3/15/2012 – Another safety imrovement

Way back when we were in Newport, Oregon, before we ever ventured down the coast to Mexico, I replaced the lifelines in the cockpit with rigid stainless steel rails. The main reason for this was so that we’d have something to mount our solar panels to. However, the added security of rigid rails helped to make the cockpit a wee bit safer. Gave us something to hang onto when the boat was rockin’ and rollin’, too.

Last summer, while we were cruising the Sea of Cortez, the solar panels were usually oriented in the horizontal position, the better to catch the sun’s rays. In the early mornings, I might lower them a bit to catch the rising sun better and, of course, they were set vertically whenever we motored anywhere as the engine-driven alternator was more than ample for keeping the batteries charged. Once in awhile, I’d come out on deck and notice that the previously horizontal panels were drooping a bit. I’d loosen the clamps, raise them back to horizontal and then tighten the clamps again. Later, I’d come out and find them drooping again. WTF? I’d loosen the clamps again, reorient the panels and then really reef down on the clamps. One time, right after doing this, I leaned lightly on a panel and it immediately drooped under very little pressure. That’s when I realized that the clamps weren’t at fault. Rather, the rail the panel was clamped to was rotating.

To give you a picture, here are what the fittings that hold the rails look like:

The only thing keeping the rails from turning inside the fitting is a set screw on each end. The set screw on the elbow is underneath. Even if the set screws are tightened down as tight as possible (considering the size of the 1/8″ allen wrench used, this isn’t really all that tight), it doesn’t take too long for the rail to start turning if it’s got a big enough lever on it. And the solar panels are pretty big levers.

Even worse than the solar panels turning, one time I got to looking at the rails and noticed that one end of the tube had almost completely backed out of the fitting. That could have resulted in, at the very least, the loss of a panel over the side and, in the worst case… well, let’s just not think about the worst case. Something had to be done.

The easiest and most obvious fix was to drill a little dimple in the tube (rail) so that the set screw would be able to burrow in and not just be jammed up against the side of the tube. I did this and it worked OK for quite awhile. But, over time the set screws must vibrate loose because eventually the tubes started turning under the weight of the solar panels again. Today I took the more serious step of replacing the set screws altogether.

I drilled a 1/4″ hole clear through the fitting and the tubing and thru-bolted the pieces together. I used a Nylock washer as well as Loctite to ensure the nut won’t come off of its own accord. Drilling through the stainless steel was a PITA but I eventually got it done.

Right now you’re probably saying, “Well that’s fine, Steve, but what the heck is that twisted nylon cord in the bottom picture about?” Well, I’m glad you asked. After I removed the set screws, I wanted to make sure that the tubes were seated all the way into the fittings. One way to do that would be to dig out my pipe clamps. Unfortunately, none of my pipe clamps are long enough to span the distance between stanchions so I’d have to clamp two of them together. Awkward but doable. However, you would not believe how much stuff has to be unloaded from the under-settee locker in order to reach the pipe clamps. And, since this was going to be a most-of-the-day project, all that stuff would have to sit out until I was done unless we wanted to unload and load the locker twice (we didn’t). Hmmm…. What would Popeye do in a fix like this?

I know! A Spanish windlass! Yes sir, that’s the ticket! So I strung a loop of nylon line between the stanchions, pulled it as tight as I possibly could using a trucker’s hitch, and then started twisting it up using my largest allen wrench for a handle.

Before long, that nylon was bar-tight. I gave the fitting a whack with the rubber mallet, heard a ‘pop’, and tightened the windlass a few more turns. I could tell by looking into the set screw holes that the tube was definitely seated further into the fitting than it had been before. At this point, I drilled my holes, inserted the bolts and released the windlass.

Obligatory food content:

Butter Braid:
It occurred to me that not all of you may know what a butter braid is. I’ve mentioned them a few times and a few days ago Lulu made me one for my birthday breakfast along with scrambled eggs. This is a butter braid:

It’s a pastry made by layering dough and butter like you do for croissants then dressed up with a sugar glaze and chopped almonds. SO GOOD!

Comfort Food:
A couple nights ago I made a casserole for dinner. Its author called it a Tostado Bake. As soon as I get permission from her, I’ll print the recipe here. It’s really easy and really REALLY satisfying in a Tex-Mex taco casserole kind of way. Matter of fact, for those of you who are Silver Crest alumni (that’s right, I’m talking to you, Nori), this is a LOT like the taco casserole Lulu used to make you at school.

I was so glad there was enough to have it two nights in a row.

BTW, I am planning to make a recipe page that will contain the recipes we use here on this blog. In some cases, when I can’t get permission to reprint them, I’ll provide a link back to where I got them on the web.

¡Bueno Provecho!


About sryoder

Steve & Lulu... retired. Had enough of the cold wet dreary fall/winter/spring in the Pacific Northwest. Bought a boat, fixed it up, sold our home and sailed to Mexico in November, 2010. Been here ever since except for occasional forays to the States (summer only, thank you) to visit the kids, parents and siblings. If you're looking for a sailing blog, this is the wrong place. This is a traveling, hunkering in, eating blog. Sailing is just how we get from place to place when we can't walk.
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18 Responses to 3/15/2012 – Another safety imrovement

  1. Tate says:

    Don’t know how big a deal it is, but when you change the pressure on the stanchions by applying horizontal pressure to them I’ve heard it can cause them to leak by breaking the sealant when they were bedded. I hope you didn’t pull them inwards too hard.

    • sryoder says:

      Oh, what’s a few more leaks?

      • Tate says:

        I suppose we’re not the only ones with leaks. How do you keep your bilge water in good shape? I thought of throwing a chlorine tablet or something down there but don’t really know what that would do to the bilge pumps.

      • sryoder says:

        We actually don’t have too many leaks. All we do to the bilge is make sure we have some oil pads down there to ensure no oil goes over the side. It doesn’t really seem to get too stinky. At least not stinky enough to notice.

  2. MWhite:LittleCunningPlan says:

    If you post those recipes here, I’m in real trouble. That looks so inviting!

  3. Marilyn (Crutcher) Williams says:

    I love your blog Steve and Lulu. I wonder about Audrey and how she is. I talked to her on the phone before she moved and she sounded sad and not well.I hope you can update me. All three of my girls are here as are three of my four grandchildren and my two great grandchildren 9 and almost 16.

  4. Rowan says:

    Interesting, I will need to keep that in mind when we get around to installing our solar panels. I never feel that set screws are very secure, especially with all the vibration and motion on a boat.


  5. Eric says:

    Heheh! I know what you mean about wanting to avoid going into the recesses of the settee lockers! Last year I was in the head when I got waked big time and I was thrown into the door, breaking it up pretty badly. I needed to squeeze the frame together until the glue dried, but my clamps were in the same place yours were, so I resorted to using the same technique you did, except my crank handle was a screw driver. Great minds…..
    W28 Clementine

  6. Norri says:

    Awww the Silver Crest days! I don’t think I have ever had a bad meal made by you guys. I will be looking for the recipe once you post it and I’m gonna have to attempt to make it like lu! I hope you guys are doing well, and just love reading this blog! Not missing much up here, we might be going more snow in the next few days ugh….

    • sryoder says:

      Hey Norri… I vaguely remember snow. It’s that cold, white stuff, right? Looks pretty for a day or so and then just turns into a giant PITA. When we post the recipe for the tostado bake I’ll have Lulu post her taco casserole as well. Either one is real easy to make. Say “Hola” to your Mom and Ronni for us. And sorry about misspelling your name in the blog. We actually discussed it and decided (wrongly) that it had just one “r”. Take care. -Steve

  7. Dani says:

    That Butter Bread looks sinful! Happy late Birthday??

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