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I hate check engine lights on cars.

The only thing worse than a check engine light on a car would be a check engine light on a cruising yacht.

I cannot imagine why anyone would want a computerized engine control module (ECM) on a cruising yacht.

I know that engine control computers (ECM) make them more fuel efficient with the sensors telling the engine how much fuel and air to put in the mix. I can see the logic behind an ECM, especially if engine control modules never failed and engine sensors never malfunctioned. Therein lies the problem. When the ECM goes down, the engines go down, and if that happens at the wrong time, it can cause the loss of a boat.

When I was doing a refit on Exit Only prior to starting Voyage Six, Exit Only was sitting next to a million dollar catamaran whose engines did not run. Why didn't they run? The ECMs were not working. They had to call in a technician and replace the ECMs for the engines to start up and perform. The ECM's each coast throusands of dollars, and the engines would not run without new ECMs.

I was astounded to learn that a million dollar boat could be immobilized by a dyfunctional ECM.

I immediately thought of the entrances to atolls and passages through reefs that we did on Exit Only, and if an ECM had failed during those maneuvers in tight and dangerous passes, Exit Only could have ended up on the reef and rocks.

Up until that moment in the boatyard, I did not realize some sailboats had engines that would not run if the ECM failed.

Real Ocean Cruisers who sail to remote destinations and navigate in harm's way cannot afford to have an ECM on their diesel engine.

If an ECM fails on a voyage up the Red Sea, you could wait months or even years to get your boat moving again. The remote anchorages in Eritrea, Sudan, and Egypt don't have technicians to diagnose the ECM, and getting an ECM and programming it for your specific engine could be a nearly impossible task. If you have an ECM on your engine, you better get a large dinghy with a powerful outboard motor to move your boat when the ECM fails. Your dinghy will become the tug with which you move your boat.

Catamaran sailors with boats chock-a-block with electronics may not mind having ECMs on board. They have no plans to sail to remote locations, and to them an ECM is not a big deal.

Not until the catamaran gets struck by lightning which destroys the ECM.

That's exactly what happed to the million dollar catamaran in this picture. It got struck by lightning which knocked out the engine control modules, and the engines would not run. The prevailing wind and seas pushed the hamstrung catamaran on the rocks, and the cat was a total loss.

When I sailed through the Singapore Straits at the beginning of monsoon season, there were five cruising boats struck by lightning in a single week. The lightning was fierce and frequent during the monsoon.

For unknown reasons, multihull sailboats are struck by lightning more frequently than monohulls, and I am grateful that Exit Only has never had a major strike. For more than a quarter of a century, Exit Only has dodged the lightning bullet.

A single lightning strike on a million dollar catamaran can destroy a hundred thousand dollars in electronics throughout the boat. Engine control modules, computers, radar, gps, AIS, radios, pactor, and anything with microprocessors can instantly go up in smoke.

I don't know how the catamaran in this picture ended up in a position where a lightning strike started a disasterous cascade that resulted in destruction of the boat. A mooring could have parted or an anchor dragged putting the boat at risk.

Marine accidents are like aircraft accidents. Pilot error almost always contributes to the loss of a boat.

Why was the boat in a location that made it possible to end up on the rocks?

Why wasn't the boat either in a marina or safely out at sea when the weather became challenging?

Exit Only is still around after 28 years because we kept her out of harm's way. We never entered harbors at night. We never anchored near rocky shores in unsettled weather. We always ran two engines when entering atolls and passing through entrances in reefs. We hove to at night when sailing through massive tsunami debris in the Indian Ocean. We carried two seventy pound anchors and used high test chain. We held position offshore when it was unsafe to approach land because of marginal weather or there was not enough time to get in before dark.

When we refit Exit Only, our new engines did not have electronic control modules. I would never have an ECM on Exit Only.

When I sailed from Galapagos to the Sea of Cortez in Mexico, we had massive thunderstorms at night in the doldrums. If we had engines with ECMs and took a lightning strike, our engines would have been knocked out. We spent nearly a week in the doldrums, and lightning strikes were a real possibility.

Real Ocean Cruisers who live long and prosper do everything they can to minimize risk. They want to sail where other people rarely go, and they need to have a boat that cannot be immobilized by a lightning strike.

The million dollar catamaran in the picture had ECMs destroyed by lighting, the engines would not run, and the boat was destroyed on the rocks.

I would be willing to bet half my kingdom that the loss of this catamaran was preventable.

That’s all I have to say about that.

Captain Dave

Captain Dave - David J. Abbott M.D.





Exit Only

See what it's like for a family to sail around the world on a small catamaran

Captain Save Our Souls

Awesome music video that captures the essence of what it's like to sail offshore in a catamaran around the world when conditions are less than perfect. David Abbott from Too Many Drummers sings the vocals, and he also edited the footage from our Red Sea adventures. This is the theme song from the Red Sea Chronicles.

Red Sea Blues

Sailing up the Red Sea is not for the faint of heart. From the Bab al Mandeb to the Suez Canal, adventures and adversity are in abundance. If you take things too seriously, you just might get the Red Sea Blues.

Red Sea Chronicles Trailer

If you like drum beats, and you like adventure, then have a listen to the Red Sea Chronicles Trailer.

Red Sea Chronicles Episode 1 - When Flying Fish Attack

Flying fish assault Exit Only in the middle of the night as we sail through the Arabian Gulf from the Maldives to Oman. And so begins our Red Sea adventures.

Red Sea Chronicles Episode 2 - Pirate Alley

Sailing through Pirate Alley between Yemen and Somalia involves calculated risk. It may not be Russian Roulette, but it is a bit of a worry. Follow Team Maxing Out as they navigate through Pirate Alley.

Red Sea Chronicles Episode 3 - Aden, Yemen

Stopping in Yemen was just what the doctor ordered. We refueled, repaired our alternator, and we made friends with our gracious Yemeni hosts. We also went to Baskins Robbins as a reward for surviving Pirate Alley.

Red Sea Chronicles Episode 4- Gate of Sorrows and Sandstorms

After you survive Pirate Alley, you must sail through the Gate of Sorrows (Bab Al Mandab) at the southern entrance to the Red Sea. The Gate of Sorrows lived up to its name with fifty knots of wind and a sandstorm that pummeled Exit Only for two days. Life is good.

Save A Tree Bookstore

Although I like the feel of a paper book in my hand, I love trees even more. When people purchase an eBook, they actually save trees and save money as well. Ebooks are less expensive and have no negative impact on the environment. All of Dr. Dave's books are available at Save A Tree Bookstore. Visit the bookstore today and start putting good things into your mind. It's easy to fill your mind with positive things using eBooks. No matter where you are or what you are doing, you can pull out your smart phone or tablet and start reading. You can even use electronic highlighters and make annotations in your eBooks just like paper books.