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.