Friday, April 18, 2008

Closing in the Crossbeams

The crossbeams for the boat have been in progress for what seems like an inordinately long time, but little-by-little, they are coming together in the garage shop in Jackson when I find a bit of time here and there to work on them.

I've mentioned this before, but the way these crossbeams are designed, they are quite a project to put together, especially if you are planning as I am to sheath all the exterior surfaces in fiberglass. The Tiki 26 beams, being an older design, have many more surfaces to fillet and fair than the newer Tiki 30 beams. This is because many of the stringers (bottom and back sides) are exterior to the enclosed triangular box sections formed by the plywood components. On the Tiki 30 beams, more of these stringers are inside, resulting in a cleaner surface and an assembly method that goes together faster.

But despite this, I'm steadily closing in on the beam construction and the front fairings are now on the front and aft beams. The mast beam will be done later after the dolphin stay rigging that has to be fitted inside first is completed.

Here is the first fairing assembly clamped into place for gluing.

In this photo you can see the second faring going on and the fillet that has been made at the fairing to top plate joint on the first beam.

This is where the beams are today, with the aft and front beams closed in and shaped, and the end plates on. The mast beam is in the center. There is still much work to be done in faring and fiberglassing all the beam surfaces, but I think this glass sheathing is essential to insure long life in these parts. Rot in the crossbeams has been a problem plaguing many Tiki 26 owners. Maybe part of the reason is that builders don't take the care when building these peripheral parts that they do on the hulls themselves.

And speaking of Tiki 30 crossbeams, I'm heading back to south Florida tomorrow, where I will spend a week or more working on David Halladay's Tiki 30 project. The plan is that with the help of a one or more of his shop crew, I will build the mast for the boat and whatever else we can get done in the time I'm there. I'm looking forward to seeing the project again, as the hulls are done and I'll be able to get an even better comparison of the size differences between the Tiki 26 and Tiki 30. And while my project will be on hold while I'm gone, it's nice to be able to earn money for my own boat by building another Tiki.

Trampoline for Element I (my old Tiki 21)

The new owner of my Tiki 21, Element, which I sold last year, recently contacted me to inquire if I knew where he could have a new forward trampoline made for the boat. I had planned to replace the trampoline when I did the refit of the boat, but at the time it was still in decent shape and so I sailed with the old one. Since I had made the custom rear tramp I designed for the boat, I told the new owner I could make his replacement forward tramp. After all, I did just spent $800 on a Sailrite sewing machine to make my sails, and it wouldn't be a bad thing at all if the new machine could start paying for itself.

Here is the finished result, which I just shipped out this week.

The Sailrite Ultrafeed's zig-zag stitch capability is especially nice for this application, as trampolines, like sails, are subject to high loads at the attachment points and the zig-zag stitch distributes the stress better. The perimeter of the trampoline is also reinforced with a heavy-duty 2-inch webbing. The grommets are the "spur" grommet type, which are much stronger than ordinary washer grommets.

I'm still undecided about a forward trampoline for Element II. I am considering some sort of slatted, more permanent deck, but will make the final decision after the boat is assembled in the yard and the cockpit is done. I will have a rear trampoline for sure though, connected to an extra aft beam near the stern. There are stronger and more long-lasting trampoline materials available than this standard black mesh that is so common on beach cats, and I'll probably use one of those.

In the meantime, if anyone reading this is need of a new trampoline for their Wharram cat, I can give quote and try to fit it in among my many other projects.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Painting Begins at Last

When you're building a boat it's always a good feeling when you start applying finish coats of paint for the first time. On the Tiki 26, painting the interior of the port bow hold and forward buoyancy compartment is only a small step in painting the whole boat, but at least this is one area that is closer to being finished. This is actually not the final coat of paint in these areas, they will get at least one more, but the high gloss white is really brightening things up in here and I'm one step closer to getting the deck on this section.

In these photos you can see the new location for the inspection port opening that I moved as described in a previous post. The ring for the plate is not installed here, just temporarily stuck in place. Aft of the plate you can see the large bow hold and the permanently mounted shelf section I installed. Forward of that shelf, there are two removable shelves not shown that rest on the stringers and form a solid horizontal divider to make the compartment more usable. The two forward shelves are sized so that they can be taken out through the deck hatch for access to the larger area below.

Aft of these two painted compartments, you can see the natural wood surface on the other side of bulkhead 4. From here back, in the living quarters of the cabin, the wood will all be finished bright with varnish.

While working on these below deck areas of the port hull, I've also been filling and fairing the inverted starboard hull, and it is almost ready for fiberglass sheathing, after I do a bit more shaping and sanding.

Close Call with a Tornado

Last Friday, at around noon, I had just finished applying another coat of epoxy to the interior of the Backwoods Drifter I have almost finished building in the garage shop in Jackson. I was about to start back to work on the crossbeams for Element II, which need fairing in preparation for fiberglassing when my girlfriend, Michelle, told me we were under a tornado warning.

The sky was dark, but there was no rain yet, just a thick, warm humidity hanging in the air. Warning sirens begin to sound and I started to close the garage door in case rain should blow in on my fresh epoxy, but when I tried, the power suddenly went off. I stood in the open garage door looking out, and out of nowhere a tremendous wind began gusting and I began to hear the sound of snapping trees. I saw branches flying horizontally through the air and heard thuds of small objects hitting the roof and sides of the house. I ran inside and found Michelle and her daughter, Jasmine, huddled on the floor in the hall. The sound of breaking trees was intense, as the house is in an old neighborhood with many tall pines, oaks and other hardwoods. I went back to the garage to try to get the door down manually and just as I looked out heard another loud breaking sound and watched as the entire service line on the street in front of the house went down. This is the view from the garage:

I knew the storm was over when the wind subsided after maybe ten minutes and the warm humid air was replaced by a sudden cool. Checking around, I found that the house did not get hit by any trees, but we had a near miss with this one in the backyard that thankfully missed the kitchen by a few feet and only took out part of the fence.

Trees like these were down all over the neighborhood, many on top of or through the framing of houses. Later that day, as we got out beyond our immediate area, we were to find out that the damage was widespread in the city and surrounding area, and more than 700 homes were damaged, including 50 that were completely demolished. 90,000 people were without power, as utility poles everywhere were trashed as bad as ours.

I found out later that is was a near miss indeed. The National Weather Service determined that the storm front that passed through the area generated five tornadoes. The one that did all this damage was an F2 tornado that passed just a few blocks north of us, and stayed above the ground, cutting a 900-yard wide path of destruction. If it had been on the ground, the results would have been much worse. As it turned out, no one was killed by this tornado, but a lot of people suffered property damage. The power was just restored yesterday, and phone service will not be back until tomorrow. When I get back to the work in the garage later today, the first thing I have to do is clean out all the debris that was blown in the open door and sand the stuck leaves out of my cured epoxy.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Preparing Port Hull for Foredeck Installation

With the starboard hull upside down and now protected from moisture and humidity with a coat of epoxy on all the exterior surfaces, I turned my attention back to the port hull, as I want to get the foredeck on and then work my way aft to the cabin sides and stern deck. The starboard hull is going to require lots of filling, shaping and fairing in preparation for fiberglassing - all monotonous hard work, so this port deck and interior work was a nice break from that.

Today I broke out the primer for the first time on the project, having finally gotten a least a couple areas ready to be primed and painted. You can see the forward buoyancy compartment here, with the first coat of primer on it. It's not necessary to paint inside here, and many Tiki builders do not, but I wanted a bright white interior in here so that a flashlight shined through the inspection port can reveal the condition of this inaccessible area. This is also important for clearing customs in some areas where officials looking for contraband might want to cut their own inspection holes if they can't see inside a sealed area. I'll have this area packed with sealed, empty plastic water bottles for extra floatation in the event of a holing, but these will be clear and the white interior should reflect enough light back to reveal that the bottles are all that's inside.

Note the inspection hatch opening that has been moved up closer to the deckbeam on the forward bulkhead.

This photo below shows the original location of this inspection port opening. This is the location shown on the plans and it was cut when I first cut out all the bulkheads and other hull parts. I moved it because I wanted to add the lifting partition panels you can see below at the level of the lower hullside stringer. This large area aft of the bulkhead is the forward bow hold, a storage area accessible only through a deck hatch. It is a huge, deep compartment with no division whatsoever on the plans. I decided it would be more useful to divide it with these panels, which form a shallow compartment high in the hold for lightweight items needed on deck like fenders and extra line. The partition is designed in three parts, with the forward two removable so that the large bottom area can be accessed through the deck hatch as well, and larger items stashed down there.

Moving a 6-inch hole in a bulkhead is no big deal with epoxy construction techniques. I first used the hole itself to trace a pattern for a plug on a piece of scrap 6mm ply. Then, using a few drops of the B.S.I. Super Glue that continues to prove so handy, I glued three temporary blocks on the forward side of the bulkhead to hold the plug, and then glued the plug to the part of the blocks overlapping the hole.

Working from the other side of the bulkhead, I filled in the gaps between the plug and the edges of the hole be forcing thickened epoxy in with a putty knife. When this cured, the temporary blocks were knocked off the other side with a hammer, and both sides were sanded, filled completely and sanded again until fair. A layer of 6oz. fiberglass cloth was laminated on the forward side to reinforce the plug. The new, higher hole was then marked and cut.

Here is a view into this storage compartment, showing the one part of the partition that has been permanently epoxied into place. The other two interlock and rest on the hull stringers and the ledgers on the forward edge of this part and on the aft edge of the bulkhead. Note the re-positioned opening for the inspection port - there is now enough clearance room above the partition for the flange of of the plastic port. The first coat of primer has been applied in the lower part of this compartment as well. All of the interior of the hold will be painted white.

The other project yesterday was cutting and fitting the foredeck for the port hull. Here is the complete deck, with the forward hatch opening cut and the longitudinal stringers glued and filleted in place on the underside. When the paint work is completed in the two forward compartments, this deck can be installed.