Friday, November 26, 2010

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

rev. 11-26-2010

But we already knew that.

Al Gore, November 22, 2010:

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

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


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

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


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

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Catamaran Row

rev. 5-30-2011

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

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

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

Phipps Marina
Calvin Phipps
615 Phipps Road
Deale, MD 20751



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

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Day Sailing

"Dad, when can we go sailing?"

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, November 20, 2010

A Few More PDQ Tweaks

rev. 8-1-2013

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, November 17, 2010


rev. 11-20-2010

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

(reported 2005 by Capt. JG)

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

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

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

PDQ Capsizes in 50 knot Winds Off California Coast

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

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

Regrettably, I like that feeling...!

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

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

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

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