A Spar Is Born

3pm eastern time, 9/11. 274 lbs. 55′ long (will be losing 6″ top and bottom for 54′ final height)

The middle photo shows that the top 8′ are tapered, to save weight and windage aloft.

Getting that huge aluminum forming mandrill out turned out to be the toughest thing in this whole 6.5 year boat build. Thank goodness that hurdle was passed!

Here’s a minute of the six hours spent today finishing this job.

The sheave boxes that will hold the masthead halyard turning sheaves (blocks) were weaved and laminated today. That’s cooking in the autoclave tonight, along with the post-cure of my second spreader.

Here’s the end of Will’s process on the sheave boxes. The epoxy was brushed in at the center of the laminations, mixed to the exact resin to cloth ratio spec’d by the engineer, and it will bleed out through all the fabrics in the autoclave vac. bag process. It was a complex series of fibers, but home builders will enjoy how these guys take peel-ply to a whole new level.

And for some evening work, i got back to those padeye G10 backers. Learning to cut the coping curve to fit these pieces to the front of the mast this week.

Now that the spar is set up on work stands, I expect tomorrow we start in earnest to finish fabricating all add-on parts and make the assembly sequence plan. Good stuff and I can truly see the boat sailing again soon.

PS – boat builders or budding nautical repair types,if you haven’t mastered all things hand-layup fiberglassing and filleting, get this little boom. Russell heads up Port Townsend Wooden Boats in Washington. It was here in the shop and I read it over dinner. Sure wish I’d had it six years ago :)

Mandrill angst

As of Monday night here, the aluminum mandrill “mold” is still about halfway inside the mast. For a rookie, that’s a pretty anxious weekend. I spent six hours Fri night & Sat morn getting 16″ of movement over 6 hours. The company owner Ted came in Saturday afternoon and assessed the need to reconfigure his pulling machine from 1:1 gearing to 2:1. He and I spent seven hours moving gears, huge chains, etc. They haven’t done this in many years, and once we started running again the chains slipped on the drive gears. That ended the weekend progress. CE’s Joe and Will tackled it today and finally at 6pm the mandrill moved smoothly a few feet. And then a tensioning line snapped with a bang, and we agreed to splice in fresh dyneema tomorrow. We need that process to finish!!!

Meanwhile, the shop has set me up fabricating mast fitting parts. First up, the spreaders. We’re using an existing clamshell mold, with customized fabric and epoxy formulations for the strength this mast needs. Henny, it’s really great to do this work in a big, professional shop – you’d love it here :)

First is an 11oz carbon skin, then a heavy woven uni strength braid near the center, then another 11oz inner layer.

I had my vac bag running Sunday morning out on the table, but then Ted came in and fired up the autoclave so we switched to it’s vacuum system and rolled the whole works inside.

Monday morn we pulled it out and moved on to filling each half with A500 foam core.

Tonight I repeated the layup process using the same molds, now for the second of the two spreaders.

There will be five line-attachment pad eyes on the mast. Three hold turning blocks for halyards – spinnaker, reacher and jib. #4 is for lazy jacks and #5 for Cunningham/downhaul. Each gets a G10 base built.

Keith: Ted and I decided the backstays could share the padeye with the reacher halyard, and he spec’d a big diamond one for that duty. The others get the smaller round one.

CE’s shop foreman Will did one and turned me loose on the other four. This massive, accurate bandsaw will have Mike Leneman drooling – it’s amazing, cutting 1″ G10 with ease.

Speaking of Keith, I called the other day to find he and Val at sea on their excellent St. Francis 44 cat. Sounded like a good trip off NY/NJ. Here’s a taste of how that “sailor’s cat” goes, from my visit with them in June. https://youtu.be/hdvQb8yki9M

Mast build underway!

We got an update last week from “Mastachussettes” that the Composite Engineering team   was pushing to complete the fabric braiding of our new mast around the aluminum wing-section mandrill. That was the cue to get on the airplane to go help with the fabrication work. I was resigned to, and kind of excited to see, the process of building the vacuum bag and infusing the epoxy resin. But the team worked hard Tues/Weds to get it done, and while I flew overnight SFO-Boston, the new mast spar was baking in the autoclave. What a relief to see this upon arrival…

The carbon fiber is hidden under all the vacuum bagging supplies. Red is the air-flow-enabling mesh. Green is the peel-ply that faces the carbon fabric. Orange is the actual vacuum bag film. It took five hours to remove all this stuff and get to the bare mast section.

While I was doing the stripping job, the CE guys began pulling the aluminum mandrill out from inside the new spar. It had been coated with Teflon prior to he fabric braiding, to enable separation. When we first opened the autoclave, for ten minutes we got the much welcomed cracking sounds of the epoxy separating from the aluminum. But there is a huge amount of surface tension in these things, and it takes a big chain-drive rig exerting somewhere in the 20,000+lb range of force to pull the aluminum section out. A plate that is just larger than the mandrill but smaller than the new carbon spar holds the carbon back while the mandrill is pulled against the big steel table.

Here’s a peek inside from the top of the mast; you can see the aluminum mandrill descending down the column.IMG_0791

Because the mast is tapered at the top, the first 8 feet or so pulled out nicely. That’s shown in this video where you can see it moving.

But after that, things slowed down and we spent all Friday taking turns operating the big machine, only getting a half inch of movement with each 10 second tug. After a half foot we have to let the machine motor rest / cool down. I’m writing this during one of those cooling cycles, and this crap will go on though tomorrow probably. Think slippery thoughts. Thx

Finally found the right bird

For whatever reason, it took all these years to finally find a style for carrying the boat name out to sea. We’d get close, but disagree a bit as a couple, and put down the pens for a few more months. This afternoon the co-owners instead struggled with getting the vinyl transfer done. But then you set down the squeegees, step back 20 paces, and enjoy the view. Hope y’all like it. We do :)

Protect your daggerboard with a crash bumper

Ian Farrier’s plans provide for a very strong daggerboard trunk that extends all the way through the boat from the deck to the bottom of the hull. The rectangular head of the board fits snugly inside the rectangular trunk, holding the dagger steady under sail. But what happens when the dagger strikes an underwater object? Ian designed in a weak point into most of his board’s plans, ie they shear off at the hull line rather than rip apart the trunks from the force of the blow.

Now go back a few posts to trimaran Skateaway. Keith designed in a big wedge behind the daggerboard, sitting inside the trunk, that acts as a shock absorbing bumper. I think it’s about 5″ fore/aft at the bottom, and tapers going up. He claims that in 20 years of hard sailing in shoal areas where groundings are common, the system has worked flawlessly in protecting both the board and trunk.

Recall a couple of months ago when we reshaped our dagger, we cut 1.5″ off the trailing edge to get a better aspect ratio (more upwind lift). But I also did it to make room for a shock absorber. After a full Saturday at the boat yard, we spent an hour on the garage floor… (dang, I miss having a workshop! I wonder if Fram / Henny has that problem now too?)

That’s four layers of 12oz biax glass to form a trunk-length strip for holding the shock absorbers.

We had ordered a 6″x6″x3″ block of neoprene rubber (60 durometer) from McMaster. (Forget that 10% tolerance on the website; this thing was dead-on the advertised 3″ wide). Tablesaw literally burned rubber like an American Graffiti outtake.

These relief holes are a key part of the shock absorption. The rubber is heavy and expensive, so we compromised to this amount which will protect the board from about 2/3 deployed through fully deployed. Further up in the case the bumper is backed by wood blocks, ie what we had on hand.

It slid just right down the trunk, behind the dagger, glass side out.

The black plastic plate is affixed to the bumper, and the plate simply screwed in to the upper rim of the trunk. From the bottom looking up, you can see the lowest rubber bumper and the glass plate behind the dagger. The dagger exit slot is about 2″ too long now. We didn’t have time in this haul out to fill in the gaps. Maybe next time, for max underwater efficiency.

Don’t worry that the board looks off center in the photo. It was being forced to one side at the time.

So, to you F-boat plan holding builders out there, I challenge you: Ian’s not here to debate it with us, but why not make room for a bumper in your dagger trunk? The auto industry figured this out in the 70’s. At least we can hide ours. Make your case two inches bigger? Reshape your dagger to get a 9:1 aspect ratio. Ian designed the F36/39 board too long fore/aft for its width. Today’s foils have proved it. So perhaps fill the rest of that case with this idea!

Back when we launched Ravenswing, Charlie made an excellent CrazyCrane in the back of his pickup to help us get the floats into position on the beams. This time we needed a way to get the dagger up and down a couple dozen times for all this retrofit work. We’ll just call this one DingleDerrick. I asked the yard boss to just leave the huge crane over the boat for the weekend. But he said no, there’s no boom brake and the wind is being weird lately. So they craned up two hideous old horses on deck and pointed me to the woodpile. Got to love the DIY boat yard.

They even let me play with the gas powered pressure washer, and the boat bottom got blasted clean. The above shot has the dodger in its new top-sides matching grey. Warning here to never use the one part Interlux Brightsides paint for mixing bright colors. Our 1/2 yellow, 1/2 red Ravenswing Orange faded severely after just one summer.

Three hard days done in the yard. Labor Day is easy – applying the new graphics, running some solar panel wires, swapping the engine prop then bugging out to celebrate Dad’s 81st. Last month we finally got his boat out of her slip for a much needed shaking of the cobwebs. Selfie time…

Those smiles were a pretty good recovery from what we found upon entering the cabin that day.

I’d heard the expression “the floorboards were floating” but never really got it. Amazing what a dripping prop shaft seal and failed bilge pump can do in a few weeks unattended! Sorry Dad, I’ll stick to my three hulls / no lead setup :)