Saturday, July 11, 2020

Excel Anchor--Love It!

It may look a lot like the Lewmar Delta, but the performance is on a whole nuther' level, perhaps the best of the new generation anchors. I've just started testing, but my first impression is that this is probably the best anchor, at any price, for the Chesapeake Bay:
  • Sets and resets seamlessly
  • Holds well in mud. Not as good as Fortress, but better than anything else.
  • It does NOT clog with sticks and sticky mud like roll bar anchors. This is a big win in the Chesapeake.
  • Does well in hard sand.
  • Aluminum. 8 pounds is all I need! But steel would be even better in some ways, so get steel unless ounces matter to you.
  • Comes up clean, like a Delta. But it sets 4x faster and holds 2x better.
 I have not tested rock and weeds yet.

Before testing, I had not yet fitted a rode.

I like it!

Update, 7-11-2020

Rocks seem to be the Achilles heel of well, every anchor.  I spent a number of days last week fishing some areas over jointed rock slabs with small pockets. The best anchors are those that present a sharp point straight down. Northill is quite good. Steel pivoting fluke anchors are surprisingly good. Everything else is terribly hit-or-miss and insecure with even the slightest shift. Very long scope is the rull, since ANY uplift will cause intimidate dragging.

Thus, my standard anchors will now be the Northill and the Excel. Both hold well in sand and mud, and the Northill will fill my fishing needs.

So where did the Northill design come from? They  were used to anchor flying boats in WWII. Not this specific model. There was a light weight stainless version. But the same angles.

Saturday, July 4, 2020

The Ulitimate Laundry Tub Drain Strainer

I don't know why it took me so long to reproduce for home use, a design I have used in industry for decades.

  • Never used wire mesh (bad) or expanded metal (worse). The corners of each opening form a wedge to trap fibers.
  • The strainer material should be about as thick as the hole diameter. This also reduces debris hang-up. It makes it more dificult to hang through and staple. It also makes for less friction when cleaning wrapped (stapled) fibers, since it is like a larger diameter pulley.
  • Flow outside-in if feasible. It is easier to clean the outside by just it wiping off. No digging.



This laundry tub strainer was made from a 1.25-inch PVC stub glued inside a 1.5-inch riser, that was then drilled with 1/8-inch holes. The top is open. After drilling the holes, sand or scrape to get rid of all of the burs, but do NOT chamfer the holes; that will actually make it harder to clean.

I could have drilled the holes more closely, but this was a trial version. The hole size I am happy with. Not matter how jammed, I can wipe it off with once swipe of my hand.  The open top means that if it clogs the tub will not overflow.

I made another for a bathtub. Works great. One swipe to clean.

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Wire mesh and expanded metal are just cost-cutting measures. Perforated metal or plastic is always better. Boat applications? Cockpit drains come to mind. 

Yup, any strainer that is hard to clean. There are companies that make custom strainers for big money, or you can make your own from PVC. Vary the hole size according to the application (but there is seldom good reason to go smaller than 3/32-inch--9/64-inch is industry standard for most plumbing), drill them closer, and a drill press is darn handy, because there are a lot of holes. Yes, you can buy perforated materials, but fabrication is another thing.



Thursday, July 2, 2020


Nothing cool to report, so just a few photos from my last outing.

The view from the boom 

On a three-sail reach. 120% of windspeed.

 Warehouse Cove, Chesapeake Bay

Thursday, June 18, 2020

Small Boat Jacklines

Conventional jacklines down the sides make sense on larger boats. They can be far enough inboard for safety and still allow mobility. The bow and stern are still problem areas, but stopping them ~ 5 feet short of the ends solves that. You can clip the bow rail with the 3' when working there, leaving the 6' tether on the jackline.

Smaller boats require a different aproach. The jacklines end up being really short, from the front of the cockpit to 5-7 feet short of the bow, depending on deck hatches. Dedicated anchor points are required, a good idea anyway. Then a pair of hard points in the cockpit secure that area; but keep them off the floor due to tripping problems.

To move to the bow you start with the 6' arm on the cockpit hard point. You clip the 3' leg to the windward jackline, then the 6' leg (both), then move forward in a crouch or crawling. When you reach the end of the 3' leg, unclip staying on the 6' leg and move forward until you can clip the bow rail. You are never unclipped. You also never move from 6' radius to 6' radius hard point, which requires unclipping.

May examples are possible. I use a variation of this on my Corsair F-24, with the jacklines rigged along the inside edge of the tramps.

MacGregor 26D
Red lines are jackline range of movement
Blue lines are are point range of movement


Sunday, May 31, 2020

The Idiots Are Out in Force

Is it my imagination, or is the number of boaters on the Chesapeake nearly double what it would normally be at this time, and are they dumber than usual?

My guess is that it is pent-up restlessness after the COVID Maryland closure ,and a higher than normal percentage of the clueless are charging out. I should have photographed the mess in the harbor, but I was too busy trying not to run someone over, all of them either paddlers or power boaters that were not good at their craft.


In the off season the average skill and safety level is so much higher.

From a 1967 Danforth Manual

I came across this old manual and though I would share a few images.

Not exactly how I would rig two anchors, but vintage advice.

Some interesting examples.


Monday, May 25, 2020

My Personal Mask Design

I've worn masks a lot during my career. I inspect refinery equipment and work in a chemical environment. Fit and comfort for all-day wear are a big deal for me. Thus, following standard principles, I made my own. I kinna figures this would last some months, which it has and will.

I've been asked to post details, so here we go. I know there are a million posts out there.


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The real plus of this design is that there are no leaks. They call it a duckbill mask. It may look odd, but the fabric is away from you lips, speaking is easier, and there is more fabric for easier breathing with good filtration. The pattern came from a doctor.




It should be worn high on the bridge of the nose for best fit. This can be a problem with glasses, but I can get it to work (I had not properly adjusted this one yet).

Chin fit is also important. Watch for gaps under the jaw. Tighten the elastic as needed--it is adjustable for a reason.


  • Cut 3 pieces to the pattern (see below). You will actually fold it on the narrowest side, so it comes out looking like a fat hourglass. I cut the fleece with a hot knife--it's a sailor thing.
  • 1 layer fleece (comfortable, maintains shape, and very important, helps with sealing) and 1-2 layers fine sheeting (filtration). Lay them on top of each other.
  • Seam down narrow part of hour glass. This just keeps them in place.
  • Fold it on the seam and seam the edges together and trim with hot knife--it's a sailor thing. Of scissors and flame. It won't fray much. Leave at least 1/2" hanging out near the long edge; you will need this to attach the elastic.
  • Cut a piece of aluminum roof flashing ~ 1/2" x 4" and center this inside one of the long hems. This will make the bridge of the nose stiffener.
  •  Hem the long sides. These will bear on the face, so fold the edges under. This also provides support and creates a thick, wide sealing surface.
  • Melt holes for the elastic in the outside hem allowance using a hot nail. This is why the seams are flat and wide.
  • Thread the elastic. 1/8" cord or 1/4" flat. Tent pole shock cord is perfect. One goes under the ears, the other over the head. By using one continuous shock cord it is more adjustable and easier to don.
  • Carefully bend the nose piece to fit. In fact, nothing is as important as making sure there is no edge leakage. A leak is N-zero. By keeping the stiffener thin and flat it works with glasses, a common complaint.

Although it should washed now and then, they will self-sterilize if not worn for 10 days. Leaving them in the sun is also helpful. So make several and don't go out every day. Then you don't need to wash them too often.



Here is a good video that shows a similar mask made from a HEPA vac filter. I did this, but it's not very comfortable and is not washable. But it is an excellent design.




Here is the pattern. However, I add 1/2 inch on the sides for hem allowance and 1 inch on the long sides for hem and to tuck in the nose stiffener.




I did not sew on the elastic to the mask. One long loop threaded through the holes (melt with hot nail) is easier and more adjustable. The cord is tied with a double fisherman's knot so that I can easily slide it to take up slack, should the elastic stretch or for different size heads.

It's probably not far off N-95 or may be there. Yes, the masks are primarily to keep your own spit, but why not do it right?



I've made a dozzen of them, for my wife and I, and for my 90+ parents. 

Yeah, it's doofy looking.  Too many people choose masks for appearance or because they "look" medical. This works and stays in place through any activity. Good for mowing the grass and shop work too.

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Of course, this is why you wear a mask: 


Sunday, May 17, 2020

Anchors Are All Related

[Excel aluminum anchor coming soon!]

What could be more different than a 1950s Northill, looking a lot like a traditional fisherman's anchor, and the latest 2010s new generation anchor, the Mantus M1?


But if we look at them either from the side (ignoring the upper fluke) or from the bottom's eye view...


 ... the angles aren't that different.

I've been using this Norhill on my F-24 for several years because it is the only non-pivoting fluke anchor that will fit in the shallow well. It has dome downsides:
  • Rode can foul on the exposed fluke if the boat does a 360 due to a change in the tide or wind.
  • The fluke area is less. But this is made up for by the cross stock area, so the holding power is about equal.
  • Instead of rotating with the wind change it flips over when the change excedes about 90 degrees and is strong.
But it also has some upsides:
  • Folds flat.
  • Better than either Mantus or pivoting fluke in shells.
  • Does not clog with mud when resetting, because the other fluke is clean.
 No, I wouldn't run out and buy one. I've had this one for 30 years, used it on a number of boats. It has never let me down or dragged, so when I needed a folding anchor I recovered it from the lawn art pile and put it on the boat, where it will stay until someone makes a folding anchor that works.

Yes, there are anchors that knock-down for storage, but a working anchor must be available in seconds in case of engine failure or similar misadventure.


Saturday, May 2, 2020

A New Toy--Holdpeak Anemometer

It never fails to amaze me how instrumentation has come down in price. From lab equipment to non-destructive testing instruments, the change is not quite as dramatic as consumer elelctronics, but it's nice.

My pricey circa 1990 anemometer finally caved in, I needed one for an upcoming article on boat ventilation, and I braced myself for the expence. And it was... $25 through Amazon with free delivery.

I had to add a few slips of tape to the blades to perfect the balance; out of the box it was a little unstable below ~ 0.4 knots. Properly balanced, it is stable and accurate down to 0.1 knots, which is to say, absolutely amazing for so little money. I swear, it spins when a bug flies by.

As far as sailing goes, it's not a substitute for a masthead instrument. You don't get direction, it doesn't interface with the autopilot, and deck level winds are always influenced by rigging and sails. But I actually wanted it for local readings, and should I want to extend it aloft, it has min and max recording and can be attached to an extension via a 1/4" USS mounting thread.

Already a few new projects have suggested themselves. I wouldn't call it industrial duty, but it works.