Saturday, September 29, 2012

The Offical Anchorage Music Rules

Regarding music while sailing or anchored...

Tongue-in-cheek.... But take it seriously if you want to. My rant.


Personally, I prefer quiet most of the day every day, sailing or not. The stereo in my car doesn't play for months at a time, not unless Jessica's driving. Maybe, if it's just me, it might be Tommy. Maybe Exile on Main Street. We don't have one in the house, unless you count the music function of cable provider, which I don't use. I don't play tunes on my lap top and don't have and iPod or any relative.

But at anchor is different, I don't know why.

  • Bob Marley. I never listened to him much before, but my mother-in-law bought 3 CDs and then forgot them or why she even bought them, and somehow they found there way on board. Before I had listened to discs I just happened to be in Kingston on business, staying at a hotel across the mall from the Bob Marley museum. I took the tour--he's worshiped there. And so I have come to find Bob completely relaxing when I'm anchored, whether working on a project or doing nothing. Soul Adventurer, I Need a Rammer, Mr Brown. But that's the only time it seems right.

  • No second-hand tunes. I learned that one in college, or maybe earlier. Even during my most Stones-Who-Doors period, I knew enough not to blast noise and to make others listen to my second hand music. If I play anything on the water, I play it low and only in the cabin. No outside speakers, please.
  •  Nothing after sunset. Quiet time. Go to sleep if you're bored.
  • Classical music? To formal for the wilderness. Rock-and Roll, R & B, or pop? Too kinetic. Country? Out of place, somehow, but maybe if I were on a river somewhere. Maybe that would be just right.
  • Sea chanties? I wouldn't play them, but I catch myself singing them when doing something rhythmic. Kayaking, Cycling. It's not as bad as it sounds; chanties weren't written for Pinza or Pavarotti. They were written for gravel voiced boatswains, and I can do better than that. Don't worry, I won't try to sing pop.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Bomar Hatch Leaks

A wet bunk is just too much like camping out, so last weekend I fixed a few nagging leaks. Nothing, until a  torrential down pour strikes, and then more than you want to deal with, several dripping at once. A few lessons learned:
  • Clean the sealing area. Particularly on the sloped hatches over the aft cabins, most leaks are actually caused by trash caught in the gasket area. Simple hose out and wipe with a cloth periodically. You may not need a new gasket.
  • Replace the o-rings in the latches. Very easy and the cause of most minor leaks. Only a few minutes and no easy way to it screw up. If you decide to replace the gaskets, you need to remove the latches for working room anyway. Additionally, the increased pressure on the latches caused by new gaskets is know to cause leaks when old o-rings are recycled, so just replace them now.
  • Defender sells the gasket material for the low-profile hatches used on the PDQs. You buy it by the foot and cut to fit, so there is less waste and it is cheaper than West Marine if you are doing several hatches.
  • Standard "Goop" is a suitable adhesive for the Bomar gasket material (gluing the ends together--they are not glued in place). Trim with a razor and press the ends together. Close the hatch to dry (wax paper on the rim). The instructions said Super Glue, which is neater, but I was out. I have used both before (making o-rings at work) and they both work.
  • Place the cut on the down-hill side. Obviously.
  • If you ever replace the lenses, don't get sealant on the gasket. The sealant should only be between the lens and frame on the edge, and not much excess below the lens. Center the lens first, then inject the sealant, rather than placing the sealant and then dropping the lens in place.
  • Try to place the gasket under slight compression; they shrink over time and will tend to pull away in the corners. No doubt you figured this out.
  • Lube with water and a trace of dish washing soap to make it easier to slide in. A dull dinner knife tip can help shove the tab in the last bit.
About 20 minutes each. A little hard on the fingers, so only a few each day. Not bad.


note 10-30-2012. Got through Sandy without a drip.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Armpit Engineering

A rather unflattering phrase, one engineers use when they believe a design was developed without the application of math. We see this a lot on boats; today's topic is lifelines.

In the September issue of Practical Sailor regular contributor Ralph Naranjo recounts experiments done at the Naval Academy to illustrate simple engineering truths to midshipmen. It was a companion piece to a longer article reviewing the application of high-tech lines for life line application.

The bottom line is that the wire never fails, nor does any well-founded cable hardware. It is the stainless railing that gives way, in this case on Navy 44s, which are very sturdy boats. The stainless crumpled at 1,200 pounds, which is a load very plausibly imparted to the lifeline by a flying sailor. This is why jacklines are such a vital compliment to lifelines; together, you stay on-board and in one piece.

Imagine a 4,200-pound load applied longitudinally to either the pulpit or the pushpit--and both must pass, weak link and all that. The simplest way to visualize this is to reorient the boat vertically, to where it is standing on its nose and hang the family car--a real car, not a Nissan Leaf. Honestly, there is no chance at all that it will take the load. It will bend. It will tear out of the deck. The through-bolts (typically 1/4-inch bolts which will shear at about 2,500 pounds) will fail. And yet folks worry the line to death.

The reality is that the loads on the cable will not approach 4,200 pounds, not after some initial bending. It's just as well perhaps; if it didn't flex in a extreme fall it would leave one heck of a groove and quite likely break bones, like a metal edge. The 4,200-pound figure is only to insure some basic ruggedness, and as such it is a good figure. But it has the effect of focusing our attention in the wrong place, as there is not a matching requirement for the pulpit and pushpit. Odd.


Practical engineering is often no more than simplifying the system and looking at each element in terms that can be understood. Simple levers and moment arms. I still am undecided as to whether I will go with Amsteel or SS cable when I replace the lifelines, though I'm leaning strongly to 1/4-inch Amsteel with Dyneema chafe guards as over strength enough to last many years even when UV and chafe are considered; I think it will be more hand-friendly. An it will look over-engineered and some dock-walker will mutter something about my armpit engineering....

You may enjoy this rant about Captain Safety and over-engineering.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Fender Boards

rev. 9-24-2012

Do you need em'? Yup, if there is a lot of tide, strong storms or wakes, yup.

Example. In Chincoteague, as much as we like the town dock, there are few "no wake" signs, no posted speed limit, and you get rocked now and then by small but speedy boats. There is also a good tide range. and a 3 knot tidal velocity. The picture was taken only a few hours into their first use and we've  already worn a noticable grove. There was always a small pile of saw dust resting on the board.

Example. We got hit beam-on by a powerful storm while in Rockhall, tied to a bulkhead. Fortunately, we had a spring line and good breast lines, and our fender board. I've had fenders pop out in these circumstances, and the pounding on the pilings is scary. All we felt this time was some gentle swaying, even as the hail blew horizontally.

Note the grove in the middle, only a few hours old on a calm day. Yes, it should be centered up on the rub rail; we moved it up later. It seems fenders are always placed when dead tired from a long run, in this case about 85 miles. Lucky we got it deployed at all.

Very simple to make from a scrap of 2x6 treated lumber. Any thinner and it will wear through rather quickly. Forget paint.
  • Pick a length. Too short, you can shift off the piling. Too long it will be weaker and harder to store. Don't underestimate the side force of a strong wind and chop; 500 pounds is common and 1,000 pounds is possible. Thus, I wanted an unsupported span (the part between the fenders) of only a few feet. Ours is ~ 4 1/2 feet overall and I'm happy with it.
  • Drill holes for the line that restrains the fenders horizontally. Our are 5/16-inch polyester line, though some suggest bungee cord. I trust line more. Counter bore the holes so that the stop knots are recessed (reduce wear and reduce snags).
  • Drill vertically through the board (3/8-inch to take a 5/16-inch line) to take the time that suspends the board (loop on one end, stop-knot on the other). This takes a long bit, which I was lucky to have.
Deploying the board is sort of a 2-person job and we don't use it at every marina, but if you suspect storms or wakes, it is very nice. Don't know why I waited so long.

I've seen 2 other variations worthy of note:
  • Fenders on both sides of the board. Sometimes, depending on the dock configuration, it can make sense. In this case, the dock had some horizontal boards that would catch the board as the tide changed, and vertical pilings, that would slide between fenders. A bad dock design.
  • Perminant fender boards. Some boaters will hang these on poorly designed docks, to make a smooth surface for their fenders. It can work.
  • Fenders on the wrong side, Yup, I've seen boats where the wood rubbed on the hull. Just not thinking.

Friday, September 7, 2012

A Labor of Love

Back from our 6th trip around the Delmarva, I've been reviewing notes, picking through photographs,  revising, and printing a new edition. Got to get it all down before memories fade. Busy, busy. 

I don't work on the cruising guide I maintain out of any illusions of profitability. It's sub-minimum wage work, I'm sure. The payment is just enough to focus m attentions, more than rambling blog. But it's been valuable in may other ways; its evolution introduced me to story telling and to writing, and led to blogging and magazine work. It's generated countless introductions. It gives me a reason to poke my head around just one more corner and spend the night in a cove I might otherwise have hurried by.

The new and improved Chincoteague town dock. It is no longer blocked by the a swing span with limited hours, a great increase in convenience. This was our home for 5 days this summer, the whole marina to ourselves.

I like that the whole family is involved. They point to things I don't see and help me to understand priorities different from mine.

Photographing photographing

It's not a project that has an end, not the way I see it. It has morphed to include stuff on fishing and kayaking and more on the Chesapeake. Maybe someday the title will change, maybe someday it will become two books, though I doubt it; all of it feels related to me. Like The Whole Earth Catalog, I'll add every tool I think a new small boat sailor (or cruiser or older sailor or kayaker or sailing fisherman...) might want or need to know, or would benefit, in my opinion, from knowing.A little arrogant, yes, but the reader can certainly ignore me when I'm wrong or simply overly opinionated. I would like to think I've learned a few things the hard way and that there is some value in sharing the stories of the lumps I've taken.

A kayak takes you closer.


Thursday, September 6, 2012


The conventional wisdom has always been nylon for dock and anchor lines, polyester or something fancy for running rigging, and wire rope or something very fancy for standing rigging. Each has proper elasticity for the task at hand is always the primary argument. Economy is always a factor. But I'm wondering if this wisdom isn't dated.

I've long used retired polyester running rigging and halyards for spring lines. Since they're typically much longer than my bow and stern lines, which are nylon, this always seemed to give more a more balance motion, the stretch for the overall length being about the same. And even though they were old when installed, they seemed to last as long as the nylon lines.

The reason, of course is that polyester has a much greater fatigue life than nylon, perhaps 100-1000 times greater.

For nylon to last it needs to be oversized and thus less elastic, less manageable, and less economical. So for sping lines, polyester is clearly a better choice. What about bow and stern lines? When cruising I use polyester without complaint (I don't travel with my home lines, they are left in place), but it's not my boat that worries me for long-term mooring, it's the rotten pilings at my economy marina. Even so, nylon seems to give the required stretch.

Anchor rode? At one extreme we use chain; no stretch. At the other we use nylon; some much stretch it adds to sailing around and can actually increase side forces on an anchor. Some search for a happy medium by using a long nylon bridle or chain snubber. But for the latter to function properly it need to be quite long and quite thin. And chain has the advantages of easy handling on a windlass and great abrasion resistance.

I had an all nylon rode. Sometimes it was like being tied to a rubber band. I switched to all chain and kept using the stiff polyester bridle I had. In gusty conditions it felt like being anchored to, well, chain. So I changed from 5/8" polyester to a slightly longer 3/8" nylon bridle and found a happy medium. I don't like a super long bridle, because then the rope will lay on the bottom in shallow places and be subject to wear, since the apex of bridle moves a good bit. The thinner line won't last as long, but the anchor has a better chance of staying in.

Still, it seems the only advantages of nylon--or primarily nylon with a chain leader--anchor rode is economy and availability. I predict market forces--sailors choose either chain if they feel rich and conservative or nylon if they feel poor or weight conscious--have prevented the right polyester product from reaching common outlets. Alas, I've inherited and scrounged so much 3-strand nylon I will never run out.


Why such as esoteric subject? Research for a new article. But me think it will get too esoteric for general interest.

Monday, September 3, 2012

The Myth of Farmers, Waterman, Small Towns and No Polution

There is this assumption, based upon a romance of the past I suppose, that small towns are clean, and that the small towns of waterman and farmers must be among the most pure. Maybe not.

 Poor sewage treatment in Chincoteague led to closure of all local shell fish beds.

Fuel tanks with no containment to protect against over fills or tank leakage, right in the middle of a huge wetland. Because it's out-of-sight, perhaps because they cry poor... but this wouldn't fly anywhere else. It seems there is always a sheen in the harbor--all the boats leak and old engines are dumped in the water to stabilize the shoreline.

 Open trash burning, Tangier. Not a problem, since they only burn when the wind is off-shore... towards someone else.

Do they deserve some special dispensation, some special exemption? A small problem in the grand scale of things, I suppose. Over population will kill us first; we'll never invented a person without a footprint, and like rabbits, it's only natural that we will eat and poop and multiply until we kill ourselves. Ugly, but natural.

Light Show...

... or just the C and D Canal at night?

Connecting the Delaware Bay and the Chesapeake Bay, this man-made canal has been providing a short cut from Philly to Baltimore for 183 years. Originally equipped with locks, it is now seal level, lit for night travel, and takes panamax ships. Dull, but simple. Just watch out for barges with tows; we met 2 of those this night.

A New Kayaker

For his 87th birthday, my dad decided to try kayaking. Though I had a twisted rotator cuff and was unable to paddle, my daughter is a strong paddler and proved a willing and effective tour guide.

Cape May harbor

In spite of a gamy shoulder and replaced hip, he made a good show of it and sported a big smile for days. Never stop trying new things. Some risk? Yes, though he is a good swimmer and was in company. But they went further than I expected; the above picture snapped at the practical limit of a long lens.