The Tears of Dark Water: Book Review

Review by D. B. Davies

Is The Tears of Dark Water a novel about sailing?

It begins on the water. Daniel Parker and his 18-year-old son, Quentin, are well-weathered Americans long into a circumnavigation aboard their 46-foot sloop, Renaissance. Such an epic endeavour always begs the question…are they sailing to or from? Daniel hit his mid-life crisis and walked away from a lucrative legal practice in Washington after realizing that his obsession with his work was costing him his marriage and his son. Quentin is sailing from a life skewing toward drugs and disillusionment with a man who has been a stranger throughout his childhood. They tiptoe around the cockpit, salon and each other, while ashore a wife and mother fears for their safety and ponders her feelings for a man who deserted her for a law practice. Soon, their conflicts will seem all but meaningless.

As the voyage unfolds, other lives emerge and soar and eventually collide in a page-turning adventure tale that keeps churning relentlessly toward an unexpected conclusion that shatters the entrenched morals and dogmatic beliefs of everyone caught in the aftermath. The book took me places I’ve never been nor imagined existed. It made me question beliefs and perceptions I thought were hard-wired into my soul.

Corbin Addison’s prose is silk and seduction…it flows swiftly and smoothly like gentle waves beneath a gliding hull. His research is exhaustive and revealing. His canvas of Somalia…the land…its people…the past and daunting present is riveting and disturbing. You don’t want to see it but you can’t turn away. His clinical examination of the United States military response to piracy on the high seas exposes a stark contradiction. Addison gives us no cookie-cutter villains or heroes. All of his characters are real people with desires and doubts and emotions and insecurities they can never escape, but must follow to a destiny that is as eminent as the next sun rise.

Every novel is a voyage and the reading takes the reader to places they’ve never been. The Tears of Dark Waters took me to a new understanding of the disparities that exists in our world today, and the tsunami that is coming if we don’t expand our horizons and seek to embrace the cultural differences and basic human needs that drive all our lives—for better or for worse.

Don Davies is a sailor and writer who is a frequent contributor to Good Old Boat. He sails Affinity, his 1974 Grampian 30, around Lake Ontario. After extensively researching the men and sailing schooners of Canada’s Maritime provinces, Don wrote a dramatic screenplay about the famous Bluenose and her skipper, Angus Walters. You can find out more at

The Tears of Dark Water, by Corban Addison (Thomas Nelson, 2015; 480 pages)

Blue Water Women: Book Review

Review by Kyra Crouzat

There’s more to going offshore than buying a boat and outfitting it. It’s also an unbelievably emotional journey. It turns your world inside out. Often, books about going offshore will only broach the nuts and bolts (which are very important). Gina deVere, on the other hand, doesn’t shy away from the human side of the equation.

In Blue Water Women, de Vere shares pragmatic information in bite sizes for aspiring female cruisers. She effectively draws the reader’s attention to important aspects of cruising by touching on a wide range of topics. She offers advice while giving it context through the personal stories of women who have first-hand experience with offshore sailing.

Stories fed my hunger for adventure when I was planning my first offshore voyage. Reading about others’ experiences provided motivation and inspiration. In that sense, the book is successful. Knowing that someone else has experienced a challenge like what she’s facing, and learning how they coped, can be validating to any woman heading out on her own journey. It can also give her tools and perspectives to cope when faced with similar situations.

The book flows well, and there is plenty to hold interest. Though some of the writing didn’t resonate with me. The section that directly addresses the male counterpart of a cruising couple was somewhat problematic. The author primarily addresses women in established relationships, yet out of the blue, she directly lectures men on how to behave and support their partner. While well-intentioned, this appears out of place. It would have been more effective had she tackled this topic by showing helpful ways for a woman to ask her partner for what she needs.

Because if there was one recurring theme in the book—which I wholeheartedly support—it’s that as an offshore sailor, you must take responsibility for your own learning. That’s how you build confidence. Take ownership of your life and you can immerse yourself in a lifestyle that can be at times harsh but also filled with some of the most incredible experiences only this kind of voyaging can offer.

The author’s simple and direct delivery reminds me of conversations I enjoyed over a glass of wine with my female mentors as I prepared to sail offshore. Blue Water Women may not speak to all women, but many will benefit from its nuggets of wisdom.

Kyra Crouzat has lived aboard Nyon, a 60-year-old strip-planked yacht, for over 12 years. She and her husband, Rick, sailed away from Canada in 2011, spending 16 months in Mexico before crossing the Pacific and making landfall in New Zealand. Now based in the Bay of Islands, Kyra manages a Trust that takes young people on voyages aboard a square tops’l schooner.

Blue Water Women, by Gina de Vere (Blue River Press, 2018; 332 pages)

News from the Helm: February 2020


“You knew it was coming…” is the message Good Old Boat contributing editor Allen Penticoff sent me with a link to Maybe we should have, seems to be the era of the drone, from robot vacuum cleaners to unmanned aerial warfare. Apparently, a Bay Area tech company is endeavoring to launch fleets of autonomous sea-going drones such as the one pictured above, onto the oceans of the world to collect empirical data in the service of science, specifically meteorologists and oceanographers. This data could be a boon to our ability to forecast weather with better precision, according to scientists.

We think it’s great, but these aren’t little toys, they’re significant craft. The one pictured above is over 21 feet long and weighs about 1,500 pounds. They sail autonomously for up to a year and can hit 9 knots. Hate to have so many out there that we someday read about a collision that disables or sinks a manned craft. Though, assuming these are transmitting, or could transmit, an AIS signal, probably not a big concern.

Free Subscription for Active Duty

Canadian active duty vessel

Know a US or Canadian active-duty soldier who sails? Who may be deployed and missing sailing? Are you an active-duty US or Canadian soldier who would enjoy a free subscription to Good Old Boat? Whether you know one or are one, contact Brenda to get that subscription started. She’s super nice and can be reached by email:

Nautical Trivia

This one is relatively common knowledge, but it’s not universal, so let’s spread the word…or the letters, specifically the P’s and Q’s. When we tell our kids to mind their P’s and Q’s, we’re telling them to be polite and to behave. But if the etymology is correct, we may as well be asking them to settle their bar bills. Back in the day, sailors were responsible for minding their P’s and Q’s, that is, come payday, to pay for the pints and quarts they’d ordered and consumed on credit at the local pub.

Mail Buoy – February 2020

Another Lesson for Lee?

photo via Sailboat Owners forum.

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

—Dave Sharp, Newport, Rhode Island

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

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

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

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

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

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

Starboard, Larboard, Tribord, Bâbord

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

—David Salter, Bath, Ontario

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

Charts No More?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

—Michael Robertson, Editor


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

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

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

Alfred Poor, 1973 Tartan 34C Jambalaya

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

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

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


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

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

Mark Fontaine, Lady, 1947 40-foot Owens Cutter

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

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

Brian Miller, Oakville, Ontario

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

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

Marilyn Johnson

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

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

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

Terry Thatcher, Adavida, Morgan 382

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

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

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

Ray Ihnot

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

David Hipschman, Fort Myers, Florida

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

Andy Vine, Cortes Island, British Columbia

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

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

Bert Vermeer, Natasha, Sidney British Columbia

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bill Crosby, Tranquility, Tolland, Connecticut

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

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

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

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

Jim Shell

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

John Littlefield

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

Dave, 1978 Bristol 35.5 CB, Guilford, Connecticut

Should keep paper charts.

Bill Cullen

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

Charles Harris

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

Captain Richard Frankhuizen

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

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

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

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

Hooper Brooks

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

Barry Stompe, Iolani

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

Stefan Berlinski, Hamachi, Santana 22

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

Ernest Binz

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

Jeff Ellis

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

Brad Brenner

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

Tom van Aalst

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

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

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

James Eaton, Pendragon, Baltimore, Maryland

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

Jeffrey Boneham, Pegu Club

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

David Graham

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

David W. Cory

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

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

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

Ashley Wesch

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

Gregg Bruff

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

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

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

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

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

Easy Charting

I sail a MacGregor 26D. It does not have a chart table. We don’t even carry much in the way of charts, because using charts in the cockpit takes a lot of room and just when we need to look at details closely…well, it’s hard to do that and steer at the same time.

But I came up with a charting hack. I found that if I use my smartphone to take high-resolution photos of a chart, or even the relevant pages of a chartbook or guide, I can later use these photos to great advantage while underway.

My phone is easy to hold with one hand, and close to where my eyes can best read it. I can zoom in on the photo for a very intimate look at each hazard or detail (such as reading buoy identifications) or zoom out and scroll along a coast line or get an overview of my course. I’ve used this hack for both large-scale and small-scale charts.

In addition, I’ll also use Google Maps on my phone to pin-point our location in satellite view and obtain an aerial perspective of a new harbor we are about to enter—this is great for spotting potential shallow areas. It always makes for safer, easier approaches when I have advance knowledge of what I’m about to encounter.

The phone does not blow around the cockpit. It does not need to be rolled up to put away or flipped through to find the right page. Most phones tolerate getting a little wet. My technique could be used to bring to the cockpit all sorts of resources needed while navigating underway, even if they’re simply redundancies to information stowed below.

Allen Penticoff, a Good Old Boat contributing editor, is a freelance writer, sailor, and longtime aviator. He has trailer-sailed on every Great Lake and on many inland waters and has had keelboat adventures on freshwater and saltwater. He owns an American 14.5, a MacGregor 26D, and a 1955 Beister 42-foot steel cutter that he stores as a “someday project.”

Self Sufficient Sailor: Book Review

Self Sufficient Sailor, by Lin and Larry Pardey (Pardey Books, 2019; 332 pages)

Review by Michael Robertson

There’s no questioning or disputing the sailing (and writing) creds that made Lin and Larry Pardey household names among sailors and dreaming-to-be sailors. Their successes—in both sailing and writing—have been huge and enduring. They’ve earned the respect of all sailors, including the vast majority who do not sail engine-less, who do not sail simply, and who do not go small (and thus, in not a few cases, don’t go). And even the vast majority who don’t follow the Pardey ethos and approach have long nonetheless found relevance in the books they’ve written, on subjects ranging from provisioning to storm tactics.

But over the past few years, Lin has voyaged like she never has before, aboard a larger boat with an engine and many of the electronics and amenities that were never aboard the two cruising boats she and Larry built and sailed so many miles. In short, she’s recently been sailing in the way that most of her readership has for a long time. The revised and expanded edition of Self Sufficient Sailor is the product of her past couple years cruising.

This edition is 40% bigger than the previous edition. The themes of the book—cemented in the first 1982 edition—are unchanged. In fact, the original material is all there, revised and updated, but then enhanced by the addition of new material borne from Lin’s exposure to and perspectives on her recent experiences. In this edition, she offers her take on the advantages and disadvantages of this equipment; some of her thoughts might surprise readers. The sailboat cruising world continues to evolve and Lin is on top of it all.

I had breakfast with Lin in October, at the Annapolis sailboat show. We sat outside eating crepes and the septuagenarian told me about her fountain of youth: young sailors. She engages with them at every opportunity. They challenge her, keep her sharp. She is encouraged by all the young cruisers—sailing the boats they’ve got on the budgets they’ve got—with whom she’s crossed paths on her recent Pacific voyaging. In November, I invited Lin to offer words of wisdom (in writing) to a young couple I know who were traumatized by a near-death (and near boat-loss) experience. They were defeated and I didn’t have much to say to help them gain perspective on the incident or resolution of their feelings. Lin responded with words that were sensible and compassionate and empathetic. Here letter was both instructive and encouraging. It was true and perfect. It was evidence of the value of both her experience and her ability to communicate it.

It’s the same value Lin offers in a big heaping portion in this new edition of Self Sufficient Sailor. Even sailors who have read a previous edition of this book, should read this edition. It’s a chance to be reminded of all that made it an enduring classic, and to discover all that makes it better than ever. This isn’t a half-hearted, publisher-requested update of a title, it’s a revision and expansion of a beloved book by a woman driven to share what she knows will make it better and more worthwhile and more relevant.

Michael Robertson is editor of Good Old Boat magazine.

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

Falling: Book Review

falling book cover and reviewFalling, by Brion Toss (C-Star Press, 2018; 52 pages)

Review by Michael Robertson

Maybe you’ve met people doing what they’re born to do? People who early-on embraced a vocation that was perfectly aligned with their interests and aptitudes? Not only are these folks usually the best in their chosen fields, they’re also happy, and balanced—at peace. I would put my master-electrician brother-in-law in that category. I would put Nigel Calder in that category. I would also put master-sailmaker Carol Hasse of Port Townsend in that category. And I would Carol’s good friend, Port Townsend master-rigger Brion Toss firmly in the club.

I hope Brion Toss isn’t an unfamiliar name; it shouldn’t be. He’s the author of The Complete Rigger’s Apprentice, an authority on all things sailboat rigging that’s been in print (in some edition) for more than 30 years. It’s a beautifully illustrated work that’s also a pleasurable read, not at all dry. What comes through on the pages is Brion’s passion and interest for all things rigging—and that extends to fancy knotwork. In fact, Brion is also the author of Chapman’s Knots for Boaters.

And neither of these books is the subject of this review.

Brion recently wrote and published a slim book called Falling. It’s all about rigging and yet, there’s nothing technical or how-to between the covers. If you were to join Brion at a local pub after work and ask him to share with you his favorite rigging stories—both from his long and formidable career working aloft, and from second-hand retellings—this book would be the transcript of his storytelling. As the title portends, the theme that runs through all the stories is the effect gravity can and does have on bodies and objects hoisted into the air.

But don’t consider that these stories are morbid, quite the opposite. Brion’s dry, wry humor is on full-bore in this volume and it’s a sincere pleasure to read. The 16 stories in this book are short, each a page or two, and will leave you smiling. And you’re sure to learn something too. Don’t know what a needle gun or an Affelbach is? You’ll understand both when you’re done, and you’ll be very glad neither is familiar.

Michael Robertson is editor of Good Old Boat magazine.

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

Mail Buoy – January 2020

The Good and the Best of Good Old Boat: Feedback

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

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


Learning Experience: +9 Likes

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

Mail Buoy: +11 Likes

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

Product Profiles: +2 Dislike, +4 Likes

Refit Boat: +9 Likes

Reflections: +2 Dislike, +4 Like

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

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

Sailing Tales: +1 Dislike, +5 Likes

Sailor Profile: +2 Dislike, +5 Likes

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

Short Voyages: +1 Dislike, +1 Like

Simple Solutions: +6 Likes

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

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

Websightings: +4 Likes

  • I like the odd sites you find.

Excerpted general comments:

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

News from the Helm: January 2020

by Michael Robertson

A Big Mistake

a coast guard boat in the waterWe made it clear last month that we’re offering free Good Old Boat magazine subscriptions to any active-duty servicemember. We failed to make it clear that we were talking about US service members. Regrettably, the photo that we used with this offer has nothing to do with the US armed forces, it’s a photo of a Turkish coast guard vessel, Sahil Guvenlik.

We learned about our error after receiving a flood of free-subscription requests from Turkish soldiers. (Okay, that’s not true. We learned about this thanks to reader Jim Perry, the first to point this out.)

But, it is true that we slapped our forehead so much it hurt and so much that we realized we’d made another error. Accordingly, we’re running this offer announcement again (see below) and we’ve made the necessary changes to the text and we’ve got the photo right this time…

Another Panama Story

a sailboat transits the Panama CanalLast month, I wrote in this space about the steep fee increase for small pleasure boats transiting the Panama Canal. Since then, I’ve learned that the Panama Canal is running out of water.

For those who don’t know, the way the canal works is fascinating. There are no pumps used to move water in and out of locks. Not a one. When it’s time to raise a ship in a lock, a 4- by 4-foot gate opens at the bottom of the lock and water floods the lock from the body of water outside the lock. The same thing happens to lower a ship, only that 4- by 4-foot hole becomes a drain. It’s simply elegant.

Of course, all that water used to raise and lower boats disappears into the oceans. Of course, re-supply comes from rain. It’s only because the area receives an average of 16 inches of rain a month (yeah, not a typo—visit Panama in July or August and you’ll see what 27 inches of rain per month looks like) does the canal have enough water to work this way.

But the climate is changing. And Panama has seen a significant decrease in the amount of rain falling and filling its lakes. In a case of unfortunate timing, Panama recently opened an additional set of locks to accommodate more traffic, thus using more water just as less water has begun to fall.

Free Subscription for Active Duty

Canadian active duty vessel

Know a US or Canadian active-duty soldier who sails? Who may be deployed and missing sailing? Are you an active-duty US or Canadian soldier who would enjoy a free subscription to Good Old Boat? Whether you know one or are one, contact Brenda to get that subscription started. She’s super nice and can be reached by email:

Century Club

Our friends over at Spinsheet magazine (a regional Chesapeake Bay sailing magazine) came up with a great idea: the Century Club. In short, they challenge sailors to log 100 days a year on the water, either sailing or something else involving watercraft (swimming doesn’t count). And if you’re stuck in the yard working on the old gal instead of sailing her, 10 days working in the yard counts as one day on the water. So, join the club! More info here.

Nautical Trivia

Get this: The Old English term for the right side of a boat was starboard. Okay, you knew that. But did you know that the original Old English term for the left side was larboard? It’s pretty clear why one term was changed to sound more different from the other, even before radio communications were a factor.

But did you know that it’s thought the origins of these words have to do with what distinguishes each side of a boat? Steerage on the right loading on the left? And it’s suspected that the term port was an evolved substitute for larboard because it referred to putting that side of the ship against the dock.

Non-destructive, Battery-powered Interior Lighting, 3.0

The galley is a poorly lit area of this sailboat

We’ve got some poorly lit areas aboard (as you can see above), and they’re where we most need bright light: our under-the-bridgedeck galley sink and our chart table. Early on, we’d use a flashlight to clean the dishes or navigate. Reticent to drill holes in the overhead surfaces, I cleverly hot-glued some large washers to these surfaces and stuck magnetic puck-style lights to them. The light was good, but the lights were easily knocked off, usually into the dish water. I tried a bunch of Velcro-based solutions, but these never lasted long. I think I’ve finally come up with a solution I’ll be happy with for a long time.

It seems all the hardware stores are selling cheap, wall switch-style LED light fixtures that emit an astonishing amount of light. They use 4 AAA batteries for power and can be affixed using magnets, Velcro, or two screws into captive slots. I was done with the first two approaches, and I knew that screws would be really stable, but how could I mount it that way without making holes overhead?

Supplies for my lighting project

From a piece of scrap Plexiglas, I cut several plates about the size of the base of wall-switch lights. Then I used a wall-switch light as a template for screw placement and marked the plates before drilling and tapping for the appropriate screws. (By appropriate, I mean screws that are just long enough to penetrate the thickness of the Plexiglas, but then leaving only enough of a gap beneath the screw head to later slide on the fixture so that it’s snug.) Before turning the screws into the plates, I applied some glue inside the holes to increase the holding strength. Next, I wiped down the overhead with acetone, exactly where I wanted to mount a light. In the same spots, I used hot glue to attach the plates to the overhead.

After installing the batteries and sliding the lights into place, all that was left to do was flick the switch.

Jim and Barbara Shell cruise the Texas coast in their 1981 Pearson 365 Ketch, Phantom.





The well-lit galley sink after our lighting project




Twice Hooked

For me, there are few experiences as satisfying as finding a quiet, secluded anchorage where I can enjoy the freedom of a peaceful sunset and lazy morning. You’ll recognize my boat because there’s an over-sized galvanized anchor on the bow, perpetually coated with dried mud from the last night I spent on the hook. This sailor is firmly planted in the cruiser garden, where I till the watery thoroughfares of the Great Lakes.

So it was that I was on a week-long cruising vacation, exploring the northeastern shore of Lake Ontario. Past Presqu’ile Point sits Prince Edward County and miles of beautiful sandy beaches. The area is dotted with quaint towns and wineries, promising a slower pace of life that draws cottagers from far and wide, including friends of ours, whom we decided to pay a visit. 

Because there are no keel-boat marinas near, we decided to anchor off the beach at Pleasant Bay Camp. All that separated us from our friends’ cabin property was a few hundred yards’ tromp over a sand dune.

The day was sunny, bright, and warm. A moderate south-west wind was kicking up 2-foot waves on the white-sanded shore. Because of a very gradual seabed slope, we anchored quite far out. We sunk the Lewmar-made Bruce-style anchor from the bow. As the family packed beach toys and towels in our kayak, I noticed a slight wind shift, causing Nomad, our Luger 26, to drift broadside to the waves. In that moment, my inexperience allowed a dangerous syllogism to form in my mind.

Major premise – Anchors secure boats.

Minor premise – You can’t have too much security.

Conclusion – Two anchors are better than one.

So, before we went ashore to meet our friends, I pulled our secondary anchor (a Fortress), from its cozy slumber in the lazarette, tossed it off the stern, and pulled on the rode to orient Nomad perpendicular to the waves, bow pointing to deeper water. After I cleated the stern anchor rode, we disembarked for some fun with friends.

An hour later, having returned to the boat alone, I stood staring with absolute terror at the foredeck, where the anchor roller was bent and twisted and nearly ripped off the boat. Two of the four bolts that were securing the roller were severed.

One or both anchors had shifted and now both worked to keep Nomad positioned so that she was broadside to the increasing wind and waves. She was being pounded mercilessly, each wave hitting with brutal strength. Then in a moment I realized that the anchor roller is the deck fitting to which the forestay is attached. Nomad was simultaneously at risk of being beached and dismasted!

With the rest of my family watching helplessly from the faraway shore, I spent the most terrifying 30 minutes of my life trying to save Nomad. This meant starting our reluctant Mercury outboard and retrieving both anchors, on a pitching, heeling boat without the benefit of a tiller pilot. At some point, I managed to cast off the kayak so it would wash ashore and could be used by the family to reach me.

With everyone back aboard, we threw a long nylon rope over the spreaders and tied it forward to support the mast. For the next two hours, the mood was somber as we limped back to the marina at Brighton, Ontario, from where our week-long sailing holiday had begun the day before.

The next morning, we tore apart the front of the v-berth and the anchor locker, removed the severely damaged anchor roller, pounded it back into functional shape, and re-attached it to the bow.

Having since completed a few Canadian Power and Sail Squadrons boating courses, I have come to learn my syllogism was entirely faulty. One anchor is nearly always the best solution. Securing a boat at the bow allows the hull to flow freely with the natural forces of wind and wave, minimizing the forces on the ground tackle. In my case, adding the stern hook served initially to orient the boat in a manner which pointed the bow into the seas, but doing so raised the danger that should either anchor drag and reset, the boat could wind up trapped as she was. There are limited cases when anchoring with a bow and stern hook makes sense, but it’s not accurate to surmise that two is always better than one, not even if both are set off the bow. In fact, I might never have reason to deploy more than one anchor for the rest of my sailing career.

Do I regret my own ignorance which led to this near-disaster? No. It was this experience—this mistake—that led me to learn what I’ve learned. I’m a wiser and safer captain today.

Lee Brubacher is the husband of one, father of three, and has been the Director of Worship at West Highland Church, Hamilton, Ontario, since 2001. He is an avid sailor who enjoys refurbishing older boats and then cruising on them.

Sailor of the Month: Lee Brubacher

Sailors participate in The Great Canadian Shoreline CleanupLee Brubacher and 17 other volunteers from the West Highland Baptist Church of Hamilton, Ontario are our Dogwatch Sailors of the Month. In September of this year, these folks partnered with Oceanwise and The Great Canadian Shoreline Cleanup and spent a day picking up garbage from the Hamilton Harbour waterfront. Says Lee, “We were glad to do our part to clean up the water where we all sail, kayak, and canoe.” We’ve included some additional pics below that tell the story.

And we want to remind everyone that happily, this story is not unique. There are regular coastal cleanup efforts nationwide and we salute everyone who pitches in, and we encourage all Good Old Boat readers to be among them.

Have a favorite sailor you’d like to nominate? Get a good picture of them and send it to me; maybe they’ll be chosen. As always, I’m at

Sailors clean up the Canadian waterway

Moonward: An Off-Season Daydream

by Craig Moodie

Close your eyes and climb aboard your little sailboat. Hoist the sail and drop off the mooring and slip across the deepening waters, mainsheet and tiller in hand. Feel the worn cedar planks and sand grains against your bare soles and hear the thrum of sail as it tautens in the breeze and lifts the boat across the water, wavelets clucking against the carving hull. Smell the cool salty broth of sea air and the fishy funk of the sea. Keep heading outward. Settle back against the cockpit coaming and nod to the terns chittering and peering at you as they flick past.

The sun settles toward the far shore. You squint at it, its rays warming your face. Tilt your head skyward and watch the angled shape of the sail and the gaff and the masthead arc and pivot against the heavens. Keep heading out and watch the sun alight on the horizon, then melt away, leaving the scattered puffs of cloud ablaze with electric pink that cools fast to purple and then charcoal. A planet blinks on, and red and green and white navigation lights of vessels appear. The water reflects the last of the sky’s inky blue. Shore lights mingle with the lights on the water. Soon you slip over a darkening sea, the white sail above you offering a pale glow against the growing star population. Reach for the chamois shirt you stow beneath the foredeck. Shrug into it and thank it for its warmth.

Skim onward into wider waters. You know you’ll never turn around now. A hush embraces you. The shore lights diminish, the lights of vessels disperse. Quiet now. You sense the outer shell of you dissolving to leave you open to the wind and the stars and the dark presence of the sea. You have passed through a zone in which you have given your entire being to the world. You open up your soul like a great pair of wings to let the quiet enter you and cleanse you. You become the boat and the sea and the night.

The moon raises its brow above the horizon, unfurling a glittering ribbon across the water. You adjust your course to point moonward, your bow scissoring the shimmer.

The moon whispers words you first think originate from wind or wave, sibilant syllables sweet but nonsensical. You know the words are meant for you. You strain to parse these lunar phrases, these moon murmurs, and soon you find that the nonsense sounds transform into a message as if you have tuned through the static of a shortwave radio to land on a clear signal.

“Steady on, steady on,” you hear the moon intone. Will you allow this beacon of beyond to guide you onward, outward, moonward?

You know you will. You know you’ll never turn around now.

Craig Moodie lives with his wife, Ellen, in Massachusetts. His work includes A Sailor’s Valentine and Other Stories and, under the name John Macfarlane, the middle-grade novel, Stormstruck!, a Kirkus Best Book.

Mail Buoy – December 2019

Dogwatch Kudos

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

–John Churchill, Nurdle, 1979 Bristol 35.5 CB

Dog Phobias?

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

–Wendy Mitman Clarke, Good Old Boat senior editor

Some Advice for Capt. Rob

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

–Homer Shannon, Cinderella, Bristol 29.9

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

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

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

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

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

–Daryl Clark

The Most Unusual Things: Feedback

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

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

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

A sunfish passes by a sailboat

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

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


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

Rick Lamb, Carmel, Indiana

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

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

–John Sims

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

Lee Brubacher, Hamilton, Ontario

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

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

Gord Phillips, Lord’s Cove, New Brunswick

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

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

Mark Stricklin

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

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

–David Takahashi, Chikara-Ni, Alberg 37


News from the Helm: December 2019

by Michael Robertson

Oh, The Cost Of Getting From One Ocean To Another

a sailboat transits the Panama CanalWe last transited the Panama Canal in 1997, aboard our 1980 Newport 27, heading from the Pacific to the Atlantic. It was a rich and exciting experience. And it was frustratingly expensive. This was before the Canal was officially turned over to the Panamanians in 1999. Back then, our boat was boarded and measured to determine how much cargo it could carry. A guy literally came aboard our little Newport with a tape measure and a calculator. He completed lots of paperwork and we ended up with a certificate, our Certificate of Admeasurement. We were charged roughly $350 for this certificate that showed the cost of transiting the Canal with the cargo our boat could theoretically carry, was about $21. Maddening. And the effort to get the admeasurement scheduled, then pay, then obtain the certificate, and to then later show proof of the admeasurement to pay the transit fee to another office and then to pay for the bond (to cover any damage we might cause the Canal) to another office, was a whole-day affair, at minimum. Why didn’t they just have a flat transit fee for small recreational craft?

Well, after the Panamanians took over, that’s what they did, created a flat fee structure for cruising sailboats. And all was good with the world.

Until January 1, 2020.

That’s when the flat fee will skyrocket, to $1,600 for sailboats 65 feet and under.

Still cheaper than sailing around Cape Horn.

Free Subscription for Active Duty

a coast guard boat in the water

Know an active-duty soldier who sails? Who may be deployed and missing sailing? Are you an active-duty soldier who would enjoy a free subscription to Good Old Boat? Whether you know one or are one, contact Brenda to get that subscription started. She’s super nice and can be reached by email:

Nautical Trivia

in non US waters, channel markers are red on port and and green on starboard

Red, right, return. It’s one of the first bits about navigation we learn when we learn to sail. It seems so absolute, doesn’t it? Universal? It’s anything but.

Red and green buoys are used universally to mark the sides of a channel, but sail away from North America and you’re bound to encounter the opposite, as in green buoys where you’d expect red, and vice versa. In fact, only in the Americas, Philippines, Japan, and Korea is red, right, return valid. Everywhere else, red is to port. Or, as a Frenchman explained to me once, “It’s easy to remember: port wine is red.”

Boat Sense: Book Review

BoatSense book reviewBoat Sense: Lessons and yarns from a marine writer’s life afloat, by Doug Logan (Seapoint Books, 2019; 120 pages)

Review by Gregg Bruff

Comfortable. Boat Sense is a comfortable book to read. And enjoyable. And informative. And don’t forget humorous. Boat Sense is likely directed at those who are thinking about buying a boat, or are relatively new owners, but informs old hands as well. Doug writes from decades of experience aboard boats (both power and sail) and marine journalism. I found his book a great combination of wisdom, stories, and what we all depend on now and then, checklists.

There are several themes that run through Boat Sense. His opening chapter of stories exhibits a sense of humility, toward both the other creatures we share the planet with and the landscape (or seascape, as it were) off the bow.

Doug suggests that we may all be better off if we avoid a “clutter of systems and gizmos” that only separate us from our on-the-water experiences and may take the place of basic seamanship and self-reliance. He seems intimately connected to a place when he writes “and when a whiff of spruce in the fog corroborates your plot and helps you connect to all the invisible things around, then dead-reckoning will be even more of a thrill than that gorgeous new chartplotter glowing in your helm station.” With reverence to the basics, he refers to the ship’s compass as, “the center, the One Truth.”

There are sections of the book that help tutor the would-be new boat owner. He encourages these readers to ask the all-important questions of themselves. How much mechanical knowledge do you possess? Do you like to fix things? Can you afford to pay someone else to do the upkeep on your boat? Do you like to go fast and get somewhere quickly, or is poking along and enjoying the trip of value?

Then there are the lists. What boater can live without at least one good ongoing list? Boat Sense provides even the water-worn traveler with interesting and informative lists, on topics such as: Speed, Time, and Distance; Basic Navigation Gear; Galley Gear; Recommended Tools for Different-Sized Boats; Boatyard Chores – Who Does What?; and Checklist for Leaving the Boat.

Near the end, Doug waxes a bit philosophical, considering the why of being on the water. For example: “But there’s something underneath everything else when you’re on a boat doing what you love. It’s an obvious thing, and yet it’s tough to find words for it. In sailing maybe it’s that feeling of traveling by means of your own skill, right along the junction of air and water…and go where you want.”

Doug has been managing editor, technical editor, and executive editor of Sailing World, webmaster for Cruising World, and senior editor for Boat Group websites. He has written hundreds of articles and edited dozens of books about boats, sailing, and the sea.

Gregg Bruff is a retired National Park Service ranger who relocated from Lake Superior to Lake Michigan and the “banana belt.” He and his wife Mimi sail a Columbia 8.3 they call Arcturus. Gregg is a landscape painter, writer, avid reader, and enjoys all things outdoors. When not sailing, he enjoys teaching classes and working with students on the high-ropes challenge course at Clear Lake Education Center, where Mimi is the director.

L. Francis Herreshoff: Book Review

L. Francis Herreshoff: The flowering of genuis, by Roger C. Taylor (Mystic Seaport Museum, 2019; 644 pages)

Review by Rob Mazza

Nowadays, when the name Herreshoff is mentioned, I suspect most people conjure the face of L. Francis Herreshoff, not his more successful father, Nathanael, who won six back-to-back America’s Cup races from 1893 to 1920. This despite the fact that, as even Taylor admits, L. Francis Herreshoff’s design output was not nearly as great as his father’s, numbering 125 individual designs, of which only 70 were actually built. However, of those 70 designs, some, like his 1936 73-foot Ticonderoga, not only became racing legends, but to a very large extent defined the attributes that would come to define classic yacht aesthetics, most notably her clipper bow, low freeboard, and wineglass transom. The definition of what constitutes beauty in yachting developed throughout his long career, culminating in his 1956 design Rozinante, a classic canoe yawl, but with a distinctive Herreshoff interpretation.

This book is Roger Taylor’s long awaited second volume of his biography of L. Francis Herreshoff. Volume 1 covered L. Francis’ youth and troubled relationship with his father, as well as his yacht design tutelage under Starling Burgess and the development of his own successful design career using his father’s Universal Rule to design notable and innovative R-Boats like Yankee and Live Yankee. The latter incorporated his distinctive pointed stern which was also used in his successful M-Boat, Istalena, and on his 1930 America’s Cup contender, the J-Class Whirlwind. Volume 1 ended with the great disappointment and even debacle of the Whirlwind America’s Cup campaign which was to change Herreshoff’s design trajectory dramatically as is so well covered in Volume 2.

Keep in mind that Herreshoff’s design career was hampered substantially by economic conditions well beyond his control, specifically the Great Depression which was immediately followed by World War II. Design commissions were few and far between over that fifteen-year period, and he, like a lot of designers at that time, depended on the interest and generosity of some close friends and patrons such as Waldo Brown and Billy Strawbridge. I must admit that the chapters on Strawbridge were of particular interest to me. Strawbridge had bought Istalena, and in 1935 commissioned Herreshoff to design a Twelve Meter. This was the pointed stern Mitena. Like almost all of Herreshoff’s designs she was strikingly beautiful, but that nod to beauty often did not work in favor of an optimum rating, with the result that while she turned many heads, she did not win many races. It was for that reason she found her way to Lake Ontario in the late 1930s to be sailed by the legendary Aemilius Jarvis, founder of my own Royal Hamilton Yacht Club and first winner of the Canada’s Cup. In 1939, an 80-year-old Jarvis brought Mitena to RHYC to take part the LYRA Regatta. Her photo from that regatta still adorns a wall of the clubhouse.

In the latter half of Herreshoff’s design career it was his connection with Rudder Magazine which popularized his designs and greatly expanded his influence on the sport. It was Rudder’s new editor, Boris Lauer-Leonardi, who in 1942 brought Francis on board the magazine as contributing editor. This was during a low point in Francis’ life with not only the recent death of his father, but also the wartime death of his longtime friend and patron, Waldo Brown, as well as the accumulated doldrums of the years of economic depression and war. Boris introduced the normally recalcitrant Francis to a vast sailing audience to mentor on his views on proper yacht design and the ills of modern yachting. This collaboration with Rudder launched Herreshoff on a writing career that produced all of his most famous works, including the two volumes of Common Sense of Yacht Design, The Compleat Cruiser, An Introduction to Yachting, The Golden Age of Yachting, and his biography of his father, Capt. Nat Herreshoff, the Wizard of Bristol. Most were serialized in The Rudder over his long association with the magazine. During that time he also published designs exclusively for the magazine, with some of them, such as the H-28 and the double-ended Rozinante, going on to spawn hundreds of home and professionally built replicas. The Rozinante design grew out of The Compleat Cruiser. It was during those years writing for The Rudder that L. Francis Herreschoff entered almost every sailing home in North America and around the world. He even had a devoted following in Australia. I should mention that Herreshoff would respond personally to all his correspondence. Although not mentioned in this biography, a very young George Cuthbertson wrote to Herreshoff from Canada for guidance in the 1940s on how to become a yacht designer. George cherished Herreshoff’s thoughtful reply for his entire life, and it had to have been instrumental in influencing his choice of career.

At over 560 pages, Volume 2 is larger than the almost 400 pages of Volume 1, but both are crammed with the history of every boat Herreshoff ever designed, whether built or not. For those that were built and still survive, Tayler follows the history of each to the present day. With such level of detail this is not light reading. It is literally overflowing with information and detail on people and boats and sometimes becomes a little overwhelming. Taylor has done a remarkable amount of research of all Herreshoff’s papers and drawings in the archives of Mystic Seaport and has sailed on a great number of Herreshoff designs and interviewed many owners, past friends, acquaintances, and family. Roger Taylor has intimately examined the life and work of an extremely private man, delving into the personal and business relationship that Herreshoff had with his few close friends, as well as his somewhat strange and ambivalent relationship with women, especially his infatuation with a 16-year-old while he himself was in his early 40s. This relationship was ended by the girl’s parents.

For those interested in the history of yachting and the extraordinary work of a somewhat solitary design genius, this book would be a valuable addition to your library. Just examining the detailed drawings of boats like Landfall, Tioga, Bounty, Mitena, Ticonderoga, Persephone, the H-28, and Rozinante, as well as his many “double paddle” canoe designs, frost bite dinghies, cruising powerboats, club racing one-designs, catamarans, and the many design concepts that never reached fruition, will occupy many hours of enjoyable browsing. This is an engrossing book and a valuable addition to the canon of yacht design.

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

Better to Stay Ahead of the Game

By D. Renée Kelso

The ice from the previous Canadian winter had pushed, moved, and piled up a lot of rocks, wood, sediment, and lord knows what else, in the waterway. Above water, there was no way one could tell. No way one would suspect it would be there. No way I could have known.

BANG! And my Grampian 2-34 came to a jarring halt. She hit hard.

“What the…?” I’d been sailing this same area for 16 years without a grounding. Now, my Grampian stood firm on her keel, rocking slightly.

After some helpful souls towed me off the ragged mound, I turned the boat around and headed back to my slip at the marina. The boat seemed to handle well, but all the way home I worried and wondered about the damage that may have happened underwater.

The next day, I contacted a nearby Marina that services boats. They told me to bring her over. The marina was about an hour away by motor. Wasting no time, I headed out. The skies were sunny and windless. Not so much as a zephyr; so I threw on the iron jib and set sail to have the keel inspected.

At the mouth of the harbor, the engine began heating up. The temperature gauge needle was a hair away from the very top temperature reading. My blood pressure rose with it. I crossed my fingers, lowered the speed, and limped the rest of the way to the service slip.

A group of employees waited at the slip, a Travelift at the ready.

When she first came out of the water, I was relieved. At first glance, the hull and keel looked okay, dripping with weeds and water. But after pulling the loose weeds away, we could see that the keel had indeed been damaged. It looked as though the bottom edge of it had been pried apart. The bottom plate had become detached. There was also a stress crack in the stern part of the keel where it meets the hull. There was the overheating engine.

I left the boat with the yard and stayed in touch. It was an expensive repair and it took a few weeks to finish, but the outcome was instructive.

Before deciding to haul the boat and inspect for damage, I waffled. After the grounding, after being towed off, the boat handled fine and the bilge was dry. Was I being too cautious in hauling to inspect for damage? Why waste precious days during the sailing season? With nothing seeming amiss, couldn’t I wait to haul at season’s end? Ultimately, I decided to play it safe; I’m glad I did.

The yard foreman explained to me that 60 percent of the plate at the base of the keel was detached, ripped off by the impact. If I had left it unattended, it could have snagged something and been torn off completely, or possibly have caused me to become stuck. And the gash at the trailing edge of the keel was allowing water to penetrate the interior of the keel. Had this not been repaired quickly, further damage would have resulted. The yard had epoxied the keel with a 105 resin, coupled with a 205 slow hardener and a 405 filleting blend additive for bonding and strength, and screwed the plate back into place. They then sanded to fair the repairs and leave a smooth sealed surface. Anti-fouling with VC17 was the final step and the job was done! (The engine problem wasn’t an engine problem at all, but a faulty gauge. Whew!)

At the first opportunity, I sailed my boat to her home slip to enjoy the rest of the season. It is widely understood that to keep an older boat in ship shape, an owner can’t ignore the little projects that pop up. I now know too that when in doubt about some aspect of a boat, whether damage- or maintenance-related, it is best to investigate and attend to anything aboard that needs tending, as soon as possible, whether the solution is a DIY fix or requires a professional. Waiting is never prudent. And staying on top of things keeps this sailor’s cursing tongue quiet.

D. Renée Kelso has been sailing on Lake Simcoe for the past 16 years. She’s not a racer, but enjoys her leisurely sails. She owned a Grampian 31 for 12 years and currently sails a Grampian 2-34.

Dogwatch – November 2019

Dogwatch (n): For sailors, either of the 2-hour watch periods between 1600 and 2000; for journalists, the period after going to press when staff stand by in case breaking news warrants a late edition.

The Floating Tool Tray

By Drew Frye

Need to replace a prop? Pull the lower unit on an outboard without pulling the engine? How about install an external strainer without pulling the boat? Working on most anything below the trampoline or bridge deck of a multihull, or near the waterline of a monohull (replacing the screws on a transom-mounted swim step, or the bolts that attach a transom-mounted swim ladder?) you’re going to be in the water and going to need tools.

Kiltie and I

By John Bailey

I get up and check the calendar. It’s late in the season and only a few days remain before the marina’s deadline for hauling out my boat. I check the weather; 7 to 9 out of the east, sunny with temps 57 to 62, a perfect fall sailing day.

We are going sailing—we meaning Kiltie and I. Kiltie’s my boat, named after the Scottish slang word for soldier. Just the thought of getting out on the water primes my spirit.

News from the Helm

We have the good-news story of the Morgan 32 giveaway contest, and the full text of the winning essay; we say goodbye to Olaf Harken…

Read More »

Mail Buoy

We offer diesel advice we hope is helpful and we review the responses we received to our LED-VHF radio interference query…

Read More »

Put it to the Readers

Put it to the Readers

I’ve spent a lot of time on the water, years of cumulative time, in all kinds of places and environments. I’ve seen a lot of cool stuff. Next month, I’ll share what I consider to be the most unusual inanimate object (man-made thing) I’ve seen from a boat, and the most unusual wildlife thing I’ve seen from a boat. But first, I want to hear from you. So, I put it to the readers: what’s the most unusual man-made thing you’ve seen from a boat, and what’s the most unusual wildlife thing you’ve seen from a boat? Note the word “unusual.” Not the coolest thing, but the most unusual thing, the thing others are least likely to also report seeing. And if you have photos, send them too.

As always, I’m at

Book Review: Compass & Sextant: The Journey of Peregrin Took

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

Read More »

Sailor of the Month

Mary Jane Young is our Dogwatch Sailor of the Month. Here she’s at the helm of the boat she grew up sailing aboard, her family’s 38.5-foot Alden Challenger, Christmas. She long ago left the nest to build a life in the big city, but still visits home in Maine to go sailing. Over the years, her father, Tom Young, has documented upgrades to Christmas on the pages of Good Old Boat.

Have a favorite sailor you’d like to nominate? Get a good picture of them and send it to me; maybe they’ll be chosen. As always, I’m at

Poem of the Month: Georgian Bay Poem

By David Takahashi

Weigh the Anchor boys, today’s the day
We’ll sail the sweet waters of Georgian Bay
Red skies in the morning, sailors take warning
We’ll log the most knots while the storm jib’s a soaring
Sweat the main up on the morning sun
Set all sails for a fair day’s run
Quickly our wake clears our moorings
Cause out on the bay the Nor Westers are blowing
Gale warnings are out, it’s just started drizzling
Heel her on over till our wake is a sizzling
She kicks up her heels, all fancy and dandy
For that’s all you’ll see is the wake of Carandy
I tell no tales of doom and gloom, but
The wind she dies in the lee of Giants Tomb
On a hot summer’s night, if you care to listen
You can hear the ancient spirits in the lee of Christian
All hands on deck listen with delight
As I hail from the cockpit, she’ll be Henry’s tonight
Sou’West winds is everyone’s wish
We’ll drop anchor in Snug harbor for a taste of smoked fish
Fog horns a blown, the skies lack luster
What’s that I see, but the lights off the Bustards
Set the Anchor boys, our work is all done
We’ll tap the cask for a flagon of rum

David Takahashi has been sailing his Alberg 37, Chikara-Ni, on Lake Huron’s Georgian Bay for the past 30 years. The places he references in this poem are all familiar harbors, anchorages, and islands in and around Georgian Bay. He encourages readers to find a way to visit at least a few of the 30,000 islands in the Georgian Bay.

Mail Buoy – November 2019

Diesel Auxiliary Trouble

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

–Capt. Rob, Waleska, Georgia

Hi Rob,

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

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

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

Here’s what we know about those scenarios:

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

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

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

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


Dogwatch Kudos

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

–David Salter

LED Light and RFI: Feedback

VHF and electronics panel on a sailboat

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

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


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

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

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

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

It is obvious that not all bulbs are created equal.

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

Andy LaJambe

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

–Jeff and Kimberly Boneham

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

Nica Waters, Good Old Boat

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

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

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

Dante McLean, Sam, Alberg 30

I’m Tom Luque, owner of

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

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

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

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

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

–Tom Luque, owner of, Camas, Washington

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

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

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

–Brent Putnam

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


A Sea Vagabond’s World Book Review

A Sea Vagabond’s World, by Bernard Moitessier (Sheridan House Maritime Classic, 2019; 218 pages)

Review by Brian Fagan

Eric and Susan Hiscock, Peter and Ann Pye, and Bernard Moitessier are immortals of ocean cruising in the days before electronics when sextants and good, old-fashioned DR plotting, and meticulous pilotage carried one over the horizon and along challenging coastlines. Moitessier was one of the last of these unique folk, famous for his lengthy voyages and simplicity aboard. A Sea Vagabond’s World is his last, incomplete book, completed and ably edited by his companion, Véronique Lerebours Pigeonniére. As she says, he was part fish and part monkey, “which was very useful at sea.” He merged with the sea in ways that are unintelligible to many modern-day sailors by philosophically merging himself with the marine environment, just like ancient navigators.

Continue reading

News from the Helm – November 2019

by Michael Robertson

Good Deed, Good Boat, Everyone Happy

A couple of issues ago, we announced that Paul Koepf was giving away Bagheera, his turn-key, well-maintained 1981 Morgan 32 for a single US dollar to the writer who best makes the case why Bagheera should be theirs, in a compelling essay of no more than 1,000 words.

Well, the contest is over. Paul received lots of essays. Paul sold his boat for $1. Paul couldn’t be happier. The new owners couldn’t be happier.

But let’s back up.

This story started when Paul and his wife, Maren, decided to downsize from the Morgan 32 they loved to something smaller, a Com-Pac Horizon. They listed their beautiful Morgan for sale, but then decided to give it away, to a worthy new owner. But how? They contacted Good Old Boat to see whether we had any ideas.

“How about an essay contest?” we offered.

Paul agreed. We said we’d use The Dogwatch to publicize it.

Paul received over 30 essays. He and Maren waited to read them all in the final week of the contest. He said it was overwhelming. Paul said: “I didn’t anticipate how the stories would occupy my mind and stir emotions from decades ago!”

He and Maren chose an essay they received from an adventurous young couple about to get married, Amandine Bouhour and Tom Ben-Eliyahu of Montreal, Canada. Paul wrote, “I have decided the ownership of Bagheera will transfer to a young couple ready to go. To see the places I could have and did not; to navigate new waters and adventures.”

Following is the winning essay/letter, all 985 words:

“We are Tom and Amandine, two 26-year-old dreamers who recently got engaged. We met five years ago, and over the years we’ve realized that the combination of our personalities is one that makes projects happen. We support each other’s ideas and aspirations and work together to turn big dreams into reality.

“Amandine: Originally from the south of France, I learned to sail on the Mediterranean on Optimists, Hobie Cats, and dinghies. My mother loves to sail, so I was also lucky enough to get a taste of cruising on extended family trips. It was on a 15-day sailing vacation that something clicked and at eleven years old, my dream of one day living on a sailboat started. Since then, I have taken every opportunity to sail and I recently completed a coastal navigation course.

“Tom: My love for sailing started young as well, and was passed down from my dad. I learned the basics in Junior Squadron and then continued to race dinghies. While doing this, I also worked at a local boat repair service and eventually became a sailing instructor/race coach for the adapted sailing programs in Montreal and Ottawa (sailing for people with physical/mental disabilities). After five fantastic years working with these programs, I am still happy to volunteer in most of the local adapted sailing events still happening.

“Having both grown up sailing, being on the water is what is most natural to us. We met on the river, whitewater kayaking, and our first date was on Tom’s dad’s San Juan 24. Lying under the stars, in a hammock we had rigged on the deck of the boat, we knew right away that we had something special!

“Since then, we’ve lived many adventures together that have shaped us into who we are today. Four years ago, we decided to follow our passion, retrofit a small van to hold our windsurfing gear and ourselves, and move into it. We drove west to explore the Pacific coast and learned that travelling over long periods of time and moving slowly makes for a much richer experience. It allowed us to get fully immersed in local communities and to create strong connections with extraordinary people. One such person introduced us to the third member of our crew, Bonbon, an adorable mixed-terrier who is as adventure-driven as we are.

“Our companion on these trips, our 1997 Volkswagen van, has faithfully carried us from remote desert roads in Baja, to scenic mountain passes in British Columbia, and back to the windy lakes of Quebec and Ontario. We affectionately named her “The Mistress,” for all the time Tom has spent under the hood fixing various mechanical issues, as well as the long days we spent turning this old work van into a home. We like to keep things simple, to fix what is broken ourselves, and to take care of what we love.

“As we look forward into the future, we want to make sure we combine fulfilling work and our love for exploration. As we both value sharing and giving to others, we’ve decided to pursue careers that enable us to be of service to others wherever we are in the world. We are currently working in Montreal, Amandine as a registered nurse and Tom as a windsurfing/kitesurfing coach. We hope that these careers will enable us to enjoy a nomadic lifestyle in a sustainable and meaningful manner.

“As we prepare for our wedding next summer, we are also plotting our next adventure. We are strong believers in going with the flow and welcoming opportunities; our best experiences so far have been unexpected. How is it that, as we are questioning our next move, evaluating whether we should put our savings into a boat and make it our home, we discover your contest!? We were looking at a Morgan 32, this must be the universe giving us a hint that we are on the right path to the next phase in our lives. Bagheera seems like the perfect vessel to carry us towards our future.

“Seeing your contest makes us want to meet you, and to know more about all the unforgettable trips Bagheera has taken you on. We can see from the immaculate shape in which you have kept her and the lengths that you are going to find her a good home, that she must be more than just a boat to you. We imagine that, as our “Mistress” is to us, your Bagheera must be like an old friend, a travel companion with whom you can reconnect to nature and recharge. It seems to us that you want the best for her, for her to glide freely with full sails from one safe anchorage to the next. For her wood to never go gray and her hull to stay strong and sleek. Above all, for her to invoke as much joy, love, and excitement in the heart of someone else as she has in yours for all these years.

“If we were so fortunate as to have you choose us, we promise to take good care of her and report back with tales of the distant anchorages and people we encounter. We would spend the next year getting to know Bagheera and making her our new home. Once we are sure that we are ready, we would sail her down to the Caribbean, where we would spend the next years living aboard. We would take it slow and find work opportunities in the places the tide takes us. If all goes well, we would maybe even one day take her through the Panama Canal and into the calm Pacific. We understand the drive to make the adventure carry on, to see Bagheera continue to explore, and we hope you will trust us to be the ones who write the next chapters in Bagheera‘s vessel log.”


To Tom and Amandine, Paul wrote, “Go see the world and send me a note now and then. Bagheera has been a good friend and mentor. I wish her well as she protects another loving couple.”

We have no doubt they’ll pursue adventure in Bagheera and update Paul along the way. We have no doubt Bagheera will offer the protection we’d expect.

By the way, looking online, we see that Amandine was modest about her sailing chops. She is a world-class competitive windsurfer.

Bagheera’s in good hands.

Hats off to Paul and Maren. Paul wrote us to say that he and Maren were “SO moved by this experience. Our time with Tom and Amandine aboard Bagheera was like slipping back to when Bagheera was new to Maren and me.”

Across the Bar: Olaf Harken

It was widely reported last month that Harken company co-founder Olaf Harken died. He was 80 years old. He and his brother Peter Harken started the company in 1967; it’s impressive what it’s become over five decades. The most interesting story to come out of Olaf’s obituary is that Olaf (who studied engineering at Georgia Tech) ended up running the business side of Harken and Peter, who was an economist, took over design and manufacturing. Peter said, “Each of us was better at the other guys’ education. We kept it quiet, figuring people wouldn’t want blocks designed by an economist.”

Our hat goes off to Olaf for a job well done. Our hearts go out to his family.

Fortress Anchors Stay in the Family

In other company news, we just got a press release from Fortress we thought was interesting, because it said a lot that we didn’t know. First, that Fortress (the maker of those lightweight Danforth-style anchors that disassemble and get great reviews for holding in specific conditions) was started in only 1986; we thought they’d been around much longer. We also learned that the products are made entirely in the US. Finally, we learned that the company has always been in the Hallerberg family. In fact, Fortress was just bought by Dylan Hallerberg, from his father, D’Milo Hallerberg, who bought the company from his dad, founder Don Hallerberg. That’s all.

Nautical Trivia

Do you or someone you know suffer from ancraophobia? Are you anemophobic? These are two ways of expressing the same psychological disorder. If you like to sail, you can rest easy that you probably don’t suffer this malady. And those who do suffer from this condition are likely not sailors and not reading The Dogwatch (nor Good Old Boat).

Who knew fear of the wind (and even drafts) was a thing? It is. Usually brought about by trauma caused by a negative experience with the wind. Seems to us that a terrifying sailing experience could cause ancraophobia. Good news is that all reports indicate it is very treatable.


Kiltie and I

by John Bailey

I get up and check the calendar. It’s late in the season and only a few days remain before the marina’s deadline for hauling out my boat. I check the weather; 7 to 9 out of the east, sunny with temps 57 to 62, a perfect fall sailing day.

We are going sailing—we meaning Kiltie and I. Kiltie’s my boat, named after the Scottish slang word for soldier. Just the thought of getting out on the water primes my spirit.

At the marina, the owner and I talk about where he might put Kiltie on the hard this winter. I tell him I need a spot where the boat won’t block other boats from going in early next spring, because Kiltie demands a bit more time to get ready in the spring. A 1966 Tartan 27 yawl, she’s got lots of wood trim and paint that needs attention.

Lots of bottom has passed under my boat’s keel these past 53 years. Her first owner sailed her out of the Hudson, up and down the northeast coast. He kept meticulous logs that make great wintertime reading these days. Her second owner refitted and re-powered her and sailed her around the Chesapeake. I’ve sailed her on the Chesapeake, up the coast to the Hudson, through the Erie Canal, and as far west as the Finger Lakes. She and I have been as far north as the Thousand Islands. One time, we secretly sailed over the US-Canadian border.

These days, her home port is Oneida Lake, Central New York, often referred to as the thumb of the Finger Lakes. Oneida Lake is a bit over 25 miles long, 5 miles wide, and, unlike the Fingers, it is relatively shallow and known for its choppy wind waves. It is also connected to the Erie Canal.

I fire up the old diesel, cast off the lines, and weave past many now-empty slips and through the breakwater. Outside the last channel buoys, I assess the wind. It seems to be blowing a bit more than forecast and it’s gusting. I decide not to set the mainsail, raising only the genoa and the mizzen. This sail arrangement is an old fishermen’s scheme and although a bit slower, it makes for a balanced helm that allows the boat to pretty much sail herself in rough seas. In my case, this sail plan will allow me to eat lunch with both hands.

We glide along between about 4 to 5 knots. Looking westward, the water and the sky meet; no land to see. Looking eastward, I see the sands of Verona and Sylvan Beach. In the summer one can hear, even this far out, the happy screams of children playing in the surf. I smile, reminded that this past summer we managed to introduce sailing to a couple of groups of kids. Today I hear only the wind, the lapping of the wavelets against Kiltie’s hull, and the occasional swoosh as she guides down a wave.

Lunch over, I look around to see only one other sail and a few fishing boats. Clouds are rolling in and the temperature is beginning to drop. The far shore is approaching. Soon I will tack the bow around and head back to the marina to begin the process of hauling her out. The winters here are long and the ice on this lake will soon be thick. I take solace only in the fact that I will have lots of time to sit by the stove and plan the next season’s adventure. Maybe we’ll drop the masts and head back through the canal to go further west, or maybe north again across Lake Ontario or maybe even east and north, locking through the 34 locks to Lake Champlain.

With Kiltie, it’s all possible.

John Bailey is a retired engineer. Before moving to Central New York, he sailed the waters of the Chesapeake and the coasts of New Jersey and New York in many good old boats.

The Floating Tool Tray

by Drew Frye

Need to replace a prop? Pull the lower unit on an outboard without pulling the engine? How about installing an external strainer without pulling the boat? Working on most anything below the trampoline or bridge deck of a multihull, or near the waterline of a monohull (replacing the screws on a transom-mounted swim step, or the bolts that attach a transom-mounted swim ladder?) you’re going to be in the water and going to need tools. After finding swim trunk pockets ineffective, after being unable to work because no topsides helpers were available to hand me things, and after giving too many wrenches to Neptune, a floating tool tray joined my list of favorite solutions.

I started with a good-sized dishpan and I drilled a ¼-inch hole in one corner before I attached a 4-foot length of parachute cord with a bowline. To the bitter end, I attached a small snap hook to use for clipping the tray to the toe rail, outboard, or dock line. Once afloat, the tray is stable supporting several pounds of tools and parts, saving me the frustration of wondering where to put something or where I put that screwdriver; it’s in the tray, it can’t be anywhere else. For larger jobs (the lower unit I was talking about) a mortar mixing tray creates a monster tool tray.

When I’m done, I rinse the tools in freshwater and spray with corrosion inhibitor after they’re dry. Piece of cake.

Safety Tips for Working in the Water

  • Before getting in, check that you’ve got a good ladder for egress.
  • When preparing to work in fresh or brackish waters, be aware of electrical hazards. Even minor stray current from faulty electrical installations can paralyze the muscles, making it impossible to swim. Electricity-related drownings occur every year.
  • Dress for the water temperature (wet suit or dry suit as needed).
  • Wear a PFD while working.
  • Stay near the boat to avoid traffic.

To solve boating problems, Drew Frye draws on his training as a chemical engineer and his pastimes of climbing and sailing. He sails Chesapeake Bay and the mid-Atlantic coast in his Corsair F-24 trimaran, Fast and Furry-ous. His book, Rigging Modern Anchors, was recently published by Seaworthy Publications.

Coming About

by John Laskowsky

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

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

Rhonda at the helm of a Paceship PY26

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

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

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

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

interior of a Gulfstar 41 sailboat

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

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

News from the Helm – October 2019

by Michael Robertson

Quick and Dry Boat Building Contest

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

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

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

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

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

Boatbuilding Challenge start

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

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

Fitting the inside gunnels.

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

The finished boat, bottom side.

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

Morgan 32 sailboat

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

Nautical Trivia

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

Great Canal Journeys (Docu-Series Review)

great canal journeys

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

Review by Rob Mazza

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Compass & Sextant: The Journey of Peregrin Took Book Review

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

Review by Michael Robertson

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

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

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Mail Buoy – October 2019

Eye Patches for Night Vision?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Helping Bahamians

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

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

Cover Kudos

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

–Gino Del Guercio, s/v Andiamo

Carrying a Load

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

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

Hi Jim,

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

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


sailboat steering cablesSteering Cable Thoughts

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Will Keene, Chairman, Edson Intl.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Adam Cove, CEO, Edson Intl.

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

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

Airplanes don’t typically live in salt water.

Joe Klerekoper

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

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

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

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

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

Probably preaching to the choir, but hope this helps!

–Dave Lincoln

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

–Damon, Stray Cats

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

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

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

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

I, too, don’t see why.

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

–Isaiah Laderman

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

–James Doran

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

–Joseph Haley

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

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

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

–Stan Galper

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

Dogwatch – October 2019

Dogwatch (n): For sailors, either of the 2-hour watch periods between 1600 and 2000; For journalists, the period after going to press when staff stand by in case breaking news warrants a late edition.

An Exhausting Sail

By Bert Vermeer

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

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

Coming About

By John Laskowsky

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

Morgan 32 sailboat

News from the Helm

The Morgan 32 is gone, more later…and we’ve got a great photo essay of a boatbuilding contest we’d love to enter someday…

Read More »

Mail Buoy

We wondered about steering cable failures and the folks at Edson chimed in with readers to give lots of info, and a generous offer…

Read More »

VHF and electronics panel on a sailboat

Put it to the Readers

Fact: LED lights are taking over the world and the incandescent bulb is dead. But not all LED lights are created equal and in addition to quality concerns (it varies widely, in our experience) and color considerations (warm or cool temperature light?), the US Coast Guard and others have been warning of the potential for LED lights to interfere with VHF radio reception and transmission. This is especially problematic at the masthead, where VHF antennas and LED anchor or navigation lights may be mounted in proximity.

We installed a SignalMate LED masthead anchor/nav light combo and never experienced any problems with interference over many years. We don’t personally know anyone who has experienced radio interference. But we keep hearing about the potential for interference problems, for nearly two years now.

So, I’m also putting it to the readers. Has anyone installed an LED light that caused problems with VHF radio reception?

Unsure? Here is a test the US Coast Guard recommends conducting:

  1. Turn off LED light(s).
  2. Tune the VHF radio to a quiet channel (for example, channel 13).
  3. Adjust the VHF radio’s squelch control until the radio outputs audio noise.
  4. Re-adjust the VHF radio’s squelch control until the audio noise is quiet, only slightly above the noise threshold.
  5. Turn on the LED light(s).

If the radio now outputs audio noise, then the LED lights are causing interference and it is likely that both shipboard VHF marine radio and AIS reception are being degraded by LED lighting.

Yes? No?

As always, I’m at

Book Review: Compass & Sextant: The Journey of Peregrin Took

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

Read More »

great canal journeys

Docu-Series Review: Great Canal Journeys

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

Read More »

Poem of the Month

An untitled rhyming haiku…

The wind, strength it brings.
We pull the many taught strings,
And will to great things.

Rhea Caswell is our Dogwatch Sailor of the Month. Her husband, Chris, wrote: “When we met, she was in high school and I was in college. I was also an ocean-racing sailor. When I needed to move my boat four hours down the California coast for a race the next day, my buddy and I decided to make it an evening sail with dates. I asked Rhea. Being suave, I brought a dinner of Dinty Moore beef stew and a screw-top bottle of red plonk. Rhea took charge of the galley and when she put some of the plonk into the stew, I realized two things: first, she was a true gourmet and second, I was hooked. That was 55 years ago and we’ve cruised the world, from Greece to Mexico to the Caribbean to the French canals.

“Here Rhea’s steering a chartered Morgan 44 out of Friday Harbor in the San Juan Islands, and I think she’s indicating she needs a glass of champagne. And she is a gourmet, has owned a couple of French restaurants, so we always eat well, never Dinty Moore and plonk.”

Have a favorite sailor you’d like to nominate? Get a good picture of them and send it to me; maybe they’ll be chosen.

As always, I’m at

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