The mad rush

The Ravenswing build has been way more than the Carters bargained for. Years have long passed since our initial voyaging target dates. But the past few weeks have turned the corner, and we’re hitting the punch list hard in preparation of a September 8 departure from San Francisco towards the Channel Islands in southern Cal. Jim spent a week aboard earlier this month, including a successful overnight trip to Half Moon Bay. Exiting SF Bay in steep chop and upper 20’s apparent wind was a good shakedown. Finally got a first good anchorage photo shoot :)From the dinghy we asked locals for a dinner spot. Turns out she’s the membership director of HMB yacht club. I’m riding in from the dinghy dock on a cable barge. Great getting drinks with these folks. After returning to Richmond, we then set off to China Camp (inside SF Bay) to find Drew’s family, the F27 Papillon crew. Weather was amazing and much fun was had with the dinghys (we have matching Takacats).Anton drove over to join Ravenswing and Charlie sailed F24 Stingray over. Ravenswing’s first dinner party was a hit. Yes, the Bimini top was great to have at anchor. So of course there was a sewing flurry before Jim came to visit. the blue one was part of the used unit we picked up for $120. Just kept cutting and reseweing it until it was a usable pattern for our shape. Next we built a new jib bag, as the crew will tell you the first one sucked (too tight). But not to waste anything, the first jib bag was easily modified to become the new stay-on-deck roller Reacher bag. Thx to Round Midnight for that idea!We’ve also been quite focused on safety gear. The jack lines got fitted. They install easily and get put away when not needed.

The rudder finally got its permanent fix for the proper fore/aft take setting. Instead of shiming the cassette, the rudder grew an angled wedge up where it rests underway inside the cassette. Not particularly pretty but totally effective. It sailed great in the snot to Half Moon Bay.

The float hulls have had bouts of “stale air” in the three years since launch. They finally got solar vents. Put them in the hatch doors, so as not to mess with the hull decks.

Just before the China Camp trip we received the replacement electric controller for the fridge/freezer compressor. Ouch, that was $300 shot thanks to the failed escape hatch in June that salt-water soaked the equipment room under the cockpit. Fridge unit is working fine again and right now we’re creating the divider to separate freezer from cooler/refer side.

And yea, also had to replace the Lavac toilet bowl after dropping the original during the paint job of the revised water closet floor. This is the new version with a more robust hinge and seal setup. If anyone out there needs original Lavac lid parts, holler.

The co-owner agreed to poke her nose out the Gate, aided perhaps by her elder son’s encouragement. Thank you Ravenswing for giving us good times together. I’ll explain next time why Colin was able to come aboard unexpectedly…

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!

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.

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…