December 09 Cruising Tips

MAINTENANCE: Keeping Fuel Sludge-ProofFour years ago our diesel engine died because of a blocked fuel line. We’ve known many other cruisers who have suffered the same problem. Whenever a boat is going to windward under power, as we were, the fuel in the tanks gets stirred up. If the tank contains dirty fuel or microbial growth, as ours did, there will often be trouble. To

MAINTENANCE: Keeping Fuel Sludge-Proof


Four years ago our diesel engine died because of a blocked fuel line. We’ve known many other cruisers who have suffered the same problem. Whenever a boat is going to windward under power, as we were, the fuel in the tanks gets stirred up. If the tank contains dirty fuel or microbial growth, as ours did, there will often be trouble. To be fair, we were not adding biocide to our fuel at the time (we do now); had we been doing so the shutdown might not have occurred.


When we opened the elbow at the top of our fuel pick-up pipe we saw that thick sludge was blocking the line. No wonder the engine stopped. Because our fuel tank is under fixed floorboards and has no inspection plate, we knew cleaning it would be a huge job. But we also knew the problem could recur unless we found a solution. We thought the one we came up with would be only temporary, but it has worked well for four years and we’ve since passed it along to other cruisers. All have been happy with the results.


First, we shortened our fuel pick-up pipe by about 2in. We knew this would reduce our operative fuel capacity by 5 gallons, but we felt getting the pipe away from the bottom of the tank was worth it. Next we cut a circle of close–stranded copper mesh about 1in in diameter. (Make sure the mesh material you choose is compatible with your fuel tanks and pick-up pipes.) Then we drilled a small hole about 1/4in from the lower end of the pipe and secured the copper mesh to it with copper wire. However, after we had installed the mesh, we discovered the pipe and gauze wouldn’t fit through the hole on the top of the tank. To get the required clearance we changed to a slightly smaller-diameter pipe and then reattached it to the rest of the fuel system.


Periodically, we pull out the pick-up pipe and clean the bottom of the copper mesh. When the pick-up pipe is out we insert a tube that is long enough to reach the bottom of the tank and siphon out all the dirty fuel or water that may be down there. If you use a biocide regularly in your diesel fuel—we like Biobor JF —there shouldn’t be too much bad stuff that needs to be sucked out. – Rosie Burr

NAVIGATION: Nav Station Protocols

When thinking about where to install gear at your nav station, be sure you leave enough room to operate your laptop. Is there enough room to open up the screen? And be sure there is no chance that water will drip onto the screen, the keyboard, or the mouse from a portlight above.

Try to have at least 6in to 10in of open space above the table so you can work with paper charts and use a light to make log entries. Make sure the top of the chart table lifts up high enough so you can see everything inside.

To keep your shoulders from getting sore, place often-used electronic gear—radar, electronic charts and the HF radio, for example—down low. Mount units that don’t require a lot of dial twirling, like the VHF, GPS and windspeed indicators, higher up on the display panels.

As for outside displays, no matter whether they are LCD, TFT or just a basic unit with an analog readout, always keep them covered when not in use. The less they are exposed to the sun the longer they will work. And when buying new gear, make sure you can read the screen clearly while wearing polarized sunglasses. Displays vary from one manufacturer to another and though most are fine, there are a few that become invisible when you look at them with your sunglasses on. – Gordon West



ASA Presents Webinars with Peter Isler

Social distancing keeping you away from the boat? The ASA is here to help, announcing three webinars for improving your sailing without leaving home. They will be hosted by Emmy-winning sailing broadcaster and ASA co-founder Peter Isler. The webinars will cover topics such as more


Get out and Sail: Virtually

Just because you’re stuck at home self-quarantining, that’s no reason you can’t still hone your skills or teach someone else you know about boathandling with the American Sailing Association’s online Sailing Challenge game. Created in cooperation with Nolan Bushnell, a longtime more


Time to Try Virtual Sailboat Racing?

Stuck at home self-quarantining? How about giving on-line sailboat racing a try? Begun in 2010 and now working in partnership with sailing’s international governing body, World Sailing, Virtual Regatta has long allowed fans to take an active part in everything from the Vendée more


How Risky is the ICW with Covid-19?

Being a cruising sailor, one is already practicing a kind of social distancing. But coastal cruisers, and those transiting the Intracoastal Waterway, in particular, still have to return to land for re-provisioning and things like water, fuel, and pump-outs. When you dock in a more


A Chat with Charlie Enright

Rhode Island native Charlie Enright, 35, has competed in not one but two Volvo Ocean Races (VOR), with Team Alvimedica in 2014-15 and Vestas 11th Hour Racing 2017-18. More recently, Enright and 11th Hour Racing have announced they plan to compete in The Ocean Race, the successor more


Cruising: a Long Haul North

There are many mantras experienced cruisers like to pass on to those less experienced. First and foremost among these is: “Never sail to a schedule.” After that comes: “Choose your weather window carefully.” Unfortunately, this past spring, my husband, Brian, and I violated both more


How to Become a Yacht Master

Learning to sail is an organic process. Often we’re introduced to the sport by a family member or good friend who loves sailing and wants to share their passion. As such, one learns in bits and pieces. The problem is you can end up with lots of missing bits, and thus many more


Experience: Threading the Needle in a Thick Fog

It was a dark night, utterly black. Any light was blanketed by the fog. My chartplotter was night-blinding me. I looked at the Navionics map on my phone, waited half a second for my eyes to adjust and then looked at the depthsounder. After that, I looked ahead to where Laura was more