Monday, December 22, 2008

Starboard Interior Work

There are many compromises to be made when laying out the interior of a small boat. This is especially true in the narrow V-hulls of a Tiki 26. Wharram's philosophy of "flexi-space" addresses this problem in the simplest manner - no fixed interior features at all. This is fine for many people but in some ways it is less practical for certain on-board necessities, such as the stove, navigation and other electrical equipment, and the head (if there is one at all).

I don't like portable toilets and would probably not carry one at all if not for the convenience it will afford for my girlfriend and other guests, and to meet legal requirements for a holding tank in some of the waters I intend to sail. At sea, the bucket is the way to go, and in port, one can just as easily use shoreside facilities. But since I am carrying a small, 3-gallon portable, it has to live somewhere. I know that some Tiki 26 owners simply shove it back in the aft berth area when not in use and pull it out when needed. But in my experience with these things, they sometimes leak and usually smell. It's a pain to have to move it and put it back after every use, especially if it ever gets used while underway. I would rather have it below bunk level and in a secure position where it cannot move around. My original intention for the placement of it is shown below, in the forward half of the footwell in the starboard hull. Here, it is in the deepest part of the hull and sits flat on the floor, the top even with the bunk. It takes up a lot of foot room here though, and makes it difficult to get into the main bunk forward, which will be the one most often used.

The only logical solution is to place it in the aft end of the footwell, shown here. I had originally built a fixed bunk section over this area, but the side support rails under extended all the way back to the aft bulkhead. So I was able to remove the section with the router and still leave the rails so a removable section can be dropped in if the aft bunk is ever needed.

One problem with locating the portable toilet here is that the hull begins to narrow and lift as you move aft, so the width of the floor here is insufficient to allow it to sit flat, as it does the forward part of the footwell. The other issue is that it sits higher, about 2 inches above bunk height. The good thing though, is that since the cabin roof is at its highest point aft, I can still have full sitting headroom over the toilet in this position, even with a covering box/seat over it when it is not needed. To get it up high enough so that it does not rest against the inner hullsides, I built a small rack, shown below, that straddles the opening floor panel and will solidly support the portable toilet.

Here is a view of the portable head in the new location. In the rare event that I ever need the aft bunk in this hull to accommodate an extra guest, the toilet can be simply lifted out and placed in the cockpit for the night. A drop in bunk board will complete the bunk.

Since this aft part of the cabin will be used for seating while doing such things as chartwork, it was necessary to come up with a solid cover for the portable toilet that is strong enough to sit on or step on when going down below. It was also necessary that this cover could be easily removed but would lock in place and not slip or slide around when on. To this end, I built it like a box lid, using 9mm ply with side rails that rest on either side of the opening on the bunk edges. Teak locating blocks on either side are fitted with 1/4" through bolts that drop down through locating holes drilled in the bunk support rails on either side. The bolts lock it solidly in place. The front edge of the box also drops far enough down over the portable toilet to prevent it from sliding forward. An bungie cord will be used for additional security when sailing offshore.

Here is a view looking aft into the main cabin with the portable toilet in its new location and the covering lid/seat in place. I can sit full upright on this seat without touching the cabin roof. Note also the beginning of the companionway step assembly for this hull. Parts for the steps were cut and fit in place, assembled with Super Glue, then removed for epoxy fillets and coating.

Below are all these parts in various stages of epoxy coating and assembly. From left: the companionway steps with hardwood stiffeners being glued onto the inboard edges; the toilet seat cover; and the rack that it sits on.

Here is the completed companionway step assembly. It's virtually identical to the one I installed in the port hull. The hardwood trim is all teak.

Below is a view of the installed step assembly. Temporary screws through the top step into the sheer stringer, and a weight on the second step hold it in place while the fillets to the hullsides cure. The area forward of the steps will have a lower shelf that extends to the middle bulkhead. This shelf will be hinged on the outboard side and will use the bunk filler board as a drop-down chart table that will span across the cabin and be usable from a seated position over the toilet or facing aft from the end of the forward bunk. I finished working out all the details for this yesterday and made all the parts, which are being coated with epoxy before installation.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Double Coaming Hatches - Continued

A couple of days of warmer, but still wet and cloudy weather have allowed me to make a fair amount of progress on the boat. Many of these jobs are hardly worth posting about: such crawling up into the ends of the forward and aft bunks to make interior epoxy fillets in the hard to reach deck to hull joints there. I've also made some changes in the starboard hull that include relocating the head (more on this later) and have started the starboard companionway steps.

The double coaming hatch project was finished today, except for final fairing, finish work and painting. The first step in completing these was done yesterday, when I finished both outer coamings with the installation of the forward pieces, shown below:

Although I'm a big fan of Wharram's rope hinges, such as those used to hang the rudders, I chose to use stainless steel piano hinges on the forward hatches. One reason is that David Halladay gave me a bundle of these in various lengths and sizes that he intended to throw away while cleaning up his shop. It was a simple matter to select two of these in the right width and then cut them to length with a Dremel tool and cut-off wheel, and then radius the corners with a belt sander.

The hinges have to be mortised so that the hatches will sit flush on the outer coamings. Since the coamings are already installed on the boat, I let the hinges into the aft lip of the hatch lid. This required a mortise 3/16" deep. One of the neatest tricks I've learned from David while working on various Boatsmith jobs is his quick and easy method of setting up router templates with Super Glue. This is the same InstaCure, gap-filling glue I've mentioned here before that I often use for assembling parts prior to making epoxy fillets. It can also be used for temporary work such as attaching templates to a work piece. Here, I marked my line 3/16" from the edge of the hatch lip, then glued on a straight piece of 9mm ply by spraying the accelerator on one surface and putting just two drops of glue on the other surface. Used this way, the glue lets go cleanly when forced but will hold the template in place while doing the routing.

The mortise was cut using a top-bearing, straight pattern bit in the one-hand laminate router.

Here is the finished mortise, showing the hinge installed. The hatch lips touch the coamings all the way around. Since it is the inner coaming which keeps water from entering the hatch opening, is doesn't matter that the hinge is not waterproof. Note the two drain holes in the aft corners, which are the lowest points of the inner channel between the coamings. I located the hinges on the aft side since this is the side least likely to get hit by the full force of green water coming across the decks.

A view of the closed hatch, showing the hinge and drains aft. The hatches will be secured by either hatch dogs or hasps and locks on the forward end. There is a clearance of several inches between the foward ends of the hatches and front crossbeam.

Here is a view of the open hatch with the hinge temporarily installed. It took some work to get everything aligned and at the correct height, but now when the hatch closes the lips on the lid sit flat on the outer coamings and the bottom of the lid itself also closes flat on the top of the inner coaming. It will be very difficult for water to get inside these hatches.

Another view of the open hatch from the bow. With the hatch covers permanently attached like this, unlike on my Tiki 21 and Hitia 17, I won't have to worry about losing a cover overboard while getting stuff out of the forward holds.

After the final fitting and alignment was done, I removed the hinges and coated the coamings and insides of the hatch covers with epoxy. When this cures larger fillets will be made between the outer coamings and the deck, then glass cloth will be laminated over them to reinforce them. The outsides of the hatch covers will, of course, also be sheathed in fiberglass cloth. The other epoxy-coated part that you can see curing on the deck here is the beginnings of the companionway step assembly for the starboard hull.

One reason for the focus on the foredeck and forward hatches at this stage is that once these areas are finished and coated with at least primer, if not paint, I can then move the hulls about ten feet forward out the front of my shed so that I'll have room in the back to work on such parts as the cockpit. At the same time I'm working on both cabin interiors to I can move forward to closing in the inner cabin sides and installing the coach roofs. I'm about to have to spend some money at this point on Lexan for the portlights and companionway drop boards, as well as the additional manufactured deck hatches and port lights I intend to install. In each coach roof at the forward end there will be an opening deck hatch of at least 16"x16". An opening portlight will be installed in each aft cabin bulkhead just above the aft crossbeam. This kind of cross ventilation is necessary to make this boat inhabitable in the hot climates in which I intend to sail.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Sailmaking Weather Again

I returned from Florida this week with renewed enthusiasm to get back to building, but working in an open shed this time of year is hit and miss. Tuesday was a fairly nice day and I did some work on the starboard hull companionway steps and made some other interior layout decisions. But yesterday was a whole day of steady cold rain, which turned to snow this morning. By noon today everything was covered, but it won't last long as temperatures are rising again.

The jib that I assembled last spring from a Sailrite kit has been stored away awaiting the finish work that must be done by hand. I got it out yesterday and started to work on the corners. The Sailrite kits utilize sewn brass rings for reinforcing the tack, head and clew rather than pressed rings. Installing them takes some time, but is rather pleasant work, hand sewing with the help of an awl and sailmaker's palm.

Below is the sewn-in ring for the tack. I had already completed the installation of the wire luff, which is also hand-sewn into the corner of the sail.

After the ring is sewn in place through all the layers of Dacron reinforcing patches in the corner, it is then laced to the thimble of the luff wire using about 40 turns of waxed sailmaker's twine.

The final step in finishing the corner is to dress it in protective leather. This was also done with an awl and sailmaker's twine. The photo below shows the tack. The head of the sail is treated the same way, and is also complete.

The clew of the jib is done a bit different, as there is no wire or thimble to reinforce. Instead, a larger #9 brass ring is sewn into the corner and then using a die set and hammer, a #9 brass eyelet is pressed inside the ring to form a smooth, chafe-proof interior for attaching the jib sheets. The outer corner is protected by a strip of leather.

There are two more rings like the above one at the clew that must be sewn in at the reef point tack and clew. Then I have to install the grommets for the reef points and hanks and then the hanks, and this sail will be finished.

Boatsmith Raises the Bar

I've just returned from four days of working for David Halladay at the Strictly Sail Boat Show in St. Petersburg, Florida. This time the job did not involve making sawdust or even picking up a power tool. Instead, we spent the entire time hanging out on Abaco, his Pro-Built Tiki 30, showing her to crowds of visitors who steadily streamed in and out of the cockpit and climbed down in the hulls to look around. Surrounded by gleaming production yachts such as Catalinas, Tartans and Island Packets, we spent a lot of time explaining the Wharram design philosophy to the many who were fascinated by this very different craft.

It was indeed the differences that drew all the attention, and Abaco showed very well with her superb fit and finish that far exceeds the typical homebuilt Wharam cat. Awlgrip paint, professional canvas, custom teak woodwork and top notch gear and fittings put this Tiki 30 in a class all by itself, and David has gone out of his way to insure that it can live up to the quality Boatsmith is known for.

I had not seen the boat in person since last April, when I built the mast and the hulls were just being turned upside down for sheathing. Needless to say, I was blown away by the finished results, which can only be appreciated when viewed as a whole package.

David has made a commitment as the first licensed U.S. Wharram builder to raise the bar when it comes to the quality of these fine boats in an effort to attract more people to the designs. While many homebuilt examples are also finished to a standard of excellence, there are also far too many on the other end of the spectrum that give these boats a bad rap among the general sailing public.

Seeing the final product, has of course, inspired me to get moving again on my own Tiki 26 build. David has incorporated many of the ideas I had planned to use on my boat and has come up with many of his own. In an effort to remember everything I saw, I took lots of pictures of the details. Since there are far too many to post here, I've put them in an online gallery so others who are interested can check them out. There are probably ideas and inspirations here for all Wharram owners, regardless of the size boat:

Another thing that I found quite positive and encouraging about this boat show was the number of people who came to see it who were Wharram owners or builders. Over the course of four days we met folks who owned or had owned just about every popular size and model of Wharram cat. The Tiki 30 also appealed to sailing newbies who could just sense that it felt right when they stepped aboard, as well as quite a few old salts who said they knew a good sea boat when they saw one.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Double-Coaming Bow Hatches

As you may have guessed from the length of time since my last post, work on the Tiki 26 has slowed due to other obligations and considerations. I'm expecting to pick up the pace again shortly, despite the arrival of colder weather which interferes with the curing of the epoxy.

One project that I have been working on is building the double-coaming hatches that provide access to the forward storage compartments in the bows. These compartments are sealed off from the main cabin areas by watertight bulkheads that go from the keel to the deck, so having totally waterproof hatches here is not absolutely necessary. It will be nice, however, to not have to worry about these compartments filling in rough situations where solid water might sweep the decks, so I have elected to go to the extra trouble of building double coaming hatches, rather than the simple lid hatches shown in the plans.

This type of hatch is the most waterproof design you can build with wood and epoxy, and does not require a gasket-type of seal to keep the water out. The design consists of a high inner coaming and then an extra outer coaming about half as high that meets the overhanging hatch trim. The outer coaming turns away most of the water, but if any gets in, it is stopped by the inner coaming and then drains back out via a couple of drain holes in the rear of the outer coaming.

The first step in building these was to make and install the inner coamings. These are 3 1/2 inches high and made of two layers of laminated 6mm ply. The first layer was screwed into the sides of the deck stringers that run under the decks parallel to the hatch openings on each side. The second layer was laminated on from the outside and filleted to the adjoining deck surface. This makes for a very strong and rigid inner coaming.

The front and rear pieces were then fitted to the adjoining sides, with epoxy fillets in the corners to reinforce them. After the clamps were removed, epoxy fillets were made all the way around to the decks, then the outside corners were rounded off to a nice radius with a belt sander.

An overhanging lip of 6mm ply cut to 3/4 of an inch in width was epoxied on the top edges of the coamings. The extra 1/4 inch of overhang is designed to further aid in turning away water that might otherwise squeeze between the top of the coaming and the hatch cover.

To insure that the hatch lid lies completely flat on the coaming, I sanded across the finished coamings with a rigid longboard to take down any high spots and keep everything level.

The hatch lids were then built using 9mm ply and an outer, overhanging lip of 1/2-inch ply to match up to the outer coamings. These hatch lids are larger than the inner coamings by about 3/4 of an inch all the way around, to allow for a channel between the coamings where any water that gets in can be contained and then drain away.

The first step in building the outer coamings was to align the hatch lid over the opening and then carefully mark the locations of the two outer side pieces. The installed outer sides of one of the outer coamings is shown here. The extra length will be trimmed when the athwartship pieces are fitted.

Here is how the hatch lid fits over the coamings. When closed the flat panel of the lid will rest on the top of the inner coaming. The outer lips of the hatch lid will mate with the top edges of the outer coamings all the way around.

Fitting the front and rear pieces of the outer coaming was the most difficult part of the job, as the bottom edges of these have to match the deck camber and the fore and aft placement of them has to exactly match the locations of the hatch lid overhangs. Here is a view of one of the rear pieces. You can see the drain openings cut at each rear corner. These are the lowest spots on the coaming and being to the rear are less likely to get wave action forcing water through them.

This is the other rear outer coaming. I installed both of these today, so now the hatches only lack the forward pieces before they are complete. When finished, the hatch lids will be attached using stainless steel piano hinges along one side and a locking latch on the other. All of this is a lot of work, but it will be nice having these large storage holds that are both dry and lockable.

I'm heading to Florida tomorrow to help David show his Tiki 30 at the St. Petersburg Strictly Sail Boat Show. I'm looking forward to a few days of hanging out on a boat, particularly a Wharram, and talking to people about sailing, boatbuilding and design. Reuel Parker will be there as well, so I'm sure that after a good dose of inspiration from him and David, I'll be ready to get back to work on Element II.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Sailing On Beat's Tiki 38 in San Francisco Bay

I almost made it to the launching of Beat Rettenmund's Tiki 38, Aluna, back on September 21, as David Halladay of Boatsmith had a big job going at nearby Bay Ship and Yacht in Alameda and I was invited to help. That trip didn't work out, but as it turned out there was some additional work to be done on the job a week after David took his crew back to Florida, so he asked if I could fly out and meet him to help out for 2 or 3 days. This time I was able to make it happen and I'm glad I did. Not only was the project last week at Bay Ship and Yacht an interesting learning experience, but I also got a chance to meet Beat and go for a sail on Aluna.

Aluna is the first Tiki 38 I've seen up close. It is a big boat compared to the Tiki 26 or even the Tiki 30. Beat has done a fine job of building her and Aluna is beautiful without the flashy high-gloss yacht finish many builders fret over. There are lots of nice artistic touches like the axe-shaped stemheads (see below) and the sunburst rays of non-skid applied to the decks.

Aluna has lots of slatted wood deck space and a protected steering station in the pod. Twin motor wells are fitted near the port and starboard hulls forward of the pod. You can see the open motor wells below. That's Beat sitting to starboard and David Halladay standing in the port motor well. At the present time Beat is using a couple of older model gas outboards for auxiliary power. He plans to switch to electric power as soon as he works out the details.

To go sailing in the bay, we motored out a long channel, straight into the wind and chop using the one functioning outboard. It sputtered and cavitated, but got us out to deep water, where at last we could shut it off and bear off on a reach under the unique crab-claw rig.

The crab claw rig requires a lot of fine-tuning and adjustment, and Beat still does not have the final version of the spars, which will be made of bamboo, nor sufficient turning blocks for adjusting the sheets. Despite this, Aluna quickly got up to speed off the wind, feeling much like the smaller Tikis I've sailed. Tacking and pointing into the wind did not go so well, but the rig is an experiment and will take some time to iron out.

It was a great afternoon sail and we were able to return to the dock without using the engine. I needed this, as it has been too long since I've been sailing and too long since I've been on the water anywhere besides the Gulf of Mexico. I'm back at work on Element II today, looking forward to that great feeling Beat must be experiencing now that he is enjoying his new creation finally in her element.

For more about Aluna, visit Beat's website here:

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Fiberglassing the Foredecks

I've finished up the fiberglass sheathing of the foredecks and have started making parts for the forward hatch coamings. The fiberglass work was actually finished last week before the Boatsmith crew stopped by to visit, but I've since done some more fairing and filling work and have finished prepping the stern decks for their layer of 6-oz. glass cloth.

The first step in sheathing the decks was to get another layer around the sheer stringers, from the point where they join the topsides, wrapping all the way up to overlap the decks by about an inch and a half. This insures a good double layer of glass on the potential impact areas along the sheer and helps reinforce the deck to hull joint. To do this I taped off both sides of where I wanted to cut the glass strips and then laminated them on oversize, trimming to the tape with a razor knife after the epoxy cured enough so that the glass would not pull away.

The first two photos below show the wetted-out fiberglass overlapping the tape that defines the width of the finished strips:

After the edge sealing strips were cured and second coated with epoxy to fill the weave, the main decks were sheathed with the fiberglass overlapping the edge strips.

Again, masking tape was used to allow a neat edge to be cut at the overlap. After removing the tape and excess glass, the cloth was filled again with a second coat of epoxy thickened with phenolic microballoons and silica.

After the second coat of thickened epoxy had cured and was sanded, the decks looked like this. Final fairing will be done by adding more epoxy fairing mixture with a drywall knife and then sanding everything smooth. But before that is done, I will build the hatch coamings for the forward stowage compartments.

Boatsmith Crew visits the Element II Project

Thursday evening I had the opportunity to show Element II to my good friend David Halladay, and his entire Boatsmith crew. This unlikely visit out in the middle of nowhere in Mississippi happened because David and his crew were en route back to their home base in Jupiter, Florida, after completing a large teak deck project in the SanFrancisco area. Needless to say, they were worn-out from days on the road, so the visit was short, but the guys got to see the boat project I've been telling them about for so long, back before they built the first Boatsmith Tiki 30.

In fact, it was my project and this blog that finally pushed David over the edge back at the beginning of this year, inspiring him to build a Wharram cat as he had long wanted to do. The result was his fine Tiki 30, Abaco, documented on Pro-Built Tiki 30 and launched this year at the Mystic Wooden Boat Show. This all led to David's meeting with James Wharram and becoming the only licensed professional Wharram builder in the U.S.

Below: David Halladay, at right, with his well-trained crew of boatbuilders crowd into my tiny shed between the hulls of Element II. I should have flattened the tires on their truck so they couldn't leave. If only I could afford to pay these guys to help me finish up, I could be sailing before the middle of October!

David and the crew hung around about an hour and a half, inspecting my work and looking over the Tiki 26 design with interest. He's hoping to get started building another Wharram in Florida soon, and thinks the Tiki 26 could be a good seller, appealing to a lot of customers.

Likely the next time they see Element II it will be somewhere on the water in south Florida, as that will be one of my first destinations for my shake down cruises.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Decking the Sterns

The stern decks are now installed and I am in the process of fairing and filling them in preparation for fiberglass sheathing.

Before they could be permanently glued in place, I first completed the painting in the stern buoyancy compartments and the varnishing in the aft bunk sections. The inspection plates were installed in bulkhead No. 1 in each hull, as well as the thru-bolts that reinforce the aft beam lashing pads.

As in the bow buoyancy compartments, I painted the sealed stern compartments gloss white to make it easier to inspect the interiors with a flashlight. The natural finish in the aft bunk areas is actually a satin finish polyurethane with U.V. inhibitors. I think the satin finish will be nice in all the main cabin areas.

The decks were glued down using thickened epoxy on the deckbeams and along the sheer stringers. Temporary screws were used to hold them in place until the epoxy cured.

Once the epoxy was cured and all screws removed, I began the process of filling the screw holes and sealing the deck to hull joint with thickened epoxy. After this cured, I sanded the excess epoxy away and then used a small router with a 1/2-inch round-over bit to put a radius on the deck edges. This will make it easier to wrap the 6-oz. fiberglass sheathing over the sheer stringer to overlap the hull-side sheathing.

The decks were shaped and filled around the stern posts. After this initial filling is cured it will be sanded and more fairing compound applied to smooth it out.

Here are the stern decks where I left them at the end of the day today - mostly filled and faired, sanded, and coated with a first sealing coat of epoxy prior to fiberglassing.

I've also been doing some final fairing and sanding of the bow decks, getting them ready to fiberglass as well. This should begin tomorrow if all goes as planned.