Monday, October 16, 2017

How Long is Your To-Do-List?

Just a sampling of the tasks accomplished over the past few weeks. There was more in the weeks before. A terrible traveler design required mounting additional blocks to fix. A barber hauler was fabricated. The hinge for lowering the mast had been destroyed by a PO error and a new, stronger one fabricated.


  •  Replaced Dyneema portion of both shroud tensioners.  The factory version was 5/32-inch Dyneema, certain to fail after about 10 years in the sun. I upgraded to 1/4-inch, which should remain about required WLL for 20 years. Four bury splices required.
  • Whipped cover over tail of Spectra/Spectra furler line to improve grip both in hands and jammer.
  • Swapped the junk pivoting fluke anchor for a 12-pound Northhill. I took a spare rode and spliced that to the chain I had, since the chain, shackle, and rode on the junk anchor were... junk. The nice thing about the Northill is that it is about the only non-pivoting fluke anchor that will fit in the locker, because it also folds down; they were originally designed for seaplanes.
  • Replaced ordinary deck screws used to secure aka load pad by PO with stainless. A missing pad can result in considerable damage with these boats.

  • Climbed mast and reconed instruments. 
  • Installed new wind indicator(Windex).
  • Replaced broken lever on port jammer (partner did that).
  • Tried loosening screws on broken bow sprit pivot. Due to lack of Tefgel, this was a failure (ended up just grinding them flush).
  • Rerouted furler line to eliminate chafe. Added new fairlead. 
  • Went sailing.

  • The battery is no good.  It was 11.7V  when I got there, and after 5 hours at ~ 8A it was 11.9V. This is a classic indicator of one bad cell.
  • Checked motor charging. The voltage increased 0.2-0.3V when it was running, depending on RPMs. This is also typical of a battery with a bad cell. The motor charges about 4A at WOT.
  • One of the fire extinguishers was bad. The other is fine and we only need one.
  • Serviced all four winches. The two-speeds were a little gummed-up, but the jib winches were nearly dry and have suffered some wear from this abuse. I suspect they have not been serviced in >10-years, perhaps never. They now have Lewmar grease, new springs, and two have new palls. 
  • Replaced the rubber washers on the beam clamps. They a were completely shot, and damage to the fiberglass was beginning.
  • Bowsprit repair finished.I really like the way it came out. If you adjust the bobstay tension in synchronization with the up-haul line, the butt of the pole is very nicely nestled in the polyethylene saddle. Better than factory. I was not able to get the screws out, so I ground them flush and tapped 3 new 1/4 x 20 bolts in the neutral axis. Very strong.
  • Installed 3/32" FRP liner in the bottom of the anchor locker to protect against bangs.
  • Fabricated anchoring bridle, complete with all hardware, in the anchor locker (blue climbing rope).
  • Replace the missing twist locks in the cockpit.Took the bags at home and will give them a quick re-vamp (a few stitiches and some elastic).
  • Installed two 1/4" threaded studs in the starboard cockpit locker. I will make up a row of hooks tomorrow ind install that in a few days. That will take care of the PFDs, fenders, and rope coils.
  • Fixed traveler... I believe. I converted it to 3:1, played with the slack, and spliced the ends. It seems jam-proof now. The original system was unusable.
  • I put a smaller pin on lanyard on the  beam locks. The big pin is better for trailing, but it's a battle until we fix the alignment. I wonder if we need to look at the adjustment of the x-cables under the tramp. This may be part of the problem.
  • I will be fabricating a topper for the storage bin forward of the sink. Also a drop-in bag. 
  • Fixed the paper towel holder.


  • Repaired one cockpit bag. The other was badly fitted by the PO and is going home for alterations.
  • Storage hooks installed in the starboard cockpit locker. (the locker had no floor and is how you crawl under the cockpit). All of the PFDs, ropes, and fenders are now hanging in easy order, and there is some remaining room. The whole works can be removed by unscrewing two knobs. I'm gotta write this up a DIY idea. 
  • Installed counter topper. I took it home for more varnish. It's going to make a good "catch-all" spot.
  • Primed and tested the water pump. Fixed some minor leaks, so it is good to go.
  • Cleaned some, removed some rust stains. C
  • Cleaned/lubed the stove. Works better now.
  • Added a backing plate for the anchor well padeye. There was none, and if the boat had come back hard on the line, the eye would have pulled out.
  • I added a whipping twine marking to the centerboard lines. The whipping is be 1-2" below the cleat when in correct position.
  • I added low friction rings to the ama end of the barber hauler lines. This makes it easier to adjust the under load. In a breeze, using the sheet winch can help. Sewn eyes.
  • I refurbished the masthead inst. a bit. Cleaned and lubed bearings, replace vane and wheel.

Counter topper, not dissimilar from the one on my PDQ. In this case I secured it with a pin, since the top was a useful cutting board I did not wish to eliminate.

October 5-10
  •  Cleaned the entire hull lining with Formula B and a upholstery extractor. The stains came out.
  • Solar charging. 50 watts and a charge controller.
  • A fan and USB charger.
  • Boom outhaul revised.
  • Sail repair. Three spare sails repaired.
  • New o-rings in crash tank hatches.
  • Mini-dodger designed (watch Good Old Boat for this one).
  • Mini-tramps to block the holes where your leg can go through.
  • Repaired Autohelm power plug. 

Mini-Dodger partial mock-up. Enough to keep the rain out, with minimal weight and windage, and stores flat under a mattress. It's going to be so slick!

 And there will be more...
  • Cleaning.
  • Crack in the hull liner.
  • rebedding deck fittings. 
  • Storage in amas.
  • Play in tiller (shims in kick-up mechanism.
... as well as a few that will feature in articles.

 And yet compared to the PDQ, the projects are individually smaller, cheaper, and less daunting.

Friday, October 13, 2017

The Worst President In My Expereince

I try to avoid politics, but when actions are simply inhuman, and the results will be mortal, I can't.People are going to go without treatment and some of them will die. Others will be seriously injured.

He couldn't fix The Affordable Health Care Act, so he wrecked it. He blocked key funding provisions, requiring all people to participate. He let employers avoid doing their part. He sewed doubt and uncertainty throughout the industry, and now he will point his crooked little finger at he system he wrecked and claim it is awfull. Well, it is broken because the self-centered, narsisitic, greedy little man felt like wrecking something. He couldn't get congress to go along with him (with a majority in both house, no less), so instead he stabbed at it with his little pen, against the will of the people, because he thinks he is king.

In 2018 a full-time minimum wage job would cover just 68% of my wife's insurance premium, and less than half of her well-care medical expenses. She is diabetic. With the stroke of a pen he eliminated protections for per-existing conditions, regardless of the fact that she has not had a lapse in insurance since she was born. I find such an action not just selfish, not just morally bankrupt, but fully irredeemable.

I have a few beans in the bank, I'm selling a few books, and writing 3-5 magazine articles every month. I get some part-time consulting work, but anyone who doesn't think age discrimination is a alive, hasn't checked the job market at 56 years old. Bottom line: there are a whole lot of people that plain can't afford basic medicines in the world he has created.

It's sad and embarrassing that such a man got elected by lying to the public. It's sadder still that half of us believed it, just because he told the lies people wanted to hear. They thought he was a good businessman, when all he is really good at is making money for Trump and promoting Trump.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Super Simple Solar

After dealing with the complex power system of my PDQ, installing a surplus panel on my F-24 was the work of a few hours and few dollars.

The panel. I like rigid panels, but semi-flexible can make a lot of sense for small boats. The key is that they should not be stepped on, no matter what the vendor says. They use the same silicon cells and they are fragile. Also, they should only be flex once, during installation onto firm support. A bimini is by definition a problem, a common cause of premature failure. The typical story is that "it was a great installation," and then several year later, "I need to get better panels; these didn't last." Of course they didn't. They flexed in the wind and the cells developed thousands of microcracks.

Open circuit voltage of a "nominal" 12 volt panel is about 20 volts. The moment it is attached to a load that drops way down.

Location is always a conundrum; where on the boat never sees shade. The answer, with sails up, is that there is no such place. Since I hate arches and the F-24 is a sport boat, flat on top of the slider was the right answer. It's not under foot and the boom can be swung to the side to leave it clear at anchor. Another advantage of the slider location is that the screws are not into corred deck and thus leaks are unlikely.

There is no need to mess with the main panel. Solar systems wire direct to the battery (or studs that are directly connected). They should NOT be isolated by the battery switch. However, you will need a fuse.  A simple in-line fuse is fine.

Wire size need not be large for a 50 watt panel; #14 AWG is enough. With larger panels you need to stay below about 3% voltage drop.

A simple automated charge controller can be had for $25. Two wires come from the panel, two go to the battery and fuse. Generally they are smart enough to sense the battery and type, regulate bulk and float charging, and schedule equalizing. Wow.

I could write pages about good wiring practices. Use a ratchet crimper, adjusted for the fittings you are using.  use grease on the contacts. Keep things neat. And don't forget the fuse (panels are known to short-out). MC-4 connectors are very good in a marine environment, but I always seem to cut them off and just crimp things together; the pigtail length is always wrong, the replacement panel will be a different shape, and they don't actually aid in troubleshooting.

It couldn't be much simpler these days. If you've got questions, just ask.

Sunday, October 8, 2017

100 Best--Chapter 10

Keeping Warm in the Cabin

On-deck comfort is important, but eventually night falls and we retreat to the cabin, and in the winter, nights are long.  Even the most glorious spring and fall sailing days come hand in hand with cool nights. There is no reason they can't be spent in comfort, like an evening in a quiet cabin.

56. Dickenson P9000 Propane Bulkhead Heater. The live aboard is going to be happier with forced air heat and a thermostat. But for those of us using heat for a few evenings in the winter and to stretch the spring/fall seasons, a propane fireplace is all you need.

Yes, you need leak sensors, a propane locker, and careful installation, but this one is pretty simple, well within the DIY catagory.  It is also just as energy efficient as installed furnaces, thanks to a double-pipe flue that preheats the combustion air, and it's just as safe, since the unit is completely sealed, preventing carbon monoxide from entering the cabin. Locate a small fan nearby to spread the heat, and you'll have a very cozy cabin.

Please just forget everything you've heard about flower pots over burners. That is thermodynamicly and chemically provable as nothing more than wishful thinking, and dangerously erroneous logic. Exactly the same number of BTUs are going into the cabin as with the burner on, with potentially higher carbon monoxide emissions than a naked flame (because of the relatively cool pot surface. The burner can consume the oxygen in the cabin in a matter of minutes, after which carbon monoxide production soars and the floor comes up to hit you in the face. The same goes for small fired lamps and candles. Every bit of pollutant is going into the cabin air which you are breathing. Yes you can ventilate, but then you need more heat. In my opinion, ventless heaters in general are a dangerous, awful product catagory. I'd rather wear more clothes, just like tent camping.

I'm working on a simple solution for stove top heating that vents the exhaust from the cabin, something like the Dickenson Cozy Cabin heater. Look for a post this winter.

57.  Electric Blankets. The first assumption is that the power draw will flatten the batteries, but upon closer examination, the typical 50-100 watts is not that much for a large battery bank.  If used primarily to pre-heat the bunk, and then turned off or way down, the over night draw might be 30-50 amp-hours. Personally, I like sleeping under a mass of quilts, pressed down into the mattress. But this is worth consideration, particularly if one of your party is cold blooded and you have a heafty battery bank.

58. Insulated Window Covers. I've seen all manner of quilted covers, but there are two simple solutions that really work.
  • Bubble Wrap. Just spray the inside of the window with water and apply. Static cling will hold it all winter. I wouldn't have believed it, but it works. It does look rather Hoverville, but it works and it lets light in.
  • Closed Cell Foam. My favorite source is cheap yoga mats. Cut to shape, make Velcro buttons to hold it in place, and reduce the heat loss by half.

59. Double Glazing for Windows. If the window has a removable bug screen, you can make a storm window for it in minutes. Just cut a rectangle from 1/8-inch polycarbonate and round the corners to fit. This will eliminate condensation (there is a dripper over every bunk) and retain more heat than you would think.  and I'd love to provide a spoiler, but the editors would yell at me. See the upcoming article in Good Old Boat Magazine.

60.  Towel Hot Dogs. Cold air leaks around companionway sliders are nearly universal. Slice an old towel into 6-10" strips and sew these into rolls. Stuff them in the cracks. Keeps bugs out too.

 61. Carpet. The simplest of all. The cabin sole is cold, adjoining the unheated bilge space. Carpet protects the varnished sole while adding important insulation.

62. IR Thermometer. These have come down so far in price (as low as $10, but not the Fluke units) I know consider them to be must-have tools. Uses include checking the oven temperature, monitoring engine and cooling water temperatures, looking for drafts and poorly insulated spots at home, and checking your boat for drafts and cold spots. The first time you spot something at home it is paid for 10 times over in saved heat. The boat applications are free!Just scan inside the boat, note any cold spots, and then do something about it.

63. Shoveling Snow at Home. You should also prepare on the home front. While this thrifty sailor has gone with a bottom shelf brew, I would suggested a stout with a higher alcohol content (to prevent freezing). No bottles--they may burst.

All kidding aside, a plastic shovel is handy on a boat, and never, ever touch soft vinyl windows below 50F (they will crack--below zero they shatter like glass), and thaw frosty decks with un-heated seawater.

Friday, September 29, 2017

Composite Fittings

In the process of re-fitting a new-to-me boat, I find myself going deep into the archives in search of ways to make her light, strong, and interesting.

Pad eyes are simple enough. Leave it to Ropeye to come up with an elegant Dyneema solution that is strong as hell, light, and cost $290.

But  if we did through the old magazines, we can find this one in a 1991 Multihulls Magazine:

 Instead of through bolts and a backing plate, he simply wound Kevlar thread round and round until there was enough to carry the load. The stainless steel thimble, that was used as the form, provides chafe protection on the inside. I've also seen these made, where the Kevlar, Glass unidirectional, or carbon unidirectional was used in the same way, but instead fanned out on the inside surface and glassed, making a backing plate of sorts. More labor, but just as strong and no need to rebed, ever.

Take that, marine chandleries.

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Mast Time

In the quest to get my new boat whipped into shape, it was time to go where the air is thin for a little recon work. It is known that the PO whacked the masthead on a travel lift, removing the wind vane and wind instruments. Or maybe it hapened when he dropped the mast, tearing the mast hinge from the deck. Who can say. Either way, it was time for a closer look. Yes, this could be inspected when the mast is down, but we may be moving the boat with it only out of the water for one day, so it would be nice to have the any required parts on hand.

For me, the MastMate is the way to climb. With Dave tailing a safety line (halyard) I doubt it took more than 2 minutes to reach the top, perhaps a bit less. Always roll the ladder with the steps flat and they will pop right open. 

Notice the blue EVA foam padding taped inside the leg loops of a standard climbing harness. This cheap expedient greatly improves comfort when you are up there for a while. Coated gloves improve grip on the mast and stays.

 The box for the wind instruments stripped out of the mast, but Rivnuts should take care of that.  I like the new LED anchor light. The VHF will remain unused for now, I presume, in favor of handhelds.

Note that I tie myself off at the top with a few slings and carabiners. This improves stability.

 A Davis Windex fit nicely in the VHF antenna mount. The boat previously had a crane mounted off the back for the Windex, but all evidence of it is gone. Both Practical Sailor testing (me) and market share suggest this is the best vane available.

 And of course, the obligatory pictures of the view. The slip is only wide enough for one ama to extend at a time. We will be moving to a wider slip, although folding takes only 5 minutes.

 Washington Sailing Marina, with Regan National Airport and the Potomac River in the background.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

My new Outboard

No, not really.

This is the drive for an F-25 enter in the Race to Alaska.

A pair of Hobie Mirage drives would only amount to a fraction of a horsepower. It better be flat calm and no tide.

I think is is simpler to follow e-10 best practices:
  • Use a good anti-corrosion additive.
  • Portable Tanks: Close the vent when not in active use.
  • Installed Tanks: Use a silica gel vent filter.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

State of Charge vs. Voltage

I get questions all the time regarding "is this voltage right?" Well, it depends.

Temperature. In the summer they run higher, in the winter, lower. Also, if the battery is heated from the charging process, it can be warmer than the air temperature. As you can see, there is a 0.6 volt range between summer and winter, depending on where the batteries are located. In the winter many electronics will cut of around 50% state of charge due to minimum voltage requirements. Thus, the usable power in the winter is much less. Fortunately, solar charges more efficiently, though for fewer hours and at a lower sun angle. No fans, but more light and heating appliance load.

Surface Charge. Just after charging the voltage can be a few tenths higher, sort of like how a lieden jar stores static, although the mechanism is different. Put a few amps on them for an hour before reading at no-load.

Under Load or While Charging. Both of these affect the voltage due to internal resistance effects. Although in theory these can be corrected for, in practice you will miss by a mile. Always test while resting.

Friday, September 8, 2017

100 Best Buys--Chapter 9

Keeping Warm on Deck

I am, by nature, a 4-season sailor.  I try (unsuccessfully) to avoid sub-freezing temperatures and strong winds, and when the water turns hard sailing stops, but other than that, it's press-on regardless. There is nothing better for combating early spring cabin fever than a quiet mid-winter day of light air sailing, and even cool spring and fall weather require some preparation to be enjoyable. it is always best to be prepared.

51. Dry Suit. I was tempted by these 35 years ago, when I sailed a beach catamaran, but all the finances would justify was a cheap wet suit. I was tougher then. When I took up kayaking a few years ago, I spent the bucks and never looked back. They are great as deck wear on cool, nasty days, where they prevent water from going down the neck or up the sleeve, and they are more agile than full foul weather gear. If you fall in you are basically wearing an immersion suit and will be  safe--even comfortable--for many hours. If you wind a rope in the prop, need to assess underwater damage, or need to enter the water to assist and MOB, there is no other solution. I now consider a dry suit to be a winter sailing safety essential. I like the Ocean Rodeo line, because of the convertible neck and attached feet. Yup, that is ice around me. I was in the water for six hours, running the suit through the US Coastguard immersion suit standard. It was actually fun, since I have no other opportunity to swim in the winter.

52. Shoe Drier. My personal workhorse is homemade, designed for kid's snow gear. However, there are many neat commercial designs available.

53. Hand Warmers. Thick gloves are warm, but you can't actually do anything while wearing them. As an ice climber I concluded that Hot Hands hand warmers were are far better solution, allowing the use of thinner gloves with resulting improvements in dexterity. The gloves must be reasonable air tight; thin fleece or knit gloves do not adequately retain heat or limit oxygen supply, causing the packs to burn out quickly and do little good. Windblocker fleece gloves with leather palms are a good compromise. With heat packs, these are good down to freezing. Lightweight ice climbing gloves can be good. It comes down to fit and wind/water resistance.

54. Ski Goggles. Not just for southern ocean spray. Any time the temperature drops below about 55F, goggles can replace sunglasses, keeping the whole face warmer. Pair these with a light Polar Fleece balaclava (seals the neck) and a fleece watch cap (the balacava helps hold the cap on) and you will be good down to freezing.

55. Fleece Socks. I can stand cold fingers and the wind on my face, but I can't abide cold feet, more specifically cold wet feet.  In really wet conditions, the best solution is a dry suit with attached feet. No more wet toes, ever. In more moderate conditions, I like neoprene socks over fleece, and finally, just fleece when it is cold but dry.

And always take extras for the ride home and for sleeping at night.

So ditch all notions of blue lagoons, substitute visions of the ice fiords and polar exploration, and extend your sailing season by double. Pretty cool (pun intended.)

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Notice anything different this morning? It's the new sports car (Corsair F-24) in the header image.

But I don't expect too much on this blog to change. It will still be about projects, sailing, cruising, gear testing, and writing. I already have a project list over a page long, little of it vital, and much of it fun, stuff intended to make sailing easier or faster. In fact, my main reason for changing boats was to reinvigorate my writing.

In keeping with my prior boats I've stayed with basic principles:
  • Pick a well-known brand that is in demand.
  • Don't buy a project boat. You won't get to sail and you won't save money, not really.
  • Pick one that calls to you. Be practical, because the next person will be, but remember that sailing is about being in love with being there. If she calls to you, she will call to someone else in the future.
  • Maker her better over time. Fight depreciation. It is also easier to stay in love with a boat which is kept in prime condition.
So what does the future hold?
  • Some maintenance. It's a boat. Much of what I learned from the PDQ and Stiletto will apply, but there will be new stuff.
  • Some upgrades. But I have to sail a boat for a while before I understand the design well enough to actually make it better.  I like subtle upgrades, not bolted-on gadgets. I don't know just what she needs yet. But I have page of ideas.
  • Some cruising tales. The cruises will be shorter, I'm sure, and back to my gunk holing roots. My kayak will be coming along.
  • Some analysis of sailing technique and equipment designs. Always. A new boat brings new perspective.
  • Gear testing. Though only 24 feet, she is a sturdy boat and should make a fine test bed. She is well-built, not tender, and not afraid of a good breeze. The basic needs remain the same.