The chances are that if something can go wrong, it will. With this in mind, carrying a few spare bits and pieces with which to effect running repairs is a good idea. A bosun’s box or ditty bag will keep all these items clean dry and in the same place so that if you need a spare shackle at four in the morning you know just where to find it. What you actually carry in your box or bag will depend to some extent on the type and size of boat that you have but those items that I have shown here are a good starting point and have got me out of trouble on more than one occasion. Click on the image to make it larger.
Notebook and pen Use these for all sorts of things, from making lists of jobs to be done to sketching a disassembled component.
A few lengths of cables of different gauges can be used to make temporary repairs to wiring and electronics.
Always carry a good selection of these in various sizes to lock off rigging. Cotter pins should never be used more than once.
You’ll need plenty of rags every time you check the engine oil or clean out a paint brush. Paper towels can be used as an alternative.
You can make fast, effective repairs with the correct type of tape. Carry duct, electrical, and masking tape as a minimum.
A simple way to make proper connections to the end of electrical cables. Available in a variety of sizes.
Many of the items shown here need to be kept dry; a plastic screw-down flare container makes an ideal bosun’s box.
Immensely strong and lightweight, Spectra cord is perfect for repairing your standing rigging.
These were left over from another boat, but I’m sure they’ll come in handy one day.
Nuts, bolts and screws
Carry at least a couple of every size used on the boat. They should be bronze or stainless; brass corrodes in seawater and has little strength.
Can be used for everything from rigging a spare halyard to fixing up a laundry line.
Countless uses, so carry a good selection in a variety of sizes.
Use stainless-steel clamps only. Great for everything from mending broken boat-hook handles to clamping pipes.
Carry spare batteries for on board flashlights and radios. Don’t forget the AA batteries for electronics.
Keeping spare fuses in a handy display package makes finding the correct size easy when the lights go out.
A good safety item to have if you lose your main VHF antenna and need to connect up a spare.
A yachtsman-style knife is strong enough to cut the heaviest rope; its attached shackle key can be useful.
Seals electrical-cable joints against water ingress and can also be used as a fast method of whipping the ends of a rope.
Great for use with the heat-shrink or for lighting the boat’s barbecue.
Carrying spare varnish to touch up damaged areas as they happen could save hours of work come haulout time.
Perfect for whipping ropes and great for use as a lightweight laundry line.
Pusher and fids
The only tools you need for making proper splices in braided ropes.
You can never have enough spare pieces of line.
Wearing these when working on the engine or doing any messy jobs makes cleanup easy.
Cheap disposable touch-up brushes are a perfect companion to the varnish can. Great for small jobs.
Can be used as a signaling lantern, a light for deep lockers, and as a safety aid in the dinghy at night.
The smaller Yanmar engines are probably one of the most popular engines for small sailing vessels and runabouts, and with good reason. The engines are reliable, robust, pretty compact and spares are readily available. However, one of the items that often gets overlooked come service time is the raw water pump impeller, mostly because it is so hard to get at. The easiest way to service the pump is to actually unbolt the pump from the engine which although not as hard as it sounds it is still a pain. (For reference the water pump is behind the small pully at bottom left)
But the newer small Yanmar engines have been redesigned and now have the pump in a much more accessible place as the shot below shows. The pump is now essentially reversed and the access to the impeller cover is simpler with in most cases no need to remove the pump at all. This makes the world of difference as the pump is much less likely to get forgotten, the brass plate glinting at you, a constant reminder. The shot below shows the 3 cylinder engine that was being installed into a Hampton at Yankee Marina which incidentally replaced an older Yanmar that had simply worn out.
Incidentally, a full tutorial on changing a water pump impeller can be found here.
Since I no longer have Mallard I’ve been thinking that at some time in the future it would be nice to get back to sailing a small boat, perhaps something that can be easily trailed, and of course I would want to build it myself. Several years ago I was thinking that a mini Transat boat would be great, fun and fast to sail but the more that looked into it I realized that a decent sail wardrobe would cost a bomb and with a deep fixed keel with a bulb on the bottom the boat would have to be lifted on and off the trailer with a travel hoist each time.
The Aviatuer by French designer Eric Hensval seems like the answer to my prayers; the same size almost as a mini Transat but with the lifting keel which makes launching from the trailer at the boat ramp a snap thus opening up almost unlimited cruising potential. Keeping it on the trailer will also mean that it can be dry sailed and thus save a lot of money each year by not having it sitting on a mooring or in a slip, neither of which are especially cheap. From a distance the boat could pass as a mini with her retractable bowsprit, square cut topped main sail and twin rudders. It is this latter feature coupled with the lifting keel that allows the boat to dry out upright, perfect for sneaking into coves and other skinny water that would be off limits to a mini.
Looking at the lines the boat is little more than a sharpie if one discounts the intermediate strake at the turn of the bilge that helps soften the shape and make the boat appear less boxy.
There are a ton of pictures on the web and at Duckworks from where, for a modest fee I was able to instantly download the study plans. Interestingly the method shown in these plans if for the boat to be built over a series of temporary frames; the seams are joined with epoxy and glass released from the mold and then the interior seams are filleted and glass taped before the rest of the fit out and deck is completed. I thought this an unnecessary complication and so I e-mailed the designed who confirmed that the boat could be constructed using the stitch and glue method. Providing that the panels are cut accurately the boat will tend to form it’s own correct natural shape as the temporary stitches are installed. It would be necessary to make a cradle for the hull to sit in while it was being made but you would need to do that anyway even if building the boat in the method shown in the original plans. Not having to make a frame structure onto which the panels are screwed will save a fair bit of time and there will be less turning of the hull as the interior can almost be completed before the boat would have to be rolled to tape the outside joints.
The video above shows the boat sailing in 12 knots of breeze and it is trucking right along. Incidentally the plastic domes, once a dead giveaway of the long distance voyager especially on French boats are not just for effect on the Aviatuer, they give much needed light below and with the secondary tiller on the inside of the boat allow easy and dry steering in inclement weather.
These snaps may not be of the best quality as they were shot on my iPhone but none the less they do show a rather unique product. Weldmount was not something that I have ever used before but I picked some up in the local store after seeing a video on the internet. Weldmount comes in different types depending on what is to be bonded but essentially it is a two part adhesive that can be used to bond all manner of fixtures and fittings to the boat. Until now I like many boat owners has been drilling small holes in he boat to attach cable clips, bolts and other such parts. Weldmount allows the user to bond stainless steel studs, saddle clamps and cable tie pad to almost any surface without resorting to a drill. Apart from the time savings it means that it is possible to save drilling litteraly hundreds of holes in the boat, all points for possible water intrusion. I must admit I was little skeptical at first but this really is an amazing product and highly recommended.
This picture (above) was taken with taken with my iPhone at close range and as I could not get far enough back so you will have to excuse the parallax error, but it shows the fairly well, I think the progress to date on the new fridge installation. The old fridge was noisy, the seals were worn so it ran all the time, it used a ton of electricity, iced up with gay abandon and the small freezer compartment door did not properly close. With that said I am pretty impressed that it managed to soldier on for 26 years, but it had to go and is being replaced with another, which like the first is from Norcold. The fridge is a dual voltage 12/120 model which looks pretty slick, but installation has required some modifications to the cabinet work around the unit as the overall size is a little smaller. The old fridge had what can best be described as flange around the unit and this screwed into the wooden framework. This had two functions, it sealed the gap between the fridge and the cabinetry preventing dirt and debris from entering and secondly held the fridge in place preventing it from moving when the boat moved about at sea. The new fridge lacks the flange which I miss and I hope that at some time in the future Norcold sees the wisdom in reintroducing this feature to at least some of the models in their range. The 0788 model that I am installing is fixed in position with screws through the feet which are visible when the door is opened. This works well on my boat but I could see may be a problem where the fridge is located higher from the sole where a solid attachment point may not be available. Because the fridge is less tall than the original I also have room for cutlery drawer and you can see the drawer front temporarily taped into position for photography purposes.
After talking with the technical folks at Norcold I found out that I had been operating my fridge incorrectly in the past. I had always assumed that with a dual voltage fridge one had to turn off the DC breaker before turning on the AC breaker to power the fridge but it seems that I should have been keeping both the 12 volt and 120 fridge breakers on when I was aboard. Apparently there is an automatic relay in the back of the fridge which by default runs off AC voltage, if this is interrupted or unavailable then the appliance automatically switches to 12 volts DC until 120 volts AC is restored. They have been wired that way for years, it seems, but I never knew, and now you do too.
I've never liked the way that many radar and chart plotter displays just tend to get bolted down to any free bit of space with the cables sprouting out of the back. I think this messy and I wanted to do something better. Seaglass has surprisingly never had a multi function display installed at either helm and this is something that is being addressed during this winter and spring fit out season. The truth is that I have a bunch of equipment on long-term loan from the good folks at Simrad for a series of features that I have been working on about installing an NMEA 2000 network. At the heart of the system is a beautiful 16 inch NSS evo2 MFD. I've played about for ages trying to work out the best location for this with initial thoughts that it might go above the windscreen. This looked like a good bet and would have worked well with the general refit of the headliner and lighting upgrades but a mock-up showed that it was just too far forward of the helm seat to make controlling it as easy as it could be. So further head scratching and another mock up brought me to the point I am at now with what I can best describe as a teak nacelle which sits on the self and to port of the main steering compass. The MFD can now be controlled with relative ease from the comfort of the helm seat and the large screen is easy to read from most anywhere in the salon making watching movies when swinging on a hook a distinct possibility. I am going to miss the flat surface on which I placed pilot books and charts when underway and so I have to find alternative placements for these, but I think the trade-off worth it.
In the picture above the MFD has been temporarily dropped into place just to see how it will look when finished properly; there's to be a matt black surround between the teak 'eyebrow' and edge of the MFD but this will not be installed until after the nacelle has been varnished to match the rest of the boat interior. Also, you will notice that the teak is still somewhat of a rather odd color. The nacelle is made of 9 mm marine ply onto which I have glued teak veneer with the adjoining corners and eyebrow from solid teak. Teak when freshly cut has a definite green tinge but this soon fades and the color reverts to that familiar honey tone within a few days and the nacelle is still in that phase but by the time the varnishing starts the color will be somewhat different to what you see here. I should add that the color continues to mellow even through the varnish and so with time will blend in well with the 25-year-old teak interior.
Simrad have just announced the GO7 Multi Touch display but before we get into that let's take a step back and remember a time not too long ago before multi function displays when there were chart plotters whose only job was to display and chart and show where you were. Not long after that we started to see charts that could be overlaid with radar data and then from there....well you get the idea. I am sure that I am not the only person out there that till tends to call them chart plotters even if they can do everything now from operate the stereo to control the autopilot.
So then it is somewhat gratifying to see the Simrad G07 which is being marketed as a 'stand alone' display harkening back to earlier times when there were just chart plotters. The unit itself has a 7 inch display and this helps keep the price down to a reasonable level. The list price has been announced as $799 but expect to see these discounted in the retailers when they go on sale to the boating public at the beginning of May. I suspect that there will be lot of interest in these units and being small with an attractive price point they will surely find their way onto many center consoles and smaller boats. There are basically two versions of the unit the G07 with the Simrad badge and an almost identical B and G version called the Vulcan which features the very useful SailSteer function which is aimed as you might have guessed squarely at sail boaters.
Both units should sell well and the absence of knobs on the front means that operation is akin to using a tablet, so anybody that has a smart phone should be able to get the unit up and running right out of the box with very little time spent looking over the owners manual. Another way that the price is kept down is to reduce the amount of connections on the back which on the G07/Vulcan is limited to just three; an NMEA port, power and a connection for a sounder. Lacking is an Ethernet connection so radar is not supported and also missing is a video input. All that said this is one smart little unit and I would have jumped at the chance to get my hands on a Vulcan for my Golant Gaffer to replace the rather aging Raymarine unit that was still in place when I sold the boat. I think Navico, the parent of Band G and Simrad are onto a winner with this unit and I look forward to seeing how sales shape up in the coming months especially seeing they are making them available, wisely in my view at the beginning of the 2015 boating season.
A reminder that the Maine Boatbuilders show is this coming weekend, Friday 20th to Sunday the 22nd in Portland though sadly not in the tug as there is still ice in the harbor. If you are in the area then I do encourage you to come by as it's a show like no other and instead of the blue blazer set you actually get to talk to the real boat builder about real boats. I shall be there all three days and will be giving a talk on marine electrical systems so do seek me out and say hello. I'll bring you an update or two on any interesting stuff that I see at the show. The show website is here and a link to the seminar schedule is here. See you there.
For some time I have been on something of a quest for the perfect fold up sink. I have highlighted several here but these have been either very expensive or overly complicated although I do like the look of the sink from Shipmate but they do not seem to be making it just yet. The one I looked at a few years back was the prototype and although they said that it would becoming available the website still says 'available soon'.
This selection of pictures is from a boat that I surveyed the other day. She is an Aage Nielsen yawl which has been completely rebuilt from the keel up. Laid down in 1953 the vessel has had a complete rebuild and much of the boat has been replaced including all of the planking, most of the frames and all interior woodwork. One of the few parts that has not been replaced apart from the lead ballast is the folding sink. The pictures show the sink open and folded and looking at it I think that I could probably fabricate one of these myself. The sink part is little more than a stainless steel mixing bowl which are available in various sizes from an industrial kitchen supplier and the trough into which the waste is tipped could be made from fiber glass or even epoxy coated plywood. Although i currently do not have a need from one of these sinks right now I do think that many smaller boats would benefit from such a design especially it were available at a sensible price. I'll let you know how things turn out and I'll post a picture or two in due course.
To many the idea of cruising conjurors up swanky boats with all the amenities and comforts of home but for a totally different experience it is worth considering cruising in a kayak or canoe. The best way that I can think or describing this to someone who has never tried it is to think of back packing on water. I first started kayak cruising when I was in junior high school, each summer a couple of the teachers would organize a one week trip down the river Thames in England and over the course of 5 days we would cover some 70 miles stopping each night at a rustic camp ground staying the night and then moving on down the river to the next stop. I remember thinking how magical the whole experience was, carrying everything that we needed in our kayaks, being completely self sufficient yet having a grand old time. I enjoyed every minute of it and have done at least one trip every year since.
The first timer is likely to have a lot of questions not least where and when to go and what will I need. The best advice I can give is to start gently and as you gain confidence, skill and experience you can progress to longer and more difficult trips. For a first trip is is best to limit the distance that you have to travel by kayak and the easiest way is to do an out and back cruise over a weekend. It is hard to give specific advice as to where exactly to go and this will depend to some extent on your local waters. The ideal is a secure place to park your vehicle and off load your kayak or canoe then paddle some three or four miles to the camp ground, stay overnight and then paddle back the next day. Study guide books and maps of your local area, ask other paddlers or the local canoe and kayak in your area for advice and plan it out. This may seem daunting at first but after a while planning out a trip will become easier and you will have a pleasant time deciding where to go next. There are some long distance trails in North America for more experienced paddlers which are only accessible by canoe or kayak; going through spectacular scenery these truly do offer a get away from it all experience that you will never forget.
Because you will be carrying your gear with you the sit on top style or recreational kayaks are not really suitable. The ideal is a either a decked kayak that you sit in rather than on or traditional open style canoe. I can't say one is better than the other as it depends to some extent on whether you prefer a canoe or kayak and the type waters that you will be paddling on. Here size does matter although for your first short trips you can get by with what you have. As skills progress a longer, lighter and sleeker craft will makes things more pleasurable as they slip through the water with greater ease. A short stubby boat is hard to push along and will increase your fatigue levels. In addition to the boat you will also need a tent, sleeping bag and other camping essentials for staying overnight. Because you can typically carry more in a canoe or kayak than you can in a rucksack there is a tendency take too much. Lighter is better because although you will not be carrying it on your back you will have to push it through the water and a heavier canoe will make you tired faster.
Safety is important and if at all possible go with a group. We have a saying in my club 'less than three there should never be'. That way if one person gets injured or incapacitated in some way one person can stay with them while the third goes for help. Don't forget to wear your PFD and take warm clothes and a lightweight but waterproof jacket even if the weather looks good. Hypothermia can be a real danger especially early and late in the season. Finally consider joining the American canoe association where you will find lots of information on their website about paddle sports, local clubs in your area and courses to improve your skills. For inspiration read any of the beautiful books by the Late Bill Mason, I especially recommend ' The Song of the Paddle' which is available from online booksellers for less than $20. Another good introduction is
American National Red Cross. Canoeing. ISBN 0-385-08313
Finally as a note if you are watching the embedded video at work it is over an hour and half long!
For the past 25 years I have run seminars on long distance voyaging and although I wish I had more time to do offshore passages we have covered topics on almost everything from safety at sea to entering foreign ports. When I lived back in the south coast of England we would organize a couple of trips each year where we would take a flotilla of boats across the channel to France. This for many of the participants was there first time going 'foreign' and led many of them to take longer trips or at the very least give them the confidence to go back and cross the channel by themselves at some later date. Twenty years ago few people had cell phones, WiFi, the internet, Facebook, streaming video and all the other stuff people seem unable to do without these days had not been invented and many of the questions that I was asked centered around entry requirements, where to get water and ice when you got there and other such fundamentals. Oh how times have changed and now the leading question is frequently where the nearest hot spot is and whether there is cell phone service. It seems that WiFi is an almost essential ingredient of life aboard these days. Now I admit that I do work for myself and rely on my cell phone for clients, editors and others to contact me but I do feel a sense of freedom when on those rare occasions that I am out of cell range or I just leave my phone off for the day or weekend.
Many coffee shops, boat yards and marinas now offer free WiFi to their guests but if you are tied up some way from the source the signal is often less than stellar with frequent drop outs a common problem. Some sort of WiFi extender or amplifier is thus a therefore a good idea to overcome these problems. Not knowing much about this stuff I asked around and spent a good deal of time on the internet researching what was the best way to bring WiFi signal aboard. That search bought me to the Rogue Wave WiFi which I got last year. Set up was easy and I clamped the antenna to one of the rails on the fly bridge the cable from the antenna connects to a router and within a few minutes I had the whole shebang up and working. I am the first to admit that I am far from a computer geek but following the instructions set up is easy. Power for the system comes either from a 12 volt supply or if AC power is available from a plug in cell phone type transformer power is not supplied from the computer. LED lights on the antenna itself light up to show the incoming signal strength and also give an indication that the unit is receiving power. With that done you simply log in to a 'Network Scan Page' which shows the names and signal strengths of in range WiFi signals. Other boxes indicate if these are closed private networks but I found that in many places I was able to grab a free signal from even several miles away.
This truly is a remarkable bit of kit and for folks like me that spend a lot of time living a working aboard, a godsend. My friend Ben Ellison also had good things to say about the Rogue Wave too so it seems I made the right choice.