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.

Continue reading

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.

Continue reading

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.

Continue reading

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,

Continue reading

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.

Continue reading

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 . . .

Continue reading

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…

Continue reading

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.

Continue reading

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.

Continue reading

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.


Continue reading

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…

Continue reading

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:

Continue reading

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.”


Continue reading

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.

Continue reading

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.

Continue reading

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.

Continue reading

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.

Continue reading

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

Continue reading

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.

Continue reading

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.

Continue reading

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

The Dogwatch Mail Buoy – Sept 2017

Marker 17
Contributor Shirley Jones of Ariose sent this Mail Buoy photo and reports that, after her recent cruise, she’s not sure whether the thousands of markers along the Intracoastal Waterway are there to serve the mariners or the birds


I just read Jeremy’s article about the Hospice Turkey Shoot (“Chasing Silver in a Good Cause,” August 2017). Stu Polhamus is a 3-time Dolphin 24 owner (current is Equinox) and a long-time Turkey Shoot competitor. This past weekend he was a judge up at the Camden (Maine) Classic Cup regatta—51 good old boats including 5 Dolphins racing for the New England Championships. Thought you might be interested in this story. Dan Spurr knows something about these boats.
Ron Breault, Old Lyme, Connecticut

Editor’s note on the above: Ron Breault is owner of, a “website for Dolphin 24 owners and others interested in this classic design.” It’s a fascinating, comprehensive site about this ground-breaking boat that got its start in 1958 when George O’Day and Olin Stephens had a conversation. In fact, as part of his research for this site, Ron interviewed Olin Stephens (age 98 at the time) in 2007 in his New Hampshire home. Ron also gathered info from Heart of Glass, the definitive book on the history of fiberglass sailboat building by our own Dan Spurr. In addition to the Turkey Shoot, the Dolphin 24 has won the Singlehanded Transpac race and numerous examples race regularly around the country every year, notably in Maine’s Camden Classic Cup. In addition to Ron’s excellent website, more info on the Dolphin 24 can be found in an article that Dyke Williams wrote for us back in our September 2005 issue, “The Yankee Dolphin.” Click here to read it.


I just had to chime in on the GOB Newsletter discussion of a tangle of lines resulting when one leads halyards and other lines to the cockpit. I’ll get all dogmatic and say simply: anyone complaining about spaghetti is simply not managing their lines very well.
Paul Brogger, Olympia, Washington


Greetings. We are not only good old boat owners but also good old boaters. Further, my wife is partially disabled with multiple sclerosis (MS). We keep our sailboat in Placida, Florida and spend three months a year on it during the winter season. Our primary residence is in Tennessee. For the past two seasons, much of our boating time has been spent at anchor in Charlotte Harbor.

While Charlotte Harbor is very beautiful, we would like to do more cruising along the SW Florida coast, the Keys, Dry Tortugas, and the Bahamas. These are places we frequented as younger sailors but are finding more difficult to access as age and disability move on.

We wonder if there are any boating clubs for senior and/or disabled boaters that specialize in group cruising activities. For example, due to my wife’s disability, I essentially singlehand the boat. It would be great to find a boating group whose members are interested in cruising on each other’s boats to provide that small amount of extra help, knowledge, and comradery to make the trip safe and fun. Also, joint cruising activities by multiple boats would also be very effective in providing emotional and physical support for disabled folks who would otherwise not attempt a cruise.

We know that there are many great yacht/boating clubs that sponsor group cruising activities. We, however, feel that our particular age and disability limitations would be better suited to a group of boaters with similar needs. We read once that a neurologist combined his medical and recreational boating skills to bring people with MS on sailing outings and thought it was a great idea.

Is anyone aware of existing boating clubs for sailors with special needs, or willing to start one? If so, please feel free to contact us at
–Brian and Carol McMahon, Spring City, Tennessee


In the August issue of The Dogwatch, we Put it to the Readers with a story from Gary Bratton about erroneous readings on his depth sounder. –Eds.

Continue reading

Dogwatch Mail Buoy – July 2017

Great alternator tensioning device

Dave Lochner’s solution

In the June Good Old Boat Newsletter Dave Lochner has an article (“DIY V-Belt Tensioning”) with an excellent idea about tensioning the alternator belt. On my Pearson 365, the access is one-handed or two people from different directions. David’s idea was good but seemed to need two hands. I created a one-handed way to tension the belt using a 5/16-inch galvanized turnbuckle from Home Depot and a couple of scrap pieces of wood. The wooden end pieces are about 1 ¾ inches by 3 inches by ¾ inch and tapered to fit into the pulley grooves. I sawed off the eye ends of the turnbuckle and glued them into the wooden blocks as shown. I place the tensioner between the pulleys and with one hand I can turn the body to lengthen it until it begins to tension the belt. A small screwdriver is necessary to get the proper tension. Thanks, Dave!

Jim Shell, The Woodlands, Texas

Dave Lochner responds

Jim’s alternative

Jim, thanks for taking the time share your thoughts. Yes, a turnbuckle would work and is a more attractive alternative. In practice, only one wrench is needed to adjust my tensioner. Once the tension increases, the pressure holds the other nut in place. And it takes only a few turns to reach the proper tension. The idea is to get the belt tension close to specs by hand and to then use the tensioner to add that little extra and hold everything in place while the alternator bolts are tightened. If you are lucky, the nuts are the same size as the bolts on the alternator and only one wrench needs to come out the tool box. I have a Yanmar, so I’m not that lucky as the bolts are metric. Hmmm, maybe I need to find some metric threaded rod.

I’m glad you found the article useful.

Dave Lochner, Good Old Boat contributor

Leaping Like Gazelles – or like Karen

I can understand Jerry’s concern and Karen’s reaction to bringing all lines into the cockpit (“Put it to the Readers,” June 2017 Newsletter). I made that decision when I re-rigged my Down East 45, Britannia, from a ketch to a brigantine schooner. When I did that I changed all my sails to roller furling, including the squaresail on the foremast. It is certainly easier to unfurl and furl any sail, as opposed to hauling it up a stay or mast. It is also easier to shorten these sails, even if they don’t set so well. There are pros and cons to both systems of course, but I decided it was the least disadvantage to bring all my running lines back to the cockpit.

The problem I had was the sheer number of lines from five working sails—a total of twelve! And this number does not include halyards, because they are permanent on furling sails. As you noted, this number of lines in the cockpit presents both a handling and storage problem. Luckily the cockpit on my boat has a large flat area on both sides of the companionway.

To solve the line handling issue, I installed a bank of six rope clutches on each side, with all lines tailable to a common self-tailing winch on each side.

To solve the line storage problem, I turned teak belaying pins and mounted them on each side of our “rope deck,” as we now call it. This is better than trying to stow lines in a bin or bag(s) or all in a pile. (See

I would be lying if I wrote that this lot doesn’t sometimes get into a bit of a tangle, but we have learned to handle them, just as we would if they were on deck. For us there are a few major advantages we think worthwhile, apart from the obvious safety consideration of not having to leave the cockpit.

First, because the cockpit winches are self-tailers, we can use our fabulous Winchrite electric winch winder. We couldn’t use the Winchrite on the non-self-tailing mast-mounted winches because we can’t hold the Winchrite sideways and tail the line at the same time. For our worn-out hands that’s a God-send.

Second, the lines don’t necessarily have to be cleated off and coiled like they would were they at the mast. When we are in a hurry we simply lock them with the jammers and sort them out later.

Third, either my wife or I are able to work the sails and steer at the same time. Or we can switch on the pilot for a minute while we both do it.

Fourth, it’s always dry under the bimini.

All in all it’s the best modus operandi for us, but then, we’re both over seventy and no longer much good at leaping over the foredeck like gazelles—or like Karen.

Roger Hughes, Orlando, Florida

Agree with Karen

I agree with Karen. (“Put it to the Readers,” June 2017 Newsletter)

My boats are set up so the only lines that lead to the cockpit area are the sheets and vang/preventers (when rigged).  As Karen notes, she has to go forward to attach the main and jib halyards to the sails before raising them, then return to the cockpit to do so.  If there is a snag, she might have to go forward again to clear it. So why not just work at the mast while there, taking fewer trips along the rail.

In addition, having the lines secured at the mast and coiled there eliminates a mess aft that can lead to slips and falls in a supposedly secure area, tangled lines when one doesn’t want them (perhaps in an emergency), and a cluttered work space which might lead one to grab the wrong line and do the wrong thing.

My belief is the rig should be as simple, clean, and uncluttered as possible as it makes for a more enjoyable sail.

Mark Fontaine, HR 28 Marquesa II

 Romance borne of infatuation

A tangle of lines

I read your “rant” about leading lines aft to the cockpit (“Put it to the Readers,” June 2017 Newsletter) with a few chuckles and a loud “Yes, I remember when…” Over our 30+ years of owning and restoring good old boats, we have romanced the idea of the safety and efficiency of having all lines led to the cockpit. However, like all romance instigated by infatuation rather than true love, we have realized that all lines led aft is not a great solution.

On boat #2, a 32 foot Pearson Vanguard, we led all lines aft so that we could be safely in the cockpit while managing the mainsail. We led the halyard, vang control line, and all reefing lines to the cockpit. We installed a winch on the cabin top under the dodger. Yes, we were able to control the mainsail from the cockpit rather than from atop the heaving and heeled cabin top. However, the jumble of lines in the cockpit was an issue that never could be ignored. We had 6 lines all residing in the forward end of our cockpit: halyard, vang line, 2 reefing lines for the tack, and 2 reefing lines for the clew.

We all know the truth about the legendary tendency of lines to self-tangle and perform the most complicated knots ever imagined all by their lonesome. Yep, those 6 lines became more than intimate in our cockpit. So that we could actually helm the boat, one of us had to coil those lines so they would be out of the way. Because we needed to be ready for any change of wind and sea conditions, we could not secure the neatly coiled lines.

On boat #2, having the lines led aft did make controlling the mainsail potentially safer, but also added challenges to cockpit organization. That mess of lines in the cockpit may have made our cockpit less safe. Those six mainsail lines always tried to hanky-panky with the headsail sheets. Yes, not unlike chaperoning a teenage dance!

On boat #3, our Westsail 42 Ketch, the only line led aft to the cockpit was the main halyard. We don’t have a boom vang yet, but all of the reefing lines, three in fact, reside on the boom. The main halyard was led to an electric winch for raising the main. The electric winch was a nice feature, but actually a luxury we rarely used. With a 50 foot mast, the amount of 1/2 inch line snaking around the cockpit was a mess. Moreover, reefing the main was a complicated dance between the cockpit and the mast.

We generally sail with just the two of us, and the constant moving back and forth between the cockpit and the mast only raised the risk of a stumble in rough seas. Moreover, with all the other reefing control lines at the mast, I questioned the sanity of having the main halyard led aft, even if the luxury of an electric winch would be forfeited. And there was another issue, of course! The amount of friction in the fairleads for the running the halyard aft massively interfered with a quick and smooth drop of the main. I had to literally drag the main down to drop it.

Solution? We put the main halyard back at the mast. What I didn’t say before was that our Westsail 42 has a mast pulpit within which one can safely work in most sea states. I can now reef simply at the mast and take less time to secure the tack and clew at each of the 3 reef points. When we drop the main, it now falls quickly to the boom. Note: we have a Dutchman system rather than lazyjacks and we are happy with how it works. Our cockpit is now only cluttered with headsail sheets for both the yankee/genoa and staysail, as well as the main sheet. Those are easily coiled on the cockpits seats and out of the way.

Okay, with my somewhat lengthy experience with leading lines aft, what is my final conclusion or assessment? Well, I would not advise anyone to lead lines aft. While controlling lines from the relative security of the cockpit is an alluring feature, the added complexity, friction, and general mess in the cockpit outweighs whatever benefits are perceived. I have realized that the ease and speed of controlling mainsails from the mast actually reduces risk when conditions require reefing. Moreover, all sailors should be able to secure themselves to the boat while working the foredeck, the mast, or the deck. While most boats do not have the luxury of mast pulpits, the ability to raise, lower, and reef the sail plan from the main mast quickly, and securely limits risk and maximizes safe sailing.

Yes, there are those newer boats that seem to operate and sail by just pushing buttons. While seemingly easy and potentially wonderful, these automated features actually insulate or remove one from the experience of sailing. Call me old-fashioned or a kook, but being able to participate in all the regimens of sailing a boat makes the experience joyous and full for me. One should seriously consider the plusses and minuses before leading lines aft to the cockpit, no matter what size boat one sails.

Thanks for the great magazine!

Doug Tate, Harmony, WS42 Ketch, Marion, MA

Join Our Sailing Community. Subscribe Now!

Complimentary monthly supplement

  • featured articles
  • news from the helm
  • mail buoy
  • book reviews
  • sailor photos
  • and much more

Good Old Boat News Flash!

Our website is getting some long overdue improvements! has merged with

Thanks for your patience while our website is under construction.
Menu Title