Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Rigging Knives

As many of you know I am a bladesmith (Ben Potter, Bladesmith, Privateer Armoury ) and have been working on sailor and rigging knives. I thought I'd post about the progress here as it is pertinent. Today I was testing one of the knifes that I have selected as a possibility modification as a sailing knife. As a sailor I wanted to know not only how the blade would perform for normal use but to push it way beyond what it should ever experience out on the water. I didn't wast time on the finish as I planned to do destructive tests. You can still see the heat colors from softening part of the spine of the blade. The first test was to clamp the blade in a vice and snap the tip off. I used a 6# sledge hammer and it took 6 hits (none of them soft) before it broke. I then did some minimal grinding on the profile and sharpened the blade for the "cutting" tests.
Here are the results.
Blade testing: clockwise from top right: 3/4 nylon rope, insulated solid copper wire, 12ga extension cord, 1/2" marine plywood, stainless steel control cable, 1/16" stainless steel, 1/8" stainless rod, 16 penny nail, 1/2" rebar, 1 1/4" hardend steel well drilling cable.
The knife cut through all the non-ferrous materials with surprising ease no damage whatsoever. The rope, wire, and extension cord were cut with out any additional tools other test pieces were cut with the aid of a 5# sledge not because it needed that much forge but I wanted to test the blade with a greater impact than would be seen in normal use. Having worked with the plywood in the past I was expecting a more difficult time cutting it but it parted without a struggle. When cutting the stainless there was slight dulling of the edge but no chipping. The steel nail did leave some deformation as is to be expected. After the cutting test I decided to see what the limits of the blade were. The first victim was a piece of 1/2" rebar. Laying the edge on the bar and striking the back of the blade with the sledge. The edge bit into the rebar but in turn suffered moderate deformation but there was no chipping or cracking. During the stainless cable test I cut trough the cable and into the cutting face of the anvil, then continued to pound the back daring the blade to twist or break. The only test that the blade had any trouble with was the hardened well drilling cable (I was not aware that it was hardened until after the test) which did take a small chip out of the edge. All in all I was very impressed with the quality and look forward to crafting quality sailing knifes from these blanks.
I should mention that I was wearing full protective gear (full head/face mask. leather apron, gloves etc.)as I expected the blade to shatter during the testing from the impact and severe torsion from the round faced
hammer blows. DO NOT  ATTEMPT ANY OF THESE TESTS ON YOUR OWN AS THEY ARE EXTREMELY DANGEROUS and WILL damage any knife subjected to them!!

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Too Rough

This trip to the island was a disaster- or an adventure, depending on how you look at it.
We arrived on Monday morning after an uneventful ferry ride, loaded the tender we were borrowing and headed for the main pier to get ice and milk. Then we took the tender to the fuel dock to fill up. After mixing the correct amount of oil into the fuel, we started for Grace.

We managed to make it about 100' before the engine quit. No amount of yanking on the starter, fiddling with the choke, checking the fuel lines, and squeezing the now-soft bulb in the fuel line had any appreciable effect. We drifted back to the fuel dock, tied up, and tried another round of tricks to get the motor to behave, all to no avail. Now, if one is using one's own boat it is relatively simple to start taking things to pieces until you find the problem, but with a borrowed boat it is not that easy. So we called the owner and waited for him to come down the the dock and see what he thought about it.

 Another set of skills and tricks were put to the test, and still nothing. By now we had figured out that there was a block in the fuel line, but every section when checked was functional. We decided to tow the tender back to the main pier and consult the outboard repairman who has his shop there. On the way we met Capt. Voyle, who is spending the summer in Avalon working as a mechanic and who taught us to sail. We took the fuel line off and started checking it piece by piece again. I forget who found the problem, which was with the quick disconnect going to the tank. Since the outboard repair shop was closed, Corrie, Roo and I walked over to the hardware store to get a new part. We were informed that they no longer carried the part we needed, so we went back to the outboard shop and waited for the proprietor to return. When he arrived, it took him about 30 seconds to recognize the problem, and five minutes to fix it. Having gotten the tender running again, we headed down the coast to Grace.

Getting on board a forty-footer without a boarding ladder is never all that easy, but getting on board in steep 4-5ft seas is just plain difficult. Add a small child and heavy supplies to the picture, and you have the makings of a hair-raising time. It took almost an hour, but at last everyone and everything was safely aboard. That evening, Corrie made brownies and sloppy joes, and we evicted the flying fish from the cockpit and had an excitingly turbulent dinner there.

Grace was designed to have over 1200lbs of engine just aft of the main salon, and since we have no engine at the moment, you can feel the difference with every wave. To a couple of novices, that night felt like trying to sleep in a roller-coaster. We were either hanging on to the side of the berth or pushing against the opposite wall. Roo loved it and slept for almost fourteen hours straight, but it was a bit rough on the rest of us. Morning came with no change in the swell, and after trying vainly to get something done, we decided to spend the day in Avalon. We climbed down into the dinghy and set out for shore. About 100 yards up the coast, the engine started the bog down. A quick look showed that the prop wasn't fouled. Another minute and the engine quit.

It is one thing to have your engine quit inside the harbor where you can easily get a tow or just drift to the dock, but losing power out on the open sea in a strong current is altogether different. To make matters worse, we found that one of the oars had half of the blade broken off. I set them into the oarlocks and attempted to row for shore.

If you are ever buying oars for your tender, think twice about getting the nice short ones that fit out of the way. 4 1/2' oars make for tough going. Fortunately we were able to hail a passing PWC and they very kindly offered to tow us in. (Side note: I will NEVER make disparaging comments about seadoos again). They had to let us off at the entrance to the harbor as their jet got fouled. So we rowed over to the dinghy dock. 

The plan for this trip was to have Corrie's family stay with us on Grace for a few days later in the week, but after seeing how rough it was we all decided it was best to postpone their visit. So we spent a lot of time at the park, much to Roo's satisfaction, and walked through most of Avalon by the end of the day. Capt. Jim kindly lend us his 14' inflatable that evening and we motored back through the lively seas to Grace for the night. The seas were a bit calmer, which was greatly appreciated, but the forecast predicted progressively more energetic seas as the week progressed. In the morning it was much calmer from 05:00-08:00, and we were reminded why we love being afloat. We loaded up the inflatable and made it into town in time to meet the Marina Del Rey flyer, and talk to Captain Zack about getting out tickets changed to that evening.

After another day walking around Avalon and learning more about the island, we headed home on the 5:00 boat to Marina Del Rey. It was not a very productive trip in terms of making progress on Grace, but we learned a lot more about dealing with life on the water. We didn't get many pictures, as we were just trying to do what we had to.

This one sums up what it was like:

NOTE: If you haven't ridden the Marina Del Rey Flyer to Avalon or Two harbors you should give it a try. It takes almost twice as long as the other ferry, but the service is really great. On the way to Avalon, we saw blue whales close by, and the captain slowed down and told the passengers about the habits of blue whales. On the way back, Corrie was nauseated by the motion of the waves, and the captain and the bartender improvised simple syrup for her drink. Folks, THAT is service.