Saturday, January 14, 2017

It's in the Bag!

Getting better at Marine Canvas Work

Our Lifesling2 is 19 years old, although we have only owned it since 2015 when we purchased Eximius. The bag was failing, literally falling apart.

The Old Bag

Sun has done a number on the material of the old bag. The top has started to disintegrate, the sides are getting crispy.

Considering the bag is nineteen years old, it's not that bad and I have seen worse.

The instructions are practically useless as when the bag is attached on our boat, the instructions face outwards, so they cannot be seen from the cockpit where the crew will be frantically deploying the LifeSling that is inside the bag.

I cleaned the LifeSling with OxyClean and it looks like new.

So we needed a new Bag.

Not designed for our boat

The bag attaches to the Rails on our boat, so the lower central velcro strap is useless. If the LifeSling is attached to a Lifeline stanchion, then that design is great, but when mounted on the rails at the side of the stern, the bag is only attached with the two upper velcro straps.

You can see the red horizontal marks that I made while the bag was attached to the boat indicating where the lower rail was located.

Of course,That's close to the wear mark from side to side.

Yes, the top did leak!


The bag is stiffened with plastic inserts on the sides and front and back. The insides were pretty bad, I guess years of dark damp un-ventilated conditions encouraged the moldy growth.

The good news was that it washed off the plastic with just some soap and water, the old bag was not so lucky, it's pretty ingrained on the inner surfaces.

Mold is something all sailors want to keep off their boats. It smells, nasty to touch and has health related issues. Get rid of it.

My Workshop

My garage is now setup with a nice work table 8' long with overhead lighting, Tools like the Hot Knife and Material Press are hanging overhead in easy reach. And my SailRite LSZ-1 is setup.

Nearby I keep a Yard stick, Tape Measure, and 6" Sewing Gauge, a Right Square, and Steel Tape Measure.

I use an 8" by 30" piece of 1/2" Plywood as a backer when I'm cutting Sunbrella using the Hot Knife (a must have tool!)

There's also a selection of Marking pens, pencils, and sharpeners. Of course some really good fabric scissors. And my notebook.  
On the floor is a box fan that sucks away the fumes when using the Hot Knife.

Getting started

After cutting the side, front and back panels open and pulling the plastic inserts out, it's time to measure the old bag.

Adding 1" to all the measurements to allow for the seam joints and measuring at least twice, I keep a notebook just for project measurements.

The new bag will be made out of SeaMark Royal Blue Tweed 60" Waterproof Fabric and Phifertex Vinyl Mesh White 54" Fabric. I purchased 5 yards of the Royal Blue Tweed fabric a year ago in anticipation of a list of projects for Eximius.
The Phifertex is a mesh matarial and that will be used for the inner bag that holds the LifeSling Line and also for the bottom of the bag to allow it to breath, hopefully that will prevent milldew and mold buildup.

Cutting out the panels

The bag consists of 4 side panels (Inside & Outside, Left & Right) 2 Front Panels (Inside & Out), 2 Back Panels (ditto), Bottom Panel (Phifertex), Inside Bag, Top Panel and Boxing (the sides of the top extend down over the bag) and the Plastic Stiffeners that I recovered from the old bag.

Not visible in the picture is the fact that I marked each Panel with it's name eg. Left Inside, Left Outside etc. using a white fabric marking pencil. I made the marks on the inside of each panel. That was an early lesson in previous projects - make any marks on the Back or Inside of the material - just in case they want to be permanent.

Front Panel

I had to start somewhere and this was the simplest panel to make. 
The velcro at the top outside of the panel is for securing the top when the bag is closed (realistically, it'll only open for inspection, MOB practice and if someone really does fall overboard)
Here's a pic showing completed front panel - it's two layers that will be separated by the plastic stiffener.

The Line Bag

The mesh line bag keeps the line neat and tidy inside the LifeSling cover. It will be sewn to the back inside panel. 

The inner bag is not sewn to the front panel as the LifeSling has webbing that is attached to each side of the sling. If the Inner bag was sewn to the front panel, that webbing would prevent the LifeSling from being inserted in the bag.

I triple checked the measurements of the inner bag. The top edge of the mesh is set down from the top of the LifeSling bag. That is to allow the flotation packs of the LifeSling to sit above the inner bag.

Bag Complete

After making up all of the Panels and sewing them together, my first LifeSling bag is complete except for the top.

The cutout in the top of the back panel is to allow the end of the LifeSling's line to exit the bag and be secured to the boat rail. Just imagine the crew frantically opening the bag and tossing out the LifeSling to a crew member that is now disappearing off the stern of the boat - Now is not the time to find out the sling is not attached to the boat!

Inside the Bag

Here's a view looking down into the bag. The Inner bag is plenty big enough to hold the LifeSling line and you can see the mesh bag bottom. 

Top Done

The top is a departure from the example shown on the SailRite website. My design has the top boxing running all the way around the Bag, I really want to try and keep the water out. Of course that means rain! I hope never to be in seas big enough to douse the top of the bag.

The LifeSling is now in the bag, fits great.

Back Panel with Custom Mounting Straps

The mounting straps are made with Sunbrella and Velcro.
They wrap around the Stern Rails on Eximius.

The LifeSling line is hanging out of the cutout and gets attached to the Rail before the boat leaves the dock!


This turned out really well. Like every sewing project so far, I learned a lot.
-- Measure - Measure - Remeasure
-- Before cutting - Measure - Measure - Remeasure.
-- Check the Bobbin before sewing a long seam.
-- Think through about how the project is going to be used.

We installed the newly Bagged LifeSling on the boat yesterday, fit - Great, Looks - I know pride is a sin, but it looks really good.

Very pleased.
Thanks to SailRite's How To Videos, I must have watched this one a dozen times.

Note: The SailRite video shows a Tab for opening the top of the cover. I figured that as the bag opens from outside on our boat, that the user will be ripping the lid off from the cockpit and won't bother looking for a Tab to open it, they'll be scratching, grabbing, ripping anyway they can. It's not that difficult to open, and the tab is really not required.

I will add Man Overboard routine to my 'Welcome Aboard Eximius' document that I read to any new crew that come out with us. 

Safe Sailing.

See you on the Water.

Saturday, December 31, 2016

Please be seated

Cabin seat upgrade

The PO. had installed high level seating in the cabin, they provide a ton of storage beteew them and the original seats, but... the wooden supports were just plain ugly, sorry Deke.

I used some left over stainless tubing and some unused rail fittings.  20 mins work  on all done.

Give the outboard the old heave ho.

Making it easier for Peggy to manage.
Sitting on Lake Boca for the New Year's weekend, we put the dink in the water and prepped to lower the outboard.
Peggy commented that it would not be so easy when we get the bigger engine for our trip to the Bahamas.

Add another project to the in case it rains list.

By the time I had updated the project list, the plan was complete.
I had a cleat on board,  and a block and shackle, and I always have the tools with plenty os stainless screws.

Cross that off the list.

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Where am I

Another Step towards greater Safety

Ok, so we haven't taken Eximius on any long trips - YET! but that is our plan, and when we do, it will most likely be just Peggy & I aboard, that's shorthanded sailing. So we take boat safety pretty seriously.

Where are we?

We know where we are, heck, we have a Main GPS with Radar, a Handheld GPS (battery powered), and at least 2 cell phones onboard each with GPS and a tablet running Navionics, as well as always carrying paper charts on board.

You know where we are!

Ok, close friends and family know where we are. We carry a SPOT locator on board and typically it's on and tracking whenever we are on the boat away from the dock, even when at Anchor or rafted up with a buddy boat. So our BFFs can check the web to see where the boat is (and has been for the past week)  and we send out 'We're OK' emails from SPOT with the link to the website several times during trips.

But Where am I?

More importantly, if I'm not on the boat and should be, where the heck am I?

Peggy gave me an early Christmas gift this year, an ACR ResQLink+ Personal Locator Beacon (PLB) - very cool! Here's a link to the ACR site for this PLB

Of course, it's not just a case of Buy it and Use it, everything has to get registered nowadays, so here's the process so far today:
  • Register the device with ACR for Warranty 
  • Easy, create a new account at
  • Complete the online registration - All done  
  • Register the device with NOAA so that they know who they are looking for (hope it never comes to that, but it's great insurance)
  • Setup an account at and confirm
  • Complete the online registration - our boat is already documented so that was easy, but it's just as easy if the boat is not documented.
  • Verify the account and get the completed registration form as a PDF via email immediately. All Done.
  • Submit the Rebate form for the $50 rebate (WooooHooo!)
  • Print out the form from
  • Mail it with the WestMarine receipt, Noaa Registration, Proof of Purchase and the completed rebate form. 
  • All done - but I'll wait till the rebate check arrives within 3 months before celebrating.

 Me thinks that the best use for this safety device is that it will be worn by any crew that is out of the cockpit. Perhaps I'll make a baggy for it with quick attachment to our PFDs. Another project for my sewing skills. 👍

See you on the water.

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

It's on the Boat

Since I retired, my HDL (Honey Do list) has grown to the point where Peggy suggested that I write it down somewhere that I can always get to it, so I'm in the process of adding my Honey Do list to the blog site. I guess that's another item for the list!

One list item was to replace the master bedroom door, it's the last hall door to replace with a nice varnished door to match the others. Of course I needed a few tools to do it and make a nice job, including a spatula to smooth out the filler that I used to clean up some of the older screw holes in the door frame. I have a whole set of spatulas, but could not find one anywhere. So I recalled the last time I used one. AhHa! I was working on varnishing the teak around the boat Companionway, so they must be on the boat. Sorry honey! It will have to wait till I get back down the boat and pickup my spatulas that I used while refinishing the tea around the Companionway.

Well, that worked!

It might be winter, but the grass still grows down here in South Florida. I lent my mower to a neighbor as his had broken. "Don't forget to check the Blade" was Peggy's response when I got the mower back. It's not that long since I checked the blade and then thought it was fine, but now it really does need a sharpen. Time to get out my trusty Angle Grinder, Oh! It's on the boat! "Why don't you get another one so that you have one at home too?" Good idea. Off I got to Harbor Freight and find the latest model that uses the same size cutting disks.

That worked!

Now sometimes I screw up, honest! The last time I was at the boat I replaced the Engine Stop cable which had seized solid. The new cable was about 3' too long and the only way to cut it neatly is to use an angle grinder, and I have 2 of them. What did I screw up? I brought the second one home last week with a bunch of other tools. Peggy had requested that I cut back on the number of tools on the boat, so I brought a whole crate load home - including the 2nd angle grinder.

That didn't work!

We keep the documentation for the boat in a satchel so that we can take it with us when we go away for a trip on the boat. You might be surprised how much stuff there it to have aboard. Not just the boat documentation, but the instrument manuals, owners manuals, etc. So the bag concept works great, well, that's great if you take it home. So when Peggy asked me about a function on the GPS - at home - at breakfast time, I had to reply - It's on the Boat!

I'm sure other sailors have a list of things they left on the boat and needed at home or worse, left at home when needed on the boat!

Perhaps I should build a list of what's On the Boat! Another task for the Honey Do List.

See you on the water.


Monday, November 21, 2016

Sticky Subject

We all do it!

I had a saying in the Navy: Eat, Drink and don't forget the toilet paper!

Despite the fact that sewage is dumped from cities along the coast within the 3 Mile Limit, most Boaters know that you have to be outside the 3 mile limit before they can pump out their holding tank into the ocean. Reading on the Internet (so it must be true!) Whales can poop up to 3 Tons of Poop per day! So I don't feel so bad when we dump 10 gallons in the Ocean, but how do we do it (dump it!)

Like most boats that have a head on board, we have a holding tank. It has 3 vents: #1 is an air vent, that allows the air to escape when we flush the head into the holding tank. #2 is the Pump Out. That'w where we connect the local Pump Out Station hose so that it can suction out the contents of the holding tank. #3 is the Overboard vent: We have a Macerator Pump that has it's input connected to the Holding tank and the outlet is connected to a valve and then the Overboard vent. The vent has a locking mechanism so that we can lock it closed except when we need to dump overboard. 

How do we pump out? Pretty simple really. We head out from the coast beyond the 3 mile limit and if need be, we'll change onto a Starboard Tack (wind coming over the Starboard side of the boat) so that the boat heels down on the Port side which is where the Overboard vent is located below the waterline. Once well past the 3 mile limit, we hold a steady course away from land, unlock the valve and then turn on the Macerator pump. The holding tank contents typically pump out within a couple of minutes, then turn the pump off, close and lock the valve and proceed on our way. 

So this weekend, we headed out for a sail and went way past the 3 mile limit.
We left the dock around 11am, as we headed to the 1st bridge, for us, on the North Fork of the New River, we passed a sunken sailing vessel that was either sitting on the bottom or was being held by a couple of scant lines on the vacant lot where it was previously docked. It happens, we often see derelict boats this far up the river. We motored on to 11th Street Swing Bridge. Coming around the bend, we called the bridge tender to request an opening. We got the very unusual reply of 'You know that the bridge is broken and unable to open right now?' No! But we talk on the radio to each of the bridge tenders and we kinda feel that they know us (by our boat name) (well, the almost never ask us how to spell the boat name anymore :)
A brief few communications and we determined that they might be able to open the bridge manually within about half an hour. Do we head back to the dock and scrub the weekend or wait to see of the bridge can open? The bridge Tender indicated that they had been down since around midnight, but that someone from the Coast Guard might be along to see if they can get the bridge open.

We agreed that we would tie up/drop anchor within sight of the bridge and call back to see how progress is being made. As we rounded the bend, we saw a boat owner working on his Trimaran and called to see if we could tie up along side. He politely agreed and stopped work as we turned a 360 to come along side. After passing a line, we docked along side smoothly. Paul (that's his name too) was starting to fix up his boat in anticipation of doing some cruising into the Gulf next year. Ex Coastie, he was happy to share some of his sailing experience but declined my offer to help out on his boat for the half hour. We stood chatting (as all sailors do) for nearly 45 minutes. At that time I noticed a man walking onto the bridge and stepping down to the workings. A few moments later, and the bridge klaxon sounded - looks like they are going to try and open the bridge. After a short call to the tender, we bid Paul farewell. I ducked down into our cabin and grabbed a bottle of wine then stepped back aboard his trimaran, Walkerye, and thanked him for his generosity. He gladly accepted the wine and then helped cast us off to head towards the now opening bridge.

Forty minutes later and we were headed out of Port Everglades. We hoisted sails and turned 90° off the wind, which happened to put us on a course almost Due East, ideal for a broad reach out to the 3 mile limit. This was the first time we had raised the sails since putting them back on after Hurricane Mathew last month. Of course, I screwed something up, and had a heck of a time raising the sail to the first reef. After fooling with the lines for 10 minutes, I let out the reef and hoisted the main to the mast head. That took care of that. With the wind getting up there, it hit 18knots several times, we had the Jib reefed, and the calm seas were not! Peggy had the heavy sailing while I worked the discharge process. 

Having done duty, we then sailed back to Port Everglades, the wind was from the North / NNE and down to about 15 knots, we made good time until it backed and we were running wing on wing. As we neared the entrance to the Port, we turned into the wind and dropped the sails so that we could motor into the Turning Basin before heading North and up the Intracoastal waterway.

As we passed inside the channel markers, with the rocky jetty on the south side and the rocky beach area to the North, we saw a couple of inflatable boats each towing a half dozen or so Optimist Dinghy's from the Ocean into the Port, I'm pretty sure they are part of the Fort Lauderdale Yacht Club's youth sailing program. They were all getting a tow from the inflatable looking much like a line of ducklings following Mama duck home. 

Of course, some Yahoo, in a huge power boat screamed out of the port causing a considerable wake that rolled us, but we're a 34' Sailboat with a Deep Keel, the Optimist Dinks are a lot less stable, someone should have taken the power boat's name! Oh! I'm pretty sure it was KL5.

After turning North towards 17th Street Causeway Bridge we could see a Canadian Boat Goinger headed in the same direction. We heard them call the bridge tender asking for the next opening. The Tender noted that it was 20+ minutes till the next opening, then commented that the boat may fit under the spans closed and that the skipper should check the status of the bridge height clearance on the Starboard Fender of the bridge. While that was going on, we passed Goinger to Stbd and headed for the middle of the spans. The Fenders were indicating 56' of clearance, that's great for us, so we proceeded. Several of the smaller boats were gazing up as our mast passed beneath the Span lights hanging down from the middle of the spans. By the time we were at the first Channel markers north of the bridge, we could see that Goinger was working their way through the spans. We could see the sunlight glinting on and off as the masts passed between the open and closed portions of the roadway above the boat. They were fine. I called them on #9 to switch to 68 for intership calls. He did, and we quickly discussed his destination, wondering if he was headed into Lake Sylvia like us. But his journey was Los Olas Marina with a final destination of Port St Lucie. He has a few days motoring ahead of him, especially with these Northerly winds that we're expecting for the next week.

We motored past the moored Dredging boat that is still in the process of deepening the channel all the way from 17th Street Bridge up to Los Olas Marina, they want bigger boats to get up there. Once past the dredge, we turned in towards the Lake Sylvia entrance, hugging the Eastern side where we know it's deeper. The anchorage looked pretty crowded, but we found a nice place to drop the hook that would allow us to swing around with plenty of room.

Of course..  A big 42' Catamaran dropped their anchor between us and our closest neighbor, pretty close to us. Perhaps they are just stopping for lunch and then get on their way. Nope! During the night we stayed within 50' of where we dropped the anchor despite swinging in practically every conceivable direction at the whim of the wind and the curious currents that flow around Lake Sylvia.

We dined on Turkey Burger & Veggies for dinner, with a bottle of wine and some Rum for me.
First time using Brookstone Ice balls.

The next morning as we drank coffee in the cockpit, our stern came within about 10' - 15' of the bow of the catamaran, that felt a bit too close. I had a large fender at hand just in case we needed to fend off. 

We had an early lunch, checked with the 11th Street Bridge tender that the bridge would be able to open, and 'Mary' responded that the bridge was stuck open until Tuesday, so we could come and go as we please. Cool! 

After lunch we started up the engine (flawlessly 😎), pulled up the anchor and headed out of the Lake.

The trip backup the New River was totally without incident, I don't mind that, and the bridge all opened quickly so we barely needed to hold station at any of them.

Turning into the canal where we dock Eximius, we could see a new boat to the neighborhood had tied up on the North side of the canal, opposite a Catamaran on the South side. It's a tight squeeze, but Peggy managed it without a sweat.

We're starting to get the routines down for when we get back to the dock. I take care of securing the boat, fenders, lines, power cord. Check the rigging and wash down the hull and topsides. Peggy removes the instruments, clears out the fridge and loads up any left over food into our soft sided travel coolers. We stow the cushions, close all the valves, make the boat look nice for our next visit and move everything we need to take home onto the dock.

Just as well, our next trip is on Friday, after Thanksgiving. Perhaps I'll complete the window treatments by then. I already have a small list of projects to complete over the weekend. I cannot spend the entire weekend socializing, eating, drinking and just taking it easy! 

Here's a short video of the anchorage
Lake Sylvia

See you on the water.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Sewing Machine Paying for itself

Is it worth buying an Expensive Sewing Machine?

Nearly a year ago, I spent the money on a Sailrite Sewing Machine, that's a Boat Buck! (Break Out Another Thousand) but I figured it could pay for itself.

Over the past year between everything else that we have done on the boat, I have practiced using the machine, trying to get even a straight stitch line to show that I am making progress towards being proficient in using it.

Now I feel that I'm getting there. I have watched dozens of How To project videos on 
learning the many different techniques and concepts on their wide variety of DIY projects.

Some of the things I have learned include:
  • Measure Carefully.
  • Draw clear lines where to cut and where to stitch.
  • Don't make a start till I get to understand the next step.
  • Check the Bobbin before each run of stitching - it's a pain to run out of bobbin thread part way through a line.
  • Take it easy! Don't rush! It's better to run a slow stitch than to have to undo it later.
  • Draw the project, for me a simple sketch is worth hours of work.
  • Don't Rush! - Oh, I said the above, but it's worth repeating. 
  • Do you remember how difficult it was to learn to drive a car? Well, learning to drive the sewing machine requires just as much practice. So start with repairs and easy projects.
  • Watch the Sailrite Videos - seriously! It's like going to sewing school.

Is it worth it?


Todate I have made Fender Covers - they almost look regal! - but I'm biased. I have restitched our Dodger and replaced the plastic windows of the dodger side panels, made covers for the Dodger frame where it touches the new windows to prevent burning and made a cover for the firepit on our patio at home.

Now for the next sewing project: Replace the cabin curtains.
When we purchased the boat, the cabin windows had white fabric curtains on sliders on each side of the cabin - above the galley and above the nav table, in the head and in the quarter berth. They were showing their age and did not survive going through the laundry. The windows were shaded behind the curtains with blue fabric that was snapped into place, but it is a real pain to unsnap them to brighten the cabin during the daytime.

So it's time for new cabin curtains.
Here's what we're starting with:
Window Shade above Galley - Closed
Window Shade above Galley - Opened
Window Shades Port Side 
Window Shade - V-Berth Stbd side

As you can see, they are functional, not particularly nice and are a pain to use. The smaller ports open inwards so the window shade has to be removed.

The plan:

  • Remove the sliding tracks on both sides of the cabin (above galley and nav table)
  • Clean up the cabin sides 
  • Make replacement shades to cover each small port and each of the fixed windows.
  • The shade over the galley will have a smaller insert that can be easily removed (hook & loop) to allow for extra light at the galley.
  • All of the smaller port shades will have the option to be rolled up and secured in place so that we don't have to stow the shades, and they will continue to add a bit of color to the cabin.

The Process

After removing the slides, 5 minutes, the cabin sides needed a good clean and careful measurement.
A trip to the local JoAnn's store and we picked out a suitable outdoor material - it's Gaudy, Bright, and will make an impact inside the cabin. I purchased enough fabric to do all of the windows and have enough left over to make a matching cushion - I'm getting seriously domestic in all of this!
Not really and Ad for RedLobster!

Next to make the first small window shade. Here's some pics of the progress.
This is seriously going to brighten up our cabin

If you could see through the windows, it would look pretty good too.
We should be heading down to the boat tomorrow to check she is still ok despite the King Tides we're having this week. I hope to install that first window shade.

Well the grotty weather put the boat visit to Wednesday (at least) so I worked on installing the new Zippers on the Dodger & Side panels. That took most of the day but they look good and they work!

I'll load up the truck for tomorrow and see if we can get a trip down there to install the Dodger & Side panels, and test fit the new port shade. 

See you out on the water.



1st Shade Installed.