Tech Net A

Issue: The entire control panel is dead on my Cruisair unit.
The start relay for the compressor might be a problem, and a replacement is easily available.
If compressor is hot but not running then its a start relay problem.
It may be a wiring problem with primary wires on the panel.
Run the unit on an alternate power source to determine if its an internal wiring problem.

Issue: Having trouble with Cruisair A/C heat pump; intermittent electrical failure.
Check for poor contact between the shore power cable and the boat's receptacle.
Check for heat while running.
Although adequate voltage may be present, a poor connection will not allow enough current to pass.

DX Remote & Self-Contained A/C * Installation * Operation by Cruisair; pdf file. (C_Language)


Use dryer sheets around the boat.

Use cedar oil spray. It smells good and it's a natural insect repellent too. You can saturate a cloth and wipe things down. Get the real oil from pet stores, not the imitation. (Shining Star)

Use charcoal made for aquarium purposes. Fill socks with it and stash them around the boat to absorb odor. When its used up, spread charcoal on a cookie sheet and bake at low temp to reactivate. (C_Language, Valkyrie)

Kanberra is a product made from tea-tree oil. Open the inner seal of the can and leave in the boat to prevent mold, mildew, bacteria, fungus, and to control odor. (Five and Dime)


Query: I acquired a used AIS B unit. How can I change the former MMSI number to my own?
It must go back to the manufacturer to change it.
You can change the vessel name yourself on some units.
It has been made deliberately difficult for the user to change the MMSI number to prevent impersonation.

Query: Which AIS receiver should I get?
SeaTech AIS #SR161 Works well, uses almost no power, and is reliable.
It also works on OpenCPN.
However, it will not run on a Garmin chart plotter.

Query: Which vessels are required to have AIS?
A little homework came up with this: 1600 gross ton, required.
International trade over 65' with no passengers.
International tankers.
Passenger vessels over 100' in high traffic with over 100 persons.
And then it gets more complicated. More online. (Salty Paws)

Issue: Nobeltec is not displaying AIS.
A Nobeltec upgrade is needed to run AIS.
Use SeaTech AIS #SR161.

The company has a monopoly on the SR161, so it's hard to find competitive pricing. [Aug 2010]

Issue: AIS to Nobeltec; Windows installs USB-2 serial adapter as COM70. Nobeltec only supports up to COM30.
Remove all related devices.
Disable device drivers.
Reinstall USB-2 serial adapter.

Error when connected to C Series plotter. C Series is off by 400% on time of closest approach report. Raymarine is phasing it out and won't fix it. They recommend upgrading to E Series. (Blessed Spirit)
There's no practical need to find targets beyond 25 or 30 miles.
Mill Tech Marine "Your AIS Expert" carries most brands at better prices.

If you're experiencing a loss of range on the AIS, it may be that the AIS and VHF antennas are too close. Tune VHF to ch 88 and you can hear the AIS signal as a frequency tone. This can help diagnose AIS problems. Watch the red and green LEDs.

Many class B transponders are not broadcasting at usable rates. The info on the screen jumps and varies between 30 seconds to three minutes.(Dyad)
A receiver may have an offset due to the shadow of the mast. (Salty Paws)
Antenna placement can affect B signals.
B class AIS for recreational boaters will transmit your boat information to nearly ten miles. It may also become a power hog; as it transmits constantly. (Shamal)
Look for a class B transponder which has a turn-off switch for transmit, yet allows you to continue receiving. This will save power.

OpenCPN will allow you to ignore certain MMSI numbers, so it won't appear that you're running into yourself. (Dyad)
The output information on AIS (i.e. the text about the vessel) is not necessarily accurate, even though the target is. (Dyad)
If your AIS doesn't seem to work, check your software options to enable AIS. (I Wanda)

Watchmate: AIS for those who have no chart plotter. It's a device with a built-in display. (Barefootin, Itchin, Trumpeter)
Watchmate has internal GPS and good filtering options for targets. (Itchin)
OpenCPN handles AIS right out of the box. (free/open source)
AIS safety feature on OpenCPN and other ECS's shows imminent collision course.
Marine Traffic AIS at Google Maps is like having a virtual AIS receiver onboard. It allows you to see targets in live time, world wide through an internet connection. Not for navigation. (Salty Paws)
SeaTech #SR161 AIS Receiver has been reliable and trouble free. (Valkyrie)

Comments: The SR stands for Smart Radio. The price is reasonable.

(also antennas, OpenCPN)


Issue: The alternator charges for awhile at 60 amps, then it drops.
Check for resistance in the regulator.
Check the temp sensor by taking it off for a short time.
Check the current in the field wire; unplug the temp sensor to see if your alternator produces full output. If it does, A) alternator is too hot or B) you've got a temp sensor failure.

Issue: The alternator is giving faulty ignition light at the panel.
Check the light bulb.
Check brushes on the alternator for wear.
Check all wiring connections.
Measure with a volt meter to see if the internal regulator works.

Issue: Moved the temperature sensor to the hottest part of the alternator, but it doesn't seem to sense the temp.
Use an integrated circuit; Balmar #MC612 regulator. (Aurora)

Issue: Alternator is running at a very high temperature.
They're fine up to 300 degrees C.
Delco can be problematic with temperature.

Issue: Link 2000R is giving accurate readings on one battery bank only.
Look for a disconnected or possibly a corroded wire among the little bitty wires feeding the link.
Make sure all connections are surgically clean.
Check the ground wire.

Query: Very little current. Tach and alarms work fine. What is the function of the exciter resistor 33 ohms?
Its purpose is to substitute for the 'idiot' light, providing a small field current to the alternator.
Consult the "Alternator Doctor" pdf file. [link below]
Wiring diagram on our boat does have resister. Probably unnecessary for external regulator. (Salty Paws)

Issue: Low charging current.
Check the mounting bolts to the alternator for corrosion.
Install additional ground wire.

Up for Discussion:
I changed to a larger pulley. It saves belts. It loses some performance at low rpm, which isn't done often.
There may be problems with cooling since it now turns slower.
Use Gates Green Stripe Belts; they last longer. (St Jude)
Use a multi-stage regulator.
100 amp alternator with temperature probes work well.
Use a 3" fan.
I've had good luck with large-frame Balmar. (Shining Star)
Converting internal to external regulator output worked. (Salty Paws)

Alternator was constantly overheating. The problem turned out to be a lack of electrical insulation. The diode had melted. Discovered there were missing insulators between the diode and housing, which had never been replaced by the mechanic. Solution: A new alternator. (Cat Tales)
Check the temp sensor once in awhile.

FYI: Tach drive signal can be obtained from stator coil windings. These windings may be identified as being attached to the alternator diodes. (Llamados III)
Balmars can be fixed onboard, rather than needing a shop visit.
A standard automotive alternator can be used for replacement rotors on a Balmar.
Balmar gets a thumbs down for poor customer service and non-responsiveness. [2012]

I lost a tack when switching regulators. I put tack wire into the alternator stator and it worked perfectly. (Eleanor Q)

Delco alternator had burned out diodes. Used an automotive alternator as a replacement and it's still going strong five years later. (Salty Paws)

I wired a cooling blower (a 12 volt fan) on my alternator with a relay to act as power to drive it. It blows directly on my alternator. It runs off the battery and starts up when the engine is ignited. I'm using 3" ducting and vents to allow full circulation. (Cat Tales)

A few small holes drilled through the alternator case provides enough air to cool it with the bilge blower going. Extends the life of the alternator. (Beluga)

Napa Gold Stripe for high belt usage. (Anania)
Gates Greenstripe Powerband Belt (Shining Star, Passages)
Delco alternators run like a champ. They have an external regulator to run full power, and they use a 3 amp fan to prevent overheating. (Salty Paws)
Sterling voltage regulator. A good alternative to more expensive brands. Reliable for years. (Cerulean, Passages)

The 12 Volt Doctor's Alternator Book by Edgar J. Beyn; 1986 (see tech net library)

(also batteries, engines)


Check the safety wire on your anchor once in awhile.

Query: Replaced the anchor shackle at chain with a larger one.  How do I seize the wire properly?
Peen threaded end of shackle pin.
Make a tap hole on the shackle for the wire.
Tack weld it.
Use Loctite.

Query: Is the Manson Supreme anchor any good?
It was written up in "Practical Sailor"
The Alberg37 folks tested and compared anchors including the Manson.
It's made of galvanized steel.
It's a spade anchor/Delta-like with a roll bar.
Holds good in sand, but awkward to stow.

Issue: 55 lb Delta anchor has trouble seating when brought aboard.
Use double rollers.
Don't use double rollers with a CQR.
Delta anchors need two rollers because of the shank length.

Rocna vs Manson Supreme
Manson is more pointed and thinner, has the potential to bend or become weakened.
Rocna is flatter for better holding.
West Marine carries both and they're close in price.

Anchor Test in the Chesapeake Bay by Sail Magazine Dec 2014. Tested eleven most common anchors in different bottom conditions. (Moon Dance)
Chain is not recommended for use on a fortress.
Marine consignment shops are filling with CQRs. People are moving on to other types. (Salty Paws)

The 8 lb bruce looks like a toy, but it works exceptionally well and doesn't have flukes to break like the danforth does. Stores easily. (Valkyrie)

Crosby brand G290A shackle is recommended. Made of forged steel, has twice the strength of cast metal, and costs just a few dollars more.
Very pleased with our new Rocna anchor. It fit the boat just like the old Delta without any modifications. It picks up a lot of mud, but it slides off while hauling it up. (Salty Paws) (Thumbs up Valkyrie)

Our Rocna anchor's shank was too long for it's space. We added an additional roller to help with the angle and make a good fit. (Barefootin)
Our secondary anchor has a shackle with rode that tends to get rusty. So each time we use it, we rinse it with fresh water and spray it with lithium grease. (Salty Paws)


Query: I've read about using two anchors in series. Any comments?
The idea is that if the first anchor breaks, the second one will pick up.
Some friends tried this and both anchors dragged. Made it hard to untangle them in high wind.
In grass, the first one could clear the bottom for the second one to grab.
I tried this technique using two anchors on one rode; attached with 20' of rode. It worked. It was surprisingly easy to retrieve. But this wouldn't be recommended when a wind shift of 180 is due. (Salty Paws)

Use a chain stopper to take the load off the windlass. (Kumbaya)

Not recommended. New cruisers seem to be the ones using them. They're hard to retrieve, and even more so in a blow. They're bothersome to others, as normal swinging room has been compromised. Not neighborly.

Query: How to attach a bridle to the line?
Use a "Perfect Knot"
Use a chain grabber.
Use a galvanized chain hook.
Use a stainless carabiner.
Use a snap shackle. It has a better rating than the carabiner.
More about seizing, knots, ropes, and lines here. (Authentic old-timer)

Use a Prussic Knot to tie the snubber to the anchor chain. It's easy to put on and to take off. (Passages, Cat Tales)
Use 1/2" double braid line for this. (Salty Paws)

Rather than the traditional short anchor chain snubber, we made one up that is about 25' long. We use the traditional chain hook on 3/8" chain. Once the anchor has set and we have applied the snubber, we then dump another 15-20' feet of chain off the bow. This seems to act as a kellet and also dampens the surge on the boat when the wind is up. (Barefootin, Amazing Grace)

Reduce vessel rolling at anchor by setting a side bridle to get your nose into the wind. 1/2" line is good enough for a bridle.

Three strand nylon line will stretch 16%, which is a big improvement over double braid. (Salty Paws)

Small nylon line under heavy load can actually heat up and snap. (New Attitude)

Tie a kellet to the bridle to make it easy to retrieve. It also acts as a shock absorber in high wind situations. (Cat Tales)

Use a plastic-coated small mushroom anchor as a kellet. Attach it to the chain with a snap-on clip. (Valkyrie)

A long, heavy-duty bungee cord can act as a snubber on a trailing dinghy.

Query: What to use in big blows; extreme anchoring?
Use 1/2" 3 braid line with a vinyl hose over it. (Discovery)
Install a Sea Dog stainless steel cleat on each side of the bow for the bridle. (C_Language)
Use snatch blocks for bridle, if your configuration allows. (Dyad)

(also mooring)


Issue: Anchor chain becomes twisted when pulling it in.
Use a swivel.
Fix it by letting chain out, then pull it in slowly to allow the anchor to untwist itself fully.
One cause of this can be swinging in a reversing current.

Query: How to straighten out twisted anchor chain without going out to deep water to drop it?
Disconnect and range it out on a dock. Manually untwist it.
Or feed it out on a dock, manually re-feed while untwisting. Use gloves.
Dump it into shallow water and rework it back.
Ditto onto the ground while on the hard.
Use a swivel to reduce twisting.
Very old chains twist easily. It may be time for replacement.
Reverse the chain.

Query: Where to buy Acco?
Distributors of Acco galvanized chain are listed on their website.
Defender has the best price. Drive there to pick it up when in the area; Waterford, CT.
Buy Acco at any Lowes by the bucket at 1/2 the price of marine stores; the order takes only a few days. This is not posted on their website.
Track down the source that local commercial boats use.

Acco Galvanized Chain
Not recommended. Brand new chain arrived with every link chipped or gouged down to the bare metal. Very thin galvanizing.

Good quality Acco can be purchased from Defender.

High Test chain is recommended for sailboats.

For rusty chains, our boat yard recommended oiling the chain. The oil will penetrate and 'fix' the rust. Also makes it easier for the chain to pass through the windlass. Even cooking oil will be helpful. (Salty Paws)

Spray WD40 or similar oil on new chain that's in storage.

100' of 3/8" chain fits into a standard 2.5 gallon fuel jug, which makes it easier to carry or stow. (Serengeti)

Group 7 chain is not galvanized and it is classified as 'transport' chain. It's also too brittle for use as anchor chain.

Muriatic acid will remove galvanizing.
Both lemon juice and borax will remove rust, but lemon juice will also remove galvanizing. (Salty Paws)

Metalplate for information on galvanizing.
Ace Marine (aka "shrimp boat store") in Morehead City, NC full barrel of 3/8" chain at excellent price. (Dyad)
Sea Gear Marine in Cape May for anchor chain at good prices. They carry 3/8, 1/2, 5/16 high test. You may take samples to your boat. They will deliver to local marinas or to the launch ramp. (Dyad, Salty Paws)

Stainless can be bought for a reasonable price at StainlessChains.

West Marine guarantees their chain for two years; no rust. (Mon Amie)

CMP Global chain is very good. It still looks shiny after months of running it through the windlass. (Bees Knees)

South Atlantic Galvanizing Ashland, VA 1-800-964-0097 or (804) 798-3257. 3-5 day turnaround. Cruiser friendly and easy to work with. Reasonable pricing. Located inland near Richmond. (Discovery, Tilt, Voyager)


Issue: My LED anchor light is unintentionally blinking.
Check the connections to the sensor.
It may have been accidentally set to flash mode.

Issue: My anchor light with auto photo cell does not switch off.
Replace photo cell.

Issue: OGM [Orcagreen Marine] LED anchor light causes static on VHF.
The only way to fix this is to replace the anchor light unit to another type. OGM is aware of this problem and is changing their fixtures.

Issue: Automatic anchor light is causing SSB interference.
Contact the manufacturer for a replacement.
Photo cells, rather than the LED may be the cause of the problem.
Update: OGM sent a replacement anchor light and redesigned their circuit boards. (Rachael)
For LED anchor lights that don't interfere with radios see Sailors (C_Language)
Practical Sailor published an article about LED anchor lights in their Feb 2010 issue.

Inexpensive LED anchor lights don't always mean quality. MarineBeam provides information about the difference and what it means.

Activate the flashing anchor light by turning the power on/off several times; then it will continue to flash. It's purpose is to identify your own boat in a crowded anchorage. However, it's not Coast Guard approved. (Salty Paws)

A Davis Mega Light lens replacement can be purchased for around $2. (Dyad)

Find replacement LED photo-cell anchor lights on Ebay. My cost for a Davis bulb was $1 with $2 shipping. Made in China. Good fit, bright. Search Ebay with your model number. (Dyad)

(also deck lights, running lights)


Query: Do they help or hinder?Query: Do they help or hinder?
Most everyone agreed they are helpful as long as the swivel is well made, factory tested, and installed properly.
Skimping on cost is not an option as cheaper ones are worse than none at all; unreliable and potentially dangerous.
A large ball swivel may prevent the anchor from digging in deep.
Recommended brands (all stainless steel): ABI brand for 5/8" chain, Anchor Lift by Wichard, Powerball Swivel by WASI, West Marine brand for 5/16" chain.

Check shackle pins for wear and tear.
Lateral pull exceeding the load is eliminated by using a separate shackle between the anchor and the swivel.
The proper order should be anchor, shackle, swivel, chain.
Or Attach the chain to the swivel, then add a small length of chain between the swivel and the anchor.
A double shackle in lieu of a swivel is okay too, if installed properly.
Practical Sailor, wrote up a full study.
Upshot: It's a personal choice whether to use one or not.

Rocna Anchor recommends not using a swivel (visit their site). But if you do use a swivel, attach it to a 2 foot length of chain that's attached to the anchor. New swivels have rotation and swivel and some have ball joints. (Salty Paws)


Issue: Masthead indicator resets itself.
Check the wire that runs down the mast.
Perform a factory reset. Find instructions through your user manual.
Check all connections.

Issue: The anemometer is acting squirrelly and stiff. It doesn't move in light wind. Have cleaned and lubricated it, and it's not bent.
Disassemble and look at the bushings and bearings and rotate the bushing 180 degrees.
Use bicycle lubricant on it. (Lion Heart)
Contact the manufacturer.
Use electrical contact cleaner. (Lion Heart)

Issue: The anemometer dial in the cockpit, shows wind in opposite direction, except when head-on.
Check whichever instrument calculates the boat speed. This might be affecting your wind instruments.
Take instrument through a factory reset.
For testing, disconnect direction sensor.

Issue: Stuck anemometer blades.
Rinse with fresh water.
Change the bearing.
Check for debris and clean it.
Use silicone spray after cleaning.

Issue: Raymarine Anemometer needs a reset.
Visit their website. It's full of valuable information.

Issue: Davis anemometer just died.
Pulse connector may have broken.
May have lost a magnet during a high wind.
It may suffer corrosion problems.

Issue: B&G anemometer is not showing wind speed.
Check for loose wires; especially the small ones in the junction box.
Check the bearing at the top of the mast.
Rebooting is a pain, use it as a last resort.
[Counter] Resetting may not be as difficult as it seems.


"Idiots Guide to Antennas" can be read online at PCS Electronics. A very good resource.

Query: Is it possible to build an antenna for DTV to hoist up the mast for better reception?
Make a digital TV antenna by creating a center fed Dipole of 2.5 feet. 75 ohm cable, with ferrite at center feed point is a good choice.
Feedback: It worked. (Anania)

Query: Would a long wire from the masthead to the transom work better than insulators on the backstay?
It will work good. [thumbs up x3]
Wire 20 - 40 feet will work.

Query: On a whip for the SSB, would using Loctite on the threads be helpful or not?
Use a stainless steel lock washer instead. Don't use Loctite because it will degrade the electrical connection.
[Counter] Loctite won't hurt. (C_Language, Dyad, Salty Paws)
I used Loctite on a three part antenna. It worked and did not degrade the signal. (Options 3)

Query: Can the backstay antenna be fed from the top?
The loss would be significant and there's no advantage to it.
I tried this years ago and had very poor results.

Query: I'm using an AIS/VHF splitter and now I'm having problems with VHF failure.
Using separate antennas is best practice. It's less expensive than a splitter.

Query: Which is better for AIS, a masthead antenna with a splitter (about $200) or a dedicated antenna?
Use a separate antenna; it can also act as a spare.
Some antennas are optimized for AIS.
Separate antenna on the radar arch works well.
Class B: ATR brand is very useful, but it must be professionally pre-programmed.
It's a matter of preference, there's no difference in performance.

Query: Which antenna is recommended for digital TV? Some stations have lowered their power.
A non-digital Shakespeare antenna should work. Some cruising ground areas are still not well covered.

Query: What kind of antenna is used for AIS?
7' whip.

Issue: Antenna can receive VHF and fails with AIS. All checks show a healthy state.
Move the antenna. The signal my be blocked where it is.
The radar may be causing interference if too close.
May have a scratchy line in the antenna coax.
Try the bad antenna on the VHF and check squelch.
Green light on SR-161 AIS receiver means noise source interference.
Satellite radio can cause interference. XM interferes with HF.

(also AIS)

Issue: Had a problem finding signals with the satellite TV antenna.
Took it back to the dealer who reprogrammed it and updated the software. The dealer recommended separate filtered 12 volt power supplies for the satellite and SSB antennas. (Goal Rush)

Some whip antennas come in assembled sections. Check their connections once in awhile. (Cat Tales)
Also check the O rings between the sections.
Use Tefgel between sections to prevent corrosion.

Check your SSB antenna connections. Re-do them if there is any doubt of their integrity. (Anania)

Use silicone sealer on your antenna connectors after they are assembled. (Zephyr)
Make sure the silicone sealer does not have acidic acid in it. If it smells like vinegar, use another brand or it will corrode your connectors. (C_Language)
Use self-amalgamating black tape on connectors. (Dyad)
There is a kit available for sealing connectors through Ham radio suppliers. (C_Language)

Between coax and connectors, use 3M Scotch 33, a high grade electrical tape which resists UV damage and moisture. (Beluga)

Data-Alliance has good pricing on antennas and cables. (Dyad)


Kudos to Florida Suncoast Marine Service for the arch davit. I'm very pleased with all aspects of a job well done. (C_Language)


Issue: The auto pilot compass gets interference when the bilge pump runs.
Most likely a wiring problem.
Re-route the wiring from bilge pump away from the compass or if that's not possible to rewire, twist the wires. This will minimize the interference.

Issue: LCD display has been fading over the years and is almost unusable.
Open it and clean the contacts.
If the problem is with the LCD display itself, it may not be reparable.
Can replace the control head if the wire connection is computable.
Put the unit in the fridge for an hour, it may improve when cold. If so, that indicates that the unit is very old and worn.

Issue: There's noise on the VHF when the auto pilot is active. This happens only on channel 16.
It's probably the auto pilot controller producing a high frequency noise.
Contact both manufacturers and let them know there's a problem.
Replacing the controller may just move the noise to another VHF channel.

Issue: Auto pilot has no response or sporadic response.
Brushes are probably worn. Replace them.
Clean the commutator.

Issue: Microwave affects the auto pilot.
Check the 12 volt level at the auto pilot while microwave is running.
Check the ground shield. Is it attached?
Check the routing of the auto pilot control cable and also the inverter control cable.
Check the location of the magnetic heading sensor.

Issue: 7000 Raymarine auto pilot (ca 1994), has low batteries all the time. All connections seem fine.
It might be a bad controller.
It's possible the commutator is shorting.
Try using another power lead.
Send the unit back to Raymarine for repair.

Issue: Hydraulic valves on Raymarine system repeatedly gum up.
Drain and replace the fluid, it may be contaminated.
Clean system before refill.
Use automatic transmission fluid to purge.
Check hoses and fittings. These may be deteriorating.
Found rubbery substance in the reservoir. It came from the factory since this auto pilot is fairly new and has never been changed.
Raymarine has been hard to deal with for the past couple of years. Poor customer service. [several cruisers agreed - Spring 2010]

Issue: Remote auto pilot stopped working.
Check all connections.
Look under the faceplate for water intrusion.

Issue: Raytheon drive unit doesn't seem to work. The voltage reading is too low.
Check the configuration.
Check drive unit with direct wiring.

Issue: Auto pilot hydraulic ram seal repair.
Take careful note of parts and installation order.
Take pictures.

Removing faulty connectors, cleaning them, and using contact grease fixed the non-working auto pilot. (I Wanda)



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