Sunday, October 30, 2011

Test Fitting the Cockpit

After finishing the forward decks, I completed the basic assembly of the cockpit box and temporarily fitted some stringers on the ends so I could hang it from the beams and check the alignment and fit of everything.

This is just the basic center section of the cockpit, built to plans with a foam-sandwich floor.  This floor is lightweight and incredibly stiff, with no signs of flexing when walked on.  Hanging it in place allowed me to scribe an accurate line on the inboard sides of the cabins, for the placement of the rails that will support the outboard edges of the seats.  There is clearance on either side of the 4-foot wide cockpit box to accommodate a 12-inch wide under seat storage box on each side.  These will be dry storage areas closed by the hinged seats, and will provide a place for the batteries and other essential gear. 

The extra-long-shaft Nissan outboard sits high and dry in the cockpit well, where it will be well-protected and easily accessible.

The 25-inch shaft length makes it possible to mount it this high and still have the prop deep enough to minimize cavitation in choppy conditions.  You can see here that it will be well under water, yet not deep enough to strike the bottom before the hulls do:

After making sure this fit was good, I then cut out the opening in the aft end of the cockpit that allows the motor to be tilted clear of the water when it is not needed, which hopefully, will be most of the time.

Now the cockpit is back in the shed on saw horses for all the finish work on the fillets and glassing, as well as construction of the seat boxes.  Like every other part of this project, the assembly of the parts is a small percentage of the real work that has to be done before the parts are finished and painted. 

Monday, October 24, 2011

Building the Forward Decks

It's been awhile since my last post here, and a lot has happened in the meantime.  Most significantly, I lost my father two months ago and have been adapting to life without him - a man who was truly my greatest teacher and certainly one of my best friends.  I was fortunate to have lots of time with him right up through his last years, but being so close makes losing him harder still.
Besides that life-changing event, I've had a new book released this month, and I'm right in the middle of writing the next one and about to sign a contract for the one after that.  The current project I'm working on is a novel, and it will prominently feature a Wharram catamaran in the story line.  More on that later.  I've also been working on the Tiki 26 parts mentioned in my last post that I contracted to build for another owner.  These are coming along nicely and the remaining work to be done on the beams, rudders and mast is mainly fiberglassing and fairing.  I'll post some photos of that project soon as well, but for now I wanted to focus on the slatted forward deck, as I have been asked how I was going to build it

Working with the cypress and assembling the decks has been a pleasant job over the last few days, as it has involved little epoxy work and no fiberglassing or fairing.  I've documented the process with photos that show the various stages of construction from layout and design to trimming and sanding. 

First, I laminated four athwart-ship deckbeams from the the same cypress stock the planking was milled from.  The deck beams consist of two 2 1/2-inch by 1-inch thick planks laminated together to form 2 1/2-inch by 2-inch beams set on edge.  These four beams are not strong enough alone to support the deck, since the span is as wide as 8 feet between the hulls at the forward end of the deck.  To prevent them from sagging or breaking in the middle, I also made two fore-and-aft beams of the same dimensions, lag-bolted to the bottoms of the four main beams and hung from under the forward and main crossbeams by lashing cleats.  Here you can see the rough framework clamped into place for alignment and measurement, the two fore-and-aft beams are the middle two.  The extra two near the hulls on each side are temporary for alignment only. 

Next, I made and installed cleats of 18-mm plywood to support the fore-and-aft beams - two on the aft side of the forward crossbeam, and two on the fairing side of the mast beam.  Now that the location of these has been determined, I can glass-sheath the cleats, and finish fairing and painting these two beams. 

After temporarily securing the beams to the cleats so the structure would support my weight, I began working out the plank widths and spacing.  I wanted most of the planks to be 2 1/2-inches wide, as planking much wider than that is subject to cupping, warping or splitting as it cycles through extremes of wet and dry and hot and cold.  After deciding on a gap of 3/4-inch between all planks, I then made the port and starboard margin planks and two middle planks that are in line with the lashing cleats.  The forward ends of the margin planks, of course, have to be quite a bit wider than the standard 2 1/2-inch plank width, as the outer edge is cut to follow the curvature of the hull as it tapers into the bow. 

Once these four planks were secured to the beams with counter-sunk screws, the entire structure was then rigid enough to remove without getting it out of square.  Here you can see it upside-down on the sawhorses.  The longitudinal beams have been shaped and rounded over with the router on the bottom.  The clamps you can see on the ends of the deck beams are for gluing on fitted spacers under the ends of each beam where it rests on the toe rail.  Each spacer is different because of the curvature of the sheer line.  The idea is to distribute the weight evenly across all eight contact points and four beam lashing points.  The result is a very rigid deck that shows no sign of flexing when I jump up and down on it.  I was trying to achieve this with the minimum amount of framing, in order to save as much weigh as possible.

With the finished framework back in position, I then cut and installed all the remaining planking, using spacers made of little blocks of 3/4-inch plywood to maintain a consistent gap.  This spacing is close enough to keep most items on board, but wide enough to allow water to quickly drain off in rough conditions.

The finished planking, with two counter-sunk screws per plank to beam joint, for a total of 8 screws per plank.  Now I had to make 210 cypress plugs to fill all those screw holes.

This went fairly quickly with a 1/2-inch plug cutter chucked in a drill.  I had plenty of scrap cypress to get them out of.

Here, the plugs are all in, dipped in epoxy and tapped in tightly with a hammer:

After the epoxy cured, I cut them flush with a sharp chisel and then did a quick, preliminary sanding to see how it was going to look.  More detailed sanding will be done later.  I think this deck is going to greatly enhance the livability of the Tiki 26 by providing a secure working area to handle ground tackle and sails and more uncluttered deck space at anchor.  There is a weight penalty as opposed to a trampoline, but it's not that significant because of where it's located, as most Tikis need some weight forward of the cockpit to trim out properly. 

Here's some different perspectives of the deck:

Note that with this design, the deck beams are carried nearly as high as the bottoms of the main crossbeams.  The only parts lower are the two fore-and-aft beams.  This will minimize taking wave tops off with the deck beams, though I'm sure that beating into rough seas will be wet.  But it would be wet with a trampoline too.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Planing Deck Lumber and Building Parts for Another Tiki 26

I spent the afternoon surfacing all the cypress lumber that will be used for the slatted forward deck and aft boarding ladder.  This is something I planned to do a long time ago, but just got around to it.  It was a big job with my little 13-inch bench-top planer:

It's getting hard to find clear cypress like these select planks that are 8 and 12 feet long.  Even this stuff has a few knots and splits, so I bought and processed more than I think I'll need to get all the support rails and deck planks out.

Good cypress like this is not cheap, but it's a whole lot less than teak, and while it might not look quite as good or last as long, it's also much lighter weight than teak and I think it will certainly make for a nice deck.

The other thing I've got going on out in the boat shed is a paying job building Tiki 26 parts.  These are for a friend who is refitting his Tiki 26 in preparation for extensive cruising.  I've contracted to build two new rudders, the mast and the three connecting beams.  Yeah, I know I said before that building these Tiki 26 style beams is a major pain because of the difficulty of glassing them, but here I go again - building another set exactly to plan.  Here are all the center webs:

The cutting and assembly of these goes fairly fast.  It's all the filleting, glassing, fairing and sanding that seems to take forever - just like everything else on these boats.  In a couple more days, I'll have all the basic assemblies done:

Here you can see I've cut the rudders out of a sheet of 18mm Joubert ply.  Since I still have not hung my own rudders, also shown, I was able to use one of them as a pattern.  

 This job will of course cut into my building time, but will also add funds to my project.  It's a welcome change of course, from all the book writing I've been doing.  I just finished up the final revisions for my latest book that will be released in October, but I have a deadline for the next one looming in less then 6 months.  My plan is to work on my own boat alongside the construction of these parts, and hopefully complete the cockpit and decks and get the mast stepped during that time period.  

Sunday, May 01, 2011

Beam Sheathing is Finished

At last tedious work of wrapping all the beam parts in fiberglass is finished.  I'm now in the process of fairing and priming them:

Here are a few photos showing some of the steps in sheathing the webs, top plates and front fairings:

This photo shows the front beam to the left, with the custom anchor roller brackets I made, and the aft beam to the right.  In the middle is the much smaller aft netting beam.  The mast beam is holding the hulls together, so I have to swap them around and work on two at a time while one is on the boat.

Fairing all these surfaces is multi-step process of sanding and applying epoxy fairing compound.

At this point in the build, I've come to rely on these tools for just about all filleting and fairing:  They are all flexible blade drywall/putty knives of various sizes.  The round ended ones like the one shown here are made by shaping these cheap blades with a belt sander.  After using cardboard, wood, plastic and other filleting tools, I've discovered these work best and make the neatest fillets.  Best of all, they can be used indefinitely if you either wipe them clean when the epoxy is still uncured or sand it off afterward.

Right now, the partially-assembled cockpit box is serving as a work table and catch-all space for tools and supplies:

Here's a couple of shots of the aft netting beam, which still looks rough because it needs a lot of sanding:

I've added lashing cleats to the inboard sides of the hulls at the sheer stringer.  Since it is not part of the structure holding the hulls together, this beam will only get lashed on the inboard side.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Some Overdue Photos

I meant to post this months ago - a neat photo of the assembled boat that my sister took with her cell phone camera.  I like the way this turned out:

Despite the lack of posting here, some progress is still being made.  Lately this has been work on the three main beams and the aft net beam.  I've had fiberglass sheathing and fairing to do on all of these, as well as building added parts that go on them like the mast step.  Looking back at my last post that included photos, I realized too that I never got around to posting cockpit pictures.  I did get the foam sandwich floor for the cockpit laminated last fall, and most of the basic box is built.  I have yet to build the under seat storage boxes and complete the motor mount. I need to take more photos of the assembled cockpit, but here are some showing the beginning of laminating the foam core to the plywood skins:

First, I glued solid wood spacers around the perimeter and the motor well cutout.  Solid blocks were glued into the corners where scuppers will later be drilled.  All these wood parts are made of cypress.

Then, the 3/4" Divinycell  foam was cut to fit within the borders, and plenty of holes were drilled in it to allow excess air to escape during the lamination process.

I used everything heavy I could find for weights to hold it in place while the epoxy cured.  It takes a lot of evenly spaced weights to insure that the air is squeezed out and the foam is in good contact with the plywood gluing surface.

The top layer of 4mm plywood was then glued on after this cured.  I didn't get photos of that though.  Other work I've been doing lately is all the tedious glassing of beam surfaces and the add-ons like the anchor roller on the forward beam, shown here with unsanded fairing compound:

Here's a shot of the teak mast step, almost complete except for some final shaping and reinforcing fillets. 

These old style Tiki 26 beams take forever to sheath in fiberglass because of all the unnecessary exposed surfaces.  I would advise anyone building a new Tiki 26 to incorporate the newer Tiki 30 beam design, in which all the structural parts are inside the plywood panels, making for a smooth, triangular surface that is about 10 times easier to glass!  But one day in the near or far future, I will at last have these beams glassed, faired and painted. 

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Project Update

I know it's been a long time since I've posted here and you may wonder what's going on with the Element II build.  Near perfect weather has returned and now is the time for boatbuilding here.  Look for new photos soon as I will be moving forward with the cockpit and other parts of the connecting structure in the coming weeks. 

The main reason I haven't had time to work on the boat is that I've been so busy with writing projects.  My latest book was just released at the beginning of this month and I have a contract for another one that is due to be completed by July 1.  In addition, I am simultaneously working on a novel that I also hope to complete around the same time.  Here is the cover of the recently released Getting Out Alive: 13 Deadly Scenarios and How Others Survived:


It is the latest in a series of survival-related books I'm writing for Ulysses Press, of Berkeley, California.  The first was Bug Out: The Complete Plan for Escaping a Catastrophic Disaster Before It's Too Late, which has been a great success and is in it's second printing and soon to go into a third. 

Some of you may wonder why I'm writing all these survival books and not more boat-related books, as paddling, sailing and boatbuilding are my true passion.  The fact is, while I don't consider myself a "survivalist," my previous experiences have put me in a unique position to write about these topics for those who are interested in them.  There has been a huge surge of interest in anything to do with survival here in the U.S. in recent years, and it shows no sign of slacking up. I've found that this subject matter is currently the best way for me to reach more readers, which is of course, the ultimate goal of any writer. 

Getting Out Alive is aimed at the armchair reader as well as adventurers who might need to know how to survive certain scenarios.  Check it out if like me, you like reading about other people's close calls and harrowing ordeals. 

My biggest challenge now is to find a way to balance writing time with boatbuilding time.  With the change to daylight savings time this past Sunday, I should be able to start making progress on the boat again.