So the bottom steps are now all closed up, the buoyancy tanks below now sealed in and the hull extension profile is now complete. I am still to decide on the hull side profile, that is, will I leave the step extension as an obvious extension or will I extend the hull side profile to meet the new end of the hull. As I mentioned, the pro of leaving it open is that you can board to or from the step with a dingy alongside the outside of each hull rather than square to the stern or with the dingy on the inside of each hull and therefore slightly under the bridgedeck. I am leaning toward leaving it open. I need to buy a sheet of ply to make the inside step side profile panels, and that may also dictate that I only have enough material to reach where the hull ends now. We will see. I have some time to decide, its one of the last things I will do on the step build.
So below are the pics of the final extension profile (before glassing and fairing but the shape wont change). In the port hull pic I have added a piece of timber to simulate the approx waterline. The top of the bottom step will be about 250mm above the water. Not too far to step from a dingy but high enough that in calm conditions the bottom step will be dry (fishing spot!).
With the steps closed, next task is to fair all of the joins round ready for glassing. But before glassing I will be dry fitting the next step up.
In retrospect I should probably have closed the port hull with boarding ladder with one long piece like I did on the starboard hull regardless that I have to cut the middle piece out. The reason is that in order to make the rear angled panel meet up perfectly when glassing in 3 separate pieces (0ne each side of the ladder lid and the edge of the ladder lid) is not as easy as it would have been had I glassed on one long piece then cut the middle part out for use in the lid. I think I got away with it ok, but it is not perfect, which it would have been had I done it with one piece.
If you look very closely you will see the slight unevenness in the fairness of the angled transom plate once the lid of the ladder is fitted. But because there is a lot going on there with the ladder protruding it draws the eye away enough to hide it. And of course all of this is still to be glassed, bogged and faired so that will remove the unevenness but its always easier to start with a fair surface rather than not.
The ladder lid is a dry fit for now but it finishes the bottom step off nicely. The lid will (probably) hinge forward to open, the ladder swings from the step over and into the water (or back under the lid) and then the lid goes back down again to return the bottom step to its full function with the ladder either stowed or deployed. A latch will hold the lid down in either configuration.
So with both bottom steps closed it is on to the second bottom step. As with any of these jobs, first task is a dry fit to see where we stand. And in this case the dry fit means not only dry fitting the second bottom step but also the 3 steps above it, that is already constructed as a single piece, out of which the outboard hatch door is cut on each side. One side already has that door cut out, many years ago I was importing 12v led rope light and finished one door with led rope light to display it at a trade show. Ironically, I am not not going to use the led rope light as I need to glass the outside of the steps and the way I was going to fit the rope light did not allow for the outside to be glassed and with just inside glassing the steps are not strong enough.
Another finger biting issue is that the top 3 steps were made together in exact mirror image and were made to fit with the height of the bridgedeck so that the bottom of the 3 steps coincided with the bridgedeck (actually 50mm above it to make room for the uni laden conduits that span the duckboard to take the extra load that the bath might generate…yes, for new readers, I am fitting a bath as one of the rear lockers, it will accommodate the dingy outboard when not in use and be…. a bath…. Jo loves taking baths and I wanted her to be able to continue to enjoy things she does now when we are cruising, and of course by fitting a finished fibreglass bath it is already shiny, fair and painted). Those conduits are also to take the outboard umbilical’s and hydraulic steering lines. One was originally for a rudder tie rod but I have been warned that a metal tube inside a poly tube may one day jam if sand or grit gets inside and once jammed I lose steering, so I have changed to an hydraulic tie bar.
At the time that the top 3 steps were made, the bottom 2 steps were not made, the thinking at the time was that I would fit them to the heights required to meet the top 3. But now I have started at the bottom step and am working up and have to ensure it all still meets up.
So now I have a finished bottom step, and a set of steps above it, and the second to bottom step will have to be adjusted in height so that it fills the gap between them correctly. So the finger biting is in hope that the gap is not too unmanageable. I have of course been measuring the heights of each step so that they do all meet, but you never really know until you actually fit it all.
Gap? What gap. I have to lift the outboard side of step 2 about 3mm, and nothing on the port steps, they just all fit. The 3mm lift is more to get the step level than to meet the steps above it, and of course, there is no problems with a gap that small, filled with glue and a cove when glassing and there is no problem with that at all. There is still some trimming needed on the side of the steps to meet the hull side but the heights are fine.
So knowing the heights all work I removed the top steps and set about fitting the second to bottom steps for all other aspects, such as fitting against the hull side, fitting to the bulkhead below etc. (The bulkhead below will need some height added to meet the step, but not all the way across, in the middle the tiller extends over the bulkhead to the outboard well where the hydraulic ram will be mounted on a shelf). In the pics below you can see the gap between the bottom of the second step and the bulkhead below. One of the vagaries of building for each hull by hand, one side the gap is 40mm the other side its 50mm, no big deal, it just means different size spacers, but it annoys me that everything else seems to meet up exactly but gaps are different meaning something is out somewhere. This difference also manifests itself in slightly different size gaps in other places that need filling, and once filled, who would ever know, but it bothers me knowing. Never mind.
Once the second step is in, the inside hull side needs to be extended to close the gap, and I used the trusty cardboard template to get the exact shape. Same shape both sides as you would expect, but the gap to fill on top of the step to meet the hull flare is a slightly different shape each side. Go figure. In some places it is all mirror, in others it is out slightly. As I said, it does not matter as once filled the difference is imperceivable but it does kinda irk me that they are there. First pic is port, second starboard. Maybe 20mm difference in size of the wedge of duflex needed to fill the gap, 40mm on one side 20mm on the other. Baffling.
With the second bottom steps fixed in the correct position I had a small section of inside hull side to extend to fill the gap where my steps are positioned. In the factory kit, the steps are set further into the hull so that the hull sides meet their step positions, my steps are in a different position so the hull sides dont meet up with where my steps end up. No problem, fill the space. But duflex is nearly all gone. I am really scavenging for parts now. Luckily I dont need much more. My trusty cardboard template method was employed. I expected each hull to need a slightly different shape template, but no, despite there being little differences, the one shape filler piece was needed in each hull. Look at how tight these panels fitted into the offcut! The lesson here is never throw anything away until you are absolutely sure you wont need them. I have some slightly larger offcuts left but never cut a small part out of a bigger panel if you can help it, you will come to need the bigger panel and it will be too small by the amount you cut out of it once when you had a smaller offcut you could have used at the time.
Then simple task to glue and glass these filler plates in, glassed only on the inside for now, then later the outside will finish it back to full strength as if the panel was that shape all along, but that glass will happen when the rest of the outside of this entire section is glassed. To ensure the filler plate is fair to the rest of the panel I have a straight edged piece of timber clamped to the hull panel and to the filler plate.
The second bottom step successfully dry fitted, I could finally glue and glass the kerfed step front to top. I say finally because I cut the kerfs for these steps, oh, it has got to be 3 years ago! Then put it all aside waiting for this day. Little did I know all those years ago it would be this long before I picked them up again. The only difference is that initially there was going to be a lip on the front face then a foam edge where the rope light would have been, now the edge of the step is flush to the front. Once the glass is set, the balsa edge will be decored and backfilled, then rounded and glassed on the outside to finish it. I will then fair it off the boat before glassing it in, its much easier to fair on a bench than on the boat.
But before I did all of that I took some pics of what the steps will start to look like when they are all fitted.
I still have a little work to do on the second bottom step shape before I can glass it in, for example, the bottom step currently covers where the rudder post emerges and onto it is fitted the stainless steel tiller collar, which currently cannot be fit because the second step covers it, so a round cut out will be required to allow access to the tiller. And the rudder post is exposed to splashing water from the outboard well, so that space around the rudder post and tiller will need a surround around it glassed in to seal everything under the second step from water ingress otherwise it will eventually fill with water splash and need pumping out. The surround I build will also act as a brace for the middle of the step to stiffen it from bending in the middle when people walk on it. So its all good, but needs to be made.
Its coming along. Making stuff from scratch is fun but time consuming.