Thursday, January 25, 2018

100 Best--Chapter 14

Boat Specific Tools

And I don't mean specific to your boat. Just tools that are for boats.

The average boat would float a foot higher if the tools and spares were removed. What about boat-specific tools that you only grew to appreciate after a few years in the trenches? Here are a few of my favorites:

81. PelaOil Change Pump. I really should list this one twice, since most of the time I'm not using it for oil. In fact, I have two of these.

Pumping the bilge. Or rather all five of them. My F-24 has two sumps in each ama (outrigger) and a main sump, none or which have installed pumps or collect much water. The simplest solution has been a clean (don't change the oil with the same pump unless you want a fine for oil pollution) oil change pump. Just give it a few strokes, stick the hose in the sump, and a minute later you are done. No fiddling with hoses or power.  If Ive been good, I can knock out all of the sumps in one fill, if I've been lazy, I might dump it once or twice, which takes only moments... if you keep it separate.

Changing the oil. You'll never grope for the plug again. Not only does it save time, it saves mess and pollution potential. Depending on the motor, you may want to add a semi-rigid extension wot the wand made from aluminum or copper tubing so that you can get to the very bottom. They pump a little faster if the oil is warm, but either way it will only take a few minutes, and they oil is in a nice container to transport it to the recycle center.

82. Hose Pick. For certain, you want to get one of these before tackling a sanitation hose removal project. Really, any hoses that need to come off barbs. Combined with a pair of rubber faced gloves for grip, these can generally break any hose loose with minimal effort and without damaging the barb. Use a hacksaw an you might as well resign yourself to replacing the barb as well, for it will surely leak. New hose clamps, of course.

83. Refrigerator water container.  Actually, for me it is an antifreeze container. I've adapted all of my water systems (head, fresh, AC) with Ts and valves so that they can be filled without taking anything apart. The nozzle is just the right size for 1/2-inch ID hose to slide on (make certain it is not tapered and that it is a nice fit, though a clamp is probably needed). It has a valve. I set it above the system I want to winterize, open the valve on the container and switch the valves on the boat, and the system pump draws the antifreeze in. Winterizing is the easy work of an hour.

Comfort tip: tape 4-inch wide strips of foam exercise tile inside the leg loops of your harness. Much more comfortable if you are going to be up there for a while.

84. Mast Mate. Although there are many climbing systems, I like the simplicity of a ladder. It is faster, the working position is more comfortable and higher, and the cost per years is trivial; mine is 25 years old and looks like new.

85. Sail Maker's Palm. I'm really surprised at the number of boats that don't have one on-board. It's a sail boat!! Mostly, mine isn't used for sail repair. I use it for whipping lines, finishing splices or even sewwing splices, sewing projects from webbing or canvas, or repairing gear and clothing. Then there are the home uses, including repairing your favorite work coat or repairing the boarder on a rug. Invaluable. Hand sewing skill is basic seamanship as far as I'm concerned.

I really thought I would come up with a lot of boat specific tools, but in the end, most hings were multi-purpose. Perhaps I bought them with a boat project in mind, but they've since been used around the house too much to qualify. That is a good thing. In fact, all but the refrigerator bottles get used at home; I've used the MastMate for tree work.

Sunday, January 21, 2018

Mid-Winter Sailing

There is something immoral with leaving the boat along for too long, something like not playing with your children, cat, or dog (notice they are all in the same sentence...). A boat needs exercise and cold weather is no excuse.

Just because some of the marinas are still frozen solid is no excuse.

We have perhaps the hardest freeze in 15 years or so, building enough ice in Deale to walk across the harbor. Ice breakers were dispatched to Smith Island, and The National Guard sent Chinook helicopters to Tangier Island. Although it has warmed, even yesterday  I doubt I would have gotten out.

Sure, it was 65F in Washington and 55F in Deale, but I doubt it got much above 45 F on the water. The water was reading 36F and the light south wind had been in close contact with that for hours.

Below about 50F a balaclava is a mandatory neck seal, and it seems to help keep the hat on. Ski goggles replace sun glasses at about 45 with the wind comes up. They actually add a lot of warmth. 

The primary project for today was finishing the jackline layout. I've been doing a lot of testing of snap hooks and carabiners in the wake of the Clipper CV 30 accident, and one thing that has come out of it is that the Wichard Proline tithers are a top pick. They are about 4-6 times as strong as Gibb-style hooks in many loading situations, are big enough to clip railings, and I really like the light webbing and elastic. There are other good carabiners, but these really deliver the complete package.

By running the jackline along the cabin edge, I can reach the bow, transom, amas, and entire cockpit using the 6-foot tether arm. You can clip with a 3-foot arm for additional security. There are a few places you can fall off, but the boat has low free board and you would have a good chance of muscling back aboard. However, it's better not to fall off. Racing history has shown that sailors very seldom fall off when traveling the deck; it is when they stop to work on something that they are at risk. So use your short tether when working.

This time of year, a PFD really isn't worth squat. You won't last long enough solo, and it could be close even with good crew (hope you don't have the chute up). Wear a tether. Wear a dry suit if it's blowing.

Run the jacklines over control lines and under sheets.

Why edure the cold? Because the Chesapeake is a different place in mid-winter. The power boat wakes vanish; even on a Sunday, I didn't see another boat. The only sounds are the water hissing by the hull and scoters down from Canada for the winter. It is the very definition of peaceful. So long as the wind is not up, it's not that cold.

A rough estimate suggests there were about 50,000 scoters on Herring Bay today.

Monday, January 8, 2018

Preparing for Snow

When snow is forecast, the diligent southerner prepares. As a Yankee, I would use a a nice stout.  Higher standards.

Thursday, January 4, 2018

When the Wind Blows From the North...

... it blows the water out of the Chesapeake Bay, resulting in tides as much as 6 feet below normal. The tide was still dropping when I took these images. Fortunately, the mud is a gentle cradle. Sometime I think the boat does better aground when it's howling--it no longer tugs at the lines.

And more cold to come.

Every boat in the marina is aground. The catamaran is my old Shoal Survivor, and the trimaran on the right is my current ride.

The inside of the slip is only a few inches deep.

The dock is now chest-high. No "stepping aboard"--you have to climb. The samples that are hanging under the dock are test coupons that should be in the water. You can see the water stain on the fender to the right.

Flying the Port ama sitting still.

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

The Clipper Round-the-World Race and the Failed Tether

Some of you are likely aware of the Clipper Race, where amateur sailors ranging from considerably experienced to land lubber pay for a slot on a race boat. There are two paid crew for 18 guests, so hand holding is limited. This is quite different from either the pure amateur or pure professional models, where the crew must earn a place on the boat.

During the last race, a 60-year old retired lawyer fell off the bow and drowned. He was tethered, but the carabiner on the tether failed. Forensic testing of identical clips confirm that because of the way the tether was pulled, instead of failing at over 4000 pounds as expected, it failed at about 300 pounds, a force easily generated in a modest stumble.

That is a staggeringly low failure strength. How could that happen? Unfortunately, if I told the full story, my editor would choke me, so I will just have to refer you to Practical Sailor. We've been deeply involved in investigation. There is an interesting post on Facebook right now (link below) and the full story will be out in a few weeks.

Practical Sailor Clipper Up-Date, Facebook

I will share this, however. My tethers don't look like that. I have a few spare hooks left over from testing but they won't be going on the boat. In fact, if you showed any rock climber this sharp-edged monstrosity and asked him to trust his life to it, he would tell you to get stuffed and pitch it deep in the woods. Honestly, it looks like a toy carabiner to me. The metal is too thin, the edges are sharp enough to cut rope and even steel climbing slings, the internal lock can jam on rope and webbing, and the nose snags everything in sight.

I use something a bit different. The carabiners are from rock climbing and via ferrata. They are better proven, more thoroughly tested, and subject to a tougher standard. The lanyard is 8 mm climbing rope and absorbs impact, keep the force on my chest comfortably low. I'm hoping the standards for marine tethers and carabiners can be changed to be more like these.

I'm thinking that the sailor might still be here. But make no mistake, off-shore sailing is dangerous, and if you fall over the rail, the ocean can beat you to death in short order. Keep your tethers short.