August 2008 Newsletter

What’s in this issue

This newsletter is available as an MP3 audio download at It is read by Michael and Patty Facius. We recommend a broadband Internet connection to download, since it is a large file.

You can also Download a PDF version.

Want to look up a previous newsletter? We've added an on-line index of all the Good Old Boat newsletters.

Cinderella and the prince
What a celebration!

Wow! What a celebration we've had in recognition of the 10-year anniversary of Good Old Boat magazine! It has felt much like being Cinderella (and her worthy escort, of course) at the ball. We've been heaped with praise by friends far and wide and by subscribers (whom we consider to be friends also).

We've published an issue with our own story and our boat on the cover (if we weren't buying the ink, that would never have happened in a million years). And the family of Good Old Boat wizards put on a surprise shindig that really surprised us. They even managed to convince Lin and Larry Pardey to fly to Minnesota from California to serve jointly as the masters of ceremony for a roast of the magazine founders.

Since Good Old Boat is a “virtual company” with writers and editors all over North America and beyond, some members of the team attended the surprise celebration “virtually,” sending their memories and comments for Lin and Larry to read aloud to those wizards who live close enough to attend. We heard from Dan Spurr in Montana, Ted Brewer in British Columbia, Don Casey from his boat out cruising, John Vigor in Washington state, Brian Cleverly in California and three members of the extended family in Maine: Dave and Jaja Martin and Ken Textor. Jan and Larry DeMers, from their boat in Schooner Bay, provided the video introduction of Lin and Larry.

A highlight was the gag routine developed by Patty Facius, who dressed first in full winter gear, complete with goggles, followed by a sanding outfit with a respirator, and finally with a mosquito net & to poke fun at some of the unglamorous photos that have accompanied my editorials over the years.

Our hats are off to Michael and Patty Facius and to Mark Busta for pulling off the surprise, to Pat and Steve Morris for hosting the whole shebang at their house, to all who attended in person and virtually, and to Lin and Larry Pardey for taking the time — just before they left on a South Pacific cruise — to travel to Minnesota for a wonderful fun day.

Jerry and I have had to order new (much larger) hats for our swelled heads, and we have just one question: When can we do all this again?

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What’s coming in September?

For the love of sailboats

  • Tanzer 31 feature boat
  • Ericson 27 review
  • D&M 22 review

Speaking seriously

  • Inverters 101
  • Hull and deck paint job
  • Applying bottom paint
  • Seakindliness
  • Prop puller
  • Fixing the Cutless bearing
  • Advantage of the split backstay
  • Build your own stern seats

Just for fun

  • Mississippi hero
  • Telegram from the Palace audiobook excerpt
  • Good old marriage
  • Disabled sailing

What’s more

  • Simple solutions: Water tank level gauge; The amazing can-do combination of a heatgun and chisel
  • Quick and easy: Halyard replacement; Broomhilda; Towel keeper
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In the news

Final voyage: Roger Jones

The good old boat community lost one of its own on June 2 with the death of Roger Jones. A long-time member of the Cal list email group, Roger was well known for generously sharing his knowledge and experience. He worked for Jensen Marine when Cal production started, so he had a wealth of firsthand information. He was a friend of Cal designer William Lapworth and was instrumental in helping many Cal list members obtain copies of drawings of their boats before Lapworth's death in 2006.

Roger was an inventor and a creative thinker. He found Cal 29 hull #1, severely neglected and in great disrepair, and took it home to his backyard in Reno, Nevada, to turn it into a 21st- century Cal 29. Although it was named Swiss Navy, Roger affectionately referred to this project boat as 'Swiss Cheese.' After consulting with Ted Brewer, Roger cut off the aft end and designed a sugar-scoop stern. He extended the cabin aft and had plans to create a keel-stepped carbon-fiber mast. Although he was not able to complete the restoration project, it stands as a testament to his imagination.

Because Roger believed that young people are the future of our nation, he went out of his way to mentor and provide guidance for many of them. One of his pet projects was Sierra Nevada Community Sailing (P.O. Box 19655, Reno, NV 89511), which he founded. This group provides sailing experiences for anyone aged 8 and older. The organization is accepting donations in Roger's memory.

A number of Cal list members are helping Roger's widow, Lori, find new owners for Swiss Navy as well as for their Cal 2-30. For more information on either boat, please email Alfred Poor.

What if you call 911 and no one answers?

Beginning on February 1, 2009, using an older model EPIRB will be like calling 911…but no one answers. According to the U.S. Coast Guard, the older model EPIRBs (121.5 or 243 MHz) will no longer be monitored by satellite and are likely to go undetected in an emergency. Only distress alerts from 406 MHz beacons will continue to be detected and processed by search-and-rescue satellites worldwide.

As long as the new 406 MHz beacon has been registered (as is required by law), search-and-rescue authorities can confirm that the distress is real, who they are looking for, and a description of the vessel. False activation may be resolved with a phone call to the beacon owner, saving expensive resources for actual distresses.

For more on EPIRBs and how they work, see Don Launer's articles in Good Old Boat, July 2007 and January 2008.

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Lake Tahoe Concours d’Elegance Celebrates Classic Wooden Boats

August 7-9, 2008
Lake Tahoe, Nevada

This year, the Lake Tahoe Concours d’Elegance features Boats of the Twenties as its marque class.

Splendid examples of these boats will be on display for two-and-a-half days, starting on Thursday, August 7. The VIP Preview Day (Thursday) is open to the public, with tickets priced at $100 per person. The show will continue on Friday and Saturday, August 8 and 9, with a ticket price of just $25 for a single day, or $30 for both days if purchased in advance.

Advance tickets may be purchased online at or by contacting the Tahoe Yacht Club Foundation at 530-581-4700.

Leisure Furl Rendezvous

August 16-17, 2008
New Bedford YC
Padanaram Harbor, Mass.

All owners of sailboats equipped with Forespar's Leisure Furl In-Boom Furler are invited to a rendezvous later this summer. John Kretschmer, noted sailor and author of several sea novels, including At the Mercy of the Sea and Flirting with Mermaids, will be the guest speaker. Widely known for his sail training passages at sea, he has over 20 Atlantic passages and is currently offering an around-the-world training trip.

To learn more, contact Tom Peelen, 508-951-3337, or Bill Mosher, 414-688-9979.

Alberg 37 Fall Rendezvous

September 27-28, 2008
Kinsale, Va.

The Alberg 37 International Owners Association will hold its 16th annual Fall Rendezvous on September 27-28. For more information, please visit

The 39th Annapolis Sailboat Show

October 9-13, 2008
Annapolis, Maryland

Good Old Boat will be an exhibitor at the 39th Annapolis U.S. Sailboat Show, the largest show exclusively featuring new sailboats. Come see us in Booth AB-3.

Go to for detailed directions and more information.

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GPS gremlins
Added satellites cause confusion in some receivers

by Andrew “Aussie” Bray

The GPS system is extremely reliable, but there have been problems in the past, such as the Y2K and GPS date rollover events that affected particular receiver models. Now it seems that an old problem has resurfaced.

The GPS system was originally conceived to use 24 active satellites, but extra satellites improve accuracy and availability. Since late February 2008 there have been 32 'healthy' satellites in the constellation. Apparently some GPS receivers become confused if they receive signals from satellites with a PRN number greater than 31, and may produce randomly inaccurate positions. Similar problems surfaced with some receivers the last time there were 32 satellites, back in the early 1990s, but it seems that even some units manufactured much more recently are vulnerable, including some built into current model AIS receivers.

Some California friends found out about this problem the hard way — when they urgently needed to shift to a new anchorage after an unexpected strong wind shift made their anchorage in a bay south of Hobart (Tasmania) untenable. As Murphy dictates, this situation developed in the wee hours of a very dark night. Discovering that their primary GPS (A Northstar 941x) and their handheld backup (Magellan Meridian) were misbehaving was not at all helpful. Fortunately, the radar was working, and my friends (who have been cruising for more than 15 years) piloted their way to a more sheltered anchorage. The next day the problem seemed to have fixed itself, only to return again that night. This has been the pattern ever since.

When #32 is well above the horizon, the Northstar produces speed over ground (SOGs) of up to 800 knots and while it does produce some fixes, it spends a lot of time 'searching' for satellites. It doesn't display a satellite numbered 32, but does display an unnumbered satellite when 32 is present. When connected to a chart plotter, the fixes it produces are distributed randomly — some on the boat's actual track but many are well away from it, several miles away. Northstar has a firmware upgrade available designed to fix the problem, which my friends have now successfully applied to their receiver. The Magellan produced much smaller SOG errors of about 40 knots but, although its positions are similarly affected by random errors, it doesn't stop producing positions, so any connected equipment (such as an autopilot or a DSC radio), which would normally warn when GPS data stopped arriving, will possibly not.

Limited information about a few affected models is beginning to become available on the Internet (search for GPS PRN32 and your brand) but it is probably a worthwhile exercise to check your own receivers before relying on them. To do this, monitor their performance when satellite #32 is well above your local horizon.

Each GPS satellite is typically above your horizon for about 8 hours in every 24, sometimes making just one long pass, but more usually making two passes totaling about 8 hours. GPS satellites get earlier by a few minutes each day, but since most receivers are not affected, checking the Sky View display on a few should reveal exactly when PRN 32 is above your local horizon (be aware that some receivers may not display satellites close to the horizon). With perseverance, after defining your location, precise satellite pass predictions for any given place and date can be obtained online via the Artificial Satellite/GPS links in

If, when PN32 is known to be well above the horizon, your receiver shows a satellite numbered 32 in its Sky View or Current Satellite list, it's probably OK. However, given that different receivers seem to be affected by varying degrees, the best way to check whether the random position error problem is present is probably to monitor the SOG output. Even relatively small random changes in sequential position fixes produce obviously excessive SOG values. Some GPS receivers hide small SOG drifts that are due to the normal randomness of GPS positioning, but such drifts are typically less than a tenth of a knot. So if your stationary vessel is shown doing an impossible speed, something is wrong. If the SOGs are excessive, you'll probably find that they and the course over ground (COGs) will also be changing randomly. If the problem is not present when PRN32 has set and recurs after it rises again, you can be pretty sure that this is the source of the problem.

Fixing it will require an upgrade of the firmware, if the manufacturer offers one. If you must make an upgrade of this type, back up your waypoints first. Otherwise, you may lose them all in the process.

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Book reviews

The book reviews from this newsletter have been posted online.

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Looking for

More on the unidentified burgees

Thanks for the mention in the June 2008 newsletter. I've had phone calls, emails and people coming up to me to say, 'Hey, Bob, about that burgee…' Little by little, we are getting to the end of the 'burgee-quest' game. We only have one left to identify.
Robert Lang, Fleet captain
Quantico Yacht Club

Old wooden sailboat

I have recently been given an old 14-foot cedar-stripped fixed-keel sailboat. There is no identification of any kind. If I can find information on it, I would like to restore it to its original condition. People who have looked at it estimate it to be from around the turn of the previous century. Rumor is that it was used for racing and that, depending on the wind conditions, sandbags were put in the bottom of the keel.

Additional information: LOA: 15 feet 3 inches; beam: 6 feet 3 inches; LWL: 14 feet; transom beam: 40 inches; keel length: 7 feet 4 inches; transom angle: 68 degrees; height, bottom of keel to deck: 48 inches; ribs: 1 x 1 white oak; hull: ¾ x ¾ cedar strips; rib spacing: every 12 inches on center; hardware: solid brass; decking: ¾ x ¾ cedar strips.

Any information would be greatly appreciated.
Rick Hathaway

Herreshoff Scout

I'm hoping that one of your readers might possibly know something about the Herreshoff Scout sailboats built by Nowak & Williams in Bristol, Connecticut. This boat, which is 18 feet, is not as popular as the larger Herrshoff America, which they also built. Mine, a cat-rigged ketch, was built in 1975 and I am in the process of restoring her. I'm wondering about ballast and power options. I'm new to your publication and wish I had discovered you years ago. I read the magazines cover to cover and then save them.
Fred Kappus

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Sailing and “Stuff”
But now times are rough, and I got too much stuff…
— Jimmy Buffett, One Particular Harbour

by Phillip Reid

Sailing magazines aren't the only ones. Go to the newsstand, pick up a random handful of enthusiast publications, flip through them, and you'll get the distinct impression that, regardless of the particular enthusiasm a given magazine purports to celebrate — kayaking, listening to records, raising children — all of them actually celebrate the same underlying pursuit — The Acquisition of Stuff.

There's a slight variation when you have an enthusiasm that just doesn't involve much Stuff — surfing is a good example. In these cases, the magazines will try to convince you that if you acquire the “right” Stuff for that pursuit, limited though it may be, you will also, as a significant bonus, acquire bimbos. Boating magazines (and not exclusively those devoted to powerboating) do this too — actually, they take it all the way: “Acquire more Stuff that you don't even know what it does, for more money than it'd take to buy a major league baseball team, and you'll also get — bimbos!”

This paragraph is going to be the tangential digression about boat (and charter company) ads with bimbos. There aren't many varieties. Basically, you have Bimbo Lying Uselessly on Deck, Bimbo Standing Uselessly in Cockpit, Bimbo Standing Uselessly at Bow, and Bimbo Sitting Uselessly Next to Helmsman.

I should point out some interesting consistent features of a couple of these. Notice how, in Bimbo Lying Uselessly on Deck, said bimbo is usually arching her back, as though she has inadvertently rested the middle of her spine on a sun-sizzled deck plate, or on a tarantula. In Bimbo Sitting Uselessly Next to Helmsman, note that, frequently, said bimbo is sitting with her toes pointed. Perhaps this is because she is so accustomed to spending her life in 8-inch heels that her feet are just stuck that way. I don't know. Nor do I know how it could be possible that so many brand-new expensive boats are already infested with tarantulas. “Tally me bananas…”

Enough about bimbos; back to Stuff. It's gotten to where, when I open the major sailing rags, I think, Is this a magazine or the West Marine catalog? If I had just wandered into my local newsstand, having spent my entire life up to that point in, say, a cave, and I was thinking maybe I'd look into this sailing thing, here's what I would take away from my perusal of any given issue: first, I need a 50-foot boat that costs $800,000. Then, I need the latest-generation shizzfuster, three interfaced portawhirrs, a 3-kiloleter bladome, a protocular maxiwomp, and these remote-control thingies that find me if I fall overboard, then instantly inform the President of the United States that I have been recovered, dry my soggy underwear, and make me pancakes. Which basically now means I have the marine equivalent of (speaking of the President of the United States) THE SPACE SHUTTLE. But here's the thing: the space shuttle has a highly trained flight crew and an army of engineers and technicians swarming all over it 99 percent of the time. My boat has…me. Some of the time. And I'm just — Some Dude. And the magazines are telling me, “Some Dude, you do not get into this to go sailing! You get into this to go broke and fix stuff!

To be fair, the actual message is, “You shouldn't have to worry about it, because you have money to burn and when something needs fixing you have your secretary write a check to the guy who makes a living overhauling shizzfusters. Relax.”

Now y'all probably think I'm a minimalist who sailed to Tierra del Fuego in an umbrella-powered canoe. Nope. I've got Stuff on my boat. You need Stuff to have a safe and comfortable boat. My Stuff is good too. I guess my issue with the mags is that my ideal-world boat is as Stuff-less as possible.

Can I do without a pootanium wangless and still safely enjoy sailing my boat? Is it one more thing whose basic purpose is to house dead batteries? Will it let me sleep aboard without waking up feeling like someone who just went through a 16th-century judicial interrogation? (If the answer to the last question is yes, I'm definitely interested.) The magazines, though, seem to be pushing the idea that the more stuff you have, the better. I've got this Tom Payne-esque cartoon in my head where this poor new sailor, who wants to do right, gets all the Stuff the magazines are implying he should have to make his boat safe and comfortable, and the boat sinks under the weight of all of it.

I need to feel the lack of a particular piece of Stuff — not once, but several times usually, and then I'll ponder which outweighs which — the lack of that Stuff, or the cost, bother, weight, unreliability, lack of longevity, and just the general pain-in-my-forty-year-old ass it will be to acquire, install, and tolerate the presence of that Stuff. I don't need a magazine that tells me “You need this!” I want a magazine that tells me “You don't need this” or, “If you need to accomplish Goal X, here is the cheapest and simplest way to do it.” That relaxes me. It takes away that tendency to get overwhelmed by the whole cruising-sailboat-ownership thing. It makes me think that maybe I'm not crazy and unreasonable to insist that the primary purpose of my boat is play rather than work.

Primary digression follow-up: I like a woman aboard as well as, or better than, the next man, but I prefer one appropriately dressed for the activity who can tweak sheets or steer a course better than I can. I'm lucky enough to have that on my boat too, and so far she's shown no inclination to lounge arch-backed on deck while I work, or point her toes while steering.

The big sailing magazines frequently tell us that sailing isn't growing — that it isn't attracting new enthusiasts. But the thing is, millionaires are a pretty small percentage of the population. If I may return briefly to my hypothetical innocent magazine perusal scenario: after getting the scoop on the whole thing, I'd probably put down the magazine (not buy it) and trudge back to my cave. I'm glad I didn't learn about sailing via the cave-to-newsstand route. I'd like to thank my sources — the real (and frugal) sailors who've taught me everything I know (the fact that I still don't know much is entirely my own fault) — and their real (way, way under $800,000) boats; practical books and magazines (including, to be fair, plenty of worthwhile pieces tucked between the bimbos and new-gear roundups in the very publications I've been bashing in this article); and, of course, my own boat and the water she sails in. That's the real Stuff.

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Why my old boat is good

We asked readers to tell us what makes their old boats good. We heard an earful! In the next few issues we'll share some of the responses we received.

Two boats for all seasons

What makes my old boat good? That's simple and complex. Baker's Dozen is a 1961 Seafarer Polaris, hull #13. I've sailed her since 1969, when she was 8 and I was 22. We have matured together, and she has never failed me. We've never come to grief, except for that one misjudgment of the crew involving a power line and the forestay. Even then, she maintained her dignity, though wounded by the crew's ineptitude, and kept her mast upright.

When I step aboard, there's that familiar smell of low-tech fiberglass chemicals that is unique to her. I have spent untold hours sanding, varnishing, fixing, painting, and generally keeping her looking good and sailing well.

The complex part is the nature of the relationship we develop with boats, unlike that with any other inanimate object. Boats are among the loveliest things we create, and we depend upon them to keep us safe in a hostile environment. I once read about a guy who was rebuilding his Concordia yawl after a marina fire. He said he talked to her. I think all of us understand that.?

These days I have two old boats; the newer one, Martha C, (1967, #1220) has captured my heart as well. She's a Cal 20, one of the truly exemplary things that humans have made from fiberglass. She's fun to sail, carries me safely on days when the only other boats out are the big schooners, and is pretty enough to leave a smile on my face as I row away from the mooring.
Chris Campbell

Seahorse satisfaction

My wife and I bought a Mirage 24 to get back into sailing and really enjoyed this boat. It was a C&C-designed midget offshore racing boat that sailed well and had 'camping accommodations.' Like many others, we soon yearned for that Holy Grail of small cruising boats: standing headroom. We began wandering the docks and obsessively checking One boat seemed to stand out as the ideal choice, a Mirage 27, a Robert Perry-designed cruising/racing sloop (think Islander 28-lite).

For the past eight years or so, I had driven by a sailboat parked in a backyard in a small town near my home, just someone's forgotten dream. There are a lot of forgotten dreams out there if you start looking. One day I was working on a nearby roof and had the opportunity to get a better look at the boat. I realized it was a 1980 Mirage 27 that looked fairly sound. I contacted the owner and yes, it was for sale at a good price. We shook hands on the deal (this being rural Ontario) and I drove home the proud owner of the Seahorse IV. I was so excited I could not sleep and got up at 3 a.m. to turn on the television. There, on the Discovery Channel, was a documentary on the lives of seahorses, definitely a sign from above to retain the name and never change it.

We bought her in late October after she had been on the hard for 10 years. I assumed that I would have to buy all kinds of fittings and pieces to outfit her to sail. But we found every last piece of rigging hardware in the well-organized toolbox. Since the deal included a tender, I expected a leaky inflatable but was pleasantly surprised to discover an 8-foot fiberglass dinghy. It tows well and is much happier with a set of oars than an outboard, just like its owners.

We are fortunate to live two blocks from the marina and sail Seahorse nearly every day in the spring, summer, and fall until haulout time, and find her to be the ideal boat. I have read that a good boat should be able to drink six, eat four, and sleep two, and in this she is the perfect size. We often have dinner aboard and go for an evening sail, returning after sunset on Lake Huron — a beautiful sight to behold. We have even sailed her right into the slip, impressing some of the long-standing members of the yacht club and earning us an invitation to coffee at the club the next morning. She is substantial enough for cruising: we spent seven nights aboard on a trip up the Bruce Peninsula…and are still married!

With Seahorse safely stored away for the winter, we spend a lot of time in armchair voyages in front of the fireplace, discussing improvements we will make. The list grows and morphs, but I suspect that summer will find her waxed, polished, and pretty much unchanged. A new diesel would be nice but the smoky and thirsty OMC saildrive shows no signs of giving up anytime soon. Roller furling is pretty much standard around here, but Seahorse came with three sails in wonderful shape. Hanking on gives us something to do between the dock and the lake. An electric refrigeration system, when you really look at it, seems a very expensive and complicated way to avoid buying a $2 bag of ice. A dodger might look neat, but as Robert Perry (Himself!) remarked, “The hood of my Helly-Hanson is my dodger.” Maybe a radio with a CD-player when they come on sale at Canadian Tire…

We really think she is the perfect boat for us: large enough for Lake Huron, but small enough that we own her, not the other way around.
Peter Herring

Moving up happily

My wife, Susan, and I are in our early 70s and have been sailing for more than 40 years. For 25 years we raced a Thistle on various inland lakes and were reluctant to give up the sensitive feel of the 17-foot centerboarder. In time, however, we began to look forward to sailing on bigger water.

Lake Superior was the water of choice, and for that we needed more stability. In our successive boats we have always sought the balance and sensitivity of a racing boat, even when we used our boat primarily for cruising. When I relate that we cruised the Apostle Islands repeatedly in a J/22 with two other people, camping on shore, and took one- to two-week trips with six people on a J/29, you can see that we were stretching racing boats to a level for which they were never intended.

In 1996, as we planned a retirement trip to the Atlantic, we were ready for standing headroom and more stability. That was when we discovered our good old boat, a 1979 Canadian Sailcraft 36, Nightwatch. This was the second CS 36 made, a race-equipped version with lots of winches and a big sail inventory. As we looked the boat over with two friends and the broker, we suddenly realized that five people were standing in the cabin, and there was even a bit of room to spare between the large nav station to starboard and the U-shaped galley to port. We could see that the comfort factor would be taken care of nicely by this boat. Though we feared we might lose what had been most important to us in sailing, namely the responsiveness of the boat to the wind, we decided to make the change to Nightwatch because she would provide us with the ability to explore new waters.

What we were to find in our sailing through Lake Superior, Lake Huron, Lake Erie, and Lake Ontario, and later in Maine and Nova Scotia, was that she is a remarkably sensitive boat. Her 15,000-plus pound mass moves through the water with satisfying ease and she tracks the wind with a feather-light touch on the helm. By the time the wind speed reaches 10 knots we're consistently sailing between 6.5 and 7 knots, and that's with the tacking and pointing ability of our 110-percent genoa.

Furthermore, the galley is large enough that Susan has prepared numerous dinners for six or more, including lake trout on Lake Superior, lobster and crab in Maine, and scallops in Nova Scotia. Nightwatch can hold 100 gallons of drinking water and an icebox with food for a week or more, and has unusually large cockpit lockers that keep extra equipment and gear out of the cabin.

Our simplified lifestyle aboard Nightwatch has been a delight, rather than an inconvenience. Although she has a traditional layout, the design has been so carefully thought out that we still discover clever details after living aboard for 10 summers. One of the things we appreciate is that she has no exterior wood except for her teak dropboards. We live 350 miles from our marina and it is not possible for us to provide the care required by exterior brightwork. On the other hand, we thoroughly enjoy the teak interior, a luxury rarely found in new boats today.

Our joy in sailing with family and friends is a strong basis for our appreciation of Nightwatch. We have found sailing to be a wonderful way to interact with people. Sharing the work and the fun with enthusiastic crewmembers makes our sailing easier and our enjoyment greater. More than 120 people have sailed with us since we started cruising and many of those have sailed with us repeatedly. These voyages include many with our six granddaughters, some of whom made their first trips when they were less than three years old. They also include a few with friends from several European and Asian countries. Nightwatch has proved to be a gem — one that provides us with the satisfaction of a light hand on the helm and joyful interaction with a wide variety of people.
Hugo Franzen

Not my type, but love at first sight

I thought to use this email to provide a bit of information on my unique good old boat. After sailing for 10 years on a well-loved C&C 24 on Lake-of-Two-Mountains on the western fringe of the island of Montreal, I finally got up the courage to invest in a larger cruising sailboat, one that could take me to far-off horizons as I finally made it to retirement. In 2006, after months of research and of wavering over different models, I decided that the mid-80s Catalina 34 best suited my needs. I was getting help from a broker in Toronto, who was not at all keen on this model that, he believes, is too pedestrian and not designed for real sailing. But I insisted.

While in Annapolis visiting Catalinas, my broker suggested that I also take a look at an unusual boat, one that he had heard of and that had been sitting on the hard for two years. He warned me that it was very different from the models that I was exploring but that it would surprise me.

It was love at first sight and a very confusing moment for me, as this was nowhere close to the type of boat I had in mind.

The sailboat that stole my heart is a Sparkman & Stephens-designed, Italian-made, Alpa 38, a 1976 center cockpit, flush-deck beauty. I am a very objective and rational person, but as soon as I saw the hull and stepped into the cockpit, I felt an emotional pull that I have only felt for very few women in my life.

The boat has an interesting history, as the Alpa Company had ordered the design from Sparkman & Stephens in an effort to penetrate the U.S. market. Built in 1976, it was delivered by cargo ship to the 1977 Annapolis Boat Show. With no interested buyers, the vessel was stored until 1980, when she was purchased at auction and cruised on the Chesapeake Bay.

Cathedral, as she was originally christened, was then sailed lightly in Florida and sold in 2002 to a cruising couple who explored the Caribbean and sailed her to Nova Scotia and finally back to Annapolis in 2004.

She is now re-christened Orizzonti Sereni (Italian for serene horizons). I am on a three-year refit program to upgrade several aging systems (engine, sails, electricity) while I sail her on Lake Champlain, New York, prior to departing to more serene and warmer horizons.
Norman Prefontaine

No regret puttering

I was ruminating on why we are attracted to good old boats. It seems more a need than an obsession. I want to be on the water. I enjoy all that is connected with sailing. There is the tension between the various projects that individualize your boat and actual sailing time.

I'm on my tenth boat. I currently have a 31-footer from 1982, an old dink to use when the dog joins us, and a two-person kayak that we use both as a tender and on local rivers.

Three years ago my wife and I chartered a boat with another couple and sailed around the Greek islands. It was new, or nearly new, and everything worked. But there were arrangements, design compromises, that I felt could have been done better.

This is the essential reason to have a good old boat — a proven hull at an affordable price that you can personalize without feeling like you will be negatively impacting the value of your investment. If you buy a boat for $10,000 or $20,000, you can go about modifying it to meet your individual needs or whims. It can be a major project or a series of smaller objectives. There will usually be a learning curve. I would feel a little nervous about taking a saw to a $150,000 new boat with most of the boat still in the bank's name.

Anxiety aside, part of the enjoyment of being on the water is being in a boat that you helped create. While my 31-footer has a number of sisterships, none has my interior. I have modified settees, systems, and fittings. I have designed and built a table and other wood-based pieces. I have plans for additional projects. I even put together a dink ramp for our four-footed beast. I guess it comes down to the fact that 1 enjoy messing about in boats. To make a car analogy, good-old-boat types would prefer a '50s car that can be driven every weekend, rather than an antique that is a garage queen.

If my 1981 sailboat is going to float this year, I have to finish installing a raw-water intake filter and then paint the bottom. We are considering painting the cabin sole with non-skid, as it is currently smooth gelcoat. And the ports need fresh caulk. But I can't wait to feel the breeze on a beam reach at 10 to 15 knots…
Bill Hudson

The people partnership

The goodness of a good old boat comes only in part from the boat. The other major contribution comes from the heart and soul of the people who sail and care for her. Some good old boats had famous designers, were built in notorious yards, or were sailed to outrageous places by fearless adventurers. But many good old boats have no pedigree and turn no heads…except for those of their owners. A good old boat is a good old boat because she is loved like a family member and, like a family member, she is often loved in spite of flaws and idiosyncrasies.
Martin Mikelsons

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Mail Buoy

But don't cover up your stern light

In the article “Carrying the dinghy,” May 2008, Silver Donald Cameron has some clever ideas for the problem of how to store and carry dinghies. I've yet to come up with the prefect solution, but I can see one problem (aside from the somewhat unfortunate appearance) with his scheme of carrying his dinghy 'bum-to-bum,' as he puts it. The standard stern light will not be visible while motoring. (A tri-color mast-mounted light can't be used for motoring.) This would preclude using this idea at night or in restricted visibility while motoring or motorsailing.
Chuck Fort

And here's why

I enjoyed reading the article in the May 2008 issue showing several ingenious ways to carry the dinghy, but would like to add a small piece of advice to readers who may opt to carry their dinghy across the transom. If you do, and if you ever sail at night, make sure that the dinghy does not obscure your stern light! A friend of mine had a very scary experience some years back when he was motoring down the Hudson River at night to catch a favorable current. His boat was almost run down by a fast-moving tugboat coming up on him from behind! At the time, my friend was carrying his dinghy in the way shown on your illustration #2, with the result that his boat showed no light to the approaching tugboat.
Kai Mortensen

About that Marvar engine

From personal experience, not all engines need the same oil pressure as Jerry Powlas indicates in his response to a letter in the June 2008 newsletter. I had a Jeep with the old AMC 6-cylinder engine. I was always worried about the oil pressure because it was low. I even put a new high-capacity oil pump on it — blew out the seals in cold weather. Then I found the technical specs for that engine: 5 psi was a normal idle pressure. What I thought was a problem was a misunderstanding on my part.

The pressure really needs to accommodate the needs of the bearings. Small journals, high pressure; large journals, lower pressure. The bearings on a Liberty-ship engine are merely gravity fed, but they are large.

About shims: an older-style engine, like the one in question, may have shims on the mains and big ends. Removing a cap shim could clear up his problem. Using Plastigage is the technique here. My old '39 John Deere “A” has an arrangement like this.
Don Warfield

How to get back aboard?

My first sail this season was a short solo run that raised lingering qualms about self-rescue in an overboard situation. Basically, I wouldn't be able to. I wear a life jacket and a tether harness (even when my wife is with me), but if you happen to go overboard when you're soloing and are harnessed in, the options for saving yourself are few and far between if all you're doing is dangling over the lifelines, being dragged along on the end of a harness. The trick is what to do next.

It's especially important in cold water. You don't have a lot of time for thrashing around before hypothermia gets you.

I've seen sailboat discussion groups wrestle with this challenge. There are also a lot of patents out there on man-overboard recovery schemes. My suggested solution comes out of racing a Fusion 15 dinghy. That design has a dump-recovery assist line that runs under the rolled hull-to-deck joint. It's basically a line that runs from the stern to the shock cord takeup on the trapeze. When you capsize, you grab this line (which is held taut otherwise by the shock cord), and it is a major help in getting up and staying on the very slippery centerboard.

As best I can figure, if you're alone and go over the side anywhere forward of the cockpit, you have to figure out how to get to the stern and reboard using the swim ladder, without losing contact with the boat. If there was a self-rescue line running along the toerail, you would need a second tether hook on your harness. You'd snap the second one onto the self-rescue line, then release the first one that has you attached to the toerail or jackline. Then you're free to work your way back to the stern, flip down the ladder, and get back aboard. I haven't actually tried this yet (I'm waiting for Georgian Bay to warm up) but it seems plausible.

People may think — with a jackline along the deck or cabintop — that you can just work your way back to the stern, with the tether clip sliding along it. But the reality is that the tether on your harness (if it's long enough to allow you to float freely) is likely to snag on the stanchion tops as you try to move to the stern. The only way to find out is to jump overboard and test it. At any rate, the whole subject is one worth exploring, with the aim being to figure out a system an owner can install without a great deal of fuss.
Doug Hunter
Doug and the editors welcome further discussion on this topic, and experimentation with this and other techniques.

Concerns about Dri-Dek

I read in the May 2008 Mail buoy with great interest about Dri-Dek — it sounded too good to be true. So I went to the website and found that the reason it's so good is something they call “Bacteria Fighting oxy-Bl” — which is the chemical C24H16As203. A quick search for that compound revealed that it's on the EPA's “Extremely Hazardous Substance” list and that it's acutely poisonous. This, I'm assuming, is how it manages to kill all those fungi and bacteria that it comes in contact with.

One could hope that, when bonded with the plastic of Dri-Dek, it doesn't come off on things around it and remains benign. I may be overly cautious, but I'll continue to keep the boat dry and air things out for now.

Thanks for the best sailing magazine out there!
Chris Campbell

Speaking of books

I would like to add to Jim Shroeger's comments on Princess (in the July 2008 Mail buoy). For me, it was an inspirational book and led me to wood (my 1949 Eaton 28) and to finish it bright — this after I had refastened the hull. She was lovely but, alas, the year before I found her she had dwelt in salt water, and bronze screws holding the planks to the oak frames and galvanized nails securing the ceiling timber to said frames, together with the salt water, had resulted in destruction of the frames.

However, back when I still had hope (and was blissfully ignorant of what was happening to the frames) another boater in the yard paid me the ultimate compliment by saying my labors reminded him of Joe Richards and Princess. After the war, Richards updated his book by adding a voyage with his family to Bimini. He also wrote another book, Tug of War, dealing with his experience as a WW II skipper of an Army tug.

Now, four sloops later, I own a 1990 Newport 33.
John Pavia

Boat-design article illuminates new purchase

The article on boat design evolution (July 2008) was very interesting. I just purchased a U.S. Yacht 25. It is sound, but not perfect. But it came with a trailer, outboard, and a good sail inventory, including spinnaker and other items. When I sought info on the boat, it was described as ugly and not appealing, with its hourglass reverse transom and perhaps mediocre construction. Well, the shape sure looks like the European designs described in the article. Rather than a fiberglass liner, the whole interior is wood, making it an easy blank palette for refitting it into my old boat.
Gerald Artman

I was thumbing through the July issue again and read the letters item and reply about online books (and classic books). As a writer of history, I've been working with online books from digital libraries for several years now. differs in being a text transcription, but as people are discovering, there are remarkable numbers of copyright-free transcribed texts that are of interest to general readers as well as researchers. Personally, I don't find reading a text file on a computer screen nearly as pleasurable as settling in with an actual book, so there will continue to be a role for reprints (or audio versions) of these classics.

One classic boating book I wish more people could read is Cruising the Georgian Bay, by Kenneth McNeill Wells, which was published 50 years ago and is long out of print. I “reviewed” it on my cruising website ( Kenneth had an international following for his Owl Pen books, but his boating boats are gems. In addition to being insightful, entertaining, and often wildly politically incorrect, he provides an abundant reminder of how it is possible to cruise great distances with very little in the way of “necessities.”

On another matter, Richard Smith, in his article on his 31, remarks on removing a hot-water heater and pressure water. I took a hot water heater and a generator out of a previous boat, and on my current distraction, my C&C 27, previous owners had already ditched the pressure water system in favor of foot pumps. I'm currently in the process of trying to figure out the best combination of batteries and solar power, and the process in any power issue, I think, should start with identifying what it is you really need (as in, the bare bones), then scaling the system accordingly. Here on Georgian Bay, we're seeing an increasing divergence in boating styles: people who are trying to carry along as few of the so-called comforts of home as possible, and people whose boats are like floating cottages, complete with microwaves, dishwashers, etc. It's an RV culture that wants to plug-in while at a full-service marina, then wants to head to a national park, go to a dock, and be able to plug-in there as well.

After running Sweetwater Cruising for about six months now, I'm beginning to realize that what most attracts me to that labor of love is not specifically Georgian Bay and the North Channel, but the experience and philosophy of wilderness cruising, of keeping things simple, of getting off the grid, of getting away from the madding crowd. I may, as a result, shift its focus accordingly. It will be not so much about the “where” as about the “how,” with a continued focus on issues of interest to like-minded boaters.
Douglas Hunter

Stay in touch

In my opinion, a good sailing magazine can create dreams and inspire people to make them come true. The problem with the major sailing magazines is that the non-millionaire reader cannot identify with their few articles and advertisements on every page. They are out of touch with most of their readers; Good Old Boat is not.
John Rennockl

Inspiring to the smitten

Thank you for publishing a magazine that continually provides a bounty of truly valuable information and, perhaps more importantly, inspiration to those of us smitten by this peculiar lark. Thank you also for allowing me to be a small part of Good Old Boat from time to time. I wish you many more years.
Vern Hobbs

Bravo Zulu

Bravo Zulu on your 10th anniversary. Yours is now the only magazine I subscribe to. You've done a masterful job of keeping your focus on “smaller” sailboats.

The last time I wrote I gave you an up-date on my construction of a 22-foot cat-ketch. I'm now about 30 percent complete — and if I could get away from all my family obligations I could finish her by year's end. My hope now is to complete it before I die!
Bill Chaney

Ménage à trois

Congratulations on 10 years of “marriage” in a very unusual form of mÉnage à trois — married to each other and a magazine (which, in reality, is a whole extended family)! And you seem to thrive on it.
Durkee Richards

Turned on

Your 10-year success story in the last issue turned on the renewal button. How did you figure out how to publish the right story when I had made up my mind not to renew?
Gilbert Deming

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Excerpts from The Practical Encyclopedia of Boating

by John Vigor

First Aid

Planning for medical emergencies when you're far from help

Most pleasure boats carry more information about repairing their engines than repairing the human body. Perhaps that's because of a misapprehension that a quick radio call to the U.S. Coast Guard will take care of all medical emergencies. Not so — it is very unlikely that a helicopter will appear on the scene within minutes to convey a victim to the hospital. Most Coast Guard rescues are done by boat, and boats can take many hours to reach you.

If you are a happy day-tripper and weekender, rarely venturing far from the maddening crowd, a basic first-aid kit from your local marine store will suffice. If the kit doesn't contain a first-aid book, get one and read it.

If you like to gunkhole, visit more secluded places, and plan to be aboard for several days at a time, consider supplementing the basic first-aid kit and book with the following: antidiarrhoeal medicine; adhesive bandages of various sizes; aspirin; bandage compresses (2- and 4-inch or 50- and 100 mm); ammonia inhalants; burn treatments; eye dressing and cup; Furacin ointment; iodine swabs; hexachlorophene ointment; a splint, and sunscreen.

First aid is largely a matter of forethought and common sense. If you plan to be away from civilization for extended periods, I suggest you buy a good first-aid book, make a preliminary list of your requirements for a comprehensive kit, and then ask your doctor for advice about supplementing it. Also request a lesson in closing gaping flesh wounds with stitching, clamping, or surgical staples, and some effective painkillers. If you are able to obtain morphine or any scheduled drug, keep them under lock and key with a copy of the doctor's prescription to show the U.S. Coast Guard and port authorities if they board your boat.

John Vigor's book, The Practical Encyclopedia of Boating, is available from the Good Old Bookshelf at $29.95; 352 pages (hardcover).

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