The overflow from this month's postbag

Daylight Piracy
Re Kerry Atkey’s letter ‘Daylight piracy’ about Salcombe Harbour (December issue). This year the harbour authority reported 1,500 fewer nights spent by visiting yachts in Salcombe. It was blamed on lack of shops for re-provisioning. But I feel Kerry Atkey hit on the major reason for the decline. Not only is there an absence of facilities, the mooring charges for a buoy are astronomical and it’s only marginally cheaper if you anchor and if you want to go ashore in the water taxi you need to take out a second mortgage. This is a shame for it’s a lovely harbour.
R P Axon, Modbury, Devon (by email)

Is this the reefing epilogue ?
There has been a readers’ letter each month commenting on Tom Cunliffes’ article on mainsail reefing (YM June). As skipper of the Halberg Rassy 36 on the trial I would like to comment.
The object of the exercise was to compare reefing methods? In the July issue Mr Pratt condemns the in-mast style. However, since he writes that his experience is only when he charters I would suspect that he is less than familiar with the system and being a charter boat it may not be in the best condition.
I have stood on the coach roof as the wind picks up and my wife is not happy left on the helm with me hanging on with one hand as I fight to get in another slab. In the August issue Mr Camper seems to think in-mast is best for him he has two metal hips. As my wife has one she agrees.
In the September issue Mr Simpson comments on the advantage of vertical battens that can have additional roach to help performance but the test was not comparing performance. His comments about headsails which might also jam having similar “mechanics” is also interesting.
In the October issue Mr Zimmerlin makes favourable reference to the in-mast system.
I started all this reefing test by E-mailing Tom asking him to do an article on getting the best out of in-mast sails. He and YM’s Miles Kendall cooked up the idea of comparing the three systems. A date was set but the 40 Knots across the deck was not part of the plan!
I was carrying more sail than the other two and was distinctly more comfortable, and indeed was able to take in or shake out mainsail reefs at ease on any angle to the wind. There is, in my opinion, no such thing as “The Perfect Boat” . It’s a case of which compromise suits you best. I have owned light boats with slab reefing at the mast, with lazyjacks with and without a “stack pack” and also with the American Dutchman system, which I preferred. On my Rassy everything is controlled from the cockpit, perhaps I may go to Vertical Battens one day?
Tom was most kind in referring to my age as being seventy, actually both my wife and I are both in our eighties, and still able to sail together alone, SURELY THAT’S ALL THAT MATTERS”
Rex and Joyce Woodgate on ‘Rise’n’Shine too’ – and may it stay that way for a few years yet ! (by email)

High profile guinea pig?
In response to Nigel Calder’s desire to own an electric engine, I would caution that it is still very early days and I hope he enjoys being a high-profile guinea pig: no doubt he will get rather better support than I did when I installed a Solomon system in my 42ft aluminium catamaran .
As Nigel rightly points out, the Solomon system is heavy (because of the 12 x batts to run the engines at 144v DC) and expensive: the generator alone costing around £8000. The one recommended to me turned out to not produce enough power to enable me to fully utilize the engines: this resulted in my having to buy another more powerful generator.
Throughout this process neither Solomon nor HFL (the generator manufacturer) offered any kind of financial help in this expensive mistake: HFL would not even take in the generator in part exchange for the new one.
Having said that, the Solomon engines have performed faultlessly over 2 years. Apart from not being able to use them at more than 2/3rds of their rated output, they have done everything that Solomon said they would.
One important difference between their system and the ones being contemplated by Mr Calder , is that they will run for several hours off the batteries alone and also you are able to generate power whilst sailing. This makes for an important, if not vital, redundancy to the system. For coastal sailing, there is nothing to beat the delight in being able to shift anchorages and go on and off marinas with the silence of electric engines. Generators are not as reliable as a “normal” diesel engine, for obvious reasons, so I would hesitate before installing a system that had a single engine and would not function when the genny breaks down (which will happen!).
At least with my system I can motor for a few hours with no genorator and if I’m ocean sailing then keeping the batteries topped up with the regenerating power of the feathering props is simple.
With my particular catamaran which has shallow rounded hulls, installing 2 x diesels in the hulls would have put a lot of weight aft, which it was not designed for, as well as rendering the two aft cabins useless as they would have become engine rooms.The electric engines are light and small so I was able to put the weight (ie the batteries) into the centre of the starboard hull which greatly improved the stability and balance of the boat which previously had a large heavy 65hp Isuzu truck engine under the saloon table with a heavy centre “pod”. So, for all these reasons, installing the electric engines made some sort of sense.
With a monohull and a single engine, I can see no valid reason for not having a diesel engine that powers a propeller in the traditional way, especially if you are having direct drive with no battery storage. Whilst there might be some theories about “efficiency” which make sense, there’s nothing to beat a stonking diesel in the face of 30 knots of headwind. I use the engines quite often to “nudge” the boat here or there: if I had to start the generator every time I wanted to use the engines: why not just have an engine? Anyhow, Good Luck and welcome to the world of expensive beta-testing!
Oliver Stapleton (by email).

An offer for Nigel?
I have followed the progress of Nigel Calder’s Malo with interest in the last few issues of your excellent magazine and am surprised that he wishes to sell it so soon. I feel sorry for Nigel that he should sell it quickly. I would like to offer him the occasional use of my boat, meantimewhile. Unfortunately, she has vintage, analogue instruments reading in feet and fathoms, no wind instruments and no chart plotter. But she sails like a dream and I can definitely say the sun is just as warm, the wind as steady, the dolphins as playful and the harbours as welcoming as he is used to.
Trevor Jones(by email)

Boat of future technology
I have just read your article on the new power distribution systems available for boating. It was informative and has peaked my interest since I’m currently in the process of building a cruising catamaran. My plans were to start the electrical wiring of the boat in the next two weeks but after seeing your article I will hold off until I can research two cable PDM’s.
Greg Veselica (by email)

From Nigel Calder
I have been getting a number of enquiries about the viability of retrofitting a distributed power system to a boat with a conventional electrical system. There are three key issues to bear in mind. 1. You will need to gut the existing system and start again! This will not be cheap!
2. Until we see a lot more boats on the water with these systems, you run the risk of being on the ‘bleeding’ edge of development, rather than the leading edge. I am personally willing to take this risk (if my system is unsuccessful, I can still make money writing about what went wrong!) but I would caution others to wait another year or so (by the end of 2006 there should be thousands of boats with these systems). 3. There will inevitably be an industry-wide shake-out over the next few years in which one or two companies and communications protocols will come out on top. Those jumping in early run the risk of buying a system that rapidly gets sidelined and which may not be supported by the manufacturer in a few years.
Nigel Calder (by email)

Does your boat have any foam insulation? Has your boat got a decorative foam backed vinyl stuck on the deckheads and bulkheads, 2 part foam, or sprayed foam?
The moment this foam starts to powder you are in danger of killing yourself or your crew. The foam in question is a polyurethane foam, it is the only foam that powders. It is broken down into a fine powder through heat and moisture, just what boats in the tropics encounter. It is only a matter of time before this happens.
This powder is highly toxic as are urethane.paints
How do I know that this is toxic? I was unaware of the toxicity of this foam and when I was delivering a Prout Snowgoose 37 from the Canaries to Cape Town the foam backed vinyl that was stuck all over the deckheads and bulkheads started to powder and fall down. It was cosmetic not structural so I did not think it serious.
I ended up with severe edema of the complete respiratory tract and was unable to breath properly for 3 weeks, the 3 crew all had different symptoms and all were affected.
The boat was eventually abandoned and we were rescued by a Spanish long liner, a Korean car carrier and the Brazilians all of whom were fantastic, and to whom we owe our lives. The boat was lost. I ended up in hospital for 10 days on cortisones, antihistamines, and having my lungs washed out. The medical staff at the hospital were super I could not ask for better treatment.
We all still suffer from side effects and pollution makes our lives miserable as the problems come back.
Loraine Cooks had the same problem on her steel boat with the hard version of the foam and got severe dermatitis which, continued for 3 months, with other symptoms after leaving the boat. She still suffers outbreaks, even synthetic clothing materials cause a breakout. The sad thing is that I warned her husband and not only did he not remove the substance from their boat but he did not tell her. She nearly died as a result.
Severe sinusitis, flu type symptoms, itchy eyes and eye damage, sinus, coughs, asthma, reduced respiratory capacity, headache, nausea (mistaken for seasickness), vomiting and irritability, pulmonary edema, phlegm, fatigue, allergic reactions, kidney and liver damage loss of memory and concentration, cancer, miscarriages, birth defects and death are all caused by these toxins. The effects can be both acute and chronic and once sensitized you will have problems for the rest of your life and be in danger of death if exposed again.
Why have the South African Maritime Safety authorities not done anything? I notified SAMSA on my return but they did not follow up. SAMSA Richards Bay has been trying to do something but unsuccessfully.
The MCA want proof but will not bother to get it themselves in spite of their Merchant Shipping Notice No M.782 superseding notice M.592. dated November 1976
Paragraph 6 (a) states ” If these materials are to be used as the insulant they should be covered with a suitable incombustible protective facing. Such storerooms should be sited as remotely as possible from sleeping accommodation, and places of high fire risk. Details of the construction and location of the storerooms will require to be submitted for the approval of the Department’s surveyors.”
Yet they still allow yacht builders to put this substance all over yachts, in galleys and in sleeping accommodation, in fact the Snowgoose was covered in it. The boat we were on was built in 1990 in England, 14 years after the notice. You do not believe me? Try typing polyurethane isocyanates or polyurethane foam into and enjoy the read or go to or just click on “health hazards” on the pages
These are Government health and safety organizations in UK. USA. South Africa and Australia. Or discuss it with the chemical department at your local university, as I did. There is something seriously wrong when those responsible for safety at sea will not listen to their own countries health and safety organizations or marine notices.
I know that ships also still have this stuff on them. You have been warned
E.M. Grant South Africa (by email)
RYA instructor, examiner Ocean Yachtmaster motor and sail

Life-changing experiences
SP Systems has been at the forefront of cutting edge boat-building technology since 1978, producing the fastest, lightest sailing vessels. Over the years we have been asked to support various projects and we recognised that Sir Francis Chichester and Gipsy Moth IV were pioneers in long-distance sailing record attempts. We owed a debt of gratitude for that epic voyage in 1966-67.
Gipsy Moth used the lightest form of construction of her day – cold-moulded mahogany veneers. Today, we use carbon fibre, orientating the direction of fibres to match computer calculated critical load paths.
Yachting Monthly’s campaign to restore Gipsy Moth was an exciting shock. We knew we had to be involved. My memories, as a teenager, seeing the press coverage of Sir Francis rounding Cape Horn and capturing the nation’s imagination, came flooding back. When I sailed on the restored Gipsy Moth, it was hard to believe I was standing on the foredeck where Chichester stood and held the tiller, as he had 40 years ago. Richard Baggett, skipper for the day, explained how the boat is going around the world again and showed me the basic amenities for six crew. I realised how life-changing this experience will be young people. Now, as I receive updates on my mobile phone on Gipsy Moth (the last one telling me they were bound for Cadiz) the true merit of this project is sinking in. Thank you for providing us the opportunity to be involved in such a worthwhile project.
John Billings, SP Systems Ltd (by email)