Thursday, December 16, 2010

Good Ideas, Bad Ideas, and Stewardship

rev. 11-8-2013

I would like to share a  post by another blogger: Stewardship-not-Ownership

What, if anything, we owe to the future owner of our boats, or to ourselves if we keep the boat longer than we first anticipated? Unlike cars, which for me at least are valuable only as scrap metal when I'm finished with them, sailboats are like houses and generally see generations of owners. With good maintenance, the useful life of a fiberglass sailboat is at least 50 years--perhaps more--dependent on care and use. Some boats are unique, were made in limited productions runs, and will never be reproduced. My Stiletto was like that, like a classic race car, built of pre-preg Kevlar honeycomb and cured in an autoclave. I would have felt not only loss but guilt if I had wrecked it, either by accident or by poorly considered modifications. Instead, I am proud to have passed it on to its next owner in better shape than I received it, even after I extracting 15 years of adventure from her. A 30-year-old rocket that could still manage 20 knots with the right breeze and crew. She was just no longer the boat her then 50-year-old owner and family wanted.

We focus on well thought out up-grades and modifications, we try to match or improve upon factory engineering and craftsmanship, all while pinching pennies as tightly as humanly possible. How do we feel about the results? How will feel about becoming the dreaded and much maligned PO (previous owner) in the future? How will we feel, in the future, cursing our own short cuts or impulse-driven modifications?

On my Stiletto, the PO was a moron and I redid everything that he touched, with few exceptions; poor choice of materials, no understanding of wiring, and no rigging sense. On the PDQ, the PO deserves better marks, if only because he subbed major work out. I try to do better, since I'm a long-term owner.

A few of my failures and successes, offered for public display.

Good Ideas

Alternative Storage Ideas. Or rather, all storage ideas that don't require drilling and cutting. Every owner will have his own ideas about stowage, so I like removable stuff and dislike permanent changes. Dividers inside bins, out of site, are different; suit yourself. I've added hammocks (laundry) and fabric catch-alls liberally. Winch handle holders have been added and moved. Lashing points have been added where useful. But it can all be removed with very little lingering evidence. Few boats are set up for cruising; they are set-up for daysailing and overnights. So try some things, and change them as your needs change.

Winch Handle Holder Near the Mast Base. I can't believe the PO climbed around the side decks carrying a handle in one hand; I need 2 for safety. Besides, I only made the trip twice about 20 times, going back for the forgotten handle, before I installed a forward holder.

Supplemental Lighting in Deck Lockers. I hate digging out fenders or sails by flashlight. Not hard to make "factory" installation, with a good pair of ratchet crimpers, an eye to factory installation pattern (assuming the boat is well-wired), and an eye on the amps. Automotive and RV products seem to work just fine in interior areas. I only worry about wattage and LEDs on high-usage applications, not lockers. Trunk lights are stock on cheap cars... why not boats?

Chain Lock. Helps secure the anchor and prevents inadvertently loading the windlass. I could have bought one, but I enjoy working metal, have some skills, and made a factory-quality version. I sealed the core at each hole and installed a mated aluminum backing plate.

Wrapping Wheel and Hardtop Columns with 1/4" Line. Very comfortable (cool and warm) and better grip. Cheap, but a little labor intensive. A must-do, we actually did this the evening before our delivery trip. My first upgrade!

Propane Heater. Should be stock, for a boat built in Canada. Curious, in its omission. I took my time and did a by-the-book installation. I even sailed around with a cardboard box model taped to the bulkhead for a season before I committed to the final location; I didn't want a 4-inch hole in the ceiling as a reminder of a bad planning. I fabricated my own line deflector, as the factory version was too high-aspect. I think the install looks factory.

Storm Windows. Should be stock up north! Piece of cake and they match the screens nicely.

Bathroom Vent. Standard on houses... and I got paid more for the magazine article than the material cost plus my healthy self-appointed labor rate!

Secondary Stern Mooring Points. Should be standard on all cats; keeps mooring lines away from the tender. No drilling required. I use them every day.

Window Covers. Takes a big load off the AC, extends window life, and install without drilling.

Better Winterizing.  Why a boat built in Canada wouldn't come with the right valves escapes me. I added valves to add glycol the head and potable water systems. 15 minute winterizing.

Swing-away TV Mount. I'm not thrilled with the finish, but it's mechanically perfect. If the next owner doesn't like it, I drilled no holes.

Improved Dinghy Lifting Takle. The original, with 3:1 purchase and awkward cleats was a challenge when tired and impossible for my child. The new version, based on dingy mainsheet parts, is 6:1 with a cam cleat. Works like a charm.

Pad Eyes on the Deck Near the Mast Base. Very handy for securing halyards, without crowding the mast.

Storm Windows. Great for the cool season.

Bug Screen for Companionway. On the PDQ 32 the roof slider is a large area, is covered from rain by the hard top, and really lets in air... and bugs. A screen makes creek anchorages enjoyable.

Transom Extensions. Faster, sure, but mostly I love the more user friendly aspects of low transoms with a nice place to stand.  A lot of work, but well worth it.

Keel Fairing and Extension. After relocating the genoa sheet lead, the most speed and handling for the dollar and labor. If your trailing edge is blunt and she has too much weather helm, do it.

Bad Ideas

Secondary Bow Anchors. I added a second bow anchor well to my Stiletto. The thing of it is, a second anchor is never actually deployed from the bow. Stern anchors are placed from the stern. Bahamian anchors and other angled sets are generally deployed from the transom and then the rode brought to the bow. IF an anchor IS to be rowed out, it's loaded into the dingy at the transom. So, on my new boat I have a rack for my spare anchor (Fortress F-16) in the stern locker and keep the rode in a bucket next to it. Much better. I wouldn't accept a second bow roller and windlass if they were given to me; I would never use them. Fortunately the anchors on the Stiletto are light, so the new owner should be OK with the PO!

If you ever set twin bow anchors, with the rodes both in lockers, and the boat spins a few times, best luck getting it untangled. Another reason twin bow anchors windlasses and lockers don't work.

Substandard Wiring. The PO added several fans, all without fuses and all with poor connections. Two small fires resulted, damaging only the fans, but the potential was far worse. In 2 cases, the fans were wired-in by  stuffing the stripped ends of the power wires into other spade connectors, and hiding the connection under the upholstery! NEVER leave a hazard. I wrote an article on wiring for Practical Sailor reporting the results of a 1-year torture test of crimps and electrical components, a result of my quest to find a better means for more permanent repairs in damp areas. My Stiletto suffered from poor wiring when I got it, and I wanted to do better on the PDQ.

Wiring Color Codes. Guilty. I often use the wire I have, but I try to bundle the wires in such a way as to minimize confusion. Labling wires with tape helps.

Traveler for Spinnaker.  Worked great on the Stiletto, but I seldom needed it because the boat was so fast (apparent wind forward of the beam). Failed utterly on the PDQ because of the bow light location on the gull striker (broke the light). However, I do make use of the control cleats, I'm recycling the parts, and no drilling was required. A 2-lind bridle with 3:1 purchase on each bow is better.

Clamp-on Fishing Rod Holders. The PO had a clamp-on holder. It might work for a few small fish, but anything worth catching trolling would pull the rod out; the clamp could never prevent the holder from rotating on the rail. Simple 18-inch lengths of 2-inch PVC pipe lashed to the stern rail in 3 places are cheap, less cluttered looking, can hold any pole (boat hook etc.), and are very strong. I just lash them on with 1/4" line, as I like the look and it leaves no marks.

Cheap Foam Cabinet Liners. I spent a non-productive afternoon scraping the rotted rubber from shelving. I muttered unkind things about the PO. I like indoor-outdoor carpet better, where needed. Stays put, dries better and lasts longer.

Self-tailing Winch With no Backing Plate. I pulled it out of the deck on a breezy day. Not even fender washers. Stupid. Now it has a big FRP backing plate. PO's short-cut work could have cost a valuable bit of deck hardware.

Undersize In-line Fuel Filter. PO addition, increased resistance without being large enough to help with bad fuel. I replaced with a nice pair of Raycors. Overkill, but an improvement. Heck, a big part of my career is fuel processing, so I need clean fuel. I also re-routed the fuel lines to reduce air pocket formation and added a few vents and drains.

Fragile Freshwater Strainer From Factory. Broke in thunderstorm, releasing all water to the bilge. Upgraded to something strong.

Stern Rail Mount for Dingy Engine. Or at least I believe this was a bad idea. I'm certain the risk of my dropping the engine overboard or injuring my sometimes weak back FAR exceeds the risk of it coming off the tender: It's a light 3.5 hp 2-stroke, it's tightly clamped to the tender's transom and has a back-up tether, and the davits are sturdy. I've up-graded the davit tackle and I trice up the tender if it's really nasty. If I should ever chose to take it off, it will fit in a stern locker more quickly than I could securely clamp it to the bracket. The mount had been removed to my basement.

Repaired Damaged Engine Mount with Marine Tex (PO), When FRP Was Needed. Could have lost an engine. Rebuilt it with epoxy, glass, and pre-laminated FRP. Better than factory.

Using Silicone as an Adhesive. Or as a sealant, in most cases. Generally a short-cut method that does not last. My only use on the PDQ is to make a removable mounting pad where oil is present or to seal a wire passage. I used silicone too many times on the Stiletto, and it generally let me down. I didn't know... at first.

Curtains. The PO did a very nice job, but I removed them anyway. After seeing another PDQ without, I realized they just made the cabin claustrophobic. But I left the tracks and if a future owner or an older me feels differently, they'll go up in minutes.

Wind Vane on Bow of PDQ. I hate looking up and I like and indicator down low. On the Stiletto a bow vane worked well; I did inside jibes on the chute. On the PDQ I do outside jibes and creamed 2 vanes with the sheets. I replaced them with flexible wands with a yarn at the tip; that seems to be working well.

Side Boarding Ladders. My Stiletto had one (factory), and we learned it was far too easy to leave the sucker down, and it takes a beating underway! Fold up transom ladders only slow you down 1/2 knot when you forget. The Stiletto gained a transom ladder, hand fabricated from aluminum square tube and Starboard because of unusual dimensions.

Salted Paint for Non-skid. Mixed results, actually. Great for varnished areas, draws dirt on white areas. Works well and wears well, though.

Nylon Rope for Jacklines. Polyester is a better choice. The nylon offers nice shock absorption for a cat, but perhaps a little too much. Goes slack when wet. Better than something truly non-stretch and great as a handhold.

Head Intake Filter Located Behind the Head. Impossible to clean. Moved to holding tank compartment.

Occasionally, given time, GOOD items migrate into the BAD column. Given time, I get smarter and some BAD ideas are re-engineered into GOOD ideas. Some of the ideas I've listed as BAD are GOOD on catamarans. We're not always smarter than the designer's engineers, and our workmanship (or more often our short cuts) occasionally plays us up. My main goal is to "do no harm." The factory did pretty well.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Al Gore and ethanol--So, now it's not a good thing, now that I'm out of politics?

rev. 11-26-2010

But we already knew that.

Al Gore, November 22, 2010:

"One of the reasons I made that mistake [over ethanol] is that I paid particular attention to the farmers in my home state of Tennessee, and I had a certain fondness for the farmers in the state of Iowa because I was about to run for president" in 2000.

This article, via MSN and Reuters, pretty well sums it up.
Our former Vice President comes clean, admits he supported ethanol solely to get votes, and that it was based upon no science.
  • The direct subsidies totaled 7.7 Billions dollars.
  • Food prices have been placed in turmoil. Probably the worst public policy to come out of Washington in a decade. Independent United Nations expert stated US ethanol policy was a "crime against humanity."
  • That there is no net benefit to the environment; the process of raising corn, distilling, and bring the ethanol to market is not zero impact.
I don't know whether to laugh or cry.


And then there is the other bio-fuel, biodiesel. The story is very similar; impacts on highway funding, food prices, and in this case the soap industry too...

To my knowledge, the bio diesel subsidies expired without renewal--they lacked the sort of lobby Archer/Danials/Midland could conjure--and so many small producers have folded. The animal feed guys are thrilled, since these fats had always been recycle into feed products; that fats were wasted was always pure political myth.


So, now what of global warming? I believe he is more sincere in his beliefs there; I'm not sure his grasp of the science is any better. He has certainly thrown his credentials and his control of the moral high ground in doubt.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Catamaran Row

rev. 5-30-2011

I spent my first 10 years in Deale with my Stiletto 27 as the sole sailboat in a 16 slip powerboat marina. Another Stiletto showed up for a few years, but he didn't sail enough an eventually sold the boat and it went to Massachusetts. The water was shallow but the slips were wide. The neighbors didn't know sailing, but they were friendly and knew fishing. The marina was full, most of the time.

Times have changed, there are slips available, and and the rates are unbeatable. There is no pool, but water and power come with the slip. The slips are wide, easily handling a typical 16' x 34' cat without being too long, and are deep enough (about 4 feet). It's just as wet as the high-dollar marinas across the creek--but less than 1/3 the price--and just as close to the Bay. I've been here 17 years and I'm in no hurry to leave.

And the cruising catamarans are coming. First my PDQ, then a Gemini, a Prout, and most recently a PDQ 36. Bring em' on!

Phipps Marina
Calvin Phipps
615 Phipps Road
Deale, MD 20751



October 29, 2012, rev Feburary 28, 2015: The roster of cat changes, but remains substancial, and there is still plenty of room for more. It's turning into a regular catamaran marina, with 25% of the current residents having 2 hulls.
  • PDQ 32
  • Gemini 105 Mc
  • Maine Cat 30
  • PDQ 36

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Day Sailing

"Dad, when can we go sailing?"

There's a boy involved, it seems. It seems he's sailed before, and so sailing's a topic of conversation.


Warm enough, for November, with a high of 60F inland, but something less on the waters. Light winds. I was happy with a mock-tee most of the time and a sweater others, in the cockpit. Jessica preferred a tank top....

Fine dinning on ramen noodles and chips and salsa and fruit, managed by the new lady of the house while still underway. Nice.

After lunch, we rigged the spinnaker and the kids retreated to the tramp. Even with little wind, Shoal Survivor and her light winter load made 8 knots on a tight reach, easy as anything. A head boat crossed in front of us pushing up a nice wake, which nicely covered the tramp. I SWEAR I tried to warn them. Perhaps "you know, you're going to get wet" was too quiet a warning. I suppose the water is about 50 degrees by now.

They took the tender to a wild beach to collect sharks' teeth and other high tide line wonders. They forgot to invite Dad. But if they had, I wouldn't have enjoyed the time to winterize the head and take the pictures for the last PDQ-tip post. It was for the best. I did get to listen to Bob Marley and Abbey Road.

She forgot to help me dock; they were below. She forgot some of our dock side tasks. Distracted, I guess. No matter, it's no more than when I sail alone.

She's getting older. She starts driving in less than a month. Yeah, Shoal Survivor's aging too. Me too.

A wonderful day on the water, messing about in boats.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

A Few More PDQ Tweaks

rev. 8-1-2013

Spreader. A few weeks ago, while sailing in brisk conditions, the spreader attaching the bow of my tender to the davits snapped; plastic in a place where metal made more sense. I made a replacement from some 1" x 1" x 1/8" wall aluminum square tube that I had in the "might need" pile. I'm much happier with this, and that if it ever does fail, it will bend rather than break. It is also lighter.

I added very heavy wear pads; they are of a reinforced canvas product, many times thicker than the tubes, and are glued on with 3M 5200. I did not drill the center of the spreader; there is a small aluminum strap intended only to center a spectra sling. I also trice-up the dingy when snow season comes; a pair of 25-foot x 3/8" docklines go from the davit cleat, through the welded eye at the tip of the davit, under the dingy cross-wise, and up to the davit cleat at the other end.

Yamaha Seat Belt. All PDQ owners know the story; at some point the lock-down mechanism fails and different method of hold-down is needed. In a prior post (I Hate Yamaha) I described my battlefield solution. Back home, I made something more permanent from a truck strap and some climbing webbing. So far I am happy with it, though I may devise something more elegant next time I haul out. Or I may stay with this simple, sturdy solution.

(3-5-2012 the hold down latch on the port engine seized. Fortunately, when I made the strap and fittings for the starboard engine I made another for the port engine and installed the required fittings.) 

The cracks in the cowling were caused by me falling on it a different day; they have bee repaired on the inside. There is a FRP block secured with caulking and a rope pad eye (2 holes and knots on the ends of the rope) at the aft end to protect the plastic (not FRP) in this area and to keep the strap centered.

Salon Pilot Berth. The salon table, like may cruising boats, can be lowered and made into a berth. King size on the PDQ! Often it is the coolest place to sleep. Sometime I simply want a good place to crash, closer to the helm. Unfortunately, lowering the table requires clearing the table, retrieving cushions from under the port sleep berth, and raising and lowering the table itself can be physical, if it sticks. I pulled my back badly this summer fooling with it in a swell. So I created a pilot birth from a simple leaf and some foam scraps. This pilot berth is also VERY comfortable for lounging and watching movies. It can be rigged in seconds.

I removed the cleat that the table edge rests on (when lowered into a bed) and replaced it with a leaf on a piano hinge. The cushion is covered with two pillowcases joined with Velcro, so very limited sewing was required. When not in use as a mattress extension, it serves as a bolster in the starboard berth. The leaf is supported by the helm foot rest box, which is a perfect fit.

rev. 8-1-2013 I later replaced this board with one 13.5 inches wide, reaching nearly to the floor. The narrower board would allow the filler cushion to slide off sometimes, where the wider board does not.

Table Storage. Accessing the table storage always required clearing the table. Small items could roll off the table in rough waters. The solution: a tray with fiddles and a panel on the bottom (not shown) that just fits the opening. Access is a simple matter of lifting off the tray, and the tray cannot slide. (note: I stole and then adapted this idea from another PDQ owner with a different table design)

Nothing earth shattering, just a few ideas to make cruising easier. About $20.00 was spent on all of these projects together, mostly on the hinge and a spectra sling. I like making something from nothing. Having a big "might need" pile helps.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010


rev. 11-20-2010

Shoal Survivor is tied safely to a dock in Deale, not to worry. Today's gale warnings helped me think of a worthwhile post. I thought it over some more while I collected lawn furniture and trash cans from all over the neighborhood.

I have no intention of flogging a dead horse. Many of the readers of this blog have cats and they know the score. I've sailed them for 25 years and I've pitch-poled and capsized performance cats in the most dramatic fashion--beach cats, not cruisers. I've been thrown 20 feet in front of the boat, launched from the trapeze, and come up laughing.

I sailed a Stiletto 27 for 16 years, a boat that bridges the gap between beach cat and cruising boat. We hit 20 knots on several occasions and double digits every month. We flew a hull clear of the water now and then, but always in controlled conditions. They've been flipped numerous times, by skippers pushing the envelope or simply not paying attention. They're light, quite over canvased... and fun.

My PDQ 32 has never given me reason to think about capsize. The "theoretical" limit has been calculated at 35 knots apparent with self tacking jib and main and I can't imagine having everything up and tightly sheeted in that. With genoa and main she can start getting a little light at 25 knots and would probably consider going over at 32 knots apparent, but that's only my guess.  That should leave plenty of time to make reductions or at least free a sheet. In reality, reefing begins no later than 25 knots apparent in the gusts--catamarans always reef for the gusts--since the boat is going recklessly fast and is poorly balanced by then. Thunderstorms and big waves bear watching.

Presented below are two tales of PDQ32s that did not reduce in time or take appropriate steps. There are lessons to be learned, to be sure, but also the reassurance, that you have to do something monumental thick to get in that much trouble: in one case the solo sailor was down below in 40 knots winds, and in the other they left harbor with a 50 knot gale predicted.

Let's focus on not being too thick, because s_ _t happens when we're tired or read too many tales of daring do.


PDQ 32 capsizing while entering a cut in the Bahamas while a "rage" was blowing. Pitchpoled in very shallow water in the huge breakers

(reported 2005 by Capt. JG)

I talked at length to the owner of this boat shortly after the episode. Apparently, the charterer was singlehanding, on autopilot, and down below. He was carrying full sail (one report said one turn on the jib) in 25+ knots, sheeted in tight, while on a beam reach. He was not entering, but passing by a notoriously windy cut in the Abacos (by Whale Cay?) and got hit by an estimated 45 knot gust and 6 foot wave beam on. The boat did not pitchpole, but slowly went on its side, and stayed there for several hours while the owner (who came from Marsh Harbor?) and others tried to right it. Finally, a stay broke and it capsized. It was towed back to Marsh Harbor where the deck was trashed by efforts to lift it inverted with slings. I saw the boat in Toronto awaiting a deck rebuild.

One design factor considered by cat builders is how much wind could a boat handle in such a worst case of gust on the beam with full sail sheeted in. The figure used for the PDQ 32 is 45 knots. The assumption is that in almost all cases where 45 knots is possible, you would shorten sail--even a single reef makes a huge difference in this situation. Also, in most cases someone would be on deck to release asap. A significant lesson is that whenever full sail is sheeted in during a blow, someone must be on deck!

Two other factors apply here: First, this particular boat was sailing "light." That is, it was stripped out and not carrying cruising gear. If it were loaded, it probably would not have gone over. The second is that this design has a rather narrow beam, coupled with a tall profile. This is one of the issues with smaller cats, since the temptation by designers is to make them narrow enough for a slip. Also, since the bridge deck clearance and overhead boom height have practical minimums, smaller cats have proportionally taller rigs. The combination of narrow beam and tall rig makes this sort of incident inevitable. For this reason, I've usually said that the minimum size for an offshore capable cat is about 35 feet, unless it has a very conservative rig.

PDQ Capsizes in 50 knot Winds Off California Coast

This incident was on all the nets this summer. In a nutshell, an inexperienced crew took a new-to-them boat out in the face of a horrible weather forecast and got stomped. The conditions would have stomped many boats, but I'm sure their inexperience with this boat and sailing cats in general was important too. I can't imagine taking on the weather they faced on their delivery trip; I would have waited as long as I needed for a better window. I seems they had only a few days of vacation available....
Of course, both boats were recovered and rebuilt. No one was physically injured, but pride and confidence must have taken a pounding. My pride would be mortally wounded after such experiences, and complete healing might never come, from a wound so deep. Not fear--I've had too many adventures to the edge--but embarrassment at my hubris, that I had thought I was safe and was dead wrong. My ability to calculate the edge of safety and my confidence in those calculations, my right to bring others into my adventures, and my pride in seamanship would be forever forfeit.

I've sailed cats for many years, and that has made me a coward in many ways. I reef while I can still do so safely, I stay on deck when it's anything but calm, and I will always remember what a beach cat feels like when things are about to get crazy.

Regrettably, I like that feeling...!

1.  Winches should ALWAYS be ready for release in gusty conditions. Only 2 wraps on the winch to reduce the chance of over-rides and the tail in a cam cleat rather than the self-tailer.

2.  Each sheet should be on its own winch. No jammers locked. There are a few cats out there that don't have enough winches to dedicate one to each sail; they must leave one in a jammer. This is cheap boat-show design and a winch should be added.

3. Sheets must be releasable by the helmsman AND releasable by a crew member. The best way in a real breeze is for a crewman to sit by the winch with the tail in his hands, across his lap.

4. If the bows are starting to go under (more than spray or an occasional wave top), reduce sail dramatically. If the tramp buries, the boat will stop fast, and that momentum can lead to capsize and pitchpole (often the line between these is gray)

Sunday, October 31, 2010


Rev. 11-16-2010

Not ying and yang. Not work and play.

Sails vs. keel and rudders.

The usual practice is to locate the keel some distance behind the mast:

For example, my last boat, a Stiletto 27, had a dagger board several feet behind the mast, giving her good balance over a variety of sail choices and points of sail. Like most cats, she likes more main that jib up-wind, in part because a main is easier to feather in the puffs; she is well balanced in this configuration. Off the wind in a blow, she does better with more jib and a reefed main, steering easily and keeping her bows up. This is a common keel location; visit your local shore yard and observe that nearly all of the keels are in this general position. If the keel is long, the center is in this same spot.

But not the PDQ 32 or the PDQ 36, either. Both have the keels located several feet further forward than sailing balance requires, presumably to place them under the center of gravity, the best position for drying out. Should you run solidly aground on a falling tide, this is reassuring, but it doesn't help her sail; the center of lateral resistance is 2-3 feet further forward than it should be. The rudders are of a very efficient spade form, but they are small, can't make up for severe imbalance and will play tricks if you ask too much of them. They become inefficient at high angles of attack, piling on buckets of unseen drag, and then suddenly overload and loose their grip on the water entirely, allowing the boat to slew sideways with no more warning than the heavy helm you've been ignoring. Remember that the square riggers of old steered as much by sail balance as rudder; modern boats are not so bad, but the principles remain.

What does this mean to the sailor? What can be done? Well, she is still a very capable sailor, she simply asks that you handle her according to her nature. Because she has wheel steering, she only whispers; she won't talk loudly until the wind gets up, and then she'll scream all at once if you haven't been listening. Listen to the whispers.

To Windward. Because of this imbalance, she loves to round up and to go into irons if you let her. Don't give her cause. In lighter winds this is annoying and sometimes embarrassing; in strong winds she just won't sail in poor balance.
  • Reef the main and jib together. It's tempting to just roll in a little jib, but taken too far she gets way out of balance. Lowering the traveler can help, but she'll be happier reefed.
  • Keep the jib tight when the wind is up. Not over sheeted--it's hard to over the sheet the genoa because of the shroud location and chose reasonable self-tacker lead locations to avoid backwind--but not eased off and full. You are  trying to keep the center of effort well forward, to keep her driving and using the keel properly for leverage.
  • Keep the traveler at or below the center. Never add too much pressure aft.
  • Don't over sheet the main. The leach tell tales should always stream aft; they are the important ones on this boat. Don't worry if the windward tell tales lift.
  • Drop the traveler a little on every tack, particularly if single-handing. It's tough to get the genoa sheeted back in fast enough to maintain balance, particularly if a sheet hangs-up. Without the jib she will tack nicely... and then turn right back head to wind, into irons. Pull the traveler back up once she has gained some speed.
  • Remove all sheets from the self-tailing jaws of winches. There is simply too much delay, while the sailor unwinds all of this in an unexpected gust. Better, leave only 2 turns on the drum and place the tail in a conveniently placed cam cleat. More than 2 turns will often snarl into a tight override if eased quickly. Three or four turns are acceptable if a crewman will actively trim and only release with a hand placed properly on the drum (read any standard text, practice the method and watch your fingers).
Off the Wind. In light to moderate winds, do what you like and she'll still behave well enough. With no jib, she'll be very slow to bear-off, but little else is note worthy to the non-racer. In strong winds, 25 knots and up, the sails can easily over power the rudders, which can lead to a dangerous round-ups in big waves.

Keep sail on forward. Reef the mainsail first, then the jib. This has a number of benefits:
  • Balance. With the effort forward, the boat will stay well balanced. Off the wind, the balance point of the sails moves outboard, because they are eased and also because the direction of their effort changes (less sideways and more forward). If you do not move the center of effort forward this outboard force will pull her around to windward, the helm can get heavy and she will try to round up in spite of your efforts at the wheel.
  • Anticipate gusts and waves by bearing off. Gusts will move the apparent wind forward, causing the center of effort to move forward. Waves will push the transom and encourage rounding-up. Anticipate and steer off when you feel the beginning of a push. Expect that the autopilot will not do so well--it cannot anticipate or feel the rise of the boat on a wave front.
  • Steer for balance. Dingy sailors learn to steer to keep the boat under the mast. The rule is unchanged when it gets wild. Always steer for balance.
  • Reducing sail. Always roll-up jib by heading straight down wind first to blanket it behind the main. This will greatly reduce the chance of a jammed furler. Make certain you furler lead is fair; mine was badly misaligned by the installer. Immediately take a matching reduction in the main to keep balance. You may have to come up wind for this. Often I roll in a lot of jib, come in to the wind to reef the main, and then bear off and let some jib back out.
  • If a rudder is either  lifted from the water or even significantly ventilated by the passage of a wave or excessive heel, half of the grip is lost.A round up is likely.
If these things are not done in a blow it is very probable that the rudders will simply be overloaded, the boat will spin-out, and the sailor find himself beam to the waves. Uncomfortable and disconcerting in brisk weather, and dangerous in bad weather. Yes, this is repetition, but I have heard so many tales of cruising sailors being surprised by this, I thought it worthwhile. Poor sail balance, it seems, is the most frequently underlying cause of a sailboat being "uncontrollable" in rough weather.

Wing and Wing. Perhaps the best way to go dead down wind in a blow. However, there are still some rules:
  • The main should be reefed more than the genoa, since the main is larger and tends to have more projected area. This will result in better balance.
  • Rig a preventer. This will "prevent" accidental jibes.
  • The wind can build without your noticing it, since the ride is typically smooth. You may need to reef before jibing out of this rig.

 Heaving To: the practice of backing the jib while keeping the helm alee, for the purpose of parking the boat on a close reaching course, but with no way on. Often presented as a heavy weather management method, it is inappropriate to most multihulls; most "authorities" and most experienced cruisers will agree, although there are certainly some multihulls and some moderately poor weather circumstances where it can be just fine. Every rule has its exceptions, but they don't disprove the rule. The difficulty is that while monohulls can lay down on one side if a strong gust or wave strikes and relieve the pressure, where multihulls will at worst go over and at best give a rough ride. Heaving to places a multihull in its most vulnerable position, while running off plays to a multihulls strength by allowing the great width to provide a stable platform.

However, sometimes it is useful to heave to in mild weather, when the intention is only to park for a moment to fix or adjust something, or to simply hold station and wait for some reason. I'll do this fishing, sometimes, when I happen across a school of fish. Again, because of the keel-forward design, we must make adjustments. With the genoa up, the jib must be in tight, the traveler all the way down, and the boat placed nearly beam-on to the sea, rather than the traditional close reach posture. Generally, I find the wheel should be about 1/2 way over, but that seems to vary with the waves; it's not a very stable posture. Stay any closer to the wind and she simply rounds-up, maybe tacks, and takes off in a new direction. With the self tacking jib up, even if you pin it to windward, heaving to is unreliable at best, unless someone stays at the helm, and even then there may be nothing they can do. With even a small oscillation in the wind, she rounds up. There simply isn't enough sail forward.

This, from the PDQ manual:

Sailing Fast and Safe
 PDQ catamarans can achieve quite high speeds, even with displacement hulls. For the PDQ 32, various references predict top speeds in the 15-knot range. This speed potential leads new converts to multihulls into unreasonable expectations of cruising performance. To put things into perspective, note that the racing trimaran Steinlager has a maximum speed capability in the 30-knot range, yet she won the tough 1988 Around Australia race at an average speed of 9 knots. The fastest monohull of comparable length averaged 6 knots. Perhaps then, for planning cruises, it is best to expect an average for your PDQ no more than faster than an equivalent monohull.

While high speeds are possible under ideal conditions, such as an offshore wind with no waves, we consider this to be a stunt, and not necessarily good cruising seamanship. You should consider your PDQ 32 to be a good "9-knot boat". When the knotmeter goes to 10 knots, it's time to think about reducing sail. Above all, think about the quality of the crew's collective seamanship. Proceeding at a comfortable, safe and efficient pace with a happy crew is good  seamanship; scaring your crew or pounding the boat is not.

Sailing in Strong Winds
Sailing in strong winds in a well-built, well-equipped boat is one of life's greatest pleasures. There is, however, a point when strong winds become excessive. A major part of good seamanship is knowing when enough is enough. It is not possible to be precise about when certain evolutions should be carried through: crew skill and attitude, the stability of
the wind and the state of the sea will all affect vour boathanding decisions. In dealing with a high or rapidly rising wind, the goal is to reduce the wind's power on your boat and, by responding to changes quickly and smoothly, maintain everyone's confidence in your collective ability to deal with the weather.

Changes should begin to happen early in a rising wind, and should be seen as a progressive response to the wind's greater force. If changes are made in good time, no one becomes spooked, their confidence remains high and they cope better.
  • De-power the main by flattening it with the outhaul.
  • Raise the traveler and ease the sheet, so the main's upper section twists off to leeward. 
When do you reef? An old rule of thumb that's still worth remembering says, "reef when it first occurs to you." Do it before people start getting worried and do it before it becomes a struggle. As an indication, we have found that the boat is more comfortable when the first reef is taken at 20 knots true wind in flat water. When reaching, the reef can be put off until true wind speed is 25 knots.

As the wind rises:
  • Take the first reef.
  • Limit your boatspeed.
  • Place a crew member on the traveler, ready to ease the main in gusts.
  • Reef again to suit the gusts. (Sail loading rises with the square of the wind speed, so a 10-knot gust on top of a 25-knot wind will double the wind pressure.)
  • Put a crew member on the jib sheet.
  • Reduce sail to the absolute minimum.
We have found that this reefing combination maintains good balance:
  • At 20 knots true wind: first reef in the main.
  • At 25 knots true wind: second reef in the main.
  • Over 40 knots: run off at 120" to 140" apparent wind angle under jib alone.
Be specially careful when traveling fast downwind as the boat speed can reduce a 30-knot blow to an apparently reasonable 18-knot breeze. If you are caught in squall while traveling downwind, use the main to blanket the foresails and get them down before rounding onto a reach. Speed is also discussed in the heavy-weather section, below.

Heavy Weather and Offshore Safety
One of the key factors to surviving bad conditions offshore is to keep your boatspeed down. In a monohull, this is generally done by lying ahull or heaving to. Neither of these techniques is recommend for the catamaran. With no heel angle to reduce the weight of wind on the mast and rigging and to reduce the lateral resistance of the hull and keels, the full force of the storm bears on the boat. This puts unreasonable stresses on the boat and increases the likelihood of damage or capsize.

If sea room is available, running before the storm is appealing, providing speed can be controlled and the crew is not too tired. The problem is that in extreme conditions, even with no sails up, the surfing speed down larger waves may increase to dangerous levels. This is the time to use a drogue deployed on 300 feet of line from the stern, balanced with a small amount of sail to give a steady speed for control. The article, Drogues and Sea Anchors by Ian Johnston and Cathy Hawkins (Multibull~M, ay-June 1989) provides more detail. If a drogue is not available, you can also trail the anchor line between the hulls, with the bight streaming aft in a huge U. The ultimate choice for surviving the worst is the parachute sea anchor. This is deployed on a bridle from the bow. If you are considering a uip offshore, please read, The Parnchute Anchoring System, published by Chiodi Advertising and Publishing Inc., Boston, iMA, USA, and follow Charles Chiodi's advice-"Get the system and don't leave the dock without it."

All this talk of heavy weather and survival sounds alarming. Remember that all accounts show that yachts of any type are
almost always tougher than the crew. Many have been abandoned by their crews, often with fatal results, and the yachts have been found later, afloat and intact. The infamous 1979 Fastnet Race was a good example of this phenomenon. Learn to trust your boat, and if the unthinkable happens, stay with it.

The Capsize Canard
"They do turn over, don't they?" is frequently heard from sailors with no experience of multihulls.
In his book, Rod Gibbons tells us that I,iovd's of London rates are the same for production boats, monohui )r multihull. He also reports that the Catfisher (70 produced in ten years) has a 100% safety record. Catalac and Prout also have superb safety records. The similarity of insurance rates authoritatively tells us that the wrong combination of wind and sea can visit trouble on any sailboat. 

Beyond the numbers, it's important to compare the experiences of people who suffer capsize in a cruising sailboat. A monohull's ballast may right it, but it must do so quickly or that ballast will take the boat to the bottom. Once a multihull is over, it tends to stay that way. This sounds dreadful until you note that the crew can live on' the overturned boat for week;. We've all seen the news photos of a crew waving from their upturned multihull--certainly these make better news
than a comparable calamity with a monohull. With the monohull, there is nothing left to photograph, whereas the multihull is often recovered to sail again.

Moreover, these photos often turn out to be racing superstars participating in a prestigious race, and that's a clue to the problem. Driven hard in steep seas, the boat stuffs its bows into a wave ahead and pitchpoles end-over-end. The probability of capsize, then, is determined not only by weather, but by the crew's management of the boat. In flat water,
wind can capsize a catamaran, but achieving this in a PDQ would require serious negligence or foolhardiness by the crew. The theoretical danger level for the PDQ 32 is about 28 knots of wind on the beam with full sail sheeted fore and aft. Failure to notice the risk would require an absurd level of inattention and the sails would probably rip before the boat went over. Chris White's The Cruising Multihull provides a good discussion of risky situations. Waves play a substantial part in the capsize of boats, particularly if any combination of shallow water or current combines with winds of gale force and above to produce breaking waves. Such conditions are dangerous, but a sensible crew can deal
with them, as described above. If a capsize should occur, however, there is one rule and one rule only: stay with the boat. With its combination of light weight, lack of ballast, closed cell foam hull sandwich and flotation
compartments, the PDQ 32 resists sinlung even when full of water. Crews that have been living on an upturned boat are not normally very happy with their situation, but they are often in reasonable health, having had access to food and water from the boat's stores. Compare that with the various fates meted out to monohull crews...

The closest encounter with capsize experienced by a PDQ crew occurred when a PDQ 36 was running at 22 knots under spinnaker in 30 knots of wind. The boat was dancing on its bows when the crew cut the sheet. This should not be regarded as conventional cruising behavior and the company will not celebrate your attempts to produce a more lively anecdote. 

 Notes by SailDelmarva on the above: Since this was published, two PDQ 32s have been capsized: one flipped in the Bahamas while being sailed by a charter skipper of very limited expereince; the other was flipped by new owners, on their maiden voyage with their new boat, in strong gale conditions off the coast of northern California. Neither of these accidents occurred in experienced hands. Both were recovered. Hundreds are sailing.


Good, as far as it goes, but more emphasis and explanation about WHY more jib area is required off the wind by this specific design is needed.

What else can be done to ease the balance? Move the rig forward? No, the deck reinforcement and main bridge deck beam preclude such changes. New draft-forward sails? Certainly some help, though owners with new sails have reported the same troubles. Move the keel? Oh yes, I have half a mind to saw it off and slide it back 2 feet. But that's major surgery to be sure.

Add some additional length to the keels? Yes, I think so, this spring when I haul the boat. The existing keels end with an unnecessarily blunt trailing edge with substantial forward rake (to shed keel wraps--I think I know enough about anchoring to avoid wraps). Adding a square foot of finely tapered trailing edge should be a minor project--I have a stock of pre-laminated FRP--and may give some benefit. I had also considered a small end plate, also to help move the center of effort aft, but I am convinced that could make groundings more serious, and that might be too great a price to pay. Still, I might add just a little, in part to brace the addition. I have some expereince with sort of thing: I modified the rudders on my Stiletto and was quite pleased with the result. If the result is not positive, a grinder will remove it in another 2 years with little fuss. I also figure a new square-top main with 3 reefs is in her future, but not for a few years. That may further move the center of effort aft, so I must plan for that.

But that will provide content for a summer post.


Note: in 2015 I modified the keel to farther improve balance. Look for the post.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

E-15 Approved by EPA for 2007 and Newer Vehicals

I'm only the messenger:

And a few refferences I posted before:

In a nutshell, e-15 will be permitted in 2007 and new vehicals. I've made my peace with e-10 and no longer have any engine troubles. I don't foresee any with this, other than a few warm-up problems in the winter due to the leaner mixture resulting from ethanol. Not all will agree with my methods, but I believe the engineering is sound:
  • Fill the tanks AFTER every use. Less breathing room means less water absorption.
  • Do Not run the carbs empty. A nearly empty carb turns to gum every time, whereas a full carb will not dry out that quickly, if a boat is used every month. Hey, the PO of my boat ran carbs empty religiously, wore out the fittings doing it, and had many problems and showed me the repair bills. I stopped running them dry and the problems have not returned. I've never run carbs dry in 25 years of boating and never had a carb problem that I didn't inherit. Urban legend, I think.
  • Close the vent and fuel valve on the tender after every use.
  • Use water separting filters, where possible. 
  • Run the engines frequently! Every month, rain or shine or snow.

But the change does rasie some questions and beg some answers:
  • Which storage tank does it go in, since stations only have so many tanks and pumps?
  • Will marinas make the change? Since they don't have to and e-10 will remain available, a pox on those that do.
  • E-15 will run leaner yet in small (non-oxygen sensor) outboards. Good luck.
  • E-15 may be more resistant to separation, because it can hold 1/3 more water.
  • E-15 will absorb water faster. Keep the tanks full!
  • E-15 will have the ability to absorb enough water to run rough without separation. Sail often and run the engine often, to keep the fuel fresh.
  • More gloom and doom regarding hoses and tanks is being posted on the net. Well, if 10% ethanol didn't cause trouble for a given motor, I don't see this making a difference.
  • Expect the price of food to go up... again. If for no other reason that the effect of ethanol fuel demand on world food prices, I see e-xx as the worst public policy to come out of Washington in a longtime. Because we like to feel good and can aford it, people in the third world are eating less. It's criminal.
  • Expect taxes to go up. Since e-xx is highway tax exempt, the funding for road construction increasingly comes from the general fund. This has been kept quiet; however, several "emergency" funding bills have passed, as the Highway Trust Fund ran out of funds.
I have a sneaking suspition that the aproval will be expanded to more model years by spring or within a year, so the spread of e-15 may be more rapid than one would guess.

Best wishes.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Too Much, Too Little, Too Different?

As I sit crumpling tissues, sipping soup, and trying to get over my winter cold, I've searched for a distraction. A blog entry will have to do, but set your expectations low; the drugs won't encourage clarity or bring revelation.

As I sit down, once again, to make revisions to the guide I maintain, Circumnavigating the Delmarva--A Guide for the Shoal Draft Sailor, I wonder if the detail is enough, where there is too little, and when the sailor might have liked more surprise. Some years ago my partner and I wrote a climbing guide to Old Rag Mountain (on the side bar); the general rule was to provide a clear description of how to find the major climbs, describe the route the climb took, and level of difficulty in climbing, but to leave out enough detail of the rock and methods that each climb would feel like a discovery. That is the heart of climbing and that is the manner of most climbing guides; give just enough detail so that the climber won't get in over his head without having been warned he could die. A good guide should hint at surprises, but never give them away.

Cruising guides are different. Many sailors marina-hop. Many go on group cruises, forming a convoy and expecting everything to be spelled out. These folks don't want too many surprises--they want a blazed trail to the best dining. I didn't write for them, I wrote for more adventurous souls with smaller boats, and I wrote for me. I specifically chose to cruise the Delmarva coast, nap of the earth. I saw blank spots on the map and the probability of sustained discovery. Most, cruisers, though, fall in the center. They want to keep their boat safe and they may have family members on board that dislike surprise, or at least want certainty regarding the nights accommodations. It's a good point, we all get tired at some time, and so I did my part on marinas and such on the coast, as best I could. Of course, there are few.

How big should a cruising boat be? When I go out with my family for weeks, the PDQ can get a bit small--when I go out alone, I would want nothing larger, not for any money; she handles perfectly, alone, as she is. Some choose much less, and small can be sea-worthy... and claustrophobic too. On the other hand I've shared dockage with 140-foot mega yachts with full crew. Too much like running a business and no adventure at all.... though I could stand it for a time. But I would need a smaller boat to enjoy alone.

One hull or more? The Delmarva cruise no doubt favors a multihull, but the inside passage was first done and first written about in a 21-foot Sailmaster. But that is only one route. What of cruising the mid-Atlantic in more general terms? I've chosen a cat, but I'm not adamant. The motion of a cat is quick and sometimes tiring. Freedom from watching soundings too closely is gratifying. The speed is generally better, the price is worse, handling is generally easier, and the accommodations are different. It is best, for example, to compare a 32-foot cat to a 36- to 38-foot monohull; then the performance, space, and cost reach parity. Just a choice.

Do choices--monohull or multihull, power or sail-- affect the content of the guide? Yes. There are a surprising number of harbors and channels where 6-foot depths are probable and 5-foot depths are possible. Larger monohulls begin to fret. So I wrote for shoal draft boats, perhaps 4 feet or less, sometimes much less. Power boats are shoal draft too; I hope they don't feel left out. After all, most sailors are power boats 30% of the time on cruise, if we're honest. The expanded range of shallow draft boats get little discussion in the big guides. Either tradition or a sense of who buys their books. Get too many deep-draft sailors stuck because the they didn't read the fine print, and they get sore about it.

If I wrote a guide for the largest boats, I would only need to describe a dozen harbors in the Chesapeake and to refer the professional crew to the appropriate NOAA and Coast Guard references. 

A guide for smallest boats--my tender--could be approached foot-by-foot around the Bay. Not a trip goes by that I don't discover some pleasant shoreline spot, often just under my nose but overlooked for years. I've thrown in some shoreline detail, where I thought it was worthy of special note, but there is so much left out. I only offer illumination of some few spots, but I am adding more in each edition. Every cruiser should occasionally scan the coast for intriguing coasts, anchor out and dingy ashore to explore, and then move on. But I don't see that happening much. The Bay is just a highway between noted harbors. A shame, I think.

I'll never write a general Chesapeake guide. I'm sure some of my cruising interests are mine alone, and that doesn't bother me much at all. So as I revise, I add tiny little points of interest overlooked in the big guides. The first edition was 88 pages, 8 1/2" x 11"; the third edition has grown to 141 pages. If the exercise serves no purpose beyond helping me get to know the Bay a little better, that's just fine. The Chesapeake Bay Magazine Guide to Cruising the Chesapeake Bay is a fine book. Just not my sort of book.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Jessica's New Room

After 15 years growing up with 1/3-height kids wall paper with a sea creature theme, our teenager declared it was time for a change. All agreed. She picked the colors and carpet; White ceiling, sea-blue walls, sand-colored shallow shag carpet. We all painted. Jessica decorated.

Old Charts? Frame them with scrap lumber and mount them--a good father-daughter project. Also about the only way to get a light weight and aged frame the right size. This one is from Chincoteague, VA, a favorite stop. I had this chart when I first sail the bay in a beach cat, 25 years ago. Old enough to meet her definition of antique.

Boat Hooks and Crab Pot Floats. About a half dozen floats, painted up, collected from beaches. The old iron and wood boat hook actually floated into my docklines during a winter flood.

Fish and Coral. Circling the closet, collected from shops and beaches from North Carolina to Florida.

Ship's Bell. From the ex-USS Carron, a destroyer my company helped decommission.

Two Marine Aquariums. A 12 gallon Atlantic Ocean tank with horseshoe crabs, BIG hermit crabs (broad claw species from Cape Charles, not the common but smaller long claw species), and a spider crab. A 29 gallon Chesapeake tank with crabs and fish collected on a rotating basis. She's thinking marine biology for a career, so she is into this. We keep a small aquarium on the boat, for collecting during long trips.

There's more: a pair of deer antlers mounted on the closet doors, for hanging ropes and scarves. An old classic solid glass fishing pole, a bent-wood lacrosse stick.

It's enough to make the visitor think the house is slowly swaying.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Harness Creek

My blog posts are primarily seem to always focus on DIY and troubleshooting rather than the short trips and day sails and day-to-day experiences that most bloggers record. I guess day sails and short bits seem unimportant to me ad more over, why would anyone read them.  Because they are the real, actual substance of life, what really happens, and because we are social creatures by DNA instruction.

A few weeks ago I did an over-night trip by myself; nothing new there. I've sailed alone countless times over many years. The requirements and preparations  are so simple; a change of clothes, some perishable food (the galley remains stocked with non-perishables), and a weather forecast without gale warnings. I didn't even have a notion of where I was headed--I simply pointed the boat out into the Bay, raised sail, engaged the autopilot, and glanced at the chart to see what might lay in a convenient sailing direction. Since it was blowing firmly from the southeast, because I was leaving after work and only had so much daylight, and because most harbors to the south from Deale are a good ways. I looked north and Harness Creek jumped out at me: I hadn't been there, there was a park wrapping around to east, and it was the right distance. The wind was supposed to revers the next day, making for an easy broad reach both ways. Lazy.

Cats feel so slow broad reaching. We made 8-knots easily and caught and passed a number of 40-foot monohull cruisers. But really speed wasn't the point. Well, perhaps it became so when I spotted a Gemini headed the same way, screacher up and all. I caught him after a bit, but it was poor sailing on his part, going too deep with stalled sails, while I would alternate between wing-and-wing and a healthy broad reach.

Harness Creek is a small creek just south of Annapolis, with houses on one shore and Quiet Waters Park on the other.

Dingy parking is where you find it--the small cove to the SE works well
There are kayak rentals, pleasant walking paths, and all manner of scheduled activities. Ice skating in the winter, if you are a hardy cruiser! The water was warm enough for swimming, perhaps too fresh for jellies or just too far into the fall, and the southerly breeze found the place easily enough.

Mystic Whaler, a 105-foot replica. The gun ports are panted on and she appeared to be steel. A tourist cruise boat, with a greenhorn paid crew, judging by the anchoring circus.

 I was a bit surprised to see my neighbor for the night. Big. Unremarkable.

I was a bit surprised to see that my Delta had dragged some 20 feet. First time, but not unexpected. The cruising guide said the holding was poor, it felt that way when anchoring, and I had set a second anchor (Fortress F16) which felt bomber in the muck. It had blown that night, up to 25-30 knots I guess. Oddly, when it was time to lift the anchors, both were well set, so perhaps I didn't move and it was only the rode straightening and the wind shifting. Quien sabe.

I sprawled out on the trampoline after dinner, stared at the stars, and fell asleep for an hour of more, quite by accident. All was right with the world.

By morning the wind had clocked, as predicted and that sail home was simple. The starboard engine wouldn't come up, but that is the stuff of an earlier post and was no real concern. It was another excuse for a swim.

I don't post stories of day sails and simple overnights. Little discovery, little BFS, little thrill. But time well spent, messing about in boats.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

I Hate Yamaha

Broken Hold-down Lever
That's a little strong, actually. I hate the PDQ adaptation to lock the motor down and I hate the Yamaha lock-down system. Both are cheesy and inadequate in salt water. I fought them for years, and the engine finally won the battle.

But not the war. It's not hard to hippie-rig a hold down with a couple of reefing ties over the top and a bolt hanger at the back to anchor things. The lock mechanism is completely seized, so I got in the water and removed the entire spring loaded works. It's simple, really:

1. Pull the tilt pin, if it's locked down. This will allow access to the underside of the bracket and front side of the lower unit, where the mechanism is.  The hold down rope can be looped around the skeg to hold the engine tipped, if you are working alone.
2. Remove snap washer from the end of the pin the the lock down jaws rotate on. Drive the pin out (easy).
3. Remove the springs. They come right out when the tension is off.
4. Keep the parts if you want. Or throw them far, if it feels better.

This week I will be fabricating something prettier from some webbing and cam buckles. For what it is worth, the cowling cracks came from accidentally sitting on the lid when a wake hit, not the ropes; a little glass will set that right.

"It just goes to show, it always something."
Rosanne Rossanadanna, SNL

Thursday, September 16, 2010

A Few Projects

My back is recovering nicely, I feel human again, and a day on the boat being productive is good for the sole.

Head Intake Strainer. I've had to take my Jabsco head pump three time, always to remove weeds ingested through the intake line; two in Chincoteauge and the other at Smith Island. I toyed with the idea of a filter, but it seemed like one more failure point and I had yet to survive a winter in the water. Then I read a post on Zero-To-Cruising about just such a strainer addition to a sister boat plugged by the same problem, but in the Great Lakes. Then it plugged again at Chincoteague and I had to fix it with my back in spasm. Enough is enough.
I had a suitable strainer--the sort of free cast-offs engineers hold on to--slightly larger than needed (1-inch for a 3/4-inch hose), made of polypropylene, and is 75 psi rated. Bigger is generally better for strainers, and based upon the stuff I have pulled out of the pump, I would not recommend a smaller size.

A 20-minute project, from searching for tools to tested and cleaned up.

Tender Revamp. She's 8 years old and looking a little tired, so I took her home for a spa treatment.

Paint. She had been slowly loosing air, So I started with a good scrubbing and a soap bubble search. Nothing. She stayed hard as a rock in my front yard for a week. I had purchased paint (MDR) with the thought that perhaps the air was simply leaking through the PVC, but I don't think it was. I painted her anyway; simply done with a trim brush and 4-inch foam roller. It looks fine, but in retrospect I would not recommend it, unless appearance matters to you. A few thoughts:
  • Don't paint on a hot day or even a very dry day. The second day was 78F with a good breeze and unusually low humidity; the paint dried too fast to self-level properly. I would shoot for 65-75F and some humidity. It is a latex paint.
  • I'm a little afraid the dark gray is going to increase sun induced pressure fluctuation. I expected a lighter color. Chose white.
  • Bow handle. The tender had a big molded PVC bow handle that snagged EVERY time we hoisted it out of the water. A hacksaw and disk sander removed it and 3M 5200 smoothed the edges. It has rings for a towing bridle; we leave a light bridle in place, and that works better than the handle anyway.
  • The fabric was thinned a few places. We built it up with 3M 5200.
  • So far the paint is staying on fairly well. The product reviewed well in Practical Sailor. It did stay on and did not stick to itself when I rolled it up, left it in the car for 8 hours, and re-inflated it at the marina after 4 days drying time. Rev. By November it was starting to peal here and there. However, it got no worse in the next year, so perhaps there were spots of wax that the TSp did not remove. Still good sunscreen, but 1/2 thumbs-down on the paint. Rev. By October 2011 the paint has worn a bit more, but not too much. It's still protecting the tender, though a fastidious owner might not like the look.
The floorboards needed paint too, since the bottom of tender is seldom very dry. The builder used common galvanized screws to hold the parts together; I replaced many with stainless deck screws. They may not be 316 stainless, but I have been using them for years without trouble and they are a steal compared to boat store screws (there's familiar ring to that...).

Rod Holders. Yes, they sometimes hold fishing poles, but also umbrellas, tiller extensions, oars, or anything long I'm tired of having underfoot. 2-inch PVC with 1/2-inch holes for the screw driver and 3/16-inch holes for the screws. Free from scrap and very useful. We had trialed the idea for a season with the holders secured with 3M foam tape; they broke off at the end of the season, but their utility was proven.

Seat Support and Storage. The seat is really not well supported if the tubes are not rock hard. We needed a place for the horn, ether, critter jars, sunscreen, drinking water, fishing permit, Jessica's operating permit, and so forth. A real milk crate (theft by conversion?) with some netting halfway up the back side and a pair of firing strips on the bottom to span the rubber floor joint strip makes a strong and corrosion-proof support. I considered making something out of fiberglas... and my sketches kept looking like a milk crate to me. we keep the PFDs on one side an a 1-gallon gas can on the other. Though it is not touching the seat in the photograph, it will be when weight is applied. We have 2 seasons on this addition.

Tender Suspension. Supporting a removable floor tender up high on the PDQ davits takes some fiddling; I won't take all of the credit, if any is due, since the PO made some of the modifications. I though to post this after seeing my neighbor's Gemini tender fall in the water in the past week (if you follow this blog you may want to check your boat--I don't have your phone number). All of the weight of his tender was supported by the floorboards, the inflation pressure went down, and the floor pulled out.

The transom is easy; just clip the fitting installed for this purpose. The bow is tricky. The weight must be carried by both the tubes and the floor. The PO installed loops in the tubes for a bridle and I added the loops through the floorboards. At first I had only the center loop but that caused the floor to bow and once, when the tubes were quite flat, pull part-way out; the outside loops solved this. I replaced the chafe pads above the rings--don't forget these or you will wear through the tubes. We leave the bridle attached to the tender most of the time; it is not in the way.

Other Tasks. There is always more....
  • Replace remaining two Hella fans with Boras. Strange wiring was found, again. Odd, since most other PO wiring was impeccable. Must have been hot and in a rush. I can imagine a hellish July install. OR perhaps I am looking at a mix of contractor and PO work.
  • Replaced line guides on a trolling rod
  • Took the Cruise-N-Carry AC home. Sucker is a heavy and a pain to maneuver in the salon on  daily basis (where it must be stored). I love it at night sleeping and hate it the rest of the time. Summer is over so she goes home and won't be missed... until it hits 90F again.
  • Stowed the bike rack under the bunk.
  • Painted numbers on the tender
  • Measured for some future projects
  • Replaced hatch (broken lens) in roof of salon. Since I had a spare (thank you, PO) and it was bedded with butyl tape, it was a 15 minutes job. Since then, I have replaced the broken lens and thus still have a spare. They arn't difficult to re-glaze... at home with a full shop!
  • Lubed the hold down latches on the engines; they're getting stiffer and I am getting concerned.
  • Cleaning. After 3 weeks on the boat, she was due. The last few days were too rough for cleaning and the sailing was too good!
  • Replaced a spent propane cylinder
  • Swapped a few Fall vs. Summer items from the boat
Busy day. All--except the painting--done after work. I got off early, but still...

I followed-up this work with an hour of floating mindlessly in the tender, just outside the break water in a fish-infested cove. I found a gloriously comfortable posture in the bottom, head propped on the bow tube, feet splayed, and arms... heck I forget. I fell asleep. And then some insensitive damn fish woke me. It's enough to make me take the bait off the hooks.

Friday, September 10, 2010

More Climbing Gear for Sailors

rev. 5-30-2011

I've posted information about climbing gear before, as it related to jacklines and safety:

Climbing Gear For Sailors or Jacklines for the Unemployed
Sample Calculations for Jacklines

The funniest comments are those I get about it being "alumiware" and unsuitable for a marine environment. I'm told it won't work or that it will corrode away. While I do give some corrosion and application caveats, I've been sailing saltwater for 25 years, climbing for 30 years, and working as an engineer for 29 years; these aren't theories, suggestions, or ideas that just came to me. These are things I've had in practice for decades and they work exactly as I describe them. Period. Rant complete.

ISO 12401, the governing standard for tethers and harnesses, is published here:
ISO 12401

But there are more uses than that, and much of this gear provides superior value, presumably because of greater sales volume and the more competitive nature of the market. Most climbing gear is rated at 4500-5500 pounds, by international standard (UIAA). This gear is well proven in a tough, safety-critical application.

REI is a good source, as well as many other climbing equipment vendors; perhaps you will find applications I have missed or have taken for granted.

Carabiners. Aluminum wire gate biners hold up very well, weight less (fewer gel coat dings), and are just as strong. Avoid conventional biners; they freeze-up in salt water. MUCH cheaper. Do not use biners as shackle replacements up in the rigging; they can clip onto other lines. Use them only where you would use a stainless carabiner.

Screw gate locking carabiners hold up fine on lanyards IF you are diligent in applying waterproof grease as needed (several times per years is enough) to the screw and the hinge, including the spring inside. If you are negligent, they will lock-up in time.We only use them on the jackline end.

Be aware that conventional (non-locking) carabiners should never be used to clip a safety lanyard (tether) to an eye-bolt, u-bolt, or jackline because of the significant risk of self-unclipping. Read the following from ISO 12401:

5.4 Accidental hook opening testing

5.4.1 The tendency of the hook to accidentally become detached from its attachment point shall be tested
using the following three styles of attachment point, made from 8 mm diameter rod:
a) a straight rod;
b) an eye bolt of internal radius 10 mm;
c) U-bolts of internal radius 15 mm and 20 mm.

5.4.2 Move the hook by hand as far as is possible in the following directions with the attachment point

mounted vertically:
a) move forward and backward, right and left without any rotation, movement being in the horizontal plane;
b) rotate in the horizontal plane by up to 360° using the attachment point as the axis, rotating both clockwise
and anticlockwise;
c) rotate in the vertical plane by up to 360° about the axis of the hook, rotating both clockwise and anticlockwise;
d) rotate in the vertical plane by up to 360° about an axis running through the attachment point, rotating both
clockwise and anticlockwise.

The hook fails the test if it releases from the attachment point. If the hook closure mechanism is shown to
open but not release, this will also constitute a failure, as release would probably occur with geometry of
different dimensions.
No hook will fail a test on an attachment point where its use is clearly and permanently warned against in accordance with 6 g).

Conventional carabiners will always fail this test. Locking carabiners are always preferred on safety and jackline systems. The Kong Tango 715 (on right) is popular on high-end tethers, but cheaper if bought from a climbing gear  distributor. Defender Marine sells them separately also.

Slings. Available in Dynex, Spectra, Dyneema, and nylon, and in lengths from 4 to 24 inches, these are $3.50 to $13 vs. $25 to $65 through marine sources. Just nuts. Good for general rigging, safety rigging while up the mast, prussic hitches on anchor rodes and to relieve tension on lines, and as shackle replacements. Warning: Web-O-Letts (longer versions with an eye sewn in each end) make terrible jackline lanyards; with no stretch at all, it's rather like being caught by steel cable.

Bolt Hangers. Often a good substitute for a pad eye. Available in stainless steel.  $3 to $6. Useful to add blocks to bolts, add tie points, and for harness anchor points. Because these rotate to align with the direction of pull and because the hole is matched in size and shape to average carabiners, they are far less prone to self unlocking or placing off-axis strains on carabiners. Some very large carabiners may not fit. Because they do not mate well with webbing they are generally not good jackline anchor points. Because they are designed for a load in shear, a u-bolt will generally make a better cockpit anchor point. They do make handy lashing points for deck cargo and for adding a turning block to a spot where you already have a single bolt.

Rescue and Hauling Pulleys. Rated at from 2,500 to 6,000 pounds, select ones with all plastic pulleys. A great $25 replacement for a $250 snatch block. This one is by Black Diamond and have kept several on my boat for years. Useful for rigging tackles, barber haulers for the jib, and twings for the spinnaker. Also MOB recovery systems.

Climbing Harnesses. It goes without saying that the sailing companies have copied proven climbing harnesses and doubled the prices. Silly. Big-wall harnesses are the most comfortable up the mast.

Ropes. No, not generally a smart move. Climbing ropes are not fabricated with the same sun-resistance and wear resistance in mind; they are highly engineered for a different purpose. They are generally too stretchy, and even the low-stretch climbing ropes have better marine alternatives. Horses for courses. 

Retired ropes are another matter; they're free, and climbers retire ropes very conservatively. They won't generally feed through a windlass and so make poor anchor lines for larger boats, but they can make excellent anchor lines for smaller boats, where easy handling and knotability are benefits. They have far too much stretch for halyards--don't even try--but they can make fine sheets for smaller boats; yes, this goes against the conventional wisdom and they aren't the best choice, but I've used them for this in a pinch (left the genoa sheet at home after sail repairs) and didn't notice too much difference. I've read of famous cruisers using climbing rope on a main traveler, where a little shock absorption must be a good thing--I went to a spectra traveler when given some free line and know that to be a poor choice, since there is zero stretch. Likewise, if the mainsheet stretches in a puff, this might be good, while in a jib sheet stretch is not desirable, the sail becoming more full at the worst time.

Webbing. Way strong and much cheaper than marine sources for the same material. 1-inch webbing is good for jackline lanyards and chafe gear on smaller lines (<= 1/2-inch) , while 2-inch webbing fits larger lines (see chafe gear page, above). I actually sell these made-up, so this is a free tip for regular readers! Slightly stronger than 1-inch tubular webbing that climbers use is 1-inch flat rescue rigging webbing rated at 6,000 pounds, sufficient to meet ISAF off-shore requirements for much less.

Clothing. Ice climbing gloves are not cheap, but they are dexterous, durable, and warm; frozen but drippy waterfalls have driven some innovative designers. Ski goggles are better than sunglasses, starting when ever your cheeks and nose start getting cold. Fleece socks are great; far warmer than ordinary socks and fast drying. For more discussion on keeping warm, please read my post on winter sailing.

Yeah, I went climbing this weekend. Gravity reminded me how old I'm getting. But I enjoyed swapping stories of the good ol' days with the lads.