Building Logs

The Big Catch Up

Posted by Paul

Wow, I cannot believe it has been 3 months since I last updated the site. Part of the reason has been that we had a hacker put some pop ups into our site, we think they are gone now but please shoot me a message if they are still there. Another reason is that we have had quite a bit of a struggle for the past few months and I wanted the next instalment to be something special and was holding out for it to be the windows but for various reasons it took a little longer to get to them than I originally thought back in Feb when I intimated they were next. But that is fairly typical on my build, most things take me longer than I thought they would. The time just flew by. As it does with building a boat. Its an interesting concept, time. It flies when you are having fun, and 5 minutes seems like 5 hours when you are sanding upside down on a 40 degree day! Anyway, if you are still reading this is gonna be a long post, a lot has changed both on the build and off it. Settle in.

I left off at the end of Feb having just finished fitting the water tanks and glassing in the panel that sealed them in forever and dry fitting the fridge. At that point the top over the fridge was not glassed in. I needed to know the fridge could be moved out with the top on because at some point the fridge is going to need servicing. There is clearance for it to be moved out, with some difficulty but possible, so the top is now glassed in. Not a big job, but its done. All of the furniture in the saloon is now fabricated, it just needs final finishes applied. The tops will get a stainless steel cover and the walls and doors will be white, walls laminated, doors made at a kitchen manufacturer using foam inside and vinyl wrapped. I have not got quotes on that yet, just a brief discussion with the local cabinet makers.

The tanks are glassed in under the dashboard and would need to be cut out if the need ever arose. Even if not glassed in under the panel, the windows and mullion above would have to come out of the boat to get them out anyway, so having them glassed in under a panel is neither here nor there in the complexity of getting them out and being glassed in secures what would otherwise be a 300 kilogram (if full) block from ever moving in any direction. The other task in glassing the tanks in was to seal the various pipes that exit the tanks (4 on each tank, water in, water out, breather and depth sender). So with them glassed in I was finally free to close the cabin up by glassing the last panel that came with the kit into the turret and closing up the saloon.


Glassing panels like this in, requires that all the edges meet their partner edges as flush as possible. For those that havent read back to the hull making blogs of years ago, this is done by using blocks on each side, coved in sticky tape so the glue does not stick to the block, straddling the join and pulled toward each other with screws, this pulls the panel down tightly flush with the panel along side it. This minimises the fairing required later as even a half a millimetre proud or shallow means bogging  and sanding to get it smooth again later. There are 2 ways you can go from here. You can glue the joins and let them set, then grind it back to smooth before glassing, or you can glass wet onto the wet glue. I prefer to let the glue set, remove the blocks, sand it smooth and glass it in single continuous tapes, rather than taping between the blocks then having to tape again over the gaps  where the blocks are later. With the blocks removed and the glue sanded smooth, you just back fill the gaps under the blocks with glue and tape them up each side and its done. The panel is usually a few millimetres smaller than the opening so there is room for a reasonable amount of glue, too tight and there is no glue.

As reported in the New Year blog post, I had precut the shape of the 3 hatches (anchor well in the middle, bedroom hatches either side) into the panel before I glassed the panel in, it just seemed easier to do that on a flat bench rather than afterwards on the boat. At the time I dry fit that panel a number of times as I cut and checked that the hatch openings were in the right place and size. I decored the edges off the boat but did not fill them as I used uni rope to fill the edges (adds extra strength to the opening) and one of the edges of the opening is on the boat the other 3 on the panel to be fit, and the uni rope needs to be continuous around the entire opening. With the panel glassed in the uni ropes were also glassed into the hatch opening edges to seal that panel in.


One final task before that front panel went on was to ensure I could access all of the plumbing that sits above the windless in the top of that well area. Not easy. Each tank has 3 ports (intake, out take and breather) and the intakes have 2 inward sources, external fillers and pump hose fittings so that water can be transferred from one tank to the other, and the port tank has a third input source, from the water maker. It became instantly clear that I could not access them easily from through the anchor well lid, so I made a lid from the saloon to access them from above if needed. My guess is, once they are all connected up, they will never need to be accessed again, but the moment you make something inaccessible is when something will go wrong, better not to tempt Murphy.

The plumbing for the tanks took some working out. With all the ports so close together and so many pipes coming and going. The big ones on each side are the tank fillers, they have a 40mm screw thread with a T joiner screwed into it and then on each end of the T joins one end goes directly to the deck filler, the other end have hoses attached that come from the other pump (the port side has a T in that pipe in, one side from the other tanks pump, the other side from the water maker. The next port is the breather, I have taken it down the side of the anchor well to about 300mm down so that should the boat ever invert, some water will be retained in the tanks and be accessible through the breather (lets not ever talk of this again). Then finally the middle ones are the water pick up points to the pumps. (Also in there but under the glassed down top is the wire that is attached to the depth sender and goes to the switch panel to read the depth there (next to the pump switches on the panel board, so using the depth sender at the switch panel and using the pump on off switches there I can send water in the quantities I want from one tank to another).


Once I am at final finishing stage both the lid for the tank port access and the dashboards will be covered with a nice curtain material I have found that has a flat but textured grey finish and is rubberised so it will be wipe-able. This will also insulate the dashboards just a little and hopefully reduce heat in the bedrooms. This cover for the access ports also has a secondary benefit, in that when removed it provides an opening to the anchor well that is covered from the elements from the anchor well lid. The idea in theory is that if it is rainy and windy but still hot you cannot open the hatches without rain getting in but being hot you want breeze, so with the anchor lid open, it does not matter if rain can get into an already wet area, and as the boat is always head to wind on a swing mooring or anchor the breeze is directed into the anchor well and into the saloon via the opening created when the lid is removed, so the saloon keeps cooler but dry. It might work, I dont know, but in theory it should.

The final step in the anchor well lid is the base trim ring that the lid sits on when closed. Although the lid is part of the angled cabin front and is unlikely to be walked on, it must be strong enough to hold a persons weight standing or sitting on it. If it could not and someone fell on it and it collapsed under them it could break bones in the fall. So the solution was to cut a ply piece the size of the opening on the underside, then cut into it a hole the size of the opening of the lid leaving about 30mm overhang for the lid to sit on, and to glass it in. I rounded the edges so that they were not sharp (as it is possible to get into the anchor well if needed, very tight squeeze but do-able, I left a scallop in the anchor winch platform for this reason) and once glassed in the lid sits nicely on the trim and easily holds my weight jumping up and down. Eventually the lid will get hinges and a flush latch to finish it off. This will be the method used on a number of hatches around the boat that the lid is made from the piece cut from the deck to reveal the hatch but I cannot cut these hatch lids out until the boat is fair as they form part of curved decks, one in each bow and 3 along the D section just under (forward of) the anchor well there are 3, one is the secondary/emergency anchor well then 2 wells either side for various dock lines and fenders. Being curved they will be a little trickier to glue and glass the ply trim in (and upside down) but just a few kerfs in the ply ought to fix that problem. The blocks on the wall inside the anchor locker are to house the triple manifolds in the next pic (you remember those, they are the ones that cost 25% more than quad manifolds and 10% more than double manifolds??) to send water from one tanks pump to its hulls outlets, the other hulls outlets or the other tank or all at the same time. This is just one of my redundancy measures.


Next step in the process after glassing the last front panel on is a very exciting one. Windows. Firstly the windows need to be marked out on the turret. I have had an idea for my windows which is different to any boat I have seen, and I have been dreaming it or seeing it in my mind for years and years. I finally get to mark it on the boat and make sure it all works before finally cutting it out. I gave a glimpse in a previous post.

Because I raised the height of the dashboard in a decision made years ago, in order to facilitate the fitting of the full size hatch that one can climb through (the alternative was a hatch only 300mm top to bottom, too small to easily climb through) it also provided me with the freedom to cut a wrap around window into the bedrooms. Big windows have the benefit of more light but the penalty of more heat through them, but I have a possible solution to that problem, but more on that later. I felt the benefits of the window outweighed the negative. The main one is that many people feel claustrophobic in the coffin like bunks some boats have. So the raised bedroom roof and the extra light from the wrap around window makes them feel open and airy, and reduces the feeling of confinement which leads to happier less stressed crew or guests.

Anyway back to the mechanics of marking the windows. One of the problems of marking a level line on a curved window with a curving deck as the basis to get the level line is just that. Nothing is level to measure from. I tried a cheapie laser level and it was close to useless. Because the deck is curved ever so slightly fore to aft and left to right its almost impossible to find 2 or more areas to level the laser tripod to. And just to top it off, the silly manufacturer put the laser level bubble on the tripod under the laser when the laser level was attached so every slight movement moves the laser beam off the level it was set to and you cant see the bubble to confirm the tripod is still ok without removing the level which starts the entire process again…..maddeningly frustrating. I managed to mark out what appeared to be a neat looking finish.

Dean, the boatbuilder in my shed has an expensive laser level (I know this because he warned to be careful with it because of my (emphasis on my) cost to replace it!) that, and here is the beautiful part, self levels the laser each time it moves. And it moves every time you so much as breath, let alone move around the turret marking the line. But with the self level, mark, move, wait till self level, mark, move, wait and so on. Easy. I had the most part of it already right but checking with a proper tool (no offence Terry, thanks for the loaner but throw that piece of crap in the bin!!) reassured me that all was well. Cutting holes in a perfectly good panel is hard at the best of times. Cutting massive ones is even harder for a procrastinator like me.

At the end of it all, none of this measuring and marking is structural. It is all aesthetic. If a window looks ok, level or not, or is level but does not look right matters not to the integrity of the structure. But you want a boat to look good as well as perform well. If it came to a choice performance trumps looks for me every time, but when it does not matter then looks is very important. So on that the main windows pretty much set themselves out. The only one that caused me any pause was the wraps for the bedrooms. Because the deck slopes away and is therefore not level, having a level line of the bottom of the window actually looks slightly out of place. If I follow the slope and curves of the deck, and had a constant distance from the deck to the underside of the window, the window is bigger but it too did not quite look right to me. The top line of this window was levelled to match the underside of the saloon wrap around, so it was only the bottom line of the window that was changing each time. I could not make up my mind. I marked then rubbed out each option a number of times before settling on the levelled option for 3 reasons. Neither looked right or wrong. The smaller windows meant that if heat is going to be an issue, smaller is the compromise between none, bigger and smaller. And finally if the bigger window was the final best option and I only discovered this after cutting them, its easier to cut more panel out to enlarge the windows than to glue and glass panel back in to make them smaller. In the end, after cutting the smaller I am happy with them and they will stay smaller. It will use a little less perspex so be just a little cheaper to make, but this was not a consideration at the time. I also experimented with a number of trailing end of window shapes. I tried square ends with rounded corners of varying radius, I tried angled both ways (sharp point to top and bottom) also of varying angles and curves. About the only one I did not try was a D sectioned curve to a point in the middle, and not because I did not like it but because another bi-rig builder had already done it and I did not want to copy his. In the end the shape I like most was a full rounded (quarter circle) radius with the sharp corner at the top.


The middle picture above was of the larger bedroom wrap option, but this changes before I get to cut out pics later. When marking the windows it isnt accurate enough to measure and mark them individually, its too inaccurate. I marked half the boat then made templates of those windows in order to transpose the exact same shapes to the other side. The windows are very much an aesthetic feature so you do need to mark them on the boat to see how the shapes and sizes work and of course both sides need to be mirrors of each other. I transposed the shapes by sticking pieces of paper together to form a plot sheet, tracing the shape through the paper (I could have gone and bought some super size tracing paper, but this was easy enough) then marking that shape through the paper onto a piece of 3mm mdf and using that as my template for the other side. I still had to be sure to place the mdf template in exactly the right place but other than that I know that both sides windows are exactly the same size and shape.


The templates need to be flexible to bend around the turret, hence the 3mm mdf. I switched the templates from each side of the boat a number of times to ensure everything matched and was at the same height (using the laser level) and the same positions relative to fixed points like bulkhead 6 etc.



With the windows marked outside I transposed those marking to the inside in order to mark in the mullion positions. A mullion is a strut used to add support to the roof that is removed when the windows are cut out. The large voids created by the windows weaken the overall structure although the window frames that are glassed into the edges of the window cut outs put some of that strength back in, as would the window panes to a degree, the mullions put massive strength back in. Not all boats have them, in fact the plans dont even specify them, but a lot of builders (including most Schionning builders) use them. I marked the windows by drilling a series of holes along each line and around each corner, then running the pencil lines between them. Having them marked inside also let me visualise the size, position and shape of each window from inside.

The mullions can be made from carbon tubes cut in half or box section or hat section. Mine were made in a mold to a half pipe with a flat 50mm flange either side. I didnt actually make mine, Dean and Paul in my shed made them from some of my uni and resin. About 6 layers of 450g uni and a layer of 200g plain weave top and bottom. Super strong. I settled on 7 mullions in all, one down the middle of the 2 front windows. Then 2 long mullions that run through the dashboard into the bedrooms that separate the 2 middle windows from the wrap around windows and because there are wrap arounds in the bedrooms too I had these mullions run all the way from roof top to bulkhead 4 at the front of the bedrooms. Then angled side mullions that separate the aft edge of the wrap arounds from the side windows then finally a mullion on the aft edge of the side windows. I decided on these 2 mullions even though the aft panel is still about 700mm wide past the window because there will be a sheeting anchor point on the outside of this panel so the added strength wont hurt to have. The mullion mold is pretty solid, I guess you want to be sure they are straight and dont distort in any way.


The actual mullion lay ups is just a matter of waxing the mold (so that the resin does not stick to it and the mullion releases easily) and laying the wet glass in one on top of the other and consolidating between each layer. You could peel ply the last layer, we didnt bother because the concave of the hollow wont contact anything and keying the edges that will contact the cabin sides is easy, you have to trim the edges with a grinder anyway, so keying them is a simple added task when doing so.


Once the mullions were trimmed they had to be dry fitted, which included cutting a hole in the dashboard for 2 of them. Fitting also includes trimming and tapering the top end to match the change in angles of the roof. I got the 2 longest ones right first time, which was lucky, because the second longest one, the middle one, I got so wrong twice so I used them on the next size down, luckily I got them right first time and then the shortest ones being the vertical ones at bulkhead 6 were always going to be made from offcuts and I managed to get them both to 3 quarters of the way down the cabin side and a short 200mm piece at the bottom to complete them. We joined the parts in the mold with glass inside to make them full size again. This mullion is not really required and the bulk of the work is already down by the time the join is hit with the load so I am not concerned about them being joined in 2 parts at all. If I didnt have the offcuts I would not have made another set in the mold anyway, it really was a case of having the offcuts and deciding to use them rather than throw them out but had I not had them I would have just not had those last 2 mullions.


The next step is window cut out, the most exciting part of the build for a long time. Dean, Paul (yes another Paul) and I glued the mullions in and a couple of days later (it took all of my powers of delayed gratification to wait out that couple of days) I cut the windows out. You need to wait until the super strong epoxy glue (techniglue) sets fully before cutting out the windows. The windows being removed may otherwise have caused walls to want to move if they are under any sort of tension and without the mullions there may not have been the strength to stop them from moving. I doubt there was any tension although there was no way to know, but when the turret and roof were glassed on they were not pulled or pushed like the hull panels were (the chamfer panel needed to be ratchet strapped and long screw twisted into place and held while the glass set) so I doubt there is any tension built in. But better to do it properly. The mullions had screws holding them in place while the glue set but we were again careful not to add any tension, the screws were just to hold the mullions still not pull them in tight. The glue was piped onto the mullions and into gaps with a piping bag and with spatulas.



The mullions were the build up to the windows being able to be cut out. The windows are such a huge part of the final look of the boat and I had dreamt of this day for such a long time. So here is the most exciting sequence of pics (for me anyway) in quite some time.






All of the windows were marked from the outside and are cut from the outside. There is no set structural layout for the windows, so their shape and position is purely personal and mostly aesthetic so it is for this reason that I mark them to the outside and am more concerned on how they look as a whole than how they work. Of course there is some thought to utility in the way they are laid out, in particular that I have the bedroom wrap arounds. I also drilled, decored and backfilled the edges of the anchor winch foot switches and the 2 tanks deck fillers.

I think you can tell that I am ecstatic about the end result. It is pretty much exactly how I have been planning it for many many years.

Next step is to decore the outside skin and core for 50mm around every window. I have already done this for the cockpit to saloon windows and now must do all the new ones. After that about 8 layers of glass tape 100mm wide is laid onto the outside of the inside skin for the 50mm of the window then up the core and around onto the outside skin. The core will have a cove in it and the outside edge of the skin will be rounded for the glass to go around. Once down the pieces that were cut out will be made into molds for the perspex company to hot form the curved windows. The front windows and possibly the side windows can be cold formed. The front ones are dead flat so no problem for us to cut and fit them, the side ones have a slight curve in at the top forward corner for the last 300mm of the windows and they curve in maybe 30mm, we may be able to cut them from flat panel and heat them ourselves in order to push down this small area of curve, the rest of the window is flat.


The window edge glassing will take a while, it is a slow process. After that I move on to the outboard tracks and car so we can finally glass the rear steps into the boat once all the various works in the outboard well are done. Another complex job, but I cant wait for the rear steps to finally be in.

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3 thoughts on “The Big Catch Up

  1. Mike

    Paul – looks like you’ve had a productive few months. I really like the raised dashboard/window/mullion solution you’ve chosen. This is turning out to be a damned good looking boat!

    A question: what do you use to be completely, absolutely, positively sure your mold release agent is totally removed before further adhesion?

    Also, I don’t remember if you were planning any sealed flotation compartments, but have come across some cautionary tales lately about thermal swings and water intrusion that convinced me that inspection hatches are a must.

    Keep it up!


  2. Bill

    Wow Paul. She sure is coming along now! Looks like you have been hard at work. You’ll be sailing in no time!


  3. Paul

    Hi Mike, We just wipe the mullions with a rag soaked in Acetone but as it happens, the surface in contact with the mold release does not contact the boat it is the visible part on the outside, so no mold release was used on the section that will contact the boat. So no mold release was really needed until such time as a finish is applied. Again a wipe with acetone would probably be enough for paint or a light sand with very fine paper. It may be that we cover them with the same white foam backed vinyl (imitation leather) that we line the rest of the boat with. This gets adhered using contact adhesive. Not sure what if any reaction it would have to mold release. We may just leave them raw, they are ultra smooth having come out of a fair mold. Not sure yet.

    Regarding your question about floatation tanks, Schionning designs all incorporate sealed areas in the forward 2 spaces between bulkhead 0 and 1 and 1 and 2. I have taken part of the area between 1 and 2 and put a floor in about a third of the way from the deck so that a deck hatch is created for fenders, but below it is the rest of the flotation area sealed. There is no inspection into these areas. Nor is there any inspection into the compartments created under the sole. If you wanted to inspect them all your floor would be littered with these inspection ports. The idea of having lots of small isolated compartments is that should one of them be compromised by a ground strike, the water ingress is confined to a small area cut off from the rest and you could safely sail on (possibly oblivious) until your next dry inspection for repair. Of course if you knew, that inspection and repair would be asap as their is always a risk that the end grain balsa will not stop the spread of water as the makers contend. I wouldnt risk it for long but at least I would know that the vessel could safely sail on to the next safe port and not sink. In fact I doubt you actually can sink one of these without cutting it up into piece and even then I think the parts would float. The buoyancy tanks are more about having the bows rise up fast if buried into the next wave in big seas not about keeping the boat afloat generally.

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