by Nigel Calder

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

Silent Solenoid

by Nigel Calder, Posted January 19, 2010
Dave Smith of East Aurora, New York, asks:"When I hit the starter button to crank the engine on my 1984 C&C 35, I can hear the solenoid clicking, but it doesn’t normally activate the starter. Once in a while the engine will start on the first try. But usually I have to push the button a number of times before the starter engages. I did remove the starter and had it checked

Condensation Conundrum

by Nigel Calder, Posted December 15, 2009
Clyde Collins of Seneca Falls, New York, asks:"I’ve moved up from a Catalina 22 to a Bayfield 29 with a 20-gallon diesel fuel tank. I sail on the Finger Lakes of New York and only use about 5 gallons of fuel a summer. My understanding has always been that I should store the boat over winter with a full tank to minimize condensation. But that means I have 15 gallons that

In the Zincerator

by Nigel Calder, Posted November 20, 2009
Allen Judy of Whortonsville, North Carolina, asks:"My boatyard technician tells me that there is such a thing as being “over-zinc’d” and that there is an optimum amount of zinc anode to install on any a given boat. He says this has something to do with an electrical field imbalance and that it is best is to have just enough imbalance to sacrifice the zinc that is in place.

Best Boats 2010

by Nigel Calder, Posted November 19, 2009
SAIL scoured the fall boat shows for the shining stars among this year's crop of new boats. Here they areThere was a buzz around the docks at the Annapolis and Newport shows, and it wasn't the sound of the plague of locusts we were half expecting, given the disasters of recent months and years. No, the sun shone, the water sparkled, the brightwork gleamed, and you all came to the show.

Sparkling Spars

by Nigel Calder, Posted October 20, 2009
Janet Hartman of Beaufort, North Carolina, asks:"Recently I contacted the National Ocean Survey (NOS) to ask whether the authorized clearances for overhead cables shown on their charts include the extra distance needed to avoid arcing. I received an email from nautical.charting@noaa.gov stating 'The ‘authorized clearance’ for an overhead power cable does not include the

Dirty Ground

by Nigel Calder, Posted September 14, 2009
Mark Karwowski of San Francisco, California, asks:"Recently we had trouble starting the diesel engine aboard our Nordic 40. Although all the lights and other electrical equipment aboard worked fine, whenever I touched the starter button, the starter motor hesitated at first then sped up. We checked the batteries and found that they were eight years old, so we decided to

Water power

by Nigel Calder, Posted August 17, 2009
My last two columns discussed the high cost of generating electricity with a diesel engine and the relatively short payback period for solar panels on liveaboard cruising boats. The problem with solar is that it requires a lot of surface area to produce significant amounts of power. This is relatively easy to find on catamarans, but not so on monohulls.Coincidentally, I received an email

Silence on the hook

by Nigel Calder, Posted August 3, 2009
As part of my hybrid-propulsion research I have been looking carefully at large-capacity Litihum-Ion batteries as a possible energy source on modern cruising sailboats. Lithium-ion batteries are common in cell phones and laptops, but they are rarely used in higher capacity applications. This may rapidly change, because the hybrid automotive and electric vehicle markets are in

Power Savers

by Nigel Calder, Posted July 20, 2009
Lisa Jawork of Toledo, Ohio, asks:"So far I’ve only used my 24-foot Bristol Corsair for daysailing, but this summer I’m planning to take some weekend cruises. I want to be sure I have enough power, not only for the battery that currently feeds the cabin lights and instruments, but also for a second back-up battery I carry for miscellaneous uses. I’m thinking about getting

Battery Buildup

by Nigel Calder, Posted June 20, 2009
Joseph Strong of Barrington, Rhode Island, asks:"I am repowering my Bristol 35.5 with a Yanmar model 3YM30 diesel engine, but I also want to increase my electrical capacity. Currently I have two 12-volt batteries with a standard three-way battery switch (Bat. 1, Bat. 2, and Both). I would like to add two more 12-volt batteries and align them like the two-bank configuration
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