The Offshore Voyaging Reference Site

Tips, Tricks & Thoughts:

Tips

  • Great Source For Epoxy Use Tips

    While researching for a discussion we were having about epoxy shrinkage (or not), I came across a great site with a ton of information and tips on using epoxy resin to make repairs. I particularly liked their myth-busting post.

    Despite having used epoxy for over 40 years, including for a refit that turned into a rebuild of a boat that I understand is still around four decades after I fixed her with West System epoxy, I learned several things from the above-linked site.

    Highly recommended.


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  • RIP Good Old Boat Magazine

    I have been a subscriber to Good Old Boat magazine ever since I had lunch with Mike, the then editor, while attending the 2019 Annapolis Sailboat Show.

    I signed up first because I liked Mike and felt that he was a genuine guy who had done real cruising and really wanted to help get other people out there.

    That said, I did kid him mercilessly about the magazine encouraging the inexperienced and unsuspecting into years-long bank-account draining refits. He kinda agreed by saying:

    Yeah, I’m an enabler.

    But, on the other hand, GOB inspired a whole generation to find an old boat that would otherwise end up on the scrap heap, fix it, and get out there sailing and cruising.

    And, best of all, the boats they wrote about were simple, small, and mostly wholesome—that was my second reason for paying my annual subscription every year.

    I’m guessing that literally thousands of people, who wouldn’t have otherwise, experienced the joy of sailing and cruising thanks to GOB.

    There is so much cheap classic plastic out there that it’s now possible to buy a functional 30-foot sailboat for $1500 that will take a couple out for a weekend, and even as far as Catalina Island.

    Michael Robertson, then editor of GOB, at lunch

    And now it’s over. Another victim of the glib YouTube channels and, I suspect, today’s fixation on having it all, and living large, rather than just getting out there in what we can afford. I’m saddened.

    But here’s a bright spot. Good Old Boat went out with class. Instead of just walking away from those who had unused time left on their subscriptions, like most mags that go bust do, they just sent us subscribers a huge 4GB Zip of every single issue of GOB since the beginning in June of 1998.

    Worth every penny I have left in my subscription, and then some. The boat reviews alone are gold. I will treasure the archive.

    Thanks to Good Old Boat, a class act to the end.

    Further Reading


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  • WakeSpeed And Victron Get Even More Cuddly

    I’m on the Beta test list for software Upgrades to the WakeSpeed WS 500 alternator regulator.

    Not because I like testing new software—only marginally more fun than having a root canal, in my view—but because I’m a huge fan of the regulator and firmly believe it’s currently by far the best option for charging most battery banks on offshore yachts, both lead acid and lithium, and so I like to keep up with what my friend-over-the-phone and chief-of-all-things-technical at Wakespeed, Al Thomason, has been cooking up.

    The latest release announced that the WakeSpeed will now work with Victron Distribution Voltage and Current Control (DVCC). This matters a lot more than it might appear to at first glance:


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  • Cover The Negative Terminal On Batteries

    One of the things I love about my job is that, despite having maintained and refitted boats for over 50 years, I’m still learning, often as the result of the discussions we have in the comments.

    This has certainly been the case here as I think about reducing short-out risk on batteries, particularly lithium. One realization leads to another.


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  • Another Danger With MRBF Fuses

    The great discussion on my recent article about proper battery fusing and particularly the potential danger of MRBF fuses failing closed, instead of opening the circuit in the event of a short circuit, reminded me about another big downside of these kinds of fuses that actually negates the supposed advantage of being able to install them on the battery terminal.

    Take a look at the graphic above. As you can see, the fuse comes with a little rubber cap that I bet is there to satisfy the ABYC requirement to insulate all battery positive terminals from possible shorts.

    First off, having used these fuses on the small lead-acid bank on our J/109, I can tell you that little cap is pretty useless. It refuses to stay in place and does not properly cover the exposed parts of the battery lug.

    Wait, it gets worse: The other problem is how the heck can we insulate the metal part that bolts to the battery terminal?


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  • Insurance Claim Denied

    Matt Marsh sent me a link to a concerning article over at Loose Cannon about a US Supreme Court decision.

    Well worth your time (see Further Reading). For me the two big takeaways are:

    (more…)

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  • Site Improvements—Login

    It used to be that:

    • if you were an active member,
    • but your login had expired,
    • and you visited a paywalled Article or Tip,
    • you then had to login,
    • but you were returned to your Account page and then had to find your way back to the Article.

    Super irritating!

    To fix this I have added a login form that appears on the Article, so you can log in without leaving, and as soon as you do the whole Article appears.

    Much better!

    If you notice any other irritations like this, please leave a comment below. I’m knocking them down one by one.


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  • Under-Torquing Is Dangerous, Too

    Seems like it’s torque week here at AAC; actually, it’s torque month since we have a fascinating two-part series coming from Eric on understanding torque as it relates to engines and transmissions.

    Anyway, in the last tip I mentioned the dangers of over-torquing: wring off a fastening or weaken it so it fails later under load.

    But here’s something that I only relatively recently really wrapped my aging brain around: the danger of under-torquing fastenings, other than the obvious one of them coming loose.


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  • Why We Need a Torque Screwdriver

    Stainless steel is not as strong as it looks. For example, the recommended torque on a 10-24 (~5mm) 316 SS machine screw is just 23.8 inch-pounds (2.68 newton-metres).


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  • Lithium Start Batteries

    There are now battery vendors advertising drop-in lithium batteries rated for engine starting.

    If ever there was a solution looking for a problem, this has gotta be it.


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  • Getting The Most From AAC

    Having got the new site design built, installed, and pretty much debugged, I finally got to a project that has been on my todo list for ages: a video tour of AAC.

    I edited viciously to keep it down to 5 minutes.

    It’s mainly targeted at new members and those considering joining, but please have a watch anyway and tell us what you think in a comment.

    I’m particularly interested to know if you learned anything new about how to use the site, and if so, what it was.

    My thinking is that if you have been a member for a while, but still discover a new feature in the video, it might indicate that said feature is not intuitive enough and needs work.

    Here it is:


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  • Gales at Anchor Are Not That Scary

    I don’t watch a lot of videos, in fact hardly any, but I was searching for something else when I stumbled on this video over at S/V Delos.

    Now, there is no question that hurricanes are scary. You don’t have to tell a guy from Bermuda, who cruised the western North Atlantic for over 50 years, and now lives in an area of Canada sticking out into the frequent path of hurricanes, that.

    And the couple on Delos were seamanlike in moving quickly to find a good place to ride the blow out, as well as being flexible in changing their plans when the storm wobbled.

    All good.

    But the majority of the video is about riding out the storm and is filled with drama.

    (more…)

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  • Is Boat Electric Drive Green or Greenwashing?

    Here at AAC we are all over anything that will reduce carbon emissions, but we also don’t like the pretengineering so prevalent in the electric drive business.


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  • Great Source: How Lithium Batteries Charge

    I have been deep into researching lithium batteries, and particularly how they charge, while writing new buyer’s guide chapters for our Electrical Systems Online Book.

    One of the best sources I have read is a post by Eric Bretscher, over at Nordkyn Design.

    Before you go read it, a few thoughts:


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  • Searching Cruising Topics

    More Search

    Given that we have some 100 Article and 30 Tip Topics, categorizing our over 1200 chapters and Articles and nearly 250 Tips, I just added a search box to the Topics page as another way to zero in on what you need.

    Note that this new box searches the titles of the Topics themselves, not the underlying content, which can be searched using the magnifying glass icon on the menu.

    Give it a try and tell us, in a comment, how you like it.


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  • Get Sticky and Go Home

    While we are on the subject of fun you can have with epoxy—see the last Tip—here’s another.


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  • We Can Never Have Too Many Gloves

    I have been doing a bunch of work on our J/109 with epoxy resin lately. Nothing structural, just mounting some hardware, and improving the mounting for a couple of turning blocks. Stuff that requires replacing core and bonding backer plates.

    This kind of work involves handling things covered in epoxy and then handling tools…and then handling things covered in epoxy…repeat as necessary…

    And then moving around the boat to the next place that needs to get sticky.


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  • Search Within Online Books

    Better Search

    The main reason I put in the months of work to write a new custom theme for AAC was to make further improvements way easier to do.

    One of the first to see the light of day is search restricted to the Online Books, or better yet, an individual Online Book.

    Here’s an example of what an advance this is:

    • If we search on “anchor shackle” we get over 30 Articles, and several Tips.
    • But if we do the same search, restricted to the Anchoring Book, we get just 18 results, most of which are relevant to the decision of which shackles to buy.

    You can access this new feature either on the Books or Advanced Search screens.

    This is just the start of improvements to searching that we are planning. Suggestions welcome in a comment.


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  • Source For Custom Jacklines

    We have long advocated for jacklines made of heavy Dacron webbing, but in recent years it has been difficult to source them already made up.

    But now there is a new vendor offering custom jacklines.

    One suggestion, I would not use their Jackline Assembly, consisting of a shackle and cover. The problem with this approach, aside from the added expense, is that it’s impossible to get the jackline fire-taut that way, and a jackline that’s even slightly loose increases drag risk.

    Not Recommended

    Instead, we recommend ordering the jackline about 6″ short and then tensioning it with a Spectra lashing as we have been doing without problems for decades.

    One other point, I have not inspected these jacklines, particularly the quality of the loop stitching and the gauge of the thread—the thread gauge looks light to me in the photos.

    That said, the good news is that they also sell what looks like our preferred webbing, which has been difficult to source lately, for those who wish to make up their own jacklines or tethers with heavy hand stitching.

    Anyway, I’m going to order a couple of short ones for our J/109 and will report on them when received.

    Thanks to member Todd for the heads up.

    Comments

    This is simply a heads-up about a gear source. If you have thoughts about that, please leave a comment.

    But if you want to discuss person overboard prevention, or the best way to rig jacklines, please do so on the appropriate chapter of our Online Book on the subject, after you have read said chapter:


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  • AAC Menu Improvements

    Fixes

    As happens with any new site design, I’m improving a bunch of little things to make the site easier to use.

    The latest around the menu:

    Sticky Menu

    This design (and the old) have a sticky menu that appears only when we scroll up. The idea is that if we realize we are in the wrong place while reading a long article or comment stream, we will scroll up to get to the menu, but particularly on phones, that can take an age, so the menu appears immediately.

    However, I found that implementation was jittery, with the menu appearing and disappearing at the slightest change in scroll direction, so now we have to scroll up for more than a second for the menu to appear and back down for more than a second for it to disappear.

    Questions?

    While we are thinking about the sticky menu, it struck me that I use it all the time while reading on my phone, but never on a wide screen device like a computer, so I’m thinking about hiding it on wider screens.

    That said, I’m primarily a computer and big tablet user, as well as an old guy used to using scroll bars to get where I want to go, so I’m not typical.

    For example, when I initially put the old site up five years ago I never even thought about a sticky menu until a bunch of phone-reading members explained to me why it was vital for them (thank you).

    So what do you think about removing the sticky menu on wider screens? And if so, should it show on tablets, or just phones?

    Also, does the present sticky menu, after the fix detailed above, need any further improvements?

    Please leave a comment.

    Search Box

    Member John reported that the search box was counterintuitive because, after typing in our query it was logical to then click (or tap) on the search button, but that disappeared the query box—big piss off.

    This is core WordPress behaviour, but that doesn’t make it right, so I wrote script to hide the button when the search entry box is open.

    Question?

    My thinking here is that with the button gone we will naturally hit the return key after typing our query. Do you agree or do I need to do more?

    Please leave a comment.


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  • Q&A—Weather Information In The Southern Hemisphere

    Question

    Member Terence asked:

    When we went to Polynesia, we used Predict Wind. We could get weather in all latitudes. Next year we will again be sailing south of the US Pacific Ocean Prediction Center maps. Need I again use Predict Wind to get what I need? Someone asked the same question about the south Atlantic. I think you did not have an answer. I would like to follow your advice, but I need to figure out how to get information in lower northern latitudes and perhaps south of the equator. Or do I just stay with Predict Wind?

    Answer

    Predictwind is just a tool for downloading and displaying information generated by government models (with some interpolation in inshore areas). So I think it’s easier to first think about the underlying data.

    Once we have that sorted we can pick the tools to get and display the information that best meets our needs.


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  • Just What The World Doesn’t Need

    I generally don’t get political around here, and we have a rule against that in our comment guidelines, but sometimes a situation is so egregious that I simply can’t keep my opinion to myself:


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  • An Interesting Sailboat Electrical System Upgrade Case Study

    Scuttlebutt have an interesting two-part story about upgrading the electrical system in a J/105. Worth a read, even though this is a racing boat.

    To me the takeaways are:

    • How terrible the electrical systems are in production boats, to the point of useless, at least for offshore use. They were running the engine 8 hours a day to keep up with demand!
    • Replacing the stock alternator driven by a single belt is job #1 in any electrical system rebuild.
    • Replacing the standard internal regulator that ramps down charge current way before the batteries (lead or lithium) are even close to charged is part of job #1.
    • Details like properly crimping battery cables are vital.
    • In most cases the best bet with a production boat electrical system is to tear the whole battery and charging system out and start again.
    • Read the manuals, several times.
    • Most of what you see out there on YouTube about lithium is bogus.
    • A dedicated and isolated start battery is the only way to go. Off/one/two/both switches are just silly.
    • Seems like Electromaax has some good kit. I spent a little time on their web site and was impressed.

    All useful, but the biggest takeaways are:

    • Just getting the alternator and regulator right reduced charging from eight hours a day to one.
    • They would have got the same benefit with an appropriately sized lead-acid bank, but it would have been bigger and heavier, so in this case lithium was a clear winner, but only for that reason.
    • Without the alternator and regulator upgrades, upgrading to lithium would have been a total waste of time and money—getting charging right is the key to success.

    Much more on electrical system upgrades:


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  • How To Blow Up Your Alternator

    Anytime I write about batteries and charging someone is bound to bring up one of the clever gadgets that fool a stock alternator into charging at a higher current for longer without resorting to external regulation.

    Some of these gadgets, particularly the VRC-200 from Nordkyn Electronics, are undoubtedly very clever—here’s another one I wrote about.

    And I can certainly see using one of these as a quick and relatively inexpensive way to make the stock alternator charging a small battery bank on a boat used for weekends, and perhaps the occasional week cruise, charge more quickly and efficiently.

    But for an offshore voyaging live-aboard boat, these things are not a good idea.

    Most alternators that come with our engines will not last long if pushed hard day in day out, particularly if trying to charge a large bank (lithium or lead-acid)—stock alternators are simply not designed for that kind of duty cycle.

    That said, the Nordkyn will extend alternator life by monitoring its temperature, but that’s going to mean that most of the time the alternator will not be putting out much because stock OEM alternators heat very quickly as soon as they come under load.

    Of course you could use the Nordkyn with a heavy duty alternator, which would be a good combo.

    But my thinking always has been, and remains, if we are going to the trouble of installing a high-capacity bank, we might as well do the charging right with a rugged alternator designed for the job, installed right, and with an external regulator that won’t be subjected to the heat inside the alternator.

    And then if we are going to do the alternator right, we might as well go the whole hog and do the regulator right too.

    Fun Demo

    By the way, Victron have a fun demo showing how fast they can burn out an alternator when charging lithium batteries. There’s a lot of good stuff to learn here, particularly the counterintuitive fact that low engine RPM will do more damage.

    That said, we offshore boat owners should understand that even a big lead-acid bank can fry alternators too—our 800 Ah at 12 volts (9 kWh) AGM lead-acid battery bank on the McCurdy and Rhodes would happily lap up 250 amps for an hour, at least, if we had had an alternator that big, and regularly sucked 150 amps for two hours out of the alternator we did have.

    Anyway, have a watch, it’s interesting:


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  • Plumb Bows Are Just Another Rule-Caused Fashion

    An exchange between Matt and member Charlie in the comments to Matt’s excellent article got me thinking about the latest design fashion to draw boats with plumb bows.


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