Cruiser’s Tech Talk

Following is where you’ll find Steve & Linda’s more technical articles, along with Cruisers’ Q & A…If you’re looking for info on the nuts and bolts of cruising, this is the section for you!

US Customs Procedures

Most of the time when we clear into a US port after being outside US waters, the process is quick and easy. In all the years we’ve been doing this it has also been pleasant, with just one exception. Clearing into Roche Harbor in the San Juan islands from Canada was no different.

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Posted by Steve Dashew  (September 2, 2007)    |    Comments (0)

Musical Propellers

Occasionally propellers will “sing”. This high-pitched whine is the result of blade harmonics and the blade interaction with surrounding structure. If you have an even number of blades there is more chance of singing occurring. Typically this does not happen through the full RPM range, but it can be extremely annoying.

Prop manufacturers deal with this by putting on a wavy anti-singing edge. In our case, the current set of propellers have a wavy shape to their trailing edges. Our previous props did not have this and were very noisy. So, we removed them and had a slight cup added which got rid of the singing and effectively added a bit of pitch.

When we put on our latest set of props they were quiet except for the starboard prop at 1300 to 1500 RPM. Since we do not operate in that range we ignored the issue. But we found that at heavier displacement the singing would move up to the 1700 to 1800 RPM range and we do occasionally run at this speed.

Not wanting to remove the starboard wheel and take it to a prop shop we asked John Hall of Premier Propellers if there was anything we could do on the boat.

“File the aft side of the trailing edge for four or five inches (100 to 125mm),” was John’s reply.

Although we have a dry suit aboard for cold water maintenance, we waited until we were in Desolation Sound, with its “warm water”, to do the job. Using a medium coarse flat file we took six light passes at each blade. The amount of metal removed was minuscule. You could see the bronze colored flakes in the water and there was not much material. However, we figured it was best to do this a little bit at a time to see what would happen.

We picked up the hook and went for a test run and were pleasantly surprised to find no more singing.

So, if you have a singing prop, try a little underwater filing, on the aft side of the trailing edge.

Posted by Steve Dashew  (August 21, 2007)    |    Comments (0)

More on Anchors and Sizing

radar image, Prideaux Bay, British Columbia

This is a radar image of one of the anchorages we’ve visited in British Columbia’s Desolation Sound. The radar is on quarter mile range, so each range ring is 300 feet (90 meters). We’re in the center of the image. There are 36 boats showing radar return!
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Posted by Steve Dashew  (August 20, 2007)    |    Comments (0)

Ultimate Radar Mast

We’re anchored in Gowland Harbor on Quadra Island, across from Campbell River in British Columbia. The harbor is pleasant, and most important, our Verizon cell phone and broadband Internet connection are working. We’re here for a few days staying connected, catching up on a backlog of work.

We can’t, however, spend all day online. At some point we usually take a tour in the dinghy. This time took us to a small marina to see if there was anything of interest. We mainly saw powerboats, plus a pretty Vancouver 27 at anchor; and there was one sailboat with the nicest looking radar mast we’ve ever seen.

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Posted by Steve Dashew  (August 3, 2007)    |    Comments (0)

A Bug Zapper that Works

Insect Zapper

Here’s a cool tool that Linda first spied on a Canadian boat. It looks like a small tennis racket, with metal strings. There’s an electronic circuit in the handle which runs on a pair of AA batteries that puts a high voltage charge into the strings.

All you have to do is touch an offending bug, and ZAP, it is toasted. We picked one up in the super market in Prince Rupert for $3.95 and it really works. We’re guessing these are available all over.

Posted by Steve Dashew  (August 1, 2007)    |    Comments (0)

Cooking Aboard: Microwave Baking

As you may know, the galley tends to be a key element in our cruising. And in the galley, the oven is the most important piece of gear. This is particularly important on passages where an inventory of home-made cookies is an essential component of our routing.

You can imagine, therefore, our chagrin when our Seward stove’s oven started to act up in Alaska. Discussing the symptoms with the guys at Sure Marine in Seattle led us to the belief that our “mercury valve”, which controls the oven, was again acting up (we’ve already replaced this once). What to do?

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Posted by Steve Dashew  (July 24, 2007)    |    Comments (2)

Pacific Coast Communications – Summer 07

Americas Cup 07

We’re not much into watching TV, except for sports. But sports are important, especially college basketball, so we’ve been carrying a Direct TV system coupled with a “FollowMe TV” antenna tracker. The tracker works well in smooth water at anchor in the mid-latitudes, but it has a harder time maintaining its aim as we get to the fringes of reception. We’re using a 24″ dish and we’ve watched Wildcat basketball as far south in Mexico as Cedros Island. We’ve also watched parts of the NBA finals, in Cordova, Alaska. However, at 61 degrees north, with the dish depressed to the maximum, looking through a forest of steel fishing boats, reception was more off than on.

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Posted by Steve Dashew  (July 23, 2007)    |    Comments (0)

Survival Training Part 6: Testing the Life Raft

Survival training, Part 6 of 6: Life rafts.

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Posted by Steve Dashew  (July 12, 2007)    |    Comments (2)

Survival Training Part 5: Immersion Suits

Survival training, Part 5: Immersion suits.

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Posted by Steve Dashew  (July 11, 2007)    |    Comments (4)

Survival Training Part 4: Man Overboard

Survival training, Part 4: Man overboard.

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Posted by Steve Dashew  (July 10, 2007)    |    Comments (0)

Survival Training Part 3: Fire Fighting

Survival training, Part 3: Fighting fires.

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Posted by Steve Dashew  (July 8, 2007)    |    Comments (0)

Survival Training Part 2: Flare Training

Survival training, Part 2: Using flares.

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Posted by Steve Dashew  (July 7, 2007)    |    Comments (1)

Anchoring Techniques for Worst-Case Scenarios

We’ve learned our anchoring lessons the hard way, by being caught at anchor, with ground tackle which was less than adequate, in situations where we wished we were at sea. That’s why we now carry such big anchors (and specify them on our clients’ boats). Our approach puts together an anchoring system that is designed for the worst possible scenarios.

What are the types of situations you need to allow for? In the tropics you will often be anchored in thin sand over coral. This does not allow burying anchors, like CQRs, to dig in. Holding is not the best for any type of anchor, but the Bruce, Spade, and Rocna types work best based on our experience. The water can be deep. It is not unusual to anchor in 60 to 100 feet (18 to 30m). And protection is often from the southeast to east (typical for trade winds) but exposed to the southwest (where convergence winds come from).

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Posted by Steve Dashew  (July 5, 2007)    |    Comments (0)

Survival Training – Introduction

In Sitka Steve and Linda take a fascinating survival training course, which leads to a 6-part series of articles. Here’s the first installment. Check back soon for the subsequent survival training articles.

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Posted by Steve Dashew  (June 29, 2007)    |    Comments (0)

Frost & Fridge Efficiency

defrosting galley freezer

Here is a look into our galley freezer this spring prior to defrosting the evaporator plates. The last time we defrosted was in the fall, so the build up you see is the result of the last six months (this totaled about half a quart/liter of liquid when we finished).

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Posted by Steve Dashew  (June 18, 2007)    |    Comments (0)

Bargain Engine Oil Quality

We’re in Cordova, Alaska, and have just finished changing the engine oil. We’ve got 8 gallons of oil left aboard and decided to see what it would cost to add 5 additional gallons. We like to carry enough oil for a minimum of three changes – in case we should get water into an engine and need to flush it (it takes 2.5 gallons for a change).

There is a NAPA auto parts store next to the harbor where the fishermen buy parts, so we figured they were a good spot to check prices.

Chevron Delo 15-40, which is what we have been using, is $170 for 10 gallons. However, they have a NAPA brand oil that is just $120 for the same quantity. It carries the same government ratings as the more expensive Chevron brand. Is there a difference? We do not want to be taking chances with our little diesels!

So we decided to e-mail our favorite diesel mechanic, Craig Hatton (Hatton Marine in Seattle). We figured if anyone knew about oil quality it would be Craig. His main thrust is servicing fishing boats, and commercial fishing folk are notoriously tight with their maintenance budgets.

Craig’s reply was, “When it comes to oil, I can only suggest using products from major oil companies – i e. Chevron, Shell, Exxon. It is good to remember that the SAE rating only reflects passing minimum government requirements and does not give a real basis to compare the quality ranges between products. Though these brands are more expensive, they are quality products and in the case of engine longevity and preservation I cannot suggest buying bargain brands.”

Looks like we’ll be staying with our higher priced lube oil.

Posted by Steve Dashew  (June 7, 2007)    |    Comments (0)

Dry Suits in the Real World

Getting some real world practice in a dry suit.

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Posted by Steve Dashew  (June 3, 2007)    |    Comments (0)

Dealing With Wire Ties (New Cool Tool)

wire tie cutter

“How can there be any more cool tools?,” you must be thinking. Hang around with the professionals, keep your eyes open, and the tool bag gets more goodies!

John Brooks from Ocean Alexander in Seattle was on board doing some maintenance on our Glendinning shift/throttle system. When John began to clean up the wire loom with lots of nylon ties we noticed this wire tie puller and cutter.

wire tie cutter

Simply grasp the tie end, pull, and then twist. These tools leave the wire tie cut off flush, so there are no sharp edges waiting to cut your hands and arms.

These are sold by electrical supply houses, and come in a variety of forms and price ranges. John’s unit costs about $30. You can order one from McMaster Carr (type in wire ties in their search engine to find the page with these tools).

We’ve got one aboard Wind Horse already.

Posted by Steve Dashew  (June 2, 2007)    |    Comments (0)

Networking Wind Horse into the 21st Century

Walking around a Seattle electronics store, on our way to the ink supplies, we happened to see a new wireless printer. “Wow, how cool!” we said. If we had a wireless printer it could live in one of the aft cabins, or be brought to the saloon when we were doing a big project.

We asked how hard this was to install and were told “Easy. Just follow the on-screen prompts.” By now you can see where this is headed.

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Posted by Steve Dashew  (June 1, 2007)    |    Comments (0)

Capsize Lessons

The following is copied with permission from the May 2007 issue of Sea Horse, the monthly magazine of the Royal Ocean Racing Club (our favorite sailing magazine). We recommend reading the comments several times. The lessons learned might just save your life…

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Posted by Sarah.Dashew  (May 30, 2007)    |    Comments (0)

Exhaust Noise

We said we’d report on how the revised exhaust system was working out after some time living with the change. We’ve put 1200 miles on Wind Horse since making the modifications, but before telling you what we think, we need to review what has been done.

We had a very quiet propulsion system before we started this fine tuning. Wind Horse under power is quieter than Beowulf was under sail. But still, after 2000 hours of engine time, you forget how quiet things are in an absolute sense (57 dB as measured by PassageMaker magazine) and start to concentrate on what you are used to in the present. Machinery noise has always been muted, but exhaust noise, coming from the outside into the saloon through our 3/4″ (19mm) thick windows, was annoying.

dry exhaust to aqualift muffler

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Posted by Steve Dashew  (May 19, 2007)    |    Comments (2)

Kabola Heater – After Two Years of Experience

One of the big decisions during the design of Wind Horse was our heating system – which keeps us toasty, and warms our washing and bathing water. At Jim Schimke’s suggestion (Jim is our heating guru) we went with a Dutch-built Kabola diesel heater. We chose a 65,000 BTU model with a built-in domestic water heater. The boat is kept warm with hot water pumped to a series of Jim’s MSR heater coils with 24-volt fans.

We had one problem early on, a faulty water pump, but otherwise the system has operated flawlessly. It is quiet on and off the boat, very efficient (the exhaust is quite cool), and is capable of a 100% duty cycle.

Lars Nilsson ( ) is the US distributor for Kabola. Since he is located in the Puget Sound area, we asked Lars to make a service call and check our heater. We were heading for Prince William Sound and Kodiac Island in a few days – and it can be cold up there – we wanted to stay ahead of the maintenance curve. We figured that after the equivalent of almost a full year of use, our Kabola might be showing signs of age to his expert gaze.

Kabola burner

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Posted by Steve Dashew  (May 19, 2007)    |    Comments (0)

You Get What You Pay for – or, Fake Bruce Anchors May Be Dangerous

Bruce Anchor

The real thing is shown in the next series of photos. Bruces are forged from a single piece of steel. No welding. Keep in mind that stiffness varies with the cube of the thickness of the item in question, so a little thickness has a huge impact in stiffness. Notice how thick the vertical portion of the shank is in the photo above, and also the thickness of the aft sides of the flukes. Read the rest »

Posted by Steve Dashew  (May 17, 2007)    |    Comments (1)

Professional Approach to Changing Water Pump Impellers

We normally do our own water pump impellers, and have written about the process before on SetSail, but since Craig Hatton was aboard we thought we’d watch how a professional does this. We learned a lot!

impeller pulling tool

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Posted by Steve Dashew  (May 15, 2007)    |    Comments (1)

Tropical Awnings, Part 3

Here are some permanent awnings which work under way as well as at anchor.

dodger with collapsible Bimini awning

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Posted by Steve Dashew  (May 3, 2007)    |    Comments (0)

Adding Insulation to Wind Horse


One of the projects on our list to be done before heading back to cold water is adding a bit of insulation on the bottom of the hull in the forward and aft sleeping cabins. The normal practice with polyurethane foam is to stop it above the waterline. With our Armaflex being relatively hydrophobic, this precaution was not necessary. However, due to a miscommunication between us and the builder, the Armaflex stopped about a foot (30cm) higher than we wanted, as you can see in the photo above. As a result, last summer in Alaska we had a small amount of sweating on the bare metal in the forward and aft sleeping cabins.

A few weeks ago we ordered a roll of Armaflex from a local supplier, and had them slice this into appropriate widths to use on the hull, frame webs, and frame caps.


The sliced material was then cut to fit.


The Armaflex has an adhesive backing. Peel the protective paper to expose the adhesive, and then push it onto the surface.


Here is what the area in the first photo now looks like. There is a slight difference in the finished surface. The original Armaflex was made to order for us and has an extra protective coating on it.

This same approach will work if you have a fiberglass hull with a sweating problem. It also helps to deaden sound – something that is really helpful in most fiberglass boats. Armaflex is available from industrial rubber suppliers and also air conditioning supply houses (the air conditioning industry often uses Armaflex in air ducts).

Posted by Steve Dashew  (April 21, 2007)    |    Comments (3)

Tropical Awnings, Part 2

awning covering whole boat

If you are going to be hanging out in one spot for a long period of time, perhaps living aboard while you work ashore, larger awnings come into the equation. These awnings provide shade over the entire boat. They will be a pain to rig, remove, and store, but when they are up and it is warm outside, they will be very pleasant.

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Posted by Steve Dashew  (April 19, 2007)    |    Comments (0)

Yacht-Sized Steam Cleaner

Some time ago we posed a question on SetSail looking for a miniature pressure washer to use in the engine room for cleaning those hard-to-reach spots which we all seem to have. Nothing came of the query, nor of any research we did on the Internet.

Then a couple of weeks ago a friend mentioned a steam cleaning service in Marina del Rey. We called these folks and they came by and had a look at our relatively pristine engine room. Their gear was large, and only suitable for bilges – and the service was costly. But it gave us an idea, so we Googled “steam cleaning” equipment and came up with a bunch of resources.

We eventually settled on a”Kleenjet Delux 175″ from Daimer Industries ( ). The unit appeared compact, and we figured the $395 price was worth it if we got a couple of cleaning cycles from it.

steam cleaner for yacht engine room

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Posted by Steve Dashew  (April 16, 2007)    |    Comments (0)

Tropical Awnings, Part 1

If you plan on spending any time in the tropics, getting your awnings right will be high on the list of priorities. In general, awnings should:

  • Provide protection from sun and rain.
  • Be easy to set and remove (or reef). Think of this in terms of a 35-knot squall at 0300.
  • Catch rain water if the decks are not set up for this. And shed water in squalls if they are not being used as a catchment system.
  • Be strong enough to withstand years of sun, wind, and rain.

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Posted by Steve Dashew  (April 12, 2007)    |    Comments (0)

Anchoring System Logic

dual anchors

We’re in the habit of walking marina docks with a pocket digital camera handy to record interesting details. The double anchor set up shown above reminded us of the olden days on our 50-foot (15m) Intermezzo. She had what we thought was the perfect system: a large CQR for everyday use, as well as a Danforth ready to go as a second hook and for use in soft mud where the CQR would not hold.

One day we saw the light. Why have two anchors, with their attendant weight sitting on the bow, when only one was earning its way 99% of the time? Would it not make more sense to put ALL that weight into a single massive anchor, which was working 100% of the time? The answer is, of course, yes. A single, really big anchor gives you better holding in poor conditions, and in good conditions allows anchoring on shorter scope. This logic applies to all types of anchors.

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Posted by Steve Dashew  (March 27, 2007)    |    Comments (0)

Alcohol-Based Fuel Treatments

cracks in fuel filter due to alcohol-based fuel treatment

The cruising learning curve continues…If you look closely at the photo above you will notice some small vertical cracks in the bowl of our primary fuel filter. These also exist in our secondary filter bowls. We just noticed them in Mexico. They are on the inside, and not all the way through.

We called our supplier today and found out the cracks are a reaction to alcohol-based fuel treatments. The same thing would happen if we were to clean the outside of these with Windex – which is also alcohol-based.

These are not serious – yet – and the result of two years of service. So, we’ve got quite a ways to go before they begin to leak. Just in case, we’ve ordered a set of new bowls to to fit.

anti-fungal chemical treatment

We’ve been using BIOBOR JF as an anti-fungal chemical treatment. After reading the label, sure enough, we learned that it contains alcohol. BIOBOR and other fuel treatment suppliers make versions without alcohol. So, we’ll be switching over.

Turns out alcohol can also affect some fuel hose products, and the plastic in some shutoff and check valves.

Posted by Steve Dashew  (March 23, 2007)    |    Comments (0)

Seagoing Locks

locks on boats

We have several areas on deck which we lock if we’re going to be away from the boat for an extended period. These include the outboard, life raft, and four storage areas.

We’ve used different types of locks over the years. The photo above is of Airbus brand locks. The left-hand lock was left hanging on a rail for the past 20 months. It was lubricated once in that period with WD40, and then again when we removed it recently. The lock at the right is a spare, to show you what these are supposed to look like.

There has been a lot of fresh and salt water over these locks – 17,000 miles’ worth. And though, while we normally lube these every couple of months, these seem to do OK when abused.

Posted by Steve Dashew  (March 22, 2007)    |    Comments (0)

LED Running Lights Come of Age

LED running light from Aqua Signal

We’ve been watching the development of LED anchor and running lights for some time. Most of them have had some shortcomings, and none were approved as running lights, until recently.

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Posted by Steve Dashew  (March 14, 2007)    |    Comments (1)

Window Maintenance: Cleaning & Preventing Salt Buildup

How Linda cleans the salt buildup off of the bridge windows, and what she does to prevent salt buildup in the future. Then, Wind Horse puts her prevention steps to the test!

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Posted by Steve Dashew  (March 11, 2007)    |    Comments (1)

Depth Finders for Navigation

In the olden days, pre-SatNav and GPS, the depth finder was one of the most important navigation tools. By comparing depths to the chart you could often figure out where you were. They were also handy for watching depth trends, giving an early warning of a rise in the sea bottom.

On our own boats we’ve stayed with a simple digital depth finder – just a numeric read out. When we were thinking about the electronics for Wind Horse we considered going to one of the fancier “fish finder” style units, with a historic graphic display. But in the end, we opted to stay with a simple numeric output of the depth.

Fast forward two years and we’ve been learning to use our SONAR for navigation. One of its modes is looking straight down, the same way you would with a fish finder. In this mode the transducer works if it is retracted – which we like, as it is not vulnerable then to debris or kelp.

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Posted by Steve Dashew  (February 26, 2007)    |    Comments (2)

Remote Control Computer

computers on boats

For those of you steeped in the 21st century the wireless track ball mouse above may seem a bit prosaic. But it has been a revelation for controlling the computer aboard Wind Horse.

To begin with, being wireless means that the track ball device can be remote from the computer. This will work great if the computer were under a dodger or in the pilot house and you are at the helm. In our case, the preferred spot for the computer is about 3 feet (90cm) from where we con the boat. Having the track ball mouse under our right hand saves time when we’re entering tight navigational areas.

There’s a second advantage to the track ball. It sits in one place, so less room is required to operate it than with a normal mouse, which has to be moved around the nav desk. The track ball also seems easier to use than the mouse when the boat is being bounced around by an adverse sea-state.

Posted by Steve Dashew  (February 21, 2007)    |    Comments (0)

Spot vs. Floodlights

One of the pieces of gear to which we gave a lot of consideration to was a remotely controllable spot light. However, these tend to be somewhat large, complex, and expensive (both to purchase and install).

One of the problems with all of this gear is its positioning. The light source must be positioned where it does not illuminate any of the boat. This includes standing rigging as well as the anchoring gear on the bow. If any of this is lit up with the spot light, the glare will blind you, rendering the light source worse than useless.

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Posted by Steve Dashew  (February 15, 2007)    |    Comments (2)

Sonar Navigation – Isla San Francisco

Using SONAR navigation for poorly charted Isla San Francisco.

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Posted by Steve Dashew  (February 6, 2007)    |    Comments (0)

Electric Winch Thermal Overload

We’ve always assumed that the maximum rated load was usable for an extended period of time. We’ve kedged ourselves out of trouble, and ground in a lot of highly loaded sheets in heavy weather without problems. However, while doing our drogue testing last month, our Lewmar #66 winch cut out. This is a unit rated at 3000 pounds pull.

Checking the circuit breaker showed this was fine, so we assumed there must be a thermal overload protector on the motor. A call to our local Lewmar guru, Bob Davidson, confirmed this. We assumed this could be removed and was more a CYA device than something which was required, and we asked Bob to double-check with the factory. He came back with a reply that we could remove it, but there was high risk of burning up the motor if we did.

To be fair, we had both engines at slow ahead while we were grinding in lots of rode – to simulate real-world conditions where we’d be retrieving drogues in a moderating gale. We ended up dragging in the last drogue by hand, with Steve backing down to remove load, and two of our helpers doing the pulling. This was not a big deal given the help, but if it were just two of us, it would be a lot harder.

What we are not sure of in this experience is how much impact there was from a build-up of heat from all the prior rode retrievals (something we would not see in the real world). To find out we are going to re-test drogue retrieval again.

And when the time comes to use this winch to kedge us off a grounding, we’ll use it intermittently, to allow for some cooling.

Otherwise, if you want to be certain of winch rating over long periods, hydraulic drives are the answer.

Posted by Steve Dashew  (January 25, 2007)    |    Comments (0)

Satellite Communications Update

Iridium claims total coverage of the earth. We’ve heard from users in Tierra del Fuego at the bottom of South America, and we know it works in Alaska.


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Posted by Steve Dashew  (January 23, 2007)    |    Comments (0)

Dry Suits

For many years we’ve carried a heavy duty wet suit for use in cold climates. This 8mm (5/16″) wet suit includes a chest and hood element, gloves, and heavy booties. It works, but the ingress of really cold water is painful in the extreme until warmed by Steve’s tender skin. As a result, we’ve never used this for preventive inspections, and carry it only for emergencies.


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Posted by Steve Dashew  (January 18, 2007)    |    Comments (0)

Foul Weather Gear

We’ve wrestled with what to use for foul weather gear for many years. What works the best depends on the conditions, and we’ve had a hard time settling on a single suit of foulies which are ideal for temperate, tropical, and cold regions. Each climate has its special requirements.

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Posted by Steve Dashew  (January 18, 2007)    |    Comments (0)

A Flat Screen Monitor Which Really Dims

In the past we’ve opted for the standard monitors, and dealt with the excessive brightness at night with a plastic “lens” over the screen to help protect our night vision.

Now we’ve found something better. Last week we tested a 17″ Samsung model 740 BX to display our SONAR and radar data. We expected the wide viewing angles and sharp images. But what surprised us the most was the excellent dimming capability.

And all of this for $200.

Posted by Steve Dashew  (January 17, 2007)    |    Comments (0)

Depth Recorders for Interpreting Bottom Type

When we started looking at the electronics specifications for Wind Horse, we considered adding a depth finder with a bottom echo display, if it would also help us tell the difference in bottom conditions. Our reasoning was that it was worth having this gear in areas where it was hard to find a nice spot in which the anchor could dig in – if it really worked. So we checked with several friends that had powerful depth sounders and they all told us the same thing, that they could not consistently tell one type of bottom from another.

As a result we stayed with a simple digital read out – no moving display. This is the same approach as we’ve used for the last 20+ years.


One of the benefits of the Furuno CH 270 sonar we’ve just installed is that when the transponder is aimed down (vertical) it works as a very high-end depth sounder. During recent testing, with Furuno sonar guru Steve Bradburn aboard, we asked about interpreting bottom condition from the visual echo trace.

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Posted by Steve Dashew  (January 11, 2007)    |    Comments (0)

Modern Food Packaging & Long-Term Storage

Like most of the cruisers we know, the crew in charge of marketing for Wind Horse tends to over-buy food when we’re getting ready to head out. We’ve found it is best to stock up when we can acquire the foods we like at reasonable prices. New Zealand is a great place for this, especially if one is heading to the tropics where supplies may be limited and will almost certainly be more costly.

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Posted by Steve Dashew  (January 10, 2007)    |    Comments (0)


We’ve had Aqualarm ( ) products on our boats going back to the early 1970s. Catching up on our mail recently we noticed a new catalog with some interesting products which we thought might be of interest.

Aqualarm makes a range of engine, bilge, and intrusion alarms, much of which works well for retrofit.

exhaust overheat detector

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Posted by Steve Dashew  (January 7, 2007)    |    Comments (1)

Alarm Systems On Board

Over the years we’ve looked at alarm systems for various clients, and even installed a few. However, the results have been less than stellar, often involving so many false alarms that the systems were typically not used.

We decided to give this subject another look for Wind Horse. After all, there has been a lot of progress in other electronics areas, so why not in alarms?

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Posted by Steve Dashew  (December 21, 2006)    |    Comments (1)

Maintaining the Outboard Motor

dinghy outboard maintenance

We’ve had a 30 HP Yamaha outboard on our dinghies going back to the days of Sundeer. Our first 30 was with us for 15+ years, and went to a new home when we sold Beowulf. Read the rest »

Posted by Steve Dashew  (December 20, 2006)    |    Comments (3)

BGAN Satellite System – Part Two

We’ve been following up on the INMARSAT BGAN voice and data service (previously described a couple of weeks ago). Here is what we have learned.

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Posted by Steve Dashew  (December 19, 2006)    |    Comments (0)

Propellor Engineering

Propeller engineering involves a combination of science, gut instinct based on real world experience, and trial and error. Regardless of the project, the latter part of this equation is always present – even on military vessels, when billions are spent to get it right, you cannot get away from trial and error.

With Wind Horse, we’re just on our second set of props, which have been slightly modified from their original design. By adding a slight amount of cupping we have gotten close to where we want to be. (Adding a trailing edge cup to a propeller works like a flap on the back edge of an airplane wing. The cup/flap increases the lift of the foil.)

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Posted by Steve Dashew  (December 14, 2006)    |    Comments (0)

Cool Tools: Special Screwdrivers

For years we have carried a set of screwdrivers which mechanically capture the flange of a screw head.


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Posted by Steve Dashew  (December 12, 2006)    |    Comments (0)

Engine Vibration and Noise

With 16,000 miles now on Wind Horse we’ve zeroed in on a couple of things that we want to fine tune. One of these is the level of engine noise and/or vibration. Mind you, at our cruising speed of 1900 RPM/11.3 knots this is just 57 dB in the saloon/bridge area, so the noise level is already very low. But when you are passaging for thousands of miles, what would be considered almost silent on most boats can become bothersome.

As we are in Ventura, California, we called our old friends Dale and Steve who own and run Ventura Harbor Boat Yard. Steve came down with his yard foreman, Tom, and they gave the exhaust system a quick look.

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Posted by Steve Dashew  (December 6, 2006)    |    Comments (0)

Propane Consumption

A few months ago, with a bunch of friends over for dinner and Linda busy in the galley, we ran out of propane. Timing is everything in life.

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Posted by Steve Dashew  (December 5, 2006)    |    Comments (0)

BGAN + FollowMeTV: The Ultimate Communication Tool?

BGAN is a relatively new INMARSAT service with much higher speeds and smaller antenna needs than what has been available in the past. The service is new, but from what we hear it is working well so far.

The rub for cruising sailors is the lack of an antenna system to track the satellite, and – when these become available – the cost.

We were wondering if the FollowMeTV single axis tracker, like we use for our Direct TV reception, would work. We talked to the guys at BGAN about this and it sounded propitious, so we got Ray Barnard at FollowMeTV to chat with BGAN – tech-to-tech, so to speak.

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Posted by Steve Dashew  (December 3, 2006)    |    Comments (0)

Specialty Electric Tools

Our last category of specialty tools deals with with electrical systems on board. These seem to get more use than the general tools – that probably tells you something about where most maintenance occurs on boats.


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Posted by Steve Dashew  (November 29, 2006)    |    Comments (0)

Favorite Tools, Part 1

Over the years we’ve accumulated an assortment of specialty tools. Most of these are rarely used, but when required, they have been essential for getting maintenance projects completed expeditiously. Whether you carry these or not depends on your fetish for tools, how much space you have for storage of rarely used gear, and where you’ll be cruising.


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Posted by Steve Dashew  (November 29, 2006)    |    Comments (0)

Sonar for Cruising, Part 6: Sea Trials

SONAR for Cruising, Part 6: First sea trials.

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Posted by Steve Dashew  (November 28, 2006)    |    Comments (0)

Drogue Testing

For many years we’ve been students of the concept of using drogues in heavy weather, or for holding station when disabled. We did extensive research on this subject – interviewing dozens of users – when writing Surviving the Storm. But in our own cruising experience we never had conditions where we thought the use of such devices was a better option than keeping the boat up to speed.

With Wind Horse, the situation is potentially different. So, we’ve carried a Fiorentino parachute anchor, Galerider, and Jordan Series Drogue. We’ve looked at the rigging of these, discussed how to use them, but until recently have not found the time to actually get this gear into the water (our strong suggestion to you, if you carry any of this equipment, is to become familiar with it before heading offshore). Read the rest »

Posted by Steve Dashew  (November 28, 2006)    |    Comments (0)

Furuno Sonar Flange

Dear Steve, I am following your gear review used on your new boat carefully as I am building 54’steel sail boat (Bruce Roberts). I am interested in the Furuno Sonar that you have recently installed. In your review you are praising Furuno for designing the flange to fit a 6" pipe.

"Furuno’s engineers were thinking ahead here, as the pipe is a standard size, as is the flange."

From what I can determine the standard flange for 6" pipe is not exactly the same as the flange supplied with the sonar.

My questions are:
Did you accept the difference between the two flanges and just bolted them together?
Did you have a metric flange installed instead of 6" one?
Or is there US model of the Sonar that comes with a 6" flange on its housing?

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Posted by Steve Dashew  (November 16, 2006)    |    Comments (0)

Getting the Stain Out of Stainless

If you’ve messed around with boats for very long you will know there are all sorts of grades and qualities of “stainless” steel. Sometimes good vendors will supply you with poor quality materials, resulting in a continuing battle with rust stains. Read the rest »

Posted by Steve Dashew  (November 13, 2006)    |    Comments (0)

Binoculars Revisited

A few months ago we did a short report on the three types of binoculars we have aboard Wind Horse. Having 5000 miles more experience with them since that report, we thought we’d update you on our feelings.

First, the image stabilized Canon 15 x 50s. These are excellent in good light and smooth water. We can use them in light chop, but anything that is at all bouncy makes it very difficult to find and then hold an image centered.

binoculars for cruising
(Wind Horse’s compliment of binoculars. Fujinon 7x50s on the right, Cannon 15×50 image-stabilized glasses in the center, and Bausch & Lomb night vision glasses on the left.)

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Posted by Steve Dashew  (November 11, 2006)    |    Comments (0)

Sonar for Cruising, Part 4: Deciding upon a System

Coming to a decision on a SONAR system for the boat.

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Posted by Steve Dashew  (November 10, 2006)    |    Comments (0)

Integrating Nav Equipment

Hello, We have just discovered your site and are very excited about it. With your help we may finally be able to figure out our best options for integrating a laptop, electronic charts, gps (none of which are yet purchased) and our existing auto pilot (Autohelm 4000). We have a 30ft Catalina sloop and are somewhat electronically challenged. We plan on using charts from Maptech, NOAA, Explorer and maybe The Captain. Anything you can suggest will be of great benefit. Thank you.

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Posted by Steve Dashew  (November 9, 2006)    |    Comments (0)

Aluminum Paint Specification

Aluminum boats are wonderful. The only problem area is with painting. It is not an easy material to get paint to stay on without problems. On the other hand, it is the only material which can be left bare, and that is a huge plus. We like the look, and the lack of maintenance. And if someone messes up a docking maneuver, we ignore the scratches – or if we’re feeling ambitious, polish them out with ScotchBrite pads.

Of course you still have to do something with the part of the boat that is in the water. What is done below the waterline is quite different than above. The system used needs to tie to the bottom paint being used. In the past we’ve always used TBTF bottom paint, but this is no longer available. Read the rest »

Posted by Steve Dashew  (November 9, 2006)    |    Comments (0)

Outboard Motor: Engine Size vs. Fuel Consumption

For the past 18 years we have had 30HP Yamaha outboards on our dinghies. The 30 was chosen for several reasons. First, we like to water ski and this is the smallest engine with which we can drag start on a slalom ski (tricky, but it can be done). The second reason is that this is plenty of power to push the big boat around should we need it in a tight harbor with lots of wind blowing. In effect, this serves as our “thruster”.

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Posted by Steve Dashew  (November 3, 2006)    |    Comments (0)

Poly V-Belt After 1500 Hours

Powerful DC engine-mounted alternators require large doses of horsepower to produce their electricity. This is normally transmitted via V-belts, from the power take off (PTO) pulley on the front of the engine crankshaft to a pulley on the alternator. Traditional V-belts have a hard time dealing with really big alternators, and require careful alignment, heavy duty tensioning hardware, and early replacement (for a lot more on this subject, see Offshore Cruising Encyclopedia).

The John Deere diesels which are aboard Wind Horse use a new (to us) type of drive belt off their PTOs. These are called Poly-V belts, and are ribbon-like in appearance. They are reported to be more forgiving than traditional V-belt designs, but we took a wait-and-see attitude.

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Posted by Steve Dashew  (October 29, 2006)    |    Comments (0)

Gig Harbor Rowing Dinghy

We’ve carried a variation of the Catalina Wherry, a 14-foot (4.3m) rowing dinghy, on all our cruising boats going back 30 years. Even Wind Horse had a used version which we picked up in New Zealand prior to leaving. However, we’ve been hankering for something a little more sophisticated, and have been looking at rowing dinghies with sliding seats. A sliding seat allows the rower to use both arms and legs when working the oars.

After arriving in the Northwest we started seeing a lot of sliding seat dinghies built by Gig Harbor Yachts, of Gig Harbor, Washington. There were a number of things about their 14-foot model which appealed to us. Its sloop would fill the need to daysail. And it allows the sliding seat to be fixed in an aft position, and then rowed double. We contacted the factory in June and were told four months for delivery. That was too long as we’d be a 1000 miles south by then.

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Posted by Steve Dashew  (October 27, 2006)    |    Comments (6)

Sonar for Cruising, Part 3: Is It Practical?

SONAR for Navigation, Part 3: Filtering through the info to make a decision. Should we get a SONAR, and if so, which model?

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Posted by Steve Dashew  (October 18, 2006)    |    Comments (0)

Two Different Sonar Models to Try

SONAR for Navigation, Part 2: Test-driving a Furuno, and checking out a different approach from FarSounder.

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Posted by Steve Dashew  (October 14, 2006)    |    Comments (0)

Sonar for Cruising, Part 1

SONAR for Navigation, Part 1: With recent advances in SONAR technology, and since prices have come down, Steve & Linda are investigating whether SONAR is now a feasible navigation tool for cruising. They’ve written an in-depth three-part report about their discoveries.

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Posted by Steve Dashew  (October 13, 2006)    |    Comments (0)


Thirty years ago, when we were looking for binoculars, we ended up at a discount sporting goods store and bought a pair of 7×50 land-style binoculars. They cost us 10% of the fancy marine binoculars ($35 for a display model), and worked all the way around the world. We would have liked some high-quality glasses, but these were almost as good, and we could not justify the hit on the cruising budget for the marginal gain of the highest-quality pair. At the end of our circumnavigation there was some fogging from moisture, but they still functioned.

Twenty years ago, we were given a pair of Fujinon 7x50s. These had wonderful optical properties – at night and during the day – and they were still working well when they went to Beowulf‘s new owner as a part of her equipment after 17 years of rough service.


Wind Horse’s compliment of binoculars. Fujinon 7x50s on the right, Cannon 15×50 image-stabilized glasses in the center, and Bausch & Lomb night vision glasses on the left.

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Posted by Sarah.Dashew  (August 16, 2006)    |    Comments (0)

Dinghy Set Up

Exploring in cold country with the dinghy introduces an additional set of risks which call for extra emergency preparation. We’re usually off by ourselves, and it is doubtful that anyone would miss us or hear a call for help. So we need to be prepared for a wider range of risk factors than in warmer climes.


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Posted by Steve Dashew  (August 13, 2006)    |    Comments (0)

Digital Chart Risks

Electronic charting systems are a step up from the olden days of pencil, dividers, and paper. Used correctly, they reduce workload and offer a higher factor of safety, especially in difficult conditions. However, there are numerous risk factors associated with using electronic charts, so we feel it is wise to maintain a healthy dose of skepticism and double-check the results.

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Posted by Steve Dashew  (August 11, 2006)    |    Comments (0)

Choosing an Inverter

We’ve just finished updating the inverters on Wind Horse so we thought it might be timely to discuss the logic of how to chose an inverter.

There are a number of choices available. The question is, which is the right unit with the best features for your intended application.

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Posted by Steve Dashew  (June 30, 2006)    |    Comments (0)

Furuno Radar Software Update

One of the cool things about our Furuno 2117 black box radar is that the hardware is secondary to the software. The hardware is basic, robust, and powerful. It is the software, that controls the various functions like signal processing and scanner, which gets out of date. The fact that the software can be easily upgraded is one of the reasons we decided to go with the 2117 in the first place.

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Posted by Steve Dashew  (June 29, 2006)    |    Comments (0)