Sunday, October 31, 2010

Hoisting sail

Not an exciting weekend. Putting the winter cover up has become a rather dull exercise really.

Saturday I finished the frame putting the end poles up. It was too windy to consider pulling the tarp over so I worked on securing the galley paneling - bits and pieces here and there- not worth a photo.

Sunday morning seemed like a good day for pulling the tarp over with the wind somewhat diminished from the day before. First, I hung my small older tarp across the stern area where it is too wide to pull the big tarp together. Then I unrolled the main tarp and positioned it alongside the boat, securing one side to the bottom of the frame and attaching several long pieces of rope to pull the tarp over.

As a side note; the new tarp from Hamilton Marine looks much better than last year's tarp from

When I started, the wind was working in my favor to help push the tarp across the boat and over the top.


The wind shifted and started to pick up. I was working the tarp over about six feet at a time and had the tarp over the ridgepole when the wind shifted. Now, instead of the wind helping to push the tarp over, it filled the tarp and was pulling it away from the boat. I suddenly found myself running on a broad reach with a 1200 square foot spinnaker. My simple slip knots on the lines I was using to pull the tarp became welded iron and I was forced to cut them away before any serious damage occured. I was surprised, really, that the structure didn't seem to mind at all. The tarp was flying 10-20 feet above the boat and really pulling well. While frantically scrambling for my knife (luckily in my pocket at the time) I was fully expecting the structure to flex and crack and blow apart. The structure really didn't seem to show any signs of stress though; even with the tarp picking me up when I grabbed a loose end.

So for the moment, the tarp is staged alongside of the boat waiting for more favorable conditions. After that little bit of excitement I didn't feel like tackling any other projects so I used my time to clean up the area and my shop area at home.

There is always next week...

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Bahamas Bound

Not me of course. A friend of mine who charters on his Hinckley 49 was desperate to get a bunch of work done before heading south. So I spent last weekend working on other-peoples-boats.

I did manage to break away last Sunday afternoon and visit Jenny. While there I installed two pieces of sound insulation around the engine. I had heard good things about this insulation and when I ordered it I expected it to be quite heavy and dense. Instead, it looks like... well like the 3200 square feet of insulation that I already own for general hull insulation. Not exactly of course. The sound insulation has slightly smaller 'cells' in the foam than what I already own, it is lined with an aluminum foil and it has an adhesive on one side already.

It looks like nice stuff and I have heard good things about it so we will see. The Atomic Four doesn't really need sound proofing. It is pretty quiet already but this should make it a bit nicer. I would be reluctant to put my general foam insulation that close to the engine too. The temperature rating is quite high but the aluminum foil lined insulation has to be a better choice.

Anyway, the sound insulation installs super easy. Cut to fit. Peel the backing. Stick in place. No complaints so far.

So this latest weekend I had to cram in all the household stuff I put off last weekend and get started on my winter cover. With October quickly wrapping up I was getting more than a little anxious about getting the boat covered.

Last year's winter cover worked pretty well; even during that storm with the 90 mph winds. The one fault was the green garden stakes which were totally inadequate for keeping the base of the structure where it belonged. The structure simply pushed over the garden stakes, flattened them and settled into a variety of 'S' curves which I had to straighten out several times.

So this Saturday I bought 14 - 4 foot sections of concrete re-bar and drove 3 feet of the bar into the ground. We will see if this solves the wandering problem.

After that I managed to match up the frame halves, bolt them together and stage them for erection. Why does it sound so porno to say 'erection'?...

Sunday was the first windless day in two weeks which was a blessing. It was an easy day raising the frames into position. By starting in the middle, I was able to place the ladder at the ends of the boat and hold the ridge joint in one hand, walk up the ladder. There was enough friction where the bows slot into the base frame for the bows to stay in position while I walked down and screwed temporary braces to hold the frames vertical.

Once I had them all up I installed diagonal cross bracing below the sheerline. Then I dropped the 3 section ridge pole into the slots and secured it with the same metal hardware I used last year. After that I installed another row of diagonal cross members above the sheerline. The whole operation took about 5 hours.

So that is the good news.

The bad news is that the structure is not going to last many more seasons. There are a variety of reasons for this.

For one, the untreated bows all warped to varying degrees. It is cheap strapping material so I really shouldn't be surprised. There is definitely some stress due to shrinkage which has weakened the construction adhesive bond around the filler blocks placed between the inner and outer strapping that make up the bow.

Secondly, the 1/2 inch plywood gussets (3/8 on two where I ran out of 1/2 inch scrap plywood) that connect the two opposing bows together take a lot of stress during 'erection' and the plywood is weakening. There was some groaning and cracking noises this time. Everything held together but I was a little concerned. Once in place I am not too worried about the joint but grabbing one bow and walking up focuses a lot of strain on the gusset joint when the bows are more horizontal than vertical. If I use the frames again I will have some repair work to do first.

Third, I am an amateur construction hack and the structure is not a model of precesion and quality. That is just the way it is.

Overall, I am still very impressed with the design of the structure (not my design) but I don't think it lends itself that well to breaking down every spring. There is too much wear and tear during the assembly. I am sure I could have left it up (and coverd from the sun and rain) for ten years with no major problems. It is the up and down and leaving them untreated and outside under the boat has taken its toll on the cheap strapping. The only real solution is a permanent structure, a boat barn, which keeps moving up on my priorities list.

Rain fell in the afternoon and I wasn't really excited about attaching the end poles or pulling the tarp over anyway so that's all I got done. Next week I need to finish up the cover and take a good look at what needs to be done before next spring's launching.

and that's it.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Resisting the urge

The urge to continue with the interior construction is a strong temptation but it really isn't a priority so I focused instead on the wind vane project that is starting to feel like a never ending journey. Even the pictures look the same week to week.

In any case, last week I filled the old holes with the plan to more or less start over installing the deck mounts. I also installed the mounting pads very permanently in a bed of thickened epoxy. This week I wanted to get the deck mounts in place for good.

Since I have learned that even a little misalignment at the deck can cause serious problems where the tubing connects to the wind vane I wound up putting together a system that allowed the whole wind vane to sit in position so that I could see exactly where the mounts wanted to be. The end result looks simple but it took a few hours. On a positive note, everything is looking much better. The modifications I did earlier seem to be exactly what the vane needed. Now it is sitting pretty close to it's ideal location on the transom.

With the location of the mounts accurately located I drilled new bolt holes. First I drilled in a quarter inch with the 5/16 drill to get the exact center of the hole. Then I grabbed my 48/64's drill and went all the way through the deck. Doesn't everyone have a 48/64's drill? I bought it a few years ago for drilling and tapping a pipe thread. I needed something bigger than 1/2 inch and the only other option was my forstner bits which would have been harder to center exactly. Not too important. The job got done. Then I dug out some coring and filled my new holes back up with thickened epoxy.

Sunday, I positioned the mounts again and drilled through the center of the plugs I made Saturday. Again, I took a fair amount of time to make sure the mounts were positioned as accurately as possible. When the holes were all drilled through I mixed up some thickened epoxy and bedded the whole mount and bolted them in place. Now those mounts have become part of a rather permanent installation.

I also did some shopping around for concrete re-bar. It is time to start thinking about the winter cover and while I was pretty happy with last year's cover, the one area in need of improvement was how the structure was fixed to the ground. I used some garden stakes last year and during a few high wind storms the structure bent over the stakes and started moving around. I am thinking the re-bar should resist that tendency a bit better.

Other than that, I am going to finish this blog and order a tarp, some engine box sound insulation and some interior hardware so I can figure out how to make the storage locker doors - Some good advice I received was to figure out the hardware first and then build the doors to match. Otherwise, when it comes time to install the hardware you might be in for a surprise.

So that's it. Not terribly exciting.... oh wait... one more thing.

We had lots of rain this week with one particularly rainy day so after work I went out to the boat to look for leaks. It took awhile but I think I found my mystery leak. Well, two really but one leak is just a slight seepage from the aft starboard dead light. I have some bronze frames waiting to replace the aluminum ones anyway so I am not too worried about that one. The really tricky leak was coming out around the bulkhead between the saloon and head areas along the bottom of the settee front. A few weeks ago I did some destructive investigation and ruled out a deck leak and traced the leak back to the galley area. My search the other night confirmed that the underside of the deck was bone dry so I moved my search back into the cockpit where I think I found the problem.

Apparently, the cheap ($100 Bomar) plastic hatches are leaking. No surprise really. I knew they would. I had assumed that any leakage would travel harmlessly into the bilge. On the port side however, the leak was dropping onto the house battery shelf and running forward to the panel that I had installed which divides the cockpit area from the cabin area. The original structure was a 'mini bulkhead' about six inches wide that gave shape to the hull but wasn't a complete panel. The old icebox used to fit through this part. When I closed off the area, I screwed a full panel to the old partial bulkhead. And because there are no square bulkheads in the boat, there is a little gap between the panel I installed and the mini bulkhead. The leak was running along the battery shelf and dropping into this crevice and from there it was following the front edge of the settee until it found a place escape. At least I am pretty sure this is what is happening. I made a fix and now I need to test it.

I made the fix during the rainstorm at night so it wasn't pretty. I will have to do some cleanup later. Because of the tight confines I couldn't get a tool into the area effectively so my solution was to hold out my bare hand ... and unload several pumps of polysulfide sealant into my waiting palms. Then smear the sealant into the gap. Crude but effective. Once the sealant started to set up I was able to clean my hand. I would have taken a picture but I couldn't touch anything . Imagine a human hand and forearm completely encased in white sealant. Pretty yucky. On the other hand, I came back the next day to find the cabin sole completely dry for a change and all the damp areas dried out. I think I fixed the problem but the next rainstorm will confirm it.

And that's it. Now it is time to get the winter cover up. I will probably also be taking a weekend off soon to help out a friend getting a new-to-him boat home. By November I should be able to fully immerse myself in interior construction. My design juices are flowing these days and I can't wait to get moving on that.

Someone please remind me that the boat needs to be ready to sail next spring...

Sunday, October 3, 2010

The incredible shrinking boat

I will get to the title later on down the page...

After thinking about it, I decided that trying to make the wind vane deck mounts work in their current location wasn't the right course of action. I had spaced the mounts on deck the exact distance the tubes needed to be apart at the upper end where the vane attaches to the tube frame (in accordance with the instructions). I ran into a problem because I hadn't considered the deck camber which makes the tubes angle outwards at the top end. What I decided to do was re-position the mounts and let the tubes rise at whatever angle they wanted so long as they were properly spaced where they attach to the vane. I used a board with two holes spaced exactly like the wind vane to position the tubes and mounts. The picture shows how the mounts sit relative to the pads I had installed a few weeks ago.

I didn't have the pad material on hand so I skipped to the interior. I fit the paneling in front of the engine, glued insulation to the back and screwed it permanently in position.

Then, with the roll of insulation on hand, I went ahead and fit the insulation that goes along the hull under the galley countertop on the port and starboard sides. The funny angles took some time to sort out and the fumes from the contact cement were pretty strong inside the cabin so that ended my Saturday.

On Sunday I started back at the wind-vane (so much for installation in one weekend...) The mounting pads were set in sealant and came up with little work. I made new pads with one minor improvement. I made the pads wider. The first pads were just wide enough for the mounts which worked fine but any minor mis-alignment was immediately visible. My hope is that the larger pads will allow 1/8- 1/4 inch mis-alignment go by without drawing too much attention. Of couse I hope for no mis-alignment but consider who's doing the work...

Anyway, I felt so confident in my new mounts and their new positions that I set them in a bed of thickened epoxy. I will drill them out next weekend for permanent mounting. I will have to drill and fill the hole in the deck core from below the deck which should be interesting; do-able but interesting.

With the epoxy setting up, I cut and fit the interior panels (ceiling?) that covered the insulation under the galley benchtop. I oiled the panels and screwed them to the strips I had installed earlier. Later, I will give the panels several coats of Bilgekote white and the whole storage areas under the galley a freshening coat.

After that I decided to have some fun. I bought a sheet of cheap pine B/C plywood and made patterns for the galley countertop. This is where the title comes from; with the interior furnishings going in, the boat is suddenly becoming much smaller; nicer but smaller. It was a really good exercise because it gave me a chance to really see how the bits and pieces will fit together and proved some ideas while disproving others. It is one thing to have a vision in your head; everything works perfectly up there. In reality issues crop up quite unexpectedly. Making the patterns allowed all the details come together. It was quite exciting to see the form taking shape.

The plan is to use the top of the countertop as the top step on the companionway stairs. (that little lip sticking up will not be part of the final installation) I was wondering if this would work and if that first step would be too big. So far, my test walks have shown that the climb out is perfectly acceptable. I might still raise that center section up a bit. The mockup allows me to play with that. I am also going to have to give more thought as to how I plan on accessing the storage areas. Squeezing lids around sinks and stoves and smaller-than-visualized spaces is going to be a challenge. Speaking of sinks, My old plan was to try to re-locate the sink to a spot directly above the engine. After thinking about it for two years I still don't have an acceptable way of doing that. I think the sink will go back near the original location. Mostly because I don't have a better idea and because I already have an un-used thru-hull and seacock right there. I am also going to avoid a nice big sink which was part of my earlier plan. The waterline is only six inches or so below the level of the galley countertop so a deep sink would require a sump tank and pump. I don't want the added complexity. At one point I considered giving up the sink altogether and just using a plastic dish tub that could be taken on deck and dumped over the side. I decided not to go that route either. So far I have tossed out the simplest and most complicated ideas for sinkage. Now, I am thinking a small sink just like the original (Alberg just might have found the perfect compromise after all!) If I want a deep sink right over the engine I can pull out the dish tub and then pour it out into my shallow sink when I am finished. The best of all worlds.

Oh, I also have been trying to solve a rain leakage problem. I thought I had it completely licked but heavy downpours this week left a small puddle on the cabin sole; nothing like it was before but not perfectly dry either. This week should be a rainy week so hopefully I can spend some time at the boat after work tracking down the last drops of leaking water. In the interim, I used my shop vac to remove the water that has been accumulating in the bilge below the bilge drain (about 3 inches ~ 2 gallons). For future reference, when 'unloading' the shop vac over the side it would be a good idea to make sure your sneakers are not directly below.

And that is how I ended my weekend.