boating Archives – Salty John : The Blog

Skippool Creek is a place of marshes and mud banks, shelducks and mallards, reed warblers and redshanks and it’s the home to an eclectic collection of boats.

Converted lifeboats, elegant wooden sloops, hardy little motorboats and modern, ocean going yachts cling to docks poking into the creek from its grassy banks.

To accommodate the huge tidal range in this area the docks are mounted on tall pilings fashioned from old telephone poles, scaffolding bars and wooden planks. Isambard Kingdom Brunel would be turning in his grave and Heath Robinson would be punching the air.
Where the bank is some distance from the road, low wooden walkways provide access across the marshy ground. At high tide the access road floods.

Skippool Creek feeds into the River Wyre which in turn flows into the sea at the port of Fleetwood on England’s northwest coast. The Blackpool & Fleetwood Yacht Club sits where the creek meets the river – it’s a thriving club with every sailing activity from dinghy racing to cruising rallies. It has an excellent social calendar, too.

On the marshy banks decrepit hulks sit cheek by jowl with shiny new boats; a graveyard and a nursery of nautical ambition.

Skippool Creek, fascinating.

Sunday was a glorious spring day up here in the northwest so we went for a little tootle down the Lancaster Canal on Minnie, the yacht that thinks it’s a narrowboat. There were few other boats about which is typical of this waterway at any time of the year – we enjoy the relative solitude but it baffles me when the marinas are packed with boats. In my experience it’s like this in most boating centres – 80 percent of boats never leave the dock. I suppose we should be grateful they don’t or the adjacent waters would be heaving with activity.

Last August I reported the sighting of a terrapin sunning itself on a log on a nearby stretch of the canal. Here’s a picture I snapped at the same place on Sunday – it looks like this terrapin has taken up permanent residence in this spot. Terrapins are not indigenous to Britain, we don’t have any native turtles, but many terrapins and tortoises set loose when the Ninja Turtle craze abated have taken well to the British way of life.

I apologise for the inferior quality of the picture: I was steering with my foot, negotiating a bend and passing a parked narrowboat whilst snapping away.

There is a bewildering array of sealants available at your chandlers for jobs requiring a watertight seal or bond between surfaces.Attaching deck hardware, repairing the inflatable dinghy, making a hull to deck seal, fitting portlights or sealing through-hulls and seacocks all require sealants with special qualities. Here’s a brief run through of what’s available and what it’s good for:

These are easy-to-use and generally clean products with a variety of uses such as isolating dissimilar metals and for sealing wood, glass and most plastics. They resist most boaty chemicals. Not recommended for underwater tasks such as sealing through hulls or for really tough jobs like hull to deck joints. A bit wimpy on the adhesive front.

Polysulphide (polysulfide).Fantastically versatile and strong, stay flexible, bond well to most surfaces and can be used above or below the waterline. Not suitable for bonding plastics – melt acrylics and some plastics such as ABS and polycarbonates such as Lexan. Yikes. Take ages to cure.

The Incredible Hulk of the sealant world! Powerfully adhesive, they cure to form a flexible seal that’s all but impossible to break. There are several brands available with different cure rates, elongation characteristics, and tensile strength. Sika offers a large range of polyurethane hybrids for different specific purposes, Sikaflex 291 being the all-rounder. The universe could be held together with 3M 5200. I sealed a large gash in my Zodiac with this product and it was still going strong years later. Hull to deck joints, sealing through hulls and any other permanent bonding job cry out for polyurethane but don’t use it on acrylics. And don’t use it on anything you might contemplate taking apart again. Ever.


Polyurethane’s better looking, smarter but slightly wimpier brother. Looks good for a long time, cures very quickly, UV resistant, ultra flexible, shrugs off teak oils so can be used as a deck caulk, doesn’t stink and doesn’t shrink. What’s not to like? Oh, and you can use it on plastics, even ABS and polycarbonates. 3M 4000UV is an example.
Then we have a bunch of specialised sealants: Butyls, acrylics and bedding compounds. I’ve never found a use for these, given the availability of the above, but there may be special, obscure applications for which they are more suitable than the mainstream sealant types.

With more and more boaters switching from incandescent to LED navigation lights there is an emerging problem with VHF radio interference from these lighting sources.

LED lights need a constant voltage to perform properly and on most good quality LEDs this is provided by a tiny built-in controller. Some of these controllers, if not properly suppressed, can interfere with radio signals in the 30-300 MHz frequency range – just where VHF and AIS frequencies reside.

In some reported cases the interference is so bad that switching on LED lights within 10 feet of the antenna renders voice communication unintelligible and all AIS data disappears.

The LED revolution is a good thing for boats, providing reliable, long lasting, low power consumption lighting. But manufacturers need to ensure that their products do not interfere with the boats communication systems. They need to say this on the tin.

If you intend to change your masthead navigation lights to LEDs and you have a masthead mounted VHF antenna you should seek assurances that these lights will not cause interference.

The same interference problem applies to FM radio reception, but not being able to listen to the radio with the cabin lights on is an inconvenience, albeit a significant one, rather than a danger.

Check out those LEDs!

Once again we are seeing major storms through the UK. Winds gusting to 80 knots and more are hammering the country. Roof tiles are flying off, trees are falling, the coastline is being assaulted by massive waves and, tragically, a couple of people have died as a result.

This means, of course, that the media can report we are being hit by HURRICANES!

Well, we might have wind speeds of more than 64 knots, one of the criteria used to define a hurricane, but we aren’t having hurricanes. A hurricane is, by definition, a tropical revolving storm and we aren’t in the tropics.

I don’t think we need to sex up these large extra-tropical cyclones by calling them hurricanes. Our storm systems are powerful enough in their own right, as we’re seeing.

Hurricanes (or typhoons or tropical cyclones depending on where you are in the tropics) are quite different to extra-tropical storms. For a start they don’t have associated fronts. They have a warm core; they develop over warm water. Our storms have a cold core; they form over cold water. Hurricanes are very symmetrical and have a calm, well defined, eye. They break up quickly when encountering cold water or land.

Hurricanes are more powerful, generally, but smaller in size than extra-tropical storms.

It isn’t just wind speed that defines a hurricane.

I see newspaper reports of drought conditions in the SE of England. Well, up here in the northwest I can assure you this isn’t the case. This last month has been strong winds, rain and bright spells – sometimes all at the same time.

In this climate you have to be like an on-duty Lifeboat crew, ready to scramble at a moments notice. Last Friday afternoon I noticed that the sun was out, the wind had dropped and there was no black cloud on the western horizon. We were in the car and off to the boat like a shot!

We had a peaceful cruise up the canal and tied off to the bank for sundowners and nibbles. I use the term ‘sundowner’ loosely – in this country sundown comes at around 9.30 pm at this time of year. Afternoon tea probably describes it better, but we didn’t have tea and scones – we had beer, wine and cashew nuts.

Feverish blog activity.

In the past twelve hours we’ve had a spike – an additional 170 visitors to the blog. What caused this, I hear you ask? Was it pictures of scantily clad girls reclining on Minnie’s deck? Offers of free tickets to the Olympics?

No. It was a post I put on a well known boating forum asking if anyone might be interested in taking over our Tiller-Hand® production as a stand alone business. I had blogged about this a month ago and I provided the link to that blog entry – this caused the stampede. It surprised me that there are so many budding entrepreneurs wanting to get into the boating industry, or are we forumites just a nosy lot?

Over the years the list of unique products we offer has grown – the Motor Grip, Motor Lift, LED anchor light, Mooringmate, Bandit tape, the towing bridle and our range of davit slings most prominently. The Tiller-Hand was the original Salty John product but I can’t devote to it the attention it needs to expand sales into the broader boating markets – the chandlers and boat product distributors – so it’s time to let it fly the nest. Of course, we’ll be buying our stocks from the new owners so Salty John will still be the best place to buy this essential product for those that steer with a stick.

We never did catch much in the way of edible fish when we were cruising but we often deployed a trolling line, more out of hope than expectation. We most often used a green feathered lure on heavy monofilament line – about 150lbs breaking strain – and used a length of bungee cord to absorb the initial strike.

By a rather amazing coincidence this rig caught two mahi-mahi (also known as dorado or dolphin fish) at exactly the same spot in the Bahamas on the two occasions I’ve been there – nine years apart!

When you come through Cave Cay Cut and turn right to head down the Atlantic side of the Exuma cays on the 10 fathom line you’ll find your track takes you over a small area where the depth diminishes abruptly to 3 or 4 fathoms. This underwater pinnacle seems to provide an environment that attracts fish – this is precisely where I caught both my mahi-mahi all those years apart. They were delicious.

Actually, it was a swan attack, but I like the title.

In the spring when swans are nesting they are particularly protective. As we pottered down the canal yesterday we were approached by a swan displaying very aggressive behaviour. We knew that a female was nesting in a field off to our left and assumed straight away that this was the mate standing guard. It came rapidly towards us, swimming with a strange bobbing motion, wings tucked tightly behind, chest puffed out.

As we came alongside the swan he began lunging at the boat with his beak. We motored on past, leaving the swan in our wake. But he wasn’t finished yet. He lined up dead astern and came charging straight at us. It was quite intimidating. When he reached the boat, though, he stopped his attack and watched us carry on down the canal out of his territory. Job done, I suppose he thought.