Transatlantic partnership tackles online learning with BoatHowTo

2 Electrics Boat Graphics Small
2 Electrics Boat Graphics Small
The BoatHowTo site has detailed technical illustrations by Michael Herrmann, like this one of a boat’s electrical system.

Every voyager has a story of how the COVID-19 pandemic affected their boating activities. For well-known boating author, systems expert and ON contributing editor Nigel Calder, the pandemic meant working with two colleagues on a new online learning platform called BoatHowTo ( The website will offer courses for boaters to learn more about the technical aspects of boating. The first course offered is on DC electrical systems.

Calder was approached by Dr. Jan C. Athenstädt, who runs KlabauterKiste, a German-language online magazine for boatowners, Klabauter-Shop, an online shop for boat electrics, and, a German online community, and by Michael Herrmann, a technical marine writer and a member of the German Boat Builders Association committee on electrics and a member of ISO TC188 establishing standards for small craft. 

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.” 

When asked how this German-English collaboration assembles the material for the course, Calder wrote: “For the narration we start with a Google translation of Michael’s work, which comes out pretty garbled. Then I put it into passable technical English based on my understanding of the subject and we both vet it for ABYC and ISO standards compliance. Then Jan prepares a script which we review prior to his recording the video and finally we review the video.”

The colorful technical drawings on the site are composed by Herrmann using Corel Draw and Photoshop. Athenstädt, meanwhile, takes the role of presenter in the videos. As for future topics, Calder says the trio has a full slate of possible subject matter. “Next are some lessons on grounding, alternative energy, LED lights, and simple shorepower-based AC circuits. Then a whole new course on advanced marine electrics and after that maybe marine diesel engines.”

By Story and photos by Craig Smith