Log of SV Free Spirit and ships company

The chronicles of the schooner Free Spirit and her crew, embarking on an open ended journey upon the great rolling heap. Free Spirit is currently pursuing humanitarian and commercial goals in the Dominican Republic, on the island of Hispaniola. Working under the Ocean Reach USA and Paradigm Research banners, she is serving as logistics headquarters, workshop, and development laboratory for many ongoing projects. This is the log of her journey.....

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Friday, September 04, 2009

Project Blinding Light

Ok, for those of you who have been following our progress closely, you may have noticed that we apparently dropped off the face of the map in the bahamas somewhere..... well, as most of you know, we are in the Dominican Republic now, and I (Tamer) have been quite preocupied with the local culture and working on our humanitarian goals. So, an update is in order on this front. Laura is preparing multiple posts about our life which you will be able to see soon, but for now let me bring you up to speed on one of our projects:

Unfortunately, A Common sight in the DR, a welder working without any eye protection.... note the sunglasses on the head. He has lost the ability to see in the dark, and now has trouble seeing his work with the sunglasses on.

Another welder working without eye protection, just before we interrupted him to show off the autodarkening helmet technology....

Here he is trying it on, with his employees standing by sceptically.....

And now trying it out. What I was too surprised to catch on film was that this guy actually started jumping around for joy. He had all of his employees try it out, and the reaction was contagious. Really, you had to be there. We had this reaction several times during the course of our survey operations in the rural areas, it was very gratifying.

One of many child - welders we encountered during our work. Here he is trying out the helmet. His smile was unforgettable.

Of the "talleres" visited that had safety gear, this was the norm. A regular welding lens with tape around it to keep it from breaking when dropped. Sometimes these were incorporated into a cardboard shield.

Another child welder trying out the helmet. This will change the course of their lives, as they will have a good chance of reaching adulthood with their vision intact. Most of them know of the danger, but ignore it because the basic needs of life seem more urgent.

More pictures of young workers....

One of the few shops we encountered with "correct" eye protection.... note the lack of any other safety gear. None of the helmets we encountered had head straps, save one or two. This reflects the habit of using the helmet in the hand, a problem that the autodarkening helmet makes irrelevant.

Our interpreter and cultural liason conducting one of the survey sessions. We used the survey both to collect information and to educate through the nature of the questions... such as "do you know that welding without the correct type of eye protection causes progressive and irreversible damage to your vision?" in this way we collected information while providing some in turn.

Tallying the information provided opportunities to conduct some computer user training , giving some spreadsheet and data entry experience to the translation staff.

Where sould we hook up to the powerline? How about here?

A home made welder, wound from salvaged starter motor wire. This one is actually adjustable for current output! They may not have a lot of money, but the Dominican welders are nothing if not resourcefull. How many welders do you know that make their own equipment from scratch?

Super high tech welding helmet? The state of the art in eye protection? No, just a darth vader halloween mask, but it is arguably better than nothing!

River crossing via raft... a tiny RO-RO ferry, powered by.....

This guy! he walks the raft across the river, while us passengers ride in comfort on the mezzanine deck.

(excerpted from the official literature)

Project Blinding Light
overview and outlook

The Dominican Republic is a nation on the island of Hispaniola, part of the Greater Antilles archipelago in the Caribbean region. The western third of the island is occupied by the nation of Haiti, making Hispaniola one of two Caribbean islands that are occupied by two countries, Saint Martin being the other. Both by area and population, the Dominican Republic is the second largest Caribbean nation (after Cuba), with 48,442km² and an estimated 10 million people.

The Dominican Republic has adopted a liberal economic model, which has made it perhaps the largest economy in the region. Though long known for sugar production, the economy is now dominated by services. Unemployment, low income levels, and inconsistent electric and water service dominate an otherwise progressive and free economy.

According to the 2005 Annual Report of the United Nations Subcommittee on Human Development, the Dominican Republic is ranked #71 of 179 countries in the world for resource availability, #79 for human development, and #14 in the world for resource mismanagement. These statistics emphasize the state of affairs in a nation where economic distress is a fact of everyday life.

With an economy largely based on services, the economy of the Dominican Republic is especially sensitive to issues affecting leisure travel and tourism, and the recent global economic downturn has impacted Dominicans disproportionally. Currently, 53% of the population lives in poverty.

In the Dominican Republic, as in many other developing nations, steel fabrication and repair is a key industrial technology. Small scale fabrication and repair are very common cottage industries, with one or more “talleres de soldadura” or welding shops per thousand population being common in the rural northern region. A large portion of the goods manufacturing workforce in the country is employed in metal fabrication and repair, with an estimated 30,000 workers in cottage industry welding alone. This decentralized workforce is an economically important resource in a job scarce economy, and the services they provide are critical to the communities in which they operate. Unfortunately, vocational training is very limited here, and since most workers in the smaller welding shops receive little or no safety training, there is very little emphasis on safety equipment or vocational health.

Although welding and metalworking has one of the highest injury rates of any industrial profession, many welding shops in the Dominican Republic possess no actual safety equipment. Many welders pursue their trade without eye protection of any kind, and among those workers who do use eye protection, the most common equipment used is inexpensive sunglasses, some without ultraviolet protection.

Due to the frequent and serious nature of eye injuries, a disproportionate number of workers in this trade are young. Many are only children. New workers experience intense eye pain and irritation as a result of the repeated flash burns, but eventually they become more adjusted to the intense radiation exposure and the discomfort decreases. This leads to a mistaken belief that they are no longer being injured, and that they have “adapted” to the hazard.

Without adequate eye protection, welders can predictably look forward to repeated traumatic eye injuries from flying debris and molten metal, retinal and corneal burns, temporary flash blindness, night blindness, and cumulative permanent loss of vision. Without proper welding shades, workers cannot see what they are doing, and therefore they produce welds of consistently lower quality. This manifests itself in reduced product durability, higher repair costs, and shorter life cycles for rolling and fixed infrastructure. Without adequate protection, a high rate and severity of injuries can be expected, and in most cases the resulting medical costs are ultimately paid for by tax revenues. In this way the lack of eye protection in the welding trade has profound effects on the workers and a distributed, cumulative cost for the nation as a whole. While the nations occupational health department has strong, progressive policies regarding occupational safety, a lack of available revenue for oversight and enforcement makes a regulatory solution to this problem less than practical for the worker.

Though the safety issues confronting the Dominican welding industry are dire and costly, the solution is simple and relatively inexpensive – namely the use of eye protection. Though welding helmets are widely available in the Dominican republic, their rate of use is low, especially among the smaller cottage industry shops. Cost is a tangible issue for a device that seems to be optional and inconvenient to use as well. The welders that do use welding shades frequently make them out of cardboard, duct tape, and a piece of darkened glass. Because the use of a conventional helmet or shade prevents seeing the work prior to the illuminating effects of welding, the shades are typically held in the hand and used only after welding commences. This precludes their use in situations where both hands are required to hold the work, which is the case as often as not in the frequently improvised situations found in the developing world.

Not surprisingly, almost all of the welders surveyed in 100 shops polled knew that welding without eye protection puts them at risk for serious eye injuries and permanent vision damage. Unfortunately, the perception that welding helmets are too expensive, rarely usable, and at any rate slow to use seems to effectively offset these known risks among many of the workers.

Fortunately, there is a mature technology that is poised to change the situation of Dominican welders for the better – the auto darkening helmet. This sight saving technology has the advantages of being intuitive to use and obviously superior to older methods while enhancing productivity, quality and profitability. When auto shading helmets were demonstrated to many of the welding shops polled, we literally had grown men jumping for joy. It is intuitively obvious to almost all who try these helmets that they will be able to work faster, better, and with more comfort and safety. What is not obvious is that after using the helmet for a while, they will regain their sensitivity to flash burns... making the technology addictive as well, with a strong negative reinforcement for discontinuing use.

The key is that the autodarking helmet can be worn throughout the work cycle. When not welding, the lens acts as regular sunglasses, allowing a clear view of the work while providing comprehensive facial protection. When welding begins, the lens automatically changes to a much darker shade, allowing fully protected, clear viewing of the welding process. In this way, both hands are left free for use, and the welding process is entirely viewable without risk of injury. Welders no longer have to probe blindly and hope that the weld starts in the right place, and no longer risk flash burns by accidentally (or intentionally) viewing the arc. Once these type of helmets are recognized as an economic necessity due to their productivity enhancing nature, they can be afforded by any fiscally viable welding operation. The initial cost will be offset within a few weeks by increased work speed, less required rework, and reduced time lost due to the inevitable injuries of the trade.

The problem becomes one of getting the helmets into common use, viewed as a mandatory profit producing tool. Although the price for these welding helmets has dropped from over US$200 to as low as US$50 for inexpensive imported brands, just demonstrating the helmets is not enough for owner/operators who are lucky to take home US$300 a month after expenses.

Although these welding shops do not make much money by US standards, it was evident that significant investments had been made in quality equipment where the value to productivity was clear. Even many of the smaller shops have modern, professional quality, major brand equipment in good condition. Our project will donate auto darkening helmets to 100 welding shops, with the knowledge that they will quickly be viewed as important profit generating tools, thereby insuring their continued use. We are focusing on smaller, owner operated shops with smaller operating budgets, with the idea that the larger shops will follow suit as word moves up the economic ladder of the utility and profit enhancing ability of these devices. This win / win situation presents itself as an opportunity to plant some seeds and let the viral property of effective business practices take effect, as well as to create a market for these helmets, encouraging the sourcing and promotion of this as well as other important safety equipment.

By donating specialized, non consumable, non commodity equipment to a portion of the population that is already contributing to the economy, the value of the donation is realized over and over in the form of increased production, higher quality infrastructure, and decreased health care costs. Our philosophy is to create a situation where the value of the benefactors investment can be multiplied by the hard work and ingenuity of the beneficiary, encouraging small enterprise and reducing future dependency on outside aid.

Current Progress:

Phase 1:

We have located and surveyed 100 qualified small businesses in the welding fabrication and repair industry. This is harder than it sounds due to the lack of any type of directories and or business listings for these type of businesses. A physical, on location survey of all the towns, pueblos, and pueblitos within a 7000 square kilometer area was performed. We hired a Dominican woman as our translator and cultural liaison. The survey, conducted largely by motorcycle, over dirt roads and across rivers on improvised rafts, was completed at a total cost of roughly US$3000. Statistical data about safety knowledge, equipment, and business metrics was collected. A demonstration of the helmet technology was given, and the response was overwhelmingly positive. There was no perceived resistance to the idea of safety equipment, and the dangers of working without protection were acknowledged without a single exception.

Some interesting facts revealed during the survey process:

The average employees per shop was 3.18
100% were aware of the dangers of welding without eye protection.
46% reported having some type of eye protection.
83% reported frequently welding without eye protection.
40% had protective equipment visible in the shop.
0% had auto darkening helmets. Only a few were aware of the technology.
100% reported that they could produce higher quality, faster welds with auto darkening helmets after the demonstration.

After seeing the overwhelmingly positive, frequently ecstatic response to the technology and safety demonstrations, we are very optimistic about the potential positive results of distributing the helmets, and are now engaged in the critical second phase of the project.

Phase 2 :

Locate and secure the donation of auto darkening helmets to give to the 100 client 'talleres' (welding shops). Seek government cooperation to bring the donated equipment into the country at the lowest practical cost.

We are actively seeking the donation of 100+ auto darkening helmets for the client talleres (welding shops), and are working on solutions to ease the import duties on this donated equipment. We hope to secure the donation of high quality equipment from major US suppliers. Failing this, and although it our second choice by far, we have identified several Chinese manufacturers from which we can purchase acceptable quality equipment directly at low prices using donated funds. We anticipate the cost of this phase to be roughly US$500 if all of the equipment is donated, or US$3500 if we have to purchase the equipment ourselves.

Phase 3:

Distribute the helmets along with hazard awareness and safety training. Follow up over the next 3 months, performing data collection on usage statistics. After distribution of the equipment we will perform follow up surveys to measure the adoption of the technology and the purchase of additional helmets or safety equipment. We are currently researching the possibility of financing the startup of a duplicable microbusiness that would visit the welding shops as a trade route, vending all types of safety equipment as well as consumable supplies. In this way continuing safety education would be provided, as a sales tool, and access to safety equipment and trade supplies would be improved. A definite need for this type of service was perceived during the survey phase. A business such as this could supply much needed employment, while providing a self sustaining educational resource and an ongoing link to the client base to assess project success.

We anticipate the cost of distributing the helmets and training to be roughly US$2500. The main expenses will be in transportation, lodging, and food allowances. The follow up will cost roughly US$3000 for site visits and continuing education. Current plans call for long term continuing education and safety promotion to be provided by a self sustaining microbusiness entity.

So far we have collected (and mostly spent) about $3500 in donations and out of pocket funding, and a sincere thank you goes out to those who have helped us change these lives.

If you think you can help, post a comment with your ideas or donate through our donate button on the left coulumn of the blog


Blogger Gayle said...

This was a very educational, interesting and fascinating post. Thanks for sharing the work you are doing.

7:34 PM  
Anonymous Positive Workforce Solutions said...

This program will helps people a lot keep continuing for the improvement of the people... Thanks for inspiring people...
Positive Workforce Solutions

7:34 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Good for you guys! Sent in a donation for Blinding Light through the button on your blog. Keep up the good work.

Hank and Dee Smith

2:32 AM  
Anonymous jonmccasland@yahoo.com said...

howdy smyth family. All is well in missouri.I quit smoking WOW!!!! just wanted to see if this works reply please

11:26 AM  

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Introducing Propcalc 4.0

Use Propcalc to easily match your hull with your engine, transmission, and propeller
Put the known data in the top fields, then hit the Update button to get the answers.
Results, of course, should be verified by a Naval Architect or qualified surveyor.
Data is provided for three bladed propellers of average type
For two or four bladed props, use the modifiers shown below.

Fill out the fields as follows:

Vessel LWL (ft) = Waterline length
Vessel Disp (lbs) = Vessel displacement
(max) HP = Rated Engine Max HP
Engine RPM max = Engine RPM at Max HP
Engine RPM cruise = Desired or estimated cruise rpm
(Cruise or Max) Kts = Speed to work the calculations for
Slip = Propeller efficience. 45% is average for a displacement cruiser.
Gear ratio = 1: Gear ratio of transmission
SL Ratio Adj. = This value will be added (or subtracted, if a negative value) to the calculated S/L ratio.

Key information:

If the "hp required" is greater than the "cruse HP", you have your cruise RPM set too low for your engine parameters.
If the "hp required" is significantly less than the "cruse HP", you have your cruise RPM set too high for your engine parameters.
If the "hp required" is greater than the "Max HP", then your target speed is too high for your engine/hull parameters.
The S/L ratio is calculated automaticaly based on your input. It can be adjusted if necessary, but normally it should be left alone.
If the calculated S/L ratio exceeds S/L MAX, then the results are likely to be non-predictive. Try a lower speed requirement.
SL Ratios of 1.1 - 1.4 are typical of displacement hulls. Semiplaning or planing hulls can go higher.

Typical propeller slip values:

Sailing auxiliary, barges, etc less than 9 Kts............45%
Heavy powerboats, workboats 9 - 15 Kts....................26%
Powerboats, Lightweight Cruisers 15 - 30 Kts..............24%
High speed planing boats 30 - 45 Kts......................20%
V bottom race boats 45 - 90 Kts...........................10%


it is possible to get irrational answers by irrational input , I.E specifying excessive speed for hull type and length
Any attempt to exceed hull speed (1.34 times the square root of the waterline length in feet) with a displacement hull are likely
to fail unless the hull is extremely fine (multihull) or otherwise exceptional. In such cases, an S/L adjustment would be in order.

2 and 4 bladed props:

For two bladed propellers, multiply the diameter by 1.05, and the pitch by 1.01
For four bladed propellers, multiply the diameter by .94, and the pitch by .98

Vessel LWL (ft) =
Vessel Disp (lbs) =
  (max) HP =
  Engine RPM max =
  Engine RPM cruise =
  (Cruise or Max) Kts =
  Slip =
  Gear ratio = 1:
  SL Ratio Adj. =
  Prop rpm max =
  Prop rpm cruise =
  Pitch =
  Diameter =
  Static Thrust =
  Cruise HP =
  Cruise HP% =
  SL Ratio =
  DL Ratio =
  SL Max =
  HP Required =