Tuesday, August 27, 2013

New "Low-Buck" Project Boat

Over at Dock Six, Brian acquires yet another project, which he describes in his typically hilarious fashion:
I wasn't looking for another project.

We didn't need another dinghy.

We are, however, sailors, and that means that rationality and logic go out the window when opportunity beckons.

Rod, occasional crew, company and keeper of the Dock Six Upriver Annex:

Mentioned in passing that he had an old Zodiac that he wanted to get gone.

8' ish.  Inflatable.  Old.

"It leaks."

Not unheard of.

Inflatable dinghies are great boats- they are light, stable, and carry a big payload.

They are, however, as the name implies, full of air, and are only usable when inflated, and will only remain  effective as long as aforementioned state of inflation lasts.

At some point in the boat's life it will develop an annoying habit of refusing to stay all full of air, preferring instead to slowly exhale it's contents, often from difficult to detect defects.

Which was, apparently the state in which Rod's red ride now reposed.

Making it the perfect candidate for another quixotic Dockside quest.

Meet the latest "Low-Buck" project, dubbed Honk:

Mostly complete, needing only a threaded air valve (the valve from our unused-in-two-seasons Airhead tube fit just fine)  and a good cleaning.

It breaks down, rolls up and stuffs into it's own bag in a package small enough to stow in Whiskeyjack's  quarterberth, and, with a total weight under 50 lbs., it is relatively easy to lug down the Dock and on the deck.

Right, then- let's see if this boat will float.

I opened the bag, unrolled the boat, slid in the floor slats, blew up the cocktail weenie seat and two flotation chambers, and in less than ten minutes had a floating boat.

After a quick scrub...

She looks good and smells good...
...with no easily detected sssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssss sounds or bubble visuals to locate the latent leak.

Well, okay, no one said this was going to be easy.

As luck would have it a crew of crash test dummies was on hand to assist in testing.  Hilary's daughter Sarah and her friends were enjoying the sun on the Dock, and happily agreed to seatest Honk.

I probably should have mentioned the "it leaks" part.

With Hilary towing Honk behind his C&C and I following behind as a photoboat we headed to the beach.

The test crew clambered aboard Honk and set out.  I would occasionally yell for progress reports.

In retrospect, radio communication might have been more effective...

Me:  "How's it going?"

The crew of Honk:   "Yes, I am rowing!"

Me:  "No!!!  Is it leaking a lot?!!?"

TCoH:  "Yeah, we know it's freakin' hot!!"

Me (to myself):  " This is an exercise in frustration."

TCoH (to each other):  "Can anybody figure out what the short fat guy is saying?"

Me:  "Any hissing, or bubbles?  Anything to see or hear?"
TCoH:   "Sure, we'll row back for a beer!!!"

TCoH:  "Hey, is this thing supposed to be getting softer?"

Okay, the bad news is, the leak remained undetected.

The good news is, we discovered that it tows fairly well, rows fairly badly, and can be deflated and stowed on the foredeck of Whiskeyjack while on the water.

Next episode of  This Old Dinghy:  Finding and sealing the leaks.

Stay tuned.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

15 Steps To New Ports For The Boat

Newfound Metals sells some really nice ports.  Chuck and Susan on s/v Sea Trek take advantage of this to replace 4 of theirs.  Let's ride along with them as they take on this task in a well-documented write-up...

Our original 30 year old ports were really looking pretty shabby and a couple of them had begun to leak. We did some temporary caulking, which I don't like to do, but it was obvious that it was time to replace them. After a lot of research, we found some very good looking stainless steel ports at New Found Metals   and ordered the 5X12 Stainless with screens and all of the needed materials for installation. We have received a lot of positive feedback from other boaters that have installed their ports and were very happy. The price was pretty good, and the ports arrived in short order. It was time to start the replacement process.

Step 1. Removing the old ports is always a messy process. Ours had a teak trim ring on the outside that came off in pieces. It is hard to tell in the photo, but we used white duct tape around the trim ring so we could get a wide putty knife behind it and not damage the paint in the process. Beach House has had the cabin sides painted with AwlGrip so it is not just gel-coat.

Once the trim ring is removed, the old caulking and crud that has collected under it had to be thoroughly cleaned. We used Acetone and then carefully sanded where the new trim ring would go to help with the bonding of the new caulking.

Step 2. Next, the inside main section of the port had to come out. This is the worst one on the boat and also the one that began to leak again. (Not to mention the fact that it looked horrible.) That is why we started here. The screws came out fairly easily, but since the interior plywood is pretty thin, we had to be very careful to not damage the surrounding wood when pulling this off.

The wide putty knife was used again, and slowly and carefully, we coaxed it off without too much of the veneer on the plywood coming with it. It was actually surprising that it came off so easily. Next, the old caulking had to be gently removed and the wood repaired.

We taped a box over the opening in order to continue working without making a mess on the interior shelf just below the port.

Step 3. There were some spaces and gaps in the plywood core between the outer fiberglass and the interior plywood. We filled the space and gaps with an expandable water resistant foam. Once the foam had set, it was trimmed even with the old opening.

Step 4. We would need to make a template since the new ports were a different shape than the old ones. The new ports have a drain built in, and the corners are shaped slightly different. The overall size of the new ports is very close to the size of the old ones. We took a heavy folder and laid the trim ring on top. With a rubber mallet we tapped all around the trim ring and made an impression of the hub marks. This is where the fasteners will come through from the inside.

With the trim ring still in place, the ring is traced on the template materials. You can trace both the inside and outside of the trim ring, or do as we did, and only trim the inside. If you do this, take care to be sure the top of your template material and the trim ring are in perfect parallel. With the trim ring removed, trace out the locations of the hub marks. These will be used to drill your holes. Once the actual trim ring is traced, the inside perimeter will need to be offset about 3/16 of an inch as will the hub marks.

The template will need to be cut out and we used an exacto knife that can be found in any hardware store.

Step 5. Once the template is finished, it needs to be secured to the outside of the cabin. Take care that it is flat and will not move around as you trace it on the cabin side and also that it is lined up properly. You can take measurements from the surrounding area, or, as we did, use the top inside edge of the template and the top edge of the old cutout for alignment. The area for the drains and the minor adjustments for the corners were marked with a felt tip pen and the template removed. The minor cutting to make the new size fit was made easy with our new Dremel Trio. I have a feeling this is going to be one of my favorite tools. The holes for the fasteners are also drilled using a drill guide supplied by New Found Metals. The drill guide assures that the holes are drilled at the correct angle so that the outer trim ring and the port itself will line up perfectly for the fasteners.

Step 6. Once the opening was cut, we did a dry fit to make sure everything was going as planned. So far so good, and it was time to seal up the core between the outside fiberglass cabin side and the interior wood. This is a messy process so we make sure the inside is covered with duct tape to keep the epoxy off the interior wood and the outside is protected with heavy paper taped in place. The core is coated using West System Six10.  A two inch strip of fiberglass tape wetted with West System is carefully laid around the opening to completely seal it and add strength. This is the same process we used in repairing the windows.

The one inch fiberglass strip should be trimmed with a utility knife along the edge of the opening, just before the epoxy kicks off completely. This is much easier than trying to cut and grind after the epoxy has hardened. Once the epoxy has set, it needs a thorough sanding and wiping down with water and a 3M pad. This removes the blush from the epoxy which can prevent anything from sticking to it and get the opening ready to accept the bedding compounds.

Step 7. The holes on the outside will also need to be counter bored about 1/2 inch to accept the trim ring. We also purchased the counter bore from Newfound Metals and it is of good quality. Be careful not to let the counter bore get away from you.

Step 8. The stainless trim ring and the port itself need a good cleaning with Acetone. This removes any dirt and residue left on the ports from the manufacturing process and assures that the bedding material will stick and seal the ports.

Step 9. The fasteners will probably be a little longer than they need to be and will bottom out before the ports are tight in the opening. We took careful measurements of how long they needed to be and cut them shorter with our handy Dremel tool and heavy duty cutting wheels.

Step 10. The bedding process is probably the most important step in the entire installation. Remember that beside them being ugly, they leaked and we did not want to go through this entire process only to have them leak again and start over. We did one final dry fit before applying the bedding compound. For bedding ports, our preference has always been butyl tape. The stuff is tenacious, lasts forever and is really really sticky. It can be found at most any RV supply store or it can be ordered with the ports. Newfound Metals recommends the ports be sealed really well on the inside and outside. We prefer minimal sealing on the inside and serious sealing on the outside. We want to keep the water on the outside of the boat. A single bead of the butyl tape around the inside of the port is all we used. The space under the drain portion of the port needs a few extra layers. This is more to hold the port in place than it is for bedding purposes.

We also put a thin bead of butyl tape around the hub marks on the trim ring to seal around our counter bore holes.

Step 11. The main section of the port needs to be clamped into place. It is very important that the port line up properly with the holes drilled for the fasteners and the outer trim ring. The port and trim ring should be lined up in place, the port clamped and the trim ring removed. Do this before you put the butyl tape on the trim ring. Tighten down on the clamps. The strip of butyl tape that was placed on the post should squeeze into the opening and allow the clamps to be removed for a short period of time to position the trim ring. But there is a little more that needs to be done first. Once the port is positioned where it should be, the space between the port and the opening in the cabin side has to be filled in with butyl tape. We added two complete rings. Running a ring around the entire port by using the paper that the tape comes on and a plastic handle from putty knife, we forced the butyl tape into the opening. Unfortunately, I was too busy with the project to take a photo. At a minimum, two rings should be forced into the opening. We pushed it in as far as we could, being careful to not leave so much along the outer edge of the port that when we installed the trim ring, it would squeeze out all over the port and ring.

Step 12. With the butyl tape added to the hubs wrapped with butyl tape, the rest of the trim ring needs to be well caulked. For this, we used 3M 4000 UV just in case we will ever have to remove the trim ring in the future. I can't caution enough on the butyl tape. Use enough to completely seal everything, but not so much that it will squeeze out from behind. The stuff is really sticky and hard to clean off.

Step 13. Remove the clamps and bolt the mainframe of the port and the trim ring together. We put a dab of 4000 on the beginning of the threads and a dab of Tef-Gel just under the bolt head. This seals the threads in the trim ring and keeps the head of the fastener from seizing when it comes down to tightening. We tighten down each fastener a little at a time, going round and round until the port and trim ring are tight. We try not to over tighten so that all of the bedding will squeeze out. There should be enough bedding to form a gasket.

Step 14. The 3M 4000 should be applied so that it DOES squeeze out from all around the trim ring. For that, we tape around the ring and the mainframe flange to make clean up easier. But the excess caulk needs to be removed right away before it dries. We use a caulking knife to remove most of it and then Acetone and lots of rags for the final clean up. If any of the butyl tape did squeeze out, it can be cleaned up with metal polish or car wax.

Step 15. Give the entire stainless mainframe and trim ring a good cleaning with a quality metal polish. The finished port will look fantastic.

The interior wood had suffered some damage and the teak had been water-stained from the leaks. No matter what we did, it was not going to look nice, and with the new port, we did want it to look good. Since this area is a storage shelf and in a corner, we decided to try and paint just this area and see how it would look. It could not be any worse. We were very pleased in how the paint turned out, and except for some wiring that needs to be covered, we are declaring this project a success. So, one down and four more to go.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Low-Buck Project: Rig Tuning

Does your mast flop back and forth when you tack?  Or is your rigging set up so tight that it is turning the boat into a banana?  Over at Dock Six, Brian tackles the issue and shows us a tool that anyone with a big stick held up with wires on their boat should probably have...
   "Welcome to a new kind of tension..."
                             -Green Day

         A Friend of the Dock, Rod (Henceforth known as FOD Rod), is one of those boaters that we all know.
     Or wish we knew.
     Or hope to know.
      He's owned sailboats and powerboats and been comfortable on each, has run big boats and small boats, been a yacht club member and a dock rat, and has not developed, (or maybe lost) any prejudices regarding size, mode of propulsion or affiliation.  Over more than three decades, he's been there, done that... quietly.  He doesn't steer a barstool and try to command a room, he'd rather be polishing, or fixing or sailing his Catalina or piloting his Limestone.

      Along the way he's amassed some of the gear that we all wish we had, have thought about buying, or didn't even realize existed.

      Like Loos Gauges.

      One of the endlessly interesting (or numblingly, observing-paint-dryingly boring, depending) aspects of sailing is the myriad  infinite adjustments that can be made to a sailboat's rig, and the effect that the rig tension has on performance.  Some sailors like a loose rig, believing that it relieves strain on the mast step and compression post, others prefer a rig that is tight as a drum port-starboard, but with a lot of fore-aft adjustability, others like tight stays with loose shrouds, etc.,

     Me?  I've always tuned my rig by eye and by ear.  Tighten up the backstay until the forestay is tight and the mast has a nice rake, then tighten the lower shrouds until they all give me the same note when twanged, then do the same thing with the upper shrouds.

     (I like the upper shrouds to sound a half tone to a tone lower than the lower shrouds, but then, I like a lot of bass.)

      It always seemed okay to me, but I wondered- am I, maybe,  overtightening or undertightening my rig?  should I be concerned about a catastrohic failure, or could I maybe find another 1/10th of a knot and less weather helm if I cranked the turnbuckles another turn or two?

    FOD Rod mentioned that he, of course, had the tools for this, and kindly loaned me his Loos gauges.

       The process is simple, and takes little time.  The tools required are just as simple:

                   The gauge, and the tools you use to adjust your turnbuckles.

                   Testing tension is just plain stupid simple.  Clip the gauge to the stay or shroud....

      Pull the lanyard until the pointer reaches the black line....

  ... and note the number at the middle of the stay/shroud .

   Included with the Loos Gauge is an instruction leaflet, which includes a conversion chart for optimum tension, based on the diameter of the wire.  Compare your reading to the chart, then tighten or loosen the turnbuckles accordingly, rechecking until the tension is within spec.  Easy peasy.

    Turns out my tuning-by-twang was pretty close.  The uppers benefitted from another couple of turns on the turnbuckle, the backstay took three, the lower shrouds were spot on.

    I don't know whether it has made our galleon of a pocket cruiser any faster, but it's kinda cool to know that she is as optimized rig-wise, as she can get.

     Give it a try.

   "Talk The Dock!"

Saturday, August 17, 2013


Google is important.

To commercial outfits, Google ranking is crucial.  And one of the things Google uses to rank sites is the number of links to them.  As a consequence, some of the less scrupulous sites pay people (Work from home!  Make $10,000 every month!) to increase the number of links to their sites by posting comments on blogs - any blog at all will do - that contain these links.

Lately, the number of these bogus comments appearing on Small Boat Projects has skyrocketed.  I have always disliked comment moderation, and have held Small Boat Projects as an open site - but sadly, this now must be over. 

I apologize to you, the legitimate readers of this blog for the necessity, but comment moderation is now turned on.


Thursday, August 15, 2013

New LED Running Lights for the Bow

The failure of a lite bulb in the running lites aboard s/v C'est la Vie led to Jeff and Anne upgrading to LED lites.  And then there's that 5200...
Last fall during our migration from North Carolina to Florida our port forward running light burned out.  I purchased what I thought to be the correct replacement bulb, but the new bulb was either too large, too high a wattage, or both.  The result was a melted lens and damaged socket (I do realize this could have been much worse.)

Through a bit of internet searching I found some tear drop shaped led replacements made by SeaSense and purchased them last December.

The new LED running lights

I went back to seek a link for the lights we purchased and they have vanished from the SeaSense website, but can be found on ebay.  This is unfortunate since the fixtures were an accurate enough match to C'est la Vie's old lights that the replacement was relatively easy, but I'm skipping over the removal of the old lights.

A copious ring of ling cured 5200 surrounding the old light fixture 

The person installing the existing lights did not hold back on the 5200.  I feared the lights may be difficult to remove without marring the exterior hull paint.  For this reason, I began my extraction efforts sweating away in the anchor locker scraping, prying, grunting, and cursing at the elastic gobs of 5200.

using Anne's paddle board as a work platform to access the running lights

When additional efforts in the anchor locker grew futile, I launched Anne's paddle board and used it as a work platform from which to launch my external attack on the bedded lights.  After one lap around the fixtures with a razor knife the fixture parted ways with the hull.  Success.  The starboard side came free with similar effort.

Successful extraction of old fixture.  Now back to scraping 5200.

Some additional work went into removing the surface 5200. When test fitting the new lights, I was elated to discover that the port side matched down to the pilot holes.  The starboard side took a bit of sanding and drilling out the pilot holes to correct minor misalignment.

Anne crawled into the anchor locker and I remained on the board as we worked together to bolt in place the new fixtures.  Rather that replacing the 5200, we used butyl tape to bed the new lights.

Successful test of the new bow running lights.

Shortly after installing the fixtures afternoon thunderstorms stalled our efforts.  I returned this morning and wired the new lights.  C'est la Vie is now legal and two fixtures closer to 100% LED.  I think the deck spot light and the engine compartment lights are the only incandescent bulbs remaining on the boat.
[Editor's note: C'est la Vie was dismasted on July 5 off the Frying Pan Shoals.  Jeff and Anne are fine, and C'est la Vie was able to motor under her own power to a safe harbor, where whe is currently hauled out.  You can read more about this here, herehere, and here.  There are some important lessons to be learned from this - I encourage you to read Jeff's account of the event.]

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

In the steps of my pops

I didn't have a tag for leather work.  But Petr on s/v Janna shows why I added one...
My old man was an electrician by trade. But he hated the work and above all he loved horses, westerns and country music and defined himself by the cult western Monty Walsh. So one year after the Velvet revolution, he brought home a big bag full of cowhide, needles, thread, roe-deer antlers and sheets of bee wax. He put that all down in the corner of our living room, which naturally made my mum very happy. But it wouldn’t be fair to leave out the other parts of our tiny block of flats apartment, so in the kitchen he started to melt the bee wax and mould it into balls and a frame for a western saddle soon appeared in the bedroom.

A typical western saddle (example photo, not a product of my dad, even though it looked pretty much like this one)

It goes without saying that my dad had no horse, but he made himself available to people that had horses and everyone who has ever been around horses knows that there’s a lot of work to be done. More work than riding actually, so full hearted people devoted to the cause, like my dad, are always welcome.

Finally he threw away a multimeter and went to the other side of Bohemia to the Krkonose mountains to be with horses on a small farm with about 30 Hucul horses. We saw him only for few days once in couple of months, but I could spend two or three whole summer and winter holidays at the farm in the midst of those beautiful forests. Whenever there was a free horse during the rides for the paying clients one of us kids could take a ride with the group. Those calm mares always took a good care of us.

But then my dad hurt his back when he fell from a horseback and that was the end of his work at the farm. By then he made two or three western saddles and repaired many more so it was only natural that he would start his own saddler shop.

He was no businessman. He was working with too big a heart and besides, most of his clients were people that were doing some lovable jobs, like tending to horses, or had dreamer’s hobbies like country music, scouting or tramping. But you don’t need to make a lot of money if you do what you love. And he was doing exactly that till the end.

Before I grew up into an ignorant teenager, I had a chance to learn a bit of the trade and it came in handy. We were preparing to make a dodger for Janna so we visited a local canvas guy from whom we wanted to buy some material like Sunbrella, Dacron thread, and such. I knew that he must be using cowhide so I asked him about it. He said that indeed he used to use it, but now they tend to use synthetic material instead. When he asked if we wanted some of his old cowhide stored back in his shop, I didn’t waste a second.

I put that big bag full of cowhide into the corner of our cockpit and took out my inheritance: couple of awls, saddler’s needles and hole cutters.

Soon I realized that I kind of didn’t manage to inherit dad’s craftsman’s patience and eye for detail. But my goal wasn’t to create works of art like my dad, just something that will work and hopefully won’t hurt the eyes and aesthetic feelings of fellow human beings.

Pieces of cowhide and waxed thread were soon laying all around the boat and my hands hurt from piercing the thick hide and pulling the needle through, even though I used a sailor’s palm to push it in and pliers to pull it out.

Working with cowhide is really enjoyable. When you soak it in water you can actually mould it quite well and to a certain extent it will hold the form. That’s what the roe-deer antler is for. A round one for moulding and shaping, a sharp one for embossing patterns. But I didn’t venture that far. My esthetical goals were very simple, something in the lines of preventing regular people of being offended by my sloppiness. Craftsmen please shed a blind eye.





Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Folding Electric Scooter

No more carrying groceries while walking along a hot dusty road? I wonder how this Moveo scooter would work out as dinghy-carry-able land transport... It is an all-electric scooter that folds up to a compact package. It weighs 55 lb, which is less than a 5 HP Honda 4-stroke outboard, so it should be possible to load it into a dinghy while at anchor, I would suppose.  

Charging the batteries could be a problem for power-starved cruisers tho.  Plug it in on shore while shopping?
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