Category Archives: Equipment

The Mantus

After my difficult passage from Sea Palling to Wells I decided to get a bigger anchor. I did not feel safe sleeping on my 6kg Bruce in a very shallow bay in choppy water in the remnants of a hurricane, no matter how tired I was. Well, I got a bigger anchor. A much bigger anchor.

I stumbled upon some quite impressive videos by Mantus Anchors on their YouTube channel. You’ll find plenty of people contesting their results in the comment section, but I could see this was at least a decent anchor. What really attracted me, though, was that it could be packed flat. I did a few measurements and ordered the largest I could fit aboard — their 11kg model. And when their European distributor didn’t have it in stock, Mantus shipped it from Texas at no extra cost!

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The only problem I had were the inconsistent nuts on this anchor. Not only were they Imperial — not surprising given it came from the USA — they weren’t all the same size!

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I replaced them all with 316 stainless M10 bolts, nuts, and spring washers from Sea Screw.

Initially, I kept the Mantus in this triangular locker forward of the mast.

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But then I realized I could pack it into the anchor locker alongside my 6kg Bruce, chain, and rode, so that’s where it lives now.

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Here you can see why this anchor is so great for Tammy Norie. There’s simply no way I could fit an equivalent-sized anchor in her locker. Especially not alongside her normal anchor.

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Using it obviously takes a little planning. You have to put it together with a spanner (one is enough) and transfer the chain and rode from the Bruce using a shackle key.  I have 10m of 8mm chain and about 40m of heavy anchorplait rode, that I joined with this splice. Yarrr!

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I’ve held off on posting about the Mantus because I have not really had a chance to test it in difficult conditions. I did use it when I left Tammy Norie at anchor for a week in Poole Harbour when gales were forecast, but she was also under the watchful eye of Tim McCloy on China Blue.

But after showing it off to Chris Boxer on Emmelène, I thought I might as well tell you all about it.

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Bungie Boarding

One of the greatest risks for a solo sailor is falling off the boat. When I’m sailing alone in all but the safest conditions, I’m wearing a lifejacket. I also clip on, especially when the autopilot or self-steering gear are engaged. What a nightmare it would be to fall in the water, away from shore, and see your boat sail away from you, suddenly freed of your weight!

Even if you’re clipped on it’s very difficult to get back aboard. When Tammy is at rest I’m able to haul myself up onto her side-decks, but not over the transom. And what hope is there that I could reach a side-deck if she’s sailing?

So I’ve taken an idea I’ve seen on mini-Transats: a permanently installed elastic step at the transom.

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The trick is to use some webbing tube threaded with elastic cord, strung across the back of the boat. The elastic should be taught to keep the line out of the way, but the webbing should be long enough that it forms a step that you can reach to get back aboard.

Here’s the step strung between the drogue attachments at on Tammy’s quarters. It should be fairly easy to reach from the water, even if I’ve had to haul myself along the safety line to catch up with the boat. The elastic keeps it out of the way of things like the self-steering gear.

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Here it is again with me standing on it.

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I’ve adjusted the length so that my waist is at the height of the pushpit rail, allowing me to bend forward and flop into the cockpit even if my arms are exhausted.

It’s one of those things I hope I’ll never need to use. It was easy to put together and might save me. I might even be able to test it (with some help).

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She didn’t want it to end

Tammy Norie arrived from her North Sea Crossing at Woodbridge at high tide on Monday 2015-08-31, and after a brief stop at the Deben Sailing Club, spent the night in the Tide Mill Yacht Harbour. My crew for the North Sea Crossing, Martin Roberts, lives in Woodbridge and I was very glad to use his shower and drink his family’s tea before heading home.

Steve Crowther very kindly offered me the use of his mooring on the bank just north of Tide Mill, so I came back before the next afternoon’s high tide to move her there.  I walked up to take a look at the dock and lines, then back to Tide Mill, paid my bill, and drove Tammy over the sill.  There was a noticeable ebb current trying to take me downriver and it took a good ten minutes to motor against it up river.

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And then of course, I went aground trying to get on to the dock.  I made a couple of attempts, and even attempted to use the kedge anchor to haul myself closer, but it was too late.  I was stuck about 4m off the bank.

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A couple were walking along the tow path and took a line to the dock, and engaged me in a long chat about boats and travel. I was resigned to staying there until the next high tide at 3am.  Well, at least I could do a bit of tidying and maintenance.

No chance! Steve called, and we had a good long chat.  Then Martin called and asked if I was in Woodbridge. “Sort of,” I said. He came along and suggested I use the dinghy on the ebbing water behind Tammy. But in fact what I did was stick it on the mud and use it as a bridge to the shore.  It slid along very well on the mud!

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And so I spent a very pleasant evening with Martin and his family before returning to Tammy and sleeping until the tide came in again. As a reward I was greeted by this beautiful dawn.

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And so the cruise was finally over.

But the blog articles certainly aren’t.  I have about 500 photos to process, several hours of video, and quite a few events to talk about.  Watch this space.

Incidentally, a rough calculation puts the mud under the dock at 2.8m above chart datum. There’s a chance I’ll get neaped. But it’s a lovely spot and I’m certainly not complaining. I’ll take a better measurement when I’m next there. It’s a shame that both my sounding poles (actually garden canes) went missing in the Netherlands.

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Filed under dinghy, Logs, Netherlands Cruise 2015

Radio mast bubbles

Before I set out on my Netherlands cruise I bought a main VHF radio for Tammy Norie. I got by all last year using a handheld Icom IC-M1Euro V (and very good it is) but I did notice the lack of range and the inability to talk to nearby boats, even though I was always able to get in touch with the coastguard. I was also thinking about AIS. When I want to sleep offshore I’d really like an alarm if a ship comes near. But I’m also reluctant to load Tammy Norie up with gadgets, in spite (or perhaps because of) my technical background.

AIS is also mentioned in Wild Song’s Final Reckoning as “possibly the greatest safety device of modern times”.

Then I found the Standard Horizon GX2200. This radio kills three birds with one stone. It’s a VHF, but it also contains an independent GPS, and it can receive and interpret AIS signals and warn of approaching shipping. Since it’s a DSC radio it can also buzz the radios of approaching ships even if they’re not listening on channel 16. This not only gives me a wake-up call if there’s a ship approaching, but a way of talking to them to make sure they’ve seen me. An extra GPS is welcome, of course.

I bought the unit not long before setting off for the Netherlands and tested it on board with the antenna in the cabin. I also thought about how to fit the antenna to the masthead and run the cable to the radio.

I noticed that the masthead had four tapped holes, but when I tried to fit screws into them I found that they were slightly smaller than 5mm and quite a bit larger than 4mm. Probably some imperial size. So my first step was to tap them to 5mm. I’d bought a small scrap of stainless steel strip from Percy M See in Fareham, and cut holes and sawed it into shape using the dock pilings at Rye as a workbench. This held the antenna nicely a little way from the forward side of the mast.

I could have just dangled the VHF cable down the inside of Tammy’s mast, it being a simple tube, but I realised that it would rattle around. Indeed, Marco on Stern was complaining about his cable doing exactly that. So I thought about ways to pad the cable. I also thought about buoyancy.

The top section of the mast weighs about 30kg. A quick calculation gave its interior volume as about 40 litres. If it were completely sealed, it would float! That was not likely to be possible, but I did think about packing it with closed cell foam, or air-filled bags. Then I realised I could use bubble wrap. It wouldn’t enclose the entire volume, but it would displace a lot of water, and delay water ingress, so that if I ever did drop the mast overboard I’d have a lot more time to deal with it. And if Tammy ever turned on her side or even turtle for any length of time it would help her to right herself.

I’d seen rolls of bubble wrap for sale at B&Q, but it turned out that Mum and Dad had a great big roll of it going unused in the attic. I’d stuffed it aboard Tammy Norie before leaving for the Netherlands.

The first step was to remove the mast.  I used the low tide and high wall in the harbour at Rye to lift the mast using (appropriately) the mast lift.  Soon it was lying on the grass next to the boules pitch.

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At this point a chap turned up and started asking questions about what I was doing and about Tammy Norie. He was Mike McCarthy, a local sailor with a wealth of experience and stories, who was maintaining his own boat not far away. He offered to help.

I visited Rye DIY, just along the street from Tammy’s berth, and bought two 3m lengths of domestic cable conduit. I joined them with duct tape. It was quite easy to arrange the bubble wrap around the conduit in a long helix and shove the whole thing up the mast.  The conduit helped keep the whole thing stiff.

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We then caught hold of the top end of the conduit through the hole at the top of the mast and threaded the VHF cable and a bit of mousing string through for good measure.  The mast went back down to the boat and we threaded the cable through the existing hole in the bottom section. I caught hold of it using a tool I’d made for fishing things out of CUYC Kestrel’s mast years earlier. I say “tool” but it was just a bit of bent coat hanger that I’d kept hold of.

By this time it was dark. Furthermore, a pair of enterprising gulls had broken into Mike’s shopping bag and eaten his dinner. We went and bought fish and chips and ate them aboard while swapping sailing stories. A great time was had by all!

The next day there was torrential rain and thunder as weather fronts passed overhead.

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This was a good thing, as it signalled the change in wind direction I’d need to depart for the Netherlands.  I used the opportunity to finish the interior wiring and install the radio. It worked well, and picked up AIS signals from ships out in the English Channel some way away.

Here’s a picture of the masthead with the antenna in place, taken later in the trip.

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Now, what I’m not telling you is some of the mistakes we made.  We had several attempts at threading mousing string through the mast.  My first string was some nylon orange stuff that had come with the boat, dangled through the mast while still attached using some washers. This got snagged and broke. I tried with it again but it got worse. Then I bought some smooth string from Rye DIY and threaded that. Initially we pushed the conduit over the string and spent ages shaking it through using a weight made of a piece of wire. After getting the conduit and bubble wrap into the mast another friendly local then pulled the mouse out of the conduit, thinking this was somehow helping. Poor guy — he was very embarrassed. But eventually I realised that it was easy to push the thick VHF cable through the conduit anyway, so the mouse wasn’t really needed. We optimistically shoved the bubble-wrapped conduit up the mast and found that we could retrieve the end through the hold and just push the cable through. All of this mucking about took several hours.

Some of the stories that Mike and I swapped that evening involved people not telling the whole truth about how difficult jobs are on boats, but instead presenting a fait accomplis as if it were all easy and they knew what they were doing all along. It’s rarely so! Mike told me about a magazine article that described several weeks of faff and mistakes as an easy weekend job. I won’t name any names, but just be sure to take those articles with a pinch of salt. Sailors have plenty of salt available, after all.

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Filed under antenna, instruments, mast, radio, Repairs and Modifications

The need to stop the flop

A little while ago I pointed out an article about a thing called a “flopper stopper” that would help to dampen rolling caused by wave action, and a video by Andy Lane where he shows the problem while crossing the Atlantic. Well, I had exactly the same problem while on my recent Netherlands cruise.  Here’s a short video showing how bad it can get in calm conditions. This kind of rolling makes doing anything aboard very difficult, including maintenance and cooking.

 

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2015-09-02 · 15:18

Constructing the Hebridean day 13

I’m in the final stages of my project to construct a Hebridean wind vane self steering system. I brought the pendulum home to Cambridge so that I could work on shaping it into the computer-generated profile recommended by John Fleming in his plans.

You may recall that earlier I made a template from the plans out of a piece of thin plywood.

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I also experimented with using a router to get the basic shape of the profile, then planing to finish the job.

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I would have continued with this technique, but I don’t have a router or any other suitable power tools in Cambridge.  I did look in to using a CNC router at Makespace to get a perfect profile, but in the end I just went to Mackays and bought a plane and sharpening stone (things I wanted anyway) and did the job by hand on my dining room table.

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I started by getting the bottom end of the pendulum into the correct shape.  This end is going to be cut off since the pendulum is way too long for Tammy Norie, so I could afford to get into practice.  I applied greatest pressure with the plane at this point and eased off towards the top, so that less wood was removed.  I then moved up the pendulum, using the template as a guide.  This gradually copied the shape from the bottom end up along the whole plank.

To fine tune the shape, I used a marker pen to mark where the template was touching the surface.  It was then easy to plane away the mark and take another look.  This gradually corrected the profile over the whole pendulum.

I did about three hours of planing last night and another two this morning, followed by about 30 minutes of sanding, with this result.

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It’s very close.  There are some minor wobbles that I’ll correct, but I think the job is done.  So I’d say allow six hours for planing your pendulum.

I had to sharpen the plane about once per hour, and especially when it was new. This video on how to sharpen a plane was very helpful, and allowed me to get a very good cutting edge.

I’m also left with about a third-of-a-plank’s worth of oak shavings!

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Constructing the Hebridean day 12

This past weekend I sailed from Fareham to Emsworth and back with a friend from Cambridge, and while aboard (and under way!) I assembled and attached the incomplete pendulum and was able to test some aspects of the Hebridean wind vane self steering gear that I have been constructing since last Monday.

Before setting out, I finished making and attaching the counterweights. These balance the vane and push rods so that wind pressure is able to twist the pendulum. John Fleming’s plans involve creating counterweights by setting lead shot in polyester resin. But Dad has a better idea. He found a couple of old doorknobs and we filled them with lead instead.

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I tapped 10mm threads into the handles, then tapped 6mm threads into some 10mm threaded rod, so that the counterweights could be bolted to 6mm threaded rod on the Hebridean.  This also allows for some adjustment in their position with lock nuts.

I attached the upper counterweight to the vane and fiddled with it until the vane just returned to vertical.  It’s then that I found out exactly what the “grub screw” is for.  It tilts the upper counterweight arm so that you can get the vane vertical.

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The lower counterweight balances the push rod mechanism.  You need to detach the vane and pendulum, but hang the pendulum push rod so that you get the right weight.

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You then position the lower counterweight until the main push rod moves up and down with minimal force.

With these things done, I took the frame and pendulum aboard Tammy Norie. While underway I attached the pendulum sides and hinges.  Drilling oak with a little hand drill is slow going, especially when the helm is tacking every few minutes!

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The results were very satisfying. I was able to get the pendulum into the water while under way and see how it moved the whole gear when twisted.

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This kind of testing also revealed problems.  I left the end of the extension proud of the trunk, to keep that end of the cross-lap joint strong.  Unfortunately, it clashes with the mount and prevents the pendulum being fully lifted out of the water.  I’ll need to trim it down.

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There’s another issue with the pivot and mount.  I made the mount as a sandwich (as recommended) but this means that the split pins keeping the pivot in the mount clash with the sides, preventing the Hebridean from rotating.  I’m not sure what John intended here.  I notice that his boat has the mount in a different orientation so perhaps he didn’t notice this problem.

Later on I was able to attach the whole push rod linkage to the pendulum.  Once that was done it was possible to steer the Hebridean by wiggling the vane counterweight rod.

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I even have a video of this bit!

Unfortunately, this last test was taken just before we had to moor up, so I didn’t have time to test using actual wind. As it was we only just got unloaded before the tide dried out Tammy. We even had to push the rowing boat through the mud to get home.

I’ve taken the pendulum back home to Cambridge to shape it at home when I’m home from work.

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Filed under Constructing the Hebridean, Equipment, Repairs and Modifications, self steering