Friday, October 27, 2017

Dr. Sails

They really do have a name that says it all. Practical Sailor just ran an article of mine on adhesive  repair of polyester sail. There are a number of products that work, but Dr. Sails is in a catagory of it's own in terms of strength, durability, flexibility, and speed.

More recently, I've been repairing the torn laminate sail inventory on my F-24. With laminates, adhesives are generally the first choice, potentially better than sewn repairs, because they avoid the stitch line in the laminate. I've been testing tapes and glues, and it's not even close.

Dr. Sails Rules!

Detailed repair procedure. I've used it for repairs up to 5 feet!

And here's some field work.  This is the only adhesive repair I really believe could work underway.

It is also an excellent flexible epoxy for many other repairs. A little pricey, but certainly something every cruising sailboat should have on board. I really like the Dr. Sails syringe kits with the motionless mixers.

There are also some good reinforce tapes I have in long-term testing. But for all that, subscribe to Practical Sailor.

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Repairing Large Bomar Hatch Screens

The aft cabin access hatches on the PDQs seem to hold up just fine, but the screens have a reputation for breaking at the center port where they are handled. Sometimes you can find a replacement if you hunt far enough, but more often they are out of stock. In any case, they are always over priced.

I fixed on a few years ago, but I wait until now to share the result, to be certain it held up. I think it's a permanent fix for pennies and little labor.

Loosen the screen (the glue is old) and reinforce from both sides. Sand well, and mask to keep the polyurethane off the screen. I'm sure a black Sharpie would hide the minor smears on the screen.

Because the screens are flexed into place, a rigid repair, such as conventional epoxy and fiberglass, won't do. An adhesive with decent bonding properties on plastics was required. To provide flexibility, I reinforced the center break with Sunbrella fabric on both sides. For adhesive, I used Locktite PL S40, which has double the bond strength on most plastics as 3M 5200 or 4200 (they are very good on gelcoat, but not much else). I bet Dr. Sails would be first rate.

 Good as new.

The result is a flexible, strong repair that has held up for over a year, so far.

Sunday, October 22, 2017

Best 100--Chapter 11
Saltwater and electricity don't get along, or rather they get along too well, causing all manner of corrosion and non-conduction problems for the sailor. Keeping the electricity flowing between the lines is the problem.

One of my first published articles, in 2010, involved making up over 200 crimp connections and keeping them in a salt spray chamber for a year. I've also had boats in the water for 30 years and observed the result of factory, PO, and personal errors. What I have learned:

 Hopkins 47965 2-Pole Flat Extension66. Trailer Connectors and Grease. I've tried many brands of waterproof deck connectors. All of them seem to fail in 2-5 years, they are expensive, and pricey to replace. Recently the power conector on my Raymarine Autohelm 2000 failed, and a replacement set was $168.00!  Unbelievable. Flat trailer connectors (available in 2, 4, and 5 pin) are cheap, reliable if packed in grease, and a new one can be crimped on in minutes if you leave a loop of wire. They have been the standard for 75 years, so I'm not expecting change. It also proves they work. My choice for rotating masts, tiller pilots, and solar panels.

67. THHN Machine Wire Copper Wire vs. Tinned Wire. Heresy you say. In fact, both are approved by the US Coast Guard, and both survived my 1-year spray test for Practical Sailor Magazine with zero failures. There are differences in corrosion. Do no use finely stranded (like lamp cord) copper wire without tin plating; i will not hold up. Additionally, when it comes time to repair copper wire, the corrosion may well have traveled far up the wire. However, in dry areas of the boat, does the extra protection mean anything? If the breaker panel, for example, goes underwater your going to rip it all out anyway. Many quality boats use lots of non-tinned wire without complaint.

Do use tinned wire to all exterior lighting, around the engine, and in the bilge. You won't regret it.

Pitch the cheap crimpers in the trash. And I'm cheap!

An inexpensive pair like this works for me. Just make sure they are adjustable (star wheel near "Titan" label). I have a fancier one at home, but I'm not convinced it is better for occasional use.

68. Ratchet Crimpers. Remember how I said I did over 200 crimps for a PS test program with no failures? The key is to throw away any non-ratchet crimper. That's right, pick it up and pitch it before you do any damage with it. They just are not repeatable enough. Instead, get a ratchet crimper, adjust it to the brand of fitting you will be using (no Harbor Freigth stuff, but the Home Depot stuff is fine), and make a couple test fittings. Clamp the eye in a vice and try to pull it off the wire. The wire should not pull out. In fact, either the wire should break or the fitting should tear.

69.   Grease. Forget the sprays. They don't hold up in marine conditions. Forget conductive grease. Many can cause dissimilar metal corrosion and "conductive" in the sense you understand is pure myth. They are insulators except at extreme voltages, where they can bleed off minor charges (never use conductive grease on antenna connections or spark plug wires). Vaseline can work, but it melts easily and has inferior anti-corrosion properties. Dielectric grease is good for sensative electronics and antenna connectors, but in general, good old waterproof grease or Lanicote is the correct choice. Use this on all studs, terminal strips, batteries, and all mechanical contentions (not required inside the crimp).

My favorite for electrical applications is No-Ox-Id Special A. It has been top performer in all of the extreme exposure testing.

For mechanical (based on corrosion and wear testing), including winches, Green Grease (Omni Lubricants) from Advance Auto is the top pick. For antisieze on bolts, Tef Gel is very good. Also Locktite Marine Grade LB 8023 (not just any anti-seize--some of the non-marine formulas contain dissimilar metals and can make it worse).

70. Separate Heat Shrink. Not technically about equipment, but sort of. Instead of buying pre-insulated crimps with adhesive lined sleeves, buy the heat shrink separately. Not only is it much cheaper, the odds of the insulation sleeve being damaged by the extreme pressure of crimping are very high, perhaps over 50%.  So instead of buying the over prices all-in-one crimps, buy economical insulated crimps, use them as-is for most cabin applications, and then cover them with separate lined tubing only when used on deck or in the bilge. This also reduces the required inventory of crimps.

Monday, October 16, 2017

How Long is Your To-Do-List?

Just a sampling of the tasks accomplished over the past few weeks. There was more in the weeks before. A terrible traveler design required mounting additional blocks to fix. A barber hauler was fabricated. The hinge for lowering the mast had been destroyed by a PO error and a new, stronger one fabricated.

I like zero-slack in a windward travel car. Fewer tangles.


  •  Replaced Dyneema portion of both shroud tensioners.  The factory version was 5/32-inch Dyneema, certain to fail after about 10 years in the sun. I upgraded to 1/4-inch, which should remain about required WLL for 20 years. Four bury splices required.
  • Whipped cover over tail of Spectra/Spectra furler line to improve grip both in hands and jammer.
  • Swapped the junk pivoting fluke anchor for a 12-pound Northhill. I took a spare rode and spliced that to the chain I had, since the chain, shackle, and rode on the junk anchor were... junk. The nice thing about the Northill is that it is about the only non-pivoting fluke anchor that will fit in the locker, because it also folds down; they were originally designed for seaplanes.
  • Replaced ordinary deck screws used to secure aka load pad by PO with stainless. A missing pad can result in considerable damage with these boats.
Barberhauler. On multis it goes WAY out when reaching deep.

  • Climbed mast and reconned instruments. 
  • Installed new wind indicator(Windex).
  • Replaced broken lever on port jammer (partner did that).
  • Tried loosening screws on broken bow sprit pivot. Due to lack of Tefgel, this was a failure (ended up just grinding them flush).
  • Rerouted furler line to eliminate chafe. Added new fairlead. 
  • Went sailing.

  • The battery is no good.  It was 11.7V  when I got there, and after 5 hours at ~ 8A it was 11.9V. This is a classic indicator of one bad cell.
  • Checked motor charging. The voltage increased 0.2-0.3V when it was running, depending on RPMs. This is also typical of a battery with a bad cell. The motor charges about 4A at WOT.
  • One of the fire extinguishers was bad. The other is fine and we only need one.
  • Serviced all four winches. The two-speeds were a little gummed-up, but the jib winches were nearly dry and have suffered some wear from this abuse. I suspect they have not been serviced in >10-years, perhaps never. They now have Lewmar grease, new springs, and two have new palls. 
  • Replaced the rubber washers on the beam clamps. They a were completely shot, and damage to the fiberglass was beginning.
  • Bowsprit repair finished.I really like the way it came out. If you adjust the bobstay tension in synchronization with the up-haul line, the butt of the pole is very nicely nestled in the polyethylene saddle. Better than factory. I was not able to get the screws out, so I ground them flush and tapped 3 new 1/4 x 20 bolts in the neutral axis. Very strong.
  • Installed 3/32" FRP liner in the bottom of the anchor locker to protect against bangs.
  • Fabricated anchoring bridle, complete with all hardware, in the anchor locker (blue climbing rope).
  • Replace the missing twist locks in the cockpit.Took the bags at home and will give them a quick re-vamp (a few stitiches and some elastic).
  • Installed two 1/4" threaded studs in the starboard cockpit locker. I will make up a row of hooks tomorrow ind install that in a few days. That will take care of the PFDs, fenders, and rope coils.
  • Fixed traveler... I believe. I converted it to 3:1, played with the slack, and spliced the ends. It seems jam-proof now. The original system was unusable.
  • I put a smaller pin on lanyard on the  beam locks. The big pin is better for trailing, but it's a battle until we fix the alignment. I wonder if we need to look at the adjustment of the x-cables under the tramp. This may be part of the problem.
  • I will be fabricating a topper for the storage bin forward of the sink. Also a drop-in bag. 
  • Fixed the paper towel holder.


The bar mounting the hooks is mounted to two studs (black knobs) and is removable.

  • Repaired one cockpit bag. The other was badly fitted by the PO and is going home for alterations.
  • Storage hooks installed in the starboard cockpit locker. (the locker had no floor and is how you crawl under the cockpit). All of the PFDs, ropes, and fenders are now hanging in easy order, and there is some remaining room. The whole works can be removed by unscrewing two knobs. I'm gotta write this up a DIY idea. 
  • Installed counter topper. I took it home for more varnish. It's going to make a good "catch-all" spot.
  • Primed and tested the water pump. Fixed some minor leaks, so it is good to go.
  • Cleaned some, removed some rust stains. C
  • Cleaned/lubed the stove. Works better now.
  • Added a backing plate for the anchor well padeye. There was none, and if the boat had come back hard on the line, the eye would have pulled out.
  • I added a whipping twine marking to the centerboard lines. The whipping is be 1-2" below the cleat when in correct position.
  • I added low friction rings to the ama end of the barber hauler lines. This makes it easier to adjust the under load. In a breeze, using the sheet winch can help. Sewn eyes.
  • I refurbished the masthead inst. a bit. Cleaned and lubed bearings, replace vane and wheel.

Counter topper, not dissimilar from the one on my PDQ. In this case I secured it with a pin, since the top was a useful cutting board I did not wish to eliminate.

October 5-10

  •  Cleaned the entire hull lining with Formula B and a upholstery extractor. The stains came out.
  • Solar charging. 50 watts and a charge controller.
  • A fan and USB charger.
  • Boom outhaul revised.
  • Sail repair. Three spare sails repaired.
  • New o-rings in crash tank hatches.
  • Mini-dodger designed (watch Good Old Boat for this one).
  • Mini-tramps to block the holes where your leg can go through.
  • Repaired Autohelm power plug. 

Mini-Dodger partial mock-up. Enough to keep the rain out, with minimal weight and windage, and stores flat under a mattress. It's going to be so slick!

 And there will be more...
  • Cleaning.
  • Crack in the hull liner.
  • rebedding deck fittings. 
  • Storage in amas.
  • Play in tiller (shims in kick-up mechanism.
... as well as a few that will feature in articles.

 And yet compared to the PDQ, the projects are individually smaller, cheaper, and less daunting.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Super Simple Solar

After dealing with the complex power system of my PDQ, installing a surplus panel on my F-24 was the work of a few hours and few dollars.

The panel. I like rigid panels, but semi-flexible can make a lot of sense for small boats. The key is that they should not be stepped on, no matter what the vendor says. They use the same silicon cells and they are fragile. Also, they should only be flex once, during installation onto firm support. A bimini is by definition a problem, a common cause of premature failure. The typical story is that "it was a great installation," and then several year later, "I need to get better panels; these didn't last." Of course they didn't. They flexed in the wind and the cells developed thousands of microcracks.

Open circuit voltage of a "nominal" 12 volt panel is about 20 volts. The moment it is attached to a load that drops way down.

Location is always a conundrum; where on the boat never sees shade. The answer, with sails up, is that there is no such place. Since I hate arches and the F-24 is a sport boat, flat on top of the slider was the right answer. It's not under foot and the boom can be swung to the side to leave it clear at anchor. Another advantage of the slider location is that the screws are not into corred deck and thus leaks are unlikely.

There is no need to mess with the main panel. Solar systems wire direct to the battery (or studs that are directly connected). They should NOT be isolated by the battery switch. However, you will need a fuse.  A simple in-line fuse is fine.

Wire size need not be large for a 50 watt panel; #14 AWG is enough. With larger panels you need to stay below about 3% voltage drop.

A simple automated charge controller can be had for $25. Two wires come from the panel, two go to the battery and fuse. Generally they are smart enough to sense the battery and type, regulate bulk and float charging, and schedule equalizing. Wow.

I could write pages about good wiring practices. Use a ratchet crimper, adjusted for the fittings you are using.  use grease on the contacts. Keep things neat. And don't forget the fuse (panels are known to short-out). MC-4 connectors are very good in a marine environment, but I always seem to cut them off and just crimp things together; the pigtail length is always wrong, the replacement panel will be a different shape, and they don't actually aid in troubleshooting.

It couldn't be much simpler these days. If you've got questions, just ask.

Sunday, October 8, 2017

100 Best--Chapter 10

Keeping Warm in the Cabin

On-deck comfort is important, but eventually night falls and we retreat to the cabin, and in the winter, nights are long.  Even the most glorious spring and fall sailing days come hand in hand with cool nights. There is no reason they can't be spent in comfort, like an evening in a quiet cabin.

56. Dickenson P9000 Propane Bulkhead Heater. The live aboard is going to be happier with forced air heat and a thermostat. But for those of us using heat for a few evenings in the winter and to stretch the spring/fall seasons, a propane fireplace is all you need.

Yes, you need leak sensors, a propane locker, and careful installation, but this one is pretty simple, well within the DIY catagory.  It is also just as energy efficient as installed furnaces, thanks to a double-pipe flue that preheats the combustion air, and it's just as safe, since the unit is completely sealed, preventing carbon monoxide from entering the cabin. Locate a small fan nearby to spread the heat, and you'll have a very cozy cabin.

Please just forget everything you've heard about flower pots over burners. That is thermodynamicly and chemically provable as nothing more than wishful thinking, and dangerously erroneous logic. Exactly the same number of BTUs are going into the cabin as with the burner on, with potentially higher carbon monoxide emissions than a naked flame (because of the relatively cool pot surface. The burner can consume the oxygen in the cabin in a matter of minutes, after which carbon monoxide production soars and the floor comes up to hit you in the face. The same goes for small fired lamps and candles. Every bit of pollutant is going into the cabin air which you are breathing. Yes you can ventilate, but then you need more heat. In my opinion, ventless heaters in general are a dangerous, awful product catagory. I'd rather wear more clothes, just like tent camping.

I'm working on a simple solution for stove top heating that vents the exhaust from the cabin, something like the Dickenson Cozy Cabin heater. Look for a post this winter.

57.  Electric Blankets. The first assumption is that the power draw will flatten the batteries, but upon closer examination, the typical 50-100 watts is not that much for a large battery bank.  If used primarily to pre-heat the bunk, and then turned off or way down, the over night draw might be 30-50 amp-hours. Personally, I like sleeping under a mass of quilts, pressed down into the mattress. But this is worth consideration, particularly if one of your party is cold blooded and you have a heafty battery bank.

58. Insulated Window Covers. I've seen all manner of quilted covers, but there are two simple solutions that really work.
  • Bubble Wrap. Just spray the inside of the window with water and apply. Static cling will hold it all winter. I wouldn't have believed it, but it works. It does look rather Hoverville, but it works and it lets light in.
  • Closed Cell Foam. My favorite source is cheap yoga mats. Cut to shape, make Velcro buttons to hold it in place, and reduce the heat loss by half.

59. Double Glazing for Windows. If the window has a removable bug screen, you can make a storm window for it in minutes. Just cut a rectangle from 1/8-inch polycarbonate and round the corners to fit. This will eliminate condensation (there is a dripper over every bunk) and retain more heat than you would think.  and I'd love to provide a spoiler, but the editors would yell at me. See the upcoming article in Good Old Boat Magazine.

60.  Towel Hot Dogs. Cold air leaks around companionway sliders are nearly universal. Slice an old towel into 6-10" strips and sew these into rolls. Stuff them in the cracks. Keeps bugs out too.

 61. Carpet. The simplest of all. The cabin sole is cold, adjoining the unheated bilge space. Carpet protects the varnished sole while adding important insulation.

62. IR Thermometer. These have come down so far in price (as low as $10, but not the Fluke units) I know consider them to be must-have tools. Uses include checking the oven temperature, monitoring engine and cooling water temperatures, looking for drafts and poorly insulated spots at home, and checking your boat for drafts and cold spots. The first time you spot something at home it is paid for 10 times over in saved heat. The boat applications are free!Just scan inside the boat, note any cold spots, and then do something about it.

63. Shoveling Snow at Home. You should also prepare on the home front. While this thrifty sailor has gone with a bottom shelf brew, I would suggested a stout with a higher alcohol content (to prevent freezing). No bottles--they may burst.

All kidding aside, a plastic shovel is handy on a boat, and never, ever touch soft vinyl windows below 50F (they will crack--below zero they shatter like glass), and thaw frosty decks with un-heated seawater.