Only For Nutters – Part 19

It is now late May, and I would like to be telling you of how the finishing touches got done very quickly, the whole boat is coming together beautifully, we have organised a smooth move down to the yard at Totnes, and the boat is about to be craned into the water for the first time. Of course, the final painting took a while and the window installation was tricky, but in the end even installing the hardware went along without a serious hitch…Pop the champagne and off for a maiden sail!

Oh, if only the real world were like this!

Exquisite torture!

Instead, I am labouring on alone, having endured the winter months – and made reasonable progress all things considered – and yet another target has been missed. (To be fair to myself, these targets are a motivational tool, not deadlines exactly…) I am still sanding, still finishing off the construction, although there is not much of the big stuff left. And the end seems further away than ever. My trusty co-constructor has moved house too far to be available any more. And as I get down into the details, they take longer and longer to do. Is it possible that I will be working on this damn project for the rest of my life, and still not get it done???

After eighteen (!) articles, O patient reader, you have surely read quite enough about sticking one bit of ply to another, then sanding it all smooth again! You want to get on to the fun stuff, the electronics, the engines, the decorations and cushions and colour scheme, and take a critical look at the finished article. You might even be interested to learn how the boat sails after all this time. Forgive me this rant, but so do I!!! No more epoxy and glass and endless elbow grease…!

The frustration is compounded by the start of the sailing season, with friends going out for day trips and offering the chance to get away – but then if I go my enjoyment is marred by the knowledge that I am not in the workshop struggling on.

The torture of having to wait so long to see how it all turns out seems to bring out the worst in some. At a recent Boat Jumble a chap took some pleasure in telling me a story about a home-built mast. When the boat landed heavily for the first time off the top of a wave, its entire mast base crushed and broke under the compression loads. Just the sort of tale to keep me awake at nights fretting about the layup and the block of doug fir we placed at the base of the mast. But he did at least say the failure was following a construction method (ply and little stringers/ no shear web) I had rejected, so that is some small consolation.

Would any designer ever sell a set of plans if they told the unvarnished truth about home building? Never mind their assurances of ease and speed, it has to be a five-year project at least for any sizeable boat. And if one is not to go completely nuts, a considerable extra wedge of money has to be spent on labour, if only for the company. (If you are seriously contemplating building your own boat, please read the last two sentences again!)

Perseverance is all

But I am still hanging on in there, doing about 50 to 60 hours a week – alone. Another milestone will soon be passed when I put the hi-build primer on the last of the deck areas and the main beam. The paint draws a welcome line under endless rounds of filling and fairing. Now it will be just finer grades of sandpaper. I expect to celebrate with a biscuit.

The front walkway, spanning the gap between the centre of the main beam and the forward beam with netting on either side, is looking very good. I decided to construct the beams in a box section from 3mm ply as I had plenty of scrap strips, with triangular spruce corners, also offcuts. A few little bulkheads added torsional strength, and I glassed them all over with some unidirectional and light biaxial cloth. Lovely and lightweight. Bearings are the usual graphite and epoxy glassed on. They need to allow for some movement at the bows. Rigid gluing would have to be incredibly beefy and would only make for stress concentrations and ultimately failure. We don’t want to end up like Team Philips!

Eventually the walkway frame will have a ramp attached inside it. This will pivot down from its after edge to create a convenient boarding ramp, ideal for clambering aboard from a dinghy, especially as the stern of the boat will not have steps.

The anchor box astern of the walkway is almost complete. This provides the hinge point for the aft end of the walkway. I still need to finish off the internal glassing. It will eventually have a PVC bag in it for the chain and rope, along with the attachment U-bolt and a substantial cleat on top. The plan is to stow everything inside the box and carry the chain out in the bag before deploying so that it does not damage the box. On the previous boat I just had a tough plastic container with a hole cut in the side. It was simple, cheap and worked a treat.

Bolts and hinges

Thoughts have turned to hinges and fastenings for the lids of all the external lockers. I am a fan of the internet supply companies who do bolts and screws, hinges and general hardware. The one I have been using is, they charge a modest £3.75 for postage, about the same as the cost of driving somewhere to pick up the goods, if only there were a supplier within easy reach. But I was glad to have the chance to look closely at the range of hinges they do when I saw their stand at the Devon Boat Jumble. The quality of stainless and brass hinges seems to be very variable, and it is not easy to spot this online or in a catalogue. I am not keen on the types that are stamped out of thin sheet. As for locks, the neatest solution seems to be those security locks with a recessed triangular pin. They are available from RS Components, although it has to be admitted they are not secure against someone armed with the right tool. I take the view that most thieves are opportunists and will not have such specialist tools so will leave the lockers alone. Padlocks are easily cut with a bolt-cropper, so offer even less real security, as well as rattling, chafing and corroding away. The only time my previous boat was broken into, the hatchway locks were cut and nothing else was damaged. A couple of items were stolen, but at least they didn’t smash the doors to get in, so it’s padlocks on doors and triangular pin locks on the front lockers for me.

Dorade boxes

I have been working on the dorade boxes which provide ventilation for the galley and heads. They required styrofoam and plaster moulds to be made in situ because of the compound curvature where the front deck meets the main sidedeck camber. I made a female mould in glass/epoxy, then laid the final composite item up inside this. The dorade effect, where there is a baffle to prevent water coming in through the air intake to the cabin was achieved by making some glass tubes around plastic drainage pipes. I have glued in 100mm grey drainage fittings with a screw lid to make it possible to seal the ventilator from inside the boat. And the result looks very neat. When sailing upwind with the cowls facing aft, there should be a suction effect to pull air through the cabins. Another thing I can’t wait to try out.

They do say you cannot have enough ventilation in any boat, and I am contemplating putting some extra small hatches in the top of the cabin roof. As these can be easily fitted after completion, it may be best to wait until I can find the best spot. The front compartments are more of a problem, and I may have to think hard about a solution here.

What else? I hear the impatient reader cry. Surely you must have done all the building work by now? Well, the daggerboards are still to do, I am keeping them until last because they can be done during colder months, the engine pods need fitting and the cockpit has to be sorted out and primed. The steering is still just a jumble of parts and sketches in notepads. And there is a lot of finishing to do below. Oh, and the windows, companionway door, the hardware, the painting…