Monday, April 20, 2015

The Cat came back

Platinum Cat Heater - Model 6P12

The built in heater on our new-to-us boat, Shackleton II, was one of those nice-to-have features that we were excited about. So we were disappointed when we couldn't get it to work.

Since this was one of many systems on the boat that I was unfamiliar with, I initially thought that it was operator error. But, after some digging, and posting to SailNet forums, I was confident that I was doing it right. It apparently really is as easy as turning on the power and turning up the thermostat. But it still didn't work.

I dug around and figured out that the heater is from a company called A&L Enterprises. I reached out to their generic email address and received a quick response from Arnie. He explained that the model I have is an antique from the early 80's. I wasn't optimistic. Surely if it was that old it would be unserviceable.

Arnie proceeded to send me several manuals, service updates, and detailed troubleshooting instructions. After a bunch of back and forth I solved the problem. The fan blower was rubbing on the housing and causing it to fail. Happily I now have a great working heater!

The service from A&L Enterprises was exceptional. They could have easily told me that it has to be replaced, since it was so old, but they didn't. When I do need to replace the unit, I know where I'll be shopping.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Knots - Handcuff knot


Finished handcuff knot
Handcuff knot

As the name implies, the handcuff knot can be used to bind the hands or feet of your adversary. It is also known as a "hobble knot".  It isn't very practical but it is sure fun! It is a Slip Loop type of knot.

With my Scout group this knot is always the first one that I teach when I am introducing knots because it is easy to make a game of it. It gets them interested in the subject of knots (which can be a challenge). What kid doesn't want to capture a friend with handcuffs as part of a cops and robbers game?

Tying the knot

Animated handcuff knot

  1. First, make a butterfly shape with your hands, with the rope hanging across the middle of the thumbs
  2. Slide your hands apart a bit
  3. With your right hand fingers, pick up the rope on the left hand and pull it up and through. Keep the bight of rope between your fingers!
  4. With your left hand fingers, pick up the rope on the right hand and pull it up and through. Keep the bight of rope between your fingers!
  5. Now finally, pull the two bites apart and let the loops form in the rope.
  6. Hold the two working ends tight so that the handcuff stays tight. 
The knot can be locked by tying a half hitches around each of the loops using the working ends. This is also referred to as a "Fireman's chair knot".

The game

The game that we played with the handcuff knot is basically a modified version of freeze-tag. The object is to capture all of the "robbers" as quickly as they can. 

Pick a few kids to be the "police" and give them rope (approximately 1m long).  The police need to tag a robber and then the robber has to freeze for the count of 5 seconds. If the police can't tie the knot in 5 seconds the robber gets away and the police need to untie the rope and start again.If the robber is captured they are out until the end of the game.

As the kids get better at tying the knot you can reduce the number of seconds they have. Believe me, they will get very quick at it!

Knots - Bowline


The bowline is one of the most basic sailing knots and is almost universally used for attaching sheets to sails. It is generally useful in situations where a loop is needed in the end of a rope. It can be tied by itself or around an object.

It is normally the 3rd knot that we teach our scouts (behind the handcuff and square). I have used it extensively camping and in many ways around the house. 

The bowline is highly reliable, except with slippery rope. Poor quality nylon rope tends to slip and come apart. 


The mnemonic for tying the bowline is:
"The rabbit comes up through the hole, around the tree and back down the hole." 

The basic steps are:
  1. Create a bight in the rope (around an object if desired)
  2. Create a loop in the standing end of the rope
  3. Put the working end through the loop
  4. Bring the working end around the standing end
  5. Bring the working end back through the loop
  6. Tighten