Clark Beek

Electric Shock Drowning: three more dead this week

10 Jul

I wrote a draft of this post last week, and wanted Kevin Ritz, President of the Electric Shock Drowning Prevention Association, to check its accuracy before going to press. In the interim three more children have died from Electric Shock Drowning (ESD).

I first became aware of ESD when I showed up for my first day at Kevin's ABYC Marine Electrical Certification course. After the first hour of class Kevin had us riveted, when we were all expecting a fairly dull week of electrical standards study. Kevin has dedicated his life to marine electrical safety because in 1999 his eight-year-old son ...

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Bilge Pump Nirvana

20 Jun

One of my most common electrical installations is Aqualarm's bilge pump monitoring and control system. Most recently I installed three each on all three of our family ferries in Newport Beach, so nine in total. Aqualarm made us the custom consoles (pictured above). Our ferries are double-ended, so we refer to the ends as Penninsula and Island, rather than bow and stern.

The system will work with any pump, but for full functionality you need to use the console in conjunction with their Smart Switch (float switch):

With the monitor and Smart Switch working together, you get four features that ...

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Ever wonder what happened to PlayStation?

4 Jun

PlayStation, adventurer Steve Fossett's 125-foot catamaran, smashed many records just 8-11 years ago, including the 24-hour speed record, the trans-Atlantic record, and the Jules Verne Trophy, circumnavigating in 58 days, 9 hours.

How fast things happen–and how fast boats sail–in this crazy sailing life. I think all of those record have since been broken again, and in the case of the Jules Verne, twice broken, now down to 45 days, 13 hours.

Steve Fossett died when his plane crashed in the Nevada desert in 2007. One of the many record-breaking projects he left behind was his submersisble, designed to take ...

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A Pilgrimage

29 May

My wife Alison and I just took a vacation (by plane) to the Big Island of Hawaii, where neither of us had ever been. We stayed in Kealakekua, famous for the My Little Grass Shack In Kealakekua, Hawaii song (I like the Don Ho version).

More importantly, it is where Captain James Cook was killed. His memorial is fitting to the great circumnavigator, since it lies across Kealakekua Bay, a mile or so from the nearest habitation. To get there you've got to go by boat. We rented a two-man kayak late in the day and had the memorial, ...

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Viva Solar!

24 May

I was going through some old papers on my boat, and it's been over 15 years since I installed my solar panels. One of the downsides of solar panels is that the output supposedly declines after about eight years, but this has not been the case. I checked the amperage with a fairly accurate ammeter, and my array puts out 13 amps in overhead sun, exactly what it put out during the first few years. These panels haven't had any vacations: They've been sitting there, right where I installed them, for 15 years and roughly 60,000 miles.

In the terrestrial ...

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The ELCI – A Good Idea

17 May

The ELCI (Equipment Leakage Circuit Interrupter) is a new-ish device in the US, which will be part of the ABYC (American Boat and Yacht Council) standards in a few weeks. They've been around in Europe, Australia, and New Zealand for 25 years or so, but I guess we yanks are slow to catch on.

We all know the little GFCI outlets, the ones we have in our bathrooms with the little test and reset buttons? The ELCI is like one of these, but it protects your whole boat. The ELCI would be the first thing in the AC wiring after ...

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Looking Closely

10 May

As cruising sailors we always talk about the grand vistas – the sweeping seascapes, the towering islands, the glorious landfalls – but sometimes the most arresting sights are on a smaller scale…a much smaller scale. While soloing through the channels of Chilean Patagonia for about six weeks I had lots of time on my hands while waiting for weather. I often took short walks in my foul weather gear with my waterproof camera (because it never stopped raining). These photos were all taken along the water's edge with a macro at  about one centimeter away, which either means I was ...

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Buy Mediocre Tools

30 Apr

A good piece of advice for any aspiring mechanic would be, "Buy the best tools you can afford." Quality tools will last a lifetime, and pay for themselves with jobs well done.

If the aspiring mechanic happens to work on boats, I dare say this strategy should be revised.  I'm careful with my tools, but looking over my tool bag there are very few that were there four years ago. Some, like my hammer, have been with me forever. You're always hanging onto a hammer, and it's not likely to go flying. With screwdrivers, wrenches, pliers, and the like you're ...

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Boat Crane and Lift Accidents to Make You Cry

22 Apr

 

 

These are really aweful. The second one, where the strop slides off the bow, almost happened to me, and they  dropped my boat back in the cradle before disaster. Now I always have them tie a line between the two strops, so they can't slip fore or aft.

The main thing we can learn from these is don't be anywhere near a boat when it's being lifted. I don't think anyone was killed in these accidents, but it looks like a few injuries. ...

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VSRs, ACRs, and the Digital Duo Charge for Idiot-Proof Battery Charging

18 Apr

Let's treat the development of these products historically:

In the distant past, the only way to connect a battery for charging or discharging was to flip a switch. This switch usually connected the battery to the main electrical bus, and the main electrical bus was where connections branched out to various consumers of power and charging sources. If you wanted a battery bank to get charged, say, while the engine was running, you flipped its switch to connect it to the main bus. If, after the engine was stopped, you wanted to keep this bank in reserve, you disconnected it ...

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