Sunday, December 13, 2020

Sunset Picture

 I'm not normally into sunset photos, but this one by a fellow F-boater (Farrier forum) caught my eye. The reflections look like fog floating on water. Very cool. Makes me miss summer. I avoid being on the water at sunset in the winter, because it is time to head home.

It's not the cold that prevents me from cruising in the winter, it's the short days. I'd rather go home. And in truth, you get a lot of solitude during the day, on the water, so few people sail in the winter. Just me and the scotters.


Wednesday, December 9, 2020

The Wolf's Dictionary

Democracy. Fair election processes. "Our freedom is under siege." I don't think these words mean the same thing to all people, so how can we have a conversation?

Abraham Lincoln was confronted by this problem on a colossal scale. The rank and file on both sides believed to their very marrow that they were right and that their cause was just, even using the same words. Liberty and Freedom.

Abraham Lincoln - Wikipedia

"The world has never had a good definition of the word liberty, and the American people, just now, are much in want of one. We all declare for liberty; but in using the same word we do not all mean the same thing. With some the word liberty may mean for each man to do as he pleases with himself, and the product of his labor; while with others the same word may mean for some men to do as they please with other men, and the product of other men’s labor. Here are two, not only different, but incompatible things, called by the same name—liberty. And it follows that each of the things is, by the respective parties, called by two different and incompatible names—liberty and tyranny.

The shepherd drives the wolf from the sheep’s throat, for which the sheep thanks the shepherd as a liberator, while the wolf denounces him for the same act as the destroyer of liberty, especially as the sheep was a black one. Plainly the sheep and the wolf are not agreed upon a definition of the word liberty; and precisely the same difference prevails to-day among us human creatures, even in the North, and all professing to love liberty. Hence we behold the processes by which thousands are daily passing from under the yoke of bondage, hailed by some as the advance of liberty, and bewailed by others as the destruction of all liberty. Recently, as it seems, the people of Maryland have been doing something to define liberty; and thanks to them that, in what they have done, the wolf’s dictionary, has been repudiated."

This lack of a common dictionary tore the country apart. It seems we again diverging over what democracy and the Bill of Rights mean. I can accept nearly any political difference of opinion as a basic right. I've voted Republican and I have voted Democrat. But what I cannot abide is any disrespect for the Constitution and the IDEA of fair processes that it inspired. THAT is what makes us American. Respect for the process, whether we like the result or not. Only in a failed nation do people disrespect the process, and we are NOT a failed nation. I hope not.


Saturday, November 28, 2020

The Blue Book

 The Blue Book is where you find used car values, right? Well, not in 1906, when there weren't enough used cars to create a market or the demand for the Blue as we know it today.

In fact, since roadmaps didn't really exist, it was a travel guide.

It also provided some information regarding regulations. Remember, driver education and driving licenses did not exist yet.

And then finally, there is the general non-existence of good roads and uniform signage.  For example, this description of the northern Virginia suburbs is interesting:
  • The road described as leading to Manassas is almost certainly route 7, but it had not been given a number. 
  • Manassas is west of Alexandria. Both are good size cities now.
  • It seems not even one car made the trip from Washington DC to Richmond each year. Now, it would be one car every few tenths of a second.

I wish I could read through this with my grandfather (born 1898). He was learning to drive during this period, driving logging trucks without a license. The sections on Pennsylvania, where he lived often said things like "turn left at the large oak tree 2 miles past the church," in areas where we now drive the Pennsylvania Turnpike at over 70 MPH.

Tuesday, November 17, 2020

Fall Brings the Wind! And the Cold.


90 degree heat and single-digit speeds suck.  A nice 15-knot breeze and speeds over 10 knots  make with worth the extra layers and a little nip on the nose. At least you can add more layers.

What I does it take to keep warm? 

  • Soccer training pants.
  • Either water repellent wind pants or Gore-Tex, depending on how much spray.
  • Base lay fleece top.
  • Turtle neck.
  • Fleece pullover
  • Wind breaker or light Gore-Tex pullover.
  • Very thin balaclava. Keeps the neck warm, but more importantly, it locks the hat on.
  • Ball cap with bump cap insert or fleece hat.
  • Sunglasses (with bifocal).
  • Musto winter sailing gloves
  • Deck shoes.
  • Waterproof socks.


  • Add long underwear.
  • Add second fleece jacket.
  • Possibly heavier wind breaker. Possibly drysuit if really nasty.
  • Heavier balaclava.
  • Ski googles. Keeps you face a lot warmer, even if there is no spray. 
  • Disposable heaters for gloves. They really help, and they keep you in thinner gloves. But I also carry ski gloves (warm but not agile) and insulated waterproof coated gloves (Hydroflector--totally waterproof, excellent grip, and reasonably agile if fitted properly).
  • Thicker waterproof socks, or just a pair of fleece socks under the standard waterproof socks (not if wearing drysuit--waterproof feet are integral.
  • Sometimes Gore-Tex shoes instead of deck shoes. But less agile.

So what am I testing for this season? 

  • Waterproof socks. I used them decades ago for hiking and was unimpressed, but I got several new pairs for this sailing season, and so far, they are a big winner. Comfortable, and they allow me to stay in deck shoes. Gill (top quality) and Randy Sun (great price) are contenders.
  • Seat cushions for a few more sitting locations. A foam pad adds comfort and warmth.
  • Fleece closures for companionway. In two separate layers, they will attach with Velcro, much like my mosquito screens. I don't do much cool/cold weather cruising any more, but they're nice even for a lunch stop. They go well with vented stove-top cabin heater.

Featured in Good Old Boat Magazine, it is nothing more than an old stainless pot inverted over the burner, a flexible 1-inch flue, and a place to place a cooking pot on top of it. Great for warming the cabin and heating up left-overs, all while venting the combustion gasses and CO2 out of the cabin. Very efficient too; the flue is barely warm where it exits the cabin.





Wednesday, November 4, 2020

A Close Race?

In fact a good many have been one by a single electoral college vote.

history of close races 

The voter turnout is the striking thing. Over the past few decades, 60-65% of registered voters was typical, with very little fluctuation. This time the total looks to be closer to 80%. Of course, only about 2/3 of qualified voters registered, lowering that figure to about 50% participation. I guess 1/2 the people figure one vote does not matter and it's not worth their time.

From a point of view, I guess it's surprising that even 1/2 the people can do anything together.

Tuesday, November 3, 2020

Hiding e15 in the E10 Pump

I missed this one. We all heard when Trump ruled that e15 could be sold. What we missed, probably because it was only publicized in Iowa (tight election!), is that e15 can be put in an e10 pump without labeling it as such, subject only to state approval.

 reuters--e15 allowed in e10 pumps

 I'm not sure it's much of a news item. It may very well be reversed, and probably will never move far out of the heartland.  

 But the thing to remember is that marine engines, including outboards, do NOT have computers and CANNOT adjust to the leaner conditions this creates.

 boating industry mag. e15 in e10 pumps

 Be careful what gas you buy. E10 is sort of OK. e15 is probably OK in your car. But not in your outboard.


Interestingly, this was announced mostly in Iowa 52 days before the election. Kinna obvious. If I lived in Iowa I'd ask "Why not three years ago? And will you change it back in a few months to court big oil... again?"


Actually, it seems there is no such executive order. He just tweated that there would be. So he lied to Iowa?

federal register--list of EOs

 If I'm wrong, post the link. I'd really like to see the text.

 Election Day 2020: Where to get the best food freebies

I was at the poll at 6:30 AM. An old habit, from when I had to vote before going to work. Afternoon lines suck.

I don't get the concern that votes be tabulated by the end of the day, or even within a week. We're just impatient.  A number of laws define timelines for certain actions; overall, months are provided.

We'll just have to wait.

Saturday, October 31, 2020

An Origami Kayak--The Oru Beach LT

 The idea of a folding boat prompts images in my head of cardboard boat races and sinking within 50 feet. However, the Oru is a whole lot better engineered than that, and I've been asked to test one.

                                                        Lifts right out of the box, ready to go.

 Yes, you need to read the instructions the first time, but by the second time it only took 9 minutes to assemble, in the wind, on the deck of an anchored boat. 

There's a lot to like. Very fast for the type, dry in light clop, good tracking, very light, and reasonably stable.  I'm going to have to live with in for a while to form a final opinion, but it's clearly a lot more boat than you might expect from folded paper.

[It is made from a very, very heavy duty corrugated polypropylene, rated for something like 25,000 fold cycles]

Thursday, October 22, 2020

Clearing the Deck

 A standard racing dinghy and beach cat trick is take up slack with bungees and to route lines under the deck when possible. This reduces clutter and speeds work. we don't see it often enough on cruising and day sailing boats.

 In this case, instead of leaving the tail of the shroud adjuster floating on the tramp, from where it is often washed off by waves, I routed the tail under the the ramp via a low friction ring turning block. From there, a bungee stretched to near the bow takes up the slack. Out of sight, out from under foot, and quickly adjusted from the cockpit. 

Saturday, October 17, 2020

The Common Clay

Though I've been primarily working from home and observing, my work requires me to travel through rural areas and stop in travel plazas. The last I visited, just north of Haggerstown, MD, featured only 20% of the people wearing face coverings, and most of those had their noses sticking out. Honestly, wouldn't you feel pretty stupid with you nose sticking out, as though THAT part of you is clean in flu season?

The Pennsylvania turnpike was better. Parts of Ohio were pretty shaky, more so in rural areas. My experiences in North Carolina were unimpressive, with the entire Subway restaurant staff going mask-free. I even declined my food in one McDonalds (Wooster OH) because the food prep staff and manager were mask free. I think it's clear the next Covid boom will be slower (because they are spread out) and across rural areas, because they just don't listen. 

In my home neighborhood it's not like this. Mask wear is very high and climbing. I think I'll stay here. 

This isn't about politics. This isn't about personal freedom. How child like. This is about nature and what it takes to staunch a plague. This is why they teach history and biology in school. It's not like work-changing pandemics are something new.

 From Blazing Saddles 

Saturday, September 12, 2020

Name This Anchor


This is a vintage SMC snow fluke, circa 1980, last used somewhere in the Tetons. In a way, it functions like a boat anchor, except they are driven into firm snow and the Spectra bridle replaces the shank. Notice the slight dihedral angle, in part for stability, but in fact primarily to place a larger cone of snow in compression than a flat plate would.

The point is that a slight angle does not make a plow. It is well know that soil anchors can be made stronger through the use of a blunt V-angle. This is part of what separates the Excel from the Delta--small differences in how the angles fit together.

Saturday, July 11, 2020

Excel Anchor--Love It!

It may look a lot like the Lewmar Delta, but the performance is on a whole nuther' level, perhaps the best of the new generation anchors. I've just started testing, but my first impression is that this is probably the best anchor, at any price, for the Chesapeake Bay:
  • Sets and resets seamlessly
  • Holds well in mud. Not as good as Fortress, but better than anything else.
  • It does NOT clog with sticks and sticky mud like roll bar anchors. This is a big win in the Chesapeake.
  • Does well in hard sand.
  • Aluminum. 8 pounds is all I need! But steel would be even better in some ways, so get steel unless ounces matter to you.
  • Comes up clean, like a Delta. But it sets 4x faster and holds 2x better.
 I have not tested rock and weeds yet.

Before testing, I had not yet fitted a rode.

I like it!

Update, 7-11-2020

Rocks seem to be the Achilles heel of well, every anchor.  I spent a number of days last week fishing some areas over jointed rock slabs with small pockets. The best anchors are those that present a sharp point straight down. Northill is quite good. Steel pivoting fluke anchors are surprisingly good. Everything else is terribly hit-or-miss and insecure with even the slightest shift. Very long scope is the rull, since ANY uplift will cause intimidate dragging.

Thus, my standard anchors will now be the Northill and the Excel. Both hold well in sand and mud, and the Northill will fill my fishing needs.

So where did the Northill design come from? They  were used to anchor flying boats in WWII. Not this specific model. There was a light weight stainless version. But the same angles.

Saturday, July 4, 2020

The Ulitimate Laundry Tub Drain Strainer

I don't know why it took me so long to reproduce for home use, a design I have used in industry for decades.

  • Never used wire mesh (bad) or expanded metal (worse). The corners of each opening form a wedge to trap fibers.
  • The strainer material should be about as thick as the hole diameter. This also reduces debris hang-up. It makes it more dificult to hang through and staple. It also makes for less friction when cleaning wrapped (stapled) fibers, since it is like a larger diameter pulley.
  • Flow outside-in if feasible. It is easier to clean the outside by just it wiping off. No digging.

This laundry tub strainer was made from a 1.25-inch PVC stub glued inside a 1.5-inch riser, that was then drilled with 1/8-inch holes. The top is open. After drilling the holes, sand or scrape to get rid of all of the burs, but do NOT chamfer the holes; that will actually make it harder to clean.

I could have drilled the holes more closely, but this was a trial version. The hole size I am happy with. Not matter how jammed, I can wipe it off with once swipe of my hand.  The open top means that if it clogs the tub will not overflow.

I made another for a bathtub. Works great. One swipe to clean.


Wire mesh and expanded metal are just cost-cutting measures. Perforated metal or plastic is always better. Boat applications? Cockpit drains come to mind. 

Yup, any strainer that is hard to clean. There are companies that make custom strainers for big money, or you can make your own from PVC. Vary the hole size according to the application (but there is seldom good reason to go smaller than 3/32-inch--9/64-inch is industry standard for most plumbing), drill them closer, and a drill press is darn handy, because there are a lot of holes. Yes, you can buy perforated materials, but fabrication is another thing.

Thursday, July 2, 2020

Nothing cool to report, so just a few photos from my last outing.

The view from the boom 

On a three-sail reach. 120% of windspeed.

 Warehouse Cove, Chesapeake Bay

Thursday, June 18, 2020

Small Boat Jacklines

Conventional jacklines down the sides make sense on larger boats. They can be far enough inboard for safety and still allow mobility. The bow and stern are still problem areas, but stopping them ~ 5 feet short of the ends solves that. You can clip the bow rail with the 3' when working there, leaving the 6' tether on the jackline.

Smaller boats require a different aproach. The jacklines end up being really short, from the front of the cockpit to 5-7 feet short of the bow, depending on deck hatches. Dedicated anchor points are required, a good idea anyway. Then a pair of hard points in the cockpit secure that area; but keep them off the floor due to tripping problems.

To move to the bow you start with the 6' arm on the cockpit hard point. You clip the 3' leg to the windward jackline, then the 6' leg (both), then move forward in a crouch or crawling. When you reach the end of the 3' leg, unclip staying on the 6' leg and move forward until you can clip the bow rail. You are never unclipped. You also never move from 6' radius to 6' radius hard point, which requires unclipping.

May examples are possible. I use a variation of this on my Corsair F-24, with the jacklines rigged along the inside edge of the tramps.

MacGregor 26D
Red lines are jackline range of movement
Blue lines are are point range of movement

Sunday, May 31, 2020

The Idiots Are Out in Force

Is it my imagination, or is the number of boaters on the Chesapeake nearly double what it would normally be at this time, and are they dumber than usual?

My guess is that it is pent-up restlessness after the COVID Maryland closure ,and a higher than normal percentage of the clueless are charging out. I should have photographed the mess in the harbor, but I was too busy trying not to run someone over, all of them either paddlers or power boaters that were not good at their craft.

In the off season the average skill and safety level is so much higher.

From a 1967 Danforth Manual

I came across this old manual and though I would share a few images.

Not exactly how I would rig two anchors, but vintage advice.

Some interesting examples.

Monday, May 25, 2020

My Personal Mask Design

I've worn masks a lot during my career. I inspect refinery equipment and work in a chemical environment. Fit and comfort for all-day wear are a big deal for me. Thus, following standard principles, I made my own. I kinna figures this would last some months, which it has and will.

I've been asked to post details, so here we go. I know there are a million posts out there.

The real plus of this design is that there are no leaks. They call it a duckbill mask. It may look odd, but the fabric is away from you lips, speaking is easier, and there is more fabric for easier breathing with good filtration. The pattern came from a doctor.

It should be worn high on the bridge of the nose for best fit. This can be a problem with glasses, but I can get it to work (I had not properly adjusted this one yet).

Chin fit is also important. Watch for gaps under the jaw. Tighten the elastic as needed--it is adjustable for a reason.

  • Cut 3 pieces to the pattern (see below). You will actually fold it on the narrowest side, so it comes out looking like a fat hourglass. I cut the fleece with a hot knife--it's a sailor thing.
  • 1 layer fleece (comfortable, maintains shape, and very important, helps with sealing) and 1-2 layers fine sheeting (filtration). Lay them on top of each other.
  • Seam down narrow part of hour glass. This just keeps them in place.
  • Fold it on the seam and seam the edges together and trim with hot knife--it's a sailor thing. Of scissors and flame. It won't fray much. Leave at least 1/2" hanging out near the long edge; you will need this to attach the elastic.
  • Cut a piece of aluminum roof flashing ~ 1/2" x 4" and center this inside one of the long hems. This will make the bridge of the nose stiffener.
  •  Hem the long sides. These will bear on the face, so fold the edges under. This also provides support and creates a thick, wide sealing surface.
  • Melt holes for the elastic in the outside hem allowance using a hot nail. This is why the seams are flat and wide.
  • Thread the elastic. 1/8" cord or 1/4" flat. Tent pole shock cord is perfect. One goes under the ears, the other over the head. By using one continuous shock cord it is more adjustable and easier to don.
  • Carefully bend the nose piece to fit. In fact, nothing is as important as making sure there is no edge leakage. A leak is N-zero. By keeping the stiffener thin and flat it works with glasses, a common complaint.

Although it should washed now and then, they will self-sterilize if not worn for 10 days. Leaving them in the sun is also helpful. So make several and don't go out every day. Then you don't need to wash them too often.

Here is a good video that shows a similar mask made from a HEPA vac filter. I did this, but it's not very comfortable and is not washable. But it is an excellent design.

Here is the pattern. However, I add 1/2 inch on the sides for hem allowance and 1 inch on the long sides for hem and to tuck in the nose stiffener.

I did not sew on the elastic to the mask. One long loop threaded through the holes (melt with hot nail) is easier and more adjustable. The cord is tied with a double fisherman's knot so that I can easily slide it to take up slack, should the elastic stretch or for different size heads.

It's probably not far off N-95 or may be there. Yes, the masks are primarily to keep your own spit, but why not do it right?

I've made a dozzen of them, for my wife and I, and for my 90+ parents. 

Yeah, it's doofy looking.  Too many people choose masks for appearance or because they "look" medical. This works and stays in place through any activity. Good for mowing the grass and shop work too.


Of course, this is why you wear a mask: 

Sunday, May 17, 2020

Anchors Are All Related

[Excel aluminum anchor coming soon!]

What could be more different than a 1950s Northill, looking a lot like a traditional fisherman's anchor, and the latest 2010s new generation anchor, the Mantus M1?

But if we look at them either from the side (ignoring the upper fluke) or from the bottom's eye view...

 ... the angles aren't that different.

I've been using this Norhill on my F-24 for several years because it is the only non-pivoting fluke anchor that will fit in the shallow well. It has dome downsides:
  • Rode can foul on the exposed fluke if the boat does a 360 due to a change in the tide or wind.
  • The fluke area is less. But this is made up for by the cross stock area, so the holding power is about equal.
  • Instead of rotating with the wind change it flips over when the change excedes about 90 degrees and is strong.
But it also has some upsides:
  • Folds flat.
  • Better than either Mantus or pivoting fluke in shells.
  • Does not clog with mud when resetting, because the other fluke is clean.

 No, I wouldn't run out and buy one. I've had this one for 30 years, used it on a number of boats. It has never let me down or dragged, so when I needed a folding anchor I recovered it from the lawn art pile and put it on the boat, where it will stay until someone makes a folding anchor that works.

Yes, there are anchors that knock-down for storage, but a working anchor must be available in seconds in case of engine failure or similar misadventure.

You can analyze these things to death, but the differences are small. Important, but small.

Saturday, May 2, 2020

A New Toy--Holdpeak Anemometer

It never fails to amaze me how instrumentation has come down in price. From lab equipment to non-destructive testing instruments, the change is not quite as dramatic as consumer elelctronics, but it's nice.

My pricey circa 1990 anemometer finally caved in, I needed one for an upcoming article on boat ventilation, and I braced myself for the expence. And it was... $25 through Amazon with free delivery.

I had to add a few slips of tape to the blades to perfect the balance; out of the box it was a little unstable below ~ 0.4 knots. Properly balanced, it is stable and accurate down to 0.1 knots, which is to say, absolutely amazing for so little money. I swear, it spins when a bug flies by.

As far as sailing goes, it's not a substitute for a masthead instrument. You don't get direction, it doesn't interface with the autopilot, and deck level winds are always influenced by rigging and sails. But I actually wanted it for local readings, and should I want to extend it aloft, it has min and max recording and can be attached to an extension via a 1/4" USS mounting thread.

Already a few new projects have suggested themselves. I wouldn't call it industrial duty, but it works.

Friday, May 1, 2020

Hog Politics--If you don't like politics on a sail blog, please skip ahead. I will be back to sailing shortly.

China has been having ongoing pork shortatges due to swine flue. I feel for them. They have a lot of mouths to feed.

In 2013 a Chinese conglomerate bought Smithfield Foods to insure a hog supply and to make money. Very reasonable.

Wiki--Smithfield Foods

Trump claims a "great deal" was struck allowing us to export hogs to China. Just how hard do we think it was to get the Chinese to buy their own hogs? I suspect that was pretty easy.

Now we are calling the meat cutting industry essencial, with special emphasis on pork, but we're still exporting 10% of our cut pork and 25% of the total. I guess it is not that essential to the US food supply.

On the other hand, they are Chinese hogs and the Chinese do need the food. I'm OK with that. We eat too much food.


I'm not sayin' whether this is right of wrong. I can see both sides. But it is more complicated than it appears, Trump is NOT doing it to protect the US food supply, and he is not telling the truth.

I guess I'm used to that. Isn't that sad?

Friday, April 24, 2020

I'm Surprised That There Have Not Been More Articles on the OBVIOUS Failings of the UW Mdel to Predict the Decline

It was easy to predict the rise. Exponentials and what we saw in Europe. Theoretical reasoning suggested a similar slope on the decline.

Consider the following plots of daily deaths (you could look at "new cases," but with testing increasing there could be drift in what that figure represents).

Italy, 4-15-2020
 Spain, 4-15-2020
But look what has actually been happening. Businesses are still open. People move around more as they get bored or need to do a few things. Instead of dropping off sharply, there is a slower decline or terrace.

Italy, 4-22-2020
 Spain, 4-22-2020

As we watch the UK and US we see and even slower decline and higher terrace. I think we are more stubborn and drive around more.

The model continues to show a quick drop that just isn't going to happen. People are starting to move about more. Businesses are opening because they feel they must. Restrictions will soon be eased.

My guess? I believe we are going to be above 30% of the peak death rate for at least 3 months. My crystal ball only goes that far.  The plus is that herd immunity will increase a bit faster, but at current and even steady infection rates, that will take more than a year.

Keep your head down, if you are older, like me.

Saturday, April 18, 2020

Best Practices During COVID Outbreak

Please follow local restrictions. Nothing I say below should be taken as a rebellion against the policies that are in place. There is too much of that already. I wear my mask and I'm staying near home.

At some point we will exhume the country. For me, boating is vital and it is also something I can do with very little social contact:
  • Most of my sailing is solo. The rest is with family or a single friend.
  • I don't go to the club house.
  • I bring lunch from home.
In fact, this is less contact than I would have walking along the sidewalk. I've even taken to cycling on the streets instead of the paths, because the streets are empty and the paths are too crowded unless it's raining.

Boat Ontario has come up with a "best practice guide" (open the link!!) that makes good sense to me.

Spread it around! I sent a contact at Boat US, since it just came out a few days ago.

Monday, April 6, 2020

Taking Face COVID Covering too Far

I have a hard time making light of the current situation, but when my wife came around the corner in this get-up, it was... distracting.

Well, it certainly meets the intent. I suspect it will also help with distancing. But it does make it difficult to handle credit cards.

Sunday, March 15, 2020

I went to WM marine to get flares. They were 18 months old, out of 36 months, and the store manager didn't understand the words "discount." To me, they were 1/3 value, since I will get only one season from them. Most often I get only two season out of flares because they are seldom "fresh" when bought.

I'm thinking of just getting the Orion e-flare. Yes, visibility is less, but realistically, with cell phones and VHF, the odds of a primarily day sailor like me using a flare are between zero and none. I've lit old ones for practice, but I've never even seen one on the water. On the other hand, the odds of me being stopped by the Maryland DNR for a safety check are about once every 3-4 years, most often when they are checking fishing permits and catch.

Not to put to fine a point on it, I really don't care if it works as well as a flare. I don't wear PDFs most days either. And I'll probably carry some old flares anyway. I've lit them in the past, for practice, and never had a failure, up to 12 years.

Saturday, February 1, 2020

Let There be Heat!

rev. 3-9-2010
rev. 9-19-2016 
rev. 2-1-2020 

(I first posted this 10 years ago, but the system still works, it's cold outside, and I though you might want to know. I installed a more primitive heating system in my F-24, which will soon be seen in Good Old Boat. No spoilers.)

The Problem. The delivery trip of Shoal Survivor, from Deltaville, VA to Deale, MD took place between Christmas and New Year's (2008-2009); while it was actually quite comfortable at the helm during the day, protected behind the windscreen, it was decidedly chilly watching movies at night, and my daughter and I vowed that we would install heat before the first frost visited us in the next winter.  

The Solution. I belabored the different types of heaters at length. We already had propane, and a spare propane tap existed. The boat was equipped with propane leak detectors and a solenoid valve, further simplifying the decision.  I had a fair idea of the BTU requirement, having spent a few nights on the boat last winter when the temperature dropped into the 20s. I learned that a single 1500 watt space heater didn't quite do it at all and two were just about right. I learned that a vented heater was an absolute requirement, as even cooking with propane in a sealed cabin brought on a slight headache; I'm not certain whether it was lack of oxygen or carbon monoxide.  Applying an appropriate conversion factor (about 3.3 BTUs/watt) and estimating the thermal efficiency at 85%),  5,800 BTUs seem to be the minimum requirement, and perhaps 10,000 BTUs would serve better. The Sig Marine / Dixon P-9000 (5500-7500 BTU output) seemed a reasonable choice and was also the most we really have room for.  A 10 pound bottle of propane should last 50-70 hours, depending on the rate, or most of a season for a $12 refill. Time will tell.

Note on photo: there is a short gap above the heater, between the heater and the air intake pipe. Installation was not finished and this was sealed.

 I  taped a cardboard of the approximate sized to the wall and we lived with it all summer to prove that it was not in the way.

Note 2-19-2010. Winter experience has proven the above numbers. We burned through 20 pounds in 14 very cold December - February days and nights on the boat. I except when on the hook, I have turned the gas off at night and used dock power to run a single 1500 watt space heater. On one very windy 22F night I had to run the heater on low and 2 x 1500 watt heaters in order to keep the entire boat over 70F. I turned the gas off to sleep.

Note 3-24-2013. 3-day cold weather trip (27F-46F). Heater ran most of the time (sometimes on low), plus cooking, and burned about 2-3 pounds each 24 hours. It was off when we left the boat, generally for about 3-6 hours per day.

Installation isn't overly difficult, but it does require meticulous attention to detail:

*  The gas line must run through a vapor-tight fitting from the propane locker into the cabin. This is a standard item through West Marine, Defender Marine, or Sig / Dickson. The hose is typically pre-assembled with 3/8" flare fittings on each end, so it is a bit fat. The vapor-tight fitting will accommodate this.
*  12 volt electric is required for the fan.  The unit will run without it, but the heat output will be somewhat less and it will not be as well distributed. This is another reason we chose this over the Cozy Cabin Heater. The shut-off safety is not dependent on electricity.
*  Installation side clearances are actually quite small for this unit, because the fan circulates cold air around the firebox.  Additionally, the combustion air is drawn through the deck, and around the flu via a double wall pipe. Thus, smokestack never really gets hot on the outside.  The required clearance around the firebox is only 2 inches, and a little bit more around the smokestack. The smoke stack is almost cool enough to hold in your hand by the time it reaches the deck, so no special insulation is needed. The back of the stove and surfaces only a few inches away stay quite cool and no discernible heat is transferred to the bulkhead.
*  Mounting. I suppose I could have simply placed screws in the wall, but it's rather heavy and I decided through bolting made more sense.  The backside ( visible inside the head) fold heads are covered with decorative caps matching those used throughout the boat, and I used acorn nuts and on the heater side of the bolts. The holes were over-drilled, filled with epoxy, and re-drilled. ahead is a shower compartment as well and thus is quite wet.  The bulkhead is foam cored.
*  Through-deck hole for the smokestack. This was the most stressful step, I assure you.  Boring a 3 1/2-inch, gaping hole through the deck and through the salon roof and extremely visible place - not relaxing at all the first time you commit this sort of surgery on the new boat. It went smoothly enough. After drilling the core was removed extending about 1/2-inch back from the edges and the space filled with epoxy thickened with Cabosil (fumed silica) to a peanut butter consistency. The small holes for the mounting screws were also over drilled and, epoxy-filled, and then re-drilled as well. The smokestack comes with a very thick rubber gasket that is not drilled for the mounting screws; the screws drill their own holes through the rubber and make a very tight fit.
* Heat and epoxy. It is perfectly acceptable to use moderate heat to encourage epoxy to cure more quickly in cool weather. However, there are some caveats: Do not apply significant heat before the epoxy reaches a gel state, as it will become very runny; do not heat thick layers until you are certain they will not exotherm and get hot on their own; it is better to warm the substrate than either the epoxy or the curing mixture after it has gelled.
*  Passing the electric wires and gas lines through the bulkhead near the heater was quite simple. I purchased an assortment set of rubber grommets from Home Depot; the largest and second largest nested fit the gas line, and the smallest one accommodated the 2 x 16 gauge wires.
*  There is a gap in the flue in the picture - that was covered by a collar, not yet installed, that allows for deck movement.Remember that distance between the heater and the roof changes as you go through waves and as people walk on the deck There is also thermal expansion to consider. Provide for some movement.
* I checked for gas leaks with diluted dish washing liquid and a brush. I have added a simple carbon monoxide detector.  

Note: as of 1-13-2010 the CO monitor has never chirped. There is no odor, moisture, or other side effect. Just like my home gas furnace, in miniature.

*  The optional stack heat shield seems unnecessary. The stack stays pretty cool (maximum175 F with infrared thermometer - hurts, but would not burn very quickly). Also, the guard will only fit if the stack is straight.
*  The deck guard is necessary; the stack (deck cap, included with the heaters and pictured to the left) is a VERY effective sheet grabber and will foul your sheets on every tack. I built a similar custom guard from 1/8" x 3/4" aluminum strap that stands 5" high by 12" across, since the custom guard from Dickson was not streamlined enough to effectively shed sheets.
* Distributing the heat. We direct a small pre-existing fan (at first a Hella Turbo, now a Camaro Bora), set on low, at the stack and heater, blowing downwards. It increases the heater out-put by cooling the pipe and exterior, and helps spread the heat evenly throughout the cabin, floor to ceiling, without producing an objectionable draft. I'm sure location is critical, so experiment with your geometry.

Unfortunately, my deck has been attacked by the birds. I removed a nest from my boom in the spring; this must be avian retribution.

About five hours of labor, overall.  The only hideous step was drilling the hole into the propane locker.  That involved boat yoga, worming into one of the under seat lockers in the saloon, which is obviously not designed for human habitation.

Although the heater doesn't get hot on the outside, thanks to the fan and jacket configuration, the glass front gets hot enough to take some paint off your hand. My daughter has also determined that with the door open and the flame set on low, it can be used for somores!

I'm now actually looking forward to our first overnight trip in true winter weather. I like winter: in the summer, there is a limit as to how many clothes you can take off; in the winter it is a simple matter to layer up with modern fleece and stretch products, enough to be comfortable in anything. My other joy is ice climbing; watch me enjoying a New Hampshire icefall at ~ -10F... and loving every moment. There is no swimming in the winter. The wind can howl and often does. Beach combing is different. Many Bay area businesses close for the season. But it is still beautiful.

Experience note, 1-13-2010: operation at the dock and underway has been flawless. Spray and moderate wind have caused no ill effects. Wind gusts of 25 knots apparent have caused flame-outs, but the unit interrupted the gas flow quickly. The heat generally stays in the salon, leaving the cabins quite cool, and so thick blankets are required. I like it that way. At dock, we use small electric space heaters on low in the cabins.

Note on thermal efficiency. The exhaust gases go through a double-pipe heat exchanger, giving up heat to the incoming combustion air. The draft is controlled (there is not too much excess air, as the gas flame is yellow) and waste up the stack is reduced (the maximum stack temperature is only about 285 F by IR thermometer). Thus, depending on the assumptions, the of the heater is about 85% efficient , as good as you will find short of a high-efficiency condensing heater, not available for boats. Most marine heaters are 70-80% efficient and have much higher exhaust temperatures.

10-22-2011: I just returned from another cool weather trip; still working well. As it is a vented heater, it warms the boat without humidity increase, CO or CO2 risk, and is without odor. 

3-24-2013: Some continuing problems with flame blowing out if sailing with wind on beam above 20 knots. I need to upgrade the deflector. No problems at anchor, only with wind on beam. 

1-2-2020: OK, one small spoiler, because this tidbit didn't make it into the Good Old Boat article. I placed the F-24 heater flue on the aft side of the cabin bulkhead to reduce rope snagging problems. That works works fine sailing and anytime there isn't a strong aft wind.  When this did cause a problem, I taped a Tupperware container over the pipe very, very loosely, with gaps on the top. Problem solved. After that, I learned to slide a T on the end when it blew that way. Since I don't really use the heater at the dock--electricity is free where I stay--this is a vanishingly rare problem. That said, don't for get to consider wind and it's affect on draft.

A simple. dependable solution, without the complications of forced air heat.