Saturday, March 29, 2008

One of the First Signs of Spring

I don't know about you but my nav station collects stuff. By season's end, the inside contains little bits and pieces of things that have long ago been replaced, fixed, or otherwise rendered unto Neptune. It seems that the natural place to put things that you don't know what to do with is the nav station surface. So much so that before you can go for the first sail of the season something must be done or face charts, bulbs, little bits of wire, tape, Eldridge's (last year's), the screwdriver you use when you're too lazy to find a proper tool and whatever else hides in the corners ends up on the cabin sole or in the bilge.

So last weekend while installing my radio/CD player I had to clean it up. The first thing I found is that I have a bunch more spare parts than I knew. The other thing is that there's lots of room there for, well, navigating. Who knew? So, for the first few weeks of this season I'll have a ship-shape nav station while it waits to accrete this year's detritus.

My point here is that it's another spring and the beginning of a new season. There was a lull in work on the boat because it was cold and dark and unfriendly and frankly, all I really wanted to do aboard was sleep. I felt bad because I hadn't gotten anything done.

But in the last few weeks I've installed the new VHF with DSC calling and locating, new self-tailing winches (purchased as a celebration of a new job), and the stereo mentioned before. I'll finish up the holding tank plumbing now and will be setting sail late April for the season's first cruise. I can't wait!

Because of travel plans, I won't get the cover off until April 20 or so. But then, watch out! The weather keeps getting nicer and nicer. I sure do hope work doesn't get in the way of fun this year!

So, installing winches. Here goes. It is my feeling that you can't have enough of the things. Moreover, the standard placement of the winches Pelican meant that you have to go into autopilot to adjust the sails. This is a terrible way to singlehand, especially if the autopilot fails. I know since I've done it.

I recently came into a little bit of money and purchased two Andersen 46STs to use as primaries near the wheel (which I replaced with a 48" wheel). The first thing to consider is the actual placement. In Pelican's case, the mizzen stays and main backstays are right where you'd put a winch in a perfect world. Since it's not, I took a winch out of the box and put a winch handle in it and placed it where I could spin the handle without hitting my hand or anything else. I placed them outboard as far as I could on the coaming. I marked the circle where the base would be.

Next, I looked under the coaming to see if there was anything I wouldn't like to drill into, like electrical or fuel lines. This is a sometimes overlooked step that results in all sorts of grief. I've said it before: Good judgment comes from experience; experience from bad judgment.

Anyway, the winches come with a template, but since you have to take the top off to mount them, I just took it off, lined up the base with the circle I drew earlier, and with a marker marked the five mounting holes.

Since the mounting bolts are 5/16" I drilled all the holes to 7/16", taped the bottom and filled with liquid epoxy. After that set (well, a little longer because the neighbor came over and offered some wine so that pretty well finished that day's work) , I re-drilled the holes to 5/16".

Next I put 3M 4200UV around each hole and put the winches in place. With the help of my aforementioned wine producing neighbor, I crawled in the locker and he held the bolt head while I cranked from below.

Now as you see the picture from below, you'll notice I used fender washers instead of a full backing plate. When drilling through the coaming, I noticed the core was solid mahogany rather than plywood. It was 3/4" thick, as well. Since winch loading is sideways and not straight up I'm not worried. The original winches had no more than a regular washer and a lock washer and they've stood up for 30 years.

Because of the stays, I'll have to put a turning block on the port side to clear all the interference and to avoid the forward winches. I'll do this when the cover comes off later this month.

Soon, we'll be seeing each other on the water! I, for one, can't wait!

Saturday, March 01, 2008

A Useful Skill

Everyone who sails can tie or wishes they could tie a bowline without using the rabbit-tree-fox trick. It's true that with much practice even the internal thinking, "Ok, the rabbit comes out of the hole and goes around the tree..." will go away. The point is, the bowline becomes the knot for every purpose - dock lines, anchor rodes, combining lines, tying genoa clews, and so forth.

That's fine, but where a permanent loop is required, a splice is far more professional and proper. The new braided lines take a lot of work to splice and requires special tools in the form of hollow fids. But three strand nylon line - that of the most common dock, anchor, and snubber lines - is spectacularly easy to splice. Eye, end, and long/short splices are quite easy to do and once one is known, the rest are easily mastered.

In my reading about chain anchor rode I found that leaving the stress of anchoring on the bow rollers is considered bad form - the roller isn't designed for that kind of stress and the capstan, if your boat is so equipped, shouldn't be trusted to hold the strain. The solution, of course, exists in the form of snubber lines typically made of three strand nylon.

Snubber lines are deployed by hooking to the chain outboard of the bow roller and led through the bow chocks or hausepipes to the bow cleats. More chain is deployed until the strain is taken up by the snubber lines. Finally, the capstan is locked as a precaution.

This arrangement, although a bit more of a task to deploy, will help the boat ride more calmly at anchor (especially if your vessel has a tendency to sail about the anchor) and provides three points of failure.

There is another benefit to this arrangement: You can take one of the snubbers aft to another point to help the boat ride more smoothly in a crossing current/wind situation - instead of rolling with the waves, the boat can be pointed into or away from them.

That's why you want snubbers.

For a very nice manual for splicing, check this out:

Here's how to make them (always make two - that way normally two in the bow, but one for the stern if you're deploying that anchor).

First, decide what size line - for my 42 foot boat, I chose 5/8ths inch line - I could have gone to 3/4ths but that would have made them to hard to manage.

Purchase the appropriately sized thimbles and shackles. The hook is a bit more difficult as you have to make sure it fits your chain. Just so you know, there's about a dozen chain sizes in the range we'd use. Mine are 5/16ths with short links - I think high tensile chain. The point is, get the right size hook.

I decided to make mine about 28 feet long. Normally, you'd only use about 10 feet, but better too long than too short. Also, the line can be an extra dock line or tow line or a lifting line.

I put an eye splice on one end large enough to go over my cleats and all the hardware on the other end.

Once you can do an eye splice properly, it should take you about half an hour to make an entire snubber. Don't worry if it takes longer. The more splicing you do, the faster it gets.

I make my own dock lines. Sure, you can purchase them. But can you purchase them exactly the right length? Or with an eye on one end and an end splice on the other? Or two eyes? Whatever you think you need or want, you can make.

Personally, for dock lines, I believe they all should be the length of the boat. If you have custom spring, bow, and stern lines then you have to sort them all out when docking. If they're all the same, it doesn't matter which one you take forward. One line can be a bow or stern and spring line. It's better to sort out the lengths after you're safely docked than when you're in the middle of docking.

Others disagree. But I dock my Pearson 424 alone so this is what works for me.

There is something else to making your own lines: You'll garner awe from other boaters who have no idea how to do it. Here's something to try: work on splicing on deck while at a marina. You'll be surprised at how many people will come over to see what you're doing and exclaim amazedly at your ability to splice!

So - make some snubbers if you use chain rode. Learn how to splice - it's a wonderful skill and fun to do. When you learn it, you can pass on the skills.

It's March today! The season's almost here! Woohoo!

I can't wait to see you on the water!