Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Progress on Long Steps.

My current building project.

Just a reminder of what she's intended for, this little ship is intended as a long range sail and oar adventure boat, capable of multi day coastal voyages in open waters. Water ballasted, with a SCAMP style "veranda", light and slippery enough to row if needed, and able to self recover single handed from a full rollover or capsize.
I am developing plans as I build, and they should not be long in becoming available.

Long Steps progress.

I’ve not done much boatbuilding of late, while it’s a calming and rewarding way to spend a few hours there are times when other things have to take priority so the partly planked hull has been just sitting for the past few months making me feel guilty every time I walked past.

But there has been progress, in order to produce a comprehensive build manual for what is a slightly unusual boat I decided to plank up one side so I could get good clear pics of the inside structure.  I’d planked her with two each side to stabilise the structure, to prevent the fitting of stringers and planks on the one side pulling her frames out of line, then planked up the port side to the gunwale.
Note that I’ve left the top two stringers off the starboard side so I can fit the “offcentercase” more easily. The ‘case is a big lump of a thing and its going to be a task to get it positioned and fitted anyway, better access will simplify the task.

 The "Sharp end".  Yes I know the under edges of the lapstrake planks are uneven, its my practice to flip the boat over and fair them with a rebate plane before filling, sanding and painting.

 Inside aft, if you look past those temporary braces you can see the "stand up at the helm" space and the lazarette where the mizzen mast box is.  There will also be a deck box for the main anchor and rode under the tiller which is to be hinged between the two holes at the top of that bulkhead, the tiller lines go through there.

 Stern, some trimming yet to be done but the rudder fittings have been dry fitted into reinforced bolt holes.
A view of the structure from the bow end, simple plywood frames and stringers, the stem is three layers of plywood and the middle layer extends as a spine which locates the frames all the way to the back of the "cabin" The little semicircles on the frames are plywood doublers that make it easier to screw the stringers into place.


My "home away from home",  a 2.5m long cockpit, lots of space, it would be a piece of cake to put filler pieces between the rowing seat support stringers on the inside of the seat fronts to form a double bunk if you wanted to take your sweetie cruising.
Mine, ( Sweetie that is) wants to come along in her kayak but she cant sleep in that so I've planned on a suitable space from first concept .
The "offcentercase" goes down the right hand side of the cockpit floor as you see it here.


have dry fitted the cockpit floor, that’s a nice big space and I’ve laid myself down and relaxed to see how it feels.  Plenty of space, it feels nice and secure, and the space under the SCAMP like “veranda” being a little bigger than Long Steps fat little relative is big enough to sit in comfort with room for the cookstove and galley tasks to be done in a sheltered space without having to erect the cockpit tent.

She’s looking good, at least from the port side, slippery, the beam being quite narrow at the waterline when she’s upright, the intention being to make her easy to row, but the center of buoyancy moves out very quickly as she heels so there is stabiity there to carry a good sized sail area. I’d rather sail than row, the latter being for the most part to enable me to row into a marina where the rules prevent sailing in.

A couple of minor setbacks, I had gone to the trouble of scarfing up a stack of stringers, rounding all the inner edges with a router and sanding them off nicely. But found that kiln dried Agathis Vitensis can be very brittle. ( I already knew that,  but thought that the easy curves in this boat would be gentle enough to get them around).

Bang! Twice! 

Not what I wanted to hear, but my habit of dry fitting things first meant that there was no glue to clean up when I took the broken pieces off,  I can use those bits elsewhere.
Hook up the trailer and off to a local sawmill that specialises in Cupressus Macrocarpa.  Thats Monterey Cypress in the USA where it comes from, and “Macrocarpa” here in NZ, bought a  big plank of the stuff, 50 x 250 x  4.2m and sent a few hours making up more stringers.

The other thing was that I’d been offered a heap of  the heads from leadhead roofing nails to help with the casting of the weight in the offcenterboard, I’d got involved in conversation and forgot to load them into my truck so had to scrounge around to find enough wheel balance weights to make up the difference.

I got that cast though, no problem. 


The "offcenterboard", thats the core and one side with the lead cast in place, the hardwood protective leading edge and tip ready to glue into place and the lifting tackle pulley in place.  There is another layer of plywood to glue onto the face that you can see there.

That pulley takes the 'board lift line which runs from the forward end of the dogleg shown in the pic of the case side below, around the pulley and back out the forward end, around a mast head halyard box and along the seat front with a big reduction tackle on that end.  The hardwood block that its bolted to is to make very sure that its secure, cant pull out no matter what the provocation is.
I dont like putting a multi part tackle inside the "case though, two parts like this is ok but more tends to get tangled and its not easy to get at, hence the big four part tackle being "outside".


One of the things I get asked is “how do I make a mould for the weight in the middle of my centerboard?  Or, “how do I stop the wood from catching fire when I pour the melt into the cavity?”.
The core of the offcenterboard in Long Steps is two layers of 12mm plywood,  I cut out the cavity, glued the outside piece of 6mm plywood to one side, and poured the  lead straight in. The other side 6mm piece was glued on after planing the lead down flush with a power plane ( take care doing this, use a “slicing action” rather than cutting square as it reduces the chance of a violent kickback).
When you are going to melt lead for  very simple casting like this, first of all make sure that the wood it is being poured into is dead dry . Any moisture will flash in to steam and boil through the molten lead causing splatter and a porous casting.
Second, don’t overheat the melt, get it just molten and pour as a continuous stream to avoid layering.  You’ll get some smoke but in my experience not much, and the minor amount of charring will be hidden inside the board where its of no consequence.

Heavy boots, heavy clothing, eye protection and a well ventilated space, stand upwind. Its fun but be safe.

 Here, the last layer of plywood is glued on, and I'm getting the pivot pin hole sorted.  I've drilled it well oversize, (Holesaw) and filled it with fibre reinforced epoxy, set the pin ( a chunk hacksawed off an old bent piece of stainless steel propshaft that came with a bent propellor I'd bought for the bronze, note that I've drilled and threaded the end of it so I can put a bolt in there to make it easier to grip should I want to pull it out) I've coated the pin with silicon car polish as a release agent so I could pull it out when the epoxy had set, and yes it came out without much of a fight.
The "case." 9mm plywood with two layers of 6 oz fiberglass on each side, put on before the case packers that you can see there were fitted. Those packers are fitted with glue, screws that overlap within the packers and will have through bolts in the high load areas.  They're made of Australian Jarrah hardwood, and you can bet that its hard! 
The "dogleg" at the top houses a 2/1 purchase which is increased by a 4/1 purchase along the seat front in the cockpit, thats a heavy 'board".


Next job, fit the double doublers,  drill for the pivot and reinforce the pivot pin holes in the "case, then I can fit it and get on with planking.

I went north to Whangarei and visited Annie Hill the other day

Annie is making progress on her floating home.

SIBLIM,  ( Small is beautiful, less is more) is coming along well, as always with projects like this its taking longer than expected but for a solo build learning the skills as she goes, SIBLIM is coming along well.

Although only 26 ft long, this boat has an amazing amount of space, there is a luxury sized bunk up forward with good standing space to the side, lots of storage, a head and wash space and more storage just aft of that and a lovely spacious main cabin back from that.

Being less than tall is a real help in the headroom requirement, but even for me  at a good handspan taller the spaces feel comfortable, and getting around inside this little ship wont be hard on my head should I contact the overhead.

The only area that is really finished, ( just some fittings to be bolted in) is the anchor deck, that’s the area just back from the bow where one stands to handle the ground tackle. Now, I’ve stood on a rounded, wet and slippery fiberglass foredeck deck while heaving a 25 lb anchor and a heap of chain up  and it wasn’t a nice place to work. But this area, with its wide Junk style stem, lowered deck level leaving good bulwarks each side and secure footing is a much safer place.
I like it.

Here are some pics of the interior and foredeck,  I’ll be back there again soon and will report as the cabin fitout goes ahead.



 The companionway to the head and forward cabin, plenty of space here. Thats Annie of course, ever the smiling one.

 Sumptious space in the "bedroom". 
 Now thats a foredeck that I'd be happy working on.
The view from forward through the main cabin to to cockpit, lots of work to do there as yet but progress is being made.  The dink on the back wall of the shed is my "Offcuts" design, the predecessor to "Scraps". 

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Catchup time, again.

Sunday 21 May.

Its been  a busy time of late, spending time with Denny, had a big adventure walking the Tongariro Crossing with a group she's part of.  Thats a big walk, my fitness tracker wristband showed 35000 steps for the day. Its a mighty climb up one side of the mountain, and a long decent down the other side. The scenery is amazing, the walk is very crowded though, there are often over 3000 people a day doing it so its hardly a wilderness walk. But its a good one, recommended. It was a good weekend.
We had a "little" adventure recently, we wanted to watch a particular boxing match and the SKY people wanted a lot of money to view it, and Denny being here that weekend suggested that we find a sports bar with TV showing it. After some enquiry we found one, used the money that would have been spent on the SKY viewing on a nice dinner and sat in front of the big screen and watched the match.
It was noisy in there, but the food was good, I had good company with me, and  “our” boxer won his fight. The outstanding thing about the evening was that someone had very kindly paid for our meal and drink.  Thank you Northern Union bar and restaurant.

Engineering work has taken up  a lot of my days, I do maintenance and repair on woodworking machinery in woodshops and school tech classrooms, and I'm in catchup mode there, it pays pretty well though so thats another catchup thats happening. Its usually fun, I had a job to do in a yacht interior specialist shop the other day and was watching while working, a young man putting together some intricate marquetry ( inlaid wood) on a big motor yachts saloon table. He's got a lot more patience than I have, anyone who says the old skills are disappearing hasn't seen this. Maybe those skills aren't as common but they're still around.

There has been a heap of maintenance to do on my old ship. Welcome to owning a 45 year old wooden boat,  she’s a constant project, and with an unusual amount of wet weather this year its been hard to keep up the sanding and painting so she’s looking a bit scruffy at the moment.
I’ve had issues with the paint on the hull, water getting behind it in patches and peeling some areas off.  I’d not completely sanded it back to wood last year, and although the paint I applied was the recommended system and was applied over a well sanded surface, the undercoat underneath seems to have failed in a couple of areas.
That plus a tiny, suspicious area on the side of the flying bridge turned out to be a major rot spot hiding under the paint, so that piece of wood has been cut out, the soft plywood ground away and sealed with low viscosity epoxy, and I’m about to fit a new piece in there.  The issue has been that the original piece had not been sealed where it stood on the cabin top to support the flying bridge side, and although it was mahogany it was possibly sapwood and has soaked up a lot of water, and rotted out.

I’ve done some rewiring of the lighting as well, and can recommend strip LED “warm daylight” lighting, it doesn’t look as nice as a “proper” light fitting, the LEDs just being stuck on in a strip, but the light that they give from 12 volt supply is really nice.  I’ve a 10 metre roll of them, and am gradually working through the ship to replace the tired old flouros, another benefit is that the LEDs don’t cause the phone or the radio to buzz plus they draw a lot less current. Recommended!

That fitness tracker was included with a Garmin GPS and depth sounder that was going on a very good deal from Burnsco, thats been fitted by the way although the transponder for the depth part has to wait until I can put the boat on the hard.  Its a magical little thing, has all the charts for NZ on it, and replaces two non functional depth sounders, one of which has to be as old as the ship, replaces all my charts ( I keep them though just in case) compass ( Same) and log, which the ship has never had. Technology is getting cheaper all the time.

I’ve got back to work on Long Steps again, fitted the next two stringers up, that’s two done out of four taped the inside seams of the lowest plank to the bottom, cut out and glassed the offcentercase sides, cut the end posts and begun building the ‘board.  I’ll have to scrounge up some lead to melt into the cavity in the tip of the core, that’s 11 kg, a small pour.  I enjoy doing this sort of thing.
I recall, being around 10 years old, making moulds from clay, drying them in the sun, melting lead on the hearth inside and pouring to make things.  I only got burned once, pain helps the learning process.
Its time for a lot of sandpapering, the framing and interior is being gradually sanded and coated, I’m using a very low viscosity epoxy from a supplier who no longer does that product, but its similar to “Everdure” but with a higher density, so two coats, scraped or sanded between, gives a glossy finish and the third ensures a really good coverage.
The ballast tank framing is in, the cockpit floor, at least the centerline piece has been cut from ½ in plywood and it’s a big space, I tried lying down on it with my head and shoulders in under the cuddy and it feels very cozy.

Back to paint.  SEI had a water based semi gloss enamel paint on her, with three different undercoats to see what worked and what didn’t.  She sits on the dock alongside “The Ship” so  often gets a lot of rainwater in her, the intention being to test the paint system to its limit with sun and water.
It didn’t work, 18 months and the paint was falling off in places ( undercoat number one) checking in some places, ( undercoat number two) and sort of doing ok where I’d used International Prekote.
On sanding a few patches I found that the Prekote had stood up well, but the water based enamel was not lasting.
She was past scruffy, I use her for rowing on the estuary and doing my trash collection run on the river, so she’s often scraping the bottom, ( oysters in mud) or pushed into the mangroves, hard on paint for sure.
She needed it, so she’s been sanded off on the outside and a new full gloss water based exterior rated paint applied. Vibrant blue this time!

Its softer than the solvent based enamels, but so far seems to be surviving ok.

When I find my camera case with the charger in it, I’ll get some pics.

John Welsford


Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Howard Rice, under sail in the far south.


The SV Navara came across a tiny yacht sailing in the Magdalena Channel in the far south of Chile, not a sight they'd expected to see so they took pics and posted this to their website.
Surrounded by mountains, the weather extremely unpredictable and biting cold, glaciers hanging in many of the valleys, snow on most of the mountaintops, its not the place where small boats go.  Unless of course its Howard Rice. He will tell you he's just an ordinary guy.  Hah!

Check out the larger story on below40south.com

I'm posting progress reports there which, along with catching up with all the work I didnt get done here in NZ while I was in Chile supporting Howards expedition has meant that I've not kept the blog going like I should, but thought that you'd like this.

Saturday, January 21, 2017

A good cup of tea.

A good cup of tea is very hard to come by when travelling.  Its not easy here in NZ either, the restaurants worldwide seem to revel in making the worst tea possible A cup of lukewarm water with a teabag on the saucer will at best make brown water that tastes like mud.  They say that they don’t sell a lot of tea, its not hard to figure out why.

I got home to my ship after being in Punta Arenas and Santiago Chile for 5 weeks, ( got a good cup of tea at the hotel Cabo de Hornos by the way, the manager there is a German lady and likes things done properly, well done ) and came home to find, no water. Plenty around the boat, but none in the taps.
All the usual noises when the taps were turned on but not even a dribble.

Ok, fill the tanks, I’d had guests on board while I was away and just assumed that they’d been generous with the shower, put the hose in for an hour, those two fresh water tanks are about 300 litres each so it takes a while.

Had water from the hot tap, none from the cold? Maybe I need a new pump.
The ship is 44 years old, quite a few things are close to their use by date so I just assumed that the pump had given up.
A day later, no water from the hot tap either!

The fresh water pumps are down in the engine room and that’s under the main cabin floor, I have to roll up the carpet and uplift the floorboards to get to Mr Fords home, so I left it for a couple of days while doing some other chores.

When I did venture down there “hola!” ( I’ve learned some Spanish while away) Water! Lots of it.  Ventured a taste? Fresh water!
The stuff outside being salty, it could only have come from the water tanks.

Ok, what next.  No the bilge pumps would not work. Plenty of current in the batteries, so off I went and bought a small Rule bilge pump and some hose, connected directly to the main battery bank, pumped her out, then had a look at the mess down there.  Oil everywhere, the water had been above the oil dipstick hole.

First job. Oil and filter change in the engine. That’s a fairly major job and involves pumping out, then replacing 26 litres of 30 grade diesel oil, not multigrade, so its not an off the shelf item.  Off into town, just made it on Friday afternoon before the guys closed, but then got stuck in rush hour traffic.  It took 2 hours to get home which did not see me feeling tranquil and serene!

Saturday morning,  the engines running again, check the oil several times while Henry rumbled away, no sign of cloudiness, same with the big hydraulic gearbox, but I did grease all the bearings on the driveshaft and the stern gland, just in case.

Next, the pump.  I took it out and aha! The fitting on one end had gone brittle and had cracked, that had let all the water in the two tanks, plus all that I’d put in since, out into the bilge.

Next, the pump had inlet and outlet spigots for 10mm id hose. The hoses that fed and received the water in that line were half inch, as were all the fittings for those hoses.  Whoever had fitted this little in line pump had made up some interesting little plastic adaptors, which had gone brittle and literally fell apart in my hand.

So, off to the boat parts shop, found a pump about the same size, shape and capacity, checked that it was the right voltage, got some new hose clips and went back to the oily mess in the engine bay.

No I couldn’t get the electrics to work, no I couldn’t get the old hoses to clamp onto the non barbed fittings on the new pump. So by then I was about done and went off to the hot pools over the hill for a long soak, got takeout Roganjosh and rice from the Indian restaurant along the way, no water in the galley makes cooking a chore.

Today.  Got the multimeter out, after several hours of messing around, found where the problem was.  It was automotive wire in a marine environment, there was corrosion for about 50mm in from the end of the wire, and of course with that clipped out the wire was too short.

Ran new wire, about 4metres of twin core, had to lift floorboard which meant moving two lockers, which meant moving the double bunk, then had to reach in under the galley bench to thread it through bulkheads and frames.
Got that working, tested it, then ventured back out to find some new hose that age had not made inflexible, and a pump with pipe fittings closer to the half inch hose fittings that make up all of the internal fresh water plumbing. Bear in mind that New Zealand saw the light way back in 1967 and converted to metric measurement so imperial measurement fittings are hard to find.

But I found a 12mm in line 750 litre an hour in line pump at the fourth place I called at, even found some 12mm pvc pipe and took a chance that if I put it into boiling water for 5 minutes it would stretch enough to make the difference.
I bought that plus the pump, damn the price, by then I just wanted the job done. Came back home to where the gale force winds blowing here at my dock had the ship bouncing around pretty energetically, bent myself up like a paper clip and got into the confined space to fit the new pump, wiring, hoses and clips.

It all works now.  The first thing I did with my now fully functional galley tap was to make a cup of tea.

It’s a good cup of tea, Twinings Irish Breakfast, made in a proper teapot, pre warmed, and brewed for three minutes.

I think I deserve it.