Search This Blog


In Greenland

Iron Bark

Iron Bark
Under full sail


At Russell Boating Club's Tall Ships Regatta

Blue Water Medal

Blue Water Medal
Blue Water Medal

Books By Annie Hill

  • Brazil and Beyond
  • Voyaging on a Small Income

29 April, 2018

Painting and panelling

I enjoy painting;  I even enjoy sanding (as long as it isn't too fiddly) before painting;  It gives my poor little brain a chance to relax and the opportunity to go over the next stage in my mind, and ensure that I'm doing things in the right order.

 To me, it also makes sense to paint 'on the bench' or to paint out areas before installing joinery, wherever possible.  Most of all, it makes sense to finish as I go.  I know that if I left it all until the end, I'd start skimping on the job and not lay on that extra coat of paint and varnish because I'd be impatient to get the job over with.

So I started with the pieces of wood that will make up the dinette

 and then moved into the hull to paint what will be the inside of the lockers.  I'm using Altex, high gloss, two-pack polyurethane for this job.  Slowly poisoning myself, no doubt, but I don't mind when it's for myself.  However, it's another argument in favour of leaving off the deck as long as possible.

 Four coats sufficed.  Because everything is thoroughly coated with epoxy first, there is no need for primer or undercoat.  In this photo you can (just) see the framework on the forward bulkhead.  I put another coat of epoxy underneath, so that the inside of the locker is shiny and easy to clean.  (I couldn't bear to paint the kauri!)  The bilge is left clear so that any water ingress will be immediately apparent from the wood becoming discouloured.

 The next job - a lovely one - was to panel the wee bulkheads.  First of all I fitted bearers for the cabin sole.  Then I cut and fitted the kauri.

 I then took the panels back inside the boat to offer up one more time, to check that I hadn't glued on anything that would stop me re-fitting the jigsaw. I took the opportunity to mark the cabin sole which will need a bit more cutting out of it again.

 I checked once more that the seating would be horizontal.  By the way, I love these single-handed clamps.  They are not expensive and great for this sort of job.  However, their clamping pressure is inadequate for foaming polyurethane glues, in my opinion.

Then I took the panels out again, to flocoat the kauri.  Another satisfying job.

I think I'm just about ready to fit them, now.  Exciting stuff!

22 April, 2018

Deckhead and saloon

Another week with something to show.  There are some - rare - occasions when I think that this boat may even be finished.  But I confess that I was a little stymied when David T asked me at the AGM, if I still thought the boat would be finished this decade.  Although, apparently, the century commenced in the year 01, a decade begins in the year 0.  So let's not bet on it, boys and girls!  I may be making progress, but I still have to fit out the saloon, the galley and the cockpit, lay the decks (including the teak- sorry Mr Tyler), put on the rubbing strakes, make the rudders and bilgeboards, make tillers, build a mast, make a sail, wire the boat, make cushions, paint the hull and around the cockpit and no doubt dozens of smaller jobs that presently escape my mind.  There is every chance that I'll be drawing my pension before the boat is launched (assuming that the Government doesn't change its mind about giving me one!).

 Anyway, having decided, finally, exactly what the seating layout in the saloon is to be, I started marking and cutting out material.  The front and sides of the seating will be of 6mm ply, with kauri panelling laid over them.

 A certain amount of cutting and shaping was required to fit the panels around the bearers for the cabin sole, which, because I wasn't sufficiently clever to plan everything in advance, did little to aid framing up the structure. 

 In the meantime, I was painting the deckhead. As anyone who uses them knows, the trouble with commercial two-part polyurethane paints is that they are designed to be sprayed.  I tried several techniques to get an acceptable - and that's all it is - finish, so sanding between coats was required to get rid of the lumps.  I could have used International 'Perfection' or one of the three shades of white that Altex use for application by brush and/or roller, but not only are they eye-wateringly expensive, they come in a very high gloss, which isn't what I want. (I tried Perfection undercoat, just to see, but apart from the expense, it was an almost blue white, which was a bit bleak to my eye.)  So I've come to the conclusion that I'll just have to pretend I like the textured finish.

 However, the good news is that the paint is fantastically hard, so even though I had to use props to ensure contact with the deckhead, they didn't do any damage.  It was, to say the least of it, a mission putting up the sheet of ply, which is, of course, exactly the same length as the cabin.  I had to apply the glue to the ply rather than the deckhead (a) to avoid it dripping off before I got the sheet on and (b) to ensure that I didn't wipe off half of it with my hair while I was preparing everything.  But up it went and with very little glue ending up in the wrong place.

 The camera, as we all know, frequently lies and the finish is nowhere near as good as it looks in the photos.

 But the overall effect is pleasing, I think.  I'm going to run quadrant along the edges. I think it will soften the joint between bulkhead and deckhead.

Back in the saloon, I've broken down the kit of parts for coating and panelling.  I also need to paint out under and around the settee, before building in the structure.  And I need to finish off the deckhead in the forecabin.

This should keep me busy for a while! 

15 April, 2018

Visible progress!

Sometimes, it seems like one works for months and has nothing to show for it.  At other times, you can actually see things moving forwards and the last couple of weeks have been like that.  I confess that I did take time out: as Chair of the JRA, I had to run the AGM over the weekend.  I absolutely hate doing this: I am not really a committee person and in truth, have only the haziest idea of what an AGM is supposed to produce or what I am meant to do.  Mercifully, our Hon Sec is much better versed in this sort of thing and essentially gave me a script to follow.  Once the wretched thing was over, we had a hugely enjoyable gathering of like-minded souls, with plenty to eat and drink, completely taking over Rob and Maren's wonderful house with a superb view over Whangarei Harbour and beyond.  The following day I sailed back up the harbour in Le Canard Bleu  

and then Marcus took me for a delightful sail in his little Freebie.  It was a great break and heaps of fun.  It's ages since I enjoyed anything so much.

I went back to boatbuilding with renewed enthusiasm. Maybe this is why I feel I've made visible progress recently.

The kauri bulkheads, for the companionway, cleaned up nicely.  Originally, I had hoped to use the original tongues and grooves to reassemble them, but they, particularly the grooves, had got split and broken when the boards were removed from the house they had been on.  So I put pseudo grooves back in, where they are joined together.  This also helped disguise some of the gaps in the joints!

 Then I coated them with epoxy.  They look pretty splendid, although obviously recycled wood.  (Recycled sounds better than second-hand!)  The kauri is a beautiful honey colour.  Lovely stuff.

 With the ends trimmed to fit, they are now ready to be glued into place.  I had had my doubts about fitting these bulkheads, concerned that they would make the interior cramped and the aftermost seat in the saloon claustrophobic.  However, I knew that sooner or later a wave would come down the hatch and dump itself on the settee and that the cooker would otherwise be very susceptible to being blown out.  Having chosen to have bilgeboards, I have to accept that they dictate the accommodation.  I think it's a compromise worth making.

The bulkheads have a length of thicker kauri at the forward end, with a cut-out to make a hand hold.  They were grooved to fit the bulkhead and glued in after the bulkheads.

 The next stage is to fit out the saloon.  Here I am really going for my quart in a pint pot (something that really does not translate into the metric system!).  Originally the plan was to have the saloon slightly raised, but as the topsides are vertical, there is no gain in width from so doing.  The other reason to raise them would be to make it easier to see out of the portholes, but this is unnecessary, too.  If the saloon is at the same height as the rest of the boat, it will be easier to build - and the forward seat more versatile.  So,using a hot-glue gun to stick things in place, I mocked up a rough plan.  I took things down and put them back several times, measured chairs, looked at other designs, asked people what they thought, agonised and worried and finally pencilled in lines: this is where the seats will be built.  Most boats have seats that are too high and are uncomfortable to sit on.  I don't want mine to be like this.

 Another job that was scaring me silly was making the headliner - the underside of the deck.  This is made from (very expensive) plywood and has to be a good fit.  I am not very adept at making small pieces of wood fit, let alone large ones.  The first thing was to lift off the curve of the hull at deck level, for which I used MDF to make a pattern. This took ages, but was worth being patient with, because the plywood was a lot more likely to fit if I got this correct.

 I fitted it to a pre-coated piece of plywood and drew the line.  I used a bevel gauge to get the angles at each end and compared these with the angles on the MDF.  I had also made a table of offsets from the fore and aft stringer that the plywood was to land on, to the deck edge and I know the exact distance from bulkhead to bulkhead.  Using all these bits of information, I finally drew out what I hoped the deckhead would be and - gulp - cut it out.

 I then had to fit it.  As it's nearly 2 metres long and the best part of a metre wide at the after end, this was something of a nightmare.  The tabernacle was a curse to get round and it was difficult to move the sheet without jamming its sharp corners into anything else and damaging the wood.  However, I finally got it into place and to my absolute astonishment it fit perfectly, first go.

 In fact I was so amazed that I left it there for the night, so that I could gloat over it.

 I then had the brainwave to use it as a pattern for the other side, rather than starting from scratch again.  I was rather proud of the fact that I could do this: my boat must be fairly symmetrical!  Here I have just finished cutting the other side to shape, using my newly-acquired battery circular saw.  These are an absolute boon for small women with small hands: a standard size circular saw is far too heavy and awkward for me to handle.

 Here is the other panel being fitted.  All that was required was a little bit of fairing of the outboard edge.  (I made both of them slightly too wide to allow for final fairing.)

 They have to be painted before I glue them in - I've made space on the scaffolding so that I can carry on using the big table, in the workshop.

And the upstairs bench is just large enough for the other panel, which is having to be coated after cutting up, because I didn't precoat that piece of plywood.

And while I wait for paint and epoxy to dry, I can carry on with the saloon.  Here is the first of the framing going in.

01 April, 2018

Recycling wood

I was very lucky, at the start of this project, to acquire a pile of kauri, which had originally been milled for cold-moulding.  This is what I've been using to panel the bulkheads, and make the doors, etc. Along the way, I've managed to acquire some more, but it's not easy.  The reason that it's not easy is that the magnificent kauri forests that covered the north of North Island, when the British settlers arrived here, were swiftly cut down and the large trees - which can grow to tremendous size, almost entirely eradicated.  (You can see photos, and read about one of these remaining giants, here.)  The trees are now protected and you need permission to cut one down (although this is too often either given or ignored), which makes buying the timber difficult.  My good luck is holding however: as I mentioned earlier, my friend Gordie has been preparing his mother's house to sell, and stored underneath was a pile of kauri cladding, some of which came my way.

Covered in old paint and the dust of ages, it was less than prepossessing, but it has cleaned up beautifully.  Because of the lead in the old paint, a full-face respirator was needed - unpleasant in hot weather.  However, JRA membership secretary, Linda, who is presently visiting NZ, wanted to join the SibLim Club, so valiantly donned the mask and cleaned up some of the boards for me.

 The paint generally came off easily, but some green paint underneath, was quite stubborn.  However, when I took to it with the random-orbit sander, I could remove it with no problems.

The reason for getting some of this cleaned up is that it should be perfect for making the small fore and aft bulkheads I am installing by the companionway. One of the drawbacks of putting bilge boards in a small boat is that it pushes all the accommodation that much further aft.  However, the anchor tackle on this boat is as heavy as I can handle, so this is a compromise I have to work round.  If you happen to be running with the washboards open, a dollop of water can land on the settee or the cooker, which is something I would prefer to avoid.  Rain can also pour in when you are having to go in and out to check on the chart, etc.  I would prefer for this not to happen, so am installing these bulkheads to prevent it.

 I put down an almost full sheet of plywood in the galley/saloon area, so the first thing I had to do was cut this to fit.  I plan to install a grating between these bulkheads to catch drips from oilskins, etc, which made things easier.

 The now-cleaned boards of kauri were fitted one at a time, with a lap cut in the edges of each one to join them together.

 Here you can see where the lap has been cut.  You can also see that there are plenty of marks in the timber from its previous life.  Not the sort of thing that would be acceptable in a superyacht, but I like the idea of using recycled timber, so can live with these marks quite happily.

 When they were all cut out I dry fitted them, so that I could work out where the fore and aft deck stringers are to be fitted.

 The next job was to glue them up.  Noel, a well-known boatbuilder who fortunately works for Norsand and has an incredible collection of tools, once again kindly lent me some sash clamps for the job.  As well as pushing the joints together, the weight of the clamps tended to keep the bulkheads flat.  It's still occasionally getting very hot in the middle of the day, and even century-old kauri will start to move.

Once they were glued together, the holes and odd gap in the seam were filled with epoxy.  I drilled out some of the nail/screw holes and put kauri plugs in, so that they were less obtrusive.  It was a bit tricky to decide at what stage to do this: too many plugs in the bulkhead would look a bit odd, too.

 In the meantime, I have been fitting, routing, coating and preparing the framing for the deck, the reinforcing around the mast and the liner.

As well as the continuing task of getting the portholes polished up, so that I can install them. I really want to get these done soon, so that when I fit the deck liner in the forecabin, I can close it off from all the dust.