Little jobs roundup, 2017-09

Here’s a roundup of small jobs done on Tammy Norie in late August and early September.

When comparing Tammy Norie and Emmelène, I suggested we drop Tammy’s mast and lift the mast stub. When we went to remove the retaining bolt, it snapped!



I cut a new bolt from stainless steel studding.


I suspect the wear on the bolt was the main cause of the clonking sound that’s been gradually building up when Tammy is in rough water. This also gave us a good chance to look at the rather inadequate mast foot bracket.


This is due for an upgrade later when I improve the mast step.

My engine starter cord snapped at an inconvenient moment on the way in to Portsmouth Harbor. I’d only just replaced it. This time I noticed that the cord was slightly melted. Moral: don’t use melty synthetic string for your engine starter. Use cord specifically designed for the job.

Replaced the incandescent bulb in my trusty utility lamp with a domestic halogen-replacement LED that I just happened to have knocking around. Half the power and a great deal brighter — possibly too bright.


Replaced the coaxial connectors on my log and depth instrument. They were being to corrode and the log was unreliable. I had to dismantle the instrument and desolder the old connectors from the circuit board. I bought a pack of 10 replacement connectors from eBay so that should keep me going. NASA Marine were very helpful.

I am finding my new Iroda SolderPro 70 butane soldering iron very useful.

While I was doing that I fixed another problem with the instrument: it’s too bright at night. I couldn’t find a way to do this electronically, but I discovered that the backlight and the display are physically separate. I cut a piece of paper to slip between them and the display is much less dazzling.


The charts in my Solent chart pack were getting dog-eared, so I’ve edged them all with Scotch Magic tape, which is nearly invisible and takes pencil marks.


The bow light hack finally failed after two years. The LED replacement bulb fell apart somewhere inside so that the terminals no longer connect. This is probably because it was not designed to be shaken about on the bow of a small boat. I ordered a couple of made-for-purpose replacements, one of which is now in the bow. The other is a spare for either bow or stern.

My mast lift is now a spare halyard. The mast lift is a loop holds the forward part of the sail bundle when the sail is reefed or lowered. Practical Junk Rig (fig. 3.49) has it as a single line from the mast head.


Practical Junk Rig figure 3.49

I’ve repurposed the enormously long “burgee halyard” that came with Tammy as a spare halyard in it’s place. I’ve felt the need ever since my halyard came off in the Waddenzee. Thanks to Chris Edwards for this idea. (The arrangement below is temporary until I make a new soft shackle.)


I may re-rig it a shown in Practical Junk Rig figure 3.50b, using the spare halyard on one side, allowing me to reef upwards!


Practical Junk Rig figure 3.50b

I found and installed a pair of calibrated quick links for the series drogue. It’s surprisingly hard to find shackles that are rated for load, but these beauties are good for at least 12500N each, more than the weight of the boat, and more than the greatest expected load on the drogue. (The drogue still doesn’t exist, in case you’re looking for it.)

I whipped some rope ends!


I rewired my switch panel using some new terminal blocks and rules: each piece of equipment goes to its own terminal, then switches are wired to terminals using colour-coded jumpers. Much neater, and a model for how I’ll do things when I remake the panel.


Expect more small jobs next month.


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Filed under electrics, engine, instruments, lights, mast, Repairs and Modifications, rigging

Emmelène’s first voyage

Chris Boxer has written an account of our tandem sail to Poole and back, where we met Amiina and many others. I’m very pleased to have helped him gain experience and confidence. The more junk sailors the better!


Filed under Logs

Blog bursts

You might be wondering why my blog posts appear in bursts, with thousand of words seemingly flowing in spite of my Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.

Firstly, please do not use me as an example of someone who has recovered from Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. I have not recovered. Rather than explain, I’ll refer you to my good friend Tan’s excellent article about it. I’ll just quote this:

If I’m doing fieldwork at Dolphin Reef, I’m in a safe enough place to push myself and then rest up until I’m functional again.

Tammy Norie does this for me.

In fact I’m writing slowly all the time.

I use the WordPress app on my phone to draft many articles at one about different topics, keeping notes as I go. What mainly holds them back from publication is the photographs. These tend to sit on my camera memory card until I’m at my desktop computer, where I can catalogue and edit then before uploading to Flickr and pasting links into the articles.

On top of that I tend to schedule articles to post automatically on future days so that not everything appears at once.

Because I was always told you should leave them wanting m

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Red over Green

The YBW forum thread “LED’s in navigation lights will change their color” has some good technical discussion of how installing “white” LEDs (which are not all the same) can affect navigation lights.  You might recall that I’ve installed LEDs in my lights, but I was careful to use a “warm” white LED at the bow.

Anyway, I posted about my plans for mast lights on Tammy Norie, and I thought I’d share my ideas here.

I’ve been without fixed interior lighting in Tammy Norie for a long time.  Last year, I bought some cheap waterproof LED lighting strip to experiment with.  The main problem with it is that the individual LEDs are so bright that they leave afterimages in your eyes.  I ended up tucking the strip into the shelves around the boat so that I couldn’t see it directly.


This isn’t a permanent solution, but it’s quite handy for now.

Then I remembered NASA Marine’s “Supernova” masthead lights, which consist of an array of individual LEDs arranged in a circle, and I wondered about wrapping a strip of LEDs around my mast to create an all-round light.


This seems like a very easy and cheap thing to rig, and an improvement on my dangly utility light when I’m at anchor or under power.

But what about other masthead lights?

Well, Tammy Norie has deck-level running lights: a red/green bicolour at the bow and a white stern light.  I don’t intend to change that.  I’ve read two separate complaints by ship captains about tricolour lights being hard to see — especially sharp modern LED lights.  I believe tricolour lights exist not to improve visibility, but to save power by having a single incandenscent bulb for the red, green, and white sectors. [Edit: See the comment section for a refutation of this by Annie Hill.] With LED lights using a tenth of the power of incandescents that’s no longer an issue.

Of course it would be nice to be even more visible, and to have some sort of light up the mast to improve visibility at a distance.  It turns out there’s a little used legal light combination that allows a sailing vessel to show both masthead and deck-level lights.  Rule 25(c) says:

A sailing vessel underway may, in addition to the lights prescribed in paragraph (a) of this Rule, exhibit at or near the top of the mast, where they can best be seen, two all-round lights in a vertical line, the upper being red and the lower green, …

I think I’ve only ever seen this once, on a square-rigged tall ship. There are some nice clear illustrations of this combination at

Annex I 2(i)(ii) says:

on a vessel of less than 20 metres in length such lights shall be spaced not less than 1 metre apart

You can see in this picture that there’s quite a lot of clear mast space between the yard hauling parrel and the masthead.


But I suspect there’s rather less than a meter, and there’ll be even less if I build a bigger sail.

So for the moment I’ve just fitted a white strip for use when anchored and motoring. I lowered the mast and moused a four-core cable into both parts. (I left a loop of mousing string in the mast when I installed the conduit.) I cleaned the mast with meths then wrapped the LED strip around in place. Then I gradually pulled the adhesive backing from under the strip and pressed it in place.


I used a terminal block to connect the light for now, wrapped and secured with tape. That’ll do for testing.
It looks pretty good and is certainly bright. The main problem with this arrangement is that I can see some of it from the cockpit. It may be too bright, but you can simply cut off sections of these strips so it is easily dimmed.

Here is a picture at dusk. (I didn’t think a picture at night would be very, er, illuminating.)

The next step of the plan is to wire up a little matrix using a multi-way rotary switch with positions for sailing, motoring, anchored, etc. That way I can combined my bow bicolour with the new masthead white to give others some idea of my heading when motoring. That will wait until the grand electrical panel rebuild. It’s a bit of a bird’s nest in there at the moment.

I will let you know whether this works out in practice.


Filed under lights, Repairs and Modifications

Raking the mast

The idea of raking Tammy Norie’s mast forward first came up when I compared Tammy to Fantail several years ago. As far as I can make out, raking Tammy’s mast will have three advantages:

  1. It will help the sail stay out in very light winds — particularly useful when becalmed.
  2. It will cause me to rebuild Tammy’s mast step, which is a known weak point.
  3. It will shift the centre of effort of the sail forward, improving the balance of the boat and reducing weather helm.

I believe I can achieve about 5° forward rake by moving the mast step aft, pivoting the mast within the cone that forms the partners.

arctan(10cm/118cm) = 4.8° I believe.

This should being the centre of effort of the sail (shown below) forward by about 3.5m × 10cm/118cm = 30cm.

Because nobody has done this on a Coromandel and the future sail plan is unclear, I’ve come up with a scheme to make the rake adjustable.

Firstly, here’s s picture of the existing step. I hope you can see why this is inadequate. It’s been replaced on every other Coromandel I’ve seen!

Here’s a drawing of the mast step that will make raking possible. I’m afraid I’m writing blog articles on my phone recently and so I don’t have my nice diagram software. You will have to make do with a photo of my pencil drawing.

This is basically a rectangular box made of aluminium angle, into which the mast is wedged using hard rubber chocks, and further secured with a retaining pin (to stop the mast wandering or jumping out).

The box is screwed to the laminated wood block that’s already glassed into Tammy’s hull, using large coach screws (hex heads and wood threads).

The mast base can be chocked and pinned at various positions in the box, allowing various angles of rake. Of course this means adjusting the blocks in the mast cone, so it’s not something to do at sea. I tried that (accidentally) once.

To allow for this I need to enlarge the hole in the berth that the mast passes through, making it into a round-ended slot.

The box could be strengthened in various ways, but I already have 6mm gauge aluminium angle — double the gauge of the mast itself — so it ought to be fine.

Incidentally, the reason that the angle turns inwards is that it’s very hard to get tool access to this area of the boat. I don’t think I will be able to make pilot holes for the coach screws except through the slot for the mast. Having the screws inside also makes them possible to inspect through that same slot.

I hope this will all become a lot clearer when I start doing the work and have some photographs.

In the meantime, is be very interested in criticism or ideas for improvement.


Filed under A New Rig, 2017-2018, mast, Repairs and Modifications

A New Rig

It’s been three years since I first wrote about making new sails for Tammy Norie. Since then I’ve been delayed by illness and injury, and have been getting along quite well with her existing sail, but now I’m planning to make a move.

Seeing Emmelène with a split junk rig was inspiring, because of improved light wind performance and especially the significant improvement in boat balance.

There has also been some very interesting (and sometimes fierce) debate about sail position and balance on the Junk Rig Association forums. This prompted me to experiment with my own sail position and geometry, with some very encouraging results.

But mostly, of course, I want to play around with the rigging.

Currently I’m doing several things simultaneously, as my health allows:

  • Designing a new mast step that will allow me to adjust the rake of the mast up to about 5° forward.
  • Making sketches of sail plans to see how they might fit.
  • Sailing Tammy with the sail tied in various odd positions to see what happens.
  • Experimenting with materials for making short-lived experimental sails and sail battens.
  • Shoving Tammy around with a boathook to discover her centre of lateral resistance.
  • Reading about Roger Taylor’s experience with his “Triple H TB” rig on Mingming II.

I hope to write more about all these activities and cover the actual construction and testing of a new rig, so I’m starting a new blog series called “A New Rig”.

Be warned that what I do is going to be experimental. This won’t be a step-by-step guide on how to build a junk rig written by an experienced constructor. (You can find that information at the Junk Rig Association.) As usual this will be me trying out ideas, making mistakes, and possibly discovering some new and useful stuff.


Filed under A New Rig, 2017-2018, mast, Plans, sail

Maximum power

I’ve been having some difficulty with my battery slowly running down over time, in spite of installing a second solar panel. I’d been advised to install a maximum power point tracking (MPPT) charge controller.

Solar panels don’t produce consistent power at all voltages. If you connect them directly to your battery their voltage is pulled down to around 12V, but many produce more power at around 20V. In fact, the ideal voltage varies with the light conditions.

An MPPT controller has a voltage converter to allow the panels to stay at a higher voltage, and it has a processor that adjusts that voltage to track the maximum power point.

But beware, many Chinese suppliers are sticking the letters MPPT on everything to get sales. Some controllers have even changed from being MPPT to not because manufacturers have economized on components. This is all fraudulent, of course, but hard to police.

YouTubers to the rescue. Amateur enthusiasts on YouTube like to review gadgets, and these helpful videos by Adam Welch reviewed a low cost controller.

I now have one of these installed on Tammy Norie and it appears to be doing the job nicely. I’ve been able to connect my two panels in series rather than parallel so that they’re producing over 12V even in quite low light. The controller seems to hold the combined voltage at about 48V in sunlight, suggesting that my NASA panels have a maximum power point around 24V.


I haven’t been able to get an accurate current measurement. My meter seems to upset the controller, which may indicate that it’s doing something quite delicate. Time will tell if this scheme works well and I will report back.

In the meantime, this is the eBay listing I used. Worth a try for £25 I thought.

Update 2017-09-19: So far this is not working very well and I don’t suggest buying this until until I’ve had a chance to do more experiments.

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Filed under battery, electrics