Friday 30 November 2012

New Canine Crew

     "'re a pal and a confidante..."
                           -Andrew Gold

Meet Ellie.

She's an Australian Shepherd*.
She's a rescue dog that we are "fostering."
That means her sojourn here may be temporary.
Yeah, right.  It looks like she has settled in.

Welcome aboard, Ellie.  Thanks for joining us.

"Talk the Dock!"

* Earlier editions erroneously referred to Ellie as an Australian Cattle Dog.  The error is the author's and, while casting no aspersions upon the nobility, likability, loyalty or quality of Australian Cattle Dogs, it was worth correcting.
    I knew she was an Australian something, and SWMBO has set me straight.  I knew she was NOT a Dingo, so that's something.
I think.
No Australian Cattle Dogs, Shepherds, or Dingos were harmed in the creation of this post.

Friday 16 November 2012

The Countdown Begins...

  "And maybe we'll come back..."

  Less than two months remain until the start of the 2013 edition of the The Toronto Boat Show , aka Winter is Half Over Time.

  Every year, I wonder if the Show will go on, because it seems like many attendees have little good to say- there are fewer sailboats, too many pontoon boats, lineups to clamber all over the big- pimpin' boats are too long, there don't seem to be any  really great deals, and beer is $7... a can.

   All of which is true.

   But, it's January.

   In Ontario.

   Got anything better to do?

   The Dock Six Invasion will be, as usual, the last weekend of the Show, January 18-20. The popular annual D6C Meeting, Greeting, Lie Trading and Rum Tasting Shindig will be held Saturday evening.  I will be reserving a block of rooms at  The Westin Harbour Castle shortly.  If you want one of the best hotel rooms in the city at the best rate for the weekend, let me know before December 10.
   All are welcome to join the Shindig- you can find us in the Chartroom at the Westin on Saturday Jan 19, from 8:00 until last call.

  We hope you will join us.


"Talk the Dock!"

Thursday 15 November 2012

Low -Buck Lighting Review: Old School Edition

     "Threatened by shadows at night..."
                                     -Pink Floyd

    As prodigious as we are with rum consumption,  we are as miserly with electrical power aboard Whiskeyjack.

  We light the cabin with battery powered LED lighting which consumes a relatively small amount of power compared to traditional Edison-style bulbs, but LED lights have drawbacks not considered when we installed them.

For example, insects like them.

A lot.

In fact, a lot of little bugs like LED lights a lot.

(Yes, we have screened hatches, but that only keeps insects out that are already out when the hatches are closed- those insects that are in when the doors close remain in, swarming around the lights.  It's sort of like a dance club at last call.... in reverse.)

The ambience factor, or lack thereof, with most LED lighting is also not inconsiderable. The LED lights aboard bounce off the fiberglass overhead and fore and aft bulkheads, casting a dental-office style glare, hardly inducing one to curl up with the latest copy of Good Old Boat.

     There are certainly alternative colour LED bulbs, in warmer and fuzzier hues,  but retrofitting all of the panel-wired fixtures below deck is not an inconsiderable expense, and a project  filled with trepidation.  What if the bulbs we feel are bright yet warm, clear yet cozy in the store/at the show/ in the display/whatever feel different in the confines of our cabin?  Most vendors have a "no return" policy on electrical stock, bulbs included, so I envision ending up with hundreds of dollars of perfectly good yet completely unacceptable lightbulbs occupying valuable booze spares stowage real estate.

    And there is still going to be the infuriating infernal interior insect infestation in orbit around the aforementioned illumination.

    So, it was time to suss out some alternatives.

     Candles cast a warm glow, but lend little illumination, as evidenced by the small votive candle in the cockpit below.  An advantage over fixed-site lighting, however, is the convenience of being able to move light from deck to Dock to cabin to cockpit.  More flexibility in lighting means less lighting required on board, and less storage space dedicated to redundant illumination.

 It got me thinking, though.  Why not  try going old school?  We decided to explore the world of lanterns.

Traditional ship's lanterns....

image courtesy of

... seem to fall into two categories:
1.  More expensive than electrical light, more elegant, well built and provide adequate light, and
2.  More expensive than electrical light, more elegant, really poorly built and provide inadequate light.

Is there an alternative?

We decided to find out.

 Low-buck style.

 Here's the parameters:
 Non-electric light suitable for reading/working in the cabin.
 Portable- usable in cockpit, cabin, on deck or on Dock.
 Unattractive to insects
 Under $25.


 First stop, Canadian Tire ,  where, for nearabout $17, I purchased a World Famous hurricane lantern, not exactly as shown, below.

When I purchased the lantern, it had a "World Famous" label attached to the chimney, which peeled off and fluttered to the floor when the lantern was removed from it's cellophane wrapping.  The lackadaisical label was an accurate indicator of the quality of  the lantern to which  it was formerly attached.  The price was cheap, and the product lived up to the price. Included was a business card-sized slip of paper with filling and  lighting instructions printed in smudgy 6 point type.  The lantern itself  is about 12" tall, with a base diameter of about 5".  The fit and finish appeared sloppy, an impression which was dramatically reinforced later.

Next, we paid a visit to our good friends at Lee Valley Tools and traded $19.95 for a Dietz "No. 80" hurricane lamp.

Wow.  What a difference $3 makes.  The Dietz lantern came in an honest-to-goodness box with the globe wrapped for protection.  Included were lighting and cleaning instructions, wick trimming info and a short but succinct trouble-shooting guide. Compared to the World Famous lantern, No. 80 felt huge, standing 15" high with an 8" wide footprint.  Fit and finish was better than expected, with decent plating on the burner, bails, globe plate and tank cap.

Price winner:  World Famous
First Impression winner: Dietz No. 80

With the contestants chosen, it was time to get them ready for use. Both lanterns are kerosene fueled, so after a perusal of the filling directions, the lanterns were placed on the table and  loaded with keros...

The World Famous lantern's instruction slip included the cryptic phrase "Do not fill tank more than half"  There was no explanation for this fortune-cookieish bit of advice, and also no instruction on how one determines when the lantern is half full- there are no "fill to here"  markings, and the small fill port is completely obscured by the spout of the kerosene container providing sustenance, so trying to eyeball the level doesn't work.  So, in typical Dock Six fashion, I guessed.

And overshot the mark.

I discovered this fact when kerosene leaked STREAMED out of the tank, not from the fill port, but from the tank itself.  It turns out the tank has a large hole where each of the legs that hold the chimney are attached.  I cleaned up the kerosene from the table top, aired out the cabin and turned to fueling No. 80.

Which was accomplished in an incident-free fashion.

Fueling Winner: Dietz No.80

With the candidates ready for action, it was time for the illumination elimination round.  Time to introduce the incumbent to the festivities, the $2 LED lamp that hangs over the table, affectionately known as the " UFO Light"

Here's UFO in action:

  Here is how a copy of Good Old Boat looks under the light cast by UFO.  Lots of illumination, but lots of glare as well.

That is the current cabin lighting standard aboard.  Let's see how our competitors compare.

With some fiddling, with both hands as the globe refused to stay raised thanks to the poor fit of the lifting bail, World Famous was persuaded to light, and with further fiddling, encouraged not to smoke (at least not until it's 18 years old and/or no longer resides in our house).

Illumination was provided, but, like every other aspect of this lamp, it was disappointing.

One can see that there is a magazine in front of them, one can discern that there are photos, one can read the title, but beyond that, gathering information from the page is a struggle.  Illumination was spotty, with shadows and flickers

I briefly suspended the test to trim the flickering wick and wash the soot off the globe, hoping to increase the output.
The result?

Um, yeah.... no.

Right then, let's see what No. 80 brings to the table.

Definitely easier to light, requiring only one hand.  Lift the globe, lock the bail, set the wick, strike a match, trim the wick, lower the globe, done.

   The result?
  Usable illumination.  Warmer, brighter, over a larger area with no shadows or flickering.  Not nearly as bright as UFO but easier on the eyes and bug-free!

 Illumination winner:  Dietz No. 80

  Further testing in the cockpit on our last sail of the season earned compliments from Jack and Melanie on how well No.80 lit the cockpit, with none of the breeze induced flickering and relighting as was often the case with citronella candles, and no wax on the cockpit sole.

I think we might have a winner, with some improvement to the plan.   A second lantern is needed to fully light the cabin, and lighting the v-berth with a lantern this size isn't gonna work, so there is no choice in retaining some LED lighting.
The "cozy" factor is not to be underestimated, however, and the consistent response is how much "nicer" the lantern light feels compared to the electric alternative.
We're gonna give it a long term test next season, and we'll let you know how it goes.

"Talk the Dock!"

Monday 12 November 2012

Dock Lost and Found

"Caught between the Scylla and Charybdis..."
                                            -The Police

With Whiskeyjack hauled and cradled, it's time to clear the decks and the cabin.  After pulling up the cockpit grate I discovered a ring stuck between the slats.  It looks to be a nice ring and I'd like to see it returned to it's owner. Contact me if you fulfill the diagram below:

"Talk the Dock!"

Wednesday 7 November 2012

Low-Buck Tools: 5 Minute Clamps

"There you go pulling me right back in..."

  As we transition from boating season to boatbuilding season, one realizes that one never has enough clamps.   Further, if one is like your humble scribbler, one does not realize one is short of clamps until one runs out.

As the epoxy or glue is starting to set.

At midnight.

So, here's a quick and easy recipe for cheap  gluing clamps. I'd like to take credit for this one, but  I picked this up from Don Casey or WoodenBoat magazine or West System's Epoxyworks magazine.  One of those smarter-than-me sources.

Pick up some ABS and/or PVC pipe  in the diameter you like- 2", 4", 6", whatever.  Hell, get a variety of diameters and wall thicknesses.  $20 will buy you enough for 20-30 clamps.

Better yet, drive through a subdivision under construction with a six pack of cheap beer.  Stop at a house with a plumber's truck out front.  Offer to trade beer for pipe offcuts.  You'll get lots, already cut to convenient lengths, and a hardworking guy gets beer, and less garbage goes to a landfill.


Take your pipe home, and split it down the middle.  I set the fence on my table saw to the radius (half the diameter, for you non-math types.  Diameter is the measurement across the center of the pipe, for you really non-math types. ) of the pipe, crank the blade up just high enough to cut through the wall of the tubing,

... and rip a split down the length of the tube.

On larger diameter tubes I cross cut the tube using my table saw.  Set the fence to cut 1-2" wide slices of tube.

I cut smaller diameter tube on my miter saw, with a block of wood clamped as a stop at the desired  thickness.

Sand any rough edges, and boom, you're done.

Thicker wall tube provides more clamping power.  Thinner wall tubes are easier to manipulate single-handed.

Now go build something!

"Talk the Dock!"

Tuesday 6 November 2012

An Ode to Odour

     "We gotta have that funk."
          - Parliament Funkadelic

     Over time, old boat cabins develop a unique scent, an olfactory stew comprised of (more or less) equal parts bilge water, engine oil, fuel, mildew, leaking toe rails, hanging foul weather gear and bathing suits, damp cushions and spilled beer.

      Old Boat Smell clings to all fabrics aboard, including real-world-employment clothes, prompting co-workers to comment that you smell faintly like your boat.

  Truth be told, I like Old Boat Smell.  It smells like....


Note the bold face a few lines back.


That is the key to successfully carrying off Old Boat Smell on the dirt.

    If your boat's essence fogs along behind you like a cloud of gulls trailing the wake of a fish tug,  you're doing it wrong.  You want envious dirt-dwellers to note that you smell faintly like your boat, not to faint due to your boat smell.

  The challenge is how to balance on that fine line of funk.

   To keep Old Boat Smell down to socially acceptable levels, the concerned boater has to address ventilation, condensation, moisture intrusion,bilge emulsion, internal combustion emission and probably a whole bunch of other words that end in "ion."

Here is what we have learned over the years.

  Whiskeyjack  is blessed with a surfeit of ventilation.  Cowl vents aft of the mast, a big forward hatch covered by an awning, a fan and a screened companionway door all keep air flowing down below. As we all know, air flow is the way to go if you don't want Old Boat Smell to grow, yo.

I figure ventilation can be divided into two categories:  Passive and active.  Passive ventilation is airflow with assistance, ie vents, while active ventilation is assisted air movement, ie fans. Effective ventilation to prevent the proliferation of odour is ventilation that works all the time, whether the boat is closed up or whether one is aboard, day or night, so to that end passive ventilation is the place to start.

  If you don't have any, or enough, ventilation, add some.  The simplest solution is to slightly crack hatches and ports, but the additional ventilation will mean the introduction of more moisture with the participation of passing precipitation.

It may mean cutting some holes, to install vents.

I like cowl vents.

image courtesy of

 I really like cowl vents with dorade boxes.

image courtesy of

Air goes in, but water stays out.

drawing courtesy of Sparkman and Stephens

Simple and effective, cowl vents can be turned to make best use of available breeze, or to provide a vacuum effect- one vent pulls fresh air in, one vent exhausts air from below.

Some folks like solar vents.

     image courtesy of

   Essentially a low profile vent with a solar powered fan built in, these cowls will move large amounts of air and can be configured as either intake or exhaust fans.  I have no experience with them, so offer no opinion other than to point out that they are twice the cost of old-school unpowered cowl vents.

  Adding louvers or clamshell vents to the companionway hatch is a simple low-buck way to get more air flow.

image courtesy of

Louvers don't have to be fancy to be effective. PVC or stainless louvers are available for under $20

image courtesy of cpyoa

However while companionway louvers are great in all weather to allow air to exit, another inlet vent needs to be installed forward to allow fresh air to enter.

Or, keep the forward hatch cracked slightly, and hang a hatch tent.
You can build your own

or buy one:

image courtesy of

Air in, rain out, with the added bonus of not waking up when the crack of dawn beams laser-like through the open hatch.

Once you've got air coming in and going out, the next step is to increase comfort by hurrying that air up, by inviting some active ventilation to the party.

There are lots of fan choices out there, some like the Caframo Sirocco...

image courtesy of
... draw an astonishingly small amount of power.  The Caframo fans are not the cheapest fans on the market but they move a lot of air without a lot of noise at less than .5 amps.  They even have a timer option, and a low battery shut off.  If the cabin on Whiskeyjack was larger, and/or if our sailing season more intemperate, one or more of  these would be at the top of our list.

We have had a low-buck spring clamp- mounted Canadian Tire auto accessory aisle-sourced fan hanging aboard the boat for four seasons.  Seen hiding behind the chartplotter below.

It was on sale for $8, and it still works for the half dozen or so times each season we feel the need to move more air.

Right, then, ventilation is covered.

With air coming in and going out, the next step is to prevent funk-loving moisture from entering.  Chase down the leaks on the boat and this time, do something about them.    Rebed leaking stanchion bases, seal leaking ports, pull and pot grab rails, and cleats and anything else leaking that shouldn't be.  It's a job easier with two people than one, and a great how-to write-up can be found here.

Now, with air passing through successfully, and water unsuccessfully, dry out the bilge and CLEAN.  Clean the bilge, clean the lockers, clean the engine, clean the upholstery, clean the head. Pile everything that can be removed on deck or on the dock.  If it doesn't take you at least half a day, you're either already compulsively neat, or you missed something.
Do this at least once a season.  if you haul your boat for winter like we do, do it at least at splash and haul out.

I'm not going to get into cleaners other than to say that I've tried any number of specialized marine cleaners and found that in most cases  a good household cleaner is as effective and smells better.  In fact, we've discovered that this stuff the best stuff we have ever used for cleaning spider poop.  Spray, wipe, done.

  If you're still with me this far, I'm now gonna break your heart.  

  You've put all this time, effort and money into making your boat impervious to water entry while allowing air to come and go as it pleases...  and you're still going to get moisture on board.  All because of you.  Yes, it's your fault.

Perspiration, respiration, habitation all lead to...


(Hey, look, it's not my fault so many of the damn words in this post are suffixed "ion' I didn't create them, I just have to use them.  Sorry for the frustration.)

In fact, as silly, counter-intuitive and just plain wrong as it sounds, running a heater in cold weather can increase moisture aboard.

How does one solve this phantom unavoidable moisture?

Well, duh.  Add more dryness aboard.

Silica gel.

image courtesy of

When you buy a pair of shoes, electronics, furniture, one of these little "do not eat" pouches is invariably nestled somewhere in the box.  These packets are perfect for keeping small lockers, drawers and tool boxes dry. Furniture is often shipped with silica gel bags that are the size of your fist, perfect for keeping v-berths dry.  Tuck them in the corners, or if you want to get fancy, sew little mesh bags to dress them up and hang the packets in the hanging lockers, tuck them on shelves, wherever they will be out of the way.
Stop by your local furniture store and ask for discarded silica gel. Or better yet, come see me and buy some furniture.  Ask for the Dock Six Discount.
Or, you can get all fancy and buy silica gel .

You know what?  Your boat will probably still stink.  Mildew is pernicious stuff, in the words of Vincent Price, "the funk of forty thousand years..."
We've found a really good solution.
Last spring, at Bridge Yachts Open House  I met a representative for Kanberra Gel,

image courtesy of

touted as being the bee's knees in boat odour abatement.  I received a sample and mentioned that I would give it a try onboard.
Marco's boat Candy III became the test bench for this evaluation.  His boat had a seriously smelly, Dee-won't-even-think-of-going-in-there -even -after- it- has -been -cleaned mildewy- smelling cuddy cabin.  I gave him the small sample of Kanberra Gel I had received and asked for his feedback.  By small, I mean, small- my sample was a plastic container with a flip top lid about 1" in diameter, about 1/4 ounce.  A few days later Marco invited me aboard his boat and the boat smelled faintly of tea tree oil, not strongly of damp towels. The mildew smell was completely abated for the rest of the season.  I am impressed.  Few products meet the hype attached to them, but Kanberra Gel walks the walk.

Now you know how to turn a sows ear of stink into a silk purse of aroma. Give it a try, and if you have any tips to add, let me know, and don't forget to ...

"Talk the Dock!"

Friday 2 November 2012

Last Boat Out

"Sandy, my darlin', you hurt me real bad..."
                                   -John Travolta

     Haul out.

      Our winter haul out is usually not a very complicated process.  Reluctantly leave the Dock on the last day of the season, wipe away a tear or two as we sail or motor out of the Marina and up the river to the yard, strike the sails, strip the canvas, clean out a season of accumulated junk from the cabin, then segue into boat building season.

      This year, it was like one of those eight grade "If a train leaves the station travelling East and another train..." math questions come to life.

      Original plan:  Haul out on the last day of the season, October 31st, which also happens to be my day off.  Perfect!

       October 18, Complication #1 is introduced.  A sign appears in the marina, tersely warning that the lift bridge will be closed to navigation from October 29- December 15.

       Okay, so now that means we haul out on October 28.  The season is shortened, but not drastically.  No problem.

        Complication #2:  October 28 is Sunday.  A day of rest for the hardworking yard crew.  So, no haul out.

       Okay, I explain the issue to Steve at Bridge Yachts , Whiskeyjack's winter home and he tells me just to grab an empty slip.  No problem.

       Then, the big one, complication #3:  The impending potential arrival of Hurricane Sandy, and the attendant craptastic weather being pushed or stalled right over our heads, starting October 27.

        Sigh.  Okay,  so that is why we ended up scooting up the river with Wally on Friday October 26.

Since I work all weekend, it also meant that the wheels came off our usual finely honed haul out plan.  Whiskeyjack and Quack made it up the river, but Chirp remained on the lee side of the Dock until Sunday evening.

   SWMBO and I donned our foulies and hauled a rain-filled Chirp down the dock, until she ran out of wet stuff to float in.

   We emptied her out, which paradoxically led to me filling my boots with foul-smelling and fouler-feeling muddy sand. (Or sandy mud, depending upon your point of view.)


After rinsing my filthy and cold lower limbs in marginally less filthy and cold lake water, we backed Lady Liberty down to the foot of the Dock and  we wrestled the now-empty doughty craft from the grip of the bottom on which she rested, and manhandled her atop our shore transport.

     Leaving us with a final forlorn image of the season:


"Talk the Dock!"