Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Outhaul Jammer

I'm working thru my backlog - this is an old post from Drew at Sail Delmarva - so old in fact that he has sold this boat and gotten a new one since this was posted. And the book he mentions has already been published - I recommend it and several others he has published. You can find them in his bookstore.
As I continue to work on my book on "Faster Cruising" I found myself feeling like the cobbler with no shoes for his children; I don't always follow my own advise, even when I know I'm right. In the book I argue that cruising boats are often lack the rigging and hardware needed to make basic trim adjustments quickly and easily, as though cruisers don't care about efficient sailing or understand the fine points. I care, but I have to admit my cruising cat doesn't have the quick access to fine trim that my performance cat had. I aim to fix that.

Case in point. My PDQ 32 came with a good boom and internal reefing, but the main outhaul was secured to an undersized cleat . To tension it under load, you take the tail to a mast-mounted winch, wrap the line under the cleat, and lift the line sharply when taking the line off the winch in an attempt to minimize slippage before that first wrap is on the cleat. Boy scout at best.

A few days ago I removed the undersized cleat (closely spaced holes on the seam) and I tapped four new holes to secure a proper jammer. Now I can ease the outhaul in a blink and tighten with a winch in control.

The smaller line is for the lazy jacks.

Why a double jammer? The few times I have found myself sailing with three reefs (winds gusting to over 30 knots) I found I needed a better way to winch the clew down. The tack is easily secured with a loop through the reefing tack and under the gooseneck, but there is no internal rigging for a 3rd reef. Thus, I tie a bowline around the boom under the reef clew (like the other reefs), go up through the reefing clew, and back to a snap shackle-equipped snatch block at the main outhaul. From there the reefing line is threaded through this new jammer, allowing a mast mounted winch to tension the clew outhaul.

The only challenge is to remember to thread the reefing clew while hoisting.

[The jammer came courtesy of freecycle--it patiently awaited re-purposing for several years in one of my might-need bins. Whooppee!]

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Aft Cabin Project

Please welcome new contributors Deb and Tim, who live aboard and cruise their Tartan 42, s/v Kintala. If you live aboard your boat, you undoubtedly work on your boat. So where do the tools, electrical connectors, plumbing bits, spare pieces of precious teak, etc go? Deb and Tim created a nicely organized storage area for just these things...
The aft cabin is finished with the exception of a few coats of wax so here are the pics for your perusal.

This is the starboard aft cabin berth that we removed the mattress from. We bought these hardwood drawers from Lowes in a kit for less money than we could have bought the materials.

Tim built a bulkhead across the foot of the berth at the same location as the front of the pantry cupboard. The area behind this bulkhead will store boxed tools like drills and the Dremel. In this picture he's working on installing the wire shelves that will hold our Harbor Freight plastic storage boxes. And yes, we know the shelves are upside down. We needed the lip to keep the boxes from sliding back and forth every time we tack.

The finished project minus the waxed finish. There is a handy shelf on the top for putting the tools currently being used. Below the hinge are the two drawers that hold tools. You can now see the door on the bulkhead to access the boxed tool storage. We left enough room then in front of the drawers for guests to put their duffels.

Here it is with the front panel lowered on the hinge. This makes our workbench which will soon have a quick-mount vice on the corner in the front of the picture. It's hard to see in the picture, but under the workbench are three drawers that we put 100# heavy duty sliders on and locks to hold our heaviest tools.

The drawers have good sliders on them and are stopped by the fiddle.

The cupboard at the foot holds an amazing amount of junk tools.

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

The Changing of a Hanging Locker

All of us have boats with storage compartments wedged into any void space in the design. Not all of these spaces provided by the designer are useful to our particular needs. Dana on s/v Rubigale, tackles this issue head-on...
Hanging Locker
Empty Locker Before

I was frustrated with the inability to store much of anything in the two hanging lockers that I had, and the lack of storage in general on the boat.  The shape of a hanging locker doesn’t lend itself to any item of clothing I can think of other than perhaps a miniskirt or skinny jeans, and I doubt that is what most people want to store in them.  I decided to convert the locker in my V-berth to shelves instead and see if I could recover some of that space.

Hanging Locker
Supports Installed

The first challenge was that with the curvature of the hull, nothing looked straight.  I ended up measuring down from the top and then using a level to draw lines on the walls where the shelf supports would go.  Never would I have thought that those lines were straight due to the visual tricks of the curvature and I had to trust the level.  Each of those lines were measured for the supports which were cut 1” short of the back wall and angled at 45 degrees due to the slant of the wall.  These were predrilled with a small countersink.  Once this was done they were coated in polyurethane and screwed onto the side walls where the marks had been made and the holes filled with wood filler.

Logan Helps With Patterns
Logan Helps With Patterns

The second challenge was that the back wall is the hull of the boat and curved not only top to bottom, but from forward to aft.  After starting, I discovered that one of my two “straight” walls was not straight.  Not being a geometry genius, I had to come up with something that would allow me to cut shelves with as few tries as possible.  I took a piece of scrap trim and drilled a hole the size of a pencil at one end. I used a thin piece of balsa wood about 4 inches wide as a temporary shelf, put brown wrapping paper over it and placed it on the supports. I then used my pencil “protractor” to trace the hull shape onto the paper.

Once I had the side measurements and the shape of the back, I cut the shelves. I left a one inch gap at the back for air flow. I used 1/2’ plywood for the shelves – anything thinner wasn’t going to be strong enough and thicker just took up room I could use for storage.

Hanging Locker Shelves
Cut Shelves With Rail

After a few coats of polyurethane, a small fiddle-rail, stained to match the outside of the locker was attached to the end with small brads.  The shelves sit on the supports unattached. The fit is snug enough that there’s no movement, but they can still be easily removed.  The fiddle-rail keeps containers from sliding into the door when the boat heels.

Hanging Locker Shelves
Finished Shelves

A relatively large amount of storage was gained by changing a traditional hanging locker to shelving.  This solution works well for me since I don’t really have clothes that need to be hanged.  I plan to convert the only other hanging locker as well, but will use L brackets instead of wood supports to save some steps and time.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017


This post originally appeared on Windborne in Puget Sound

I have no excuse for the long pause in posting here, except: life.

As with many projects, the design and planning stages take longer than the actual execution.  Making a new sail cover for Eolian's mizzen was one of those projects.  I started thinking about this last summer, while hanging on the mizzen boom by one arm, way out past the stern rail, making up the fasteners on the far end of the sail cover.  I have been doing this acrobatic act for 20 years, but lately my shoulders have started to bother me, telling me that this process was going to have to change.  

Well finally last week everything came together and I was able to spend the time to put the plans and design to the test: actual sewing.

You really want to use a hot knife for this...

I unrolled the Sunbrella on the dock, laid out the pieces using a chalk line, and cut them out using my brand new, handy-dandy hot knife (you really want to use a hot knife for this work because it seals the edges of the cut, preventing unraveling).  The only tricky part of the layout was the placement of the cut outs on the side pieces for the lazy jacks.  To get these right, I tied the lazy jack lines to the boom at their design locations, and then stretched a tape measure along the diagonal that the top of the sail cover will make, taking the measurements where the diagonal intersected the jack lines.

Then the depth of the cut outs needed to be established.  I wanted them to be just deep enough so that the top of the cut out, which will be the bottom once the stitching to make the batten pocket is completed, would be just above that seam in the finished product.  Here's the detail on that:  I had determined that a 4.5" circumference would make a batten pocket large enough to accommodate the 3/4" schedule 40 PVC pipe that I was going to use as battens.  Adding a 1/2" seam allowance, I struck a "fold-to" line 5" away from the top edge of the side piece.  Then I laid out the cut outs so that their ends were 1/2" (seam allowance) + 3/8" (allowing for the edging to be applied to the cut outs) = 7/8" from the fold-to line.

The rest was just sewing.  The cover is just shy of 12 feet long, and there is no place inside Eolian to stretch it all the way out.  But sewing it over the saloon table worked out OK.

I mentioned that I used 3/4" sched 40 PVC pipe for the battens (the gray kind, rated for outdoor use).  PVC pipe comes in 10 foot lengths; the sail cover is just shy of 12 feet long...  a splice was necessary.  I didn't want to use a coupling, since that would make a lump that would make feeding the battens into the pockets difficult.  It turns out that 1/2" sched 40 pipe has an OD just slightly larger than the ID of 3/4" pipe.  So I bought a short length of 1/2" pipe, cut two 12" lengths, a slit one side of each piece lengthwise on my little table saw.  That 1/8" kerf provided just the right amount of clearance to allow the 1/2" pipe to telescope into the 3/4".  Assembling with pipe dope gave me a smooth splice.

Almost done...
I added ties that go under the sail using black Sunbrella webbing and Common Sense fasteners (not visible in this picture - they're on the other side).

The top zipper would be impossible to operate if its aft end were not stabilized - a short strap there is seized to the topping lift line.  The finishing touch is a tiny block seized to the topping lift line just above the zipper seizing - and a 1/8" line loop routed thru the block and tied to the zipper pull allows the zipper to be operated while standing on the deck, not hanging over the rail.  Doing this work was interesting...  I had to swing the boom out over the dock and stand on top of a ladder to reach the aft end of the boom.

I wasn't sure what I was going to do with closing off the aft end - I think I'll do nothing - the opening is not large enough to bother with.

I still need to make a front panel that wraps around the mast - the zippers that will attach it to the sail cover are already installed on the sail cover.

And I haven't yet cut the lazy jack lines to length - I think I am going to fiddle with them a little more - I want to see how things settle in with some use.

Previous post in this series

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Cockpit Cup Holders

Please welcome new contributor Olly, who sails aboard his family's Beneteau Oceanis 361, s/ v Rhùm; he also sails his own Laser 4.7. (Olly is 15 years old.)

For his first contribution, Olly describes how he solved a perennial boater's problem: Where to safely put the beverage?

One problem I have with boats is that there aren’t many places to put cups in the cockpit when at sea. However with some scrap wood or plastic, thin rope and a spare snap shackle or hook you can easily make a swinging cup holder.

Most cups on boats are stackable however every type of cup will work. First I measured the diameter of two points in the cup. I luckily had access to a laser cutter at school and made a CAD of my cup holder. My design has a hole in the middle for the cup to partially fit through and 4 holes for the rope to go through round the outside of the holder.

However, a laser cutter is not essential, the holder can just as easily be made by cutting a large hole through a piece marine grade wood or plastic and drilling 4 holes around the side.

You need to make two of these rings with different sized holes through the middle so that they sit at different places on the cussp.

Next is the difficult part, you must pass some thin rope through the cup holder and tie stopper knots just below where each of the rings go. Make sure that both the rings are tight around the cup so it does not rattle.

Lastly tie the end of the ropes to a small snap shackle, carabiner or even a hook so that the cup holder can easily be attached to the guardrail.

If your cups are not stackable or you want to use mugs instead place the top ring lower down the cup and don’t cut a hole in the middle of the bottom piece and rest the cup on top of the bottom piece.

These cup holders can be easily placed anywhere where there is a horizontal wire or rope and are perfect for small cockpits because it stops them being cluttered.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Starting A Boat With A Paperclip

This isn't a project per se... well actually it is, but the most important part of this post is the successful trouble shooting of a problem. And yes, it does invoke MacGyver-ism. Read along with Dana on s/v Rubigale, as she deals with a motor that suddenly refuses to start...
About a month after buying Rubigale, and with a boat full of crew, we were ready to leave the fuel dock after a day of sailing. After pumping out I went to start the engine, turned the key, and nothing. Not even a click. I knew nothing about engines-zero, zip. I could find the alternator and the dipstick. My knowledge of cars surpassed that of boats only because I knew where to put in windsheild wiper fluid.   I didn’t know how I was going to get back to my slip and had a half dozen people that needed to go home. My boat mentor J had his own boat full of crew and couldn’t help at the moment. Fortunately, T lives aboard a few docks away, and after I fished out a mystery set of wires with clips that I had found in the bowels of weird boat storage (had this happened before?), he jumpstarted the boat by connecting the battery to the start switch.


I thought the crew would disappear as soon as we were back to the slip, but J and T started troubleshooting the starter and half of the people stayed, rapt with the process. I didn’t understand much of what I was hearing, but I was mesmerized by the problem solving. I photographed where to connect the wife to the starter just in case. Final diagnosis, probably a bad starter switch because there were loose connections and a little corrosion. J showed up with a new starter the next day and showed me how to put it in. It was much easier than I had expected and I photographed that as well. As a bonus, he connected a new engine hour meter to the  switch so I could keep track of hours since the previous meter had died at just under 4000 hours at some unknown point in the past. Everything seemed to work great and I put it away in my mind as a solved issue.
Shiny New Starter

Engine Hour Meter
Engine Hour Meter

A few months later I took Chilly and her friend on a day sail to Kingston to have lunch at one of our favorite pubs. When we returned to the boat, I turned the key, and again, nothing. Fortunately for them the marina was next to a ferry dock so I sent them on their way home. Fortunately for me, J hopped the same ferry in the opposite direction to find out what was wrong with the starter switch he just installed.  I tried not to think about the fact that I was going to be doing my very first solo sail the following morning out of necessity.

We checked the wire (happily labeled starter) from the battery to the starter switch – 12V. There was also current coming out of the starter switch wire which we traced to a bundle that took a dive under the sole and was lost to view. Next we went to the starter solenoid and again found the white wire which here had zero voltage. The wire which powered the solenoid had 12v. What I learned was that meant something was between the starter and the solenoid that was bad, but there was a lot of mystery territory in between.

Tracing that particular white wire was a bit more difficult because it disapppeared into a Chinese fingertrap holding a bundle of wires together. J thought perhaps there was a bad fuse or a loose connection. After an hour and a half of carefully slicing the webbing, and avoiding the wires, we hadn’t gotten very far.
Bundled Wires
Bundled Wires

Frustrated and tired, we took a break, and by a stroke of luck saw another white wire lower on the aft portion of the engine. Actually, there were two white wires terminating on separate screws. Based on the multimeter readings, one had current, one didn’t. Fortunately, J recognized this was a neutral switch, and suspected it was going bad. I had chartered at least two dozen charter boats but had never encountered a neutral switch. The current was getting to the neutral switch, but it wasn’t getting from the neutral switch to the solenoid, so the starter thought the boat wasn’t in neutral. J bridged the two screws with a screwdriver and Shazam! with a spark, she started!
Faulty Neutral Switch
Faulty Neutral Switch

There were plans to bypass this, but the problem didn’t recur so other projects took precedence. Didn’t recur that is, until a year later, just minutes before the start of the Leukemia Cup Regatta. We had done really well fundraising, had a blast decorating ourselves and the boat, and were sipping champagne from pink flamingo straws while preparing for a no-wind beer can race. I turned the key, and yet again, nothing, and my heart sank. Why did this always happen away from my dock? I jiggled the gear lever, nothing. I jiggled the wires at the neutral switch, nothing. I phoned J-these 5 ladies in grass skirts (one his wife) and flowers in their hair needed to get out there on the course ASAP and celebrate our hard won victory.

I went through what I tried already with J, and he told me to find something to bridge the two screws. I found a paperclip and put it on the two screws while Chilly turned the key. There was something about having my face next to a 50HP Perkins when it roars to life while holding a sparking paperclip in my hand that made me scream like a little girl. I yelled over the engine noise and cheers to L, “I LOVE your husband!” With a big smile she yelled back, “me too!” J was laughing over the speaker phone. We were off the dock in a hot second, and although DFL as usual, we had a great time being “spirited” and tossing candy packets that L had made with a tag saying “Kick Leukemia’s Ass! Team Rubigale”.

As usual, I procrastinated  again because the problem stopped happening. Then two months later, and also away from home it happened again. Remembering the big spark led me to be a little timid with the paperclip so I decided to tape it onto the end of the wooden dowel I found nearby, the other end of which held a pirate flag. My hastily created invention lent me more bravery and the engine started as soon as M turned the key.
Quick Fix Switch Bypass
Quick Fix Switch Bypass

My habit for procrastination had to stop here because I was leaving for an extended trip alone to Canada the following weekend.  Based on J’s instructions I moved both wire terminals to one screw and of course dropped the other into the bilge. Fortunately I had forseen this problem and placed a cloth underneath the area I was working on so the screw was easily retrieved. I was feeling quite proud of myself for this tiny little project, until I turned the key and heard a thunk and then silence.  I put the wire terminals back onto their original screws but the engine still would not start.
First Attempt to Bypass
First Attempt to Bypass

J came by the following day with Waterproof Heat Shrink Butt Connectors and made the two wires into one. No big surprise, but the engine started with the first turn of the key. A quick online search of neutral switches on boats leads to a large number of results of “why won’t my boat start?”.  Apparently this is a rather common problem and one I really hope I’m finished with. I learned a good deal about my engine as well as a little on troubleshooting wiring. I am very grateful to have patient friends helping me with the process along the way.
The Hopefully Permanent Fix
The Hopefully Permanent Fix

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