Sunday, 24 January 2016

Seizing Wire Or Cable Ties - That Is The Question

Image Courtesy Rocna Anchors
So, how do you lock the screw pin on a shackle? Using monel or annealed stainless steel seizing wire is the traditional (and best) method, but it's slow, and often leads to pierced fingers and blood on the deck.  Very messy.

For really important connections (like the running back stays) we do use seizing wire, and then wrap the connection with self amalging tape to smooth it off and protect nearby body parts.

The same goes for anchor shackles, or anywhere that mechanical and/or abrasive forces are likely.

But there are many applications on-board where an alternative method can be acceptable, even though traditional wisdom advises against it...yes, nylon cable ties can be safely used in many situations.

UV Degraded Cable Tie Failure

Problem is, most nylon cable ties fail very quickly in sunlight due to UV degradation.

However you can use cable ties and expect reasonably long life if you use the correct type.

For some time we've been using UV stabilised cable ties in a range of sizes from the manufacturer KSS. Typically we get five years of reliable use from these.

Note the "W" as the final letter in the model number - that signifies "weather proof", implying UV stabilised. You can buy a similar product without that "W" notation, but it will not last as long...

Saturday, 23 January 2016

Rounding The Cape Of Good Hope; The Cape Of Storms

On Monday, we finally rounded the Cape Of Good Hope. Named the "Cape Of Storms" by the Portuguese explorer Bartolomeu Dias, who rounded it in the year 1488, it remains an important milestone in a sailor's travels.

Ley, Having A Bad Hair Day At The Cape
Our rounding was simple enough, with little wind and lumpy seas. We'd seized on a rare "no wind" weather window, following almost three weeks of plus 30 and 40 knot winds.

So we motor sailed from Simon's Town to Cape Town, covering about 80 nautical miles and entering the Atlantic Ocean with sunshine and a cup of coffee in our hand. Excellent!

Just one day earlier we had visited the Cape by road, riding the funicular railway to the lighthouse station in the late afternoon.

Venturing out onto the parapet of the cliff face, we literally had to hold on to the rocks to stand up to the wind blast.  Damn this place is windy!

On our sailing passage the following day, whales, seals and penguins were our companions.  However the biggest surprise was the water temperature; 13 degrees centigrade at the Cape and barely half a degree warmer here in the marina at Royal Cape Yacht Club.  Damn this water is cold!

Cape Town & Table Mountain Approach

It was a beautiful day to round the cape.  We are now safely berthed in the marina in Cape Town and continuing with our maintenance and repairs.  We'll certainly be hiring a professional diver to clean the hull; I don't have a wetsuit thick enough to work in water this cold.  For the first time since we departed Melbourne over 10 years ago we have condensation forming on the inside of the hull, from the waterline down. I take beer from the storage locker and find that it's already cold enough to drink... well, almost cold enough.

Really; How Strong Are Your Dock Lines ?

Twelve years ago we purchased a set of plaited nylon dock lines for Crystal Blues, made by Marlow in England.

These were an expensive purchase back then, but we wanted the nylon for it's natural stretch - what a great shock absorber nylon is.

We purchased plaited nylon lines because they are quieter than double braid - they do not creak and squeak when cyclic pressure is applied at fair-leads and cleats. This silent behaviour is important to live-aboard cruisers, or at least to those who wish to sleep at night.

However we know that nylon is degraded by UV light, and in recent years we've been careful to add additional dock lines whenever the wind strength increased.

Here in South Africa the winds have been incredibly strong, and we were keen to replace the old lines as soon as possible. We looked at a range of locally made plaited lines made from nylon or polyester, and also at double braid lines that use a nylon core protected by a braided polyester cover.

Markus Loading The Test Machine
However, before spending our hard earned cash, we decided to see just how strong our existing dock lines were - could they still be trusted? We visited the Southern Ropes factory in Cape Town, where we were able to destructively test one of our existing dock lines. The results were, quite frankly, very disturbing.

With great assistance from Markus Progli at Southern Ropes our very tired dock line sample was tied to the test cell.

Markus set the test in motion and then stood back a little from the machine, with fingers planted in each ear. What was going on we asked? Markus walked even further from the machine and then explained that when the line broke the noise would be incredibly loud - loud enough for people even in adjacent factory buildings to hear it!

At his suggestion we moved further from the machine, hands over ears, waiting for the big bang. At this point the line was stretching incredibly, having increased in length over 50%.  Small creaking noises could be heard, high pitched squeaks and squeals from the tortured line.

Lines That Go Bang When They Break

Starting The Test
So what happened next? At 100% stretch (the sample had doubled in length) the nylon line finally broke, not with a bang, but with a pitiful UV degraded whimper!

The test rig showed the failure at 749kg, which is rather poor when we consider the original 16mm line had a rated breaking strain of 6,640kg. The nylon line had lost more than 85% of it's original strength.

It was completely rotten, due to UV degradation.

Use The 16mm Dockline Or The 2mm Dynema String ?
At this stage of the test I was surprised to see Markus with a cheeky twinkle in his eye. He looked around among the various rope samples in the test area and appeared triumphantly with a very thin piece of Southern Ropes Dynema line.

Handing Ley a piece of 2mm diameter Dynema "string", he said "hey, you should tie your boat up with this, it's actually stronger than your dock lines"! OK, so he made his point, though Dynema doesn't stretch enough to be useful as a dock line.

Goodbye Old Friends
Now we know that our old nylon dock lines are well past their use by date.

So we're evaluating replacements, and leaning towards double braid lines that use a nylon core with a woven polyester cover to eliminate the UV damage. The cover is very loose on the core, and should not squeak (we hope).

We've purchased two for testing, and they have remained silent even in Cape Town's high winds and mobile marinas. These should last for many years without such a dramatic loss of strength.

Can anyone comment on the mixed nylon / polyester lines ? Do they squeak and squeal ?

Thursday, 21 January 2016

Simon's Town & Beyond - Touring Western Cape In South Africa

Beautiful Simon's Town Harbour, home to the South African Navy and numerous wind blown cruising sailors. After an 800 nautical mile passage from Durban we were very pleased to be here, among cruising friends and the a very friendly local sailing community. The past twelve months in the Indian Ocean had certainly taken a toll on the both us and the boat, so we were keen to start preparing Crystal Blues for the next phase of our voyage - the Atlantic Ocean.

However after a couple of weeks in port, with the urgent maintenance issues on Crystal Blues ticked off, we took some time to explore further afield, driving to the Stellenbosch vinyard area, just an hour from Simon's Town.

Stellenbosch is South Africa's third oldest settlement, founded in 1679. The wine culture here was originally started by Huguenot refugees in 1690. Home to a large university culture, the town has many classified and significant precincts - truly a beautiful village feel.

Last century the area was a center of fruit growing, however the world wide boycotts on South Africa during the notorious apartheid regime saw that industry fail. The land was again on-sold and much has been returned to viticulture. 

Of course we were keen to sample the local wines and on that day trip we enjoyed two beautiful vineyards - the locals here call them "wine farms" by the way.

Solms Delta Wine Estate was a real eye opener. Quirky varietal wines and a deeply engaged and proud local staff opened our eyes to what is possible in the new South Africa. Here the traditional occupants of the land and farm workers have been empowered through a training and a profit sharing arrangement that says much about the management - more power to them I say. A fine restaurant and a museum dedicated to traditional African music make this estate a real pleasure to visit.

Boschendal Estate (see the image below) is centered on a 300 year old homestead in a magnificent park-like setting.  A lawn big enough for a football game is bounded by huge shade trees, just perfect for lazy warm weather wine tasting.  Here the "entry level" tasting was enough for us, and we returned to Simon's Town that night with yet more "produce" to be stored in the bilges.

After almost three months in South Africa we are convinced that this country is an undiscovered tourism and travel opportunity for the rest of the world.  A vibrant food and wine culture (specially here in Western Cape) plus the powerful game park wild life experiences are all available at bargain rates, given the decline in value of the local currency. This is a huge and diverse nation, with a fascinating history and a population that is anxious to please.

Thursday, 14 January 2016

Dynema Shackles; Then & Now

As cruising sailors we can find ourselves a little behind the bleeding edge when it comes to changes in sailing technology. In a way I'm comfortable with that, happy to let the racing guys figure out what works and then adopt it some time later, when it costs much less.

So, we're now very happy to be using "hi-tech" Dynema (or UHMwPE) soft shackles, as in the image at right, in several applications on board Crystal Blues.  However yesterday we were taught a very clear lesson in just how far these new line technologies have moved ahead.

We visited the Southern Ropes manufacturing facility here in Cape Town, on a mission to analyze the remaining strength in some of our older lines (more on that later).  While there we noticed two HUGE soft shackles made of UHMwPE being checked.

Rated at over 76 tonnes, these shackles are made from 28mm UHMwPE line that has been heat treated and coated to improve the strength and life of the shackle.  This one is destined for the mining industry.  Interesting to note that the sailing market is only around 5% of Southern Ropes total business base.

Southern Ropes showed us the heat treatment facility where these lines are effectively baked under controlled tension to minimise the "creep" or elongation characteristic that is the one down side of UHMpWE or Dynema in longer term use.

The production line includes baths to die the fiber to desired colors and other stages that apply coatings to enhance the line strength by retaining the fiber alignment as it comes off the hot tension rig.

Yes, We've Had A Wardrobe Malfunction ...

It seems that the change over from Picassa Web Albums to Google Images, within the Blogger environment, is a slightly rocky road.

All the images we've posted in the past year have disappeared into the ether(net).  Right now we are working to recover them, starting with the most recent posts and working backwards. This will take some time...

Please have patience, and normal service will eventually be restored.

January 21st Update - Over half the images have now been restored.  We expect the rebuild to be complete within a few days. 

Tuesday, 12 January 2016

Simon's Town, South Africa - Blowing Your Sox Off

50 Knots On A Moored Sailboat Is Not Much Fun
Folks warned me that Cape Town was windy in the summer, but I really didn't expect this much wind. Sitting here in the marina at Simon's Town, we watch the wind speed as a form of entertainment - what will it hit today?

For the past five days its been blowing around 40 knots average, and for several days much higher.  Local mountains create katabatic gusts that swirl through the marina.

Yesterday, friends watched a waterfall being blown uphill, just above the town.  Yikes. We go forward to check the dock lines frequently, but over 45 knots that means holding on to the life lines - in the marina! Some boats are diving and bucking as if they are at sea.

Tonight we sat in the cockpit for an hour having sundown drinks and saw wind over 50 knots several times in the gusts, with the average for the hour being 45 knots. Just nearby, aboard the catamaran Emerald Sea, they measured 65 knots. This wouldn't be so bad if it was just for a day, or even two days, but it is expected to blow like this for another week.

Crystal Blues is riding to five (count 'em) spring lines, three starboard bow lines and numerous others. Chafe is constant - we added woven chafe protection to the bow lines yesterday, it was full of holes by the morning.  Tonight I added Spectra sheathing to two bow lines, we'll see if that survives. Vigilance is everything here.

Finally, here is a first for us - in the big gusts, the wind blows the fenders up through the lifelines and onto the deck. Give us a break! Locals are totally adapted to these "breezes", after all they get 100 days per year of gale force wind, here in Simon's Town. The locals also call this wind the Cape Town Doctor - we do love Cape Town, just not the doctor's medicine!

Wednesday, 6 January 2016

The 2015 Indian Ocean Crossing - Five Vessels Lost, A Very Tough Year

Yes, 2015 was a tough year for the Indian Ocean crossing - on Crystal Blues we suffered an unusual amount of damage, and many boats were lost or abandoned.  But was this an unusual year?

The massive El Nino conditions certainly had an effect, with the Indian Ocean waters being hotter than ever before.  I suspect that what we really had were "elevated" ocean wind conditions, compounded with a large number of boats undertaking the crossing.

Of course many cruising boats reported excellent conditions, specially those that crossed early in the season.  However both the southern and northern routes had their fare share of casualties over the course of the season.

Typically, the northern route vessels traveled from Chagos westwards across to the Seychelles and then south via Madagascar.  Southern route vessels crossed from Cocos Keeling to Rodrigues, Mauritius and onwards, or from Chagos down to Rodrigues or Mauritius and then onwards.

We chose the latter route, finding ourselves in 60 knot conditions for several days, with large breaking waves sweeping over the boat from the south east and from the south.  Swells were in the 8 to 10 meter range.  It was certainly challenging, and I was bloody glad to see Rodrigues appear out of the rain early one morning.

An informal "Indian Ocean Crossing Group" exists on Facebook, and this year there were 69 boats listed for the passage.  I estimate that at least another 30 boats made the crossing without listing in the group.

So what is the big picture for boats that crossed the Indian Ocean in 2015-what was the damage bill and just how tough was it?

Friday, 1 January 2016

Low Flying - Durban To Cape Town In A Hurry

Like this low flying gull, we literally walked on water as we traveled south and west to Cape Town.  Setting out from Durban on December 26 we sailed south east to find the strongest section of the Agulhas Current. 

Then the low flying began in earnest, with up to 5 knots of current assisting us and 30 knots of wind from the north, we covered  512 nautical miles in the first two days.

18 international boats departed Durban over two days, all wanting to reach The Cape. This was a great weather window, which allowed us to continue non-stop to Cape Town in just under 4 days. 
The total distance covered was 802 nautical miles, giving us an average of over 200 nautical miles per day for the 4 days.  Top speed was over 15 knots, which we saw quite frequently.

Thrilling sailing indeed, though tough on the boat and on the crew, specially the 50 knot easterly blast that hit us as we entered False Bay at 2:00am, just a few hours from our destination.  The damage bill for the voyage was minimal - a couple of broken battens in the mainsail and a shredded end on a genoa sheet where it ran through the spinnaker pole.

Not all the boats fared so well, with several retiring into harbours and ports along the way, the most common issues being autopilot problems - the big winds and cross seas really made those systems work hard.

We saw seals, whales, sharks and literally millions of sea birds, who were feasting on the ocean bounty where the warm Aghulas Current meets the cold water from the Atlantic.

We had good forecast data on the Aghulas Current location and strength (click on the image at right for details), however local sailors advised us to watch for the long band of cloud that runs down the coast, some way off shore - this cloud band hovers over the warm current.

As you can see in the image here, it was blindingly obvious once we understood what to look for.

Here in Simon's Town Marina, the sea life and bird life is prolific - the cry of gulls is a constant background music, punctuated by bosun's whistle calls as officers are piped aboard the South African Navy ships adjacent to us.  From a peak of 26.7 degrees off Durban, the water temperature has plummeted to just 19.7 degrees here in False Bay.  Sailing here feels awfully like sailing at home - the frequent weather changes, low water temperature, plus the sea and bird life give me just a small touch of home sickness.

We celebrated the New Year with cruising friends here at the very beautiful False Bay Yacht Club, in Simon's Town, a short commute from the city of Cape Town.  We'll stay here until late January, hoping to explore South Africa a little more.  For now, we'll launch into the necessary maintenance and repairs ......  Happy New Year to all !
Sunrise At The Cape - Ley Took This Photo On Watch.  Look Carefully For The Lights Of SV Totem At Right

Mummy Christmas & The Land Of 1000 Hills .....

To the west of Durban the land rises rapidly - just 30 minutes drive inland and you have climbed more than 1000 meters.

This is the Land Of 1000 Hills, green and beautiful countryside with hundreds of restaurants, B&B's and guest houses.

A traditional steam railway operates on the weekends, bringing tourists from Durban up into the hills.

The climate is cooler, the foliage is different and most importantly, Mummy Christmas delivers Christmas cheer by quad bike.  What ?

Friends of the family just happen to live up here, and we were invited to gate crash their "traditional" Christmas lunch.  Did I say traditional ?

This was a fabulous family Christmas celebration, with beautifully prepared lamb on the spit rotating well before we arrived.  The weather turned into rain and sleety fog, blocking out the hills, however the fire place roared and the food kept coming, so it was our kind of Christmas family gathering.

So a very big thank you to Shaun Visser, Tania & Lynette for the fabulous hospitality and for sharing your family Christmas with us.