June 2011 – Salty John : The Blog

I was following a thread on a popular boating forum about using solar powered garden lights as anchor lights. It all got very silly with suggestions that one solar powered light could energise an adjacent solar powered light – a sort of perpetual motion of lights.
Here we see my solar powered perpetual motion outboard motor. The solar lamps are powered by their own light output being reflected back on their solar panels via the mirror.
The heat generated by the lights causes the air above the lamps to rise; this draught of air turns the turbine which, via the gearbox, turns the propeller. Simple!

And you wouldn’t need an all round white navigation light at the stern.

Clearly there are some engineering details to work out but I’m a concept man – others can figure out how much light output would be needed to move specific boats at specific speeds, how to start and stop it, and so on.

I’ve shown it bolted to the back of Dylan Winter’s famous vessel, the slug, for it was he who suggested the principal of perpetual motion by garden light. We’ll be applying for an EU grant to build a prototype – wish us luck!

Some thoughts on anchor lights:

Did you know that to be sold in the EEC an anchor light has to be CE compliant? It has to meet the requirements of a couple of directives, one relating to electromagnetic compatibility and one to compliance with collision regulations. Needless to say, the Salty John automatic LED anchor light complies and we have the piece of paper to prove it.

But what a load of bureaucratic bull!

When we were full time cruising we used a hurricane lamp – very salty. It did fine, it never blew out even in strong winds and we could easily recognize its warm glow amongst other boats in the anchorage. The only trouble was the need to carry lamp oil, which was a pain, but the luminous flux of that lamp was up to the job, in my opinion, whether or not the anchor light police in Brussels agree or not.

Nowadays we see garden or patio lights used as anchor lights. I don’t think I’ve ever seen one that I’d consider bright enough and they certainly wouldn’t meet the luminous flux requirements of the directive, but it’s the skippers call. Or it should be.

I like an anchor light that hangs just above head height, forward as suggested by the Colregs, or over the cockpit. I think a light lower down is more likely to be seen by boats moving into the anchorage than is a masthead light. I don’t really care if my anchor light can be seen two nautical miles away, as required by the rules; I’m more concerned with being seen by boats operating a few boat lengths away.

The development of LEDs has been hugely beneficial to boats – we get the light without the big power penalty or fragility of incandescent lights. There are still issues with port and starboard navigation lights relating to colour representation, but for an all round white light, LEDs are the bees knees!

Visitors to the Salty John web shop will shortly see the introduction of a new product section: Crew comfort.

Items in the section will include an all wool watch cap, as used by the US Navy and other professional mariners around the world, Wigwam® socks to keep your tootsies warm in your wellies, and a couple of types of sailing glove. We’ll even have neck warmers – you don’t have to be a Premier League footballer to want to keep the chilly wind from shooting down your collar.

There will be a large, highly absorbent but quick drying towel and a set of knee pads to protect your patellae when you’re crashing around on a plunging foredeck, or just re-caulking deck seams or varnishing the toe rail.


We’ve also located the world’s loudest whistle – the ‘Storm’ all weather whistle. Its prodigious blast will certainly get attention when you need it. Even underwater it can be heard 50’ away but the benefit of this particular feature eludes me!

It should all be available by the end of the month.

Moribund. Now there’s a word you don’t hear a lot. It means dying or stagnant and it was recently used by the business media to describe sales at one of the UK’s largest retailers. I bet they had to search the Thesaurus for that one. I’ve been trying all week to work it into a conversation.

Salty John sales aren’t moribund but things do slow down a little as we get into the summer – I suppose you’re all out sailing instead of googling for boat goodies. As the masts go up and the boats are launched sales of antennas and accessories slow down to be replaced by sales of sail ties, Motor Grips, mooring hooks and anchor lights. A change of seasons in a boating sense.

This week sees our Ruby wedding anniversary – I was a child bridegroom – and we pondered long and hard about ruby based gifts. We rarely make a big deal out of these so-called milestones but this one is an exception – we’ve bought ourselves a ruby coloured pee bucket for the boat. It’s got a lid. Very posh.

I won a boat race this weekend – vicariously. It was on the Black Sea and I wasn’t actually there. A few weeks ago we sold a Loos rod rigging tension gauge to a gentleman in Ukraine. Today I received an email:

Dear John
Thank you for your fast delivery and excellent service and communication.
We’ve just won the race. And your part is also in it I think!

Apparently we sail an X-35. Cool.

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.

Fresh bilges.

The term bilge, it’s thought, is a variant of bulge first used in the early 1500’s and was itself probably a variant of the French boulge which was a sort of leather purse. Bulge was defined as ‘the lowest part of the ship’ and also ‘the foulness which collects there’. Yummy yummy.

Keeping the bilges fresh can sometimes seem an impossible task. We’re tempted to use all manner of hazardous chemicals in an attempt to absorb whatever lurks therein, creating a pool of toxic waste that we pump overboard with a huge burden of guilt weighing on our conscience. Well, that’s probably overstating it, but you know what I mean.

I’ve been hearing terrific reports about a product called Bio Clean from Bio Technics Ltd. This non-hazardous bio-degradable liquid digests the oil, fat and bacteria in bilge water. It smells neutral and is completely harmless to the environment. It sounds too good to be true but several people have reported success with the product and if I were suffering from smelly, toxic bilges I’d be giving it a try.  

Metz drought over!

Metz antennas and cable: Both are, thankfully, now in abundant supply and back on the website. There had been a backlog in customs but the dam eventually burst and all is well again.

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.

There has been  renewed interest in my blog on emergency rigging cutters since the subject was raised again during a forum discussion on the Yachting Monthly Crash Test Boat project.

The Crash Test Boat is a brilliant exercise in which YM has acquired, through an association with Admiral Boat Insurance and a range of other sponsors, a clapped out Jeanneau Sun Fizz 40’ ketch to do with as they wish. We’ve had reports on running the boat aground and on what happens when the boat is rolled through 360º. For the capsize event they put cameras inside the boat to give a horrified-crewmember-view of things and the film is on their website. Fantastic!

Now they’re looking at losing the mast and following a sneak preview of this issue on the magazine’s forum an enthusiastic thread developed. One of the points raised was the problem of cutting away the rigging to clear the decks and secure the mast with a couple of people pointing out the same issues I raised in the blog a while back. It will be interesting to see what conclusions the Crash Test Boat team came to.

Don’t just assume your cutters or bolt croppers will handle 1 x 19 stainless wire, get a sample of your wire and try them out! If they struggle to make the cut head for the Salty John website and get yourself a set of Baudat KS10’s  (pictured).