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  • 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.

    Screen Shot 2018-02-20 at 10.32.02

    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'

  • 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.


  • 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!

  • 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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  • 176. Top Tips Tuesday - When Waiting For Weather


    Yesterday, sheltering below deck on board Hindsight in Mandraki harbour, which is just under Corfu town fort, and listening to the rain beating down with a 'little' lightning and obviously thunder got me thinking, has the weather broken yet in the UK, has Autumn arrived? Youngest daughter then WhatsApp'ed Jenny and I, saying there was no sign of her baby coming yet and then started complaining about the poor weather back in the UK. Next minute boss man Andy texted, weather is c..p here; no doubt you are enjoying fabulous sunshine and how about letting me have next week's blog on time for once so I can correct all your spelling, grammar and punctuation as I am short staffed on Monday/Tues! Having spent Sunday morning slowly working through the list of to do items (only thirty three still to do) and failing miserably it got me thinking about what has been our four most popular autumn Tuesday Top Tips over the last few years?


    Number one without a doubt has been Wet & Forget, this superb product was first featured on my blog 'Flying off the Shelves' in December 2013. Spray your decks, canvas work or anything that turns green through lack of sunshine in the autumn or winter with a diluted solution of Wet & Forget and it won't! PS. It doesn't need any hard work; you wet the surface you want to protect and that's it.

    be2c1652-55fc-46ec-b1ec-1f2082dc05b5Second on my list is Freezeban. See My Top Tips Tuesday blog 'Lay Up For Winter' in which I advised that this non toxic antifreeze is an excellent safe product for protecting water pressure systems and calorifiers. Regular repeat orders would certainly confirm this, however beware last year our supplier 'ran dry' so don't leave it too late.

    As for my third TTT that was my blog on 'Winterising Your Marine Engine'. Don't forget that even though it's considered standard practice to fill your fuel tanks up to the brim help prevent condensation and of course the possibility of contracting the dreaded diesel bug, (especially  now they add a small measure of Biofuel to the diesel) Grotamar82 is the perfect product to help keep your fuel healthy 365 days of the year and your filters clear.

    Screen Shot 2017-09-12 at 20.57.47

    Tested out on my backside when we sailed Hindsight down from Marseille to Corfu, was an excellent product called Tear Aid which we import from Holland. The week before the delivery  trip I managed to tear the backside on my 'past their sell by date' mid-layer salopettes. Our supplier had none in stock surprise surprise when I ordered them so it was make do and mend. Over a thousand miles later my backside was still dry, the patches showing no sign of letting go so I have cancelled the order and will carry on with old faithful. Tear Aid which I blogged about in blog 'Wonder product' in August 2016, does what it says it will do. It repairs all sorts of hard to stick to materials, it's brilliant on acrylic canvas, so if you are leaving your canvas work on this winter to protect your bright work and it's looking a little thin on say a stress point, Tear Aid is more than up to it! Abrasion or a tear on foullies, it's brilliant. Cracked window on a spray hood or canopy a repair using Tear Aid will outlast the item!


  • 172. Top Tips Tuesday - Bragging Not Blogging

    IMG_1469So we won last Wednesday night, good boat speed, having said that half the fleet were on a summer break/participating in the Fastnet etc etc. Skipper had a smile on his face (unlike the previous Wednesday night when we went from first to third due to my tactical wizardry, the expression on Marks face was more like that of a slapped backside!) However, despite fitting a Soak halyard clip, trying it out before the race and then not using it for some reason best known by our foredeck man, we still got the spinnaker halyard caught, fortunately not when it was at a critical time! The Soak clip can be used with as small a diameter as 4mm and up to 9mm, strip the outer cover of a 12 mm? Whilst it will find more and more favour with the racing fleet methinks it will find a use on my Mystery when I decide to go for a hoist of our cruising chute.

    Writing about the Mystery (and if all goes to plan we will, at last, be 'cruising' the Ionian early September) I had promised a guy I met out there that if he was still interested I would bring him out three of the Clear Step outside lead furling blocks. He had admired them when moored alongside me in Mandraki harbour back in September! The Schaefer Clear step gives you a clear lead aft for your furling line, one less thing to trip on!

  • 171. Top Tips Tuesday - Greater Love Hath No Man


    As keen readers, especially those with a very good memory, may recall Marine Chandlery’s MD Andy Burgess saved the day last year when his better half Jill’s new car was scraped in the supermarket car park on its first outing (Top Tips no 120, 5th of July 2016). In that instance the excellent product Vistal Hard Surface Cleaner came to the rescue. Why the title of today's blog ‘Greater Love Hath No Man’? Let me explain... this time Andy had to rescue Jill’s new mobile from the upstairs toilet and what’s more try and keep it working! Early morning Sunday past, Andy had just finished showering when he ‘overheard’ an expletive from the bathroom so popped his head round the door and when he asked why this choice noun, he was shown the reason why. Apparently Jill was just hitching up her jeans after finishing her daily ablutions when she heard a splash and there was the aforementioned phone taking an early bath. With no regard to his personal safety our hero Andy plunged (his hand) in, rescued the Samsung Galaxy, hosed it down, immediately drove into work, popped it into a Gadget Saver,left it for eight hours and yes folks Jill’s mobile lives on.


    So maybe if you want to get yourself or your loved one ‘out of the s..t you may want to do as Andy has now done and that’s keep a Gadget saver next to the toilet as well as one on the boat!

    Mind you, your editor who does not live dangerously, (by keeping his mobile in his back pocket) should have given his own personal Gooper to first mate Martin before we went out to celebrate our safe arrival in Mandraki harbour, Corfu, the other week. Unfortunately Martin’s phone got so carried away with the celebrations later that night that it went for a skinny dip at midnight! The Gooper Dry Bag is 100% waterproof and so easy to use even if you are feeling a little under the ‘weather’. No fiddly little clips to undo if you have mislaid your glasses, maybe dropped them in the water along with the phone or if you suffer from arthritis like yours truly. As it says on the Gooper packet "Foolproof and fumble-free automatic closure ensures a waterproof seal every time" and  with the price of car keys these days at over £150-00 why not invest in a Gooper to keep them safe and dry?

  • 168. Top Tips Tuesday - Stormy Weather, StormBag


    One of the first storm jibs that we ever made (after Alan Bax and I left Musto & Hyde sailmakers) was back in the mid seventies. It was destined for a rather pretty Harrison Butler and was, of course, a hank-on sail; needless to say the owner never used it in anger for some considerable time! On Hindsight, our Mystery 35, on our delivery trip from Marseille to Corfu we carried a storm jib in the guise of a STORM-BAG and guess what, little wind for the six days and what little there was on the nose so no need to use it however if we hadn’t carried one no doubt we would have needed it.  The storm jib we fitted to Dshigit (the Mystery 35 that I first fell in love with and set Jenny and I down the self build route) was a conventional hank-on storm sail. But why didn't we, seven years later, go down the storm sail route? Apart from the lack of performance  ie once you start rolling or furling your Genoa  that vital ability to claw to windward disappears rapidly and I am not talking about a few degrees! If you go down what I consider to be the old fashioned route... the 'inner forestay with a hank on storm sail scenario' yes you get a better windward performance than that from a furled Genoa. However compared to a STORM-BAG the cost implication of fitting an inner forestay which includes modifying the mast, strengthening the deck etc to ensure a strong anchorage plus some method of tensioning the new inner forestay will probably set you back  £1500-00 at least for your average 35 footer plus of course there is the cost of the sail. Over that shock? Consider the weight and windage of the inner forestay and the tensioner (over centre lever) the stowing of the forestay and then there is the safety aspect. There is at least a 1/2 hour out on the foredeck possibly in horrendous conditions away from the safety of the cockpit... it is a 'trip' forward to rig the forestay and tension it, back to the cockpit to collect the jib and then there is the hanking on (one hand for the sail, one for the boat?) of the sail, sheets to be transferred (rolled genoa secured) and then led aft and then that jib is hoisted behind a bulky furled genoa which is in itself creating turbulence. Why didn’t we go down the Storm Bag route for Dshigit? Sadly they didn't exist back then!

    Fitting the StormBag

    The STORM-BAG storm sail was designed as a safe, efficient but economical way of flying a storm sail from a furled genoa, safe in so much as minimum time on the foredeck, no chance of furled genoa coming loose, efficient - no turbulence as set on the furled genoa and with a blunt leading edge so much easier to keep the sail drawing in confused seas, less weight and windage at all times. Economical as no deck or mast mods needed, no inner forestay required nor tensioning device, jib sheets are self contained. Plus and its a big one, your existing genoa will maintain its designed shape longer as its not being used in strong winds! The STORM-BAG is available in five different sizes suitable for boats 20 to 60 feet long (custom models are possible upon request) it comes complete fully equipped with sheets, tack strop, snap shackles; its very compact and takes up very little space on a yacht. With today's weather being so unpredictable who knows when you might need one!

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