Sea Stories - September 2020

These are the books and videos we’re bringing on board this month.
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What we're watching

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Rodeo Riders

One way to learn how a particular boat handles rough seas is to find a nasty inlet, sit back and then watch. You’ll eventually see that some boats are better than others when doing battle with King Neptune. If you don’t have a gnarly inlet close to home, the Wavy Boats YouTube channel is the next best thing. The channel focuses on Bakers Haulover Inlet in North Miami. When wind battles current here, things get dicey—and sometimes dangerous—very quickly. Standing waves as high as 8 to 10 feet and a rushing current as fast as 6 knots create treacherous conditions that some boats and owners just aren’t equipped to handle. Despite the dangers, the videos are informative.

More salty reads

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You Can Do It Boats are complex, mysterious machines. Even the simplest watercraft have systems and maintenance requirements that can be intimidating. While it’s sometimes worth your while to pay a pro to do the work, there are plenty of projects you can do yourself. More often than not, you’ll save money and learn something along the way. Here are three highly regarded DIY books that can help you fix your head, rewire a bunk lamp, varnish your wood trim and much more.

Nigel Calder’s Boatowner’s Mechanical and Electrical Manual: How to Maintain, Repair and Improve Your Boat’s Essential Systems has for decades been considered the penultimate guide to taking care of your boat. Inside the fourth edition are updated chapters covering basic direct and alternating current systems, marine sanitation devices, marine plumbing, sailboat rigging, windlasses, marine engines, air conditioning and more. Page-by-page instructions describe how to change an engine impeller, bleed a diesel fuel system, rebuild a marine head and rewire an electrical circuit, among many other projects. ($60, International Marine)

Many new boats arrive with very little exterior wood, while others seemingly celebrate a healthy slathering of teak and mahogany. It’s easy enough to let these woods age gracefully over time, but some folks simply can’t resist the sight of a nicely varnished or oiled piece of wood. Brightwork: The Art of Finishing Wood by Rebecca J. Wittman aims to demystify the care of marine hardwoods. She starts with the history and makeup of marine varnishes and works all the way through how to add thinners, accelerants and flow enhancers. Other chapters cover brush maintenance, surface preparation, application and other coatings such as oil and sealers. The how-tos and tutorials are presented with nice photography of traditional craft covered in countless layers of high-gloss varnish and other wood treatments. Though the book is out of print, it is available from a sizable group of online resellers at reasonable prices. It’s worth hunting for.

There are few boats these days that don’t have some sort of onboard electrical system. As the years go by, owners typically add more gadgets and gizmos to the mix, and it’s not uncommon for projects to be done using the wrong methods and materials. By the time a boat is on its second or third owner, there’s usually a mess of wires lurking belowdecks scheming to ruin a nice day on the water. Though you don’t have to throw the baby out with the bathwater as the title suggests, Mike Westin’s Replacing Your Boat’s Electrical System is a good guide to help DIY owners better understand the direct and alternating current systems on their boat. The book is packed with informative illustrations and step-by-step instructions on all kinds of electrical projects. ($30, Adlard Coles)

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