Friday, November 3, 2017

Hot meals aboard require some thinking in advance.

Cooking on board Long Steps

I expect to be heating food rather than being a chef afloat, but hot food no matter how simple can be a lifesaver when the weather is bad and the body is wet and cold. So I’ve been giving much thought not only to the food itself but to the method of heating. 
“Jetboil” has been suggested by quite a few people, but these are really only intended to heat fluids . I don’t drink coffee but a mug of tea is nice, as is hot chocolate but its hot food that I’m really wanting.
I’m happy to rip the top off a can, boil some pasta and tip the contents of the can in on top, I might even add some beef stock and potato flakes, or a packet of pea and ham soup.  Yes, when I’m really hungry I’ll eat stuff that normally I’d turn my head away from, there are times when a belly full of hot calories is a real treat no matter how prosaic it may taste, within reason of course. But then, "reason" is negotiable on a wet cold night when  the nearest Michelin four star restaurant is a long long way away.

So I needed a heat source, needed it mounted so it would be easily accessed, sheltered from the wind and spray, secure, and able to hold a pot securely.

All this in a small boat, one that is for the most part open to the elements.

My solution, after much thought, is to build a shelf on the inside of one of the big hatches at the forward end of the little cuddy, that’s B#3, and they give access to the big storage and bouyancy space up there under the “cabin” and into the bow.

On that shelf will go a little stove that I’ve bought by mail order from Aliexpress,
My friend Paul Mullings had bought one, the product looked very good, and it cost so little that if it doesn’t work I could toss it in the trash( unlike the Jetboil which here in NZ, even by mail order, is horrendously expensive).
It arrived on Saturday, 8 days after ordering it, all the way from China. Good service, and I know that if I tried to send a parcel that size back to China by post it would cost more than the stove and postage coming the other way.

It uses the ubiqitous 220 gram propane cartridges, around here we can get five of those for under five bucks, the stove in Spook, my 18 footer, uses those and I get around three days of cuppateas, full hot thermoses and an evening hot meal out of each one.  Say three dollars worth for a weeks cruising. I can live with that.

I’ve tried it out, it boiled 500ml ( a little less than 1/8th US gallon or two medium sized coffee mugs full) in 2 mins 40 seconds. To give you an idea a popular brand of Methylated spirits (acohol) stove took 4 mins 35, my Optimus white spirits (white gas or Coleman fuel) stove took 2 mins 15 seconds so its pretty reasonable in terms of heat output.
I’ve found it very controllable, it has a piezo lighter so the barbeque lighter or matches aren’t needed, it has feet that can  be drilled and bolted to the shelf, and wide arms that can take the modification that I’m planning.

Keeping the pot on the stove when the boat is bouncing around is an issue, so I’m planning to go to an Opportunity shop to find an old aluminium pot just big enough to take my cooking pot or the mini frying pan I use, cutting the bottom out and slotting the remaining ring over the stove arms, securing it with bolts or pop rivets and cutting a slot where I want the frying pan handle to rest.  That aly ring “fiddle” will be deep enough to retain my pot in quite rough conditions and with the lid on the pot, I’m hoping to keep the food in the pot rather than on the cockpit sole.

I’ve baked bread on worse cookers than this.

I’ll report later on when I’ve got it all set up.

Oh yes, pancakes with maple syrup!  Mmmmm!

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Boatbuilding, and indeed drawing boats is a part time thing here in my world. The days are just not long enough, or there are too few of them or something, the things to do don’t seem to fit in the space available.
But todays a good day, springtime is here, birdsong, warm sun, flowers, fresh pale green growth on the trees and those that lose their clothes in the winter are budding.
I’ve the day off other things, and it’s a Long Steps building day interspersed with some drawing on another project. Perfect!

So its going to be the mizzen mast step box, all the components have been dry fitted, coated with resin and sanded off, and I can, after I chop the socket in the bottom step and the partner hole in the top, fit it all together.
I’ll also start the process of fiberglassing the offcenterboard, its all shaped up and waiting, the hardwood tip and leading edge will get two layers and the rest just one of 6 oz . I’m not going to even try to wrap the glass around the trailing edge, I want to keep that square across, about 4mm wide and the cloth wont go around that sharp corner.

The mizzen mast step, I've left the near side panel for both the step box and the tiller line tunnel off so the structure is visible for viewers, those bits go on next. Note that the angle of the mizzen mast is slightly more upright than the plans will show, I'm going to use a rather larger area rig than I'd usually recommend, I'll need to reef early but she'll be a flyer in light weather  which will help with progress in mixed conditions. 
The tiller will pivot on a pin mounted on the forward side of the bulkhead on the right of the pic, that pin will have the same slope as the transom and rudder, and will have a yoke which matches the one on the head of the rudder so I can use solid rods rather than cables.
I'm planning to get a couple of rigging screws, cut them in half across the body and put a section of stainless rod in there to make adjustable rods with slotted ends. 

The glue around the edge of the hatch opening is primer for putting the cutout piece back in, I've come across a pair of nice round hatches that seem a better idea so I need to fill the holes and cut new ones to suit. There is quite a lot of "do as I say not as I do" in this boat, I like to experiment.

SEI has been used a lot over the past year or so, mainly as a rowing boat here on the river, picking up trash that would otherwise wash out to sea and keeping me fit. Three one hour rows a week has moved some of my belly up to my chest and added a little to my biceps, and these days the dog watches intently as I walk up to the shed.  If I come out with his lead he’s off up to the truck, if it’s the oars he’s sitting in the little boat by the time I get there. Right now though he’s asleep in a patch of sunlight that’s shining through the window.  It’s a dogs life!

I need to get on and check the last of SEI’s plans for the corrections that John Owens in Texas kindly sent me, I like to have someone test a new set of plans for me for each new design and he built one with the aim of making kits available.
I’ve sailed her quite a bit, she’s a good performer, well balanced, very capable in a blow and moves well in light weather too, her RSS sail ( the OZ Racer one  ) is great, sets and performs beautifully and can be used instead of the one I drew, and I’m very pleased.
One of the aims of the design was to provide enough stability to make her both sail well and easy to move around in, I find I can jump into her off the dock and walk about in her, lean over the side and drag rubbish aboard, I’ve a friend who has both limited mobility and poor balance and she is able to climb aboard without too much risk of going for an unscheduled swim.
So SEI, the next set of plans to be released is a good un.

I’d best get on with the work up in the shed though, the job wont get done unless I’m in there and doing it.

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Long Steps, other builders and a small victory.

Blog 14 oct 17

Long Steps is making progress,  or I am with the build or somesuch. I’ve two planks to fit on the starboard side, leaving those two off while fitting the ‘offcentrecase” was a good trick,  made it much easier to get in there and push it into place.
I’ve done the pivot bearing cap on the waterballast tank side of the case, taped the case sides to the bottom panel and garboard plank, and done a whole lot of coating on the inside of the boat, three coats is whats recommended but gosh it takes a while to get done. Sigh, have to do it though, there are parts of this boat that are in places that will be impossible to get at later on.

While I’ve been distracted with other things Phil McCowin and Howard Rice are putting a Long Steps together for Phil, Howard taking a break from the Voyage of Southern Cross project  ( Here’s the link) to help Phil out.  That’s put the pressure on here, I’d not done much at the drawing board for a while, other things having to take precedence, so I’ve spent the last week working to stay ahead of them.  The other two builders will be getting those drawings as soon as I’ve had feedback from Phil as to corrections and errors, and there are aways one or three.

So I’m pushing on, have drawn out the case and ‘board, the mast boxes and the plank shapes.  One of the things that will be evident to Howard and Phil, Howard having assisted with or built around  70 SCAMPs and Phil having built his own one, is that this boat is built like a battleship in comparison.

When designing I work out the stress paths,  hogging, wracking, rigging and such, and make an estimate of the forces involved.  SCAMP is 11ft 11in, that’s near enough 3.60 metres in my own language, but this is 19ft, has twice the ballast of its smaller relative, and will be carrying a lot more sail plus will be moving much faster at times, all of which will about double the stresses that the structure has to cope with.

My own planned voyage being one that will take me well out to sea, I prefer to have the boat slightly overbuilt rather than find out on a dark and stormy night that I should have used slightly thicker material or more glue.  So she’s designed tough, light by the standards of most boats of her length but tough all the same.

Howard and Phil are making famous progress with Phils boat, and Phil has been kind enough to send me some pics. This is toward the end of week one of the build,  two guys working pretty much full time though, but its impressive all the same. I’m doing several hours each day trying to stay ahead with the drawings.

Here's where they're at.  Photos by Phil, don't you love the clean and tidy workshop!

I still have distractions though,  to help the monthly bills I do some specialised engineering work, on site maintenance and repair of woodworking machinery, it’s a field that I know my way around and enjoy, most of the people I see while working are very glad to see me as their machinery will be running not long after I roll in the door, but occasionally I come across some really funny things.
Last Thursday I was called to a company with a heavy duty 200mm jointer,  one with long tables and a heavy duty fence, probably 200 kg or so ( 440 lbs).  They’d had a bearing issue, contacted an opposition company who sent a technician out, ( about $200 just for that) he’d told the client to get it to his workshop ( I do bearing replacement for those on the job, no big deal) which added to the cost, the job was done and the machine was returned, having to hire a fork truck to load on the way out and unload on the way back added to the bill.

It vibrated, it shook so badly that it literally walked around the workshop!

After seeing the bill, close to $1000 in total, the client was bitching at the company rep for the outfit that I contract to, and he said “phone John”.

I was there a day later,  listened to the complaints, fired it up and sure enough, it was unusable.

Out came the stethoscope, listened to the bearings, they’re ok.  The drive motor was ok, but there was a low frequency rumble in there that was much slower than the cutter rotation or the electric motor rotation.  The only other moving parts in that machine are the drive belts and the low frequency noise was about what I'd expect from the time it took for the belts to rotate so off they came, all three from the triple groove pulleys.
Bingo, they immediately took up a long oval shape, and all three had been on the pulleys in exactly the same place relative to the ends of the ovals. They'd most likely been cramped up tight in some form of packaging for a very long time and taken a "set", two flats and two sharp corners instead of a smooth circle.
The belts were marked to show where the distortions were, went into a sink full of hot water for 20 minutes, were fitted with the marks evenly distributed and the machine fired up again. Smoooooth!
The customer was super pleased, I’ve been asked to go back every few months to do a service run on all of his plant.
I was super pleased, that was fun.

Mind you, I don’t know what I’d have done if it hadn't worked.

Tomorrow I’m off to town to learn how to post videos on YouTube ( thank you in anticipation Paul) , then  go to Haddons house to help lift his brand new almost ready to launch Pathfinder out of the shed and onto his trailer.  There are steps in the way which will make it interesting, but I’m hoping that we can combine the new knowledge of how to use the video camera, how to post on YouTube with the moving of the boat to provide you with some entertainment.

Back in a day or two.


Friday, September 8, 2017

Boatbuilding is a good thing to do when its raining.

Its springtime here, but spring here is usually changeable weather, the “all four seasons in one day “kind of changeable.  It means that on average the air temperatures are climbing but there is so much rain that the ground is saturated, there is mud everywhere, its windy and that’s driven rain into places it does not normally get to, and the river is full of silt that’s overflowed the sediment ponds that the earthworks up stream where there is a lot of new construction going on.

Ah well. It will come right given time.

This morning was catchup with emails time, there are plenty left for tomorrow.  How did we ever live without them? Life must have been so simple.
I’ve had quite a lot of the day up there in the workshop though, after a major cleanup, sweeping out a heap of dust and shavings from when I shaped the offcenterboard, restacking some of the offcuts and clearing all the rubbish off the benches I cut out the starboard side seat top, glued the reinforcing doubler under the section where the access port will be, and faired the framing underneath. 

Having used jarrah hardwood as the ‘case packers, putting the angle on the top was a bit of a mission.  The seat tops are angled slightly for comfort, when the ‘case was made with a square top, me figuring that it would be easy to run a plane along the top to get the angle right, I’d forgotten just how tough and hard Jarrah is.
My angle grinder with 40 grit sandpaper just bounced off, the power plane was not much better, so it was sharpen the number 5 Stanley to a perfect edge and use lots of elbow grease to make it blunt again, several times!  

Memo to self, remember where the nails from the cordless nail gun are!  

Its done, didn’t take long, but gosh that stuff is tough.

Next job was to work a little on the cockpit floor. I’d decided when drawing the boat to make a footwell at the after end as, this being a combination rowing and sailing boat, she’s a bit shallow in the body to provide the perfect seating position and still have the cockpit floor self draining. So, like Howard Rice has done with several SCAMPs including his own, I’ve put in a footwell with a liftout floor piece so, when needed, that can lift out and there is sufficient seat height to be really comfortable.
The lift out section also gives access to the lowest point of the boats interior where the venturi bailers will be fitted, and where the pickup for the bilge pumps will be.

Ok, done that, then the compass mount.  I’m planning to do some reasonably serious voyaging in this little ship, so a good, accurate compass is needed.  I managed to obtain a very good unit, second hand but still with its box, instruction manual and even a set of spare correction magnets.
Long Steps  will have a solar panel charging a big truck sized battery mounted up forward, that to power  lighting both navigation and interior,  vhf radio, GPS, sounder and such, and there will be quite a bit of electrical wiring, switches and so on up under the cuddy cabin roof, so that’s not a good spot for a magnetic compass.  Sure, GPS will tell me which direction I’m headed in, but the magnetic compass will work even with complete failure of the electrics, plus its easier to steer by.

Also, the distance between the helm and the forward end of the cockpit is such that it would require binoculars to read the compass when steering. Its about 2.5 metres, thats over 8 ft 6in for the metrically challenged, too far to read the figures on the compass card.

That means that its going at the after end of the cockpit floor, the mounting lifts it up enough to be clearly visible from the helm position,  or when rowing, and the mounting box is strong enough to act as a footbrace to stop me sliding around when the boats heeling a long way.
It will also be part of the mounting for the rowing foot braces and hide the drains into the area where the two venturi bailers will be located. I much prefer having one thing do several jobs than  have several things doing one function each!

The removable section of the cockpit floor is clearly visible there, finger holes to drain water into the cavity as well as making it easy to lift out, there are locks to fit that will keep it in place until removal is needed.  Note that the rest of the cockpit floor to the forward end of the seats covers the ballast tank which is about twice the size of that in a SCAMP. If I'm forced to right the boat out there at sea, I want all the help that I can design and build in, that plus I want the boat stable enough so it wont tip around so much when someone moves that my drink gets spilled.
The compass mount is that box structure at the after end of the cockpit floor.  Its just loose fitted as yet, will be sanded off and the interior of the box coated, the drains cut where it sits on the bottom against the bulkhead, and pieces fitted to the sides to take the rowing foot braces. Yes I know that the competition rowers call them "stretchers" but this is not a competition rowing boat so I can call them whatever I like.
Incidentally, that reddish wood you can see on the starboard side seat front is the jarrah offcentercase packer I was wittering on about.

A couple of days ago I cut out one side of the cabin, the foredeck and the side decks for the port side.  They’re just sitting there loose at the moment but do give a flavour of progress, making the ship look more complete.

 The fore and side deck pieces loose fitted, and the "cabin" side piece sitting held by a couple of spring clamps, I like making ellipses, two nails, a piece of string and a pencil, fun but I promise I'll draw the shape full size on the plans.

The cabin side from inside, yes, I've been in there and sat for a few minutes.  There will be a little side locker below the side deck edge which will form a backrest to make it more comfortable. 

I’ve drawing work to catch up on, so no more boatbuilding for a few days, but its nice to go up into the shed for a few minutes now and again, lean on the gunwale and dream a little.

Summers coming.