Sep 25, 2012

Waterproof iPad lifejacket by Forward

I wrote in spring a blog post about waterproof tablet computers and waterproof cases for iPad and mentioned then that we were planning to purchace a Lifedge iPad case made by Scanstrut for this season. However, we could not find this kind of a case for our 1st generation iPad anywhere. All the web stores that we checked were showing empty stocks.

We were in a hurry as the season was approaching and thus, we decided to order another iPad case "Lifejacket" by company Forward. The price tag for the Lifejacket was about 80 € in the SVB web store, so it is a less expensive alternative compared to Scanstrut's model. The waterproof Lifejacket case basically provides protection against dirt, water, sand and even some light knocks. It should also float on the water surface - I have not dared to try this yet! The case is also easy to use and iPad can be installed relatively quickly.

However, the iPad Lifejacket is sort of no-frills version compared to the Lifedge case for example. Due to the simpleness of the design, it has some limitations. First of all, the case does not have a switch for on/off or volume control. Only the iPad's home button can be used with the case. This a major drawback, since one of the nice qualities of the iPad is that it can be switched on from the stanby mode within seconds. Therefore, you can turn it on for say ten seconds to check some details from the chart, and then switch it back to stanby mode. This way the battery lasts a lot longer. However, as this cannot be done with Lifejacket, I had to change the iPad to turn automatically into standby mode after a  minimum time interval (two minutes) when not used.

Plastic edges of the case are a bit too wide in my opinion, and therefore the case takes too much additional space compared to the device itself. Furthermore, in terms of aesthetics this case has a very plastic feel, and it is not the fanciest product on the market. I bet that Steve Jobs would not been happy about this kind of add-on for an Apple product.

The touch screen remains naturally fully functional through the case, although the iPad is less sensitive when used with the case. One problem with the case is that the matte screen makes it even harder to see the iPad in direct sunlight through the case. Therefore, in good weather we often used iPad without the case to improve the visibility. We have not tried other iPad cases, so it is impossible to rate, how Lifejacket fares in relation to competitor's products in this respect.

Is it worth the money?
Well it depends. For us it was worth the investment especially as this season was quite wet and we  ended up using it quite often. And when it is raining, there is usually no problem with the visibility in  sunlight. Personally, I would spend some extra money for a case, that has a better visibility and all the buttons function through the case. On the other hand, when compared to some less expensive plastic bags for iPad, I consider Lifejacket better as it gives some protection for the iPad.


Sep 20, 2012

Soda blasting the underwater hull

Our renovation project got a kick start on weekend, as the underwater hull and keel were soda blasted clean of old epoxy barrier coat and multiple layers of old antifouling. The work was done by Samuli and Toni from the company Waterproof Solutions Oy.

I actually started scraping off old bottom paint from the keel last autumn, but soon it became evident, that it would take ages to clean the whole bottom this way. Hand scraping the bottom during the dark November evenings did not sound too tempting either. Furthermore, it is very important that the hull has enough time to dry before applying new epoxy barrier coating. Thus, old bottom paint should be preferably removed already at autumn.

In general, fiberglass is not totally waterproof, so epoxy barrier coating is required to the underwater parts of the hull. Full bottom paint renovation is an expensive and time consuming job, but when properly made, it should give a long-term protection against osmosis. Therefore, it is rationale to try to get it right the first time, since there have been many occasions where hull develops blisters just few years after renewing the barrier coat. If the hull is still wet when applying the barrier coat, the moisture is sealed in the hull. In Nordic countries the winter lay-up period is often as long as six or seven months, so the hull has a chance to dry during the winter. However, in case the hull is wet, the new and more effective barrier coat hinders this drying process and may result in blistering in a few years time. Thus, it is important to get proper moisture readings from the hull before applying new coating.

We decided to have the underwater hull blasted right after Dolphin Dance was hoisted out of the water. New barrier coat and antifouling will be applied in the spring. For removing the old bottom paint, we opted soda blasting, which I consider the most advanced and environmentally friendly hull cleaning method. It is gentle for the gelcoat surface compared to sandblasting where a lot of gelcoat is potentially lost. In soda blasting, basically a normal baking (or cooking) soda is sprayed against surface using compressed air. Soda is a natural and water-soluble product, so the residues can be rinsed with water.

Waterproof Solutions is run by two sailors, so they have expertise in boating. The company offers also moisture measurement and osmosis analysis services. Furthermore, they have ozonator and spray extension cleaner equipment for rental, which we tested already at spring. Blasting the bottom of Dolphin Dance turned out to be quite a challenging case, because the old primer was sticking very strongly at some places. I am not sure what epoxy primer Hallberg-Rassy used twenty years ago, but it seems to be sticky! Therefore, some spots were blasted with a glass bead instead to improve the efficiency of the blasting.

In general, I am very pleased with the outcome since the surface is mostly ready for applying epoxy coating after just some light sanding. At some places, where the glass bead blasting was used, some filling and fairing with epoxy is required before applying a new barrier coat.

Waiting for the blasting

The bottom had built up multiple layers of old antifouling paint over the years 

The cover under the boat gathers the bottom paint, so it is not left to harm the environment.

Dolphin Dance stripped naked! The spots on the keel where scraped off last autumn, and primered in spring.

Sep 17, 2012

Dolphin Dance is out of the water

The coming winter is going to be a bit different for us as Dolphin Dance is going to be laid up indoors at Paraisten Venekeskus for quite an extensive renovation. This has actually been planned for over a year now; the project started taking shape last autumn as it became obvious, that Dolphin Dance needs full bottom renovation, i.e. new epoxy barrier coat and antifouling. The underwater hull had multiple layers of old antifouling and the original epoxy primer was worn out at some places, so this job had clearly been postponed for too long. This will be also a good opportunity to check the hull for moisture and repair potential problem areas in order to prevent any future issues.

The second major item in need for renovation is the rudder. First, the rudder stuffing box needs maintenance or replacement, as it had some leak issues in the previous season. Secondly, the hairline cracks on the rudder blade were fixed last spring, but now it is a good time to take a closer look at the rudder, as there is probably some moisture trapped inside. Furthermore, the rudder bearings will be checked for wear.

Thirdly, the teak deck will be checked carefully, as we have had some problems with the caulking. All the potentially damaged areas will be re-done during the winter. Additionally, there are a lot of smaller items which need care and replacement after over twenty years of service. For example, all the winches including the anchor windlass, are serviced during the winter.

Paraisten Venekeskus was chosen for the boatyard, because it has good facilities for boat renovation during the winter at their special repair hall. Some other boat sheds that we considered had strict limitations for the work that can be carried out.

The season is over; lowering the pennant of the Finnish Navigational Association 

 The mast was unstepped

Hoisting the boat with the trailer goes smoothly. Good thing with this system is that there is no pressure to the topsides.

As part of the service, the hull is carefully washed after the lift - first with a pressure washer... 

...then, the yellow algae near waterline is treated with acid mixture. It is left for 10 minutes before rinsing with water...

...then the hull is washed with a Fairy.

After this treatment, the hull is gleaming and ready for waxing! This is really how the hull should have been cleaned every autumn to make the spring maintenance a lot easier! 

Sep 12, 2012

Final sail of the season: Helsingholmen-Sandön-Brännskär

On Sunday/Monday there was the last chance to go sailing this season, before Dolphin Dance would be laid up for winter. We started (me and my father) on Sunday afternoon with a nice downwind sailing leg to Helsingholmen. Dolphin Dance was already located in Stormälö, where she will be wintering this year, so it was only about three hours' sail to Helsingholmen.

On Sunday, there were a lot of boats at sea, but after the weekend, the archipelago gets very quiet. We were actually the only guest boat staying in the popular Helsingholmen on Sunday evening. 

On Monday morning, we motored first to nearby Sandön, which is an uninhabited island, located just about a nautical mile northeast from Helsingholmen. I have sailed past the Sandön many times, but have not previously visited this unique island. The Sandön, like Jurmo in the south, is a part of the third Salpausselkä, which is a moraine ridge system, formed during the ice age. Sandön has nice sandy beaches, which makes it pretty unique in our rocky archipelago. The beaches around the island are quite shallow, so we anchored in the bay on the northeastern corner of the island and used the dinghy to get to see this island.

From Sandön we continued to Brännskär, where new guest harbour has been opened just two months ago. We actually sailed past this harbour on our way to Aspö one week ago, and saw quite many boats staying there. This time we decided to check out this place. It is indeed a cosy, small harbour with very beautiful surroundings. The harbour might be unsheltered at certain winds, but there is a good new pontoon and multiple buoys for visiting boats in the harbour. 

For the Monday evening, we continued to Stormälö to prepare Dolphin Dance for the winter, as she will be lifted on Friday. The feelings are a bit down, as the season is over now. On the other hand, it is good to have the boat prepared early for the coming winter and maintenance tasks. 

Sep 4, 2012

Autumn Archipelago tour - part II: Aspö-Stormälö

The sailing season 2012 is almost over for us as Dolphin Dance will be lifted and laid up in two weeks' time. She is going to spend the coming winter indoors at Paraisten Venekeskus in Stormälö, as there is some larger maintenance work scheduled for the coming lay-up period. More info on this coming later.

As there were just two weekends left for sailing, we decided to go at the sea even though the weather forecast for the weekend was quite wet. Rainy weather was forecasted also for the previous weekend, but then the weather turned out to be much better than expected. Unfortunately, this time the meteorologists faired better and especially on Saturday, it was raining all day long.

On the other hand, the wind was good during the whole weekend - about 10-12 m/s from southeast on Friday and Saturday. On Sunday the wind veered to southwest making it just perfect for coming back from the south. We started on Friday with a short 15 nm beating from our homeport to Airisto Strand. Marskär Open -sailing competition was also held this weekend, so after we had arrived, the harbour started to get full of boats participating in the race.

Beating towards south with full genoa and 1st reef in the main sail. 

The boats participating in the race were getting ready for the start, as we left.

We continued from Airisto in Saturday morning - just before the racers started outside the harbour. In terms of sailing the leg was good, but grey and rainy weather made the sailing less enjoyable. Actually we were first planning to sail to Jurmo, which is one of the southernmost larger islands in the archipelago (see this blog post on Jurmo at Balticsailing). However, due to the lousy weather, we decided to stop earlier at Aspö, some seven nautical miles north from Jurmo. Aspö is one of the most beautiful fishing villages in the archipelego, but unfortunately the weather on Saturday was pretty miserable for seeing the island. However, we enjoyed a great sauna in the evening, which felt luxurious after a pretty wet day of sailing.

On Sunday the weather turned better and the sun actually shined in the morning. We had a chance to see this beautiful island and take some photographs. On afternoon we continued from Aspö towards our coming boatyard in Stormälö, where we arrived in the evening. The location of this harbour is excellent, since normally we would still have had about three hours' sailing to our homeport. Thus, during a normal weekend, one can travel further south or have more time to spend in the archipelago.

Taking advantage of the sunny weather!

In southern Airisto, we saw Albanus, two masted scooner from Åland

It was getting late in the evening, so we hoisted gennaker to get some more speed. This was actually the first time that we used the gennaker together with genoa.