Mailboat Letters

Published: July 2012

Seaworthy Kudos

A few years ago, my insurance carrier (autos, home, and umbrella policy) notified me that because my boat was insured through BoatUS, they were no longer going to cover that policy with the umbrella. I contacted the underwriter and he said that they had boat policies and that if I wanted to have the umbrella cover the cruiser, I'd have to insure it with them.

I told him that if he could show me that his boat policy was at least as good as the policy through BoatUS and was competitively priced, I'd switch. I subsequently sent him the Declarations page for my BoatUS policy together with a copy of Seaworthy. A few days later, he called me and said he had reviewed the materials. He asked if Seaworthy was part of my policy. I said, absolutely. He then said the BoatUS policy would continue to be covered by the umbrella policy. I asked him what changed his mind. He said two things: 1) His company does not include pollution coverage in its boat policies, unlike BoatUS and 2) His company has nothing like Seaworthy for its policyholders. He said he was a boater and he learned a great deal from just that one issue. He also said, as an underwriter, he wished his company had something like Seaworthy to educate policyholders.

I'm still with that same company for the autos, home, and the umbrella policies and with BoatUS for the cruiser. There have been no further issues about the umbrella and the BoatUS policy.

Frank Kapsch
Minneapolis, Minnesota

Thank you for returning to the paper format for Seaworthy! Thank you for returning to the paper format for Seaworthy! Thank you for returning to the paper format for Seaworthy! Thank you for returning to the paper format for Seaworthy! Thank you for returning to the paper format for Seaworthy!

Steve Hawkins
Nashville, Tennessee

Ethanol And Older Engines

Your article discusses older engines and ethanol. Is there a problem with the much older 1970s motors that were intended to use leaded gas? Seems to me that there is an additive out there to compensate for the unleaded gas, which is about the only thing available.

Ron Kornicke
Westfield, New Jersey

Typically, older engines need a lead substitute additive only when they are run hard for long periods. If you're concerned, using an additive like ValvTect Lead Substitute is inexpensive insurance.

Hello, I hope you can answer my question regarding the back-and-forth use of E10 and E0. Fortunately, we have a fuel station nearby home that has 91-octane E0 fuel, but what about times when I have to use E10? It has been rumored that going back and forth between E10 and E0 can also cause harm. I regularly use a fuel stabilizer and plan on using E0 every time I can, but what if I have to resort to fueling with E10?

Edward McCabe
Buffalo, New York

You're lucky to have a fuel station nearby that sells E0. But you don't need to worry about going from E0 to E10. The base gasoline is nearly identical and ethanol is simply added in the transport truck. You will end up getting some lower ethanol blends, any of which are better than E10 for your boat. Keep using a stabilizer and don't worry about occasional use of E10. That said, if you have never run any ethanol blend, be prepared for more frequent fuel filter changes, especially if you use mostly E10 because it tends to dissolve the old gunk lining the tank walls.

Inspecting Middle-Aged Boats

I have a 20-year-old Cape Dory and found the article to be superb—a true mandate of what to check and replace.

Dr. Edward O'Brien
Clearwater, Florida

Cleaning Up After Mechanics

We had a near-sinking episode with our 23-foot Caravelle Walkaround I/O that others should keep in mind. We had our 100-hour service done on our 350 Mercruiser last November. We felt that everything had to be in great shape, and launched the boat. After about 20 minutes of running, I noticed that the bilge pump indicator light came on. We were in deep water so I started heading for shallower water. The pumps were not keeping up with the leak, so we radioed for help, and put on our life vests. The engine slowed on its own and finally quit (overheated). At that time, I thought I knew what happened. They must have left the hose from the water pump off. With the engine shut off, the pumps drained the bilge. What was found was a massive failure of the hose downstream of the water pump, which is under the motor and not visible.

I am convinced that the failure occurred (at least started) due to the pulling by the mechanic to remove the hose and replace it.

Bryan Gorman
Panama City, Florida


I am a UK reader of Seaworthy and am struck by the number of sailing accidents there seem to be. We all think that it will never happen on our boats but the stories in Seaworthy suggest otherwise. One thing I now take with me is my iPhone. I have an App on it called Man Overboard, which I found under Navigation in the App Store. I think it's simple and brilliant. If someone goes over the side, you just hit the MOB button and just follow the big arrow back to where they went in. It also gives the lat & long to call in to the emergency services and the bearing to the MOB. It doesn't adjust for wind and current, of course, but the Coast Guard can work that out much better than I can.

Neil Cossar
Derbyshire, United Kingdom

Mysterious Leak

I experienced a problem similar to the one described by Bill Ludlom in his letter appearing in the April issue of Seaworthy. Our 1976 Cal 34 started taking on water, but only while underway at fast speeds. One fine sailing day, when we were sailing down the Chesapeake at over 6 knots, my wife noticed water over the floorboards. We slowed down and the water stopped coming in.

It turned out that the source of the leak were the plastic through-hulls for the bilge pumps. The through-hulls are located on the counter, which is the part of the hull under the transom. They face downward, and the reflected UV rays over the years broke down the plastic and led to tiny cracks. The fittings are normally above the waterline, but the stern squats down on a sailboat when it nears its hull speed, submerging the fittings and forcing water through the cracks.

Wayne Winokur
Columbia, Maryland

I had exactly the same problem on my M-34, for years! I just couldn't find it. The bilge was dry, but if I sailed, saltwater always seemed to find its way in. It turned out that there was a leak in the hose that connects the cockpit drain to the through-hull under the stern. This through-hull is well above the waterline, and there is no seacock on it.

When I sail, the through-hull is immersed. The bilge pump output hose is "teed" into the much-larger-diameter cockpit drain hose, and it was poorly done, I suspect, by Morgan.

With the through-hull immersed, the teed connection would be below the waterline, and water seeped through the cracks into the bilge. I'll bet a dime to a dollar that he has a similar situation.

John Stoffel
Mamaroneck, New York

Bill Ludlom should check the packing at the rudderpost. Typically, the rudderpost is housed in a molded fiberglass tube, the top of which has a circular bronze fitting that holds packing.

When the boat is at the dock or on mooring, it is likely riding with this packing above the waterline. However, when she is underway, she has additional weight in the cockpit that, added to the normal pitching, can result in the packing spending time below the water. Hydraulic pressure then forces water through the packing, into the bilge.

Geoff Lerner
Yorba Linda, California

SAE Stands For…

How funny that I would come home from presenting at the SAE World Congress in Detroit to see that SAE stands for the Society of American Engineers (Seaworthy, Vol. 30, No. 2, "Ethanol and Older Engines"). SAE actually stands for the Society of Automotive Engineers and the proper name at present is SAE International. The name was changed a few years back to reflect SAEI's global presence fostering mobility engineering (land, sea, and air). I have been a member for 24 years and presently serve on several committees writing standards and supporting educational initiatives.

Thanks so much for bringing back the paper version of Seaworthy!

Andy Perakes
Canton, Michigan

Are SmartPlugs Smart?

Could you please comment on SmartPlugs in a future issue? There is mixed information regarding these new safety gadgets and in fact, I have heard that some insurers will not insure a boat if it has one attached as it may cause a fire. Please dispel this rumor if it is untrue. I exam many boats for the USCG Auxiliary each year and this question is now coming up frequently in my area due to recent boat fires at various marinas. Thank you.

Peter Border
Bellingham, Washington

SmartPlugs are designed to be a safer alternative to traditional shore power plugs, incorporating a sensor to shut off power if the temperature of the connector rises above 200 degrees F. One model cord has a SmartPlug on the boat as well as at the shore power connection on the dock, which means that you'll have to work something out with your marina. For cruising, SmartPlug offers a cord with a SmartPlug on the boat and a conventional plug that is connected to the dock.

BoatUS underwriters don't have a problem insuring boats that use them, and marine surveyors who have seen them in use are impressed.

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