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21 October, 2016

A SibLim Update

It's fully three months since I've posted.  Those who are frustrated by my lack of updates here, can find more recent postings on the Junk Rig Association website here.  I try to post there once a week, 'try' being the operative word.

Anyway, stand by for a l-o-n-g post with heaps of photographs.

Last time I wrote, I was still planking up the hull.  This gave me a fair share of grief around the bow, but I'm pleased to say I got it sorted out in the end:

20 July - I rejoiced somewhat prematurely. Preparing the hull for glassing, I noticed several voids behind the 2nd layer 6mm. The shape is just too compound for such a big piece of ply.

I routed out the worst of the plywood and then drilled several rows of 8mm holes, 1.5 diagonally below. Injected resin, filling the holes as they overflowed with dowels and toothpicks!  The replaced pieces of ply. All seems very sound and solid now, but it cost me the best part of a week. (I faffed around for a day, deciding what approach to take to solve the problem.)

22 Jul I don't want metal fastenings in the boat, but like the idea of 'mechanically' fastening the hull to the stringers and bulkheads (and plywood to itself), so have put dowels at 30cm intervals).

SibLim the pincushion. I dare say the dowels are illogical, but the advantage of being a woman boatbuilder is that everyone knows women are illogical. It makes me feel happier anyway.

In the meantime, I was getting the keel ready.  While the following photos are not in strict chronological order, they show what was required.

14 September.  Once I started building the deadwood, I decided it was time to get the keel sand-blasted.  As soon as that was done, I took my WEST epoxy along and coated it.

I was surprised at its appearance: I expected it to be silver and shiny; in fact it looked as though it had been sprayed with a grey primer.



Because the boat will dry out often, and the steel is corrosion resistant anyway, I decided not to bother getting the bottom blasted. Any coating would just get scraped off.

I had perfect conditions. A warm, dry day following a chilly night, so the metal was cold, which stopped the epoxy kicking off too quickly. I could get away with fast hardener.


 The epoxy brushed on perfectly. The sand-blaster operator kindly let me leave it there overnight to harden.

15 September. When Kevin brought the keel back, he asked if I'd in fact asked the people to spray paint it. "No, I did it with a 2 inch brush!"

WEST Epoxy's magical self-levelling properties.

Anyway, the next stage was to get the hull ready to be turned over and attached to the keel.

Meanwhile, back in the the shed, I carried on preparing the hull.  27 July.  After trimming all the plywood, I planed and sanded the chines, and then coated them with neat epoxy, so that when I come to glass, the end grain won't soak up all the epoxy.

1 August.  I tried to get the chine as fair as possible, although once the boat is afloat, I doubt anyone will even notice.

8 August.  All the chines now have glass tape along them, which means that they will end up with two layers of glass.

People appeared to be surprised that I was willing to tackle glassing the hull entirely on my own, but in fact it was one of the few aspects of building the boat that didn't frighten me half to death.  Over the years I have epoxied what seems like acres of fibreglass to plywood!


13 August.  The first piece of glass goes on the bow.


Sometimes, I wish the glass weren't transparent. Here you can easily see where I had to remove plywood and re-plank.


14 August. The bottom has been glassed and that on the bow is just visible. 

17 August.  I actually rather enjoyed doing this job - probably because I felt in control! Here I am about half way along the starboard bilge panel.



18 August. My method was to smooth the cut cloth over the plywood and then climb onto the bottom of the boat and tip epoxy along the top of the glass. I used a plastic spreader to get an even coating.
24 August. Glassing the topsides was more tricky and I used a roller to wet out the cloth, following up with the plastic spreader. Rollers are a pain because they soak up epoxy, which quickly sets and before very long I abandoned them for a brush.  This worked perfectly well, anyway.

30 August. All the glass received an additional two coats of resin. I would coat the previous day's work before putting new glass on.
Glassing the transoms. I'm leaving the lute, for the moment. It will be easier to do when the boat is the right way up.
Having gone to all the trouble of carefully coating the glassed hull, I now have to flatten it all off to prepare for Coppercoat on the bottom and undercoat on the sides.
4 September.   The sanding is coming on. I could put gloss paint directly on the topsides, but the sun shines on the forward end of the boat, so I will put on undercoat to protect the epoxy.
5 September. Marcus helped me mark the shape for the deadwood. He's much better at standing on a slippery slope than I am!

If the hull is going to sit nicely on the keel, then I have to be sure that the deadwood is truly horizontal.

6 September. It took two of us to mark the bottom of the boat: I stood on a ladder and checked the square was vertical while Marcus made a mark.

We used the 'nose' pattern made for the keel, to mark to where the deadwood will extend.

7 September.  I bought a load of saligna (Queensland blue gum) for the deadwood.  It all had to be thicknessed and is rock hard.  The planer decided it didn't like it and I sent it in for repair.

10 September.  I'd spent two days on the thicknesser before it died.  I took the wood to the yard workshop to finish the thicknessing, and they did the job in half an hour!  The next job was to lay it on the pattern and mark out the individual pieces before cutting them to shape. 

After cutting the bevel on the bandsaw, I used the pattern to mark the shape of the various pieces.

11 September. I've been lent a big bandsaw by Karl - thanks, Karl.  Heaven knows how I'd have sawn up the wood without it. 

The pieces were getting pretty long as the keel built up.  Because the saligna is so heavy and hard to handle - and tends to be a bit warped, too, I made the later layers from shorter lengths.

12 September.  Building up the deadwood.  Marking, shaping, cutting and then fitting the wood so that everything is true is a slow business.

15 September.  Final shaping takes place on the boat, after each piece is glued in place.  No doubt there will be a big fairing job when it's completed.

 16 September.  The big bandsaw copes well with the saligna, but both planer and saw lose their edge quickly on this timber.  It was still a good buy, but maybe not quite as cheap as it seemed at the time! 

The deadwood took ages because the saligna is so hard: it also contains silica and gums up the blade.  All in all, it's not the easiest wood to work, but some of it looks really rather lovely when it's all planed up.  Cutting scarphs in the 150mm planks would be a big cut on any piece of wood: by the time the bandsaw has cut half a dozen pieces of the saligna, the blade needs changing!

22 September - the wood rasp is a favoured tool for the amateur woodworker. It enables accurate reshaping with a minimum skill level.

Slowly but steadily the stack is building up.

The thicknesser that I had been using has been pronounced beyond economic repair, so a new one had to be purchased. Second hand ones are rare and expensive.  I hope to sell it at the end of the project and as it comes with a 36 month guarantee, it should still be an attractive proposition. 

25 September: 'just' one more layer to put on the deadwood.

27 September - adding more layers to the deadwood.  Full length, now.

The glued wood is ready for the final smoothing and shaping.

28 September - Marcus uses his pattern once again, to shape the forward end of the deadwood.

29 September - the final shape.


Deadwood ready for glassing.

29 September - the final stack of deadwood, at the after end.

30 September - the front of the deadwood, glassed and ready for trimming.

1 October - drilling the longest keel bolt, right aft. The bolts are 16mm threaded rod set into the keel. The holes are 25mm and they are oversize so that they can be filled with epoxy, thickened with silica and high-density filler.  The keel is effectively glued to the hull and the keelbolts don't have to do a lot of work.  I used 316 stainless steel: this isn't generally considered good practice, but as there should be no moisture at all around the keel bolts, there should be no problem.  I should be able to remove the occasional keel bolt to check for corrosion, even if the boat is afloat, should I want to.

This last bolt is a long one!

The hole for the keelbolt through one of the floors.

The final job was to fill in all the screw holes left over from gluing up the laminates.

I started actually building the hull on 9th September 2015 and had very much hoped to have it turned over in a year.  (Some people thought that I should have had the boat finished in a year: I was not one of them.  If I finish it in 2 years, I shall be astonished, if I finish it in 3 years, I'll be satisfied.)  From the start, I've been determined not to put pressure on myself and setting myself this target proved the wisdom of my original decision.  The more I realised that the hull was not going to be turned over when I'd hoped, the more stressed I became about the rate of progress.  Generally, when people ask me when I'm going to launch, I reply 'The fifth'.  I should have said 'this year' for the turn over.  However, finally I was ready and the good guys at Norsand Boatyard pulled out all the stops to help me, even though they had plenty of other people clamouring for their time.

In order to make their life easier (and to reduce my final bill), my friend Marcus and I jacked up the boat to over 800mm, which would allow the trailer wheels to go under the beams sticking out at either end of the strongback.

2 October - jacking the hull up.

The strongback lived up to its name, and we moved it up in increments, ensuring that the hull didn't get tilted too much in the process.  Occasionally there was a light creak of protest, but generally it didn't seem to be under too much of a strain.

We used jacks, borrowed from the yard with lots of big lumps of wood to support the beams.

Finally, we were happy with the height

And propped the hull up with a couple of temporary supports.

3rd October.  The trailer was brought round and Kevin look very relieved that we had given its wheels sufficient clearance.

Slowly he manoeuvred it under the strongback - a tricky job with large machines and little clearance.

Once the trailer was in place, the large wheels could be removed and smaller ones substituted, so that the strongback and hull could be lowered onto the trailer itself.

With everything in place, the big wheels had to go back on again.  Normally hydraulics do this, but they were disabled for maintenance.

It's a bit of a nerve-wracking business, if you're not used to using jacks, but the slipway team are nothing if not professional.

Then Kevin moved the keel round, positioning it next to where the hull would be, so that the crane could move it the following day.

The keel was placed on a big steel beam and a hefty wooden one, placed on crib blocks.  The plan is for these to be used under the boat as I continue to fit it out.

The hull was then moved round and the strongback lowered on to crib blocks.

And then the hull was ready to be turned over, waiting overnight for the crane.

4 October - It had rained overnight and I was worried that the keel wouldn't dry out in time. Fortunately when the crane arrived at 0945, the sun had come out.  It looked awfully small for turning the hull over.

My job was to spread epoxy thickened with silica and high density filler on the keel. It kept me fully occupied. Just as well: watching a year's work dangling in the air was terrifying! 

The strops were attached to the crane and then pulled under the hull.

Then the jib was boomed out, lowered and the strops attached from the other side.

Two hooks were being used for this operation, so that the hull could be rolled over. Now the second one was hauled up to take the load.

Slowly the hull was lifted up. Neighbouring boatie, John, was asked to take photos: I was too busy mixing epoxy. Thanks, John.


With the boat not far above the strongback, the crane driver started manoeuvring his hooks so that the strops were alternately slackened and tightened. The hull started to roll over.

Tony, refitting a boat in the next shed, came to join in the fun. It was mercifully calm, but he was interested to note how easily the swinging about of the hull could be controlled with just one hand.

Then the hull was nearly on its side. 

In a few moments, the hull was past the half way point.

The slings were crossing the deadwood, so it was necessary to put the hull down on a couple of blocks of wood, so that they could be moved.

As the hull levelled out, it settled on the deadwood.

The hull sat happily while the strops were taken out.

Tony and Marcus decided some props should be put under the bilge panel, but they proved unnecessary and, in fact, fell out.

Tony with another prop.

'Come ON!" The strops are back in place, adjusted and the hull waits to be placed on the keel. I am still frantically spreading epoxy. The whole business took very little time. 


With the glue finally spread, the hull was swung over the keel. About 725 kg, Gary reckoned, which is what I'd estimated.

The aftermost keel bolt is the longest and it was very easy to locate the keel over this so that the rest would line up. 

The other holes line up in a most satisfactory manner. (But it must be said that one advantage of the Gougeon Bros method is that the holes are over size!)

The glue oozed out in most places as planned. One or two gaps that were showing, filled up when I poured epoxy into the holes around the keel bolts.

Less than 45 minutes after the crane arrived, I was cleaning up excess epoxy from the keel. 

Gary let go the strops, tidied everything away and was ready to leave before I'd even finished scraping up.  Who would have thought something that had caused me so much worry would be such a quick, easy and painless operation?  (All right, I know ... most people!)

I climbed on board and had a gloat.  Then I wandered around looking at my creation from all angles.  Then I noticed dark clouds rapidly approaching ... So my intention to take lots of photos of the hull the right side up was thwarted by the necessity to get a cover over the hull as quickly as possible.

And it was as well we did, because the rain soon came.

5 October.  I was delighted when Kevin made the effort, the following day, to fit me in so that SibLim could go back in the shed.  Despite the cover, some rain had already got inside the hull and although it would dry out soon enough, I didn't really want water filling up the places that hadn't been finally sealed.

As ever, Kevin went to a huge amount of trouble to ensure that everything was as it should be.  I shall, however, try to remember to check regularly, that the boat hasn't settled unevenly, over the next few months.

With only Marcus and me to help, I didn't have much time to take photos, but it was a replay of Tuesday, in reverse.

With a frame to support the stern, the hull could be left with the minimum of propping, which will make it much easier for painting, fitting the rubbing strakes, etc.

Then I threw a party: all those who have shown interest in the building of SibLim were invited. There was heaps to eat and drink and a lot of great people to help celebrate.

Then it was back to work.  I decided to work from fore to aft, checking that all the woodwork is properly coated with epoxy.  Then I need to put filled epoxy along all the stringers and alongside the chine logs.  There is nothing like longitudinal pieces of wood to provide crevices for damp and dirt to lurk.  Tedious work, but it will give me time to get a sense of the boat's interior and how the accommodation is going to work.

11 October.  One of the first jobs I did was roughly to cut out the excess bow. There will be two bow rollers - one for anchoring and one, generally, for mooring - well apart from each other.  The anchor roller will have a chain pawl, which makes it awkward to take the anchor off.  With this method, I can use the second roller for the occasions when I pick up a mooring and, I hope, the anchor and mooring warp won't interfere with each other.

This is a view down the centreline of the boat, from sitting perched up on the lute stern.  The panelled bulkhead is at the forward end of the saloon.

12 October.  Where the bow met the bottom of the boat was very messy, as a result of the difficulties of bending the plywood, where the stringers and chine log met the bow, etc. I flooded where everything met with epoxy and fillers and sanded it all.  This photo shows the forward part of the forepeak under the foredeck.  The deck will seal all this area off entirely, so I'm concerned to ensure that it's all properly sealed.

14 October.  I had to move from forepeak to sleeping cabin so that I could avoid damaging wet epoxy.  While I'm quite happy, by and large, with the scarphs, they still need filling and fairing.

I filled where the wood was damaged and screw holes, filletted stringers and bulkheads, and put 3 more coats of resin on everything.  I worked from the port after section, which is why it's still not completed in this photo.  The after section is going to be the anchor locker, the floor of which will be at chine log level, self draining.  Again, the area underneath will be sealed, although I will probably incorporate access hatches.
All this filleting and sealing will take some time; I'm looking forward to starting on the accommodation.