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A-B (Cruiser's Dictionary)


ACETIC ACID - Essentially, what makes vinegar sour. If you can obtain acetic acid, which is diluted 1:25 with water to make “artificial vinegar”, you can have a year’s supply in a litre bottle, cheaply and compactly. Flavor it with wine, apple cider, herbs, and it’s a reasonable substitute for fermented "gourmet" wine or cider vinegar. Try a Chemist (Pharmacy), or in some countries, an industrial chemicals supplier. Chemical symbol for Acetic Acid: CH3COOH (See Vinegar)

ACETOMINOPHYN - (For example, Tylenol®). In Australia, NZ, is called Paracetomol. Same thing, different name. The only painkiller that should be used if Dengue Fever is suspected. Liver damage can occur if taken in too great quantities, or with alcohol.

ACID - Various types of acid are useful on a boat, and we probably carry all of them. Always dilute acid by pouring the acid slowly into water, not by putting water into acid. (See “Acetic”, “Citric”, ”Hydrofluoric”, “Muriatic”, “Phosphoric”, “Oxalic”, “Tartaric” acids, "Stain Remover", “Vinegar”, “Heads”).

ALLERGIES - Some marine toxins, such as from jellyfish, cause extreme allergic reactions. Our doctor recommended that we carry at least one type of liquid antihistamine (such as Children’s Benadryl) as well as antihistamine pills as a preventive measure against reactions to new substances. In the event of a severe allergic reaction you may not have time to reach professional medical help. The liquid is faster-acting than the pill form and is more easily swallowed, which can be important if reaction causes swelling of throat and airway passages. If you carry Children's Benadryl, be sure you adjust the dosage for an adult. Better yet would be an “Epi-Pen” which is a premeasured dose of injectable epinephrine. It is most commonly provided to people with severe allergies (such as to bee stings, peanuts, fish, etc.) (See “Charcoal Tablets”; “Scombroid Poisoning”)

ALGAECIDE - Algae in your fuel tank will break down diesel and deposit water. In the tropics it can form quickly and clog fuel filters. Many marina fuel docks in the tropics sell an additive to handle algae. It is worth carrying. For potable water, Sodium Metabisulphide, the bactericide that is used to "pickle" the PUR desalinator membrane, is a good water tank algaecide, though the taste is dreadful. (See "Water Filter")

ALUMINUM - Extremely vulnerable to electrolysis. We do not recommend for cooking utensils, or storage containers. (See “Rust”)

ANCHOR - be sure anchor is locked securely before making any passage (we secure ours in chain locker so there is nothing on deck to be caught by green water). In foul anchorages, it is helpful to buoy the anchor with a trip line. In very deep foul anchorages it may be necessary to buoy the anchor rode to prevent it from so tangling with the rock and/or coral on the bottom that it is hopelessly fouled. (Danger in areas with heavy swells is that rode fouls straight down leaving no catenary - has broken rode or bow stem of a number of boats. (See also, “Fenders”; “Fouling”; “Recycling”)

ANCHOR LIGHT - The April 1998 SSCA bulletin had two do-it-yourself automatic anchor lights, to turn on at sunset, off at sunrise.

ANGIOSTRONGYLIASIS - (“heart-lung worm”) is a relatively rare but serious parasite that comes from locally grown lettuce or Bak Choy, but is prevalent in Fiji, Tonga, Hawaii, Tahiti; reported in Puerto Rico. The parasite’s eggs are deposited by land snails that crawl and feed on the leafy vegetables - are found in shrimps, crabs, fish. Care must be taken to wash thoroughly, although does not always eliminate infective larvae. For shellfish, boiling for 3-5 minutes, or freezing for 24 hours will kill the larvae. (Source: “Control of Communicable Diseases in Man”, 1990, An official report of the American Public Health Association.)

ANTIBACTERIAL SOAP - Such as Softsoap™ (and Softsoap Hypoallergenic works in salt water), excellent for bathing and for first cleansing of cuts and abrasions. This is not the same thing as Phisohex Facial Wash (which is for acne). When we ran out of, and could not get in Australia or Western Pacific islands, got the first Staph Infection in nine years. Any Pacific Island nation where they keep pigs, particularly French Polynesia, you would be wise to carefully disinfect all insect bites, especially the sand flea ("no-see-ums") bites, or they will become infected, and we have seen lots of nasty scars from them.
N.B. Treat cuts and scratches aggressively in the tropics.

ANTIBACTERIAL TABLETS - Water purification tablets: Milton’s (mnf’d. by Proctor & Gamble in England for Aust. consumption. AUD$6.85 for 30 tablets). Also in Australia, AMCAL, AUD$4.95 for 30 tabs. Also made in England. As are AquaTabs sold in West Marine for a lot more money. You can also find them in the baby bottle section of stores in Malaysia, Thailand, and Singapore, various labels.

Another option is sodium metabisulphide, used in Australia (and other places) to sterilize home beer-making bottles and equipment. It works, and is the same stuff that is used to "pickle" the membrane in small water desalinators. But it smells, and water treated with it needs to be filtered through a charcoal filter. (See water filters)

ARMOR-ALL™ - We have heard reports that it should not be used on rubber dinghies because the silicone eventually migrates through the fabric and loosens the glue, letting go of the seams, which are then unrepairable because of the silicone.

ASPIRIN - Although aspirin is my pain tablet of choice, it is important to note that if Dengue Fever is suspected, do not give aspirin or Ibuprofin. Only acetominophen (or Paracetomol in Australia, NZ) is safe.

ATMOSPHERIC PRESSURE - The United States’ insistence on giving barometric readings in inches of mercury seems, to my mind, to be quite silly. Less than two-tenths of an inch of mercury is the difference between low pressure and standard atmospheric pressure. So out of my own personal need, I’ve drawn up a small conversion table for atmospheric pressure in inches of mercury and in hectopascals (or millibars). You will find it easier to keep track of weather patterns when you only have to keep track of whole numbers. A low pressure system at 29.77 inches of mercury doesn’t seem that much different from a high pressure system at 30.59 inches. For me, a gradient of 1006 to 1036 seems to be easier to recognize and understand. So, for what it’s worth, here are the two tables.

Inches of
Millibars or
Millibars or
Inches of


BACKPACK - Don’t carry money in pack - use fanny pack or money belt (back pack is too easily picked). On busses or trains, watch out for thieves who help you put your backpack onto the rack directly over your head, only to loot it while you are riding. At the risk of sounding too cynical, very helpful locals sometimes have ulterior motives.

BAMBOO SKEWERS - More useful than we ever expected. Useful as a disposable stirring stick for small amounts of epoxy; as filler in stripped wooden screw holes; for cleaning out small diameter tubing; etc., etc. We even use them for cooking at beach barbecues.

BIMINI - Sailing in the tropics won’t be very much fun if you can’t get out of the sun during the day while sailing. Fitted with PVC gutters, makes a good passive rain catcher as well.

BLACK MARKET MONEY CHANGING - We have never encountered or tried this, but have been warned by others that one runs the risk of being short-changed. If you decide to risk changing money on the black market, do not hand over your money until you have personally counted the local currency given to you. Smarter people than us have been cheated badly.

BODY ODOR - A landlubber friend of ours, a travel agent, commented once to us how so many yachties have terrible B.O. Our first reaction was “not Americans!”, but then we smelled a few. Occasionally we get to smelling a bit ripe, and have found that usually a bathing with Selsun Blue Shampoo, or more drastically, with Selsun Concentrated (in yellow bottle) and then continuing with antibacterial soap solves the problem. In the tropics, the constant moisture on the skin as the body pumps out perspiration to cool itself is a perfect breeding ground for bacteria and fungi, which lead to smelly bodies. Most people don’t realize when they start offending, so it’s better to err on the side of caution. It’s healthier, too. Cuts don’t infect as often, or as severely, if the skin is kept relatively bacteria-free.

BOOKS - Useful books:

  • DUTTON'S NAVIGATION AND PILOTING” by Elbert S. Maloney, Naval Institute Press, Annapolis, MD (Even after all our years of cruising we continue to check information in here; one of the appendices is translations of foreign chart symbols and notations - most languages of the world, most useful);
  • HEAVY WEATHER SAILING”, by K. Adlard Coles, Peter Bruce, Intl. Marine Pub. ;
  • HEAVY WEATHER GUIDE” by Rear Admiral William J. Kotsch, USN (Ret.) and Richard Henderson. Naval Institute Press, Annapolis, MD;
  • THE OFFSHORE DOCTOR” by Dr. Michael H. Beilan. Dodd, Mead & Co., New York (paperback);
  • WHERE THERE IS NO DOCTOR" by David Werner. The Hesperian Foundation, P.O. Box 1692, Palo Alto, CA 93402; (please support this worthy cause)
  • "PUTTING FOOD BY", Janet C. Greene, Penguin USA (Paper);
  • “SITTING DUCKS” (author unknown, about Caribbean misadventures);
  • WORLD CRUISING ROUTES” by Jimmy Cornell;
  • A good World Atlas
  • An almanac.

To keep books mildew-free, see “Mildew”.

BOTULISM - The most terrifying food poisoning, because it is usually fatal within minutes of ingesting the toxin, and an incredibly tiny amount is all that is needed to fell an army. Poorly processed home-canned meats and vegetables, cans damaged by dents or rust so that the botulin spores can get in and grow, are the most common sources of botulism. Discard bulging cans. If the lid on a “pop-top” has popped, discard the contents. These are telltales of the bacteria growing in the container. However, the toxin is easily destroyed by heat, 5 minutes of boiling food in an open pan destroys the toxin, so one should be careful to adequately heat all canned foods before eating, just to be safe. The spores, however, are a different matter. To destroy, for canning meats, for example, requires processing in a pressure cooker at under 10 lbs. pressure for 75 minutes (for pints) to 90 minutes (for quarts).

BURGLAR ALARM - We have rarely locked our boat while we are away from it for a day and have had no problems. However, we have built an alarm system with which we are comfortable. We did not want a motion-detector system because there are too many things that can set off a false alarm; we wanted a system that would work even if we were on the boat or anytime we left the boat leaving the hatches open, thereby eliminating magnetic contact-type sensors. The alarm therefore consists of a pressure pad that sits in the cockpit in front of the companionway hatch, a 12V exterior horn, and a time-delay relay switch. The parts are readily available from do-it-yourself electronics shops, cost under $100, and can be tailored to the specific owner’s requirements. It fits our need and philosophy of frightening away the amateur thief, or warning us of intrusion in the middle of the night should we be in a location where that is of some concern. (see “Thieves”)

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