Wednesday, March 16, 2011


Boot Key Harbor, Marathon, FL
34 42.54 N 081 05.58

If you have an engineer friend, one of the nicest compliments you can pay to him or her is to say that his creation is elegant. I mean elegant in the sense of being something unusually effective and simple.  I continue to be impressed by elegance I see in sailing vessel design.   We have had 12,000 plus years of sailing experience so far and the design ideas that survive are elegant indeed.

Tarwathie has her share of elegant things.  Many of them may come from the prior owner, Al Hatch, but some may come from the factory or other previous ownwers.

Consider the case of my SSB radio seen in the picture above.   This radio is very boxy and very heavy.  It weights perhaps 20 pounds.   If the radio were to fall off the shelf sometime when Tarwathie is being buffeted by heavy seas it could be a disaster.  It could fly around the cabin crushing skulls, or breaking the glass in portholes or other unthinkable things.

On the other hand, all the wires connecting the radio are in the back and it is not unreasonable to assume that moderately frequent access to the back is needed.   How then to mount the radio securely and permitting easy access.

As an engineer given that assighment, I would in all likelihood just bolted it down with bolts, nuts and washers.   That would be inelegant.

Study the picture.  First, the radio is mounted on a board.  The board lifts the radio so high that it almost touches the ceiling above (barely visible at the top of the photo).  There is very little room for it to bounce up and down.   Next, note the hex bolt head visible on the left side.  That bolt drops through a hole in the board and the counter.   It prevents the board and the radio from sliding in and out.   The radio mount is very secure.   

But can't the bolt hop out?  Shouldn't it have a nut and washer?   One would think so, but this design is more elegant.   The bolt fits very snugly in it's hole.  It doesn't slide up and down easily at all.  Further, if the radio is trying to slide forward or back, it jams the bolt in the bolt hole even tighter. To get the radio out, I grab the bolt head with pliers and lift.  To put the radio back, I line up the holes and push the bolt down.

Simple, effective == elegant.  Kudos to the designer.


  1. If that bolt is going threw wood I would think that the constant motion and vibration of the boat would enlarge the hole over time.

    Bill Kelleher

  2. Probably mitigated by the fact that it goes through 1.5 inches of wood. Also there is friction between the board and the counter.


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