Monday, January 28, 2008

Scott's Boat Pages Blog

Some readers of this blog following the construction of my Tiki 26 catamaran are already familiar with my main website: If so, those of you who stop by there from time to time may have already noticed the changes I've made in the last few days.

For those who haven't seen it, I've started a new general boating blog associated with my main website. The blog address is:

It is also embedded as a feed into the home page of the main website. The purpose of this new blog is to provide a place to write about my other boating interests beyond the scope of the construction of this particular catamaran. Scott's Boat Pages will feature a wide variety of articles on boatbuilding, sailing, sea kayaking, canoeing and other boating interests. Some of the posts are older articles I've written for other websites or for magazines such as Sea Kayaker. Much of the material will be observations and reviews of new boat designs, books about boating, gear for boating, or other online resources such as forums and other blogs. The focus will remain on simple, self-sufficient exploration by water, as this has always been the central theme around which all my boats and boating adventures have revolved.

I'm also interested in your observations and comments, and welcome any suggestions for articles or reviews for Scott's Boat Pages. If you have interesting boat related photos or know of a new blog, forum, book or website that would interest other readers, send me a link. Meanwhile, you can click on the logo below to see what's online so far, keeping in mind that this is a brand new blog and there will be much more to come:

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Sailmaking: Machine Work Complete on the Jib

I had put the sailmaking project aside for awhile but this morning I finished all the machine sewing with the completion of the luff wire installation. The leech edge, shown above, was much easier than the luff, since there was only a small Dacron cord in it for the leech line. Sewing the heavier coated steel wire into the luff was more difficult, due to the fabric wanting to distort and bunch up as it entered the machine. You're supposed to be able to sew the luff tape sleeve first with just a small messenger line inside and then pull the wire luff through, but due to the size of the swaged eyes on each end of the wire I couldn't do this and so had to sew the sleeve with the wire in place.

After both outer edges of the sleeve are sewn to the sail with a zig-zag stitch, entrapping the wire, a roping/zipper foot is then put on the machine to allow it to sew a tight line of straight stitches right behind the wire, which makes the edge look finished and neat and keeps the luff wire right out front, on the leading edge where it's supposed to be. This operation is shown below:

Here's a short video clip as well, showing the same operation, making the tight line of stitches just behind the luff wire with a zipper foot installed. You'll notice I'm having to start and stop a lot. This is so I can keep forcing the wire out front, smoothing the luff sleeve and making sure the stitches are going right behind the wire as close as possible. Also note the less than ideal conditions; working on the floor and having to use my hand to operate the foot switch. Not the best situation, but it works, and with this sail nearly done, I'm looking forward to building the mainsail.

Here is a view of the tack corner of the sail, showing the installed luff wire after this row of stitches has been run. Also note that the eye in the end of the wire has been let into the leading edge of the luff sleeve by cutting it back a bit. It was then hand sewn in place with heavy sailmaker's twine. The next step will be to install a sewn brass ring just inside the corner a bit from this eye, then the ring and the eye will be joined together with many more hand stitches. The sewn ring spreads the load into the heavily-reinforced corner patch. The same thing will be done at the head of the sail. This hand work requires a considerable amount of force to push the large needle through all those layers of 7.5oz Dacron. A sailmakers palm helps a lot. More on this hand sewing in a future post:

Monday, January 21, 2008

Origo 3000 Alcohol Stove

A shiny new Origo 3000 2-burner alcohol stove just arrived.

This is how the 2-burner stove will be incorporated into the galley on Element II. This is the main cabin area in the port hull, looking towards what will be the companionway entrance. The stove shelf and companionway step are just propped in place in this photo. Note also the sink, described in an earlier post, located on the outboard side of the cabin. This arrangement still allows easy entry into the cabin, sufficient room to turn around and sit facing either forward or aft, and access to the 7-foot length of bunk space forward of bulkhead 3. The aft bunk area in this hull, where you can see epoxy mixing bowls and other junk, will be used for storage of galley gear and supplies.

The stove I ordered for the minimal galley on Element II arrived Saturday. It is an Origo 3000, the ubiquitous non-pressurized alcohol boat stove made in Sweden and found on so many boats around Europe and North America. Marine alcohol stoves are criticized by many, and propane seems to be the fuel of choice for most modern cruising boats, but my reasons for choosing this type of stove are obvious when the focus of the boat and it’s intended use is taken into consideration.

First of all, there is simplicity. Simple, yet functional and efficient are the guiding themes of the Tiki 26 design in the first place, and something I want to adhere to in all systems and installations as much as possible. Sure, it would be even simpler to take a portable one-burner camp stove like I used on my sea kayaking trips and on my smaller Wharram cats, the Hitia 17 and the Tiki 21. But Element II will be going to sea, not just sailing from anchor to anchor in the course of a day. There will be a need to cook simple meals and make a pot of coffee or a cup of tea while underway, and this requires a dedicated stove mounted in a secure location out of the weather. The Origo 3000 is compact for a 2-burner stove and optional pot holders and gimbals are made for it that allow cooking in most any conditions. Camping stoves are fine at anchor, but I don’t want a stove with disposable propane bottles down below when it’s rough out. I’ve had too many leaks from these canisters in the past to trust them, and besides, all the camp type stoves I’ve used in the past quickly began to rust when used in the marine environment. The Origo 1500 one-burner stove I had on my Grampian 26 Intensity, however, is now 7 years old and still in great shape, thanks to the quality of the stainless steel used in its construction.

The great advantage of the Origo non-pressurized alcohol stoves is that they don’t use moving parts, or depend on secure seals or pressure pumps that have to be rebuilt often with everyday use. These stoves are as simple as it gets. Just keep the tanks filled with alcohol, open the burner valve when you’re ready to cook, and strike a match. It doesn’t get any simpler or more reliable than that. I especially like the fact that the stove is totally self-contained. No need for complex tank installations outside the cabin with hoses to the stove, as in propane, and no external parts or systems to worry about. If there is alcohol in the tank, the burner simply works, without fail. Another advantage of a self-contained stove like this is that just like the camp stoves; the Origo 3000 can be easily moved out into the cockpit or even taken ashore for cooking when the boat is not underway. I will probably do a lot of cooking in the cockpit under an awning or in a deck tent when I’m anchored someplace I want to stay awhile.

Cost is another factor in this choice. While the Origo stoves are more expensive than most camping stoves, they are still much less expensive than marine propane stoves and all the associated paraphernalia necessary for a safe installation. A two-burner model like the Origo 3000 falls somewhere in the middle of the price spectrum between the other two options. I got mine brand new from an EBay seller for about half the manufacturer’s retail price.

Safety is a topic much argued about among proponents of different types of marine stoves. I won’t get into this discussion, other than to say that cooking with any kind of stove on a boat requires common sense and a degree of caution. Propane can blow your boat and you with it to pieces. Spilled alcohol burns with an invisible flame and can spread before you know it is happening. James Wharram himself has stated that fire at sea is his biggest fear. It really is the one thing you have worry about most when your boat is as seaworthy as a Wharram. I’ll just say that I like alcohol because quantities of it can be safely carried in sealed containers down below, without the risk of explosion, and I don’t worry about it when the boat’s in a marina and I’m away from it for awhile.

Two other factors concerning alcohol are cost and cooking time, and these are both things I can’t do anything about, so I don’t worry about them. Denatured alcohol is ridiculously expensive, but if you shop around you can find large variations in price. The main thing is to stay away from places like West Marine, where it’s about double what I pay for it at a professional painter’s supply store. When factored into the overall picture, the cost of alcohol does not bother me, because I’m cruising on a simple boat that saves money in so many other ways, such as rarely needing to burn fuel for propulsion, and being able to avoid marinas by having so many anchoring and beaching opportunities due to shallow draft. I can set out with three or four gallons of alcohol and do all the cooking I want for many weeks.

And why should it matter if it takes a few extra minutes to cook a pot of rice or make a pot of coffee? When I’m on Element II I’ll be where I want to be and time isn’t going to matter. Using the Origo 1500 on Intensity I never seemed to notice that it took any longer to cook than on any other stove. Besides, while dinner’s on I’m usually busy doing something else anyway, like steering the boat or studying a chart.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Snow in Mississippi

It's been a generally cold, dreary week already, but today I got up at dawn to see something quite rare here in south Mississippi - snow. The last time we had any snow here that accumulated on the ground was 7 years ago. The temperature is just above freezing, so it won't stick around for long, but now three hours later it's still coming down and will probably add up to about 4 inches before it's done. Snow and cold may not seem like a big deal to those readers from more northern climes who are used to it, but for us it's a bit of a novelty. I like to see it from time to time, but any epoxy work on the boat will have to wait for warmer temperatures. As you can see from the photos, my minimal shed doesn't offer much protection from the elements.

And speaking of that, I don't plan for Element II to see any more snow once she's in the water. The Wharram Tiki 26 is a warm weather boat - perfect for the tropics and more at home anchored in a lagoon surrounded by palm trees than in some rocky northern cove. I don't think I would be building this type of boat if I were planning on visiting the cold places, but others Tiki sailors don't seem to mind, and I'm especially intrigued by Thomas Nielsen's planned voyages on his Tiki 26 Tsunamichaser up the Pacific Northwest coast and into the Arctic. I can't wait to read his reports, but some day I'll be posting mine from latitudes farther south.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Looking Back...

Stems, Skegs, and Rudders: First Parts Cut, January 24, 2007

As the project moves on and the number of construction phases and parts increases, this blog has gotten correspondingly larger and more cumbersome. Looking for specific details and photos has become difficult, even for me, who posted them and should know where to look. Realizing that many of you who are reading this may be building your own Wharram catamaran, or planning to start one sometime in the future, I decided I should do something to make this a better reference source for those who might need that. So what I've been working on this morning is something I should have done from the beginning - labeling individual posts so that they can be sorted into categories that will make finding what you're looking for easier.

If you look to the sidebar to the right and scroll down, you will see the new set of links under the term: Construction Phases. You will see that I've divided the project up into such categories as: bunks, crossbeams, decks, floors, galley, hull assembly, hull fiberglassing, and so on. More categories will be added as I get to such phases as painting, rigging, and fitting out. These categories will make it easy to find specific text and photos. If for example, you are getting ready to build your mast, just look under the mast building category to follow the steps I took or improve on them by avoiding my mistakes. I hope this proves helpful to those who are following this blog and I'm always open to more suggestions at any time. Feel free to email me directly at:

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Crossbeam Webs

Today has been one of those cold, rainy January days that make me remember why I want a boat bad enough to go through all the work and expense of building one. It's times like these that one forgets the sunburn, sweltering humidity, and the mosquitoes and sandflies of the tropics and remembers only the bright sun and clear warm waters. But just when I want it the most, boatbuilding slows to a crawl in weather like this that makes working with epoxy so difficult. It seems we've had more cold and rain this winter than last, but then again I wasn't yet building this time last year. Next week, the 24th will mark the anniversary of the beginning and my first post on this blog. Although a calendar year has nearly passed, I've actually been at the project for about 9 months when I deduct the weeks spent working in Florida in 2007. I feel that for time invested, I'm making good progress, and look forward to really closing in on the major construction phases of the boat as soon as warmer weather returns.

One of the few signs of progress I've been able to make this week is shown above, on the crossbeams, to which I've now fitted and glued the vertical webs that will support the front fairings. There is more filleting work to be done on these webs to strengthen them, but gluing them in place was a snap with the industrial strength Superglue I mentioned in my previous post about building the galley sink.

I've also done some more work on the jib sail kit, though not this week as I did not bring the sewing machine and that project with me to Jackson. I'll get back to it in a day or two, but the leech edge complete with leech line and cleats is finished, as is the foot. I'm now working on the luff sleeve that will incorporate the wire luff. After that is complete, the rest is mostly handwork, putting in the grommets and hanks and reinforcing the corners with leather.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Starboard Floors Installed

I've had some limited spells of good weather coinciding with time to work on the boat, so more progress has been made on the starboard hull. The floor panels were completed last week and are now installed and filleted into place. Additional work on the fillets and on the keel in the bow and stern areas will soon be completed, and the bunk panels will soon be ready to go in. The floors are shown below, the undersides drying in the sun after a second coat of epoxy on a warm January day.

Below is a view into the starboard hull after the floors have been filleted in place. Note too the horizontal bunk stringers. As I mentioned back when building the port hull, I used the Tiki 30 method of installing the bunks on these stringers rather than wiring the bunk edges to the hull and then trying to make epoxy fillets on the underside joints. The stringer method is quicker and the wood used is just as strong but lighter in weight than an equal epoxy fillet.

Below is a view into the main companionway area. The floor here has a removable panel for easy access to the bilge.

By raising the floor and bunk level three inches higher than shown in the plans, I have gained enough additonal width to accomodate a portable head in the main companionway area just aft of the starboard bunk. Shown below is the head with the bunk panels laid temporarily in place. The panel in the companionway area will be cut out to allow use of the head and provide a footwell and seating. I will likely use a hinged wooden cover to completely conceal the head when not in use and allow this area to also double as the chart room/nav station, where the radio and other instruments will be installed.

Finishing Inside Keel Fiberglassing

Since building the starboard hull is practically exactly the same as building the port hull, which I started first and detailed in photos and descriptions here in previous months, I have been reluctant to bore readers with the same details again as I go through the process the second time. There have been some comments and questions however, about certain techniques and procedures I used, and I try to answer those either in replies to the comments or in direct emails, but I can also use this opportunity while building the second hull to elaborate if I can remember to.

One technique in particular that I find useful and some other Wharram builders have been interested in is the method I use for laminating fiberglass in areas like the inside of the keel. This method allows for a clean, almost invisible transition from the fiberglassed area to the other epoxy-coated but not glassed sections of the panels, and is especially useful for areas that will be finished bright with the natural wood grain showing, as I have chosen to do for all of the interior parts of my boat.

In the Tiki 26 plans and in most stitch and glue boatbuilding instructions I've seen the use of prefinished fiberglass tape is suggested for applications such as this, and it is available in various widths such as 2-inch, 6-inch and so on. Such tape is convenient and easy to use, but there are two disadvantages to it in my view: one is the extra cost, and two is the fact that the finished edges are thicker and are almost impossible to fair in to a surrounding surface. If you are painting, this is no problem, fairing compound can make the edges disappear; but for a bright finish, the tape does not work well.

A better solution is to cut your own strips of glass cloth from the same 6-oz. fabric used to sheath the hull. I roll mine out on a flat piece of scrap ply, and slice with a razor knife it into strips cut on the bias, so that it will easiely bend into curved areas and not unravel before you can wet it out. The trick to getting the invisible edge is to first tape off the perimeter of the area to be glassed with masking tape, after sanding and cleaning all surfaces, and then lay the cloth on top of the tape so that it overlaps the inside edges - see below:

The cloth is then saturated with epoxy resin, making sure it is completely wetted out even over the edge of the tape. After it has a few minutes to soak into the weave, I then squee-gee out the excess to keep from building up puddles in the keel.

It's important not to get too far away from the project after doing this, as you have to catch the epoxy at just the right stage of cure in order to cut it and pull the tape before it gets too hard. This timing is dependant on the temperature and the speed of the hardener you are using. If you try to cut the cloth too soon, it will pull away even in the areas where you want it. Usually it's about right when it's still sticky to the touch, but the overlapping excess areas require a firm tug to peel away from the wood. Use a sharp razor knife to cut just inside the perimeter of the tape, and pull the tape and excess cloth away all together.

The next step is to go ahead and second coat the remaining fiberglass while the first coat is still tacky. Then it can wait until full cure, when you can then lightly sand it and and apply a third coat. The finished fiberglass job should be come out neat and the cloth will be nearly invisible.

This method of glassing small areas is so much neater that I also use it on the exterior that will be later painted. It is especially useful for glassing in limited areas like the extra reinforcing layers added to the exterior of the keel, skeg, and stem post.

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Jib Panels Assembled

I finished the assembly of all the major panels for the jib sail this past Sunday. The reinforcing patches for the head, tack, and clew are all done too, as well as the patches for the reef point tack and clew. Getting to this stage went smoothly and took far less time than I anticipated. The shape of the sail came out just right, and the dimensions for luff, leech and foot are all correct. Shown below is the completed assembly. Remaining work includes finishing the leech and installing the leech line and cleats, finishing the foot edge, and finishing off the luff with the luff wire and and sail hanks. The tack and head will be reinforced with sewn brass rings laced to the wire end thimbles, and the clew and reef points will be form with pressed brass rings. All three corners also require hand-sewn leather reinforcement patches. I stopped work on the sail as the weather got better, and went outside to work on the starboard hull again. The jib will be finished perhaps later this week or the next time bad weather prevents epoxy and carpentry work.

Below is a close-up of the stitching detail at the tack of the sail. All corners and reef points are reinforced with the layered patches of cloth as shown here. Built of 7.5 oz. Supercruise Dacron, I have no doubt that this will be a long-lasting and strong headsail.