Tech Net S

Issue: Unable to stay connected to Sail Mail.
Try using low power.
Use ferrites.
Download the newest Win7 version.
Switch to a higher quality cable.
Stiffer cables are better shielded.
Use line isolators which are PVC pipes with ferrites.


Query: General information needed about performance and durability of laminates.
Some use Dacron for the main, laminate for jib.
May have shorter longevity than Dacron, but better performance. Laminate should be rolled rather than folded.
Laminate costs 10-15% more than dacron.

HEADS UP Check the stitching on sails once in awhile. (Shamal)

THINGS THAT WORK Use aluminum straps with nuts and bolts to replace nylon straps as a temporary fix. (C_Language)

Pre-make holes with a 1/16' drill bit when sewing multiple thicknesses. (Salty Paws)

(also canvas work, rigging)


Read the Wikipedia articles:
Admiralty Law and Marine Salvage


Issue: Would like to get weather from Sirius or XM Radio directly to my computer without expensive receiver purchase.
It's easily wired via cable to PC or laptop. However, a dedicated receiver is a necessary purchase.

Query: Is it available in the Bahamas?
Yes. It works great during the day, but falls off at night.

Issue: Sirius works good in the U.S. but is failing in the Bahamas.
Use a metal pie plate or small metal pan as a ground plane. (Fiscal Stray)
Try aluminum, then steel and see if there's a difference. (C_Language)


Query: What's the best way to polish them?
Suggestions by Salty Paws:
Use 400 grit sandpaper.
Use wet or dry sandpaper with baby oil.
Cut your own 200 grit sanding disk for your dremel.
The meat portion of hamburger beans are soft (black ring). Use care.
Finish with varnish or even better, use tung oil.
A dremel is not recommended for heart beans.

Rarer beans to search for:
Mary's Bean - small, black, has a cross indented on it's surface.
Purse Bean - small, almost the shape of a half circle - brown.
Cathy's Bean - looks similar to a purse bean, but it's very red in color. (C_Language)

Identify your sea beans.

(also DIY/sea beans)


Did you know you can make your own? And yours is going to rival what you can find in health food stores because you're in control of the entire process. It's simple.


The Maine Sea Salt Company uses this same technique, but on a much larger scale.

Article explains why we should be using sea salt on our food.

Book: Salt: A World History by Mark Kurlansky (Time Enough Too)

(also DIY, galley tips, book shelf)


Advice from Salty Paws:
Use short-whip eye splice.
Polyester (Dacron) line is a good choice and lasts for many years.
Nylon is not a good choice.
A splice proved stronger than the bowline on the other end of the line, which broke under extreme pressure.

More about seizing, knots, ropes, and lines here. (Authentic old-timer)
(also mooring)


Use a lighter on the sharp ends of wire ties to smooth them. It prevents cuts. (Dragon Seeker)
Nail trimmers may be helpful, as they have beveled edges. (Dyad)
Slip small tubing over nails and bolts that stick out. (Dyad)
A dab of silicone will also work. (Destiny)
Glue pieces of cork on sharp points.

For the sharp ends of a hose clamp tail, use a Clamp Jacket. These are slipped onto the tail end to eliminate injury and tidy it up. Inexpensive. (Dyad)
Heat-shrink tubing also works. (C_Language).


Issue: I got a small shock from touching the cover to the shore power outlet.
Make sure the ground at the shore power connector is connected.
Check the generator grounding.
Neutral and green ground are supposed to be connected at the source of power.

Use three pieces of 2' long 3/16" line to tie cable with constrictor knots. Tie double reef slipknot together. (Salty Paws)


A silicone colander for the galley won't rust and is easy to store. It's also easy to wash and works beautifully. It's collapsible to 1 3/4 inches with a 9" diameter. Also great for steaming veggies. Oxo brand. (Destiny)

We have a silicone loaf pan. It works just fine. The only drawback with silicone is it can't be used under a broiler. (Dyad)

(more galley tips)


Issue: Engine creates interference on SSB.
To track down the exact source of engine interference, systematically check the alternator, condensers, and capacitor. Use noise canceling capacitor on output of alternator. Fairly cheap at auto parts store.

Query: Do noise canceling devices work?
They do reduce the noise, but the transmitted information does not necessarily improve.
SGC carries good noise canceling devices. (Beluga)
Yes they work. (Ursa Minor)
No difference with or without a filter. (Island Spirit)
It won't make a bad signal better, but it makes a reasonable signal better. (Magnolia)

Issue: SSB doesn't transmit well on 4 megs.
Increase the ground.
Using the entire mast as antenna is not a good idea.

Query: I need to replace the cable between the tuner and the antenna. What should I use?
GTO cable.
Can use RG8, but it's not the best solution because it's not UV resistant.

Issue: Having problems with SSB output.
Check connection to backstay and look for saltwater intrusion. That should help the problem instantly.

Issue: When I push the tune button, the volume drops to half. This happens every time on all frequencies.
It may be a bad relay contact.
Unplug and replug the control cable; see if that makes a difference.
Try to turn the tuner off then put it in pass-through mode.
Make sure the ground connection and antenna connections are clean.

Issue: I'm not able to get jvcomm32 weather faxes when connected to SSB.
Test your sound card. It may not be functioning.
Check connections to see if they are connected to the sound card.
Open the control panel menu and look for microphone input gain.
Check online for a newer software version.
Make sure you're getting output from the radio.
Skype can inadvertently change your settings. If using Skype, right click on it to turn it off.

Issue: SGC 2000. One control head is not working. The company has stopped manufacturing the SGC 2000. They still provide service, but the rates are outrageously high.
Search the internet for repair sources., out of San Leandro, CA is reputable.
Check your fuses.

Issue: We're on our fifth SGC tuner in twelve years.
The last one was repaired at a cost of $400.
Use an LDG tuner with remote. We obtained ours from eBay for around $35. (Salty Paws)

Query: Is it possible to plug aux output from SSB into AM radio to hear through it's speakers?
Yes, it's easy to do with an output jack on the SSB, input jack on the AM radio. Use shielded cable and adapters.

Issue: On certain frequencies, my Simrad auto pilot will turn sharp to port.
There may be a short in the GTO cable.
The wires on an auto pilot have different lengths. Some frequencies resonate perfectly with them.
Probably the wire between course computer and compass.
Could also be the rudder reference wire.
Relocate these wires.

Query: When transmitting, all LED lights on the electric panel stop. Should I be concerned?
No, that's normal for high power transmission.

Issue: SSB won't tune at 10 or 20 meters; ham frequencies.
Check the output of the tuner with a light bulb replacing the antenna.
Others on 15 meters use a 40' long wire, or a 17' whip.
Suspicious of coax from tuner to antenna. Most folks don't use them.
If it won't work at high frequencies, it may be helpful to shorten the antenna.
If grounding the coax to antenna mount, ground the mount too.

Query: What is the typical lifespan of outside GTO cable?
About six years.

Query: What is clipping?
It's a harsh snapping noise when syllables drop away.
Caused if radio is too strong,
or mid gain is too high,
or holding the mic too close,
or batteries are low.

SSB Tune and Auto Tune article by Rick (C_Language) addresses the clipping problem.

(also microphones)


General Rules of Thumb
The higher the sun, the higher the frequency.
The shorter the distance, the lower the frequency. (C_Language)
Low power is best for talking with an individual and e-mail.
High power is best for network broadcasting.

Query: Which frequencies work best for shorter ranges?
Use 4 megs for communicating a few hundred miles.

Query: Which frequencies work best in mid morning for long distance communication?
Use higher frequencies during the day as the atmosphere absorbs lower frequencies. 8 megs usually works well.

HF Simplex Channels List (by U.S. Coast Guard)

Droid Prop App to get your from here to there. Prop: as in propagation. Gives best frequencies based on the time of day and distance. (Moira)

Query: When installing a ground, is more better? Any other advice?
Generally, more is better.
Tie the radio ground into the battery, negative ground. This may prevent catastrophe in the event of a lightning strike.
Use star or tree grounding and don't inadvertently build a loop.
Try to use a single-point ground connection (engine block or keel bolt).
It doesn't have to be in contact with the water, use a big surface area.
Try to increase the projected surface of your ground plane.
If your engine block is isolated, do not connect to the radio ground.

Query: What's the best material for making a ground?
Use copper foil. It's much, much better than using nothing.
Use copper roof flashing. You'll need tin-snips and gloves, and you'll have something that will last longer. (Chantecleer)
A flat shape is better than braided for handling frequencies.

Issue: The ground plate is covered in barnacles.
Scrape them off and use no anti-fouling.
Nylon scrapers work well, won't gouge.
1" wide putty knife will also work.

Wire size on grounding: the purpose is to increase the surface area. (Amazing Grace)

Use five multiple insulated 14 gauge duplex wires instead of a copper strap. It has an advantage over copper because of the insulation. Use this as grounding from the tuner to the dynaplate; about a 6" run. (Cat Tales, Shining Star)
If you can flatten the wire, it will perform even better than a round bundle. I went the opposite way and used a big heavy battery cable with about a 12' run. It works fine. (C_Language)

Kiss SSB Grounding System is self-contained and recommended by Icom. (Barefootin) (also KISS for SSB)

MFJ Enterprises carries a product, the Artificial Ground, that turns wire into a ground plane. (Dyad)

Insulated lifelines may be used for ground planes. (Shamal)
Uninsulated lifelines are hazardous for this use. (Destiny)

When searching for interference noise, turn off the instruments by using the breaker panel. Simply turning off some devices just puts them into a sleep mode which still draws a bit of power. (C_Language)

Issue: Morning Star MPPT controller interferes with certain SSB frequencies, but not all of them.
Use ferrites, a Faraday cage, or install a switch to turn off the MPPT when using the SSB.
Blue Sky MPPT controllers won't cause interference. (Kabria)

Issue: Battery monitor interferes with SSB.
Try ferrites near the control head.
Try new cable routing.
Reception gets better away from docks and slips.

Issue: One-second periodic noise caused by GPS.
It's probably a problem between the GPS and the computer. Unplug the wire to diagnose. Either re-route the wire or use ferrites.

Issue: Raymarine auto pilot causes clicking radio interference.
It maybe time for ferrite addition.
May be a problem with solenoids.
If it's a constant sound, it's probably the pump.
It may be caused by arcing of the motor brushes.
Use one single ferrite enclosing both (positive and ground) wires.
Use capacitors between two motor power leads to reduce clicking.
Ferrites have a 50% chance of working. If they don't work, add capacitors. Use up to 1 micro farad, 50 volts. The ceramic style capacitor is best.

Query: What size inductors should be used to isolate fridge noise?
Use 16 micro henry.
On a Danfoss compressor, solder a capacitor from the heat sink to the terminal of chassis to eliminate noise from fridge. (C_Language)

Make a cage out of copper screen and place it around the controller for the Danfoss compressor to reduce SSB interference. (C_Language)

Issue: OGM LED anchor light causes interference on the SSB. When the anchor light is on, the interference starts. SSB is fine with the anchor light off.
Talk with the manufacturer.
Try to run the anchor light on a separate battery to test.
Check for unintentional grounding.
Check for loose connections.
Add ferrite cores to wires near the breaker panel.
Use a different power source for the light, to bypass the circuit breaker.
Check ground wire in contact with the mast. It should be isolated.
Wire the SSB directly to the battery.

For LED anchor lights that don't interfere with radios see Sailors (C_Language)

Query: What is a ferrite?
The Wise Geek explains it simply. If you want more complicated material, here's a rather technical pdf: Understanding How Ferrites Can Prevent and Eliminate RF Interference

Air X wind generator caused interference on SSB. If you have excessive interference, check your wind generator. (Salty Paws)

Worn brushes in a DC motor can also cause interference. (Tilt)

Inverters can also cause AC hum on SSB. If so, turn inverter off.

Make sure your antenna leads are short and straight to reduce interference. (Salty Paws)

Don't solder your RG8 braid. Just use the clamp that comes with it. (C_Language)

Occasionally clean the keypad on the radio inside and out with rubbing alcohol. (C_Language)

Anderson Powerpole Connectors for DC power. Can also be found through ham radio suppliers or on E bay. (C_Language)

Clear Speech with DSP filter, an SSB add on from West Mountain Radio. It removes static, and is easy to install. Plugs into audio out system. It removes 80% of the white noise. (Shining Star, Trumpeter, New Attitude)

Ferrites can be purchased from Digikey, Jameco, or Palomar.

Simple and Effective Grounding


Farallon Electronics for SSB and Pactor servicing. Good service, excellent work, good customer service, not cheap.

(also antennas, Icom, KISS, pactor3 modem, tech net library,  cruiseheimers)


Dilute dish soap, body wash, and shampoo in order to rinse it off easier in RO or rainwater. (Salty Paws)

Clean stainless steel range tops and similar surfaces with Liquid Lava Soap. It does a great job and leaves no streaks or residue. (Morning Glory).

Simple Green and a Scotch Brite pad work quickly and easily to clean lifeline covers. (Scaramouche)
Cleans up stickiness on vinyl hoses. (C_Language)
Use on fenders. (Scaramouche)


Query: I lost MS Office in a computer glitch. Is there a reasonable substitute for this program out there?
Try Open Office. It's good. It's free.
[several thumbs up for Open Office]

Navigatrix is a free program with Linux included. It allows you to run your computer off a thumb drive as a backup. (Sandpiper)

BurnAware. It's a few program download that lets you burn CDs that will play on other machines. (Dyad)

(also computers, recommended software, OpenCPN)


Issue: I have two panels in parallel. One doesn't work.
Measure the current. Clamp the meter on one of them while the sun is shining.
Add a loop of wire on the positive side.
Take a blanket or towel to cover one panel then the other. Take measurements on each. If the current doesn't drop by half, the problem is not with the panel itself.

Query: If I were to add more panels than the controller called for, would that be a problem? Planned to place in parallel; feed with 900 watts.
This should be fine. They will throttle back. Use 2 muffin fans to help keep cool.
Mine is living on the edge of maximum and is fine; it throttles back.
Verify that the high temp shut down on your unit works, or use caution.

Query: I have older 12 volt panels and want to add new 32 volt panels. Will I need two different controllers?
Comment: Yes.

Query: How far away does the auto pilot compass need to be from the solar panel wires to avoid interference?
1.3 meters away.
Twisting the solar panel wires should solve the problem.

Query: I'm thinking about changing controllers on the solar panels from PWM to B2. Is this a good choice?
Yes. You can go up to 500 watts.
You can use separate B2 (250 w) for each panel which can be helpful if one has a shadow across it.
Having matched panels is important whether hooking them up in series or parallel.

Issue: The flexible solar panel for the dinghy battery is rated for 17 volts but only gives 100 milliamps.
They do die after ten years or so.
Harbor Freight carries them at reasonable rates.
Flex panels have shorter lifespans than hard panels.

Query: Do solar panels create RF interference?
Not generally.

Query: Do panels degrade over time and what to look for?
Yes. The new ones are rated, the older ones were not.
Look for corrosion or water intrusion under the glass.
Disconnect and look for open circuit voltage.

Query: Which MPPT controller works best?
Solar Boost by Blue Sky is recommended. It goes into auto equalize mode.
The Morning Star Pro-Star 30 controller is reliable.
Flex Charge brand has been working reliably.
Check bzproducts for solar panel controls.

Query: Which is better, 205 watt Sun Solar 200 or Kyocera 130 watt panels?
Bigger panels are good with MPPT.
Consider physical size for mounting.
Kyocera has nice plastic weatherproof housing.
Kyocera has flying lead, but not much strain lead.

Query: Which is better to use, junction boxes or cables?
A junction box is better.
Our panels with junction boxes have been problem-free for 13 years.
check bzproducts for controllers.
Sunsaver controls are recommended.

Query: What is the reduction capacity of older panels?
Solar panels are guaranteed for 20 years.
Our 15 year old panels are still keeping up with our brand new panels. (Salty Paws)

Query: How to maximize the output of solar panels?
Use an MPPT (Maximum Power Point Transfer) controller, which gives 25% more efficient charging. It's cheaper than buying a new solar panel.

Measure voltage at the battery.

The MPPT controller can be reset from time to time as needed. (Final Lee)

You can use a higher voltage panel (a better price and value) if you use an MPPT controller. (C_Language)
Higher voltage panels also reduce line-loss. (Salty Paws)

You can buy an extension cable that's twice as long as you need for the Kyocera 130, and split it in half. (C_Language)

Use 24 volt panels because they're cheaper, however, they may be more sensitive to shading. You may use smaller wiring on 24 volt system.

The weatherproof housing on Kyocera 130s look good. Work good.

Keep panels mounted at 5% degree to reduce dirt and prevent rain pooling.

Keep clean. Any dirt reduces output.

The ability to tilt them is a big advantage. (Kismet)

MPPT - "Maximum Power Point Tracking"

MPPT control boosts energy efficiency.

PWM control; solar panel runs at battery voltage.
PWM gets hot. Poor design.

MPPT Instructions by Rick (C_Language):
Here is the schematic for the MPPT. Also attached is the program for the microprocessor and a photo.
In the photo, the MPPT is the bottom circuit board, the top one is the boost regulator that enables the old Air X wind generator to have some output at low wind.

Blue Sky 2000E I'm seeing a 10% increase in performance during non-perfect weather. (Valkyrie)

Blue Sea makes a high current relay. (Dyad)

Bzproducts for MPPT controllers.

Discount Solar for MPPT controllers.

DM Solar good source for solar panels. (Abraxis)

Genasun MPPT controllers which are compatible with lithium batteries. (Stella)

Morning Star PWM controllers stay relatively cool. 25 amp is optimal.

Hot Wire, a Florida company which runs excellent specials to watch for. (Anania)

Northern Arizona Wind and Sun, a company out of Flagstaff. Good prices. (C_Language)

Outback Controllers (Amazing Grace, Hold Fast)

SunElectronics solar cells, etc. are in stock. This Miami, FL company focuses on land based applications, but some of it is quite boat useful. (Shamal)
SunElectronics is in walking distance of Sea Isle Marina, just north of the Venetian Causeway. The marina has a convenient hourly rate. This made pick-up of panels a breeze. (Dyad)

Tri Star solar controller by Morning Star. (Guardian Spirit)
Voltage Drop Calculator handy for quick online calculations.
Windsun site is loaded with useful info about solar.


Query: How to keep the clear vinyl on the solar shower clear? It gets cloudy.
Put some vinegar in the water to remove the residue in the bag. (Imagine)
Flip it over and use the black side up. (Passages, Valkyrie)

Add a few tablespoons of baking soda to the water. It makes the water a lot nicer to use. (Salty Paws)

(also self-care)


Replace tips with 12 gauge solid copper wire. They can be shaped with pliers. (C_Language)
Pound the wire flat to create a hot cutting knife. (Salty Paws)
Technique may not work the other way around; creating a solder tip for a hot knife tool. It will probably get too hot due to no temperature control.


Never shine a spotlight into the cockpit or wheelhouse of another boat. This will blind the crew and make matters worse. If you must get a bearing on another vessel, shine your light on the hull only.

Black & Decker hand held rechargeable spotlight. Bright light fades within a few minutes and won't hold a charge. (Salty Paws)


Query: I dropped a stainless steel screw into the fuel tank. Will it be alright to leave it there until I get to port?
It should be okay, as it won't rust out in diesel.
I've still got one in my fuel tank after 8 years.
Electrolysis won't be an issue.

Issue: Drilling and tapping solid stainless steel pipe.
Stainless is hard on drill bits, go slow, and use lubricant.
Make the hole a tiny bit larger than needed to prevent the screw from galling.
Make a pilot hole first, then enlarge to prevent breakage.
Clean the hole with alcohol or acetone.
Use Anti-Seize or Tef-Gel to make future removal easy.
Or you may choose to epoxy the fastener into an oversize hole.
Use Marine Tex or other waterproof epoxy in the screw hole, then all you need is a good heat source to remove it later.

Cleaning and Protecting
Use aluminum foil on stainless to clean it. It works very well without rubbing compound. (Imagine)
If you use Barkeepers Friend to clean stainless steel items, use a protectant product afterwards. (Salty Paws)
After cleaning stainless, apply Collinite #845 insulator wax to protect it. It's a liquid product that goes a long way. (Rejoice)
Atwood Cleaner Wax is also a good protectant for stainless.
Clean stainless on an overcast day to prevent quick drying and spotting. (Island Spirit)

Recommended Cleaners
3M Cleaner Wax It needs a bit more elbow grease, but it's a one-step process. (Valkyrie)
Flitz. They also make a wax product to use afterward.(Calypso)
Collinite 850 Metal Wax(Scotch Mist)
Mother's Aluminum Polish WallyWorld carries it. (Mon Amie)
Nevr Dull (Renegade)
Prism Polish. Works well. Expensive but worth it. (Barefootin, Discovery)
Spotless Stainless. It sponges on and rinses off. Works well. Comes in a quart sized bottle. (Island Spirit)

All stainless is not created equal. Experiment with what works for yours.

Stainless Parts
Hamilton Marine carries stainless steel grab rails at good prices. They're well made. (Valkyrie)

(also cleaning aids, corrosion, parts)


Issue: The starter was saltwater contaminated. It was overhauled, but it may still have salt in the wiring.
You can check it yourself. Take it apart and clean it. Any problems will be self evident.
It's a straight-forward piece of equipment.

Issue: Starter motor runs on after engine starts. Bendix and solenoid are okay.
Check the circuit, there may be a second solenoid.
Sticking start button may be the problem.
Wire the starter into alarm system with transistor. (C_Language)
Update: Solved. Problem solved by replacing the relay. (Dyad)

Solenoids can be fixed with a hammer. They become magnetized and the atoms can be rearranged with a whack. (Salty Paws)

OBB Starters and Alternators (directory listing) Excellent prices for starters. (Orion)


Query: Hydraulic helm pump is starting to slow-leak. I have a Wagner hydraulic steering pump repair kit onboard. Any advice as to replace or repair?
It's a complicated fix. Take the job to a pro.
You can bleed the unit yourself.
Nassau and Spanish Wells provide service if in the Bahamas.
The smaller the unit, the more complicated the job.
1/4 cup of break fluid into the hydraulic fluid may swell the seal as a temporary emergency fix.
[Counter] The break fluid may deteriorate incompatible seal material.
If leak is at the end of the end cap seal, you can replace the end caps.
Use engine oil if out of hydraulic fluid as an emergency fix.

Our new Hydrovane self steerer works remarkably well, and is an independent rudder system with no lines to the wheel. It has tremendous power to steer us on all points of sail. (Wings via e-mail mid Atlantic)


Lock N Lock Containers have good O-ring seals. (Southern Cross)
These are great for carrying your camera to shore; similar to a Pelican Case. (Salty Paws)

Bahamian ice cream containers are just right for small things. They have sturdy, tight-fitting lids. (Trumpeter)

Collapsible containers are easy to store. Tupperware Flat Out is especially good. (Blackfoot)

Bulk containers of Crystal Lite serves as good storage for filters and small parts. (Airborne)
The small tubs from Crystal Lite are good for holding small parts. (St Jude)
[Small tubs have since been replaced with pouches by manufacturer.]


Issue: I used a plastic strainer in a thru hull. It is showing distress cracks. I need something hardier.
Every part in the bilge area should hold up under a full 200 lbs in body weight. Look for a strainer that will pass this test.

Query: I would like to find an outside mounted plastic strainer for a small thru hull. Is there such a thing, and how to attach it?
Plastic ones are available and work very well.
Buck Algonquin bronze works well.
A PVC fitting as an end cap drain may work.
Use a basket from a domestic sink strainer.
Use 5200 and very small screws to mount your strainer.
Mount flat-head screws to the hull, head down, then use nuts to attach.

Check and clean them periodically.

Repair a cracked plastic strainer with Captain Tolley's Creeping Crack Cure. Apply every 20 minutes until it stops seeping in. It will fully cure within 24 hours. (Salty Paws)

(also thru hulls)



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