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Category Archives: West Advisors
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“We have a great team, a great boat, and great sponsors,” said Chris Larson as he completed his preparations for the 2009 Melges 24 World Championship, in Annapolis, MD. Larson and his West Marine Rigging/New England Ropes team walked away from the rest of the 51-boat fleet during the six-day regatta. Without sailing the final race, they were crowned the 2009 World Champions with a 25-point margin over second place.
Larson approached the World Championship with the goal of winning it. After placing 5th in the 2008 North Americans in Annapolis, Larson and his core crew, which included long-time teammate and experienced bowman, Curtis Florence and Olympic Medalist, Mike Wolfs, knew what they had to work on. They recruited Richard Clarke, the winning tactician for the 2003 Melges 24 World Championship, as their tactician. The team also sailed the Melges 24 Worlds Tuning Regatta, the Pre-Worlds and additional practice days to give them the time on the water they needed to peak at the Worlds.
Larson credits his sponsors, West Marine Rigging, New England Ropes, McLube, Harken, and the City of Annapolis/Downtown Annapolis Partnership for supporting the campaign. Said Larson, “Our campaign is totally dependent upon them and it is great to have behind us 100%.”
Larson and West Marine Rigging’s relationship dates back a handful of years and was cemented in 2007 when Larson’s West Marine Rigging Team won the Melges 24 Pre-Worlds in Santa Cruz.
Said Larson, “I was flattered when West Marine Rigging agreed to sponsor my team and introduced me to their supplier, New England Ropes. They have been supportive in providing standing and running rigging through their Rock Hill, SC facility. As the Melges 24 and 32 OEM rigging supplier, West Marine Rigging is knowledgeable, helpful and eager to work with us to enhance their product. They helped us replace rigging that showed signs of wear and tear before our first Annapolis training session and we have collaborated with them on modifications to the Smart Rigging backstays and other upgrades.”
West Marine Rigging provides OEM standing and running rigging for all Melges 32’s and for the more recently built Melges 24’s. Said Julian Richards, Manager of the satellite rigging shop within West Marine’s Store 41 in Annapolis; “We knew that we had a competitive team when we began our arrangement with Chris. He has an excellent track record here in Annapolis. He is also thorough when it comes to boat maintenance. We replaced all of the running rigging in preparation for last year’s North Americans and were exceedingly pleased with the team’s performance. Leaving no margin for error, we replaced all of the running rigging before this year’s Worlds and also replaced the boat’s turnbuckles.”
In anticipation of the walk-in traffic for the regatta, Richards and Store 41 prepared a number of Melges 24 running rigging packages. Said Richards, “Our Rock Hill, SC warehouse supplies us with standing rigging and fittings for all types of sailboats. The cruising one-design sailboats such as the J 30’s, Cal 25’s, Catalina 27’s and Pearson 30’s represent a good portion of our business, and it was a pleasure to accommodate the racing sailors who were here for the Melges 24 Worlds and other regattas last week.”
“West Marine Rigging congratulates all the competitors at the 2009 Melges 24 World Championship on an outstanding regatta. Special congratulations to Chris Larson and his championship-winning crew; Richard Clarke, Curtis Florence and Mike Wolfs, on their tremendous performance aboard the West Marine Rigging/New England Ropes boat. We’re proud to be the rigging supplier for the Melges 24 class,” said Matt Wise, West Marine Rigging’s Senior Director of Rigging Services.
What They Do
Layers of special clothing for active boating, such as foul weather gear, fleece jackets and long underwear, help keep us warm, dry and comfortable regardless of changing weather. We can’t always depend on the weather being balmy and inviting when our schedules allow us to spend a day on the water. Boating weather may range from freezing conditions for New England frostbite to very hot and humid tropical weather for offshore fishing in Miami or cruising in Baja California. Staying comfortable means staying safe. If you are shivering and using your body’s energy to keep warm, if you have cold hands or numb toes, or conversely if the interior of your foul weather jacket feels like a steam bath, your ability to function and make sound decisions may suffer. You may have difficulty gripping a line or maintaining your balance on a bounding foredeck. Fortunately, wearing the right kind of layered boating gear helps you maintain a pleasant “microclimate” around your body by controlling temperature and moisture.
How They Work
At rest, your body gives off about 1/4 cup (2 oz.) of sweat per hour. With moderate activity like sail trimming, that amount increases to about a pint per hour. With heavy activity-changing a sail in rough weather or fighting a powerful fish, for example-output increases to a quart per hour and heat becomes a factor, too. Since water absorbs heat 25 times faster than air of the same temperature, so that wet skin gets cold faster than dry skin, staying dry is a key goal of any system of layered boating clothing. Proper layering helps keep the moisture migrating away from your skin, insulates you appropriately for the conditions, and allows you to shed layers to stay comfortable when you increase your activity level.
Modern clothing systems consist of three layers, used in lots of combinations to control heat transfer and manage moisture. Some combination of layers will be right for just about every condition, whether it’s a complete system of wicking and insulating layers worn under waterproof, breathable offshore foul weather gear, or a simple T-shirt and jacket combo using a wind- and spray-proof shelled jacket. In extreme cold and wet conditions and at varying activity levels, comfort can be improved dramatically through proper layering. Several carefully selected layers of clothes are warmer and more versatile than a single heavy layer.
The Base Layer: Constructed of nonabsorbent stretchy, double-knit synthetic fibers, the base layer or wicking layer is worn next to the skin. Capillary or “wicking” action of this “hydrophobic” or water repelling fabric facilitates the transfer of moisture away from the skin. Wicking allows the body’s natural evaporation process to maintain body temperature and preserve a layer of warm, dry air next to the skin-a very important part of staying comfortable. Polyester and polypropylene are the primary fabrics that are used to create hydrophobic (water repelling), slippery, sheer and very light material. Fabrics such as Dupont’s CoolMax and Henri Lloyd’s Fast Dri are designed to move moisture away from the skin. Our selection includes both short and long sleeve tee shirts, and short and long pants.
The traditional fabric, cotton, is inferior to these synthetic fabrics at removing moisture. Wearing a cotton base layer, which absorbs up to 25% of its own weight in water, reduces the effectiveness of high-performance outer layers.
The Insulating Layer: Worn over the wicking layer, the insulating or mid layer acts as a buffer between warm skin and cold air or foul weather gear fabric. Its job is to reduce heat loss from convection by limiting air circulation, trapping a layer of warm air near the body. Wool, since it retains some insulating ability even when wet, is the traditional insulating layer. Modern synthetic fibers like fleece are even better insulators because they are lighter, dry quickly, pass moisture outward and don’t mildew. Densely woven fabrics, like the Polartec® family of polyester fleeces maintain a warm layer by trapping air within themselves. The insulating mid layer can be removed as conditions warm up.
Insulating layers are available in three varieties. Windbreakers are very lightweight, and can increase the warmth of layering systems, but have little insulation. Shelled fleece garments combine the wind and water protection of a windbreaker with an inner layer of fleece for warmth. Fleece garments, made of 100% polyester, are ideal insulators. Fleece is soft, lightweight, and has a high warmth-to-weight ratio. Even better, fleece doesn’t absorb water, dries quickly, and stays warm, even when wet, making it an exceptional thermal midlayer. It doesn’t itch or chafe, so you can wear it next to your skin. It’s washable and shrink-proof. A miracle fabric? Almost. Fleece is not windproof or waterproof. However, some fleece fabrics are now produced with coatings or laminates, such as Polartec Windbloc®, that make garments windproof for added warmth. Others, like Polartec Wind Pro®, are made with a tighter weave to block wind penetration. Shelled jackets combine the benefits of windbreakers and fleece. They provide protection from wind and water, and provide warmth. They have style, too, which makes them both popular and useful boating garments and casual wear. The insulating inner layer is usually fleece and the outer “shell” is usually nylon treated to reduce wind penetration and repel water.
The Weather Protection Layer: The outside layer keeps water and cold air out of the inner insulating layers, and aids them in preserving the temperate microclimate inside your layering system. Your choice of an appropriate exterior layer depends on whether or not rain, snow, spray, or wind is a factor. Stopping wind penetration is relatively simple with the use of a tightly woven material, a coated fabric or a fabric with a wind blocking membrane. Stopping moisture is far more complicated..
Non-breathable foul weather gear keeps water out, but it also traps perspiration vapor inside. Breathable foul weather gear will allow moisture from inside your layering system to pass through to the outside, keeping you dry and comfortable.
Choose a set of breathable foul weather gear that matches the kind of boating you do and the typical conditions you encounter during the season. Do you use your boat only during the day, or do you spend time on deck or in the cockpit at three a.m.? If you regularly operate your vessel on overnight excursions in nasty weather you should consider Offshore-rated equipment, but for daytime-only use, Coastal or Inshore gear may suffice. Highly breathable gear that is easy to adjust is especially important, as perspiration can easily overload your foul weather gear’s capacity for shedding moisture when you engage in intense activity. Afterward you will feel cold and clammy. Look for hoods, zippers and cuffs that are easy to adjust.
The extremities, especially the head and neck, are where most of the body’s heat loss takes place, so protection is critical for the head, neck, hands and feet. The layering principles apply here, too. Bulk can be a serious negative factor, especially on the hands, so garments combine the functions of several layers. Cold weather gloves use a waterproof, breathable nylon exterior, and are fleece lined for insulation. Palms are reinforced with amara, a synthetic leather that does not curl, shrink or harden, and Kevlar, the material used in bulletproof vests.
Wearing insulating head protection can reduce the risk of hypothermia and is essential for keeping warm and comfortable on a cold watch. The West Marine Orca Hat, for example, has a DWR (durable water resistant)–coated Taslan nylon shell, so water beads up. It is lined with Wind Pro® fleece, which is tightly woven so it blocks wind four times better than normal fleece.
Many boaters have no incentive to spend more for high-tech synthetic socks, and will instead wear cotton. The problem with this approach is that cotton retains moisture, and it is this moisture that causes friction and blisters. For years, many in the healthcare field recommended all-cotton socks to prevent foot problems. This is the biggest myth out there! Cotton absorbs moisture and in socks, that moisture stays next to the foot creating an ideal environment for bacteria and fungi to grow, and for blisters to form. Stay away from all-cotton socks!
Modern socks, like our Fox River Wick Dry® socks, work just like other base layer clothing. They move moisture away from your feet, using hydrophobic yarns (like CoolMax) that won’t absorb perspiration vapor next to your foot, and hydrophilic yarns on the outside to draw moisture out to where it can evaporate, keeping feet warm and dry even during active sports, or while wearing clammy boots.
Wearing layered clothing helps keep you dry and comfortable, because each layer is only required to do one thing well. A hydrophobic wicking layer of long underwear worn next to the skin disperses perspiration outward. A middle insulating layer traps warm air, providing a barrier from cold outside air or fabric, and helps funnel moisture to the weather protection layer. The breathable outside layer uses hydrophilic, water vapor absorbing coatings or microporous membranes like a heat-driven water pump, allowing water vapor molecules to escape. Solid water molecules are blocked, along with wind, from entering. With each layer performing its designed function you stay dry, warm and alert, however hostile the outside environment.
Avoiding Winterizing or Freeze Damage
Guess which state had the highest number of freeze-related insurance claims. Michigan? Minnesota? Try California, according to the marine insurers at BoatUS. Folks in the deep-freeze states take their bitter winters seriously, but in the more temperate states like Florida, Texas, Louisiana, Alabama, Georgia and California, mild climates lull boaters into ignoring the forecasts for the occasional freezing weather. Cold snaps can do a lot of damage to your boat, but in another week the temperature may climb back into the 60’s—perfect for boating. How do you protect your boat from a cracked engine block or other damage and still go boating when the weather warms up?
Engine compartment heaters, like those from BoatSafe and XTreme, are a safe and effective alternative to winterizing your engine (or engines). They cycle on and off in temperatures between about 40°F and 55°F and are safer than home space heaters or a constantly burning 60W light bulb. Those “quick and dirty” alternatives have caused many fires and sunken boats.
Engine heaters work best when you place covers over your boat’s bilge blower vents. The best method we have found is to have a canvas shop or an upholstery shop make a set of simple, inexpensive “snap-on” covers to fit over the vents. When you are ready to use the boat, simply remove the vent covers. When you leave the boat, snap the covers back on. This will keep the cold, damp winter wind out of the engine compartment, and keep the heat in.
Remember that a boat stored out of the water loses heat much faster than a boat in the slip. If you store your boat suspended on a lift or on its trailer, you should also cover the outdrive unit, in addition to covering your bilge blower vents. A similar snap-on cover or a heavy-mil plastic garbage bag slipped up over the outdrive and tied at the top will prevent the engine compartment heat from dissipating through the exposed metal.
When a freeze is forecast, you can also put your boat back in the water, since water provides greater insulation than air. Boats stored in the water can use de-icers (see our Maintenance section) to circulate the water below your slip to prevent your boat from freezing in.
Heating the Cabin
A good cabin heater makes life onboard much more pleasant in the early or late season. Boaters in temperate climates may require only minimal heating. During summer boating we use our West Marine Portable Cabin Heater for only a few minutes when we climb out of the V-berth on our Newport 30 sailboat in the morning. That, and a galley stove, are all we need to heat the cabin with outside temperatures in the 50°F range.
Extending your comfort range and your boating season requires a real heater. Boaters often choose a heater that uses the same fuel as their galley stove or engine for safety and convenience. How much BTU capacity do you need? One simple rule of thumb to maintain a 36° temperature differential (68° inside the boat when the outside is freezing) is to multiply the cubic volume of the interior by 15 (for powerboats) or by 12 (for sailboats) to get BTU capacity. Our 30′ sailboat with about 800 cu.ft. would need about 9,600 BTU, for example.
Discussing combustion heating requires a few words about safety. Carbon monoxide is a colorless, odorless, invisible, and very toxic gas. CO is produced by incomplete combustion of a carbon-based fuel—such as gasoline, wood or kerosene—burned in an atmosphere with insufficient oxygen. Every year, malfunctioning or improperly vented heating appliances cause hundreds of deaths or chronic illness brought on by less than lethal carbon monoxide levels that go undetected. Take precautions against this threat.
Look for propane heaters with oxygen depletion sensors that shut off the fuel supply when room oxygen levels fall below 95% of normal (ABYC 26.5.11). Always keep a hatch open when using unvented heat sources, know the symptoms of CO poisoning (which are sometimes mistaken for those of seasickness), and purchase a carbon monoxide detector, located in our Safety section. Then enjoy the warm comfort of your cozy cabin.
Reverse Cycle Air Conditioning Systems
Cabin Mate Reverse Cycle Air Conditioners cool your cabin, and also act as a “heat pump,” running backwards to warm the interior of your boat. They let you extend the boating season into the spring and fall, and are a good choice for liveaboards or cruisers who travel between tropical and cool climates, providing one system that can efficiently cool and heat the boat. Though affected by water temperature, they can cool your boat in 90ºF waters and heat your boat in waters as low as 40ºF. More information on how to select a reverse cycle AC system is in the West Advisor on Climate Control.