Mailport February 1, 2000 Issue

Mailport 02/01/00

Rubber Bullets
Whilst in St. Maarten/St. Martin, on my way back home from an Atlantic crossing, I happened to pass by a gunshop called “CaribArm” in Marigot. There was a little spray can of a Mace-like product in the display window and since I was going to stop in the Dominican Republic (where, according to some stories, the security situation is not all that good), I thought that I might buy one.

Whilst chatting with the owner, my glance fell on a pack of four cartridges of French 12 gauge “rubber buckshot” called “Mini Gomm-Cogne” (“mini rubber hit”) made by a firm called Procédés Lefebvre, PO Box 04 in Gauville 61550 France). I told him that it was an interesting idea, but that one would need a metal distress rocket launcher to use them. He replied that the “proof bench” in St. Etienne (one of the recognized European testing stations for fire arms) had tested them with a plastic rocket launcher, which had broken down after the fifth shot.

This seemed a pretty good gamble to me, since I didn’t expect to be in more than one life-threatening situation (of a non-automotive kind; crossing a street in New York City is more dangerous than crossing an ocean) before getting back to the US.

Back home, I mentioned this to Practical Sailor, which put the fear of God into me by asking whether I was quite sure the Orion rocket launcher would be up to it.

So I took advantage of a little sail with a friend who’s a retired artillery lieutenant colonel and tied the Orion to the pushpit with a line around the trigger so as to fire from a safe distance. The report seemed quite a bit less loud than the 130 dB announced by the brochure and my friend reported the barrel of the launcher to be in perfect condition.

Here is the translation of the accompanying brochure:

“Mini Rubber-Hit. 4 12/50 SAPL cartridges. The Rubber-Hit is a rubber buckshot cartridge specially designed for protection, offering an alternative to traditional ammunition. The rubber projectiles develop an energy capable of neutralizing an aggressor whilst reducing to a minimum the risks of wounds or death. The strong report (130 dB) gives the alarm whilst contributing to the dissuasive effect. Note: the decision to use a firearm, even only loaded with rubber ammunition, must only be taken in case of ‘force majeure’ and only as a means of self-defence. Whilst the ‘Rubber-Hit’ is a neutralizing ammunition, it remains capable, if used at point-blank, of causing serious wounds. It is advisable not to use it at less than 5 meters (15 feet) distance. Its use is the responsibility of the user.”

The brochure bears the logo of the St. Etienne firearms proving station.

I paid 70 French Francs (about $14) for the pack of four cartridges.

John Somerhausen
Douglaston, New York

Tacking Degrees
Concerning “Tacking Degrees,” (November 1, 1999) don’t you think that underbodies are at least as important as refinements in sail shape? To quote Marchaj in Sail Performance, “The sailing craft must be considered as a complex system consisting of two interdependent parts—aerodynamic and hydrodynamic.” I call this “the orange seed theory”: If there’s a push on the side, the object had better be tapered if it’s going to go forward. (See the new Annapolis Book of Seamanship, page 21.)

In your review of theorists, I missed two people who I always thought were the reigning sail geniuses when I was growing up around boats. One is Manfred Curry, the scientifically oriented American sailor who studied sailing aerodynamics in Germany in the 1920s and came up with the graceful but wrong-headed comparison of sails with gull’s wings. The other is John Morwood, whose Sailing Aerodynamics (published in 1954) was the book to read before Melder.

John Rousmaniere
Stamford, Connecticut

You state that for downwind races like the Transpac, beamy boats are used. Nothing could be further from reality. It is right that you like to have a “surfing machine” to go to Hawaii but beamy they are not. Or would you consider the standard surfing boat for going on the Transpac, a Santa Cruz 50 with a beam of 12 feet, a beamy boat? It is the design of the hull, large sail area and light displacement that makes these boats surf.

Do they go upwind? Certainly, but not like an IOR/IMS lead mine but better than your standard racer/cruiser, which is usually beamy. A Santa Cruz 50 sails upwind with an apparent wind angle of 27°-28° at over 7 knots.

Before making generalized comments about modern boats maybe you should leave your New England office and visit the West Coast where the philosophy of “fast is fun” started, or stick to testing sailing gear.

Richard Leute
via e-mail

Many racing oriented boats sail to within 25° of “apparent” wind. In fact, if a modern racing-oriented boat could not sail to within this range I would suggest that something was wrong with the boat, the manner in which it was rigged or the sail inventory. Your response would be correct, however, if you were discussing “true” wind.

I will use my own Sydney 41 as an example. The boat’s upwind targets, in wind 12 knots and below, are 23° AWA (apparent wind angle). TWA (true wind angle) varies from 45° to 39° within that same range. Boat speed builds as the wind increases and the boat’s ability to point higher to true wind improves. The boat’s ability to sail higher to true wind does not affect its ability to sail to apparent wind, which is never better than 23°.

Tacking angle is relative to true wind. To comment on tacking angle relative to apparent is a meaningless statistic. Tacking angle is best described as true wind angle doubled. Tacking angles on modern race boats, such as a Sydney 41, could easily be 77° or better.

Your comment that a boat [that could point to 25° apparent] could not achieve speeds of 16 knots while reaching is absolutely, positively incorrect.

Again, I have raced on older race boats such as Olsen 30s, against older race boats such as Olsen 40s and Santa Cruz 40s and on my own contemporary Sydney 41, and all have achieved speeds in excess of 16 knots. In each case, the boats were surfing. Reaching without the benefits of surfing, the Sydney 41 has achieved speeds in excess of 15 knots while reaching in under 25 knots of wind. (The older race boats are capable of achieving 25° of AWA although that would be a little high for target AWA; 27° to 28° would probably be more efficient.)

In summary, your comments might be true for a typical cruising boat such as a Valiant 40. However, even for older racing oriented boats, such as those mentioned above, the numbers expressed by the reader are quite achievable.

Seth A. Radow
via e-mail

Oily Bilge Water
About those bilges! I work with The Local Hazardous Waste Management Program in King County Washington (Seattle and environs), and am a regular reader of Practical Sailor.

One of our programs provides environmental outreach to marinas, boatyards and boaters. A frequent issue is bilge cleaning. I’m sure you and your readers are aware that discharge of oil is not allowed (no sheen). And you are probably also aware that discharge of dispersants, emulsifiers, surfactants (in general soaps and detergents) or solvents is likewise not allowed. Oil treated with these substances does not go away. It is temporarily broken into tiny particles and becomes even more apt to coat gills and generally be more available to the receiving ecosystems.

In addition, the detergents, etc., themselves exhibit toxicity. Clearly they are not suitable as bilge cleaners to be discharged to the environment. Since most bilge cleaners contain these substances, the question remains, how does one clean the bilge?

The best information I have seen thus far is produced by the Pacific Oil Spill Prevention Education Team. (For information on POSPET, please call 541/765-2229). It relies heavily on common sense and preventative measures. On our own boat, I have found these practices to be very easy to do and very effective. With their permission, here is the main text of POSPET’s “Tips for a Clean Bilge.”

“Pumping oily bilge water overboard is illegal. Oil and gas products are toxic to the environment.

“Keep your engine tuned. Regularly check fuel and oil fittings, hydraulic lines, and engine seals and gaskets. Fix all fuel and oil leaks. If possible, secure a drip pan under the engine. Keep the bilge area as dry as possible. Never drain engine oil into the bilge.

“Soak up any bilge oil with oil-absorbent pads or pillows. These inexpensive items, available at most marine supply stores, absorb oil but not water. Tie the pads or pillows in place so they won’t interfere with machinery or block the bilge pump intake.

“Replace bilge pads and pillows before they become fully saturated with oil or when they begin to float low in the water.

“If the bilge needs cleaning, put absorbent materials in the bilge to soak up and remove any oil. Then, pump bilge dry and use a rag to wipe down bilge area and equipment. In cases of severe bilge oil contamination, bring your vessel to a haul-out facility where bilge water treatment is available.

“DO NOT USE DETERGENTS OR BILGE CLEANERS. The only proven, environmentally safe method to remove oil from water is the use of absorbent materials. Many bilge cleaners rely on detergents and hence are toxic to the marine environment. Detergent-based cleaners do not remove oil from bilge water, they simply disperse it into tiny invisible droplets, adding harmful contaminants to bilge water. Detergent-based cleaners may make absorbent pads ineffective. Despite the advertisements, bilge cleaners that use enzymatic cleaners often do not work fast enough to remove oil from the water.

“Fuel with care! Never walk away while fueling and be careful to avoid over-filling tanks. Use an absorbent pad every time you refuel to mop up any small drips, spills, or splashes.”

REPORT SPILLS: 800/OILS-911 and 800/424-8802. (If you spill, you are required by law to report to both numbers.)”

I would add that if detergents, etc. are used in the bilge, be sure to have the contents pumped to a bilge water facility that will manage it appropriately. It may be treatable or it may be hazardous waste. The oil itself, if not contaminated, may be considered used oil, thus recyclable.

About microbial bilge cleaners: Oil-eating microbes are commonly used in remediation of contaminated soils. They are being marketed as bilge cleaners as well. I get many calls about the effectiveness of these enzymatic and microbial bilge cleaners, which I plan to test. Many of the products use dispersants, surfactants, emulsifiers or solvents, and add the microbes or enzymes as a boost. I am concerned that these products can cause more harm. However, the biological cleaners, without chemicals, may potentially be of benefit, if they function well under actual bilge conditions.

Cynthia Balogh
King County Hazardous Waste
Management Program
Seattle, Washington

Sail Slide Lubricant
Frustrated by the need to pull the mainsail down on my Carter 39, I used a silicone spray, with the straw-like tube attached, to spray each side of the lugs (see August 15, 1999). The next time I released the main halyard I was startled by the main—it just dropped! Did this about a month ago and have had great results.

Sylvan R. Shemitz
via e-mail

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