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



At The Helm: Man Overboard!

Imagine this simple scenario: the boat’s powered up, sailing close-hauled in a building breeze under full sail. I come on deck as the skipper during the watch change to make sure the new crew is comfortable and the boat is properly set up for both the current conditions and more


Contrasting X-Yachts & Moody Cruisers

One of the most fascinating things about sailboats is the different ways that sailors, naval architects and builders will approach a single design problem. The result has been a bewildering array of rigs and hull forms over the years, and in the case of the two boats we’ll be more


Cruising Charter to Croatia

As is the case with so much of the Mediterranean, to sail in Croatia is to take a journey through time. Centuries before the birth of Christ, Greeks traded amphoras of oil, wine and grain across these waters. During the first millennium, the Romans built lavish palaces and more


Alicante Announced as an Ocean Race Europe Stop

The Ocean Race Europe, a new event in offshore sailing, will include Alicante as one of four stopover cities. This European offshoot of the former Volvo Ocean Race will include the biggest change to the racing rules under the new title—fully crewed IMOCA 60s will join the more


Preparing for a Doublehanded Race

A few months ago we took a look at the development and attraction of doublehanded racing (Two to Tango, June/July 2020). Hopefully, that served to whet your appetite. If so, the question becomes: “How do I get started? The good news, as we explained in Part 1, is that if you are more


A Key Approach to Passagemaking

How you approach offshore sailing is key to the success of each passage. In addition, some of the most valuable, even crucial attitudes and skills may not be either learned or valued in everyday life on shore and may even fly in the face of talents that are greatly admired and more


Point of SAIL: Mary Crowley of the Ocean Voyages Institute

In this episode of Point of SAIL, Principal Editor Adam Cort talks with Mary Crowley, founder and executive director of the Ocean Voyages Institute, a not-for-profit based in California that has been both educating sailors and working to preserve the health of the world’s ocean more


Tracking and Catching Plastic Waste

Plastic waste—in the form of everything from plastic soda bottles to abandoned fishing nets—constitutes a major threat to the health of the world’s oceans. Giving the immense size of an ocean, though, actually finding all the plastic floating around out there in a time-efficient more