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, 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 on your boat.  In either case you will need to anchor or moor your boat securely.

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 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.

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.

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 camp stoves are not recommended.

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.

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.  A line tied to the shore is used to pull the boat back to the shore when they 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 many places gathering firewood is illegal.

All aboard!

Monday, April 26, 2021

Installing New Hardware on a Boat Deck

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.

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.

The next step is to determine where the new hardware will go.  Then look inside 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.  If you are attaching hardware to a single layer of fiberglass, such as a cabin wall, you will need a backing plate to spread the load.  The use of backing plates is generally a good idea in all cases.

You never want to drill extra holes in your boat!   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.  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.  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.  Backing plates 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.  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, 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 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!

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.

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.

Accessorize!

Wednesday, April 21, 2021

Boat Stoves

The limitations and safety requirements for using a stove on a boat are different than using a stove in an RV.  Using propane or butane on boats is discouraged as both gases 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 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.

Many people 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 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 remove the cylinder after each use to avoid fuel from leaking into the cabin.

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.  Some tests Ive seen showed alcohol stoves boiled water about 3 minutes faster than their propane stove.  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.

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.  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 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 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 stored inside the cabin.  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.   On colder days that may work to your advantage but do not attempt 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.  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 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 them.  That means they are more likely to get rubbed off so the extra grip may go away fairly quickly.  A second possible downside to the scatter method is that the raw sand will be rougher on bare feet.  Both sand and crushed walnut shells, both common non-skid additives, have rather sharp particles than can be rough on bare feet.  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!  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 is nearly a powder rather than rough particles so it should definitely be easy on the feet.  I have yet to determine how effective it is but the reviews I saw were favorable.

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.  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.  

There are two major opinions about removing masking tape:  wait for the paint to dry completely or remove it while the paint is still 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.

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!

Wednesday, April 14, 2021

Online Shopping for Camping and Boating

With the COVID-19 lockdowns, online shopping has become almost ubiquitous.  You can buy just about anything online and have it delivered right to your door.  Some online sellers, like Amazon even offer free shipping (Amazon Prime gives you free next day shipping on many items).   Sometimes you may have to pay extra for expedited shipping but it still save you a trip to the store, which is significant if, like us, you live 40-50 miles from town!

Online shopping works well for things you don't need to try on.  You may be able to make informed choices for shoes and clothing if you know your sizes but always check the return policy in case things don't fit when they arrive.  Most manufacturers follow pretty commonly accepted sizing practices but some items run larger or smaller than normal.  Be aware that shoe sizes are very different between U.S. and European sizing.  Conversion tables are available if you need them.

One good thing about online shopping is it is usually pretty easy to check around to make sure you are getting the best price.  Some websites, like Amazon, even offer alternate sources.  Ebay usually has an option to sort your search results by lowest Price+shipping so you can at least see if there is a better price from another seller on ebay.  There are also many online price comparison websites that will search the web for you.  Just Google "online price comparison" to get a long list of candidates.

Many of the items we need or want to support camping, RVing, or boating can be purchased online.  You can usually find several possible sources that can help you make better choices whether you complete your purchase online or at a retail location.  Online sources for camping, RV, OHV, and boat items include websites for retail stores and online retailers like Amazon.com.  I often find what I need on ebay.com or craigslist,org.  I have been quite amazed at the extensive variety of products now available on Amazon.com, many with free shipping if you have Amazon Prime.  Amazon Prime started out at $99 a year but now I think it costs $129.  It includes free shipping on many items on Amazon.com and access to many streaming online programs.

When shopping on line you won't be able to do the kind of hands-on quality checking your would be able to do at a retail store.  That isn't a problem if you are buying brand name merchandise you are already familiar with.  For other items, consider the reputation of the seller and look for reviews by other buyers.  If you have any doubts be sure to check return policies.  If how a clothing items feels is important to you, make sure you check it out at a brick-and-mortar store before buying it online unless you already know how it is going to feel.

County of origin might be of concern to some shoppers.   Made in U.S.A. is often used by American manufacturers to promote their products.  Today's global market place has largely erased the differences between countries of origin.  I remember, way back when I was a kid, that "Made in Japan" had very negative connotations.  For a time you would sometimes see things labeled "Made in USA", not that was USA, not U.S.A.  They actually name an island Usa so they could play that name game!  You might remember a little exchange about "Made in Japan"between Marcy McFly and Doc Brown in Back To The Future.   In Doc Brown's 1955, it was a slur, but in Marty;s 1985 "all the best stuff comes from Japan".   I also recall an amusing comment by a Russian astronaut in the movie Armagenddon where talking about computer components he quips "Russian parts, American parts, all made in Taiwan!"   Country of origin might affect shipping times but is not necessarily a factor in quality or durability.  It can be helpful to check out customer reviews if you have any questions, but reviews are not always accurate or honest.  Less ethical sellers may post multiple positive reviews and dishonest competitors might most unfavorable reviews.  You can sometimes detect fake reviews by unusual grammar or very similar or even identical wording.  I like to look at a number of both positive and negative reviews to try to get a balanced pictures of what other customers have reported.  Sometimes you can track a particular reviewers other reviews to get an idea of their personal bias too.  I have noticed that people are far more likely to spend time bitching about something than acknowledging good products or service so I tend to take at least some of the negative criticism lightly.

Always check your shipping and handling charges before submitting your order.   Sometimes you will find bargain prices are offset by excessive shipping and handling fees.  While some high fees might be legitimate, there are some sellers who deliberately under price their products to suck you in then make it up on high shipping and handling charges.  If you question shipping and handling costs you can usually use size and weight of your package to verify legitimate charges from the seller to your zip code.  I have seen small items that were sent via First Class Mail with single postage stamp that charged several dollars for shipping and handling! I recently found a small, $11 item with a shipping charge of $23!  Suddenly the trip to town is looking more affordable!

Another hidden expense that might pop up sometimes are local taxes.  Online sellers are at the very least required by law to charge sales tax if they have any physical presence in a state that charges sales tax.  Other taxes may also apply.  Note, even if YOU are located in a state that has no sales tax but you send a gift directly to someone in state that does have sales tax, sales tax will be added to you purchase.

Online shopping can be an convenient way to get things you need or want.   If nothing else you can use online shopping to compare brands and prices in preparation for a trip to the store.

Shop line and enjoy it!


Monday, April 12, 2021

Useful Knots for Camping and Sailing

Rope and twine are both very useful tools for camping, sailing, and many other outdoor activities.  For the most part to be able to use them effectively, you need to know how to tie them together and to objects you want to secure or move.  You can use ropes to secure loads on your truck, trailer, boat, or ATV.  You can use ropes and twine for guy lines on tents and awnings and to tie things to your pack or keep your sleeping bag or tent from unrolling.   You can use ropes to move heavy objects.  Pulley systems are especially helpful in moving heavy objects as they can provide a mechanical advantage.  Basically that means with a pulleys your can lift or move heavier objects.  To do so means you have to pull the rope 2 or more times the distance you are moving the object.  To move a 100 # load 1 foot with a single pulley attached to the load you would have to apply 50# of force for 2 feet.  By the way, a fixed pulley doesn't add mechanical advantage, it only changes the direction of the pull, which is sometimes very useful.  A pulley attached in the middle of the rope so it moves with the load adds mechanical advantage.  To calculate mechanical advantage count the number of ropes attached to the pulley(s) that move with the load.  In any case, the ropes will need to be fastened securely.  For this you need to know how to use knots and hitches.  You also need to know some basic rope terminology.

Rope terminology:  basically a  rope has two ends, the standing end (which is the long middle part of a rope not in the knot) and the working end (which is the part in the knot).   The working end is sometimes called the tail.   A bight is a bend in a rope that does not cross back over itself.  A loop is a bend in a rope that does cross back over itself.  Knowing these terms will be helpful in understanding how to tie knots and hitches.


Knots and hitches are often thought to be subtle variations of the same thing but there are technical differences.  Knots hold their form on their own.  Hitches fasten around an object.  Without an object, a hitch does not keep its form.  Knots connect two ropes or two parts of a rope together.  Hitches connect a rope to an object.

There are several commonly used knots that can be useful for camping and sailing.   Most are fairly easy to learn to tie.  There are many Youtube videos you can view to teach you how to tie knots so in this post I will mostly identify knots I have found useful and let you use Youtube to learn how to tie them.  And, yes, I realize they say there are no ropes on sailboats (only lines, sheets, and halyards).  However, lines, sheets, and halyards are all made of rope so it is reasonable to talk about tying knots in ropes on sailboats as well as when camping.

Initial learning is only the first step.  In order for knots to be useful you will need to practice them until you can tie them easily without giving it a lot of thought.  Some knots have little memory aids, like the rabbit, hole and tree used for bowlines, but they may or may not be useful.  I tried to learn the bowline, including its silly rabbit/tree memory trick way back when I was in Boy Scouts.  I finally learned how to tie it when I became a volunteer firefighter a few years ago.  But it wasn't until I got a sailboat and needed to use it frequently that I finally mastered it enough to be comfortable tying it.

Here is my list of common useful knots.  Click on the link for each name in the descriptions below for a Youtube to learn how to tie it.

  • Overhand Knot
  • Square knot
  • Sheep bend
  • Bowline
  • Figure  8 knot
  • Taughtline hitch
  • Half hitch
  • Clove hitch
  • Cleat hitch

 On overhand knot is about the simplest of knots  It is the first step in tying the bow knot on your shoes.  It is not a very secure knot but it is useful as a safety knot to secure the loose end of a rope after tying another knot.  A Safety Knot doesn't hold any load, it simply secures the end of the rope so it doesn't get caught on something or come loose.

The square knot is useful for joining two ropes of the same size.  It is kind of like two over hand knots stacked on top of each other but you have to make sure each end goes the right way each time you wrap the ropes around each other.  When it is properly tied a square knot looks like two inter locking loops.  A square knot holds pretty well but not well enough to be used on life safety line.

Sheep bend is primarily used to join ropes of two different sizes together.

Bowline is used to make a secure loop in the end of a rope.  It is often used by sailors to secure a line or halyard to a sail.  It can be tied around a tree or other stable object as an anchor point for rope systems or around tools to hoist them to a roof.

Figure  8 knot  is another knot that is useful for making a loop in a rope.  There are several varieties of figure 8 knots including a simple figure 8, a figure 8 follow-through, and a figure 8 on a bight.

Taughtline hitch is a great knot for tent campers and for securing awnings on RVs and loads on trucks and trailers.  It has two distinct advantages.  It allows a kind of mechanical advantage to help tighten the rope and it is fairly easy to adjust if the rope needs to be tighter or looser.

A half hitch is essentially the first step in tying a square knot.  It is usually used to secure the end of a rope after tying another knot or to guide a rope, such as when it is used around the handle of a tool to hold it in place while lifting it up onto a roof or up a ladder, with the head of the tool secured by another knot or a clove hitch.

A clove hitch is used to attach a rope to a ring, hook, or object by taking two turns of rope around the object and passing the ends under both turns to form two half hitches.

A cleat hitch is used to secure a docking line to a cleat on the dock or on a boat.  A properly tied cleat hitch holds securely but can be easily unfastened when the time comes.  There are many Youtube videoss that tell you how to tie a cleat hitch, but the in the link at the beginning of this paragraph by Captain Tom I have found to be the best.  A common mistake when tying a cleat hitch is to wrap the line around the cleat too many times.  If you follow Captain Tom's directions you can always form a secure cleat hitch that is also easy to undo when it is time to cast off.

Knotty but nice!

Personal Protection Equipment (PPE) for Boating and Water Sports

The primary Personal Protection Equipment for boating or activities around bodies of water are Personal Flotation Devices, also known as  life jackets or life vests.  However there are other pieces of equipment or apparel that can provide significant protection against the elements you are exposed to.

Some boats, such as canoes, kayaks, rowboats, and sailboats, require a significant amount of manual work handling paddles, oars, and/or ropes.  Gloves are needed to protect your hands against blisters, splinters, and rope burn.   Wearing proper gloves not only protects your hands against injury, they provide you with better grip, enhancing your control over the equipment you are handling.

Almost any activity around water has to deal with a lot of sunlight.  Even on a cloudy day there is a lot of UV radiation both from the sky and being reflected off the water.  The two most common and useful tools for protecting yourself from excess sunlight are sunscreen and sunglasses.  A good hat is also useful.  A broad brimmed hat provides the most all round protection including your ears and neck but ever a baseball style cap can help protect your face and eyes.

Deck shoes are advised on most boats.  Deck shoes have specially designed soles to give you better grip on wet decks.  You should not wear your deck shoes off the boat, especially on dirt, gravel, or asphalt pavement where they may pick up particles that will scratch and damage the deck when you return to the boat.

Rain wear is essential if you get caught in a sudden squall out on your boat.  For best results choose a light weigh, waterproof outer layer to keep you dry and add insulating inner layers as needed in colder temperatures.  Make sure your rain gear fits properly so it neither restricts your movement or interferes with your necessary actions around the boat.  The manual tasks on sailboats are particularly susceptible to loose clothing getting caught in running rigging and often contribute to quickly getting too warm if you aren't dressed right for both air temperature and level of activity.

Most boating activities occur during fairly warm weather but if you should be out during colder weather be sure to dress for it.  Dress in layers so you can easily adjust as either the outside temperature rises or your level of activity increases.  Be sure to include warm, water resistant gloves and some kind of head and ear protection.  My favorite cold weather hat is a Russian ushanka, or ear hat, with the fuzzy flaps that cover my ears.

Racers use harnesses and life lines to secure themselves to a sturdy anchor point on the boat to prevent them being thrown or washed over board.  Most pleasure boats and related activity don't require such stringent procedures but you should definitely make sure you are secure whenever you are moving around on a boat.  I once did some work for the Union Pacific Railroad and one their standard safety procedures when getting on or off railroad cars or equipment was to maintain at least three points of contact at all times.  I find that a good practice on my boat as well.  Handrails and lifelines are good places to get a grip.  Sometimes I use the shrouds that support the mast on my sailboat but I find the rather thin steel cables don't feel as secure as a handrail.   Some shrouds are coated in plastic that makes them more comfortable but they are still kind of small to get a good grip on.

General apparel for boating and other aquatic activities often includes swim suits or shorts.  While this is often the most comfortable when it gets wets and dries faster than wearing something with greater coverage, there is a trade-off between freedom from wet clothes and protection from sunburn.  Of course swim suits are in order when you are swimming, water skiing snorkeling or diving but you might be better off wearing a light weight long-sleeved shirt and light weight pants.  Not only does that provide better protection against sunburn, it will usually feel cooler since it shades your skin and allows perspiration to evaporate to cool you down.  Consider that the nomads who live in hot deserts dress in loosely fitting robes.

Be save on and around the water!

Personal Flotation Devices

 If you are into any kind of boating you will need Personal Flotation Devices (PFDs).  The most common PFDs are life jackets and life vests.  Water skiers sometimes prefer life belts, but life belts do not provide the same amount of protection as life jackets or life vests.  Life belts give added  buoyancy but life jackets and life vests are designed to keep your face out of the water, even if you are unconscious.  If you are knocked out in a water skiing accident a life belt will NOT help keep your face out the water and you will drown!  Life belts are NOT Coast Guard approved and are NOT LEGAL for water skiing.  Water skiers should be wearing an approved Type I, Type II, or Type III life vest, as should everyone on a boat.

Personal Flotation Devices come in several different types, with each having its own rating and purpose.  For a complete description of the different types see Personal Flotation Devices: Guidlines.  In general a Type I or Type II device is appropriate for most boating activities, with Type I being rated for off-shore use and Type II primarily for near shore or inland operations.  Type III devices are considered flotation aids intended for general boating or specialized activity that is marked on the device (such as water skiing, canoeing, kayaking, hunting etc.). These devices are best for calm inland waters or where there is a good chance for fast rescue.

All pleasure boats are required by regulations to have life vests for every person on board.  Regulations do not require the vest to be worn at all times but for optimum safety you should always wear your life vest.  You just never know when something is going to happen.  Even on a calm day on a gentle, inland lake you might get hit by surprise with the large wake from a passing boat that might cause you to lose your balance and fall over board.  I must admit that I find wearing a life vest cumbersome while at the helm of my 25' sailboat, but I will put in on at the first sign of a storm or squall.  I insist that young children and non-swimmers wear their vests at all times.  Approved life vests for most boating should be Type I or Type II, with Type III OK for some activities such as kayaking, canoeing, water skiing and hunting. 

Type IV are throwable devices.   They include life rings, buoyant horseshoes, and throwable cushions.  They are not designed to be worn but are thrown from a boat to someone already in the water who needs assistance but should be supplemented by a wearable PFD.   Both the throwable and wearable devices should be readily available for emergency situations and everyone on board should know where they are and how to use them.  Not all cushions are suitable for throwable safety devices so make sure you know which ones are and where to find them on your boat.

PFDs are used in other situations as well, such as waterfront construction work, ship building and repair, life guarding and entertainment, and enforcement and rescue operations.  My volunteer fire department requires us to wear a life vest whenever we are within 10' of a lake or river whether we are actively involved in a water rescue or not.

 "Water wings" and other plastic toys are not valid PFDs.  Any child on a boat or near the water should be wearing a properly fitting Personal Flotation Device.  Children's life vests will be labeled to indicate the weight range they are designed for.  Always make sure your kids are wearing the right PFDs.  One that is too small will not provide adequate buoyancy and one that is too large will not fit right and may slip off.

Like many types of Personal Protection Equipment, life jackets and life vests may not be the most fashionable or most comfortable to wear but they WILL provide the protection you need!

Stay afloat!

Tuesday, March 30, 2021

Sail Ties

No, sail ties, are not novelty men's wear!

If you have a sailboat, you are going to need sail ties.  Sometimes sail ties refer to strings or ropes that actually tie the mainsail to the boom, but in this post I am talking about sail ties that are used to secure a sail when it is not in use.  They tie a lowered mainsail to the boom or can be simply tied around a loose jib to keep it from flapping or being blow overboard between uses.  Some sailors tie the jib to the lifeline or fore stay for extra security.  

A second possible use for sail ties is to secure the mainsail when reefing.  When the wind picks up you need less sail area.  Reefing consists of lowering the mainsail partway.  Sails built for reefing will have cringles (grommets) at one or more reefing points.  You usually have a line already attached to the cringle nearest the mast that is used to pull the sail down but may need to thread sail ties through other cringles along the sail to secure it to the boom so it isn't flapping in the breeze or hanging down blocking your view or getting in your way.  Some reefing ties are permanently attached to the sail so they are always there when you need them but sometimes you may have to thread a tie through each cringle to secure the reef.

There are several options for what you can use for sail ties.  Some guys like to use bungee cords.  Some just use pieces of rope.  But one of the easiest I've used are nylon straps.  They have a loop sewn in one end so you can get a good hold on them to yank them tight.   The loop is usually sewn with a twist in the strap so it is easier to open to get your hand into it.  Bungee cords elasticity makes them useful in that they can be stretched around different parts of the sail and contract to hold it tight.  The only downside might be the hook chafing on the sail or gouging your hand or other parts of your body if they slip while you are trying to fasten or unfasten them.  Nylon straps are easy to install and tighten, easy to tie, hold securely, and are easy to remove when the time comes.

                                        Sewn Sails Sail Ties 48", 1" Polypropylene Webbing, Box Stitched - 6pc.Set, Assorted Colors

In the photo note the box stitch used to form the loops and that the loops are twisted so they are easier to open when you use them.  Nylons straps are not usually used for reefing as they don't fit as well through the cringles as a light weight rope but you might use them in a pinch by folding or rolling them lengthwise to fit them through the cringle.  If you do  a lot of reefing you are going to want dedicated reefing ties to make the job easier. Nylon staps are amazingly strong.  1"wide nylon straps can usually hold up to 4,000 lbs, way more than you need to tie up a loose sail.

How many sail ties do you need?  I suggest using at least 1 sail tie every 2 feet.  On a mainsail with a 10' base or foot that would be about 6 sail ties, one at each end and one every 2' in between-- at 0, 2,4,6, 8, and 10 feet.  I use about the same number on my jib, which also has about a 10' base or foot.  The number of ties you need for reefing will depend upon the number of cringles in your sail.  If you have multiple reefing points (at different levels on the sail) you might want to have a set of reefing ties for each reefing point.  The ties needed for more than one reefing point will need to be successively longer for each level since there will be more sail to be tied off.  You might get away with having just one set but it would mean untying and retying previous reefs each time you reef again.  I like the idea of keeping the previous reefs tied off so I don't risk losing control of the already reefed portion of sail while retying more reefs.  Since reefing is used to reduce sail as wind increases, the last thing I want to have to deal with is extra sail flapping in the wind when trying to do the next reef.

How to tie a sail tie.  There isn't really any wrong way to tie sail ties as long as they hold in place and do their job -- and you can untie them when you need to.  However, there are some techniques that work better than others.  You want them to hold securely yet be easy to undo when you are ready to use the sail again.   I like to use long ties so I can take a couple of loops around the sail to spread the load.  Then I grab the tail (end opposite the loop) and pull the end of  tail through the loop  so I can cinch it down tight, then tie off the loose end.  When I tie off the loose end I use another loop under the strap then put a loot through the loop and cinch it down so I can get the whole thing loose by just pulling on the loose end.  Pull one loop under the tie next to the sail and then pull another loop through that loop, then cinch the whole knot down tightly.  That way I only need pull the loose end when it is time to undo the tie.  Here is a simple Youtube showing how to use a sail tie.  Sometimes time is critical and you will want to be able to get the sail back in service quickly.  Try avoid making small, tight knots as it they will difficult to untie and repeated use can weaken the strap.  You definitely don't want to tie knots so tight you have to cut them to get them off!  Such knots are sometimes called "knife knots", because you need a knife to undo them!

Don't leave sail ties on the jib when you stow it away.  Open it up and flake it right so it lays flat then fold or roll it up for storage.  You can leave sail ties around the mainsail when it is left stowed on the boom in a sail cover but it too should be properly flaked when removed for storage.

You may find other uses for our sail ties, like securing the extra coil of a halyard to the mast to keep it out of the way.  No doubt you will find lots of other places a sail tie will come in handy.

You might want to have bunch of sail ties all the same color to coordinate with colors on your boat, but it is sometimes useful to have different colored sail ties of different lengths to make it easier to find the length you want for each position on the sail.  All ties a particular length should be the same color.  You might even use color mixing to help identify different sizes, for example, use red for 3'' ties, orange for 4' ties, and yellow for 5' ties (orange is a mix of red and yellow so it belongs between them).  Continuing the pattern use green for 6' ties and blue for 7' or 8' ties since green is a mix of yellow an blue.  Then make any really long ones black.

Where to get sail ties?  You can buy sail ties at any marine supply store that caters to sailboats and online, including amazon.com.  They usually come in sets of 4 or 6.  You can usually choose a color to match your sail covers or coordinate with other colors on your boat.  I like to have a variety of lengths since I only need short ties near the clew of the sail and longer ones as I work up toward the mast and the amount of fabric increases.  Nylon strap ties can be easily cut to length.  If you don't have an electric hot knife to cut them you can use a lighter to melt the frizzy end to keep it from unraveling.  You might even find other uses for the cutoff ends. 

You can make your own sail ties too.  You can purchase nylon strap on-line or at many fabric stores.  Figure out how many ties you need of each length and add a foot extra for each tie.  The extra foot will be used to sew the loop.  When forming the loop, put a single twist in the strap instead of just laying it over on itself.  That will make opening the loop easier when you need to use it.  Use a box stitch about 1" long to fasten the end back on the strap using about 1' of strap to form a loop about 6" long.  Be sure to use thread that is designed for outdoor use and sun exposure.  Match the color of the thread to the color of each strap for the most professional looking results.  If you have multiple colored straps and want to save a couple of bucks, you might sew them all with the same neutral color.  Dark thread on light straps or light thread on dark straps will be the most noticeable but with the small amount of stitching it probably won't make much difference.  All the ties in the sample photo above used white thread.  You can find instructions along with kits for making sail ties at Sailrite.com.

I can custom make sail ties for you for $.40 per foot plus shipping.  Add 1' to your desired finished length for the loop.  Choose Pacific blue, red, green, yellow, or black.  Email your requirements (# of ties, color, and lengths) to lemonts@ix.netcom.com.  I prefer Paypal.  I will also accept personal checks, but it will delay your order while I wait for your check to arrive and clear.  Include your shipping address in your order email.   Upon receipt of your email order I will reply with a total including shipping and an estimated shipping date.

Sail ties should be stored where they don't get tangled are are easily accessible when you need them.  You also don't want to leave them hanging in the sun where UV light could damage them.  Of course they will be exposed to UV while in use on your sails, but why expose the to additional deterioration while they are not in use?   I rigged a hook on the magazine rack just inside the companionway hatch on my sailboat.  They hang straight down, are generally out of the way, out of direct sunlight, and yet I or any crew member can easily grab them when I need to secure my sails.

Tie one on!

COVID-19 -- 1 Year Anniversary

 It has been about a year since we first entered the quarantine stage of the COVID-19 pandemic.  At this time we have experimental vaccines and enough of a decline in new cases that some states are beginning to relax restrictions.  For the first time in about a  year, you might actually be able to go out to dinner at a restaurant!

What does that mean for campers and Rvers?  Well, in the first place camping and RVing and boating often allowed enough social distancing to continue during serious restrictions on other types of entertainment.  Major event venues were virtually shut down as were restaurants and movie theaters.

There have been vaccines from at least three manufacturers made available.   All have been "fast tracked", that is none of them have undergone the complete testing and certification normally required by the FDA.  However, all three have been generally proven to be both safe and effective.  The three I know of are Moderna, Phizer, and Johnson&Johnson.  Moderna and Phizer both require two injections about 3 weeks apart.  Johnson&Johnson is done in a single injection.  Immunity is said to peak about 2 weeks after the final shot.  There have been some reports of reactions to the shots, mostly after the second shot.  Reactions range from the usual sore arm at the site of the injection to fatigue and flu symptoms.  My wife and I, who are both volunteer firefighters and first responders, got our Moderna shots in January as part of the first wave.  We experienced no symptoms after the first shot and only a little fatigue after the second one.  My 96 year old mother got her Phizer shots in March and her only reaction was some redness and swelling around the injection site for a couple of days.  My younger sister also got her Phizer shots in March and did have a mild reaction, but she is unusually sensitive to lots of medications.

One of the benefits of wide-spread vaccination is the creation of "herd immunity".  What that means is the immunity among the population (herd) is sufficient to deter the spread of the virus.  Lacking enough susceptible people to keep growing and spreading, the virus stops spreading.  Herd immunity doesn't mean the virus is completely gone or that someone who hasn't been vaccinated might still get it.  But it is another step back toward normal.

Some states area beginning to relax restrictions.  Here in Oregon kids are going back to school in April and the restrictions on public gatherings are being relaxed.  Restaurants are being allowed to reopen for in-house dining but are limited to 75% of their normal capacity,  Church meetings are likewise able to function at 75%.  It is sure going to nice to be able to go out to dinner again!  Picking it up and eating in the car or having it cool while driving home has not been ideal.

You will soon see some camping venues become available once again.  However, there may still be mask and social distancing  recommendations.  Just having access to some of our favorite campgrounds and marinas once again is cause for rejoicing.

If you haven't yet been vaccinated you should try to get on the list for it.  Until you do you should still take all prescribed precautions.  Even after you have gotten your shot(s) you still need to comply with current government and CDC regulations.

While the number deaths and the overall number of cases of COVID-19 have been daunting, the percentage of who have been tested were positive for COVID-19, according to figures I saw on a government web site was a little less that 6%.  I, for one, am a little surprised and very happy it wasn't a lot more.

So, campers, RVrs, and boaters, get ready to enjoy a wonderful new season of pleasant and healthy outdoor activity,  hopefully with fewer and fewer COVID restrictions as time passes.

Stay safe and healthy!