Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Lexan vs. Acrylic

This post originally appeared on Windborne in Puget Sound

If you are replacing fixed ports on your boat, you will be faced (or should be faced) with the choice between Lexan (a trade name for polycarbonate) and Plexiglass (a trade name for polymethylmethacrylate, aka acrylic).  Here are some features of each which might help you decide which to use:
  • Plexiglass is transparent to UV radiation.  That means that anything inside the boat will be subject to UV degradation if the sun shines thru the window.  That also means that UV radiation passes harmlessly thru Plexiglass without having any effect on it.
  • Lexan is opaque to UV radiation.  This means that it protects the boat interior from the ravages of UV.  But because the UV radiation is stopped by the Lexan, that means the Lexan is subject to the damage that it is preventing on the interior.  UV damage to Lexan causes it to turn yellowish brown and craze (millions of tiny surface cracks).  The effect is that your view eventually is destroyed:
    Lexan window after 7 years
  • Plexiglass eventually crazes too...  But after a much longer time period.  However it does not turn brown or discolor.
    This Plexiglass port is 38 years old.
  • Lexan is often touted as the "bullet-proof plastic":

    Tensile strength σΜ at 23°CMPa 60-70 80
    Flexural strength σbB MPa 90 115
    Impact strength acU (Charpy) kJ/m2 35 15
    • Lexan 9030 Sheet Product Datasheet
    • Plexiglas GS Product Description

    In tensile strength and flexural strength Plexiglass is stronger than Lexan.  Plexiglass is weaker than Lexan only in impact strength (resistance to penetration by a quickly moving sharp object). 

    These comparisons are made on virgin material in both cases.  I have no data, but all that surface crazing has to act as stress risers and therefore crack starters - much earlier for Lexan than for Plexiglass.
  • Lexan is two to three times more expensive than Plexiglass.
  • Lexan is less scratch-resistant than Plexiglass
So, as in many things in life, the choice is not as clear (pun unintentional) as it might seem at first blush.  As the midway carny says, "You pays your money and you takes your chances."

I will say tho, that for Eolian, we have chosen Plexiglass whenever it was available.

    Tuesday, November 22, 2016

    Barbecue regulator tether

    Please welcome new contributors Rich & Jeni, who sail their Tayana 37, s/v Ramble On.   As their first contribution, here's a simple and effective (the best kind!) time and money saver:

    Sorry for the lack of a witty title; I just don’t have the energy right now.

    If you have a boat you probably like to be outdoors.  And if you enjoy being outdoors, you probably also like to cook outdoors.  Ergo, if you have a boat and you like to cook outdoors, then you probably have a barbecue mounted to your rail.  If not, you have no idea what you’re missing.  We cook outdoors a lot.  In the summer it helps keep the boat cool by not cooking inside.  Pretty much, if it’s not raining I’m Q’ing.

    Jeni and I were going to “Q” the other night, in fact.  And that’s why I have to say it was bound to happen eventually.  I’m actually quite surprised it didn’t happen sooner.  And if you have one of those cute little marine barbecues with the cheesy pressure regulator, if it hasn’t already happened to you it probably will.  When I pulled off the cover to warm up the grill, plop.  Glug, glug, glug.  Off popped the regulator, and straight to the bottom it went.

    “Hey, wanna order take out tonight?”

    In two days we had our replacement regulator from Port Supply and upon further inspection I realized a small tab in the casting.  I’m not sure if this was the manufacturers intention or not, but this appeared to be the perfect spot to crimp a stainless steel safety cable.  A trip to the hardware store and $4 later we were back in business.  A small carabiner on the other end clipped right into the rail mount handle.  It’s as if it was meant to be by design, even though the manufacturer makes no mention of it in its instructions, nor do they sell some overpriced version as an “accessory”.

    Needless to say, my regulator (and hopefully yours now) will not be going for a swim.

    Tuesday, November 15, 2016

    Re-bedding One Stanchion

    It's getting cold on the East Coast, so here's a post that Rick on s/v Cay of Sea did last summer. Rick always shows excellent attention to detail...
    I have been suspecting this particular stanchion as the source for leaks for quite a while. At one point 6 or 7 years ago, when we were in a shallower slip in this same marina, we had a super low tide. The boat grounded out and leaned over against the finger pier and, I think, slightly bent this particular stanchion. I’ve never re bedded any of the stanchions, so this was the original compound underneath. Stanchions are not designed to be pulled on, and certainly not designed to withstand having the weight of the boat push them into a pier, so I believe that is when it began to leak a good bit.  It may have leaked some before then.

    Regardless, I decided that I wasn’t going to hide from the heat today, and ventured down to the boat with my large fan in hand. I set it up on the galley counter, and it made a huge difference in tolerating the heat today. I also put up all my hot-weather canvas and kept as much sun off the boat and myself as possible.

    Artificial breeze was critical today.
    Artificial breeze was critical today.

    The fasteners were impossible to access with the hull liner in the way. I’ve thought about this project for a long time, and had determined that the only way to gain access to the fasteners under the side deck was to cut a window in the liner. I had to remove the stove from this space, and the fold-up table it sits on/sits behind. I moved all the cushions to the v-berth to keep them out of the dust, then donned my respirator and started cutting. Took about 90 seconds.

    A 5-inch grinder with a cut-off wheel makes this so easy.
    A 5-inch grinder with a cut-off wheel makes this so easy.

    This is the view up behind the window in the liner. I've already removed the fasteners and stanchion.
    This is the view up behind the window in the liner. I’ve already removed the fasteners and stanchion.

    The window made access easy.  I had the fasteners off and the stanchion removed in another 10 minutes. The caulking underneath was insufficient to begin with. I mean, there really wasn’t enough of the old compound down there to begin with.  I scraped it off and cleaned up the surfaces with a wire wheel. There are dissimilar metals involved, so there is also quite a bit of corrosion both on the spacer plate and the toe rail.

    Lots of pitting here. Aluminum against steel, with stainless fasteners, frequently dowsed with salt water.
    Lots of pitting here. Aluminum against steel, with stainless fasteners, frequently dowsed with salt water. . .

    I forgot to photograph the section of the rail before filling with epoxy. It was significantly corroded away, and I had to fill it to make a flat surface for sealing.
    I forgot to photograph the section of the rail before filling with epoxy. It was significantly corroded away, and I had to fill it to make a flat surface for sealing.

    You can better see the extent of the filled area in this photo.
    You can better see the extent of the filled area in this photo, now that the excess epoxy has been sanded away.

    I re-bedded the stanchion with butyl, after straightening the stanchion. I was not able to get it completely straight, but it’s much better than before, and I don’t think anyone can tell it was bent now.

    You can see a very slight bend to the left at the bottom of the stanchion. It was much more pronounced before I straightened it.
    You can see a very slight bend to the left at the bottom of the stanchion.

    I refastened the stanchion with lots of butyl between it and the deck, bedded the screw heads and tightened it down. I got lots of squeeze-out, which is good. That’s how you know you’ve used enough bedding compound. After that, I made a cover panel for the window in the liner. I had some fiberglass left from when I enlarged my engine compartment a couple of years ago, and it was the right thickness and color.

    Not a perfect piece, but it will be pretty much out of sight anyway.
    Not a perfect piece, but it will be pretty much out of sight anyway.

    I spent another 15 minutes picking up and cleaning up, but left most of the tools out for re-bedding the next suspect stanchion in my quest to stop leaks. Here’s a photo of the remounted stanchion. It used to lean inward toward the coach-roof, but it looks straight now.

    It' s the first stanchion forward of the blue cloth in the toe rail.
    It’ s the first stanchion forward of the blue cloth in the toe rail.

    Tuesday, November 1, 2016

    Bimini Roof Canvas Completed

    This post originally appeared on Windborne in Puget Sound

    Finally, I have completed the last of the three cockpit bimini canvas pieces:  the center section.  This panel is zipped to both the forward and aft roof panels, meaning that its size is completely dependent on the placement of those two panels; they had to be completed first.

    But because the old center panel had to continue in service until the new one was fabricated, the forward and aft panels had to be properly located.  In other words, because I did this work in sections instead of all at once, the new roof duplicated the old completely...

    Because the old center panel fit perfectly, rather than pattern the center panel with DuraSkrim I chose to simply roll out some Sunbrella and trace the outline of the old center onto it.  The size is not terribly critical; instead it is the zipper placement that is crucial.  That being the case, I did a lot of measuring and annotating on the old center panel:

    Again, placement of the zippers is what controls the fit here.  So I measured outside-tooth to outside-tooth at perhaps a dozen stations along the old panel.  Then, when applying the zippers to the new panel, I duplicated the station locations and ensured that the zippers conformed to the measurements.

    I have learned thru this project that zipper position in a lengthwise direction is also critical, especially when there are pairs spanning the length.  To make this work out properly, I followed these steps:
    • Locate the centers of both the old and new panels by folding in half, and mark them.
    • Install the old center panel, and transfer the center markings to the forward and aft panels.
    • Work on one edge at a time, I started with the aft edge.  Install one of the new zipper halves to the aft panel zipper.
    • Hold up the new panel, matching the center marks.
    • While continuing to hold the panel in place (you may need help here), make match marks on the new zipper half and the center panel an inch or three away from the center.
    • Remove the new zipper half from the aft panel.
    • Position the new zipper half on the new panel using SeamStick basting tape, matching up the match marks.  Note:  at this point, with no other reference it is not possible to exactly locate the zipper width-wise.  Instead, using another new zipper half on the opposite edge, simply ensure that zipper placement will allow both zippers to fall approximately equally on the fabric.  Exact spacing at the measurement stations will be established when the opposite zipper half is installed.
    • After sewing the first zipper half, take the panel out to the cockpit again and zip it up.  Install another new zipper half on the other aft panel zipper.
    • Pull the panel firm athwartship, and make match marks on the new zipper half.
    • Following the steps above, install the second zipper half.
    At this point, zipper installation is half done, with the attachment to the aft panel complete.  Complete the forward zippers in a similar fashion, with these two modifications:
    • When establishing the position of the first zipper half, match up the centerline marks as before.  But this time, slide the panel a little port and starboard, watching for wrinkles to form and dissipate.  You are looking for that placement where there are no wrinkles - it may fall when the centerlines are not quite matched up.  Match mark the zipper half and the new panel.
    • When sticking the zippers in place with SeamStick, be very, very careful to get the outside-tooth to outside-tooth spacing at the measurement stations the same as on the old panel.

    Ta DAAA!

    So, what did it all cost?  I'm afraid I can't be entirely accurate because I used some supplies from earlier projects.  But what I can do is to make an estimate on materials costs, based on the Sailrite catalog I have here on board (check the Sailrite website for current prices):

    Item Quantity Unit Cost Extended Cost
    Sunbrella, Erin Green, 46" wide 10 yd 16.95 169.50
    DuraSkrim 10 yd 2.95   29.50
    Binding tape, 3/4", Erin Green 80 ft 0.50   40.00
    Zipper, #10, 48" 6 7.50   45.00
    Zipper, #10, 60" 4 8.70   34.80
    Zipper Pull, #10 10 1.70   17.00
    Zipper Stop, Stainless 2 packs of 10 2.50     5.00
    Common Sense fastener, male 50 0.60   30.00
    Common Sense fastener, eyelet 17 0.195     3.32
    Rivet 100 0.15   15.00
    Seam Stick, 3/8" 1 8.95     8.95
    Seam Stick, 1/4" 1 6.95     6.95


    I also bought some tools that, tho they were used in this project, will be used again in future projects.  I don't know if these should be charged against this project or not (you decide), but you should definitely have these tools to do the work:

    Item Cost
    Rivet Setting Tool Kit 89.00
    Common Sense Eyelet Hole Punch 69.50

    I did not include the cost of the thread because I bought a large spool years ago and have been using it since.  You definitely want the Teflon Tenara thread or equivalent - it will outlast your boat.  Don't settle for polyester thread.

    And finally, you need a heavy-duty sewing machine to handle this.  I heartily recommend the Sailrite LS-1 or LSZ-1 (zig zag - if you intend to sew sails).  They are expensive and worth it.  We got ours used for less than half the new cost.

    Tuesday, October 25, 2016

    Solar Power, And More

    We haven't heard much from Brian over at Dock Six. But he's been busy...

          "But where we are going, Oh it hasn't fully, fully been told..."
                                                   -Ruby Velle and the Soulphonics

    So, where were we?

    Right:  Boat is launched, boat is sinking, boat stops sinking, yadda yadda, Karma glides into her slip with no further drama.

    With one boat launched successfully, it was on to the rest of the fleet.   With a little help from the crew of  Boats....

    ...we got our commuter dinghy, Chameleon, to the marina and into the water.

    Then, we tackled Ereni, giving SWMBO's Bluenose a quick and dirty makeover... and a black nose in the process, to cover some of that quick and dirty.

      Ereni is due for some serious  hull refitting this winter-  the brightwork needs to be brightened, the hull needs to have some blisters ground/filled/faired, and then we'll refinish the deck and topsides.  But, we think we'll keep the nose treatment, and add some nose art- SWMBO and I agree we both kinda dig the vintage "rat rod' vibe.

    Over the two full years we've lived with, and aboard, Karma, we've developed a pretty good idea of our wants and needs, and have fulfilled many of them along the way...

    ... and created new ones.

    Our reefer install has been a well-received luxury, with an unintended consequence - power insecurity.

    We have 3 40w solar panels that live on top of our bimini, feeding a single Group 24 house battery and a Group 24 starting battery, also charged by the 35 amp alternator on the inboard diesel. Last season, this system proved sufficient....

    ... barely.

    If the solar panels underperformed for more than a day, some motorsailing was required to top up the batteries.  We were careful about energy usage, charging electronics only during the middle of the day, being judicious about illumination, vhf and instrument use, etc. and never really had a power crisis...

    But still....

    This season, I made the decision to add more power and more power storage. Here's the plan:  add another 100w of solar power, in the form of a semi-flexible 100 w panel installed on the dodger, then combine the 2 Group 24 batteries already onboard into a two battery house bank, and add a third Group 24 battery for starting, locating it just aft of the transmission in the engine bay. Next year, we will replace the group 24 house bank with a pair of 230 amp hour 6 volt GC-1 golf cart batteries, if we find that the 160 amp hour capacity of the house bank is not enough We decided to isolate the starting battery from the charging circuit- we opted to install a Xantrex Digital Echo Charge.

    To quote the manual:

    The Digital echo-charge automatically switches ON and OFF, charging a starter or auxiliary battery without affecting the main house battery bank. The maximum charge current is 15 amps when the starting battery is 1/2 volt to 1 volt DC less than the house battery...  When the input voltage is 13.0/25.5 volts DC or higher, echo-charge automatically switches ON. The LED glows a steady green. When the input voltage is lower than 13.0/25.5 volts, the echo-charge automatically switches OFF, and the LED blinks green. The output voltage of echocharge is limited to 14.4/28.8 volts. When it reaches 14.4/28.8 volts, the charge current will decrease, maintaining a float condition."

      So, I bought a bunch of obscenely priced cable, less obscenely priced wire, a battery and assorted electrical parts and pieces and tools and stuff and dug in, on the hottest day of the year....

      ... and everything largely went together better than I expected....

    .... once I pretty much gave up on the original plan.

    I cut and stripped and crimped new cable to wire the existing batteries in parallel...

     ...and that is pretty much where the original plan ended.

    A "semi-flexible 100w panel installed on the dodger" became a semi-flexible 100w panel mounted on the foredeck. temporarily laying the panel on top of the dodger and measuring output demonstrated that there was just too much shading for the panel to generate anywhere near it's potential output. Because of our boat's design, and our usage, the foredeck gets little traffic, so I decided to see if the "you can even walk on it' claims about semi-flexible panels were true.

       The install was pretty straightforward, once I wrapped my head around drilling 3/4" holes in the deck.  An hours worth of work saw two of the aforementioned holes drilled, some wires run, and the panel fastened to the deck with, and all fittings sealed with, 3M 4200.

    The new panel got a new charge controller, to complement the existing bimini bank charge controllers, then the controller output for both the bimini solar bank and the foredeck solar bank were driven to a distribution block and thence to batteries...

       ...Which were not happy at all.

        Note to self:  always check polarity before connecting 100 w panel to new charge controller.

        Then check it again.

        Then check it again.

        I didn't, and wired the panel to the charge controller backward, and didn't realize my error for 48 hours.

       I bought a new charge controller, and now the batteries happily charged away...  but wouldn't hold a charge.  Well, 5 year old lead acid batteries are due for replacement anyway, so "Next year, we will replace the group 24 house bank with a pair of 230 amp hour 6 volt GC-1 golf cart batteries" became "TODAY we will replace the group 24 house bank with a pair of 230 amp hour 6 volt GC-1 golf cart batteries."

       (Note to those of you playing along at home:  Golf cart batteries are about the same width and length as Group 24 batteries...but about twice the weight.  Getting them up onto the boat, then down into the boat, then down further into the battery bay, was an exercise, that in retrospect, would be less danger-filled if one is wearing steel-toed boots, not flip-flops.)

    So, new batteries go in, cabling is connected,  and power flows!  Meanwhile, it becomes apparent that "add a third Group 24 battery for starting, locating it just aft of the transmission in the engine bay." is a non-starter.  So, the new batery gets located slightly farther aft, under the aft cabin berth.  The Xantrex Echo Charge install was a breeze- the instructions were clear, the manual was well-written, and all of the supplied bits and bobs were of good quality.

      Was it worth it?


       We now generate more power than we can use  and store most days, and have had no problem keeping ahead of our loads even during our very hot July, when our refrigerator was running much more often than it's typical 30% duty cycle.

        As we have realized the need for more power, we also have been grappling with our need for more space. the S2 8.0C is a cleverly designed boat, pulling 26 feet of accomodations out of a 26 foot LOA hull...  but that means that on-deck and cockpit storage is  non-existent. Coaming pockets would be a big help for line management- sheets would no longer be all over the cockpit benches and underass, an uncomfortable proposition during a crash tack.  I did some measuring, found a pair of fire extinguisher pockets in the clearance rack at a local chandlery, and a little mahogany and varnish and cutting larger holes in our boat and screws later...

    Our cockpit is slightly more organized.

    Also seen in the above picture, behind the compact sportsdawg, you can kinda spy that scrap mahogany was also used to craft risers, to raise the height of the bimini slightly.

    Below, little has changed, other than cushions that are 1" thicker and comfier, and new Low-Buck back cushions and throw pillows have been added:

       We lucked out at our local grocery store (I shit you not- the grocery store)  and found outdoor furniture cushions and pillows in the right colours,  and amazingly, the right size, for half price.

        Life is good, and more comfortable than ever...and the sailing's not too bad either.

    Thanks for having a read.  Pass the word-  Please "Talk the Dock!"

    Monday, October 17, 2016

    Put the ‘Fun’ in Functional Storage with this Cheap Trick

    Over on s/v Galapagos Michael & Melissa continue making their boat into a home...
    I was complaining of being bored the other day. We won’t be moving aboard until at least the end of the summer, and we don’t get to have a long cruise this year because of Mike’s work. That pesky annual leave thing is going to be a thing of the past soon enough, so we’re content to wait out the remaining months doing a little bit here and there to move forward with our plan. The house and yard are in maintenance mode, my practice continues to slowly wind down. I’m fine with living in the liminal space, as a rule. But finding myself kind of wandering aimlessly around the house trying to look busy just isn’t my style.  It’s like don’t know what to do with myself. I decided I needed a few small but useful projects for the boat, starting with that cool cockpit mat.


    The rumpus room in the v berth is taking shape and we will be using this cabin to watch movies and TV shows we like. To move forward with that plan,  I sorted and stored our DVD collection, throwing out all the colorful plastic containers and storing each DVD in its own plastic sleeve. I then labeled and stored them in nifty snap-locking containers I bought at JoAnn Fabric for 8$ apiece. I know many cruisers store hundreds of movies on thumb drives and maybe that will be in our future. For now, I don’t have the patience for that. This was quick and easy and finding what we want will also be quick and easy.

    Our midship cabin got refurbished, too, with the addition of a layer of latex to the foam, and new upholstery.
    You’ll be glad to know that the aft cabin project is moving along. We took possession of the finished mattresses this week and I carted them down to the boat to see that they fit before getting them covered. It’s probably overkill, but since I didn’t have any old foam to take in to use as patterns ( I had made my own paper pattern) I just wanted to eyeball the fit before covering. They fit beautifully and allow us to sleep any old which way. The bed is going to be very comfortable and will last for 20 years if we protect them. The next task is to bring them home so I can cover them in that PUL fabric, then take them for their final upholstery. After that, I get to make custom covers and sheets. Won’t that be a creative undertaking! I do believe our goal of having a totally comfortable, sleepable aft cabin is coming to fruition.

    So much nicer than what we had before!

    The trusty Brother sewing machine has been dusted off and I am rediscovering my love of sewing. As we are now envisioning being able to live with that aft cabin, it was time to turn my thoughts to how we would store our clothing there. We have one hanging locker, a small set of drawers, and a small drawer under each side of the bunk. There are shelves along the hull on each side and I’d like to keep them uncluttered. I would like to keep both clothing and bedding in that cabin and I wanted that storage to be easy to access because otherwise I am tempted to leave my clothes laying around draped decoratively on doorknobs and corners of objects. I know it’s a long shot, but we both really want to keep a neat and tidy look in our boat. It just feels better that way.

    Cuteness overload!
    Cuteness overload!

    I had been considering colorful soft sided baskets to keep clothing in but where to put them was in question. Instead I opted to make fabric bags that look like pillow shams of different sizes and shapes. I bought 1.5 yards of this super cute owl outdoor fabric on sale for 12$/yard.  Then I found a 3$ remnant of orange fabric that matched. I purchased thread, some velcro, and a set of nylon upholstery zippers.  Total cost for materials was about 40$. For that price, plus some fun time at the sewing machine, I have a selection of sizes of storage containers for soft things like bedding and clothing: 2 large for blankets and such, two standard sized bolsters for shorts, tops, bathing suits, and three additional sizes – 7 storage units in all. These can be stored right in sight on the beds as pillows. The fabric is water repellant and UV protected. Plus…owls! Seriously, you can fit a ton of stuff in these things. Functional, practical, and fun!

    The largest bag is 15″ x 26″, for scale purposes.

    Mike is working on a couple of interior projects that he will write about soon. Our next joint project will be putting shelving in most, if not all, of the hanging lockers. We have a generous amount of hanging locker space, most of which is completely wasted because we don’t have that many clothes that hang. We already know that this job is going to be a pain in the hind end, so if you have any shortcut tips on how to make it easier, do tell. We want the shelves to take full advantage of all space, so that means they will have have to be custom cut.

    This currently holds two blankets and two pillows. It would work great in the forward cabin as an extra pillow for lounging.

    Oh, and guess what! We get to go on a short cruise over the Memorial Day weekend. We’ve got friends to stay with Skippy, so Thursday night we are out of here! Yay! We are both so ready for that.
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