Career Day

Did you have that day in school where parents came in and described their jobs? Yesterday felt like the reverse, as the shop looked like I was doing my son’s job – a good Paramedic, patching up boat parts:For you fabricators reading this, I was impressed how these guys achieve resin saturation and excess absorption into the bleeder cloth by using pressure from tightly wrapped packing tape and clamps, where vacuum bagging is impractical. We are using this technique to apply the outer carbon reinforcements to the mast head, the gooseneck and six padeye bases along the mast. They also had me do that to the spreader trailing edge wraps last night. See them ‘bandaged up’ and then unwrapped below.

This afternoon we received plans from the engineer / company president for the composite primary hound, and for the web system that bolts and bonds into the bottom two feet, transitioning all the forces from the spar down through the rotation ball and into the deck and compression box below. The load numbers for this boat and rig are so much higher than the trailerable Corsair tris, especially because the righting moment is orders of magnitude greater. So the gear inside the bottom of the mast is REALLY important to get right. You’ll see it develop in the next few days. Tonight I’ve started cutting out the pieces from 3/4″ G10 plate. Back at that old, fantastic big bandsaw…

Yesterday we got a little box from France with my new boat jewelry. You can ask RickWS just how important this $550 “Jesus shackle” is. It’s the only connection point on the mast for all three primary standing rigging lines. The engineer needed it to take measurements that affect the primary hound final design (that’s where it goes). So now we begin that fabrication. And no, it didn’t come in a robin-egg blue box with white bow. Just a packing list from Wichard.

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Saturday Gooseneck Night

Hope the rest of you were groovin’ Saturday night (Allie!). We started the gooseneck (part that connects the boom to the mast).

The wood block is standing in for a big aluminum toggle that will bolt in to the boom end, and hinge here on the long bolt shown.

The afternoon was spent laying a glass layer all along the mast track base. 51′ of tedious handwork, squeezing out every bubble.

The morning was fun though, translating the 2-D spreader plan to cutting out the real thing. They needed a little fill love on the leading edge before taping those edges closed tomorrow.

And here’s one more shot of Will’s beautiful work building the masthead crane / sheave box last night.

…plowing ahead here.

PS – Canada Bill, thx for the encouraging voicemail. Yes, see you on the boat in Mexico soon. Banderas Bay Regatta 2019, baby!

Fabricating mast parts

It was a busy work week here making the components that transform the raw spar into a sailboat mast.

Spreaders progress:

ppThe foam core was bonded in then next-day trimmed down flush to the clamshell glue line. Here are two tools I used.

That big stroke sander stands 7′ tall so the return belt doesn’t hit you in the head. The whole table slides on roller bearings and you press the moving belt down where you want to remove material. Amazing.

The spreader tips had the foam excavated and replaced by G10 pucks that will handle the diamond wires. after the band-saw rough in on those pucks, this tool was my shaping friend.

We put half the spreaders back into the molds and glued the upper half on to each. They came out nice.

Next was finishing all the padeye bases for the front of the mast.

Spinnaker is the round one at the top, reacher and backstays go on the bigger diamond style one. There are carbon laminations to do over these next week after some fairing.

The halyard sheave box was cut from the large section built in the prior post.

Two pieces were taken from this stock, and glued together for our mast head.

It got notched into the mast tonight.

Pretty amazing Sawzall cutting by Will. Not like my first sawzall experience with Eggleston cutting away the bedroom wall studs in our Ashland house to make a bigger living room – in the carbon shop it’s more a precision thing :)

Building tip – look at this clever method of spherical sanding inside holes or inner corners. Love the simplicity and effectiveness.

A Spar Is Born

3pm eastern time, 9/11. 274 lbs. 55′ long (will be losing 6″ top and bottom for 54′ final height)

The middle photo shows that the top 8′ are tapered, to save weight and windage aloft.

Getting that huge aluminum forming mandrill out turned out to be the toughest thing in this whole 6.5 year boat build. Thank goodness that hurdle was passed!

Here’s a minute of the six hours spent today finishing this job.

The sheave boxes that will hold the masthead halyard turning sheaves (blocks) were weaved and laminated today. That’s cooking in the autoclave tonight, along with the post-cure of my second spreader.

Here’s the end of Will’s process on the sheave boxes. The epoxy was brushed in at the center of the laminations, mixed to the exact resin to cloth ratio spec’d by the engineer, and it will bleed out through all the fabrics in the autoclave vac. bag process. It was a complex series of fibers, but home builders will enjoy how these guys take peel-ply to a whole new level.

And for some evening work, i got back to those padeye G10 backers. Learning to cut the coping curve to fit these pieces to the front of the mast this week.

Now that the spar is set up on work stands, I expect tomorrow we start in earnest to finish fabricating all add-on parts and make the assembly sequence plan. Good stuff and I can truly see the boat sailing again soon.

PS – boat builders or budding nautical repair types,if you haven’t mastered all things hand-layup fiberglassing and filleting, get this little boom. Russell heads up Port Townsend Wooden Boats in Washington. It was here in the shop and I read it over dinner. Sure wish I’d had it six years ago :)

Mandrill angst

As of Monday night here, the aluminum mandrill “mold” is still about halfway inside the mast. For a rookie, that’s a pretty anxious weekend. I spent six hours Fri night & Sat morn getting 16″ of movement over 6 hours. The company owner Ted came in Saturday afternoon and assessed the need to reconfigure his pulling machine from 1:1 gearing to 2:1. He and I spent seven hours moving gears, huge chains, etc. They haven’t done this in many years, and once we started running again the chains slipped on the drive gears. That ended the weekend progress. CE’s Joe and Will tackled it today and finally at 6pm the mandrill moved smoothly a few feet. And then a tensioning line snapped with a bang, and we agreed to splice in fresh dyneema tomorrow. We need that process to finish!!!

Meanwhile, the shop has set me up fabricating mast fitting parts. First up, the spreaders. We’re using an existing clamshell mold, with customized fabric and epoxy formulations for the strength this mast needs. Henny, it’s really great to do this work in a big, professional shop – you’d love it here :)

First is an 11oz carbon skin, then a heavy woven uni strength braid near the center, then another 11oz inner layer.

I had my vac bag running Sunday morning out on the table, but then Ted came in and fired up the autoclave so we switched to it’s vacuum system and rolled the whole works inside.

Monday morn we pulled it out and moved on to filling each half with A500 foam core.

Tonight I repeated the layup process using the same molds, now for the second of the two spreaders.

There will be five line-attachment pad eyes on the mast. Three hold turning blocks for halyards – spinnaker, reacher and jib. #4 is for lazy jacks and #5 for Cunningham/downhaul. Each gets a G10 base built.

Keith: Ted and I decided the backstays could share the padeye with the reacher halyard, and he spec’d a big diamond one for that duty. The others get the smaller round one.

CE’s shop foreman Will did one and turned me loose on the other four. This massive, accurate bandsaw will have Mike Leneman drooling – it’s amazing, cutting 1″ G10 with ease.

Speaking of Keith, I called the other day to find he and Val at sea on their excellent St. Francis 44 cat. Sounded like a good trip off NY/NJ. Here’s a taste of how that “sailor’s cat” goes, from my visit with them in June. https://youtu.be/hdvQb8yki9M

Mast build underway!

We got an update last week from “Mastachussettes” that the Composite Engineering team   was pushing to complete the fabric braiding of our new mast around the aluminum wing-section mandrill. That was the cue to get on the airplane to go help with the fabrication work. I was resigned to, and kind of excited to see, the process of building the vacuum bag and infusing the epoxy resin. But the team worked hard Tues/Weds to get it done, and while I flew overnight SFO-Boston, the new mast spar was baking in the autoclave. What a relief to see this upon arrival…

The carbon fiber is hidden under all the vacuum bagging supplies. Red is the air-flow-enabling mesh. Green is the peel-ply that faces the carbon fabric. Orange is the actual vacuum bag film. It took five hours to remove all this stuff and get to the bare mast section.

While I was doing the stripping job, the CE guys began pulling the aluminum mandrill out from inside the new spar. It had been coated with Teflon prior to he fabric braiding, to enable separation. When we first opened the autoclave, for ten minutes we got the much welcomed cracking sounds of the epoxy separating from the aluminum. But there is a huge amount of surface tension in these things, and it takes a big chain-drive rig exerting somewhere in the 20,000+lb range of force to pull the aluminum section out. A plate that is just larger than the mandrill but smaller than the new carbon spar holds the carbon back while the mandrill is pulled against the big steel table.

Here’s a peek inside from the top of the mast; you can see the aluminum mandrill descending down the column.IMG_0791

Because the mast is tapered at the top, the first 8 feet or so pulled out nicely. That’s shown in this video where you can see it moving.

But after that, things slowed down and we spent all Friday taking turns operating the big machine, only getting a half inch of movement with each 10 second tug. After a half foot we have to let the machine motor rest / cool down. I’m writing this during one of those cooling cycles, and this crap will go on though tomorrow probably. Think slippery thoughts. Thx

The third dimension

Truth be told, it’s been a very painful boat year since we broke the mast. Ravenswing sits at her dock looking long and wide, but NOT vertical. We chose a mast builder and made a purchase agreement within two months of dismasting, but the company got backed up on orders and delayed our build about nine months. I almost pulled the plug, but stayed with Composite Engineering because of the strong, fast, beautifully crafted masts on Skateaway and Round Midnight. These big ocean racing tris have had great success with their CE masts, and we expect the same. And so, on the one year anniversary of our crash, the new mast finally got started. The fiber layup is finishing now, and the resin infusion is to happen this week or next.

Back in June Keith and I went to visit CE to shake the trees a bit, and I needed to see the process given all the delays. I came away impressed with the product. These photos are “the one just before” ours; it’s actually for an America’s Cup class boom, but using the same carbon weight and braiding setup.

Here’s how they build them:

Start with an aluminum extrusion, coated in a release agent (yes, we could have just settled for an aluminum mast like this 10 months ago :). This is the one our mast will be shaped from.

The blank is placed on a very long shuttle table and run through this large stationary braider. Note the hundreds of spools (creels) of carbon and fine fiberglass (white thread)

The wad of fibers extending past the aluminum blank (mandrill) allows the builders to grab the fiber bundle and hydraulically stretch all the unidirectional carbon out very straight. That’s the key to building strong compression-resistant carbon fiber. But you also need “hoop strength”, ie bands of fibers running around the mast at 90 degrees. For you long time followers, remember we added all that hoop strength to the first mast in 2015(?) by doing the tight spiral wraps. At CE, they’ll add the hoops with the banding braider in yellow here:

Our mast is making about a dozen trips through this braider. Note that all of this is dry fabric, NOT pre-preg. They will remove the mast from the braiding area and then build an epoxy resin infusion vacuum bag around the whole thing. This will squeeze resin in around every fiber of that complex braiding. Immediately after the resin is fully infused, the infusion equipment is put aside and the whole works slides in to this 70′, multi-atmospheres pressure autoclave. The epoxy will be cured somewhere in the 200-300F range (I forget what exact temp he said).

After the baking process, the new spar is ready to have the aluminum mast mandrill pulled out. They have a huge chain-drive table for that, and apparently you say little shop prayers before a fantastic popping sound when the release gives way and the product separates from its mold.

At that point, we have an odd turn of events – CE is so understaffed right now that I’ve agreed to go work for them in September to help finish my own mast. We have to fabricate the crane, the rotation arm, the spreaders, the hounds, etc etc. Everything that makes a bare stick a sailboat mast. We figure that’s a couple of weeks.

The push is really on now to get Ravenswing ocean ready for this fall. I’ll try to get back in to frequent, shorter posts as all this work heats up.

We do have one nice thing done: shore boats. After fixing up the Portabote, we decided it didn’t cut the mustard for our uses. So thanks to Drew, we copycatted and got a Takacat 340 Sport like his. It’s a catamaran inflatable, extremely stable and with the 9.9hp, this thing rocks!

You all just heard Jimbo’s big sigh of relief. (Portabote sold)

The first video link shows the first run, and it gets amusing with the engine mounting not yet tweaked.

And we’ll sign off tonight from the other shoreboat, the SUP that at some point we’ll actually try to paddle surf. Stephane says he’ll show me what he learned from the Costa Rican teacher babe :)