Thursday, April 24, 2014


Evolutionary biologists argue that the brain is an outgrowth and extension of the sensory organs, perhaps more than the other way around. If our thoughts are formed from perception, imagine the nightmare Doctor Doolittle's fantasy would be, your world completely ruled by smells, food, and hormones. Oh yeah, college....

In no particular order, mostly without explanation. It's all about the associations.

Sounds and Smells I Like
  • Fresh cut grass. Of course. So we'll leave out the smell of cookies baking in the oven, the sea, and everything to do with my wife. Wind in the rigging, of course.
  • The sound of a sailboat hull ghosting and kayak paddles dipping rhythmically. 
  • Skis, biting hard.
  • Sunscreen, an obvious association.
  • An ice ax striking solid. The solid feel and deadening of vibration inside the shaft. Calms the nerves. Reminds me of adventures.
  • Construction sounds. I think it reassures me that the economy is alive and vital. IT makes it feel like morning. Yet I dislike the city.
  • Snow.
  • Rain.
  • Thunder... when not afloat. When afloat I pretend it doesn't exist.

Sounds and Smells I Hate
  • Whining. Of course. My cat. So well leave out the smell of automobile exhaust in tunnels, canned
    laughter, and a fox in heat at midnight.
  • The glop-pop sound an epoxy brush makes when you're 3/4s through the pot life. It must bring back subconscious memories of rushing to finish and fighting fiberglass that's sticking to the brush. Just like fingernails on a black board.
  • Halyards pinging while trying to sleep. Actually, even day time, when it grates at me like untied shoes. Non-sailors often find it romantic.
  • Seagulls, when I'm trying to concentrate. See "whining."
  • Most cooking smells, not counting baking. But I like to cook. Go figure.
  • "That's not my job" and all variations. See "whining."
  • "I haven't been trained." See "whining."
  • The ring of my phone. It means I'm going to interrupted by someone looking to make their problem into my problem. I don't mind the sound of your phone ringing--not my problem!
  • Loud sarcasm as a substitute for humor. It's boring and tiresome.
  • Cigarettes. Oddly, the smell is not so bad, but the notion that people are sucking down the smoke bugs me. I feel sorry for them.
  • Pipe. I don't mind the smell, but certain formulations trigger an ocular migraine that leaves me partially blind for an hour. Happened once, for no good reason, 2/3rds of the way up a trad 5.10c lead; I had to wait for it to subside since I couldn't see my hands.
  • Potpourri. See "pipe."
  • Coffee. See "pipe."

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Dynamic Travelers

Some lines cry out for low stretch; elastic halyards and genoa sheets both allow sails to become more full in gusts, exactly when flatter is better. For other applications some give is in order; tethers and anchor lines come to mind. Travelers fall in this latter category.

We know the sound of a traveler screaming across, and we all cringe, waiting for the "bang" that follows an accidental jibe. During a proper jibe we brake the traveler car's motion by controlling slack and easing it out, but mistakes happen. Some times we're short handed and a flying jibe in light air is not a terrible thing, not if the car was at least brought to center first.  Why not use nylon--better yet, highly dynamic climbing rope--to absorb the energy?

The same 8mm line I use for tethers. Notice the sewn eyes covered in rigging tape for UV protection; a knot would do, but testing for an upcoming Practical Sailor article about stitched eyes and another about chafe protection started some time ago.

It has been suggested--by folks that haven't tried it--that nylon traveler line will stretch too much. Nonsense, it's just a matter of selecting the correct size for the boat. Yesterday I took my PDQ for a blast in 15 knots sustained, right at the edge of reefing and hence at maximum main sheet loading. Slamming waves and powering through gusts, the traveler car quietly working through a 1/2-inch range of motion. For test purposes I have crash jibed in 15 knots intentionally, just to see what would happen; 2-4 inches of give and harmless thud rather than sharp impact. Obviously the jibes that can cause damage and normal working pressures are of a different magnitude. Unlike stretch which allows a genoa to power up, stretch in the the traveler releases pressure in the correct way, without affecting sail shape.

Yes, I can see and feel the line stretch in a breeze. The traveler may be pushed an inch further with the same settings as compared to light air, but a traveler is meant to be adjusted frequently and I would never notice were the line not marked. Why is it marked? In order to assure jibe shock absorption on gusty days it is important to maintain a 3-4 inch cushion from the traveler end stop, and a whipped marking shows that position at a glance.

What line size? For hand-tensioned travelers, 8mm should be about right for any size boat. For larger boats 10-11mm climbing rope is available. Simply use the same size as appropriate for polyester.

Climbing rope is available in sizes ranging from 7-11mm. Use dynamic rope (identified ans UIAA single ropes, 1/2-ropes, or twin ropes), not static rope.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Is Your Tether Quick Release Actually Quick Release?

This tether was found by rescue workers at the Wing Nuts accident site; there were several fatalities.

Where do you clip the "spare" leg of a 2-leg tether? To the harness ring, or course, if there is no loop on the tether... and there is not. Pull the quick release and you are still attached by the spare leg. A potentially fatal design error.

This is dangerous even on deck--if the tether gets wrapped around a sheet or guy he has 2 clips to release to get free. Not good.

And this points a scary trend, where equipment companies design to standards but don't actually test the gear in the field. They give the gear to sailors to use, but that is hardly the same as structured testing where all likely use scenarios are systematically tested.

The solution? some brands are adding a ring or loop near the harness end. If you make your own, leaving the loop long enough will do. Or in my case, I simply clipped in a small biner to give myself a parking space.

The typical vendor response? You should have a knife. Please. Why not say I should fall off the boat?

Saturday, April 19, 2014


Most dedicated DIYs will recognize these:

These little cones are available for pennies at any Home Depot or paint store and keep your work from sticking to the work bench much more neatly than blocks of wood. Pick up a dozen.

And how do you take the niffy no-background pictures? With a cardboard box, some tape, thin paper or sheeting, and poster paper, a light tent is the trick. I like the daylight compact fluorescent bulbs.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

New Main--Mack Sails

The original sail had slowly turned into a shapeless bag. I priced this one at the Annapolis boat show, and months later, here it is! Certainly, there are some adjustments to be made--batten tension, for certain--but the fit seems good.

I need to fabricate a proper tack strap. The original sail had foot slides, but this one is loose footed. I like it.
Note the jury-rigged boom strap at the clew. I'll have to sew something better... although this worked perfectly.

Draft forward, lots flatter

  • 8.62 oz High Aspect Dacron Mainsail
  • Five full battens with adjustable battslide fittings
  • 3 reefs
  • UHMW wear strips
  • Sail area equal to original design specifications
  • Standard boom cover
 And by way of comparison... Before. We'll be zipping to windward now!

 No swivels of the tackle with twist and friction will increase.

 Why a snap shackle block? I had a spare, no other reason. Notice that I locked the swivel with cable ties.