by Nigel Calder

Nigel Calder is an author and expert on boat systems and diesel engines

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
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

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

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

Light Fantastic

by Nigel Calder, Posted April 25, 2011
Not long ago I was bemoaning the fact that so many boatbuilders are still using highly inefficient incandescent and halogen lights, even though fluorescent lights have long been available and LEDs are now viable for most marine lighting applications. Since then, Neil Harrison, a reader from the UK, has pointed out that the next revolution in lighting may already be on the horizon—Organic
Ed Douglass of Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin, asks:"My Westerbeke/Universal M-35 diesel engine came equipped with a Mando 51-amp alternator. From its appearance, I would say it is an automotive-type alternator. It puts out a constant 14.6 volts, which not surprisingly causes my wet-cell batteries to boil. It does this even after I have charged the batteries to capacity with my

What Are We Doing Wrong?

by Nigel Calder, Posted March 23, 2011
Dave and Jaja Martin are not your typical couple. In their twenties they spent seven years sailing around the world in a 25-foot boat, during which time Jaja bore three children. In 1995 they upgraded to a 33-foot boat which they cruised (with the children) into the pack ice above the Arctic circle before moving to Maine.In Round Pond, Maine, there is a YMCA summer sailing camp. The

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

A Reluctant Engine

by Nigel Calder, Posted March 8, 2011
Ted Klastorin of Seattle, Washington, asks:"I have a Universal XP25 diesel engine with approximately 2,200 hours on it. The engine runs well, but is difficult to start after it sits idle for a few days. To get it started, I have to bleed air out of the fuel system for several minutes. Once started, however, it runs smoothly.I have checked and replaced both fuel

Fridge Burnout Mystery

by Nigel Calder, Posted January 25, 2011
Lewis K. Redmond of Plainfield, Illinois, asks:"We have an Adler/Barbour cold machine refrigerator, which is air-cooled with a small vertical evaporator. The ground wire and its retaining screw on the PCB board somehow were burned black. The technician’s guess was that something must have been thrown across the terminals to have caused this burnout. What measures would you
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