Thursday, March 5, 2020

Development of Spooks gaff rig.

I’ve been playing with the rig, the sails, and the settings on Spook, each little change has seen a slight improvement in her windward performance, and those little changes add up to a quite noticeable boost in both pointing angle and speed, particularly upwind.
I’m at a stage where she’s very competitive against boats with “modern” rigs upwind, and can blow past a lot of them downwind, that latter being due in part to the fact that she carries a lot more sail than most of them.

But she feels, especially in light weather, as though she could carry a bit more sail, she’s got a lot of ballast, and with the carbon fibre mast and gaff I’ve built having much reduced the weight aloft, more sail is a real possibility.
Her new mainsail is setting well, its about another 15 sq ft in area compared with the old one, but still, I think she’ll handle more.

Her jib is quite small, has a hook in the leach which Dennis the sailmaker has not been able to cure, the fabric is a bit too stretched so we’ve been discussing the cut and shape of a new jib.
But to experiment a bit, I asked on line if anyone had a second hand Flying Dutchman genoa that they’d let go cheap, and I got one ( thanks John).
Its light so will be a light weather only sail, will need hanks  but I think that otherwise it might go straight on.
Its longer in the luff but I’ve length to spare up the forestay, longer in the foot and leach so the clew comes down to where I want it, I’ll have to put new jib sheet blocks on but that’s ok, I can leave the old ones in place and use the old jib when it blows up a bit.

The idea here is that with the help of Conway sails and covers, ( that’s Dennis the sailmaker, good guy) I can experiment with the bigger lighter, and very cheap sail until I know what the boat likes then design and have Dennis build one in slightly heavier cloth that will do the job.

So whats brought all this on?  Well, when I got Spook, nee “May”, a name I felt didn’t suit the tough and capable little ship, she didn’t handle well and felt as though there was a lot of performance still to come.  I’ve been working on that for a while, built a new mast and gaff, ( took 14 kg, that’s over 30 lbs) out of the rig high up which made a noticeable difference to her stability) had a new mainsail built, put more ballast inside to help the near half ton of lead in her keel, chenged her fore and aft trim, reshaped the foil section on her daggerboard, moved the jib sheeting points around a bit, and a few other things.

A month or so ago I raced her in the small boat class at the Mahurangi Regatta, and she’s getting close to competitive. I came in third by about the length of the bowsprit after getting into a tacking duel on the finish line, the long keeled heavy boat being at a real disadvantage in that game I lost that second to the boat that had won the previous and several other years. 
That boat by the way was one of my Pathfinder designs, and the winner was sailing one of my Navigator designs so, even though I was third, in a way I was also first and second which was a buzz.

In light weather she does a horizon job on most boats of her size, all that sail area helps, she self steers on quite a wide range of courses, and its not uncommon for me to sit reading a book while she trucks along, but, but, but, its hard to stop fiddling.

Why am I putting so much effort into a boat not of my own design? One, its hard to see that there is some improvement possible and not try to achieve that, and the other, is that everything I learn here is directly applicable to my design work. 

So, back to the new jib, here’s a pic of the old sail laid out over the new ( to me) one.  The clew being lower and further aft will enable me to position the sheet leads to control the leach tension and sail twist better, with that in place I’ll be using the mainsheet traveller more to control the slot between the two sails, and with the increase in sail area plus better control of sail shape and trim .  I’m hoping for another little gain. They add up.

 The big white dog is not mine, he's a friendly thing that comes over from next door.  My little terrier has him pretty much under control though.
You can see the difference in sail size, its going to be interesting to see how the boat feels with this bigger jib up there, she may require a little change in her ballast, certainly a different sheeting position for the jib sheets.  More to play with, lots of interesting things to try.

 To get Spook balanced with the big main aft, and the small jib, I've ballasted her a little bit stern down, as you see her she handles pretty well, but in light weather she feels as though she'll cope with more sail, so, here goes, we'll try it and see.

Sunday, January 12, 2020

The month of the pumps

This was supposed to be the “summer of the paintbrush”, and yes, I have got quite a bit of that done but for a while there it was the “month of the pumps”.  Kairos has four water pumps that deliver water to the sink, the hot water heater and the handbasin in the head,  and the last one pumps out the shower when that’s in use. It has a macerator pump on the head, and three electric bilge pumps plus a manual one, and one more which is the engine cooling pump.  Ten in all, some of which have quite complex plumbing.

Would you believe that over about a month I’ve worked on every one of those!
I’ve replaced two of the domestic fresh water pumps, and overhauled two more. I’ve replaced two bilge pumps and repositioned one, put a new impeller in the engine cooling pump and put an overhaul kit in the head pump.

Every pump in the old ship has been either replaced or rebuilt. 

But one, just one, and that one the worst one, still didn’t do its job.

That’s the head.
So, bearing in mind that the outlet from the head is just below the waterline, and that only thing that could be wrong was the plumbing from the head itself through the holding tank and to the skin fitting with its big ball valve, and that I’d cleaned that ball valve out from outside a week or two ago, I took everything moveable and shifted it from the bow to the stern, anchors, chain, toolkit, bedding and a heap of other stuff, and with the RIB inflatable dinghy on the davits managed to get the bow up enough to get that fitting up to about water level so I could pull the hose off the inside of the fitting then flick it on and off to check that it was still clear. It was, and I only had a couple of buckets of water come in and the bilge pumps took care of in very short order.
I’d already taken the hose off the head outlet, and with a bucket under it had established that the pump itself was working as it should, (sigh of relief, that meant that my overhaul wasn’t a messup) so working back from there took each piece of hose off in sequence.  About halfway back through the five pieces I found that they were packed full of you know what, as full as a politicians  campaign speech.
Cleaning them out and refitting them as I went, I worked along the series, and voila, hard up against the ball valve found a big chunk of cotton wadding and shredded plastic filling the end of the hose and the rest of it packed solid.  Pulled the hose right out, up to the workshop with it, drove an aly pipe through it and then a pullthrough in the same way you’d clean a rifle barrel which  fixed that, hosed the area down with bleach and hot water, and reassembled it all.  Got my garden sprayer, more bleach (lemon scented of course) and got the area as clean as possible then tried it.  Bingo, it all works.

Did much wiping of the very hard to access spaces and took great care in fastening all the hose clamps, and after taking three showers things are back almost to normal.

It wasn’t fun, but gosh its good to have everything working again.

Living on a boat is not all a bed of roses, marine toilets are cantankerous things.

Open for business again.  A very mundane subject I know, but necessary.

Saturday, December 21, 2019

The heat was on there for a while. Too much of it in the wrong place.

Its been far too long since the last time I had Kairos out of the water for a scrub and antifouling, so she had quite the oyster and barnacle farm under there.  The silt laden and often brackish water here in the upper reaches of the estuary seem to encourage them.
I’d noted that Henry the Ford diesel was smelling a bit hot, so had searched out a new sensor and gauge,and when Steff the amiable and helpful 12 volt wizard from North Harbour Auto, air and electrical  (highly recommended, we get our cars serviced there as well as the sparky stuff done  ) was here looking at some problems the original wiring in this old ship was causing, he fitted those so I’d know just how hot Henry was getting under the cabin floor there.

It was time I scrubbed the bottom, we’re expecting to go cruising this summer, Denny and I, events have overtaken our budget so we’re staying around home.  But a week or so away on the boat is a pretty good substitute so I figured that I’d best be ready.

Off down the river to the scrubbing grid, and Henry wasn’t happy, no piddle out of the water circulation indicator.  I thought that the growth on the bottom was such that the water inlet was blocked, so shut the engine down and drifted with the tide and wind helping me, only starting the engine when I needed to thread my way through the moorings.

I was quite proud of the way I maneuvered Kairos, all 43 ft and near 15 tons of her into the cramped space on the grid, tide and wind pushing her around,  got it first try, got a couple of lines around the piles and shut a boiling Henry off again.

Over the next two tides ( one was around midnight ) I got the bottom scraped off pretty clean, and removed the barnacles from the bronze prop and rudder, those would be the reason she was hard to steer, and did a very careful job of cleaning the through hull fittings.
I even pulled the ball valve and associated hosing off the inside of the engine water inlet to check that no bivalve had taken up residence in there. All clear.
I even checked the manual to see if the cooling pump needed priming. ( no)

There were other jobs to do, I repositioned all three bilge pumps, having replaced two quite recently, got their switches working properly, cleaned out the empty hose from the head holding tank which had a variety of shellfish living therein, ( didn’t save those for a snack) and a few other things.

But when it came time to head on out, at about an hour before high tide, remembering that once the tide fell a little I’d be there for another tide. I fired Henry up, and checked.  Still no piddle.  I thought of the  words on the cover of the Hitch hikers guide to the Universe, and said to myself, “Don’t panic”.

Tore the floorboards up, checked all the water lines, all ok, the only thing left was the water pump.  Now, while I know how they work in theory, and had watched a YouTube video on replacing the impeller in a pump like this, I’d never done it before.
Kairos had two spare impellers in her spares locker plus a complete new pump.  Try the easy option first, out with the toolkit, down in the engine bay, very hot down there, grab the spotlight so I could see, hotter still.  Did the contortionist thing that any work on that engine seems to require, and pulled the back plate off the pump.
A mass of mangled rubber fell out.  That might have been an impeller sometime, but not any more.

With the tide now falling, I think I set a world record for a first timer fitting a new impeller to one of these pumps, got more than a few bruises from leaning on the sharp bits on the engine, and was getting a bit faint from the heat when I came up to turn the key to see if that worked.
It took a couple of minutes, but then the water stream was clear and steady.  Phew!
Drank a mugful of water to ward off dehydration, cast off and headed out, leaving the bow line on so the fast running incoming tide could swing the ship to face the way out, let that line go and away.

It takes a bit over half an hour to get upstream to my berth, and it was great to have Kairos handling well again, responsive, quieter, and the temperature gauge was sitting on about 50C, coolish, but a lot better than 120C and pushing steam out the pressure cap.

Several jobs well done.  She’s coming out of the water for a full paint job, probably in March sometime. Scrape the hull bare, new paint from the wood out, the stuff that’s there is 49 years old and although its had paint over it, its flaking off in places so its time for a major.

In the meantime, Henry is a lot happier.

The remains of the 3inch diameter Jabsco engine cooling pump impeller.  And a mug of tea. very welcome that mug of tea was.

Wednesday, December 18, 2019

Small comforts.

Comfort, and I think I’ve said this before, can be a whole lot of small things that add up to an elimination of all the annoying things that just don’t fit.

Kairos helm seat is quite high, it leaves the legs dangling about a foot ( or two feet  if I were being funny about it)  above the cabin sole, so for the most part a voyage is spent standing up with one hand on the wheel and one on the dashboard.
Lower the seat? I thought about that, very briefly, when its down a bit its not possible to see over the bow when sitting so thats out.
Standing  there is tiring after a while, the little plastic kitchen stool that I plucked out of the river on one of my rubbish collection rows isn’t high enough to make an effective footrest, and I got annoyed enough the other day to do something about it.
I’d been annoyed about this before, but sometimes the circumstances have to align in order that things can happen.
So, I had offcuts of heavy plywood from another job, a rainy day on which that I couldn’t do the job I had planned for that day, and some test running of “Old Henry” the big Ford diesel which meant sitting at the controls for a while.

Got started. Made a cardboard and hot glue mockup, tested for height and angle, and fit. The shape there is a combination of  a slight slope of the bulkhead forward of the footrest box, a curve in the side of the cabin plus it slopes down from forward to aft, yet another angle where it meets the front of the side seats, and the cabin sole has a very slight slope in still another direction .
House builders have it easy, almost everything is straight and square. 

So, I’ve built it. It has a removable top, and yes its secure so wont slide around, and the “box” will be used as a home for emergency signal flares and the first aid kit.  I’ve got a coat of varnish on it now, ( not shown in the pics), have a piece of carpet cut to fit the little space behind it and am about to put a patch of non skid on the top to finish it off.

Another small improvement. Tick that box! 

Sunday, December 8, 2019

Preparing to go cruising.

Planning to go cruising is one thing, getting ready to go is another. The electrical system in this old ship of mine is now 47 years old and pretty near everything in her is electric. The original wiring is domestic rather than tinned marine grade, and over the past 12 months or so I've been gradually losing one function after another. Very annoying, but the public swimming pools down the road have showers for two bucks, and sponge baths are ok for a day or two. I've not been out in her much so the nav lights not working werent an issue, but when the heads pump stopped working that was just too much. So Steff from North Shore Auto Electrical was called in, and spent much of the day here to day. I'd put new house batteries in last Friday, the old ones were very dead and only useful for holding bits of wood together until the glue set (26 kg each, thats 57 anna bit pounds) so out they came. Carrying one of those in each hand flattens the arches of the feet a little, but the two new ones ( flattened the wallet a bit too) went in so they're good for half a decade or so. Glad to have that done.
I replaced two of the three water pumps, got the LPG water heater running again, fixed the blocked drain from the heads handbasin, and cleared the water intake for the head. But electrics are not really in my skill base, and the system in this old ship looks like a real rats nest.
So Steff was here for most of the afternoon, replaced quite a few bits of wiring, put fuses in where none had been before, re routed some circuits and changes some of the switches around. It all works now, he even installed the new engine temperature gauge and sensor, so now I can tell when old Henry the Ford diesel is getting too hot. Wonderful.
So all thats done. Just got to haul her out and do the antifouling, replace the anodes and clean the prop off and we're away. If I say that all quickly it doesn't sound like much, but there is over a grands worth of paint to prep for and apply.

I'm going to need that cruise to recover.

Saturday, December 7, 2019

Repair work

I’ve a boat in for repair.  Not my usual thing, but in this case the customer wants his boat ready to go for the nearly upon us summer holiday season, and “boat yards” aren't into doing small repairs on small sailing boats. Particularly not at this time of year when they’re under pressure to get their main customers boats out and on the water before their staff head away for the Christmas break.
So I agreed that I’d do it.
The boat in question is a Navigator, very nicely built by Peter Murton of Murtons Timbercraft in Nelson, and Indiver Nagpal, new to sailing  had a little misfortune sailing solo in her,  and I’m now spot painting the dings and scratches, and replacing broken gaff jaws.

Here’s some pics.

Maya, a Navigator from my drawing board and Peter Murtons capable hands, really nicely done. In a couple of days she'll be back out on the water with all her little wounds healed.  Here's a link to the builder who's just started on another JW boat, this one a Pathfinder.  I think he's getting close to 20 of my boats built and sent out to happy owners, wow!

Gaff jaws, the old ones were plenty strong, but the rig got tangled up with something tough and broke one side of the jaws off the spar. The replacements are carved from a Kowhai tree crook rather than laminated, now that the glue has set I can varnish then leather them.