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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

04 August, 2019

I thought the cockpit was going to be a mission...

... and I was right.    It is more complicated than it would normally be due to the fact that there are two rudders and thus, at least in theory, two tillers, in addition to a (physically) large outboard motor.  If I were designing a cockpit from scratch, the things I would consider are putting the seat high enough for me to see over the cabin and having the cockpit sufficiently narrow that I can brace my feet against the other side when the boat is heeling.  I am, you may recall, a tad under 5ft 2ins tall (155cm) and also have very small feet which means that the cockpit has to be relatively narrow for me to be comfortable in it.  Easy enough with just one tiller in the middle, but a whole different story when the tillers are well out from the centre.  To my mind it is an obvious impossibility to steer from a comfortable distance outboard of one of these tillers and brace myself against the side of the cockpit.  I can't imagine that steering from in front of one is going to be very comfortable, so the easiest solution would appear to be to join them with a bar, as with many catamarans, and steer from that.  But let us not forget our outboard motor: the Big Black Beast sits up high and sits up even higher and intrudes into the cockpit when it's tilted at right angles, out of the water.  To be perfectly honest, for a while I was tempted to get rid of it.  But then I remembered what it's like to have one's destination within sight - but not within reach due to lack of wind.

In addition to the cockpit, I have also had to consider the storage under it. I have a rooted objection to deep cockpit lockers that can get filled with water and which go deep down into the boat, so that many of the objects stored there are almost impossible to retrieve.  I wanted a nice, dry lazarette, which I can access with ease at present, and hopefully without too much difficulty for another 10 years or so before old age puts an end to such gymnastics.

I had a boat; I had a model; I had drawings.  They all told a slightly different story.  The latter two were finally dismissed as more of a distraction than an aid and I started again from scratch.  Please keep your fingers crossed that I've done it right!

 Since I couldn't make any decisions without the Big Black Beast in place, this had to be manhandled onto the stern.  The BBB is nearly as tall as I am and about half my weight.  Thankfully, my friends Rob and Maren have their boat at Norsand and are both bigger and stronger than I, so that solved that little problem.  Of course one of the bolts to hold it in place was seized. 

The BBB looked enormous.  In this photo the drive leg is resting on the bottom of the boat right at the stern.

 Tipped horizontally, it seemed even larger! Obviously, the first thing to do was to cut a slot so that it could hang vertically - and the question on every lip was would the propeller be in the right place.  It needs a slot 6" (153 mm) wide. Thankfully, I had a 6" hole saw.

 With my trusty Japanese saw, I cut out the rest of the bottom of the boat, which wasn't the easiest job I've ever done.  And thankfully, the anti-cavitation plate was 60mm below the bottom of the boat.  50mm is the recommendation, with an addendum that where thrust is more important than speed, an extra 10mm should be added.  We got that bit right!

 I had already done preliminary framing for the cockpit before fitting the motor, but the BBB's presence made me realise that Plan A wasn't going to work.  After a couple of days of looking at drawings, model and boat I realised that nor were Plans B, C and D.  This was when I abandoned all preconceptions and started to deal entirely with harsh reality.  The first obvious point was that the seats needed to be raised, which meant that the cockpit sole had to be raised and the bridgedeck and, therefore, the sill into the saloon.  I'm small, as we all know, but would like to welcome guests down below.  Most people I know managed to get down below on Fantail with only a few complaints.  I put in a new sill a few mm lower than the one on Fantail.  Sorry, friends, it's the best I can do.

 My idea is to have the cockpit seating extending right out to the side of the boat.  There will be back rests and lockers built behind these for gear that can get wet.  The lids of these lockers will provide additional seating which will be great if I have friends on board, or in hot weather when I want to be able to feel the breeze.  Things were still somewhat tentative at this stage: I wanted the BBB to stay in place to get a proper feel for how the spaces worked.

This meant my manhandling a sheet of plywood 1040 x 1430 rather more times than I care to think, up the ladder, over the side of the boat and down onto its framework while I marked, planed and fitted it several times.  After a bit of tweaking of various pieces of framing timber, I decided it should probably do the job. 

 Finally, the BBB could be removed and fitting the mirror image piece was straightforward.

 At this stage, it behoved me to think about the lazarette under the cockpit.  It is certainly going to be easier to fit it out before the cockpit itself is in place.  I need 20 litre containers for my cooking fuel and I need storage for items like paint, tools, bosun's stores, spare fastenings, glue, etc, etc.  I'm now regretting having given some of my empty 20l epoxy containers away.  Just between you and me, my enthusiasm for building lockers is waning and the space under and around the cockpit is HUGE.  The wood entailed in making lots of lockers will weigh a good few kilos, but worse, a person will feel a duty to fill said lockers and they will hold a lot.  It occurred to me that a better plan might be to use plastic boxes on shelves as being a highly inefficient use of space and therefore saving a fair bit of weight in a critical part of the boat.  I have some mega boxes (courtesy of Rob and Maren) that I am storing my Stuff in, so I tried these for size.  I could make storage for them, but they were going to be a nightmare to person-handle about:  something about a third of the size would make more sense, so I bought a sample from the Red Shed.

 Back to mocking up (can I get head and shoulders in this space; can I reach that far back?) and I concluded that what is required is a shelf for 40l of meths down low and a shelf above this and outboard for 4, 26l plastic boxes.

I had had an excessively complicated plan of boxing in the meths entirely, due to a desire to have a pump for one container to save having to lift it and decant from it.  My friend Gordon looked at my empty WEST drums, looked at the full one and asked why I didn't use on the their mini-pumps for the meths.  Duh.  Sometimes I can't see the wood for the trees.

Here is the space under the starboard seat/deck slowly taking shape.  The jerricans will be lashed down - no lid required.  The shelf will have a fiddle and there will probably be a long bar of wood to keep the boxes in place in excessively inclement conditions.  A knee is going in the middle of the shelf.  Between the jerricans and the shelf is space for things like plywood.  I may run an upright 100 mm strip of plywood so that a certain amount of Stuff can live there in peace.  You always need odd bits of wood, plywood, etc. 

Here we are at Plan K viii (f):  I can put spare oars right across the stern and have a couple of tool boxes that will fit perfectly on the bottom of the boat, under the cockpit sole.  The plywood on the right hand side of the photo will be cut down so that the seat runs all the way to the stern.  There's a fair amount of joinery has to go on around here, too: this space will be used for petrol tankage.

Now, I have to glue down framing, fillet various corners, glue in knees, sand and paint.  Then I can start actually to assemble the cockpit.  It's all more or less taking place and I think I have more or less "nutted it out" as my friend Marcus would put it.  But it nearly resulted in a nervous breakdown, my abilities to be able to see things in three dimensions being severely limited.  There are still more than a few unknowns, but I am hoping nothing trips me up too badly.  It's good to have a plan to be going on with for a while, anyway, if only to let my brain stop hurting!

14 July, 2019

Well, I've just about finished the interior, apart from ... and ... and ...  However: enough!  Time to move on.

 Trimming around the forehatch was not something I was looking forward to.  I wasn't at all sure that the opening was absolutely square (it wasn't) and the 'frame' involved mitres, something I dread, in spite of having a drop saw that purportedly cuts them perfectly.  To do the job, I had to go and find a bit more kauri cladding, remove staples and nails,  burn off the paint, trim the tongues and grooves, send it through the thicknesser and then saw it to an appropriate width.  And people wonder why things take so long!

 Once the framing was fitted, I then had to line the inside.  The hatch corners are radiused and I experimented with making radiused pieces of wood using a hole saw, but once I had my dinky piece of wood, I then had to alter the 90° piece of wood to 89° or 91° or whatever my 'right angle' happened to be, otherwise it stood out like a sore thumb.  Finally, I decided that it was more trouble than it's worth, because with the lining in place, you can only see about 5mm of hatch radius and I can live with staring at that, should I be lying awake in daylight.

 The lining is in place and the plugs filling the holes; and I think it looks fine.  All those who have been deluding themselves that I'm a perfectionist can now allow me back into the human race!

And here it is all varnished up.  The beauty of the old kauri never ceases to gratify me.  It is also slightly awe-inspiring (and a tad depressing) to think that the tree it came from could easily have been 1,000 years old. 
 Securing the cooker wasn't as straightforward as it might have been.  There was nothing obviously to fasten to, so in the end I resorted to crude but effective: drill some holes in the side and insert a couple of barrel bolts.

 And while I was at it, I made spacers for my nice china mugs.  I shall fit some method of holding them down, so that they (and the cooker, of course) stay in place when the boat is upside down.  Unfortunately, due to what could kindly be called a design fault, the pan supports on the cooker can only be removed for cleaning once, after which they are loose, because the plastic foot to stop them from rattling breaks upon being removed, so they will fly around the cabin.

 However, the little alcohol cooker (yet another gift from David Tyler) looks pretty natty in place and the bolts hold it down in an impressively solid manner.

 All this time I had been picking away at the trim for the deckhead.  Before I could do anything, I had to fit the quadrants fore and aft, because they have to be forced into place against the camber.

Then I fitted all the fore and aft pieces, and joggled the short lengths athwartships around them.

In truth I really anticipated breaking at least one of them (the carnage in the forecabin left me permanently traumatised), but they were surprisingly amenable and the job went without too much bad language.

An attractive optical illusion comes from the curved centre section meeting the straight side pieces: it look for all the world like a slight S curve, which I find very appealing.

This is the best I could do to get the overall effect.  Small boats don't offer very good opportunities for great interior shots.

I have to say I am very, very relieved to get this trim up.  The deckhead looked like ... well, it looked bloody awful with all the gaps showing between the headliner panels.  Now it looks very presentable and all the wood breaks up what would be a vast area of white into attractive sections.

Oooh!  The little Flick!  Isn't it just too gorgeous for words?  I'm so pleased with it and can't wait to light it - I hope next winter!  The green tiles around it are hand-made from Spain.  When you are buying fewer than 20, it doesn't really matter what they cost, but I must say it adds to my conviction that small boats are a Good Idea, if you have expensive tastes like I do.

The cockpit beckons and, to be honest, I'm a bit scared of it.  David and I planned it all out in detail and I'm sure we got it right, but ...

So in order to ease myself into it, I smoothed out stern where the outboard bracket will be fitted.  The three layers had been pretty rough since fitted.

Then I set to fairing the final scarf, which was, in fact, the first one I ever did.  I faired up the one on the other side months (probably years!) ago and it looks perfect, so I hope I can do as well with this one.

Meantime I've been gradually fairing the surround for the galley hatch.  Again I have the radii to deal with, but this time I don't want any framing.  I think it will look too busy and anyway, I'll bang my head on it.  Headroom is somewhat constrained here, so I'll just keep adding thin layers of fairing and sanding it, until it's fit to be painted.

The first thing to do in the cockpit proper was to set up the framing for the bridgedeck, that I took out when I started building the interior.  As it happens, it was about 40mm or so too low anyway.  I've decided to put the bridge deck horizontal, but put a slope on the deck outboard, to help shed water.

This is the panel I removed and before putting it back in, I cut the bottom to match the camber of the deck and allow slightly easier access into the space under the cockpit.  I glued some thin veneers of kauri along its edge to finish it off.

At last - she has moved into the cockpit and glued some wood in place!!  And the first thing I did was to erect a keep-out barrier to prove that I mean business.  In fact this is the last major construction job, although neither building the bilge boards nor the mast are that minor!  Still, it feels good to get going on it.

And this is the view from the inside, looking out.  The bridgedeck will land on the panelled bulkhead.

30 June, 2019

Just a few little jobs

I wonder if it's just me, or does everybody find that "I'll just do this ..." jobs are the ones that take forever.  Its seems to be the silliest little jobs that take the longest.

While I was laying the deck, the intention had been to 'pop' down below and finish off all those little jobs that hadn't been done, while I was waiting for glue to dry.  Great idea, but failed in practice because there were always so many other things to do while the glue was drying.  No worries, I said to myself, I'll just knock them over and get on with the cockpit.  That was three weeks ago and last week I wrote out the list of what still needs to be done.  I don't think I'll be starting the cockpit next week, either.  I seem to have spent half of the past few weeks going in an out of Whangarei looking for bits and pieces.  Most of what I've been doing is hardly worth photographing (finishing the wiring to a 12 volt plug in the saloon, which involved trying to find decent cable clips - Paul at All Marine ended up giving me some nice copper ones he had left over from one of his jobs; cutting hose for the 'plumbing' to exactly the right length, etc, etc,)  However, there are one or two photos that might be of interest, so it's probably worth writing my blog today.

 Many moons ago, I tried to purchase the most wonderful little woodburner, only to find it was no longer in production.  So I bought Raoul's Flick which was almost as nice, but was black all over.  I like a bit of colour and as the poor wee thing was a bit scratched from having been ordered long before it was required, I decided to paint it in two colours.  So part of it is a sort of dark sage colour and the rest is black.  It looks pretty good, actually, but more so in the flesh than in the photo.

 However, when reading the instructions (yes, I do!) I saw that they suggested firing it up before installing it, because the paint has to be 'seasoned', so to speak, like a good frying pan.  What fun!  I've been desperate for an excuse to see how it goes.

 Well, as you can see, it goes very well indeed.  It was the easiest thing to light and went off like a little rocket.  The damper is just amazing: close it off and the fire almost goes out, open it a wee crack and it comes back to life: wide open and you have a little blast furnace going.  As so many people have told me that I'm installing the fire all wrong, it's nice to know that I can shut if off so effectively.  It should reassure them.  Anyway, I left the damper wide open and sure enough, once the stove had got good and hot, I could see fumes rising from the surface.  I just hope it was hot enough for long enough.

 A lifetime of being short of cash has made me somewhat chary of throwing things out and sometimes this pays off.  Again, many moons have passed since I cut out the holes for the port holes, but I couldn't bring myself to throw them away, so stacked them under the bench.  Well, I had cut out two 127 mm holes in my deck (for the decklight and chimney) and needed spacers around these holes between the headliner and the deck.  Not only were my cutouts the ideal size, but the hole up the middle allowed me align them perfectly.

 I then took the 127mm hole saw (thank you, Norsand) and cut out the correct size hole.  Clever, eh?

 In the meantime, I had got out varnish for some reason, so could put some on the brass and finally fit the remaining portholes.  (Or starboard holes as one wag would put it.)  Finally, they are all in.  You might think it's extremely idle of me to try and put off polishing these.  Correct.

 Neurotic as I am about leaks and rot, I did the WEST thing on the machine screws for the chimney.  The red thing in the background is (inexplicably) known as a chimney jack and is of a very special silicone rubber that is supposed to tolerate a higher temperature than is normally the case.  It comes in red, red or red, to differentiate if from the less heat-resistant type of  'jack'.  I dare say I can live with it.  The best thing I can see with it is that it can move up and down with the chimney, as it expands and contracts.  From past experience, the vertical component of this can be disconcerting to say the least.

 This is one of the holes in the deck.  I think the one for the chimney, but they all looked much the same.

 And here I am fitting the Air-only ventilator that goes in the heads.  They are complicated things to fit, and being somewhat dumb about these things, I had to print out the instructions to ensure that nothing was forgotten.

Having fitted it, I am entirely convinced that it will keep the water out (watch this video if you want to be reassured); however, I'm not entirely convinced that it will let any air in!!

 Still, it looks very seamanlike on deck, next to my lovely little decklight.

 These chimney jacks are a wonderfully snug fit, but my copper downspout (yes, I know it will probably melt) has a seam on the back.  I had to go and buy some bolts for it from Steelmasters because the ones that came with the jack were (a) magnetic stainless and (b) the wrong length.  While I was there I saw they had this (apparently) magic silicone tape, which bonds to itself and is very heat resistant.  I could press it into the seam, and rolled up a couple of little sausages of the tape to put on either side.  I hope it works!

And finally, I have just about got all the trim cut and fitted.  These fiddly little bits of wood are enough to drive me into a nervous decline.  Dry fitted, they certainly made a big difference, however.  Once they are all varnished they should finish off the deckhead very neatly.

09 June, 2019

A bit more teak - and then back inside

I was, I think understandably, quite keen to get my teak decks laid; I still had interior trim, lights and hatch trim to fit, but I thought I'd do it 'when I had some spare time'.  Whatever induced me to come up with this flight of whimsy, I wot not because, needless to say, there was no spare time. So, the teak was laid and the interior had not been touched.  The first job in the cockpit is going to be fitting the bridgedeck.  This is going to make going in and out of the cabin a lot less easy than it is now, so commonsense dictates that I get the interior completely finished before I commence work on the cockpit.

I still had some teak to lay - on the deck box lids, so decided to do that first, because they would need teak plugs and there were a few to be fitted on deck, too.  Besides, my mind finds it difficult to move from one mode of building to another, so it seemed sensible to carry on with teak before I lost the thread, so to speak.

 The deck is laminated, you may recall, from one layer of 6mm ply and one layer of 4mm.  I doubted anything was going to be fitting to the nearest millimetre, so reckoned 9mm ply would be fine for the lids.  These were duly cut out and coated.

 Additional framing had to be added along the sides for the lids to land on.  Much cogitating took place while I decided whether to hinge them inboard or outboard.  Gordon, (Tystie's new owner) mentioned that if they were hinged inboard, like his are, there is a possibility of stuff falling out of them, if you are heeled well over and have forgotten to fasten them down.  Or so he has been told ...  I decided put the hinges outboard, so this also required some more wood fitting around the boxes.

 Then came the fun bit of fitting the teak.

 While I was at it, I took some of the narrower stock (which will get used up in the cockpit) and trimmed along the edge of the cabin.  I raised this to obtain a little more headroom, and as I want the (upper) rubbing strake to run in a fair line along the sheer, it can now run under the teak, which will be varnished.  I trust it will all look as though it was intended from the start, when the boat is completed!

 The deck box with the extra bits of wood fitted around it.  Thank heavens for epoxy, is all I can say.  It is so good for this sort of 'retrofitting', which would otherwise require high levels of joinery.  I'm not quite sure how I could even fasten things together, if I were building conventionally.

 Meanwhile, back on the bench, the deck boxes get their teak glued down ...

 and then sanded smooth.

 Then a 'dry fit' before sealing the edges.  However, even I didn't find these too challenging to fit.

 And for once, I didn't struggle with the (simplest in the world to fit) hinges.

What you may not have noticed, but I shall point them out to you in case, are the 308 teak plugs that have been fitted in the screw holes.  I was astounded that I need so many!

 I hope that the lids will rest at a slight angle against the guard rails.  If they don't I shall have to make some sort of hook and eye arrangement to keep them in place.

 OK, back to the interior.  The piece of kauri is to hold the light fitting.  It couldn't be put in place until the beading was fitted and so the wires have been sticking out of the bulkhead for what seems like months.  (I tested them and was relieved to find that none of the zillion screws that went into my deck had cut through them!)

 None of my kauri is long enough to go right across the cabin.  The camber, as you will note, is pronounced and it is exceedingly difficult to force even these dinky bits of quadrant into place with out fastening them permanently.  I am hoping that I can fit one properly and then cut the second accurately to length.  I would reckon the odds at 10:1 at best!

 Fitting the mounting for the lamp.  The wiring isn't just hidden because I'm precious (although of course I am): it's hidden because there is no appropriate groove in the base of the lamp for it to run down.  It's going to be fun and games when I finally come to fit it, I fear.

 Meanwhile, interior trim will need to be fitted around exterior openings.  The hatches are fitted, but still to go are a decklight over the heads, a dorade ventilator ditto and the big hole for the pram hood.  The first two can be dealt with by using hole saws and I went and borrowed one for the decklight. It was intensely traumatic cutting a hole in my beautiful deck!

 I had to go back and complete the job from inside.

 All so that I can fit this.

 Ah yes, another hole - I need one for the chimney for my wood burner.  I thought the black lacked class, so have repainted a nice green.

 The flue is to be made from copper downspout.  Some teeth have been sucked about this being too thin.  Time will tell, but the price was right, seeing as how the kind people in the shop found me a damaged length.  Of course, it won't look nice and shiny like this once the fire has been lit.

Because the stove was built with the intention of fitting something totally different, the hole for the flue was a completely different size from the downspout.  After much head scratching, I went into Whangarei to see if I could find some sort of reducer.  To cut a long story short, with helpful people passing me along to other helpful people, finally a gentlemen called Carl lent me his dad's crimping tool, saying 'that's how we used to do it'.  I managed well enough, even if I did have to use both hands and was right impressed with the result.

 I reckoned I'd better fit the bit of copper that will be used to protect the bulkhead, while I was at it.  Paul, at All Marine had the brilliant idea of using copper roves to provide for a nice wee air gap.  I felt like a real boat builder, hammering in copper nails!

The +/- 150mm copper strip had been given to me, cut from a wider length.  I could hardly plane it smooth, so took to it with a file: good enough, I think.  (The reason is looks a funny colour is that it still has its plastic film over it.)

Before I can fit the wood burner, I have to light it to 'season' it as it were.  The paint gives off fumes on the first occasion.  Definitely a job for outdoors, fine weather and a calm day.