Building Logs

Setbacks and hatchlids

Posted by Paul

For regular readers you may have noticed that there has not been an update in a while and whilst in the past, work continued but the updates did not, this time not much progress has been made this past month unfortunately. And the race I have been running against time and our bank balance has finally caught up with me. About mid build (3 or 4 years ago) my financial situation worsened. When I started the boat I had 2 jobs, my small photo album importing business and a job working for another importer as a sub contractor acting as his General Manager on a profit share basis and for the first couple of years that profit share looked very promising and it was on the back of that, that we decided we could afford to finish the boat, then a year later it all went pear shaped! My income was halved and with it my ability to finance many aspects of the ongoing build. I battled on with the meagre resources I had whilst financial set back after setback kept befalling Jo and I.

Over the years, besides me earning half the prospected income that the business promised, Jo and I had a supplier dud us with a faulty shipment that cost us around $40k, then her son needed her to move interstate to help him through his last year of high school, which meant renting another household (at that stage we had 4 monthly rents to pay, 2 houses, our shop/offices and the shed I build the boat in). That year cost us another $20k we had not budgeted for, then last December her oldest son had an accident and broke just about every bone in his body, his spine being the most serious, and he now has a metal rod supporting his back. Then as if the first weekend of December is cursed, 2 weeks ago her youngest son was struck by the bullbar of a car whilst on his motorcyle and broke both the bones in his leg. Jo flew up to look after him and he is now down living with us for a while to recuperate. Each time we would just be getting our heads above water again for one or other of these issues would divert our resources again and put us back behind again, only for us to claw our way back up. Maybe we have now had our share of them and we are about to have a prolonged run of good luck? I dont usually mention our hardships, because compared to many others we have it fairly easy. But she wanted to tell it exactly how it is, because after all, this is what life throws at you, and we are no different to anyone else, so over the period of a build life is going to throw itself at you and sometimes it gets in the way.

Long story short, it had been anticipated, had these financial setbacks not beset us, that we would be semi retired to a frugal cruising lifestyle by now. Unfortunately because the boat is not yet finished and we have run out of savings I have had to “get a real job”. I found a full time job a month ago (I found a part time job filling shelves at a supermarket at night about 3 months ago and for the time being I am doing both jobs in the hope of getting back on top faster) and now I work in retail for a well known and aggressive consumer electronics retailer which means I work long hours and most weekends (and a couple of evenings on top). This in turn has meant little or no progress on the build for a month. The plan now is to get our finances back in order then return to the build personally or if I can become a top earner with them, pay others to finish the boat.

The actual construction is almost done and there really is not that much more to do despite it looking like there is. The rudders (are made) need to be hung and the steering mechanism (hydraulics and steering binnacle) fitted, the outboards and their mechanisms (raising and lowering and closing off the hole through the hull the leg goes through and fitting the controls) once done the rear steps and davits fitted (both already made) and glassed in which finishes the external construction and then the boat can be faired. Then after fairing some other small constructions works such as port holes cut (if they were cut before fairing they would cause the long board to snag on the openings making fairing more difficult), stanchions fitted (same deal, they get in the way of fairing so the fairing is ground back, the stanchion bases glassed in then the area around them is re-faired) and the mast posts, when they finally arrive (they have been delayed after delayed, but my finances meant that I welcomed the delay, but sooner or later I need to pay for them and get them in) and finally the small ply deck hardware pads for such things as winches, sheeting points and cleats need to be glassed on, before final finishes (top coat paint and non skid) can be applied. Then everything gets bolted on or in the case of the windows silicon sealed in to finish the exterior of the boat.

If I had the money now, it would take a team of say 4 guys that knew what they were doing about 3 months to finish my boat to a point we could launch it. 2 guys say 6 months, one guy a year, maybe less, although long boarding a boat single handed would be hard going.  Anyway that’s where we are. Close but yet so far. I dont like work. I would much prefer to be sailing but what can you do? We are determined to finish and if that means I have to work a while again then so be it. I hope this does not sound like a whinge. I feel especially blessed and love my life. I wake up each day thankful for what I have. And the motivations I keep telling myself is that these little setbacks and perceived hardships will make those sunsets from on board all the more spectacular, the beer will taste better and the fish that much more satisfying to catch.

So here is where I had got to (I had started to write the blog update) before I started at the new job, I had glued the ply pads for the solar panels down and partially faired them in:

When you first start building every measurement is crucial, every saw cut critical, every hole carefully pondered and procrastinated over. As time goes by you get to realise that there is not much you can do on one of these builds that cannot be undone or repaired. Granted some mistakes or changes of mind are harder to remedy than others but pretty much anything can be moved, removed or replaced. But cutting holes in the boat is still a sphincter tightening experience for me. I cant get past the psychology that anything I do can be undone one way or another. A friend of mine building the same boat cut out his cabin windows then changed his mind about their shape and position and simply glassed pieces back in and re-cut the openings to change them. And if you did not know he did that you would never be able to tell, and the boat is just as sound as if he got it right first time.

So I surprised myself on the weekend when I finished the work I had set myself for the day a little early and was looking for the next project to make use of the spare time. I decided on the spur of the  moment to fit the hatches to the cabin top that had been in the back of my mind as part of the plan for some time. The cabin wrap around windows are fixed non opening plastic (either polycarb or acrylic probably the latter) sheets and wrap around pretty much the entire 360 degrees of the main cabin (the aft facing bulkhead windows and main doors will open but the rest are fixed). The cabin roof is pretty much taken up with the solar panels leaving just the downward curved slope of the front of the cabin to fit hatches to, which as it happens is the perfect spot for ventilation hatches. Opening hatches here are very necessary for getting fresh air into the saloon especially at anchor (at anchor the boat is always facing the direction the wind is coming from) so having opening windows on that front face will be super effective at ventilating the main indoor living space.

I found 2 plywood offcuts and using the hatch as a template I marked out 2 pads for them to be mounted to. The highly curved cabin top in the area I want to fit the hatches has a compound curve to it. That is, it curves front to back as the boat goes from the angled flat panel of the front then curves around to the flat again of the top, and in that curved part is where I want the hatches. But it also curves left to right as again each side of the cabin is fairly flat and the front is flat but the corners are large radius curves, so over a short distance the curve is not so great but over 2 meters the curve covers 90 degrees around the corner. Where the hatches will be has those small elements of both curves in it but they are there nonetheless. You cannot fit an aftermarket flat hatch to a curved surface if you want it to not leak. You must first make a flat platform that the hatch will seal to. That flat platform is fitted to the curved roof by filling the areas not in direct contact with filler before glassing it all down. So you turn the curved surface of the roof into a flat bed for the hatch to fit to with a flat ply pad.


So the process was first to cut 2 ply pads out, which in effect is 2 cuts each, first to cut the overall pad out of the sheet then to cut the opening out of the pad. Once cut I routered the edges and rounded the corners to the radius of the hatches and then set them out in their positions on the roof. From there I marked the position of the openings by tracing the internal lines to the roof. To see how the set out worked from inside I drilled some small holes through the roof to align a cardboard template of the opening and marked them out on the inside. Once satisfied with their position (I decided to reposition them based on the internal markings, by moving them a little further off centre) I calmly drilled holes large enough to take a jigsaw blade and I even more calmly cut them out.


With the openings cut, the next step is to glue the pads down. Not particularly difficult, however, you cannot tighten the clamps too much because you dont want the ply forming to the shape of the roof, you want them to retain their own flat level and for the voids to be filled under them with glue or fill. I decided I would glue them first, let it set, sand out the coves and then glass them onto the dried glue, rather than attempting to create neat coves of wet filler and glassing onto them.


After gluing and glassing the roof pads on and with the solar panel pads glassed and partially faired there is just one last piece of construction to finish the roof. I need to construct a radome and aerial mast, with a slightly swept back angle to it, about 800mm high. It is behind the arc of each mast so can be as high as I like but it only needs to be higher than head high from side deck level, and the roof is about 1100mm higher than the deck, and then another 800mm would make it 1900mm which is probably tall enough (I am 1820mm tall). I have chosen a broadband radar because of my concern about radar radiation, because broadband is supposedly fine, but I would still rather know that it is clear of our heads even when standing on the decks. In the meantime the cabin hatches finish the look of the boat from the front. The more surface area I cut out of the boat the less I have to fair!



Another job that I have ticked off the list was to hinge all of the outside hatch lids on and latches fitted. This would seem a rather simple task. Unfortunately there are no simple tasks! Every task is complicated by some other requirement. And on a balsa core boat it is that every exposed edge of balsa must be sealed with filler. So every hatch cut out on both the hatch and the opening must be decored 5 to 10mm and back filled with filler. Every bolt or screw hole for the hinges must be over drilled, back filled with filler then re-drilled with the bolt holes to the correct diameter and the same for the latch hole. I was told (by Stefan in WA) that the easiest way to fit the latches was to find the correct diameter plastic pipe, cut the holes for the pipe in the appropriate position, decore and then fill with glue then glue the pipe in, grind off the overhang each side and they are sealed.


The openings in the boat were decored and backfilled when I glued and glassed the ply pads into the underside of each hatch opening (the ply pads support the lids so they can be walked on). But the hatch lids I have only just done. And of course, most were a little more complicated than the usual flat hatch. All of the forward hatches were cut out of curved decks, which meant that I could not use my usual easy method of de-coring  by running my router blade around the edges and then just levering the balsa out. In order to de-core the curved door edges I used a bent chisel and used it as a chisel. I tapped it into the balsa edge then used the curve in it to lever out the balsa against its grain rather than along it in the usual way. I tried using a die grinder to remove the core but one of the problems with de-coring in this way is getting chips or gouges out of one side or other of the skins.  The filler will fill it and it will disappear once the edges are sanded back but its just another of the little jobs that get that little bit more complicated than they otherwise seem to be. So the easiest way to de-core was to simply chisel it out.


 The D section hatches posed another problem in fitting, at least the middle one did. Because they are curved I must hinge the lids along the top or bottom edges because the sides are very curved and you cannot hinge along a curved line. Not such a problem with the ones either side of centre, I will just hinge them from the top as you usually would. However the middle one must hinge from the bottom because I need the lid out of the way should I ever need to use the anchor winch capstan, which is inside the well directly behind the middle well so hinge in the usual position would mean the lid would be in the way to do that. Now ideally, because of my love of symmetry, I would have all the hatches hinged the same way, but unfortunately there is no support for the lid in the open position on the side hatches in front of the tramps, so if someone stood on that lid it would break the hinges off as it would be unsupported from beneath. When hinged from above the lids are supported underneath by the cabin sides. So I must hinge them from above. As mentioned the middle one must be hinged from below, but fortunately the catwalk supports the lid from beneath in the open position so if someone stood on the open lid it would not break the hinges off. All good. So with the main anchor well open to access the winch and the forward, D section, emergency anchor hatch lid open forward I can the lid opens low enough for the anchor rope to clear it, onto the winch, around the capstan a couple of times and off the winch into the forward hatch. It all works as if designed to work the way I made it, which of course most of you know by know, I fall ass backwards into these little design triumphs.



The hatches fitted was one of the last tasks I completed before starting work. Hopefully I get to resume some work in the New Year, or even better I start earning some decent money and I can get some help finishing this thing. I still love that I am this close. I love that I have such a loving and supporting wife and family, that have not put the slightest pressure on me about the time it has taken or suggested that I wont finish it.

If you are contemplating building and have been reading my blog for inspiration or motivation, dont let this little setback set you back, it wont set me back for long. And long after the boat is finished and Jo and I are enjoying a beer at sunset and my fishing reel starts screaming line off it, I will have long forgotten about the frustrating delays I am currently experiencing. Happy Christmas if that is your thing, have a safe holidays and I hope the New Year brings you what you want from life, and hopefully I too will get that little bit closer what I want.

Catch you in 2013.



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7 thoughts on “Setbacks and hatchlids

  1. Rod

    I noticed you have not gutters on the hatches where will the water run when there is water on the hatch lids

  2. Paul

    Hi Rod, yes you are correct, I didnt bother with gutters. All the wells are wet and the stuff in them will go in wet (anchor chain or rope, fenders, docking lines) so I figured there was no real point in trying to keep them dry. The wells all self drain so any water that gets in will just flow straight out again. I will run a rubber strip on the ply pads, but more to ensure the lids dont rattle more than keeping water out.

  3. Nicolas

    Hi Paul, good to see that you are still positive about the project despite the setbacks. After all, you’re almost there. The biggest danger / challenge to a project this large are unforseen personal circumstance changes. It will take longer, but as you said, one day you’ll look back at it and confirm it was all worth it. I visited and had a look at your boat back in June, (planning to build a Fusion 40) and I look forward to seeing it again all painted and ready to be launched.

  4. Jim Long

    Hi Paul,
    First off I’m sorry to hear about Jo’s boy’s and hope they heal in good time. My son has a motorcycle and I worry for him every time he rides off (its the other guy). Anyway, it does seem like your having a hard time of it but things will turn around.
    This cat build is so impressive in every way and your attention to detail and the logs you keep and provide for us readers are exceptional. I only wish you lived down the street from me so I could check in from time to time to offer support and maybe give a helping hand.
    I’ve been following for some time (still miss the little diddy from the Muppets everytime I sign on) and although I haven’t left comments I just wanted you to know that this build is #1 on my bookmark bar and think your doing an amazing job, keep it up mate and don’t fret the small things.
    Best, Jim (fellow cat driver)

  5. Rod

    I notice a couple of the hatches are on the bows I know when a wave dumps on the bows there is a lot of water to be dispersed. the drain holes would have to be quie large what size are your drain holes going to be.

  6. Ernie Wisner

    Hey Mate nice build! I look forward to the masts and such going on and in, soon to start my build and am really interested in the biplane rig.

    keep going, a bit at a time works just as well as a jump a month.

  7. Fred and Bev Hillier

    Hi Paul. We have been following your building progress over the years since we met you when we left our catamaran on trailer next to your workshop. Keep plugging! At least you have a positive attitude. We have a travel blog with WordPress as well. Suggest you read intro then go to Samothraki Greece and Croatian coast. We hope you end up there one day with your beautiful cat.

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