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General Interest

  • 197. Top Tips Tuesday - Varnish Remover For Butterflies


    Please don’t report me to the RSPCA, cos this blog is not about the inhumane treatment of the Red Admiral or any other species of butterflies! But I digress, we sometimes get in our engine workshop, Mercury, Yamaha or Tohatsu outboard motors (these are the three makes we sell, service and sometimes repair them if things go wrong!) It's usually in the spring when we get the non-starters and its often traced back to the fact that last year's fuel is still in the tank and always still in the carburettor! Yes I know its a bit late telling everyone that they should always drain the tank at the end of the season but its worth reminding folks before the start of this coming season that it's good practice to always turn the fuel supply off and let the engine die before drawing the dinghy up onto the beach, or if securely tied to the stern of the boat once again stopping the engine through fuel starvation. Incidentally if you don’t already carry out this procedure you will be surprised just how long the engine will keep running on idle or low revs and after a couple of attempts you will get used to turning off the fuel perhaps 50 metres from the beach.

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    Yamalube Carburettor Cleaner is a powerful carburettor cleaner specially developed to eliminate deposits and varnish on butterfly valves, throttle chambers, nozzles, tanks, floats and venturi tubes. Yamalube Carburettor Cleaner reduces fuel consumption whilst increasing engine performance, stabilizes the idle, and improves the engine’s accelerating. It's easy to use and of course full instructions are printed on the aerosol can.


    Two stroke outboard fuel mix is more likely to cause varnish issues however for both two and four stroke petrol engines there are a couple of Quicksilver products that can be added at every fill up. Quicksilver Quickare keeps fuel fresh between every fill up and helps prevent or controls corrosion, gum and varnish build up. Quicksilver Quickleen helps remove carbon deposits from carburettors and injectors, intake valves, spark plugs, piston crowns and cylinder heads it helps prevent engine knocking and piston seize up as well as extending spark plug life.


  • 196. Top Tips Tuesday - Good News! Antifouling Prep Just Got Easier


    We all hate antifouling and the preparation that goes beforehand, however the good news is that it's just got easier, why? Read and inwardly digest and if you have either a large build up of rust on your keel or multiple layers of antifouling you want to remove easily perhaps consider using one or both of the products mentioned just below.

    Removing rust from cast iron keels has always been a soul destroying job however the relatively new to the market Tercoo has made it so much easier. We have first hand experience of how effective the Tercoo tool is, it certainly made my task so much easier when tackling a badly rusted Albin Express keel that we were wanting to get ready for applying fairing filler. Also in our local boatyard the owner of a steel Bruce Roberts thought it was the best thing since sliced bread for preparing the underwater surfaces. As for the other Rob, he has not stopped smiling since he started using the Tercoo for prepping rusted keels!

    Where there are copious coats of antifouling that need to be removed, Peelaway Marine, a new product to the market, looks the business, doing the job in just one application. Peelaway Marine can be used on a wide variety of substrates, grp, wood, metal and ferocrete, however, it works faster in temperatures above five degrees so I haven’t had a test run of it myself yet but word from the yard is that it works well.

    Unsure of what to do next, read our 'Definitive Guide To Antifouling'

  • 195. Top Tips Tuesday - Spectacles,*********, Wallet & Watch


    Last October with Hindsight out the water and safely chocked up in the Corfu boatyard, Jenny and I decided that it would be less hassle if we left the majority of our 'summer clothes' onboard to save us the task of taking them all home and then some seven odd months later bringing them all back again! Great plan we thought as bitter experience, (get the pun?) has taught us that the North East in the height of summer can be and is often a cold, wet and windy place. When out for a Wednesday night race it's often the full monty; base, then mid layer, which are my trusty Musto Goretex salopette and jacket (now in at least their tenth season) topped off with my Gill foulies and my Spinlock Deck Vest Lite. So when some three weeks ago we started getting ready to pack for a non sailing winter break (not at that time on our radar back in October) Gomera an unspoilt Canary Isle was our choice of destinations, last year's cunning plan suddenly and then rapidly started to unravel. Surprise, surprise no shorts for Jenny and precious few tops as well. As for yours truly, all I had in the way of sunshine clothing was a couple of old t-shirts I had purchased at an International 14 European championships in the last century! My shorts?, sadly the UV had done the dirty on two pairs of Musto Fast Dry ones left at home and they were falling apart. What a b****s up, however, with my scruffy moth infested Musto wallet in hand, off we trotted to M&S to hopefully get sorted. Spotted bargain t-shirts for me, reduced to £2-50 each, shorts for Jenny at full price and then that night it was a repair session to my shorts, many thanks to Tear Aid for making it so easy. Clothes packed into the case, along with reading matter but then I realised I had made another b***** up, where were my Gill bi-focal sunglasses and Jenny's Boarding Ring glasses? Why, they were onboard Hindsight in Greece, where else!


    Fast forward to the morning of our flight, by then I had managed to talk Andy into lending me his own Gill bi-focals, great for map reading and as 'normal sun glasses' Jen then sweet talked him into lending her the chandlery's demo Boarding Ring glasses, not only are they brilliant at helping her keep her food down where it belongs when sailing, but as a poor passenger in a car (nowt to do with my driving I hasten to add) they keep her from feeling iccy when on the twisty roads of Gomera! So good are they that they even enabled her to take snaps out of the car window as we ‘hurtled’ down the mountain roads without fear of projectile vomit!


    Having berthed our Channel 31 in San Sebastián harbour for some three years during the Mystery 35 fitting-out we had always enjoyed good weather. Sadly this time, yes we had three good days of sunshine where on the last day of these we got to take the hire car up into the mountains and enjoys the forest walks and afterwards, the superb anchovies in the harbour cafe at Valle Gran Rey.


    However for the next six days which included the remaining two days of car hire it was a bit like being back in the North East, strong cold Northerlies, unfortunately neither of us had base, mid layer or foulies to keep the elements at bay but on the last day I did have (for once on my wrist) my Optimum Time watch to remind me that there was only a few more hours till we caught the ferry from San Sebastián Gomera to Los Christianos Tenerife and then on to the airport!


  • 194. Top Tips Tuesday - Don't take it for granted!


    A first time yacht owner was in the chandlery late November and was complaining that he thought the mainsail he had inherited was badly stretched down the leech as the boom was not clearing the spray hood when it was hoisted up as far as it would go and if he lowered the hood and then sheeted in the sail, a severe crease ran from the clew through the inboard ends of all the batten pockets. Apart from that it was a real sod to hoist! He then started talking about buying a new main to Andy, boss man, who whilst a wizz on all things mechanical and electrical, suggested to him that perhaps once the old git (ie. me) was up and running again after his replacement hip that he brought the offending sail into the loft for evaluation. Well I am back on my feet, even more grumpy if thats possible and here's what I found. Sail was still in fairly good condition for its age, cloth had a bit of 'body' however the bolt rope had shrunk which meant that once it had been cut in the tack area and then the hand stitching at the cunningham hole/reef points unpicked and stretched out, the bolt rope shot up the luff tabling 17cm, which should mean the sail could be hoisted higher up the mast allowing it to clear the hood. The sail slides looked as though they had been lubricated with wheel bearing or stuffing box grease and apart from staining the sail, me-thinks the lubricating properties of this gunge would be zilch! To remove the grease I used the excellent 3m citrus cleaner and we then sent the sail to Hancocks sail laundry for a thorough clean.


    As for the severe crease down the inboard end it would be hard to tell by laying out the sail on the loft floor what the problem was but I think that by putting the battens in the wrong way round ie stiff end first flexible end at the leech, the previous owner wasn't doing the sail any favours!


    Sail slides are always going to be a source of friction, worse still if the main has been constructed with a full length top or top and second batten. As a sensible alternative to grease I can strongly recommend carrying a can of Mclube or Smooth Sail on board. A regular squirt of either will help make hoisting the main an awful lot easier.

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  • 193. Top Tips Tuesday - Old Age, I Hate It!

    Snap Shackles

    I never thought it would happen to me but I have to finally admit that old age is definitely catching up with me. Last night we were eating out and what with the background noise there were times that I was having to ask the lady sitting next to me to repeat herself. Furthermore, earlier this week, whilst attending my regular Tuesday ‘put the world right’ session in my local, I had trouble picking up my first pint, mind you, having spent an hour with needle, left handed palm and whipping twine in the sail loft earlier that day didn’t help, the joy of arthritic hands! As for my other body parts, well the offending hip that had been giving me gyp for the last few years has been sorted, but I blamed the demise of that on my rock and roll lifestyle when I was a teenager! Unfortunately my sail maker's knees, after almost forty odd years on the loft floor, ain’t too brilliant these days, shame I couldn’t have a lubrication nipple fitted to the side of the joint so that first thing in the morning I could squirt some Mclube into the relevant area! However on the plus side, Jenny assures me my good looks haven’t faded and with the fashion for close cropped hairstyles I can get away with being bald as a coot. On the down side, however, my six pack seems these days to be more of a family economy bundle.

    Leather Pull Tags

    On the Mystery some six years ago, in anticipation of not being able to get my leg over (the guard rails) when we finally put her in the water, we fitted stanchion gates on both port and starboard gunwales next to the chain plate/cap shrouds. What I should have done, once we launched her, was to make it a lot easier to grasp the ring pull on the pelican hook. This year when we launch Hindsight she will be fitted with a couple of leather pull tags, likewise for the spinnaker halyard snapshackle. They can be purchased in silver or tan and incidentally, if you are so inclined and wish to customise or ‘pimp’ your boat, you can have them custom printed for a small extra charge! This spring I also intend to fit a couple of our leather chafe protectors over the fork terminals connecting the upper guard rail to the pulpit. As for the leather spreader boots we retail, I will at some stage be the one climbing our mast, but methinks I will wait till my hip joint has fully bedded in before going aloft, maybe add to the 2019 to do list!

    Leather Chafe Protectors

    Whilst on the subject of leather, the other day we exported a couple of our leather steering wheel kits out to Portugal, they trickle out on a regular basis. As for a recommendation, I know my mates Peter and Anita Kassell recovered the wheel on their Oyster Nimrod. Once fitted in place it brought the cockpit back up to scratch!

    Suede Leather Wheel Cover Kit

  • 191. Top Tips Tuesday - Stress-free Sailing


    It would be great if all our boating was stress-free, sadly it never seems to happen. However when working on last week’s blog ‘Help is at hand’ over the Christmas holidays and wanting to check something out, I wandered over to Andy’s chandlery book shelves and found this little gem STRESS-FREE SAILING for single and short-handed techniques! With my first mate Jenny having broken her wrist early summer 2017 and the joint only just coming out of plaster before she flew out to Corfu to join me, handling the boat on my own was a completely new ball game. I managed, just, but there were a few scary moments! Sadly, seven months on, her wrist is still very weak as I quickly found out the other week as, after having my hip replacement, putting on my post operative compression stockings was impossible (leg/knee etc swollen so I couldn’t bend my leg to reach my foot). Poor Jenny was struggling to help me and in a lot of pain!

    We drive down to Corfu this coming May for some rest and recreation, by then I hope to have absorbed enough of the book to give both of us stress-free sailing. Loads of pictures and diagrams and includes a QR code to gain access to 21 action videos.


  • 190. Top Tips Tuesday - Help is at a hand

    After over fifty years in the marine trade it still surprises me to come across the occasional yacht that does not have that essential midships mooring cleat. Yes they all have cleats and fairleads that are positioned bow and stern, they do their job, keep the boat parallel/close to the pontoon, jetty or quay but of course are unable to stop any fore and aft movement. Yes you can use the rigging chain plate to take a spring fore and aft but I would worry about the likelihood of chafe and of course with a midship cleat is perfectly placed for arriving alongside and lassoing a cleat on a pontoon.


    Help is at hand if your yacht is fitted with an alloy toe-rail. Unfortunatley it’s not quite a five minute fix but I would be surprised if it would take more than an hour to fit two of the Allen Bros toe rail cleats, (incidentaly they are sold singly). Each cleat comes with the necessary stainless fastenings and the only other item you may need to purchase (unless already in your tool kit) is a tube of Duralac or Tef-Gel to act as a barrier between the alloy toe rail and the stainless fasteners.


    If you don’t have an alloy toe-rail, why not consider a Barton sliding cleat as your mid-ship spring cleat, simply remove a genoa track end stop, slide on the cleat (available to suit 25 and 35mm track) and lock in the appropriate position. When not in use, slide the cleat to one end of the track, or leave off one track end stop permanently to enable easy removal of cleat.


    If you are unlucky enough to have neither an alloy toe-rail or a genoa/jib track in a suitable place you can, of course, drill and bolt through the deck a pair of alloy cleats however you will need a substantial backing plate on the underside of the deck. Methinks epoxy coated ply or an alloy plate bedded down with Sikaflex or similar, however if using the latter don’t forget the barrier paste! Remember of course that if drilling and fastening through the deck, always countersink the fastening hole and fill with sealant!

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  • 189. Top Tips Tuesday - One Into Three

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    I have always hated cutting holes in my own yacht but strangely enough I'm quite happy to do the dirty on customers’ boats. Maybe it’s because I am being paid for it, but I don’t think that’s the real reason and no, I have never used a chain saw! When we started on the Mystery project I knew that below the waterline I would need, as a minimum, a 26mm cutout for water supply to the toilet and a 47mm exit for toilet waste plus a separate 47mm for the holding tank if pumping out offshore. The Yanmar sail drive takes care of engine cooling, so no holes to drill through the skin for that function. However, I decided some three years later into the build project that we would also want a salt water deck washdown pump after cruising on a friend's yacht in the Greek Isles. Recovering your anchor and ground tackle can be a very messy business what with all the mud that comes up on the chain and anchor.


    The Mystery has a traditional look to it with a slim, easily driven hull, 35ft overall, 25ft on the waterline so as you can imagine stowage space is at a premium, never mind it’s fresh water capacity. By modern standards, 45 gallons is not particularly generous so we decided to use salt water for washing dishes/boiling potatoes etc, I therefore went for and fitted a salt water galley pump next to the sink.


    To supply sea water to these two pumps instead of cutting another two holes in the hull, my pet hate, we fitted a brass manifold just after the toilet inlet seacock and then T’d off to supply, toilet, deck wash and the galley pump, job done with no need to cut another hole.


  • 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!

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