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Posted by on Apr 10, 2009 in Boat Equipment, Fuel, News and Events, Outboard Engines, Sailboat Racing, US |

Conversations on Ethanol, Paint, Sailing Blocks, First-Timers

Spring maintenance themes begin to merge with our computer lives.

Conversation #1, Fuel for Thought:  Earlier in the week, I discussed future columns with Charles Plueddeman, our Midwestern expert on all things outboard and personal watercraft. As one of those in northern climes (he’s in Wisconsin), Charles thought it would be timely to write about ways to avoid sending your outboard to the shop, putting a damper on an already-short boating season. I immediately said I thought the most important thing was keeping your engine above water (I have a friend whose boat seems to have a habit of sinking in its slip). Ignoring my attempt at humor, Charles made the point that modern outboards have gotten so reliable, the biggest issue is bad fuel, and avoiding filling up at cheap-gas places to save a few cents is No. 1 on his list. He went on from there to complain about the problems he’s encountered with ethanol gumming up fuel systems. You can read a story Charles already wrote for us a couple seasons back, The Outboard Expert: Ethanol Issues, and you can also look forward to his upcoming pre-season maintenance article that will provide an ethanol update and other preseason tips for keeping your outboard humming.

Exposing fresh paint on a 24-foot Cornish Crabber at Sail Chatham

Exposing fresh paint on a 24-foot Cornish Crabber at Sail Chatham

Conversation #2, Nothing Beats Fresh Paint: Via Twitter, I learned that Timmy Dow at Sail Chatham (in Massachusetts) was set to spray a Cornish Crabber yesterday. I looked out the window and it was sunny, and since Rhode Island is not too far from Chatham, I asked Timmy if he might share a few sunny snaps of the finished product. I’d forgotten that among his other talents, Timmy has been a professional photographer, and as you can see, he hasn’t lost his touch. When we run Charles’s outboard maintenance piece, we’ll run some tips on painting in a photo essay by Timmy alongside it, although you can visit the company Facebook page and see an album’s worth of the photos right now. Maybe we should ask him for a few how-to tips for photographing boats while he’s at it.

Conversation #3, Orbital Networking: This morning, I visited Scot West, head of Ronstan in the United States. We started out discussing the Puma foul weather gear and clothing they’ve been selling over the last couple years. Ronstan will be on hand for the big event when the Puma racing team arrives in Boston at the end of the next leg of the Volvo Ocean Race, which starts tomorrow in Rio de Janeiro. We moved on to the Series 20 and Series 30 Orbital blocks Ronstan has rolled out recently to complete their line of high-performance, lightweight ratchet and ball-bearing blocks for sailboats. (For more on the new Series 30 blocks, sailors, check out the informative and often funny blog of APS, Ltd., one of Ronstan’s retailers.) After that, we moved on to talking about what I’m doing…, this blog, and, of course, the dynamic of social media networking that increasingly takes place through blogging, FaceBook, Twitter, and so on. I’m an expert already since I’ve had a Twitter account for three weeks (or is it two?); by this afternoon, Scot had one, too (RonstanSW), although I’m still waiting for his first Tweep…

Ronstan's new Series 30 Orbital Blocks

Ronstan's new Series 30 Orbital Blocks

Conversation #4, All About Boating: Freelance writer David Shaw and I have begun work on an overdue overhaul of the “New to Boating” section. David’s written an outline that focuses on all the different reasons to get aboard a boat, such as Cruising, Fishing, Racing, Watersports, Charter, and then begins to dig deeper into each topic. Our goal is to flag the benefits of different boating experiences before discussing the myriad types of specialized boats developed for each purpose. How would you break it down? David’s starting to write, but input is welcome by Tweep (johnsburnham) or Comment (below).

Conversation #5 Viral Verbiage: The weirdest story to cross my desk this week is the one that almost didn’t make it. Actually, it’s the story about the story that’s weird. Kim Kavin prides herself on punctuality when it comes to her deadlines for The Yacht Insider. She flew in from extended travel at the beginning of the week and dropped me a note promising the story about the Turkish builder, Vicem, building a new Trumpy. It didn’t arrive that evening, however, which seemed odd to me. The next day she tried again. When she separated the photo and the text, the photo came through, but the text wouldn’t even make it if she pasted it into the email message box as “unformatted” text. It didn’t show up in my spam filters; it just kept disappearing into the ether. We tried having her send it to an intermediary, but that didn’t help. Finally, she just posted it to her own CharterWave website temporarily and I copied it off. I don’t think Vicem has a virus, or Trumpy, but there’s something to the story that’s got a funny chemistry. By the way, you can’t read it yet, because at, all of our articles and boat reviews are in the process of migrating to a new database that should give us more flexibility in presenting photos when it’s ready in a week or so. That is, if Kim’s story doesn’t crash it. I’m starting to wonder if it’s got some ethanol in the mix…

—John Burnham