So, sew.

I’m slowly working down my boat sewing project list. I made 5 winch covers for our jib sheet winches, house top winches, and windlass. I used Sailrite’s pattern and instructions as a guide. My takeaway: it is not easy to sew a circle onto a rectangle.

I also replaced our frayed and yucky bimini straps, having to sew a loop and attach the fastener-buckle thingie before installing.

Bring on the next project!

In hot water.

We have been talking about it for quite some time. Today we sprang into action! We replaced an old water heater before it failed and flooded the house.

After two trips to Home Depot (you can never, ever take one trip), draining the old tank, some heavy lifting, and a few choice phrases, we are back in business.

Thanks Sweetie!

Doo-hickeys.

First some terminology…

Sailboats have barriers along the perimeter of their decks that are meant to keep people from falling off. We call these barriers lifelines. Lifelines have gates that can be opened to let people walk through them when docked or rafted up. These gates are typically created by putting a piece of hardware that opens and closes on the lifeline at the gate called a pelican hook.

Still with me?

Pelican hooks have a tiny little ring that you pull to open them. It’s usually difficult to grab the little ring just right.

To make it easier, you can put a little fob, or lanyard, on the ring that you can more easily grab and pull the pelican hook to open the gate in the lifeline.

Long story short, today I made a set of these lanyards for Nirvana’s lifeline gates. 2 for port, 2 for starboard.

Installed…

Here’s how I made them if you’re interested.

The easy part is learning how to tie the individual cobra weave knots. So I’ll leave that out and just share one of many links that I looked at to help me figure out the basic cobra knot: here. The hard part was figuring out the best jig or setup to easily secure the cord while tying the cobra knots. I’ll share what I came up with.

What you’ll need:

– 95 paracord (1.75mm wide)

– measuring tape

– knife

– lighter or hot-knife to melt cut ends of the cord

– carabiner with 2 big paper clips attached (the jig I came up with)

– tweezers and/or a crochet hook to pull the working ends of the cord back through and under the cobra weave knots to bury them and finish the lanyard

To make a 3-1/2″ finished lanyard out of 95 paracord, I used 44″ pieces for each lanyard. Cut to length and fold that in half.

Tie a simple overhand loop knot 3 1/2 inches from the midpoint of the piece of cord. This defines the finished length of the lanyard.

The carabiner and paper clips make up my jig for holding the cord while tying the cobra weave knots. Other people use different things; pegboards, wire harnesses, etc. Basically, you want something you can pull against to keep the cord taut while you are tying the cobra weave knots with the two working ends of the cord. This is what worked for me.

The carabiner can easily be clipped onto a drawer handle or hook. The paper clips make it easy to loop the 2 working ends of the cord to start the first cobra weave knot. And they make it easy to slip the finished lanyard off them as well.

Before tying the first cobra weave knot…

After tying 3 to 4 cobra knots…

Keep tying cobra weave knots (9 or 10) until you have about 1 inch of the loop left. Remove lanyard from carabiner and paper clips.

To finish the lanyard, you need to pull the working ends of the cord back under the length of cobra weave knots that you just tied. This will bury them and keep the lanyard from coming untied when it is in use. This is where the tweezers and/or crochet hook come in. I pulled the working ends under about 4 or 5 of the knots.

Then trim and melt the cut ends of the cords; the finished lanyard…

Good luck!

Frosé in the house!

It is HOT in Austin this summer. A cool drink goes a long way to make you forget the temperature outside. I have recently been introduced to a lovely pink frozen beverage called Frosé, made from rosé wine, but presenting as a slushie. Brick Oven Pizza served up my first one (and several since then). Pretty good!

Ever since then I’ve wanted to try making my own. We have a Cuisinart electric ice cream maker which we use to make delicious sorbets. So, I asked myself, “Self, can our ice cream maker successfully make frosé?”

The answer is, “YES!”

Today I conducted a test run. Inputs:

    – 1 Bottle of chilled rosé wine
    – 1/3 c chilled simple syrup (see recipe below)
    – 1 Cuisinart ice cream maker w/ pre-frozen canister. Our model is ICE-25R but is likely replaced by a newer model by now.

Pour wine into the canister, add simple syrup, and stir. Put canister in ice cream maker and start her up. At 15 minutes it was freezing nicely.

I ran it for another 10 minutes and it looked ready.

I scooped some into a wine glass, added a paper straw (no plastic!), and put the rest into the freezer for later.

Delicious! I highly recommend. Cheers!

Simple syrup recipe:

– Heat 2 cups sugar and 2 cups water in a saucepan over medium heat. Boil 1 minute. Cool and refrigerate.

Shocking.

They say April showers bring May flowers.  But, they also bring colossal bolts of lightning.  We had some potent ones during the storms over the weekend.  Monte is still piling up and fixing the carnage at the chez.  The photo below doesn’t include the internet modem/router box that we had to replace, and two fried GFCI outlets, one fritzy raspberry pi, an LCD monitor power pack, and who knows what else.

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On a positive note, Monte didn’t get killed when he was outside and lightning struck nearby.

Tiny boats.

We met up with Kurt & Barbara tonight at the lake. We watched the remote control (RC) sailboat fleet races.

We watched the youth Laser fleet practice.

And we cashed in on two-for-one burger night at the marina!

Sheila’s law.

Murphy’s got a law.

Here’s mine:

Whole-house interconnected smoke detectors shall only sound their deafening false alarm in the dead of night.

Corollaries:

1. They shall do so several times in the same night, for non-deterministic lengths of time, leaving only enough time between alarms to allow sleep to nearly be achieved.

2. The one of all the sounding units which can silence all alarms must be difficult to determine, and must be located at or above 12 feet of elevation from the floor.

Sailing is HARD.

My sailing friends left Galveston on Saturday, December 1st, headed to the west coast of Florida, and arrived five days later on Thursday, December 6th.  I am thankful for this, but it was not an uneventful passage.

The tiny, purple vessel in the middle of this image, south of Lake Charles, Louisiana, was S/V Trident on Sunday evening, as they were making their way along the safety fairway amongst cruise ships, tankers, commerical fishing boats, and other ships.

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Before they left, I told Lori I’d be her land-buddy / emergency contact.  So I carefully recorded all the info for her float plan, and put the various Gulf of Mexico Coast Guard Rescue Coordination Centers on speed dial.  Monte was sending them localized National Weather Service weather updates every day, and we had the luxury of being able to see them on AIS as long as they were within reach of a receiver.  MarineTraffic.com is a website you can use to follow boats that have AIS transmitters.  Although, after about 48 hours they were out of range of land-based receivers and their location was no longer being updated.  After that, the only thing we had to rely on was Lori’s satellite device, a Garmin InReach Explorer+ 2-way communicator, which transmitted their position every 10 minutes, and allowed for terse 2-way texting.

This is the their track from their Garmin InReach device, through which friends and family followed their progress.  Screen Shot 2018-12-10 at 12.47.06 PM (1)

On Monday evening, their satellite device stopped sending updates (note the gap in their blue track south of Alabama).   Before Lori left, we discussed what to do in this situation – i.e.,  if their position was unknown and they were not reachable.  We agreed that if I didn’t see updates for a while, and after sending a text and not hearing back after waiting 3 hours, I’d officially start to get worried.

That happenend Monday night.  I waited 4 hours and then called the Coast Guard to ask if they could simply hail them through a VHF relay.  VHF only transmits a distance of 10-20 miles and S/V trident was about 200 nm off shore.  But ships commonly relay VHF messages from one boat to another and/or to the Coast Guard.  After a couple hours, the Coast Guard called back and said they were not able to hail them via a VHF relay.  Later that night, Coast Guard sector New Orleans called me back to say they had dispatched an aircraft to fly along their track to see if they could make contact.  God bless the Coasties.  Semper Paratas.  After 10 hours of not getting position updates, at 4 am, two things happened at the same time:  I got a call back from the USCG saying they had made contact with S/V Trident by radio, and S/V Trident’s Garmin tracker started updating again.   Lori sent a message after that saying that the tracker was buried under some cushions.  Whoopsie.  All good.  🙂

The next day, a cold front reached the eastern Gulf of Mexico and Trident was in its midst.  Late Wednesday afternoon, Lori sent me a message saying that they had lost steering and had not been able to hail the Coast Guard.   They were taking emergency steps and were able to regain control of the boat.  They were not in fear of losing the boat, but they were in distress.  I called USCG again, and the St Petersburg District monitored the situation for a bit, and then decided to send out their patrol boat given the bad weather and sea state at the time.  It took another 4 hours for the Coast Guard boat to close the remaining 40 miles or so to reach S/V Trident, who was still making way eastward.  It took another hour or two for them to establish tow and head back east.

All seemed to be good at that point.   But, then at 4AM, Lori texted that one of her crew had been injured, her sister, Janet, was thrown down the companionway in the violent seas.  The towing Coast Guard boat arranged for another boat to intercept with paramedics aboard.  Janet had fractured both her hips and endured 6 or so hours flat on her back in pain, on a boat thrown about in high seas.  Once inside Tampa Bay in the morning, she was transferred to another USCG vessel and to hospital where she is recuperating.  Thank goodness.

Sailing is hard.  You have to be ready for anything.  Sometimes all at once.

God bless the Coast Guard.

Canvaswork bits & bobs.

I have been entertaining / vexing myself for the last week or two with a further foray into learning to sew boat-canvas projects.  This time, it was two projects for Lori and Trident; a propane canister bag in her Sunbrella color (forest green), and a lee-cloth made out of Phifertex, bordered with Sunbrella.  A lee-cloth is a sheet of fabric attached to the open side of a settee in the salon of a sailboat; the purpose of which is to keep a sleeping sailor in her berth, as opposed to flying across the salon during a rough passage.

We could have used one on the crossing from Florida to Texas back in February.  On that trip, Joe was thrown from the settee while asleep during his off-watch time and hit his face on the other side of the salon.   I’ve never seen nor used one, but Lori and I did a bit of prototyping last time I was down in Kemah and I came home with a sort of pattern.  Her settee is about 6 1/2 feet long by 20+ inches deep.  We agreed that a 4′ x 4′ finished dimension would work, with a field of Phifertex, bordered by about 3 1/2″ of Sunbrella on front and back.  Lori also asked for a run of Sunbrella up the middle, to give it a bit more structure when strung up, and a pocket for phone, glasses, headlamp, etc.   It will be anchored on the boards below the settee cushions and secured fore and aft above the cushions, by smallstuff tied to grommets.   Lori picked Phifertex because it is an open mesh vinyl fabric, to allow for airflow.  I found it to be a great fabric to work with.   I’ll be ordering some for my next project – new halyard bags for Nirvana.  Stay tuned.

And…. Voila! <<use your imagination to envision this lee-cloth being displayed against the settee of a sailboat, and not the couch in my living room>>  The pocket ended up a bit wonky, as I was running out of material, but it’ll work.

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If you’re not into sewing or canvaswork, you may want to stop reading now.  Because I will document here some of the things I learned working with Sunbrella using my valiant, but limited, Kenmore model 385 sewing machine – for no reason other than I would have loved to have known some of this ahead of time, as opposed to learning by trial and error.

  • A walking-foot sewing machine (which mine is not) is really the right tool for the job.  As it consistently pulls the fabric from above and below at the same time.  My home sewing machine only has traditional feed dogs below.  As a result, the stitches are rarely consistently spaced, due to variations in how fast/smoothly the fabric feeds under the needle.  An industrial sewing machine is designed to handle the fabric thickenesses I’ve been doing and much more, with much more ease and less pain and suffering (and swearing) and re-doing on the part of the operator.
  • Longer stitch lengths are desirable.  The max stitch length setting on my machine is 4… not sure exactly what that translates to, maybe 4 mm stitch length (?).  But whatever it is, it is not big enough.
  • My Kenmore, surprisingly, has handled everything I’ve thrown at it so far, the max of which was about 6 layers of Sunbrella and 1-2 layers of Phifertex.  Not bad.  I’m using a 110/18 needle with V-92 bonded polyester thread.  If you want beautiful and consistent topstiching, however, you’ll need to spring for a Sailrite or similar walking foot, industrial machine.
  • Pinning through several layers of Sunbrella requires fingertips of steel.  After watching a number of videos, I learned that the pros rarely use pins.  They use double-sided basting tape to hold surfaces of fabric together until they are stitched.   What a great thing!
  • My sewing machine is not rigged to use the ginormous spools of thread canvas work requires, they are too big to sit on the tiny pin on top of the machine for a normal spool of thread.  In addition, the thread has a habit of falling around the bottom of the spool, aka “pooling,” which can mess with your thread tension.  Instead, they need to sit at table level (or lower) and feed up above and then down to the machine.  I don’t know what this doohickey is called, but I’ve seen them on industrial machines, and made one of my own out of a wire clothes hanger, cutting and bending it to do my will.
  • Speaking of tension, whatever the max tension on my machine is, it was not enough for some stitching tasks.  I had to literally pinch the top thread in my right hand to add additional tension so that stitches didn’t loop on top of the fabric for one or two parts of my projects.  I found this to be the case, in particular, when topstitching the webbing that I used on top of the Sunbrella for the propane bag projects.  It didn’t happen when stitching just Sunbrella and/or Phifertex, thankfully.
  • Sunbrella doesn’t like to stay folded very well.  If you run the point of an awl along your fold line, though, it yields a bit more, helping to hold a hem until stitched.
  • A soapstone pencil (a common quilting notion) came in handy for marking Sunbrella.   It marks the fabric nicely, and easily erases with a damp cloth.   I found a #2 lead pencil and eraser worked great for marking the Phifertex.
  • Cutting Sunbrella can be a pain, because it frays.  The right tool for the job is an electric hot knife.  But I stuck it out using only my fabric shears, followed by an application of glue along all the cut edges to minimize fraying.  This took forever to apply and to dry.  Then I took the time to double turn all the hems, so no cut edge was exposed.   If I do much more of this, a hot knife is definitely in my future.

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I’ll stop there.  If you’ve made it this far, thanks for reading!  I hope some of this helps a fellow newbie canvasworker.

No lions, tigers, or bears.

I checked the SD card on my critter cam yesterday.  I moved it a few weeks ago to point at the opening of a burrow I discovered that some animal had recently dug in the middle of our back lot.  I just wanted to see what I could see.  I captured countless daytime visiting backyard bird species (doves, blue jays, cardinals, titmice, wrens, mockingbirds,…).   But it turns out, it’s quite the popular nightspot.  Here are some snaps…it’s a jungle out there.  I thought these were the most interesting visitors.

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Nine-banded Armadillo – time to set up the trap again
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Gray Fox – we’ve seen this guy during the daytime as well
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Damn cat – this guy and several buddies are out here day and night, chasing my birds away
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Opossum
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Cooper’s Hawk – bottom left of frame
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Racoon – this guy also stars in some crittercam footage I took of our trash can
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Another dillo – this one is posing standing up on his hind legs, almost cute, no?

 

In case you are interested, this is a nice reference for wildlife of Texas put out by Texas Parks and Wildlife.

 

Sewing project for the boat.

The grill on our boat uses propane, the kind in the little 1 lb green Coleman canisters.   We have been stowing them in one of our cockpit lazarettes.  However, that compartment is not made to hold and properly vent propane gas, which sinks.  That means if a canister were to leak, the gas would collect in the lowest point of the boat; the bilge, waiting for an errant spark to ignite it.   Not good.

You can purchase a storage bag to hang on the rail of a boat to hold a few propane canisters, allowing any leaked gas to dissipate in the air over the water.  Magma (a marine grill vendor) sells one for under $35 which holds 3 canisters.  But it only comes in black and royal blue.  Nirvana’s canvas is navy blue (Sunbrella marine canvas in the color called Captain Navy).   For that reason, and also because I’ve really been wanting to try to sew something made out of sunbrella with my 20+ year old Kenmore 385 sewing machine, I decided to make it instead of buying one.

Lori happened to have an old bag in need of repair that I could use as a pattern, which was really helpful.   I ordered a yard of 60″ wide Sunbrella from Amazon, several 110/18 sized sewing machine needles, some size 69 bonded UV-resistant polyester thread, a heavy duty zipper, and some nylon webbing and plastic buckles.

The prototype:

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You can’t see them in the above picture, but there is a brass grommet and hole in the middle of the bottom of the bag, under that loop in the strip of webbing that runs along the bottom.  It is intended to allow water out of the bag when it’s hanging, if it rains.   The loop, I assume, is to tie a downhaul to the bag when it is hanging, so that it doesn’t swing back and forth while you are underway.  I decided to make my bag with 3 loops, and 3 grommeted drain holes, one under each loop.

The pattern I made, and some notions.IMG_6027

The first step was to install the brass grommets (which you can’t see in this pic either, but they are under the black webbing running down the middle of the canvas in the picture below).  Next step: pin and topstitch the webbing onto the outside of the bag, allowing for loops and buckles to be sewn in as you go.

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The next step was to sew the zipper on, and then sew the other two seams.  And VOILA!IMG_6043

View of side zipper.IMG_6044

I’m so thrilled that it turned out, AND that my current sewing machine was able to do the job.  I will definitely plan a few more boat canvas projects.

*smiling a satisfied smile*  🙂

Fountain 4.0.

A year or two ago, I installed a small water feature under the oaks next to our back patio. It was a small fountain powered by a tiny water pump (4W, 80 gallons per hour). The birds have enjoyed it almost as much as I have.

The first pump lasted about a year. I clean it every few weeks. But one day it just stopped working. No problem. I ordered another pump from amazon and installed it. A week later some varmit pulled the pump out of the water basin, and it ran dry until it melted. 😦

I bought a third pump and the same thing happened; probably by the same damn varmit. 😡

This time, I’ve placed the pump under a rock and added a piece of plastic tubing to carry a stream of water through holes in the rock onto the pebbles below.

Wish me luck!

Sterling silver jewelry cleaning technique.

I’ve read about an easy do it yourself way to clean up tarnished sterling silver jewelry. I finally got around to trying it today.

You’ll need:

– a piece of aluminum foil
– bowl
– boiling water, 1-2 cups
– baking soda, 1 Tablespoon per cup of boiling water
– some tarnished silver jewelry to clean

Crumple up the foil really well, place in an empty bowl, and nestle each piece of jewelry into the foil so it is making good contact with the foil. This is really important to ensure the electrochemical reaction required to clean the silver.

Boil the water, add baking soda, stir well and then pour into the bowl with jewelry and foil. The chemical reaction to remove the tarnish from the silver will bubble while it’s happening.

Wait 15 minutes or so. Remove jewelry and rinse well.

Tarnish results from silver reacting with sulfur-laden substances in the air, forming black silver sulfide on the surface of the silver. This technique reverses that reaction, causing the sulfur to instead move to the aluminum in the foil.

Before:

After:

Wasn’t that easy?! 🙂

¡Vamos!

The World Cup matches begin today. We cut the cord a couple of years ago, but will not be denied live coverage. Thank you, over-the-air Telemundo HD TV channel!

The USMT didn’t qualify, so I am all in for España. They play tomorrow.