‘Sail for the Blind’ Set This Weekend

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Tomorrow, Saturday, is the Sail for the Blind and Visually Impaired hosted by the Newport Harbor American Legion Post 291’s Yacht Club and sponsored by the Women’s Ocean Racing Sailing Association (WORSA).  You might remember from my column last week that this day-long event will host more than 240 blind and visually impaired adults along with their escorts, and their companion dogs.

I want to personally thank the 45 boat owners who donated their boats and their time, plus the 150-plus volunteers who will serve as escorts, servers, crew, dogsitters, and take care of every detail.  These volunteers also will assist the sailing guests in steering the boats and adjusting sheet and halyard lines, allowing them to feel the thrill of sailing with all the sensations of wind and motion, and more that I cannot explain.

You can always help the annual Sail for the Blind and Visually Impaired as a volunteer or with a tax-deductible donation.  Boat owners, skippers and those wishing to volunteer for next year can call 949-673-5002 or 949-673-5070, or go online at http://americanlegionyachtclub.com/index.php?id=126.

Tip of the week is a way o help boaters obtain better engine performance and increased miles per gallon.  Since the dramatic raise in fuel prices, I have been receiving emails from boaters who want to know how to get better fuel mileage.

I always respond that there is not one answer, but many variables to the equation that need to be examined to help achieve better fuel economy.  Additionally, it depends the type of boat, your cruising area, and your recreational use of the vessel – harbor cruising will have very different mileage than water skiing.  However, my tip for this week is maintenance-related rather than operational adjustments of the vessel.

When is the last time that you checked your vessel’s fuel filter(s)?  Do you know where your fuel filters are located and how many there are?  Do you have a fuel/water separator(s) in your fuel delivery system?  These are very important questions for you to be able to answer, whether you have a powerboat or a sailboat.

How many times have you heard the story about a sailor caught in stormy sea conditions too windy to hoist a sail, and he started the engine?  The engine ran fine for a while and then started sputtering like there was no fuel, but there was fuel in the tanks.  Finally, the engine shut down, and the boat was left tossing in the swell’s trough?

Well, the engine probably did not have any fuel because the fuel filters become clogged from the particulate matter being shaken off the bottom of the fuel tanks.  When your boat is sitting at the docks or you are cruising the harbor, then the “dirt” in the fuel settles to the bottom of the tanks.  However, once you hit the rough water, the fuel begins sloshing around in the tanks and the years of settling particulate matter is mixed back into the fuel.

I always make certain that I have extra fuel filters for a yacht delivery, and I will have new filters installed prior to most trips.  Some yachts have gauges on the fuel filter’s housing so that you can keep an eye on the pressure.  When the filters start to clog you will not be able to bring the boat up to speed at your cruising RPM setting, and you can physically feel the vessel lug through the water while you throttle up.  So before you call a mechanic for an engine repair, first try changing your primary fuel filters.

Another important item to check is the fuel/water separator under the primary fuel filter.  Specific gravity works in the separator as the fuel will float on top of any water.  You can open the value at the bottom of the bowl and drain out the water until fuel starts to drain out.  In really rough seas I have noticed that sometimes the swells slapping against the hull forces water in the hull’s fuel vent opening, thereby pushing water into the fuel tanks.  You should add “checking the separator” to your list for your hourly vessel safety check while underway.

The introduction of ethanol into gasoline has caused a set of new problems for boaters from fuel tanks leaking to clogged fuel filters, to gumming up fuel in the tanks.  Just wait to when E15 is pumped into your fuel tanks, as I hope that you have zero water in your tanks.  Ethanol is a topic to tackle another day.

And don’t forget: Tune in to the No. 1 boating radio talk show in the nation, Capt. Mike Whitehead’s Boathouse Radio Show, broadcasting coast-to-coast on the CRN Digital Talk Radio syndicated network every Saturday at noon, Pacific Time and replayed on Sunday at 10 am Pacific.  Join Chandler Bell, Craig Carpenter, and me as we talk about “all things boating.”  You can find the station listings, cable TV channels, live streaming on the Internet, and now available are apps to listen to the show for your iPhone, Blackberry, iTouch, Android, Palm, and Windows Mobile at www.BoathouseTV.com or www.BoathouseRadio.com.

Until next week, Safe Voyages!

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