Clark Beek

Marine Carpentry for Dummies

23 Feb

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To be a true marine carpenter is to live in the high country of the craft, because boats are curved every which way. There is seldom a right angle, seldom even a simple beveled angle, because all those intersecting curves mean that every place two pieces of material join together is a compound angle. To put a finer point on it, terrestrial carpenters can frame a four-bedroom house in a day or two. A team of talented marine carpenters can frame a 40-foot wooden boat in a couple of months? A couple of years?

I am not a marine carpenter, ...

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Advanced Electrical: Diodes

7 Feb

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The most common diodes on boats these days are LEDs, Light Emitting Diodes, which are changing the way we light our boats and use energy. They’re great! There are all kinds of specialty diodes in the electronics world, but the kind of diodes I’ll discuss here are basic, simple old diodes, the kind you could buy at Radio Shack for thirty-five cents, if Radio Shack were still in business. I always keep a few diodes in my box, because they provide a magic solution to some very specific problems.

Diodes are one-way valves for electricity. Place a diode along a ...

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Vendée Globe Nail Biter

18 Jan

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If you haven’t been following it, the leaders in Vendée Globe are within a day or two of finishing, to cap one of the greatest games of cat and mouse in sailing history. At the time of writing, after racing for 73 days and over 24,000 miles solo, Alex Thomson is only 34 miles behind Armel Le Cleac’h.

Alex Thompson has slashed the gap by two thirds in the last few days, in part by setting the Vendée single day record. Video here. You will also see in the video that Mr. Thompson is battling multiple equipment failures, but ...

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Electrical Fire! (and some lessons learned about starters)

3 Jan

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Voice Mail: “Hi Clark, it’s (name withheld). I was out sailing today with my daughter and we had an electrical fire on the new starter you installed. Because of the fire we lost the engine and hit the south tower on the Golden Gate Bridge, called the Coast Guard, and had to be towed back to our berth. When I opened the engine compartment there were six inch flames rising from the starter, but I was able to blow them out. I don’t know where that leaves us, but I’d sure like to speak with you.”

Not what a marine ...

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Shore Power Cord Economics

13 Dec

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Unfortunately, as in the photo above, the connectors on shore power cords often get toasty. It always seems to happen on the neutral connector (white wire in the US system) and I don’t know why. Maybe the electrons get all gummed up and dirty from being on your filthy boat, then get stuck on the way off?

Sometimes it happens on the male side too, and the guts of the shore power inlet have to be replaced:
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At any rate, a burned/melted shore power cord is bad, and should be repaired, but therein lies the rub. The new connector for ...

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New Chainplates

30 Nov

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I had to remove a few chainplates for an unrelated project and one of them broke upon removal. I guess I can count myself lucky it happened this way, rather than in full combat mode. Only 49 years old, and it just fell apart in my hand! I plan to write a strongly-worded letter to these Alpha England people about the quality of their product:
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I blame the dreaded crevice corrosion:
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Years ago I read something about replacing stainless chainplates with titanium, which is stronger, doesn’t corrode, doesn’t crack, and yada yada. I looked into it, and Holy Halyard Slaps! ...

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What Is It?

8 Nov

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I was working on a boat in a dry storage area in San Leandro, California, when I saw the boat above. What this strange aperture in its side? On closer inspection the outside of the aperture has fixed vents, made out of plywood:
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This outside part does not rotate. In the middle is a galvanized steel pipe, which is designed to rotate, as it is supported by several carrier bearings athwartships:
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But on the other side of the boat this axle just sticks out an inch through another hole in the topside, with nothing like the contraption on the starboard ...

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Advanced Electrical: Galvanic Isolator Case Study

4 Nov

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Once I was buying a galvanic isolator in a West Marine store, when a West Marine employee, of all people, was really insistent that I shouldn’t buy it: “Those things are a scam! They don’t do anything. I have it on good authority that they’re a big waste of money!” He had that look in his eye, so rather than get all marine electrician on his ass, I just said, “Well, my customer wants it, so I think I’ll buy it all the same.” There are a lot of misconceptions about the purpose of a galvanic isolator, and what it ...

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Advanced Electrical: Galvanic Isolator Case Study

4 Nov

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Once I was buying a galvanic isolator in a West Marine store, when a West Marine employee, of all people, was really insistent that I shouldn’t buy it: “Those things are a scam! They don’t do anything. I have it on good authority that they’re a big waste of money!” He had that look in his eye, so rather than get all marine electrician on his ass, I just said, “Well, my customer wants it, so I think I’ll buy it all the same.” There are a lot of misconceptions about the purpose of a galvanic isolator, and what it ...

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Teaching Marine Electrical Seminar In Sausalito This Saturday

25 Oct

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How many wrong things can you find in this picture?

If you happen to be in the Bay Area this Saturday, October 29th, I’m giving a marine electrical seminar at Spaulding Marine Center in Sausalito, where I will teach electrical excellence, simplicity, and how not to get electrocuted. They suggest a $50 donation and always provide a great lunch. Starts at 10:00AM; goes to about 2:30. Please RSVP. Link here for registration ...

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