About Sunny Spells

Descriptive posts about Sunny Spells, her equipment, history and performance.

Wet Exhaust Alarm: Cheap Insurance

Soon after I acquired Sunny Spells, I experienced the dreaded “exhaust muffler meltdown”. We were motoring out to a twilight race when the exhaust note suddeny changed and a lot of smoke was emitted from the engine room. We had the main up already so the engine was killed immediately and we continued the race. After the race we picked up a mooring under sail (lucky I was not on my own).

I established that a cooling hose had come off (a separate story could be told about the cause). The plastic water lift muffler had melted and a very simple fault had now resulted in a nasty repair job. Graham Friend, having decades of experience, had fortunately saved the engine by killing it instantly.

After a bit of “Googling” I found what appeared to be the perfect solution to avoid a repeat of the problem. Borel Mfg in the US makes an exhaust temperature alarm that claims to activate immediately should the exhaust temperature rise. It seemed to be reasonably priced at $89 and I ordered one straightaway – it arrived after about a week. Installation was simple enough – the most onerous task being the wiring. I chose to install the alarm below, but ran a repeater wire to the engine alarm in the cockpit.

Borel Wet Exhaust Alarm

Borel Wet Exhaust Alarm

I’ve often wondered whether it actually works – it’s just been sitting there for two years, making a quick beep whenever the engine is started… Recently, however, it finally paid for itself many times over, when a raw water impeller failed, and saved me a lot of hassle and expense. The engine and exhaust system was saved by the exhaust temperature alarm when a brand new raw water pump impeller failed. The story of that event is the subject of an earlier post…

I spent a bit of time rigging a long-wire antenna at home today to see what sort of range is practical for HF Weatherfax reception:

  • The antenna is now about 20 metres long, made entirely from inexpensive hookup wire.
  • The antenna is L-shaped, with one leg oriented East-West and the other North-South.
  • I’ve also connected an earth wire to a copper stake just outside my window, significantly reducing background noise.

To my delight the little Degen DE-1103 receiver pulled in the Wellington MetService broadcast on two of the four frequencies! That’s 1,000 nautical miles! Local weatherfaxes from Charleville (WMC) are now clean and crisp.

HF Weatherfax received in Sydney from Wellington

HF Weather Fax Reception

It hasn’t been really necessary on my last trip, being mostly within range of VHF weather forecasts, but getting offshore weather via HF WeatherFax has intrigued me.

If you’re carrying a notebook computer anyway, the only thing you need is an HF receiver with SSB (Single-Side Band) capability. Most people think megabucks when they hear “HF” and “SSB”, but a very inexpensive receiver will actually do the job. I bought a Degen DE1103 off E-Bay. You simply connect the output from the receiver to your notebook’s microphone input and then use one of the available software packages to decode the fax data received on the appropriate frequency at the given time! I use SEATTY from DXsoft, an amazing piece of software that literally does everything for you!

Receiving a fax using SEATTY

I was amazed at the ability of the little Degen DE1103 receiver (read some reviews here). Even at home, with the supplied 12 metre long wire antenna strung among trees, I can usually get quite clear fax reception. Out at Curlew Island one night, I strung the wire antenna from the forestay to the backstay, and found the receiver was overloaded with the sensitivity switched to “DX”. On “LO” I had perfect reception!

HF Weatherfax received with Degen DE1103 receiver and notebook running SeaTTY

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A preventer’s principal role is to keep the boom (and mainsail) from flogging when running in moderate conditions, especially when the main is set by the lee. Under these conditions, the rolling of the boat can make the boom swing back far enough to backwind the main and start off an accidental gybe.

A preventer is great and I use mine (read details of Sunny Spells’ preventer in this post) most of the time when going downwind (“gentlemen don’t sail to windward”, so that’s a lot!), but you really don’t want it to be the only thing restraining the boom when the poo hits the proverbial…

Regardless of how you set it up, during a planned gybe the preventer has to be let off and re-set on the lee side. SO, this is NOT a part of the running rigging that you can (or should) rely on when the going gets rough or you need to do things quickly. This was graphically illustrated to me recently when crewing on a fifty footer in the Sydney – Gold Coast race: with wind gusting to 45 knots we had to gybe, and opted for a “granny gybe” (tacking the bow through the wind) to reduce the strain on the rig. The crew responsible for the preventer was a bit slow throwing it off, resulting in a pad-eye ripped off the bow and a broken preventer line which proceeded to wrap itself around the prop… Thank gawd we didn’t attempt a gybe!

Also, if you really get the boat out of shape and the main is backwinded, you need to release the preventer pretty smartly, and if you can’t, it needs to be fail-safe – i.e the line should break at a lowish force rather than a high one (this is where the boom brake comes in). Imagine the 2 tonnes of force in a 1/2in preventer being released instantaneously when it breaks! A recent post on CruisersForum suggested using a velcro strop to attach the preventer to the boom – this sounds very sensible as it would allow the preventer to release in an emergency without breaking anything.

Boom Brake

Before I left Sydney for Hamilton Island in May, I rigged a boom brake (details in an earlier post here) to control the boom during gybing especially when sailing short-janded. The boom on a sail boat can be lethal:

Preventer using a figure 8 rescue descender

The boom brake was initially a bit of an obstacle on the side decks, but I got used to it pretty quickly. I initially thought I might unshackle it from the toe-rails when it’s not in use, but never got to the point where I felt it necessary (we were running most of the time though).

I run my jacklines OVER the boombrake lines, which also keeps the tether hooks off the deck, at least over that area. However, having an intermediate “catch point” in your jacklines (by running them uner the boom brake) is not such a bad thing – if you get washed along the deck by a “green one” you’ll get stopped midway rather than dangling over the transom! It’s just the clipping and unclipping (on a dark and stormy night…) that becomes an issue.

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