All posts by Robert

A River Runs Through It

There’s something magic about living in Vancouver, and it’s easy to forget what an amazing place this is.

This morning I got up and took transit from North Vancouver to Richmond. One transfer and an hour later, I was sitting on the deck of Madsu at Skyline Marina on the Fraser River in Richmond.

I spent the next few hours motoring down the North Arm of the Fraser – enjoying a completely different aspect of Vancouver – one you forget is there when sitting in city traffic.

By the time I was off the river and into English Bay the sun decided to show up – and my trip over to Howe Sound and Horseshoe Bay was a delight.

So many different aspects to the city in one short day. From sitting on a bus in rush hour traffic to watching a bald eagle feast on a salmon. Gotta love BC.

Casino Sailing

We finally put Madsu in the water yesterday and sailed from West Vancouver’s Fisherman’s Cove over to the North Arm of the Fraser, and then up river to Skyline Marina.

We had about 20 minutes to kill while we waiting for the Midarm swing bridge to be available for a swing so we stopped by the River Rock Casino to check things out.

You gotta love having a casino within a short sail away…

Looking forward to exploring the river and making friends with all the working boats.

Turn That Thing Down

I’m putting the hardware back on Madsu’s spars after stripping and painting them. I’m super impressed with the results. The mast and boom are now a crisp and clean white –

Here’s a shot of the wiring just above the spreaders where it exits for the steaming light. The new conduit works like a charm. The duplex on the right continues up to the masthead for the anchor light.

Madsu Upgrades Slide Show

After taking a lot of bits and pieces apart, I’m finally reassembling Madsu and we’re just days away from getting her back in the water for the summer.

In celebration, I put together this little slide show.

  • Use the + and – buttons to go forward or back, or jump using the thumbnail images
  • Your keyboard page forward and page back buttons will also work
  • Mouse over the image to see if I’d added any notes…

Guest blog post at Vidfest

I was asked if I’d do a guest blog post on the Vidfest site – the post is here.

I’m also moderating a session called Crowd Pleasers on crowd sourcing at Vidfest this year. That means I can’t see Eric McLuhan so I hope someone podcasts it. (OMG, our session is competing with MM’s son!)

Really looking forward to it and the rest of the festi-conference. It’s always sunny and hot during VidFest, and I figure that’s at least as accurate a weather forecast as we’ve had all year.

VidFest web site is here.

Masthead Good to Go

Another crappy weather day, so no painting today, but I did work inside on bits and pieces of Madsu’s gear.

The masthead is done and ready to go. Yesterday I discovered that the new sheaves I got to replace the old wire sheaves didn’t actually fit.

I spent a bit of quality time with my Makita sander and the aluminum plate that acts as a spacer between the port and starboard pair of sheaves.

In the photo you can see the aft pair of sheaves – and the arrow points to the spacer that runs fore and aft and keeps the starboard side sheaves apart from the port side.

I didn’t want to sand too much since the sheaves just run free – there’s no bearings – the plastic sheave just runs on the pin – so I don’t want too much play in there.

The fit is perfect now – amazing what a little sandpaper on aluminum can do

With a new spin crane, a ridiculously expensive block for the spinnaker halyard, new anchor light post, Windex, and new sheaves for the all line halyards, Madsu’s sad little masthead has been transformed.

To keep me inspired while I’m working on this stuff, I’m reading There By No Dragons: How to Cross a Big Ocean in a Small Sailboat by Reese Palley.

(if you’re wondering what the hell that thing is sticking out of the TOP of the windvane, it’s the new ‘bird spike’ meant to keep freeloaders of the avian variety off the vane).

I should say that we sailed all last summer without the benefit of a masthead Windex. Instead we used Newport shroud telltales which were great, and we’ll keep them on board again this year.

Madsu Masthead

A lot of rain kept me from getting top coat on Madsu’s spars today. So I turned my attention to the masthead, where I’m adding an anchor light and a windvane.

Since I was installing a post for the light, which means tapping 2 holes in the mast head, I figured there must be a way to use the same machine screws to attach a bracket of some sort on which I’ll mount the shaft of the windvane. I had ordered a ‘special’ bracket from Catalina Direct that uses the upper shroud tang, but like a few things I’ve ordered, it doesn’t actually fit the hardware on my mast. When a boat’s 30 years old, who knows what kind of mods have been one to the rig, so it’s not a huge surprise, but a little disappointing since I can’t return it ;-(

After cutting a short length of aluminum plate, I bent it into a bracket using a vice and a ballpeen hammer – low tech but it worked out ok. It’s too long but I’ll cut and soften up the edges now that I know it’s all going to fit together.

I’ll drop in 4 new sheaves for the main and jib halyards as soon as I shave down the spacing plate (the new sheaves from Catalina Direct are a bit too wide – easy fix if I trim the spacer a bit), I’m switching to all-line from line/wire. And of course, the new spin crane looks very inviting !

Mast Conduit and Primed

One last thing to do before I can paint Madsu’s mast, and that’s installing conduit for wiring inside the mast.

Madsu had no steaming or anchor light, and last season I got by with a portable LED that I’d hoist when needed. It worked ok but wasn’t great. When I redid the electrical system last month I installed enough circuits to incude a steaming light and masthead anchor light.

I debated whether it was worth the trouble of running conduit up the mast – but figure if I don’t I’ll be regretting it the first night an anchor as the wires clang away inside the mast.

I opted for 3/4 inch PVC conduit that will have more than enough room for the 3 wires I need to run – plus room for VHF coaxial should I decide to add a masthead antennae later. I got a laugh when I saw the label on the conduit – C22 for a C22. Nice.

Of course the conduit has to be secured, or it will bang around. This is easier said than done.

The conduit is riveted in place using a technique I read about online somewhere. Starting at the base of the mast I was able to hold the conduit in place while I drilled a hole in the mast and the conduit and popped in a rivet.

From there it’s a matter of drilling a hole 6 inches or so along, using a small Allen key to hook the conduit through the hole (in order to hold it in place), then drill another hole a further six inches along and pop a rivet in. After I was done, I filled all the extra holes and was ready to etch, condition and prime.

The mast got it’s first layer of base coat this afternoon – the boom got its 3rd and final coat of base. I should be able to get a couple more coats of base on the mast tomorrow, then on to the topcoat in a couple of days, assuming the weather holds.

Madsu’s mast

With the boom primed and ready for topcoat, I’v opted to prep the mast so I can paint both spars together.

With the experience of working on the boom under my belt, things are going much quicker on the mast. Madsu’s stick is 25 feet 2 inches long.


After filling some old screw holes I sanded the entire mast down to bare metal. Tomorrow I’ll etch, condition and prime.

As with the boom, the hardest work was in getting the hardware off the mast. I was pretty luck and got most of the fittings off with little trouble. I did have to drill out 3 of the 9 screws used to fasten a 1 inch T-track on the forward end of the mast. You can see the corrosion on the machine screws in the photo below, as well as the remains of the screws I drilled out.

Madsu’s standing rigging is now taking a break – I guess it’s ‘sitting rigging’ for now.

I’m replacing the rope to wire halyards with all rope low stretch line. I’ve got a bit of work to do on the mast head fitting – there’s a new anchor light and windvane to attach, as well as swapping out the sheaves for the new halyards.

Naked Boom Gets Primed

I sanded Madsu’s boom down to bare metal yesterday as I get ready to paint it.

After removing all the hardware I sited all the new/changed hardware and drilled and tapped the holes. I’ll use stainless machine screws instead of the self-tapping screws the previous owner loved. I’ve filled all the old holes with Star Brite aluminum epoxy.

The spar’s in great shape. I used a rotary sander to get the mast stripped down then use my Makita sander with 220 paper to prep it.

I used PPG DX 533 to etch the boom, then quickly followed up with PPG DX 503 conditioner. I got both at my local Lordco auto parts store – way cheaper than trying to find the marine version of same.

Once the DX 503 was rinsed and the boom dried, I immediately got the first coat of primer on. You can’t let the aluminum sit for any length of time after treatment because of oxidization (so I’m told).

I’ve opted for the tried-but-true-but-messy-and-smelly 2 part primer.

The Interlux 2 part is a lot more trouble – it’s really 3 part because even after you mix the 404 base with the 413 reactor, you still have to thin it 20 to 25%.

I wasn’t really sure how to work with the base – it’s the consistency of pudding – and you can’t pour it. I just stuck a mixing stick into the can and pulled it out, about an ounce or so stuck to the stick and I was able to use this ‘honey stick’ method to measure out what I needed.

I first tired a small foam roller – that was useless. Next I tried a disposable foam brush – that worked better. But a regular paint brush works best of all – the paint is thick and spreads beautifully, and there’s no worry about brush strokes showing up.

(boom after 1st coat of primer)

I left it overnight and sanded with 220 paper and got a 2nd coat on this morning. The weather’s been cold and I’d prefer it was a bit warmer to make sure the primer is really baked – I’ll give it a couple of days then do a 3rd base coat.

Now that I’m confident with is all going to work (!), I’ll strip the mast and get it primed, then I’ll topcoat both the boom and the main at the same time. I’m using Interlux Perfection, another 2 part, for the topcoat.

A quick survey of my mast hardware turned up a few issues. I was hoping to replace the spreader brackets, so last fall I ordered a stainless set from Catalina Direct.

Turns out my spreaders are 1 1/8th inch in diameter but the new brackets are 1 inch. Ugh. I’m thinking I’ll either leave the old brackets (which Catalina Direct claims are prone to unexpected breakage) or visit my new best friends at the metal store and pick up some 1 inch aluminum tubing and make my own ‘new’ spreaders.

Outhaul Exit Tweak

I’ve finally finished tweaking Madsu’s boom for the new internal outhaul system I mentioned a few days ago.

In order to make sure the outhaul doesn’t bind when pulling on the main, I figure I have to get the exit block at the end of the boom up as high as possible – which actually means mounting it in the sail track.

So the challenge here was how to mount the Harken thru-deck turning block in what is essentially the sail track. I also want the block to be rock-solid.

Working on the farm with my dad and uncles, they’d often have to tweak some piece of machinery – and in French they’d call that tweak a “patent”. Cleary, that’s what’s called for here.

All I really want to do is bolt the block in place, but there isn’t room for me to get a lock nut on the forward end of the block. I probably could rivet it in place, but I’m not convinced that’s going to work.

So, I figured I’d make an aluminum plate that will slide inside track, under the block. I’ll drill and tap for fasteners and it should all work ! The photo below shows how I want the block to sit, tight up against the slot in the boom.

I’m not really equipped to be machining parts, but I figured with my jig saw and a bench grinder, I should be able to make something that would work.

It isn’t pretty, but it’ll be out of sight anyway. Not the simplest thing to cut with a jig saw, I’ll say that much…

Here’s my “patent” when I slide it into the sail track.

The idea is that the thru-deck block is now sandwiched between my “patent” and the top of the sail track.

All I need to do now is drop in a stainless steel machine screw, tighten it up, and my exit thru-deck block is rock solid (I’ve left off the block cover so you can see the detail a bit better).

This was the last bit of detail I needed to finish on the boom before painting.

I’ve now drilled and tapped holes for all the boom hardware, including cheek-blocks for reefing lines, the outhaul exit block and cleat, and a few more bits of hardware for line management.

I’ve opted to simplify the reefing system quite a bit, just going to use a hook at the tack. For the clew, I’ll just use a single line attached to boom, up through the through the ‘new’ clew, down to a cheek-block on the other side of the boom, and forward to a cleat near the front of the boom.

Last season I was using a single line reefing system, with the line brought back to the cockpit. This was the set-up from the previous owner, and it was a nuisance.

For one, I was always going to the mast to lower the main halyard anyway, so having the reefing line in the cockpit was unhelpful. When not in use, the long line was always getting in the way no matter how often I stowed it, and when we dropped the main, it was even more in the way.

My new North Sails main has 2 reef points, so I’ve got 2 identical lines set up at the clew end. From their cheeck blocks they go forward along the boom, lead through beckets to the cleat.

The boom is stripped of all the hardware now, all the holes are drilled and tapped, so if the weather improved a bit I’ll try etching and painting the boom in the next few days

Super Smash March

Nintendo is once again making a huge impact on the game market. Their Wii platform is a huge success and so is their portable DS platform. Both are outselling Sony’s playstation and XBox 360 by more than 2 to 1.

Despite a slow economy in the US, game platform sales are booming. The latest figures from NPD Group show that with Wii and DS, Nintendo owns more than half the total platform sales market:

Nintendo’s riding a huge wave of popularity with the recent release of Super Smash Bros. I wrote about this a while ago – March sales figures show Super Smash Bros. Brawl selling 2.7 million copies in March alone. Ars Technica puts that into perspective:

Nintendo sold a copy of Super Smash Bros. to 31 percent of its US installed base in one month. Just when our expectations are set for what Nintendo can do in sales, the company comes up with a new way to blow away the competition. Nothing in software or hardware came close to touching what Nintendo did this month (full story)

Ars Technica also has a great article on how all the companies spin the numbers.

Madsu Boom Mod

I’m getting set to paint the mast and boom on Madsu before putting her in the water this year.

But before I get there, I’ve got a few modifications to make, so I’ve commandeered the picnic table and set up for some serious mucking-about-time.

I started with the boom, stripping all the hardware so I can replace the self-tapping screws with tapped versions.

I’m also fixing the outhaul – the previous owner seemed to think a piece of line wrapped around a becket at the end of the boom was a proper outhaul. It drove me crazy last season, but since the main was pretty bagged, I put up with it.

Since I’ve got a brand new North Sail main for this season, and I was stripping the boom down anyway, I thought it was worth the trouble of making an internal outhaul system based on Gene Ferguson’s excellent 1997 design. Using Gene’s diagram, I ad-libbed a bit, using Harken 225 and 226 microblocks and New England V-100 1/4″ braid and sticking with wire for the 2nd block and exit out the thru-deck at the aft end of the boom to the clew.

Since the exit at the boom-end is wire, the thru-deck block is nice and small, and through the magic of the Dremel tool I’ve managed to cut a nice slot for the block. It sits in the foot channel and is just big enough to reach into the main section of the boom where the guts of the outhaul are hidden. Having a swaging tool makes working with wire a breeze – I picked up a hand tool at West Marine last year and have used it a lot more than I thought I would.

I’ll have more pictures soon – the outhaul is rigged and sitting in my cupboard with the new sail.

HSBC and MasterCard Battle Phishing with Phishing Technique

Here’s a little internet security quiz for you.

You’re planning a trip and are using the internet to reserve a lovely B&B in Scotland. You’ve filled out reservation information and now are going to use your credit card to pay.

You fill in your card number, expiry date, the 3 or 4 digit security number on the back/front of the card, your name, home address etc.

You press “SUBMIT”

After pressing submit, a window pops up, taking you to a different site, where you’re asked to fill in some of the same information you’ve just given, plus your date of birth.

You should:

a) cancel the transaction immediately
b) never put in the additional information being requested
c) copy down the address in the window and call your bank immediately
d) all of the above – you’re being phished.

If you answered a,b,c, or D, you’re correct.

Unless of course you have a Mastercard account.

Because, for some bizarre reason, this is exactly the technique Mastercard has begun using to try to bring ‘more security’ to your online transactions.

And it’s bound to fail miserably.

The scenario I described above is exactly what happened today. The popup looked like this:

Now, pop-ups are bad enough and always put me off.

But this one comes from a domain I don’t know (its not my bank or mastercard.com) and it uses the same kind of language I always see in those spam emails. You know, “free service”, “get it now” to make things more secure – oh, and guess what – you can’t complete your transaction without doing so…

We immediately bailed on the transaction fearing we’d been phished.

In a way, we had been – except it wasn’t a bad guy – it was Mastercard

OMG. Whoever talked them into this new online security move apparently doesn’t actually use the internet.

To make matters worse, even if you were going to institute such a lame scheme, you’d think Mastercard would tell their customers via their monthly statement that this was coming. You know, a heads up ?

Didn’t happen.

After spending 20 minutes on the phone with our bank, HSBC, we were reassured that this is legit.

I should point out that if you go to securecode.com you will be redirected to Mastercard. However, if you try the URL that was in the popup – a subdomain – you get a very un-Mastercard looking error screen (click it for a larger version)

This plan is doomed to fail. Mastercard’s new securecode system sends off alarm bells for even the most seasoned internet shopper.

Ironically, Mastercard may in fact reduce internet fraud by reducing internet transactions – their new system will cause people to cancel their transaction for fear they’re being duped.

Madsu’s New Andersen Winches

Madsu’s still on the trailer in the driveway. It puts a crimp on sailing, but is handy for doing upgrades.

I’ve just finished replacing the electrical I didn’t get to last year, pics on that soon.

Today I finally got the new self-tailing winches installed. As I mentioned a few weeks ago, I pulled the old Lewmar winches off the cowling along with the cleat –

20080321_coaming.jpg

I managed to get the fiberglass fairly clean, filled the old holes, and drilled six new holes for the new Andersen winches –

I picked up some 1/4 inch aluminum plate from Express Metal supply in Burnaby and cut & drilled some backing plates –


With some help from Garnet and Matthew, bolted the new winches down, and they look downright lovely – even if they are on a boat in the front yard !

Podcast with JER Envirotech

I’ve just posted a new podcast with Edward Trueman, President and CEO of JER Envirotech in Delta BC.

JER Envirotech is a British Columbia company at the forefront of new technology that’s changing the thermoplastics industry and helping the environment at the same time. When JER Envirotech was first founded ten years ago, the goal was to find a way to use organic materials in thermoplastics.

The idea was simple – instead of sending waste wood to the landfill or burning rice hulls – why not make use of these products by combining them with polymers to create a new kind of thermoplastic.

While the idea may have been simple, the science is not. With help from the National Research Council of Canada, JER Thermoplastics has been able to find a way to do it.

Podcast is on the At Large Media web site here.

It’s also on VanGoGreen.com here

Matt Mullenweg feature interview Podcast

In my heart I’m still a capitalist…the most powerful thing you can do is marry profit motives with community motives.

– open-source software creator and entrepreneur Matt Mullenweg

I’ve just posted the interview I did with Matt Mullenweg, founder of WordPress, when he was in Vancouver for Northern Voice.

The podcast is on the At Large Media website.

The interview followed his keynote speech, which is also online here.

Special thanks to kk+ for helping arrange this.

Boarders Do It On Credit

You really have to wonder how the wheels can fall off to the point where our national athletes are paying their own way to events. It’s not like they’re NHL’ers rolling in money.

CBC today has the story of members of the national snowboarding team and how they’re struggling because of lack of a major sponsor…

Snowboarder Alexa Loo told CBC she racked up a credit card bill of more than $5,000 taking planes to races in Japan, Korea and Lake Placid, N.Y., during the season only to miss the final race in Italy because she couldn’t afford the airfare. full story

Surely some fine Canadian corporation would like to be associated with the coolest (and apparently poorest) athletes at the games.