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New Directions

by Gordon West, Posted July 22, 2011
Dave Stillerz of San Francisco, California, asks:"I recently installed some new tanks aboard my older wooden sailboat, and now my automatic pilot won’t keep me on a steady course. Any ideas?"Gordon West replies:Sounds like your new tanks are metal and your pilot’s fluxgate heading sensor is mounted nearby. Reposition the fluxgate compass away

Groundless Fears

by Nigel Calder, Posted July 22, 2011
Bill Schultz of Bay City, Michigan, asks:"I am installing a 24-volt battery bank in the bow of my 40-foot sailboat to power a bow thruster. Do I need to run a grounding wire to my engine block? Or can I use an alternative grounding site? What size wire do I need?"Nigel Calder replies:Technically, if the bow thruster has a case ground

Freeze Frame

by Gordon West, Posted June 22, 2011
Dean Hall of Anacortes, Washington, asks:"I enjoy watching TV broadcasts from our local PBS station while aboard my boat. When they switched from analog to digital signals, I added a small digital converter to my set. I do get reception, but with some freeze frames. Any suggestions?"Gordon West replies:If the freeze frames are occurring

Rigging Inspection

by Win Fowler, Posted June 22, 2011
Mike Allen of Beaufort, South Carolina, asks:   "My standing rigging is 22 years old. It seems to be in good shape, but there is some oxidation and discoloration. Is there an ultraviolet penetrating dye that can be used to inspect standing rigging, chainplates, turnbuckles and other hardware? If so, do you know of any vendors?" Win Fowler
Bill Reilly of San Francisco, California, asks:"To increase energy efficiency onboard I am wondering if I could plumb my water heater into my generator’s cooling system so that it shares the circuit from the main engine coolant loop that heats the hot water. It seems that a couple of sturdy Y-valves and brass one-way valves would adequately isolate these two systems, which

Shoal Keel Aground

by Don Casey, Posted June 22, 2011
Peter Burke of Fredericksburg, Virginia, asks:"We recently went aground in a creek off the Potomac River in my Hunter 28, which has a shoal keel that draws 3 feet 6 inches. We were unsuccessful in our attempts to break free, but fortunately a marine police boat and a rescue boat came along within minutes to assist. Surprisingly, the rescue boat had to pull hard with its

Fuel Cell Dreams

by Nigel Calder, Posted May 22, 2011
Pete Econ of Columbia, Maryland, asks:"How long before we see fuel cells replacing generators on sailboats? They make a lot of sense in that they are smaller, lighter and quieter than generators. I see one yacht manufacturer is already installing SFC methanol fuel cells, and I know the military is using fuel cells to replace and supplement batteries."Nigel

High-Modulus Upgrade

by Win Fowler, Posted May 22, 2011
Ben Cantor of New Bedford, Massachusetts, asks:   "I’ve been cruising on a 1973 Pearson 36 for the past 10 years, and this year I plan to splurge and buy all new sails and running rigging. I expect I will order high-quality Dacron sails. I’ve read a lot about high-modulus line and would like to try it out, but I wonder if it is worthwhile using it on a cruising boat. I like

One MMSI For All?

by Gordon West, Posted May 22, 2011
Ben Hatheway of Coos Bay, Oregon, asks:"The VHF and SSB radios on my boat share the same Maritime Mobile Service Identity number. I recently purchased a new marine VHF handheld with DSC capability, and I’m wondering if my new handheld, which is sometimes off the boat, should have a different MMSI number."Gordon West replies:This very

Outboard Sheeting Angles

by Win Fowler, Posted April 14, 2011
James Caven of San Diego, California, asks:   "I’ve been reading some older “how-to” sailing books and one describes a technique for taking a jib or genoa sheet out to the end of the main boom when reaching. Is this worth the trouble? Is it a commonly used method today? I assume it is to open up the sheeting angle. Is there an easier way to achieve the same
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