There are few people who have done more for us cruisers than Rod Collins, a deeply experienced boat technician who has run Compass Marine, his business in Maine, for decades. He also writes and publishes one of the most useful sites for all of us who own and maintain boats: Marine How To.
I can’t overemphasize how valuable Rod’s writing is. For example, whenever I write about anything related to boat electrical systems, I check Rod’s site, and if he confirms a fact I know it’s right.
As many of you know, Rod had a hemorrhagic stroke back in the late summer that very nearly killed him. The good news is that he did pull through and is now back at home after 53 very tough days in hospital.
Since he got home, I have had two long and wide-ranging telephone conversations with Rod.
The good news is that the stroke has not affected his powers of speech or his clarity of thinking. The latter confirmed by our deep discussions about electrical systems for boats in which his explanations are clear, concise, and fully organized, just as his writing has always been.
The bad news is that the stroke has severely limited his physical mobility, to the point that although he can make a few shuffling steps with the assistance of a four-point cane and someone always there to prevent a fall, most of the time he is still using a wheelchair. So it’s impossible for him to get out to his workshop.
As a person who went from physically active to a wheelchair in the blink of an eye, I have some understanding of how difficult this situation is for him.
However, in all of our time on the phone, I never detected note of self pity from Rod. In fact, he explained the sequence of his stroke and his current situation with the same matter-of-fact approach he takes to an electrical problem on a boat.
That said, perhaps even more frustrating for Rod than being in a wheelchair is that he still has no function in his left arm and so has lost his much-cherished ability to type at greater than one hundred words a minute.
A handicap that is now standing between his still quick-thinking brain and resuming his prodigious output at Marine How To as well as on multiple forums and Facebook. On the latter two (writing as “Maine Sail” on forums), he used to provide invaluable and unpaid help to hundreds…no, probably thousands…of cruisers.
However, the good news is that the very same morning I talked to him last, he was able to move his left arm for the first time, and even make a weak fist, thereby demonstrating that his brain is finding ways around the damage from the stroke to slowly regain control of his left side.
And that brings me to the future. Rod tells me that although he knows it will be a long road, he is bound and determined to get better and eventually to restart his business.
And to accelerate the process of returning to writing, Rod has used a generous donation from fellow boat-systems-guru Nigel Calder to buy high-end speech recognition software from Dragon, so we will all start benefitting from Rod’s wisdom sooner rather than later, although he did tell me that writing and especially editing with Dragon is challenging and will take him a while to master.
Talking of donations, this stroke has cost Rod his business, both the internet store that supplied a carefully curated selection of gear to thousands of customers—if a piece of gear had not passed his rigorous testing, he didn’t sell it—and the hands-on work that over the years made so many boats better and more reliable.
Bottom line, the day he had the stroke his income went to zero.
But then a bunch of his loyal customers and readers stepped in by clicking on a donate button that his brother put up on the site, and while the total has not replaced his business income, or even close, Rod wants all of you to know that your generosity has made a huge difference.
But he still has a long way to go before he is earning again, so if you can afford it, and particularly if Rod’s information has ever helped you, you may wish to make a donation. I’m going to make my second one today.
Thanks for the reminder, John!
Rod’s nickname on forums is Maine Sail, not Mainsail. (see here: https://forums.sailboatowners.com/forums/musings-with-maine-sail.135/) You may want to correct that.
Woops, will do. Thanks for the catch.
Really excellent news: thanks for sharing.
I am with you for another donation.
My best, Dick
How about “RC Special Edition” group buy ?
since you are in contact with Rod, Could you please ask if it would be feasible to arrange a big group buy of Bed-It tape? I believe it could be a hit.
I would pitch in with 100eur right away. And I know plenty of boatowners who would too. Butyl tape is easily sourced locally, yes, but we never really know how good is the quality. Bed-It is known good product, and it’s shelf life is infinite. And what I don’t need myself, I would gladly give to my friends.
I know current US-EU export bureaucracy is not funny for small businesses, but most likely Rod has resellers or associates who can do it easily.
If Rod’s brother, or somebody else, can help out to re-open compassmarine webshop, that could be the easiest way to collect the orders. Or, if suitable reseller is found on central europe (and AUS, NZ ?) , we can then order this “RC Special” from there. Or perhaps do this via Kickstarter, Indiegogo, Patreon etc.
Other possibility to provide substantial “Crowdfunding” support is to publish Rod’s excellent articles on a book form. Professional editor puts a book together within days, and printing costs for ~150 page book is somewhere like ~4 usd a copy. Personally, I much prefer a good book to web browsing.
Just a thought. Cheers, PF
All interesting ideas, but someone would need to take on organizing each of them. As I understand it, Rod’s brother is already putting in a lot of time and effort to help out, so asking him to take any of this on would probably not be a good idea.
As to a book of Rod’s stuff, as a Book publisher myself (Norwegian Cruising Guide) I can tell you that putting together such a project and distributing it is a big task and one that is generally only marginally profitable, at best, even with volunteer time.
What terrible news, I’m so sorry to hear this. As a fellow sole proprietor, this hits especially close to home. I have every confidence he’ll recover, it’s in his DNA. Type 100 words a minute?! What I would give to be able to do that.
I donated and am passing the word to my network.
Great article John. Rod’s assistance, insight and product marketing has been invaluable over the past 6 years of boat ownership. Immediate help with donations fills the need, identifying a method to monetize his knowledge base and life of help to boaters will be sustaining.
I’ve also known about this for a while. It makes me happy that he has health improvements. I have bought Bed-it Butyl Tape from him some years ago. Easily the best I’ve ever tried, but transport and taxes to Europe triples the price. I haven’t donated yet, but will do. I’ll also put a note in two facebook boating groups I run, total + 12 000 members. Many of them have benefited form his knowledge. Let’s hope some of them are grateful.
I’m certain that he has significantly helped thousands, if not tens of thousands, of boaters by direct discussions on various fora, not even mentioning the value of Marinehowto.com. I’ve been in discussions where he’s also participated on the group “Lithium batteries on a boat”, where he’s a moderator.
People who don’t know who he is don’t realise the value of the advice they just received. I have some times told them that they should consider it equal to “words from God”. Read it really well, many times, to know you really understand it, and accept it as indisputable truth. 🙂
I sincerely wish Rod will have the best and fastest possible recovery!
Thank you for posting this information and the link to donate. I knew MainSail had health problems, but I had not read of his condition, and more importantly, a way to help him.
He certainly has helped so many other people, including myself, the least I can do is help him.
I found out about Rod’s stroke last fall when I went to order more Bed-It tape. The website said there wasn’t any products in any of the store categories, so I waited a week or so and tried again. Same thing, nothing in the store. The third time I went to his site his brother had put up the information about his stroke and was asking for donations. At first the donation button wasn’t working correctly and then a week or so later I was able to donate to the cause.
What a sad situation. At least he has family, friends, and a whole boating community willing to chip in and support him.
I too feel there should be a way to monetize his knowledge and articles to help support him in his need. I don’t have an answer, but certainly hope something will materialize to help.
I know I miss new articles and of course, the Bed-It tape. Probably the single best bedding compound in the world. No other butyl or any other product comes close. I know, as I’ve tried to find a substitute.
Here’s hoping and praying for a full recovery so he can get back to what he loves doing.
All the best,
Hi AAC members,
For those of us who read widely and are always looking for excellence in maritime writing and for good sound advice that is useful, indeed crucial, to everyday boating: RC is certainly a go-to guy. There is also Steve D’Antonio and there are some who might not know that he has regular essays/articles that he sends around and that can also be found at https://stevedmarineconsulting.com/, click on the emagazine window. These are done in the same “public service” sensibility that RC so well embodied. Steve is also superb at taking complicated subjects and making them accessible and understandable.
I was thinking of the above as I just finished Steve’s most recent offering: a very interesting article on the value of occasionally asking your diesel to go WOT (wide open throttle) under load. I know his suggestions will be useful to me when I launch next season and will benefit the long-term reliability of my diesel engine. There are many more excellent articles on a wide range of maritime concerns to be found on his site.
My best, Dick Stevenson, s/v Alchemy
PS. Please continue to consider contributing to RC with the link John provided above.
I purchased my lithium batteries and related equipment in July from Rod. He delivered them personally to the Portland Yacht Club. I’m sad to hear about his stroke. I am very happy with his services.
His services to the cruising community are invaluable.
Thanks for the information! Donation completed.
Done, John, and thanks for this update, which was more hopeful than I had anticipated. In hopes that Rod can get some help restarting his business in the next few months, I will hold my fire on the purchase of a larger alternator and the WS-500 regulator I had intended on purchasing from him, because he has never steered me wrong since I discovered him years and years ago back in the Atomic 4 newsgroups. Damn, I’ve been at this for some time.
I will also make a post in the Beta Marine Owners’ group to which I belong on Facebook in hopes that will help.
It’s great that you have been able to talk to RC and to hear that he is doing well mentally at least and progressing physically. I have never had the privilege of meeting him but have spent plenty of time on his website and corresponding on the CS owners group where he was a great resource. One of the original reasons that we got interested in the CS36T was that he owned one and spoke highly of its build quality. We sailed by each other a few times and even at a safe passing distance I was always envious of how well thought out and maintained his boat looked. He is one of the rare people who does a good job of understanding the theoretical and then applying that to reality.
Thanks for the reminder.
Thanks for the update on Rob’s health, I dontated when I first heard and would implore anybody that has ever consulted Rob’s site for it’s excellent guidance to make a donation. Second donation made.
I really enjoyed reading Rod’s articles on lithium batteries.
Hope he makes a speedy recovery.
I was happy to donate.
Thanks for the reminder John. Donated!
Any recent news on how RC is doing?
Funny, I was wondering the same thing just yesterday, but no I have not heard anything.
Hi Richard and John,
I have no actual updates, but he’s participated some places, like the Facebook group “Lithium batteries on a boat”, where he’s a moderator. Last I noticed is a couple of weeks ago. He seems to be his usual very competent self, but I don’t really know anything, of course.
Good to hear and thanks for the fill.