Saturday, June 25, 2011

One of the most dangerous things about sailboats...

As a volunteer instructor who occasionally helps out with New Mexico boating safety basics classes, I am well briefed on many nautical hazards, and have had enough experience to know how quickly things can go wrong and become menacing out on the water. Cold shock immersion, hypothermia, heat exhaustion and sunstroke, fire and burns, collision with a boom, falling, falling overboard are just some of the hazards.

But one of the most dangerous aspects of sailboats, especially for people who realize that there is no one perfect boat, the way they sometimes follow you home.

And now I get to figure out just how a light keelboat wants to be sailed. It should be interesting.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Sailors and the Coast Guard's 2010 Accident Statistics

New boating accident statistics have been released by the US Coast Guard.

Boating Safety Resource Center

If you figure the Coast Guard's 2010 accident statistics proportionately, here's what the numbers seem to say:

Sailors are more likely than other boaters to have accidents with contributing factors of weather, equipment failure, and improper anchoring.

Sailors are less likely to have accidents with factors of excessive speed and alcohol use. (How did that happen? Sailors must be more judicious about their drinking, saving most of it for ashore.)

Big-boat sailors have about as many accidents but are less likely to suffer injury or death than other boaters. Big-boat sailors are more likely than other boaters to suffer damage or injury from groundings but are less likely to fall overboard.

Dinghy sailors are more likely to keep a proper lookout; they know everyone else is out to get them. Dinghy sailors are less likely than other boaters to collide with fixed objects. Dinghy sailors, compared to other boaters, are more likely to fall overboard or capsize. Dinghy sailors are more likely to get into trouble with hazardous water than other boaters. PFD wear and preventing cold-water immersion injuries are critical for small-boat sailors.

Pat (NM volunteer boating basics instructor)

Most boating accidents are not reported to the US Coast Guard recreational boating accident database. Those that involve death, injury, or reasonably significant damage are supposed to be reported.

Method: Use the proportions of auxiliary sailboat accidents ("big sailboats") and sail-only sailboat ("dinghies") accidents and multiply by the number of accidents of each type to establish the expected number of accidents for the big and little sailboats. Note any large and statistically significant differences.

Auxiliary sailboats were responsible for 29 of the 313 reported grounding accidents, just over twice what would be expected.

The 15 reported dinghy capsize accidents were more than four times what would be expected based on simple proportions, but are not surprising to anyone who's sailed a very small, un-ballasted sailboat where exquisite balance is a continual requirement and getting wet is expected. Fatigue, sudden high winds, lack of wearing flotation jackets, or cold water can turn a normal dunking into a reportable accident.

We followed a home home

Now we have a little place in Mesa to call our own. The weekend was busy, with us rushing to set up the house as much as week could before having to rush back to New Mexico on Monday night. The pictures are from the real estate listing; we haven't even had time to take any of our own, though perhaps a certain photo major could come up with a few, eventually.

Front view of home -- but when we bought it the front yard was rather unkempt. We are gradually making it tidy again.

We couldn't get around to everything, including setting up some repairs. But, on the plus side, we got insurance coverage, set up utility accounts, learned about City of Mesa recycling and waste management, installed a programmable thermostat/controller, installed a bunch of energy-conserving compact fluorescent light bulbs (including three-way and outdoor spotlight bulbs) got delivery and installation of a garage door opener, dishwasher, bed set, washer, and dryer. We also caught up on overdue watering and some garden trimming, sorting out waste and recycling bins, and bringing and buying various household furnishings.

Kitchen. It has since been improved with the addition of a decent dishwasher, though Gerald is welcome to wash dishes manually if he prefers that as being kinder to the environment.

Dining nook, located in the front of the house.

The home isn't huge, around 1470 square feet, but it is nicely designed as a retiree sort of home, with a nice master bedroom and much smaller secondary bedrooms.

Front entry

Work still to be done includes arranging for roof repairs and replacing the damaged, light-duty vinyl flooring in the bedrooms with a good laminate floor.

Great room

The home has some quirks, particularly a vast number of electric switches -- the home was built by an electrician according to a neighbor we met. Even the high-level "cat shelves" (plant shelves to people not owned by cats) have switched outlets.

Master bedroom

The neighborhood also has an interesting oddity that we'll have to learn about: flood irrigation delivered on a schedule from the Salt River Project.

View from great room (living area) forward toward kitchen and dining nook. If we took a picture now, it would show empty boxes that had been unpacked.

Part of master bathroom

We also have some other projects with which to keep busy, and promise that some of them will definitely have something to do with sailing.

Friday, June 03, 2011

Grease is the Word

This past week's Dockmaster duty at the Heron Lake Marina and its aftermath were marked by "interesting mechanical learning issues".

One of them happened when I was towing a MacGregor sailboat south from near the lake. This is a boat we've been very slowly repairing and preparing for sail. I had just put new tires on it last Friday and was towing it south on Wednesday afternoon when the left side tire and wheel decided to go walkabout, sheering the wheel studs.

When I called my auto club, the responders seemed to think that the only solution would be to find a flatbed truck large enough to load a long sailboat and boat trailer. Such a great beast was not readily available and might have to come from more than a hundred mails away.

Another friend suggested a heavy-duty wheel dolly to allow the boat to be towed. This seemed far more sensible than waiting for hours for a giant flatbed wrecker.

Even more directly helpful was a good Samaritan named Henry who stopped with some advice and aid. With this support I was able to remove the wheel bearing parts and drum. Then, I dropped by the marina, where I was able to use a bolt, alignment bar, and sledgehammer to pound out the press-fitted wheel studs.

The next day, Thursday, I was able to go to the auto parts store in Chama, near the Colorado border, and look for replacement parts. Although the store didn't have exact replacements for the wheel studs, they did have some that were expected to fit; the clerk took time measuring various candidate wheel studs with a digital caliper to find the best candidates.

Returning home with wheel studs and other goodies, I then placed the wheel drum in an improvised jig and pounded the new studs into the drum. This is a case of literally placing a small object in an even smaller hole; the studs are slightly compressed in the process.

Then it was time to journey seventeen miles to where the crippled boat trailer awaited repair, attach the drum, repack and reassemble the bearing and related parts, and then get to the relatively simple business of placing the spare tire and wheel on the trailer. After gathering up all the tools, blocks, and gear, it was then time to cautiously head south. The bearing and wheel seem to have held up well and this time the trip south to Placitas was a success.

And I even got to play with lots of dark grease. It's sort of fun, in a primitive, childish, atavistic way to mess with the stuff. And, for when that palled or I before had to touch "clean" things, there was a tub of mechanic's hand-washing cream on hand and lots of rags plus a roll of paper towels.