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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

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.

05 January, 2020

Poor Australia

I was about to write a nice, cheerful blog and wish everyone a Happy New Year, but I have had to switch on the lights, 4 hours before sunset.  The sky is a dirty orange; all the white boats in the yard are also orange, as are the sides of my shed, the light filtering in between the slats of wood.

Australia is going up in flames and, over 1,000 nautical miles away, the smoke from these fires has made the afternoon as dark as sundown in my home, and smeared a vile orange light over everything.  It is how one imagines the Apocalypse would start.  All I can think about is the 500,000 innocent, beautiful, delightful animals that have died; the ancients forest that have been torched.  I have been in Australia. I think of those sweet little wallabies that hopped up shyly and tapped me on the leg, hoping for food; of the platypus splashing in the creek; of the spiny echidna bumbling along in his own little world; of the budgies flocking around a billabong; of the 'silly' galahs sitting on the water pump blades, having to move each time they went below the horizontal; of the kangaroos bounding with such speed and grace across the flat land; of the most beautiful wrens in the world, pecking in the dirt around my feet.  I remember the grace of the ghost gums, the weirdness of the baobab trees, the wonderful bunya bunya pines.  How will the Australian people continue with so many of these gone?  How will Australia continue?

Of course, it is terrible for the people, those who have lost their family and friends, their homes and their livelihoods.  But this has happened through the folly and selfishness of the human race.  There is barely a person in the consumer world who isn't complicit in this destruction.  But we can try and stop it getting worse.  Anyone who reads this blog must have some love for nature.  Imagine, sitting here in the middle of what should be a bright and breezy day, with the sky a lurid orange from fires hundreds and hundreds of miles away and the lights on.  I can tell you: it is overwhelming.  Like it or not, it's time to completely change the trajectory of our society and put the planet first.  As they say: it's the only one we've got.  We all have to stand up and both act in our own lives and vote for the politicians who think beyond the next election.  It may not be too late.  But Australia tells us that we haven't much time left.