Hello hello hello, is there anybody out there? Just nod if you can read this, isnt everyone at home….
If anyone is reading after such a long hiatus, thank you and sorry about that. Welcome back to the Yikes blog. A shout out to David, who, after not seeing any updates reached out. I also noticed one day the blog was called the building “and sailing our Schionning” and figured ok, well I did kinda commit to more than I had already done. And even though the building is just about done, outside anyway and there wont be much sailing (or motoring) for some time yet, maybe I do have a little more blogging in the tank. But I cant promise regular updates or lots of content, I am in no hurry to finish now, at least not whilst I still have to go out to work each week. If somehow retirement is accelerated then ok it might speed up some. And I have never had any interest in monetising the site. That would mean I have to create content, but I dont want that pressure.
I guess you are all in the same boat (no pun) regarding Covid 19 as we are, I have been in isolation for 4 weeks (special “at risk” sick leave) because of my chronic asthma, however that is ending next week so I will be going back to work. It seems Australia has avoided the worst of it, however there is still the second wave to negotiate. I am not a fan of our current Government, they showed very poor leadership during our recent bushfires and have no serious climate change policies, but credit where due, they recognised the danger early (declared a pandemic a week before the WHO) and have managed and lead quite well since. I pity the US and some parts of Europe, because as a percapita rate we (and New Zealand) have fared much better. Dont get me wrong, we still have a fair share of science deniers and general apathy or straight out stupidity, but overall most of our community has worked through this crisis well. Hopefully we dont get complacent because science tells us a second wave is deadlier than the first. Good health everyone.
So as I said, there will be internal work that I have now decided I would blog. I had kind of decided I wouldnt, having decided the boat was built, and my work here was done. But on reflection, no, it isnt quite done. The internal fit out is probably important enough and I am suitably unskilled enough for it to probably be entertaining to see. Anyway, here we go again.
First off a few questions to answer. But before I do that, let me explain a few things. And by way of explaination this entry will be by its nature a bit all over the shop.
I look back with very warm feelings about the time (yes all 12 years of it) it took to build the boat. I used to feel a little embarrassed that it took me so long. But I now realize that it is quite common for some people to take more than a decade to build a catamaran. There are many that can do it much faster but nothing to be ashamed about taking the time I did, it is more common than I thought.
I only have a couple of regrets about it. First regret is that we didnt or couldnt buy a property somewhere where we could build and live. We spent a lot of unnecesary money on rent. Yeah we enjoyed our apartment overlooking the water but in the end, it wasnt worth the cost. The cost was about AU$60,000 in paid rent (rent was actually double that, but I sub let to someone nearly the entire time we rented the larger shed) and maybe double that much again in lost capital gains on the property value had we been able to buy somewhere and sell it once we had finished building, to buy something like the place we now have, opposite our mooring on Lack Mac. Unfortunately we were not able to buy because we couldnt find a bank willing to lend to us at the time. So an extra $180k would mean we would have a rig on out boat, and I can retire 5 years earlier or close to no mortgage now. That said, its only money.
The other regret, is that I couldnt work faster and have also got the inside finished before I launched. When we launched, I couldnt wait any longer. I couldnt afford the rent on the shed, I couldnt get any work done because we had moved a half hours drive away and work meant I had much less time to visit the boat to build. And I couldnt stand it not being launched any longer. I had grown to hate going to the shed at all. All in all I was a bit miserable. Launching changed all of that. The boat is now just minutes away by dingy and visible, albeit through the trees, from our lounge room. But working on the water is not easy. And progress is slow. And I once again lost motivation to finish it fast but not because I was down, just no longer stressed about getting stuff done. Mostly because the urgency was removed.
It was never my intention to build a holiday boat. I wanted to and still do, to get on it and go. Permanently. I want to live on it and in ever changing locations. And be under no pressure to move, no time limits, just the whim or desire to see new locations the only reason to move on. I cant do that now. At least not yet. I no longer have a portable income. I have to clock on at a physical location for the next 9 years. And being only 9 years (3/4 of the time it took to build the outside of the boat!) its too close now to jeopardise our retirement income (superannuation or 401k if you are reading from the USA, and on that, USA, sorry about that, how embarrasing for you! Only 6 more months of the nightmare to go. Assuming of course you arn’t dumb enough to re-elect the bozo-in-chief – disinfectant inside the body, sheesh!). But lets not go into that now.
So besides the joy of getting stuff done every now and then, there are a few things boat related I get a real kick out of. One is eating breakfast at our dining table and looking out at our boat through the trees. Another is seeing her as I go on my daily walk along the shore around the grounds of our unit complex which I do nearly every day. Jo and I both love our house and having the boat visible is fantastic. And everytime I go aboard, I have left this mini spirit level in the middle of the dashboard and it reminds me that Yikes floats dead level. Despite muddling through a lot of the build, there is still a lot I got right. And even though up close she is a little rough around the edges, from a distance she looks great. (The day this pic was taken a bushfire was just a few kilometers from our house and there were hundreds of fires burning out of control across our country which is why the background is hazy from smoke.)
I get asked a lot if I would advise others to build rather than the many other ways there are to end up with a boat like this. And the only answer that seems to make sense to me is, do you want to own a boat or do you want to build a boat. For example, if Jo and I had have used the roughly $80k we paid for the original kit and plans to buy another house (I sold my apartment in Melbourne when it was clear I would be moving to Sydney with Jo) and kept it for the 12 years it took to build, and lets say we bought a place for say $400k with a $320k mortgage. The repayments would have been not much more than we paid in rent for the apartment we lived in. We were right on the water so we probably would not have got that close, but a similar apartment in the complex was selling for about $400-$450k at the time so who knows. That apartment would sell now for maybe $750k or more and the mortgage would be down to say $200K leaving over half a million clear walk away, buy a cat money.
So unless building is also part of what you might enjoy, buying a house and waiting is definately easier. But for me nowhere near as rewarding.
There is a saying that cruising is fixing your boat in different locations. We motored the boat up 2 years ago and she performed well and everything worked, except for the engine bays getting starved of clean oxygen with the engine bay lids down, since then hopefully remedied with bilge blowers but yet to be tested, she lived in the marina for a couple of months, then out to the mooring and she hasnt been off it since. After a year of not being moved one of the motors now wont start, and the steering needs to be re-blead and 3 of the portlights still leaks even though I rebedded them once already. So whilst none of these issues is terminal, although the motor that wont start might be for it, even not being used, things break down and need constant maintainence. I think I caused the steering to fail. I tried to move the semi flexible hydraulic lines into a more neat location against the aft bedroom ceiling but by forcing them a little to much I think I broke the seal into the autopilot pump which let the air in (and leaked a little fluid). I am ready to re bleed them but ideally its a 2 man job, one to turn the helm the other to tighten the bleed nipples back up whilst the helm is still being turned to stop air being sucked back in. I’ve seen it done on youtube by just one person but have also been told that its better to use the 2 man method. Any feedback from someone who’s done it would be good.
I also ran up against a few ideas I had in the build that didnt work so well in practice. One was the navigation light wiring method. I made the stanchions myself by pulling wetted (resin) glass ropes through pvc pipe to set into solid 25mm rod. And for the port and starboard lights I decided to mount them under the forward seats and to run the wiring up through the inside of one of the stanchions that form a leg of the seat by making them hollow by putting aluminum tubing through the middle of the rod and then drilling a hole through the side to intersect with the rod and thread a wire up through. This way the wiring stays dry and the entry into the boat is both hidden and water proof. The problem was I used very thin wire and of poor quality and when I attempted to connect the lights on the water the plastic sheath had hardened and would not allow me to strip some away to attach a connetor without the wire just breaking away each time inside the sheath. I went from 150mm of spare wire to zero. In the end I had to carefully pull the wire out and re thread the 600mm stanchions with wire through a too small tube on a bobbing bow. What should have been a 5 minute job took me about 5 hours. Long story short, the nav lights are now wired and working. The idea was good, I just poorly executed it in the shed and didnt finish the job at the time then creating problems later. Lesson learned.
Another fail was the EVA decking I put down after launch. Again I cheaped out and bought cheap stuff off ebay with its own peel and stick adhesive. The stuff is terrible and I am going to have to remove it and re-do it with decent stuff or some other form of decking, even just more of the Kiwigrip non slip as a last resort. First the adhesive doesnt stick very well, which may end up being a blessing in disguise, because it may well be easier to remove as a result, but likely it sticks really well in the places it actually sticks and will be another frustrating job to remove. The other thing about the cheap stuff I bought is it shrunk being out in the elements, the edge adhesive lets go and it shrinks some more. Then dirt (bird poo, which then also turns to black slimey mold) gets under it, its a mess. Finally its surface powders, meaning you walk on it with wet feet, and spread dark grey foot prints everywhere else. (Bird poo is a big problem and it seems for a lot of non live aboard boats. My friend Terry uses his boat a lot and he also struggles with Swallows, Seagulls, and Shags leaving nasty hints they were there). I tried an experiment with rubber snakes. Fail. Literally 30 seconds after I finished tying one down…well, the pictures tell it all.
In the interests of having a more scientific trial, I cleaned the other step off and left no snake, here is the result the same day I came back to see the above, as a control sample. The result speaks for itself. Its as if they prefer the snake. The poo is probably from Shags or Cormorants but could be Pelican judging from the size of some of them. I have never seen the birds that poop on the steps but I have seen Plovers, Swallow and seagulls on other parts of the boat so far.
Another fail of sorts is there are a few places where water pools (on the steps) because I wasnt perfectly level. Water pooling here and there is no big problem, its a few millimeters at deepest for areas the size of a loaf of bread, but because we dont live aboard, dirt flows with the water until it stops raining, then the puddle is left with dirt in it until the water evaporates leaving just the dirt encrusted on so next time more dirt is deposited on top of dirt and so on. End result is a little more cleaning. I also need to enclose the cockpit with clip on canvas clears to stop birds getting poo on the new floor when I do replace the current floor. I even have swallows sitting on the steering wheel and a line of poo under it. They move to the lifelines whilst I am on board, then back to the wheel when I leave.
So during isolation I have been making wall lining panels in the garage. I measured up for them, bought some sheets of 3mm ply, 30 meter roll of grey and 30 meters of white vinyl in a 2 meter width. We decided to continue with the grey and white color scheme with grey below the portlights, white above (except in the bathroom which will be all white) and some ceiling panels in grey to break up the stark white a bit. I found a cheap source of vinyl. (I know, cheap, but, cheap for a good reason!) The roll has manufacturing stains here and there (I havent found any on the grey yet but 2 so far on the white roll), they are marked so I just cut around them, and will probabley lose maybe 2 meters over the entire roll. Foam backed vinyl is $45 a meter. This stuff cost me $10 a meter but isnt foam backed. I bought a 20 litre drum of contact adhesive (Sika 4600 premium waterproof) $130, its sprayable but I am troweling it on using ice cream punnet lids cut in half as disposable trowels. I have been saving icecream containers and lids for years! I could spray the adhesive and probably use much less but then I would need to set up and clean the gun after and also cover the walls for overspray, too much of a hassle for not a great gain in savings. I made the first panel with no foam but it isnt as nice as had it been padded. So I experimented with a foam alternative and it works really well. Its the silver underlay used on floating timber floors. I had half a roll left over from when I did the flooring in our house so I fetched it from the ceiling, made a sample piece and it works really well. Its 2mm thick and really cheap at about $2 a meter. And maybe the silver acts like a bit of insulation? After that ran out I found a guy nearby selling his surplus (I couldnt go far because of our virus lockdown) so bought that for $1 a meter x 20 but it doesnt have the silver backing, its just plastic, which isnt as easy to stick down because the contact adhesive seems to out gas for a while which causes bubbles to form because the plastic does not allow the gas out but it seems to settle down after the gassing ends which is why I weight down the panels to set over night. If I need any more I will revert to the silver lined stuff. Its a little more expensive ($1 a meter more, big deal).
It adds a layer of contacting (so double the glue used), but I figure I will get 25 panels out of a drum (I have made 12 panels so far and used half the drum) each panel averages about 2m x 1m so about $2.50 a meter in extra contact (25 panels instead of 50 panels from $130 of glue is $5.00 instead of $2.50. So all up $13.50 a meter instead of $45 a saving on the 60 meters I bought of over $1800.
I got better as I went, the first one I realised I wasnt gluing all the way to the edge, mostly because I was trying to avoid spilling over onto my work surface but as a result I had bubbling along the edges. I undid the stapling and went back under and reglued the edges. (I saved the staples and re-used them by hammering them in!) The panel in the picture is the starboard bedroom along the forward wall under the window, the notch is for the window mullion. The walls have been covered in the white epoxy (flowcoat) to make them wipe clean and to they make the walls smooth to touch, no chance of glass spikes, and the plan is to glue pine strips (10mm thick by 20mm wide) to the walls at appropriate distances then velcro stapled to the pine and to the matching underside of the panel or clips if the velcro isnt suffient holding power. Lights or switches will be mounted through the panel and wiring run behind them. And if mold grows due to the humidity of the tropics the panels are pretty much water proof so they can be take out and hosed and scrubbed on deck and left in the sun to dry and the walls wiped clean.
After cutting to size the ply is epoxy resin sealed each side, then the foam is glued to the panel by contacting the foam to the ply, a little oversize then I use a scalpel to trim it back to exact size of the panel, then I stretch the vinyl face down on the table and clamp it. The vinyl is about 100mm oversize. Then I contact each surface (the vinyl and the foam) and lower the ply panel foam face onto the vinyl and I place weights on the ply back to press it down evenly overnight. Next morning I stretch the overhang over the back and staple it down folding the corners in as I go and on concaves like the inside of the port cutouts, I need to cut triangles into the curve to smooth the fold around the curve as it folds over the edge to the back.
So thats it for the flat panels. Not super difficult. I’m sure a pro would make them look much better (but many thousands of dollars more), and mine look much better in the boat than they do on the table in my garage. Another thing I noticed is that on the larger panels the ply can bow a little causing bubbles or wrinkles, that disappear if I bend the panel the opposite way ever so slightly, so when I mount them I can pack out the pine bearer out (about the thickness of an icecream stick) to remove wrinkles or bubbles.
Flat panels are the easy ones. After these are all done (I figure it will take about 40-50 panels across the entire boat, I havent really counted them all yet), and so far I have made 15 panels, the next challenge is the curved ones that go from above the portlight around the curved hullside to underdeck ceilings. And they are a bit more expensive to make too. 3mm 3 ply is about $30 a panel, 1.5mm bendy ply (not sure how many ply they are) are $55 a sheet (go figure, half as thick twice the price?) and each panel needs 2 of them glued to each other to hold the curve although I might get away with strips of ply glued to the back to hold the curve using the inside of the boat as the mold to set them in, but more on that later.
The next challenge is getting some of these big panels out to the boat on the dingy. I also have to trim some of these panels on the boat. I need to stencil and trace for the exact curve of the bedroom ceilings so I have made them slightly over size and havent stapled the vinyl down on them around that curve so I can trim them to the exact curve in situ.
One last thing to report. The copper epoxy was/is one of my success stories. It cleans off using just a plastic scraper. No scrubbing required so far. I use a plastic oar end floating on my paddle board to keep the chines I can reach clean. I am about to pay a guy to dive on the hull bottoms to give them a scrape off. First time in 2 years. Not bad.
So thats it for now. Thanks for rejoining. No promises on regular posting but hopefully I can be a little more frequent with my updates. I look forward to any comments or banter you may have so please feel free to drop a line or 2.
Stay safe and hopefully this virus crisis passes soon. Cheers.