Archives for category: Sailing

I’ve started the project to replace the standing rigging on my 1979 Morgan 462 ketch. The original rigging is stainless steel wire with swage fittings.

I replaced the main cap shrouds, main backstays and mizzen cap shrouds first, pulling both masts to do it. I wasn’t comfortable trying to replace those shrouds and stays with the masts still stepped. I only replaced those six because I wanted to get the masts back in the boat as soon as possible. I’ll replace the remaining shrouds and stays with the masts in the boat.

The rig uses four different sizes of wire. I found a supplier of Type 316 stainless steel 1×19 wire in Oakland, CA. The wire was made in Korea and the vendor had the test certificates for the wire. The largest diameter wire cost less then $2.50 per foot.

To cut the wire, I made a jig from a block of polypropylene. I drilled a hole through it and then cut a notch perpindicular to that hole. I used a 32 teeth per inch bi-metal hacksaw blade and cut the wire by hand. The cutting was low effort and made a clean cut.

For the terminals, I used Hayn Marine compression fittings. I chose these because I wanted to assemble them by hand and I also want to be able to disassemble them, to either clean and inspect them or to replace a damaged wire. The terminals are pricey, but I’m quite satisfied with them. I needed about an hour to assemble the first one, figuring out how to un-lay and then re-lay the wire and to get the pieces of the Hayn fitting in the right place. The subsequent fittings only needed about 15 minutes each to assemble.

For turnbuckles I used Type 316 studs and bronze open bodies. To prevent seizing and galling I applied some TefGel to the threads on both ends of the body.

Now that those six shrouds and stays are back on the boat and the masts have been tuned, I’m ready to replace the main lowers, mizzen lowers and the triatic. I plan to use the same wire and compression fittings, but to install the new rigging one cable at a time, without removing the masts. One thing I will be more careful about is the size of the Clevis pins on the bottom end of the shrouds. The new turnbuckles used a larger diameter pin than the old, so I had to enlarge the holes in some of the chainplates.


As mentioned in a previous article, I bought a project which looks like a sailboat. I made an attempt to start the engine in December of 2015, on what has proven to be the coldest day in 2015 and, so far, the coldest day in 2016. Needless to say, the engine wouldn’t start. This old boat has a 1979 Perkins 4-154 which was built without glow plugs.

Now, just prior to this failed attempt to start the engine, I had re-routed the valve cover vent tube. A previous owner had decided to connect that tube to the engine air intake. The end result was crankcase oil being sucked into the intake manifold and the air intake screen being plugged with crankcase oil.

After re-routing the vent tube and cleaning the air intake screen is when I attempted to start the engine (on the coldest day of the year) and failed. Then began a longer than it should have been process of troubleshooting the cause and eventually starting the engine.

I first checked the tank to make sure more than 160 gallons of diesel hadn’t suddenly disappeared from the tank. Next, I held my hand above the intake manifold while someone else pressed the starter button, to confirm these was still vacuum and no backflow out the intake manifold. Since the only thing remaining was fuel to the injectors, I loosened one fitting and had the same person press that starter button. I saw fuel spurting out so I admitted to being stumped. I assumed at this point that it was just too cold for the fuel to ignite.

Since the engine doesn’t have glow plugs and since I was hesitant to use starting fluid, I found a heat gun. I used it to warm the injector pump, the secondary fuel filter and the injectors. I then rigged it so it would blow hot air into the intake manifold while I pressed the starter button myself. Still, not a peep out of the engine.

I decided to do some more research on using starting fluid with diesels. I found a consensus that starting fluid can be used with diesel engines, but one must be careful. Before using starting fluid, confirm the following:

  1. any glow plugs are cold
  2. any intake manifold heater is cold
  3. there’s not other source of heat or spark which could ignite the starting fluid

Then, while someone engaged the starter motor for five to ten second bursts, I sprayed very small bursts of starting fluid toward the intake manifold. Each time we did this, the engine would fire, burn the starting fluid but not actually start.

I was still missing something, so I decided to walk away and await inspiration.

I returned the next day. I had never actually inspected the fuel lines or filters myself. The boat was delivered to me and the fuel had been polished and the filters had been replaced before motoring all the way up the California coastline without any trouble. However, when I finally crawled into the engine room and shined a flashlight into the sediment bowl of the primary fuel filter, I saw that it was full of mud. I opened the drain petcock on the bottom of the bowl, but absolutely nothing came out. I had found my culprit.

I opened the primary filter body, removed the black (formerly white) filter cartridge and then removed the entire body from the fuel lines and the engine room. I disassembled the body and scooped out all of the mud. I used a grease solvent to clean the body and sediment bowl before reassembling it and re-installing it in the engine room. I added a new filter cartridge and filled the entire body with fresh fuel. Since I had a spare handy I also replaced the secondary fuel filter, after first filling it with clean fuel too. I didn’t learn about it until later, but I now know there is also a screen on the input of the fuel lift pump, which I should clean too.

After bleeding the secondary filter, then both sides of the injector pump and finally all four of the injectors, I attempted to start the engine again. After about 30 seconds of cranking, on a day which was also about 20 degrees F warmer than the initial attempt, the old engine started and ran very well. Just as preventive maintenance, I added some biocide to the fuel tank, just in case it still had a bacteria colony, even after the polishing.

The last thing I did was to recently test the performance under power. Prior to all of this fuel filter adventure, I was concerned about the speed under power. The best I had been able to achieve, in optimal sea and wind conditions, was about 5.5 knots. Yesterday, I easily ran the engine up to 3,000 RPM and was able to quickly make 7.5 knots under power.

Time well spent!


Over the years, I have installed several submerged float switches in the bilge of my boat. They’re supposed to run the bilge pump when the level of water in the bilge exceeds a certain level and then stop the pump after the water level is lower. They usually work well for the first year or two but inevitably fail. Sometimes they fail simply because they’re submerged in water constantly and they had a very small leak. Other times they failed probably because I left them underwater over the winter and they were frozen.

To improve upon this I wanted to switch, pun intended, from a submerged mechanical switch to a solid state, adjustable switch. I wanted to be able to remove as much of the switch from the water, hoping to extend its useful life. Of course there are a few commercial switches available but they’re not always customizable. Also, buying a packaged switch wouldn’t teach me anything about the circuitry required or give me the intimate knowledge on how they work.

Now, giving credit where it’s due, none of the circuits in my implementation are completely my own. I borrowed liberally from others who have gone before me. My design has two components and I used someone else’s circuit designs for both. My “value add” was the combination of the two circuits and the replacement of a fixed resistor with a potentiometer, in order to make the switch adjustable.

Before I dive into the design of the circuits, a bit of background may be useful. The level of water in the bilge of a floating boat is not a stable thing. Most importantly, the level rises and falls, not always predictably. The average level of the water may stay the same over longer periods of time but the water can slosh back and forth. Both of these properties can confuse a simple water level sensing switch.

There is a simple solution to this problem though. If the level of the water is sensed by allowing the water to conduct between two electrical probes, setting the height of those probes above the water is important. In short, the pump must be able to reduce the water level to below the height of the probes. Otherwise, the pump will start as soon as the water level rises to, or sloshes against, the probes. The pump will then run and reduce the water level just enough  to break the circuit between the probes and stop the pump. But then, possibly within a few seconds the water level will rise, or slosh, closing the circuit between the probes and running the pump for a few seconds again. This cycle will likely continue indefinitely.

However, if the probes are well above the lowest possible water level and if the pump can run long enough after the probes are above the water level to reduce the water to that lowest level, then the pump is much less likely to rapidly cycle between off and on. If you’re understandably concerned about the pump stopping when the water is running into the bilge non-stop, have no fear. As long as the probes are submerged, the pump will never stop, at least as long as it has power.

Now we can jump into the actual circuits. The first part is the water level sensor. It’s the simpler of the two circuits but possibly the more important part. I started with a circuit from Gary A. Pizl, described at If you look closely at Gary’s design, he has the switch connected directly to the pump. His design has the problem of continuously cycling on and off as the bilge water sloshes. To improve upon that design I disconnected the circuit from the pump and instead connected the output of the circuit to a timer circuit, described in the next paragraph.

The initial circuit for the timer was taken from John Hewes’s monostable design at . I made a few modifications to it, however. I didn’t need the reset capability, because I could simply cut the power to stop the timer. I also found that it works just fine without pulling pin 4 of the 55 high with the resistor to positive voltage. I didn’t put the small capacitor on pin 5 either. The major change was to the value for resistor R1. Instead of using a fixed resistor, I used a potentiometer. That way I could adjust the length of the timer.

The assembled timer looks like this:

Assembled board

And the complete schematic is: