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.