Monday, December 25, 2023

Wiring Color Codes

I used to think there was something like a standard color code, but then I learned that trailers were different. Then I bought stuff from Amazon (no instructions) and learned that the UK, Europe (IEC) and China also have unique codes, and they are different.

So now I can figure out my Chinese stuff. My boat, on the other hand, has parts from Asia, Europe, and the US, and there is no color code I can derive. So I stick with black and red and label the ends where they are not obvious. 

(BTW, the reason ABYC does not use Black for the 12 V negative is to avoid confusion with the 120 V hot. My boat doesn't have a 120 V system, so I'm not worried. The IEC also specifies a different color for the high voltage neutral (blue).

Monday, November 27, 2023

New Stuff I'm Testing for Practical Sailor

Of course, the you'll need to subscribe to get the full story. I hope you will. PS is one of my favorite research tools. Every subscription comes with access to the full archives, which is a whole lot.


Seam Sealing Tape

The leading cause of death of rain gear is loose seam tape. 25 years ago I bought a 3-layer Goretex jacket and pants with bad tape and good fabric. I glued the tape down with contact cement and it stayed through 20 years of occasional use. But it was a laborious process. More recently I bought a second hand spray skirt (it came with a sea kayak) with bad seam.

I tried gluing the tape back down again. It worked, but was laborious. I tried Seamgrip from the outside; it worked, but doesn't look great. It tried several highly regarded SA tapes, even using tape primer. A waste of time. But iron-on seam tapes work great. Use a name brand.

The shoulder/back seam is iron-on, the armpit and side is glued.


Penetrating Epoxy

 I never really looked into it, because West Systems says it's useless. I'm only part way into this, and I feel like West Systems is about 70% right.

  • Penetrating epoxies are 3-5 times weaker than conventional Epoxies. Weaker than Gorilla Glue and about the same as varnish.
  • Penetrating epoxies are really slow to cure, like days. And they must be fully cured before over coating (they are not compatible green even within the same brand).
  • Does not help the bond. Would you bond to varnish? I didn't think so.
  • Not at all water tolerant, perhaps less than other epoxies. So much for rotten cores, which are surely damp.
  • Adding acetone actually reduces effective penetration. When the acetone dries it pulls some of the epoxy back to the surface with it. The epoxy does not penetrate with the acetone. The acetone does not improve water tolerance. Don't add acetone ... ever.

 On the other hand, there many be some uses.

  • Varnish undercoat. But I have no evidence that it sticks better than or is more durable then thinned varnish.
  • Sealing questionable edges after a hatch replacement. Bear in mind that it will delay the project another several days.
  • Use slow cure epoxy instead. It will penetrate nearly as well, since it has time, and will be full strength, and will be compatible green within the same system.

But I'll know more in a few months. I'm going to be leaving samples to weather.

As you can see, it has not really penetrated good wood, since it is still on the surface. 

Coatings for Tramps and Amsteel
The tramps on my F-24 and PDQ came with PVC coatings to reduce UV damage and chafe. The coating has worn off, so I recoated with the factory stuff (Sunrise Yacht Products). It seems to be a durable, flexible, high adhesion coating, so I will be exploring other uses.
Amsteel comes with a Samthane coating to reduce chafe and snagging. Samson does not sell the coating, but Yale Cordage does. Dilute about 3-5:1 until watery and work it into the rope. It won't stay on the outside--it will rub off--but that does NOT mean that it isn't protecting, by reducing UV penetration deep into the rope and reducing snagging of individual yarns, which is an important failure mode for Amsteel.

Can you tell which is new Amsteel and which is DIY coated Chinese Dyneema?
A little messy, but it's water-borne, so not bad. Wipe off the excess.


Sunday, October 22, 2023


This fall the Army Corps of Engineers contracted to have Rockhold Creek in Deale, MD dredged. OK, that's good. But the contractor is not communicating with anybody and has blocked quite a few marinas completely, without notice. 

Southern Maryland Dredging. Ellicot 760 Hydraulic Suction Dredge

 They're doing a goo job, no doubt. No mud in the water. The spoil is being pumped about 3.5 miles up the creek to a disposal site via two booster barges. I paddle up there just to see. Pretty amazing they can pump it that far.

One of two booster barges. Also Ellicot pumps. 

That's all fine. What is not fine is tying the spoil pie to my slip for over a month, during prime fall boating season.

If you look closely at the upper image, these is a line tying the pipe to one of the marina pilings. They didn't even ask. No one can get out, not in six weeks. I contacted a number of businesses, including SMD, the largest marina, and the fuel dock. No one knows when the pipe will move. The workers just say "I do what my boss says."
They seem to be nearly finished.  I'm not impressed. Three thumbs down for Southern Maryland Dredging for their complete lack communication with the community.



Friday, July 14, 2023

PVC Pipe Winch Handle Holder

 On my PDQ I installed a short length of pipe to hold the winch handle used at the mast. It was attached with screws.

The canvas holder on my F-24 finally died from sunburn, so came up with a new version. This time it attached with VHB tape and is cut on an angle to hold the handle against the bulkhead. It's cut high enough that there is toe clearance under it.

I considered commercial units, but none were designed to fit tight in the corner. I considered Velcro, but this seems more secure. The only down side is that it does not accept floating handles (too fat).


See the full story on winch handle holders in Practical Sailor Magazine.

Saturday, March 25, 2023


 Eyes outside of the cockpit?



Tuesday, February 28, 2023

National Elelctrical Code Shore Power Plugs

 I've been hearing a lot of fanfare about Smart Plugs, much of it from smart people I respect. But strngely, they are still not listed  in the NEC, by NEMA, or recommended by ABYC. Since only greater than 30A is acceptable for shore power, these are the only plugs you can use:

ABYC allows a few more, through you will never see the 4-pin and the 20A cannot be used for shore power.

Less common are pin and sleeve connectors, only seen used for higher loads.



One reason, of course, is compatibility. A mix at marinas would be a further mess and require more (sometimes dodgy) adapters.

Monday, February 20, 2023

Velcro For Winch Handles

 I've never been a fan of the PVC pockets. Cloth ones only last so long. PVC pipe can be pretty good, but it works best in a corner.

What about Velcro? I've been seeing this on more and more sport boats, and I can see some advantages:

  • A fraction faster.
  • No holes to drill.
  • Might lose more handles ... or fewer if the pockets aren't being used.
  • Can store grip-down, making it less snag prone.
  • Velcro will only be good for about 2 years in the sun.
  • The hooks can grab some fabrics, but located low this is unlikely.
  • Fits all sizes.
  • Could be horizontal.
  • Grip won't mar the gel coat. 
  • Not in the way when not in use. Put a pad by every winch ... but then where is the handle?

On the other hand

  • Grabbing the handle might be more awkward. 
  • It will get dirty and green.
  • Can't be used for anything else.

You could do both. 1-2 conventional pockets, and then pads near every winch.  I may try that.

The hook part goes on the boat and the loops on the handle. I guess it could go either way, but hooks on the handle would feel strange and not give a good grip.

Thursday, February 16, 2023

 I imagine he took up residence when he was small, and then one day learned he was stuck. [sail drive]


I'm currently 22 months into a 24+ month evaluation of bottom paints in the Chesapeake Bay for Practical Sailor Magazine. More than 20 samples and 6 different paints on my boat. In spite of copper leach rate restrictions, and to the credit of the paint manufactures and the EPA, we seem to have a crop of paints that are quite effective and kinder to the environment.

I have conventional foul weather gear, but my winter sailing gear is based on waterproof socks in deck shoes, snow board pants, and a windbreaker over fleece. When it gets colder, add a balaclava and a warmer parka. I love the new Gill Helmsman gloves (the only insulated gloves I can really sail and work winches with), and ski goggles come out when it gets close to freezing.

Sunday, January 8, 2023

New Camera--Olympus TG6

I've been using a Samsung WB150 for the past 15 years or so. Other than not being water proof, which has resulted in a few deaths, I've been happy with the zoom and the sensor quality. Far better resolution and low light capabilites that other pocket cameras of its price range and generation. I like it enough to replace it several times with cheap recon units off Amazon or  eBay. This saved me the trouble of learning a new system. But it finally got too long out of production and Samsung exited the camera business to focus on smart phones. Probably a smart move. And I needed an upgrade.

After much hand-wringing, I settled on the Olympus TG6, a waterproof camera with good image quality, some nice features, and a best-in-class reputation. 

 Close-ups and image stacking. The greatest challenge with close up photography, for me, is shallow depth of field. When you close within a few inches of the subject, the sharp dept shrinks to a fraction of an inch.  The solution is for the camera to take a series of images and "stack" them with software. The manual suggests a tripod to hold the camera absolutely motionless, but If you can brace a knuckle on the object, or even control your breath well, it works pretty well free hand. The below images were taken seated but not braced. I'm sure a tripod and timer would have helped.


With image stacking

Zoom. The range is not as broad as the Samsung (8:1 before digital zoom vs. 5:1), but how often do you actually shoot at full zoom, particularly around boats? One of the weakness is of the Samsung was grit jamming the zoom. The Olympus zoom is inside the waterproof body.

Filters. The Olympus takes a 40.5 mm adapter, which allows the use of standard filters and lens caps. Being on the water, I use a polarizing filter on occasion.

Yup, I could use an advanced cell phone, and I do when that is all I have. They are all you really need, 90% of the time. But I find a phone hard to hold properly. I like a truly pocket sized phone. And One in a while, I like features my phone just does not have.

Hopefully this will last a good long life of light abuse. I've had a few SLRs, and I'm too rough on cameras and just don't need that tiny little extra image quality. I bet you'd be surprise just how high a percentage of the professional images are taken with cell phones these days.

Saturday, December 3, 2022

Self-Tailing Winch and a Cam Cleat?


 A cam cleat is much faster to release in gusty conditions. A cam cleat is easier to use when pulling sheets in fast in light conditions. Both my PDQ and F-24 had ST winches with cam cleats factory installed.

 I use the cam cleat nearly as much as the self-tailer jaws, and at some point nearly every day.

[Note. The line routing on the F-24 is all wrong in the image to the right. I just got the boat. Please disregard. The point is the cam cleat under the winch is darn handy.]