Category Archives: Boat maintenance

Mildew and the Frog

Ah, spring boat chores. Putting up sails, changing fluids in the diesel engine, airing out the boat and getting rid of green slime everywhere. Over the years that we have owned our boat, I can’t tell you how many hours of our lives we have spent removing mildew and mould from the boat’s  surfaces and finery. One of the more difficult places to get rid of mildew is the Sunbrella canvas.

Sunbrella fabric has a protective coating on it so if you use harsh chemicals and scouring pads you also remove the protective coating. We are conscious of the cleaning products that we use on the boat and use environmentally friendly products whenever possible.  The problem is that many environmentally friendly products do not have the ‘umph’ to get rid of mildew.

A fellow boater told me that he soaks his sail covers overnight  in the tub with bleach to remove mildew. I really try to stay away from bleach because it is so harsh on the environment. I’ve tried vinegar, vinegar + baking soda, baking soda + Blue Dawn with poor results. Out of desperation, I tried a mold and mildew product but the results were mediocre at best.

Enter on the stage – FrogWash. I bought this cleaner for our condo because it was environmentally friendly and could be used for multiple cleaning jobs. Take a look at the label!

Multiple uses for FrogWash | www.holisticsailor.com
Check out all the great uses for FrogWash

Not only could I use one product, I would also have more room in my cupboard and can refill the bottle with a concentrate so less garbage.

After experiencing great results at home, I decide to try it on the boat. Oh my gosh. It is terrific on stainless steel and gives a nice shine to the teak floors. But more importantly it works on mildew. Take a look at the before and after photos of my motor cover.

Before and after using FrogWash | www.holisticsailor.com
I used FrogWash to clean the Sunbrella cover for our outboard motor.

The trick is to follow the instructions. Imagine that! The product works best if you let it sit for a few minutes. You do have to scrub with a soft cloth but it is worth it.

Ah, spring boat chores. Putting up sails, changing fluids in the diesel engine, airing out the boat and getting rid of green slime everywhere. Over the years that we have owned our boat, I can't tell you how many hours of our lives we have spent removing mildew and mould from the boat's surfaces and finery. One of the more difficult places to get rid of mildew is the Sunbrella canvas. Sunbrella fabric has a protective coating on it so if you use harsh chemicals and scouring pads you also remove the protective coating. We are conscious of the cleaning products that we use on the boat and use environmentally friendly products whenever possible. The problem is that many environmentally friendly products do not have the 'umph' to get rid of mildew. A fellow boater told me that he soaks his sail covers overnight in the tub with bleach to remove mildew. I really try to stay away from bleach because it is so harsh on the environment. I've tried vinegar, vinegar + baking soda, baking soda + Blue Dawn with poor results. Out of desperation, I tried a mold and mildew product but the results were mediocre at best. Enter on the stage - Frog. I bought this cleaner for our condo because it was environmentally friendly and could be used for multiple cleaning jobs. Take a look at the label! Not only could I use one product, I would also have more room in my cupboard and can refill the bottle with a concentrate so less garbage. After experiencing great results at home, I decide to try it on the boat. Oh my gosh. It is terrific on stainless steel and gives a nice shine to the teak floors. But more importantly it works on mildew. Take a look at the before and after photos of my motor cover. The trick is to follow the instructions. Imagine that! The product works best if you let it sit for a few minutes. You do have to scrub with a soft cloth but it is worth it. In Victoria, I buy Frog at Capitol Iron on 1900 Store Street. Note to self: don't Google "frog cleaning". Gross! Instead, Google "frog cleaning product" or check out their website here: http://www.frogwash.ca/. Frog Wash is made by Zen FarmZ Environmental Solutions Inc. in Calgary, Alberta, Canada.
FrogWash – a great cleaner to get rid of mildew

In Victoria, I buy Frog at Capitol Iron on 1900 Store Street. Note to self: don’t Google “frog cleaning”. Gross! Instead, Google “frog cleaning product” or check out their website.  Frog Wash is made by Zen FarmZ Environmental Solutions Inc. in Calgary, Alberta, Canada.

 

How to Sew Slugs on a Mainsail

One day when we were out sailing, the mainsail separated from the mast like a zipper. Luckily, the wind wasn’t too strong and the sail remained attached to the mast at the top and bottom by a few slugs. We quickly brought the sail down and that was the end of our sailing for the day.

When we got back to the marina and inspected the sail, we could see that the webbing that attached the slugs to the sail had rotted through from UV exposure. This never should have happened and made us realize that we needed to establish a new maintenance schedule for the boat. When we lived aboard, we were always checking  this and that and were on top of repairs before they failed.

We had a couple of different repair options to consider – use shackles to reattach the slugs to the sail or sew on the slugs. The people that we bought our boat from had sailed to the South Pacific and New Zealand and used the sewn-on method of attaching the slugs to the sail. I thought if hand-sewing could withstand offshore cruising, than this method would work for me too. The slugs themselves were in good shape, it was just the webbing that needed replacing.

I searched online for information about how to sew slugs on a sail and found bits and pieces but not complete instructions. I do not profess to be an expert at this, but I thought I would share what I did.

First, assemble your supplies:

How to sew slugs back onto a mainsail | holisticsailor.com
Assemble your materials
  • Rot-resistant webbing
  • BBQ lighter to seal the ends of the webbing
  • Waxed thread and strong needle
  • Scissors
  • Measuring tape
  • Sailmaker’s palm.

Although only eight slugs broke off on our mainsail, I replaced all of the slugs.  I wanted each slug to be identical once they were fastened to the sail so that the sail would sit properly once hoisted.  I left one slug attached to the sail temporarily as a prototype while I did the repair.

I spent quite a bit of time trying to figure out how I would wrap the webbing through the slug. Once I was clear about how I was going to do this, I started by cutting 7 3/4″ lengths of webbing and sealing the edges with a BBQ lighter. If you have a hot edge knife, this would work well too. If you singe off a lot of the webbing while sealing the ends, you might have to start with a slightly longer piece of webbing.

How to sew slugs back onto a mainsail | holisticsailor.com
Cut all your pieces of webbing

I then marked the webbing with a pen where my fold line would be. For me this was 1 1/16″. This was a very helpful step to insure that each of the slugs would sit the same distance away from the sail.

How to sew slugs back onto a mainsail | holisticsailor.com
You can see where I lined up where I folded the end of the webbing inside to protect it from fraying

I wasn’t sure if there was a difference between the ends of the slugs, so I made sure that they would be similar to the one that I had left on the sail.  I put the webbing through the opening in the slug once and tucked one end inside using my 1 1/16″ line as a reference point.  I sewed the webbing in place tightly around the slug sewing three wraps on each edge using the waxed thread.

How to sew slugs back onto a mainsail | holisticsailor.com
Here is a side view. Continue sewing each slug onto a piece of webbing.

Double-check the length and reseal the edge of webbing if you need to shorten.  I then attached the slug to the sail and sewed the remaining edge of the webbing in place. Double-check that the slug is the correct distance from the sail.  Finish off your thread by looping three times.

How to sew slugs back onto a mainsail | holisticsailor.com
Insert the end of the webbing through the grommet and through the slug for a second time. Tuck the end of the webbing inside before sewing in place. Double-check as you are sewing that the slug is sitting the same distance away from the bolt rope. For me, this was 1/2 inch.

Once I had a system for this, the repair job went quickly.

Tips:

  1.  Leave one slug on the sail as a prototype so that you can double-check your measurements.
  2.   Measure and measure again.
  3.  Once you are confident that you have the correct measurements, cut all pieces of webbing and seal them.
  4.  Take your time figuring out how to do this and then once you have a system, attach each slug to a piece of webbing. Continue until you have attached all the slugs.
  5.  Sew the slugs to the sail.  Keep checking that the slug is the same distance away from the sail.
  6.  Make one extra slug attachment as a prototype for future repairs.

The Care and Maintenance of Fire Extinguishers

As I write this post, the weather outside is frightful – cold, wet and miserable. A good day to be inside and dreaming about summer cruising. Summer cruising also means getting the boat shipshape.

One of my responsibilities is to have our ABC fire extinguishers checked annually. I take our fire extinguishers to 4 Seasons Fire Prevention Services located at 460 Bay Street in Victoria, BC. Brett at 4 Seasons was kind enough to answer my questions about fire extinguishers. If you are a regular reader of this blog, you know that I always have questions!

The Care and Maintenance of Fire Extinguishers | holisticsailor.com
ABC Fire Extinguisher

The inspection begins on the outside of the fire extinguisher.  The date of manufacture is checked – fire extinguishers manufactured before 1984 are no longer allowed to be serviced. If you have had a rough ride on your boat and the fire extinguisher fell from its mount,  a rolling dent is okay, but a creased dent is not.

The hose is inspected as is the aperture where the hose connects to the canister to make sure that there are no obstructions. The pin is removed and threads are inspected.

Then the gauge is checked for cracks, the pressure is checked and the extinguisher is charged. You might be thinking to yourself that you can do all of this yourself, but the people who service fire extinguishers take an Occupational Health and Safety course, Fire Extinguisher Service Technician.

However, there are some things that you can do to maintain your fire extinguisher.  Vibrations cause the powder inside the extinguisher to pack, so after a bumpy passage be sure to thump the bottom of your fire extinguishers to loosen the powder. Never lay a fire extinguisher on its side. On a boat, it is wise to secure your fire extinguisher by a mounted bracket. As with all fire extinguishers, they should be visible and everyone on your boat should be aware of their location.

Hopefully, you will never have to use your fire extinguisher but if you do, follow these instructions.

  • Pull the pin
  • Aim at the base of the fire
  • Use a sweeping motion until the fire is out
  • Never turn your back on a fire.

If you are away from the dock, alert Coast Guard radio on Channel 16 about your emergency. Things can go from bad to worse in an instant. If you are at the dock, call the fire department if appropriate.

One day at our dock, a passerby noticed a little bit of smoke coming from one of the power boats and mentioned it as he was leaving the dock. We checked it out to discover that the windows were all blackened. We didn’t know if anyone was on board so looked for a way to get inside.

Meanwhile, the volunteer fire department was called and some of us grabbed our fire extinguishers while others tried to break into the boat. Fires in marinas are very dangerous and easy to spread due to all the combustibles on boats and their close proximity to each other. A boat on fire will often be towed out to sea away from other boats to prevent the spread of the fire.

Someone stepped onto the deck and heard it crackle under his feet so he quickly jumped off the boat. The fire was so hot that it was melting the fibreglass. We broke a window and black smoke poured out of the opening. The boat was unsafe for any of us to enter and we wisely waited for the fire department.

Volunteer fireman after boat fire | holisticsailor.comLuckily, no one was inside and the firemen said that the fire had likely been burning slowly all night. Because the boat was airtight, it gradually used up the oxygen and continued to smolder slowly.

Transport Canada regulations require pleasure craft to carry fire fighting equipment depending on your vessel type and size. If you are not sure of the requirements, please see the Safe Boating Guide for these regulations and others. For more information about fire extinguishers, check out this excellent video by Ace Boaters.com.

You never think that something bad will happen, but when boating you usually have to handle emergencies on your own. Be safe and be prepared.

DIY Sunbrella Outboard Motor Cover

Who would have thought that sewing would be a valuable skill on a sailboat? But the truth is that boats need lots of covers to protect things from the harsh marine environment of wind, salt and water. And these same elements cause this protective gear to need constant replacement.

Some of my earlier sewing projectsMost of these items cannot be bought in a store, so you are left to your own devices. So when my husband suggested that I make a cover for our Mercury 3.3 hp outboard, I did what any resourceful sailor would do and searched Google and YouTube for inspiration. Sailrite provided this handy video, but it seemed too fussy for my liking and I didn’t have the benefit of being in the same room as the motor, so I decided to create my own design.

My design technique is very primitive. I take exact measurements and put them on a drawing. I am not an artist, so please do not judge. I then think about what I am about to make and add in seam allowances, wiggle room (I am such a technical sew-ista) and extra length for a hem. I also consider how the item will be used. Can it be fastened easily and removed when required? I am of the vintage that I learned how to sew in inches and feet, so although I am Canadian through and through, I sew in inches.

Outboard motor measurementsNow that we no longer live on the boat, I couldn’t simply step out into the cockpit and take my measurements, so it was a bit disappointing when I took out my hastily sketched diagram for the outboard motor cover. I searched Mercury’s website but could not find specifications for the motor beyond performance specifications. I was looking for measurements. Sigh.

Outboard motor measurements with allowancesI bought a roll of Sunbrella knowing that I am constantly sewing things for the boat. Sunbrella is a great fabric for boats but it is very stiff to work with, so I gave up trying to pin things after my first project. In a pinch, I have used large paper clips to keep two pieces of fabric together and remove them one by one as I approach the needle. Typically though, I do not pin things together. Very adventurous, I know.

I transfer my measurements onto the Sunbrella with a pen. I also indicate the name of the piece such as top, bow, stern since I don’t have any pattern pieces to tell me what it is. During my Google search for outboard motor covers, I discovered that there is no right or wrong side to Sunbrella. I never knew this. I have spent 10+ years writing little “W”s on the fabric to help me remember.

I usually have to cut the fabric on our dinette or for larger projects would remove the bedding and foam cushion off our bunk and use the flat, wooden surface below to cut out the fabric. When I made the mainsail cover, I cut out the fabric on the dock moving all  my gear aside whenever someone had to get by. “Car!”.  Such luxury now to be able to cut the fabric on a kitchen table indoors.

Measure and cutCut the fabric and begin sewing. I use a rot-resistent thread and heavy duty needle to sew. My 25-year old Janome sewing machine has served me well on the boat. I have sewn sail covers, bimini, winch covers, duvet covers, curtains and settee covers on this machine. Often times cursing along the way, but this little machine is a trooper.

For the outboard motor cover, I basically made a box allowing enough room to cover the handle and extraneous nobs. I sewed in a shock cord along the bottom so that it could be cinched tight to prevent it blowing off in the wind.

Put a little black thing on the end of the shock cord – tie a knot and zap it with the barbecue lighter to prevent the edge from fraying and voila! Cinch up the shock cord – this takes time because the Sunbrella is stiff and repeat the same for the other end of the shock cord. For extra security, you can leave enough length to tie the ends of the shock cord to the boat so that in the event that the cover comes loose it won’t blow away.

Finish the end of the shock cordThe finished product looks good. When I finally put the new cover on the motor, I realized that I should also make a cover for the handle of the motor. My sewing gear was back in the condo, so all I had to take measurements with was the leftover piece of shock cord. Sailors are resourceful ( I think I already covered this earlier in this post), so I measured the length of the handle with the shock cord and then calculated that this length equalled two lengths of my spiral notebook. The width equalled  the circumference of my thumb to my forefinger plus – you got it – some wiggle room. Hey, you are catching on quickly to this sewing thing.  Are you sure you’re not a sailor?