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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

10 February, 2018

Lots of cutting

 With the deckbeams in place, I could now take on a job that really required doing ages ago.  The bulkhead at the after end of the cabin was built as an 'H' shape, the lower cutout allowing access under the cockpit and the upper cutout allowing access into the cockpit.

 Somehow or other, this had been incorrectly marked, making it too high.  I hadn't wanted to cut it out until the deckbeam was in place, because the two parts of the bulkhead would have been a bit insecure (although no doubt more than strong enough).  Moreover, fitting the deckbeam allowed for a physical check that the cross-piece was in the wrong place.  The initial idea was that I could just sit under the deck in the companionway: when the deck beam was fitted, I found I couldn't.  So, I braced myself and took to it with a saw.

 More than a few people had suggested I do this ages ago, to make access in and out of the boat easier, but I had resisted this sensible suggestion.  I suppose it is easier, but having got so used to ducking underneath, I don't really notice it, to tell the truth.

Early in the new year, Marcus helped me mark out the line which will be the bottom of the lower rubbing strake.  This was so that I could work out where the portholes are to go.  This is always a tricky decision: one wants them to by symmetrical from the outside, but on the other hand, they also have to look right inside and not end up behind joinery!

Anyway, I marked at regular intervals along the sheer clamp and then measured down.  I marked the same on the other side, noted the measurements I'd made and
transferred them to the port side.  I then ran a length of masking tape to make a continuous line.  I then measured the midpoint between the two, so that the portholes would be centred horizontally, and then measured along to get them even vertically.

These measurements were transferred to the inside and the two were verified by the simple expedient of drilling a hole through where the centre of the porthole would be from both outside and inside.  A 0.5mm drill was used.  There was no significant discrepancy, so I took a punch and marked all the centres a little more deeply, so that the large drill from the hole saw mandrel would locate positively.  I then marked all the portholes with the hole saw from the inside to check both with tape and by eye that they all looked OK.

Then I took a deep breath and cut the first hole.  It was a long tedious process.  I used my battery drill, because it is lighter and slower than the hand drill.  It got pretty hot and the batteries didn't last too long, but as my wrist soon tired of holding the saw in place, this didn't prove to be a problem.  A lot of people warned me that I might well have issues using such a big hole saw, but thus far it hasn't been a problem.  Possibly because the plywood is relatively thin.

I drilled six holes in total (having already made the ones at the front of the cabin) before concluding that the hole saw had done its dash and needed re-sharpening.  So now I'm waiting for it to be ready.

In the meantime, it was back to working on the deck framework.  I am fitting two stringers between the bulkhead forward of the bilgeboard and the after bulkhead.  These are going just where the flat part of the deck joins the curve, so I can use fairly big pieces of wood that won't require shaping.  I decided to notch them over the deck beams and found that a 'multitool' in combination with a router was a good way to mark the rebates.

With the multitool I cut slots across the rebate, as you would with a normal saw, and then chiselled the remaining wood out.  This left a rather rough notch that was a few mm shy of the required depth.

I then took the router and cleaned out the rebates to the correct depth.  You can see one of the stringers in this photo, being dry fitted.

The slot cleaned out nicely, ready for accepting the glued stringer.

The next job is to get back to the tabernacle and mast step, so that this can be fitted together with its deck beams.

27 January, 2018

Mainly deckbeams

Fitting deckbeams - for me at any rate - is slow, painstaking work.  And not terribly photogenic.  However, I'm quite pleased with the results.

 The first thing to do was to smooth down the upper surface of the bulkhead.  It wasn't sawn perfectly to begin with, although it was pretty good, and there were dribbles of epoxy, etc, from various jobs.  The deck, you may recall consists of two straight lines (on either side) and a curved centre section.  An offcut from the deckbeam stock helped me check that the edges were straight.

 In the meantime, I finished coating the foredeck.  What looks cream in the photos is, in fact, a rather pleasing (to my eye) shade of yellow.  It is impossible to get far enough out of the shed to get a decent photo, but you'll have to take my word for it that it looks pretty smart.

 The next thing was to offer up the deckbeams.  What with springback (the amount the laminated curve tries to straighten out again), and the less than perfect scarfs, this was one of those (many) situations where I was profoundly grateful for the gap-filling properties of epoxy.  As the deck is going to have an inner liner inside the deck beams (to create an even stiffer deck), the 4mm ply will hide these rather wide glue joints.  I hope.  And anyway, knowing my joinery, it will probably require fillets all round to hide the gaps!

 It had also occurred to me that the tabernacle should be varnished before installation.  It will be a lot easier to touch up any scratches than to try and apply varnish between the tabernacle and the side of the bunk.  So over the next several days I varnished a side or two, whenever the time seemed appropriate.

 The existence of epoxy also made it a little less nerve-racking cutting the notches that the beams rest in.  I could have used a multitool for this, but it didn't take that much longer to saw and chisel out the notches and there was less room for making a major botch.

 I dry fitted the beams, levelling them with each other and the one already fitted at the front of the cabin.  It would have been easier if I hadn't fitted the first one - levelling the bulkheads without a beam on them is much easier.  Having realised this, at least I had the sense to do the next three bulkheads at the same time.  I used lots of screws to pull them into place, then backed out the screws, spread glue and put the beams down again.

 The whole project was made somewhat more stressful by the recent temperatures.  38⁰C in the shed with high humidity, thoughtfully topped up by the weather gods with regular showers.  I had to break out the super-slow hardener, which I don't think I even used last year.  I daren't use any other at present.

When I came to fit the intermediate beams in the saloon/galley, I found that they seemed to be lower than the bulkheads.  I thought I was going to have to use brute force to bring them up to the same level as the others once they were installed, which was a bit of a worry.

 The answer came at three in the morning as I lay in bed:  they had simply slipped lower down the sheer clamp and all that was required to put them in place was to clamp them to straight edges laid across the other beams and then screw them to the sheer clamp.  Obvious, no doubt, but not to me and I felt absurdly pleased with myself for working it out.  I was equally pleased for remembering to put spacers between them to ensure that they didn't twist out of alignment while the glue was setting.  With the clamps off and the screws out they are within epoxy-filling reach of accurate.

 Once all the beams from the heads aft were cleaned up, I needed to put in the wood for the liner.  It was a lot easier than in the forecabin, because the lengths between the beams were sufficiently short that I could get away with straight pieces (there is less sheer here, too).

Ever the optimist, I intended to clamp them in, but with the clamps being screwed down at an angle, they slipped and slithered about too much.  A quick round with the drill and a few screws did the job.

Talking of drills, I need to give a shout out to Bunnings, here.  My friend, Steve, had given me on of their cheap and cheerful battery drills and I found I used it a lot.  My battery screwdriver can be a bit fierce, so I used one drill as a driver and one for making holes.  A week or so ago it ceased to take a charge and I took it back, largely because I thought they could dispose of it in a more responsible fashion than I can.  I had no receipt, of course.  To my absolute astonishment, they told me I could have another.  Unfortunately, they don't make this rather natty little drill (with a built-in battery) any more, so the replacement was much more clunky.  However, it was over $11 cheaper and they refunded that, too! That is definitely service above and beyond what I expected, (even if it was the ethically correct thing to do) and I feel they deserve a pat on the back.  I would generally prefer to use Mitre 10 - a Kiwi-owned franchise - but this Aussie company gave me excellent service.

On which happy note, it's back to polishing the portholes.

13 January, 2018

Happy New Year

 My apologies for not having blogged for a while, but Christmas, New Year and Tall Ships can all take their share of the blame.  And I did try to have a bit of a holiday in the holiday season! 

Our Tall Ships junket must have been the longest ever, starting well before the Tall Ships Regatta and, indeed, I believe that there are still junkies up there, sailing in company and socialising even as I write.  My own effort to join in was looking to be a disaster, when the car that I share broke down the day before.  A severe gale came along later in the day to give me a sleepless night, as I battened down the shed and then was kept awake by its shuddering through the night.  The Friday before Tall Ships dawned blowy and wet, but I caught a bus up to Opua, persuaded my kind friend, John, to collect me from the car ferry and arrived to find that conditions had moderated sufficiently for me to get out to Zebedee, where I had been offered a berth for the night.  He was the only boat I had the slightest chance of boarding, being in a more sheltered spot than most of the fleet!  Conditions moderated sufficiently for us to be joined by several other boats and the mandatory pre-Tall Ships Race dinner was enjoyed by all who managed to make it.

 The next day dawned bright, but breezy and I have to say I was less than enthusiastic about sailing around with a large group of other boats.  it may be a 'friendly' race, but people do get competitive ...

Roger Scott took some great photos and here is one of Zebedee and Blondie storming along before the start line.

We made a bad start, largely due to the fact that neither skipper Alan, nor helmsman, Annie, had bothered to pay a lot of attention to the instructions.  I reckoned my job was to point the boat as directed so lay the blame squarely on Alan's shoulders.  Our sole crew member was too busy watching the other boats to get involved until Alan asked her: "Just which beacon are we supposed to use?"  Hmm, we'd chosen the wrong one.  However, Zebedee took off in hot pursuit of the fleet and we slowly overhauled every single junk, bar Tystie (and we even got ahead of her for a while) leaving Alan ecstatic and me exhausted.  Zebedee is a bit of a brute, close-hauled in gusty conditions and insists that his mainsheet be eased before he will bear away in a gust, so that was Alan's job.  At one point it felt extremely hairy, with boats all round, rocks not far to windward, me desperately trying to leave boats enough room to windward and those to leeward desperately trying to get past us and clear.  Not really my cup to tea, I have to confess.

However, in due course, we were in less crowded conditions, and by watching another couple of canny boats ahead of us, I managed to avoid getting becalmed in the lee of Roberton Island.  That's when we overtook Tystie.  A tacking duel followed, in which we went faster and higher that she did on port, only to lose it all again on starboard.  Sadly for Alan, there was a lot more sailing on starboard than on port, but we still felt that Zebedee had done really well for himself.

 I stayed on for another day of socialising, while the rest of the junkies carried on having a perfectly wonderful time.  I gather there has been much sailing in company, visiting back and forth and blather about all things junk.  This is another of Roger's great photos of Zebedee sailing alongside Fantail, showing off the new sail that Bryan has made.

 Anyway, enough of fun and frivolity.  Back to the hard grind.  Just before Christmas, I finished varnishing the forecabin.  I confess to feeling very pleased with it!

 You may recall that back in the dim and distant past, I put the deck on, and anchor lockers in the foredeck.  Belatedly it occurred to me that the chain locker would hold chain and that the anchor would be on the bow and that the two would be connected.  Therefore, it might be a good idea if the chain could come out of the locker without the hatch needing to be open.  After pondering for a while on how to protect the woodwork, I went to Stanley's and bought a second-hand skin fitting for $5 and cut it in half.  It should do the job nicely.

  One of the jobs that I've been frankly terrified of doing, is cutting holes for the portholes.  If I put them in the wrong place, there would be no going back.

I had found a hole saw, the correct size for the cut-out (which struck me as a lucky break), but had also been put off by the dire warnings of the thing getting out of control while I was trying to saw the hole out.  Big, heavy powerful drills can be a handful for most men and can certainly do a lot of damage in my hands.  However, it had to be done, so I borrowed a more powerful battery drill than the one I own and set to.  Apart from taking a long time (I used the slow setting), it was pretty painless.

And the result was most satisfactory.

 This is what it looks like from on deck ...

And this is the view from below.  A red letter day, for me.

Another job that has been daunting me is fitting the deck beams.  This is another of those jobs that just has to be done correctly, otherwise I'll end up with an undulating deck.  Unfortunately for me, joinery is required in order for the beams to notch into the sheer clamp.  However, one of the things that I've learnt is that if I take something sufficiently slowly and carefully (one reason why this boat is taking so long) I can usually figure out how to get to where I want to.

 I marked the bulkhead, planed and then sanded it to match the beam (sending up prayers of thanks to whoever it was who invented gap-filling epoxy, which turns this bodger into a builder) and little by little got the beam, bulkhead, and sheer clamp to match.

 That done 'all' that remained was to glue it into place, with the assistance of clamps and temporary screws.

 Ah yes - I forgot to say that the reason I finally fit one of the deckbeams, was because I wanted to finish off the foredeck (apart from the bulwark capping) and couldn't do that unless the deck beam had been put in place.  With everything masked off, and after preparing the remaining deck box for painting, I set to.

 The first coat was applied with a brush, but when SibLim Club member, Phil, asked why I wasn't using a roller I decided to give it a go.  I'm not the best with these things, but have to say it went on quite nicely.  'But it takes a lot more paint than putting it on by brush,' I pointed out. ' Isn't that the idea?' he asked me.  Duh.

 While the paint dried, and with the bit in my teeth insofar as deckbeams are concerned, I added an extra batten of wood on the inside of the sheer clamps.

 These provide a landing for the inner deck liner, which ends up creating a stiffer deck.

 More framing will be required between the deckbeams and the stringers so the deck is supported and the deck liner has something to glue to.  Fitting that should be an interesting exercise ...

 Part of fitting the deck beams involves fitting the tabernacle.  Or the other way round if you prefer.  It will be a lot easier to sand and varnish it while it's horizontal than when it's in place.  Another job that can be carried out while paint hardens off.

 And while I'm at it, I need to decide what porthole goes where.  The glass is badly scratched in some of them, so I don't want those right next to my face when I'm sitting up in my bunk or in the saloon.  I may as well finish cleaning all of them up while I'm at it.

And here is the foredeck, with the final coat of paint applied.  Once it has cured a bit, I'll sand both it and the varnish down and apply clear finish over the lot.  This makes scrapes easier to repair, if they're not too deep and effectively seals the edge where paint and varnish meet.  When it all starts to look a bit scruffy, all that is required is to coat the lot with a couple of coats of clear polyurethane.  When this boat is launched, I hope to keep maintenance to a minimum!

23 December, 2017

Christmas is nearly here

And I still have to put up the decorations, wrap presents and make a card.  So this week I'll keep it simple.

16 December, 2017

With Christmas just around the corner

It's summer here, and everyone is feeling sociable, so I have had lots of visitors.  No problems - I like visitors, but feel guilty when they leave because I've been chatting instead of working.  Ah well plan like you'll live forever, but live like you'll die tomorrow is my motto!  Bertrand, of the SibLim Club, is presently anchored in the river, and members Mark and Phil are back from Oz.  Pete and Linda returned from their Pacific tour recently and plans are afoot from those lucky junkies with boats, as to when to assemble in the Bay of Islands for the Tall Ships.

 In the meantime, I've been plodding on in the forecabin. I removed the fiddle along the counter top and glued it back into place.  In spite of aligning it carefully, using a hand screwdriver very gingerly and - I thought - making sure that I found all the screw holes, I managed to get it in the wrong place, so it had to come off again and I had to scrape all the epoxy off before it kicked off.  (As it is now around 30C in the shed from about 1100 onwards, this had to be done in a hurry.)  The second time I rested it in position on clamps and that went so easily that I wondered why I hadn't thought of it before. I also fitted fiddles to the athwartships bookshelves.

 I then had to laminate up the fiddle for the bookshelf over the bunk.  The obvious thing was to use the existing one as a pattern, which was made easier due to the fact that I didn't want the new one to be as long.  I made it of two layers and it sprang back, so I then had to add a couple more to it.  These were thinner - I didn't want the fiddle to be too heavy - and they did a good job of locking the curve in.

 That done, I had to fit supports for it.  The shelf is of the right size for books like those the Mariners' Library (Rupert Hard-Davis), used to print.  Once the libraries had every book on their shelves, but now you rarely see them.  I keep hoping someone will bring them out as e-books - perfect for sailors with not too much space for books!

Then I fitted the little brass turnbuttons to stop drawers and doors falling out.  These could be considered an extravagance, but they do look nice and work very well.  Here's the locker with the turnbuttons in place.  I added little hemispheres of tigerwood to the drawers, which don't stick out as far as the fiddle.  This will also prevent the relatively soft kauri from getting marked from a heavy drawer leaning against the turnbutton and stop them sliding back and forth in irritating fashion as we roll down the Trade Winds.  (Yeah Right!)

 The big bookshelves were coated and you can see that there is room for Junks and Sampans.  I trust that there will be sufficient books to hide the bare plywood. I really didn't want to panel the section between the two shelves.  I can't wait to see them filled!

 The next job, which I think is the last one required to complete the fitting out of the forecabin, was to veneer the end grain of the plywood with a kauri 'clashing' (as it is apparently called here).  The first layers were a bit of a disaster, because although the wood was only about 2mm thick, it really didn't want to bend.  It caused a lot of frustration and bad language.

  Sawing some thin stuff off another piece of kauri that Marcus discovered in the wood pile and gave to me, sorted the issue.  For some reason, this wood was a lot more flexible.  And, it was long enough to go round in one length.

 While I was at it, I started on the saloon doorway, too.  By now I have the knack.  The first long length I put in, I - foolishly - precoated, with the result that epoxy got spread around all over the place.  The second one, I carefully coiled up, holding it together with masking tape.  By the time I got to the third one I had worked out to secure the end with masking tape and then to carefully unwind the strip of veneer, make loose loops of masking tape at each 'corner', so that it couldn't escape, but on the other hand could slide easily as it got taped into place.  There are still a few gaps, but hey - this is the 'country cottage look'!  It uses miles of masking tape!  I plane each one down with a teensy-weensy plane before putting on the next layer - just putting generous amounts of epoxy on the wood already in place.  (I can hear teeth being sucked, but it's not exactly structural.)

And while the glue has been kicking off, I've been doing The Big Sand.  Not a nice job: hot and noisy with sander and vacuum going full blast.  It's going to be 'fun' varnishing it all in these temperatures.  I have found that the only solution is to add lots of polyurethane thinners.  The manufacturers' chemists would probably weep at this comment, but from past experience, the coating doesn't seem adversely affected, although I suppose it must be.  I guess it's just so good anyway, that at even 70% efficiency, it's quite wonderful!

So once I've posted this - and sent out a few Christmas e-cards - I'd better get on with it.