What is a Valiant 32?

By Norman Ralph

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

Jeanette Ralph aboard Bluebonnet

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Up the mast

Article and photos by Steve Christensen

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

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

Looking down from atop the mast

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

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

Bosun’s chairs

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

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

Climber’s harness

Petzl Climber's harness

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

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

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


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

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

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

Mast steps

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

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

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

Mast ladders

Block and tackle ascenders, padded climber's harness

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

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

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

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

Halyard winches

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

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

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

Powered winches

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


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

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


Mastlift chain hoist makes going up a one-person job

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

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

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

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

Block and tackle

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

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

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

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

Buntline hitch knotCarabiner hitch knot

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

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

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

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

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

Line climbing

Two block line climbing drawingStairstep line climbing drawing

      A – Two blocks           B – Stairstep

Inchworm line climbing drawing

           C – Inchworm

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Which is best
for you?

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

Above all, please be safe up there.

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

A New Toe Rail For an Old Warhorse

By Hugh Owens

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

Beefing up a retired racer with aluminum

Racing caused wear on toerails

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

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

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

Sealed holes

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

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

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

Overkill, perhaps

Brackets used

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

Clamping prior to final mounting

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

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

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

Prohibitive cost

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

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

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

Screwed and bolted

Scrrewed and bolted overlapping flat bar diagram

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

Plastic spacers

Plastic spacers keep copper alloys away from aluminum

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

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

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

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

Breakproof Tillers

By Matt Cole

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

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

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

Tiller straps, the weak point

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

Cross-mounted fasteners

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

Short columns

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

Second step

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

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

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

What on tiller usualy breaks

The sight at a moment you will recall

The fiberglass sides prevent damage.

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

How your repair makes it stronger

What you end up making

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

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

A moment you will recall

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

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

A Thing of Beauty is a Joy Forever

By Ted Brewer

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

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

The Concordia: a timeless classic

The Concordia: a timeless classic

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

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

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

Folkboat is functional

Folkboat: functional as a World War II Jeep

The Stone Horse with raised deck

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

1962 Ludes shows classic sheer and overhangs

1962 Luders shows classic sheer and overhangs

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

Classic ratios

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

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

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

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

A straight sheer can look like a reverse sheer

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

A workboat shows double-ended stern

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

Late cruiser shows flatter sheer, reverse transom

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

Friendship sloop with clipper bow, raked transom

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

Raised quarterdeck and bald clipper bow on a 42-footer

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

Double-ended schooner has a traditional clipper bow

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

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

Slight hollow

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

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

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

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

True uglies

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

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

Sheerlines, bow profiles, stern profiles

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

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

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

Refreshing change

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

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

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

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

Lack of buoyancy

Cruiser stern: rounded deck

The cruiser stern: rounded on deck when viewed from above

Heart-shaped transom of Herreshof's Bounty

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

Deck structures: good and poor design

Deck structures: good and poor design

Streamlining may not offer good footing

Streamlining may not offer good footing

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

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

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

Boxy and insipid

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

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

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

Gradual change

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

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

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

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

Tanks:Easy to forget, too important to dismiss

By Bill Sandler

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

Tanks: Easy to forget, too important to dismiss

Tnak pressure test apparatus

Pressure test apparatus

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

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

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

Note: Tanks in the Fog

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Water Finder

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


US Coast
Guard Code of Federal Regulations

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tank builders and distributors


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

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

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

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

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

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

Ronco Plastics, Incorporated
15022 Parkway Loop, Tustin, CA 92780; 714-259-1385; 714-259-9759
fax; http://www.ronco-plastics.com
Tank manufacturer: polyethylene, stock sizes (water, waste).


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

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

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

Vetus DenOuden
P.O. Box 8713
Hanover, MD 21076
410-712-0985 fax vetus@aol.com
http://www.vetus.com Flexible
tanks (fuel, water, waste).

Supply Co.

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

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

Is There a Metal Yacht in Your Future?

By Ted Brewer

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

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

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

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

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

58,000 psi

34,000 psi

Grade AH32 mild steel

68,000 psi

45,000 psi


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


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

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

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

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

The Alaska 43 with double-chine steel hull

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

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

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


Fully developed hull, round bottom, round bilge hulls

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hull shape

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

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

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

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

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

Miscellaneous advantages

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

Troubador hull inside construction

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

Troubador outside plating

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Further reading:

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

Stanchion Repair

Stanchion repair

By Norman Ralph

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

Bent stanchions and delaminated decks

Stanchion pulled away from the deck

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

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

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

Dry below the stanchion?

Filling the hole in the deck with epoxy resin

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

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

Wet under there?

Replace the core under the stanchion

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

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

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

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

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

Pourit in

Drill new holes to hold the stanchion

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

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

Stanchion reattached to deck

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

Replacing the stanchion

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

A few closing notes and instructions

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

Is Your Boat Stable?

By Ted Brewer

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

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

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

The stiffer boat wins races

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

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

Stability terms

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

The righting lever

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

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

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

Shift weight to windward lengthens righting arm

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

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

Form stability

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

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

Basic hull shapes

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

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

Heeling changes buoyancy

Heeling in a wave chanages buoyancy

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

Tender hull vs. Stiff hull

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

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

Hardek bilges can also increase buoyancy

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

Moderation is good

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

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

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

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


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

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

Suffering from sealant confusion?

By Scott Thurston

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

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

Sealant supplies on the shelf

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

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

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

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

Eventual decay

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

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

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

Three families

Silicone sealant tube

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


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


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


#m Marine adhesive

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

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

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

Diverse hardware

Life Seal for fiberglass

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

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

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

Twenty-year joint

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

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

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

Weaker polyurethane

Life-Calk tube

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

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

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

Epoxy breakthrough

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

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

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

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

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

Sandable sealant

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

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

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

What’s right for your job

Life Seal from BoatLife

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

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

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

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

Sealant selection

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

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

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

Apply it properly

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

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

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

Clean and prime

Above Below cleaner

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

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

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

For further information, contact:

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

Scott Thurston

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

Oh, How She Scoons!

Two-masted schonnerBy Donald Launer

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

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

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

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

From Holland

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

Although most people consider the schooner to be as American as apple pie, the popular idea that it originated in New England is probably incorrect. It seems likely that they were developed in Holland in the early part of the 17th century as they are depicted in paintings of that period. There’s no doubt, however, that Americans adopted the schooner as their own. The American coastal schooners were not deliberately designed to look beautiful, they were designed as vehicles of commerce with good carrying capacity, able to haul lumber, fish, coal, ice, stone, bricks, fertilizer, and the like, in all possible weather and at good speed. Thus a perfection of hull form was developed, and something completely functional as well as aesthetically beautiful was the result.

They were as vital to American commerce as are the highways, railroads, and airlines of today. In those days before railroads, when overland routes were not much more than muddy paths in the warm months and snow-covered ruts during the winter, schooners moved people and supplies between the coastal cities.

Waterborne commerce along the East Coast of the United States was a natural result of its topography. Our eastern shoreline is replete with estuaries, rivers, bays, and sounds, which allowed the windward ability of the schooner to carry them far inland where square-riggers dared not venture. By the late 18th century, the schooner had become the national sailboat of the United States and replaced the square-rigger as the ship of choice for coastal commerce.

Camden’s schooners

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

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

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

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

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

Seldom seen today

The gollywobbler is the schooner’s version of a spinnaker. It’s a huge staysail, usually bigger than the mainsail and foresail combined, and is set in place of them for downwind running. It does, however, require a large crew to handle it and is seldom seen today. The fisherman staysail, still frequently used on even the smallest of schooners, is a trapezoidal sail, hoisted by halyards to the tops of the mainmast and foremast. Although seemingly archaic, it’s even more efficient than a genoa when going to windward, according to designer Ted Brewer.

The flexibility of the schooner rig to meet a variety of conditions is its greatest asset. When the wind starts to blow a gale, the schooner can begin by dropping one of its auxiliary sails, such as the fisherman. This can be followed by putting in reefs in the mainsail and/or foresail. Higher winds can be countered by dropping the foresail and maintaining a balance under jib and mainsail alone. Under really severe conditions, the schooner can continue under double-reefed foresail alone, or heave to under foresail. The feeling of proceeding under reefed foresail or heaving to under reefed foresail was so confidence-inspiring that when weathering a storm out on the Grand Banks under reefed foresail the Gloucester fishermen called it being “in foresail harbor.

“When a modern-day sailor first goes aboard a schooner, it is daunting to say the least – there seem to be lines everywhere. On our modest-sized schooner, the running rigging, proceeding from bow to stern, consists of: jib halyard, jib downhaul, jib sheet, jib-boom lazyjacks, fisherman-staysail halyard (and, when hoisted, the fisherman staysail tack downhaul), gaff foresail throat halyard, gaff foresail peak halyard, foresail boom vang, foresail gaff vang, foresail lazy-jacks,  fisherman staysail peak halyard (and, when hoisted, the fisherman port and starboard sheets), main boom topping lift, main halyard, main-boom vang, mast-top flag halyard, spreader flag halyard, main lazyjacks and mainsheet.

Easier than a sloop

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

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

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

Bare fiberglass hull

Schooner nomenclature diagram

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

I don’t advocate the schooner design for everyone, but for us it has been perfect. Since we are now in our 70s, ease of single-handing our boat is a prime requisite. Except for when the fisherman-staysail is flying, tacking requires no more work than turning the wheel and watching, as first the club-footed jib, then the foresail, and finally the main, move over to the new tack.

Another peripheral advantage of our schooner rig is evident when anchoring under sail. We can approach a crowded anchorage with everything up, select our spot, come up into the wind and sheet the mainsail in tight amidships. Since the mainsail is so far aft, this keeps us neatly weather-vaned into the wind while we leisurely drop the jib and lower the anchor as we begin to fall back. Then the fisherman, foresail, and finally the mainsail can be dropped in a relaxed manner while at anchor.

Traditional lines

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

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

More on schooners

Don Launer has been sailing more than 65 years and has held a USCG captain’s license for more than 20 years. He is author of the book, A Cruising Guide to New Jersey Waters. Delphinus is kept at the dock next to his hoe on a waterway off Barnegat Bay, NJ.

Marine Sanitation Devices

Marine Sanitation Devices

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

Build a one-off holding tank

By Mark Parker
Photos by Kim Parker

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

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


Sanitation system diagram

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

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

Other choices considered
and rejected included:

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

Plumbing and materials

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

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

The plug

Tank corner construction diagram

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

Tank showing framing and corners

Tank with mold inside shows framing and corners.

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

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

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

The tank

Smash drywal to remove it

Smash dry wall to remove it.

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

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

The fun begins

Finished tank before installing

Finished tank before installing connections.

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

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

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

Tank installed with connections

Finished tank installed with connections at the top.

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


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

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

Back To Top

Play it safe

by Mark Parker

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

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

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

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

Back To Top

Consider a stitch-and-glue holding tank

by Norman Ralph

Holding tank connections

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

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

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

A tank mock-up

Make a mock-up

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

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

Drill both pieces to align holes

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

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

Stitch pieces together with heavy monofilament line

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

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

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

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

Cover the corner with cloth. Round corner with sander.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Baffle/joint detail

Baffle/joint detail.

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

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

Coating inside of the thru-hull openings

Coating the inside of the thru-hull openings.

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

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

Tank assembled

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

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

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

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

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

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


Sail Brokers: New wings at Half Price

By BillSandifer

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

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

Parts of a rigging diagram

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sail brokers vary

Genoa sail nomenclature

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

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

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

There can be compromises

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

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

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

Measuring the sail

Main sail nomenclature

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Working with sail brokers

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Headsail nomenclature

Other alternatives

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bill Sandifer, a marine surveyor and small boat builder, has been
living, eating, and sleeping boats since the early ’50s when he
assisted at Pete Layton’s Boat Shop, building a variety of small
wooden boats. Since then Bill has worked for Charlie Morgan
(Heritage), Don Arnow (Cigarette), and owned a commercial fiberglass
boatbuilding company (Tugboats).

Back To Top


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

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

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

lantic Sail Traders
2062 Harvard Street
Sarasota, Florida 34237
Phone: 941-351-6023
Fax: 941-957-1391
Email: Traders@usedsails.com
Web: http://www.usedsails.com

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

National Sail Supply
Fort Myers, Florida
Phone: 800-611-3823
Fax: 941-693-5504
Email: NewSails@aol.com

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

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

Phone: 800-268-9510
Fax: 914-268-9758
Email: Sailbroker@aol.com

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

Tanks a Lot: Part 2 – Rescue that rusting tank

Tanks a Lot: Part 2

By Bob Haussler

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

Rescue that rusting tank

With the water tank out we cleaned the space throughly

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

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

Also clean the tank interior

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The glossy white epoxy applied to achieve a maximum thickness

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

Eliminate any trace of ixodized iron, or replace the tank

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

Professional results

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Repowering, Part 2 – Don Casey

Repowering,Part 2

By Don Casey

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

Installing a new engine Part 2: Getting it to fit

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fuel-tank issues

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

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

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

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

Finding the prop line

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

The engine and shaft must be in precise alignment.

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

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

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

No heavy lifting

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

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

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

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

In with the new

Plywood jig centered on the centering string.

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

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

Prop and shaft

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

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

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

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

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

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

The crowd roared

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

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

The engine and shaft must be in precise alignment.

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

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

Dripless packing

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

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

Wiring and plumbing

Using a centering string to determine the propshaft centerline.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Single-lever control

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

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

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

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

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

Running the engine

Cutting down the engine stringers to the correct height

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

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

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

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

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

Worth the effort?

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

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

Repowering, Part 1 – Don Casey

Repowering, Part 1

By Don Casey

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

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

What you need to know before removing the old engine

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

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

Why repower?

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

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

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

How much power?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Which engine?

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

The engine and shaft must be in precise alignment.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Buy the book

500 pounds of Swedish cast iron walks the plank.

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

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

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

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

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

Repowering afloat

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

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

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

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

The engine and shaft must be in precise alignment.

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

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

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

Removing the shaft

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

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

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

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

Freeing the engine

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

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

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

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

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

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

Out with the old

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Repowering, Part 1 – The Decisions

Repowering, Part 1- the decisions

By Don Launer

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

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

Don Launer studies

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

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

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

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

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

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

Biting the bullet

Don discussing proposal with Tom Dittamo

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

New Yanmar 3GM30F

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Free consultation

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

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

Required a new engine bed and oil drip pan

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

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

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

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

Fuel-return line

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

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

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

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

Do it yourself?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Start early

Also Replacing the propeller

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

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

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

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

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

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

Installation manuals

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

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

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

Bed modification

the old Volvo engine goes

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

The new Yanmar is installed

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

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

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

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

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

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

Back To Top

Resources for engines, information

Boat and Yacht Council (ABYC)


Beta Marine


Harbor Marine Engines
Laurel Harbor Marina

Mack Boring

Michigan Wheel Corporation



Volvo Penta of the Americas Inc.

Westerbeke Corporation / Universal

Yanmar America Corp.

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

Part 2 of repowering article

Repowering, Part 2 – replacing the power plant

Repowering, Part 2- replacing the power plant

By Don Launer

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

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

Preparing to hoist out the old power plant

Preparing to hoist out the old power plant.

Old diesel is liftted out

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

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

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

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

Difficult removal

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

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

The old dirty engine leaves a mess

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

A mock-up of the engine-bed alignment

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

A new engine bed is established

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

Engine mounts ae positioned and bolted down

Engine mounts are placed in position and bolted down.

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

Yard expertise

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

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

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

New propeller

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

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

New engine bed

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

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

Uncrating the new Yanmar engine

The new Yanmar engine is uncrated in preparation for installation.

The Travelift bringsin the new engine

The Travelift brings in the new engine.

New engine seen from inside the cabin

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

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

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

Different mounts

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

Shaft alignment

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

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

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

An anti-siphon valve is installed

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

Brass adapters connect hoses feeding the heat exchanger

Check tolerances

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

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

Anti-siphon valves

A pointer is attached to the propeller-shaft flange

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

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

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

Engine connections

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

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

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

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

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

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

Using a feeler gauge assures that these flanges meet accurately

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

No fittings

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

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

Final preparations

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

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

Check liquid levels

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

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

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

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

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

Rating rules shaped our boats

Rating rules shaped our boats

By Ted Brewer

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

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

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

Ted Brewer explains how racing rules affected seaworthiness –

but not always for the better

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

Jullanari, the first rule beater?

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

Moved rudder

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

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

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

Carried to excess

Comparative sizes

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

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

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

Meter yachts


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

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

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

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

Bermuda Rule

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

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

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

No mainsail

Typical 6 beam English cutter

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

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

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

Very competitive

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

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

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

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

Girth stations

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

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

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

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

Equal chances

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

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

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

Ted Brewer

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

Pushpit Seats: Comfort in the Cockpit

By Bill Dimmit

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

Grandson steers the boat

on many newer stock boats, pushpit or stern pulpit seating is a great addition
to any good old boat as well. The pushpit is the stainless steel framework
aft of the cockpit. It’s an important safety feature on any cruiser and,
therefore, generally well constructed. This makes it a perfect location
for the addition of seating areas that are not only great sailing thrones,
but also provide out-of-the-action perches for non-sailors as well.

This is a reasonably
simple project. Materials are readily available and fabrication is easily
accomplished using tools found in most household workshops. These instructions
will loosely guide you toward results similar to what you see in the photos,
but every boat is as different as its owners’ personal tastes.

A support for the seat

It is essential that
your pushpit frame have a center horizontal rail. You really can’t consider
the project without it. It supports the seats and gives you something
to fasten them to. You’ll need some stiff corrugated cardboard for patterns.
The sides of a cereal or tissue carton will do. Most frames will have
one or two vertical supports near the bends in the corners. In our situation,
these supports neatly defined the location of the seats. Your frame may
be different. Lay the cardboard on the corner of the center rail. Doing
so may require you to notch around a support or two. This is a trial-and-error
challenge and may take a bit of time. Also make sure the pattern covers
the entire area being considered for the seat. Then simply trace the outside
contour of the rail onto the pattern. Also mark where you want the seats
to end up on the frame. Don’t make the mistake of assuming that both sides
of the frame are the same. Port and starboard seldom mirror each other,
and you will need to make a pattern for each.

With the outline of
your frame in hand, lay out the seats. Keep in mind that what you are
doing will have some impact on the appearance of your boat. Your seats
should be well proportioned in respect to the rest of the cockpit. Older
cruiser/racers often have narrow transoms, so keep the seats fairly small
– just enough to give support, with enough room left over for a
beverage holder, if you want one. Another tip: there are very few truly
straight lines on a boat. Use smooth flowing curves when laying out the
inboard edge. Your final design should be pleasing to the eye and look
like it belongs on the boat. Set both patterns on the frame to satisfy
your eye before plugging in the saw. Then label them port/top and starboard/top.

The seat supports

Bill and grandson appreciate the newly added seats on his Ericson ’74. A strut was added for support. Clamps, shown above, were made from the same HDPE as the seat. Stainless steel clamps would also work. Use smooth flowing lines and keep the seat fairly small, as shown at right and below.

The seat in place

We used 3/4 inch polyethylene
stock for our seats because it was readily available. This may not be
the case in your area. A better choice would be Starboard, a material
made specifically for marine environments. Starboard comes in several
sizes and colors. It can be ordered from most mail-order distributors.
(I got mine from Elastomer Engineering Inc., 801 Steuben St., Sioux City,
IA 51102. Phone: 712-252-1067.) Be sure to use material thick enough to
give good support. I recommend 3/4 inch.

Transfer the patterns
onto the material and simply cut them out with whatever you have on hand.
A band saw is best, but a handheld sabre saw will do nearly as well. Take
your time and try to cut right to the outside edge of the line. The holes
for the beverage holders are best made with an adjustable circle-cutting
bit mounted in a drill press, but the sabre saw will work here as well.
Whatever tools you use, you are going to end up with edges that need some
additional work.

Sand or file them
smooth and fair. After they match the pattern and look good to the eye,
you can contour them for comfort. This is easily done with a router, and
if you don’t have one, a friend probably will. All that is necessary is
to round over the top. But we chose to bullnose ours. The router should
leave you with a nearly finished edge. Use a Scotch-brite pad to do any
final smoothing.

With the seats shaped
and edges smoothed, it’s time to mount them on the frame. Ours
are held in place with custom clamps made from the same material as the
seats. But making similar clamps would be difficult without a drill press.
Stainless steel straps are an easier and better choice. Whatever you use,
they should be through-bolted like hardware subject to stress. Countersink
the heads and plug the holes just as you would if doing traditional woodwork.
The beverage holders are held in place with marine-grade silicone.

Two seats on the aft rail

Unless your seats
are very small, they will probably require additional support. Our Ericson
32 has a split cockpit with an athwartships bench behind the helm. This
made it easy to extend struts down to the original seat level. Most conventional
cockpit arrangements should work. The struts are short sections of stainless
or aluminum tubing with the same kinds of ends and mounting brackets used
in Bimini frames. These items can be found in any boating area and also
ordered from marine catalogs. Position the struts for good support. Ours
run from near the center of the inboard edge, down to the back of the
original cockpit seat. This retains some useful space on the bench below.

Our seats have endured
two Midwest sailing seasons and we immediately found them to be one of
the best improvements we’ve made on our good old boat.

Bill Dimmit, shown with grandson, Isaiah, and the new pushpit seats,
has had a lifetime fascination with sailing, primarily sailing dinghies
until a charter in the Virgin Islands convinced him and wife, Laurie,
of the pleasures of the cruising life. They now sail a 1974 Ericson on
Lewis and Clark Lake near Yankton, S.D.

Cooking Under Pressure

By Theresa Fort

Article taken from Good Old Boat magazine: Volume 2, Number 6, November/December 1999.
This and other cooking aboard articles are also available in the Good Old Boat Galley Book CD.

It bakes bread, makes hearty soups, distills water, and holds the kids’
“critters.” Who could ask for more?

Pressure cooker, cooking tools

Long, long ago in another lifetime far, far away – well, 17 years ago
in Montana when sailing hadn’t infected our lives – we received a 6-quart
pressure cooker as a wedding present. I remember staring at it and wondering
if it would become an enemy or a friend. Memories of steaming pork chops,
potatoes, and sauerkraut fresh from my mother’s pressure cooker gave me

My mother had a friendly pressure cooker. She used it weekly to speed-cook
dinners for our large family. In fact, when microwaves first came onto
the market, she didn’t see any reason to get one. “Why microwave when
I can pressure cook?” she’d say.

Now that I had my own, everything seemed different. I listened to my friends’
stories of boiling hot soup splattered on the ceiling and steam burns.
Were some pressure cookers enemies to humankind? I went to my mother for
help and learned that pressure cookers are safe and easy to use as long
as you follow a few basic rules.

Mom’s safety rules

  • Always check the
    vent for debris before using and while cleaning after use. Hold the
    lid up to the light and look through the vent tube to be sure there
    are no clogs.
  • Always check your
    gasket to assure that it is pliable and free of any cuts or degradation.
    If it takes a long time to reach pressure or if steam escapes during
    pressure cooking, you need to replace your gasket.
  • Never interrupt
    the pressure cooker while it cools and releases pressure on its own.
    It is cheating and dangerous to jiggle the jiggle-top to speed up release.
    (But, if no one sees you jiggle it a tiny bit, does that count?)
  • Always open the
    top away from your face. No matter how badly you want to see your creation,
    you have to wait for the remaining steam to escape.
  • Never overfill
    your pressure cooker. When cooking rice and dried vegetables, fill only
    to the half-full mark. With stews, soups, and other dishes, fill only
    2/3-full. Overfilling a pressure cooker can cause food to clog the vent
    tube when the food expands or boils, especially with beans.
  • Do not pressure
    cook cranberries, lima beans, applesauce, cereals, or noodles in jiggle-top
    pressure cookers. These foods tend to foam, and sputter which could
    clog the vent pipe.

Her guidelines were
straightforward and simple. But my pressure cooker and I didn’t develop
a very strong relationship. In fact, for years I hesitated to use it.
I only grudgingly brought it from the cupboard when my husband, Chuck,
requested a favorite pressure-cooked dinner. “Why pressure cook when I
can microwave?” I said.

Then sailing came into our lives. The microwave wouldn’t work aboard our
new (to us) 30-foot sailboat. We spent weekends sailing, fishing, and
crabbing in the Puget Sound area. Now with two kids who were starving
after a full day of fresh air and boating, we needed hearty meals fast.
My pressure cooker got dusted off and brought aboard to live. That’s when
the friendship began. Slowly I began to understand my pressure cooker’s

When we set off to cruise, this new friend became a necessity. Its locking
lid prevented any boiling hot food from splattering when we were cooking
under way in a rolly sea. In the tropics, it baked bread with less energy
than our oven would have used. In Alaska, it made quick hearty soups in
less than a half hour that tasted as though they had cooked all day.

It cleans up easily after being used as a bucket for holding critters
the kids have caught. Set up as a distiller, it has the potential to save
our lives if we need it to make drinkable water at sea. Top that with
the fact that it requires only a little maintenance, and that makes it
a great addition to our crew list.

Maintenance tips

Pressure cooker diagram

When bringing your pressure cooker up to pressure, instead of using
high heat, turn the burner to between high and medium high. This prevents
warping the bottom. It may take a little longer for it to reach the proper
pressure, but it will extend the life of your pressure cooker.

Store your pressure
cooker with the lid nestled upside dow n and over the top of the pot.
Keep the gasket out of the lid to prolong its life by letting air get
to all edges. Storing it this way will prevent warping of the gasket,
release odors that may linger, and allow air to get to all parts. To save
room, you may be able to nest spare bowls or bottles inside along with
your rack and pressure regulator.

While gaskets don’t
need to be replaced very often, it is a good idea to carry a replacement
gasket and pressure-release plug on extended trips. We have experimented
with different gasket materials from auto supply stores but have been
unable to find any satisfactory materials. (Note: not all gasket materials
are safe for foods.)
If you decide to experiment with other types
of gasket material, test your experimental gasket with a few cups of water
inside your pressure cooker. Bring your cooker up to pressure and maintain
it for 15 minutes before you try cooking a dinner. Needless to say, you’d
have a big mess if the gasket didn’t work with dinner inside.

Check the vent pipe to be sure it's clear

Hold the lid to the light to see if you can see through the vent pipe. If not, use a pipe cleaner, twist tie, toothpick, or other thin object to clear it.

Don’t forget to check
your pressure release plug whenever you check your gasket for wear. This
is the plug that will release steam and built-up pressure if your vent
pipe becomes clogged. It is usually made of the same rubber as your gasket
and may need to be replaced at the same time. Ours is located on the inside
of the lid near the handle.

A little vegetable
oil occasionally on your gasket will keep it pliable and soft longer.
But be careful: too much oil will actually reduce the gasket’s ability
to form a good seal. (Note: check the owner’s manual for your cooker,
some discourage the use of oil on gaskets.)

Check your
pressure cooker for screws that will rust in a marine environment and
replace them with stainless screws before bringing it aboard. Our pressure
cooker had two screws in the main handle and one on the helper handle
that needed replacing with stainless screws. If your pressure cooker is
aluminum, consider putting a barrier of silicone or other material between
the stainless screws and the aluminum of the pot to reduce the corrosion
that can occur when these two metals join in marine conditions.

How it works

A stainless steel bowl as a heatproof dish

Theresa uses a medium-sized stainless steel bowl as a heatproof dish which fits inside the pressure cooker and is called for by some recipes. A ceramic soufflé dish also works for recipes of this nature.

The concept behind pressure cookers is simple. When liquids come to
a boil, they give off steam. Because a pressure cooker has a locking lid,
that steam builds up and creates a higher pressure inside the pot. With
the pressure regulator jiggling atop your cooker, it releases small amounts
of steam to maintain the proper amount of pressure for the system. That
amount is usually 15 pounds of pressure for most brands and models – others
have adjustable pressure regulators, and some use lower pressure. With
that higher pressure, a higher temperature can be realized.

Under normal sealevel
conditions, the water in food can only reach boiling point temperature
to cook – that’s 212F. At 15 pounds of pressure, that same water can reach
and maintain temperatures of 250F. Thus, food cooks faster.

Inside the pressure
cooker, there is also an almost airless environment. The quickness in
cooking combined with that environment allows food to maintain its nutrition
value without water-soluble vitamins and minerals boiling away. It also
allows for stronger flavors to develop, allowing cooks to use smaller
amounts of salt and spices.

The rack

Most pressure cookers come with a rack that can be very helpful when
cooking rice, vegetables, meats, breads, puddings, or even cheesecakes.
Its job is to keep food off the bottom of the pan and away from the intensity
of the flame. This is especially helpful during steaming and baking. Vegetables
and rice can be quickly steamed in a separate heatproof dish that will
fit inside your pressure cooker set atop the rack. The rack is also helpful
when baking breads or puddings in a separate dish. And it helps prevent
scorching when cooking roasts and other larger pieces of meats that can
sit directly on the rack.

Considerations when buying

Amie bathe the dog in the pressure cooker

Daughter, Amie, gives the family dog a bath in the pressure cooker.

Deep-pressure pans can be used both for water-bath and pressure canning.
It’s good to have a large pot aboard for cooking large amounts of food
wi thout pressure as well. Heavier models with thick bottoms will scorch
food less easily and serve better as ovens. Two handles are a necessity
when it comes to carrying a full pot of steaming hot food.

Aluminum is lighter
in weight and conducts heat better than stainless steel, but some people
may want to limit their exposure to aluminum due to possible links to
Alzheimer’s disease. If this concerns you, you may want to do your own
research on the subject.

A new generation of
pressure cookers has come on the market in the last few years that may
be safer for boaters though more expensive (some brands are in the $150-$200
range). Instead of the weighted jiggle-top regulator, they use a spring
valve that allows for more precise timing and pressurization. The new
non-jiggle-top cookers also have a way to release pressure without any
need to carry them to a sink or bucket of cold water to reduce pressure
(though this feature cannot be used with any foods that foam). Also, since
they have a spring valve that is self-cleaning and nearly impossible to
get clogged, it is safe to cook the forbidden foods like cranberries,
applesauce, lima beans, and cereals.

Great emergency rescues

As any good friend would, your pressure cooker is able to help out
in any number of “emergencies.”

    • Saving your
      food when the fridge dies
      – A pressure cooker can become a water-bath
      canner or pressure canner if food is in danger of spoiling. We like
      to bring along pint canning jars with lids whenever we leave on an extended
      trip. Our 6-quart cooker can hold three regular-sized pint jars for
      water bath canning and pressure canning. Even though we have no fridge,
      we have the ability to can extra fish and produce, and to make jams
      or pickles if we arrive in an area rich in produce. To turn your cooker
      into a canner, experiment with different sizes of canning jars. For
      water-bath canning, the water level needs to be an inch above the jars
      while boiling to insure proper immersion.Water-bath canning is used for most fruits and all types of pickles.
      Pressure is not used for this type of canning. There are many books
      available that have excellent canning recipes. One I would recommend
      is Putting Food By by Janet Groene.Pressure canning is used for all non-acidic foods. It can be done easily
      with your pressure cooker, but you are limited to only one pressure
      setting. For this reason you will need to refer to your owner’s manual
      for recipes, times, and proper procedures. Other recipe books may not
      have the proper times for the amount of pressure that you would be using.
    • Storing leftovers – You have just finished a wonderful dinner of soup or stew, but
      there are leftovers. What do you do with those leftovers if you have
      no fridge? Well, when we have leftovers from our pressure cooking, I
      bring the food back up to pressure in my cooker and heat at full pressure
      for two minutes. Then I set the cooker aside with its regulator undisturbed
      and lid locked. I leave it for tomorrow’s lunch or dinner. Many times
      we have kept leftovers for up to 24 hours this way.I use my pressure cooker for any leftover meat as well. That same evening,
      I simply bring out my pressure cooker and make a quick soup of the meat
      with any vegetables I have around. After the soup cooks under pressure,
      I set it aside on my stovetop and leave it for tomorrow’s lunch or dinner.

      In both cases, I let the pressure cooker cool on its own. I do not break
      the seal by opening the lid or removing the regulator. And, it is always
      served within 24 hours. The only drawback to this method is that you
      cannot use it for dishes that have tomatoes as one of the ingredients.
      These rules are very important to the safety and healthfulness of the
      leftover food.

    • Turning your
      pressure cooker into a distiller for emergency drinking water
      See below for more information on distillation
      using a pressure cooker.
    • When running
      low on stove fuel
      – With a pressure cooker’s locking lid, it can
      become an ideal fire-less cooking pot. Fire-less cooking is a method
      of slow cooking that has been around long before slow-cookers were invented.
      All sorts of one-pot dishes like stews, chili, soups, even rice and
      noodle dishes can be made with only a little amount of heating and some
      blankets and pillows. Here are some basic instructions:In the morning, bring your dinner up to pressure and heat for five minutes
      at full pressure. Take from heat and wrap your pot, upright, in a blanket
      or sleeping bag, being careful not to burn yourself or disrupt the jiggle-top
      or pressure safety valve. I place my hand on the regulator as I put
      the first wrap on the cooker to make sure I do not disrupt it. Pile
      pillows all around the pot (including underneath), and then wrap any
      other blankets or sleeping bags you may have aboard around your cooker.
      Try to insulate your cooker so that minimal heat is released. Wedge
      this huge bundle somewhere safe while you are sailing. In 8-10 hours
      you’ll have a steaming dinner all ready for eating. Aboard Lindsay Christine
      we use two sleeping bags and all four of our family pillows. One of
      the kids’ berths, depending on the tack, is the ideal wedging place
      for our fire-less cooking bundle.

      By the way, using this method with dried vegetables such as beans still
      requires a pre-soak before preparation, which would have to be done
      the night before.

The pressure cooker as an aquarium

Son, Alex, uses the pressure cooker as an occasional aquarium.

Storing bait

  • A weapon
    As a safe weapon aboard a boat, pressure cookers are second only to
    a large cast iron frying pan. It will never be confiscated when entering a new country, you don’t have to reload, and even a child can use it.
  • An extra bucket – Buckets are usually stored outside near the cockpit of most boats.
    But, when stored inside the galley of your boat, a pressure cooker may
    be closer at hand if water enters your cabin while you are below. A
    pressure cooker is a perfect bailer with two handles for carrying heavy
    loads of water.
  • During a medical
    – While pressure cookers are nowhere near as effective
    as an autoclave in a hospital or lab, they do work to sterilize items
    in the same general way providing a higher temperature with an increase
    in pressure. And they could be your only solution for sterilizing supplies
    when a medical emergency at sea occurs.Pressure cookers attain 15 pounds of pressure and 250F, the very minimum
    requirement to sterilize medical equipment, water, and bandages or cloths.
    If a medical emergency were to occur, you could sterilize your supplies
    by putting them into a heatproof dish fitted inside the pressure cooker
    with 2 cups of water in the bottom and the rack in place. Water could
    be sterilized inside canning jars filled with 1 inch of air space remaining
    and sealed with lid and ring. The minimum amount of time at full pressure
    (I would have the jiggle-top regulator rocking at a consistent speed
    because I wouldn’t be worried about overcooking anything) would be 20
    minutes. But this is not a guaranteed procedure. There is no way to
    assure that everything received enough steam and heat under pressure
    to say that all supplies are sterile. However, as an alternative to
    boiling supplies in water, it is a superior method because everything
    reaches a higher temperature. This is in no way condoning the use of
    a pressure cooker as a substitute autoclave on a regular basis. But
    it is a possible alternative in an emergency situation when someone
    is far away from medical services.

Aboard Lindsay
, we try to make most of our items aboard have a dual purpose.
Our pressure cooker has more than satisfied that requirement. Here’s a
list of the ways we have used ours: pressure cooker, non-pressurized cooking
pot, distiller, slow cooker, steamer, oven, canner, bucket, weapon, temporary
leftover storage unit, temporary critter home, weight training equipment,

Could a microwave do that? I doubt it. These days I agree with my mom
more and more. I say, “Why microwave when I can pressure cook?”

Theresa Fort

another life long, long ago and far away, Theresa was a home economist
with a specialization in consumer education. After receiving her BA in
home economics at the University of Montana, she went on to become a master
food preserver with the co-operative extension office in Montana. Still,
it took life aboard a sailboat to convince her to use her own pressure
cooker. Theresa and family have lived and cruised aboard
Lindsay Christine, a Mercator Offshore 30, since 1995.

Back To Top

Making a distiller

some experimentation, our pressure cooker has become a successful
distiller with the addition of these items:

  • 10-feet of 1/4-inch outside diameter copper tubing
  • two 3-foot lengths of 3/8-inch outside diameter (1/4-inch inside diameter)
    food-grade vinyl tubing
  • two hose clamps
  • a bucket
  • a water container

How we put the distiller together and run it:

First, we fill
the bucket with cool seawater and bring it below to our galley. Then
we fill our pressure cooker 2/3 full with seawater or any other water
that may or may not be contaminated. Our copper tubing is wound into
a coil around something cylindrical so it will fit completely into
the bucket of cool seawater with one end pointed up toward the pressure
cooker on the stove.

Our pressure cooker has a vent pipe with an outside diameter of 1/4-inch.
We slide one of the 3-foot lengths of food-grade vinyl all the way
onto the vent pipe in the lid. Then with a hose clamp over the vinyl
tubing, we slide the copper tubing into the remaining loose end and
tighten the clamp. The remaining piece of food-grade vinyl tubing
attaches to the copper tubing end at the bottom of the bucket with
a hose clamp as well. Then the remaining end of vinyl tubing is placed
inside the water container, which sits next to the bucket. It helps
if your container is shorter than your bucket.

Now we are ready to assemble the pressure cooker and heat the seawater.
As steam builds up inside the cooker, it begins to make its way through
the tubing. When it reaches the copper coils, it condenses into pure
water and flows into the water container. The key to making this distiller
run efficiently is to replace the seawater in the bucket once it warms
up. Be careful not to burn yourself when you lift the coil out of
the bucket to change the water. As the flow develops, we turn the
burner to medium low because less heat is required. Once the steam
begins going through the tubing, we usually get about 1 cup of water
after about 25 minutes on medium heat.

Keeping the copper tubing in a coil with the vinyl tubing already
attached helps with storing and quick assembly. Before using the tubing
for the first time, rinse it with clean water. Be sure to use only
food-grade tubing, as not all vinyl tubing is safe for drinking water
use. We have never found the vinyl tubing to pop off the vent pipe
or melt with the heat. The pressure that builds up is not the same
because of the lack of the weighted regulator on the vent pipe, so
the temperature is not as high either.

While this process is slow and uses quite a bit of energy, it could
save your life in an emergency. In many situations you could use this
process to create pure water. Water tanks can run dry or become contaminated.
Or you may be somewhere which only has contaminated water available.
You may also need distilled water for your boat’s batteries.

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Chicken and Mushrooms

This one-pot dish requires few ingredients.

  • 2 chicken breasts, skinned, boned, and cut into large chunks
  • 1 cup thickly sliced mushrooms
  • 1/2 onion, sliced
  • 1 bell pepper, cut into chunks
  • 1/4 cup low-sodium soy sauce
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 cup rice (I use a mixture of 1/2 long-grain white and 1/2 brown
  • 1 1/2 cups water (pressure cookers use less water than would be normal
    with conventional cooking)

Place first eight ingredients in cooker. Place rice and water in a
heatproof dish that fits loosely inside your pressure cooker. Place
dish in pressure cooker with chicken mixture surrounding it. The dish
should stick up a few inches above the level of the chicken mixture.
No food or containers should be over 2/3 full. Close securely. Place
pressure regulator on vent pipe and cook 10 minutes with pressure
regulator rocking slowly. Let pressure drop. Lift out rice bowl, and
let sit 5 minutes. Thicken chicken dish, if desired, with cornstarch
mixed with a little water. Serve over cooked rice. Serves 4.

Rice can be cooked separately in the pressure cooker by combining
1 cup rice and 1 1/2 cups water in a heatproof dish. Place dish inside
the pressure cooker with 1 cup water in the bottom. Pressure cook
10 minutes if using 1/2 white and 1/2 brown rice, 5 minutes if using
white rice only. Let pressure drop. Open lid and let rice sit 5 minutes.
Fluff with fork.

Sun-dried Tomato/Herb Bread

This bread is an example of steam-baking in the pressure cooker.
It is done under pressure. The amount of time for steam-baking is
a bit shorter than when using an oven, and you save fuel by heating
only the pressure cooker.

Pre-heat the pressure cooker on medium heat five minutes before putting
in your food to be baked, covered with aluminum foil to retain heat.
Turn your burner down very low. A consistent low flame will produce
a moderate oven temperature. Cakes and other sweets seem to take a
little longer than breads this way.

We love this bread sliced and toasted under the broiler with cheese
melted on top. The crust is chewy and not browned on top. You can
make plain bread this way by leaving out the seasonings. I like to
use 1/2 whole wheat to hide the fact that the bread is not browned
on top.

  • 1 cup warm water (110-115 F)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons active dry yeast
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • About 3 1/2 cups unbleached bread flour
  • 1 cup fresh basil, chopped finely
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 6 reconstituted dry-packed sun-dried tomatoes, chopped
  • 1/4 cup shredded Parmesan cheese

Dissolve yeast and sugar in small bowl with 1/4 cup of the warm water.
Add remaining water to large mixing bowl. Add salt and oil and allow
to cool while yeast is dissolving. Add yeast mixture and 3 cups of
flour along with basil, garlic, dried tomatoes, and cheese. Turn out
on floured counter and knead for 10 minutes or until smooth and elastic,
adding flour as needed. Place dough in a greased 2-quart oven-safe
casserole dish or bowl that will fit in your pressure cooker. Let
rise until doubled in volume in a warm draft-free place 40 minutes
to 1 hour. When doubled, punch down, turn out onto counter, and knead
a few times. Place dough back in dish and let rise a second time for
1/2 hour.

Pour 2 cups fresh or salt water into pressure cooker with rack. Place
container of dough in the pressure cooker and seal with lid. Bring
up to 15 pounds pressure. Turn heat down to maintain pressure, and
cook 40 minutes. Cool cooker immediately by placing in a pan of cold
water or letting cold water run over cooker. Open lid carefully and
remove bread. Cool in baking container for 10 minutes, then invert
and take out of dish. Cool 15 minutes before slicing. Makes 1 loaf.

Mercator Brownies

This is an example of baking with a pressure cooker. To bake in
the pressure cooker, remove the gasket, leave the pressure regulator
off the top, and use the cooking rack and a separate heatproof dish
that fits inside the cooker for the food.
Doubling the recipe
and baking it in an oven will produce a 13×9 pan of brownies. It is
a scaled-down recipe tailored to using my medium stainless steel bowl
(that holds 6 cups) as a baking pan. A soufflé dish would work well
as a heatproof dish.

  • 2 ounces unsweetened baking chocolate
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup unbleached flour
  • 1/2 cup nuts (optional)

Pre-heat pressure cooker over a medium flame with rack inside and
top locked on but without a gasket or the pressure regulator. Do not
put liquid inside. Lightly grease the heatproof dish that will fit
inside your pressure cooker for the batter.

In a pot over very low heat, melt chocolate and butter, stirring constantly.
As soon as it’s melted and smooth, remove from heat and add sugar.
Stir until well blended. Add egg and vanilla; mix well. Add flour
and nuts, if desired. Stir mixture well. Pour into heatproof bowl.
Cover with aluminum foil. Open your pressure cooker and place dish
inside on rack. Turn heat down to low and bake 45 minutes or until
a wooden toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Remove
from pressure cooker and cool. Enjoy!

Cooking Dried Vegetables

The pressure cooker is ideal for cooked dried beans, peas, and lentils. Remember to fill the cooker only halfway.

Pre-soaking dried vegetables

  • 2 cups dried vegetables
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1/4 cup cooking oil
  • Water to cover vegetables

Place dried vegetables in cooker. Add remaining ingredients and soak
8 hours. I start soaking beans in the morning in our cooker, keeping
it secured with fiddles on the stovetop.

Cooking pre-soaked vegetables
Pour off and discard water from soaking. (This water could cause indigestion.)
Place vegetables in cooker, adding enough water to cover well. Add
seasonings and any other additions you desire. Adding 1 tablespoon
cooking oil will decrease the foaming action of the vegetables.

Do not fill the cooker over half-full.
Close cover securely.
Place pressure regulator on vent pipe and cook under pressure according
to the following timetable. Let pressure drop.

Dried vegetable
Pinto beans
Black beans
Great northern beans
Kidney beans
Navy beans
Pink beans
Black-eyed peas
Cooking time
25 minutes
35 minutes
20 minutes
25 minutes
30 minutes
30 minutes
20 minutes


The Pearson Era

By Steve Mitchell

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

Starting in a garage, cousins Clinton and Everett
initiated an era in yachting history

It’s a familiar story to sailing buffs. The Pearson cousins, Clinton and
Everett, began the modern era of fiberglass production sailboats at the
New York Boat Show, in January 1959, with the introduction of the Carl
Alberg-designed Triton. They sold 17 of those 28-foot boats at the show,
and “it started us chasing money,” says Clinton. Indeed, that one show
put the fledgling company on the map and in solid financial shape, but
this well-known story reveals only part of the roots of Pearson Yachts.

Pearson 10M

“The Navy ROTC sent me to Brown University,” says Clinton, “so after I
graduated, I had to serve three years of active duty on the destroyer
Joseph P. Kennedy. This was from 1952 to 1955. While on the Kennedy, I
built a small model for an 8-foot fiberglass dinghy. Later, I built a
mold for the dinghy in my father’s garage. I started the company in May
1955 with the $2,000 I received when I left the Navy.”

Clinton tried making the dinghies using a vacuum process. “But I had no
luck with it after six or seven attempts. So I started making them from
mat and resin in a lay-up in the garage.”

It didn’t take Clinton long to run out of money. He started working for
an insurance company during the day and making the dinghies at night.
But sales were promising enough for him to incorporate in early 1956.
A high-school classmate named Brad Turner helped out by investing $5,000
in the business.

Clinton’s cousin, Everett, who was a couple of years behind Clinton at
Brown, also served in the Navy after graduation. He worked with Clinton,
building the dinghies when he could, and was able to come to the new company
full-time in 1957. Fred Heald, a fellow Brown alumnus, joined them as
head of sales.

At the request of customers, the cousins built larger dinghies, which
they exhibited at the New York Boat Show in 1957. Sales were so good that
the young company needed room to expand. The Pearsons found an empty textile
mill on the waterfront on Constitution Street in Bristol, R.I., with a
flexible lease that allowed them to pay just for the space they used.
Soon they were renting the entire first floor. By the time of the show
in 1958, they also were making 15- and 17-foot runabouts based on Clinton’s
designs, in addition to the line of dinghies.

Things started to gel in 1958. “A fellow named Tom Potter, who worked
for an outfit called American Boat Building, over in East Greenwich, asked
us if we would be interested in building a 28-foot fiberglass sailboat
that would sell for under $10,000,” says Clinton. “Tom knew Carl Alberg,
who was working at the Coast Guard Station in Bristol, across from where
we were renting space. We agreed, and Tom had Carl design the boat for
us. So Tom Potter was really responsible for the concept of the Triton.”

Big in Europe

“I had an idea for a family cruising boat using fiberglass,” says Tom.
“Family cruising was a big thing in Europe at the time, but not in the
U.S. The idea hit me that we could do the same thing, and it would be
successful if the price was under $10,000. Everyone was still building
boats from wood, but I thought fiberglass was the way to go.” Building
with fiberglass allowed for a much roomier interior compared to wooden

Tom adds: “I approached a number of people about my idea. My employer
at the time, American Boat Building, wasn’t interested. I talked to Sparkman
& Stephens. They wouldn’t give me the time of day. I got to know Carl
while I was at American Boat Building, and talked to him about the idea.
He’s the one who introduced me to Clint and Everett. He knew they were
building fiberglass dinghies and runabouts across the way from him and
thought they might be interested in building a sailboat. Naturally they
were. So Carl designed the boat, and I financed the tooling for it. Carl
had been designing ammunition boxes for the Coast Guard when the Triton
idea came along.”

The cousins built the boat and had to borrow money to truck the Triton
to the 1959 New York Boat Show. They didn’t even have the cash between
them to pay the hotel bill. The boat’s base price was $9,700. When it
became an instant success, with $170,000 in orders, the hotel bill was
paid, and the young company was off to a solid start.

“Right after the boat show,” continues Clinton, “we still needed money
to build those 17 boats. We already owed the bank $6,000, and we had to
go back to the bank to ask for even more. We asked for – and got – $40,000.
That started us chasing money. From the very beginning, we had to chase
sales to pay off loans, a never-ending process.

“Carl sold the Triton plans to us for $75,” states Clinton, “and then
he wanted royalties of $100 per boat sold.” The Pearsons agreed to those
terms, although eventually it would work against Carl.

Flush with the success of the January 1959 show, the cousins took the
company public that April. “The shares opened at $1,” says Clinton. “They
were $3 a share the next day. By the end of 1959, the price was $13 a

Sales stayed strong enough for the company to add another production site.
Pearson bought the legendary Herreshoff Yard in November 1959 for $90,000,
half in cash and half in stock. Production also continued at the Constitution
Street site in Bristol.

Clinton explains, “In 1959, the market was just right for us. The price
[of the Triton] was right. Leisure time was a big thing. They were pretty
simple boats to build at the time, and we tried to build one boat a day
to keep up with the demand.”

Pearson 26

Pearson 10M, above, and a Pearson 26. Both photos from Pearson marketing materials dated 1977. Our thanks to Tom Hazelhurst for sharing these treasures.

Controlling interest

In 1960, the Pearsons were trying to obtain approval for another stock
offering, but had trouble getting the proposal through the Securities
and Exchange Commission. The money chase was continuing, and the company
needed another cash infusion to finance its rapid growth.

“Luckily, Grumman was there and interested in the company,” says Clinton.
In 1961, Grumman Allied Industries bought a controlling interest in Pearson
Yachts for $800,000. Grumman wanted to diversify its military-aircraft
business. It already had an aluminum-canoe division as a toehold in the
boating industry. Grumman sought a stake in the developing fiberglass-technology
area, and Pearson was a leader in the field at the time. The Grumman purchase
started a long period of growth and stability for the yacht manufacturer.

With the full backing of the new owners, the Pearson cousins expanded
production to include more boats, both large and small. Most also were
Alberg-designed boats. The 20-foot daysailer called the Electra, “which
we made into an open 22-foot daysailer called the Ensign,” says Everett,
was added in 1960. The Alberg 35 followed in 1961.

According to Clinton, “When we started building the Ensign, it was an
exception [to the one boat a day goal.] We eventually got that line up
to two a day, then three a day” to meet the demand. It became a popular
one-design racer, with nearly 1,800 produced in its 21-year production

Other Alberg designs were the Rhodes 41, a 26-footer called the Ariel,
and a 16-footer called the Hawk. Pearson also built the Invicta, a 38-footer
designed by Bill Tripp, in the early 1960s. “It was the first production
fiberglass boat to win the Newport-to-Bermuda Race, which was the 1964
race,” Everett says proudly. The young firm also produced powerboats,
including the 34-foot Sunderland.

States Clinton, “A lot of credit for the early success of the company
has to go to Tom Potter for selecting a line that would sell.” For his
part, Tom says, “Fred Heald and I were close friends, and we ran the marketing
end together. I primarily worked with the designers on boats we thought
would sell, while Fred worked more on marketing the boats. It was a pretty
exciting period of my life.”

As with the Triton, Carl Alberg received a royalty on each of his designs
that was sold. “As the boats got more expensive, the royalties went up,”
states Clinton. “By 1964, Carl was making $40,000 a year from us, on top
of what he made from the Coast Guard. Grumman wasn’t happy at all with
the royalties and said we should hire our own architect.” But first, Everett
approached Carl about renegotiating the deal on royalties. “He was a stubborn
Swede and refused,” says Everett. “So we had to say: ‘No more boats from
him.’ ”

A Grumman employee named John Lentini had a hand in the next serendipitous
step for Pearson Yachts. John had purchased a sailboat designed by the
prestigious New York firm of Sparkman & Stephens. One of the naval architects
involved in that boat was a young fellow named Bill Shaw, and he and John
became acquainted. When Lentini learned of the opening at Pearson Yachts,
he mentioned it to Bill, who went to Bristol, R. I., for an interview
with the Pearson cousins.

Momentous year

“I had worked for Sparkman & Stephens for 11 years before leaving to work
for an outfit called Products of Asia, which also was based in New York,”
says Bill. “It imported custom wooden yachts from Hong Kong, and I ran
their marine division.” The company’s most famous import later on was
the Grand Banks line of trawlers.

The interview went well, and Bill was hired as the Director of Design
and Engineering with a starting salary of $18,000. “We hit it off,” says
Everett. “It worked out very well.”

“Rhode Island was my home state, and I was thrilled to be able to return
there,” he adds.

As it turned out, 1964 was momentous for Pearson Yachts for more than
the hiring of Bill Shaw. Grumman financed the construction of a 100,000-square-foot
manufacturing plant in Portsmouth, R.I., and planned to move the company
there the following year. “Lots of people didn’t want to make the move,”
says Clinton. “Plus, Grumman fired me in 1964.”

“Yep, fired.”

“My boss was a sailor,” explains Clinton, “and thought himself an expert.
He was the comptroller of Grumman but actually acted more as the treasurer.
We got along OK for a couple of years, but what set him off was a new
concept we had. Tom Potter had an idea for a full-powered auxiliary. This
comptroller said we needed to sell five of them before we could go with
it. We discussed this for an hour at a board meeting. At the end of the
discussion, they took a vote, and I won. I knew that sealed my fate. The
boat turned out to be the Countess 44, which was quite successful.

“I really hated working for a big company,” Clinton goes on. “I had already
made plans to do something else. I was ready to resign anyway. If they
had just waited a few more weeks, I would have left on my own, and everyone
would have been happy.”

Clinton bought out a troubled sailboat-maker called Sailstar in West Warwick,
R.I. “I still had the lease on the Bristol factory, and moved the company
there,” he says. “Carl Alberg designed a 27-footer for me. I called it
the Bristol 27, and soon the Sailstar name faded away.” He changed the
company’s name to Bristol Yachts, and thus was born another famous sailboat
manufacturer with a Pearson pedigree.

Back in Portsmouth, business was booming for Pearson Yachts, but not everything
the company was building would float. Grumman combined the sailboat company
with its subsidiary that made aluminum canoes and truck bodies. “Grumman
was building aluminum trucks for United Parcel Service,” states Everett.
“Soon Pearson Yachts was making the fiberglass rooftops and fronts for
the trucks. We did it really just to accommodate Grumman.”

Tom Potter was the next to leave. “I hated working for Grumman,” he says,
“and I quit. I actually was out of work for a while when Clint asked me
to join him at Bristol. He was building stock boats, and I wanted to do
custom work.” Tom stayed with Bristol Yachts until he retired in 1972.
He then went back to school to become a naval architect and began a second
career designing boats. Today at the age of 84, he’s still designing sailboats.

Pearson 30

Pearson 30 from Pearson marketing materials.

Special permission

By 1966, Everett Pearson also was ready to leave. According to Everett,
“We were run by a board of directors. We had to write quarterly reports
and go to board meetings. I didn’t like it at all. My interests were in
producing sailboats. I decided to go out on my own. I agreed not to compete
with the company for three years, so I decided to go into the industrial

“But first,” continues Everett, “I helped out with a 58-footer for a fellow
I knew named Neil Tillotson. I had to get special permission from Grumman
to do the boat, which was granted since it didn’t compete with anything
Pearson was building.” Later, he teamed up with Tillotson to form Tillotson-Pearson,
Inc., which has become a major force in industrial uses of fiberglass-reinforced
plastics and other, more exotic composites. Known today as TPI Composites,
its varied product line includes windmill blades, flag poles, aquatic
therapy pools, and J-Boats, among other sailboats and power boats. Everett,
65, now serves as chairman of the board of TPI. Just 10 short years after
it all began in Clinton’s garage, no one named Pearson was running Pearson

“Shortly after [Everett left], Grumman asked me to run the company,” says
Bill Shaw. “Never having done that, I said sure.” Bill was made the general
manager of the Pearson Yacht Division.

“We put together a great team,” he continues. “And Grumman was great to
work for. They were very supportive in getting us the best equipment and
machinery. We had computers to help us cut out materials. They also expanded
the Portsmouth facility later on so that we could build bigger boats.”

According to Bill, Grumman also started making firetrucks and motor homes
based on a truck body. “It’s interesting to build boats on one side of
a plant, and motor homes on the other. I had to be a diplomat. At one
point, we even built some modular housing for Grumman. We erected it at
the plant and used it as an office as a prototype.” Grumman began manufacturing
the housing at another site and continued making aluminum canoes in New

Under Bill Shaw’s leadership, Pearson Yachts enjoyed rapid growth in sales
in the late ’60s and early ’70s. The product line was varied and included
powerboats as well. Sizes ranged up to 44 feet, thanks to the new production
facility Grumman funded. Then the fuel crisis hit in the early ’70s, and
the company found itself at a crossroads of sorts.

“When the fuel problems hit,” says Bill, “the powerboat business was hurt
badly. We found that people went to sailboats who never thought they’d
set foot in one previously. We decided we were a sailboat company and
wanted to concentrate on that. We also came face-to-face with the realization
that to be successful in that line of business, we had to be committed
to the dealers. Other manufacturers were always after our dealers, too,
trying to steal them away from us.”

Bill started holding meetings with an advisory board partially composed
of dealers. “The boats were developed with specific price points in mind
and with dealer input,” he continues. “A new design had to satisfy a lot
of people; otherwise it wasn’t worth the trip. More than once we had what
we thought was a great idea, but the dealers would turn it down. We would
pull them into the plant and bounce ideas off them. They were extremely
helpful to the success of the company.”

Condo boat

John Burgreen, who now owns Annapolis Yacht Sales in Annapolis, Md., one
of the earliest Pearson Yacht dealers, was one of those dealers Bill counted
on. “Pearson would get a group of us together from different parts of
the country,” explains John, “to brainstorm new ideas. We talked about
what should go in a particular boat, what the market was demanding. We’d
discuss such things as heads that had to be bigger, or we had to have
stall showers, or we needed more performance-oriented boats, or more cruising
boats. All the dealers worked together pretty well.

“One boat that comes to mind,” muses John, “is the Pearson 37. We called
it the condo boat. We had more fun than you can imagine working on that
boat. We went berserk. Everyone there was at fault for that one, although
it did pretty well.”

The 37 was introduced in 1988 to considerable dock chatter. At the Annapolis
Boat Show, people could be heard saying, “You’ve got to see the Pearson
37!” The boat had a queen-sized island berth forward, two swivel chairs
in the saloon, a television and stereo center, and a separate shower stall.
The cabin was about the most luxurious to be found in a production sailboat.
It made a definite statement about how serious Pearson was at attracting
new customers in a changing market.

Another key factor in the company’s success was its advertising firm,
Potter-Hazelhurst. “Their strength was marketing, not necessarily in printing
pretty ads,” Bill says. “One of their employees developed an index of
buying power by county and city for the whole country.” The company used
the data to develop sales estimates for particular markets, a most effective
tool. “It worked well for the dealers, giving them sales goals, and a
good idea of what their sales should be,” he adds.

According to Tom Hazelhurst, his firm handled Pearson’s marketing and
advertising efforts from 1969 until the end in 1991. “Pearson grew during
that period, and so did we,” he says. “Under Bill’s tutelage, they built
damn good boats. I’m not saying that because I was their advertising man,
but because I bought two of their boats. The boats just don’t break.”

In 1980, Grumman expanded the Portsmouth plant to 240,000 square feet
to build even larger sailboats. The Pearson 530 was the largest boat the
company ever built. The firm also began building power boats again, although
none was designed by Bill.

By the mid-’80s, Grumman started looking for a buyer for Pearson Yachts.
“I tried to buy the company in 1985,” says Clinton, “when Grumman made
it known they wanted to sell. But the deal didn’t come off. Times were
already starting to change in the sailboat business. Pearson only lasted
as long as it did because of the kindness of Grumman. I doubt the company
ever made any money for Grumman.”

Bill Shaw disagrees. “We certainly had some lean years, but we also had
some very productive ones,” he states. “Sure, Grumman looked at it as
a business, and we turned a good profit for Grumman in the healthy years,
especially when we started building the larger boats with larger profit
margins. I don’t think they would have kept the company that long if we
weren’t doing well for them.”

Business downturn

Pearson Ensign

The Pearson Ensign has remained a popular one-design racer since its introduction in 1962.

In March 1986, Grumman sold Pearson Yachts to a private investor group
headed by Gordon Clayton.

“Gordon had no prior experience in the boating business,” says Bill. “When
he came on board, we looked forward to taking advantage of his overall
business experience to add a healthy element to the company. It’s unfortunate
that when he came along, business started going badly for the entire industry.”

The company was also faced with an aging model line. “Things like aft
staterooms and open transoms were popular, and we couldn’t add those features
to many of our boats,” Bill explains. “We worked with the models we could
adapt. For example, we brought back the 34, and we also changed the 36,
which we extended and called the 38.”

In 1987, Pearson introduced several new designs with wing keels and 10-year
warranties against hull blisters. “I’m partial to centerboarders myself,”
adds Bill, “but not everyone is. The wing keel was a good way to get shoal

Gordon Clayton was “aggressive in picking up Sunfish and Laser for us,”
says Bill, “and also O’Day. That gave us entrée to a segment of the market
we had missed before.” O’Day also had acquired the Cal name earlier, so
Pearson had a number of well-known names for marketing purposes.

But a general drop in business was well under way. The money chase that
began in 1956 for Pearson was getting tougher.

Bill Shaw says of the demise of the company: “It was a number of things,
not the least of which was a rapid fall-off in sales volume. When we thought
about it, the most serious competition we had going against us was our
old boats. Also, sailing was getting so expensive, and that created a
loss in interest [by the public.] When the Ensign first came out, it sold
for $4,000 to $5,000. At the end, it sold for $14,000, and not one screw
was different. The Ensign association wouldn’t let us change anything.
Add to that the rising costs of slips and insurance, and owning a sailboat
was simply too expensive for many people.

“We needed volume to make a go of it,” continues Bill, “and without that,
we had to increase prices. We couldn’t just cut out the unneeded overhead.
We had that huge 240,000-square-foot plant for one thing.”

By 1990, the boating industry was rocked to its roots by an economic recession,
and by a 10-percent federal luxury tax on such items as new boats costing
over $100,000. While Bill maintains the luxury tax had little impact on
Pearson, because few of its sailboats cost over $100,000, the buying public
was confused about what the tax did and did not apply to. For example,
the tax did not apply to brokerage boats – but sales of those fell, too.
Many wealthy clients simply stopped buying boats altogether, refusing
to pay the luxury tax on general principle even though they could easily
afford it.

The end result was disastrous for many boat manufacturers. The drastic
drop in sales forced Pearson into bankruptcy court in 1991, with Bill
retiring just before the end. “I miss the business tremendously,” he states.
Bill, now 73, has had some health problems, but “with medical science
these days, they keep me going,” he says.

Record production run

When asked to name his favorite from the many designs he did for Pearson
through the years, Bill laughs, saying, “I get that question a lot. When
I was active in the company, my answer always was ‘the next one.’ In its
day, the Pearson 30 (pictured on Page 19) was quite successful, especially
with racing in mind. I’m helping my son do some alterations to his 1972
P-30. I also am very partial to the 365 as a cruising boat. It was so
popular we had two production lines for it. It’s a good, wholesome cruising
boat. The Pearson 35 was one of our most successful. It was in production
for 14 years, which was quite a record. We never approached that again.
Most designs would last five years or so.

“I get several calls a week from boat owners, asking for help,” he continues.
“When the company went on the blocks [with the turmoil of many ownership
changes] we lost control of so much. Everything was documented so well,
and that’s all gone now. When I get calls now from owners about their
boats, I can’t answer them unless I can remember, and that is getting
to be more of a problem,” he chuckles. “It was a wonderful 27 years for

Shortly after the bankruptcy, the Pearson molds and trademarks were sold
to Aqua Buoy Corporation. To make the situation even worse, Aqua Buoy
went bankrupt before taking possession of the molds and moving them from
the Portsmouth plant, which Grumman still owned. Grumman reacquired the
molds in a bankruptcy sale.

This began a tumultuous time for the remnants of the Pearson name and
molds. Through a series of other sales and actions, the Pearson and Cal
molds and trademarks eventually were sold to a new company, formed in
January 1996, called Cal-Pearson Corporation. In the disclosure statement
sent to prospective stock purchasers, the principal office was listed
as Bristol, R.I., but the corporate office was in Bethesda, Md. Clinton
Pearson was listed as the chief executive officer and Christian Bent as
the chief financial officer. The company began a campaign to raise the
capital needed to build Cal 33s and 39s and Pearsons ranging from 27 to
39 feet. Bristol Yachts, then owned by Clinton’s two sons, was to build
the sailboats.

The exact number of boats Cal-Pearson actually built is not known, but
certainly is in single digits. The company exhibited boats at the Annapolis
Sailboat Show in 1996 and 1997. By 1998, no one was answering the phone
at the Bethesda office, and the company disappeared in a cloud of lingering
debt. A big part of its demise was the bankruptcy of Bristol Yachts, which
left Cal-Pearson with no manufacturing partner. According to one insider,
Cal-Pearson essentially ceased to exist when Bristol Yachts was forced
into bankruptcy and its assets were sold at auction.

According to Clinton, “The Bethesda group offered me some stock to help
them start the company. They were looking to publish the fact that I was
involved to stimulate interest in others. They found it harder to raise
money than they had thought. They did raise money in New York, but the
overhead was so high with lawyers and accountants. It was a good idea,
but only if they could have gotten proper financing. Training a new crew
is so hard. It just takes quite a bit of money to get something like this
started. Quite a few dealers were enthusiastic about the name returning
to the market, too.”

Clinton, who is now 70, is “not currently active in the boat business,
and I have no intentions of getting back into it,” he says.

Different world today

Sailboat Introductions, 1957 to 1980*
Triton 1959
Tiger Cat 1960
Electra 1960
Invicta 1960
Hawk 1960
Alberg 35 1961
Bounty II 1961
Petrel 1962
Ariel 1962
Rhodes 41 1962
Vanguard 1962
Ensign 1962
Packet 1963
Resolute 1963
Commander 1964
Countess 44 1965
Coaster 1966
II 1966
Lark 1966
Renegade 1966
Wanderer 1966
Pearson 22 1968
Pearson 24 1968
Pearson 300 1968
Pearson 43 1968
Pearson 35 1968
Pearson 33 1969
Pearson 39 1970
Pearson 26 1970
Pearson 390 1971
Pearson 30 1971
Pearson 36 1972
Pearson 10M 1973
Pearson 26W 1974
Pearson 419 1974
28 1974
Pearson 365 1975
Pearson 323 1976
Pearson 31 1977
Pearson 23 1977
Pearson 424 1977
Pearson 26OD 1977
Pearson 40 1978
Pearson 32 1979
Pearson 36 PH 1979
Pearson 530 1980
Pearson Flyer 30 1980
Pearson 36 Cutter 1980
* (Other sailboats came
later, of course, and
dinghies and motorboats
also were manufactured
in the early years.)

Says Everett of the Cal-Pearson Corporation, “So many people jump into
the boat business without knowing what it takes. They were trying to market
10-year-old designs, and that is tough to do in today’s climate. People
knew they were old designs because their competitors were constantly pointing
it out to the public. And trying to start the Cal line at the same time
was too much.”

Bill Shaw has a similar take on the short life of Cal-Pearson. “People
absolutely lose their smarts when they get around boats,” he says. “It’s
a different world out there today. Unless you have a big bankroll, you
can’t make it. To develop a new 35-footer, with molds and tooling, would
take several hundred thousand dollars. If you are looking at a line of
eight to 10 boats, as they were, it just doesn’t make sense.”

But the venerable Pearson Yachts name refuses to die. At the National
Pearson Yacht Owners’ Association rendezvous in Bristol, R.I. in August,
Everett Pearson announced to the group that his company, TPI, had just
purchased the trademarked name of Pearson Yachts. (See related article
on Bristol Yachts on Page 73.)

Says Everett, “I wanted to grab the name while I had the chance. We didn’t
buy the molds. All that stuff is too old.”

He continues, “We do plan to develop new models. I bought the name so
we’d have it there. But we have some projects involving buses, people
movers, and a couple of other things that I need to get moving before
we start [on a new Pearson product line]. We have some guys working on
it, studying the market. Up here in New England, we’re more efficient
at building large boats, rather than competing with small-boat manufacturers.
So we probably will start with something over 35 feet, maybe in the 40-
to 42-foot range.” It probably will be at least one to two years before
any new Pearson yachts hit the market.”

When asked the purchase price of the trademarked name, Everett replies,
“I haven’t told anybody. I paid too much. But when you’re buying your
own name back, you get carried away.” He was determined to make the purchase.
“It took me three months of phone calls to track these people down,” he

TPI will handle the marketing itself, as it has done for several of its
other boat lines. Everett foresees a network of six to eight dealers.
“That’s all we’d want. We need to give them enough territory so that they
don’t compete with each other.”

With some 20,000 boats out there bearing the Pearson name, from eight-foot
dinghies to 53-foot sailboats, the Pearson legacy is already well-established
in the history of boating. Very active owners’ groups keep interest in
the boats quite high. In some areas, certain Pearson models sell by word-of-mouth
without even being advertised. The Pearson name also is one of the most
active on the Internet. Pearson bulletin boards abound on the net, and
usually are among the most active in the online sailing community.

Certainly, Pearson owners can take solace from knowing that for the first
time in over 30 years, someone named Pearson once again is in charge of
Pearson Yachts. The symmetry of events is satisfying for a company that
has endured so much turmoil in the last decade. Pearson Yachts sails on.

The original publication of this article included sources of more information on Pearson sailboats, most of which is long out of date now. You can find Pearson information on our Owners’ Associations page.

Steve Mitchell

When not working at his job for the federal government or singlehanding his
1989 Pearson 27 in the Annapolis, Md. area, Steve Mitchell is a part-time
freelance writer. He writes for a variety of business and boating publications.

Painless Anchoring

Painless anchoring

By Norman Ralph

Article taken from Good Old Boat magazine: Volume 3, Number 4, July/August 2000.

When your
good old back’s not up to it anymore,
let a windlass do the donkey work

strange how much difficulty we owners of older boats have in finding
$500 to $1,000 to replace an old kitchen appliance or to provide new
furniture for the den … and how little difficulty we have spending
it on new stuff for the boat … especially when priorities change.

Anchor windlass on a Valiant 32

Thus it was with
our Bluebonnet, a 20-year-old Valiant 32. An anchor windlass was something
we had mentioned in passing several times, but it wasn’t even considered
when we upgraded her. We had never owned a boat with a windlass and
had always raised our anchor by hand (or rather, by back) on previous
boats. Once our 30-something-year-old son remarked after breaking loose
and raising our 35-pound Delta: “Boy, that was set well, I really had
to grunt to get it up.” But such comments sailed over my head until
last fall.

We were involved
in a household painting project. When I bent over to pick up a gallon
of paint, it felt as if someone hit me with a baseball bat across my
kidneys. A trip to the doctor revealed that I had a sprain. I was told
that my back showed my age, and I should take care of it with exercise
and common sense.

Suddenly the windlass
went to the top of Bluebonnet‘s list … above the autopilot that
was previously on top. My wife, Jeanette, and I are planning several
cruises. As our plans call for living on the hook much of the time,
our anchoring equipment was re-evaluated. After all, if I couldn’t get
the anchor up, it would have to stay down. In most sailing skills, Jeanette
is my equal except where significant upper-body strength is required.

Many questions

The research started.
What kind? Electric or manual? Horizontal or vertical? How big? The
results were as expected: there is no “right” windlass. As with everything
on a boat, it’s a compromise.

The first choice
was between manual and electric. The cost of a manual windlass was comparable
to an electric windlass of the same capacity. A “Waldenese” approach
to sailing had always appealed to me, thus the simplicity of a manual
windlass had much to offer. Installation is much simpler: no heavy expensive
wiring to run nor solenoids and foot switches to buy and install. The
cost of these items can add hundreds of dollars to the cost of the windlass
itself. Battery capacity has to be re-assessed and possibly increased,

Cruising classics
(by Hiscock, Pardey, Roth, and others) extolled the advantages of the
manual windlass. Against these arguments was the obvious ease of operation
of an electric windlass. Many electric windlasses can be operated manually
in an emergency. In most cases, the engine will be running when you’re
raising or lowering the anchor, and the battery drain is compensated
for by the alternator output. The added safety factor of an electric
windlass is that it’s much quicker to re-anchor if winds shift. What
confirmed my decision to go with an electric windlass was a statement
in a book by a well-known and respected cruising writer who said that
on his boat, comparable in size to ours, he had used his manual windlass
only twice in eight years. He found the manual windlass to be so slow
he just pulled it up by hand. I thought: “So why have it?”

Easier answer

The question of
horizontal or vertical gypsy windlass was easier. As the stem of a Valiant
32 is about 8 inches higher than the foredeck where the windlass would
be installed, a vertical windlass would need be mounted on a fairly
high pedestal to get the proper angle of lead to the bow roller. With
a horizontal windlass, this problem is not as critical and can be solved
much more easily. The top of the gypsy, where the rode leads off a horizontal
windlass, is already several inches higher than on a vertical windlass.

In many applications,
a vertical windlass has several advantages. It takes up less space on
the foredeck, although the below-decks motor does intrude into the anchor
locker. Some horizontal windlasses also have their motors mounted beneath
the deck. These are usually of a “worm and gear” construction, which
has considerably more internal friction and a much higher current drain.
After considering all factors, a horizontal windlass was the choice.

Size was a difficult
decision. As a do-it-yourselfer, I tend to overbuild things, so my choices
are frequently overkill. Offshore cruisers advocate heavy ground tackle.
As the first line of protection for their home and possessions, this
is a logical and proper approach. The manufacturer of the Maxwell windlass
recommends that the windlass have the reserve capacity to handle three
times the weight of the anchor and rode. If I were preparing for an
extended cruise to the Caribbean, I would have heavier ground tackle
than I presently have, which is a 35-pound Delta and a 25-pound CQR
as primary bow anchors. I might also go to all-chain rode instead of
a mixed rode of chain and three-strand nylon.

What size?

50-amp circuit breaker for starting and stopping the engine

For easy access from the cockpit, the 50-amp circuit breaker and up/down toggle switch is mounted inside the companionway, adjacent to the controls for starting and stopping the engine.

So should I buy
a windlass to fit the ground tackle we have now and our present cruising
plans? Or should I get one that would be adequate for any future far-flung
dreams? Three times the weight of an anchor and rode for offshore cruising
would be in the 1,000-pound range. Some 300 feet of 1/4-inch high-test
chain at 0.74 pounds per foot weighs 222 pounds. Add 45 pounds for a
bigger anchor, and the result is 267 pounds. Three times that is 801
pounds. (We’ve seen windlasses in catalogs with a maximum load rating
of 3,500 pounds. Make sure your deck is strong enough to handle the
load of your windlass, or reinforce it. -Ed.)

While I was trying
to reach a sensible decision, a flyer came from a discount marine store.
It featured a new Simpson-Lawrence horizontal windlass, the Horizon
600. It’s a larger version of their popular Horizon 500. It features
a much larger permanent magnet motor of 550 watts compared with 150
watts, and an increased pull of 625 pounds vs. 500 pounds. It came with
a 50-amp breaker and an up-and-down toggle switch. All this at a price
that was $120 cheaper than the Horizon 500. This caused me to re-evaluate
my windlass needs.

The lifting capacity
of the Horizon 600 is only 625 pounds. Using my existing anchors (which
are more than adequate for our boat even in storm conditions) and if
I went to 250 feet of 1/4-inch high-test chain, I would have a total
weight of 220 pounds. Three times that is 660 pounds – close to the
capacity of the Horizon 600. As I intended to use a mixed rode, the
total load would actually be much less. These factors, along with the
reality of the checkbook, made the Horizon 600 the final choice. Not
the perfect choice but the best one for us, all things considered.

Small footprint

When the windlass
arrived I was impressed with its small footprint on the foredeck. I
decided to mount it on a 1 1/2-inch pedestal. This would give a better
angle of lead for the rode to the bow roller. And it would prevent water
on deck from going down into the anchor locker through the chain-pipe
hole. I made this pedestal from two thickness of 3/4-inch exterior-grade
plywood. I cut two pieces of plywood in the desired rectangular shape
and epoxied them together, smooth sides out. I then cut the holes in
the pedestal for the chain-pipe hole and for the wire and mounting studs,
using the template provided with the windlass. Then I gave the pedestal
several coats of epoxy to seal it from moisture. I painted it white
to match the paint on the topsides and made a Sunbrella cover for it
which was attached to the pedestal with snaps.

Using the template
furnished with the windlass, I marked the deck for the holes for the
mounting studs, wires, and the chain pipe. I drilled the holes and then
cut the chain-pipe hole with a hole saw and saber saw. I covered the
holes from below with duct tape. I mixed a small amount of epoxy resin
and filled the holes with it. I liberally painted the edges of the chain-pipe
hole with this mixture. After allowing the mixture time to thoroughly
saturate the edges of the holes, I removed the duct tape and caught
the excess mixture in a disposable cup. This is to ensure that moisture
won’t get into the core of the deck, saturate it, and cause delamination.
I positioned the pedestal and windlass over the holes to make sure everything
lined up correctly with the studs and wires through the holes. I placed
strips of masking tape on the deck around the pedestal.

Final mounting

Then I removed
the pedestal and windlass and applied a bead of non-adhesive caulking
around the perimeter and holes in the areas under them. I mounted the
windlass and pedestal on the deck. Using large backing plates, I attached
locknuts to the studs from below in the anchor locker. Back on deck,
I cleaned the area around the pedestal of excess caulking and removed
the masking tape. The windlass was ready to be wired.

A 50-amp circuit
breaker and an up/down toggle switch was included with the windlass.
The toggle switch would be fine for installation at the helm of a powerboat
where clear observation of the foredeck and windlass is possible. However,
on a sailboat you need to be on the foredeck during anchoring and to
have some means to operate the windlass from there. The most common
method is to have foot switches on the foredeck and a reversing relay
mounted in a dry accessible place aft. After surveying all possibilities,
I mounted the circuit breaker just inside the companionway, adjacent
to the controls for starting and stopping the engine. This would offer
easy access from the cockpit. This location has access from the rear
in a locker that is high and dry and also has room for mounting the
reversing relay. I mounted the foot switches on the foredeck on opposite
sides of, but adjacent to, the windlass. Once again, I coated the holes
with epoxy when mounting the switches.

According to the
instructions, the size of the wire needed depended on the current draw
and the distance from the windlass to the battery. After measuring several
times, I decided that the most direct route for the wiring wound up
being between 40 and 45 feet. As the current flow is from the battery
to the windlass and return, this length must be doubled. For lengths
of 90 feet, the recommend size wire is #4 AWG.

Range of prices

In checking several catalogs for tinned battery cable of this size,
I found a wide variance in prices. West Marine listed the wire at $2.39
per foot. Jamestown Distributors in Jamestown, R.I., (800-423-0030 http://www.jamestowndistributors.com)
had the same wire at $1.03 per foot. They also had the wire in 50-foot
rolls for $43.09. Because I needed 90 feet, and at $1.03 it would cost
$92.70 for 90 feet, I purchased two 50-foot rolls, one of black and
one of red, for a total cost of $86.18. This would give me a margin
of error in my calculations and a savings in price as well. (The Jamestown
wire quoted is SAE wire, while the West Marine wire is AWG. The SAE
wire has less copper and a lower theoretical ampacity for a given length.
This must be considered in any calculations but may be quite acceptable
depending upon actual requrements. -Ed.)

I also purchased some #4 copper terminals to be swaged
on the cable for connecting to the battery and other terminals. I swaged
these with my Nicopress tool and heated them with a propane torch until
rosin-core solder flowed into each terminal. Then I covered each terminal
with a piece of heat-shrink tubing.

I ran and connected the shorter lengths of cable: a
red cable from the positive battery post to the circuit breaker and
then to the reversing relay, and the black negative cable to the engine
block and to the reversing relay. It could have been connected to the
negative post of the engine-starting battery, but that would have required
an additional 6 feet of cable. The run of wire for the foot switches
required a three-conductor cable of 16- to 18-gauge wire, as they only
carry the current of the reversing-relay coils. I then routed the wiring
from the reversing relay to the anchor locker, taking care that the
wires were not damaged and stayed clear of the bilge as they were routed
forward. I was able to bring the wiring from the windlass and foot switches
back from the anchor locker into the V-berth area behind a panel in
the overhead. This enabled the final connections to be made in a relatively
dry area.

Reversed switches

Reversing relay in a locker

The reversing relay is mounted high and dry in a locker near the companionway.

I connected
the heavy battery cables to the windlass wires with copper split-nut
connectors. Then I covered these with electrical tape and then with
friction tape for abrasion protection and a final wrapping with plastic
electrical tape. The foot-switch wires were connected with crimped connectors
and covered with heat-shrink tubing.

When it came time to turn the circuit breaker on and
try the foot switches, I discovered that the switches were reversed.
It was a 50-50 proposition, so I wasn’t surprised. I swapped the switch wires at the reversing-relay coil connections.

I needed to splice my 1/2-inch, three-strand nylon
rode to the 20 feet of 1/4-inch high-test chain I had bought to replace
the 5/16-inch proof chain I had been using. Although the 1/4-inch high-test
chain is smaller and lighter than the proof 5/16-inch, it is much stronger:
it has a working strength of 2,600 pounds, compared with 1,900 pounds.

This splice was not as hard as I had imagined it. Anyone
who has made “eye splices” on docklines or around thimbles will have
no problem completing this splice. About a foot of the three-strand
is unlaid and two strands are fed through the last link of the chain
while the third strand is fed through the same link in the opposite
direction. The strands are back spliced with five tucks and then tapered
for several more tucks. At the end the splice is whipped for a finished
look. The splice runs through the gypsy smoothly and without hesitation.
A customer service representative from Simpson-Lawrence told me that
tests have shown that a splice of this type is as strong as either the
chain or the three strand. However, I intend to check it frequently
for signs of chafe and wear.

How does the windlass work? So far, I have been well
pleased with the project and ease of operation. The anchor goes down
and back up much faster than I had anticipated. I feel that it has been
a very worthwhile addition to the boat. I know my back will appreciate

Ralph and his wife, Jeanette, were late bloomers when it came to sailing.
A 1988 trip to the Gulf Coast exposed them to the concept of year-round
sailing and sowed seeds that initiated early retirement and a move to
Lake Pontchartrain in Louisiana.

New Sail Blues

I’ve got the new sail blues

By Bill Sandifer

Article taken from Good Old Boat magazine: Volume 3, Number 4, July/August 2000.

Happiness is finding a sailmaker who understands

Talk about confused! I’ve never been offered so many contradictory opinions
in answer to one question. All I wanted was a new sail.

The boat I purchased recently came with a brand new mainsail and three headsails
of different shapes. One was about a 150-percent genoa, very long on the
foot with a leech that swept up to the head in a long curve.

Next was an 80-percent working jib that was notable for its high-cut clew.
Last was a really small Yankee of unknown age. All of the headsails were
old and in need of washing and repair. The Yankee was mottled with numerous
rust stains. Its sailmaker has been out of business for more than 20 years,
so the sail was at least that old.

After flying all three sails, it was apparent that not one was really usable
for everyday use. They were either too large or too small. What I needed
was a good, roller furling 125-percent cross-cut genoa. I had come to rely
on the Schaefer 1000 roller furling on my previous boat and wanted the same
level of safety and ease of handling on this new, larger boat. Adding impetus
to the project was my wife’s reaction to the 150 genoa the first time we
flew it: “Get rid of it!

My wife’s a good sailor, but this sail, with its strange shape and long
foot, was more than she wished to deal with. We decided to buy a new roller
furling system and a new 125-percent genoa.

I called sail lofts. They supplied quotes based on their recommendation
for sailcloth and weight. But here is where it gets complex.

Not so plain

Each loft uses a trade name and a weight for the cloth it proposes to use.
We’re not talking about exotic cloth here, just plain Dacron. But it turns
out not to be so plain after all.

All sailcloth in the U.S. is manufactured by one of five companies: Challenge
Sailcloth, Contender Sailcloth, Dimension Sailcloth, Performance Textiles,
and Bainbridge-Aquabatten. All except Performance Textiles and Dimension
Sailcloth originated from a single parent, Howe and Bainbridge Company,
of Boston, which was the biggest original purveyor of sailcloth. People
left Howe and Bainbridge to form their own companies. Dimension has a Dutch
connection and Performance Textiles a Spanish one.

There are other overseas companies making sailcloth, and it varies in quality
and type. To limit my confusion, I stuck to the U.S. suppliers. Given the
fixed dimension of my rig and my preference for a 125-percent genoa, the
dimensions of the sail and its area were determined to be about 300 square
feet, plus or minus 10 percent. After that, nothing was easy.

The sail lofts quoted Dacron cloth weights between 6.30 and 7.62 ounces
with a 6.77 thrown in for good measure. Various cloths were offered: a 4800
Cruise from North, a Sails 5400 NorDac, a Challenge High Modulus, a Challenge
High Aspect, a Marblehead and more. What is the difference and what does
it all mean?

First, the weight of the sailcloth will vary, from lot to lot, as much as
half an ounce, so you might be quoted a 7.3-ounce Challenge High Modulus
and actually get a cloth that weighs 6.8 ounces. Half an ounce is about
as close to the designed weight as the manufacturer can make it. Second,
weight within a range is a relative factor. True, a 5.4-ounce Challenge
High Modulus will be lighter than a 7.3-ounce Challenge High Modulus, but
a 6.77-ounce Marblehead may serve as well or better for a particular sail
than the 7.3 Challenge. It may also set better and feel softer.

More expensive

cloth weight
length in feet
weight in ounces

High Modulus cloth is used for headsails and mains. High Aspect is used
for mains, roller mains, and high aspect jibs. It’s more expensive than
High Modulus but serves better in particular sail designs. Marblehead cloth
is more expensive still, but it serves well for gaff mains and miter-cut
genoas because it has a softer “hand.” To further confuse the issue, there
are laminated cloths made for racing and performance cruising, but we will
not consider them here.

Usually, a cruiser wants a durable, softer sail that will hold its shape
and last a long time. The racer will want a faster sail with a smoother,
harder surface even if it will not be long-lasting. The answer to sail life
lies in material itself and the way the sail is designed and built.

Sailcloth may be woven as balanced or unbalanced. In balanced cloth, the
yarn is close to the same denier (a measure of density or weight) in the
lengthwise (warp) and crosswise (fill) width. The warp yarns run in the
direction that the cloth runs through the loom. Because the yarns are so
long (the length of the roll of cloth), it is more difficult to control
the tension of the warp yarns, so warp strength is lower for a given yarn
size. The fill yarns are shorter (only the width of the loom) thus it is
easier to control their tension. It may seem confusing, but by using fewer
heavier yarns in the warp, which is not generally as highly tensioned, it
is possible to make unbalanced cloth that has more nearly equal strength
properties in both directions.

To increase warp strength it is normal to decrease the count and increase
the size of the warp yarns. This cloth is often used to take greater loads
which radiate up from the clew along the leech, and it is often used for
radial cuts. Cloth with opposite characteristics may be called high-aspect
fabric. High-aspect jibs and mains need this strength. High-aspect cloth
is often selected when the sails are of cross-cut design. The manner in
which the sail is designed dictates the way in which the loads will be distributed
within a sail. Sail lofts now use computers to design sails, but there is
still a bit of art in knowing how to apply the computer results to building
a good sail. The choice of sail cut and appropriate material is part of
this process.

The standard cross-cut sail is the simplest and lowest cost sail to build.
With the proper material selection it is a very satisfactory sail indeed.
The miter-cut sail is really only a valid alternative when the buyer wants
a certain “look” on older boats and replicas. The cut served a purpose once
in the history of sail design and manufacture, but it is no longer an appropriate
choice for best use of modern fabrics. The radial-cut sail is a more difficult
sail to build, and when it is made from modern laminates, it may offer some
performance advantages. It is argued by at least some sailmakers that the
radial cut offers little advantage in cruising sails made from woven Dacron.
Pick your expert, take your choice.

In detail

Miter cut

Miter Cut

Cross cut

Cross Cut

Radial cut

Radial Cut

What, then, does all this mean? It means you can purchase exactly the sail
you need only if you communicate in detail with the sail lofts.

The first important question to answer is what use you wish to make of the
sail. Is it for day-sailing, club racing, coastal cruising, or bluewater
sailing? Approximate recommended sail weights for boat length are shown
on the table as a guide to start a discussion with your sailmaker, but it
is only a guide. The table is useful if you want a lightweight sail, and
the sailmaker suggests a 9-ounce cloth for a 30-foot boat. You will be able
to challenge his choice and maybe consider another sailmaker.

The value of the table is to allow you to talk sensibly to a loft. In my
case, I am now able to say I’m seeking a 7-ounce genoa for bluewater sailing
for my 31-foot boat.

The next question concerns my expectations for the sail. Is it long life,
low price, speed, UV resistance, roller furling, and/or finally, size? Do
I want a 150-percent genoa, a 125-percent genoa, a blade jib, a light air
spinnaker, or drifter? My own requirements are for a long-lived, UV-resistant,
roller furling, 125-percent genoa.

Once I had defined my needs and communicated them to the sail lofts, I asked
them for quotes. It’s up to the sailmaker to make a recommendation to meet
my requirements. The second table shows the wide variety of sails offered
in response to my inquiry.

Price ranges

The prices ranged from $1,190 to $1,800, with an average price of $1,495.
Out of eight lofts quoting, three were near the average price. If I excluded
the highest and lowest price, the average price became $1,598 which left
five lofts to consider (A, B, C, D, and F). I eliminated the lowest-priced
sail based on the experience of a fellow sailor who had used the loft’s
services in the past and was not pleased. I also eliminated the highest-priced
sail based on price. It did not offer anything the others didn’t offer and
was just plain expensive. The loft was full, I guess.

Now here’s the tough part. Of the five, one was quoted through a discount
house and the actual loft building the sail was unknown (A); one sail was
smaller than 125 percent (F); one was a miter-cut sail that I decided I
did not want (D). This left B and C as finalists. Both offered 7.62 High
Aspect cloth, cross cut with a foam luff and Sunbrella UV protection on
the foot and leech. One loft was six hours away, and one was two hours away.
In addition, the nearer loft spent considerable time on the phone discussing
my requirements and explaining their approach to building a sail. A fellow
sailor who does lots of offshore racing also recommended them. I placed
my order with loft B.

loft, foam luff, Sunbrella
discussion from the loft, foam luff, Sunbrella
luff, Sunbrella
cut, foam luff, Sunbrella
cut, foam luff, Sunbrella
7-oz English cloth
luff, Sunbrella

You may ask: “Why didn’t you just go to this loft in the first place?” I
have greater confidence in my choice of sail. I know the price was fair,
and the sailmaker understood my needs and will be available if I have a

No discussion

The discount lofts were only a little cheaper than the selected loft, did
not offer detailed discussions of my sail, and seemed to say, “Here – buy

An interesting note is that another of the unsuccessful lofts, even nearer
to my home port, quoted a lower-grade cloth for a higher price with little
or no discussion. It is a well-known loft, but I got the feeling my order
was “small potatoes” and did not merit much effort.

Mine may not be the large order craved by a large loft, but my sail is very
important to me. The selected loft treated me as if my sail was also very
important to them.

I know I did not select the cheapest, fanciest, or most expensive. I selected
the sail and the loft that best suited my requirements, and this gives me
confidence that the finished sail will provide weeks and months of good
service in the years to come. As I was writing this, I received a call from
the selected sailmaker saying he will be near my marina this weekend and
would like to stop by my boat to check all of my sails and answer any questions.
This was an unsolicited, but welcome, call and reflects the level of service
I expected but had not requested. I believe I’ll have a satisfactory relationship
with this loft for all of my sail needs.

Yes, the time I invested to gather information and quotes on my new sail
was worth it.

Bill Sandifer

Sandifer is a marine surveyor/boatbuilder who’s been living, eating, and sleeping boats since he assisted at Pete Layton’s Boat Shop in the ’50s. He’s worked for Charlie Morgan (Heritage) and Don Arnow (Cigarette). And he’s owned a commercial fiberglass boatbuilding company (Tugboats).

Renaming a boat? How bad could that be?

By John vigor

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

Superstition got you down? John Vigor
offers tips for renaming your boat and keeping it lucky

I once knew a man in Florida who told me he’d owned 24 different yachts and renamed every
single one of them.

“Did it bring you bad luck?” I asked.

“Not that I’m aware of,” he said. “You don’t believe in those old superstitions,
do you?”

Well, yes. Matter of fact, I do. And I’m not alone. Actually, it’s not so much
being superstitious as being v-e-r-y careful. It’s an essential part of good seamanship.

Some years ago, when I wanted to change the name of my newly purchased 31-foot
sloop from Our Way to Freelance, I searched for a formal “denaming ceremony” to
wipe the slate clean in preparation for the renaming. I read all the books, but
I couldn’t find one. What I did learn, though, was that such a ceremony should
consist of five parts: an invocation, an expression of gratitude, a supplication,
a re-dedication and a libation. So I wrote my own short ceremony: Vigor’s inter-denominational denaming ceremony. It worked perfectly.

Freelance carried me and my family many thousands of deep-sea miles
both north and south of the equator, and we enjoyed good luck all the way. I used
the same ceremony after that to change the name of my Santana 22 from Zephyr to
Tagati, a Zulu word that means “magic” or “bewitched.”

I’ll give you the exact wording of Vigor’s denaming ceremony,
but first you must remove all physical traces of the boat’s old name. Take the
old log book ashore, along with any other papers that bear the old name. Check
for offending books and charts with the name inscribed. Be ruthless. Sand away
the old name from the lifebuoys, transom, topsides, dinghy, and oars. Yes, sand
it away. Painting over is not good enough. You’re dealing with gods here, you
understand, not mere dumb mortals. If the old name is carved or etched, try to
remove it or, at the very minimum, fill it with putty and then paint it over.
And don’t place the new name anywhere on the boat before the denaming ceremony
is carried out. That’s just tempting fate.

How you conduct the ceremony depends entirely on you. If you’re the theatrical
type, and enjoy appearing in public in your yachtclub blazer and skipper’s cap,
you can read it with flair on the foredeck before a gathering of distinguished
guests. But if you find this whole business faintly silly and embarrassing, and
only go along with it because you’re scared to death of what might happen if you
don’t, you can skulk down below and mumble it on your own. That’s perfectly OK.
The main thing is that you carry it out. The words must be spoken.

I compromised by sitting in Tagati’s cockpit with the written-out ceremony folded
into a newspaper, so that any passerby would think I was just reading the news
to my wife, sitting opposite. Enough people think I’m nuts already. Even my wife
has doubts. The last part of the ceremony, the libation, must be performed at
the bow, just as it is in a naming ceremony. There are two things to watch out
for here. Don’t use cheap-cheap champagne, and don’t try to keep any for yourself.
Buy a second bottle if you want some. Use a brew that’s reasonably expensive,
based on your ability to pay, and pour the whole lot on the boat. One of the things
the gods of the sea despise most is meanness, so don’t try to do this bit on the

What sort of time period should elapse between this denaming ceremony and a new
naming ceremony? There’s no fixed time. You can do the renaming right after the
denaming, if you want, but I personally would prefer to wait at least 24 hours
to give any lingering demons a chance to clear out.


Now you can pop the cork, shake the bottle and spray the whole of the contents
on the bow. When that’s done, you can quietly go below and enjoy the other bottle
yourself. Incidentally, I had word from a friend that the Florida yachtsman I
mentioned earlier had lost his latest boat, a 22-foot trailer-sailer. Sailed her
into an overhead power line. Fried her. She burned to the waterline. Bad luck?
Not exactly.

He and his crew escaped unhurt. He was just very careless. He renamed her, as
usual, without bothering to perform Vigor’s famous interdenominational denaming
ceremony. And this time, at long last, he got what he deserved.


Vigor’s denaming ceremony

“In the name of all who have sailed aboard this ship in the past, and in
the name of all who may sail aboard her in the future, we invoke the ancient
gods of the wind and the sea to favor us with their blessing today.

“Mighty Neptune, king of all that moves in or on the waves; and mighty Aeolus
(pronounced EE-oh-lus), guardian of the winds and all that blows before

“We offer you our thanks for the protection you have afforded this vessel
in the past. We voice our gratitude that she has always found shelter from
tempest and storm and enjoyed safe passage to port.

“Now, wherefore, we submit this supplication, that the name whereby this
vessel has hitherto been known _____, be struck and removed from your records.

“Further, we ask that when she is again presented for blessing with another
name, she shall be recognized and shall be accorded once again the selfsame
privileges she previously enjoyed.

“In return for which, we rededicate this vessel to your domain in full knowledge
that she shall be subject as always to the immutable laws of the gods of
the wind and the sea.

“In consequence whereof, and in good faith, we seal this pact with a libation
offered according to the hallowed ritual of the sea.”

Christening ceremony

After a boat is denamed, you simply need to rename it using the traditional christening ceremony, preferably with Queen Elizabeth breaking a bottle of champagne on the bow, and saying the words:

“I name this ship ___________, and may she bring fair winds and good fortune to all who sail on her.”

Dan Moyer, Atomic 4 Guru

Don Moyer, Atomic 4 Guru

By Karen Larsen
Photos by Steven Moyer

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

A successful business that just ‘evolved’

Don Moyer didn’t start out to become the Atomic 4 guru, he just loved ‘messing about with engines,’ and an Atomic 4 was the engine he had … the rest, as they say, is history

In 1985 Don Moyer was just another sailor with a “new” good old boat
– a 1971 Seafarer 31 complete with an Atomic 4. His wife, Brenda, laughs at
their naïveté in agreeing to attend a used boat show with the mission, “We’re
not buying anything.” They were restoring a historical townhouse in Harrisburg,
and they both had full-time jobs. It seemed like enough.

So how was a guy like this transformed into the Atomic 4 guru one boat and less than five years later?

Don Moyer

“One thing about him,” Brenda says, “is he’ll delve into anything body and soul until he knows everything there is to know about it.” A man who enjoys knowing why things work and making them work better, Don soon had that Atomic 4 out of the Seafarer. In fact three or four perfectly good Atomic 4s came and went in that boat for the sheer joy of understanding and tinkering with them. “It got to be a humorous thing for people on the pier,” Brenda notes.

During the next four years, Don became the acknowledged guy to ask about Atomic 4 problems within their community of sailors. People asked for advice, and Don offered it. Eventually he began writing down new things he was learning about the engine and distributing this information to those who’d asked, in an effort to keep his previous advice as current as possible. This blossomed into a small newsletter to 65 people who Brenda identifies as “people we met along the way.”

Don’s springboard into regional and national prominence was unplanned. Early on, Dan Spurr, editor of Practical Sailor, gave a positive – and unexpected (given his historic lukewarm feelings for the Atomic 4) nod to Don’s modest efforts. This important blessing made all the difference. Don hopes that at some level Dan has actually rekindled some sort of affection for the Atomic 4. But Don says more than likely the nod was simply an example of Dan’s profound interest in all aspects of the boating fraternity.

Then, Brenda says, she and Don left for a vacation. When they returned after a week, Practical Sailor had profiled Don and established him as the answer guy for the Atomic 4. “We had 75 letters in the mail slot, and the answering machine was full,” Brenda recalls. “We had to take a look at what we’d been doing as a hobby and what we wanted it to become.” They went into business, incorporating as Moyer Marine Inc.

Don didn’t quit his day job however. He continued working at an environmental resources company until his retirement two years ago. While there, he was granted a number of patents which resulted from that need Don has to see how things work and to make them better.

His home-based business grew steadily until his retirement became not so much a retirement as a “job change,” as Brenda characterizes it. “He changed jobs and brought one home. It worked very well,” she says of the challenges of having a couple go into a full-time business together. “I reminded him, ‘You’re coming into my workplace now.’ ” Jokingly, she says she issued him the equivalent of her own “employee handbook” and noted who had seniority around that office. “We learned to give each other space,” she says, adding, “This had become his dream, and I’m here to help him accomplish his dreams.”

Dirty Valves

the beginning, Moyer Marine offered parts, the newsletter (which had gone upscale
over the years and was named the Atomic-4 Caster), technical service and advice
on the phone to newsletter subscribers, engine overhauls and checkups, and workshops.
Slowly the newsletter began melding into chapters of a service manual. And finally,
Don felt he had run out of material for the newsletter itself, so in April the
last newsletter was mailed from Moyer Marine. But fear not because Don and Brenda
have just published his Service and Overhaul Manual. It compiles the newsletter
information in a manual that should be easier to use than the collection of

The business has expanded in other ways over the years. John and Ardis Featherman, longtime friends of the Moyers, handle the sale of new Atomic 4 parts, although Don still sells used parts to people as the parts become available. The business relationship with Featherman Enterprises has freed Don from the computerized aspects of tracking parts inventory and billing.

0ther relationships have developed as well. Don and Brenda have discovered a “metal genie,” Brian Nye, of Nye’s Machine & Design, who fabricates parts for the Atomic 4, such as the water pump extender bolt that Don designed to improve the Atomic 4 owner’s odds of getting at that bolt and removing it in one piece. They have a relationship with Spring Garden Repairs, which repairs blocks and heads for them when the need arises. And Don’s nephew, Terry Kuhn, of Engines by T.K., rebuilds the mechanical fuel pump and helps Don in the rebuilding operation as needed. Don’s son, Stephen, the photographer who illustrated these pages and the cover, helps with the print production of the newsletter and manual.

Don still conducts workshops on the engine, and does rebuilds and engine checkups. He continues to offer technical advice on the phone when he’s home, but he’s not as tied to the phone as he was. These days the Moyers want to go sailing, and they should.

Two years ago they sold the Seafarer and bought a 1980 Catalina 30. Don had a bias against widebody production boats, telling Brenda that boats, such as the Seafarer, were much safer in the event that they ever took multiple rolls some stormy night near a rocky shore … and the rest of the litany. The trouble with the Seafarer was that it was a bit tight for two in the cabin. Brenda says down below they passed each other by sliding sideways. They like to entertain, too, and they felt the space was too tight for that.

Brenda Moyer

Brenda Moyer supports Don’s dreams.

They say friends chuckled at them behind their backs when they returned from that first used boat show beaming with the excitement of prospective boatowners. They told everyone about their “new boat” – about how it had ‘everything on it and wouldn’t need another thing. “Ten years and $10 grand later,” Don says, “we realized we’d done everything we could do to that boat except make it bigger. Then one day Brenda walked down into (and it really is walking down into) a Catalina and asked, “Tell me again why we can’t have one of these?” Before long the Moyers had a Catalina.

The bad news was that the Catalina had a two-cylinder, 11-hp, Universal 5411 diesel inside. The good news was that the boat was being sold for a very low price because the diesel didn’t work anyway and of course Don intended to put an Atomic 4 in it. The bad news is that the engine is working perfectly now. Don discovered that someone had connected the hoses backward, and not even the diesel experts had caught on.

Don says of this engine that it was Universal’s first answer to the aging Atomic 4 fleet. But he mocks the thing: “All my friends have bigger engines in their riding lawn mowers,” he says. That diesel engine (perish the thought!) is going to stay in the Moyer’s boat for awhile, however. Don says, “Whenever I go near it, Brenda throws her body in front of it. She wants curtains, cushions, and so on. So it won’t get an Atomic 4 anytime soon.” As it turns out, that’s just as well. The shaft of the Atomic 4 is at such an angle that repowering with one would cause structural modifications to the boat itself. Even Don doesn’t relish that thought.Besides, he’s just ordered an auto-pitching prop for it, which he notes is “worth 10 percent the retail cost of my boat, but is – by all accounts – a magical device. I’m like a kid at Christmas over this.”

Of course Don deliberated about whether he was being “called.” Perhaps this was a new directive, this time to save the Universal 5411. But Brenda’s common sense prevailed. “I asked him, ‘We’re still working on accomplishing this dream; could we put the next dream on hold for a while?”‘ she says. So expect the Atomic 4 guru to stay in the business for the foreseeable future.

Mildew Wars: a Fight You Can’t Win

By Bob Wood

Article taken from Good Old Boat magazine: Volume 2, Number 3, May/June 1999.

You may not be able to win the war, but you can win
occasional battles. Regardless of the odds, you must fight!
Now’s the
time to meet your opponent.

It’s the ultimate
mismatch: you versus an enemy infinite in numbers, awesome in reproductive
power and blessed with all the time in the world.

In the Mildew Wars, eternal vigilance (and a bottomless bottle of bleach) is
the price of freedom from odors, ineradicable black stains, allergies,
and possibly even disease. You may not win, but the alternative to a ceaseless
delaying action is to be driven from the water.

Behold the enemy

A moldy wall

Up close and personal: a shot of a moldy wall in a home that experienced standing water for more than a month.

Mildew is the common name for several varieties of fungi, tiny organisms
also known as mold. They reproduce by spores, an extremely efficient method
of propagation. Some species can fling their mature spores several feet
as a means of enhancing dispersal. And if they land on a spot not conducive
to growth, the spores can lie dormant for years – even centuries – waiting
for conditions to improve. And they can wait almost anywhere, remaining
viable even when subjected to temperatures approaching absolute zero.

can eat almost anything, anywhere – preferably somewhere warm, dark, and
damp. Like your boat. Mildew grows by sending out long cells that sprout
additional side cells in an endlessly repeating cycle. Under ideal conditions,
a single mildew cell can become a half mile of cells within 24 hours and
up to 200 miles, yes two hundred miles, of densely packed, interlocking
cellular growth in 48 hours. The mildew chains that can propagate in a
warm, moist hanging locker during a couple months of storage are able
to attain lengths approaching the astronomical.

than engulfing and digesting their food like higher life forms, mildew
excrete their digestive enzymes onto the food source (host), turning complex
molecules such as insoluble starches into soluble low-molecular-weight
compounds that can be absorbed directly through the cell walls.

The ravages of war

Aspergillus, common mildew

Aspergillus, a.k.a. common mildew: typically black, brown, gold, or bluegreen, mildew grows on damp surfaces and has a familiar “musty” odor.

When something reproduces like mad and eats almost anything, it’s a serious
enemy, even if it’s microbe-sized. It quickly becomes a visible mass and,
in the case of mildew, a very unattractive one. The splotchy staining
that appears on everything from portlights to leather to Dacron is a sort
of spy plane view of a mildew forest – and of the damage it has done to
the underlying surface, as you discover when you remove the mildew and
part of the discoloration remains.

And then
there’s that musty, unpleasant odor. That’s from the decomposition of
whatever surface the invaders’ digestive enzymes destroyed as they were
turning your boat into fungus food.

are known to cause allergic reactions. However the greatest risk associated
with mildew is the change that occurs to the host as a result of mildew
digestion. As the enzymes convert the host surface to a soluble substance,
the host is eroded and weakened. Fungicides, bleaches, and whiteners may
return the surface to like-new appearance, but the appearance is deceiving.
Even if it’s too slight to see with the naked eye, there is permanent
pitting, which attracts dirt, grime, and new mildew infestations. At worst,
the host may be so weakened that it will fail under high stress. Mildew-damaged
sail stitching that lets go in a gust is one particularly notorious example.

But wait!
Aren’t there mildew treatments, and mildew-resistant products on the market?
Yep. But they only buy you time. The mildew-resistant treatment on fibers
or hard goods loses its effectiveness in proportion to the conditions
it confronts. In ideal growing conditions, its mildew-fighting ability
is used up quickly. There is very little that is mildew-proof in this
world. Ask anyone who has discovered that it has etched the lenses of
his binoculars so badly that they are unusable. It won’t slow down for
most paints or surface treatments and thrives on many. It does prefer
natural plant- and/or animal-derived substances such as cotton, silk,
leather, or wood, but can make do quite nicely on artificial surfaces
like Biminis, sail covers, Formica, plastics, wiring insulation, or fiberglass,
adhesives, lubricants, and sealants. About the only substances mildew
can’t digest are metals.

The battlefield

Stachybotrys, requires high moisture contentAlternaria, common carpet and windowsill mold

Penicillium, common mildew similar to Aspergillus

From top:
Stachybotrys, a mold with an extremely high moisture requirement (a cellulose digester which likes straw, hemp, jute, and sheetrock and looking like a greasy black growth); Alternaria, a common carpet and wet windowsill mold with a high moisture requirement, looks black and fuzzy; Penicillium, another common mildew similar to Aspergillus with a similiar musty odor.

Mildew prefers a sub-tropical climate – high humidity, warm temperatures
(about 85° F is ideal), and still air. The still air helps maintain the
moisture critical to its life processes. But it can adapt to much more
extreme climates on both the high and low sides of the heat and humidity

they can challenge us at any moment in any suitable setting, our fungalfoes are especially likely to attack on three vulnerable fronts:

  • Winter or off-season storage. A sealed-up boat, summer or winter,
    is a sitting duck for a mildew onslaught. Just because it’s 15 degrees
    and a blizzard out doesn’t mean that mildew isn’t on the march in your
    sailbag. Its digestive and life processes generate heat. The bigger the
    colony grows, the more heat it produces. Mildew has been known to generate
    enough heat to produce spontaneous combustion in hay.
  • Closed spaces and lockers. Boat designers enclose every available
    nook and cranny for storage. But every bulkhead, overhead, locker, drawer,
    and bag impedes air circulation, promotes condensation, and encourages
    heat buildup. Mildew doesn’t have to work nearly as hard to heat the few
    cubic inches of unoccupied air in a locker packed with stuff as it would
    several hundred cubic feet of open cabin, nor will its precious moisture
    evaporate as quickly. Not a big problem, perhaps, if your boat is an ultra-light
    racer with nothing much below decks but ribs and hull. But cruising in
    such Spartan surroundings wouldn’t appeal to most of us.
  • The marine environment. Marine means wet, and not just the water
    upon which your good old boat is floating. There’s also condensation where
    the cool insides of the hull meet the warm, moisture-laden air in the
    cabin. Under the sole. Or behind the settee and cabinetry. Marine also
    means dripping packing glands, anti-siphon valves, and (to those of us
    who are truly cursed) an ice locker draining into the bilge. Water, water,
    everywhere . . . and all of it being used against you.

Fighting back

Most traditional remedies rely on sodium hypochlorite (household bleach)
to remove mildew. You can add TSP (tri-sodium phosphate, available at
most hardware stores) to the formula to make it more effective. A good,
strong, all-around solution is four quarts of fresh water, one quart of
bleach, 2/3 cup of TSP, and 1/3 cup of powdered laundry detergent. Do
not use liquid detergents in combination with bleaches and TSP. Scrub
the affected surfaces, using rubber gloves and eye protection. Rinse thoroughly.

Some caveats:

  1. Some fibers may be discolored by this treatment, especially animal
    fibers like leather, silk, and wool.
  2. If you rinse with salt water, finish with a fresh water rinsing. A
    salty surface attracts moisture and fungus ninjas.
  3. Never mix acids, rust removers, or ammonia with bleach while cleaning;
    poisonous fumes will result.
  4. Bleach may weaken some fabrics. If you are unsure about yours, try
    the solution on a small, hidden spot. Most commercial mildew removers
    also use sodium hypochlorite or near relatives. Follow the directions
    and warnings on their containers.

washers work with lightning speed but may force spores deeply into porous
surfaces. I don’t recommend them for removing mildew.


Your best strategy against the fungal foe is prevention, and low,
dry heat may be the single best weapon. High heat is theoretically even
better, since it is deadly to mildew. But it would be a Pyrrhic victory.
You would have to keep your boat interior at 200° F plus to reliably destroy
mildew – a heat level which would do more harm than the mildew. However,
a low-temperature electric heater designed for marine use can do a great
deal toward halting the mildew hordes. In combination with a fan, it safely
reduces the humidity in a boat, even during the warm summer months. Such
heaters are almost required equipment in the misty Pacific Northwest.

Dry is
good. In fact, dry is best. Taking away moisture will stop most mildews
from growing or reproducing. Open every possible airway, big and small,
to enhance circulation. Install fans to keep air moving throughout the
boat. See that lockers and companionway doors have as many louvers as
possible. Bulkheads between staterooms can also be louvered. (How much
privacy do you have on a boat, anyway?)

the head bulkheads can be louvered, with the louvers angled downward toward
the head side to deflect shower water back in. Shutting down after the
weekend or vacation should not mean buttoning your boat air-tight. Use
Dorade vents or solar-powered vent fans, leave a porthole open in the
head, and put louvers in the companionway drop boards.

the sole boards and bilge inspection ports open while you’re away. For
long-term idle periods (seasonal storage, etc.) bring your PFDs, cushions
and bedding home to a nice dry attic. Look into professional sail storage,
where sails are washed and dried, then hung, not folded, in order to avoid

Sunlight’s ultra-violet
radiation can inhibit mildew. Airing gear, hard and soft, that can be
brought topside provides the triple benefits of drying out, imparting
a fresh smell and zapping the mildew with UV.

And while you’re doing that, a few hundred miles of the little monsters will be
growing in some dark recess of your bilge.

No fear mast stepping!

By Ron Chappell

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

No trained elephants? Here’s an alternative

Terrell Chappell Single-handing the mast

In an article in November 2000, I touched upon the use of a quick
and easy way for the lone sailor to raise or lower the mast on the
small cruiser. Ensuing months brought a number of inquiries clamoring
for more details regarding rigging. In truth, ponder as I might, I
could never come up with a suitable mast-raising method on my own.
I have a good friend, Gerry Catha, who is an airline pilot, aircraft
builder, and fellow Com-Pac 23 sailor. He grew tired of my whining
and worked out the following solution. I am grateful to him for redefining
and perfecting the hardware involved and generously passing along the
method to be adapted by his fellow sailors.

The instability of the stand-alone
gin-pole has long made its use fraught with many of the same safety
concerns associated with the use of trained
elephants in mast stepping. The greatest fear factor involved in the
process has always been the tendency of the mast-gin-pole combination
to sway out of control during the lift. I can’t tell you the
number of “wrecks” I have heard of, or been personally
involved in (read, responsible for) over the years, due to a moment’s
inattention, insecure footing, or errant gust of wind at some critical
moment. All
of this becomes a thing of the past with Gerry’s no-nonsense
bridle arrangement.

While systems
may differ slightly as far as materials and fittings go, the basic
tackle remains the same: a six-foot length of 1 1/2-inch
tubing, two 2-inch stainless steel rings, enough low-stretch 3/16-inch
yacht braid for the bridle runs, a few stainless steel eyebolts,
some snaps and, of course, a boom vang to take the place of the elephants.

Eyebolt installed

Eyebolt installed

My own gin-pole has a large eyebolt installed in one end, which can
be attached by a through-bolt (with a nylon spool cover) into a matching
eye at the base of the mast’s leading edge and secured by a
large wingnut. This is the pivoting point for the gin-pole, which,
of course,
supplies the leverage. On the upper end of the gin-pole, two smaller,
opposing eyebolts provide attachment points for bridles, halyard, and
boom vang. Again, I must say that I have already heard of a number
of different variations regarding attachments, hardware, and so on,
as each
individual adapts the idea to his particular boat, budget, and attention

The critical thing to understand about this mast-raising technique
is that in order for the mast and gin-pole lines to stay tight and
the mast and gin-pole centered over the boat, the bridles must have
their pivot points located on an imaginary line running through the
mast pivot
bolt. If the bridle pivot points are located anywhere else, the supporting
lines will be too tight and/or too loose at some points during the

Terre; Chappell attracting help with the mast

Terrel Chappell used to attract sympathetic onlookers to help with mast raising by appearing to struggle with the problem alone. These days she and Ron can raise the stick without help, and they prefer it that way.

There are two
bridles. Each bridle consists of four runs of line, one
end of each terminating in the same stainless steel ring, which forms
the central pivot point of that particular bridle. In operation,
this ring must be centered directly across from the mast step pivot
The longest of the four lines will go to a point as high as you can
reach on the mast (secured to a padeye using a stainless snap). The
longest run attaches to the top of the gin-pole, snapped to an eyebolt.
The two bottom runs, your shorter lines, are attached fore and aft
to stanchion bases, though a toerail will work as well. It is imperative
that the steel ring be centered directly in line with the mast pivot
point when all lines are taut. This is accomplished by the location
lengths of the two bottom lines.

Clip the jib halyard
to the uppermost eye on the gin-pole and bring it to an approximate
90-degree angle
to the mast and tie it off.
Next, secure
one end of the boom vang (cleat end) to a point as far forward
on the deck as possible and the remaining end to the top of the gin-pole
the jib halyard.

At your leisure

With all bridle lines taut and the mechanical advantage of the boom
vang facilitating the lifting, you can slowly raise the spar at your
Since the mast and gin-pole are equally restrained port and starboard,
they will go straight up or down without wandering from side to side.
Using the auto-cleat on the boom vang, you can halt the process any
time shrouds or lines need straightening or become caught up. This
the stress factor tremendously and allows for a calm, orderly evaluation
and fix of the problem.

Ron's mast-stepping process

This photo, printed in the November 2000 issue of Good Old Boat, drew dozens of requests for more information about Ron’s mast-stepping process.

I might note that, due to variations in shroud adjustment and slight
hull distortions, you may find the port and starboard bridle will
be of slightly different dimensions, making it necessary to devise
sort of visual distinction between the two sides. I spray-painted
the ends of the lines on each side, red or green, for instant identification.
Stainless steel snaps on the rigging end of these lines make for
and easy setup. I find that it takes us about 15 minutes to deploy
the entire system and only 10 minutes or so to take it down and put
it away.
Each bridle rolls up into a bundle about the size of a tennis ball
for storage. The bridles go into a locker, and the gin-pole attaches
to the
trailer until next it is needed.

Granted, launch time is extended by a
few minutes, but the safety factor gained is immeasurable, especially
for sailors who must perform
the entire operation by themselves. I have used this method on masts up to 25 feet long and in quite strong side winds with no problem and have
found it to be the most expeditious way to raise or lower a mast should trained elephants not be readily available.

Cool, Quiet, and Trouble Free Exhaust

By Jerry Powlas and Dave Gerr

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

Guidelines for evaluating and installing wet exhausts

The most popular sailboat exhaust system today is a wet exhaust system
which includes a waterlift muffler. This system offers many advantages
and seems deceptively simple. Almost all engines are cooled with seawater,
either directly or though a heat exchanger. The seawater must be discharged
after it has picked up the engine heat, so it is logical to inject it
into the engine exhaust. This cools the engine exhaust so it can be routed
through the boat without too much concern for the parts of the boat that
it passes near and through. Wet exhausts are the best choice for the majority
of sailboats, but they can cause trouble if not properly designed, installed,
and maintained.

At first
glance it looks like all that is required is to plumb the parts in series
in the proper order. That approach, however, will likely cause trouble.

We assume
that naval architects and boatbuilders know how to design and build a
wet exhaust system. We speculate that wet exhaust problems have come mainly
from boats that have been modified during repair or converted from other
types of exhausts by owners or technicians who did not thoroughly understand
wet exhausts. That could easily happen for two reasons. First, not all
boats are configured to allow a system to be installed which complies
with the guidelines; and second, the requirements are more complicated
than they appear.

The following
outline lists common wet exhaust fault modes. The most serious problems
with wet exhausts involve seawater working its way back into the engine,
where it gets into the cylinders and flows past the rings into the crankcase.
This kind of water penetration may require engine rebuilding or replacement.
In extreme cases after flooding the engine, a defective system can even
flood and sink an unattended boat.

Water in engine fault modes (See Figure Four.)

Rigging a siphon

    1. Siphon faults
      1. Water siphons from the cooling water seacock past the raw-water
        pump into the injection elbow when the engine is off. It fills the muffler
        and floods the engine.
      2. Water siphons backward up the exhaust piping, fills the muffler, and
        floods the engine.


  1. Heavy weather faults
    1. Following seas force water back up the exhaust system where it fills
      the muffler and floods the engine. The use of a stern-deployed drogue
      can aggravate this problem. b. The boat heels or pitches enough to make
      the muffler higher than the engine, so water flows from the muffler into
      the engine.
    2. The boat pitches enough to get the raw-water intake out of the water
      frequently and for long enough periods to starve the exhaust system of
      the cooling water it needs causing the plastic and rubber parts to overheat
      and fail.

Other failure modes


  1. The raw-water circuit fails from:
    1. Plugged intake.
    2. Plugged raw-water filter.
    3. Pump impeller failure (most likely of all failure modes).
    4. Plugged water line from pump to injection elbow (pieces of impeller).
    5. Plugged injection elbow (rust, scale, pieces of impeller).

If the raw-water circuit fails, the exhaust system will overheat very quickly. Most of the exhaust parts on most boats will not withstand the overheating caused by a raw-water system failure. The following can occur before the engine overheats enough to get your attention:

  1. Hoses burn out.
  2. Muffler melts, if plastic.
  3. Muffler liner separates, if plastic or rubber-coated steel.
    1. Corrosion can cause failures of:
      1. Injection elbow.
      2. Exhaust hose (it is wire-reinforced).
      3. Waterlift muffler (if steel).


  1. Freeze damage
    1. If the muffler is steel.

Wet exhausts
are not foolproof, but given proper design, installation, and maintenance,
they are a good choice for most sailboats.

Siphoning, velocity pressure, water head

Water Head in a water tower

Siphoning, velocity pressure, and water head (pressure) are three concepts
that are important in understanding wet exhausts.

will occur when you put a small hose overboard, suck on it until it is
full of water, and then bring the inboard end into your boat below the
water level. (See Figure One.) The water will flow up the hose and down
the other side, filling your boat until it sinks. No pumping is required.
Any bilge pump through-hull that is ever below the waterline can cause
siphoning after the bilge pump fills the piping with water. The pump shuts
off, and the flow reverses. This is a fairly common problem. Think in
terms of the heeled waterline, the waterline with full cruising stores,
the waterline when the boat squats under power, or a combination of these

head is a way to describe the pressure in a system. In this term, the
word head equates to height. The pressure at the base of a water tower
is a function of the height of the water in the tower. (See Figure Two.)
Sometimes very low pressures are described in terms of inches of water
column. These pressures can be converted to pounds per square inch, which
is the more familiar unit of measure. The conversion is 27.68 inches of
water column equals one psi.

pressure is a way of expressing the speed of a fluid in terms of the pressure
it causes when it strikes something. This phenomenon is used to make simple
speed-measuring devices that measure the height of a column of water caused
by the velocity of the water flowing past it. (See Figure Three.) Note,
six knots is equal to a velocity pressure of about 19 inches, and in Figure
Three the pressure is measured directly in inches of water column.

Four shows a complete wet exhaust system and is similar to other diagrams
published on this topic. The discussion which follows is absolutely unnecessary
if you have a boat that allows the specified features, including dimensions,
to be followed faithfully.

The important
point is that some good old boats were not designed with this type of
exhaust system in the first place, and either their machinery spaces will
not allow the installation of this type of exhaust per the specifications
of Figure Four, or the persons making repairs or modifications did not
completely understand the requirements. You may want to check your boat
to see how closely your current layout complies with the requirements
of Figure Four.

In studying
your boat and the diagram, note that features are positioned relative
to each other and relative to the waterline. You can find the waterline
in your machinery space by making a siphon like the one shown in Figure
One. Remember you are finding the at-rest waterline by this method. Sailing,
heeling, powering, pitching, and rolling will all change it.

Now let’s
follow the water into the boat and back out again. The water enters by
a through-hull and seacock and flows through a raw-water filter. The through-hull
may include a scoop. If there is a scoop, it will develop some velocity
pressure when the boat is moving. (Six knots produces about 19 inches
of water column pressure.) An allowance may be needed when considering
other aspects of the system design if there is a scoop facing forward.
Some systems are built without the filter, but it is a good investment
because it protects the raw-water pump. The water flows through the raw-water
pump and either through a heat exchanger or two, or through the engine
itself. After leaving the engine, it is discharged into the exhaust.

The injection
point should be 4 inches (minimum) below the exhaust manifold exit point.
(See Dimension H on Figure Four.) This distance is required to keep the
steam and other nasty chemicals created at the injection point from attacking
the exhaust valves. The engine manufacturer knows this and will provide
an arrangement that protects the engine.

The injection
point must also be located relative to the waterline. If it is high enough
above the waterline, a vented loop is not required. The minimum height
varies depending on which authority is consulted. We found minimums from
6 to 16 inches recommended. This may be because a scoop at the through-hull
can raise the water level in the piping, leading to the injection point
when the boat is sailing (engine off). In addition to allowing for velocity
pressure,it is necessary to allow for maximum loading, rolling, and pitching
mo tion.

If the
injection point is closer to or below the waterline than the allowance,
there is the potential for a siphon to form. This siphon is prevented
from forming if the raw-water pump does not leak. There is the risk, however,
that it will leak. Small leaks may occur at the rotor sides or tips, and
the common failure mode for this pump is for the lobes on the impeller
to break off and be carried downstream to do mischief elsewhere in the
system. The lobes don’t all break off at once, so the pump may deliver
enough water to keep the engine cooled, but it will leak when the engine
is not running. Even a fairly small leak can, over time, flood the muffler
and then the engine.

The vented
loop shown in Figure Four breaks this siphon. The top of the arch of the
loop should be at least 6 inches above the waterline. Some authorities
say 12 inches minimum, with 16 inches being better. Remember, if you have
a scoop at the through-hull, it will raise the level of the water in this
part of the system by virtue of its velocity pressure. As mentioned above,
depending on how fast your boat is, you need to allow for this. At the
top of the arch of the vented loop there must be either a siphon break
valve, or an additional tube extended from a tee.

In saltwater
service, the siphon break valve may become clogged with salt crystals
and either become inoperative (not break the siphon) or leak constantly.
The constant leak failure mode can result in spraying seawater around
in the machinery space. This seawater is needed to cool the exhaust. For
these reasons, some authorities recommend dispensing with the siphon break
valve and locating a tee in the line vented higher up, such as in the

if there is a tee, with a tube extending from it to a higher location,
it is necessary for the top of the arch in the vented loop itself to be
positioned 6 to 16 inches above the waterline. If it is not, a siphon
may still form in some circumstances. In other words, extensions from
the tee don’t count against the 6 to 16 inches requirement. The extension
tube from the tee should extend higher than any other point in the system.
This can be a problem in some boats.

we leave this part of the system, we should mention that a cranking engine
is pumping water into the exhaust system. If it cranks a lot and does
not fire, the muffler may fill up with water and eventually flood the
engine. Some authorities recommend closing the cooling water seacock during
prolonged cranking such as when bleeding air out of injectors, the first
start after lay-up, or when troubleshooting a reluctant engine. As soon
as the engine starts, quickly open the seacock again. If the muffler has
a drain, it could be left open instead until the engine fires and then
be quickly closed.

The distance
from the injection point to the muffler inlet is specified by various
authorities as 10 or 12 inches minimum. This is intended to be both a
minimum length and a minimum vertical distance. We think that on some
significant number of good old boats this is the dimension that will be
most difficult to comply with.

On Mystic
(our C&C 30), the machinery space will not allow the muffler to be
much lower than the exhaust outlet because the bottom of the boat slopes
up sharply behind the engine. Worse, the boat was designed for an Atomic
4, which has the exhaust on the port side. The Bukh Pilot 20 diesel that
was fitted later has the exhaust on the starboard side. The original muffler
platform was used, so the muffler is on the opposite side from the exhaust.
Moving the muffler platform would have been complicated because the cockpit
drain and raw-water through-hulls and seacocks occupy the space where
the muffler should go on the starboard side. That may be why the mechanics
who did the conversion to diesel did not put the muffler on the same side
as the exhaust. When our boat heels to starboard, the muffler is elevated
above the engine, providing an opportunity for it to pour water into the

the muffler would be mounted directly behind the engine exhaust so it
is not elevated above the engine as the boat heels. We were told by one
knowledgeable person that Dimension A is also the minimum distance the
exhaust gases must travel to ensure that they are cool enough to enter
a plastic muffler without damaging it. This seems logical. All the cooling
will not occur at the exact point of water entry, and the process of heat
exchange will take some time, and therefore distance, to be completed.

Velocity pressure

we said, the space for an 8 to 12 inch (minimum) vertical drop from the
engine to the muffler is not available on some boats. There are two possible
solutions to this problem: both involve some manner of exhaust riser.
Where a short riser is required, engine manufacturers can provide an exhaust
riser that is a water-jacketed exhaust pipe which lifts up and turns back
down. After the downturn, the jacket water is injected. Contact your engine
manufacturer about this option. If you have room for it, it may be a very
good way to obtain the minimum drop distance.

a larger lift from the manifold is required, it may be necessary to run
a dry unjacketed (very hot) insulated pipe to another location, where
either a conventional exhaust elbow is fitted or a standpipe is used.
See the companion article by Dave Gerr which deals with several special
versions of wet exhausts that can be used to overcome layout problems.
Remember as you contemplate variations on this theme, when the flow reverses,
the drop becomes a rise, and this rise is what protects a flooded muffler
from dumping into the exhaust manifold when water backs up in the hose
leading from the muffler to the exit.

C is the vertical rise from the bottom of the muffler to where the hose
turns back down. This is the lift. We found maximum dimensions for this
lift of 40 to 48 inches, with 20 inches being cited for turbocharged engines.
Some literature seems to suggest that the height of the lift determines
the exhaust back pressure in some simple way so that (for example) a 48-inch
lift would give a 48-inch water column back pressure. It seems logical
that if there were enough water in the muffler to fill the lift pipe,
and if the pressure were slowly increased on the engine side, as perhaps
in a case of cranking and not firing, this reasoning might pertain. Once
the engine is firing, however, it is doubtful that there would ever be
a solid column of water in the lift pipe. With exhaust gas flowing in
the lift, much more complex things are happening. The flow in the lift
is probably a chaotic mixture of gases and liquids. One source said that
engine manufacturers know this and are not too worried about this maximum
lift dimension. In individual cases, it would be best to contact the engine
manufacturer and follow the manufacturer’s guidelines.

the hose from the muffler exit to the top of the lift is vertical, not
slanted. The reason for this is that a vertical pipe achieves the maximum
rise with the least volume. The concern here is that the water in the
lift pipe will fall back into the muffler when the engine shuts down.
This is a critical issue. The muffler volume must be large enough to accept
the water that falls out of the lift pipe. The rule of thumb is that the
muffler should have at least 130 percent of the volume of the lift pipe.
Note here that if the muffler is fairly well filled from water falling
back from the lift pipe, it is much more likely to cause mischief in other
ways. At the upper end of the lift pipe the exhaust hose should slope
down toward the exit through-hull. Note: the intent is that everything
from the top of the lift pipe either drains to the muffler or drains overboard.
At least that is the way the story goes for a system without an exit gooseneck.
Some authorities go so far as to say that there must be no sags in the
sloping pipe from the top of the lift to the exit through-hull. The sags
would allow some water to be trapped, while a straight sloping pipe would
drain overboard.

Figure Four

Alternative gooseneck
The exit through the hull

The alternative
gooseneck shown in Figure Four is a variation sometimes seen where there
is not only a sag, but in fact a large trap. The hose loops down and back
up and down again. The gooseneck provides some added protection from pooping
seas by forcing the water to lift up the gooseneck to get into the system.
We found one reference that suggested a minimum dimension of 16 inches
from the top of the gooseneck to the waterline. One manufacturer makes
a plastic gooseneck that looks like it might take less space than a looped
exhaust hose. Because the price of exhaust hose is fairly high, it might
be less costly as well.

to the top of the rise again (See Dimension D), the minimum dimension
from the top of the lift to the waterline is 12 inches. More is better,
and 18 inches is recommended by some authorities. Dimension D should be
viewed as a minimum vertical dimension. Its purpose is to provide resistance
to water flowing back up the hose to the top of the lift and then falling
into the muffler.

The exit
through-hull should be located above the waterline. Suggestions for this
dimension vary from 3 to 6 inches to the centerline of the exhaust pipe.
(See Dimension F.) The reason it is desirable for the exhaust to exit
above the waterline is so it can’t create a siphon. The reason the outlet
is not located very high, just below deck level for example, is to help
prevent exhaust fumes from coming back into the boat. Because it is fairly
low however, it will be submerged by waves, and the pitching motion of
the hull. The American Boat and Yacht Council (ABYC) recommends that the
outlet be located near the intersection of the hull and transom because
this also helps prevent exhaust fumes from getting back into the boat.

The total
length of the piping from the muffler to the exit is shown as Dimension
L. Very long piping runs increase back pressure. This hose should have
a length of less than 30 times the exhaust line diameter as it enters
the muffler from the engine. For example, for a 1H-inch diameter hose,
the run shouldn’t be over 45 inches total length from the lift outlet
to the throuh-hull. This run is commonly much longer than 48 inches. If
the run has to be longer, you may need to make the hose diameter larger.
(These long runs and larger hoses will also require a larger muffler canister.)
For runs up to 60 times exhaust diameter, increase the hose diameter by
20 percent. Still longer runs are possible, but you must increase diameter
still more and check with the engine manufacturer about the maximum acceptable
back pressure. As with any exhaust, you should use as few bends as possible
with the largest radii possible; tight bends also increase back pressure.

If, when
inspecting your system, you find that your hoses are too long and should
be larger in diameter according to the rules of thumb just mentioned,
it would be a good idea to get an opinion on your specific system from
your engine manufacturer. You may even want to check back pressure in
actual operation before buying all that new larger diameter hose.

J on Figure Four is a valve which is intended to be closed when sailing
in rough seas. It should be able to withstand the temperatures involved
(200 degrees Fahrenheit minimum) and should be located where it can easily
be reached in rough weather. For this reason, it is unlikely to be located
at the through-hull and should not be thought of as a seacock. While we
understand the intent of this valve, we have the following concerns about
its installation and use:

  1. It is not a passive device that tends to work automatically. The crew
    must close it when conditions warrant and must open it before starting
    the engine.
  2. If the crew tries to start the engine with the valve closed, the best
    thing that could happen is for the engine not to start.

For these
reasons, we consider the valve as an option of last resort to be used
only if the geometry of the boat does not allow a layout that can function
properly without it.

Mysteries and nuances

the engine off:

Imagine the boat being pushed down by the stern so the exit through-hull
is submerged. Or imagine the exit through-hull being slapped by a large
wave. Combinations of these two cases will occur when the boat is pitching
in a large following sea. We speculate that some interesting things will
happen in this situation.

A trapped
air pocket will form in the tube between the muffler and the exit. The
pressure of the pocket will be a function of how fast the waves hit the
stern, and how deeply the stern is pushed down by pitching. In the worst
case, velocity pressure and water column pressure will add together. It
is not unreasonable to assume 10 knots for the wave velocity (it takes
only Force 6 for this) and, thus, 51 inches of water column pressure increase.
If the stern is pushed another 6 inches below the water, the total reverse
pressure would be 57 inches of water column pressure.

Now let’s
return to how full the muffler is when the engine shuts off and the water
in the lift column falls back into it. If the muffler is not very full,
air is pushed into it and out the inlet toward the engine. If seawater
did not manage to push its way to the top of the lift column, the muffler
does not gain any water, and the water in the sloped section from the
top of the lift drains back out, ideally before the next pitch/wave slap.

If the
muffler is nearly full, the pressure in the piping downstream of the muffler
will force water, not air, out the muffler inlet toward the engine. Now
consider Dimension A again. If this dimension is a vertical dimension,
the water must lift against gravity to reach the engine. If it is a sloping
horizontal dimension, the lift is not great, and the engine is more likely
to be flooded. The dimension should be a vertical dimension, but in some
boats that is not possible.

Four shows an alternative in which a gooseneck is located at the end of
the piping before the exit through-hull. One manufacturer cites a minimum
dimension of 16 inches from the top of the gooseneck to the waterline.
With a gooseneck at the exit, the water must lift against gravity to the
top of the gooseneck before it can enter the system to stay. This seems
like a very positive improvement.

Significance of dimensions

  1. 12″ min.
  2. 12″ min., 16″ better
  3. 42″ max., 20″ max.,
  4. 12″ to 18″ min.
  5. 12″ min.
  6. 3″ to 6″ min.
  7. 4″ min.
  8. 16″ min. (optional)
  9. use as last resort
  10. highest point in piping

Dimension A

12-inch minimum vertical, 12-inch minimum total, sloped downward H inch
per foot minimum. (The slope is not likely to be this small if the other
criteria are met.)

vertical dimension from the injection point to the top of the muffler.
(Also) minimum total distance from the injection point to the top of the

When the engine is running, this minimum total distance gives the water
time to mix with the exhaust gases and cool them. This minimum is necessary
to protect plastic and fiberglass mufflers from excessive temperatures.

the engine is not running, this minimum vertical distance helps retard
the flow of seawater from the muffler to the engine where it will damage
the engine.

If the
minimums cannot be achieved, the alternatives are:
1. Use a special exhaust riser supplied by the engine manufacturer to
increase the vertical distance. (Yanmar calls this a “U mixing elbow.”)
2. Run some dry (hot) exhaust piping to some other location where there
is space to get the height needed, and then use a mixing elbow or a stand
pipe. See Dave Gerr’s article on Page 20 for alternative exhaust systems.
3. In the worst case, where there is no space for any of these options,
a water-jacketed or dry exhaust system may be the only alternatives.

Dimension B

12-inch minimum, 16 inches is better. Minimum vertical distance from the
waterline to the bottom of the vented loop.

If the injection point is above the waterline (6 to 16 inches are quoted
figures), you don’t need a vented loop. Remember that a scoop at the through-hull
takes away from this margin, as do heeling, pitching, squatting, and loading.

A siphon
break may be used in the vented loop, or a tee and extension may be used
with no valve. Siphon valves may become salt-encrusted and leak. Tees
and extensions should vent to a point higher than any other part of the
exhaust system.

Dimension C

42 inches maximum.
20 inches maximum with turbocharger.
Maximum vertical distance from the bottom of the muffler to the top of
the lift.

When the engine stops, the top of the lift divides the water in the system.
The water in the lift flows into the muffler, (which must be able to hold
it all) and the water in the down-stream piping flows to the through-hull.
Excessive lift
is thought by some authorities to cause excessive back pressure. Other
opinions minimize the significance of this.

Dimension D

12 to 18 inches minimum (depending on which authority is consulted).
Minimum vertical distance from the top of the lift to the waterline.

When the engine is off, and water is being forced backward into the system
through the through-hull from following seas, or the through-hull is forced
under water from the motion of the boat, or some combination of these,
this lift helps to keep water from getting over the top of the lift and
draining into the muffler. Sometimes this protection is enhanced by using
a gooseneck as shown with Dimension I.

Dimension E

12 inches minimum (this dimension is redundant if Dimension D is complied
Minimum vertical distance from the top of the lift to the through-hull
(similar to Dimension D).

Significance: When the engine is off, and water is being forced backward into the system
through the through-hull from following seas, or because the through-hull
is forced underwater from the motion of the boat, or some combination
of these, this lift helps to keep water from getting over the top of the
lift and draining into the muffler. Sometimes this protection is enhanced
by using a gooseneck as shown with Dimension I.

Dimension F

3 to 6 inches minimum (depending on which authority is consulted).
Minimum vertical distance from the waterline to the through-hull.

When the engine is off, it is desirable to have the exhaust exit point
above the waterline so that it cannot start a siphon. Safety margins are
eroded by heeling and loading.

the vessel pitches, the through-hull can be submerged, and pressure formed
in the piping that will try to force air (or water) backward out of the
muffler and into the engine.

successful layouts have been built that have the exhaust outlet lower.
Powerboats sometimes have it below the water.

Dimension H

Minimum distance from the exhaust manifold to the injection point.
4 inches minimum

Highly corrosive chemical combinations form at the injection point.
The intent of this dimension is to keep these from reaching the engine
exhaust valves and guides. In most cases, the engine designers will take
care of this parameter.

If the
dimension is too long, it may be necessary to insulate the part of the
exhaust that is dry (and hot).

Dimension I

Minimum lift in (optional) gooseneck.
16 inches minimum

Significance: Where this last gooseneck is used, it provides added protection against
water flowing backward into the piping and reaching the muffler. It is
interesting to note that not all authorities recommend this feature. We
think it is a good idea.

Dimension L

Maximum length from muffler to exit.
30 times manifold outlet diameter. An alternative is to increase hose

Significance: It may be necessary to increase the diameter of the piping to reduce resistance.
See the North Sea Exhaust description in Dave Gerr’s article.

the forgoing, you can see that the issues associated with wet exhausts
and waterlift mufflers are not simple, and it is possible for a boat to
be configured so that a “conventional” installation is not possible.
We would expect this to be more common in the case of good old boats that
were not designed for a wet exhaust in the first place. We would also
expect this to be more of a problem for fin-keel designs without a lot
of depth from the engine compartment to the transom. In a companion article
in this issue, Dave Gerr explains some of the other methods for dealing
with wet exhausts that cannot be laid out according to the recommendations
we have presented here.

A quick disclaimer

We have tried to present the most detailed information possible on this
topic. The application of a wet exhaust and waterlift muffler can be complex.
As we have said, not every boat has the space available for the “standard”
layout. Some boats don’t even have spaces that are suited to the alternative
layouts. It is important to contact your engine manufacturer and the manufacturer
of your exhaust components for specific parameters and to resolve any
questions or doubts with these sources. One muffler manufacturer said
they regularly provide this information to their customers, and it is
likely that the other manufacturers will as well. We have presented this
information believing that if you know the intent of each characteristic
and parameter in the system, you will be better prepared to evaluate variations
that may be needed to accomplish the same intent.

In the
end, as in so many things on your boat, the responsibility for the safety
and good functioning of your exhaust system is yours.

Lazy-jacks: Mainsail Tamers

By Guy Stevens

Article taken from Good Old Boat magazine: Volume 4, Number 4, July/August 2001.

Take the pain out of the main, make your own lazy-jacks

Lazy-jack lines diagram

The easiest way for the shorthanded
sailor to control the mainsail when reefing or stowing is a set of
well-fitted lazy-jacks. Lazy-jacks
are made from a set of fixed or movable lines led from the upper section
of the mast to the boom, with lines on each side. They guide the
onto the top of the boom when reefing or dousing it and keep it there
to be tied up at the crew’s leisure.

When properly installed, a lazy-jack system adds to safety and sail
control. Lazy-jacks function well with sails with no battens, half battens,
or full battens. When installed and used correctly, they prevent chafe
and tearing. A well-thought-out installation makes the lazy-jacks convenient
to use, puts them out of the way when stowed, and does not require expensive
alterations of sails or sail covers.

There are several varieties of lazy-jacks. The fixed systems permanently
attach to the mast and are not stowed. These require altering the sail
cover, may chafe the sail while sailing, and sail battens may catch in
the lazy-jacks, making hoisting difficult. The better systems allow the
lazy-jacks to be stowed and are deployed only when the sail is being
doused or reefed.

Off-the-shelf and custom-built lazy-jack systems are available. Sail-loft
versions start at $200; mid-range systems cost about $400; and high-end
systems can cost $1,500 or so if professionally installed. A scratch-built
system can be fabricated for less than the cheapest off-the-shelf systems,
and has some advantages in the way it fits and functions with your boat.

Not always better

The off-the-shelf systems are not necessarily better designs. Most off-the-shelf
systems use blocks at their segment junction points. When stowed, these
blocks may bang on the mast. Correcting this situation requires the
installation of hooks on the mast or boom and sections of shock cord
to pull the support segment away from the mast. The need for blocks
at the segment junctions is questionable, and they are more costly
than thimbles.

Systems that use a line through
the sail can cause sail chafe and require modifications to the sail
and cover. Since the average do-it-yourself
sailor can’t perform these modifications, the work can be expensive.
These lines can also interfere with the shape of the sail when set. Changing
the sail requires re-threading the lines through the sail each time it
is changed or removed, neither a quick nor an easy task.

Some systems use shock cords to support the leg segments of the lazy-jacks.
However, the shock cord provides too much stretch, and the sail may fall
out of the lazy-jacks. Most of these systems use a plastic clip-on fitting
to secure the lazy-jacks to the boom and mast. This plastic deteriorates
in sunlight and often fails within a season or two.

With about an hour more than you would invest in the installation of
an off-the-shelf lazy-jack system, you can make your own custom set,
tailored to your boat. By buying the individual components, you can create
a custom system for less than $175 (see parts list).

Four choices

he line you select should match your splicing abilities and rig construction.
There are four types to choose from: three-strand nylon; three-strand
Dacron, standard double yacht braid, and more exotic fibers, such as
Sta-Set X or Spectra line. Lazy-jacks made of three-strand nylon for
the average boat can be assembled for about $91. The same lazy-jacks
in Sta-Set would cost about $160. Don’t let cost be the only
deciding factor; each line has advantages and disadvantages.

Three-strand nylon is simple
to splice, requiring no tools and little knowledge. It’s inexpensive and available from most chandlers
for 13 cents a foot or less for 1/4-inch diameter. However it is stretchy,
so it is not as well-suited for high-aspect-ratio rigs where the stretch
could allow the sail to fall off of the top of the boom. It’s
susceptible to chafing where it contacts other lines, and it may cause
twisting when deploying the lazy-jacks, necessitating the untwisting
of the support lines.

While this is the cheapest
line, with the most disadvantages, it served well on my 39-foot racer/
cruiser for more than five years, until recent
replacement with double yacht braid. I’ve constructed a number
of lazy-jack systems using three-strand nylon for people who wanted to
spend as little as possible on the initial trial of the lazy-jack system.
Each system I created with three-strand nylon has occasionally required
some intervention to untwist the support lines. Using this line, you
could first build a three-legged system, expand to a four-legged system,
or experiment with other aspects. As it is the least expensive material,
making radical changes in lazy-jack rigging rarely involves more than
a $30 expense.

Less stretch

Three-strand Dacron is as easy to work with as three-strand nylon. It
is less expensive than yacht braid or exotic fibers and has significantly
less stretch than nylon: 4.2 percent compared to 16 percent when loaded
to 15 percent of breaking strength. This makes lazy-jack deployment
and tensioning easier. It has less tendency to twist than nylon, lasts
longer, and is significantly less prone to chafe. It is also 10 to
20 percent stronger than the same-sized nylon. It looks great on traditionally
rigged vessels on which the rest of the rigging is three-strand and
costs about 18 cents a foot. A system constructed with three-strand
Dacron for an average boat costs about $106.

Double yacht braid line has
still less stretch than three-strand Dacron – only
2.4 percent. It is less prone to chafe than either of the three-strand
lines and looks a lot more at home on a boat with braided running rigging.
It is more difficult to splice than three-strand line, and splicing requires
the use of a fid and pusher like those produced by Samson or the Splicing
Wand from Brion Toss. Both come with excellent directions. Double yacht
braid eliminates twist. It costs about 36 cents a foot. A system would
cost about $160 for an average boat.

The exotic lines are more
expensive, and there is no need to make your lazy-jack system out of
these because lazy-jacks are not normally subject
to the kinds of loads these lines are meant to handle. They do rate a
single mention. Should your boat have an extremely high-aspect-ratio
mainsail, you might wish to make the support segments out of Sta-Set
X. This line is harder to splice but has the advantage of the least stretch
for the money, at 1.6 percent stretch and about 59 cents per foot. This
would reduce any tendency of the high-aspect-ratio sail to stretch out
the lazy-jacks and fall off the top of the boom. An alternative to splicing
might be a good seizing job; it’s almost as strong and a whole
lot easier.

Chafe on the mast cause noise and wear

Chafe on the mast is an issue because of noise and wear.

Excessive chafe

With the exception of a turning block for the support segment, blocks
are not well suited to use in lazy-jacks; they cause excessive chafe
on the sail and bang on any surface they contact. They also add unnecessary
expense to the installation. They’re prone to jamming when deploying
the lazy-jacks and to sunlight damage to their sheaves. Blocks are
meant to make adjusting a line under load easier, but in deploying
your lazy-jacks there shouldn’t be any load. The weight of the
sail is placed on the lazy-jacks after they have been deployed and

There are three types of thimbles available. These are used for the
inserts that go into the eye splices to reduce the chafe and friction
where the segments of the lazy-jacks meet.

Galvanized steel thimbles
are really cheap, but they rust quickly and make a mess of the sails,
mast, and anything else they contact. Nylon
thimbles are cheaper than stainless steel, are a nice white color, and
won’t remove the surface coating of the mast should they come
into contact with it. However, they do chafe more easily and are subject
to degradation in sunlight, often being the first part of a lazy-jack
system to fail. Stainless-steel thimbles last longer than nylon thimbles
and have the least friction. If allowed to bang on the mast, they make
a racket and remove the surface coating. I use them only when I’m
certain they’re not going to contact the mast. They will outlast
the rest of the lazy-jack system and probably even the boat itself.

Stainless wire

Most off-the-shelf systems use vinyl-coated stainless wire for support
segments. The wires are mounted to pad-eyes on the mast. Since both
ends of the support segment are next to the mast when the unit is stowed,
the segment bangs against the mast in rolly or windy conditions. A
fixed-support segment requires lazy-jacks to be adjusted, stowed, and
deployed from a spot on the boom. The disadvantage is that you have
to adjust them from the center of the boom. If you position the lazy-jack
controls on the mast, it’s much easier to deploy them when the
boom is moving or not centered on the boat.

Mounting control lines on the mast also makes it possible to mount the
support segment blocks 6 to 8 inches out on the spreaders. This prevents
banging on the mast. Mounting the support segment blocks on the spreaders
works best on the upper spreader of double-spreader rigs. If your boat
has a single-spreader rig, or if you are mounting to the lower spreader,
three-strand nylon may stretch too much and let the sail fall off of
the boom. In these cases, the easiest solution is to use a stiffer line.

For free-standing rigs, a general rule for the placement of the support
segment blocks is: the higher the better. About 70 to 75 percent of the
height of the mast off the deck provides a good angle. If the support
segment blocks are too low, the tension is more forward than upward.
In this situation, the sail pushes the lazy-jacks out of the way and
falls off of the boom when it is lowered.

Spreader blocks

The parts list on the previous page is for a 40-foot boat I recently
equipped with lazy-jacks. On this boat I was able to use spreader-mounted
blocks for the support segment. The rig is modern, so we used 1/4-inch
double yacht braid for the installation. Since the support segments
were spreader-mounted, I used stainless-steel thimbles. If we had not
been able to use the spreaders for the support segment blocks, I would
have used two Harken 092 cheek blocks at a cost of about $8.79 each.

The first step in the installation
is cutting the lines for the support segments. If you’re installing
lazy-jacks on a double-spreader rig and are able to use the spreaders
as a mount for the support segment,
measure the height of the second set of spreaders to the deck. Double
this measurement and add 3 feet for splicing room. You will need to cut
two lines this length for the support segments, one for each side of
the mast.

If you are unable to use the spreaders as a mount for the support segments,
you will want to mount the support segment blocks about 70 percent of
the way up the mast. Measure this spot on the mast by using a long tape
and a halyard. Make sure the area is clear of other fittings and there
is sufficient room to mount the cheek blocks.

If you’re mounting
the support segment blocks to the bottom of the spreaders, position
them about 8 inches from the base of the spreaders
at the mast. Double-check the location. If there are spreader lights,
they must be far enough away that the line for the support segments will
not chafe on them. Make sure the drill does not hit the spreader-light

Small dimple

Stainless steel thimbles have low friction Mount support segment Support segment turning blocks

Stainless steel thimbles have low friction and long life. Keep them from chafing by mounting the support segment turning blocks on the spreaders.

Once you are certain there are no obstacles, use a center punch to make
a small dimple as the mark for the first hole. Drill the hole, using
a little light oil on the bit. Then lightly oil the tap and tap the
hole, being careful to start and keep the tap perpendicular to the
bottom of the spreader. With each turn you should turn the tap back
a quarter of a turn. This helps to avoid breaking the tap off in the
hole because it clears the chips from the tap. When the hole is tapped,
spread some Ultra Tef-Gel or anti-seize on the screw, and screw one
end of the eye strap into place just barely tight. Use the other end
hole as a guide. Center punch on this mark, drill, and tap it as before.
But before inserting the screw, slide the block onto the eye strap.
String one of the two support-segment lines thorough the block, one
end on each side of the lower spreader.

If you are mounting the support-segment cheek blocks to the mast, the
procedure is much the same, except you are going to measure up to the
position you determined earlier and mark in the middle of the side of
the mast. Using the cheek block for a pattern, drill and tap each hole.
Exercise caution while drilling in the mast; go slowly so as not to over-drill
and damage wire or lines in the mast. Thread the support-segment lines
through the blocks, keeping one end on each side of the spreaders below
you (if any).

Next, mount the cleats on
the mast. They should be about level with the end of the boom, on the
side of the mast. Make sure they are not
going to interfere with other control lines on the mast. If they do interfere,
moving the cleats up or down several inches might solve the problem.
If the area on the mast is too cluttered, you can mount them about a
foot or so aft on the boom, making sure you lead the support-segment
control lines aft of any spreaders to avoid chafe and noise. I’ve
found that moving the bottom of the cleat slightly toward the bow of
the boat makes cleating the support segments a lot easier than an absolutely
vertical cleat.

Various effects

Boom length, batten length, and the hand of the sail cloth all have an
effect on the perfect number and placement of the leg segments for
the lazy-jacks. I have had excellent performance with three-legged
systems with booms up to 16 feet. Many rigs have mainsails that are
shorter on the foot than the length of the boom. In these cases the
sail’s foot length is the critical measurement. The best way
to determine the number and placement of the legs is trial and error;
every rig is slightly different.

Here are some good starting points for placement, but they are only
starting points; 20 minutes of testing will make sure that the lazy-jacks
are dialed in perfectly for your boat. Measure 25 percent of the length
of the foot of the sail, back from the gooseneck on the boom. Mark this
position on the bottom of the boom. Repeat at 60 and 85 percent of the
length of the foot of the sail, and mark the bottom of the boom for these
points. These will be the starting position for the legs on a three-legged

Both the forward leg segment and the single line that makes up the middle
and aft segments should initially be 2.5 times the length of the boom.
The forward leg segment passes under the boom at the mark closest to
the mast and is hoisted by the eyes spliced in the support segments.
It, in turn, supports the after and center leg sections in a three-legged

The luff of the sail is held
to the mast by the sail slides, so when adjusting the forward leg segment
keep in mind that it should attach
to the boom at about the most forward point where the sail first starts
to fall off of the boom. About 25 percent of the sail’s foot length
aft of the mast is a good starting point. Too far forward, and the leg
provides no support for the center section of the sail; too far aft,
and the top of the sail tends to fall off the boom.

Through thimbles


Parts and price list

feet double yacht braid  $108.00
4 stainless steel thimbles    $6.76
3 eye straps for boom          $8.07
2 cleats for mast                 $2.78
2 eye straps for spreaders   $5.38
2 Harken swivel blocks        $24.18
1 pkg fasteners for eye straps
10 x 24 x 1.5 inch              $3.49
1 pkg fasteners for cleats
10 x 24 x 0.5 inch              $1.79
Anti-seize compound (on hand)
Light machine oil (on hand)
Total expenditure: $160.45

The aft and center leg sections in a three-legged system make a loop.
They are supported by the forward leg segments where they pass through
the thimbles spliced to the ends of the forward segment. The center
leg segment supports the large belly of the sail so that the sail does
not spill off the boom. Slight adjustments of the center segment fore
and aft can have large results.

The aft leg attachment point is generally the first place to start adjusting
the system. If the sail falls out the end of the lazy-jacks, you will
need to move it aft; if the center section needs more support, try moving
it forward to add some support to the center section.

When you are roughing in the system and testing it, attach the middle
of one of these lines to the aftmost mark on the bottom of the boom,
using a constrictor knot or some good tape wrapped a couple of times
around the boom. Lead the ends forward to the center mark on the boom.
Tie them together making a loop out of this line. Secure it to the boom
with a constrictor knot or tape. You can use a loose bowline in place
of all of the thimbles while testing.

On sails that have slides on the foot, it is often possible to use these
slides as mounts for the leg segments of the lazy-jacks. This does, however,
limit the options for placement, and does not function well in all cases.
It also means that you will have to remove the leg segments from the
boom to remove the sail.

Attached to boom

Now you have a roughed in lazy-jack system. The legs should be attached
to the boom well enough that you can hoist and drop the sail into them.
Hoist the sail on a calm day, drop it into the lazy-jacks, and adjust
until the sail stays stacked on top of the boom.

Should you have a boom over 16 feet long and the sail falls out of the
middle no matter what adjustments you make, you may need a four-legged
system. A simple addition to the system you already are working on makes
the transformation an easy one. Instead of the forward leg supporting
the center and aft leg loop, as it does in a three-legged system, it
is going to become a loop just like the one between the two aft segments.
Connecting the two loops are two pieces of line, each about half the
length of the boom, one on each side, that are supported by the support
segment. Good starting positions for the boom attachment points on a
four-legged system are at about 24 percent, 45 percent, 55 percent, and
84 percent of the boom length, measured aft from the gooseneck.

Once you have tested to make sure you have the legs roughly where you
want them, test to see if the system stows cleanly away. To put the system
in the stowed position, ease the support segments and place the aft side
of the segments under the cleats on the mast, then tension the support
segment halyard. At this point you may have to shorten the forward or
aft leg segments to remove any excess line that drapes below the boom.
Do this by simply retying your bowline on one side of the aft or forward
section. The leg sections should lie parallel to the boom when stowed.
Naturally, this may change the way the segments support the sail, so
hoist the sail again and drop it into the lazy-jacks, making sure that
everything still looks correct before splicing the thimbles in the ends
and attaching the eye straps. This is the trial-and-error part.

Anti-seize compound

Mount the eye straps that hold the leg segments, with the holes fore
and aft, using machine screws drilled and tapped into the bottom of
the boom. Remember to put the lines through them before attaching the
second screw. Some riggers use pop rivets for these attachments, however
I have not found them to hold up as well as properly tapped screws
coated with anti-seize compound.

Tie a small knot on each side of the center of the leg segments under
the boom to prevent having to readjust the system periodically. Alternately,
a couple of stitches through the line and around each of the eye straps
looks neater and serves the same function.

Splice thimbles into all of the segments where there are bowlines. Make
sure that you place the line going through the thimble in the thimble
to be spliced before making each of the splices.

Using the system is straightforward: simply ease the support segment
halyards on the mast, remove the leg segments from the cleat bottoms,
and tension the support segment halyards. The lazy-jacks are ready for

Deploying the lazy-jacks allows you to drop the mainsail any time the
wind is on or forward of the beam. I have used them when picking up a
mooring and when sliding into a slip under sail. Simply let the mainsheet
out and drop the sail. Pull the mainsheet back in when the sail falls
into the lazy-jacks and you have quickly de-powered without having to
head into the wind.

If your sail should hang on the track and refuse to allow the sail to
drop easily, check for bent sail slides, and lubricate the track and
slides with a dry Teflon lubricant.

Guy and his wife,
Melissa, are working on a circumnavigation aboard Pneuma, their good
old 1973
Ericson 39. Currently they’re in the

Readers’ comments

What about sail containment systems: lazy-jacks and furlers?

preparation for this issue we asked our readers what their thoughts
and experiences were with sail hoisting, dousing, and reefing systems.
These are some of the remarks we received.

  • Don Launer, of Forked River, N. J., has lazy-jacks on
    the jib, foresail, and mainsail of his Ted Brewer-designed Lazy
    Schooner (what else, right?). All three lazy-jack systems are
    simple two-legged arrangements that do not stow. Don reports
    that all
    work well, but he needs to go head-to-wind to hoist the Marconi
  • Ron Bohannon,
    of Big Bear City, Calif., says his previous boat, a Phil
    Rhodes Chesapeake 32, had a roller-furling
    main. (This
    is the older rolling-boom type of reefing where the sail stows
    around the boom, rather than inside of it.) He says this system
    works fine as long as a main is cut properly and the topping
    lift is adjusted correctly. He adds, “It sure is simpler
    than any other system.”
  • Fred Bauer,
    of Marblehead, Mass., says, “I have a
    classic boat with old-fashioned lazy-jacks, but don’t miss
    the Hood Stow-away system.” He points out that Dodge Morgan
    had the Hood system on American Promise when he sailed around the
    world in her. Fred says, “It’s by far the easiest
    and most precise way to trim sails to the power of the wind I’ve
    ever used.”
  • Patrick
    Matthiesen, of London, England, sent a detailed opinion of
    the Hood Stoboom.
    He thinks it may work
    well with short
    booms but did not work well on the 22-foot-long boom of his Sparkman & Stevens
    CCA 47 yawl. He would not have another one.
  • Gary Heinrich,
    of Chippewa Falls, Wis., said that he has slab reefing on
    his S2 9.2 with “no furling system for the
    main, other than the arms of those available and, in a pinch, the
    deck and lifelines, followed by sail ties.” He has no
    plans to change his S2, but has chartered larger boats with
    lazy-jacks and sailcovers built into the sail. On these boats
    it was necessary
    to go head-to-wind to hoist the sail, and it took more than
    one person to do it.
  • Larry
    Helber, of Rochester, N.Y., said he had installed a Schaefer
    system on his Grampian 28. He
    liked the leather-covered
    blocks and the one-cleat design for storing the lines. He felt
    the hardware supplied was of good quality. He did say, however,
    that the system turned out to be a very poor design and cited
    problems with raising the sail and jamming of the jacks where
    they pass
    under the boom. A friend of his bought the cheapest set of lazy-jacks
    he could find in a catalog, and they worked better. “I would
    do it again (install lazy-jacks), but I would choose the cheaper
    version,” he says.
  • Bruce
    Goldman, of Southfield, Mich., reminds us that almost every
    aspect of
    is some kind of
    compromise. “We
    have an in-mast ProFurl system on our Beneteau Oceanis 300.
    The convenience, ease of sail handling, and ease of setting
    and striking
    the main and genoa more than compensate for the sad sail shape
    (and resulting poor performance). We had some initial trouble
    with the furling line, but a good wash and ample Sailcote solved
  • Jerry
    Powlas and Karen Larson, of Maple Grove, Minn., wondered “how
    complicated does all this have to be?” Our 20-foot Flying
    Scot had a longer boom than our C&C 30. With such a short boom,
    our high-aspect-ratio mainsail couldn’t get in much
    trouble when we dropped it. It was not control that we needed,
    it was
    order. We wanted the main to flake neatly over the boom. Obviously
    a neat
    flake has alternating panels to port and starboard. We made
    a very neat flake in calm conditions and then marked the luff
    the main
    with red and green permanent markers to show which side of
    the boom the sail should fall on at that point on the luff.
    We did
    the same for the roach.Now when we lower, the person at the halyard at the base of the
    mast guides the panels to port and starboard as they fall. The
    roach can be made neat at the same time by another person or later
    by the same person. Once the luff is laid down correctly, the roach
    can be made to follow with minimal effort. The main was soon so
    well-trained that it almost always falls correctly and unaided.
    We think the sail is too small to require extra gear to control
    it. We use the same red-green markings on our heavy 110-percent
    jib to help us get it flaked prior to bagging it. It works so well,
    we will probably mark all our jibs that way.

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