Monday, April 15, 2019

In praise of WAG Bags

On my last boat I had a conventional holding tanks system, and properly maintained and designed, I believe it is the best answer for most cruisers. I've done lots of research, used composting heads, and have no reservations about this recomendation. But with my new boat, the right answer is WAG bags.

WAG (Waste Alleviation and Gel) bags are widely used by the military and FEMA in situations where conventional sanitation practices aren't practical. For example, I used antifreeze in the toilet of my PDQ in the winter, and that worked well, but carrying a portable toilet on an icy dock from my F-24 seemed pointlessly dangerous. So I investigated WAG bags as a winter alternative.

A heavy duty bag and a gel very similar to that used in diapers. Pretty simple. We have a portable toilet, but we don't put solution in it anymore. These are simpler.

Not pleasant, to our western sensibilities. But think of the plus sides:
  • Light.
  • No head to clean.
  • No odor once off the boat. 
  • No pump-out station, no lugging the portable head home to clean and refill.
I'm not saying they are for everyone. We hardly ever use the head on the boat. We hit the shore side toilets before heading out, and if we drink some beer, that goes over the side. I doubt we use more than one bag a year.

But even when cruising, I would have kept a box onboard for emergencies, had I known of them. They can be laid right in the head (drain and clean first, obviously) or used over a bucket, no mess.

Not pretty, but darn functional.

Friday, April 12, 2019

Why Not Webbing?

As I did more with low friction rings, it became evident that rope is not the best material for sliding. Double braid can get lumpy and is high friction. Single braids, like Amsteel flatten under load, leading us to the obvious conclusion that webbing is better for some things. 

By including loops at several points, it can adjust to various reefing heights. This boat uses roller reefing, so there is no jiffy-reefing tack line.

For example, webbing has been used for years in dinghy Cunninghams. The purchase is doubled by running it through the Cunningham eye, but it's just a regular grommet. Webbing runs more smoothly, with less friction.

Webbing is perhaps the most traditional method of attaching sail slugs to the mainsail. Wrap 2-3 times and sew.

So what about other applications?

  • Lifeline lashings.
  • Sewn to the jib or reacher sheets at the end, there is nothing to hang up on.
  • Slab reefing outhaul tackles. Less friction through the clew ring.
  • Furler line. I use webbing on the reacher--I can fit more on the drum that way. The webbing is spliced to a larger rope tail.
  • Control lines that are underfoot on deck.
This is also similar to what we do when we strip cores, such as on furlers. I'm aware of that. You don't want to handle it under load and it does not play well with winches.


Wednesday, April 10, 2019

PDQ 32 and 36 Rudder Core

Posted just in case any PDQ owners were curious about what lies inside.

Tuesday, April 2, 2019

Anchor Lights Get Smaller

Once upon a time anchor lights took a huge bite out of your battery overnight. Some drew as much as 25 watts, costing you as much as 20 aH by morning, or nearly the entire usable capacity of a group 24 battery. The also burned out every 1000-2000 hours, requiring frequent trips up the mast to keep them burning. LEDs promised as much as 100 times less draw and lamp life up to 50,000 hours, but the the first generation didn't always deliver.

 On the left, the home-built masterpiece a PO installed. The engineering was pretty, but heavy and ultimately failed. On the right, the replacement Tecniq M10. It is tiny, draws less power, is USCG certified, and weighs less than 1/2 ounce. (both are 2.5-inch in diameter, both light through the same vertical angle)

They came from a cottage industry, some nearly works of art and others crude affairs. Some nav lights were the wrong colors. They didn't always shine through the correct angle. Some interfered with VHF, a particular problem with anchor lights, being located right next to the antenna. None were USCG approved.

I don't mind the heights, but the up and down trips for the stuff you forgot are annoying. In this case, I needed two odd size screws from the hardware store. I remembered everything else.

I'm keeping the old one on my bookshelf, like a little lighthouse. But I'm happier the Tecniq is at the masthead.