Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Shiny and White

This post originally appeared on Windborne in Puget Sound

Oooo!  Shiny!

Our rail-mounted BBQ table (it's really a fish cleaning table, but Fish Do Not Fear Me...) was really showing its age. The plastic had suffered extreme UV degredation -  the surface had turned porous and chalky.  And with use, grease and other food stuff soaked into the porosity and then bacteria went to town, meaning that it was porous, chalky and spattered with black spots and streaks.  Truly ugly.  And unsanitary.

So, not too long ago when I went to a garage sale at San Juan Yachts (yup, the place that made the San Juan sailboats...  now they are only making RIBs), I bought a scrap of Starboard for cheap.  Then I cut it up with my trusty little table saw, copying the shapes of the pieces in the old table.  I even used the same screws to put it together.

Not bad for $15 and a couple of hours work in the shop!

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Low-Buck Arts & Crafts

It may be officially Spring, but large portions of North America still lie in the icy grip of Global Warming. What's a sailor to do? Brian of Dock Six takes on some projects...

      "In the meadow, we can build a snowman..."
                                              -Felix Bernard

    ......  or not.

      As I write this, the temperature outside has nosedived to around -23 celsius.

      I am not nearly masochistic enough to calculate the windchill.

      If one is a skier, skater, ice fisherman, snowmobiler, snowboarder or snowshoer, one might enjoy freely frolicking in this frozen frontier.
      I, however, am none of the above.

      I am a sailor.

     And I am NOT going outside into this fucking frozen freakshow unless I absolutely have to.

      Luckily, I have a punchlist of off-season boat work to keep me occupied  until the lake ceases to be a solid mass entirely, and utterly, incapable of floating a boat.

     Doing something with our wobbly and plain saloon table was near the top of the "Boat projects that can be accomplished from the comfort of SJM" list.

     I've got some ideas for this project, boldly going where I had never gone before, but first: a warm-up project, an  aft cabin amuse-bouche if you will:

     Fixing the TV wall.

      The previous owners installed a small flat screen TV- its removal prior to sale has left an ugly blight in an otherwise very pleasant  aft cabin.

     SWMBO and I ruminated over this disfigurement throughout the season, and finally came up with an idea:

     A piece of scrap luan, some wood glue, and a cheap spreader to quickly, evenly and economically spread the adhesive....

      Then, trim a chart to size...

      Apply the chart to the very sticky board....

   Slather more glue on top, recalling skills vaguely remembered from elementary school art class decoupage projects.  While waiting for all that glue to dry, construct a frame from scrap mahogany trim...

Assemble  and varnish......

 ...and install (right side up) when the weather warms up.

  Right, so, feeling cocky, I got back to that saloon table....

     My initial thought was that we needed a larger table that would tie into the stripper pole, er, compression post. Upon further measuring and headscratching I realized that bigger is not better in this case.  Enlarging the table would make our current expansive and inviting recroom feel like  a cramped and cluttered cell, with a table that would be difficult to move around  and would prevent the locker door under the stove from opening fully.

So, the table can get no bigger.
It does, however need to be more stable, so I lengthened the collar underneath, that fits over the post.  Now, no wobble.

But, there is a crapload of winter left, and it is a rather plain table, so I might as well try to figure out marquetry.

     Marquetry, as defined by the OED: "Inlaid work made from small pieces of coloured wood or other materials, used for the decoration of furniture."

     So, a supply run to Lee Valley Tools  was in order.  I needed glue, veneer.... that was pretty much it.

     I still managed to spend damn near $200.

     It's that kind of store.

     I bought a "box of veneer" which was exactly as described- a pizza box full of very thin sheets of a variety of different woods:

Like, 80-100 square feet of the stuff.

The table in question is about 3 square feet.

I quickly cobbled together a low-buck veneer cutting jig- a piece of scrap ply for a bed, some aluminum angle and scraps of luan trimmed to create 90 degree, 45 degree and 22.5 degree guides to simplify the math...


 ... and discovered the tricks to cutting very thin, very brittle pieces of wood...  after destroying a bunch of very thin, very brittle pieces of wood.

Luckily, I had a lot of it.

After marking the center on the table, and the half way polints on all four sides, I laid out a simple geometric design, and proceeded to cut and tape and glue and clamp and swear my way to an end result;


       It still needs some sanding and a few more coats of varnish, but I'm not completely embarassed by the end result.

    And I still have a crapload of veneer left over.

   And a crapload of winter.

   I rummaged through the scrap pile and did some sketching and came up with a plan for a simple cockpit table.  A little ply, some reclaimed teak trim from DonorBoat, and the basics are done:



   the rough work is done, now it's just a matter of mortising and installing the hinges, final sanding, and finishing.  I'm saving that until next weekend.

   It looks like there's still lots of winter left.

Thanks for checking in, and don't forget to "Talk the Dock!"

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Transom Project Complete

Please welcome new contributors Nate & Jenn, newly moved aboard (August, 2014)  their first boat, the 36-foot Allied Princess s/v Aletheia.  Since moving aboard, they have already cruised from Halifax, Nova Scotia down to Ft. Lauderdale, Fla - not bad for less than a year aboard!  And one of the first things new boat owners do is change the lettering on the transom...
We did something cool and fun this morning aboard Aletheia...we gave her an official hailing port on her transom. On top of the two previous owners' hailing ports: Florida, USA and Portland, lays Denver CO!

We scoured local craft and hardware stores all over the East Coast only to find 3-inch letters that come individually and this likely would have been a bigger project trying to match each letter, evenly spaced, to my OCD-perfection. After asking the Universe for where to look next, a fellow blogger at TheBoatGalley.com suggested  DoItYourselfLettering.com. Winner! After just a few minutes on the website, t'was a no brainer. Customization out the wazoo, with hundreds of fonts, more than a dozen colors, sizes and several grades of vinyl, depending on your specific needs. 

Before beginning such a project, we checked the requirements for US Coast Guard Documented vesselsAccording to the USCG, the required letter height on a recreational vessel needs to be at least 4" tall. DoItYourSelfLettering had everything we needed, and we ordered it from the boat! No more traipsing around!

Since we only need a hailing port, we matched the font as best we could with her name. It costs $20, shipping included. Other signage companies can easily charge upright of $75-100 for similar apply-it-yourself lettering. 

Denver, CO came in one long piece with easy, detailed installation instructions - fairly foolproof. They even guarantee "anyone" can install the lettering and if there are any problems with the installation, they will send a replacement at no cost. I'll admit I was a bit nervous, but we walked through our installation process a few times and it came out great! No need to request a replacement! Thank you DoItYourselfLettering for making me feel like a pro!

I highly recommend this company both for personal and professional projects.

Here are some pics of our install:

Step 1: Green tape applied as a "hinge" to set the location of the name
Step 2: Remove the backing off the label
Step 3: Pull taut and adhere to the surface, scraping the overlay to remove any air bubbles 
Since we have drainage holes on the transom, we cut around to make sure the surface area is flat. So far, so good! 
It's working!
Complete Success in about 10 minutes!

That's one less project from the to-do list. 

Love to all,
Nate & Jenn

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Out Damned Spot!

This is a mash-up of posts which originally appeared on Windborne in Puget Sound

On Eolian's decks hundreds of black spots have been slowly appearing, and have been doing so ever since we repainted the decks.  They don't grow fast, but they do grow.  Nothing seems to touch them - using straight bleach has no more effect than plain water.

Supposing that these are some form of lichen, I did some research - it is such a wonderful thing to have the bulk of Man's knowledge at your fingertips!
Guess what?  Algae, moss and lichens suffer grave bodily harm when exposed to a particular class of chemicals.  Well I guess that part is not a surprise.  But this part is:  that family of chemicals is relatively harmless to virtually everything else.  In fact, it is the active ingredient in Bactine:  benzalkonium chlorides.

Now here's the next surprise.  No, you don't have to buy 100 bottles of Bactine and distill it to get the benzalkonium chloride - all you have to do is go to the pool/spa section of your local hardware store and buy a bottle of HTH Algae Guard:

And it was less than $10!

This is a 30% solution, and yet a 2% solution is supposed to be adequate for killing algae/moss/lichen.  

So, the first test is a kind Hippocratic one.  Does this stuff harm the Sunbrella canvas on the boat?  I uncapped the bottle and put some of the straight 30% solution directly on a scrap of our Sunbrella and left it to dry.  After rinsing it out 24 hours later, there was no detectable effect on the canvas.  At 30%, the solution has a blue tint - I suspect this is just a dye for appearances, given its intended use. Our canvas is green - if yours is white, you might want to repeat this test.

For the next test, I made up a 6:1 dilution (5%) solution in a hand spray bottle and applied it to a section of the deck with the lichen, and a portion of our canvas which has a liberal infestation of winter algae on the outside.  I also applied it to the inside of the canvas directly over our galley vent where we get the most amazing colonies of...  well, life I guess, apparently feeding on whatever the vent delivers to the canvas.


The benzalkonium chlorides definitely killed the lichen.  But it did take a mild scrubbing with a brush to remove the corpses.  Please note that previous scrubbing with the same brush and bleach had no effect on the spots.  I apologize that I used a washer for the sizing comparison - I didn't have a dime in my pocket.  The washer is a little bigger than a dime and a little smaller than a nickle.

I also applied the 5% benzalkonium chloride solution to a portion of our dodger canvas.  Please note that this canvas is more than 10 years old, and has lost most of its water repellant qualities - that's why the mold/mildew can live in it.


The "After" photograph does not do the results justice.  The mold, mildew and algae are all dead.  A couple of rainstorms washed the bulk of the corpses away, except at the seams.  But more rain is coming (of course).


This stuff works!  And Jane tried it on the moss on our driveway at a 3% concentration, as another experiment.  It worked there too - the moss is all dead.  In fact, using a 5% solution was probably overkill - my next application on Eolian's canvas will be at 3%, but I think I'll retain the 5% level for the tough-to-kill lichen on the decks.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Chartplotter Support

Aboard s/v Suppose, Walt has constructed a very clever swinging mount for his chart plotter:
As we upgrade and outfit SV Suppose for cruising, we have tried to keep things as simple and bulletproof as possible. In particular, we want to minimize the number of things that, if broken, would keep us from departing from one anchorage and moving on to the next one. So, we have given a lot of thought to the electronics, weighing functionality against complexity and reliability. In the end, we decided on the Garmin VHF100 radio, GPS820 chartplotter, and AIS600 transceiver. By buying all Garmin products, it was "relatively" easy to interconnect them so that we can see AIS targets on the chartplotter and provide gps data to the VHF radio so that it can transmit a distress call with our location at the press of a button. We don't have radar now but the GPS820 can support it if we decide to add it later. So far, we couldn't be happier with this combination.

As with every other addition or modification to SV Suppose, the challenge was finding the space for the new electronics.

The VHF radio was the easiest and first component to install. I simply replaced the old one which had been mounted against the cabin top, just inside the companionway on the starboard side. Mounted there, it is out of the weather and can be seen, operated and heard from the cabin, companionway steps, and the cockpit.

This is the chartplotter on the mahogany support that I built for it. Here it is in its "stowed" position where it is not in the way for normal activity in the galley.

The AIS transceiver, mounted below the chartplotter, is just visible in this picture.

We don't have a separate navigation station in SV Suppose. Instead, we use the removable counter-top that covers the stove when it is not in use. For operation from this "navigation station," the chartplotter rotates out approximately 30 degrees. The chartplotter support is mounted on an 8 inch, brass piano hinge attached to the side of the companionway frame. To get the support to rotate in a horizontal plane, I placed a wedge under the hinge and against the companionway. The 8 inch vertical portion of the support and the diagonal brace underneath provide a very solid and sturdy base.

The chartplotter and its support will rotate a full 180 degrees where it faces into the cockpit. The base under the chartplotter is shaped so that it rests against the vertical frame of the companionway and overlaps the threshold. This provides extra support in case we should fall against it. It is held in this position by a nylon "bump" on the bottom of the base that slides over the companionway threshold which is a little higher on the inside edge.

The chartplotter support is held in the stowed and 30 degree positions by this block that is mounted on the inside of the companionway bulkhead.

A toggle that rotates against the vertical portion of the support locks into two positions against the block. The dowel stub in the top of the toggle makes it easier to rotate the toggle with a fingertip.

And here is the base rotated to the 180 degree position. In this picture, it is easier to see how the shape of the base allows it to swing around the side of the companionway and overlap the threshold.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Westerbeke 44B Glow Plug Replacement

We sailors like to pretend that we are not power boaters.  But almost all of us are.  And when that motor doesn't do what it is supposed to do, we are filled with anxiety.  Nate and Natalie living aboard s/v Astraea got to the bottom of their engine difficulty, and found it was a straightforward problem:
The day we got Astraea the engine started right up. Then after having her for about eight months the engine started being hard to start. We thought it was a problem with the batteries not delivering enough current, and they were seven years old, so I replaced them. Well, that didn’t make the engine start any easier. Each time we went to use the engine for the first time that day it would take 2 or three long cranks to start the engine. Our engine starting procedure went something like this:
  1. Open the floor boards and turn off the raw water supply so we wouldn’t flood the engine.
  2. Hold preheat for 10 seconds and then crank the engine for 20-30 seconds, knowing that it wouldn’t start.
  3. Put the batteries on “Combined” and pray the engine would start when we would crank it for 20-30 seconds. Sometimes it would, but usually it wouldn’t.
  4. Crank the engine one more time for 20-30 seconds and it would either start, or we’d pull out the generator and charge the batteries.
  5. Once the engine started, rush down and open the seacock for the raw water supply to allow cooling water through the engine.
  6. Check for water discharge at the stern and see that the batteries are charging.
  7. Sigh a sigh of relief and/or have a beer.
Back in December at Southwestern Yacht Club I got lucky troubleshooting when Gary from Sea Rover II came over to help. He had a clamp on ammeter that we used to check the starter current and the current through the glow plugs. We used a voltmeter to read good voltage at the rail that connects the glow plugs, but when activated there was no current drawn, indicating that the heating element in the glow plug burnt up and was and open, not allowing electricity to flow through and register as Amps.

The day before we left San Diego I went and bought 4 new glow plugs from A to Z Marine near Shelter Island, but didn’t install them until a few weeks ago because I didn’t want to screw the engine up worse during our long cruise down the coast. I now regret not having replaced the glow plugs sooner because it was really easy.

To replace the glow plugs all I had to do was remove the rail that connects them, then back the glow plugs out and replace them and tighten like a spark plug. The most important part of the prep work was ensuring that the engine was clean to prevent anything from falling in the cylinders while working.

New glow plug on the left and the burn out one on the right. When I checked the new plug with a multimeter it read 0.7 ohms resistance, and the old one read infinite resistance.

The glow plugs are just a bit different, if you look at the old plug there are 7 threads that were engaged in the engine. When I replaced it the new plug only went down 4 turns before it got tight. After removing and inspecting the new plug, I saw that the middle of the plug below the threads is longer on the new plug. About 4 threads are needed to engage to have the plug seat entirely.

The new plugs shiny and silver in place.

After replacing all four plugs we just push the preheat button for about 5 seconds, then crank the engine for about a second and it fires right up! No more sweating if the engine won’t start! Natalie said she was getting an ulcer with the stress of whether or not the engine would start. Now she can worry about other things.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

The Right Tool For The Job

This post originally appeared on Windborne in Puget Sound

If you're on a modern boat (and maybe even if you're not...), your running rigging is probably double braid line.  And the chances are excellent that that each length of that double braid has an eye splice at one end.  So here's the Big Question:

Have you ever made an eye splice in double braid?

I have made lots of them, and therefore can offer this advice to you:  This is one of those jobs for which having the right tool makes all the difference.

First easy eye splice
Up until the eye splice above, I had used a small tool set that I got at West Marine.  I chose it primarily because it was inexpensive.  And I made a lot of splices with it.  None were easy.  The directions were confusing (actually, I'm convinced they were flat wrong), and the tool was less than inadequate.  But I got the splices made with the help of lots of beer, the mariner's task lubricant.

If you've ever attempted an eye splice in old line, you will know that it is nearly impossible.  The line is stiff, is loaded with dried algae and salt, and has lost the lubricant the factory applies during it's construction.

And yet, I made the splice above in old line (actually some old 3/8" Stayset that used to run our furler).  And I can say that this was the easiest eye splice I have ever made, bar none.  Old line or new.


Because I had the right tool for the job.

And what tool, pray tell, is that?

The right tool for splicing braided line
The right tool for splicing double braid is Brion Toss's Splicing Wand.  We picked one up when we made a pilgrimage to Brion Toss's rigging shop in Port Townsend, but you can order them online too.

Splicing with this tool is nothing like using my old ones.  How do I make the comparison?   Let's try this:  splicing double braid without this tool is like cutting a board with a hammer and a screw driver.  You can do it, but it takes a lot longer, is a lot more work, and leaves you with a sub-optimal result.

The working end
This is one of those devices that is so ingenious and yet so simple that you will wonder why it took so long for someone to think it up.  How does it work?  Brion's description says it best:
The Splicing Wand is basically a long tube containing a hidden snare.  You slide the tool into the rope, grab the end you want to tuck, and slide the tool out.  There's a specially-shaped tip on the tube, to keep you from snagging yarns along the way, an ingenious mechanism in the handle, to hold the tube in place while you work.  You can clamp the tool in a vise if you want, leaving both hands free to deal with the rope, there's no taping or un-taping, no fid lengths to decipher, and very little physical effort needed to tuck.
 If you have double braid line on your boat, you need this tool.  I'll say it again:  Using Brion's tool, splicing old line was far easier than splicing new line was with my old tools.  I don't think I can say it any better than that.

Why don't you have one?

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