Monday, February 23, 2015

A Small Little Project

Oooo!  Shiny!

Our rail-mounted BBQ table (it's really a fish cleaning table, but Fish Do Not Fear Me...) was really showing its age. The plastic had suffered extreme UV degredation -  the surface had turned porous and chalky.  And with use, grease and other food stuff soaked into the porosity and then bacteria went to town, meaning that it was porous, chalky and spattered with black spots and streaks.  Truly ugly.  And unsanitary.

So, not too long ago when I went to a garage sale at San Juan Yachts (yup, the place that made the San Juan sailboats...  now they are only making RIBs), I bought a scrap of Starboard for cheap.  Then I cut it up with my trusty little table saw, copying the shapes of the pieces in the old table.  I even used the same screws to put it together.

Not bad for $15 and a couple of hours work in the shop!


Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Another Chemistry Experiment

Remember these spots?

Look close - there's algae there too

Well, I did some research - it is such a wonderful thing to have the bulk of Man's knowledge at your fingertips!

Guess what?  Algae, moss and lichens suffer grave bodily harm when exposed to a particular class of chemicals.  Well I guess that part is not a surprise.  But this part is:  that family of chemicals is relatively harmless to virtually everything else.  In fact, it is the active ingredient in Bactine:  benzalkonium chlorides.

Now here's the next surprise.  No, you don't have to buy 100 bottles of Bactine and distill it to get the benzalkonium chloride - all you have to do is go to the pool/spa section of your local hardware store and buy a bottle of HTH Algae Guard:

And it was less than $10!

This is a 30% solution, and yet a 2% solution is supposed to be adequate for killing algae/moss/lichen.  

So, the first test is a kind Hippocratic one.  Does this stuff harm the Sunbrella canvas on the boat?  I uncapped the bottle and put some of the straight 30% solution directly on a scrap of our Sunbrella and left it to dry.  After rinsing it out 24 hours later, there was no detectable effect on the canvas.  At 30%, the solution has a blue tint - I suspect this is just a dye for appearances, given its intended use. Our canvas is green - if yours is white, you might want to repeat this test.

The next test is underway right now.  I made up a 6:1 dilution (5%) solution in a hand spray bottle and applied it to a section of the deck with the lichen, and a portion of our canvas which has a liberal infestation of winter algae on the outside.  I also applied it to the inside of the canvas directly over our galley vent where we get the most amazing colonies of...  well, life I guess, apparently feeding on whatever the vent delivers to the canvas.

I'll let you know how this works out...


Monday, February 9, 2015

The Right Tool For The Job

If you're on a modern boat (and maybe even if you're not...), your running rigging is probably double braid line.  And the chances are excellent that that each length of that double braid has an eye splice at one end.  So here's the Big Question:

Have you ever made an eye splice in double braid?

I have made lots of them, and therefore can offer this advice to you:  This is one of those jobs for which having the right tool makes all the difference.

First easy eye splice
Up until the eye splice above, I had used a small tool set that I got at West Marine.  I chose it primarily because it was inexpensive.  And I made a lot of splices with it.  None were easy.  The directions were confusing (actually, I'm convinced they were flat wrong), and the tool was less than inadequate.  But I got the splices made with the help of lots of beer, the mariner's task lubricant.

If you've ever attempted an eye splice in old line, you will know that it is nearly impossible.  The line is stiff, is loaded with dried algae and salt, and has lost the lubricant the factory applies during it's construction.

And yet, I made the splice above in old line (actually some old 3/8" Stayset that used to run our furler).  And I can say that this was the easiest eye splice I have ever made, bar none.  Old line or new.


Because I had the right tool for the job.

And what tool, pray tell, is that?

The right tool for splicing braided line
The right tool for splicing double braid is Brion Toss's Splicing Wand.  We picked one up when we made a pilgrimage to Brion Toss's rigging shop in Port Townsend, but you can order them online too.

Splicing with this tool is nothing like using my old ones.  How do I make the comparison?   Let's try this:  splicing double braid without this tool is like cutting a board with a hammer and a screw driver.  You can do it, but it takes a lot longer, is a lot more work, and leaves you with a sub-optimal result.

The working end
This is one of those devices that is so ingenious and yet so simple that you will wonder why it took so long for someone to think it up.  How does it work?  Brion's description says it best:
The Splicing Wand is basically a long tube containing a hidden snare.  You slide the tool into the rope, grab the end you want to tuck, and slide the tool out.  There's a specially-shaped tip on the tube, to keep you from snagging yarns along the way, an ingenious mechanism in the handle, to hold the tube in place while you work.  You can clamp the tool in a vise if you want, leaving both hands free to deal with the rope, there's no taping or un-taping, no fid lengths to decipher, and very little physical effort needed to tuck.
 If you have double braid line on your boat, you need this tool.  I'll say it again:  Using Brion's tool, splicing old line was far easier than splicing new line was with my old tools.  I don't think I can say it any better than that.

Why don't you have one?


Monday, February 2, 2015

Parting The Veil

Here on Eolian, we are not television mavens.

Nevertheless, there are occasions when we like to be able to view television (NFC playoffs, Superbowl anyone?).  But when we moved Eolian from what was essentially downtown Seattle up here to Anacortes, we moved out of the over-the-air broadcast area.  Yes, that's right - here at the dock at Cap Sante Marina we receive exactly zero stations.  Zip.  Nada.  With our ancient Shakespeare SeaWatch 2015, that is.

So last fall I looked into the new offerings in the marine TV antenna market.  Surprisingly, the 2015 was still being offered, but we already knew how this performed.  And there were newer models too.  But ignoring the cheap Chinese ones left either a Winegard or a Shakespeare (which was also manufactured by Winegard).  And both of these had (what for us) was a difficulty.

The power supply for our existing 2015 uses either 12V or 110V.  On Eolian, it was the 110V option that was used in the original installation, presumably because there is no 12V nearby.  But both the new antennas offered only 12V power supplies - and had an overly elaborate switching enclosure that was designed to be installed in a standard switch wiring box like you'd find in a house... or an RV.

So I equivocated.  But as of the first of the year, Shakespeare abandoned Winegard and began manufacturing their own antennas.  And with these new antennas, the elaborate switch box is gone, and we are back to a power supply that can use either 110V or 12V.  Hallelujah!

(That's a temporary coax hookup)
As I mentioned above, Anacortes, is a far-far-fringe area for TV reception.  Our best shot was a couple of repeaters on top of Mount Constitution on Orcas Island.  But because of the terrain surrounding the marina basin, we are pretty well shadowed even from them...  and Seattle stations are irredeemably distant.  So, in my wildest expectations, I had hoped that we might be able to part the digital veil just enough to see those repeaters on Orcas Island.  Maybe.

Part the veil?  Holy cow!  It ripped wide open.  We get a total of 18 channels!  Yep, those from Orcas and more, and several from Canada as well. 

Can I recommend the new self-sourced Shakespeare antennas?  Absolutely and without reservation!
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