With a last-minute cancellation by our planned speaker the April meeting took on an unusual, impromptu flavour.
Dave Oakley opened with a song.
Frances Miller kicked of a “show and tell” session with a batch of unusual items she and James had found indispensible during their 15-year circumnavigation. They had been the world’s most unsuccessful fishermen with line and lure, but, with a heavy duty magnet (that James had salvaged from a transformer) they had retrieved many tools and other metal items that had “thrown themselves over the side”.
She went on to extol the virtues of “plastic-do-dahs”: plastic caps, bottle stoppers, plugs and other small plastic or rubber items. Things we all throw away daily but that they hoarded. You never know when they might be just the thing to temporarily plug a fuel line, water piping or a hole in the deck. And a blocked gas jet can be cleared with a fine plastic price tag tie.
Salvaged telephone wire has many uses, number 8 fencing wire (on which the New Zealand economy was built, she claimed) is extremely useful stuff but a wire coat hanger makes a good substitute. Again, uses abound.
There’s a thing called an Electrician’s Mouse, also known as a Cable Draw Tape – great for feeding cable, inside a mast, say. A bamboo with a cup hook at one end might just retrieve a lost item, from a deep bilge; or capture a loose halyard before it disappears up the mast.
Her pièce de résistance was a diy repair trick using petrol and bits of expanded polystyrene foam. They’d learnt about a magic porridge-like stopping material from an elderly Cuna Indian they’d met off the Atlantic Coast of Panama – made by mashing the foam into petrol. With it he had expertly repaired his dug out canoe. Epoxy putty is great but we don’t always have it to hand. And who would have guessed that chewing gum will seal a diesel leak, something Frances discovered by chance, a case of desperation leading to inspiration. The picture you see on the right is of Hollandes Cays, San Blas Islands. It is relevant – ask Frances if you’re interested!
Frances concluded by telling us of the wonders of Australian Shade Cloth – a material similar to netting used by builders on scaffolding or at garden centres – a loose weave of polyethylene which blocks 95% of UV rays. It is very light, very easy to sew, comes in many attractive colours, and is easy to secure to guardrails with re-usable plastic butterfly clips.
Next up was Barnaby Scott who had that day received in the mail some strange-looking and curvaceous white plastic rudder fittings, manufactured for him using laser-sintering (3D printing as the hacks would call it), by a specialist company, to whom he’d sent a data file defining the shapes. These, reverently passed round and stroked, are the plugs from which moulds will be made for bronze casting. The really clever bit was to factor up the size from the computer modelling of the items by the amount of predicted shrinkage. High-tech or what!
Roger Backhaus (engineer at heart) reminded us that a while back one of our speakers had claimed that the most important contributor to sailing safety was the diesel engine. Whether or not one subscribes to that theory there is no doubt that to be in the running (!) the engine has to actually work. And a common reason for it not to is a failure in the cooling water pump. He encouraged us all to fit a clever bit of kit (Speedseal) that makes it significantly easier to maintain or repair these things, even in the dark in a lumpy sea (the usual conditions, akin to usually having to change a car wheel in the dark, in the rain).
Roger is also a fan of the eye-nut, and the eye-bolt. There are lots of nuts and bolts on a boat, and every one is a missed opportunity to replace one or both ends with an eye – to lead a line, or tie or shackle something to. It will be strong, in all likelihood, and avoids drilling another hole.
We ended with a heated discussion around how best to tuck in a mainsail reef on a Bermudian rigged boat, single-handed, with the wind astern, when big seas are running and turning into wind does not seem like a good idea. The question is one of those very good questions to which there are no very good answers…