Mixed bag progress

Today was definitely another no outside jobs day. So we went to Aldi in the morning and got soaked as we came out.

In the afternoon we worked on different things.

Dyneema Chainplates

Jane started learning Dyneema splicing and after a practice, she produced our first real Mizzen chainplate:

This works in this way. The knot stays below the backing plate. The eye (with the low friction ring removed) goes up through a hole in the backing plate and the deck above it, to emerge above the deck. The hole is, of course, lined with epoxy and will have been sanded and rounded off so it is very smooth. The low friction ring is then put back into the loop. This is now your chainplate. Our shrouds will end with another low friction ring and they will be attached to the chainplate with a dyneema lashing. This lashing will be used to tension the shroud (and take out any creep).

Once the chainplate is fitted we have two issues to address. One is protecting the Dyneema from damage and the second is to stop water running into the hole and wicking down the dyneema so that it drips into the cabin.

First we need to stop the dyneema chainplate from being damaged. There are three main ways damage is likely:

  • dirt washing into the hole in the deck and cutting into the Dyneema.
  • ropes rubbing against the Dyneema where it is visible above the deck and causing chafe.
  • Sunlight causing UV damage which weakens the dyneema.

We have a two part solution to protect against all these forms of damage.

On the deck we fix a “mushroom” around the hole, with the hole extending through the middle of the mushroom. This stops water running down the deck going into the hole. Then we have a Sunbrella fabric sleeve that fits around the chainplate and lashing. At the bottom this is drawn tight around the base of the mushroom, at the top it is a close fit around the shroud above the lashing. The fabric stops larger waves getting into the hole and reduces the amount of water that will wick all the way down. It also protects the lashing and chainplate from UV and chafe.

Below deck we create a simple watertight “box” around the knot. This catches any water that wicks all the way down and can be easily removed to empty it and inspect the dyneema chainplate knot.

The whole chainplate can be removed for inspection by taking off the fabric sleeve, slackening the lashing and pulling out the chainplate from below. With a 2.5m dyneema line and a few minutes work we can make a replacement which can be fitted anywhere in the world, even at sea.

Navigation destruction

Meanwhile, I tackled removing the plywood soffit from the underside of the deck above the navigation table. The vinyl headlining had fallen off this very early on due to being very wet from the window above leaking. As expected the hidden side of this plywood showed a lot of water damage.

Then I removed the vinyl from the side of the hull and cut out the plywood that it was stuck to. This was much thicker than the plywood lining has been elsewhere, presumably to provide a good surface to fit instruments to. Now we can reach the bolts for the genoa track and for the gate stanchions – both hidden and unchecked for 44 years.

As you can see the actual chart table has significant water damage. Long term our plan is to remove the whole chart table. We will do on passage navigation and pilotage from the wheelhouse (which we will be able to pretty much fully enclose) so the chart table won’t be needed.

Overall, quite a bit of rubbish removed from the boat:

We haven’t fully decided what to put in this space. The current favourite idea is a comfy forward facing chair with small desk. It should be comfortable to sit in when sailing and also suitable as a quiet place to sit and do computer work. We will wait to see if we do want to fit a Refleks diesel heater, if so then that will go alongside the desk.

We have realised that we can simplify our galley if we can use the electric “Instant Pot” (actually a KingPro branded version) in the current navigation area. At the moment it can just sit on the navigation table (as can an electric filter coffee machine). However, eventually we want a gimballed shelf that we can put up over the desk whenever we want to use one of these appliances at sea. This means that our galley can have a permanent gimballed shelf for the microwave and for one of the induction hobs which is a lot simpler than our original plan.

So we ended up quite happy with today’s progress. Hopefully better weather tomorrow so we can make easier progress.

Adding more simplicity :-)

We have been busy with the rest of life this month (September is always a very busy time at work for us both).

However, our thinking has been progressing and we have been finding lots of inspiration from very small boats and from other people’s projects. So for example this video from Sailing Magic Carpet

It ties in with our Foredeck and Forecabin plans update or at least it confirms that we are making some different choices.

Our chain lockers were quite similar. We totally agree on the need for more space for chain and for the weight to be further aft. Initially our plans were quite similar (see Plans for anchoring). However, this is where we have been able to simplify things a lot.

A combination of things have meant that we are completely changing our forecabin, it will be a lot simpler in many ways. We started that thinking in Foredeck and Forecabin plans update but we can now go further.

The two key things that have led us to a simpler solution are Water and Beds.

Water

When we decided to remove the stainless steel water tank and use some of the space for our batteries we have been through a number of ideas for water tanks. Now we have realised we can build them into the hull and this gives us huge advantages:

  • far greater capacity as no wasted space
  • much safer. They strengthen the hull and create extra crash boxes

We also realise that we can use the same technique for the batteries (rather than a drop in box build it into the bull), for the chain locker and for storage/crash boxes.

Beds.

Already we have reduced the number of beds by removing the fold out pilot berth above the starboard settee (it has saved weight and created a much more usable space). We have also replaced the “V” berth in the aft cabin that worked best as a 2 singles with one double Pullman style berth.

When we realised that the “V” berth in the forecabin wasn’t actually long enough for an adult, let alone 2 it simplified things a lot. It also means that we have a chance to create a much better chain locker than Magic Carpet 2.

So.

The key limit on the “V” berth length was avoiding having the chain pipe come down through the middle of the bunk. By moving to one single bunk we can move the chainpipe slightly to starboard so that there is plenty of space for the single bunk to extend past the chainpipe on the port side. Not only does this make the bunk full length and a good width it also means that we can use the chainpipe to drop the chain vertically into the chain locker despite moving it aft. That is a huge advantage over our original plans and what Aladino can do on Magic Carper 2 where the chain slides into the chain locker almost at the bottom – the chain can stack better, be further aft and have a deep crash box forward of it.

I’m now planning 4 watertight areas under the original”V” berth height. Each of them will be considerably higher than the waterline and all of them will be able to have a removable, watertight lid.

At the very forward end there will be a proper crashbox that we will probably fill with foam (there will be another forward of this beyond the foot of the bed that will also be filled with foam). These crashboxes will mean the whole bow from below the waterline to the bow roller will not be able to flood the boat if damaged.

Aft of the crashbox will be the chain locker. When at sea we will disconnect the chain from the anchor and attach a line between a deck bung for the chainpipe and the chain which will drop down to the locker. That will allow a watertight lid to be fitted over the chain locker. The bottom of the anchor locker will drain into a much smaller locker aft of it. This will have a pump to remove any water that comes in to the chain locker with the chain. This small locker will also have a watertight lid so that the two act as another crashbox.

Aft of this will be a full width built in water tank. The top of this will be the “footwell” when sitting on the bunk. It too will act as a crash box so a hole in the hull here will contaminate this water but not flood the boat.

The doorway into the forecabin will no longer be full height. The bottom will be level with the top of the water tank with a step in the heads compartment so that you can get up and into the cabin (no standing headroom but full sitting headroom on the bunk). The heads compartment will be your dressing area. There will be a door for this cabin, separating it from the heads.

Additionally, I want to learn something from the older Amels (like Delos). So we will carry a sheet of wood that can be bolted over the doorway on the forward side of the bulkhead. It will have a rubber seal so that the whole forecabin can be turned into a watertight crashbox. I can imagine that when sailing with only the two of us we might put that in place quite often when at sea (and just use the forehatch for access to the forecabin as a storage area.

Simpler

By embracing the limits on the size of the forecabin which mean a V berth for two adults isn’t practical we end up with a much simpler, stronger and safer boat that will suit our needs much better. We don’t need to be able to sleep 3 couples and 2 singles on board, but we do need to carry enough water and would like extra protection from potential damage caused by debris floating around our oceans.

Thinking about this has also helped us think about simpler supports for the Bow Roller, Anchor Windlass and Inner forestay. So we can hopefully progress them soon.

Once I can get the companionway steps removed, this approach of watertight compartments built into the hull is going to make the battery boxes much simpler and more compact. I think the outcome will be larger water tanks and being able to move the Inverter and Mains Galvanic Isolator into the motor room so that we can keep the wet locker behind the steps.

It takes a long time to simplify things, but the results are well worth it.

Mast preparation continued

With a beautiful day we had a nice slow morning with family and then got back to preparing our main and mizzen masts for painting (well we also washed the dinghy and equipment).

We now have all the wiring out of the main mast.

We have put messenger lines in for them all.

We have removed both winches (a single speed Lewmar 8 and a double speed Lewmar 16, neither self tailing) and all other fittings showing any corrosion.

I was a bit annoyed by the winch mounts. The winches has been fitted with bolts that were too long and so instead of beinfg simply bolted to the winch mount some of them has gone into the mast itself. That has caused more corrosion and extra holes.

So everything is off and the masts have had a wash including a wash of the inside with a hose.

We have decided we don’t have to do a perfect job immediately, so we have not removed anything that we still need and that isn’t showing any corrosion eg spreader roots, spinnaker pole track. Similarly we have decided not to remove winches and cleats from the mizzen (upgrades can come later).

Tomorrow, is clean with acetone, sand, clean and get a coat of primer on. Then we can fill holes we don’t need to reuse with thickened epoxy, then we can sand and clean before a 2nd coat of primer. That then buys us some time for the rest of the work as the aluminium won’t be able to oxidise.

Another task has been looking at all the hardware we need to fit to the masts.

We are now looking at re-purposing the existing Lewmar 16ST for our mainsail reefing. Then 2 Harken 20ST for the halyards. If we can find something suitable secondhand then we will go for that instead.

We are only going to fit 3 actual halyards and supporting hardware at the moment (Yankee or Genoa, Staysail, Main) but with messenger lines for 2nd headsail, trysail and spinnaker.

We are also going to upgrade from cleats to Rope Constrictors for these halyards, skipping all the generations of clutches. Rope Constrictors are about twice the price of a standard clutch but they don’t damage the Halyard at all. But a replacement Halyard is about three times the extra cost. We have found 2 sources Ronstan and Cousin Trestec.

We are going to replace the tired halyard exit sheeves with the newer, simpler plates (and go from 2 to 5 of them so we have support for all the halyards we will ever need.

We have decided to simplify the lighting. We don’t have a simple way to fit lights to the spreaders and get the cables into the conduit at the front of the mast. That means keeping the deck light and the steaming light on the mast Deck light is lower than the spreaders, steaming light is above. However, it looks even simpler to get a combination LED steaming and deck light. One less cable to run up the mast.

Anyway, painting and filling is the first priority. All the fittings can wait for a while.

Battery bank installation progress

Today has included a huge amount of lifting and moving. A large part of that was lifting all 8 batteries on board. You can see the preparation for this in Low down progress

First battery bank has a nearly finished box (needs final epoxy coating and painting plus a lid).

The second battery bank will sit on top.

We need to make some changes to the floor supports. We will fit a new central floor board that will be the watertight lid of the top battery bank.

The top bank will also be 4 batteries and is both longer and wider than the lower bank. The hull shape means the batteries take up a lot less space this way round. Fortunately we have bluetooth access to the BMS of the lower batteries (and the top one that will be under the steps).

We are going to make sure that even if the bilge filled with water our batteries would not get wet (and there will be no exposed battery connections under the water at that point).

Anyway the bilge that water flows into is nearly a metre deeper that where the batteries are, that bilge will have an automatic electric bilge pump, a high water alarm and a manual bilge pump.

Building a “sofa”

The other day we made Lee Boards for our starboard saloon berth. Today we’ve started the process of making them adapt to their other role which is to be a backrest.

It isn’t finished yet. I need to find a way to retain the back rests so they can’t fall forward. Also add a brace to the middle of the length. We might also reduce the gaps between them as it is higher than needed.

Once we are happy then Jane will add padding to them.

It might not be obvious from the photos but I have lowered the bottom Lee Board so that your legs don’t touch it.

It was a bit of a damp day today but we made a bit of progress outside. We worked with Steve to move an unclaimed mast out of the way. It has been alongside us for ages but had recently been moved a bit and was blocking a often used route to the clubhouse. Now it is completely out of the way. The boatyard also cut down all the grass and weeds growing up around our main mast so we were able to a small amount of work on it.

The parts we need to refurbish the masts have started to arrive. More in the next few days. We are currently thinking about the wiring we need to install and how we can ensure they don’t rattle or chafe inside the mast. The mizzen mast doesn’t have any conduit or any means of protecting/controlling the wires. We don’t yet know what the main mast has.

A lot the work on the masts is going to be weather dependent so we will progress it when we can. Meanwhile there are plenty more things we can do inside 😊

Heavy weather sailing tick box exercise

So I’ve just added the classic “Heavy Weather Sailing” 7th edition by Peter Bruce to our library.

Very interested to note how well our choices fit with the various chapters:

Chapter 1 on boat design could have taken the Rival range (although never mentioned) as a model. So we see the great designer Olin Stephens recommending:

  • balanced hull shape (Tick)
  • low freeboard (Tick)
  • small well drained cockpit (Tick)
  • two masts (Tick)
  • not too wide (Tick)
  • deeper rather than shallow hulls (Tick)
  • higher cabin sides (Tick)
  • strong keel (Tick)

In Chapter 2 on stability in breaking waves by Andrew Claughton we also tick lots of boxes

  • Our keel being a fairly long fin with a good skeg
  • balanced ends
  • lower freeboard with high coachroof
  • everything we see implies a Rival 38 should have a pretty good stability curve, we have heard that Peter Brett was very aware of the angle of vanishing stability (a point where the boat no longer tries to turn the right way up after being knocked over)
  • There is a table summarising the design influences on capsize and a Rival is pretty much solidly in the safer spectrum for them all.

The Jordan Series drogue gets it’s first mention, and they are all positive.

Chapter 3 on design trends by Peter Bruce

This puts the Rival in what seems to us to be a sweet spot after the development of fin keels but before dish shaped boats with small fins and spade rudders. This is a sweet spot for short handed cruising as faster, more modern designs tend to need to follow more active tactics. We are not going to have experienced racing dinghy sailors or surfers who can actively surf down huge waves safely so better have a design that doesn’t favour such tactics.

This is the first chapter to note the negative impact of roller furling sails on a boats stability (due to the extra weight up high when the sail is furled). That is one of the features of our desired long-term sail plan.

There is a concise but comprehensive list of questionable design features and we seem to be clear of them all (except I think we might want to strengthen our cockpit locker and we already know we need a way of securing our hatch boards). All the work to remove seacocks and only have composite ones fits too (although that post is now a bit out of date, with the electric motor we have only 2 seacocks below the waterline which are the e cockpit drains, we won’t have holes for the fridge or depth sounder and the 2 seacocks will be protected by a coffer dam so that a failure won’t cause us to sink).

Chapter 4 on Spars and rigging by Matthew Sheaham and Harry James

One point is the expectation that composite rigging such as Dyneema will one day be used universally with the weight reduction being a very significant gain for stability.

Another is more concerns about the weight of roller furled sails and the dangers of a failure. With slab reefing there are concerns about friction for systems brought back to the cockpit (ours are not).

Chapter 5 on Storm Sails by Peter Bruce and Richard Clifford.

Here we score well for plans although we haven’t got as far as implementing them. So adding our inner forestay to be used for either a staysail or a storm job is good.

We haven’t got as far as thinking much about practicalities for a trysail. We don’t currently have a track, a sail or anything. With a mizzen that can be reefed we do have an alternative so it isn’t quite as urgent.

Chapter 6 on preparations for heavy weather is mostly for the future but it does reinforce the desire for a Hydrovane. The section on fires adds weight to my plan to fit fuses at the battery terminals and to make sure the battery boxes are watertight. Having no fossil fuels aboard is clearly a significant safety feature.

Chapter 7 on the use of drag devices has clearly been updated with details on the Jordan Series drogue which are very positive with the only downside being the difficulty of recovery until conditions have moderated significantly. So nice to see our thinking reinforced.

That is all I have read fully so far, I can see from the “Storm Experiences” section that we are going to feel good about not having davits for our dinghy – but we think that is pretty obvious. We know we have a lot of experience of actual heavy weather that we need to build. However, I am reassured that much of our thinking is already validated by this highly respected book.

Electric Motor one thing that is not covered at all is having an electric motor. There is quite a lot on the advantages of a reliable diesel, but with the recognition that there can be significant problems (lines around the propeller after a rigging failure, flooding through the exhaust or engine room ventilation, extreme angles of heel causing problems, dirty fuel especially with sediment from the tanks. We have to make our plans with the assumption that we will not be able to use the electric motor for long enough to make it a viable tactic for anything but manoeuvring assistance. As we have written before we think this is better than an over dependence on a diesel, in particular a false sense of security that it will always work see Another example of why to switch away from Diesel and Losing a diesel engine for safety

Autopilot progress

On Friday, while preparing to fit the backing plate in the cockpit locker we decided to remove the drive unit for the  original Neco autopilot.

This is a beefy electric motor that uses a chain drive onto one of the shafts of the Whitlock steering system. From all we can find out about this it is definitely worth keeping. It seems to be highly regarded although it predates the availability of small affordable permanent magnets, that have transformed electric motors.

The bracket it sat on had a lot of loose rust on it. This mostly seems to have come from elsewhere, probably the old fridge condenser. A bit of sanding shows that all it needs is cleaning and painting (and new bolts).

However, the controller is in much poorer condition.

Also it doesn’t fit what we want from an electronic autopilot. For us there are three key missing features.

  • Click on from standby to continue on the current course. Something has happened and I need my hands to do something (adjust a sheet, do some navigation, take a cup of coffee from below, move to get a better view under the sails). This should be a one button press and be almost instant. With this unit you first have to turn it’s compass setting to your current course and then turn it on. That means looking at the compass then looking at and adjusting the compass dial on the Neco and then switching it on (except currently there is no on/off switch so you had to go below and turn it on at the circuit breaker).
  • Tack. When sailing singlehanded we can’t reach the genoa sheets from our steering wheel (and certainly will need both hands to tack the genoa). With a good autopilot you click the on button and the the tack port or tack starboard buttons. The autopilot does the steering to tack the boat while you sort out the sheets for the sails. With the Neco you have to work out what course you want to be on after the tack and turn to that (quick what is 47 degrees less 90? – which is what you have to work out if you are on starboard tack steering 47 degrees and need to tack. The answer is 317 degrees).
  • Steer true course rather than heading. Due to tides and leeway, the actual direction a boat goes in is rarely exactly the same as you are steering. The Neco doesn’t handle this well. All you can do is enter the heading. Modern autopilots can do either and they generally have quick buttons to adjust the course a degree or 10 at a time. Again with the Neco all you can do is turn the compass rose to the heading you want.

So what are we planning?

Our plans are changing a bit. Ideally we would be fitting a Hydrovane Wind Vane for self-steering before our launch. However, at nearly £6,000 it will have to wait for a bit. So the cheapest solution to having some self-steering is to use this existing drive unit with a new controller.

The controller we are looking at is essentially a DIY system using the PyPilot software running on a RaspberryPi Zero W with various boards and sensors attached. It can have a screen and be controlled by a keypad, a remote control device or a mobile phone. It can also integrate with the OpenCPN chartplotter software that we intend to use.

There are people who have got PyPilot working with Neco drive units so whilst it isn’t a small, simple task it is perfectly doable.

This isn’t a replacement for the Hydrovane (that has big advantages in not using any electricity and providing an emergency rudder).

Eventually we want to end up with a whole range of steering options (sorted by preference when cruising):

  • Wind vane (probably a Hydrovane) which is independent of everything else and steers us at a constant angle to the wind.
  • Neco drive unit controlled by a Raspberry Pi running PyPilot.
  • Standard hand steering using the wheel (primary choice in confined spaces)
  • Emergency tiller steering. We have a two part metal tiller that is stored under the aft cabin bunk. By lifting the cushions and opening a hole in the deck we can put the emergency tiller on top of the rudder shaft and steer from the aft cabin roof. Useful if if any part of the connections from the steering wheel fails.
  • Emergency tiller attached to the wind vane for hand steering (built into a Hydrovane and an optional extra for a Cape Horn wind vane).

We have also considered adding a tiller autopilot attached to the wind vane. Both the HydroVane and Cape Horn vane steering allow an electric tiller autopilot, designed for smaller boats, to steer the boat via the wind vane system. However, if the Neco unit can work we probably don’t need this (at least for a long time, we might like the extra backup on very long ocean crossings). Meanwhile it saves us another £1,000 or so.

This feels like a good project for winter nights, and if we can’t find time before the launch I can do it on the water providing I have bought the bits.