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.


ItsaGamble said...


First sorry to hear of your father's passing, I can't imagine how hard that must be. My condolences for your loss.

Element II is coming along nicely. Your fore deck looks amazing! Beautiful work and the cypress is simply breathtaking. This is going to be quite a boat when she is finished. I look forward to reading about your sailing adventures in her.
Element has had a busy summer of sailing and camping here on the lake and it's many islands. She's is now in need of a new tramp for her fore deck. I've been quoted 250 from SLO Sail & Canvas which seems fair enough (what do you think?). I've sent them pics and plans all that left is to send measurements of the actual boat and place my order. I hope they provide a quality product. I'd considered building a slatted deck, but I find I really enjoy the tramp as a comfortable place to lounge after a swim or while someone else is at the tiller. I'm really looking forward to doing some coastal trekking in the near future... now I just have to find the time to take a longer trip.

Happy building

Scott B. Williams said...

Hi Brandon,

Thanks. I would say that price quoted for your tramp is a very good one if it is well-made and reinforced appropriately. I think the tramp is a better choice than a deck for the Tiki 21, as it is lower to the water and will be assembled-disassembled often for trailering. For me this will not be an issue as I plan to keep the boat in the water all the time.

mgtdOcean said...

Hi Scott, My condolences on you fathers passing. I lost my father about 14 years ago and I’m still surprised at how often I think of him.

Your deck is looking great. I’ve been thinking of one for my Tiki 30 build ever since being on David H’s. Can you give a good weight estimate. Can you handle fitting and removal solo? It actually looks like a quicker install than most tramp installations I’ve seen:)
Tiki 30 #164 Redshift

Scott B. Williams said...

Hi Ed,

Thanks. I haven't weighed the deck yet, but because of the size it is a bit difficult to move it solo, but is manageable. Fitting and installing it when setting up the boat will be much quicker than any tramp system. I would especially recommend it on the larger Tiki 30 as it gives you so much working space forward.

mgtdOcean said...

Hi Scott, Makes me think that a 2 part forward deck might be a nice design for a 30. I plan to use my Tiki 30 on trailer and setup time and effort are critical.

PS it took me a good year to "get over" my fathers passing. His death at 59 was a life changing event for me. In that year I decided life really was too short for the 9-5 grind doing something I didn't love. Take care

Scott B. Williams said...

Hi Ed,

Yes, if you plan to trailer a lot and want to do the assembly without a lot of help or a crane, I would recommend making the deck in two parts. It will inevitably be bigger and heavier than my Tiki 26 deck so it would be harder to handle.

Losing my father certainly marks the beginning of a new chapter, since I now have lost both of my parents. My life-changing wake-up call that I wanted to do something other than 9-5 was when my mother ended up bed-ridden with MS when she was in her 50's and I in my 20's. That's when I took off on my first big kayak trip. You just can't count on doing these things in the future, so it's best not to put it off too long.