urea. Urea is a naturally occurring by-product of metabolism,
though now mostly created synthetically. (When you read about slaves harvesting
guano from remote, bird-populated islands a century ago, it was the urea
content they were after.) It’s an acidic compound used in fertilizers, among
other things, whose elements combine hydrogen, nitrogen, carbon, and oxygen
into long molecular chains, longer than the molecules of silicones and polysulfides.
These longer, more complex chains mesh within each other more intricately,
and this gives them greater bonds within the sealant and to other materials.
As a result, they have greater shear strength than the other two families
and are less likely to break along a glue line.

Since the job is the same, why are there so many different types of sealants,
and why should I use one and not the others when I’m working on my boat?

The simple answer is materials. What am I trying to keep from leaking, what
is it exposed to, and what am I trying to bond to it? A modern boat is built
of many materials, and the variety of coatings and other chemicals with
which it may come into contact are just as varied. The specialized world
of chemicals being what it is, not all of them work as well together as
they might. Think of the different boats around you in your marina. They’re
made of aluminum and mild steel, ferroconcrete, wood (both raw and resin-coated),
carbon fiber and graphite, ABS and polyethylene plastics, and fiber-reinforced
plastics – whose bonding agents can be polyester, vinylester, or epoxy products.
And after the hull has been created, it can be finished in gels or paints
in any range of chemical combinations, from lacquers and enamels to urethanes
and polyurethanes.

Diverse hardware

Life Seal for fiberglass

Hardware materials are just as diverse: aluminum, zinc, bronze, and stainless
steels are some of the metals, and there are alloy choices in each of those.
Some of the hardware can be plastic, either nylon or reinforced ethylene.
Portlights can have tempered glass in them, or Lexan, or Plexiglas, and
frames of ABS or metal with rubber or vinyl inserts for linings. Other chemicals
are found on board: fuels and oils, cleaning solvents and waxes. The solvents
and characteristics of each of the families of sealants have properties
that make each one better suited to a particular kind of work.

Silicones, for instance, are very flexible. They will “give” in response
to slight shocks and vibrations without tearing or separating from the substrate,
and they tend to be chemically impervious. Fuels and oils won’t break them
down as fast. They are chemically compatible with most plastics and are
very good at creating a dividing line between electrically dissimilar pieces.
The cure rate is fairly rapid, too, and in most cases the material will
be tack-free in a couple of hours.

The down side is that, though they are elastic, most silicones don’t have
much bond strength, particularly to fiberglass, and won’t do much more than
hold themselves together. The prudent boatbuilder won’t use them for much
more than a gasket material and will depend on mechanical fasteners for
strength in part assembly. You can’t sand or paint them; in fact they can
contaminate a surface that might be painted or glassed, and their bond to
raw wood is not very good. When they are applied in areas of high heat,
they can over-cure and become brittle, causing them to fail sooner. Purer
forms of silicone can allow mold to grow, and this can contribute to rot
in wood (as well as a decline in aesthetic appeal) although most used in
marine applications have a mildicide mixed in. A marine-grade silicone also
differs from household-use silicone in that it has inhibitors to protect
against ultraviolet light degradation and tends to retain its flexibility
much longer in the marine environment.

Twenty-year joint

The polysulfides, such as BoatLIFE’s Life Calk or 3M’s 101, bond to wood
better than silicone does and also bond fairly well to metals and fiberglass.
However, they can melt some plastics and acrylics, such as Lexan, and some
vinyls can become softened by exposure to their solvents. Because of the
metallic nature of sulfur, they are not particularly suited to electrical
insulation and should not be used between two items of dissimilar metals.

Polysulfides are not as elastic as silicones and shouldn’t be used where
constant vibration will occur while the part is under stress or expected
to flex too much. They can be affected by common shipboard chemicals, though
degradation doesn’t happen immediately to fully cured products. Cure times
are more dependent on temperature and humidity and generally can take one
to three days to cure completely, but you can sand them, and they won’t
contaminate a surface to be painted. In fact, they will retain paint once
the solvents have evaporated. With luck, a polysulfide joint can last 20
years or more, and there are many good old boats out there keeping their
integrity because of polysulfide sealants.

Polyurethanes, though they’ve been around for a while now, are the most
recent development of the three and were created to seal and join laminated
panels in the aerospace industry. As a result, they bring extreme adhesion
to sealants and bond well to most modern boatbuilding materials. They are
best exemplified by 3M’s well-known 5200, or Sikaflex 292. (There is a story,
apocryphal in the industry, about a 35-foot sailboat hull being loaded by
a crane onto a trailer. After the hull had been lifted into the air and
settled on the truck, someone noticed that the keelbolts had not been fastened
and that the only thing holding the lead ballast keel to the hull was the
5200 applied as sealant.) The advice usually given about polyurethanes is:
if you think you might ever want to take the pieces apart again, use something

Weaker polyurethane

Life-Calk tube

Chemical companies have, however, been modifying this characteristic. For
example, 3M has created a new product known as 4200, which has nearly the
same strength characteristics as 5200 but lacks the same internal shear
strength, so two joined parts can be separated without the usual amount
of cutting, wedging, and swearing. Cure times for polyurethanes are relatively
slow (they cure completely in five to seven days and are tack-free in 48
hours), which can be a boon if you’re not quite sure about the fit of two
parts. As with polysulfides, though, curing times can be speeded up by misting
water on the exposed glue line.

There are other products that blur the distinctions between the families
of sealants and their properties, and they create even more havoc when you’re
trying to decipher the right product for the job. BoatLIFE introduced its
Life Seal several years ago. It is a blend of silicone and polyurethane
formulated specifically for use with fiberglass. It looks and handles like
silicone and comes in clear as well as the white and black of the silicone
family, but it has greater bond strength even when applied to wood and fiberglass.
It can be cut apart more readily than the polyurethanes, and it cures faster
than they do, too. It’s still not sandable or paintable, or ultimately as
flexible as silicones, but it is more so than the others and doesn’t have
the strong odor of the polysulfides. BoatLIFE says it’ll bond well to glass,
a difficult substrate to seal, and they recommend it for use either above
or below the waterline.

In addition to the 4200 and 5200 products, 3M also makes a 5200 with quicker
cure times. Called Fast-Cure 5200, it has most of the strength of regular
5200, but the cure time is significantly reduced: to tack-free in 1 hour
and fully cured in 24 hours – a real plus for manufacturers and others working
on small areas with lots of bedding. Like 5200, it can be cleaned up with
mineral spirits, though petroleum products won’t affect it once it’s fully
cured. At this writing, it comes in any color you want, as long as it’s
white, though the rumor mill suggests that black may on be the way.

Epoxy breakthrough

The Pettit Paint Company recently came out with a new epoxy-based
product that is redefining the use of that material in boat repair.
Called Flexbond Marine Epoxy, it (unlike other epoxy materials on
the market) retains a high elasticity component of about 40 percent
of volume. It bonds to fiberglass, wood, steel, and aluminum, above
or below the waterline, and after curing can be drilled and tapped,
sawn, planed, filed, screwed, or nailed without fracturing.

When it’s applied to overhead or vertical surfaces, it will not sag
or run. It cures under water. It doesn’t shrink or crack due to overheating
while curing, and it can be pre-tinted with all types of alkyd, polyurethane-,
or epoxy-based paints or tints without losing significant strength.

These attributes make it a fine repair product, much like any other
epoxy product on the market. What sets it apart is its flexibility.
Epoxies bond like there is no tomorrow to most other common substrates,
except for some plastics and glass. However, they are brittle and
the more of the proprietary fillers you use in the mix or the thicker
you apply them, the more brittle they become. Flexbond works the other
way. You use it as it comes out of the two-part tubes, without the
need to mix anything else into the matrix. You still get the bond
you need, but it is much better at flexing with the substrate as the
part moves with use.

This makes it a possible sealant in places where the greatest strength
in a bond line is necessary. The flexible joint that sometimes develops
between a ballast keel and the hull of a sailboat comes to mind, a
joint at which no other material seems to hold. Certain repairs on
wooden hulls could benefit, particularly with Flexbond’s ability to
hold a fastener. And it might be good for a quick-and-dirty repair

It’s too expensive to use just anywhere, and with a bond strength
even greater than that of the polyurethanes, you probably would want
to think about exactly how the part so joined was going to be used.
However, it seems to be a breakthrough in materials technology, one
which I think is going to spur a whole development of similar products
and one which will really expand our bag of boat repair tricks.

Sandable sealant

BoatLIFE also makes what the company calls a sandable sealant. They market
it as a product with which to pay the seams in teak decks. While polysulfides
have been the usual treatment for leaky deck seams, this silicone-based
product is a classic example of changes in sealant chemistry blurring the
lines of distinction between product lines. The main selling point is that,
unlike polysulfides, it fully cures in 24 hours and is tack-free and sandable
within 30 minutes, a real consideration on a project that is literally underfoot.
They say it has good-to-excellent bonding to most materials and recommend
it for sealing everything, in fact, except for wooden seams under water.
Like the other silicones, it is not paintable. It comes in the standard
deck-seam colors of black and white.

Deck seam sealants are obviously a large market, because 3M has also developed
a new product called Marine Teak and Wood Seam Sealant. A one-part polyurethane,
it’s an offshoot from the 4200 product. It differs from BoatLIFE’s seam
compound in that it takes a little longer to cure, though not as long as
the polysulfides. But, if need be, it can be painted other than its normal
black color by using lacquers. It might last a little longer than the silicone
but might be harder to remove later.

and Sealant Recommendations
selecting any caulks or sealants, refer to this chart and choose
the type that best suits your application.
– Excellent G – Good S – Satisfactory X – Not
to Fiberglass (Wood Trim)
to Wood (Wood Trim)
Seams ( Teaks and Other Woods)
Wooden Boat Hull Seams
to Hull Joints
Hull Fittings – Fiberglass
Hull Fittings – Wooden
& Lexan Plastics to Fiberglass
& Lexan Plastics to Wood
Hardware to Fiberglass
Hardware to Wood
to Wood (Deck & Hull Hardware)
to Fiberglass (Deck & Hull Hardware)
to Metal (Windshields)
to Fiberglass
to Wood
to Vinyl
Rails to Fiberglass
Rails to Wood
Shelf Life (Years)
Expectancy (Years)

What’s right for your job

Life Seal from BoatLife

What to use? It depends on what you’re going to do with it. Are you asking
it to hold back water and create a custom gasket, or do you want it to glue
two parts together? Are you doing deck seams or mounting a through-hull
fitting. A deck fill? An exhaust tip? How long can you leave it to cure
before the dog walks through it or you have to set sail and thrash it through
the ocean? And, like that ballast keel, is there a possibility that you
might someday need it to really hold?

Nine times out of 10, I find one of the general bedding products, like Life
Seal or 4200, works best. I mostly bed hardware to the hull or deck and,
having renovated a couple of boats, I’m very mindful of the fact that nothing
lasts forever. Some day somebody’s going to have to do maintenance on the
thing, and that next guy who has to tear it apart might just be me. As a
result, I don’t often have any use for something with the near-permanence
of 5200 or 292. Nor do I do much work on classic wooden hulls, so when I
buy Life Calk and 3M’s 101, I get it in the smallest tubes I can find.

I think that the most difficult decision would be what to use on those deck
seams, particularly since the two new alternatives seem to be such good
products. In general polysulfides in either one- or two-part mixtures, were
the best of the available choices, because until BoatLIFE’s development,
silicones weren’t recommended for wood, and the polyurethanes just took
too long (and the mess you could create with them was all but permanent).

The two-parts have
been recommended over the one-parts, as they cure faster and fill voids
better, though they can be a little “goopier” to work with. You
are somewhat limited by choice, as not all are available in both colors;
but all are advertised as having similar imperviousness to chemicals and
similar lifespans. One-part polysulfides, the silicones, and 3M’s product
all cost roughly the same, and the two-part polysulfide is the most expensive
of the lot. Perhaps the best idea would be to find someone with experience
in all of them, pick his brain and make your decision based on your own

Sealant selection

We asked several manufacturers why polysulfides are recommended for
“fiberglass” hulls and decks but not for some other plastics.

Two things can cause a manufacturer to not recommend a sealant for
use on a particular material: poor adhesion and chemical attack. Manufacturers
were much more concerned with poor adhesion than chemical attack.
They said they preferred to test and recommend on a case-by-case basis.
Naturally, selection charts are going to deal in general cases. So
follow the general selection chart, but double-check the container
and the manufacturer’s selection chart as well.

Some silicones are not intended for use below the waterline. Such
misapplication has caused boats to sink.

Apply it properly

The biggest complaint about any sealing job is, “I put two ounces
of stuff there, so how come it still leaks?” Invariably, when the
autopsy is performed and the part is removed, the sealant that is
there is microscopically thin and has failed because there wasn’t
enough of it to fill the space.

What happens is that the part installer becomes too gung-ho and tries
to do too much in one day. He’s applied the goop, installed the part,
cranked down hard on the fastenings, wiped off all the stuff that
leaked out around the edges, and gone on to the next piece. Well,
all that sealant is now on the rag, which will eventually end up in
the dumpster, not between the part and the hull where it will do him
some good.

Remember, that part is intended to be fastened to the hull for a good
long time and the space of a couple of hours isn’t going to be much
in the life span of the hull. Goop the part in a place where it will
have good contact with the substrate, install it lightly, and let
it sit a few hours for the sealant to cure. When you come back and
tighten the screws, there will be a nice, solid gasket under the part
that will compress and keep the water out. Keep the goop where it
belongs, under the part or in the tube. Boats are already too expensive
to be throwing away supplies because of misapplication.

Clean and prime

Above Below cleaner

With any of the products, remember: nothing is going to help them stick
to fresh-sawn, oily woods better than first cleaning the wood with products
such as BoatLIFE’s Life Calk Solvent and Cleaner and priming with their
Life Calk Primer or Sika’s 203 Primer. It’s false economy to try to do the
job and skip a step – it would be a shame to have to re-clean and re-pay
all those seams, either deck or hull, just to save the cost of the primer.
The old rule of thumb, When in doubt, prime it out, works just as well for
sealants as it does for paint.

For years, the biggest problem with all sealants has been the economy of
the packaging of the stuff. Fortunately, manufacturers have become aware
of the fact that, while a 10-ounce tube worked well for big jobs and boatbuilders,
most of the rest of us waste more than we use by having the stuff harden
in the tubes between uses. They’ve started selling most of their products
in one- and three-ounce toothpaste tubes that fit well in a toolbox and
contain just the right amount for the small jobs. They are also a lot easier
to handle in tight corners than caulking guns.

In the end, follow the manufacturers’ recommendations, be mindful of the
materials involved and the amount of bond strength you need, and don’t be
afraid to be liberal with the goop. More of it means less water in places
where you don’t want it.

For further information, contact:

BoatLIFE Industries 843-566-1225
3M Marine 877-366-2746
Pettit Paint Company 800-221-4466

Scott Thurston

Scott has returned three boatyard monsters to solid sailboat status
with the primary addition of elbow grease. He and his wife sail
their 1968 Camper-Nicholson 32, from Falmouth, Maine.


O, how she scoons!

By Donald Launer

Article taken from Good Old Boat magazine: Volume 4, Number 1, January/February 2001.

The rig Americans made their own is still "scooning" after 300 years

Two-masted schonner

It’s not discreet to
say this, but I’ve been having an affair, and I’m not ashamed to admit
it. It’s been a lifetime love affair with schooners. There are still some,
and I suspect many, of us who believe that no sailboat ever built can
compare in beauty with the schooner. But why are people still drawn to
this rig when the schooner as a recreational boat has all but faded into
oblivion? I think it’s because the schooner rig has a symmetrical rightness
about it. With a gollywobbler, fore gaff topsail, spinnoa, flying jib,
forestaysail, fisherman – what other rig can carry such a mixed bag of
sails and (instead of looking ridiculous) become breathtaking?

the deck, as you look above, a cloud of white is overhead – but aesthetics
aside, no other cruising rig has more flexibility than
schooner. It can be adjusted to suit almost any condition of wind or
sea. OK, so it doesn’t go to windward quite as well as that high-aspect-ratio
racing sloop, a characteristic common to all split rigs, but if you’re
searching for a love affair – if, as you sail by, you appreciate
it when people turn to look and take pictures – then maybe, just
maybe, you too are a schooner nut. If you are, you’re in good
company, since to judge by their designs and writings, John Alden,
Uffa Fox, and Joseph Conrad were also schooner enthusiasts. In Mirror
of the
Sea, Conrad rhapsodized: "They are birds of the sea, whose swimming
is like flying . . . the manifestation of a living creature’s
quick wit and graceful precision."

From Holland

Don Launer's Lazy Jack 32 schooner

Don Launer’s Lazy Jack 32 designed by Ted Brewer, above, and flying its fisherman staysail, at left. This sail is hoisted by halyards on the foremast and mainmast. The sheets are led to aft turning blocks and forward to cleats. It is tended like a jib when tacking.

Although most people consider the schooner to be as American as apple
pie, the popular idea that it originated in New England is probably
incorrect. It seems likely that they were developed in Holland in the
early part
of the 17th century as they are depicted in paintings of that period.
There’s no doubt, however, that Americans adopted the schooner
as their own. The American coastal schooners were not deliberately
designed to look beautiful, they were designed as vehicles of commerce
with good
carrying capacity, able to haul lumber, fish, coal, ice, stone, bricks,
fertilizer, and the like, in all possible weather and at good speed.
Thus a perfection of hull form was developed, and something completely
functional as well as aesthetically beautiful was the result.
They were as vital to American commerce as are the highways, railroads,
and airlines of today. In those days before railroads, when overland
routes were not much more than muddy paths in the warm months and snow-covered
ruts during the winter, schooners moved people and supplies between
the coastal cities.
Waterborne commerce along the East Coast of the United States was a
natural result of its topography. Our eastern shoreline is replete
with estuaries,
rivers, bays, and sounds, which allowed the windward ability of the
schooner to carry them far inland where square-riggers dared not venture.
By the
late 18th century, the schooner had become the national sailboat of
the United States and replaced the square-rigger as the ship of choice
coastal commerce.

Camden’s schooners

Fiberglass interior furring strips
Mahogany plankson top makes cabin easier to heat and cool

On the interior, Don fiberglassed vertical furring strips 16 inches apart. He glued foil-covered polyurethane insulation between the furring strips and placed mahogany planks on top. This insulation sandwich prevents hull sweating, makes the cabin easier to heat and cool, and acts as a radar reflector.

the schooners’ heyday, boatbuilders all up and down the coast were
trying to keep up with the demand and turning out large
coastal schooners in record numbers. The small town of Camden, Maine,
alone sent
more than 200 down the ways, and schooners can still be seen in Camden’s

Even though
the coastal schooner was a boon to commerce, by today’s standards,
travel in those days was still primitive. A trip
from New
York to Philadelphia, which now takes about two hours by car, would
take two days by coastal schooner if the wind was exactly right,
or it could
take two weeks under adverse conditions. And there was always the
possibility of never arriving at all if a nor’easter reared up

what constitutes this rig that transformed the early days of
our nation?
The schooner is characterized by fore-and-aft
set on
two or more masts, the foremast(s) being equal in height to,
or shorter than,
the mainmast, which is the farthest aft. Some early schooners
were rigged with square topsails on the forward mast and were
known as topsail schooners.

schooner rig has three basic types of sailplans: The old-time gaff
main and gaff foresail, the Marconi main and gaff foresail
(which allows
a permanent backstay on the mainmast, by use of a boomkin), and the
Marconi main with a staysail in place of the foresail. The fishing
of the 19th and early 20th centuries usually carried three headsails:
jib, jib staysail, and jib topsail, but most small schooners of today
opt for a single headsail for ease in handling. When this headsail
is on a boom it doesn’t even have to be tended when coming about.
(See the club-footed jib article in the November 2000 issue of Good
Old Boat).

Seldom seen today

The gollywobbler is the schooner’s version of a spinnaker. It’s
a huge staysail, usually bigger than the mainsail and foresail combined,
and is set in place of them for downwind running. It does, however,
require a large crew to handle it and is seldom seen today. The fisherman
still frequently used on even the smallest of schooners, is a trapezoidal
sail, hoisted by halyards to the tops of the mainmast and foremast.
Although seemingly archaic, it’s even more efficient than a
genoa when going to windward, according to designer Ted Brewer.The
flexibility of the schooner rig to meet a variety of conditions
is its greatest asset. When the wind starts to blow a gale, the schooner
can begin by dropping one of its auxiliary sails, such as the fisherman.
This can be followed by putting in reefs in the mainsail and/or foresail.
Higher winds can be countered by dropping the foresail and maintaining
a balance under jib and mainsail alone. Under really severe conditions,
the schooner can continue under double-reefed foresail alone, or
heave to under foresail. The feeling of proceeding under reefed foresail
heaving to under reefed foresail was so confidence-inspiring that
weathering a storm out on the Grand Banks under reefed foresail the
Gloucester fishermen called it being "in foresail harbor."When
a modern-day sailor first goes aboard a schooner, it is daunting to
say the least – there seem to be lines everywhere. On our
modest-sized schooner, the running rigging, proceeding from bow to
stern, consists
of: jib halyard, jib downhaul, jib sheet, jib-boom lazyjacks, fisherman-staysail
halyard (and, when hoisted, the fisherman staysail tack downhaul),
gaff foresail throat halyard, gaff foresail peak halyard, foresail
boom vang,
foresail gaff vang, foresail lazy-jacks, fisherman staysail peak halyard
(and, when hoisted, the fisherman port and starboard sheets), main
boom topping lift, main halyard, main-boom vang, mast-top flag halyard,
flag halyard, main lazyjacks and mainsheet.

Easier than a sloop

This is an intimidating array for the newcomer on board, but those
lines are there to make the job easier, and once you "learn the ropes" sailing
a schooner short-handed or single-handed can be easier than sailing
a sloop of comparable sail area, since, with this split rig, each of
sails is smaller and easier to manage. I singlehand my schooner most
of the time, even when there are guests aboard and find it easier to
sail than a sloop of comparable size.

Unfortunately, anyone looking for a schooner today has limited choices.
In the used-boat market there are always some wooden hulls available,
and occasionally ones of steel or aluminum, but fiberglass-hulled schooners
are harder to come by. For about 25 years, the Lazy Jack 32 was available
to the small-boat sailor. This schooner, designed by Ted Brewer and
made in fiberglass by Ted Hermann Boats, of Southold, N.Y., is 32 feet
deck and 39 feet overall, including the bowsprit and boomkin. It was
available as either a bare hull, kit, or completed boat, but in 1987,
with Ted Hermann’s retirement, production ceased.

One of the
few fiberglass schooners now being produced is the Cherubini 48. Cherubini
has been building its semi-custom 48-foot schooner for
decades in a plant in New Jersey. This is a gorgeous boat, built with
Cherubini’s renowned craftsmanship. It has traditional lines,
a saucy sheer, tumblehome, and varnished teak, along with the beautiful
schooner sailplan. The company is now known as the Independence Cherubini
Co. They manufacture both trawlers and sailboats. This is the only
company I know of now building fiberglass schooners.

Bare fiberglass hull

A little more than 20 years ago, the lodestone force of the schooner finally
became irresistible, and we bought one of Ted Hermann’s 32-foot fiberglass
bare hulls right out of the mold, doing the building and fitting-out ourselves
on a spare-time basis. This consisted of fastening the deck mold to the
hull mold, installing the engine, fuel system, exhaust system, and installing
the masts, standing and running rigging, water system, head, electric
wiring and electronics, stove, cabin heat, cabin insulation, and interior
woodwork. Our schooner, Delphinus, is still our pride and joy. It turned
out just as we hoped and has been a family member for two decades now.

I don’t advocate the schooner design
for everyone, but for us it has been perfect. Since we are now in our
70s, ease of single-handing
our boat is a prime requisite. Except for when the fisherman-staysail
is flying, tacking requires no more work than turning the wheel and
watching, as first the club-footed jib, then the foresail, and finally
the main,
move over to the new tack.Another peripheral advantage of our schooner
rig is evident when anchoring under sail. We can approach a crowded
anchorage with everything up,
select our spot, come up into the wind and sheet the mainsail in
tight amidships.
Since the mainsail is so far aft, this keeps us neatly weather-vaned
into the wind while we leisurely drop the jib and lower the anchor
as we begin to fall back. Then the fisherman, foresail, and finally
mainsail can be dropped in a relaxed manner while at anchor.

Traditional lines

We feel quite content with our cruising schooner. We have an able,
comfortable and manageable boat with the beautiful and traditional
lines of the schooner
era, but our boat is ours in more than the ordinary sense of ownership.
It is ours because built into it are small parts of ourselves; the
planning, work, sweat, skinned knuckles, and bruised knees, along with
our love
of the schooner rig. All are hidden in the dark crevices of the hull,
as much a part of our schooner as the bowsprit and boomkin. Possession
like that is hard to come by; it can’t be bought, it must be

In choosing a sailboat, its ultimate windward ability is not
the only thing to consider. The owners must also take pride in their
Beauty and practicality can coexist. In our advanced years, it’s
satisfying to know that there are some things that do improve with
age: old wine
to drink, old friends to talk to, old authors to read, and old sailboat
designs to admire and enjoy.

Marine Sanitation Devices

Marine Sanitation Devices

Articles taken from Good Old Boat magazine: Volume 2, Number 6, November/December 1999.

Build a one-off holding tank

By Mark Parker
Photos by Kim Parker

Like most good old boats, All Ways, my 28-foot Pearson Triton, was
built with an overboard discharge marine head. Since my favorite cruising
area was recently declared a No Discharge Zone (NDZ), installing a holding
tank became an important priority in my refit. The previous owner had installed
a 2-gallon plastic “tank” that fulfilled the law but was of little
real use. (He bragged that he never had an odor problem since the tank had
never had sewage in it!) I wanted a tank that was large enough for at least
several days for two of us.

My first step was to research the proper design and installation of a marine
sanitation device (MSD). That search led me directly to Peggie Hall of Peal
Products and her publication, Marine Sanitation: Fact vs. Folklore. For
a complimentary copy, contact
It is easily the clearest, most concise discourse I have ever seen on the
subject. Peggie is also a good source of information. She’s a frequent contributor
to the newsgroup and answers email questions. Her company
sells a huge variety of rotomolded polyethylene tanks to fit many installations.


Sanitation system diagram

Unfortunately, even after Peggie faxed me several pages of dimensions, we
could not find one that fit perfectly in the V-area of my forward berth.
A review of options available from Defender, West Marine, and BoatU.S. yielded
far fewer choices and still nothing that really fit. I decided to build
my own one-off fiberglass holding tank. Here is the thought process that
went into my final choice. I wanted:

  • As large a
    tank as practical
    . (Initial calculations suggested 35 gallons, but
    I finally decided on 20 gallons as a minimum.)
  • To keep the
    head-to-tank hoses as short as possible
    . (To aid in odor prevention,
    you should pump the discharge line dry after each flush. The longer
    the hose, the more water it takes to flush the line, and the quicker
    your tank fills up.)
  • To have as
    little negative effect from the weight as possible on vessel trim
    (Ideally this would put the holding tank in the bilge, however midline,
    and not in the bow, was a reasonable compromise.)
  • To avoid odor
    at all costs
    . (Following Peggie’s recommendations, this meant two
    large-diameter vent lines, one forward to the bow and one aft by the
    discharge line to create cross ventilation.)
  • To make use
    of the V-berth area
    I had already decided to make the V-berth into a large double bed. Therefore
    the area underneath was available. The area was a rectangular trapezoid,
    31 inches wide at the base, 20 inches at the top, 21 inches long, and
    20 inches high. That calculates to 35 gal. Allowing for space at the
    top for hose access drops the height to 16 inches which, allowing for
    wall thickness, yields a 32-gallon capacity.

Other choices considered
and rejected included:

  • Behind the
    (An excellent article in BoatBuilder, XIV:6 details
    such an installation) – too small.
  • In the forecastle – too far forward for weight, difficult to work in.
  • Under both sides
    of the V using flexible bladders
    – plumbing complex (two tanks)
    and concerns about odor in flex tanks.
  • In the hanging
    locker opposite the head
    – plumbing complex (hoses need to cross
    midline of boat – no place to do that).
  • Under the port
    – unbalanced location, marginal size.

Plumbing and materials

Having decided on the location, the next issue was plumbing. The West Marine
catalog has a nice set of diagrams showing the various options for plumbing
a marine head. Given that most of my cruising would be in an NDZ, I chose
to route all discharge into the holding tank but to maintain the option
of emptying the tank overboard when beyond the three-mile limit. That yielded
a relatively simple design with only one Y-valve as shown at left.

The final decision was construction of the tank. I elected to use a pure
fiberglass construction with polyester resin. I rejected epoxy over plywood
because I just did not trust it to remain laminated. (Polyester over plywood
was out of the question.) I also rejected epoxy/fiberglass as much more
expensive. Plus, I had some resin, mat, and roving left from my deck repair
and was comfortable working with it. The only real drawback to polyester
compared to epoxy for one-off construction is that you cannot use foam to
construct your plug, as the resin will dissolve the foam. Since this was
a truly one-off construction with no thought of ever making a second, there
was no need to construct a durable plug. I decided to make the plug out
of drywall (also known as Sheetrock). It is cheap, easy to work with, and
easy to destroy. The corners can be nicely rounded using joint compound
(“mud”) and tape.

The plug

Tank corner construction diagram

To build the plug, first determine the outside dimensions of the final tank
(allow clearance inside your space). Before proceeding, be sure the finished
tank will fit through the companionway and any doorways necessary to install
it. In getting the angles right for the trapezoid, I first cut a pattern
from cardboard. Using a rectangle and two triangles, I maneuvered them into
place and taped them together fixing the final shape. Using this as a starting
point, I calculated the dimensions of the plug. The following calculation
derives the inside dimensions of the panels. I subtracted 1/2 inch from
each outside dimension of the cardboard mockup to allow for 1/4 inch wall
thickness all around. Because I was using 1/2-inch drywall, I subtracted
another inch for the thickness of the panels making the plug. I did this to all dimensions because
I did not want the sides to overlap the top. I added 3 inches to
the height.

Tank showing framing and corners

Tank with mold inside shows framing and corners.

This allowed me to cut the finished tank apart, remove the plug,
taper the edges, and reassemble the tank. I cut out the panels and assembled
the plug using softwood nailing blocks on all corners. If you are making
a trapezoid like mine, this will require ripping some of the blocks to the
proper angle. This is easily done on a table saw (set the top on the table
and tilt the blade to match), but could also be done on a band saw or even
with a hand plane – great accuracy is not needed. I used a Sureform rasp
to round all edges, eliminating the corner at each edge.

The resulting radius should be covered with “mud” and tape, smoothing
it with your hand. Remember, this is the inside of the tank. No one will
see it; it just has to be smooth enough to release well. Test fit your plug
before proceeding, remembering that the actual tank will be roughly 1/2
inch larger overall. Paint the plug with primer, and apply two coats of
auto polish, buffing each coat out. The wax acts as a release agent.

One of the nice things about working with polyester is that as long as you
do not use finishing resin (which contains wax), you get a chemical bond
between layers even if you don’t work “wet-on-wet.” There is no
amine blush to worry about and no sanding between layers.

The tank

Smash drywal to remove it

Smash dry wall to remove it.

Cover the bottom with two layers of mat (1.5 oz.) and a layer of biply (24
oz. roving with 1.5 oz. mat attached) wet-on-wet, with roving to the inside
and mat to the outside, and let it dry at least to where it can be handled.
The fiberglass should be folded over the edges about 2 inches. Apply the
same schedule to the top. You can either let this dry or proceed directly
to the next step, depending on your comfort with working on a vertical surface.
Wrap two layers of mat and a layer of biply around the sides in one continuous
length, staggering the seams. If the top is still wet, this must be done
vertically but it really is not that hard, just messy. (Be sure to wear
long sleeves and good gloves in addition to your respirator.) If you elect
to let the top dry first, the plug can be turned on its side and rotated
while three of the four sides are applied, then turned back upright to apply
the fourth. Of course, you will have to repeat the process three times to
get all the layers on. I am not sure this is really easier – I did it the
first way. Apply another layer of biply to the top and bottom (waiting for
one to dry before turning it over), again overlapping 2 inches.

A note on fiberglass schedules: The double layer of mat on the inside is
necessary to ensure that the tank will be waterproof. My finished tank has
a schedule of mat-mat-roving-mat-roving-mat with double that on the edges.
It is about 1/4 inch thick and nearly bomb-proof. You can certainly use
alternative schedules; the important features are the double layer of mat
on the inside and a layer of mat between layers of roving to ensure good
bonding. Cloth or non-woven bi- or tri-directional fiberglass could be used,
but cost significantly more and are not needed in this application.

The fun begins

Finished tank before installing

Finished tank before installing connections.

Measure down 3 inches from your 2-inch overlap, and draw a line all the
way around the tank. Using a circular saw with a carbide blade or a jigsaw
with a fiberglass blade, cut the tank in half along this line. Remove the
plug. Unless you did a better job of waxing the plug than I did, this will
involve smashing the drywall and peeling it off the fiberglass in pieces.
(A trick that I learned after this project is to coat the plug at
the last minute with no-stick cooking spray just before applying the laminate.
I am not sure if it would allow the plug to pop out intact, but it is worth

Now is the time to install a baffle if you want one. It can be fiberglass
or coated plywood since the worst that will happen is that it will slowly
decay, leaving a tank with no baffle. Paint the interior of the tank with
primer and gloss enamel to make it easy to keep clean. Leave a 3-inch band
unpainted on the lip of the top.

Sand or grind (a 7-inch right-angle grinder does a great job here, but a
belt sander works) a 3-inch scarf on the inside of the top and the outside
of the bottom. Great accuracy is not needed; just draw a reference line
at 3 inches to start and taper to a feather edge. Wet out the scarf with
straight catalyzed resin. Make a glue by adding chopped fibers (easily made
by cutting your scraps into 1/4-inch pieces) to the resin, apply this to
the joint, and assemble the two halves of the tank, smoothing the squeezed-out
glue with a putty knife. Be sure to tap the top into place until it is parallel
with the bottom. Wrap another layer of biply around the sides of the tank.
If you want a non-tacky finish, you can either use finishing resin for this
step or wrap the tank in plastic wrap while it dries. The top and bottom
can likewise be coated with finishing resin or with plain resin and covered
with plastic, but this is entirely optional.

Tank installed with connections

Finished tank installed with connections at the top.

Test fit the tank again.
(It had better fit!) I had to grind the lower corners a bit as the
overlaps created a total thickness of more than 1/2 inch. With the tank
in place, mark locations for the clean-out, vent lines, and sewer lines.
I used a 5-inch clean-out, 3/4-inch thru-hulls for the vent lines, and 1
1/2-inch right-angle elbows glued into flanged fittings I got from an RV
outlet for the sewer connections. (1 1/2-inch thru-hulls stood too high.)
Remove the tank, cut the necessary holes, and install the clean-out and
fittings using plenty of 5200 sealant. (Make sure you can reach the underside
of each fitting through the clean-out before cutting
the holes – you may have to relocate something to accomplish this.) You
may want to place the tank in the boat before setting the final direction
of the fittings to be sure any critical angles are correct. Be sure the
pickup tube reaches nearly to the bottom of the tank; I cut a 45-degree
angle on the end of the tube and let the tip hit the bottom to ensure placement.
You probably want the vent lines and discharge into the tank to be near
the centerline of the boat so that they are not submerged on either tack,
but the pump-out can be at the most convenient corner.


Finally, install the tank permanently in place, being sure it is blocked
securely so it cannot shift or rub underway. I used some of the urethane
foam-in-a-can that is sold for caulking to create an exact fit along the
edges. Attach all hoses securely, double clamping below the waterline and
including a vented loop if necessary. Now go cruising in your good old boat
and enjoy the independence of a truly custom marine sanitation system!

Mark Parker, M.D.,
is director of the Emergency Care Center at The Cheshire Medical Center
in Keene, N.H. He’s been sailing since college – Sunfishes, Lasers, Hobie
Cats. His work on a 16-foot trimaran, a “work in progress,” was
temporarily sidelined when the Pearson Triton, Always, received a higher
priority rating. Mark sails with his wife and family in Narragansett Bay.
Kim, the photographer is Mark’s daughter.

Back To Top

Play it safe

by Mark Parker

Being an ER doc in real life, I have perhaps a greater than average
concern for the toxicology of the chemicals we use in working on
our good old boats. It turns out that both epoxy and polyester resins
are potentially very dangerous – but in entirely different ways.
The dangers of epoxy resin are well addressed in the Gougeon Brothers’ On Boat Construction. Put in the simplest terms, epoxy in liquid form is dangerous if you get it on your skin. It is not
dangerous to breathe, as is gives off no volatiles. Therefore, when
working with epoxy resin, you must wear gloves and long sleeves
at all times, but (contrary to popular belief) you do not need a
respirator. Epoxy dust, however, is toxic if inhaled, so you should
wear a particulate respirator whenever sanding or cutting epoxy.

Polyester resin, on the other hand, is very toxic
if the volatile gases released during cure are inhaled. (I use the
generic term polyester to refer to both isothalic and orthothalic
polyester as well as the slightly different vinylester.) Breathing
even relatively small amounts can cause permanent brain, kidney,
and/or liver damage. It is, therefore, mandatory that people working
with polyester resin wear respirators rated for organic vapors.
These are the canister types that usually have charcoal filters
which must be changed periodically. A good rule of thumb is: if
you can smell it – don’t. Change your respirator, get better ventilation,
or do something so you cannot smell the polyester, and you should
be safe.

Given an understanding and respect for the differing toxicities,
both epoxy and polyester can be used safely, and each has its advantages
and disadvantages. Epoxy is a much better glue; it sticks (bonds
mechanically) to things better than polyester. Once it is cured,
however, subsequent coats must rely on secondary (again, mechanical)
bonds. In contrast, polyester can bond chemically to itself – regardless
of the time lapse. This obviously results in a stronger bond. Epoxy
is more flexible than polyester. This can be an advantage or disadvantage,
depending on your application. The rate of cure of polyester can
be adjusted by the amount of catalyst added; epoxy resin and hardener
must be mixed in a fixed ratio with the rate of hardening determined
by the particular hardener chosen. You can use fiberglass cloth
or roving with either resin, though the more exotic fibers (kevlar,
carbon, etc.) are usually coupled with epoxy because their properties
are more complimentary. You must not, however, use mat with epoxy,
even though I have seen other authors recommend it. The binder in
mat is dissolved by the styrene in polyester, but will be unaffected
by the epoxy. Therefore use with epoxy will result in incomplete
saturation and very weak laminate.

An excellent source of information on the pros and cons of epoxy
and polyester is LBI, Inc. of Groton, Conn., (800-231-6537). They
sell epoxy and polyester and have years of experience with both.
Their catalog is informative, and the owners will answer any questions
and make recommendations regarding choosing between epoxy and polyester
for a given project. Of course, the Gougeon Brothers’ technical
department is very knowledgeable and anxious to answer any of your
questions about West System epoxy. They may be somewhat biased,
however, as they neither make nor sell polyesters. The same can
be said for System Three which publishes a very entertaining and
informative booklet on using epoxy but does not deal with polyester.

Back To Top

Consider a stitch-and-glue holding tank

by Norman Ralph

Holding tank connections

When you purchase an older boat, it’s inevitable that some things will need
to be changed, repaired, or enlarged. Holding tanks are often on the list
of things that must be added or enlarged. An older boat may lack any holding
tank at all, and many newer boats have tanks that are too small.

There are a number of commercially available tanks listed in boating catalogs,
however these may be in shapes that don’t use the available space on your
boat to its best advantage. And it may be expensive to have a custom tank
made for your boat. If you like working on your boat and have the time and
inclination, you can make your own holding tank. Tanks of a wood/epoxy composite
have been used successfully for many applications.

The first step in designing and building a holding tank is determining its
location. Several criteria are obvious. The holding tank should be located
close to the head. It should have a fairly direct route for the hoses to
run from the head to the tank and from the tank to the deck pump-out fitting.
Ideally, the tank should be as low as or lower than the head. You will have
fewer odor problems if you can avoid waste collecting in the hoses. If you
have to pump the head uphill to reach the holding tank, the chance of waste
remaining in the hose is greater. Another criterion is accessibility. After
you have constructed it, you have to be able to install the tank in the
area you choose. This area can be any shape. Available spaces in boats usually
have sides and edges of varied angles. This is what makes commercially available
tanks so inefficient in using your space.

A tank mock-up

Make a mock-up

The next step in designing your tank is making a mock-up of it. Using cardboard
from an old appliance carton and a roll of duct tape, make a full-size model
of the tank. Rough dimensions and angles can be figured with a ruler and
bevel tool. When making the tank model, be sure to determine where the inlet
and outlet hoses will be located and leave room for routing them to their
destinations and attaching the hoses and hose clamps after the tank is in

Also leave room for the vent hose at the top of the tank. The inlet hose
should connect to a 1 1/2-inch thru-hull at the top of one side of the tank.
The outlet hose should connect to a 1 1/2-inch thru-hull at the bottom of
one side of the tank. The vent hose should be at least 5/8-inch with an
appropriate thru-hull in either the top of the tank (ideal place), or on
one end as high as possible.

Drill both pieces to align holes

Once the model is constructed, you are satisfied that it is going to fit, and it
is the most efficient use of the area selected, you can begin construction.
For tanks in the 20- to 30-gallon range, purchase a sheet of 1/4-inch exterior
BC-grade plywood (the type with one smooth side). For an estimate of tank
size, use the formula for rectangular tanks: U.S. gallons = H x W x L /
231. Take your mock-up model of the tank apart, and use the pieces as patterns
for your tank. Mark your tank pieces on the sheet of plywood, making sure
the smooth side of the plywood is to be the interior of the tank. After
the pieces are marked on the plywood, cut them out using a sabre saw. It
might be wise to label the pieces.

Using a 1/8- to 3/16- inch drill bit, drill holes along all the edges of
the pieces about 1/4 inch from the edge, 1 1/2 inches apart except for the
edges of the sides adjacent to the top and the edges of the top of the tank.
When drilling the holes, place pieces that will be adjacent together and
drill through both of them so the holes will be aligned (see illustration
at left).

Stitch pieces together with heavy monofilament line

Now assemble the tank by stitching the pieces together using heavy monofilament
fishing line or small nylon wire ties, which are my preference. Before stitching
the pieces together, place a strip of 1-inch-wide masking tape along the
outside edge of the pieces covering the holes. This will prevent the epoxy
from leaking through when gluing. When stitching the pieces together, leave
the knots or clamps of the wire ties on the outside of the tank where they
can be cut off later (see illustration “a”). After the tank is
stitched together, except for the top, which is completed last, use scrap
blocks of wood to prop the tank on newspapers, arranging the joint you want
to work on first with its apex down (see photo).

There are a few precautions to observe when working with epoxy. Although
the fumes from epoxy resin are not as pungent as those from polyester resin,
you must have proper ventilation. Use disposable latex gloves and wear an
old long-sleeved shirt. Most marine catalogs carry the necessary supplies.

Mix epoxy resin and hardener and, using a disposable acid brush, paint the area
along the interior edges to approximately 3 inches from the joint. Now add
some West System 406 filler to the epoxy/hardener mix to make a putty of
mayonnaise consistency and, using a tongue depressor, work it into the joint
on the inside of the tank. Note: depending on the temperature, do not mix
up more epoxy/hardener than can be used in 8 to 10 minutes as it will “kick”
before it can all be used. The putty mixture should extend about 1 inch
on both sides of the joint and cover the stitches.

Now, cut a piece of 4-inch wide fiberglass tape the length of the joint.
Lay this tape over the putty, and extend it up on both sides of the tank.
Using an acid brush, thoroughly wet out the tape with an epoxy/hardener
mix with no fillers. Repeat this process with all the interior edges of
the tank, turning the tank as you work with each joint. When the epoxy has
kicked, cut the monofilament line or wire ties using a pair of diagonal
pliers and remove the masking tape on the exterior of the tank.

Cover the corner with cloth. Round corner with sander.

a.) Filet covers stitch in corner. Leave tie knots on the outside.
b.) Cover the corner with cloth. Overlap cloth with cloth from panels. Round outside corner.

Sand the area, and round
the edges and corners into a smooth radius. Turn the tank upside down and,
using an acid brush, paint an area 3-inches wide along the exterior corners
with epoxy/hardener mix. Now lay a piece of 4-inch wide fiberglass tape
over the joint, wet it out with epoxy/hardener mix, and squeegee out the
trapped air. Allow this epoxy to harden before proceeding.

Next, cut pieces of 6-ounce fiberglass cloth to cover the interior panels
of the tank. Cut these pieces to overlap the 4-inch wide tape on the interior
corners. Sand the rough edges around the interior joints and wipe down with
a Scotchbrite pad and water to remove the dust and any “blush”
on the cured epoxy. This blush is a film that forms on the surface of epoxy
when it cures. It is water-soluble and washes off easily. After the surface
has dried, wet the interior of the tank with epoxy/hardener mix, using an
acid brush or a 1- or 2-inch disposable paintbrush. Lay the pieces of fiberglass
on the interior panels of the tank, wet them out, and squeegee the panels
to be sure the cloth is fully saturated and trapped air is removed. While
laying the cloth on the interior of the tank, also put a layer of cloth
on the piece of plywood that forms the inside of the top of the tank.

For rigidity, add one or more baffles to the interior of the tank. Cut a
piece of plywood that will fit snugly across the width of the interior of
the tank. It should be cut so that when it is in place there is at least
a 1-inch clearance on the top and 2 inches of clearance on the bottom. This
is so waste will not hang up in the tank. When it is in place, lay the tank
on its side and work in a mixture of epoxy/ hardener with filler into the
joint in a 1-inch radius fillet on both sides of the baffle and tank. Cover
this joint with 4-inch fiberglass tape. The baffle can be covered with fiberglass
cloth either before or after it is epoxied in place, making sure the edges
are saturated with epoxy and covered with the cloth.

The interior now gets a minimum of 20 mils of epoxy barrier coat. This translates
into at least six coats of epoxy rolled on the interior surfaces with a
foam roller and brushed out to remove any air bubbles. The interior should
be kept warm with a fairly high wattage incandescent light bulb while the
epoxy cures. This will ensure that there is maximum cross-linking and curing.
Watch out for any potential fire hazard. Also apply the barrier coat to
the inside of the piece for the top of the tank.

The outside of the tank does not need to be covered with cloth but should
be given a coat of epoxy/ hardener mix to protect it from abrasion. Additional
abrasion protection can be achieved with a layer of cloth, but it is optional
depending on the location of the tank. If the cloth is added, it should
be done before the thru-hulls are installed.

Baffle/joint detail

Baffle/joint detail.

Determine where you want
the thru-hulls located, and cut a slightly oversized hole for each one.
Place masking tape over the holes on the inside. Then turn the tank so the
holes are up, and thoroughly coat the edges of the holes with epoxy/hardener
mix and allow it to cure. Remove the tape and – with a rasp, file, or coarse
sandpaper – enlarge the hole so the thru-hull will fit. Make sure no bare
wood is exposed. The thru-hulls can now be installed with a good bedding
compound. If a gauge is desired, it also should be installed in the top,
following the same procedure as for the thru-hulls.

You are ready to install the top of the tank. With an acid brush, coat the
top edge of the tank with the epoxy/ hardener mix. Then mix in a little
filler, and coat the top edge of the tank again. Lay the top on the tank,
making sure it is aligned. Place a weight on the top to ensure that it doesn’t
shift and, after scraping off any excess from the outside of the joint,
allow it to cure.

Coating inside of the thru-hull openings

Coating the inside of the thru-hull openings.

After it has cured, sand
the edge, rounding it into a 1/2-inch radius, as fiberglass cloth doesn’t
like to go around a sharp corner. Coat the top and adjacent sides with epoxy/hardener
mix for about 3 inches, and cover the corner with 4-inch wide fiberglass
cloth tape. Wet the tape out with the mix, squeegee out any air, and allow
it to cure.

The tank is basically finished. If fasteners are required to prevent the
tank from shifting after installation, tabs made from the plywood should
be fastened to the tank with epoxy/hardener and filler added (see illustration
on Page 56). These tabs should be coated with epoxy and cloth for added
strength. Fasteners are attached to these tabs to hold the tank in place.
For appearance, the tank may be painted. When installed, the hoses should
have double hose clamps with top-quality stainless steel clamps on each

Tank assembled

actual construction of the tank is much less complicated than it would seem
from reading this article. It isn’t difficult and results in an excellent
tank. Holding tanks may not be a topic you like to think about, but as more
waters are declared no-discharge areas, the topic becomes more important.
An excellent article on holding tanks and problems associated with them
can be found on the Internet at:

Questions are asked regarding epoxy/wood composite tanks for potable (drinking)
water and fuel tanks. They have been used for both with success. However,
the Gougeon Brothers (West System) does not encourage their use for potable
water and gasoline fuel. The rationale is that because they cannot control
the cure process to ensure the proper resin/hardener ratio and cure temperature
(temperature should be several hours at 150 to 2000F) for the barrier coat,
they don’t encourage its use. With potable water tanks, improper cure may
possibly result in extractives in the water. In commercial manufacturing
applications, this process is strictly controlled and, as a result, epoxy-lined
containers and pipes are used in many applications that carry the food and
drinks we use each day.

Regarding fuel tanks, the Gougeon Brothers’ literature is ambiguous. With
gasoline tanks, the constantly changing fuel chemistry, because of fuel
additives and blends, does not guarantee that in the future fuels will be
compatible with epoxy coatings. However at present, there is no problem.
So Gougeon does not encourage composite tanks for gasoline. Diesel fuel
poses no threat to epoxy, and it is often used to repair metal diesel fuel

However, before constructing a diesel fuel tank with epoxy/wood composite,
the Gougeon Brothers recommend checking with your insurance carrier regarding
any restrictions on their use. Any increase in your insurance premium might
offset any savings in the construction of the tank.

Holding tanks, however, have no such restrictions. In fact, the U.S. Coast
Guard does not certify any holding tanks, only the head itself and its discharge
into the waters. A home-built epoxy/wood composite holding tank is an excellent
way to get the most tank for your space at an economical price.

Norman Ralph, and his wife, Jeanette, discovered sailing with the help
of their grown son. It worked out for everyone – they bought his boat. A
trip to the Gulf Coast exposed them to the concept of year-round sailing,
and they began plans for early retirement in Louisiana where the water never


Sail Brokers

New wings at half price

By BillSandifer

Article taken from Good Old Boat magazine: Volume 1, Number 2, September/October 1998.

Buying, selling, new and used:
Sail brokers can stretch your sailing dollars

Parts of a rigging diagram

Those of us who love good old boats do so out of aesthetic
preferences, sailing abilities, and – let’s face it – a certain
consideration of economic factors.

If cost were not a consideration, I know I would be sailing
a Hinckley, Alden, or whoknowswhat? as opposed to my little 1961
Pearson Ariel.

It isn’t all economics, since I do get a lot of satisfaction
from my own accomplishments in giving new life to an older boat. At
times I do tire of always having to fix something, though.

Is there something wrong with my attitude? I really don’t
think so. We all go to the boat shows and oooh and aaah over the
shiny new models, admire the clean new diesels, and talk to the
sailmaker about that new genoa we want for Christmas. They quote a
price, and we walk away. It isn’t that we don’t want or need the new
sail, but the price is, well, “out there.”

There is another way. A series of reputable companies
specialize in selling new and used sails obtained from lofts and
individuals who trade in or sell the sails they no longer want or

Sometimes available sails are the result of an overstock of
new sails ordered by a charter company that failed to pick them up.
Sometimes they come from a person like me who buys a boat with many
sails when only two or three are actually needed.

Many new boat buyers are sold a “compete set” of sails
including three genoas, a spinnaker, storm jib, trysail, and riding
sail in anticipation of a long cruise to the islands that never comes
to pass.

The boat is sold to someone else who just wants to sail on
the sound, and the excess sails are sent to a sail broker who buys
them on consignment or purchases them outright.

There are thousands of perfectly good sails available through
these sail brokers at a fraction of the cost of the new ones. These
sails are rated according to condition, useful life, and appearance.
A sail with a surface rust stain can be listed as “like new” but will
cost half as much as the same sail without the stain.

Sail brokers vary

Genoa sail nomenclature

I have bought and sold sails through a broker over the years, and
they have been good experiences. I’m sure the representative firms
listed in the appendix of this article would reflect similar
experiences. Some used sail brokers sell on consignment, giving the
owner a 65 to 70 percent return on the sale. They hold a sail for a
set number of months and progressively reduce its price until sold or
redeemed by the owner at the end of the specified time.

Some sail brokers purchase outright and resell the sails.
This affords the owner instant cash flow, as opposed to waiting on a
consignment sale. One might expect to receive less money for the
outright purchase, but it depends on the sail, market conditions, and
so forth.

Other used sail brokers will purchase or sell on consignment,
or arrange for a tax deductible donation of the sail. There are sail
brokers who deal mostly in new sails made overseas at a lower price
than those in U.S. lofts. The sails usually come with a two-year and
a limited (10- or 30-day) 100 percent satisfaction guarantee.

There can be compromises

It all depends on what you want or expect from the sails. Remember, a
sail purchased from a broker was not custom-built for you and your
boat. There may be compromises in the sail that you need to consider.
The weight of the cloth may not be exactly what you were thinking of,
or the exact luff length, foot length, batten length, etc.

The exact configuration of the sail is a compromise which you
have to evaluate, based on the asking price. Quality and fit are
direct functions of price.

Ordering a sail is easy, but does involve some work on your
part. Although your boat may be a Pearson 26, for example, there were
many Pearson 26s built over the life of the design, and the spars may
not be identical, or earlier owners may have made changes. It is
always best to measure your own rig and use those dimensions to
decide on the sail you wish to buy.

Measuring the sail

Main sail nomenclature

I is measured from the top of the jib halyard sheave to the
deck (actually the sheer line).

J is measured from the center of the stay at the stem to the
front of the mast horizontal to the waterline.

P is a measurement from the main halyard sheave box to the
main tack fitting.

E is measured from the main tack fitting to the “black band”
on the end of the boom.

Headsail luff is easily measured by attaching a tape measure
to your halyard, raising the halyard to full hoist and measuring to
the bearing point of your tack shackle horn. In the case of a furling
system, measurement is from the sail attachment points when the
system is fully raised. Main leech may need to be measured in special
circumstances (bimini clearance, etc.)

LP = luff perpendicular. This determines the percentage
(i.e., 150 percent genoa) your headsail overlaps the mast. The
formula: J x % = LP.

In order to fit well, a sail must be able to be tensioned on
the luff and foot and not be “too big” to allow for adjustment and
stretching of the sail over time.

If a sail requires re-cutting to fit your needs, you may lose
the price advantage, and your local loft may not want to work on a
used sail purchased elsewhere.

Changes in hardware from hanks to luff tape or sail slider to
bolt rope or slugs will increase the price of the sail to you.

There are literally thousands, if not tens of thousands, of
sails out there in the discount new/used marketplace. Your local
sailmaker may have used “trade-in” sails also. Check out his
inventory. If you need to alter a sail you propose to purchase, look
around some more. There may be another sail at a different broker
that is just what you want without having to make the changes.

Working with sail brokers

When looking for a new/used sail, use proper terminology and
know your sizes. Usually, you can ask for a list of sails by type and
size, and the broker will send you a list of all sails he has in that
range. As an example, assume the mainsail luff is 20.8, the leech is
22.8, the foot is 9.7, and the weight is 5 ounces.

The broker will send you a list of mainsails with a luff of
perhaps 20 to 24 feet, leech of 21 to 26 and a foot of 9 to 10 feet.
The weight of the sailcloth usually corresponds to the size of the
sail, so that does not need to be specified unless you are looking
for a storm sail or other specialized sail.

The same holds true for the genoa, spinnaker, drifter,
blooper, etc. Don’t be in a hurry. The sail broker’s inventory is
changing all the time, and brokers will usually send you two or three
updated lists on one request. If you don’t see what you want, go to
another broker or request the list in a month’s time.

When you decide to buy a sail from a broker, be sure you
understand the descriptions. “New,” “like new,” and “excellent” are
self-explanatory. “Very good” usually means 65 to 75 percent of life
is left in the sail. “Good” has 50 to 60 percent of its useful life
left. “Fair” means wear and stains with some life left. “Usable” is –
well, it isn’t ripped, but it is probably bagged out, in need of
repairs, and available at a bargain basement price. Some brokers use
definitions that are slightly different but similar to the above.

Check that the hardware will fit your spar and that the
dimensions are correct. Brokers usually allow the purchaser to hoist
the sail to assure proper fit, but they don’t allow you to take it
for a sail. Some brokers allow 10 days for evaluation, while others
allow 30 days. Some brokers pay the freight to have an unsatisfactory
sail returned, while others will expect the purchaser to pay the
return freight. Be sure you understand and are happy with the
“conditions of sale” before you buy.

For many of the firms advertising as sail brokers, sails are
only a part of their business. They may also handle furling systems,
used winches, winch handles, and rigging needs. If you have other
sail-related needs – from a boom vang to a rope clutch – ask the
broker. Winches, in particular, can be a good buy from a broker as
you may be able to obtain a self-tailing pair in very good condition
two sizes larger for the new price of a smaller non-self-tailing set.

As a common practice, major credit cards and checks are
perfectly acceptable methods of payment.

Headsail nomenclature

Other alternatives

Finally, if you have all the sails you need but they are just a
little tired, there is an economical way to breathe new life into
them. SailCare will take your old sails, inspect and measure them,
determine if any repairs are needed, and check the cloth for sun
damage and deterioration.

Your sails are cleaned and impregnated with new resin.
SailCare saturates the cloth with the resins and sets the resins with
controlled heat. A fungicidal agent is added to inhibit mold growth.
A water repellent as well as a UV protector is also added.

Remember that this process will not restore a bagged-out sail
to its original shape. It will just clean and resin the existing
shape. Sails must be setting with a satisfactory shape to be worth
sending them off for this treatment. The sail will be returned clean,
nearly wrinkle-free, and much stiffer.

The cost of treatment is between 11 and 12 percent of the cost of a
new sail from a U.S. loft (excluding any repair costs or
modifications made to the sail). SailCare is a full-service loft.

I am unaware of other firms that perform similar work, but
there may be some out there. Contact information for SailCare and a
representative list of sail brokers is listed below. There are more
brokers. Ask your local loft or yacht broker about sail brokers in
your area.

Most transactions are conducted over the telephone with
shipment via UPS. I live in Mississippi and brokered my sails in
Annapolis, Md. The sails were sent to whoknowswhere.

If you must have new sails with the latest technological
advantages, or if you race, visit your local loft. But if you need a
deal on new wings for your good old boat, contact a sail broker.

Bill Sandifer, a marine surveyor and small boat builder, has been
living, eating, and sleeping boats since the early ’50s 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).

Back To Top


The Sail Warehouse
Phone: 408-686-5346
Fax: 408-646-5958

Masthead Enterprises
2202 1st Avenue South
St. Petersburg, Florida 33712
Phone: 800-783-6953
Phone: 813-327-4275
Fax: 813-327-5361

Second Wind Used Sails
100 SW 15th Street
Fort Lauderdale, Florida 33315
Phone: 800-273-8398

lantic Sail Traders
2062 Harvard Street
Sarasota, Florida 34237
Phone: 941-351-6023
Fax: 941-957-1391

Bacon & Associates, Inc.
116 Legion Avenue
P. O. Box 3150-CS
Annapolis, Maryland 21403
Phone: 410-263-4880

National Sail Supply
Fort Myers, Florida
Phone: 800-611-3823
Fax: 941-693-5504

Sail Exchange
407 Fullerton Avenue
Newport Beach, California 92663
Phone: 800-628-8152

SailCare, Incorporated
410 9th Street
Ford City, Pennsylvania 16226
Phone: 800-433-7245
Fax: 412-763-2229

Phone: 800-268-9510
Fax: 914-268-9758

Somerset Sails
8691 Main St.
Barker, NY 14012-0287
Phone: 800-323-9464

Tanks a Lot: Part 2 – Rescue that rusting tank

Tanks a Lot: Part 2

By Bob Haussler

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

Rescue that rusting tank

With the water tank out we cleaned the space throughly

Once the tank was removed, we took advantage of the opportunity to give
this otherwise inaccessible space a thorough cleaning, light sanding, and some new paint. The two removable lengthwise runners on the
bottom at left are what the tank rests on. These are of painted
hardwood and reduce chafe that would otherwise occur between the
metal tank and fiberglass keel housing.
Remove the rust on the bottom of the tank

Rust covered the lower half of the tank (see photo below left). Once
the rust was removed by sandblasting, pits were revealed that apparently
had been forming for several years. Fortunately, these pitted areas
weren’t deep enough to affect the integrity of the tank. The tank
could be reused, provided the rusting process could be halted. The
only foolproof option available was to thoroughly sandblast the
tank to remove all traces of oxidized iron down to bare metal.

Also clean the tank interior

was a perfect time to clean the tank interior. See photo above.
We used rags to mop up the remaining diesel and the few teaspoons
of sludge that had gathered in the corners at the tank’s lowest

Tucked away under the
cabin sole floorboards, the average fuel tank doesn’t get much attention
from those of us who like to sail. In fact, it may be totally neglected
until something major goes wrong. Even if you’re good about preventive
maintenance, your time and energy probably stop short of a detailed inspection
of that fuel tank and of yanking it out, if necessary. The good news for
many of us is that it is possible to refinish a problem tank without too
much effort and expense. The key is to do it before it’s too late. New
tanks are expensive. But it is possible to maintain your existing tank
in a condition that will be worthy of your confidence and reward you with
years of trouble-free service.

the bilge, the typical black iron tank – painted and installed at the
factory – undergoes all kinds of insults. More than likely, its exterior
will be assaulted by salt water, bilge
cleaning chemicals, and a little diesel fuel now and then. The paint
breaks down, and before you realize it, rust begins to do its thing
on the undersides, even though what you can see from above may look
fine. On the inside, if the tank is normally kept full and the owner
is careful about filtering fuel before adding it to the tank, severe
problems are not likely to develop.

years ago we were in the market to buy a used pocket cruiser. On board
the Baba 30 cutter we eventually purchased, my first look at the fuel
tank in the bilge compartment raised questions and concerns. A flashlight
beam down the exterior sides of the black iron tank revealed puffs of
rust blossoming midway down to near the bottom. The fiberglass walls
of the bilge space were very close to the sides of the tank, so it was
impossible to thoroughly assess the tank’s condition without pulling
it out. As built, the tank compartment was isolated from the rest of
the bilge to contain diesel spills and to isolate it from the normal
slosh of bilge water. Nevertheless, water had entered this compartment
somehow, probably working its way down from above, and the tank was
immersed long enough over the years to deteriorate its gray enamel paint
and initiate the rusting process.

flashlight beam also revealed that the tank was sitting in a small puddle
of liquid in the very bottom of the compartment. We sampled the liquid
with a hand pump. It was mostly water with a little diesel fuel in it.
The trace of diesel in the liquid sample raised the concern that the
tank might have a leak. However, since the compartment remained dry
after being pumped out and left alone for several days, fuel leakage
through the tank walls or welded seams was apparently not a problem.
We topped the tank off with fuel for this observation.

people wouldn’t stop here, but would conduct a pressure test to detect
leaks. Pressure testing requires sealing all openings and pressurizing
the tank by using a gauge, valve, and hand pump to achieve pressure.
If the pressure is sustained at the original level overnight, the tank
is deemed salvageable. I didn’t have what was needed to conduct this
test, but it would have provided valuable and more definitive information
for us when making our decision about whether to buy the boat. Instead,
we considered the worst case, which was the possible need to install
a new tank, and got a quote for a new custom-fabricated aluminum-alloy
tank. We factored this cost, $400 to $500, into our offering price.

Next, we pumped about 2 gallons of diesel from the bottom of the tank to see
if there were any obvious problems brewing, such as microbial sludge
and accumulated water. I was looking for the telltale greenish black
or brown slime caused by bacteria and fungi that commonly infect diesel
fuel, clog filters, and cause poor engine performance.

the sample was clean, and no water was present. Water introduced into
the tank, such as by condensation, can provide a medium where organisms
can thrive. Once we owned the boat, I made a mental note regarding the
need to refinish the tank exterior but left the tank in place for a
future appointment with the tank doctor. Every time I thought of pulling
the tank and refinishing it, I delayed because the time the task might
take would interfere with the much more exciting prospect of sailing.
It turned out that the job, once started, took less than two weekends.

30-gallon wedge-shaped, flat-bottomed tank, measuring 36 inches long
and 18 inches high at its highest point, with a maximum width of 16
inches, appeared to be quite heavy and was secured in the bilge by three
floor joists across the top. It had the usual hoses plus ground wires
connected to it to complicate the task of removal.

The glossy white epoxy applied to achieve a maximum thickness

Powder coating colors are rich and bright. The glossy white epoxy we
chose, above, was applied to achieve a maximum thickness for long-term

Eliminate any trace of ixodized iron, or replace the tank

The garnet sand and bead blasting process was a crucial step to eliminate any
trace of oxidized iron. Without this step, in photo above,
it probably would have been better to replace the tank rather than
expend the effort and money to refinish it. The tank should now
last another decade or two before it shows signs of exterior rust.

Professional results

We achieved
professional results, see photo above, along with a great deal
of satisfaction that the job was done right and will last.

Finally, after several years, while I was replacing some fuel system parts on
our Volvo Penta diesel, I decided it was time to tackle that tank. We
had just returned from a 1,300-mile trip, and the tank ended up on a
MUST DO list before we headed offshore again.

floor joists were easy to remove. We detached the hoses and wires, and
my 15-year-old son and I lifted the tank out fairly easily. Once removed,
it was painfully obvious that the tank should have been pulled and refinished
years ago. The factory enamel finish was rusted through over most of
the lower half of the tank. Pitting had begun on the black iron surface.
My first reaction was to attach a wire wheel brush to my hand drill
to remove the rust and old paint. After a few minutes with the drill
and brush, it became clear that sandblasting was necessary.

called around to find a metal coating shop able to sandblast and powder
coat the tank with epoxy. Epoxy powder coating offers exceptional qualities:
high impact resistance, virtually eliminating chipping and scratching;
outstanding moisture, chemical, and corrosion resistance; and good control
of film thickness, from less than one to more than six mils. Powders
can be applied to all electrically conductive metal surfaces, such as
iron, steel, and aluminum. Metals that don’t rust but may corrode in
the marine environment can also benefit from the coating. The only limitation
is that the object must be able to withstand temperatures of up to 400
degrees Fahrenheit without damage. In this case, I was not concerned
about the temperature, save for a large rubber gasket seal at the inspection
plate. We removed this before beginning the coating process.

we delivered the tank to the shop, we opened the inspection port and
thoroughly cleaned the tank interior to remove the residual diesel fuel
and some rusty sediment. This sediment hadn’t shown up when fuel was
hand-pumped from the tank bottom. Reducing the potential for water condensation
inside the tank is not the only reason why it’s a good idea to keep
your tank full. A full tank minimizes oxidation of the inside tank walls,
reducing the chance for oxidation to eat away at your tank and welded

powder coating is a fairly new high-tech metal coating process which
uses dry powdered paint. The powders are applied using a special high
voltage gun (100 KV or more) which charges the particles and causes
them to cling in a uniform manner to the part being coated. The coated
part is then placed in an oven at 300 to 400 degrees Fahrenheit to fuse
the powder to the metal surface. It is heated for periods of 10 minutes
to an hour, depending upon the size of the object. When cool, the part
is ready for use.

shop estimated the job cost at less than $100. Garnet sand, which is
hard and sharp, was used for the blasting. It’s effective in removing
rust, even in the pitted areas. The next step was to blast it with minute
glass beads which polished the tank to a silver color, and removed any
remaining rust, as well as “flash rust” that may have developed
overnight between the time it had been sandblasted and then readied
for the powder coat.

The powder coating, approximately six mils thick, consisted of 100 percent
epoxy and had the appearance of gloss white enamel. The epoxy powder
was applied directly to the metal. No primer is used in the process,
because the electrically charged powder requires bare metal to adhere.
Light paint colors enhance your ability in the future to see any rust
formation and, by using some touch-up epoxy paint over the years, you
may be able to avoid another major refinishing job. While the job involved
some hard work, it was easier than we had anticipated and cost much
less than replacing the entire tank. The result is a tank that is as
durable as the rest of the boat, along with some peace of mind that
the next time we go sailing we can depend on the tank to hold its contents.

Repowering, Part 2 – Don Casey

Repowering,Part 2

By Don Casey

Article taken from Good Old Boat magazine: Volume 3, Number 1, January/February 2000.

Installing a new engine Part 2: Getting it to fit

In the November 1999 issue, well-known marine author Don Casey described
how to remove the old engine from your good old boat. Now it’s time for
the final exciting step …

Leveled cross pieces just touch the centering string and help transfer the shaft centerline to the stringers.

Even though engine brochures generally provide all the measurements you
need, it’s hard to reconcile them in three dimensions while the old engine
is still in place. That’s why I delayed ordering the new engine until the
old one was out and I could see exactly how a new one would fit.

To do this most effectively, I used a half sheet of foam insulation board,
a razor knife, and a roll of duct tape to construct a rudimentary three-dimensional
model. This took about 20 minutes, and it let me see exactly how much space
there would be between the flywheel housing and the hull, between the top
of the engine and the cockpit sole, between the alternator and a scupper

I was able to move the foam “engine” easily to the limit of the stringers
to evaluate clearance and access. An unplanned benefit of the foam engine
was that it also helped me visualize the configuration of the new exhaust
system and the routing of fuel lines and control cables. It also revealed,
to my consternation, that the old rails weren’t parallel.

Now, confident that the real engine would hold no surprises, I gave my dealer
the green light. A truck showed up at the yard exactly a week later with
the new engine.

Fuel-tank issues

Don’t overlook the fuel tank. If the existing tank is galvanized – not uncommon
for gasoline – you must replace it. A galvanized tank will flake particles
of zinc into diesel fuel, blocking filters and injectors.

If the tank isn’t galvanized, but is captured by the engine, replacing it
now might be a case of “a stitch in time.” Our fuel tank happened to be
made of Monel metal, but I still wanted to pressure test it for leaks. This
became easier when I discovered that a 1 1/4-inch threaded PVC plug was
a perfect fit for the deck fill. I drilled a hole in the plug and installed
a standard tire valve. I clamped short lengths of fuel hose to the outlet
and vent fittings, then squeezed the hose closed with Vise-Grip pliers.
A half-dozen strokes with a bicycle pump put the tank under light pressure,
which I checked with a gauge. Never (I repeat, never) put more than about
3 pounds of pressure in the tank. When the tank was still under pressure
the following day, I was satisfied that it was sound.

The next issue was 30 years of sludge. Having the tank professionally cleaned
might have been a better option, but good access lured me into cleaning
it myself. I drained the tank, then “scrubbed” the interior with rags stapled
to a dowel. It turned out to be a tedious process, but eventually the rags
came out clean.

If you convert a gasoline tank to diesel, you’ll need an additional fitting
for the return of excess fuel. The neatest way to accomplish this is to
drill a hole in the vent connection (remove it first, of course) and braze
a hose barb over this hole. Return fuel is hot and should not go directly
back to the engine, so do not put the return line barb on the pick-up fitting.

Finding the prop line

With the tank checked and cleaned, I turned my attention to the engine bed.
The existing stringers were too tall, but it was essential to get them to
the right height relative to the propshaft. I did this by stretching a string
through the stern tube and across the engine space. Outside, I fastened
the string to the rudder. Inside, I tied a heavy weight to the string and
hung it over a length of cleat stock with a notch in the top surface to
catch the string. This was clamped to either side of the engine hatch. By
moving the notched board up and down, and from side to side (and with smaller
adjustments of the outside attachment point) the string can be positioned
in the center of the stern tube at both ends. This is the centerline of
the propshaft, and it must also be the centerline of the transmission’s
output shaft.

The engine and shaft must be in precise alignment.

More to the immediate point, because the distance below the driveshaft centerline
is the same for all four mounts on the Yanmar, this string also marks the
correct incline for the engine stringers. To project this line onto the
stringers, I cut two lengths of square stock to an interference fit between
the stringers, wedged them in place just touching the string, then leveled
them side to side with a bubble level. (I had already checked to make sure
the boat had been blocked up level.) Tracing their top surfaces onto the
stringers gave me the necessary two points to draw a line at the same height
and incline as the shaft centerline.

But the bottoms of the mounts aren’t at the same height as the shaft. On
this particular engine, Yanmar specifies a position of from 0.87 to 1.42
inches below the shaft centerline. Reasoning that the mounts would compress
with time, I chose the end of the range that gave me the highest stringers.
Allowing a few extra thousandths for the planned overlay of glass sheathing,
I drew a second line on the stringers 0.95 inch below the first. Using a
circular saw and a clamped board as a guide, I cut each stringer on this
second line. Because the rise of the hull interfered with the saw at the
aft end, some handwork was required to complete the cuts.

The old rails were 1 1/2 inches too far apart in the front and nearly 3
inches too far apart in the back. I addressed this by sistering 1 1/2-inch
thick white oak to the inside of the rails. Ideally, these pieces should
have been wedge-shaped, but I couldn’t see any easy way to accomplish that,
so I simply chamfered the top after installation to provide adequate clearance
for the engine. I also added a couple of wooden gussets to the outside of
the stringers, more to dampen vibration than to add strength. A couple of
layers of fiberglass cloth over the rails and generously lapped onto the
well-ground hull, completed the engine bed.

No heavy lifting

A simple plywood jig eliminates the need to move the heavy engine onto the
bed until you are ready to bolt it in place. Make the jig from a flat piece
of 1/2-inch plywood the length and width of the engine. With one end representing
the mating surface of the drive flange, use a square to mark a centerline
on the board. Measure from the flange end and the centerline to locate exactly
the four holes for the flexible mounts, and drill them to the same diameter
as the matching holes in the engine brackets.

Attach a perpendicular piece of plywood on the centerline at either end
of the jig. These should be slightly longer than the distance between the
bottom surface of the mount brackets on the engine and the centerline of
the drive shaft – a dimension provided on the engine drawing. Mark this
distance on centerlines extended (with a square) from the jig centerline
and drill 1/4-inch holes at the marks. Saw into these two holes so you can
slip them over the centering string.

Rerig the centering string, making sure it is in the center of the stern
tube at both ends. Bolt the flexible mounts to the jig and set it on the
engine bed, guiding the centering string through the saw cuts into the 1/4-inch
alignment holes. Slide the jig fore and aft and side to side to position
the mounts where you want them, then turn the adjusting nuts – the ones
underneath – to raise or lower the jig until the centering string is in
the center of both holes. Be sure you keep the jig level side to side and
the mounts parallel to the centerline. Trace the mount holes onto the stringers,
then remove the mounts from the jig and – without turning the adjusting
nut – bolt them to the corresponding mount bracket on the engine. A word
of caution here: even though the mounts look identical, there may be a difference
in the elasticity between front and rear, so make sure you position them
correctly on the jig to start with.

Drill the stringers for the lag screws that will hold the mounts in place,
and you are ready to install the engine.

In with the new

Plywood jig centered on the centering string.

When the new engine arrived, the masts were still out of the boat, so I
had the yard lift the engine with their boom truck and lower it through
the companionway into the main cabin. Getting it under the cockpit was the
reverse of dragging the old engine out, except that I couldn’t bear the
thought of scraping that shiny paint off the bottom of the oil pan. I tacked
a cleat stock stop across the end of a small rectangle of plywood and set
the engine onto this “sled” for its short ride aft.

When the engine was in place, I installed the lag screws, snugging them
down, then backing them off half a turn to allow some later lateral adjustment
of the engine.

Prop and shaft

Prop configuration – diameter, pitch, number of blades, blade area, and
so forth – is another subject altogether, but you do need to know the maximum
prop diameter to determine the appropriate shaft diameter. The formula for
propeller diameter is (632.7 x shaft horsepower0.2) / shaft RPM0.6, but
as a practical matter, prop diameter on a sailboat is more often determined
by clearance or acceptable drag. For example, the Yanmar I had selected,
with a 2.61 reduction gear, is best mated to a 16-inch prop, but allowing
the necessary tip clearance of around 15 percent of prop diameter, hull
configuration limited me to a 15-inch prop. (I could have selected a lower
reduction gear, but I preferred the slower shaft speeds.)

The rule of thumb for shaft diameter is one fourteenth of prop diameter.
That is 1.07 inches for a 15-inch prop, which squares well with Yanmar’s
recommendation of 1.1-inch shaft diameter for this engine. This assumes
bronze or stainless steel, but you can safely reduce the diameter of a Monel
or Aquamet shaft by 20 percent. Our existing Monel shaft could have done
the job, but it was more important to me to have the engine as far forward
as possible.

To determine the length of the new shaft, I temporarily bolted the shaft
half of the new coupling to the drive flange. Inserting the old shaft into
the stern tube to the mark I had made before extracting it, I was able to
measure from the interior face of the flange to the end of the old shaft.
I needed a shaft exactly 10 inches longer than the old one. But to isolate
the prop electrically, I had decided to insert a flexible coupling in the
drive train, which would move the coupling aft 1 inch.

The 7/8-inch diameter of the old shaft was marginal, so I decided to make
the new one 1 inch in diameter, if I could do it without modifying the stern
tube. A quick check of catalogs revealed that I could buy a 1-inch Cutless
bearing with the same shell diameter as the 7/8-inch bearing. The prop shop
had a 1-inch stuffing box that would fit my stern tube, priced at less than
$50, complete with a new hose.

I ordered a 1-inch Aquamet 19 shaft, 9 inches longer than the old one, and
had the prop shop fit and face the coupling. They also reconditioned the
old prop and rebored it for the larger shaft. Prop shops often designate
shaft length to the small end of the taper, so be careful that you tell
them exactly how you arrived at your measurements. A drawing is a good idea.

With all the parts in hand, I installed the new Cutless bearing, quad-clamped
the new stuffing box in place, inserted the new shaft, and installed the
new flange.

The crowd roared

With the shaft flange just shy of the drive flange, I moved the shaft up
and down to find the center position. Supporting it there, I checked for
misalignment with a straightedge. None. I slid the shaft forward and the
coupling mated with a satisfying thunk. The crowd roared, but it was the
centerline string and the plywood jig that deserved all the glory.

I checked the space between the two halves of the coupling with a feeler
gauge. The maximum gap was about 0.012. Not good enough.

The engine and shaft must be in precise alignment.

Yanmar specifies a maximum face runout of 0.008, so I tapped the forward
mounts slightly to starboard and gave the adjusting nuts on those same mounts
about a half turn. The maximum gap dropped to 0.005. Now it was good enough.
The boat would likely change shape slightly when it went back in the water,
and I would recheck the alignment then.

Finally, I separated the coupling and reassembled it with a flexible doughnut
(Drivesaver) between the flanges.

Dripless packing

Because I find simplicity nearly always superior at sea, I decided against
a mechanical shaft seal. But I was interested in trying dripless packing
in hopes of minimizing how many times I would have to tighten the stuffing

Dripless packing turned out to be easy to install, captured on either end
with rings of standard Teflon packing. The only drawback so far is the substantial

Wiring and plumbing

Using a centering string to determine the propshaft centerline.

It would have been easier to install the fuel and seawater filters and the
coolant subtank while the engine compartment was empty, but I wasn’t sure
of their exact locations until the engine was in place. The engine came
with the subtank and a Racor fuel filter, and at the suggestion of Mike
Muessel, president of Oldport Marine Services in Newport, R.I., who served
as my technical advisor, I selected a Vetus above-the-waterline raw water

The subtank came with its own hose, but the barb at the engine fill faced
the wrong way. To keep the hose run as short and straight as possible, I
unbolted the filler neck and turned it around, taking care not to damage
the gasket.

The water connection should have been a snap – a 3/4-inch hose from the
through-hull fitting to the filter, and a second hose from the filter to
the engine. Inexplicably, however, the barb on the engine turned out to
be 5/8 inch, so a hose adapter was required. Always make raw water connections
with reinforced (suction) hose so it will not collapse if the through-hull
or the filter become partially blocked. Double clamp all below-the-waterline

Fuel hose (types A1 or A2) makes fuel connections as easy as water connections.
The line from the tank to the engine is broken twice, once for the shut-off
valve and again for the primary filter. The return line leads directly from
the engine to the tank.

The most difficult connection is probably the exhaust. Waterlift mufflers
have become nearly universal, but they must be installed properly or they
have the potential to flood the engine. Guidance is widely available.

I elected to install a Vetus waterlift muffler, but because the bilge configuration
prevented mounting it well below the mixing elbow, I used a galvanized nipple
and a threaded coupling to raise the elbow. This provides increased resistance
to backflooding and has the added benefit of raising the water injection
connection above the waterline, eliminating the risk of water siphoning
into the engine through the raw-water pump. A gooseneck muffler at the transom
that takes the exhaust line right up to the underside of the deck before
exiting the transom somewhat lower, should prevent following seas from forcing
water back into the engine.

Single-lever control

Out in the cockpit, I installed a new single-lever engine control – the
old engine had a separate shift and pull-up throttle. I used an old cable
as a “scout” to determine the route and length of the new cables.

The cockpit was also the logical location of the new instrument panel, although
the installation instructions cautioned against exposing it to the weather.
Recessed enclosures are available, but in our cockpit there was no place
to install one. The alternative was a custom teak frame with a gasketed
acrylic cover.

I was disappointed to discover that the only instrument on the “instrument
panel” was a tachometer. No oil gauge, no water-temperature gauge, no ammeter,
and no engine-hours meter. Lights and alarms are certainly better at announcing
a problem, but I find gauges very useful in heading off the kinds of problems
that eventually sound an alarm. Gauges are on my shopping list.

The good news is, after you mount the panel, wiring it up is dead simple:
connect one end of the furnished harness to the plugs hanging from the back
of the panel, the other end to the plugs on the engine. That is it.

The only other electrical connections are the battery cable connections
to the starter. If you are replacing a gasoline engine, be cognizant that
the starting loads will be much higher for the diesel. Your existing battery
cables are probably too small. How big they need to be depends on the current
draw of the starter motor and the round-trip length of the cables. The appropriate
cable size for our installation was 2/0. Don’t scrimp here. This will make
the difference between starting and being dead in the water when your batteries
are low.

Running the engine

Cutting down the engine stringers to the correct height

Fill the engine and transmission with the specified oils. Make up a 50/50
mix of antifreeze, and fill the header tank and the subtank. Fill the fuel
tank with fresh fuel and bleed the fuel system according to the engine-manual
instructions. The only remaining requirement is a flow of cooling water.

In the yard, I disconnected the pick-up hose from its through-hull and stuffed
it through a nearby 1 1/2 inch through-hull fitting for a (disconnected)
cockpit scupper. Outside the boat, I supported a bucket against the hull
and over the fitting, with the pick-up hose extending down into the bucket.
A running garden hose secured to the bucket kept it full and overflowing.
I also used the hose momentarily to prime the pickup line. If you don’t
have a convenient through-hull, you can wedge the bucket next to the engine
and let the bilge pump take care of the overflow.

To get oil to the engine before starting, it is always advisable to spin
it with the starter for about 5 seconds while continuously pulling the kill
knob to prevent starting. After this precaution, I turned on the key, hit
the starter, and the engine fired, clattered for a moment, then settled
into a satisfying purr. A look over the side confirmed that the cooling
water was flowing through the engine and out of the exhaust. In fact, I
was surprised at how much water the pump drew. When I increased the engine
speed, the faucet had to be wide open for the garden hose to maintain a
full bucket. Don’t let the water level drop below the pick-up hose or you
will burn up the pump impeller.

Once in the water, you will need to check engine/shaft alignment one more
time. Take the time to tweak it in as close to perfect as you can get it.

After a couple of engine hours, open the throttle all the way to see if
your prop selection was correct. Ideally, the engine should just reach the
maximum specified RPM. If it runs faster, you need more pitch. If you can’t
reach maximum revolutions, less pitch is indicated. However, being slightly
overpropped (too much pitch) does put more power into the water at cruising
RPM, not altogether a bad thing.

Worth the effort?

Lower levels of irritation and worry are intrinsic benefits of a new engine,
but installing it yourself offers other bonuses. There is, of course, the
pocketful of money you will have saved. Doing it yourself lets you determine
the level of workmanship. You can also expect a satisfying sense of accomplishment.
But perhaps the biggest advantage is an immediate intimacy with the new
engine. The knowledge of how all the components work together and what they
need from you to keep working provides a matchless basis for a long and
happy symbiosis.

Casey abandoned a career in banking in 1983 to devote more time to cruising
and writing. His work combining these two passions has appeared in many
popular sailing magazines. He and his wife, Olga, cruise aboard their 30-year
old Allied Seawind. They like to point out that they’ve done all the work
themselves with no adult supervision. Don co-authored
Sensible Cruising:
The Thoreau Approach and became the authority on boat fix-it projects
with his book,
This Old Boat. He is the author of a series of how-to
books in the International Marine
Sailboat Library Series. Don has
also written
Dragged Aboard – A Cruising Guide for the Reluctant Mate.

Repowering, Part 1 – Don Casey

Repowering, Part 1

By Don Casey

Article taken from Good Old Boat magazine: Volume 2, Number 6, November/December 1999.

This is first of a two-part series by well-known boating author Don Casey.
Here he tells exactly how he extracted an Albin diesel from his good old

What you need to know before removing the old engine

A 20-hp Beta swings into a C&C 30

The engine and shaft must be in precise alignment. This is
the only hard, fast rule for installing a new engine in an old boat. Everything
else you make up as you go along.
I pass this on to you with the authority of having just repowered our own
good old boat. I am also pleased to tell you the process turned out to offer
fewer opportunities for disaster than I had imagined.

Why repower?

Until recently, repowering a sailboat nearly always meant replacing a gasoline-fueled
engine with a diesel. Today, the engine coming out is nearly as likely to
be a diesel. Sometimes the owner simply wants more power, but more often,
the replacement has to do with either the cost or availability of parts
for the old engine. My own experience is a case in point.

Our old boat, an Allied Seawind, came from the factory with a 20-horsepower
Albin AD-2, a Swedish diesel as dependable as a St. Bernard and as rugged
as stone. But after 30 years of service, the time for a major overhaul was
at hand.

In common with a lot of other European diesels of the same era, Albin has
almost disappeared in America. There was no place that I was willing to
take the engine for a rebuild. And even if I could get the job done in a
monastery workshop, then what? Already I had seen water-pump impellers out
of stock for nearly a year. If I couldn’t get the most common replacement
part now, what were the odds of getting a rocker arm in Trinidad five years
from now? All things considered, a new engine promised to be the better

How much power?

The first step in selecting an engine is determining horsepower requirements. Skene’s Elements of Yacht Design, by Francis Kiney, and Dave Gerr’s Propeller Handbook both contain formulas that allow you to estimate
power requirements based on displacement and waterline length, but it is
important not to overvalue such calculations. They only tell you the theoretical
horsepower needed to push your boat through smooth water. Punching through
waves requires additional power. So does motoring against a breeze. Or overcoming
a foul bottom. If the displacement amount doesn’t include the weight of
equipment, supplies, and crew, the calculations understate power requirements.
And they assume a propeller with more surface area than you may want to
drag around under sail.

The truth is these formulas are a migraine you don’t need. They are going
to tell you that you need about 2 horsepower per 1,000 pounds of displacement. (Editor’s note: We used Dave Gerr’s formulas for calculating our own power
requirements when repowering. We found them to be useful and comforting.
In the end, we selected an engine with about 2 horsepower per 1,000 pounds
of all-up cruising weight.)
How can I know that in advance? Because
the game is fixed. The only variable is the speed-length ratio, and virtually
all displacement sailboats have a theoretical speed-length ratio of about

Since you are repowering, you can also deduce your power requirement empirically.
How satisfactory was the old engine? If, for example, the old engine was
anemic against a breeze, you need a bit more horsepower this time. On the
other hand, if you never saw the tachometer above 2,000 rpm, a look at the
engine’s output curve (example on next page) will show how much horsepower
you have been getting along with.

In our case, the 2-horsepower rule yielded 24 horsepower, but I already
knew that 20 would push us along smartly in smooth water. A few times, extra
ponies would have been reassuring, but the rest of the time a bigger engine
would be loafing. Because diesel engines do better under load, I felt reluctant
to add power, but the particular engine I wanted was available in either
a 16-horsepower, 2-cylinder version, or as a 24-horsepower, 3 cylinder. (Note: These are continuous horsepower ratings. Advertised ratings often
are intermittent horsepower – meaning you can run the engine at that load
for no more than one hour. Intermittent horsepower is typically 10 to 15
percent higher than continuous horsepower.)

Ultimately, I settled on the 24-horsepower motor, and my somewhat convoluted
logic might be helpful. The primary issue for me was idling, not powering.
For years, we had run the old engine at anchor for up to two hours a day
to keep the batteries charged and the holding plates frozen. A smaller engine
would better tolerate this light load, and had we intended to continue accumulating
most of our engine hours at anchor, I would have installed the smaller engine.

However, we have abandoned the main engine for refrigeration and primary
charging, using it only for propulsion. With no compressor belted off the
new engine, 16 horsepower still would likely have been adequate-just. However,
the one-time-only opportunity of banking 50 percent more power for an additional
investment of about a grand carried the day.

A 240-pound engine is hoisted in using the boat’s running rigging. The mainsheet tackle is connected to the main halyard, and the vang tackle pulls the engine toward the boom end. NOTHING hangs from the middle of this boom. Check the safe working load of your gear before you do this.

It is common practice
to factor in additional horsepower for engine-driven accessories such as
a high-output alternator, a refrigeration compressor, or a watermaker. This,
I think, is unnecessary and probably even undesirable, except for engines
under 10 horsepower. At less than full throttle, the propeller absorbs considerably
less horsepower than the engine can produce, so plenty of extra power is
available. You can determine how much from the spread between the engine
power curve and the one for the propeller. Or, if your old engine is a diesel,
multiply your average fuel consumption (in gallons per hour) times 16 to
arrive at the average load on the engine in horsepower. (We can make this
calculation because 1 gallon of diesel fuel will produce around 16 horsepower
for 1 hour.) If, for example, your usual consumption is 0.5 gallon per hour,
you are using only about 8 horsepower. The difference between this number
and the continuous horsepower rating of the engine is unused capacity. It
just makes sense to make use of this excess before adding dedicated capacity.

Loading the engine more heavily more of the time also extends its life.
On those rare occasions when you want all the engine’s power available at
the prop, it is a simple matter to turn off the auxiliary loads. For those
unswayed by this logic, in the absence of specific power requirements for
these auxiliary loads, a 2-horsepower allowance for each won’t be far off.

Which engine?

After you arrive at the target horsepower, the next choice is whose engine
to buy. Here the primary issue may be fit, but probably not size. Today’s
engines are nearly all smaller than older engines of similar or slightly
less horsepower. The main fit issue is the location of the output flange.

The engine and shaft must be in precise alignment.

With battens, a tape measure, and a few body contortions, you should be
able to determine the height of the shaft relative to the engine bed. While
you are bent like that, also measure the length, individual width, and center-to-center
width of the bed stringers. Wait, don’t straighten out yet. How far below
the stringers can the engine extend? How much room do you have above the
stringers? Now get all these dimensions on paper, and you are ready to qualify
or rule out any engine you may be considering.

Access is another concern. If you can only get to one side of the engine,
you want filters, pumps, and dipsticks on that side. Will you be able to
service the starter without removing the engine? Will there be room above
the valve cover for an upturned oil container?

If your budget has you contemplating a seawater-cooled engine, snap out
of it. Unless you use the engine only in fresh water, seawater cooling is
a bad idea. Scale will form in the cooling passages, eventually leading
to overheating. Running the engine at lower temperatures to retard scaling
only postpones the inevitable, and it reduces the engine’s efficiency. Freshwater
cooling has become the norm for good reason.

Because a diesel doesn’t require electricity to run, hand-starting is an
attractive feature. Dead battery? Get out the crank. It’s a nice fantasy,
but the reality is that sailboat installations rarely allow adequate room
to spin the crank safely. Make sure yours does before fretting over the
absence of this feature. An extra battery or a small generator in the lazarette
accomplishes the same thing without the risk of broken bones.

The fact that I was replacing an engine perfectly capable of delivering
another 30 years of reliable service, if parts for it were still available
and/or affordable, colored my decision from the start. I wanted an engine
that had already been installed by the thousands, by the tens of thousands,
reasoning that this was our best assurance of wide and long parts availability.
For our size boat, that engine was the Yanmar GM series.

Reliability was equally important, so I made inquiries. No owner I talked
with had a single negative thing to say about the engine. This should not
be construed to suggest that Yanmar engines are more reliable than competitive
brands, but it did give me assurance that they are no less reliable. Once
I was satisfied that the engine would fit, my choice was pretty well set.

Price, by the way, played no part in my choice. I reasoned that $1,000 difference
one way or the other, amortized over 30 years, works out to $33 a year.
That was insufficient for me to make any compromises. That did not, however,
keep me from negotiating the best price I could on the engine I wanted.

Buy the book

500 pounds of Swedish cast iron walks the plank.

With the project still months down the road, there was no need to make a
firm commitment, but I was sure enough about the Yanmar that I decided to
ask about the availability of an installation manual.

Early on I had the good fortune of meeting Mike Muessel, president of Oldport
Marine Services in Newport, R.I. Taking unfair advantage of Mike’s enthusiastic
nature, I had committed him to become my technical advisor. (Both my engine
installation and this article have benefited greatly from Mike’s wise and
willing advice.) So I called Mike to inquire about getting an installation
manual in advance.

“Good plan,” Mike said. “And Yanmar’s is a good one.”

That turned out to be an understatement. The well-illustrated step-by-step
instructions were not only clear but reassuring. In addition, the 250-page
manual was a treasure-trove of helpful information, providing specific shaft
and prop recommendations, detailed engine specifications, and complete wiring
diagrams. Only twice during the project did this manual fail to answer every
question that popped into my buzzing brain. These were resolved with quick
email messages to Mike.

Whatever engine you select, buy the installation manual in advance; then,
with a yellow highlighter in hand, read it cover to cover. It will save
you the discomfort of uncertainty and maybe the misery of error.

Repowering afloat

It is quite possible to repower at the dock and, having the “ground” more
or less at deck level, makes it relatively easy to transfer the engines
to and from shore using the boat’s blocks, winches, and lines. Wrap the
boom directly above the companionway with a carpet scrap or beach towel,
and attach both the main halyard and the topping lift to a strop around
the boom at this location. Put both masthead lines under tension to support
the boom.

A chain hoist, or, with care, a multipart tackle (the main sheet) rigged
beneath the boom to the strop lets you lift the engine out of the cabin
and swing it into the cockpit or onto the cabintop. If you are using a tackle,
take the tail through a turning block to a winch. When the engine is on
deck, reposition the strop farther aft, and you should be able to use the
boom to swing the engine ashore onto a waiting dolly. Reverse the process
to get the new engine aboard.

Dockside repowering has less appeal when you have to remove the prop shaft.
This generally involves a diver extracting the shaft while a helper inside
slips a dowel or capped pipe into the stuffing box to plug the hole. This
can work as long as the new shaft is the same diameter as the old one, but
ifyou are adding horsepower, you may need a larger shaft diameter. That
means a new Cutless bearing and a new stuffing box, changes you don’t want
to make in the water.

I think there are significant advantages to having the boat out of the water
when repowering, regardless. Why?

The engine and shaft must be in precise alignment.

The process of aligning the engine is easier and infinitely more accurate
if you can use a centering line that passes through the stern tube. I am
going to explain this technique in detail, but it virtually assures a near-perfect
alignment right out of the box, saving hours of tedious adjustment.

A second reason to have the boat out of the water is to thwart human nature.
Engineering advances have resulted in shorter transmissions, so the weight
of the engine moves aft if you bolt it to the existing shaft. It is almost
always better to move the weight toward the center of the boat by positioning
the engine as far forward as possible, but this requires a new, longer shaft.
A larger-diameter shaft may also be indicated if the new engine is more
powerful than the old one. Having the boat in the water makes it more likely
that you will resist shaft replacement.

Even if the new engine mates perfectly with the old shaft, you still should
pull the shaft and inspect it for wear and corrosion. And while the shaft
is out anyway, it’s a good time to replace the Cutless bearing and repack
the stuffing box. You may also want to replace the hose that connects the
stuffing box to the stern tube. You won’t do any of these if the boat is
in the water.

Removing the shaft

I decided to do the job high and dry in the boatyard. Step One was to extract
the shaft. The prop had to come off first, so I borrowed a puller from the
yard. Never try to flail the prop off with a hammer, but a few love taps
on the center of the tensioned puller where it is pushing against the shaft
can be effective at breaking the prop free from the taper. I put an indelible
mark around the shaft where it exited the hull so I would be able to reposition
it later.

Inside the boat, I backed off the adjustment nut on the stuffing box so
the shaft would slide more easily. I also put another positioning mark on
the shaft, this one where it disappeared into the coupling. To prevent the
shaft key or anything else from dropping into the bilge, I spread a towel
beneath the coupling. Then I freed the shaft from the coupling. There is
a trick to this that, barring complications from corrosion, makes it a snap.

Loosen the clamp bolts or remove the setscrews and/or tap out the pin holding
the shaft in the coupling. You can try to slide the shaft out of the coupling,
but chances are it won’t budge. Mark both flanges so you can reassemble
them with the same orientation, then unbolt the coupling and take it apart,
sliding the shaft aft. Tape a strong spacer – a nut or a bolt – to the center
of the transmission flange, then reassemble the coupling and tighten the
bolts evenly. As the coupling bolts pull the shaft flange forward, the spacer
prevents the shaft from coming with it, thus pressing the shaft out of the
flange. Replace each spacer with a longer one – I eventually used sockets
– until the shaft drops out of the coupling.

With the shaft free, I slid it out of the boat and set it aside for later.
I also released the clamps around the stuffing box hose and twisted the
hose free of the stern tube.

Freeing the engine

The next step is to disconnect the old engine from its web of attached cables,
wires, and hoses. To avoid unwanted drama, start by unclamping the positive
battery cable(s) and removing it (them) from the battery post(s).

I disconnected the exhaust hose next, to gain better access. Since I wanted
the engine space to be totally empty for cleaning and painting, I also unclamped
the exhaust system from the hull fitting and removed it in its entirety.

The only water connection was a hose to the raw water pump. On the other
end of that hose was a screen filter with a glass housing, long on my list
for replacement. I removed the filter, unclamped the thru-hull connection,
and tossed the whole mess. Moving on to the fuel connection, I disconnected
it first from the tank so it wouldn’t set up a siphon. For the same reason,
I also disconnected the output side of the primary filter, using an old
towel to catch the inevitable dribble from the line. Only then did I disconnect
the feed to the engine. Using old fuel lines struck me as a bad way to save
20 bucks, so I dumped them. Yanmar promised a new Racor primary filter,
so I removed the old cartridge-style Fram, drained it into a plastic jug,
and gave the housing away. By the way, your preparation for repowering will
have to include locating an appropriate disposal site for fuel and oil.

Control cables were next. The old controls were not compatible with the
new engine, so as I disconnected each from the engine. I also detached it
from the boat, removing all associated clamps, supports, and mechanisms.
That left me with a few abandoned holes in the cockpit, which I closed with
fiberglass patches.

The old engine had an amazing number of wires connected to it – starter
and alternator connections, engine condition sensors, grounding wires, and
a few unidentified interlopers. At first, I labeled each as I disconnected
it, but I quickly came to my senses. The Yanmar installation manual showed
a plug-together harness connecting the new engine to its accompanying instrument
panel. The only existing wires that would be reconnected to the new engine
were the battery cables. So out came the wire cutter, and I clipped the
engine free of its wires in a matter of minutes. As it turned out, they
all lead, one way or another, to the old instrument panel or ignition switch,
and when I removed those, the engine space ended up empty of all wiring.

One word of caution: If you are using a smart regulator or have add-on meters,
you will need to identify, label, and save the hook-ups for those items.

Out with the old

When I extracted the lag screws fastening the engine mounts to the bed stringers,
the engine was free. Unfortunately, I still had to get its 500-pound bulk
from under the cockpit sole out into the main cabin, where it could be lifted
out of the boat.

Before I started moving the engine, I emptied the oil from the engine and
the transmission, and I drained out the coolant. I expected that I would
need to turn the engine on end to pass it through the companionway, and
I was hoping to avoid a messy spill. The alternator also had to come off
for the engine to fit through the engine hatch.

Next, I commandeered a 10-foot length of 2 x 12 the yard had lying around
for scaffolding. I slid it between the engine rails and pushed it back until
the aft end rode up on the hull as far as it would go. Lifting the board
against the bottom of the engine, I used a small bottle jack to raise the
forward end just enough to lift the mounts. With the board securely blocked
at this attitude, it was a simple matter to drag the engine out into the
main cabin with a come-along, taking care to keep the engine centered on
the board.

When the crane came to unstep the masts (I was also rerigging), the accommodating
operator also lifted the engine up through the companionway. The removal
part of the job was done.

(Next article: Insiders’ tricks for installing the new engine, shaft,
and propeller – how to avoid a hernia and many other setbacks on the way
to that magic moment when you turn the key, hit the starter, and fire up
for the first time.)

Casey abandoned a career in banking in 1983 to devote more time to cruising
and writing. His work combining these two passions has appeared in many
popular sailing magazines. He and his wife, Olga, cruise aboard their 30-year
old Allied Seawind. They like to point out that they’ve done all the work
themselves with no adult supervision. Don co-authored
Sensible Cruising:
The Thoreau Approach and became the authority on boat fix-it projects
with his book,
This Old Boat. He is the author of a series of how-to
books in the International Marine
Sailboat Library Series. He recently
returned to the subject of cruising with the book,
Dragged Aboard –
A Cruising Guide for the Reluctant Mate.

For more on this article: Repowering Part 2 – Don Casey

Repowering, Part 1 – The Decisions

Repowering, Part 1- the decisions

By Don Launer

Article taken from Good Old Boat magazine: Volume 5, Number 5, September/October 2002.

New engine or rebuild? And should you install it yourself?

Don Launer studies

On a cold February day, Don studies his engine replacement information. Delphinus rests outside awaiting her new engine.

Chances are your boat
is like a member of the family. You could no more dispose of it than sell
your only child. But, inevitably, the day arrives when you realize that
your power plant is on its last legs, and there are some important decisions
to be made.

Some boatowners go
to the boatyard, write a check, and say effortlessly, “Call me when
it’s ready.” For most of us, however, it’s a traumatic
moment. After all, repowering an inboard auxiliary sailboat is a lot more
involved than simply dropping a new outboard onto the transom.

For diesel engines,
the symptoms begin to develop years before things become critical. Whereas
your brand-new diesel would start within the first turn, now the cranking
takes longer — and, if the weather is cold, much longer.

When Rudolf Diesel first patented
his engine in 1892, it was a revolutionary idea. His engine used the principle
of auto-ignition of the fuel. This idea, based on the work of English
scientist Robert Boyle (1627-91), was that you could ignite the fuel from
the heat produced by compressing the air in the cylinder. If this compression
were great enough, the temperature in the cylinder could be raised enough
to ignite the fuel-and-air mixture. In modern diesel engines, this compression
ratio is between 14:1 and 25:1, which raises the temperature of the air
in the cylinder to well above the burning point of the diesel oil that
is injected into the cylinder (about 1,000 degrees F).

Compression, then,
is the key to a successfully operating diesel. But when a diesel is up in
years, cylinder walls and piston rings are worn and fouled with deposits,
so they no longer make a good seal. Valves and valve-seats have also become
pitted and fouled and don’t seal properly. Thus, it becomes much more
difficult to get the compression necessary for ignition, especially when
the engine block is very cold and rapidly saps away the heat of compression.

Biting the bullet

Don discussing proposal with Tom Dittamo

Discussing the proposed engine replacement with Tom Dittamo of Harbor Marine Engines.

New Yanmar 3GM30F

The new Yanmar 3GM30F is delivered early, which gives Don adequate time in which to measure it and familiarize himself with it.

When the day finally arrives for you to bite the bullet, there are two
options: get the engine rebuilt or buy a new one. If the horsepower of
the old engine was perfect, if it pushed you through heavy winds and waves
when they were right on the nose, and if that engine has always been freshwater-cooled
and has not had other serious problems, rebuilding that old engine might
be more compelling. Certainly it would be less expensive.

But if your present engine is very old and has had raw saltwater cooling,
chances are that having it rebuilt will not be practical. There will be
rust, frozen bolts, parts to replace, and probably great difficulty in
getting those parts. Even though the cost of rebuilding an old engine
is typically about half that of a new engine, you may very well be throwing
money away on a rebuilding venture. And if you have always felt that you
could use just a few more horsepower to get you through those nasty conditions,
now is a good time to upgrade.

Remember that when you decide
to go with a new engine there are many more costs involved than just the
price of the engine itself. Engines today, which provide the same horsepower
as your old engine, are usually lighter and smaller and rotate at higher

These smaller dimensions in
width, height, and length make it almost certain that your engine bed
will have to be rebuilt to accommodate the smaller engine, since its mounts
will probably be closer together.

It’s also important to
know the type of transmission on your new engine. Basically, there are
three different types:

  • Parallel is a transmission whose propeller-shaft coupler
    is in line with, or parallel to, the engine’s crankshaft.
  • Angle-Drive is a transmission whose coupler is at a downward
    angle to the crankshaft.
  • V-Drive is a version in which the transmission is forward
    of the engine and makes a V-turn to drive a propeller shaft leading aft.

Each of these configurations
presents its own problems when rebuilding the engine bed.
The smaller fore-and-aft dimensions will probably also mean that you’ll
need a new and longer prop shaft unless you can set the new engine farther
aft on the beds. Having a new shaft is probably a good idea anyway. After
the old engine has been removed and the old shaft has been slid out of
its stuffing box, you’ll probably see rings of wear in the shaft
where the stuffing box (and sediment) have created grooves. If your old
shaft is more than a decade old, you’ll probably find that the flange
coupling is so frozen onto the shaft with rust that it’s impossible
to free it without further ruining the shaft.

Also, if you didn’t previously
have a flexible coupling or Drivesaver, now is a good time to add this
item, which will help protect your new transmission in the event of the
propeller picking up a piece of wood or a heavy line. If you’re
already using a flexible coupling between the engine and the shaft, chances
are that the bolt holes in this flexible coupling or Drivesaver will not
match your new engine’s coupler, and a new, matching, flexible coupling
will have to be purchased.

As for the propeller, there’s
a 50-50 chance that the new engine may rotate in the opposite direction
from the old engine. (If your present engine turns the prop shaft counterclockwise
in forward gear, as seen from the stern, you now have a left-hand prop.
If the new engine has a clockwise rotation, you need a new prop.)

Even if the direction of rotation
of the new and old engines is the same, chances are that the engine speed,
the horsepower, and the transmission gear ratio of the new engine will
be different from the old. This will probably mean a new propeller of
different pitch, diameter, or number of blades, making your old prop obsolete.

Free consultation

Prep for installation of a smaller engine in a C&C 30

Before and after: preparations for the installation of a smaller
Beta Marine engine in a C&C 30 required a new engine bed and
oil drip pan to be constructed. This boat began life with an Atomic
4 which was later replaced by a Bukh and finally the Beta.

Required a new engine bed and oil drip pan

Most engine installation manuals give charts showing the recommended prop
for your particular displacement and hull configuration, and most propeller
manufacturers provide a free consultation service to determine the type
of new prop you’ll need when repowering. Michigan Propellers, for
instance, has a Pleasure Boat Prop-it-Right Analysis Form, which will
suggest the correct propeller for your new engine.

On some boats, the engine and
propeller shaft are deliberately installed at a slight angle off the fore-and-aft
centerline of the boat. This may have been done to offset the tendency
of a single engine to push the stern to one side or the other or to allow
the shaft and prop to be removed without removing the rudder. If your
boat has an offset driveshaft, repowering with an engine whose shaft rotates
in the same direction as the old engine may be preferable. (We have an
offset shaft on our C&C 30. We repowered with opposite rotation and
are satisfied with the outcome. It seems like this should have mattered
more than it did. —Ed.

The smaller proportions of
a new engine and the rebuilding of the engine bed will also mean that
your present oil drip pan beneath the engine will no longer fit, and a
new pan will have to be fabricated and installed.

There is one complication of
a physically smaller engine that may be overlooked. If you’ll be
using your engine to supply hot water through a heat exchanger, the water
connections on the new engine might well be lower than on the previous
engine. If the heat-exchanger water lines from the engine to the hot water
tank slope upward, an air-lock can develop in the heat-exchanger coil
in the hot water tank that will prevent water flow and, consequently,
heat exchange.
One way to overcome this problem is by installing an expansion tank at
the highest point in the water lines at the hot water tank. The pressure
cap on this tank should match that of the one on the engine, and filling
the water system can be done through the filler cap of the new tank.

Fuel-return line

With diesel engines there’s another thing to consider. Some diesels
had just one fuel line going from the tank to the engine. Most modern
diesels, however, also require a fuel-return line from the engine to the
tank (often called the overflow fuel line). Depending on an engine’s
design, the amount of fuel returned to the tank via this line can vary

If you had an engine
with a single fuel line, the chances are that you don’t have a fitting
on top of the fuel tank(s) for this new fuel-return line. This problem
can usually be solved by removing the current air-vent fitting at the
top of the fuel tank and substituting a T-fitting. One side of this T
can then still be used for the air vent while the other side can be used
for the fuel-return line. This problem also will be encountered when changing
from a gasoline engine to diesel.

It’s also likely that
with a new engine, the water, fuel, and exhaust systems may have to be
rebuilt or re-sized. Even if this isn’t the case, when the old engine
is removed is a good time to replace those old hoses.

If you are considering selling
your boat within the next few years, it might be tempting to believe the
value will increase enough to offset the money you have put into a new
engine and its installation. But although a boat will be worth more with
a new engine, the increase in value will probably not equal your investment
when you sell your boat. The same caveat is true if you convert from gas
to diesel. But here we are discussing repowering your boat because you
want to use it for many more years, not with the idea of selling it.

Do it yourself?

Most owners will hand over the repowering project to a knowledgeable,
qualified, and reputable installer. Still, it’s valuable to know
the potential problems along the way. If you have decided to have the
job done professionally, there are several preliminary steps to take:

  • Only accept bids from installers who have actually examined your
  • Consider the reputation of the installer and the yard.
  • Ask whether they have installed this type of engine before.
  • Ask for references from owners of boats similar to yours who have
    had the same job done.
  • Make sure that all associated work is specified on the proposal.
  • Be sure that the final installation will conform to American Boat
    and Yacht Council (ABYC) standards.

Some boatowners will want to
tackle the job themselves. If you do your own installation, there are
much greater benefits than saving money. You will end up with an intimate
knowledge of your new installation. This, alone, is a great incentive.

If you decide to do the job
yourself, it’s still a good idea to have a professional in your
corner, someone who is a dealer for your new engine or who has done engine
installations, and whom you can trust, talk to, and order parts from.
If you’re doing your own work, the closer the yard is to your home,
the better. And if you don’t want to tackle the whole job yourself,
you may elect to do just the engine rewiring, the exhaust system, the
water system, or the fuel system, after the new engine has been installed
on its bed and aligned.

Whether you do it yourself
or have the engine installed by a professional, the job requires engineering
judgment and good mechanical skills.

We were fortunate that for
years there was an engine mechanic near us who would give us excellent
and detailed advice whenever we had a do-it-yourself engine job to tackle.
Tom Dittamo, owner of Harbor Marine Engines, in Lanoka Harbor, N.J., has
his business in a marina less than 15 minutes from our home. Tom is also
a Yanmar dealer, so we chose that yard, Laurel Harbor Marina, in Lanoka
Harbor, for our haulout and engine replacement.

We bought our new engine from
Tom six months before beginning our project. He stored it in his shop
at the marina during this time, which allowed me to go in for all the
necessary measurements whenever I needed to. This enabled us to plan well
ahead for our project and purchase all the ancillary gear necessary. (This
early engine purchase, which was suggested by Tom, also saved us 5 percent
on the manufacturer’s price increase that went into effect shortly
after we ordered the engine).

Start early

Also Replacing the propeller

Replacing an engine often means replacing the propeller as well. The C&C 30 gets a new right-hand Michigan Wheel 15 x 9 2-blade propeller. Later this was replaced by an Autoprop.

Changing inboard engines is not a simple project. If you are very adept
at major projects, if you are a good mechanic, if you have lots of time
and patience, and most of all if you enjoy working on boats and this type
of challenge, then you should start doing your homework and putting together
a loose-leaf notebook.

Begin buying the necessary
parts months in advance. I started buying my conversion gear six months
before the start of my project, and that was not too soon. I discovered
that the delivery of a new prop would take six weeks and the longer prop
shaft would take almost as long, even though it was always: “I’ll
have it for you next week.”

It’s important to learn
as much about your new engine as possible before you start the project.
There are many engine distributors who offer one- or two-day seminars
specifically targeted at owners of auxiliary engines. Mack Boring &
Parts Company, which sells Yanmar engines and parts, has one- and two-day
owner seminars on Yanmar engines that are invaluable. These classes are
given at Mack Boring locations in Union, N.J., Wilmington, N.C., Middleborough,
Mass., and Buffalo Grove, Ill. The classes cover the theory of operation,
explain all the parts of your new engine, cover routine maintenance, and
include a hands-on session that gives participants the opportunity to
do routine maintenance on the engine they will actually own, including
adjusting and bleeding it.

Incidentally, one item that
is invaluable in setting up the placement of a new engine on the rebuilt
bed is an engine jig, which can usually be rented from the engine distributor.
The jig consists of light-weight metal framework that locates the proper
position of the engine mounts and shaft alignment. It copies the exact
size and angle of the real engine and can be aligned with the prop-shaft
coupling, revealing whether there has to be any change made in the engine
bed or mounts long before the engine is swung into position.

The alternative to
the engine jig uses another type of alignment method that will be discussed
further in Part 2 of this series, which will
run in the November/December issue of Good Old Boat.

Installation manuals

Nearly all engine manufacturers have comprehensive installation manuals
that are essential for the do-it-yourselfer. These manuals, which should
be part of your repowering notebook, have step-by-step installation instructions,
including alignment procedure; wiring diagrams; engine specifications,
dimensions, shaft and prop recommendations; and fuel, water, and exhaust-hose
requirements. It’s also a good idea to purchase a service manual
for your engine. It will be a handy reference for the future, and it gives
some installation information that isn’t necessarily shown in the
installation manual.

New engines come with their
own instrument panels. If you have an instrument panel recess in your
cockpit, especially one that is molded into a fiberglass boat, make sure
that the new engine’s instrument panel will fit into the old recess.
If it won’t, it might be tempting to try to use the old panel with
the new engine, but this usually is asking for a lot of headaches, including
replacing the tachometer, oil and temperature gauges, and wiring. Some
manufacturers have several panel options of different sizes. Yanmar, in
their GM series for auxiliaries, have three control panels of varying
sizes and options.

Repowering a boat from a gasoline
engine to diesel power needs extra consideration. Diesel engines of equivalent
horsepower are usually physically larger than their gasoline counterparts.
You may find, however, that the Atomic 4 in your boat has much more horsepower
than the diesel you will replace it with. Many smaller boats were powered
with an A4 and a direct-drive transmission. Only half the engine speed
range, and thus roughly half the horsepower, was used. These direct-drive
boats were equipped with very small props.

Bed modification

the old Volvo engine goes

Out with the old (Volvo), above. In with the new (Yanmar), below.

The new Yanmar is installed

Even if you’re sure an appropriate diesel will fit in the engine
compartment, you’ll probably need to rebuild or modify the engine
bed. Consider the maximum-diameter prop that can be fitted to your boat
and still have the required tip clearance. Match this against the prop
that the new engine will need. Not all gasoline tanks and fuel lines are
compatible with diesel fuel and, as mentioned previously, a fuel-return
line will also have to be added. The primary water-separator/ fuel filter
will also need to be replaced. In some cases, the prop shaft may have
to be increased in size which, in turn, means a new stuffing box.

Most of us have a pretty good
idea how much power we need, based on the performance of our previous
engine. The old rule-of-thumb for auxiliaries of 2 hp for every 1,000
pounds of displacement is usually pretty good. If you really want to get
into the calculations, then consult Dave Gerr’s Propeller Handbook
or Francis Kinney’s Skene’s Elements of Yacht Design. Another
source of information is at http://www.boat on the
web. This site, which provides a wealth of information on diesels, charges
a $25 membership fee. If you click on Propeller/Power/ Shaft Calculations,
you can find the proper shaft size, the power required for a given hull,
and the recommended propeller specifications.

Be sure to check the alternator
options available for your new engine. If your electrical consumption
is high, as is the case with a refrigeration system or a watermaker, be
sure to specify the appropriate alternator when you order the new power

Engines for an auxiliary must,
above all else, be reliable. When selecting the manufacturer of your new
engine, do your homework. Talk to other sailors who have had an engine
replacement recently and get their opinions. Get information from various
engine companies and local marine mechanics, check out these engines at
boat shows, and talk to the manufacturers’ reps.

When you’re finally back in the water with a new engine, you’ll
feel much more inclined to take that long cruise you’ve been delaying
for years, safe in the knowledge that you have a new power plant of high
reliability for which parts are readily available.

2 of Don’s repowering series
, with a focus on installation,
will appear in the November/December 2002 issue of Good Old Boat.

Back To Top

Resources for engines, information

Boat and Yacht Council (ABYC)


Beta Marine


Harbor Marine Engines
Laurel Harbor Marina

Mack Boring

Michigan Wheel Corporation



Volvo Penta of the Americas Inc.

Westerbeke Corporation / Universal

Yanmar America Corp.

Propeller Handbook, by Dave Gerr
Ask BookMark 763-420-8923
Good Old Boat Bookshelf

Part 2 of repowering article

Repowering, Part 2 – replacing the power plant

Repowering, Part 2- replacing the power plant

By Don Launer

Article taken from Good Old Boat magazine: Volume 5, Number 6, November/December 2002.

Tips on how to extract the old one and install the new one

Preparing to hoist out the old power plant

Preparing to hoist out the old power plant.

Old diesel is liftted out

The old diesel is lifted out using the marina’s Travelift.

In the September/October
issue of Good Old Boat, we discussed the decisions to be made when
the inevitable day comes that your power plant needs to be either rebuilt
or replaced (Repowering, Part 1: The decisions).
In either case, the engine will have to be removed from the boat. Once
you have decided that engine replacement is the way to go, and you have
made the decisions laid out in the previous article, the actual engine
replacement can begin.

Although the photographs and
text detail the specific procedures on our schooner, Delphinus, most of
the problems we encountered generally apply to all sailboats. We were
replacing a 1980 saltwater-cooled Volvo MD-11C diesel that had a left-hand
prop with a new 2001 freshwater-cooled Yanmar diesel designed for a right-hand
prop. Whether the propeller is left-hand (counter-clockwise) or right-hand
(clockwise), is determined by the direction the propeller turns, as viewed
from the stern, when the transmission is in “forward.” (Usually,
the crankshaft of the engine itself turns in the opposite direction from
the propeller shaft). Although the Yanmar that I decided to use has slightly
greater horsepower than the old engine, its physical dimensions –
height, length, and width, as well as weight – are all less than
that of the old Volvo. This is common with replacement diesels, due to
improved diesel design within the last couple of decades.

Before the old engine can
be removed, all of its connections to the boat must be taken off: the
exhaust, water lines, fuel line, control cables, and electrical connections.
After everything connecting the old engine to the boat has been disconnected,
the screws or bolts holding the engine mounts to the beds can be removed,
and the engine is ready to be hoisted out of the hull.

Difficult removal

It would be nice to think that the old engine can be easily removed. In
point of fact, in fiberglass boats, the engine was often installed before
either the deck mold and/or the interior mold were put in place –
a bizarre construction concept. As a result, some engines have to be removed
through the cabin, while others can be taken out through a removable cockpit
panel. Our boat has a removable cockpit panel, since the centerboard trunk,
on which the schooner-rig’s mainmast rests, is just forward of
the engine compartment doors and eliminates this possibility.

Sometimes an engine can be
removed more easily in sections, such as by first removing the transmission,
and sometimes the old engine can only be removed by lifting it out by
one end. Often, discouragingly, the only way is by cutting out a section
of fiberglass. The same problem may hold true for wooden boats, where
major woodworking reconstruction is sometimes necessary to get the old
engine out of its cocoon.

The old dirty engine leaves a mess

After the messy disassembly of all the connections to the old diesel, the dirty engine compartment is ready for a good scrub before work begins on the beds for the new engine.

A mock-up of the engine-bed alignment

I do a mock-up of the engine-bed alignment procedure on the deck of our home.

A new engine bed is established

A new engine bed is established, using 3/8-inch-thick, 3-inch by 3-inch marine-grade aluminum angle. A new oil drip-pan has been constructed of fiberglass,
with an Oil-Zorb insert, and the level and alignment of the new
beds is checked before they are fastened in place.

Engine mounts ae positioned and bolted down

Engine mounts are placed in position and bolted down.

In order to take out our old
engine, a section of the interior aft countertop in the cabin had to be
cut away. In addition, the Volvo engine and its transmission were longer
than the cockpit hatch opening, and the old engine had to be canted at
a 45-degree angle to get it out of the hull. I had planned to remove the
old Volvo’s transmission, which would reduce the overall length
and make getting the engine out much easier. However, in trying to do
this, I discovered one of the four bolts holding the transmission to the
engine was frozen in place. Its head was stripped, and nothing I could
do would free it. I probably could have drilled it free, but its location,
underneath the transmission in a nearly inaccessible spot, made this almost

Yard expertise

When it’s time to remove the old engine, the obvious choice is
between doing it yourself or having the marina do it. Most boatyards have
done this job many times before and have the equipment and expertise to
do it efficiently. If you are hoisting the engine out yourself, it goes
without saying that you must make sure your hoist can handle the weight.
For an engine that has to be removed through the cabin, special equipment,
which most marinas have, is necessary.

With the old engine gone,
the engine compartment can now be cleaned up of old oil and grease. Although
there are many good (and expensive) marine degreasing products available,
you might want to consider using Dawn dishwashing soap, which does the
job as well as or better than anything else. It’s also great for
cleaning up greasy hands and is biodegradable. Once the engine compartment
has been cleaned and becomes more habitable, the old wiring, plumbing,
and exhaust system can be removed and/or reconfigured for the new engine.

Although our installation
was done in the spring of 2002, we purchased our new engine in the fall
of 2001. This was done for two reasons: first, we purchased it just before
a 5-percent price increase; second, having the engine on hand for several
months before the installation was to begin enabled us to check its dimensions,
measure the sizes of the water hoses, exhaust hose, fuel hose, fuel-return
line, and water-heater heat-exchanger hoses, and purchase the necessary
hose diameters and lengths with the assurance they would all fit when
the time came for the hook-ups.

New propeller

Our old Volvo diesel had a left-hand prop, but our new Yanmar has a right-hand
rotation, so early on we bought a new right-hand propeller (a good thing,
since there was a six- to eight-week delivery schedule). We also needed
a new, longer prop shaft, due to the shorter length of the Yanmar, as
well as a flange coupling for that shaft that would be compatible with
the flange on the transmission of the Yanmar. It’s probable that
the flange coupling on your old shaft (as with ours) will be rusted and
frozen in place so it cannot be removed by sliding it back out of the
hull. Fortunately, once the old engine is out of the way, the old prop
shaft and its coupling can be easily removed by sliding it forward, out
into the empty engine compartment. The chances are that the rubber hose
on your shaft-log hasn’t been replaced in a long time, so now’s
a good time. Better yet, consider a dripless coupling, which is easily
installed once the old rubber hose and packing gland have been removed.
(I installed a packless shaft seal manufactured by PYI, Inc.). This investment
will pay dividends in the future by eliminating the awkward contortions
required when readjusting the packing nuts, as well as providing a dry

With the old engine out of
the way, this was the perfect time for easy removal of the old water heater
(long overdue), which was in the engine compartment, and the installation
of a new one. The new Raritan water heater, with engine-water heat exchanger
and 120-volt immersion heater, was of similar size to the old Raritan
whose steel case was rusting away. The new Raritan heaters now have plastic
cases and more insulation.

New engine bed

Since it’s probable that your new engine will be smaller than the
old one, the engine bed will have to be rebuilt. This may mean tearing
out the old stringers and installing new ones. If you have a fiberglass
boat, the new beds will have to be built up using fiberglass and epoxy.
If you’re not well acquainted with fiberglass work, it’s
probably a good idea to leave this job to a professional.

We were fortunate that the
mounting width of our new Yanmar was exactly 3/4-inch less than
that of the old Volvo. So we used two heavy-duty, 3/8-inch thick,
3-inch by 3-inch marine-grade aluminum angles bedded in 3M 5200 and through-bolted
to the old fiberglass-and-oak bed. These heavy-duty aluminum beds ensured
that when the mounts were installed they would be true and level.

Uncrating the new Yanmar engine

The new Yanmar engine is uncrated in preparation for installation.

The Travelift bringsin the new engine

The Travelift brings in the new engine.

New engine seen from inside the cabin

The new engine, as seen from inside the cabin, looking aft through the engine access doors.

In nearly all engine conversions,
the different size of the new engine and the rebuilt engine beds will
probably mean that the old oil-drip pan will no longer fit and a new one
will have to be made. I constructed the new one out of fiberglass and
lined it with a replaceable sheet of Oil-Zorb.

Most auxiliary engines are
installed on mounts that have heavy-duty rubber shock absorbers between
the top threaded stud that is bolted to the engine, and the base, which
is bolted to the engine-bed. Usually there are four mounts, near each
corner of the engine. The mounts use nuts and washers on the studs, which
are used to adjust the engine up and down and lock it in place. (The bottom
nut that actually supports the engine is called the “jack nut.”)
The bases of these mounts have holes for the mounting bolts, and one of
the two holes is slotted. These slots allow the engine to be moved sideways
slightly so it can be lined up perfectly with the propeller-shaft coupling.

Different mounts

When preparing to install the engine mounts, be aware that for many auxiliary
engines the engine mounts are different for the front and rear of the
engine or for the port and starboard sides due to the different weight
and dynamic loads imposed on them. These shock-absorbing mounts usually
have a number molded into their rubber, which indicates the rubber’s
hardness. For engines that require different mounts fore-and-aft or side-to-side,
the installation manual will specify their required locations. During
the installation, and in the future, keep oil from getting on the rubber
sections of these mounts, since it can cause the rubber to deform and
swell, eventually resulting in incorrect engine-to-shaft alignment.

Shaft alignment

If you are installing a new engine and retaining your old through-hull
shaft log, the engine-coupling flange will have to be lined up perfectly
with the flange on the propeller shaft. The engine bed must be horizontal
athwartships, with an inclination angle within the allowable limits of
the engine-mount adjusting nuts. Most manufacturers’ installation
manuals give detailed descriptions on this alignment procedure, which
usually is one of two types or a combination of both.

To determine the centerline
of the propeller shaft, its height, and its inclination, a pointer is
bolted to the propeller-shaft flange, with a string coming out at shaft-center.
This string has a fish-weight tied on the free end, and this weight goes
over a piece of wood that is temporarily clamped to some point farther
When the propeller shaft is rotated, this free-end piece of wood is moved
until the pointer circles the string evenly. The position of this string
now becomes the centerline extension of the propeller shaft, from which
engine-bed construction and engine placement measurements can be made.
Installation instructions recommend that this pointer and string be fastened
directly to the propeller-shaft flange, rather than to an intervening
flexible coupling or “Drive-Saver,” which could introduce
an error.

Although the construction
of a new engine bed and alignment of the new engine can be done directly
from measurements to this centerline string, a much easier and less time-consuming
way of creating the new engine bed and aligning the engine is through
the use of an engine-bed alignment jig. These jigs can sometimes be rented
from an engine distributor for your particular engine, greatly simplifying
the engine-mount placement measurements. As in the previous step, the
string from the center of the propeller shaft passes through alignment
holes in the jig, and the engine mounts, which are bolted onto the jig,
can be located perfectly on the new engine bed, with the assurance that
the propeller shaft flange and the engine transmission’s flange
will match very closely when the new engine is installed.

An anti-siphon valve is installed

An anti-siphon valve is installed in the raw-water output line, above. Note that this Vetus valve has an overflow tube going into the bilge, so drops of salt water don’t fall on the engine. Below, since the engine fittings that connect to the hoses feeding the hot-water tank’s heat exchanger were not available from Yanmar, these brass adapters, purchased from Maryland Metric, provide the interface between the engine’s British standard pipe threads and U.S. standard pipe fittings.

Brass adapters connect hoses feeding the heat exchanger

Check tolerances

Once the engine mounts have been fixed to the new bed and the engine has
been installed, it’s time to check the coupling tolerances between
the two flanges. Mismatches between the two surfaces (the flange on the
engine and the flange on the propeller shaft), should be compensated for
by adjusting the motor mounts, which can move the engine up or down an
inch or more. The slots in the engine mounts also allow you to move the
front or rear of the engine to one side or the other to match up the two
flanges. Using a feeler gauge around the periphery between the two flanges,
you can adjust the engine mounts so that the two flanges mate to within
1/1,000 inch. Note that these tolerances should be checked between
the flanges themselves, and not with an intervening flexible-coupler or
“Drive-Saver.” Once the two flanges match perfectly, the
flexible coupling can be added, and, with everything lined up, the bolts
on the flanges are tightened. This shaft alignment is vital for preventing
Cutless-bearing wear, transmission damage, and vibration.

A new engine installation
is usually performed on land. It’s important to realize that when
a shaft alignment is done on land, the alignment can change after the
boat is back in the water with the mast stepped and the rigging tensioned.
On a new engine, this alignment can also change during the first few days
or weeks as the rubber in the new engine mounts compresses to its final
size. Some installation manuals suggest that the jack nuts on the engine
mounts be raised one turn above perfect alignment to compensate for this
inevitable rubber compression.

Anti-siphon valves

A pointer is attached to the propeller-shaft flange

A pointer is attached to the propeller-shaft flange, and a string comes through a hole in this pointer at the center of the propeller shaft. The shaft is then rotated, and the free end of the centering string is moved until the pointer rotates around the string evenly through 360 degrees. This establishes an extension of the centerline of the propeller shaft, from which the new engine-bed can be created. The engine alignment jig allows the installer to fasten the engine mounts to the jig. The jig can then be aligned with the propeller-shaft string. The fore-and-aft position of the engine can also be determined by the jig’s position in relation to the propeller-shaft flange. If a flexible coupling or Drive-Saver will be used, its width must be included before the engine mounts can be bolted down to the engine bed. (Illustrations courtesy of Yanmar)

If the raw-water output from the engine that goes into the exhaust-mixing
elbow is below or close to the boat’s waterline (when level or
heeled over), it’s imperative that an anti-siphon valve be added.
Without this valve, after the engine is turned off, water can continue
to siphon into the exhaust system, eventually backing up into the engine
itself and causing major damage. The anti-siphon valve allows air to enter
the system when there is a suction, which occurs during siphoning, but
the air valve closes when pressure is present, as when the engine is running.

There are many types of anti-siphon
valves, made from various materials. Some have connections for a small
tube that allows the few drops of overflow water to go directly to the
bilge rather than drop on top of the engine. This can prevent fresh water
or corrosive salt water from attacking the top of your new engine. This
overflow tube has another advantage: by blowing into the tube you can
determine whether your siphon-vent is clogged or stuck.

Engine connections

When the engine is in place, it’s time to connect the fuel supply
line, fuel return line(s), water system, exhaust system, electrical system,
and control cables. If hoses, control cables, and wiring in the engine
compartment haven’t been changed in a while, now is a good time.

When it comes to determining
sizes of fittings and machine screws on your new engine, you must realize
that there are three primary measuring systems in use around the world,
metric standards, USA (inch) standards, and British (inch) standards.
As the world moves toward metric standards, sailboat power plants will
be increasingly built to these standards.

Fortunately there are now many
places in the United States that can supply metric tools and machine screws.
But even on an engine built to metric standards, there are anomalies.
Strangely, most countries that use metric standards, both in Europe and
in Asia, use the British (inch) standard for measuring pipe fittings.
I discovered this contradiction when installing my metric system Yanmar
engine. Almost everything on this engine is metric, but the threads on
the engine for the water fittings that feed the heat-exchanger for the
on-board hot water tank are British (inch) standard.

British standard pipe-fittings
come with either a cylindrical (parallel) thread or with a tapered thread.
My Yanmar engine demanded a fitting with British standard tapered threads
(which are designated in Japan, and in the Yanmar shop manual as “PT.”
Thus, a designation of “PT-3/8” (as shown in the
shop manual) means that the fitting is a British standard 3/8-inch
tapered pipe fitting.

If a shaft misalignment like these happens the engine must be raised or lowered

When a mismatch between the engine’s transmission flange and the propeller-shaft flange is as illustrated, the engine must be raised or lowered by adjusting the jack nuts on all four engine mounts. A mismatch such as this between the two flanges indicates that the engine’s centerline is not parallel with the propeller shaft’s centerline. In this case, one end of the engine must be raised or lowered.

Using a feeler gauge assures that these flanges meet accurately

A final check, using a feeler gauge around the circumference of the two flanges, assures that these flanges meet accurately. (Illustrations courtesy of Yanmar)

No fittings

The Yanmar engine
has two plugs that can be removed to accept the hose-fittings for the hot-water
tank’s heat exchanger. Although Yanmar sells the hose adapters that
fit these threads, the fittings had been on back order for several months
and were not available when I was installing my new engine.
Luckily, I discovered Maryland Metrics on the Internet. This company sells a wide range of metric tools and fittings
as well as British standard and American standard pipe fittings and adapters.
They had adapters in stock that went from the British standard tapered
3/8-inch pipe thread (PT-3/8) on the Yanmar to a U.S. standard 3/8-inch
pipe-thread, which solved the problem nicely. Once I had converted to
the U.S. thread, elbows and hose adapters were readily available.

Incidentally, Maryland Metrics
has a wonderful website describing the threads in all three systems. They
also have a huge inventory of nuts, bolts, parts, adapters, and metric
tools. For my very small order for two adapter fittings, they couldn’t
have been nicer or more cooperative in helping me solve my problem.

Final preparations

When everything has been completed, it’s time to fill the crankcase
and the transmission with the oils specified by the manufacturer. Before
doing this, however, check the oil levels, since many manufacturers supply
the new engine with oil already in the crankcase and transmission. This
is an especially important check with diesel engines, since too much oil
in the crankcase can cause a runaway engine. With freshwater-cooled engines,
fill the engine’s heat-exchanger with a 50/50 solution of water
and anti-freeze, as per the manufacturer’s instructions. Many manufacturers
recommend that the water used with the anti-freeze be distilled water,
since there’s no telling what chemicals might be in city water.

For diesel engines it now will be necessary to bleed the fuel system,
otherwise the engine won’t start. This bleeding is usually done
at two places in the fuel supply system as well as at the injectors of
each cylinder. These locations will vary from manufacturer to manufacturer
and will be described in the owner’s manual. Once you have located
these points it’s a good idea to paint all of these bleed-points
with white paint. It will make it a lot easier to locate them at some
time in the future when you accidentally run out of fuel and you have
to do a bleeding job under less than ideal conditions. It will also make
it easier to bleed the system each time you change the engine’s
fuel filter.

Check liquid levels

After the engine is run for its first test – no more than a couple
of minutes – the levels of oil in the crankcase and transmission,
as well as the cooling-water level, must be checked. As the fluids are
distributed throughout the engine and heat exchanger, levels can drop.

Most diesel manufacturers
recommend that if your engine hasn’t been used in a few days, it’s
a good idea to pre-lubricate it before starting. For engines that have
a manual Stop control, this can be done by holding out the Stop control
while turning the engine over with the starter for about five to 10 seconds.
If the engine hasn’t been used in a really long time, wait 30 seconds
and repeat the procedure. This will distribute oil throughout the engine.
It’s also a good idea, after starting, to let the engine run at
mid-range for about five to 10 minutes before putting it under load.

When stopping, let the engine
cool down by idling it for about five to 10 minutes, then, just before
stopping the engine, give it a burst of power to blow out any carbon in
the cylinders.

When our boat was finally
back in the water after the new engine had been installed, I was hoping
that it would be a calm day for the one-hour motor-trip from the marina
to our home dock, but this was not to be. When I came out of the marina
I had 20 knots of wind right on the nose and a high chop. It was literally
a shake-down cruise. But the new installation performed flawlessly, and
I was able to head home at hull speed.

This new engine installation
should be good for the next 25 to 30 years. I just wish that I could be
good for that long.

Rating rules shaped our boats

Rating rules shaped our boats

By Ted Brewer

Article taken from Good Old Boat magazine: Volume 3, Number 3, May/June 2000.

Universal Rule… International Offshore Rule…
Thames Measurement Rule… International Rule…
Yacht Racing Association Rule… Bermuda Rule…
Cruising Club of America Rule… Royal Ocean Racing Club Rule…

Seawanhaka Yacht Club Rule… Performance Handicap Racing Formula … International Measurement System…

Ted Brewer explains how racing rules affected seaworthiness –

but not always for the better

The purpose of any rating rule is to enable yachts of different sizes
to race together fairly. Without a rating rule there could be no
enjoyable racing as, barring unforeseen circumstances, the largest
yacht (and the richest owner) would always win. A good example of
this is the famous race between the schooner America and the British
yachts off the Isle of Wight back in 1851.
Due to several disqualifications, a grounding, and a collision, the
serious British contenders were eliminated one by one, leaving only
the smaller yachts and unwieldy topsail schooners to compete against
the trim Yankee upstart. In the end, the 170-ton America finished
first, but she was followed across the finish line only 8 minutes
later by the 47-ton cutter, Aurora. If there had been any fair type
of handicapping system in the race, by tonnage, length, or whatever,
present day yachtsmen would be competing for the Aurora’s Cup this
year, not the America’s Cup.

Jullanari, the first rule beater?

Early attempts at creating rating rules were based on the old British
tonnage measurement system, which was created in the Pleistocene era
to calculate the tonnage volume of large, commercial sailing ships.
It gave the vessel’s carrying capacity in tons (at 35 cubic feet per
ton) or, as some believe, in “tuns” (casks of wine). Sail area was
not included, of course, nor were any credits given for less
efficient rigs so, naturally, in the yacht-racing field the cutters
predominated. Eventually, this rule was modified in 1854 as the
Thames Measurement Rule: Tons = ((L-B) x B x .5B)/94. (L = length
stempost to sternpost and B = maximum beam.) But rigs were still
ignored, and the depth measurement was eliminated.

Moved rudder

An easy way to beat such a rule is to shorten the keel measurement, and
E. H. Bentall did this with the design of Jullanar in 1875 by moving the
rudder radically far forward. (Remember, this moves the sternpost -eds.)
Jullanar received a lower rating as a result, won more than her share of
races, and was the first of the rule beaters. Because beam was such a large
factor in the rule, another way to lower the rating was to make the yachts
narrower and narrower. Jullanar was certainly slim, but the rule finally
resulted in freaks like the Oona, with a beam 1/6 of her waterline length.
Attempts were made to encourage greater beam by the 1881 Yacht Racing Association
Rule, ((L + B)&sup2 x B)/1730, but the Shona, designed
in 1884 by the famous G. L. Watson, was 42 feet overall, 5 feet 9 inches
in beam, 6 feet 3 inches in draft, and carried 1,640 square feet of sail!

Small Yachts, by C. P. Kunhardt, published in 1891 and republished by
WoodenBoat Publications, Brooklin, Maine, in 1985, shows a number of
these narrow beamed, plank-on-edge cutters. One of my favorites is
the Spankadillo (what a grand name!), which was 36 feet overall, 30
feet on the waterline, 5 feet in beam, and 6 feet 2 inches in draft.
You may be wondering how these skinny cutters could stand up to their
tremendous press of sail in a breeze, but the answer is simple: heavy
displacement and lots of lead down deep. “Spanky” displaced 19,000
pounds and 12,300 pounds of that was lead – a 65-percent ballast

Another example, shown in great detail, is the Watson-designed Madge,
46 feet overall x 39 feet 9 inches LWL x 7 feet 9 inches beam x 7
feet 7 inches draft, displacing 39,000 pounds and carrying a lead
mine of 23,500 pounds (63.5 percent ratio) on her keel! Unlike many
modern yachts, Madge was much more stable right side up than upside
down, although her accommodations left a bit to be desired!

Carried to excess

Comparative sizes

The British measurement rules and the narrow British cutters never
caught on in the U.S., and yachts on this side of the pond developed
very differently, having somewhat greater beam and less draft. This
was carried to excess in a few cases, as such things always are, and
a very beamy 128-foot centerboarder, with sail set, capsized at
anchor in New York harbor with some loss of life when several guests
were trapped below. However, mainstream American yachts were more
conventional and Small Yachts shows plans of a number of craft that
are quite practical even by contemporary standards. The 24 foot 6
inch Columbine, and the 25 foot 10 inch Mignonette, are two of my
favorites and, even today, they’d be great fun to sail and cruise and
would definitely draw envious eyes wherever they sailed.

The racing yachts in the U.S. developed along different lines,
unfortunately. The Seawanhaka Yacht Club developed a rating rule in
1882 that placed the emphasis on length and sail area and ignored
beam altogether. The result was inevitable; racing yachts became
short on the waterline and gained stability by great beam. Perhaps
the epitome of this insanity was the Outlook, designed by Starling
Burgess, of 52 feet 7 inches LOA, 20 feet 10 inches LWL, 16 feet
beam, and 1,800 square feet of sail.

The fin keel was invented about the turn of the century partly in response
to this rule, and Captain N. G. Herreshoff designed and built Dilemma, the
first successful and well engineered example of the type. Naturally, others
designed extreme fin keelers following her success, so the type fell into
disrepute when a few poorly engineered boats succumbed to structural problems.
In 1902, the New York Yacht Club adopted a rating rule developed by Herreshoff.
Its first simple form was Rating = .18 x ((L x SA.5 ) / D.333 )
which became known as the Universal Rule and, by 1906, was quite popular.
However, such a simple rule can easily be beaten, so in order to plug the
loopholes the rule became more and more complex. Still, it was used well
into the 1930s in the J, M, P, and R classes, each with a maximum rating
under the rule. I was born too late to get involved with it, but R boats
are the smallest, in the 40-foot range, P boats were a little over 50 feet,
M boats even larger and J boats huge, 130 feet or so!

Meter yachts


Men were still working on the other side of the Atlantic to develop a
rating rule, and in 1907 they devised a variation of the YRA Rule,
called the International Rule. Under it the 6-, 8-, 10-, 12-, and
14-Meter yachts were developed, but readers must note that there is
no single measurement in any of these classes that gives them their
name. Rather, the rating of “X” meters is developed from a complex
formula of measurements taken off the yacht and, on top of that,
there are limitations on beam, draft, mast height, etc. within each

Too, the larger yachts such as the 8-, 10-, and 12-Meter boats, were
required to have minimal “cruising” accommodations, and all had to be
built to scantlings established by Lloyd’s Register of Shipping.
These ensure that the yacht is built to reasonable standards of
structural strength so that, to my knowledge, not one has ever broken
in two as did one of the contenders for the recent America’s Cup
nonsense. Indeed, the American Eagle, built by Luders in 1964, was
converted to an ocean racer in ’68 and, with Ted Turner as skipper,
took part in distance races all over the world from Australia to
Europe, with much silverware to her credit. Despite this hard usage,
she is still sailing and racing in Newport, R.I., some 36 years after
her launching, thanks to the quality ensured by being built to
Lloyd’s Rules by superb craftsmen.

I began my distance racing in the late ’50s aboard an 8-Meter, the
Vision, on Lake Ontario. You may find it hard to imagine a 48-foot
yacht that was steered with a tiller, but those 8s were beautifully
balanced craft and a dream to handle.

The old Vision was quite comfortable for a weekend or longer race,
with good berths, a workable galley, and an enclosed head. The
cruising accommodations on the last of the 12s did leave something to
be desired, as I know from experience. I designed the accommodation
plan of Eagle, and she had Dacron berth bottoms with 1/4-inch thick
mattresses, a sink that had to be taken up and emptied overboard, and
a head out in the open in the middle of nowhere. It met the intent of
the rule, if not the spirit, and other 12s were similar in an attempt
to keep unnecessary weight to a minimum.

Bermuda Rule

Still, the Universal Rule and International Rule yachts were,
basically, inshore racers rather than ocean racers so, in 1928, the
Bermuda Rule was created. It took in length, beam, sail area, and
depth, and had a rig allowance, with yawls rated at 93 percent, and
ketches and schooners at 90 percent, of their measured area. L, or
length, was measured at a height of 4 percent of the LWL above the
LWL, and so was an attempt to eliminate the real freaks with long,
overhanging ends. Again, over the years, the rule was changed and
became much more complex in order to eliminate the rule beaters.
Eventually the Cruising Club of America Rule was the final
development. It considered length as the basis for the rating and
then had adjustments for beam, draft, displacement, and sail area,
plus correction factors for stability and propeller.

At the same time, on the other side of the Atlantic, the Royal Ocean
Racing Club developed the RORC Rule for offshore yachts. It had many
similarities to the CCA Rule, and certainly a similar intent, but
whether it was the rule or tradition, the British ocean racers were
always less beamy than their American cousins and favored sloop and
cutter, rather than yawl, rigs.

In the ’50s and early ’60s, the CCA Rule used the displacement that
the designer calculated from the measurer’s flotation figures, and
the rule established the basic stability from the designer’s reported
ballast. A credit was given for heavy displacement, and another for a
low ballast/ displacement ratio, so, naturally, there were designers
who were so anxious to win that they might stretch the displacement a
pound or two when reporting it, and knock a bit off the ballast at
the same time. Too, measuring the flotation of a yacht on a breezy
day was less than exact and displacement figures could be off
hundreds of pounds as a result. As to stability, one designer of a
fiberglass 40-footer used a big, heavy steel pipe for the structural
“keel” and was able to reduce the actual ballast as a result, so that
particular boat received a nice ballast credit and was very

No mainsail

Typical 6 beam English cutter

There were many other innovative gambits. Ray Hunt sailed a sloop as
a catboat by not setting any headsails and did quite well. Bill
Luders sailed Storm without any mainsail and also won his share. I
designed a 33-foot schooner, Ingenue, which was rated with a small
Bermudian foresail, which she rarely set. Instead, she raced with a
huge “fisherman staysail” that set on the foremast sail track,
completely filled the space between the masts and overlapped the
mainsail like a genoa jib. She gained quite a bit of silver, too,
particularly in races where there was a fair amount of offwind work.

One true rule beater was the 1950s Olin Stephens-designed Finisterre.
This beamy keel/centerboard yawl took advantage of the rule without
really bending it. Her wide beam (moderate by today’s standards),
shoal centerboard draft, hefty displacement, modest ballast, and yawl
rig combined to give her a favorable rating. Combined with Olin
Stephen’s design genius and Carleton Mitchell’s expert handling, she
was the boat to beat in any race she entered, and won a room full of
trophies. Finisterre’s success inspired a host of keel/centerboard
yawls, ranging from Bill Shaw’s lovely little 24-foot MORC racer,
Trina, to Bill Tripp’s handsome Block Island 40 and Bermuda 40 and
big 50-plus footers such as the beautiful Innishfree, designed by
George Cuthbertson, founder of C&C Yachts.

To keep ahead of the tricksters, the CCA committee kept inserting new
paragraphs, outlawing most of the rule-beating stunts. By 1967 they had changed the rule so the boat had to be weighed to obtain her displ
acement, and stability was measured afloat by shifting weights
instead of relying on the designer’s often inaccurate ballast
figures. The 1967 CCA rule book took about 40 pages to detail the
measurements and calculations and to explain the rule.

Very competitive

Despite the rule changes, well designed yachts, such as the
keel/centerboarders, and keel yachts, like the Concordia yawls and
the Luders 33, remained very competitive in coastal and offshore
distance races. However, changes were on the horizon. Bill Lapworth
had reinvented the wheel in California with the fast,
fin-keel-and-spade-rudder Cal 40, the first largish fin keel yacht
since the type died out in the early 1900s.

At first, many East Coast sailors pooh-poohed her as a downwind
screamer, best suited to the TransPac and similar off-wind races, but
they changed their minds when the swift Cal 40s began to appear on
the East Coast in the mid ’60s and started to gobble up the silver.
Then, when a Cal 40 won the Bermuda Race in ’66, the rush to fin
keel/spade rudder designs was on and the popular keel/centerboard
yawl was left in their wake.

In those days, no one really knew which type of fin was the most
effective, so there were many weird and wonderful shapes tried for a
while, from extremely raked designs to fancily shaped shark fins.
Eventually, it turned out that Bill Lapworth had figured it right in
the first place, and most cruising boat fins even today (except for
the bulb or winged type) are fairly close in lateral profile to the
old Cal 40’s squarish fin.

All good things come to an end, though, and so did the CCA Rule. The
International Offshore Rule was adopted in 1970 to prevent yachts
from having to be remeasured under another rating rule every time
they sailed off to race in a foreign country. The early IOR had its
faults, of course, and the rule was modified many, many times over
the years. Basically, the IOR tried to estimate the displacement of a
yacht by measuring beam and depth amidships. The theory was that all
sailboats have prismatic coefficients in the .54 to .56 range so, by
estimating the midship area you can estimate the displacement. In a
very short time, designers were coming up with weird shapes with
chines and/or great tumblehome in order to fool the rule into
thinking that the midships was bigger and the boat was heavier than
its true displacement.

Girth stations

Also, under the IOR the measured length (a major factor, of course)
was based on the distance between girth stations, measurements taken
at the hull ends. It took two pages in the rule book and a mess of
diagrams just to explain how to establish these girth stations, and
the whole rule took almost 60 pages to cover the calculations, with
some 60 diagrams to explain how and where to measure this and that.
Again, designers took advantage of the rule, using extremely pinched
ends in order to move the girth stations toward midships and shorten
the rated waterline.

It was about this time that I decided I didn’t want to design racing
yachts anymore. Actually, I did design one IOR yacht, a 37-footer,
which had trim tabs fitted at both the fore and aft ends of her fin
keel. Unfortunately for the owner, whose idea it was, the trim tabs
were outlawed before she was launched. Oh, well!

The early IOR yachts were rather strange looking to my eyes, as the
boats were fairly beamy but the ends, both bow and stern, were very
pinched and the deck plan wound up looking like the ace of diamonds.
If you see a yacht with a transom that resembles the letter V, then
she’s probably an early IOR boat!

The problem with the rule, in my opinion, is that it produced
unseaworthy yachts. The CCA boats received a credit for heavy
displacement and a credit for moderate ballast. This ensured yachts
that were strongly constructed, as weight in the structure was not
penalized. Indeed, this helped to lower the rating! The IOR, on the
other hand, did nothing to encourage husky construction and, due to
their light weight, the boatshad insufficient strength and stability.
The result was yachts that could not stand up to heavy weather, as
was shown in the Fastnet Race in 1979, when so many yachts capsized
or foundered, and sailors died.

Equal chances

Since then, the rating system has been changed and many coastal
cruisers now race under the Performance Handicap Rating Formula that
establishes a rating for a yacht, or a class of yachts, and allows
that rating to be altered if the yacht continually wins or loses. The
“rule” is an attempt to even out the handicaps, so that every yacht
has a chance at the silver if she has good gear, is well sailed, and
has her fair share of luck. The PHRF has proven deservedly popular on
both East and West Coasts for good reason, as good old boats can have
fun racing despite their age and despite how they would have rated
under the CCA or IOR formulae.

Unfortunately, serious long-distance ocean racing seems to have left
the mainstream of sailing now, and the boats that take part are built
regardless of cost, are owned by millionaires and, in many cases, are
sailed by well-paid skippers and large crews. The boats are rated
under the IMS rule, but I am so completely disinterested in it that I
don’t even know what the letters IMS stand for or how the rule works
and, Scarlett, I don’t give a damn. (We looked it up: International
Measurement System -eds.)

I will not even grace them with the name “yachts” anymore because a
yacht is a boat built for pleasure and there is not much pleasure in
sailing aboard a modern ocean racer. I’ve been on ocean races where
we sang sea chanteys on watch, had a happy hour in the late
afternoon, roasts and pies at dinner, and a bottle of good wine to
wash it down. We sailed for fun, and we won our share. That’s
pleasure, but I doubt if the today’s owners and sailors get any true
pleasure out of their sailing, unless they win!

Ted Brewer

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

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