Sunday, December 30, 2007

Sailmaking Weather

This is the kind of weather that slows down the boatbuilding process when you're working in an open, unheated shed. Today it's just raining, but when I took this photo Friday morning, a heavy wet fog had drifted in and soaked everything in the shed, including all the inside and outside surfaces of the hulls. This made epoxy work impossible for most of the day, but yesterday I did have a short period of decent weather and was able to work on preparing and installing stringers for the starboard floor panels. Since more of this kind of weather is likely in January, I broke out my new Sailrite sewing machine and spent much of Friday getting used to operating it by making some canvas bags. By evening I was feeling confident enough to start working on the jib kit. The machine sews flawlessly so far, easily feeding the slick Dacron cloth thanks to the walking foot feature, and making perfect zig-zag stitches with correct tension right out of the box.

The sail kit seems straightforward enough. All parts are precision cut and labeled. You simply match up the seam lines, baste the parts together with Seamstick tape, and run a double row of stitches down each side. Stitching in a straight line is similar to cutting with a jigsaw or circular saw. You just have to go slow and pay attention to what you are doing. I'm pleased with the results so far, shown below:

I started with the smaller, upper panels of the sail, as they are easier to handle and the seams are shorter. At the head of the sail is a patch assembly consisting of 5 layers of progressively bigger patches to distribute the load from the halyard. These are sewn on with the smaller patches sandwiched inside. There are other patches that will be sewn on at the tack and clew, and also at the reef line tack and clew. I decided to stick with a traditional hank-on jib with a single row of reef points as shown on the Tiki 26 sailplan. I will also make a smaller storm jib for conditions when the single reef is not enough. I don't like the complication and expense of roller furling, and from my past experience with smaller Wharram cats I know that changing headsails is not too difficult on such a stable platform, especially with the safety of the forward tramp to work on. I also plan to fit a continuous halyard that allows the jib to instantly be doused in an emergency without the need to go forward to the tramp. This is done running the halyard from the head of the sail, down the mast to the usual cleat or clutch, but instead of terminating it there, it continues forward to a turning block near the tack of the sail and up the luff to fasten at the head of the sail just like the other end. The jib can then be raised or lowered with a single line.

Here is one of the seam details showing the quality of the zig-zag stitches the Sailrite machine makes - click on the photo for a larger view. If I can keep all the seams this consistent, I will be happy with the sail. The luff and leech ends of each row of stitches will be finished off later with the folded Dacron tape that is sewn on the edges. The leech has a control line fitted inside, and the luff has a wire rope with thimbles at the tack and head that are also hand sewn to brass rings in the corners.

I'm building the sail in sub-assemblies because of the size and the limited amount of floor space I have. Here, the foot panel is being sewn onto the bottom full-sized panel. At just over 10 feet, this is the longest seam between panels. The next step will be to complete the tack and clew patches of this sub-assembly before sewing this to the next panel and then adding the top half of the sail. I'm not even bothering to keep up with my hours on this project, but so far it hasn't taken long at all. It's interesting work and gives me something to do when I can't work with epoxy. Best of all, I'm saving a substantial chunk of change that can be put into other things for the boat, and getting the sewing experience I will need for the more complicated projects such as the dodger/decktent I plan to build.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Keel Glassing and Fitting Floors

Work on the starboard hull continues with glassing the now finished and sanded keel fillets. The first layer of 6 oz. cloth is laminated in and the floors have been cut and shaped to fit. Below is a view looking into the keel section from aft of bulkhead two. In the main entrance area of the cabin between bulkhead 2 and 3, I used the same floor pattern as that in the port hull, with a large removable panel cut out to provide easy access to the bilges. In this section just forward of bulkhead 2 is enough space to fit a 3-gallon portable head. Since the bunks are raised by 3 inches from the designed height, this portable unit will fit almost flush at bunk height. A removable panel that serves as a seat for the navigation area will be used to cover it when it is not needed.

Forward of bulkhead 3, there is an additional floor panel with openings cut out to further stiffen this section of the hull beneath the bunks and to divide up the large space there for easier stowage of supplies. These larger areas under the bunks and above this floor level will likely be used to carry a good portion of my water supply. I've located some great 4-gallon jerry cans that are just the right size and shape to fit in this space, three in each hull. More water can, of course, be carried in smaller containers in the other below bunks spaces and in the forward holds.

Back at the garage shop in Jackson, I have had to do some major cleaning out and rearranging to have room to continue work on my cross beams while building the small Backwoods Drifter I am building for a customer. The space is just enough to have a flat table to store and cut 4 x 8 sheets of plywood, set up the beams to finish work on them, and to assemble and build the drifter. Below is a photo showing the first stage of assembly of this stitch and glue boat. The larger transverse bulkheads in the midships sections are temporary forms that will be removed after all the interior parts are fitted to stiffen the hull.

As soon as this boat is completed and out the door, I plan to use this same space to build the cockpit for Element II. Other parts that will likely be built in the garage are the tillers and tiller bar, gaff, and the extra aft beam for the rear trampoline.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Progress Continues

I know it's been way too long since I've posted an update here, but I've been back from my most recent job in Florida since the week of Thanksgiving, and I have made some progress on the boat. Weather is starting to be a factor, however, since I'm building in an open shed with no heat. There have been several days of cold rain, as well as some days with temperatures too low to efficiently work with epoxy, but the rest of this week looks promising.

Projects that are a priority now are finishing the sink, shelves, and other interior fittings in the port hull as described in my last post, and glassing the keel fillets in the starboard hull so I can begin installing the floors and bunks. I'm expecting parts I ordered to arrive today, including the drain fitting for the sink so I can make the necessary recess in the bottom to receive it before installing the sink in the boat. Another item in the package is the portable toilet that will be fitted in the starboard hull. Before installing the floor and bunks just inside the companionway area in this hull I want to make sure I have room for the head in this area, which will also be the navigation station with a movable chart table.

In my garage shop in Jackson, I've completed lamination of all the major components of the crossbeams, and now I will begin fitting the triangular support webs that go inside, making the necessary fillets, and then making and fitting the front fairings. The other project that I have going on there is a commission to build a small boat for a paying customer - one of my Mississippi Backwoods Drifter designs. This boat is a flat-bottomed, double-ended John boat type, that was specifically designed for quick maneuverability and stability on the small, twisting creeks that are so abundant here. The boat is built in the same manner as the Tiki 26, with 6mm Okoume sheathed on the outside with fiberglass. There's more about the design on this page of my main website:

Working on the Drifter will at least keep me around the shop so I can be working on Tiki parts while I have epoxy drying time and such. The only real limitation is space, which you can never have enough of. I would like to go ahead and begin building the cockpit in the garage as well, but that will probably have to wait until this small boat is finished.

A cool new tool that I've recently added to my collection is the Fein Multimaster shown below. This kit was given to me as part of my bonus, along with some nice teak boards, by David when I completed this last Boatsmith job I helped him with. David has always been cool like that, willing to pay a fair price for skilled help and generous with the bonuses and gifts for a job well done. I've used the Multimasters for years when working with him, but somehow just never got around to buying myself one. It really is an incredible power tool. Although David mainly uses them for detail sanding in tight spaces, they are capable of much more with the wide assortment of cutting and scraping blades and other accessories that are available. Where this will really help out on the Tiki 26 build though is sanding all those hard to reach areas deep in the V-hulls and around fillets and other places hard to reach with other sanders. I just ordered several boxes of hook and loop sandpaper custom cut for the triangular pad, in 40, 60, 80 and 120 grit. This is available from Klingspor. I highly recommend this tool to anyone building a boat. How did I do without it so long?

Variable-speed Fein Multimaster shown with some of the specialized saw blades available, as well as the the standard triangular sanding pads.

The crossbeams are essentially built, with the main components laminated together. Finishing will include installing the webs and support struts, making interior fillets, fitting the fairings, then shaping and glassing the exteriors.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Interior Fixtures

As I've been working on the keel and bulkhead fillets of the second hull, as well as cutting out and fitting the bunk and floor panels, I've been giving more thought to the interior layout of each hull and how the spaces will be used. In his design book Wharram describes the "flexi-space" concept and suggests that in the smaller designs especially that this idea should be used as there is not a lot of room for the built-in "furniture" seen in most yacht interiors. Flexi-space basically means empty hull interiors, where cooking and sleeping gear is stowed below bunks or in bags and then unpacked to be used when needed, just as in camping. On the Tiki 26 this would work well for larger crews of up to four people, using the boat for weekend or vacation trips. All of the berth flats would be available, making it possible to sleep two to a hull when anchored, and cooking could be done on deck under a tent or on the bunk floors just inside one of the companionways. There's nothing wrong with this camping type arrangement, but having done thousands of miles of sea kayaking and plenty of backpacking and other camping, I don't want to have to unpack and set-up "camp" when on board my boat if there is a way around it. Part of the appeal of cruising on a sailboat instead of out of a kayak is that everything can be set-up pretty much permanently and wherever you drop anchor your "camp" looks and feels the same.

Since I'm planning on doing most of my sailing singlehanded, especially on longer trips, I have a clear idea of how I will use each space inside the two cabins and have specific requirements I want to allow for. I still want the option of two dedicated bunks below decks, in the larger forward ends of each cabin, as well as one of the aft bunks to use in the rare case of a third crew member aboard for a short trip. But for the times when I am alone, I plan to use the starboard hull for sleeping and the port hull for cooking. Since I like to be able to brew coffee and cook meals while underway, either on long coastal trips or offshore passages, it is essential to have some sort of built in galley, however minimal. This means a fixed place to secure a stove that can be used underway, and a galley sink to make it easier to fill kettles and pots and to wash up dishes and utensils when it's not feasible to do so on deck with a bucket. To maximize the size of this sink without taking up any more interior space than necessary, I knew I would have to build it in, out of ply and epoxy, rather than buy a stainless sink off the shelf. I spent several hours inside the port hull with pieces of plywood, a tape measure, and components such as the Whale Flipper galley pump I want to use and an old stove I salvaged off my monohull, Intensity. Mocking up the galley like this insured that everything would work and still leave room to move around. I determined that the sink would fit in nicely along the outboard sheer, just under the portlights, and the shelf for the stove would go along the inboard side, below the sheer and just forward of the companionway. The aft bunk in this hull will be used only for storage. Smaller shelves will be fitted under and around the sink and stove fixtures. All this leaves space to sit comfortably either facing aft or forward, and access to the forward bunk is still easy.

After figuring out the placement of these built-in fixtures, I began cutting parts out of 6mm ply. Because of the design, this will be plenty strong without adding any significant weight to the boat. To get a nice fit on interior components like this, it is necessary to measure and cut each piece in the hull, then fit the next piece and glue it on, before moving to the next, etc. This could take days using epoxy, as each stage would have to be wired, screwed, nailed or clamped until the epoxy cured before moving to the next stage. There is a much faster way to do this that I learned from David Halladay of Boatsmith, while working with him in Florida. He and his crew build lots of yacht interiors, many for newly-manufactured vessels. These are completely finished before they are installed in the hulls. Assembly in the design phase as well as in construction is often done with quick drying cyanoacrylate glue -or Superglue. Not the ordinary Superglue found in your local department store, but a superior gap-filling type of Superglue sold in hobby shops, along with a spray-on accelerator that cures it instantly (see photo below). This glue is much more expensive than epoxy, but for certain applications like building these galley parts, it is indispensable. This galley sink and counter in the photos below was completed in about two hours, up to the shaping and coating with epoxy stage. Once it was all assembled and checked for fit, it was removed from the boat for the epoxy work, which included making strong fillets to reinforce all the temporary joints held together with the Superglue.

Below is the first stage, gluing the side panels onto the bottom of the sink counter, which is upside down on the bench. These side panels are cut to fit alongside the outside of the hull, which will form one side of the sink. Using the Superglue along the edge of the panels, it took mere seconds to put them together at right angles to the counter panel. This glue is plenty strong too. As with epoxy, if you smacked these panels with a hammer, wood fibers would tear out before the joint failed. The difference is that the strength is obtained in about 2-3 minutes. The splotches on the wood are simply areas wet with accelerator. This drys in minutes, leaving the wood unstained.

Here's a close-up of the Superglue and accelerator. This glue is Instacure +. The bottles are labeled with the name of the hobby store that carries them, but it is sold by many outlets and more information can be found on the manufacturer's website, at:

After gluing the side panels on, I put the counter back in position along the outboard edge of the hull and then measured and cut a bottom panel, which was then glued in place as shown below. To complete the sink I measured and cut a front panel, then removed the whole thing again.

Outside the hull, I fitted a small fiddle rail along the curved surfaces to prevent things placed on the counter from falling in a seaway, and to keep splashed water from the sink contained. The fiddle rail was made of two layers of one-inch by 3/16" teak. Again using the Superglue, I pressed them in place by hand, as these curves would be difficult to clamp. This only took a few minutes, pressing and gluing one piece at a time, then sanding the glued on piece with a belt sander before fitting the next on. (This glue is also sandable, just like epoxy.) The result was a fiddle rail of laminated teak, about 3/8" thick. A nice epoxy fillet was made along the inside of the rail, and wide fillets were made in the inside joints of the sink panels. Below is the result after the first coat of epoxy and the initial fillets. More sanding and smoothing of fillets will be required, as well as 2 more coats of clear epoxy. The sink measures 14" long by 9 1/2" wide and more than 10" deep. This whole counter and sink assembly is extremely light weight, hardly weighing much more than a bucket of similar size.

Here is how it fits inside the galley section of the port hull. A drain will be fitted in the bottom, with a hose connecting it to a thru-hull. No worries about hull integrity on a catamaran like this, as any failure of a fitting below the waterline would be contained by the semented design of the hulls with their watertight bulkheads below the waterline. The sink is also high enough that the drain could be fitted above the waterline, which is an option I might take. Another catamaran advantage is the lack of heeling, so there are also no worries about an off-centerline sink like this back siphoning when the boat is heeled over, as in a monohull.

The middle passageway in the hull is still unobstructed. Opposite the sink and just aft of the middle bulkhead (#3) is the shelf for the stove - which will be a two-burner Origo non-pressurized alcohol unit. I'm using this type of stove because it is self-contained, can be easily moved up on deck for cooking in fair weather at anchor, and it has a well-designed potholder system available. Alcohol stoves are a little slower than propane, but I've used these Origo models extensively and they are extremely reliable and safe.

Using the Superglue made it possible to design and fabricate all these galley parts in one day. Finishing the epoxy work will be another matter, of course, and will be done over time as I fit additional small shelves and other parts in the port hull in preparation for installing the decks and cabin sides.
Below is a photo of the starboard hull with the bunk patterns I made for the port hull fitted in place. The patterns fit perfectly, so I know I have two identical hulls. In the starboard hull I have all the keel and bulkhead fillets done. These are only lacking fiberglass reinforcement before I can begin installing the floor and bunk panels. That will happen in the coming weeks, but for now I'm off to south Florida again for two weeks, leaving tomorrow. I had not planned on going back to work there this year, but David asked for my help on another smaller teak job, so it's back to Palm Beach, where I'm sure I'll learn some more neat tricks working with Boatsmith.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Another Set of Skills

Building a boat like the Tiki 26 involves much more than carpentry skills. To complete all phases of building and outfitting a cruising catamaran, one must not only be able to work with wood, epoxy and fiberglass, but also with rope and wire rigging, electrical components and wiring, metal and hardware fabrication and installation, and of course, canvas and other essential fabrics.

Many boatbuilders hire someone else to do their canvas work and sailmaking, and that is certainly a viable option and is possibly the quickest, but also the most expensive way to get this phase of the project done. A boat such as the Tiki 26 offers so many options and possibilities, however, when it comes to custom canvas, that I already knew I wanted to do my own. Hiring a professional would be out of the question in my case as there will not only be front and rear trampolines to make, but some sort of dodger/deck tent combination, sail covers, interior organizers and other custom items that are best done right on or near the boat so that a good fit can be assured.

Since I knew I would be doing all this other canvas work for the boat and I enjoyed learning how to do it when I was refitting my Tiki 21 last year, I decided that I would not only tackle all these projects but also make the sails as well. There was a time when practically all sailors made their own sails as well as built their own boats, but that's way out of the mainstream these days. But thanks to Sailrite, the do-it-yourself sailmaking supplier of kits, materials and sewing machines, making your own sails is within reach of anyone with a determination to attempt it. Sailrite provides pre-cut, professionally-designed kits with labeled panels and all the hardware and other bits needed to complete the sail, as well as detailed instructions aimed at the first-time sailmaker. They've been working with Wharram catamaran designs for years and have the sailplans for all the Tiki range and others. They have delivered quite a few Tiki 26 sail kits over the years and I've spoken with a couple of Tiki 26 builders who have made their sails from these kits and were quite satisfied. So after receiving a wide range of quotes from various sailmakers who could provide Tiki 26 sails, I decided to become my own sailmaker, or at least try. I ordered the kit for the jib first, as it will be less complicated than the mainsail with it's zipper luff pocket. The complete kit is shown below. It's quite a pile of parts, perhaps a bit more intimidating than the stack of plywood that I started building the boat with. But really, sewing is just a matter of careful measuring, cutting and assembly, using tools and keeping things in line, just like in carpentry. Instead of stitch and glue, as in assembling the hulls, the sails are glued (with seamstick tape to hold the panels in place temporarily) and then stitched. Should be a piece of cake! (Right!) Anyway, if this goes well, I'll order the mainsail kit next.

I started dabbling in sewing last year with an old heavy-duty home machine that gave me nothing but headaches with tension adjustments, lack of power and other problems. There's enough sewing to do in outfitting this boat to justify a decent machine, so I ordered Sailrite's recommended model, the Ultrafeed LSZ-1. This portable but seriously heavy-duty machine features a walking foot to enable it to feed many layers of heavy canvas or Dacron, and is capable of making the wide zig-zag stitches needed in sailmaking. I'll spend some time getting familiar with it making small projects before I jump into the sailmaking. The jib kit should be just right for one of those rainy, cold weeks we'll be having soon as winter approaches.

More info about Sailrite sail kits and sewing machines is available on their website at

Friday, October 12, 2007

Two Hulls are Better than One

At last I feel like I am actually building a catamaran. The second hull is set up beside the first. The disadvantage of building a catamaran, however, is that I now have to complete all those same steps I took to get the port hull up to the stage it is now. It really is almost like building two boats, but at least the steps are straightforward and the experience of the first hull will help me build the second one faster. In addition, I already have patterns for all such parts as the floors, bunks, and deckbeams so there won't be any time wasted figuring those things out.

Space is tight in the shed, which is just over 14 feet wide inside, and divided by a support post in the middle. I used the long workbench one last time to wire the hull panels together.

After wiring it together, I slid the hull off the bench into temporary rope slings to get it out of my way while I dismanteled the workbench and cleaned out a building space in this half of the shed. Suspending the hull from the rafters is a really useful technique I learned from Thomas Nielsen's Tiki 26 build. It comes in handy at many stages of the construction and makes it easy to manipulate these long, awkward-shaped deep-V hulls while working on them. In the first stages, however, the boat has to be stabilized in cradles on the ground to get and keep everything in line.

After the bench was out of the way, I put the bulkheads in while the hull was still hanging, then lowered it into V-shaped cradles and leveled it, using a string line pulled from stem to sternpost to make sure everything was in line. The hullsides were then pulled in tight using a series of Spanish windlasses, and epoxy was poured along the keel. Before I left it yesterday, I had made most of the keel fillets and tabbed in the bulkheads with small, partial fillets to hold them in position.

Monday, October 08, 2007

Making it Round

The mast is now finished, except for the final epoxy coating and sanding in preparation for paint.

It was fairly simple to take it from the square box-section after glue-up to the final round shape. I would have been done much sooner but had a lot of interruptions last week.

The first step in rounding the mast was to cut it down to 8 even sides. I did this by first laying out straight lines to divide it equally for the entire length of the mast. I then cut just outside the lines with a 7 1/4" circular saw set to a 45-degree angle. The final cut down to the 8-sided lines was done with a handheld power planer and then smoothed with a belt sander. The 8-sided spar is shown below:

After cutting the 8-sides, I first made and fitted the 4 hardwood rigging cleats, or "mast hounds" at the top of the mast. Then additional lines were drawn, laying out 16 even sides which were cut down the lines with the power plane. After this operation, the remaining 16 corners were flattened with the plane to 32 even sides, and from this stage the mast could be rounded by working these sides to round with a belt sander and the 6-inch orbital sander. I did all this on the bench where the mast was laminated, spending about a half a day on the shaping. The tools used are shown below: Power plane, belt sander, 6-inch random orbital sander, 5-inch random orbital sander, and block plane and sureform tool for areas where I couldn't use the power tools.

At the base of the mast I decided to leave the part where the mast is solid 8-sided. I like the way it transitions into round, and it will make it easier to install such hardware as the halyard rope clutches. The wiring conduit is shown where it exits the sidewall. There is one on each side.

Today I moved the finished mast out in the open and applied the first sealing coat of epoxy. The workbench is now free and I have the keel for the second hull scarfed and clamped on it now. When that cures, I will begin the process of wiring the second hull together, then suspend it from the rafters while I tear out the bench to make room for cradles to lower the hull in so I can begin construction.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Mast Assembly Details

I just completed the assembly of the mast this afternoon when I glued on the final side wall to close up the hollow box. I counted a total of 43 separate pieces of wood in the mast assembly, counting the scarf sections for the long pieces. It's definately not the work of a weekend or couple of evenings, but it went reasonably fast and everything went together smoothly. The photos below show a few of the details and the assembly sequence and methods I used.

The mast head has a built-in crane for the main halyards and internal wooden sheaves for the jib halyards, separated by a central divider. I built this assembly as a separate unit, so I could insure that all the exposed areas around the sheaves were well-coated with epoxy. In addition, the bearing surfaces of the sheaves, which are made of mahogany, are glassed over and then coated with an epoxy and graphite compound for a smooth, durable surface. You can see the black graphite epoxy coating in the photo below:

The masthead also has solid blocking around the crane area. To get a wiring conduit through this area I built the blocking with a channel just wide enough for it to pass through in the center. The conduit is flexible plastic irrigation pipe, with an I.D. of 1/2 inch. One of these in each mast half should give me enough space for a VHF coax, 12-volt circuits for a masthead tri-color and anchor light, and a cable for a Sea Me active radar reflector.

At the foot of the mast the conduit exits the side walls just above the solid wood packing above the mast heel. This wood packing at the foot is to allow for long screws to mount halyard clutches and blocks. I routed the wiring out the side walls since the aft side of the mast is occupied with the clutches and the forward side is taken up by the mainsail downhaul.

To keep the conduit out of the way during the final assembly, I epoxied in these tiny slats of 6mm ply. These weigh next to nothing and were simple to make. I ripped a couple of strips of the ply to the right width with 45 degree angles on both sides, then chopped them up into 3/8" wide pieces. They fit perfectly, the ends dipped in epoxy and simply laid in place to dry.

The slats also make it easy to pack aluminum foil into the mast halves by tucking it under them so it too does not move when the pieces are put together for lamination. The foil inside is supposed to be a passive radar reflector. I don't know how effective it will be, but it can't hurt anything and it was certainly cheap.

Here is the final assembly. I now have a straight, hollow box section mast. When the epoxy cures it will be ready to cut down to eight sides, then sixteen, and finally round. But that will be a job for next week.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Keeping it Straight

No matter how carefully you select the wood, with eight separate staves more than 26 feet in length, there is bound to be some tendency for some of them to bow or spring out of true, due to natural crown or grain patterns. The only way to insure that you get a straight mast is to laminate the sections with a form that is dead level and absolutely straight. I had already glued the triangular wood fillets to the two mast halves using the straight edge of my workbench. This worked fine, but one of the halves still had a bit of crown in it after removing the screws used to glue in the fillets. It's a simple matter to get it back in line, as long as you have a straight form to clamp it too. I built a lot of straight and curved forms recently while working on the pergola project in Florida, so I figured it would work fine for my mast as well.

The first step was to screw down a platform of 2 x 4s to the work bench, to elevate the mast sections clear of the bench so that bar clamp jaws can fit under them. The bench was already level, but after screwing down the platform boards I checked them all with a spirit level and with a taunt line. The ends were also aligned with the taunt line so that when upright blocks were screwed on at a right angle they were all dead in line. This form allows clamping in two directions, vertically and horizontally, which is necessary when glueing the mast laminates together to be sure all joints are closed up with no voids in the glue line.

In the plans for the Tiki 26 mast the method of assembly is to use rope lashings to pull all the parts together. This is assuming most first-time boatbuilders won't have enough clamps of a sufficient size to assemble the mast. The rope method works, and I used it on my Hitia 17 mast, but with the weather as hot as it is here, limiting the working time of the epoxy, I didn't want the stress of trying to assemble all four parts of a 26-foot mast at one time. In addition, this mast will have wiring conduit inside, as well as aluminum foil for a radar reflector - more stuff to worry about keeping in line while trying to hold and wrap four long, springy pieces of wood. Since the mast diameter is only 5 inches, relatively inexpensive 6-inch bar clamps work just fine for all the assembly steps. I used 40 of them, and this was plenty adequate for close enough spacing to close up the parts. Instead of assembling all four parts at once, I started by glueing one side wall to the aft wall, using the form to keep it all in line. This worked out perfectly, and when the clamps were removed this morning, this half of the mast was rigid and straight with no tendency to bow.

Decks As Designed

Work on the port hull is moving along now that I've resolved the deck modification issue. One reason I decided to scrap the idea of raising the decks is that I really like the deck lines as designed. To me the amount of camber is just right, combined with the strong sweep of the sheer.

I still have work to do inside the hulls around the bunks and the stem and sternposts before decks can be installed, but deckbeams for both hulls have been made and installed in the port hull. Notches for the stringers were first cut in the beams separately, then with beams clamped in place the notch area was removed from the plywood of the bulkheads with a flush-cutting router bit. In the photo below the finished foredeck beams are clamped in place with epoxy.

I've also cut and test-fitted the deck stringers for the foredeck. I've increased the width of these slightly for more stiffness, and added extra stringers in the main foredeck area just forward of the mast beam - an area of the deck that gets a lot of traffic. I've been on board Tiki 26s with springy decks. I think it's worth it to reinforce these so that there is no flex. The center stringer runs all the way from the forward cabin bulkhead to a notch in the stem post. After the deck is glued down, it will be cut away in the opening of the forward hatch. The other two long stringers to port and starboard terminate at the buttblock area of the upper hull panel, and will be supported here by a small cleat glued on the inside of this buttblock.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

No Raised Deck

I've decided to scrap my idea mentioned in the recent post about the raised deck modification. I think this modification could work and could be made to look good, but I've decided the slight gain in interior room would not be worth the extra complications in construction. Every change to a design has implications beyond the immediate modification, and a change such as this would involve other areas of the boat that may delay the final completion and may have an adverse effect on performance. If I were building two Tiki 26s side by side, I would like to try this modification on one of them and see how it works out. As it is, I just want to get the hulls built and decked and get sailing as soon as possible.

To make up for the three-inch height increase of the bunks, I am simply raising the cabin tops by a corresponding amount, actually four and a half inches, keeping the same angles and lines. This will give adequate sitting headroom in most of the cabin area. The only change in shape will be the cabin roof, to which I might add a slight camber similar to that of the new Tiki 8M design. I also plan to make the companionway hatch smaller so that it does not occupy the entire forward part of the cabin roof when in the open position. In this space forward I plan to fit an additional hatch in each cabin, for better ventilation. For these I may use standard manufactured deck hatches that can be adjusted at a varying angles and have insect screens incorporated.

I've been busy today fitting deck beams and making the deck stringers, as well as adding the upper bulkhead sections on to the existing bulkheads where I had left them off while pondering the deck modification. Things will move forward quickly now with the first hull now that this issue is resoved and all I have to do is build. The mast is also coming along. I'm working on making and fitting all the various bits that go in the crane and foot, as well as channels for wiring conduits inside. No new photos to post today, but I'll have some later this week.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Mast Building

The Tiki 26 laminated hollow mast is well-designed and simple to build compared to most wooden mast building techniques. There are a lot of parts to cut and assemble, but each step is straightforward. The construction begins with preparing the wood by ripping it to width and then scarfing it to the required length. All scarf joints are cut with a minimum 12:1 ratio for strength. Below are the scarfs for the two main half panels. These are 3/4" thick, as that is the required wall thickness of the finished spar.

Inside the mast are triangular fillets of solid wood that hold the four outer plates together and provide enough wood inside to maintain the wall thickness when the mast is cut down to the round section. These fillets are cut on a 45 degree angle from two-by fir stock that was first scarfed to full length.

To establish a straight line and compensate for any natural crown in the mast lumber, I first clamped the halves to the bench and lined them up with the straight edge of the top surface, double checking with a taunt line. The first fillet is glued in place, and when this joint cures the laminate helps hold the plank in line.

All of the fillets are now glued in place on both halves, and everything came out straight and true. The next step is to make and install the many parts that make up the masthead and the mast foot.

Below at left is the mast heel that fits inside the spar at the foot and pivots on the mast step that will be laminated into the top of the mast beam. The step and heel are made of laminated mahogany. To the right are the ply parts that make up the mast crane.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Mast and Beams

I've decided to go back to my original plan of laminating the mast before I remove my 26' long workbench that is in the way of assembling the second hull. Although I am anxious to get the second hull built, it will be more efficient to make use of the workspace I have to glue up the mast. The finished stick can then be hung from the rafters out of the way until the hulls are completed. Hopefully, I won't need a long, flat bench again for any other parts of the boat. All of the stringers are made for the second hull, and I finished assembling the topside panels with their stringers installed last week. The mast is a fairly big project, because of the many components. The first step is to cut the stock to the required widths, then scarf the pieces to get the length. The rough stock shown below is 16' lengths of Doug fir, in 1x6 and 2x6. The 2x6 pieces have already been ripped to 2" widths. These will be cut on a 45-degree angle to make the interior fillets after first scarfing them to full length.

Before the mast lumber arrived I finished assembling the topside panels for the second hull. Shown below is the last one, the upper stringer being glued on by clamping it between the panel and the flat bench. These panels can also be hung out of the way while working on the lower hull assembly.

Back at the garage workshop this weekend, I'm making steady progress on assembling the crossbeam components. First the stringers that stiffen the vertical webs, and then the floor panels, to which the webs are laminated. Like the mast, these beams have many parts and just getting the all put together will take many glueing operations. It's good to be able to do this in another location so these parts are not in the way of building the hulls.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Raised Deck Modification

I've been working on the design of a modification I've been contemplating since before I decided for sure to build the Tiki 26. I think the basic design of the boat as drawn is great, but like many owner/builders, I want to fit my boat to my needs and requirements and I think minor modifications within reason can be done without detriment to the design's proven capabilities.

As I've stated before, I wanted to build the smallest boat that would work for my intended sailing, and for me the Tiki 26 is it. A Tiki 30 would have more interior room in the cabins, but at the expense of much more time and cost to build, as well as more difficulty hauling out and demounting for trailering. Sitting headroom in the cabins is all you can expect on any of the Tiki designs short of 38 feet, and the Tiki 26 has this. What I wanted was a bit more elbow room inside as I am 6'2", and one way I saw to accomplish this was to build a "raised deck" version that would allow me to also raise the bunk levels a corresponding amount to gain a bit more width there due to the flare in the V-hulls. One famous Wharram catamaran that was modified to an even greater extent to gain more interior room is Rory McDougall's Tiki 21 Cooking Fat, which he sailed around the world. The extra volume created by the raised decks contributed a lot to the ability of such a small catamaran to handle the conditions of the open ocean, adding reserve buoyancy where it was needed.

Although I did some sketches and even built a rough model before I began building the boat, I knew I wouldn't be able to determine for sure how the raised deck modification would work out until I had a hull built. I left my options open by cutting the cabin bulkheads separately and leaving extra material above the sheer on the installed bulkheads. I went ahead and raised the bunk levels by 3 inches, knowing that I could make this up in the raised deck or if I changed my mind, by simply raising the cabin tops 3 inches, which many Tiki 26 builders have done. Since I've been away from the boat for awhile in Florida, thoughts of these modifications were weighing on my mind quite a bit and I decided yesterday to go ahead and start working out the details to see if it's going to work.

The first step was to cut the extra bulkhead material above the sheer level to a slight inboard angle, so that the new side deck panels will be cambered in by a few degrees. I then made up some Doug fir stringers 1 3/4" by 3/4", the same dimensions as the other stringers in the hull, and sprung these in place against the bulkheads to get a fair curve. Maximum height above the sheer is 3 and 3/4", decreasing to 2" forward at bulkhead 6 and aft at bulkhead 1. The raised deck section will begin with the this 2" bump in height just behind the front crossbeam, so that the transition will not be noticeable. It will end 4 feet aft of the cabin at bulkhead 1, where it will blend into the rear trampoline beam I will be installing there. The new stringers for this raised deck panel will be on the inside top edge of the panel, let in flush with the cambered edges of the bulkheads. The decks themselves will have the same camber as in the plans, and the cabin bulkheads will follow the design lines, beginning at the top edge of the raised deck sheer. The mast and aft beams will fit in their chocks atop this raised section forward and aft of the cabins, with all loads transferred to the reinforced hull sections below at the true sheer. Beam lashing chocks will be located below the hull sheer as designed.

Although I'm not ready to begin permanently building these raised decks just yet, I've mocked it up with stringers clamped into place and the cabin bulkheads clamped above them. It's hard to visualize the appearance of the decks from these photos, since the tops of the forward bulkheads are still straight and do not show the graceful deck camber that will be there, but you can see the lines of the raised deck section at the outside.

This is a view at the stern showing how the section will terminate at bulkhead one behind the cabin. A rear trampoline beam will be mounted on the lower section just aft of the transition.

Here is a view of the raised section with pattern material in place. You can see the slight inboard camber here. This seam will of course be faired and glassed into the outboard sheer stringer below it.

Saturday, September 08, 2007

Getting in the Groove Again

I'm back at it now after my seven week interlude in Florida. It's amazing how disorganized things can become after even a short interruption of progress. It's not easy having tools and supplies as well as parts of the boat divided between two different workshops over an hour apart. I've spent much of my time since I've been back just reorganizing and planning for the next phases of the project. I've been shopping for tools and supplies, and making decisions about modifications and outfitting and equipment that will be needed for the finished boat.

The next major phases of the build will be the second (starboard) hull, which will come together in the boat shed next to the first hull, and the connecting beams, which I am building in the garage shop at my girlfriend's house. Despite the inconvenience of moving tools back and forth between two locations, the boat will be finished faster if I can work on something every day.

The crossbeams for the Tiki 26 consist of numerous Doug fir stringers that are laminated to the vertical webs and floor panels of the beams. It takes a lot of clamps to glue up these assemblies, and though I'm always adding more to my collection, I don't have enough to do all these at once, so like everything else in the project, it is a process.

In the boat shed I have the two complete hull panels for the starboard hull assembled and fitted with the lower stringers. These need sanding again and a second coat of epoxy and then they will be ready for assembly. Before I can put the hull together though, I need to tear out the 26' long work bench that is in the way. I don't want to get rid of it before I finish all the long hull parts, so today I cut the scarfs and joined the upper topside stringers. Next, I will assemble the topside panels for the second hull and glue on these stringers so that they will be ready to install when the lower hull is complete.

The port hull was sheathed with 6oz. fiberglass before I left to work in Florida, but there were areas where the weave was still not completely filled. I sanded the entire hull again today and applied another coat of epoxy to one side. It's really starting to look even and smooth now. Tomorrow I will flip it in the slings and coat the other side again. After this epoxy coat and more sanding, the first hull will be ready for the fairing and filling process.