Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Anchoring Article Series nearing Completion!

I'm getting close to finishing my anchoring series on my main blog, with twenty articles, so far.  I'll publish it as a book with pics as a companion piece to a DVD I'm shooting, editing and producing in all high-definition, Blu-Ray, too! It's on my blog, so stop by!

Saturday, November 28, 2009

How to Use a Cleat

Here’s how to properly use a cleat on a dock or onboard. It’s simple and one of the things hardly anyone does right, including racers.

Never lock a cleat by flipping the line over (as in the bottom picture, here), when onboard. The method I show here will allow you to quickly and easily let a line loose when it’s under tension and still keep it safely secured. I’ll write soon about proper cleating but here’s the basic steps:
(1) Approach the cleat at the side that gives an acute angle between the line and the cleat: That’s the far side.
(2) Run the line around the back, going under both horns to the front

Acute angle and around the back of the cleat

(3) Go over the top, holding the line in place with a thumb

Over the top of the cleat, keeping line from slipping
(4) Tuck the line under a horn and you've taken the force of the line on the cleat

Under the opposite horn of the cleat
(5) Go over the top again, going under the other horn (Sorry - I ran out of memory on my camera that day. I'll take more pics soon but you should get the idea.)
(6) Wrap the line around the base of the cleat, yanking it tight, twice. The second time, you’ll wedge the line in place. That’s it!
For docking, use steps 1-4 and then lock the line by crossing over the center, making a loop under the line and looping it over the horn of the cleat. See how I hold the line already crossed before I make the loop with my other hand? That's how I make sure the loop is made in the right direction.

Locking the cleat by looping under, once I've crossed over
You’ve done it right when the line crosses over the top, from one side to the other. Do it a second time if you’re leaving the boat for a while but the first time is secure.
There is no need to bury the cleat in loops of line - Quite the opposite, because they take so long to unwind. As with everything, keep it simple and utilitarian. Wise seamanship dictates work that is easily usable and looks neat because it's easy to use and tell when something's out of place or broken. In this case, a pile of line takes a minute or two to unwind and usually results in a tangle, when tied properly, a line can be released cleanly in a few seconds. The pile of line can also hide line that has frayed around the initial turn on the cleat and that can result in unexpected breakage and damage to the boat.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Use Your Docklines More Effectively!

Here are two video excerpts from a dock safety video I am filming and will have for sale in December, showing some of the common problems in tying boats in their slips.

I will post more dock-related videos soon.  Hope you enjoy them!  If you're using my stepping technique for hardening docklines, remember to hold onto the boat and keep your weight over the dock and not over the foot that is over the water - That way, if you slip, you won't fall in.  If you're nervous, don't try it: This is a technique for the agile and fairly strong.  This gets into another subject: You ought to have a proven method to easily get out of the water by yourself, at anchor or at the dock. Yes, that's another post coming up!

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Some Quick Basics of Boat Batteries & Chargers

I’ll write a detailed series of articles on this at some point but until then, here are some brief pointers you can discuss with your boat electrician to keep the work tidy and truly correct:
* Bond everything metal (assuming a glass boat) to eventually a zinc, with clean connections. The majority of faults are on ground, rather than hot sides.
* An isolation transformer just inside shore power will do your boat’s electrolysis wonders.
* While AGMs are terrific for cranking amps, don’t leak or need filling, are vibration proof and can be mounted on edge, they are highly sensitive to low voltage and thus do not make good house batteries.
* A good gel cell can be brought down very low 500 times without damage but can not deliver or receive high amps without damage, so they’re ideal house batteries but will die quickly as starters.
* Gel and AGMs take different charging regimens, so the most efficient method is to have a separate charger for each. Obviously, this is not a good solution for budgets but it’s awesome and pays many times over, in the long run. I’m still running my two 8D gels for my house bank, installed in 1994.
* A good 3 or even 5 stage charger isn’t expensive and really worth its weight in gold – Check out the capabilities and doublecheck with the wholesale battery salesperson (Make sure you’re talking to a senior person!).
* Buy from a battery wholeseller and take time to ask questions about quality – There’s a ton of different purposes and you’ll find vast differences in amp-hours, life-cycles and cost. An AGM I commonly install is Trojan – They’re terrific value and come with a 5 year guarantee. Whatever you do, don’t buy “boat” batteries – They’re just marked-up and usually the cheapest in their class.
* Proper busses work wonders – Think the system through and leave 50% capacity. You’ll probably use half of that and be glad for it.
* I label every end, 8″ from the end, of every wire and match my busses + & – side by side, with labels in between, in the same order as the switch panel.
* I also leave workman’s loops (loose) so I can later pull wire. I know I differ from tradition here but no one’s ever had a complaint and I’ve had lots of compliments when customers later run wires or replace equipment.
I’d also check to see all ends are sealed in exposed areas and tell the boat electrician you’re going to look for proper sealed terminals everywhere. If you bring these points up, I’m sure you’ll be taken seriously.
One last thing: Nigel Calder’s Boat Electrician’s Handbook is IT! Buy it and you’ll understand everything. It’s written very clearly and has great diagrams and pictures. Best wishes!

Monday, November 2, 2009

How To Make A Waterproofed, Strong Screw Hole

The best way to make a waterproof hole for strong attachment is:
1) Completely paint correctly-sized hardwood with barrier coat epoxy or barrier coat epoxy paint system (Must use prep and primer!).
2) Drill rough screw holes (Push hard & fast and pull out with as little rotation as possible.), 1/16″ oversized from max. screw thread diameter.
3) Fill holes carefully down a side, making sure to leave an air escape hole, with a structural epoxy paste. While chopped fiber is strongest, it will trap air and so is not recommended here. WestSystem 406, with 422 for barrier coat is ideal. Add 20% 422 first to get a waterproof mix and then 406 until it's about the consistency of whipped cream. Slowly plunge a straw into it, pinch the straw to hold the epoxy in, carry over to the hole and blow to deposit the epoxy at the bottom, then tamp it with the straw. At no stage in this process do you suck epoxy into the straw! That is very dangerous, on a number of levels!
4) Screw carefully by hand with screw coated in grease – (Including the underside of the head!), making sure the tip is not sticking, wipe off excess and leave screw in place until epoxy sets. Try this on a test piece first.
You’ve got a waterproof, amazingly strong screw hole, custom-threaded! When you seat the screw permanently, use a lock washer: You’ve turned your screw into a bolt.
The important bit to remember here is not any oil property of wood but the roughness of the hole, as well as the hardness and strength of the wood. Almost any hard wood is just fine, as long as it’s not brittle and many are much cheaper than teak. No matter what wood or other material is used, it must be truly waterproofed. Many materials appear impermeable and aren’t, over time. Screw holes are the most obvious places for rot but any surfaces that rub are also suspect, so make sure everything’s fastened properly and watch out for later mountings: I prefer to stick, rather than screw workman’s loops, mounting plates, etc.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

How can you tell your sails are set correctly without looking at the tell-tails or mast head fly?

If your course is set, pay attention to the motion of the boat, through your butt if you’re sitting or your feet if you’re standing:
* If the boat moves through wind waves without motion and over swells without bobbing, your sails are set well and giving you good thrust in the direction you are going.
* If the boat is heeling and bobbing, your sails are trimmed too hard or you are pointing too far downwind for the set of your sails.
* If the boat is standing up and bobbing, your sails are trimmed too loosely or you are pointing too high for the set of your sails.
* If you have significant weather helm, your jib is relatively looser than your main. (1)
* If you have lee helm, your main is relatively looser than your jib. (1)
Remember the saying “When in doubt, let it out!” and take a look at your jib. Let your jib out until it barely luffs and pull it back until it doesn’t – It’s perfectly set! Match your main to the jib, initially by matching the boom in parallel with an imaginary line between the tack and clew of the jib. Then taking into consideration twist , horizontal curve at midpoint of sail and vertical curve and outhaul, match the shape of the main to the shape of the jib, paying attention to feedback from the helm, optimizing it for a very light weather helm. The main clue will be inboard more than the jib clue more as you point higher and outboard as you run, unless you have a whisker pole. The fundamental test is the motion of the boat – Does it feel like you’re on rails, sailing powerfully through wind waves and the boat’s not rocking or bobbing? You’re doing a great job, then! I love that feeling!
Ultimately, you will feel the boat through your butt or feet, steer by looking at the horizon and get feedback from your course through your peripheral vision, picking up wave direction, wind shifts, puffs, etc., glancing occasionally at compass and telltales. You’ll get to know your boat so that you feel when the jib and main are pulling well.
(1) These assume the boat is balanced: Many are not. A balanced boat has ballast, rig, sail and rudder trimmed. There’s a lot that goes into balancing a boat, before and while sailing and that is a good bit of what I do as a rigger – Tune the boat and rig so she sails comfortably, naturally, as she was designed to.

Monday, October 26, 2009

What Is Gelcoat and How Is It Applied?

Gelcoat is the generic name for marine exterior epoxy-based boat paint. Boat exteriors are usually completely painted with a thick layer of gel coat and bottom paint is then painted on top of that, for protection against marine growth. Gelcoat is very durable, usually lasting around thirty years but also very expensive, currently around $150 – $300/gallon, with additives.
Painting with gelcoat is straight-forward but there are lots of ways to make a mess of it and it requires a week for testing and various drying times. It’s a completely more scientific process than regular painting but one that can be mastered by a beginner with patience, the first time. Always use the same brand and type of gelcoat and ALL chemicals, as the chemicals from one are only weakly compatible with those of another. Measurements must be precise. If they are not, the gel coat will not be even and won’t match or be repeatable. Once the formulations are proven, write them in the back of the owners manual or somewhere they can be found and gratefully used next time!
This is a very brief overview of the process.
(1) Make, fair and clean the underlying, rigid surface with a tack cloth.
(2) Wipe it with an evaporative degreaser (such as acetone) on a lint-free cloth.
(3) If the surface is subject to immersion, appropriate barrier chemicals must be applied at this stage.
(4) Paint the area with surface prep liquid.
(5) Mix the epoxy primer. For relatively small jobs, I use disposable syringes and cut the tips very short, allowing me to transfer the liquids quickly. I lay them aside neatly in order, allowing for reuse.
(6) Apply the epoxy primer. If spraying, add up to 40% thinner.
(7) Mix epoxy paint in the following order: Resin, hardener, thinner, pigment, flattening agent.
(8) When barely dry to touch but tacky when pressed, apply paint, again mixing thinner – 10% for brush and up to 40% for spray.
(9) Apply UV-protective layer, as specified by paint manufacturer – This is an important step for the life of the repair and will deter UV deterioration, which otherwise will be noticeable.
(10) Wax.
Build up color first and then add flattening agent on the last pass – It’s clear, so it’s almost impossible to build the color with the flattening agent in every coat. it’s vital to use a large spare board and make and apply a number of mixes because the curing process changes color significantly, only gaining its lasting color about five days after application. Generally, use much less pigment than you would imagine. When matching old gelcoat, the last coat will be permeated with flattening agent – Read the instructions for the proper mix. Wet sand between coats, with 600 grit paper and final coat with 2,000 grit paper on a board: Do not use a palm when sanding the final coats because you want the surface to be flat with the surrounding paint. Another tricky issue is the thickness of the gelcoat and you have to guess about the amount of thinner, flattening agent and pigments to build the right thickness. Chipping a bit of loose, existing gelcoat off is a handy tool for comparison.