Category Archives: How?

Anything related to projects or boat tasks.

Solar Breakdown

With several trips planned over the summer, and due to the fact that it’s really too darned hot to use the boat much in July and August anyway, we thought it would be prudent to strip the solar panels off our bimini. That way, if some tropical weather developed while we were off elsewhere, it would be one less thing to worry about.

(If you haven’t been around long enough too have read the original post from back when we designed and installed our solar charging system, here it is:  Our Vision Realized)

One advantage of flexible solar panels is that it’s not a major task to remove them and pack them away. Disconnect the wiring connections and release the fasteners holding them to the bimini, and you can just slide them off and store them below. It doesn’t even require any tools. But when I started taking things apart, I discovered a very unpleasant fact. The system I’d designed used several rigid MC4 adapters to electrically combine the panels. And almost every one of them had failed in some way.

Here’s a 3-to-1 combiner I removed. You can clearly see that the left leg is cracked and failing, the center one is more or less OK, but the right one has broken off completely.

This was typical of all the combiners I removed. Nothing was holding a lot of these wiring connections together except friction.

Once I pulled everything apart, I made a small pile of everything in the system that had failed in some way.  Amazingly, the system was still working fine, but a good tug on many of the panel leads would have pulled them completely loose from these broken combiners.

The majority of these parts were tucked into pockets in the bimini, so I know UV exposure wasn’t the problem. Either they got brittle and delicate in their four years of use, or some sort of stress, possibly caused by the bimini flexing in the wind, was breaking them.

I scratched my head a bit and thought about a solution. The system I designed needs these combiners to tie our six solar panels together in the series/parallel circuit I’d layed out. They’re pretty important parts. But I didn’t want to just replace them with more of the same now that I saw such a high failure rate.

Fortunately, some research turned up a solution. Rather than rigid combiners, I found that they also make these MC4 pigtails. The piece on the right is a direct replacement for the old one on the left below.

I’m thinking these pigtail-type combiners will be a lot more forgiving of twists and torques than the old ones were. I ordered enough to replace all the existing connectors.

We don’t have a lot of travel planned between now and the end of hurricane season, and it’s finally cooling down enough to start spending some time out on the water again , so we recently re-assembled our solar system using these new parts. Everything snapped together fine, and seems to be working well. Check back in a few years for an update on how these new parts hold up!

In the meantime, if you happen to be designing and installing your own solar charging system, you might want to consider the type of MC4 combiner to use. I just can’t recommend the rigid ones for marine use.

The Verdict Is In

In a couple of previous posts titled “It’s Stupid Cheaper,” and “No Longer The Generous Neighbor,” I talked about how sick and tired we were of having to provide zinc anode protection to our entire marina, requiring us to replace our shaft zincs about every six weeks. (They’re both pretty good posts from back in the day before we actually headed out on the deep blue, so you might want to give them both a quick read.)

Well, installing that galvanic isolation Klingon cloaking device (which won’t make much sense if you didn’t read those posts like I suggested…) has definitely turned out to be a great investment. We spent most of last week out on local waters, and one of the chores I tackled was replacement of our shaft zincs.

Now I’ll admit that the old zincs that I removed were looking pretty darned crusty. But believe it or not, these babies had been installed over a YEAR ago!

You heard that right, ladies and gentlemen. These two shaft zincs had been installed over a year previously. A year in which Eagle Too was pretty much continuously plugged into shore power, since we decided to buy a house last winter rather than head south.

So by making our boat electrically invisible to marina electrical systems, we’d stretched the life of our zincs from about six weeks to over a year. Pretty amazing.

Here’s a picture of old and new together. The old ones were definitely tired and worn, but they still had life left in them, and had obviously continued doing the job they were being paid to do.

So the verdict is in. Our ProSafe SF60 (i.e. Klingon cloaking device) is definitely performing for us. And for that, it goes on the exclusive list of Life On The Hook approved gear and gets our official LOTH Seal of Approval!

Thumbs-Up

Keeping Our Cool

We’ve been doing quite a bit of traveling lately. As a result, Eagle Too hasn’t been getting quite as much attention as she usually would. After returning from a recent trip to Disney World (we’re making the most our Florida resident annual passes!), we stopped by the boat to see how she was doing.

Unlocking the companionway and dropping into the cabin, we immediately noticed that the air conditioning wasn’t running. We normally leave it at 78° when we’re not onboard, to keep the boat dried out and resist the development of odors. But the AC wasn’t working, and the control panel was displaying the dreaded HPF code. A High Pressure Freon (or High Pressure Fault) code is usually a sign that the seawater suction strainer is clogged and the unit isn’t getting adequate cooling water flow.

Sure enough, our seawater strainer was completely clogged. But after cleaning the strainer and flushing some fresh water though the lines with a hose, we still couldn’t get the AC system to run for more than a few minutes before shutting down again with an HPF fault, even though we had good water flow through the system.

Something else was wrong. Some research indicated that we most likely had marine growth in our condenser, preventing the system from being able to properly cool the circulating hot refrigerant, creating a high pressure fault.

The next step here would be to do an acid flush of the seawater system to dissolve the internal growth and scale. But that requires re-plumbing the air conditioner to recirculate an acid solution to/from some sort of container, usually using a small submersible pump. I thought there had to be an easier way.

Here’s what I came up with. The first step was a quick stop at Harbor Freight to pick up a $6 fluid transfer pump.

Then I made a run to West Marine to buy a gallon of Barnacle Buster. It’s a product that’s made specifically for flushing marine sea water systems in a non-toxic, environmentally safe way. And unlike muriatic acid, the usual go-to product for air conditioning and engine flushing, it won’t harm the plastic, rubber and metal parts in your system if you let is sit and soak for a good long while.

I then picked up a couple of hose adapters so that I could remove the air conditioning sea water suction line from the seacock and connect the hand pump to the line.

Dropping the pump suction into the open bottle of Barnacle Buster, I then pumped a half gallon of the solution into the system (until we were pretty sure we were getting some out of the overboard discharge). Then we buttoned up the boat and went home.

After letting the solution soak in the system for 24 hours, I disconnected the hand pump, hooked up a water hose, and flushed out the line with fresh water. About a gallon of nasty black yuck with embedded chunkies came out the the overboard discharge. After flushing the system until it ran clear, I hooked the sea water suction back up, and turned on the AC.

Rhonda and I broke out a deck of cards and settled into the salon to play a game of 3-13, a version of Rummy that some cruisers we met in Great Exuma taught us. A full game takes about an hour, and the AC purred flawlessly the entire time. After playing the last hand without a single AC hiccup, we were pretty darn sure we’d solved this particular problem.

I guess the best part of all this is that for less than $20 in parts, we now have a rig onboard that we can use for routine system flushes in the spring and fall, something we’ve never bothered with before.

Sea Turtle Rescue

Rhonda and I recently celebrated our 40th wedding anniversary. As one of those major anniversaries that end with a zero, we decided to do something special and take a cruise to Mexico. Now you may be thinking two things. First, why on earth would people who just spent four years living on a boat want to get on another boat (ship) for a vacation? And second, how can a couple that look so young and active have been married for 40 years?  🙂

So the first question is pretty easy to answer. Before we became Cruisers with a capital C, we for many years had been cruisers of the cruise ship variety. It was always one of our favorite getaways. A week of fine dining, shows every evening, interesting places to visit, and someone to make your bed and clean your bathroom—what’s not to love? As for question two, well, all I can say is I guess we’re pretty fortunate.

Rhonda has always been passionate about sea turtles. So when I mentioned that there was an excursion we could sign up for where we could help local conservationists rescue baby turtles, she was all in. After arriving in Cozumel, we boarded a van for a trip to the undeveloped eastern shore of the island. Notice the black sticks in the sand in the picture below? Each one marks the location of a sea turtle nest. It was amazing to see, because it went on this way for miles. Back home in Pensacola, we get all excited if 10 or 12 turtles lumber up onto our miles of beach to deposit some eggs. Here in Cozumel, I could reach out and touch a dozen nests without even moving.

So here’s how this worked. The conservationists (I can’t really call them biologists, because I’m pretty sure this wasn’t their day job, but rather something they did out of passion) monitor the nests constantly to see when they hatch out. It usually happens at night. A typical nest might contain about 120 eggs, and when a nest hatches, there are usually a few turtles that for whatever reason just don’t manage to dig their way out. So the next day, this small group of volunteers dig up the nest by hand to rescue the slackers. They formerly dug every nest up themselves, sometimes more than 20 a day. But then someone realized that there are people on cruise ships who would happily pay for the opportunity to do the manual labor, while they just watched and took notes.

So that’s how we found ourselves on a beach in Cozumel one August morning, along with our friends Lance and Shelly, who were also celebrating an anniversary and who also liked the idea of rescuing baby turtles.

After some brief instruction, we were turned loose to excavate.

You had to go pretty deep. After a certain point, I had to take over because the hole was deeper than the girls could reach.

It was amazing when we started finding tiny little turtles buried in the sand.

The four of us eventually found seven turtles alive and kicking and apparently happy to be out in the fresh air and sunshine.

The conservationists had previously collected a batch of hatchlings that decided to dig their way out in daylight, which is a pretty bad idea if you’re a turtle. The area was swarming with Magnificent Frigate birds (that’s their name, look it up!) that love tasty little turtle snacks. The men rounded up the turtles to protect them from the hungry birds. We then added the ones we’d collected,

After traveling a mile or two further down the beach to a spot free of birds, we then let all the little guys go. One look at the water, and instinct kicked in and they were off and running.

Here’s a brief video to give you a feel for how marvelous it all was.

We’d hoped for a fun and memorable experience. It greatly exceeded our wildest expectations. We can’t recommend this activity enough if you ever have the opportunity to take part. You’ll remember it forever. We sure will!

And from now on, whenever we spot a sea turtle while out sailing, we’ll ask ourselves, “Is it one of ours?”

Maintaining a Fresh Smelling Boat

We recently had some friends join us onboard Eagle Too, and we were pleased when they commented that our boat didn’t smell like a boat. If you spend much time around boats, you’ll notice pretty quickly that an alarming number of them present a mild to major diesel fuel and sewer aroma, often with a pungent stagnant bilge finish. After purchasing Eagle Too, we worked extremely hard to eliminate the sources of any smelly smells onboard, and after solving those, we’ve tried to keep up on the little routine things that help keep funk at bay.

After tackling and curing diesel fuel and engine smells and head odors, and creating a dry bilge to eliminate swamp smells, we’ve found that there are a few other things that need to be attended to if you want to keep your boat smelling as fresh as possible. One of these is the condensate drip pan for the air conditioning system. In Florida in the summertime, the air conditioning runs probably 12 hours or more a day, in the process producing gallons of condensate. While we have plumbed our drip pan to an enclosed shower sump to be pumped overboard, the pan still gets a bit slimy with muck, which would undoubtedly smell unpleasant if we didn’t do anything about it. So whenever we’re onboard, we try to remember to drop a couple of these little tablets in the pan before closing up the boat to leave.

We bought them on Amazon, they’re pretty cheap, and a bottle probably holds at least a year’s supply, perhaps more. Plus they’re handy to have around, because you should probably be using them at home as well in order to keep the condensate line clear on your air conditioning system. After all, one little clump of gunk plugging the line is all it takes to shut your AC system down, or even flood your home if your system doesn’t have a condensate level sensor.

The Right Tool For The Job

I love the easy engine access our Hunter 376 provides. I really feel sorry for some of the folks whose blogs I read, when they post pictures of the cramped little holes they have to crawl into in order to service their engine. But there’s one routine task we have to perform that’s a real PITA, and that’s changing the raw water impeller. On our last boat, the raw water pump was a belt driven unit that was mounted right on the front of the engine and was totally easy to access.  But on Eagle Too, the raw water pump is gear driven and set into the engine block on the port side of the engine, tight up against the bulkhead. For reasons known only to a handful of Japanese engineers, the cover plate for the impeller faces aft, right in front of the starter. There isn’t enough room between the pump cover and the starter to use a socket wrench, and the location is almost impossible to get a visual on. You have to use a box wrench to remove the four bolts that hold the impeller cover on and pull the impeller entirely by feel. I actually can’t even get my hand into the space without first removing the alternator to open up an access. It just seems like a really bad design for something that has to be serviced pretty regularly. Some people actually cut a hole through the bulkhead and install a hatch in the head (bathroom) in order to have another way to approach this problem. We just didn’t want to cut a hole in the boat for a job that’s only done once a year.

Alternator removed to give me access to the area indicated.

This is the small space you have to work in. Raw water pump to the left, starter to the right.

One thing I did discover though is that having the right tool makes the job quite a bit easier. In this case, the right tool is a pair of right-angle pliers. The first time I tried changing the impeller, it stubbornly refused to come out. I had to use the old trick of prying at it with two screwdrivers to try and get it out of the pump body, ripping it to shreds in the process. One thing I did to make the next time go a little easier is that I coated the pump shaft with Tef-Gel before installing the new impeller. This Teflon based paste keeps parts from corroding and freezing together, and it’s very useful whenever you have to put something together that you hope to be able to easily disassemble again in the future.

The other trick was the pliers. Since there’s very little room to work, I thought the perfect solution would be to use a set of right-angle pliers to reach into the pump body, grasp the impeller, and then pull it out. A quick trip to Harbor Freight turned up exactly what I was looking for.

The owner’s manual for our Yanmar 3JH2E diesel engine says the impeller should be changed every 600 hours. After we returned from our last season of cruising, we were right at 650 hours, so it was due. While the job was still a bit of a pain, the combination of having used Tef-Gel when installing the impeller and using the special pliers to get into the tight space made the job go much easier.

It looks like the recommended maintenance interval was spot on, because when I examined the old impeller, I could see the beginnings of cracks on some of the vanes. Let this job go for too long, and these vanes start breaking off, travel through your cooling system and end up clogging the tubes in your heat exchanger, causing your engine to overheat.

Vanes just starting to crack.

If you’ve done this job, you know what a pain it is. Try the Tef-Gel and bent pliers. I think you’ll be pleased with how much easier things are.

If you haven’t done this job, what are you waiting for? Don’t let a worn our impeller leave you stranded.

Getting Legal

Our days are growing short here in Pensacola, and we’re working though the final items on our list of boat chores that need completing before we once again point Eagle Too’s bow south. Today we made Eaglet Too legal.

For some people, a stencil and some spray paint or a permanent marker is good enough for applying their dinghy’s registration numbers. You really can’t argue with the thriftiness of that approach. But we’ve always preferred something a little more elegant, I guess because we take a little pride in how our stuff looks. Plus the paint or marker approach usually needs periodic re-application.

We used glue-on number plates from BoatNumberPlate.com on our first dinghy, and they still looked great when we sold her seven years later. So we really wanted to go with the same solution on our new dinghy. The first time around, we used the glue-on version of the product, which we needed to apply with hypalon rubber cement. This time, they offered a self-sticking version, which sounded like a much easier way to go. Plus, have you looked at what a tube of hypalon glue goes for these days? Almost as much as the number plates themselves!

They did qualify that the self-sticking version isn’t recommended for boats that you want to deflate and roll up. But now that we have an aluminum RIB, rolling up the boat really isn’t an option any longer, so we thought we’d give them a  try.

These things worked great! We picked a dry, sunny day with temps in the upper 70’s. Then we test fitted the number plates to the boat, and traced the outline of the plate with a Sharpie. Next, we masked the outlined area with blue painter’s tape, and then thoroughly cleaned the spot with an acetone soaked rag so the adhesive on the number plate had a clean surface to grab.

You peel off the paper backing on the number plates, line them up and apply then, being careful not to trap any air bubbles underneath. You need to make sure you get them on straight, because the self-adhesive glue is VERY aggressive.

Peel off the blue tape, apply your state registration sticker to the area provided on the port number plate, and you’re done! No waiting for glue to cure and no mess to clean up. It literally couldn’t be easier.

One last thing. You can order boat number plates directly from the site above, but you can actually save about $5 if you order them through Defender instead. They’ll ship you a small package containing a redemption code that you then use on the manufacturer’s website to order your number plates.

You know what? It’s been quite a while since we’ve given something our Life On The Hook™ seal of approval. I think it’s time to dust that off and use it. This one’s for you, BoatNumberPlate.com!

The LOTH Seal of Approval

Why Won’t My Engine Start?!

Spend some time on any Hunter owner’s forum, and you’ll eventually find a thread discussing the dreaded “Why Won’t My Yanmar Start When I Turn The Key?” issue. The problem goes something like this: you turn the key or push the button to start your engine, and it totally ignores you. Or maybe you hear a “click,” but the starter doesn’t engage. Whatever is causing the problem seems to be linked into the boat’s Crisis Detector circuit, because normally the engine will start just fine when it’s a pretty day and you just want to back out of the slip for a short sail, but it will fail to turn over when there’s a squall bearing down on you and you’re being blown onto the rocks while on a collision course with a fuel barge.

We’re not talking here about a significant engine issue, where you’re having a fuel or compression problem or your exhaust elbow is clogged and you can get the engine to turn over but it just won’t start. We’re talking about a transient little electrical problem where the starter solenoid randomly decides it just doesn’t want to do its job today.

It’s really annoying because it comes and goes. Sometimes you can go weeks with the engine starting every time, and then suddenly it just says no. And even though it’s a widely reported problem, it’s one that Yanmar claims they’ve never heard of. Go ahead, call them. They’ll say “why no, we’re not aware of anyone having this problem.” Meanwhile I’ve seen posts by people saying that they’ve complained to Yanmar so many times that they’re looking into a class action lawsuit over the issue due to the potential risk it creates for boat owners when they can’t reliably start their engines.

Some have claimed that the way to fix this problem is to install an additional solenoid in the starting circuit. IF you’ve researched this issue I’m sure you’ve seen this fix.  I’m not going to go into detail with that solution , other than to say that I think it’s the wrong approach. You’re not fixing the problem, you’re just treating the symptom, while also adding additional complexity to your starting system. We had this problem on our first boat, a Hunter 336 with a Yanmar 3GM30 engine. Over the last year, it has now also cropped up on our current boat, a Hunter 376 with a 3JH2E. On both boats, the solution turned out to be much cheaper and simpler.

I believe the problem is caused by the fact that the engine control panel is usually quite a ways removed from the engine, and the builder used a long wiring harness to connect the two. The harness is usually pieced together from shorter lengths and has multiple in-line electrical connectors. With two, three, sometimes four or more wiring connectors in the harness run, there are plenty of places for corrosion to develop and introduce resistance in the circuit, causing a voltage drop in the line. You turn the key to start the engine, but not enough voltage makes it to the starter solenoid to engage it. I think the reason the problem comes and goes is because electrical resistance across a corroded connection can vary due to changes in temperature or humidity. Today might be OK, but not so good tomorrow.

So how did we fix the problem? But running a separate, continuous #10 wire from the engine start switch all the way to the starter solenoid. This eliminates all the in-line electrical connectors with their potentially voltage-sapping corroded pins.

Engine control panel removed from pedestal, original starting circuit wire removed from start switch. Haven’t crimped a ring terminal on the new wire yet in this picture.

Chasing the wire from the engine control panel in the cockpit to the starter solenoid on the engine is the hard part, usually involving some cabin disassembly and a lot of wiggling into dark places. Once the wire is run, however, it’s a pretty simple task to crimp the proper ring connector on the switch end and a disconnect fitting on the solenoid end and substitute the new wire for the old one.

New wire attached to starter solenoid.

Put some insulating shrink tubing on the ends of the old wire to keep it from causing problems and protect the new wire with some plastic wire loom, using a few zip ties to make sure it stays where you want it, and you’re in business.

I followed the exhaust hose for part of the run.

This fix has worked great for us on two boats now. If you’ve having a similar problem (and I think many of you with older Yanmars probably are), then give it a try. I think you’ll be pleased with the results. And it’s such a relief to no longer have to wonder “what kind of mood are you in today, Mr. Engine?” when you reach for that switch.

It’s Not Our First October Surprise

We’ve been living on the Florida Gulf coast long enough to know that you can’t turn your back on the Gulf in October. While the Atlantic hurricane season is wrapping up, with fewer tropical waves rolling off the coast of Africa and developing into storms, conditions in the Gulf are still ideal for cyclogenesis.  Some of the northern Gulf coast’s worst storms have been October storms.

So here we are with a monster Category 3 hurricane named Michael roaring towards us. Three days ago it was just a blob of thunderstorms off the Yucatan. But as proud members of Drunk Donkey Nation (as the half–million followers of Mike’s Weather Page are now known), we’ve been following this system for almost a week and knew it was going to be something big.

What to do about it was the question. It’s easy to underreact to an approaching storm, but it’s equally easy to overreact. Our hurricane plan is to move Eagle Too to the very well protected marina at Pensacola Naval Air Station in the event that Palafox Pier and Yacht Harbor, where we spend our summers, declares a mandatory evacuation. We have access to the Navy base due to our military affiliation. But if Palafox Pier doesn’t force us to leave, we don’t, primarily because we’ve already paid for the slip here. Moving to the base costs us several hundred dollars for a three to four day stay, and as thrifty cruisers, we’d rather not spend that money if we don’t have to. Plus we’re really just moving from one marina with floating docks to another a couple of miles away, so it hardly seems worth it if we don’t have to do it. And a haulout? Forget it. We’re not full time residents here in Pensacola anymore. Since we spend seven months or more of every year somewhere else, we’re not going to pay the thousands of dollars necessary to get on Pensacola Shipyard’s hurricane haul out list. And if you’re not on their list, you don’t get hauled out, plain and simple.

Our frustration always comes from waiting to see what Palafox Pier is going to do. They finally declared a “voluntary evacuation” yesterday. I had to go to the marina and ask them what exactly that was supposed to mean.  I interpreted it as “leave if you want, but stay if you’d like,” which is just another way of saying “business as usual.” But I guess maybe it gives them some liability protection if you stay and your boat gets broken by something in the marina. After all, they did tell you to “voluntarily evacuate.”

Regardless, if the evacuation was voluntary, we weren’t volunteering. Besides, as it just so happens, my first mate and lovely wife (that’s one and the same person just in case you weren’t sure) is up in Virginia visiting family this week. That means I’d be voluntarily evacuating by myself, which I’d rather not do. Not that I haven’t had several sincere offers of assistance, but I just don’t like moving Eagle Too without Rhonda at the helm, as I’ve grown accustomed to her hand on the wheel.

So here’s what I knew about Michael. Ever since he formed, the models were consistently taking it to our east. That meant we’d be on the “good” side of the storm, with winds coming from the north, off the land. The friction of blowing past trees and buildings would slow the wind significantly. Next, even though the predictions wobbled around a bit, it was pretty evident that there was firm agreement among the models. The eye of the storm was unlikely to get closer to us than about 75 miles. That’s a long way, even for a big hurricane. We’ve been though about a dozen of these in the last couple of decades, and my experience told me that the distance plus the wind direction probably meant we’d never see more than 45 or 50 knots of wind, even from a Category 3 storm. Possibly quite a bit less. Working in our favor is that we’re docked right below a three–story building that would block a lot of the wind, and our bow is pointed east, which means our dodger and bimini were at a good angle to shed the wind rather than catch it.

So what preparations did I make to hit the sweet spot on the under/over prepared scale? First, I decided not to take the sails down. Our mainsail furls inside the mast, so it’s basically impervious to wind. And we’ve ridden out 50+ knot winds in squalls with the jib furled and it never started coming loose. But just to add some extra insurance, I took about a dozen wraps around the furled jib with our spinnaker halyard, candy-striping the line down the length of the sail to keep it from trying to unfurl.

Eagle Too in her Ready For Tropical Storm Force Winds configuration

I also decided not to strip our dodger and bimini. I did take the sun covers off the dodger, because they were only loosely attached. But we over-engineered the dodger and bimini frame, using only steel rail rather than straps for support, and I knew it could handle 50 to 60 knots with no problem, especially with the wind coming from the bow initially, then shifting to the port side.

Not a good day for sailing

Next, I made sure our dinghy was well tied down with both ratchet straps and lines, and then removed all the loose gear on deck and brought it below. Solar lights, water hose, chairs and cushions, all the little things hanging around topside that could get torn lose got stowed.

I also doubled the lines and rigged all our fenders, and put bungees on several lines that I know like to slap in a gale. It’s hard enough trying to sleep during a good blow. It’s even harder when lines are slapping away like crazy.

We’d have naturally done more if Pensacola was Michael’s destination. We’ve been in a Category 3 hurricane; Hurricane Ivan back in 2004, and I have a great deal of respect for the power of such a storm. But my gut (and the data at spaghettimodels.com) has been telling me that Michael had other plans. So I feel good about our approach to this storm. We’ll see in a couple of days whether I chose wisely…

Some thoughts: this irked me a bit. The marina insists that all the boaters make sure they’ve removed any loose gear that can become airborne from the docks. But then they park their work barge just upwind of our dock, covered with loose gear that can become airborne.

Yes, that’s a machete sticking out of that sawhorse. A sawhorse that’s just sitting there, because I could push it and it would rock.

And it’s always a gut check when you see out of state power crews staging their equipment for the upcoming recovery effort.

I think we’ve adequately prepared. I really feel for the people in Panama City, Port St Joe and Apalachicola, because I think their lives are about to be profoundly affected. For now, here’s the calm before the storm…

Lock It or Lose It

While chartering in the British Virgin Islands, we learned to always, always, always lock up our dinghy or risk losing it. It’s a habit we took home with us, and to this day we always try to lock our dinghy to something secure like a dock piling or palm tree, even when we’re in our home waters. When we’re anchored out and retire for the evening, we lock the dingy to the stern of Eagle Too, and when the dinghy is on deck, we make sure the outboard is securely locked to the railing. We also make ample use of bicycle locks to secure valuable but portable deck gear like our Rainman water maker and scuba tanks. Due to an unfortunate incident a few years ago where we had someone enter our boat and steal our cash here in the marina while I was up doing laundry, we never even leave the boat without making sure the companionway is locked. Not even to visit a neighbor’s boat for sundowners just two slips over. If our feet hit the dock, the boat is locked. It’s a little sad that that’s the way of the world, but then we sailors do tend to glorify pirates. It’s just that we always think we’ll be the ones doing the pirating, rather than the ones that get pirated.

While we try to exercise good dinghy locking discipline, I have to admit the locks we were using would probably be considered “honest man’s locks.” They indicated to a basically honest person that no, this dinghy wasn’t orphaned and in need of a good home, but rather was owned by someone who didn’t care to be parted from it. But if you smacked it with a hammer, pried it with a screwdriver, or possibly even just looked at it angrily, it would give up faster than the French army.

Getting some better locks was always one of those things I intended to someday do. So when we were wandering around Home Depot the other day on an unrelated matter, I was pleasantly surprised to find these new locks from Masterlock. They had beefy stainless steel bodies that looked like they’d be more than able to withstand hammer smacks and prying attempts, and would be better able to stand up to the marine environment than the locks we’ve been using.

In addition, they had our “must have” feature, a user settable combination. We just don’t like key locks here aboard Eagle Too, because we’re too likely to misplace or forget the key.

Best of all, they were less than $20 each, which seemed like a real bargain. Time will tell if that turns out to be true.

While these obviously won’t stand up to a determined assault from someone armed with a pair of bolt cutters or a hacksaw, they should make life much more difficult for “pirates of opportunity” to make off with our dinghy compared to the cheesy little locks we’ve been using.

So what’s your philosophy on when, where and how to lock up your dinghy?