Welcome

Perhaps it was the cancer operation or, as my daughter suggested, just plain old mid life crisis, but sometime around the middle of 2015 Deb and I made the decision to relocate from Alice Springs to Devonport and build a 12 metre catamaran.

So whatever the reason (and there is a reason for everything)  we write this blog to share a little of our journey with our friends, old and new and our rather large extended family.

Its by no means a unique story, as the boat we chose to build was designed specifically for amateur builders, and many have gone before us. It is however, a major project and rather daunting for two Centralians from the red centre of Australia.

So please join us.

Pete and Deb Imms

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PS: whats in a name?

Selah is ancient Hebrew. So ancient in fact that its literal meaning has been lost in the midsts of time. I love that.  It is most commonly used in the Book of Psalms seen in both the Torah and the Bible and is believed to encourage the reader to  “Pause and reflect”.

Webb lockers, Adam Ant and Manna Hill

Nothing worthwhile comes without a struggle, and we are happy to be able to report that the web lockers are finally completed. They have turned out to be the most physically demanding aspect of the build so far. The web lockers need a lot of care. They are potentially subject to wave and collision impacts and will support weighty gear. This means the internal surfaces will be subject to abrasion and a lot of general wear and tear. Deb has done an incredible job over two weeks, laying up the two layers of fiberglass called for in the specifications in these tight and confined spaces. As an extension of the bridgedeck, the external hull -joint is treated in the same way as the lower bridgedeck join: a large radius epoxy fillet reinforced with four layers of fiberglass tape. The remainder of the external curved laminate gets a single layer of glass, then Qcell and fairing.

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The web lockers are now completed, ready for painting and decking.

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A tight fit.

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Fiberglassing the web lockers has been the most demanding job to date.

Meanwhile, the internal fit-out has progressed. The navigation bench has been fabricated and fitted in place. Later a large pull out drawer will be added for storage of our collection of paper charts. We were fortunate to luck onto a complete set of secondhand charts for the Australian East Coast, PNG, Fiji and New Caledonia. We have no intention of crossing oceans at this stage, but you never know… in any case, the east coast charts are backup in case our electronic navigation fails.

The galley area around the cooktop and oven has also been completed. The shelving has been framed and fixed, plus the bench top is fabricated, awaiting laminexing before being glued in place.

The bamboo sheeting for the cupboard doors has arrived, and we are in the process of selecting hinges, catches, and handles.

The saloon settee is taking shape. Initially, it was a frustratingly slow build. The plans give general dimensions, but no structural details. This fabrication needs to be built strong enough to support the weight of (potentially) up to ten human bottoms while at the same time, leaving the space below clear enough for storage and access to batteries, inverters, water tanks and other important bits of hardware. Plus, for the courtesy of future owners, it is good practice to facilitate removal of the water tanks if necessary, so it needs to have the ability to be partially disassembled as well. Honestly, nothing is simple with boats! Designing for all of these competing factors, while using the minimum of materials has required discipline and time, but there is also a sense of achievement as each obstacle is thought through and overcome.

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Saloon settee taking shape.

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Navigation & office space.

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Starboard settee.

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Deb and her new vapor mask. “Lets build a boat he said, it’ll be fun  …”

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Cook-top/oven bench and shelving, Starboard hull

On Tuesday our friend John popped in and asked if we had done anything about a tender. He had been offered a small sailing dinghy, which he had no use for, but thought we may be interested. It was local and free, so we decided it wouldn’t hurt to have a look-see on the way home. We were pleasantly surprised to find it was a Manly Junior. Pete and MJ’s go back a long way. He and his brothers all learned to sail on a MJ that was in the family for years. That little thing lived a charmed existence and her stories deserve a blog post of her own. As a boy, he spent many happy hours rowing her around the magical red granite inlets of the Freycinet Peninsular, where his family holidayed for many years. It was in her that he learned to handle a small boat, gaining an understanding of drift, tide, and wave. MJ’s actually make excellent tenders. Light, buoyant and with their flared topsides, surprisingly dry in a chop. They row well and are very seaworthy. Pete has an aversion to the ubiquitous rigid inflatables, commonly used as tenders. Almost impossible to row in a blow, they are virtually usless if the outboard fails. Not good if you have to get back to the mothership urgently. So it was love at first sight and “Adam Ant” had to come home with us. She is tucked in under the bridge deck, waiting for her mothership to be completed. As an ex-racing dingy, she needs some minor modifications: rowlocks, oars and a stern thwart so Deb has somewhere to sit.

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Pete and Adam Ant our new tender. She makes Pete smile every time he looks at her.

Anyway, all work and no play makes us (well Pete mostly) somewhat obsessive boatbuilders to be avoided by polite society, so we recently welcomed the opportunity to spend a sultry Sunday afternoon with fellow expats from Alice Springs, Simon, Eileen and Mayokun on the foothills of Mount Roland, about forty minutes inland from Port Sorell. Here Simon and Eileen are developing Manna Hill Studios: three self-contained chalets on fifty acres of rolling green hills, with breathtaking views of the mountain and surrounds. It was a stunning afternoon, and we enjoyed watching small planes take off and land from a private airstrip in the valley far below us. The ajoining propery is owned by the iNternode founder who sometimes flies over from Adelaide in his private Pilatus PC12: the RFDS plane.  Once a year the rocky escarpment of Mt Roland is used as a sort of giant projector screen for a laser light show. Manna Hill will surely have the best seats in the house next year. We have known Simon and Eileen for over ten years, and it is ironic that both couples find themselves in the same area, building their separate dreams, far away from the red hills of central Australia.

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The Alice Springs mob on Manna Hill, Sheffield Tasmania.

Web lockers and weighty matters

Since our last post, we have completed assembling the forward web lockers, which are now ready for fiberglassing.

We approached this job with some apprehension, as it requires bending two layers of full-size 6mm sheets into a curved lamination. It’s a job that requires a lot of forethought. Once buttered up with copious amounts of epoxy glue, there is no turning back with the ever-present time pressure when working with resin. In the end, we used a combination of props, wedges, and good old chip-board screws to hold the sheets in place and apply clamping pressure to ensure full glue contact between the layers. The job was done over a number of days as its a multi-stage process. Between each step, we gave the epoxy a full 48 hours to cure, something local builders recommend in our cold climate.

First, we filleted the bulkheads in place, ready to receive the sheets. Then we made templates and cut the first layer to fit, and bent and glued/screwed them into place with temp screws and props applying pressure from below to ensure good contact with the bulkheads and glue surfaces. Then we moved inside and applied the internal fillets, bonding it to the bulkheads.

We then cut the second layer, reversing the orientation to ensure plenty of overlap at the joins, then bent them into shape, with props, through screwing with chipboard screws and cleats to squeeze the layers together. By gently tapping, listening for a hollow sound, we checked for any areas that may not have made full contact and were pleased that there was only a couple of spots that required additional clamping.

After a couple of days, we removed the temporary screws and props and Deb went inside to prepare the surfaces for fiberglassing, sanding any rough spots and filling the screw holes with epoxy filler.

In between all this, we continued with the internal fit-out. We marked up the main saloon settee, a large U shaped assembly, and began filleting the componentry in place. Provision for the water tanks needs to be made at this point, as they are fitted under the settee. This is not as simple as it sounds. A choice that will have ramifications, later on, must be made. How much fresh water will we carry? Water is heavy, and catamarans are sensitive to weight. As a floating home, the more water the better. As a sailing vessel, the less weight the better. It’s a balancing act. We are sticking to the designed 300 litres which we figure will be enough for 10 to 15 days with the two of us; mabye more if we are frugal. As future live-aboard that may be on the low end, so we are allowing space to fit a watermaker if finances allow.

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Bulkheads filleted in place, Deb wetting up the glue faces with penetrating resin, prior to gluing the first layer.

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Laying up the glue for the second layer.

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Deb finds time to take a selfie: propping up a sheet with her head, while Pete screws it off.

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First sheet of second layer applied.

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Lamination all done. The curve creates an incredibly stiff structure.

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Deb cleaning up the web lockers in preparation for fibreglassing.

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In between jobs: trimming, edging, sanding and more sanding…

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We have started constructing the saloon settee. These are backrest supports.

Back outside again …

After a few days off last week to spend time with Pete’s dad, while his mum took a trip to the mainland, we returned to the build site refreshed and raring to go.

Since the last post, Deb has mainly been continuing with the laborious task of filleting the shelving that runs along most of the internal hull sides. The filleting is done with epoxy resin mixed with either 403 filler for structural bonds and/or micro balloon filler depending upon the application. It’s a long job as there are hundreds of meters to be done, but essential to produce a strong boat with all the major elements bonded together.

We have also completed the office shelving in the port hull and the linen storage cupboard. After they are painted we will add fiddles to the outer face to prevent objects from sliding off in rough weather. The linen cupboard will be enclosed with a door.

There were a number of hours dedicated to “catch up” jobs. These are fiddly follow-up tasks that accumulate over time until we can no longer ignore them.

A little segway here for readers that may be considering building their dream boat:
One of the things that we often get asked is how long will it take to finish. Designers give an estimate of how many hours it takes to build a vessel, but it doesn’t take long before you realise this can only be a rough guide as there are big variables at play. It is not possible to devote one hundred percent of your time to building. Sourcing materials, cleaning up, planning, researching, purchasing hardware, visitors and a host of other factors will impact your build time. Previous experience will obviously determine how long each task takes to complete. Even the nature of your build site will make a big difference. In our case, as we are an outdoor site, we need to pack up all our tools at the end of each day. We have also lost a lot of time protecting the boat from the elements, and storm-proofing our shelter, which is really just a big tent. The designer of Selah gives an estimate of 4500 hours for a self-build. A professional builder we spoke to told us he usually quotes around 3000 hours. Some owner-builders estimate it took them over 5000 hours, so you can see there is a lot of variations.

We have moved outside to tackle the storage web locker forward of frame three. This holds the anchor chain locker, as well as storage for big stuff such as spare anchors, warps, and fenders. The construction method calls for two layers of laminated 6mm ply to be curved around bulkheads, bonded with epoxy fillets and two layers of fiberglass. The whole assembly spans the 3.4-metre distance between the hulls and is divided into 5 spaces. Two are “dry”; being accessed internally. The middle space is the chain locker and the remaining spaces are accessed from above, through deck hatches. Some serious beveling is required with the power planer at the intersecting faces. It was interesting to note that this is something that would have intimidated Pete at the beginning of the project, but with the experience gained in building the hulls, he found that he enjoyed the whole process and it presented no major headaches. Others have told us that bending the full size sheets can be a challenge, but Peter Snell gave us some hints and assured us that we should not find it to difficult. Next week will tell!

After a dry-fit to check dimensions, Deb decided to fiberglass the bulkheads in the workshop, prior to fitting them. It is much easier and faster to do big fiberglass layups horizontally on a bench. Next week we will fit them in place and tackle the big curved sheets.

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Port hull linen storage and office shelving glued into place.

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Office shelving tops fabricated ready for fitting.

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Beveling the forward face to receive the sheeting.

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Shaping the web locker butt-joint.

 

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Glue lay-up for web locker but-joint

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We use a template to establish the curve of the foward face, and check for fit.

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Using the template we cut the web locker braces from 18mm ply

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Cutting access holes for the anchor chain locker.

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Bulkheads and frames dry-fit prior to fiberglassing.

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Bulkheads fiberglassed.

A productive week

 

Some days are diamond …

Some days the work just seems to flow, and we go home feeling as if we have accomplished a lot. We were able to tick off quite a few jobs from the to-do list this week.

We have switched our priorities a little, as it turns out Deb will be back in Alice for an extended period while our youngest daughter has our first grandchild. So our plan is to do the big two-person jobs before she goes, leaving the fiddly detailed jobs for when Pete is on his own. Pete will travel up for the birth, but will not stay as long.

So we headed outside again and set up for installing the forebeam.
We had previously built and fiberglassed the beam, so it was ready to go. The forbeam is an immensely strong component, as it takes the full tension of the forestay. A wobbly beam would make it impossible to tension the forestay, which would adversely impact on windward performance. A weak forebeam could threaten the whole rig.

Following the design instructions, we cut holes in the hulls to receive the beam and laminated two stout sub-bulkheads directly behind the beam location. We then dry fitted the beam and checked for level. It was a hold-your-breath moment. A slight discrepancy in the fore-aft level of the hulls would reveal itself now. The beam is on the extreme end of the boat, and there are a lot of variables in the building process. We were chuffed, and it must be admitted, somewhat surprised that it was dead level on the first try. The beam is sandwiched between the two bulkheads and later we will glue/bolt it in place with four 5/8 inch bolts. First, we have to manufacture some metal components that need to be in place prior to fixing the beam down.

Next, we fitted another beam lamination that spans the hulls behind the forebeam,  at frame two. This is the fixing point for the web lockers, a semi circular assembly sort of like a bullnose roof, but upside down. In total, the hulls are connected with six beams.

Another job we completed was adding a second layer of fiberglass to the aft steps, and rendering on a coat of Qcell. After sanding we will give it a coat of undercoat.

While Deb was working on the aft steps, Pete completed the galley joinery and storage area on the outboard side. This is a big assembly, 3.55 metres long, and as I have said in a previous post, is a structural component of the hull.

We are also thrilled to now have the company of our dear friend Mayo occasionally visit the site to help out with a few jobs. We first met Mayo in Alice, where she volunteered in Debs children’s ministry for a few years before returning to Nigeria. She has now relocated back to Aus and elected to join us at Port Sorell. With our daughters being so far away, she has added much joy to our lives, with her infectious laughter, and courageous spirit. Plus we are getting such a buzz showing her around, and helping her settle into Tassy life.

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Forebeam in place

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Forebeam cutout

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Forebeam and web locker support in place.

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Forebeam sub bulkhead. This is why Peter isnt allowed to do much filleting!

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Really chuffed the beam was perfectly level.

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Pete scarfing the galley bench.

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Gluing up the scarf join.

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Galley shelves glued in place and bench dry fitted.

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Detail of the bench joinery, ready for filleting, epoxy and painting. Later Rusell will fit horizontaly hinged doors.

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The bench is 3.5 meters long. The fridge freezer is located at the aft end.

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Mao and Deb lay up glue for F2 web locker support.

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F2 support in place.

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Stunning colours of Tasmanian north coast. 

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Port Sorell point. One of our favorite walks.

Internal Joinery underway

Now that the floors have been glued in place, we have moved to internal joinery. The Sarah design specifies shelving to be fixed to the three stringers immediately above the waterline along the length of the hulls, between frames two to seven. These shelves form the basis for storage lockers and are mandatory as they are also critical structural elements, strengthing and stiffening the sides of the hulls. In fact, as we have progressed with the build we have come to appreciate that the Sarah design is essentially a series of interlocking “I” beams, some running fore/aft, others spanning the width.

In order to complete them, we needed to make some decisions about cupboard doors and galley benches. This didn’t take us too long, having access to a cabinet maker and his suppliers right next door. The sleeping cabin bench tops will be ply painted with two-pack, and Polycarbonate sliding doors. The kitchen doors will be cut from a bamboo laminate product that has recently come onto the market. To save weight, the kitchen tops will be 9mm ply, which we will send to a specialist shop to top with laminex and roll the outer face. The main kitchen top is a bit of a beast actually, at 3.55 meters in length which means yet more scarfing for Pete.

When we commenced the build, we had been advised that interstate builders have found it increasingly difficult, if not impossible to find gas fitters willing to work on owner-built boats. This led us to look at diesel fueled kitchen appliances but we found them to be prohibitively expensive, so Pete sat down with the phone book and started ringing around plumbers, expecting the worse. We were pleasantly surprised when after only a few calls we located a local plumber who was not only willing to work with us, but was also experienced with boats and can provide the certifications required by M.A.S.T. (the Tasmanian marine authority) to have Selah registered. He visited us the next day and made some suggestions. We will install all the piping, and he will make the bends, joints and connect the appliances. They are: oven, cook-top, hot water and BBQ. We will also install a gas alarm, although it is not mandatory.

While Pete has been fitting the cabinetry, Deb has been filleting the floors to the hull sides with epoxy. This then seals the area below the floors, creating buoyancy tanks. It’s a long laborious job, but she has completed the port side. She has also bonded the shelving to the hulls, as they have been completed. Working in this way we have evolved a loose routine; Pete cuts and dry-fits the components: Deb mixes the resin and preps: together we glue/screw them in in place, then Deb fillets and fills the screw holes, while Pete goes onto the next component.

We have also fitted the guest ensuite bench. Its a tight space in there, so we laminated a curve to give more elbow room when on the throne!

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Port bedroom shelving, Debs filleting work can be seen, ready for sanding.

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Starboard guest bedroom shelves

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Framing up the galley storage cupboards. The pipe is the water supply for the kitchen sinks and guest wash basin.

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Guest ensuite layout

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Laminating the wash basin bench

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Deb could stand it no longer. Before …

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After!

Floors and big-end-fronts

The fiddly job of laying the cabin floors is almost completed. Fitting the floors has taken longer than expected. Each component has to be cut-to-fit around the curve of the hull, with its varying angles and intersecting frames. Since the last post, we have glued down most of the floors, and have framed and fitted the floors in the two small cabins forward of frame three. This is the point where the floor levels meet the rocker of the hulls as they curve upwards to the bows, requiring a level change. On the starboard side, this small cabin contains the guest toilet, wash basin, and storage. On the port side, it is a walk in wardrobe.

We have also completed the floor in the space aft of the galley, which is a sort of pantry. It also contains a space for the fridge-freezer. We now have to decide whether to purchase an off-the-shelf unit or build our own enclosure and install a compressor.

The corresponding space on the other (port) side is the main bathroom. Here we have fitted and fiberglassed the shower sump and ordered a low profile pump to fit. The flooring in this space was time-consuming, requiring a fair bit of thinking time. It incorporates both fall and reverse camber, to direct the shower water into the sump. The sump is covered with a bamboo shower grate. A provision was also made for the instrument transducer and intake for the toilet, all to be installed within the sump. This then avoids the need for any skin fittings under the floors and provides easy access.

Next week, we should be able to make a start on the cabinetry, which will be another milestone achieved.

Earlier in the week Pete consulted his Meteye weather App and was dismayed to see large swathes of red, over Port Sorell. Red is never good, as it’s a prediction of damaging winds. The prediction was for gusts of over 120 kph. So Friday was dedicated to preparing our shelter for the blow. We renewed some UV damaged ropes, added some additional lashings, sweated down the big tarp till it was tight as a drum, and generally tidied up. We are vulnerable at the moment as until the decks are on, the interior of the boat is exposed to the elements should the tarp fail. We prayed over our baby, as is our practice, asking God to watch over her, and went home.

At the predicted time of 10 pm (how do they do that?) it hit hard, but quickly tailed off and was all over by around midnight. It was a classic big-end-front not uncommon in the Strait. Pete and his brothers encountered one, mid way when competing in the 94 Sydney Hobart. Pete was on watch at the time and noticed a white mist approaching rapidly from the west. The skipper took one look and called for all sail down. The navigator, Ian Johnson was highly experienced and reassured them, saying ” It will hit hard, with a few big gusts, then settle down to a steady gale. If we give it half hour, the worst will be over and we can set the heavy weather sails and get going again.” He then switched on the HF and they settled down to listen to the radio traffic. Boats were reporting gusts of 80 knots (140kph) over the decks. Many retired in the first 20 minutes of the storm, probably feeling a little foolish later. Bass Strait has a fearsome reputation, and some were not willing to risk crossing in a gale. Two years later six sailors were lost in a much worse, sustained storm.

Back at Selah, we inspected the site this morning (Sat) and were thankful that she and the shelter came through unscathed. Maximum gusts were 102 kph but were not sustained so there was little damage in the area. Just another blow in the wild north coast of Tas!

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The blue dot is our location, the colour overlay predicted wind strengths of 120kph. Red is never good!

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Checking the guest toilet for fit. The jump-up in the forward cabin is evident.

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Bits of flooring coated with resin and detailed ready for gluing down.

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Starboard floors all done

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Cant imagine doing this project without the laser lever. Here Pete was using it to check the center line.

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We used lead weights to hold down the floors when gluing.

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Port hull floors completed. Shower recess ready to be glued down.

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Glassing the shower sump. We hope to install the transducer and toilet water intake here as well.

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Endless filleting and sanding.

Cabin, filleting and planning

The winter westerlies have finally arrived in northern Tas, so our days have been punctuated with squally showers. Thankfully the winds have been moderate compared to last year, and now that we are working inside we are well protected. The shelter is doing an excellent job at keeping Selah dry, with no leaks, except on especially frosty morning, when it can “rain” on the inside! An advantage of working behind a joinery workshop is that we have access to plenty of packing sheets, so we have laid them on the floors to protect the plywood.

Progress has been steady as we are now working on detailed work. We are rapidly approaching D day for making some final decisions. This week we have been researching plumbing, toilets and shower options. All this takes time, as we stop work to discuss the issues involved. This is so that Pete can begin building the shower sump, and make provision for the holding tank.

We have finished fabricating the cabin sides. These are doubled up, with a second layer of plywood. We used offcuts cut to fit and laminated to the inside, as specified in the plans. The laminations were glued to the windows oversized. We could use a bearing router bit to trim flush. Rusell has lent us his spare trimmer, and we have used it extensively. It is smaller and lighter than the router and can fit into tighter spaces.

Additional layers are specified for the chainplate attachment points and have been laminated in place. The whole structure is so robustly constructed that no ring frames or additional re-enforcement are required. The chainplates are simply bolted to the cabin sides. Peter Snell has designed the Sarah to be light, for a cruising catamaran. This has compounding benefits. Compared to similarly sized production catamarans, her rig seems moderate, but she is around two tons lighter, so does not need the big roached mainsail so common with heaver cats.

Deb has completed filleting and filling around the stringers, which have all been doubled. Next week will be all about with sanding and fairing.

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Main bulkhead doorway has been faired, trimmed and sanded.

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Trim detail

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Debs has filleted the stringers. These are visible in the final build, so will be sanded and faired, ready for spraying.

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Port hull, looking foward.

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The cabin sides have been doubled, and the windows trimmed. The additional lamination is the fixing point for the upper shroud chainplate.

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Starboard aft.

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Sleeping cabins. A bulkhead if fitted along the centerline.

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Starboard hull cabin sides completed.

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The aft galley floor has been cut and dry fitted, ready to be detailed.

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This is as far as the flooring goes. Beyond is a plinth for the fridge freezer.

Pushing through the winter blues

One of the advantages of building outdoors is that it is keeping us connected to the weather and environment. Well, thats what we keep saying to ourselves anyway: preparation for life aboard. Sailing is like camping, its all about the weather. 

What has been a constant surprise for us, is the difference to last winter, which was dominated by storms and wind. This year, its been about frosts and icy temperatures.

Thankfully now that we have moved to internal fit-out, and are no longer working on the ground, we are more protected than before.

Last Saturday, we had planed a day trip to Launceston to pick up some Oregon timber that had been given to us by an old friend, Colin Jones.  A call from Pete’s mother informing us that his 93 year old father was in hospital, changed our plans, and we went to Hobart for four days to be with the family. Pete’s father trained as an shipwright and is very interested in the build.

We returned to Selah on Thursday. Heres an update on progress from the last post.

Deb has completed the fore-beam which is ready to be dry fitted. Later a PVC faring is fitted to the forward face, but not before we have run a conduit for nav light electrics, so that will wait for a while.

Pete has been working in the hulls, doubling up on stringers and frames as specified by the designer. Its detailed and fiddly work, but very gratifying as we can feel the boat strengthening with each new assembly.  Easy cats are renowned for their rigidity. 

A new question has entered our discussions. “Will this be visible?” meaning will the component in question be visible after final fit-out and not concealed by furniture or panels? If so, edges are rounded by an edge trimmer, care is take to ensure the tolerances are as tight as we can make them, and that it looks right. Some surfaces will be varnished, and others will be sprayed with high-build and two-pack.

Deb has sanded and coated the sleeping cabins with epoxy. This will protect the plywood, from condensation drips, that are a problem on icy mornings. She also went underneath, and filled screw holes left over from the bridge deck installation.

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Deb laying up the glue for the fore-beam.

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The fore-beam is a substantial assembly. It takes the forestay loads and potentialy, impact stresses from mooring mishaps! Later a curved PVC fairing is fiberglassed to the front face for visual effect, and as a sort of bumper bar.

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Deb laying up fiberglass on the beam per the designers specifications. We set it up to rotate on stands like a spit-roast, which made it easy for her to manage on her own.

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Cut away frames, and the topside stringer are doubled up.

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A detail shot of the topside re-enforcement, port side. As this joinery will be visual after completion, edges are rounded and sanded ready for final finish.

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Later the stringer on the starboard side will double as a shelf above the galley.

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The cabin sides are double thickness. A chance to use up left over offcuts. Later they are sprayed with high-build and two-pack top coat.

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Deb epoxy coating the sleeping cabins.

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Pete is satisfied his work space is beginning to look like a proper boat builders workshop! Deb is not impressed.

 

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Pete visiting his father in hospital.

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When we built the shelter it seemed improbable that it one day would be filled with boat. Now we suspect we may have to lift it a little to fit the turret, which is nearly 3.4 meters high.

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A flashback …

 

 

Cabin Sides, floors and fore-beam

Its been dead-set freezing down here in Tas for the last couple of weeks. Still frosty mornings and low overnight temperatures.

Fortunately the temps have not impacted our ability to work on the boat, and progress has been steady.

Some people have expressed surprise at out ability to keep working with epoxy resin which is notorious for being difficult to manage in low temps.  Epoxy cures with a exothermic reaction, which generates its own heat once activation takes place.  Every morning our working batch of resin is immersed in a sink of steaming hot water, in the workshop kitchen, (the warmest room) to bring its temperature up from the overnight low. Once warmed up, we pump out the required amount into re-used disposable coffee cups as needed, and stir thoroughly. Only after we have seen the tell-tale little bubbles, that indicate the chemical process has started, do we take it out and apply to the job. We have noticed that although it still “sets” hard overnight, it takes around four days to cure, instead of the usual 48 hours. This is no problem for us, unless we intend to sand it, in which case we just wait. 

We decided to fit the cabin sides next, so Pete shaped and fitted the sheer gunwales that provide a fixing point for the sides. On the Sarah design, the cabins are an extension of the top-sides, angled back at 15 degrees from vertical. We then extended the frames, cut to the dimensions supplied in the plans to induce a pleasing curve for the cabin side stringers which was bent between frame 2 and frame 9. The cabin sides were then installed using the same method as the hull sheets.

Meanwhile Deb finished dressing the cabin soles (floors), by filling groves with white filler, and sanding smooth ready for varnishing. They are now ready to be glued in place.

She then tackled a job we had been putting off: filleting the underside of the bridge deck where it joins the hull extension. This involved working overhead, never a pleasant job. First she corse sanded the bonding surfaces to provide a “key” for the epoxy. Then brushed on a coat of resin, prior to running a generous fillet of thickened epoxy.

During a couple of particularly inclement afternoons, we retreated to the workshop to begin assembling the fore-beam which joins the bows. Later it is fitted with a seagull-striker, a fixing point for the genoa fore stay and an anchor housing. 

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Laminating the 5.2 metre long fore-beam. The finished floors can also be seen in the foreground.

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Deb filled groves in the flooring with epoxy mixed with white filler.

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Sanding the hull / bridgedeck join prior to filletting.

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The hull frames were extended and notched to accept the cabin side stringer…

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…which was bent to provide the cabin profile. This is a visual element, so time was spent to ensure a pleasing curve. Here the cabin sides have been cut and dry-fitted.

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The plans give specific dimensions for the window cut outs.

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Port sides fitted. Deb cleaning up afterwards. It usually takes longer to clean up than the actual glue job. It cannot be left, as any excess resin is impossible to sand off after drying. We re-use the overflow to fill screw holes or fillett joints. The next day, Pete decided to check the cabin sides for strength, and was amazed at how stiff they were.

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Its a tight fit under the shelter. We may have to lift it up to fit the turrett.

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One day the views from these windows will be different! This shot shows the gunwales that provide the fixing for the cabin sides. They are machined to a profile specifed in the plans. Later on the rigging chainplates are bolted to the cabin sides, so they are important structuraly.

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We move inside!

Those who have followed our progress from the beginning, will remember the succession of wild westerlies that tore down the strait last winter. Storms and floods: the worst of which forced us to temporarily remove the big tarp from our shelter. Not so this year. To date, the winds have been remarkably light, and most days have been sunny and clear. The only downside of this happy state, is that the frosty weather has brought lower overnight temperatures, causing our epoxy resin to stiffen up. We have resorted to wrapping our large 200L drum in an electric blanket when the overnight temp drops below 5 degrees.

A new chapter has begun for us as we move inside to begin the internal fit-out. We will build most of the permanent furniture, shelving, cupboards and cockpit assemblies prior to fitting the upper decks and turret. This will make it easier (and safer) to spray paint the internal spaces.

We were expecting the visible pace to slow a little, as the work becomes more detailed and there are more planning sessions. This has proved to be the case, but we are thoroughly enjoying this stage of the build.

For the last two weeks we have been focusing on the flooring. The laser level was utilised to scribe the levels. Decisions needed to be made about bench widths, especially in the galley area, so that Pete could trim the non structural frames where they intersected with the floors.

We opted to use 12mm ply for the floors, (instead of the suggested 9mm) which meant we could use lighter underfloor framing. Eventually the floors will be fixed in place to the hull sides. Pete has an aversion to spongy floors.

After the floors were cut, Pete started dressing the sheets. This is a technique that sort of simulates laid decking, and is very attractive. Next week, Deb will apply four coats of deck varnish. Then we will glue them in place, and protect them with 3mm MDF covers for the duration of the build.

Deb has fiberglassed the front of frame 3, completing the weather proofing of all the external areas we have built to date. She has also fiberglassed the bilges between frame 6 and 7, and completed filleting frame 5 and some other joins.

Russell was able to source some thick Oregon off-cutts for us, to be used as part of the fore-beam assembly. He also offered to laminate and machine it to size, which we greatly appreciated. Russell has been a constant source of encouragement, advice and assistance and is very much Pete’s woodworking guru.

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Setting the floor levels.

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Stringers in place. Underfloors were fiberglassed, and some drop bearers glued between the frames to support the stringers.

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Scribing the floor template.

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Cut and dry fit. We used 12mm and were very happy with its firmness underfoot.

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A moment of satisfaction. All major floors cut and dry-fitted.

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Dressing the floors. The grooves are filled with white epoxy, to simulate laid decking.

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Our big drum of epoxy, all wrapped up for bed, complete with electric blanket.

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We have learned to fiberglass as much as possible, when access is good. Later this area, in front of frame 3, is fitted with deck lockers.

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Brother and sister laminating the oregon for the fore-beam. Light and strong, its a pity that such beautiful timber is later encapsulated within the box section beam and will not be seen.