Mail Buoy – February 2019


Last month I put it to the readers about DIY boatyards. Do you prefer these yards? Are you willing to pay more in lay-day rates to use a DIY yard? Do you have a favorite DIY yard? It wasn’t a very divisive question because everyone seems to love DIY boatyards, and several of you gave a shout-out to your favorite. As an illustration last month, I used the graphic of one of my favorite DIY yards,  Ventura Harbor Boatyard (in Southern California). Reader Wayne Wright had something to say about Ventura Harbor Boatyard, so he gets the first word . . .

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Mail Buoy – January 2019


You asked about reader experience with drones (“Put It to the Readers,” The Dogwatch, September 2018). I can say that launching a drone from a boat under sail is not easy, because of wind variations and the rigging. Doing so is possible with one of the more powerful machines, but these units are costly, and the likelihood of losing it when attempting to land on the boat under sail, is high. As a newbie drone operator, I wouldn’t risk losing a $700 machine for a few good shots or a video. Also, drone regulations are also very restrictive for commercial purposes. For example, I cannot sell you pictures I have taken from aboard Britannia because I don’t have a commercial drone license. I don’t think I could even employ a commercial pilot, buy the photos they took legally, and then legally re-sell the pictures to you.

–Roger Hughes, Good Old Boat contributor

Hi Roger, thanks for your thoughts on drones. You prompted us to do some research and here’s what we learned. Commercial drone (or small unmanned aircraft system, or sUAS) use is governed by the FAA and all rules and regulations (there are surprisingly few) are covered by the Federal Aviation Regulations (FARs) part 107. These are straightforward. Part 107 mandates that commercial operators have a license, but getting a license is as easy as passing a written exam at one of the more than 700 testing centers in the US and paying a $150 fee. That’s it, then you’re a commercial drone pilot. That said, we at Good Old Boat are of the untested, unqualified legal opinion that if you were to take a stellar photo as a recreational (non-commercial) drone operator and then sell it to Good Old Boat or another magazine, you would not be in violation of any law (and regardless, we can’t imagine there are drone police checking to be sure that published drone photos were taken by commercial operators). We think the real problem would arise were you stopped while flying and authorities determined that you were flying for commercial purposes without a license. Regarding your concern that you couldn’t employ a commercial pilot to take photos that you buy and then resell, we can’t imagine there is any regulation prohibiting that. –Eds


Great article on news of the ship The Falls of Clyde (“Fall and Rise of The Falls Of Clyde,” The Dogwatch, December 2018)! For those interested, there are six black-and-white photos of this ship in the book, Pacific Square Riggers: Pictorial History of the Great Windships of Yesteryear (1969, Bonanza Books), by Jim Gibbs. Unfortunately, each photo is relatively small, about 3×4 inches. But they are all of The Falls of Clyde as she was, including images of sailors aboard, the ship under sail, one of her main saloon, one of her in dry dock, a sad one of her sans masts and in use as a petroleum barge in Alaska, and one of her in 1959 in Seattle awaiting tow to Honolulu. The book also includes some copy about the ship.

I always enjoy my issues of Good Old Boat! Keep up the great work!

–John B. (Jack) Severinghaus, Com-Pac 23, Spokane, Washington



I just read Canadian George Kuipers’ letter to the editor, regarding the trade dispute between Canada and the U.S. (“Good Old Trade-Trouble Fallout,” November 2018). Although I, too, am bewildered and frustrated that friends and allies like Canada are treated worse than North Korea by the president, I believe that the ordinary citizens of both countries are still friends. Good Old Boat is certainly my friend on board during the summertime as well as on the hard during the winter months. What goes on now in small politics will pass and Good Old Boat will continue. For that, I will renew.

–Claudette Paquin, Penetanguishene, Georgian Bay, Ontario


Last month we put a question to readers who live in places where weather and frozen water restricts sailing to a seasonal affair. Do you envy the Southern California sailors who can go for a Christmas Day sail most years, or do you pity those who lack the seasons to frame and define their sailing experience? Here is what some of you had to say, starting with Fred Mulligan, who thoughtfully brought Henry David Thoreau into the discussion…

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Mail Buoy – December 2018


Thank you for the article on the hatch tent. The one shown would certainly keep the rain out. However, when we are at anchor we need to have quick access to the bow and a tent design inhibits that. I’ve been looking for a compact, free-standing design, but those that are commercially available are way too expensive. I’ve considered using a pet- or child-size dome tent with part of the bottom cut out. Any experience or thoughts about that idea?

–Brian McMahon, Windchaser

We don’t have any experience in this realm. For the past eight years, we’ve closed our hatches when the rain comes (and in the Tropics we’ve often suffered for it, at night especially, but that rain is usually short-lived). If any readers have advice to offer Brian, please contact him directly at:


Last month, I put it to the readers about whether you’ve tried one of the stay-dry-and-clean-your-boat-bottom-from-the-dock tools, you know, one of those brushes on a long handle. I shared how I personally spent a couple of years in my 20s underwater, cleaning boat bottoms and that I’ve long been skeptical of these easy-as-pie DIY tools, I just didn’t see how they could substitute for a diver. But Davis had just released their own version of these things, called Scrubbis (pictured) and I wanted to get opinions from folks who’ve actually used one of these. I have to say that I expected first-hand stories that would support my skepticism, but received none. Here is what some of you had to say.

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The Dogwatch Mail Buoy – November 2018


I enjoyed my Good Old Boat subscription when I had my O’Day 26, but I dropped my subscription last year as I bought a small trimaran (a 1992 Ostac Tramp) and noticed that Good Old Boat does not have many articles or advice about them — I couldn’t find but 6 articles on trimarans.

I know they haven’t been around as long as monohulls (in the modern sense, not the Polynesians) but they are becoming more popular and the modern fleet is approaching 50-60 years old now. Does Good Old Boat intend to include more write ups on multihulls?

–Wayne Holt, Pensacola Beach, Florida


Granted we don’t have many articles specific to trimarans. But we don’t have many articles specific to any single type of boat. We like to think that every issue of Good Old Boat has content that appeals to sailors in general, without regard to what they’re sailing, whether it’s on a trailer or a 40-foot trimaran. Doing plumbing or electrical work on a 1998 40-foot fiberglass monohull is going to involve many of the same considerations as doing the same work on a 22-foot woody from 1962. The story we had in the September issue on blind sailors we hope is of interest to all sighted sailors.

We’ll add that Drew Frye, a contributing editor, for a long time sailed a cat and recently sold it and bought his current boat, a tri (an F-24). And several months ago, we put the word out to all our boat reviewers to be on the lookout for good old multihulls to review.

We can’t promise multihull-specific content is on the way — 90% of our content comes from ideas pitched by freelancers — but I won’t shy away from any story because it has to do with multihulls. Quite the opposite. –Eds


We have owned our Hunter 310 about 4 years. There are no grab rails topsides. I can hold on to the life lines, but really need something on the cabin top, for safety. Over the weekend I went to the boat and stared at it for a while. Unfortunately, the way the boat is designed I don’t think I can add grab rails in the place I need them the most (between the mast and forestay), because there is a fiberglass headliner inside the boat. I seem to remember an article about installing grab rails in an old issue. Does anyone have any suggestions on a method? Should I glue them? Make pads with an integral fastener and glue the pads down? I would appreciate any suggestions.      –Phil Mayleben, Hunter 310, Mad Hatter

We published a story in Good Old Boat recently on making grab rails (“Low-Cost Sturdy Handrails,” November, 2017), but not on installations that would help with your specific case. If any readers, especially Hunter 310 owners, think they have a suggestion to offer Phil, please contact him directly at


Last month I put it to the readers about whether you make the trek forward to the mast to raise or reef the main? Or do you relish your ability to do both from the cockpit? Tell me why you do what you do. Would your set-up be different if you sailed a different boat, or sailed your current boat in different circumstances? Is the perceived safety of the cockpit over-stated? Before I present the results, let me correct a misstatement.

I wrote last month that Good Old Boat founders Karen Larson and Jerry Powlas prefer lines not be led aft and go forward aboard both their boats to raise and reef the main. This is only half true, so I’ll give Jerry the first word and then continue with some of the reader responses.

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The Dogwatch Mail Buoy – October 2018

Mail Buoy for Dogwatch.
This summer, sailing his Columbia 26 MkII on the Potomac River from St. Clements Bay to the Washington Sailing Marina, naval architect David Helgerson came across this osprey pair and their nest atop this navigation buoy. And that house on the shore? That’s Mount Vernon, George Washington’s home.
Send your favorite hi-res photo of an aid to navigation, be creative. If we use your pic, we’ll send you a Good Old Boat cap or shirt.


In the September issue of The Dogwatch, we ran a story by Keith Davie (“Six Lessons from a Simple Job”) in which Davie offered the following:

“Stay around to be an old good old boater. Give serious thought to protecting your body and the environment. Acetone and MEK are available and sometimes necessary, but both pose cancer risks and are neurological toxins that can be absorbed through the skin. Avoid them if possible, wear gloves when handling them, and use a proper respirator in confined spaces or for long-duration exposure.”

These are words Davie says he’s lived by — and we have too. In fact, we were happy to share the caution, feeling like we were doing readers a service.

Then we heard from readers David Lochner and Kevin Bennet.

Turns out, Davie’s caution is flat-out wrong. We were wrong to run it.

Both acetone and MEK are pretty benign as chemicals go.

To get the full story, we reached out to Good Old Boat contributing editor and expert on all things chemical, Drew Frye. Here is what he had to say:

“It’s funny how seemingly smelly and dangerous chemicals like acetone and hydrochloric acid present obvious acute hazards but little long-term threat, but seemingly innocent things like citrus stripper, the sun, or the lead soldiers I played with as a child are a long-term risk.

“Acetone and MEK are not carcinogenic. MEK can cause neurological symptoms, but only after long, chronic exposure. They are allowed in nail polish remover because they have minimal health hazards if used in small amounts. Chemically, they are most closely related to alcohols. In the case of acetone, it is a normal metabolic byproduct. They are listed as hazardous wastes when present in a product above a certain concentration solely because they are flammable.

“This is not to say they cannot be misused. Just 1-2 ounces in a poorly ventilated V-berth can create an explosive atmosphere, risking a flash fire or explosion. Even lower levels can impair judgment, causing symptoms like drunkenness. Finally, the sneaky thing with most solvents is that they anesthetize the very receptors that smell them; a little bit in the house after someone strips their nails smells almost as strongly as an explosive mixture, once you’ve been working with it for a few minutes.

“The rule for working with most chemicals is to read the MSDS or SDS. There is no substitute. If the chemical is volatile, plentiful ventilation is always the first step, and respiratory protection can be helpful if ventilation is not sufficient. But reducing the concentration through ventilation is best. In the case of flammable solvents, it is also prudent to limit the amount in use and to move soaked material and rags away from the work area promptly to avoid creating a flammable work space.

“Really, the short version of what I wrote is to ALWAYS read the MSDS (Material Safety Data Sheet, now revised to SDS [Safety Data Sheet] — a change to match the international format). There is no other way to know what is in a chemical and how to use it properly. Mandating that chemical manufacturers produce this was one of OSHA’s smarter moves, and it is no surprise the requirement is international.”

Then Drew added the following notes about this story. The second bullet address a point that we added to Keith’s story.

  • “No mention of sealant removers. Marine Debond is quite effective on polyurethanes and Re-Mov/DSR-5 is effective on silicone. It is very important to follow the instructions, scoring at the bond line and allowing time. Their use not only reduces effort, it reduces collateral damage to the boat.
  • “Do NOT retighten bolts later. This is a sure way to break the bond by causing the bolt to move. Though this is often recommended, it has been debunked.
  • “5200. The problem with 3M 5200 is not that it is permanent, it is that it is not flexible once it cures and does not bond well to many plastics and metals. 3M never recommended it for bedding. It is a fiberglass adhesive. Sika 291 or Locktite Marine have better broad spectrum adhesion and do not harden as much.”

Thanks Drew. And we’ll give Keith Davie the last words as they’re reasonable last words:

“I often see a very cavalier attitude toward solvents, and I think that’s unwise. Yes, the body contains acetone naturally (though not MEK), but in extraordinarily small amounts, and it’s filtered by the kidneys and removed. Because many chemicals cross the skin barrier into the bloodstream quite easily, stressing our bodies’ natural systems, it makes sense to me to protect my body from all of them as though they were dangerous. I hope to be working on boats well into my golden years; why take chances I don’t have to?”

Photo courtesy of Frode Hansen


Last month I put it to the readers about recreational drone use. I wanted to know whether you’d used one, planned to buy one, or think they’re evil. I was kidding about the last part, but turns out there are a lot of drone haters out there, putting them in the same league as mosquitos and personal water craft. Following is some of your feedback.


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The Dogwatch Mail Buoy – September 2018

Dave Lochner sent this photo he took early in the morning last August, while on a boat delivery up the Hudson River. “This lighthouse caught the nation’s and New York City’s attention nearly 100 years ago. It’s called the Little Red Lighthouse and sits under the George Washington Bridge in N.Y.” Yes! Formally called Jeffrey’s Hook Lighthouse, this aid to navigation was originally in Sandy Hook, New Jersey. When it became obsolete in 1917, it was reconstructed at its current location in 1921, to improve Hudson River navigation.

Then the George Washington Bridge was built and the lighthouse was again considered obsolete. It was decommissioned in 1948 and was to be auctioned off. But there was huge public outcry, mostly from kids who were fans of the 1942 children’s book, The Little Red Lighthouse and the Great Gray Bridge, by Hildegarde Swift. So much outcry that the Coast Guard deeded the lighthouse to New York City in 1951. In 2002, it was relighted. Tours are occasionally given by park rangers, especially on the Little Red Lighthouse Festival day in mid-September.

Send your favorite hi-res photo of an aid to navigation, be creative. If we use your pic, we’ll send you a Good Old Boat cap or shirt.


Last month I put it to the readers about whether you think we should continue sending our magazine out into the world in single-use plastic polybags or send it naked and unprotected against weather and the man and machines employed by the postal service. We heard from well over 250 readers. Despite my call for a simple “plastic” or “naked” vote, many respondents were emphatic and thoughtful in expressing their preference. Before I present the results, let me clarify a couple things that a few folks seemed confused about.

First, there is no option to send wrapped magazines to some addresses and unwrapped magazines to others.

Second, many readers assumed that ditching the plastic would be a cost savings and that we are aiming to ditch the plastic bags to save money. Just the opposite. We’ve tried going bare in the past, on a few occasions, and the result has been a marked and sustained increase in the number of damaged issues we need to replace. Fielding and fulfilling these requests, one by one, is expensive in terms of manpower, postage, and product (and it stokes ill will in some of our subscribers). Therefore, the status quo, shipping the magazines in plastic, is less expensive than not. Plastic is a cost-saving measure, not an expense. If this were strictly a financial decision, we’d keep the plastic without question.

But we did question, because we believe plastic has its place in this world (including the manufacture of sailboat hulls), but there is no good that comes from producing and using plastic unnecessarily.

We received 110 emails from readers requesting that we ship our product naked. We received 121 emails from readers requesting that we ship our product in the plastic bags we currently use, no change. Many of the naked folks urged us/begged us to get rid of the plastic for environmental reasons. Many of the plastic folks urged us/begged us to keep the plastic as it’s our responsibility to get our product to them in like-new condition.

We also received just over 50 emails from readers who want the magazine protected in some way, but suggested we find an alternative to plastic.

So the conclusions we’ve drawn are:

  • there is a strong consensus for protecting the magazine
  • there is a strong consensus for finding a plastic alternative

Accordingly, we will continue to ship our product in plastic polybags while exploring other options. Our printer doesn’t currently offer an option other than plastic polybags. I’ll keep everyone up-to-date on what we learn and decide in future issues of The Dogwatch. In the meantime, we encourage all subscribers to find another use for your Good Old Boat protector. Our bags are made from a low-density polyethylene, among the safest in terms of food exposure. It’s the same stuff that protects loaves of bread in the supermarket. For those without a dog or a sandwich to bring to work, the bags are recyclable, at any place that accepts plastic recyclable code #4.


And now just a few of your excerpted thoughts…

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The Dogwatch Mail Buoy – August 2018

Marker, Charlotte Harbor Florida
According to the Charlotte County, Florida, website, there are thousands of navigation aids within county boundaries. Different types of navigation aids are maintained by four different entities: the US Coast Guard, the Florida Wildlife Commission, Charlotte County, and the City of Punta Gorda. Here two county employees tend to one aid.
Send your favorite hi-res photo of an aid to navigation, be creative. If we use your pic in Good Old Boat magazine, we’ll send you a Good Old Boat cap or shirt.


I approve of your editorial (The Dogwatch, July 2018) because it is an educational, thought-provoking, even-handed essay. As a solo sailor whose father was knocked overboard by a boom when sailing alone, I always wear my PFD. He survived, although he was nearly dead from hypothermia when rescued by a Cape Croker (north of Meaford) indigenous family.

Hypothermia’s inexorable crippling effects, on even strong swimmers, are well worth watching. Information is a precursor to situational awareness. Cold Water Bootcamp (long version) is a 2008 Canadian-made video shot at Wiarton, in Georgian Bay, Lake Huron, in the spring shoulder season. Under police and other professional water rescue personnel supervision, a series of volunteers of various abilities, shapes and ages were observed for the time and distance covered before each individual succumbed and “went vertical.” Trying to re-board with no arm control makes interesting viewing.

One is often inclined to overestimate one’s abilities while justifying debatable judgment choices. Nature does not rationalize.

—Dave Toogood, Cadenza I, Erieau, Ontario

Editor’s note: regarding hypothermia,  click here to watch an excellent video by Mario Vittone called, “Hypothermia myths and the truth about cold water”

Swallows and AmazonsMay I recommend the following to your readers still postulating over pfds: Read Swallows and Amazons by Arthur Ransome. A renowned classic of its era (perhaps a more robust time).

Written in England during WWII, Swallows and Amazons concerns the many delightful adventures of two groups of kids in the wild and windswept English Mountain Lake District. Both groups want to camp on Cat Island, small, remote, deserted and in the middle of a very large, boisterously windy lake. One group comprises two 12- and 11-year-old girls the other comprises a boy, 8; a girl, 11; and another sister, 12. Both groups of kids sail sinkable 12-foot clinker (lapstrake) wooden dinghies.

One of the children’s mothers telegrams her husband, a destroyer Captain, as she is concerned about the wisdom of such a sail and overnight camp (and no cellphones then, folks).

“Father. Children wish to spend night on Cat Island alone. Uncertain how to proceed. Please advise. Love. Mother. MESSAGE ENDS.”

He replies from the bridge of a destroyer engaged with submarines in the North Sea:

“Mother. Of course children should proceed to island. If not duffers, won’t drown. If duffers, deserve to drown. Love. Father. MESSAGE ENDS.”

As an old gaffer pointed out to me years ago “Since we are an island nation, maybe we should all wear lifejackets all the time.”

Well, you can’t be too safe can you.

Maybe you can.

—Steve Roberts, SeaBeast, San Juan Islands, Washington


I have a 1978 Bristol 29.9 sailboat. It has a round, foam-like material that covers the hull/headliner joints of all the bulkheads. The material has become dried and cracked. In some areas it has just fallen off.

I suspect this is a material that is installed when the the bulkhead is installed in the hull. I do not plan to disassemble the entire boat interior, so I don’t think I could use the same material again, assuming I could find it. Is anyone aware of a good product that could be used to replace this material?

Please contact me directly and thank you in advance.

Homer Shannon,


Last month we put it to the readers about boat operator licensing. Specifically, we wanted to know how folks feel about future licensing requirements we think are inevitable. Should they be restricted to powerboats, or should they also include sailboats (and I’ll extend the definition of sailboats to include those with an auxiliary that can move the vessel at speeds up to 6 knots)? For what it’s worth, this editor has sailed over 25K miles on 3 different keel boats, has never had a license, and thinks it’s difficult to argue against them. When we’re enjoying public waterways, we appreciate knowing that everyone is at least schooled in the “rules of the road.” Unfortunately, testing for proficiency and judgment is unlikely to happen and those characteristics are probably most important, so we question the ultimate value of licensing. But here’s what several of you had to say:

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The Dogwatch Mail Buoy – July 2018

Lyle Balmer shot this photo of reader Andy Vine’s 1974 Crown 28, Gwyneth, sailing in Nootka Sound on the west coast of Vancouver Island. Lyle was aboard his 35-foot sloop, Aleydabeth. Click this link to watch a cool short film about their trip around Vancouver Island:
Editor’s Note: This is a nice photo, but we’re really looking for photos of aids to navigation, the more interesting and unique, the better. Send your favorite hi-res photo of an aid to navigation, be creative. If we use your pic in Good Old Boat magazine, we’ll send you a Good Old Boat cap or shirt.


Last month I put it to the readers about editorial responsibility, whether it’s incumbent upon sailing magazine editors (this one in particular) to not publish images that show sailors not wearing PFDs. I know that editors regularly get called out on this by readers. I shared a personal example of when Cruising World editors were called out for publishing a photo of my daughter underway, no PFD in sight. I hinted at my own personal bias on this topic.

We got a lot of mail, nearly all of it impassioned. One reader, clearly aware of my bias wrote, “You should know better and it is shameful that you would use a photo of your daughter in an unsafe situation in this discussion…you are free to be as ignorantly irresponsible and unsafe at sea [as you wish], but it is your boss’s responsibility to fire you. When your boss does that I will renew.”

I received too many responses to get everyone’s voice heard, there’s just not enough space (and I’m going to take up a bunch). But rest assured I read and considered each one carefully and I appreciate everyone who took the time to respond. Some letters were particularly thoughtful.

In summary, 85% of readers made it clear they did not want me to consider images for publication on the basis of whether a sailor is depicted wearing a PFD. 15% of readers made it very clear that change starts with influencers and I should absolutely refrain from publishing any photo that shows a sailor not wearing a PFD.

Reader Marty Chafkin presented a third option. “…We all need to say something when we see something. For far too long, we have let bad things happen to others, because we were afraid to speak up or just didn’t want to be bothered. Hopefully, that day is in the past…I think…editors [need to] say something. If you have a wonderful photo…that is not perfect in every way, then say so, [in] the photo credits…such as, ‘We regret that the person shown is not wearing a PFD. We strongly urge all our readers to wear protective gear when aboard.’ You are the editor. That makes you the responsible party…I’m hoping for a safer world where I don’t have to read about people drowning who might have been saved with only a bit of damage to their pride (or about people being harassed because they lacked the power to defend themselves).”

I appreciate Marty’s thoughts, but if I believe that PFDs are not always necessary, that the time to use them should depend on circumstances and said circumstances can only be evaluated by the captains and parents and individuals who are aboard when the picture is taken, how can I look at a photo on my computer, so far removed from the time and place, and make a judgment that means anything?

Take the photo of my daughter I offered before and am sharing here again. Several readers chastised me for not having her in a PFD. I don’t think the photo alone provides enough information for anyone to make that decision. The boat has been her home for 7 years, from ages 7 to 14. She knows the vessel and how it moves. We were sailing very slowly into a bay of calm, protected waters. The water temperature was 80 degrees. Land was a very short swim away, on both sides of the boat. She’s a strong swimmer. Her butt was behind the 5-inch gunwale and her torso was behind the lower lifeline. (I’ll add that she knows the circumstances in which her folks require her to wear a PFD, and the circumstances that require her to be tethered — and she’ll don one or both any time we say the word.)

If I advocated a world in which PFDs were required to be worn all the time that someone is aboard a boat (which is the stance several readers took), then it would be easy to decide either not to publish photos of non-PFD-wearing sailors or to note in the credits that the sailor was wrong not to have been wearing one. But I don’t advocate mandatory PFD use, not even for infants…

Yes, not even for infants. I know several cruising families with infants aboard, or who’ve raised infants aboard. Are their babies supposed to go to sleep at night with a PFD on? Wear one while getting bathed in the cockpit at anchor? Of course not.

To address the 15% who argued that change begins with influencers, I would just make the same point. I don’t believe PFDs should be worn 100% of the time, so I’m not trying to influence that outcome. And really, it’s not my role to create a world, it’s my job to reflect the world we live in, as accurately as possible.

I don’t want to name the boat or family, but one reader asked me to look up their tragedy before I expressed my opinion here. In short, tied to a marina dock, the family lost their 5-year-old daughter one night after she slipped unnoticed out of the cabin, into the cockpit, and onto the dock before falling in. I didn’t have to look it up because I knew the family. Their heartbreak occurred about a month before I took the picture of my daughter on the rail.

There’s no question PFDs are one essential safety tool in a lot of sailing circumstances (and near-the-water circumstances), but not in all sailing circumstances. (Do they offer any value to a singlehander in the Southern Ocean?)

Boating writer Bill Schanen wrote this in Sailing magazine six years ago: “Fixation on PFDs oversimplifies safe sailing. PFDs are but one small factor in a safety-at-sea equation that includes sailing skills, sound judgment, weather information, and seaworthiness of boats. You can add luck to that list if you want.”

PFDs should be worn whenever they’re deemed appropriate by a captain, parent, or individual. As a reader, I encourage you to pass judgment on any photo we publish. As an editor, I evaluate a lot of criteria, but it’s hard to imagine PFD use being part of my calculus.

Before I share excerpts from select letters, I’ll leave you with a joke shared among cruising families:

“Dad, why do I have to wear a life vest aboard?”

“To keep you safe in case you fall in the water.”

“Can I go swimming?”

“Yeah, take off your life vest first.”


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The Dogwatch Mail Buoy – June 2018

Jamal Kazi snapped this photo of an aid to navigation in Ha Long Bay,Vietnam, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Jamal wrote, “The fisherman here rows with his arms, perhaps because in transit. Otherwise, we most often saw them oaring with their feet while trolling for fish. Weather was overcast and cool in January, but it made for an eerie atmosphere with the fantastic karstic islands in the background.” Send your favorite hi-res photo of an aid to navigation, be creative. If we use your pic in Good Old Boat magazine, we’ll send you a Good Old Boat cap or shirt.


Last month we put it to the readers about a contraption aboard a 1970s-vintage 36-foot Swedish ketch that reader Dave Cook encountered and was puzzled by. He didn’t have a photo, but described it for us: “In the main cabin there was a small tube that came up through the floor and ran up the main mast support, to about 1/3 of the way to the ceiling, where it stopped. It appeared to have a fluid inside it, green in color and not labeled in any manner. However, on the mast support post there were numbers that started near the floor and continued nearly to the top of the tube. I did not write down the numbers. But, they were something like 2,4,7,10,14,18. Also there was nothing to indicate what the unit of measure was.” Dave went on to include his best guess, that the tube was somehow a gauge of heeling moment.

We got a few responses, unfortunately nothing that is definitively correct. This one might remain unsolved. –Eds.

Several readers echoed Dave Croy’s thought: “Look at the gauge, then fill the fresh water tank and see if the gauge moves up. My first assumption is that it is to see how much water is in the fresh water tank and the unit of measure is gallons. That would explain why the numbers go up as the head pressure is higher. The green is possibly stagnant water because of the difficulty in cleaning out the tube.”

Brian Corbett offered that it could be a water tank vent, but that doesn’t address the numbers.

Even though Dave Cook opined it wasn’t a draft indicator, Al Penn voiced his assurance that it probably is. John Barry, who also owns a Swedish-built boat, a 1949 wooden sailboat just under 10 meters, guesses that this tube is a, “load or boat mass indicator. As the boat becomes loaded and heavier in the water it will sink lower in the water and can be measured on the scale. It can be measured while at sail and heeled as it is in a tube. I bet the lines for the number gradients were on the front and or rear and not the sides much like a measuring cup.”

Two readers, David Watson and Tom Alley, suspect it’s a knot meter working under the same principal as a pitot tube, with water flow increasing pressure and rising the column in the tube. But 18 knots?

The Dogwatch Mail Buoy – May 2018

Seaman Dallas Harvey, securing a crane hook to a buoy on the James River in Newport News, Virginia.
United States Coast Guard Petty Officer 3rd Class Corinne Zilnicki captured this shot of her colleague, Seaman Dallas Harvey, securing a crane hook to a buoy on the James River in Newport News, Virginia. Harvey is crew aboard the Cutter Frank Drew, a 175-foot-long coastal buoy tender used to perform maintenance on aids to navigation and to hoist extraneous buoys from the water. Send your favorite hi-res photo of an aid to navigation, be creative. If we use your pic in Good Old Boat magazine, we’ll send you a Good Old Boat cap or shirt.


Please tell David (“There Ought to be a Law,” The Dogwatch, April 2018) that the refit will never be completed and he should just leave!

–Dean Raffaelli, Carrie Rose, Herrick Bay, Maine


I just read all the reader mail in April’s The Dogwatch, including mine, about radar reflectors. It was interesting to see how strongly the readership of Good Old Boat and Practical Sailor seem to overlap. But, the discussion also reminded me of an experience from many years ago.

About 10 miles offshore in a fog that’d reduced visibility to around half a mile, I was carefully using my compass to work my way from buoy to buoy down the Southern California coast. Suddenly, I saw a 50-plus-foot powerboat bearing down on me at high speed.

I changed course to avoid a collision. He changed course to get back on a collision course.

I changed course again to avoid a collision. He again changed course again to stay on a collision course.

I changed course a third time to avoid the collision. He changed course a third time to aim right at me.

Fewer than 50 feet from impact, he swerved sharply and pulled up parallel. A guy on the bridge shouted, “Hey, I’m lost. Do you know where we are?”

One more bit of evidence for the one point all the writers seemed to agree upon: Don’t count on the other guy.

–Bob Neches, Los Angeles, California


I have a response to David Lochner’s recent story (“There Ought to be a Law,” The Dogwatch, April 2018). The propeller shaft stuffing box on my Cape Dory 28 is a grave and dangerous example of an inaccessible feature. The designers must have assumed this part would be accessible through the cockpit lazarettes, but it is not possible to get workable access in this way (it would be something like crawling upside down into a manhole with a heavy wrench in your teeth). I am considering a hatch in the cockpit sole, a controversial solution that some consider unwise.

I have seen several rather idiotic examples of inaccessible mechanical components on boats. As a teenager, I worked at a boatyard that sold a line of fast fiberglass runabouts; when we needed to pull an engine on one of these, the factory advised us to cut the afterdeck away, as they had installed the engines and then built fiberglass decks over them. Last year, I tried to replace some tired bow seats from an open-bow runabout. I discovered the seats had been bolted to the deck assembly before it was joined to the hull, so the fasteners could only be reached by cutting holes in the hull.

Too often, sailboat makers sacrifice function for finish. There is no excuse for this crap. Every part of a cruising sailboat should have workable access.

–Paul Maravelas, Mayer, Minnesota


Last month I put it to the readers about the tradition of placing a coin beneath a stepped mast. I wanted to know if people were still indulging this tradition and why. Turns out Good Old Boat sailors are indeed coin-placers and there are some compelling theories about why sailors started doing this, most of them practical at one time. –Eds.

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The Dogwatch Mail Buoy – April 2018

Boat Islet Light at the entrance to Port Washington on North Pender Island, British Columbia
Paul Skene sent this photo of Boat Islet Light marking the entrance to Port Washington on North Pender Island, British Columbia. “I took this a couple years ago, on a visit to a dear departed friend, David MacKenzie, a master carpenter. I was in a de Havilland Beaver commercial float-plane from Vancouver, taxiing by this light heading for the town dock.” Send your favorite hi-res photo of an aid to navigation, be creative. If we use your pic in Good Old Boat magazine, we’ll send you a Good Old Boat cap or shirt.


Nice and funny story (“The Mysterious Fish Magnet,” March 2018), but as a snorkeler and former wildlife management technician, I can say to Bob that his boat has no magnetic properties for fishes. Boats are like floating wharfs in that they offer fish a shadowed shelter. Fish hide there to snap any one of their smaller congeners. The darker and the bigger the boat, the better it is for them. In fact, the best way to grow a coastal fish population is to provide shelter, natural or artificial.

–Christian Nadeau, Verdun, Quebec


A brief “bravo” for your The Dogwatch piece on Cal 20s in that San Francisco Bay race. Half of my sailing fleet is a Cal 20, a sweet boat. I bought mine as a temporary boat, but promptly fell in love with her good manners and capable sailing. That’s why I’ve got two sailboats. Can’t part with either one. The other is a Seafarer Polaris that I’ve been sailing since 1968.

–Chris Campbell, Traverse City, Michigan


Just a quick correction to your Websightings column (“Feeling Serene?” Good Old Boat, March 2018). In Canada, it is only registered boats that must have unique names. Registration is required for all commercial boats, and recreational boats over a certain size/displacement. (A boat may optionally be registered, although I’m not sure why a person would go through the hassle and ongoing bureaucratic expense to register their boat only to end up with a name that has a number in it to keep the name unique, Mario 56 or Jennifer 87.) The names of licensed Canadian boats do not have to be unique, which is true for most every recreational boat. Licensing with the Canadian government is optional for all pleasure boats and required for pleasure boats with more than a 10 HP motor (unless the boat is registered). For licensed boats, the name is irrelevant, only the license number matters. I don’t know this, but I suspect you’re going to find much the same regulations for U.S. boats and that commercial U.S. vessels have a requirement for unique names as well.

–Alan Rothenbush, Vancouver, British Columbia

Thanks for the clarification Alan. It’s the same and different in the States. Like Canada, state-registered vessels can be named whatever the owner wishes, as the name is irrelevant (sounds like state registration in the US is akin to licensing in Canada). And Federally documented vessels (akin to Canadian-registered vessels) must be named, whether private or commercial. But unlike Canada, documented vessels do not have to have a unique name. My own boat, Del Viento, shares her name with both a recently scrapped 487-foot freighter and a 31-foot sailboat in Oceano, California. –Michael Robertson


Bent Nail TechnologyI read with great interest Dan Spurr’s article on repair of soggy balsa core under stanchion bases (“Building a Solid Base,” Good Old Boat, March 2018). My interest was high because over four decades of sailboat ownership I have performed many deck repairs on several boats where moisture had infiltrated the balsa coring of the deck.

In making repairs like Dan’s repair of the stanchion bases on his Pearson 365, I created a very simple tool that removes much of the tedium from the work, as well as speeding up most similar projects. I call it “bent-nail technology.”

It’s simply a nail bent 90 degrees and inserted into a power drill. I inserted the nail through each existing bolt hole in the deck and then the powered up the drill. The rotating nail would loosen and chop-up the offending wet balsa, which I could then suck out through the bolt holes with a shop vac.

The length of the bent end of the nail can be varied depending on how much balsa needs to be removed from around each bolt hole. I never experienced any difficulty inserting the bent part of the nail into wet balsa. Using bent-nail technology often eliminated the need to remove fiberglass deck laminate as Dan did for his project.

Dan was fortunate that moisture around the bolt holes in his stanchion bases did not migrate far. He cited Everett Pearson’s experiment with a submerged balsa board and his conclusion that water does not migrate far through balsa coring. My experience challenges Pearson’s conclusion.

My 1974 Ranger 37 had a substantial section of the balsa-cored port-side deck that was saturated. Much of the wet core was feet from the point of water entry (electrolytic-corroded 5/16-inch stainless-steel bolts attaching a large aluminum chain plate cover).

I later owned a 30-foot racer/cruiser that was built in large numbers during the 1980’s. This boat’s balsa-cored hull was wet from stem to stern on the starboard bottom. Much of the wet balsa core was as much as ten feet from the nearest through-hull fitting. (The hull for this model was laid-up in two halves, possibly explaining the absence of migration of moisture to the port half.)

Subsequently, I owned another 30-foot racer/cruiser built in 1987, purchased when it was fourteen-years old. This was a custom build using epoxy and vacuum bagging. The balsa in the deck was bone dry when I bought the boat and it remained that way for another ten years. Along the way I installed a new depth transducer. At some point, the bedding compound around the transducer failed and admitted moisture into the balsa core. When I sold the boat, a moisture meter showed a high moisture content in the hull in about a nine-inch radius around the transducer.

Obviously, because my observations did not come from controlled experiments, I cannot definitively refute the industry lore that moisture does not migrate through balsa. On the other hand, if I accept that moisture does not migrate through balsa, I’m left to conclude that the water in my hulls and decks traveled between the core and the hull skins, and that these boats were therefore built with egregiously little adhesion of the core to the laminates. I think this would be a difficult argument to make, especially in the case of the boat with the vacuum bagged hull.

–Ed McKeever, Osprey, Florida


Last month I put it to the readers about radar reflectors. I wanted to get a sense of how dedicated people are to using them. I wanted to know if anyone had been able to compare signatures with and without a reflector (such as by being in communication with a radar-equipped vessel while raising and lowering a reflector). I wanted to know if anyone considered radar reflectors ineffective or not worth the time and hassle. –Eds.

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The Dogwatch Mail Buoy – March 2018


I have a dear old friend who owns an old Newport 30 MK III. I have been trying to get my hands on a set of line drawings, so I can make him a half-model of his beloved Summer Place. Is there anybody among The Dogwatch readership who can help me find these drawings? My friend is getting to the stage where he lives on old stories and doesn’t get out much due to advancing years and I think sitting in the arm chair would be made a lot easier if he could gaze at his beloved boat in the form of a half-model. Many thanks. Please contact me at

–Glenn Wakefield, Victoria, British Columbia


I just read the February issue of The Dogwatch. The next time you’re stirring the pot on anchor choices (a subject as likely to provoke violence as politics or religion), how about asking whether anybody else uses an old Northill? I’ve got one as a backup on my Seafarer Polaris, a 26-foot sloop. The Northill originally served as one of two anchors for a four-barrel swimming raft in Lake Huron’s Saginaw Bay, a tough job.

–Chris Campbell, Traverse City, Michigan

Interestingly, the Northill was the new-generation anchor of its day (its day being the 1930s). It was made in Los Angeles and was standard equipment aboard Pan American Airways because of its relatively light weight. –Michael Robertson
Image courtesy of


Regarding the recent The Dogwatch discussion on anchors: maybe New Englanders know something the rest of us don’t. Of all the replies on anchors, only two respondents, both from New England, spoke glowingly of the fisherman or yachtsman anchor. No anchor from any maker is good for all bottoms, but the yachtsman comes closest. It is particularly good in reedy conditions as you will find in Northeast harbors. I am guessing that people don’t like this anchor because it is difficult to store, but the modern ones come apart for flat storage. Two companies still make them: Kingston Anchors of Kingston, Ontario, and J.M. Reineck & Son of Hull, Massachusetts.

–William Winslow, New York, New York

I was surprised that there were any — let alone two — die-hard Fisherman anchor advocates to emerge from this narrow field of respondents, but pleased that they did. In the mid-1990’s, I saw Alvah Simon speak in Ventura, California. This was before North to the Night was published and before he began his relationship with Cruising World. He spoke about his trip around Cape Horn and cruising the Beagle Channel of Chile and Argentina. During that talk, he sang the praises of the Fisherman anchor. Accordingly, when I set out (on a much more modest voyage) as a neophyte cruiser in 1996 aboard a Newport 27, I lugged with me a way-too-big-and-heavy Fisherman anchor, all the way down to Panama and up to Florida. I never used it, but, by golly, if Alvah sang its praises, I was going to have it aboard. –Michael Robertson


Sextant illustration by Fritz Seegers
Illustration by Fritz Seegers

Last month I put it to the readers about my willingness to cross an ocean without knowledge of celestial navigation, with a total reliance on GPS satellites and the corresponding electronics aboard. Reckless or totally reasonable? The U.S. Naval Academy has made it clear where they stand, but I wanted to hear from you… –Eds.

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The Dogwatch Mail Buoy – February 2018

This was the first of several such aids to navigation we passed heading into Canada’s Victoria Harbour, on Vancouver Island, in 2012. The reason for keeping close to the yellow buoys was to avoid a collision with floatplanes. As Southern California sailors just up from Mexico, this was all new to us. Heading further north during the following year, it soon became our normal. –Michael Robertson Send your favorite hi-res photo of an aid to navigation, be creative. If we use your pic in Good Old Boat magazine I’ll send you a Good Old Boat cap or shirt.


I am dismayed that you would publish (and in-effect endorse) Tom Alley’s installation of an “OUTDOOR USE ONLY” propane stove for his Alberg 35 (“A New Galley Stove,” Good Old Boat, January 2018).

Why would Good Old Boat approve this feature article for publication, and in doing so reassure others that this is an acceptable installation?

I contacted the manufacturer [of the stove Tom purchased], and learned there are no safety valves for the stove-top burners. The instructions for this stove clearly state that this stove/oven is NOT to be used in any enclosed facilities, including a boat. Further, nothing is mentioned in your “Propane Safety” inset box concerning the requirement of having safety valves (thermocouples) for all propane stoves used in boats. Featuring this re-fit improperly encourages others to consider this cheap and dangerous installation.

It is simply foolish to use this stove indoors. My harsh criticism is only meant to emphasize that this installation is just plain wrong. I would expect that Tom Alley, who is a Power Squadron Education Officer — or you — to follow-up on this article by telling your readers, “don’t try this at home (on your boat), it could be dangerous to your health.”

–Denis Vogel, Madison, Wisconsin

Thank you for your feedback Denis. You are not the only reader to bring this up. We’re running your letter here and another letter in the March issue of Good Old Boat so that this message reaches as many readers as possible.

To be clear, it was not our intent to imply that Tom’s budget alternative to cooking aboard is on par, safety-wise, with an ABYC-approved marine stove. And two other points are worth noting. First, this is a straight R&R as the stove that was installed originally aboard this half-century-old boat was also a camp stove. Second, Tom wisely ditched the regulator that came with this stove and used the one attached (outdoors) to his propane tank. –Eds.


The setup aboard Tomfoolery when I became her owner was a camp stove with a 1-pound propane bottle stored in a drawer in the galley. There was no propane locker, no propane sniffer, and no solenoid/safety shutoff. And all of this was right next to a gasoline engine! We had a bilge blower, but the only real safety device on board was the operator and his/her nose. It had been like this for 31 years. We learned to be careful, as propane and gasoline are similar in terms of behavior and risk. Multiple boat fires in our marina (one of them fatal, all caused by gasoline) ensured we remained vigilant until such time as we could improve things. As we were a  young family and only doing the occasional overnight, we didn’t cook much, if at all, on the boat.

Fast forward some years and we made improvements as the kids grow up and the trips got longer. We upgraded the propane system and connected to a larger tank on-deck (where it is ventilated); we installed a propane solenoid and a propane sniffer; and we replaced the stove (upgraded in function but not necessarily in quality) and moved all high-pressure propane lines outside the boat. A few more years down the road the camp stove is going to wear out (I have no illusions about the longevity of a cheap stove in a marine environment) and we can then replace it with a better, safer model after colleges get paid off. Like most things sailing, this is a journey and we are moving along at a constrained, but deliberate pace.

Another thing I consider is that many product warnings have more to do with liability than with actual risk. (Have you read a box of toothpicks lately?) The outdoor-use-only warning could easily be as much a caution about CO poisoning and oxygen depletion than about explosion risk. (Your readers can rest assured that Tomfoolery has not one, but two working CO detectors mounted in the main cabin and that we use the stove only with ports opened to provide ventilation and we never use it to heat the cabin.) A prerequisite to sailing successfully is having some common sense. One needs to know, and understand, the risks involved. Using a device properly and keeping it maintained is probably more important than an ABYC certification.

Tom AlleyGood Old Boat contributor


Last month I put it to the readers about new-generation anchors (such as Mantus, Rocna, Sarca, Raya, Manson): Have you (would you?) traded from old to new? Have you noticed a difference? I offered that we use a 66-pound Bruce that has been dependable, yet were money no object, I’d purchase a new-generation anchor in a heartbeat. A big one. Am I alone? Understandably, I got a lot of feedback on this one… –Eds.

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The Dogwatch Mail Buoy – January 2018

Mail Buoy Photo January 2018
Dave Taft sent this photo of the Goose Rocks Light in the Fox Island Thoroughfare (between Vinalhaven and North Haven, Maine). Dave and his wife, Anne, sail Talisman, a 1982 Sabre 38, the couple’s third Sabre! Send your favorite hi-res photo of an aid to navigation.


Granted some boats are too small for a pedestal, but I don’t think many are too large for a tiller. So last month I put it to you: If you’ve got wheel steering do you long for a tiller? Are you with a tiller wishing for a wheel? Reader Allen LeBlanc is very happy with the tiller on his Tanzer 26 and reader Joseph Pitoniak appreciates the benefits a tiller offers, but is happy for the wheel on his Pearson 31 as it eases the steering workload and doesn’t aggravate his sciatica. Reader and Good Old Boat contributor Jim Shell says he’s in the I-don’t-care category. I didn’t hear from anyone with a tiller wishing for a wheel — though I know they’re out there, plenty of boats in the 28- to 30-foot range get converted all the time. –MR

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The Dogwatch Mail Buoy – December 2017


As I was reading Jerry Thompson’s article on how to maintain trailer wheel bearings (“Keep that Trailer Rollin’,” November 2017) I happened to see a sidebar in which he refers to “the Gloucester 22 I just bought.” I owned a Gloucester 22 for 17 years, up until it it was hit by a piling at the marina in Florida and sank, all a result of Hurricane Irma. I towed it to the landfill a couple of days ago. Before the hurricane, I took off a mainsail and headsail, both in excellent condition and made specifically for this boat. I also have an excellent engine for this boat and miscellaneous parts, including a spinnaker and a drifter and a roller furler for the genoa. I also have the trailer. I am now selling it all. Any Gloucester 22 owner might be interested. For photos and contact info, see my website:

The photo is of my Gloucester 22 being salvaged at the dock. It is a shame, she was a great boat. I had a lot of fun with her.
–Brian Beaudry, Tierra Verde, Florida

Mail Buoy
Earl Keister captured this photo of Magic, an Alerion-Class Sloop built in 1980 and sailed by his uncle, Alfred Sanford. Magic is a precise replica of the sailboat Nat Herreshoff built for himself in 1912. Also pictured is Nantucket Island’s iconic Brant Point Light, off the coast of Massachusetts. Send your favorite hi-res photo of an aid to navigation, be creative. If we use your pic in Good Old Boat magazine I’ll send you a Good Old Boat cap or shirt.


Last month I put it to the readers about lithium-ion battery technology on sailboats: Is it time? It seems nobody is on the fence regarding this issue, and we’re not all on the same side of the fence. –Eds.

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The Dogwatch Mail Buoy – November 2017

Rick Shepler captured these photogenic pelagic cormorants hanging out on a marker off Port of Everett, Washington. Rick got his bird’s-eye view from the cockpit of Capella, his Cal 25 MkII.


If Mr. Hipp had contacted a local beekeeper (“The Epic Bee Saga,” The Dogwatch, October 2017) he could have saved himself a lot of trouble and money. Take it from a former beekeeper, the way to get rid of bees is to smoke them out. Bee supply shops sell a portable smoker for $25 or so. Research has shown that when smoke invades a hive, its occupants think their home is on fire and rush out. If the queen goes, they will follow her. Watch for exit holes and plug them up so the bees can’t return. You may have to smoke several times. You will still have to clean out wax and honey. Where do you find a local apiarist? Call the police. They keep a list from which they can summon a beekeeper when bees swarm and cluster around traffic lights and telephone poles.
–William Winslow


In October’s The Dogwatch, I asked about what you think of furling mainsails. They’re everywhere, is that a good thing? Following are a few responses.—Eds.

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February 2019 Edition

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