Top Tips Tuesdays

  • 257. Top Tips Tuesday - Pre-season Prep - Above Deck



    Even though they are ‘staring us in the face’ throughout the season, stanchions and guard rail wires are often items that are overlooked during pre-season checks. Stanchions should be checked for security; make sure the base is fastened securely to the deck and/or toe rail, there is no movement and ALL fastenings are in place.

    An unstable base is not only dangerous (it could possibly lead to a man overboard situation) but the mechanical fastenings could be the source of a leak into the interior. If the stanchion is secure but there is evidence of water leaking into the interior of the boat, as a stop gap you could apply sealant round the base however the correct fix is to remove the stanchion and re-fix as per our suggestions below. If the base is found to be loose, remove, clean and re-fit using the appropriate sealant, my recommendation is to go for a polysulphide, such as Arbokol 1000 or Geocel 201 as against a silicone sealant.


    Before refastening a stanchion or any other deck fitting, make sure you remove any old sealant using Debond Marine Formula, degrease the fitting and deck using acetone or similar and, if the hole is not countersunk to accept the sealant do so. Finally, mask both the deck and the base so any excess sealant that is squeezed out as you tighten down can easily be cleaned up. However when bolting down make sure that you don’t squeeze ALL the sealant out, tighten, allow the sealant to set then go for a final turn on the spanner.

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    Should there be an issue with the integrity of the deck click here for further guidance.

    Check stainless tubular type stanchions where they are drilled (for mid height guard wire to pass through) for signs of stress cracks round the hole. Make sure the stanchion is well secured into its base either by lock nut and bolt or by split pin, however if an alloy stanchion is being secured with a stainless fastening you must use a barrier such as Duralac or TefGel to prevent an electrolytic reaction, same if you are using stainless stanchions in aluminium bases isolate between the two dissimilar metals. Split pins can be very sharp, likewise the end of a stainless bolt. They should be covered in self amalgamating tape or have a blob of clear sealant applied to prevent snagging on footwear, foulies and of course skin!


    Guard rail wires should be carefully examined for broken strands, especially where the wire exits the swage or Talurit termination and where they pass through stanchions. You will have to slacken each wire and draw it through the stanchion to fully inspect. Flex the wire gently at the start of a termination or where the wire has passed through a stanchion, if any broken or worn strands are found they MUST be replaced. It’s certainly not recommended and highly dangerous to just tape over them! PVC covered stainless steel guard rail wires (banned some years ago for use on offshore race boats) can hide broken or corroded strands, especially where the PVC cover butts up against swage or Talurit terminations. Moisture and a lack of oxygen provide the ideal scenario for crevice corrosion to go unnoticed. Any signs of rust in these areas can be a pointer to wire failure through weakening of the internal wire strands – if rust stains are in evidence, replace without question, preferably with uncovered stainless wire.


    Ensure pelican hooks in gate assemblies are free to operate, preferably single handed, and that the piston fully engages when closed. Lubricate same with a dry film spray, Boeshield T9 or similar. Incidentally, Wichard have just brought out an automatic locking pelican hook that has been designed for single handed use and the piston engages in a different manner to traditional types. If your method of tensioning the guard rails is a cord lashing (strongly recommended as should you need to 'drop the wire' it's an awful lot quicker cutting the cord) by the pushpit, we would suggest that this is replaced on a regular basis. Check that all the clevis pins, rings or split pins in the assembly are secure and either tape over using self amalgamating tape to avoid snagging, or cover with those rather nice leather boots as blogged about on TTT.193

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    If small people or dogs etc are going to be found on board this season and netting is already fitted, examine for signs of degrading through UV exposure and check it is secured to both guard rail wires and toe rail. There’s no point in fitting it if your precious cargo can roll under the lower edge! Remember that saying 'there is no such thing as a free lunch'. Cheaper netting is welded whilst the stronger and, of course, more expensive netting is knotted!


    Once you have finished your inspection of guardrails and stanchions, check the security of your bolt on accessories such as the liferaft cradle, horseshoe bracket and while you are in that area, are any electrical cables passing through the pushpit showing signs of chafe?



    Whether wire or webbing they should be inspected. Check wire termination, especially PVC covered as per guard rail wires, for corrosion. Webbing jackstays should have their stitching checked for integrity, if any nicks or cuts are found in the webbing or if more than 3-4 years old they should be replaced owing to UV degradation of the material. If replacing wire jackstays, consider changing to webbing as an alternative, it is kinder to decks and doesn’t roll under foot.



    Mooring cleats, Fairleads, bollards, eye bolts or u-bolts, like stanchions, should be checked thoroughly for movement. Should you suspect a deck fitting as a source of a leak, as we said before the application of a bead of mastic round the edge is only a short term solution! Any shackles securing a block or similar should all be checked for wear and moused with either monel seizing wire or cable ties for added security. However, if using ties and they have been snipped, watch out for razor sharp edges, use a drop of silicone sealant to cover. Water in the fuel last season, was it a 'dodgy' refill or is the fuel filler cap nitrile seal past their sell by date, spare seals are available for the Easy filler caps and some other makes, however if sourcing a seal don't forget diesel rots neoprene in double quick time.



    Blocks, especially ball or roller types, should be given a good rinse with fresh water from a hose to remove all traces of grit. Lubricate ball bearing blocks using Harken’s OneDrop Ball Bearing Conditioner or if plain bearing McLube. Don’t use grease as it will attract and hold grit which makes a very effective cutting compound causing wear. DO NOT oil or grease any Tufnol based block or fitting as it causes the material to swell and will seize sheaves onto pins. Any sheaves that are found to have wear between axle and the sheave (either sideways or vertical play) or nicks in the edges of sheaves which will cause damage to sheets or halyards should be replaced. Check all cam jammers on mainsheet block systems if the teeth are worn or the springs have lost their power replace. Rinse all mainsheet and headsail cars especially those using ball systems with a hose, inspect for wear and lubricate as per blocks. If fitted with plunger stops ensure these are free, lubricate with light oil and make sure they locate correctly in the track system. Check all track fastenings for integrity and make sure all track end stops are securely fastened, any rubber pads within the stops should be replaced if worn.



    Winches should be stripped and cleaned of all grease, if the grease is hardened it may be necessary to use paraffin and a de-greasing agent. Inspect for wear especially pawls (rounding of the edges and cracking), check for play in all bearings and especially those bearings between drum and the gearbox, if drum can be rocked excessively the caged roller (or plain) bearing is most likely worn. Re-assemble using winch grease, don’t use the white stern tube grease as it isn’t suitable for the purpose, and don’t smother parts heavily, a light coating will suffice. Keep grease away from pawls as it will make them stick, only apply a light pawl oil. Replace all pawl springs as a matter of course, a pawl that doesn’t engage through a broken or worn spring subjects the other pawls to overloading which can lead to damage. On self tailing winches check the rope gripper on the top of the winch for signs of wear, if worn replace. A manufacturer’s service kit is recommended as it usually contains most parts that are required for a full service together with an exploded diagram and instructions for stripping and rebuilding the winch. Ex-Geordie Mark Gardiner who works for Harken often jetting off round the world to service Volvo RTW winches and the like some years ago kindly wrote an excellent article on winch servicing, click here to access. Rope clutches, often neglected, should be washed thoroughly and checked for holding power, service kits are certainly available for Spinlock, Easy Marine and Barton, other makes no doubt also please check with our staff.



    A good hosing out of both the upper swivel and the lower drum unit will remove grit and salt deposits, check both items revolve freely on their bearings, if not rinse again, DO NOT attempt to strip swivels or drum units especially older Furlex units as you will almost certainly lose some of the bearings and possibly damage the retaining circlip(s) during stripping, you may also find it impossible to re assemble the unit without the use of a special press, seek advice regarding this. Only grease systems according to the manufacturers recommendations, some systems use grease, others recommend a dry type lubricant such as McLube. Check the integrity of the furling line especially the knot that secures it to the drum and most importantly are the stanchion leads, if of the sheave type, running freely and check for flats on the sheave. If you haven't introduced some 'friction' when unfurling the genoa to prevent a riding turn on the drum why not consider a Harken ratchet block complete with becket (elastic tied to becket/guardrail to avoid it damage deck or itself)



    Last but not least don’t forget the windlass, out of sight out of mind and you certainly don’t want it to fail if you have to up anchor in a hurry! Despite having a great bunch of guys with a shed-load of expert knowledge windlass servicing is not our forte so I make no apologies for reproducing the following maintenance schedule courtesy of Lofrans. A. Clean all external surfaces and hidden points with fresh water and remove all salt layers. B. Grease the rotating parts, particularly, the main shaft threads and clutch cones. Check for evidence of corrosion and mechanical stresses. A coat of Boeshield T9 is recommended. C. Remove and clean the terminals of the electric motor. Coat terminals with Vaseline before re-assembly, then when everything is back in place, spray with Boeshield T9. Test the voltage drop at the terminals. D. Replace all gaskets. E. Remove the anchor windlass from the deck with a little help from Debond, clean all salt deposits and the like from under the base and seal with polysulphide again.


  • 256. Top Tips Tuesday - Pre-season Prep - Topsides



    It's a well known fact that all GRP gelcoat surfaces will benefit from at least one application per year (or preferably 2) of a good quality wax such as Meguiar's Flagship Premium Waxwhich not only seals the surface from ingress of dirt but also protects against UV degradation. To get the best result and protect your investment, we recommend that you first wash the surface down to remove any surface contaminants. I always use and recommend Yachticon GRP supercleaner. If after carrying out that task, you then discover you have some minor gelcoat damage that requires attention, now is the time to tackle this.


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    For those annoying unsightly hairline cracks (often found round stanchion bases) MagicEzy Hairline fix is the business! It's great for stress cracks, crazing and scratches. For best results, first scrape out any dirt/wax/grime with a sharp needle/pin. In our experience, simply washing the area is not as effective. It's worthwhile also flushing the surface to be treated with acetone. Use MagicEzy 9 Second Chip Fix for ‘sorting’ nicks, chips and gouges. This excellent product is available in 11 colours (inc five shades of white).

    For larger dings that you may want to tackle, we suggest you clean the immediate area with 1200 wet/dry paper. This will remove any oxidised gelcoat still remaining, without doing this your repair will end up having a miscoloured ring round it. Getting the correct coloured gelcoat can be a pain, however we always recommend in the first instance you contact the original boatbuilder or importer of the boat whilst armed with the hull build number to see if they can supply. Once you have ascertained the correct match and prepared the surface to accept ‘catalysed’ gelcoat, apply with a soft brush leaving the material slightly proud. Carefully apply a piece of clear Sellotape or cling film over the gelcoat, this will prevent the gelcoat drying tacky. When set remove the tape and carefully sand to shape using a sanding block with 400 then 600 and finally 1200 wet/dry paper and plenty of water. Do this carefully so as not to damage or rub through the surrounding gelcoat. The repair can then be polished to a mirror finish using Farecla or a similar compound and then to seal the surface a good quality wax polish such as 3M marine ultra performance wax.


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    After the wash down we recommend that you use a mild cleaner such as Meguiar's Colour Restorer which will safely remove light oxidation and most stains from the gelcoat either by hand or machine. By using a machine to do the hard work the task will be completed quicker than buffing by hand using a 100% cotton polishing cloth. If using a machine we recommend a variable speed machine like the Shurhold Dual Action polisher with either a microfibre or foam polishing bonnet. Keep the speed slow and don’t stay in one area as it is all too easy to overheat and damage gelcoat. Don’t be tempted to use an electric drill with a polishing bonnet, they are usually too high a speed and can result in burn damage to the gelcoat. If there is no power available, the OrbiPro Cordless Orbital Tool is a useful investment, particularly as you can rent it to your neighbours when they see the fabulous finish you have achieved.


    An oxidation remover will bring life back into a hull, however, if the topsides are very chalky and dull (dark green & blue gelcoat are particularly susceptible) you can start with a coarse paper 200-300 working up to 800 or 1000 grade, or after using the more aggressive grades spread compound evenly onto the hull in areas of about a square metre so it doesn’t dry. Work with the polisher in lines. While working, don’t place your polishing mop on the ground or on the plank you are working on; one speck of grit on its surface can have disastrous results on your topsides! When applying cleaner or oxidation remover always work on a cool surface in the shade.



    Don’t try to polish or wet/dry rub down rust or black berry bird droppings marks from your decks or hull, the stains can be deep into the gelcoat. Instead try using a stain remover based around oxalic acid such as Y10 or Davis FSR, either should bleach out the stain. After thoroughly cleaning with either the mild cleaner or the oxidation remover the surface must then be sealed using a good quality uv resistant wax, for best results apply at least 2 coats with a day between each coat to allow the wax to harden. Applying the second coat too soon will only remove the first! For GRP cabin sides and other smooth gelcoat surfaces the technique is the same, however for cleaning and removing oxidation on moulded in nonslip I always use Vistal Hard Surface Cleaner. Vistal can also be used to help bring a sparkle back to dull painted or varnished surfaces; its also great for brightening your stainless pull/pushpit, alloy stanchions other metal surfaces and of course fenders.



    Teak decks can suffer badly in our damp climate growing algae and moss during the winter months and I have no doubt that boats in other locations suffer similarly. Whatever you do, don’t be tempted to clean them with a pressure washer. They will certainly be clean but the pressure of the water jet will tear out the soft grain leaving them like a ploughed field. It is best to clean them with one of the proprietary teak cleaners my choice being Teak Wonder cleaner, however we all tend to have our favourites.

    Anyway following their instructions, use Starbrite Magic Scrub and, for the awkward corners, a stainless bristled Detailing Brush or a Shurhold Scrubbing Pad and ONLY scrub across the grain. After cleaning, the decks should be given a wash with Teak Wonder brightener, this will restore their colour. When dry, spray with ‘Wet and Forget’ which will stop any moss or algae growth.

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    Should you have halyards, webbing lifelines and other items that are resting on the deck and have turned green over the winter months don’t despair. Don’t get the pressure washer out (destroys stitching/fabrics etc) but spray Wet and Forget on these items and leave. The 5:1 diluted solution will do all the hard work and prevent re-growth. If any covers, dodgers or spray hoods are also looking green they will also benefit from a spray of the same solution. Once the green has gone (may take a few weeks depending on the weather) wash with fresh water, allow to dry and then proof with Graingers Gold, not only will the water bead and run off instead of soaking in but it will help repel surface contamination.

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  • 255. Top Tips Tuesday - From Prep to Painting - Your Step by Step Guide to Antifouling



    Make sure your hull is clean and ALL traces of grease and marine growth have been removed, if necessary wash the hull with a detergent or a degreaser so as to remove any contaminants. If you have any stubborn remnants of barnacles – or the white calcium deposit left after pressure washing they can be easily removed using Boat Bottom Cleaner however make sure you wear gloves and eye protection when using this product as it is quite aggressive.


    Lightly abrade the old antifouling with 120 grit paper preferably used wet, make sure you wear a mask, gloves and eye protection; antifouling not only kills marine growth, any dust produced can create severe respiratory problems and irritation to humans. After rubbing down make sure all the slurry is washed off with fresh water.

    If you are changing to a different make/type of antifouling make sure it is compatible with the one you are covering, if not, or if you’re unsure of the existing antifouling, apply an appropriate barrier coat such as International Primocon or one recommended by your chosen antifouling manufacturer. All loose antifouling must be removed, if it is just small patches you should be able to feather the edges of the patches using your 120 grit so the area will not show through the new coating, patch coat these areas with the barrier coat followed by antifouling before giving the full hull a coating. If you have a build up of a number of seasons applications of antifouling you should perhaps consider removing these. Not a pleasant job but worthwhile as it will save you future problems! This can be done by just using a scraper, although it is often easier to use one of the gelcoat friendly antifouling removers or Peelaway – don’t be tempted to use standard paint removers as this may adversely affect your hulls gelcoat. Be careful not to damage any underlying epoxy coatings, when you have removed the old antifouling if your hull hasn’t had a protective coating of epoxy it may well be worthwhile coating with International Gelshield 200 to give protection against osmosis, however you must abide by the manufacturer’s instructions regarding temperature, mixing, application and over-coating materials.

    Steel Keels: 

    Steel keels should be rust free, in an ideal world shot blasting and coating with several coats of Interprotect or the likes will give long lasting protection, if you have a Westerly with rusted keels (bilge or fin) it would be advisable to Tercoo blast or shot blast clean then leave as long as possible before sweep blasting again removing the surface rust before priming – Westerly keels are notorious for being porous and retaining water, shot blasting and immediately painting usually results in failure of the paint system owing to moisture retention in the steel under the old coating. If you are unable to shot blast, grinding clean and coating with 4-5 coats International Primocon (first coat thinned) or similar will give good protection, observe the recommended over coating times for various antifouling types.


    Alloy Hulls, Outdrives etc:

    If you have just purchased an alloy boat please note you must NOT use an antifouling containing copper, likewise alloy outdrives and outboard legs. Use something like International’s Trilux or the like and remember if antifouling a GRP hull fitted with outdrive(s) or outboards and it’s a copper based product that you are going to apply, it is recommended that you leave at least a 25mm gap around the unit.

    If you have to fill any underwater surfaces as a result of hitting an underwater object or over enthusiastic use of a scraper, do not under any circumstances use a polyester filler, use only an epoxy based one such as International Watertite.

    Masking Up: 

    When masking water lines make sure you use the ‘Blue’ 14 day tape product which not only gives a good crisp line but can also be easily removed on completion of the paint job. If you use standard paper masking tape ensure you remove it immediately you have finished painting; However if you have had the misfortune to leave this style of tape in place and find it impossible to remove, 3M Citrus Cleaner is an excellent product to assist, WD40 is also worth a try.


    Wear disposable gloves and eye protection when applying antifouling as splashes on hands and face irritate the skin and using thinners to remove them can make it worse by driving the material into the pores making it difficult if not impossible to remove.


    Apply the correct number of coats of antifouling as recommended by the manufacturer – usually a minimum of two, on high pressure areas on your hull (leading edge of keel, rudder etc) they can benefit with the addition of a patch coat before painting the whole hull. Do not be tempted to thin the antifouling, you are diluting the active ingredient! Use a roller as it will give a better coverage and finish than using a brush, if using a plastic paint tray place it / cover it in a plastic carrier bag before use, not only will you be able to use it again, many solvents in antifouling melt plastic paint trays leaving you with a sticky mess to roll onto your hull!

    Do not paint over your transducer with conventional antifouling, use a water based antifouling such as Echo, it is water as against solvent based so will not damage the transducer surface nor weaken the signal!

    Specific Boot topping paints such as International ‘Trilux’ or Hempel Waterline Boot Top perform better than standard antifouling as they tend to be of the ‘hard’ type, are stronger and will stand up to the occasional scrub during the season.

    Propellers should be cleaned and polished with fine emery cloth or wet and dry. If you are in a heavy fouling area coat with Sea Jet Peller Clean or International ‘Prop-o-Drev’ this will help keep the prop clean whilst a coating of Propshield will be of benefit in lesser fouling areas. Dispose of masking tape, rollers and safety wear responsibly when you’ve finished.

    Anodes, remove if possible before antifouling, if there is still 2/3rds left and you’re leaving them in situ, either mask off or coat with soap before you start work, antifouling on the anode surface will prevent it working!

  • 254. Top Tips Tuesday - Beware the rollover on April 6th


    Back in the early seventies whilst working for Musto & Hyde as a trainee sailmaker I was asked by a sailing school friend of mine if I fancied helping him sail his dad's 36 foot steel yacht back from Esbjerg in Southern Denmark to Blyth Northumberland. As a dinghy racer I jumped at the chance of ‘broadening my horizon’ and so four of us set off on Pete’s dads yacht, three International 14 racers and one more experienced cruiser. For navigation we were relying on a Walker trailing log and an RDF radio direction finder. Well to cut a long story short the ‘string’ on the trailing log snapped ten miles out and as for the RDF, well we ended up at Flamborough Head some distance South! Nowadays with advances in electronics life aboard is a lot easier and, dare I say it, less stressful but please be aware of April 6th 2019 if your electronics are more than 10 years old!


    As I said above, with the likes of GPS and chart plotters, navigating can be a lot easier but beware as from what I understand if you have a GPS which is getting on in life (over ten years) and has not been subject to a firmware update, this rollover could cause stand-alone GPS receivers and systems using GPS chips to change by 19.7 years either in the past or future, thus generating errors in both the GPS position and time. However if onboard equipment has been installed after August 1999 or has regular firmware updates from the manufacturers , there will be minimal risk of an error occurring! Please note that not all products will rollover on April 6th 2019, some may rollover on a different date due to the implementation in the manufacturer’s firmware. The full text of Safety Bulletin 13 - GPS  Week Number Rollover can be obtained by clicking here.


    If, like me, you have a wash and a wear (and elderly back up hand held) onboard and it’s showing its age, rather like me, why not treat yourself to the Garmin GPS73 for what it costs at £140.95 it's a relatively cheap back up and should you decide maybe to go ‘off piste’ when out walking in say the Lake District it will help keep you on the straight and narrow and maybe lead you to your favourite pub!


  • 253. Top Tips Tuesday - Practical Prezzies For Mum


    If you're like me and impossible to buy presents for, just imagine how hard it must be for your kids to buy their sailing mums a really really useful Mothers Day present. Yes we know she has the tea towel, now well past its sell by date, of sail boats or that newer one of sea birds, the pinny (apron) with a nautical theme. Port and Starboard socks seemed like a good idea at the time as did the old fashioned Sou'wester but seeing the expression on her face....... I don't think so! Kids, this year just give her a really useful present that won't be tucked away in the port locker along with the out of date flares, a half a tin of Brasso a 'useful' ball of string which in an earlier life was the action part of a lead line and three tins of extra strong lager!


    Skippers, sometimes you just have to give your kids a gentle nudge in the right direction to give their mum that really useful gift. Ok it may break the bank but as parents all over the world will know, you can always 'lend on an interest free loan' safe in the knowledge that it will never be repaid!


    Bring a smile to mum's face with a Freebag. It's great for keeping her comfortable in the cockpit when motor sailing to windward in a force six with wind against the tide or, having endured that 'exhilarating  sail', it can be loaded into the dinghy and taken ashore for ones 'creature comfort'  on a rocky beach. However, if mum's sick of being cold and wet and has finally taken up an alternative hobby such as gardening, maybe some archaeology, the little sister of the Freebag, the Freebag Pro, will no doubt bring  another smile to her face!


    We skippers tolerate seasickness, most times it comes with the job description. However, when it's mum, who can be described as fair weather sailor at the best of times, a pair of our brilliant Boarding Ring Glasses may help prevent the mutiny on the Bounty or whatever your pride and joy may be called! They are also very useful if eldest son decides that his road racing or rallying skills are to be practised whilst giving his mum a lift to the supermarket.


    Mum may be like the skipper, both his and her eyesight failing (in my case rapidly) and as we all know, nowt is worse than a damp, tired slightly tetchy man hugging the helm cos he's feeling a little green and wanting to know in double quick time if the faint smudge off the port bow is a lobster pot or the start of the buoyed channel. It's times like this when mum wishes she was not chief bottle washer, galley slave and the lookout boy! However with a little bit of help from the skippers deep pocket, the brilliant Bynolyt binoculars may, in the future, help prevent a cross word or two from being spoken when searching the horizon! Used and recommended by the RNLI for the last 15 years, these binos are fully waterproof and they float. They feature a shockproof case, are nitrogen filled, 7 x50 magnification and of course the built in compass is back lit! Oh, by the way, they are guaranteed for 25 years!


    Kids are you feeling flush? Your latest Youtube offering has just gone viral, fancy being paid to post a video or two on house cleaning and earning squilions for endorsing a fancy toilet cleaner or a tip on using shaving foam  to remove red wine stains!  Guys are you one of these lucky teenagers that have hit that jackpot? (if so, please share your thoughts with me) Why not spend some of your hard earned dosh on an Ewincher. Mum will love you for it and, just as importantly, so will dad. This little beauty takes all the pain out of pitting muscle against that imovable object. Not only can she who must be obeyed at all times now hoist the main with no effort, she can also get the skipper to the top of the mast. Incidentally if he becomes too much of a pain why not leave him there or she could use it to hoist the dinghy aboard whilst leaving him ashore. It can also be used to raise the anchor if the the dedicated windlass battery or the motor has failed. As for sheeting in the genoa, easy peasy! Need convincing? Why not read the report?

  • 252. Top Tips Tuesday - You Must Be Joking

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    For a good number of years I have been singing the praises of the French researched and developed Boarding Ring Glasses. They have trickled out through our chandlery and via our internet site on a regular basis; sold as a device that is effective in relieving the effects of motion sickness. Jenny, my wife, swears by them. She first used them on board our Hunter Channel 31 which, in those days, was berthed in the Canaries where, in the acceleration zones between certain islands, the winds can go from 5 knots to 30 in the space of five minutes and as for the wave pattern nuff said! If the weather was such that quality time on the water was impossible, car hire and the subsequent trips into the volcanic hinterland went from being an endurance marathon to an enjoyable day out as the majority of roads on these volcanic islands are very very twisty! I must confess that I have used them on a couple of occasions when being chased across the North Sea by Hurricane Bertha but please don't tell Jen!

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    Last June Boss man Andy came into work, switched on his computer and started to download the overnight internet orders and then let out an expletive, too rude to publish followed by 'you must be joking', 16 orders for Boarding Ring glasses mostly from the United States and Canada. By the end of that week he had dispatched our complete stock of over 50 pairs and had placed an order with the U.K. importer for another 100. By close of play the week after he had upped the order to 250! What caused the surge in interest? Well, we believe it was caused by a well known French manufacturer of automobiles releasing an article on the amazing Boarding Ring Glasses in their 'in house magazine'


    We, of course, couldn't believe our luck, what with winter coming, trade was slowing down and still the orders came pouring in. However, when Andy enquired as to the status of our order for 250 with the importer it was another 'you must be joking' followed by a milder 'bloody hell now we are really up s..t creek!' Well I must confess it was one of those times when I was glad that I was no longer a director of the parent company Storrar Marine, and these days spend my 'retirement' passing the time in his sail loft three days a week and, when the mood takes, me churning out the very popular, I like to think, Top Tips Tuesday blog.

    Nine months later, after numerous phone calls to the English importer, loads of e-mails and even using a fluent French speaking English girl to try and get some sense out of the French manufacturer, (thanks Marie,) we eventually got the majority of the initial order, finally fulfilled the existing demand (thanks all you guys for being so patient) and emailed those folks who had cancelled due to the uncertainty. Incidentally, we were pleasantly surprised to see how many 'reordered' and the feedback we got, for example:


    For you folks, the good news is that at the time of sending out this blog we have currently 53 pairs in stock and no idea when we will be receiving our next batch, so guys if you want to keep a pair on board or in your car, it's a case of first come first serve!

    Ps, Boarding Ring glasses would make an excellent mothers days gift for those kids who want to give their mums a practical prezzie!

  • 251. Top Tips Tuesday - Etiquette


    As a 'proper' bricks and mortar chandlery (with, however, a very strong online presence established some forty odd years ago, I must have seen it all. Young children chasing their little/bigger sister/brother round a tower of 3 litre special offer antifouling tins, Tarquin picking up shackles and placing them back on a different peg, Sparrow playing hide and seek in the clothing, older guys calling in with a 1/2 eaten hot Greggs pasty in their hand or young ‘adults’  carrying open cans of pop or something a little stronger 'just browsing in the clothing' and sometimes if it's a really hot day it can be a topless (slightly plump) male, with a handkerchief or a back to front base ball cap providing essential UV protection to his bald head!  As probably one of the few UK chandleries with carpet tiles for an awful lot of the chandlery floor, Andy's heart can flip when he gets one of the local commercial fishermen in looking for a replacement Jabsco impeller wearing a pair of very oily steel work boots, buying the correct one then stepping off the vinyl flooring and proceeding to do a walkabout over the tiles! As for mobile phone conversations that start up when you are 1/2 way through serving the recipient! Having got all the above off my chest I must confess the above sign did catch my eye when out enjoying a holiday in Mogan a harbour/marina village in Gran Canaria with Jenny, our two daughters, their husbands and the three grand children! Speaking of children one of the best things we ever did was to put an activity centre in the clothing area of the chandlery, now at least whilst the adults browse, the kids behave themselves till they have to go, and then all hell lets loose as they want to stay and play!


    Many many years ago when I first started on a sailmaking career at Musto & Hyde, as it was called in those days, every weekend we used to travel cross country from Benfleet in Essex to race International 14s at Itchenor sailing club on the river Itchen near Southampton. Two young green Geordie lads Peter, my crew, and I joined the club as 'probationers' or similar and very soon told that it was considered 'not on' to wear leather shoes on the dinghy park planking by the late great sailing legend Stuart Morris and that on the other side of the wall one had to be suitably dressed if taking afternoon tea on the lawn! Years later sailing at the Royal Northumberland Yacht Club I can also recollect being bawled at by the Wednesday night race officer for crossing the starting line of the evening race with a red ensign still flying on the stern, fortunately I wasn't at the helm at the time. If I had been, perhaps an involuntary trip to the committee? Years later when I decided to build a yacht and go cruising I quickly found (more likely was told) a little bit about flag etiquette at the marina at Mogan, Gran Canaria, where we used to moor our old Hunter.  Spanish, Danish, Dutch & I am ashamed to say Red Ensigns were left flying 24/7 and of course the occasional Spanish courtesy flags on the starboard flag halyard!


    As time went by I decided to go 'upmarket,' applied and was accepted by the warrant officer of the RNYC to fly and I quote 'their blue ensign defaced by the club badge' on Hindsight, our current yacht. As a reaction to that I have now become a little bit more careful or concerned (Jenny calls it pedantic) about letting the side down, so the little Reeds Maritime Flag Handbook has been a godsend in trying to keep me on the straight and narrow! If in doubt I look it up, however I must admit that a couple of times the ensignhas been left flying after its bedtime, skipper must have been indisposed having drunk a tumbler or two of dodgy gin! This little gem of a book is the perfect on-board pocket-sized reference for all the maritime flags of the world and their usage. It includes chapters on what flag goes where and when, types of flags, signal flags, special ensigns, yacht club burgees, international maritime flags and most importantly legal requirements. On the back of this excellent publication is the following text: "Anyone who has ever put to sea wondering about the different types of flag flown, how they are made up, and the dos and don'ts as well as the traditions and myths of flying flags should find this a fascinating and useful handbook."


    ‘Happy Hooking’, that excellent book on anchoring by Alex & Daria Blackwell, has helped me sleep better at anchor however in part 6 of this publication ‘Hooking Rules’  there are some very useful words on Anchoring Etiquette including the ‘Top Ten Rude Behaviours’ that show disrespect and breach of etiquette in an anchorage!

    Screen Shot 2019-05-02 at 10.42.01

    Why not purchase both books and if you do so we will throw in a top quality leather bookmark worth £3-95 printed with either the code flags or numerals.image

  • 250. Top Tips Tuesday - Super Max

    Our Claire, she who posts my blogs, has given birth (congratulations to her and partner Mark) the other week to Robyn, a beautiful girl weighing in at 7 pounds 9 ounces sister to Lilly, 10, proper young lady now and Max, recently 3 and already out and about in the wilds of Northumberland. His future preferred vocation, trainee husky sleigh driver. Wonder when he might get a little jealous of his gorgeous sister who already is sleeping better than he does! On the same subject, I wonder if the Whale Supersub pumps will be a little jealous of the new super Rule LoPro now there is a new kid on the block?


    On our Mystery there is a ‘keel sump’ at least 75cm deep, see image above, and the current set up to empty it, should it fill with water for whatever reason, is that the bilge pump is mounted just aft of the cavity and to gain access to any liquid that may be there is a length of reinforced 25mm hose attached to the inlet on the pump and on the other end of the hose is a  strum box c/w non return valve which is fed down and ‘sits’ ontop of the keel bolts. It's secured with a tiny dollop of G Flex epoxy sufficient to hold it in place, but not so much that it cannot be removed should a blockage occur.


    If you have the need to empty a small space it may well be that the Rule LoPro could be the answer! It's compact only 193mm long and 59mm in dia. Its output is 12.5 gallons per minute and its max discharge head is 3m. The pump can be mounted with the outlet hose exiting either vertically or horizontally and can be used with 19mm, 25mm or 28mm bore hose. Its voltage is 12vdc and the current consumption at maximum flow is only 4amps. You can purchase it as a manual only pump which will need a an on/off switch, you can upgrade it to auto with a Rule float switch or buy it in ‘electronic mode’. In this auto or electronic mode there are 3 Operation Modes:
    • High water mode; The pump starts when the water level reaches 50mm (2")
    • Low water mode; Turn the motor cartridge 180º and the sensor starts the pump at 33mm (1.3")
    • Full Electronic mode; The pump automatically turns on every 2.5 minutes to check for water, if water is detected the pump runs until the water is gone.
    • Finally for peace of mind he Rule LoPro pump of course comes with a 3 year warranty.


  • 249. Top Tips Tuesday - The Liveaboard Wife


    The Liveaboard Wife was written by a friend and occasional next door neighbour of ours, who some eight and a half years ago decided he was going to quit the rat race and with his partner, Elaine, sail their Moody 44 Mychi from its berth at the RNYC near Newcastle, down the North Sea, through the Dutch and French canals (sampling the wines on the way) and exiting at Port Napoleon in the Mediterranean. Their final destination, Lefkas marina, being their winter base and Nidri as the ‘base camp’ for their Ionian exploration. Once down there they got quickly ‘sucked into’ the liveaboards scene. His partner Elaine joined a choir, walking group and animal rescue as well as ending up as The Moody Owners Association Mediterranean Captain. Jan, who served his apprenticeship at Vickers Armstrong working on the tools and had in his own words ‘never done anything arty, dramatic or creative’ and had never sung in his life (except when at a Newcastle football match), not to be outdone by Elaine (now his wife) joined a male expat/sailors choir, called the Levkas Shantymen, and much to his own and Elaine’s amazement started to write poetry. He became known as "The Bard of Levkas” and performed regularly at expat functions.

    Apart from his poetry, his choir practice and the occasional concert, Jan found that his past knowledge of running his own steel fabrication/engineering company could be put to good use once again in the Lefkas area. When leisure time permitted, he fabricated, in stainless, the occasional stern gantry, boarding ladders, pushpit and pulpit mods and repairs. Now Jan and Elaine have sailed their Moody back to its home base for a refit and he is rejoining the ‘rat race’ in a very small way, so if you are in the market for a stainless gantry or whatever, he has lots of experience of Med style stern mooring.  Contact  him at I gather distance is no object.

    Jan is too modest to admit it but I have seen him in action, singing with the Lefkas Shantyman and reciting his poetry. He certainly has a certain stage 'presence' so if you want a ‘celebrity’ to ‘do a turn’ at your yacht club, view this clip filmed at Concrete Bills in Nidri, it's best with sound. As for 'Jan the man,' he is the handsome one with the six or is it seven pack dressed in black (just like Johnny Cash) on the right!

    Having now 'completed' almost two full seasons of my semi retirement and having seen first hand what skippers wives/girlfriends/mistresses and Jenny put up with, I thought that maybe those skippers who are so demanding may be interested in the following products which will/should make life on board a little bit easier for their 'Liveaboard Wife'.

    • Always ready to use. 
    • No loading, messenger or guide lines. 
    • Use the your real mooring line directly. 
    • Works as a ordinary boat hook when the hook head is in its locked position. 
    • Made in glass fibre reinforced nylon and extruded aluminium.

    Stern mooring in the Ionian can be great spectator sport for the crews that arrive early and are sitting at the quayside taverna bar watching beginners, (like me and Jenny) some of the bare boat charter crews and a fair number if not most of the Italians, who ‘park’ like they drive! Often on the quay there is a friendly soul to take your stern lines. However, if the wind is up and a cross current running, say at Preveza town quay, the ‘helping hand’ ready to catch your lines can have a habit of vanishing at the critical time. The Robship Hook and Moor boathook may help save your skipper's face or, quelle surprise, him having to raise his voice as once again he (not the faithful Liveaboard Wife) gets it wrong. The Mystery 35 that Jenny and I sail is tiller steered and if you let go of the tiller when going astern, unlike a wheel it will immediately kick like a mule to port or starboard depending on what kind of mood it’s in. So my 'two month at a time Liveaboard Wife’ is reluctant to steer Hindsight in reverse. Consequently at times life can get a little hectic in so much as said wife Jenny must pay out the rode after ensuring the anchor is firmly dug in (thank goodness it’s a new generation Vulcan anchor, sister to the Rocna that digs in fast)  She must ensure sufficient chain is paid out so that the stern almost reaches the quay but not so much that the bow falls away and you end up sideways. For her then it's a mad dash to the stern to throw the line ashore to hopefully a clued up bystander. Skipper, of course, is doing nothing apart from clenching the tiller firmly between both hands and issuing instructions. Should the quayside line catcher disappear at the critical moment or was never there in the first place the first thing the 'Liveaboard wife' must do is get a stern linethrough the mooring ring and back to the boat in double quick time. This superb Hook & Moor boathook will extend to three metres if we are ‘short’ of the quay. It's so clever that it can thread a line through a ring or hollow cleat like magic. It has a rubber handle for a good secure grip however if it does go overboard in the heat of the moment it will float. It weighs just over a kilo, retracts to only 115cm is easy to stow and apart from that it doesn’t shout!

    For the price of approx 2 bottles of cheaper gin there is another intelligent boat hook or line feeder which goes by the name of ‘Catching’. It has almost all the bells and whistles as the Robship Hook & Moor, in fact you can get the price down low to that of a really good craft gin if you buy only the singing and dancing head and fit that to your old boathook!


    The importers of the Catching Boathook and Line Feeder comment ‘this is the best line-reever we’ve seen. It’s really tough and solid. In our humble opinion, it leaves all other line-reevers and mooring devices in its wake!’ I haven’t tried this make in anger, only played with it in the chandlery and yes it seems to do all that asked of it!

    Now that the boat is safely moored up and she has her five parts gin, one part tonic and one part ice, where is she going to find a comfortable place to relax in the cockpit cos the halyard bags c/w halyard tails dig in her back, likewise the cockpit coaming locker catches, remind me whose bright idea was it to fit teak slats to the cockpit seats and as for the mainsheet traveller that’s literally a pain in the butt when you’ve company aboard! If the drink doesn’t help her get comfortable, throw her a Freebag but only after you have brought your own tipple up from down below. The Freebag can be described as ‘instant comfort abroad,’ originally developed by a Norwegian yachtsman to increase comfort and endurance on long voyages in rough waters. The Freebag today is commonly used by people trying to find comfortable and relaxing positions in boats or on, in our case, the rocky beaches of The Ionian. The Freebag boat cushion incorporates a patented design and is a lightweight, multifunctional water repellent cushion/bag and if she ever happens to nudge the skipper overboard in a hot moment, you could always take pity on him after he has cooled off and throw him his, (shame to get yours wet) cos they float!

    Screen Shot 2019-02-26 at 11.06.45

    When we were fitting out the Mystery, all those years ago in a rash moment I decided to upgrade from the size of the winches that were fitted as standard on the factory fit out boats. This was in the hope that Jenny would be able to winch me to the top of the mast if the occasion demanded. Whilst she is now keeping the spectre of ‘bingo wings’ (see blog no.244) at bay with regular trips to the gym she does feel that perhaps it would be a good idea to invest in an Ewincher and then she wouldn’t have to raise a sweat whilst hoisting me up the mast! She also pointed out that even though we don’t race Hindsight, it has become very apparent over the last two seasons that if another yacht seems to be catching us up or getting away from us immediate sail trim is called for and a fast tack or two becomes a matter of life and death!


    Whilst Jen is more than capable of steering the Mystery on the wind in flat water when it’s a force 4 or above in a lumpy bash to windward it's yours truly on the tiller and she has to provide the grunt to these 'oversize  winches which because of the narrow sheeting angle double up as sheet winches! Why not electric winches I hear some folks say, well with a powered winch, a inexperienced crew on the button if you’re being hoisted up the mast, hit a snag and your foot gets stuck where the lower shroud(s) intersect the mast it ‘does not let the winch hand know’, likewise I have seen a clew pulled out of a genoa by an ‘enthusiastic’ crew member! With the Ewincher you will feel it through your hand and unlike an electric winch you can set up a torque limit directly from their mobile app.

  • 248. Top Tips Tuesday - New Arrival(s)


    ‘Our’ Claire, she who has the patience of a saint, she who sorts out all my random scribblings, vague or garbled instructions, contradictions, last minute additions and all things relating to our regular Tuesday’s Top Tips should, if all things go to plan, have given birth by now. The new addition to the Green family may be just over a week old assuming the baby arrived on the due date! And just for once I seem to have got ahead of the game as if it was an early birth, the TTT of the 29th January, 'Not Fade Away', was written around the 10th of that month. This ‘New Arrival’ blog was started the day after, and if the baby is very late, yes got that one nailed and ready to roll, because that one has been signed off too! Surely the new arrival will not give Claire as many sleepless nights as my TTT words of wisdom, nor her last child Max who, at three, is apparently still not the best of sleepers!


    This winter we have already seen some excellent new products to grace the shelves. There is, of course, the excellent Ewincher which I wrote about on my TTT blog of Tuesday the 22nd of January, which, despite it's cost, I am confident will be a best seller this year! Incidentally it got a great reception at the huge German boat show in Dusseldorf which has just finished! There is already a new Standard Horizon handheld VHF in the market place, a new Ronstan quick lock winch handle, an Ocean Signal ATB1 class b AIS Transponderand a new bottom wiper or cleaner! I wonder what the next couple of months will bring not, I hope, another Beast From The East!


    For folks like me with a very poor memory, the spec of this handheld reads like a prayer. The Standard Horizon HX890E is a floating handheld, it features 6 watt output and is a class H DSC. It’s 'job' description is 'Forget about trying to memorise the owners manual because a brand new easy to operate menu system makes this the most intuitive handheld on the market. DSC calling, position sharing, waypoint and route navigation and navigation to DSC distress call can be performed with just a few simple steps.' Sound like it’s the perfect VHF for me!


    Are you like me, no not with a poor memory, but suffering from arthritis in your fingers and wrists? Then why not consider the new Ronstan Quick-Lock winch handle? The Ronstan Quick-Lock allows you to immediately place the drive head into the winch socket, WITHOUT the need to rotate a knob or depress a button. It's stainless steel locking lever then retains the handle securely in place until you are ready to remove it. It makes my life so much easier and less painful as I used one of the prototype handles last year and yes it can do the same for you!


    The new Ocean Signal ATB1 class B AIS Transponder incorporating the superior SOTDMA access scheme provides increased visibility and safety at sea. Features include, simple installation and a free user friendly mobile app for set up. Other features include a faster reporting rate and higher output power than CSTDMA class B units. It sends AIS Transmissions every 5 seconds instead of the maximum two transmissions per minute and the 5W output power instead of 2W allows your transmission to reach further. Finally it's quick and easy to install and comes complete with an external GPS antenna.


    Do you have a clean bottom? Whilst the antifouling that you use does what it's supposed to do, if you are not on your boat and using it regularly chances are you will end up with a coating of slime on the underwater surfaces and more pronounced growth around the waterline. All is not lost as the Scrubbis could well be the answer to your dirty bum! We used to sell the Brizo, a device that you could use to clean the below waterline surfaces. It worked well (I used one on my Channel 31 when we had it in the Canaries) and was great for getting rid of the growth which had accumulated in my absence! My now boss used one to great effect when he was campaigning his Sports Boat with the guys winning the winter series more often than not! Shame we left my Brizo with the Channel when we sold it some five years ago but transporting it back from the Canaries with all our other personal belongings was not an option. Whilst this cheaper product is not quite as sophisticated as the Brizo it still seems to do the business! New to us, the Scrubbis is an innovative tool to clean the boat hull in a timely and effective manner. The cleaning head is buoyant and is attached to a telescopic handle, the head is equipped with flexible scrapers that effectively clean the hull. Whilst the boat is in the water fouling is soft and has not hardened so the buoyancy acting on the thin scrappers make the ‘scratch’ force very high and effective. Scrubbis is environmentally friendly, using a Scrubbis instead of toxic paints is the solution to an environmental issue. It's foldable and easy to stow with its detachable cleaning head and telescopic handle.


    Yes I know I got all excited about the Ewincher the other week but I do think this is the way forward to taking the effort out of winching and judging by the reaction to our blog so do others. I will shut up, however it's worth reading this testimonial from owners who are living the dream and sailing round the world.


    Since 2011, we have been sailing around the world on board our sailing yacht Ganesh, a 15-metre lifting-keel aluminium yacht from the Alliage Yachts boatbuilding yard.

    There are two of us on board, Corinne and myself, and I wanted to electrify 3 or 4 winches in order to facilitate handling operations with a small crew, when, visiting Paris in December 2016, I came across the Ewincher at the Nautic boat show. Attracted by the concept, we decided to try this winch handle, which was not yet in production, and we received one of the first units on board 6 months later.

    Over the past 6 months, we have covered more than 3000 miles, from the Maluku Islands to Phuket in Thailand, by way of Flores, Bali, Borneo, Singapore, Malacca, Penang, Langkawi, Ko Lanta…

    Sailing conditions were very varied, close-hauled, broad reach, flat calm, reefing in strong winds, launching the gennaker, etc., and Ewincher truly became a 3rd crewmember.

    Handling operations that used to be performed by two people are now carried out singlehanded with Ewincher – marvellous when night-sailing - the battery life is excellent, familiarisation takes just a few moments, Ewincher enables easy management of the highest loads on board a 50-foot yacht such as ours.

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