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Stuff Experienced
Small stuff can matter in a big way
February 2022

am getting my 2021 taxes together. In doing so, I found I had operated 45 different boats. A lot of owners had me back aboard
john rahm
Captain John Rahm
for multiple funs (my word, will the TownDock editor leave it in?)

Anyway, pulling this paperwork together makes me reflect on Things Experienced. Every time I take out a boat, there is something different.

So, I hope you find my 2021 recollections fun and informative. Not in any particular order….

Engine starters must disengage after the start
A very old and neglected diesel engine started fine. I was pleased with the good oil pressure and pumping water. We checked the engine after start. But, while backing out of a slip, we smelled something electrical. We quickly pulled back in and shut down the engine. The electric starter did not disengage after the engine was running. Of course, the starter cooked itself. Damage was minimal. And, we made a good conservative decision by not pressing forward. (Good save.)

Creative shutdowns
The number of ways to shut down a diesel engine is varied. Fuel starvation is the way all diesel engines shutoff. The methods to accomplish this are diverse: mostly levers, plungers, buttons and keys. My point here is: big vice grips on the fuel line should not be the primary method for shutdown.
Imagine my surprise when an owner handed me the fancy pliers. (Yikes.)

Sewage smell may not be sewage
While hired to pump out a big Catalina, the sewage smell was overwhelming. It smelled really bad in the cockpit; even with the winds blowing. The smell was too bad to be a full holding tank. Upon further review, the batteries were cooking and about to explode. The smell was not sewage but sulfur from the hissing and swelling batteries. I could hear the hissing in the salon.


The hydrogen part of this also scared me. Think Hindenburg, 1937. The batteries were about to burst; scary. (Disaster averted.)

Coolant overflow bottle
If the coolant overflow hose is blocked, the coolant bottle can be full to the cold or hot line with the engine starved for coolant. It is prudent to check the coolant level by removing the cap on the engine. Schooling from Rob Eberle, surveyor.

Running rigging can be frustrating
Simple tasks like replacing an in haul line can be frustrating. Sometimes it is better to hire a rigger who has an intimate knowledge of the quirks associated with different models. I/we are not riggers. Simple made almost impossible.

Jiffy reefing
Jiffy reefing is a single reefing line tightening down both the reefing tack and reefing clew. So, before tightening the jiffy reefing line, ensure the line is tied into the reefing clew. If not, the line gets pulled back into the boom. Re-threading the jiffy reefing line back through the boom, in rough weather, is an exercise in personality development.

Spare halyard
Do not clip the spare halyard onto the bow pulpit. The halyard can get wound up in the furling headsail, at the top, causing a circus on the foredeck. I see this a lot. Clip it aft, near the mast. But, don’t let it clang in the marina.

Fifty amp splitters
Do not handle/move/pull shore power cords with splitters plugged into the ends. Inevitably, while pulling the cord, the splitter will disconnect itself from the shore power cord and drop into the water. (West Marine $279.99).

Sailing back in
If the boat has not left its slip in a long while, the diesel fuel is contaminated (Murphy’s Law). The diesel engine is going to quit in 20 minutes or during rough water, whatever comes first. Expect the fuel filters to clog. Plan on sailing the boat back into its slip.

If the outboard does not start, ensure the emergency stop lanyard is seated properly under the emergency stop red button.


Make sure the plastic tab is the correct one for the button and holds the stop button out enough to allow the engine to start. Not my lesson but was able to pass this one on.

All fuses are not created equal
There are different styles of the same fuse. Match the old one with the one you intend to purchase. An A&L 400 amp as an example. Max frustration.

Fuel leaks
Boats should not smell like diesel fuel. One particular diesel fuel leak was causing the owner to seek medication for his frustration. Thousands were spent on fittings, fuel lines, pumps and filters. An astute mechanic finally discovered that a very fine mist was spraying from a bad fuel injector. The leak was super difficult to see. It was an excellent catch by the mechanic.

Marina pigeons
These avians like to build nests in sail covers. They are most fond of cradle covers (Doyle) or stack packs (Mac). The inches of pigeon guano in one mainsail was so bad it made me gag. And, I had to squirt mom pigeon with a hose to get her out. The mess on the boat, when we raised the mainsail, was epic.
Are pigeon eggs edible? Another instance required us to re-locate three pigeon chicks off the boat and onto shore. Mom and Dad pigeon were not pleased. So, if you use your boat rarely and own this main sail set-up, plug the back of your sail cover with a foamy noodle or small fender. (Name of Marina withheld.)

The best thing
I attribute the best quote of 2021 to mechanic Gary at Zimmerman’s. He says, “There is no such thing as a boat problem; only financial decisions.” (Unbelievably true.) Enjoy the new season. Spring is close by.

Fair Winds,
Captain John Rahm

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Captain's Blog on TownDock.net is all about making your time on the water enjoyable. Captain John Rahm teaches sailing and boat handling at Third Wave Sailing.