April 2000

Contents (what's in this issue)

How to contact us
Good Old Boat Magazine
7340 Niagara Lane North
Maple Grove, MN 55311-2655
763-420-8923; 763-420-8921 (fax)

Karen Larson, Editor
Jerry Powlas, Technical Editor
Dianne Sivald, Newsletter Editor


Y2K has passed. Leap Day is over. Tax Day is finished for most of us. And Karen turned 50. In no case did the world come to an end. We now turn our attention to spring!

New faces on the team

Not long ago Brent, our part-time helper, resigned to become a sailmaker. So allow us to introduce another sailor and helper whose voice you may hear on the phone if you call. Mark Busta is retiring from city/civil service while he's still sane and is helping us manage our subscriber database and the sales of good old books and other merchandise. Mark and a partner (their wives, too, but with slightly less enthusiasm) bought a 1979 Islander 32 last year. They sail her in Lake Superior's Apostle Islands whenever she's not in charter.
Then there's Dianne Sivald, who is producing this newsletter in a more timely fashion than Karen could (since Karen is simultaneously distracted by the larger magazine as timing cycles would have it). Dianne has a bachelor's degree in journalism from the University of Minnesota, and though she isn't a sailor, yet, she is no stranger to "boat talk." Her husband is a retired Coastie.
Jim Plummer is taking on our advertising sales. Like Mark, Jim's a fellow sailor from our local cruising grounds. Jim and his wife, Bonnie, sail a Tayana 37 and have plans to take that baby way east and then way south someday. But first Jim's going to fill our ad space and help this magazine grow!

Your mailing label is significant

You asked for it; you got it! If you look at your Good Old Boat mailing label, you'll know how many issues are remaining on your subscription and what your "customer ID number" is. The ID number helps us find you in the database quickly and may solve those little riddles that pop up because you're in there once as William C. Biddlesmith, another time as Bill Bittensmith, and a third time under your wife's maiden name, since she wrote the check when the invoice arrived. (And later we want subscription renewal checks from all three of you!)
The number remaining will tell you how many issues we think we still owe you. When you receive a copy of the May issue, take a good look, and you'll see how many more are yet to come after the May issue. We hate obnoxious renewal notices 6 to 12 months early from other publishers, and we refuse to play that game with you. (We are, after all, your kindlier, friendlier publisher.)

Back To Top

What's coming in May

The May issue is in the works. It's got a nice variety in terms of subject matter and contributors. Here's what's coming:

The sweepstakes we didn't plan to hold

The one thing that is certain about promotions is that they're usually well planned . . . like the subscriber contest we held last year. This year, as it turns out, we held another sweepstakes, but it was done simply and easily without any of the forethought that goes into these things. When our printer randomly goofed up copies of the March issue (at least 20 at last count), we decided that those randomly selected subscribers should be this year's winners of . . . a free subscription to Good Old Boat!
So we've extended their subscriptions by six more issues. If you got a bad copy and haven't mentioned it, please do. Letting us know will get you an immediate replacement. Sending the bad copy back will get you another year's subscription. We did have fun reading letters from folks with mixed-up copies of the magazine.
David Oglevie's response is typical: "I just received the March issue of Good Old Boat and eagerly began paging through it, only to find that I don't have pages 25-32. Also missing are pages 49-56. I did notice that I have some duplicate pages, specifically 41-48. I view reading as an adventure, but this is too adventuresome for me. Is it possible to get the missing pages? The magazine arrived in its sealed plastic bag, so I know that my postman didn't help himself to a couple of interesting articles."
Our thanks to all of you who keep your sense of humor throughout all the "catastrophes" (real and imagined), which seem to bepart of our startup.

Friday the 13th at the printer?

Our Canadian subscribers got an extra surprise with our March issue. For some reason our printer in Winnipeg batched your copies with the rest of the U.S. bound magazines, drove them across the border to Grand Forks, N.D., and mailed them back to you from the U.S. We have tried a wide variety of mailing strategies here at Good Old Boat, but that was a novel approach we hadn't yet considered. Canadian magazine deliveries were, therefore, held up by nearly a month. Let's just say it wasn't our printer's finest moment, and we're sorry for the inconvenience.

Back To TopOur index of articles is posted

Remember how we've been promising to give you an online searchable index for articles in past issues? We've had that ready for months, but had trouble getting our ISP to post it (refer to the next news item for the rest of that sordid saga). Now, with a new Internet Service Provider, we've got it there for you. Look for it at <>.
We'll also put a simple one out in print each year. The first one will include all the past years: 1998 (a year of only three issues), 1999 and 2000.

Better online service for you

We changed Internet Service Providers (ISPs) in early March and hope to have made a great leap ahead in reliability and online time (the translation reads: "the site shouldn't crash and be off the ëNet frequently ó in the last few months service has been patchy at best").
The craziest thing that happened in the midst of the crashing and burning was that our February newsletter email notice went out to subscribers at a point when our email return address had no home base reference codes so we couldn't be distinguished from a fly-by-night spam outfit. The result? Many of your spam filters cast us aside and refused to send you that notice. So if you missed notice of the February newsletter, it is (and has been) posted at: <>.
That wasn't quite the end of it. Those of you, whose corporate or personal software marked Good Old Boat as the source of spam messages, weren't able to receive any personal messages from us either. We were literally marked with a scarlet "S." Moving to a new website fixed all that, so we're hoping to be able to have two-way communications with all of you again. (Let's just say that February was a l-o-n-g month, and it wasn't just because of that extra leap day.)

An anonymous donor

One very neat person (a subscriber, of course) deci ded to do something nice for others and has paid for five subscriptions for people who want to read Good Old Boat but can't afford to subscribe. We've identified five who can use a little assistance and thank that special donor for caring.

Back To TopHow do you fight seasickness?
I really enjoy all the aspects of sailing: the great outdoors, the maintenance, the cleaning, the feeling of freedom, learning how to sail the vessel and fine tune the art of sailing, and so much more. Only one drawback for me: I am very much a MOTION SICK person. But I have MANY saving graces!
I can lie down and feel good. Only when I raise my head do I feel the sickness.
I don't generally throw up.
Once we reach port or anchor, I feel good again, especially if I go swimming. The cool water chases out all the "sickies," and I feel good.
I sleep GREAT on the boat!!
All the adventures we experience on the boat are worth the few days I get sick.
I am NOT sick all the time - only with a "following sea." When the wind and waves come at us, I like it a lot.
The "patch" works well for me, but I am careful not to use it more than I need.

Carol and Greg Fox
Marblehead, Ohio

Carol would like to know what other folks do to fight seasickness. Send us your responses, and we'll publish them in the newsletter.

Boat names (last call)

I've really tried to resist the boat name thing but can resist no more. A beautiful white sloop anchored in a small bay we were in had a wonderful name, Winsome, and later as they rowed by in their dinghy, the transom read Losesome.
Another was Overdraft and the dinghy was Legal Tender. At our sailing club we have Toad Hull and the dinghy is Toad Behind. Other dinghy names are Love Me Tender (obviously an Elvis fan) and Tender Behind. Finally, our dinghy is Plan B.

Lorne Shantz
Saltspring Island, British Columbia

Stop me if you've heard this one, and Jimmy Durante forgive me. Our O'Day 25; Serendipity, our tiny tender, I'm sure you guessed, Coinkydink.

Jim Nielsen
South Chicago Heights, Ill.

Roger Gaby's 30-foot, 1981 Sabre is named Silver Cloud and his dinghy is named Linin'.

Roger Gaby
Raleigh, N.C.

Back To TopMail Buoy

A neat website

Just a quick note to say I found the BUCNET-maintained website to be very handy. Logging onto <> will provide an estimated value of a good old boat, for those who are interested in the value of their boat. It's a handy benchmark device. Looking forward to the next issue.

Hiro Nakajima
Stamford, Conn.

Wait! Don't throw out that two-burner!

I have to comment on something in the article about stove fuels in the March issue. On page 48, the author relays LaDonna Bubak's tale of woe about lighting her pressurized alcohol stove. Her method concludes with, "then, when the puddle-flame almost dies, you turn on the burner and hope it catches."
I bought a used two-burner pressurized alcohol cooktop from Marine Exchange a few years ago and installed it in my 1964 Pearson Vanguard. After having the same frustration for almost half a season using the same method as LaDonna, I decided to READ THE DIRECTIONS. Fortunately, they were on a metal plate fitted to the stove. The correct way to light my stove, that works every time, is to pump it up, open the valve to get the puddle, shut the valve, and light the puddle. You then wait until the flame has gone completely out! Then and only then, you turn on the valve andrelight the burner.
I hope you'll pass this on because I can see many boat owners being as frustrated as LaDonna and I were and throwing away perfectly good pressurized alcohol burners and stoves. The two-burner unit I have works fine, and I haven't had to put out a curtain fire since seeing the light (pardon the pun).

Larry Govoni
Boston, Mass.

Runaway diesels

A fellow boater had this problem after launch, while tied to the dock. He had no fuel cutoff or decompression lever. We assisted with advice about blocking the air intake (and supplied a sturdy short plank). Unfortunately there was enough leakage around the air intake to allow the engine to keep running! The suction was extremely strong. The engine did slow down a bit, which gave Don the idea of also putting the engine in gear, finally causing it to stall. It was an interesting lesson in humility; the accepted techniques for solving an emergency may not always work!

Don Taylor & Sue Welsh
Ottawa, Ontario

Columbia 40

I just read the information in your February newsletter about the Columbia 40. I own one of these and thought I could add some additional information.
I question Ted Brewer's ballast statements, as I can't imagine that the steel pipe used in this boat adds any significant ballast to a 20,000-lb displacement. The pipe is 1.5-2" diameter (hollow schedule 40?) and about 10-12' long. This could only account for 100-200 lbs maximum. In addition, the pipe lies from the stemhead to the mast step. Most of this area is above the waterline (although low in the boat). I believe the original purpose is structural strength and load distribution ó not rule beating. The advantage is the ability to tighten the rig without distorting the boat. More information on this can be found on the Columbia website: <>.
If anyone is interested in this beautiful design, pictures and information can be found at the following sites:
< /specs.html>

Mark Cole
Mystic, Conn.

C & C Redwing 30

We were Scimitar's third owners (Scimitar is featured in the January 2000 issue); the first two were residents of Toronto. It was in Toronto that we found her. She was trucked to Midland on the south end of Georgian Bay. We sailed her home through the bay, the North Channel, and across Lake Superior by way of the Keewenaw Waterway. That was
about 1985. The Redwing 30 is a fine boat. We never felt we were at any risk although the waves were sometimes 10-12 feet. The boat never let us down. We have been very pleased with the care and attention Brian Novak has given her since we sold her to him. What the next owner will do with "your baby" is always a concern for a boater.

David Bryan
Thunder Bay, Ontario

Dinghy plans

Practical Boat Owner published some years back the plans of a 7'9" nesting dinghy that reduces to 4' by 3'10" when divided. I built one for my Columbia 8.7 and met two English boats in the Mediterranean that also had it.
The nesting dinghy rows and motors very well; and nobody is going to steal it in the Caribbean . . . If anybody wants the plans, they can e-mail me. It's amazing how these "pram" dinghies look alike; mine looks exactly like the one Susan is rowing on page 35 of your March issue and also rows "nose down" with only one person on board.

Jean/John Somerhausen
Douglaston, N.Y.
Fax number: 718-224 1365

Two PS 25s in Colorado

I got a sample issue of your beautiful mag with an order placed at Sailrite. A subscription is going on my B-Day wish list.
It was quite a coincidence that the issue I received contained a wonderful article about how a Pacific Seacraft is a great old boat. Even more so for someone living in Colorado who prefers to sail in the Pacific Northwest, Baja, and other points not connected to the Mountain State by the Prairie State Waterway. Well we bought a 1978 PSC-25 in Sept. 98, sight unseen, from the Internet, lying in Bellingham,Wash., matched it with a Cape Dory 25D trailer, purchased sight unseen, from the Internet, lying in storage in San Diego. We hauled it to Seattle, married it to the boat in Bellingham, and brought the pair back to Colorado to be restored, repaired, reoutfitted, etc. She's since been to San Carlos, Mexico, for Christmas and back to Port Townsend for a three-week cruise in the San Juan and Gulf Islands.
She's been a great boat for us, and I figure she is just right for our cruising plans. When she's behind the truck I think to myself, "We need a smaller boat." When we've been on her cruising for a couple weeks, I say, "We need a bigger boat." And when we hit 35+ knots and 4-5' chop in the Straights of Georgia I say, "This boat's just right."

Mike Carter
Vineland, Col.

Don't let my subscription expire!

The magazine is so great that I have awakened in the middle of the night worried that somehow my subscription had run out, and I hadn't been notified, or I had lost the notice, or I had just forgotten to send in my renewal. The thought of missing an issue is too horrible to contemplate. Can you reassure me that it hasn't run out and that you do indeed send out notices well ahead of time?

Steve Hodge
Auburn, Wash.

Yes, Steve, we let people know when their subscriptions are coming to an end. But some wonder about this before our letter goes out to them. That's why we've changed the look of the mailing labels we use. Now you can tell at a glance how many more issues you've got coming. We won't start reminding you until there's just one left, since we're bugged by the way some other publishers handle this reminder process.

More work?

As with 100% of your subscribers ( I assume that is an accurate number), we look forward to each and every article. We own an O'Day 272 and sail out of Catawba Island near Port Clinton, Ohio. If there is a downside to so many excellent articles about restoring and repairing our good old boats, it is that now the spring maintenance schedule includes great stuff, which I would never have thought of without your magazine . . . which means more good old boat work. Ah, what the heck! Spring is just around the corner and with it the excitement of going to the boatyard to make last winter's dreams into this summer's sailing pleasure.

Tom Ehmke
Pembertville, Ohio

It's a keeper!

Good Old Boat is the only magazine to which I presently subscribe. Why? Your magazine has a touch of freshness, and reality (proximity) not present in the more established magazines. I don't enjoy reading about the luxury accommodations on a 70' yacht on which I will never set foot or about instruments that take the skill out of sailing. (I still splice hemp line.) I like to read about boats I might own, adventures upon which I might embark. I want to know about people who sail, rigging, engine choice, and repair. Good Old Boat meets this thirst. I like to read fresh reviews of books I haven't read. I'd like to know about smaller museums, research, and discovery. Who owns the good old boats and where have they sailed them? Sometimes in the WoodenBoat "boats for free" classifieds there is a "free to a good home" boat. I wonder if there is a story behind the boat or old sailor looking to place his friends in good hands.
So basically, I think Good Old Boat is a keeper because it is still fresh and kind of personal. Although I don't feel a personal need to belong to a group, I like the family feeling that Good Old Boat expresses. I know everybody wants to make their business a financial success and that this incentive inevitably makes magazines slicker and more industry oriented. I wish the two of you every success, including financial success, with Good Old Boat, but I treasure your magazine because it hasn't gotten too big, slick, and glossy.

Jack Kelleher

Just poor folks

Just stumbled upon your magazine and am impressed. It is nice that we poor people have something to call our own in the rather overpriced world of boating. I gave up the idea of ever owning a Witbread racer years ago and now have a 1978 Contessa 26. Go figure. I am a 6'1" tall, bigger figure. My wife is 5'2," so we have average headroom, I guess. The boat is wonderful. If any of your readers have a longing for a Folkboat and can't find one, the Contessa would be a great choice. It was designed after the Folkboat. Other than the coachhouse, it looks almost identical. How we got ours is another story.

Randy Churchill
Kitchener, Ontario


One poor dog

Hi. I was wondering if I got my subscription order in time for the January/February issue? I know what you are thinking, another impatient sailor. Well I have to admit, it's for my dog. He sees the mailman and gets so excited and starts barking. Then when I walk in the house and I have no Good Old Boat in my hands, oh the look on his face, it just breaks my heart.

Donald R Doherty
Topeka, Kan.

New boats cost how much?

Your magazine is a big hit, considering the number of people who stagger around after calculating the multiples of their home mortgage the payment for the new boat of their dreams would be. A box of recent editions would be most appreciated (by Chesapeake Region Accessible Boating). We are always appearing at events in the mid-Atlantic area. (My son thinks that's about 1,500 miles east of Bermuda.)

Michael Storey
Woodstock, Md.

Join the club!

Need to check something out. Got a letter from you reminding me that I am about to lose my subscription to Good Old Boat. I mailed in my dues (really consider Good Old Boat as more of a family or club than as a mag), according to my records, 21 Feb. You should have my check by now . . . if not, please let me know so that I can take appropriate action. Definitely do not want to miss any issue.

John Allison
St. Clair Shores, Mich.

All's well John. Thanks!

But not quite

Anticipating my first subscription issue of Good Old Boat is almost as exciting as waiting for launch. (I said almost!!)

Lynne Keegan
Hamilton, Ontario

I covet these boats

I was right . . . patience pays off . . . Good Old Boat arrived today. Wonderful articles. There has not yet been a featured boat that I have not coveted at some point in my life. Wonderful mag.

Karen Smith
Forest Grove, British Columbia

"Average" boat nut speaks up

I am thrilled to find a magazine aimed at the "average" boat nut. Many years ago, there was a magazine here in the Northeast that began by segmenting the averagelocal boater. Too quickly they changed their focus to boats that not many of us can afford, and they left me behind. I am really looking forward to receiving your magazine. I guess I grew up with the idea that boats involve lots of work and lots of sweat. Neither is very glamorous, but both are quite rewarding. For "the rest of us out here," thanks for thinking of us, and keep up the good work.

Bill Crosby
Tolland, Conn.

Big time, here we come!

Your newest edition is smashing! Another tour de force, Karen. Oh, how we all hope you make it and make it big.

Craig Anderson
Chicago, Ill.

Back To TopBugs in the tank

This article was set to run in our May issue, but it got crowded out. We offer it to you this way, since it's too good to hold and way too good to toss for lack of space.

After a stormy night spent in the shelter of Lions Head Marina, on Georgian Bay, we awoke on Fineen II, our C&C 30, to a clear sky and a good northerly breeze. There were a lot of those square Georgian Bay waves, six feet high or so, rolling in from the northeast, leftovers from the storm. It looked like a good day for the last part of a great trip to the North Channel.

Our dockmates from Wiarton left a few minutes before we did, motoring into the wind and surge that came through the harbor entrance, preparing for the 25-mile sail to our home port. Just as we cleared the entrance, we were surprised to see them fall off in the trough of a wave and start drifting toward the rocky beach. Their engine had quit. Fortunately, they were able to get their sails set and beat away from shore before reaching the shallow water.

The sail home was pleasant and uneventful until the wind became fitful and died completely a mile from home. Our friends' engine still wouldn't start, so we towed them the rest of the way. Then came the search for the source of their engine malfunction. It was quickly revealed that the filter was fouled with a slimy gunk. Some inquiries and thought suggested the cause: the biomass from fungi or bacteria growing in the fuel tank had been shaken up by the wave action coming out of Lions Head, and quickly plugged the filter. This, we found, is a more common problem in diesel fuel than many people realize.

Diesel fuel storage, whether in your tank or the marina's, poses potential problems from two very different sources: either chemical reactions or biological growth can cause difficulties. (The same things can happen with gasoline in storage, but it's not normally as big an issue, since gasoline fuel systems in general are smaller than diesel ones, and the fuel is turned over more often.) Over a period of time, especially at high temperatures, the chemical reactions in diesel fuel can harm your engine, forming sludge that impedes fuel delivery, or causing changes that greatly impair combustion, resulting in soot and exhaust smoke. Diesel fuels commonly contain additives such as antioxidants or inhibitors that impede these undesirable chemical reactions.
Add your own
But commercial preparations also exist that you can add to your own fuel tank to improve the fuel's storage quality. Fortunately, given the relatively small tanks in most good old sailboats, many of us do not keep our fuel for long enough periods for chemical problems to occur. (Incidentally, beware of devices that claim to change the molecular makeup of fuel with magnetism. If you could put a magnet big enough to change the properties of diesel fuel onto a boat, it would promptly sink.)

Biological problems are a different story. Because of the ever-present possibility of small amounts of water getting into the fuel tank ó mostly by condensation from the humid atmosphere our boats live in ó the growth of microorganisms can cause very real troubles. For over a century it has been known that a variety of microorganisms (bacteria, fungi, and yeast) are able to live or survive in hydrocarbon liquids such as diesel fuel.

Luckily for us, they need water, so they can only grow when water is present, and almost no water can dissolve in a hydrocarbon fuel. But, if water gets into the fuel container, by condensation for example, it will puddle at the bottom of the tank. At the interface between the fuel and water, microorganisms can grow and feed on the fuel. Once they do grow, they produce at this interface a slimy film or "mat" made up of their cells that is quite incapable of passing through the fuel filter. Any shaking up of the fuel, such as six-foot waves produce, will put this mat into your fuel lines and filter.

In addition to clogging filters, the growth of microorganisms may also produce acids and other byproducts that could corrode fuel tanks or swell rubber or plastic components of your fuel delivery system. There are only two ways to prevent the growth of microorganisms: either keep your fuel completely "dry," or add a biocide that will kill the microorganisms. The former is almost impossible, although there are additives that emulsify water in diesel fuel and thus let it flow through the engine. Keeping the tank filled will reduce the overhead vapor space where water can condense out of moist air, but a little moisture will condense every time there is a downward temperature change. So it is likely that you have some water and some microorganisms in your fuel tank right now. A prudent practice is to add a biocide every time you fuel up.
Vigorous sail
The consequence of not doing so may never catch up with you. The growth of the "mat" may never be large enough to reveal itself. This is especially possible if you use a lot of fuel, keep your tank nearly full, and always get fuel from a good source. On the other hand, if you pick up some wet fuel or get a lot of condensation into a partially empty tank, you may find that some day, just after a vigorous sail has shaken up your fuel tank, the mat has been disturbed enough that it has broken up and passed into your filter, clogging it and shutting down the engine.
If you happen to have an extra-large tank and don't use much fuel over a long time period, you have a real dilemma. If you keep your tank full to avoid condensation, you'll always have old fuel which burns poorly and may harm your engine; but if you try to use up your old fuel by not filling the tank, you'll get condensation and microbial growth. Unfortunately, there are really only two possible solutions to this: enter the uncharted (to the public, at least) maze of using commercial additive preparations to keep your fuel from aging, or re-fit your boat with a smaller tank One of the more common biocidal diesel fuel additives is Biobor. Others include CRC's Bio-Con and Valvtect's Bioguard. Biobor is an oily, very dilute solution of a pair of complex chemical molecules, called organo-boron compounds. The makeup of these compounds is such that they are completely soluble in the diesel fuel, but preferentially go to the fuel/water interface. There, they react with water to form boric acid, which is a potent, water-soluble biocide. Boric acid, you may remember from your childhood, is a good, old-fashioned antiseptic. In the fuel tank's water layer, it effectively prevents any microbial growth.
Tiny amount
The correct amount of any commercial biocide preparation to put into fuel is affected by its concentration in the commercial product and its partitioning between the fuel and water. By way of example, the manufacturer's recommended maintenance dosage levels of Biobor are intended to give 135 parts per billion of the organo-boron compounds in the fuel, a tiny amount that corresponds to 0.0000135 percent and takes less than an ounce of the commercial product to achieve. This level is effective assuming that there is less than 0.25 percent of water in the tank; for example, in a 50-gallon tank of fuel there is assumed to be less than about two cups of water. However, if there is more water in the fuel, then more biocide is needed. If too little biocide is present, it takes longer to kill the microorganisms, and their reproduction rate may be fast enough to clog your filter. For that reason, a "shock" treatment, or double dose, is usually recommended for the first usage of a biocide.
Back in Wiarton, when our friends' tanks had been cleaned and engine restored to its normal, reliable operation, I undertook to find out how to prevent a recurrence of the problem. Since our own boat had a trusty Atomic 4, I knew nothing about diesel fuel and its complications. With a bit of reading, I learned that this problem first came into prominence with airplane fuel in the South Pacific in World War II, where the combination of long shipping times, high temperature, and humidity provided just the right conditions for microbial growth. Subsequent research pointed to the organo-boron compounds as a solution, and they are still used in aviation as well as truck and marine diesel fuels. So I recommended a biocide to our friends. Not too long after that, we bought our own diesel-equipped boat and began using one in Fineen III. Neither of us has had any trouble in the subsequent 12 years.

Ken O'Driscoll
Waterloo, Ontario

Ken is a Distinguished Professor Emeritus in the Chemical Engineering Department at the University of Waterloo in Ontario and has, for the past 45 years, been active in teaching, research, and consulting, with emphasis on the making of polymers (plastics) and their properties. With his wife, Pat, he's been sailing out of Wiarton in Georgian Bay since 1978 - so far without a fuel problem except for the day he mistook the fuel tank for the water tank.

Back To TopLots of ways to spin a prop

Jerry did something different this time. Rather than hunting up a nugget of info that people would like to know (or should know), he responded to some talk that's been heatedly going around among sailors on the Internet.

One of the things I like about this hobby is the diversity. The different boats, the different equipment, and the different experiences weave a rich tapestry, which is often entertaining and amusing.
As a case in point, Cruising World recently published some opinions written by Steve D'Antonio that were not friendly to the Atomic 4. Some of the 20,000-odd A4 owners disagreed. Letters were sent, the Internet was abuzz, and their favorable opinion of the A4 was made known. Cruising World bravely and fairly printed some of the opinions in favor of the A4. Steve stood his ground in his reply.
One reader asked why he favored Volvos and Yanmars as replacements for the A4 and did not mention Beta Marine diesels. His reply, published by Cruising World, was that he had only seen a handful of them, and while they and several other alternatives might be good engines, he thought parts and support might be hard to find. Steve, contributing editor at Cruising World and service manager at Zimmerman Marine, stood his ground. He said, "It would be irresponsible to advocate that most A4 owners could safely and reliably maintain their own engines." He warned of fire, explosion, and carbon monoxide poisoning.
I was tempted to stay out of this; 20,000 reasonably satisfied owners against one service manager seemed like a fairly amusing contest without any help from me. I'm not sure which of these statements pushed me over the edge, but I find myself sitting here at 4 a.m. adding one more opinion to the tapestry.
In the interest of balance, if you stand on the shore of a busy waterway, you will not see smoking hulks drifting haplessly about. The sound of ambulances will not fill the air. Your fellow boaters are not succumbing in great numbers to fire, explosion, and carbon monoxide poisoning. These events are quite rare. This despite the fact that most boats have gasoline engines. New sailboats have not been gasoline-powered for many years, but most boats (sadly) are powerboats, and most powerboats have gasoline engines. Big diesels simply cost too much to be a popular choice in recreational powerboats.
Even the finest new sailboats are not free of the dreaded gasoline. Most carry dinghies. Most dinghies are powered by outboard engines. All dinghy outboards run on gasoline. Many sailboats have no provision in their design to properly stow their dinghy fuel. If there is a danger, it is in this area. Having a diesel main engine does not relieve you of the need to handle gasoline with respect.
In contrast to Steve's opinion, the editorial position of Good Old Boat magazine is that many A4 owners can safely and reliably maintain their own engines and that good professional support, maintenance, and parts are available for these engines as well. The future of the remaining 20,000 A4 engines is secure.
I like the A4, but I don't own one. I bought my boat with a diesel in it, and when it became uneconomical to repair, I replaced it with another one. Interestingly, the engine I chose was a Beta Marine BD 722. There is nothing wrong with Volvos and Yanmars, they and many others are good engines too. I like my Beta, and would choose it again for that boat. I had no difficulty finding a distributor. The engine has not needed repair, but I also had no difficulty obtaining spares against the time when the engine does need them. My engine is a marinized Japanese (Kubota) garden tractor engine with an Italian (ZF Marine) transmission.
A similar combination is available from at least three sources, two in the U.S. and one in Great Britain. I don't expect a problem with parts.
So there it is, one more opinion in the tapestry, one more way to spin a prop. It is now 6 a.m. and time to wake the editor with a cup of tea. She's on deadline and has a magazine to get out.

Jerry Powlas
Technical Editor
Good Old Boat

Published April, 2000

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