Monday, August 24, 2015

Winches and Backing Plates

About 5 years ago my port primary (forward) gave a crunch as the securing nuts punched through the inside layer of the cored deck. It was blowing a good 20 knots and we have the genoa in tight. Only rapid release of the tail prevented loosing the winch completely. Closer examination revealed that the winch had been a PO installation, that he failed to use any backing plate or even fender washers, and simply re-installing the winch with a FRP backing plate did the trick. The other winches were not a concern, though I had not looked at the mountings, because I knew they were installed in solid glass.

A few days ago, again hard on the weather, I heard some minor crunches and noticed the starboard secondary starting to lift. I transfer the load to the secondary, got where I was going, spent the afternoon playing in my kayak, and then settled down after dinner to evaluate the problem.

Old repair in the distance, new failure above.
The long bar is the inside genoa track.
The secondary--indeed the other 3 winches--looked to be factory installs in solid glass. I dropped both ceilings (if one is bad, the other must be close behind), and found that the fender washers were badly deformed (thin SS fender washers should be classed with balls on a priest, tits on a bull, and those damn flies--totally f___ing useless), providing no load distribution, they had crushed some of the glass, and the nuts were only finger tight. Caught it just in time, before real damage to the deck occurred.

Again, the answer is big FRP backing plates fabricated from a paneled salvaged from a scrapped boat (I don't know why more folks don't scavenge panels from demo boats).

Also interesting is that these are not the first winches! Or at least there is clear evidence that someone drilled extra holes.

So check your winch mountings. It was a good excuse to pull the winches off for a good service, and it will be good to know they are strong now.

The plate for either the Lewmar 40s or Harken 32s are 7" dia x 3/16" thick. For larger winches I would bond these to the deck, but for these, considering they lasted 18 years as-is, that seemed to be overkill.But look at how the fender washers deform.

Those Damn Flies

After years of swatting flies and failing to find any home remedy that did much, I decided to comb the internet for an effective fly repentant... and found catnip oil!

Recommended by the Department of Agriculture and EPA as an effective replant for stable flies, I don't understand why it hasn't made it to the mainstream for boaters. Plastic-safe (no risk of melting vinyl windows with a hand-print), people-safe, cheap, easy, effective, and pleasant, it is everything that DEET is not. It only lasts about 30 minutes, but we can live with that. Often the flies just leave, when we take the food source away.

To our great relief, our cat was not interested in our legs after returning home.

Try it out, and report back if you find a more potent version!

$5.99 for 8 ounces from Petco.




Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Idea Drive

I'm always looking for things to investigate, either product reviews or engineering problems.

A few that are in progress.
  • Bucket dust collector. I made a trap for bottom sanding dust that goes between the sander and the shop vac, keeping the filter clean. Also good for pumping liquids.
  • Tall step disease. How boats have more access issues than they need to.
  • Outland hatch covers. I like them.
  • Gaffers tape. Good stuff, outlasts duck tape years vs weeks. 
  • Mooring. Quantitative testing of the effect of spring lines and such.
  • Catnip oil as fly reppellant.
  • Aluminum and zinc anodes. 1-year test starting soon, brackish and fresh.
  • Spill prevention. A few tools to prevent spills while refueling. So far I really like the shaker siphon.
  • Affect of additives on polishing. Some make filtration easier, some make it worse.
  • Stitched eye and thread UV follow-up. I'm going to break samples after 2-years in the sun.
 A few in the thinking stage.
  •  Boot drier. There are commercial systems and home-built.
  • Aluminum treatments (Alodine1201, zinc chromate, TefGel and more. Salt humidity chamber and old mast sections.
  • New Stiletto 27 review. They are going back into production!
  • Kayak review. Trying to get a line on some inflatables.
  • AC installation.
  • Seafurl bearing maintenance.
  • Climbing mast from a climbers perspective. 

Ideas? Questions? I've got too much time on my hands and I need to do something with it.

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Product Review--Mantus Bottle Opener

As you know, I write serious product reviews. When I read this on I was devastated that I didn't think of it first:



Mantus Review

The other day I received some equipment from the guys at Mantus. Note, I have no affiliation. I do have one of their anchors, yes, but this review isn't about their anchor. There are enough threads out there on them. I'm talking about the Mantus bottle opener. It was actually free for a clever begging campaign, so any negative comment on my part is rude, however, there are no perfect tools for boaters; the opener has its faults. The product came well packaged and in a timely fashion for an overseas delivery. After unwrapping the package, I could easily see that it's a beautiful design and fitted well in my hand. Storage would not be complicated which is an asset for any boat owner. It also had a clever loop for a chain to possibly be used as a cool bling bling necklace, but I digress. It worked very well for the first 6 beers or so, but as the evening's enjoyable extensive testing progressed, and interesting attempts to keep notes for this review proceeded, it became increasingly difficult to operate; however, not insurmountable, they were enough however to give me a powerful headache in the morning because I couldn't totally figure out the problem. For some reason, it kept slipping off the bottle tops and wouldn't properly set. After 4 or 5 more beers (I think) it became useless to operate so I went to bed. The tests were inconclusive (actually I misplaced my notes), so it looks like I'll have to do further testing to retrace my steps again this evening. For now though, I am impressed overall with the design and would recommend it to fellow Sailnet members. Thank you Mantus. 


I'm too old for this particular type of testing, so I'm thankful that younger sailors are willing to step up. I'm not sure the above tester is qualified however; I can't recall any opener failing me at any point, but perhaps I was very determined... or perhaps I just can't recall.


Tuesday, August 11, 2015


As I begin work on a mooring project (related to anchoring--it seems easier to the sailor, maybe, but it's longer term and the boat is unsupervised), I consider what is work teaching. It's easy to point at bad knots--and I will do that--but serious failings are often more subtle. Take these owner's manual drawings for the PDQ 32:

Note: I have BOLDED the lines in each case to draw the eye to the triangular patterns. Perhaps it makes it easier to visualize the load sharing.

Between Pilings. Very conventional, but still there are obvious failings. All of the lines should be nylon, roughly the same size. Some authorities suggest that the springs can be lighter, based I suppose on the fact that the bow-wind and stern-wind loads are lighter. However, in the event of a breast line failure, you'll wish they were full strength.
  1. The bows are too close to the dock. There will certainly be slack, to allow for tide and wakes, and this boat will hit.
  2. The slip is too small. I'll assume this was illustrator license, but clearly the stern piling are a problem.
  3. The bow line and stern line angles are too perpendicular tot he boat. They would take some strain off the springs if the angle were less. Additionally, the boat would be safer if any one line broke.
  4. Where does the dingy go (the lines are going right through it)? The answer on the PDQ is to add deflectors down low, inside the stern, to run the lines under the dingy.
There are also many positives. A lot of redundancy, more than seems obvious.
  1. Greatly reduced motion and loads. I'm waiting on windy weather to take load readings both with and without the springs.
  2. If any one lines break, the boat is still well controlled, depending on slack.
  3. With any 2 lines broken, even next to each other, the boat will not hit anything, if the slip is properly sized. I've tested this both with models and full scale.
  4. With any three lines broken it may rub on one piing, but will not go far enough into the next slip to strike another boat. With good rub rails, you are probably OK. 

Alongside. Also conventional, with some of the same failings.
  1.  Where does the dingy go? Same solution.
  2. No fender boards. While not needed on floating docks, they are mandatory if tied beside pilings. 
  3. Bow an stern line angles should be greater, in case the spring fails.
  4. I believe the springs (alongside only) should be polyester. There is no need to absorb shock and the main purpose of the spring is to keep the boat positioned properly for the fenders to match pilings. Even with fender boards, sliding fore and aft is asking for trouble. As it is, the boat will still move fore-aft a foot or two with the tide, since the spring will describe an arc of a circle, where the radius is the half length. 

The bad thing is that a single failure will move the boat enough to pop a fender out. What Would I do for storms?
  1. 2 fender boards. for pilings, lots of fenders for floating docks.
  2. Additional springs. Either from the bow and stern forward and aft, or if length does not permit, from the mid-point of the dock to the bow and stern cleats.
  3. Additional breast lines But I would not change the angle much; An angles breast line increases the pressure on the fenders in an end wind.

But mostly, this is a good plan. There are no short lines, so shock and tide are attenuated. No single failure is fatal (assuming the slip is a little bigger).

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Check Your Gear

This is climbing gear, failed years ago, but the message applies to sailors. I have cracked toggles, cables, and shackles. These sit on a book shelf, across from my favorite chair, as visual reminders.

Fatigue. In this case it seems clear that the latch pin was fitted a bit too tight, and after some years, started a crack. since the strength ofa carabiner is dependant upon gate integrity, this one was retired, certainly only a fraction of it's rated strength.

Open gate strength. This biner snapped during a fall when the gate was pressed open by a bump on the rocks; with the gate open biners loose 50-80% of their rated strength, depending on the design and how they are loaded. Fortunately there was a back-up and there was no serious consequence, just a clear lesson; the gate MUST be protected from even light contact.

Saturday, August 8, 2015

Wind, Fetch, Height, and Period

A steady swell is a rare thing for most sailors. We spend most of our time in confused seas, the result of variable winds, diffraction affects from shorelines and bottoms, tidal currents, and wakes. Still, when working through the anchor testing series it was sometimes necessary to predict what I would find at a certain place and time, so I could be there and test what I wanted, when I wanted.

For example, a steady 40-knot squall lasting 30 minutes (fetch is the distance waves could have traveled during the squall, or about 4 miles) will generate steep waves of about 3 feet with a period of about 1.7 seconds. Those same waves generated by a 15 knot wind over a long time would have a period of 6.5 seconds and would be far more pleasant, and 40 knot winds given a long blow will generate mountainous waves I hope never to see; the largest I've sailed in were about 10 feet, and that was enough. I think I could go the rest of my life without winds over 20 knots.

Saturday, August 1, 2015

The Perfect Jackline Terminator--Better Than Sewn Eye?

I've done substantial testing on sewn eyes in nylon and how to make them strong. The sewing is a little particular, subject to wear, and only reaches 80-85% strength with a reinforcement insert.

On the other hand this little trick has tested at greater than 85% breaking strength and 100% of minimum rate strength in my first few trials, and seems basically idiot-proof. It is based on stuff a sailor has on hand and is as strong as professionally sewn ends. I found 3rd party testing that confirmed these numbers.

Step 1. Double the end of the webbing and thread it through the eye of a chain link twice. The link will need to be 5/16" minimum to have room for both strands. This is grade 30, and any higher grade should do. The shackle must have width for the webbing. I used a 5/16" shackle and 15mm webbing; a 3/8" shackle is required for 1" webbing.
Step 2. Put the shackle pin through the hole.

Step 3. Dress it up. The top strand should be loaded (longer radius) as it is about 10% stronger.

Detail. If the webbing is wrapped around the other end of the shackle (tempting, since a 5/16" bow shackle will fit 1" webbing) there is no space between the chain link and the shackle, causing a shear point.  The webbing will shear at about 50-60%; still better than most knots and much easier to untie. On the other hand, if the webbing is wrapped around the pin, as shown, the metal surrounding the pin creates the required gap between the link and the pin, preventing shearing.

 There remain 2 potential weaknesses:
  • Working loose under cyclic load, just as a bury splice can work loose. A back-up knot or a few stitches solve that.
  • Scratching the deck. A chafe guard would solve that.
Since it includes a shackle, it seems like a winner for jacklines attached to pad eyes or bolt hangers, since a shackle is already required. The cost? $1 for the link ($4 if you like SS) and $14 for the shackle, but you were buying that anyway.

Other applications?
  • Attaching webbing shore anchor rode to anchor points; strong and can be untied after loading.
  • Endpoint attachment when testing webbing splices. Yeah, probably just me.
  • Other?
A solution is search of a problem.

A Poor Solution to Non-Problem

For most of us with all-chain, simply getting the chain straight between the anchor and the gypsy will keep the anchor coming up straight, perhaps with an occasional un-twist (lower and re-hoist) if we have spun. Some like swivels. But then there are bad solutions:

While this gem is only offered up to 22-pound anchors, the leverage  in a side pull, should the anchor get stuck, seems pretty rough on the bolt at the anchor end. Worse, it adds 6 inches more length to the anchor shank, increasing the odds of bending or breaking out.

Raspberry Award.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Muddy Water--Dingy Anchor Testing

I wish I could take beautiful pictures in turquoise water, but that in not what the Chesapeake is like.

This testing is part of a series of 4 articles for Practical Sailor:
  • Dingy Anchors.
  • Snubber design and testing. It was amazing how hard the wave impacts on all-chain rode got, and how soft a long snubber could make them.
  • Tandem Anchoring, Part I. We learned a lot testing small anchors in many rigs and de-bunked some conventional wisdom. We also learned that they behave exactly like big anchors in soft bottoms.
  • Tandem Anchoring, Part II. We learned some new ways to deploy anchors in a V, debunked more conventional wisdom, and we learned why sailor like in-line tandems for rocky bottoms.
Mostly we were surprised by just how much stuff in books and on blogs has never actually been tested in the field! They lower the anchor, and if they were still there the next day, proclaim that it worked and publish it, never knowing that anchors were not actually deployed as they thought and that only luck saved them. The interactions between tandems are predictable and logical, but often quite different from what they believe.

Guardian G-4 (2.2 pounds), 600-pound holding, but unstable on some veers and did not always set.
[Not Pictured]

Mantus Dingy (2.1 pounds), ~ 150-pound holding

2.2# Claw, ~ 25-pound holding

Grapnel 3.2#, 6-pound holding

Guess which one is in my dingy, which one is in my kayak, and which ones went home.

(I kept the Mantus and the Claw)


Yes, I tested these in deeper water using a load cell. I also tested them in mud and with veers.