Top Tips Tuesdays

  • 302. They Look The Same But Which Is Better?

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    Maybe it's time for a rethink on zinc! Not my words, but those of that well known manufacturer of anodes MG DUFF who, of course, are proud to manufacture in the UK! With the emphasis these days on 'saving the planet' most folks will now acknowledge that we are at last slowly moving towards more environmentally friendly products, or cutting right back on our use of plastics. Back in Tynemouth Jenny is particularly proud, or smug if that is the correct word to use, that some 12 years ago when we last changed our car we, or was it she, ignored the advice of politicians and went back down the petrol route. After a couple of issues with our wheels last year (during our drive down to the cruising grounds of Corfu, driving not flying) we decided, for this year, to purchase an almost new, same make same size second hand estate car, once again with a petrol engine..... which we then discovered were almost as rare as hen's teeth but that's another story!

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    Zinc vs Aluminium, they look the same but which is better? Maybe it's a time for a rethink on zinc, as anodes made from this metal can only be used in salt water whilst aluminium can be used in salt and brackish water. The zinc anode has been traditionally used for over 60 years by boatowners worldwide however more and more aluminium ones are now being fitted as standard by leading UK boat builders! Whilst zinc anodes are widely available for all installations* aluminium anodes, which are available for most applications, have a 20% longer life (think sail drive and out drives that eat up traditional anodes at a fearsome rate.) Other advantages of aluminium anodes include a higher output = better protection and they are three times lighter than zinc, you keen racers will be pleased to note. They even cost less than zinc and of course they are more environmentally friendly.

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    In Everett Collier's excellent book 'The Boatowners Guide to Corrosion,' in the Appendix or Glossary he describes an anode as 'The electrode of an electrochemical cell with the more negative or less noble potential. The less noble  metal of an electrolytic cell that tends to corrode' So the question that is often asked is that 'how come an aluminium anode can protect a sail or out drive which is manufactured from the 'same' metal?' The answer is that your or my unit is manufactured from a very corrosion resistant alloy whilst the anode is not!

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    A word of caution however, under no circumstances fit a zinc pear shape hull anode ('cos you already have one as a spare) then go out and purchase an aluminium anode for fitting to the prop shaft, out drive or sail drive! Zinc and aluminium should never be mixed.

    * Regrettably the Beneteau prop anodes are not available in aluminium, apparently they are too costly to make in this material!

  • 301. Straight From The Horses Mouth

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    Maybe it's in my Scottish blood, mum was a Kilmarnock girl, dad from a small village near Perth and they met in London! As for yours truly, I was born in Iraq (father was by then the resident civil engineer supervising the building of a rail bridge over the river Tigris near Baghdad). With my Scottish/Arab 'ancestry’ I do like value for money,  quality and with anything technical or electrical it must be  easy to use. The Merlin Smart Gauge Battery Monitor now with a two year warranty can be fitted almost 'straight out of the box' so  easy to fit and simple to operate!

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    One of our customers, who operates a 40 odd ft yacht for charter on the West Coast of Scotland, has the following to say about the Smart Gauge...

    "Rob, I fitted the Merlin Smartgauge to my boat earlier this season after several charter clients experienced trouble keeping the service batteries charged.

    After several week's use, I have to say that I find it to be an excellent piece of kit. Its main benefit is that it provides clients with what amounts to a "fuel gauge" of the service battery bank's remaining useful capacity. You can see at a glance when the battery bank is fully charged, and what capacity remains when it's not fully charged. Much more meaningful to the average sailor than looking at a voltage reading (although it does also give a voltage reading!). It's now easy to keep the batteries in good shape - when the Smartgauge shows only 50% capacity left, charge the batteries!"

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    It's also very easy to fit. Unlike shunt-based battery meters, the Smartgauge has just three wires - to be connected directly to the battery terminals, via small fuses. There's no disturbance to existing cabling. It really couldn't be easier. I gather that its other key benefit is that it is self-calibrating, so it still gives meaningful data as the battery bank ages over the years. We'll see how that goes. All in all, it's a great addition to the boat's instrumentation, and it looks neat and tidy mounted at the nav station".

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    To sum up... The SmartGauge battery monitor, super simple installation, highly accurate state of charge meter.
    • Battery state of charge (percentage) for main auxiliary battery bank.
    • Battery voltage for 2 battery banks.
    • Ultra low power consumption.
    • User programmable alarms for low voltage, high voltage, low status etc.
    • "Shuntless" design for super quick installation.

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  • 300. Charge it to the household budget!

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    It can be hard to justify spending money on the boat when there are important calls on a family's disposable income, be it the mortgage, car leasing payments, utilities bills, insurance, perhaps even school fees! The shelling out of hard earned income seems endless so when it come to a 'luxury' item for use on the yacht how do you justify it? Maybe by charging it to the household account? If, for example, the item is a Freebag Pro, not only can it be used to help ease the load on your knees when decorating or laying a laminate floor in the  house but comes in jolly useful in the greenhouse or potting shed when you are down on your knees, in the garage or shed when mending the lawn mower or cleaning your offspring's mountain bike. Wet & Forget is another excellent product that be used at home or on the boat for keeping green mould at bay, its great for spraying on paths, greenhouse roofs etc and patio furniture, for the boats its sprayed on sails, awnings sail covers and of course on decks.

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    Having personally used my original Freebag for over 15 years as a brilliant 'mouldable' cushion, backrest and pillow on my Hunter Channel 31 never mind when on 'shore leave' as a comfy seat on a stoney beach. A few years ago we took the plunge, importing a hundred, and started selling them on through our mail order site www.marinechandlery.com. They went so well that on Andy's subsequent order for more stock he decided some 18 months ago to take a punt and include a batch of Freebag Pro'swhich are the perfect answer to protecting ones knee's at home be it when rubbing down skirting boards in prep for painting, laying laminate flooring or when gardening. At work we use them to protect our knees when repairing sails and canopies sailmakers and of course the other Rob uses them in the boatyard when he's knees down on the hardstanding or concrete!

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    So charge to the household account and don't feel guilty, and if that doesn't go down well blame it all on my boss!

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  • 299. Love is in the air (and on the water!)

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    Who said romance and quality time on the water don't go together? With Valentine’s day fast approaching, the person who should be obeyed at all times, no not Jenny but my boss Andy, decided along with input from the lovely Claire who adds images, links etc to my blogs and then posts them out, that I should 'do' a Valentine’s themed blog for Tuesday the 11th, in other words a boring old hard sell. And as Andy told me this morning that it needed to be done and dusted before the weekend as Claire ain't going to be around after Friday, no pressure then! Twas a case of thinking cap on then, ‘Storrar, quaff some alcohol and wait for inspiration.’ That came when Mrs Storrar handed me the tea towel after supper and said 'just wipe dry those two glasses' and let's have a glass of port each. Just so happened the tea towel that she handed me was one of a batch sold to www.marinechandlery.com by Elaine the blushing bride in the above image. The shot was taken whilst the mayor of Nidri on Lefkas was reading Elaine and her husband to be their wedding vows. The poem featured on the tea towel was written by the handsome groom, Jan. Not sure if the towel is the most romantic present one might receive but it sure is practical!

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    Another item that many sailors may well appreciate on Valentine's Day would be a Freebag. Unfortunately for me Jenny has already got a couple onboard Hindsight so it's back to the drawing board for her gift. Boarding Ring glasses would certainly be appreciated by those who suffer like my good lady from seasickness but damn it, she already has a pair and thinks they are brilliant in so much as they actually work! However me thinks to keep your relationship on an even keel why not push the boat out and buy her or him one of those amazing Hook & Moor boathooks, pricey but so is a divorce settlement. Mmmm, we don't have one on Hindsight perhaps it's time I bought Jen one?

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    So what does the first mate, or maybe Master Bates buy Roger the cabin boy, methinks a folding plate and cutlery rack it should be; like the tea towel not that romantic but very very practical. However a flash of inspiration, as your dearly beloved is always going on about saving battery power by turning the majority of the cabin lights off etc, why not treat them to a Merlin Smart gauge? This excellent bit of kit which is very very easy to install might just give skipper something to whinge about seeing how the amps  are draining out of the battery.

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    Back in the romantic mood, why not consider treating your beloved to an intimate candle lit supper in that remote riverside pub you have never gone to as its down a poorly lit lane. You can, of course, be guided there and back by our  rechargeable spotlight.

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    As for our happily married couple Jan & Elaine, their first 'date’ was on Jan's Westerly Storm in what turned out to be a nightmare of a passage across the North Sea from Newcastle to Norway some twenty years ago, they survived the North Sea crossing and on 6th of Sept 2013 tied the knot onboard their Moody in the Ionian. As for the Grumpy old codger, me, if I don’t go for the Hook & Moor as my Valentine’s offering to my long suffering wife, it may be that I will look for a suitable sweetener under Andy’s nautical gift section on the website.

  • 298. Pole Position®

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    The other week I waxed lyrical about the Hook & Moor boathook. What I didn't mention in that blog is that it has turned out to be (apart from a great bit of kit) a means of keeping many a sailing couples' marriages or relationships intact! The only down side (if you can call it that) of the Hook & Moor is the price, it's not cheap at £167.95 inc UK delivery (terms & conditions apply). Having said that there are now out on the water a growing number of foredeck crew, both male and female, who no longer fear the bark of the helm when it comes to picking up a mooring buoy, entering a lock or securing a line to pontoon cleatswhen it's blowing old boots! As for the feedback: "despite the price it's excellent value for money, superbly engineered to the highest standard from top quality materials and, of course, it is so versatile." This very clever boathook will effortlessly pass a line through a mooring ring to secure the boat, feeding a mooring warp through a pontoon mooring cleat is easy peasy and of course it can be used on a wide variety of varying diameter ropes should you so wish!

    Having said that if you are one of those folks who simply wants to take a line over a cleat or a bollard, be it in a lock or on a pontoon, perhaps the Pole Position, a patented rope handling device, is the one for you? It's less than half the price of the Hook & Moor at £69.95 but not as versatile, as you cannot pass it through a ring or the centre of a cleat just round one. And you can only use it on a 'specially adapted rope' for each application! As a keen sailor, Wade Marine's boss man, Colin Wade, saw a need for a rope handling devicethat would make mooring a simple stress free task that can be performed by all levels of sailors, from the novice to the keen yachts person.

    Pole position is a rope handling device that allows a length of rope to be manipulated and accurately placed at a distance from the user. When mooring a boat, for example a pleasure boat, at a mooring or dock it is often difficult or unsuitably timed to jump ashore and secure the boat to the mooring bollard. This could be because the boat is being operated singlehandedly, so it would be unsuitable for the Skipper to leave the helm or it could be that it is not possible to get close enough to the dock to jump ashore.

    This leaves the only option of throwing the loop of rope over the bollard, rarely achieved at a first attempt and subsequently see’s the boat drifting away from the dock or mooring.

    Pole position will address this primary mooring issue, but can, as will be described, be used in many other applications.

    The rope manipulation is completed by means of a receiving part attached to the rope in a permanent secure fixing, at a suitable position from any end of rope feature, such as a loop or another device. The manipulation device can then be used at any point by sliding on and down the rope to meet with the receiver and subsequently securing the rope end, the pole attached can be extended telescopically if required to allow accurate placement of the rope end and easily released when the manoeuvre is completed.

    Primarily designed for use as a mooring device the Pole Position unit can also be used with a number of items of safety equipment such as rescue devices allowing them to be passed accurately out to the person in distress. For example a person in the water is often thrown a life ring which then free floats, and on occasion it could be that the individual has been in distress for some time and is suffering fatigue and can struggle to receive or swim to the life ring, Pole Position can be applied in the same way as when mooring, the life ringrope would have the receiver attached and the pole would then be used to position the ring close or even over the person in distress, allowing an easy return to safety. This would be the same for man overboard slings, allowing over the head placement or even catchment of an unconscious person.

  • 297. Top Tips Tuesday - We Plough The Fields And Scatter

    Having upset one of our readers the other week with my blog entitled David Rose, (I have personally emailed to apologise), in my defence I did run the subject matter past my good lady and a couple of female staff members as well as my boss before pressing the send button! So I hope the title of this week's blog doesn't offend! It is surprisingly hard to think up a subject never mind a title that might catch your attention week after week, especially since I have been trying to limit my alcohol consumption whilst pounding the keyboard. I can still remember as a ten year old being made to sit through the Sunday service with my big brother before we were allowed to cycle down to our local sailing club. I did enjoy the singing (not sure if the other members of our family did appreciate mine) but preferred dinghy sailing to the Sunday sermon. My favourite hymn is still, and not as per the title might suggest, 'Eternal Father Strong To Save' written in 1860 by William Whiting who was inspired by the dangers of the sea described in Psalm 107.

    As far as we small boat sailors are concerned, what are our fears? For Jenny & I who keep our Mystery in the Ionian, dragging the anchor was our number one worry as neither of us was used to anchoring. Having said that, our Vulcan, the stablemate to the Rocna, has inspired confidence from the very first time that we used it. A year later we survived the 'Medicane' in Sept 2018, our Vulcan did the business and kept us safe and sound whilst all around us folks were dragging their anchors. We followed the advice given in 'Happy Hooking' by Alex & Daria Blackwell and didn't budge an inch, loads of chain out, long snubber to negate the shock loading and whilst we didn't sleep, (stayed up on deck all that night cos we were forever shining our spotlight or blowing our fog horn at drifting boats) we did feel confident that we would not drag!

    For a stern anchor or kedge we use the excellent Fortress, not only has that superb holding power, it is light enough to put into the dinghy if say you want to deploy an anchor using your dinghy in a crowded anchorage or, heaven forbid, you end up on the putty and need to pull yourself off! In the anchor comparison report Fortress and Rocna performed best but the former is 1/2 the weight of the Rocna. To achieve this light weight its manufactured from aluminium magnesium alloy; as strong as steel but half the weight. Features include, it's easy to manage weight, rustproof, sharper points than heavy, dull edged anchors and will set faster and will penetrate deep into common sea bottoms for incredible holding power. My mate Pete proud owner of a 24 ton Oyster has used his in anger and thinks it's brilliant! Similar in design and construction to the Fortress is the ‘home grown’ Lewmar LFX anchor. Constructed from high grade anodised aluminium, the large flukes perform superbly under high loads, whilst being extremely lightweight it makes the anchor easy to handle and deploy either from a boat or tender and of course it can be disassembled for stowage in a locker. As yet we have had no feed back as to its performance but we are told it performs superbly in sand and mud. Price wise its approx. 1/3rd cheaper than the Fortress, pity it wasn’t available when kitting out Hindsight some four years ago I would have been tempted!

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  • 296. Top Tips Tuesday - Banana Peel Decks

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    Working the foredeck is a hazardous occupation even when berthing,  just ask Jenny! More so if it’s dark, windy and of course choppy. And don’t forget my boss Andy who has performed with great aplomb over a number of years at the pointy end of a raceboat, particularly so at the sadly now defunct St Peters marina winter series for keelboats, tight racing on a narrow river and if you lost your footing in the middle of a gybe with the mast head kite up... the river bank came up mighty fast. Racing in the series was in one design sports boats, participants included a triple Fly15 world champion helming a Sigma 8 and not always getting his own way. Mind you there were other highly rated helms who, in the past, had raced Int14's, Enterprises, National 12's with success! So slick foredeck work was essential.

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    Maintaining your footing on a foredeck in one of these tippy keelboats whilst wrestling with the kite and the spinny pole is not the easiest thing in the world, nor is setting or lifting the anchor when the boat is bucking like a mechanical bull at a rodeo! Your deck shoes/trainers or wellies must have a good non slip sole, think Dubarry, Musto or Orca Bay. Of course it goes without saying that the deck should have an excellent non slip surface. A teak deck on a cruiser or powerboat does give you excellent grip and there are a lot of production boats on the market that have a good moulded in non slip pattern, however if your craft is past its first flush of youth and the tread is poor and you are not happy with your foredeck, there are a number of DIY options available which are easy to apply and give good results. My favourite is a product manufactured on the other side of the world called Kiwi Grip. Water based, it's available in a limited range of colours and easy to apply. You can select your own 'grip' from aggressive to fine and once applied it will hide a multitude of sins, old purely executed repairs, poorly filled machine screws holes (where a fitting has been removed) etc. International’s Interdeck is very popular, a fine grit can be found in the paint, comes in a range of colours from white to grey as does  Hempel’s Non-Slip Deck Coating.

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    Some sailors, including me, like strips of non slip self adhesive tape on hatches (especially foredeck or cockpit ones). My favourite is the excellent TBS range;  it's kind on clothing and bare feet. For our companion way steps we have used the self adhesive 3M tape on our Mystery, not particularly kind on clothing but it does offer superb grip and is slightly easier to clean than the TBS product! If you want to really push the boat out Awlgrip non slip granules are excellent but you will need a deep pocket to afford them! Asked what's so special about them to justify the price, multihull trophy winner Ross Hobson replied, 'You don't slip and they are warm to the touch if sleeping in the cockpit!' The below image is of his sleeping 'quarters', not sure if that is when he is racing or at rest.

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  • 295. Top Tips Tuesday - Brush Off!

    How many times have you come down to your boat to give the mooring lines and fenders a quick five minute check out before or after the strong winds and found the deck covered in seagull droppings and you’re not in your 'washing your deck’ wellies and waterproofs! Well the DipDeck Brush just bought to the marine market from Scrubbis would certainly be the answer!

    As can be seen from the video, the DipDeck Brush from Scrubbis comprises a collapsible water tank atop a quality deck scrubbing brush. It can be filled by dipping into the sea or lake or from a tap and water continually seeps out through the brush head. The DipDeck Brush is supplied with or without the Scrubbis Telescopic Pole. If someone already has a Scrubbis Hull Cleaner Kit there is no need to buy the pole. However If you are one of those guys who wants to maintain a clean bottom as well as keep the decks clean take a look at the hull cleaner video below.

  • 294. Top Tips Tuesday - David Daniel Rose

    David Rose was an 'American' songwriter, composer, arranger, pianist and orchestra leader who was born in London 1910. His best known instrumental, which was composed in 1958, is a tune which, after 50 years, is still associated with a particular action! In these politically correct times we live in, I am surprised it hasn't been banned from being played on the airwaves, but hey ho you never know what's around the corner or under your many layers of antifouling.

    Whilst we do sell the Stripper, a superb rope cutter and more of that later, the Tercoo Rotary Blaster-Paint Stripper & Rust Removal Tool is the one boat yard tool that 'young' Rob, our boatyard boffin or technician, (antifouling and polishing maestro) constantly sings its praises! He no longer finds that removing antifouling/rust from an iron keel is a laborious back breaking chore and, most importantly, it leaves the perfect surface for the application of the appropriate primer be it a one or two part product!

    As for the Stripper, yes it saved my bacon in May 2019 as we were in the process of keeping Hindsight head to wind using the low revs on the engine in a good force five. Whilst lowering the main, a knocking on the hull followed by vibration then nothing, looking astern a large length of frayed polypropylene floating on the surface!

    The Mystery has a Yanmar sail drive installed and it doesn't need rocket science to fit the Stripper (yup even I managed that task) you do need a modified anode however, but they are, of course, kept in stock! Should your boat have a conventional propeller shaft, once again they can be fitted by a handy DIY person.

  • 293. Top Tips Tuesday - Silly Billy!

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    Practise what you (should) preach, which is never never use your limbs to fend off another boat and if you don't you might end up like my boss and spend your Sunday night in A & E! The other week Andy went South hoping to race in the Tees & Hartlepool's NECRA winter series with his regular ride. However, racing up the coast at the RNYC winter series where I sail had been cancelled the day before due to the impending forecast, so I was surprised to learn that there had actually been a race some 40 odd miles further down the coast. Discretion was called for on the yacht where he was going to work the foredeck, so in anticipation of some fun and games and that some guys were good to go he jumped ship and ended up on a J80. Apart from a wild spinnaker ride it was all going to plan until after the race when the J got caught by a vicious gust whilst motoring through the marina.

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    As they headed for a boat moored on the pontoon, Andy decided to fend off using his foot!  However, despite wearing his Dubarrys, his foot skidded off the other boat and ended up as the icing between the cake. Fortunately there was no damage to the either boat, the verdict in North Tyneside's A & E on the Sunday night was severe deep tissue damage, however on the bright side, no broken bones! Being the boss and well taught he insisted in coming in first thing next morning, refused point blank to listen to his old partner in crime (me) however admitted two hours later that perhaps he would be better off at home with my ice pack to keep himself company!

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    Come early Tuesday morning a flurry of text messages were exchanged between Andy and myself;  gist of the messages from yours truly was, 'Don't be a bloody martyr, stay at home, keep the leg elevated and ice the area, we can manage without you!' I was then reminded by my better half that I had done the same when I was 'in charge' many years ago ie. come into work the day after my first knee op! And probably would have done the same, tried to fend the other boat off using my foot or hands if we hadn't a wandering fender onboard! I was first introduced to the concept of this many years ago when Jenny and I helped our friends take their 20 odd ton ketch through the Caledonian canal. It came in very handy on our transit from the East Coast to the West on more than one occasion when a rather grumpy lock keeper decided to let more water into the lock than we had been used to and with the turbulence that was caused the bow of the yacht swung violently towards the granite lock side. We also carry a wandering fender onboard Hindsight, our Mystery 35, which we now cruise in Greece. It has come to our rescue on a number of occasions when a bare boat charter decides to berth along side and they are not in full control! Incidentally flotillas tend not to be an issue as the crews of the lead boat are superb in the way they handle the stern to mooring on a town quay by a relatively inexperienced skipper. We of course deploy one over the transome when we are moored stern to a town quay or pontoon and if alongside a much larger yacht it's excellent for helping to keep us apart!

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    As Andy is in a good mood today, can now walk 20 mtrs before the pain kicks in, if you purchase a Polyform ball fender from us in the next couple of weeks he will personally splice a suitable diameter 2m length of three strand polyester rope on to it, worth up to an extra £15-00 when buying the A4 size! You never know it may end up as the icing between the cake!

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