Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Crowds or Isollation, What is Your Pleasure?

It's natural to crave solitude after a week of hand-to-hand combat in the rat race. Can't they all just get out of my way and leave me alone? Even if you you like your trade, perhaps it needs a rest.

But after a few weeks away and a string of blue lagoons (or even solo time up a muddy Chesapeake creek), people start to get interesting again. You wonder what they have been up to and you have your own stories to share. Sometimes I'll just dinghy over to the beach or waterfront and sit on a bench, half listen to the local talk just to learn what is different about this place or different about folks. I'm not snooping, I'm just interested.

In a few weeks most of the Chesapeake sailboats will take their last trip of the season, most likely a Labor Day trip to a locally popular spot. And then, in spite of the fact the September is the best sailing month of the year around here, the boat will be parked until it is time to winterize, and then hauled out until May at least. It won't be too cool for comfortable wading until late October, and sleeping in 50-60s is infinitely better than 80-90s.

The only down side to off-season sailing--all but the core of the winter, when cold becomes an obstacle--is that shops close up, people go away, and the waterfront gets quiet. Do they stay home because everyone else stays home, feeding a self-fulfilling prophesy? Are people so attached to crowds that they can't sail without them, no matter how vehemently they claim to seek solitude under sail?

People are weird. And I'm one of them. For me, cruising is more interesting when there are sailors around. Not so many I'm fighting for space, but folks to interact with. I'm human.

So get off the couch this Fall, Winter, and Spring. It'll be fun.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Shoe Repair

Several years ago I posted about repairing massive separations in my approach shoes using Locktite PL S-30, a Home Depot caulking product with great adhesion and flexibility. I wire brushed it, over-filled it with the polyurethane, and removed the excess with a grinder. Much abuse later, it's hanging in there. I credit the higher flexibility better moving with the shoe than the traditional Barge Cement.

A few months ago I decided to repair the rand on my favorite rock shoes, which had start flapping years before but had become extensive over time. A little more complicated this time, involving masking tape and wax paper, but so far so good. Trust me, I've treated them badly.

Other polyurethane adhesives, available at Home Depot well worth consideration are 3M 5200 (white, less flexible) and Locktite Marine (white or black, slightly stronger than PL S-30/40).

Pretty amazing stuff. I'm finishing an article testing strength of about 20 marine caulks and an article on repairing canvas and sails without sewing. This stuff can be amazing repairing canvas, particularity if sandwiched between layers.

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Boat Hook Testing

Six months ago I was asked to review boat hooks for Practical Sailor Magazine. Everybody needs one. How dull I thought; I've never bought one, not in 30 years. I always find them by the dumpster or on the beach, and have a stack of "spares" at home that I haven't used yet. Keeps me from getting to choked up if someone drops one. Most days we just drop it in the middle of the tramp--I've never lost one from there, even in heavy going, though I generally tie it down when it starts banging into things.

Everybody does need one.

And low and behold it was more fun than I thought.
  • The most expensive, heavy duty model was the first to fail in the field.
  • Most would not allow me to pull with full strength without breaking.
  • The company that urged us to test, feeling theirs were best, was absolutely right.
  • I still like my 20-year-old pole for daily use.
How about this classic crabber's  hook? It's been hanging on the wall in my daughter's room for years, after I found it tangled up in my docklines after Isabel (I left in on the dock for 2 weeks, but no one claimed it). In fact, it was perhaps the best balanced and most suitable for all-day heavy use. No surprise.

The old guard vs. the new kids. Second from the left is my every-day pole.

I wonder who got the bright idea that a boat hook makes a good brush pole (I'm not picking on West Marine--they are ALL like that now)? All it does is snag lines. Unfortunately, about 1/2 of them won't screw into a brush because part of the hook is in the way. And nothing can be screwed into the "take" part of the hook anyway, so what's up with threads there? Worst of all...

... the bulbous padded tip makes them useless for snagging a line off a piling or dock...

Which all of the old-school poles can do easily, but only ONE of the new poles. Not an improvement in my opinion.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Emergency Tiller Plate

I believe it is a 1/2-inch pipe pump-out type plate, but fit it to the tiller. IT should be an easy, rattly slide fit.

Just a post for a fellow PDQ owner that wanted to see a detail. Boring.

This is my boat in Deltaville, before I bought her and changed her "Auspicious" name to something I could live with. Only 32' long with a crapy dinghy lifting tackle, though I still  have the grill.

Friday, July 15, 2016

Eight Days in the Mid-Chesapeake


After a night on the boat in Deale, MD, I was able to make an early start while the group slept in. This is the easiest way for us, avoiding the rush of driving and loading up. A 10-knot north west breeze made for nice 6-8 knot reaching conditions with the spinnaker, but it ran out and our speed piddled down to 3 knots by the time we neared Solomons Island. Since our goal was Smith Island, and drifting at 3 knots wouldn't get us there until the wee hours, I motored on one engines, which gets us 5.5-6.0 knots, and bit more if motor sailing or if the tide is favorable. It puffed a bit again as we neared Smith Island, this time from the southwest, and we were able to beat most of the way at reasonable speed. The travel time was about 10 hours.

Jessica scampered off to Ruke's--the main reason for our stop in Smith Island--only to find that Ruke's had been closed for a year, a consequence of her husband passing and health issues of her own. Too bad, she was an icon, known for the best crab cakes on the Bay. People in Crisfield would even order take-out, via  the tour boat! But the Bayside Inn serves some excellence fair as well, and the view from the deck is very peaceful.

Can you spot the American Mariner (US Navy target ship) in the distance?


In the morning we headed across the channel to the Swan Island (the land to your right as you enter from the west) for a little kayaking. The low-light of of our trip was the $90 ticket I got from the DNR on the way back for having too few PFDs. Yes, I know better, and I even made a comment about going back on board to fetch a second when I realized we were short one, but laziness overtook. Heck, we would only be crossing about 100 feet of channel where we couldn't get out and walk! The first time, and not a mistake I will make again. I have been pulled over by DNR numerous times in 30 years, always by officers clearly prowling for a quota. This was the first time they ever found anything wrong.

At noon we left for Tangier, only 10 miles to the south. Little wind, but only 10 miles to cross. The bulkhead at Park's was full, so we tied up to a piling and I kayaked over to the marina to help Mr. Parks (he's 85 in just 2 weeks) move some boats to make room, which was simple. Unfortunately, the resulting gap was only 3 feet longer than my boat and shorter than my diagonal, requiring some fancy sideways maneuvering, greatly aided by very light wind and a slack tide. Here we would stay for 4 nights.

 A small storm passed to the north.

The next 4 days were divided between uneventfull fishing, swimming, kayaking, and generally relaxing and waiting the world float by. Our Tangier visits are pretty low key.

About a mile north of the channel in the Upards, west side.

This waterman decided to make his shedding operation dual purpose, adding a sun deck and a little bright paint. Many evenings there would be a group eating dinner and catching up.

 Lack of real estate means that most shedding and docks are actually on the water. A skiff is used to commute, many times times each day.

The remains of a retired travel lift. There is a functional lift on the other side of the harbor.


With a marginal forecast including a chance of thunderstorms all day over most of the Bay, we headed north to Solomons Island in a nice 10-15 knot southerly breeze. The spinnaker would have been nice, allowing us to sail deeper angles, but given the towering clouds it seemed a little risky. Thus we alternated between a broad reach and wing-and-wing, weaving between the squalls and catching only a few weak gusts and perhaps 10 minutes of rain. We spent a hot evening on the hook.


Again, the wind was from the south, but virtually nonexistent until afternoon. Given the heat, we motored to Parker's Creek, where we enjoyed a kayak break, and then on to Deale.

This is what a boat is for. Simply idyllic. No powered boats, only kayaks, are allowed in Parker's Creek. The beach itself is protected due to endangered tiger beetles (stay on the wet sand).

  • Always carry your PFDs, at least in MD.
  • The new air conditioning was great. Much easier to use than the portable and more powerful. Great for sleeping.
  • Fishing may not be reliable, but crabbing in Tangier is.
  • Wet Marine PCA Gold is my "best value" paint choice (my second time). At 9 months there isn't a spot of slime, and experience says I'll get 2 years. Buy it on sale ahead. The best fast-sailing tip is a clean bottom.

Thursday, June 30, 2016

Is the Stainless Swivel Eating the Zinc off the Anchor?

Look like it to me. (not my boat)

This is also a good argument for a galvanized shackles. Stainless chain hooks may slide on and off a little easier, but over times I suppose there is some effect, if you are on the hook a lot. I just go all-galvanized.

Personally, I can't see much use for a swivel. The original SS swivel on Shoal Survivor (15 years) revealed an incipient crack when I took it apart to install a new anchor. No thanks.

(not my swivel, but it shows what side leverage can do)

  • Align the chain between the anchor and the gypsy. The chain can't spin in the gypsy, can it?
  • Motor/draft backwards if need be; most anchor will alight due to water flow.

Monday, June 27, 2016

How Long Should a Tether Be?

The 3' / 6' split has become a defacto standard, since these are the lengths in the ISAF standard. Well, sort of. What it actually says is that:

  • 30% of the crew (or everyone if you single hand) must have a tether leg of no more than 3'.
  • Every tether must be less than 6'6".

First off that means you can, and perhaps should have tethers less than 3'.

This tether is only 30 inches, is attached well in-board, and I'm well outboard. Of course, I had to climb over the high lifeline.

 At the mast in lump weather I sometimes go even shorter. How about a vertical jackline. Every boat should have these available in the form of halyards, though mine are fixed (they serve an unrelated tangle-avoidance function).

Additionally, I see no reason they cannot be longer in certain cases. My other leg is 8', bout right for the broad bow of a cat. I can imagine much longer on bigger boats. You just have to use the length intelligently.

What about smaller boats? I was fooling around on this 27' mono, using Amsteel jacklines, and concluded that the longest leg should be 3' and the shorter perhaps less than 2'.

I like custom sizes. These are fabricated from 8mm climbing rope with sewn splices.

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Renovating a LifeSling

A reader wrote into Practical Sailor that his LifeSling had basically fallen apart, the result of UV exposure. The blue webbing straps tore under hand pressure (a write up in PS will certainly be forthcoming). The age was uncertain (probably more than 20 years) and I believe it may have been stored upside down, since the straps should be on the bottom, completely protected from UV.

But the other issue is that the LifeSling cases are notoriously UV sensitive, or rather parts of them are. I bet the failed LifeSling was in a failed cover. The coated polyester itself is pretty durable, but the stitching goes and all of the Velcro fastenings go at about year 5-10, depending on the latitude and whether it sits on the rail year-round, like mine does.

Packing. Packed according to the instructions, all of the critical parts are well protected. The line (VERY vulnerable is in a tube in the center, with the sling over it; triple protection. After 19 years, mine is still pritine. The tail of the rope that attached to the stanchion base is covered with webbing. Although the webbing is sunburned, the rope is fine.

I cut a section open to look. Note that there are a few failed strands on the lower left, where sun must have peaked in. Polypropylene is touchy stuff.

Velcro Top Closure. I dislike the UV vulnerability of Velcro, so I replaced it with a tubular webbing and pin system, something like a door hinge. Just pull the red flag. This endured for 10 years without damage, so I left it alone this time. Durable, secure, and fast.

Velcro Ties. Really, a stupid application, when a knot will do better and last forever. Again, the Velcro fails in 5-10 years, I cut the remaining stitches, attached a 2" x 4" webbing strip on the inside with Sikaflex, a 4" circle of Sunbrella on the outside with Sikaflex, and punched a pair of holes. I was going to install grometts, but the laminate was too thick, about 1/8", so I simply threaded webbing.

Stitiching. Some of the seams had gone at 10 years, where they rubbed on the rail. I hemstitched them 10 years ago using whipping twine, and they are still fine.

Paint. I had some white vinyl inflatable paint left over, so after a good TSP scrubbing I painted the whole thing to provide some sunscreen (I masted off the instructions--that section seemed OK and has no seams or stress points). I have used Kilz primer plus house paint on projects like this before, through, so don't run out and by special paint.

I will 20 minutes work I should get another 10 years from the cover. Since the initial cover needed repairs at 10 years, I'm OK with that.

Sunday, June 5, 2016

Mooring Between Pilings

With the approach of hurricane season, I look forward to another season of watching people add lines without a plan. They double lines to cleats that are too small,  underestimate slack requirements, and put lines the wrong places. I've got a long article on dock lines and forces coming out next month in Practical Sailor. I

got a lot of funny looks, sitting on the dock edge during gales and squalls, taking reading on on line tension on both my boat and others using a block and tackle and load cell. Just two thoughts here:

Instead of adding a spider's web of lines that take loads in unpredictable ways, try a simple pattern of full spring lines. If you squint, notice how they form 4 over lapping Vs, with redundancy in every direction. Additionally, no cleat has 2 lines on it. (the double green/orange lines refer to data in the article--they are single lines.) This is how I tie my boat every day, and it really minimizes motion. Because the springs are actually continuous from piling to piling, they only take seconds.

Which brings us to the mind-ships cleat hitch. Because it is only one line but must be secure in both dirrection it is just a little different. Basically a standard cleat hitch, with a crossing turn after the locking hitch to reverse the rotation, and one more round turn. Very easy and clean.

The end result is that I can break any combination of 2 lines and still stay in my slip. The other result is that I don't wear lines, because they are always sharing.Easy and robust.

I have another article on  bulkheads in progress. More load cell testing. The interesting take-away from that one is that I use polyester spring lines (on bulkheads only--nylon between pilings) to reduce fender movement.

For storms I would add a few more, but that is another story.

Saturday, May 28, 2016

Cambridge, Oxford, Fishing, and the Joys of Working Part-Time

I visited Oxford once years ago for a log canoe race. It hasn't changed much, which is good. The guide book says the holding in Town Creek is poor, which I do not understand (I anchored in the wide spot across from Squeazers. I also suppose it could get crowded in season, but the cove to the east is huge for the shoal draft (lots of 4.5-6 feet).

Just a short walk over to the Strand.

I toddled over to Cambridge the next day. Some load testing, but nothing photogenic.

One the way back home the next day, a little fishing.

35 inches, 20 pounds, on a hand line with a plug. Like pulling in a tire.

A good break from, well, my break. Actually, a lot of time was spent trolling for ideas, measuring stuff, and taking detailed photos that are needed for articles but, frankly, are dull.