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, 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.  Some sailors tie the jib to the lifeline or fore stay for extra security.  

A second common 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.

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.  The only downside might be the hook chafing on the sail or gouging your hand if they slip while you are trying to fasten or unfasten them.

                                        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.

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

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.  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 pull 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 to form about a half a bow knot so I can get the whole thing loose by just pulling on the loose end.  P pull one loop under the tie next to the sail and then pull antoher loop through that loop.  That way I only need pull the loose end when it is time to undo the 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!

Don't leave sail ties on the jib when you stow it away.  Open it up and flake it right so it lays flat.  You can leave sail ties around the mainsail when it is left stowed m the boom in a sail cover.

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 wave 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 and lengths) to lemonts@ix.netcom.com.  I prefer Paypal.  I will also accept personal checks, but it may delay your order while I wait for your check to arrive and clear.  Include your shipping address.  Upon receipt of your email order I will reply with a total including shipping and an estimated shipping date.

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.

Sail ties should be stored where they don't get tangled are are easily accessible when you need them.   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, and yet I 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!

Tuesday, March 23, 2021

Camper, RV, and Boat Dinettes

Many of our recreational vehicles and vessels have a dinette that provides a comfortable place to sit for meals.  Most of these dinettes are also designed so they can be made down into beds.  Typically, the table is dropped down so it rests between the facing seats and the back rests are brought down to fill in between the seat cushions.  Dinettes made down into beds are usually about the size of a twin bed (36" wide) but may be as large a full size bed (54" wide).  Lengths may be a few inches shorter than equivalent household mattresses.  Many dinettes are intended for use by children although smaller adults may also find them acceptable.  I am about 5'7", my wife about 5'4", and we've always fit comfortably on dinettes made down into beds.  The dinette in cab over truck campers is often more accessible and less confining than the large cab over bed.  At least you can sit up without bumping your head!

Dinettes usually have storage underneath the seats.  Sometimes it can be accessed via doors or drawers on the aisle side of the seat.  Other times it is only accessed by lifting the seat.  If you have to lift the seat to gain access there is usually a finger hole in the plywood base under the cushion you can use to lift the lid.  In one RV I found room under the dinette seat to install an ice chest.  It was a good place to carry extra cold drinks for summer trips.  If you choose to do something like this, make sure you an still get the ice chest in and out easily enough to drain it after each trip.  Or plan on sucking up the water from the melted ice and drying it out after each outing to avoid a nasty mildewed mess.

Dinette upholstery is usually made of rather sturdy materials that will last a long time.   It often comes from the factory with a Scothgard treatment on fabric seats to reduce staining and make it easier to clean  If yours is not Scotchgard protected you can purchase Scotchgard in an aerosol can and spray your seats for extra protection.  Vinyl seats don't need Scotchgard.  If the upholstery is getting worn or is out dated or you just don't like the way it looks you can have it reupholstered or recover the cushions yourself.  Since the cushions are easily removable you can usually just take them out for re-upholstery (unlike sofas, part of which usually can't be removed).  Reupholstering cushions in your boat, camper, or RV is a fairly inexpensive improvement that increases comfort and enjoyment, may extend the useable lifetime of a unit, and might even increase resale value.

Another option for worn out cushions is to replace them with used cushions from another vehicle.   Cushions from the same make, model, and year will be most likely to fit properly but often you can simply measure your cushions and find others that will fit close enough, giving you far more options.   Some good online places to look are ebay.com and craigslist.org.

In a worst case scenario you can make new cushions or have them made.  You just need to get the proper measurements.  Many times you can use the old cushions as a pattern but if they are gone or too badly damaged, measure where they go and purchase foam pads to fit and then cover them or have them covered.  When choosing new material for your cushions, look for sturdy material that will hold up in regular use.  If it doesn't come with a fabric protector, spray it with Scotchgard to reduce soiling and make it easier to clean.  You may want to color match the new fabric to coordinate with other furniture or you might want to change the color just for fun.  When choosing a new material you might want to consider vinyl if you have small children.  It doesn't absorb spills and is easy to clean.  For a more comfortable bed, or just seating without the sweat vinyl can induce, go for a nice, sturdy, coarse weave fabric.  While some heavy canvas and nylon materials may be suitable you will usually get the best results using fabric designed for upholstery use.

Sometimes you can borrow the cushions from you dinette and use them on benches outside to make sitting outdoors more comfortable.  If you choose to do this, take care to keep them out of the dirt and away from campfires and made sure they get back where they belong when you are finished.

Sit this one out!

Monday, March 22, 2021

Boating Safety

Boating safety includes proper operation, obeying rules and regulations, and having the right safety equipment on board.   The first two are things YOU have to to learn and be willing and able to perform correctly before operating a boat yourself.  The right safety equipment is specified by USCG regulations and boats operated in regulated waters MUST carry the required safety equipment.  Boats operated on non-regulated waters, usually small lakes and rivers, SHOULD carry the same safety equipment and local laws may require it.  Not having the prescribed safety equipment could subject you to significant fines if your boat gets inspected by law enforcement and costly liabilities if you are involved in an accident and didn't have the required, up to date safety items on board at the time.  Of course, just having the right equipment isn't enough -- you (and everyone on your boat) needs to know where it is located,  how to get it out and how to use it.

Learning proper operation of your boat usually involves more than a few minutes of instruction by the dealer or person you purchase (or rent) your boat from.  Ideally you should have hands-on training by a qualified instructor.  In some cases, such as piloting commercial boats, you must have a Captain's License that has minimum training and testing requirements.  If your boat is for personal use you won't need the License, but you should still ensure you are qualified to operate your boat before you take it out on the water without a more experienced skipper on board.  The training you need will depend on what type of boat you are in.  Personal boats, such as canoes, kayaks, and row boats are pretty simple but you still need to know how to use them safely.  That would include how to launch them, how to load them, how for you and any passengers to sit safely, and how to paddle them, steer them stop them and dock them.  Motor boats will require additional instruction on how to operate the controls along with guidance on choosing a safe speed and other operational considerations, depending on where you are.  Sail boats will require you to know points of sail and how to raise, lower, and adjust the sails.  Many sailboats also have auxiliary power which you will also need to know how to use.  Operating any boat without proper training is a recipe for disaster, for you and anyone around you!  For personal use you may be able to get training from a friend or associate who is an experienced, competent boater.  Make sure you are understand and are comfortable with all the aspects of operating a boat before you attempt to do so on you own.  Waves are almost a constant feature you need to know how to handle.  In general it is best to cross waves perpendicular to their shape.  Letting one strike the side of your boat will cause it to rock and if it is big enough may make it capsize.  The same applies to the wake kicked up by other boats.  Low waves and small wakes are not usually of any concern, but as the grow bigger they can wreak havoc.  I was once towing a water skier when a harbor tour boat came by kicking up a 2'  wake.  My skier caught the tip of his ski in the wake and it flipped and spun him like a top!

Certain navigation and other lights are required on any boat used after dark.  Standard navigation lights include a red light visible from the port side, a green light visible from the starboard side, and white lights front and rear.  In addition all boats need to display a white light visible all around when moored or at anchor outside a designated moorage at night.  Sailboats also have to display a white light visible from the front when using an auxiliary motor at night.  Lighting requirements might be different for different sized boats as well as different between power and sailboats.  Check to make sure your boat has all the required lights for its type and size.  Modern LED lights take a lot less power than the old incandesent lights.  This is particularly helpful for anchor lights or other lights that will be used while you are on battery only power.

Day shapes are used on sailboats to let other boaters know if the sailboat is under power or at anchor.  The use of day shapes on inland waters seems to be often neglected, which is a sad thing as it may contribute to unnecessary accidents or close calls.  A sailboat under power should display a black ball shape.  At anchor in daylight hours they should display a black, inverted cone shape.   There are other shapes such as diamonds and combinations of shapes used on commercial fishing vessels and vessels under tow but you seldom see them on personal boats.  The day shapes are always black because other colors can not always be distinguished if the sun is in your eyes.  Day shapes are required on vessels over 20m in length and recommended for all vessels and are typically displayed in the fore triangle (e.g., hung from the forestay).

Rules and regulations will, to some extent, depend on where you are using your boat.  Regulated waters usually include all coastal waters and large, navigable lakes and rivers like the Great Lakes, the St Lawrence seaway and the Mississippi River.  The regulations governing these waters include federal laws and regulations put forth by the U.S. Coast Guard.  There are other local rules and regulations that govern recreational boating on lakes and rivers.  It is your responsibility to learn the laws, rules, and regulations pertaining to whatever venue you are operating in.  Failure to do so could result in serious accidents or expensive fines.  You will find speed limits and restricted areas posted near most boat docks, launch ramps, swimming areas, brides, and dams in both regulated and unregulated waters.  Obeying these rules is both your legal obligation and a matter of common courtesy.

Safety equipment requirements are primarily based on US Coast Guard regulations.  In pretty much all cases you are required to have personal flotation devices (i.e, life vests) readily available and accessible to every person on a boat.  As boats get larger they are required to have additional throwable flotation devices (specially designed cushions or life preservers).  All boats are required to carry visible and audible signalling devices.  In regulated waters you are required to carry signal flares.  Boats operated after dark require navigation lights.  All boat having motors must carry at least one fire extinguisher.  Boats over 25' must carry at least 2 fire extinguishers.  All safety equipment should be up to date and easily accessible by the crew.  Everyone on board, especially crew members, should know what and where every piece of safety equipment is and how to use it.

Signal flares come in several forms.  There are hand held flares and flare guns.  Flare guns shot the flare high into the air so it can be seen from long distances.  Hand held flares can only be seen by people with a direct line of sight to where you are.  Hand held flares are probably adequate for use on inland lakes and rivers but I would want to have a flare gun if I were doing any off-shore, blue water voyaging.  Signal flares are not cheap and they come with an expiration date.  Some expired flares might still work, but do you want to bet your life on that?  I don't!  Expired flares do not meet USCG regulations so having expired flares might result in a stiff fine, not to mention they very well might fail when you need them most!

Having the required safety equipment on board is just the first step.  Obviously you must also know where to find it and how to use it!   Even simple items like life vests require a certain expertise to be worn correctly.  Putting one on wrong could cost you your life!  Throwable cushions are pretty simple to use but it is advisable that you practice throwing them so you will be able to get them where you need them if someone falls overboard and needs help.  Know how to ignite or shoot your flares.  You should not fire flare guns as practice, except in an official USCG designated flare practice area.  Any passing aircraft that sees a flare is obligated to report it which would launch a possibly expensive search operation. Audible signals (horns and whistles) have specific meanings you need to know.  They are generally divided into short and long blasts.  Short blast is 1 second.  A long blast is 4-6 seconds.  One short blast is used by boats approaching each other to signal they are passing on the port (left) side.  Two short  blasts mean passing on the starboard (right side).  By the way, the generally accepted practice is to pass port to port.  Three short blasts means your engine is in reverse.  Five short blasts mean danger or I do not understand or agree with your signal.  You might use 5 blasts to warn an approaching boat that you have a swimmer in the water on the side he intends to pass on or if there is some danger such as rocks or debris  or another boat there.  Audible signals are also used in times of reduced visibility, such as fog or around blind turns.  One long blast means entering or exiting a blind turn, nearing an obstructed area, or leaving a dock or berth.  One long blast every two minutes is used by power boats operating in low or restricted visibility,  One long blast followed by two short blast  is used by boats under sail operating in low or restricted visibility.  Whey would power and sail boats use different signals for the same situation?  Well, sailboats may not be able to change course or speed as quickly as power boats.  Knowing a sailboat is approaching in limited visibility conditions lets you prepare to allow more time for evasive maneuvers if they are needed.  It may also help that you know you will not be able to listen for approaching engine noise and that the other boat could appear out of the fog without you ever hearing the sound of their engine.

EPIRBs (Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacons) are required on large boats (typically over 300 tons) but might be useful on smaller craft if you are sailing off-shore.  They send an SOS signal that includes your precise coordinates to assist rescuers in finding you.  They are somewhat large and expensive.  A Personal Locator Beacon (PLB) performs a similar function.  They are small enough to carry in your pocket (they are designed for hikers) and start at prices much less than EPIRBs.  Emergency beacons are probably not needed on inland waters but I wouldn't want to do any ocean voyaging without one.  You might want to have a PLB you can use both on land at and sea, for hiking, riding OHVs or horses, hiking, boating, etc.  Most PLBs are waterproof down to at least a couple of meters.

There are no laws or regulations I know of that specify proper clothing for boating,  other than perhaps laws regarding public nudity.   However, to be safe and comfortable you should dress appropriately when boating.  Avoid exceedingly loose clothing that might get caught on parts of the boat.  For both your own safety and to protect the deck of the boat, wear soft-soled shoes with a good grip.  "Real" boaters wear deck shoes when on the boat and do not wear them off the boat where they could pick up bits of debris that would damage the deck.  Slick or loose shoes may cause you to slip and fall, perhaps even fall overboard!  Wearing any shore worn shoes on your boat risks damaging the surface of your deck.  It is popular to wear swimsuits or shorts when boating but be aware you may be exposing your skin to excessive UV radiation which could lead to sunburn and eventually even to skin cancer.  You will get exposed to sunlight reflected off  the water as well as from directly overhead.  Wear sunblock on exposed skin.  A good broad-brimmed hat or at least one that shades our eyes will be helpful.  Your eyes will also need protection from both direct and reflected sunlight so a good pair of sunglasses is advised.  Most tasks on a power boat don't require gloves, but many tasks on a sailboat or any kind of paddle boat will require gloves to protect your hands from blisters, rope burns, and other injuries.

 If your boat is on a trailer you will need to have safe towing skills and learn how to launch the boat.  To launch the boat back the trailer down the launch ramp until the boat is in the water.  If you can't get it far enough down the ramp before the water is high enough to get the brakes on your tow vehicle wet you might need a hitch or tongue extension to give you further reach.  Boat trailer guides are really useful when backing the empty trailer into the water to retrieve the boat and they also make it easier to align the boat to the trailer.  When towing a boat, always make sure the boat is securely attached to the trailer and that the trailer hitch, safety chains, wiring, lights, and brakes are working properly.  When towing you usually need to travel slower than you do without a trailer and give yourself more room for turning and stopping.  Trailers can also be affected by wind or gusts from passing trucks and buses.

You will need to know how to safely move your boat out of its slip and how to dock it again when you return.  There are many Youtube videos that can teach you useful techniques.  In general you need to make sure you have untied all dock lines and made sure the lane you are entering is clear of other boats.  When returning, approach the slip/dock slowly, have your boat hook ready to help guide you into the slip, and have your docking lines ready to secure the boat once you are in place.  There are techniques that use spring lines to help position the boat and stop it when docking, but not all boats have spring lines.  Speed in any marina or anchorage is always limited.  You usually only run the motor at idle when docking.  Boat trailer guide posts are useful for positioning your trailer and aligning the boat to the trailer.

Once you are out on the water you need to maintain situational awareness.  That means you need to be constantly looking around you, watching for other boats, swimmers, obstacles, or even disturbances on the water that might indicate a problem.  Adjust your behavior depending on what you see around you.  Watch your speed.  There aren't a lot of speed limits on the open water, but there are definitely speed limits near marinas, boat ramps, swimming areas, bridges, dams, and other points of interest.  You should also slow down whenever there are other boats near by, to give yourself time to react if one of them suddenly darts into your path.  In general power boats are expected to yield the right of way to sailboats but if you are in a sailboat, don't count on it!  If you are in a power boat, do your best to comply.  Boats should pass each other "port to port" (i.e., left side to left side).  Think of it like two cars going opposite directions on the highway.  By the way, you can remember that "port"is the left side because both words have 4 letters.  The right side of a boat is called "starboard".  The port side is so named because that was the side boats usually docked on in port.  Starboard is thought to have come from "steerboard" at a time before boats had rudders and were steered by a board usually from the right hand side as the one steering the boat faced forward.

Passenger safety should be one of your primary concerns.  Perhaps your first option is to make sure your passengers are capable of following safety protocols and looking after themselves.   During one of our sailboat outings we witnessed a power boat accident in which an elderly lady fell overboard.  They got her out of the water quickly but she apparently had a heart attack and even CPR by the local fire department medics couldn't save her.  Ironically, she didn't like going out on a boat in the first place and her family had talked her into it.  Always show passengers where all the safety equipment is located and how and when to use it.  Make sure children and other possible at risk passengers ALWAYS wear their live jackets.  Avoid carrying passengers who are intoxicated or under the influence of drugs, even prescription drugs if the drug affects their senses and/or reaction time.  Try to keep an eye on your passengers and advise them if/when they are doing anything that might put them or anyone else at risk.  If all else fails and your passengers do not cooperate, head back and park the boat and ask them to disembark.  Going back and/or asking people to leave may dampen spirits but not as badly as someone getting hurt!

Be safe and have fun!

Wednesday, March 17, 2021

Additional OHV Body Armor

OK, you've got your helmet and googles, riding boots, and good riding pants and jerseys.  What more could you need?

Well, there are several more pieces of body armor available to provide additional protection for when you and your ride part company.  Let's face it:  anytime there is a contest between your soft body parts and hard rocks, pavement, or even the ground, your body parts are going to come in second place, and that is NOT a good place to be in that situation!  Even landing on soft sand or grass can deliver nasty bruises and abrasions.  A fellow scoutmaster once told the boys second place was first loser, and that certainly would be applicable in this situation.

Gloves are kind of a no-brainer for most off road riding.   You might get away with wearing some heavy leather work gloves or even truck driver's driving gloves but actual off road riding gloves will be more comfortable and better protect your hands.  Off road gloves are usually fairly soft and flexible so they are comfortable and leave you with the good flexibility and dexterity you need to manage the controls  while also having special pads added to protect the exposed back side of your fingers and hands from unwanted impacts.  Work gloves tend to be bulky and often have fat seams that can cause sores and blisters.  The usually don't breathe very well and your hands will get hot and sweaty.   For cold days, wear Wind Chill gloves or add glove liners to keep your hands warmer.  Ski gloves are certainly warm, but usually are too bulky to handle the controls safely.  Riding gloves are designed to fit comfortably, allowing you to grip the handlebars securely without seams hurting your hands.  They have vented backs with plastic ribs to protect your fingers and the back of hour hands from moderate impacts.

Kidney belt would be next my on my list.  This is an elastic band about 8" wide you wrap around your midsection.  As indicated my its name, it covers your kidneys.  Kidney belts usually have some reinforced bands to give extra protection to your body and your organs but they also provide extra back support that helps you maintain a good riding posture and minimizes muscle fatigue that leads to an aching back.  Once you've worn a kidney belt you will greatly appreciate the extra support it gives and will feel somewhat undressed without one.    Kidney belts also have the advantage of holding and supporting your abdomen.  The heavy material along with the stiffeners provides a lot more support and protection than a shirt or jersey.  I know riders who wear a chiropractic back brace in lieu of a kidney belt.  It provides the same basic support but usually lacks the extra protection of the stiffeners in motorcycle kidney belts.

Then I would go for a chest protector.  Chest protectors are made of sturdy plastic and basically surround your rib cage.  It might better be called a torso protector because it protects your back as well as your chest.  Some early models, often called Rock Jackets, pretty much ended there but modern versions usually include shoulder pads that cap your shoulders and pieces that even guard your collar bones  Some riders prefer the rock jacket style because the extra collar bone and shoulder protection sometimes gets in the way of turning you head in a full face helmet, but I have found the slight inconvenience well worth the extra protection.  That might be because my full face helmet once judo chopped my collar bone in an accident when I was wearing a rock jacket style chest protector.  Chest protectors are well ventilated so there usually isn't very much of a heat penalty to pay when wearing them.  I add a D-ring near the bottom of one side where I can attach a fireman's glove strap to keep track of my gloves when I stop along the trail.  I also add a piece of velcro to the center and a matching piece to the bite valve on my Camelbak hydration pack so I can attach the bite valve where it easy to reach when needed and doesn't easily get snagged on bushes out on the trail.

Hip pads are usually part of your riding pants.  Just remember to put them in each time you put on your pants.  They are not bulky nor made of hard plastic, but the added padding goes a long way to cushioning your hip bones against hard obstacles.

Knee pad are, in my mind, almost mandatory.   When riding an ATV or dirt bike your knees are often exposed to brush and your knees are very often the first part of your body to contact the ground in a get off, meaning you strike them at maximum velocity.  Standard, simple knee pads are either strapped to your lower legs or tucked into pockets below the knees of your riding pants.  They include a cup that covers you knee and a shin guard that extend down your leg into your riding boots.  For even better protection go for professional knee braces.  While they can be quite expensive, the extra protection they provide is well worth it.  If you have had any previous knee injuries or weakness in your knees you should seriously consider getting knee braces.  The are somewhat bulky but you get used to it.  They not only cover you knees put also protect against over-extension and sideways displacement.  Did you know it only takes about 12 lbs of pressure on the side of your knee to dislocate it?  Compare that to the strength of your tibia (lower leg bone), which can typically withstand almost 2000 lbs downward force before snapping!  Knee braces can help prevent sideways displacements, saving you from a very extensive and painful injury.

Elbow pads aren't as often seen on off road riders but I have found them to be very valuable.  Your elbows, like your knees, tend to be among the first body parts to strike the ground during an accident.  You know how it hurts when you bump your elbow!  Like knee guards, elbow guards extend below the joint providing protection for your forearm as well.  Coupled with the shoulder pads on a comprehensive chest protector, your arms are nearly covered completely, which can save you a lot of scrapes and abrasions and a lot of blood and pain.  Some riders find them too warm on hot days, but I have always felt the extra protection was well worth the slight discomfort.

All in one body armor is available that combines kidney belt, elbow pads, and chest protector with a riding jersey so you can put it all on at once.  It may make getting dressed and undressed a little easier but I prefer the added protection of individual pieces of armor.  Slip on armor usually doesn't include the shoulder and collar bone guards found on state-of-the-art chest protectors, but it does cover chest, spine, elbows and shoulders.

Bandanas aren't exactly body armor, but they are a good thing to include in your riding outfit.  I roll mine up, soak it with water, and tie it around my neck.  That does two very valuable things:  it protects my neck between my jersey and helmet from sunburn and it helps keep my cool as the water evaporates.  There are some major blood vessels fairly close to the skin in your neck and the wet bandana helps cool your blood, which helps keep your whole body more comfortable in hot weather.   Bandans can have other uses too.  You can wear them bandit-style over your face to protect your nose and mouth from dust when riding exceedingly dusty trails or caught in a dust storm or to keep your face warmer when it turns cold.  They can also be used for emergency slings and bandages so it is handy to have one conveniently tied around your neck if you or one of your riding buddies needs it. 

In summary, you will find wearing full body armor will help you avoid a lot of injuries and is usually far more comfortable than ordinary boots, shirts, and jeans.  Yes, you will have to put out a little investment, but I am sure you will find it is more than worth whatever it costs.  Besides that it looks cool!

Armor up!

Tuesday, March 16, 2021

OHV Riding Pants and Jerseys

Riding pants and jerseys provide reasonably comfortable protection for your limbs and torso when operating an off highway vehicle.  You will see people wearing less specific items like jeans and t-shirts but they are unnecessarily risking injuries that can come from just riding, let alone from accidents.  I didn't have real riding gear for my first few outings and I quickly learned the limitations of jeans and casual shirts.  Jeans and other work pants are not designed for you to straddle the seat of a motorcycle.  You will quickly discover they get tight in very uncomfortable places and lack the flexibility you need for comfort and proper movement on the bike.  Short sleeved shirts will expose your arms to sunburn and scratching by brushes or branches along the trail.  Sweatshirts get too warm after only a few minutes of riding on even cool days.

Riding pants are sometimes called "leathers".  That is because the riding pants originally worn by old time motorcycle riders were usually made of leather to provide warmth in cold weather and protection against abrasions when they parted company with their machines.  These days they are usually made of sturdy nylon like Gore-tex, augmented by plastic or silicone protective patches that often mascarade as logos or design elements.  Riding pants are usually equipped with soft hip pads that fasten to velcro tabs on each hip the the better ones include pockets for knee pads that also cover the shins.

Riding pants should fit comfortably and not bind when you are sitting, standing, or walking.  Some have adjustable waists.  Make sure they fit snugly around your waist.  You don't want them lose enough to slip down!

A lot of riders simply wear jeans or sturdy work pants instead of riding pants.   True, it may be cheaper to wear available pants but they won't provide the level of comfort or proper protection of real riding pants.

Riding "shirts"are called jerseys.  They are usually made of a fairly light and breathable but sturdy material so they can provide some protection against dirt and sand kicked up at trail speeds.  They need to fit comfortably and allow full freedom of movement of your arms.  Some jerseys have built in soft elbow pads to give a little extra protection but strap-on, hard elbow pads will give even more protection.  For cold weather riding, choose "Wind Chill"jerseys, designed to help keep you warmer in cooler weather.

You will definitely see guys riding wearing a variety of tops -- t-shirts and even tank tops in hot weather and sweat shirts when it is cooler.  However, once again, these garments do not provide the comfort, flexibility of movement, nor the protection of a proper riding jersey.

Riding pants and jerseys were at one time frequently color coordinated to the rider's machine.  While the practice is still fairly common and is a good way to show your support for your favorite brand of equipment, more colorful options have become popular, very likely fueled by the exotic color schemes adopted by Supercross riders over the years.  It isn't unusual to find very macho riders even wearing a combination of pink and chartreuse.

Once again, you might get away with wearing jeans and a t-shirt or sweatshirt for a while, but real riding pants and jerseys will definitely be more comfortable and safer.  And it looks cooler!

Dress right!

OHV Riding Boots



Next to helmets and goggles, riding boots are probably the next most important and most specialized piece of personal protective equipment for riding ATVs and dirt bikes.  Because they are specialized, they tend to be a little pricey and some people shy away from them because of the cost.  Some people will substitute various kinds of work boots, but none of them will actually perform as well as riding boots.  Riding boots are designed to provide the kind of protection and support your feet and ankles need as well as the flexibility you need for proper control when operating an OHV.  No doubt you will see foolish riders wearing just about anything on their feet:  loafers, tennis shoes, running shoes, even flipflops!  But to be sure, it is only a matter of time before they pay the price.  Bruised or even fractured arches are possible just from kick starting a dirt bike without the right kind of boots.  And if your foot encounters a rock or log in casual footwear, something is going to get broken and it won't be the rock or log!  I have even seen riders get injured wearing riding boots but their injuries would have been a lot worse if they hadn't been wearing proper boots.  They came close to losing a few toes; without the boots they would have lost their foot!

Riding boots usually have a metal guard around the tip of the sole.  Work boots usually do not have this guard.  It is needed because the tips of your boots are often subjected to rocks and other debris when riding an ATV or dirt bike.  Without the metal tip the toes of your boots would quickly wear out and leave YOUR toes unprotected!  If the tip protector gets loose, tap the nails back in.  If they are too loose, stick a little piece of a wooden match or toothpick into the hole or replace the nails with short screws.  If you loose a tip entirely, replace it as quickly as you can.  I have to admit I wore work boots the first few times I rode my dirt bike.  I think they had steel toes for extra protection but the rather bulbous rounded toes of work boots definitely do not fit well under motorcycle shift levers.  Riding boots are designed with flat, square toes that make engaging and working the shift lever easier and safer.  The higher shaft, extending almost to the knee also provides a lot more ankle support and protection for your shins.

The tall shaft of riding boots protects your shins and calves from injury.  Typical work boots have only 6"or 8"tops.  Riding boot tops are more like a foot tall, covering most of your shin and calf.  The added length also gives extra stabilization to your ankles.

Most all boots, including work boots as well as riding boots, have steel shanks.  The steel shank protects the arch of your foot when stomping on the kick starter and when standing on the foot pegs.

My family and I have experimented with several different brands of riding boots, and there are certainly many brands to choose from, manufactured in many different countries.  The brand we have come to favor over the years is Alpine Stars.    I think we started with Tech 3s and worked our way up to Tech 10s.  Each generation introduced new features and benefits with the Tech 10 boots having removable booties that could be washed to freshen the boots between rides.  You can use the boots without the booties.  One of my grown sons, who is bigger than I am, borrowed my boots and since they were a smaller size than he usually wore he had to wear them without the booties.  Not generally a recommended practice, but it works in a pinch.

The center of the sole of riding boots is usually the first to wear out, especially if you don't have an electric starter and rely on kick starting your ride.  I have seen the soles of riding boots worn almost to the steel shank from stomping the kick starter.  Fortunately, new soles can be purchased and installed by a qualified shoe repair shop and they are a lot less expensive than new boots!

Of course your boots will look better and last longer if you take proper care of them.  I use spring clamps to hang my boots by the back of the shaft to prevent them slumping over while sitting around on the soles.  When they get bent over they can develop folds that may rub on your ankles and cause bruises and blisters.  Avoid getting your boots wet if you can.  Most boots have significant parts made of leather which will get stiff after it gets soaked a few times.  If you do get your boots wet, dry them as soon as possible, but don't subject them to high heat which can damage the materials.  Clean your boots after every outing.  You can use ordinary shoe polish of a matching color on most boots to cover scuffs and help restore the finish.  I like to occasionally use some Leather Balm to condition the leather and help keep it soft.  I use SC-1 on both the plastic and leather parts of my boots for a final shine and as extra UV and moisture protection.  

Riding boots use specialized straps and latches which sometimes break.  You can usually buy replacement straps at your favorite OHV shop or from the manufacturer's web site.  If the part of the latch that is permanently attached to the boot is damaged you will probably have to take it to a shoe repair shop to be fixed or replaced.

The metal tips on the soles are held on my little nails and those nails can work loose over time.  Inspect the tips regularly and tap the nails back into place if any are coming loose.  Over time the holes may get worn so the nails don't seem to want to stay stuck.  You might try tightening them by removing each nail and inserting a little piece of a wooden toothpick into the hole before reinstalling the nail.  Another trick might be to fill the holes with some kind of plastic filler.  You want something sturdier than silicone sealer but more flexible than Bondo. You also might try replacing the nails with short screws.  Be sure not to over tighten them or you will strip out the holes in the soles!

If  you need new straps, buckles, or metal tips, do an Internet search for "motocross boot parts" and you will get plenty of options.  Replacement parts are relatively inexpensive and usually pretty easy to install.

Make sure your boots fit right!  Boots that are too large will be clumsy and may cause blisters on your feet.  Boots that are too tight can restrict circulation and cause pain.  You should wear fairly heavy motocross socks with riding boots to cushion your feet so keep that in mind when sizing your boots.  I like to wear a pair of light weight dress socks under my motocross socks to help prevent blisters as they are slicker than the fuzzy motocross socks.  The dual sock systems allows slippage between the light weight socks and the motocross socks instead of between my skin and the socks.

The legs of your riding pants should fit inside your riding boots.  There should also be room for the shin guards attached to your knee pads.  If you have trouble fastening the straps you may be able buy longer straps or have a shoe repair shop make some that will work for you.  You don't want the legs of your riding pants over your boots where they can get caught on things along the trail.

Riding boots tend to be rather expensive, but, fortunately, with proper care, they usually last a long time.  And their cost is small compared to the cost of injuries from not having them -- direct medical costs plus possible loss of work plus pain and suffering.

Boot up!

OHV Helmets and Goggles



Perhaps the single most irreplacable piece of personal protective equipment for OHV riders are their helmets and goggles.  You can sometimes get away with wearing substitutes for other parts of your body armor, but there is nothing else that gives the protection your head needs.  Head injuries are often very serious and even fatal and, unfortunately, are among the most common injuries associated with motorcycle and other OHV accidents.

Helmets should  be properly rated to meet certain standards of protectionThere are four primary rating systems:  Snell, DOT, and ECE.   Each one identifies the organization that established, maintains, and certifies helmets to their standards.  Snell is the Snell Memorial Foundation.  Its ratings are required by certain racing organizations. DOTis the United States Department of Transportation.  ECE is the Economic Commission for Europe.  Helmets that do not have at least one of these certifications stickers are considered to be novelty helmets and should never be considered safe.  FIM is another rating system by a global motorcycle organization for helmets for track use.

Snell is perhaps the oldest and best recognized rating, even being sometimes considered to be the gold standard for helmets.

Any helmet used for off road activities or highway motorcyle riding should meet at least one of the accepted standards.   If you have a helmet that does not meet any of these standards you should replace it with one that does as soon as possible -- before you actually need it protect your head in an accident.  You don't want to put your head in a $10 helmet unless you only have a $10 head!

Helmets will not prevent all head injuries, but they will mitigate many of them.  No matter how strong or safe a helmet is, the impact in any specific accident might exceed its level of protection.  However, one thing is absolutely certain:  NOT wearing an approved helmet will significantly increase your chances of serious or fatal head injuries in an OHV accident.

Certified helmets are not cheap.   But it can be said you should only use a $10 helmet if you have a $10 head!  The medical cost of any head injury will quickly exceed the price of a good helmet, without even counting loss of work income or pain and suffering.

Helmets come in open-face and full-face versions.   Open face helmets are usually worn by riders on street bikes.  Most off-road riders wear full-face helmets.  Helmets are available with and without face shields.  Even when I have had face shields I wear goggles for better eye protection.  Street riders preference for open-face helmets may be due to a need for a greater range of vision in street traffic and off-road riders need the extra protection of the chin guard of full-face helmets.  All I had was an open-face street helmet for my first couple of dirt bike rides, but I soon switched to a full-face helmet and I have always been glad I did.  Many years ago I watched  rider air-lifted from a remote forest service campground after he caught a low hanging branch in the face wearing an open face helmet.  It nearly ripped is jaw off!  To his credit, he was back on the trails the very next day but it was a very painful and expensive incident.

Helmets are pretty much only good for one hard crash.  Once they have done their job they should be replaced.  Even if the helmet isn't cracked or doesn't appear damaged, the shock absorbing material inside is likely to have been crushed.  And while it has done its job absorbing the shock and protecting your head once, it won't be able to do it again.  It is designed to be crushed to absorb the impact.  It doesn't rebound.  Unfortunately there is no non-destructive way to test a helmet to determine if it has been compromised.  Better to replace it if you it has been hit hard.  When purchasing used helmets look for deep scratches or scuffing or dings that might indicate it has been hit.  Ask the seller about the helmet's history, but be cautious because they might tend to downplay any problems in order to try to sell it.  If possible, buy only from someone you know and can trust.

Goggles are next on the list.  Why?  Well, eyes are fairly fragile and you only have one pair of them.  If they get damaged you will likely be blind the rest of your life.  Some riders like the fashionable appearance of sunglasses over goggles but sunglasses, even safety glasses, do not provide the same level of protection as goggles.  Sunglasses allow air flow around the edges, which can deliver damaging bits of debris into your eyes/  Properly fitted goggles block that air flow.  When riding in bright sunlight it is helpful to wear sunglasses under your goggles if they will fit or wear tinted goggles.  Avoid wearing tinted goggles in late evening.  Auto-darkening lenses are available so you can wear the same goggles in bright sunlight, with darkened lenses, and after dark with clear lenses.

Goggles and face shields are prone to get scratched.   You will want to do all you can to prevent that.  Helmets usually come with a nice storage bag that can protect the face shield when you aren't wearing your helmet.  Be sure to use it!  Goggles often have cloth storage pouches too.  If you lose yours or don't have one, use an old (clean) sock.  Both goggles and face shields can be cleaned with plastic polish to remove light scratches and restore clarity.  I use a 3-step product from Novus.  One bottle is for heavy scratches and contains fairly coarse granules.  The second step has finer granules, and the final step has really fine granules to polish the surface.  Goggles and face shields can also fog up on cold, humid days.  Anti-fog preparations can help reduce fogging.  The best one I've seen is called Cat Crap and it comes in both spray and cream forms.  Sometimes, in a pinch out on the trail, you might try the old diver's trick of spitting on the inside of your googles to help reduce fogging.

If your OHV PPE budget is limited, focus first on a good helmet and goggle system.  Substituting ordinary work boots and gloves for riding boots and gloves increases your risk of injury in an accident and may not be comfortable,  But the risks of injry no where near as much as not having proper, certified head and eye protection.

Heads up!

Wednesday, March 10, 2021

Global Warming/Climate Change and Camping

 We are constantly hearing about the problems of global warming along with strong admonitions to reduce or eliminate the use of fossil fuels to stop it.  As RVers, OHVers, boaters, or even campers, we may even feel pressure from environmentalists to abandon our favorite pastimes.  The famous Sierra Club at one time had a written manifesto that called for the total elimination of ALL off road activity by the year 2000.  Thankfully, that didn't happen.  One thing it did accomplish was to separate their own 4 wheel drive members into a completely separate club.

In recent years the common reference has been changed from "global warming"to "climate change".  Don't let that fool you.  One of the reasons was that there was a decided lack of verified scientific readings to support the idea of global warming.  In some cases it was proven that reported data had been falsified in an attempt to support the unsubstantiated agenda of certain groups.

There appears to be two camps when it comes to global warming/climate change:  believers and non-believers.  To be honest I have always been a bit of a skeptic, almost to the point of being grouped with the non-believers.  For one thing, I think it is quite arrogant of us as humans to believe we can overwhelm nature!  There is a certain amount of evidence that is repeatedly touted as proving we are at fault.  However,  actual historic evidence shows that periodic global warming is the result of cosmological changes in our solar system and earth's position in it, things we can absolutely do nothing about!  Yes, it appears that global warming is a fact.  And no, human beings are not the primary cause of it!

I recently discovered some very interesting independent research that clarifies a lot of things for me.  It acknowledges global warming as a fact.  But is also points out it is a natural phenomenon and shows graphs of regular repetitions of global warming for at least the last 400,000 years.  Perhaps the most revealing fact I learned was that in every occurrence, including this one, temperature increased BEFORE CO2 increased!   It would appear from the historical evidence that global warming causes an increase in CO2 and not the other way around as frequently and repeated claims in popular media, who wants us to believe we are increasing CO2 and that is causing global warming.  Since the temperature increase preceded the CO2 increase, that doesn't add up.   In fact, it kind of puts a grand slam on current "greenhouse gas" theories! 

Given that periodic global warming is historic fact, we might better spend our time and resources determining how we should respond to it, not flailing about with ineffective attempts to change it!  We can learn from geological records what to expect in sea level changes and from things like tree rings we can learn about weather patterns.  While we may not be able to alter what global warming does to the oceans and the weather we CAN take appropriate actions to protect ourselves as a civilization and a species (and as individuals), against the affects.   We should be looking into what happened in previous global warming periods and devising protocols to ensure our survival and continued safety and comfort.  That might mean abandoning ocean front properties and focusing on promoting crops that can survive temperature changes.

Does any of this mean we should ignore "green"and "clean air"initiatives?  No of course not!  We still have a responsibility to be good stewards over and respect our beautiful planet.  It should however, give us a greater incentive to look beyond the commonly promoted theories and invest a little more time in digging deeper and exploring all the relevant facts.  Then we should do what we can to promote appropriate social and legal responses that are relevant to the true situation in which we find ourselves instead of blindly following the self-serving mandates of people with personal biases and agendas they want to impose on us.

 Am I going to get rid of my RV and OHVs or leave them idle because of global warming?  No, absolutely not!  Am I going to feel guilty about my campfire emitting CO2 into the atmosphere?  Don't think so.  Am I going to keep my RV and OHVs properly tuned and use the most environmentally friendly fuels I can?  You bet!  Am I going to use appropriately sized campfires instead of raging bonfires when I go camping?  Of course.  Am I going to support research, education, and legislation that properly addresses our appropriate response to global warming?  Every chance I get!

Just do it!

Monday, March 8, 2021

Getting Emergency Medical Services (EMS) When You Need It When Camping

We are so very fortunate to have highly qualified Emergency Medical Services readily available to us most of the time.  However, the further you go off grid in your recreational pursuits, the harder it will be contact them and the longer it will take for them to get to you -- if they can even find you!  One of the most frustrating things I experience as a volunteer firefighter is not having good information about the nature of an incident and where it is.  Our designated coverage area includes miles of forest, river, and lots of campgrounds.  Fortunately modern cell phones with GPS can sometimes be used to locate a caller and hopefully they are near where help is needed.  I've even seen them used to track lost hikers and guide rescuers right to them!  But I have also seen situations where the GPS we got was far from the site of an accident along the highway.  Callers often have to go some distance to get a signal.

Campers, RVers, boaters, and other outdoor enthusiasts often find themselves a long way from towns that have Emergency Medical Services.  Unfortunately, the kinds of activities we are often involved in increase the chances that we will need EMS.  Riding OHVs, working around campfires, maneuvering RVs and trailers, operating boats, rock climbing, and even just hiking can expose us to injuries we would not encounter at home.  At home it is pretty easy to dial "911" and get a quick response to get the help we need.  When we are out and about we may not have ready access to cell towers to even make the "911"call and once we do it will probably take some time for EMS resources to reach us, even if we give them good directions to our location.  Thus it behooves us to make sure we know where to go to be able to make a call and how to help EMS find us.

Unfortunately, we face both higher chances of mishaps and slower EMS response times when we are camping or involved in other outdoor recreational pursuits.   Therefore we must be prepared so we can do our best to care for ill or injured companions and to expedite getting help for them when needed.  We can prepare ourselves to be able to care for sick or injured companions through basic and advanced first aid training, as frequently mentioned in this blog.  But we should also take steps to ensure we can expedite reaching EMS services and helping them to reach us.

There are a few things you can do to be better prepared if you do need to call EMS in a remote location.  First of all, I suggest you keep an eye on your cell phone reception as you approach your campground so you know where to go if you need to make an emergency call.  Sometimes emergency calls can be made in fringe areas with weak signals, but just to be sure, know where you can get cell coverage when you need it.  Getting up on a hill top can sometimes help as it may get you above obstacles that would block the line-of-sight radio signals from the cell tower but if that isn't enough you should know how far back down the road you need to go to get cell service so you don't waste time searching for a signal.

Next, be prepared to provide accurate and concise directions so the 911 operator/dispatcher can tell the EMS team how to find you.   If you are in a developed campground, the name of the campground and your site identification should be sufficient to locate you.  However,  if you are in a dispersed camping area without clear landmarks to aid the EMS teams to find you, give the "911" operator the very best directions and distances you can.  If possible send someone down to an identifiable road or intersection to flag down the EMS vehicles and guide them to your location.  Be sure to give them a good description of your vehicle, tent, or other distinguishing characteristics of your camp site.

When you call "911" do your best to remain calm.  Think about what you need to tell them:  the nature of the injury or illness, when it happened or started, the age and gender of of the patient, and precise instructions for where you are and how to find you.   You will probably we worried, frightened, excited, possibly somewhat flummoxed.  The hysterical reports 911 operators sometimes receive can be difficult to understand and can delay getting the response you need.   Try to be as calm and collected as possible so you can help them get you the help you need as quickly as possible.   Be prepared to listen to the instructions you are given by the 911 operator and carry them out.  They are trained to provide proper directions for how you can best assist your patient until help arrives and help the EMS team get there as quickly as possible.

In some cases it may be beneficial to provide a signal to aid incoming responders.  In the day time that might consists of a brightly colored flag raised to where it can be easily seen from nearby access roads.  Or you might build a signal fire and load it up with green branches or leaves to create a column of smoke.  At night a large signal fire or flashing vehicle lights can be helpful to responders who are trying to find you.  If you use a signal, be sure to let the "911" operator know what you are using so they can pass it along to the response team.  Just having someone stand where they can be seen from the road and jumping up and down and waving their arms can help rescuers find you.

Once you have called "911" stay with the patient at the location you gave the operator unless being there puts you and/or your patient in immediate danger.  If you must move, either notify the 911 operator, leave someone to tell EMS where you have gone, or keep your original location in sight.  It is usually best not to try to move an injured person before help arrives unless it is absolutely necessary.  Comply with all instructions you receive from the 911 operator to the best of your ability.

If you frequently visit places with little or no cell phone reception you might want to explore the options for boosting your cell signal.   Cell phone signal boosters are not cheap (several hundred dollars) but it still might be a good investment if you are often outside normal cell range.  If you or anyone in your regular group has been diagnosed with medical conditions that might make getting EMS help quickly a necessity, a cell phone booster may be well worth the cost.  Satellite phones are not dependent on cell towers and, since the transceivers for them are orbiting miles above the earth, they are usually not affected by mountains either.  Satellite phones are, however, still pretty darned expensive.  Phones start around $599 and can go up to thousands of dollars.  Plans start around $70 a month for 70 minutes of talk time.  You probably wouldn't want to use it for casual calls but it could be life saving to have those 70 minutes in a remote location.  Anyone with a high risk medical history or involved in high risk activities in remote locations should seriously consider getting a satellite phone for emergency use. 

Another option for high risk situations is to carry a personal locator beacon.  A personal locator beacon, or PLB for short, is a personal electronic transmitting device that is designed to alert potential rescuers to a life-threatening situation in the air, on water or in remote areas.  They typically start a little north of  $200.  Higher priced units have more features.  All PLBs must be registered (free of charge) in the NOAA SARSAT (Search and Rescue Satellite Aided Tracking) database.  Once activated, the unit sends an SOS that alerts rescue teams to your exact location and tells them it is an emergency, likely life-threatening situation.  PLBs don't require a monthly subscription.  Since you only turn them on when you need to send an SOS the batteries last a long time, up to 5 years.  When batteries need to be replaced the unit must be returned to the manufacturer for replacement.  Batteries should also be replaced after a unit has been activated.  I have heard that most manufacturers will give you a new unit if you have to activate it for a life-saving rescue.

Of course another option is for you -- or someone in your group -- to get certified in Emergency Medical procedures.   Even if EMS can reach you fairly quickly, having proper training can be useful until they get there.  Being able to provide appropriate immediate assistance can significantly reduce suffering and minimize complications. Sometimes it is even life saving!  If EMS personnel are far distant or delayed it is even more important for you to have qualified help with you.  Throughout my off road career I have endeavored to maintain first aid and CPR certification and recently have obtained certification as an Emergency Medical Responder (EMR).  An EMR is the first level of EMS and historically has been called first responder.  If you are involved in any kind of outdoor activities where serious injuries may occur you should know how to recognize and treat life threatening bleeding and to be able to identify and splint broken bones.  Those skills could well be life saving!

Get help!

Wednesday, March 3, 2021

Preparing a Boat for Spring Launch

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

The first step is usually unwrapping or uncovering the boat.  Many boats hauled out are shrink wrapped for the winter.  Others may simply be covered with a tarp.  In either case the first step in getting them ready to use it to uncover them  Once the covering is removed inspect the surface for any damage or moisture that may have gotten through or accumulated underneath the covering.  Boats covered with a tarp will sometimes get damaged by the tarp rubbing against projecting surfaces.  Mark and note any damages so you can repair them before putting your boat in the water.  If you used a tarp to cover your boat, inspect it for wear and tear and make any needed repairs before putting it in storage so it will be ready to use again next year.

Next up is a thorough cleaning.  Even though your boat has been protected from most environmental elements it will still need to be cleaned, inside and out, before you use it.  A good washing is all that is usually needed for the exterior.   A good coat of wax on the clean boat will help keep it looking nicer longer and provide some protection for the gelcoat or paint.  The interior will benefit from sweeping floors, vacuuming cushions, wiping down all hard surfaces, and cleaning cabinets, counters, appliances and plumbing fixtures.  If you see streaks or other signs of leakage on the ceiling or inside of the hull, make note of them so you can mediate the problem before it causes any more damage.  Spring cleaning is sometimes a good opportunity to repaint any areas that need it or you want to change for cosmetic or decorative reasons.  And don't forget the bottom!  Hopefully you cleaned the bottom while it was still damp when you took it out of the water last fall.  Now is a good time to make sure it is clean and check to see if it needs to be repainted.  A clean hull is a significant factor in performance, letting the boat to slip through the water uninhibited by junk stuck to the hull and allowing it to respond as best it can to the helmsman.

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

Anchors and rodes should be inventoried and inspected.  Both should be clean and have no visible signs of damage or excessive wear.  Both should be properly stowed where they can be easily accsessed when needed.

Tools, supplies, and provisions need to inventoried.  Worn. damaged, or missing tools should be replaced.  Used up, clogged, expired or missing supplies also need to be replaced.  Provisions (basic food and hygiene supplies and medications and first aid supplies) also need be brought up to date.  Make sure your bilge pumps (electric and/or manual) are working properly.  This is also a good time to make sure everything is stowed properly where you know where it is and can get it when you need it.

If yours is a sailboat you will need to inspect the standing rigging.  Adjust as necessary and replace any frayed or damaged components.  Also unfold and inspect the sails and check all the lines (sheets on the sails, halyards, docking lines, etc).  Check the winches and make sure all the cleats are secure to the deck.  Repair or replace any damaged or missing items.  Don't forget to check things like sail and tiller covers.  Inventory and inspect sail ties.

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

If you have removed any components for winter storage (sails, rudder, dingy, etc) put them back onboard where they need to be.   Check the berths to make sure the mattresses and cushions aren't damp or moldy and make sure you have clean, correct bedding on board.

If you have onboard plumbing, inspect all the tanks and visible lines and devices for leaks.  If necessary, sanitize and fill your fresh water tank and make sure waste holding tanks have the proper chemicals.  This applies to porta-pottis as well as permanent facilities.

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

Ready for launch!

Monday, March 1, 2021

Fiberglass Repairs for RVs and Boats

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Once the application has cured (Bondo is usually dry in 10-15 minutes) you will need to file or sand it to remove any imperfections and blend the repair smoothly into the surrounding surfaces.  For best results you should then apply a finishing paste.  It is similar to the material used to build up the patch but is made of finer material to produce a smoother final surface.  Allow the finishing paste to dry and cure according the manufacturer's instructions, then sand it again until everything is really smooth.  Initial rough sanding may be done with coarse (#60 or #80) sandpaper.  Then used increasingly fine sandpaper (#100, #120, # 150 etc) until it is completely smooth.  Final sanding is often done with #400 wet and dry paper.  If you are working with a long stand fiber repair product like Evercoat Kitty Hair and even for heavy Bondo repairs, you might need to initially shape the repair with a body file or wood rasps and files to knock down the high spots before sanding.

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

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

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

 I have had a chance to try out Kitty Hair and it did a wonderful job of filling an egg-sized dent in the bow of my fiberglass sailboat.  I did discover that it is a little harder to smooth out than ordinary Bondo and I ended up using Bondo as the final coat before primer and paint.  It certainly worked well to build up a sturdy filler, much easier than repeatedly cutting graduated pieces of fiberglass cloth to fill in the hole.  I will still used ordinary Bondo for shallow scratches where the long strand fibers in Kitty Hair would be overkill and would be difficult to smooth out.  As mentioned about, I used rasps and files for the initial shaping followed by #60, #80, #100, #150, and #220 sanding before applying the primer.

 There are a lot of good videos on Youtube for both vehicle and vessel fiberglass repairs.  It would be well worth your time to view a few of these before embarking on your first attempt.   With a little patience and practice you can make a lot of repairs yourself, saving both time and money.

Many fiberglass boats (and RVs) have a gelcoat finish.  Repairing the gelcoat takes special gelcoat along with rather tedious preparation and application.  Sometimes you can use Topside paint to cover the repair if  you can match the color closely to the gelcoat.  It is difficult if not impossible to blend the paint into gelcoat.  It might be best to mask off an appropriate section do be repainted.  If you still don't like the way it looks you might try applying some kind of decorative design to disguise the repair rather than trying to blend it it.  The design might involve vinyl decals or paint.  I used the masking technique when I had to repair a ding in the bow of our sailboat.  The painted area is detectable up close but does not stand out and is WAY better than the original damage!

Rainy days?  Can't work outside?  Might still be able to get some things done.  A lot of fine sanding, like between coats of paint, are done using #400 wet-and-dry sandpaper and sanding wet.  So even it the surface is wet you can sand it.  You probably don't want to be standing out in a pouring rain.  That would be uncomfortable and it might be too much water even for wet sanding, but you might still be able to make some progress on a project without having to wait for another sunny day.  I did indeed take advantage of a couple of rainy days to do the wet sanding between top coats when I repaired the bow of my sailboat.

Patch it up!