The Best of Ask SAIL: Summer 2015

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Inboard jib tracks allow you to get the most out of your headsail

Inboard jib tracks allow you to get the most out of your headsail


Q: I have been rehabbing a Pearson 35 for the past eight years. I am just about done and plan on sailing it in southwest Florida. The rig has a normal mainsail and a 145 percent genoa. The boat now has a new toerail, which came out great. However, originally the T-track for the genoa and jib cars was mounted on the toerail, and I’d like to put it elsewhere. On a number of newer sailboats the track is inboard close to the cabintrunk, and it would be easier for me and more desirable to install it inboard on my boat as well. There is plenty of room on deck. What are the advantages and disadvantages of each location? Also, the original tracks were 72in in length with cars that can only be adjusted manually while not under load. Do you advise adjustable cars with ball bearings to facilitate sail trimming while under load? What are the guidelines for track length and location fore and aft for a given headsail?

Leo Lotowycz, Venice, FL


This could be a great opportunity for you to install some new tracks and create a system that really works for you, but first you need to figure out if there is enough reinforcement under the deck to lay the tracks inboard. It’s a much better location, because it gives you a better sheeting angle going upwind (which is why there are inboard tracks on newer boats). However, the deck has to be strong enough to carry the load, and you will need to replace the core material with thickened epoxy where the new tracks are through-bolted. I would definitely install a system that can be easily adjusted under sail. As soon as you ease the sheet or reef the sail, the sheet lead needs to be changed to keep the sail trimmed properly. With an adjustable system you can easily do this. Remember, a sail that is properly trimmed will also last longer. There is no hard rule for track length, but a good estimate is 0.6 times a headsail’s J dimension (the distance from mast to headstay chainplate). For a boat like yours, which has a J of 14ft, that means a little over 8ft of track should be sufficient.

LEDs can be another factor in the battery equation

LEDs can be another factor in the battery equation


Q: My boat is a Catalina 22 with a 9.9hp outboard. I have two batteries: a starter and a house, which is a multi (start/deep cell), and I want to add another house battery. Can I parallel the multi with a pure deep cell? I use an autopilot, GPSmap441s with sonar and an older VHF. The three currently drain my house battery in a couple of hours. Also can I charge them all at the same time? If not, what other options do I have? I dock at a slip with power. The boat is also located in Port Isabel, Texas: lots of sun, but not all the time.

Arther Nemes, Port Isabel, TX

It is not a good idea to parallel batteries of different ages and chemistries, and in any case, an undersized battery may not be the problem. I don’t know what size your house battery is, but whatever it is, the relatively modest loads you are putting on it should not drain it in a couple of hours. It sounds like the battery is suffering from a lack of capacity from one or more aging mechanisms (loss of active material, sulfation, etc.). If you take it to your local autoparts store they can test it. If it needs replacing, then you can get two batteries of the same type and parallel these or, better yet, if you have the space, you can go with a single larger battery. Be aware, though, that you may have another problem. The alternator in a 9.9hp outboard will be pretty small. If you are only motoring for short periods of time it will put very little into your batteries. Your batteries will get quite heavily cycled over the course of a day’s sailing, and if you are not able to plug in every night (do you sometimes go out for the weekend or longer?) they will get even more deeply cycled (which, I suspect, is the genesis of your current problems). Any solar panels that you can add to your system will be highly beneficial in maintaining a higher average battery state of charge. If you do stay out overnight and use your cabin lights, if these are not already LEDs I would think about switching them out. You can get LED bulbs for just about any existing light fixture—good sources are and Imtra Corporation at

There are a number of reasons why an AIS can miss some targets

There are a number of reasons why an AIS can miss some targets


Q: For two years, my Automatic Identification System (AIS) transponder, which is tied in to my chartplotter, has been working fine. Recently, though, my chartplotter has begun intermittently missing incoming data from the boats around me. Any ideas for a solution?

R. Watson, Lake Washington, WA


If the problem comes and goes at random, it is likely not an errant setting you made on the chartplotter or AIS. If you only see close-in vessels, check the AIS antenna system with a temporary VHF antenna. If the problem continues to be intermittent, check the NMEA 0183 white and brown “talker” wire connections from the AIS, as well as the yellow and green “listener” wire connections to the chartplotter. These could cause erratic AIS data on the chartplotter. If your system is NMEA 2000, bring in your local NMEA-certified tech with his data reader, and he will help isolate the problem to the AIS or chartplotter. However, if the problem is intermittent, as you say, it sounds like it might also just be a loose wire you can fix yourself.

Don’t be alarmed if the zincs are shrinking on your Flexofold prop

Don’t be alarmed if the zincs are shrinking on your Flexofold prop


Q: My 2014 Dehler 38 has a Volvo saildrive 130S-F and a two-blade Flexofold prop. After six months in the Annapolis area, the two “small” zincs on the prop showed dramatic deterioration. In contrast, all other zincs (including the ring zinc on the saildrive) had minimal deterioration. Prior to launching the boat for the new season I did replace the two small zincs. This year I plan to keep the boat in the water for about eight months. Given the longer amount of time in the water (but also considering the fact that the saildrive zinc is virtually intact) do you think I need to replace the small zincs mid-season? If they were to completely deteriorate by season’s end, what is the worst that could happen?

Akis Goutzoulis, Annapolis, MD


Volvo-Penta requires all metal propellers to be electrically isolated from their saildrive propeller shafts, which is almost certainly the case with your installation. If this isolation is maintained (you can check with an ohmmeter from the propeller to the saildrive leg; you should get a very high resistance) then the anodes on the propeller are only protecting the propeller, and the anode on the saildrive is protecting the saildrive. The propeller is a bronze alloy, which will inevitably eat up its anodes rapidly and probably does not need protecting in the first place. (Although Flexofold still supplies its propellers standard with anodes, it also supplies them without.) So I do not believe you need to replace the propeller anodes in mid-season, and in fact I don’t think you need them at all! That having been said, according to Flexofold you can actually replace them with the boat still in the water, as the mounting screws supplied with the zincs are pre-applied with a special Loctite compound. The critical anode from your perspective is the saildrive anode, which should always be replaced once it is half consumed. (Its effectiveness is directly related to the remaining surface area.)

Be sure to use the correct products when removing painted letters from your transom

Be sure to use the correct products when removing painted letters from your transom


Q: What do I use to remove a painted name off the transom?

Lou Okma, Suttons Bay, MI


The quickest way is with a chemical stripper and a razor blade, but because polyester resin and paint resin are similar, the chemical strippers you are likely to find in paint and hardware stores will damage the gelcoat. Instead, you need a “fiberglass safe” stripper. If the container does not say safe to use on fiberglass, do not use it. One exception to this might be the citrus-based stripper Citristrip. Although it is not recommended for fiberglass by the manufacturer, lots of boaters report satisfactory results at a better price and no gelcoat damage. Marine supply stores will have strippers intended for use on fiberglass, but even these must be used judiciously. (This applies equally to Citristrip.) Apply them only to the painted surface, leave them on only long enough to soften the paint, then scrape and flush thoroughly to remove all residual traces. More than one application is typically needed to completely remove painted lettering. Because the paint will have protected the fiberglass underneath from the effects of UV exposure, even after the paint is gone, the shadow of the lettering is likely to be visible. In some cases, using a polishing compound on the entire transom will reduce or eliminate this vestige entirely. Otherwise, it will fade away with time.

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