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In Greenland

Iron Bark

Iron Bark
Under full sail


At Russell Boating Club's Tall Ships Regatta

Annie Hill

Annie Hill
Photo credit: Alvah Simon

Blue Water Medal

Blue Water Medal
Blue Water Medal

Books By Annie Hill

  • Brazil and Beyond
  • Voyaging on a Small Income

About Me

16 September, 2017

Finally, I can tick off the heads

Heaven knows, it's taken long enough.  I will offer the usual excuses of slow execution, much head scratching, one or two steps backwards and all those coats of paint, but finally, I've have completed the fit out in the heads compartment.  Which, let us not forget, included making the composting toilet, which took more googling and tooth sucking than actual work, it has to be said.

It is surprisingly difficult to get bronze fastenings any more.  No chandler had what I wanted, I tried emailing a company in NZ, but they never replied, and Jamestown Distributors, who advertise in Wooden Boat magazine, also failed to respond to my requests for information.  In the end, as I've already mentioned, I went to Classic Marine, who gave me their usual excellent service.
As well as the fastenings for the portholes, I'd ordered turnbuttons and 'automatic buttons', made by Daveys.  I love these natty little things, and they make strong catches.  The ones Daveys make come with a wee bush that keeps them away from the frame so that they swing easily.

Here are the doors, finally fitted in the starboard shelving.  As you can see, the frames protrude

so I made little bosses for them to sit on.  To do this I used a 44mm holesaw and cut them out of tiger wood.  They were cut in two just under the screw hole and then glued onto the framework just above the door.

On the port side is the locker which will hold my brewing barrel.  Although this will be stowed at the forward end, I decided to fit an 'automatic button' here in case the barrel works its way aft and leans against the door.  (The brass door fittings can be seen in a later photo.)

The next job was to fit the finishing wood on the cabin sole.  For this I used the tigerwood, sawn into 6mm veneer, 40mm wide.  It stiffens up the 12mm ply to at least as stiff as the 18mm most people would use.  I made, fitted and finished sanding it over four days, which I think is a reasonable investment of time for something that will require no more maintenance than the occasional clean.

I decided simply to use temporary screws and plug the holes after.  Sash clamps would have been the ideal way to hold the planks down flat, but I don't have any and screws were a quick and easy way of doing it.  Drilling plugs using a drill press doesn't take a lot of time and nor, for that matter, does putting them in.

There are two hatches in the sole area, so once I had fitted the planks, I predrilled some of the screw holes, so that everything would line up properly, and then took them down to glue up on a table.

By using washers between the screw head and the wood, I can make sure that there is minimal damage, which makes final finishing a lot faster.

I put all the plugs in with aliphatic PVA, which is a lot quicker and less messy than epoxy for this sort of job.  When the glue had cured, I used my multitool to cut them off.  This worked wonderfully well - made for the job!

Once I'd finished sanding it, I gave a quick skim along the edges to fair them off a little and soften the corner.

Personally, I think it all looks rather smart.  The framing around the doors (fitted to hide my wiggly jigsaw cuts) add a spurious air of quality, heightened by the 'automatic button'.

The tigerwood will quickly become redder - judging by the offcuts kicking around the shed -  and I think makes a pleasant contrast with the kauri.  You can see the finished composter and the catches on the starboard lockers here, too.

And here is the finished composter, showing the bucket. (I had to replace the orange with a black one: the orange one ended up about 5mm too high!)  The white under the seat is the diverter.

The switch panels were sitting around getting dusty, so I thought I might as well fit those, too.

All in all, I'm rather pleased with the whole thing and more than ready to move on with something else!!

02 September, 2017

Sometimes it's a juggle

One of my major challenges, building this boat, is being able to visualise things at all; visualising them so that I can successfully plan ahead is beyond me, so every now and then I have to 'modify' something I've made, because what comes after won't fit around it.  It wastes a bit of time and sometimes makes a mess, but I'm learning to shrug my shoulders and accept it.  We all have our limitations and it's no good ranting at myself about my inadequacies: it just makes me depressed.

I am almost finished in the heads.  (I keep saying this).  All those coats of paint ...

And here I am, busily applying yet more paint.  This is the little door that will allow access to the back of the switch panel.  Next to it is the lid of the composter, to which the seat will be glued.  With a composter, it is apparently better to have no air gap between the seat and the base, or the lid and the seat.  This discourages insects - not that I had any problem with this on Fantail.

 One of my favourite jobs is varnishing, and I have a good place on which to do it - a little workbench at scaffolding height, which is away from most of the dust and well lit from the 'clear-lights' on the side of the shed.

Marcus bumped into a bloke he used to work with, a few weeks ago, who said that he had heaps more wood than he needed now that he is semi-retired from his wood turning business.  We went and visited him and bought some nice lengths of kauri, which is the wood I've used for 'tongue and groove' on the bulkheads.  I'm just planing the edge to have a proper look at it.  Lovely stuff - for bookshelves, framing that is to be finished bright, etc.

I was delighted with the finish on the toilet seat lid, until I came back the next morning.  A heap of small flies had not only committed suicide on my varnish, but had spread out their wings to do so.  I suppose I'll have to sand it down again and revarnish.  Sigh.

I had to put in some filleting, and had surplus glue.  Finally, I remembered to bond the bollard and mooring cleat on the foredeck.  The bow rollers will have to wait - they stick out so far that it would make it a nuisance to get past.

While I had varnish in hand, I coated the bulkheads in the forecabin.  Because they had epoxy underneath, just two coats seem to have made a satisfactory job.  If they get too kicked about over the next months (years?) that I'm building, it's no big deal to put on another coat.  You can see that I had a little left over, which I applied to the bulkhead on the composter.

The starboard locker with its lower shelf fitted.  This shelf, from left to right, will hold the beer brewing barrel, the dirty clothes basket (hygiene freaks please ignore their proximity) and has holes for wiring to pass up from the battery, which will be under the cabin sole.  The access hatch is there to check for moisture in the bilge.  I intend to fit an inverter to the 'right hand' bulkhead and I suspect a box full of chargers, recyclable batteries, etc will end up there, too.  Or maybe the box of fuses, connectors etc.  No doubt it will all make order of itself when I moved on board.

With the lower shelf in, I could put in the fore-and-aft bulkhead and the little varnished shelf.  I fitted a piece of trim across the bottom, which is masked off for varnishing.  Thus far, I've resisted the temptation to put a fiddle on the shelf, which I feel would be likely to end up as a 'catch all'.  However, it would also be a handy place to put my mobile phone to charge, or my e-reader, or any of the 101 things one seems to acquire, these days which require charging.

One of the things I failed to consider, was a stringer/frame for the headliner in the heads.  The deck is to consist of teak, plywood, air gap, plywood and that final ply is to provide the headliner.  Marcus showed me how to set up the table saw to create a bevel on the wood, to match the bilgeboard box and to create a landing for the headliner.

Of course, it was all nicely painted, so I had to scrape off the paint in order to fit the stringer.  I made it a little over length so that I can saw it exactly flush with my Japanese saw.  A nice bit of cedar, courtesy of my friend Murray, provided these stringers.

This is the stringer in place before scraping and gluing.  A wedge of cedar will be required at the far left of the photo.

Because I had forgotten about the necessity of this stringer, fitting it on the port side was unnecessarily awkward.  I could get no tools in for screws or pins, but wedges and clamps between them did the job.

Here is a view of the starboard stringer, glued into place.

I thought it was about time we had a 'general view'.  At last those with sharp eyes can see a bit of a difference.  Paint, mainly! But the sheer clamp has been planed down amidships (with more than a little help from Marcus) in preparation for the deck beams.

19 August, 2017

Taking time off

I haven't posted recently because my last two Sundays have been taken up with my Enjoying Myself.  Shame on me.

A fortnight ago, it was my birthday, and friends Maren and Rob invited me for a birthday soiree, along with Marcus, Graeme and Roger - good friends and fellow junkies.  Maren greeted us with astonishingly strong cocktails, and I was given the chance of a long soak in a hot bath.  What a treat!  The rest of the afternoon and evening were spent eating, drinking and talking, while watching the sun set in the distance.  There is the most wonderful view over Whangarei Harbour from their house - ever changing and ever beautiful.  We all stayed the night, had a splendid brunch and sat around looking through the NZ JRA library, which is housed there.  Some lovely books about Chinese junks with great photographs.

Roger and Graeme came to view progress on SibLim on their way home, and by the time they left, I'd decided it was hardly worth doing any more.

Last weekend saw the Winter junket.  A commendable four boats made it.  I was going to opt out, having done nothing the previous weekend, but was persuaded by the thought of Shoestring's wood burner.  Marcus and I towed Freebie down on a trailer and were joined at Scott's Landing, Mahurangi by Graeme.  By the time we'd rigged the boat, it was blowing great guns, and Marcus was more than happy that he had traded with Walter for Pacific Spray's 2 hp outboard, which drove us manfully over to where Shoestring lay comfortably anchored.  La Chica joined us some time later, and we all snugged down on Shoestring, with the fire burning away.  It was no day for sailing.

However, the next day dawned flat calm and we decided to go out and see if we could find some wind.

La Chica was first away and as she does astonishingly well in light winds, she soon headed away from us up the harbour.  Her weight lets her continue through the calm patches until she finds the next puff of wind.  Sadly, this may be the last time that La Chica will be attending one of our junkets.  Paul fitted her out meticulously, for a single-handed, non-stop circumnavigation, and having got her absolutely ready to go, decided against it.  His cat didn't fancy the idea, and he's come across his 'ideal boat', which is going to be for sale fairly soon - and likely to be snapped up if he isn't around.  All in all, he's decided to spend his time living on board and pottering around NZ, rather than being 'one man against the ocean'.  La Chica must be bitterly disappointed and is looking for a new owner.  She is, as they say, ready to go.  Just add water.  Anyone looking for an 'expedition vessel'?

The rest of us followed along behind.  Shoestring has been languishing for a while, awaiting a new mast.  Finally stepped a couple of months back, Roger has been getting back into the swing of sailing her.  She is using her original flat sail, while he decides what experiment to try next.  (The weedmat sail is being used in the garden, now.)  One of his experiments that interests me is the bamboo battens he is trying out.  They grow plentifully around here and in fact are a weed that people are often more than happy for you to remove.  So they are free - and they look wonderful. 
Footprints sailed over from her mooring to sail with us.  I was steering Shoestring, but I'm afraid I couldn't get her anywhere near her sistership when we were sailing to windward - admittedly in very light winds.  However, the wind picked up a bit later and we did better.  Turning back down the harbour the two boats were much better matched with a free wind.  David is an excellent helmsman and knows his boat well.  She sails like a witch.

We all sailed back to anchor again, and foregathered on La Chica for an hour or so, before Marcus, Graeme and I sailed Freebie back to her trailer.  This photo is taken from Freebie showing his bamboo batten: they were thrown into the sail in April with no preparation and still going strong!

Back to SibLim. 

I had made a kit of parts for the starboard side of the heads.  'All' that is required is to put a total of four coats of paint on.  Each side of most of those pieces.  I have had second thoughts about painting inside the lockers - it all takes so long - but thus far I'm sticking to my resolve to do so.

 I had been putting off capping the plywood on the little bulkhead next to the composter, simply because I've never done anything like this before and was scared of making a hash of it.  However, I planed down some short lengths of kauri to the correct thickness and laminated them around the curve.  When the epoxy had gone off, I trimmed the excess and glued on straight pieces at either end. 

 I was very pleased with the result.  I put stainless steel staples in the first layer, to secure it so that it didn't slither about when I came to put on the second layer.  But masking tape held that in place with no problems.  And of course, epoxy is gap filling!

 To locate the panels of the composting toilet box, I used a hot glue gun to stick pieces of plywood to hold it in place.  They show up well in this photo.  I've found that it's worth covering them with packaging tape - the glue comes away easily and can be pulled carefully off the furniture.  If you glue directly to the wood chocks, the glue can sometimes stick so well to your finished surface as to damage it.

With as much of the composter glued into place as I could, I was ready to start painting.  It's much easier to get a decent finish, hand brushing two-part polyurethane on horizontal surfaces than vertical, so I'm doing as much as I can in advance.

Some of the bulkheads had already been primed, but there's still a lot of painting to do before the rest of the furniture can be installed.

Marcus found me some piano hinge, which I used to hinge the toilet seat and also to hinge the lid, which goes on the top of the composter.

One of the problems with doing all this painting, is that it somewhat takes over the workspace of the shed, meaning that somehow I have to work around it.  Although polyurethane soon becomes touch dry, I have to remember not to make dust until it does, and then to check to remove any dust before I paint.

I am going for a satin finish outside on bulkheads, deckhead, locker fronts, etc.  Not only will it look less stark, but it will somewhat disguise the paint strokes.

Forward of the electricity box is a small counter.  In theory, once the boat is wired up, that will be it, but should I need to do anything to the wiring, it will be good to be able to put down the necessary tools and work on the switch panels with everything to hand.  Gluing the wood together at least didn't create dust or require my big table.

There is still more paint to apply, but I'm hoping to start fitting everything in place, soon.

29 July, 2017

Still fitting out the heads

Or if you prefer, "Title as Before".  Just half a dozen photos this week - one coat of paint looks much like another, in truth.  However, thank you for the feedback from those who have told me that catching up on my progress via this blog is better than working through the JRA site.  That's good to hear, because it's a lot easier for me, too!

Once I'd coated and sanded the plywood framing around the doors, it looked quite neat.  They're not perfectly even and symmetrical.  My story is that we're going for the country cottage look rather than the super-yacht finish on SibLim.  Not that I would want a super-yacht finish, even if I had the abilities to attain one.

However, the doors lined up in a satisfactory manner - this shows them located with the wooden 'hinges' as I call them attached.

As decent-quality hinges cost the best part of $20, I was seriously motivated to use an alternative.  The little lugs you can see protruding from the backs of the doors are the answer.  It means that when you 'open' the door, the whole thing comes off, but this isn't always an issue, especially if you're trying to get something big out of the locker.  Anyway, the minor inconvenience is a small price to pay for the money saved.  And avoiding the anguish of accurately fitting hinges!

The back of the port side.  The little rectangles aren't strictly necessary with the framed doors - the frame prevents them from going right through the hole.  But I only realised that after I'd made them.  I was thinking of keeping the doors shut with "automatic buttons", which are weighted catches that you fit over the door and which close by gravity and are very effective.  My friendly neighbourhood chandler had a few in stock, but insufficient for my purposes.  At $14 each, they weren't cheap, but I like them and he had no suitable brass turnbuttons.  (Yes, I could make them out of wood, but would prefer metal ones.)  So he contacted Fosters in Auckland who supply them - ah, yes, well the price has gone up.  They are now $40 each.  We looked at each other in horror.

So I went to Classic Marine in the UK.  They were offering them to me at the equivalent of $12.50 each, and I knew from experience that they charge what it costs for P&P rather than using it to make an extra profit.  However, at the same time I discovered that they were selling nice little - and affordable - turnbuttons, so I ordered some of those instead.  (I also discovered that they sell reasonably-priced hinges!)

I had some problems with their website - nothing is easy - so feeling a bit desperate, contacted Davey of London, who make all this lovely gear.  I had the most wonderful reply back from no lesser personage than the managing director and was seriously impressed at the promptness with which he replied, and the care for customers that this implied.  Anyway, Classic Marine's website sorted itself out and, I hope, these nice goodies are on their way.

In the meantime, I've been working on the starboard side of the heads compartment, where I'm fitting the electric panels, solar panel control and a shelf to put things on when I need to get at the electrics to replace a fuse, etc.

PS I finally seem to have worked out how to get my spacing sorted in the blogs.  Practice makes perfect, they say!

22 July, 2017

Painting and painting

Painting in tight spaces is never much fun.  Painting with two-part polyurethane in same is far worse.  I am told - quite rightly - that I should wear protection when using this paint, so that I don't inhale the fumes.  Unfortunately, any that I have tried has caused my glasses to steam up, and as I need my glasses to see what I'm painting ...  I console myself with the fact that I'm getting old anyway, so what the hell.  And the shed is more than adequately ventilated!  However, I would never do this for money and I have completely abandoned using the epoxy primer, because I could still taste it, each time I exhaled, the following morning.  I was only using it to build up the colour, but now that I'm using the locally-made Carboline, I'm finding that it coats very well.  Considering that it is the stuff made for industry, it's going on surprisingly well with a brush.

I painted the inside of the locker and then both sides of the shelves.  I had to leave some parts unpainted for the glue, of course, but I still reckoned I'd save time - and fumes - doing them all separately.  Here there's the stack of shelves waiting to be fitted.

I glued in the first one and then masked it off and filleted it.  Again, it made sense to do as much as possible before putting in the next shelf and reducing the space available to work in.

Once all the shelves were fitted and filleted, I could go around and touch up where the fillets where, or the parts where I'd been a bit too generous with the masking tape.  This didn't take too long and, while probably not strictly necessary - who spends time gazing at the paint job in their lockers - gave me a feeling of satisfaction.

Another thing that gives me satisfaction is making my own beer.  I hardly touch it in the winter, but I really enjoy it for lunch or on a hot afternoon in the summer.

So space has to be found not only for the brewing barrel, but also for a good supply of bottles that can stand in peace, so that their contents settle.  Oddly enough, if the bottles can't move, the sediment remains undisturbed, even after a good beat to windward.  I made some interlocking pieces of plywood to keep them located. 

Of course, all these shelves are going in behind a bulkhead, the openings of which will provide the necessary fiddles.  So the next job is to cut out the doors.  I hate doing this.  I can't cut straight enough with a jigsaw and the multi-tool saw won't make a thick enough cut for the jigsaw blade to go down.  I tried it for one, then gave up and resorted to my Japanese saws.  The took longer, probably, but produced better results.  You are supposed to be able to 'plunge cut' with the smaller one.  Well, maybe.  But even sawing the cutouts by hand, they are far from perfect. 

Doors that are obviously just cut out from the plywood don't look that nice either, so I'm going to put a 'beading' around them.  This also gives the door something to land on and, while everything will be painted white, I think it will look better. 

 Ideally, I'd have made the doors and then routed a nice round over the inside of the framework, but they would need to be made of about 25mm stock for that to work.  You can't round the wood over in advance,either, because it all goes to custard in the corners.  So I just took advantage of epoxy's fantastic gluing abilities and carefully set up the beadings pushed together.  As long as they hold together long enough to be routed and sanded, that will suffice.  Once they are glued to the doors, they won't be going anywhere.