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.

Fixing stuff

February for Ravenswing so far is about tweaking – some little, some big. And trying not to get frustrated about the hours spent in 2015/16 doing it wrong the first time :)

Fresh water is carried in two 23 gallon Nauta flexible bladder tanks. Spots for each were built along the hull under the dining settee. But we had trouble with the closer-to-the-pump tank collapsing / air-locking as it emptied but didn’t draw well from the forward tank. Also, we flush the toilet with grey water captured in a Plastimo flexible tank from the galley sink. That sink drain has a diverter to choose overboard discharge or grey tank filling. But the spot for the grey tank was cramped, so the toilet pump was not getting a strong rinse water flow. Taking a fresh look at things, the Tank Stack was born this weekend. The saloon/settee table makes it tough to get into the large, deep locker under the forward seat tough to get in. It’s a bit of dead space. At the bottom of that locker was already the forward fresh water tank. Then there are two “levels” of removable shelving above the water tank. We moved the grey tank onto the mid level and the 2nd fresh tank to the top level. Here they are, starting bottom-up…this dance only took four trips to the hardware store for numerous new hose pieces, clamps, etc. Both the fresh water and toilet rinse work really well now. (Hold that thought, soon we’ll have a holding tank fix for your entertainment)

Also this weekend was tackling the starboard main cabin port lights (the incessantly leaking windows). We installed them with Sika 275UV and screws. This was a bad combo and we suffered crazing in the polycarbonate around the screw heads, and condensation issues where larger sections of the window ran over solid sections of the cabinsides. We’ve since learned, or decided anyway, that the modern Very High Bond tapes are sufficient for these port lights. And despite the original intent of sleek-looking faux one-piece glass as seen from the outside of the boat, the new windows will be cut 1″ larger than the holes in the boat, and the whole area will still have the black background. The ‘no fasteners needed’ decision was backed by how well that Sika is holding the original panes. A real bear to get them off! Including actually breaking away fairing/primer/paint in a few spots. This mess was a couple hours cleanup, including filling the 30+ screw holes, which three years ago had been carefully over drilled from the cedar core and replaced with thickened epoxy. And now we’ve filled those same holes to make them disappear :)we made paper patterns today and will get them to Tap Plastics when they reopen Tuesday. We made the original set from a 4×8′ sheet of markelon polycarbonate, but this time we’ll pay the pros to use their special saws and routers.

Keith reached our mast builder the other day; bad news is they haven’t started the two masts ahead of ours. Good news is they are geared up to build them concurrently- some efficiencies in assembling – and the owner says he’ll be delivering ours on track this spring. Sure would like to see some carbon being laid out though!

I had a pleasant light-wind sail on RickWS’s Explorer44 tri Round Midnight last week and the conversation has me thinking I need to copy his reefing system. Jimbo knows we struggle getting Ravenswing’s reefing clew under control with that little winch on the boom. I have time to modify the boom and deck right now, so we’re considering running the reefing clews and tacks back to the primary cockpit winches. Need to figure out how to turn the lines from the inboard boom end down towards the deck; how would turning blocks mount? Maybe the new mast rotator arm should be mounted forward of the mast, not aft as it was before…

Fellow plotters and schemers, how would you set up the boom and deck for cockpit-handling of reefing lines on this boat?

What’s it called on a boat?

The head? The water closet? Who says it can’t be The Throne just because it’s aboard the ship?

First we have the empty hole:

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Then stuff it with the form-fitted tank built last summer:

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Spend a day sketching, measuring, cutting, swearing and contorting a sore back to finagle all this sanitation tubing:

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And finally we can install the hardware;

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This is a Lavac vacuum pressure toilet. The flushing process is easier to understand than the common marine version. This one relies on the lid forming a seal; after use one lowers the lid and pumps the lever ten times. The vacuum pressure clears the bowl and circulates flush and rinse water. The waste does not drop straight from toilet to tank as it does in an RV; here we’re pumping up through a high loop (flooding prevention safety) and back down a heavy duty tube to the tank. We will empty the tank either with deck pump out services, or a thru hull valve below the waterline. That is only going to work while the boat is underway and moving quickly enough for the passing water to suction the holding tank. At this point we have to hope the speed required isn’t too great to be practical. Stay tuned this summer for more on that disgusting topic. Also, next week we’ll look at the grey water system that will supply the toilet flushing.

On to the view. Last year Charlie and I drove to Sacramento to get special scratch resistant Lexan (polycarbonate) for the main cabin fixed port lights (Windows). Unfortunately the many holes were drilled to the original plans before I read up on advances in adhesive products. We don’t need all the bolt holes! So I decided on a compromise of using the 120 holes and going with screws into epoxy fill, not through-bolts. And Sika 295 UV adhesive. (Note, needed just over one tube for the whole job). First we painted the area under the Lexan to help hide the adhesive and create a more uniform look.

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There are three panes for each side, roughly corresponding to the hull cutouts. On the middle panes, we’ve added a “floating” opening port for ventilation. Here’s that work, done on the workbench so the metal frame can be bolted together with the required flat surface.

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See how nice and centered that floating port is in the fixed pane? Well that of course didn’t fit on the boat! Thought it was so clever to work it out on the bench, but never held it up to check before cutting. Damn, it was supposed to be 1″ off center! The metal frame hit the hull so I went home Friday night deflated. Saturday noon trip to TapPlastics for $130 more Lexan and by dinner time we had two replacement panes cut, edge-radiused and drilled. Installation took from 8pm to 12:30am, and now we’re happy.

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Sunday was a half day prepping and installing opening ports (2 forward, 1 head, 2 aft cabin sides, 1 transom). We’re using butyl tape – very sticky and very pliable – works great and makes zero mess compared to caulk-like stuff in tubes.
Here’s a round porthole over the lavatory; photo records the last spot we can still see the tongue and groove construction of the cedar core. Howard did an incredible job on that, and it’s just one of the factors why this boat has taken 20 years to build.

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And with the primary painting wrapped up, we’ve been stealing away minutes from big jobs to do fun little final installs. I’ve been looking at the empty compass pods for a long time, and now think this turned out well. With one on each side of the cockpit this should work well for driving. Hopefully they’re not too close to the nearby winches!

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PS – it was kind of hard to see all the screw heads in that finished windows photo, right? That’s because my dear wife poked a lot of holes in this box so we could spray paint all the shiny little screws I don’t want to see :)

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Selfie gone wrong

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Clearly I don’t get the concept of glamorous self-taken phone photos in picturesque locales. BUT, this is actually a very relieved boat builder. This goes back a few months to our first experience with the very good but rather volatile high end marine topsides primer paint. One night I geared up to hit the shower and toilet compartments with the Interlux Primecoat 2 part system. I wore the full face respirator, but neglected any fans to force air out of the space. After about 15 minutes the respirator was overwhelmed, resulting in attacked eyes and lungs. I basically dropped everything, and threw the paint/roller/brush in the trash as I ran out of the shop seriously spooked about painting this boat.
So we’ve pretty much been skulking about re: paint fumes, but yesterday sucked it up and dove in to researching solutions. Holy cow, did you know decent industrial volatiles protection hoods are a thousand bucks!!?? So instead we went half Apollo 13, half McGyver rerun and came up with this:

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Yep, that’s the good full face respirator with one filter taped completely shut and the other taped off except for the receipt of a long vacuum cleaner hose. The other end of that hose is the output from our oldie-but-goodie 3M belt pack NiCad battery-driven forced air filter. So instead of taking the positive flow filter in to the paint environment the jury rig hose keeps it out in the fresh air, feeding the face mask.
Tonight with all the simplified plumbing cabinet and bulkhead revisions finished, the toilet space was prepped along with the abandoned shower, the goofball selfie was taken, and we dove in again with the nasty paint. The work took about 30 mins, the mask performed well – no eye discomfort and negligible smelling of fumes. Certainly no dizzying or worrying amounts of volatiles coming on board! That was a big relief and we’re once again seeing the path to paint completion.

Speaking of plumbing, this week has been finishing those 3 below-waterline through hulls, plus another big one about a foot above the line for the galley drain. Here’s the process for the toilet tank drain. Measure, stare, worry a bit, measure a few more times, then get the hole saw spinning.

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Next was very careful Dremel work to dig out the cedar core about 5/8″ back from the hole edge, but not disturb the outer or inner hull skins. (The Dremel is skilled in throwing little shards of boat hull in one’s eyes and nose.)

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Then fill all that rebated space with solid epoxy/cabosil putty, and after it cured, sand it back flush.

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During curing steps we had been making epoxy-coated plywood backing plates for the seacocks. They finished up as the holes were done. I understand these backers can be loose and mounted with the same sealant as the thru-hull fitting, but we opted for permanently bonding them to the hull and one more shot of putty to smoothly line the thru-hull passage as one watertight unified ‘tunnel’. These two are the toilet tank drain and depth sounder that’ll be close neighbors.

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That’s a little bolt & block setup to clamp the backer in to the bonding glue.

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All four came out just as planned, and now await paint. We’ll show them off again when their fancy Forespar valves are installed. About six layers of primer and bottom paint from now!

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PS – is anybody wondering about that red fairing putty in the first photo tonight? Um, yea, those are the finished, painted main cabin surfaces getting just a bit more touch up once all the new lighting went in and I could see little nits that would drive me nuts once the boat is launched. Figured it was worth the piece of mind and a couple of hours to clean it up now…

Bowels of a boat

Another item on the ‘prep for paint’ list is solving of all the plumbing runs, especially as they relate to fitting around cabinets, bulkheads and the hull sides. As to be expected, everything starts at the throne.

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We originally wanted all the pipes hidden, but the space is proving too tight. Some of the piping and the deck port for waste pumping will live behind this cover.

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With the toilet plumbed we moved on to drainage for bilge and shower sumps, then the two sinks. More holes in the hull!
While at sea, the sewer tank gets pumped out just above the waterline, and the holding tank vent is the smaller hole below the port hole (vent has an inline smells-filter)

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Moving aft about five feet, tucked inside a cabinet behind the shower, are the bilge and shower sump exits, with the fresh water tank vent above.

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And the last two were drilled just forward of the aft beam – one for the propane locker vent and the other a discharge line for the desalinator.

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Most of the needed bulkhead pass-thrus were cut to route pipes/tubing. Then it was a trial fit of the propane system, which fit the new locker nicely. It’s all done to ABYC standards, including a propane fume alarm system as we’re forever haunted by my grandparents’ near-tragic monoxide incident aboard a boat 50 years ago.

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Charlie’s visit to the shop yesterday delivered very nice dyneema strops to anchor the twin mainsheet system. RickH, I think this Vee is going to work as advertised. We hooked it up to the shop rafters and by controlling the two ends of the sheet we got both mainsail trimming and traveler functions working well. Next stop – let’s see it with a huge sail in play :)

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Speaking of sails – they’re done and will get on a truck next week. That’ll be an exciting delivery!

Get back in the box

We last saw the new propane tank sticking up from the cockpit lazarette storage bin. Here we are post-surgery.

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The propane tank, regulator and solenoid valve will live inside this dedicated locker, with a vapor drain tube at the bottom, running straight to its own thru-hull about 18″ above the waterline. The new locker invades the equipment room – it’s the purple foam panel in this shot, with the still-open fridge sitting to the right.

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The freezer compressor will get a shelf below the propane box.
And back up in the cockpit, the propane locker gets a waterproof lid that sits 2″ above the lazarette bottom.

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Some of the finish parts are flat pieces that can’t mount directly to curved surfaces. We saw that months ago with building up bases for two winches. Here’s an inspection port for the forward section of the port float. Cut the 10″ hole in the curved deck, wrap the part in non-stick plastic and press it in to a bedding of epoxy/cabosil putty. Carefully trim the edges and let it cure.

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After some finish sanding that should look just right.

The same technique is needed on the last two opening portlights. We already cut the hull and made Lexan fixed windows, but later decided more ventilation is needed, so we bought a Vetus port for each side. The hull is curved at the top so we’ll do a buildup before installing the port.

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In that shot you can just see the original cutout – wider, shorter and with steep angles that match the stern shape. The new ports aren’t as sexy, but the occupants of that stateroom will be happier campers. The aft cabin is nice and bright now with all its holes cut.

The shop goes dark for the next six days as the builder grabs his bike and sets off with 4 friends riding to Santa Barbara. With a little luck we’ll be on the train home Sunday and slinging epoxy again next Monday. 350 miles down Hwy 1 should really raise the eagerness level for sailing this boat down the coast in Sept!

Boxes of goodies

This past weekend was the big annual Oakland sailboat show and we caught up with suppliers. Quality parts came home with us, and 4 boxes arrived from Defender in CT. We also made a deposit on a discounted Viking ocean life raft – the price locks for a year; we don’t want the raft certified until we need it this fall, this extending it’s service interval 4 months or so. Next we handed the BottomSiders folks patterns for the cockpit cushions.

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It’ll be five pieces around the horseshoe shaped benches. Similar vinyl dipped, closed cell cushions have been on Origami for 10+ years and still look new, so that was an easy choice.

Parts were sorted out today by theme. Lighting will be almost all LED; one incandescent steaming light (only used under engine power) was a $16 Hella find, and we already had a few halogens we may still use.

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The two spreader lights won’t go on the mast; one will mount on the hardtop facing the foredeck and the other on the stern tower to light the steering gear and boarding area when needed at night. RickH, we’ll have small red lights under the hardtop to illuminate the sail controls and instruments area underway at night.

Keith wanted the largest possible bow shackle on the mast hound as this will hold the forestay and side shroud dyneema cables (one shackle connects all the mast support lines). It’s huge, bigger than one’s palm. RickWS, I like this better than the other solution you showed me, but we’ll be plenty careful about seizing that pin!

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Some of the many plumbing parts… A 1-1/2″ seacock / ball valve combo unit is much bigger than we realized so it changes the waste plumbing plan a bit (it won’t fit under the shower floor as planned). We keep finding more thru-hull needs, but still just two under the waterline. Latest adds are watermaker discharge line (97% of what goes to a reverse osmosis unit is bypassed back overboard, so says the Spectra salesman), and a propane locker vapor vent.

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We’ll detail the propane system later, but of course step one is cutting the lazarette floor to make room below for a sealed propane storage locker. This fiberglass and plastic tank is 1/2 the weight of the steel ones under your BBQ at home, plus it won’t corrode and is easier to take in the dinghy for refilling. See here how the tank needs to drop down at least a foot.

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Also in that photo, the fresh water fill (black and blue disk) was installed next to the port coaming winch, and the outdoor shower on the cockpit bench bulkhead. That’ll make a nice senior citizen shower – just sit down safely and discreetly in the cockpit, lather up, and rinse it off thru the scuppers :)

The shop went quiet for some days while Greg took a consulting job, then joined Griffin to have a look at the University of Mississippi. If you haven’t seen an SEC football school, the TV-deal money translates to huge, attractive building projects on these stately old campuses. The Ole Miss folks are very charming to prospective students. Big decision due this month. From CA, you fly to Memphis, so before the flight home we walked along the Big River watching the barge-push skippers do their amazing jobs. And yes dear, the fried pickles are good.

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