Saturday, November 24, 2012

Everyday Jacklines

It was a little breezy today--sustained at 20 knots with gusts to 30 knots. The water and air were cool, both perhaps 45F. A beautiful day for some brisk solo sailing.

I started out with full sail, but within 15 minutes a reef seemed smart. 30 minutes later a second reef seemed smart, along with a little jib rolled in as well. No worries; even though I reef at the mast, the jack lines are always rigged and the auto helm was holding course nicely. Just a time to be causious. The bow was going through as many waves as over them and the motion was a bit crazy, but that's what fall sailing is about.

I noticed I had left the boat hook bouncing around on the deck; I never tie it down and it has bounced there for over 2000 miles. But it was getting washed around more than normal. It had been tossed from the tramp up on to the seats in front of the salon. Its bent, but its a friend. But I have a spare on board, found on along beach somewhere.

I noticed the spinnaker bridle had somehow worked loose--last time it was used a guest secured it, or rather didn't--and there was some question in my mind as to whether it could get under the boat and into the prop or rudders later. I figured I needed to go get it. Except that 45F water is washing ankle-deep across the tramp every 10 seconds, everything is soaked with sheets of spray, right up to the dodger, the tramp is a wide expanse free of handholds, and I was sailing alone. Bugger.

And this is why you keep jacklines rigged EVERY DAY. No problem, I clipped in, walked along the side, used the jackline in one hand to ease my way across to the leeward side, and clipped in with the short leg. After securing the lines and grabbing the wayward boat hook I hauled myself to windward with the tether and retreated to the cockpit.

I tacked and broad reached home, faster, with less motion... and no concerns.

Gasoline and Fuel Tank Vent Filters

Rev. 11-24-2012. First posted Spring 2012 as part of a longer blog entry. For my fellow PDQ sailors, Dog House and Shoal Survivor have been testing these since spring with no problems. I re-posted it here with a few revisions because it was buried in a longer post and because the LONG version will be published next month.

So what do the new vent filters look like?

After surviving a year as a holding tank filter (Practical Sailor tests), reloaded with activated carbon, this housing will be serving for at least a few more years.  It is mounted to a FRP mounting plate, which will screw and epoxy to a cored bulkhead. It will be placed in the vent, between the Raycor Lifeguard air/fuel separator and the through-hull. This is a modified Vetus No-Smell housing. Holding 500 ml of adsorbent, it is the correct EPA-rated size for a 27 gallon tank,  is fuel rated, easy to switch adsorbents, and I had it.

Installed. The vent leads up from the fuel tank, through the Raycor Life Guard, through the Vetus No-Smell (with mixed bed carbon/Silica gel fill) and down to the existing through-hull. I had to manufacture a new perforated metal retaining plate for the Vetus unit; this will allow me to test a variety of adsorbents.
The H2OUT filter is even simpler. Refilling is a simple matter of loosening a band.

A factory installation, in a 2012 pontoon boat.  Instead of mounting the canister in a high loop, they protect it with a filling cut-off valve and sensor in the fill line (so that auto-stop filling pumps will work), an anti-surge valve on the tank, and a p-trap on the through-hull. These canisters are intended to last the life of the boat. All Attwood equipment.

This may seem a bit over engineered. I don't think so, not if maintenance becomes less, fuel related problems go away, starting is easier, and a material amount of gasoline is conserved (reduced evaporative losses) to pay for the project. Green, cheap, and lazy, over the longer term. That's just smart.

Try this link, if you would like a better summary of both the new rules and the safety rational behind gasoline fuels system requirements.

The full article is in the January 2013 Practical Sailor Magazine.


Notes, 11-24-2012: We tested carbon in Vetus housing in the spring of 2012, but changed to a silica gel/alumina blend after a few months. The carbon was a complete failure, became saturated with water to the point of condensation and dripping.Perhaps carbon will work better in other climates, but not on the Chesapeake in the spring.

We have had 2 test units (H2OUT and Vetus) in service on 27 gallon gasoline tanks since spring 2012; they are both doing well and have not saturated. Humidity readings inside the tank are well below saturation and the color indicators have not changed at all, suggesting that several years of service can be expected.

4-15-2013: After 1-year of service the silica gel has saturated no further, humidity levels on the tank side remain stable (35-45%), and condensation is a thing of the past. A service life for the silica gel of  > 5 years seems certain.

12-14-2013:  Still going strong. 

8-10-2016: Gel finally changed color and had to be regenerated by heating. 15 minutes on low on the propane grill in a pan did the job.

3-10-2018: Still going strong.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Spice Rack

 PDQ 32s factory equipped with Dometic dorm-style refrigerators are also equipped with a completely useless drawer to the right of the fridge. The openings are too small for medium adult hands to fully enter, severely limiting the size of objects that can be stored. Even spice bottles are too big, except for the smallest sizes. The drawer was deep--18 inches but only pulling out 8 inches--so any thing that did enter would slide to that back and never be seen again;  remember, the openings won't admit a hand or wrist so you can't reach the back, even with a fork held by fingertip. The whole business is built of 1/2-inch thick lumber, reducing the 7 1/2-inch cut-out in the fiberglass to a mere 2 1/2-inch inside shelf width. Just pitiful. Down low, below the drawer, is a cubby hole that is handy enough for small items, in our case disposable table wear; I wanted to keep that, but I didn't want more cubby holes.

Though I could have scratch-built a replacement, matching the wood would be a challenge and I liked the outside look and fit. Instead, I took a few measurements and reasoned that it could be gutted, fitted with an improved drawer that would make a very usable spice rack, and that I could accomplish this in an evening.

The entire cabinet assembly is easily unscrewed and taken home, so that all work can be done in the shop. That helps. The drawer facing pops off easily with a few carefully applied hammer blows and a little wiggling with a wood chisel. Likewise, the stops in the back (to preventing the drawer from coming all the way out when pulled) popped right off. Both were easily cleaned of glue residue with a chisel.

I removed both sides of the drawer, leaving the top, bottom, front, and back untouched, with careful plunge cuts with a circular saw and some trimming with a saber saw. The sides are still attached to the shelves with a few spots of glue, but were pried out with very little effort. Likewise, without side support, the internal shelves were easily removed and discarded. The new plan called for only an upper and lower rather than the original overcrowded 3 shelf arrangement.

The new shelf is not centered; spice bottles come in 2 basic heights, so I made room accordingly.

Dig the sawdust reflected in the flash (click to enlarge)
I did not replace the original sides. The original drawer had ~ 5/8-inch clearance on each side, so I simply screwed new 1/4-inch birch ply sides to the outside, increasing the internal width of the shelf by 1-inch to 3 1/2 inches This is critical, as it makes the difference between a single row of bottles and a double row. I made the fiddles on the shelf a bit over 1/2 the height of the bottles to insure they cannot jump out in wild conditions, though they will simply end up in the large locker under the fridge if they do. With the larger cut-outs my hands fit easily. The corners of the cut-outs were made with hole saw and press (no center bit) and connected with a circular saw and saber saw and trimmed with a hand grinder. All of the screws are countersunk to avoid catching.

The original drawer did not pull out as far as it could; measurement showed that it could pull about 2 1/2 inches further without interference, so I repositioned the stops. This was easily done by extending the new sides back an additional 2 1/2" + 3/4" = 3 1/4" beyond the back of the drawer and attaching 3/4-inch cleats. Free additional opening space and less is lost in the depths.

Easy...ish and built from scraps. $4.65 for screws. I could have built it with hidden fasteners, but I liked the idea of being able to open it and change it, if I like. About 4 hours, but 3 of those were spend measuring an figuring. I could do a second in an hour. Isn't that typical?

More space, more function, no change in weight, and my wife is appreciative. I find the last of these most rewarding.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Small World

A crisp fall day. Relatives in town, but off visiting the National Holocost Museum for the morning. I was sailing just a few days ago and will again in a few days. I'm working a small project I want to install, but it needs a few more coats of varnish. A perfect opportunity for a short bouldering work-out at the local crag, Carderock.

I walked the base of the cliff, scanning for familiar faces; often we come without having made arrangements with friends and simply meet up. A good way to meet new faces, too. Mostly, that's how climbers meet and how climbing partnerships form.

"You look like you've been here before"a stranger bouldering up the crag called. I noticed he had experienced (old) shoes and callused hands, suggesting he was an old hand at the climbing thing. The way he moved suggested to me that like me, he knows what he's doing but has been away from it for a while. Old shoes that are mostly worn out suggest that too.

"Yes, for 30 years anyway. Can I help?"

"No, just looking around. A caught a ride on a top rope with some guys over that way. Fun. Nice place."

"Where are you from?"


Sounds like more of a place for sailing than climbing." Annapolis is hopelessly flat.

"Actually, yes. I teach sailing."

The conversation went on a bit, me relating that I had a boat in Deale, one of a string of boats. Some stuff about sailing. I said goodby and wandered to the far end of the cliff to boulder alone. But about 100 feet away I turned around and decide to return to the stranger, to be a bit more sociable to our visitor.

We talked a bit more. He coached J-80 sailing for J-World. We talked about fast boats, planning on J-boats, and speed on the Stiletto 27 and capsizes of the new AC 72. I mentioned that I'd slowed down and bought a PDQ 32.

"I know a couple who has one of those, out cruising."

I thought I knew the answer but asked anyway; "Oh, really? Who?"

"Zero-to-Cruising. I follow their blog."

"Cool! Me too. I met them once, in Cape May, and we trade emails now and then. Good folks."

"Would you believe me if I told you that I taught their "learn-to-sail" class in Miami?'

"Yup, I'd find that easy to believe!"

We chattered on for a while. I pointed out a few bouldering spots, but in no way gave any demonstration of prowess; I was wearing a heavy knee brace and was having a high gravity day. We talked about a few sailing adventures. I gave him dirrection to a few local crags he'd heard of within the local area--Easter Egg Rocks, GreatFalls--and we parted ways.

Small world.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Salon Table Access

While the salon table provides worthwhile storage volume, it has always been awkward to access. Something is always on the table; dining accessories, snacks and general stuff the forward end, and a DVD player is in permanent residence on the aft end. BTW, the flat screen hinges up and the Bose computer speakers speakers can really rock the boat.

I replaced the aft access lid with a hinged section. Just pine from retired shelving unit and a cast-off piano hinge. The finger holes for lifting were drilled about 1/2-inch deep with a forstner bit, which leaves a smooth, flat bottomed hole. If we like the functionality I may either stain it to match or slice the original board at the appropriate spot. So far, we like it; we can actually use these bins. Case in point: installing this project I found a book-on-disk that had been borrowed from the public library and long since paid for as lost.

Later I added a drop-in DVD holder. Very handy.

As for the hinged flat screen and the forward section, those are described elsewhere, but they look like this...

and like this....

Now, to listen to that book-on-disk....

Saturday, November 3, 2012


For modern mariners, the foundation tool is VHF, perhaps the most dependable means over distances of less than 20 miles. Good for bridge openings, talking to marinas, and summoning help. For communicating with friends, it's been largely replaced with cell phones and internet services, even though those can be less than reliable even in coastal areas. Off-shore we transition to SSB and sat phones.

But there are other ways. These messengers were used by Bernard Moitessier during the first round-the-world singlehanded race, describe very well in A Voyage for Madmen.

Very traditional, rather like his yacht. Dependable and thrifty?

For express service, he chose a multihull design.

 Most of us would judge him a bit mad by this point in the race, but for him, this seemed to be his "normal." He was simply well adapted to life alone, at sea, and less so for life with people ashore.