Load testing gone bad


We wanted to find out how strong some of the webbing we sell is and test some of our sewing. Years ago we used the Enerpac hydraulic ram to load test other items and since we could convert hydraulic pressure to the load in pounds we thought we were set.

We were wrong! The first couple of tests went just fine but then we noticed we were not able to apply much pressure, then we found hydraulic fluid all over the place. It seems that a seal blew, probably due to lack of use (and lubrication), so now we need to rebuild the ram. Genuine Enerpac parts were obtained, we just need to put it back together.

Now, what goes where????

Has sailing become more dangerous?

I started sailing when I was about 7. My first boat was an El Toro (which I still own) and as a youngster I sailed all sorts of dinghy’s. My college years saw me moving up to larger boats and longer races until I finally quit racing in the early 80′s. In my racing years I can remember two deaths. The first was off of Santa Cruz in a dinghy race and the second was in a Swiftsure race in the mid 70′s.

Reading the news today it seems that deaths in sailboat races are much more common. I have to ask why? In my era booze was flowing both on and off the boat. Now my friends that race don’t even carry booze on their boats (too much weight perhaps?). Unless I was sailing a dinghy my life jacket stayed below, safety harness- what was that, and items like EPIRB’s had not even been developed. Still we made it home safely though maybe not as quickly as today’s boats.

Not being involved with racing anymore it is difficult to understand what the problem is. Maybe the internet keeps us more in touch and that there really were more deaths years ago but it was a small community and even in those days, news traveled quickly. Maybe the boats were stronger years ago, I still see Cal 40′s on the water and I doubt some of the more recent racing boats will have such longevity. Or maybe we spent more time on the water in those days, racing almost every weekend for years on end. Whatever the change, it is not good. I feel for those who have lost loved ones and hope we can look back to see that lessons were learned and that disasters became less common.

Seattle Boat Show 2013, the aftermath

The 2013 Seattle Boat Show is over. Ten days is a long time for a show and for small companies like Westpac it can be quite an ordeal. The good news is this year customers were back out looking at products and asking questions. Time flies when you are busy in the booth and for the bulk of the days we we busy. Evenings were another story, it was dead but Seattle always seems to head off early for dinner (and a cocktail?) rather than going to a boat show.

This year there was some new equipment to see. We had the Kannad R10 manoverboard device and our own 5:1 lifting tackle. The lifting tackle was a big hit. Using an idea from rock climbing we were able to lower the price to $150.00 and still provide a super high quality piece of equipment. Check it out to see how we put it together. All the hardware is sailboat grade and the rope is actually made in the US by Sterling Rope.

There was some time to get out of our booth to check out what others had on offer. Satellite communications seems to be replacing single sideband radios. Following the recent sailboat race around the world shows how much information can be transmitted back and forth (if you have the money) with this type of equipment. LED lights are everywhere, maybe saving power for the satellite antennas, both for use inside and outside. Then there was the floating hot tub which did not look overly seaworthy. It was good to see new products after several years with nothing. Hopefully this is a trend brought about by a strengthening economy.

Seattle Boat Show 2013 Report #2

This year the show organizers (the Northwest Marine Trades Association) are trying to spice up evenings at the Seattle Boat Show. The blog Three Sheets Northwest has written a great piece covering the evening events (wine, beer and shows over the boats).

It has been difficult to encourage customers to come in the evenings, Seattle seems to be an early to bed, early to rise city. The events and return to hand craved meat sandwiches which we used to have in the old days at the King Dome will hopefully bring more people in after work.

If you want great attention from exhibitors, evenings along with Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday are your best bets. Tickets are all ready on sale and I notice that free parking is once again an option (but you need to purchase 4 or more adult tickets online).

Pacific Marine Expo 2012

Pacific Marine Expo has come and gone for 2012. It was strange having it Tuesday-Thursday rather than its normal Thursday-Saturday but it seemed to work. As always this is a show where one gets to see ‘old’ friends and customers and check out what is new in the industry.

Sorry to say but there is not much to report on the new equipment front. The marine safety industry is still in consolidation mode and it seems that the remaining manufacturers are spending their time dealing with all of the aquisitions rather than developing new items to sell. There was some talk about a new Personal Locator Beacon with AIS for use in crew overboard situations. This would be a great piece of equipment allowing a victim to alert both Search and Rescue and vessels in his vicinity. As I learn more I will keep everyone advised.

Seattle Boat Show 2013 Report #1

The 2013 Seattle Boat Show is about two months away but we are already busy preparing for it. Last Friday the show producer sent out their first draft of booth assignments. It appears we will be in the same general location on the west side of the concourse. The big change this year is Winslow Life Raft will be right next to us and we feel this will be a great move.

Over the past few years we have had great success selling our web straps at the show. Now whenever there is some free time webbing is being cut and buckles are being sewn on. This year we plan on bringing an even greater assortment to the show, new sizes and different buckle configurations. As always the best time of the year to buy straps and sail ties is at the show. We offer large discounts especially if you need 4 or more. Our special $1.00 side release buckle strap will also be returning.

We are also working on a new, less expensive 5:1 lifting tackle. It will still use high grade sailboat hardware but we think we have found a way to provide a dramatic price reduction. Hopefully by the first of December we will have more information, stay tuned.

Training, training and more training

It seems we are always involved with training. Today our staff is receiving the training, this time on hazardous material shipping. The federal government requires that all HazMat shippers undergo training every three years to ensure that they are familiar with the regulations and their changes.

Unfortunately most life saving equipment is classified as hazardous material. Life rafts contain compressed gas cylinders, lithium batteries, pyrotechnics and flammable liquids (repair kit cement). EPIRB’s use lithium batteries, inflatable life jackets have CO2 cartridges and compressed gas cylinders have, you guessed it, compressed gas.

Any time an item considered hazardous material is put in to commerce, commercial transport, it must be properly packaged and labeled and the shipper must provide the correct documentation. This is true if we deliver a life raft on one of our trucks or if a customer ships a life raft to us on a freight truck.

Keeping track of all the rules, regulations and changes is a lot of work but an important part of my job. After all we are in the safety business and it would be horrible if something we did caused a truck driver or customer to get hurt.