2014-04-22

Christmas in April




Now with glow-in-the-dark properties!

Due to the vagaries of international trade and, presumably, becayse I desire only the finest and least often ordered in boating gear, the Plastimo handheld compass I asked for as a Christmas present was picked up today. It's called an Iris 50, I was impressed with it in use during last November's RYA course in Brittany. I didn't think it was roughly as hard to obtain as a no-fault divorce.
When told to "get lost", I like a challenge

The other thing I asked for as a prezzie was the equally RYA-centric Portland Course Plotter (I already have a lovely pair of brass dividers). So chartwork can proceed apace this season, even if chartwork seems to some like nodding off in a scriptorium.

Freshly anti-fouled. Much needed topside cleaning to come when I fix the gaskets on the powerwasher.

Oh, well. I cling as did the whale's lunch Job to his faith in a capricious and possibly psychotic Yahweh to my continuing honing of my traditional navigation skills, and there's fingernail marks in the chart table to prove it. Sailing may be going digital, but there's something very analog about bending on a main on a cradled boat in 25 knot breezes. Alchemy launches on Saturday, and Valiente early next week.


2014-04-21

When is a skipper a captain?

"Arr, matey, I be parallel parking this scurvy scow!"
Clearly, despite the eclipsing in most senses of the Age of Sail, the allure of the rank of Captain remains culturally intact, if at times nautically dubious. Now, as a title, it's never gone out of style as a military rank in various armed forces, nor is the usage of Captain a thing of the past for the commander of commercial, merchant vessels. But those uses are essentially professional in nature.

Slicker, peaked cap, spoked wheel and manly facial hair: Most male cruising sailors are using "old salt" as a style guide.
Is the skipper of a private yacht in any sense a captain? I've been called that, usually by someone trying to sell me something boat-related, but also occasionally by marine police or Coast Guard officials by way of inquiry. But despite a plethora of nautically themed headgear that imply a sort of braid-accessorized naval authority, I am unsure whether anyone in a sailboat (or powerboat, for that matter) is, unless such an individual is an actual current or former professional mariner or ex-Navy member, a "captain".

So, Captain Douchebagge, we meet again.
Certainly, as has been seen with the sad and disappointing cases of the captain of the cruise ship Costa Concordia and the recent sinking of the South Korean ferry, expectations are quite high and seem to include that "the captain stays with the ship" ...or at least isn't on the first boat off. Whether they are legally obliged to linger until they themselves are in danger of drowning is another question. Being captain is a job, not a holy office, despite what centuries of naval literature have suggested. Nonetheless, it's a rare job that has some real power when actually at sea. Not to mention a nice hat.

So the bumboat boys know who to pester
I've encountered holders of Royal Yachting Association (RYA) Yachtmaster qualifications who don't object if you call them "Captain"...but that's not quite the case, is it? "Yachtmaster" sounds a bit kinky when shouted across the deck, and yet that's most accurate. Harder to fit on a hat, though.

I see the YM course as a qualification, but not as a licence like a "ticket" from a marine school or institute. Some sailors obtain either through youthful employment or via military service or working on tall ships or coastal boats, certifications like a "60-tonne Master Limited". But generally, this pro or semi-pro level of mariner education is not pursued by those who wish to just sail their own boats, or, at best, run a rather limited sort of charter operation, 

But the lure of the title remains: The "ticket", leading to the stepwise attainment of the rank of Captain, is a sort of guild distinction. In the British Merchant Navy it's like being in a trade (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Merchant_Navy_%28United_Kingdom%29); you have to take both shoreside courses and "work study" aboard vessels if you want to get to second mate.
A Captain able to find rum before it's gone and all the occult treasure and seamonster one could wish. Docking, not so much.
Similarly, I don't think the licences the MCA issues are equivalant to RYA certifications in the sense that the person successfully completing the course is a licensed mariner. None of my research on RYA courses, despite a lot of informational crossover, lead me to consider them STCW qualifications.

I think the equivalency might be "private Cessna jockey" versus "commercial airline pilot", or private car driver versus the tractor-trailer driver of road freight. If I fly a Cessna for fun, it doesn't qualify me to fly a DC-3 for money, although if the DC-3 pilot has a heart attack, the Cessna pilot is probably the best option for experiencing a flame-deficient landing. The YM Offshore, which a good sailing friend of mine has recently achieved and is happily using on his sailing adventures, isn't a commercial or a professional certification, whereas a Captain is a sort of trade description, as well as a title or rank. Interestingly, until the mid-18th century, a naval Captain could be any titled lubber, Court hanger-on or Army guy, and was the person who made "naval" decisions based on the advice of the ship's master, the non-dilettante career sailor actually responsible for the sailing-not-sinking part. It took a series of reforms to professionalize the Royal Navy and to get the "place-men" reduced, although advancement still favoured the well-connected and the aristocratic.


If this is your charter captain, switch to a walking tour.
Anyway, while it's harmless to call yourself "Captain", I find it imprecise and allusive to professional attainments in an area other than pleasure craft operation. I would allow that the owner and skipper of any given vessel is its Master, but one doesn't need the RYA or the CPS to tell one that. Any warm body with a PCOC is an "operator" in front of the water cops, and a "master" in Admiralty law. I can claim salvage as a master of a sailing vessel, should I wander across something not under command or 'clearly adrift', although this is a very nuanced topic in law, and there are many who would suggest that the line between righteous salvage and vile theft is permeable. Skippers or captain, beware.

I have seen a document
on official RYA stationary in which the "am I now a Captain" question was answered with "we take no stance" is an attempt to say "call yourself Captain, because it doesn't matter".  If people think they are captains, or even armchair admirals, it's going to have some sort of persuasive effect on RYA course-taking, even though that is *never stated* in the literature; it's sold as "the opportunity to improve one's seamanship skills" (which it is, of course), or the opportunity to evaluate one's existing skills (which it also is, as in the case of professional mariners who can "challenge" the higher YM exams and basically get passed into them for the purposes of post-career mucking about in boats.  

Another fictional old salt, only this one is just "Skipper". Note the cardboard signage on "S.S Minnow". Good grief.


So while I'm happy with "Skipper", I'll leave "Captain" to the pros. The simple fact is that there are different expectations that are bundled up with "Captain", and if you screw up, as one does, it seems worse surrounded by braid than when one is just "Skipper". And as for the hat, I'll bow to my pasty Celtic ancestry and just go with something that keeps the melanoma at bay.
Also good for garden work, I would imagine. Gold braid and anchor badge optional.
 

2014-04-20

The whirlpool of controversy churns

The ship's wheel being handed over to rescuers prior to the scuttling of S/V Rebel Heart. One of the sadder photos at sea that I can recall.
It's a funny feeling only possible in the last 20 years or so: the sense of vague familiarity that fleeting contact on the Internet renders possible between otherwise complete strangers. My first contact with Eric and Charlotte Kaufman, the American owners of a Hans Christian 36, was through, mainly, Eric's posts under the handle "Rebel Heart" on the Cruisers' Forum website.

S/V Rebel Heart as seen from a U.S. Navy helicoptern 900NM off Mexico


It's led to much debate and soul searching, not only about the very few facts known about the rescue of the crew of S/V Rebel Heart and her abandonment/scuttling, but about the nature of the armchair admirals and veteran sailors alike who have posted some pretty hateful things (in the guise of constructive crticism, naturally) online, most of which are based in the implied idiocy of taking young children offshore. The sailing writer and delivery skipper Charlie Doane, who himself was rescued from a busted catamaran in January, thinks that children might buy sympathy, as he didn't get much himself.

Now, there are some who feel that calling for help is inviting regulation of the cruising lifestyle; sailors are supposed to be self-reliant and to only seek aid in the most dire of circumstances. And yes, it's easy enough to come up with episodes where squadrons of SAR resources have been dispatched for what many would derisively consider trivial reasons.

But we aren't all alike in our capacity for managing trouble aboard. Maybe we should be more so. I'm trying to gather experience and training to that end because of incidents I've heard of where accidents could have been avoided...or not required rescue...had the crew been a little less unknowing.
Reefed down to keep the motion kinder, I suspect.

The reason the Kaufmans hit the big red button on the EPIRB is still not entirely clear to me, but a series of rough weather episodes, and a cascade of no-doubt-related equipment failures, was tipped over into the "rescue us" category by the youngest (one year old) Kaufman daughter exhibiting a persistent fever. Of course, being some 900 NM offshore, rescue was not instantaneous; my understanding is that it took three days before a ship with Zodiac-style tenders and the right sort of SAR personnel could arrive at Rebel Heart's location to take the crew off, and to "cut the hoses" and deliberately sink the Kaufman's vessel as it was far too distant from shore to be reasonably salvageable, and because an uncrewed 36 foot yacht is a significant hazard to navigation. It's therefore customary, if abandoning ship, to sink it by cutting below WL hoses or opening seacocks or even punching a hole in the hull.

Rebel Heart was a Hans Christian 36. Also known as a "Union 36", you'd need a big chisel to punch a hole in this hull. It was made of fibreglass, but weighed only about three tons less than does Alchemy, a larger and steel boat. It was a reasonable, if not particularly swift, choice for conservative cruising.

Rebel Heart's skipper Eric Kaufman has some sort of U.S. Coast Guard qualifications and is a former submariner; he would have known this. All else aside, the deliberate and necessary sinking of one's seaborne home is an occasion of deep sympathy for any sailor.

Probably because of the three-day window before a ship could reach them, and very probably because very young childrens, ages 1 and 3, were involved, this story "broke big" and became, briefly in the ever-advancing news cycle, big news. I first read about it on a comedic news aggregator website, and was shocked to realize "hey, I know of these people". The news site's members, not in the main being sailors and taking their cue from the press, were predictably scathing. Today's easily outraged online commenter does not hesitate to call for the authorities to remove children from their parents' custody, or to advocate "making them pay" for their own rescue.

The general public's feeling on learning that small children may, at times, cross oceans in Bob Perry-designed boats.
Less obvious was the criticism found on various sailing forums, particularly the one where Eric and occasionally Charlotte posted their plans for several years. Some of it, despite our own somewhat different circumstances, hit home with me. Eric and Charlotte, whatever the quality of their seamanship and their choices, were quite typical of younger cruisers in their commitment to blogging and documenting their preparation and thoughts on cruising. They had so much to say, in fact, that they split their "boat blog" into two sections: one for the dad and one for the mum. Both are pretty good writers, but while Eric's blog is a fair bit like mine, Charlotte's is more wide-ranging and covers a lot of mothering issues and deals with her child-prep and children's clothing. There's even a link to her Etsy shop. There's even (as seems sadly inevitable in these cases) stories of "I told you so" coming from "concerned family members". Hmm.

A sobering shot.


While such "mommy" musings are clearly not unusual, they seem to have drifted into "oversharing" waters, raising the ire of many. Other sailors have been quick to dredge up Eric's criticism of the preparations or skill set (as he perceived them to be) of other sailors who've required saving. What's clear (and not much is) from this online palaver is that things said online are virtually forever, and that everyone, whether lubberly or skipperly, is a self-appointed critic of anyone who dares to list their plans when it comes to getting the topsides wet. I have even read some very cynical (and I usually consider myself to be cynical) theories concerns the near-complete silence of the Kaufmans since their safe rescue: that they are going to write a book and that they are soliciting donations.

Well, can you blame them if they kept silent? Why open oneself up to attacks like this?

Charming, as is the case with humanity at one remove. Image (c) therebelheart.com

This couple are likely homeless, and the home they've worked on for nearly a decade is at the bottom of the sea. They've also just survived a situation that might easily have killed their kid 20 years ago, before EPIRBs were generally in use on small sailboats. So given these things, I would be surprised if they engaged their critics on any level beyond a dimissive expletive.

So, as I still don't feel I've heard Eric and Charlotte's analysis of "what went wrong", I will withhold my opinions on their actions, not that they would really be helpful, except in a forensic sense that would perhaps serve our own endeavours. It's a truism of the shipboard life, however, that at sea, the skipper(s) make the call: they must have that autonomy and the preservation of the crew must take precedence. That's pretty well the end of it, for me. I wasn't aboard, and don't know the details, and further speculation must remain empty.

I am quite interested, however, because we are planning much the same sort of trip, but with some differences. The main ones for me are as follows (and are to this point):

1) We have one son, currently 12 1/2, and the same size now as my wife. He's been sailing since he was seven and is taking further advanced courses this summer.
2) My wife and I have done two saltwater deliveries each (and separately) since 2007.
3) I've taken an RYA course and will take more. So will the missus.
4) We both know our pilotage, diesel repair, CN, and first aid and have taken courses (and fixed things while underway) to that end.
5) We've done most of our own refitting. That's why we haven't left yet! Refitting/re-engining a mid-size offshore-capable boat is like apprenticing in four or five different trades, or so it seems. Whatever else can be said for this, if something breaks, you will usually know what broke, where it is, where the spare is, or how to fashion a fix...if you installed it in the first place.
6) We've each experienced, on different boats, sustained gales of 40-50 knots and squalls past 65 knots. We know what that sounds like and how to heave to, deploy drogues or reduce sail to kerchiefs. We know how to heave to and the necessity of giving ourselves a rest and respite.
7) This might be the most important part: We plan to leave Toronto for a summer's cruising in Nova Scotia, and then to haul out for winter in Halifax prior to a following spring Atlantic crossing of the British Isles.

Our "shakedown cruise" will therefore be in waters tidal, oceanic and yet domestic. The Gulf of St. Lawrence and the Atlantic in front of Nova Scotia is the real deal, and yet is well-supplied if things break. And things always break. S/V Rebel Heart, by contrast, made their first offshore cruise one of the longest one can make: between Mexico and Polynesia. 

I wonder, however, if my blog posts and forum musings will come back to haunt us, should we experience difficulties, from the Hun-like hordes of those who, from the comfort of their keyboards, know better how to sail and "wouldn't have gotten into this mess". 

Maybe we should cast off, and then "go dark". I know of a few cruisers who purposefully delay their posts for some weeks for reasons of security (why tell the world, which of course includes pirates and theives, where you are or where you anticipate going?). In light of recent events, I have a fresh appreciation for this tactic.

It's too close to spring launch for me to read Rebel Heart's blogs or even do more than sample the largely useless speculative threads on various sailing forums, but I would suggest that our plans and preparations may serve us better in the long run than did theirs, if only because ours are deliberately incremental, and because our son will be a near-adult and will be capable of being a real crew. Toddlers are, by contrast, incontinent cargo. I'm sure they have other charms, but even though we took our son sailing in a bundle and then a car seat from a very young age, we did not choose to go out of VHF range or in particularly tough conditions. Now we do: he's a good swimmer and lives in a PFD. I look forward to further progress.

The First Mate at five days of age, September, 2001. I cannot say that I haven't taken an infant sailing.


I would still like to hear the Kaufman's side of their story if they choose to relate it.

One interesting response to the tidal wave of criticism (and I've been there and done that) is accounts from "former boat kids" who relate the very positive effects of growing up on a cruising boat. There have been balanced accounts supportive of the Kaufmans from sailing parents who didn't come ashore after having children while cruising, and even nuanced pieces which acknowledge (or, at least, this was my takeaway) that cruisers incur envy from those stuck on a treadmill, even if they would never choose the cruising lifestyle. As a recently posted Practical Sailor article indicates, the reality is that it is a series of little things, such as health problems getting worse far from shore, that can end a voyage sooner than that big wave or that howling wind. Here's hoping that the Kaufmans don't give up their dream, and if their prep was sound, they can work on having better luck next time.


Alive, if boatless, the Kaufmans and their rescuers in California

2014-04-19

Exhaustive reasoning, part 1

The number of boats containing all of these elements (fab waterlift, muffler, gooseneck)  is likely not great.
Work and an abominable winter here in Toronto put paid to many scheduled boat upgrades this winter: the few days it was clement enough to shovel the decks (yes, this was required more than once), I was often bogged down with paid labour, a good portion of which goes toward boat gear and other arcana for our ark. 

But spring, in a sputtering, half-arsed fashion, has arrived just short of our launch weekend, and some windows of non-freezing, non-hailing weather have opened up. I don't need non-hailing except for painting and deck work, and I have seven days to finish that. 

So I decided yesterday to dwell in the still-chilly bilges of Alchemy, and fashion a means by which the diesel's elemental effluvia of smoke and water will leave the boat. In my experience, sad but commonplace, such reasoning is far from elemental. It requires more than a superficial understanding of why water wants to go where it does, and concepts like back pressure and air pressure and anti-siphon loops, oh, my. I've had cooling water, which is the part that makes a wet exhaust wet, back into the engine more than once due to the failure of various components and, I have to admit, an incomplete understanding on my part of the forces at play.

Basically, diesels need to be cooled. They typically have "internal" coolant in the form of glycol-type antifreeze or "Prestone" circulating under pressure through various passages in the block. This is piped through a heat exchanger bolted on the side of the block. Much as air and fans cool a radiator in a car, so the "external" pumped seawater takes engine heat away from the internal coolant circuit and then, in the form of somewhat warmer water, into the flow of exhaust gases and then out of the boat. Confusingly, the two circuits are called "raw water" (sea water from the outside) and "fresh water" (not water at all, but antifreeze, which has higher boiling and, obviously, lower freezing points). Boating's funny that way.

"Wouldn't it be easier just to pump cold lake or sea water through the engine directly?" some might ask. The answer is yes, it would, and this is the state of affairs on my rather basic Atomic 4 gas auxiliary engine on my 33 footer: I open a seacock and lake water goes into an engine driven impeller pump chamber and then through the block (the bit with the pistons and crankshaft in it) and then into the manifold (to cool the gases a bit before reaching a "mixing elbow" where the water combines with the exhaust and is "lifted" out of the boat (more on this later).

This works because fresh water isn't as corrosive as sea water. This also works because I have a filter basket. If a piece of weed or a bit of plastic bag gets into the raw water circuit, I usually find it here:

It's appalling what I've found in this sort of thing on Valiente, to which I can only attribute to a lot of sex at the water's edge.
Fair enough, but why have outside water, which is frequently polluted with various organic and inorganic chunks of horribleness, go through the engine at all? I occasionally "flush my block" at season's end, and I always find sand and fine bits of plastic and whatnot even my precautionary basket filter missed. In theory, the added complication of a separate raw and fresh water cooling setup means the narrow passages of the diesel's cooling circuit never see anything but (presumably non-cruddy) antifreeze, which one changes after a known cycle of runtime. The heat exchanger is a different story, of course; it may see all sorts of crud going through it, lessening flow and therefore the ability to carry away heat, and it may be subject to various forms of corrosion and general damage, particular if one is a little slack in servicing it or paying attention to its appetite for zincs. This is why a spare exchanger is right up there with a spare starter in the "big ticket" list of diesel components the cruiser may wish to consider.

Your overheat warning system can range from "beeeeep" to Star Trek. Photo (c) Setsail.com
Of course, steps can be taken to lessen the crudification of this important component, and I went over that in a previous post, but while you can use technologies to alert you to problems in the cooling circuit, I think the best course is to regularly schedule a clean-out of the heat exchanger, particularly if you are cruising in waters full of sediment (river deltas and many harbours would count) that will inevitably end up inside your hoses.

This brings us to the exhaust system, which is primarily concerned with the byproducts of diesel combustion in the form of very hot gases, and getting them safely out of the boat. While a steel sailboat can, in theory, have a diesel dry exhaust with the aid of keel cooling, the boat wasn't set up that way and there's some advantages in my mind to keep all the plumbing in one area. Not to mention that wet exhausts are less sooty and quieter than are dry, which, however, are fine on workboats and so on.

If anyone reading this can tell me the difference between a waterlift and a waterlock (both of which frequently have the word "muffler" after them), please let me know. They are at the heart of the exhaust system in that they both "lift" water from below the waterline up and out of the boat, and "lock" it from backing up into the diesel engine, which would explain somewhat the variable terminology.

Both fancy and schmancy, and yet of all the things you can make a waterlock from, plastic is my least favourite.
I considered getting a fancy schmancy Vetus NLP 50S one for the simple reason that, unlike most boats, Alchemy's exhaust goes to one side (starboard) and therefore something that can rotate 90 degrees off a straight run had its charms. I also liked Vetus gear and indeed have an elderly but effective Vetus waterlock on Valiente. Installing that was the day I found out that my wife can squeeze into the stern of a narrow IOR boat, sufficiently lubricated by swearing, of course.

Basic but functional, and it didn't back up water into my Atomic 4 like thefailed Onan waterlift of unlamented memory.
But the otherwise desirable Vetus NLP50S was European, and therefore predictably expensive, and it did not answer a related exhaust issue: the need for an anti-siphon valve and hose setup. A more elaborate form of vented loop, these devices contain a small piston-type plunger and spring that allows flow in one direction and not the other. If, as is often the case, the engine is at or just below the waterline, the water from the "raw water side" of the cooling circuit would, without this device, fill up the entire run, and would likely cause water to back up into the engine manifold. Which can ruin one's day and has ruined mine. 

That sinking feeling is when the head backs up and sinks you.
So, understanding where the waterline is on the inside of the boat, where the engine is in relation to that waterline and planning for the vented loop setup is pretty critical. Did I mention that they are important in the plumbing of the heads? Well, they are, and that's a topic for another day.

The KISS option: Take out the valve thingie and run a length of hose out onto the deck.

Now, it's true that you can just have the "vent" part of the vented loop free of pistons, springs and flappy bits by simply running a length of hose up and out of the boat, to either a skin fitting in the side of the boat (well above the waterline, of course, and perhaps with a gooseneck loop of its own) or even out onto the deck. If you are underway, you'll see the occasional spurt of water when powering through the briny, and which, not being a jet of hot steam, will reassure the watchstander that all, in at least this respect, is well.

But what if you could dispense with the anti-siphon loop altogether?
Now you're talking. This suits me to a T-fitting.
Behold the "North Sea Exhaust". The transverse pipe is the key to vented looplessness, a term I hesitate to use, never mind to coin. Sounds vaguely quantum mechanical, instead of just diesel mechanical.

It's from Dave Gerr's excellent Boat Mechanical Systems Handbook, which, along with Nigel Calder's Marine Diesel Engines, and Charlie Wing's Boatowner's Illustrated Electrical Handbook, are my go-to reference books for trying to make Alchemy mobile, functional and not prone to exploding. I believe all three should be greasily indispensible aboard any self-maintained pleasure craft.

Because my boat so closely resembles in plan a grubby Norwegian herring boat, and because I wanted to know if the missing vented loop and its evil, failure-prone and crud-attracting spring and plunger was artistic error or not, I contacted Mr. Gerr with the following questions:

Hello, Mr. Gerr:


I'm restoring a custom 1988 steel pilothouse cutter sailboat for long-term passagemaking and already have the engine in and lined up. It's a Beta 60 replacing a Westerbeke W-52. 

The exhaust outlet for this engine is 2 inches/51 mm. The waterlift muffler I have selected is a 10 litre Centek of the same fitting size which will go partially in my keel bilge.

My old exhaust port is close to the waterline on the starboard side. What I wish to do is to replicate the North Sea exhaust,as I have an identical welded pipe on the port side currently used for bilge water hose. My idea is to run the exhaust to a mixing elbow and down into the Centek, and then up to a T-fitting right under the pilothouse deck. Exhaust plus water would then exit slightly downward (about six inches down the hull over a six-foot run, assuming the T-fitting is more or less centered under the deck) to either starboard or port, both of which would have seacock shut offs for extended sailing periods OR a single shut off just underneath the T-fitting. 

My questions, should you be kind enough to give your opinions, are this:

1) Is it necessary to have an anti-siphon break in an exhaust set up where one end of the transverse exhaust (the "high" side) is always exposed to the air? Yes, I have had stuck anti-siphon break pistons lead to kerosene flushes...if I did need this, I would simple run a 1/4" hose out onto the deck).

2) What is the best material to make a T-fitting out of? Stainless welded, galvanized pipe or black iron? I intend to use typical Trident exhaust hose for the supported runs port and starboard.

3) Do I need to take any particular measurements beyond what Beta and Centek recommend regarding minimum heights and clearances? It strikes me that this answer is no, as the system is "open" in a way that (save for the anti-siphon) a exhaust hose to the transom is not.

4) If I wished to put an exhaust alarm or even a solenoid shut-off in line in a North Sea style exhaust, where would be a good spot for that to go? I dislike the idea of a solenoid shut off for the same reason I don't like electric heads: water and amps don't play well, but I haven't decided wholly against it.

In common with other "names" (including Bob Perry, Bill Wallstrom, Ted Brewer, and George Cuthbertson) in the boating world with whom I've had conversation or correspondence, Mr. Gerr was generous with my idiot pestering. His reply:

Glad to hear you’ve found my book useful, thanks. In answer to your questions.

No, you don’t need a siphon break on a North Sea exhaust with the outlets above the WL.

I recommend against metal in the wet exhaust run. Fiberglass tube and exhaust hose is better in the wet portion—lighter, less expensive, and easier to work with.

The governing heights are those from figures 7-12 and 7-13 as well as 7-14.

An exhaust temperature alarm would go in the wet exhaust just before entry to the waterlift canister. If it won’t fit there, then just after the canister.

Good luck with the project.

Works for me. About the only thing I hadn't considered was having a fibreglass T-fitting to send water either port, starboard or (conceivably if we are motoring at zero degree angle of heel) both. Of course, the waterlift I eventually chose is itself fibreglass, which melts/burns at a hotter point than the Vetus plastic, and yet does not corrode like the stainless "pot" waterlift I removed when I hauled out the old Westerbeke.

Did I mention it was $200 less than the Vetus? That's a lot of rum.


I mentioned the idea of installing large seacocks between the hull and the exhaust hoses, the idea being that if a particularly hard heel defeated the T-fitting riser at that point, the seacocks would keep seawater out of the system and, eventually, the manifold. Only someone bitten more than once by water backing up would even think of this. Naturally, I thought "I will rig a solenoid and actuator so that I can't key the start without opening that valve!" Of course, a length of threaded rod with the keys left hanging on it might work, too. So I would have to consider heat-tolerant seacocks, perhaps some welding, a fibreglass T-fitting at the "top" of the exhaust setup, and some sort of exhaust water temperature alarm, where Mr. Gerr suggested. And lots of the best sort of 44 mm AWAB hose clamps. Below the waterline doings involving hot gases and water is not the place to cheap out with the hardware.


The problem is the date and my time. It's long since past time that I actually get the boat moving, and despite the protractedness of the process, over which my sailor friends continually needle me, I am just as eager to see some signs that my work and cash have achieved something. So I'm going for a kludge. It starts with getting properly hosed.
Common as muck, but apparently now not to code.
This is a mildly reinforced hose commonly called "red heater hose" or "radiator hose". It also comes in black, but many sailors call it "red heater hose" probably because they are drunk or senile. You'll find it on almost every boat afloat where the wire-reinforced, super-stiff, fire-, chemical and urine-resistant "exhaust hose" is not required. I've got 40 feet of the stuff in the popular 1/2 inch and 5/8 inch sizes spread over two boats and a garage. According to the omniscient Mitch of Genco Marine, the chandlery most convenient to my club, it's no longer approved, to code, or in favour. Checking some sources, including the thoughts of the above-cited guru Nigel Calder, I found that this has been the case for an alarmingly long number of years.

In trying to get away from the loop, I learned I was out of it.

Pardon the filth: there's more reconstruction underway here than in the post-bellum South.
So now one must use reinforced, less-burny hoses at four to five times the cost per unit of royal appendage. The top hose is for the dreaded anti-siphon, and the bottom is some rather nice corrugated exhaust hose to get from the engine outlet to the waterlock. Both are bendy enough to veer the way I require.

I have a Vetus anti-siphon; this is a Chinese knock-off, but I expect it won't be in use very long.

The dreaded anti-siphon loop is temporary: I just want to do a "test-fire" to adjust all my controls and to get my engine actually, you know, turning the five grand worth of Super Prop I have pinned to the shaft. The loop is trimmed with a hacksaw to the "25 mm" point, which fits the 1-inch successor to the old red heater hose.

It's an emotional time for me, hence the blurriness.
First, I positioned and hooked up the exhaust hose. This involved trimming to size with hacksaw and heavy-duty Dremeling, which obligingly demonstrated that this type of hose would, in fact, burn or at least would copiously smoke. But I got the clean cuts I wanted. The minimum height different is supposed to be 250 mm or 10 inches. This is 9.5 inches. I promise not to motor on a heel before I change it to its final form.
I did the usual double-clamping with opposing nuts, which sounds like a float in the Pride Parade.
I'm not entirely happy with the location, or rather the lack of "drop", of the waterlift. It's close enought to the centerline of the boat for me not to worry about motoring while heeled much, but it could be a few inches lower for an ideal installation. The only way to do that, however, would be to install sone sort of stand or shelf in the keel bilge, and to back off the shaft to drop the waterlift down there, which would make access problematic. I will have to ponder this one and keep an eye on just how well it's working in real conditions.

I didn't forget to clamp that right-hand hose.
The anti-siphon loop hose is stiff enough to stand vertically on its own. For safety's sake, I will use metal strapping screwed to the loop and to the wooden surface aft to keep it from moving around. There is also a small vent line I will install off the plunger bit for further bulletproofing, but, as has been mentioned, this is just a first crack until I can rig up the transverse exhaust and go "loopless".

Looks reasonably non-explosive.
So there's that done. I have to hook up the controls, the raw water supply, the battery cabling and the remote oil filter, plus a temporary fuel supply until I can drain and clean the keel tanks. Given that we launch in a week, I'll likely need a tow to my dock, but such is life. Getting angry about things I can't change will kill me with stress, rendering the entire endeavour pointless. But this to me is some welcome progress. Part 2 will appear (I hope) shortly, and those interested will see that rare bird...a double diesel exhaust in a sailboat. Thanks to Dave Gerr for his helpful advice, and for seeing fit to put such an intriguing idea...to a man sick of kerosene flushes...in his how-to book in the first place.



2014-04-10

The new VHF is a MMSI affair

The boat show special arrived in March. Installation took a little longer.

Sailors, despite all their modern toys, are known for near-medieval levels of superstition. Whistling is somehow related to the attraction of storms to boats at sea, as is the scratching of the backstays to the ending of calms. Clearly, the refusal to leave port on a Friday (which is amusing to me as not only have sailors been historically irreligious, but not even particularly Christian) didn't help the tall ship Bounty.

What is clear is that when Age of Sail sailors weren't passing sewing needles through noses to avoid hauntings, they would assuage their quite-reasonable concerns about drowning or otherwise expiring at sea with a medley of magical wards. They knew, as we still know today, that it is the indifference of the elements and our own inattention that will get us killed offshore, even if the odds are much higher that one will be killed in that most quotidian of ways: on a road...particularly on a motorcycle. Injury, on the other hand, is all too common aboard, which is why we've taken first aid courses.

Sticky buttons and dodgy reception did not endear this unit to me; my equally aged ICOM M-45 on Valiente did and continues to do a better job of basic R/T.


When it came time to replace the elderly Navico VHF that came with Alchemy, I determined to take no half-measures and to appease the gods with the good old belt and suspenders approach. Those who purchase modern boat electronic, particularly in the communications/navigation realm, are aware that there's a lot of "confluence" underway, in which one device can do a number of jobs. So when I heard that a new iteration of the well-regarded Standard Horizon GX-2150 VHF with AIS (the GX-2200) was going to shortly grace the shelves of my local chandlery, I had a "shut up and take my money" moment. Particularly as the boat show price was compelling.

Why have GPS and AIS on one's radio? Well, it's a no-brainer for me: A radio that can tell me, thanks to GPS and AIS, my direction, speed and bearing backs up my plotter, which doesn't necessarily need to be on in open waters. Similarly, having a basic AIS on a simplified, but sufficiently text-supplemented, representation of a circle in space around our boat gives the helmsperson a bearing to other vessels, their CPAs (closest point of approach), their SOG (speed over ground) and, of course, a way to hail them on the VHF through the magic of DSC. DSC, or Digital Selective Calling, is a combination of a sort of paging or hailing system whereby specific boats (ones for whom the caller has an MMSI number) and an emergency alert setup: that's what the "big red button" on handhelds and base unit VHFs is for. So the particulars of one's own vessel, and one's current lat/lon, thanks to the GPS, are sent, depending on the location of the boat's antenna, many nautical miles in all directions. As a bonus, it's estimated that the range of a DSC call exceeds that of a voice call (such as a PAN PAN or the dreaded MAYDAY) by some 15% And let's face it, if you ever do need to push that particular red button, you probably have better things to be doing than shouting into a mic, right?

Hello, sailor: If something like Queen Mary II is in one's vicinity, one wishes to know.
The AIS element I've mentioned before as being what we consider to be one of the more significant advances in yacht gear safety and awareness. While "the oceans are full of things this size" is rather a hyperbolic statement, they are far from empty. Big ships can and should be considered as clueless as a liquored-up elephant herd stampeding a village, or perhaps like a sleeping whale in the path of a sailboat. AIS, the signals of which must be transmitted from all commercial shipping, can give the skipper of a cruising yacht a heads-up and a suggested course of action, which is typically "away". RADAR, which I consider the partner technology to AIS, gives you a chance to avoid rocks, land, (sometimes) debris and those smaller craft, fishers and the like, who are unlikely to have more than an old transistor radio aboard.
The shortest game of "chicken" ever.
So that was the logic of getting the new Standard Horizon product: lots of useful gadgets in one decent radio. I say decent because I have a few SH handhelds with which I am quite pleased, and my initial shipboard tests were very promising. Other equally well-regarded manufacturers, such as ICOM, make similar "combos", but at a higher price, and Not at the Boat Show. So Standard Horizon it was. But first, for those like that sort of thing, I did a "deboxing" to make sure all pieces of the new gear were present:

The SH GX-2200  is relatively compact and could have gone a number of places inside the pilothouse.

All was accounted for, along with the RAM3 remote mic that will be at the outside helm. Many of the functions of the base unit can be replicated from this handheld, which is suitably water-resistant.

The 50-odd feet of cord is handy, too.

Seen below is the provisional mounting. I have an old Signal Mate roll-up "emergency" VHF antenna I used as my mast is still in the rack. Hell, so is the whole boat. Height of antenna was therefore a good four metres. The mounting is provisional in case the VHF affects the Ritchie helm compass, the soft iron ball of which is to the right. So this may be moved. It's very shippy looking where it is, however. The old mount for the deceased "video" depth finder fit quite well.

Out of the box and with a dollop of improvised 12VDC, the GX-2200 rapidly found its bearings without an external GPS antenna.
Job One was inputting the MMSI number I obtained recently (and remarkably quickly and painlessly, he exclaimed in rare gratitude) from Transport Canada. This, for reasons of security, one supposes, is a one-shot deal: you have just one try to get a nine-digit number into the VHF's memory:

While the size of the manual is daunting, the drop-down menus and "soft keys" are logical and easy to suss out.
Checking, checking, squinting, squinting...

Each country has an MMSI "code": I am guessing Canada's is "316". Why, no one may know.

 Then you have to do it a second time. For keepsies, one presumes.

Ar, they be some dirty digits, Skipper...ye'll mar the finish with 'em!
Just a note here that if you have a handheld VHF (the "walkie-talkie") with DSC capability, you tend to load it with the same MMSI as the "mothership". If you, like me, have two boats, however, and shuttle a handheld between them, you can get a number called a Maritime Identity Number. This is a kind of second tier to the MMSI in that it's related to the handheld itself, not the boat, per se. As I have two DSC-capable handhelds, I will likely put the MMSI into the "better" one (it floats!) and get an MI for the other.

Once the (correct and triple-checked) MMSI numbers are input, the results are fairly dramatic. Within seconds of hitting the AIS button, I located several nearby workboats, probably dredging out a runway or something.

"Lubie"? Lubberly.
A quick scan of the manual revealed ways to learn more:

This is the "2NM" setting. Three boats were transmitting AIS data.
Now, it's important to note that this VHF's AIS is simply a receiver. They don't know that I'm around or where. Even if I hit the "call" button, their VHF would simply "ring" at their end and I might not show on their RADAR. For that, I'd need an AIS transponder. A later post will delve into the desirable and undesirable aspects of having one on a cruising yacht.

Given the location, these boats might have been servicing nav aids, such as the suite of local buoyage. The ice is, after all, mostly gone.

You don't lose the VHF part of the radio while you are checking out the AIS signals of surrounding boats. You can have a sort of "screen in screen" setup whereby you can show AIS, GPS, GPS compass with SOG and other data at the touch of a button.
Add caption
And there's the usual bunch of NMEA data wires at the back so all this can be fed to a plotter or even a PC for navigational goodness.  I did a radio check with "Prescott", the closest Coast Guard station, and was told that even with my dubious antenna, I was "loud and clear". I set up the DSC function to do a test call, and that worked in only two seconds, signalling "DSC ACK" (which doesn't mean the radio requires a Heimlich Maneuver, but rather that the DSC call has been ack-nowledged). So functionality has been achieved.
Wonky light in the pilothouse can throw off my camera, it seems.
The power was a different story. Bare wires twisted together is fine for test purposes, but even if the current (pun intended) VHF location is temporary, I prefer to conduct myself (pun intended, again) with a little more professionalism. So I installed Anderson Powerpoles on my DC leads. These "crimp and snap together" doohickeys are superior to ring or Molex connectors that preceded them, and have become very popular among the amateur radio fraternity (I use the term "fraternity" based on the visual evidence of prevailing beardiness), and are considered the right choice for low-resistance and firm connecting.
Conduct yourself accordingly in the wide world of radio.

While it took me some blood and sweat and seamanlike language to figure out how to assemble the things...they require a bit of force to get them to engage properly and I don't have the ideal crimping die...I did get them to work and will use them around the boat going forward any place where solder or other more permanent crimping isn't called for...and quick removal may be.

For the intrigued, here's a helpful instructional video:
And now, with launch approaching, it's back to the boat for me. At least I can listen to WX again.