Drilling and then filling big holes for new chainplates

Today we drilled 8 holes 44mm in diameter through the deck (and in 4 cases on through the plywood backing sheet). Where we already have a 9.5mm FR4 backing plate we didn’t go through that.

It was all going very slowly with a cheap hole saw unil one bit of fibreglass got so stuck that I couldn’t get it out. A visit to Screwfix sorted that with a much better Milwakee hole saw that very quickly finished the job.

Then Jane taped some plastic (from old takeaway box lids) over the holes on the inside.

Next we filled them with thickened epoxy (only a few leaks inside that meant some top ups were required).

Now we are ready for the smaller hole (the edges of which will be fully sealed and waterproof thanks to this thickened epoxy).

So we continue to make progress towards the mizzen mast going up.

I’ve also measured and ordered all the FR4 backing plates for the main mast. Now that we know what we are doing I think we will be able to fit all all of them in about 3 days.

Anniversary chainplate progress

To celebrate our 33rd Wedding Anniversary we have fitted the chainplate backing plates in the lazarette for the mizzen running backstays. These were the least accessible, so it is good to have got them done.

They are temporarily held in place, while the thickened epoxy sets, with the old chainplate bolts and old backing plates. The difference between the backing plates in size and thickness is startling. Plus ours bed onto a very smooth bed thanks to the thickened epoxy which has squeezed out a little all the way along all 4 sides.

The extra holes visible in the pictures are from the bolt holes for the davits that we removed early on. They didn’t have much in the way of backing plates and had caused some cracking in the gel coat. We will fill them properly when we next mix thickened epoxy.

We just have 2 FR4 plates to fit to the big plywood backing plates in the aft cabin, we fitted full length plywood backing plates in the aft cabin because each side has 2 mizzen shrouds, 1 main backstay, 1 mooring cleat, some solar panel supports and the pushpit. Just to be sure we are going to distribute the chainplate loads over the plywood with FR4 bonded to it.

Then we can start the holes through the deck for the dyneema chainplate loops. Initially a 44mm hole through everything except the FR4 backing plate. Then fill this with thickened epoxy (to make sure we have a waterproof seal to the polyester resin of the deck and the plywood) . Then, for the mizzen, a 29mm hole through the thickened epoxy and the FR4 for the dyneema loop to be pushed up through (after it has been sanded beautifully smooth).

Any water coming through the deck hole will be caught by a tube around the dyneema chainplate loop. We have simplified this. The tube will have 2 end caps. One glued to the underside of the chainplate backing plate with a hole for the chainplate loop. Then the other on the bottom to catch any water.

On top of the deck we are going to put “mushrooms” which will stop water running along the deck flowing into the hole. They will also be a collar to hold the bottom of the fabric sleeve that will protect the dyneema from UV and chafe.

It all feels a lot closer to getting the mizzen mast up. That will, hopefully, prove that it all works so that we can do the same for the main mast. There are plenty of other things that we can make progress on once the mizzen is up.

Mizzen Chainplate progress

Today we created the port side forward chainplate backing plate (what a mouthful) and cleared the space for it (cutting a gap in the bulkhead between the aft heads and cockpit locker; also cutting and grinding some old fibreglass for things that are no longer there like the old heater and the diesel tank fill).

All very messy and dusty.

Then we have epoxied both the port and starboard backing plates into place. That went pretty smoothly, Jane managed to mix the thickest epoxy yet and so we are confident that there is a really good layer spreading all loads across the whole of the backing plate.

Just the backing plates in the lazarette for the running backstays (needs to cover a large enough area for mooring cleats as well – the old ones where half on and off the deck shelf so we need something good as a backing plate here) the and we are ready to fit the dyneema chainplates through them (several steps to do as part of that).

Nearly out of FR4 board for these backing plates, so I’ll have to order some more.

Note that we are currently using the old chainplate bolts to pull these backing plates up tight while the epoxy sets.

Aft cabin mattress test fit

This is so brilliant!

Now Jane “just” has to glue some of parts together, cover with wadding and stockinette, and make the new cover.

The size is great, a big improvement as is the access via the step and seat (which still needs a cushion & backrest). Going to be really comfy.

My only slight concern will be getting enough breeze to Jane’s side when in the tropics. But she does like to be warm in bed!!! 😂😍 And the tropics are a long way off 😕

Now that’s what I call a backing plate.

We have dry fitted the chainplate backing plate for the starboard forward mizzen stay. We measured the deck thickness at the old diesel fuel filler at 20mm. With this backing plate of 9mm immensely dense, stiff and strong FR4 board it makes me feel that having an additional 2 layers of 9mm plywood in the aft cabin was very much overkill!!

Next visit we will repeat for the port side and then make permanent with thickened epoxy (so that it is bedded to the underside of the deck/hull joint with no gaps).

Aft cabin step and chainplate progress

We now have a (temporary) step to get onto the seat and from there onto the new aft double bed.

At the moment it is an experiment to check the height and size (particularly to see if we bang our shins on it or step up too high and hit our heads). The permanent one will also have a useful bit of storage inside it.

Then while Jane has been continuing to cut and fit the foam insulation, I moved on to the starboard forward mizzen stay. This is in the corridor just forward of the bulkhead where the door to aft cabin was.

As it is so close to the bulkhead I’ve had to cut a “slot” through it so that I can fit a larger backing plate. I’m only going to use a FR4 backing plate as this stay is one of the more lightly loaded ones, also the position of the bulkhead adds extra reinforcement for the scupper drains (this chainplate is about halfway between the two scupper drains).

The scupper drains are for water from the deck, they are fully moulded into the hull and stop dirty water from the deck staining the boat sides by enclosing it to below the waterline.

Once the chainplate is sorted we will epoxy in a vertical bit of FR4 to connect the chainplate to the bulkhead.

Aft cabin: Making it permanent

Today we have been continuing the work on the aft cabin.

Jane did a whole lot of sanding under the bed. She also fitted some more insulation to the sides. Together we glued the rubber seal into the aft cabin hatch because it kept dropping out.

I was working on finishing the timber around the head of bed.

We have one upright on the starboard side of the original gap in the berth. This now frames the inside of the opening for the seat (the new way onto the bed).

Another upright is inside the heads on the port side of the original gap in the berth.

These two uprights are the same size but oriented differently. So between them we have a slightly diagonal headboard. This is to give the right amount of extra bed length where I sleep. So a section where my head goes is 845mm wide and between 70mm (port) and 85mm (centre) longer.

A third upright is approximately 1/3 of the way from the head side (port) on the forward side of the headboard. This will be the door post for the new door to the heads. This “squares off” the heads giving more foot space when sitting on the loo (knees go under the headboard and so under the bed.

Another piece of plywood sits on top of the headboard between the door post and port side post (at the original end of the heads). This acts as the upper “wall” between the heads and our bed.

All this timber has now been glued and screwed in. Plus all the outside corners have been made into soft curves using the router, plane and sander.

Essentially ready for painting when we have prepped the rest of the cabin.

Just got to build the step for the seat.

All the boxing in of the storage, the heads door etc can wait until after our first launch next year.

All three of the uprights form part of the new supports for the mizzen mast. More to do here as they need to be bonded to the deck and mast foot support. Probably going to wait until the mizzen is up as the deck has risen a bit.

Fabric and Fluff

Well here I am looking at the aft cabin cushions again, wondering where to start on re-configuring them for our new cabin arrangement (see Aft Cabin new bed is usable). The original cushions were the first cushions and covers I had ever made, with a new scarily industrial sewing machine (from Sailrite). I checked and re-checked everything with Sailrite videos and my adviser (Canvas for Cruisers by Julie Gifford). When Dave and I finally wrestled them onto the foam (covered with wadding and stockingette as in The Book), it seemed a minor miracle that they looked respectable. They turned out to be very comfortable so I was glad I’d heeded all the advice. But now we need to change them and it seems even more dauting than starting fresh. I have since discovered that rectangular cushions are not easier to cover than weirdly shaped ones, which doesn’t fill me with confidence.

‘When in doubt think about it’ is my motto so I started by leaving them for a while with the new fabric spread out and turned over to check if it had a nap. One of the irritating things about the original fabric was that I had no idea I would need so much so one section was oriented differently leaving a strange line across the cushion due to the unexpected nap. Also the bases had to be a different fabric altogether as both pieces were remnants. The new cushions will be a step up because we have lots of lovely new fabric 🙂 I have industrial remnants this time (available from Emmaus South Manchester) so we have 10 metres and it is very hardwearing as well as fire resistant which is good for piece of mind.

Next I took off the covers and stockingette which was easy, leaving fluffy foam. It took several days of measuring and agonising over the position of a straight edge to take the plunge and cut off a straight line where our new seat will be.

Cushions after left side cut off

Unfortunately we had used spray glue to wrap the foam with wadding for these first cushions, whereas later I realised I could just wrap and stitch it to hold it in place. Ungluing the wadding was mostly ok, except for a few well stuck places where it tried to pull the foam with it so I had to cut it away. The foam sticks together very easily but needs to be free from fluff. We are changing the locker lids under the cushions so we decided to go with two nearly rectangular cushions for more comfortable sleeping. I have now cut small pieces off both large cushions and they are ready to glue together in the new shape. I am pleased that the left over foam should be enough to make a very comfortable cushion for the base of the seat.

Preparation work done – now I need to set up the machine and cut the fabric! I will re-use the zippers as the cushions are still the same length. I think I will fit them across the base this time, rather than along the edge as it was so hard to get the foam into the cover before. It’s not as if they are reversible as the edges slope to fit the cabin walls.

Progress from home

We haven’t gone to the boat this week. Jane had to work today (Covid cover) and I’ve got work tomorrow.

However, I have been able to complete the repair of my pillar drill (satisfaction of mending tools).

Having done the repair I went straight on to use the pillar drill to finish the holes in the motor mount brackets. This is a great example of where a pillar drill with a good drill bit and cutting paste is so much better than a normal drill. It had taken hours to do 6.5 holes and had destroyed a couple of drill bits. Today less than 2 hours to do the remaining 9.5 holes without ruining any drill bits.

Low down progress

On Saturday we managed a few jobs that are about as low as we can get.

Water getting low in the wrong places

During the heavy rain on Friday we discovered a key source of the water in the (very deep) bilge at the aft end of the keel. I’d left a few holes in the floor of the anchor locker when we had removed the old windlass and chain guide. So water getting into the anchor locker was falling into the chain locker, from there it flowed down a hose (so that it gets past the shower sump) onto the front end of the keel (where we had cut the old hose so for the first time we could see the water coming in, when we had the floor up).

So I filled the holes and we went down in the depths (currently about 1m below the electric motor frame) and pumped out 5 buckets of water (we had removed a lot more with a temporary bilge pump a few weekends ago).

Battery storage on the keel

With a dry bilge we did some cutting and planing of the battery box we had started months ago (when the 120AH batteries were going to have to sit above the motor). It now fits on the keel under the companionway and saloon floor.

It just needs ply ends, epoxy coating and the batteries installing. A battery box for the 4 x 300AH will sit on top of it (one of these batteries will be behind this and a bit higher as it is behind the ladder and the space is not wide enough at that point).

Fortunately all the lower 120AH batteries and the 300AH at the aft end have bluetooth enabled BMS (battery monitoring systems) as these will be quite inaccessible. The other 3 x 300AH will be easily visible to check.

We will make these boxes as watertight as we can and they will be fixed in place so that there is no danger of a couple of hundred kilo’s of battery smashing everything and everyone should we ever be rolled over.

We have also done some detailed design work for how we plan to connect the battery banks. We are (seemingly unusually) planning to keep them entirely separate as it isn’t a good idea to combine different sizes of battery into a single bank. We want the flexibility of using each bank for either house or motor depending on need. However, never both connected to either house or motor at the same time. We also want to be able to direct the solar panel charging to either bank according to need. The 70A mains charger built into the Victron MultiPlus II will always go to whichever bank is connected to house (so when we connect to mains we always put the most depleted bank as the house to get charged first) .

Water in the right places

We think we can fit a 70 litre water tank in front of the batteries and an 18 litre one in front of that. Plus another 18 litre tank under the aft most 300AH battery. Finally one more 18 litre tank in the forward top half of the bilge under the motor.  That makes 124 litres nice and low down that will all be fully plumped in (you get a set of taps to choose which tank the water comes from for a tap or the shower).

In addition we think we can fit 4 x 25 litre portable water tanks above the propeller shaft aft of the motor. As well as taking us to 224 litres in total, these will be convenient for collecting water in the dinghy (providing we take a trolley to save carrying them by hand).

This should be plenty of water for coastal cruising but we still need more (and would like a watermaker) for ocean crossings.

Dave not getting stuck in the bottom

Using a temporary “ladder” I went into the cockpit locker to check the setting on the dehumidifier and the position of the forward mizzen chainplate.

Low on money

Well not so much low as actually sitting down to price all the things we need to be able to launch in March 2022 (in time for a 3 month sabbatical). It is a long list, however, it looks manageable and there are not so many unknowns now. Actually a bit of a confidence builder.

Lower Mast

Next will be back to tasks to get the mizzen mast (the lower one) back up but with dyneema rigging. In part that is to prove the chainplate and rigging design but also so that we can sort out the windvane self-steering, pushpit and aft solar panels. We still need to finish the new supports for the foot of the mizzen mast, cut and fit the backing plates for the forward stays and running backstays. Also need to finish repairing the pillar drill to make the tangs (and order the bolts for them). Then we can add the FR4 backing plates (and the on deck “mushrooms”, do the drilling for the chainplate dyneema loops and then make all the chainplate loops and shrouds/stays.

All that will allow us to finish the aft cabin, at least for the moment. The bed head needs finishing as it is part of the mizzen mast foot support. We need the step onto the seat to get to the bed, cabin sides need insulating (ceiling etc can wait as can the headlining). Then a quick paint and we can move back in (hopefully the work Jane is doing at home to remodel the bed mattress will be finished).