Saturday, December 17, 2011

Tired of Bird Poop on the Windscreen? I am.

For reasons I can't understand, birds like my boat above all others in the marina. At least the red-berry-eating birds do.

UV killed my last enclosure and I would like to do better this time. A clear view is nice, particularly in the winter when I don't lower the glass. I procrastinated a good long time, not seeing a simple way that didn't require a lot of holes, but I think I like this plan. If it makes it through the winter and proves to be as convenient (easy-on, easy-off) as I hope, we'll make one of Sunbrella in the Spring.

I added another tie in the lower center after taking the picture; that made it drum tight.

A simple tied strop at each of the upper corners is quick and requires no adjustment.

A strop can also be tied into a loop at the end of a line. Again, no adjustment required.

The tarp is a good 8 inches from the window. The trouble with typical snap-on covers is that they rub on the Strataglas, causing more damage than they prevent.

Three corners and the center front edge are attached with strops, so no adjustments are required. The forward port corner line goes forward around the toe rail and back to the midships cleat where it is easily tensioned. Very fast.  Much faster than washing windows.

rev. 3-11-2013, 9-22-2016

Finally, after several years of testing, a more neatly tailored and more permanent Sunbrella version. Should last the life of the boat. about 9'6" x 37". with lap felled 2" hem on all sides (uses a standard width without trimming).

Winter Sailing

Keeping a stiff upper lip, and all that.

Actually, the Chesapeake is a beautiful, if lonely, place in the winter. Sailing near Annapolis for 6 hours today I saw not one boat. On Labor Day you can hop decks across and not get your feet wet.

Of course, the cabin heater's running, I've got a nice dodger, and I'm wearing ...

  • Fleece socks
  • Tights
  • Sweat pants
  • Wind pants
  • Turtle neck
  • Sweater
  • Shelled fleece jacket
  • Fleece balacava
  • Fleece hat
  • And gloves... 
... so I'm perfectly warm.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Dock Walking

A favorite pass time of sailors, we examine how each boat is secured for the winter season or against summer storms. We study how she is outwardly equipped reach distance places, either in comfort or safety or both. Is she a racer, compromising comfort for speed, or is she more tame? Is her design emotionally moving or comforting, or just functional? Has the owner molded her to his purposes, or do the changes simply follow the latest fashion or build-up first impression? Perhaps he thinks these things are "done" by  knowledgeable sailors and he aspires--perhaps successfully, perhaps not--to be one. Is the boat new, or immaculately cleaned, or instead well maintained but with a suggestion that utility is valued above impression? We look for errors in seamanship or rigging. We search for things they've done smarter than us, differences we might adapt ourselves. In each case we weigh our boat against what we see, not perhaps in grandeur, but at least in execution of the details designed purpose.

It's said the master comes to resemble his dog. Is it like that with boats? Clearly we work to remake the boat to match our own image of what a boat should be; the changes, at least, reflect who we are.

Do we examine people in the same way, mall walking? Do we rap on the planking to see if she's is sound? We can, with a few careful questions or at length in conversation. Are they cautious people, following the crowd? Do they explore life's possibilities as far as they want or can?

“Life’s journey is not to arrive at the grave safely in a well-preserved body, but rather to skid in sideways, totally worn out, shouting: ‘holy shit… what a ride!’”              
George Carlin

Do we spend our time at the mall, collecting fabric signs that we can hang on our body to proclaim that we conform or that we don't conform... but we we bought them at the mall anyway, so what do we think of that? Do we focus on learning new skills and trying new things or stretching what we know, or do we take in the evening movie and enjoy our adventure safely, efficiently... vicariously? Do we look at other people to see what we like in them and what we can learn from them, what we can do better in ourselves, or only to compare fashion sense? Are we always dock walking?

I say that whatever compelled that first caveman to size up the male competition and leer at potential mates, to consider what body decoration or dance would make them more intimidating or more attractive, that force is still alive on the docks, even when we are walking quietly, alone. We are the product of our genes. The things I enjoy most--climbing, sailing, cycling, my wife--all appeal to the inner caveman. I'm good with that.

It explains why the utilitarian aesthetic of my boat doesn't bother me. It explains my utilitarian wardrobe. My wife, of course, would point out that this all makes a statement. Women can interpret anything.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Dumpster Diving and Thrift Stores--Going Green

I have no pride. I'm too old for that.

I'm also not sharing my very best "shopping" spots. Sorry, but I guard such secrets more closely than the elusive magic fishing hole. Some have produced many thousands in savings and I ain't sharing.

Note: none of this is from actual "dumpster diving." That just made a good title. Only "free cycle" bins and thrift stores.

My most recent score was a complete floor to a 9-foot inflatable sport boat, a discarded display model that was too sun-bleached to be saleable, but which had always been on display under cover. Much nicer than the wooden model my boat came with. The timing couldn't be better; my existing floor has just rotted out and I was in the process of pulling it out so that I could copy it! I'll be leaving the patched-up rotting floor in place through the winter, and install the new one in the spring.

Other scores:
  • Milwaukee Port-a-Band ($250), barely used. The blade was missing. $5.
  • Multiple sets of Gore-Tex foul weather gear, most with the tags still on them. Now we have pant/jacket sets for the whole family, at home, on the boat, and in the car. This particular thrift store gets a lot of high-end outdoor store old model donations. $8-$15.
  • New Gore-Tex paddling jacket, very sweet. $5.
  • New Perception white water PFD. They mixed it in with the worn-out cheapo horseshoe vests. $5.
  • Numerous ropes, cast off by riggers. It's amazing what their racing customers throw away, often replacing good lines after a single season. I haven't bought line in years, I'm spoiled. Free.
  • 2-year old skis (K2 ACT old model but new. Plenty of side cut. Were $450, $5 to me).
  • Bug netting for my boat, cut from surplus cot bug bar, $3.
  • Most of my gas cans, or at least all of the ones I actually use; I hate the new CARB models. Cheap, but that's not the point here.
  • Materials. Most of the materials for projects are scavenged, from precast FRP, to metal plates for chain locks and bridle plates, to new wire for solar panels. Mostly from refinery construction projects. I'm spoiled in this regard.
  • Fenders. Some are junk, but many are donated or pitched because they are dirty or the owner got a new boat. Generally free.
  • Boat hooks. I bought one 30 years ago. Since then, I've found many for free or cheap. I don't even tie them down anymore, they just sit on the tramp, good weather and bad, and I very seldom lose one.
  • Luggage. I fly almost weekly, and I refuse to worry over the scratches baggage apes impart. But some fool is always donating a nice roll-aboard with a few scratches; I'm actually quite picky regarding quality, since fall apart luggage is not acceptable. I reason that worn luggage is the badge of a veteran traveler.
  • Furniture salvaged for quality lumber, all my own. My modified nav table was cut from a very nice SCAN computer desk that I had no further use for--I still have the original cherry table, in case some future owner prefers it. My salon flip-up bunk was fabricated from the same desk. Good quality teak laminate for free.
  • Bike rack. Always available in thrift stores, and easily modified to carrying old non-folding bikes on the stern rail.
  • Sheet bags from shoe bags. About $1 each, since several come from each bag. Add grommets in the corners and lash to small pad eyes. I tried the twist-lock canvas fasteners but have found them less durable and versatile.
  • Marine antiques. The best deals are found in thrift stores with untrained staff. My daughter's room is collecting some real show pieces, but mostly it's just fun, since each piece has a story. Cheap or free.
I could go on much longer. These are typical, only examples, not even highlights.

Seriously, it's about finding things you actually need or plain materials that can be turned into something of new quality, not about collecting junk. It should be recycling of the very best sort, a very green practice, far better than pretending you're recycling newspapers (which are often processed into absorbents and other nearly junk applications) or bottles (generally melted down) rather than reused as-is.

I spent too much on my new PDQ; I've got to stretch the maintenance and improvement budget to the very limit. My 401-K and my kid's college fund are more important. I enjoy the process of thinking things through, and most of the improvements I've made aren't the sort where you buy some do-dad and bolt it on, adding adding more to clutter than functionality. They are more subtle. Other than the propane heater, solar panels, AC, and davit block installations, very few of my project posts represent more than a few dollars.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

How Quickly Things Can Change...

I've been following the adventures of SV Footprint for some time... since I first started looking for a cruising cat. Just a few days ago, after crossing oceans and cruising for years, they made a gamble on an exposed anchorage that turned out badly. Fortunately, no one was injured and the insurance company came through like a champion. The expereince would leave me in shock. They are looking inward, I'm sure, wondering where life will or should point next.

The blog of SV Footprint

In a nutshell, the cove turned into a shore break, the anchor somehow failed, and the boat was lost. I believe they had a Spade 80 (33 pounds), all 1/4-inch G43 chain rode, and a bridle, but I'm working from memory and a cursory search or older blog posts. If we consider the case of a catamaran on an all-chain rode in exposed conditions (based upon the this calculation) we must quickly conclude that there was simply no way the anchor could hold--the strain peaks at 7,550 pounds, well over the breaking rating of 1/4-inch G43 chain. This is before the effect of breaking waves is considered. Any veteran of ocean beaches has felt the difference between the gentle vertical undulations of a wave in deep water and sharp impact of a breaker, which would throw the boat up and backwards with a force exceeding the displacement of the boat.

They might have survived this on a combination rode--20 feet of chain plus 1/2-inch nylon 3-strand--for much the same reason a big fish can't escape light tackle in open water--he can't get a good solid snatch on the line, it just keeps stretching. But we can't truly know.

 I've just converted to an all-chain rode, for reasons of convenience--the windlass handles it more easily--but now will need to find a solution for this scenario, should I (...when I...) face it. One solution would be a 50- to 100-foot snubber secured to the chain with a prusik knot or locking chain hook... but how would it be deployed in quickly worsening conditions? It couldn't. Would it be more practical to lengthen the bridle with extensions made of softer stuff, perhaps 7/16-inch nylon, perhaps 70 feet long, capable of stretching 4-6 feet in extreme conditions? I carry a retired climbing rope meeting just these requirement, designed to absorb climbing fall energies in exactly this range. Yup, I think that's the plan.

What can we take away from this expereince, and this discussion?
  • Shallow anchorages are very bad when waves move in. There may have been no effective mooring solution in the waves they saw.
  • All-chain may be a mistake in some circumstances. We all need to consider a way to ease the impact load.
  • They had a bridle and it didn't matter. Two 15-foot lengths of 5/8-inch nylon simply don't stretch enough to change the math. Longer, undersize bridle lines would help, but most sailors over-size them for better durability. Unless they were 75 feet long and more slender, I doubt the outcome would have been any different.
  • Jackline Insurance gets top marks.

And by all means read their blog. They've had some wonderful adventures and tell the story well.

Strengths of all-chain rodes:
  • Excellent chafe resistance, where rocks and coral are present.
  • Quiets the motion of the boat in shifting winds. Thus, better holding in moderate conditions.
  • Matches the swing to other boats on chain.
  • Can help the anchor re-set on a shift by slowing the rate at which the direction of pull changes (the chain has to pull across the bottom and through the mud if deeply set, making the change more gradual and allowing the anchor to slowly redeploy to face the new strain).
  • Easier to handle with a windlass.
  • Generally longer life, though this is only true in areas with abrasive bottoms. In the Chesapeake, corrosion often destroys the chain of  the weekend or occasional sailor before abrasion gets the rope. The rope-to-chain splice should be remade every year or two, depending on chafe.
Weaknesses of all chain rode:
  • Greater surge forces in gusts than a mixed rode--about double.
  • Greater surge forces in waves--about four times--if combined with strong winds, which serve to straighten the chain and eliminate the shock absorbing potential of the catenary. The chain itself cannot absorb the surge as it has no stretch, and thus, has reduced holding in extreme conditions.
  • Expensive. Not really important, in the grand scheme of things.
  • Harder to handle without windlass. Need a chain stopper or equivalent, in addition to bow cleats.
  • Harder to handle as kedge or secondary rode.

Another detailed treatment of anchor rode loading, by Don Dodds, author of Modern Cruising Under Sail. This is rather long and convoluted, but arrives at very similar conclusions; anchoring in shallows on all-chain rodes is fatal if the waves pick up.
 Don Dodds Anchor Rode Calculations Part I
Don Dodds Anchor Rode Calculations Part III

      And a summary of some on-line discussion:
      Compuserve Group Anchor Discussion

      Saturday, October 8, 2011

      My favorite Bottom Cleaning Tools

      My last paint job, I used Micron 66. It lasted 2 years, in spite of dire warnings that it would peal in brackish water.. It didn't. I spoke with the factory and they repeated the tale, but I spoke with a rep at the boat show in Annapolis and he explained that it was winter haul-outs that caused the trouble. He also said that if you use the bottom paint up, running for 2 years, scrub a few times, and sand a little before repainting, it's all gone and that reduces the  trouble. I used Micron Extra this time, which I've used before but found slightly less effective. I may go back to Micron 66 next time, unless the new Micron 77 is out, which is brackish compatible. But this is all off-topic.

      Notice that the scraper blade is curved; it quickly wears to match the average curve of the hull, making the scraping action both more efficient and more gentle on the paint.

      I do end up scrubbing 2-3 times before I consider paint spent. You need a scraper that...
      • gives leverage for hard growth and enough handle for 2 hands. I have sore hands.
      • is soft enough not the remove paint.
      • floats.
      Mine is made from 1/8-inch polyethylene sheet and closet rod split with a saw curf. A screw secures the blade. My first version used a Home Depot plastic paint scraper with the handles removed, which was OK but perhaps a bit too aggressive. The polyethylene sheet is better (I generally get it from work, but we have used the heavy dividers that show up in some binders). There is no need to sharpen the sheet; it will wear to something of an edge very quickly. I use the same scraper to clean off my spiffy new Manson anchor; there's just enough handle and it stashes easily in one of the winch handle holders on the bow. I keep a few on the boat, in case I can get helpers--not often, really.

      Of course, use the scraper as little as possible. Try to clean before there is hard growth. Even then, use an easy hand, and only where you must.

      The best pads for removing soft growth are...
      • easy to hold.
      • self-cleaning.
      • have enough loops to pull off small barnacles.
      • don't remove soft paint.
      • 5 inches square seems a good compromise of coverage vs. scrubbing pressure. The one in the picture is smaller, which can be better when some of the growth is hard.
      • floats, at least for a while.
      Mine are berber carpet squares, not pile carpet--that will just smear things around. You need the irregular loop pattern. I got the idea from a professional hull cleaner and I like them to be both very gentle and effective; far better than the 3M pads generally recommended.  Because they are carpet, they conform to the curves of the hull. They work very well in combination with Atlas Fit gloves, which keep them from sliding out of your hand.

      And they are free (I have cut-offs from our rec-room carpet installation)!


      rev. 6-10-2013. Yup, the Micron CSC was less effective than the Micron 66. Some hard growth starting at 20 months, though not too bad. But more than Micron 66. Switched to West Marine PCA Gold (great price on sale).

      rev. 8-31-2015.  To my surprise, the West Marine PCA Gold is performing just as well as the Micron 66, and for 1/2 the price, and better than Micron Extra. I'm going to try tho stretch it to 2 1/2 years and do it in the spring. It is basically gone now, but it's always good to wear off more paint and the growth will slow when the water cools.

      Just me and My Wife

      A mid-week cruise, to celebrate our webbing anniversary. Few days of nothing planned and no commitments.

      We went to the boat the night before. No morning rush to pack things away and get away from the dock. It got a bit cold, below 50F at night I think, but that's outside, the heat works, and so does close company.

      The wind was working in the morning, a nice broad reach with a 10-15 knot breeze and a brilliant sun. In spite of perfect traveling conditions, we weren't headed far. The goal was to have an afternoon in a quiet place with nothing to do.

      There's an an un-named creek off Harris Creek, off the Choptank River, between Briary Cove and Cummings Creek, one of the nicest little anchorages in the area, with no mention in any guide. Perhaps the shallow entrance--about 6 feet over a narrow bar during exceptionally low tides--is enough to disqualify it for inclusion, but it's deeper inside, 7-10 feet over most of it's area. If you chose to visit, stay close to the south side of the remains of a blind located in the center of the mouth of the creek-- that is the deepest spot, and it is quite shallow on the north side. Most of the creeks in this area are heavily gentrified. We passed the ever-popular Dunn Cove on the way in, always crowded; I supose folk feel some safety in numbers. Perhaps being in front of a mansion or two makes them feel secure or perhaps they hope something will rub off if they stare at money long enough. Our cove has only a few old houses, well screened by trees, a few blinds, and a few working farms.

      We took the dingy and explored the margins, in no hurry. Even in October the water is warm enough for wading, and with the reduced algae population, the water becomes clear. We read books and told stories and listened.

      See the decoys in the woods, waiting for the gunning season to open?

      Morning found us homeward bound. Though the forecast had suggested no wind, we got 10 knots just behind on the beam and slid across the Bay in no time. The Annapolis Sail Boat Show was starting and I had a press pass waiting with my name on it.



      A press pass is, first and foremost, an invitation for every two-bit gadget maker to grab your sleeve and pitch his latest must-have-you-can't-survive-without-this-and-mine-is-better doo dad. It gets you more attention when you wander on boats costing more than your house and that would require your entire family and all of your friends to crew. And it's free.

      The reason for the visit was practical, a working day to shop for article ideas, for myself and for other reviewers. There is so much, but any thick catalog will convey that. But what things make sense to test, side by side? Many things--clothing, kitchen stuff--boil down more to personal preferences than quantifiable differences. Most of what I write centers on fuels and chemistry, my area of expertise, and that narrows things further.

      A boat fell on my head. I was talking with a salesman about a small catamaran that looked particularly fast, when a small gust of wind came up. They had placed several performance dingies up on stands, 3 feet tall, with full sail set perpendicular to the wind and trimmed in tight, on the most windward dock of the show. Fortunately it was a small dingy and the event caused nothing more than apologies and excitement. Pretty dumb, though.

      What I should have spent more time doing, was to sit on the edge of the dock and simply listen to the banter. To the comments folks make upon leaving a boat. To people on the boats trying to impress each other or the salesman with some sophomoric display. Lots of mature people, simply enjoying the spectacle, the weather, and boat shopping. Interesting people to meet; Lin Pardey called out to me from her booth--she has a new book out--wondering who else from Practical Sailor was there. We talked a bit about sailing without and engine and writing.

      But my wife was waiting, hanging out in Annapolis and shopping, but mostly enjoying a perfect day. We sat at a table and exchanged stories.


      Friday, September 30, 2011

      The Easy Button

      Some days it works, some days not so much.

      I had business near Annapolis yesterday, and combined with an alpine start, I had a full afternoon to knock out a few projects, and perhaps, take a brief sail. I could sleep on the boat as well, and commute to the office from there.

      Project One. Replace foot switch for windlass. Easy Button working well.
      On my last several outings the button had been touchy, requiring several pushes. On the last outing it stuck on. Fortunately I realized this with enough time to dash to the cockpit and pop the breaker, so no harm. I called West Marine; nothing under $85.00 which is absurd for a small low amp low voltage switch. An on-line search revealed that the original was from Vetus and was $37.00 from Defender Marine. I ordered 2.

      Installation is a simple matter of a few crimps, some heat shrink for chafe protection, and a few cable ties. Piece of cake.

      Project Two. Replace sanitation hoses. East Button working better than I expected.
      I'm currently working on a series of articles for Practical Sailor Magazine investigating holding tank vent filters, holding tank treatment chemicals, and sanitation hose permeation. It's been an interesting trip so far, seeing how interrelated the subjects are and how complex. Many trade-offs and many user-specific issues. These tests will be running for several years.

       Some of everything!

      To the right, Tident 102. Descending, Shields Poly-X. To the left, Gates Rubber petroleum tank truck hose. Yup, I noticed the misplaced clamps in the photo and fixed them later. For some reason, I didn't see them when they were in front of me.

      Why tank truck hose? I replaced that piece before I researched the topic with a free scrap of new hose from our fleet. It is very high quality hose, but not the best for this purpose. I suspect I will be replacing it sooner, but at least it is the easiest piece to fit.

      Most of the testing is being done with matching 5-gallon holding tanks which contain sanitary waste. Subscribe to the mag if you want the gory details. However, an upside and a downside is that I received many test samples of expensive premium hose, enough to re-plumb my head and holding tank... but I would have to install it. Since PDQ plumbed much of the holding tank system with water exhaust hose, and the plumbing was all 14-year old original, most of the lines were completely shot; a PDQ rep told me those hoses typically were only good for 3-5 years. Those that were very seldom used--only to pump overboard--were OK and I had replaced the pump-out hose a few years ago, since it was cracking. They did use sanitation hose (Shields 148) on the run from head to tank, but it's a low-end white PVC hose and it was badly permeated; wipe your hand across the surface and you'll regretted it immediately. The situation has been livable only because PDQ 32 sanitary plumbing is all in a bullheaded compartment vented overboard. Only 8 inches of hose are in the cabin.

      I'll skip the gory details. No matter how much you flush before working, there is some material cemented to the inside of the hose and some hoses that can't be well flushed. Fortunately the head compartment has a bathtub floor that is easily hosed down and that the bilge in the holding tank compartment was painted and smooth. A few tips:
      • Flush a lot of clean water first. We covered that.
      • Atlas-Fit coated palm gloves are a big help when muscling hose through bulkheads and onto fittings.
      • I only needed to lubricate one fitting. I used glycerine, which is compatible with sanitation hose and will eventually (unlike soap) evaporate and leave no slippery residue. DO NOT use petroleum compounds with sanitation hose; these hoses are NOT COMPATIBLE WITH PETROLEUM and will be damaged.
      • Do not use silicone to seal hoses. It only makes a mess for next time and is not needed if everything else is right.
      • 2 hose clamps, 180 degrees apart. Obvious. A cordless driver with variable torque and a nut driver head makes this faster and more pleasant. Yup, one is wrong in the picture above--I fixed it later.
      • Inspect the barbs. If there are bad spots, either replace or smooth it off with a file.
      • Skip the Sea Land Odor Safe Plus hose. It's too damn stiff, requires ~ 200F heat, lube and a VERY firm hand to get on fittings, and is prone to kinking if forced. I wouldn't take it for free; I've only used it here as a necessity of the research effort. I will use it for vents lines as it is the only thing you can find in 3/4-inch; even in that small size it is STILL a battle.
      • Trident 101/102 and Shields Poly-X may be the best hoses out there, but they too are somewhat stiff (not as bad as Odor Safe II) and may be a challenge. Raritan Sanigard (very flexible) hose is a dream to work with in tight spots and is still very well regarded.
      • Shields Poly-X has a lifetime warranty, Trident 101/102 a 5-years warranty but a perfect 15 year record, and Raritan Saniflex has a 5-year warranty. 
      • The Trident 102 is a bugger to keep clean; white and rough surfaced. The Shields just wipes off and the others take some scrubbing.
      • The securing points and fit will change if you switch to a different hose type; all have significantly different stiffness and bend radius requirements. No big deal, just don't cut the new hose to length  based upon the old hose.
      • DON'T FORCE ANY HOSE TO BEND more tightly than it likes. It will kink.
      • Secure the end of the wire reinforcement under the first band. You can try to simply cut it flush but that's difficult and it will work loose in time. It is needle sharp and will cut you someday. Since I often sit on my holding tank, this is important! I learned this practice during many years in the refinery business. 
      But other than some exercise, it went smoothly enough. Overall, I liked the Shields Poly-X  best, in terms of flexibility, durability, and easily cleaned jacket... but the price is stout. The compartment is now multi-colored and will be a good test-bed. Like free rigging (the Shields Poly-X is $19.69/foot), it saved a few bucks.

      Regarding the practice of pouring vinegar in the head to prevent scale build-up: Scale build-up inside the head discharge hose is thought to be primarily due to precipitation of calcium ions with uric acid, and this precipitation requires calcium to be present at near saturation. Since the mid- and upper-Chesapeake Bay are much lower in calcium than the ocean and far below saturation (the ocean is very near saturation), this reaction does not take place and hoses do not collect much scale. In fact, my 12-year old hoses were nearly scale-free. Skip the vinegar if you are a fresh or brackish water sailor. Boats in the southern Bay do build scale.

      Does vinegar actually do any good? From all of the field testing we have managed (side-by-side) it is probably more urban ledge and wishful thinking. If you want to actually remove scale, use CLR; based upon lactic acid instead of acetic acid, it is perhaps 5-10 times more effective and easier on the neoprene parts common in many heads. It's formulated for this purpose, not for salad.

      Project Three. Replace carburetor while underway. Singlehanding. Easy button working better than you would think.
      The port engine had been starting hard and not idling well for some time. Though I ran it for an hour, just as I pulled into an anchorage, it started to run, then stop. Start hard, run, then stop. I figured I would change the carb back at the dock, but then while sailing, remembered what fun it isn't to back in with one engine. Then I decided that since I had a rebuilt spare and the tools and the sailing was easy....

      Of course, it's a bit harder when everything is moving and you have to poke your head up every 5 minutes to keep watch. Not too bad, actually. The port engine is the easier to access (carb faces the cockpit) and only a few things need released...
      • 2 bolts
      • fuel hose
      • 2 wires to electric choke
      • throttle linkage clip
      ... but after replacement it wouldn't run at all. It would start on ether, but not run.

      The main fuel filter couldn't be plugged; it is a huge Raycor and anyway, and the primer bulb would be collapsed by vacuum. However the secondary fuel filter could be bad. I pumped the primer hard and nothing to speak of came through. Yup, I had a spare. It's just a lawn mower filter and the dingy engine uses the same one. The replacement filled right up, before I even pumped the primer. Good. But still it wouldn't run, not even a cough.

      I tried running the fuel pump outlet hose into a bottle. Nothing to speak of. Yup, I carry a spare. Only 2 screws and 2 hoses need moved to replace it, and access is easy when the engine is tipped.

      Perfection! The replacement carb was taken off the original engines (failed from rusted cooling passages), made in Canada, and is NOT sealed against mixture tampering the way the US carbs are. Runs better than the US carb ever did. If you have an old Yamaha with Canadian carbs, by all means keep them when engines go!

      I backed into my slip without ceremony, enjoyed dinner and a good book, and drifted off to a satisfying sleep.


      Lessons? The Easy Button works best when you are prepared, though even then a cascade of problems can make for a long day. And NEVER assume there is a single cause when trouble shooting engine fuel systems; more often than not it is an accumulation of insults.

      Friday, September 16, 2011

      The Chesapeake Slalom.

      After a 4-day business trip I decded I needed a 3-day fall sailing trip, this one solo. It's only day one.


      I'm anchored in a small cove off La Trippe Creek, near Oxford, Md. A few cruisers have shown up to share my spot--or I'm sharing theirs, it hardly matters--and they all seem expereinced and curtious, anchoring in a surprisingly accurate 200-foot grid, no one crowding, without fuss.

      The Bay is just brown. Flooding, you know. My place of business went under 6 feet of water and 2 feet of mud. Actually, it was good timing for a business trip, just not good timing for a sailing trip.

      The wind forecast underestimated the energy of the passing front. Instead of 5-10 knots I saw sustained 20 knots and some good wave action for a few hours, but I was mostly headed down wind, so that simply translates into speed. All good... generally. The challenge was the semi-floating trees, huge things arainged into bands, where ever the flood water cross a ledge and an upwelling current traps or constentrates the flotsom, the aftermath of flooding in Pennsylvania. A sort of slalom played at 10 knots through muddy water with too much canvas up. Reefing would have made sense, but reefing while single handing and doing the slalom in 3-4 to 4-foot waves at 10 knots is just a bit troublesome, and I put it off until eventually I had to head upwind and dance all over the deck. I think I missed everything that mattered--no dents and no big thuds. I'm honestly a little surprised.

      However, once up the Choptank River the water cleared, and up this particular creek it's as clear as ever--better--and warm enough for wading on a very nice beach.

      After fixing a few things (autopilot busted a belt and the bow light stopped working during our last trip) I took the tender further up the creek and spent an hour, laying in the bottom of the boat, letting the wind blow me back to where I started and wondering if I would fall asleep.

      Yeah, I'm OK.

      PS. Love the Manson Supreme. Love the air card.

      Sunday, September 11, 2011

      Discount Air Conditioning

      I have a Cruise-&amp-Carry AC unit. We have a love-hate relationship. It's heavy, blocks some of the view, and is in the way when stowed below. It snags genoa sheets. I can only use it when plugged in at the dock because of the power demand--I could run a 2000 watt genset, but that's just too much total noise and too much complication.

      Lucky folks are enjoying trade wind AC about now. I don't want to hear about it. Actually, the Chesapeake is beautiful this season, but I'm writing about summer. Still air, temperatures in the mid-90s to 100s, and all the humidity you can stand.

      A few years ago I was in Annapolis with my parents for an over-night.We'd finished the tourist thing, were fixing dinner, and were listening to thunderstorms grumble in the distance. We were going to watch an old movie around the salon table after dinner. However, even with the slider open, when we close the rest of the hatches it gets darn steamy fast, and the heat of cooking doesn't help. We needed to do something.

      When we bough the boat it came with a 20-inch fan, hidden away in the huge under-bunk lockers. I figured it was for drying things out or something, but was clearly too big for convenient use. But desperate times call for desperate measures; I decided to set it somewhere, just to get some air moving. It fit nicely on the chart table, swiveled to point up and over into the salon, and even on low it served as a silent ceiling fan. You can still slide by into the head.

      Since then we've found many uses:
      • Ceiling fan. Sit it on the cart table and aim it up. Even on low it moves a lot of area around the cabin, 10 times what the 6-inch fans can manage on low. It is also whisper quiet in that location, perfect for watching a movie.
      • Sleeping cabin fan. Place it in the door and try medium if it's really hot, low if not. It's not too high to step over.
      • Salon door. Same idea.
      • In the cockpit, if stuck in a marina and it's sizzling hot.
      It draws 0.6/0.8/1.1 amps @ 110v AC (confirmed by ammeter) (about 6-12 amps at 12 volts from the batteries, post inverter) depending on the speed setting, about 66-121 watts, or about 10x less than AC. About 70 amp-hours if you run it all night on low--though generally at some point in the night we turn it off--a manageable load easily handled with a solar panel system. There are many equivalent models, probably even better models; be certain to get one that is very quiet on low and that swivels up. It moves 1400-2000 CFM: compare this to the 225 CFM and 0.3 amps of a typical cabin fan. Oddly, not as energy efficient, but much quieter than 10  6-inch fans!

      One of our best finds.

      Saturday, September 10, 2011

      A New Anchor: 35-Pound Manson Supreme 9-12-2016

      Though I've never dragged. Though I'm cheap and have put this off for years. Two things talked me into it:
      • The Chesapeake Bay is full of wonderful anchorages with terrible holding conditions. While many harbors are good, but many have bottomless silt that won't hold much. While many coves are roomy, with acres all to yourself, some are tight, and at the limits of swing you're not far from other boats, docks and shore.
      • ZTC has the same boat and in sold on the Rocna 35. There's nothing like practical field experience.
      Why not a Rocna? Price. That they have recently move production to China [note: these problems have since been resolved--Rocna is he better deal now] and it hasn't been good to them. That the Manson and Rocna design are so close there is no practical difference in side-to-side testing; they seem to take turns, depending on the exact sea bed. Rocna is better in sand, and Manson seems to do better in both harder and softer bottoms.


      A chain to rope splice in progress, with all the required tools: needle and thread, fid, tape, and Black Toad Ale. The ale keeps me from rushing. There is something therapeutic about 3-strand splicing.

      Shown, I am doing a conventional backsplice. There is a long splice version that is much smoother through the windlass. try the  "Irony Splice."

      Corrosion like this takes 15 years.
      Re-splicing every 5 years is safe.
      For those that don't have a windlass, let me explain a little about the splice. In order for the chain-to-rope join to feed smoothly around the gypsy (wheel that grabs the chain and rope) there cannot be a shackle, thimble, knot, or bulky splice. I even tried a long splice (AKA bucket splice) and it would not make the turn. Additionally, because the strands are unlayed and can all bear the load equally, this is one of the strongest connections, and one of the simplest; basically, a backsplice with a link captured at the end. It does have to be redone every 2-5 years as it accelerates corrosion on the last link (keeps it wet). Clip a link and resplice.

      How to install a new anchor and 100 feet of chain when your back is acting up? Pull the boat over the dock and let the windlass do all the work. The old anchor was lowered onto a dolly, the old chain into a bucket, and the process reversed installing the new stuff. Easy.

      I've been cruising with the Manson for 5 years now. It's a keeper.
      • I wish Manson Supreme would get rid of that stupid slot on the shank. Not only does it look stupid, on my boat it is in a bad place for my mooring lines when docked.
      • Harder to break-out than the Delta, and easier than the Fortress.
      • Easier to set on short scope.
      • Easier to set with sloppy methods.
      • Better on shell bottoms. Much better, though not perfect, in finding good spots through oyster shell.
      • Sand. Super easy.
      • Soft mud. Much better, in part do to sheer size (22-pound vs. 35-pound), but mostly due to design.
      • Brings up a ton of mud. A significant negative, since the Delta comes up clean and the Bay has nasty muck many places. But I can leave a scraper on the bow.
      • Self-launches and retrieves better, but doesn't stow quite so solidly. Manson should have copied the Delta shank design, just as Rocna did.
      Is it better than a 35-pound Delta? Absolutely.
        I also bought 100-feet of 1/4-inch G40 chain. The old chain was only 30-feet, which meant I had to pass the splice through the windlass every time. Not so bad, but because my windlass will not manage rope without a gloved hand on the line it meant that I couldn't manage the anchor from the helm switch, which is better when the wind is up and you're working alone.  Only once have I anchored in more than 14-feet of water (Horseshoe Lead, Wachapreague), so this should do. I've got another 100-feet of line spliced to it.

        I'm happy. Poorer, but happy.


        While I'm still well satisfied that this was the best available choice and the correct size, any who say "this anchor can never drag" don't anchor much. There are many hard clay bottoms or sand over clay where it won't dig, not if you dive and try to kick it in. Same goes for shell. A good bottom is still required for good anchoring.

        In sand and mud, it always reset and always held.

        Sunday, September 4, 2011

        A Beach Vacation Without the Boat

        I didn't want to do it, but Irene made off-shore sailing seem ill advised. We would have arrived in Cape May NJ at precisely the same time as the eye of the storm. So we drove.

        I spent hours, it seemed, hanging out and staring at the harbor. Shoal Survivor should have been there, slowly turning on her anchor. We should have woken up each morning with a fair wind and a view that can't be beat. We woke up in a hotel.

        We took a kayak and gave it good use. I poked around the wetlands and harbor. I tried fishing from the kayak for the first time and scored 3 big dogfish in no more than 30 minutes. It's fun being towed around the harbor! Later, I rented a kayak so that my daughter and I could go together. Very nice, paddling easily and enjoying the slow pace of life just a few inches above the water. We wondered out into the harbor just in time to watch a PDQ 36 tie up at South Jersey Marine...

        ...and we met the owners of said PDQ 36, Pretty Penny. They had been in Canada, via the canals, and had just headed south, delayed by the hurricane. It was nice speaking with them and sharing... It made me feel better, and at the same time worse, for not having my boat.

        Nothing is the same as having home base on the water. We'll be back next year.



        A perpetual problem for the sailor living on the hook is where to leave the tender while ashore. I hate freeloading, so I asked. This is the response, from the owner of Utsch's Marina:

        "This should answer your inquiry.  We have several spots for dingy landing at the marina.  Our policy has been, 'No charge', for the spots and subject to availability.  Most of the boaters purchase ice or something, some do not, and it has never been an issue.  If they are anchored up, they only need to call on the radio, channel 16 and we switch them to 09.  Some call on the phone, no preference, for the marina.  Whatever works is OK. 
        Overnight dockage is $2.00 per foot, AC included, and we offer weekly and monthly rates as well.  At present there is no shuttle service into town as the owner does not it to worth his while.
        That should sum it up for you, I think"
        Ernie Utsch"

        Nice folks. Please buy gas while your in the neighborhood. Their marine store isn't too bad (better than the local WM I think) and Tony's Marine is next door.

        Friday, August 26, 2011

        Slippery Sidedecks

        I've enjoyed too many small slides on the side deck, and during our last trip I very nearly broke a collar bone on a stanchion tip. It's not a place you would consciously place a foot; every slip has been when I was distracted, carrying something or working on something... but a slip is a slip. Builders love to mold cool curves but sailors hate them. My last boat (Stiletto 27) had similar slope and every owner wiped out a few times; many built a cover or step to hide it. I plastered mine with 3M tape and liked the result.

        Yes, I could move more slowly. No, actually, I can't.

        I'm big on 3M non-skid tape. We've added wide strips on the steps and lower seats edged in the cockpit where it has eliminated a lot of wet bare foot dances. It's aggressive as hell but still reasonably skin friendly. Its hot in the sun and not particularly cheap, but I keep running into roll-ends from projects at work, so my cost is agreeable. And in this case it was easy enough to hide in the black gel coat area.

        Now there's enough friction to stand on the slope. Cool.

        (Three 4 x ~18-inch strips each side)

        Wi-fi versus 4G

        I was all set to order a booster antenna. Had one all picked out. It's all the rage with cruisers: free with world-wide access as long as you are in harbor. Weather info at your finger tips. Blog posting at will. Sail Magazine even did a spread this month on how to run your antenna up the mast.

        Then I realized I was simply behind the times. My office provides air cards for all of the traveling managers. 100% hastle-free access all over the coastal US and certainly the Chesapeake, even when I'm NOT in a harbor.

        So today my office is in 6 feet of water, as I split time between work, trivial boat projects, and hurican prep. I think I detect more sailing time in my future.


        Sunday, August 21, 2011

        Poo Pumping Protecole: Type I MSDs

        rev. 8-31-2011

        There was a thread with the above name on a popular sailing forum; it was closed long before the conversation was finished. Comments were running counter to Raritan Engineering's party line, and so interested persons stepped in and clipped it short. So much for truly open forums.

        Let me add that I'm not anti-Raritan Engineering or anti-type I MSD. Raritan makes good products and type I MSDs have their place. I am opposed to incomplete disclosure and to people that would convince us that the discharge is clean. It amounts to sterilized but poorly treated sewage; the data, not my personal opinion.

        I'm only thinking about the Chesapeake, because it's what I know. Other areas have different issues.


        Most of boaters use type III MSD (a simple holding tank) and either pump-out off shore (the regulations require 3 miles) or at a pump-out station. Perhaps 15% cheat and pump-out where ever they please (MD DNR survey). If we install a type I devise, we can discharge at any location except EPA designated no discharge zones (NDZ). Please read that link; there may be one near you--we moor in one (Herring Bay, MD).

        What is a type I MSD? The Raritan Engineering unit, pictured above, macerates the waste and then treats with bleach. The bleach is derived from electrolysis of seawater. Groco also makes a type I unit (ThermoPure II) which treats by cooking the waste. The unit is very battery hungry (20 AH/flush) and is not too popular among sailors.

        How effective are they? Read this EPA evaluation of type I MSDs, if you like detail. You won't find this sort of information on manufacturer web sites--unfortunately, it doesn't help sell.

        EPA Summary Data (results in mg/L)
        Annalyte     After Treatment Result     EPA Sewage Treatment Standard
        BOD5                   780                         45
        TSS                     1,000                      45
        Fecal Coliform       < 82                     200 (swimming areas)

        The data was quite variable, with standard deviations over 100%.

        Typical raw sewage, as delivered to a sewage treatment plant is only about 200 ppm BOD, due to dilution with shower water and other low strength waste. Holding tank waste is considerably stronger due to reduced dilution.

        Is this good enough? With any reasonable mixing model, yes. Certain vocal Raritan boosters redirect any criticism by pointing fingers at sewage spills, bird poop, storm run-off, and spilled chemicals--a rhetorical approach which insults the reader. They claim NDZs increase illegal dumping of untreated sewage, which is silly since the Bay has been no-discharge for untreated waste for many years. They claim that the effluent is as clean as Bay water, but present no data. I suppose we should take this on faith. Would the owners go swimming in the plume while they are pumping out? Probably not, and that presents an interesting double standard. It comes back to the mixing model.
        Enough personal opinion. Back to facts.

        Is the type I effluent as clean as Chesapeake Bay water? No, the average BOD5 of the Bay is 0.2 to 0.03 ppm, or perhaps 10,000 times cleaner. The primary impact of BOD5 (5-day biological oxygen demand) is to demand oxygen to support the bacteria decomposing the waste, and so each gallon of effluent is capable of lowering the dissolved oxygen of 1000 gallons of water from 4 to 3 ppm, enough to stress marine organism and increase the size of "dead zones." There is also a significant oxygen demand caused by nutrient-fueled (nitrogen and phosphorus) algae blooms, though this is very difficult to quantify. In total, each flush will impact about 20,000 gallons of Bay water, roughly a back yard swimming pool worth. Not so much, given the size of the Bay. On the other hand, in a harbor with poor tidal flushing and thousands of boats (Deale has over 2,000 slips), it could be material if the calculation were taken to its illogical extreme, another sort of logical fallacy and rhetorical insult. In practice, only a small fraction of the boats see their owners on any given weekend, and fewer during the week.

        How does this compare to other pollutant loads? A single gallon of glycol antifreeze concentrate (ethylene or propylene), containing about 750,000 ppm BOD5, may amount to more oxygen demand than an entire year of occupancy by a live-aboard. Street storm water run-off typically averages 20-60 ppm BOD5 and is of vast volume; my driveway alone would contribute BOD5 equivalent to 36 flushes. Logically, since a flush is only food we are finished with, a flush can contain no more than the BOD5 of a fraction of a sandwich or a banana peel, a pollutant load that wouldn't offend anyone too greatly. Yes, the pollutant load from a type I unit is tiny.

        There are over 300 pump-out stations in the Maryland Chesapeake and nearly as many in the Virginia Chesapeake, the result of a state funded project. The fee is capped at $5.00 and is often waved for slip holders and fuel purchasers. It is difficult to pump-out when the water freezes; harbors typically freeze for 2-6 weeks in the central to northern Bay, and piping may be frozen on some other cold days, though most pump-out stations are open all year. They just don't work on the cold days.

        Back to opinion.

        Would I use a type I unit if installed on my boat? Not in a NDZ. Not anchored with other boats. Not in a very confined harbor. There is some chance of disinfection failure, as demonstrated by the data, and there no point in presenting the risk of infection. In the main course of the Chesapeake? I suppose I might. Or I might just pump out a few times a month while getting fuel, which is quite painless and often given as a free perk. That's what my kid would want me to do and I would listen. But like recycling, I wouldn't necessarily believe it actually helped in many cases. Would a type I on the open ocean? Absolutely. In fact, I wouldn't hesitate to use a type III closer in-shore than 3 miles. Sit on the beach, watch the dolphins and ponder the vastness of the sea. Toxic waste is one thing--natural waste is another.


        Is bleaching poop real treatment? Yes and no. Why don't the manufacturers link to this data or provide other similar 3rd-party performance information? Because the data is not easy to understand and doesn't sell. Is the pollutant load from a few type I units material in tidal waters? Boat US claims it represents 0.0035% of the total load. But it also represent the actions of only 0.006% (guess 1,000 active type I units/17,500,000 people) of the people in the Chesapeake Bay drainage area, so it's material on a per-capita basis.

        You judge. Personally, I think it's small beans. I believe every bit helps and that type I MSD users in confined waters (designated NDZ or not) or places they see swimmers should use pump-outs or wait until in more open waters--a reasonable compromise. In open salt water bays and ocean waters, where dilution is vast, whales poop and salt kills human pathogens in minutes or hours, it's small beans.



        CWA of 1972. MSDs are in section 312, page 156.

        Thursday, August 18, 2011

        Kayak Wheels

        rev. 8-18-2011

        Of course, this concept could work for a tender of any sort, so I thought it worth sharing. I've seen them built of everything from angle iron to PVC to copper pipe fittings; only imagination limits the options.


        Sure, you can buy them in the store, but most I've seen are home-built. These took a few hours to puzzle out and piece together; a good father-daughter project, better than time plopped in front of the TV or... on the internet.

        The lumber is 3/4" x 8" boards left over from a shelving project. We screwed them together with deck screws; I got lazy on the pre-drilling on the one side and the board split a bit, though it doesn't seem to have made a difference. The curve was transferred from the kayak to the saddles using a compass (the front and rear saddles are slightly different). The axle is a length of 1/2" brass rod left over from something, threaded on each end. The wheels are Home Depot mower wheels for ~ $15.00, the only bit I couldn't find on the scrap heap.

        The foam was cut from a scrap work-out mat tile. The pipe stubs are scrap 3/4" PVC and fit into drainage holes molded into the kayak hull--these prevent shifting.

        The wheels are lashed to the kayak with 1/2-inch line and a snug truckers hitch. I did a sloppy job in the picture--lightening was starting to flash. They normally cris-cross between the axle and the wooden frame.

        We throw all our gear in the kayak, grab the handle, and start walking. Miles are possible on a good path, and we have done just that on occasion to reach a prime spot. More often, it's a matter of a few hundred yards. Sure, a sturdy person can heft a kayak on a shoulder, but a second trip will be needed for a day's worth of gear. With the wheels a child (or a tired adult) can tote the works. Well worth a little shop time, and I enjoy turning scraps into something useful.

        Tuesday, August 16, 2011


        While there are many practical reasons to single hand--the crew may be injured or sick, it forces you to understand the rigging and procedures better, and it frees you from the schedules of others--there is a more selfish reason. A few times each year I go on a short cruise, just for me.

        Day one. No pictures. I forgot the camera. In fact I didn't plan much at all. I threw some food in a cooler--not carefully planned since there is always non-perishable stuff on the boat and I fish--and hit the road. I didn't pick a destination until on the water.

        The course? A beam to broad reach was easy and pointed me toward good cruising grounds. I picked a small creek when I felt I'd sailed enough, one not in the cruising guide and relatively secluded. I fished, swam, did a little sewing and splicing, and polished some windows, all at a lazy pace. If I don't do something, I just eat and drink.

        Cooler. Wind around 10 knots. The sun annoys me when it get's too low for the hard top, but I hang towels from the edge and that works. I read. I slept in a bit; 10 PM is late for me and a 9 AM start is late for me.

        Day two. I headed home earlier than I had hoped, but worthwhile as it avoided the violent thunderstorms that swept through later. I love single handing, but I'm not fond of it when it's crazy.

        The purpose? None, really. Perhaps a mid-life crisis sort of thing, hoping to puzzle out where I go from here, but only deciding it doesn't matter so much. I've accomplished what needed accomplished and proven what needed proven. It's fine to wonder, but perhaps on a fool needs answers.


        Note: the creek described above is un-named on the Chesapeake Bay Chart Kit and not mentioned in the guides. It's just south of Cummings Creek, off Harris Creek, off the Choptank River, at about 38 46.5N / 76 18W. Enter towards the south, just south of the flasher and blind, and you will find 6-9 feet well up inside, though the holding ground was questionable.

        Instead of being surrounded by multi-million dollar mansions, as is every other Harris creek cove, it is framed only by marsh, corn fields, a working class farm house at the head of the cove, and a larger house (very well screen by trees) on the north side. An old skiff, one I saw tied up at a simple and tired dock by the house at the head of of the cove during my explorations the day before. gently woke me in the morning, as he began working his trot lines. The rumble of work boats, their engines just above idle, is the classic Chesapeake Bay alarm clock.

        Thursday, August 11, 2011

        Whose Beach Is It Anyway?

        Riparian rights is a challenging concept, born in English common law. As such, it generally applies only to the colonial states, but they are the ones that matter to me. The principle is that a waterfront owner has a fundamental right to the use of his property, and that includes water access and placing a dock out to deep water, but only if it is for boating use (some states extend this to include private fishing piers). Marinas are a different and I'll skip that morass. At the same time, the riparian owner does not own the property under the dock or under the water, and not even below the high tide mark:

        The states also enjoy minor differences in interpretation. For example, there are 2 slightly different interpretations within the Chesapeake Bay:

        Note: military reserves do not follow these rules and it's best to keep your distance and respect all of the charted restrictions. Not one toe anywhere near the beach, and often anchoring is restricted.

        What does this mean for the beach comber? Keep you feet wet or nearly so. Skip the blanket and picnic and leave no trace. Pick up some trash. I respect the owner, but he didn't buy the wet beach, no matter what he thinks, any more than I own the curb in front of my house; there is a county easement and so I respect a person's right to park or walk on the sidewalk. 98% of waterfront property owners get this and will greet a quiet walker courteously. The remaining 2%--only one person so far--gave me grief for landing, a condo owner at Chesapeake Beach who didn't know the law and had been the victim of to many spill-over beach parties from the town. A small minded little man, he requested that I remove my stern anchor to deeper water and that we not touch a 3-foot strip of wet beach between my boat and public property next door. An embarrassing episode.... for him.

        Recently the City of Annapolis rejected a request by several marina owners to ban anchoring in a creek, because it could make access to some slips more difficult. While such bans do exist in other areas and even within Maryland (Solomons Island), they are rare and Annapolis decided to avoid the precedent. After all, both riparian owners and the public have a right to use the waters. It's a balancing act; we all need a home marina, a place to park while we are at work and home, yet marinas can grow and grow and choke what were once roomy anchorages.

        Once I got grief from a landowner who thought I was anchored too close to his dock, with a thunderstorm approaching. I might drag and do damage, and he suggested a better place; it was indeed a better place, but the storm was too close and I had 2 anchors down. Given the extreme violence of the storm, his concern was not unfounded, but I didn't drag. This is certainly a concern for marina owners and I try to give them room. But with the proliferation of docks, sometimes anchoring gets a little cozy. Who has the greater right?

        If we can all just be reasonable, the most slippery of legal concepts....

        Thursday, August 4, 2011

        The Summer is too Damn Hot on the Bay: Our Second 2011 Cruise

        This cruise fit nicely between the many commitments of friends and family members... right into on the tail of one of the hottest weeks on record. At least each day was cooler than the last, and soon 90F seem down right comfortable. Really, July on the Bay is for day sailing and nights at home in the AC. When we run AC on the boat, we are bound to marinas and trapped in too small a space. I can hack 90F and enjoy myself; when it tops 100F and the wind dies and the humidity spikes, even breathing is work. At least the jellyfish are late and few this year and have not yet interfered with swimming. A life saver, for me.

        Crew: Family and a long-time friend of my daughter's, Hanna.

        Day 1, Deale to Solomons Island, 35 miles. Bloody hot.

        Not enough wind to sail, not early. We motored to Calvert Cliffs; my daughters friend had never been there and it would give me a good swim break. A long swim break.

        For those of you not familiar with the area, Calvert Cliffs State Park is well know for rich fossil deposits, and to a lesser extent for hiking trails and nature watching. A 3 mile hike leads to a beach (38 24.27N) where people swim and collect from the picked-over fossils on the beach. However, there are 2 other beaches very nearby, and still within the park, that are boat access only. We've never seen a foot print on them, other than racoons.

        38 24.46N. Nice beach, better pickings, and a small pond just behind the beach that makes a nice kayak excursion. It looks bug infested, but it's not.

        38 24.56N. Smaller beach, but also nice.

        Clearly they're close together so there is no reason not to visit all three. Do beware of walking on the beaches; signs prohibit walking under the cliffs (but many do) and I have witnessed several small avalanches on Chesapeake cliffs; landslides are not uncommon and are not always preceded by a triggering event, such as heavy rain. They can just as easily slide when drying out, weeks after a rain. A prudent person stays away from the cliff base and is very attentive when approaching the base.

        The wind arrived and we had a nice sail to the harbor. Unfortunately there's little wind in the harbor and a few biting flies required the use of screens. Hot. I kayaked a bit. The girls dingyed into town to get a smoothy, but the only joint they found shooed them out--not 21.

        Day 2. Solomons Island to Tangier. 45 miles

        The best sailing of the trip. A steady 10-15 knot breeze made for steady 8-12 knot spinnaker broad reach. Jessica posted her personal best during a turn at the helm, 11.7 knots sustained. We gave Hanna a turn at the helm as the wind let up a bit, teaching her how to anticipate the force of quartering waves and how to keep the wind on the big sail just so. "Big grin" sailing and an arrival time ahead of expectation. Some town exploration and dinner early--you have to be in your seat by 7, since they close-up at 8! A few tales of winter "drudging" aboard skipjacks by Milton Parks, who turned 80 last week.

        We wound a line into one prop as we neared the dock, a bit of fish net junk. It didn't interfere with docking and I didn't mind jumping in with a knife. Just cool enough to bring the body temperature back into the green.

        Day 3. Tangier.

        The girls rented a golf cart. A total waste, when the island is only 3 miles long and you have bikes... but fun. A drivers license is required, and the driver must be 18 or accompanied by an adult.

        Scaping crabs from an engineless skiff; fishing at it's most basic. The water is only a few feet deep for miles. They simply pole about and sneak up on them. In the proper season, it's quite effective.

        We fished in the late afternoon and evening, but the catching was limited. However, with the temperatures down and the breeze up, the dock sitting was fine. Later, we resorted to "scaping" crabs; the local term for hand netting crabs from the dock pilings and nearby shallows with a long handled net. We managed about 20 in a half hour. Combined with the fish and some sides, we were stuffed to lethargy. The girls went fishing again that night, enjoying a perfect night and hoping not to catch anything, I think. Girl talk.

        Note. It's best not to visit Tangier on Sunday; some things are closed. I knew better but forgot. No general store, no ice, but ice cream and restaurants. More family visiting family from the mainland.

        Day 4. Tangier to Crisfield, 18 miles.

        A light breeze and easy sailing.

         Janes Island is convenient, by kayak or tender, from from the Somers Cove Marina. My intention had been to anchor-out somewhere, but the coves were all quite shallow, violent storms were predicted, and given that all the jelly fish in the bay had been blown into Crisfield, the pool offered the only swimming.

        Who says a 3.5 Merc can't scoot?
        Hints: keep it VERY light, the carb very clean,
        and your weight forward (tiller extension).

        The town doesn't offer a lot. Most of the eateries and bars are closed Monday-Wednesday (it was Monday). Oyster and crab packing are all but dead and the economy is struggling. New condos have popped up, but sales have been limited. The Somers Cove Marina is ~ 65% full, but the condo marinas remain empty.

        Captain Jacks Crab House, newly converted from an old crab packing house, has just opened. It's right next to the marina and next to the museum, and you can do so much worse than to have a crab cake sandwich on the deck, overlooking the harbor. The menu is limited, they do crab cakes right in Crisfield. Perfection.

        I slipped on the damn sloped area on the side deck, nearly breaking my collarbone; the gates were open for and aft, so when my hand went tot he cable, the cable went to the deck and stanchion tip stopped the full weight of the fall on the front of my shoulder. Ouch. Somehow I missed everything injury-prone by a fraction of an inch. A few days later it was only a memory. 3M non-skid is going on that slope before the next sail!

        A violent hail storm struck the marina this night, just as we were preparing for sleep. No drama in the marina or on board, but a small cruise ship broke it's moorings to the dock and crashed around. Big news in Crisfield. The root cause was a combination of undersize lines and pilings that simply were not up to the strain. The dock at Crisfield has no large bundled pilings or bollards anchored on dry land; only the same pilings that I would tie up to, and several were simply pulled over, as though our PDQ had been tied to stakes with parachute cord.

        Day 5. Crisfield.

        I'm not sure we'd have stayed a second night, but 15-20 knots headwinds are a good reason not to head up the Bay. Not dangerous, but 6 hour ass-kicking to get to Solomons Island, to be sure. Staying would make the next day longer, but still manageable.

        Staying was good. Nothing to do, really. Every vacation needs some of that. We walked into town and viewed the carnage where the cruise ship broke loose. We found a party at the marina. Swapped some stories.

        Day 6. Crisfield to Deale, 72 miles.

        Strong headwinds were predicted for the next day and we needed to get back. Rain and thunderstorms were predicted off-and-on all day this day, but with no strong sustained winds. We got up early and went for it.

        Motoring. Endless motoring. No useable wind, not with distance to cover. An occasional cold puff, just enough to make you think about squalls hiding in the haze, but nothing substantial. No sustained wind above 3-5 knots and often none at all, only glassy calm.

        No drama. Some moderate rain finally caught us a mile from Deale, nothing to speak of, and it stopped while we unloaded.

        And so another cruise is in the bag. Lessons learned?
        • Only daysail in July.
        • The wooden cockpit floor is great in the summer; much cooler and more comfortable on bare feet.
        • Keep the side gates closed when they don't need to be open.
        • Keeping hydrated takes real effort.
        • Be careful with T-docks. Ours had way too much fetch to windward, the storm hit from the beam, and a fender popped out. Thank goodness for solid rub rails.
        • Beware the sloped deck.
        • A kayak on the side deck works fine. easily loaded, easily secured, not much in the way. Never snagged a line.

        Monday, July 25, 2011

        Water Pumps

        No clever title. This isn't that sort of post. No pictures. They wouldn't be pretty.

        Yesterday we were out on the Bay. After some relaxing spinnaker sailing in lights winds, we retired to a beach area, where we could anchor in 5 feet of water over a hard sand bottom and just float. Watching the world drift by from only a few inches above the water is my favorite summertime perspective. The water was a perfect 85 F, the jellyfish are late this year in the Bay, and nothing seemed threatening. Just people laughing and clouds drifting by. In a few days we will be heading out for a 7-day cruise. All was right with the world.

        One of the engines over-heated on the way back. I suspected a water pump impeller, which I should have changed when it was hauled last week, but I thought there might be another season in it. My last engines (Johnson and Nissan) would go 10-20 years on an impeller, but not Yamaha; they self destruct every few years. I don't think much of Yamaha 9.9s. I don't think much of the lock down mechanism, the carbs, or the cooling system. Mostly, the cooling system.

        I checked all of the usual easy suspects:
        • Intake clear.
        • Outlet hose clear.
        • Thermostat clear... and no water comes out when the engine is started....
        ... which leaves the impeller, since there are no restrictions between the thermostat and pump. Which is not fun to remove in the water. Water with an oily sheen here and there, a few jellyfish trying to move in, and a mud bottom that would reach my knees if I pushed down. No option, really, with a long-anticipated trip only a few days away: hauling is expensive and would take too long; simply going with one engine is possible, but with little wind predicted that could make for some long days. Going to a nice beach to do the work is always possible--I do that sometimes--but that would hamstring the inevitable trips for parts--and there were several--and there tends to be a bit more wave action. Oil and mud it would be.

        I won't give a blow-by-blow--it's in the manual--just a few tips for anyone who must do this in the water. I assure this all took longer to do than to describe (2 hours?).
        • Experience it on dry land first. Water is a less cooperative environment.
        • Don't drop anything. Go slowly, it will be faster in the long run.
        • In the water in the shade is not much worse than in the sun at 100 F; at least you don't sweat. I think that's the only up-side.
        • Get a floating tool boat. I used a plastic concrete mixing pan and found it perfect; it holds plenty of tools and parts, floats high, and would be quite difficult to tip. Drill holes in the flange for 1/4-inch line so you can tie it where you need it. I'm going to remember this trick!
        • Shift the engine into reverse; this way you can reach the nut securing the lower half of the shift linkage.
        • Tie the engine lift line further up the leg.
        • Disconnect the shift linkage. Gently. Soaking with PB Blaster might be wise. If this breaks your going to spend hours pulling the engine and then spend hours pulling the engine from the casing; it connects in a terrible place.
        • Remove the 4 bolts holding the lower unit.
        • Install the lower unit puller. This is a sandwich of two 4x4s carved out to fit the leg just above the cavitation plate; they pinch tightly, secured by through bolts or lag bolts.
        • Beat the lower unit off with a hammer, working your way around. Not easy. Don't bother with prying tools; pounding works better and surprisingly, risks less damage. Don't go too big on the hammer or you risk the motor mount (18-23 ounce, no sledge hammers).
        • Replace the impeller up on deck. Easy. Since engine was in reverse, turn the prop in reverse so that the impeller vanes are bent the correct direction. Change the oil if you feel it is due.
        • Coat the mating surface, bolts, and guide pins with your favorite anti-seize. I like Teflon paste.
        • Install the lower unit. It will slide right on, no matter how miserable removal was. It can take a little fiddling to get the shaft back in the hole. Giggle the prop and it will only take a few seconds. Do not tighten the bolts yet; complete the next step first.
        • Reconnect the shift linkage. Teflon paste on that too; if it seizes and you twist it off you are so screwed. The upper half is very difficult to replace (I broke one on a motor I was stripping for parts).
        • Tighten everything. Put the pull-up rope back where it belongs.
        • Shower off the funk you've been swimming in. Shower the tools too.
        Drink a cold one and think about next week, cruising the Bay, and not wondering about engine temperature.

        Which is easier: pulling the engine or swimming? For me, swimming is faster and easier if you know the drill.

        Friday, July 15, 2011

        Dirty Bottoms

        After 2 years and a few days with Interlux Micron 66 she doesn't look too bad. I will add that no in-water scrubs were needed the first summer, one the second fall, and two this year. The grow rate was really starting to pick-up, so two years is the practical limit on the Chesapeake.

        We scrub only with 6-inch squares of berber carpet, which are supper cheap, more effective than Scotch Brite pads, and very gentle on the paint. They are easy to hold with rubber faced gloves. Three stars for that suggestion from a professional hull cleaner. If you encounter barnacles, the best low-impact and easy-to-use scraper is made from either 1/8-inch HDPE sheet or the cheapo plastic drywall mud tools from Home Depot: split an 18-inch length of broom stick with a saw, slide the scraper blade in sans handle, and secure with a screw. They float, give good reach and leverage, and cause much less paint damage than the typical ice scraper (much harder plastic). The PO left a bunch of the scrapers on the boat, and I figured out the handles.

        Interlux Micron 66 is strictly NOT recommended for the middle to upper Chesapeake Bay; only greater than 85% seawater. The factory stated that mass pealing was very likely, though we saw none of that. Perhaps this was the result of above average surface prep (Jessica is a great sander), but even so, we sanded heavily this time and went back to Micron Extra. We'll post again in 2 years, though we always got 2 years out of Micron Extra on our Stiletto 27, Cherokee Sun.

        Last time we hauled Shoal Survivor they gave us tiny little stickers that we hid next to rub rail, indicating the best sling placements. A good idea that saves some time and fiddling, and might help prevent crushing something important.

        Other tasks, during our 2-day haul-out:
        • Install FRP kick-up plates described in the last post.
        • Sand, wire brush, and paint the submerged portion of the outboards. Serious pitting on the starboard engine.
        • Install teak cockpit grate (separate post, coming soon).
        A long day, but all smooth sailing. I'm on fair terms with the weather gods this year; they gave us 80F, low humidity and a breeze, rather than the 102F, 90% humidity and no breeze that had been with us only 2 days before.

        Dedication: Jessica gets a gold star for prep sanding the entire bottom.