Know-How

Tutorials about electrical systems and multimeters often involve theoretical analogies to flowing water. In these primers, the authors test well-designed, functioning circuits, and everything behaves exactly as anticipated.

Stairway to Heaven

by Charles Scott, Posted August 24, 2011
I was sailing solo to Bermuda one year when the weather turned wicked. The wind and waves kept building, until finally I lay ahull with the sails furled. Knockout blows from the steep seas pounded my Westsail 32, Antares. When at last the storm blew over I found both halyards were loose and had wrapped around the masthead in a huge tangle. I had no choice but to climb. Going aloft in a
Inflatable life jackets are effective, reliable and comfortable. However, unlike traditional foam-filled life jackets, they must be properly maintained if they are to function correctly. This goes double for a life jacket with an integral safety harness and/or automatic inflation. Inflatable life jackets include a number of parts that must all work properly if the life jacket is to function at

Too Hot to Handle

by Nigel Calder, Posted May 11, 2011
Anyone who has played with electrical gear for any length of time is familiar with the distinctive smell of burned windings. Unfortunately, this smell, wafting out of engine rooms from fried alternators, may soon become familiar to a much wider audience. Why might alternators, generally known for their reliability, become more likely to fail in the next few years?The answer lies in
There are times when we find exactly what we aren’t looking for, and this was one of them.I was tired of technology and wanted to write a sailing story about the good old days, when a Windex was high-tech and real navigators dealt with celestial fixes and high-anxiety uncertainty. What better place to look for such things than at the annual Annapolis Classic Wooden Boat Regatta? Ambling

Let It Flow

by David W. Shaw, Posted April 15, 2011
As I knelt beside the open cockpit locker of my 36-foot Pearson cutter Sonata, I could hear the gentle whir of my freshwater pump. It didn’t sound normal. I reached down and felt the pump housing. The pump was in constant-cycle mode and running hot. It could pump until it burned out and still fail to pressurize the freshwater system I thought I had just finished

To Varnish or Not?

by Don Casey, Posted April 13, 2011
Dorothy Parker once famously remarked: “I hate writing; I love having written.” I feel the same way about varnishing. Nothing flatters a boat more than the glow of well-varnished wood, but to bask in that glow, someone must suffer through the process of preparing the wood and applying the varnish.Almost all woods other than teak will weather and eventually rot if not

Electric Horses

by Nigel Calder, Posted March 10, 2011
This past summer I tested the latest generation of electric outboard motors from Torqeedo. These are much more efficient than traditional electric outboards, but with this advance comes a quantum leap in sophistication and electronic complexity.I find it intriguing that these outboards have been designed by landlubbers. One of the owners of Torqeedo, Dr. Christoph Balin, bought a house on

Signal Fade

by Tim Bartlett, Posted March 19, 2010
Jose Viegas of Lagos, Portugal, asks:"I have a Navman DSC VHF radio, and last summer I began noticing that when I transmit in bad weather, only boats close by can hear me. But I can always clearly receive transmissions from others, near and far. How can I test to see whether the problem is with the antenna, the connection or possibly the radio itself?" Tim

Winter Battery Maintenance

by Peter Nielsen, Posted January 27, 2010
A few years ago, I left my boat’s two lead-acid batteries on board over winter. It wasn’t intentional—an early snowfall led me to cover the boat up sooner than anticipated, and I just never got around to taking the batteries off.After three months of freezing New England winter, I suddenly remembered they were still on board. I snuck down to the yard one mild Saturday and hooked the
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