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In Greenland

Iron Bark

Iron Bark
Under full sail


At Russell Boating Club's Tall Ships Regatta

Annie Hill

Annie Hill
Photo credit: Alvah Simon

Blue Water Medal

Blue Water Medal
Blue Water Medal

Books By Annie Hill

  • Brazil and Beyond
  • Voyaging on a Small Income

About Me

30 September, 2017

Sometime I sits and thinks; sometimes I just sits

I've been doing a lot of thinking, tooth-sucking and head-scratching recently and a lot of it has ended up with me sitting in a numbed daze.  Two issues are exercising my mind of late.  The first is my fruitless quest for a nice wood-burning stove - preferably one that will burn coal on occasion.

About a year ago, I discovered the most beautiful tiny stove in the world, made by a craftsman near Wellington.  As well as being beautifully made, carefully thought out, the right size and having the essential glass door, it had an additional gorgeous feature: both of the dampers had a huge glass marble set into them through which the light would refract, making glorious colours on the deckhead.  I should have bought it then and there but, foolishly put it off, not wanting it to be kicking around too long in case it got damaged.  A few months later I wrote to buy it and David, the creator, wrote back to say he was sorry, but he'd gone out of business.  People just weren't prepared to pay for good stoves and he couldn't afford to keep his workshop going.  And it wasn't even particularly expensive.  I could have wept - very nearly did in fact.

Since then I've been looking for an alternative.  I want it to be attractive, I want it to have a glass door, but the space for it is only 12"/300 mm wide, and I need to have an air gap between the stove and the settee.  Thus far it's impossible to find what I want.  So if anyone knows of a nice wood/coal burner, maximum 10"/250mm wide, but preferably less, with a window in the door at an affordable price (ie maximum NZ$1,000), please let me know.

The other thing that has been exercising my mind is a cooker.  I don't want gas - the bottles that are easy to refill weigh too much to manhandle out of the dinghy when they are full, and even when empty are a mission to lug along the street.  Getting small ones filled is difficult and expensive and they only last a week or so in winter.  I cook a lot: I get through gas.  And that, of course, is before the safety debate, the complex plumbing, etc, etc. 

Paraffin/kerosene is no longer cheap nor readily available (of good quality) and the spares for a primus-type cooker are very expensive.  I've cooked on paraffin for several decades, but it makes the deckhead grubby and the whole boat ends up smelling of it.  It's a marvellous way of cooking, but ...

Alcohol is the obvious way to go.  However, the Maxie  that I had on Fantail, while an excellent concept, was not well made and corroded out as I looked at it.  It wasn't cheap, either.  I didn't want another one.

I got hold of a pressure alcohol cooker, but spare burners seem impossible to find and as I've no idea how long they last, used on a daily basis, I chickened out - not wanting to have to rebuild my galley around a different cooker.

I was going to go and buy an Origo alcohol cooker, but David, who designed SibLim, says they are useless and that I'll regret it.  There has been some discussion on a JRA forum about them and I must admit that they sound less than perfect.  I had also seriously considered fitting one of their ovens and had even worked out how to get it from the US (they are unavailable here), but after due thought have probably scrapped that idea.  They are eyewateringly expensive and it would be a bit of a shoehorn fit.  I suddenly had visions of what would happen if it turned out to be 5mm too big and got cold feet. As well, I had a horrible feeling that in this case, More might turn out to be Less.  KISS.

In the meantime, David, has decided to make the perfect alcohol cooker, tentatively knows as TGO eco-oker.  He is a very clever man and may well produce something that works, but why, oh why, does no-one produce a good, fast, well-made alcohol cooker for heaven's sake?

In the meantime, I've been trying to work out just what my galley and saloon are going to look like and this, in turn, has put me off installing the deck beams once again.  For me to visualise how it's all going to work, I need the cabin sole down - or most of it.  And that is a big piece of plywood. 

So that led me on to doing a job that I'd been putting off - finishing off the floors in the saloon/galley area and filleting and coating the bulkheads, where necessary, and the bilge area.

Somewhere in the past, I had a panic attack that the cedar floors were a bit dainty and decided to reinforce them with purpleheart ones.  Now I feel that this is entirely unnecessary - there's not much leverage from a 150mm keel that's glued to the bottom of the boat!  However, I'd fitted some forward, so I did the same aft.  they look reassuring.  The photos shows the final one in place, with lead weights and temporary fastenings holding it in place until the epoxy cures.

The next job was to fillet everything - structural fillets along the bottom and up the plywood floor.  Before this could be done, everything had to be cleaned, sanded, scraped where necessary, and generally made ready.  I did it section by section; there was a lot of hand sanding and my fingertips were rubbed raw!

Finally, it was all coated.  In due course, the sides of the hull will be painted, but I shall at least dry fit (some of) the furniture first, to minimise the amount of paint that will have to be taken off again.  However, painting before locker lids go in place is worth a lot of time and grief.

So it doesn't look like a lot has been done, but that's boatbuilding for you!

16 September, 2017

Finally, I can tick off the heads

Heaven knows, it's taken long enough.  I will offer the usual excuses of slow execution, much head scratching, one or two steps backwards and all those coats of paint, but finally, I've have completed the fit out in the heads compartment.  Which, let us not forget, included making the composting toilet, which took more googling and tooth sucking than actual work, it has to be said.

It is surprisingly difficult to get bronze fastenings any more.  No chandler had what I wanted, I tried emailing a company in NZ, but they never replied, and Jamestown Distributors, who advertise in Wooden Boat magazine, also failed to respond to my requests for information.  In the end, as I've already mentioned, I went to Classic Marine, who gave me their usual excellent service.
As well as the fastenings for the portholes, I'd ordered turnbuttons and 'automatic buttons', made by Daveys.  I love these natty little things, and they make strong catches.  The ones Daveys make come with a wee bush that keeps them away from the frame so that they swing easily.

Here are the doors, finally fitted in the starboard shelving.  As you can see, the frames protrude

so I made little bosses for them to sit on.  To do this I used a 44mm holesaw and cut them out of tiger wood.  They were cut in two just under the screw hole and then glued onto the framework just above the door.

On the port side is the locker which will hold my brewing barrel.  Although this will be stowed at the forward end, I decided to fit an 'automatic button' here in case the barrel works its way aft and leans against the door.  (The brass door fittings can be seen in a later photo.)

The next job was to fit the finishing wood on the cabin sole.  For this I used the tigerwood, sawn into 6mm veneer, 40mm wide.  It stiffens up the 12mm ply to at least as stiff as the 18mm most people would use.  I made, fitted and finished sanding it over four days, which I think is a reasonable investment of time for something that will require no more maintenance than the occasional clean.

I decided simply to use temporary screws and plug the holes after.  Sash clamps would have been the ideal way to hold the planks down flat, but I don't have any and screws were a quick and easy way of doing it.  Drilling plugs using a drill press doesn't take a lot of time and nor, for that matter, does putting them in.

There are two hatches in the sole area, so once I had fitted the planks, I predrilled some of the screw holes, so that everything would line up properly, and then took them down to glue up on a table.

By using washers between the screw head and the wood, I can make sure that there is minimal damage, which makes final finishing a lot faster.

I put all the plugs in with aliphatic PVA, which is a lot quicker and less messy than epoxy for this sort of job.  When the glue had cured, I used my multitool to cut them off.  This worked wonderfully well - made for the job!

Once I'd finished sanding it, I gave a quick skim along the edges to fair them off a little and soften the corner.

Personally, I think it all looks rather smart.  The framing around the doors (fitted to hide my wiggly jigsaw cuts) add a spurious air of quality, heightened by the 'automatic button'.

The tigerwood will quickly become redder - judging by the offcuts kicking around the shed -  and I think makes a pleasant contrast with the kauri.  You can see the finished composter and the catches on the starboard lockers here, too.

And here is the finished composter, showing the bucket. (I had to replace the orange with a black one: the orange one ended up about 5mm too high!)  The white under the seat is the diverter.

The switch panels were sitting around getting dusty, so I thought I might as well fit those, too.

All in all, I'm rather pleased with the whole thing and more than ready to move on with something else!!

02 September, 2017

Sometimes it's a juggle

One of my major challenges, building this boat, is being able to visualise things at all; visualising them so that I can successfully plan ahead is beyond me, so every now and then I have to 'modify' something I've made, because what comes after won't fit around it.  It wastes a bit of time and sometimes makes a mess, but I'm learning to shrug my shoulders and accept it.  We all have our limitations and it's no good ranting at myself about my inadequacies: it just makes me depressed.

I am almost finished in the heads.  (I keep saying this).  All those coats of paint ...

And here I am, busily applying yet more paint.  This is the little door that will allow access to the back of the switch panel.  Next to it is the lid of the composter, to which the seat will be glued.  With a composter, it is apparently better to have no air gap between the seat and the base, or the lid and the seat.  This discourages insects - not that I had any problem with this on Fantail.

 One of my favourite jobs is varnishing, and I have a good place on which to do it - a little workbench at scaffolding height, which is away from most of the dust and well lit from the 'clear-lights' on the side of the shed.

Marcus bumped into a bloke he used to work with, a few weeks ago, who said that he had heaps more wood than he needed now that he is semi-retired from his wood turning business.  We went and visited him and bought some nice lengths of kauri, which is the wood I've used for 'tongue and groove' on the bulkheads.  I'm just planing the edge to have a proper look at it.  Lovely stuff - for bookshelves, framing that is to be finished bright, etc.

I was delighted with the finish on the toilet seat lid, until I came back the next morning.  A heap of small flies had not only committed suicide on my varnish, but had spread out their wings to do so.  I suppose I'll have to sand it down again and revarnish.  Sigh.

I had to put in some filleting, and had surplus glue.  Finally, I remembered to bond the bollard and mooring cleat on the foredeck.  The bow rollers will have to wait - they stick out so far that it would make it a nuisance to get past.

While I had varnish in hand, I coated the bulkheads in the forecabin.  Because they had epoxy underneath, just two coats seem to have made a satisfactory job.  If they get too kicked about over the next months (years?) that I'm building, it's no big deal to put on another coat.  You can see that I had a little left over, which I applied to the bulkhead on the composter.

The starboard locker with its lower shelf fitted.  This shelf, from left to right, will hold the beer brewing barrel, the dirty clothes basket (hygiene freaks please ignore their proximity) and has holes for wiring to pass up from the battery, which will be under the cabin sole.  The access hatch is there to check for moisture in the bilge.  I intend to fit an inverter to the 'right hand' bulkhead and I suspect a box full of chargers, recyclable batteries, etc will end up there, too.  Or maybe the box of fuses, connectors etc.  No doubt it will all make order of itself when I moved on board.

With the lower shelf in, I could put in the fore-and-aft bulkhead and the little varnished shelf.  I fitted a piece of trim across the bottom, which is masked off for varnishing.  Thus far, I've resisted the temptation to put a fiddle on the shelf, which I feel would be likely to end up as a 'catch all'.  However, it would also be a handy place to put my mobile phone to charge, or my e-reader, or any of the 101 things one seems to acquire, these days which require charging.

One of the things I failed to consider, was a stringer/frame for the headliner in the heads.  The deck is to consist of teak, plywood, air gap, plywood and that final ply is to provide the headliner.  Marcus showed me how to set up the table saw to create a bevel on the wood, to match the bilgeboard box and to create a landing for the headliner.

Of course, it was all nicely painted, so I had to scrape off the paint in order to fit the stringer.  I made it a little over length so that I can saw it exactly flush with my Japanese saw.  A nice bit of cedar, courtesy of my friend Murray, provided these stringers.

This is the stringer in place before scraping and gluing.  A wedge of cedar will be required at the far left of the photo.

Because I had forgotten about the necessity of this stringer, fitting it on the port side was unnecessarily awkward.  I could get no tools in for screws or pins, but wedges and clamps between them did the job.

Here is a view of the starboard stringer, glued into place.

I thought it was about time we had a 'general view'.  At last those with sharp eyes can see a bit of a difference.  Paint, mainly! But the sheer clamp has been planed down amidships (with more than a little help from Marcus) in preparation for the deck beams.