Mailboat Letters

Beware the Boom

As a lifelong sailor with strong opinions about safety at sea, I was surprised to find no reference in your excellent "Boating Safety Review" in the April 2015 issue to boom-related sailing accidents. I am a strong believer in the habitual use of preventers whenever sailing off the wind. In my view, a fast-moving boom represents an ever-present danger to unwary or distracted persons on deck.


Editor: Our anecdotal experience sailing offshore supports your contention that the boom is a danger to those aboard. The most serious injuries we heard of were generally related to the boom or to the running rigging attached to it. But boom-related accidents made up only about 1.5 percent of total accidents in our claim files, and 4 percent of accidents on sailboats. We would always recommend that you use a preventer when sailing off the wind. But based on our data, which is largely inshore and coastal, you are far more likely to be injured on a sailboat in a collision, by falling down a hatch, or by tripping over a lifeline getting on or off the boat than you are by the boom.


Just to make a quick clarification on the navigation rules in the April issue concerning two power-driven vessels in a crossing situation (Rule 15). The rule states that when two power driven vessels are crossing so as to involve risk of collision, the vessel which has the other on her starboard side, shall keep out of the way. The author likens the red port light you would see on the boat to your right, or starboard side like a traffic light, which means when you see red, you stop.

This is a good analogy; however, the article goes on to say "if a boat is off your port side, then you would see their green light, which means you can proceed safely." This could be a bit confusing to some, because if you saw just a green light, then you would be looking at the starboard side of a vessel under sail alone, therefore, the powerboat seeing just the green light would have to give way because he was encountering a vessel under sail. It is the white masthead light that indicates the boat is under power! So, in essence, in a crossing situation with two powerboats, the boat off to your port side would have a green side light and a white masthead light indicating it's under power.



Hurrah hurrah! This article was dead on point. I am the captain of a large luxury yacht, and hardly a day goes by that I don't see somebody doing something that is really crazy. Most collision avoidance is just plain old common sense, but an awful lot of boaters don't seem to have any of that. I hope some of those people take the time to read this article. Thank you for putting the rules into a context that people can understand easily.


Fuzzy Bilge Pump Math

I must take at least a small issue with Captain Lanier's reply in the last issue. He stated that if you have two one-inch-diameter pumps, the size of the discharge manifold must be at least two inches. "With multiple pumps, the required diameter of the discharge manifold can ‘grow' pretty quickly."

Captain Lanier (incorrectly) assumes that the size of the manifold pipe must be the pump discharge size multiplied by the number of pumps that are manifolded together. In other words, if a pump has a one-inch discharge diameter connection, for two pumps you need a two-inch manifold pipe, for three pumps you need a three-inch diameter manifold pipe, and so on. This is absolutely not the case! Following the captain's advice results in using unnecessarily large (and expensive) bilge pump piping. The reason is that the carrying capacity of pipe or tubing does not increase linearly with diameter; it increases by much more.

Note that ABYC H-22 also requires the use of a check valve (a one-way only valve) for each pump. These are a good idea even if only one pump is used.


Captain Lanier: My comments were aimed at the average boater who'd like to add a second bilge pump. Unlike a boatbuilder or designer, chances are they are not as familiar with the required calculations and considerations to come up with an exact minimum diameter. For them, it is perfectly acceptable to simply add the two discharge outputs to come up with a workable manifold output discharge diameter. Simplistic? Yes. Overkill? Somewhat, but it also has the benefit of imparting an additional fudge-factor into the installation, which can help offset some of the other installation factors that will decrease system output. Check valves are not recommended by ABYC as part of a typical bilge pump installation. Per ABYC H-22 they "may" be used in the discharge line of a single pump to prevent cycling due to back-flow discharge from the line; however, check valves are prone to failure and clogging due to trash, etc. and should not be used as part of a typical bilge-pump installation. The correct way to prevent back feeding is to have the discharge hose for our bilge pumps rise up a suitable height above the manifold, then drop down and enter the manifold (i.e. a riser loop).

Oil Sample Analysis

Why bother writing an article like this if you're not going to at least give a ballpark price on the cost? You gave a price for the kit. Why not the analysis? 


Editor: Several readers wrote to tell us the same thing. The information was in the article but not easy to find. Toward the end of the article, the author said: "The cost for an OSA kit at my local Caterpillar dealer is about $17, which includes processing the sample and sending me the analysis of the results. That's a bargain by any measure." If you do a Google search for your area, you should be able to find a couple of local shops, as well as online companies, that can do this for you. Prices seem to be around $25 for mail order.

Lightning Strikes Again

In the most recent issue of Seaworthy, one writer asks what to do if you need to use your wheel during a thunder and lightning situation. One solution that I have used is to have a thick pair of heavily insulated rubber gloves that electrical workers wear when working in dangerous situations. I put the gloves on and touch the wheel as little as I need to in order to maintain control of the boat. You usually have some warning that a storm is near, so on our sailboat, the sails are dropped and secured, the engine is on, and everyone else is down below. So far, no problem. Is this a controlled scientific experiment?  No. However, you could probably test out this approach in a lab.


Odds And Ends

The "What Could Possibly Go Wrong" piece brings up a pet peeve.  Several years ago I was working on a rewiring project and went to the ABYC website to get my information "from the source."  I learned that they make it difficult and expensive for an individual to find what the ABYC standards are. I ended up relying on manufacturer's information — good but not direct. Anything you can do to ease access to this information would be a blessing. Again, thanks for a great magazine.


John Adey, president of ABYC: First and foremost, standards and safety costs money. Our organization is only about five to seven percent funded by grants and donations. The rest is primarily membership and education revenue. We have a free five-day demo on our website. This is a read-only copy and it is there for precisely this purpose. Those who need info for a project or a survey are invited to use this link, and can use it repeatedly if needed.

Lift Safety

I read the Lift Safety Alert in your latest issue and was compelled to mention another aspect that may be overlooked by owners with boats in lifts. As the wind blows against your boat as it is raised (and against the lift itself, if the boat is not in it), the boat and lift will oscillate. The degree of movement will vary according to wind, boat windage, and lift-cable length, but the point is there will be some friction generated where the cable meets lift components, mainly at the attachment points, pulleys, and at the spool.

It seems to me that if a boat is lifted to a certain point and left there for some time — say, over the winter — and if that particular height is one that the owner often uses, the cables will suffer some damage. For example, if in the face of an expected storm an owner raises his boat to a certain level each time this occurs, and of course the higher wind speeds cause greater movement of the boat and lift, at some point the cables may be damaged to the point of failure.

I have made a practice of periodically moving my lift, with the boat in it or not, up or down a foot or so, just to spread the area of contact out a bit. When a hurricane is in the Gulf, I pull or anchor my boats, but I still raise the lift platform as high as I can, and lash it to the pilings so as to reduce movement. Maybe the cables would hold up anyway, but it seems like a prudent precaution.

A boat at a nearby dock was left on its lift in a storm a couple of years ago, and one of the cables snapped, leaving the boat bow-down in the water. The cabin flooded, but of course the bilge floats never came on, since there was no water in the aft section until well after the electrical system shorted out and the boat was too far sunk to be pumped and saved.


Published: July 2015

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