During the August school holiday’s, William and Maria asked me if we could make a small sailing boat in a similar style to that of our first construction (Bumblebee – which William blogged about at the time in 2011) but with a bit more space.
As a result, I put together some plans using Free!Ship – a boat designing software – and then used the development plates in QCad to loft up onto standard plywood sheets.
The result was “Merlin” (link to youtube video) which took us a week to move from plan to full stitched and glassed boat, with another few weeks to fair and paint.
We sailed her last weekend and her maiden voyage went very well. Her rig was taken from “Don’t Panic” so was a little small, but she handled beautifully – especially as she fulfilled her original design brief (to comfortably carry the whole family).
Even rowing her proved successful – despite her windage, we could manage to keep up with people walking along the beach without being Olympic rowers!
All in all a very pleasing project.
The side panels – which raise up above the sheer level to encompass the interior area of the boat – have been cut and are almost complete. The interior faces were glued in place on Tuesday, and the exterior faces were marked and cut yesterday. Today, before gluing in place, we have painted the whole section with two coats of epoxy to protect from moisture.
In addition, work on the the console area is progressing and the panels for the hull have been cut and dry fitted. The consoles are ready – we have even tested the heights and position of the wheel and the throttles with the new dry fit sections.
Work on fitting out the fore end of Tilapia is going extremely well. The floor/seat sections between bulkheads 4, 5 and 6 have all been glued in place and the side panels for the seats between 4 and 5 are also complete.
In addition, we have managed to complete and glue in the cover over the anchor locker including the hatch and the solid support for the forward bow tee post. Significant doubling has also been put beneath the planned cleat sections on the anchor locker deck.
Work is now going ahead on the center console – which is just forward of bulkhead 3. The floor has had 8 large holes cut out (four for each side) which will allow cables and wiring to be passed up from the rest of the boat to the console controls. The floor has also been glued in and now the cleats and panels of the console are being cut.
So, after much discussion about the internal arrangement of Tilapia – despite Yann’s already worked out plans – we decided to start on cutting out the excess parts of the bulkheads and getting the floor boards cut and ready.
Cutting the bulkheads was easy enough – jigsaws and routers made quick work of the simplest cuts – straight lines for now. Only bulkheads 1 and 5 were in any way different. Bulkhead on has a small step to allow for all the motor controls to fit under a narrow walkway to the aft, and bulkhead 5 is a seat bulkhead all the way across.
And now, Tilapia has her main sections clearly visible, with a floor (dry-fitted for now) in place for us to cut out the holes for electrical and control lines.
Well, after finally getting the hull painted – what a learning experience that was; getting a decent finish with spray painting definitely ain’t easy! – we had a couple of days rest. Yann spent a short holiday in Madagascar, and it would have been too cruel, unfair and downright nasty of us to turn her before he came by. (Although we do have to admit that we toyed with the idea of turning her and putting her back again for an official turning – which reason prevailed upon us not to do!)
So we prepared the fore and aft shapes based on the hull to take the shape and covered them with a seriously hard foam and began. Yep, that’s right, Yann, Simon and I managed on Monday to turn over Tilapia on our own (Simons’ dad did help with tying aft sling at one stage, but we did it!).
Our plan was to lift up the hull on two slings, fore and aft, which looped around her from two bolt-hooks let into the beams on the roof above her. While Simon manned the fore sling, Yann and I lifted the nose first to waist height, and then the back to the same height. Then back to the front to shoulder height, and again the back.
Now, with her suspended like that – just high enough to clear the jig when she was on her side, we lifted the port side up and let friction on the sling control the rotation. Just in case, Simon stood by to grab the skeg if she threatened to roll too fast – but that didn’t happen.
Once she was the right way up, we attached the fore and aft supports to the jig and lowered first the nose and then the transom into the supports. A bit of fiddling with the fore supports allowed us to level her off properly and then we added stabilizing supports out at her sides. And voila – all done in about three quarters of an hour.
We’ve just recovered from a loss of internet for over a week – apparently the underground cables for our region where stolen and needed to be replaced!
Anyway! Fairing continues on Tilapia with a coat of paint and following this, more sanding and filling to complete the (now visible) imperfections.
Although this sounds like an absolute pain in the “dairy air” (smells right too, for those of you who haven’t smelt fresh country air) each of these steps brings us visibly closer to a smooth hull. And, more importantly, we also learn huge amounts in terms of sanding, filling and now spray-painting. By the time we get to Heart of Gold to do all this, we will be a lot better off in terms of practice.
Back to Tilapia: the fairing is not almost perfect. Good enough to actually think of giving her two coats of paint and turning her. Yann is taking a break with his mum (who is visiting on holiday), so with any luck we will have Tilapia painted and ready to turn over before he gets back (on Sunday).
Internet has been down for the past week, which is the main reason for not updating the blog. However, work on Tilapia is still at the fairing stage – although we are not fairing the topside surfaces.
Initially, Yann and I had thought to do this after turning her over, but we’ve been convinced to get it all done before: So sanding and filling have been pretty much the order of the day.
We have however also made a few more essays into spray painting, and it is definitely getting better – the first few attempts, while not disastrous, were less than perfect, requiring a lot of sanding with large, medium, fine and then superfine sandpaper to get a mirror finish, but now we seem to be getting the hang of it.
After a bit (!) more fairing on both sides of Tilapia, we finally committed to a first coat of paint on the port hull.
There were two reasons for this step:
- to see a bit of visible progress on the hull – we’ve been fairing away for three weeks now with very little visible change, and putting a coat of paint helps vindicate all this sanding and filling and sanding and filling and sanding.
- we also felt that by putting a coat of paint on we would be far more able to judge the actual state of the fairing. The fact that the sanded surface has various colours from the plywood beneath the glass, plus the various shades of filler (depending on the thickness) meant that we could not really judge the state of the hull as accurately as we would like.
And, after seeing the painted surface definitely vindicated both points above. There are now clearly visible one or two areas that might benefit from a bit more work in the filling/sanding department, and the change in the surface to one of complete white was definitely worth the work of the past three weeks.
Again the morning was spent fairing Tilapia. The work, while tedious (!), is starting to really look good. Yann has stopped making fun of me when I say that I am happy with todays results – I think he can see them too now!
Then, while letting Tilapia dry after washing off the snow of glass and epoxy powder we meandered off to Heart of Gold to carry on with the glassing.
This time we prepared a long sheet of 200gsm for the bottom of the hull. We placed it a little off center from the center line so that the 1.3m line for the outside upper glass would overlap nicely (the inside glass has firstly only to go to the bridge deck before folding around, and secondly will be less noticeable where the overlap is (most of this is under the bridge deck anyway).
To fit it over the keel, we cut a slit into the glass the length of the keel, with extra slight cuts at the edges to help the glass fit the shape of the fillet. This means that the hull glass has completely covered the 4 layers of glass on the fillet, plus the complete layer of glass over the entire keel.
We then started to epoxy the glass in place – starting to windward and taking off the masking tape as we went along, Yann on the bridge deck, me on the ladder. We also used rollers today, and got some amazing results. Very little wastage of epoxy, good coverage, easy wetting out – really a surprising result, as the last time I tried using a roller, the roller material had a bad reaction with the epoxy and I spent an hour and a half picking bits of roller out of the glass surface.
We also tried to cover the first part with some nylon cloth (just standard shirt material really) – in our experiments, this worked very well as a replacement for peel ply. Because this bottom layer of glass will be covered with a second coat of glass, we felt that this would be a perfect opportunity to test out the finishing characteristics of the nylon on a large surface. The fact that we used the rollers meant that there was almost no epoxy to be drawn off by the “peel ply” but we will see what it looks like tomorrow when the epoxy has hardened.
A mixed day today.
We started by fairing the dips in the starboard side of Tilapia, and also cleaning up the upper (currently lower, with the boat being upside down) panels ready for the first fairing on them.
Then, as Yann wanted to work a bit on his BSAC Dive Leading course (his exam is this evening) he dropped me off at Heart of Gold and I got on with cleaning up the drops of epoxy filler from the fillets and the rough edges on the keel foot and fillet glass.
This went really quickly, so I thought I may as well get on with the glassing of the keel. The keel takes (apart from the 4 layers over the fillet and the two layers on the foot) one layer of 330gsm glass over its whole surface.
It went on really easily – I cut the glass sheet to size on the table and rolled it up for easy carrying (it’s about 1.5m wide and about 2.8m long – this drapes over nicely and covers both sides and the base, plus a little lip onto the actual bottom panels) and unrolled it onto the keel. A bit of masking tape to hold it in place (we still have a fair amount of wind at the moment after our anti-cyclone) while I cut out the extra bits and shaped it to drape nicely and off I went with the epoxy.