Saturday, May 26, 2012

The reckoning

In the past week I filled the CB trunk-garboard joint, where I am certain the leak originates, with epoxy compound, followed by caulk.  I also caulked the seams on the inside bottom, as a second line of defense and to make the buoyancy compartments more watertight.  Today I tested for leaks by pouring water on the inside.  Absolutely none dripped through the bottom, so I expect we are good to go.  I did some more caulking to stop water from moving across the frames.  Then I painted the tips of the mizzen mast, yard and sprit blue to avoid rigging mistakes.  I will have no trouble remembering that: Blue at the Mizzen is the 20th and last novel in Patrick O'Brian's Master and Commander series of nautical novels.  Finally, I installed clips to hold the oars against the bench seat risers and the boathook under the starboard side deck.  Having received title and registration for the boat, and having put tools and supplies away and tidied up the garage, I am basically done building and fussing.  There will be more of the fussing bit but the building part is done.

So (big exhale!), I can now conclude the boatbuilding portion of this blog with the boat's vital statistics and the cost of building.  I will be posting occasionally about sailing experiences.

  • LOA (length overall):                              14’ 10.5” (4.53 m)
  • L@DWL (length at design waterline):      14’ 2” (4.32 m)
  • Beam:                                                     6' (1.83 m)
  • Displacement @ DWL:                           880 lbs (400 kg)
  • Freeboard:                                              20” (0.51 m)
  • Draft:                                                      6.5” (0.17 m); 31” (0.79 m) with centerboard down
  • Sail area:                                                 110 sf (10.2 m2)
  • Hull weight:                                             480 lbs (218 kg)

And here is the cost (in US$).  Some, like consumables, are estimates, and I may have forgotten some items.  It ended up being about $300 more than I expected.  The cost includes anchor but not boathook, bilge pump, registration and of course the trailer.  Also does not include a few tools, such as a couple of clamps, nail-setting punches and an angle grinder, that I can use for other projects.

Plywood (3 sheets 3/8", 8 sheets 1/4") and oak boards
Cedar boards
Other lumber (spars, oars, miscellaneous)
Epoxy (3.5 gallons)
Bronze nails and screws
Hardware (oarlocks and sockets, gudgeons & pintles)
Sailmaking supplies
Chandlery (blocks, cleats, line, fasteners)
Paint and varnish
Lead ballast
Consumables (brushes, gloves, mixing stuff, sandpaper)


Saturday, May 19, 2012

Launch day!

Today I launched the boat and sailed her, after a few adventures.  Last Tuesday I had her inspected by the state Department of Watercraft, in a parking lot of a grocery store in a university town 25 miles away (long story).  The officer had no issues and was very complimentary.  So, while the title and registration are in process, and armed with a temporary permit, I asked my friend Michael, who is from coastal Maryland and an experienced sailor, to come out with me today.  It was just as well, because as it turns out the boat is very difficult to rig and get under way.  Things will get easier with practice, but there's no going around that it is a two-person boat.  We were extremely busy (and I was stressed out), and we had no friends in another boat, so we only took a few photos, and many of them were bad.  So only two this time, I'm afraid.

So we drove to Marblehead and launched at Dempsey's State Fishing Area, a nice place with a breakwater/ fishing pier and four launch ramps with floating docks.  I had a printed checklist, and all went well at first: I had stepped the main mast (near the bow) and roved the main halyard and snotter, put on the yard toggle etc.  Lauch was easy and the boat proved to be very stable, with each person being able to step in with little rocking. She also sat in the water exactly where I expected her to.

Then we rowed out into the bay and I tried to rig the mizzen.  I realized something was wrong: the yard lay backwards.  Turns out that I had used the mizzen sail and sprit on the main and vice versa.  Because the main mast is very hard to step while in the boat, there was no avoiding it: we had to row back in and fix things.  Unfortunately we had drifted some way away, plus there was a real traffic jam at the ramps, even with four of them.  Well, eventually we docked her, unstepped the masts, switched the halyards, sails and all, and started again.  The breeze by now was a good 15 to 18 mph.  Long story short, we got under way, and the crazy thing can really fly!  She seemed to prefer a beam reach, and to dislike sailing close to the wind.  Here I am looking like a fat slob (I have lost 16 pounds and I'm in good shape, honest!), sunburned, and worried.  But I'm OK, and you can see the mechanics of the mizzen mast and sail.

Then we tried to tack.  Ready about, helm's-a-lee, then nothing.  It flat-out stalled!  We tried again, nothing again.  At some point we had to wear (turn 270 degrees through a gybe) to go where we wanted.  By then my heart sank when I noticed water sloshing under the floorboards!  So Aerie clearly had sprung a leak.  A slow leak to be sure, but I had no bilge pump, courtesy of Wal-Mart which falsely claimed they had one, and then it was too late to find it elsewhere.  And with the water under the boards I couldn't use the bailer either.

So a leaky boat that could not tack.  Great.  I was getting very discouraged.  Fortunately Michael (here he is, looking unflappable, with a good view of the mainsail) had (and always has) a positive attitude.  Poor guy, he had never had to deal with such complicated traditional rigging, but I couldn't have done it without him.  Then I tried to tighten the tack downhauls, which had gotten loose.  Bingo!  The boat tacked fine and sailed pretty close to the wind.  I was too preoccupied to actually measure angles but the day was saved.  We were on the water for about three hours and we didn't take on all that much water, but we called it a day since we were exhausted anyway.  After a nice picnic in the shade we came home. 

To summarize:
  • Aerie  has a leak.  After retrieval I found it, and it's through the joint between CB trunk and garboard.  Nothing that some epoxy compound and caulk won't fix.  Unfortunately the supposedly watertight buoyancy compartments also took on some water, so I have to dry them out and seal them with caulk this time.  Clearly epoxy compound leaves invisible holes for water to come through.
  • Rigging her is a pain, and a lot of things can go wrong.  It takes two people to do it.  On a calm day she could be rigged at the dock, but since the mizzen partner is also the rowing thwart,  I would need a motor, which I dont intend to get (yet, anyway).
  • She rows very well, but the high sides and nine-foot oars make her not a real row boat.
  • She is very dry (well, except the leak anyway), weatherly, stable and stiff.  She has little leeway, and a slight weather helm, which is exactly how I designed her.
  • She can really fly on a moderate breeze.
  • The tacks, and especially the mizzen one, need to be tightly hauled down.  I had been warned many times in books and web articles, but I didn't realize that the consequence would be inability to tack.
  • I need to clearly label yards and sprits so I don't repeat the stupid mistakes of today.
  • Finally, the masts, slender and bendy as they are, performed fine and showed no appreciable bending in the wind.  This could change in a much stronger wind, but for now I am very pleased.
All in all, it could have gone better, but when does it ever, really, on the first shakedown cruise?

P.S.  Just as were coming in, a man on a big, scary looking black twin-hull boat ordered us to turn ours into the wind and wait.  It was a Dept. of Watercraft boat with two (armed, judging by the guy who inspected Aerie on Tuesday) officers on board, who had noticed we didn't have registration numbers and tags on the hull.  I showed them the temporary tag and they were all polite and everything and congratulated me on how great my Aerie looked.  I actually appreciated that they are there, earning their salaries and paying attention, perhaps catching a dangerous drunk or two.  In South Carolina they were nowhere to be seen.

Monday, May 14, 2012

The running rigging

The boat is now fully rigged!  Here it is (first photo) , and it bears a strong resemblance to the hand drawn sketch I included back on November 24, only it looks much better.  Rigging it for the first time was a complicated process with lots of errors in the sequence and fouled lines.  I will have to practice and write a checklist, then practice again so I can get it to be second nature.

This long post is about the running rigging, the edifice of line (rope), blocks (pulleys), cleats (rope tie-offs or stops) and snaphooks that keeps everything in controlled working order.  The boat's masts are unstayed, so there is no standing rigging at all.  With the boat's rig being entirely home-designed and -made, as well as so old-timey as to be almost unknown in sailing circles, it remains to be seen how it works.  Apologies to all non-sailors for the avalanche of technical terms.  I try to explain as I go but it's quite the task.

I used six types of line for the running rigging and other uses.  Low-stretch 5mm Dyneema for the halyards, 1/4 inch line (braided over core) for the sheets, tack downhaulsand snotters (this one a cheaper line left over from my previous efforts), 3/16 inch braid for the sail lacing and the centerboard (CB) and rudder lines, 1/4 inch twisted cord for painter and yard toggles, and 3/16 inch clothesline (!) for the reefing lines.  I will also need at least 75 ft of line for the anchor, but I'll buy that later.

I used a total of 12 blocks.  Most of them are simple loop ones; there are four pivoting ones for the four sheet ends, two larger ones for the halyards, and one cheek block.  The halyard blocks at the masttops are tied with double loops of line and fishermen's knots to wooden eyepads that I fixed there with screws and glue (second photo--sorry, don't know how to rotate it).  I also used four horn cleats (halyards and tack downhauls), six clam cleats (sheets and snotters) and two v-jam cleats (CB and rudder).

Lacing and halyards

First thing I did was lace the sails to their yards.  First the throat and peak (the fore and aft top corners) were tied to the ends of the yards through holes I had drilled.  Then I laced the head of the sail to the yard through the grommets.  It was my opportunity to practice knots.  Never having been a scout (my dad didn't let me, saying they were a fascist organization, which was true in Greece in his boyhood), I have learnt knotting solely for my sailing needs, and I am not too good at it.  Still, I soldiered on while connected to the Internet for quick references.  I used fishermen's and reef knots for peak and throat respectively, plus a row of marline hitches with a running bowline at one end and a double clove hitch at the other for the lacing.  Time will tell how well I did.

Halyards serve to haul the sail and its yard (hence the name) up the mast.  I had planned to attach them to the yards using Jim Michalak's "loose noose" method, in which the halyard wraps around both the yard and the mast and is clipped to itself, with roller beads to ease the friction.  But then I remembered that the yard has to clear the snotter block on the mast, so I tried two new things.  First I used the Goat Island Skiff method of running the halyard through a block (which I lashed to the yard) and around the mast.  That proved unbalanced, and I was short of blocks anyway, so I went back to my original idea of simply tying the halyard to the yard with a double constrictor hitch, and securing the yard to the mast with a toggle.  The toggles for both yards required a total of eight of my old friends, the eyesplices.  More to do but marlinspike work is a good way to pass a quiet evening (thanks to David Nichols' book for both the idea of toggles and for teaching me the skills).  Also they required two wooden eyepads per yard, as opposed to one for the loose noose.  Here is a photo of the finished product (third photo).  Clean, traditional and practical.    The main halyard goes through a cheek block and is cleated close to the forward splashguard.  However, pulling on the halyard twists the mast in its partner and loosens the halyard.  I have to find a way of stopping that.  The mizzen halyard does not have that problem, since it is cleated directly on the mast. 

Control lines

The snotter (which holds up the sprit boom and controls its tension) is attached to the sprit by threading it through a drilled hole and secured with a knot.  It is then threaded through a block attached to the mast with a steel eyestrap, then cleated off; there is an extra block on the foredeck to change the direction of the mainsail snotter (fourth photo). The sprit boom (which bisects the lower sail and holds it taut) is clipped to the clew (the aft lower corner of the sail) with a snaphook, which is secured to the sprit's aft end with an eyescrew.  When reefing, this clew snaphook has to be clipped to the cunnningham (uh, I give up).  If this proves too difficult, I can always use a line through the cunningham to do the same thing.  It took several fittings to find the right length for the sprits, especially so they don't foul each other when they go about: the clearance of the mainsail's clew from the mizzen snotter is smaller than I had designed.

The tack downhaul line, which secures the forward lower corner of the sail to the hull, is attached to the foredeck (mainsail) or to the underside of the mast partner/thwart (mizzen).  It goes through a snaphook clipped to the tack, giving a 2:1 purchase, and is cleated off.  When reefing, the downhaul needs to be clipped to the new (reef) tack.  Again, if needed, I will devise some sort of line system to avoid having to unclip and clip again.

The sheets (despite their name, they are ropes that control the sail's orientation) are double-ended.  They go through a block near the aft end of each sprit, tied through a wooden eyepad, then a block and a cleat on each side.  The main sprit is actually upside down in the photo--I had threaded the snotter the wrong way, but I fixed it since.  Mainsheet blocks and cleats are fixed to the rowing thwart; the blocks are secured to little wooden extensions glued to the thwart's underside (fifth photo).  The influence of B&B Yacht Designs is gratefully acknowledged.  I needed to use bullseyes for the mizzen sheet to change direction so I could cleat off the ends on the splashguards (last photo).

The CB and the rudder blade are kept in the down position with bungee cord, and are lifted with lines that are cleated off.  The CB line has a block to change its direction so I can cleat it at the aft end of the CB trunk.


In all I also had to use eight wooden eyepads, seven stainless steel eyestraps, and a lot of screws: 46 just for these rigging items, plus 18 for the inspection ports and 36 for the hinges.  The hull carpentry of course required hundreds of bronze wood screws and two lbs of bronze ringshank nails.  Not to mention 3.5 gallons of epoxy, three quarts of paint and two quarts of spar varnish.  Or all the plywood and lumber, and the lead shot for ballast.  I haven't calculated the total cost yet, since there were so many mail-order suppliers and trips, large and small, to the hardware store.  But there will be a final reckoning, which I will publish soon, along with the boat's vital statistics.