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.
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.
Want to be the first to know about new content?
Sign up below and we keep you posted!
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 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 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.
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. If you are interested, here is a 6-minute video about his liveaboard life:
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 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.
Want to be the first to know about new content?
Sign up below and we keep you posted!
BoatHowTo in the Media
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