A Step Aboard

My previous boat was a traditional cutter with an outboard rudder and boomkin, precluding the use of a common stern swim ladder. The wooden side ladder she came with was cumbersome and difficult to store. I replaced it with a simple step which hung over the topsides, and life was good. I eventually sold that boat and bought Nurdle, a 1979 Bristol 35.5 equipped with a conventional transom-mounted swim ladder. All was well until, in preparation for extended cruising, I decided to install a windvane self-steering device and the ladder had to go. Drawing inspiration from that simple step, I decided to make an improved version.

The original was a 2 x 12 plank, sturdy but very heavy. For the new one, I selected a piece of ¾” mahogany plywood, salvaged from a bulkhead replacement project on a friend’s Alberg 30 (“No Time for Perfection,” Good Old Boat, November 2014). The gate stanchions are 24 inches apart, which determined the step’s width. I had considered making it deep to fit a telescoping swim ladder, but that would require a depth of about 18 inches, which seemed excessive. I selected a generous 12-inch depth.

I started by drilling ¾” holes in the corners to fit the ½” suspension lines. The scrap ply I was using was already varnished and I left it this way on the bottom. But on the top, I wanted a nonskid surface. Having used KiwiGrip on my deck and been pleased with the results, I decided to try a homemade equivalent. I bought a pint of rejected latex paint at the big box store for $1.25. I removed the lid off it and let the contents dehydrate for a week or so, until it was goopy. I then laid this goopy paint on thick, using a texture roller to create a pattern. The result was acceptable, but I think the paint could have been even thicker at the start. Next time, I may try adding wood flour as a thickening agent.

After painting, I attached fender material to the front and back edges. I created this by splitting a pool noodle from the dollar store and removing a strip ¾” wide strip longitudinally. Pipe insulation may have been a good alternative and comes in different diameters. Satisfied with the size and shape, I cut strips of 10-ounce cotton duck I bought from Sailrite, hemmed the edges for easier handling, and applied them to the foam with contact cement. Next, I tacked them in place with small bronze ring shank nails, typically used to install brass weatherstripping. (Note: when purchasing these nails, bring a magnet with you, as some are only plated steel and will rust.

Next, I ran the suspension lines thru the holes with a stopper knot below. A loop at the appropriate level allowed hanging from the braces on the gate stanchion via a bow shackle. I use stopper knots to adjust the height so that it hangs where I want it, usually about 18 inches above the waterline, level with the top of the inflatable dinghy tube. When we have dogs aboard, I hang it higher so they can use it to help get themselves aboard. For swimming, I hang it much lower, closer to the water.

A friend expressed concern about the force the step is exerting on the stanchion bases, but given that the force is aimed nearly directly downwards, I think the force is less than might be created when leaning on the lifelines underway.

For another take on making a boarding step, check out “On-the-Fly Boarding Step,” an article by Connie McBride that appeared in the November 2017 issue of Good Old Boat.

John Churchill grew up a boat-crazy kid in Indiana. He built a raft at age 6, sailed Snipes as a teenager, and worked his way toward saltwater and bigger boats as an adult. He has singlehanded a Cape Dory 26 to Bermuda and back, and sailed a Bristol Channel Cutter transatlantic with his father. Now in Florida, John races and daysails Nurdle, a Bristol 35.5 (and former repo) that he’s rehabbing for extended post-retirement cruising.

Sleeping Beauty

Clever surgery on a standard bed mattress improves a V-berth’s sleepability.

When we bought Phantom, our Pearson 365 ketch, in 2001, my wife, Barbara, and I slept on V-berth cushions so thin and inadequate it felt like we were sleeping on bare boards. Adding a foam overlay was a slight improvement, as was a duvet with several quilts tucked inside, but none of these changes provided a good night’s sleep.

The boat’s original V-berth cushions were too thin to provide enough comfort for a good night’s sleep. The first mattress transplant resulted in a single, 4-inch- thick mattress shaped to fit the V-berth. It worked well but made access to storage beneath problematic.

We had priced custom-made mattresses that fit our V-berth, but we were reluctant to spend that much money on something we felt would be short-lived in the boat environment. Then one day we saw Ingrid, who worked at a canvas shop, doing surgery on a standard bed mattress. Snipping apart springs and cutting the rectangular shape to fit her V-berth, she repurposed the discarded bits to reshape the mattress and sew it back together. None of it appeared too daunting. I’d seen what was possible and was confident I could do the same.

Before making any cuts, Jim used craft paper to create a template of the new split V-berth mattresses on the shape of the full-size mattress.

On the garage floor, I laid out a 4-inch- thick queen-size mattress from a discarded sleeper sofa. Directly on the single-sided mattress, I drew the shape of the V-berth with a magic marker. My lines made allowances for where I would need material for the re-sewing process, and before cutting I carefully unstitched the seam material I’d be reusing.

Jim transferred the template to the mattress, using markers to outline where to make the cuts.

The mattress interior consisted of an outer cover, foam, padding, and “tubes” of coil springs. I disassembled and discarded the springs that would lie outside the new V-berth shape and securely tied together the remaining springs. After sewing shut the padding and cover, we put the newly shaped mattress on top of the existing V-berth cushions and slept like babies.

The initial cut exposes the mattress’ foam; the springs are beneath this layer.

That was 12 years ago, and all has been well except that in making that big, single-piece mattress, we failed to plan for accessing stowage areas under the V-berth. We’ve lived with it, but it was finally time for a new and improved version.

Once the foam layer is pulled back, the springs are ready to be cut.

This time around, rather than a single mattress, I planned to make two side-by-side mattresses that fit our V-berth. Instead of a single-sided, 4-inch sleeper sofa mattress, we started with a standard 8-inch, full-size, double-sided mattress. Since either side of the new mattress could be a top, I could cut it on the diagonal and make both V-berth halves from the single mattress by flipping one half over after cutting the mattress apart.

The springs, fully exposed, are ready to be cut to fit the new shape of the mattress.

I created paper templates of each side of the V-berth mattresses to move around on a paper template of the full-size mattress. I drew the planned shape of the new V-berth mattress on the double mattress with a magic marker, and a mark between these shapes became the line to cut the cover open. I made the cut gently to preserve all available materials, padding, and foam. Carefully, I exposed the springs and cut them using a bolt cutter, then separated the two halves.

Once the diagonal cut was fully made, Jim separated the mattresses, which already resembled their intended new shapes.

Once I flipped one half over, the 76-inch sides lay together to create the V shape. I trimmed the springs and wired them to fit into the desired configuration. I bent and secured all the ends, making sure that no sharp metal pieces remained that could work their way to poke out of the mattresses. Then I securely wired the springs together to maintain the shape and structural integrity of the mattresses.

Next, I added foam and batting to create a smooth, comfortable side and corners. I hand-stitched lightweight cotton canvas as the new side panels.

The newly rebuilt mattresses, waiting to be installed.

This two-piece, 8-inch-thick mattress is even more comfortable than the first 4-inch mattress we fabricated to place over the boat cushions. It’s still a bit inconvenient to access the storage beneath—when you flip one side up, the bed clothes get messed up and need to be rearranged—but it’s easier than lifting or removing an entire mattress.

As to whether the mattress would with- stand the boat environment, we used the original 4-inch mattress for 10 years without rust, mold, mildew, or water saturation issues, and the new mattress is holding up fine so far. Just in case there are any unexpected leaks, we protect the bedding with a waterproof cover when we are absent from the boat for any period of time.

The new, 8-inch, split V-berth mattresses fit perfectly. And, one side can be lifted to access storage beneath the bunk.

Except for the price and the reality that I’m not a professional upholsterer—and the finish on the seams and cut sides of the mattress reflect this—these mattress- es are nearly identical to the expensive custom-manufactured V-berth mattresses sold today. I’m not a master craftsman, just a guy handy with common tools. I recommend anyone in need of a more comfort- able night’s sleep aboard to get in there and give this a try.

Tools and Tips

The interior construction of mattresses will vary, but a thoughtful analysis of the construction technique will determine what will be required to arrive at the desired shape. Inner spring mattresses have a pattern of coil springs that are secured by clips and smaller coil springs. Measure twice, cut once, and have Band-Aids ready: Those cut spring ends are are very sharp! I’m unfamiliar with foam mattress construction but no doubt these can be cut to size as well.

I recommend making the mattress a little oversize if fitting it into a space like a V-berth; you can always go back and trim it down more if needed. Additional foam and batting may be needed to fill any edge and corner voids; these are readily available at craft stores like Michael’s, Hobby Lobby, and JoAnn Fabric and Craft.

Tools and materials required : a bolt cutter; side-cutting pliers;  wire-twisting pliers; iron wire; foam  and batting; needle and thread; scissors;  rulers; tape measure; marking pencils; and magic markers.

Jim Shell and his wife, Barbara, sail their Pearson 365 ketch off the coast of Texas.

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




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.

Warm, Not Fuzzy

Replacing a fabric interior hull covering with oak-on-cedar strips transforms a V-berth.


Manufacturers of many good old boats of the ’70s and ’80s were looking for time and cost savings on their assembly lines, which had the great benefit of producing boats that were affordable and enabled many of us to get on the water. But the trade-off sometimes came in the interior finish, where production details were somewhat lacking.

Continue reading

Chainplates Re-Done

Gemini sailboat chainplate replacement

by Ray Wulff

When my wife and I bought our 1983 Endeavour 33, we renamed her Gemini. They say it’s bad luck to rename a boat. They might be right.

Bringing her to her new home in Oyster Bay, New York, we slammed into a wave on Long Island Sound and I fell into the pedestal and it tilted forward. After ensuring we still had steering, I wondered what had happened. Soft deck? Fortunately, the problem was much simpler, two broken pedestal bolts. The aluminum bolts they used in 1983 were not a good choice for a saltwater environment. I replaced them with stainless steel.

Now I could get to the repairs I knew about.

The bilge pump and pressure-water pump were belt-driven diaphragm pumps that didn’t work well. I’d planned to rebuild them, but I found that the cost of the rebuild kits was greater than the cost of new direct-drive diaphragm pumps. I installed two new pumps. That went well. Things were looking up.

Next up were the instruments. All of them were 1983-vintage Datamarine models. The depth sounder worked, the speed and wind instruments did not. All the displays were dim. I installed B&G depth, speed (one transducer for both), and wind instruments and two Trident multifunction displays. The new system used one small NEMA 2000 cable for everything, allowing me to remove a ton of old cables. That was the end of my first year with the boat.

I started year two focused on fixing a rainwater leak. The problem was simple, a rotted hose that connected the cockpit scuppers to through-hulls in the transom. The fix wasn’t simple. Because I didn’t have an 8-year-old kid to fit into the space I needed to access, I had to hang upside down to reach under the cockpit to make the connection. After a few choice words I got it together. Then I called the boatyard and had them fix a small leak in the exhaust hose. They made short work of the replacement. I replaced the ancient VHF radio.

It was finally time to use the boat as I wanted.

Both my son and daughter-in-law are competitive sailors. The first time I took them sailing they told me the main sail had to go. They were right, so I bought a new main sail, and the difference was amazing. The boat pointed more than 5 degrees higher.

Life was good. I finally had a seaworthy boat that sailed well. Between sails, I wiled away my time tending to minor repairs and teak refinishing. I told my wife that the boat was done and that this year would be just for sailing and sunset cocktails. Don’t ever say that with an old boat.

This summer, my son and daughter-in-law were up from Annapolis for a weekend and I invited them on a short sail, eager to pick their brains about what kind of replacement jib I should get. My daughter and granddaughter joined us for this short before-dinner sail. We set the jib and the boat was moving well. It was Friday the 13th.

The BANG was the loudest I’d ever heard on a boat. Alarmed, nothing obvious was amiss. Then it was clear: the port-side chainplate that holds the upper and intermediate shrouds had ripped through the deck. My crew raced up to the bow and dropped the jib while I started the engine so I could keep the boat into the wind. With the jib down, my son and daughter-in-law attached the jib and spinnaker halyards to the port-side toe rail to stabilize the keel-stepped mast. The mast’s new slight bend to starboard was unmistakable. Dinner that night was somewhat somber until my son broke the ice by saying that I should just jack up the Windex and slide a new boat under it.

I had no idea what to do. The boat was safely on its mooring with the broken chainplate tied to the toe rail. Sailing friends suggested I call my insurance company to see whether the damage was covered. The adjuster took photos of the bulkhead where the chainplate had been attached and of the deck where it pulled through and told me he would get back to me in a few days. True to his word, he called a few days later with the good news and the bad news. They would pay to un-step, inspect, repair, and re-step the mast. I was on the hook for the damaged bulkhead as rot was not covered. I felt much better. Repairing the bulkhead was well within my skill set.

My plan was to cut out any remaining rot and rabbit in a new piece of ¾-inch teak plywood, but to be safe I would sandwich the new plywood between two ½-inch teak plywood panels. As added insurance, I designed new chainplates twice the length of the originals, so they would catch the repaired and unrepaired portions of the bulkhead.

My first step was to cut out all the rotted and delaminated plywood. This left me with a one-foot-square hole. I then realized that cabinet in the head at other side of the bulkhead had to go because the new bulkhead would be ½-inch thicker. (Only God knows how they attached that cabinet to the boat. No screw heads were visible nor were there any plugged screw holes. I know it went in after the chainplates because there was no access to the nuts.) After hacking the cabinet out of the head, I could look through my one-foot-square hole from the main cabin into the head.

While I was doing this work, Garhauer Marine was building the new chainplates I’d specified. I briefly considered making them myself, having once made the chainplates and gooseneck fitting for a 21-foot sailboat, but the thought of drilling 14 ½-inch holes in 3/8-inch stainless steel changed my mind. I did make the ¼-inch aluminum backing plates.

It was time to rebuild.

First, I rabbited one side of the perimeter edges of my one-foot-square hole. I then cut and rabbited a piece ¾-inch teak plywood patch to fit in the hole. To make my life easy, I attached them using the West System epoxy that comes in a caulking-gun tube.

To make the plywood bulkhead sandwich, I started on the head side, as that would be one piece. Because the teak-faced plywood I intended to use is so expensive, I first made an oak tag template followed by a 1/8-inch plywood template. I wanted this to be a cut-once job. After I’d screwed and glued that piece to the bulkhead, I started on the cabin side. That piece of my sandwich would have to be two pieces so that the chainplate would be on the same plane as the existing bulkhead.

To get this right, I knew I needed to position the new chainplate on the bulkhead. But before I could do that, I had to fix the hole in the deck. I made a dummy wooden chainplate, wrapped it in packing tape, and stuck it through the deck so that I could glass right up to it and create the right-sized hole.

When the two beautiful new chainplates arrived (I ordered two because I planned to do the starboard side too, proactively) I used the existing starboard chainplate to gauge the correct height of the port-side chainplate. Now I could bolt the new chainplate to the bulkhead. With it in place I completed my sandwich using the same technique I used on the other side. Except for cosmetic details, the port side was done.

The starboard side was going to be an afternoon job: just remove the existing chainplate and install the new one. Of course, when I removed the old chainplate I found rot underneath. I dealt with it.

So how long did it all take? Sixty days passed between the BANG to the day the mast was up again. Was it worth all the work? Of course. As those who sail older boats know, if the boat’s hull is sound, everything else is worth fixing.

Sailing? Well, there is always next summer.

Ray Wulff is a retired engineer who’s built two wooden sailboats and makes furniture as a hobby. He and his wife live in Oyster Bay, New York, where they sail their 1983 Endeavour in and around Oyster Bay and Long Island Sound.

Delamination is not spelled d-o-o-m

Story and photos by Bill Sandifer

Article taken from Good Old Boat magazine: Volume 1, Number 3, November/December 1998.

Deck delamination conjures up images of free falling straight
through to the bilge but it need not frighten the most resourceful
among us

The word “delamination” causes instant visions of a good old boat coming apart at the seams.
Worse, those visions may be equated with an unsalvageable hulk lying
in the mud of a river bank. Bad jokes have been published of a prospective
buyer falling through a deck or into the bilge. These visions and
jokes ring somewhat true sometimes, but does a delamination problem
predict the end of a good old boat? Is there useful life after delamination?
Let’s examine the causes, effects, and eventually the cure for this
common good old boat problem.

Layer below the fiberglass

The rotted core just below the fiberglass was not a pretty site.

Delamination is the separation of layers of fiberglass cloth and resin
from each other or from the core sandwiched between the layers. The
cause of delamination is usually physical stress to the fiberglass
surface. This ruptures the surface skin and allows water to enter
the laminate and migrate into the core. Delamination can also occur
from repeated surface impact even if the skin is not broken and water
does not enter.

Most delamination occurs on the decks or in the cabinhouse structure
of a boat, although it is possible for delamination to occur in the
hull itself, particularly if the hull is cored.

Some builders used cored hulls for rigidity, as well as for sound
and temperature stability. The core material (usually end-grain balsa
squares, occasionally plywood, and sometimes foam) separates from
the fiberglass skin above or below. Once the separation takes place,
the core deteriorates from water intrusion or turns to dust with repeated

When an area is delaminated, it is substantially weaker and
will feel soft when walked upon. An easy way to check for
delamination on a horizontal surface is to walk barefoot on the
surface and to dig your toes into the deck or cabinhouse. A soft or
giving feeling will indicate potential areas of delamination. These
can then be critically examined. A solid deck should feel like a rock.

Depending on the size and location of a good old boat’s
delaminated area, a cure may be possible, affordable, and prudent. It
is never cheap or easy. Commercial boatyards charge exorbitant sums
just to attempt repairs and usually will not guarantee their work.
The reason is that without totally disassembling the area, cleaning
out the damaged core, and recoring the structure, it is often
difficult to assure that all of the area has been repaired.

Easy fix?

Several technical publications recommend an “easy fix” which involves
drilling a series of holes through the top skin of the deck and
forcing epoxy resin into the holes until it fills the void and
emerges from another hole. This method is unsatisfactory for the
following reasons:

  • The delaminated area must be completely dry for the epoxy to bond to the top and bottom skin. There is no way, even if core samples are taken, to know if all of the area is dry.
  • Due to working “blind,” you cannot be certain that the epoxy completely fills all the voids./li>
  • A small solid, non-delaminated area may form a dam and restrict the epoxy from flowing into all areas of delamination.
  • The cost and physical effort required to attempt this cure are not justified, given the unknown final results.

There are two other methods to solve the problem and, though
costly in time and material, will guarantee a successful result. Depending
on the construction of the vessel, one or both of these methods may be used
to make the repair.

My own 1961 Pearson Ariel is a good example of both. In a nutshell, the
entire main deck and cabinroof were one spongy mess that gave under a person’s
weight. The foredeck aft to the chain plates had been destroyed over a number
of years by “deck apes” jumping on the deck in race conditions. The forward
cabin under the foredeck did not have a liner installed, so the underside
of the deck was fully visible. The sidedeck and main cabin area had an interior
liner which precluded direct access to the underside of thedecks and coachroof.
The side decks were delaminated as a result of improperly filled holes when
the genoa tracks were moved. The coachroof was delaminated due to the roof-mounted
winches, cam cleats, etc., being mounted, moved, and remounted without properly
sealing the original holes.

The mast was deck-stepped and had sunk three inches into the deck due to water-induced rot in the mast support beam. This was caused by poorly sealed fittings around the base of the mast.

If you have read this far, you’re probably saying, “What did this nut see in a totally destroyed boat? He must be crazy!” Well yes and no. I had very
little money (less than $2,000) and wanted a capable sailboat very badly!
The price was right. The Ariel was the boat I wanted, and I had a plan.
The boat’s past racing life, which had caused much of its problems, also
provided the method to afford the rebuild.

First the good news

The boat had eight good racing sails. I sold the six I did not
want for more than I paid for the boat. I made a $300 profit and
became the proud owner of a Pearson Ariel with an Atomic 4 engine,
(More about this in the January/ February issue of Good Old Boat),
a good mainsail, a good 120 genoa, hull, mast, boom, and rigging.
The only problem was the deck, maststep, and, oh yes, the bunk had
rotted out, and the galley area was trashed.

To get the boat home, I fixed the engine and felt I should be able
to sail (in case the engine quit). I used 4 x 4s and a hydraulic
jack to support the mast and push it back into its correct position.
And on April 1, 1990, (April Fools Day/Ship of Fools!), my wife
and I departed the New Orleans Municipal Harbor for home on the
Mississippi Gulf Coast, 11 hours away. Since I am writing this article,
we obviously succeeded in completing the voyage. Would I do it again?
Of course! There is little enough adventure in this world, and taking
the tried and true route is no adventure at all!

We were towing a dinghy with a motor to provide a third method of
propulsion (or lifeboat, if need be). We had picked a bright sunny
day with a good forecast, filed a floatplan with our children, had
a VHF radio onboard, and stayed close to shore in about eight feet
of water. We figured we could fill up but not sink below the surface.
You may be asking, “What does all that have to do with delamination?”
Everything. It shows that a boat can have an extreme problem and
yet be saved. Here’s how.

Start with the worst case

Side deck cleaned and ready

The side deck was cleaned, sanded and ready for a new core.

The first task was to remove the mast and all of the deck fittings, lifelines,
bow pulpit, and so forth. The foredeck was the worst case, so I tackled
it first. I determined what the camber (crown) of the deck was and laminated
wood beams to conform to the curvature and length required to span the
deck on the underside.

Once the beams were made, I cut out the entire underside of the deck fiberglass
laminate and core from below. I scraped all the coring off and sanded
it so only a very thin (1/16-inch) fiberglass skin remained. I cut waterproof
K-inch mahogany plywood panels into four sections in the shape of the
deck. Then I fitted new beams and plywood to the underside of the deck
and prepared to push them up against the underside of the foredeck, forming
a new wood deck beneath the old skin. I assembled the beams and panels
in the V-berth area, screwing and bonding them together with epoxy. After
a “dry fit” to assure that all was well, I coated the new deck with a
mush of epoxy mixed with chopped mill fiber (at a mayonnaise constancy),
raised it up, and propped it in position against the deck skin.

Working from a dink in the water to avoid putting any weight on the fragile
deck, I set stainless steel screws through the top skin of the deck into
the deck beam to assure complete contact between the interior wood deck
and the exterior fiberglass skin. The old deck skin was so thin it was
possible to be sure that there were no air bubbles to interfere with full

When the epoxy cured, I removed the props and taped the beams to the hull
sides for final strength. Next I removed the stainless steel screws and
filled the holes with the epoxy/chopped mill fiber mush, faired the deck
epoxy, sanded it, and painted it with non-skid paint. I used the same
method to refurbish the coachhouse overhead in the forward cabin.

Next side decks, roof

New core installed

The new core was installed on the side deck.

The sidedecks and main cabinroof area could not be worked from the
inside, due to the liner, so this time I started from the outside.
With a circular saw (carbide blade), I carefully cut the sidedecks
and roof out in one rectangular-shaped piece each. I lifted them off
as three pieces (two sidedecks and one roof). I scraped each clean of
the wet balsa core and set it aside. I removed the ruined core down
to the outside of the inner liner, sanded each area clean, and
allowed it to dry.

I cut strips of K-inch mahogany plywood about three inches
wide and the length of the area to be filled, taking care that the
strips landed on a solid support surface or bulkhead fore and aft. I
cut and fitted enough strips to build up the new area to the level of
the old roof and decks, with the exception of the “saved” pieces of
deck and roof. The strips were numbered, so they could be replaced
exactly where they had been fitted.

With all in readiness, I mixed the epoxy/mill fiber mush
mixture and coated the outside of the liner. I wet out the strips
with unmodified epoxy (no mill fiber filler), and set these into the
mush on the liner. I followed this process until I had reached the
desired height.

I coated the roof and deck panels with the mush and returned them to their
original positions on the hull. I allowed the epoxy to dry, taking care
to assure a complete bond between the strips and the underside of the
old panels.

The reason for using the old panels is twofold. First, it saves material
and, if carefully prepared, reduces fairing of the surfaces to the original
camber. Second, the roof panel incorporated the rails for the sliding
hatch which would have had to be remade in wood, bedded, and so forth.

I simply removed the mast step beam and replaced it with a new beam when
the coachhouse roof was replaced.

The final finish work was not as hard as you might imagine, due to the
reuse of the old skin panels. After a good fairing with a long board and
80-grit sandpaper, I rolled high build epoxy primer paint on the panels.
These were sanded and primed again, sanded a third time, and then painted
with three coats of polyurethane one-part deck paint, sanding between
each coat. I mixed the final coat with non-skid compound for a non-slip

More good news

Original deck piece replace

The orginal deck piece was replaced.

Did it work? The answer is a resounding “Yes!” After eight years of
12-month-a-year service, averaging three days a week, there have been
no failures, no leaks, and no soft spots. I’ve repainted the deck
once more for cosmetic and aesthetic value.

Was it worth it? Again, “Yes.” The boat became ours April 1,
1990, and we motored it out of the harbor. We have motored, sailed,
motorsailed, and used the boat ever since. The work on the deck was
done during intense weekends over a two-month period. The boat was
“out of commission” for two-week periods as each stage was
accomplished. The deck, beam, interior, and so forth were done afloat
between uses.

prioritized the work. The foredeck came first, mast beam next, bunk and
interior third, side decks and coachroof last.

Since we live in a southern climate, it was possible to complete all the
work over the span of one year. The non-structural work – replacing the
pulpit and lifelines, putting in new port lights and running lights, etc.
– was worked in as time and budget allowed.

When I review the refurbishment work done over the past eight years, the
volume seems overwhelming, but when viewed in small segments, it was achieved
and has not been onerous.

I had the assistance of family and friends some of the time, but the bulk
of it was done without help. Having the use of the boat while working
on it was a big plus and kept my spirits soaring. I believe if I had chosen
to lay the boat up until everything was complete, I would have become
discouraged and lost interest and momentum.

My wife loves the boat but hated the project “mess.” For this reason,
I kept one or two areas neat so she could feel comfortable while I messed
up the other areas. The V-berth area was torn up considerably, but the
main cabin and cockpit were usable and neat. Doing the sidedecks did not
mess up the interior, and the V-berth was completed and “neat” by that
time. The same is true for the coachroof.

Today, the boat is in excellent condition. Motor and sails are without
problems, and it looks great. Now, if I could just figure out how to stretch
the boat to a 36-footer in the same condition. Hmmmmm.

Bill Sandifer is
a marine surveyor and small boat builder who has been living, eating,
and sleeping boats since the early 1950s when he assisted at Pete Layton’s
Boat Shop, building a variety of small wooden boats. Since then Bill has
worked for Charlie Morgan (Heritage), Don Arnow (Cigarette), and owned
a commercial fiberglass boatbuilding company (Tugboats). Bill and his
wife, Genie, restored a Pearson Ariel from a total wreck. They are now
sailing an Eastward Ho 31.

Wedging the mast

By Norman Ralph

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

A small project that brings satisfaction and pride

Wedges that hold the mast in column

An acquaintance raised the question concerning those little wedges that hold
the mast in column on many boats. On a recent sail in blustery conditions,
the wedges on his boat worked loose and fell into the cabin. He wanted
to know how to prevent this from happening again.

An area of boat maintenance that is often overlooked is where a keel-stepped
mast passes through the deck. Perhaps the boatyard takes care of this
when the mast is stepped. But don’t count on it. In my case, the
yard stuck the mast in the boat, attached the shrouds, tightened them
sufficiently so the mast would stay in place, and left the rest for me
to do when the boat was in the slip.

I was left with tuning the rigging and the more pressing job of wedging the mast. If the mast
is not wedged snugly it will “work” or flex under the varying
loads on the sails. This flexing can weaken the mast. The common solution
is to drive rubber wedges between the mast and the flange (a turned-up
edge around the hole where the mast passes through the deck). On my boat
this flange is 3 inches high.

Cutting the wedges, makes 16

Cutting the wedges. Yield 16 wedges.

A newer technique is to use Spartite. After placing a temporary bottom or floor below deck
around the mast in the overhead, Spartite liquid is poured around the
mast from above. After this liquid hardens, the temporary bottom is removed,
the mast is held in place, and leaks are prevented. The precaution to
observe in using Spartite is to be sure that the area between the mast
and the deck flange has a slight taper outward toward the top of the mast.
If it does not or is tapered the opposite way, it will be difficult or
impossible to remove the mast without chiseling the Spartite out, as it
adheres tenaciously to the mast. With the proper taper, the Spartite will
come out with the mast and can be reused when the mast is re-stepped.


I use the time-honored rubber wedges on our boat. Since I bought our boat as a project boat, it
didn’t come with wedges. So I went to a store that carried rubber
products of all types and purchased a piece of rubber mat from their scrap
supply. (Shore hardness 40 to 50 is good.) This material was a foot square
and 2 inches thick. With the mast centered in the hole in the cabintop,
I had approximately 11Ú4 to 11Ú2 inches between the mast and
the flange around the hole. I marked and cut the rubber, using a band saw,
into wedges approximately 21Ú2 inches at one end tapering to 1Ú4
inch at the other end (see sketch). The wedges were approximately 6 inches
long. The piece of rubber yielded 16 wedges, far more than needed for the

Creating the canvas cover

Creating the canvas cover

I tuned the rig first and then loosely placed four wedges, one on each side of the mast. Then
I used a rubber mallet (you could use a piece of wood and a hammer) to
drive the wedges in tight. Be sure to drive them evenly, each a little
bit at a time, alternating sides. This will ensure that the mast stays
straight. After the mast is securely wedged, drive in an additional wedge
on each side adjacent to the first ones. More can be installed if desired,
although it might be overkill.

To prevent water from leaking below, I went to a tire store and purchased a truck-sized inner
tube. A used one will work as well as a new one. In this day of tubeless
tires, inner tubes are harder to find. I cut the inner tube into a piece
approximately 12 inches wide and a length equal to the perimeter of the
flange on the deck around the mast plus several inches. Using a large
stainless-steel hose clamp, I wrapped the rubber from the inner tube around
the mast with the bottom of the rubber approximately 8 inches above the
deck, I fastened the bottom of the rubber securely with the hose clamp.
Then I folded the rubber down over the hose clamp and over the deck flange.
I attached a second hose clamp, securing the rubber to the deck flange.
If you can’t get long enough hose clamps, hook two or more clamps
together to get the proper length.

Using a tube of silicone caulking and a caulking gun, I liberally caulked the top of the rubber
where it folds back over the top hose clamp next to the mast. This will
keep water from seeping down the mast past the rubber and hose clamp.

To cover up the unsightly black rubber boot, I took a rectangular piece of Sunbrella to match the canvas on the
boat and hemmed it on all four sides (see sketch). After hemming, the piece
was approximately 12 inches by 11Ú2 times the perimeter of the bottom
of the rubber boot. I stitched a 3-foot piece of 1Ú8-inch Dacron
line on the outside of each long side of the canvas close to one end. The
canvas was then wrapped around the rubber boot, the end without the Dacron
line placed first and overlapping itself to ensure complete coverage. Then
I wrapped the Dacron line around the cover and tied it with a square knot.
This completely covers the rubber boot and leaves a waterproof, yet attractive,
finished look. The silicone sealant is also protected from deterioration
from the sun.

When pulling the mast, all that is needed is to remove the canvas cover and the bottom
hose clamp. When the mast is pulled, the wedges will come loose and can
be collected for reuse.

This is not a high-tech project, but it is one that will give much satisfaction and pride. And
that is part of the enjoyment of owning a boat.

About that rig…

  • Record rig “tune” before you pull the mast.
  • Record location of any shims between the mast and the step.
  • Tune the rig fore and aft and side to side before wedging the mast.
  • Some kinds of rigs may benefit from wedges fore and aft as well.

Refer to Illustrated Sail
and Rig Tuning
by Ivar Dedekam for details on rig tuning.

A 1988 trip to
the Gulf Coast exposed Norman and his wife, Jeanette, to year-round sailing and sowed the seeds that initiated early retirement and a move to Lake Pontchartrain in Louisiana. Norman is able to rest in peace knowing his boat won’t leak (at the mast anyway).



By Jerry Powlas

Article taken from Good Old Boat magazine: Volume 1, Number 3, November/December 1998.

a fast, effective safety device

Vang preventer line diagram
Starboard vang released, port vang trimmed
How control lines lead to the helm station

Viewed from the bow, the photo above right shows the starboard vang released and the port vang trimmed. Photo at bottom shows the control lines led to the helm station. Notice the double-ended line.

I was guilty of contempt.
Never a good thing, in this case it turned out to be a serious error.
I had held a thunderstorm cell in contempt all morning. It was over there,
and we were over here. We had been sailing for hours in strong winds that
were probably feeding that cell, but it had been such a joyful ride I
couldn’t bring myself to quit. We had the 110 up with two reefs in the
main and were on a screaming reach. We had been flying like this for hours.
Occasionally we would have to tie a foot reef in the jib and put in or
shake out another reef in the main. But we were moving. Madeline Island
was to windward, and the seas hadn’t much fetch. But the wind was getting
over the island, and we had plenty of it.

At the bottom of
the island we headed up but kept our speed. Eventually we breasted the
red nun that marks the shoal, tacked, and fell off on another screaming

Karen is the smarter of the
two of us. I don’t deny that. She suggested that perhaps the storm cell
was moving toward us and we should probably shorten sail. I delayed.
Each gust seemed to offer a chance to explore new territory on the knotmeter.
It was intoxicating.

Finally Karen said we should
at least get our foul weather gear on. She went below first, perhaps
to set a good example. Then I went below to dress for the rain that
I had to admit was looking more likely. In the middle of my costume
change she said, “You’ve got about a minute.” That call was probably
accurate to within 10 seconds. I don’t know why I don’t listen to my
wife more carefully.

The squall hit. We were deeply
reefed but not deeply enough. The wind came from dead astern at maybe
60 knots. I looked out through the companionway and saw that Karen was
doing all she could do and doing it exactly right. She was steering
dead downwind, not letting Mystic jibe or broach. With that course and
speed Mystic would be a monument in downtown LaPointe on Madeline Island
in about five minutes, but I didn’t think we would make it that far.
Mystic’s beautiful spoon bow was being pushed down hard by the wind.
She was clearly outside the envelope. I popped out of the hatch without
bothering to replace the lifejacket I had removed in order to put on
my slicker. We always wear our lifejackets, but just when I needed mine
the most, there was no time to put it back on.

Control line and cleat
A flick of the wrist sets up the vang/preventer

Photo at top above shows the control line and cleat and the caribiner that eases the release and prevents premature recleating. Photo at bottom shows how a flick of the wrist sets up the vang/preventer.

I crawled to the mast and
cast off the main and jib halyards. Fortunately, they didn’t tangle
or catch; the beautifully simple jib hanks and mainsail lugs did what
they were supposed to do, and the press came off our spunky little Mystic
before she could pitchpole or broach. Bare poles were just right for
good speed and control. My arrogance would be forgiven – this time.

Lessons learned

As I look back on it, several
factors combined to limit that experience to a good scare and a lesson
survived. The person who designed our C&C 30 knew his business; my beautiful
wife used great skill in steering without broaching or jibing; the hanks
and lugs ran free and fast; and the vang/preventer did exactly what
we had intended it to do.

Vang/preventer? We knew of
no existing term for this rigging, and we had to call it something.
On Mystic, the vang/preventer is a pair of 4:1 tackles leading from
mid-boom to the port and starboard toerails just abaft the stays. A
single control line runs from both tackles aft through fairleads and
cam cleats port and starboard of the helm. Because there is only a single
line, as the boom swings off, line taken by one tackle is given up by
the other, so very little excess line clutters the cockpit. A flick
of the wrist controls the boom.

On Mystic the vang/preventer
is actually a better vang, a better preventer, and a better traveler
than anything else we could have devised. Mystic had a traveler when
we bought her, but it was a simple affair with no control lines. The
idea was to lift the detent pin and move the car stop to the new location.
The traveler was about two feet long and resided on a beam between the
cockpit seats just in front of the wheel. (Shown in photo.) It could
not be moved under load and was only useful when beating. It was too
short to help on a reach.

A message in this

The previous owner kept the
original vang in the starboard lazarette made up like a hangman’s noose.
After using it for awhile, I was convinced he had the right idea. The
people at C&C were not about to give up any sail area that could be
easily had, so Mystic’s boom sweeps very close to the deckhouse. This
leaves the (conventional) vang at a very poor angle when led between
mid-boom and the base of the mast. Fortunately, when the boom is close
in for beating, the vang is not necessary; the traveler controls the
sail twist. It took some getting used to – unloading the main to move
the traveler – but we managed and were glad for the lack of cordage
the simple thing offered. The real problem was the vang.

section of the mainsail

Adjust mainsheetto make trailing edge fly straight back

the mainsheet and vang(s) to make the trailing edge telltails
fly straight back.

Heavy air beat - Close reach, mainsheet controls angle
Light air beat - Trim windward vang to bring boom inboard
Broad reaching - Trim leeward vang to set up preventer, hold boom down

Heavy air beat – Mainsheet controls angle of mainsail
and twist. Close reach – Mainsheet controls angle. Trim
the leeward vang to remove twist; trim the windward vang to
add twist.
B: Light and medium air beat – Trim windward vang to bring boom
inboard; trim mainsheet to reduce twist.
C: Broad reaching and running – Trim leeward vang to set up
preventer, hold boom down, hold boom out in light air, and take
out twist.

We could lead
it to the toerail on reaches and runs, but doing so required the crew
to scamper about the deckhouse and side decks … sometimes in darkness
or heavy weather or both. A jibe demanded tedious choreography and a
minimum of two crew. We wanted better.

The night my good friend
stuck his head out of the hatch just as an eddy gust from the shore
jibed the main, was the last straw. We had been becalmed and so had
not set the vang as a preventer to the toerail. It was viewed as a bother
in any circumstance and certainly was not deemed necessary when there
was no wind. The blow of the boom could have killed him. He recovered
and finished the cruise, piloting us skillfully through the Apostle
Islands in a late October storm with near-zero visibility. We didn’t
have radar then or even GPS; we had Steve, the beginning sailor but
experienced aviator, and that jibe had nearly eliminated him.

Development of the rig

I wanted a way to set up
a preventer in a second – something that did not need to be removed
from the toerail in a jibe. Our vang/preventer was the answer. The first
version was 3:1 and used horn cleats. It was good, but not good enough.
At 4:1, we could get good downward force on the boom no matter what
position it was in. The bonus was that the preventer was now a good
sail trim control.

The purpose of a traveler
and vang is to allow good mainsail leech control. By moving a traveler
to windward on a beat in light air, the main can be given the twist
necessary for good performance. As the breeze picks up, the traveler
is let down in stages to leeward which, in combination with increasing
mainsheet trim, will give progressively less twist. In a blow just before
a reef is put in, the traveler is let down all the way to leeward, and
the main will luff a little near the mast and reduce heel. As the wind
goes aft, the vang takes over the job of pulling the boom down to control
twist. If the boom is mounted high enough, the vang can lead to the
base of the mast. But in the best of circumstances, the stresses are
high on the vang, boom, and mast because the angles do not favor the
task. With our vang/preventer we have a better traveler than if we had
an elaborate track, car, and tackles like a racer. In light air if we
want to add twist, we trim the windward vang. The boom lifts just as
it would with a fancy traveler. As the air picks up, we ease the windward
vang and add some mainsheet trim. When we are a little overpowered,
we trim the leeward vang, and the main untwists and luffs a little along
the mast. When we bear off, we ease the main and trim the leeward vang
a little more to keep the twist from getting excessive. A few telltales
on the main make it easy to see what must be done. As we steer farther
to leeward, the main is eased and the vang taken up. The preventer goes
on automatically in the course of getting good trim, so it is there
when we need it.

A jibe is a joy with this
rig. There is enough friction from the vang/preventer to keep a flying
jibe from being very fast, even if we just let it all go. We don’t do
that, of course. We ease the vang and trim the main until it pops over,
then we let out the main and set up the new vang – all very easy, fast,
and smooth. It is also very safe; no one leaves the cockpit.

On light wind days we used
to have trouble keeping the boom out on a run because the weight of
the mainsheet was enough to cause it to swing back in. With a vang/preventer
we just trim the boom out to where we want it, and it stays there.

The vang/preventer is a good
singlehanding rig also. I sailed Mystic alone for a couple of weeks
last summer in winds up to 35 knots as cold fronts pushed through the
Apostle Islands near our home port. The vang/preventer was handy for
this, since all the control lines, mainsheet, jib sheets, and both vangs
were within easy reach of the helmsperson.

Would we have jibed in that
thunderstorm without the vang/preventer? Other boats did. Would I have
had the courage to go to the base of the mast knowing that the boom
was free to jibe and wipe me off the deck? I think it made a difference.

Next time I’ll listen to Karen.

A New Toe Rail For an Old Warhorse

By Hugh Owens

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

Beefing up a retired racer with aluminum

Racing caused wear on toerails

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

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

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

Sealed holes

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

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

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

Overkill, perhaps

Brackets used

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

Clamping prior to final mounting

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

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

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

Prohibitive cost

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

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

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

Screwed and bolted

Scrrewed and bolted overlapping flat bar diagram

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

Plastic spacers

Plastic spacers keep copper alloys away from aluminum

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

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

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

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

Breakproof Tillers

By Matt Cole

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

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

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

Tiller straps, the weak point

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

Cross-mounted fasteners

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

Short columns

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

Second step

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

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

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

What on tiller usualy breaks

The sight at a moment you will recall

The fiberglass sides prevent damage.

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

How your repair makes it stronger

What you end up making

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

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

A moment you will recall

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

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

Tanks:Easy to forget, too important to dismiss

By Bill Sandler

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

Tanks: Easy to forget, too important to dismiss

Tnak pressure test apparatus

Pressure test apparatus

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

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

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

Note: Tanks in the Fog

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Water Finder

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


US Coast
Guard Code of Federal Regulations

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tank builders and distributors


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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

Supply Co.

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

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

Stanchion Repair

Stanchion repair

By Norman Ralph

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

Bent stanchions and delaminated decks

Stanchion pulled away from the deck

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

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

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

Dry below the stanchion?

Filling the hole in the deck with epoxy resin

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

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

Wet under there?

Replace the core under the stanchion

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

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

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

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

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

Pourit in

Drill new holes to hold the stanchion

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

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

Stanchion reattached to deck

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

Replacing the stanchion

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

A few closing notes and instructions

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

Suffering from sealant confusion?

By Scott Thurston

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

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

Sealant supplies on the shelf

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

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

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

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

Eventual decay

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

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

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

Three families

Silicone sealant tube

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


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


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


#m Marine adhesive

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

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

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

Diverse hardware

Life Seal for fiberglass

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

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

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

Twenty-year joint

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

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

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

Weaker polyurethane

Life-Calk tube

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

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

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

Epoxy breakthrough

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

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

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

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

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

Sandable sealant

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

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

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

What’s right for your job

Life Seal from BoatLife

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

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

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

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

Sealant selection

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

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

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

Apply it properly

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

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

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

Clean and prime

Above Below cleaner

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

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

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

For further information, contact:

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

Scott Thurston

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

Marine Sanitation Devices

Marine Sanitation Devices

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

Build a one-off holding tank

By Mark Parker
Photos by Kim Parker

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

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


Sanitation system diagram

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

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

Other choices considered
and rejected included:

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

Plumbing and materials

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

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

The plug

Tank corner construction diagram

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

Tank showing framing and corners

Tank with mold inside shows framing and corners.

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

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

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

The tank

Smash drywal to remove it

Smash dry wall to remove it.

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

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

The fun begins

Finished tank before installing

Finished tank before installing connections.

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

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

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

Tank installed with connections

Finished tank installed with connections at the top.

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


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

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

Back To Top

Play it safe

by Mark Parker

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

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

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

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

Back To Top

Consider a stitch-and-glue holding tank

by Norman Ralph

Holding tank connections

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

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

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

A tank mock-up

Make a mock-up

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

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

Drill both pieces to align holes

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

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

Stitch pieces together with heavy monofilament line

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

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

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

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

Cover the corner with cloth. Round corner with sander.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Baffle/joint detail

Baffle/joint detail.

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

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

Coating inside of the thru-hull openings

Coating the inside of the thru-hull openings.

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

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

Tank assembled

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

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

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

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

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

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


Tanks a Lot: Part 2 – Rescue that rusting tank

Tanks a Lot: Part 2

By Bob Haussler

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

Rescue that rusting tank

With the water tank out we cleaned the space throughly

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

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

Also clean the tank interior

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The glossy white epoxy applied to achieve a maximum thickness

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

Eliminate any trace of ixodized iron, or replace the tank

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

Professional results

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Repowering, Part 2 – Don Casey

Repowering,Part 2

By Don Casey

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

Installing a new engine Part 2: Getting it to fit

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fuel-tank issues

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

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

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

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

Finding the prop line

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

The engine and shaft must be in precise alignment.

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

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

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

No heavy lifting

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

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

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

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

In with the new

Plywood jig centered on the centering string.

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

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

Prop and shaft

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

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

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

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

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

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

The crowd roared

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

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

The engine and shaft must be in precise alignment.

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

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

Dripless packing

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

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

Wiring and plumbing

Using a centering string to determine the propshaft centerline.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Single-lever control

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

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

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

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

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

Running the engine

Cutting down the engine stringers to the correct height

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

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

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

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

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

Worth the effort?

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

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

Repowering, Part 1 – Don Casey

Repowering, Part 1

By Don Casey

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

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

What you need to know before removing the old engine

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

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

Why repower?

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

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

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

How much power?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Which engine?

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

The engine and shaft must be in precise alignment.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Buy the book

500 pounds of Swedish cast iron walks the plank.

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

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

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

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

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

Repowering afloat

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

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

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

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

The engine and shaft must be in precise alignment.

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

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

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

Removing the shaft

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

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

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

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

Freeing the engine

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

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

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

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

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

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

Out with the old

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Repowering, Part 1 – The Decisions

Repowering, Part 1- the decisions

By Don Launer

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

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

Don Launer studies

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

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

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

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

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

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

Biting the bullet

Don discussing proposal with Tom Dittamo

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

New Yanmar 3GM30F

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Free consultation

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

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

Required a new engine bed and oil drip pan

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

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

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

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

Fuel-return line

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

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

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

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

Do it yourself?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Start early

Also Replacing the propeller

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

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

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

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

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

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

Installation manuals

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

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

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

Bed modification

the old Volvo engine goes

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

The new Yanmar is installed

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

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

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

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

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

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

Back To Top

Resources for engines, information

Boat and Yacht Council (ABYC)


Beta Marine


Harbor Marine Engines
Laurel Harbor Marina

Mack Boring

Michigan Wheel Corporation



Volvo Penta of the Americas Inc.

Westerbeke Corporation / Universal

Yanmar America Corp.

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

Part 2 of repowering article

Repowering, Part 2 – replacing the power plant

Repowering, Part 2- replacing the power plant

By Don Launer

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

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

Preparing to hoist out the old power plant

Preparing to hoist out the old power plant.

Old diesel is liftted out

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

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

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

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

Difficult removal

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

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

The old dirty engine leaves a mess

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

A mock-up of the engine-bed alignment

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

A new engine bed is established

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

Engine mounts ae positioned and bolted down

Engine mounts are placed in position and bolted down.

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

Yard expertise

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

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

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

New propeller

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

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

New engine bed

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

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

Uncrating the new Yanmar engine

The new Yanmar engine is uncrated in preparation for installation.

The Travelift bringsin the new engine

The Travelift brings in the new engine.

New engine seen from inside the cabin

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

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

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

Different mounts

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

Shaft alignment

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

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

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

An anti-siphon valve is installed

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

Brass adapters connect hoses feeding the heat exchanger

Check tolerances

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

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

Anti-siphon valves

A pointer is attached to the propeller-shaft flange

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

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

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

Engine connections

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

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

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

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

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

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

Using a feeler gauge assures that these flanges meet accurately

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

No fittings

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

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

Final preparations

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

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

Check liquid levels

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

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

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

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

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

Pushpit Seats: Comfort in the Cockpit

By Bill Dimmit

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

Grandson steers the boat

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

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

A support for the seat

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

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

The seat supports

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

The seat in place

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

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

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

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

Two seats on the aft rail

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

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

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

New Sail Blues

I’ve got the new sail blues

By Bill Sandifer

Article taken from Good Old Boat magazine: Volume 3, Number 4, July/August 2000.

Happiness is finding a sailmaker who understands

Talk about confused! I’ve never been offered so many contradictory opinions
in answer to one question. All I wanted was a new sail.

The boat I purchased recently came with a brand new mainsail and three headsails
of different shapes. One was about a 150-percent genoa, very long on the
foot with a leech that swept up to the head in a long curve.

Next was an 80-percent working jib that was notable for its high-cut clew.
Last was a really small Yankee of unknown age. All of the headsails were
old and in need of washing and repair. The Yankee was mottled with numerous
rust stains. Its sailmaker has been out of business for more than 20 years,
so the sail was at least that old.

After flying all three sails, it was apparent that not one was really usable
for everyday use. They were either too large or too small. What I needed
was a good, roller furling 125-percent cross-cut genoa. I had come to rely
on the Schaefer 1000 roller furling on my previous boat and wanted the same
level of safety and ease of handling on this new, larger boat. Adding impetus
to the project was my wife’s reaction to the 150 genoa the first time we
flew it: “Get rid of it!

My wife’s a good sailor, but this sail, with its strange shape and long
foot, was more than she wished to deal with. We decided to buy a new roller
furling system and a new 125-percent genoa.

I called sail lofts. They supplied quotes based on their recommendation
for sailcloth and weight. But here is where it gets complex.

Not so plain

Each loft uses a trade name and a weight for the cloth it proposes to use.
We’re not talking about exotic cloth here, just plain Dacron. But it turns
out not to be so plain after all.

All sailcloth in the U.S. is manufactured by one of five companies: Challenge
Sailcloth, Contender Sailcloth, Dimension Sailcloth, Performance Textiles,
and Bainbridge-Aquabatten. All except Performance Textiles and Dimension
Sailcloth originated from a single parent, Howe and Bainbridge Company,
of Boston, which was the biggest original purveyor of sailcloth. People
left Howe and Bainbridge to form their own companies. Dimension has a Dutch
connection and Performance Textiles a Spanish one.

There are other overseas companies making sailcloth, and it varies in quality
and type. To limit my confusion, I stuck to the U.S. suppliers. Given the
fixed dimension of my rig and my preference for a 125-percent genoa, the
dimensions of the sail and its area were determined to be about 300 square
feet, plus or minus 10 percent. After that, nothing was easy.

The sail lofts quoted Dacron cloth weights between 6.30 and 7.62 ounces
with a 6.77 thrown in for good measure. Various cloths were offered: a 4800
Cruise from North, a Sails 5400 NorDac, a Challenge High Modulus, a Challenge
High Aspect, a Marblehead and more. What is the difference and what does
it all mean?

First, the weight of the sailcloth will vary, from lot to lot, as much as
half an ounce, so you might be quoted a 7.3-ounce Challenge High Modulus
and actually get a cloth that weighs 6.8 ounces. Half an ounce is about
as close to the designed weight as the manufacturer can make it. Second,
weight within a range is a relative factor. True, a 5.4-ounce Challenge
High Modulus will be lighter than a 7.3-ounce Challenge High Modulus, but
a 6.77-ounce Marblehead may serve as well or better for a particular sail
than the 7.3 Challenge. It may also set better and feel softer.

More expensive

cloth weight
length in feet
weight in ounces

High Modulus cloth is used for headsails and mains. High Aspect is used
for mains, roller mains, and high aspect jibs. It’s more expensive than
High Modulus but serves better in particular sail designs. Marblehead cloth
is more expensive still, but it serves well for gaff mains and miter-cut
genoas because it has a softer “hand.” To further confuse the issue, there
are laminated cloths made for racing and performance cruising, but we will
not consider them here.

Usually, a cruiser wants a durable, softer sail that will hold its shape
and last a long time. The racer will want a faster sail with a smoother,
harder surface even if it will not be long-lasting. The answer to sail life
lies in material itself and the way the sail is designed and built.

Sailcloth may be woven as balanced or unbalanced. In balanced cloth, the
yarn is close to the same denier (a measure of density or weight) in the
lengthwise (warp) and crosswise (fill) width. The warp yarns run in the
direction that the cloth runs through the loom. Because the yarns are so
long (the length of the roll of cloth), it is more difficult to control
the tension of the warp yarns, so warp strength is lower for a given yarn
size. The fill yarns are shorter (only the width of the loom) thus it is
easier to control their tension. It may seem confusing, but by using fewer
heavier yarns in the warp, which is not generally as highly tensioned, it
is possible to make unbalanced cloth that has more nearly equal strength
properties in both directions.

To increase warp strength it is normal to decrease the count and increase
the size of the warp yarns. This cloth is often used to take greater loads
which radiate up from the clew along the leech, and it is often used for
radial cuts. Cloth with opposite characteristics may be called high-aspect
fabric. High-aspect jibs and mains need this strength. High-aspect cloth
is often selected when the sails are of cross-cut design. The manner in
which the sail is designed dictates the way in which the loads will be distributed
within a sail. Sail lofts now use computers to design sails, but there is
still a bit of art in knowing how to apply the computer results to building
a good sail. The choice of sail cut and appropriate material is part of
this process.

The standard cross-cut sail is the simplest and lowest cost sail to build.
With the proper material selection it is a very satisfactory sail indeed.
The miter-cut sail is really only a valid alternative when the buyer wants
a certain “look” on older boats and replicas. The cut served a purpose once
in the history of sail design and manufacture, but it is no longer an appropriate
choice for best use of modern fabrics. The radial-cut sail is a more difficult
sail to build, and when it is made from modern laminates, it may offer some
performance advantages. It is argued by at least some sailmakers that the
radial cut offers little advantage in cruising sails made from woven Dacron.
Pick your expert, take your choice.

In detail

Miter cut

Miter Cut

Cross cut

Cross Cut

Radial cut

Radial Cut

What, then, does all this mean? It means you can purchase exactly the sail
you need only if you communicate in detail with the sail lofts.

The first important question to answer is what use you wish to make of the
sail. Is it for day-sailing, club racing, coastal cruising, or bluewater
sailing? Approximate recommended sail weights for boat length are shown
on the table as a guide to start a discussion with your sailmaker, but it
is only a guide. The table is useful if you want a lightweight sail, and
the sailmaker suggests a 9-ounce cloth for a 30-foot boat. You will be able
to challenge his choice and maybe consider another sailmaker.

The value of the table is to allow you to talk sensibly to a loft. In my
case, I am now able to say I’m seeking a 7-ounce genoa for bluewater sailing
for my 31-foot boat.

The next question concerns my expectations for the sail. Is it long life,
low price, speed, UV resistance, roller furling, and/or finally, size? Do
I want a 150-percent genoa, a 125-percent genoa, a blade jib, a light air
spinnaker, or drifter? My own requirements are for a long-lived, UV-resistant,
roller furling, 125-percent genoa.

Once I had defined my needs and communicated them to the sail lofts, I asked
them for quotes. It’s up to the sailmaker to make a recommendation to meet
my requirements. The second table shows the wide variety of sails offered
in response to my inquiry.

Price ranges

The prices ranged from $1,190 to $1,800, with an average price of $1,495.
Out of eight lofts quoting, three were near the average price. If I excluded
the highest and lowest price, the average price became $1,598 which left
five lofts to consider (A, B, C, D, and F). I eliminated the lowest-priced
sail based on the experience of a fellow sailor who had used the loft’s
services in the past and was not pleased. I also eliminated the highest-priced
sail based on price. It did not offer anything the others didn’t offer and
was just plain expensive. The loft was full, I guess.

Now here’s the tough part. Of the five, one was quoted through a discount
house and the actual loft building the sail was unknown (A); one sail was
smaller than 125 percent (F); one was a miter-cut sail that I decided I
did not want (D). This left B and C as finalists. Both offered 7.62 High
Aspect cloth, cross cut with a foam luff and Sunbrella UV protection on
the foot and leech. One loft was six hours away, and one was two hours away.
In addition, the nearer loft spent considerable time on the phone discussing
my requirements and explaining their approach to building a sail. A fellow
sailor who does lots of offshore racing also recommended them. I placed
my order with loft B.

loft, foam luff, Sunbrella
discussion from the loft, foam luff, Sunbrella
luff, Sunbrella
cut, foam luff, Sunbrella
cut, foam luff, Sunbrella
7-oz English cloth
luff, Sunbrella

You may ask: “Why didn’t you just go to this loft in the first place?” I
have greater confidence in my choice of sail. I know the price was fair,
and the sailmaker understood my needs and will be available if I have a

No discussion

The discount lofts were only a little cheaper than the selected loft, did
not offer detailed discussions of my sail, and seemed to say, “Here – buy

An interesting note is that another of the unsuccessful lofts, even nearer
to my home port, quoted a lower-grade cloth for a higher price with little
or no discussion. It is a well-known loft, but I got the feeling my order
was “small potatoes” and did not merit much effort.

Mine may not be the large order craved by a large loft, but my sail is very
important to me. The selected loft treated me as if my sail was also very
important to them.

I know I did not select the cheapest, fanciest, or most expensive. I selected
the sail and the loft that best suited my requirements, and this gives me
confidence that the finished sail will provide weeks and months of good
service in the years to come. As I was writing this, I received a call from
the selected sailmaker saying he will be near my marina this weekend and
would like to stop by my boat to check all of my sails and answer any questions.
This was an unsolicited, but welcome, call and reflects the level of service
I expected but had not requested. I believe I’ll have a satisfactory relationship
with this loft for all of my sail needs.

Yes, the time I invested to gather information and quotes on my new sail
was worth it.

Bill Sandifer

Sandifer is a marine surveyor/boatbuilder who’s been living, eating, and sleeping boats since he assisted at Pete Layton’s Boat Shop in the ’50s. He’s worked for Charlie Morgan (Heritage) and Don Arnow (Cigarette). And he’s owned a commercial fiberglass boatbuilding company (Tugboats).

Mildew Wars: a Fight You Can’t Win

By Bob Wood

Article taken from Good Old Boat magazine: Volume 2, Number 3, May/June 1999.

You may not be able to win the war, but you can win
occasional battles. Regardless of the odds, you must fight!
Now’s the
time to meet your opponent.

It’s the ultimate
mismatch: you versus an enemy infinite in numbers, awesome in reproductive
power and blessed with all the time in the world.

In the Mildew Wars, eternal vigilance (and a bottomless bottle of bleach) is
the price of freedom from odors, ineradicable black stains, allergies,
and possibly even disease. You may not win, but the alternative to a ceaseless
delaying action is to be driven from the water.

Behold the enemy

A moldy wall

Up close and personal: a shot of a moldy wall in a home that experienced standing water for more than a month.

Mildew is the common name for several varieties of fungi, tiny organisms
also known as mold. They reproduce by spores, an extremely efficient method
of propagation. Some species can fling their mature spores several feet
as a means of enhancing dispersal. And if they land on a spot not conducive
to growth, the spores can lie dormant for years – even centuries – waiting
for conditions to improve. And they can wait almost anywhere, remaining
viable even when subjected to temperatures approaching absolute zero.

can eat almost anything, anywhere – preferably somewhere warm, dark, and
damp. Like your boat. Mildew grows by sending out long cells that sprout
additional side cells in an endlessly repeating cycle. Under ideal conditions,
a single mildew cell can become a half mile of cells within 24 hours and
up to 200 miles, yes two hundred miles, of densely packed, interlocking
cellular growth in 48 hours. The mildew chains that can propagate in a
warm, moist hanging locker during a couple months of storage are able
to attain lengths approaching the astronomical.

than engulfing and digesting their food like higher life forms, mildew
excrete their digestive enzymes onto the food source (host), turning complex
molecules such as insoluble starches into soluble low-molecular-weight
compounds that can be absorbed directly through the cell walls.

The ravages of war

Aspergillus, common mildew

Aspergillus, a.k.a. common mildew: typically black, brown, gold, or bluegreen, mildew grows on damp surfaces and has a familiar “musty” odor.

When something reproduces like mad and eats almost anything, it’s a serious
enemy, even if it’s microbe-sized. It quickly becomes a visible mass and,
in the case of mildew, a very unattractive one. The splotchy staining
that appears on everything from portlights to leather to Dacron is a sort
of spy plane view of a mildew forest – and of the damage it has done to
the underlying surface, as you discover when you remove the mildew and
part of the discoloration remains.

And then
there’s that musty, unpleasant odor. That’s from the decomposition of
whatever surface the invaders’ digestive enzymes destroyed as they were
turning your boat into fungus food.

are known to cause allergic reactions. However the greatest risk associated
with mildew is the change that occurs to the host as a result of mildew
digestion. As the enzymes convert the host surface to a soluble substance,
the host is eroded and weakened. Fungicides, bleaches, and whiteners may
return the surface to like-new appearance, but the appearance is deceiving.
Even if it’s too slight to see with the naked eye, there is permanent
pitting, which attracts dirt, grime, and new mildew infestations. At worst,
the host may be so weakened that it will fail under high stress. Mildew-damaged
sail stitching that lets go in a gust is one particularly notorious example.

But wait!
Aren’t there mildew treatments, and mildew-resistant products on the market?
Yep. But they only buy you time. The mildew-resistant treatment on fibers
or hard goods loses its effectiveness in proportion to the conditions
it confronts. In ideal growing conditions, its mildew-fighting ability
is used up quickly. There is very little that is mildew-proof in this
world. Ask anyone who has discovered that it has etched the lenses of
his binoculars so badly that they are unusable. It won’t slow down for
most paints or surface treatments and thrives on many. It does prefer
natural plant- and/or animal-derived substances such as cotton, silk,
leather, or wood, but can make do quite nicely on artificial surfaces
like Biminis, sail covers, Formica, plastics, wiring insulation, or fiberglass,
adhesives, lubricants, and sealants. About the only substances mildew
can’t digest are metals.

The battlefield

Stachybotrys, requires high moisture contentAlternaria, common carpet and windowsill mold

Penicillium, common mildew similar to Aspergillus

From top:
Stachybotrys, a mold with an extremely high moisture requirement (a cellulose digester which likes straw, hemp, jute, and sheetrock and looking like a greasy black growth); Alternaria, a common carpet and wet windowsill mold with a high moisture requirement, looks black and fuzzy; Penicillium, another common mildew similar to Aspergillus with a similiar musty odor.

Mildew prefers a sub-tropical climate – high humidity, warm temperatures
(about 85° F is ideal), and still air. The still air helps maintain the
moisture critical to its life processes. But it can adapt to much more
extreme climates on both the high and low sides of the heat and humidity

they can challenge us at any moment in any suitable setting, our fungalfoes are especially likely to attack on three vulnerable fronts:

  • Winter or off-season storage. A sealed-up boat, summer or winter,
    is a sitting duck for a mildew onslaught. Just because it’s 15 degrees
    and a blizzard out doesn’t mean that mildew isn’t on the march in your
    sailbag. Its digestive and life processes generate heat. The bigger the
    colony grows, the more heat it produces. Mildew has been known to generate
    enough heat to produce spontaneous combustion in hay.
  • Closed spaces and lockers. Boat designers enclose every available
    nook and cranny for storage. But every bulkhead, overhead, locker, drawer,
    and bag impedes air circulation, promotes condensation, and encourages
    heat buildup. Mildew doesn’t have to work nearly as hard to heat the few
    cubic inches of unoccupied air in a locker packed with stuff as it would
    several hundred cubic feet of open cabin, nor will its precious moisture
    evaporate as quickly. Not a big problem, perhaps, if your boat is an ultra-light
    racer with nothing much below decks but ribs and hull. But cruising in
    such Spartan surroundings wouldn’t appeal to most of us.
  • The marine environment. Marine means wet, and not just the water
    upon which your good old boat is floating. There’s also condensation where
    the cool insides of the hull meet the warm, moisture-laden air in the
    cabin. Under the sole. Or behind the settee and cabinetry. Marine also
    means dripping packing glands, anti-siphon valves, and (to those of us
    who are truly cursed) an ice locker draining into the bilge. Water, water,
    everywhere . . . and all of it being used against you.

Fighting back

Most traditional remedies rely on sodium hypochlorite (household bleach)
to remove mildew. You can add TSP (tri-sodium phosphate, available at
most hardware stores) to the formula to make it more effective. A good,
strong, all-around solution is four quarts of fresh water, one quart of
bleach, 2/3 cup of TSP, and 1/3 cup of powdered laundry detergent. Do
not use liquid detergents in combination with bleaches and TSP. Scrub
the affected surfaces, using rubber gloves and eye protection. Rinse thoroughly.

Some caveats:

  1. Some fibers may be discolored by this treatment, especially animal
    fibers like leather, silk, and wool.
  2. If you rinse with salt water, finish with a fresh water rinsing. A
    salty surface attracts moisture and fungus ninjas.
  3. Never mix acids, rust removers, or ammonia with bleach while cleaning;
    poisonous fumes will result.
  4. Bleach may weaken some fabrics. If you are unsure about yours, try
    the solution on a small, hidden spot. Most commercial mildew removers
    also use sodium hypochlorite or near relatives. Follow the directions
    and warnings on their containers.

washers work with lightning speed but may force spores deeply into porous
surfaces. I don’t recommend them for removing mildew.


Your best strategy against the fungal foe is prevention, and low,
dry heat may be the single best weapon. High heat is theoretically even
better, since it is deadly to mildew. But it would be a Pyrrhic victory.
You would have to keep your boat interior at 200° F plus to reliably destroy
mildew – a heat level which would do more harm than the mildew. However,
a low-temperature electric heater designed for marine use can do a great
deal toward halting the mildew hordes. In combination with a fan, it safely
reduces the humidity in a boat, even during the warm summer months. Such
heaters are almost required equipment in the misty Pacific Northwest.

Dry is
good. In fact, dry is best. Taking away moisture will stop most mildews
from growing or reproducing. Open every possible airway, big and small,
to enhance circulation. Install fans to keep air moving throughout the
boat. See that lockers and companionway doors have as many louvers as
possible. Bulkheads between staterooms can also be louvered. (How much
privacy do you have on a boat, anyway?)

the head bulkheads can be louvered, with the louvers angled downward toward
the head side to deflect shower water back in. Shutting down after the
weekend or vacation should not mean buttoning your boat air-tight. Use
Dorade vents or solar-powered vent fans, leave a porthole open in the
head, and put louvers in the companionway drop boards.

the sole boards and bilge inspection ports open while you’re away. For
long-term idle periods (seasonal storage, etc.) bring your PFDs, cushions
and bedding home to a nice dry attic. Look into professional sail storage,
where sails are washed and dried, then hung, not folded, in order to avoid

Sunlight’s ultra-violet
radiation can inhibit mildew. Airing gear, hard and soft, that can be
brought topside provides the triple benefits of drying out, imparting
a fresh smell and zapping the mildew with UV.

And while you’re doing that, a few hundred miles of the little monsters will be
growing in some dark recess of your bilge.

No fear mast stepping!

By Ron Chappell

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

No trained elephants? Here’s an alternative

Terrell Chappell Single-handing the mast

In an article in November 2000, I touched upon the use of a quick
and easy way for the lone sailor to raise or lower the mast on the
small cruiser. Ensuing months brought a number of inquiries clamoring
for more details regarding rigging. In truth, ponder as I might, I
could never come up with a suitable mast-raising method on my own.
I have a good friend, Gerry Catha, who is an airline pilot, aircraft
builder, and fellow Com-Pac 23 sailor. He grew tired of my whining
and worked out the following solution. I am grateful to him for redefining
and perfecting the hardware involved and generously passing along the
method to be adapted by his fellow sailors.

The instability of the stand-alone
gin-pole has long made its use fraught with many of the same safety
concerns associated with the use of trained
elephants in mast stepping. The greatest fear factor involved in the
process has always been the tendency of the mast-gin-pole combination
to sway out of control during the lift. I can’t tell you the
number of “wrecks” I have heard of, or been personally
involved in (read, responsible for) over the years, due to a moment’s
inattention, insecure footing, or errant gust of wind at some critical
moment. All
of this becomes a thing of the past with Gerry’s no-nonsense
bridle arrangement.

While systems
may differ slightly as far as materials and fittings go, the basic
tackle remains the same: a six-foot length of 1 1/2-inch
tubing, two 2-inch stainless steel rings, enough low-stretch 3/16-inch
yacht braid for the bridle runs, a few stainless steel eyebolts,
some snaps and, of course, a boom vang to take the place of the elephants.

Eyebolt installed

Eyebolt installed

My own gin-pole has a large eyebolt installed in one end, which can
be attached by a through-bolt (with a nylon spool cover) into a matching
eye at the base of the mast’s leading edge and secured by a
large wingnut. This is the pivoting point for the gin-pole, which,
of course,
supplies the leverage. On the upper end of the gin-pole, two smaller,
opposing eyebolts provide attachment points for bridles, halyard, and
boom vang. Again, I must say that I have already heard of a number
of different variations regarding attachments, hardware, and so on,
as each
individual adapts the idea to his particular boat, budget, and attention

The critical thing to understand about this mast-raising technique
is that in order for the mast and gin-pole lines to stay tight and
the mast and gin-pole centered over the boat, the bridles must have
their pivot points located on an imaginary line running through the
mast pivot
bolt. If the bridle pivot points are located anywhere else, the supporting
lines will be too tight and/or too loose at some points during the

Terre; Chappell attracting help with the mast

Terrel Chappell used to attract sympathetic onlookers to help with mast raising by appearing to struggle with the problem alone. These days she and Ron can raise the stick without help, and they prefer it that way.

There are two
bridles. Each bridle consists of four runs of line, one
end of each terminating in the same stainless steel ring, which forms
the central pivot point of that particular bridle. In operation,
this ring must be centered directly across from the mast step pivot
The longest of the four lines will go to a point as high as you can
reach on the mast (secured to a padeye using a stainless snap). The
longest run attaches to the top of the gin-pole, snapped to an eyebolt.
The two bottom runs, your shorter lines, are attached fore and aft
to stanchion bases, though a toerail will work as well. It is imperative
that the steel ring be centered directly in line with the mast pivot
point when all lines are taut. This is accomplished by the location
lengths of the two bottom lines.

Clip the jib halyard
to the uppermost eye on the gin-pole and bring it to an approximate
90-degree angle
to the mast and tie it off.
Next, secure
one end of the boom vang (cleat end) to a point as far forward
on the deck as possible and the remaining end to the top of the gin-pole
the jib halyard.

At your leisure

With all bridle lines taut and the mechanical advantage of the boom
vang facilitating the lifting, you can slowly raise the spar at your
Since the mast and gin-pole are equally restrained port and starboard,
they will go straight up or down without wandering from side to side.
Using the auto-cleat on the boom vang, you can halt the process any
time shrouds or lines need straightening or become caught up. This
the stress factor tremendously and allows for a calm, orderly evaluation
and fix of the problem.

Ron's mast-stepping process

This photo, printed in the November 2000 issue of Good Old Boat, drew dozens of requests for more information about Ron’s mast-stepping process.

I might note that, due to variations in shroud adjustment and slight
hull distortions, you may find the port and starboard bridle will
be of slightly different dimensions, making it necessary to devise
sort of visual distinction between the two sides. I spray-painted
the ends of the lines on each side, red or green, for instant identification.
Stainless steel snaps on the rigging end of these lines make for
and easy setup. I find that it takes us about 15 minutes to deploy
the entire system and only 10 minutes or so to take it down and put
it away.
Each bridle rolls up into a bundle about the size of a tennis ball
for storage. The bridles go into a locker, and the gin-pole attaches
to the
trailer until next it is needed.

Granted, launch time is extended by a
few minutes, but the safety factor gained is immeasurable, especially
for sailors who must perform
the entire operation by themselves. I have used this method on masts up to 25 feet long and in quite strong side winds with no problem and have
found it to be the most expeditious way to raise or lower a mast should trained elephants not be readily available.

Cool, Quiet, and Trouble Free Exhaust

By Jerry Powlas and Dave Gerr

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

Guidelines for evaluating and installing wet exhausts

The most popular sailboat exhaust system today is a wet exhaust system
which includes a waterlift muffler. This system offers many advantages
and seems deceptively simple. Almost all engines are cooled with seawater,
either directly or though a heat exchanger. The seawater must be discharged
after it has picked up the engine heat, so it is logical to inject it
into the engine exhaust. This cools the engine exhaust so it can be routed
through the boat without too much concern for the parts of the boat that
it passes near and through. Wet exhausts are the best choice for the majority
of sailboats, but they can cause trouble if not properly designed, installed,
and maintained.

At first
glance it looks like all that is required is to plumb the parts in series
in the proper order. That approach, however, will likely cause trouble.

We assume
that naval architects and boatbuilders know how to design and build a
wet exhaust system. We speculate that wet exhaust problems have come mainly
from boats that have been modified during repair or converted from other
types of exhausts by owners or technicians who did not thoroughly understand
wet exhausts. That could easily happen for two reasons. First, not all
boats are configured to allow a system to be installed which complies
with the guidelines; and second, the requirements are more complicated
than they appear.

The following
outline lists common wet exhaust fault modes. The most serious problems
with wet exhausts involve seawater working its way back into the engine,
where it gets into the cylinders and flows past the rings into the crankcase.
This kind of water penetration may require engine rebuilding or replacement.
In extreme cases after flooding the engine, a defective system can even
flood and sink an unattended boat.

Water in engine fault modes (See Figure Four.)

Rigging a siphon

    1. Siphon faults
      1. Water siphons from the cooling water seacock past the raw-water
        pump into the injection elbow when the engine is off. It fills the muffler
        and floods the engine.
      2. Water siphons backward up the exhaust piping, fills the muffler, and
        floods the engine.


  1. Heavy weather faults
    1. Following seas force water back up the exhaust system where it fills
      the muffler and floods the engine. The use of a stern-deployed drogue
      can aggravate this problem. b. The boat heels or pitches enough to make
      the muffler higher than the engine, so water flows from the muffler into
      the engine.
    2. The boat pitches enough to get the raw-water intake out of the water
      frequently and for long enough periods to starve the exhaust system of
      the cooling water it needs causing the plastic and rubber parts to overheat
      and fail.

Other failure modes


  1. The raw-water circuit fails from:
    1. Plugged intake.
    2. Plugged raw-water filter.
    3. Pump impeller failure (most likely of all failure modes).
    4. Plugged water line from pump to injection elbow (pieces of impeller).
    5. Plugged injection elbow (rust, scale, pieces of impeller).

If the raw-water circuit fails, the exhaust system will overheat very quickly. Most of the exhaust parts on most boats will not withstand the overheating caused by a raw-water system failure. The following can occur before the engine overheats enough to get your attention:

  1. Hoses burn out.
  2. Muffler melts, if plastic.
  3. Muffler liner separates, if plastic or rubber-coated steel.
    1. Corrosion can cause failures of:
      1. Injection elbow.
      2. Exhaust hose (it is wire-reinforced).
      3. Waterlift muffler (if steel).


  1. Freeze damage
    1. If the muffler is steel.

Wet exhausts
are not foolproof, but given proper design, installation, and maintenance,
they are a good choice for most sailboats.

Siphoning, velocity pressure, water head

Water Head in a water tower

Siphoning, velocity pressure, and water head (pressure) are three concepts
that are important in understanding wet exhausts.

will occur when you put a small hose overboard, suck on it until it is
full of water, and then bring the inboard end into your boat below the
water level. (See Figure One.) The water will flow up the hose and down
the other side, filling your boat until it sinks. No pumping is required.
Any bilge pump through-hull that is ever below the waterline can cause
siphoning after the bilge pump fills the piping with water. The pump shuts
off, and the flow reverses. This is a fairly common problem. Think in
terms of the heeled waterline, the waterline with full cruising stores,
the waterline when the boat squats under power, or a combination of these

head is a way to describe the pressure in a system. In this term, the
word head equates to height. The pressure at the base of a water tower
is a function of the height of the water in the tower. (See Figure Two.)
Sometimes very low pressures are described in terms of inches of water
column. These pressures can be converted to pounds per square inch, which
is the more familiar unit of measure. The conversion is 27.68 inches of
water column equals one psi.

pressure is a way of expressing the speed of a fluid in terms of the pressure
it causes when it strikes something. This phenomenon is used to make simple
speed-measuring devices that measure the height of a column of water caused
by the velocity of the water flowing past it. (See Figure Three.) Note,
six knots is equal to a velocity pressure of about 19 inches, and in Figure
Three the pressure is measured directly in inches of water column.

Four shows a complete wet exhaust system and is similar to other diagrams
published on this topic. The discussion which follows is absolutely unnecessary
if you have a boat that allows the specified features, including dimensions,
to be followed faithfully.

The important
point is that some good old boats were not designed with this type of
exhaust system in the first place, and either their machinery spaces will
not allow the installation of this type of exhaust per the specifications
of Figure Four, or the persons making repairs or modifications did not
completely understand the requirements. You may want to check your boat
to see how closely your current layout complies with the requirements
of Figure Four.

In studying
your boat and the diagram, note that features are positioned relative
to each other and relative to the waterline. You can find the waterline
in your machinery space by making a siphon like the one shown in Figure
One. Remember you are finding the at-rest waterline by this method. Sailing,
heeling, powering, pitching, and rolling will all change it.

Now let’s
follow the water into the boat and back out again. The water enters by
a through-hull and seacock and flows through a raw-water filter. The through-hull
may include a scoop. If there is a scoop, it will develop some velocity
pressure when the boat is moving. (Six knots produces about 19 inches
of water column pressure.) An allowance may be needed when considering
other aspects of the system design if there is a scoop facing forward.
Some systems are built without the filter, but it is a good investment
because it protects the raw-water pump. The water flows through the raw-water
pump and either through a heat exchanger or two, or through the engine
itself. After leaving the engine, it is discharged into the exhaust.

The injection
point should be 4 inches (minimum) below the exhaust manifold exit point.
(See Dimension H on Figure Four.) This distance is required to keep the
steam and other nasty chemicals created at the injection point from attacking
the exhaust valves. The engine manufacturer knows this and will provide
an arrangement that protects the engine.

The injection
point must also be located relative to the waterline. If it is high enough
above the waterline, a vented loop is not required. The minimum height
varies depending on which authority is consulted. We found minimums from
6 to 16 inches recommended. This may be because a scoop at the through-hull
can raise the water level in the piping, leading to the injection point
when the boat is sailing (engine off). In addition to allowing for velocity
pressure,it is necessary to allow for maximum loading, rolling, and pitching
mo tion.

If the
injection point is closer to or below the waterline than the allowance,
there is the potential for a siphon to form. This siphon is prevented
from forming if the raw-water pump does not leak. There is the risk, however,
that it will leak. Small leaks may occur at the rotor sides or tips, and
the common failure mode for this pump is for the lobes on the impeller
to break off and be carried downstream to do mischief elsewhere in the
system. The lobes don’t all break off at once, so the pump may deliver
enough water to keep the engine cooled, but it will leak when the engine
is not running. Even a fairly small leak can, over time, flood the muffler
and then the engine.

The vented
loop shown in Figure Four breaks this siphon. The top of the arch of the
loop should be at least 6 inches above the waterline. Some authorities
say 12 inches minimum, with 16 inches being better. Remember, if you have
a scoop at the through-hull, it will raise the level of the water in this
part of the system by virtue of its velocity pressure. As mentioned above,
depending on how fast your boat is, you need to allow for this. At the
top of the arch of the vented loop there must be either a siphon break
valve, or an additional tube extended from a tee.

In saltwater
service, the siphon break valve may become clogged with salt crystals
and either become inoperative (not break the siphon) or leak constantly.
The constant leak failure mode can result in spraying seawater around
in the machinery space. This seawater is needed to cool the exhaust. For
these reasons, some authorities recommend dispensing with the siphon break
valve and locating a tee in the line vented higher up, such as in the

if there is a tee, with a tube extending from it to a higher location,
it is necessary for the top of the arch in the vented loop itself to be
positioned 6 to 16 inches above the waterline. If it is not, a siphon
may still form in some circumstances. In other words, extensions from
the tee don’t count against the 6 to 16 inches requirement. The extension
tube from the tee should extend higher than any other point in the system.
This can be a problem in some boats.

we leave this part of the system, we should mention that a cranking engine
is pumping water into the exhaust system. If it cranks a lot and does
not fire, the muffler may fill up with water and eventually flood the
engine. Some authorities recommend closing the cooling water seacock during
prolonged cranking such as when bleeding air out of injectors, the first
start after lay-up, or when troubleshooting a reluctant engine. As soon
as the engine starts, quickly open the seacock again. If the muffler has
a drain, it could be left open instead until the engine fires and then
be quickly closed.

The distance
from the injection point to the muffler inlet is specified by various
authorities as 10 or 12 inches minimum. This is intended to be both a
minimum length and a minimum vertical distance. We think that on some
significant number of good old boats this is the dimension that will be
most difficult to comply with.

On Mystic
(our C&C 30), the machinery space will not allow the muffler to be
much lower than the exhaust outlet because the bottom of the boat slopes
up sharply behind the engine. Worse, the boat was designed for an Atomic
4, which has the exhaust on the port side. The Bukh Pilot 20 diesel that
was fitted later has the exhaust on the starboard side. The original muffler
platform was used, so the muffler is on the opposite side from the exhaust.
Moving the muffler platform would have been complicated because the cockpit
drain and raw-water through-hulls and seacocks occupy the space where
the muffler should go on the starboard side. That may be why the mechanics
who did the conversion to diesel did not put the muffler on the same side
as the exhaust. When our boat heels to starboard, the muffler is elevated
above the engine, providing an opportunity for it to pour water into the

the muffler would be mounted directly behind the engine exhaust so it
is not elevated above the engine as the boat heels. We were told by one
knowledgeable person that Dimension A is also the minimum distance the
exhaust gases must travel to ensure that they are cool enough to enter
a plastic muffler without damaging it. This seems logical. All the cooling
will not occur at the exact point of water entry, and the process of heat
exchange will take some time, and therefore distance, to be completed.

Velocity pressure

we said, the space for an 8 to 12 inch (minimum) vertical drop from the
engine to the muffler is not available on some boats. There are two possible
solutions to this problem: both involve some manner of exhaust riser.
Where a short riser is required, engine manufacturers can provide an exhaust
riser that is a water-jacketed exhaust pipe which lifts up and turns back
down. After the downturn, the jacket water is injected. Contact your engine
manufacturer about this option. If you have room for it, it may be a very
good way to obtain the minimum drop distance.

a larger lift from the manifold is required, it may be necessary to run
a dry unjacketed (very hot) insulated pipe to another location, where
either a conventional exhaust elbow is fitted or a standpipe is used.
See the companion article by Dave Gerr which deals with several special
versions of wet exhausts that can be used to overcome layout problems.
Remember as you contemplate variations on this theme, when the flow reverses,
the drop becomes a rise, and this rise is what protects a flooded muffler
from dumping into the exhaust manifold when water backs up in the hose
leading from the muffler to the exit.

C is the vertical rise from the bottom of the muffler to where the hose
turns back down. This is the lift. We found maximum dimensions for this
lift of 40 to 48 inches, with 20 inches being cited for turbocharged engines.
Some literature seems to suggest that the height of the lift determines
the exhaust back pressure in some simple way so that (for example) a 48-inch
lift would give a 48-inch water column back pressure. It seems logical
that if there were enough water in the muffler to fill the lift pipe,
and if the pressure were slowly increased on the engine side, as perhaps
in a case of cranking and not firing, this reasoning might pertain. Once
the engine is firing, however, it is doubtful that there would ever be
a solid column of water in the lift pipe. With exhaust gas flowing in
the lift, much more complex things are happening. The flow in the lift
is probably a chaotic mixture of gases and liquids. One source said that
engine manufacturers know this and are not too worried about this maximum
lift dimension. In individual cases, it would be best to contact the engine
manufacturer and follow the manufacturer’s guidelines.

the hose from the muffler exit to the top of the lift is vertical, not
slanted. The reason for this is that a vertical pipe achieves the maximum
rise with the least volume. The concern here is that the water in the
lift pipe will fall back into the muffler when the engine shuts down.
This is a critical issue. The muffler volume must be large enough to accept
the water that falls out of the lift pipe. The rule of thumb is that the
muffler should have at least 130 percent of the volume of the lift pipe.
Note here that if the muffler is fairly well filled from water falling
back from the lift pipe, it is much more likely to cause mischief in other
ways. At the upper end of the lift pipe the exhaust hose should slope
down toward the exit through-hull. Note: the intent is that everything
from the top of the lift pipe either drains to the muffler or drains overboard.
At least that is the way the story goes for a system without an exit gooseneck.
Some authorities go so far as to say that there must be no sags in the
sloping pipe from the top of the lift to the exit through-hull. The sags
would allow some water to be trapped, while a straight sloping pipe would
drain overboard.

Figure Four

Alternative gooseneck
The exit through the hull

The alternative
gooseneck shown in Figure Four is a variation sometimes seen where there
is not only a sag, but in fact a large trap. The hose loops down and back
up and down again. The gooseneck provides some added protection from pooping
seas by forcing the water to lift up the gooseneck to get into the system.
We found one reference that suggested a minimum dimension of 16 inches
from the top of the gooseneck to the waterline. One manufacturer makes
a plastic gooseneck that looks like it might take less space than a looped
exhaust hose. Because the price of exhaust hose is fairly high, it might
be less costly as well.

to the top of the rise again (See Dimension D), the minimum dimension
from the top of the lift to the waterline is 12 inches. More is better,
and 18 inches is recommended by some authorities. Dimension D should be
viewed as a minimum vertical dimension. Its purpose is to provide resistance
to water flowing back up the hose to the top of the lift and then falling
into the muffler.

The exit
through-hull should be located above the waterline. Suggestions for this
dimension vary from 3 to 6 inches to the centerline of the exhaust pipe.
(See Dimension F.) The reason it is desirable for the exhaust to exit
above the waterline is so it can’t create a siphon. The reason the outlet
is not located very high, just below deck level for example, is to help
prevent exhaust fumes from coming back into the boat. Because it is fairly
low however, it will be submerged by waves, and the pitching motion of
the hull. The American Boat and Yacht Council (ABYC) recommends that the
outlet be located near the intersection of the hull and transom because
this also helps prevent exhaust fumes from getting back into the boat.

The total
length of the piping from the muffler to the exit is shown as Dimension
L. Very long piping runs increase back pressure. This hose should have
a length of less than 30 times the exhaust line diameter as it enters
the muffler from the engine. For example, for a 1H-inch diameter hose,
the run shouldn’t be over 45 inches total length from the lift outlet
to the throuh-hull. This run is commonly much longer than 48 inches. If
the run has to be longer, you may need to make the hose diameter larger.
(These long runs and larger hoses will also require a larger muffler canister.)
For runs up to 60 times exhaust diameter, increase the hose diameter by
20 percent. Still longer runs are possible, but you must increase diameter
still more and check with the engine manufacturer about the maximum acceptable
back pressure. As with any exhaust, you should use as few bends as possible
with the largest radii possible; tight bends also increase back pressure.

If, when
inspecting your system, you find that your hoses are too long and should
be larger in diameter according to the rules of thumb just mentioned,
it would be a good idea to get an opinion on your specific system from
your engine manufacturer. You may even want to check back pressure in
actual operation before buying all that new larger diameter hose.

J on Figure Four is a valve which is intended to be closed when sailing
in rough seas. It should be able to withstand the temperatures involved
(200 degrees Fahrenheit minimum) and should be located where it can easily
be reached in rough weather. For this reason, it is unlikely to be located
at the through-hull and should not be thought of as a seacock. While we
understand the intent of this valve, we have the following concerns about
its installation and use:

  1. It is not a passive device that tends to work automatically. The crew
    must close it when conditions warrant and must open it before starting
    the engine.
  2. If the crew tries to start the engine with the valve closed, the best
    thing that could happen is for the engine not to start.

For these
reasons, we consider the valve as an option of last resort to be used
only if the geometry of the boat does not allow a layout that can function
properly without it.

Mysteries and nuances

the engine off:

Imagine the boat being pushed down by the stern so the exit through-hull
is submerged. Or imagine the exit through-hull being slapped by a large
wave. Combinations of these two cases will occur when the boat is pitching
in a large following sea. We speculate that some interesting things will
happen in this situation.

A trapped
air pocket will form in the tube between the muffler and the exit. The
pressure of the pocket will be a function of how fast the waves hit the
stern, and how deeply the stern is pushed down by pitching. In the worst
case, velocity pressure and water column pressure will add together. It
is not unreasonable to assume 10 knots for the wave velocity (it takes
only Force 6 for this) and, thus, 51 inches of water column pressure increase.
If the stern is pushed another 6 inches below the water, the total reverse
pressure would be 57 inches of water column pressure.

Now let’s
return to how full the muffler is when the engine shuts off and the water
in the lift column falls back into it. If the muffler is not very full,
air is pushed into it and out the inlet toward the engine. If seawater
did not manage to push its way to the top of the lift column, the muffler
does not gain any water, and the water in the sloped section from the
top of the lift drains back out, ideally before the next pitch/wave slap.

If the
muffler is nearly full, the pressure in the piping downstream of the muffler
will force water, not air, out the muffler inlet toward the engine. Now
consider Dimension A again. If this dimension is a vertical dimension,
the water must lift against gravity to reach the engine. If it is a sloping
horizontal dimension, the lift is not great, and the engine is more likely
to be flooded. The dimension should be a vertical dimension, but in some
boats that is not possible.

Four shows an alternative in which a gooseneck is located at the end of
the piping before the exit through-hull. One manufacturer cites a minimum
dimension of 16 inches from the top of the gooseneck to the waterline.
With a gooseneck at the exit, the water must lift against gravity to the
top of the gooseneck before it can enter the system to stay. This seems
like a very positive improvement.

Significance of dimensions

  1. 12″ min.
  2. 12″ min., 16″ better
  3. 42″ max., 20″ max.,
  4. 12″ to 18″ min.
  5. 12″ min.
  6. 3″ to 6″ min.
  7. 4″ min.
  8. 16″ min. (optional)
  9. use as last resort
  10. highest point in piping

Dimension A

12-inch minimum vertical, 12-inch minimum total, sloped downward H inch
per foot minimum. (The slope is not likely to be this small if the other
criteria are met.)

vertical dimension from the injection point to the top of the muffler.
(Also) minimum total distance from the injection point to the top of the

When the engine is running, this minimum total distance gives the water
time to mix with the exhaust gases and cool them. This minimum is necessary
to protect plastic and fiberglass mufflers from excessive temperatures.

the engine is not running, this minimum vertical distance helps retard
the flow of seawater from the muffler to the engine where it will damage
the engine.

If the
minimums cannot be achieved, the alternatives are:
1. Use a special exhaust riser supplied by the engine manufacturer to
increase the vertical distance. (Yanmar calls this a “U mixing elbow.”)
2. Run some dry (hot) exhaust piping to some other location where there
is space to get the height needed, and then use a mixing elbow or a stand
pipe. See Dave Gerr’s article on Page 20 for alternative exhaust systems.
3. In the worst case, where there is no space for any of these options,
a water-jacketed or dry exhaust system may be the only alternatives.

Dimension B

12-inch minimum, 16 inches is better. Minimum vertical distance from the
waterline to the bottom of the vented loop.

If the injection point is above the waterline (6 to 16 inches are quoted
figures), you don’t need a vented loop. Remember that a scoop at the through-hull
takes away from this margin, as do heeling, pitching, squatting, and loading.

A siphon
break may be used in the vented loop, or a tee and extension may be used
with no valve. Siphon valves may become salt-encrusted and leak. Tees
and extensions should vent to a point higher than any other part of the
exhaust system.

Dimension C

42 inches maximum.
20 inches maximum with turbocharger.
Maximum vertical distance from the bottom of the muffler to the top of
the lift.

When the engine stops, the top of the lift divides the water in the system.
The water in the lift flows into the muffler, (which must be able to hold
it all) and the water in the down-stream piping flows to the through-hull.
Excessive lift
is thought by some authorities to cause excessive back pressure. Other
opinions minimize the significance of this.

Dimension D

12 to 18 inches minimum (depending on which authority is consulted).
Minimum vertical distance from the top of the lift to the waterline.

When the engine is off, and water is being forced backward into the system
through the through-hull from following seas, or the through-hull is forced
under water from the motion of the boat, or some combination of these,
this lift helps to keep water from getting over the top of the lift and
draining into the muffler. Sometimes this protection is enhanced by using
a gooseneck as shown with Dimension I.

Dimension E

12 inches minimum (this dimension is redundant if Dimension D is complied
Minimum vertical distance from the top of the lift to the through-hull
(similar to Dimension D).

Significance: When the engine is off, and water is being forced backward into the system
through the through-hull from following seas, or because the through-hull
is forced underwater from the motion of the boat, or some combination
of these, this lift helps to keep water from getting over the top of the
lift and draining into the muffler. Sometimes this protection is enhanced
by using a gooseneck as shown with Dimension I.

Dimension F

3 to 6 inches minimum (depending on which authority is consulted).
Minimum vertical distance from the waterline to the through-hull.

When the engine is off, it is desirable to have the exhaust exit point
above the waterline so that it cannot start a siphon. Safety margins are
eroded by heeling and loading.

the vessel pitches, the through-hull can be submerged, and pressure formed
in the piping that will try to force air (or water) backward out of the
muffler and into the engine.

successful layouts have been built that have the exhaust outlet lower.
Powerboats sometimes have it below the water.

Dimension H

Minimum distance from the exhaust manifold to the injection point.
4 inches minimum

Highly corrosive chemical combinations form at the injection point.
The intent of this dimension is to keep these from reaching the engine
exhaust valves and guides. In most cases, the engine designers will take
care of this parameter.

If the
dimension is too long, it may be necessary to insulate the part of the
exhaust that is dry (and hot).

Dimension I

Minimum lift in (optional) gooseneck.
16 inches minimum

Significance: Where this last gooseneck is used, it provides added protection against
water flowing backward into the piping and reaching the muffler. It is
interesting to note that not all authorities recommend this feature. We
think it is a good idea.

Dimension L

Maximum length from muffler to exit.
30 times manifold outlet diameter. An alternative is to increase hose

Significance: It may be necessary to increase the diameter of the piping to reduce resistance.
See the North Sea Exhaust description in Dave Gerr’s article.

the forgoing, you can see that the issues associated with wet exhausts
and waterlift mufflers are not simple, and it is possible for a boat to
be configured so that a “conventional” installation is not possible.
We would expect this to be more common in the case of good old boats that
were not designed for a wet exhaust in the first place. We would also
expect this to be more of a problem for fin-keel designs without a lot
of depth from the engine compartment to the transom. In a companion article
in this issue, Dave Gerr explains some of the other methods for dealing
with wet exhausts that cannot be laid out according to the recommendations
we have presented here.

A quick disclaimer

We have tried to present the most detailed information possible on this
topic. The application of a wet exhaust and waterlift muffler can be complex.
As we have said, not every boat has the space available for the “standard”
layout. Some boats don’t even have spaces that are suited to the alternative
layouts. It is important to contact your engine manufacturer and the manufacturer
of your exhaust components for specific parameters and to resolve any
questions or doubts with these sources. One muffler manufacturer said
they regularly provide this information to their customers, and it is
likely that the other manufacturers will as well. We have presented this
information believing that if you know the intent of each characteristic
and parameter in the system, you will be better prepared to evaluate variations
that may be needed to accomplish the same intent.

In the
end, as in so many things on your boat, the responsibility for the safety
and good functioning of your exhaust system is yours.

Lazy-jacks: Mainsail Tamers

By Guy Stevens

Article taken from Good Old Boat magazine: Volume 4, Number 4, July/August 2001.

Take the pain out of the main, make your own lazy-jacks

Lazy-jack lines diagram

The easiest way for the shorthanded
sailor to control the mainsail when reefing or stowing is a set of
well-fitted lazy-jacks. Lazy-jacks
are made from a set of fixed or movable lines led from the upper section
of the mast to the boom, with lines on each side. They guide the
onto the top of the boom when reefing or dousing it and keep it there
to be tied up at the crew’s leisure.

When properly installed, a lazy-jack system adds to safety and sail
control. Lazy-jacks function well with sails with no battens, half battens,
or full battens. When installed and used correctly, they prevent chafe
and tearing. A well-thought-out installation makes the lazy-jacks convenient
to use, puts them out of the way when stowed, and does not require expensive
alterations of sails or sail covers.

There are several varieties of lazy-jacks. The fixed systems permanently
attach to the mast and are not stowed. These require altering the sail
cover, may chafe the sail while sailing, and sail battens may catch in
the lazy-jacks, making hoisting difficult. The better systems allow the
lazy-jacks to be stowed and are deployed only when the sail is being
doused or reefed.

Off-the-shelf and custom-built lazy-jack systems are available. Sail-loft
versions start at $200; mid-range systems cost about $400; and high-end
systems can cost $1,500 or so if professionally installed. A scratch-built
system can be fabricated for less than the cheapest off-the-shelf systems,
and has some advantages in the way it fits and functions with your boat.

Not always better

The off-the-shelf systems are not necessarily better designs. Most off-the-shelf
systems use blocks at their segment junction points. When stowed, these
blocks may bang on the mast. Correcting this situation requires the
installation of hooks on the mast or boom and sections of shock cord
to pull the support segment away from the mast. The need for blocks
at the segment junctions is questionable, and they are more costly
than thimbles.

Systems that use a line through
the sail can cause sail chafe and require modifications to the sail
and cover. Since the average do-it-yourself
sailor can’t perform these modifications, the work can be expensive.
These lines can also interfere with the shape of the sail when set. Changing
the sail requires re-threading the lines through the sail each time it
is changed or removed, neither a quick nor an easy task.

Some systems use shock cords to support the leg segments of the lazy-jacks.
However, the shock cord provides too much stretch, and the sail may fall
out of the lazy-jacks. Most of these systems use a plastic clip-on fitting
to secure the lazy-jacks to the boom and mast. This plastic deteriorates
in sunlight and often fails within a season or two.

With about an hour more than you would invest in the installation of
an off-the-shelf lazy-jack system, you can make your own custom set,
tailored to your boat. By buying the individual components, you can create
a custom system for less than $175 (see parts list).

Four choices

he line you select should match your splicing abilities and rig construction.
There are four types to choose from: three-strand nylon; three-strand
Dacron, standard double yacht braid, and more exotic fibers, such as
Sta-Set X or Spectra line. Lazy-jacks made of three-strand nylon for
the average boat can be assembled for about $91. The same lazy-jacks
in Sta-Set would cost about $160. Don’t let cost be the only
deciding factor; each line has advantages and disadvantages.

Three-strand nylon is simple
to splice, requiring no tools and little knowledge. It’s inexpensive and available from most chandlers
for 13 cents a foot or less for 1/4-inch diameter. However it is stretchy,
so it is not as well-suited for high-aspect-ratio rigs where the stretch
could allow the sail to fall off of the top of the boom. It’s
susceptible to chafing where it contacts other lines, and it may cause
twisting when deploying the lazy-jacks, necessitating the untwisting
of the support lines.

While this is the cheapest
line, with the most disadvantages, it served well on my 39-foot racer/
cruiser for more than five years, until recent
replacement with double yacht braid. I’ve constructed a number
of lazy-jack systems using three-strand nylon for people who wanted to
spend as little as possible on the initial trial of the lazy-jack system.
Each system I created with three-strand nylon has occasionally required
some intervention to untwist the support lines. Using this line, you
could first build a three-legged system, expand to a four-legged system,
or experiment with other aspects. As it is the least expensive material,
making radical changes in lazy-jack rigging rarely involves more than
a $30 expense.

Less stretch

Three-strand Dacron is as easy to work with as three-strand nylon. It
is less expensive than yacht braid or exotic fibers and has significantly
less stretch than nylon: 4.2 percent compared to 16 percent when loaded
to 15 percent of breaking strength. This makes lazy-jack deployment
and tensioning easier. It has less tendency to twist than nylon, lasts
longer, and is significantly less prone to chafe. It is also 10 to
20 percent stronger than the same-sized nylon. It looks great on traditionally
rigged vessels on which the rest of the rigging is three-strand and
costs about 18 cents a foot. A system constructed with three-strand
Dacron for an average boat costs about $106.

Double yacht braid line has
still less stretch than three-strand Dacron – only
2.4 percent. It is less prone to chafe than either of the three-strand
lines and looks a lot more at home on a boat with braided running rigging.
It is more difficult to splice than three-strand line, and splicing requires
the use of a fid and pusher like those produced by Samson or the Splicing
Wand from Brion Toss. Both come with excellent directions. Double yacht
braid eliminates twist. It costs about 36 cents a foot. A system would
cost about $160 for an average boat.

The exotic lines are more
expensive, and there is no need to make your lazy-jack system out of
these because lazy-jacks are not normally subject
to the kinds of loads these lines are meant to handle. They do rate a
single mention. Should your boat have an extremely high-aspect-ratio
mainsail, you might wish to make the support segments out of Sta-Set
X. This line is harder to splice but has the advantage of the least stretch
for the money, at 1.6 percent stretch and about 59 cents per foot. This
would reduce any tendency of the high-aspect-ratio sail to stretch out
the lazy-jacks and fall off the top of the boom. An alternative to splicing
might be a good seizing job; it’s almost as strong and a whole
lot easier.

Chafe on the mast cause noise and wear

Chafe on the mast is an issue because of noise and wear.

Excessive chafe

With the exception of a turning block for the support segment, blocks
are not well suited to use in lazy-jacks; they cause excessive chafe
on the sail and bang on any surface they contact. They also add unnecessary
expense to the installation. They’re prone to jamming when deploying
the lazy-jacks and to sunlight damage to their sheaves. Blocks are
meant to make adjusting a line under load easier, but in deploying
your lazy-jacks there shouldn’t be any load. The weight of the
sail is placed on the lazy-jacks after they have been deployed and

There are three types of thimbles available. These are used for the
inserts that go into the eye splices to reduce the chafe and friction
where the segments of the lazy-jacks meet.

Galvanized steel thimbles
are really cheap, but they rust quickly and make a mess of the sails,
mast, and anything else they contact. Nylon
thimbles are cheaper than stainless steel, are a nice white color, and
won’t remove the surface coating of the mast should they come
into contact with it. However, they do chafe more easily and are subject
to degradation in sunlight, often being the first part of a lazy-jack
system to fail. Stainless-steel thimbles last longer than nylon thimbles
and have the least friction. If allowed to bang on the mast, they make
a racket and remove the surface coating. I use them only when I’m
certain they’re not going to contact the mast. They will outlast
the rest of the lazy-jack system and probably even the boat itself.

Stainless wire

Most off-the-shelf systems use vinyl-coated stainless wire for support
segments. The wires are mounted to pad-eyes on the mast. Since both
ends of the support segment are next to the mast when the unit is stowed,
the segment bangs against the mast in rolly or windy conditions. A
fixed-support segment requires lazy-jacks to be adjusted, stowed, and
deployed from a spot on the boom. The disadvantage is that you have
to adjust them from the center of the boom. If you position the lazy-jack
controls on the mast, it’s much easier to deploy them when the
boom is moving or not centered on the boat.

Mounting control lines on the mast also makes it possible to mount the
support segment blocks 6 to 8 inches out on the spreaders. This prevents
banging on the mast. Mounting the support segment blocks on the spreaders
works best on the upper spreader of double-spreader rigs. If your boat
has a single-spreader rig, or if you are mounting to the lower spreader,
three-strand nylon may stretch too much and let the sail fall off of
the boom. In these cases, the easiest solution is to use a stiffer line.

For free-standing rigs, a general rule for the placement of the support
segment blocks is: the higher the better. About 70 to 75 percent of the
height of the mast off the deck provides a good angle. If the support
segment blocks are too low, the tension is more forward than upward.
In this situation, the sail pushes the lazy-jacks out of the way and
falls off of the boom when it is lowered.

Spreader blocks

The parts list on the previous page is for a 40-foot boat I recently
equipped with lazy-jacks. On this boat I was able to use spreader-mounted
blocks for the support segment. The rig is modern, so we used 1/4-inch
double yacht braid for the installation. Since the support segments
were spreader-mounted, I used stainless-steel thimbles. If we had not
been able to use the spreaders for the support segment blocks, I would
have used two Harken 092 cheek blocks at a cost of about $8.79 each.

The first step in the installation
is cutting the lines for the support segments. If you’re installing
lazy-jacks on a double-spreader rig and are able to use the spreaders
as a mount for the support segment,
measure the height of the second set of spreaders to the deck. Double
this measurement and add 3 feet for splicing room. You will need to cut
two lines this length for the support segments, one for each side of
the mast.

If you are unable to use the spreaders as a mount for the support segments,
you will want to mount the support segment blocks about 70 percent of
the way up the mast. Measure this spot on the mast by using a long tape
and a halyard. Make sure the area is clear of other fittings and there
is sufficient room to mount the cheek blocks.

If you’re mounting
the support segment blocks to the bottom of the spreaders, position
them about 8 inches from the base of the spreaders
at the mast. Double-check the location. If there are spreader lights,
they must be far enough away that the line for the support segments will
not chafe on them. Make sure the drill does not hit the spreader-light

Small dimple

Stainless steel thimbles have low friction Mount support segment Support segment turning blocks

Stainless steel thimbles have low friction and long life. Keep them from chafing by mounting the support segment turning blocks on the spreaders.

Once you are certain there are no obstacles, use a center punch to make
a small dimple as the mark for the first hole. Drill the hole, using
a little light oil on the bit. Then lightly oil the tap and tap the
hole, being careful to start and keep the tap perpendicular to the
bottom of the spreader. With each turn you should turn the tap back
a quarter of a turn. This helps to avoid breaking the tap off in the
hole because it clears the chips from the tap. When the hole is tapped,
spread some Ultra Tef-Gel or anti-seize on the screw, and screw one
end of the eye strap into place just barely tight. Use the other end
hole as a guide. Center punch on this mark, drill, and tap it as before.
But before inserting the screw, slide the block onto the eye strap.
String one of the two support-segment lines thorough the block, one
end on each side of the lower spreader.

If you are mounting the support-segment cheek blocks to the mast, the
procedure is much the same, except you are going to measure up to the
position you determined earlier and mark in the middle of the side of
the mast. Using the cheek block for a pattern, drill and tap each hole.
Exercise caution while drilling in the mast; go slowly so as not to over-drill
and damage wire or lines in the mast. Thread the support-segment lines
through the blocks, keeping one end on each side of the spreaders below
you (if any).

Next, mount the cleats on
the mast. They should be about level with the end of the boom, on the
side of the mast. Make sure they are not
going to interfere with other control lines on the mast. If they do interfere,
moving the cleats up or down several inches might solve the problem.
If the area on the mast is too cluttered, you can mount them about a
foot or so aft on the boom, making sure you lead the support-segment
control lines aft of any spreaders to avoid chafe and noise. I’ve
found that moving the bottom of the cleat slightly toward the bow of
the boat makes cleating the support segments a lot easier than an absolutely
vertical cleat.

Various effects

Boom length, batten length, and the hand of the sail cloth all have an
effect on the perfect number and placement of the leg segments for
the lazy-jacks. I have had excellent performance with three-legged
systems with booms up to 16 feet. Many rigs have mainsails that are
shorter on the foot than the length of the boom. In these cases the
sail’s foot length is the critical measurement. The best way
to determine the number and placement of the legs is trial and error;
every rig is slightly different.

Here are some good starting points for placement, but they are only
starting points; 20 minutes of testing will make sure that the lazy-jacks
are dialed in perfectly for your boat. Measure 25 percent of the length
of the foot of the sail, back from the gooseneck on the boom. Mark this
position on the bottom of the boom. Repeat at 60 and 85 percent of the
length of the foot of the sail, and mark the bottom of the boom for these
points. These will be the starting position for the legs on a three-legged

Both the forward leg segment and the single line that makes up the middle
and aft segments should initially be 2.5 times the length of the boom.
The forward leg segment passes under the boom at the mark closest to
the mast and is hoisted by the eyes spliced in the support segments.
It, in turn, supports the after and center leg sections in a three-legged

The luff of the sail is held
to the mast by the sail slides, so when adjusting the forward leg segment
keep in mind that it should attach
to the boom at about the most forward point where the sail first starts
to fall off of the boom. About 25 percent of the sail’s foot length
aft of the mast is a good starting point. Too far forward, and the leg
provides no support for the center section of the sail; too far aft,
and the top of the sail tends to fall off the boom.

Through thimbles


Parts and price list

feet double yacht braid  $108.00
4 stainless steel thimbles    $6.76
3 eye straps for boom          $8.07
2 cleats for mast                 $2.78
2 eye straps for spreaders   $5.38
2 Harken swivel blocks        $24.18
1 pkg fasteners for eye straps
10 x 24 x 1.5 inch              $3.49
1 pkg fasteners for cleats
10 x 24 x 0.5 inch              $1.79
Anti-seize compound (on hand)
Light machine oil (on hand)
Total expenditure: $160.45

The aft and center leg sections in a three-legged system make a loop.
They are supported by the forward leg segments where they pass through
the thimbles spliced to the ends of the forward segment. The center
leg segment supports the large belly of the sail so that the sail does
not spill off the boom. Slight adjustments of the center segment fore
and aft can have large results.

The aft leg attachment point is generally the first place to start adjusting
the system. If the sail falls out the end of the lazy-jacks, you will
need to move it aft; if the center section needs more support, try moving
it forward to add some support to the center section.

When you are roughing in the system and testing it, attach the middle
of one of these lines to the aftmost mark on the bottom of the boom,
using a constrictor knot or some good tape wrapped a couple of times
around the boom. Lead the ends forward to the center mark on the boom.
Tie them together making a loop out of this line. Secure it to the boom
with a constrictor knot or tape. You can use a loose bowline in place
of all of the thimbles while testing.

On sails that have slides on the foot, it is often possible to use these
slides as mounts for the leg segments of the lazy-jacks. This does, however,
limit the options for placement, and does not function well in all cases.
It also means that you will have to remove the leg segments from the
boom to remove the sail.

Attached to boom

Now you have a roughed in lazy-jack system. The legs should be attached
to the boom well enough that you can hoist and drop the sail into them.
Hoist the sail on a calm day, drop it into the lazy-jacks, and adjust
until the sail stays stacked on top of the boom.

Should you have a boom over 16 feet long and the sail falls out of the
middle no matter what adjustments you make, you may need a four-legged
system. A simple addition to the system you already are working on makes
the transformation an easy one. Instead of the forward leg supporting
the center and aft leg loop, as it does in a three-legged system, it
is going to become a loop just like the one between the two aft segments.
Connecting the two loops are two pieces of line, each about half the
length of the boom, one on each side, that are supported by the support
segment. Good starting positions for the boom attachment points on a
four-legged system are at about 24 percent, 45 percent, 55 percent, and
84 percent of the boom length, measured aft from the gooseneck.

Once you have tested to make sure you have the legs roughly where you
want them, test to see if the system stows cleanly away. To put the system
in the stowed position, ease the support segments and place the aft side
of the segments under the cleats on the mast, then tension the support
segment halyard. At this point you may have to shorten the forward or
aft leg segments to remove any excess line that drapes below the boom.
Do this by simply retying your bowline on one side of the aft or forward
section. The leg sections should lie parallel to the boom when stowed.
Naturally, this may change the way the segments support the sail, so
hoist the sail again and drop it into the lazy-jacks, making sure that
everything still looks correct before splicing the thimbles in the ends
and attaching the eye straps. This is the trial-and-error part.

Anti-seize compound

Mount the eye straps that hold the leg segments, with the holes fore
and aft, using machine screws drilled and tapped into the bottom of
the boom. Remember to put the lines through them before attaching the
second screw. Some riggers use pop rivets for these attachments, however
I have not found them to hold up as well as properly tapped screws
coated with anti-seize compound.

Tie a small knot on each side of the center of the leg segments under
the boom to prevent having to readjust the system periodically. Alternately,
a couple of stitches through the line and around each of the eye straps
looks neater and serves the same function.

Splice thimbles into all of the segments where there are bowlines. Make
sure that you place the line going through the thimble in the thimble
to be spliced before making each of the splices.

Using the system is straightforward: simply ease the support segment
halyards on the mast, remove the leg segments from the cleat bottoms,
and tension the support segment halyards. The lazy-jacks are ready for

Deploying the lazy-jacks allows you to drop the mainsail any time the
wind is on or forward of the beam. I have used them when picking up a
mooring and when sliding into a slip under sail. Simply let the mainsheet
out and drop the sail. Pull the mainsheet back in when the sail falls
into the lazy-jacks and you have quickly de-powered without having to
head into the wind.

If your sail should hang on the track and refuse to allow the sail to
drop easily, check for bent sail slides, and lubricate the track and
slides with a dry Teflon lubricant.

Guy and his wife,
Melissa, are working on a circumnavigation aboard Pneuma, their good
old 1973
Ericson 39. Currently they’re in the

Readers’ comments

What about sail containment systems: lazy-jacks and furlers?

preparation for this issue we asked our readers what their thoughts
and experiences were with sail hoisting, dousing, and reefing systems.
These are some of the remarks we received.

  • Don Launer, of Forked River, N. J., has lazy-jacks on
    the jib, foresail, and mainsail of his Ted Brewer-designed Lazy
    Schooner (what else, right?). All three lazy-jack systems are
    simple two-legged arrangements that do not stow. Don reports
    that all
    work well, but he needs to go head-to-wind to hoist the Marconi
  • Ron Bohannon,
    of Big Bear City, Calif., says his previous boat, a Phil
    Rhodes Chesapeake 32, had a roller-furling
    main. (This
    is the older rolling-boom type of reefing where the sail stows
    around the boom, rather than inside of it.) He says this system
    works fine as long as a main is cut properly and the topping
    lift is adjusted correctly. He adds, “It sure is simpler
    than any other system.”
  • Fred Bauer,
    of Marblehead, Mass., says, “I have a
    classic boat with old-fashioned lazy-jacks, but don’t miss
    the Hood Stow-away system.” He points out that Dodge Morgan
    had the Hood system on American Promise when he sailed around the
    world in her. Fred says, “It’s by far the easiest
    and most precise way to trim sails to the power of the wind I’ve
    ever used.”
  • Patrick
    Matthiesen, of London, England, sent a detailed opinion of
    the Hood Stoboom.
    He thinks it may work
    well with short
    booms but did not work well on the 22-foot-long boom of his Sparkman & Stevens
    CCA 47 yawl. He would not have another one.
  • Gary Heinrich,
    of Chippewa Falls, Wis., said that he has slab reefing on
    his S2 9.2 with “no furling system for the
    main, other than the arms of those available and, in a pinch, the
    deck and lifelines, followed by sail ties.” He has no
    plans to change his S2, but has chartered larger boats with
    lazy-jacks and sailcovers built into the sail. On these boats
    it was necessary
    to go head-to-wind to hoist the sail, and it took more than
    one person to do it.
  • Larry
    Helber, of Rochester, N.Y., said he had installed a Schaefer
    system on his Grampian 28. He
    liked the leather-covered
    blocks and the one-cleat design for storing the lines. He felt
    the hardware supplied was of good quality. He did say, however,
    that the system turned out to be a very poor design and cited
    problems with raising the sail and jamming of the jacks where
    they pass
    under the boom. A friend of his bought the cheapest set of lazy-jacks
    he could find in a catalog, and they worked better. “I would
    do it again (install lazy-jacks), but I would choose the cheaper
    version,” he says.
  • Bruce
    Goldman, of Southfield, Mich., reminds us that almost every
    aspect of
    is some kind of
    compromise. “We
    have an in-mast ProFurl system on our Beneteau Oceanis 300.
    The convenience, ease of sail handling, and ease of setting
    and striking
    the main and genoa more than compensate for the sad sail shape
    (and resulting poor performance). We had some initial trouble
    with the furling line, but a good wash and ample Sailcote solved
  • Jerry
    Powlas and Karen Larson, of Maple Grove, Minn., wondered “how
    complicated does all this have to be?” Our 20-foot Flying
    Scot had a longer boom than our C&C 30. With such a short boom,
    our high-aspect-ratio mainsail couldn’t get in much
    trouble when we dropped it. It was not control that we needed,
    it was
    order. We wanted the main to flake neatly over the boom. Obviously
    a neat
    flake has alternating panels to port and starboard. We made
    a very neat flake in calm conditions and then marked the luff
    the main
    with red and green permanent markers to show which side of
    the boom the sail should fall on at that point on the luff.
    We did
    the same for the roach.Now when we lower, the person at the halyard at the base of the
    mast guides the panels to port and starboard as they fall. The
    roach can be made neat at the same time by another person or later
    by the same person. Once the luff is laid down correctly, the roach
    can be made to follow with minimal effort. The main was soon so
    well-trained that it almost always falls correctly and unaided.
    We think the sail is too small to require extra gear to control
    it. We use the same red-green markings on our heavy 110-percent
    jib to help us get it flaked prior to bagging it. It works so well,
    we will probably mark all our jibs that way.

Outboard – Long Shaft Conversion

By Cory Carpenter

Article taken from Good Old Boat magazine: Volume 4, Number 4, July/August 2001.

A 27-year-old outboard starts a newer, deeper life

7-hp Eska outboard

I bought Brushfire, my 1975
San Juan 24, from the Sea Scouts. Before I agreed to the deal, the
Sea Scouts offered to throw in an outboard as a sweetener. The motor
they dug up for me was a 7-hp Eska of 1973 vintage, a two-cycle with
an integral three-quart fuel tank.

It ran well enough once I did some research and discovered that it
wanted a 24:1 fuel-to-oil ratio, but I found that even with my 180
pounds as far aft as possible and Brushfire’s scissors-style
motor mount at its lowest setting, the Eska’s cavitation plate
was barely below the surface. The whole prop came out of the water
with any kind of wave action and the motor would race madly with a “www-AH,
www-AH, www-AH,” like a hydroplane running through chop. My original intention was to use the Eska just long enough to get
Brushfire about 3-1/2 miles down the Columbia River from the Sea Scouts’ base.
Outboard engine out of the water
I figured I would return it to the Scouts and treat myself to a new
long-shaft Honda four-stroke. Then I started checking prices . . .
and concluded that it wouldn’t be such a bad thing to have an
outboard from the same era as the boat! In the course of researching long-shaft outboards on the Web, I happened
upon Bay Manufacturing of Milan, Ohio, which makes shaft-length conversion
kits for Mariner, Mercury, OMC, and Yamaha outboard motors, but not
for 27-year-old Eskas. Looking at the pictures on their Web page
caused me to wonder what it would take to do my own long-shaft conversion.

The motor

My Eska is a model 1747-C. It uses a Power Products/ Tecumseh recoil-start,
two-cycle, air-cooled power head, much like a lawnmower engine’s
except that the exhaust port is on the bottom of the cylinder, rather
than the side. I’ve seen discussions on the Web that indicate
this motor was also sold under the Sears Gamefisher and Ted Williams
trademarks. It has a spring clutch to engage the driveshaft, providing
neutral and drive gears. (Mine was frozen with rust, and the motor
had to be started in drive. Soaking the clutch in kerosene for a week
or so helped free it up.) For reverse, you swing the motor all the
way around and, while hanging precariously over the transom, you try
to remember which direction to twist the throttle. In drive, a small
pump provides cooling water to the exhaust manifold/adapter plate that
mounts the engine to the lower unit of the motor. I obtained a service manual from Certified Parts Corporation, which
purchased the outboard and trolling motor divisions of Eska in 1988
and still provides most parts for these units. Some study of the
exploded diagrams in the manual showed that, given the proper tools,
it would
be fairly straightforward to construct a shaft extension. Regular shaft, long shaftConveniently,
the housing containing the propeller shaft, gears, and water pump
separates from the main section of the column just above the cavitation
cooling-water tube merely connects to the pump with a friction fit
into an O-ring, while the top end of the driveshaft fits into the
clutch on the engine’s output shaft in much the same way, torque
being transmitted by splines. Because of this simple design, all I
needed to do was add length to the cooling-water tube, fabricate a
new driveshaft, and build an extension fairing, a shell that would
conform to the cross-section of the column where it joined the gear
housing. I decided that an additional six inches would be about right. For the best corrosion resistance and electrolytic compatibility
with the rest of the motor, the new parts should have been fabricated
aluminum and stainless steel. Because I wasn’t willing to go
to the trouble and expense of obtaining the ideal materials, because
my MIG welder won’t handle aluminum wire reliably, and since
this project was experimental anyway, I used mild-steel stock that
was lying around my garage for the major components of the extension.

The long driveshaft

The piece to add to the shaft

To avoid doing unnecessary work in case the project proved infeasible,
I started with the driveshaft, the most critical piece of the extension
in terms of tolerances. The original driveshaft is a 7/16-inch
steel rod approximately 24 inches long, splined at each end and keyed
at the lower end to drive the water pump. (I note that the original
shaft will deflect the compass aboard Brushfire, so it may not be stainless
steel.) What I had on hand was 1/2-inch rod, but since the center
of the shaft runs free inside the column, the diameter is only critical
at each end. After cutting it to length, I turned the ends of the 1/2-inch
stock down to 7/16-inch. Then after fabricating a flycutter
and index latch for my lathe, I cut the splines in each end of the
shaft. Since I’d removed the pinion gear to disassemble the
old driveshaft from the gear housing, I had it available to test the
fit of my new splines. Once the splines were finished I matched the bottom end of the new
driveshaft with the original, marked the locations for the snaprings
that retain the pinion gear, and used the lathe to cut seats for
them. The keyway for the water pump impeller is just a flat spot on
the driveshaft.
It was simple to rough it out with a hacksaw and an angle grinder
and then to clean it up with a file.

Extending the column

Identifying the trailing edgeWelding

The HotCoat system

From top: identifying the trailing edge, welding, and the HotCoat system.

Reassured that this whole exercise might actually work, I tackled
the extension fairing for the column. What I had available was 14-gauge
sheet steel (approximately .075 inch thick). I quickly determined
the curve at the leading edge of the column fairs back into a straight
line, so I could match it with just five sections of material as
shown at right: two curved for each side of the leading edge, two straight
for the trailing edges, and one flat piece for the back edge. I first obtained the outline of the required section by clamping
a sheet of heavy paper between the column and gear housing and tracing
around the joint. This also punched holes in the paper, providing locations
for the fasteners that connect the gear housing to the column. I translated
the tracing of the fairing cross section inward by the thickness of
my sheet stock, then cut templates from 1/2-inch plywood. Laying
the template on a flat surface, as shown in the top photo on the opposite
page, showed me where the trailing edge would begin. I marked this
location, then wrapped a strip of paper around the curve to the tip
of the profile, marking it to establish the length of sheet metal that
I would need to bend in order to form each side of the leading edge.
Later on, I used the templates to align the pieces of the extension
fairing while welding. Creating the curved sections for the leading edge of the fairing
involved lots of hammering with the sheet metal supported against cylindrical
objects of various diameters, such as an empty propane-torch tank and
a length of 2-inch iron pipe. I checked my progress frequently against
the plywood templates. I found that it worked best to create a curve
that was tighter than what I needed, then flatten it out progressively
by hammering against the anvil surface of a machinist’s vise.
(It took a while to form acceptable curves, but I got there eventually.) Once I had all the pieces of the fairing worked to their proper lengths,
I ground a chamfer of about 45 degrees on the outside of each edge
to be joined. This was to ensure good weld penetration of the entire
thickness of the sheet metal. This was important because I wanted
to build up a bead that I could later grind down flush with the outside
surface of the extension fairing. Assembling the pieces around my plywood templates, I tack-welded
them together with a MIG welder, then removed the forms. I completed
welds a bit at a time, allowing them to cool between passes in order
to minimize distortion of the sheet metal. I built each seam up into
a nice, heavy bead as shown in photo.

Once the shell of the extension was welded together, I used an angle
grinder to clean up the top and bottom edges, checking often with
a framing square to make sure the surfaces were parallel with reference
to the back edge of the fairing. I ground the edges until the height
was uniform and slightly more than six inches, then did the final
with a large mill file across the entire top and bottom edges of
the shell to get the mating surfaces as straight and square as possible.
The holes that allow water to drain from the column after the motor
is hauled out were cut with a hacksaw and shaped with a file.

Finished result of the baking

Don’t try this at home, kids, without your mom’s permission: fairing after coating and the finished result of the baking (done in a home oven).

When I was satisfied with the fit of the shell against the gear housing
and the column, I fabricated alignment tabs from 1/8-inch by 1-inch
steel strap and welded them into the top and bottom of the fairing.
These provide lateral rigidity as well as ensuring that the extension
stays centered against the inside surfaces of the column and gear

I fabricated mounting flanges from 1/8-inch by 1-inch strap
to provide the connection points at the top and bottom of the fairing.
I first drilled the holes in them and then lined them up with the holes
in my templates and traced the outline that would become the edges
to be welded to the inside of the fairing shell. As the drawing above
shows, the flanges at the rear of the fairing are threaded for the
mounting bolts. Here I cheated: instead of spending a lot of time messing
around with taps to thread holes in the flanges themselves (in which
case they would have needed to be made of thicker material), I installed
a nut and bolt on each flange, with the nut on the inside face, then
I tack-welded the nuts to the flanges and removed the bolts. This provided
for a strong connection in a situation in which it’s impossible
to get a wrench on the nut. The bottom flange at the leading edge is constructed in much the
same way, but it uses a section of threaded rod to mirror the stud
on the
leading edge of the column. The upper flange merely has a plain hole
that the column stud passes through. It’s secured by a nut and
lockwasher from inside the extension fairing. (The original trailing-edge
mounting bolt was frozen; I was forced to drill it out. I elected to
install its replacement from the outside of the column, otherwise both
top flanges would have had plain holes.) Once the construction was complete, I ground the welds down flush
with the surface of the fairing, then polished the whole outside surface
with a 3M Scotch-Brite surface conditioning disc installed on an angle
grinder. This is the best way I’ve found so far to remove rust
and mill scale from steel components. It also left a very smooth, shiny
surface, which was important for the next step. Had I been thinking
ahead, I would have polished the inside surfaces of the fairing before
welding it together. Since I hadn’t polished the inside, I did
as much cleanup as I could afterward with wire brushes and a sand blaster.
Live and learn.

Powder coating

Joining the cooling water tubeReassembling the gear housing and driveshaft

Finished project

From top: joining the cooling water tube, reassembling the gear housing and driveshaft, and the finished project.

Because my materials were very susceptible to rust, it was important
to protect them. Epoxy-based or even enamel spray paint would probably
have been adequate, although getting good coverage on the inside
of the fairing would have been tricky. Luckily, I had a better alternative
available. Powder coating is a process that leaves metal parts with a smooth
protective layer that is harder and more durable than most paints,
covers irregular
surfaces more readily and uniformly, and is non-toxic to boot. The
process involves applying an electrostatic charge to a finely powdered
plastic that is then sprayed at low pressure over a grounded metal
part. The powder sticks to the metal surfaces just like dust to a
TV screen. Once it’s been coated, the part is baked in an electric oven
until the plastic melts, flows, and cures to a durable covering that
is resistant to abrasion and to most solvents. (The only thing I’ve
found to date that will attack powder coating is methylene chloride,
found in products such as spray-on gasket remover. Acetone dulls the
surface slightly; gasoline and oil run right off.) This was an industrial
process that required expensive equipment until a couple of years ago
when The Eastwood Company started selling a hobbyist’s powder-coating
package. Their basic HotCoat system sells for about $150. The nicest part of using the powder-coating process for this project
was that the charged powder was attracted to and covered every surface
of the fairing, inside and out, even the irregular surfaces of exposed
welds. To avoid fouling the threads, I installed bolts in the threaded
holes and masked off the trailing-edge stud with high-temperature fiberglass
tape (also from Eastwood) before coating everything with the shade
of powder I had on hand that came closest to matching the Eska’s
paint. Photos on Page 12 show the fairing after coating and the finished
powder-coated fairing after it was baked for 15 minutes at 400 degrees
F. I also powdercoated my new driveshaft after taping off the splines
and the surfaces that would bear on the bushings and seals. (Any
color would have done for the driveshaft; I happened to have black
in the
HotCoat gun at the time.) The final piece of the project was the extension for the cooling-water
tube. In this case I actually had to break down and go to the hardware
store to buy aluminum tubing that matched the 3/8-inch outside
diameter of the water tube, as well as vinyl hose with a 3/8-inch
inside diameter to join the extension to the original tube. (Since
I was there anyway, I also purchased stainless-steel cap screws, nuts,
and lockwashers.) I cut the ends of the new 6-inch extension to the
same angle as the end of the original water tube so they would fit
together flush, then smeared the outsides of the two aluminum pieces
with RTV silicone and joined them with a length of vinyl tubing as
shown in photo. (Epoxy might have been a better choice for this, but
so far the RTV seems to be working fine.)

Assembly is the reverse of removal

To reassemble the motor, I first coated all the bare metal surfaces
on the bottom end of the new driveshaft with a generous layer of
waterproof grease (meant for the wheel bearings of boat trailers) to
protect them
from rust, then reassembled the gear housing and driveshaft as shown
in photo.

With the motor supported upside down on an empty 5-gallon bucket,
I applied RTV silicone along the entire upper surface of the extension
fairing, then fitted the extension in place and bolted it on. The
part of this operation was getting the nut started on the threads
of the stud inside the leading edge of the fairing. I found that a
parts-retriever, a tool like a walkie-talkie antenna with a magnet
at the tip, was invaluable for this. Once the nut was finally engaged
with the threads of the stud, I tightened it with a socket on the
end of a long extension. With the motor still upside down, I coated the bottom of the extension
fairing with RTV, applied grease to the exposed metal at the top of
the driveshaft, and carefully lowered the gear housing assembly onto
the column until the driveshaft splines meshed with those in the clutch.
Working through the exhaust port and the small gap that remained between
the gear housing and the extension fairing, I used a long screwdriver
to jockey the end of the water tube into location in the water pump.
Once the driveshaft and water tube were started, I simply pushed the
gear housing down until it was seated on the extension fairing and
bolted it loosely into place. Before tightening the fasteners down
for good, I put the clutch selector in the “drive” position
and gave several pulls on the starting cord to make sure the driveshaft
wasn’t binding and in the hope that it would tend to align itself
by shifting the gear housing around slightly. The assembled result
is shown on the opposite page in bottom photo. After the RTV had cured, I refilled the gear housing with SAE 90
lubricant as specified in the Eska service manual and, using the time-honored
outboard-motor test stand, a sawhorse and a 55-gallon trash can full
of water, fired up my motor. With the gear selector in “neutral” I
was gratified to see that the clutch was now working properly. The
propeller remained motionless while exhaust racketed from the relief
port at the top of the column, sounding like a leafblower on steroids.
Once the motor warmed up and the idle settled down, I cautiously moved
the selector to “drive,” and . . . it worked!


I’ve been very pleased with this conversion’s performance
aboard Brushfire. With the motor mount in its lowest position, the
entire extension is underwater, giving the propeller plenty of bite,
and I can move forward in the boat without it becoming a menace to
low-flying birds. The tip of the gear housing’s fin is just
barely in the water with the motor mount in the topmost position. With
the motor rocked forward in its tilt bracket, everything is high and
dry. One odd side effect of the extension is that with the motor idling
and the gear selector in “neutral,” the exhaust resonates
inside the comparatively thin-walled extension fairing with a funny “bloop-bloop-bloop-bloop” note
that puts me in mind of The Secret Life of Walter Mitty.

If you don’t have a well-equipped metalworking facility in your
garage, you should be able to find a machine shop willing to fabricate
all or part of a similar shaft extension “kit.” Some
research in my area turned up two shops that were capable of the job,
one specializing in high-volume CNC production and not interested in
one-off jobs; the other a gear-making business that estimated $225
just to make the driveshaft. Though I haven’t had to take work
to a machine shop for nearly two decades, I find it hard to believe
that there’s nothing left but specialists.

Fabricating the driveshaft obviously requires some moderately specialized
equipment, but the operations involved are straightforward and shouldn’t
be too costly in terms of labor. (It took me about six hours all told,
but 80 percent of that was in building a flycutter.) If you don’t
have a welding outfit, any decent machine shop should be able to construct
the extension fairing as well. If you don’t know of a shop already,
talking to a few old-timers around your marina should turn up someone
who can do the job. Anyone who can cope with simple hand tools can
handle the fabrication of the cooling-water tube extension and the
final assembly. I’ve noticed that even a reconditioned long-shaft outboard starts
at $900; new ones are going for $1,500 or more. If you have an older
motor available, this project could be cost-effective even if you have
to farm out the actual fabrication work. (Not too long ago, I noticed
a 7-hp Eska identical to mine offered for $350 at my local marine exchange.
Now if I were to buy that and modify it I might be able to clear about
$500. Hmmm . . . )

Potential problems


While I hadn’t noticed any signs of rust on
the exterior of the extension assembly, it still concerned
me that the whole thing is potentially susceptible to corrosion.
I’m relieved to report that, after four months and
about four-and-a-half hours of accumulated running time (including
two extended motor-only runs of an hour each), there was
no sign of a problem when I disassembled the extension to
take photos for this article. Brushfire sails in fresh water.
I would definitely go to the expense of using inherently
corrosion-resistant materials for saltwater operation, or
if the motor were semi-permanently installed in an outboard


The through-the-prop exhaust system depends on a
good seal between the mating surfaces of the column, the
extension fairing, and the gear housing. The walls of the
column casting are about 1/8-inch thick, and the sealing
surface of the gear housing is a nice milled area that varies
from 1/4-inch to about 1/2-inch wide. The walls of the extension
fairing are roughly 1/16-inch thick, providing only minimal
sealing area. Almost immediately after I put the converted
motor into service I noticed bubbles of exhaust gases forcing
their way between these junctions. The RTV silicone obviously
wasn’t enough. I later made gaskets from 1/32-inch
automotive-gasket material and bedded them in hardening-type
gasket sealer. These worked for a while, but they eventually
started leaking also.

I’ve since welded lengths of 1/8-inch steel rod along
the inside of the extension fairing at the top and bottom,
making a generous bead that I ground down flat to provide
a wider sealing surface. I also filed the powder coat off
the mating surfaces. I suspect that the coating is so slick
that the sealants I’ve tried have not been able to
adhere to it very well. I have yet to put enough run-time
on the motor to tell whether this change will be effective.

Drain holes:

When I originally designed and built the extension,
I neglected to do anything about the original drain slots
at the bottom of the column’s leading edge. These
slots are right at the waterline, and when I first tried
the converted motor aboard Brushfire I noticed quite a bit
of exhaust escaping from them. My remedy wasn’t pretty,
but it does work: I threaded stainless-steel sheet metal
screws into two scraps of wood about 1/8-inch thick and,
with the extension fairing removed, filled the drain slots
with thickened epoxy, using the wood on the inside of the
column as backing. I tightened the screws down to hold the
wooden backing blocks in place while the epoxy cured, then
filed everything down flush with the mating surface of the
column. With the extension reassembled, the epoxy seals the
original drain holes. (The screw heads are visible in the
bottom photo on the opposite page, just above the top of
the extension fairing at the leading edge of the column.)

Shaft alignment and vibration:

I have no way to evaluate
this, since there’s so much incidental vibration when
the motor’s running. I’m reasonably confident
that the drive shaft itself is true, since I could check
that while I was machining it; I don’t know how accurately
it is aligned between the motor and gear housing but there’s
not a lot that I can think of to correct such a problem.
(I try to ignore the possibility, apart from making sure
I have fresh batteries in my hand-held VHF transceiver in
case the gear housing should fall off in mid-river and I
need to call for a tow.)


Bay Manufacturing
P.O. Box 1250
Milan, OH 44846

Parts Corporation

1111 W. Racine Street
P.O. Box 8468
Janesville, WI 53547-8468
orders 800-356-0777

Eastwood Company

263 Shoemaker Road
Pottstown, PA 19464

Sea Scouts Ship 601

Cory’s uncle taught him to sail when he was in high school. After 20 years, he’s
relearning those skills with the help of
Brushfire, his 1975 San
Juan 24. Most of his sailing is done as a singlehander on the Columbia
River in Portland, Ore., but the right 30-something crewwoman could
change all that.

Fuel and Water Filters: Simple Insurance Policies

By Bill Sandifer

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

Picture a hot, windless Sunday afternoon as you power home on a
glassy sea. Suddenly your engine slows and stops or overheats. Today
of all days! You really did not need this, and it could have all been

Fuel filter cross-section diagram

How? By installing and maintaining filters to clean the fuel
and water systems you and your boat need to operate successfully in a
water environment. Filters come in many types and sizes and are
custom-designed to serve a specific purpose. Many sailors tend to
ignore the mechanical side of their vessels and assume the attitude
that, “It’s a sailboat; it should sail, right?” Well yes, but the
wind does not always blow in the desired direction or with the
desired velocity. In times of need, our mechanical friends on board
make the difference between a reasonable end to a cruise, no matter
how long or short, and a long wait on a hot and windless sea.

Filters fall into three groups. Required, for fuel and engine
cooling water. Desirable, for engine oil, potable water,
refrigeration cooling, and seawater uses. Cosmetic, for air and sound
filtration. Let’s take a detailed look at each type available for
today’s vessels.

Pre-tank filters

Fuel filters can be defined as pre-tank, primary, and secondary. A
pre-tank filter would be a funnel type that provides basic filtering
of the fuel as it is poured or pumped into the tank. This type of
filter is very basic but very valuable. They range from a plastic
funnel with a screen in the bottom to catch dirt, leaves, and large
contaminants such as bits of plastic, to the more sophisticated Baja
filter. The Baja filters are aluminum funnels designed for cruisers
who travel remote cruising grounds such as the Sea of Cortes,
adjacent to Baja California in Mexico, where fuel is scarce and
supplied in used 55-gallon drums of dubious origin.

Baja filters have two extremely fine stainless steel mesh
screens to trap fine particulate matter (sand, dust, etc.) and a
water-resistant filter to keep out a large majority of water that may
be present in the fuel. The filters are really designed for diesel
fuel but will assist in filtering gasoline. The Baja filter protects
your tank from water-loving bacteria and helps prolong the useful
life of the onboard primary and secondary filters.

Primary filters

Primary filters are the off-engine filters, usually added as
after-market equipment to your fuel system. Their manufacturers have
names like Racor, Fram, Sierra, and Groco. The filters come in single
or multiple units, in-line or independent mount, spin-on element or

Filters are sized in accordance with the projected fuel flow
per hour required by a specific size engine. Diesel engines, because
they return unused fuel to the tank, will have a larger flow rate in
gallons per hour (gph) than equivalent gasoline engines but will
consume less fuel per hour. The filter must be sized for the flow
rate, not the consumption rate, of the engine. The gasoline engine
either burns or discharges as unburned all fuel fed into it.

A rule of thumb for sizing filters for gasoline engines is 10
percent of maximum horsepower equals gallons per hour (gph). My 30-hp
Atomic 4 gasoline engine has a potential maximum gph of 10% x 30 hp =
3 gph. I don’t think the engine will ever burn this amount as it
never runs at peak power but, theoretically, it could. My primary
filter is a Racor 200 series turbine with a 15 gph flow rate.
Overkill? Sure but it works all season long.

A diesel engine flow rate is horsepower x 18% = gph, thus a
30-hp diesel would have a theoretical flow rate of 5.4 gph.

A filter that is oversize for the projected gph will work and
last longer than an exact gph filter. A filter that is too small
(less than the calculated potential gph) may restrict fuel flow and
cause engine performance problems. With filters, bigger – within
reason – is better.

The newest type of fuel filters is the spin-on canister type
which looks like the familiar spin-on oil filter we use for our
automobiles. They are very differenton the inside, however. Spin-on
filters are commonly chosen for gasoline engines, while spin-on and
turbine type filters are commonly used on diesel engines. The larger
diesels usually use turbine type filters. Pure fuel is more critical
to diesel engine operation as the injectors of a diesel are
particularly sensitive to particulates in the fuel.

Spin-on elements are easier to change out than turbine units,
and when you change a spin-on element, you renew the whole filter. In
turbine units, you can change the paper element and still have
particles and water in the filter if you do not completely
disassemble and clean all parts of the unit. Some of the fine
contaminants in the fuel of my Atomic 4 adhered so tenaciously to the
turbine vanes they required scraping to remove. Is it any wonder we
need good filters when the contaminants in our fuel harden up like

Filters come as filters alone or as a combination filter and
water separator. Three-stage filters have a turbine section for large
particles or gross amounts of water, a coalescing ring to trap the
remaining water, and a micron element to remove fine particles.
Filters are classified by microns. Different engines have different
micron requirements. Racor’s standard filter size is 2 microns for
their spin-on type filter/water separators. Their turbine type has
elements that can be interchanged between 2, 10, and 30 microns. A
common combination is a 10-micron primary filter and a 2-micron
secondary (on-engine) filter.

If we use a Baja filter when we fill up the tank and still
have water in the tank, where does the water come from? Since boat
fuel tanks are vented, regular air interchange between the atmosphere
in the tank and the external atmosphere takes place. A cycle is
established in each tank when the air heats and expands during the
day, and excess air is expelled through the vent line. When the
ambient air cools, the air in the tank contracts and sucks in
external air to equalize the pressure. The air that is sucked in is
cool and damp, bringing moisture into the tank. This moisture
condenses on the exposed interior of the tank forming droplets which
fall into the fuel and settle on the tank bottom in the form of water.

If we never introduced water from contaminated fuel into the
tank, we would still have some water in the tank from the
condensation process. A good way to reduce this air interchange is to
keep the tank topped up with fuel, thus limiting the air space
available in the tank and minimizing atmospheric condensation.

In an effort to keep operating even with a plugged fuel
filter, boats with larger engines may have multiple primary filters
piped in such a manner that one filter may be used in the system
while the other filter is being cleaned. This setup is more common to
power boats and trawlers than to sailboats, but has definite merit.
Multiple filters can be piped together as Primary A, Primary B, and
so on. Finer and finer filtration is possible as the fuel passes
through each stage. Usually single filters are designed to clean the
fuel down to 2 to 10 microns (a micron is one one-thousandth of a
millimeter). Filters are manufactured down to two microns so a
multiple filter system could commence with a Primary A at 30 microns,
Primary B at 10 microns, and a Primary C at 2 microns. At 2 microns,
the fuel is very, very clean. Commercial firms that advertise that
they “polish” your fuel use this multiple filter approach plus a
centrifuge for a complete cleaning.

When considering a multiple filter system, remember that two
filters piped in parallel to a common manifold will have a combined
gph of the capacity of both filters, e.g., two 60-gph units will
equal 120 gph. Three 60 gph filters piped in series (Primary A, B,
and C), will have the gph of the single unit which is 60 gph.

Before we leave the primary filter discussion, let’s talk
about filter maintenance. The best way to determine the state of
cleanliness of a primary filter is to install a vacuum gauge on the
discharge side of the filter. The gauge shows how hard the engine is
having to “suck” to pull fuel through the filter. The higher the
vacuum, the dirtier the filter and the greater the need to replace
the element and clean the filter unit.

Racor makes a vacuum gauge that replaces the tee handle on
the top of their turbine filter. This makes for a very neat
installation. Individual vacuum gauges on single or multiple filters
may be teed into the discharge line of each filter to reveal the
state of the filtering element. The other ways to determine when to
change a filter (other than vacuum gauges) are more subjective. A
good method is to rely on running hours to set a time to change
filter elements. This can be anywhere from 50-hour intervals to 200
hours depending on how careful you are in providing clean fuel. This
is where the Baja filter will help extend the life of the primary and
secondary filters.

If you do not use a pre-tank filter and put a load of
contaminated fuel in the tank, a brand new filter may only last five
minutes. Use a pre-tank filter or know, for sure, you are pumping or
loading clean fuel. When I was a kid and worked at a fuel dock in
Oyster Bay, New York, Gulf Oil provided off-pump, in-line gasoline
filters in an effort to assure clean, waterless fuel. One of my daily
jobs was to check the large storage tanks with a long rectangular
wooden combination fuel gauge smeared with water finder paste to see
how much fuel we had and if it had any water in it. Some ports today
are not as careful about providing clean fuel. Even fuel purchased at
the local gas station may not have an in-line filter and may give you
a good dose of water.

Secondary filters

Pre-tank fuel filter location drawing

Assuring clean fuel to start with is your best guarantee of
trouble-free engine performance. After the fuel has passed through
the pre-tank and primary filter stages, it flows to the engine and
the secondary filter. The secondary stage may be as simple as a
screen in the intake line of a gasoline carburetor or another
canister-type filter mounted directly on a diesel engine. The
secondary filter on my Atomic 4, which is equipped with an electric
fuel pump, is in the bottom of the fuel pump itself and is a fine
nylon screen on a round plastic frame. I recently received a
communication from Don Moyer of Moyer Marine recommending the
addition of an in-line filter between the fuel pump and the
carburetor. Compared to a 10-micron primary filter, my screen is
pretty coarse, but then this is a gasoline engine, not a diesel.

The engine manufacturer normally provides the secondary fuel
filter, sized to the engine. Other than carrying a spare element or
having a screen you can clean, there is little to be done with the
secondary element. If the primary filter system is efficient in
cleaning the fuel, the secondary system should be trouble-free except
for an annual maintenance. Remember, clean fuel is the lifeblood of
your engine. Take care to purchase a high quality marine (not
automotive) type primary fuel filter and learn how and when to
maintain it. You’ll really be glad you did when you are powering home
over a hot or cold windless sea.

Engine overheating

In our second problem scenario, the engine overheats. The probable
cause is trash in the seawater intake or strainer or a failed water
pump impeller. Most sailboat engines are seawater cooled, either
directly by seawater circulation or indirectly through a heat
exchanger. The seawater enters the hull through a through-hull intake
with a perforated round bronze screen over the outside or a
rectangular finned through-hull. It is possible for the screen or fin
to plug up with foreign debris or marine growth, but if the engine
was running cool when you left the mooring and suddenly overheats,
the problem is probably elsewhere.

I once chartered a sailboat in the Bahamas. I left the dock
under power, and within five minutes the engine overheated. The
problem was marine growth on the seawater strainer. The boat had not
been properly maintained. On my own Pearson, I routinely check all
the through-hulls with a mask and snorkel. Zebra mussels, barnacles,
and even oysters love the cozy atmosphere of a through-hull

If it is not the through-hull, then where? The next step is
the seawater strainer. This strainer should be installed in the
seawater intake line between the seacock and the downstream
distribution. I say downstream distribution because it is possible to
use the seawater intake for more than one purpose, but that’s fodder
for another article. The seawater strainer should be as large as
practical. The larger it is, the more trash it can hold before
becoming clogged. Groco makes a fine line of bronze and Plexiglas
seawater strainers. Some other manufacturers are Puritan, Par, Vetus,
and Forespar.

A pre-sail checkout should include making sure the seawater
strainer is clean. A few minutes’ work will assure a trouble-free
trip. I realize it is a pain to crawl into the bilge to check the
seawater filter, but it is worth doing. I know it’s time to diet when
I cannot easily climb into the cockpit seat lockers to check out the
seawater filter. (Something about the ratio of sun to beer intake,
according to my wife.)

Finally, if it is neither of the above, check the seawater
pump impeller. Old impellers tend to throw off their blades, which
then get caught in the engine cooling system and block the water
flow. The only defense against this is to replace the impeller
annually. Globe/Barco impellers are made of niprene, which is an
elastomer combining properties of rubber, nitrile, viton, and
neoprene. The impellers are self-lubricating. They are used by the
U.S. Navy and Coast Guard and are sold by marine outlets. Carry at
least one spare impeller, if not two.

If you change your impeller every season, or at least inspect
it, you will know which tools are required and how much time it will
take. On some engines, it is fast and easy, and on some it takes
several hours. (Editor’s note: We remove ours during winter layup and
lubricate the housing with Vaseline or water pump grease when we
reinstall it.)

Water filters

Racor Water filter

Next let’s look at filters we need for our health and well being.
Consumable water is a requirement for all manner of life on earth,
sailors included. The concept of fresh water in our homes and on our
boats is sometimes a misnomer. Scientists studying pollution
worldwide are coming to the conclusion that water quality and
quantity around the world is in serious decline and will constitute a
major problem in the 21st century for the developed and developing
countries of the world. Bacteria and toxins, along with chemical and
hydrocarbon contaminants, endanger all of our earth’s water.
Antiquated water treatment facilities are ill-equipped to handle
today’s level and type of pollutants. Many of the new breeds of bug,
especially cysts like Cryptosporidia cannot be effectively removed
from the water supply. If this is true of the municipal water supply
of the United States, consider the out islands and other remote
locations. Even rainwater can pick up contaminants from the
atmosphere on its way to the earth.

Now consider the water on board our good old boats. It may be
anything but pure and fresh. It may taste of the bilge, smell of
fiberglass, look like mildew, and carry particles of unknown origin.
We need to take care of this most precious commodity. Remember, a
person can live without food for more than 30 days but cannot live
even five days without clean water.

We can have clear, sweet, clean fresh water on our boats
through the care of our freshwater tanks and the use of filters to
cleanse the water of many of its impurities prior to use.
Pre-tank water filters are the equivalent of the Baja filter,
which is used as we fill our fuel tanks. The least we can do in this
regard is to use a funnel with a fine mesh screen to remove any
solids that may be present in the water and, of course, to carefully
select the source of our water in the first place. The best we can do
is to use a pre-filter such as General Ecology’s Dockside Pre-Filter
to keep dirt and sediment out of our freshwater tanks.

Letting the water in the fill hose run for a short while will go a
long way toward assuring that we are getting fresh water from the
supply, rather than the water in the hose. Water that has been
sitting in plastic hoses will usually add an unpleasant taste to your
water supply unless you have a special potable water hose made to
eliminate the problem. Even if you do use a special hose, unless you
can hook up to the hard piping of the source there may still be
conventional plastic hose between your hose and the water source with
the associated taste problem.

Water will also contain dissolved chemicals and contaminants
that cannot be seen, tasted, or smelled but are not good for humans.
These can be parasitic cysts, solvents, and other nasty critters and
substances. Pre-filters will not remove these contaminants. Our water
tanks provide an almost ideal breeding environment for these nasty
substances to grow and multiply. Fungi, Giardia cysts, amoebic cysts,
microscopic worms, larvae, and other undesirable creatures and plants
thrive in this environment. The problem is exacerbated by taking on
water from different sources. Various water supplies contain
different pollutants which can “gang up” to create problems they
would not normally cause by themselves.

We are usually our greatest enemy in the fight for clean
water. We fill the tanks at the beginning of the season and use the
water sparingly during our time aboard. Weekend to weekend the water
sits in the tank and “grows” things. We don’t want to waste our water
supply and dump it every week, and we can’t clean the tank every
week, so, what to do?

The first step in assuring a clean, sweet water supply is to
find a supply that is sweet to begin with. We are going to use a lot
of water to clean up our onboard supply. Next, we add 2/3 cup of
bleach (sodium hypochlorite) diluted in one gallon of sweet water for
every 10 gallons of tank capacity. Fill the tank to the brim with the
mixture and let it sit for 24 hours. Dump all of the water and start
over, this time add one quart of white vinegar for every 5 gallons of
tank capacity, fill to the brim again, and let it sit for 48 hours.
Then dump it – all of it.

Next, fill the tank with sweet water with no additives, let
it sit for another 24 hours and dump it. Refill the tank adding one
teaspoon (1/6 oz.) of sodium hypochlorite for every 10 gallons of
water. The water in your tanks should now be sweet and clean. This
procedure is time-consuming but not hard to accomplish. The hardest
part will be assuring you have completely drained the tank at each
stage of the cleaning process. (Editors’ note: If you have any
physical reaction to water with bleach in it – a sore throat, for
example – keep flushing until you don’t, and then don’t add more
bleach. We have experienced problems with bleach, even in minute
quantities, in our drinking water.)

The bleach should have killed off any mold, mildew, or other
bacteria in the tank. It will not kill cysts and parasites, but we
will handle them with our onboard filters. The vinegar will
neutralize the bleach taste and fiberglass smell. The series of
rinses will remove any particulate matter leaving a clean water

Be sure, when you are accomplishing the above, that you flush
the supply lines from the tank to the fixtures, as these sometimes
enable things to grow. Pulling water through the system for all
treatments will accomplish this for you easily. You need not pull all
the water through the system. Pull till it runs clear, then dump the
rest. As the water is not hydrocarbon contaminated, it can be pumped
overboard through the bilge pump system.

Our water supply is now back in business, and all we need is
a final treatment to remove those things we cannot see but will hurt
us. We need a high-quality water filter between the tank and the
outlets. Water filters range in design from UV (ultra violet) water
sterilizers such as Water Fixer to in-line carbon filters similar to
units we would use in our homes. There are sediment filters, taste
filters, softeners, odor filters, and Structured Matrix technology
that combine the capabilities of several types of filters. The
Seagull IV System has an ultra fine submicron filter layer to remove
all visible particles combined with a molecular sieving and broad
spectrum absorption layer which removes chlorine, organic chemicals,
specific pesticides, herbicides, solvents, taste, smell, and color.
The final layer of the filter works by electrokinetic attraction
removing small positively charged particles of the larger
contaminants by attracting them to the negatively charged surface of
the filter to remove colloids and other even smaller particles than
those removed by the microfine filtration layer. By the time the
water has passed through a filter of this type, it is probably purer
than the tap water we have at home.

The cost of these filters runs from $30 to $500. You
definitely get what you pay for, but for most of us a good annual
tank cleaning and a $30 carbon filter will meet all of our
requirements. Water purifiers are available if the quality of water
you receive in a foreign port is in doubt. Purifiers can be used in
conjunction with other filters to clean up most potable water
problems. Remember, the water you take on must be potable. The
world’s best filter cannot make contaminated water safe to drink.

The filter you have on board will need to be serviced once a
year, preferably in the spring when you flush the tank after the
winter layup. This usually means pulling the old cartridge and
installing a new one at a modest cost.

The best way to assure a clean water supply is to exercise
diligence in selecting the source of supply in the first place.
Protecting your own and your family’s health are worth all the effort
in cleaning your water supply.

Tanks A Lot – Epoxy Cure

By Norman Ralph

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

The epoxy “cure”

One of the most annoying
problems that can occur on a sailboat is a leak in the diesel fuel tank.
If you don’t have the time, expertise, or courage to attempt to
repair it yourself, you can always arrange to have your boatyard repair
it. But you can do it yourself, if you are willing to try.

If your boat is
constructed so that tank removal is possible without major disassembly
of the interior, make the repair with the tank removed. The repair will
then be fairly straightforward. Since most diesel fuel tanks are made
of aluminum or black iron, a welding shop can repair either material
with relatively little expense. First remove the inspection cover and
thoroughly clean the interior of the tank. While you’re at it,
inspect it for pitting and other potential future problems. If the tank
doesn’t have an inspection cover, now would be an excellent time
to install one. If you ever get bad fuel or have a sludge buildup in
your tank, you will be glad you have access to the interior of your
tank to clean it.

If you cannot remove
your tank or don’t have an inspection port, let me walk you through
my experience in repairing the fuel tank on our boat Bluebonnet, a Valiant
32. During the second year of a multi-year refit I was doing on the
boat in our back yard, I became aware that diesel fuel was seeping into
the bilge. We had bought the boat in Texas and had it trucked to our
home in Missouri, where I was repairing extensive blisters and bringing
the boat back to her former glory.

At first I pushed
the leak out of my mind, since I was involved with other work on the
boat. However, when the smell wouldn’t go away I decided that
it would have to be fixed. The Valiant 32 has a 47-gallon aluminum fuel
tank that is mounted aft of the L-25 Westerbeke diesel engine under
the cockpit sole. Due to its size, the only way to remove it would be
to remove the engine first.

Even then, removing
the tank would have been questionable because offshore sailboats tend
to have small, narrow companionways. I decided to repair the tank in
place. The first step was to empty the remaining fuel from the tank.
This was accomplished by pumping the fuel into five-gallon cans.

Squeezing into the
starboard cockpit locker, I found that I could lie next to the fuel
tank and work. I had 10 to 12 inches of clearance between the top of
the tank and the cockpit sole. In the flat area on the top of the tank,
I cut a 10-inch square hole with a right-angle drill and a sabre saw
to give access to the interior of the tank. If you have removed your
tank and are installing an inspection port, make sure the location will
be accessible when the tank is re-installed. I removed the fuel gauge
sending unit and set it aside. Then I cleaned the inside of the tank
using rags first and solvents later.

During this process,
the engine access panels were removed and a high volume fan circulated
air throughout the area. I wore a respirator at all times. There was
evidence of pitting in the aluminum in the lowest part of the tank,
and one of the largest pits was paper thin. To repair the leak, I called
Gougeon Brothers of Bay City, Mich. For blister repair on the hull,
I had been using their West System epoxy and fillers.

I had called them
before with other questions and found them to be very cordial and knowledgeable.
I was told that they had used epoxy to repair fuel tanks with excellent
results and was given instructions about how to proceed. With special
attention to the pitted areas, I gave the entire interior of the tank
a final cleaning with acetone to remove any oily residue. I mixed some
epoxy and hardener with some filler to make a putty the consistency
of peanut butter. This was worked into the areas where the pitting had
occurred. After this cured, I sanded the area smooth. Then I lightly
sanded the entire area with number 100 emery cloth and wiped it down
with acetone. Using a disposable brush, I coated the interior with epoxy
and hardener.

I then purchased
a piece of 3/16-inch thick aluminum, 12 x 12 inches. I drilled three
holes on each side H inch in from the edge. I centered this plate over
the hole, scribed the top of the tank, and center-punched the holes.
Then I drilled holes and tapped the top of the tank for G x 20 aluminum
bolts. Aluminum bolts were available, and I used them to prevent corrosion.
I cut a piece of gasket material to size and fitted it. Before the cover
was bolted in place, I checked the fuel gauge sending unit and verified
that it was working, then I installed it and replaced its gasket. I
bolted the cover in place and used an RTV gasket compound that I purchased
at an auto parts store.

After two years
of service, including a trip down the Tennessee-Tombigbee Waterway,
I have been very pleased with the repair.

Improve your dodger

Get a grip: Improve your dodger

By Don Launer

Article taken from Good Old Boat magazine: Volume 4, Number 2, March/April 2001.

Handholds are an easy and inexpensive way
to increase your security afloat

Simple canvas dodger

Dodgers are not necessary – that is, if you’re a masochist
or a Spartan who enjoys being hit in the face with water from every
wave when beating to windward or developing windchill in the off-seasons.
Since I’m neither a Spartan nor masochist, I wouldn’t
do without my dodger. I find it an indispensable accessory for creature
comfort. It provides protection from the spray, wind, rain, and sun
and prevents downpours from entering the cabin when the companionway
hatch is open.

For all of the obvious
advantages of a dodger there is one glaring, and potentially dangerous,
disadvantage. If you have to go forward
when the seas are kicking up and the deck is bucking like a bronco,
the trip around the dodger becomes hazardous. There are no handholds
except for the low lifelines; you can’t clip your safety harness
onto the safety line until you’ve made it around the dodger;
and the shrouds are usually too far forward to be of any use. For any
member of the “over-the-hill gang’ like myself, especially
when sailing solo, the risk and insecure feeling is compounded.

a) Marking the handle position on the fabric

The obvious answer is to have a handhold available. I recently installed
handholds on our dodger, and it has increased our sense of security

The stainless steel tubular
frame that is an integral part of dodgers provides the mounting spot.
I used streamlined stainless steel handles
manufactured by AFI Industries. They’re made from bent stainless
steel tubing with 2-inch-long by 1/4-inch threaded studs at each end.
These handles are widely available in 12-inch, 18-inch and 24-inch
lengths from West Marine, BoatU.S., and many other catalog and retail
marine-supply stores.

The first decision is to determine what length handles suit your
installation. Try a simulated trip around the dodger to find the best
height for
a handhold, then at that spot measure the distance between the two
diverging frame members. The figure closest to one of the three sizes
is the one you want. Remember that by just moving the handle a few
inches up or down, a fit can be obtained.

Burning a hole through fabric with a soldering gun

b) Burning a hole through the fabric at the marked location

After purchasing the length
closest to your needs, place the handle on the Sunbrella fabric and
slide it up or down until the 1/4-inch mounting studs are directly
over the centers of the stainless steel tubing beneath the fabric.
Check this position with a level, or have someone away from the boat
look at the position of the handle to see if it is at an aesthetically
pleasing angle, then mark where the threaded studs touch the fabric.

Now loosen the dodger fabric so it is away from the frame. Most of
the fabrics used for dodgers are made of acrylic material, such as
Sunbrella. The hole for the threaded studs of the handle can be made
through these synthetic fabrics with a hot soldering iron, a heated
screwdriver, or even a heated nail. The hot tool melts its way through
the acrylic fabric with surprising and disconcerting ease, like the
proverbial hot knife through butter. As the hole for the stud is made,
the fabric ends are simultaneously sealed to prevent unraveling, in
the same way the end of a nylon or Dacron line is sealed with a hot
iron or flame.

Marking the frame through the hole in the fabric

c) Marking the stainless steel frame through the hole in the fabric

Now replace the dodger cover and tension it to its normal position.
This is important, since the stainless steel tubing will be held in
this final position by the handles. Mark the stainless steel tubing
through the holes you have made in the fabric. Pull back the dodger
cover and drill 1/4-inch holes in the dodger’s tubular frame
at these marks.

The cover now goes back on again, and the handhold studs
are put through the fabric and frame. The 2-inch-long studs on the
handle will probably
protrude too far on the inside, and you may want to cut them off to
make them shorter. As always, when cutting a threaded bolt, put a nut
on before cutting. After cutting, removing these nuts helps to clean
out the thread where the cut has been made.

Drillinga hold through the frame

d) With the fabric removed, drilling 1/4-inch holes through the frame

Two rubber gaskets come with each handhold. When installing the handle,
these should be between the handle and the fabric, cushioning the contact
as well as making the hole watertight. Although 1/4-inch stainless
steel washers and nuts also come with the handles, you might want to
consider using stainless steel wing-nuts on the inside rather than
the nuts supplied. This makes disassembling the dodger simpler and
faster, with no tools required. These wing-nuts are available at nearly
every marine-supply store.

Now do the same
for the other side of the dodger, and your job is completed. The
whole project
shouldn’t take more than an hour or two.

Mounting handles and gaskets Using wing-nuts on the inside to ease disassembly

e) Mounting the handles and rubber gaskets, and f) Using wing-nuts on the inside of the dodger to make disassembly easier.

The first time
I used my new handles in a seaway I wondered why I hadn’t done this
long before; they solve the problem perfectly. And I discovered
that as an added benefit, the handles stiffen up the whole dodger
frame remarkably. Installing handholds on your dodger is an upgrade
and safety
project that is well worth the small time and expense required –
and may pay off in unknown dividends sometime in the future.


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