Thursday 29 March 2012

Outboard Shear Pins are essential spares

For those of us who use outboards for or around our boats, the reliability of modern models is so good that it's almost feels natural that they will run successfully forever. As engines they may seem to do so but the external world sometimes reaches out and makes itself known quite unexpectedly - like the outboard engine propeller hitting an unknown or unseen solid object underwater.

Or, with things mechanical, the loading of the propeller, through the shear pin, may gradually find a weakness in the pin material, leading to an unexpected fracture. Result in both cases - lots of sound and no motion; "disaster"!
Holt Outboard Motor Shear Pin-Blister-Pack
Now it really doesn't have to be like that; there is a list of essential spares for your boat and it's equipment and a shear pins are one them. Paradoxically they are cheap to buy yet have really high use value and may be reasonably considered an item of safety equipment when weighed against a bad sea and no propulsion.

When replacing a shear pin, there are a few simple actions you can take to ensure the best result. Firstly, as part of your pre-season maintenance programme, prevent a future stress fracture by ensuring the shear pin hole in the propeller shaft has no sharp edges at the hole edge; the simplest way to remove any burrs is to use a round needle file and patiently work around the hole at both ends to create a small radius on the hole edge circumference; with tools to hand this should only take 15 minutes to complete; and secondly, replace the propeller retaining nut lock split pin (if one is used); every time a split pin is bent over, it's metal is subjected to loads that can lead to a stress fracture failure over time.

So don't delay if this blog reminds you to stock up; Holt Marine Pre-Pack / MPP aftermarket shear pins are available for a number of popular outboards that includes these brands and models (2 per pack): Suzuki, 2 HP, 4 HP; Tohatsu, M4, M4A, M5, M5A; Tohatsu, M8, M8A, M9.8, M9.8A, M12, M12A; Yamaha Mariner, 2 HP, 6 HP, 20 HP, 25 HP; Johnson/Evinrude/OMC, 2 HP, 4 HP, 20 HP, 25 HP, 40 HP.

May your days out be sheer joy.

Wednesday 21 March 2012

A Boomstrut for every yacht?

In the long list of products we present, there are a number that stand out as being positively different. The are invariably simple and very effective and sometimes leads one to say "why didn't I think of that".

The one we would like to discuss here is the Barton Boomstrut. As the name suggests, it is a strut system to support the boom in all situations plus it provides a positive force to both keep the Vang tackle system loaded to prevent jamming and extend the Vang setup rapidly when required with no delay due to friction.
Boomstrut Fitted to a J80 - Note how the rods flex to create the spring action 
The key to the success of the Boomstrut is the two fibreglass rods used for the strut action. The rod is composed of polyester resin and fibreglass and is formed using a process called "pultrusion" - or extrusion of a product by pulling through a die. The base materials are fibreglass continuous roving filaments/bundles and they are drawn though a liquid resin. The process compresses the resin and so saturates the rovings then thermosets the mixture to give a high integrity bond between to give both strength and stiffness to the rod. The product resulting has a high strength-to-weight ratio, is corrosion and heat resistant, high dielectric properties, is dimensionally stable and weathers very well.

Which is very important when one is reminded of one the first and arguably successful uses of such a product was as electric fence posts on farms in New Zealand, pioneered by Graycol (sorry - we digress).

The Boomstrut rods are shown to be nigh-on indestructible so they are coupled to the mast and boom using high quality materials and marine grade stainless steel fittings, which leads to a "fit it and forget it" installation.

Speaking of installation, this really is a task that any boat owner can do; these tools and a short days work are all that's required: screwdriver, fine-tooth hacksaw, centre punch, ruler or tape measure, reversible variable speed drill, drill bit and Metric coarse thread tap (diameter of both varies according to model used) and lastly, a pencil.

Will it fit your boat?
This is a list of boats known to have had a Boomstrut fitted:
Ajax 23, Atlanta 26, Attalia 32, Baron 76, Beneteau 345, Beneteau First 21.7, Beneteau First 210, Beneteau First 235, Beneteau First 25.7, Beneteau First 260, Beneteau First 27.7, Beneteau First 285, Beneteau First 31.7, Beneteau First 310, Beneteau First 32, Beneteau First 34.7, Beneteau Oceanis 320, Bepox 7.50, Catalina C270, Centurion 32, Chess 21, Colvic, Corribee 21, Dehler 25, Dehler 36, Dehler Delants, Dragon, Elizabethan 30, Fantasi 37, Farr 1020, Farr 31, Farr 33, Finn 26, Finn 26, Finnflyer 33R, First 211, First 25.7, First 285, Fox Terrier, Foxhound 24, Friendship 26, Furia 1020, Gibsea 26, H Boat, Hallberg-Rassy, Hanse 301, Hummingbird 30, Hunter Horizon 26, Hunter Horizon 30, Hunter Impala, Hunter Sonata, Hunter USA 31.5T, J-80, J-92, Jeaneau Symphonie, Jeanneau Sun 2000, Jeanneau Sun Odyssey 30, Kelt 7.01, Lacoste 36, Leisure 17, Limbo 6.6, MacGregor 26, MacGregor 27, Malo 40, Marcon 34, Maxi 100, Maxi Bermuda Sloop, Moody 27 Sloop, Moody 30, Moody 34, Moody 34, Mystere Clubman, Nicholson 35, Oyster 39, Rommel 33, Sadler 26, Sadler 32, She Traveller, Skippi 650, Sloop Moody 31, Smaragd, Snapdragon 890, Sovrel 33, Spaekhugger 27, Spirit 24, Sprinta Sport, Stortriss, Summer Twins, Super Seal 26, Trapper 300, Trapper TS240, Turbo 950 SP, Uragan 700, Van de Stadt 391, Vancouver 34C, Westerly Conway, Westerly Discus, Westerly GK24, Westerly Griffon Club, Westerly Konsort 29, Westerly Tempest. 

Tuesday 20 March 2012

Antifouling task and material list

It's that time again; sun through the window earlier, lighter clothing for outside and the need to go down to the boat, the lonely boat in the boatyard (apologies to John Masefield's wonderful poem "I Must Go Down to the Seas Again" - contained in "Poems of the Sea")

Every year (or two) the planning for renewing the antifouling starts and a typical list of tasks may well look like that below (you may well be very practised at this and probably know what's needed and how to do all by heart now).

To help you make your material list or bill of materials, create your own; here is a typical shopping list for these items .
  Materials research:
- Antifouling type: one season, two season, two-pack, racing, hard, soft, copper;
- Removers: paint and varnish removers;
- Treatments: corrosion/rust;
- Fillers: GRP and keel/metal types;
- Surface coatings: degreasers, primers, antifoulings, and thinners;
- Finishing: decorative/coveline tape.
Most products are accompanied by their companion products with a clickable link to them e.g. a paint and it's thinner plus related tools, equipment or how-to books.

- Season launch date;
- Days required (according to helpers);
- Dates available.

- Willing helpers;
- Personal: work clothes, wet/cold weather outerwear, warm hats and gloves;
- Stores: (on the way?);
- Refreshments;
- Transport: to and from boat;
- Accommodation?

- Access to yard;
- Position the boat: lift out/boat on hard, extra props;
- Preclean: water blast/mechanical clean, hand scrub, cleaning pads.

- Access equipment: trestles, stands, ladders (with safety straps);
- Personal protection equipment: protective clothing including overalls, work hats, disposable gloves, PVC gloves, leather gloves, filter face masks, "paper" dust masks, goggles; hand cleaners;
- Preparatory tools: buckets, scrub brushes, hand brushes  scrapers, wire brushes, putty knives, electric sanders, sanding blocks, sponges, hose with connectors/nozzles;
- Protection materials: masking tapes, plastic sheeting, paper, rubbish bags;
- Preparatory materials: abrasives, abrasive papers, abrasive pads, sanding discs;
- Safety devices: isolating transformer or similar protection for power tools?;
- Application tools: brushes, rollers, sleeves and trays;
- First aid kit.

Assemble/buy materials:
- Equipment;
- Tools;
- Personal protection gear;
- Protective materials;
- Preparatory materials;
- Surface coatings.

This is a basic task list that can be shaped many ways and experience will alter, add and refine it to suit. We hope this helps you in some way.

Sunday 18 March 2012

Ships Clocks - a brief, broad history

We can only marvel at the amazing journeys taken by seafarers of old who predated the inventions of the industrial age. The Polynesians are understood to have regularly made long ocean voyages navigating by stars, winds, currents and possibly even floating organic materials that signified a particular island's proximity.

For all people of the Pacific, the legendary, but none the less completely true, arrival of the Polynesian forebears of the Maoris, from Hawaiiki around year 1400, to Aotearoa - The Land of the Long White Cloud - (later renamed New Zealand), is a magnificent example of these feats.

With the industrial revolution and the rise of particularly, the British Empire, successful command of the seas was primarily dependent on safe navigation. Safe is a relative term here, as the primitive nautical instruments and their concepts of operation using dead reckoning, often proved inadeqate, leading to the loss of many ships. Notable of these was the 1707 Scilly Naval Disaster where the inability to compute one of, or both longitude and lattitude, with sufficient accuracy was cited as the primary cause of this tragic event.

This lead to the Longitude Act of 1717 with it's prize for a marine chronometer with sufficient accuracy to overcome the limitations described. This signalled rise to fame of the then Barrow-on-Humber inventive clockmaker John Harrison who designed and created the first successful "Sea Clock", the forerunner of the modern marine chronometer. As with so many great creators, he was supported by other significant characters; in his case, he was championed by the then Astronomer Royal, Sir Edmund Halley (as in Halley's Comet), who understood Harrison's brilliance while Harrison had difficulty explaining his ideas to others himself, and financially, by the watch and instrument maker George Graham.

What has this to do with us today? Well, like most sea people, we are facinated by this hard-won history and while some of us may be fortunate enough to visit the Royal Observatory Greenwich and see some of the actual Harrison Sea Clocks, we can all get great use and pleasure from modern versions of marine or ships clocks.

Now, we don't have to spend the 30% of the ship's value that was the cost of one of those very early examples. The fine Wempe and widely-respected Plastimo brand and others offer fully functioning and decorative ships clocks, including radio-room and tide clock types, in both traditional and contemporary styles, that will grace either your boat or home. 

The Wempe Regatta with it's Corum-designed code flags (each flag is a recognised code flag number) as hour markers is one of our favourites.
Wempe Bremen II Ships Clock - Arabic Numerals, Radio Room/Silent Sectors - Brass Case
These are all a long way from the events of the 1700's that led, from John Harrison to our digital world, but we all owe a debt of gratitude to him and the great subsequent collective history of ship's clocks that keep accurate time, in navigation.

Lifejackets - this name is for a reason

Marine leisure activities, particularly the boat-based types, like sail boating, yachting or sailing and all the variants of power boating, are one of the few ways we can experience wide-open spaces without being crowded or unduly regulated as to what we can do.

For those of us who live in the colder side of temperate climates, like in Europe, we spend winter thinking and planning our next outing or trip. Naturally, at the first glimpse of spring-like weather, if not doing maintenance tasks, we look to go out in our boat as early as the season allows. Great! But pause for a moment to reflect on how we can be sure that such a simple pleasure as boating, remains just that; pleasurable.

The key issue here is the mix of water activities and human physiology. The spring water temperatures (and further north, summer too) are relatively low with respect to what the body can readily accommodate and if you have the misfortune to fall into the water then only the prepared are likely to fare well. Preparation is productive if you are firstly well-informed as to the risks of immersion and how to mitigate them. We are fortunate here because over the last half a century, much has been learnt from tragedies to deliver awareness, information, clothing and equipment, to ensure a boating trip with a pleasurable outcome.

The most technically researched and informative, yet easy to read book we have seen is "Essentials of Sea Survival" by Frank Golden and Micheal Tipton. In fact we would go as far to say, if you read any book about sea-going, then make it this one, as it will definitely serve to shape your approach to the adventure.

Amongst all the detail, it becomes clear, that if falling overboard in cold waters, the events of the first few minutes are vital to your successful recovery from such an excursion. Two key physiological processes are triggered:
1 Heart blood volume increase; firstly the body withdraws blood from near the skin to conserve vital heat and in so doing rapidly increases the volume of blood that the heart must pump; this response alone can cause harm to the extreme and it is this that is often behind fatal events.
2 Hypothermia; the residual heat of the body is lost to the colder water very rapidly - up to 25 times faster than air of the same temperature - resulting in the rapid onset of hypothermia.
These and related processes are well-described by writer Captain Kevin H Monahan of Canada where they know about cold.

While these processes are in train, instances of panic and injury, on top of the initial mental and physical shock, can and do occur, especially if the person is not confident in the water at the best of times, leading to drowning. At this immediate point, the full value of a lifejacket or portable flotation (PFD) device comes into play, "instantly" reducing the significant possibility of drowning. Now, this assumes that the person is actually wearing a lifejacket. Sadly, this often not the case and it is at the core of the familiar to many, but not known by all, campaign by the United Kingdom Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI) initially titled "Useless Unless Worn" and now contained in very clear and informative lifejacket section of the RNLI website.

When you have read the three key elements of lifejacket ownership, namely: selection, fitting and maintenance, you are invited to use the unique Find and Filter tools installed in to deal with each item. 
All the manufacturers information, including the key physical properties, of over 150 lifejackets from leading brands such as Baltic®, Crewsaver®, Plastimo, SECUMAR®, Spinlock® and XM Yachting® can be used with the Filters, firstly by selecting your size - and all that fit will be quickly display - then get the right type of lifejacket for your needs (here is the link to all the lifejackets). A truncated and reduced size image of a typical lifejacket detail page - in this case a SECUMAR Bolero 275, is shown as an example of the depth of information we present.
Related products are listed with each lifejacket and other important items of protective clothing are also accessible hereMay you have a safe and enjoyable next trip, and all those in the future.

Saturday 17 March 2012

Nautical Almanacs - First Printed 1766 - Now Digitally Yours

We of the marine leisure world take the annual obtaining of the latest Reeds Nautical Almanac as natural marker of one's sailing intentions for the forthcoming year.

The reference to a publication of astronomical information, can be traced back to Babylonian times with the ancient Greek Democritus writing the first written almanac titled the "Parapegma". Calculations were accomplished by use a type of stone tablet inscribed with days of the month that could hold a wooden peg and and so produce the results according to current or future time (the precursor to our digital tablet computers?). Ptolemy later wrote his Phaseis  - meaning "phases of fixed stars and collection of weather-changes" giving the origin to the type astronomical data we use today we use for navigational purposes.

In the world history mathematics and of navigation, the Arabic people naturally feature and their Zij, used for medieval Islamic astronomy, was likely the basis for Ibn al-Banna (1256-1321) and his "al-manakh" meaning "weather". This is not considered a pure Arabic word of old, but one having Arabic-Spanish origins - quite possible as al-Banna spent most of his life in Morocco which also had strong connections with Toledo, Spain. It is from here that the West really became aware of the advanced knowledge of the Arabic scholars, particularly mathematicians, who provided the basis for modern mathematics. In 1267 Roger Bacon used two spellings: "almanach" as well as "almanac".

The first incarnation what is now the modern nautical almanac was the publication in 1766, by the 5th Astronomer Royal Rev. Dr. Nevil Maskelyne who became an ex-officio member of the Board of Longitude. As they were focused on lunar navigational methods they clashed with the mechanical methods of John Harrison and his Sea Clocks; in the end Harrison was paid his prize for producing a clock of proven accuracy at sea by an Act of Parliament, not the Board of Longitude. Much later, in 1846, the United States published "The Nautical Almanac", which, from 1958 has been done in full collaboration with Her Majesty's Navigational Office, both of which remain as annual nautical publications.

While the US and UK Governments produce annual almanacs primarily for military and commercial mariners, A and C Black, through their brand Reeds, publish a range of nautical almanacs for the leisure boater. The Reeds brand too has a long history. First published in 1932, it has appeared with constant improvements and additional information sections for 80 years however the current format and style was developed by Macmillan publishers, who held the brand for ten years up to 1994.
The the world's oldest current encyclopedia, Britannica, first published in Scotland in 1768, has just gone fully digital, Reeds introduced their first digital version in 2011, which is also fully accessible to users who buy the hard copy version - the best of both worlds for the price of one.

The suite of Reeds almanacs has grown over the years; now there are four titles, some with different formats. Nautical almanacs - born 1766 - yours, digitally, 2013. (Information drawn from Wikipedia, A&C Black)

Sunday 11 March 2012

Beautiful Blocks for Classic Sailboats and Yachts

When our forefathers yacht, Mahaki, was built by Arch Logan in Auckland New Zealand in 1895, it is likely the shipwright worked with the local blacksmith to make the traditional simple blocks she uses.

Simple, in that here are only three main components to a traditional sailboat block; the binding frame and sheave axle, made of steel, or more likely, forged iron, the sheave, made of wood - probably lignum vitae (or bronze), and the body, also of wood, often teak.

While yacht racing was popular (the graceful lines of Mahaki, make it look as if it cutting a fine rate of knots, even when calmly cruising), gentlemen yachtsmen dressed properly to go cruising on the summer sun-sparkled waters of Auckland Harbour. For such cruising, not much was asked of the blocks and the other deck gear. As long as the sheave spindle or axle was clean and properly lubricated, the natural coir ropes would run freely enough to give her sails (jib, gaff main and topsail) the set to drive her cleanly through the blue-green waters.
Davey and Company Ash Block with Stainless Frame, Tufnol Sheave, Plain Bearing and Becket 
When Mahaki was overhauled in recent years, the blocks were lovingly restored to their former glory. However, when restoring your traditional or classic sailboat which either has blocks missing or beyond repair, there are brand new ones available that are close to visually indistinguishable from the originals. The world-renowned Davey and Company range includes faithful replica blocks, having either Ash or Teak bodies, with plain bearings, and a new range, with a modern twist, having both roller bearings and bronze sheaves plus they all have a stainless steel frame to significantly reduce maintenance. Recognising the high historic, inherent and monetary value of such craft, these have also declared force/load capacities to ensure the block will handle the expected loads.

If you should choose one of these blocks, they will still need regular maintenance for both operation and appearance. The Ash blocks require periodic refinishing and we have a range of suitable products shown along side the blocks. The teak-bodied ones, simply need a fresh coat of teak oil and a range of products from brands like Star brite® Teak Wonder and Deks.

For those few readers who have the good fortune to be caring for an exclusive classic - we are talking Fifes, J-Class and similar here, there are more elaborate traditional blocks available that are also beautiful objects in their own right. When we visited the METS Marine Trades Exhibition, we came across such a range of blocks made by Ording Blockmakers. This family-owned business has been making blocks for many years and their latest offerings are beautiful to look at - beyond their intended use, some would make wonderful special gifts. 

Now, we didn't enquire of the prices of the Ording blocks, which may well be be above the affordable prices of the Davey blocks but it serves to demonstrate, that even in such a small corner of our boating world, there is something to both recreate the beauty of a classic yacht and at a price to suit your pocket.