Saturday, January 10, 2015

Dry Suit. The Ulimate in Foul Weather and Survival Gear?

Better than a Survival suit? That is the question Practical Sailor Blog asked this month. Conventional survival suits are so ungainly that sailing is impossible and they are not donned until the boat is headed down, often too late. A dry suit, on the other hand, offers the same or better agility and livability than conventional foul weather gear, with complete cold water protection (except for the head and hands). Since it can be worn while sailing, it offers protection you are more likely to have on.

But that isn't why I bought mine. Kayaking is one of my favorite activities, and once the water temperature drops below 60F, it become more and more difficult to dress safely. While I have never capsized (other than white water) on open water, there is always a hypothermia risk. Additionally, I think the dry suit will make reboarding from the water easier, because you avoid heavy, soaked clothing. Instead, you gain significant all-over buoyancy.




Not me. I'm much better looking.
Demonstrating the conversion from stand-by mode to fully sealed.


A favorite feature, and one that makes this suit (Ocean Rodeo Ignite) particularly suitable for sailors, is the standby mode. The pants are supported by suspenders and fit well, with attached socks. As shown in the above photo, the pants can be pulled up and the jacket zipped without put the head through the neck seal and zipping in, giving great ventilation. Converting to full seal takes only moments.

There are wrist seal, lotsa pockets, and a fly. The fabric is like a heavy duty 3-ply Gore Tex and seem very durable. The entry zipper is across the shoulders and doable alone (many drysuits require help). They are cut for athletic builds; if you've been hitting the pasta a bit too much, have very large shoulders, or shoulder mobility problems, go up a size; I am near the upper limit of height and weight for the medium (5'8" x 165#) and the fit was spot-on with my typical cool weather dress (long johns, fleece pants, shirt plus fleece sweater). With 2 thin fleece layers, 32F water is pretty tolerable (but the fit through the shoulders is more snug), and I've even done a little bottom cleaning like that. However, I strongly recommend trying the suit with the layers you intend to wear. Fortunately, getting out is easier than getting in, so you won't get stuck!

Note on trimming seals: the wrist and neck seals on dry suits tend to be one-size-fits-all, which is to say they are probably too tight unless you are built like a stick. In fact, over tight neck seals can inhibit blood flow to the head, which is bad.  I found the wrist seals fine, but the neck seal was miserable. Trim one ring at a time with very sharp scissors, leaving no jagged areas that could stat tears, until the seal is snug but acceptable, your adam's apple can move, and blood flow seems normal. Divers keep them tighter than kayakers and sailors should. Seals are replaceable, but with care last a long time.

And when you peal it off... You're dry!


Saturday, November 15, 2014

Helm Visability

I'm told hard dodgers really restrict visibility and make judging sail trim difficult.

Whatever


I was bored and the wind went light. The day before I had done hours blasting into 20 knots with 45F air temperatures; a hard dodger is the difference between a pleasant day in a sun room and frostbite on the nose. Oh, it's still plenty cold on deck!

(Fall is wonderfull on the Bay; wind, empty waters, and quiet coves. But it can put a premium on warm clothes, dodgers, and cabin heaters. But a cozy night with a movie, hot tea, and lots of blankets beats sweating it out.)

Dyneema Lifeline Burn Through

Dyneema has generated a lot of interest as a lifeline material; light, easy to fit, and comfortable to the hand. There are issues with chafe at stanchions (solved by polishing and sometimes chafe guards), but never the less, it was approved by ISAF 2 years ago.

But now ISAF is reversing course. There have been chafe failures due to rail meat and poor installation. They could stand that, I suppose, except it keep happening. Sometimes it is installation stupidity. Sometimes delivery crews switch to wire (more trust) and screw up previously polished holes, leading to failures. Ironic.

More concerning are cases of burn through, where the friction of a line, typically a spinnaker sheet on a large yacht (the only documented cases have been on maxis), generates enough friction to cut through a line in a single bad jibe. This can't happen on a small yacht (forces and lengths too small), but certainly it can be a source of wear, depending on the rigging locations. Many have been happy with Dyneema. Never the less, ISAF is now allowing Dyneema on class 1 and 2, but requiring wire on all higher classes. They are hoping to generate experience before revisiting the issue.

Judging from the burns on my PVC covers, this is a problem in need of a solution, at least on my boat.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Snag Reduction--Or Tacking Without Tears

Snagging the lazy genoa sheet on the mast-mounted winches has been my curse since the first day. The clew is just above the winch, and when it slides across the mast during a tack it just loves to loop over the winch, necessitating a trip forward. If I'm lucky, the boat doesn't fall into irons.

I tried a few simple bungees and covers for the winches. No luck. I tried better technique; OK when the wind was light, but otherwise undependable. I tried a line from the spreaders forward to the tramp; too hard to get the tack around. Finally I spent some time looking at it and found a simple solution that works the charm.

The Deflector. I ran a 40' length of 1/4 spectra double braid that I had left over from the end of the self-tacker traveler, through the lazy jack pad eye at the spreaders, and down to the other end of the traveler. It is tensioned with a truckers hitch, but not too tight, as the forces could get out of control. This keeps the sheets away from the winches AND away from the salon hatches , allowing them to remain open even when tacking. I thought it might be in the way, but in fact it makes a nice hand hold in an otherwise precarious area.

The sheet is held far away from the mast and hatch.


However, there is a significant tendancy for the clew eye and soft shackles to jam against the new deflector stays. I tried a few things before coming to a simple and entirely satisfactory solution; the sheets are now attached to the tack via a trianagular sliding bridle.

The Bridle. an 18-inch spectra climbing sling did the trick. It is luggage tagged to the eye and then each sheet is attached with a separate soft shackle. If there is any tension at all on the lazy sheet, the sling opens up into a triangle and sail clew is NOT forcibly dragged across the stay, only the sling. The clew eye is always free to move forward, away from the stay. Additionally, the shackles do not pass all at once, but rather in succession, reducing the drag.

 A bit tricky to see, but both sheets are attached NOT to the clew, but to the sling, along which they are free to slide when tacking. Both are attached with soft shackles; this is required because the windward sheets are inside the shroud and the reaching sheets are outside the shroud.

Not a single snag over many tacks in many wind conditions, from ghosting to 25 knots. Why does it take so long to learn simple things?


Monday, September 29, 2014

Bleach and Aluminum Corrosion

Rev. 10-14-2014

I've got a series of 4 articles on water treatment coming out in the next few months, describing a simple approach, soup to nuts. One of the more interesting thing to com of it is a treatment that seems safer for aluminum tanks. Both of these images show the worse pit after 14 days, at about 200 magnifications.

Puriclean Aqua Mega Tabs, 1 ppm free chlorine. Later I determined that I could lower the dose 4x below this and still maintain the same free chlorine due to the cyanurate buffering. Overall, the surface has been smoothed rather than pitted, with ~ 50% reduction in weight loss.


Bleach 1ppm, free chlorine.

Safer for aluminum tanks? That is my impression, particularly if the dose is lowered below manufacture recommendations to the lowest effective dose, but more confirmation work is needed.

What about hydrogen peroxide? During the writing of my water treatment articles, numerous sailors asked me to consider H2O2 as an alternative to bleach for aluminum tanks. One problem, of course, the lack of established standards for sanitizing with hydrogen peroxide. The Water Quality Association (certifying organization, similar to NSF) recommends 30,000 ppm hydrogen peroxide (3%), which is full-strength drug store peroxide, and 3 hours contact is required. Compare this to 30 ppm for bleach with a required contact time of 1 minute. There is no recommendation for routine use, but health approvals place and absolute limit of 1000 ppm peroxide, which is most likely below the effective dose. Not at all practical, and any stories of effectiveness at lower levels from cruisers are anecdotal and probably not based upon any science.

But just for laughs I did some corrosion test, using 3000 ppm peroxide for 4 days (ASTM D1384 test coupons at 65F).

No pitting... but remember this would have taken 40 pint bottles to sanitize a 25 gallon tank, even then using only 10% of the WCA recommended dose. Not practical.

  • Aluminum. Minor discoloration, no pitting.
  • Brass. Minor discoloration
  • Copper. Minor discoloration
  • Solder. significant corrosion, about like bleach on aluminum. Expect premature failure.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Fresh Water Flush--a Miniature Water Closet?

Seawater contains bacteria and sulfate. Flush with seawater, deprive the bacteria of oxygen for long, and facilitative (those that can go aerobic or anaerobic) start using sulfate (SO4-) as an electron source. The result is H2S (rotten eggs) and the head stinks. The cure? Either use the head every 8 hours (thus, smell is not a problem when living aboard or actively cruising) or flush with fresh water.

But you can just plug the freshwater pipe into a manual head; water will blow through, flooding the compartment, and bugs can swim up-stream. The water closet, introduced a century ago, prevents both by employing a float valve and creating an air gap (bacteria can't fly, as a rule).

What about a miniature water closet? $38 from McMaster Carr


Made for commercial ice machines, this unit holds enough to flush 3' of 1.5 inch line--not enough for most manual heads--and refills at 0.33 gpm, or about 1:20 seconds per full flush (12 strokes or so). Clearly, a larger size, holding about 60 cubic inches, is what is needed. It could also be expanded by mounting a 1-3' length of 3" pipe under it to serve as a reservoir (4' of hose can be flushed for every 1' of 3" pipe). Mount it to a bulkhead somewhere handy and you should be good to go. A pair of valves would allow switching from seawater and isolation.

But I haven't tried it. I'm happy enough with sea flush and a rinse with potable using the shower head before going home.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Knees, Close-up and Dirty


 The protruding wire does make for some odd bumps and can be sore against pants, and kneeling on the cap is out of the question.
 
31 years ago during an informal club bicycle race I dodged a pedestrian, got into the gravel, and shattered my right knee cap into 16 pieces. It healed up well, all things considered, though it is lumpy and 20% larger than its mate. I still have some wire, the back side was rough enough that sustained cycling was out for almost 25 years, and I had some permanent weakness in my right quad; I tended to favor it.

A little rough on the backside, but the Doc says it will go the distance. Not bad for that long after that much repair.


The wire broke during the healing process, but its purpose was served. No need to remove it. Notice the spacing is less on the right side, though I may not have been standing straight.

And as a result of favoring it, I tend to come down more straight-legged on occasion, which ironically, is the opposite of a favor. Additionally, having very flat feet (feet pronate inwards), a disproportionate amount of weight is carried on the medial side, in spite of wearing orthodics for the past 30 years. A year ago I felt and heard a pop in my knee when stepping high on a boulder, heel to butt with all of my weight on that leg; I started a tear. It bothered me some, never felt right, but never caught. Then a few weeks ago, while helping my daughter move back into college, the tear spread. I felt like I was taking light loads, not moving too fast, and I never felt anything... until it tightened up an hour later. ~ 8 trips up 6 flights was too much.

A nice little tear. Though it would bear weight, bending the knee more that 10 degrees cause locking and lots of pain.

 Cleaning Up...

And a few signs of wear, but not too bad for an old guy. Should go the distance, with some increasing pain.

While it is too soon to say much, just one day after surgery it hurts less than it did. They say I can go back to skiing and all that, but I think I'm done with that; I know I can't back down from the double blacks, so I'm better off going sailing and wearing a brace, just to be sure.

But for the next few weeks... time to write, I guess.

Update, 9-13-2014. As surgery meds wore off, the pain showed up. I strong recommend getting a Breg Polar Care 500 ($168), whether insurance will cover it or not. My wife had one left over from knee replacement surgery, and this is the only way to keep ice on the knee at night. This really helps with both swelling and pain. The temperature is adjustable, but if you wear an Ace bandage on the knee, the amount of insulation is perfect for comfort. Lasts about 10-12 hours on a fill of ice. The knee version (not pictured but very similar) comes with Velcro.

During the day, packs of frozen veggies (one over, one under) are best, conforming nicely. We get ones we don't like (lima beans) so that we don't accidentally try to eat something that has been refrozen 20 times.

Update, 9-18-2014. I'm mostly off the cane, but I walk slowly and stairs are still far out of the question.Still icing (Breg) at night.

Update, 10-5-2014.  Started on exercise bike. Mowed part of the grass yesterday, but did no try to finish. A little muscle soreness today, but the joint seems fine.


Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Re-hooking

After about 5 years of faithful service, my collection of saltwater plugs was looking sad. One fish lost to a hook that snapped off, a little too much metal gone. Time for new teeth.



Is it worth the trouble for a few lures? These are good sized lures, $10-$15 each for 8 of them, so yeah, time well spent. About $2 for the hooks and 15 minutes work, they should serve another 5 years. It's also good to inspect the rig, trim the end off, and tie new knots.

Other lures are generally just replaced. Jigs are cast in one piece, and generally the skirt goes first. Blue fish hose eels are generally too chewed up to worry over, and the stainless hooks last forever.

Boot Drier

A few days ago I was following a thread on a sailing forum regarding how to best dry a pair of high-dollar leather and Goretex seaboots. Suggestions from experts ranged all over, but missed that most obvious answer; a boot drier. Perhaps this won't resonate with warm climate folk, but it should; I've seen enough mold and mildew in Florida to make it the state plant... if it were a plant.

I built this one15 years ago in an evening, for the specific purpose of drying wet snow gear, but it has certainly been used far more for rain soaked gear.



Even the most sodden boots, shoes, or gloves are dry, warm, and fresh in a few hours. Odor is eliminated, as there is no chance for anything to grow. Wet gear has a proper place, and space is conserved since less gear is needed. The materials came entirely from the might-need bin, but I suppose it could be built for $30 if everything were purchased. It could be made longer, for a larger family, with very little change in cost.

The fan provides just enough flow. A bit of flashing creates an internal baffle, directing all of the air flow over the bulb before it goes to the pipe outlets. A 60W bulb seems to provide just enough warmth, but a larger bulb or lamp-base heater could adapt the design to larger sizes. Hardware cloth keeps small fingers and trash out. Pipes could be made longer for sea boots. The unused pipes are plugged by dropping a large bolt in the hole, focusing the heat on a reduced number of holes. The weight is sufficient to keep it from tipping over.

  • 110v computer fan
  • ceramic socket with 60W bulb 
  • box and switch
  • a salvaged cord
  • 3/4" lumber and some screws
  • 3/4" PVC pipe stubs
  • a bit of flashing and some hardware cloth
  • paint
What would I change? I should have built it for 8 pipes (4 boots + 4 gloves) to better serve 2 people. I should have made the pipes just a little longer (no so much that it could tip over) and drilled a cross-wise hole near the end (so that they cannot be blocked if the boot is sitting on the end). But Jessica is off to college, so it's really just me playing outside, and it works quite well as it is.

I've been tempted to build something similar into the boat--it's really sweet to have warm, dry shoes in the winter--and perhaps I will if I start cruising more in the off season, now that school schedules don't matter.  Perhaps something that diverts warm, dry air from the mini-dehumidifier.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Idea Drive

I get hooked on testing boating related stuff, On one hand, the projects sometimes become rather time consuming, but on the other hand, when I run out of projects I get bored, and my wife tells me that is bad.

A few of the things I have written about for Practical Sailor, not including follow-ups:
  • Gasoline additives--phase separation (none work)
  • Gasoline additives--corrosion (yup, some really work)
  • Gasoline vent filters--best adsorbants (silica gel lasts for years)
  • Gasoline vent filters--effect on corrosion (yup, helps, may be main factor)
  • Diesel vent filters--effect on corrosion (yup, helps)
  • Diesel additives--biocides
  • Diesel additives--corrosion
  • Wire Corrosion--1-year saltwater environment chamber test of spray and grease inhibitors
  • Sanitation hoses
  • Holding tank chemicals
  • Holding tank vent filters
  • Dehumidifiers and desiccants
  • Joker valves and chemicals (PG antifreeze lost)
  • Joker valves--field trials (Raritan won)
  • Glycols--winterizing, burst point, and corrosion
  • Glycols--biological fouling resistance
  • Glycols--engine coolants
  • Whipping twine
  • Sewn splices--strength testing
  • Abrasion resistant line coatings and chafe guards
  • Mildew preventatives, both coatings and vapor-type.
  • Water repellant treatments for canvas. Long-term.
  • Flexible window materials (Strata Glas etc.) and waxes. Long term.
  • Water filtration--filling the tank
  • Water treatment in the tank
  • Water filtration--final polish at the tap
  • Mantus chain hook and bridle
  • Anti-mildew chemicals
A few things that are in process:
  • Gaffers tape
  • Soft shackles
  • Battery and coolant top-off water
  • One-drop oil tests
  • Gasoline additives--anti-oxidation and gum
  • Diesel additives--anti-oxidation and gum
  • Dyneema lifelines and chafe
What topics are of interest? Test ideas? I do best when there is a chemistry angle, but I'm open to anything; if it doesn't interest me I will pass it along.