Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Chest Harnesses--Is a Wider Belt Better?

In the earliest days of rock climbing, a chest harness, not to different from sailing harnesses, was the thing. Actually, before about 1960, that harness would be made of rope, and hanging in it for more than a few minutes often resulted in permanent injury. Suffocation and broken ribs were also common, so the climber was careful not to fall. By the mid-1980, seat harness, much like those in use today had become standard , and climbers frlt much more free to take the occasion fall (ropes had improved a lot too). But in the time in between, from the 70s through early 80s, a waste tie-in was most common in the US. This is when I started climbing.

3- and 4-inch swami belts from about 1980.  I used the top one regularly for about 7 years.

At first it was just a rope, but soon a bowline on a coil became common, which is much more comfortable. about 6-8 wraps of line were taken around the waste and cinched off with a modified bowline tied around the coil. It wasn't that comfortable, it consumed about 25 feet of rope (pretty significant if both climbers did this), and was time consuming to get on and off the rope.

Climbers started wrapping webbing into a wide belt, but the width was hard to control and after shifting or falling, was often no wider than the webbing. Soon, climbing shops started producing fleece-lined swami belts 3-4 inches wide with accessory loops. You lashed this around your waist with 1-inch nylon webbing. It was more comfortable, and so long as you were young and had strong core muscles, tolerable in gentle falls and hanging for short periods. Better than a chest harness, anyway, although that seems improbable. I swear, based on many experiences, it is true.

Interestingly, they never got wider than 4 inches. It didn't seem to help must and got combersome. Soon after these were developed, shops started making leg loops to go with them, and thus the modern seat harness was born.

I tape large stiff foam pads inside the leg loops of my harness if I'm going up the mast for a long while. It really helps.

The ISO standard for sailing harness in 45 mm (1.75 inches), and most are this width. This is also the standard for rock climbing harness and automotive seat belts. However, most rock climbing harnesses have leg loops 2 inches wide and 3-inch belts. Racing seat belts are 3 inches, with 6 belts instead of 2.

While a full body harness is what you really need to take a huge fall, that's just not practical. But could a chest harness be improved by making the band wider? A very simple thing to do.

I should have started from scratch, but I'm down to a writer's meager income, so I reworked an old harness I had. Though it has some rust stains, it hasn't been in the sun much the webbing is far stronger than the code requires. By removing some hardware, resewing a few things, and adding a fleece lining (why not--it will feel good in the summer), I increased the width from 45mm to 70 mm, or 56% more area. Yup, it feels better when hanging, though it is still horrible, like any chest harness.

Stiffer webbing would help. No, it is not adjustable; it's just for me and I have another for winter wear. Loosing the buckles makes it lighter and more comfortable.

I will be testing 45 mm, 3-inch, and 4-inch straps for an up-coming article. However, I know there is a limit. Even being hoisted with a well padded LifeSling really stings after a few minutes, so don't expect miracles. But if it saves a few bruises or a broken rib, it's a big deal. I'm thinking 4 inches would be a sensible standard, but let's see what the tests say. As near as I can tell, the design of the straps and buckles makes no difference under load, only the width of the strap.

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Borax: Stopping Mildew and Rot on the Cheap... and How the EPA Can Make Everything Complicated

rev. 4-20-2014

Websters' version

Borax: 1. a white crystalline compound that consists of a hydrated sodium borate Na2B4O7·10H2O, that occurs as a mineral or is prepared from other minerals, and that is used especially as a flux, cleansing agent, and water softener, as a preservative, and as a fireproofing agent.

EPA's Version

Borax: pesticide products containing boric acid and its sodium salts (borax) are registered in the U.S. for use as insecticides, fungicides and herbicides. As insecticides, some act as stomach poisons in ants, cockroaches, silverfish and termites, while others abrade the exoskeletons of insects. As herbicides, some cause desiccation or interrupt photosynthesis in plants, while others suppress algae in swimming pools and sewage systems. As fungicides, several are wood preservatives which control decay-producing fungi in lumber and timber products.

While generally considered safe--still used in many big-name laundry detergents--if I claim a cleaning formulation containing borax keeps mildew away, I have to register it with the EPA before marketing. But I can sell you a box of borax without registration. Go figure. Is it really about toxicity? I don't really think so. It is about twice as toxic as washing soda (LD50 borax and boric acid are about 2500 mg/kg BM. Although borax is suspected in certain reproductive problems in laboratory animal testing, it is not associated with cancer and does not bio-accumulate.).

It seems that anything that works must be poison, or at least regulated. That is governments purpose.

As part of a future Practical Sailor article I began exploring fumigating agents and anti-mildew products. I truth, most projects I take on are because I've had some troubles related to the subject in question and thus have some understanding and some additional motivation. Every boat has at least one damp spot prone to mildew, and in my case, I have a basement prone to wet carpets every few years. Not flooding, but mildew potential.

I began exploring the formulations of some successful products. Concrobium is one, dreadfully over priced at the local hardware, particularly considering you can look up the underlying pattents (EP 1104450 B1) and learn that each quart bottle ($18.00) contains nothing but:
  • 1 tbs baking soda (sodium bicarbonate)
  • 2 tbs washing soda (sodium carbonate)
  • 2 tbs TSP (trisodium phosphate)
Simple and effective. The chemistry makes perfect sense; it is applied without rinsing and thus leaves behind a thin alkiline coating that repells bacterial and fungal growth (fungi require acid conditions) and provides no food for growth (soaps contain fatty acids and make great fungi food). More is not better because it is used without rinsing, the limitied concentration is important.

That got me thinking, so I began trying other variations including my favorite, also in 1 quart:
  • 2 tbs baking soda
  • 2 tbs borax
  • 1 tbs TSP
I've been testing all three on some mildewed carpet sections, cleaning by scrubbing lightly and then extracting with a vacuum. Which is best? After 6 months they are both perfect, although the borax version killed the smell a bit faster.


Other Applications

Basement Carpets and Walls. We've had problems with a wet basement and biannual flooding for 20 years. I've washed and dried a lot of carpets. Learning to use this formulation as the rinse was a revelation. No more mildew smell, no more mad rush to get them dry. No more black stains. Simply use this as the rinse water and the carpets stay fresh.

Preventing Wood Rot
Borax is VERY effective in preventing wood rot. I've used it myself mixed with ethylene glycol (Goolge it) to preserve a common pine totem pole in damp soil and remain impressed; it's staying as though it were pressure treated, 6 years and counting. West Systems Epoxy has posted on this subject. The National Park Service posted this on preserving totem poles in the PNW with borate/glycol.

Obviously, they can't stand boric acid. One of the most common extermination products, particularly around kitchens and bedrooms (works on mattresses). It's not going to work on the flying pests, though, the only ones I have trouble with. Darn.

Wooden Decks
Seems like a good cleaning choice. Should help keep the algae away. Limit the TSP if you wish to be bay-friendly. Try it on your home deck for a little boost to the pressure treatment.
Combine it with some bleach as needed.
A less alkaline variation is well known and should keep the mildew away. Reduce the dose:
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp borax
Oh, the power of good marketing. I swear I'm not just trying to be trying to be cheap. Furthermore, I'm a chemical engineer and have no phobia regarding synthetic chemicals. I'm not pushing this because of some hidden green agenda or because it is less toxic. The strength of these formulations is basic:
  • No organic mildew food
  • Mildly alkaline film
  • Borate as mildewstat
I'm also reviewing some nice complex synthetic formulations that promise to be more water resistant. We'll see.

Monday, January 8, 2018

Preparing for Snow

When snow is forecast, the diligent southerner prepares. As a Yankee, I would use a a nice stout.  Higher standards.

Thursday, January 4, 2018

When the Wind Blows From the North...

... it blows the water out of the Chesapeake Bay, resulting in tides as much as 6 feet below normal. The tide was still dropping when I took these images. Fortunately, the mud is a gentle cradle. Sometime I think the boat does better aground when it's howling--it no longer tugs at the lines.

And more cold to come.

Every boat in the marina is aground. The catamaran is my old Shoal Survivor, and the trimaran on the right is my current ride.

The inside of the slip is only a few inches deep.

The dock is now chest-high. No "stepping aboard"--you have to climb. The samples that are hanging under the dock are test coupons that should be in the water. You can see the water stain on the fender to the right.

Flying the Port ama sitting still.

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

The Clipper Round-the-World Race and the Failed Tether

Some of you are likely aware of the Clipper Race, where amateur sailors ranging from considerably experienced to land lubber pay for a slot on a race boat. There are two paid crew for 18 guests, so hand holding is limited. This is quite different from either the pure amateur or pure professional models, where the crew must earn a place on the boat.

During the last race, a 60-year old retired lawyer fell off the bow and drowned. He was tethered, but the carabiner on the tether failed. Forensic testing of identical clips confirm that because of the way the tether was pulled, instead of failing at over 4000 pounds as expected, it failed at about 300 pounds, a force easily generated in a modest stumble.

That is a staggeringly low failure strength. How could that happen? Unfortunately, if I told the full story, my editor would choke me, so I will just have to refer you to Practical Sailor. We've been deeply involved in investigation. There is an interesting post on Facebook right now (link below) and the full story will be out in a few weeks.

Practical Sailor Clipper Up-Date, Facebook

I will share this, however. My tethers don't look like that. I have a few spare hooks left over from testing but they won't be going on the boat. In fact, if you showed any rock climber this sharp-edged monstrosity and asked him to trust his life to it, he would tell you to get stuffed and pitch it deep in the woods. Honestly, it looks like a toy carabiner to me. The metal is too thin, the edges are sharp enough to cut rope and even steel climbing slings, the internal lock can jam on rope and webbing, and the nose snags everything in sight.

I use something a bit different. The carabiners are from rock climbing and via ferrata. They are better proven, more thoroughly tested, and subject to a tougher standard. The lanyard is 8 mm climbing rope and absorbs impact, keep the force on my chest comfortably low. I'm hoping the standards for marine tethers and carabiners can be changed to be more like these.

I'm thinking that the sailor might still be here. But make no mistake, off-shore sailing is dangerous, and if you fall over the rail, the ocean can beat you to death in short order. Keep your tethers short.

Saturday, December 30, 2017

The Value of High Tech Lines

[ Paraphrased from a Corsair group posting]

Line Tension

The word "taught" often gets confused with "taut." Here are some hints regarding correct
usage of the two words.

"Taught" is the past tense of "teach." Consider the following sentence: "I done teached him all I know and he still don't know nothing." You can improve the sentence by replacing the word "teached" with the word "taught," so that it reads, "I have taught him all I could, and he's still remarkably ignorant."
You can see the improvement.

Now let's look briefly at the other word. "That line was so tight that it done pulled the winch right out of the cabin top." Here, you can replace the word "tight" with the word "taut." That won't help the cabin top or the winch, though, and perhaps this sailor should have reefed earlier.

But be careful, because in the next example you can't reef your sails with a simple replacement of one word for another. "I used that new gasoline-powered blender that I got from Cabela's to make a batch of margaritas, and I've been tight all day." Here, the word tight is used to mean slightly drunk, and it's a slightly out-of-date use of the expression. And yes, that store does sell that product. The engine has 2.5 HP - I'm not kidding!

One thing that you can't do is teach an old rope new tricks. Ropes are pretty stupid. Even if they're expensive ropes. So this is wrong, just plain wrong: "He cranked that winch until the line was so taught that it pulled the mast pivot fittings right out of the cabin-top when he was raising the mast."
It's wrong for several reasons. In this case the narrator alludes to the general fault, that some
teaching has been ineffective, but blames it on over-education of the rope rather than under-education
of the person.

One thing they teach in those Coast Guard classes, and if you've ever taken one then you've been taught this, is that you ought to read the directions. In this case, the Farrier or Corsair Sailing Manuals. Another thing they teach is that rope can't read, no matter how taut it is.

I hope that this discussion has made the whole issue clear now.

Thank you.
Dave Paule

Thursday, December 21, 2017

The Importance of Sending the Right Message

Several weeks ago, several members of my home owners' association proposed changing the name of the main road from Stonewall Street to Stone Wall Street. The degree of divisiveness and the bitterness of Stonewall Jackson's defenders has been both enlightening and frankly, saddening. I though we had come farther, but the clannish nature of humans  runs deep.

When I moved into the community 25 years ago, I didn't even make the connection. I didn't look closely at the stone entry way, since we don't pass by it when driving to our house or walking through the neighborhood. We live in the farthest corner of the community, facing a street outside the community.  I assumed "Stonewall Manor" was simply a stately moniker dreamed up by the developer to sell houses. The marker was made of stone and until today, I never looked closely at the image. Most of the streets are named for Confederate generals (Stonewall Drive, Jackson Parkway, Drexel Street, McNeil Street, Holt street, Colby Street, Rockbridge Street). A few seem innocuous, (Shenandoah and Academy, though the references are clear), and some are sneaky (Little Sorrel--Stonewall Jackson's horse, Villanova--the almamater of several Confederate generals, including Robert E. Lee). An obvious pattern.

In fact, the Yeonas brothers, the developers responsible, were deeply prejudiced and named the community and streets in intentionally, as a statement during the civil rights movement and as integration was coming to Virginia. The original purchase papers prohibited African Americans from buying houses. Thus, the community and street names were not chosen through a sense of nostalgia, an interest in history, or from an honest respect for the people. They were chosen specifically for their intimidating emotional impact and are nothing more than a reflection of deep-seated bigotry.

How can you hang a Christmas Wreath, a symbol of peace and forgiveness, around an image intended to intimidate and humiliate?

One objection to removing the street names is the cost. Your address is deeply rooted in the paperwork of life, and changing it would bring considerable pain and suffering. Several have suggested only changing on the name of the community, which is painless, so let's discuss it on this basis. There will long remain a few historically named places and roads. We don't change the name of a city from Saint Petersburg, to Leningrad, and back to Saint Petersburg around here. But we can economically and painlessly remove this face, the association, and change the name of the community with minimal effort. The intent to the greater community will be clear.I think that is enough.

Some insist this honors a great man.The following letter, written by the surviving  descendants of Stonewall Jackson to the City of Richmond, makes the view of the immediate family view clear: history should move onward, away from this dark time.


"Dear Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney and members of the Monument Avenue Commission,
We are native Richmonders and also the great-great-grandsons of Stonewall Jackson. As two of the closest living relatives to Stonewall, we are writing today to ask for the removal of his statue, as well as the removal of all Confederate statues from Monument Avenue. They are overt symbols of racism and white supremacy, and the time is long overdue for them to depart from public display. ...

Last weekend, Charlottesville showed us unequivocally that Confederate statues offer pre-existing iconography for racists. The people who descended on Charlottesville last weekend were there to make a naked show of force for white supremacy. To them, the Robert E. Lee statue is a clear symbol of their hateful ideology. The Confederate statues on Monument Avenue are, too—especially Jackson, who faces north, supposedly as if to continue the fight.

We are writing to say that we understand justice very differently from our grandfather’s grandfather, and we wish to make it clear his statue does not represent us.
Through our upbringing and education, we have learned much about Stonewall Jackson. We have learned about his reluctance to fight and his teaching of Sunday School to enslaved peoples in Lexington, Virginia, a potentially criminal activity at the time. We have learned how thoughtful and loving he was toward his family. But we cannot ignore his decision to own slaves, his decision to go to war for the Confederacy, and, ultimately, the fact that he was a white man fighting on the side of white supremacy.

While we are not ashamed of our great-great-grandfather, we are ashamed to benefit from white supremacy while our black family and friends suffer. We are ashamed of the monument.

In fact, instead of lauding Jackson’s violence, we choose to celebrate Stonewall’s sister—our great-great-grandaunt—Laura Jackson Arnold. As an adult Laura became a staunch Unionist and abolitionist. Though she and Stonewall were incredibly close through childhood, she never spoke to Stonewall after his decision to support the Confederacy. We choose to stand on the right side of history with Laura Jackson Arnold.

Confederate monuments like the Jackson statue were never intended as benign symbols. Rather, they were the clearly articulated artwork of white supremacy....As importantly, this message is clear to today’s avowed white supremacists.....

Ongoing racial disparities in incarceration, educational attainment, police brutality, hiring practices, access to health care, and, perhaps most starkly, wealth, make it clear that these monuments do not stand somehow outside of history. Racism and white supremacy, which undoubtedly continue today, are neither natural nor inevitable. Rather, they were created in order to justify the unjustifiable, in particular slavery.

One thing that bonds our extended family, besides our common ancestor, is that many have worked, often as clergy and as educators, for justice in their communities. While we do not purport to speak for all of Stonewall’s kin, our sense of justice leads us to believe that removing the Stonewall statue and other monuments should be part of a larger project of actively mending the racial disparities that hundreds of years of white supremacy have wrought.

As cities all over the South are realizing now, we are not in need of added context. We are in need of a new context—one in which the statues have been taken down."

Some insist that he was a progressive man. I think it is very significant that his great-great grandsons point out that Stonewall Jackson's sister opposed slavery and was a staunch abolitionist. If her brother did not like slavery and was a man of strong principle, he too could have made that choice, freeing them and paying them a fair wage. Teaching children who were enslaved how to read can hardly begin to amend for the decision to become a leader in a war to defend slavery, an indefensible institution that reached beyond our present day comprehension in its cruelty.

Finally, he is elevated as patriot who did his duty and served his country. In fact, his duty was to fight for those who could not fight for themselves and his country was the United States of America.

I'm not an active champion of politically correct speech. I won't pretend that I am without prejudice and conservative political views, burned deep in my brain from my youth. But as a thinking person I have the ability to act based on what I know is right, and after living and observing the world for 56 years, I have become quite liberal in most things (other than personal spending habits).  Liberal views aren't always my first reflex, but after consideration, I feel generally right with them. They feel kind.

I regret that people see this as divisive. At most, it should stimulate thoughtful discussion. Really,  there isn't that much to argue over. Slavery, the Confederacy, and racisim are wrong. That's long settled. Should we bear the expense of changing road names, or just change the name of the community and revise the marker? That's a business conversation. Thus, the debate can only be divisive if we dig our heels in rather than talk, and if we stubbornly believe the world will get better by doing what is easy.

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Winter Sailing... When it is 60F!

(Well, in the marina it was 60F, on the water just a bit less than that.)

 Winter has some up-sides folks forget about:
  • No power boat wakes. This makes ghosting in light winds a joy.
  • Quiet. Really quiet.
  • No sweating.
  • It keeps the engine lubed and the fuel fresh.
  • You don't have to wash the boat. You can't because the water is off!
  • No cooler to carry.
  • It's cheap. Or rather I figure the cost of insurance, the slip, and most maintanance was paid for by the summer season.
  • Bottom paint stays clean.
  • No trips to "check on the boat."
Down sides?
  • It can be cold. Don't go those days.
  • It can be cold. As they say in Maine, "there is no such thing as bad weather, only inadequate clothing." And so, with the appropriate fleece under layers, fleece socks,  windproof gloves, a balacova, watch cap, and ski goggles, I remain quite snug down to near freezing. Take extra gloves for handling wet lines.
  • Many summer places are closed.
  • If you fall in you will die. Don't fall in, or wear a dry suit.
  • Days are short... but that's a good excuse to keep the trip short.
  • Nights are too long. That's a good reason not to over night.
 A soft shackle eliminates a shackle that could wack the mast and heads, and a low friction ring eliminates a block that would be flopping around.
But yesterday wasn't really winter. Eat your hearts out, all those who hauled out.

A different winter's day, a different year, on my Stiletto 27. Windblocker fleece over plain fleece. Zoom.

Saturday, December 16, 2017

Judicial Nomination Hearings

I remain embarrassed for us as a nation. We elected reality show character who simply doesn't believe he needs to play well with others. Some were hoodwinked. I feel bad for them. Some drank the cool aide and still believe. Some are willing to ignore the horrible parts to get a few bits of conservative legislation. I can respect some of the conservative politics. Some I agree with some I do not. But that is off the point. You can't ignore the horrible. One job of government is to lead us towards being better people, and it is failing. Those that go alone, share the guilt equally, in my opinion.

Today, I am embarrassed for this man, who didn't have the sense to cram for the test before getting interviewed by Congress. I cram for interviews, for a week of more as required. His lack of effort  would be embarrassing for a high  school student and deserves an F for lack of effort and disrespect for the US Government, and by implication, the people of the US. He just didn't do the home work. What does this look like on the world stage?
  • Didn't do his homework and was not embarrased by that.
  • Was nominated by a President that only cares that he is young and conservative, and not a fig whether he is capable.
  • The Congress rubber stamps this stuff. Toadies.
If he doesn't withdraw, then he should curl up at home in shame. His college professors, instead of being proud, are weeping in the halls.

Rev. 12-18-2017. Oh, I see he did withdraw. Of course, Trump has a media-blame rationalization for being caught trying to get away with something, again. Also embarrassing for all of us.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Ul Listed Electrical Tape Should Not Suport Combustion...

... But that depends on who you buy it from.

I was rummaging in the tape box and came across a box of rolls I had never opened. I tried to use it to splice some lines, but it just didn't feel right.

First I tried lighting some 3M tape I had. It burned while exposed to the flame, but went out instantly.

Then I tried the no-name tape. Three inches vanished waiting for the 5 second timer!

Looks UL Listed to me. The HK74 registration is for a Chinese company, but I would bet it was ripped off by a different, less legitimate Chinese company. 

I'm a big supporter of free trade. I believe globalization is the final path to world civilization and peace. But this sort of thing just does not help.

The moral? For electrical components I try to stay with known brands. If the tape feels funny, put a match to it.