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.

Calorie or calorie

Emergency preparedness is in the news right now and Datrex, one of our suppliers suggested that we put their water and rations on our web site. When I was adding the information for the rations I ended up really confused. In university physics my professors alway told us to be careful of the units of measure and ever since then I have kept an eye out.

I was used to the unit of “calorie”: the energy needed to increase 1 gram of water by 1ºC at a pressure of 1 atmosphere. Reading the Datrex specification sheet it said that each ration had 12 bars of 200 calories each which would total 2400 calories.

The ration also states that it has 10,000 kilojoules of energy but a simple conversion of 2400 calories only yields 10 kilojoules. Confusion reigns but Google came to the rescue.

Unknown to me, or maybe forgotten, there is also the Calorie. The Calorie is sometimes called the large calorie or the food calorie and it is defined as: the energy needed to increase 1 kg of water by 1ºC at a pressure of 1 atmosphere. So rather than raising 1 gram of water 1ºC it is raising 1000 grams of water.

Now this is making sense, 12 bars of 200 Calories yields 2400 Calories.  This is the same as 2400 kcal or 10,000 kilojoules (kJ). I guess my professors were correct, you have to watch those units.

For more information on Datrex rations go to http://westpacmarine.com

Inflatable PFD Servicing

IMG_1311We service inflatable lifejackets (PFD’s) and we just had two come in that were really old. After talking about it with the owner, he decided to remove them from service and asked if we would dispose of them.

On one lifejacket, the CO2 cartridge did not want to unscrew from the inflator. This was not a real problem since we discharge the cartridge in to the lifejacket as a way to remove the gas charge. Still something just didn’t feel right so rather than pulling the cord in the shop we too it outside and put the device in the bed of our pickup truck. When the lanyard was pulled, the gas discharged and the plastic inflator broke.

IMG_1312Then the CO2 cartridge was free to fly around in the bed of the truck making quite a racket. Fortunately nobody was hurt and even more importantly this lifejacket was not used in a survival situation where the user might have died.

Lessons learned include:

  • Make sure the CO2 cartridge is threaded into the inflator properly. They should thread in smoothly and not bind. It is possible this one was cross threaded putting added load on the plastic inflator.
  • Inspect, or have a professional inspect, you inflatable life jackets yearly. It is easy to do and does not require any special tools.
  • Inflatable life jackets age, plastics become brittle and the buoyancy tube(s) can lose their ability to hold air. These devices are not designed to last 20 years. Replacement every 10 years is prudent.
  • When in doubt, discharge a vest in a controlled environment to keep everybody safe.

If you have any questions please feel free to stop in with your vests.



USCG Phase Out of Life Floats


On July 1, 2015 the USCG notified manufacturers of Life Floats and Rigid Buoyant Apparatuses that their products would no longer be approved for carriage effective February 26, 2016.

The letter from the Coast Guard cites RIN 1625-AC19 which states:

“The Coast Guard is proposing to implement 46 USC 3104 which prohibits the approval of survival craft unless that craft “ensures that no part of an individual is immersed in water” and allows craft currently in service that do not meet this standard to remain in service as approved survival craft only until 26 February 2016. This rulemaking is necessary in order to amend the CFR for the replacement of existing survival craft that do not meet the statutory requirements in 46 USC 3104.”

This makes it clear that not only will the approval to manufacture these devices expire, existing equipment will also no longer be approved as of February 26, 2015. Regulated vessels will need to upgrade to Inflatable Buoyant Apparatuses.

The elimination of what have been referred to as “death floats” has been a long time coming. It has been tied up in Congress, sent to the Coast Guard and then Congress asked the Coast Guard for further information. Vessel owners don’t want the expense but the Coast Guard and groups representing handicapped individuals saw a way to increase safety, especially on vessels carrying passengers for hire.

When this letter was published, we removed life floats from our web site (other than links about this issue). We can see no reason to purchase a product that would only be approved for a few months. Vessel owners would be better served putting the funds into an Inflatable Buoyant Apparatus which will give them years of service.

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full-jacklineJacklines are now available from Westpac. ISAF and US Sailing specify webbing that has a 4500 pound breaking strength. We are using webbing with a 9800 pound breaking strength and the complete jackline has a breaking strength in excess of 5000 pounds.

one-end-under-loadThe above image was taken with over 5000 pounds of pull on the test sample and there was no damage to the stitching or webbing. After considerable research and testing we have found that using a bar-tack stitching pattern with a reinforcing piece inside the joint provided the best strength for this application. We did test the “double W” stitching pattern commonly used on slings (and some off the shelf jacklines) and found it failed below 5000 pounds.

5000-pound-pullAll jacklines are made to order. The standard model has a sewn eye in each end, a large one for the forward attachment point and a smaller one on the aft end so that you can have a lashing to adjust the tension of the jackline. If measuring your vessel is not practical we can also provide jacklines with the forward sewn eye and no eye on the aft end. One can use cleats in the stern of the vessel to attach the webbing which will provide an acceptable connection (although not quite as handy).

They are constructed from 1″ polyester webbing  treated with NanoSphere® technology which provides for longer life due to its dirt repelling properties. While we sell this webbing by the foot it does require a heavy duty industrial sewing machine to properly stitch.

If you need further information or wish to place an order, call Rollie at (253) 627-6000. There is also more information at http://westpacmarine.com

On Rope by Bruce Smith and Allen Padgett
Load Testing by Evans Starzinger
ISO 12401

We tested all of our samples between a large tree and a loaded dump truck (fortunately we have both). In line was a 10,000 pound hydraulic ram and a load cell. The hydraulic ram did not provide enough length of pull to get all of the slack out of the system and then pull for the actual test. Using the dump truck allowed us to pre load the setup and then use the ram to bring it up to our desired tension. The 10,000 pound digital load cell provided us with a quick and accurate way to measure the strain from a safe distance. This is why you see pine needles in the photos.





What OSHA wants

30″ Life Ring

If you have a commercial dock, OSHA wants you to be safe, but just in case someone falls in the water their needs to be a way to rescue them. 29CFR§1926.106(c) requires that “Ring buoys with at least 90 feet of line shall be provided and readily available for emergency rescue operations. Distance between ring buoys shall not exceed 200 feet”.

So at least every 200 feet you need a ring buoy, 90 feet of line and a way to make it readily available.

We sell the Datrex hard shell ring buoys which stand up very well to both UV and  seagulls.  A stainless steel bracket (or two) provides an easy way to mount the ring buoy so that it is immediately accessible.

We make ring buoy rope bags which contain the required 90 feet of floating rope. Having the rope inside a Cordura® bag greatly extends its life and keeps it easy to maintain. The rope is attached to the life ring with a simple splice and easily feeds out of the bag. It is just as easy to re-stuff the bag with the rope after use.

We also make vinyl covers that will protect everything but are quick to remove in an emergency.

As you can see on the back side of the cover there is just a black elastic which holds it in place.

We have other items that might meet your dock’s needs, check them out at http://WestpacMarine.com  and click on the Safety navigation dropdown.


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Throw Bags

Throw bags are an important piece of safety equipment whenever you are around the water. We manufacture in house two different models:

Bluewater: designed for use on salt water or lakes.

Whitewater: designed for use in rivers and places where you have a strong current.

The throw bags are quite similar and all incorporate our “cornet” (inverted cone) design for easy restuffing of the rope. They all use Sterling Rope Company’s WaterLine which is made in the USA and specifically designed for throw bags.

What differentiates the two models is the diameter of the line used. The Bluewater models use 5/16″ (top with blue tracer) and the Whitewater models use 3/8″ (bottom with red tracer).

waterline5/16″ WaterLine has a breaking strength of 1596 pounds whereas the 3/8″ has a breaking strength of 3416 pounds. The added size also makes it easier to haul a victim back to shore by hand. The picture really does a poor job of showing the difference in diameter but the 20% increase makes the 3/8″ size much easier to grip.

Can you use a Whitewater model in a salt water environment, sure. The materials these bags are constructed from are the same, it really comes down to what line diameter you want.

If you are in Tacoma, come on by and give them a toss. Online you can check them out and place an order using our secure shopping cart.


Ratchet straps at work

ratchet-strap-2When we need to securely fasten something we use a ratchet strap. Here is a small cylinder being internally cleaned. It needs to be held on to our tumbler and the best way to do that is with a 1″ ratchet strap.

ratchet-strap-1As you can see here we are able to tumble two of these cylinders on each side of our device. The 1″ size is perfect but on larger cylinders we use the 2″ version for additional strength.

The ratchet buckles we have used are stainless steel (being a marine oriented business we have plenty of stainless hardware around) which have great corrosion resistance. The webbing is our heavy weight nylon. We actually want a bit of stretch in this application to really hold the cylinders in place.



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.