Friday, 25 January 2013

NASA Clipper Duet Depth Transducer, Part 1

Click-Click-Click !  That’s the sound of a new depth transducer working – the most beautiful sound we’ve heard in a long time !  With the bad luck we’ve had lately, we fully expected the worst.

The new depth transducer.
Having little experience with these creatures, here’s what I learned after calling NASA Marine Instruments in both England and France (who, curiously, provided exactly the same advice).

1.  Re-initialize the system to its default settings if you think the problem may be in the instrument rather than just the transducer head.  How to do this is not provided in the instruction manual, so here it is:  (NOTE:  this will reset your total trip log to ZERO !)
  • With power off, hold down and press the TOTAL key and the ILLUM key simultaneously.
  • Turn the power on
  • Continue to hold about 4 seconds, then release both buttons simultaneously.
  • The display should read ALL SET, then LOA.  It has now been reinitialized. 

2.  Put your ear to the transducer and listen for the clicks.  If it is not clicking, the transducer is not working.  Hurdle number 1: borrow or buy a new transducer, plug it into the display unit and listen for clicking.  If you do hear clicking, you aren’t out of the woods yet.  You need to verify that the display unit is also functioning.  You can check the display unit by rubbing the palm of your hand on the transducer (as if polishing it).  The OUT should change to random numbers.  This is where we declared victory earlier today.

In our joy, we went ahead and pulled out the old transducer cable and passed the new one in its place.  Our next challenge is to figure out how to (gently?) remove the old transducer from the through-hull fitting without damaging the through-hull support that we would like to reuse.   

The through-hull assembly we hope to re-use.
After studying this at home, I realized that the black screw cap has to be slid onto the cable of the new transducer BEFORE passing the cable through the boat to the display unit.  Merde ! Oh well… it wasn’t a difficult path and we’ll just have to take it out and re-pass it after putting the cap on.  On to the next hurdle.    


Posted on Friday, January 25, 2013 | Categories:

Tuesday, 22 January 2013

Inspection Day

The New Year's Day incident definitely left a few marks (pretty impressive ones) but today's inspection showed that the damage was all cosmetic.  It's going to take more than a few dabs of anti-fouling paint, however, to patch her up.  The most frustrating news is that the echo sounder seems to be dead, and changing it will mean we will have to keep Spray out of the water until we can get the right model / parts.  I had hoped, naively, that the problem was the result of algae build-up.  I am going to check for corrosion in the coaxial cable itself and then try changing the gain threshold to see if I can get any signal out of it (in air? will that work?), but I am aware that these are the actions of a desperate (ignorant?) boat owner.  Stay tuned... 

Spray's underbelly versus metal oyster tables in 40 knots of wind.

Lead keel after 21 days exposed to seawater.


Posted on Tuesday, January 22, 2013 | Categories:

Tuesday, 8 January 2013

Chronicle of a Mooring Failure Foretold

After talking with the crew who rescued Spray when she broke away from her mooring on New Year's Day, we’re beginning to piece together what happened.  (See Out with a Bang 2)

Before we left the boat moored in the river, we knew that there was a risk of gales over the 10 days we intended to leave her hanging from the buoy.  But we had not anticipated a double-depression with Force 9 winds blowing straight up the river with no wind break of any kind over a +24 hour period.  First mistake.  We put out two new 14mm nylon lines with rubber hoses as chaffing gear, leaving enough scope on both lines so that the buoy could run well in front of the boat and not be held vertically.  The rubber hoses were fixed into the lines with tie-wraps so that they wouldn’t slide. 

The original mooring configuration.  Looks so flimsy now in retrospect...
The theory is that one of the lines was simply cut by chaffing on the (rusted) buoy ring.  The rubber hose evidently put up a brave fight but was no match for the rapid swell.  The other line, it appears, was cut by the anchor, securely fixed in its davit.  The wind and currents pushed Spray from different directions, putting her at a 90 degree angle to the buoy and pulling the line over the exposed anchor blade.  There was no chaffing gear there and it must have gone quickly.  Did not see that one coming…

For mooring in calm weather and when we are on the boat, I think our 2 line system is still trustworthy.  It’s easy to tie up to a mooring using this configuration without acrobatics of any sort.  However, to reduce chaffing further, we may replace the rubber tubing with some sort of fuzzy fabric protection, which has the added advantage of being more flexible and would allow us to tie a bowline or simple round turn directly on the mooring ring.

But for the rough stuff or anytime we intend to leave the boat unattended, we need something better.  After reviewing several books and web-sites, our favourite system that seems both sturdy and relatively easy to put into place is a slight modification of the bridle shown in the photo below, posted on the French site Hisse-et-Oh by internaute "margotte". 

Next time, with slight variations
The bridle loop is fixed to the mooring buoy with shackles (swivel would be best).  The shackles are connected to the line by two plastic hard-eye splices. The line is protected on the boat side with rubber tubing (or one of the new fabric versions), with one branch of the loop passing through the davit bow roller and the other branch fixed to the cleat (passed around the cleat with a locking figure-8 line over it).  For this bridle, we may upgrade to 14mm (4400 kg resistance) polyester (Dacron) lines instead of nylon. 

In practice, we would still use our simple out-and-back lines to tie up, then attach the bridle arrangement by leaning over the bow to fix the shackle, or by simply putting everything in place and fixing the shackle from the dinghy before going ashore.


To know how this story ends, we have to wait until 22 January when Spray will be hauled-out and inspected for damage.  It’s been a useful experience and one we will try not to repeat !  

For more articles on anchoring, visit The Monkey's Fist !

Thursday, 3 January 2013

Out with a Bang 2

After our last adventure (Out with a Bang) we thought we could sail smoothly into 2013.  It was not to be.  Announcing the news to our local friends went something like this:

Us:                   Hey, did you see the article in the newspaper on Wednesday with the headline ‘An Intervention by Maritime Rescue Service in 40 knots of Wind’ about a sailboat that broke away from its mooring and ran aground on the mudflats of an oyster park?

Friends:           Yes…ha ha… idiots don’t know how to tie up a boat for a gale…”

Us:                  It was Spray.”

Friends:           various sundry explicatives.

We discovered this when we climbed aboard Spray on 2 January to move her to the port of Vannes (out of harm’s way for the winter gales…) and realized our mooring lines had been replaced by an elaborate web of lines and knots.  What was left of our mooring lines was in the cockpit.  A friend had told us about the article in the paper that morning, and we, too, laughed.  Ha ha …can’t be us.  We’ve got 2 heavy mooring lines protected with rubber tubes.”  A call to the Société Nationale de Sauvetage en Mer (SNSM, our maritime rescue service), confirmed ‘twas indeed Spray.

The mooring lines added by the SNSM.

What was left of our mooring lines.
 Here’s a translation of the newspaper article:

An Intervention by the SNSM in 40 knots of wind
It is perhaps the last intervention of 2012 for the SNSM in the Morbihan Gulf.  This afternoon around 15h00, the crew was called out to the Auray River.  In gale-force winds (> 40 knots), a lovely 10.5 meter sailboat parted from its mooring buoy and ran aground in the oyster park in front of Fort Espagnol.  To get the boat out of the oyster park and prevent it from running aground on the coast, a boat and a semi-rigid zodiac (rib) and 6 crew members were called to the zone.  A diver was required to enter the water to help extract the boat.  The intervention lasted two hours.  The sailboat was towed and re-attached solidly to another mooring buoy in the river.

Patrick’s first reaction to the article was “Did you see that? They said Spray was lovely!  In response to my glare, he continued, “Well, they could have said a sailboat owned by two idiots who don’t know how to tie up for a gale.”

And that’s the frustrating thing.  We thought we HAD tied up for a gale.  In 10 years of sailing on 25 different boats with 25 different skippers, we could never have imagined that our 2 new 14mm lines protected by rubber hoses could get sliced through in one storm.  The string of our mainsail tarp also got sliced in two…and that was cotton string rubbing against supple plastic !   A friend who looked at our mooring said we should have tied a bowline knot in the tube itself around the ring of the mooring buoy to eliminate as much chaffing as possible.  Oh sure, seems obvious now.

Oyster Park where Spray decided to spend her New Year's Eve.
Spray is now nestled down in the much-protected port of Vannes, tied up at the dock with water and electricity, an easy 15-minute walk from home.  There was no apparent damage, no water, no fissures or cracks, but we now have to have her taken out of the water and inspected by an expert from our insurance company.  If you’re wondering (as most of our friends were) the bill from the SNSM is 800 Euros ($1040 USD), most of which the insurance will pay. The oyster park manager says he didn’t have much damage, just a few of his oyster tables pushed over, which he can put back in place without too much trouble. 

One friend said, “No damage, no injuries, well-insured, and happened in winter when the sailing sucks anyway …pretty lucky !”  Another says Neptune has apparently decided to offer us an accelerated training course in the vagaries of the sea for 2012.  I sure hope that was the final exam. With time and distance (and whiskey), we’re beginning to get over the shock and add this to our ever-growing list of “at-sea experiences”.  Live and learn..

Out of the way of winter gales in the port of Vannes.

For more articles on anchoring, visit The Monkey's Fist !