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Marine Supplies, Sailing Products, Helpful Tips, Advice and Reviews

  • 187. Perfect Timing

    The impossible small gap between the car and the boiler

    So they released me from hospital last Wednesday morning along with a pair of crutches, goody bag of pain killers, physiotherapy notes and a DIY 'self injection kit' for injecting your stomach once a day. I soon found out, it's a slightly different technique from using a set of West or SP Syringes to inject epoxy into a wood or GRP void! Since being discharged I have read more in the last few days than in the last fifty years, likewise have watched more rugby. Saturday all on BBC, apart from the England matches (Jenny obviously thought I wasn't worth a short subscription to watch those on Sky), life wasn't too bad. However, by mid Sunday morning, boy did I end up depressed. I had managed to get a few hours of sleep but after shuffling along to the loo at 4am (10 min round trip) then back, hoisting myself back into bed, shuffle into position, stick pillow between legs and then attempt to pull bedding over, could I get back to sleep? So it's was switch on radio 5 and listen to the cricket. England out for 195 and our bowlers making no impression on the Aussies, Jenny then came through with a cup of tea at 6:30 before leaving to walk the dog and said "house seems a little colder than normal, looks like the heating hasn't come on." Off she trotted, with yours truly hoping that it was a just the weekend timing and nothing else. (Incidentally the boiler is due it's annual service this coming week.) However, it was not to be. On inspection by Jen it was the closed circuit circulating water pressure. Simple to solve, just twiddle the two knobs under the boiler, watch the needle(s) rise and then when both in the green sector twiddle opposite way again. However with Jenny still suffering from the effects of a broken wrist earlier this year she didn't have the strength. It's normally five or less minutes to do and usually happens if we haven't been using the system for some weeks. The boiler is mounted in a, by modern standards, narrow garage and for me to get to it whilst on crutches the car would have to moved and guess what, because I am not going to be able to shoehorn myself into the Caterham for the next few months, apart from it now being on SORN I have disconnected the battery and brought that inside. I didn't have the guts to ring boss man Andy B up at 6:45 on a Sunday morning even though he had said on more than one occasion, "Need any help just give me a shout and your wish will be my command!".

    It just so happened I had in the workshop a old main sheet tackle with Ronstan ball bearing blocks

    Dressing gown on, down into the garage and yes there is no way I could get to the boiler. Tow the car out backward with Jenny's proper car? No way to get me or expect Jen to grovel on the ground with 125mm ground clearance and secure a tow rope round the back axle. Lever under the front wheel? A good idea but the only item long enough to use was the Forespar Telescopic Whisker Pole for the Mystery which is stored in our attic ready for next season. How did we move the 'boy toy' to gain access to the boiler? It just so happened I had in the workshop a old main sheet tackle with Ronstan ball bearing blocks. One end was attached to the roll bar through a soft shackle to avoid damaging the powder coating the other end through the towing eye on the proper car.

    Soft Shackle

    Job done boiler fired up, Jen goes off to walk the dog. I grab the Ipad to do a final check on this week's TTT and then send it through to work, I find the images but no text. Was convinced I had written it just after being discharged from hospital last Wednesday or was it the drugs that made me think I had, yes perfect timing!  At least today's 'adventure' gives me something to write about. My son-in-law Ian is driving up from Leeds with Clare and the new baby later today so as the car only weighs 540kg he can, I am sure, push it back in without too much difficulty!

  • 186. Hip Hip Hurray

    Marseille to Corfu delivery trip

    All being well by the time you read this, I will be either 'kicking my heels' waiting to be discharged from hospital along with my new all singing and (eventually) dancing hip or, you never know, I might already be at home not yet bored but give it time. Reading matter already awaiting my attention includes Marine Diesel Basics, Splicing Modern Ropes and Happy Hooking, books I got quite enthusiastic about the other week! However I digress. Having always considered myself to be fairly active round the boat, I hate to admit that old age is definitely catching me up and I am now finding myself just a little bit less mobile with ‘sail makers knee’, never mind my dodgy hip so maybe I should make life a little easier for myself. There is an autopilot on the Mystery which, I must confess, came in very handy on our long motor/occasional sail from Marseille to Corfu however, this autumn, when venturing out singlehanded with the tiller pilot working happily away there were a couple of occasions when I was out of the cockpit stowing fenders, hoisting the main or whatever when I thought it would be nice to easily alter course without having to get back to the control unit some fifteen feet away and dare I say it Ionian charter boat skippers do sometimes have the habit of doing the unexpected!

    Raymarine S100  Remote Control

    Staff member Andy Laurence purchased a Raymarine S100  Remote Control for use on his recently restored Cutlass 27 after a little incident with some piles on the banks of the river Tyne! He was out single-handed and on deck removing fenders after leaving the lock at Royal Quays. Nellie Dean, his pride and joy, was on Autopilot at the time and without warning, not a command from the skipper, decided to go hard a starboard! Andy thinks if he'd had the remote slung round his neck at the time he could have avoided kissing the ironwork as the yacht had the base station already fitted (he assumes the past owner either forgot to give him remote control or kept it for his next boat). After using the remote all this season, he is a convert, so much so he talked me into buying the system for next season.

    Raymarine S100 Remote Control

    The compact Raymarine S100 Remote Control gives you basic onboard wireless control of any Raymarine SeaTalk autopilot, even if you are below deck and out of sight of your autopilot. It’s  easy operation and intuitive menu structure gives easy access to all its feature (sounds perfect for someone like me who isn’t that computer literate to say the least)  The Raymarine S100 wireless control is powered by two AAA batteries, displays two lines of text, displays signal strength and has an "out of range of base station" warning and of course it has a Keylock feature so that you can temporarily lock the autopilot keys to ensure that it is not accidentally operated!

  • 185. Magnetic Pull (Or Not)

    Nawa Stainless Steel Mooring Reel rescued from the marina using a grapnel anchor

    Mobile phones, wrench, sail maker's copper headed hammer, customer's boat keys and a Lift-the-Dot closing tool are just some of the items I have kicked or dropped overboard in my forty odd year ‘sail making/rigging ’ career; Some lost forever, some recovered either by grapnel or by using a Sea Searcher recovery magnet. My last "bit overboard" shout was earlier this year when I was fitting a Nawa stainless steel mooring reel to the pushpit of Hindsight. I had started to secure the clamps (always the hardest part as the lock nuts are easy to drop) and the backing plate and was feeling fairly pleased with myself when disaster struck and down into the briny went the reel and 32 mtrs of webbing! Fortunately there was no one around when a chain of expletives escaped from my mouth!

    As the reel was stainless there was no point in using a Sea Searcher magnet, which incidentally I always carry in my works van in case of operator error, with my track record you never know when it will come in handy but as for a grapnel it was a case of borrowing one from the marina office. Five minutes later over £150-00 worth of kit (excluding the fixing bracket and clamp) was back on the pontoon ready for a hose down! If you haven't got a grapnel onboard a folding anchor whilst not quite as effective may do the trick.

    Sea Searcher magnet

    Now Hindsight is down in Corfu we have both a Sea Searcher magnet and a grapnel on board, boat and car keys have floatation devices attached and if I manage to throw my mobile or iPad overboard they will be protected and float thanks to the Goopers! My favourite Sea Searcher story is that of Grace who was the skipper of the 70 foot James Cook sail training ketch working out of Royal Quays marina who managed to drop the boat keys overboard whilst the new crew were waiting to board! First dip with the Sea Searcher magnet brought the bunch of keys up much to the relief of Grace and no doubt her new crew! Incidentally if you do happen to drop your camera, tablet or car keys in and do recover them don't forget that a Gadget saver may save you a considerable amount of money (Andy now keeps one next to the upstairs and downstairs toilet back on his ranch) but that's another story, read about it in "Greater Lover Hath No Man".

    Andy L checking his rig making sure he uses his tool saver to prevent dropping anything on the deck

    Climbing masts and using tools aloft, touch wood, I have never dropped a drill, rivet gun or whatever on the deck below. I make sure that I am using a tool saver, loop goes over the tool and the carabiner is secured to my harness, and before I start work I check that my winch buddy is back in the safety of the cockpit! Incidentally the other Andy (our website guru) last year managed to drop his Leatherman Crunch from the top of his mast. It bounced on the gunwale, hit the edge to the pontoon finger and became unrecoverable in the depths of Royal Quays. However this inconvenience was nothing compared to his experience in Hong Kong many years ago. His colleague was up the mast of a Pilothouse Tayana 57 and the tool he dropped smashed right through one of the forward windows of the Pilothouse, and yes the air was blue!

    Ps Andy B, these days my boss, has just reminded me whilst checking my spelling, punctuation and grammar that my 'bits’ overboard should include in 2016 a rather nice digital camera with had a great amazing zoom, I managed to catch the padded camera bag on a guardrail when climbing aboard a Moody, put him in a bad mood for a few weeks!

  • 184. Top Tips Tuesday - Trickle Or Treat - Merlin Smartgauge Battery Monitor

    Merlin Smartgauge Battery Monitor - Easy Installation

    The MERLIN SMARTGAUGE BATTERY MONITOR (now with a two year warranty)  is certainly not trickling out, it’s more like a torrent! Andy went away on his half term hols early on Sunday the 29th with a good stock of them for this time of the year and on our website over the Sunday/early Monday sold four and promptly ran out of stock!  I then had to  break my vow which is, when the boss is on holiday try my utmost not to contact him unless there is a real emergency. However, sometimes needs must and he gets a text, which went, "need to order another ten Merlin SmartGauges!" Well as I start this blog, being Saturday the 4th and, dare I mention it, my day off, it looks like he will be ordering another batch of ten in the very near future.

    Smartgauge Battery Monitor

    SmartGauge represents a totally new approach to monitoring the state of charge of deep cycle batteries. The most common type of meter used for this purpose is an amp hours counter which basically adds up the current going into a battery and subtracts the current coming out to give a representation of the state of charge of your batteries.

    The SmartGauge works on a different principle. The final result is a battery state of charge meter that is much simpler to install, simpler to set up, simpler to understand and yet gives a meter that actually does a far better job of telling you the state of charge of your batteries. SmartGauge uses computer models of different types of lead acid, deep cycle batteries. This model is then used by an algorithm in SmartGauge to calculate the state of charge. The algorithm continually calculates results and some of these results are fed back into future calculations giving an ever changing, and self correcting, result.

    The result is that SmartGauge cannot run out of synchronisation with the batteries and successfully manages to track the battery capacity as they age and lose capacity, which is the biggest problem with the amp hour counters and the main reason they make such a poor job of tracking the state of charge of batteries over time.

    Merlin Smartgauge Battery Monitor - Easy Installation

    Installation is incredibly simple. To monitor a single battery bank only 2 light duty cables to the battery are required, or 3 light duty cable if the voltage of a 2nd battery is to be monitored as well. It benefits from automatic self-setup and adjustment, is suitable for both 12V and 24V systems and its shuntless design retains factory warranties. So what are you waiting for treat yourself and your boat now, don’t wait till Christmas!

  • 183. Top Tips Tuesday - The Weakest Link? The Art of Anchoring

    We do not recommend the use of swivels on an anchor rode

    A couple of weeks ago, whilst laying up our Mystery in the Corfu Boatyard, I saw that the guy next to me had lowered his ground tackle onto a piece of ply. Being a nosy so and so I wandered over and took note of his method of connecting his anchor to the chain! Stainless shackle from the anchor to a stainless swivel, stainless shackle to the chain.

    In Alex & Daria's excellent book 'Happy Hooking The Art of Anchoring' they do not recommend the use of swivels and I quote "We do not recommend the use of swivels on an anchor rode. Under normal circumstances you do not need it. Whether you have a chain or rope rode, it should untwist all by itself when you weigh anchor obviating the need for a swivel. Perhaps the only circumstance where you might consider adding a swivel would be if you were to anchor your boat for a very long period of time. Then, just as in a permanent mooring setup, you should incorporate a heavy duty swivel, as your boat is liable to swing around many times."

    They also write and once again I quote "Many people opt for a shiny stainless steel shackle. Just consider that stainless steel is, by its very nature, smooth and the pin is thus actually inclined to unscrew itself. We would suggest using a galvanized shackle instead. As the galvanized shackle's surface is rough it tends to bind and not open easily.

    Whatever you wind up using, make sure the shackle pin is secured or 'moused' with high grade monel wire. As opposed to stainless steel or copper, Monel® is inert and will not react with metal shackle."

    Millie the dog 'at anchor' in the beer garden

    As we all know stainless steel can rust and it's in hidden spots that are not easy to inspect. If, for whatever reason, you do need a swivel and you want stainless, go for the best i.e. Kong but inspect it on a regular basis for signs of rusting. As for me I have taken on board the advice from 'Happy Hooking' and fitted a galvanised fixed connector for my Vulcan (has the dig in/holding quality of the original Rocna, but with no roll bar and therefore clears my bow sprit). I used Loctite on the threads of the swivel for security and of course peace of mind!

    Mid November I go under the surgeon's knife and hopefully, with my new hip joint bedded or properly dug in, will be back in the sail loft before too long. To keep me out of mischief whilst laid up I have Happy Hooking to reread. I also intend to delve into Marine Diesel Basics that I skimmed through and blogged about last week, over 200 pages and excellent drawings on most subjects. Incidentally, when down in the local boatyard today, I did notice and photographed the danger of leaving a rodent or bird entry, as per the illustration in last week's blog!

    when down in the local boatyard today, I did notice and photographed the danger of leaving a rodent or bird entry

    If that isn't enough 'Splicing Modern Ropes' is on my reading list as well. All I need now are some short lengths of offcuts, be it Dyneema or similar high tech rope, borrow Andy's fids and D scissors and before you know it (I hope) I will be making up some soft shackles and loops. Once again, like the Diesel basics book, loads of very informative and easy to follow pictures/text.

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  • 182. Top Tips Tuesday - A long time ago!

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    I'm just back from over six weeks mucking around on boats in the Ionian and already it seems like a long time ago. Maybe it was the two overnight ferries and over a thousand miles of driving on the wrong side of the road  that made all that time on the water seem like just a distant memory, which of course conveniently brings me up to... how long ago was it that I attended an RYA Diesel engine course? Methinks about fourteen years, how time flies when you are enjoying yourself!

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    Well we winterised Hindsight's Yanmar engine and saildrive before we boarded our first ferry and smugly thought I had covered most salient points; but tonight (a week later) skimming through the recently published book 'Marine Diesel Basics' that Andy has just brought into stock, I did realise that I had omitted to stick an oily rag in the exhaust outlet to prevent foreign objects entering the pipe and that I added Grotamar additive AFTER the tank had been topped up with diesel instead of before. Finally I omitted to write this up in our maintenance log so we would be prepared for re-commissioning next season!

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    As I wrote before, I have only skimmed through the book but why didn't I squirt some corrosion inhibitor into the ignition key slot? I also read that you can purchase 'water finding paste'; smear on a stick, insert into your fuel tank and, when withdrawn, if it has changed colour you know there is water down below and also how much!

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    The author not only covers all you need to know about your diesel engine, be it maintenance, lay up, winter protection, tropical storage and spring recommissioning but he also covers sail drives, shaft seals, batteries etc etc. To sum up, an excellent book, superb illustrations and well worth the cost at £10.99 (Not £9.99 as written in the November issue of  Practical Boat Owner).

    Screen Shot 2017-10-24 at 09.45.54

    Incidentally on page 49 again of the November issue of PBO issue there is also a excellent article on Rydlyme, a product that we sell in large quantities to both retail and trade customers. Excellent for cleaning out your engine cooling system and removing salt and scale deposits!

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    Finally Dennison Berwick, the author of 'Marine Diesel Basics, does also mention the use of wipes for cleaning up spills, hands and surfaces and I must confess to having a love affair with Uniwipe Ultra Grime super performance wipes for hands, tools surfaces and dare I say it our Aga! 100 huge tough wipes for £11-95. They quickly remove grease, paint, silicone, foam and adhesive from all surfaces including our stove and as the image below shows, brilliant for cleaning up a rather neglected Radar reflector (took two minutes with less than half the wipe used) to bring it back to an 'as new condition'. Andy advises that they are great for removing seagull poo and I found they are certainly good for removing over 2000 miles of dead insects from the front of our car!

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  • 181. Top Tips Tuesday - It's A Dog's Life

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    It's a dog's life when you're not consulted as to where you will be spending your summer holidays. Me, I'd rather be sniffing round lamp posts in Tynemouth or chasing squirrels in the local park, but when my bosses Rob & Jenny Storrar decided that we would spend 'quality' time in and around Corfu on board Hindsight then my tail decided it would spend the next few weeks firmly clamped between my legs!

    My first introduction to a dogs life on the ocean waves was on the DFDS ferry from Newcastle to Amsterdam (pet friendly cabin no less; i.e. no carpet on the floor in case my bladder played up during the night on the overnight crossing. As for the recreation area on the aft deck for doing my 'business' on the sandpit, you could hardly swing a cat never mind park my butt!) After a drive through Holland, Germany and Italy there was another overnight ferry in another pet friendly cabin, from Ancona to Igoumenitsa on the Greek mainland. This time the rest and recreation area was the whole of deck eleven however I was a bit disappointed that after a few of my fellow canine furry friends did their number 2's, other dog owners didn't clear up! Finally there was a short ferry crossing from Igoumenitsa to Corfu, even I, as a land lubber, could tell the cutless bearing on the prop shaft was on its way out, talk about shake, rattle and roll. Finally we arrived at Mandraki harbour underneath the fort where their boat was moored bow onto the quay.

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    They then stuck me in a Crewsaver pet float before lifting me on board the Mystery, talk about humiliation. I had to be shoehorned in between the pulpit and the Harken headsail furler! The golden retriever on the boat next to us had his own personal gangplank! As for getting down the companion way steps, it took at least five chew stick bribes before I got the hang of them, however no sooner had I got used to being lifted up and onto the bow than my bosses decide that our next port of call would be Gouvia marina where the grumpy skipper decided that from now on we would be stern on to the pontoon. More bribes as I then had to learn to walk the plank and to make it worse he insisted I should join him in his restored boat jumble Avon dinghy (see blog 148. Life In The Old Dog Yet) shame he hadn't finished stenciling the boat's name using the IBS stencil kit that Andy his boss had provided.

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    Just as I was starting to talk the talk as now seasoned sea-dog, my skipper upped sticks and had Hindsight lifted out, well that was a barrel of laughs cos when we finally got her chocked I was then fifteen feet off the ground with, as far as I could work out, only an aluminium ladder to allow me access to terra firma. However, once again, my trusty Crewsaver Pet Float came to the rescue. Skipper guided me up whilst skipper mate used an Anderson winch to do the lifting. Incidentally I did overhear her saying to the skipper that her bingo wings have disappeared!

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  • 180. Top Tips Tuesday - Winterising your engine 2017

    Winterising your engine 2017

  • 179. Top Tips Tuesday - Laying Up For Winter 2017

    Laying Up For Winter 2017

  • 178. Top Tips Tuesday - More Of Our best Top Tips

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    With the laying up season drawing ever closer, already underway in the far North, I thought it would be worth reminding avid readers that if you want to keep a eye on your boatyard or marina electricity consumption over the winter months, maybe concerned that your near neighbour is 'borrowing' your supply or that you may be being charged for more than you are consuming why not consider purchasing a Metermaid as first blogged about in 'Check Your Winter Consumption'.

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    An excellent product that we started stocking this year after a thorough evaluation by our own staff and yours truly was the Tercoo rotary flexible stripper. We very quickly found it was a great time saver when our staff were tasked with refurbishing the cast iron keels on what had been a sadly neglected twin bilge keel Hunter. Incidentally I blogged about this superb product back in March ('Better late than never') after I used It on a rusty race boat keel and found it cut down our preparation time dramatically. On the strength of my recommendation we then sold a couple to a skipper who is stripping off all the underwater coatings from his steel 40 footer, his thoughts if I remember on the Tercoo was, "a brilliant bit of kit, almost makes it a joy to be removing rust and the various coatings applied by the previous owner!"

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    Speaking of time savers and underwater surface preparation, when we lifted Hindsight earlier this year to carry on epoxying the hull, we needed to coat the surfaces hidden by the cradle supports. Even though the boatyard who lifted her did an excellent job of washing her down we found that Starbrite Boat Bottom Cleaner made light work of removing the fouling that the marina wasn't able to. Read my blog 'Saved My Bacon' for more revelations on how good this product is! Incidentally it's also great for removing fouling from stainless steel prop shafts and of course propellers, assuming they have not been anti fouled.

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    Y10 is one of those products we sell bucket loads of even though it comes in a tub containing 300gms of this amazing product, it's great for removing rust stains from glass fibre (see images before and after taken on Hindsight as we enjoyed a leisurely lunch at anchor) Y10 is brilliant for removing the brown waterline stains that often appears on older boats, see my blog 'Before & After'

    Katrinacomb

    PS. Don't miss next weeks much longer article on laying up, it's full of excellent advice and written by the guys at www.marinechandlery.com; sailors with over 175 years of combined experience.

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