Wednesday, October 27, 2010


Every couple of years I haul my boat to re-apply a coat of nasty toxic ablative antifouling paint. I use a full face respirator, disposable suit, gloves ... the whole works ... in an attempt to minimize my exposure to this stuff. In the back of my mind I always wish there was a better way to protect the bottom; one that does not leave a cloud of toxins floating in the water each time I sponge off the hull.

The latest issue of Good Old Boat Magazine published a letter from Robin Benjamin, who claims a paint called COPPERCOAT is the solution to this problem.The author had his Pacific Seacraft Dana coated with it and swears by the stuff in this Blog .

I've been thinking about hauling my boat home again to re-paint the deck and cockpit areas, as the gel coat has worn thin in places. It would also be a good time to strip and re-paint the bottom, again, this time with COPPERCOAT. The extra expense would be more than offset by the longevity of the product.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010


An interesting ezine on sailing a well-worn Pearson 30 around the Bahamas.... I thoroughly enjoyed it!

Thursday, October 7, 2010


I must be getting old ... this kind of job used to take me a couple of hours at most. This one took a couple of days!!
While attempting to move my stern light from the pushpit to the upright tube on the Navik vane (it was being blocked by the vane) I managed to terminally destroy the light housing. In days gone by I'd cobbled it together with epoxy and liquid electrical tape, but I finally had to let it go. Besides, the lens was in two pieces and leaked salt water all over the electricl connections.

After much searching, I came up with a reasonable  replacement, made by Perko. My only beef with the design:
Who on earth uses #4 screws to attach anything ? !!

Tuesday, September 14, 2010


A couple of years ago I installed an AIS receiver in Sin Tacha, and, connected to my GPS and laptop running Memory Map Navigator, it provides real-time position information on ferry and large shipping traffic. My position is also on my screen, and each target has a 15 minute position vector indicating where it will be at that time. If any of these vectors cross mine, an alarm rings to warn of a possible collision.

As I frequently cross the busy traffic lanes along Juan de Fuca and Haro Straights, I find this little device provides valuable information, allowing me to navigate away from danger involving large ships, towboats, and ferries. Even larger pleasure boats are now using AIS transponders to broadcast their positions. My unit is a receiver only, and does not advise other ships where I am.

Thursday, August 5, 2010


(Please click on any picture for a larger view.)

This year's Rendezvous was at Port Browning Marina, on North Pender Island in the Canadian Gulf Islands. The venue has undergone some great improvements since our last rendezvous there in 2005, including new washroom and shower facilities.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010


OK, the blog is called MOSTLY About Boats, but every now and then I like to throw in a project that may be of general interest.

We live in a home we built ourselves back in the early 80's. Our focus was on energy efficiency, using superior insulation, passive solar gain, solar assisted water heating, and a wood stove for warmth and hot water in the winter. (Our stove, an RSF HF-65, is a massive piece of ingeniously designed welded steel plate, complete with an electric thermostat damper control, 1" stainless steel water coil, and a catalytic combustor unit to reduce emissions.) We have reaped the benefit of these methods for the last 27 years.

Saturday, June 26, 2010


(Please click on any picture for a full-sized version)    (*dodger = eu sprayhood)

I've spent many happy hours in my basement sweat shop doing upholstery work, sail making, and canvas work on an old Pfaff 438 sewing machine. This machine does straight stitch and zig-zag, but has no walking foot, a feature that would be nice to have. But it will sew easily through 7 layers of heavy Dacron, and just as easily through 2 layers of light weight spinnaker cloth.
Several years ago I bought a Lancer 25. I'd never had a boat with a dodger, so thought it might be a good project to tackle. I've seen a few nice looking boats spoiled by ugly canvas work, so my aim was to combine grace with function, and finish with something that added to the boat's beauty, rather than detracting from it.

Armed with Don Casey's book, Canvas Work & Sail Repair, I studied the rudiments of dodger construction, and also built the tubing bender described in the book.

Like most new things I make, trial runs preceded the actual cutting of bought materials. The frame was mocked up from brazed together old electrical conduit, and inexpensive plastic hardware used to attach it to the boat.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

To RADAR or not to RADAR.

Radar has been on my 'wants' list for quite a while, but I managed to procrastinate until last week, when I finally got down to some serious research on the Internet.

After making a list of what I would need it for, I came to the conclusion that a low power (1.5 to 2kW) unit with a LCD display would be just fine.  After much reading I narrowed my choice down to a JRC 1000 MKII , a reasonably priced entry level model that would do all I needed it to.

The radome is only 12" in diameter, which makes it a nice compact size for mast mounting. (Being tall, I'm not happy with a radome on a pole behind me in the cockpit, beaming microwaves over, or maybe through, my head).

Unfortunately, this model seems to be no longer available :-(  .... so it was back to the drawing board!

My next candidate was the Furuno 1623 . The radome was 3" bigger (15") but I thought I could live with that, and it got a good review  by Practical Sailor magazine, always a positive sign.

While chatting with a dock mate the subject of radar came up, and he asked if I had heard of the new broadband units. I hadn't, but it sounded interesting, so off I went to spend more time searching the 'net for information.

It appears that Navico (sold under the Simrad, Lowrance, and Northstar labels) has developed a technology, already in use in the aircraft industry, that gives amazing results at closer ranges, which is exactly the area I am usually concerned with.
The unit has many desirable features, such as:
Instant on (no warm up).
Less radiation than a cell phone (mount the radome anywhere).
Targets visible within 10' of the boat.
Sea clutter rejection is up to 5 times better than normal radar.
Crystal clear image, making it easy to interpret the display (less of a learning curve).

After watching several videos, I've decided that "Broadband Radar" was the reason I was procrastinating. The technology has evolved to a more useful and user-friendly stage. Now all I have to do is find the right unit for the right price, which may mean another years wait, and ... more research :-)

Saturday, June 5, 2010

The "BLACK FLY" Dinghy 7: First Sail

Today we loaded the 'Fly' on the car, stuffed the rig and sail in the back, and headed down to the marina for the first sail. Pedder Bay is pretty sheltered, and there's always a good breeze blowing, either into or out of the Bay.

Unloading was really easy. The thing only weighs about 30 lbs and was easy to move from the car roof to the dock. With gear loaded in the dinghy I rowed around to where my boat is moored, and installed the mast, boom, sail, and rudder in an adjoining empty slip.

Thursday, June 3, 2010


The following procedure is one I used to lower and raise the mast on my Albin Vega 27. Although the mast is only 30' long, it's quite a heavy piece of gear, and could cause damage and injury if it fell out of control.

I have recounted from memory of what I did two years ago. There may be some gaps, and there may be some changes needed for different boats. I found a slip clear of other boats and had an able helper.

Inspiration for my "A" frame comes from the Alberg 30 group post on the same subject.

Although I didn't take pictures the two times I used the frame, I thought I'd share my design with others who might be interested.

The material for the "A" frame is from a Chain Link Fence supplier, and is 1 7/8" 14 gauge pipe. The nice thing about the fencing material is that each size will fit inside the next larger one, making it easy to sleeve pieces together. Also, it's galvanized for longevity.

I bought two 20' sections and cut them in half, sleeving them together with the next size smaller as inserts. Having them in two pieces made them a lot easier to transport.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

OpenCPN free Chart Plotting Software

Thanks to an alert friend, I have discovered a very nice piece of software that rivals my present chart plotting program. It's called OpenCPN and has these features:
* GPS/GPSD Postition Input

* BSB Raster Chart Display

* S57 Vector ENC Chart Display

* C-MAP Vector Chart Display (CM93/2)

* AIS Input Decoding

* Waypoint / Autopilot Navigation

* International Language Support

* Cross-platform support

* Grib Weather Overlay

It works on Windows, Linux, and Mac operating systems. One of my favorite features is being able to see the direction and strength of local currents overlayed on the chart (orange arrows):

Thursday, May 20, 2010


My present thoughts on tenders are:

- tough enough to be beached on oyster shells (this would exclude skin-on-frame)
- light weight (this limits size, although a larger two-piece boat would solve that problem)
- row, tow, and sail well
- able to carry two people plus some cargo in safety.
- and most important, should be good looking!
My favorite build method is still 'stitch-and-glue'.

In the endless search for the 'perfect' dinghy, I'm now looking at two-part 'nesting' designs. This would provide for a larger boat with a smaller deck footprint, and the ability to be lifted onboard in two pieces ... ie. half the weight of a full dinghy.

When I did a Google search for "nesting dinghy" I was surprised at how many different ones came up. Some I found interesting are listed below:

Here's a nice fiberglass model, the NestingLite NN10.

and a  pram type: by BATEAU.

The Spindrift is a nice "pointy ended" model.
and a building log of same:

Another nice pram by Offshore Designs Ltd. , CHAMELEON.

The PASSAGEMAKER, by CLC is the same as my Eastport Pram, but a bigger boat. CLC's plans are very well engineered and easy to build. Of my 3 dinghies, my CLC Eastport Pram is my favorite one ... so far!

Another beautiful "pointy ender".

Here is a very basic pram, the Cats Paw, that comes in different sizes.

 NESTAWAY, makes several nice fiberglass models.

Here's a skin-on-frame nesting dinghy called STASHA, and although not as pretty as some, I like the concept. Imagine how light each half would be!
and a STASHA build log.

As usual, more research is needed. But I have all summer to ponder the subject, before buying a set of plans and laying in a pile of materials for a winter build. One thing about dinghies: they don't need much storage space!

Friday, April 30, 2010

The "BLACK FLY" Dinghy 6: First Launch and Test Row.

(Please click on any image to see a larger picture.)

Before doing any work on the sailing rig, I felt the need to test the boat in the water to see how it handled. It weighed in at 35 lbs, a little more than the advertised 28, but that's probably because I built with oak and, ash rather than softwood. Anyway, lifting on and off the car racks was very easy!

And she looked pretty in the water, too.

The "BLACK FLY" Dinghy 5: Painting, Keel Bits, Seat, Centerboard Slot Plug.

(Please click on any image to see a larger picture.)

While investigating paints at a local store, I spotted a pile of cans labeled "Mis-Tints" sitting in a corner. One label that captured my attention said "Elasto Wall". Now that sounded interesting, so for $4, I took home a gallon of beige rubberized paint.

This is a water-based coating that's 45% solids, and rolls on very easily ... no smell, easy cleanup!

After applying the first coat I realized I should have had a light inside the hull to better monitor paint coverage and thickness.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

A TRIP IN CHINA CLOUD: Day 3 Deep Bay to Comox Harbour

(Please click on any image to see a larger picture.)

The Route

A TRIP IN CHINA CLOUD: Day 2 Nanaimo to Deep Bay

(Please click on any image to see a larger picture.)

The Route

Not too many pictures this day as the seas were heavy, and it was cold and wet. China Cloud logged up to 14.9 knots, surfing down the backs of the swells, as we made a good run of 40 miles!

Monday, April 26, 2010

A TRIP IN CHINA CLOUD: Day 1 Cowichan Bay to Nanaimo.

(Please click on any image to see a larger picture.)

China Cloud at Pedder Bay, getting new sails:

The Route

Thursday, April 15, 2010


I've installed a pair of weather cloths along Sin Tacha's cockpit sides to create a little more shelter in the cockpit. I had shorter ones before, lashed top and bottom to the boat and stretched nicely flat, but this time I opted to go for the "baggy" look because the way I have them fastened makes them easily removable in seconds. Being a bit baggy allows clearance around the winches, and it's easy to lower a lifeline for access to the cockpit.
(Click on any picture for a larger image.)

Side view, shows overall "baggy" look:
(You can see how the Dodger and sail cover material has faded in two years!)

Wednesday, April 14, 2010


Tired of worrying about battery drain every time I turned on a cabin light, I've converted to LED's in all Sin Tacha's inside lighting, and the anchor light at the mast head.

Most of my bulbs came from LED Wholsalers  and were a lot more reasonable than many of the bulbs advertised as "marine". The marine ones may be better, but for the relatively small outlay I'm willing to experiment with the cheaper ones. It takes a little digging to find the right bulb for each purpose, but that's half the fun.

The  three dome lights have been modified to accept festoon LED bulbs.

It involved changing the socket to a festoon bulb holder, not too big a deal.

Friday, April 2, 2010

BACK ON THE BEACH: Zinc Changing

It's been a year since Sin Tacha's last haulout, a thorough one at "The Boatyard" in Sidney B.C. where she got the full treatment of power washing, fresh bottom paint, new zinc, and a professional survey.

I knew the bottom was still clean, but was concerned about the condition of the zinc on the prop shaft, so decided to use the beaching legs to check things out. The tides lined up for an April 1st event, and luckily the weather cooperated too. After careful calculation it was determined that we had to be aground by no later than 6:30 a.m.
This time I picked a small cove near the marina with a gravel beach. Previous beachings had been done in the mud, a pretty messy exercise!

The legs were attached the night before, so at 6 a.m. I motored slowly over to the cove in the dark. I'd previously set up a couple of pool noodles on shore as leading marks so as to miss some rocks on the beach. Being bright yellow, they were easily picked up with a flashlight.

The stern anchor was dropped about 60 feet from the beach, and a bow line was dinghy'd ashore and attached to a drift log. Using the two lines to control the boat, she was pulled ahead until the front of the keel gently touched ground. With all lines made fast, it was time to relax for a while and let the moon do it's work of dropping the ocean  level by four feet.

Resting easy on the gravel, while the skipper enjoys breakfast aboard:

Monday, March 29, 2010

The "BALCK FLY" Dinghy 4: Dacron Skin Installation

I've been procrastinating doing this job, but every time I walk into the shop, which, being retired, is about a gazillion times a day, I feel a twinge of guilt for not forging ahead and just ... well .... doing it!

So this morning I decided to set a date for the task, and suddenly thought: "Why not right now?"

The first thing to do was re-read the instructions that came with the plans.

The plans recommend laying the Dacron cloth over the hull on a bias, so the material can be more easily stretched around the curves. As I only had about 1" to spare in cloth width this was not an option, so the cloth was run lengthwise along the hull, and held in place with a few spring clamps.

The next step was to bond the material to the gunwale, shrinking it as I went along, starting in the middle and working both ways. What worked best for me was to heat the area from the gunwale up to the first stringer, preventing too many puckers close to the glue joint on the gunwale.

The "BLACK FLY" Dinghy 3: Heat 'n Bond Tape and Kevlar Roving

The next stage is to apply this magic glue/tape from the craft store, and then attach the Kevlar roving. Frankly, Charlie, I'm feeling really skeptical about this whole 'rinky-dink' process. I just may skip it and buy some Ballistic Nylon and proceed from there. But a little voice in my head keeps telling me to go ahead and try it anyway ... I've got the materials, so what's to lose?

The tape goes on easily enough, but it's hard to keep the skeptic in me asking if this stuff is all I want between being nice and dry, or a first-hand experience of severe hypothermia.

The hardest part is picking off the paper backing, which is easier to do if you tear the tape rather than cutting it. Overlapping the joints appears to be OK, as the stuff is so thin.

A strip of tape is also put along the centerline of the bottom, and around the centerboard slot.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Boat Spring Cleaning

Having the boat in the water 12 months of the year, and sailing it 12 months as well, takes it's toll on the exterior appearance.

My bottom paint is only one year old, but seems to last at least two. I'm using the same stuff I put on a boat (since sold) seven years ago that was hauled out for the first time last week. Apart from a few barnacles along the waterline, and a small family of muscles on the bottom of the keel, the paint was still working well. And the boat does not go out that often! The paint? Pettit Horizons Black. Works for me :-)

My whole flurry of boat cleaning activity was caused by the marina finally getting fresh water piped to every slip.

Friday, March 19, 2010

HARKEN Jib Furler Installation

Thanks to Brett Hasbrouck, the General manager at Hayn Marine, and Robert Jones of Defender Marine, I received my replacement crown rings in the mail. Now it was time to get to work. Don Casey (This Old Boat) says a furler installation should take a professional rigger about six hours.

Rather than use a Bosun's chair, I rigged my ladder, as I did in this photo of the boat taken in 2005.

The first job was to make the new forestay from 7/32" 1x19 wire and the Hayn Hi-Mod swageless fittings. After bracing the mast the old stay was removed and stretched out between two screws driven into the deck.

An 'eye' fitting was attached to the top of the new wire, and a turnbuckle rod to the bottom, being very careful to get everything the same overall length as the original stay.

The Harken manual has a length calculation sheet that makes the whole process very easy.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Vega Standing Rigging Overhaul.

I've finally decided to address an item on the boat that's been concerning me for some time: replacement of the forestay, hidden for years under an ailing and worn out CDI furler.

After removing the old furler I decided I didn't want it back on, so spent some time researching and decided on the Harken MKIV Unit 0 model.
My rigging wire appears to be the original sized 5mm diameter 1x19 stainless steel wire. The nearest size to this is Imperial measure  3/16", which is slightly smaller, hence weaker. Given the fact the wire is completely enclosed by the furler foil, and subject to more strain with the weight and windage of the furler,  I chose to upsize to 7/32" wire.

I've always wanted to try swageless fittings for the wire ends, as they make it possible to repair rigging in the field (ocean?) without extensive tools. More research here convinced me that Hayn Hi-Mod fittings fit the bill.

They have re-usable innards, and a unique crown ring that holds the outer wire strands perfectly even in individual grooves.
Unfortunately they arrived with the wrong sized crown rings, so I've been busying myself overhauling the rest of the standing rig, while I wait for the correct ones to appear.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Another Dinghy Project on the horizon ??

A recent posting on the Albin Vega Yahoo Forum has stirred my interest. This always seems to happen right about the time the present project is about two thirds done.

The posting was a link to Duckworks Boat Builders Supply, Origami Dinghy page.  Boats should be pleasing to the eye, all curves and roundness, with beautiful sheer lines, but this little dink has to be one of the ugliest boats I've ever laid eyes on.

What intrigues me is that, judging by the videos, it performs amazingly well. Coupled with the fact that it weighs only about 30 pounds is it's amazing ability to be folded into a very flat stowable package. It would probably fit in the forepeak of our Vega ... right up there with the folding bike.

More research is needed before I buy the plans, but I have a gut feeling I'd better clear another space in the workshop!

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

The "BLACK FLY" Dinghy 2: Centerboard slot and case.

The centerboard slot is cut into the keel.

Because of my concern that the slot may weaken the keel's strength, I extended the designed side supports on either side for 4", to help spread the load.

Friday, January 22, 2010


Our boat, 'Sin Tacha' (Spanish for 'Without Faults') is a 1971 Albin Vega 27. She was built in Sweden, and is number 1331 of about 3500 that were made between 1968 and 1978. Here is a good review of her by John Vigor, courtesy of Good Old Boat Magazine.

She's the perfect small cruiser for these Pacific Northwest waters for a couple to cruise on, and yet is very easily managed as a single hander. And she loves to sail!

We bought her in Nov. 2005 and have been steadily upgrading her ever since. There is a link to a slide show of "improvements" in the right hand column.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

The "BLACK FLY" Dinghy 1: from Plans to Framing

Left: a "Black Fly" built by Maury Madden

The Black Fly is a Platt Monfort-designed Geodesic AiroLITE skin-on-frame dinghy that is 8' long and only weighs about 28 pounds.

My present dinghy, an Eastport Pram, weighs about 75 pounds, so this new one should be a lot easier to lift on deck. The Eastport Pram costs about 1/2 knot in boat speed when towing, so maybe the new 'Fly will tow more easily!

There is also a Yahoo Group for Geodesic AiroLITE Boats.

The build:
Before I started to build, I read over the plans and instructions carefully. The plans included full-size layout  half-templates for the building frame stations. The plans were tacked over a 1/8" piece of plwood, and very small holes drilled at each point along each building frame station (and the transoms), then the 'dots' joined, showing the frame outlines.

The frames were sketched in on the back of the plywood also. This gave me a 'left' and 'right' template for each frame, ensuring symetry was kept.


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This is the place where I'll post information on the projects I'm working on, about boats of course !

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