February 2011 – Salty John : The Blog

One morning we heard on vhf radio the captain of the Italian cruise liner Asiatic Renaissance hailing the Georgetown (Bahamas) harbour master. A lady eventually responded, informing the caller that there was no harbour master in Georgetown but could she help? She was, she informed him, on a sail boat anchored in the harbour.

The captain said his vessel was 275 feet long, he had dropped anchor off Lily Cay and he wanted clearance to bring 95 tourists ashore.

The lady told him he needed to hail ‘Taxi 4’ or ‘Taxi 16’, that would be Joel or Clifford, and they could help him. Have a nice day.

The captain of the cruise liner responded in a somewhat bewildered tone ‘You think I should hail ‘Taxi 4’ on the radio to get permission?’

‘Roger that, or ‘Taxi 16’, she replied.

So, the captain duly called ‘Taxi 4’ who responded immediately. When the captain explained what he wanted, ‘Taxi 4’ assured him this was no problem, he would round up the two customs officers, currently out at the airfield, and take them to the Government Dock where the cruise liner’s launch could meet them to complete formalities.

Simple really. Island style.

Of course, that was twenty years ago. Since then Georgetown has acquired a Harbour master and I suppose the clearing-in procedure is a little more conventional.

My one season old mainsail was neatly folded and placed in its bag and then left on the shelf in the garage where all the other boating stuff is stored for the winter. In the spring I laid out the sail on the lawn to check it for the new season and discovered large parts of it had been eaten.

I’ve subsequently discovered that field mice don’t eat Dacron, but they do use it for bedding. I found the nest and, sure enough, it was luxuriously appointed with shredded mainsail.

So, if you don’t want to be a supplier of material to the interior decorating trade for rodents, stow your sails where the little devils can’t get at them.

I wonder why we in the English speaking world pronounce kilometre as if it rhymed with speedometer? A kilometre is a metric unit of length, not a meter for measuring something. We don’t treat millimetres and centimetres this way. Try saying millimetre with the same emphasis on the second syllable. Sounds ridiculous doesn’t it?

Why should the kilometre be different?

It’s as though the kilometre got put away in the wrong box; it ended up with the thermometers, pedometers and tachometers instead of in the box with its metric unit relatives. A kilometre is a thousand metres not some instrument with a dial that measures kilos.

I think we should start a campaign to get the kilometre back. People in UK, North America and Australasia need to be made aware of the plight of the kilometre.

Say after me: millimetre, centimetre, kilometre.

And another thought for the day:

Life should not be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside in a cloud of smoke, thoroughly used up, totally worn out and loudly proclaiming “Wow! What a ride!

Hunter S. Thompson (1937 – 2005)

I watched a crew careen this boat over two tides on the beach at Staniel Cay, Bahamas. It was no lightweight this boat, a 40’ Morgan OI, but it was so expertly and effortlessly done it might well have been a dinghy they were manhandling.

 It seems strange that the word careening also means to sway dangerously and uncontrollably; that’s the antithesis of how you careen a boat.

I was attracted to the cruising life because it’s simple. I’ve always strived to simplify; I solve problems this way – I reduce the problem to its simplest form, cutting out all the extraneous issues that complicate the matter. The solution becomes so much clearer.

So, going to sea in a small boat appeals – it’s the simplest form of life available to modern man. I can’t think of any other way of living that gives you such control over your life. On land your decisions are influenced by regulations, customs and social inhibitions. Out cruising your decisions are usually made on the basis of necessity and in the expectation that they will achieve your safety or improve your comfort.

You derive huge satisfaction from the simple successes and you learn quickly from the mistakes. The feedback loop is short.

I heartily recommend small boat cruising as a way of life.

I was on a forum a little while ago where a poster stated that his production monohull yacht had a water line length of less than 24’ but could achieve a speed of 7.5 knots. This is, of course, impossible without defying the laws of physics. Such a boat would have a hull speed of no more than 6.5 knots. He probably needs to check the accuracy of his speed log.

Let’s recap the displacement hull speed law: As a boat moves through the water it creates a wave. As the boat moves faster the wave increases in length until it eventually reaches the waterline length of the boat. At this point the boat can go no faster without climbing up the face of its own bow wave. Considerable power is required to do this – well beyond that available to the typical sail boat.

The formula for theoretical displacement hull speed is:

Speed (knots) = 1.34 x √LWL in feet

Example: LWL is 25’. Hull speed is 1.34 x 5 = 6.7 knots.

Some lightweight flyers, even if they do have displacement hulls, can slightly exceed this theoretical figure; a constant of 1.4 instead of 1.34 brings these boats into the catchment area, so to speak.

The waterline length on some boats, particularly those with long overhangs, increases as the boat heels, so they go faster heeled that upright.

Most monohull sail boats have displacement hulls. The long narrow hulls on some multihulls are not limited by the displacement hull speed law because they can climb up onto their own bow wave and plane along the surface.

Diesel engines on the size of boat most of us sail are almost always indirectly cooled by pumping sea water through a heat exchanger, or directly cooled by pumping seawater through the engine block. In both cases the water leaving the engine is pumped into the exhaust pipe from where it exits overboard with the exhaust gases.
The flow of this water through what is known as the wet exhaust system cools the exhaust components (hose, silencer etc.), and prevents them overheating.
The raw water flow to the engine could be interrupted by debris blocking the inlet, a clogged inlet strainer or by someone (not me!) failing to open the inlet seacock.
Raw water failure is the most common problem with marine engines. Within a short period of time expensive damage to engine or wet exhaust system can occur.
Here’s the problem: marine engines don’t come with an exhaust temperature alarm; it’s considered part of the exhaust system, not the engine. The engine will have an alarm to tell you when the engine is overheating but it is very often the case that the exhaust components have already melted by the time the engine alarm goes off.
Tug boats on the Panama Canal and fishing boats in Alaska use the Borel system and that’s the one we chose to offer on the website. We call it the Sentry Exhaust Alarm because it guards you’re engine.

It’s Chinese New Year. The year of the rabbit starts today. 

(I realise this has nothing to do with boating – we’ll get back to that any day now!)