Mailport April 15, 2000 Issue


Better Off In A Multihull
I can’t be the only subscriber agonized by Nick Nicholson’s accounts of his voyage in Offshore Log and his discoveries along the way—discovering that a short, fat double-ender with a big piece of lead attached is slow, that teak decks are hot, that exterior varnish is a losing battle, that boarding a high-sided, high-ended boat from the water is difficult, that tiller steering is a handful and that big overlapping headsails are pretty useless as an offshore choice. All these revelations and more after a 10-year building and planning process by someone “in the business”?

All boats have problems, none is perfect, but it seems Nick has had a very long list of fundamental, out-of-the-box surprises. What is his total monetary investment to date?

I hope while Nick is in New Zealand he will measure a good multihull, even sail one and spend a little time on it. He might discover he doesn’t need a $500 boarding ladder, a radar antenna leveler, an eight-day weather window to travel 1,100 miles, that he can carry a proper dinghy and won’t need to chain his cook to the galley.

Multihulls are also good for relationships. The passages are more fun, more comfortable, and a lot faster— there’s less time for nit-picking.

Offshore ‘Log’ is a great name for the column.

Bill Shuman
S/V Heron
via e-mail

Inexpensive Spinnaker Pole
After reading the July 1, 1999 Offshore log and Nick Nicholson’s critique on downwind sailing, I thought I’d give you my solution to the ultimate lightweight spinnaker pole that doesn’t cost an arm and a leg.

When we bought our Allied 39 (not a Mistress) she had both a 4" spinnaker pole and a 2" whisker pole. We found the spinnaker pole was too heavy for easy use by two people and the whisker pole was too light for anything beyond light winds. I often thought a 3" pole would be just right, but shied away from the cost. Both our existing poles had self latching ends and would cost a fortune to replace.

One day the “Aha!” factor set in and I came up with the following solution, which has served us extremely well for over 15 years.

I bought a 20' long piece of 1-1/2" PVC pipe at a commercial plumbing supply house. Its OD of slightly more than 2" was just a bit over the ID of the 2" whisker pole.

I cut it to length, taking into account the jaws, which fit inside the pole ends. I then experimented with pieces of the leftover pipe by cutting a small lengthwise strip out of the pipe until I could close and compress the PVC so it was just under the ID of the whisker pole.

I then used a jigsaw to cut out the same width strip from the total length of pipe. The cuts don’t have to be completely straight, just the same width, so as to remove the correct amount of material.

Armed with a can of silicone spray and a very stout concrete post, I drove the PVC pipe (using a wood block for protection) into the whisker pole. This was not nearly as difficult as it might sound.

Once I got near the end, I used yet another leftover piece to finish driving the PVC in. I then attached the ends and voila! The lightest, strongest, down wind pole in the world (with resilience to boot) and at a fraction of the cost of carbon fiber.

We have left it up in more wind than I care to admit to, and a few times watched it bend more than I care to remember.

Efrain DeJesus
Owings Mills, Maryland

Chafe Gear
Your article about chafe gear (January 15, 2000) was very illuminating, but I must relate a tale of failed chafe gear.

Three years ago, I lost my Sabre 28 when the boat was on a boatyard mooring waiting to be hauled for the end of the season. The double mooring pendants set up by the boatyard had a clear vinyl tubing over the lines to act as chafe gear. Both lines and tubing fit into the bow chocks easily. During a storm, the ends of the chafe gear cut through both lines causing the boat to fetch up on a rocky shore, a total loss. It was not the middle of the gear which failed, but the ends, which due to the cooler weather, probably were more rigid than usual.

This type of chafe gear, similar to your garden hose comparison, is a disaster waiting to happen. I lost a wonderful boat due to inappropriate use of a material that caused, rather than prevented, a problem. I hope that you can address this problem in a future issue.

David N. Taft
Harpswell, Maine

Considering my experience I have often wondered why you need chafe gear at all. I have been sailing in boats 40 feet or so in length since 1985 and smaller boats before that. I have cruised from Honduras to Portland, Maine, including two very near misses with hurricanes. The dock lines on my Danish Mon 43 are four years old and were only purchased after the old ones were so old and stiff they were hard to coil and stow. Neither the old nor new had significant abrasion anywhere and had never seen chafe gear. My secret? Never use chocks!

Except when a fair lead cannot otherwise be obtained, the use of a chock is bad practice, but even then the cleat should be right at the chock; not 3' away as most builders currently mount them.

I learned this watching a new dock line chafe almost completely through in about 20 minutes. It was holding the bow of a 42' boat to a dock with a 30-knot cross breeze and a 2' beam sea. The line passed through a shiny, polished, stainless steel chock and then to a deck-mounted cleat about 2' away. When a wave passed the boat would sag back toward the dock because of the spring action of the dock line and the back slope of the passing wave. When the next wave arrived, the boat lurched away, jerking on the line with combined momentum of the boat, wave and wind. When it reached the “end of its rope,” so to speak, the section of line between the cleat and chock stretched about an inch and this, of course, let the line saw away on the chock. It didn’t take long to destroy that expensive 5/8" diameter braided dock line. I doubt if the best chafing gear would have extended its life more than an hour. Imagine what would have happened in a hurricane!

Since that time, all my mooring and dock lines exit the boat directly from the cleat without touching anything, thus eliminating stretch and abrasion against a chock or the ear of a bow roller.

I think you should do a test of the effectiveness of deck hardware layouts on chafe. I think the results would very quickly show the absurdity of most manufacturers’ practices.

In the case of a mooring pendant, I simply bring it over the side right at the cleat and drop it on. Even though the pendant bears on the toe rail, the inch or so to the cleat stretches so little there is no motion at the bearing point, thus eliminating the chafe. Stop the relative motion by eliminating stretch between the cleat and the bearing point and you have eliminated chafe.

In the case of an anchor rode, the roller simply turns, eliminating the relative motion.

The only problem is the ears of the roller assembly. I have not found this to be a problem because as a boat sails back and forth the rode goes relatively slack when the boat is coming about and this is the time the rode may contact the ears. A possible further solution would be to use a roller with a deep V groove, the sides of which would act as ears.

A further advantage of this would be to keep the rode centered, eliminating that unnerving whump in the middle of the night in the V-berth.

Jim Buzbee
Mineral Wells, Texas

Deck cleats and chocks are indeed an area in which many builders could improve.

Your article listed the cost of two Perma Buoy 3/4" Chafe Guards as $12.15 for a pair. That price is actually for only one Perma Buoy Chafe Guard and included shipping and handling. One of our 3/4" Chafe Guards is actually $8.40, shipping not included.

Mike Macsuga
Perma Buoy
Ware, Massachusetts

Where Credit Is Due...
To United Sailing Technologies, Waunakee, Wisconsin: This distributor for the Tacktick Digital Race Compass has earned my highest praise. My early compass version developed an out-of-warranty problem. Dave Horowitz volunteered information that my version could have a defective chip. He asked me to send back my original unit and within days I had a brand new compass free of charge.

Jim Kouracos
Wheaton, Illinois

To Maptech, Andover, Massachusetts: When the pantograph on my ChartKit plotter broke after falling from the cockpit table to the cockpit sole I returned it to Maptech for repair. Although long out of warranty they sent me a new pantograph for the nominal charge of $15 and even paid the freight. Great product, great service.

William G. Dakin
Washington, DC

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