Monday, April 24, 2017

Attainable Adventure Cruising

It's not smart to advertise links to sites that could siphon readers and dollars away, but sometimes you run across a page that simply must be shared. Though I have never met John, I have exchange considerable correspondence and consider him a friend, for the good character and free exchange of ideas he has shared. His site (https://www.morganscloud.com), complete with on-line e-books, is a treasure.

jhhomd1-8300796

Do I agree with him on everything. Heck no. I don't agree with myself all of the time. I have more of a coastal and multihull perspective, and he has an off-shore perspective. But John displays rare combination of open mindedness and traditional, conservative seamanship that is extremely refreshing. I respect his opinions, always.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Coal is Not Coming Back

This is NOT me getting political. This is simply a list of observations on how Appalachia has been bamboozled.

  1. Pipelines = Cheaper Gas. More pipelines mean reduced oil and gas prices, meaning less reason to burn coal. Although coal remains cheaper than gas, there are more costs associated with burning coal (unloading, stockpiling, grinding to dust, emissions controls, boiler fouling, increased wear, coal ash disposal). And since most people like cheaper fuel and gasoline, most people at least tacitly like things that make gas cheaper. This will lead to continued at least quiet bipartisan support of fracing.
  2. Time Line--Utility Plant Move Slowly. Even if coal were significantly cheaper than gas--which more pipelines and drilling prevent--power plants are decades in the planning and construction. If you were budgeting for a power plant, would you propose coal, knowing that the neighbors will oppose permitting and that the regulatory pendulum will swing back in 4 years, but no more than 8? No matter my political temperament, I would not see this as a long term strategy. I would not stake my job on a coal-burning plant that would be shut down a few years after it opened. Therefore, planning of new coal plants is very unlikely. At most a few might go through a few motions, but they won't commit the money.
  3. Clean Coal. I'm an engineer and like the science. But I wouldn't invest in something that is economically marginal and still politically vulnerable.
  4. Most States Determine Their Own Rules.  I know several coal plants that were closed, all the result of local pressure. States can set their own rules. A change at the federal level will have no influence on most closures. Finally, no matter how conservative the voter, no coal plant will receive support at the local level (NIMBY).
  5. Health Care. Unemployed miners should be able to figure out where that is headed.
They allowed themselves to be distracted by glitter and words they wanted to hear, but that just couldn't be true.Times change, they always have, and it's a little cruel.

I'm not even sayin' whether this is good or bad, it's just what the facts reflect. You don't put the genie back in the bottle. Historically, can't ignore the bloody shirt, and there is a case against coal that goes far beyond global warming.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Happiness

Life consists of many part and moods; when my thoughts drift to what is important, I think of Lin Yutang and The Importance of Living. It belongs in the library of any philosopher, and no sailor, climber, or person wanting to milk the full value from life can not be a philosopher. From a chapter on happiness, adapted to my experience (inspiration from Chin Shengt'an):

_______________

My Seven Happy Moments. There have been more, and will be to come, but these few thoughts step forward today:


  1. A Cigarette boat comes joins the 6-knot parade out of the the harbor through a narrow channel. But he can't wait in line, guns the throttle, passes to starboard, and runs definitively aground in 12 inches of water. When you return to the harbor after a brief sail, the young men are still aboard, arms akimbo, visually proclaiming "we're cool." Is this not happiness?
  2. You are anchored in a pastoral cove, alone with your thoughts. There is only the faintest breath of air from the east, just enough to swing the boat, but not enough to ripple the water. It is not hot, just warm. Without a cloud in the sky, the sun is a low, an impossibly large red orb that cannot last. Is this not happiness?
  3. In preparation for a climbing trip to the Wind Rivers and Tetons that will involve long pitches on snow and ice, you climb pitch after pitch of easy rock rock at a convenient crag near home, unroped, to build speed and confidence. Nearing the top of a straightforward 5.5 crack, you overhear several 20-somethings chat about how difficult the climb was (with a rope), lament that there fathers could not join them, but allow with great understanding that "Dad is in his 40s" and it's unrealistic to expect so much. I easily top-out sans rope, and while walking past them mumble that I'm 48 (some years ago) and that my 12-year old daughter also enjoyed the route. Is this not happiness?
  4. I sit in the backyard with a good book (Lin Yutang), with DEET-based bug repellent on one leg and catnip-based repellent on the other, the stuff of another article research project. The DEET leg is all alone, and the mosquitoes only circle the other, confused and unable to process critical landing information regarding the tasty mammalian flesh below. Is this not happiness?
  5. Since my daughter was old enough to baby sit, she would fill bags with teacher-like stuff and spend hours developing an activity plan and preparing for her "job." During her senior year of high school, after several false starts, she announced that she knew what she would do in college. She is going to be a teacher (this was some years ago--she is student teaching now). Is this not happiness?
  6. Your career of 32 years comes is victim to massive consolidation following a merger with a company that does not understand what you do. At the same moment, you realize that for the first time in your life you have a chance to chose your path. A cross roads to be faced as an adult, with all of life's experience to draw upon. Is this not happiness.
  7. My daughter is home on break from college. We are sailing in light winds and she is collapsed, semi conscious on the bow. Is this not happiness?
 The kids, armored against jelly fish.
_______________

 Sometimes I write solely to practice putting words on paper in a thoughtful way. Unfortunately, I don't have a philosophy sufficiently considered to express at length. Whenever I examine it closely, it flits away, unwilling to pinned down or well understood. Faulkner said that "free time only exists when not measured" (The Sound and the Fury), and so perhaps philosophy can only be fresh and thus worthwhile so long as it is unexamined, not ruined by anything more than a furtive glance in its general direction. Maybe it's simpler than all that. We should just be happy.

Friday, April 7, 2017

European Paddle vs. Greenland Paddle

For an old guy, Greenland paddles win.

A Euro paddle blade is leaf-shaped, nearly half as long is it is long. Or rather that is what we have come to accept as normal and 21st century. It is superior for whitewater kayaking and racing, where it provides a positive, even harsh grab on the water.

But over the years I've run into folks using Greenland paddles with their sea kayaks.  Though the urban legend is that they were long and slim because that is the only thing they could make from drift wood, when you consider the craftsmanship that goes into a skin-over-frame kayak, that sounds like lame reasoning; these people could craft anything from a few bits of wood and sinew, and in fact, they used broad paddles in other craft. They developed what we now call the Greenland paddle because it has some unique advantages.

These are works of art. Mine was fashioned from a 6' x 3/4" x 3 1/2" (a common 1 x 4) board and a center of aluminum tube in a few hours, and probably performs better.

The length is about the same--a little less than 8 feet. The blade in only 1/2 the width of a Euro paddle, but the length of the blade is over double, resulting in greater projected area. Because it is not scooped like the Euro paddle, the catch is much softer, and it does not generate as much instantaneous power. However, because it has a higher aspect ratio, it actually creates greater lift once the stroke is underway.
  1. Lighter. My Greenland paddle is 25% lighter than my fiberglass Euro paddle.
  2. More buoyant for rolling. 
  3. More lift when used in a sweep stroke for rolling or bracing, because of the higher aspect ratio.
  4. More resistance and better grip on the water at mid-stroke.
  5. Smoother catch and release.
  6. Easier on the wrists, shoulders, and elbows.
  7. Quieter.
It was "1" and "6" that caught me attention. Although it does not provide the same acceleration, it is faster through the water over the long haul, easier on the body, and significantly lighter. I'm still not used to the look, but it is more efficient over a long day.

Downsides? A few, but they are minor.
  1. Harder to buy. But you can make them rather easily. They don't need to be laminated and beautiful.
  2. Not as much blade in the water in shallows. But you can use a shallow, more horizontal stoke.
  3. Most designs do not feather, but that can be fixed by incorporating an adjustable ferrule. 
  4. Typically the shaft is fatter (1 1/2-inch vs. 1 1/4-inch standard or 1 1/8-inch small). Hand size and whether you wear thick gloves (a smaller paddle works better with thick gloves) may dictate which is better, but I find the fatter shaft is harder on my wrist and hands. Personal preference enters in. 
  5. Learning a new stroke. Where a Euro paddle is simply pulled, the smoothest and most powerful stoke on a Greenland  paddle is delivered by a gliding pull with the blade moving at an angle, as when swimming the crawl efficiently. The blade is high aspect and generates a lot of lift when moving sideways. the stoke is also lower angle.

Feather. Most sea kayakers adopt a feathered paddle after some experience. By angling the blades about 60 degrees relative to each other, even when the arms cross between stokes, the wrists remain in a neutral plain, never flexing. The key is to pick a control hand that grips the paddle, and to let the shaft rotate in the other hand during the cross over. The non-control hand need never grip the shaft tightly. Gloves help.

Whitewater paddlers often use an non-feathered paddle--it can be problematic to keep track of the twist angle when paddling rapidly or throwing out a quick brace stroke. I use zero feather in technical whitewater.

Greenland paddles are typically not feathered, because a more shallow stroke is used, minimizing wrist flex, and by tradition. Many paddlers find an non-feathered paddle easier to roll, because similar to the whitewater case, they don't have to remember the feather angle. However, I have wrist problems and really like feather, although less than the traditional 60 degrees used with Euro paddles. My Greenland paddle is feathered only 30 degrees.

It's  little ugly, but by using aluminum tubing in the center I dropped the weight to about 65% of a common paddle and gave it 30 degree feather.  I am wondering if less or even no feather might be best for Greenland paddles. It may be a matter of learning a new stroke.


Where can you get a Greenland paddle? First, make you own. There are many on-line sites with instructions, and if you are handy in the wood shop, a basic paddle won't take much over an hour or cost more than $5 to make. You can buy them, of course, but artwork and craftsmanship cost money.

If you want adjustable feather or a Greenland paddle that can be broken down for storage, Duckworks sells carbon fiber ferrules for ~ $25. This also makes it possible to create feather. Duckworks offers two ferrule options:
  • Standard. Allows for O degree, 60 degree right, and 60 degree left feather. The shaft is 30.6mm (1 1/4-inch), which is generally considered standard for kayak paddles.
  • Greenland. There is no allowance for feather, although you can obviously mount the ferrule with some rotation to create a fixed feather angle. The shaft is 38.6mm (1 1/2-inch), the traditional fatter Greenland paddle diameter. 
Additional holes (you drill em') can create custom feather angles.


This is the elegant way to do it [details on Duckworks]. Add a slightly longer center section and 30 degrees of feather, and this is my dream paddle!





Saturday, March 18, 2017

Internal Reefing and Friction

Single line reefing can be a delight, until the friction become so great nothing will move. I was pretty fed up with mine, when I first go the the boat, until I realized the PO had left me a tangle. A simple problem, and easy to fix, but often overlooked because it is out of sight.

The problems is that there are blocks inside, and when these get twisted, they lock up. The twist is introduced by a group of turning blocks near the mast (different from this illustration), that guide the line back to the cockpit or to a winch. Every time the reef is used, their corkscrew arrangement walks a small amount of twist into the boom.


The cure? Look in the boom-end to confirm that this is the problem. If yes, go the mast-end and untwist the line by hand in the required direction, until the lines are straight and the blocks are vertical. This may take 5 or 6 turns. Chase these twists through all the way back to the cockpit, so that they are not simply stuck between blocks near the boom. Do NOT release the line from the end of the boom and try to fix the twist from there. Although that end is also twisted, that is only a symptom of the twist at the other end. There is no way for twist to sneak in from the boom end, and if you try to fix it from there, you will simply create opposing twists. The problem originates at the boom end and must be fixed there.

On my boat this must be done about every 50 times I reef. Not very often at all. But if you've waited years, or if the boat is new to you, look inside the boom.

[This image is from the PDQ 32 Owner's Manual, free in MS word if you request it via the contact form near the bottom of the right column.]

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Cleat Strength


 Boat US did a study, bolting cleats to steel plate and breaking them. Obviously, on a boat, this depends on a strong backing plate.

Different size cleats? In the case of fastener failures, simply adjust in proportion to the fasteners you have (data found here). In the case of feet failures, expect the strength to go up size^2. The strength of the foot, for example, probably goes up with size^3, but leverage goes up with size^1.




Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Marking Anchor Chain

Someone once told me that marking anchor chain with paint was amateurish.

Sailors on the US Blue Rige (LCC19) touch up the chain markings.

Okay, sure. 
  • They suggest that you can feel bits of cloth and such in the dark. Assuming the gypsy don't sheer them off or jam, please don't tell me you would run your hand along a running chain in the dark. That is a good way to lose fingers.
  • Plastic ties. My windlass sheers them off no matter how they are attached. Some manual say there is a right way, but not with a Lewmar vertical.
  • Inserts. If I can't see the paint, I'm going to be able to make out a few mud-coated lumps in the dark? Silly on the face of it. 
The first article in Good Old Boat Magazine described a better way to paint the chain. Also in "Keeping a Cruising Boat for Peanuts" and "Rigging Modern Anchors."

 They even have a standard color code. Not sayin' you need to use it, although I do use a long red band to warn me of the rope-to-chain splice at 100 feet (98% of the time I stop short of the splice so that I can anchor on all-chain.

After all, you always need to know how much rode you have out.  It's all part of good anchor craft, along with proper snubber sizing (Practical Sailor) and one hundred other factors.

Saturday, March 4, 2017

PDQ 32 Owner's Manual

I've scanned the manual that came with my boat, converted into MS Word, and adapted it a little my specific boat, modifications and all. I figure it's a nice courtesy to the next owner, and something that will help maintain PDQ value for all of us.






PDQ Yachts Inc
Whitby, Ontario
Canada


Revised for Shoal Survivor, HIN XXXXXXX
1997
Rev. August 20, 2015
February 2017


If you would like a copy, just send me an e-mail via the contact form at the bottom of the right column. No sweat.


I recommend converting it to PDF (MS Word will do this) once you have customized it. It will scroll MUCH faster.




Thursday, March 2, 2017

Mexican Navy Tows Disabled Sailboat for 1 1/2 Days.

Described in the link below, a sail boat became disabled when their rudder sheared off, 3/4 of the way from Texas to Mexico. The US Coast Guard contacted the Mexican Navy, and the Mexican Navy sent a 180-foot cutter to provide a tow.

http://www.click2houston.com/news/mexican-navy-comes-to-rescue-of-stranded-american-sailors

Without getting political, it's something to think about. Things do go both ways. I like to get along with my neighbors. It seems to work out better.

Of course, a proper steering drogue would also have solved the problem, just as quickly and with less drama. After my own experience with bending a rudder on a submerged log (repair described in "Keeping a Cruising Boat for Peanuts"), I did considerable research on drogues for emergency steering and storm management, learning that a good drogue is a solution even a singlehanded sailor can make work in minutes, with just a little preparation and practice. In the above situation, I would have had a steering drogue in the water within 5 minutes, and we would have been on our way, a knot or two slower, but with certainty.

A failed rudder is simply not a valid cause for rescue or loss of your boat; I've sailed hundreds of miles with no rudder or worse, a rudder jammed to the side. It's quite manageable.

See "Faster Cruising for the Coastal Sailor" for the details. Also, and up-coming article in Practical Sailor will describe the details of rigging and using a drogue. In "How Much Drag is a Drogue" (Practical Sailor, September 2016) I tested, reviewed, and list the relative drag and performance characteristics of most popular drogues.

(Up-coming article in Practical Sailor on Emergency Steering with Drogues)




Monday, February 27, 2017

Boat Writer's International -- 2016 Marine Writing Contest



 In its 24th year, the BWI contest attracted 151 participants submitting 378 entries. In addition to cash awards, Certificates of Merit were presented to writers of another 43 articles which scored within 95 percent of third-place tallies in each category. All submissions to the contest were published in 2016. Each of the categories (noted below along with sponsors) was judged by four active journalists in the first few weeks of the New Year. Links are provided to the top three scorers. Results (there are 17 categories):

Gear, Electronics & Product Tests – sponsored by Xantrex/Schneider Electric
1st, “Splash Test Dummy” by Drew Frye (Good Old Boat, Sept.); 2nd, “New Options in Small Outboards” by Darrell Nicholson (Practical Sailor, Jan.); 3rd, “Hitting the Bricks” by Nigel Calder (PassageMaker, Sept.). “Despite it being a controlled product test of a cold water immersion suit, the author packs the article with a satisfying mix of information and hard data, accented with a good dose of humor throughout – An excellent piece of professional journalism,” noted judge Rich Armstrong. Merit Awards: “Trial By Fire and Water” by Lenny Rudow (Texas Fish & Game, Sept.); “Fish Whisperers” by Ron Ballanti (Anglers Journal, Fall).


Seamanship, Rescue & Safety – sponsored by Sea Tow Services International
1st, “The Storm Trysail” by Edward Zacko (Good Old Boat, Jan.); 2nd, “In the Perfect Position to Fail” by Ralph Naranjo (Practical Sailor, April); 3rd, “Naked and Afraid” by Pete McDonald (Boating, Jan.). Of the first place selection, judge Jim Rhodes said, “A thoroughly researched and well-presented article. Punctuated by vivid personal anecdotes, it was written with the authority of someone who knows the subject matter.” Merit selections: “Hitches to Grip Anchor Chain” by Drew Frye (Practical Sailor, May); “Go Forth and Cruise” by Tom Cunliffe (Sail, June).