Saturday, December 22, 2012

Dehumidifier vs Desicant

Four years ago, in the fall I noticed something I had not seen before; the dreaded black spots, this time on cabin carpeting. Clearly, better humidity control was in order for the cooler season.

A large compressor unit would be a beast on a small boat. Though I have a 30-pint unit at home, the downsides are major:
  • A lot of amps on the shore power cord.
  • A back injury waiting to happen; the unit is huge and awkward.
  • In the way.
  • Loud.
  •  More capacity than I needed.
 
So I looked around and found the Eva-Dry 2200. The no-compressor  principle is elegant, the only moving part being a small fan. The over simplified explanation is that of a thermocouple, but in reverse. Instead of a temperature difference creating a small electric current, the current is forced in the reverse direction through a whole stack of thermocouples, creating a cold plate. Water condenses on the cold plate and runs into a tank.

The size and weight (just a few pounds) are appropriate; when not in use it's easy to swing it into a cabinet for storage, although for day sailing I just put it in the sink to keep it from falling. They are prone to icing in temperatures below about 45F, but deicing by controlling the run cycle with a light timer is simple; 8 hours on at night and 6 hours off during the day. Even in the depths of the winter, the interior of the boat warms above freezing during the day due to solar heating.

I modified the tank by drilling a hole and tapping in a 1/4 NPT x 3/16" ID hose barb. The hose runs to the sink so that it never fills and to prevent freezing and breaking in the winter.

 So far--four years--the unit has just  purred along, removing 2-8 ounces per day, keeping the relative humidity at 45-65% at temperatures from below freezing to 95F. The boat is always dry, the bedding fresh, and interior corrosion issue non-existent.Just like home.
 
 Cold plate frosted

Cold Plate Thawed 

The only real alternative is calcium chloride descant. I did an article about these for Practical Sailor  magazine and still had a few left over. I held a race several years ago, the Eva-Dry in the port cabin and a large absorbant bag on starboard. It wasn't even close. It would take ten 5-pound buckets of CaCl2 to do what this unit will do over 3-4 month winter season.

I also tested a cheaper version from Perfect Home. It lasted about 8 months, just like the reviews said it would.


Tool Box

There is a window shelf outside the head that is of no particular use. Sometimes we keep shoes there, but because of the hatch, spray is always a possibility, limiting possible uses; nothing that can't get wet, nothing tall that might block the hatch. I reasoned a light box I can pick up and move will find some purpose and stow some clutter. I like the semi-traditional look; it kind of works on a sailboat that is only semi-traditional. Though sailing is by nature nostalgic, multi-hulls have to keep there distance. No baggy wrinkles here.




A simple scrap lumber project, it is made of 3/4-inch pine to make the ends strong and 1/4-inch ply to keep it light. What will we keep in it? Though I stuffed some harnesses, tape, and cables ties in it for now, we won't really know until we've been cruised with it for a while.

Monday, December 17, 2012

EG vs PG: Conventional Wisdom That is Provably Wrong

rev. 2-4-2013

Some time ago, maybe 30 years ago, winterizing anything with ethylene glycol (EG) became completely unfashionable. Politically incorrect was the new term. Everything had to switch to propylene glycol (PG) because it was lower in toxicity and thus more environmentally friendly. We had always understood that PG must be used in potable water systems because of EG's toxicity and the potential for someone to take a drink before the system was well flushed. Reasonable enough, and we assumed, right or wrong, that people weren't chemistry smart enough to keep these differences straight. But the connection between toxicity to humans and damage to the environment was never correct. It turns out EG and PG are equivalent and it is only metabolic pathways unique to mammals that make EG dangerous to people.



MSDS Information. Producers of products with any hazardous or toxic ingredients must disclose and explain these to commercial users through OSHA's MSDS program that most of us are familiar with. Though there are many products using EG and PG, these 2 sheets present representative data from the same manufacture:

PG MSDS
Ecotoxicity in water (LC50): >5000 mg/l 24 hours [Goldfish]. >10000 mg/l 48 hours [guppy]. >10000 mg/l 48 hours [water flea].
EG MSDS
Ecotoxicity in water (LC50): 41000 mg/l 96 hours [Fish (Trout)]. 46300 mg/l 48 hours [water flea]. 34250 mg/l 96 hours [Fish (bluegill fish)]. 34250 mg/l 72 hours [Fish (Goldfish)].

Though they have expressed the data in different terms, we can readily see that acute toxicity requires percent levels (about 3-4%) of glycols; as a practical matter, the fish will die from low dissolved oxygen before direct glycol toxicity is important. Why the great difference? EG poisons only at relatively high doses in humans, primarily by the action of specific metabolic byproducts; it should be no great surprise that marine organisms deal byproducts and salts differently. This turns out that this is true of all non-mammal organisms. I don't see this as a surprising contrast; zinc is incorporated into many bottom paints because of its high marine toxicity (0.5ppm is quite lethal) and yet the pharmacy sells zinc pills for humans as a dietary supliment. You don't feed chocolate to a dog.



Biodegradability.  No important differences. Both are attacked by bacteria as readily as sugar. In fact, when glycols are used in the air conditioning systems of large buildings it is required practice to either add a biocide or to control the pH at very high levels, which is also lethal to all organisms. Both products exhibit equivalent biological oxygen demand (BOD) is water and both can cause fish kills by this mechanism if discharged in large amounts to small waterways. This is occasionally seen around airports that deice airplanes in the winter. Again, they have found no difference between EG and PG. There is a preference for PG over EG in this case because they spill large amounts--perhaps 5000 to 20000 gallons during a snow event--and for mammal wild life to drink from puddles is plausible.



From the experts: In fact, I could not find any scholarly (fact-based) work that gave a contrasting opinion.

From Risk World (European conference)
"Based upon the limited available data, no general distinction can be made between aquatic toxicities of ethylene and propylene glycol formulations."

From the World Health Organization (WHO)
"Ethylene glycol has generally low toxicity to aquatic organisms. Toxic thresholds for microorganisms are above 1,000 mg/litre. EC50s for growth in microalgae are 6,500 mg/litre or higher. Acute toxicity tests with aquatic invertebrates where a value could be determined show LC50s above 20,000 mg/litre, and those with fish show LC50s above 17,800 mg/litre. An amphibian test showed an LC50 for tadpoles at 17,000 mg/litre. A no observed-effect concentration (NOEC) for chronic tests on daphnids of 8,590 mg/litre (for reproductive endpoints) has been reported. A NOEC following short-term exposure of fish has been reported at 15,380 mg/litre for growth."

From the US EPA, study of airport deicing with EG and PG. Please, read the whole study (447 pages). Marine toxicity is never mentioned in the executive summary because they could make no case against it. They are the same. Neither is good, true enough, but they are the same. They did conclude--correctly based upon my expereince in marine toxicity testing--that the thickeners used in wing deicers are quite toxic because of their effect on gill tissues, but this is not relevant here. Many "non-toxic" cleaners, even common dish soaps such as Palmolive and Dawn, are quite toxic to marine shrimp because of this effect. I've done those studies. They also report that some of the anti-corrosion additives are toxic, it is important to note that as diluted in the formulation for use in a boat (about 3000:1) they contribute very little.
"Table 9-1 summarizes aquatic toxicity data from studies that directly compare ethylene glycol and propylene glycol under the same or similar experimental conditions. In general, the data show that ethylene glycol and propylene glycol exhibit aquatic toxicological effects at concentrations within the same order of magnitude. Although EPA does not use such a system, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Classification System for Acute Exposures defines “relatively harmless” as any chemical with an LC above 1,000 mg/L (3)."



What about the corrosion inhibitors? In PG formulations common inhibitors are dipotasium phosphate and other relatively harmless salts. In engine coolants organic acids and azoles are common. 2-ethylhexanoic acid has an LD 50 for marine organisms of around 100 ppm, but multiply this by 133 for actual use concentrations (LD 50 = 13,000 ppm).
tolyltriazole (TT) has an LD 50 of about 50 ppm, but multiply this by 6000 for actual use rates (LD 50 = 300,000 ppm). Both are biodegradeable and neither is thought to bioaculmulate. So while the inhibitors do contribute to toxicity, small amounts of diluted engine coolants remain far below levels of concern.






What conclusions can we draw from this?
  • EG and PG are simply no different when released into a large body of water.
  • The conventional wisdom regarding EG vs PG marine pollution potential is just plain wrong. Perhaps the PG manufacturers have pushed this. Perhaps folks writing web site copy for good boating practices didn't actually research their writing; those I interviewed commonly related that their information was simply copied from another popular site.
  • Both can be recycled, and this is a good practice whenever possible. But it isn't always possible and the damage of discharging a few gallons is equivalent to tossing an equivalent mass of wood chips in the water.
And a closing point. In all 50 states, all ethylene glycol based engine coolants include a bitterent (Denatonium benzoate) to reduce the probability of accidental ingestion. I've tasted it and can't believe anyone could manage swallowing it now. Suicide perhaps, but not by accident. The notion that antifreeze is "sweet tasting" is simply out-of-date and accidents are historic, not current.



Why does this matter? Because PG is not so good for certain materials of construction and EG is better. Specifically neoprene and nylon don't react so well, and these are common in sanitary and engine systems. That's why.




Update 2-4-2013: Neoprene becomes about 2 times stiffer after 30 days of exposure to 25% PG and about 3 times stiffer with 5% swelling after 3 months exposure. Identical EG exposure causes no change. However, stiffness and size return to normal within 48 hours when soaked in fresh water. Any lasting harm? Not certain.
 

Friday, December 14, 2012

Wieght

It's often said that boats are sold by the pound; epoxy, glass, aluminum, stainless, and the labor to put it all together. Multihulls run higher than monohulls because the keel is cheap in relation, they don't need 2 of so many things, and because the construction is less convoluted. I'll stick to multihulls, since it's what I know.

For the sake of argument, let's say you can buy a Gemini Legacy for $275,000/9,400 pounds, or about $30/pound. A performance boat like the Stiletto 27--if one could be bought new-- would be about $80,000/1,250 pounds, or about $65/pound. Gunboats run about $80/pound. Ouch. Used cars, on the other hand, run perhaps $2-$4/pound; though they don't float so well, they do fly to windward.

What would we pay for a lighter boat with better performance, strength being the same? Would we pay $40/pound? Most of us bought used--I paid about $13/pound--but I'd spend a little for speed, maybe $20/pound. By that logic, we would pay ~ $30/pound for every bit we could save on our current boat, whether from taking out the trash. Hauling less fuel when practical, or pumping the holding tank more often. We would evaluate every project, looking for places to swap composites for steel and Spectra for stainless steel cable.


Anchors. A 35-pound new-age anchor seem to be the thing if you want to stay in one place. Certainly the second anchor should be a Fortress? A $239 Fortress F-16 compares with a Danforth 16 for $89, but at 6 pounds more. $25/pound for the savings. And of course the Fortress is much easier to handle, so very OK; doctor bills for my back add up.

Chain. Proof coil or BBB vs. G4. For a given rating, G4 is cheaper. Perhaps it is less durable in the very long run, but given the value we place on weight savings, an easy call.

Chain. G4 vs rope. Again, rope is lighter and cheaper. But rope doesn't feed through the windlass as well and cuts are possible. I chose 100 feet of chain backed by rope as a compromise. In the shallow waters of the Chesapeake that puts me on all-chain 98 % of the time. All-chain for a multihull is hard to defend, and I would rather have some rope for shock absorption in extreme conditions. A dollar per pound foolish compromise? The windlass made the decision for me.

Lifelines. Stainless is about 3 times heavier and 70% more expensive than Amsteel, even when the Amsteel is sized to be 3 times stronger.  Only $12/pound for the savings and a $120 savings for my boat. Durability seems good, as the first reports trickle in. I've seen corroded stainless snap without warning. I'm going with 3/16-inch Amsteel in a few years. Should be good for a 0.02 knot improvement (yes, I calculated that figure).

Locker stuff. Always a hard call. It's always hard to say which spares and what toys will save the day, but at $20/pound to haul it around we need to be circumspect. Certainly seasonal items such as quilts and wet suits can go home for dry storage. How much is the labor? Heck, they need cleaned or serviced anyway.

Fuel vent filters. A 1-pound vent filter eliminates the need to keep a full tank to reduce breathing, perhaps reducing by 100-150 pounds the amount of fuel that must be carried day sailing and on short trips. Only about $1/pound. A bargain. They also reduce evaporative fuel loss, making them free in the long run.

Down-sizing ropes. So long as the stretch and handling characteristics of the high-modulus lines are suitable, makes sense even for the non-racer. But sometimes the handling and stretch characteristics are wrong--I like some stretch in the traveler and topping lift. I like lines with some size, nothing below 3/8-inch. I put in a free Spectra traveler line and I don't like it better. I have Spectra genoa sheets an they are fantastic. I would decide based upon function, not weight.

Leaks. Are any of the crash tanks holding water? A hundred pounds of water would create a $3000 loss in value, one more reason to get it fixed.

Aluminum or composite propane tanks. A good weight savings (~ $15/pound) and non-corroding. I'll go that way if mine get shabby, but I keep them painted for now.

Holding tank. Pumping more often couldn't hurt, but I'm lazy. A Raritan Lectrasan might make sense for some folks--it weighs about the same as 10 gallons of water when full--but that is about what I average in my tank and I prefer the practice of shore-side pumping-outs. Additionally, my home marina and local sailing area is a no-discharge-zone. No weight savings for smaller boats or smaller families, but worth considering for larger boats.

Freshwater tank. There's really no reason for it to be full all of the time. But I never know when I'm going to head out for a day or two.

Batteries. There may be some real opportunity in the near future, when laptop tech (lithium) approaches lead/acid for economy. We'll need to look at pounds/amp-hour and cycles.

Projects. Yep, I've added a few pounds here and there. But I use aluminum and light ply/composite constructions where ever practical, instead of stainless or solid wood or glass. The solar panel mount was aluminum and minimal. With the exception of the sea chest (composites would have been all wrong there) most of my shelf and box projects are 1/4-inch ply, glass and epoxy. I use fabric in place of wood where possible. Lashings and stropes save ounces.

____

So what's on my lighten-up list? A Mast-Mate mast ladder; haven't used it in years, will do a quick inspection climb and take it home. I keep accenders on-board anyway, so in an emergency they will serve. My bike rack can stay at home with the bike. I've got some spare blocks that could be at home. I've got a little gut to lose before ice climbing season. What stays? Any part I've used before: sheer pins, spare props, oar locks, cabinet catches, engine parts, electrical stuff, and some bits of rope (2 extra rodes and some small stuff). Food and beer.

Weight saving projects? There is certainly a noticeable difference, loaded for cruising vs. empty tanks and no crew. I remember the sea trial on the day I sold my Stiletto; emptied of superfluous stuff and with a clean bottom she flew, reaching at well over wind speed, into the high teens under working sail alone. I wanted to keep her.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Everyday Jacklines

It was a little breezy today--sustained at 20 knots with gusts to 30 knots. The water and air were cool, both perhaps 45F. A beautiful day for some brisk solo sailing.

I started out with full sail, but within 15 minutes a reef seemed smart. 30 minutes later a second reef seemed smart, along with a little jib rolled in as well. No worries; even though I reef at the mast, the jack lines are always rigged and the auto helm was holding course nicely. Just a time to be causious. The bow was going through as many waves as over them and the motion was a bit crazy, but that's what fall sailing is about.

I noticed I had left the boat hook bouncing around on the deck; I never tie it down and it has bounced there for over 2000 miles. But it was getting washed around more than normal. It had been tossed from the tramp up on to the seats in front of the salon. Its bent, but its a friend. But I have a spare on board, found on along beach somewhere.

I noticed the spinnaker bridle had somehow worked loose--last time it was used a guest secured it, or rather didn't--and there was some question in my mind as to whether it could get under the boat and into the prop or rudders later. I figured I needed to go get it. Except that 45F water is washing ankle-deep across the tramp every 10 seconds, everything is soaked with sheets of spray, right up to the dodger, the tramp is a wide expanse free of handholds, and I was sailing alone. Bugger.

And this is why you keep jacklines rigged EVERY DAY. No problem, I clipped in, walked along the side, used the jackline in one hand to ease my way across to the leeward side, and clipped in with the short leg. After securing the lines and grabbing the wayward boat hook I hauled myself to windward with the tether and retreated to the cockpit.

I tacked and broad reached home, faster, with less motion... and no concerns.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Spice Rack



 PDQ 32s factory equipped with Dometic dorm-style refrigerators are also equipped with a completely useless drawer to the right of the fridge. The openings are too small for medium adult hands to fully enter, severely limiting the size of objects that can be stored. Even spice bottles are too big, except for the smallest sizes. The drawer was deep--18 inches but only pulling out 8 inches--so any thing that did enter would slide to that back and never be seen again;  remember, the openings won't admit a hand or wrist so you can't reach the back, even with a fork held by fingertip. The whole business is built of 1/2-inch thick lumber, reducing the 7 1/2-inch cut-out in the fiberglass to a mere 2 1/2-inch inside shelf width. Just pitiful. Down low, below the drawer, is a cubby hole that is handy enough for small items, in our case disposable table wear; I wanted to keep that, but I didn't want more cubby holes.

Though I could have scratch-built a replacement, matching the wood would be a challenge and I liked the outside look and fit. Instead, I took a few measurements and reasoned that it could be gutted, fitted with an improved drawer that would make a very usable spice rack, and that I could accomplish this in an evening.

The entire cabinet assembly is easily unscrewed and taken home, so that all work can be done in the shop. That helps. The drawer facing pops off easily with a few carefully applied hammer blows and a little wiggling with a wood chisel. Likewise, the stops in the back (to preventing the drawer from coming all the way out when pulled) popped right off. Both were easily cleaned of glue residue with a chisel.

I removed both sides of the drawer, leaving the top, bottom, front, and back untouched, with careful plunge cuts with a circular saw and some trimming with a saber saw. The sides are still attached to the shelves with a few spots of glue, but were pried out with very little effort. Likewise, without side support, the internal shelves were easily removed and discarded. The new plan called for only an upper and lower rather than the original overcrowded 3 shelf arrangement.

The new shelf is not centered; spice bottles come in 2 basic heights, so I made room accordingly.

Dig the sawdust reflected in the flash (click to enlarge)
I did not replace the original sides. The original drawer had ~ 5/8-inch clearance on each side, so I simply screwed new 1/4-inch birch ply sides to the outside, increasing the internal width of the shelf by 1-inch to 3 1/2 inches This is critical, as it makes the difference between a single row of bottles and a double row. I made the fiddles on the shelf a bit over 1/2 the height of the bottles to insure they cannot jump out in wild conditions, though they will simply end up in the large locker under the fridge if they do. With the larger cut-outs my hands fit easily. The corners of the cut-outs were made with hole saw and press (no center bit) and connected with a circular saw and saber saw and trimmed with a hand grinder. All of the screws are countersunk to avoid catching.

The original drawer did not pull out as far as it could; measurement showed that it could pull about 2 1/2 inches further without interference, so I repositioned the stops. This was easily done by extending the new sides back an additional 2 1/2" + 3/4" = 3 1/4" beyond the back of the drawer and attaching 3/4-inch cleats. Free additional opening space and less is lost in the depths.

Easy...ish and built from scraps. $4.65 for screws. I could have built it with hidden fasteners, but I liked the idea of being able to open it and change it, if I like. About 4 hours, but 3 of those were spend measuring an figuring. I could do a second in an hour. Isn't that typical?

More space, more function, no change in weight, and my wife is appreciative. I find the last of these most rewarding.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Small World

A crisp fall day. Relatives in town, but off visiting the National Holocost Museum for the morning. I was sailing just a few days ago and will again in a few days. I'm working a small project I want to install, but it needs a few more coats of varnish. A perfect opportunity for a short bouldering work-out at the local crag, Carderock.

I walked the base of the cliff, scanning for familiar faces; often we come without having made arrangements with friends and simply meet up. A good way to meet new faces, too. Mostly, that's how climbers meet and how climbing partnerships form.

"You look like you've been here before"a stranger bouldering up the crag called. I noticed he had experienced (old) shoes and callused hands, suggesting he was an old hand at the climbing thing. The way he moved suggested to me that like me, he knows what he's doing but has been away from it for a while. Old shoes that are mostly worn out suggest that too.

"Yes, for 30 years anyway. Can I help?"

"No, just looking around. A caught a ride on a top rope with some guys over that way. Fun. Nice place."

"Where are you from?"

"Annapolis."

Sounds like more of a place for sailing than climbing." Annapolis is hopelessly flat.

"Actually, yes. I teach sailing."

The conversation went on a bit, me relating that I had a boat in Deale, one of a string of boats. Some stuff about sailing. I said goodby and wandered to the far end of the cliff to boulder alone. But about 100 feet away I turned around and decide to return to the stranger, to be a bit more sociable to our visitor.

We talked a bit more. He coached J-80 sailing for J-World. We talked about fast boats, planning on J-boats, and speed on the Stiletto 27 and capsizes of the new AC 72. I mentioned that I'd slowed down and bought a PDQ 32.

"I know a couple who has one of those, out cruising."

I thought I knew the answer but asked anyway; "Oh, really? Who?"

"Zero-to-Cruising. I follow their blog."

"Cool! Me too. I met them once, in Cape May, and we trade emails now and then. Good folks."

"Would you believe me if I told you that I taught their "learn-to-sail" class in Miami?'

"Yup, I'd find that easy to believe!"

We chattered on for a while. I pointed out a few bouldering spots, but in no way gave any demonstration of prowess; I was wearing a heavy knee brace and was having a high gravity day. We talked about a few sailing adventures. I gave him dirrection to a few local crags he'd heard of within the local area--Easter Egg Rocks, GreatFalls--and we parted ways.

Small world.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Salon Table Access

While the salon table provides worthwhile storage volume, it has always been awkward to access. Something is always on the table; dining accessories, snacks and general stuff the forward end, and a DVD player is in permanent residence on the aft end. BTW, the flat screen hinges up and the Bose computer speakers speakers can really rock the boat.


I replaced the aft access lid with a hinged section. Just pine from retired shelving unit and a cast-off piano hinge. The finger holes for lifting were drilled about 1/2-inch deep with a forstner bit, which leaves a smooth, flat bottomed hole. If we like the functionality I may either stain it to match or slice the original board at the appropriate spot. So far, we like it; we can actually use these bins. Case in point: installing this project I found a book-on-disk that had been borrowed from the public library and long since paid for as lost.


Later I added a drop-in DVD holder. Very handy.


As for the hinged flat screen and the forward section, those are described elsewhere, but they look like this...




and like this....






Now, to listen to that book-on-disk....

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Comunication

For modern mariners, the foundation tool is VHF, perhaps the most dependable means over distances of less than 20 miles. Good for bridge openings, talking to marinas, and summoning help. For communicating with friends, it's been largely replaced with cell phones and internet services, even though those can be less than reliable even in coastal areas. Off-shore we transition to SSB and sat phones.

But there are other ways. These messengers were used by Bernard Moitessier during the first round-the-world singlehanded race, describe very well in A Voyage for Madmen.

Very traditional, rather like his yacht. Dependable and thrifty?

For express service, he chose a multihull design.

 Most of us would judge him a bit mad by this point in the race, but for him, this seemed to be his "normal." He was simply well adapted to life alone, at sea, and less so for life with people ashore.




Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Ford Explorer Visor Brackets

I seldom blog about non-sailing topics, and never for the express purpose of boosting a product, but this guy deserves a boost. I have a soft spot for people selling stuff via a blog.

The factory visor bracket is a bit of plastic junk, not designed properly for the service. Failure is routine after about 5-7 years, generally on both sides, and costing about $170/side if the dealer does the work. Although the part should be only a few dollars, you must buy the entire visor and take the ceiling down in order to wire it up.

I stared at the problem for while, determined that replacing the whole unit would be an expensive pain, and that a smarter solution would be a set of 3 aluminum plates that could clamp the shaft. I have a full shop and the correct aluminum plate, but I also knew it would take a few hours of fitting to get it just right.

And then a little internet browsing brought me to this, exactly the solution I had envisioned!


Installation is a breeze:
  • Pop the cover off with a screwdriver in the corners. It may have fallen off already.
  • Unscrew the broken bits.
  • Place the three plates around the shaft. Look a the above picture (top plate in the above picture is against the ceiling" and get them in the correct order; the bottom plate is beveled to accept the cover, and the top plate is beveled to match a shoulder on the shaft.
  • Wiggle the screws through and tighten.
  • Snap the cover on. A tap with the heel of the screw drive may be needed.
The visor feels tight and the parts should last as long as the car. Order a pair for $37.99 and fix both sides in 10 minutes. Faster than you could drive to the dealer.

 I have not re-installed the cover in this photograph. It snaps right on, so the finished result looks factory perfect.

The Engine Shuffle--Three Boats and Still Ticking

Some sort of PDQ record, maybe.

______________

First they were at home on PDQ 36 Page 83, where they were usurped by sexy new 8 hp engines with power tilt.

Then they were retired from PDQ 32 Shoal Survivor, after one too many minor problems made them doubtful for an up coming cruise. Sexy new 9.9 Yamahas captured my heart.

And now they have moved south to the Florida sun, where they will power PDQ 32 Dog House. Perhaps I retired them too soon--they were still running strong, except for a shorted coil and thin patience and a weak back on my part. I hope they live on for at least few more seasons.


 I believe the Dog House stable must contain more used and parts 9.9 Yamahas than any non-dealer. Ironically, my boat is on it's 3rd set of engines; hopefully, the new ones give me a lot of years.


Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Deale After Sandy

rev 10-31-2012:

For any Phipps Marina slip holders that follow my blog, your boats are fine. There is no power in town and the sound of many generators is the new normal. The surge didn't get up on the grass, from appearances.

I'll revise this post later with some pics and stuff, but i thought you'ld like to know.

_____________________________

A few pictures, as promised.

Damage that I came a across? A few traffic lights out in the morning, numerous small branches down in our yard, and no power for 24 hours. The Federal government closed (wimps), causeing too many local businesses to follow in lock-step group think, in over reaction to damage and disruption that was only about what we get a few times each year from thunderstorms or ice storms.
Phipps Marina? No boat had any damage that I could see, nor anything obvious at any of the marinas in town. I seemed that the surge was only ~ 2-3 feet, as predicted. A lot of boats were pulled at the last moment, a lot of tarps removed, and a lot of sails stripped.

Shoal Survivor? My recent window gasket replacements were well tested and found satisfactory. Most of the bird poo was removed, but alas not the staining.

It felt funny, walking on decks that were, in places at other marinas, only a few inches above the water, as though I was stepping onto floating debris. At some marinas boaters were seen walking on water, inspecting boats from docks that were a few inches awash.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

I'm So Glad No Wooden Boat Called To Me

When I first moved to this marina, Native Son was a well maintained work boat and a bit of traditional art. The fit, as 4 generations have lived on the property, and even more generations worked the local waters.


March 2011. And then crabbing suffered and the owner started a successful marine carpentry business, which financially was a much better idea. There has always--so it seems--been a marine railway on the property. But wood doesn't understand about priorities and change.

May 2012: The boat to the right sank in the neighboring slip but was refloated several years ago, and yet the owner pays slip rental for a bot he has not visited or worked on since. Sorry about the blurs; I'd been kayaking and got a blotch of saltwater on the lens.


Fiberglass is dull, predictable, and functional. I like that. I'm fascinated that marine carpenters learned to make such functional machines from trees, but I'm satisfied that modern engineering and materials make the sport and the pastime so accessible and practical. Of course, we've added gadgets to keep the maintenance and finances challenging; what does that say about human nature?

Friday, October 26, 2012

Huricane Preparation

Not the common "double you lines" or "haul out" sort of advice. Small things that don't make the standard lists. I'm not on the sea coast and even a direct huricane hit on the Chesapeake is a tropical storm without the waves; a mess and quite strong, but very survivable with moderate preparations.
  • No sharp stuff. Check your docks for nails, hose hangers, and any hazardous dock accessories. I almost lost my boat when the rope looped over a rusty nail left in a finger dock by a prior tenant nearly sliced a line in half over night during a winter storm.
  • Limited slack. Too much slack and the tugging becomes extreme. Too much slack and a line can hook on too something it shouldn't. Check length by taking each line off its cleat, raising the line to the hieght of  the expected surge with the slack just removed, and recleating to that length. Spring lines generally need less slack than bow and stern lines. Also consider extra low tide; sometimes there is a reverse surge, depending on wind dirrection. The upper Cheaspeake is expected to see up to 5 feet below average low tide, which will put many (most?) boats on the bottom. Will your boat lean?
  • Chafe gear. Make certain it is secured and won't shift. I've been using this for 25 years and believe in it. I didn't start marketing it until I had spent 20 years proving the product on boats and industrial applications.
  • Check window seals. The most common source of leaks is dirt in the seal, so wipe the seals clean. 15 hours of horizontal rain will find any leaks.
  • Make certain the dingy can drain. Remove any screen or flapper valve from the drain; they're a bad idea anyway. Clean the inside of leaves and junk. Tilt more than normal on the davits. Support with tricing lines. Of course, you could take it off.
  • Secure the roller furler. Wrap the spinnaker halyard around the furled sail in the reverse direction, so that it cannot unfurl. Secure the sheets and furler line on winches. Or you could take it off.
  • Remove any tarps. They'll just beat themselves to death and add windage.
  • Seal the slider. Stuff towels in the cracks, because it will allow spray in.
And go home and take down the Halloween decorations, I supose. Damn.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Easier Winterizing

rev. 11-30-2012

I'm not clear why a boat made in Canada came without the most basic provisions for winterizing.


______________


The Head

Since I stay in the water all winter, I need to be able to winterize every hose. During the coldest weeks I flush with a weak glycol solution, so the down stream portions are no concern. I pump-out before it gets too cold for the stations to close and generally make it until they thaw. However, the suction side presents a problem. Additionally, I've had occasional trouble with sea grass fouling the intake valve on the head pump. Two years ago I installed a simple Y-strainer, which solved the clogging problem, but it was very difficult to clean; the lid would stick and the location and leverage were terrible. About a year ago I replaced the intake hose, upgraded the strainer (also a freebe) and moved it to a more convenient location in the holding tank compartment, and added a glycol addition fitting. No more clogs and 5-minute winterizing. Yes, the fittings are light-duty (SCH 40 PVC), but this is 30 inches above the waterline in a bulkheaded compartment. Corrosion resistance and scaling resistance seemed more important.

To winterize the sea cock side:
  1. Place the head pump in the locked position.
  2. Clean the strainer, if you think it's due.
  3. Open the sea cock.
  4. Open the blue valve and add ~ 1 quart of glycol from a jug on deck (it also has a drain valve).
  5. Close the sea cock.
To winterize head side:
  1. Open the blue valve.
  2. Unlock the head pump and pump until you see red.
  3. Close the blue valve.
Why red instead of pink? I use ethylene glycol (EG) antifreeze on the head system:
  • I get it for free (we make it).
  • The affect on the sewage plant is less than for propylene glycol (pink non-toxic, AKA PG) because less is needed (PG is less effective, on a percent basis) and they biodegrade at the same rate.
  • Ethylene glycol is NOT more toxic to fish or the environment. It is only more toxic to mammals. Don't take my word for it--read the MSDSs.  
  • The head side is most certainly not potable!
  • EG is less harmful to the hoses and joker valve than PG. Just a little, but that is one of the reasons propylene glycol is not favored by automotive OEMs. On going testing also suggests that PG is tough on the neoprene joker valves common in Jabsco heads. Raritan and Groco use nitrile joker valves, which are more resistant. Since these valves are interchangable (identical dimensions) you could always use a Raritan joker valve in your Jabsco head.
  
The Pressure System

Adding just a few valves made this into an easy one-gallon job. 15 minutes, tops.
  1. Pump the tank empty. Remove what remains by bailing with a cup or with a shop vac. No glycol in the tank.
  2. Close the valve to the left of the strainer. 
  3. Open the valve to the right of the strainer and place the hose in a jug.
  4. Open every tap on the boat, both hot and cold, and let run until glycol comes out. Have a jug handy to catch any extra.
  5. Once the jug runs empty (most likely before you are finished), let it blow air through the pipes for just a few minutes. Open every tap you have winterized and catch what comes out. It will be enough for the rest of the boat. Don't forget the transom shower.
  6. Close the glycol valve.
  7. Remove the strainer, clean, and put a little glycol in it. Yeah, I could just leave it off, but I know I'll forget in the spring and get a slight flood.
Only non-toxic propylene glycol on the potable side, obviously.


After reading Mike's link, I figured I should add these. I've also posted winterizing stuff here.


Shower Drain

I guess I might as well mention this, while on the topic. Pour about a quart in the drain and pump.


Sinks

They're all hose and drain anyway. Skip it.


Engines

They drain if raised.



_______________


 The previous owner blew out lines and disconnected lines. I spent a season chasing leaks in connections that had been opened too many times and replacing cracked fittings on the water heater that didn't quite drain. This is MUCH better. The only thing lazier would be wintering in Grenada....

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Your Closest Call

Rev. 10-15-2012

No, I've had no resent misadventures, but a brush with an inattentive sailor a few days ago reminded me of my closest brush with real danger on the water. Sinking and multiple deaths were very possible, though only a few hundred yards from the harbor.

I was sailing full and by on my Stiletto 27 with my parents in a nice breeze. We'd been going 10-12 knots for 30 minutes on starboard tack. We were approaching a 60-foot sled, also going to the weather, but on port tack, also making 10-12 knots. Sometimes it appeared I would be clear ahead, sometimes a near crossing, depending on the shift. It was a sharply trimmed boat with Kevlar sails; I felt confident it held an attentive crew.

As we came near it seemed he was heading below my stern, but it was only a shift. The wind headed and I realized we were on something near a collision course. At the same moment I realized I couldn't see any faces. At a closing speed of over 20 knots, boat lengths melted away and I was ahead but not clear ahead.

If I were to tack away I would be dead in the water in front of a boat going 12 knots that would crush and cut my 1200-pound Stiletto in half. If I de-powered I would lose the speed I needed to maneuver, and with the shifts perhaps only worsen my position. If I were to bear away and the racer/60-footer did what I expected, what the rules require and bore off at the last moment, we would go head-on at 20+ knots and I would lose AND be at fault the stand-on vessel that failed to stand-on.

I bore off anyway, yanking the tiller hard, accelerated to 15 knots, and passed only 10 feet from the side of the other boat; our our crossing speed rose to over 25 knots. As I passed I shouted that he "should stay at the dock if he couldn't afford a bow-watch." His hood-ornament date, sitting in the cockpit but facing backwards, fell startled from her perch to the cockpit sole. The skipper started running all over the cockpit, struggling for a better view point, but NOT looking at me, suddenly realizing the fool he was and wondering what else might be out there.

No harm done. But a collision between my Stiletto and a 60-footer head on would not have been about scratched paint, it would have been about missing people. A water-borne collision between a big rig and a Smart Car.

-----------

Non-sailors expect stories about storms and dark nights. Engine failures at bad times. While those things can be scary and inconvenient, there is time to think. On the other hand, I've had a number of crossings when I was on starboard and no one was looking that were closer than they should have been. No, I don't go looking for close encounters, but I sail crowded water in the summer and sometimes I would just swear a boat was sailing well and the crew paying attention, when in fact the only thing they were watching was that deck-sweeping genoa.

So what was your closest call?

Saturday, October 6, 2012

It's Sweet When You Stay in Love With the Girl You Brought

rev. 5/16/2013. 
Sail Magazine just did a laugher of a review (June 2013). No negatives, got the displacement wrong by 30%, gave the draft as 34 feet, guessed at the speed instead of reading the GPS; Funny stuff. Guess who advertises there. A common thread in Sail Magazine reviews.


I'm talking about boat shows and dock-walking, of course.

A few days ago I visited the Annapolis Boat Show, trolling for article ideas rather than a new boat and other boat toys, but of course, I spent a little time walking thought the latest offerings and looking at the ideas there in. Coincidentally, the very next morning, I left on an overnight trip, and so I've measure this against that, at least on my scale, and sumarized my thoughts. I'm not saying which is better--a boat must fit the buyer--just pointing to some things I see. Why am I so interested? Once they were built locally, on the Chesapeake Bay, and they were the first boats to interst me in cruising catamarans.

Let me be clear: I still like the Gemini. I just don't understand some of the design changes and the dirrection they have gone.

Also, read this excellent blogger review.



This is probably the worst case of "over-jammer" I have ever seen. Seven jammers lead to the one and ONLY winch, making it impossible to tend mupltiple tasks at the same time. Not a sailor's boat. The PDQ has six winches, allowing great flexibility when things get strong.

New on the Gemini Legacy
  • Price. About $280 K loaded, or about double what a loaded 105Mc was in 2003. There are a lot of used cats for $220 K with an $60K refit that would bury the Gemini in every category. But some people really like new, which I can understand, sort of. I prefer new cars, but boats and houses are different.
  • Lower bridge deck. The boat show model was 4 inches off the water, with empty tank, bins, and no dingy on the davits. I suspect loaded it would be about 3 inches above the water and would slap on everything. Gemini's own web site pictures (with no dingy and most probably very light-ship) show no clearance whatsoever underway when sailing. They got 6'7" standing headroom, but the cost was far too high. How many buyers are 6'6" anyway? Less than 0.5% for men 40-65 according to CDC study.
  • Spinnaker on fixed sprit. The Gemini 105Mc allowed the tack of the chute or reacher to articulate from side to side. Now there is only a fixed sprit, which some marinas will charge as length. A sprit works, on a performance cat that always carries the apparent wind forward of the beam. But on a cruising cat, the best VMG down wind--and often in the direction you are headed, particularly for Chesapeake Bay and coastal sailors--is obtained when the apparent wind is well aft of the beam, perhaps 110 degrees off the bow. In this case, the sail sets better if taken to the windward bow. Leave it on the sprit and it simply collapses from lack of air flow. I've sailed several sprit cats and that is what I've learned; they hate going deep. 
  • No sill between the cockpit and cabin. No real protection from following waves. Considering how low she rides and the short transoms--they've used the space clear to the end for cockpit, even though she is longer--waves are going to ride into the cockpit in a steep following sea if you don't keep your speed way up. For coastal sailing, OK perhaps, if the sailor is very careful. But not a good concept and not an ocean boat, not this low to the water. The older Gems and the 105Mc had a 6-inch sill and a more closed aft cockpit. They claim these hulls are "proven off-shore," but that is a half truth; the 105Mc is well proven, but the hulls have been changed, weight added, and safety features removed. She needs to be re-proven, looking at this transom.


 Low clearance and very little to stop following waves from entering the cockpit. No dingy, no cruising load. They want more headroom than she has to give.
Engine access is through hatch behind the head.
Just shoot me now.
  • Improved boarding railings. Really nice. Though I think the side railing blocks too much of the sugar scoop from the side for boarding, but that is personal taste.
  • Boarding ladder rungs are painfully narrow, at least for mature feet.
  • No ledge or shelves--zero--accessible to people seated in the salon. Everything goes on the table (no fiddle) or the seat. Rather of like a model house, stripped and fitted with miniature furniture, not practical.
  • Greatly improved helm visibility. Yup, they fixed the problems. I prefer a completely unobstructed view, but given the advantages for a small cat in salon headroom, I give them a solid B+ for this. IF the enclosure made sense it would get them an A, but the enclosure can't be used when sailing.
  • Winches and jammers cannot be reached when the enclosure is up. Oops.
  • No cam cleats for winch tails. How do you set them for quick release in  blow, given how hard they are to reach? 
  • Engine access. Oh dear.
  • Nice cockpit layout for lounging. And yet because there are only 2 winches, little that the crew can do to help out. Clearly this boat is NOT designed with even casual racing in mind, or even the cruiser who likes to press hard.
  • Improved helm position. Subtle changes, including a lower wheel, that add up to an improvement. Nice. I prefer an actual seat for long shifts at the wheel, but I really like the new Gemini Legacy placement. On the other hand, the helmsman is stuck out in the weather and sun. If you add the optional helm seat, them moving around the cockpit and getting to sail controls is more painful. Visibility becomes limited. OK for day sailing, where you sit to the side, but for long hauls you are going to want a helm seat and will suffer with poor visibility.
PDQ 32, for comparison. 
      Two-three opening ports (3 on starboard) on each side in the galley and nav/head areas, plus 1 large and 5 small opening ports on each aft stateroom.  
       Six winches (2 each side plus 2 on mast, all 2-speed, 4 are self tailing)
       Winches and jammers are inside enclosure.
       20-inch bridge deck clearance.
       No blind spots.
       3 1/2 feet of protection from any following wave, plus a 6-inch sill on the door.
  • Swapped boards for mini keels. Though many criticize the change, it does decrease maintenance and increase space. I see this only as a change, neither plus nor minus. I think most buyers will prefer the keels. I've had both and can testify the differences are minor and offsetting.
  • Smaller, minimally-overlapping jib. Given that her weight keeps going up--nearly 2000 pounds more than the PDQ 32 with the same sail area (with genoa--The Gemini is limited to a small jib by the shroud location) and new fixed screws and heavier engines, she's going to be under powered in light winds. The PDQs with square top mains are much faster and I'm sure the 105Mc is faster.
  • Better engines and more power. Twin diesels and a huge fuel tank give her more speed, better maneuvering, better reliability and better range.
  • Fixed props. Less speed due to drag. The props will require regular cleaning by a diver.
  • Hard to see the traveler position. But nice to have it safely out of the way. On the other hand, the high mounting changes the sheet angle when eased for broad reaching; the boom is going to rise and the main will twist something terrible. She'll need a vang to keep the sail under control and off the shrouds. Of course, with no winch available, a vang could not be adjusted underway. 10 jammers, I think, and perhaps they'll put that one on port. The gooseneck looked strong, the boom fat and the mast step beefy, so all should handle the load. 
  • Build quality. Too soon to say. Those at the boat show were very early production, nearly prototypes. I didn't see any obvious flaws and some things were clearly built a bit better than before. Not as rock-solid as the 15-year old PDQ, but not quite as soft and creaky as the 105Mc.
  • Ventilation. The double (twin mattresses) bunks have very little ventilation with either a single small or a mis-located hatch. The queen berth is well ventilated.
  • AC. Nice installed AC, but this is because there is poor ventilation otherwise. No opening hatches on the sides, none aft, none in some cabins. Dock queen or marina hopper, since the AC is not available at anchor. Some do come with Panda generators to mange the AC, but running a generator  all night is not my idea of cruising. Some will like it.
  • Storage space. With the inboards, AC, and generator, a lot of space has disapeared. A small matter if cruising for a few days, but a problem if cruising for weeks.
  • No visibility outside from the galley. Add to that the absence of any ventilation on the sides or down low, and this is an excellent recipe for sea sickness when sailing in anything rough. The PDQ has a lower row of hatches down each side.
 
Note the lack of opening hatches, the jammer location, and the rope piled by the jammers. Nine ropes terminate there.

Pre-existing Gemini faults still in evidence.
  • Winches are hard to reach and hard to get 2 hands on. Like the 105Mc, the starboard winch can only be reached by the helmsman (he blocks all access).
  • Only one winch on each side. Considering all sails, all reefing, and all halyards are controlled from the cockpit, this is laughably inadequate. Yes, there are jammers (nine of them, some quite out of reach), but in a breeze leaving sails in the jammers is unseamanlike. At the very least, there should be a secondary winch on starboard; however, the deck curvature is going to make this installation tricky and limit the things the secondary can do. If the starboard winch fails or gets a bad override, you've got a pickle. The 105Mc's often came with mast mounted winches. The furler lines were not led to winches (just to cleats near the toe rail), which usually worked but could be strenuous if the wind was up.
  • No forward visablity from the salon. Just a personal dislike. But it also means I cannot keepwatch from the salon, which I sometimes do off-shore on the PDQ 32. The convenience is easy to undervalue if you have never enjoyed it. It also makes lounging in the salon while underway far more enjoyable--you can actually see where you are!
  • Forward bunks are hard to sleep in underway. Aft is better.
  • Still suffers from limited access to certain compartments.
  • Crew cabins lack privacy. No door, just a hole to crawl into. That is a cabin? No, that is a bunk. Just call it what it is.
  • Dingy still sticks too far out the back for a cat. Some marinas will charge for that length. With the sprit and dingy she's really 40 feet.
I spent about 15 minutes discussing some of the above with the designer. He said "today we design for a different kind of sailor," a polite way of saying that visual presence over rules off-shore practicalities. More of a dock queen and motor sailor, and less of a sailor's boat. He's a smart guy and I'm guessing that for his new type of customer--Hunter's idea of a customer--he's right. But I'm still struggling with a single winch to handle...
  • Main sheet
  • Genoa sheet
  • Main halyard
  • Genoa halyard
  • Spinnaker sheet
  • Reef 1
  • Reef 2
  • Furler
  • Vang (needed)
  • And how do we rig twings, barberhaulers, and preventers without a spare winch? 
I've never seen over-cluching this bad, not in a cartoon. On a catamaran, the most basic understanding of capsize safety demands that each active sheet has a dedicated winch and a cam cleat for the tail. A tackle with cam cleat is also good, as installed on the 105Mc. The 105Mc also had halyards led to winches on the mast rather than sheet stoppers because the designer, Tony Smith, said "you're operating on a stable platform, even in a blow," so moving forward is not as treacherous.
    By way of comparison, my PDQ has 6 winches and only 3 jammers on the cockpit bank, one of them for a separate self tacking jib sheet, a line the Gemini does not have! I can nearly always assign a winch to a task. I can always divide crew labor, if I need or want to. For example, yesterday we were driving hard in a blow, enough that the windward hull was getting a little light in the gusts. I sat at the genoa winch, with the line out of the self-tailer, ready to release. I sat to leeward of the helmsman for better visibility and well aft, out of his way. The main was still on a winch but out of the tailer and in a cam cleat for quick release, also within my easy reach, allowing the helmsman to focus on crab pots and puffs. Both of these precautions are quite impossible on the Gemini. We could have reefed earlier, gone 2 knots slower, and been quite bored. We'd have been better off with a nice monohull for less money. Hunter's market must be for sailors that want a cat but aren't cat sailors. Perhaps they're thinking charter fleets, a fine market for dull, comfortable looking, rugged cats. Not for folk who enjoy sailing at 9-10 knots full-and-by, in a 32-foot cruising boat.

    Did I see anything new at the show that I pine for? If I were living aboard or sailing with more people, bigger is better. For cruising the Chesapeake, generally out for 1-7 nights with 1-3 people, I really like the PDQ 32 and haven't seen anything I really like better. I could like the Tom Cat; I bet it's faster and I like the shallow draft. I could live on the Gemini better; more space and easier to live in when buttoned up with heat and AC. The cockpit is lovely, when you're not sailing. But my family has sailed these and likes the PDQ better for adventure cruising. Yesterday's small craft advisory sailing highlighted what a sea boat needs to be. So I still like the old girl best and my loyalty has not wavered, even after Hunter "improve" the Gemini. If I were buying a Gemini, I'd stay with the 105Mc.

    My 20th wedding anniversary is only a few days away too. That still adds up right too. But I'm not posting the pluses and minuses and she won't let me take any new models for a test drive.



    Lost in the James Island Wildlife Refuge

    A successful over night expedition, featuring following winds, fair weather, beer, and returning with the same number of sailors that we started out with. All good statistics.

    We could be anywhere...

    October 5
    My long-time climbing buddy and I loaded up and sailed the 25 miles from Deale to Slaughter Creek, mostly under spinnaker in lightish wind, but generally enough for 5-7 knot speeds. Pleasant. Plenty of time to solve the worlds problems and puzzle out some light air sailing improvements. We had not teamed-up on the boat for over a year, so there was some re-learning, of course. All good--and how I hate that over used cliche.

    The goal, the purpose for coming, was to do a more satisfying exploration of the James Island Wildlife Refuge by kayak. I'd been there before, but never with sufficient time to explore deeply. Arriving just after noon, we had plenty of time...

    ... To get lost.

    We didn't actually get lost. We paddled steadily for 3 hours, through narrow guts and across open ponds,
    through breaks in the reeds, and in open fairways. When returning, we chose a generally parallel path that didn't waste much distance but never backtracked. And yet, no matter how I study the Google and Bing images, I can't begin to plot where we went. Some explorers we are.

    However, we found satisfaction with our remaining athleticism; our aging bodies held up though miles of sustained paddling with no apparent strains and with no real soreness the next days. The only evidence of the mileage was feeling dead tired that evening, but that's what beer is for.

    October 6
    A small craft advisory breeze, always behind the beam, made for a quick return. A few reefs in the main and a full genoa kept her well balanced, heading for the barn. Almost dull, in fact, so we intentionally sailed just past the harbor, beating back up into the breeze for 5 miles, just for the expereince. We sailed higher and knots faster than a pair of 36- and 40-foot monohulled cruisers, dispelling or at least for today, suspending, the myth that cruising cats can't go to weather.

    A success, over all, if I could just figure out where we were....



    Thursday, October 4, 2012

    Real Small Boat Sailing--Log of Spartina


    The Log of Spartina

    Read this, about a trip part way around the Delmarva in a small open boat. Makes me wish I still had the Stiletto and the time to poke around. For inspiration, read all of the Spartina voyages.

    While this is probably a bit more adventure than most folks want, it is not a demonstration of daring do, but of good seamanship and resolve. And good photography.




    Saturday, September 29, 2012

    The Offical Anchorage Music Rules

    Regarding music while sailing or anchored...

    Tongue-in-cheek.... But take it seriously if you want to. My rant.

    _____________________


    Personally, I prefer quiet most of the day every day, sailing or not. The stereo in my car doesn't play for months at a time, not unless Jessica's driving. Maybe, if it's just me, it might be Tommy. Maybe Exile on Main Street. We don't have one in the house, unless you count the music function of cable provider, which I don't use. I don't play tunes on my lap top and don't have and iPod or any relative.

    But at anchor is different, I don't know why.

    • Bob Marley. I never listened to him much before, but my mother-in-law bought 3 CDs and then forgot them or why she even bought them, and somehow they found there way on board. Before I had listened to discs I just happened to be in Kingston on business, staying at a hotel across the mall from the Bob Marley museum. I took the tour--he's worshiped there. And so I have come to find Bob completely relaxing when I'm anchored, whether working on a project or doing nothing. Soul Adventurer, I Need a Rammer, Mr Brown. But that's the only time it seems right.

    • No second-hand tunes. I learned that one in college, or maybe earlier. Even during my most Stones-Who-Doors period, I knew enough not to blast noise and to make others listen to my second hand music. If I play anything on the water, I play it low and only in the cabin. No outside speakers, please.
    •  Nothing after sunset. Quiet time. Go to sleep if you're bored.
    • Classical music? To formal for the wilderness. Rock-and Roll, R & B, or pop? Too kinetic. Country? Out of place, somehow, but maybe if I were on a river somewhere. Maybe that would be just right.
    • Sea chanties? I wouldn't play them, but I catch myself singing them when doing something rhythmic. Kayaking, Cycling. It's not as bad as it sounds; chanties weren't written for Pinza or Pavarotti. They were written for gravel voiced boatswains, and I can do better than that. Don't worry, I won't try to sing pop.

    Wednesday, September 26, 2012

    Bomar Hatch Leaks

    A wet bunk is just too much like camping out, so last weekend I fixed a few nagging leaks. Nothing, until a  torrential down pour strikes, and then more than you want to deal with, several dripping at once. A few lessons learned:
    • Clean the sealing area. Particularly on the sloped hatches over the aft cabins, most leaks are actually caused by trash caught in the gasket area. Simple hose out and wipe with a cloth periodically. You may not need a new gasket.
    • Replace the o-rings in the latches. Very easy and the cause of most minor leaks. Only a few minutes and no easy way to it screw up. If you decide to replace the gaskets, you need to remove the latches for working room anyway. Additionally, the increased pressure on the latches caused by new gaskets is know to cause leaks when old o-rings are recycled, so just replace them now.
    • Defender sells the gasket material for the low-profile hatches used on the PDQs. You buy it by the foot and cut to fit, so there is less waste and it is cheaper than West Marine if you are doing several hatches.
    • Standard "Goop" is a suitable adhesive for the Bomar gasket material (gluing the ends together--they are not glued in place). Trim with a razor and press the ends together. Close the hatch to dry (wax paper on the rim). The instructions said Super Glue, which is neater, but I was out. I have used both before (making o-rings at work) and they both work.
    • Place the cut on the down-hill side. Obviously.
    • If you ever replace the lenses, don't get sealant on the gasket. The sealant should only be between the lens and frame on the edge, and not much excess below the lens. Center the lens first, then inject the sealant, rather than placing the sealant and then dropping the lens in place.
    • Try to place the gasket under slight compression; they shrink over time and will tend to pull away in the corners. No doubt you figured this out.
    • Lube with water and a trace of dish washing soap to make it easier to slide in. A dull dinner knife tip can help shove the tab in the last bit.
    About 20 minutes each. A little hard on the fingers, so only a few each day. Not bad.

    ___________

    note 10-30-2012. Got through Sandy without a drip.

    Friday, September 14, 2012

    Armpit Engineering

    A rather unflattering phrase, one engineers use when they believe a design was developed without the application of math. We see this a lot on boats; today's topic is lifelines.

    In the September issue of Practical Sailor regular contributor Ralph Naranjo recounts experiments done at the Naval Academy to illustrate simple engineering truths to midshipmen. It was a companion piece to a longer article reviewing the application of high-tech lines for life line application.

    http://www.practical-sailor.com/issues/37_21/features/usna-lifeline-test-reveals-weak-spots_10874-1.html

    The bottom line is that the wire never fails, nor does any well-founded cable hardware. It is the stainless railing that gives way, in this case on Navy 44s, which are very sturdy boats. The stainless crumpled at 1,200 pounds, which is a load very plausibly imparted to the lifeline by a flying sailor. This is why jacklines are such a vital compliment to lifelines; together, you stay on-board and in one piece.



    Imagine a 4,200-pound load applied longitudinally to either the pulpit or the pushpit--and both must pass, weak link and all that. The simplest way to visualize this is to reorient the boat vertically, to where it is standing on its nose and hang the family car--a real car, not a Nissan Leaf. Honestly, there is no chance at all that it will take the load. It will bend. It will tear out of the deck. The through-bolts (typically 1/4-inch bolts which will shear at about 2,500 pounds) will fail. And yet folks worry the line to death.

    The reality is that the loads on the cable will not approach 4,200 pounds, not after some initial bending. It's just as well perhaps; if it didn't flex in a extreme fall it would leave one heck of a groove and quite likely break bones, like a metal edge. The 4,200-pound figure is only to insure some basic ruggedness, and as such it is a good figure. But it has the effect of focusing our attention in the wrong place, as there is not a matching requirement for the pulpit and pushpit. Odd.

    __________________


    Practical engineering is often no more than simplifying the system and looking at each element in terms that can be understood. Simple levers and moment arms. I still am undecided as to whether I will go with Amsteel or SS cable when I replace the lifelines, though I'm leaning strongly to 1/4-inch Amsteel with Dyneema chafe guards as over strength enough to last many years even when UV and chafe are considered; I think it will be more hand-friendly. An it will look over-engineered and some dock-walker will mutter something about my armpit engineering....

    You may enjoy this rant about Captain Safety and over-engineering.

    Wednesday, September 12, 2012

    Fender Boards

    rev. 9-24-2012

    Do you need em'? Yup, if there is a lot of tide, strong storms or wakes, yup.

    Example. In Chincoteague, as much as we like the town dock, there are few "no wake" signs, no posted speed limit, and you get rocked now and then by small but speedy boats. There is also a good tide range. and a 3 knot tidal velocity. The picture was taken only a few hours into their first use and we've  already worn a noticable grove. There was always a small pile of saw dust resting on the board.

    Example. We got hit beam-on by a powerful storm while in Rockhall, tied to a bulkhead. Fortunately, we had a spring line and good breast lines, and our fender board. I've had fenders pop out in these circumstances, and the pounding on the pilings is scary. All we felt this time was some gentle swaying, even as the hail blew horizontally.

    Note the grove in the middle, only a few hours old on a calm day. Yes, it should be centered up on the rub rail; we moved it up later. It seems fenders are always placed when dead tired from a long run, in this case about 85 miles. Lucky we got it deployed at all.

    Very simple to make from a scrap of 2x6 treated lumber. Any thinner and it will wear through rather quickly. Forget paint.
    • Pick a length. Too short, you can shift off the piling. Too long it will be weaker and harder to store. Don't underestimate the side force of a strong wind and chop; 500 pounds is common and 1,000 pounds is possible. Thus, I wanted an unsupported span (the part between the fenders) of only a few feet. Ours is ~ 4 1/2 feet overall and I'm happy with it.
    • Drill holes for the line that restrains the fenders horizontally. Our are 5/16-inch polyester line, though some suggest bungee cord. I trust line more. Counter bore the holes so that the stop knots are recessed (reduce wear and reduce snags).
    • Drill vertically through the board (3/8-inch to take a 5/16-inch line) to take the time that suspends the board (loop on one end, stop-knot on the other). This takes a long bit, which I was lucky to have.
    Deploying the board is sort of a 2-person job and we don't use it at every marina, but if you suspect storms or wakes, it is very nice. Don't know why I waited so long.

    I've seen 2 other variations worthy of note:
    • Fenders on both sides of the board. Sometimes, depending on the dock configuration, it can make sense. In this case, the dock had some horizontal boards that would catch the board as the tide changed, and vertical pilings, that would slide between fenders. A bad dock design.
    • Perminant fender boards. Some boaters will hang these on poorly designed docks, to make a smooth surface for their fenders. It can work.
    • Fenders on the wrong side, Yup, I've seen boats where the wood rubbed on the hull. Just not thinking.