Wecome To RVs and OHVs

This blog is all about RVs (recreational vehicles) and OHVs (Off Highway Vehicles), camping, and survival
and how they work together to provide wholesome family fun and great learning opportunities.
Many posts are intended to familiarize novice campers and RVers with RV systems and basic camping and survival
skills. But even experienced RVers and campers will enjoy the anecdotes and may even benefit from a new
perspective. Comments, questions, and suggestions are encouraged.

Wednesday, March 3, 2021

Preparing a Boat for Spring Launch

 If you are like many boat owners, you took your boat out of the water during the winter months.  Sometimes storage fees are less than moorage fees and a boat can usually be better protected from winter weather "on the hard"than if it is left in the water.  If your boat is left in the water many but not all of the steps below will be applicable.  Boats left in the water may also need to have the hull inspected and perhaps cleaned of unwanted hitchhikers and algae which will require some diving under the boat unless it is hauled out.

The first steps is usually unwrapping the boat.  Many boats are shrink wrapped for the winter.  Others may simply be covered with a tarp.  In either case the first step in getting them ready to use it to uncover them  Once the covering is removed inspect the surface for any damage or moisture that may have gotten through the covering.  Boats covered with a tarp will sometimes get damaged by the tarp rubbing against projecting surfaces.  Mark and note any damages so you can repair them before putting your boat in the water.  

Next up is a thorough cleaning.  Even though your boat has been protected from most environmental elements it will still need to be cleaned, inside and out, before you use it.  A good washing is all that is usually needed for the exterior.  The interior will benefit from sweeping floors, vaccumming cushions, wiping down all hard surfaces, and cleaning appliances and plumbing fixtures.

Any motor on a boat will need to be serviced according to the manufacturer's schedule and recommendations.  Typical pre-launch maintenance includes an oil change , checking air and fuel filters. and inspecting, lubricating and adjusting control cables and levers.   Old fuel should be drained and properly disposed of and the tanks filled with new fuel.  If you have trouble starting the engine after storage it will probably require the carburetor to be cleaned.  Old fuel, especially modern fuels with methanol added, deteriorate in just a few months leaving behind nasty deposits that can clog the jets and even gum up the float.

If your boat is on a trailer, you will want to check the tires and service the wheel bearings.  You will also want to check the wiring and lights and inspect the hitch and safety chains.  Then make sure the boat is properly secured to the trailer before attempting to move it.

Tools, supplies, and provisions need to inventoried.  Worn. damaged, or missing tools should be replaced.  Used up, clogged, expired or missing supplies also need to be replaced.  Provisions (basic food and hygiene supplies and medications and first aid supplies) also need be brought up to date.

If yours is a sailboat you will need to inspect the standing rigging.  Adjust as necessary and replace any frayed or damaged components.  Also unfold and inspect the sails and check all the lines (sheets on the sails, halyards docking lines, etc).  Repair or replace any damaged or missing items.

All safety items should be inventoried and inspected.  That would include navigation lights, life vests, throwable floation devices, and signaling devices (lights, flares, horns, whistles).  Larger boats may have a dingy or life raft that needs to be inspected to be sure it is serviceable.

Ready for launch!

Monday, March 1, 2021

Fiberglass Repairs for RVs and Boats

Many of our RVs and boats have a lot of fiberglass components.  Fiberglass is quite durable, fairly resilient, and not to difficult to repair.  Interestingly enough, fiberglass will often resist impacts that would leave dents in metal components, sparing us some of what could be costly cosmetic repairs.  When fiberglass is damaged though, it takes special treatment to effect proper repairs.  You can get it done a professional body shops but if you are fairly handy you may be able to make many repairs yourself, unless you have an expensive vehicle that warrants the cost of professional repair.  Some big components (like front or rear caps on RVs) are sometimes damaged beyond repair and may have to be completely replaced but cracks holes in the fiberglass paneling of RVs or fiberglass decks of boats and often lend themselves to DIY repairs. 

The plastic components of many OHVs don't lend themselves well to being repaired.  Mostly they should be replaced and are usually fairly easy to replace and not TOO expensive.  Side-by-sides however often have larger, more expensive components you might want to try to repair.

Fiberglass resin is also used to repair damage to metal body panels on cars and trucks.  It is used about the same way as you would use it on fiberglass.  Before Bondo and similar fiberglass repair materials, body repairmen used lead to fill and smooth welded repairs.  Lead makes a good fairly permanent repair but it requires a lot more time and skill than fiberglass resin so it has fallen out of normal use today.

Bondo is probably the best know of the fiberglass repair products.  It is used to repair dents in metal body parts on vehicles as well as on fiberglass.  Bondo is reasonably priced and fairly easy to work with.  It an be used by itself to fill small holes or with fiberglass cloth for larger repairs.  Ambient temperatures need to be above 40F for it to work properly.  When you buy Bondo it usually comes in a can with  plastic top that covers a tube of hardener.  Pay close attention to the instructions for how much hardener to use and how to mix it.  As I recall a general rule is to use about a 1" strip of hardener squeezed from the tube for about a golf-ball sized glob of filler.   Don't mix up more material than you can use in just a few minutes or it will harden before you can use it.

Repairs on RVs and above water repairs on boats can usually be done in situ, where ever the unit is normally kept.  Repairs below the waterline will usually required hauling the boat out of the water before repairs can be attempted.  

Doing fiberglass repairs is fairly safe but there are some requirements for personal protective equipment and procedures.   You should always wear a face mask or respirator when working with fiberglass resin and when sanding cure repairs.  Latex or rubber gloves are advised when using resin to avoid contaminating and injuring you skin.

As with most tasks, preparation is a large part of making successful repairs.  When repairing fiberglass you may need to cut away damaged portions so they don't weaken the repair.  It is also essential to thoroughly clean the surfaces around the repair where the Bondo will be applied to blend the patch into the surrounding surface.  Sometimes you may need a backing plate inside the component to be repaired to give a solid base upon which to construct the repair.  For large holes spread a layer of mixed filler, then cover it with a piece of fiberglass cloth cut to fit over the hole.  Then cover the fiberglass with more filler,  tapering it toward the edges.  Eventually you will sand the cured repair until it blends smoothly into the surrounding surface.  If you are working with a deep dent it may take several layers of resin and fiberglass to build it back up to where it needs to be.  Be sure the let each layer dry according to the manufacturer's instructions but don't let them over-dry.  You want multiple layers to bond seamlessly with each other.  While it might be tempting to just fill up the hole all at one time that can prevent the bottom part from curing properly, leaving it somewhat soft and weakening the repair.

Once the application has cured (Bondo is usually dry in 10-15 minutes) you will need to file or sand it to remove any imperfections and blend the repair smoothly into the surrounding surfaces.  For best results you should then apply a finishing paste.  It is similar to the material used to build up the patch but is made of finer material to produce a smoother final surface.  Allow the finishing paste to dry and cure according the manufacturer's instructions, then sand it again until everything is really smooth.  Initial rough sanding may be done with coarse (#60 or #80) sandpaper.  Then used increasingly fine sandpaper (#100, #120, # 150 etc) until it is completely smooth.  Final sanding is often done with #400 wet and dry paper.

Next apply a good coat of primer over the repaired area.  This is a step that is often ignored by amateurs, usually yielding poor results.  Primer is designed to bond tightly to the surface and to bond tightly to the finish layer of paint.  Top coats are designed to give a good final appearance and seal the surface but they aren't designed to bond tightly to bare surfaces.  Let the primer dry as needed.  To achieve the smoothest, shiniest results you should sand the primer with #400 wet and dry sandpaper before applying the top coat.

Apply the topcoat according to the manufacturer's instructions.  You may want to apply multiple coats for maximum beauty and performance, possibly sanding with #400 wet and dry sandpaper between coats.

I recently came across another product that claims to be stronger and more waterproof than Bondo.  It also contains long strands of fiberglass within the resin so it doesn't require fiberglass cloth for some of the smaller applications.  It is called Evercoat Kitty Hair.  It is a little more expensive than Bondo but not needing fiberglass cloth for smaller repaiers and the additional strength and waterproofing may make it well worth the extra investment.

 There are a lot of good videos on Youtube for both vehicle and vessel fiberglass repairs.  It would be well worth your time to view a few of these before embarking on your first attempt.

Patch it up!

Wednesday, February 10, 2021

Weather Watches, Advisories, and Warnings for Campers

 The US Weather Service issues several levels of alerts.   They may include watches, advisories, and warnings.  Watches mean conditions are right for the stated event to occur so keep watch.  A watch may be upgraded to an advisory when the probability of the event happening reaches or exceeds 80%.  A warning means the event is imminent or is happening.  For example, a tornado watch says conditions are right for tornadoes to form.  A warning means a tornado has actually been spotted.

 The mission of the National Weather Service is "Provide weather, water, and climate data, forecasts and warnings for the protection of life and property and enhancement of the national economy."  Although the mission does not specifically address the needs of campers and other outdoor enthusiasts (but hopefully we do count under "life and property"), their forecasts can be of great use to us -- if we understand and pay attention to the alerts!

Campers and other outdoor enthusiasts should know the meaning of these weather terms so they can take appropriate actions to ensure their safety.  Each type of alert has a specific meaning that you can use to prioritize your response.  All of them mean keep an eye on the weather!  Read more to see how close an eye you need to keep depending on the type of alert.

Weather Watch.  If you hear of a weather watch in the region near where you are camping, keep an eye on the sky, check radio forecasts regularly, and begin to make preparations in case you must evacuate.  A watch means conditions are right for the forecast to happen.  Start making plans and preparations for what to do it if/when it happens.

Weather Advisory.  If you get an advisory, you should immediately start preparing to evacuate or secure your camp site against impending weather problems.   An advisory means the probability of the event happening has reached about 80% or more.  At this point you want to be prepared to take shelter or get the heck out of there on a moment's notice.

 Weather Warning.  If you hear a warning you should take immediate steps to either evacuate or secure your camp site.  A warning means the predicted event is imminent or has actually been seen.  This is when folks in tornado country head to their storm cellars.  Be ready to take action NOW!

You may get weather alerts on your phone or other personal electronic device, via radio (local stations or NOAA weather stations). be informed by a ranger, other law enforcement, or other local residents, or read about it in the newspaper or on your computer.  It is always a good idea to check weather for your destination and your route before leaving home.  Then, monitor radio stations en route and in camp and periodically check your cell phone if you have cell coverage in camp.  The more warning you have of an impending weather problem the better prepared you can be.   Good preparation can prevent damage in injuries while lack of preparation or poor preparation often leads to severe personal injuries and expensive damage to property.

It would not be prudent to go camping if severe weather is expected where you are going.  Almost all trips can be rescheduled to a safer time.  Severe weather problems can quickly take the fun out of any outing and could turn one into a medical or financial disaster.  We once took a dirt biking trip to the Mojave Desert over the Thanksgiving holiday.  Weather was normal when we left home and in several years of our annual "Turkey In The Dirt" outings we had never encountered any unacceptable weather.  However, by the time we reached the dirt road turn off to our destination (about 150 miles from home) it had begun to snow and there was already 6-8 inches of snow on the dirt road.  Knowing the difficult, hilly terrain and rough condition of the dirt road to the camp site we wisely decided to reroute to a different venue that didn't involve such extensive off road travel.  By the time we reached our alternate destination the snow had slowed down and there was only 2-3 inches on the ground -- and our camp site was only a few yards off the main road on solid, hard-packed sand.  This was before we had weather on our cell phones and even before I bought a NOAA weather radio.  In fact, that trip was a contributing factor in acquired a NOAA radio.

I subscribe to an emergency email service that delivers National Weather Service Alerts for my county.   It is a good way to stay up to date on potential weather problems that might affect us.  However, it is county-wide and our county extends from the mountains to the sea so we get storm warnings for surf advisories even though we are about 1300 feet above sea level.  You can sign up at emergencyemail.org.

Watch out!

Wednesday, January 27, 2021

Camp Site Lighting

Camp site versus camp lighting.  Camp site lighting refers to the need for general lighting to illuminate a large part of a camp site, usually for group activities.  Camp Lighting would address the needs of individuals while camping, to work in a tent or at a picnic table or move about safely.  Individual camp lighting needs are usually adequately met via flashlights or lanterns.  General camp site lighting often requires more robust sources of light.

Do you  really need extra lighting at a camp site?  Very often moonlight or the campfire provides enough light for most activities and lends a nice ambiance to the evening.  Artificial light might be needed for tasks that require detailed work, like food preparation or reading or games, but it can also interfere with other activities and impair your night vision unnecessarily.  Bright lights kind of destroy the normal ambiance of a campfire.  Auxiliary camp site lighting is definitely optional and you should exercise discretion when using it.  That being said, what are your options for lighting a camp site when needed?

Many times all you need is gas or battery powered lantern on your picnic table.  Camp site lighting usually involves illuminating larger areas for group activity.  I use a set of strobe lights on the roof of my motorcycle trailer to identify our camp to late night arrivals.  That can be very helpful on dark desert nights.  If I need to light up the camp site for activities I have a 500 watt halogen light I can run off my RV generator.

There are many ways to light a camp site.   A long standing traditional camp site light is the lantern, a kerosene lantern or a Coleman lantern.  Having a lantern hanger on a tree or RV or a lantern pole can give you more choices for where to use it.  For general camp site illumination you may need several powerful lanterns strategically placed around the are where activities will take place.  Many RVs have camp site lighting.  The porch light standard on most RVs provides some illumination.  Others have more comprehensive flood lights that can really light things up.

Campfires are often enough to light up a camp site for most activities.   More light might be needed for food preparation and sometimes even for eating, but you don't want TOO MUCH light.  Excessive light spoils the mood and destroys your night vision.  You might need a lot of light for nighttime group activities but normally you should limit the amount of light pollution.  We get enough of of that in town!  It is usually really nice to enjoy the starry skies when we are camping.

Modern LED lanterns offer some nice options to gas and liquid fueled lanterns.  They are bright, efficient, and easy to use.  Some even have remote controls so you can turn them on and off and adjust the level from quite a distance away.  Some are have built in solar chargers so all you have to do to keep them charged is leave them out in the sun during the daylight hours.  LED lantern are usually cool to the touch so they are safer in tents and under awnings and canopies.  They are also quiet.  People are sometimes bothered by the hiss of white gas lanterns.  Old style incandescent lights and lanterns were about 90% efficient as heaters and about 10% efficient as lights.  LED lanterns produce almost no heat and the batteries and bulbs last a long time.  LED bulbs are usually rated at tens of thousands of hours.  Battery life depends on the total power being used and the quality of the batteries.  I once left an LED lantern with 17 LEDs on in my barn overnight.  It was powered by 4 really cheap "D" cell batteries.  The lantern continued to function perfectly for more than a year without changing the batteries!  An incandescent lantern would have completely drained the batteries before morning the night it was left on.

If you have generator you can use high-powered halogen flood lights to illuminate large group functions.  I rigged a light stand with a 500 watt halogen flood light that attached to the ladder of my Class A RV for use when we needed broad camp site coverage at night.   With the light about 6' above the roof of my tall RV it did a really good job lighting up pretty much the whole group area.  You can find a variety of halogen work lights at your local home center.  They usually have tripod stands that fold up nicely to make transporting them to camp easy and keep them steady in use.   You would normally want to use them on the ground but if you REALLY needed broader coverage you might set them on top of an RV.  I would suggest strapping them down to the luggage rack to prevent an errant breeze from blowing them off the roof.

Tiki torches are a popular option.  Fueled with citronella oil they will also help keep insects at bay.  Tiki torches are easy inexpensive, easy to transport, and kind of romantic and festive.   And they usually contribute to a nice ambiance rather than wiping it out.  You will need to make sure the fuel containing bases are empty or are stored upright to avoid fuel spills in transport.   Some bases are metal cans with screw-on lids.  That type can help prevent spills en route.  Look for the ones with the caps tied onto the cans with a little chain so they don't get lost so easily.

Candles are good and even romantic for table lighting but usually don't put out enough light for area lighting -- unless you have a LOT of very big candles!

Handheld flashlights are handy for illuminating your path or looking into dark cabinets or for specific tasks but are not particularly good for general illumination.  You might attach your flashlight or personal headlight to an empty milk jug to use it for general lighting.

Glow sticks won't provide much in the way of area lighting but they can be useful in marking trails or flagging obstacles such as guy ropes on tents an awnings.   We sometimes used them to mark the signs we put up on the road to help late comers find our dirt bike camp at night in the desert.

Light up!

Sunday, January 24, 2021

Preventive Maintenance

 Preventive Maintenance (PM) is a predetermined program to keep machinery and equipment in optimal operating condition.  Changing the oil on your car is a form of preventive maintenance.  All too often maintenance is put off until something fails and has to be repaired.  A good preventive maintenance schedule can often avoid expensive repairs.

Preventative Maintenance is standard procedure on critical machines and equipment worldwide.  Aircraft have a very strict schedule for required preventative maintenance.  Same with trains, city buses, school buses, and hospital equipment.  Many of these are even set by law to ensure public safety.  Although you may not be bound by law to perform preventative maintenance on YOUR personal equipment, you may be under an obligation to do so to maintain warranties.  Even if your vehicles and other equipment is out of warranty you should still adhere to the prescribed maintenance schedule to ensure optimal performance and avoid unnecessary and often expensive repairs.

Preventive Maintenance for new vehicles and other mechanical equipment  is usually described in the owner's manual.  Often you must show proof of performing required preventive maintenance before any warranty will be honored.  Preventive maintenance usually includes inspecting or changing lubricants and filters but may also include adjustments and inspections of parts that wear down in normal use, such as brake pads and shoes.  Lacking an owner's for your vehicle or boat, contact a qualified dealer or mechanic or another owner of s similar piece of equipment to learn what they do.  If all else fails, try to find a maintenance schedule for a similar piece of equipment, perhaps a different brand to form the basis for creating your own maintenance schedule.  Typical preventative maintenance on any piece of machinery or equipment involves regular lubrication of moving parts, regular inspection and/or adjustment of specific items, inspecting all safety features to ensure they are working properly, inspection and if needed, replacement of air and fuel filters, and general cleaning.

Preventive Maintenance on non-mechanical gear is also usually described in the original owner's manual or instruction sheet.   Maintenance of tents usually includes cleaning and also inspecting and repairing poles, tie downs, zippers, and stakes.  Sleeping bags should be regularly aired out and occasionally dry cleaned.  Back packs and pack frames should be inspected to ensure straps and buckles are safe and functioning properly, any fasteners are secure, and snaps and zippers are in good shape.

Preventive Maintenance on camp stoves and lanterns mostly consists of regular cleaning and sometimes servicing of pump gaskets on liquid fuel devices.  Replacing the mantles on lanterns might be considered maintenance but is more appropriately part of the normal operations as they usually need to be replaced at the beginning of each use.  Likewise with fueling liquid fuel appliances but regular cleaning of the fuel tanks might be part of the preventative maintenance.

Preventative Maintenance may also be applied to clothing, such as hiking gear and OHV riding gear.  Proper cleaning after each use will extend the life of most articles.  Items should be regularly inspected for any tears, loose, or damaged fasteners (buttons, snaps, zippers, cords, etc.).  Some items, such as boots, may require special cleaners and/or polishes.  Hiking and riding boots often benefit from a waterproofing treatment as well.

Each RV or camping appliance will have its own preventative maintenance schedule and requirements.  It is important to know and follow those procedures to ensure proper operation of your appliances.  Many times an appliance failure can be traced directly to failure to perform required maintenance, and that can be a frustrating and expensive proposition.

Even your body will benefit from good preventative maintenance.  Many medical insurance plans require you to have an annual "wellness check".  Many times this may uncover a developing problem BEFORE it becomes serious or life threatening.  We all know that insurance companies are most interested in their own bottom lines so offering free wellness checks is one way they avoid paying for costly treatment by detecting and correcting problems early.  The fact that you avoid unpleasant and painful disabilities is a nice side effect!  You could consider your regular exercise program a form of preventative maintenance.  Same with maintaining a good sleep schedule and proper diet.  Pre-hydrating before strenuous activities, especially in hot weather, is another good preventative maintenance for your body.

Do not delay PM!

Tuesday, January 19, 2021

How To Restore Teak Trim on a Boat

Teak trim is an important part of the beauty of many boats, especially sailboats.  Teak is quite durable but over time it may fade to a dull, concrete gray color and dry out and develop cracks, especially if not properly maintained.  Fortunately, faded teak can usually be salvaged and restored to very near its original beauty.  It just takes a little time, patience, elbow grease -- and oxalic acid.

To restore teak trim it is best to first remove it from the boat.  Usually the time it takes to remove it is less than the time it would take to mask off the surrounding areas and the results will be much better.  With the wood off you it is much easier to clean, bleach, sand, and refinish each piece.  Be sure to keep track of the fasteners.  Sometimes you will find different length fasteners used in different places on the same piece of trim. Putting them back in the right places can be critical.  Using a short fastener where a long one is needed will weaken the connection.  Trying to use a long fastener where a short one came out may let it poke through, damaging other surfaces or equipment.  It may seem overkill, but if there are differences, it is a good idea to number them and the corresponding places the go.  If any are stripped. broken, or badly corroded, get new stainless steel hardware to replace them.  The new hardware will be much easier to install, will be safer and more secure, and will give you many years of good service.  Using damaged hardware can yield unsightly and unsafe results and might cause expensive damage.

If you have large areas of teak decking where removal isn't practical, mask off any adjacent surfaces to protect them from damage from cleaners, solvents, sanding, and new finishes.   Blue painters tape and plastic drop cloths or newspaper should be sufficient.

Teak trim usually needs a good cleaning as the first step in restoration.  A solution of TSP is often recommended for removing dirt and grime.  If the teak is badly faded, use oxalic acid to bring it back to near its original color.  I couldn't believe how well it worked on the teak trim from our 50 year old Venture 24!  Use a stiff brush to get into any grooves and crevices in the wood.  I used a 4" plastic scrub brush.  When you are finished rinse and wipe of any excess cleaner and let it dry thoroughly.  Next you will most likely want to bleach out the faded surface using oxalic acid.   Oxalic acid usually comes in a powder or granular form.  Follow the directions on the container to mix it with water for use.  Once it is clean, rinse and dry it again.  Then sand it lightly to smooth the surface and prepare it for the final restoration steps.

Once your teak has been cleaned and restored using oxalic acid and dried, rub it down with teak oil.  Be generous as you apply it and rub it in well.   Let the teak oil soak in for a few hours until it is no longer wet to the touch, perhaps even overnight.  Then give it a light sanding with fine sandpaper and wipe it down with a tack cloth before applying your finish coat.

Apply a finish coat of clear varnish or shellac or clear polyurethane.  I prefer to use spar varnish.  It has been proven through centuries of use on wooden boats and yields a rich, shiny finish.  Polyurethane, a modern replacement, is usually less expensive but will probably yield good results  You will probably want to apply two or more coats with light sanding with 400 grit wet and dry sandpaper between coats.  Handrails and toe rails that get a lot of use are strong candidates for multiple coats of varnish to protect them against wear and exposing the wood to the elements.  Same with teak decking in high traffic areas.

Re-install each piece in its original position, using new stainless steel hardware as necessary.  Then sit back and enjoy the fruits of your labor, including the compliments from fellow boaters!

If your hand rails are too badly damaged to be restored you can buy replacements.  They come in sizes from 1 loop to about 6 loops.   If your boat doesn't have hand rails you can install them fairly easily.  I would measure the length of the area where I want the rails and order the size and/or number of new teak rails I need to cover it.  When they arrive I would take them inside the cabin and mark the ceiling in the center of each place the rail will contact the deck.  Then drill holes just large enough to accommodate the the stainless steel screws you will use to install the teak.  Most of the hand rails I've seen are attached using wood screws from the bottom but there could be models that have bolts pre-installed in each base.  The procedure is still basically the same.  You could mark and drill the holes from the outside but I prefer starting inside in case there is a light fixture or some other obstacle I might drill through from the outside.  You will want to put a durable finish on your new handrails before installing them.  I like spar varnish for its rich, deep finish and a long (hundreds of years) history of use on wooden boats.  You might want handrails inside the cabin for added stability when moving around when the boat is in motion.  Another common place to add hand holds is near any stairs or steps.  I added a single teak hand rail to the end of my companionway slide to make it easier to grab and pull it closed.  When installing the hardware make sure it is secure but don't over tighten it, which could risk stripping.

Large pieces of teak, such as hatchboards, sometimes warp due to damp weather.  You can sometimes correct the warping by laying the boards on a hard, flat surface, placing another flat straight panel on top and adding 50-100 lbs of weight.  Leave the weight in places for several days.  It might help if the boards are kept someplace with fairly high humidity.  If that isn't possible, try wrapping the boards in a damp towel before stacking the weights.  Take the boards out and check to see if there has been any improvement every day or so.  If using a towel and it has dried out,  re-dampen it when you re-stack the weights to further straighten the boards.  If you can't get them to straighten out you might be able to plane them to improve appearance and fit -- if you have the right equipment and skills to do the planing.

Hatchboards and sliding hatches often begin to stick after a few years of use.  Sometimes it is because the boards have warped or swollen.  Sometimes the surface they slide on has become worn.  If the surface is worn you may be able to install some UHMW tape over the damaged surface to restore smooth operation.  Swollen batch boards need to be dried.  If they still bind try sanding down the edges until they fit into the slot again.  Be sure to refinish them after sanding.  A proper finish will look good, reduce friction, and reduce water absorption to prevent further sticking.  Pay special attention to the edges where moisture is most likely to seep in and cause problems.

Teak hatchboards can be very expensive to replace if they are warped or damaged beyond repair.  A good modern alternative is make hatcboards out of marine grade starboard, and HDPE plastic material.  It needs no varnish and won't warp.

Don't freak out, teak out!

Tuesday, January 12, 2021

First Aid for Campers and Outdoor Recreation

 First aid is mentioned over and over in various articles in the blog.   It is a basic skill everyone who participates in outdoor recreation should have.  I would even go so far as to say no one should venture out into outdoor recreational activities without at least basic first aid knowledge, skills, and supplies.  To some extent it is assumed that most people have a pretty good idea of what "first aid" means.  However, individual perceptions seem to vary quite a bit.  As a volunteer firefighter and EMR I have had the chance to learn and use both basic and advanced first aid and have found the skills as useful in camp and out on the trails as they are on a fire department call.

The basic definition of first aid is:   help given to a sick or injured person until full medical treatment is available.  Sometimes first aid is all that is needed and full medical help is not required, such as dealing with minor cuts and scrapes or a common cold.  More advanced first aid may be required to assist someone with more serious, even life threatening injuries or illnesses, pending full medical support.  In times like this first aid will almost always make the patient more comfortable and reduce the chance of additional complications.  In some cases first aid can be life saving, such as performing CPR, stemming arterial bleeding, warming a hypothermic patient, or cooling a hyperthermic patient.

Basic first aid skills are important for just about everybody.  You are likely to use them at home as well as during outdoor recreational activities.  Getting and maintaining good first aid skills is especially useful for outdoor enthusiasts who are likely to find themselves in remote locations where access to medical assistance is limited.  At home you can probably ask a neighbor for help if you encounter a problem you can't handle or, in more severe situations you can call "911".  Sometimes you can call "911" when you are camping, but often the remoteness of camping, boating, RV, and OHV activities is out of cell phone range.  Even if you can make the call, it will probably take some time before any Emergency Medical Services (EMS) personnel can reach you and you will be the only one who can help the patient(s) until they arrive.  What you do during that time can sometimes save their lives!

Advanced first aid skills may be needed to tend to severe injuries in remote areas while you wait for EMS folks to arrive.  Advanced skills can often reduce the suffering and prevent secondary injuries.  In some cases advanced first aid may even be lifesaving!  You should seriously consider getting advanced first aid training if you are involved in any kind of vigorous activities that can lead to serious injuries, such as rock climbing, mountaineering, moutain biking, riding OHVs, and riding horses.

There are many good books that provide instructions for basic first aid.  There are even some for advanced first aid.  However, having a hands on course will make you much better prepared.  You can usually find local first aid classes offered by the Red Cross or by your local fire department.  They are usually inexpensive or often even free!  Many fire departments now offer Community Emergency Response Team (C.E.R.T.) training that includes  emergency medical triage and light search and rescue in addition to first aid and fire suppression.

Basic first aid will usually take care of splinters and minor cuts and scrapes but you might need advanced first aid to handle life threatening injuries. Knowing how to control bleeding could save someone's life.  Being able to splint a broken bone will almost always make a patient more comfortable and reduce their suffering as well as preventing secondary injuries.

When looking for a first aid course or book, here are some of the primary treatments you should look for in any basic first aid instruction for the following issues:

  • Minor cuts and scrapes
  • Blisters
  • Insect bites
  • Heat cramps
  • Sprains 
  • Minor illnesses (e.g., colds etc)

 As you learn more, you should look for advanced first aid training that covers these situations:

  • Controlling bleeding
  • Splinting broken bones
  • Recognizing strokes and symptoms of head injuries
  • Heat Stroke (Hyperthermia)
  • Hypothermia

Proper first aid training will also give you the ability to better access whether more advanced medical treatment is necessary and how urgent it might be.  You probably don't need to call "911"or rush a patient to the ER for a sprain but they might need advanced treatment urgently for a broken bone.  Being able to discern the difference between a suspected appendicitis and an ordinary tummy ache or indigestion would help you decide what to do to ensure your patient gets proper care without an unnecessary trip to the ER, which in itself can be traumatic and expensive.

Basic first aid courses usually don't take very long, typically just a few hours.  Expect to invest a little more time to gain advanced first aid skills.  You will find it to be a good investment.  Even if you never have to use it, knowing you could if you had to can give you a lot of peace of mind.  Your confidence in your skills will be a significant factor in calming down any person you may have the opportunity to assist.  Police and fireman usually are usually certified as Emergency Medical Responders (EMRs) and that would be a good level to shoot for.  More advanced training is required for Emergency Medical Technicians (EMTs) and Paramedics.  While having that level of training would never hurt, obtaining it can be time consuming and expsensive and is probably more than you would need or ever use in normal outdoor recreational activities.

If you venture into the wild or want to prepare for a long term disaster situation you might want to look into natural remedies.  My favorite is an easy one:  willow bark (or poplar or aspen bark) can be used as a substitute for aspirin.  It contains salicylic acid, which is similar to acetylsalicylic acid, which is the chemical name for aspirin.  Aspirin is actually a synthetic version of salicylic acid.  Other "back yard"or natural sources of medicine abound.  Seek out information about what grows where you live or play.

First aid training is not a one time thing.  You will learn that certifications have an expiration date.  There are two very good reasons for that.  First of all, you need to reaffirm your knowledge of many first aid skills on a regular basis.  Most people don't use their first aid skills frequently and will need regular refreshers to maintain proficiency.  Secondly, medical science continues to make advances and new or better techniques often become available.  Working with outdated protocols could significantly limit the level of help you could give and might even have liability issues.  Plan on scheduling yourself to get updated training at least every couple of years at the very least.  The more frequently, the better!

What are your risks in providing first aid?  Some people are reluctant to get involved in helping an injured person for fear of legal repercussions.  Pretty much all states have "Good Samaritan" laws that protect people who come to the aid of injured parties.  That being said, you do have an obligation to act appropriately within the scope of your training.  If you attempt something you have not been trained to do you could be held liable but you should be OK, for example, performing CPR if you have been trained in CPR and your certification is current.  Personally I would not hesitate to assist to the best of my ability.  I would rather have to justify my actions than live with my inactions if my help might have saved a life!

Be first in first aid!