Mail Buoy – March 2020

Highly Questionable

I could not believe that you published this short article (“Easy Charting,” February, The Dogwatch). Taking a picture of a chart on a smartphone? Really? While I’m not sure, I strongly suspect that this same publication has written articles on chartplotting apps for a smart phone. They are cheap! And far more accurate than a not-to-scale picture, and far more useful!

Yes, I can see that a shot of a chart that one is familiar with may make one feel better, but it’s use as a navigational aid is highly questionable.

—Kirk Haverland

Forget how he navigates, we’re more concerned about how Allen steers his MacGregor.

Thanks for the feedback, Kirk. We assume you don’t object to Allen using whatever tools he uses to get to where he’s going, but that you object to us publishing Allen’s story because it amounts to a tacit endorsement of Allen’s approach to navigation. For the record, our decision to publish anything should not be considered our endorsement of anything.

That said, we salute Allen’s sense of thrift and fully endorse his navigation hack. Why not? It’s just another tool, as Allen makes clear, in his arsenal. And he spelled out the advantages it offers him. Reading his story, we don’t think Allen’s under any delusion that his navigation hack is superior or on par with even a smartphone navigation app, it’s just another tool.

Frankly, Allen’s hack impressed us, but we’re easily impressed. We’re the type that would leave the cold drizzle topsides to duck into the cabin for the third time in 30 minutes to again read the description in the guidebook about the pass we’re about to enter, and never once would it occur to us to take the damn phone out of our pocket and take a picture of the description. Thanks to Allen, maybe we will in the future. –Eds

Books to Booze

I expect you’ll hear from more than one of your readers that “Minding your P’s and Q’s” has only recently been twisted to serve as a salty and boozy reference. Some of us are old enough to have suffered through typesetting class in our youth. The lowercase letters b, d, p, and q are all mirror images flipped on one axis. The letter is necessarily backwards when viewed in your hand before being placed in the composing stick upside down, from left to right. The letters b and d were used frequently enough that mistakes were rarely made, but the p and q were quite often reversed and need a second look. Backwards and upside down. It’s a case of publishing trivia pirated by the wet set!

—Bob Taylor, Juniata Lily, 1979 Gulfstar 37, Worton, Maryland

Thanks, Bob. We only heard from you on this, but we love it!  –Eds.

Coming to an Ocean Near You

The sail drones are also in the mid-Atlantic (“News From the Helm,” February, The Dogwatch). Here is a photo of one taken from my boat during the West-to-East Transatlantic Race 2019.

—Hiro Nakajima

Electron Concerns

As a 76-year-old avid sailor of limited experience, it’s unlikely that I will ever do offshore sailing, or even sailing in unfamiliar waters. In large part due to my personality (and age), I lean toward the paper chart side. Those who are strongly on the GPS side should read Ghost Fleet by Singer and Cole. It is a story set during WWIII and regardless of whether a reader is tech-reliant or not, I think they’ll find it a great, even frightening, read.

—Cary Andras

Thanks Cary. We’re still planning to dive deep on this topic in “The View From Here,” in the May issue of Good Old Boat—stay tuned… –Eds.

Starboard, Sterbord, Blada Bord, Laddebord

I expect you have received numerous comments regarding port and starboard after the letters in the February and January Dogwatches (Nautical Trivia in January’s The Dogwatch). For what it’s worth, following is my take on the subject.

Starboard is the right side of a vessel when facing forward. Viking ships had their steering oars on the starboard side. The earlier terms are recognizable today in the old northern languages with stearbord, the Anglo-Saxon word, and later sterbord in Middle English.

Port, the left side of the vessel when facing forward, was the side to the dock to avoid damage to the steering oar or its fittings. The Old Norse word was blada bord or loading side and in Middle English it became laddebord. Because of the risk of confusion in spoken orders in the 1840s, the Royal Navy changed larboard to port. They were followed a couple of years later by the U.S. Navy. Port, in the sense of an opening in a rail or bulwark for loading cargo, can be traced back to the Old French and Middle English porte, and earlier to the Latin porta, a gate or an opening.

An aside : On my Old Town 20-foot sailing canoe, the paddle was required to assist in tacking until I fitted a Viking-style steering oar, to starboard of course, that could be swung up for beaching. The high-aspect ratio, deep-draft oar made tacking a breeze.

—Jay Paris

Good to hear from you, Jay. We’ve got one more this month in addition to you (below), but we love it, the more trivia, the better. Anyone else? —Eds.

This might be the answer to your query. In navigation, the terms port and starboard are used to qualify the left and right of a boat, respectively. The origin of these terms comes from the Dutch: port side means that we have our back to the side (bakboord, bak meaning “back” and boord “side”) and starboard (stierboord) facing the scull (right). In the 15th century, when the French appropriated the terms, ships were still often maneuvered from the stern with a scull. The scull was indeed used on old boats and located on the right side as most sailors were right-handed. The helmsman facing this scull therefore turned his back to the left side. Possible?

—R. Dandurand

Lost and Found

Last month, I put it to the readers about lost items overboard, about things recovered, things not. About things found while diving. I knew there had to be a few good stories out there, on par with our recovery of the FBI agent’s gun. And there are. I’ll give Bill White the first word because with his last name, he’s already endured a lifetime of going last…

—Michael Robertson, Editor


It was December 5, 1977. We were anchored in Francis Bay, off St John in the U.S. Virgin Islands, enjoying pre-sundowners after a great sail from St Thomas. Coming our way was a sport fisher with a massive tuna tower and a huge bow wave. We were the only boat anchored in Francis Bay, but the sport fisher was aimed right at us. This got our attention, all of it.

Now, in those days, all of us in the Caribbean carried a conch horn because, well, it was the 1970’s, and canned-air horns didn’t last and the conch never wore out. We started blowing that conch as if our lives depended on it, which looking back, they kind of did. At the same time, I started the engine and spun the wheel to port. I was just getting ready to hit the throttle, hoping he would go to starboard of us, when a head popped up on the fly bridge and the sport fisher turned to starboard and pulled the throttles off.

As we rolled gunnel to gunnel in the wake, we stared down the sport fisher with disbelief. A man aboard the sport fisher walked to the bow, picked up a huge Danforth, yelled back and forth with someone on the bridge, then heaved the anchor overboard, almost exactly where our anchor was lying 150 feet off our bow. Our mouths agape, the sport fisher started backing down, fast, right by us.

They continued for quite the distance before they must have realized there was a problem. They put the boat in forward and motored back up to us. That’s when someone aboard started shouting questions at us, in a language none of us could speak, despite having English, French, Vietnamese, and German between us. We guessed it was Spanish.

Fed up with us, they motored around for a while before hitting the throttles and heading back for St. Thomas. We got the snorkels and fins out and hit the water. We followed our anchor chain out to our 45-pound plow and lying right next to it was that big old Danforth. We rigged up a life jacket to it and got it back to the boat. With another round of sundowners in hand, we examined our prize. It was a 65-pound high-tensile Danforth anchor with a label on one of the flukes and a price tag wired to the shackle hole.

I carried that anchor from one end of the Caribbean to the other until 1982, when we sold the boat. I used it only twice, once for Hurricane David and a week later for Fred.

Bill White

As a much younger man, after taking a lovely young woman out for a sail on my home-built Atkins Economy Jane, a 21-foot gaff-rigged sloop, she dropped her sunglasses into the murky water of the Long Beach Marina in Southern California.

“You’re a diver, aren’t you?” She asked coyly. I explained that I had no scuba gear, that the visibly was near zero, and the bottom was a cloud of muck. But she was a good prospect for whom a heroic recovery might just be the icing on the cake that was the beautiful afternoon of whale watching her intrepid captain had just given her. So, against all odds, I leapt.

Diving awkwardly between the dock and hull, I gave a few strong kicks and arrived at the bottom sooner than I expected, and which, given the murk, didn’t see coming. My hands plunged into the silt, stirring up a cloud that reduced the visibility to zero. About to pull up, already preparing my apologies and excuses, I felt something beneath my right hand. I closed my grip, shook off the muck and was amazed as I started toward the surface to realize that I was holding her glasses.

I emerged, handed them to her and took full credit for fickle fate as I basked in her admiration.

Nesdon Booth

I was diving on a wreck off the coast of Pensacola many years ago. On the sandy bottom, some distance from the wreck, I found a wallet with a driver’s license and a hundred-dollar bill. It belonged to a local restaurant owner. When I returned it to him, he offered me a free meal (I never returned to claim it) and told me the story.

He had tied his motorboat off to the wreck (which at low tide had parts of it exposed) and went diving. Unfortunately for him, he had very little “scope” on the rope he used to tie off with. When he surfaced, the tide had risen, pulling his runabout under, sinking it. Fortunately, others were in the area and got him home. His boat was eventually recovered, but his wallet had remained missing, until I turned up.

Kevin McGhee

I was a liveaboard on Oregon’s Willamette River, rowing back to my boat. I had my outboard with me and, where better to stow it than the transom? And why dog it down if I’m only going to remove it when I get back to the boat? Well, the wake came out of nowhere and my outboard slid off the transom and into the drink, the beginning of a quick 30-foot trip to the bottom. It happened as though in slow motion, but too quickly for me to save it. I was devastated and ashamed of myself, but had the presence of mind to toss overboard a small stern anchor and a line attached to a fender, to mark the spot.

I lived on a section of the river labeled a Superfund Site by the EPA, and I knew from experience that local divers charged a fortune for recoveries here.

After several days of mulling over solutions, I decided to free dive for my motor. The only problem was that I had never free dove deeper than to the bottom of a swimming pool, and even then I would get painful pressure in my ears. How did free divers do it?

I looked online and learned that equalizing was the key. I was ready.

My friend Daniel came by to assist. “If you drown, I’ll make sure the authorities pull your body out for a proper burial.”

I made the first free dive attempt and practiced equalizing at around ten feet down. What a difference it made! My ears and head didn’t ache. The second dive I went a little deeper but got spooked out by how dark it was around 20 feet. It was the third attempt that I finally reached the bottom. Even though it was a bright, sunny day, the visibility nill. But I swam back to the surface with a newfound confidence that I could go back to the bottom and begin the search.

On the next dive, I brought with me a 100-foot length of ¼-inch line that I secured to the boat. Once on the bottom I started exploring. It didn’t take long before I spotted my outboard sitting on the bottom, on its side. I quickly ran the line through its handle and swam back to the surface. Then, from the dinghy, I pulled my outboard to the surface, hand over hand.

Daniel was ready. “Ya know, I think those Honda fish are catch and release.”

Justin (aka Captain Cupcake), Portland, Oregon

My wife, Marty, and I were vacationing in East Boothbay in the early 1970s and took a drive out to visit my childhood summer home on Barter’s Island. We stopped at a small beach area, nestled near the road on the Back River. The sun had warmed the water to the point that we were able to enjoy a swim, splashing around. When I discovered that my wedding ring was missing from my finger, we both search the bottom below the murky water with our toes until we were sure it was hopeless. Disheartened, we departed for our rental cottage.

Later that day, on a whim, I suggested we go back, reasoning that maybe we’d see something at low tide. Pulling into the small parking lot next to the beach, we saw a couple sitting together. As we walked past them to the water, one of them asked, “Did you lose something?”

We explained, and they pulled the ring out, said they had discovered it and were waiting there, hoping the owners would return. Wow! Fifty years later, I still have same ring, somewhat loose on my finger, but now I always put it in a safe spot before any outdoor activity.

Nick Amdur, 1987 Caliber 28, Hingham, Massachusetts

Mail Buoy – February 2020

Another Lesson for Lee?

photo via Sailboat Owners forum.

After reading Lee Brubacher’s story about anchoring with two anchors (“Twice Hooked,” The Dogwatch, January 2019), I think that, in addition to his conclusion about when to use two anchors, an important lesson would be to not use a bow roller as a chock for the anchor rode once the anchor is set. Most boats, and I assume this includes his Luger 26, have bow chocks meant as fairleads for the anchor line. Typically, a bow roller should only be used to stow, launch and recover the anchor.

—Dave Sharp, Newport, Rhode Island

Thanks for the feedback, Dave. We think this really depends on the boat and rode.

We sailed a 1978 Newport 16 for years that came with neither an anchor roller nor chocks. We didn’t anchor often, and the ground tackle was light enough that we didn’t need an anchor roller, but we did install a single chock to run the rode through.

We spent even longer with a 1980 Newport 27 that we anchored often. She had an anchor roller (without a bale) and no chocks. Our ground tackle consisted of a 22# Bruce anchor attached to 125 feet of half-inch chain attached to 200 feet of half-inch 3-strand. For four years, we regularly anchored with all the chain out, along with whatever rope portion of the rode conditions warranted. The rope portion of the rode absorbed all shock loads, so we had no need for a snubber. We always used the anchor roller as a chock for the rode—until that fateful day anchored off the coast of Maria la Gorda, Cuba, when a storm kicked up waves and the bow pitched so much that the taut rode jumped off the roller and quickly chaffed through. We lost the Bruce and our chain, but we were aboard and were able to save the boat.

Aboard our 1978 Fuji 40, we dropped the hook roughly 300 times. She had a windlass, chocks, and an anchor roller with a bale. Our ground tackle consisted of a 66# Bruce and 350 feet of 3/8-inch chain. About 95% of the time, we used a bridle/snubber that ran through the chocks and took the load off the roller. We never experienced any problems.

Our experience aboard the Newport 27 would seem to support your assertion that it’s best to not use the bow roller as a chock, but with the rode we were using, we can’t imagine how (or why) we’d deploy on the roller and then move the rode to a chock given that on this boat and most, there is usually a pulpit and the pulpit is usually between the bow roller and any chocks. We think in our case, having a bale on the roller would have been the better solution. And even if we endeavored to remove the rode from the roller post-deployment, and run it through a chock, that adds a step to anchor retrieval that we would consider dangerous, such as in a situation like Lee found himself in, in which being able to quickly retrieve the anchor is necessary.

If we were to offer a going-forward remedy to Lee, it would be to replace the existing roller with a more robust one that includes cheeks and a bale, and deploy from and swing from that, assuming his rode includes line (all-chain rode is another story, but uncommon in a boat that size). –Eds.

Starboard, Larboard, Tribord, Bâbord

Regarding the Nautical Trivia in January’s The Dogwatch, the French words for port and starboard are bâbord and tribord, respectively. I read somewhere, a long while ago, that the origin of these terms came from warships. Aboard these ships, batterie (pronounced batuhree) indicated where the guns were. One side of the ship was the “ba” side and the other was the “terrie” side. Verbally, this came out as the “ba” side and “tri” side. In French, side is “bord.” Maybe you can get validation of this!

—David Salter, Bath, Ontario

Thanks David, we love it. We don’t have validation, but maybe some other readers do. We suppose this theory for the French terms, and the English-terms theory we presented in January, are not mutually exclusive. Does anyone have insight on the Spanish- or Japanese- or Russian-language terms for port and starboard? –Eds.

Charts No More?

Last month, I put it to the readers about charts, about the oft-heard, oft-repeated sentiment that prudent sailors wouldn’t sail without back-up (or primary) paper charts aboard. I asked for your stand on the question of whether it’s important, whether it’s good seamanship, to have paper charts aboard for navigation, or whether you’ve concluded that paper charts are no longer necessary. I mentioned that my asking was prompted by NOAA’s recent call for public comment on their plan to stop—after 200 years—creating/updating even the data currently used by third parties to print nautical charts. 

I’m not going to share my personal thoughts on carrying paper charts aboard (I’m going to save that for my editorial in the May issue of Good Old Boat), but I do want to make something clear about the NOAA announcement.

I got it wrong. (And thank you to readers Marilyn Johnson and Barry Stompe for first letting me know this.) And other reporting media outlets got it wrong. SAIL magazine’s headline was, “A Farewell to Paper Charts,” and included a subheading, “NOAA’s Office of Coast Survey is currently working out plans to completely phase out the production of paper charts and associated products within the next few years.”

To be fair, NOAA’s press release was equally misleading: “NOAA is initiating a five-year process to end all traditional paper nautical chart production.”

This isn’t clear. I’ll tell you what’s true.

Traditional NOAA paper charts, as you know them, are going away. NOAA paper charts are not going away. Here’s what this means.

Traditional NOAA paper charts have long been numbered and titled and each has covered a defined area at a defined scale with a specific publication date. For example, NOAA chart 16204 is titled Port Clarence and Approaches and covers that defined area at a scale of 1:100,000. It looks like this:

Over the next 5 years, NOAA is going to stop producing the rastorized data used to print pre-defined charts like this. Your children (assuming they’re young or unborn) will not know a paper chart as a fixed, defined, titled, dated thing. But your children will still retain the option of using a paper chart. How will that look for all of us?

It’s pretty cool, and a good next step. The future paper chart consumer will decide how large a chart they want to print, where they want it centered, and the scale to which they want it printed. All the data used to produce the chart will be current as of the time of printing. Every chart will be custom and unique. Chart notes and other marginalia will not be printed on the chart, but on a separate page. It’s akin to zooming in on exactly the area you want to see on your chart plotter, and then printing that view on whatever size paper you like. Here’s how the new NOAA chart would look, covering roughly the same area as above, but at 1:80,000 scale:

We don’t see anything to complain about. Onward, NOAA!

And I’m sorry for contributing to the misinformation. But enough about this, let’s hear what you think about the imperative of sailing with paper charts aboard. We’ll give Alfred Poor the first word because he has an idea we’re surprised hasn’t been implemented…

—Michael Robertson, Editor


NOAA is planning to stop updating chart data? I didn’t know that they were still doing that. On the Chesapeake (where we sail out of the Bohemia River) the NOAA charts appear to be using soundings that are 40 years old (unless you’re in the shipping channels).

I had the idea to crowd-source depth data. Lots of boats are now equipped with digital radios connected to their GPS and navigation systems. Couldn’t we have a system that would report time, date, location, and depth on a voluntary basis as boats moved around the navigable waters? A little artificial intelligence and clever algorithms could adjust for different placements of the depth transducers and tidal changes, and probably come up with an accurate mapping of the waters in a relatively short time. (Certainly, no less accurate than what we’re dealing with now.) Maybe it will take a private mapping company such as Garmin to make this work.

I know our home waters well, but I still insist on having paper charts on board. In the event of a nighttime power failure, I’ll still be able to identify the lighted marks and find my way to safety. Cheap insurance, even if I never use it.

Alfred Poor, 1973 Tartan 34C Jambalaya

I recently took a Power Squadron course in Ontario, where the instructors insisted that the law requires paper charts. This is not the case, and when I quoted chapter and verse, they maintained the “better safe than sorry argument.” The law says you need a backup, so I have a small Garmin handheld with marine maps on it, which I also use for an anchor alarm.

[Carrying paper charts as back-up] is too expensive, and frankly, the risk of error inherent in plotting manually on paper are greater than the risks/errors using GPS. Paper charts tell you where you are. GPS tells you how to get somewhere easily without hitting anything.

If something causes the entire GPS constellation to fail, I have a bigger problem to worry about.


I use paper charts. I have a handheld GPS that I use for position, as a track follower, and for speed over ground. Other than that, I use paper charts all the time. Even when I’m in home waters, I have the local charts out (Thousand Islands in the St. Lawrence River), comparing my position to what’s on shore and the bottom. I don’t think I would buy a chart plotter as I like being able to read small-scale charts in one pass, and I don’t want the battery drain.

I have extensive charts for my voyages, including chart books and NOAA and Canadian Hydrographic charts. Some of my old charts of the Thousand Islands (the large scale charts) give me more information than the current NOAA charts. They moved away from issuing the large scale charts, and the ones they currently issue leave out detail. Charts are also a nice way to remember a trip and the adventures along the way.

Mark Fontaine, Lady, 1947 40-foot Owens Cutter

We sail (mostly) on Lake Ontario and have a chart plotter and laptop on board. It has been a long time since I had a real paper chart on board, but I have been using the next best thing: Richardson Chartbooks for the Great Lakes. I use the chartbook for two purposes: first, for planning and getting an overall picture prior to going to unfamiliar places, and second, as we often used to sail non-stop from Bronte to Kingston when heading to the Thousand Islands, I would mark our position every hour in order to keep track of where we are.

The bottom line is that although we don’t use actual paper charts, the chartbooks are based on them. Technology is a wonderful thing (as a CPA, my business is built on technology), but in addition to our electronic back-ups we still have paper back-ups for everything. We cannot let ourselves be seduced into becoming entirely dependent on computer chips. I am almost 65 and, being the luddite I am, I want my paper chart books and NOAA charts when the apocalypse comes, the satellites come down, and the lights go out! (Hopefully I’ll be in the Caribbean, South Pacific or some other suitably warm and sunny place at that point!)

Brian Miller, Oakville, Ontario

I applaud this NOAA decision, and I always have paper charts aboard. My multifunction display is too small to give me the overview I want when I am approaching an unknown or tricky area. I study the paper chart before the approach, and then decide how I will use the electronic chart during the tricky navigation. For example, do I need to draw a course through reefs and rocks? Do I need to highlight navigation risks better than the ENC currently does? Do I want to drop a mark in the best anchoring area?

With NOAA’s new custom chart creator app, I can print just the area of interest, at any scale I want (presumably within the limits of the available bathometric data). Since I decide the boundaries of the region to print, I can choose to avoid splitting an area into 2 charts, or skip printing big areas of open water in preference for printed charts of areas with navigational complexity.

Marilyn Johnson

I am 70 years old and grew up with paper charts. I never cruised without them—even got the Admiralty charts for Mexico and Central America when we went there. We cruise summers in British Columbia and always have paper aboard.

But then I went to Polynesia and acquiring and storing detailed paper charts looked less appealing and less affordable. So, I got Garmin BluCharts for my plotter and backed those up with Navionics charts loaded on my iPad (on which I could also run iNavX). I had only small scale charts of chunks of the Pacific Basin on which I could track progress on long passages.

So, I guess I have succumbed to the convenience of electronics, [I’m happy] as long as I have two electronic charts of everywhere I travel. But I still prefer paper spread out on the chart table when I can.

Terry Thatcher, Adavida, Morgan 382

I think paper charts should perpetually be available at every ship chandler and marina. I plot my courses on paper charts with traditional tools and mark them with graphite pencils. Every fix gets plotted to make course corrections. I only use GPS to confirm my own findings.

I especially use GPS data to back up my sextant readings and calculations, just so I know I got it right; or if I was way off, figure out why (I’m still learning, and it’s complicated).

Screen devices are not great when in a pinch, like a stormy approach in a narrow channel and an accidental screen swipe moves the view to an unknown place and you can’t find yourself before you hit a jetty; a paper chart will never move with a paper swipe. I also don’t have radar, but I wish I did (with a C-MAP overlay and GPS and MNEA0183 Autopilot integration), but even if I had all that, I would still start with the paper chart, plot my course, waypoints, turns, etc. In bad weather, I fold the chart to fit in a gallon Zip-Loc bag and use a grease pencil to mark changes on the bag.

Ray Ihnot

As a Coast Guard Licensed 100-ton Master, and a Florida-state-licensed yacht broker, and a taxpayer, and an avid recreational boater, I think the idea of doing away with paper charts is idiotic. Would you set sail without an anchor? Do you really believe that electronic forms of data delivery are 100 percent reliable? (The U.S. Navy doesn’t think so, which is why it is requiring Academy grads and ship watchstanders to learn about sextants again.) The sea will not forgive such foolishness.

David Hipschman, Fort Myers, Florida

Regarding paper charts, I’m with you. For years I faithfully kept my paper charts on board until I noticed they were never used and getting moldy. Between a dedicated chartplotter and a portable phone or tablet with electronic charts, I feel very safe. Oh yes, plus eyes on deck!

Andy Vine, Cortes Island, British Columbia

Do I carry paper charts for the waters I sail? Of course I do! But then I’m of that age where I don’t trust electronics in a marine environment. I’ve seen them fail too many times. Most of my paper charts are from the early 90’s (1991 to be precise, the first circumnavigation of Vancouver Island) and hopelessly out of date regarding navigational aids. But the rocks, reefs and/or headlands have yet to be moved, so I think I’m good to go. Back in 1991, electronic aids were minimal and expensive. I paid close to $2,000 (in 1991 dollars) for a top-of-the-line Loran set that seemed to crash every time we approached a dangerous area. The old paper charts and Mark I eyeball had to take over! Lots of things have changed since then and the reliability of marine electronics has improved many times over. However, I carry two chart plotters, one at the helm, and the one it replaced below deck in storage. Both are multifunction (chart/depth/speed/AIS) and use the same sensors. I replaced the old one because of the occasional screen freeze (turn it off, turn it on again). So far so good.

But coastal navigation is more than just following the cursor or plotted line on electronic charts. A skipper needs to be able to visually translate observed terrain and headlands into the vessel’s position. GPS isn’t always right. I think skippers should learn basic navigation from paper charts and become proficient in identifying their position using eyeball navigation. Once the skipper understands coastal navigation, I can see leaving detailed charts at home. I don’t think I’ll ever get away from having at least the small-scale paper charts on board, but that may be just me. In Canada, the carrying of the actual paper charts is not a requirement, so long as Canadian Hydrographic Charts are carried in an electronic format. (

Bert Vermeer, Natasha, Sidney British Columbia

I just finished a circumnavigation. I have several boat buddies that are circumnavigators, or soon to be. Fairly consistently, we each carried rudimentary small-scale charts. These were insufficient to explore an area, but sufficient for plotting our way to a safe landfall.

Two of the circumnavigators I know experienced lightning strikes last year, in both cases taking out every bit of electronics onboard, shy of whatever anyone thought to stick in the microwave ahead of time. In one case, the sailors were on their last leg back to England from the Azores, the GPS and IridiumGO worked perfectly to get them to port. The other vessel was docked and had no immediate navigation issues.

I’ve spent a couple nervous nights at sea watching nearby lightning storms, stuffing the microwave, and considering fallback options. Paper charts always gave me that ultimate, zero-electronics back up.

The potential to lose electronic navigation aids is very real. I never pulled the paper charts out, but I never climbed into my liferaft either. I carried both.

Norm Facey, Dream Catcher, currently Campbell River, British Columbia

I like the changes being made in this great magazine. I’ve been a subscriber since almost the beginning. I was turned onto the magazine by an old salt who was teaching a celestial course for US Power Squadrons.

I am on the downhill side of coastal sailing in that I’m about to turn 77 and we are building a new home on a lake in western New Hampshire where my trusty Catalina 30 would be a bit too much boat. Having said that and having learned my boating skills in the 50’s (long before GPS or even affordable LORAN), paper charts are a requirement for me.

Paper charts allow the sailor to view the bigger picture easily so that markers, shoals, and other hazards can be visualized. It’s hard to keep several steps ahead when you can’t easily see what’s coming up. Not that a chart plotter can’t do some of that, but most sailors don’t have 24-inch monitors and/or the ability to quickly change the view.

I wonder how many boating accidents take place while a sailor is struggling with the electronics?

My current chart plotter is a 4-inch Garmin, terrific for close-in work, such as following a 30-mile narrow channel. But I still use paper charts to help me see what’s coming, despite however many times I’ve made the same trip. I also carry two spare handheld GPS units, just in case. I wouldn’t consider entering an unfamiliar harbor in broad daylight without paper backup, let alone in the dark or tough weather.

If one had a very big monitor, and could instantly change the scale from small to large and back again, without fail, had insurance, and was willing to take chances with their boat and their lives, then more power to them. Not for me.

I suspect that there are a lot more older sailors who feel as I do, that having every navigational tool available is the correct course of action. We were always taught not to put ourselves and our boats at risk by depending on a single navigation method.

I had one of the early handheld LORANs on a trip from Boston to Narragansett Bay on a new-to-me good old boat. I also had paper charts which came in handy when the LORAN got stuck in an electronic loop just as darkness fell with rising wind and already sporty seas and the sea bouy at the Sakonnet River nowhere in sight. Paper charts and the compass kept us out of serious trouble (barely). Without the charts I would likely have ended that trip on the rocks.

Bill Crosby, Tranquility, Tolland, Connecticut

I love a good old discussion about the meaning of life.

First, we will have paper charts aboard when we are cruising away from our most intimate sailing grounds. Second, is it imperative for everyone to have paper charts? Our thought is a strong “probably,” especially if you want the ability to get to safety when everything fails.

This issue is a personal and hotly debated topic in our area. Older sailors will likely have paper charts aboard and newer sailors may not. But it’s each sailor’s choice. With the current trend to boats being more complex and more “condo” styled, a question to ask is: You have everything on your boat including a trash compactor, why not spare a little space and money for some basic paper charts? (Of course, that would require the captain having the ability to read the charts!)

A good reason to have paper charts is that they are a much more user-friendly tool for route planning than a small device screen.

Jim Shell

I depend heavily on paper charts. There have been too many times when the chartplotter has been misleading for one reason or another and paper charts have saved the day (along with the magnetic compass).

John Littlefield

The only time I don’t refer to paper charts is when I’m out on day sails from Guilford, Connecticut, where I’ve sailed for 15 years. But I always have aboard a full complement of paper charts, as well as both a helm-mounted and handheld GPS. When I sail out of that area, I always navigate using paper charts, backed up by my two GPS units. I can’t imagine not having paper charts to refer to as they give overall perspective of an area and provide harbor detail when required. I embrace technology, but paper charting should never be discarded.

Dave, 1978 Bristol 35.5 CB, Guilford, Connecticut

Should keep paper charts.

Bill Cullen

I’ve started using electronics. I like them for speeds and distances and general up-to-dateness. But paper charts I can take into the cockpit, see even in bright sunlight, and they are not dependent on power.

Charles Harris

GPS is wonderful, until it is not. There are times when GPS is off by some margin and other times intentionally off due to adjustments the US Government makes during war time. This creates a navigational problem for recreational sailors as they are not informed of these offsets. Paper charts and radar make it easy to confirm a vessel’s location when close to shore. In the case of electronic failures, paper charts provide insurance to navigate back to land safely. Years ago, the maritime schools stopped teaching celestial navigation due to reliance on GPS. Celestial navigation is back, and one needs paper charts to administer and use celestial navigation successfully. Paper charts are critical for proper route planning.

Captain Richard Frankhuizen

My vote is for having paper charts onboard as back-up.

Many years ago, around 1981, I left Bermuda as crew aboard a 33-foot ultralight with two other sailors headed for Newport, Rhode Island. We never checked for a forecast, we just decided it was time to go (youthful ignorance). About halfway across, we hit a serious Gulf Stream storm that broke the boom in half, took out the main, and destroyed the one small battery we used for powering the LORAN. Only one person onboard knew how to use the plastic sextant. With that sextant and a paper chart, we made our way to just south of Montauk Light. The experience has stayed with me all these years. Today I have multiple GPSs, a chartplotter, and a computer to navigate with. But, one lightning strike or GPS spoofing event, and the GPS signal can be history. If that happened, a paper chart would be very nice to have aboard. I guess you can always just turn east or west and sail until you hit land, but my preference is to have paper, even old paper charts will do.

Richard Cassano, Gray Eagle, Tashiba 40, Annapolis, Maryland

It is foolish to sail without paper charts. GPS is fine until batteries die, electronics fail, or the satellite signal is scrambled (as it was after 9/11). Also, there is no GPS that can give the big picture to help with trip planning. That said, I almost exclusively rely on GPS, but I know how to dead reckon if all else fails.

Hooper Brooks

My wife and I race and cruise our S&S designed, Hughes 48 yawl, home base San Francisco Bay. We’ve cruised the west coast from Canada to Panama, French Polynesia, and Hawaii. We love our Garmin chart plotter, we are quite aware of some of its drawbacks, and we wouldn’t think of going anywhere without paper charts. On passage, we use paper charts to plot our position every hour, because you never know when the power might go out.

Barry Stompe, Iolani

Thanks for the link to NOAA. I wrote a couple of points in favor of physical charts with the display presentation of the old-style charts. Coastal charts, especially, should have representations of shore features, including topography, as a matter of assisting pilotage. Of course, all the points regarding redundancy are also relevant.

Stefan Berlinski, Hamachi, Santana 22

I’m an old timer and I feel paper charts for backup are essential. Even when the data on those charts is from the 1800s.

Ernest Binz

When I left New York to move to the west coast of Florida, I bought a Garmin GPS. It was extremely helpful finding the dock I had rented for my 30-foot Hunter. During the first year I lived in paradise, I sailed around Charlotte Harbor, up to Venice, and down to Ft. Meyers. On one trip, late in that first year, on my way back to Charlotte Harbor, the Garmin died. It just stopped working. Luckily, I had sailed this stretch of water before, but had this happened during an earlier trip, I would have been lost. As soon as I returned to the dock, I drove to West Marine and bought maps for the entire Florida west coast. I’ve never relied fully on GPS since.

Jeff Ellis

I’m for the continuance of paper charts. Plotting and marking waypoints and headings on my GPS screen is scratching the heck out of it!

Brad Brenner

All my sailing thus far has been aboard a dinghy without paper charts. This year, aboard my new-to-me Paceship 23, I’m looking forward to setting off with second-hand paper charts. That said, my wee portion of Georgian Bay is deep and easy to navigate without charts, but if I venture further from home, such as a two-week cruise across the bay, I’ll do so with current paper charts.

Tom van Aalst

I keep paper charts for the same reason I have a manual bilge pump: electrical things fail. I’ve been sailing off and on for 56 years, most of it long before GPS was practical and affordable. I’ve always understood that I sail with the wind, on the water, but near land. I need to know something about all three. All three times I’ve gotten lost—disoriented, really—were within a couple miles of my home port, waters I knew like the back of my hand. Once it was due to fog; I could hear a bell and the paper chart told me the characteristics of the bell off the entrance to Seattle. Once it was on Suttons Bay, a little notch in West Traverse Bay, Michigan. The chart let me figure out which lights were which from their various colors and flashing and figure out where I was, where safe harbor was. Once was coming into Baltimore Harbor when I’d stayed out too long and again, I needed to not just see the lights, but to know which one was which to make safe landfall.

I use an iPad and an iPhone with iSailor and iNavx with good charts. But I’ve seen the iPad overheat in the sun. I’ve seen the iPhone run out of power just when I needed it most. So even day sailing on Curtis Bay, my home waters, the paper chart is out, on the chart table, and I note my position on it from time to time.

Safe sailing is taking care of the just-in-case things. Paper charts are needed because they are the last line of defense in case the power fails, the satellites don’t speak, or the pixels don’t shine. Paper charts are the life preservers of navigation.

James Eaton, Pendragon, Baltimore, Maryland

We use both paper and our chart plotter. The paper charts give the better overview/big picture and make planning a course easier, as well as provide a very functional back up if we lose power.

Jeffrey Boneham, Pegu Club

I believe the paper charts should still be printed and updated. Electronics can fail or be rendered useless. It is good to have a way to navigate an area if all else fails.

David Graham

I’m in the camp of wanting to have paper charts as backup. I sail a Catalina 30 and use an iPad with navigation software as my primary chart plotter, and basically love it. That said, it could fall in the drink, or lightning, or whatever else. So, I also have a waterproof paper chart book in the nav station. The book mostly doesn’t see light of day, but it’s there just in case.

David W. Cory

My answer may be different in remote areas of the world (Pacific islands, Indonesia, etc.) However, given the reliability of modern electronics and the ability to obtain replacements in the Mediterranean and Caribbean, for example, I am comfortable relying on electronic charts, so long as I have the following:

  • A mounted chartplotter (connected to a NMEA network) with an integrated GPS antenna and Wi-Fi module
  • A mounted GPS antenna serving the AIS, and connected to the NMEA network as a backup antenna for the chartplotter
  • An iPad with integrated GPS antenna that can be synced through Wi-Fi with the chartplotter OR operate stand-alone
  • All combinations exercised regularly to ensure crew familiarity and to test equipment/connections

However this investment anticipates a fairly large sailboat. For a smaller daysailer, an iPad and basic paper charts may be better. The key principle in all cases: more than one source of location/charting information.

Ashley Wesch

Please place me in the YES category for carrying paper charts. I’m old-school on this one and would rather rely on them than the GPS. Traditional skills rule. Thanks for asking!

Gregg Bruff

Regarding setting sail without paper charts, the following might be useful to consider:

  • the better one knows the waters, the less the need for charts (paper or digital)
  • the shorter the trip, the less the need for paper charts

Perhaps the real danger is the loss of electrical power resulting in a loss of all non-paper charts. One might have charts on a MFD, a handheld GPS device, a tablet, and a mobile phone. Loss of power aboard would leave one dependent upon the batteries in the handheld devices. Once those batteries are depleted, all charting is lost. Depletion depends upon amount of charge at the start and rate of use. Longer-duration trips mean that there is more opportunity for mishap, including loss of power, and more time to deplete the batteries.

I often day sail and race out of Annapolis. Aboard is a Garmin chartplotter connected to the house bank, a mobile phone with iNavX and NOAA charts, and charts from MapTech (water resistant. water proof?). I have no wish to be caught out without charting capability. Despite having sailed for years out of Annapolis, I do not know every shoal, and the location all along the Severn where enough water becomes too little as one approaches either bank. Furthermore, the water is too opaque to see the bottom. The depth sounder reports depth under the keel, is not forward looking, and needs electrical power (house bank), so it is of no use to avoid running aground suddenly.

Jonathan M Bresler, Constance, Alberg 30, Annapolis/Eastport Maryland

Mail Buoy – January 2020

The Good and the Best of Good Old Boat: Feedback

Last month we put it to the readers to learn what parts of Good Old Boat magazine you looked forward to most, and least. We didn’t get as much feedback as we’d hoped, maybe it’s because The Dogwatch landed in email boxes on a Sunday. But the feedback we got was thoughtful and…much more difficult to quantify than we imagined. There was some consensus in the feedback, but not much. We don’t see ourselves making any changes based on this feedback, as it’s hard to draw conclusions from it. But you be the judge.

The feedback was a mix of generalized statements, ranking the list of magazine columns we provided, and short blurbs about each column. Below, we’ll provide most of the feedback sorted by magazine column. Many people sent lists of their favorite columns, or gave feedback like, “I love the Reflections column!” For each of those “votes,” we’ve given the respective columns a “Like,” to use a parlance most familiar to everyone on the planet. And we’ll include the “Dislikes.” The generalized comments we listed are mostly excerpted.  –Eds.


Learning Experience: +9 Likes

  • As not-too-experienced sailors, the stories of other boaters pulling themselves out of serious predicaments are extremely valuable.

Mail Buoy: +11 Likes

  • At times in the magazine’s history there have been too many letters printed praising it. Print only a few of the representative ones and be done with it. If you do screw up, continue to print a correction. Sailors admire honesty and value.

Product Profiles: +2 Dislike, +4 Likes

Refit Boat: +9 Likes

Reflections: +2 Dislike, +4 Like

Review Boat/Design Comparison: +5 Dislikes, +7 Likes

  • I love the design articles! Having old designers reflect on what makes boats great and not so great is great winter reading and puts one more in tune with their own boats, something I think this magazine does better than any other. And you should aspire to keep doing it.
  • If there is a part of the magazine I love least, it is the boat reviews; I am completely content with my 1987 O’Day 272 LE, not thinking about replacing her.
  • I don’t know how you do this, but it would be good to add variety to the review articles. There is a strict formula and I feel like I know the outcome before I read them sometimes.
  • I’ve owned a 1980 Cal 25-2 since 2002 and we are a good fit going forward, yet I read and reread the boat reviews and comparisons. I enjoy the histories of the designers and builders as well as the boats.

Sailing Tales: +1 Dislike, +5 Likes

Sailor Profile: +2 Dislike, +5 Likes

  • I really enjoy the human factor in sailing and [really enjoy the articles that focus on people].

Short Voyages: +1 Dislike, +1 Like

Simple Solutions: +6 Likes

  • I love the good ideas that folk have discovered to achieve one end or another.

The View from Here: +1 Dislike, +5 Likes

Websightings: +4 Likes

  • I like the odd sites you find.

Excerpted general comments:

  • So what do I read first when the magazine arrives? I go for the editorial and letters first (interested in responses to articles I’ve previously read) and then go for the boat reviews next. I really like the boat comparison and the professional opinions regarding strengths and weaknesses. Then comes the technical articles because that’s what I do, work on boats. I’ve garnered many useful tips that make my work both easier and result in more professional finishes. When that’s all out of the way I go back for the cruising stories, not so much for the destinations, but more for the human interaction and learning on small boats. Last, but certainly not least, I review the commercial content for resources that I can use. It’s unfortunate (for me) that the magazine is based on the east coast and the majority of the advertising is east coast based, but there is still useful information there and it’s a global marketplace. Overall, I really like how Good Old Boat publishes articles from non-professional writers willing to share information! That’s what makes the magazine what it is.
  • Keep the balance of practical, how to, repair, knowledge and technical articles with a few ‘softer’ cruising, sailing pieces.
  • I like the new team and approaches you are investigating, and wish you good luck. Please keep up the good work!
  • I think sometimes the stories go off the mission spectrum. While he may be a known writer, a guy who turns his ketch into some form of brigantine doesn’t really reflect most Good Old Boat
  • Keep the focus on older boats, sail techniques, and projects.
  • Many of these boats are turning over in ownership. I am seeing more long-time owners moving on. I’ve had my 1982 Cape Dory 33, 18 years and I am the third owner. It behooves us all to help the next generation get in tune with their boats. Good Old Boat should try to find younger owners and ask them what they need from the magazine and try to add those elements in. I know you’ve started already with the couple on the old Dufour.
  • My gentle spouse and I, owners of Certainty, a 1984 Rhodes 22 Continental, are in a constant battle with entropy and always must repair, replace, or refit something. I love reading about equipment performance, what works and what doesn’t, easier and cheaper ways to do things, and so on; and reading about comparable boats and how they are built.
  • The work you guys do is just awesome, thanks for being there for good old boat enthusiasts.

Mail Buoy – December 2019

Dogwatch Kudos

I want to express my appreciation for a tip I got in The Dogwatch today (“LED Light and RFI Feedback,” November 2019). I had seen the earlier RFI/LED article and had made a mental note to check if my LED tricolor interfered with my masthead VHF. Reading the readers’ feedback, a note from Brent Putnam triggered a light bulb in my head. My cheap and infrequently used AM/FM stereo had developed a bad static problem. I had pulled it, checked the antenna, power and speaker leads, and gave it a gentle whack. No better. My troubleshooting skills exhausted, I resigned myself to replacing it someday. After reading Mr Putnam’s mention of USB chargers giving RF interference, I unplugged the Chinese panel mount unit I had installed nearby. Problem fixed. Thanks to Good Old Boat and your readers.

–John Churchill, Nurdle, 1979 Bristol 35.5 CB

Dog Phobias?

Alert dog under sailReading about ancraophobia and anemophobia in the November issue of The Dogwatch makes me wonder whether these anxieties can also apply to dogs. It’s ironic, but the little starving puppy we found on an uninhabited island in the Kuna Yala, and who sailed more than 8,000 miles with us for two years before we returned to land, is now clearly experiencing this problem. Thunderstorms don’t alarm her, but when there’s a big wind blowing, she’s a mess. It’s especially bad if the breeze randomly slams a door shut in the house, so if a big wind is forecast, I go around propping doors with workboots to preclude this source of terror. I don’t want to medicate her with the typical drugs that would make her all dopey. I’m considering CBD oil for dogs as a possible alternative. It makes me sad to see her so scared, and especially to think that she grew up on a sailboat in big water. But, maybe we all gain a few weird fears as we grow older. Does anybody else have a dog who suffers ancraophobia?

–Wendy Mitman Clarke, Good Old Boat senior editor

Some Advice for Capt. Rob

Regarding the letter from Capt. Rob in the November issue of The Dogwatch, about the starting problems he is having: I have a Yanmar SB12, which is also a small, single-cylinder diesel. When you turn your motor over by hand with the compression release engaged, each time the piston passes through top dead center, you should be able to hear the injector make a distinct “squoit” noise as it squirts a drop of fuel into the combustion chamber. If you do not hear this noise, the motor will never start, and you probably have an issue with air in the high-pressure side of the fuel line. It is also possible that the injector is bad, but this is much less likely and most certainly not the issue if the engine was running okay and now it won’t start. Learn to recognize this sound and you’ll always be able to tell if the motor is going to start or not.

–Homer Shannon, Cinderella, Bristol 29.9

I saw the letter in the November issue of The Dogwatch, about Capt. Rob’s diesel engine problem. I had a real interesting experience with the fuel system on my Pacific Seacraft 31. I had the marina change out my fuel lines and service the primary fuel filter (Racor 500FG). Afterward, I started experiencing air leaks in the suction side (before the electric and engine-driven fuel pumps). Soon after I’d begin to see air bubbles through the Racor filter inspection bowl glass, the engine would lug and die.

The first thing I found was the O-ring inside the filter cap had not been seated properly and was damaged. I replaced this O-ring and the engine ran for 45 minutes without a problem.

But several weeks later, it started lugging and dying again. I got pretty good at quickly bleeding the air and limping back to the marina! I started thinking I had something wrong at the fuel tank pickup, so I started removing hoses from hose barbs and inspecting the fittings.

I found that all the fuel hose was 5/16-inch and the barbed fittings were ¼-inch. Seems either the marina did not have ¼-inch fuel hose and substituted 5/16, or the previous owner/mechanic had changed to 5/16 at some time over the boat’s 29-year life. Changing to ¼-inch hose seems to have solved the problem.

By the way, in the fall of 2018 I attended a diesel teardown class in Chicago; followed by a diesel rebuild session in the spring of 2019. Best thing I have ever done for myself in regards to understanding the iron beast.

–Daryl Clark

The Most Unusual Things: Feedback

Last month we said we’d share the most unusual man-made thing we’d seen from a boat, and the most unusual wildlife we’d seen from a boat—not necessarily the coolest thing, but the most unusual, the thing others are least likely to report. And we put it to the readers, wondering what others have seen while sailing. We’re surprised at the low number of responses, but we got some very good ones.

Japanese products washed up on the shores of Alaska two years after the tsunami

First, as promised, here are the most unusual things we’ve seen, both sightings within weeks of each other. It was early fall 2013 and we were sailing our 1978 Fuji 40 down from Alaska, on our way to Southern California. It was then two years after the tsunami that triggered Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster and reports of Japanese stuff washing up on Pacific Northwest beaches had been coming in all summer. As we sailed along the desolate coastline of the northern end of British Columbia’s Vancouver Island, we started seeing things in the water, Japanese things. In remote anchorages along that coastline, we found beaches covered in Japanese goods, nearly all plastic. There were lots of oyster floats, and lots of things we couldn’t identify, but most disturbing were the recognizable consumer goods.

A sunfish passes by a sailboat

On the wildlife front, it was about a week earlier and a bit further north that we saw our first and only sunfish, about 15 miles offshore. They’re the largest bony fish on earth. They’re flat and tail-less and occasionally hang out on the surface like this. They eat jellyfish, which makes sense as that part of the world is teeming with jellyfish.

Because he told the story that we can’t get out of our heads and because it must be the most unusual thing ever, we’ll give Rick Lamb the first word…  –Eds.


The most unusual wildlife thing: a squirrel that must have choked while carrying a nut. It was when I was rowing an aluminum boat on an Indiana pond. The squirrel was dead and floating in the water, but the nut had sprouted and the tendrils of roots and leaves were growing from its mouth. The squirrel was turning into a tree, presuming it would wash ashore where the roots could hold.

Rick Lamb, Carmel, Indiana

Probably about 1980 or ’81, headed to the BVI from Lauderdale, 120′ Feadship. Very calm, gorgeous, mirror sea, and clear blue sky. Making 10 knots, probably about 20 miles off Great Inagua. Something odd off the starboard bow prompted a “let’s go see” course change.

A perfect, complete, probably 8-foot-long sofa with all the proper cushions in place, including arm rest covers, dark brown leather, just drifting along. NOT sinking! Just looked like you could stroll right over, plop down, turn on the TV and grab some popcorn in time for the show!

–John Sims

One of the draws of being a snowbird (who heads south to Florida from Ontario to escape the cold of winter) is being able to see wildlife we don’t see up north in our neck of the woods. Alligators, dolphins, and pelicans, are all good examples—or they all were until a couple years ago. It was a couple years ago, boating in Hamilton Harbour, when I was shocked to see what looked like a single white pelican floating about. This great bird dwarfs the ducks, Canadian geese, and swans which are common in Lake Ontario. I checked in with a friend of mine who happens to be a birder. He assured me I had lost my mind. And then the local paper backed me up. Apparently, pelicans occasionally stop in our waters on their migratory journey. Who knew?

Lee Brubacher, Hamilton, Ontario

Man-made: once came across a refrigerator floating in the Bay of Fundy, going out with the tide. No idea where it might have come from!

Wildlife: one day late this summer, I found a hummingbird doing the breast stroke a mile or so offshore. After a challenging MOB drill, managed to get it aboard. It was quite a warm day, so hoped it would dry off and warm up but the little guy didn’t make it. He (?) was buried with full honors in my wife’s flower garden.

Gord Phillips, Lord’s Cove, New Brunswick

I spotted something while sailing a few years ago. I moor and sail my boat at a local lake in Alberta and I do frequent over-nighters on my boat to enjoy the wildlife as well as the sunsets and sunrises. After one such night on my boat, I had breakfast and a leisurely coffee before setting sail for the homeward trip. I was just getting under way when I spotted a white object floating just beneath the surface of the water about 50 meters away. I carry a small fishing net and I am in the habit of scooping up garbage that finds its way into “my” lake.

I changed my heading and went straight for this garbage. As I drew closer I could see that it was actually a dead fish, not an uncommon find on the lake, unfortunately. It looked quite large so I got closer to investigate. Turns out it wasn’t a fish, but two fishes, a smaller one was firmly lodged in the mouth of a larger one! A glaring example of “biting off more than one can chew!” Of course, I had brought a camera with me on that trip, but I’d neglected to charge the battery.

Mark Stricklin

A metal seat mounted to the bow of a sailboat allows the owner to sit while pedaling the windlassI hope this qualifies for your a most unusual inanimate object (man-made thing). Without reading further, can you guess what the photo is about?

This is a photo of the bow of a boat I spotted at Havre Polyvalent-Ste-Anne-des-Monts, on the St. Lawrence River off Quebec, Canada. I could not for the life of me see why someone would want a splash guard on the bow of their boat. Upon closer inspection, I realized it was a seat for a pedal-powered windlass! Cool or what?!

–David Takahashi, Chikara-Ni, Alberg 37


Mail Buoy – November 2019

Diesel Auxiliary Trouble

I have a ComPac23 Diesel sailboat that I am restoring. I am having trouble getting the 8 HP 1GM10 Yanmar diesel to start. There is plenty of fresh fuel in the tank and I have replaced all the fuel filters and cleaned the injector. The batteries are new and fully charged. The compression test shows 300 PSI. Yet, it just cranks and there is no combustion. I am seeking help. Can you recommend a good Yanmar diesel mechanic I can talk to?

–Capt. Rob, Waleska, Georgia

Hi Rob,

We’re not mechanics, but we’ve lived for years with 3 diesel engines: a Universal 5411 (11hp), a Yanmar 4JH-TE (55hp turbo), and an International 7.3L IDI (in our truck).

Assuming the 300psi compression value is correct for your engine, we can think of only three possible culprits:

  • Air in the fuel line
  • Poor injection
  • Not enough pressure from the high-pressure pump

Here’s what we know about those scenarios:

  1. On our Yanmar, we had a problem where it died and wouldn’t restart. We removed the primary (on the engine) spin-on fuel filter and it was half-empty. We filled it, it started, then died 10 minutes later. More air had appeared in this filter cartridge. The fuel tank was full. The air was being sucked in from old fuel lines that had cracks or were too stiff to get a good seal at the fittings they attached to. Replaced lines, problem solved. If you’re sucking air someplace, this will cause a no-start problem. In addition to checking the filter, do your regular bleed procedure and see if you can find air anywhere. In addition, while cranking, you can crack the nuts attaching the metal fuel line to the top of your injector–you should see fuel spitting out. If not, it’s likely a pump problem or an air problem.
  2. You wrote that you “cleaned” the injector. Injectors are not DIY, so your problem could very well be a bad injector. But the only way to diagnose this is to send it in to a diesel injector shop. Our advice is to buy a new injector to install and if that solves your problem, have the old injector serviced and keep it as a spare. As you know, diesel will not combust until atomized, and that must happen at about 3,000 psi and if an injector is “clean” it could still have a weakened spring that’s releasing the fuel in a dribble or something.
  3. Our understanding is that high-pressure pumps rarely fail, but the one on our truck did (it’s a 1988 with 200K miles). They are expensive and we know nothing about diagnosing them specifically, but I do know that if everything else is good, that’s all that’s left. I would discount this as your problem and focus elsewhere.

The beauty of diesels is their simplicity. If you’re getting clean diesel atomized into a cylinder with good compression, along with clean air, it has no choice but to fire. Your job is to determine which part of the equation isn’t happening. Don’t get discouraged, just cover all the bases and think it through.

Yanmar is funny about geography. Authorized parts dealers can’t sell (even by mail) outside their territory. You should be able to find your authorized parts seller from the Yanmar site. That part seller would probably be happy to answer questions and will know the best mechanics in your area–but hopefully, you can diagnose and fix this one yourself.

If anyone has better information for Rob, let us know and we’ll pass it on.


Dogwatch Kudos

I enjoyed another excellent issue of The Dogwatch. I plan to follow up on the YouTube series on the “Great Canal Journeys” that you reviewed; the first few minutes of Episode 1 looks promising!

–David Salter

LED Light and RFI: Feedback

VHF and electronics panel on a sailboat

Last month we acknowledged that LED lights are taking over the world and that the incandescent bulb is dead. We made clear that not all LED lights are created equal and that in addition to quality concerns (it varies widely, in our experience) and color considerations (warm or cool temperature light?), the US Coast Guard and others have been warning of the potential for LED lights to interfere with VHF radio reception and transmission. This is especially problematic at the masthead, where VHF antennas and LED anchor or navigation lights may be mounted in proximity. So, we put it to the readers, wondering whether anyone has installed an LED light that caused problems with VHF radio reception?

Because he’s got an illuminating story—sorry—we’ll give Andy LaJambe the first word…  –Eds.


Though my experience is not with LED bulbs in a marine application, it does graphically illustrate that there can be a problem. My experience was with the bulbs in my garage door opener.

One day the garage door opener remote failed to close the garage door. I figured the battery was getting low and so would not transmit a strong enough signal from in the driveway where I park the truck. But I was proven wrong because it would open the garage door when I came home.

Through multiple trials that left me more stumped than I was to begin with, I finally figured out that if the lights on the opener were off, the remote would work, and if the lights were on, the remote wouldn’t work. I took the LED bulbs out and the opener worked reliably. Then, I replaced the bulbs, after carefully wrapping foil around the base of the bulbs where the electronics were. This helped a lot, but did not solve the problem.

After a bit of research, I found some FCC-certified bulbs that worked like a charm. They were not inexpensive like the Made-in-China bulbs they replaced, but they have now been installed for 4 or 5 years and have not failed.

It is obvious that not all bulbs are created equal.

I wonder whether the FCC certifies bulbs used in marine (12-volt, non-household) applications?

Andy LaJambe

We replaced all our incandescent bulbs aboard our Bristol 29.9, Pegu Club, with LED bulbs about four-and-a-half years ago, during a refit. Since that time, we have experienced no issues concerning VHF radio reception. I did read the information from the coast guard a while back and I have yet to hear any first-hand stories of any negative effect on VHF systems from LED bulb interference. For what it’s worth, we purchased our LED bulbs from both Marine Beam and Dr. LED.

–Jeff and Kimberly Boneham

We had this issue in spades with an OGM masthead light we installed right before our last cruise, in 2009. We realized it was interfering when we were on one of our first overnight sails down the coast; we had better reception using a hand-held VHF in the cockpit than we did using our installed radio with the antenna on the mast, right next to that light. When we alerted OGM, they were less than helpful, insisting the source of the problem was our installation, despite us trying everything they recommended. Weems & Plath recently bought OGM and reminded everyone that they offer a lifetime warranty on these lights. They also made clear these lights are “no-interference certified by the US Coast Guard.” We approached Weems & Plath (and the Coast Guard) about our light and Weems & Plath asked us to bring it in for testing. When I dropped it off, Weems & Plath doubted the light would be the source of the problem, but after testing it they confirmed it was causing interference and pledged to fix it. They’ve returned it to us with a Coast Guard-tested LED bulb and we’ll go back aloft and reinstall it later this fall. Fingers crossed!

Nica Waters, Good Old Boat

I have had interference occur with LED household light bulbs on amateur radio frequencies in VHF 2M band. Turning the lights off solved the problem, and I did not chase it further, but suspect it was RF related. I was told the interference was not audible in my transmission, but it was audible on received audio from other stations.

Rig was an ICOM 706 Mark 2, with 9-element yagi tuned for 2M on a large tower fed with LMR-400 coax feedline.

I have cheap LED lights in my cabin lighting on my Corinthian 19. The fixture used a medium (household) base bulb, and I sourced LED ones online which fit and are 12-volt. These bulbs are extremely annoying due to reception interference with the VHF (weather forecast, etc). I do not know if this is audible on transmit. Of course, the solution is to not listen to the weather forecast while in the berth with the lights on, but rather to turn the lights off (for ambiance) and lay back and listen to the sultry tones of “friendly guy” on Environment Canada WeatherRadio while trying to nod off. As it happens, these bulbs also “sing” if you listen carefully to them.

Dante McLean, Sam, Alberg 30

I’m Tom Luque, owner of

I have studied LEDs for many years and noticed that low-cost LEDs use a resistor to limit current and thus not generate interference. But this approach wastes power and the quality of light varies with voltage-level change.

The more expensive LED systems use Pulse Width Modulation (PWM) to control the current over a wide range of voltages. PWM is an efficient approach, using the least amount of current to provide a constant level of brightness and color temperature. You will find these circuits under “constant current supplies.” The older constant current circuits use a linear control transistor that waste power like a resistor does, and does not emit frequencies like the more efficient PWM types.

The frequency range emitted by a PWM circuit varies with the battery voltage level. I do not know and have not tested if the frequency range is a problem for other electronics.

I assume that Dr. LED uses PWM because the components I can see being used within the bulb look to be PWM circuitry. Having this type of bulb on the masthead next to the antenna may cause interference.

By the way, even though an LED can produce white light, the light spectrum used by LEDs to make white contains much less of the light spectrum that bugs can see. This is why LED street and parking lights don’t have swarms of bugs around them.

–Tom Luque, owner of, Camas, Washington

It’s not the LED, it’s the power supply. Many electronics require some sort of power supply to convert the available power to what they can use. For example, cars and boats have 12-volt systems, but many electronic devices use 5 volts.

How do I know? I’ve been an FCC-licensed amateur radio operator for over 25 years. We’ve seen the shift from tubes, to transistors, to chips—and the corresponding miniaturization of power supplies. Modern switching power supplies are small and light (no big metal transformer), but they can be noisy. To make things even smaller, many companies skip the parts required to filter and suppress noise. Indeed, some of the most common noisemakers are the USB buttons that fit into a 12-volt lighter socket to power your phone.

If a manufacturer has cut corners, you’ll hear it.

–Brent Putnam

I discovered the RFI issue when installing some LED lights on an experimental airplane.  I tried all the fixes such as shielding, twisting, and grounding, without success, the static persisted. Some retail outlets have operating LED light displays and that is where I would take a handheld aviation radio to check the lights for noise. Interestingly,  some lights produced noise and some didn’t,  on the same display. My conclusion is that cheap LED lights do not have RFI protection built into their circuit boards. When shopping for lights, I take a hand-held radio. Turn it on to a quiet channel, then turn on the desired led fixture and see if it produces the noise over the radio.  Some LED products state in their packaging whether they emit RFI or are protected against it, others don’t. Unfortunately, buying online can be hit or miss.


Mail Buoy – October 2019

Eye Patches for Night Vision?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Helping Bahamians

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

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

Cover Kudos

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

–Gino Del Guercio, s/v Andiamo

Carrying a Load

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

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

Hi Jim,

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

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


sailboat steering cablesSteering Cable Thoughts

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Will Keene, Chairman, Edson Intl.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Adam Cove, CEO, Edson Intl.

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

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

Airplanes don’t typically live in salt water.

Joe Klerekoper

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

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

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

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

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

Probably preaching to the choir, but hope this helps!

–Dave Lincoln

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

–Damon, Stray Cats

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

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

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

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

I, too, don’t see why.

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

–Isaiah Laderman

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

–James Doran

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

–Joseph Haley

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

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

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

–Stan Galper

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

Mail Buoy – September 2019

Isla Ventana

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

DIY Blues

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

–Bill Wilson, Good Old Boat subscriber

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


Oak Harbor DIY Marina

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

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

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

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

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

Bowditch Plug, Bowditch Remembrance

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

Gerald Schatz, J.D., Northport, Michigan

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

Chas. Hague, s/v Tangent

Sunrise, Sunset 

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

–Steve Addy

Second Favorite

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

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


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

John Fox

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

Latitudes & Attitudes: 25%

Cruising World: 16%

Latitude 38: 11%

Chesapeake Bay Magazine: 8%

Sailing Anarchy: 6%

SAIL: 6%

48 North: 5%

Ocean Navigator: 5%

Small Craft Advisor: 5%

Spinsheet: 4%

Practical Sailor: 2%

Pacific Yachting: 1%

BoatUS: 1%

Sailing: 1%

Soundings: 1%

SpinSheet: 1%

Wooden Boat: 1%

Off Center Harbor: .5%

Yachting Monthly: .5%


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

Cecil Marmont, Stormbird, CP-16

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

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

Paul D. Bohac

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

Bill Van Emburg

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

–Tony Rodriguez, Tulsa, Oklahoma

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

–John Ganann

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

–Chris Campbell, Traverse City, Michigan


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

Mail Buoy – August 2019

Me Too!

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

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

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

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

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

–Chris Campbell, Good Old Boat subscriber

Seeking a Boat

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

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

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

If anyone has any leads, please contact me at

Jack Dodsworth, Solomons Island, Maryland

Image via Sailboat Data

Summer Sailstice (or Sail Summerstice?) 

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

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


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

Dirk Niles, Great Joy, 1981 C&C 34

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

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

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

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

Walter Heins, Golden Eagle

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

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

–Lorie Eadie

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

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

–Joe Krivan

Mail Buoy – July 2019


I wonder if any sailor readers in the Caribbean saw this on June 22:

–Gregg Bruff, Good Old Boat contributor and reader

Thanks Gregg. We didn’t see this but found reading about it fascinating. For example, this happens, on average, once or twice a year? And this is only the fourth time in history that a non-manmade impacting object was observed prior to atmospheric entry? We’ll keep our eyes open.  –Eds.


I ran across your discussion about the Eliquis boat (May issue of The Dogwatch). I own a Farr 740 (one of only 2 in the US that I am aware of) and the boat in the commercial has many of the design features of the Farr 740. The original Sea Nymph (New Zealand built) 740s had a wrap-around window cover (over 4 small windows) and rigging that had the stays in line with the mast and running backstays. Later boats had more conventional swept-back spreaders and no running backstays. The original Sea Nymph molds were destroyed in the 90’s, but a slightly modified and updated version was (is?), built under license in Italy. Those boats have more conventional window configurations; it may well be the boat in the commercial. As for the “T” number, I have seen them on F740 sails as a racing ID similar to PHRF #s. Here is a link to several photos and the sales brochure for the Italian boats:

The Farr 740 shares the design concept of the S2 7.9 Grand Slam and the Santana 23D, a shallow lightweight dingy-style hull with a ballasted daggerboard, reasonable cruising accommodations, and a large cockpit (my boat’s is 8 feet long). I recently weighed my boat with everything on board (including the OB motor) and “ready to sail” she came in at 2750 lbs. All three of these boats rate similar to J24 performance.

Mike Dawson, Farr 740 Sport, #008


photo by Rick Bucich,
photo by Rick Bucich,  linked to copyright license

I love sailing. I’ve been a sailor all my life, since my dad built a 7.5-foot pram dinghy called a Gremlin for my brother and me. We learned to sail in it and then quickly moved on to an 11.5-foot boat called a Heron. From there we graduated to a 17.5-foot cabin cruiser called a Silhouette. Since leaving home, we have each owned numerous boats and we are still, in our 70s, keen sailors and boat owners.

Yet, I find at this age that I am no longer tolerant of obscene wealth reflected in sailing. I no longer admire gorgeous images of mega sailing yachts or supremely high-tech foiling sailing craft that move at over 30 knots. The money required to build and keep these boats could be better spent, particularly in the face of the numerous crises our world faces.

Boat owners who justify this type of expenditure are in denial about climate change and environmental degradation. The unbelievable level of luxury these owners demand is obscene. It gives me reason to reflect on the Christian teaching about how it is harder for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven than for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle.

I accept that each person is working out their own salvation the best way they know how. But making these observations (judgments if you like) is part of my way. I feel like someone needs to blow the whistle and shout, “Enough”!

Andy Vine

We appreciate your sentiment, Andy, but you’re ignoring relativity. We’re willing to bet you’re a rich man. So rich that a couple billion people on this planet could make the same protest about your wealth and its obscenity. A 5-year-old SUV in the garage, a vacation in Hawaii, a modest Catalina 30 at the marina — it wouldn’t take much to give them a valid claim against you on the same grounds.   –Eds.


In 25+ years of sailing, we’ve not had much luck with expensive boat stuff that was sold as waterproof. Specifically, it’s motorized stuff with circuit boards that get wet and fail when water intrusion happens, stuff like self-switching bilge pumps by Rule and our Torqeedo outboard. We wondered if we were cursed or in good company, so we put it to the readers.

Not to dump on Rule, but we’re going to give Jim Conners the first word…  –Eds.

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Mail Buoy – June 2019


Thanks for “The Empirical Battery Test” article (The Dogwatch, May 2019) and for the editor’s notes that followed it. I want to add that there is a solution to desulfating batteries, and to preventing sulfation in the first place. Pulsating-current battery conditioners are a too-well-kept secret. Every battery owner should have one and use it regularly on vehicle and boat batteries. A more expensive one will work on both 6V and 12V batteries. I use a PulseTech Xtreme Charge battery charger, but there are many reputable makers, including Noco and BatteryMinder.

–Jerry McIntire

Thanks for the endorsement, Jerry. We’ve had our share of battery-killing sulfation issues, and have learned to equalize regularly, but hadn’t heard of this too-well-kept-secret. We went straight to our source of everything-electronic knowledge, Good Old Boat Electronics Editor David Lynn, and shared your thoughts with him. David wrote, “There’s lots of controversy about battery pulsating devices. Some claim they work, while others say they don’t. I tried one on one battery on Nine of Cups (maybe 15 years ago?) and compared that battery with the other batteries, both in the same battery bank and in a second battery bank. After a year, I did a full 20-hour load test to compare the battery with the pulsating device on it to the batteries without. I found no discernible difference and I ended up tossing the device. I think Nigel Calder tested a pulsating-current battery conditioner for Practical Sailor, but I don’t remember what his conclusion was.” So, we next reached out to Darrell Nicholson, Editor of Practical Sailor. Darrell wrote, “We have not done anything that yielded conclusive results in the past 15 years. We did one brief 30-day test that showed some positive results, but the results were small and in the lab (under no load, I believe), and so would be difficult to correlate to real-life use on a boat.” Then Good Old Boat Contributing Editor Drew Frye pointed us to the Trojan battery website ( where they are unequivocal: “We don’t recommend the use of desulfators or any other external device, as they tend to do more harm than good. No external device or chemicals need to be added to our products, only distilled water.” So that’s all the info we’ve been able to gather. We’re not refuting your assertion, but we do think it sounds like the jury (after a very long time) is still out on these things…and maybe they’re a secret for a reason? We welcome the feedback of readers on these devices (–Eds.


Kudos to the writer of the Poem of the Month in the May issue of The Dogwatch, a Haiku it seems. Excellent visuals derived from it and restful. Thanks.

Rich Green

That would be Brian Bills, and here it is again:

Canvas sails billow
Keel cleaves cerulean swells
My soul is renewed


I enjoyed The Dogwatch book review of Ron Holland’s autobiography. It mentioned Golden Dazy, a fast and able vessel that was an early success story for the Gougeon Brothers WEST System wood-epoxy construction technique. They built her in Bay City, Michigan, where my older boat, Baker’s Dozen, lives.

That boat was launched for her 52nd season in my care on May 13. The boat herself is 58 now and has a bit of Gougeon Brothers epoxy here and there. Always support the local folks especially when they are sailors!

–Chris Campbell, Traverse City, Michigan


Regarding your nautically rhyming way to remember how to make the perfect rum punch in the May issue of The Dogwatch:

One of sour
Two of sweet
Three of strong
Four of weak

That’s been my mantra for at least 40 years. But there are two more lines:

Five drops bitters and nutmeg spice
Serve well-chilled with lots of ice.

As for the E-15 boondoggle (“A Warning from BoatUS,” May 2019), I recently encountered an E-15 pump at a local Speedway filling station in Exton, PA. I had to read the fine print very carefully to understand what was going on.

Now, if you will excuse me, the sun is over the yardarm and a lime begs to be squeezed.

Tim Mueller


Last month, having covered the 2018 Golden Globe Race extensively on the Good Old Boat Facebook page, and having heard a lot of opinions there, we put to the readers a simple query: “In a few sentences only, how do you feel about the 2018 Golden Globe Race? Positive, negative, a mixture of both? Please explain. Or did you not follow this solo race of production good old boats around the world non-stop? And if not, why not?” To be clear, and we’ve said this repeatedly, we are fans of the spirit of this race. Unique in this day in age, it’s a race the average sailor, sailing a boat that might be in your marina, with a realistic budget and no “team of professionals,” can enter and win. That’s what we love. And we think this glorious race is marred by unnecessary rules that put lives in danger. And we’ll add one more thing: we aren’t racing sailors or sailors interested in sailboat racing, never have been…until this race of good old boats.

Dennis Foley’s contrarian stance piqued our interest, so we’ll give him the first word, and hopefully put him at ease…–Eds.

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Mail Buoy – May 2019

Background Popeye graphic from


Me thinks he watched too much Popeye as a child… I could imagine Olive sitting next to him on the beach!

–Daryl Clark

Great poem.

–Joe Taylor, New Orleans, Louisiana


Last month, having received a few independent queries (and surprised by them) from Good Old Boat readers about the boat in the pharmaceutical ad (Pfizer, click here to watch), and then being unable to sleuth a response, I put it to the readers. Having zoomed in on screen shots and hunted for clues, I was surprisingly keen myself to learn what this thing was…

Bert Vermeer seems to have put the most time and effort into this query and may be on to something, so he gets the first word…Eds.

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Mail Buoy – April 2019

Forest fires raged around Kelowna, British Columbia, last year and during that time, Paul Skene captured this smoke-on-the-water-effect shot of a lone sailboat on Okanagan Lake.
Forest fires raged around Kelowna, British Columbia, last year and during that time, Paul Skene captured this smoke-on-the-water-effect shot of a lone sailboat on Okanagan Lake.


I just have to comment on the most recent The Dogwatch Mail Buoy conversation about pictures of kids without PFDs (“Thumbs Up For Depicted PFD Use,” March 2019). I found the editorial response to Rob Hill’s letter quite unsettling, particularly these comments:

While we know that SOME kids (and adults) should be in life vests 100 percent of the time in SOME situations…”  (my emphasis added), and,

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Mail Buoy – March 2019


Glad to see you’ve got a photo of a kid with a PFD on. Last year’s discussion on this topic was unnerving for me, and I was quite disappointed that some on your end defended the use of photos showing children without them.

–Rob Hill, Westport, Massachusetts

Hi Rob, we featured two photos of kids wearing PFDs in the February issue of The Dogwatch. At the risk of unnerving you again, this was not by design, but by chance. While we know that some kids (and adults) should be in life vests 100 percent of the time in some situations (the photo above is a pretty good example of such a situation, given the age of the kid and the absence of lifeline netting), our editorial policy is to not be absolute about it, but consider photos on a case-by-case basis. We’re happy to promote the wearing of PFDs (for kids and adults), but there are situations where a kid is okay not wearing a PFD aboard. There are too many factors to make an edict (factors including swimming ability of kid, conditions, water temperature, boat size). We would balk at publishing a photo of a kid who appeared to be recklessly unprotected, but we’re not going to say “no photos of kids not wearing PFDs.”  Eds.


I read your tongue-in-cheek mention of Raymarine’s newest product, DockSense, in the February issue of The Dogwatch. I singlehand my five-ton, high-freeboard Nonsuch 26 sailboat in and out of a crosswind slip. There’s major downwind drift if I go in too slow, too much momentum if I go in fast enough for the keel to bite, and a firm guarantee that the stern will pull 45 degrees hard to starboard if I put too much thrust in reverse. Accordingly, I have the dings to prove that Raymarine is right; docking mishaps happen even to experienced sailors. But considering what Raymarine’s solution probably costs, I’d still save money by just buying a duplicate boat, putting it in a slip facing a different direction, and sailing whichever one has the more favorable wind that day.

Ironically, your mention of Raymarine’s solution arrived just as I completed my solution (see photo). What you’re looking at is an 8-foot piece of scrap wood to which I screwed three rows of 1.5-inch fire hose scalloped into wave patterns. I used 48 feet of fire hose out of a 95-foot roll that I bought at for $60, shipping included. I used 98 1-inch hex-head screws out of a $9.75 pack of 100 from Total cost: about $50. Of course, this doesn’t include the value of my time and labor. If I add that in, the total comes to about . . . $50. (I’m retired.)

My plan is to just let the boat hit the bumper as I come in, then slide along it. My expectation is that the fire hose will provide both cushioning and low-friction sliding and won’t gouge the hull. I have high hopes.

Bob Neches

Bob, nice work. We’ll add that we’ve twice picked up used fire hose for free (to use aboard as chafe protection, mostly on anchor rode snubbers). In both cases, we could have taken all we wanted. Next time you’re ready for more, just visit a local fire station. We were successful at two California stations: the Woodacre Fire Station in Marin County and the Camarillo Airport Fire Station.  Eds.


I just read “In Praise of the DIY Boatyard,” (The Dogwatch, February 2018). Attention DIY boaters in Southern California: I bought a classic plastic Catalina 30, Silhouette, last summer and I needed a place to put her where I could pull the dead gas motor and install an electric motor. Easier said than done. Private marinas don’t like noisy repair work and the few boatyards still open are expensive. But I prevailed. If you’re in the Wilmington/Long Beach area, contact Steve Curren at Long Beach Yacht Center ( He rents slips by the month and allows DIY boat owners like me to make repairs while the boat’s in the water.

Doug Mears


I wanted to share an update I’ve made to the hobo stove. Instead of holes on the bottom to allow fresh air to enter and fuel a solid-fuel fire, here I’ve left the bottom sealed. I pour stove alcohol into the can, light it, and allow it to burn a few moments before I set a pan on the can for cooking. I have only played with this version, but I see it as a viable (and cleaner) camp/cookout burner.

–Jim Shell, Good Old Boat contributor

Readers, to revisit the article describing Jim’s handy cooker (great for outdoor marina potlucks or shoreside cooking while at anchor), use this link:  Eds.


Wedding VowsI just received the latest edition of The Dogwatch and aside from everything else, I want to commend the cartoonist who drew the boat-wedding graphic. Well done indeed. Who is the talented individual? Do they have a website of their work?

–John Gilbert, Cone From Away, a 1979 Aloha 28, Owen Sound, Ontario

Tom Payne is the talented illustrator (and we were remiss in not making that credit clear, as we usually do in the print magazine). Tom’s great and has worked with Good Old Boat for many years. He’s also worked with SAIL and others. But that work is just a footnote in his extensive portfolio of clients. To learn more about Tom and his work, check out I’ll note that for this piece, we simply sent Tom instructions along the lines of “We need a female captain officiating a wedding on the deck of a good old boat.” We particularly love the tear from the older woman on deck, and the ring bearer in a life vest. Check out the March issue of Good Old Boat for more of Tom’s work, and also visit Tom’s comic site: sandsharkbeach.comEds.


Last month I put it to the readers about boat-sharing services. I asked whether any of you had used these services and whether you thought millenials would go the path of renting sailboats vs. owning sailboats. Will this model take-off and result in more people out on the water, people who want to sail but who don’t want to own a sailboat?

Reader Isaiah Laderman made the consensus point in the last sentence of his response. He did it so clearly and succinctly, with a perfect metaphor, that he gets the first word . . . Eds.

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Mail Buoy – February 2019


Last month I put it to the readers about DIY boatyards. Do you prefer these yards? Are you willing to pay more in lay-day rates to use a DIY yard? Do you have a favorite DIY yard? It wasn’t a very divisive question because everyone seems to love DIY boatyards, and several of you gave a shout-out to your favorite. As an illustration last month, I used the graphic of one of my favorite DIY yards,  Ventura Harbor Boatyard (in Southern California). Reader Wayne Wright had something to say about Ventura Harbor Boatyard, so he gets the first word . . .

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Mail Buoy – January 2019


You asked about reader experience with drones (“Put It to the Readers,” The Dogwatch, September 2018). I can say that launching a drone from a boat under sail is not easy, because of wind variations and the rigging. Doing so is possible with one of the more powerful machines, but these units are costly, and the likelihood of losing it when attempting to land on the boat under sail, is high. As a newbie drone operator, I wouldn’t risk losing a $700 machine for a few good shots or a video. Also, drone regulations are also very restrictive for commercial purposes. For example, I cannot sell you pictures I have taken from aboard Britannia because I don’t have a commercial drone license. I don’t think I could even employ a commercial pilot, buy the photos they took legally, and then legally re-sell the pictures to you.

–Roger Hughes, Good Old Boat contributor

Hi Roger, thanks for your thoughts on drones. You prompted us to do some research and here’s what we learned. Commercial drone (or small unmanned aircraft system, or sUAS) use is governed by the FAA and all rules and regulations (there are surprisingly few) are covered by the Federal Aviation Regulations (FARs) part 107. These are straightforward. Part 107 mandates that commercial operators have a license, but getting a license is as easy as passing a written exam at one of the more than 700 testing centers in the US and paying a $150 fee. That’s it, then you’re a commercial drone pilot. That said, we at Good Old Boat are of the untested, unqualified legal opinion that if you were to take a stellar photo as a recreational (non-commercial) drone operator and then sell it to Good Old Boat or another magazine, you would not be in violation of any law (and regardless, we can’t imagine there are drone police checking to be sure that published drone photos were taken by commercial operators). We think the real problem would arise were you stopped while flying and authorities determined that you were flying for commercial purposes without a license. Regarding your concern that you couldn’t employ a commercial pilot to take photos that you buy and then resell, we can’t imagine there is any regulation prohibiting that. –Eds


Great article on news of the ship The Falls of Clyde (“Fall and Rise of The Falls Of Clyde,” The Dogwatch, December 2018)! For those interested, there are six black-and-white photos of this ship in the book, Pacific Square Riggers: Pictorial History of the Great Windships of Yesteryear (1969, Bonanza Books), by Jim Gibbs. Unfortunately, each photo is relatively small, about 3×4 inches. But they are all of The Falls of Clyde as she was, including images of sailors aboard, the ship under sail, one of her main saloon, one of her in dry dock, a sad one of her sans masts and in use as a petroleum barge in Alaska, and one of her in 1959 in Seattle awaiting tow to Honolulu. The book also includes some copy about the ship.

I always enjoy my issues of Good Old Boat! Keep up the great work!

–John B. (Jack) Severinghaus, Com-Pac 23, Spokane, Washington



I just read Canadian George Kuipers’ letter to the editor, regarding the trade dispute between Canada and the U.S. (“Good Old Trade-Trouble Fallout,” November 2018). Although I, too, am bewildered and frustrated that friends and allies like Canada are treated worse than North Korea by the president, I believe that the ordinary citizens of both countries are still friends. Good Old Boat is certainly my friend on board during the summertime as well as on the hard during the winter months. What goes on now in small politics will pass and Good Old Boat will continue. For that, I will renew.

–Claudette Paquin, Penetanguishene, Georgian Bay, Ontario


Last month we put a question to readers who live in places where weather and frozen water restricts sailing to a seasonal affair. Do you envy the Southern California sailors who can go for a Christmas Day sail most years, or do you pity those who lack the seasons to frame and define their sailing experience? Here is what some of you had to say, starting with Fred Mulligan, who thoughtfully brought Henry David Thoreau into the discussion…

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Mail Buoy – December 2018


Thank you for the article on the hatch tent. The one shown would certainly keep the rain out. However, when we are at anchor we need to have quick access to the bow and a tent design inhibits that. I’ve been looking for a compact, free-standing design, but those that are commercially available are way too expensive. I’ve considered using a pet- or child-size dome tent with part of the bottom cut out. Any experience or thoughts about that idea?

–Brian McMahon, Windchaser

We don’t have any experience in this realm. For the past eight years, we’ve closed our hatches when the rain comes (and in the Tropics we’ve often suffered for it, at night especially, but that rain is usually short-lived). If any readers have advice to offer Brian, please contact him directly at:


Last month, I put it to the readers about whether you’ve tried one of the stay-dry-and-clean-your-boat-bottom-from-the-dock tools, you know, one of those brushes on a long handle. I shared how I personally spent a couple of years in my 20s underwater, cleaning boat bottoms and that I’ve long been skeptical of these easy-as-pie DIY tools, I just didn’t see how they could substitute for a diver. But Davis had just released their own version of these things, called Scrubbis (pictured) and I wanted to get opinions from folks who’ve actually used one of these. I have to say that I expected first-hand stories that would support my skepticism, but received none. Here is what some of you had to say.

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The Dogwatch Mail Buoy – November 2018


I enjoyed my Good Old Boat subscription when I had my O’Day 26, but I dropped my subscription last year as I bought a small trimaran (a 1992 Ostac Tramp) and noticed that Good Old Boat does not have many articles or advice about them — I couldn’t find but 6 articles on trimarans.

I know they haven’t been around as long as monohulls (in the modern sense, not the Polynesians) but they are becoming more popular and the modern fleet is approaching 50-60 years old now. Does Good Old Boat intend to include more write ups on multihulls?

–Wayne Holt, Pensacola Beach, Florida


Granted we don’t have many articles specific to trimarans. But we don’t have many articles specific to any single type of boat. We like to think that every issue of Good Old Boat has content that appeals to sailors in general, without regard to what they’re sailing, whether it’s on a trailer or a 40-foot trimaran. Doing plumbing or electrical work on a 1998 40-foot fiberglass monohull is going to involve many of the same considerations as doing the same work on a 22-foot woody from 1962. The story we had in the September issue on blind sailors we hope is of interest to all sighted sailors.

We’ll add that Drew Frye, a contributing editor, for a long time sailed a cat and recently sold it and bought his current boat, a tri (an F-24). And several months ago, we put the word out to all our boat reviewers to be on the lookout for good old multihulls to review.

We can’t promise multihull-specific content is on the way — 90% of our content comes from ideas pitched by freelancers — but I won’t shy away from any story because it has to do with multihulls. Quite the opposite. –Eds


We have owned our Hunter 310 about 4 years. There are no grab rails topsides. I can hold on to the life lines, but really need something on the cabin top, for safety. Over the weekend I went to the boat and stared at it for a while. Unfortunately, the way the boat is designed I don’t think I can add grab rails in the place I need them the most (between the mast and forestay), because there is a fiberglass headliner inside the boat. I seem to remember an article about installing grab rails in an old issue. Does anyone have any suggestions on a method? Should I glue them? Make pads with an integral fastener and glue the pads down? I would appreciate any suggestions.      –Phil Mayleben, Hunter 310, Mad Hatter

We published a story in Good Old Boat recently on making grab rails (“Low-Cost Sturdy Handrails,” November, 2017), but not on installations that would help with your specific case. If any readers, especially Hunter 310 owners, think they have a suggestion to offer Phil, please contact him directly at


Last month I put it to the readers about whether you make the trek forward to the mast to raise or reef the main? Or do you relish your ability to do both from the cockpit? Tell me why you do what you do. Would your set-up be different if you sailed a different boat, or sailed your current boat in different circumstances? Is the perceived safety of the cockpit over-stated? Before I present the results, let me correct a misstatement.

I wrote last month that Good Old Boat founders Karen Larson and Jerry Powlas prefer lines not be led aft and go forward aboard both their boats to raise and reef the main. This is only half true, so I’ll give Jerry the first word and then continue with some of the reader responses.

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The Dogwatch Mail Buoy – October 2018

Mail Buoy for Dogwatch.
This summer, sailing his Columbia 26 MkII on the Potomac River from St. Clements Bay to the Washington Sailing Marina, naval architect David Helgerson came across this osprey pair and their nest atop this navigation buoy. And that house on the shore? That’s Mount Vernon, George Washington’s home.
Send your favorite hi-res photo of an aid to navigation, be creative. If we use your pic, we’ll send you a Good Old Boat cap or shirt.


In the September issue of The Dogwatch, we ran a story by Keith Davie (“Six Lessons from a Simple Job”) in which Davie offered the following:

“Stay around to be an old good old boater. Give serious thought to protecting your body and the environment. Acetone and MEK are available and sometimes necessary, but both pose cancer risks and are neurological toxins that can be absorbed through the skin. Avoid them if possible, wear gloves when handling them, and use a proper respirator in confined spaces or for long-duration exposure.”

These are words Davie says he’s lived by — and we have too. In fact, we were happy to share the caution, feeling like we were doing readers a service.

Then we heard from readers David Lochner and Kevin Bennet.

Turns out, Davie’s caution is flat-out wrong. We were wrong to run it.

Both acetone and MEK are pretty benign as chemicals go.

To get the full story, we reached out to Good Old Boat contributing editor and expert on all things chemical, Drew Frye. Here is what he had to say:

“It’s funny how seemingly smelly and dangerous chemicals like acetone and hydrochloric acid present obvious acute hazards but little long-term threat, but seemingly innocent things like citrus stripper, the sun, or the lead soldiers I played with as a child are a long-term risk.

“Acetone and MEK are not carcinogenic. MEK can cause neurological symptoms, but only after long, chronic exposure. They are allowed in nail polish remover because they have minimal health hazards if used in small amounts. Chemically, they are most closely related to alcohols. In the case of acetone, it is a normal metabolic byproduct. They are listed as hazardous wastes when present in a product above a certain concentration solely because they are flammable.

“This is not to say they cannot be misused. Just 1-2 ounces in a poorly ventilated V-berth can create an explosive atmosphere, risking a flash fire or explosion. Even lower levels can impair judgment, causing symptoms like drunkenness. Finally, the sneaky thing with most solvents is that they anesthetize the very receptors that smell them; a little bit in the house after someone strips their nails smells almost as strongly as an explosive mixture, once you’ve been working with it for a few minutes.

“The rule for working with most chemicals is to read the MSDS or SDS. There is no substitute. If the chemical is volatile, plentiful ventilation is always the first step, and respiratory protection can be helpful if ventilation is not sufficient. But reducing the concentration through ventilation is best. In the case of flammable solvents, it is also prudent to limit the amount in use and to move soaked material and rags away from the work area promptly to avoid creating a flammable work space.

“Really, the short version of what I wrote is to ALWAYS read the MSDS (Material Safety Data Sheet, now revised to SDS [Safety Data Sheet] — a change to match the international format). There is no other way to know what is in a chemical and how to use it properly. Mandating that chemical manufacturers produce this was one of OSHA’s smarter moves, and it is no surprise the requirement is international.”

Then Drew added the following notes about this story. The second bullet address a point that we added to Keith’s story.

  • “No mention of sealant removers. Marine Debond is quite effective on polyurethanes and Re-Mov/DSR-5 is effective on silicone. It is very important to follow the instructions, scoring at the bond line and allowing time. Their use not only reduces effort, it reduces collateral damage to the boat.
  • “Do NOT retighten bolts later. This is a sure way to break the bond by causing the bolt to move. Though this is often recommended, it has been debunked.
  • “5200. The problem with 3M 5200 is not that it is permanent, it is that it is not flexible once it cures and does not bond well to many plastics and metals. 3M never recommended it for bedding. It is a fiberglass adhesive. Sika 291 or Locktite Marine have better broad spectrum adhesion and do not harden as much.”

Thanks Drew. And we’ll give Keith Davie the last words as they’re reasonable last words:

“I often see a very cavalier attitude toward solvents, and I think that’s unwise. Yes, the body contains acetone naturally (though not MEK), but in extraordinarily small amounts, and it’s filtered by the kidneys and removed. Because many chemicals cross the skin barrier into the bloodstream quite easily, stressing our bodies’ natural systems, it makes sense to me to protect my body from all of them as though they were dangerous. I hope to be working on boats well into my golden years; why take chances I don’t have to?”

Photo courtesy of Frode Hansen


Last month I put it to the readers about recreational drone use. I wanted to know whether you’d used one, planned to buy one, or think they’re evil. I was kidding about the last part, but turns out there are a lot of drone haters out there, putting them in the same league as mosquitos and personal water craft. Following is some of your feedback.


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The Dogwatch Mail Buoy – September 2018

Dave Lochner sent this photo he took early in the morning last August, while on a boat delivery up the Hudson River. “This lighthouse caught the nation’s and New York City’s attention nearly 100 years ago. It’s called the Little Red Lighthouse and sits under the George Washington Bridge in N.Y.” Yes! Formally called Jeffrey’s Hook Lighthouse, this aid to navigation was originally in Sandy Hook, New Jersey. When it became obsolete in 1917, it was reconstructed at its current location in 1921, to improve Hudson River navigation.

Then the George Washington Bridge was built and the lighthouse was again considered obsolete. It was decommissioned in 1948 and was to be auctioned off. But there was huge public outcry, mostly from kids who were fans of the 1942 children’s book, The Little Red Lighthouse and the Great Gray Bridge, by Hildegarde Swift. So much outcry that the Coast Guard deeded the lighthouse to New York City in 1951. In 2002, it was relighted. Tours are occasionally given by park rangers, especially on the Little Red Lighthouse Festival day in mid-September.

Send your favorite hi-res photo of an aid to navigation, be creative. If we use your pic, we’ll send you a Good Old Boat cap or shirt.


Last month I put it to the readers about whether you think we should continue sending our magazine out into the world in single-use plastic polybags or send it naked and unprotected against weather and the man and machines employed by the postal service. We heard from well over 250 readers. Despite my call for a simple “plastic” or “naked” vote, many respondents were emphatic and thoughtful in expressing their preference. Before I present the results, let me clarify a couple things that a few folks seemed confused about.

First, there is no option to send wrapped magazines to some addresses and unwrapped magazines to others.

Second, many readers assumed that ditching the plastic would be a cost savings and that we are aiming to ditch the plastic bags to save money. Just the opposite. We’ve tried going bare in the past, on a few occasions, and the result has been a marked and sustained increase in the number of damaged issues we need to replace. Fielding and fulfilling these requests, one by one, is expensive in terms of manpower, postage, and product (and it stokes ill will in some of our subscribers). Therefore, the status quo, shipping the magazines in plastic, is less expensive than not. Plastic is a cost-saving measure, not an expense. If this were strictly a financial decision, we’d keep the plastic without question.

But we did question, because we believe plastic has its place in this world (including the manufacture of sailboat hulls), but there is no good that comes from producing and using plastic unnecessarily.

We received 110 emails from readers requesting that we ship our product naked. We received 121 emails from readers requesting that we ship our product in the plastic bags we currently use, no change. Many of the naked folks urged us/begged us to get rid of the plastic for environmental reasons. Many of the plastic folks urged us/begged us to keep the plastic as it’s our responsibility to get our product to them in like-new condition.

We also received just over 50 emails from readers who want the magazine protected in some way, but suggested we find an alternative to plastic.

So the conclusions we’ve drawn are:

  • there is a strong consensus for protecting the magazine
  • there is a strong consensus for finding a plastic alternative

Accordingly, we will continue to ship our product in plastic polybags while exploring other options. Our printer doesn’t currently offer an option other than plastic polybags. I’ll keep everyone up-to-date on what we learn and decide in future issues of The Dogwatch. In the meantime, we encourage all subscribers to find another use for your Good Old Boat protector. Our bags are made from a low-density polyethylene, among the safest in terms of food exposure. It’s the same stuff that protects loaves of bread in the supermarket. For those without a dog or a sandwich to bring to work, the bags are recyclable, at any place that accepts plastic recyclable code #4.


And now just a few of your excerpted thoughts…

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The Dogwatch Mail Buoy – August 2018

Marker, Charlotte Harbor Florida
According to the Charlotte County, Florida, website, there are thousands of navigation aids within county boundaries. Different types of navigation aids are maintained by four different entities: the US Coast Guard, the Florida Wildlife Commission, Charlotte County, and the City of Punta Gorda. Here two county employees tend to one aid.
Send your favorite hi-res photo of an aid to navigation, be creative. If we use your pic in Good Old Boat magazine, we’ll send you a Good Old Boat cap or shirt.


I approve of your editorial (The Dogwatch, July 2018) because it is an educational, thought-provoking, even-handed essay. As a solo sailor whose father was knocked overboard by a boom when sailing alone, I always wear my PFD. He survived, although he was nearly dead from hypothermia when rescued by a Cape Croker (north of Meaford) indigenous family.

Hypothermia’s inexorable crippling effects, on even strong swimmers, are well worth watching. Information is a precursor to situational awareness. Cold Water Bootcamp (long version) is a 2008 Canadian-made video shot at Wiarton, in Georgian Bay, Lake Huron, in the spring shoulder season. Under police and other professional water rescue personnel supervision, a series of volunteers of various abilities, shapes and ages were observed for the time and distance covered before each individual succumbed and “went vertical.” Trying to re-board with no arm control makes interesting viewing.

One is often inclined to overestimate one’s abilities while justifying debatable judgment choices. Nature does not rationalize.

—Dave Toogood, Cadenza I, Erieau, Ontario

Editor’s note: regarding hypothermia,  click here to watch an excellent video by Mario Vittone called, “Hypothermia myths and the truth about cold water”

Swallows and AmazonsMay I recommend the following to your readers still postulating over pfds: Read Swallows and Amazons by Arthur Ransome. A renowned classic of its era (perhaps a more robust time).

Written in England during WWII, Swallows and Amazons concerns the many delightful adventures of two groups of kids in the wild and windswept English Mountain Lake District. Both groups want to camp on Cat Island, small, remote, deserted and in the middle of a very large, boisterously windy lake. One group comprises two 12- and 11-year-old girls the other comprises a boy, 8; a girl, 11; and another sister, 12. Both groups of kids sail sinkable 12-foot clinker (lapstrake) wooden dinghies.

One of the children’s mothers telegrams her husband, a destroyer Captain, as she is concerned about the wisdom of such a sail and overnight camp (and no cellphones then, folks).

“Father. Children wish to spend night on Cat Island alone. Uncertain how to proceed. Please advise. Love. Mother. MESSAGE ENDS.”

He replies from the bridge of a destroyer engaged with submarines in the North Sea:

“Mother. Of course children should proceed to island. If not duffers, won’t drown. If duffers, deserve to drown. Love. Father. MESSAGE ENDS.”

As an old gaffer pointed out to me years ago “Since we are an island nation, maybe we should all wear lifejackets all the time.”

Well, you can’t be too safe can you.

Maybe you can.

—Steve Roberts, SeaBeast, San Juan Islands, Washington


I have a 1978 Bristol 29.9 sailboat. It has a round, foam-like material that covers the hull/headliner joints of all the bulkheads. The material has become dried and cracked. In some areas it has just fallen off.

I suspect this is a material that is installed when the the bulkhead is installed in the hull. I do not plan to disassemble the entire boat interior, so I don’t think I could use the same material again, assuming I could find it. Is anyone aware of a good product that could be used to replace this material?

Please contact me directly and thank you in advance.

Homer Shannon,


Last month we put it to the readers about boat operator licensing. Specifically, we wanted to know how folks feel about future licensing requirements we think are inevitable. Should they be restricted to powerboats, or should they also include sailboats (and I’ll extend the definition of sailboats to include those with an auxiliary that can move the vessel at speeds up to 6 knots)? For what it’s worth, this editor has sailed over 25K miles on 3 different keel boats, has never had a license, and thinks it’s difficult to argue against them. When we’re enjoying public waterways, we appreciate knowing that everyone is at least schooled in the “rules of the road.” Unfortunately, testing for proficiency and judgment is unlikely to happen and those characteristics are probably most important, so we question the ultimate value of licensing. But here’s what several of you had to say:

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The Dogwatch Mail Buoy – July 2018

Lyle Balmer shot this photo of reader Andy Vine’s 1974 Crown 28, Gwyneth, sailing in Nootka Sound on the west coast of Vancouver Island. Lyle was aboard his 35-foot sloop, Aleydabeth. Click this link to watch a cool short film about their trip around Vancouver Island:
Editor’s Note: This is a nice photo, but we’re really looking for photos of aids to navigation, the more interesting and unique, the better. Send your favorite hi-res photo of an aid to navigation, be creative. If we use your pic in Good Old Boat magazine, we’ll send you a Good Old Boat cap or shirt.


Last month I put it to the readers about editorial responsibility, whether it’s incumbent upon sailing magazine editors (this one in particular) to not publish images that show sailors not wearing PFDs. I know that editors regularly get called out on this by readers. I shared a personal example of when Cruising World editors were called out for publishing a photo of my daughter underway, no PFD in sight. I hinted at my own personal bias on this topic.

We got a lot of mail, nearly all of it impassioned. One reader, clearly aware of my bias wrote, “You should know better and it is shameful that you would use a photo of your daughter in an unsafe situation in this discussion…you are free to be as ignorantly irresponsible and unsafe at sea [as you wish], but it is your boss’s responsibility to fire you. When your boss does that I will renew.”

I received too many responses to get everyone’s voice heard, there’s just not enough space (and I’m going to take up a bunch). But rest assured I read and considered each one carefully and I appreciate everyone who took the time to respond. Some letters were particularly thoughtful.

In summary, 85% of readers made it clear they did not want me to consider images for publication on the basis of whether a sailor is depicted wearing a PFD. 15% of readers made it very clear that change starts with influencers and I should absolutely refrain from publishing any photo that shows a sailor not wearing a PFD.

Reader Marty Chafkin presented a third option. “…We all need to say something when we see something. For far too long, we have let bad things happen to others, because we were afraid to speak up or just didn’t want to be bothered. Hopefully, that day is in the past…I think…editors [need to] say something. If you have a wonderful photo…that is not perfect in every way, then say so, [in] the photo credits…such as, ‘We regret that the person shown is not wearing a PFD. We strongly urge all our readers to wear protective gear when aboard.’ You are the editor. That makes you the responsible party…I’m hoping for a safer world where I don’t have to read about people drowning who might have been saved with only a bit of damage to their pride (or about people being harassed because they lacked the power to defend themselves).”

I appreciate Marty’s thoughts, but if I believe that PFDs are not always necessary, that the time to use them should depend on circumstances and said circumstances can only be evaluated by the captains and parents and individuals who are aboard when the picture is taken, how can I look at a photo on my computer, so far removed from the time and place, and make a judgment that means anything?

Take the photo of my daughter I offered before and am sharing here again. Several readers chastised me for not having her in a PFD. I don’t think the photo alone provides enough information for anyone to make that decision. The boat has been her home for 7 years, from ages 7 to 14. She knows the vessel and how it moves. We were sailing very slowly into a bay of calm, protected waters. The water temperature was 80 degrees. Land was a very short swim away, on both sides of the boat. She’s a strong swimmer. Her butt was behind the 5-inch gunwale and her torso was behind the lower lifeline. (I’ll add that she knows the circumstances in which her folks require her to wear a PFD, and the circumstances that require her to be tethered — and she’ll don one or both any time we say the word.)

If I advocated a world in which PFDs were required to be worn all the time that someone is aboard a boat (which is the stance several readers took), then it would be easy to decide either not to publish photos of non-PFD-wearing sailors or to note in the credits that the sailor was wrong not to have been wearing one. But I don’t advocate mandatory PFD use, not even for infants…

Yes, not even for infants. I know several cruising families with infants aboard, or who’ve raised infants aboard. Are their babies supposed to go to sleep at night with a PFD on? Wear one while getting bathed in the cockpit at anchor? Of course not.

To address the 15% who argued that change begins with influencers, I would just make the same point. I don’t believe PFDs should be worn 100% of the time, so I’m not trying to influence that outcome. And really, it’s not my role to create a world, it’s my job to reflect the world we live in, as accurately as possible.

I don’t want to name the boat or family, but one reader asked me to look up their tragedy before I expressed my opinion here. In short, tied to a marina dock, the family lost their 5-year-old daughter one night after she slipped unnoticed out of the cabin, into the cockpit, and onto the dock before falling in. I didn’t have to look it up because I knew the family. Their heartbreak occurred about a month before I took the picture of my daughter on the rail.

There’s no question PFDs are one essential safety tool in a lot of sailing circumstances (and near-the-water circumstances), but not in all sailing circumstances. (Do they offer any value to a singlehander in the Southern Ocean?)

Boating writer Bill Schanen wrote this in Sailing magazine six years ago: “Fixation on PFDs oversimplifies safe sailing. PFDs are but one small factor in a safety-at-sea equation that includes sailing skills, sound judgment, weather information, and seaworthiness of boats. You can add luck to that list if you want.”

PFDs should be worn whenever they’re deemed appropriate by a captain, parent, or individual. As a reader, I encourage you to pass judgment on any photo we publish. As an editor, I evaluate a lot of criteria, but it’s hard to imagine PFD use being part of my calculus.

Before I share excerpts from select letters, I’ll leave you with a joke shared among cruising families:

“Dad, why do I have to wear a life vest aboard?”

“To keep you safe in case you fall in the water.”

“Can I go swimming?”

“Yeah, take off your life vest first.”


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The Dogwatch Mail Buoy – June 2018

Jamal Kazi snapped this photo of an aid to navigation in Ha Long Bay,Vietnam, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Jamal wrote, “The fisherman here rows with his arms, perhaps because in transit. Otherwise, we most often saw them oaring with their feet while trolling for fish. Weather was overcast and cool in January, but it made for an eerie atmosphere with the fantastic karstic islands in the background.” Send your favorite hi-res photo of an aid to navigation, be creative. If we use your pic in Good Old Boat magazine, we’ll send you a Good Old Boat cap or shirt.


Last month we put it to the readers about a contraption aboard a 1970s-vintage 36-foot Swedish ketch that reader Dave Cook encountered and was puzzled by. He didn’t have a photo, but described it for us: “In the main cabin there was a small tube that came up through the floor and ran up the main mast support, to about 1/3 of the way to the ceiling, where it stopped. It appeared to have a fluid inside it, green in color and not labeled in any manner. However, on the mast support post there were numbers that started near the floor and continued nearly to the top of the tube. I did not write down the numbers. But, they were something like 2,4,7,10,14,18. Also there was nothing to indicate what the unit of measure was.” Dave went on to include his best guess, that the tube was somehow a gauge of heeling moment.

We got a few responses, unfortunately nothing that is definitively correct. This one might remain unsolved. –Eds.

Several readers echoed Dave Croy’s thought: “Look at the gauge, then fill the fresh water tank and see if the gauge moves up. My first assumption is that it is to see how much water is in the fresh water tank and the unit of measure is gallons. That would explain why the numbers go up as the head pressure is higher. The green is possibly stagnant water because of the difficulty in cleaning out the tube.”

Brian Corbett offered that it could be a water tank vent, but that doesn’t address the numbers.

Even though Dave Cook opined it wasn’t a draft indicator, Al Penn voiced his assurance that it probably is. John Barry, who also owns a Swedish-built boat, a 1949 wooden sailboat just under 10 meters, guesses that this tube is a, “load or boat mass indicator. As the boat becomes loaded and heavier in the water it will sink lower in the water and can be measured on the scale. It can be measured while at sail and heeled as it is in a tube. I bet the lines for the number gradients were on the front and or rear and not the sides much like a measuring cup.”

Two readers, David Watson and Tom Alley, suspect it’s a knot meter working under the same principal as a pitot tube, with water flow increasing pressure and rising the column in the tube. But 18 knots?

The Dogwatch Mail Buoy – May 2018

Seaman Dallas Harvey, securing a crane hook to a buoy on the James River in Newport News, Virginia.
United States Coast Guard Petty Officer 3rd Class Corinne Zilnicki captured this shot of her colleague, Seaman Dallas Harvey, securing a crane hook to a buoy on the James River in Newport News, Virginia. Harvey is crew aboard the Cutter Frank Drew, a 175-foot-long coastal buoy tender used to perform maintenance on aids to navigation and to hoist extraneous buoys from the water. Send your favorite hi-res photo of an aid to navigation, be creative. If we use your pic in Good Old Boat magazine, we’ll send you a Good Old Boat cap or shirt.


Please tell David (“There Ought to be a Law,” The Dogwatch, April 2018) that the refit will never be completed and he should just leave!

–Dean Raffaelli, Carrie Rose, Herrick Bay, Maine


I just read all the reader mail in April’s The Dogwatch, including mine, about radar reflectors. It was interesting to see how strongly the readership of Good Old Boat and Practical Sailor seem to overlap. But, the discussion also reminded me of an experience from many years ago.

About 10 miles offshore in a fog that’d reduced visibility to around half a mile, I was carefully using my compass to work my way from buoy to buoy down the Southern California coast. Suddenly, I saw a 50-plus-foot powerboat bearing down on me at high speed.

I changed course to avoid a collision. He changed course to get back on a collision course.

I changed course again to avoid a collision. He again changed course again to stay on a collision course.

I changed course a third time to avoid the collision. He changed course a third time to aim right at me.

Fewer than 50 feet from impact, he swerved sharply and pulled up parallel. A guy on the bridge shouted, “Hey, I’m lost. Do you know where we are?”

One more bit of evidence for the one point all the writers seemed to agree upon: Don’t count on the other guy.

–Bob Neches, Los Angeles, California


I have a response to David Lochner’s recent story (“There Ought to be a Law,” The Dogwatch, April 2018). The propeller shaft stuffing box on my Cape Dory 28 is a grave and dangerous example of an inaccessible feature. The designers must have assumed this part would be accessible through the cockpit lazarettes, but it is not possible to get workable access in this way (it would be something like crawling upside down into a manhole with a heavy wrench in your teeth). I am considering a hatch in the cockpit sole, a controversial solution that some consider unwise.

I have seen several rather idiotic examples of inaccessible mechanical components on boats. As a teenager, I worked at a boatyard that sold a line of fast fiberglass runabouts; when we needed to pull an engine on one of these, the factory advised us to cut the afterdeck away, as they had installed the engines and then built fiberglass decks over them. Last year, I tried to replace some tired bow seats from an open-bow runabout. I discovered the seats had been bolted to the deck assembly before it was joined to the hull, so the fasteners could only be reached by cutting holes in the hull.

Too often, sailboat makers sacrifice function for finish. There is no excuse for this crap. Every part of a cruising sailboat should have workable access.

–Paul Maravelas, Mayer, Minnesota


Last month I put it to the readers about the tradition of placing a coin beneath a stepped mast. I wanted to know if people were still indulging this tradition and why. Turns out Good Old Boat sailors are indeed coin-placers and there are some compelling theories about why sailors started doing this, most of them practical at one time. –Eds.

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The Dogwatch Mail Buoy – April 2018

Boat Islet Light at the entrance to Port Washington on North Pender Island, British Columbia
Paul Skene sent this photo of Boat Islet Light marking the entrance to Port Washington on North Pender Island, British Columbia. “I took this a couple years ago, on a visit to a dear departed friend, David MacKenzie, a master carpenter. I was in a de Havilland Beaver commercial float-plane from Vancouver, taxiing by this light heading for the town dock.” Send your favorite hi-res photo of an aid to navigation, be creative. If we use your pic in Good Old Boat magazine, we’ll send you a Good Old Boat cap or shirt.


Nice and funny story (“The Mysterious Fish Magnet,” March 2018), but as a snorkeler and former wildlife management technician, I can say to Bob that his boat has no magnetic properties for fishes. Boats are like floating wharfs in that they offer fish a shadowed shelter. Fish hide there to snap any one of their smaller congeners. The darker and the bigger the boat, the better it is for them. In fact, the best way to grow a coastal fish population is to provide shelter, natural or artificial.

–Christian Nadeau, Verdun, Quebec


A brief “bravo” for your The Dogwatch piece on Cal 20s in that San Francisco Bay race. Half of my sailing fleet is a Cal 20, a sweet boat. I bought mine as a temporary boat, but promptly fell in love with her good manners and capable sailing. That’s why I’ve got two sailboats. Can’t part with either one. The other is a Seafarer Polaris that I’ve been sailing since 1968.

–Chris Campbell, Traverse City, Michigan


Just a quick correction to your Websightings column (“Feeling Serene?” Good Old Boat, March 2018). In Canada, it is only registered boats that must have unique names. Registration is required for all commercial boats, and recreational boats over a certain size/displacement. (A boat may optionally be registered, although I’m not sure why a person would go through the hassle and ongoing bureaucratic expense to register their boat only to end up with a name that has a number in it to keep the name unique, Mario 56 or Jennifer 87.) The names of licensed Canadian boats do not have to be unique, which is true for most every recreational boat. Licensing with the Canadian government is optional for all pleasure boats and required for pleasure boats with more than a 10 HP motor (unless the boat is registered). For licensed boats, the name is irrelevant, only the license number matters. I don’t know this, but I suspect you’re going to find much the same regulations for U.S. boats and that commercial U.S. vessels have a requirement for unique names as well.

–Alan Rothenbush, Vancouver, British Columbia

Thanks for the clarification Alan. It’s the same and different in the States. Like Canada, state-registered vessels can be named whatever the owner wishes, as the name is irrelevant (sounds like state registration in the US is akin to licensing in Canada). And Federally documented vessels (akin to Canadian-registered vessels) must be named, whether private or commercial. But unlike Canada, documented vessels do not have to have a unique name. My own boat, Del Viento, shares her name with both a recently scrapped 487-foot freighter and a 31-foot sailboat in Oceano, California. –Michael Robertson


Bent Nail TechnologyI read with great interest Dan Spurr’s article on repair of soggy balsa core under stanchion bases (“Building a Solid Base,” Good Old Boat, March 2018). My interest was high because over four decades of sailboat ownership I have performed many deck repairs on several boats where moisture had infiltrated the balsa coring of the deck.

In making repairs like Dan’s repair of the stanchion bases on his Pearson 365, I created a very simple tool that removes much of the tedium from the work, as well as speeding up most similar projects. I call it “bent-nail technology.”

It’s simply a nail bent 90 degrees and inserted into a power drill. I inserted the nail through each existing bolt hole in the deck and then the powered up the drill. The rotating nail would loosen and chop-up the offending wet balsa, which I could then suck out through the bolt holes with a shop vac.

The length of the bent end of the nail can be varied depending on how much balsa needs to be removed from around each bolt hole. I never experienced any difficulty inserting the bent part of the nail into wet balsa. Using bent-nail technology often eliminated the need to remove fiberglass deck laminate as Dan did for his project.

Dan was fortunate that moisture around the bolt holes in his stanchion bases did not migrate far. He cited Everett Pearson’s experiment with a submerged balsa board and his conclusion that water does not migrate far through balsa coring. My experience challenges Pearson’s conclusion.

My 1974 Ranger 37 had a substantial section of the balsa-cored port-side deck that was saturated. Much of the wet core was feet from the point of water entry (electrolytic-corroded 5/16-inch stainless-steel bolts attaching a large aluminum chain plate cover).

I later owned a 30-foot racer/cruiser that was built in large numbers during the 1980’s. This boat’s balsa-cored hull was wet from stem to stern on the starboard bottom. Much of the wet balsa core was as much as ten feet from the nearest through-hull fitting. (The hull for this model was laid-up in two halves, possibly explaining the absence of migration of moisture to the port half.)

Subsequently, I owned another 30-foot racer/cruiser built in 1987, purchased when it was fourteen-years old. This was a custom build using epoxy and vacuum bagging. The balsa in the deck was bone dry when I bought the boat and it remained that way for another ten years. Along the way I installed a new depth transducer. At some point, the bedding compound around the transducer failed and admitted moisture into the balsa core. When I sold the boat, a moisture meter showed a high moisture content in the hull in about a nine-inch radius around the transducer.

Obviously, because my observations did not come from controlled experiments, I cannot definitively refute the industry lore that moisture does not migrate through balsa. On the other hand, if I accept that moisture does not migrate through balsa, I’m left to conclude that the water in my hulls and decks traveled between the core and the hull skins, and that these boats were therefore built with egregiously little adhesion of the core to the laminates. I think this would be a difficult argument to make, especially in the case of the boat with the vacuum bagged hull.

–Ed McKeever, Osprey, Florida


Last month I put it to the readers about radar reflectors. I wanted to get a sense of how dedicated people are to using them. I wanted to know if anyone had been able to compare signatures with and without a reflector (such as by being in communication with a radar-equipped vessel while raising and lowering a reflector). I wanted to know if anyone considered radar reflectors ineffective or not worth the time and hassle. –Eds.

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The Dogwatch Mail Buoy – March 2018


I have a dear old friend who owns an old Newport 30 MK III. I have been trying to get my hands on a set of line drawings, so I can make him a half-model of his beloved Summer Place. Is there anybody among The Dogwatch readership who can help me find these drawings? My friend is getting to the stage where he lives on old stories and doesn’t get out much due to advancing years and I think sitting in the arm chair would be made a lot easier if he could gaze at his beloved boat in the form of a half-model. Many thanks. Please contact me at

–Glenn Wakefield, Victoria, British Columbia


I just read the February issue of The Dogwatch. The next time you’re stirring the pot on anchor choices (a subject as likely to provoke violence as politics or religion), how about asking whether anybody else uses an old Northill? I’ve got one as a backup on my Seafarer Polaris, a 26-foot sloop. The Northill originally served as one of two anchors for a four-barrel swimming raft in Lake Huron’s Saginaw Bay, a tough job.

–Chris Campbell, Traverse City, Michigan

Interestingly, the Northill was the new-generation anchor of its day (its day being the 1930s). It was made in Los Angeles and was standard equipment aboard Pan American Airways because of its relatively light weight. –Michael Robertson
Image courtesy of


Regarding the recent The Dogwatch discussion on anchors: maybe New Englanders know something the rest of us don’t. Of all the replies on anchors, only two respondents, both from New England, spoke glowingly of the fisherman or yachtsman anchor. No anchor from any maker is good for all bottoms, but the yachtsman comes closest. It is particularly good in reedy conditions as you will find in Northeast harbors. I am guessing that people don’t like this anchor because it is difficult to store, but the modern ones come apart for flat storage. Two companies still make them: Kingston Anchors of Kingston, Ontario, and J.M. Reineck & Son of Hull, Massachusetts.

–William Winslow, New York, New York

I was surprised that there were any — let alone two — die-hard Fisherman anchor advocates to emerge from this narrow field of respondents, but pleased that they did. In the mid-1990’s, I saw Alvah Simon speak in Ventura, California. This was before North to the Night was published and before he began his relationship with Cruising World. He spoke about his trip around Cape Horn and cruising the Beagle Channel of Chile and Argentina. During that talk, he sang the praises of the Fisherman anchor. Accordingly, when I set out (on a much more modest voyage) as a neophyte cruiser in 1996 aboard a Newport 27, I lugged with me a way-too-big-and-heavy Fisherman anchor, all the way down to Panama and up to Florida. I never used it, but, by golly, if Alvah sang its praises, I was going to have it aboard. –Michael Robertson


Sextant illustration by Fritz Seegers
Illustration by Fritz Seegers

Last month I put it to the readers about my willingness to cross an ocean without knowledge of celestial navigation, with a total reliance on GPS satellites and the corresponding electronics aboard. Reckless or totally reasonable? The U.S. Naval Academy has made it clear where they stand, but I wanted to hear from you… –Eds.

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The Dogwatch Mail Buoy – February 2018

This was the first of several such aids to navigation we passed heading into Canada’s Victoria Harbour, on Vancouver Island, in 2012. The reason for keeping close to the yellow buoys was to avoid a collision with floatplanes. As Southern California sailors just up from Mexico, this was all new to us. Heading further north during the following year, it soon became our normal. –Michael Robertson Send your favorite hi-res photo of an aid to navigation, be creative. If we use your pic in Good Old Boat magazine I’ll send you a Good Old Boat cap or shirt.


I am dismayed that you would publish (and in-effect endorse) Tom Alley’s installation of an “OUTDOOR USE ONLY” propane stove for his Alberg 35 (“A New Galley Stove,” Good Old Boat, January 2018).

Why would Good Old Boat approve this feature article for publication, and in doing so reassure others that this is an acceptable installation?

I contacted the manufacturer [of the stove Tom purchased], and learned there are no safety valves for the stove-top burners. The instructions for this stove clearly state that this stove/oven is NOT to be used in any enclosed facilities, including a boat. Further, nothing is mentioned in your “Propane Safety” inset box concerning the requirement of having safety valves (thermocouples) for all propane stoves used in boats. Featuring this re-fit improperly encourages others to consider this cheap and dangerous installation.

It is simply foolish to use this stove indoors. My harsh criticism is only meant to emphasize that this installation is just plain wrong. I would expect that Tom Alley, who is a Power Squadron Education Officer — or you — to follow-up on this article by telling your readers, “don’t try this at home (on your boat), it could be dangerous to your health.”

–Denis Vogel, Madison, Wisconsin

Thank you for your feedback Denis. You are not the only reader to bring this up. We’re running your letter here and another letter in the March issue of Good Old Boat so that this message reaches as many readers as possible.

To be clear, it was not our intent to imply that Tom’s budget alternative to cooking aboard is on par, safety-wise, with an ABYC-approved marine stove. And two other points are worth noting. First, this is a straight R&R as the stove that was installed originally aboard this half-century-old boat was also a camp stove. Second, Tom wisely ditched the regulator that came with this stove and used the one attached (outdoors) to his propane tank. –Eds.


The setup aboard Tomfoolery when I became her owner was a camp stove with a 1-pound propane bottle stored in a drawer in the galley. There was no propane locker, no propane sniffer, and no solenoid/safety shutoff. And all of this was right next to a gasoline engine! We had a bilge blower, but the only real safety device on board was the operator and his/her nose. It had been like this for 31 years. We learned to be careful, as propane and gasoline are similar in terms of behavior and risk. Multiple boat fires in our marina (one of them fatal, all caused by gasoline) ensured we remained vigilant until such time as we could improve things. As we were a  young family and only doing the occasional overnight, we didn’t cook much, if at all, on the boat.

Fast forward some years and we made improvements as the kids grow up and the trips got longer. We upgraded the propane system and connected to a larger tank on-deck (where it is ventilated); we installed a propane solenoid and a propane sniffer; and we replaced the stove (upgraded in function but not necessarily in quality) and moved all high-pressure propane lines outside the boat. A few more years down the road the camp stove is going to wear out (I have no illusions about the longevity of a cheap stove in a marine environment) and we can then replace it with a better, safer model after colleges get paid off. Like most things sailing, this is a journey and we are moving along at a constrained, but deliberate pace.

Another thing I consider is that many product warnings have more to do with liability than with actual risk. (Have you read a box of toothpicks lately?) The outdoor-use-only warning could easily be as much a caution about CO poisoning and oxygen depletion than about explosion risk. (Your readers can rest assured that Tomfoolery has not one, but two working CO detectors mounted in the main cabin and that we use the stove only with ports opened to provide ventilation and we never use it to heat the cabin.) A prerequisite to sailing successfully is having some common sense. One needs to know, and understand, the risks involved. Using a device properly and keeping it maintained is probably more important than an ABYC certification.

Tom AlleyGood Old Boat contributor


Last month I put it to the readers about new-generation anchors (such as Mantus, Rocna, Sarca, Raya, Manson): Have you (would you?) traded from old to new? Have you noticed a difference? I offered that we use a 66-pound Bruce that has been dependable, yet were money no object, I’d purchase a new-generation anchor in a heartbeat. A big one. Am I alone? Understandably, I got a lot of feedback on this one… –Eds.

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The Dogwatch Mail Buoy – January 2018

Mail Buoy Photo January 2018
Dave Taft sent this photo of the Goose Rocks Light in the Fox Island Thoroughfare (between Vinalhaven and North Haven, Maine). Dave and his wife, Anne, sail Talisman, a 1982 Sabre 38, the couple’s third Sabre! Send your favorite hi-res photo of an aid to navigation.


Granted some boats are too small for a pedestal, but I don’t think many are too large for a tiller. So last month I put it to you: If you’ve got wheel steering do you long for a tiller? Are you with a tiller wishing for a wheel? Reader Allen LeBlanc is very happy with the tiller on his Tanzer 26 and reader Joseph Pitoniak appreciates the benefits a tiller offers, but is happy for the wheel on his Pearson 31 as it eases the steering workload and doesn’t aggravate his sciatica. Reader and Good Old Boat contributor Jim Shell says he’s in the I-don’t-care category. I didn’t hear from anyone with a tiller wishing for a wheel — though I know they’re out there, plenty of boats in the 28- to 30-foot range get converted all the time. –MR

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The Dogwatch Mail Buoy – December 2017


As I was reading Jerry Thompson’s article on how to maintain trailer wheel bearings (“Keep that Trailer Rollin’,” November 2017) I happened to see a sidebar in which he refers to “the Gloucester 22 I just bought.” I owned a Gloucester 22 for 17 years, up until it it was hit by a piling at the marina in Florida and sank, all a result of Hurricane Irma. I towed it to the landfill a couple of days ago. Before the hurricane, I took off a mainsail and headsail, both in excellent condition and made specifically for this boat. I also have an excellent engine for this boat and miscellaneous parts, including a spinnaker and a drifter and a roller furler for the genoa. I also have the trailer. I am now selling it all. Any Gloucester 22 owner might be interested. For photos and contact info, see my website:

The photo is of my Gloucester 22 being salvaged at the dock. It is a shame, she was a great boat. I had a lot of fun with her.
–Brian Beaudry, Tierra Verde, Florida

Mail Buoy
Earl Keister captured this photo of Magic, an Alerion-Class Sloop built in 1980 and sailed by his uncle, Alfred Sanford. Magic is a precise replica of the sailboat Nat Herreshoff built for himself in 1912. Also pictured is Nantucket Island’s iconic Brant Point Light, off the coast of Massachusetts. Send your favorite hi-res photo of an aid to navigation, be creative. If we use your pic in Good Old Boat magazine I’ll send you a Good Old Boat cap or shirt.


Last month I put it to the readers about lithium-ion battery technology on sailboats: Is it time? It seems nobody is on the fence regarding this issue, and we’re not all on the same side of the fence. –Eds.

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The Dogwatch Mail Buoy – November 2017

Rick Shepler captured these photogenic pelagic cormorants hanging out on a marker off Port of Everett, Washington. Rick got his bird’s-eye view from the cockpit of Capella, his Cal 25 MkII.


If Mr. Hipp had contacted a local beekeeper (“The Epic Bee Saga,” The Dogwatch, October 2017) he could have saved himself a lot of trouble and money. Take it from a former beekeeper, the way to get rid of bees is to smoke them out. Bee supply shops sell a portable smoker for $25 or so. Research has shown that when smoke invades a hive, its occupants think their home is on fire and rush out. If the queen goes, they will follow her. Watch for exit holes and plug them up so the bees can’t return. You may have to smoke several times. You will still have to clean out wax and honey. Where do you find a local apiarist? Call the police. They keep a list from which they can summon a beekeeper when bees swarm and cluster around traffic lights and telephone poles.
–William Winslow


In October’s The Dogwatch, I asked about what you think of furling mainsails. They’re everywhere, is that a good thing? Following are a few responses.—Eds.

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Dogwatch Mail Buoy – October 2017

Photo by Paul Skene
Paul Skene captured this lovely photo a couple of years ago while visiting an old friend, a shipwright on British Columbia’s Pender Island. The birds are flying past the lit mark on Boat Islet off Port Washington.


I saw your inquiry about how to promote sailing as an activity among young people. My theory is that the same things that drew me in are likely to appeal to newer humans as well. Those things are the chance to learn something abstract and unusual, and the chance to exercise independence.

Learning? Sailing offers all that cool terminology, plus a depth of knowledge that most of us will not exhaust in our lifetimes. I’ve been an active sailor for over 50 years and the areas of my ignorance are still vast. There’s always something new to learn—new equipment, new techniques, new navigational skills, new vocabulary, new knots.

But the real attraction for me is the chance to take full responsibility for my own safety and well-being. When I leave the slip or the mooring, I’m on a vessel that is operating in a hostile environment for humans, who do not have gills. Surviving on the water requires knowledge, skill, care, and maybe a dose of luck. There are not so many opportunities anymore for humans to be self-reliant and independent.

Sometimes I get scared or anxious. But the challenges are within my control, not simply random impositions. Reef the main. Change the jib. Plot a safe course. Develop alternative plans when the anticipated one goes awry. The constant challenge is what keeps me sailing.

Chris Campbell, Traverse City, MI


I have just read my Good Old Boat September 2017 Dog Watch. Under calendar events you wrote that the United States Sailboat Show in Annapolis, “is an internationally acclaimed sailboat show, recognized as the largest show and the only remaining in-water sailboat show in the world.”

I would just like to clarify that this show isn’t the only remaining in-water sailboat show at all. We in the Great Britain still have the Southampton Boat Show with many craft (including makes from the USA) afloat to see and in some cases try. This show has been running since 1968 and is one of Europe’s premier events now.

Very best regards to you all,

Paul & Sheila Chapman, South Gloucestershire., U.K.


Always looking for opportunities to advertise at the marina! Here I am renaming our 1984 S2 8.5 after my wife’s nickname.

Bill Flandermeyer, Norfolk, VA


Maybe you lakers speak differently (“Ready to Drudge,” September 2017), but us salt water master mariners call using an anchor at short scope to assist in maneuvering DREDGING, not drudging. I believe drudging would apply to things like grinding off old bottom paint.

Carl R. Smith, Chesapeake, VA

“Drudging” a great way to destroy any living coral in the harbor, or better yet let’s catch the anchor on the attachment chains holding the pier in place and move those out of place. Perhaps it would make more sense to learn how to handle your vessel in those windy conditions.

–John Brack, Tallahassee, FL


Coral heads, sea grasses, and fouled bottoms are always something to take into account, not just for drudging situations, but for anchoring, too, especially when you consider that sometimes an anchor will drag through the bottom before it sets. The location in the story where we could have tried the drudging technique did not have coral heads and sea grass. A fouled bottom…that’s always a possibility.

Rudy and Jill Sechez, Good Old Boat contributors


Our Promises Kept survived a direct hit from category 4 hurricane Irma in Marco Island. It took me 12 hours to prep her for the storm. During the peak of the storm, all the water was sucked out of the marina and the boats were laying on their sides, then the storm surge came rushing back in and we almost lost our marina’s state-of-the-art floating dock system. This picture was taken the morning after the storm. Talk about a good old boat! Promises Kept is 30 this year.

Joe & Carolyn Crawford, Marco Island, FL


In the September issue of Good Old Boat, in an article by Rob Mazza on the Viking 33/34 (“The Viking 33 and 34 Evolve Alongside a Contemporary Cousin”), you refer to Dick Knuelman as the founder of Ontario Yachts. His first name is Dirk, not Dick.

John Vandereerden, via Facebook


There are two Dirk Kneulmans, father and son. Dirk Sr. immigrated to Canada from Holland in the 1950s and was always known (to me and people in my boat building circle, at any rate) as Dick. Probably just a lazy Anglicization of Dirk. Dirk, Jr. took over the family boat building business, Ontario Yachts, upon his father’s retirement and was, and still is, always known as Dirk.

Rob Mazza, Good Old Boat Contributing Editor

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