Fair thee well

Lots of boat builders complain about the “fairing” work. This is the part where all the imperfections of roughing-in construction have to be smoothed out to get a perfect finish. In a factory setting, great care is taken to “fair” the finish inside a mold where new parts like a boat deck will be made repeatedly. In a one-off custom build, I have to do the same work, but it’s done on each part as we go. The 4 big beams looked pretty ugly before fairing began – the courseness of overlapping heavy 17oz fiberglass fabric, and some struggles with smoothly seaming the compound curves of the front splash diverters, etc all add up to lots of fairing work. Everyone advises to put time in to smoothing out the core surfaces before laying final glass layers; there were a few places I didn’t do that enough, and I’m paying for it now with extra fairing work.


Figured it made sense to start on the BOTTOMS where no one but the fish and curious kayaker will see – a good place to learn this skill. Of course the shop is now a big mess with little room to move. Time wise it’s good to have them all going because there are long intervals where the fairing compound has to harden before the next sanding.

Here’s one at the beginning; white compound is spread on with a notched trowel, then sanded back with a longboard to find level/even planes. The dark red sander is our first air compressor driven tool – an 18″ long sander for auto body shops; works well for this too.


And here’s one farther along, pretty close to final sanding…


The bottom sides should be all done by Friday night, and this weekend we’ll reconfigure the shop to work the top sides hopefully all at once and get this dreaded task completed. During drying/curing times I’ve been climbing up on the main boat, designing the windshield and hard dodger setup. It all has to be remove able for transport, so this is pretty fun freehand fabrication. Photos to come once we get past the cardboard practice stage :)

And a quick congrats to Rick Waltonsmith on recent upgrades to Corsair 37 Transit of Venus as he gets her ready for the Pacific Cup race to Hawaii this summer. Yesterday we watched as Swensunds yard put her back in the water after a nice bottom job. Just to be clear, our boat won’t fold up like that – we’d have to take the beams completely off to make things trailer ready. Anyway, it was a great afternoon sailing TOV on the Estuary, testing out her big Code Zero and carbon main. She’s all rigged up to GO FAST!



(Ted, Rick and Jim, note the yellow lifting straps – exactly the same thing as we did on Origami in Sausalito, only with much bigger shackles!)

That’s a wrap!

Literally and figuratively.
The beam fairings are getting their final fiberglass skins to tie in to the beam boxes. This is the last big step of the overall beam builds work – straightforward and repetitive including lots of ‘filling and fairing’ rounds to smooth out the surfaces for painting. The beams are each well over 100lbs now, so turning them and moving around the shop is a pain (especially when one got away and rolled over on my foot – that bruising ended an evenings work!)


But the big “wrap” is saying goodbye this Friday to my dear colleagues at Ryan/Epsilon. I’ve hit the 30 year mark in corporate marketing, and realized this boat needs a full time builder to get her launched in 2014. So, welcome to the new blog followers who are kinda pissed at me for leaving the San Fran office but are happy to have reserved themselves crew positions aboard 005 :). Let’s just say things are really going to heat up in the boat shop now and we’ll all start seeing more interesting progress reports.

Found a source of military surplus diesel-fired hydronic furnaces. With a wad of cash tonight I’ll inspect and hopefully purchase a ‘new old stock’ Espar unit that was intended for a US troop transport in Arctic service. Supposedly someone made up a dozen or so too many kits… Stay tuned

Port beam fairings

While the actual crossbeams are complex, 100+ pound structures, they make up only 10 inches (looking down on them) across what will be finished 2 ft wide beams. The rest of the width comes a 5 pound ‘fairing’ made of foam core with one layer of glass inside and out. I showed them being built in their frames early this year. Here’s one of them with the access holes cut – that’s how we reach inside to glass them to the solid structure. Now that they’re installed, those holes will get filled back in this weekend.


The silver and white panel in the background is the final panel of the refrigerator cabinet, the side where the cold plate mounts.


After the fairings go on, the completed beams get flanges formed. This is where bolts will go to hold the beam to the float. In the photo you might be able to see the plastic non-stick that’s on the float deck. The Fiberglas flanges are formed in place, adhered to the beam but will pop right off the deck when we lower the float back to the floor.


Today’s steps were the final primary construction of the four beams. That build spanned almost two years, so it’s a very satisfying milestone. There are plenty of hours left to skin and fair them, and add the net lashing points, but it’s a huge relief knowing the ‘danger parts’ work is done and the whole boat fits together as intended :)

Take Out

The port side beams are being fitted in to the float now. Since all the steps are being repeated from the other side, things are going much faster. One example is cutting the glass fabric and applying the epoxy out on the work table. Once all the pieces are wetted out, they get tucked in to the plastic wrap for transport inside the float. Kind of like a nicely prepared take out meal, ready for the picnic.


Yesterday’s work was installing the cross-float webs (shelves) on each side of the bulkheads that bisect the float sleeves. All of this structure gives the beam-to-float connection a lot all-direction support. You can see the beam’ end bolt exiting the sleeve, and the big nut that snugs it all together.


I ended the weekend by unpacking the new refrigerator unit and test fitting the cold plate in the fridge box. It’s all coming together nicely, and the low energy draw of the CoolBlue system, plus thick walls, should keep the power draw down in the range for solar-only management.

Now it’s on to installing the port side beam fairings. More pics in a few days.

Back to work

Well, there were lots of good distractions from the boat shop this summer, including training for a ‘century’ bike event (100 miles) in Death Valley, helping Colin rehab a Coronado 15, and of course the Americas Cup finals.


We finished painting Colin’s boat tonight. Great use of otherwise unclaimed Sunflower yellow topsides paint – we grabbed a half pint can of bright red and, viola, Coast Guard orange!


And with other distractions wrapped up, I finally got started on primary assembly of the port side. Spent the morning again with the car jack and wood blocks, gently coaxing the float up to its waiting beams. Then began glassing the beam sockets in to the hull. That process will take about ten hours including adding cross-webs for strength.


So while prior posts showed interior progress, I’ve had a change of heart and returned to primary ‘specialty’ work outside. The boat grows much more valuable as a completed trimaran, including steering and foils, so I’ll focus on those big jobs here in 2013. Interior finish work won’t require a multihull specialist, and thus will be easier to job out should I need to hire help. That’s the thinking anyway!

Starboard fit-out complete

We reached a nice milestone today with the last step of fitting the beam and float main hull all together. I thought that the float would lower immediately under its own weight once unbolted and the jack inched down. But it actually took quite a bit of levering and wiggling to get everything apart. The beams with their fairings are getting quite heavy – almost too much for Griffin and I to bring down. Will probably rig a tackle from the roof trusses for the port side.


Here’s the completed beam-to-float bolting flange. The jagged edges will be cleaned up in the process of final glassing and fairing of the completed beams. Light at the end of the tunnel!!


After these beams came down, the floats went back out in the street to make room for the main hull to shift to the other side of the shop. Two of us can just barely push it around with the old metal trolley wheels. I think that’s the last time it needs to move before loading on to a truck for the harbor next year. For now, we’re ready to fit out the Port side :)


Where does all the time go?

From the files of “the things they don’t tell you when setting out to build a boat”, here’s an example of where lots of hours get chewed up. The other day I posted the photo of the beam-sleeve installed in the float. Truth is, there was still a finishing step to do – installing a stiffening stringer on each side (in front of the bulkhead, and aft of the bulkhead ). So here’s that same view, now with the stringer ‘shelf’ completed. That’s three hours of making vacuum-formed shelves, cutting it to fit, bedding it in the bonding putty, then finishing top and bottom sides with all the angle-strapping fiberglass. All done inside very awkward spaces. So it was 3 hours times 4 stringers = 12 hours in the past three days for these insignificant looking, but structurally crucial parts. And we’ll do it all over again next month on the port side float :)


Ted, Jim and Drew are wondering about the canted floats; go back and look at the photo taken from right alongside the rear corner – the design presents a clean vertical face on the outside of the hull, making that a good face for docking. When heeled under sail, the inboard side shape will give nice buoyancy. The deck at the docks will be quite sloped, and I noticed this comment addresses by Farrier in 2004 as he offered a ‘flat deck platform’ modification to the F39 plans. I’ll be handling it by locating the nets attachment rail fairly far inboard on the deck, and fairing it in as a good foothold. That’s the plan, anyway!
(And yes, Dad, our actual shape looks just like the photos online of the completed f36s)

Fitting the beam-to-float sleeves

Here’s a close up look at how the beam has a snug fit into its sleeve, and the sleeve goes in thru the deck of the float hull. All those gaps will get filled in with high density epoxy ‘putty’.


Last night the sleeves were bonded in to the float hull. Each bulkhead (one seen below) has a large notch cut so the sleeve straddles it, and gets glued and glassed from both sides. Spending an hour or so inside the float this week reminds me just how big these caverns are; they would easily fit bunks and bikes and way too much accumulated treasure on long journeys!
These steps are going quickly, so the beam fairing structures should get mocked up by the weekend.


Starboard side of the trimaran comes together

Step one this weekend was pulling the floats put of the shop so the main hull could slide to the left wall, making enough room to mount the beams and starboard float for the first time.
Griffin and I are reminded how big the finished boat will be when we take these 35 footers out for a walk…


First we mounted the beams and their diagonal supports. It was a big job as they are much heavier than at the trial fitting months ago, and with the requisite protective brackets in the beam receiving pockets, they no longer fit vertically. The plans warn that some grinding may be necessary. Yep, a big mess with carbon dust sent flying in the shop. Then we jacked the boat up a few inches so the float would slide under the beam ends.


After a lunch break, I spent the afternoon with various blocks and a big automotive floor jack getting the float in to position so the beam sleeves can be bonded in to the float bulkheads inside. Everything is lining up as it should, but it surprising to see how canted inboard the floats will be. We got used to seeing them perfectly level on deck in their cradles, but the decks will slant in on the water. Seems safer, and more buoyant on the leeward side underway.

Evenings this week will hopefully see the structure all built inside the floats to secure the beams in place.


Working with the new vacuum bagging equipment

Dad came to the shop today and we unpacked and set up the new vacuum pump and related gear. Thought at first we should try something non-critical like the new box for the back of the errands bicycle, but then we spied the various flat panels for the stern swim steps area. Seemed a low-risk place to start as we taught ourselves the first-timer basics of ‘bagging’…


The table is a 2×8 melamine coated shelf from Home Depot. These five panels were glassed on both sides, peel-plied, then the release film, breather fabric and the bag film on top. The bright yellow mastic tape worked great, including the expansion loops AndyM told me to do (Thanks). Those allow the film to be baggy over the work, so under vacuum it snugs up the sides of panels too.

The middle photo is after just 30 seconds of vacuum pressure. I was so excited to see it working live – and to think F27 Origami was built this was 22 years ago.

The pump worked very well. Glad we stepped up to a small industrial model, instead of the $200 hobbyist version. It drew 25 inches/mercury within moments, and could have pulled more but I backed it off to a steady 24 for two hours – seemed like plenty of pressure and the epoxy flowed through the layers nicely. I look forward to making the interior panels, dagger, chain plates and much more with this technique.


(Resin trap in line between pump and bag – in case the suction hose got too close to resin and pulled it in, we don’t want that getting to the pump!)