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!

Quick follow up on battery protect boards

Anton asked this morning if those little boards are at risk from overcooking. Each one is rated to handle just under 2 amps. We doubled them up on each cell, figuring about 3.5 amps working capacity. The 400 watt solar array, converting through the Victron MPPT controller, is pumping at maximum about 6 amps total to the batteries. So with 4×3.5=14 amps of resistance capacity, I think we’ll be fine. Jeff said that in practice on his big cat in the tropics, yes the boards got warm when they kicked in, but never hot. We mounted them with double sided tape, which gives an air cushion under most of each board, and the whole cabinet is a good heat dissipation sink. Hopefully we’ve solved for Anton’s warnings.

Locals, let me know if you want to sail the boat next week. Throw some dates out and we’ll make some plans.

Future Crew

Say hello, sailing world, to Westley. Born perfectly yesterday, 10lbs, giving our sis / his Mom a run for her money. His Dad Joe is a sailing captain, mom owns a Santa Cruz 50, Aunt & Uncle with Ravenswing; well let’s just say he has some sea miles ahead of him.

Westley doesn’t need it yet, but the rest of the crew wants the toilet back. Work proceeds.

Second coat of paint went down today, and all the new hose routings were cut to fit. One more paint coat and the plumbing reinstall this weekend will put the head back in business.

Highly-credentialed multi-huller Jeff visited with his soldering iron during a road trip this week. He donated these resistor boards to the lithium battery cause, and did expert wire connections. what you’re looking at (the green circuit boards mounted above the batteries) are charge balancing modules to regulate the pace at which the four “cells” of this battery bank rise in charge voltage. The risk in an LiFePO4 bank is the cells getting out of voltage balance from their neighbors, and potentially ruining sections with out-of-range values. With these little control boards, when one cell reaches 3.6volts (its full charge), the incoming voltage is converted to heat in those blue resistors. That cell is effectively bypassed from further charging while the others catch up. That’s as simple as I can say it, but there’s more going on with the numbers. It’s a crude version of a Battery Management System, and we’re judging it sufficient for our solar-only gentle charging regimen. Coming up soon we’ll install the CellLog that monitors and alarms each of the four cell voltages that get out of range. That will complete our safety installation.

We found some time to get back to the navigation system. Today was the first time to fire up the radar dome since purchasing it from a San Juan Islands f-31 about five years ago. Anxious moments when we hit the power button on the chart plotter…

And with zero operating knowledge or adjustments, up came…YESSSSSS! As soon as the autopilot install is done, we’ll get out and test/tweak/learn all this gear.

Final carbon work on the autopilot mount:it’s bonded together now, faired and primed. Paint coat tomorrow if this rain departs for points east.

Last Sunday Dad and I were on the Bayshore freeway and I thought I spotted a huge mast. On the way home, we exited towards the Oracle campus, on the hunt for Dogzilla. Visitors to our Santa Rosa build shop might remember I had this boat’s photo on the door for inspiration those years.

We all know what it took to build our new 54′ mast. This one is 223′, got used for one regatta, and now serves as a statue. Now that’s rich-guy extravagance.

Be a better blogger

I know, I know, you subscribed to this thing and you expect frequent Ravenswing updates. Well the Carters wish you a happy 2019, belatedly.

We left off two months ago showing a box of Pelagic Autopilot parts. Installation is now underway. The drive unit has to hang out in space, given our cassette-style rudder. Here’s mocking up the placement…

That’s going to need a stiff arm, 16″ tall off the swim-step deck. There was about 2′ leftover from that old Craigslist-find windsurfer mast that is now the pickup’s SUP rack. the base bracket is an offcut scrap from the first (didn’t like the feel) steering iteration. Repurposing these quality carbon pieces saved a bunch of time, and was free! The bracket will mount in these four holes, and the power cable gets an outlet plug in the transom.

The controller easily went in to the companionway dashboard, and the brain box will be bulkhead mounted in the equipment room once we buy a bit more wire. We should be testing this unit in just a few more boat work days.

In November we started thinking about everything that needs to be trialed / pushed hard here in the bay before 2019 ocean voyages. A big nagging item has been filling the toilet holding tank to capacity and testing the at-sea emptying. Well let’s just say that we never got to the “take it out 3 miles and pull the plug” part. In retrospect, I should NOT have chosen a complicated shape, under floor sewage keeper as my first-ever composite tank build. The idea was it would drain like a water ballast tank on powerboats (or our old Macgregor 26x). Get up above 8kts and suction will empty the tank. So we pumped 15 gallons through the toilet, filled the tank, and things didn’t smell so good. A bit of sewage was now outside the tank, under the bolted-in bathroom floor. Uh-oh. That hideous photo is after hand pumping three buckets and trudging them up to the Marina toilet, then ripping out the tank that we had spent days building a few years ago. GROSS! (If you really want to see the old tank, search on the Plumbing link at the home page, back in late 2015 I think)

Once cleaned up, it’s time to lower down, then bond in, the previously bolted (removable) sole. Upper level is the toilet deck. The old tank had used all the non-white space here as it’s form.

Yes those are inspection hatches in the sole; the sea drain for the new tank runs under this floor and the shower, over to a proper 1.5″ seacock.

The new tank will be bulkhead mount, behind the toilet. It sits way above the waterline, so this should be a foolproof simple gravity drain. Also the dock-based pump out will be only a 3′ lift, which is light duty for most Marina pumpout stations. And yes, I forked over $200 for a factory built Ronco plastic tank with our specific fittings pre-installed. It will sit on this little shelf, made yesterday to bolt to the bulkhead at the forward end of the head compartment (bathroom).

I probably deserve all your poop jokes at this point, but just remember, my mother still reads these comments.

A week after throwing our old tank in to this dumpster, somebody else apparently got even more pissed off than me…I doubt it will plane.

It never gets old

… seeing first timers enjoying a good sail, that is. Say hi to Jen and Tim, business colleagues from Chicago. Jen hadn’t driven a boat before, but something told me she’d be a natural at the tiller.

Her husband got a bit of film for us https://youtu.be/x6LKdtwzrIc

Early November was remarkable weather. Afternoons in the low 70’s with warm gentle breezes. Perfect weather for easing Ravenswing in to the groove with the new rig.

Jeanne, Leslie, Ron and I had an enjoyable Friday. The ladies want more boat speed. We found plenty in the Slot, but it was chilly so we headed back to the north bay.

Then there was a fantastic Sunday outing with Bay Area Multihull legends RickWS, Carlos, Chris, Truls and Rafi. Six skippers , each knowing what’s best… we found ourselves laughing after Carlos had to quip, “I know how to drive the damn boat, guys”. Yes, he does.

GG bridgeRafi Chris x1200Rick Carlos x1200Truls x1200This was only the second time we’ve had the Reacher up (big blue sail), and big thanks to ChrisH for slacking the halyard way off to curl the luff once we turned downwind. This thing makes a great chicken-chute that way! Here you go, framed up with The Rock (Alcatraz prison)I didn’t drive that day, instead I roamed around the boat looking at new-to-me vantages. The best was the aft cabin – Rick is right, that’s going to be a nice spot on passages.

So while we’ve really enjoyed some sailing, fit-out work continues. We found SailTimer.com, a solar powered, wireless wind sensor that functions independently of mast rotation. The idea sounds too good to be true! We installed it before the mast stepping, but it wasn’t spinning freely. We think it got bumped the morning of the mast stepping and I didn’t notice it was tweaked. Carlos volunteered to go get it. Now that’s a dedicated sailor :)The installation instructions did not warn about Bluetooth being dependent on line of sight. I put the unit in the middle of the masthead for strength, etc, but the crane on the aft portion, including a big steel sheave pin, is blocking our signal down in the cockpit area. Argh. So the SailTimer folks just sent us an offset arm so we’ll move the unit in to clear air about a foot aft of the main sail track. More on this topic later.

I didn’t have the heart to tell you guys earlier, but the first time we sailed the new mast, the rotation control arm ripped out of its too-slight mounting setup. We’ve tried to control rotation with various straps; it’s worked somewhat, but also put some nasty rope burns into the nice paint job. Dang. Keith and I have discussed it and decided an interim fix is to drill much deeper in to the mast foot internal G10 web, and this time epoxy the bolts in place. I made a slurry of epoxy thickened with bonding fibers, and syringed it in there. Keith, I kept the black plastic spacers because of how the metal shape fits the mast. Plus I think they help with shock absorption. But I did go another 1/2″ deeper than we talked about.  We’ve sailed it once in light winds, and it worked fine. Time will tell. img_1238

Before putting away the sewing machine, we modified an old sail bag to make a stay-on-deck bag for the rolled up reacher. Got this clever idea from Round Midnight!  Once the roller-furled sail is dropped back down on deck, it gets folded in to this bag and stored right there ready to go again. img_1237We also added this 3′ long leader to the reacher control sheets – this helps pull the sail around the forestay during tacks or jibes. I’ve known about this for spinnakers, but just realized we needed it for this sail too. img_1229And one more shot trying wide-angle to get more sense of the two sails working together…img_1232This one is for John Franta at Colligo, and Keith at Skateaway Design, for showing how well our bowsprit hardware came together and makes this sail easy to manage. img_1241

Also in that photo is the new Rocna Vulcan 15kg (33lb) anchor, attached to 110′ of 5/16″ chain and 200′ of 9/16″ 8-braid rode. The Lewmar ProFish 1000 windlass handles it well, and we’re finally feeling good about our primary anchor setup.

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Charlie and RickH took the boat out the Gate to the LightShip buoy, a few days in to the Paradise fire smoke invasion. Quite eerie to be sailing on SF Bay wearing particulate masks, and upon getting  about five miles out, we could not see ANY of the coast. This fire has been awful to so many thousands of people, and it put a hideous smoke layer across a large part of the state. From our front yard – normally we’re looking at Mt. Tamalpais in southern Marin here. We bugged out, heading for Griffin’s place in Colorado. img_1244

A curiosity stop at the Bonneville Salt Flats along I-80. No race cars, as the BLM shuts it down during winter due to slushy salt, and recreates the 10 mile race track each spring.  img_1246

Traveling in one’s “land yacht” can be dangerous. This photo is just a few minutes after a rather harrowing fish-tailing incident eastbound on I-80 just over the continental divide, an hour before Laramie, WY. Ice on the freeway and 40kt wind gusts busted the trailer loose from the road. Huge thanks to Chrysler’s traction control and Jeanne’s purchase of a fancy Blue Ox anti-sway hitch system. That gear kicked in and we managed to NOT leave the road or have the two 50mph semis hit us as we swerved and corrected out. The whipping action deployed the entry steps, and threw groceries, dog food, etc. all around inside the trailer. It took a few hours to calm down from that one. Don’t drive these things on ice, people!!!  And if you do, don’t be the idiot who didn’t have the truck in 4wd and thought he could drive the same speed as the big rigs. NOT. img_1252

Finally tonight, a little preview about an exciting package arrival.

That’s our Pelagic Autopilot. Designed and sold here in the Bay Area by a small company owned by offshore sailors. They do one thing – make robust, simple sailboat steering helpers. We have significant fabrication work ahead in December to make the necessary mounts, so this may take a while. We were tipped off to this by a sistership, as this autopilot worked great for John and Melanie as they sailed their F36 across the to the South Pacific in April.

Happy Thanksgiving to your families. A lot to be thankful for. Peace.