Saturday, August 2, 2014

Back in the water

I sailed the boat with the new rig this past weekend. I fashioned two mast crutches that go into the mast steps and partners of the former two cat ketch masts to carry the longer and heavier mast and other spars. The standing rigging complicates the setup but once the mast is up things fall into place. One annoying mishap after we rowed away from the ramp involved the throat halyard accidentally rolling down its block until its tail end ended at the masttop. A figure-8 knot stopped it from coming through completely, and it took many, many attempts to snag it and pull it down with the boat hook. Well that's not going to happen again, and if it does I'm a worse fool than I think I am.

But once we got under way, oh man! The wind on Lake Erie was very fickle, picking up and dying down and constantly changing direction, but with a decent breeze the boat was flying. Having to work the jibsheets adds a little extra work when coming about but tacking is easy, gybes are pretty gentle and the boat much more responsive and fast. All in all a very good experience. There were no other boats around so I had no opportunities to get photos so you'll have to take my word for it!

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Dry Run

Since the last post I spent three very enjoyable weeks in Greece, my place of birth, on the ancestral island where I plan to retire at some point.  Since I came back I have tried to finish the new rig and try it out on dry land.  Here is a photo of it.  In the second photo (bottom right) you can see the jib attached to the forestay with jibhanks and its tack clipped to the bowsprit.  The stay connecting the bowsprit to the hull is not fastened because the winch is in the way: when launching it will need to be the last thing done before she floats off.

There are a couple of things missing in the first photo.  One is reef lines, which I will add before re-launch.  The other is the luff toggles (in lieu of mast hoops) of which there are four: they are there but are not fastened, since they bind on the mast and make pulling on the throat halyard to deploying the mainsail difficult.  I will have to use a piece of light line tied to the gaff jaws  to remedy the situation.

The other thing I found out while trying the rig is that I should not clip the topping lift to the boom before the sail is up: every time the peak halyard snaphook managed to clip itself to the topping lift and get fouled.  That's too bad, because the topping lift could have kept the gaff and boom in place while I deploy the sail.  Now I will have to clip it in place afterwards.

The third photo (bottom left) shows yours truly holding on the the mainsheet (notice the rudder is missing, I didn't think it necessary for this tryout).  You can see the 4x purchase tackle made of four separate single blocks: one with becket, two plain and one pivot.  All are secured with loops of line.  Behind the sail you can see the outline of the topping lift.

Remaining steps include repainting the decking and touching up parts of the hull, and building a couple of crutches for the mast that fit where the cat ketch masts used to.  Maybe next weekend I can re-launch.  We'll see.


Saturday, May 17, 2014

Gaff and boom

The next thing was the gaff.  An eyebolt was put through the throat for clipping the throat halyard on.  A metal strap bent into a U-shape and attached to the underside of the eyebolt was used to secure the mainsail’s throat.  The head was laced to the gaff just as the lugsails of the first rig were laced to their yards, using a series of marline hitches.  Photos of these will be on the next post.

I also put on a loop of line (secured with a steel eye strap on the underside of the gaff) where the peak halyard will be clipped.  This method of securing rigging with loops of line going around the spar, rather than using fittings simply screwed into it, was repeated throughout: the shrouds and forestay, the throat halyard block, the mainsheet blocks, the topping lift and the boom vang.

Next came the boom.  The foot of the sail is secured to the boom at the tack with a pin.  A gooseneck screwed to the mast enters the fore end of the boom.  The epoxy-reinforced glooseneck hole in the boom has a mouth with square cross-section to ensure a tight fit and no twisting.  Both are seen in the first photo.  
At the clew there is an outhaul line that runs through the aft end of the boom past a sheave and is secured with a clam cleat.  This plus the topping lift, which clips anto a loop of line, are shown in the second photo.
The third photo shows the boom vang.  It starts with a running bowline secured to a wooden cleat, runs through a block tied to the boom, and ties off on a horn cleat.  The boom vang will keep the boom on its goose neck, and stop the boom from lifting when sailing downwind, something that gaff sails are prone to.

Tomorrow if all goes well I will put in halyard and sheet cleats and try out the new running rigging. 


New sails and standing rigging

I’ve been quiet for many months.  Between travels, lots of work pressure and a winter that will enter the history books for its horribleness, progress on the new rig had been slow.  Given what the spring has been like for far too long (last I checked Lake Erie still had some ice!), there was no real hurry.  In a brief interval between blizzards and polar temperatures (in my unheated garage epoxy will not cure in very cold weather), I managed to put two coats of epoxy on the new mast and bowsprit, and shaped and glued/screwed oak pad eyes at the mast top to anchor the shrouds and forestay.  

Then I made the new sails.  The methods of construction are the same as he ones I used for the sails of the original rig, and include luff and head tape plus reinforcing multi-layer patches and/or tapes in a total of thirteen places (7 corners and 6 reefing cunninghams).  Of course the sails are different.  The mainsail is about 85 square feet (7.9 m2), and that’s much larger than anything I have ever made before.  It’s a trapezoid roughly 8 feet (head) by 8 feet (luff) by 11 feet (foot) by 15 feet (leech).  It has two rows of reefing points (made with grommets this time, since buttonhole sewing is really tiresome), and several grommets along the luff to attach it to the mast with line and dowel toggles.  Curvature was built in with a dart starting at the tack, and with broadseaming (variable overlaps in the seams).

The jib is roughly 12.5 feet (luff) by 6.5 feet (foot) by 10.5 feet (leech), which works out to about 35 square feet (3.25 m2).  It has one set of reef points and a small dart starting at the tack.  It will be attached to the forestay with plastic jib hanks.  I will show photos when the sails are up.

The next step was to finish the new spars with two coats of varnish.  Then came the standing rigging, something the original masts did not have—simple but weak, as I found out to my regret.   I first attached anchor plates to the gunwales, gluing squares of oak just below the rubrails and driving heavy duty steel screws through to the frames.  Turnbuckles for tightening the standing rigging were added to the anchor plates.  Two steel pad eyes were bolted through the tip of the bowsprit as well.  Then I ventured into the totally uncharted territory of making the shrouds and forestay out of Amsteel Blue rope.  To secure them to the mast, hull (shrouds) and bowsprit (forestay) I had to make eye splice loops; large ones to go around the mast top at the top end, small ones to go around thimbles at the lower end.  There was a line that anchors the bowsprit tip to the bow as well, and it needed two more eye splices around thimbles.  I thought it would be fun to learn a different way of splicing, the so-called “long bury” type: it involves tapering the working end of the rope (by unraveling and cutting of half the strands), then pulling it down the inside of the standing part.  The rule of thumb is that the buried tail needs to be 72 times the diameter of the rope, or 9 inches for 1/8 inch rope.  This makes an eye loop as strong as the rope itself.  

The eight eye splices took many hours, mostly of self-training with trial and error.  I finally settled on a method that uses a length of thin wire folded double to pull the tail end of the line through the middle.  Once I got that to work on the first splice, the rest were much easier.  The top loops that go around the mast have hollow rope sleeves around them to protect from chafing.  All eye splices are strengthened (serviced) with heavy-duty waxed thread.   Advice for would-be splicers: make sure you leave extra rope, since the buried tail thickens and shortens the rope where the splice is.  I didn’t leave quite enough and had to work hard to make sure the shrouds were not too short.  
The first photo shows the shrouds  and forestay loops through their pad eyes with the white rope sleeves.  It also shows the throat halyard block on its spliced line loop and the peak halyard block on a steel eye strap bolted through the mast top. The second shows the hardware at the tip of the bowsprit and the line that goes to the bow, with its two thimbles and eye splices.

The next post will be about the running rigging.


Sunday, November 17, 2013

More gaff and mast work

Carpentry on the new rig is progressing well.  The gaff jaws (first photo) were put together from two oak boards and four layers of 3/8 inch (9 mm) plywood with epoxy and stainless steel deck screws.  The holes for the parrel line will be drilled later, after fitting the gaff to the mast.

Then I worked on the mast step and partner.  I drilled two horizontal 1/4 inch (6 mm) bolt holes through the partner and bulkhead, and two vertical holes for the bolts that will keep in place the oak board securing the mast in the partner (second photo).  While I was drilling the port side bolt hole the wood cracked.  To deal with the crack and to avoid any more problems I removed 1/4 inch thick pieces from the bottom of the partner and glued plywood there: you can see the plywood layer if you look carefully.

I then put the mast step down on the keel batten with bronze nails, epoxy and stainless steel screws, and secured the partner to the main bulkhead with epoxy and two long lag bolts, with washers and nuts on the other side of the bulkhead.  Then came the time to try out the mast in its place.  As it turns out I had not accounted for the rake of the mast ahead of time (it was hard to do anyway), so the mast could not go all the way in and the oak board going across could not close.  I worked on the partner with the wood rasp, testing the fit several times.  Like all hand work it took a while, but now the mast fits in its partner and step.  Stepping it several times proved to me that it is easily doable by one person.

The last photo shows the new mast and bowsprit.  They still need some hardware and finishing, but I was pleasantly surprised at how straight a mast made from a couple of 2x4s turned out to be.  It is a little awkward and definitely heavier than the previous ones (as it needs to be) but at least it does not need to be vertically dropped through a partner hole, something that would probably hurt my back at my age.  I can shoulder it and walk it into place pretty easily.

I have already cut and shaped the wooden pad eyes for shrouds, and will be working on sails and standing rigging soon.

Until the next post,

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Mast, step, partner, gaff

I bought SPF (spruce/pine/fir) 16-foot studs for their easy availability and low weight, which is a higher priority than high strength and stiffness, since the mast is stayed.  Low cost is a nice extra.  I chose two that were as straight and knot-free as possible.  Taking them home was a bit of an adventure, involving foam rubber, duct tape, cinch straps, staples and a red rag, but all went well.  Next I glued them together with epoxy.

Next in line was cutting and laminating the bowsprit as described in the previous post (first photo).  I test-fitted the slot over the bow extension.  Then I cut and laminated the bowsprit brace out of a piece of 2x4 and ¼-inch plywood.  There is a 1½ x 2¼ inch rectangular hole on its bottom center, and the bottom is curved to fit the foredeck.  A 1¾ x ¾ inch piece was removed from the rear top of the bowsprit to fit the hole.
I also cut and laminated the parts of the mast partner, which may be sturdier than it needs to be but I wanted plenty of strength for bolting to the bulkhead.  The mast step was laminated from a layer of cedar board and two of 3/8 inch plywood (second photo).

Then I set up the table saw outdoors (I needed 34 feet of space for the job, plus who wants to clean sawdust indoors), with my sturdy sawhorses doctored to have supports level with the table saw.  With a friend’s help I trimmed two sides to achieve a 3-inch-square cross-section, then cut off the four corners into an octagon.  All standard procedure I have used before.

The following weekend I hand-planed, tapered and sanded the mast into a smooth cylinder.  As before, I was not intent on perfect roundness or smoothness: this is a home-made mast and a slight hand-hewn look is fine by me.  Here is the new mast along with the old cracked one (third photo).  Exaggerated perspective notwithstanding, you can see how much sturdier the new one is.

The next step was to saw away a 3/8 inch layer from each side of the tip of the gaff (former mainmast) and cut oak pieces that will be glued there to make the jaws just over 3 inches apart.  The four layers of the jaws proper were cut out of 3/8 inch plywood.  The gaff tip was then rounded so it can pivot around the mast with ease.  The various parts are shown in the last photo.

Next steps, hopefully to be completed before the real cold sets in, will be:

  1. Laminate the jaw layers in pairs and screw and glue the entire jaw assembly to the gaff.  The holes for the parrel line will be drilled after careful fitting.
  2. Try out the mast in its step and partner.
  3. Bolt and glue step, partner and bowsprit brace.
  4. Glue and screw oak pad eyes near the mast top.
  5. Finish all with epoxy and varnish.

Then it will be time for the standing rigging, making the sails and fitting the running rigging hardware and lines, if all goes well in plenty of time before the spring.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

The new rig

The last thrilling experience sailing Aerie on Lake Erie ended with a cracked mast: the mainmast bent so much in strong winds that it delaminated at a scarf joint four feet above the mast step.  I was faced with a choice among several not too satisfactory options, all discussed with the good folks at the Wooden Boat Forum.  The masts were too slender for unstayed operation in strong wind.  I could repair the mast and reinforce it with fiberglass tape at the joints, but that would create stiffer parts that could lead to breaks elsewhere.  I could use a fiberglass sleeve (too expensive and would lead to cracks down the line).  I could use a forestay and shrouds, which would interfere with the turning of the yard and negate the simplicity of the unstayed cat ketch rig.  I could build a thicker, stronger mast, which would be hard to drop into its partner hole in the foredeck.  I could replace the masts with aluminum tubes, which would be expensive and require new tools and skills such as pop-riveting.  Or re-rig the boat completely.

I had already had many problems and confusions with rigging the two masts: two each of halyards, snotters, downhauls and sheets that had to be lying on the correct side and not fouling each other.  So I thought, if I have to build a new mast, why not be bold?  In the end I decided to switch to a gaff sloop rig, which will take a good amount of time to set up before launch, but will be sturdy and less prone to confusion and mishap during launch and sailing.

I went back to pencil and paper and designed the new rig to be balanced, with only the slightest bit of weather helm.  Here’s the sketch, a bit messy but fine for my purposes.  Mainsail is about 80 square feet (7.2 square meters) and jib about half the size.

16 foot studs being a readily available size of lumber, I settled on a 16-foot-long, 3-inch thick mast made from two studs glued together.  The bottom tapers to 2¼ inches to fit into a mast step secured to the keel batten.  The top has only a very slight taper since the hounds are quite high up.  Forestay and shrouds will be 1/8-inch synthetic rope (amsteel blue, which is stronger than steel and does not require expensive tools such as cutter and crimper) with eye splices at both ends: the top ones loop around the mast through oak pad eyes, the bottoms around steel thimbles, attached to steel turnbuckles.  The turnbuckles attach to steel straps bolted to the hull or bowsprit (everything is stainless of course).

The mast partner has a jaw-shaped slot for the mast, and will be secured with bolts and glue to the main bulkhead.  It is laminated from three layers of 1x8 pine and one of 3/8-inch plywood.  The mast will be secured with an oak piece bolted through the partner.

A gaff sloop needs a jib, so I designed a 78-inch-long, 2¼ inch thick bowsprit laminated from three layers of 1x3 lumber.  It has a slot that fits over the bow extension which I had built in for just this eventuality.  It will be secured to the bow extension with a pin.  Its aft end fits into a brace bolted to the aft end of the foredeck.  The forestay will be attached to its forward tip, which is secured to the lower bow with more line.
The mainsail is a classic gaff trapezoid, attached to an 8-foot gaff and an 11-foot boom.  It will have two sets of reef lines.  Since my original main mast came apart right near the 8-foot mark (second photo), I decided to cut it to 8 feet and repurpose it as a gaff, with jaws made of oak and plywood and a parrel line with plastic beads.  

The mizzen mast, shortened only slightly, will serve as the boom.  I will be reusing a leftover gooseneck I experimented with on my original boat.  The boom will have a sheave at the clew end for a clew outhaul, and will be controlled by a mainsheet with a 4:1 purchase just aft of its middle.
The jib is a simple triangle and will be clipped onto the forestay.  The running rigging will consist of three halyards (throat and peak for the gaff, and jib) and two sheets (main and jib), plus a topping lift to assist with rigging and reefing.  A total of seven blocks (three for halyards and four for mainsheet), eight snap hooks and assorted cleats will be needed.  Most hardware will be repurposed from the original rig; I only had to buy one block with a becket and two open clam cleats.  I decided that it is important to have different-colored lines so inexperienced crew can be given simple directions.

I have already bought most materials and hardware except for some sailmaking supplies and line for the running rigging.  My new suppliers (and they are good and responsive) are LFS Marine & Outdoor (good purveyors of amsteel rope and related hardware) and Duckworks Boat Buiilders Supply (who stock parrel beads for gaff jaws, of all things, sailmaking supplies and good, inexpensive chandlery).  The budget is about $350, or more if I run out of epoxy.

Next I’ll be talking about adventures in boat carpentry, so keep rading 176inches.