2013-08-22 “It’s your boat too”

An open letter to the Woman’s Group of the Pentagon Sailing Club:

When Annette and I made the commitment to learn to sail, we also promised we would learn to do this in lock-step. Meaning our education and experience was going to be equal. As time has progressed and experience increased we have learned some jobs are better handled by one of us though we each maintain proficiency.

I have no idea how prevalent or not the following is in the “club.” Many times on the docks we see a boat getting underway or coming in where it’s the female who is handling lines while the male provides direction (sometimes loudly) from behind the helm. As the woman struggles and the man becomes frustrated it seems there must be a better way. We see this all the time and it makes me crazy. 

Something that works for us on Magnolia is that under “most” circumstances at “Sea & Anchor” my wife, Annette, handles the helm while I work the decks and lines as required. I am no giant and Annette is no weakling, but for us it plays to our individual strengths than the other way around.


Another tool in our arsenal is “Marriage Savers.” These are inexpensive, geeky-looking headset walkie-talkies that we wear during all “sea & anchor” evolutions. It gives us a way to communicate while barely speaking above a whisper. They are an excellent supplement to only hand signals. There are no “loud” voices which greatly reduces stress in an already stressful part of sailing.

As for the title of this post, I wish I could say I came up with the above on my own, but it is actually the title of a book, It’s Your Boat Too: A Woman’s Guide to Greater Enjoyment on the Water by Suzanne Giesemann.  I recommend you  read it and then have your spouse read it too because it is a very educational book for both men and women. A strange coincidence, the first sailboat Annette and I were ever on was Suzanne’s and Ty’s sailboat, Liberty. We actually hold them responsible for getting this snowball rolling and those other two on Second Sally for making us somewhat capable and less dangerous to ourselves and those around us!!!!

2013-08-16 “8/10s of a volt – The difference between success & failure”

I will get to the headline in a moment but first a little background.  Magnolia was purchased with 2 x 2oo amp/hours of battery storage in her house bank. The amount of storage allowed us to operate the systems aboard Magnolia for about 24 hours without connecting to either shore power or running the Westerbeke 8.5 Kilo-Watt generator for a couple hours while at anchor. I am here to tell you there is nothing more annoying on a sail boat than to hear an engine run whether it’s the auxiliary engine or the generator. The larger battery bank we will not have to run that generator as long!


(Starboard House Bank)


(Port House Bank)

In addition to the House Bank we replaced the start batteries, one for each generator and auxiliary engine. This is where the mystery began. In consultation with my friend Greg and Magnolia’s professional electrician it was decided we would install a Group 27 battery for the auxiliary engine and a Group 24 for the generator. This is where my mystery began. I installed the Group 27 and the Auxiliary Engine operated perfectly. I installed the Group 24 on the generator and it would not even turn over.


(Engine Start Battery)


(Generator Start Battery)

This would be an excellent time to disclose my dirty little secret. I am a lousy mechanic and until we purchased Magnolia the most mechanical thing I ever did was change the oil in my cars. I was such a neophyte my “best” friends labeled me “beer Bi$&h.” I have the coffee cup to prove it!


After the initial start failure of the generator I connected it to the proven Group 27  and the generator started right up. Crazy! Ok, guess the generator requires the increased power available on the Group 27 over the Group 24. Truth be told I nor my ”consultants” believed a Group 27 should be required to start the generator. In spite of the previous I traded for another Group 27. After the installing the Group 27 surprisingly the problem persisted!  What? A quick voltage check indicated a voltage of 12.6 on the “problem” battery and 13.4 on the “good”battery. Are you kidding me??? A call to whom I refer to Mr. Happy (definitely not happy) at Westerbeke he suggested checking voltage at the starter instead of at the battery. It was then that I discovered the ground cable on the generator was ever so slightly loose! CRAP!! Obviously the problem went right away after cleaning and tightening the connection.

Lesson learned, stick with to your instincts. If it appears to not make sense, IT DOES NOT MAKE SENSE!!! In hindsight the above can be seen perfectly clear, the trick is going to be to see clearly during the process! Practice makes perfect, will keep working it!

2012-08-04 Automatic Identification System

One of the Admirals (Annette) earliest requests for Magnolia was the inclusion of a Automatic Identification System (AIS)  system as part of the electronics upgrade. There are two types of implementations. A passive system that would allow Magnolia to electronically know what ships were around her. The second in addition seeing what ships are around Magnolia tells those same ships that Magnolia is around them too! Its good to see, but better to be seen! Below is just a couple of the many ships we have seen near by!

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The AIS System on Magnolia is made up of the two boxes seen below on the left. The AIS transponder is on the right and the device that allows the VHF antenna to be shared is in the center.  Though the picture on the right may not be that pretty, the organization is actually pretty good.

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Below is the cockpit display where surrounding ship data will be displayed and overlaid upon charts and radar data. In addition alarms will be sounded automatically if a ship appears to be moving in a way that might threaten Magnolia with collision.

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As you can see the Admiral appears happy with the additional tools she has available when safely navigating Magnolia.