Sunday, May 27, 2018

Sour Milk

Spring is cleaning season, and in the case of the F-24, that meant eating the scum off the sides of the amas. We had kept the boat folded in a marina for a year, which means the outsides of the hulls laid in the water, growing horrible stuff without even the protection of anti-fouling paint. We gave it a jimmy scrub when we moved it to Deal, but it was still bad. Acid washing is the cure for waterline stains and most growth.

But what acid? Some swear by muriactic (hydrochloric) acid because it is fast and cheap. Some prefer white vinegar (acetic acid) because it is low-hazard to the body. In fact, neither are all-around optimal for most things.

First, toxicity. Hydrochloric acid breaks down into chloride (sea salt) when spent, so it is harmless to the environment. You can get burned, but there is no long-term toxicity (stomach acid is mostly HCl). Vinegar is non-toxic and biodegradable. But so is lactic acid (the stuff that makes milk sour), the primary ingredient in CLR.

Which is best? It depends on the materials involved. I did some tests, descaling joker valves, with the results below. I also placed metal samples in with the acid, to measure corrosion rates.

The bottom line? Look at the green lines for metals loss during the cleaning period. CLR as clearly safest for aluminum, HCl is safest for steel (with CLR a good second), and other acids proved slow and quite damaging.

  • Outboards. If aluminum is a concern, CLR will work 20 times faster than vinegar and cause 4 times less damage than vinegar. I also use CLR in the bathroom at home, where it removes scale without risk to aluminum shower doors.
  • Steel. If only steel parts or for plastics, let it rip with HCl.
  • Vinegar. Save it for salads.
  •  Oxcalic acid. Other than brightening teak, keep it away from the boat. In the case of teak, it removes a layer so use it with extreme caution. I suggest keeping it way from the boat.
Overall, sour milk in the form of CLR rules the day. And if a little gets in the water... it's just spilled milk. Really.

Sunday, May 20, 2018

Sloppy Sailing

(First posted January, 2012)

It doesn't come easily to me. Sloppy dress--easy. Sloppy appearance--haven't shaved in a week. Sloppy topsides--easy. I've learned to like substantial rub rails and dock rash, and can ignore seagull poop, at least in moderation. Sloppy marinas-- my favorite ones, since properness for appearance sake rubs me all wrong. But sloppiness in functional things also rubs at me, even on my laziest day. Perhaps even in this, I need to learn to change gears.

Being an engineer works against me. I like things to work correctly and efficiently. There's also my active nature; my wife thinks I just can't sit still.  She says I should relax more when cruising, not understanding that tinkering and adjusting and generally fooling with things is at the heart of messing about in boats. Just sitting--if for too long--is torture. Give something to fix--not something unpleasant, preferably something rewarding--and I'm much happier.

Sloppy sail trim. I just can't do it.  I've owned too many performance boats, where speed was everything.  Why would I buy a high performance boat, suffer all of the compromises that accompany that choice, only to sail slowly and poorly? As a cruiser I still see poorly trimmed sales as just plain ugly. I don't grind and trim all day long, but I spend a few minutes getting very close to right and then leave the autopilot to stay close. But I hate the look of a wrinkled sail, over trim, or an uncontrolled twist that would better suit an Annette Funicello movie.

Sloppy anchoring. I loath doing something twice that I could have done once, had I paid more attention. I enjoy doing something efficiently, easily, and with the minimum number of steps. I can't just drop a pile of chain on top of the anchor and hope for the best. I can't just drop a second anchor, some place or other, because I'm too lazy to set the first one properly and I worry. If a second is needed, it will be placed rationally and the rodes connected rationally. I'll spend a few moments gauging what the tide will do and how I will swing. I'll pay attention to the feel of the ground when the anchor takes hold, estimating what the bottom must be like and how the anchor will like it. I like to spend the afternoon securely parked and the night sleeping peacefully. Sloppy anchoring would give me more exercise. Mid-night excitement too.

Sloppy navigation. Well, perhaps I am guilty of this.  I've spent too much time with shallow draft boats. I tend to glance at the chart in the morning, memorize what I think I need to (where I'm going and places the bottom might be shallow and rocky), and then just sail.  I watch the GPS in a general way, but not the details.  I've sniffed the bottom a few more times than was strictly necessary, entering an unmarked creek while distracted by daydreams of what the afternoon at anchor might bring.  But I don't think I'm sloppy when it counts.  Grounding on a coastal sandbar to be deadly. If the Chesapeake had rocks I'd be more attentive. I've piloted many miles of hazardous coastline; I'm only sloppy when it's safe to be.

Sloppy docking. Nope, just too embarrassing. If getting sloppy means putting other boats at risk, it's not acceptable. Now, when it comes time to flemish the dock lines, scrub the deck, and hide all of my "cruisers stuff", I'm sloppy and loving it . I don't have a problem with leaving a beer bottle by the helm. I've sailed off with fenders hanging more than once; I swear some of those were intentional-- a short move--and the rest.... well, at least I'm not sloppy when it comes to trying  fenders in place. Of course, I did leave a rather nice spring line in Cape Charles, nicely coiled on the dock.  It occurred to me when I reached Cape May.

I'm too cheap to be sloppy with sail covers or window covers. But I don't mind a kayak lashed to the side decks and a jerry can lashed to the stern quarter rail, if they serve a good purpose. I don't mind fishing from the dock or leaving some cut bait on a board, so long as we are still fishing.

Sloppy planning. I've made progress. When I first started distance planning, I made a list. Now I leave more on the boat and sometimes untie the lines without any firm notion of where I'm going, the destination determined by the wind forecast. A float plan? Pretty funny.

Unfortunately, the reality is the opposite. Somewhere in my subconscious, as I motor out the channel, I'm considering the forecast I read, considering the waves I see on the horizon, factoring my mood, and making a very informed decision. Sloppy and rash planning is just plain difficult for us old farts; we've made or seen a lot of mistakes and just can't aim ourselves  toward a grand epic without real effort. Descending from a grand snow and ice climb in the Tetons with a long-time partner, we questioned why, in all the years of climbing together we had never experienced a real epic, not in thousands of climbs. Although we had cut it a bit thin a few of times, we knew the line between epic and dead is thin, and we maintained a safety margin. We had stayed just within our abilities.

Sloppy maintenance. I'm not sloppy when it comes to quality of work. I keep my boats a long time, really try to make every fix or modification and honest improvement, and then sell them for more than I paid. I keep my work area neat when on the hard; basic courtesy to the yard and my neighbors. But if we're talking winterizing and spring clean-up... well, I've covered that before. I'm not above used parts, dumpster diving, and re-purposing, but only if I can match or improve upon original quality.


Maybe there is hope for me. I have a few sloppy traits--the megayacht group  in Cape May pointed them out--a foundation I can build upon. I could learn to like the curve of a stalled sail. I can try catching fish with the spinnaker. I suppose, so long as I am becoming old and physically decrepit, I need to encourage decay of my mental faculties without further delay.

Monday, May 7, 2018

100 Best--Chapter 17


In honor of my new book, Rigging Modern Anchors, Which became available in print in September 2018, I present an assortment of best anchoring "Best Deals."

About twice as thick as climbing webbing, Chafepro wears 4 times as long. The material and weave is very similar.

96. Tubular Webbing for Chafe Protection. Over the years, I've tested a number of products for docking lines, snubbers, and anchor rodes, both in the lab and in the field. Chafe Pro  makes the best webbing guard (Chafe Sleeve). Though far more expensive than climbing webbing, it is what I would use if building my own mooring pendant. It is what Yale uses on their excellent Maximoor pendants. For all other uses, climbing webbing is a super value.

Climbing webbing also makes a fine thimble substitute for everything but rough galvanized mooring eyes.  It can't pop out and it can't damage the rope if it gets sideways.

97. Dinghy Anchor. Mantus remains in a league of its own by offering the only new generation anchor offered in small sizes. Want a bargain? Look a the 4-pound Lewmar Claw for just $22. There is even a 2.5-pound claw for just $12, perfect for kayak fishing.

Have one of those Danforth-only shallow lockers? Though not cheap, Mantus is coming out with 8-pound and 13-pound versions that come apart in seconds without tools. I've testing this one for 6 months, and there is a lot to like.

98. Grade 43 Chain. I don't understand grade 30 chain. Perhaps someday soon grade 70 will become common place and I will say "don't don't understand grade 43 chain," so if you want to move to grade 70, you have my blessing (do make certain all of the fittings match). After much testing, I thoroughly understand the function and limitations of catenary. As a result, I would rather carry an extra 5 pounds of anchor every day. There is a narrow little window where heavy chain can eliminate the need for a snubber, somewhere between nice winds and a fresh breeze, if the water is 12-20 feet deep, and you don't mind a little more pitching at anchor and underway. Less wind or deeper water and lighter chain is enough. More wind and it makes no difference either way.

Lewmar Claw. I don't like playing favorites in a topic where everyone has a favorite.

99. Best Anchor. No, I won't join this debate. That said, I tested quite a few and I found a lot to like about many of them.
  • Fortress. Absolutely miserable on rocks, in weeds, and in cobbles. Absolutely unbeatable in soft mud, where it is needed the most. I'm not sure I would use it is my best bower unless I lived in a real soupy mud area, but as a kedge and secondary in most areas it has no equal. The light weight is a huge plus when you are rowing it out. Tip: use only 3-5 feet of chain; heavier chain actually inhibits the setting of Fortress anchors. This also makes it easier to break the anchor out without scraping up your topsides. Then add a 15-foot chafe leader made from Dyneema covered with tubular webbing. Very light, very easy to handle.
  • Lewmar Claw. Holding in most bottoms is poor on a weight basis, but it is also quite economical, making it a very good buy, from a point of view. I like the smaller sizes for dinghy and kayak anchors; no sharp corners, economical pricing, and reasonable holding on any bottom. Also very good for hammerlock moorings, since it very predictably creates some drag and always sets at least a little, even at very short scope.
  • Mantus. The best of the new generation for hard bottoms, though perhaps not the best at short scope or in medium soils. Surprisingly, though, it has performed well in soupy mud, as well as anything other than Fortress.
  • Manson Supreme and Rocna. Their reputation is well earned. Also Spade, but man, are they expensive in the US.
  • Northill Utility. If only it didn't have that pesky second fluke sticking right up out of the bottom, ready to foul the rode, it would be one of my favorites. On the other hand, I've found it to set fast in any bottom and hold very dependably, even on boats too big for a 10-pound anchor. I used on on my Stiletto 27 for years, used it in testing on the PDQ 23/34. and used it on the Corsair F-24 until I got my hands on the Mantus 13-pound anchor.
(cover image not yet set.)

100. Book on Anchoring. False modesty would ring false. I'm the first to admit that my writing skills are rudimentary at best. I can get words on paper and organize them well enough that I can understand them, but little more than that. However, I am proud of the extensive testing that went into this book, and that it is the most technically comprehensive book of its type. Virtually everything was tested quantitatively and every bit of best-practice and dockside-wisdom was dissembled to its irreducible parts. While there is some smaller-boat research that didn't meet the publishing cut-off, and there are certainly things about anchoring I don't know, there is a lot in this book and none of it is guesswork. It is the best I can offer, and perhaps the best any non-fiction author can do. Just the facts.

This also brings me to the end of my promised "100 Best Deals." I have every intention of following this up with a second hundred items under the provisional title "200 Best Deals," but I need to ruminate on that for a while and collect fresh thoughts.

Meanwhile, go sailing, and enjoy reading Rigging Modern Anchors after you have anchored down securely in some out of the way cove.


Finally, a bonus tip. When anchoring in a crowded harbor, maximize space by staggering your placement relative to other boats.  Lower the anchor about one rode length plus one boat length off the beam of the next boat. Simple.

Thursday, May 3, 2018

Water Knocking at the Door

The view from down in the cabin on an open transom boat can be a little alarming. You're actually looking up at the stern wave at times. It doesn't board, but it's right there. The camera is resting on the companionway sill.

About 7 knots
Speed  up to 10 knots and it stretches out a bit.
About 8 knots.

By the time we were passing 12 knots later the wake was getting long indeed. Notice the water shooting up out of the rudder cassette.