Wednesday, April 24

2013 Charleston Race Week

An action shot from Charleston Race Week which is now the largest sport boat regatta in the world. Check out the Charleston Race Week site for more pictures and video, click here. Race photos were taken by Meredith Block, click here for her site. 

Sailing with the Transmission in Gear

By Andrew Spaulding

Most of us put the transmission in reverse while sailing to lock the propeller shaft from turning. On some boats this works fine for many years. However, on some boats this behavior can damage the transmission. Whether or not sailing with the transmission in gear will damage your drive train is dependent on what kind of transmission and propeller you have. We will review a Yanmar technical bulletin to get the official word from one manufacturer. This information applies to mechanical marine gear transmissions and saildrives only.

The first kind of mechanical transmission that we will discuss is one with a cone clutch. Cone clutch transmissions are highly susceptible to damage when left in gear while sailing. The cone slippage will be introduced which will void the warranty. There is also the possibility that the cones won’t disengage, making it impossible to shift the transmission out of reverse. With a fixed propeller, the transmission should be in neutral, which will allow the propeller shaft to turn. With folding or feathering propellers, put the transmission into reverse to fold or feather the propeller, and then put it into neutral.

The other types of mechanical clutches are dog clutches or disc clutches. When using a fixed propeller with these clutches, the transmission must be in neutral while sailing. When using a folding or feathering propeller with these transmissions you may leave the transmission in reverse while sailing.

Ok, now you’ve decided to stop putting your transmission in reverse while sailing. What to do about that noise from the shaft rotating? Is the transmission getting enough lubrication? What kind of transmission do I have? The best option to keep the shaft from rotating is to install a shaft-lock device inside the boat. Or, if you have a saildrive, your option is to switch to a feathering or folding propeller. Transmissions without oil-coolers attached are lubricated when the gears turn and splash the transmission fluid around. This will continue to happen if the propeller is turning with the engine off. If you cannot determine which type of transmission you have, contact us with your transmission’s model number and we will find out for you.

What else can you do to keep your transmission in top working order? When the engine is running, only shift the transmission when you are at idle rpm. With the engine turned off, only shift to fold or feather the prop while sailing at less than 3 knots. Change the lubricating oil in your transmission at intervals recommended by the manufacturer.

Thanks to Wikipedia for the illustration, click here for the page.

Tuesday, April 16

The annual rite of spring - Bottom Paint!

The annual rite of spring - Bottom Paint!

Chicago’s Lousy Spring

By Andrew Spaulding

All of us boaters are suffering from the lack of spring 2013. Boat chores aren’t getting done. It's too cold outside (still!!) to finish gelcoat and paint work. Wax is clumping up instead of buffing nicely into the topside. It seems like everyone isn’t quite where they want to be for their spring launch. I wanted to do some research into our continuing lousy spring. So with a little help from Google, I found out that we shouldn’t be holding our breath while we're waiting for the spring of last year to arrive. Our problem so far has been the Greenland Block.

The Greenland Block is an atmospheric phenomenon that has occurred more often recently with warmer global temperatures. In March a high-pressure weather system over the Arctic brought higher than normal temperatures to Greenland while pumping cold air down to the mid-west and the eastern United States. Essentially, the blocking high over Greenland forces the usual Westerlies aloft, which over North America are known as the jet stream, into a very southerly route which exposes the eastern 2/3 of the United States to Arctic air (see picture).

The air flowing down from the Canadian Arctic got a little help to stay cold when it arrived over the United States. The snow pack from the Rockies across the northern Plains and Upper Midwest covers twice the area that it did last year. The good news is that lower soil temperatures should help lower the evaporation rates early in the season which will help Midwest farmers recover from last year’s drought.

One of the reasons for our great spring last year was a lack of spring thunderstorms. The meteorologists from Accuweather say that thunderstorm activity this spring should return to more normal conditions. From the look of the 10-day forecast, they are correct. We have rain or thunderstorms forecast once every few days (or more often!) for the 10 day forecast in front of us now.

NOAA publishes seasonal outlooks at three month intervals. The seasonal outlook for our area for April – June 2013 has a 40-50% probability that our temperature will be above average. This, I am all for…unfortunately, the seasonal outlook says that there is a 40% probability that we will have above average precipitation. So, I’m planning on getting some use out of my warm weather rain gear. On the bright side, I’d rather have warm rain than cold rain!

The other identified causes of peculiar weather, El Niño and La Niña, are in neutral conditions so far this year. This means that surface temperatures are near average across the Pacific Ocean. For us this means that we shouldn’t have any influence by either El Niño or La Niña, so our weather averages this spring and summer should be close to their long-term averages. Last spring was my first one in Chicago, so someone (hopefully with a good memory) is going to have to tell me what that means.

Thanks to, NOAA, NASA and the Chicago Tribune for the research into this spring’s lousy weather.

Wednesday, April 10

Whales! Check local Great Lakes sailor Dave Rearick's Captain's blog here. Dave has some great stories about meeting these whales off the west coast while on the recently completed Cabo Race. 

Digital Selective Calling

By Andrew Spaulding

If you have a newer VHF radio it probably has a big red button cover on it that says “Distress” or something similar. This button engages the Digital Selective Calling (DSC) system which is a core part of the Global Maritime Distress Safety System (GMDSS). DSC is a digital paging system that uses data signals to automate the transmission and reception of VHF radio calls.  

A DSC message is a brief burst of digitized information transmitted from one station to alert another VHF station or stations.  The DSC message automatically indicates the identity of the calling station and the priority/purpose of the call. Every DSC radio has a unique number, which you can use to call other stations. DSC allows you to call every other VHF radio in range at the same time if you are in trouble. Following an alert by DSC message, communications are established between the transmitting station and the receiving station on a different VHF channel than was used for the DSC call.

This feature of DSC is good for sending distress calls. The ability for your VHF radio to be connected to your GPS allows the DSC to send a distress call with your GPS position. The single act of pressing the DSC “Distress” button automatically sends a distress call to all DSC equipped ships, boats and shore stations within range. Distress calls automatically include (1) your identity; (2) your GPS position (if the GPS is connected); and (3) the nature of your distress. The call will be automatically repeated until battery power is lost.

For DSC to work properly you need to obtain and program your VHF radio with a unique 9 digit ID number known as your Maritime Mobile Service Identity (MMSI). You need to apply for one with a designated authority. See below for a list of contacts to apply for your MMSI. Once you have an MMSI and you give it to your fishing or cruising buddies, they can call you directly over the VHF, just like a phone call.

DSC supports a number of call categories. The categories are Distress, Urgency, Safety, and Routine. Distress calls are automatically sent to all stations within range. Urgency, Safety and Routine calls can be addressed to all stations, an individual station or a group of stations.  All of the DSC calls include the identity of the calling station, the priority of the call (Distress, Urgency, Safety, or Routine), the station(s) being called, and the channel on which subsequent communications are to be carried. Distress level calls default to channel 16.

MMSI Issuers
If your boat requires a station license, you must get your MMSI directly from the FCC

Thanks to Dunstan and Associates for content. Click here for their web site. 

Wednesday, April 3

2013 USCG Spring Launch at Crowley's Yacht Yard

Spring 2013 USCG launches patrol boat at Crowley's Yacht Yard

KiwiGrip Application

By Andrew Spaulding

Last week Michael Argyelan, Crowley’s Store Manager, invited me to help him replace the non-skid on the deck of his Frers 33 with KiwiGrip over the weekend. Who could turn down an offer like that? Since the application went pretty well, I decided to share the experience with you. KiwiGrip is a one-part, water-based, non-toxic, acrylic polymer that is rolled into a non-skid surface. These are great features that really make a non-skid project accessible to Do-It-Yourselfers.

My favorite part of this project was that we didn’t need to sand the deck. The original non-skid on the boat was worn almost entirely smooth. KiwiGrip recommends sanding only areas that are loose or very rough. Otherwise, all the deck needs before taping is a de-waxing followed by a cleaning to remove all residual dirt and debris. Of course, you will want to fill any holes or deep scratches before applying KiwiGrip.

Step one for our project was taping the deck off. Thankfully, Michael had the deck cleaned and taped off before I arrived. A great time saving trick-of-the-trade to remember is to tape the non-skid areas to within a ¼ inch of the actual finish edge that you want. Once the deck is fully covered and taped off, use fine-line tape to cover the last ¼ of an inch. It is important to cover everything that isn’t going to be rolled with the new non-skid as the KiwiGrip does tend to splatter during the rolling process. Since the fine-line tape is on top of all the other taping and cover material, you can peel the fine line tape off while the paint is still wet to get your edge and not worry about removing the rest of the tape until the deck is dry.

KiwiGrip comes out of the can the consistency of thick yogurt. It is best to brush or trowel the KiwiGrip onto the deck in an even layer before rolling it. The thickness of the application and your rolling technique will vary the level of texture of the non-skid. We found that we needed to maintain a thicker coat to cover color variations in the deck. This lead us to use more product than the instructions suggested we would use. We used 2.5 cans (4 liters per can) to cover the deck and cockpit on a 33 foot sailboat. We also applied the KiwiGrip thicker in high traffic areas in an attempt to extend the time between re-application.

KiwiGrip comes with a proprietary roller sleeve to use with the product. We cut up a second roller sleeve into small pieces to use in areas where the roller wouldn’t fit. A dabbing motion with the piece of roller sleeve led to a texture that is consistent with the rolled portion for a smooth transition around stanchions and other deck hardware. As soon as the KiwiGrip was rolled out to an even texture, we pulled the tape off. Pulling the tape right away lets the edge smooth out a bit while it is curing. Also, once the KiwiGrip cures the tape needs to be cut away or it can pull off the KiwiGrip, so we figured that pulling the tape off right away would save us time in the long run.

One reason that Michael chose to apply KiwiGrip is that it is easy to repair. When a spot gets worn or damaged, he will need to clean the area thoroughly and roll some more KiwiGrip on to the deck. If repainting all of your non-skid seems like too big of a project, our Fiberglass Shop would be happy to apply KiwiGrip to the whole deck. Then, years down the road, when it needs some touch-ups or repair you can do that yourself. We will update you mid-season to let you know how the KiwiGrip is holding up.

KiwiGrip is available in the Crowley’s Ships Store in white and light grey (light blue, light green, creamy yellow are available by special order). Custom colors are available. A can of 4 liters retails for $149.99 and the 1 liter can is $44.99. For complete directions and additional information, click here for the KiwiGrip website. Michael or I would be happy to answer any questions that you might have about this project. You can reach Michael at and me at