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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

29 March, 2020

Blogging in the time of Coronavirus

Well, it looks like Gaia has finally lost patience with us and forced us to accept the fact that, actually, we are not in charge of this planet.  Blogging about something as frivolous as building a yacht might seem inappropriate, but how are we to bear the present if we don't believe that there will be good things again?  However that might be, Fate has stepped in to control my enthusiasm.   I managed to crack the screen on my laptop on Friday and as we Kiwis are in "lockdown",  unable to purchase anything other than food, household necessities, medicine and (mercifully) wine and beer, there is no chance of my either replacing or repairing the machine.  Add to this that in my quaint,  old-fashioned way, I use a camera to take my photos, then you can appreciate that this blog will be extremely brief.

Actually, this is barely a problem.  I have been.working on the rudders and bilgeboards, which both require vast amounts of sanding, filling, sanding, glassing, sanding, coating, sanding ...  you get the picture.  None of these is particularly photogenic, so my rather pathetic photos from the phone are quite sufficient to show you my progress.  Well, they would be if I could get far enough back from the rudders.

The bilgeboards are just about finished and in the photograph you can see the plastic anti-chafe sheeting.  HDPE.  I have yet to screw on the clamp for the uphaul rope (or is it the downhaul? I'm still trying to figure out the geometry of it all!) and fit the block that goes in the slot that can be seen on the left-hand board.  I have coated the upper part with epoxy and graphite and will Coppercoat the lower part when I do the rudders and trim tab.

This rather uninformative photograph shows one of the endplates at the bottom of the rudder. The idea od fitting endplates is that, apparently, they make a shallow rudder more effective by forcing the flow of water along the full-length of the rudder, if I have understood this correctly  I have stuck them on the sides of the rudders rather than making them in one piece and putting it on the bottom.  The rudders are higher than both skeg and keel, but there is a chance that the boat could rock back on them when I ground the boat, or that I might not realise that there is a rock conveniently placed to catch one of them as she settles. It would be easier to replace one wing than the whole plate and without, I hope, damaging the rest of the rudder too much.  These will also be glassed and then the rudders will get Coppercoat on them.

Life at Norsand Boatyard goes on much the same for me.  It must, however, be a worry for the owners, with 31 people laid off and no-one with much of an idea when, or if, life will get back to normal.  The yard has about a dozen or so occupied boats and those owners who come from overseas have even less idea of what the future holds.  Visas have been automatically extended for most of them and most of them seem fairly philosophical about the disruption to their lives.  As someone said to me today, there are thousands of people far worse off.  So far we don't appear to have anyone infected, but who knows?  Although we are all endeavouring to keep isolated in our own particular "bubbles", single people have been encouraged to take on a friend to share with.  Apart from anything else, this means only one of the two people needs to go shopping, reducing exposure for everyone.  I am very fortunate that Shirley hauled Speedwell out not long before all this Covid-19 business started, so we are seeing rather more of each other than we perhaps anticipated!  It's wonderful to have her here and to be able to offer my shed, some of the tools, etc to help with her work.  We live one day at a time.

26 February, 2020

The bilgeboards

In spite of being described by no lesser authority than Wikipedia, my choice of bilgeboards seems to have caused immense confusion among both visitors and correspondents. So let me clarify what they are not.
  • they are not centreboards; while centreboards go through the bilge, bilgeboards do not go through the centre
  • they are not twin keels, because they are neither fixed nor ballasted
  • for the same reason they are not bilge keels
  • they are not leeboards, because they are not on the outside of the boat.
They are lifting boards, situated towards the side of the hull, which go through the bilges.  And I have started to make them.

This is the sort of job I like least.  It is critical that I don't make any mistakes, but they require large, heavy pieces of wood to be machined, which are difficult to handle and wearing to move around, particularly in the recent extreme heat.  I would much rather handle dinky pieces of kauri than full sheets of 12mm plywood, but the consolation is that I think I have now sawn up my final sheet of plywood.  I must be making progress! I have also needed to manhandle large saligna boards, which weigh a ton and threaten to remove my finger ends whenever I put them down.  The bilgeboards themselves are as tall as I am and nearly a metre wide, so that moving them around is a bit fraught.  However, progress is being made, as you will see.  Firstly, however, I completed the companionway, in order to keep the dust from getting inside the boat.

I loved my fold-down washboards on Fantail and decided to use them again on this boat.  My first issue was getting the acrylic cut.  I made a template that fit perfectly (for once) and took this along to my local Metroglass and asked that the pieces be cut out of 10mm acrylic ('Perspex').  After taking the acrylic back for the third time, I finished shaping it myself.  Something I could have done without, knowing how brittle and easily scratched it is.  But my patience had worn a little bit thin and so too, had that of the man at the shop.  I should have gone for a looser fit, obviously.

 The trouble with fold-down washboards is that the need hinges, my personal bête noir.  The easiest way to make sure I got this right was to fit the boards and hold them firmly in place.  I could then add the piano hinge in situ.

This is the piece that caused all the problems.  I have finally, carefully, planed and sanded it until it fits.

With the bottom hinge secured, I could put the top flap in place and mark for the middle hinge.  One advantage of it ending up too large was that it allowed me to remedy my mistake: I have asked for the pieces to be cut at right angles instead of at an angle to encourage water to drip down the lower board rather than through the gap.  However, the area has been designed in the assumption that rain and the odd splash will come down, so a slight leak won't be an issue, anyway.

When I fitted the lower hinge, I realised that I had made the 'sill' too high so had to chisel out for the nuts.  I suppose I could have put the machine screws in the other way round, but that would would have meant countersinking the acrylic and I would have been worried about cracking it.  Next time I get the yellow paint out, I'll touch it up and it will be good as new!

The 'washboards' fitted and closed.  There are two teak struts for them to land on, when opened.  This means you can safely stand or sit on them.  I ensured that it was level, too, so that it serves as a handy little table.

I had two, pre-coated sheets of 12mm plywood left over, just what was needed for the bilgeboards.  I had forgotten what hard work it is, manoeuvring these big sheets about.  When I lift them up as high as I can, they are only about 20mm off the floor!

I made a full size drawing of the bilgeboard, so that I could measure from it and match it to what I was making.  When there are plenty of things that I can get wrong, I like to make the process as fool proof as possible.

The first face of the first board, cut to size and marked out.

I had spent half a day hauling out boards of saligna from the stack and machining one of them to make the framing.  As I laid them in place I realised that they were going to make the board so heavy that I'd be unable to lift it.  Obviously, I need to be able to shift them about and ideally, without risk of injury.  Fortunately, I had some big lumps of totara, which I'd bought for another job but which had proved unsuitable.  I had just enough to do the framing and the wood was a delight to work with. 

The best thing about the totara was that it was just about the correct thickness, while the saligna needed laminating after being machined.  Instead of taking several days, I had the first board framed up in a day!

And the next day, I did the second board.

Fortunately, I can just about get the two of them on the big table and move them around.

The framework provides the basic shape of the board.  I knocked the hard edges off the high points to make it easier for the plywood to make a fair curve.

When I first started using the big woodworking machines, I was terrified of them and didn't dare adjust the table.  Now I tilt it without a second thought.  (The bandsaw I am more reluctant to adjust, because it is difficult to put it back plumb.

As much out of curiosity as anything else, I decided to try the basic board in the slot - while I could still move it around.  The flat side goes outboard, which seems odd to my tidy mine - surely the curve should follow the curve of the hull?  Of course, it's obvious that the shape of the board has little to do with the shape of the hull: it is a wing and the curve is to help "lift" the boat to windward.

In reality, it won't come down quite as far as this.  It is designed so that about 1 metre of board protrudes when it is down.

With all the other things in the photo, it's not really that clear, but you can just about see the shape of the board created by the framing.

And this is the view from above, with a couple of wedges pushed in, to hold it into place.

In the hope of producing the desired result, I followed David's design slavishly.  I check both the dimensions of the machined wood and the gaps in between carefully, before gluing them into place.

If I had known then what I know now ...  Once again, the 6mm plywood was more difficult to bend than I'd anticipated.  It seemed fine at the 'dry run' stage, shown here, but when I came to glue it down, it buckled along the leading edge and required a lot more screws to hold it down.  I should have used 4mm - it would have taken a little longer, but been a lot less stressful - especially with temperatures in the 30s.  Even the super slow hardener was starting to kick off.

As you can see, the leading edge looks fine, here.

In this photo, it is obvious that I've doubled the number of screws.  To add to my woes, I had heaps of 4mm plywood knocking around and had to go and buy an additional half sheet of 6mm to finish the job!

After gluing down the first layer, I then cut out the slot.  A block is attached at the lower part of this to allow the board to be raised and lowered.

Temporarily, I left the boards alone to do another job.  I had been given some fibreglass stanchions, but when I came to consider fitting them, they were really too big for my little boat, being 35mm at the base and about 32mm at the top.  The size meant I needed to make bases, too and I could get them fairly inexpensively via E-Bay.  The extreme camber of the deck meant that they needed big wedges of teak to level them up.  The extreme expense of teak meant that I essentially had to make it from thinner stock and then shape it on the bandsaw.

And because Thinking Ahead doesn't come naturally to me, I had to cut the toerail back to fit the stanchions.  The stanchion bases I chose (ie the ones I could afford) were high aspect ratio, which meant that the teak needed to be even thicker at the outboard edge.

Cutting the wedges so that the stanchions will be (more or less) vertical took a bit of working out, but I am happy with the results.

I held them down with long, 12g screws.  They were then backed out and reset with the WEST hardware bonding method.  I am always worried about shearing screws off when doing this: you don't want to leave traces of grease when something is a permanent fitting, so the only way to back them out is, ideally, just before the glue sets.  Using an electric screwdriver is asking for trouble.  My cranked, ratchet screwdriver gives sufficient leverage to slowly break the screw out.  Square head drives are almost essential for this type of work.

There are three stanchions each side.  The middle ones needed a different base, because the triangular ones wouldn't fit against the hinged lid.  No doubt the pundits will tell me that the rectangular ones fitted here will pull out.  Tough.

That job done: back to the bilgeboards, but that will have to wait for the next time I blog!

26 January, 2020

The cockpit and around the companionway

I do realise that it is ages and ages since I posted.  Blame it on Christmas, New Year, Tall Ships (and the depression caused by seeing the world going up in flames and Our Masters reckoning The Economy is more important than having a planet to live on).  However, on the plus side there are lots of nice photos for you to look at, although with so much else to catch up, I'm not writing up Tall Ships this year: you will have to join the JRA and see all the photos in the magazine!

 The cockpit was just about completed, last time I wrote, and I fitted the echo sounder.  Ideally, I would have a photo of it after painting, but I forgot, so I'll put it in now while I remember.  An odd place for an echo sounder? Yes: just about visible from the tiller, but there are so many wires sticking out of the back of it, plus a separate alarm that has to be fitted adjacent, that I couldn't bear the thought of it in either saloon or galley.  So here it is.  I always use the shallow water alarm anyway, so I hope it will be satisfactory where it is.

 There was quite a lot of filling, sanding and preparing the companionway for the acrylic 'washboards'.  They are not really washboards, but two pieces of clear acrylic that fold down.  I find washboards a real irritation when I have to keep going in and out.  I like this solution.  Many people don't.

 Astonishingly, I don't seem to have taken any photos of the deck with the covering boards and king plank picked out in varnish.  I think they look nice like this and these are the areas that often have things attached to them.  Generally when a piece of teak wears down, all you need to do is chisel it out and replace it with a new length.  However, if there are things attached to it, it is more of a mission.  The varnish stops the teak wearing and thus it should last the life of the boat.  Contrary to popular prejudice, teak does not thrive from being scrubbed or even simply being left bare.  It weathers like all other wood.

 Before I could finish the cockpit, I needed to paint and varnish the lids.

 And while the varnish was drying, I could carry on with the pram-hood area and the plinth for the bubble.  Making these was a real challenge for me.  In all I had to make four perfectly-round toruses (or is it tori?), ie doughnut shapes.  Making one perfectly-round doughnut was a nightmare and making four took me a lot longer than I care to think about.  The first attempt wasn't that good and I actually found it easier to cut the plywood on the bandsaw than with a jigsaw.  Towards the final fairing of about the third one, I realised that the spoke shaves that John Welsford lent me were perfect for the job - even with plywood.  But the sanding and fairing went on for much longer than it would have taken a 'real' boatbuilder.

 I varnished the lids first so that any paint spills would be easy to clean off.  They are now ready for painting.

 And while I'm at it, I might as well paint the cockpit. (Note the holes for the echo sounder.)

 And, come to think of it, why not the bulwarks and the stern, too?
So there were several days of almost ceaseless painting, which was all highly satisfying, because the patchy primer had been depressing to look at.

 There: doesn't that look pretty?  I must say that I love the yellow, but realise it's not to everyone's taste.  It is so pleasing building a boat that only needs to suit me!

 This was my Christmas present to myself and being a simple little soul, I am getting endless pleasure out of simply looking at it!

 And the cockpit itself, from the centre deck.  Such a shame that the BBB (aka outboard motor) has to mess it all up!

 The upper seating is wonderfully comfortable and will be more so with a cushion or two.  I can just imagine sitting up there looking around while the boat sails herself along.  Bliss.

However, back to reality.  Fitting the plinth for the dome/pram-hood was a horrid task which again took days rather than hours and while it ended up quite satisfactory, it was all due to epoxy.  As a friend likes to quote: "It's the epoxy and paint make me the boatbuilder I ain't"!

 Hardly anyone seems to be able to get their head round the pram/hood bubble arrangement, so I won't even try to explain.  I hope the pictures will be worth a thousand words.  Here is the top ring, on which one leans to watch the world go by.  The pram hood frame goes under this, so it has to be wider than the original ring.  I used offcuts from the teak decks to do this.  It will also look pretty!

 Sanded and ready to be offered up.

 But first, I had to cut the hole (probably one of the most terrifying things I have to do to the boat!) so that I had an idea of where the horizontal plinth would go.  It has to be flat for the pramhood to rotate.  Fitting the rings to the cambered deck was well beyond my skills, so the only alternative was to fit the deck to the rings.  Marcus gave me some helpful suggestions, but even so I was really out of my depth.

 The idea was to build it up in strips, once the hole was cut, so that the shaping would be minimal.  The astute observer will see that the hole is not circular.  That's because the bubble is wider than the companionway is long and the alternatives were to cut into the finished deck and deck lining, make a lot of trim to refinish - or accept that it might be handy to end up with a little flat spot for your cup of tea.  I chose the latter.

 For obvious reasons, there are no in-between photos.  I'm too embarrassed to show what a dog's breakfast it looked like until tidied up.  But it's flat, it's the right size and there aren't too many gaps.

 Well, that's all well and good, but now I need to fit the rings to the hole. And finish the inside of it. Yeah, right, as they say.

I put the upper ring in place and marked it carefully so that I could trim the hole more accurately.  And then procrastinated for a little while.

 But I had a good excuse: more bling!  I had ordered some very nice (Italian) brass cleats from E-bay and after I had just about given them up for lost, they turned up at the yard office.  This allowed me to fit the toerails, which needed to go between said cleats.  Forward, I have my Delilah posts, you will recall, plus hefty anchoring/mooring cleats.  Aft I will fit another couple of (second-hand) cleats of similar size and shape to these.  I don't plan to go alongside much, but it will happen on occasion and I want to have proper cleats in the right place.  One of my foibles is that I find it sheer lunacy to tie up a boat from one end or the other, when there's a chance that the second rope may not be caught immediately.  It makes much more sense to pass the line from amidships.  You can secure the boat at leisure, sure that neither end will swing away from the jetty, leaving you in an embarrassing situation.

The toerails are from recycled teak that happily already had a slight curve, which made it easier to fit them.

Some friends called by recently and took a photo of Boatbuilder At Work.  Apparently the lack of photos of the builder mean that the magazines won't want to publish articles about building the boat.  I think this is rather a relief, in truth.

 Finally, I had to bite the bullet and start sticking everything together.  All the little cleats are to even up the bumps and hollows along the inside and outside of the rings, to try and get a more or less equal average thickness.  A lot of work with sandpaper-and-block and filler was then required to make everything look acceptable.

 There's nothing like a few coats of epoxy to tidy things up.  It's not obvious from this photo,but the inside still needs a lot of work.

 Come to think of it, I needed to make 4 3/4 perfect rings.  The black bits in the foreground are for the pram-hood.  They go under the lip formed by the teak, are tied together and can then rotate.  The pram-hood - still a distant (and probably expensive) dream - is attached to the hemisphere.  Between said bits and the bubble is the plinth for the latter.

 Meanwhile, and over several days, more filling, sanding, sanding and filling took place until the inside of the pram-hood area was acceptable.  A quick slosh with black epoxy and you can hardly tell how much filler had to be used.

 At last, a long-running search on E-bay finally came up with the goods.  Many moons ago on Badger, friends gave me a lovely kettle, with a spiral around the base that made it work better on a flame.  It went with the boat, because it wouldn't have worked well on China Moon's diesel range.  I have mourned it ever since!  So I decided to get me another and doing some research came across one that had a whistle incorporated into the lid, made by a UK company called Newey & Bloomer.  I had a look at the website when I realised that not all the kettles come with a whistle (which I now coveted) and wrote to ask if they could be bought separately, if my hoped-for E-bay acquisition came about.  An extremely nice lady said that yes, they could, and then warned me carefully about buying second hand.  Because the kettles are copper, they have to be tinned and, she explained, many second-hand ones have lost the tinning.  (Possibly they have been over-scoured to get rid of lime scale.)  She kindly said that she would put my name on file in case they had a slight 'second', which she would sell me for about half price.  I didn't have the heart to tell her that even at half-price it would be well beyond my pocket.  Time after time, they came up on E-bay and were sold for a small fortune, but finally, between Christmas and New Year, I dropped lucky, probably because everyone was too busy with the holiday season to be looking for a kettle.  Suffice it to say, that a nearly-new kettle (I could tell because most of it still had the original lacquer on) was offered for sale, I made my usual offer and won the auction.  It is just perfect for my galley, I think.  Anyway, I wrote to the kind lady, Louise, saying how lucky I had been and after congratulating me, she said that if any of my friends wanted one of these masterpieces of British Manufacture, they would be offered a unique discount code.  Enter ANNIE25 and you will get a 25% discount on a new kettle!  They are certainly expensive, but they last a lifetime and considering that I am on my fourth electric kettle since starting this project, maybe they are better value than you might first think!  Anyway, that was my real Christmas present to myself and while the postage made my eyes water, the kettle itself cost just under $70. Even I push the boat out on occasion!
 Anyway, back to reality.  The dome has to go over the hatch in inclement weather and be out of the way when the pram-hood is in use, or I just want the hatch open.  My good friend Paul, at All-marine found a couple of fittings designed as hatch struts and these were perfect for the arms for my hatch.  Chocks of wood on the edge of the framing allowed them to be fitted.

 Before fitting the dome to its frame, I tested the whole thing out.  It did what I'd hoped.

 A couple of teak chocks support the arms.

 Now that all this was sorted, I could finally fit some companionway steps.  In order for the hatch area to be effective, I need to be able to stand and see out of it, and yet still be sheltered by the pram hood.  Until I had the full plinth in place, I couldn't work out exactly where to put the step.  At one time I had thought to fit three steps, but have found that two are all that is required.  They are quite far apart, but I don't find this a problem and if in years to come I do, I can always do something else.  I still had one nice board of kauri left that I'd been reluctant to use, but the steps seemed like the ideal use for it.  The lower step will be removable to allow for access to the lazarette.

 With the bubble fitted on the plinth, I found that I could also see through that.  I can't imagine using it much underway (they get covered in salt in short order), but at anchor, when it's shut, I can still have a look around.  I laminated up some kauri around the plywood to provide a lip that fits over the plinth.

 The second step is at the level of the washboards, which provides a comfortable seat and makes it easy to go below.  (Most people will certainly disagree with this.  My companionway is not designed to make life easy for large people!)  I tried it out and found it works just fine for me.

 The chocks for the removable step were fitted and then the upper step fitted to check that it all worked.

 I fitted little over-centre catches to hold the bubble in place and secure it over the plinth.  It seems pretty secure.  I have no idea what forces it would be subject to should we be capsized.  I suspect that might be the least of my worries!

 The steps are epoxied and will be varnished.  That will, of course, make them slippery, so I am going to fit strips of tigerwood to provide grip.  I don't think kauri would take kindly to being left bare and would probably get very grubby: the tigerwood was too narrow and I had no suitable teak.

 The upper step was glued into place and then two pieces of teak were fitted.  These will support the 'washboards', when they are lowered.

 The upper step from the saloon.

I have fitted small chocks to the deck, by the arms, to  stop the bubble from sliding from side to side.  This arrangement is not yet completed - I need to think through what would happen if the bubble is hit by a large wave.

So, there we are.  Stand by for my starting work on the bilgeboards.