July 2012 – Salty John : The Blog

Despite the dodgy weather here in the UK, boats are out sailing and for us here at Salty John it means the Loos & Company tension gauge season is in full swing.

Having the correct rig tension is important because a loose rig can impart shock loads to shrouds and chainplates as the mast flops from side to side; a too tight rig can cause structural damage.

A well tuned rig will have equally tensioned shrouds so that the boat will perform well on both tacks, the leeward shrouds won’t dangle flaccidly and the forestay won’t sag. She’ll feel right on all points of sail.

You don’t need a tension gauge to set up the rig – there are methods whereby you can measure the change in length of the shrouds and stays as the turnbuckles are tightened, and there’s always the tune your rig like a guitar technique – twang! G – That seems about right.

The Loos tension gauge gives you a quick, accurate, check and that will encourage you to test often, making sure all is well. 

For racers who set their rigs to suit the prevailing conditions a Loos gauge is an important tool in their race-winning armoury. There’s a link on the website to the North Sails catalogue of tuning guides – your boat might be in there and, if so, you’ll get information on the best Loos settings for all your wire.

There are Loos gauges for wire rigging from 2.5mm to 10mm and for rod rigging of all sizes. We stock them all and we regularly check to ensure we’re the lowest cost supplier.

So, you can’t tuna fish but you can tune your rig – with a Loos tension gauge.

The summer has (we hope) finally arrived in time for school holidays and fun on the water, which means it’s time to remind you all of the dangers of drowning.

Drowning is not a noisy, dramatic event. Our body’s response to suffocation by water is quite different to the commonly held view that it involves waving arms and shouting for help. That comes before you are drowning. At that point you are in a state known as “aquatic distress” and can still assist in your own rescue by grabbing at floatation devices. If you aren’t saved at this point you quickly pass to drowning. Then, instinct takes over.

In an article in the US Coastguards ‘On Scene’ magazine Dr Francesco Pia, Phd, describes what he terms ‘the instinctive drowning response’ as follows:

1.    Except in rare circumstances, drowning people are physiologically unable to call out for help. The respiratory system was designed for breathing. Speech is the secondary or overlaid function. Breathing must be fulfilled, before speech occurs.
2.    Drowning people’s mouths alternately sink below and reappear above the surface of the water. The mouths of drowning people are not above the surface of the water long enough for them to exhale, inhale, and call out for help. When the drowning people’s mouths are above the surface, they exhale and inhale quickly as their mouths start to sink below the surface of the water.
3.    Drowning people cannot wave for help. Nature instinctively forces them to extend their arms laterally and press down on the water’s surface. Pressing down on the surface of the water, permits drowning people to leverage their bodies so they can lift their mouths out of the water to breathe.
4.    Throughout the Instinctive Drowning Response, drowning people cannot voluntarily control their arm movements. Physiologically, drowning people who are struggling on the surface of the water cannot stop drowning and perform voluntary movements such as waving for help, moving toward a rescuer, or reaching out for a piece of rescue equipment.
5.    From beginning to end of the Instinctive Drowning Response people’s bodies remain upright in the water, with no evidence of a supporting kick.

Drowning people can only struggle on the surface of the water for from 20 to 60 seconds before submersion occurs.

So, if someone dives, jumps or falls overboard and appears to be calm, don’t assume they are not in trouble. Sometimes the most common indication that someone is drowning is that they don’t look like they’re drowning. Talk to them. Ask them: Are you OK? If they reply immediately, they’re probably fine. If they just look blank there’s a chance that they are drowning and you must act quickly to assist them.

Keep a watch on people playing in the water, look for these other signs of drowning:

Head tilted back with mouth open.

Head low in the water, mouth at water level
Eyes closed, or glassy and empty, unfocussed.
Vertical in the water, not using legs
Hyperventilating or gasping
Attempting to swim but not making headway
Attempting to roll over on the back

So, if the kids are screaming and splashing, be thankful, they’re not drowning. If they go unnaturally quite, that’s the time to worry.

Have a happy, and safe, summer!

The UK weather may not be quite up to scratch right now – OK, it sucks – but the scientists at the Salty John secret laboratories have the answer. Earlier this month we launched our Jet Stream Deflector after many weeks of intensive, and highly successful, testing on volunteer boats.

As you can see from the sketch of the prototype, which changed very little as it developed into the pre-production model and eventually the production model, the technology is quite advanced. Techno-sculpting of medium gauge extruded zinc rod has created an inverted high level atmospheric repelling shield that, when applied in sufficient quantity, will force the jet stream into a more northerly orbit.

At this time we are just beginning to see the effects of the Jet Stream Deflector but as more are added to the masts of the UK sailing fleet the effect will become more noticeable and, we confidently predict, will result in a significant improvement in the weather over the British Isles in the next seven to ten days.

So, please go to the Salty John website and buy your Jet Stream Deflector at the government subsidised price of just £69.95.

Fight climate change – support Salty John Laboratories research!

No, no, I’m not referring to activities in the book ’Fifty Shades of Grey’ and nor do I mean forming meaningful relationships; I’m referring to the connecting together of your boat’s non-current carrying metal components to form a common ground for your DC electrical system. Bonding, that’s the word.

The bits we’re talking about are the engine, gear box, fuel tanks, water tanks, the external casings of pumps and motors and so on. Typically in a bonded boat these items would be connected together with copper conductors to a common bonding conductor which usually runs for and aft down the boat. Not bonding your boat means leaving all those big chunks of metal isolated from each other.

The idea is that bonding everything together with appropriate copper conductors provides a large common ground for the electrical system, it provides lightning protection and it controls corrosion.

There are some who prefer not to bond. These isolationists aren’t necessarily anti-social, they just think that bonding leaves the boat vulnerable to stray-current corrosion outside the hull even though it is protected from stray current corrosion within the boat.

An important issue is the question of whether or not to connect your through hulls into this common grid. Personally I prefer plastic (Marelon) through hulls and seacocks so, for me, it’s a moot point. But with metal through hulls you have to decide whether to connect them to the other components or to leave them isolated to look after themselves. The predominant view is that you should leave them isolated.

So, research the subject and make your choice – to bond or not to bond, that is the question. Bondage, that’s something else.

The racing fleet is a scary thing. 

I remember arriving back in Chesapeake Bay from points south, bound for Annapolis. It was a summer weekend; there were blinding white sails and colourful spinnakers wall to wall. 

As we converged with the first pod of boats we could hear the crews shouting at each other to assert right of way, the boats at full tilt seemingly inches apart, half the fleet on starboard, half on port. It appeared inevitable that we’d become embroiled in an almighty pile up, a watery version of a multi-vehicle motorway crash. But then they were passed us, hell bent on the windward mark somewhere astern and the next pod was in sight.

Yes, a scary thing is the racing fleet.

Electric level switches that are located in the bilge to operate an alarm or activate a bilge pump seem to be the least reliable piece of equipment on a boat, judging by the number of times they are condemned in sailing forums. In my obsessive, continuing, search for the ultimate bilge pump switch, I came across the report of a test completed by the UK fishing industry’s own standards organisation, a company set up to improve safety and efficiency in the fishing industry.

Deep sea fishing boats have to carry a high water alarm to warn of flooding and the reliability of these systems, based as they are on a bilge switch operating a siren, is a problem.

This company did comprehensive testing on six or seven systems ranging in cost from nearly £1000 down to under £100. Within this group were resistive switches, optical switches, and an air pressure switch.

These systems were each installed and operated on a North Sea fishing boat for a minimum of six months. One system was removed during the test because it was clearly unreliable. Of the rest, it was noted that the Water Witch based system (the cheapest, incidentally) and the Jabsco air pressure switch were very reliable.

Of the resistive type switches it was noted that only the Water Witch sensor didn’t need to be periodically wiped clean whereas the other resistive types and the optical sensor gave false alarms, or wouldn’t switch off after the water level was reduced, if they weren’t periodically wiped clean. The report contained pictures of the conditions in which all the systems had to operate and they make the typical yacht bilge look as sanitised as an operating theatre!

I think bilge switches, whether they are expected to activate a pump or simply an alarm, have a most onerous task simply because of the hostile environment in which they perform. Salt water, oil, chemicals, debris, irregular and sometimes violent motion all contribute to nightmarish operating conditions.

I’ve come to the conclusion that all bilge switches work some of the time and no switch works all of the time. It isn’t so much that bilge switches are unreliable – it’s that they are inconsistently reliable.

I spent many lucrative hours replenishing the cruising kitty when I was employed to fit Water Witch switches to a fleet of charter boats, replacing unreliable flappy switches. If we sold bilge switches I think we’d probably stock the Water Witch.