A good workout

I left you guys hanging, I know. But who gets a nasty chest cold to start July? Dang, that thing hit me hard for a few days.

The Napa Marina team put Ravenswing back in the water on Friday, and Carlos joined me Sunday to cruise down river and back to Richmond. While underway I finished up plumbing the newly added cockpit 2nd drain while Carlos drove us through deep enough water. The Napa River shoals get a little tricky. We got in a nice wave with Pam, owner of a lovely Cross 42′ tri and co-owner of the bay’s Adventure Cats charters, as we motored by her place.

Backing up a step, yes we got the rotator arm and the jib back also on Friday. There are now six bolts plus the strengthening cross hatching, vs the original two pivot point bolts. Works great so far.

It was pretty windy in Vallejo, which with the ebb current, means San Pablo Bay was set to be sloppy. So we set the main at first reef and charged down bay into the stiff southwest wind. We made 9-10kts going to weather, and with spray flying everything got a good two hour test. Carlos did a great job with sail trim, particularly as I was distracted keeping an eye and ear on recent repairs / upgrades performances. The escape hatch area was to leeward in the chop for three hours, and was bone dry inside.

We got to the central bay by 3 and while Carlos thought we should go blast around, I just wanted to put the boat away and was feeling crappy (the cold was setting in). But of course after this successful 40 mile trip, the engine died while making the final turn towards our dock. Thankfully we coasted into the wind and fended off / lassoed an empty dock, found the fuel hose problem, and got tied up where we belong. Damn, in just three years the gas tank – to – outboard hose was destroyed by ethanol in the fuel. Will replace all that tomorrow.

Today’s job was installing the replacement / upgraded toilet. The Lavac system is great; very simple and effective. But the older model had fragile porcelain tabs to hold the seat bolts. One of them got broken during the holding tank change job, and the glue job failed recently so we lost vacuum. So now Ravenswing has the modern Lavac, which looks sturdier in the key places. Once we finally get moving south this fall, I am assured we’ll have plenty of jam for the peanut butter. Stone fruits are in high season here in the Carter-Corchero orchard :)

Hope your 4th was good. Bittersweet here though as we said goodbye yesterday morning to 40+ year family friend George Cunha. He liked to sail both on the bay and on remote vacations. He gave it a great 92 year run. Godspeed George!

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.

Goo & paint

It’s good to have deadlines. The shipping container for the mast has to be loaded next Friday. My flight home is tomorrow evening. So it’s been a super push to get this stick finished.

Here’s how we made the spreader reinforcements.

Large strips of the flattened out carbon and glass braid span the leading edges, tying both sides together. And it’s the same across the aft edges, with some rebating below the saitrack strip area so the braid buildup doesn’t hamper mainsail raising.

Thursday I did the external reinforcements of the forestay / capshrouds hound.

That’s 3 layers of 11oz carbon twill at 0-90 perpendicular to the mast, 3 more at 45-45 in the direction of pull, then two of the heavy double braid ‘primary straps’. I’m leaving those visible in the final paint job.

Friday night and Saturday morn included final shaping of the masthead, and precision drilling for the masthead sheave pins.

And during all these finish steps from Tuesday to this morning (Sunday) I’ve been doing all the fairing work around the final fabrication stuff.

And suddenly Sunday at 1pm it was time to roll in to the paint booth!!!

CE’s owner Ted was jamming at the other end of the shop on the big 12 Meter boom, so we stopped for lunch and talked through how I should work the primer. He got the equipment going, demonstrated for a few feet, and handed over his spray gun…

I shot two coats of primer, and tonight went around filling pinholes and blemishes. Interesting they had me do that with simply some of the leftover un-thinned primer that had been set aside to begin curing in a pot. About two hours after spraying, the little pot yielded gooey paint that you trowel on just like a thin fairing putty. The advantage is that tomorrow these buildup patches will sand just the same as the rest of the surface.

Tomorrow I hand the project back to Composite Engineering’s Will and John to finish the painting, drill and bush the hound-hole, install the foot insert, drill & tap the 200 Tides SailTrack clips, make the 11/16″ masthead sheave pins, and coordinate diamond wire install with the riggers. They’ll be rushed to get it all done and in the container by Friday.

Honestly folks, I’m beat. When Keith and I wondered about me coming here to help once the spar was out of the oven, I had no clue it would be three straight 80-hour weeks as the primary fabricator and project manager. But in the end, Ted said this evening we did a great job creating “a century-lasting mast” that will make the boat perform at its best. We won’t be able to wear this one out. I know it’ll all be worth it wherever Ravenswing is on the planet and we can look 54′ up in the air with total confidence. It’s been 13 months now Jimbo; soon we will be sailing again.

If you’re going to cut carbon…

… get blades like theseIMG_0872IMG_0870IMG_0871

Yeah, the pros made me cut the end off the tube to officially create the “zero line” of the bottom of the mast. Some kind of right of passage thing. Back to the gooseneck:

Will showed us how he wants the braided carbon to lay down. IMG_0885IMG_0884IMG_0883The pieces were wet out on the table, and because it’s thick, very high density braid, I literally mashed the epoxy in with my boot heels before laying it out over the mast. IMG_0889IMG_0890

These parts also got the super-tight peel ply, breather and tape method overnight.IMG_0891IMG_0892IMG_0900IMG_0901IMG_0902The boss inspected later in the day and was very happy with the lamination results. Gooseneck built – just needs fairing cleanup to go.

The various halyard interfaces all got their final fiberglass-over-carbon layers. There’s only one exterior reinforcement to go, the nose of the mast. IMG_0880The nose plate (point where the standing rigging attaches) is made of three pieces of G10, bonded and screwed together before being bonded and screwed into the mast tube. IMG_0873IMG_0899IMG_0898IMG_0896

In that middle photo above, note the buried threaded rod in four spots on the side – that along with epoxy glue is holding the three elements together. This part had to cure overnight before it could get final shaped and dry fitted into the mast today. Approaching the mast, it started with an hour of careful measuring up from the plans. IMG_0904IMG_0905IMG_0906this old sanding belt lined up edge to edge helps us translate specific height-on-mast points around the full spar. The fabric curve in that photo is an externally applied reinforcement of carbon braid for the jib halyard exit area (we add back around the slot), and it is fanned out like the you saw in the gooseneck. IMG_0907The slot was cut and cleaned with a drill, sawzall, router and small disk sander. The electrician’s fish tape was sent down from the new hole, and the part drawn up on a string. IMG_0909IMG_0911IMG_0914

The screw holes were accomplished by hard-lashing the part up against the inside of the front mast wall. I drilled and tapped right there in position. IMG_0912IMG_0913

That took until 8pm, so Saturday morn the nose part will see daylight one more time, being pulled back out the bottom, buttered up with epoxy glue, and drawn back into final position. So here’s the jib control layout: the forestay gets attached to this new hound. Looking down the mast, you see the jib turning block pad eye next. And below that we routed out the jib halyard escape from the mast tube. The jib halyard sees zero internal mast hardware to chafe against. Pretty slick.

All composite parts have  been fabricated. Just the bottom structure and the spreaders remain for composites installation. We also got started with New England Rigging today for the diamond wires. The owner says he can have all the parts ready next week. On we go.

LiFePo4 batteries, at last

What do you call the stage between bleeding edge and early adopter? I don’t know, but we spent the day there… after buying 16 lithium battery cells two years ago, their installation got started today. There’s been a lot of learning, planning and fretting for months. Anton has built electric vehicles and complex land battery systems, so we listened carefully to his practical advice and I thank him greatly for the encouragement to tackle building a lithium system from scratch. This morning he told me to wrap the lug wrench handle in electrical tape to avoid any mistaken arcing. Let’s not make any short circuits with a 400 amp hour system!

A few months back we made these straps from a sheet of copper. That took longer than expected but at least saved some $ for quality (lowest resistance) balanced power across the cells.

The battery tray was built back in Santa Rosa. Today we built out component mounting spaces around it.

After mapping out parts locations it was time to make all the custom length cables. No fancy hydraulic crimpers here; just old school compression.

Here’s a progress view as the parts go in.

You’re looking at the 16 three-volt cells that have been made in to 4 twelve volt batteries (via parallel strapping). They are resting as separate groups overnight so that the individual cells within each of the four batteries balance among each other. Tomorrow hopefully we’ll find that the four groups have very close voltages to each other (ideally about 13.2volts based on how they were stored). If not we’ll balance them manually with a charger.

Ravenswing is coming out of the water this weekend so we can trim the daggerboard exit slot at the bottom of the hull to match the new daggerboard shape. I thought we could get away with not having to adjust down there, but when the v.2 dagger was slid home last month, it didn’t make it out the bottom. Oh well. Silver lining is the opportunity to finally get some artwork on the float hulls.  Hope you like it next week.

Skateaway for sale/sail

Y’all have read our frequent references and thanks to Keith at Skateaway Design for his help in outfitting and optimizing Ravenswing. Today we’re going to talk about HIS boat, Skateaway. I had the pleasure of visiting Keith & Val’s waterfront property on the NJ coast for a sail on their catamaran and a thorough walkthru of the amazing trimaran Skateaway. They had successfully built other ocean boats before this, but Skateaway seems to me to be a life-achievement project. Rarely do you see someone think through their use-objectives, design to those needs, personally build in very high quality, execute and refine year after year, and actually use the object for many enjoyable years.

This boat is light, strong, seaworthy and fast. Fully outfitted it sails at about 6,000lbs. Geez, that’s 3,000lbs LESS for 4′ longer than Ravenswing, and our boat feels rather sporty. There’s a long list of racing accomplishments available. And it was a treat to look at the photo albums of Val’s documentation of the building process.

Here are two walk around videos of the boat:

The interior is clean, comfortable and simple. Everything inside is about as low maintenance as you can get; it’s meant to go sailing long distances and not spend time fussing with gear.

Look closely and notice details like the dining table storing up on the coachroof, with a simple thumbscrew to bring it down in position. The bunks look great. Secure at sea, and your choice of daylight up in the wing areas of central cabin or snug in the forward and aft cabins.

Head is in the fore peak. No thruhulls or tanks needed = light weight and easy to maintain!

The cockpit area seems like a serious ocean safety place – it’s actually twin stations set very deep alongside the massive spine of the boat.

Clearly Keith has sailed many miles here and optimized the sail handling controls for solo or short handed work. It all made sense immediately looking at it. And he’s spared no expense on keeping up the finest hardware on this boat.

I was very interested in the rig, as Skateaway was one of Composite Engineering’s earlier big-trimaran custom carbon mast builds. These are the people building our mast, and we’ve also seen the quality of their work on Rick W’s Explorer 44 Round Midnight. These stiff, light, strong masts hold sail shape so well, making the boats very responsive to their sails. Skateaway’s mast is 58′ and has been through a couple of upgrade cycles. It’s currently outfitted with high end Hydranet sails.

What a treat to get to know this special boat. After so many successful sails, Keith and Val have decided to sell Skateaway. At this point he says they’re ok ‘de-tuning’ the whole high performance gig in favor of the cruising cat lifestyle.

Skateaway needs to find that special buyer; the sailor that wants serious ocean performance along with no-frills amenities. This is a pure sailing craft with seemingly zero regard for today’s distractions like fancy swim platforms, dolphin-watching bow seats, big hard dodgers, etc.

Who do we know that wants to do a major solo ocean race, or super fast minimalist cruising, or jump right into campaigning a crewed boat in coastal series? Help me get the word out for Keith about his one of a kind beauty boat. She needs to make another tri-mariner very happy. Send your comments and I’ll pass them along. Thanks!

PS. Next time we’ll update you from the visit to Composite Engineering, 10 months into Ravenswing’s mast re-do ordeal.