Monday, November 20, 2017

Attention Documented Vessel Owners

If you have a documented vessel (that is, one whose title is issued by the US government instead of a state government), you are familiar with the springtime drill of refolding and sending the notice (with a check, of course) to Falling Waters, West Virginia (incidentally, this is where Frank Lloyd Wright's famous Falling Waters house is).

Well, I quite recently received an official-looking notice that looked kind of like an updated version of that Falling Waters one:

Is it real?

Well, it turns out this is a not-quite scam.  Despite the official appearance (even watermarked!) and a website with a .us domain, this is NOT from the Coast Guard.  Instead, it is from a company that will helpfully handle your registration re-up for a slight fee - three times what the Coast Guard charges.

Given that for most of us, signing the form and checking the box that confirms that nothing has changed is not a Herculean task.  It seems silly to involve a third party to do that for you.

How do you know that this is not the real deal:  Look carefully at that logo.  See where it says "U.S. Vessel Documentation Inc?"  The Coast Guard is not a corporation.


In their defense, it does not appear that this a full-on scam.  Rather, it is apparently it is a legitimate service, meant to catch the distracted unawares.  If you read the letter carefully, it does indeed disclose the service they are providing.

BoatUS provided a warning about this not-quite-scam in one of their recent magazine issues; I read it and thought I had filed it away for future reference.  But when this letter arrived, I put it in the bills-to-pay inbox.  It was only later, when I realized that the timing was off (it's not spring...) that I read it more closely.


Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Kidde Fire Extinguisher Recall

If you are compliant with US Coast Guard regulations, you have a fire extinguisher aboard.  In fact, you probably have more than one...  And in your house there is probably one under the kitchen sink, in the garage, etc.  There is an excellent chance that all of these were manufactured by Kidde.

Not these...
Well, get ready for this:  Kidde has recalled more than 40,000,000 of its previously sold (since 1973) fire extinguishers.  It seems that some of the units had plastic handles or nozzles which were prone to fail at just the wrong time, meaning that depending on one of these units was worse than having none at all.

According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), “The fire extinguishers can become clogged or require excessive force to discharge and can fail to activate during a fire emergency. In addition, the nozzle can detach with enough force to pose an impact hazard.”

The BoatUS Foundation for Boating Safety and Clean water is urging recreational boat owners to check their boats for the recalled extinguishers and get a free metal-handled replacement by going to the CPSC recall website.

The recall affects both plastic-handle and push-button Pindicator Kidde fire extinguishers, including 134, ABC- or BC-rated models manufactured between January 1, 1973, and August 15, 2017.

The extinguishers are red, white or silver and were sold in the US and Canada through a wide range of retailers from Montgomery Ward to Amazon. The CPSC recall website shows how to easily identify the affected extinguishers.

In the recall, Kidde also acknowledged the free replacement push-button extinguisher being sent to personal watercraft owners is similar in size to the recalled model but may not fit in the same location as the old fire extinguisher.

“This may require a slightly different mounting orientation or location,” said BoatUS Foundation Assistant Director of Boating Safety Ted Sensenbrenner.”

CPSC says there have been approximately 391 reports of failed or limited activation or nozzle detachment, including one fatality; approximately 16 injuries, including smoke inhalation and minor burns; and approximately 91 reports of property damage.

Kidde may also be contacted toll-free at 855-271-0773 from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. ET Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. ET Saturday and Sunday.

The company offers additional recall information online at by selecting “Product Safety Recall.”

Monday, October 30, 2017

How Washington's Derelict Vessel Program Works: A Real World Example

We get tangled in a sunken vessel in Friday Harbor - incident detailed here
I report the sunken vessel to the DNR, who run Washington's Derelict Vessel Program, mostly based on funds collected from boaters when they pay their state registration fees.
Vessel is listed as priority 4 as a result of my contact, per Jerry Farmer of the DNR
(A year passes)
A new version of Vessels of Concern list is published (they are published twice a year - the link points to the 10/2017 version)...  our sunken vessel has gone missing from the list!
I notice that the vessel has disappeared from the list and I contact Jerry Farmer at DNR, asking why the vessel was removed from the list.
Jerry Farmer replies that "...San Juan County is an authorized public entity (APE) that has the authority to remove vessels in accordance with RCW 79.100"  and that he had closed the DNR case on this vessel accordingly.  He also said, "However; some of our APE’s remove these vessels without following the custody process. If this is the case then they will not receive reimbursement from DNR’s derelict vessel removal account".  He referred me to Mark Herrenkohl of San Juan County, and also cc'd Mark.
Mark Herrenkohl contacts me and asks if I have the WN number of the sunken vessel.
I reply to Mark, telling him that in the confusion of having to hire a diver to get loose from Friday Harbor I did not have the foresight to ask the diver for the WN number on the vessel (assuming there was one...)
I query Mark, asking if there has been any progress
Mark responds that they have asked NOAA to mark the wreck on their charts.  And that they think the harbor is a busy place and maybe they shouldn't mark the wreck with a buoy.  He also says they are "talking about next steps."

So the current status, after the passing of a year and 4 months of conversations with very friendly, courteous, and open government officials, is that the wreck (and it's two sisters) is still on the floor of Friday Harbor, waiting to snag someone else's anchor or rode.  And I still avoid Friday Harbor, taking my boat and my patronage instead to Roche Harbor.

Apparently I screwed up big time by not asking the diver for the WN number, which would have allowed San Juan County to pursue the custody process with the last registered owner and therefore secure reimbursement from the DNR for the raising and disposal of the vessel.
SO REMEMBER:  If you ever have to hire a diver to get loose from a sunken wreck, ALWAYS GET THE WN NUMBER off the wreck!

Monday, October 9, 2017


Looking up at things

For several years now, Eolian has sustained a small yet nagging intermittent leak at the mast partners - where the mast penetrates the deck.  After several failed attempts to locate the leak or to pre-emptively stop it, I removed the interior trim and examined things from below, while it was raining.  And leaking.

I was relieved to see that the water was...
  • not coming down the mast, which would indicate a leak at the top of the boot - one of the places I have very carefully examined several times, and
  • not coming out of the foam deck coring, which would mean a wet deck.  Whew!
Instead, the water was appearing at the joint between the deck ring and the deck.  Tho I have repeatedly attempted to seal between the deck ring and the deck externally, it has never been rebedded.

Removal of the mast wedges

So I pulled up the boot and started the removal of the deck ring. I had thought it was a complete ring, but soon found out it was two half-rings, each held in place with three screws.  Well, not quite.

Half the deck ring is off
On the port side, the ring was less than a half, by about 1/2".  Apparently the end of the ring broke off, either in fabrication or during installation.  The pieces were cut from a teak plank - they were not laminated.  At the ends, the grain runs across them, and it is easy to see how an end could have been broken off.  What is a little more difficult to understand is that the installer solved the problem of the missing 1/2" of deck ring by simply filling the gap with what, I surmise, was a giant blob of polysulphide.  Now, after 39 years, it was as hard as a rock.

And so was the sealant that was between the ring pieces and the deck.  I had not given much thought to this, but the mast wedges driven in do bear somewhat on the deck ring.  And as a consequence, the rock-hard "sealant" broke loose from the deck instead of flexing.

Thus leakage.

Add a strip of 1/8" thick white butyl tape
After everything was dried out, I wiped things down with paint thinner and allowed it to evaporate off.  Then I applied strips of 1/8" thick white butyl rubber tape to the underside of the ring pieces.  I then screwed things back in place.  A couple of revisitations to the screws were required as the butyl continued to squeeze out of the joint.
Gap filled
The problem of the missing 1/2" of teak I solved by trimming down one of the wedge pieces and driving it into the gap (lined with butyl tape), and cutting it off flush.

Handy stuff

The final step was to line the complete outside of the ring with some self-adhesive aluminum-backed insulating foam tape, meant for preventing condensation in air conditioners, etc.  On the sides, where the boot hose clamp has little clamping pressure (the mast cross section is rectangular with rounded ends), I applied multiple layers so that the hose clamp would have something to bear against.

Does it leak?
Never thought I'd say this... waiting for rain.  To see if it leaks...

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