Wednesday, May 18, 2022

If There is a Shortage of Both Gasoline and Food Brewing...

 ... Should corn go into fuel or food?

In the past, since I didn't favor ethanol in gasoline for environmental and operational reasons, it seemed obvious. Food was a better use. But if both are short, and the international situation matters both in terms of food supply and fuel supply, which is should win the calculus?

In the US, I assume the market will decide. The EPA's rules on gasoline blends have been relaxed, and the value in food and gasoline has gone up. Jump ball, I guess, since we have enough and export both.

In Europe, I'm guessing gasoline wins. 

 In the third world, I imagine food wins, except where sugar cane is used to make ethanol, there really isn't the same export demand for cane.

It's a shame people can't just play nice. I thought, or at least naively hoped, we had outgrown this, on this scale.


Assuming we're looking at E15...

  • Use Biobor EB or Stabil 360 Marine. They really help with corrosion, which is the main cause of carb jet plugging.
  • Keep your jets clean. Ethanol runs leaner than gas, meaning you need about 5% more E15 through the jet than with gasoline. Small outboards are designed a little rich, but this tolerance will be reduced.
  • The vapor pressure is even greater than E10, so the pressure in sealed tanks will increase. Keep them out of the sun, paint them white (a flexible paint, such as inflatable paint or buoy paint, is required), or make a white cover.

Tuesday, March 8, 2022

The High Cost of Gasoline

 Let's see...

  • 2 trips per month
  • 12 months
  • About 1 quarts per trip ...

Equals 6 gallons per year. At $5.00 per gallon, about 30 gallons per year or $1.25/trip.

Then there is the case of the guy with 3 x 250 HP on the back, burning $375.00/hour.

Then there are the fishmen, trolling for hours and hours at 3 knots. But really, they're only burning ~ 0.3 GPH at idle, so only a few gallons while trolling. Getting to and from the fishing grounds might be 5-10 gallons, if it's not far. So maybe $50-100 for the day.

Plus carfare. Plus slip. Plus, plus, plus.... Maybe I should just buy a fish sandwich, even at only 1 quart per trip.

Sunday, February 13, 2022

Our New World

On vaccines and masks:

 A great flood happened.

A man was forced to climb to the second floor. He was looking out the window and a canoe passed. “Do you need help?” The people in the canoe called to the man. “Oh no, God will provide.” So the canoe went on it’s way.

The water kept on rising and the man was forced to go onto his roof. He was sitting there looking around when a helicopter flew close by and a man inside called, “Hey! Need a lift?”, and the man said, “Oh no, God will provide!”

The water rose even higher and the man drowned. He went up to heaven, met God and said, “I trusted you! You were supposed to provide!” And god said, “I sent you a canoe, and a helicopter!”


He gave us a brain, the brain gave us reason, science that explains the reasons for good hygiene, and vaccines. We should probably be gracious for the gift of reason and use it. (From me, a complete atheist.)

Times are changing and the bubble is opening. We are all thankful for the vaccine and natural immunities that have made this possible. But there is now a new virus in the world, it isn't going away, and we aren't going back to the good old days. In fact, the good old days were full of seasonal colds, the flu, polio, and lots of things that took children before they were adults, adults before they live a full life, and ruined our quality of life. They weren't really that good, and in fact, it seems we were just enjoying one of those idyllic interludes between periodic plagues, ice ages, and world wars. 

Better to work our way through change, which is never easy. The pre-911 world is not coming back, but we have gotten used to it and hardly notice the differences unless we dwell futilly on the past, and some ways it is probably better.

Adapt. Immune compromised people will need to remain vigilant and they will have to take more precautions; annual vaccines and mask wear in many settings. Healthy people will need to be courteous to others and take a few precautions that seem unnecessary to them. In the future there will be no "cover your mouth when you sneeze" or "cough into your elbow." If you have a cold or even allergies, politeness and good hygiene will demand you wear a mask, and not to wear a mask when you have the sneezes will be fundamentally rude. If you think about it, it has ALWAYS been rude and inconsiderate to spread your germs and make other people sick, but we all did it anyway. Now we have better tools not to.

It no longer feels "weird" to wear a mask in the grocery store or office, so I hope we will when we should. It won't be all the time, but will be when we are sick or when some new surge comes along. It may be smart in an airport terminal, and on the same day superfluous in a quiet restaurant. We need to be thoughtful, and determine the difference, not based on politics or local fashion or the fashion of the moment, but based on the situation.

It comes back to reason. I'm looking forward to wearing a mask only as needed, and at the same time, if I can be smart about it, avoiding seasonal colds and all the rest. That would be nice.


Tuesday, February 8, 2022

Mano a Mano

I enjoy the simplicity of trolling for big rockfish with a cuban yo-yo. I can keep the sinkers and long leaders rigged, they take no space to store so I can easily keep many different rigs prepared, they rig to the rail quickly, and most of all, they work.

Rockfish (striped bass)--38 inches
Caught on a large swimming plug at ~ 4 knots

I've been told a large fish will snap the line. Apparently not, certainly not today. The only rigs I've lost have been to crab pots I didn't see. I've been told you need a bungee cord shock absorber. Since I troll 150 feet of 80-pound mono-filament and that can stretch 10 times as far as any reasonable bungee cord, the bungee cord makes little sense if you actually do the math; an additional 30 feet of line will do as much. I've been told you can't play a large fish. Well, I landed the above 38-incher in minutes without gloves and no strain. I did walk up and down the side decks a bit for this one; she started running toward the boat faster than I could wind, but not faster than I could easily walk and wind.

Mostly, I like the Old Man and the Sea, whether the book, or the performances by Spencer Tracy or Anthony Quinn. There is something basic about pulling in a fish in with minimal technology. Fishing should be a simple thing, man against prey--it's nothing when reduced to an arms race, graphite composites and fish finders and stainless steel and all of human technology, against a simple fish.


Note to sailors: you've got to slow down to catch rockfish; 3.5 to 4.5 knots seems to be the best range. Later in the summer, particularly in the southern Chesapeake, you may catch bluefish at 6-8 knots.

Sunday, February 6, 2022

Tricolor vs. Red-Over-Green + Sidelights

 A sailboat needs to show red and green sidelights when sailing (no all-around white, as when motoring).

Boats under 20 meters can substitute a tricolor at the top of the mast. (Not a masthead light BTW--that is a steaming light located on the front of the mast, AKA a steaming light. A confusing matter of COLREGS definitions.) The primary advantage when the rule came out is that fewer bulbs and fewer amps were required. Additionally, it can be more visible in waves.

Another option is red-over-green, which can be used on any size boat. It may not be used in combination with a tri-color, probably because it could be confused with certain task light combinations (restricted ability to maneuver, underwater operations, dredging) from certain angles and in poor conditions. It is the only high location that can be used by larger sailing vessels, so many believe it is only for over 20 meters or that it is required over 20 meters, but neither is true.

Notice that in the COLREGS illustration the green light will be reflect of the sails and will be obscured in some sectors. Since it is supplemental, I guess the latter is considered non-critical. It would be a minor arc of the genoa. The reflection off the sail might be quite annoying. But the blocked sectors could be large, about 120 degrees, where as 6 degrees is the COLREGS limit for other lights, such as anchor lights.



Thursday, February 3, 2022

Testing Paint

 Late Summer I hung 7 test panels with 20 paints from a dock in the Mid-Chesapeake Bay (Deale, MD) as part of a Practical Sailor project. Prior projects have all been seawater. I also applied 50 of these paints to my Corsair F-24. Today I pulled them out for a quick look see. No cleaning, just a check-up.

We don't get much growth in the cold season.You can see it in the non-painted frames. Some are doing amazingly well (the white is actually still that white), and some not very different from untreated areas.

All of the paints are either copper-free or formulated to the new EPA/CA/WA copper leach rate, which most of the good multi-season paints already met (or the copper would not have lasted 3 years--kinda of obvious in retrospect.


They'll be hanging there for 3 years, with us checking on them about twice per year. We'll rotate positions. In the summer they will hang from floats to better control the depth (ice is a problem in the winter).


Friday, December 17, 2021

Hoistable Lights for Anchoring and Restricted Ability to Manuver (RAM)

What lights do you show when lying to a drogue or sea anchor? You are not anchored. You are not underway in the standard sense, since you cannot maneuver. The answer is RAM. This also includes night diving.

But you can't buy hoistable RAM lights, certainly not any suitable for the limited power supply of a sailboat. So I made my own from LED clearance lights, which are cheap, low draw, and weatherproof. The assembly is >1000-pound tensile strength (tested), so I can rig it tight for rough weather.


Bright enough? The top light and green light are USCG approved lights. The small white light on my backstay, just above the boom, is another "emergency anchor light" that is clearly not bright enough.

I'm testing them for at least 6 months before I roll it out.

Why would I want RAM lights? I dive at night ocationally. This will keep me seen.


Tuesday, October 26, 2021

Attaching Drogues to a Folding Trimaran

 According to Don Jordan, the max load on a JSD (Jordan Series Drogue), during that worst survivable hit, is about the displacement of a monohull, and about 150% of a light trimaran, like the folding Farrier and Corsair trimarans. The problem is, the folding mechanism and floats are not designed to withstand that sort of wracking force. I'm pretty sure far less would pull them right off. I'm pretty sure attaching a JSD or parachute sea anchor to the floats is a failure waiting to happen, and most likely, one you would not survive.

However, the akas (beams) are very strong in compression. That is their design basis. Let's think of this as a truss.

One scenario is anchoring the bridle to the winches (applicable to conventional drogues). The max bridle tension is about 50% displacement, or 3x less than a JSD. A turning block is attached to the beam (sling) or float (reinforced point), and the bridle extends aft from that. Chafe should be minimal if the bridle is polyester. The aft load on the akas is minimized. The bridle is adjustable (angle and length). The compression load on the aka is high, but well below the design load. See notes below.

The  other senario is a JSD that is braced forward. It could be above or below the tramp (above is probably more workable). The brace could be separate or it could be a continuous line. The compression load on the aka is larger, but still within limits. See notes below.
 Thoughts? The designer never envisioned these as ocean boats that would use sea anchors, so the engineering is not documented.

Saturday, September 11, 2021

Restricted Ability to Manuver

 Divers boats show the alpha flag by day.

But at night, lights are required. Only commercial dive boats are equipped to show these, but there is no recreational exemption. This is not a dive-specific light combination, but the standard "restricted ability to maneuver" (RAM) combination defined in COLREGS. It is combined with either running or anchor lights, as relevant.

Curiously, these are the same lights you should show (USCG) in some other unusual circumstances:

  • Trailing a drogue.
  • Hanging to a sea anchor.
  • Running under bare poles in survival conditions. If you head up you may be rolled. You have little speed control.
  • Laying ahull in survival conditions (not just drifting for rest--you must be restricted).

Some others are less clear:

  • Hove to in severe weather. But you could probably manuver if you needed to.
  • Singlehanding and napping. But there is NO COLREGS exemption for not keeping a watch. 

Remotely piloted vessels also show RAM unless under close pilot control (USCG).

Without RAM lights, you are not allowed to show anything other than standard running lights.  I would sure like to have something more obvious up there. The only other option is a distress light, which is not what I want.

It is not for conditions where your motions are unpredictable. "Not under command" may be more appropriate: 

  • No rudder and no drogue to give control.
  • Powerboat with no engine.

Obviously, you could build these lights, but red all-around lights are big and expensive. Over $500, lots of amps, and heavy. Same with hoistable lights.  You would think there would be some  reasonable hoistable solution on the market for recreational divers, but I can't find it.

Ideas Welcome!


up-date. 1-14-2022 

A so-called emergency anchor light is rigged at the end of the boom. Not very visible and fragile. The RAM lights are highly visible (for foul weather) and draw only 0.9 amps total. The RAM units can also be unplugged (it is modular) and used as cockpit and cabin lights (white or night vision-safe red. And they are physically rugged and waterproof.

Friday, July 9, 2021

The Desicating Head

 My Stiletto 27 had a portable toilet that stunk. Use the right chemical and it stinks less. Every time it is used a laborious haul/dump/clean process is triggered.

My PDQ 32/34 had a nice holding tank system that I had engineered to perfection. No odor, nearly like home. But it required space and weighed a good bit. Perfect for the PDQ, but totally unsuitable for the F-24.

We really only day sail the PDQ, and the head is only for emergencies. It didn't get used for years at a time, so we switched to WAG bags. Never used them.

 I'd been poo-hooing composting toilets for years. I'd experienced some nasty ones in cabins and some friends had a bad experience with a Natures Head. In fact, both failures probably included elements of design and operator error.

I was asked to investigate the topic, and so I did. There was a long-winded article in Practical Sailor last month, covering both toilet design, absorbants, and anti-odor additives for the urine tank.

 There are two keys to function:

  • Separate the urine from the solids. First, the smell is greatly reduced, and second, the solids side it much drier, preventing it from getting wet and aerobic.
  • Dry the solids. Like any animal dropping, once it is dry on the outside, there is little odor. That is the function of the absorbent; to speed drying, filter the air, and cover. It is NOT to cause composting. This is a desiccating toilet. 

There simply is not room on a boat for true composting toilet. The process tanks months, requires temperature and moisture control, and continuous mixing and ventilation.  Since you cannot effectively compost, then stop pretending and dry the waste instead. You can then take it home and compost it if you like, or double bag it and dispose of it like litter box scoopings. Your choice. The urine is odor-free once treated (see below) and can be disposed of easily.

I built a test version from a storage tub, a bucket and scraps to test the absorbents and additives. It was a crude thing, but in fact I used it in the basement bathroom for two months, during which it proved to be amazingly odor-free and easily to deal with. I was stunned. It was time to eat a large helping of crow. But I was happy to eat the crow, because the result was a truly user friendly head solution for my F-24.

The final version was based on molded parts from Separatte, a fiberglass tank I modified to fit the available space, an under seat baffle I cut from fiberglass, and yes, a bucket and jug. The top hinges up for service, which is a simple matter of lifting out a bag and replacing it; a clean, contact-free process. The absorbent of choice, at any price (I tested many), is millwork sawdust and shavings I get for free (aspen bet bedding is also very good). The urine treatment is citric acid, though vinegar and Nilodor are also very good.

I no longer see any point in conventional portable toilets at all. A desiccating toilet is better in every way. Regrettably, you must either pay a king's ransom or build your own.