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Notes from the IABBS
(excerpts from the magazine)
by Richard "Jud" Henderson

More Tips For The Amateur Builder

While aimed primarily at the sailboat and the designer, this is sound advice for those who design and build their own boats or consider modifications. And much of the advice also applies to power boats.

It was suggested that this article for IABBS concentrate on features related to safety and seamanship. The following 10 suggestions are among those I think are most important and surprisingly they are often overlooked or inadequate on many sailboats whether they are built by amateurs or professionals.

1. Cockpit safety - If the boat does not have a bridge deck, the companionway sill should be well raised. Otherwise, there should be a heavy drop board that can be inserted and locked into the bottom of the companionway opening whenever there is a threat of heavy weather. Even if the boat is sailed in sheltered waters she could be knocked down by a heavy squall. I remember hearing of a boat with a low sill sinking in one of the Chesapeake Bay's most protected harbors after she was knocked down by a sudden squall before the sails could be lowered. She lay on her side and water rushed below over the low sill quickly filling and sinking her.

2. Water tightness - Another safeguard against down flooding is to locate all hatches on the boat's centerline. White squalls or downbursts, as they are now called, are not uncommon in clear weather when hatches are open. One offshore sailor of my acquaintance experienced three severe knockdowns from white squalls and he became a strong advocate of on-center hatches. Be sure there are proper hatch dogs and that all vents can be covered.

3. Accessibility - On many stock boats liners or ceilings obstruct accessibility to the interior of the hull and overhead where chain plates, bolts, nuts, etc. need periodic inspection and possible servicing. Of course there should be good access to the engine, Filters, tanks, stuffing boxes, batteries, valves and the steering quadrant, but this is often not the case.

4. Heeling considerations - Seldom are there adequate fiddles on shelves or rails on the cabin table to keep books and other items from falling (or flying) when the boat heels. Even powerboats and multihulls can roll to considerable angles. As for friction latches on locker doors, don't consider them unless you intend boating on a Disney World pond!

5. Motion considerations - Unless you are on that Disney pond, our boat will be thrown around by waves. Even on protected waters on calm days there will be powerboat waves. To prevent falls and alleviate injuries from being thrown off balance there should be ample bolted-on grab rails above and below deck. There should be no sharp corners on a boat, and objects such as bolts, beams, or knees with which a person could make contact should be padded. Needless to say, all slippery surfaces must be skid-proofed.

6. Bilge - Many modern boats with canoe bodies and bolted-on fin keels lack a sump for bilge water. This means that any water in the bilge, which is often oily or otherwise unattractive, will roll up under the bunks and into lockers when the boat heels or rolls. Bolted-on fins are best when secured to a keel stub which can house a sump. Be sure that all keel bolt nuts are accessible. Limber holes and drains for keel-stepped masts are seldom adequate. Inside ballast must be securely wedged or fastened in the bilge.

7. Mast step - All too often, when the mast is deck stepped, there is inadequate support under the mast. Apparently many builders or designers don't fully appreciate the enormous downward thrust of a mast when the rigging is set up and the boat is close hauled in a fresh breeze. I favor a metal pipe under the mast. resting on substantial floors when this is possible. Otherwise a metal beam straddling heavy vertical posts.

8. Plumbing - Another aspect of water tightness, a very important one, has to do with plumbing. All hoses penetrating the hull should be fitted with valves, preferably seacocks (rather than gate valves). Fixed bilge pumps often need high loops with siphon breakers to prevent back siphoning when the boat heels. The top of a flow-through head should be above the waterline because valves can fail. Sinks are best located near the boat's centerline to prevent flooding when heeled, and unless the engine exhaust line has a high loop there should be a cutoff valve at the exhaust outlet.

9. Electrical - Careless electrical installations can result in not only loss of power, but also fires and serious corrosion. The safest policy is to follow the standards set forth by the American Boat and Yacht Council. Underwater metals need sacrificial zincs (or magnesiums) to protect against galvanic corrosion, and whenever possible compatible metals (those close together on the galvanic scale) should be used. When not possible, a durable barrier must be used to isolate the incompatible metals. Many boats are not grounded for lightning protection, but it is certainly advisable in areas where there are frequent thunderstorms.

10, Rig - A book could be (and has been) written on the subject of safe and seamanlike rigs, but what follows are a few important points. Probably more serious accidents aboard a sailboat result from crew being "beaned" by the main boom. Make sure the boom is sufficiently high above the cockpit. Surprisingly often, the boom is too long to clear the permanent backstay during a goose wing jibe. Many contemporary racers forego the permanent backstay for runners, but this risks loss of the mast if a runner is not set up promptly and properly after changing tacks. Double lower shrouds with ample fore and aft spread between their chain plates help prevent the mast from pumping in a seaway and could prevent its loss, a definite possibility when sailing under a large jib alone. All measure should be taken to prevent chafe and metal fatigue. This means that blocks are swiveled, that chain plates and tangs are properly aligned to prevent back and forth bending, and that toggles are used between a stay or shroud's terminal fitting and its chain plate or stemhead fitting.