Friday #15 Saloon headlining

Today hasn’t been quite what we expected. But then when you start taking very old bits of boat apart exposing areas that have been hidden since 1977 you never know quite what to expect.

The main cabin roof area turned out to have a mesh backed foam behind the vinyl.

However, we found this wouldn’t pull off the plywood lining. Then we discovered that the plywood was wet and damaged in a few areas, particularly around the hatch, the dorade vents and the transition to the higher roof under the wheelhouse.

Turns out it was much easier to remove the plywood than the foam from the plywood.

Now we can see that the dorade vents are the worst problem. The wood deck core is pretty wet and the water was running along the roof above the plywood.

The only holes in the cabin roof at the mast foot bolts and cable runs (now all sealed), two backing plates for strong points on deck with a total of 4 bolts (clearly need refitting but not leaking much) and the dorade vents. So, although disappointing that the dorade vents have been leaking so much for years, at least there are not lots of holes to deal with.

Jane removing a magic box for the very old wind instruments.

We now have clear access to all the backs of the instruments, easy access for the wiring.

Next you can see that there was a pause in the rain so we quickly took off the dorade boxes. The wood was soaking wet and in poor condition. So temporarily we have fitted closed cell foam pads over the holes and sealed them.

We won’t be refitting a plywood lining. Instead we will glue 10mm closed cell foam to the cabin roof with cut outs for all the bolts, vents etc.

Much the same around the wheelhouse area but might need some framing to bridge the gaps.

First we need to fit the conduit for all the electrical cabling, and we will want to review all the holes in the side decks which come through into the main cabin.

So this was a very messy job but very pleased we bit the bullet and did it. Now we can continue to move forward.

Idea for redesigned aft cabin

While we absolutely love our aft cabin there are a few things we have realised could be improved.

  • Access into the heads compartment is very very tight when the double bed is made (and we keep it made because we only use it as our bed).
  • It is a high step up into the double bed (because the step which makes it easy to get into either single bed is hidden under the double infill).
  • The bed is crazy wide at the head end. We can’t buy a sheet that will fit across the whole width and we can’t find each other in bed 😉
  • When you look from the saloon through the corridor to the aft cabin (and the corridor is low and narrow) it looks like a dead end because the 2nd wardrobe sticks out and then there is the bulkhead at the end of the starboard bed.
Our current huge bed
View along the corridor showing how it looks like a dark dead-end

When we have watched video’s of new boat designs (which have a lot more space because they are wider and have a more rectangular cross section) a common feature is an armchair or sofa next to the aft bed.

So we have come up with a idea to change the layout a little to keep a huge bed (5 feet wide at the head should be plenty), while adding a chair, making heads access easier (and with less chance of me waking Jane by turning on the light) and making the view down the corridor look a lot more open.

Here is (approximately) what we have now from the original drawing (actually our starboard berth is the wider one rather than the port side).

and this is what we are thinking about. Note that because we are cutting an opening in the bulkhead we are going to add a solid compression post for the mizzen mast.

We think it will add a really nice place to sit and relax and make the cabin look much more like a modern double cabin. The only real loss is of one wardrobe which will be smaller with shelves (we don’t have a lot of clothes that need to be hung anyway).

Still to be sorted is access to the under bed storage and whether we will keep or change the existing high level lockers above the bed.

Friday progress #14 rudder headstock

One of the jobs that we have from the survey is to repair the rudder headstock. He had identified that a couple of screws needed replacing. So, after removing the aft cabin headlining, we decided to tackle this while the cabin was empty.

The Rival has a really sophisticated, best of class, steering system that is almost maintenance free and very strong. The tiller bar (front to back just left of centre in the next picture) is connected to the wheel using three gearboxes and a number of solid rods connected with some universal joints and some rose joints. It is incredibly solid and heavy.

In the bottom right of the picture you can see the gearbox that turns several turns of the wheel into a limited movement of the rudder. The upright arm has solid stops to limit the movement.

The plate that has gone green (it is made of bronze so this is normal verdigris and can be cleaned off) is supposed to have four screws to hold it in place. The surveyor had notice 2 were missing. In fact one of the others had snapped off inside and the 4th had been replaced by a bolt head that had turned to powder when I touched it.

The grease hose had become loose, you can also see how the sealant has come away at the bottom. So it all needed to come apart for cleaning and repair.

I could’t get the horizontal arm to come free. So I took off the right hand end, it was very stuck so needed lots of wd40 and some creative use of a bar pushing against the nut, then as I unscrewed the nut it pushed itself out (yes I did have to encourage it with a hammer).

Next was to remove the tiller bar from the headstock. Pretty easy as long as you remove the larger horizontal bolt as it keeps the tiller aligned by going through a groove in the headstock.

Getting closer. There is now a two part “stuffing box” that is used to keep water from coming into the boat. Remove the two nuts and the top half just pulls off (it is there to compress the stuffing trapped below it to stop leaks).

And this is what it looks like fully disassembled. This is the tube that comes out of the top of the rudder. Fortunately, despite removing all the bits from it our rudder hasn’t dropped out of the boat as it is fully supported along it’s length and at the bottom rests on a bearing attached to the skeg.

In case you were wondering the square section at the top is for attaching the emergency tiller.

Very pleased with how it has all cleaned up. Once we have cleaned all the bits we have removed we can re-install it once we get a few parts: the seal (newer teflon based materials should create a better and longer lasting seal than the old grease coated flax), the screws, new grease and new rose connector.

We did a quick test to connect the emergency steering and that needs a bit of cleaning and rust removal as at the moment the handle doesn’t fit in the upright. So we will take that home.

This was a job that had been worrying me a little. The verdigris looked bad and our lack of knowledge and experience made it seem daunting. So very pleased that we got it all apart without breaking anything and that it should be a fairly easy job to reassemble so that it will last for a long time.

Steering failure is a very common cause of people getting into real danger so it is good to see how well built ours is and also to know that we know how it works and how to take it apart and re-assemble it if ever needed.

Friday progress #14 aft cabin headlining

It is good that our bed in the aft cabin is so comfy, except it does mean we stay asleep in the morning 😁

However, once the tea (Jane) and coffee (Dave) had kicked in, we got started on emptying the aft cabin. Fortunately, we have kept the saloon fairly empty. Still the cushions and extra thick super-kingsize duvet are a struggle to get out of the cabin and along the tight corridor.

Very pleased to see that the under mattress mesh that we fitted last time has kept the bottom of the mattresses bone dry, no condensation at all.

Then we started on the headlining. Most of it just falls down, however, we had to remove the aft porthole as the lining was all trapped behind it. Also the timber edging around the central hatch. Both these lead to diversions. In the past little strips of wood have been nailed to some edges to try to hold the lining up, so these needed removing too.

The next photos show the central hatch before I removed the wood edges. I then removed the rubber seal for the hatch (which has perished and squished) as it wasn’t fully keeping the water out. I’ll order a replacement, meanwhile I’ve turned it over to seal with a less perished edge, hoping that will be enough for the moment, if not we will just tape it up again.

The porthole inner and outer have now been removed and the old sealant (which was leaking, we had taped some bubble wrap over for waterproofing) cleaned off. We can’t directly refit the porthole as the flange is much deeper than the grp. The headlining had been wrapped around a piece of plywood which has then been glued into place (you can see how the plywood had got wet at the bottom of the hole).

We will take the porthole home for cleaning and I’ll create a plywood spacer. Rather oddly (we think), the inner and outer have matching holes, yet they were rotated so they didn’t align and then both were screwed on. That means twice as many holes in the grp and a less secure fit. So we will through bolt them for added strength and security.

Once the actual headlining is down the worst mess is still to come. Some bits of foam and glue are left sticking to either the grp (mostly the sides) or to the plywood liner (mostly the cabin roof). A wire brush in a drill gets the grp clean but not so much on the plywood which has to be scraped and sanded.

The end result is that the cabin is now ready for the new lining (on a different visit).

There are 3 layers of foam floor tile attached with sealant for the porthole (one outside, one filling the hole and one on the inside. Should be dry and warm for the moment. Once we have the lining complete we will add a removable foam panel (held up with self-adhesive magnet strips) to insulate the central hatch to stop condensation dripping on us (much cheaper than replacing the metal hatch with a more modern design).

Hopefully that is about the end of the really messy jobs in the aft cabin!

Ever increasing comfort

Everytime we sleep on Vida things are a bit more comfortable. One reason is that despite it being winter and raining lots the inside is still drying out.

A key factor is of course the new windows which have proved completely watertight. Removing the headling from the cabin sides as part of the job has made a big difference too as much of was waterlogged. This picture shows the filler and soffit below the chart table window. They were wet through and complely black when we changed the window.

Another reason is that we are leaving the two infrared heating panels on 24/7, with temperature control. Keeping the inside above freezing with a dry heat means that each time we visit the boat feels dryer.

We also keep adding insulation. Last time we put foam tiles on the main cabin floor, this morning I can walk around with bare feet. I think this will be a winter boatyard floor covering and we will have something a bit more attractive when afloat.

One of the challenges about heating and staying warm in a North Welsh winter is that we are using a camping electricity supply from the boatyard. So it connects to the supply with a round pin caravan style plug. Inside the boat there is a circuit breaker, but because it is designed for campsites with very limited current available it doesn’t have a very high limit. We can’t have the fan heater on and cook at the same time for example. As the infrared panel on it’s own can only reach about 11°C, we like to keep cooking quick.

Today we will be removing more headlining (temporarily making things colder) so that it can be replaced with 10mm closed cell foam insulation. This way we can check the fastenings of deck fittings for leaks, remove damp stuff and make Vida easier to keep warm without condensation.

Starting Friday

So we have arrived, getting ready for Fri jobs, but starting with food 😁

New galley worktop in use, much more spacious than our temporary solution on the chart table.

Another multi-cooker concoction tonight (using a weird cheap Szechuan Sweet Chilli sauce with sweet potato, carrots, aduki beans and peanuts).

Again going to leave the multi-cooker in the the wheelhouse to avoid all the steam in our nice dry cabin.

Rescuing an old sail?

I mentioned plans for an inner forestay and reusing old headsails in my last post “Progress on Sails“. So I’ve checked the oldest headsail. At this point not sure if this will work as anything but a learning exercise.

So just been removing old, very worn hanks from what looks like an original (or close to it) headsail.

These are the sort that are sewn to small eyelets in the luff (front edge) of the sail to hold it to a forestay.

Here you can see just how worn some of them are (they are also all stuck, the piston won’t move to open the hank to put it on a wire forestay).

The challenge for reusing it is that the eyelets for these hanks are too small to fit a soft shackle in.

Both the eyelets and the hanks are pretty corroded which has been leaving stains on the sail. So hopefully simply removing the hanks and keeping the sail dry will mean no more damage until we have the inner forestay sorted and can see if it is likely to be useful.

Once we get dry enough weather for dry grass we will lay all these headsails out for a better look and a size comparison (no point in taking two the same size at the same time).

Progress on sails

Our progress towards maximising the sailing potential of Vida took a few steps forward this weekend.

A reminder that so far we have been doing the following:

When the weather improves (and other boats are moved so that the high lift machines can get to Vida) North Spar will be finishing their work to fit the new boom, new halyards and new running backstays for the mizzen. We have a few jobs ourselves (mostly wiring related for lights, radar and wind instruments – although some of these depend on decisions we haven’t made yet).

So we already know that we need a new mainsail (which will be larger and will reef using slab reefing – which is simpler, more reliable and allows a larger & more efficient sail). The old mainsail will be kept as an emergency spare – although it will need some work which hopefully we can do ourselves. a) to convert it to use plastic slides in the mast track rather than a rope in the furling gear groove) and b) add some reefing points to it (good test for the sewing machine).

So this weekend we took over our lounge to get a look at all the other sails that came with Vida. There are a lot! There is the theoretical possibility to have 5 sails up at the same time and we have 12 altogether. Several of these are probably original so their strength is questionable.

Starting from the front of the boat we have:

  • Spinnaker. Definitely original. Never seen one with heavy bronze rings at the corners (and don’t want those flying around my head). Seems serviceable and probably hasn’t been used much. Used in light winds when sailing downwind (probably between 110 and 170 degrees). They look pretty (ours is a light blue), but are work intensive to put up and down and also to trim.
  • Roller furling Genoa (the front sail used most of the time, typically rolled away when using the spinnaker). The front of the sail runs up a groove in a metal tube that has the forestay inside it (the forestay holds the mast up by stopping it falling backwards, it goes from the top of the mast to the front of the boat). A furling drum is spun by a reefing line and turn the extrusion to roll the sail around itself. This allows the amount of sail that is unrolled to be adjusted and therefore the size of the sail you use. That means you can roll the sail away a bit as the wind increases. However, when you partially roll the sail up the shape tends to not be very good as you can see in this picture where the middle of the sail is all baggy. We might try to improve this by sewing a tapered strip of foam to the front of the sail (that increases the width of the roll in the middle of the sail reducing the bagginess there).
  • Mainsail. To be purchased when we can finalise the measurements when the new boom is fitted and the masts are up. The challenge is to have it as big as possible without it rubbing on the backstay (wire from the top of the mast going backwards to stop the mast falling forwards). Plus the original as a spare.
  • Mizzen. Generally the expectation is that the mizzen is not used when beating upwind (remembering you can’t sail directing into the wind. So beatings means sailing at an angle of say 45 degrees to the wind and alternating between heading to the right of where the wind is coming from and then to the left so that you zig zag towards where the wind is coming from). The reason for this is to do with how the sails interact with each other as the wind blows along the boat. So normally you furl it when close hauled (sails pulled in tight because you are trying to sail as close as possible to the direction the wind is coming from). However, as soon as you are able to bear away (turn away from the wind direction) the mizzen starts to help. We have two mizzen sails, as they tend to stay on under a cover the older one will be more of an emergency spare (handy because it is smaller and has no reefing point so is less useful anyway).
  • Mizzen staysail. This is a really fun sail for when you are at say 90 degrees or more to the wind. It is a bit like a combination between a spinnaker and a genoa but for the mizzen mast. So it is a triangle from the top front of the mizzen mast, down towards the bottom of the mainmast and then the corner you sheet in goes almost to the back corner of the boat. Normally a ketch rig like ours is considered slower than a one mast sloop, however, in light winds from the right direction the mizzen staysail can really change that. We have 2. One is original and shall we say a bit tired. The other looks to be in pretty good condition.
  • Other headsails. We have 5. Only one of them that can be used at the moment which is a ghoster (a huge genoa that is used in very light winds and which doesn’t need to attach to the forestay, useful for maybe 60 degrees to 160). The others are alternatives to the genoa of varying sizes, conditions and ways of attaching to the forestay. One could be a backup to the genoa as it could use the same furling groove. One is a storm jib, very useful (obviously in strong winds) but it is incompatible with the roller furling system.

One job we therefore plan to add to our list is to fit a removable inner forestay. This will be a dyneema (very strong, low stretch rope) that will be setup about 10cm behind the forestay with the roller reefing genoa. That could be really inconvenient as you would not be able to tack or gybe the genoa from one side to the other without furling it away each time. However, the trick is that while it is attached permanently to the top of the mast, the bottom is normally kept in a stowed position at the bottom of the mast. Only when you want to roll away the genoa and use a different headsail do you attach the bottom of the inner forestay to the front of the boat (at a strong point we need to build) and tension it with a block and tackle. We can then essentially “tie” any of the other headsails to this inner forestay using soft shackles (essentially strong loops of dyneema that can be opened and securely closed). The most important benefits of adding this are that we then can use our storm jib in high winds and we also have a ready to use emergency forestay that can hold the mast up if there is ever a problem with the main forestay. Another benefit is that rather than have a poorly shaped partially roller furled genoa we have the option to use a smaller headsail on the inner forestay.

Some of our sails need some work, but we figure learning to do repairs/adjustments on 40 year old sails is the least expensive way to learn. They are not worth paying anyone else to work on and the skills will be invaluable when sails get damaged in the middle of passages. To only need to buy one sail (new mainsail) is absolutely fantastic.

I’m really pleased with what I have found out about the dyneema inner forestay and using it with soft shackles, that allows us to make use of all the old headsails (even if some of them are so tired they fail catastrophically on their first use) and do nearly all the work ourselves (we will get North Spar to sort out attaching the top of the inner forestay to the mast). This is a fairly new way of doing things which promises to be light, cost effective and simple. It significantly improves our options in strong winds without compromising convenience the rest of the time.

Losing a diesel engine for safety

As will be clear from many of our posts such as Zero Fossil Fuel Sailing and Electric Motor now or later we are against Diesel engines from a Sustainable view. And yes they fail on all aspects of Sustainable:

  • Environmentally: surely obvious! Fossil Fuels are incredibly destructive and we have got to stop using them (and soon) if we are to have any chance of avoiding catastrophic climate change (as if what has happened in Australia recently isn’t catastrophic enough)
  • Financially. In our case we will have to spend a lot of time and money to get our 42 year old fuel system reliable and maintainable. Plus of course [diesel is only going to get more and more expensive and scarce.
  • Mentally: There is the yucky nature of diesel systems maintenance (the smell, the mess, the squeezing into tiny spaces) and also the stress of knowing you are contributing to the destruction of the very habitats you visit.
  • Physically: Diesel engines encourage inactivity (because they are so easy to use they encourage you to try to keep to a timetable and motor every time the wind is too light, too strong or from the wrong direction) so instead of the exercise of sailing you just sit all day which is really unhealthy.

However, our belief is that Diesel Engines are also a safety risk. Their “always available” reputation creates dependency and so when they fail some people don’t have the skills or equipment or plans to avoid danger. In 2018 the RNLI (Royal National Lifeboat Institution in the UK launched to go to boats with “Machinery failure” 1,322 times which made up 36% of all boat incidents (plus 75 incidents or 2% for “out of fuel and I assume a good proportion of the 25 or 0.7% “Fire/Explosion” incidents). Compared to this over 38% the next highest reason is “Stranding/Grounding” with 343 or 9.3%

This video shows some of the problems with diesel engines. Bear in mind that a) this is a very experienced couple [Paul and Sheryl Shard have been sailing around the world on multiple boats for decades] b) it is on a boat that is only one year old, that has been meticulously and skilfully maintained c) it is a boat from a builder with an incredibly good reputation.

When you look at the diesel installation on our 42 year old Rival (remembering that at the time they too had a superb reputation for quality) we see that:

  • Problems with “diesel bug” and other sludge are more likely due to the age of our tanks, their inaccessibility, the lack of any tank inspection hatches, the lack of a tank sump or means of draining & cleaning tanks.
  • If the fuel supply were to be blocked then the only option available is to switch between the fuel tanks. However, there are some pipes that are common to both .
  • Despite hours trying to work out the fuel routes, including 9 taps (2 pf which are seized and inaccessible) we are still uncertain what is going where.
  • Almost all our fuel pipes are metal (copper we assume), they are fixed into place with clips and much of their routes are inaccessible (behind fixed timber work, behind the exhaust system and more). It would be impossible to take this apart in the way that Paul does while at sea.

We could significantly improve the quality and number of fuel filters (2 at present, one of which is leaking; but no water trap). We could put additives in the fuel (but that fuel is at least 2 years old and we don’t know how much sludge there already is and we can’t get at the tanks to find out). We could siphon out the fuel but have no way of getting a hose to collect sludge from the fuel supply hose area as the fuel filler host is at the other end of the tank (which we assume has baffles to stop the fuel sloshing around).

So we can’t see how we could stop diesel bug or other contaminants getting from the tank into this long, convoluted, inaccessible and fixed collection of pipes.

That being the case anytime we motor into any kind of rough sea we would have to expect that the engine could fail at any moment.

To use this engine without completely replacing the tanks, filters, taps and pipes would, at least in our minds, put us at great risk of being another boat calling the RNLI because our engine has failed.

So it appears almost certain that we will be going ahead and replacing this diesel engine with an electric motor before we launch (and selfishly while a 5 year old Yanmar 39hp engine might still have some 2nd hand value).