Small Stuff

Anchor symbol This beautiful boat is owned by long-time BoatUS member Ben Stavis. Ben inherited Astarte, a Rhodes Reliant, from his dad who bought it new in 1964. As you can see, Ben keeps the boat in Bristol shape. One of the things he's done to upgrade Astarte is added a bullet-proof bilge pump system that's worth mentioning. Ben installed a 12-volt belt-driven diaphragm pump in a dry place, out of the bilge and protected from seawater. (These pumps, he says, move a ton of water.) The intake hose from the pump leads to a strainer at the bottom of the bilge, and water is pumped overboard. The slick part is the use of pneumatic switches, also mounted near the pump to keep them dry. To activate the pump, Ben mounted a vertical one-inch PVC pipe in the bilge, and attached the 1/4-inch pneumatic switch's hose to it. When water enters the PVC pipe, the pressure triggers the switch, turning on the pump. A standard two-way bilge pump switch at the power panel allows the system to be automatic or manual. A second pneumatic switch is attached to a counter that cycles every time the pump turns on and also illuminates an indicator light on the instrument panel. Another PVC pipe and switch operates a warning light and siren if bilge water gets too high. These switches, Ben says (available from Groco), have been ultra-reliable, and the entire system has been trouble-free for 35 years. Not too many people can say that about their bilge pumps.

Anchor symbol For many people, it's hard to leave their boat, not knowing if it's safe from prowling eyes. A new product, called Tend Secure, claims to give more peace of mind, in a unique way. It looks like a camera and is about the size of a smartphone. It's makers claim that if a stranger boards your boat, it'll send you a text message. Not too impressed? The company says that what sets it apart from other security notification systems is that it's equipped with face-recognition software and will only alert you if an unrecognized individual is detected, which would certainly seem to reduce false alerts. Wife on board? Kids want to take out the boat? Mechanic shows up for maintenance? No problem. Prowler looking for an easy score? Alert! One thing: We're not sure how well the system would stand up to the marine environment. (It's designed for indoor use.) The manufacturer also says that because it doesn't actually take or send photos, it can be used in private spaces, like sleeping areas.

Anchor symbol Hikers have always had cool apps for recording their hikes and sharing them with their friends and family, and now boaters do too. If you've got a smartphone (heck, you may even be reading this on one), you can download Sailing-log by BoatBook.

Sailing-log by BoatBook

This nifty app may not take the place of a paper log for the old-schoolers, but if you can't be bothered keeping a logbook and pen around, the developers say that this app can automatically record each of your adventures, including the route, start and finish points, track history, speed, and direction. The company says that because it uses the phone's GPS and doesn't rely on cell service, it can be used anywhere in the world. Charter companies, such as Sunsail, are embracing the technology, too. Their customers can document their vacations and even use it to build a sailing resume that can open up new chartering grounds for them.

Anchor symbol Recently, TowBoatUS Ft. Lauderdale's 96-foot OSV Richard L. Becker was chartered to recover a NOAA weather buoy that was adrift hundreds of miles south of Jamaica. These guys do a lot more than tow errant boaters off of sandbars. The job specified recovering what was left of the buoy's mooring system in order to investigate the cause of the failure. Once on scene, the crew hoisted the buoy on board using the vessel's big boom crane.

Lancet fish

Once the buoy was onboard and secure, the mooring chain and line was recovered. The photo above is what the crew discovered at the bitter end of the line. A rare lancet fish had its fangs entangled in the thick nylon line and had likely lost its tail to a predator. Did the lancet-fish chew through the line and cause the failure, or did the fish become interested in the bitter end of the line mistaking it for his next meal? We may never know.

Anchor symbol Propane (also known as liquid petroleum gas or LPG) is the favored fuel for most galleys today. It burns hot and clean and lights easily. But the dark side of propane is that it's heavier than air and seeks low places on a boat, like the bilge and engine compartment. A propane leak can find its way in an area that might have something capable of producing a spark, like a pump or light. The results are usually, to say the least, impressive. To keep propane where it's supposed to be, boats should have a special locker for the tank. The locker must be vented overboard so any leaks won't stay on the boat. Sadly, not everyone seems to know this, as you can see from the photo. A plastic bucket is no place for explosive gas containers, especially below decks. Even a proper propane locker can be dangerous if the vents clog, so take a look at yours and run some water through the vents to make sure they run free.

Anchor symbol David B. Kacprowicz, a Certified Marine Investigator from Erie, Pennsylvania, sent in this picture of how not to attach a tow chain. Sharp-eyed readers will notice that if the trailer were to separate from the tow vehicle, the chains, rather than keep the two together (during a white-knuckle, spark-inducing slowdown), will simply pull the clip that holds the pin that keeps the receiver in. It should go without saying that chains should be attached to something substantial on the hitch — like the big cutout two inches from the pin. Also, if the chains are twisted around each other a couple of times, they're less likely to drag but will still allow you to turn corners without binding. 

— Published: April 2016

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