Category Archives: howto

Our Rainwater Catchment System

While cruising for extended periods in remote areas, refilling our water tanks is often the limiting factor in how long we can go between marinas. We’re a “water light” boat, with only a 29 gallon tank plus about 12 gallons in jugs on deck. This easily lasts us 1 1/2 to 2 weeks on our water-light budget (using about 3-4 gallons per day).

Our 41 gallons is far less than most long-distance cruising boats carry though – on the order of 75 to 150 gallons. Our boat was originally equipped with 75 gallon capacity, and I thought I’d have to add back one of the removed water tanks, but we’ve found it not to be necessary. More water adds a lot of weight, takes away storage space, and decreases sailing performance – a priority for us.

But sometimes we want to go a bit longer between marinas, such as when cruising from the North Coast of BC to the south of Haida Gwaii, areas with no convenient marinas. Some boats buy expensive watermakers which are infamous for being a maintenance headache. Here in the Pacific Northwest though we have a free, frequent source of pure water – rain!

For a while I’ve thought it’d be great to be able to catch some of it, but it’s not as simple as it seems. The main problem is catching a lot of it, and getting clean water that is free of salt (our decks are usually covered in salt) and other contaminants.

During three days this May holed up in Clark Cove while a gale blew through, bringing near-constant rain, I tried out a few improvised ideas, using only what we already had on the boat.

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Oops, We Bought a Project Boat!

It’s winter, and for us that means it’s project season. Nearing 3 years of too many projects to count (but also a lot of sailing), I’ve been asking myself – did we actually end up with a project boat? While shopping for a boat, the one thing I was sure of was we didn’t want a project boat!

I had heard of people buying project boats and spending years working on them without sailing. I have a lot of admiration for people who do that, but for us sailing and cruising was always the number 1 goal. If a project boat meant we couldn’t cruise, we’d be better off continuing to charter and sail in clubs.

I’ve written before that eventually I realized all boats are project boats (“What Exactly is a Project Boat Anyway?“). And even though living aboard has made it easier to work on projects, the project list hasn’t gotten any shorter. For every project finished, we discover one or two new ones.

[Note: I’ve added a Projects page to the site, listing most of the major and minor projects completed]

Haul-out in June 2015

Another reason I didn’t want a project boat was I understood that boats are expensive but not in the initial purchase cost – an old boat is only as much as two new cars, which many middle-class families have (and if you told them two cars are a luxury rather than a necessity, they would probably disagree). The real budget killer is in the carrying costs – yearly moorage and maintenance.

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The Joy of Easy Projects on a Boat

Sailboat maintenance and refitting often involves many difficult, frustrating jobs – diesel engine work, rigging, fiberglassing, boatyard work. So it’s really nice to have some easy, fun ones mixed in sometimes. If you only did hard projects all the time, you’d probably burn out.

Easy projects are short, cheap and rewarding because they quickly make some small improvement to your life. They’re simple enough that unlike most boat projects, there aren’t 10 different things that can go wrong.

Ice Box LED Light

The first one, which I should’ve done a long time ago, is add a light to our fridge / ice box.

You see, our ice box is a great, giant, cavernous hole in which my beers sit at the bottom in the dark. So last summer when I wanted to find a beer, I’d often have to grab my headlamp or handy pocket flashlight. As everyone knows, beer is important to sailors. And often when cruising BC, we had a variety of types to try (Lighthouse IPA, Red Racer, Russell Brewing’s mixer pack, etc), so I couldn’t just grab any blindly.

Finally I realized a cheap solution to this inconvenience: motion activated LED light bars which you can find on Amazon for about $10! And this one came with a 3M adhesive strip on the back, so all I had to do was stick it on a surface inside the icebox.

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Rerig Part 4: Stuck Navtec U-Bolt Chainplates

It’s been a long road to finishing our rerig. Going on 5 weeks now with the mast out, I’ve started to get very antsy to go sailing. Being patient is always the hardest part of any project that takes the boat out of commission (ex, haulouts). After 2 weeks, most projects had been finished and it was just a matter of waiting for BSI to produce the rod.

The downside to rod, as mentioned in Part 1, is it generally can’t be made locally / onsite and therefore takes longer to get. That downside is apparent now in the delays with BSI producing the rod – even though we gave them the end fittings order 5 weeks ago, and final measurements 3 weeks ago, they still haven’t started producing the rigging.

In contrast, a couple weeks ago two new Selden masts arrived in the yard for brand new boats going to the Seattle Boat Show, with wire rigging ready to go, and those masts were fully rigged and stepped in a week.

I wouldn’t change my decision to go to rod – it’s worth it for keeping the mast tang system the same – but if we were buying a new boat someday, I would probably try to avoid rod or would consider it negative points for a boat being considered. It’s a wonderful material, but for a cruiser, availability and ease of access are more important.

Navtec U-Bolt Chainplates

The hardest part of the rerig however (other than the waiting) has definitely been pulling the chainplates for inspection. More specifically, pulling the Navtec U-Bolts above the chainplates.

C&C’s with rod have a somewhat uncommon chainplate system (O’Day’s and Ericsons also have a similar system). At the deck there are six big ½” U-Bolts (one for each shroud) that go through the deck to a thick aluminum backing block. That backing block has a recessed cup on the upper side which is used to capture the head of a stainless steel tie rod. The tie rod then goes down to connect with traditional chainplates inside the boat, attached to a fiberglass bulkhead inside some cabinetry.

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Totally inadequate lever arm for pulling 1/2″ U-Bolts

It’s actually a pretty great design, because the chainplates are completely dry and pristine – I have no concerns about those since they never see water. And the U-Bolts likely do a better job of sealing out water at the deck level than traditional chainplates do. This is because they have a cover plate which fits tightly with the deck, and then the legs of the U-Bolts are flanged (they have a “lip”) so that they are wider than the holes in the cover plate – they overlap it and fit quite snugly.

The downside is they’re really hard to get out. The SS U-Bolt legs interact galvanically with the aluminum backing block, producing pasty white powder which basically locked the U-Bolt into the aluminum block.

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Rerig Part 3: Now the Projects Really Begin

Warning: This post is pretty technical.  In the last week a lot has gotten done – assembled the wire forestay, a new Harken furler, removed the spreaders, cut out a seized clevis pin, got out a second seized clevis pin for a masthead sheave, ran new VHF coax cable through the mast, sanded and painted the mast collar, and did a whole bunch of cleaning.

Assembling a Hayn HiMod Swageless Fitting

I decided to use a Hayn HiMod swageless fitting for the forestay lower connection so that I could measure / cut the forestay to length, not have to get a wire swaged on site, and have a fitting that could be inspected or shortened in the future if needed.

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Hi-Mod components: threaded stud, cone, and crown ring. (The body, not shown, is already on the wire)

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Unlaying the compact strand wire around the core

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Hi-Mod cone installed on the core

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Cone and crown ring installed in the fitting

Project Time:

  • 1 hour – planning, reading and watching YouTube videos.
  • 1 hour – measuring, re-measuring and cutting forestay.
  • 1 hour – assembling Hi-Mod.

Tips:

  • The 7mm compact strand wire (distributed by Alps) was quite difficult to unlay. Since the strands are so tightly compacted together, it’s hard to pick them apart. Standard flat head screwdriver tips were too thick. A thin paint scraper works well, or perhaps my mini screwdriver set (like an eyeglass kit).
  • The big debate with HiMod’s is whether to use sealant or not. Hayn says not to, in their instructions. They’re saying it’s not necessary but you can use it if you want to (they say it’s ok to use in this PDF). I wish there were a more scientific analysis of this.
    I decided to use sealant for a couple reasons: Brion Toss, the rigger in Port Townsend, recommends using sealant in HiMods. And the HaveWindWillTravel sailors on YouTube had their HiMods show rust after just a few months in Florida. They believe it was from metal dust that got on their wire after cutting it with a grinder. That’s a plausible explanation, but perhaps sealant also would’ve helped prevent their issue.
  • Sealant is hard to inject into a Hi-Mod however. The body of the fitting is already on the wire. And the standard injection nozzle that comes with 3M adhesive tubes doesn’t fit in between the wire and the body. A typical syringe doesn’t fit either (the tip isn’t long enough to get past the threaded part of the body). I didn’t want to gunk up the threads, since those are supposed to be secured with Loctite, not 4200 goop. The best option was injecting sealant into the wire strands alongside the cone. I didn’t get sealant squeezing out the top at the end, so maybe didn’t use enough, but it should still be effective.

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How to Rerig a C&C with Rod Rigging – Part 1

The time has come to replace the standing rigging on our 33-year-old C&C. C&C’s like ours have Navtec rod rigging – which lasts much longer than wire rigging, but it doesn’t always give clues when it’s about to fail. While we could probably push it a few years longer (and know many sailors doing exactly that), the type of sailing we do (lots of upwind, and fairly remote areas like the west coast of Vancouver Island), plus some issues noticed in my rig inspections motivated the decision to do it now.

We’d rather do it now than wait and regret it later (when the mast comes down, and I don’t mean with a crane!). A dismasting can be dangerous (even lethal if someone gets hit in the head by the mast), so it’s not a risk worth taking. Racers do it (push their boats to smaller margins of safety, which is why racing boats have more dismasting than cruising boats) – but they’re in a very different situation. A dismasting with a crew of 6, in a populated area, is pretty different from a dismasting with a crew of 2 in a remote area.

So better safe than sorry. But a rerig is a pretty expensive and time consuming project. So it’s no wonder people delay it as long as possible.

First it’s important to note I’m not doing this completely on my own. I got advice from a number of riggers and other sailors (to whom I’m very grateful), and am working with a local rigger for a few of the key parts (ordering and inspection).

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Rod vs Wire

Most C&C’s have Navtec rod rigging instead of the more common stranded wire rigging. Rod rigging is awesome when you don’t need to replace any of it. It’s strong, long lasting, highly corrosion resistant, lightweight (less weight aloft improves boat handling) and has low stretch (which makes the boat sail a bit better, and you don’t have to tune it very often).

But rod is a huge pain if you need to replace it, or want to switch to wire. It’s expensive (especially in the fittings – tangs, stemballs, and turnbuckles), can’t be sized and swaged onsite (with wire you can cut it to length and use swageless fittings, right at the boat), and there are only a small number of rigging shops in the US that can even make rod rigging (it requires expensive rod heading machines and dies).

So switching to wire could make some sense, especially since our boat is more of a cruiser than a racer. But there would still be some tricky parts to work out – how to change the mast tangs for wire, and how to rework the spreader tips for wire. All this extra work, plus the risk the boat might not handle as well, or might have reduced resale value, steered me towards choosing to stay with rod.

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The original C&C rig plans I have, thanks to a prior owner’s forethought.

Which Kind of Rod?

With the decision to stick to rod, I assumed Navtec would be the manufacturer. Later, I was surprised to discover there’s a big competitor to Navtec making just as much rod or more: BSI, based out of Denmark (with a US factory in Rhode Island).

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How to Recondition a Diesel Pot-style Cabin Heater

In order to cruise year-round in the Northwest, cabin heat is essential. On cold, wet days you don’t want to be shivering at anchor while the temperature drops to 35 F. So around October, repairing the Sig Marine diesel heater that came with our boat became a #1 priority.

Working on a diesel heater was scary to me though – these heaters involve setting a fire inside your boat! Fire is usually the last thing you want on a boat. But, as I learned more about it I gained confidence. It was a bigger project than expected though.

On a club meetup at Port Orchard last month with the Puget Sound Cruising Club, we were on 3 or 4 other boats in 30 degree weather that had nice, calm burning diesel heaters keeping their boat nice and toasty. This was a stark contrast to our heater which had flared up into an angry inferno a couple weeks ago. Getting the fuel and air mixture right on a heater that hasn’t been used in a number of years is more difficult than it seems.

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