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Life Onboard

  • 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.


  • 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!

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