Rip Rap January 15, 1998 Issue

A Chronicle of Gravity’s Profound Effect on Water

Actually, we didn’t consider it much of a challenge. After all (drip), our 40-foot sailboat is so dry it grows cob webs. It’s almost embarrassing. Boats are supposed to be just a little wet somewhere. Ours isn’t (drip).

So, having accomplished that, it ought to be easy (drip) to build a skylight and install it on the roof of the place we’d rather not be. Home. There’s nothing to it. Make a frame, fill it with glass, cut a hole in the roof, mount the frame and (drip) seal it.

Sealing is simple (drip). What’s marine ought to do wonders on the domestic front. There’s marine stuff that home builders have never heard of. And, it’ll last forever under the worst of what the battering seas can offer. Most homes don’t pitch and roll—they just sit there tethered to a mortgage (drip).

You’ve got your polysulfides and you’ve got your polyurethanes and you’ve got your silicones, poly or not. There’s a whole spectrum of gooey stuff designed to glue and seal anything to anything. We like the stuff that can be used both above and below the waterline. It gives a kind of sense of security (drip).

What do home builders use? Latex stuff in a tube, some of which might be laced with silicones. Then there’s the black tar in a can laced with fibers. There’s the bathroom sealers, kitchen sealers, the window sealers, door sealers, floor sealers, electric-outlet sealers, plumbing sealers and a urethane foam sealer that yields 300 miles of bead from a 10-ounce tube. They’ve even got some stuff now with polymers and elastomers which, for another few bucks, salves the conscience. Most all of it comes with very inexplicit instructions—remove dirt and oil and apply—and none of these products mention skylights (drip).

A skylight is like a hatch. Hatches we know. We got our sealants from a chandlery (drip). Twice. The last application (drip) was several tubes of a polyurethane sealer emptied over the well-filled seams and troweled into place, neatly feathering in the edges of the shingles which are well away from the skylight.


We just may have found a place to store our spare dinghy in an inverted position.



Cleaning Bilges
Before leaving on a passage, I always check the bilges of a boat. Dirt and debris can clog a bilge pump, rendering it useless in an emergency. Most electric bilge pumps have a strainer on their intake. While the pump is running, pull the strainer out of the water and clean off the debris which is sticking to the strainer. Repeat this procedure while filling the bilges with water until the strainer does not pick up any more debris. Also clean the in-line strainer, if the bilge pump is so equipped.

An excellent product for removing oily deposits from engines and bilges is Ultra-Solv, an industrial degreasing agent sold by commercial janitorial supply houses. My local supplier sells it for about $8 per gallon. I put some in a spray bottle and spray engines and bilge areas, then wash off with water. Protect the alternator and starter motor and solenoid with plastic wrap before spraying. Ultra-Solv also will attack aluminum, and does contain phosphates.

I was recently on a boat that had a black engine and matching bilges. A gallon of Ultra-Solv later, the engine was back to the manufacturer’s original color and the bilges were tan again. Be sure that you do not pump overboard any oil, which, of course, is illegal and can result in a stiff fine.

I also use it diluted at least half, and generally more, to replace Fantastic for galley grease clean-up.

If your bilges do not have a lot of oil, squirt some dishwashing detergent in them before going sailing, and be sure to pump out before returning to harbor (make sure the oil is well emulsified). Dawn is a brand which works well. If your pump does not leave residual water in the bilge up to the scum line, add freshwater and shut off the pump.

Final cleaning and deodorizing is accomplished by filling bilges with freshwater almost to the level of the sole, or to the level of any equipment and adding a gallon or two of bleach. Leave the solution for a day or two then pump out. Before doing this, check a section of the bilge by applying full strength bleach to be sure it won’t cause the bilge paint to lift.

For painting clean bilges, two-part Rustoleum paint works as well or better than anything else I’ve tried.

—Bill Seifert

Editor’s Note: The top rated degreasers in our January 15, 1997 test were Marine Grez-Off and Mean Green. We did not test Ultra-Solv, but will try to include it next time we tackle this subject.

Takes 2 to Tango, 3 To Go Aloft
It’s done all the time, but it gives us the willies. We’re even guilty occasionally, when shorthanded. But we’d like for the record to note that Setamar (a nifty new kind of winch described in the February 15, 1997 issue) soundly warns in its instruction booklet, “Winches are for sheets and halyards, not for hoisting other loads, e.g., persons,” and that, in his book, The Rigger’s Apprentice, the respected rigger, Brian Toss, says, “A self-tailing winch ingeniously eliminates the need for a human tailer at the cost of increased complexity and rope wear. Since they’re not fail-safe, don’t trust yourself to a self-tailer when going aloft.” To go aloft, you should have two on the winch, one to crank and one to tail—or, if but one person is available, at least grip the tail with one hand as the other cranks.


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