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.