Monday, October 17, 2016

Put the ‘Fun’ in Functional Storage with this Cheap Trick

Over on s/v Galapagos Michael & Melissa continue making their boat into a home...
I was complaining of being bored the other day. We won’t be moving aboard until at least the end of the summer, and we don’t get to have a long cruise this year because of Mike’s work. That pesky annual leave thing is going to be a thing of the past soon enough, so we’re content to wait out the remaining months doing a little bit here and there to move forward with our plan. The house and yard are in maintenance mode, my practice continues to slowly wind down. I’m fine with living in the liminal space, as a rule. But finding myself kind of wandering aimlessly around the house trying to look busy just isn’t my style.  It’s like don’t know what to do with myself. I decided I needed a few small but useful projects for the boat, starting with that cool cockpit mat.


The rumpus room in the v berth is taking shape and we will be using this cabin to watch movies and TV shows we like. To move forward with that plan,  I sorted and stored our DVD collection, throwing out all the colorful plastic containers and storing each DVD in its own plastic sleeve. I then labeled and stored them in nifty snap-locking containers I bought at JoAnn Fabric for 8$ apiece. I know many cruisers store hundreds of movies on thumb drives and maybe that will be in our future. For now, I don’t have the patience for that. This was quick and easy and finding what we want will also be quick and easy.

Our midship cabin got refurbished, too, with the addition of a layer of latex to the foam, and new upholstery.
You’ll be glad to know that the aft cabin project is moving along. We took possession of the finished mattresses this week and I carted them down to the boat to see that they fit before getting them covered. It’s probably overkill, but since I didn’t have any old foam to take in to use as patterns ( I had made my own paper pattern) I just wanted to eyeball the fit before covering. They fit beautifully and allow us to sleep any old which way. The bed is going to be very comfortable and will last for 20 years if we protect them. The next task is to bring them home so I can cover them in that PUL fabric, then take them for their final upholstery. After that, I get to make custom covers and sheets. Won’t that be a creative undertaking! I do believe our goal of having a totally comfortable, sleepable aft cabin is coming to fruition.

So much nicer than what we had before!

The trusty Brother sewing machine has been dusted off and I am rediscovering my love of sewing. As we are now envisioning being able to live with that aft cabin, it was time to turn my thoughts to how we would store our clothing there. We have one hanging locker, a small set of drawers, and a small drawer under each side of the bunk. There are shelves along the hull on each side and I’d like to keep them uncluttered. I would like to keep both clothing and bedding in that cabin and I wanted that storage to be easy to access because otherwise I am tempted to leave my clothes laying around draped decoratively on doorknobs and corners of objects. I know it’s a long shot, but we both really want to keep a neat and tidy look in our boat. It just feels better that way.

Cuteness overload!
Cuteness overload!

I had been considering colorful soft sided baskets to keep clothing in but where to put them was in question. Instead I opted to make fabric bags that look like pillow shams of different sizes and shapes. I bought 1.5 yards of this super cute owl outdoor fabric on sale for 12$/yard.  Then I found a 3$ remnant of orange fabric that matched. I purchased thread, some velcro, and a set of nylon upholstery zippers.  Total cost for materials was about 40$. For that price, plus some fun time at the sewing machine, I have a selection of sizes of storage containers for soft things like bedding and clothing: 2 large for blankets and such, two standard sized bolsters for shorts, tops, bathing suits, and three additional sizes – 7 storage units in all. These can be stored right in sight on the beds as pillows. The fabric is water repellant and UV protected. Plus…owls! Seriously, you can fit a ton of stuff in these things. Functional, practical, and fun!

The largest bag is 15″ x 26″, for scale purposes.

Mike is working on a couple of interior projects that he will write about soon. Our next joint project will be putting shelving in most, if not all, of the hanging lockers. We have a generous amount of hanging locker space, most of which is completely wasted because we don’t have that many clothes that hang. We already know that this job is going to be a pain in the hind end, so if you have any shortcut tips on how to make it easier, do tell. We want the shelves to take full advantage of all space, so that means they will have have to be custom cut.

This currently holds two blankets and two pillows. It would work great in the forward cabin as an extra pillow for lounging.

Oh, and guess what! We get to go on a short cruise over the Memorial Day weekend. We’ve got friends to stay with Skippy, so Thursday night we are out of here! Yay! We are both so ready for that.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Boat Hooks

Over at Sail Delmarva, Drew has some comments on that ubiquitous tool: the boat hook
Six months ago I was asked to review boat hooks for Practical Sailor Magazine. Everybody needs one. How dull I thought; I've never bought one, not in 30 years. I always find them by the dumpster or on the beach, and have a stack of "spares" at home that I haven't used yet. Keeps me from getting to choked up if someone drops one. Most days we just drop it in the middle of the tramp--I've never lost one from there, even in heavy going, though I generally tie it down when it starts banging into things.

Everybody does need one.

And low and behold it was more fun than I thought.
  • The most expensive, heavy duty model was the first to fail in the field.
  • Most would not allow me to pull with full strength without breaking.
  • The company that urged us to test, feeling theirs were best, was absolutely right.
  • I still like my 20-year-old pole for daily use.
How about this classic crabber's  hook? It's been hanging on the wall in my daughter's room for years, after I found it tangled up in my docklines after Isabel (I left in on the dock for 2 weeks, but no one claimed it). In fact, it was perhaps the best balanced and most suitable for all-day heavy use. No surprise.

The old guard vs. the new kids. Second from the left is my every-day pole.

I wonder who got the bright idea that a boat hook makes a good brush pole (I'm not picking on West Marine--they are ALL like that now)? All it does is snag lines. Unfortunately, about 1/2 of them won't screw into a brush because part of the hook is in the way. And nothing can be screwed into the "take" part of the hook anyway, so what's up with threads there? Worst of all...

... the bulbous padded tip makes them useless for snagging a line off a piling or dock...

Which all of the old-school poles can do easily, but only ONE of the new poles. Not an improvement in my opinion.

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Canvas - Round Two Completed!

This post originally appeared on Windborne in Puget Sound

Round two of cockpit canvas replacement - the roof section of the dodger - is done!  Here's how it went:

Topstitching the aft tail seam
Having completed the actual construction of the panel, I needed to create the attachment to the "windshield" portion of the dodger. The original canvas had the roof and the windshield sewn together, making a hugely unwieldly thing, almost impossible to handle with all the compound curvature and the easily damaged vinyl.  As I reported last time, I made a design decision:  The new roof panel would be separate, and attach to the windshield via Common Sense fasteners.

So, how to locate those fasteners?  For a taut roof panel, the fasteners need to be in the exact right spot, and further, the eyelets and male portions need to end up in registration with each other.  How to do this?  I solve problems like this as I am falling asleep and letting my subconscious work on them.  This is the procedure I came up with: 
  • Mark, on the tuck back tail of the new roof panel the desired location for fasteners - this portion will show in the final installation
  • Place the new roof panel in place, carefully aligning the sides, and positioning the front seam on the front surface of the tube, as designed.  You'll note that the old panel seam (built by a professional) missed the tube by as much as an inch in the center.
  • Insert T-pins at the marked locations.  By pushing them all the way in, they made a good solid temporary connection because the vinyl in the windshield gripped them, allowing tension to be applied so that wrinkles could be worked out.  Adjust the T-pin locations in the windshield as required (keep the pin locations in the tail as marked since, again, these will show) and reposition as needed for a good fit everywhere.
  • Mark exactly the T-pin locations on both the tuck back tail, and the windshield.  To mark the windshield, pull a pin part way out, giving enough room to work under the tail, but keeping the location established.  Since this is all done with the existing canvas all in place, it is easy because the old roof panel is keeping the windshield tensioned and in place.

T-pins for alignment
  • Pull the new canvas off
  • Punch holes in the windshield using Sailrite's Common Sense punch...  this is the only way to do this, given that 4 layers of Sunbrella and the vinyl need to be cut.  Jane was inside, with a buck made out of a 6" piece of railroad track with a piece of Starboard taped on as the working surface.  Without something to work against, the punch would not have worked.
  • Install the eyelets in the windshield.
Holes punched and eyelets installed
  • Install the male portions of the fasteners on the tuck back tail of the new canvas.  Getting the male fastener mounting holes in the right place cannot be done by eyeball.  I made myself a jig out of an old blank non-silvered CD, by drilling holes at the correct spacing and then marking the outline of the fastener and horizontal and vertical centerlines.  This can then be held in place on the marked T-pin location and a pen can be used to mark the rivet locations thru the holes in the jig.  (Sailrite?  Are you listening?  You need to sell something like this...)
Homemade drilling jig
  • The moment of truth: Test fit.  Will everything work?  In order to get a true assessment, I disconnected the rear of the old canvas from the rear tube and installed the new canvas completely.  Since the old roof canvas was still attached to the windshield, it hung down inside.  Yup, it looked good.
Test fitting
OK, punching the holes in the windshield was a commitment, but not a serious one...  Eventually tho, it was time to make the big jump, and say "I do."  So I cut the old roof panel off of the windshield and voilĂ , c'est fini!

And man oh man is it good to see the old faded canvas as a jumbled up pile (and eventually in the dumpster) instead of gracing the cockpit!

Good riddance!

Now there is only one more roof panel to make - the center section.  This is much simpler to construct, being a single panel of cloth with only edging installed.  Ah, but exact sizing and zipper placement are critical for a taut installation.  Gotta think about this...

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Adding a Wheel to the Dinghy

I know you've dragged your dinghy up onto the beach -  not easy is it?  And here in the Salish Sea, this task is even more difficult and harder on the dinghy because the beaches are all gravel - sometimes even barnacle covered gravel. Mike of s/v Chalice shows us a way to make the task into a one-man job, and one that protects the dinghy bottom to boot:
Wouldn't it be nice to just wheel your dinghy down to the beach or up the beach? I got the idea from Harry Bryan in Canada.

Some Pics of what I did.

From Update_July 20, 2016

From Update_July 20, 2016

From Update_July 20, 2016

Installed. I had to cut a hole in the boat and build a well for it. Not hard and no maintenance issues with the 1" stainless tube and plastic parts.

From Update_July 20, 2016

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Rumpus Room Media Center

Michael & Melissa on s/v Galapagos turn their V-berth into a media center. (And I must confess that it was this post which convinced me to get a label maker.)
In previous posts we have reported on our progress in updating the V-berth.  With a new cushion and upholstery, the space is really comfortable and has become like a second salon.  We will use the V-berth as a guest cabin when company is aboard but when it is just the two of us, we call this the space the Rumpus Room.

Patrick chillin in the Rumpus Room
Patrick chillin in the Rumpus Room

One of the more decadent projects I have been planning is to have a TV and DVD player on the boat.  We watch more movies on the boat than we ever do at home and it is has become a bit of a ritual to save up a season of some show to binge watch when we are out on a cruise.  For example, we have season six of Downton Abbey unopened and ready for our Memorial Day South sound trip.

In the past, we have used a laptop to watch movies which is okay but not optimal.  The speakers aren’t too great and since the battery life on our laptops is pathetic, we have to plug in to the inverter to keep the juice flowing.  It works but the whole setup seemed a little cheesy.

So, for some time I have been ruminating on how I would install a small entertainment center on the boat.  With the Rumpus Room all but complete, now seemed like a good time to stop thinking and start installing. Alas, as with every other boat project, installing one thing means you must drill, move, re organize and generally tear the boat apart, twice.

One of the most important criteria for designing this  system was to have it be entirely powered from the 12 volt system.  There are a few small TV and TV/DVD combos which are set up for 12 volt. Long Haul truckers use them and there are some marine grade systems as well.  But the units I found seemed really expensive relative to their size.

So last year (I ruminate a long time) I was looking at a TV or computer monitor and noticed that it had an AC to DC power supply (commonly referred to as a brick).  So, just like your laptop, you plug the brick into an AC outlet but the TV is actually running on DC. However just because the TV uses DC does not mean it will work with the 12 volt system on your boat but the seed was planted and more research ensued.

Finally, after a bit of googling, I went to Best Buy and looked at the smaller Insignia brand LED TVs.  Most of these use a AC to DC power supply and one, the Insignia 24 inch LED TV.  actually uses 12 volts.  Be aware that Best Buy sells a few 24 inch TVs in this size and brand.  This model was the only one I found in the store that used a 12 volt power supply. If you want to attract attention at Best Buy, start moving their TVs around and unplugging the power supplies so you can read the voltage and current values for the output. Also it is quite fun to try and explain a project like this to someone that is not entirely sure that TVs even use electricity.

Model: NS-24D510NA17 $140!

With a TV secured, I also wanted a DVD player that could also run off the 12 Volt system.  This was quite a bit easier since the players are small and I could look at the power supplies without too much trouble.  I ended up buying a Sony BDP-S3700 for $80.  You can buy a cheaper DVD player that will work well on 12 volts for about half the price but this unit is WiFi capable.  At home, the only TV we ever watch is via NetFlix or Amazon. I doubt we will be doing much streaming of video away from the marina but we might stream from a networked hard drive at some point.

Sony BDP-S3700 $80
Sony BDP-S3700

I wanted to mount the TV on the bulkhead both to keep it out of the way and to improve the viewing angle.  For this task, I bought the $40 Rocket Fish Full Motion TV mount.

The Rocket Fish Full Motion TV mount

I was and still am a bit worried about the security of this mount and will continue to monitor this.  The TV only weighs 6 pounds but in a bouncy sea way the stress could be higher than the attachment points were designed to stand.  I will also install a bungy cord to hold the TV snugly against the bulkhead when not in use.

So, with the main components secured, I still needed to run wiring to the bulkhead and create outlets for the the TV and DVD player.  That’s where tearing the boat apart comes in.  I ran 30 feet of 12 gauge marine wire through the forward head, salon, galley and into the DC distribution panel.

I hate drilling holes anywhere on the boat. These two are out of the way.

Dual 12 volt outlets from West Marine.  I soldered all connections.  I just feel better soldering.

Whenever I run new wire or hose in the boat, I like to label it at a few locations along the run.
Whenever I run new wire or hose in the boat, I like to label it at a few locations along the run.
Probably the moment of truth to this whole project is when I cut the DC connector off of the bricks for the TV and DVD player.  You are committed when you willfully destroy part of the equipment you just paid good money for.  I could have bought adapters for each of the electronics and made new wiring harnesses for them but I don’t intend to use the TV anywhere but on the boat.  I did keep the bricks and could always splice the wires back together.

After cutting the wires and checking the polarity three times, I soldered the the wires onto the fused DC Accessory plugs I picked up for the purpose.  And Finally the moment of truth.

I have Open CPN on my laptop and it displayed beautifully on the TV. I could see using this display for planning a day’s journey with Melissa.

Both units worked perfectly!  After a little fussing, I was even able to stream Netflx with the DVD player. The audio quality is quite good for such an inexpensive TV and the Rocket Fish mount makes it easy adjust  the viewing angle.  I think that will be particularly important if we use the TV as a computer monitor.

With the Wifi enabled DVD player, we can stream Netflix if a signal can be found. Foss Harbor marina recently added a really nice Wifi system to our dock and it worked beautifully.
With the WiFi enabled DVD player, we can stream Netflix if a signal can be found. Foss Harbor marina recently added a really nice WiFi system to our dock and it worked beautifully.

The power supplies that came with the TV and DVD player both had an open voltage of about 15.5 volts DC, well over the charging voltage that any of the charging sources on Galapagos provide. Still I will probably just unplug these devices when not in use to be on the safe side.  A low voltage condition might cause problems as well and I will have to monitor that as we go.

So far, I am quite pleased with how well this project turned out.  I love not having to turn on the inverter and trying to make the tinny laptop speakers loud enough.  All in all, a nice addition to our Rumpus Room.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Ratty Port Replacement

This post originally appeared on Windborne in Puget Sound

One of two failing ratty fixed ports

Last summer while doing gelcoat repair, I mentioned that the ratty fixed ports on Eolian's aft-facing cabin house were long overdue for replacement. Well, now is that time.

Even Plexiglas eventually falls prey to the relentless UV from the sun, tho it lasts far, far longer than Lexan - this port is 38 years old.  If it had been polycarbonate, it would have looked much worse after only 5 years.

Tho there are no leaks (yet!), the bedding is overdue for replacement, as well as the port.
Removing the port was easy.  Back out the screws on the inside, and then push it out.  No, that bedding was definitely NOT firmly holding the port in place.  Tho it was clearly not leaking, there appeared to be no reason for that except for habit.

The next problem was that the new port is a little larger than the old one (well, I guess that's better than the reverse...).  First I taped over the entire area with some white duct tape I had on board to protect it from the vibrating sabersaw table.  Then I used the outer trim ring of the new port as a stencil, and marked a cut line.  My trusty (but crummy - I gotta get a better one) saber saw with a grit-edge blade cut thru the 1" thick sandwich of fiberglass, foam, fiberglass with relative ease.  To constrain the mess, Jane was  inside with a shop vac positioned to catch the dust and chips.

(Note to self:  Next time, just tape some plastic over the inside and clean up afterwards - that will be more effective and easier.)

The new opening port is a little larger than the old one.
Before the final installation, one more step was necessary.  Because we often sit on the back deck and lean against the bulkhead that has this port (and a second one, which will also get replaced), it was necessary to trim the spigot to a minimum projection - for comfort.  So I installed the port, held the trim ring in place, and traced around the projecting spigot with a ballpoint pen.

Then I removed the port and laboriously cut off the extra spigot length with a hand hacksaw (the same one I used to cut the exhaust hose...).  I preferred to use a hand tool for this job because, tho it cut slowly...  it cut at a speed that permitted me to maintain a uniform 1/8" from the pen marking.  After cutting, I used a fine file to smooth off the saw cut markings, and break the resulting sharp edges slightly.

Trimmed and ready for final caulking
Before final installation, I carefully sealed the exposed foam core in the opening with the same silicone that Beckson requires for bedding the port*.  If there was any leakage in the future, I didn't want it to get into the core.  Then I injected silicone into the gap between the port and the deckhouse, and smeared a little on the back side of the trim ring.  Press the trim ring into place, some clean up, and it is done!

Now, one more to go, and then all the fixed and opening ports on the boat will have been replaced, giving us a total of 11 opening ports.

* I hate the use of silicone on a boat, but this is one of the few places that I will use it.  In this case, it is because Beckson specifies it.
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