I got a call yesterday from Coach Daz (he is finishing a Schionning besides everything else he has on in his overachieving life! GO Daz) to say hi and check on my progress (besides being a top guy he is super encouraging) since paint went on. Progress is ok, not great but not snail pace either. It dawned on me that I havent updated my blog, had I done so as I promised I would, he wouldnt need to ring! Sorry readers.
So progress. After painting I had a week off, Jo and I went to Port Stephens for a mini vacation. I love Port Stephens, we go a lot mostly because of its natural beauty (and its the spiritual and geographical home of Schionning designs). It is a fantastic waterway and we cant wait to cruise there. In fact, because it is only an hours drive away we think we may even leave the boat there and commute home for work then back to the boat for the rest of our weeks until we can cruise for longer periods and head further north.
I have just one major hurdle left in the construction of the boat (second last hurdle overall, the last being the removal of the boat from the shed and launching it). The fabrication of the perspex wrap around windows on the cabin. After they are made and fitted the boat will be completely weather sealed and can be moved out of the shed and its just a matter of connecting the steering and outboards and some wiring for nav lights, anchor winch (you can have a boat without an anchor winch, I once went sailing with a friend who’s winch was out of action, its bloody hard work retrieving a winch and chain by hand!) etc before launch.
I visited a plastics factory in Sydney for a quote and am just waiting for that to come in before ordering the windows. I also have some more fairing, yes can you believe it! to do in order for them to make the windows. The windows go into an oven to be heat molded onto molds I provide. The molds are the pieces I cut out of the turret to create the windows. Even though the factory puts a layer of felt over my molds they still need to be fair and at the moment they still have the hard edges that kerfing creates. So for one final time I have to apply bog to them and fair the curves to a round smooth finish.
Before I do that though, I have to add 100mm to the molds around all edges. This is because the mold must be bigger than the windows (because the plastic will droop over the edge of the mold and need to be trimmed off) and right now they are 50mm all around smaller than the windows. They are smaller because the window cut outs are the size of the opening, not the size of the perspex, that is, to create the window frame I de-cored 50mm from the edges leaving the inside skin then glassed my layers of glass onto the outside face of the inside skin then over the exposed core edge over onto the outside face of the outside skin, if that makes sense, creating a ring frame for the perspex. So long story short, I now have some work to keep me busy while I save the money for the windows.
In the meantime I have been attaching all of the shiny bits. Stuff like the pinstripe that covers the paint join from grey to white, the cleats and other deck hardware (ironically some is sailing hardware such as the winches and blocks and wont actually be required for some time after launch!) and I started to notice a strange thing happening. The more shiny bits you put on, the less I could see the areas of the boat I was unhappy with. It got to the point where I really had to go looking for the cosmetic blemishes that had hitherto annoyed me so much. I guess with so much more shiny stuff on the eye is pulled away from the mundane. Or its just me deluding myself into believing I did a better job that I did. Either way the boat is looking better as a result. By the time the non slip goes on I might be able to ease up a bit.
The pinstripe Jo and I chose came from a US online retailer Great lakes skipper, I have bought from them in the past, Terry and I bought BEP switch board panels for about 25% of their local retail price from them (this post will seem to be more about the bargains you can find if you look rather than build progress!). The tape is a twin stripe black and grey with a void between them which shows through the color below, in my case I lined the top of the black stripe with the edge of the grey paint to give me the multi color effect of grey black white grey white. I decided to wait until the pinstripe arrived from the US before sealing in the port lights as the sealant from them would hold down the edges of the pinstripe. That caused me a 1 week delay so I used the time fitting the air intake holes, an after thought for the engine compartment and more shiny parts.
The tapes have a thin protective paper layer on the adhesive side and a protective thick paper layer you remove once you have adhered the stripes. Its thick so that you can aggressively remove air bubbles out from under the tapes which after the protective tape is removed is very thin and fragile. It makes life a little trickier as its harder to see that paint edge through that thick top paper but not impossible so it worked out ok. Except on the curves on the inside bows. The actual pinstripe is super thin, as thin as a layer of paint. But because of the thick top paper its almost impossible to go around that curve neatly. The top tape is under tension while the bottom is under compression and the excess tape bunches into folds that front on you cant see but side on stick out like…..you know what. So much so, Jo insisted I remove them and try again or have an expert come and do them for me. Fortunately I had plenty of spare tape.
While the backing tape is on you can remove and re-position the tape until you are happy with it. The straights were quite simple to attach, every now and then a re-position was needed to get the tape dead straight or dead level. Ideally you would not run a series of shorter tapes but one single long tape then cut the ports out but I found it easier to do small sections at a time working solo.
Just on attaching shiny bits, these are inevitably 316 stainless so you need the same to attach them or you get galvanic reaction not to mention normal rust that stains the boat as rusty water runs off rusty fittings (which become difficult to remove if rusted in). So far I have spent over $200 just in 316 screws and bolts. And I am nowhere near finished. There is no cheap place to find stainless steel fixings, in fact, for the first time I think marine stores are actually the cheapest. Same goes for sealant.
On that I have a tip for builders that need sealant, in my case it is Sika 291 white. Whitworths sell them for $21, Bunnings sell them for $23. However Bunnings make a song and dance about how they will beat a genuine competitor by 10%, so I go in and show Bunnings Whitworths catalogue and get them for $18.90. They (Bunnings) will eventually lower their price to beat Whitworths by 10c so they dont have to give me the 10% but only at that store, so I go to another store (there are 3 within 5km near me). The shippie in my shed advised to buy them as I need them as they have limited shelf life and almost impossible to re-seal if you only partially use a tube. Suits me because I have limited cashflow! It sounds petty, but every penny counts for me now. Imagine you could save 10% on everything you bought for an entire build. That’s over $20,000 so on a micro scale its a few dollars and cents but macro can lead to thousands or tens of thousands.
That is a nickel and dime money saving method, but there are other more substantial ways. Recently I got a bargain I could not refuse even though I could better use the money right now on more pressing needs but sometimes you just have to jump. I have been tossing up what autopilot for a long time. Due to finances I was probably going to go for a Raymarine wheelpilot. For those unfamiliar, the wheel pilot basically just takes control of the wheel and steers your set course via your steering set up, whether mechanical or hydraulic as if you were hand steering. I have been told that my boat is on its upper limit (any bigger and it would not work well) and that in a following sea it struggles and it uses more power (electric) than other autopilots. I would be better served with a hydraulic autopilot tapping into my hydraulic steering lines, much more powerful, accurate and able to cope with all conditions better. Problem for me is that the appropriate size systems are twice the price. A wheel pilot is about $2000, a hydraulic pilot about $3800 plus $200 shipping (and thats buying in the US, if buying here about $5000).
A Raymarine system (and I assume all brands these days) is made up of 5 parts, the ACU (computer brains of the system), the heading sensor (or gyro), the control head (the gauge with the screen and buttons on your dashboard), the wiring that connects it all together and to other instruments if you are integrating with chartplotters etc and finally the drive method, of which there are multiple choices such as a 12v hydraulic pump or a linear drive that pushes a tiller or the wheel pilot method. If you buy it as an out of the box system then full price is as I mentioned. However, these days these things are modular and plug and play and parts are interchangeable (for example if you upgraded your steering from mechanical ropes and pulleys to hydraulic you could only need to change the drive method from to hydraulic pump from a linear drive rather than have to buy a whole new autopilot).
A big advantage of this is you can buy parts as you can afford them or as I found, as bargain single parts come up. Its much harder for a seller that has a spare part to extract full value as a sell price because most people looking for the entire system wont buy the parts they buy a whole system so the demand is much less.
I found a seller in Port Stephens selling the ACU200 that he had fitted to his boat and immediately found he needed the 300, so he pulled it out, so not brand new but as good as new. He had it for sale on ebay for months for $800 and no takers, its actual value as they are $1300 new from a chandlers but because of the lack of demand I managed to negotiate the price down to $525 for it. On first glance it sounds mercenary. Look at it this way. I could not pay him $800 and he couldnt sell it to others for that, and he was able to use the $525 I gave him now. He could have waited longer to sell it for more, I even suggested it to him but perhaps he needed the money now. Its a win win. So thats 20% of the system paid for.
Next I found a P70 control head for $420 brand new that usually sell for double that. I was the only bidder so got it for opening price. It was in the US so I bought some cables for the system from other US sellers because of price there and had them shipped to my forwarder and put in the box with the control head so I paid no extra freight on it. All up I got the head and all the cables plus spares for $600 so for a little over $1000 I have 60% of the system. Next I found the heading sensor for sale in Newport for $450 (it was for sale for $5oo, I offered him $400 and we settled on $450, I do like to haggle!).
All I need to buy now is the hydraulic pump and I have 3 of them on my ebay watch list for about $550 delivered (it seems the UK is the best place for hydraulic autopilot pumps). Thats the going price so no hurry on them so I will wait unless I see one much cheaper, and even though I could launch without an autopilot it would be much easier to plumb in the hydraulic system with the pumps in place before launch (otherwise the steering system needs to be re bleed and can get messy). So the entire autopilot system for $2125 which includes more cables than I actually need so I have spares. That is well below half price of off the shelf price here in Australia. I hope this helps someone else upscale their project. There are risks in this of course. I have no warranty for example as I dont have a single purchase point, but I think because all parts are new current model Raymarine parts they would come to some assistance should something fail, but it is a risk.
I also intend to experiment with an alternative to non slip paint or at least I am thinking about it. I have decided on kiwigrip non slip. It is a very thick paint and part of its uniqueness is the propriety roller that comes with it but is available for sale separately. You apply the paint to the surface anyway you like and the thicker you apply it the more aggressive you can push the roller through to create higher peaks and deeper troughs which creates more grip. The downside is you use more material and it traps dirt and is harder to clean. So you apply less and put less weight to the roller and you get a less aggressive nonslip. I was on a cruisers forum about the product and someone mentioned it had the same chemical make up as dulux masonry paint which is less than half the price of the kiwigrip. It doesnt appear to be as thick and I think this may be crucial to the roller doing its work but I will buy a roller and a sample pot of the masonry paint and test that. If it doesnt work I can still go ahead and get the proper paint. My concern besides the self leveling is that if it does in fact dry with the correct stipple will the peaks be sharp and be too harsh to walk on?
I still have a lot of work to do. My first deadline that I dared not mention has almost passed (next week) so that wont be happening, but its still a date that I can count off in weeks rather than months or years. There are lots of little jobs as well as a couple of big ones.
Its fun fitting these things on. Some of them I have been thinking about for over a decade. Some just in the last few weeks. For example I hadnt thought much about air flow in the engine compartment. When I saw the paint line I realized it worked well for a shiny grill. To aid in the airflow I think I will also install a bilge blower on the inboard side to suck dirty air out and blow it out of the space. I also still have to install the 12v winches I have to lift the outboards.
Hopefully next post will have an update on the windows. I think I will revert to the tried and true tinted perspex. I have toyed with the idea of clear perspex with silver tint applied to the outside to reflect heat to keep the cabin cool. In fact there are other advantages, such as the tint film being more scratch resistant than the windows themselves (even salt spray if not cleaned off correctly can scratch perspex), the tint helping to preserve the windows from crazing and finally the different appearance that the silver tint gives the boat. I may still go that way but it looks unlikely. I dont have the quotes yet but I think the clear with aftermarket tint will cost about $600 more and the unknown of whether the tint would bubble. Every time I see a bad bubbled up tint on a car on the highway I shrug and think nah, stick to the pre tint perspex. More on that later.
Thanks for reading, I will try harder to post more frequently. Even if there isnt much to show.