Sunday, March 15, 2020

I went to WM marine to get flares. They were 18 months old, out of 36 months, and the store manager didn't understand the words "discount." To me, they were 1/3 value, since I will get only one season from them. Most often I get only two season out of flares because they are seldom "fresh" when bought.

I'm thinking of just getting the Orion e-flare. Yes, visibility is less, but realistically, with cell phones and VHF, the odds of a primarily day sailor like me using a flare are between zero and none. I've lit old ones for practice, but I've never even seen one on the water. On the other hand, the odds of me being stopped by the Maryland DNR for a safety check are about once every 3-4 years, most often when they are checking fishing permits and catch.

Not to put to fine a point on it, I really don't care if it works as well as a flare. I don't wear PDFs most days either. And I'll probably carry some old flares anyway. I've lit them in the past, for practice, and never had a failure, up to 12 years.

Saturday, February 1, 2020

Let There be Heat!

rev. 3-9-2010
rev. 9-19-2016 
rev. 2-1-2020 

(I first posted this 10 years ago, but the system still works, it's cold outside, and I though you might want to know. I installed a more primitive heating system in my F-24, which will soon be seen in Good Old Boat. No spoilers.)

The Problem. The delivery trip of Shoal Survivor, from Deltaville, VA to Deale, MD took place between Christmas and New Year's (2008-2009); while it was actually quite comfortable at the helm during the day, protected behind the windscreen, it was decidedly chilly watching movies at night, and my daughter and I vowed that we would install heat before the first frost visited us in the next winter.  

The Solution. I belabored the different types of heaters at length. We already had propane, and a spare propane tap existed. The boat was equipped with propane leak detectors and a solenoid valve, further simplifying the decision.  I had a fair idea of the BTU requirement, having spent a few nights on the boat last winter when the temperature dropped into the 20s. I learned that a single 1500 watt space heater didn't quite do it at all and two were just about right. I learned that a vented heater was an absolute requirement, as even cooking with propane in a sealed cabin brought on a slight headache; I'm not certain whether it was lack of oxygen or carbon monoxide.  Applying an appropriate conversion factor (about 3.3 BTUs/watt) and estimating the thermal efficiency at 85%),  5,800 BTUs seem to be the minimum requirement, and perhaps 10,000 BTUs would serve better. The Sig Marine / Dixon P-9000 (5500-7500 BTU output) seemed a reasonable choice and was also the most we really have room for.  A 10 pound bottle of propane should last 50-70 hours, depending on the rate, or most of a season for a $12 refill. Time will tell.

Note on photo: there is a short gap above the heater, between the heater and the air intake pipe. Installation was not finished and this was sealed.

 I  taped a cardboard of the approximate sized to the wall and we lived with it all summer to prove that it was not in the way.

Note 2-19-2010. Winter experience has proven the above numbers. We burned through 20 pounds in 14 very cold December - February days and nights on the boat. I except when on the hook, I have turned the gas off at night and used dock power to run a single 1500 watt space heater. On one very windy 22F night I had to run the heater on low and 2 x 1500 watt heaters in order to keep the entire boat over 70F. I turned the gas off to sleep.

Note 3-24-2013. 3-day cold weather trip (27F-46F). Heater ran most of the time (sometimes on low), plus cooking, and burned about 2-3 pounds each 24 hours. It was off when we left the boat, generally for about 3-6 hours per day.

Installation isn't overly difficult, but it does require meticulous attention to detail:

*  The gas line must run through a vapor-tight fitting from the propane locker into the cabin. This is a standard item through West Marine, Defender Marine, or Sig / Dickson. The hose is typically pre-assembled with 3/8" flare fittings on each end, so it is a bit fat. The vapor-tight fitting will accommodate this.
*  12 volt electric is required for the fan.  The unit will run without it, but the heat output will be somewhat less and it will not be as well distributed. This is another reason we chose this over the Cozy Cabin Heater. The shut-off safety is not dependent on electricity.
*  Installation side clearances are actually quite small for this unit, because the fan circulates cold air around the firebox.  Additionally, the combustion air is drawn through the deck, and around the flu via a double wall pipe. Thus, smokestack never really gets hot on the outside.  The required clearance around the firebox is only 2 inches, and a little bit more around the smokestack. The smoke stack is almost cool enough to hold in your hand by the time it reaches the deck, so no special insulation is needed. The back of the stove and surfaces only a few inches away stay quite cool and no discernible heat is transferred to the bulkhead.
*  Mounting. I suppose I could have simply placed screws in the wall, but it's rather heavy and I decided through bolting made more sense.  The backside ( visible inside the head) fold heads are covered with decorative caps matching those used throughout the boat, and I used acorn nuts and on the heater side of the bolts. The holes were over-drilled, filled with epoxy, and re-drilled. ahead is a shower compartment as well and thus is quite wet.  The bulkhead is foam cored.
*  Through-deck hole for the smokestack. This was the most stressful step, I assure you.  Boring a 3 1/2-inch, gaping hole through the deck and through the salon roof and extremely visible place - not relaxing at all the first time you commit this sort of surgery on the new boat. It went smoothly enough. After drilling the core was removed extending about 1/2-inch back from the edges and the space filled with epoxy thickened with Cabosil (fumed silica) to a peanut butter consistency. The small holes for the mounting screws were also over drilled and, epoxy-filled, and then re-drilled as well. The smokestack comes with a very thick rubber gasket that is not drilled for the mounting screws; the screws drill their own holes through the rubber and make a very tight fit.
* Heat and epoxy. It is perfectly acceptable to use moderate heat to encourage epoxy to cure more quickly in cool weather. However, there are some caveats: Do not apply significant heat before the epoxy reaches a gel state, as it will become very runny; do not heat thick layers until you are certain they will not exotherm and get hot on their own; it is better to warm the substrate than either the epoxy or the curing mixture after it has gelled.
*  Passing the electric wires and gas lines through the bulkhead near the heater was quite simple. I purchased an assortment set of rubber grommets from Home Depot; the largest and second largest nested fit the gas line, and the smallest one accommodated the 2 x 16 gauge wires.
*  There is a gap in the flue in the picture - that was covered by a collar, not yet installed, that allows for deck movement.Remember that distance between the heater and the roof changes as you go through waves and as people walk on the deck There is also thermal expansion to consider. Provide for some movement.
* I checked for gas leaks with diluted dish washing liquid and a brush. I have added a simple carbon monoxide detector.  

Note: as of 1-13-2010 the CO monitor has never chirped. There is no odor, moisture, or other side effect. Just like my home gas furnace, in miniature.

*  The optional stack heat shield seems unnecessary. The stack stays pretty cool (maximum175 F with infrared thermometer - hurts, but would not burn very quickly). Also, the guard will only fit if the stack is straight.
*  The deck guard is necessary; the stack (deck cap, included with the heaters and pictured to the left) is a VERY effective sheet grabber and will foul your sheets on every tack. I built a similar custom guard from 1/8" x 3/4" aluminum strap that stands 5" high by 12" across, since the custom guard from Dickson was not streamlined enough to effectively shed sheets.
* Distributing the heat. We direct a small pre-existing fan (at first a Hella Turbo, now a Camaro Bora), set on low, at the stack and heater, blowing downwards. It increases the heater out-put by cooling the pipe and exterior, and helps spread the heat evenly throughout the cabin, floor to ceiling, without producing an objectionable draft. I'm sure location is critical, so experiment with your geometry.

Unfortunately, my deck has been attacked by the birds. I removed a nest from my boom in the spring; this must be avian retribution.

About five hours of labor, overall.  The only hideous step was drilling the hole into the propane locker.  That involved boat yoga, worming into one of the under seat lockers in the saloon, which is obviously not designed for human habitation.

Although the heater doesn't get hot on the outside, thanks to the fan and jacket configuration, the glass front gets hot enough to take some paint off your hand. My daughter has also determined that with the door open and the flame set on low, it can be used for somores!

I'm now actually looking forward to our first overnight trip in true winter weather. I like winter: in the summer, there is a limit as to how many clothes you can take off; in the winter it is a simple matter to layer up with modern fleece and stretch products, enough to be comfortable in anything. My other joy is ice climbing; watch me enjoying a New Hampshire icefall at ~ -10F... and loving every moment. There is no swimming in the winter. The wind can howl and often does. Beach combing is different. Many Bay area businesses close for the season. But it is still beautiful.

Experience note, 1-13-2010: operation at the dock and underway has been flawless. Spray and moderate wind have caused no ill effects. Wind gusts of 25 knots apparent have caused flame-outs, but the unit interrupted the gas flow quickly. The heat generally stays in the salon, leaving the cabins quite cool, and so thick blankets are required. I like it that way. At dock, we use small electric space heaters on low in the cabins.

Note on thermal efficiency. The exhaust gases go through a double-pipe heat exchanger, giving up heat to the incoming combustion air. The draft is controlled (there is not too much excess air, as the gas flame is yellow) and waste up the stack is reduced (the maximum stack temperature is only about 285 F by IR thermometer). Thus, depending on the assumptions, the of the heater is about 85% efficient , as good as you will find short of a high-efficiency condensing heater, not available for boats. Most marine heaters are 70-80% efficient and have much higher exhaust temperatures.

10-22-2011: I just returned from another cool weather trip; still working well. As it is a vented heater, it warms the boat without humidity increase, CO or CO2 risk, and is without odor. 

3-24-2013: Some continuing problems with flame blowing out if sailing with wind on beam above 20 knots. I need to upgrade the deflector. No problems at anchor, only with wind on beam. 

1-2-2020: OK, one small spoiler, because this tidbit didn't make it into the Good Old Boat article. I placed the F-24 heater flue on the aft side of the cabin bulkhead to reduce rope snagging problems. That works works fine sailing and anytime there isn't a strong aft wind.  When this did cause a problem, I taped a Tupperware container over the pipe very, very loosely, with gaps on the top. Problem solved. After that, I learned to slide a T on the end when it blew that way. Since I don't really use the heater at the dock--electricity is free where I stay--this is a vanishingly rare problem. That said, don't for get to consider wind and it's affect on draft.

A simple. dependable solution, without the complications of forced air heat.

Thursday, January 2, 2020

Lightweight Tools

Performance boat sailors will do crazy things to save an ounce. I was just packing a small tool bag to leave on my F-24 and was a little appalled by the weight. In fact, over the years I've noticed my tool bags keep getting smaller because I hate lifting heavy bags (and because it's easier to find stuff and to take only what I'll need). I carry more bags, but they are lighter.

The dingy and round-the-harbor race guys probably just leave the tools at home. But what of the ocean racing guys that build with carbon-everything but have to actually fix stuff?

In no particular order....

Carbon Wrenches. Carbonlite tools makes a set of 5 wrenches (10-15mm) that weight just 6.7 ounces. Your wallet will also be $140 lighter. I'm also guessing I can't add a cheater or hit it with a hammer.

Aluminum Wrenches. There are a number of manufacturers making Aluminum 6061 T6 wrenches. Of course, the yield strength is only about 1/2 of that of a good tool steel (35ksi vs 80ksi). Specifically, they are used to not scratch pretty anodized hydraulic fittings on custom cars. On the other hand, Rigid started using aluminum handles on pipe wrenches for industry decades ago, and they were a godsend.

You can replace a bunch of wrenches with an adjustable wrench. Of course, they don't fit as many places and they are really good at ruining nuts. Same with vice grips, although they have other merits.

Multi-Tools. I have one, but it's not a tool kit.
I think I would rather save weight by taking fewer high quality tools.

A lightweight tool box helps. I use a travel toiletries bag for my lightweight kit. Organized, contained, and very light.

Of course, there is the matter of cleaning out lockers and discarding old might-need parts that no longer fit anything you own. But that's a spring topic.

Wednesday, January 1, 2020

Very Shallow Bilges

Keel boat sailors think in terms of feet when measuring the depth of the bilge.  Multihull sailors think in terms of inches. In the case of my F-24 MK I, more like 1.4 inches in the center groove, 0.7 inches outside the groove, and zero less than a foot to either side.

Typical bilge pump float switch turn on at 2 inches and off at 3/4-inch. That will leave water on the cabin sole, where I would like to have a carpet. In fact, I got a wet carpet. The common bilge pumps are intended to operate in that range.

I'm still loking for a solution I like, but for the moment, I've settled on a tiny pump and a timer, with a float for back-up if the timed pumping is not enough.

The tiny 1-amp pump runs on a timer, for just 1-minute each day. That is more than enough for the minor leaks we have not been able to resolve. Discharge is through the sink drain. The float switch in the background turns it on if the timed runs are not enough. I'm not really worried about sinking, because the trimaran can easily hang from her floats and there isn't really anything other than fiberglass below the probable flooding line.

An Aird Bilge System would be sweet, but $900 seem like overkill.

Saturday, December 7, 2019

Check Your Furlers

Winter seems to be the season for shredded head sails.

  • Taking the sail down and storing either in the cabin, or better, at home is the best answer if you won't be sailing until spring.
  • You can barber pole the sail with a spare halyard... but this guy did that and it wasn't enough.
 The root cause was a failed UV cover, but poor furling contributed.

  • Furl tightly and wrap the sheet a few times.
  • Check the condition of the UV cover. If it starts to fail it will balloon and pull the sail open.
The difference between a winter gale and a summer squall is that the gale will blow for many hours or even days, while the strong part of the squall is over in 15 minutes.

Sunday, November 17, 2019

Wide Pulpits

Working at the pointing end of monos and tris can be a real challenge.The deck pinches down to nothing, making reaching the anchor, attaching snubbers, or dealing with the furler really unpleasant. A simple solution is to bump the stanchions out a little.

But the World Sailing Off-Shore Rule says we can't do that:

Of course, Ian Farrier, designer of the F-22 didn't really care about that, since his boats are raced inshore and lack many of the railings the rule requires. Many trimarans do, since side rails are in the way and reasonably useless on trimarans (there is no reason to be far out on the tramp).

I can see that they would be easy to step through. If this were a larger boat and I were taking it off shore I'd run a strong Dyneema line across the bottom and fill in the space with 1-inch netting.

Compare that to the more conventional F-24 pulpit. Notice that I added short lifelines coming back at the aft corners because sometimes it felt a little exposed. They also reduce sail and sheet hang-ups. Fill the space with netting? I don't think so. There are times when tying up or anchoring when reaching through the pulpit is necessary.

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

A Slow Leak

What do you do when the boat develops a 1-2 gallon per day leak, where you can't get to it, and it isn't time to haul for a year? The F-24 is a trimaran and cannot sink due to main hull flooding. Add that there is nothing other than fiberglass below the probably flooding limit (no wood and no wiring to speak of). Most people would just let the sump pump handle it. Except there is not sump pump.

As an added complication, the sump is only 3/4-inch deep before it reaches the level of the floor. On the other hand, the floor is a bath tub-like hull liner that unless holed, can easily manage 6 inches of flooding.

First, you plug any holes you can reach with underwater cure epoxy. No kidding, the stuff really does work, and I'll be doing a review for practical sailor soon.

Then you add a sump pump. I went with something smaller than the standard Rule pumps, because I wanted to such lower and because rate was not that important to me. This one will remove about 2 gpm through a 1/2-inch ID hose, which is what I had in mind. I mounted it to an aluminum bridge, which I bonded to the hull with ... underwater epoxy.

I played with micro switches that would activate the pump at lower water levels than the standard 2-inch on, 3/4-inch off settings, but found them unreliable. So I went with a rule switch which I mounted with ... underwater epoxy.

I then added a sub-panel. I had some other lighting circuits that needed straightened out too.  A piece of Coosa Board, a terminal block, and a bunch of crimps did the job. The water hose was relocated later. The hose ties into the sink drain with a through-tee, so no added through hulls. This also gave me a chance to clean up the hose runs so that there are no low spots that can freeze; all of the water drains either to the sump or overboard.

The timer is the neat twist. I wanted the pump to have a chance to keep up with small leaks, before the water reached 2 inches, so I set the timer to trigger the pump for 1 minute every 24 hours, but I can adjust that if the level rises.

 And so far (4 weeks) this seems to be working nicely. I did jump last time I was sailing and the sump pump came on. Surely, I have a leak! But it was simply the scheduled 1-minute run time.


The epoxy is JB Waterweld. I have not tested other products yet, but this sets quick, actually stops flowing leaks, and seems reasonably strong. I'm keeping some in my boat kit. The trick is to wet your fingers so that it does not stick to you. Yet, kinna weird.

Coosa Board Bluewater 26 is a fiber reinforced (several layers of woven cloth, just below the top and bottom surfaces) polyurethane foam that is lighter than plywood and will not rot, but not quite as strong. It sort of holds screws, but not like wood. It is MUCH stronger than non-reinforced foam, nearly as strong as plywood. It is normally laminated with fiberglass for structural use, but not always. It's really neat for fabricating small parts that need some strength and which you will glass over. Little flanges. Shelves. Braces.

Sunday, October 27, 2019

Painted UV Strip

Crazy? Probably, but I had an old dog of a sail that wouldn't withstand stitching and needed something.  I tested some paints on test panels, chose one of the best, and ...

... after 1/2 a season it's still looking good.

This is an inflatable paint I have used before, so I'm not expecting any trouble. It seems to stretch with the cloth and I know it can handle the sun. Would I spec a new sail that way? Undecided.

A full report will be in Practical Sailor next year.

Saturday, September 21, 2019

Large Scale Littering

This appeared this spring in Herring Bay (north side--the Deale breakwater is just visible behind the boat's bow). I guess this guy was salvaging a few parts.

It isn't in a channel and is in a portion of the bay that few sail, so I imagine it will be there forever. Probably uninsured and certainly without a responsible owner (or rather, with an irresponsible owner). At least for now we can see it, but someday the mast will fall off or someone will salvage it, making it a hazard to navigation.

Thursday, September 19, 2019

Hydrilla Mower

This is what you get with the weeds in the marina are worse than the weeds in your yard.

But they can't keep up. They started in 1987 and have sort of given up the fight. The stuff grows FAST. The hydrilla does have benefits; the fish like it and it is good for water quality, but it also has the downside of any invasive species.

Washington Sailing Marina, 2017