Friday, August 29, 2014

Stairway To The Masthead

How do you climb your mast? If you ascend using mast-mounted steps, have you ever asked how those steps were mounted?  Ken & Vicky, who live aboard s/v Painkiller has documented the very professional process that he used to mount his steps:
A not so long time ago we came across a low lying railroad bridge.

We hit it with the top of our mast.

With damage to the anemometer transducer we felt it was in our best interest to invest some $$ to make it easier to get my old gut up the mast without having Vicky being shaking in her boots while tending me up the mast, relying on her sole ability to keep me from plummeting to the deck.

So we bought some steps.

Of course the old machinist in me felt they were not up to my standards of being de-burred/no sharp edges, so I grabbed a mill file and hit them proper where it counted, just in case I ventured up there barefoot. I will!

After checking with many others who had and used and installed mast steps, that 18" would be fine. I bought enough steps for that distance but at the last minute (thanks Tor) I went with 16" which lets me very comfortably climb and always have at least three limbs secure on the mast. At 5' 8" and shrinking fast this distance is PERFECT for me.

Here's how I installed them while hanging from a chair....

First, using a self centering bit (designed for centering hinge screws quickly in door installations) I would start a first hole. Great device with a spring loaded collar that centers the drill in a countersunk hole.

I'd then drill out the started hole with the proper drill dia. for a 1/4- 20 tapped hole. Tap the hole  and then attach the mast step base to the mast with one screw. I was using some old diesel fuel as tapping fluid. A little dip of the tap in an old prescription pill container filled with diesel oil did the job of keeping the tap lubricated while easy to get to from a bucket while hanging there.

I'd then fasten the base onto the mast with one screw tight and take the self centering drill to start the other three holes while it was securely in place.

Then drill the three remaining holes out to the proper dia. for the tap, remove the base and carefully tap all the remaining holes. Then I'd take a countersink and clean the sharp edges off the tapped holes.

A generous douche of Lanocote in the threaded holes...

Another generous coating on the countersunk holes and on each screw threads as final assembly.

A very easy climb...

At the time of this post I have not finished, I had to order more steps. I plan to have a finished height two steps on either side of the mast high enough that I can look "down" onto the masthead for repairs.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Dual Rod Holder From Scraps

Do you have a fishing rod aboard? Then you probably have a rod holder too, else you have to hold the rod and tend the tiller and sails at the same time. Over at Sail Delmarva, Drew shows us how he made a dual rod holder from scraps - for a lot less than you paid for yours!
Dual Rod Holder From Scraps

Or rather from a stern rail motor mount that the the PO liked but I had removed. In my mind, either the engine should be able to stay on the dingy or...
  • The davits or hoist is weak. Upgrade.
  • The engine is too damn big.
  • The dingy moves too much, in which case it should be triced-up.
  • The dingy is vulnerable in rough weather. Not the case on most catamarans, since the davits are forward of the transoms.
The mount has been resting in a might-need drawer for 6 years but now enjoys new life.

It's primary purpose is to hold my 2 mini-outriggers (2 x 6' outriggers give me an effective beam of  26 feet, easily trailing 3-4 lines without tangles) while not trolling. They can't left in place during docking, and placing them in the outboard rod holds inhibits easy boarding and blocks the holders for other uses. I find rod holders handy for other things as well--boat hooks, walking sticks, gaffs, oars--so i can never have too many.

I dislike commercial holders since they only grip the rail without twisting if tightened so much they scar the rail. This never will, since it uses an up-right for bracing.

Construction was simple enough. I had to slot the back to accommodate a brace. The 2" SCH 40 pipe is attached with counter sunk #10 machine screws. In the background are a pair of kayaks lashed to the top of the davits, the most convenient storage space.

The lures are home-made too.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Project update: Valances

This post originally appeared on Windborne in Puget Sound

Work continues on the valances.

I bought a white-finished particle board shelf and cut it into strips.  Then each valance got one of the strips glued to the back, using Gorilla Glue (because of its tremendous gap-filling property), held back from the top of the valance by 3/8" to make room for the LED strip lites.  The strip serves as a stiffener, as a means to retard warpage of the relatively thin valance panels, and finally as a lite reflector for the LEDs, directing their lite back toward the cabin side and upward.

Back side of a valance panel, top edge to the bottom of the picture
And then I ran a 1/4" rounding-over router bit along the edges, sanded, and varnished the panels:

Unfortunately, because of the size of my workspace, I can only deal with the valances from one side at a time.
These are from the starboard side; the port side will have to be completed another time.  And then there will be the wiring of the LEDs...

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Ecofan Refurbishment

With many live-aboard boats being heated with diesel or solid fuel heaters that have no provision for warm air circulation, the Ecofan has been a big hit. It moves a surprising amount of warm air and requires no electrical power at all, being powered by the temperature difference between its baseplate (which must be sitting on a hot surface) and the cooling fins on the top.

Like most things however, they don't last forever. I was unaware that they could be refurbished... In another instance of excellent customer service, Adam on nb Briar Rose shows us that they can:
Last week I cut down a cardboard box to about the right size, found some padding material, and posted our Ecofan off to Calfire for some checks.  This past winter it's taken longer and longer to start spinning, and less and less time to stop again.  The deal is that they take a look, email back with information on what's wrong and a price, and then you decide whether you want them to fix it or not.

I think it was Thursday that I got it in the post, second class, for just under a fiver.  On Monday, while I was sleeping between night shifts, an email arrived saying there was something wrong with the motor, and it would cost just over £23 to fix, including return postage.  Yesterday, I phoned and paid.

And today, the fan arrived back, in much more professional packing than I'd managed.

Apparently it's been tested and works -- starting to spin in 1'45", and spinning well in 4'.  I'm hoping it'll be several months before we get the opportunity to test it ourselves.  Assuming it really is fixed, that's what I call good service.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Battery Box

Batteries are dangerous creatures.  They are heavy, they are full of corrosive and pretty concentrated sulphuric acid, and they hold a lot of energy.  One of the things one doesn't want is for his/her batteries to be jumping around loose down there in the bilge in a seaway.  Come along for the ride as Rick on s/v Cay of Sea constructs a restraining container for his batteries:
This seemed like it should be categorized as a small project, but it took over a week to complete, with lots of little steps to get there.  It didn’t help that I had to build the battery box twice.

I filled the inside right angles with thickened epoxy to ease the 90 degree transition – the glass accepts this “fillet” better than a hard angle.  That sentence sounds so straightforward: “I filled the inside. . .” & etc..  In reality, it was a mess.  I had cut a piece of scrap plastic as a tool for spreading the epoxy into the angles, and it did help some.  However, by the time I had filled one 90 degree angle, my hands were covered with goo, and it was just damage control for rest of this phase. Fortunately, I had  remembered my latex gloves, and clean-up was as easy as stripping them off.

Here's the sort-of-effective plastic tool I made.
Here’s the sort-of-effective plastic tool I made.

Angles filleted and glassed with the high/rough spots sounded down.
Angles filleted and glassed with the high/rough spots sounded down.

Exterior glassed at the corners, and the entire bottom is coated with straight epoxy.
Exterior glassed at the corners, and the entire bottom is coated with straight epoxy.

I fitted the top and drilled one hole for a stud (or ‘hanger bolt’ as they call them in the hardware store). I drilled through the top and into the box in one action.  Then screwed the stud into the box, placed the top on it, and drilled the other stud holes having the top fixed in place by the first stud.

Wire relief holes

One stud in place
One stud in place

All the studs in the right place.
All the studs in the right place.

Next step trial fitting the box in place.  I emptied the starboard cockpit locker, removed the old batteries, and brought the new box down to position.  It passed through the locker opening with no problem, once I realized that I couldn’t fit it and me through the opening at the same time.  What I learned through the trial fitting was that the designated space wasn’t a perfect angle.  There was an extra support post in the corner, which made the installation a little more complicated.  To have the box sit level and not rock from corner to corner, I installed two shims on the bottom.

The black line marks the edge of the shelf, which the box over hangs by about a third of its width.  The shims stabilized the box satisfactorily.
The black line marks the edge of the shelf, which the box over hangs by about a third of its width. The shims stabilized the box satisfactorily.

See that bump that runs vertically in the left corner?  That prevented the box from fitting flush into the corner.  You can also see the curvature of the hull on the right.
See that bump that runs vertically in the left corner? That prevented the box from fitting flush into the corner. You can also see the curvature of the hull on the right.

Between the bump in the left-hand corner, and the curvature of the hull on the right, the box wobbled to its opposite corners  The shims fixed that.  Next step was let epoxy cure for setting the shims, then paint Bilge Coat grey.

My favorite color.
My favorite color.

Paint and epoxy cured, I drilled holes in the bulkheads for installation and fitted it in the space.  There was a small problem with the fit of the top since I had to cant the box slightly.  A few judicious cuts relieve the top fit, though I had to abandon one of the retaining studs.

Kind of a poor photo, but you can see where I notched out the corner, a piece in the middle, and trimmed away the left side too.
Kind of a poor photo, but you can see where I notched out the corner, a piece in the middle, and trimmed away the left side too.  That side still has one stud/wing nut on the right.

Finally, the box was bolted into place, top trimmed and ready to go.

Bolted to adjacent bulkheads.
Bolted to adjacent bulkheads.


I installed the batteries, and was pleased with the fit.

I knew they would fit, because I had tested the fit earlier, but it was still gratifying to see them in place and wired up.
I knew they would fit because I had tested the fit earlier, but it was still gratifying to see them in place and wired up.

I think ABYC specifies that batteries should not have more than an inch to move in any direction. This installation allows a little more than an inch, but I think it’s fine.  And so much better than plastic battery boxes sitting loose in the locker!  Here are the final photos with top installed.


Done.  It took all day to finish this up.
Done. It took all day to finish this up.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Freshwater Tank -- Are Bugs Swimming the Back Stroke in There?

One of the things that Drew at Sail Delmarva does is to design venting systems for large industrial tanks. When he talks about tank vents for boats, we should all listen:
According to the plumbing code and AYBC, there should be a screen on the freshwater tank vent to exclude mosquitoes, other bugs and reduce dust. But many builders, including PDQ, leave these off.  On the PDQ 32 the vent line simply goes up and then down through a mushroom fitting under the bridge deck. Yup, I've seen bugs in there, so while I was up-grading my water system, I decide to fix this too.

Clean, huh? Though a strainer won't stop bacteria, it will reduce convective airflow.

The solution was to splice in a simple strainer. The code calls for 16 mesh, but no-see-ums are known to crawl through that, and 50 mesh is common anyway. This strainer is large enough to manage any air venting flow and serve as an over-flow too, though when filling fast, water will back out the fill even without the strainer in place.

Shurflo 255-323. Be warned, PDQ used 1/2" hose on 5/8" barbs. I stayed with the 1/2" hose (cleaned out the gook with a 1/4" rope, soaped up and fished back-and-forth a few dozen times--tie knots in the ends while you're scrubbing) and used a little K-Y to get it back on the 5/8" barb after cutting a fresh end. Great stuff for working with hose.

The PDQ is a catamaran and the pressure water system is located on the bridge deck, between the hulls. Thus, the tank vent actually discharges down, through the floor, about 20 inches above the water line.

A 15 minute fix. No more bugs. Fewer bacteria and mold spores. Mostly self cleaning, every time I over fill the tank, but also easy to clean and easily accessed. I suppose I should clean the tank one last time, but the new filter is doing great.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

The New Brasso: Redux

This post originally appeared on Windborne in Puget Sound

Earlier I whined about the recent reformulation of Brasso. Wasn't the old stuff kind of pinkish in color? That would be the result of using rouge as the polishing agent. The new stuff is white. I suspect that the polishing agent is finely ground aluminum oxide - a much harder material than rouge.  But is this good?

Here's the thing.  With rouge (and tripoli, and several other polishing compounds), the polishing agent is designed to break down into finer and finer particles as you (or your machine) rub it.  This means that at the end, the finish can be absolutely mirror-like.  Of course, the polishing agent must be matched to the material.  Rouge, which is quite soft, does a wonderful job of polishing gold, silver and brass.  It takes much, much longer to polish stainless steel with rouge because that metal is so much harder.

But we were talking about brass, for which Brasso is specially formulated (with the inclusion of ammonia).   For brass, the new Brasso's polishing agent is too coarse.  And it is too hard - it doesn't break down.

So this morning I had an idea (probably a cosmic ray went thru my head):  Why not try some of the fiberglass polish/wax that we use on the hull on the brass?  It's polishing agent is designed for soft surfaces, and it does break down even when polishing very soft gel coat, giving a very shiny surface.

Here's the result:

Tho this doesn't photograph well, look at the difference between the top of the binacle, which has been polished with the cleaner/wax, and the bottom which has only been polished with Brasso.  On the bottom, the scratches from the coarse polishing agent are clearly seen; they're gone on the top.

Here's the polish I used:

This is no wipe on/wipe off job.  It takes more work than the Brasso because you get no help from the chemical action of the ammonia.  It takes elbow grease to remove the metal to make a shiny surface and to break down the abrasive.  If your rag is not turning black with the removed metal, then you're not working hard enough.  A power buffer would help a lot.

Oh, and there's a bonus:  the wax.  I have no data yet, but I suspect that the shine will last longer because it is waxed.

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