Saturday, November 23, 2013

Singlehanded Kayak Loading--Onto the Car with a Bad Back...

... or if you short, or even exhausted after miles of paddling.

This is so obvious it should be in the owners manual. They should use it as a sales pitch. But it didn't occur to me until after returning from a trip with our stuff piled in the driveway, that most kayak wheels look kind of like a bike rack with wheels instead of arms. They have the same padding and the same angle, and at least one strap for securing wheels to the boat.

  1. Secure the existing strap to the roof rack with the padded arms straddling the break in the roof line.
  2. Secure a second line to the bottom of the hatch to hold it down. I had to add this one, a few minutes work.
  3. Roll it up and then flip it over to better secure.

Yes, this can be done simply with a blanket or large towel, but by the time you secure the towel that takes time. Fail to secure the towel and you'll lose paint for certain. The heavier the boat and the higher the roof, the better the wheels work.

 While I don't have any trouble simply lifting kayaks onto my Forrester (pictured), the wheels are a BIG help when loading onto a high SUV or van, which is nearly impossible for a 5'8" guy; I simply run out of height by the time I reach over the rack.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Marking Furler Line

I had always marked one spot on the furler line; the 100% setting, which I used when reefed. However, adding the inside genoa track prompted me to refine the system.

  • Wide band: 110%, just short of touching the shrouds and spreaders. While it is possible to run a full genoa between the shroud and the spreaders, it risks sail damage and is more trouble than it is worth.
  • Medium band: 90% Just short of lapping. A nice setting if single or double reefed, going to weather.
  • Narrow band: 70%. Small, only 25 % of full area. Good for double reefed and blowing like stink.
To insure the whippings are tight and can pass the jammer smoothly, they should be smaller than the line. This is easily accomplish by holding the line stretched between 2 winches while whipping.

Yes, you can always adjust as you go, but rolling sail in a breeze isn't good for you or the sail. Advancing the furler line to the correct setting before unfurling is MUCH easier.


Sunday, November 10, 2013

Amsteel... or Not?

Some folks are so stuck on Amsteel that they probably use it for shoe laces (I've seen soft shackle key rings). Others treated as some new fangled nuisance, like polyester sail cloth, that will soon go away. I've been using soft shackles on my genoa sheets for a little while now and I like them. Are there other applications I should consider?

In use

Genoa Sheet attachments. Why? I recently add an inner track which requires changing sheets occasionally (there are 2 sets now). I didn't trust snap shackles on a flogging sail, couldn't justify the expense of  J-locks, didn't fancy getting whacked on the head or having the mast pummeled. I could have used stropes tied from polyester line (I did use these for a time), but the strength is close and there is a slightly greater chance of opening (they never did). The hollow braid and slipperiness of Amsteel permits some unique splicing options.

Genoa sheets. I recently installed some line that was donated to me (testing left overs). Turns out it was 1/2-inch Warpspeed (21,000 pounds BS, $5.67/foot). Stiff as hell but good in this application, should last a very long time. Nice hard on the wind, where stretch means the sail gets full when a gust hits, which is when you want it flat. But I would not have spent $300 for it! I didn't realize it wasn't Staset until I saw how it handled and looked more closely at the core.

When something wears out

Lifelines. Certainly, in a few more years. I will go 1/4-inch with 9/16-inch webbing on the wear spots, which even with UV should be good for 10 years. Easy to do, nice hand, and light.

Jib halyard. My jib halyard has one tight spot where it passes through the masthead. I think the smaller size will resolve the pinch. I will have to splice to something larger for the jammer.

Spin head attachment. If it breaks. Not likely. Or if I need it elsewhere (more likely).

Spin tack. The metal shackle snags and scrapes on the forward lifeline. This will be converted to a soft shackle soon, certainly before the lifelines are changed.

Bridle to chain. If I lose the Mantus hook I'm testing, Amsteel as either a loop or a soft shackle will be next. Easier than the plate I was using. Honestly, for me a sling and carabiner work very well.

Main Halyard. Lower stretch would be nice, but that will be some years.

Topping lift. Light, don't often adjust.

Bad applications (to me)

Spin sheet attachments. Snap shackles are faster.

Main halyard. I prefer a knot. Easy to trim a few feet every few years, to move wear spots.

Jib halyard. Only pin shackles fit furler.

General block attachment. I would be open to this, but in any cases there are sharp edges. Pin shackles generally last forever.

Lashings. Generally nylon or polyester are strong enough when passed many times. Amsteel knots poorly, giving no increase in security over a good lashing.

Main sheet. I want some stretch during jibes; a high mod line increases the stress on the traveler bearings. I wish my traveler was not Spectra and I will change it if I find something cheap.

Jib sheets. Good application, but not cost effective for this boat. I have polyester for my reaching sheets, which is fine, and Warpspeed for the windward sheets which is perfect for that.

Spin sheets. Again, I like some give.

Tying things on deck. Poor knotting, simply don't need the strength.

Anchor bridle. You need the stretch of nylon with chain. But if you are using all-nylon rode, Dyneema may be just the thing to limit yawing; I've tested it, it works.

Jacklines. It depends. On smaller boats the stretch of polyester reduces forces. On larger boats, Dyneema is perfect.


And so it seems to be limited in application. Neat stuff, though.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Sucking Bottom

I never thought of my PDQ as a freighter, but they have a few things in common. I keep expecting--hoping--her to behave like a beach cat, but she's not.

Something we all keep any eye on, at least occationally, is maximum speed under power. It 's an indicator of whether the engine is tuned well and the bottom is clean. If she reaches top speed, we know those things are fine.

Yesterday as I was motoring back in I pushed the throttle wide open and she went... 6.5 knots. I've been seeing 7.4-7.5 knots since I extended the transoms, so something had to be amiss. I looked over the stern at the transoms; they were 6 inches under water unde conditions that should have them just above! Am I taking on water?

And then it occurred to me that I was sprinting across 4.5 feet of water and the hull was feeling the bottom, both in terms of excessive stern wave and reduced pressure under the deepest part of the hull. In fact, I was much closer to the bottom than my nominal 3.5 feet of draft would suggest. I suppose I might have touched, though I didn't feel it. Perhaps sprinting across shallows is not so smart.

As soon as I moved into the channel--8 feet--the speed jumped to 7.5 knots and the transoms came up. I think that's fooled me a few times over the years, wondering what I'm dragging.


Pilots bring freighters into port often reduce speed in shallow areas to avoid what is called squat. It is more than simple caution and is calculated before entry.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

The Poisoned Pen

In every town there is one critic that with a reputation for ruthlessness, possessed of an acid pen that can find nothing good in the world of the arts. New careers are gleefully smashed and that critic feels a quickening each time some new talent cries out.

My first career was in small business, and though I have worked for giants, I've had a few toy ventures on the side. We all want some success that is "us." I have a sensitivity for small businesses, and most marine products vendors and manufacturers are, in the scheme of things, tiny.

A few days ago I submitted an article to my editor; the closing sentence of the e-mail stated that "so-and-so is not going to be happy with me." I had bashed his product a bit. I didn't say it was bad. I explained that my test was in fact, a bit severe... but that other products had passed. I explained the product did no harm. But in spite of the fact that this man and his customers believe the sun rises and sets on his product, I could find nothing significant to recommend it. So I didn't. And my editor told me not to worry about it.

We have four choices when grading a product, and a product can be more than one of these.
  • Best Choice
  • Budget Buy, reserved for products that are cheap and work
  • No comment given
  • Not Recommended, reserved for products with serious flaws
Awarding Best Choice and Best Buy is always pleasant, particularly when a product surprises you with great value. I can think of some fuel additives, vent filters, holding tank treatments, sanitation hoses--the list is long--where awarding top rating was a pleasure. They were impressive product, doing more than I expected. There are always some products in the middle of the pack that are still a good value that just don't merit a recommendation. Sometimes I feel bad about that. I hope they take it as a suggestion that they look more closely at their competition and improve. We all need to strive.

But I never enjoy awarding Not Recommended, not even when the product has manifest flaws. Did I miss some virtue? Why would anyone bother to bring something useless to market? Unfortunately chandlery's shelves are filled with products that simply don't work. Cleaners that don't or that are over priced for what they do. Fuel additives that make corrosion worse. Mildew treatments that don't work as well as common chemistry. Things that are cheaply made, not worth carrying home. I wish that the West Marines and Defenders of the world would help by kicking some of the junk to the curb, but they sell whatever people will buy, though they must know that some of the fender-holders and clothes pins and fuel additives are complete rubbish. When I give a Not Recommended rating, I really mean it.

I hate that in addition to boosting up the innovators, I must shine a bright light on non-performers that so often tell a convincing story. Some take their lumps with quiet dignity. Some have told me that their products "can't be tested in the laboratory" or even simply that it "can't be tested." But they have testimonials a plenty, they say. Never mind other passed the tests. Often the biggest names cry the loudest assuming we are a group of non-technical tinkerers, surprised when we can back-up our findings with a better understanding of the engineering and chemistry behind their product than they have; a bunch of babies, they should test their stuff better and not rely on a big name. And of course, some of the big names are good.

And even when I make recommendations that I am completely sure of, there can be distortions. 
  • A "great review by so-and-so," proclaims the add. Only I didn't review that product.
  • A "rave review," only that review was for a different product, not everything they make.
 Sometimes I'm told the writing is dry, lacking enough opinion and personal judgment. Can you not understand why? Science needs to be dry, even when it cries out for opinion and theorizing.

So I moderate my poisoned pen, while I still call em' as I see em'.


I really wish I could have given concrete examples. But not in this context.

Not every product that claims a "great review by so-and-so" is telling the truth; sometimes that review was for only one product they make, while the others are useless.