Wecome To RVs and OHVs

This blog is all about RVs (recreational vehicles) and OHVs (Off Highway Vehicles), camping, sailing, 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. The organization is pretty much by date of publication. Please use the SEARCH option below to find what you are looking for.

Tuesday, August 24, 2021

End of Season Tasks

We are almost into September.  Soon the kids will be back in school and it soon will be time to start winterizing our summer toys.  There might be time for one last hoorah in the motorhome, out on the boat, or riding off road toys, but before long it will be time to tuck them away until next season.  All of our summer recreational equipment should be properly prepared for winter storage.  Failure to do so may result in serious damage over the winter or, at the very least, make getting it ready to use again next season more difficult.  For more information on winterizing, check out this post.

Motorhomes and campers need to have their water systems winterized.  That means draining all the holding tanks and either blowing all the water out of the system or filling the plumbing with RV antifreeze to keep the pipes from freezing -- if you live where you get freezing weather.  Folks who live in the sunbelt don't have to worry about freeze protection.  Check out this post  or more detailed motorhome winterization .

Anything with a gasoline engine will need to have the fuel system treated to prevent deteriorating fuel from clogging up the works.  For small engines, like motorcycles and outboard motors, you can turn off the fuel and run all the gas out of the system to reduce the problems old fuel causes in carburetors and injection systems.  Then treat the remaining fuel in the tank with a fuel stabilizer or drain the tanks.  For motorhomes and boats with inboard motors add the fuel treatment, then run the engines for 10 or 15 minutes so the treated fuel fills the system.

 How you deal with your boat depends on whether you plan to leave it in the water or haul it out for the winter.   Trailerable boats and other smaller boats are usually hauled out and either tarped or shrink-wrapped to protect the against winter weather.  Of course water systems on boats require the same winterizaton in freezing climates as campers.  For more detailed suggestions for winterizing your boat, click here.

Camping equipment should be inspected and cleaned and repaired as necessary before putting it into storage.  Fabric items such as sleeping bags, blankets, and tents, are particularly susceptible to damage from mold and mildew if they get put away damp.  You will also want to protect them against pests such as moths using moth balls or dryer cloths.  Sleeping bags should NOT be tightly rolled for long term storage as it will crush the filling and destroy the lift that provides the warmth and comfort.  Kitchen items, such as pots and pans, dishes, and utensils should be clean and dry before storage and should be packed to protect them against breakage or other impact damage.  Fuel should be drained from stoves and lanterns.  Perishable provisions should be removed and all remaining cooking stuff should be stored in tightly closed plastic tubs.  

Camping clothing should be laundered and properly stored in closets or in moisture-proof plastic bins.  Before putting it away inspect each item for any damage that needs to be repaired or might relegate the item to be recycled.  Here again items need to be protected against moths using moth balls or dryer cloths.

There is at least one other task on the end of season list.  This last one is a little more fun.  It is checking out the End of Season Sales where ever you like to shop for camping supplies.  Retailers often offer great savings on seasonal summer merchandise to make room for winter items.  

Of course, this isn't the end of the season for everyone!  Some people continue to enjoy their motorhomes and boats and even camping year round, although it typically requires some special preparation to accommodate more harsh weather.   If you are one of those folks, instead of putting everything away until next spring you will want to make the necessary preparations to protect your resources against winter weather and make it ready for winter use.

Winter is sometimes a chance to take a break and review last year's fun activities.   Now is a good time to complete documenting your summer trips, review your want lists, and begin making plans for next year.  It is often an excellent time or make needed repairs, perform annual maintenance, or make updates or additions to your equipment.

There doesn't have to be anything off about the off season!

Jumping a Dirt Bike


OK, so why would anyone want to jump a dirt bike?  Well, for one thing, it is fun!  And, of course, some people do it to show off.  However, it is a useful skill you just might need unless you only ride on familiar tracks or trails.  If you do any desert riding you are likely to encounter sand washes you may have to negotiate.  We did a lot of riding in the Mojave Desert and ran across LOTS of sand washes.   Some were shallow and easy to cross, some were deep and you either had to jump all the way over them, jump down into them, or stop and find a way around.

As I contemplated what I would do if I encountered a wash and couldn't stop in time I decided it was time to at least learn how to jump down into one safely.  To do that I rode around until I found a shallow wash, about 1' deep and began jumping down into it.  No big deal.  As soon I got comfortable with that I moved along the wash to where it was a little deeper and began practicing there.  I kept moving along until eventually I could comfortably jump down into a wash 5 or 6 feet deep.  Having accomplished that I felt a lot more confident in being able to safely handle coming on a deep wash by surprise.   We took some videos of us jumping down into a wash about 6' deep and quite honestly they were disappointing.  Jumping into a wash like that looks pretty easy on film (and actually it is!).  However, it FEELS a lot more scary and exciting than it looks.  You don't want your first time to be a surprise when you suddenly come upon a wash and don't have time to stop or room to turn.

Motocross and Supercross tracks have big jumps that may send bikes and riders 50' in the air and over 100' over the ground.  That kind of jumping isn't something the average recreational rider is likely to find necessary but you may still encounter hillocks on a trail that may make you airborne for a little bit and it is a good idea to know how to handle them.  Again, the key to learning how to handle such obstacles is practice.  Start with small jumps and work your way up.

No matter whether you are jumping into a sand wash or over an obstacle, it is best to know what it looks like where you are going to land.  Out in the desert we often encountered mounds of dirt in the middle of an otherwise flat plain.  When you see something like think about how it got there.  Most likely it is the result of someone digging a hole.  Believe me, you don;t want to jump over a mound of dirt and find yourself landing in a big hole on the other side.   My eldest son found himself looking down into a deep mine shaft when jumping a pile of dirt.  Fortunately, he managed to make it far enough that his back tire barely caught the far edge of the shaft and he landed safely Same principle applies to jumping over sand dunes.  Very often the far side of the dune may be hollowed out and you will find yourself much higher off the ground than you expected.  The teenage daughter of an acquaintance of mine was killed jumping her ATV over just such a dune.  It wasn't a particularly large dune from where she approached it but the back side was hollowed out more than 40' deep!  Riders often expect the dunes to be symmetrical, with equal slopes on both sides but that is often not the case.

Another tip for jumping is to always keep the front wheel up so you land on the rear wheel first.  Landing on the front wheel first can bend the forks, twist the steering, or simply compress the suspension and cause you to "endo" (where the rear of the bike flips over the front wheel throwing you over the handlebars).  In such cases you often experience two very painful impacts:  one when you hit the ground and again when the bike hits you as it tumbles.  Landing rear wheel first makes it easier to control the landing.  The fixed rear wheel won't turn sideways and the center of gravity brings the front of the bike down whereas if you land front wheel first the center of gravity wants to rotate forward and up and toss you off.  

Jumping a dirt bike (or an ATV) is not always for the professionals or showoffs.  Sometime it is a valuable skill you may need when you encounter obstacles when riding off road,

Jump safe!

Tuesday, June 1, 2021

NEW: Ads on rvsandohvs.blogpsot.com

You may have noticed that ads have begun to appear on this blog as of May 2021.  We have signed up with Google Adsense, who is totally responsible for the choice of ads that appear on these pages.  While I receive a token payment for each ad that gets clicked on, I have no direct contact with any of the advertisers.  They do not influence my choice of topics nor what I might say about various products.  I sincerely hope the algorithm Adsense uses delivers ads that are relevant and may actually be of some use to my readers.  

As always, any criticism or applause I offer for any products I may mention is purely my personal opinion and will not be influenced by the presence -- or absence -- of related advertising.  Ads have been placed to minimize intrusion on the articles themselves.  You may see them at the top of the right margin or at the bottom of articles.  I do receive a small (tiny) payment each time someone clicks on an ad so if you seen anything that interests you, please do click on it!  It will help me pay for additional research.

I hope the ads do turn out to be relevant and useful.  I have found it helful sometimes I have found useful ads connected to articles I was reading.  I also find it annoying when I am besieged by ads that have no relation to the article and are totally useless and sometimes even offensive.  With all the artificial intelligence available to those who place ads on web pages you would think they would want to take full advantage of making the ads appropriate to the viewer.  Seems to be doing so is rally a no-brainer.

Ad on!

Pre-trip Route Checking for Boaters

A previous post promoted pre-trip route checking for camping, RVing and OHVing.  Knowing the current status of roads, bridges, and venues can ensure a safe and enjoyable trip.  Pre-checking the route for boating activities is just as important but, of course, it will be somewhat different.  If you trailer your boat, you will want to check all the roads, gates, and bridges along your route to your launch point to make sure it is acceptable.  Basically for this you will want to consider the same things you would for Pre-Trip RV Route Checking.  You will also need to know if the launch ramp is suitable for the size of your boat and what you are towing it with.  Some marinas have cranes that can get your boat into the water for you but many do not.  Having Boat Trailer Guide Posts can be very helpful when it is time to pull the boat back out of the water.

Next you will want to consider the route you will be taking on the water in your boat.  It usually isn't as feasible to pre-scout the route over water like you can over land in a smaller vehicle, but if you have a very large boat it might be useful to check out the route in a smaller, more maneuverable craft before embarking on you primary journey if possible.  Long ocean voyages aren't usually candidates for pre-running the route but negotiating local channels, inland lakes and rivers, and coastal waterways could still be useful.  The alternative to pre-running is checking charts and maps and talking with other skippers who have already made the same voyage before.  You will need to pay special attention to things like navigable channels, the depth of water wherever you plan to go, any bridges or other over-head obstacles you may have to pass under, and any known underwater obstacles such as rocks, reefs, sandbars, coral, and wrecks.  Water currents (including tides) and wind will also need to be taken into consideration.  Wind will be of more concern to sailboaters but wind can have a surprising affect on power boats that you will need to take into consideration when estimating travel times and fuel consumption.  Wind can also kick up waves that can pose a threat to your comfort and safety as well as slowing your progress.  Typical weather, major ocean current, and jet stream patterns will all have potential impact on any ocean voyage.

If your trip on the water will extend beyond one day you will want to plan for safe overnight anchorages along the way.  If your chosen anchorage is within a marina you will need make sure there is space available for the time you need.  Sometimes that means making advanced reservations.  If you can't make reservations you should probably plan for at least one alternate anchorage in case your first choice is full.  For long ocean voyages you will need to plan for 24-hour crew assignments or be prepared to heave to to give  yourself time to sleep.

You may also need to plan for fuel stops.  Even sailboats often have auxiliary engines that require fuel.  You may need to carry extra fuel if fuel isn't available along your route.  Be sure to use only approved containers and store it safely and securely.  Outboard motors often have trouble with the E85 gasoline sold for automobiles so you may have to seek out locations the sell "clear" gas.

Weather is probably an even more important factor for boaters than for campers and RVers.  A sudden rain storm can dampen your planned picnic but you can usually just wait it out in your tent or RV.  Bad weather out on the water can often deliver significant safety hazards and very often will seriously affect the progress of your voyage.  You wouldn't want to plan a boat trip when there are hurricanes or tornadoes forecast in the area during your planned excursion.  Rain and thunderstorms are not optimal weather for boating either.  Even without a the tall mast of a sailboat, just about any boat can pretty easily become the tallest thing on the water and therefore a likely target of lightning.  You should ensure your boat is properly equipped with lightning protection.  This usually consisted of some kind of mast that is grounded to the water so electrical charges can pass without striking occupants or equipment.

The more you can learn about your route before you start your voyage, the safer you will be, the fewer the delays, less chance of accidents, and the more fun the trip will be.

Trip out!

Monday, May 31, 2021

COVID and Camping -- Summer 2021

The CDC has recently announced relaxed mask rules for people who have been vaccinated against COVID-19.  However, the new rules come with a few caveats.  First of all, your vaccine has to be "fully in effect" which typically means it has been at least two weeks since your final shot.  Vaccinated folks are allowed to go outside without masks but entering a facility without a mask requires the facility to verify the vaccination status.  Without a verification protocol in place, everyone is still required to wear a mask.  I have seen at least one business post signs accepting vaccinated customers without masks but there was no evidence of any kind of verification protocol.   I have also seen organizations say they are accepting vaccinated folks on "the honor system".  Hmmm.  Hope that works!

Since most of our camping activities are outdoors, the new rules may give us greater freedom from wearing masks during camping outings.   Limits on the size of gatherings have been raised, making it easier for us to get together with our fellow outdoor enthusiasts.  However, we are still expected to respect rules for social distancing and since there isn't any very viable way to verify all the folks in our campground or even around our campfire have been vaccinated, it may still be  a good idea to continue wearing masks -- to avoid unnecessary conflict with fellow campers if nothing else.  Since masks do more to prevent a contaminated person from spreading the disease than they do to protect wearers from catching it, you might feel OK not wearing a mask but it could cause conflicts with othere people it the vicinity.

Camping is, as always, a GREAT family activity.  Family groups who know each others vaccination status should be free to assemble without masks.  You might be able to expand that to extended families and even close friends who have been vaccinated.  That being said, you may want to keep your masks close at hand should you receive any visitors who may feel the need for the extra protection.  While you and other vaccinated members of your group may not be at risk, un-vaccinated visitors may be worried about their risk and may be more comfortable around people wearing masks.

What a strange situation we now live in!  A little over a year ago masks were only worn by ordinary people at Halloween or sometimes on New Years Eve  Wearing any kind of mask at other times would have made you suspected of  mischief or even possible criminal intent.  Today NOT wearing a mask is seen as criminal!  Saw a kind of strange post on Facebook about how, in California, it is legal to take a dump in public, but you can be arrested for doing it without wearing a mask!

As  a camper and outdoor recreationalist I welcome the relaxed rules and very much look forward to the day when we can return to normal association with our neighbors and fellow campers.  We are planning to de-winterize our sailboat and haul it out to the lake soon and are hoping for a sailing season that is closer to normal.  Getting out on the water is a very nice way to maintain social distancing while still having fun.  We seldom come anywhere near other vessels as close as the required 6' for social distancing so it is only on the docks we may have to consider wearing masks.

Stay safe and have fun!

Tuesday, May 18, 2021

Ratchet Straps for RVing, Camping, and Boating

We all use ratchet straps to tie down dirt bikes and loads on trailers and stuff.  I even use them to make sure my sailboat stays snug on its trailer in transit.  Putting a twist in them helps keep them from vibrating and makes them easier to see in your rear view mirrors to make sure they are where they are supposed to be but some people say that significantly reduces their strength.  Just watched a Youtube video where a guy tested a bunch of 2" straps.  He tested with 1 twist, 4 twists, 10 twists and a wet strap (after setting a base line with a brand new dry strap).  He also tested s strap with a knot tied in it,  The one with the knot snapped way below the rated capacity of the strap, like somewhere around 1/3!  However, all the straps with twists held to just about the same force as the straight strap!  The differences that were seen could easily be explained by differences in the individual straps, not to the twists.  They all snapped somehwhere around 9,000 lbs, about 10% below the stated break point!

The straps tested were all 2"straps with a working load of 3,333 lbs and a rated breaking strength of 10,000 lbs.   The most load the tester was able to apply using the handle was around 1500 kg, or 3300 lbs so he was able to load the strap manually to close to its rated working load.  He used an 8 ton air-over-hydraulic jack to stress the straps to the breaking point.  Each strap broke with explosive force and the stressed areas of each strap felt warm or hot to the touch.  They all broke near where the strap wrapped around the spindle.  The accelerated  and concentrated stress imposed by the air-over-hydraulic jack may have been different than the stress a normal load would supply but his test protocol seemed to be appropriate and consistent.
Twists help reduce vibration and eliminates the annoying hum wind passing over the straps often causes.  Twists also make the straps easier to see in your rear view mirrors so you can better monitor their condition during travel.  Instead of looking only at the thin edge, you have the twist to view making it easier to tell if they are coming loose.

So, the bottom line is, it is OK to put a twist in the straps.  It reduces vibration and the twist makes them easier to see in your rear view mirrors.  DO NOT use a strap with a knot in it.  Knots DO significantly reduce strength!  If your straps get wet in the rain or at the boat ramp it shouldn't significantly affect their strength.
I usually don't use ratchet straps to tie down my dirt bikes.  The cam-lock tie down straps designed for dirt bikes are usually more than adequate to keep them secure and using ratchet straps could over compress and damage the suspension.  Ratchet straps are really good for tying down loads on pickups and utility trailers and holding things in place inside moving vans.  And for keeping boats secure on their trailers and objects secure on deck or in the hold.
Whenever you use ratchet straps make sure they are rated far above the load you expect to put on them.  Straps will usually give two numbers.  One is the working load, the other the breaking load.  Never use a strap with a working load less (or even near) the load you expect to put on it.  I like to have at least a 2 to 1 factor -- a strap with a working load rated for at least twice the weight I expect to put on it.  The tie down straps I use for my motorcycles are rated around 400# each and I use two on each bike.  The bikes weigh under 400#, giving me way more than a 2 to 1 safety factor, in fact it is closer to 4 to 1.

It helps to make sure you thread ratchet strap correctly too.  Here is a nice Youtube video on how to use a ratchet strap.  It is surprising how often we thread them wrong and that always makes using them difficult or impossible and may reduce their performance.  Take an extra minute to thread it right and things will go much better.  Putting the loose end through the slot in the spindle from the wrong direction will make it difficult if not impossible to properly tighten the straps and lock the handle.  Not pulling the slack out the line before using the ratchet can result it too much material being wound around the spindle, eventually making it impossible to finish tightening the strap.  Always thread the strap correctly, then pull the loose end tight before you start to tighten it using the ratchet handle.  Then tie off the loose end so it doesn't flap in the breeze.  A flapping loose end can mask your view of a strap that is coming loose and sometimes the flapping loose end can jar the handle loose, especially if it hasn't been fully locked down.
I recently saw ads for self-retracting ratchet straps.   Haven't had a chance to try them out yet  Having straps that hold themselves in place while you tighten them and roll themselves up when you are ready to put them away has a certain appeal.  However, I am not sure if the bulky roll in the middle would get in the way in some applications.  They are also, understandably, a LOT more expensive than standard ratchet straps, like 3-4 times as expensive!

Two cautions for using ratchet straps.  The ratchet handles can deliver a LOT of force to the straps.  Be sure that your attachment points are strong enough to handle the load!  Also exercise caution to avoid damaging the load itself.  Ratchet straps are definitely strong enough to bend metal and break plastic parts.  Sometimes you can minimize the impact of the straps by using padding between the straps and the load.  The pads spread the force out so it isn't concentrated in one place to wreak damage.  Pads will also help avoid damage from the straps rubbing the load if the load shifts or air movement during travel vibrates or moves the straps.
Tie one on!

Tuesday, April 27, 2021

Boat Camping

There are basically two options for boat camping.  One is kind of like car camping, but using your boat instead of your car to reach your destination then tent camping on shore.  The other is actually staying (camping) on your boat.  In either case you will need to anchor or moor your boat securely whenever your stop for the night or tie up for lunch!

Some folks like to take their boat to a desirable camping spot, anchor near the shore, and camp on or near the beach.   This gives you the best of both boating and camping since you can have a regular campfire and will be sleeping on solid ground.  Many times boats are capable of transporting more people than can sleep aboard.  In such cases on-shore camping is a necessity.  If you are going to camp on shore you need to bring your camping equipment with you on the boat you will need room to stow it and you will need some way to get it to shore, perhaps a raft or dingy or you may have to wade ashore with it on your shoulders unless you are lucky enough to have a dock to tie up to for unloading.

Whether you are camping on shore or in your boat you will need to anchor your boat safely and securely each night.  Try to choose protected anchorages to minimize the impact of waves and wind on your anchored boat.  Then, if you choose to go ashore, you will need a way to get there and back.  A dingy will let you do it without getting too wet, otherwise wading or swimming will be about your only options.  Tying up your boat to a dock or designated moorage is sometimes an option.  Be aware that sleeping on your boat is inexplicably prohibited in some marinas, so be sure to check before you tie up and hit the sack.

Some folks like to sleep on their boats.  You might have to do this if there are not viable camping spots where you can anchor your boat or you might want to do it just for the fun of it.  If you have any problems with the boat moving while you're trying to sleep this probably isn't a good choice for you.  Sometimes folks might still take advantage of a campfire on the beach and sleep on board their boats instead of setting up a tent.  All depends on what "floats your boat" as they say.  And how many people are in your group and how many people can comfortably sleep on your boat.  You may also need to consider how you will get back and forth between the boat and the camp site.  Wading ashore on a warm afternoon might be just fine, but having to wade back in the cold after dark might not cut it!

If  you are staying on your boat most of the time you will need to take cooking and sanitation needs into consideration.  Boats with built in sanitation or porta-pottys usually take care of basic needs.  A boat-safe alcohol stove or even a small butane stove may let you cook on board your boat.   Gasoline or propane camp stoves are not recommended for use on boats.  The fumes from the fuel are heavier than air and will collect in the bilge, posing an explosion hazard.  Basic personal hygiene may require a plastic wash basin if your boat doesn't have a sink. although you may be able to occasionally rinse your hands by simply reaching over the side.  Where swimming is permitted that is often a good way to freshen up.  Avoid contaminating the water with biological or chemical products.  Many times the inland waterways we boat on are also sources of drinking water.  I have even seen some reservoirs that prohibit ANY human contact with the water!

Sleeping on board may be an attractive option if you just need some overnight rest along the way to a scheduled destination.  Just drop anchor in a sheltered cove and turn in for the night or an afternoon nap.  Sometimes you can schedule nap time for various members of your party while you continue your voyage

If you plan to do any on-shore camping you will need to find room to transport all the camping equipment you need and have a way to get it all to shore when you get there.  In some rare instances there might be a dock or pier where you can tie up.  If not, you will need a raft or dingy or be prepared to wade to get your gear ashore.  I have seen folks use an ''anchor buddy'' that lets them drive the boat right up to where they can step off onto the shore then pulls the boat back out into the water until they need it again.  The anchor buddy is essentially a large bungie cord that stretches to let you reach the shore, then pulls your boat back toward the mooring.   A line tied to the shore can be used to pull the boat back to the shore when you are ready to re-board. 

If you plan to have a campfire you will probably need to bring all your firewood with you,  unless you know for sure firewood will be available at your on-shore camp site.  Never assume you can just gather firewood.  In many cases it there isn't any to be gathered and in a lot of places gathering firewood is illegal.  Some folks like to use driftwood for firewood.  Even where that is permitted ( often it is not), it is often still wet or damp inside, making it difficult to burn and giving off a lot of visible smoke or vapor if you can get it to burn at all.  Trying to make a campfire out of wet wood is not my idea of a fun evening.

All aboard!

Monday, April 26, 2021

Installing New Hardware on a Boat

There are many times you may want to add hardware to your boat.  You may need additional cleats for dock lines or spring lines.  On sailboats you may want extra fairleads or cam cleats for convenience in controlling various lines.  You may want to add teak handrails, tie down points, or other accessories.   In each case you will probably be drilling through the deck in order to install the items.

Your first step is to decide what you want to install.  You may want to add a midship cleat for spring lines or and extra fairlead and cam cleat for routing control lines on a sailboat.  Or you may just have some neat new accessory you need to mount on the cabin. 

The next step is to determine where the new hardware will go.  Will it be mounted inside or outside the cabin?   Take care mounting things inside the cabin so any mounting bolts don't create safety hazards or cosmetic offense.   Then look behind or underneath to make sure there isn't anything that will be in the way of the screws or bolts that secure it to the deck.  Be especially sure it won't impact any wiring, tubing, or plumbing lines.  You will need to determine how long the bolts need to be.  Some light weight accessories might be anchored with screws if the deck material will support it.  Screws might work on wooden boats or fiberglass boats with sturdy wooden cores between the layers of fiberglass and metal screws might even work on metal structures.   Lightweight items can sometimes be secured with metal screws on fiberglass if the fiberglass is thick enough and strong enough,  When in doubt, using backing plates to make sure your fasteners won't pull through.  Unless the area of installation has built-in backing plates, you will need enough room to install them beneath the new hardware.  Backing plates should be a bit larger (1/2"to 1"in each direction) than the base of the item being installed.

Can it be installed without drilling?  Some accessories can be mounted using heavy duty double-sticky tape or glue.  Probably a good idea whenever you can do this so you don't have to drill any new holes in your deck.  Every hole you drill is a potential source of a leak but some things, like cleats or other hardware that takes heavy loads, will need to be securely bolted on. 

Backing plates are usually needed when mounting hardware to boats.   Some boats have backing plates built in where cleats and other accessories are likely to be mounted.  Unless you KNOW you have built-in backing plates you should plan on adding them.  Having extra backing plates will only make things more secure.  The only downside might be appearance or perhaps an extra obstacle to deal with inside the cabin.  The only time you don't need backing plates are when you are mounting light weight accessories that will never have an significant load place on them.  Since just about anything you can grab onto could stressed if someone needs extra support, even little things like cup holders and winch handle pockets should be securely anchored.

If you are attaching hardware to a single layer of fiberglass, such as a cabin wall, you will for sure need a backing plate to spread the load.  The use of backing plates is generally a good idea in all cases.  Check to make sure there is room to install a backing plate before you start drilling holes to install new items.  If there is not enough room for an adequate backing plate you will need to rethink the whole installation!  I had to forgo installing an bow anchor roller on my sailboat because there was no place for a proper backing plate.  Even if I removed and re-bedded all the existing hardware, there still wasn't enough room under the deck for an adequate backing plate.

You never want to drill extra holes in your boat!   Consider using adhesives where possible.   Be certain of where you want each installation to be and "measure twice, cut (drill) once".  If you do happen to drill extra holes, be sure to fill them right away with epoxy or a good marine grade sealer.  I have seen a recommendation that you drill a shallow countersink to prevent cracking of fiberglass.  It also provides a depression for extra sealant to protect against leaks.  Use an over-sized bit (about twice the diameter of the hole) and run the drill in reverse to make the countersink so you don't accidentally drill through!.

Backing plates could be made of wood, metal, or fiberglass.   Plastic isn't recommended as it can compress under stress.  What we think of as solid plastic is actually a very thick, viscuous liquid!  By the way, so is glass!   Whatever you use should be able to stand up to the rigors of a marine environment.  Aluminum and stainless steel are good choices.  Ordinary steel is not as it will rust possible compromising its strength as well as making a mess.  Backing plates be larger than the base of the hardware being installed and should extend about an inch outside the bolt holes in all directions and be thick enough or sturdy enough so they are not distorted by tightening the bolts.    Another guideline for backing plate size is to make them slightly larger than the footprint of the object you are installing on the other side.  Use fender washers for added safety and load distribution on the backing plate.  I also like to use nylon lock nuts to make sure the nuts won't come loose due to vibration or flexing.  Lock washers or Loctite might also be used to keep nuts from coming loose.  Or double-nut the bolts,  Avoid using Loctite on anything you might want to remove from time to time.  Always use backing plates unless you are certain there will never be a heavy load placed on the hardware.  However, since you never know when someone will abuse an accessory so better to be safe than sorry.  Without proper backing, the fasteners holding hardware on will pull through the deck when a heavy load is applied causing serious damage as well as failing to perform their intended function.  NEVER install life support hardware without a backing plate.  You may need to consider the aesthetics if a backing plate will be visible from inside the cabin.  In can case you will usually want to paint or varnish backing plates to ensure they are moisture resistant and, if they are visible, you will want to make sure they look good

You will need to determine how long the bolts or screws need to be.  If you are using screws they need to be short enough so that they don't come out the back side of the installation.  If you are using bolts they have be long enough to reach through the accessory, the deck, the backing plate, plus washers and nuts.  You can get plastic thread protectors to cover the exposed ends of the bolts to make them less apt to cause damage or injury if something brushes against them so you might want to include the length of the thread protectors.  One way to determine the length is to drill one of the holes for the installation and push some small item like a cable tie through it so you can mark the length you need.  Then get bolts that are at least as long as you measured.  Longer bolts can usually be cut off but shorter bolts won't work at all!  Longer bolts might intrude into the interior space and that is particularly dangerous for things mounted to the cabin roof where you might hit your head.  Plastic thread protectors over the end of any protruding bolts will help cushion the impact and lessen abrasions.

For any marine installation you will want to use corrosion resistant fasteners, such as stainless steel.  Brass was used on boats for many years and still works well, but it does tarnish and you should avoid using dissimilar metals as different metals often react with each other to promote corrosion.  Using stainless steel fasteners with stainless steel hardware and a stainless steel backing plate would be a good pattern to shoot for.

I have seen two good ways to seal the bolt holes for deck installation.  The easiest way is to use butlyl tape.  Drill a shallow countersink into the top of the hole in the deck.  The butyl tape will squeeze into the dip.   Wrap a little bit of butyl tape around the bolt (enough to more than fill the countersink hole).  When you install the bolt, hold the head steady and turn the nut so the threads on the bolt don't strip the butyl where it contacts the bolt.  A little butyl tape might squeeze out between the item and the deck.  Anything the protrudes beyond the item isn't necessary, but its presence is a good indicator that it the fastener is tight and the butyl tape is doing its job.  Simply scrape away any extra for a clean look.   For fiberglass decks with wooden cores there is a second, more complicated technique, that ensures the wooden core is protected from moisture even if some leaks in around the bolt.  Drill the hole about twice the size you need for the bolt, then fill the hole with epoxy and let it set up.  Then drill the right size hole for the bolt through the center of the epoxy.  That way the epoxy completely seals the wooden core against water getting in and causing dry rot and the epoxy "sleeve" provides a solid point of little compression where the bolt will be tightened.  For a little extra protection for wooden cores when using the simple butyl tape method, spray a little paint into the hole before installation so it can coat the exposed core and help seal out moisture if you don't have any epoxy to coat the inside of the hole.  If you do have epoxy, tape over the bottom of the hole, fill it with epoxy, then poke a hole in the tape to let the excess epoxy drip out, leaving a coating on the inside of the hole.  Be sure to follow the manufacturer's instructions regarding the use of an activator to be sure the epoxy will cure properly.

Once everything has been tightened down your new accessory should be ready to use!  Enjoy using it.  Make sure it is tightened appropriately but take care not to over tighten any fasteners.  Come back and check the tightness after the item has been in use for a while to make sure it is still secure.  New hardware often "settles in" a little bit and can benefit from being re-tightened after a little use.

When installing lights or other electrical equipment you will need to take the wiring requirements into consideration.  Since most boats are made of wood or fiberglass you will need to run a ground wire to each fixture in addition to the hot wire.  Metal boats may need ground wires also as metal components might not always have a direct connection to the ground side of the battery.  Wires should be run as short a distance as possible and be routed where they will not chafe or present an unsightly nuisance inside the cabin.  Look for places they can be hidden behind cabinet, under shelves, ore behind valances, then secure them with nylon clamps or cable ties to keep them from moving around.  Always use marine grade wire and create waterproof connections.  See my post on Boat Wiring for additional details.


Wednesday, April 21, 2021

Boat Stoves

The limitations and safety requirements for using a stove on a boat are different and more critical than using a stove in an RV.  Using gasoline or propane on boats is discouraged as fumes from both are heavier than air and can accumulate in the bilge.  Boats are also subject to more movement than RVs when you are cooking.  Even if you are at anchor or tied up to the dock wind, waves, or wakes from other boats can cause your boat to rock, while RVs are generally pretty stable when you are cooking, especially when properly leveled and stabilized in camp.  Even unstablized, RVs are far more steady than boats.  It is a good idea to always use pot stabilizers or restraints to make sure you pot doesn't slide off.  You might try holding onto the handles but a sudden movement could end up with you dumping a hot mess onto your body!

Many people do just use a simple butane or propane camping stove in their boats.  If you only do your cooking at anchor in calm waters like many weekend sailors do that is probably OK, as long as you allow for sufficient ventilation and don't store fuel cylinders inside.  For our small (25' sailboat) we use a single burner butane camping stove.  It doesn't weigh much or take up a lot of room and is adequate for preparing simple meals for the 2 of us.  The butane cylinders are sealed  when detached so leaking is unlikely.  Permanent propane installations, like in an RV, may develop leaks where ever there is a connection if the propane is left on while the vehicle or vessel is in motion.  Portable fuel cylinders don't any valves that can be left open and, unless they are damaged, should always self seal when they are removed from the stove.  You still  have to make darn sure you turn the burners off completely or better yet, remove the cylinder after each use to avoid fuel from leaking into the cabin.  Since all the open spaces in a boat cabin are usually towards the top it is way to easy for propane or butane to accumulate in the bilge and risk an explosion!

Alcohol stoves are usually recommended for boat stoves because they produce less dangerous fumes and the fuel is pretty stable and safe and easy to store and transfer.  Marine fuel is a combination of Ethyl an Methyl alcohol but you can use Isopropyl alcohol which burns a little hotter, but it may give off more soot.  Denatured alcohol is also an option.  Liquid alcohol is not explosive and alcohol fires can be put out with water.  Marine stove fuel produces a lot of water vapor, sometimes with a mildly offensive odor.  The vapor can contribute to condensation inside the cabin so be sure to open things up to vent it whenever possible.  Some tests Ive seen showed alcohol stoves boiled water about 3 minutes faster than their propane stove so working faster can be an advantage out on the water.   Don't even bother to try burning any drinking alcohol in your stove.  Most are too weak to burn and may produce fumes that can cause brain damage!  Hmmm.  Maybe drinking them or inhaling their vapor causes brain damage too!

If you ever need to cook while underway you will need a gimbal stove.  These have the burners and sometimes the entire stove mounted on pivots so it can stay more or less level when the boat tips.   They are usually used with pot restraints to help keep pots stable   Of course violent movement will still cause pots and pans on the stove to move around, spill or bounce off, but the gimbal does take care of modest movement associated with "normal"sailing, often allowing  you to prepare meals on the go, which may be useful on long cruises.  A gimbal stove is also useful if you moor where you are subjected to waves from currents or passing boats.  A gimbal won't protect you 100% against movement.  The gimbals can't react quickly enough for fast and very violent maneuvers and if things tip far enough you will exceed the flexibility of the gimbal and the stove will tip anyway.

Pot restraints are a good idea anytime you are using a stove in a boat.   Even if you are at anchor or tied up at the dock wind, waves, and passing boats can rock your boat, possibly spilling hot food on you and all over the cabin.  Sometimes even someone moving about on deck and make things tip enough to create a problem.  Most stoves designed for boats will come with pot restraints.  You may have to engineer your own if you are using a camping stove.  You might be able to form them out of  metal rods like welding rods.  Wire coat hangers would probably not be strong enough.  You will want them to be easy to install, hold your pots and pans fairly securely, yet make it easy to remove the pots and pans when you are done cooking.  If possible, it would be handy if they can be easily adjusted to fit different sized pots and pans.  If you don't have any pot restraints try to hold onto the handle of pots and pans on the stove in case you get hit with an unexpected wave while you are cooking.

If you opt to use a propane or butane camp stove, store the fuel cylinders in a bag outside of the cabin, perhaps tied to the lifeline.  Propane and butane are heavier than air and any leak will let the fumes accumulate in the bilge where any spark will set off a violent explosion.  Liquid alcohol fuel can probably be safely stored inside the cabin as liquid alcohol is not explosive.  The small butane and direct connect propane cylinders are self-sealing so there is little chance they will leak when disconnected from the stove.  To be safe, always make sure your stove is turned completely off and, for maximum safety, remove the fuel cylinders when it is not in use.

Cooking stoves will, of course, heat up the interior so you may want to limit use on hot days, especially in smaller cabins or open as many ports and hatches as you can.   On colder days that may work to your advantage to heat the interior but never try to use your cooking stove as a primary heat source in your boat.  Always ensure you have adequate ventilation.  Even if your stove does not put out dangerous fumes it will consume oxygen and you could suffocate.  If you need extra heat, look into getting an appropriate heater rated for in-cabin use but still make sure you have enough ventilation!  The human body puts out about as much heat as a 100 watt incandescant light bulb and one or two bodies in the confines of small boat cabin will warm things up quite nicely.

Chow down!

Monday, April 19, 2021

Non-skid boat decking

Having a good non-skid surface on the deck of your boat is essential to safety when moving about, especially out on the water where things are often tipsy-turvy and the deck is wet.  Falling overboard can be fatal but even on-deck falls can cause serious injuries.  You want to make sure you have every advantage when it comes to safety!  A non-skid deck will reduce chances of you slipping.  When moving about always try to maintain at least 3 points of contact to avoid falling.  In rough seas or high winds, wear a safety harness and hook onto a secure lifeline.

There are a number of options for non-skid decking.  The most common and easiest solution is painting the portions of the deck you walk on with a paint containing a non-skid additive.  The glosss paint or gelcoat that looks so good can be pretty slippery when wet.  It is great for vertical surfaces and other places you won't be walking.  The areas designed to walk on usually have a textured surface, but non-skid paint is still advised.  Applying glossy topside paint over the texture nullifies its non-skid capabilities to some extent.  Non-skid additives are usually made of sand or crushed walnut shells.  Instead of mixing the additive into the paint some folks prefer to scatter the sand on top of wet paint.  That may give a little more aggressive grip since the grains of sand aren't totally covered in paint as they are when added to the paint before application.  There are a couple of things to consider when thinking about using the scatter method over the additive method.  For one thing, the grains of sand are lying on top of the paint instead of embedded in the paint.  That means they are more likely to get rubbed off so the extra grip may wear away fairly quickly.  A second possible downside to the scatter method is that the raw sand will be rougher on bare feet and knees. Sand and crushed walnut shells, both common non-skid additives, have rather sharp particles than can be rough on bare skin.  Since many of us like to go bare foot on our boats, that might be an issue.  I'm thinking crushed walnut shells would probably be the roughest on bare feet.  Crushed walnut shells are often used as the abrasive for sand blasting to remove paint and scour metal!  There are also plastic additives that might be more comfortable, depending upon whether the particles are round or jagged.  One I've seen is pretty fine, about like talcum powder, so it is easy on bare feet but still provides enough grip to keep you from slipping. 

An option for more comfortable yet still safe non-skid paint is something called Softsand.  It is essentially ground up rubber instead of sharp bits of silica.  Like other additives it can be mixed with paint or scatter on top of wet paint.  The softer rubber particles are more comfortable on bare feet and yet still provide excellent non-skid.  Softsand is available in several colors making it a more attractive option when using the scatter method where it isn't covered in paint.  I have had trouble finding a local retailer for Softsand and the lowest shipping from the manufacturer is about twice the cost of the additive itself, pretty much pricing it out of reach!

Another alternative to harsh sand or other non-skid additives with sharp particles (like crushed walnut shells) are synthetic (plastic) additives.   The one I am familiar with (Clear-grip) is nearly a powder rather than rough particles so it should definitely be easy on the feet.  I recently repainted all the non-skid surfaces on my Macgregor 25 sailboat using this product and am very pleased with the results.  It was easy to mix consistently into the paint and to easy apply.  The resulting surface is not slick yet is not abrasive.  Our boat had previously been painted with regular Topside paint without any additive and it was very shiny and slippery.  The new surface is more of a satin finish (but not dull and it still looks really good) and feels good to the touch, kind of velvety and not slippery like the high gloss finish was.  We liked it so well we used in on the wooden deck on our house too!  When we bought the house the deck was so slippery the previous owner had nailed shingles on to the steps.  Now, with the non-skid additive, the unsightly shingles or no longer necessary and the deck is safe even in Oregon's famous rain.

There are also non-skid flooring materials that can be applied to boat decks.  Some even simulate teak to add a very attractive decorative solution.  Others are colorful rubber materials.  Since these are much thicker than any paint they usually last a lot longer but tend to be more expensive to buy and more difficult to install.  If they aren't properly installed they may peel off, not only becoming unsightly but creating a trip hazard.  Some may come with a self adhesive backing but using a directly applied adhesive is generally thought to be more durable and less likely to pull up.  They are usually less likely to come off  than paint when cleaned with a pressure washer, unless you direct the pressure under the edge!

Regardless of whether you use paint or non-skid flooring proper surface preparation is critical to a satisfactory installation.  The deck must be thoroughly cleaned and any old wax and dirt removed.  It usually isn't necessary to strip the surface down to the bare material but you will need a clean surface to which paint or the glue for the flooring can securely adhere.  If painting it will be absolutely necessary to mask off all the adjacent areas.   If the flooring is self-adhesive you won't need to mask things off but if you have to apply adhesive separately masking is a good idea.  Most adhesives make a mess of paint or gelcoat if not quickly cleaned up.  Sometimes you can clean up wet adhesive with a solvent, but solvents may damage paint or gelcoat.  Better to mask it off and keep things clean to start with.  You may or may not need to sand the old surface, depending on how badly deteriorated it is.  If the surface is chalky new paint or adhesive probably won't stick well unless you sand it down to solid material.

It is always helpful to apply at least two coast of paint almost any time you are painting.   Multiple coats generally insures complete coverage and provides extra thickness for added durability.  Paints thickened with non-skid additives will be harder to spread.  When using a non-skid additive only put it in the top coat.  If for any reason you can't use two coats, make sure the one coat you do put down covers completely and try to make it consistently thick.  When apply non-skid paint you not only need to cover the old surface for cosmetic appearance, you need a sufficient and consistent amount of non-skid particles evenly distributed everywhere.  Be sure to thoroughly mix the additive into the paint before applying.  If you are painting over the same color you will want to watch to make sure you get complete coverage.  Even with non-skid additive the new paint will usually be a bit shinier than the old so, if you see little dull spots you probably need more paint in that area.

Correct masking tasks time but it is SO worth it.   For best result use blue painters tape or the green "frog" tape.  The green tape is supposed to give a more precise edge.  Both the green and blue tape will pull off easier than ordinary masking tape when you are done, especially if you leave it on for several days.    Straight edges and sharp corners are easy to match with masking tape.  Curves and radius corners usually require you to apply several short strips to form the proper curve.  You may be surprised how nice a curve you can form with a bunch of straight edged pieces of tape.  I usually mask off the major portions first, then keep using short pieces of tape to fill in any pointed corners until it makes a smooth arc.  Another option is to cut the arc in the tape using a mat knife.  Not too difficult a task for someone with a steady hand and a sharp eye.  Masking may be helpful when gluing down deck coverings to protect the areas you won't be covering from adhesive.

There are two major opinions about removing masking tape:  wait for the paint to dry completely or remove it while the paint is still a little wet.  First of all, don't remove the masking tape until after applying the final coat of paint.  Then, for best results, remove the tape about 1 hour after painting and pull it at a 45 degree angle to minimize chances of it tearing instead of pulling off.  Sometimes, if you wait too long and the paint has completely dried the masking tape may pull up paint along the edges.

Inspect all the nearby areas to see if any paint (or adhesive) got accidentally on them.  You will want to clean up any unwanted spots as soon as possible, before the paint completely cures.  Paint that is dry to the touch will still be somewhat soft for several hours, usually allowing you to remove it without damaging the finish beneath it.  You can usually remove new paint from old painted surfaces by gently wiping it with acetone or another solvent but be careful not to damage the surface under the unwanted paint.  It is a good idea to test any solvent in an inconspicuous spot before using it in more visible locations.

Proper curing time after installation can be a significant factor in the appearance and durability of both paint and non-skid decking.  Paint needs to dry thoroughly before you walk or put anything on it.  Since boats are often kept outside protect any newly painted surfaces from rain and dusty winds until they have dried completely.   Flooring adhesive needs time time to cure.  Sometimes manufacturers will recommend using a heavy roller or  placing weights on newly applied flooring for a certain amount of time to improve adhesion.

Good non-skid decks will look good and help keep you and your precious passengers safe.  Old, faded decks can make your boat look bad even if everything else is shipshape.  Worn decks can be slippery and dangerous.  Non-skid paint may stain more easily than glossy topside paint so non-skid areas may need to be cleaned and/or repainted more frequently, both for appearance and to maintain the non-skid function.

No slip ups!