Ask Sail: the Best of September

Every month, SAIL gives its readers the opportunity to interact directly with sailing experts regarding sails, maintenance, electronics, systems and more. Check out our questions and answers from the August issue and feel free to send in some questions of your own.
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Lawrie Yearsley, White Bear Lake, MN

Q: I own a 1973 C&C 30 sloop that came with a staysail setup. We race the boat frequently, and it’s surprisingly competitive for its age using just the jib, spinnaker and mainsail. I was wondering if it would help on any point of sail to use the staysail. I see quite a few large boats using them, like the Volvo Ocean 70s.

Win Fowler Replies

A: Whether a staysail can help you depends entirely on what the staysail is. A full hoist, high-clew sail with a vertical leech (70 percent or so LP, i.e., the length from the luff to the clew) can sometimes help under spinnaker on a beam or broad reach, and can be quite useful as a wind seeker when there is too little wind to fill the genoa. Bear in mind, though, that flying the staysail with a spinnaker should only be attempted on a relatively long leg. Otherwise, you may lose more distance setting and dousing it than you gain from flying it.

Philip, Dublin, Ireland

Q: I was interested in the article by Nigel Calder in the February 2012 edition on the H2OUT dehumidifier and think it is something that I might install. I have been keeping my fuel tank topped up to minimize condensation. While there is a fuel gauge, it’s down below, so the only practical way to ensure a full tank is to pour fuel in until it comes up near the top of the fuel inlet. However, by then the fuel has risen up the air vent and eventually leaks out the side. What effect does diesel have on the blue beads in the H2OUT filter? Also, is there some change I should make to the air vent?

Nigel Calder Replies

A:Unfortunately, the diesel will coat the granules in the filter and render it more or less inoperable. It is possible to wash the crystals in detergent, dry them out, and then reuse them, but I don’t think you will want to do this every time you fill the tank! You could fit a diverter valve ahead of the filter with a line coming into a collection bottle and use this when taking on fuel to determine when the tank is full. Afterward you could switch back to the filter in the vent line. This would also help to ensure that you do not spill any diesel. Another approach would be to get fittings that shut off the air vent if the diesel rises to this level. Essentially, there is a ball in the fitting that floats up and blocks the outlet, at which point you will see the diesel rising up your fill fitting and can stop filling. However, using this approach it is also possible to trap air in the tank and then have this blow back through the fill fitting, spraying out diesel! It all depends on the internal layout of the tank and the position of the fill and vent fittings.

Pete, via sailmail@sailmagazine.com

Q: I have a Cheoy Lee ketch, and the sail track on both wood masts has become misaligned. What is the best way to reattach the track? I plan on having the mast taken down when I have the boat hauled next month.

Don Casey Replies

A: The tracks are no doubt fastened to the masts with wood screws, and this is how you should reattach them. Once you remove the existing screws, do not reuse the holes, at least not with the same screws. You might be able to enlarge the holes in the track to a new shank size and those in the mast to the proper pilot size, and use larger screws in the same locations. Alternatively, you can shift the track up or down a bit to get sound wood for the new screws. Seal the existing holes with wood dowels glued in place.

If the track is the traditional “airplane” shape with the screws in the belly of the fuselage, use pan-head screws. If it is a flat track sitting on a separate spacer, the screws must be countersunk. In either case, a screw backing out will prevent you from hoisting sail—or worse, from lowering it—so take great care to make sure every screw is soundly installed. It is a very good idea to install an additional screw near the ends of track sections to keep the track from lifting at joints. Tandem screws on either side of track joints also help prevent future misalignments. Another way to maintain alignment is to file the ends of the track sections into a through tenon joint. This stabilizes each joint and, done well, virtually eliminates the risk of the sections getting out of alignment.

Tom Barnard, Santa Cruz, CA

Q: I just bought two marine handheld radios that also have land channels for GMRS. A few weeks ago on a hike to Mt. Whitney, the marine VHF channels gave us extraordinarily increased range over the GMRS channels. Didn’t I hear that land use of marine VHF frequencies will soon be legalized? Why the range difference?

Gordon West Replies

A: Your combo marine/GMRS radio operates on UHF short range for GMRS and VHF for the marine channels. The FCC is currently studying whether to allow marine radio use on land, but it is doubtful there will be a change. Can you imagine kids playing on VHF Channel 16, climbing a hill and then interrupting a Coast Guard mayday call out on the water? As for the GMRS channels, you may need an expensive license, too. While there is merit in hiking with a VHF handheld for calling the Coast Guard in a life or death emergency, you should only use the marine frequencies on land when all else has failed. The Coast Guard’s Rescue 21 system offers extraordinary coverage, not only of navigable waters, but well inland as well.

Got a question for our experts? Send it to sailmail@sailmagazine.com 

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