Top Tips Tuesdays

  • 277. Top Tips Tuesday - The Stripper

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    The best laid plans and all that! Jenny and I flew into Corfu airport Sunday the 1st of September and by midday we were sitting high and dry on Hindsight, not jet lagged but sleep starved having left our house at ‘stupid O’ clock’ (as our eldest daughter used to say, probably still does but having flown the nest we are not these days party to her early morning rants). Well Sunday the 8th we are once again high and dry and back in the boatyard, circumstances beyond our control see us flying back to England on the Monday! Whilst stripping all the canvas work off Hindsight, putting the dinghy to bed and therefore out of the sun, along with all the other deck gear that does fade in the UV, as you do I got talking to a German sailor on the next yacht (incidentally under a Dutch flag, as he reckons that to register in his fatherland there are too many regulations) who was washing all his fenders and fender socks and sun screens, told me he had fun and games the other day when a rope wound itself round his prop and that his son had spent some considerable time diving down to untangle/cut the rope from the prop and there he pointed out was the offending piece lying on the ground!

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    I then told him the tale(s) of how our friends Pete and Anita had got a lobster pot line round the prop of their new-to them 50ft Oyster. Was the usual story, unmarked pot with the float just under the water. Fortunately the lifeboat got to them just before they hit the rocks on the lee shore. Some years later when we were holidaying in the Ionian on their Oyster, now fitted with a rope cutter, we witnessed just how effective they are as it chewed through a rogue lazy line, however I am not sure if another of my mates, had he had a Stripperinstalled, would it have coped with an enormous,  discarded, builders waste bag that we picked up exiting the last lock of Neptune’s staircase on the Caledonian canal!

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    When we were fitting out Hindsight one of our must have items that we considered essential to stress free sailing was a rope cutter which we duly fitted to the Yanmar saildrive. It was easy to fit took me and Andy all of twenty minutes. As for its effectiveness I am not sure if we have ever put it to the test however after a very windy sail from Sami in early May this year we were about to enter the channel to Sivota, engine was started and then into gear, when we felt a severe vibration or knocking. We immediately put her into neutral, checked over the side for  trailing sheets none that we could see, no debris, so back into gear, now no problem. Had we picked up a rope and the cutter had worked? Heaven knows, however the vibration/knocking did remind me of that incident in the Caledonian canal!

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  • 276. Top Tips Tuesday - Who Needs Viagra!

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    My ramble last week was all about the new Blue Gees adhesive Pro Bond. It’s so enlightening that some folks do actually read my blog(s), within two hours of it being posted we sold out, had 10 in stock! This past Saturday, and mulling over what my words of wisdom would be, and yes racing against the clock, only 16 hours before I catch a flight and rejoin Hindsight, I thought what can I 'get out' in a hurry and then I remembered that in early July we had used some Doctor Sails flexible epoxy to repair an old Sobstad Sigma 33 genoa that was delaminating in the reinforced tack area and at the time I had some Dr Sails mixed that was surplus to requirements so it seemed a shame to waste it and I should put it to good use, why not put its legendary flexibility to the ultimate test!

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    I used to sail International 14's some years ago but now we are a little bit more mature our time on the water can be considered more sedate. Back in late June, Nick, my old 14 crew (trimming the kite in the headline image, me hanging on like grim death) called into the chandlery. He was after a replacement pair of sailing boots as his old Dubarrys had, in his opinion, given up the ghost. They had given sterling service when he was out on the water but also when walking his dog on Northumberland's glorious beach at Beadnell. Ideal winter footwear as his mutt has a habit of dropping his ball in the sea. Andy, after selling him a replacement pair, did happen to ask what happened to the old ones? His reply was, 'I have managed to wear the heels down walking over rocks and hard sand and as a result the heel has parted company with the uppers. He did say however, “They ain’t leaking!" Being the nosy so and so that I am (was just walking through the chandlery to grab a coffee) I said, “What you need to repair them is a cartridge of Dr Sails flexible epoxy.” So it came to pass that muggins ended up having a go at a sticky repair. So far so good, the sole is still attached and has passed my test. Only time will tell if they survive the Beadnell beach this winter but the signs are encouraging!

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    From what I can gather Dr Sails is always carried on board the RTW racers for laminate sail repairs and also as a brilliant adhesive for using in difficult conditions! If Nick and I were still ‘enjoying’ white knuckle rides on a 14 it would certainly be in our repair kit! As for the name of the new boat.... Jenny suggested after proof reading this blog ‘IT TAKES ALL NIGHT TO DO WHAT YOU USED TO DO ALL NIGHT!’ Was she referring to the fact that at one years championships l spent the whole night rebuilding my carbon mast while she partied late into the night?

  • 275. Top Tips Tuesday - Plastic Isn't Always Fantastic

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    The trouble with plastic it takes a really long time to degrade, they do say that a plastic bottle takes 450 years to completely decompose and as one of those strange folk that takes a peverse delight ‘enjoying’ a dip in the North Sea summer or winter without the benefit of a wetsuit I do come across an awful lot of discarded plastic, fortunately not when swimming but…, In the summer our little beach at King Edwards Bay Tynemouth can be littered with plastic buckets, spades, toys a variety of sand moulds all after a hot day, talk about a disposable society. In the winter we don’t get the bucket and spades, plastic bottle debris etc however if we have had a few days of gale force North Easterly’s its often fishermens debris, old lobster pots with rotten wooden bases the plastic hoops still intact, fish boxes, polypropylene netting and lengths of rope which are all coming up from the seabed. The above images are of just over two weeks worth of plastic discarded on our sometimes lovely beach! Items made from this material whilst enjoying a long life do suffer from the effects of sunlight in so much as they can fade quite badly and they can become brittle. Plastic is notoriously hard to successfully glue to itself but to attach to another substrate, well up to now almost impossible!

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    The other day, we received a circular from those clever guys at Blue Gee raving about GEE PRO BOND, according to the ’blurb’ it’s a fast cure adhesive with rapid strength, it will bond alloy, steel and carbon steel. Composites such as epoxy and GRP polyester/vinylester laminates and as for plastics apparently it will bond ABS, Acrylics, Vinyl & Polycarbonates and you don’t always have to pretreat the surface! Well being the suspicious sort of guy that I am, beware of snake-oil salesmen, I asked if I could have a sample to try (nowt like a freebie being off Scottish parentage) sadly no was the answer, but buy some and if not happy with the performance send back and we will refund your monies, so two weeks later with our sail loft wanted to securely fasten a poorly fitting plastic batten end to a GRP rod for an industrial application (had to take a 100 kilo pull) it was a case of lets put Gee Pro Bond to the test and of course it did what the packaging said, a brilliant bond with no surface preparation!

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    Since that then I have repaired the sail lofts trusty Dyson and i'll be taking a Gee Pro Bondout to Greece, I have a couple of jobs in mind, first one is to repair the plastic man overboard light bracket, the second being put together our dish rack drainer, I managed to snap an upright after attempting to load it up with a deeper than normal plate!

  • 274. Top Tips Tuesday - Thumbing Through

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    I was thumbing through a trade catalogue whilst having a bite to eat the other lunchtime when I came across this little bullet point which got me thinking. I haven't ventured past my second spreader since the Mystery mast was re-stepped in 2017, so let's add it to my 'to do' list when we return to Corfu early September. These days the majority of yacht masts don't get unstepped at the end of the season so it is very important to inspect on a regular basis (unlike me). As I mentioned in my previous blog “TTT 265 - I Wish”, we had deliberately upgraded our halyard winches in the hope that Jenny would be able to hoist me aloft and in fairness to her she had managed to get me to the upper spreaders earlier this year. Being the cunning so and so that I am, my plan is to beg borrow or steal boss man Andy's demo Ewincher this time and kill two birds with one stone, get to the top of the mast easy peasy and then later on keep him happy by writing another of my 'brilliant' blogs on the marvellous electric winch handle!

    When I am 'climbing' a mast I always use two halyards, the second being the back up in case the first fails or we have a mechanical failure. Once in my bosuns chair I then get my wincher to hoist me a couple of feet off the deck. I then proceed to 'bounce’ up and down as hard as I possibly can to try and discover a weak point in either the halyard, sheave, clutch or self tailing arm on the winch. Then it's a case of up you go, the safety halyard tightened, if possible, at the same time.

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    If you are unlucky enough not to have an Ewincher to take the effort out of hoisting you up, you can suggest that at each spreader or fitting the wincher takes a break to get their breath back whilst an inspection is carried out. Inboard and outboard ends of the spreaders, lower shroud terminals and so on. You may be surprised at what you find, be it a steaming light full of water or an opaque lens, further up a spinnaker turning block shackle that has deformed and cracked as can be seen above, maybe a block that has started to open allowing the halyard to jump the sheave or a block that not swivelling sufficiently causing the side plates to be 'attacked' by the halyard.

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    On top of the world but not quite on 'top of the mast' I find the Solent Top Climber is a great aid to get me a little higher up so I can inspect the top of the mast and yes, one of the more unusual items that I’ve found was a small fish lodged in the mast head halyard assembly! Whilst up there take a good look at the VHF antenna and masthead transducer cables that may be suffering from either chafe or UV degradation. Check also the navigation lights for crazing or cracking of the lens. When going up aloft I always take my mobile and no it's not to play a video game whilst up their but to record anything that may look a little suspicious. Email your image(s) to Andy or myself at rigging@storrarmarine.co.uk for expert advice. Mclube dry lubricant and a roll of PVC tape also keep me company!

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    And no I didn't climb a mast to get this shot, ‘twas taken from the deck of the ferry that runs from Ancona in Italy down to Igoumenitsa on mainland Greece. Methinks a little bit of chafe on a tang, not life threatening in this case but should another tang fail? I will have to check this one again when we once again migrate North this coming October!

  • 273. Top Tips Tuesday - Jealous Guy

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    John Lennon started writing the song Jealous Guy back in 1968. It was a track from the Imagine album. Since then it has been covered by a variety of artists, at least 92 cover versions we are lead to believe, including our own Geordie Brian Ferry. Released as a single by Roxy music (Brian was the vocalist) it reached number 1 three months after Lennon's death. Being a Geordie, Ferry that is, meant that he always got a brilliant reception at the City Hall Newcastle, as he spoke our language. Jenny and I saw him perform at least three times at that iconic venue and almost fifty years later she still thinks he is hot! Sadly the last time we saw him perform was at the Metro Arena in Newcastle. Soulless place, it smells of hot take away food, the beer was poor and as for the feed back from the sound system that night, bloody awful!

    Andy Lawrence, our website expert, has over the last few years restored a lovely looking Cutlass sailing yacht which was built in the early seventies. Two years ago he upgraded the electronics and went for the B&G Vulcan chart plotter and B&G VHF which has a built in AIS. Fast forward to the other day when the sales manager of Vesper Marine came a calling. Now we guys know it takes a lot to get Andy, our resident Scotsman, excited; haggis and a wee dram have been known to do the trick but after Sales Director Mathew Forbes had finished his pitch, pointing out what the Vesper Marine WatchMate Vision² SmartAIS can do, our man from North of the border and resident IT/website whizz was heard to mutter under his breath "if my boss gives me a pay rise, I will buy one!" Talk about a jealous guy.

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    This now excitable Scotsman then blurted out to yours truly, who had heard him muttering under his breath... “It's very clever, tells you when things are going wrong. It triggers an alarm to warn you of a potential collision situation, it has a brilliant safety at anchor feature, it silently and continuously watches for a man overboard and sounds the alarm as soon as it detects one. It has built in WORLD WIDE coastal outlines for better situational awareness and, of course, it transmits as well as receives!”

    Exclusive vesper marine advantages -

    • BUILT-IN WIFI - Manage your transponder using your smartphone and smartwatch
    • HIGHER RESOLUTION GPS - Fast 5Hz 50 channel GPS receiver
    • NMEA 2000 GATEWAY - Translates NMEA 2000 navigation data and routes it over WiFi, USB or NMEA 0183
    • UNIVERSAL COMPATIBILITY - Compatible with all AIS enabled MFDs and marine equipment
    • LOW POWER CONSUMPTION - Always on, always visible, always watching
    • SECURE PORTS - Galvanically isolated ports protect your equipment from high current damage
    • WATERPROOF - IPx7 rating - can be mounted anywhere
    • UPGRADABLE AIS PLATFORM - Get the latest transponder features automatically using your smartphone or tablet
    • WATCHMATE APP - Monitor navigation data, AIS and GPS, manage alarms from your smartphone or tablet
    • DECKWATCH APP - Monitor navigation data, AIS and GPS, view alarms, manage settings from your smartwatch
  • 272. Top Tips Tuesday - The Cat's Whiskers

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    I know Storrar Marine is not my 'baby' anymore, Andy is, these days, the driving force behind the original bricks and mortar chandlery Storrar Marine and of course our internet site www.marinechandlery.com (and doing a much better job than I ever did) but it still gives me a kick to see most afternoons that I manage to stagger into my old place of work the number of boxes, tubes etc ready to be collected by the carriers and to learn facts like, for instance, that in the past year he has shipped over 200 pairs of Boarding Ring Glasses to the USA and Canada, never mind the European sales of these brilliant anti seasickness glasses that work. Blakes Seacocks seem to fly of the shelf more often than not for export. Whale/Henderson waterproof hatches usually destined for these guys that think rowing across the Atlantic is just a walk in the park incidentaly one of our old ‘Saturday lads’ has signed up to the challenge, best of luck Anthony! Andy's latest find, Ewincher, the electric winch handle, trickles out as well as the excellent Stormbag as for the Forespar Telescopic poles it ain't quite one a week but it's a steady stream!

    The Forespar telescopic whisker pole is a great way of getting a bit more oomph when sailing downwind, They find their use in non spinnaker class racing and short handed cruising, or whenever downwind performance is desired without the use of conventional spinnakers. A properly sized and deployed whisker pole will allow the headsail to add considerable power and speed to downwind sailing. Telescoping whisker poles allow one pole to be used with furling headsails. Reduce your genoa sail area and then retract some of the whisker pole, easy peasy!  By projecting the headsail out to weather and out of the mainsail's 'wind shadow' the headsail can fill and stabilise. Without a whisker pole the headsail will flop from side to side, limp and useless. The use of a whisker pole will allow "wing on wing" sailing dead downwind with surprising performance. The expression ‘the cats whiskers ’is to be highly enjoyable, desirable, or impressive... sums up the Forespar telescopic whisker pole nicely!

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    For pole stowage on our Mystery we use a couple of Nawa pole stowage loops. They can be easily attached to stanchions or push-pit; they keep the deck free so no danger of stubbing one toes!

  • 271. Top Tips Tuesday - My poor old knees

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    Fifty or so years of kneeling ain't done my knees any good! It wasn't a regular attendance at a place of worship but a long career in sailmaking. Perhaps a foretaste of things to come was that many years ago, in the late seventies, I managed just one race out of six at the Enterprise World championships spending the rest of the week first in hospital with a knee the size of a football (it had been a hard week beforehand making sails for the event), the rest of the week on crutches. Fast forward some twenty years later and a good customer of ours, who happened to be an orthopaedic surgeon, removed some 'bits' from my knee after seeing me struggling at work. No, he did not operate in the sail loft but did examine my knee in situ! Fast forward another twenty years and again the same knee is giving me trouble and despite repeated ice packs and Ibruprofen, it's not getting any better. Let's hope that my trip to the doctors this week will set me on the road to recovery. Whilst my left knee has been giving me jip it doesn't mean that Andy my boss man has allowed me to take a sickie, 'too much to do in too short a time', so it has to be said that the Freebag Prohas been a blessing in disguise when kneeling on the sail loft floor or whilst out putting the finishing touches to a spray hood in Amble marina, see above image!

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    The big brother or sister (to be politically correct) to the Freebag Pro, the Freebag boat cushion, has been for many a year, giving sterling service on board our first yacht, the Hunter Channel, and now we have the Mystery we have treated ourself to not one but two new (the old has been relegated to the workshop for when I am working on the Caterham.) Not only useful as a 'go anywhere' cushion or backrest, be it aboveor below deckon the boat, but they are also great for taking ashore and in our case using them on the rocky beaches in the Ionian.

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  • 270. Top Tips Tuesday - Water, water everywhere!

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    Back in May I wrote a blog entitled 'Things can only get better'. This was after we discovered an issue in the grey water tank plumbing at the conclusion of the 2018 season which eventually resulted in the bilges of our Mystery flooding, the end result being the need for a replacement shower drain pump which had been damaged through water ingress. Two days of my precious early summer cruising lost grovelling in the stern locker as well as the bilge! Later that month I realised that I had never ever attached a wooden plug or bung to each of the inlet/outlet seacocks in the three years we have had Hindsight on the water. Note to myself, ‘Storrar always practice what you preach.’ Yes I know we have Forespar reinforced glass seacocks on the Mystery so no danger of them failing through electrolysis as per the image shown below, however if a hose had failed and no bung to hand, what then, go hunting for the pack of plugs which I knew was somewhere onboard, but where? Once found, select the correct diameter, then find a hammer and belt it in assuming the saloon hasn’t been completely flooded.

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    Forespar, the manufacturers of those excellent seacocks mentioned above, have for a number of years been manufacturing the Sta-Plug Emergency Bung that can be used in a variety of situations where sea water would make an entrance. With their soft body they can be used to plug a hole that’s not circular. Recently they have introduced to the marine market a mini version called, appropriately enough, the Forespar Sta-Plug Mini Emergency Bung! However you would need an awful lot of them to plug the leaks in the powerboat pictured above!

    Another American import (makes a pleasant change from all those far East imports) is a product called Stay Afloat Emergency Plug & Sealant. It's a unique mixture that is super adhesive, will stick to most surfaces and will instantly stop water leaks during a damage control crisis or emergency situation on your boat. I used this product last year to repair a water leak on a window, but it's uses are many; waterproofing fittings, temporary boat plug, use on broken or leaking through hulls, broken or leaking transducers, leaking or weeping cable glands. A little can go a long way so that may be the temporary answer to the powerboat skipper's prayer!

    With a roll of drums we have a British designed and manufactured product! Seabung is a through hull/seacock breach controller and did you know that seacock and hose failures cause 50% of moored boat sinking? Seabung is not just a plug, it allows replacement of hoses and seacocks whilst the vessel is afloat. Quality holiday time lost because of the offending toilet outlet? Seabung will allow you to remove a blocked seacock, free the obstruction without the expense nor time lost of an expensive lift out! Sounds like a winner to me.

  • 269. Top Tips Tuesday - Three Steps To Heaven

    Three Steps To Heaven was a song co-written by Eddie Cochran and released in 1960. The record became a posthumous UK number-one hit for Cochran following his death in a car accident in April 1960. Whilst I do admit these days to being an old git, I can only vaguely remember the song on radio Luxembourg. It was re-released by Showaddywaddy in 1975 and I was told in no uncertain terms by my big brother that the original was by far the best, and who was I to argue! In those days the shearline (where the hull meets the deck) was perhaps one metre, maybe slightly more, above the waterline. Fast forward some forty or fifty years and very few boats designed/built have a low freeboard, below deck headroom and loads of storage is what skippers and their crew want. The downside of increasing the freeboard is that the distance from the deck to the marina pontoon is, on most modern boats of over 35 feet, a bit of a challenge and climbing aboard or off amidships becomes hard work. Rigid ladders are all very well but storage is often an issue and they can be damaged or damage the hull if, say, a passing boat throws up a 'bit' of a wash and the ladder gets trapped between the hull and the pontoon or quay.

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    Fortunately those clever folks at the various fender manufacturers have made life easier for those sailors who have higher topsides than we have on Hindsight our Mystery 35. Fender steps range from a single rung to a two, three or even a four rung step. Being flexible there is no danger of damage to the boat and of course being manufactured from a tough but flexible yielding material they will protect the hull if it gets some movement from a passing boat!

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    High topsides, of course, do present other challenges such as getting a line ashore to a pontoon cleat or ring and then back to the boat. Not new to the market but redesigned in so much as the head is now manufactured from carbon/glass reinforced PA with forged aluminium and stainless, is the Hook and Moor M60. This fiendishly clever boat hook can be extended from 1-25m to 3-2m and, as it says on the label, 'thread the dockline through rings, cleats and buoy rings with a simple push or pull. Like magic or three steps to heaven?

  • 268. Top Tips Tuesday - Get a grip!

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    As an ex-dinghy racer who is now cruising a Mystery 35, but still thinks he needs 'the need for speed,' I did indulge myself when fitting her out and upgraded with a few goodies that would, I think, help us go that little bit faster. For instance, instead of the weight and windage of a rigid Echomax radar reflector half way up the mast I went for the inflatable version of that manufacturer's range. It's hoisted on a flag halyard, should  conditions deteriorate, and as another bonus it does give a better reflective footprint than the EM180. We fitted a retractable Selden bowsprit and for accurate sail trim. I used cruising dyneemafor both my main and genoa halyards. The layout of the Mystery, ie a narrow sheeting angle, is such that the two cabin top Andersen winches in conjunction with a battery of clutches both port and starboard are used to hoist sails, put reefs in and adjust the fore and aft position of the genoa cars for my 110% jib when reefing that sail. However we have recently been having an issue with the main halyard slipping so this next trip out to the Ionian, being carried in my hand luggage, will be a Antal V-cam 814 series clutch and as I will be mounting it on the mast it is the horizontal model I will be going for.

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    The Antal V-Cam 814 works in a different way to the majority of clutches on the market, the V-Grip is an Antal patented system for rope locking. It works with a pressure exerted on three sides of the line with a higher friction and, consequently with a lower pressure, in order not to damage ropes.  Click here to see how the V-Grip System works.

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    1. Pressure on three sides. Unlike the usual flat cam, V-Grip is fitted with a V-shaped cam that improves the holding strength without damaging the line cover.

    2. Load distribution. The curved base- V-Cam pair increases the bearing surface, preventing the load from being concentrated at a critical point.

    3. Line retrieval with closed lever. Line retrieval can be achieved with the lever closed. The line stops automatically in the new position with no slippage.

    4. Emergency opening. The line can be released under load without the use of a winch because the Antal mechanism guarantees easy opening even under heavy conditions.

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    Antal also manufacture an excellent block that I use when barber hauling the headsail. As mentioned above it’s a 110% jib, fitted with vertical battens to help control the leech. The Dynablock offers a light and reliable solution  that offers an easy, fast and safe connection as can be seen below. Use it for a variety of uses including, of course, barber hauling your jib, cruising chute or code zero.

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    1. A light and reliable solution that offers an easy, fast and safe connection 2. The resin sheave is on composite fibre bushing with two side ball bearings. 3. Spare snap-loops (DBS04 for size 44 and DBS05 for size 56) available.

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