Friday 25 December 2015

Monday 7 December 2015

Hiding things

I have never been fond of the way plastic watertight hatches look on classic inspired boats. However I do recognise that their practical performance, ease of integration and availability of spare seals make them the perfect choice in order to keep things dry inside the lockers.

My pathfinder already integrates home made wooden hatches instead of plastic ones in the cockpit seat fronts however in this case, being the surface to keep dry vertical, the challenge is somewhat smaller as water will not normally sit around the opening.
In the case of the main twarth however things are diferent since the opening is cut on a horizontal surface where all sort of water would collect (splashes, rain water, condensation , ...) .

In my previous build (a SFD Stornoway 12) I had already integrated some plastic watertight rectangular hatches to provide confort and security, however I've hid them behind hinged wooden doors. The idea worked out well aesthetically however the implentation was slighlty flawed as water has nowhere to go once it finds its way easily past the non watertight wooden door and waits patiently to seep into the locker as soon as the plastic door is opened.

For the pathfinder therefore I applied a slightly improved solution where the unsightly (to myself) plastic hatches are integrated on a sloped  panel built just underneath  the main twarth ply surface. A wooden door  is routed directly out of the main twarth so that once closed it covers the plastic hatch and matches perfectly the wooden grain of the surrounding surface (which will be the way finished in clear varnish).

The sloping panel helps preventing water to sit still around the plastic hatch door; standing water will drain by gravity through drilled holes directly into the cockpit area. A good solution? Only time will tell....

Monday 30 November 2015

Ephemeral beauty

What makes a nice piece stand out ? The answer is probably entirely subjective but I sure have enjoyed building and manipulating this little component for the boat.

It will live its life as the mizzen mast step. It'll be buried down into the aft locker, covered in paint and not to be seen again. I've built it out of pieces of mahogany offcuts. I sure like the geometry and the nice grain of the wood.
I thought of dedicating a post to it as ... it won't be seen again after it is integrated to the boat. That makes it in a sense pretty ephemeral.

Monday 23 November 2015


This photo from my internet friend Steve Earley keeps my motivation going through the current stages of the build.

With a self imposed deadline for my project set for the end of April 2016 in order to participate to the sail raid organised in the Venice lagoon, Steve's source of inspiration is indeed very helpful...

Wednesday 11 November 2015

Some progress!

In the past few weeks some progress has been achieved. Different components have been spiled and dry fitted including the bench tops, the foredeck and its teak cover and the teak cockipt floor.

Also the inboard compartment has been fitted with a propeller inspection well (just about visible in the first photo above). This will allow to access the "saildrive" propeller from inside the boat in order to clean up fouling or to remove it altogether when racing. For this purpose I have designed a quick release mechanism allowing easily unplug the propeller with one hand through the well thus reducing drag when racing. Not that I will do a lot of that (or any at all) but I just thought it was an interesting feature to develop and integrate to the boat.

Of course none of this progress would have been possible without a helping hand or two ...

Saturday 10 October 2015

A friend with teak is a friend indeed

A friend has proposed to me a bunch of teak strips (to use his words) he had laying around at his workshop since a while.
It turns out the bunch of strips are actually two half decks off a Riva like runabout project that was never finished.
They measure roughly 1.7 x 4 m, and consist of teak and elm strips  glued to a sheet of marine ply. The whole professionally assembled and brand new. The whole lot offered to me pretty cheap. Thank you Vassilis, it'll be great help for my boat project.

I'm trying to step up the gears as the countdown to next year's VeLa raid in Venice has started and I have committed myself to participate with the Pathfinder. Sure, the paint will be still sticky the day we get there in mid May 2016.

The teak decks I have got from Vassilis will be used to line the cockpit floor and the forward bunkflat.

Tuesday 6 October 2015

One mobile phone down .... work carries on

Despite the loss of my mobile phone containing several pictures of the ongoing progress of my Pathfinder build, work has carried on.
Photographic evidence of spiling and fitting the benches is lost however here's some photos of the latest developments:
- the forward deck beams are epoxied and screwed in place

- and here's a picture of the (to use a Formula 1 expression) power unit of the boat.

Instead of a standard transom hung outboard (which is unsightly to me on this kind of boat) or an outboard in a well, I opted for an own made inboard solution. The donor motor is a 1975 evinrude 4hp two stroke outboard. It is coupled to a honda 5 hp outboard gearbox and case through a belt and pulley arrangement.

The idea is to reproduce the concept of a sail drive, where the former honda gearcase will be built into the boats keel. A brass impeller pump is driven by gears from the gearbox shaft.

All components and parts were sourced rather cheaply on ebay while the motor itself was found in the trash bin of a small boatyard.

First power up of the modified engine in the boat worked really well. The adaptation work involved building an adapter flange, adding a shaft and bearings, belt and pulleys and an exhaust manifold. The engine itself received quite a lot of attention as well: new head gasket, coil, breakers and condenser and rebuilt carburettor. I have adapted the flywheel and recoil started from another similar aged evinrude outboard I order to keep the motor's height within the height of the main benches. The motor will be fully enclosed a watertight aft compartment not exceeding the height of the cockpit seats.

Being a small twin cylinder the motor is really quiet. It starts like a charm after I've adjusted the timing accurately.

Thursday 13 August 2015

Planking week!

An unexpected situation at work meant that the technical sea trials I should have attended for testing an underwater vehicle have been postponed. The holiday planning having been finalised beforehand this offered the unique opportunity of taking some prolonged time off at home. This would have been a first time experience of spending a week off at home as we always travel through Europe to see the family at every holiday break.
I decided therefore to declare an "all in" on the boatbuilding project and with the planks for my pathfinder already been CNC cut since day 2 of the project and looming at me from the shelves beside the boat, "Planking week" was given a clear for take off signal.

The planks are already cut to measure and take into account the required width of the clinker overlap. No spiling off the boat frame required. Given the size of the original ply sheet they are composed of three lengths, two roughly equal ones of around 2.2m and a third much shorter one. The joint is made with puzzle joints so no need for cutting scarfs. Easy!

Planking the whole boat took exactly 6 days, lots of epoxy and great lengths of time staring at the growing hull in the evening after cleaning up. It was nice to see the pile of planking material getting thinner by the day as for the first time in this project I was given the ultimate luxury of time to work on it.

The planks went on very well, matching the shape of the boat traced in 3D by the frames and the stringers exactly as it was on the 3D CAD model the templates were generated from. The only surprise were some long  thin gaps appearing between the plank and the stringers towards the fore end of the boat. I initially thought that there was a problem with the bevels I had planed in the stringers and in the adjacent plank. I then realised that what I was seeing was perfectly normal as the relative angle between the planks becomes almost flat towards the bow of the boat and despite the bevel the thickness of the plank below the one being added makes the latter "come off" the stringer. I have filled the gaps with thin battens and thickened epoxy.

Sunday 14 June 2015

A milestone

Plank #1 (starboard garboard) is fitted and glued! This is an important milestone in my poject as it proves that the plank shape that I had pre-cut by CNC waterjetting using 2D  templates derived from the 3D model of the hull is actually spot on!

I had pre-validated the plank shapes through a 1:8 scale model, however all through the building of the boat's frame I was wondering whether it would really work as well in 1:1 scale: the boat's length is such that a small error could lead to trouble.
In the "traditional" building method proposed by the designer, the planks are spiled from the boat's skeleton composed of the floor, the frames and stringers erected over a strongback. In my case the planks are cut even before any part of that skeleton even exists. The risk therefore is that small inaccuracies in setting up the boat's strongback, frames and stringers would bring to disaster when fitting 5.8m long planks; and would the 3D unrolling of the boat model to yield the 2D templates really work on the boat's full length?. One of my biggest fears was off course that a plank would fit at one end of the boat and then gradually diverge from its intended shape, both due to inaccuracies in the boat's frame or in the 3D -> 2D CAD conversion.
As I said the 1:8 scale model sure helped to reassure me and provided the grounds to proceed having the 950€ worth of plywood CNC cut.... however seeing the real thing, the garboard plank fitting nicely all along the boat's length, sitting to the millimiter on the stringer and respecting the intended overlap with the following plank is so great to see!
I now look at the ready cut planks and think to my self: this can go quite fast now!

Sunday 7 June 2015

When the going gets tough ....

Many Pathfinder builders have commented on how daunting the task of beveling the stringers feels when one first approaches it. Undoubtedly as one fits one by one the 20x45 mm thick pine stringers, forcing them to fit into the notches in the frames, screwing, clamping, tying ropes , the mind also fast forwards to the following step of beveling them. And one wonders: how the heck am I going to do that ... ? The question applies mostly to the garboard stringer, the one fitted to the flat floor of the boat. That needs a lot of material taken off its original 20x70mm section to create a following angle all along the boat's length.
Some Pathfinder builders have called this step "the battle of the stringers" ... and one can clearly understand and share that denomination once the task of cleaning up the workshop after the beveling takes place.

The planks' stringers can beeasily taken care of by power planer followed by a hand plane, checking with a ruler/square edge along the way that the bevel angle is suitable for the plank to sit nicely.
The garboard stringer on the other hand requires a bit more of a hefty arsenal. In the following picture some of the tools I've thrown in the mix are shown...

The circular woodsaw fitted to the angle grinder may never belong in any good practice shown in an HSE manual however it allowed to "eat into" and cut through the stringer to a pencil line drawn beforehand. The line is drawn by fitting a flexible batten with clamps on the frame to reproduce the twist and orientation of plank #1.

Once the first cut is done, it is time to throw everything at it in order to separate the unwanted material: from chisels to handsaw to hammer.

In order to finish off the surface I folllowed other builders advice and used a sanding disk fitted to the angle grinder. An electric file was also handy to tackle those areas difficult to get at... mind you the whole problem in shaping  the garboard stringer is its accessibility or lack thereof.

Once it's done, it's done though and one can look forward to the exciting next step: planking!

Actually, I stand corrected. The following step is cleaning up the mess: wood chips and fine wood dust sprayed all over the place by the angle grinder....

Tuesday 14 April 2015

Things over and under the sea ....

If one of my free time interests involves "things that go over the sea", such as the boat that is in the building and described in this blog, my professional activity leads me to explore what lies beneath the surface.
It was during one of these work appointments last month that I had the chance to dive an underwater vehicle over a fantastic archeological site.

These are the remainings of a roman ship that foundered near our coast around 2000 years ago. Its cargo of anphoraes still lined up as they were originally loaded indicates that the vessel sunk pretty much level.

Flying over these artifacts one's imagination runs fast .... and mine surely did. It was an incredible experience and naturally my thoughts went to the the people who built the ship, the anphorae and carried them around the mediterranean sea. The wreck site is a couple of miles from the coast and I do hope they managed it to dry land, however sadly the prospects for that happening are not that good.

Luckily for us today this is a protected (and deep) site therefore this beautiful display of craftmanship and endeavour will last for a few generations more....

Sunday 1 March 2015

New wheels

I have recently acquired a new old trailer from an old new friend whom I met only a few months ago during the VeLa raid gathering in Venice. Felix is a thoroughly interesting man, an extremely kmowledgeable sailor and explorer of many iconic and less known places around the Mediterranean.
He's a great friend and extremely fun to be with.

I purchased this trailer from him and took it back to France where it originally came from. In its previous life the beast of a trailer, which measures 7.4 x 2.4 m (!) and has a load capacity of 1000kg, used to carry a fiberglass trimaran.

In its current form it is clearly to big for my future Pathfinder, however given its modular construction it is actually a very easy job to adapt it to the right length and width. A colleague from work has proposed help and a welder to do up the very few welds necessary for the project. I will tackle this soon!

Helping hand

The pathfinder portrayed in this blog is my third build overall. The project is sure bigger in size than the previous ones I have tackled but I can finally count on some well appreciated help from my son. He's the new epoxy master, mixing the magic stuff for daddy and getting the required thickness with the right amount of powder additives.... it's great to be able to count on such help, thank you Emilio!

Sunday 22 February 2015

Stringent matter....

.... the stringers that is!
Work on glueing the stringers has started. I decided not to screw them into the frames as the designer suggests because my frames are made out of a simple thickness of ply so there is not enough material for the screw to bite into. For the same reason the risk of splitting the frame would be high.

I have rather used thickened epoxy and short lengths of glass tape set in epoxy to bind the stringers to the frames and keep them securely in place. The result is very satisfactory.... tough, sturdy and no screw heads to negotiate when beveling stringers and planks.

I followed fellow pathfinder builders lead and split the stringers in half for short lengths at strategic locations where the bend was such that things were getting a little too strained for my likely . Alos the setting up required liberal use of powerful clamps ....

I will stop at two stringers each side to allow dry fitting the bunkflat and seat tops before carrying on glueing the remaining top two stringers each side...

Monday 16 February 2015

Sticky Ketchup

Here is an idea I had once completely annoyed of handling the big cans of epoxy and their fiddling pumps for mixing small batches of resin.
I received a brand new 5l 2 pack epoxy system for Christmas (what better gift one can get?) and since the cans are full to the brim it is a bit of a handful sometimes to prepare small batches of the magic potion.

Therefore I cleaned up two bottles of Heinz' best and filled them with resin and hardener (one each, separately!)

It makes for much more handy pouring over the yogurt pot on the scales. Also these bottles have a drip stop rubbery seal that works marvel to avoid spillage and the odd drop that escapes and makes the workbench forever sticky.

My son burst into loud laughter the first time he saw them saying  "Dad look!!! blue and yellow ketchup!!"

... I might have to add warning signs on them!!!

Thursday 29 January 2015

All the vertical bits attached to the big flat bit.....

... as  technically well explained in the title, all the vertical components of the hull's structure are now permanently fixed (glued and screwed) to the boat's flat bottom. It is great to see the hull shape taking shape.

Now I have to move on towards beveling the bottom chine stringer.... For the first time in the build I frankly have no idea how to get on to do that. I've read people have used sanding disks on angle grinders, chisels, block or electric planes. I had initially devised a plan using a router guided along a wide batten acting as plank no 1 (see pict above). I think it is still a good idea but my router is too big for the plan to work as intended. I can't see either how a block or power planer could be used as the bevel needs to be cut all the way to the edge of the bottom board... I have purchased a rabbet plane and while waiting for the delivery man, I'll keep on pondering....