To see as much of the world as we can,
Using the smallest carbon footprint we can,
Spending the least amount of money we can,
Making as many friends we can.

Team Red Cruising


How broken is "broken"?

Clearly, if it doesn't work, that's one thing. But what if it's hardly ever used or you can live without it? What it you have a work-around? What if it's largely cosmetic? What if it's just a lack of confidence?

A very, very important thing on boats in the Chesapeake (and other malarial swamps) is bug screens. Flies—miles off shore—are annoyingly common. Mosquitos in the creeks are vicious if there's no breeze. The previous bug screen arrangements were workable, but inelegant. They involved duct tape, need I say more?

For the main companionway, CA made mosquito nets with a length of chain sewn into a fabric binding around the edge. The chain holds it over the irregular openings perfectly. The fabric bindings match the sail covers. The portlights already have screens. But the deck hatches…

Fasteners vs. Adhesives

CA built bug screens for the overhead hatches. They have a designer fabric frame around mosquito netting. A proper, heavy-weight fabric frame makes it look like it would match any pillow shams or drapery valances. Next question: How do you hang them underneath the hatches? And make them removable so you can easily open and close them to get fresh air and avoid rain?

Option 1. Velcro™ brand hook and loop fasteners. You buy a few yards of Velcro and sew some to your screen. Then you glue a strip of Velcro on the lovely, glossy wooden frame around the hatch. Right? Not so fast.

Red Ranger's interior woodwork is finished with a polyurethane to which the Velcro adhesive would not adhere to the Velcro fabric! Worse, it left a nasty residue that was lumpy, resisted the heat gun, and had to be sanded off.

[Why did it not adhere to the fabric? Probably because it's impossible to clamp the fabric firmly enough to get a good bond.]

Okay. That didn't work. There will be hours of sanding to get the adhesive off. Followed by hours of applying a super-hard, super-glossy wood finish to restore the original look.

Option 2. Snaps or Common Sense fasteners. Once we've refinished the wood, we'll screw in some "Cloth to Surface Snap Fasteners" or maybe some "Common Sense Cloth to Surface Fasteners" Then she'll have to rework the screens to include the snaps or eyelets.

Eventually, the broken bug screens will be fixed.

More Studly Fasteners

The cockpit dodger uses "Lift the Dot Cloth to Surface Fasteners". "Lift the Dot"? Really?

Whatever. That't what they're called.

They have small screws that are bedded into the fiberglass of the deck. Over the years, the screws work loose and eventually pop out of the plastic. After four of them pulled loose, we felt that we should do something. The uneven load on the dodger fabric will lead to the cover tearing itself apart.

Stud replacement requires filling the old hole with thickened epoxy or polyester resin. After it hardens, we can screw the stud back into the new plastic deck.

It all sounds so simple until you try to figure out what kind of epoxy or polyester to use; how much resin and hardener; how to thicken it; how to fair it out so it's smooth and how to paint it to match the deck. This is an art form. It's the "finish carpentry" or "cabinet maker" of plastic work. Sadly, there's no classy name: "fiberglass tech"? You don't call a carpenter a "wood tech" do you? A plumber's not a "pipe tech".

The easy solution? Marine-Tex Epoxy Putty. Cheap. Effective. Simple. White. Already thickened to "mayonnaise" level, making it very easy to work with. Buy a container that's about the right size for your job. Mix all of it. Spread it out with a plastic spatula. Smooth it out with a wax paper cover to get it flat and slick. Wait for it to cure. Done.

Of course, the color never matches. The Marine-Tex white isn't even close to the the off-white Awlgrip Cream. But. The studs are screwed back in to the plastic. The dodger is secure. And we can always get a little pot of Awlgrip and touch up the Marine-Tex sections. Of course, new Awlgrip won't match the old faded Awlgrip.

And that means the broken dodger is fixed. Until another 30-year-old "Lift the Dot" stud pulls out.

Panel Rework

Once I downloaded the owner's manuals for my various batteries (four Trojan T-105's and a Dekka 1131 PMF), I realized that my old voltmeter—with a range of 0-20 volts—was effectively broken. The Trojan Open Circuit Voltage tables require 0.01 v precision. The old meter was readable to about 0.3 v; any more precision was a judgement call.

But is the inaccuracy really "broken"? Maybe. An hour a day of battery charging would probably be enough. It's a question of confidence, I think. A dead starting battery is a serious problem that's easily prevented by knowing the health of the electrical system.

And managing demand.

Installing the Blue Sea Systems 8235 DC Digital Voltmeter was easy. Old analog meters are designed around a 2" circular hole in the panel. New digital meters fit the old holes with no fuss. So it's a piece of cake to remove the old analog meter, strip the wires and reassemble the panel.

No adhesives. No Marine-Tex. No color matching. That was fun.

The next step is to install the digital ammeter. This is a bit more complex because it requires installing a new Blue Sea Systems 8255 DC Digital Ammeter Shunt in the engine room. Putting in the new shunt means moving the AWG 1/0 battery cables around. 1/0 wire is ½" in diameter, making it difficult to work with. Even something as simple a crimping on a lug for the shunt requires a ball-peen hammer.

Currently, there are two long 1/0 wires from the engine block to each battery. I can change that to one wire from engine block to shunt and then two short wires from shunt to each battery. The wire that's removed can be used to make the new shunt-to-battery jumpers. And I'll still have a foot or two of old 1/0 wire left over. It shouldn't be too difficult.