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.

Success!

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

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

The Cardboardeaux Trash Compactor!

Every boat has a limiting capacity of something...  water, fuel, provisions stowage, black water, etc.  What is it that makes you tie up to a dock?  Aboard Eolian, the first thing we seem to run out of is stowage for trash.  With that in mind,  please welcome new contributors Jonathan and Sarah who live aboard their Baba 35, s/v Odyssey.  They have a wonderful solution for the trash/garbage stowage problem:
Take one empty wine box, open top, extract empty bag, fold flaps down, insert produce bag or similar size, and secure with rubber band.  I cut a piece of a foam meat tray to make a lid/pusher, and it's all set.  You will be amazed how much trash can be pressed down into this cube!  When its full, twist the bag closed, tape the cardboard shut and it can easily be stored till you get to a dock.  For super recycling, the box can be opened up and the trash block removed and the cardboard recycled too.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Hatch Rennovation

Aboard Tayana 37 s/v Ramble On, Rich & Jeni continue their re-fit. Here, they refurbish their two Bomar hatches and their mounts...

Hatches & Cabin Top Projects – Week 2

In typical boat-project fashion, refurbishing the two overhead hatches has taken way longer than expected.  Rich managed to get both Bomar metal hatch frames off the boat without bending them too much.  He removed the old glazing, scraped out the weather-stripping, and attempted to remove the old paint with mechanical means, but it was just too tough.  Sand blasting all the old paint off was the better option and after 3 days we finally got the frames back from the sand blasting guy.  Rich used an entire can of zinc phosphate primer on one hatch, ran to West Marine for a second can and finished the last hatch last Friday.

Forward Bomar hatch


Last Saturday Rich spent spraying Interlux Primkote on the metal hatch frames and faring in the wooden hatch frames on the boat with epoxy.  Those things should never leak again (fingers crossed).  I picked up trash in the morning for the annual Coastal Cleanup day.  It’s always so disappointing to find so much trash right near the water.  It makes you wonder what is wrong with people.

Overhead hatch frame with zinc phosphate primer

Overhead hatch frame with zinc phosphate primer


Interlux Primekote

Last Sunday we lightly sanded the Primekote on the cabin top that Rich put on last summer.  We just had to sand it enough to give the next coat of Interlux Perfection something to hold on to.  Next, we removed all unnecessary tools and the traveler from the boat.  Then we washed the boat and scrubbed the cabin top really well.  What a dirty mess it was; not only from our work on it, but also from the neighboring farmers who are harvesting and planting again.  Finally, late in the day, Rich painted the Interlux Primekote on the two wooden hatch frames.

Forward hatch epoxied, sanded and ready for Primekote

Wiping down the frame with solvent before painting

Painting on Interlux Primekote


Interlux Perfection

Monday I went to work and Rich prepped the boat for painting the shiny Interlux Perfection on the parts of the cabin top that won’t get non-skid.  The mornings have been dewy so Rich had to first dry the boat off.  He taped off the teak trim, teak handrails, and other deck hardware then wiped down the cabin top with solvent.  Late in the day he started the first coat of Interlux Perfection and finished just as the sun went down.  When he started peeling off the masking tape, it was clear that the paint had creeped under the tape on the teak, even though he used the super special masking tape that’s not supposed to bleed.  He spent another hour or so with a putty knife and rag scraping paint off the teak.

Tuesday morning was a drier than it had been.  The paint looked pretty good, but Rich decided to give it a light sanding before painting on a second coat of Perfection.  Wednesday morning we woke up to rain on our faces at 4:20 in the morning.  The paint from the day before was fine, but Rich had to spend the day in the shed due to weather painting the first coat of Perfection on the metal hatch frames.

Metal hatch frames painted with Interlux Perfection

Measuring the old Lexan lens

Sikkaflex adhesive and a test fit of the new lens

Adhesive on the metal hatch frame

Hatch completed with new paint and lens

The whole week went by in a blur.  On Friday Rich installed the new Lexan lenses into the metal hatch frames.  Saturday morning we were determined to finish the non-skid on the cabin top.  I started off masking the white areas that Rich painted on Tuesday.  Rich came over to give me a lesson in masking and when he ripped off some of the tape I had put down, some of the Perfection came up on the tape (ALARM BELLS SOUND!)

We stopped everything to caucus and decide what to do next.  We had to fix the big ding in the paint from the masking tape and Rich also pointed out some other areas where the paint didn’t brush on as smoothly as he’d like.  Plus there were a few drips and sags; nothing major, but enough to sway me to decide that we had to do a touch-up coat of Perfection.  We did a 180 and started masking the teak for another coat of Perfection.

The shiny edges painted with Interlux Perfection

Interlux Perfection final coat

I also talked Rich into spraying the Perfection instead of brushing.  Spraying is Rich’s preferred painting method, but it was windy this week and it would have been too difficult to spray.  Plus there is a really nice, and expensive powerboat in the slip next to us.  The last thing we need is to get over-spray on their shiny gelcoat.

So with the teak and other bits masked off, Rich sprayed paint while I held a large piece of cardboard to block the wind.  We didn’t spray the entire boat, just the areas that needed touching up; mostly under the grab rail and along the forward edge.

Late in the afternoon on Saturday, we started installing the hatches.  Rich had to drill out the holes in the wood frame that he had epoxied over.  He used 3M’s UV4000 sealant to secure the metal hatches to the wooden frame.  Lastly, he installed the metal pins for the dogs that hold the hatches closed.

Forward hatch refurbished and installed

So we didn’t get the cabin top completely painted before Rich starts his new job on Monday, but the weather should be good next weekend and we’ll try again.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Something Lazy, Something Free

As usual, Drew over at Sail Delmarva has been messing about with chemicals - here's a tip he has for everyone with a head...
Free is always good, except this is not quite free.

Or rather, it is free if you use any sort of holding tank treatment chemical.

I've done all sorts of holding tank stuff for Practical Sailor Mag. Chemicals, hoses, vent filters. Fun stuff. And in the process, in addition to learning all sorts subtleties, I solved all of my own odor problems, save one; odor from the bowl itself. If I flush with seawater and leave it a few days, there's some stink; sulfate in seawater is converted to hydrogen sulfide by millions of wee bacteria. If I flush with fresh water, it's better, but not zero; I guess something sneaks back down the waste hose, or perhaps up the feed hose. And either way, the bowl tends to get ratty, as marine flush volumes are limited and the water isn't chlorinated. I hate scrubbing.


Place a 20% solution of holding tank treatment in a spray bottle and mist the bowl down with each use, or at least each day, or and certainly whenever you'll be leaving the boat for a while. This cleans the bowl, treats the water in the bowl, and treats the water in the waste hose, preventing stink. And since it's the same treatment you would be using anyway, just subtract this from the usual dosage.

 I haven't scrubbed in months; the treatment eats the waste off. Very lazy.

However, not all treatments work.
  • No blue sterilizing treatments, containing with formaldehyde and the like. Toxic, smelly, stain-prone, and well... gross. Too much like a portable toilet. Very tough on joker valves. Formaldehyde is listed as a human carcinogen. I don't understand why they still make these. Ban them from your boat.
  • No bacterial treatments, like Bactank T3 or Happy Camper. They grow in the bottle and get gross. They are quite effective in the tank, just not for this.
  • Pick a scent you like, preferably very mild. I like Forespar Refresh and Raritan CP, but Camco TST Ultra-concentrate is our favoriteCamco TST 4 oz. Orange Power RV Toilet Treatment. These are compatible with any type of holding tank treatment, including bacterial treatments. I tested a bunch for Practical Sailor Mag (February 2012 and December 2012).
Less work. Less money.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Cockpit Cushion Toppers

Aboard s/v Galapagos, Melissa finds a wonderful use for something that would have been simply discarded.  She also has significant puzzling skills:
Regular readers will recall that we recently had new mattresses made for our aft cabin. Part of that remodel was the purchase of some rather expensive latex foam toppers for the berths. These came at a cost of $570 for the space. That’s not an insignificant cost, even though it was completely worth every single penny. As every boat owner knows, boat beds do not come in regular sizes like your earthbound beds. Therefore, in order to get what you need, you frequently have to cut to fit. And you know what that means.  That’s right. That means extra material. Extra EXPENSIVE material!

That nice 3″ latex foam. We still love it.

When we picked up our new mattresses we were blessed to receive all of the extra pieces of latex foam, neatly stuffed down into large plastic bags. I was going to toss them, but being the cheap and easy boat trick queen, I just couldn’t bring myself to do it. I don’t like to throw away perfectly good materials that I might put to use. So I kept them and waited for an idea to pop into my head. And it did.

p1100499
Let’s build some rectangles!

Galapagos has a great cockpit. We love it. But one of the things that I’ve wanted to improve is the napability of the two longest sides. They are long enough to lie down on (one of the absolute requirements for us in a boat, being the famous sleepers that we are), but the hard Bottomsider-style cushions that came with the boat are dead uncomfortable. I decided to see if I had enough latex foam to make cushion toppers for them.

After measuring the sides, I lay the foam pieces out on some plastic up in our workshop/storage space at the marina. Supplied with Elmer’s spray glue and a healthy love of puzzles, I began piecing the foam together to make the long, thin rectangles required. I glued the seams as firmly as possible and then let them sit for a day to cure. Although I had the garage door open for all the gluing, I cannot swear that I didn’t lose a few brain cells to that spray. Do make sure you have good ventilation with that stuff. I trimmed the uneven ends with large scissors, making several cuts from the top down. Sure, I have an electric knife, the tool of choice for this job. It’s at  home. Not at the marina. Scissors worked just fine. We’re not building the Parthenon here.

p1100501


As I did with the new cushions in the v-berth and aft cabin, I decided I wanted to protect these with that PUL fabric I used to keep water from soaking into the foam. This also makes coverings easy to take off and put back on.  Once again, I used the handy 40% off coupon Hobby Lobby has each week.

My only concern here is that there really are a lot of glued seams on these. It is possible that the glue will not hold up in the heat of Mexico and beyond. If that happens, though, I will still have all the other materials all set up to pop the latex out and replace it with foam all in one piece. The PUL fabric has a lot of stretch to it so it can be pulled tightly around the latex. It supports the seams in the foam as well as making the whole thing waterproof. The extra support makes it less likely that we’ll experience a total fail just from moving the cushions around.

Neatly covered in waterproof fabric.
Neatly covered in waterproof fabric, ready for canvas.

To ‘upholster’ these, I wanted outdoor canvas that was water and UV resistant. Since it’s fall, this is a good time to look for summer fabric in the clearance section of Joanne Fabrics. I made a beeline for the clearance bin and found some perfect yellow canvas for $3.50/yard. Done! I actually bought extra of this because I liked it and it was such an excellent price. Retail on this canvas is $29.99/yard. As if I would ever pay that much.

The sewing was straight forward; not exactly my favorite kind of sewing but at least with this project my machine doesn’t protest. I cut two rectangles, some sides, then sewed them together.

Cheerful and comfortable!
Cheerful and comfortable!

These are just the ticket in the cockpit for sitting or laying around at anchor. While underway they can be stored along the sides in the v-berth, or even in the aft cabin, just tucked under the shelf, which will hold them in place. They are a cheap and cheerful addition to the comforts of home on board Galapagos.

Cost Breakdown:
  • Latex foam – 0 because it was leftover from another project, destined to be thrown out
  • PUL fabric – 4 yards, 40% off – $31.20
  • Yellow Canvas – 4 yards at $3.50/yd – $14.00
  • Yellow thread – $3.00
Total cost: $48.20 plus tax. Win!

Stored in the v berth with Patrick.
Stored in the v berth with Patrick.


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