Happy Birthday

It’s August 4, 2015- the 225th birthday of the United States Coast Guard. We deal with the USCG on a daily basis, either directly or through their regulations and over our 31 years of being in business our relationship has always been professional and helpful.

Here are a couple of things many don’t know about the USCG:

  • Only one member of the Coast Guard has been awarded the Medal of Honor. His name is Douglas Munro and he was born in Cle Elum, WA. If you go there today you will see plenty of evidence the town still remembers him. I have often wondered what a young man from Eastern Washington was thinking when he enlisted in the Coast Guard, there isn’t much open water over there. If you want to read about him the USCG site has lots of articles.
  • The USCG has many civilian employees who make many of the decisions. Many of the vessel inspectors have been civilians. Coast Guard headquarters in Washington, D.C. also has provided us with men and women who give that long term vision that one doesn’t get when you are rotated every few years. The unique mix really is an asset not found elsewhere.

When writing this I also noticed that today is the 54th birthday of the Coast Guard’s Commander in Chief. Hopefully he will hold a good wish for the USCG as they share this day.

What others have to say about life rafts

ZodiacRaftYou can see the Zodiac life raft mounted on the stern. Is this a good idea? Yachting World had a recent article that says this is the best place for a raft. The article goes on to discuss the risk in mounting a raft on one side of the pushpit, making them vulnerable to waves, a point that I agree on and have discussed in two earlier blogs. First   Second

Blue Water Sailing has an article on life raft servicing. I knew this was being written since the raft picture above was taken in my shop. Andrew Cross spent several hours learning about both his life raft and Switlik MOM-8A crew recovery device.

IMG_0915Here is the same view of our shop. Just bigger rafts being serviced.

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Straps for cylinders


We have a problem handling cylinders that are in our shop for hydrotesting. Aluminum SCUBA cylinders are not a problem, they have flat bottoms and you can get a bunch of them standing in a small space. Steel SCUBA cylinders are a pain. They are heavy and their round bottoms mean you can’t stand them up. To solve the problem we have small pallets with short sides to keep the bottom row of cylinders from rolling off. Just to make sure that an inadvertent bump doesn’t cause a cascade of cylinders we use a 1″ strap to contain them with a metal cam buckle. They can be moved with a pallet jack without worry.

The metal 1″ cam buckle is perfect for this task. It is plenty strong enough, easy to thread and easy to tighten. If you want to try these buckles we have them on our web site. We also sell complete straps although what was used here was specifically made for the job at hand,  something we can also do for you- give us a call (253) 627-6000.

Sometimes you need a bit of help

Sometimes it takes more than manpower to get a life raft in to its cradle. Here the crew of the Steamer Virginia V are installing their two 100 person IBA’s in to their cradles. Each unit weighs 720 pounds but the Grove made quick work of the project. To top everything, the sun was out in Seattle!

If you are not sure how to hook everything up once you have placed the raft in to the cradle, please do not hesitate to contact us. We can send instructions for many common installations or just talk you through what needs to be done. Proper installation is the key to having your raft work.



Do you need new lashings for your life raft? Our Straps to Go division can build what ever you need. The lashing in the picture above is constructed using 2″ black polyester webbing and high quality stainless steel hardware. The split ring on the snap shackle is welded so it can’t come apart when you pull hard on the orange web. Stitching is of a contrasting color so it is easy for the vessel operator to check its soundness. This lashing is fully adjustable so it can be fitted onboard without the need of tools or a sewing machine.  If you need a new lashing give Rollie a call at (253) 627-6000.

The value of the commercial marine industry

Recently there have been several articles in local publications highlighting the value of the commercial marine industry to the Puget Sound region. The most recent one was in the Seattle Times and it brought up an interesting point, there is no united voice speaking for shipbuilders, commercial fishermen, towboats, steamship companies and the service businesses that support them. The Northwest Marine Trades Association in the early 1980’s decided to focus strictly on the recreational marine industry and nobody stepped in to fill the void.

You might be asking, why should I care? If you are looking for safety equipment (and I assume if you are reading this you came from our web site which sells safety gear) the main profit center is with commercial vessels. Without them you would not find life raft service facilities or non-chain stores that offer the best pricing on this type of equipment. For those with larger boats having commercial shows like Pacific Marine Expo allows you to see electronics which is never shown at recreational shows like the Seattle Boat Show. Need to repower? All of the engine dealers are at Pacific Marine Expo. Having a commercial marine industry allows you options that would not exist otherwise.

As the article says, good paying jobs are also an important component that this industry brings to the region to say nothing about the taxes we all pay. The Puget Sound region has a wonderful history of supporting the commercial marine industry and it is not something we should give up easily.

Zodiac raft manual

One of the fun parts of servicing life rafts is seeing what comes in different rafts. Over the years a favorite has been the manual out of Zodiac life rafts built for the French market.


First we learn how to kill a seagull with a really graphic drawing. I guess the hat, shirt and pants outfit are required to do this properly. In order to clean up after preparing our meal, Zodiac teaches us how to prepare a bath,

again not what I would expect in a life raft manual. Still it is better to be prepared and this manual is really one of the best I have seen. It is 128 pages long printed on A4 size paper (similar to our letter size) so there is a ton of information for those stuck in a life raft as long as they are able to read French. I wish there was a version in English.

Northwest Fire Show- 2013

Last week we attended the 2013 edition of the Northwest Fire Show. It’s always fun to look at toys and this show has lots of them.

FireShowTruckWe saw fire trucks, big ones that run around $1,000,000.00. It seems they are so big you need special equipment just to wash them.

FireShowWasherSo they sell portable fire truck washing equipment (it is spinning which is why the picture is a bit weird). But what if you need to change the oil? There is stuff to help there too.watch full John Wick: Chapter 2 2017 film

FireShowLiftThree different types of vehicle lifts were on display so you can do that service right at the fire house.

On top of all these big “toys” there was plenty of other stuff to check out. Gloves, turn out gear, hose, tools, medical supplies and even our water rescue equipment and straps.

FireShowBoothWe had the U-Zip-It suit from Switlik, a representative sample of straps, webbing and buckles and some products from the Sterling Rope Company.

Next year’s show is in May and we are looking forward to returning with even more products for this market.





Personal Locator Beacons and hiking

A while back I wrote about how I carry a Personal Locator Beacon (PLB) when riding my mountain bike. Last weekend my local newspaper ran an article on solo hiking and the writer suggests carrying a PLB. She talks about the cost and that some units have an annual fee. A true PLB does not have any annual fee. The satellite system it operates on is owned by the government so your only cost is the initial outlay and then seven years later, the cost of a new battery.

The Ocean Signal PLB is the smallest currently on the market. Selling for under $300.00 the cost works out to $3.56 per month, less than the cost of a McDonald’s Happy Meal. Actually it is also less than five hours of on-street parking here in Tacoma.

With winter coming don’t forget that a PLB would also be great if you have a snowmobile, cross country ski or even drive in areas without cell coverage. Maybe this is just the ticket to get us all outside more often this winter!

Why Port and Starboard?

I have known where the term “starboard” came from but for some reason never figured out “port”. Last night I was reading a piece on NOAA’s web site that answered the question. Read it yourself to find out how vessel handling brought about these common terms.



While on the subject of steering oars, I was also reading a novel which was based in Venice. Through that I learned that gondolas are asymmetric to counteract the push of the single oar. The keel in a gondola curves to the right since the oar on the starboard side will push the boat to port. It seems that this curvature is customized for the individual gondolier.