Safety tethers for sailors

Many marine safety tethers sold today are not safe.

We have known for years that many of the snap hooks used on the “boat end” of safety tethers can come unclipped rather than doing their job. I was reading an article in Scuttlebutt Sailing News that brought this issue up yet again.

A few years ago we looked into making tethers and determined that we did not have the resources to do it right. We consulted sailors (other than ourselves), equipment suppliers and folks with engineering backgrounds. It’s not like we just took a quick look.

Since our decision, sailors continue to die due to safety tether issues yet suppliers continue to sell products that are questionable and others provide DIY advice for a tether that does not make any sense.

We encourage sailors to research their purchase fully. Practical Sailor has a number of articles on this subject. Look at the racing rules and the ISO specification they reference. Do your homework, this is a life and death decision.

We encourage the industry to stop peddling products and DIY advise that does not, at a minimum, meet current thinking within the safety industry. It is a good sign that some manufacturers have quit supplying products that were poorly designed 20 years ago but it shouldn’t take that long to get crap off the market.

Jute twine protects your trees

You just paid good money for a new tree, the last thing you want to do is to kill it!

It’s springtime in Cle Elum and that means trips to the nursery hunting for that special tree. This time of year also means wind, lots of wind so when you plant that new find you don’t want it blowing over that afternoon. So we use tree straps to protect the tree and provide a way to secure it upright, safe from the wind.

Tree Straps
Various Colors of Tree Straps

Tree straps need to be tied to a stake, post or other secure object to do their job. Jute twin has one feature your trees will love, it rots.

Why is rotting good?

Because some times we forget to remove tree straps and as we all know, trees grow both in height and circumference. Eventually a tree strap secured with wire or synthetic twine will girdle the tree.

Girdled Mature Pine Tree

So rotting, or as the manufacturers catalog says being biodegradable, is a fantastic feature for use in the garden.

Other admirable features of jute include:

  • inexpensive
  • soft and holds knots well
  • it’s a natural fiber- not plastic
  • our 1/2# spools are easy to handle
  • good UV resistance

Straps or Webbing – what’s the difference?

We get calls from customers who don’t know if they are looking for straps or webbing. The difference is akin to line and rope….

My father used to explain that a line is rope with a job. Dock lines are made from a coil of rope, as are anchor lines, guy lines (for your tent) and lead lines for your horses.

Straps and webbing work the same way. Straps (at least the ones we sell) are made from webbing. We sell bulk webbing should you want to make your own strap(s).

As with everything there are exceptions. Years ago I used to sell “crab line”. What the crabbers were buying were coils of rope but it was still called crab line. Metal banding for securing cargo to a pallet is often called strapping even when sold in bulk.

In my world, once I have done something to a piece of webbing it becomes a strap.

Good Golly It’s Molle

The other day while wasting some time I was wandering through a sporting goods store and what did I run in to? MOLLE

MOLLE was everywhere-

On the side of a Yeti cooler bag,

On a Field & Stream backpack,

and on another Field & Stream product.

MOLLE needs a friend to work well and we have the Talon Hook

an easy, adjustable way to connect 1″ webbing to the loops on your backpack, cooler bag or whatever.

We have Talon Hooks in stock, order some today

Nylon webbing in a marine enviroment

Get nylon webbing wet and what does it do? Shrink. Does this matter? It depends on your Coast Guard inspector.

Years ago we used to service inflatable life rafts. For quite some time a US Coast Guard inspector would spend all day at our shop overseeing what we were doing. Generally they knew what we were supposed to do and stayed out of the way unless they saw something questionable (either with the raft or our work).

Seattle was a training port so there were times we would get untrained inspectors. Either they used their time to learn or once in a while we would get someone who wanted to make our life difficult. One day we had one of the latter classification and he checked the rafts out we were working on, regulations in one hand, tape measure in the other. He came across an older raft that had been stowed in a very wet place on the vessel. The inspector went around the raft measuring the distance from the exterior grab line to the floor. When new there is a specification for this distance but on this raft the grab lines were too far off the floor.

The image above shows the black webbing grab lines and how they are supposed to hang down.

The inspector told us that he would not certify the raft until we had moved all the grab lines down so that the distance would comply with the regulations. He did not understand that nylon webbing shrinks when it gets wet, and this raft had been really wet. Also missing from his understanding was the specification was a manufacturing spec, not one for a raft that had been in service. Still he would not accept our reasoning and once again informed us that we must rectify the situation.

Several phone calls later the head of inspections in Washington, D.C. set the new inspector straight. He signed off the raft and we never saw him again.

So if you are designing a strap where the length is critical, consider the environment it will be working in. If you are using nylon webbing and it is going to get wet, allow for shrinkage.

Staking trees using web straps

The rainy season is upon us and some of your recently planted trees are leaning over due to really wet dirt or maybe strong winds (or a combination of both). The tree needs to be supported so it can grow straight up, unlike the one above.  In the past many have used wire to do the job. It is easy to work with and we usually have some laying around the house. While this is a quick fix, the tree won’t like it. Over time the wire will cut through the bark and in to the tree and then nutrients have no way to travel past, really damaging the tree.

Arborists tell us to provide padding wherever we support a tree. Wire passed through garden hose has been used or a couple of pieces of wood between the wire and the tree will also work. A simpler way is to use a web strap.

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Here we have a tree planted in a sidewalk cut out that has been staked using three ratchet straps. This allowed the tension on each strap to be easily and quickly set and adjusted if needed.  The way the webbing was attached to the tree is better than a single piece of wire but would not be good in the long term.

The National Forest Service does not allow tree attachment points for backcountry horse pickets or even hammock suspension to damage the bark. The minimum with webbing used to comply with this requirement is 2″ and that would be a good place for the homeowner to start.  A simple endless sling will protect your investment and provide a safe place (as far as your tree is concerned) to attach a rope, wire, ratchet strap or whatever you plan on using to get your tension. You could also use a single loop strap but this would require tying a knot in the webbing where you plan on attaching your tensioning device. We could also make you a strap with a loop in each end which would really be the best alternative. This way it could just go around the tree and not “choke” it. It would need to be placed above a limb so that it wouldn’t move down the tree as it sways in the wind.

Hunting season is fast approaching

We have made it through the dog days of summer, back to school gear is in the stores so hunting season must be fast approaching.

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We have 1″ buckles and nylon webbing in Coyote Tan. Polypropylene webbing in brown, taupe (light brown) and a bit left in forest green if you are looking for earth tones.

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If you need to make a sling, this 2″ polypropylene webbing is perfect. It has two rubber strips, the lighter color in the image, which help keep it planted on your shoulder.

We sell components but will also sew whatever you can design. Our minimum order is 1 and if you are in the Tacoma area, stop in and we can discuss your project.

Frozen Zippers

Even though we don’t sell zippers we all use them and know how frustrating it can be when one becomes frozen. This morning I was going through my email and noticed an article published by BoatUS on how to unstick frozen zippers.

I have not tried using vinegar but the next time I have this problem with a corroded zipper my first trip will be to the pantry. My guess is this will work with salt water corrosion, zippers stuck for other reasons might require different techniques. With the nylon coil type I have found when they get stiff and difficult to use some baby oil does the trick. If you have other tricks, let me know.

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Rollie Herman

President of Straps to Go's parent company, Westpac Marine Services, Inc.
Bicycle rider, cook, husband to an avid gardener
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Ratchet straps in the garden

  
Walking in Seattle I noticed that someone had used a few ratchet straps to hold up a tree. I don’t think this would have come to my mind if I had to guy a tree but it sure works. 

We sell stainless steel ratchet buckles and can make them in to your strap of choice. To hold up a tree you don’t need much fancy end hardware, sewn loops will do the trick. 

Side Release Buckle Straps- the cat’s meow

  
We have a problem. Our neighbors are remodeling and the fence had to go. Unfortunately that fence provided access to a tree, and then on to the cat door. We tried leaning a piece of latticework against the tree to take the place of the fence. It lasted a night and then blew over. 

When I got home today I was “informed” by the cat that his temporary route wasn’t working and I had better fix it right away. So now the section of latticework is held in place by a side release buckle strap. Quick to install and when we need to move the latticework, quick to disconnect. 

Chance, our cat is once again able to roam freely and I didn’t have to endure him gnawing on my leg.  On top of that the strap blends in so you don’t notice it.