Our Mission

We are bringing you the most reliable and accurate information about boat systems on the internet

BOATHOWTO will be the most dependable source of technical knowledge for sailors and boaters around the world. Our online courses and guides will help you enjoy troublefree boating, and to solve both common and not so common technical problems on your boat.

safety

Learn how to assess your boat's technical systems regarding potential safety hazards.

self reliance

Learn how to help yourself when a problem arises and become more confident on the water.

efficiency and reliability

Stay up to date with the latest advances in technology to optimize efficiency and reliability.

BOATHOWTO helps you to

  • save money (you don't have to hire someone every time something goes wrong)
  • avoid hassle and frustration (with our help you will experience fewer breakdowns and longer life for the components on your boat)
  • achieve a more enjoyable life afloat (with superior energy systems that increase your comfort)
  • reduce your carbon footprint (with improved efficiency and less waste)

Guarantee for Independent Advice

We give our honest opinion about products and solutions without being sponsored by particular brands.

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Who We Are

Hi, we are Nigel, Jan & Michael

We are three sailors from the US/England and Germany. Our passion is boats and the technical systems on board. 

This is why we started BOATHOWTO: To help other boaters and sailors to keep their boats safe and provide a reliable resource for advice and support.

The information on this website is based on decades of knowledge, that Nigel and Michael have acquired as technical writers.

Nigel Calder

Nigel Calder is a long-time member of the American Boat and Yacht Council (ABYC) electrical Project Technical Committee (PTC) which writes the standards for recreational boat systems in the USA, and has also been involved in European standards development.

He is best known for his Boatowner’s Mechanical and Electrical Manual (now in its 4th edition), and his Marine Diesel Engines (in its 3rd edition), both considered the definitive English-language works in their field.

Nigel's Story

Nigel got into motorcycles and sailing dinghies as a teenager, and has never been far from mechanical things and boats ever since. He has a BA in Philosophy from Exeter University (UK) and an MSc in Operations Research from Sussex University. In a varied career, before becoming a full-time sailing writer, with a focus on marine technical systems, he worked on automotive assembly lines, in foundries and machine shops, and on offshore oil production platforms.

He and his wife, Terrie, built a couple of 70-foot canal boats (on which they lived in England), and a 39-foot Ingrid cutter. They then sailed a Pacific Seacraft 40 for 5 years, following which they had a Malo 45 built in Sweden. This was sold to be replaced by the same boat but with an experimental electrical distribution and propulsion system.

It has been used for extensive testing of cutting edge systems, including a 4-year European Union funded project (HyMar), of which Nigel was the Technical Director, investigating the applicability of hybrid technologies to marine propulsion systems. Based on data collected during the HyMar project, Nigel initiated, and was a lead developer in, a multi-year project resulting in the award-winning advanced generator technology now sold under the Integrel brand name.

Nigel and Terrie have sailed in the North Sea, the Atlantic as far north as the Faroe Islands and as far south as Portugal, the U.S. east coast, the Bahamas and extensively in the Caribbean, with Pippin (now aged 35) and Paul (34) augmenting the crew along the way. In addition to his books on boat systems and hundreds of magazine articles, he has also authored a ‘Cruising Guide to the Northwest Caribbean’, ‘Cuba: A Cruising Guide’, ‘Nigel Calder’s Cruising Handbook: a Compendium for Coastal and Offshore Sailors’ and ‘How to Read a Nautical Chart’. He recently released a memoir of his family’s first long cruise titled ‘Shakedown Cruise’.

Nigel is currently the Technical Editor and/or Associate Editor of PassageMaker, Professional Boatbuilder, Sail, and Ocean Navigator magazines and a consultant on marine energy issues. He has recently joined marine energy systems company OceanPlanet Energy as a mechanism to continue his passion for constantly improving boat electrical systems.

Dr. Jan C. Athenstädt

Jan runs KlabauterKiste, the German online magazine for boatowners and Klabauter-Shop, an online shop for boat electrics as well as BootsBastler.org, a German online community for people who love "messing about in boats".

He holds a PhD in computer science and loves to teach people new skills.

Jan's Story

Ever since he set foot on his grandfather's boat as a child, Jan has been dreaming of sailing around the world.

During his studies in computer science, he has worked as a deckhand and bosun on tall ships such as the Schooner Zodiac and the Bark Europa, sailing well over 10,000 miles on the world's oceans and making it all the way down to Antarctica. In recent years, he has been responsible for rewiring and maintaining the technical systems on various yachts, such as the research vessel Aldebaran.

Jan holds a PhD from Konstanz University and a master's degree from Karlsruhe Institute of Technology. (Both in Computer Science, but for his PhD he worked with archaeologists in the Caribbean, using network science to reconstruct pre-Columbian voyages.) He also studied for a year at the University of Washington in Seattle on a Fulbright grant, which gave him the opportunity to explore the beautiful Pacific Northwest and British Columbia.

When he bought his Laurin32 Ahora in north Germany to prepare it for extensive cruising, he noticed that there is very little reliable information on the internet about boat electrics and mechanics. So he started the German online magazine KlabauterKiste where he publishes technical advice as well as stories about boatbuilding and refit projects.

In order to help boatowners acquire supplies for their rewiring projects, he started his online store Klabauter-Shop, where people can order everything from a simple cable lug to a high end radar system. And in order to connect German boatowners and help them exchange ideas, he recently started BootsBastler.org.

Jan lives and works on his boat and is currently sailing southern Europe and the Mediterranean.

Michael Herrmann

Michael Herrmann

Since 2007, Michael has been a member of the German Boat Builders Association committee on electrics and a
member of ISO TC188 establishing standards for small craft. His latest ISO activity was contributing to the merger of the two basic standards for electrical systems on recreational craft -
ISO 10133 and 13297.

He has written several books about technical equipment on boats. Best sellers are "Technik unter
Deck
" und "Elektrik auf Yachten" both in their 4th editions and considered to be the reference for technical information in the German language.

Michael's Story

Michael belongs to that rare class of people who combine a vast theoretical knowledge with the ability to apply this to the practical world.

Before becoming a full-time writer with a focus on marine technical systems, Michael had a varied career: starting as an apprentice in a motor workshop, he later worked in forges and machine shops and then became a standards engineer for the German Standards Committee DNA, today known as DIN, in the 70s. There, among other things, he wrote the first manual for gel-cell batteries for the German armed forces.

In the eighties he discovered his passion for boats and sailing. He founded a company constructing marine engines and steel hulls. The first German diesel engine complying with the strict emission rules of Lake Constance originated from his workshop as well as the first V8-diesel engines which could replace V8 gas engines in stern drives. It was also around this time that his commercial inshore license came in handy when he had a stint as captain for the recently founded Greenpeace Germany, blocking freighters on the river Rhine that were transporting hazardous chemicals to be dumped into the North Sea.

In 1993, after having finished building his biggest boat - a 63-foot ketch rigged Reinke design - his life took an unfortunate turn. What was supposed to be a routine surgery turned into a 6 month stay at a Paris hospital, leaving him a paraplegic. After coming back to Cologne, he had no choice but to wind up his business.

However, being tied to a wheelchair did not stop him and his wife from moving onto the newly finished boat, sailing the North Sea, English Channel, Irish Sea and the Atlantic. His new liveaboard-homeport became Penzance, Cornwall, where he started his career as a technical editor for the German sailing magazin Palstek, writing almost 500 articles about boat engines and electrics. His technical illustrations - based on his training at DIN - became a hallmark for the German technical magazine for boaters.

Currently, Michael runs the German website YachtInside, an online library of more than 2,000 pages of technical knowledge. This library is the basis for most of the content on BOATHOWTO. He also still occasionally writes for the German Trans Ocean Magazine and is a consultant for boat owners and boatyards.

Nigel loves cruising the coasts of Europe in his Malö 46 and tries out the most recent technical systems on the way.

Jan on his Laurin32 Ahora. He is living on board and currently cruising in southern Europe. His own boat is surprisingly simple, considering that he enjoys installing and playing around with marine electrical systems. 

Michael Herrmann has been working on marine engines since the 70s. His fashion style has changed since then - his passion for boat mechanics has remained the same

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