Saturday, July 20, 2019

Wintertime is not all gloom.




It’s a particularly lovely morning. Wintertime, one of those clear, perfectly still days that we get at this time of year  and I’ve just ploughed my way through the mornings chores, and am sitting up in my bunk contemplating the day.
My friend Paul will be calling in this afternoon, he’s always good for a chat, I’ll be baking scones, something that I enjoy but which is not worth doing just for me alone so that’s a double win. Good company, some good food and a new lemongrass and ginger tea from the Charity Tea company down the road, that’s an afternoon to look forward to.

In the meantime, it will be full tide in an hour and a half,  by then the mist will have risen from the water, the sun will have a little warmth in it and there will be enough water in the channel  to carry me rowing up the river for an hours exercise.  Some people go to a gym. “Not me” says I.

I have a habit of watching the on line auction sites for interesting collections  of boat fittings, as a chronic, serial boatbuilder I’m rigging at least one new boat each year and the cost of fitting the boat out adds up very quickly. So buying the  odd second hand bits, sorting them into boxes by type and putting them on the shelf means that I have what is in effect my very own, if sometimes showing a bit of wear,  yacht chandlery.
I’ve scored a couple of those of late,  among the bits and pieces are the cheek blocks for Long Steps boom, two reefs worth,  one of the rigging screws that will be part of the tiller to rudder linkage,  some marine grade 12 volt wire that will run current from the solar panel on the after deck to the charge controller then the big battery, and a double fiddle block with becket and cleat that will likely be the bottom mainsheet block.
All that plus a heap of bits for the boat that will inevitably come next.

The project on the drawing board is progressing, slower than I’d like as we have family issues that means I’m having to stay at my mothers home a few days a week, sisters and I take turns so its not full time but it does take me away from  my interests and usual occupation.
While it feel odd sleeping in the bed that was mine 60 years ago, I’m not really complaining. I know that our efforts there are appreciated, while she is worried about taking up my time, I did tell her “Mum, you wiped my bum when I was very small, and while I don’t expect to have to do that for you, its no problem to be here to help”.

But the boatbuilding too has been slow, there has been so much else going on.  Spook needs maintenance, new boom and gaff jaws, the bilge pump has swallowed something that’s choked it, and the trailer! Don’t ask about that accursed thing, it was designed for a rather lighter power boat and its problematic in the extreme.  I’m going to have to throw some money at it as I’m not set up for heavy metalwork and welding.  
And that’s just one of the eight boats in my fleet.

There are a group of Little Black Shags working a channel just outside my window,  at this time of year they line up line abreast and move along the channel driving the small fish ahead of them.  They’re really organised, probably 10 or 12 of them working for their breakfast. Fascinating to watch, like the Royal Spoonbills they’re only here at this time of year, several species of sea and estuarine birds come and go on a seasonal basis and its wonderful to be able to see them here. Once I got to know them, I found its like having an avian calendar that marks the seasons, it will be springtime in a while, and the oystercatchers will be back to mark the longer days and warmer sun.  They’ll be very welcome.




Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Winter blues, well thats the colour of the paint these last few days. Blue.

Its wintertime, a bit cold and damp even for much in the way of maintenance work so I've been gradually painting the after cockpit area of Kairos, the launch I live on. Pale blue, sand off until the gloss is off the old paint, or right to the wood where its flaking, then two coats of Altex general purpose primer undercoat, then two coats over that of Resene oil based high gloss enamel.
I gave up painting with a paintbrush, and have been using a short nap roller, cut into three segments lengthwise then into pieces about 60mm wide, and stapled to a stick for a handle.  I am finding that  get a very even finish, none of the orange peel look that a roller on its own gives ( yes I know about tipping it off with a paintbrush to get rid of that) or the streakiness that a paintbrush leaves in these cool humid conditions.
I've had to move everything in that crowded space out of one corner and across to another, do the painting there, then move all the gubbins back along with the gubbins from another corner then paint that, and so on. Iv'e one coat to put on one corner plus a few little touchups to do with a small brush where my "Scotsmans brushes" dont get into the corners. It will be nice to have that done.

There is work going on on the drawing board too, sometimes it takes a while to get the cabin temp up to where the ink of the Rotring pens will dry quickly enough to make working practical, but there have been some days when the sun warms the place up enough, so there is progress not only on a couple of old projects, but a new one as well.  Watch this space for that.

In the evenings, when howling down with rain and wind out there in the dark I'm wont to sit up in my cozy bunk and browse through YouTube, here's one I found that has a lot of familiar stuff in it.
This is the 2009 Akaroa Trad Boat event, and woohoo, two Navigators, a Houdini and, AND, that little gaff cabin sloop with the white hull, blue topside strake, and the red Ensign on her taffrail is now, through some very unexpected events, sitting in the carport at my mothers house not so far from here.  She was called "May" in those days, but to me that didnt fit, so she's now "Spook" of Stillwater.
I've put a carbon fibre mast on her, a carbon gaff, have had the jib recut and there is a new main being built, just slightly bigger than the old one.
I"m working on a better foil shape for the daggerboard, and am replacing the weight taken out of the rig ( about 20 kg which made a very noticeable difference ) with  some more lead in the bilge.
She sails beautifully. I'm hoping that she'll be even better next season with the sails sorted and the rig much lighter, a bit more ballast and some other minor mods.

Anyways, here's the link to the video.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=foCXFq7SA20

Tuesday, June 25, 2019

Dolphins, while they're wonderful, they dont fare well up here in the river.


We had a little adventure yesterday, Mark from the boat across the river, his daughter Bree, and I.  He rang me up fairly early in the morning to tell me that there were dolphins in the river just upstream of us. They were in a big wide spot, so shallow with the tide right out that they couldn’t submerge enough to get their fins below the surface, and looking very agitated.
Mark had rung Project Jonah,  https://www.projectjonah.org.nz/  and they were on their way up by car.  Mark took his inflatable off to pick them up while I took SEI up toward the dolphins to have a look, not too close, they were upset enough as it was.

When Mark came back he had a couple of Dept of Conservation staff on board as well as the Project Jonah people, and we managed to get up stream of the pod, wanting to hold them in the area until the rising tide had given them enough depth to swim free rather than letting them head upstream where they could be trapped and stranded on the next low tide.

Much gentle herding, two boats not being enough I launched “Deflatermouse” my little RIB with its 2 hp Honda outboard, gave that to the “Jonah” guys while I rowed SEI giving us three boats.  It took a while, but about mid tide we got them over the mudbanks and out into the channel, Mark herding them downstream through the moorings and out to sea.
I left SEI tied up about half a mile below my home, transferring to Deflatermouse and followed Mark out into the open .
The DOC guys had brought their big power boat up from Auckland, and we all met up opposite the entrance to the Okura River, where they tied our two RIBs alongside and towed us back home. 

It sounds simple, and really there is not a lot to tell, but it was a huge buzz helping these creatures back to safety. Thanks Project Jonah and Dept of Conservation for their part in it, we’re amateurs Mark, Bree and I, may have succeeded but they’ve done this sort of work before, know the Dolphins, know their temperaments, their habits and how to handle them.  Between our three boats, our knowledge of the channels in the river and their expertise, 12 or a few more ( very hard to get an accurate count ) dolphins were moved back out to safety.
It was an awesome day on the river. 


I could almost hear his thoughts, "What are those? Should I try and chase them, or bark at them or are their teeth bigger than me?"



Thats my boatshed workshop  and my floating home behind that mass of fins, I'm sitting in my little 15ft double ended rowing boat, about 10 ft away from them, hard up against the bank of the river. it was an amazing experience working to get them away back to deep water 3 miles or so downstream.






Monday, May 27, 2019

Back at work on Long Steps.


Giving the blog a kick.  I’ve been trying different social media, have concentrated on Facebook for the last while, but it’s a mixed blessing and many people don’t like it.  So, I’ve got the Yahoo Jwbuilders group going again, its still showing 4500 or so members but I’d neglected it somewhat, as with this blog.  But the three media seem each suited to somewhat different purposes and I figure that there is a place for each.
So, here on the blog you’ll find news of my builds and adventures both in design and cruising,  those are essentially an archive.  On the Yahoo group there will be question and answer plus that incredible photo archive that can be so helpful to a new builder trying to find an answer, and on Facebook, we’ll chat.

How to keep all three going? I suspect that I need to figure out a way to be awake and productive 24 hours a day 7 days a week, but we’ll see.

I had a great summer, three cruises on Spook, one in the Bay of Islands, one in Kawau Bay. That one just an overnight to see how my little dog would take to life on a small boat, and to check out Spook after her long layoff and several mods to the rig, and also to check out the inflatable kayak.  That wasnt a good thing by the way, I've since bought a rotomoulded plastic one, have yet to try it out, so "watch this space". 
The third cruise was across to Waiheke Island, the home of the best ice creams on the planet and some of the best scenery you'll ever find.
That took me away from the boatbuilding shed. Worth it though.

 I’m back at work on Long Steps.  Its been a while, as I’m the customer I figure that I can work on her or not, whichever is right at the time.  But its time I got on with her, Phil McCowin has been sailing his, reports that she’s well balanced, fast, ( and for Phil to be saying that, means fast, as he’s sailed some very quick boats in his time) and comfortable. He’s taking NFRTT  in the Texas 200 in a week or two, and I’m very much looking forward to his reports.

So, I’d been a bit stuck on two little problems, I had issues with accessing the lower rudder fitting bolts from inside, once the deck is on this area will be darn near impossible to access, I had visions of welding up a fitment that would hold the bolts from inside, in such a way that I could wind the locknuts on outside when fitting the gudgeons to the transom, and as I don’t have the gear to weld stainless steel ( yet, its on the list) I’d put that task off until, hopefully a flash of inspiration would give me a better idea.
While at a friends place, I spotted a strip of scrap stainless steel, 6mm x about 25mm, just eboug enough to do what I had in mind.  So, hacksaw, files, drills and 6mm metric fine taps came out on the bench and I’ve built the three fittings you see below.  The stainless straps are screwed to the inside of the transom, the bolts come through the gudgeon fittings, through the bolt holes in the transom and screw into the tapped holes in the straps. That way I’ll hopefully never have to rip the deck off to get back in there to tighten or replace nuts and washers.
There will be a countersink in the bolt holes on the outside, a sealant will form a big gasket,  allowed to set at about 2mm thick before the bolts are tightened and hopefully that will mean a permanent installation with no leaks.


 That stainless steel is seriously tough stuff, I broke two taps getting the threads in and ruined a drill bit, even with the special stainless steel cutting fluid.  Ah well, done now.



This is where the lower one of those fittings has to go. Its more than an arms length down plus will have a permanent deck over it, you'll note that the lower fitting has its bolt securing fittings in two pieces so it goes one each side of that stern web. Once in, its going to be there to stay.

I’d mention too, that I drilled the bolt holes out at 20mm diameter, filled them with thickened epoxy and re drilled them to take the 6mm bolts, this considerably  increases the strength plus prevents any water getting into the plywood end grain.


Next job. I have, after a complete change of batteries in my old ship, a big 660 CCA truck starter battery that’s still in good order.  Its one of four, and two of the others which are on a different circuit, had failed so I replaced the lot.  That leaves me with a $350 battery that testing showed to have a lot of life left in it, and a boat in build that will have a solar panel charging system, lights in the cuddy,  a light in the forward locker on each side, a GPS chart plotter, a VHF/SSB radio, navigation lights, phone and laptop charging points and an electric bilge pump ( in addition to a big manual one).  That’s a fair bit of electrical demand,  and it seemed a good idea to put the two together.
But here is the problem, the battery weighs 22 kg, (48,4 lbs).  How to fit it into its space, secured well enough to ensure that it doesn’t come loose should the boat be knocked down, and yet be accessible when I need to pull it out and put it back.
I’ve built a box, it has a lip along the top side edge and a “door” on the other, also with a lip. The box has tapered bearers to fit the curve of the bottom and side, is to be held in with bolts through the adjacent bulkhead and the centreline web on which the main mast step is mounted, and the door in the side opens to port, leaving just enough space to slide that big lump of a battery into place, and close the door.  I’ve a cleat on the top edge of the door which takes lashings that come across from the centreline web so once in and the lashings on, its there to stay.

Here's the battery box, its not bolted in yet but its a good fit to the curve of the bottom, the centreline web and the angle of the lowest plank so is well supported.  Oddly enough the real risk is not while sailing, its being bounced around while the boats being towed on its trailer on my way to another adventure.
The battery has to be lifted though that hatch opening on the right, placed in the box and the door closed as below, then the door lashed closed to a cleat, yet to be fitted, on the centre spine. Its the lip on the door and the lip on the back wall of the box that holds the battery in place within the box.



The electrical feed to and from the battery will go up the side of the mast box to a plastic kitchen container, through holes in the side which will then be sealed around the wires, to a bus bar set.  The container has a removable lid so I will be able to get at things, the wiring then goes across to a switch set mounted on the inside of the hatch so when I want to get at it, I open the hatch, press the switch and close it again.  All secure, out of the wet, but accessible.

I’ve begun running wires, there will be quite a lot of them, and all this needs to be done before I put the side decks on.

John Welsford


I had a great summer sailing in Spook.

I'll get back with a more comprehensive report, but in the meantime here is a pic taken by Jon Tucker while sailing in the Bay of Islands.  The pic pretty much says it all.


Wednesday, January 2, 2019

Summertime, and the consequences of not doing the maintenance while the winter weather prevented sailing.


Being summertime here, I’m pining for the Fiords .  Oops, not quite. Monty Python has a lot to answer for.  Really though I’m wanting to go sailing, cruising in a boat that has enough space in its cabin to be halfway comfortable, in a boat capable enough to do some exploring, and which pleases me to own.

I bought the little gaff sloop “May” some years ago, sailed her quite a lot for a while before moving aboard my ship.  Life got busy so May went under a cover, and stayed there until a few months ago, but the need to go sailing got to me and I hauled the covers off her to find, as expected, several years of deferred maintenance awaiting me.

At the same time, I wasn't that enamoured of her name.  I had to remove the old name from her transom to get the old brightwork off, so this was the opportunity.  She's synonymous with small, adventurous mischief, tough like a little terrier dog, and can ghost along when the smoke from a fire on the beach is rising straight up.  So she's got a new name,  she's "Spook" of Stillwater. The new name has been affixed to her transom so its official.

I’ve said it before, and will say it again, “this is the summer of the paintbrush”, and so it is.  I’ve been stripping old, peeling varnish, I suspect that its 2 part polyurethane as it is a stinker to sand, so it’s a scraper job rather than sanding. I’ve been able to scrape and sand out some of the water stains in the Eucalyptus wood trim, have gone through three rolls of Bear brand exterior 14 day masking tape, half a litre of Goldspar marine varnish, touched up some of the white paint, painted and varnished the mast, boom and yard, scrubbed the sails and taken every bit of rigging and cordage off her.
I’ve also stripped the interior, taken the ground tackle off, all the cruising gear, charts, stove and all the containers for the galley stores are out.

She’s only 18 ft on deck, but gosh, there was a lot of stuff inside her, Its all spread out on the garage floor right now and I’m wondering what magical spell allowed me to put all of it away inside that small space.

But I’m almost done, there are some mods needed to get that trailer right,  the boat tends not to come up the middle of the rollers so I’m having to carry a trolley jack to move her over before I tie her down to tow the rig away, so that’s needing attention.  There is more,. Way back Howard Rice and I worked out a reboarding system we called the “sling” for getting back aboard a SCAMP.  I’d had a pair of short strops with a foot loop in the end, secured on the stern mooring cleats and accessible through the fairlead openings. I could get back aboard, but it was a struggle, so I’m putting a “sling” on each side.  In this case the freeboard is only very slightly more than the SCAMP and I’m sure it will work.

I’ve still got lots of little tasks to do, I’ve sponged out the interior, aired the cushions, replaced the valves in the big bilge pump, scrubbed the sails and replaced the mast lashings. Another job will be to replace the fire extinguisher which is still ok for pressure but the handle is very rusted. I’m planning to take that to Daughters house and start a fire ( outside, I said OUTSIDE!) then get the granddaughters together and give a lesson on how to use one.  Hopefully they’ll never need to use that lesson.

The boat will get a new one.

I’m also planning to put a simple electrical system in, a small solar panel, a car battery, a couple of LED cabin lights and an anchor light.  The rules say that for a vessel under 7 m long, not under power, when under way at night, a big torch is legal.  I’ve three ready to go on board.  A big spotlight flashing in someones face gets their attention much more quickly than a couple of tiny, dim navigation lights.
The electrical system will include USB points to recharge phone, vhf, laptop and camera. We’ve become very “connected” these days and its hard to do without.

I’m building a new lightboard too, that hooks up to the tow vehicle and mimics the tail and signal lights of the tow wagon.  The old one was perfectly satisfactory but it had been sitting out in the weather for so long its rotted away, and the lenses on the lights crazed and cracked.

I just wanted to go sailing, so far its been five days of solid work, I’m expecting to be close to ready in a couple more days and hope to give her a shakedown daysail about Friday 11th.  

There is a small group planning a cruise in the Bay of Islands mid February, and I’m hoping to be there.
I’d better get that paintbrush working again.


 You cant really see it, but there is a great deal of masking tape on there, darker blue than the topside cove stripe paint. She's only little but there is a lot of varnished trim on her. It does look nice but its a lot of work to keep up.


 The new name.    Spook is 18ft on deck, just over 7ft wide, weighs around 1200 kg, has a daggerboard as well as that big shoal draft straight keel under her, draws about 650mm and is rigged as a gaff sloop,