Smash that epoxy in there

We’ll get on the soap box for a moment to fellow carbon fiber amateur builders… if you haven’t heard this already, you may not be getting a proper epoxy wet-out through your carbon fabric. This is really a manual-force thing. But wait, let’s go back a step and tell you that the nice little autopilot bracket didn’t work. The windsurf-mast-origin stick was good but I didn’t think the physics through. Feeling kind of dumb for doing all that fairing and paint on the part before testing functionality – duh! There is a lot more lateral force coming from the tiller through the pilot ram, and immediately upon use the base was deflecting just enough to prove this wasn’t a good idea to use a vertical pole bolted to the swim step box. Plus, at the tiller end, the little steel pin wasn’t fitting into the tiller properly due to the horizontal autopilot vs the angled -up tiller. So we need a new design to handle much stronger forces.

At the tiller, we’re making this very strong but little part to carry the steel pin of the autopilot. That’s a fiberglass tube bedded in to an offcut scrap of an earlier project. In those photos the inside of the tube has no reinforcements yet holding it in place.

Now back to the soap box. This is a tiny little carbon job. We chose three layers of lightweight 6oz uni carbon. Here it is being wet out on the table, just before placement on the part. there’s a temporary piece of plastic above and below this fabric, and I’m literally mashing the resin down into the three layers of fabric. Load up your spatula and gloves, and really press the resin through the carbon. On bigger projects we put it in a bag, place on the ground and walk on it. If you don’t ensure this extreme of resin penetration in your wet layups, you’ll likely find disappointingly dry fibers when you cut in to a sample job. That’s not a strong composite.

Soap box over for today.

After laying down the wet fabric, the peel ply and breather got tightly wrapped to press the fabric in place.

Now for the autopilot base end, the new idea is to transfer the lateral loading directly to the boat hull. This shape, mocked up in cardboard Sunday after a great solo sail, will make a platform for the autopilot ram base. Here we go making the wood form, applying four layers of 16oz uni fabric wrapped all the way around and 2″ overlap tabbed. Took it to the boat this afternoon and it fits well. Tomorrow it’ll get a stiffening panel to fill the interior of the triangle.

Big thanks to Charlie, Anton and Don for following orders of no toilet usage today until we sea-tested the new gravity-drain holding tank. The toilet has passed only sea water through since the reinstall, so there was no law broken by Alcatraz today, up at about 7knots of hull speed, opening the valves. The tank emptied just as planned. Success, finally, on the sewage front! The head was open for business shortly thereafter. We found a little breeze a couple miles out past the Golden Gate, and ignored the clock enough to be putting on sail covers in the dark. Got to show off the deck lights to the boys.

For the folks with boats laid up for the winter, here’s a taste of F- boating on a cool Feb afternoon.

The sea state was mellow today. Two days ago I went out solo for the first time outside the Gate, and without autopilot (see above :). Got my money’s worth that day with ocean chop and apparent wind in to the mid 20s. Ravenswing was charging upwind in seas that used to hobble F27 Origami. The F36 is an order of magnitude bigger, so that in ‘medium’ conditions outside SF the 9k lbs, 40′ boat maintains a steady speed, vs the slowed by waves feel of the 3.5k, 27′ model. It’s almost time for Ravenswing to take a Farrallones trip and really test this out.

Shrink wrap the boat?!

Just when we asked you guys for preferred sailing days, it actually got a little icy over here. We awoke yesterday to a hint of snow on the Novato hills.

And by mid morning this little accumulation was still in the Ravenswing cockpit.

Hardly a blizzard, but the many days of cold rain have delayed the autopilot install. Tonight the bolted-to-hull base is ready to go.

If it’s not pouring rain on Friday, it’ll be the day to final-install and test the autopilot under motor and sail. Let me know if you’d like to join. If it rains, we’ll try for Sat and then Sun. Forecast is wet.

The toilet system came together as planned. But it did skin some knuckles and was a general pain in the &@$$ due to awkward angles / access.

One final step will be making a curtain to cover up the tank. The black Y valve switches the tank drain between the uphill feed to the deck pump out fitting, or the down tube to the seacock & underwater through-hull. We’ll leave it pointing up to the deck for the standard setting. The hoses are the premium $11/ft stuff – this is not an item for go-cheap – we want maximum odor resistance in here. For anyone that’s read the old pre-launch posts about this toilet, recall the grey water catch tank that was feeding the toilet flushing. That all proved too complicated and troublesome, so now we’re flushing with seawater. I’ll report back on whether or not the smell from tiny rotting sea creatures becomes an issue. I understand we’re supposed to flush vinegar through the system now, to help break down the mineral deposits.

And to Jeanne’s relief, I finally filled and connected the propane tank. Tried the stove for the first time (it moved in to the unfinished boat at least ten years ago), but got nothing. Pulled out the 2016 install instructions from the propane feed on/off solenoid; it said ‘preferable but not necessary’ to mount the little electric valve between the tank and the pressure regulator. I vaguely remember deciding that the install was cleaner with the valve after the regulator. So with 20 minutes of fussing down in the propane locker, we switched the electric remote valve ahead of the regulator, and just a few moments later… HOT LUNCH!Time to go get coffee and cocoa fixings to beat back the weather!