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.