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.