Tuesday, August 4, 2015

First Mate Capsize Test.

As I have mentioned on several occasions, First Mate is one of my favourite designs. For those who don't already know, she was designed to be a stitch-and-glue version of Phoenix III in functional terms, with an internal layout, rigs, centreboard, mast, and rudder all virtually identical to those on the glued-lapstrake boat.

First Mate  

Phoenix III  (photo - Paul Hernes)
Each of these boats share a selection of rig options, and both use the same emergency floatation arrangement, which is a combination of a large buoyancy tank under the foredeck, and a corresponding buoyancy tank under the aft deck and stern sheets (i.e. aft seat).

Many people have asked me why I don't have side seating incorporating side buoyancy tanks. Well, the answer comes in two parts. Firstly, side-seating which is fixed is a real thief when it comes to space. When cruising in small sailing craft, my favourite seating position is down on the bottom (on floorboards if you like) with my upper back supported by the side-deck carlings, or the hull topside planking if side-decks aren't part of a design. You can see this position nicely displayed by my son, David, in the photo of First Mate above.

This seating location is comfortable, and is particularly effective for human ballast positioning when the boat starts to heel. In a racing boat, where comfort is a secondary consideration, hiking-out on the side-decks is effective. But it is tiring and uncomfortable. For cruising, where the boat has to be sailed for longer periods and in difficult conditions, the comfort and protection afforded by sitting in the weather bilge is more seaman-like, and safer. Not only that, but as the boat heels, human ballast in the weather bilge becomes more effective, while human ballast on the side deck becomes less effective.

That is me sailing my 1956 International Finn in very light conditions. Even though the weather is pleasant in this shot, the hiking position becomes tiring after a relatively short time. Good for the stomach muscles!
Getting back to the original discussion, fixed side-tanks rob you of the best space in the boat, but they do prevent much water coming aboard in a capsize. The problem is that the side-tanks mean that a capsized boat floats so much higher, that the mast points downwards towards the surface of the water significantly, and it is easy for the mast to submerge completely. The boat will then turn-turtle. This is a really serious problem! Unless they are provided with very significant foam floatation, alloy and carbon-fiber masts try very hard to turn themselves into keels at the first opportunity!

I do make provision for removable side seating for those who want it, and my design allows the seat to be removed completely, or moved into the centre of the boat to form a servicable sleeping platform raised above the bilge water.

Phoenix III removable side seating (First Mate has the same arrangement). Photo - Paul Hernes

Side-seating and stern-sheets in casual use (photo - Tom Pamperin)

Seats moved together on the centreline........
....to be used as a bunk-flat (photos - Paul Hernes and Tom Pamperin, respectively)
This seating/bunk-flat arrangement only works because of being incorporated with the generous stern-sheets and the main thwart.

So, I keep being asked to design-in side-tanks/seating in cruising dinghies, and in cruising dinghies I refuse to oblige (I do put side tanks in several powerboats though, because they don't have the option of using buoyant wooden spars as makeshift outrigger floats). Apart from the space issue, I want a capsized sailing dinghy to float a little deep while on her side, as it means that the mast, sails, and (if they are present) yard/sprit/gaff float fairly flat on the surface of the water. Getting at the rig is simple while swimming, and it is easier to reach up to the centreboard when it comes time to pull the boat upright. Once upright, it is quite practical to sit inside the partially flooded hull to set things right, and do some bailing - after all you probably won't have been in a race.

Gerry Lavoie built a First Mate and he has used her a lot, it seems. One of the pleasing things I note from Gerry's emails is that he has found that she is very effective when being used under oars - something I aimed at with the design of both Phoenix III and First Mate.

Gerry recently sent me three images showing the results of a capsize test he carried out, and I'm happy to see that the built-in buoyancy worked as I had hoped:-

Note how the buoyant wooden mast is nearly flat on the water. Combined with the yard and boom, the mast makes an excellent outrigger. Gerry has easy access to the interior of the boat while he sorts things out.

Here Gerry has climbed up onto the topside planking, and the boat is carrying his weight without a problem.

Next, he appears to have placed a foot down on the centreboard where it protrudes from underneath the bottom of the hull, and the boat has rolled upright. Another approach when the water is warm (and you aren't being chased by sharks!) is to simply swim around to the bottom of the boat and pull down on the protruding centreboard.
If there is much wind blowing, always try to swim the bow of the capsized boat around into the wind before righting - otherwise you may lose control and find yourself in another capsize situation.

Here is a little video from Gerry's collection...

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Website Being filled with More Content - At Last!

Have been working too hard in the workshop, and blog entries have suffered. However, paid building jobs are almost finished, and the website is being populated with several design page entries, and an increasing number of items on the "Shop" page.

After mid-September, I will be working predominantly on designs, website content, small video production, and more regular blog entries. I've got a stack of material from workshop jobs over the last year or so - have just been lacking time to edit photos, write copy, and publish material.

Much more to come very soon.


Monday, April 27, 2015

Folding Mast - Hollow, Sixteen-Sided (will end up round)

In Woodenboat Magazine #237 of March/April 2014, there is an article written by David McCulloch about building an "In-Mast Hinge" which he has designed and developed. I urge you to purchase a digital issue of this copy if you don't already have it, as Mr. McCulloch has written a good article, and there is an excellent coloured illustration.


David McCollough"s photograph of his "In-Mast Hinge" from the Woodenboat Magazine article. Note the detail in the upper-right corner.
This article inspired a customer of mine to inquire about including such a hinge in a replacement mast for a large, open daysailer he had recently purchased. After some discussion, and an inspection of the boat, I agreed to attempt the project. It was necessary for me to make modified drawings for the plates to fit the mast I was commissioned to build due to its different diameter from that shown in the article.

The location of pivot holes, and the radii of cuts made to all three plates alter depending on the geometry, which is itself dependent on the diameter of the mast. However, this is not at all difficult to work out, and just requires attention to detail.  For those who may be interested, here are some early progress photos: -

One half of the mast being laid up in a female station mould mounted on part of my 12 metre (40 ft)-long bench. The mast is made up of 16 staves, so this half-shell comes from 8 tapered pieces.

All eight staves glued up in the female mould. The first stave was fixed along a marked centreline in the bottom of the female stations, using 18 gauge polymer brads fired from a pneumatic branding gun through the stave and into the plywood edge of the station mould. Subsequent staves were laid up on either side of the "master" and glued using epoxy. The overwhelming reason for using epoxy is that it only requires contact pressure to form a good bond. Careful attention must be paid to priming the gluing surfaces with un-thickened epoxy before applying the thickened mixture. This method allowed me to fire polymer brads into the SIDES of each successive stave to hold it to the one before, because the epoxy did not require clamping pressure. The polymer brads stay inside the shell of the mast, and will of course never corrode. The bradder and polymer nails were purchased from Duckworks. After being glued-up, the inside of the half-shell was given three or four full coats of epoxy to ensure that the inside of the finished mast would always be protected from moisture.

Here is the station mould after the removal of the first mast half-shell. I used adhesive tape applied to the inside  of the cut-out section of each mould to prevent epoxy squeeze-out gluing the mast components into the mould. Alignment of moulds is very important, and you can see the blue chalk-line "snapped" onto the bench surface (now covered with epoxy drips!)

Two half-shells of the mast after being removed from the station mould visible in the top/right of the photo. The outer surfaces are still rough-looking due to epoxy marks. When first removed from the mould, the half-shells had lots of thickened epoxy squeeze out, which I largely removed using a heat-gun and scraper. Any gaps were filled with additional epoxy.

Here you can see the two shells clamped together with cable-ties and hose-clamps. The extra length of the staves has been roughly cut off using a handsaw and you may just be able to see that there is no glue on the opposing faces of the two shells. Note the heavy layer of sealing epoxy on the inside of the hollow mast.

This is a similar photo, but taken from the mast head. The trimming of the extra length  was done quite roughly, and the un-glued faces of the staves still need to be sanded to remove dags of cured epoxy, so the gaps in the un-glued faces are a bit open. This will change prior to final assembly. Note that the taper of the mast resulted in a reduced outside diameter, but the thickness of the staves has reduced as well. The idea is to keep the percentage wall thickness of the mast constant at about 20% of the diameter. This is something which can't normally be done with a "Bird's Mouth" mast. (see photo below)  
An off-cut from the tip of  "Bird's Mouth" mast I made. a while ago. Note how the wall thickness, which started off at the base being 17% of the diameter, has ended up being so large it almost makes the mast solid.  Compare with the previous photograph.

Three stainless steel plates to make up the hinged section of the mast (refer to the inset in the David McCulloch photo at the beginning of this post to see how this works). These plates are quite heavy, with the outer pair being 6mm thick, and the inner one being 8mm. I had these laser-cut, which saved a lot of time, and was not expensive.
This sketch shows the stainless steel plates extended and folded. The black lines depict the 8mm plate which is buried for half of its length into a solid mast stub which runs from a mast step near the keel to a short distance above the deckline of the boat. The red lines show the two 6mm stainless steel plates, which are fully buried in the base of the mast you can see in this article.
Here is a close-up of the insert from the heading photo in David McCulloch's article in Woodenboat Magazine #237.

There needs to be a solid section at the base to hold the stainless plates. On the free-standing hollow masts which I normally make, I always insert a solid section from the base of the mast, to a reasonable distance above the mast partners. In both my normal free-standing mast inserts, and with this one, I terminate the solid insert with what is often referred to as a "Swallow Tail", the purpose of which is to ease the transition in stiffness from where the mast is solid (i.e. the hollow shell combined with the solid inset) to where it is a hollow shell. Here is a view of the early stages of the solid insert for this mast.

As you can see, there is the "Swallow Tail" section, and at the base, a cut-out slot to accept the stainless steel plates and an 8mm hardwood inset to hold them apart and allow the 8mm tongue of stainless from the mast stub to fit between. At this point I have planed a square blank into an octagonal section - it is on its way to becoming round!
At this point the blank has been planed from octagonal, to 16-sided, and them planed further to 32-sided, and then hand sanded to a round cross-section.. All of this sounds complicated and difficult, but if you start with an accurately cut square blank, and then mark carefully for the 8, to 16, to 32-sided planing work, you'll find that the work goes quickly, and is actually a satisfying and relaxing job. As with most boatbuilding work, it just a progression of simple steps. I can tell you I'm finding it more difficult to describe than it is to achieve on the bench. Other than the initial sawing of the square blank, I did all of this with a low-angle block-plane you can see in the photo before this one. It did not take long.

The hole you can see drilled through the filler block at the apex of the "Swallow Tail" is just something I do to prevent a crack propagating from the apex. This may be an over-kill, as the block will be contained within the mast shell anyway, but it only took a moment to drill - so better to be safe than sorry... 

Here is where the stainless steel plate assembly will eventually reside. Matching slots will have to be cut in the mast shells.

Checking the fit of the insert. The actual fitting will be done with the two half-shells of the mast opened up, and the plug will be laid into a bed of epoxy in one half, before the pair of shells are finally glued together to form a round, tapered mast. The tip of the mast will receive a similar (but smaller) plug to distribute loads from the shrouds and fore-stay, and to carry the attachments for the halyard blocks
I'll write more about this interesting folding mast experiment as the job progresses.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

View from my office

I've had a few exhausting days of work lately, and a lot of it hasn't been fun - just hard, messy, dusty and physically demanding labour.

But tonight after a shower, a drink, and something to eat I glanced at this sight from the verandah outside my office. Gentle rain falling in the darkness - sort of makes it all worthwhile...

She is 15 years old, and has encountered many hurdles in her life. She has been back to my workshop plenty of times, but she still looks great to my eyes - especially in the quiet of an evening after hard work.

Some of Phil Bolger's designs are an acquired taste, but none of his work should ever be underestimated - particularly those designs up to around the mid to late eighties. Trust me when I tell you that Micro is a masterpiece of design. It is such a pity that so many people fail to understand the subtleties. As Phil Bolger said about the designs of L. Francis Herreshoff, and William Atkin said about his own work -  do not ever alter anything - build exactly to the plans - that way you keep the treasure.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

More Detail on the Micro Repair

My recent post http://rosslillistonewoodenboat.blogspot.com.au/2015/04/micro-repair.html about repairs to a Phil Bolger Micro generated quite a bit of interest, and the following comment from Dave is an example:-

Thanks for the blog post, Ross, but you left out the details on the very parts I'd be most interested in seeing!

So if you do a future post on the nitty gritty details of truing up and patching the damage, I'd be most interested in that. 

Well, after taking initial photos of the damage, I didn’t many more during the repair process, simply because of time pressure – but here is a brief look at some aspects of the job: -

Initial job was to do a rough paint removal around all of the damaged areas to get a clearer idea of the extent of the damage, and to remove components/timber which had been destroyed. It also allowed ventilation and thorough drying.
Initial job was to do a rough paint removal around all of the damaged areas to get a clearer idea of the extent of the damage, and to remove components/timber which had been destroyed. It also allowed ventilation and thorough drying.

A small puncture wound on the forward/starboard topsides on the outside, and

....the corresponding spot on the inside

Brutal removal of paint, damaged timber, and broken epoxy fillets 

Brutal removal of paint, damaged timber, and broken epoxy fillets

Paint removal from around the forward bulkhead on the interior of the cabin, where the floorboards had punched through.
Most of the work shown above was done using a heat-gun and a variety of sharp scrapers. The paint was all two-part epoxy primer/undercoat and two-part polyurethane topcoat (I know, because I built this particular boat myself fourteen years ago!) and removal was not ever going to be easy. However, the heat-gun and scraper combination is a good choice as long as you are very careful about never overheating the material and damaging epoxy adhesive and paint in locations which are not part of the repair. Other primary tools include chisels, 4" angle grinders, drills, sandpaper - and elbow grease!

Next stage was to carry out a more gentle sanding  using (in this case) a 5" random orbit sander, going down through the grits to about 120 or 180. On the internal areas, the job is more difficult to achieve, and I made heavy use of a Fein Multi-master detail sander and plain, simple sandpaper on a sanding block, or folded triple. Hard work!
See above comments

See above comments
I don't have many photos of the next stage, but it mainly involved pulling usable components back into position using a variety of improvised tools such as lengths of purpose-cut steel angle-iron with holes drilled at strategic locations, and also temporary through-bolts and backing pads. This work can be very satisfying if done properly, and with attention to detail. The key is to have an open mind, and to be prepared to be bold with your surgery.

Once I was happy that my bracing would all work, and that all interfering debris was removed from joints, I opened the whole lot up again, and even spread damaged components further apart (using wedges and chisels etc). With the components held apart, it was relatively easy to treat all surfaces with un-thickened epoxy resin and hardener in order to prime the mating and damaged joints using disposable bristle brushes. This is a very important step if you expect to achieve a good structural repair. With the work area well primed, it was then a matter of applying a rich mix of epoxy/hardener combined with the recommended structural glue/filleting powder additive.

With the structural epoxy  mix worked into all joining areas, I screwed, bolted, or clamped the repaired sections together, which is why the previous work dry-fitting the bracing and jigging was such an important step. Where appropriate, I applied structural epoxy fillets at the same time.

The above two photos show steel angle braces screwed into position over the epoxied repair. In the case of Micro I had the luxury of using straight sections of steel to hold things in place, but on more conventionally shaped boats the same thing can be done using shaped and bent timber splints. I'll show an example of this in an up-coming post on a Whitehall repair.
Interior shot of the repaired bow transom, topside planking, and forward bottom planking. This was taken while the initial epoxy work was still wet and ugly. This work was followed by additional cosmetic epoxy filling.
Exterior shot of the starboard, forward topsides repair taking place. The actual puncture damage is quite a small spot underneath the centre of the plywood pad.
Matching plywood pad on the inner surface of the topside panel. As you can see from the exterior shot above this one, I placed twelve screws through the hull and into the internal plywood pad and pulled them in tightly over the epoxied repair. Note that both pads have been covered in a film of plastic to prevent them being glued to the hull permanently. All of those screw holes had to be repaired later, but the repair turned out well. The plywood pads were large enough to take up the curve of the topside planking when screwed together.
Structural work complete, glass applied where required, fill and cosmetic work done, and the two-part epoxy primer/undercoat applied (the white paint - three or four coats)
Topcoat (two-part polyurethane) applied, with just some minor black line work to be done between the green topsides paint and the off-white bottom paint (that is my little step ladder relected in the paint by the way).
Because of a lack of photos, time and space, this has been a very brief overview of the job, but it may give you some inspiration. Unfortunately, I have no photos of the way I repaired the forward watertight bulkhead of the cabin - a job involving more steel angle bracing and numbers of temporary through-bolts, nuts and fender washers.  In a post in the not too distant future, I'll show the repair of a glued-lapstrake Whitehall tender which suffered very serious damage to her hull in an accident. Most people considered her a write-off, but we were able to give her a new life.

Just a word about repairing screw and bolt holes. Many people simply fill the holes with thickened epoxy and sand the surface smooth after curing. I do not do this because the "cylinder" of hard epoxy in the screw hole intersects the surface of the repair at 90 degrees, and is sure to result in a circular crack in the paint after cycles of expansion and contraction due to temperature changes over time.

My approach is to heavily chamfer the hole on the inside and outside surfaces using a wide countersink or by dishing-out the surface using a sander. Then I fill the hole and the chamfered areas - this gives much less of a stress-riser where the epoxy fill intersects with the surface. However, if the repaired holes are going to be covered with a layer of fabric set in epoxy, this step is not necessary.

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Several Videos added to bottom of Website Footer

I've added several videos to the bottom of the listing on the video page of my website - see video link on the footer of the home page.

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Image Galleries on Website

After a lot of time spent learning about the intricacies of the dashboard on the new website, I have now been able to expand the list of picture galleries, and I have some images on every gallery.

This is very time consuming due to my ignorance when it come to working with Wordpress, but I have made significant learning progress over the last couple of days, and the site content will continue to grow.

The next thing I'll be doing is getting captions onto the gallery images, but it will be a gradual process over a week or so. Also coming in the near future will be extra pages in the 'Designs' section.