Monthly Archives: January 2016

Becoming More Gentlemanly

There’s an old nautical saying dating from the 19th century that goes, “Gentlemen don’t sail to weather.” This comes from a time when sailing craft were primarily working vessels engaged in fishing, trade and transport, private yachts were virtually unknown, and the idea of sailing for pleasure was about as odd as we would think recreational tractor trailer driving would be. Sailing to weather means sailing upwind, and it’s generally hard work and a bumpy ride. My understanding of the origin of the term is that when recreational yachting first started in the late 1800’s, British lords and ladies (gentlemen and women) would have their servants sail their yachts upwind along the coast, where the gentlefolk would then board for a comfortable downwind sail home.

Hunter sailboats tend not to be very gentlemanly. Their B&R rigs utilize steeply raked spreaders, and the boom can’t be let out very far before the mainsail is laying flat up against them, potentially chafing itself full of holes. The mast is stepped far forward and carries a very large main, which completely blankets the jib once the wind angle gets deeper than about 120 degrees. Now there are actually a lot of advantages to this rig for recreational sailors, ones that are beyond the scope of this post, but basically this means that they just aren’t suited for sailing directly downwind. They sail upwind really well, and love a beam reach, but if downwind is the direction you want to go, the best approach is to gybe back and forth from a port broad reach to a starboard one and back again.

Having to sail a zigzag course downwind can be a real pain when the channel is narrow or restricted, and we naturally see a lot of that sailing in the Intracoastal Waterway. But there are some things that can be done to improve the situation, and we’ve finally worked out way through the list.

First, after our mainsail returned from its recent spa vacation, we took it to the local sail loft to have Spectra reinforcing patches sewn on where it rubs on the spreader tips. Next, we’ve rigged up a simple boom preventer that clips to one of the mainsheet blocks and can be run forward to a bow cleat. This keeps the boom from crash gybing if the helmsperson’s attention wanders for a moment and they fail to notice a wind shift or drift off course while on a deep broad reach. And most importantly, we’ve now added a whiskerpole. This will let us pole the jib out to the opposite side from the main, getting it out of the main’s wind shadow and allowing us to hold a wing-on-wing setting when sailing deeper than 120 degrees.



All of this should really come in handy as we head downwind, working our way west towards Mexico along Cuba’s north shore in a few months.

Some tips for you other H376 owners out there. If you look it up on the Forespar website (the go-to company for whisker and spinnaker poles) they say a Hunter 376 requires a 12-22 pole, or one that is adjustable from 12 to 22 feet. They would be wrong. Based on our J measurement (less than 12 feet), we went with the 10-18 instead, and it’s almost too long. You can just get it clipped onto the jib clew with the sail furled. Any longer, and it would be near impossible to set the pole properly. So don’t pay any attention to Forespar’s recommendation. It’s just a general suggestion for a generic 37 foot boat. If they had actually ever sailed a Hunter 376, they’d know that the 10-18 is the one you want.

Our Vision Realized

We knew from the beginning that we were going to need a lot of power. For instance, our freezer was able to keep gelato frozen and the refrigerator kept the beer chilled all through the long hot summer, but at a cost of 100 amp hours a day. Our total daily electrical consumption when sitting at anchor is close to 150 amp hours. But we did not want to have to run our generator (or even worse, our engine) for hours every day to keep our batteries charged. And I don’t like wind generators. I just don’t. No, I knew our solution was going to be solar. And the best way to do it appeared to be flexible panels mounted to our bimini. We had space for 500 watts of panels, and using the lighter flexible panels mounted to the fabric bimini eliminated the need for a complicated and expensive support framework. So I set to work and drafted a design.

It took three months and the bimini had to make three separate trips back to the canvas shop for tweaks and adjustments, but we finally tightened the last screw yesterday. And I have to say, I’m in love with the results.

Bimini1 Bimini2 Bimini3

Here were our design criteria:

We didn’t want to put a couple of boat bucks worth of solar panels and wiring on a worn out bimini. So we retired the one Eagle Too came to us with and had a new one made.

We used Sunbrella Supreme rather than regular Sunbrella, because we wanted a truly waterproof bimini. The old one would only slow the rain down rather than stop it, and Sunbrella depends on a coating for its water resistance, which eventually washes out. While the top layer of Supreme appears the same as regular Sunbrella, its softly flocked underside makes it truly waterproof.

We wanted the panels to be mounted securely enough to hold up to pop-up thunderstorms and their brief 50 knot winds, but easily removable in case a severe or tropical storm is predicted. I didn’t want to depend on Velcro, because I didn’t trust that the adhesive holding it to the panel would survive the tropical sun. Do you have any idea how hot a black panel gets in full sun? Plenty hot enough to melt adhesive.

Six panels meant a lot of wiring, and we wanted the bimini to organize it in a way that made everything look neat and orderly rather than like an explosion at a spaghetti factory.

Tony Renbarger of Coastal Canvas of Pensacola took on the challenge, and met every one of our requirements. i think his solution to our mounting problem was quite elegant. His research led him to a fastener from Australia we’d never seen before called a Stayput. The moment he showed it to me, I knew it was exactly what we were looking for. The post on the fastener fits the grommets in our panels perfectly, and once you flip down the key, they lock the panels in place by jamming against the grommets if the panel tries to lift. For extra security, I purchased some stainless steel E-clips from McMaster Carr and used them to lock the keys in place.

Bimini4 Bimini5

The hardest part of using these fasteners is that you have to get the placement exactly right. The smaller 50 watt panels we used on the aft end of the bimini only had four grommets, one in each corner. But the larger 100 watt panels have eight, four down each long side. Tony wasn’t sure he could get that many to line up precisely, so we only used the Stayputs on the four corners. I then had him sew some fabric loops into the top, and we used black parachute cord to secure the center grommets. This securely holds the center of the panels down, but will be very easy to remove if necessary.


Some strategically placed Velcro tabs and two boots on the bimini trailing edge manage all the wiring.

Bimini7 bimini8 Bimini9

Even though the panels are only a few pounds apiece, their combined weight was causing the bimini to sag just a bit in the center. So we added a spreader bar between the center bows to keep the top taunt.


And Tony found some nylon standoffs to keep the bimini frame from rattling against the new siderails we had installed when the wind blows.

Bimini12 Bimini13

Using two smaller 50 watt panels on the aft end of the bimini left us plenty of room for a larger viewing window to let the helmsperson keep an eye on the sails.


A word about the panels we used. They’re from King Solar, and we purchased them on Amazon. Since we have Prime, they shipped for free, which is pretty amazing when you consider that they came all the way from China. We bought four of the 100 watt panels, and two of the 50 watts. The 120 watt panel they offer was actually a bit too long to fit our bimini, while the dimensions on the 100 watt fit our top exactly. There were two things I liked best about the King Solar panels (besides the incredible price). First, they radiused the corners, making them friendlier to fabric biminis. Some other models have square corners, and are wicked sharp and will tear or poke a hole in fabric if given the chance. Second, they mount their diode boxes on the underside of the panels rather than on top, which offers them a little more protection from the weather. We had Tony add some squares of extra fabric under where the diode boxes would sit to eliminate chafe.

So after probably six months of research and planning, and another three of construction and alteration, we finally have the top we’ve been wanting.  In full sun, we should get from 30 to 35 amps of DC power from this design, which means it should only take four to five hours of sunlight a day to make all the electricity we need. And you know what’s really amusing about all this? SInce our boat is our primary (and only) residence, then due to our crazy tax laws, the American taxpayer will be providing us with a hefty tax credit to pay for the cost of our new bimini and installing solar panels on our yacht. Is this a great country or what? 🙂

We’ll have another post in the near future that details the specifics on the controller we’re using and how we’re wiring into our existing charging system. It will be the next installment of our More Power, Scotty! series. Till then…

The Story Of The Stubborn Swivel

With our departure date rapidly nearing, things have gotten crazy busy onboard Eagle Too. So busy that I haven’t had the time to sit down and draft a proper post in quite a while. But we recently solved a problem that I think will interest anyone with a Z-Spar furling mast, so I wanted to take a moment to share our experience in case there’s someone else out there who may have encountered the same issue. We call it the story of the stubborn swivel.

We recently received our main and jib back from their Sail Care spa vacation, and they looked mahvalous after their sauna, deep tissue massage, and a couple of minor procedures to peel a few years away (which we obviously don’t discuss when in polite company. Ahem.) On the first calm day after their return, we planned to bend on the sails and turn Eagle Too back into a proper sailboat. While she’d been a pretty good sport about it, we could tell she just wasn’t in her element having to behave as a power boat during the absence of her primary motive power.

So it’s a mild, calm day and I invite my brother over to assist with the sails as it’s a two person job and Rhonda is still heading to work for a few more weeks. The jib goes up without a hitch and is quickly back on the forestay where it belongs. But the mainsail fights us tooth and nail. It has to be raised in a manner similar to a furling jib—one person at the mast feeding the luff boltrope into the furler foil inside the mast while the other one winches it up. Now the sail came down pretty easily a month or so ago, and I wasn’t anticipating any problems putting it back up. So I was really surprised by the amount of work it was taking to hoist the sail. I mean, give it all you’ve got, almost throw your back out, have to stop to catch your breath every few cranks of the winch, work. Something was just not right. But I went into denial mode, telling myself “It’s all right, we just need to get it up and then it won’t need to be touched for a year or two and everything will be fine.”

But a foot short of the top, the sail dug in and just quit moving. I could pull it back down, but when we raised it again it would keep stopping just short of the top. I couldn’t get the luff tight, which means there’s no way the sail would roll onto the furler. So we tried brute-forcing it by cranking the halyard so tight that you could have probably plucked out a pretty good rendition of Stairway To Heaven on it and the winch started noticeably flexing the deck. Still nothing. So we were forced to admit defeat and take the sail back down.

I did some troubleshooting, I lubricated some things, and I tied a downhaul to the head swivel and ran it up and down the mast without the sail. It would bind up at the spreaders and at the infamous one-foot-short-of-the-top spot, but I could pull it through and get it all the way to the top of the mast. So a few days later, Rhonda and I tried to put the sail up again. But we encountered the same results. It just wouldn’t go that last foot.

Since I already had our riggers working on installing our new whiskerpole, I asked them to see if they could figure it out. It took them a few days and quite a bit of head scratching, but here’s what they finally determined.

The main halyard is attached to the top of the swivel, and you attach the head of the sail to the bottom. When you raise the sail, the swivel rides up the furler foil inside the mast. The body of the swivel is kept aligned (not allowed to rotate in the mast) by a nylon (or possibly Delrin, I’m not sure) pad that rides in a channel on the inside of the mast. It is screwed to the body of the swivel with two countersunk flat head machine screws. I’ve called out the part on the Z-Spar parts diagram below so you can see what I’m talking about.


I tried to take a picture of it, and as you can see, it’s not really visible from outside the mast. It’s the vertical black piece just below the shackle.


I’m not sure why he thought to do it, because he said he’d never seen this problem before, but our rigger finally took a screwdriver and pried open the slot in the mast so that he could make enough room to release the pad from the slot it rides in and rotate it around to view the fasteners. And he found that one of the screws holding the pad onto the swivel had backed itself out about three or four turns. It was supposed to be countersunk flush with the surface of the pad, but instead it was sticking out a few millimeters, and the edge of the screw head was dragging on the inside of the mast. It was basically acting like a brake shoe, fighting our attempts to raise the sail. That explained the fine metal shavings we were finding inside the mast! And there was apparently some sort of ridge or bump inside the mast close to the top that the screw caught on and wouldn’t allow us to fully raise the sail.

Such a big problem caused by such a small thing. Backing out the screws and reseating them with some threadlock cured the issue, and the sail then went up with no issues.

So we just wanted to share our experience, because this mast system was used on a lot of boats built in the mid-to-late 90’s. We hope if you’re having a similar problem, a Google search will lead you here, and possibly save you some headaches.

The Coffee Bar Is Open

I admit it. Rhonda and I have a serious Starbucks problem. Our gold cards are both on automatic reload, and I think our monthly coffee bill is probably second only to our slip fees. Once you’re used to quality coffee, it’s hard to ever again be satisfied with a can of Folgers. Every morning, Eagle Too is filled with the sweet aroma of freshly prepared lattes. And while we may live on a boat, we don’t care to give up all of our little shoreside luxuries. Even when out on the water sitting peacefully at anchor, it’s a morning ritual to fire up our little Honda generator (we call her Jennie) and set the coffee brewing.

One of the things I love about the layout of the Hunter 376 is this perfectly positioned alcove in the center of the galley. It’s just the right size to hold the equipment for our personal coffee bar.


When we first moved onboard, we brought our old coffee and espresso maker from home. It fit nicely in the available space. But while it did the job, it suffered from a major flaw that rendered it unsuitable for a Life On The Hook™—it had a lot of glass. We knew it was not a matter of if, but when one or both of the carafes got tossed across the cabin and smashed.

A lot of thought and much comparison shopping with tape measure in hand went into the selection of our new brewing equipment. First, it had to fit in the available space. Next, we wanted no glass. Better to go with a coffee maker that has a steel thermal carafe. Not only is it more rugged, but it also keeps the coffee hot for a couple of hours after brewing without spoiling the flavor the way reheating it does. We also wanted a real 15 bar pump-driven espresso maker. They’re quicker and use less power than the cheaper steam driven machines. That means less runtime on Jennie.

In the end, we settled on the Bonavita 5 cup coffee maker, and the DeLonghi ECP3220 espresso machine. With its pre-infusion mode, the Bonavita really pulls out all the flavor of custom roast coffee. Several times a week I treat myself to a pot of 100% Kona that we order from Hawaii, and trust me, this machine turns it into caffeine-laced nectar. The five cup size seems perfect for our purposes, but if you drink a lot of coffee and have the additional room, they also make an 8 cup model. The DeLonghi pumps out a rich double shot with beautiful crema less than 90 seconds after I turn it on. It’s also a cinch to clean, something I can’t really say about our trusty old Krupps machine.

Best of all, with a little shopping, we were able to purchase both for less that $250 total. We found the best deal on the Bonavita through Amazon. We found the DeLonghi at Bed, Bath & Beyond, and it appears to be a special model that’s only sold there. You can find the similar ECP3420 model at multiple outlets, but it’s $30 more for a little more stainless steel trim. Functionally, though, they’re the same machine. I was willing to forgo the extra piece of shiny metal for the $30 savings.

Yes, quality coffee is one of the things that keeps the crew of Eagle Too in good spirits and at peak performance. I can’t wait until later this year when we should be idling in the Rio Dulce with ready access to freshly roasted Columbian and Costa Rican beans for the Eagle Too Coffee Bar. Mmmmmmm…. 🙂

No Longer The Generous Neighbor

In our recent post It’s Stupid Cheaper, I told the tale of how we came to purchase a galvanic isolator for Eagle Too. One thing I forgot to mention is that because we didn’t previously have one, we were providing a free ride to anyone in the marina who couldn’t or wouldn’t keep up with their own bottom maintenance. Since every boat here is tied together electrically through the shore power system’s safety ground circuit, anyone who wasn’t maintaining their zinc anodes to keep the stray current gods at bay were actually being protected by ours. Probably a good deal for them, but not so much for us. And probably the biggest reason our zincs would vanish in a month. There are boats here that we’ve never seen a single person on in the more than a year that we’ve been here. so what are the chances that they’re having their zinc anodes replaced on a regular schedule?

But we are no longer the generous neighbor. We’re now the “what’s ours is ours, and you can take care of yourself,” slipmates. Because this week we installed and activated our cloaking device. We’re now electrically isolated from the neighborhood ground circuit, and those who can’t or won’t replace their zincs are no longer getting a free ride on ours.

It was a pretty straightforward job that took about 90 minutes. For you other Hunter 376 owners out there, here’s how we did it.

The unit itself went into the lower aft end of the line locker, and we accessed the wiring through the forward corner of the port lazarette.


Four green 10 gauge pigtails assembled and ready to install

When you remove the shore power breaker panel in the aft lazarette and pull it free, you can easily reach the green ground wires. There are two—one for each shore power circuit. While the black (hot) and white (neutral) wires feed through the two breakers, the green safety ground wires are continuous feeds from the shore power inlets to the main breaker panel at the nav station. All you have to do is cut these two green wires, and then attach pigtails to each freshly cut end (four total) that are long enough to reach the isolator in the bottom of the line locker, about 18 to 24 inches.

This shows the wiring after I’d cut the ground wires and crimped on the pigtails.


The other side of the partition above is the aft end of the line locker. After reinstalling the breaker panel, we pulled the pigtails down and attached them to the isolator, and then mounted it to the aft end of the locker. I took this picture after I put some split loom over the four pigtails to keep them organized.


Because the partition between the line locker and aft lazarette is only about 1/4″ thick (probably more like 3/16ths, actually) and there were wires and hoses on the other side, I knew I didn’t want to use self tapping screws to mount the isolator. The sharp points would probably end up puncturing something, probably at a bad time when whatever got punctured or shorted out was needed most. So Instead, I used the shortest machine screws that would do the job, and then put acorn nuts on them to keep them from rubbing a hole in anything vital.

The extra hole to the right of the acorn nut below is where I removed the wire tie that was holding this bundle of stuff in place. You can see it pushed out of the way to the lower right. I remounted everything once the job was done.


A quick pass with the shop vac and few more minutes to put everything back it their respective places, and I was done. Which leaves me wondering why I didn’t do this job about a dozen zinc anodes ago. But this was just one of those jobs where I really didn’t know how I was going to do it, so I kept putting it off. But once I finally bought the parts and had them in front of me, it was one of those  “well of course, this is the way to do it, obviously,” tasks. I’m sure you’ve all had one or two of those. 🙂

A Place For Stuff

There’s never enough room on a sailboat to store everything you’d like to have aboard. It’s always an exercise in possessional triage, trying to determine what is important enough to merit some of the limited storage space onboard, and what can be lived without (sometimes regretfully). Unlike a house or a motor home, you can’t just build a storage shed in the backyard or hook up a trailer for the overflow. But there are a few tricks you can employ. For instance, we’d previously posted a picture of the nice little decktop storage rack we had fabricated.


It turns the difficult to traverse area under the boom (you have to duck walk or crawl to get past the main sheet) into a useful storage spot. And with 500 watts of solar panels now gracing our bimini, we’ll never miss the 5 watt panel the rack covers.

And today, we had welders show up to replace our aft-most port and starboard top lifelines with solid rail. With storage on the stern pulpit already maxed out (barbeque, outboard motor, outboard crane and Lifesling use all the existing space), adding more rail will give us additional space to mount gear. This will also let us move the fishing rod holders off the bimini frame to the new rails, which will be much more secure.

Railings1 Railings2 Railings3 Railings4 Railings5Railings6

Now we can order that rail mounted anchor storage bracket for our 35 lb Manson Supreme that we replaced with The Kracken. 🙂

Another step closer…

High Wire Act

“Can you do it without taking the mast down?” That was the first question I asked our rigger when we discussed replacing our 18 year old standing rigging.

“Yes, we should be able to,” he replied.

“How long will it take?” I next asked. Since we live onboard, I was envisioning the logistics of moving our vehicles to the shipyard so that Rhonda could make it to work each day and I’d have a way to get around besides walking.

“If we start early, we should be able to do it in a day.”

“Fine, let’s do it, then,” I said. For peace of mind, we wanted to replace our original wire before we head south in the spring. But I really, really, really didn’t want to have to drop the spar. After wrestling that huge radar cable down through the mast, we finally have all the mast wiring installed, and using almost a whole tube of caulk has stopped the persistent rain leak that would dribble water on our salon table. I hated the idea of having to take it all apart again.

We waited for weather. Our rigger finally called and said “You’re scheduled for next Wednesday at 0900. Try to be here early.”

So naturally, it got cold. We hate cold weather. Don’t like anything about it. But every single winter, it seems there’s always a reason why we have to be out on the bay moving the boat in near-freezing temperatures. As we departed on our dawn patrol, the temp was 39° (4° C) with a strong east wind pushing steep rollers across the bay. We just can’t understand how some people call boating in these conditions fun. It was not a comfortable trip.


Is This The Face Of A Happy Camper?


The Sun Finally Coming Up As We Arrive

The Sun Finally Coming Up As We Arrive

We were tied up to seawall by 0730, and then Eagle Too and I waited while Rhonda headed off to work.


While killing time wandering around waiting for the riggers to arrive, I encountered this scene. It made me wonder why in the world someone would want to do something like this.


Is this something that’s being repaired and will one day float again? Is it a donated organ being prepared for a stern transplant in a desperate attempt to save another boat’s life?  Is someone collecting discarded boat bits in the hope of someday constructing a Frankenboat out of the parts? My mind reeled. Because if you’re having to tear down things to this degree to fix something, I really think it’s time to buy another boat.

As promised, our riggers appeared promptly at 0900 and got straight to work. After securing the mast with lines forward, they loosened the shrouds and removed the forestay. There are a lot of wires on  a B&R rig like ours, and while the forestay was on the workbench having the jib furler overhauled, the crew worked their way through rest one at a time, replacing old with new.

Working1 Working2 Working3

We did make one change to make the boat better than new. Usually when you tune the mast on a B&R rig, you put four to six inches of prebend in the mast to keep it stable. But we have a mainsail that furls into the mast, and furling masts like to be kept straight for best operation. So it’s a compromise, trying to put in enough prebend to support the mast properly, but not too much to interfere with the operation of the furler. I thought we had too much bend, which was making the mainsail a bit more difficult to furl than it should be. But there was no way to adjust the upper diagonal shrouds to pull the bend back out after the lower shrouds were properly tensioned. So at our rigger’s suggestion, we added a set of turnbuckles to the upper diagonals to give more adjustment.


New Turnbuckles Circled


Closeup Of The Starboard Turnbuckle

This appeared to work exactly as predicted. Once the rig was properly tensioned, they were able to use these new upper turnbuckles to reduce the mast prebend from its usual 5 – 6 inches down to a more reasonable 2 – 3 inches. I can’t wait to get the sails back on and see how this affects the operation of the mainsail furler.

As promised, the job wrapped up at 4PM, and by 4:30 our riggers were helping push us off the seawall to start the 30 minute trip back to our slip downtown. We motored out of Bayou Chico and out onto the bay in conditions so different from those of that morning that it was almost hard to believe it was the same day. While it was still somewhat chilly, the wind had died and the water was glassy, making it almost pleasant. We left just in time to see the sunset, accompanied by several pods of dolphins.

HomeAgain HomeAgain2

And so another major job is behind us and we’re another step closer to departure. One thing we noticed while motoring back was that as a result of installing the new rigging, the annoying vibration our rig had always displayed while under power was completely gone. So I finished the day a very contented man. 🙂

Follow Us On Facebook!

Hi everyone! This is just a quick post to let you know that Life On The Hook™ is now on Facebook. It was one of the hundred little things we wanted to do before shoving off, and now it’s done. You’ll find us at Our plan is to use Facebook for quick posts on daily happenings and giving updates on our location once we depart, and save the blog posts for the truly meaty stuff.

So if you follow the blog, and you want to stay up with our latest musings as we travel around on our five year (more or less) mission of adventure and discovery, please consider liking our Facebook page.



Rhonda’s Tremendous, Monumental, Colossal, Really Big Day

Fewer and fewer ties remain that bind us to the pier and prevent our departure for our long planned Life On The Hook™. The most significant one has been Rhonda’s employment. While I retired last January and have spent the past twelve months working on our boat to prepare for our adventure, Rhonda has continued to go to work five days a week.

Rhonda likes her job. She’s the customer service and logistics manager for a local chemical company that provides products used by mills around the world in the manufacture of paper. From responding to and fulfilling orders to tracking inventory in rail cars and following tanker trucks across the country, she stays quite busy. She’s been there for almost 18 years. There has been a minimal amount of office politics, only the average amount of drama, and she’s pretty well paid for the Pensacola area. It’s been about as good as working for someone else can reasonably be.

Yesterday was Monday, January 4th, the first work day of the new year, and it was a really big day for Rhonda. At 8 o’clock in the morning, she submitted her letter of resignation. Her last day will be Monday, February 29th. She thought it would be amusing and a bit distinctive to join me in retirement on leap day. She actually slept poorly the night before. It was a really big step, and not one she took lightly. But it was a necessary step to allow us to move on to the next chapter in our lives.

The last major line binding us to the dock has been untied, and on the final day of February it will be tossed ashore. Then we’ll only need a few weeks to take care of some final items while we wait for a good weather window to head south. It has been a long journey, but we’re almost there…

It’s Stupid Cheaper

“It’s stupid cheaper.” Rhonda chuckled when I said this, so naturally I thought it should be a blog post. The story goes something this:

Our boat burns zincs. They dissolve so fast it’s almost like they’re just shiny little Alka-Seltzer tablets. Our diver is constantly replacing them. Even the huge grouper anode we have hanging over the side and attached to our rigging doesn’t seem to be helping.

Now it’s not our boat’s fault, nor ours either. It’s the marina’s. You see, all the boats here in the marina are plugged into the same shore power electrical system. This means that we’re all electrically connected together through the marina’s safety ground circuit. That’s the green wire in the shore power connection—the black wire is the “hot” wire (the juice comes in), the white wire is the common or neutral wire (the juice goes out) , and the green wire is the safety ground that’s there just in case something electrical develops an internal short to ground. It gives the current a safe way to leave the boat that doesn’t involve using your body as the conductor when you touch the shorted device. It’s actually a good thing to have.

But since everyone is electrically connected to everyone else through this circuit, and we’re all floating in seawater, which does a pretty decent job of conducting electricity, then small differences in electrical potential between boats (caused by something like a submerged wire in a wet bilge with a crack in its insulation) starts stray electrical currents flowing between boats. And we have a lot of stray electrical currents here in our marina. My guess is if we could actually see them, the water around us would look like the Aurora Borealis (OK, that would actually be pretty cool. But it’s not a good thing).

These stray currents flowing in and out of your boat starts to eat away at the underwater metals. Things like your prop, shaft, and through-hulls all take a big hit. To address this, we install sacrificial anodes made of zinc. To the stray electrical currents, the zinc is filet mignon while all the other metals are Brussels sprouts. The current will eat the sprouts if it’s hungry and has no other choice, but give it steak, and that’s what it’s going to gobble up first. We apparently have very hungry currents. Because our zincs vanish in just a couple of months.

We’ve finally decided we’re tired of sacrificing poor defenseless anodes to the underwater current gods. It’s time to take a stand. It’s time to install a galvanic isolator.


I liked this one from ProMariner best because it can protect two 30 amp shore power lines in a single unit. Since we have dual 30 amp feeds on Eagle Too, this saves the trouble and expense of having to install two isolators.

The way a galvanic isolator works is pretty simple. You cut the green ground wire in your shore power connection and wire it to this device. Inside are a set of diodes that block current flow in/out of your ground wire, severing your electrical connection from all the other boats plugged in to the common ground circuit. Like activating a Klingon cloaking device, your boat just electrically vanishes from the circuit, and the hungry stray current flowing through the system and surrounding water can no longer see you. Your zincs are saved! As are all your other underwater metals. If you do have a circuit onboard that shorts to ground, the diode breakdown voltage is exceeded and they conduct the current safely ashore. There’s also a built in capacitor to carry stray AC currents safely through the ground circuit while still keeping your boat electrically isolated from the other boats.

Now you may be wondering why is it, if this little wonder works so well in reducing corrosion from stray electrical currents, and we live in a marina full of stray currents, that we hadn’t picked up one of these little gems long ago. I was reminded of the reason when I checked the price of the device on West Marine. It’s listed at $414 plus tax. Ouch. A shaft zinc is only $11. You can buy a bucket load of them for the price of prevention. So we said “die little zincs!” and just kept replacing them rather than buy the moderately expensive solution.

But we’re in the final stages of getting ready to leave, and there’s no telling what type of banana republic third world electrical systems we’re going to encounter on our adventure. So it was time to make the upgrade. Besides, now that we’ll be doing the zinc replacements ourselves rather than having someone else do it (that’s one of the reasons we got SCUBA certified, after all), we’ll be saving our own time and labor in the future by not having to keep constantly going under the boat to change zincs.

But $414? Seriously? There must be a cheaper alternative. Checking Defender, my go-to marine outfitter when I’m looking to save some money, I found the unit listed for $379. Better, but still more than I wanted to pay for what’s really just some diodes and a capacitor in a nice looking box. Resigned to having to spend more that I wanted (this is a boat we’re talking about after all), I prepared to pull the trigger. But then the little voice in my head (you have one too, don’t you?) said two little words. “Check Google.”

“Great idea, little voice,” I said, and typed ProMariner ProSafe SF60 into my search bar. And out tumbled a long list of vendors. Most had it listed in the same $375 – $400 dollar range as Defender and West Marine. But then I saw it. A place I’d never heard of called Anchor Express in Stoughton Massachusetts was selling it for only $252. A whole $162 less than West Marine.

“Well that’s stupid cheaper,” I blurted out. And Rhonda laughed. Because she had no idea what was going on in my head (sometimes even I’m not always sure). “What are you talking about?” she asked.

So I explained. Stupid cheaper is when something has such a good price that you’d be a fool to even consider buying it somewhere else due to vendor loyalty or a desire to earn reward certificates  that arrive in the mail and feel like free money (but really aren’t).  It’s not a price that makes you stop and consider, it’s one that makes you go “Duhhhh, this is a no brainer.” It’s so cheap it would be stupid to even consider another option.

Stupid cheaper. Needless to say, our ProSafe SF60 is now on its way from Anchor Express. Because Rhonda and I are a lot of things, but I like to think stupid isn’t one of them. 🙂