About Ed Sherman

Ed Sherman is a regular contributor to boats.com, as well as to Professional Boatbuilder and Cruising World, where he previously was electronics editor. He also is the curriculum director for the American Boat and Yacht Council. Previously, Ed was chairman of the Marine Technology Department at the New England Institute of Technology. Ed’s blog posts appear courtesy of his website, EdsBoatTips.

Mystic Seaport Classic Yacht Rendezvous

This past weekend I had the honor of being one of the judges for the annual Mystic Seaport Classic Yacht rendezvous.

This is an event I always look forward to because I get a chance to see some really beautiful boats. Beyond that I also get a chance to see up close and in great detail what efforts have been made in any restoration efforts. Some of the owners are really handy and do a fantastic job with these old gems. I’m jealous of the amount of free time they have to accomplish all that they do.

This year as I looked at the boats in the grouping I was responsible for (power boats under 40′) I found myself reflecting on where we have been and where we have come in terms of technology. I also found myself thinking about the ABYC Standards for recreational boats as they exist today, and how they have evolved since 1954, in large part due to lessons learned the hard way over time. My next few installments here are going to graphically illustrate the where we are and where we were, and the why we needed to make changes along the way.

So, to start out I’ll begin with something seemingly basic, engine instrumentation. First the old:

What you see above was found on a mid-thirties built boat that had  been re-powered during its lifetime with some Chrysler Crown engines. Understand that from a safety perspective, the ABYC considers engine instrumentation and monitoring quite important. After all, if your engine quits on you at the wrong moment, you could be in serious danger. The cluster above includes a tachometer, water temperature, oil pressure and alternator voltage output from each of the twin engines. So, you can monitor an engine’s vital signs while underway, and with enough knowledge, react and affect repairs if needed before things reach a crisis state. This of course assumes you understand what the instruments are telling you. The way I explain this to most people is quite simple. Establish what the norm is for your gauge readings. Anything other than the norm means something is changing and needs attending to. Keep an eye on your engine gauges all the time when underway.

Now for the new, to compare and contrast:

The shot above is also of a twin engine installation package. Besides the two electronic engine monitor gauges in the upper right corner we see a Raymarine multi-function display and an electronic compass and some other miscellaneous displays. So, in an area not too much larger than the mid-thirties instrument cluster we can not only monitor engine status, but have access to a full-color chart plotter, perhaps with a radar overlay of the waters around you, and have depth information at your figertips. The electronic engine monitors are also equipped with a series of audible alarms that will activate if engine temperature exceeds a preset value, it may have an alarm if maximum engine rpms are exceeded and an alarm that could be activated for just about anything the engine manufacturer decided was important. Oh, and let’s not forget the ability to automatically reduce engine rpms to a “get home” level if the situation is deemed critical…..by the onboard computer.

So where am I going with this?

Well, as I get older, and in spite of the fact that I’ve spent my entire career playing on the bleeding edge of technology, I’m starting to long for the days when things were a bit simpler and all you needed to get by were some basic skills to help control the outcome of things. I guess I’m a bit worried that the average boater today doesn’t have those basic skills and the equipment manufacturers are forced to engineer that missing knowledge into the equipment they produce.

Computer controlled is becoming a scary notion to me.

Magnetic Interference Explained

Every now and then you hear a story about someone who’s autopilot does some strange things when someone else on board uses the head and hits the macerator button or the vacu-flush. Or maybe they are down below washing the dishes and using the pressure water system on board when the autopilot starts steering a strange course. Or, maybe you’ve noticed that when you’re moving along in a thick fog and steering by your compass, and you suddenly turn on the windshield wipers the compass moves 20 degrees off your course.

All of these strange incidents are usually caused by electro-magnetic interference and it can be found all over your boat with a simple tool that costs about $100 that I’ve added to Ed’s Tool Box. The tool is called a gauss meter and I’ve been using the one shown below for some time now to help me sort out these odd problems.


The tool is actually about the size of an iPod and is super sensitive, being able to read milligauss levels of magnetic field strength.

Before you use one you need to understand a basic electrical principle that I explain at length in my book entitled Advanced Marine Electrics and Electronics Troubleshooting. If you’re reading this, you may be interested in getting the book, which is available on this site through Amazon.com . Just click on the link on the left side of the home page.

Anyhow, back to the principle….Understand that any wire that has electrical current flowing through it has a magnetic field surrounding it. The strength of that magnetic field is proportional to the amount of current (amperes). Electrical appliances also have a magnetic field surrounding them. The strength will vary based on the design of the device and specific technology used within the device. The gauss meter can find these magnetic fields and help you to establish what I refer to as a “safe zone of separation” between either a wire or device. To learn more about this, click on the button at the top of the home page for this site labeled Ed’s Tool Box.

More Ethanol Fuel Horrors

Does using ethanol blended fuel make you feel green? Or, do you worry about the fuel’s impact on your engine or boat’s fuel tank?

Every boater has read one article or another about the horrors of alcohol in their fuel and its impact on such things as fiberglass fuel tanks, its overall lack of stability and propensity for attracting water into your fuel tank.

 Most of you have probably heard or read that the EPA has been trying to up the allowed blend from 10% to 15% and the boating industry, primarily the NMMA (National Marine Manufacturers Assiciation) has been pushing back on this, for good reason.

The truth is, most folks have probably not considered how mis-guided this whole ethanol thing really is. Truth is, all we are really doing his helping out a segment of the farming community, and of course their lobbying people are all for increasing the blend to 15%. Not because these folks are super green tree huggers either, but for the $$$$$$$$$$$$$$$ involved.

Well today a link came in over the wires that helps to explain some of this madness and I have to share it: http://www.followthescience.org/

Check it out if you are interested in a dose of reality regarding Ethanol blended fuels.

Interlux Launches New Web Site

Yesterday Interlux announced its new web site at www.yachtpaint.com The site includes video, interactive tools and even a section where Interlux users can interact. Choosing the right product to use for a given application is going to be easy with this site’s detailed application info.

Additionally, the “Paint your Boat” section will allow you to see how different colors available will look on your boat. There’s an “ask the experts” section to deal with technical issues the site itself doesn’t answer.

To date, this is by far the best web site I’ve seen to help answer paint application questions and to find the best choice within a myriad of choices. The site is available in 27 languages, which I also found rather impressive.  Check it out!

Speed Coatings Compared

Speed Coatings Compared, and Not Just For Speed

This comes as the result of a question from Tom Bandoni, who is curious about the best product to use for his Aquarius 22 beach catamaran. He doesn’t want to use anti-fouling bottom paint, and is definitely interested in maximizing boat speed. He’s planning on leaving the boat in the water for a while and is of course concerned about fouling growth on the bottom. He’s perfectly willing to wipe down the boat’s undersides occasionally vs. using a poisonous anti-fouling paint system.

After a bit of research the available choices seem to narrow down to three primary options, each with very different approaches to solving this problem. Let’s begin with the most radical.

HullSpeed performance marine coatings are manufactured by Greenfield Manufacturing here in the US and are an epoxy/silicone blend that can be applied much like paint, providing a super slick coating. This system has been used in commercial, military and performance power and sailboat applications. This is not a system that is going to meet Tom’s requirements as the prep work involved before the coating is applied will be considerable. But, on a new build, or major bottom job, this is an intriguing option. Let’s say you were going to strip your boat’s bottom and apply an epoxy barrier coating anyway………this is the sort of coating that may have appeal to some boaters. The manufacturer claims that if kept clean, that is the occasional wipe down to make sure things like barnacles are not adhering to the bottom, several years of service can be expected from a typical 5 mil coating thickness. This can be further enhanced with the addition of a top coat from their product line called “SuperGlide”, which will reduce drag even further. The SuperGlide gets applied over the HullSpeed base coating simply by rubbing it on with a clean towel, much like applying conventional wax. The difference here is that this product is actually a catalyzed epoxy. Once the coating has been applied, buff it out in a circular motion.

You can find out more about the HullSpeed products by visiting www.hullspeed.us

Keep in mind that with the coatings mentioned here, there are two things to take into consideration, one is creating a surface that will enhance boat speed and reduce fuel consumption (in the case of power boats) but also to create a surface that is so slippery, that marine growth will have a hard time adhering to it.

Next up is a product called “Aqua Speed” made by German company Holmenkol. Unlike the above mentioned HullSpeed system, Aqua Speed is an ablative product that utilizes nanotechnology to fill microscopic voids in the base surface to achieve its extreme slipperiness. But, because it is ablative, service life will not be as long as with Hullspeed. In fact, the manufacturer claims that their base coat, called “Sport Polish” will last up to 12 months and the top coat, or Aqua Speed will last 5-7 days, but can be reapplied as needed over the Spot Polish base coat. As with the HullSpeed product, all old coatings and waxes must be completely removed before application.

 It’s interesting to note that nanotechnology itself has raised many questions among some international groups about the toxicity and environmental impact of nano-materials, something that I’m sure can cause hours of debate among chemists. To find out more go to: www.envere.com (US distributor).

Last but by no means least in this round-up, Team McLube’s HullKote. For the environmentally concerned, this product is perhaps the friendliest of all. Its citrus based and its OSHA status is non-hazardous. The product’s MSDS (material safety data sheet) lists its ingestion impact as “low oral toxicity”, sort of like drinking a Margarita. Don’t try that with any of these products of course, but as a point of comparison the epoxy based Hullspeed could kill you and the Aqua Speed is quite questionable. The Aqua Speed sheet tells you to wear solvent protective gloves when working with the stuff, and not to induce vomiting if swallowed and does describe its ecotoxical effects this way: “Contains water polluting substances/water polluting classification: I/II.” Not sure how severe that is, suffice to say this stuff is not apple juice. All of the MSDS sheets for these products are extremely vague due to the proprietary nature of these products. But McLube claims that their product is considered GRAS (generally recognized as safe) by the FDA.

As for the McLube product, it certainly has received a lot of testimonials from the sailboat racing set as to its effectiveness. When you check out their website (www.mclubemarine.com) it seems like half the US Olympic sailing team and Volvo Ocean Race participants have something great to say about the products.

McLube HullKote is also the easiest to apply of the three products. It both cleans and polishes in one step according to the manufacturer. So, if the bottom surface is just bare gel-coat, you should be good to go. But in fairness, if your boat’s bottom has already had anti-foulant pain on it, just like the other products, you are going to have to get that all off first. But, once down to a relatively smooth surface, the McLube is just wipe on wipe off. Mclube claims it will last 20 days with hard use and certainly some of the Volvo Ocean race participants have confirmed this in their testimonials. With 2-3 coats of the HullKote, McLube claims it will last over 30 days in service.

So, my answer to Tom’s question is this: I am environmentally concerned and based on everything I can compare with these three products and his expectations, it seems like the McLube HullKote, with a service life of 20-30 days and an FDA “endorsement”, might just do the job for him quite nicely.

Boston Whaler Joins With Costco

It was announced earlier today that Boston Whaler has cut a deal with Costco that will offer buyers an opportunity to save up to $2000 toward the purchase of one of Boston Whaler’s small boat models.

You won’t actually find the boat sitting on the floor at a Costco store. The company will be working with nearby dealers as a part of this promotional effort and will offer cash certificates that can be turned into the savings as I understand it.

This is not the first boat company to team up with Costco. Sea Ray has had a program in place with them for some time.

The Whaler deal is being run on a trial basis through this September so if you’re interested in one of Boston Whaler’s great small boats, get to a Costco and check it out.

Mid-Season, Check Those Anodes!

A week or so ago I posted some mid-season tips you should consider, like touching up any brightwork on your boat and getting the bottom cleaned to improve both speed and fuel economy. Well, there’s another thing you need to get a look at and deal with, especially if you’re running an outboard engine or IO drive on your boat. The drive anodes. If they are more than 50% consumed, get some new ones installed right away. Remember, once they’re gone the next piece of metal in the corrosion food chain is your engine…………Do I need to say more?

Just in case you don’t know an anode from a fish hook, the diagram above illustrates where you might find them on your engine. Get a look at yours and replace as needed. Just a reminder, many folks call these “zincs”. The best anodes today are actually made of an aluminum alloy. Much better performance and easy to find these days. 

How’s Your Standing Rig?

Recently a surveyor friend in Newport, RI sent me some photographs of some standing rig fittings he had been asked to give an opinion on. The boat was a rather large Oyster ocean going sailing yacht and the issue was that someone had inspected the boat for insurance purposes and stated that all was in good order. The owner of the boat was wise enough to get a second opinion, and so was my friend the surveyor, he asked my opinion. The photos below show some of the fittings.

So, to help the uninitiated here, what you are looking at is caused by crevice corrosion, a topic I’ve discussed on this blog before, but is certainly worth more discussion based on this case. Crevice corrosion is pretty exclusive to stainless steel alloys and is caused by salt water exposure in an oxygen deprived environment.

 In this case the the fittings you see are out on deck, and connect the cables that hold the mast upright on this boat. The boat gets expsoed to salt water spray constantly when underway and some of that water migrates down the multi-strand wire rigging you can see in the upper photo and enters into the barrel of the fitting that secures the end of the cable to the boat, where it gets oxygen deprived. So, what you are looking at is corrosion that began on the inside of the barrel and has managed to corrode all the way through the metal shell of the barrel to the outside of the fitting, severely weakening the strength of the fitting.

Let me keep this simple, the insurance evaluator in this case was incompetent. What you see here is a potentially dangerous situation that could easily be the cause of the mast on this particular boat falling over in a heavy wind situation, when it’s all loaded up to maximum strain.

The bottom line? The owner here was wise to think of the situation in medical terms. You don’t like what your doctor tells you? Get a second opinion, and if necessary a third. Sometimes your gut feelings are the best feelings. You see rust on stainless steel……..ask yourself what is or could be happening and deal with it sooner than later.




Hella LED Lights Now Offer Ignition Protection

Hella just announced that several of their LED lights have been certified to meet Ignition Portection requirements as set forth by international requirements. This solves a problem that has been on-going for some time, finding compliant lighting for engine rooms, fuel tank areas and on newer boats, on-board tender or jet ski garages.

Both the new DuraLED and EuroLED series of lights are now compliant with ignition protection standards of ISO 8846, USCG, ABYC and SAE J1171. The lights are available in several configurations and are shown here:


 The advantages to LED lighting are much cooler running, very low current draw and extended life. Hella has carried that one step further by overcoming one of the bugaboos with some of the earlier LED’s brought into the marine market, voltage variations on board.
There are many reports of pre-mature LED failure due to high voltage spikes in real world situations such as faulty voltage regulators for on board charging systems and such. Hella supplies these lights with integrated “multi-volt technology” that provides consistent lighting and circuit protection from 9-33 VDC, so that historical problem is now in the past.

As for the ignition protection from a safety perspective, the need for electrical components used in any area on the boat where either gasoline or LPG is stored cannot be over-emphasized. Check these lights out if you have that situation on your boat. 

Xantrex Adds To It’s TrueCharge2 Line-up

Xantrex just added a new 60 amp rated battery charger to it’s already successful TRUECharge2  line-up. This is timely as folks keep adding to their battery capacity on board; bigger battery banks need bigger battery chargers and the new TRUECharge2 60 is a well specified unit. The unit has some interesting features that make it a worthy competitor in a very competitive sector of the marine marketplace.

For the Cruising Sailor, the new unit offers truly global AC voltage input that ranges from 90-265 VAC and 47-63 Hz, so it will work anywhere in the world where shorepower is available.

The unit comes with temperature compensation capability, with a three setting standard or optional temperature sensor (recommended) which will add needed input to the micro-processor controlled unit. This allows for more precise voltage and current output while charging batteries, maximizing battery potential life cycles, which is super important today considering the price of quality batteries.  The unit is also programmable for use with all of the popular battery chemistries used today. Of course the TRUECharge is a three phase unit and does come equipped with a fourth equalization phase for those still using traditional flooded cell batteries.

Another super feature set is the size and weight of the unit. Unlike older battery charger designs, this one has as small footprintat only 3.5 X 6.7 X 13.4 inches dimensionally and it only weighs 10 lbs.

Additionally, the TRUECharge 2 60 complies with virtually all of the international Standards for marine battery chargers, like ISO, CSA, ABYC and IEC. the unit is rated for ignition protection so it can be mounted in areas of a boat storing gasoline or with gasoline engines.

This unit comes with a two-year warranty and has a price of $630.  Based on the specifications, this charger is definately worth a look if you are planning an upgrade or setting up a new boat. I’ve got one on order to run through a test sequence and give you an up close and personal look at how it performs, so stay tuned.