Our Mission

We provide you with the most reliable and accurate information about boat systems on the internet

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


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

We are 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.

If you are in for a deep dive into how it all started for Nigel and his family, check out Nigel's talk on our YouTube channel:

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 first boat Ahora, a Laurin32 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.

He just bought his new floating home, a Malö 39 Classic. If you are interested, here is a short documentary about his new boat and how he met Nigel:

And for a trip down memory lane, here is a 6-minute video about his life abord his old boat:

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. 

BoatHowTo Support Team

Matthias Rummel

Support & Admin

Matthias joined the BoatHowTo team in 2024. He is  helping Nigel and Jan with administration, support tasks and video editing.

Together with his girlfriend Luisa, he has been cruising full-time since 2020, now on their Sadler 34 "Wanderling". After extensive explorations of the European coast and the North Atlantic islands, they sailed across the pond and are now cruising in the Caribbean.

They tell their stories in their German YouTube channel and on their blog.

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BoatHowTo in the Media

Ocean Navigator Magazine on Boat Electrics 101

"Taking this course before beginning the project was one of my best decisions. The course started at a very basic level and assumed little understanding of electrical systems, then built to a more advanced level that was presented in several different ways (videos, graphs, etc.) that proved useful when I needed to go back during the project to reference information. [...]

Perhaps most useful, the course included a tutorial on EasyEDA, online design software for electrical schematics similar to AutoCAD. I’m a pencil and paper kind of guy, so it never occurred to me to use a computer-based design tool. However, the software, coupled with BoatHowTo’s tutorial and custom icons that included fuse blocks, bus bars, and other useful items, saved me countless hours as we iterated through multiple designs. This approach enabled us to produce a professional-looking wiring diagram that will serve us well for future reference and modification.

- Ocean Navigator -  March/April 2024

Marine Electronics Journal on Advanced Marine Electrics

"Overall, I give the BoatHowTo advanced course a grade of "A". These classes cover important safety topics for operators and provide a good overall understanding of technology on boats. Even though this class is written for end users/operators, I believe that engineers, installers, technicians and others can benefit from the broad information it presents.

In my marine electronics niche, I may not need to know about generators, but I see them all the time and I use the power they generate. Understanding the systems that interact on a boat means better design, installation and troubleshooting"

- Marine Electronics Journal - March/April 2024

Sail Magazine on BoatHowTo

"Nigel Calder and his colleague, Jan C. Athenstädt, have developed a spreadsheet and an online course that walks you through exactly how to do this in great detail, taking into account voltage drop across circuits, battery efficiency, charge efficiency, load cycles, and a whole host of other variables to make this exercise as accurate (and realistic) as possible. I highly encourage you to go to boathowto.com, sign up for the courses, and go through the process."

- Sail Magazine -  December 2022

Waterborne Magazine on Boat Electrics 101

"Boat Electrics 101 is the online course I desperately wish we’d had at the time. It launched in 2021 and was created by arguably the world’s smartest people on marine electrics including boat systems guru, Nigel Calder.

If you’re not familiar with Nigel, you’ll find his mechanical and electric books in just about every bluewater cruiser’s library. These guys really know what they’re talking about!"

- waterborne magazine - January 2022

Ocean Navigator on BoatHowTo

"Given Calder’s deep knowledge of all marine things electrical and mechanical, this is an impressive lineup of know-how. According to Calder, the team has put more than 1,000 hours into the project. “Our approach is very different to the ABYC’s educational material and other available marine electrical education,” Calder writes in an email, “so complementary rather than competitive.” "

- Ocean Navigator -  September/October 2021

BoatUS Magazine on Boat Electrics 101

"Not only is the info reliable, it's brilliantly delivered using text, video, illustrations, and animations. Take the course at your own pace, whenever and wherever you have a good internet connection."

- BoatUS magazine November / December 2021

Boote Magazin on BoatHowTo (in German)

"What's the required size of the cable to the new deck light? How should a charger be grounded? What do I do if the fuel supply of my engine is interrupted? The new online community 'BoatHowTo' offers answers to all these questions and a growing number of videos and articles in English from renowned authors such as Nigel Calder and Michael Herrmann. Parts of the contents are freely available, the course 'Boat Electrics 101' with a total of 59 video lessons costs about 172 Euro (199 US Dollar)."

- Boote magazin 12. 2021

Good Old Boat Magazine on Boat Electrics 101

"Designed for the recreational boat owner, the course covers everything, including effecting your own electrical installations and repairs, the basics of electricity, and how to rewire your boat."
"I recommend Boat Electrics 101 to anyone going offshore or planning to rewire their boat. Its accurate information is compellingly presented and available wherever there's a reliable internet connection."

- Good Old Boat Issue 141 -  November/December 2021

Practical Boat Owner on Boat Electrics 101

"I particularly like the section on how to make connections, which addresses many persistent myths and clearly shows what works best – and why – in different applications. Boat owners are also likely to find the sections on batteries, charging systems and holistic energy systems design equally useful.."
"It is a valuable resource with useful planning tools and lots of essential advice."

- PBO September 2021

Waterway Guide on Boat Electrics 101

"Three renowned experts on boat systems have created a brand-new online learning platform for boating amateurs and professionals who want to learn how to install, maintain and fix things the right way."
"Boat Electrics 101 covers all the know-how necessary to safely install and successfully repair marine DC systems."

- waterway guide - june 2021

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