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15 November 2014

Interior Ready for Paint

Overview from forward

Interior Ready for Paint

Our latest strategy was to finish up the interior and get some paint on to hold our gains against encroaching winter. Well... the interior's complete - barring a few deets that can wait for spring - but its sub-freezing and frosting inside the shed! Paint will have to wait for the next thaw or an operational stove, whichever comes first.

So next come the decks. We hope.

In lieu of paint, we've tarped the hull over to keep the ply as dry as possible. But before we did, we took advantage of the rare sun for a few pics...

Kitty-corner Over-views

We're generally using the same layout as LUNA, which worked very well for us.

The entire living spaces are open to one another, as much as possible, to allow a roomy feel, long views with big angles out the windows, and a more or less contiguous social space.

The cook is 'part of the party', and there's plenty of room for a sous-chef. One to a few can lounge in the bunk (Anke likes the little bit of social remove, there)... participating while not being in the thick of it. If someone has had enough and wants to turn in, a curtain can screen it off.

The large side windows (much smaller one LUNA) keep the walls from closing in, opening the interior onto the world at large.

From forward, the main cabin divisions are the bunk, salon and galley (under the raised pilot house).

Looking aft and port
Salon dinette, and galley counter and wetlocker/head on the right

Looking aft and starboard
Salon settee, and galley stove and workbench on the left
Looking forward and starboard
Galley stove, salon leanbank and s'brd bunk leanbank on the right

Looking forward and port
Galley counter, salon dinette, bunk platform and port leanbank on the left

The Bunk

The bunk itself is 6ft6in long by 6ft wide, with wall to wall storage, under, accessed by large platform/hatches. Port and starboard are two full length leanbank/lockers, and an approximately 2ft square window. The 'blank space' over the leanbanks and ahead of the windows will eventually become bookshelves.

Let the Wild Rumpus begin!


This word embarrasses me, actually... sounds so yottie! I'd call it a 'living room', but it seems no more so than the others. Now that Anke has (5ft8in) standing headroom, it's not even a 'sitting room'. So, in the interests of tradition and clear communication, 'salon' it shall be.

To port is a near 3ft wide dinette ('table') and seat/lockers which makes down into a generous bunk for one or a snug fit for two.

Windows above, the entire length
Note the cleats running around the gangway for platform

Opposite is a 6ft6in settee (see 'salon'... it's really a 'sofa' or 'couch') /locker, with a leanbank as per the bunk. The settee locker lid is hinged to a narrow flap... the lid can be slid inboard with the flap laid flat for a full, 2ft single bunk.

Settee... note hinged flap outboard of the seat
Lid slid inboard with flap down to make bunk

Not shown is a removable sole... normally this lies flat against the inside face of the hull. It can be raised to the cleats lining the gangway, and, with the dinette made down, the entire area becomes a single platform, contiguous with the bunk platform. Great for slumber parties or spread-out projects!


 The galley is the most complex space, and remains that with unfinished business.

To starboard and forward is a woodstove mounted in an alcove formed by an L-shaped woodbox. Wood can be added at the top and removed from the bottom. In winter, it holds about a week's worth of wood (at least for previous stoves with smaller fireboxes).

Starboard and aft is a 4ft x near 3ft workbench, with storage under (yet to be arranged). Anke's herb garden (she's got the green thumbs) will live on the workbench top, but can be moved for sun or convenience.

Stove to left with L-woodbox behind and under
Workbench to the right, with storage under

To port and forward is the dedicated galley area, with a 4ft x near 3ft counter, extended by a near 3ft x 2ft flip up counter (see below). Forward will be a double sink, with one basin inboard and the other outboard (these will be built from ply... the designer order a stainless sink too big to fit!). Under will be miscellaneous stowage for big, liquidy stuff (water, fermenting wine, gallons of vinegar and soap, etc.) with cunning storage as needed (the hinged flap is for skinny storage inboard of the sink... toothbrushes?).

Port and mid-galley is under-counter storage with a door closure. The door will have a rack of a dozen quart jars with various dry-goods. Low down is an open bin for large, seldom accessed pots and the like (canning pressure cooker and supplies, hand mill spares, ???... maybe some spuds, too). Over this will be a set of four drawers - two shallow, two deep, and 18in wide x 2ft6in long - to be divvied as seems fit.

Port and aft is the wet locker/head topped by a flip up counter. When horizontal, this extends the galley counter, when flipped vertical, it makes a wall for the 'head' (see Getting aHead for a full description).

Galley port side and gangway seen from forward

The gangway has an 8in raised sole, with room for quart jars under. Aft is the battery box, which also forms the first of three steps (incomplete). It extends from the inboard face of the hull 18in upwards (10in rise over the sole) x 2ft7in wide x 18in long. Should have plenty of room for the battery and electrical panels with room to spare for tools.


So there you have it... our humble home to be.

11 November 2014

Getting aHead

By Jo Hudson
from the SEARUNNER Construction Manual by Jim Brown

Viewed objectively there is nothing more absurd than the usual sea-going toilet of the modern production yacht. What expense and engineering, what a profligate use of space and materials, what a baroque concoction of pipes and valves and pumps and skin fittings, what a sop to over-developed human sensitivities, all for the purpose of transferring a small amount of matter a distance of about twelve inches, from here on the inside of the hull, to there on the outside of the hull.

-- From Mingming and the Art of Minimal Ocean Sailing by Roger D. Taylor

Getting aHead

To date, Anke and I have never built an enclosed Head into one of our boats.

Our boats are small to begin with. Partitioning a chunk off for a room that's in use for a few scant albeit imperative minutes a day seems to needlessly cramp our style. The walls block the view (high crime, in our book) and crowd the remaining space.

Anke and I are mostly alone together, and quite comfortable with our nitty gritty. When friends come along... let's just say things are 'up close and personal'.

So a little more privacy would accommodate the sensitivities of our guests, not all of whom are as... um... earthy as others.

On the other hand, the one thing we've always longed for but never had was a Wet Locker; a place to let our raingear drip dry. Heads are traditionally not too bad for that purpose, though their ventilation is often wanting.

To that end we came up with the following:

Note the Head/Wet Locker at the lower, right (port, aft),
outboard of Companionway steps.

What we're looking at is a row of coat hooks along the wall, outboard of a section of flip up counter. This allows space for hanging outdoor gear, especially raingear, where it can drip harmlessly to a well-sealed floor.

The counter, when horizontal, extends the galley counter by (about) 3ft. It also doubles as the port, pilothouse seat, from which we can steer the boat under cover (workbench shares the same role, opposite).

When flipped vertical - hinged along its forward edge, it locks into position to form a partial wall. A curtain may be drawn across the inboard face, and voila! A semi-enclosed head!

It's not as isolated as the typical Head, but visual privacy is ensured. It's positioned under a pilothouse window, so ventilation is better than most. It's still a bucket affair, but a two bucket compost system isn't out-of-the-question. (Here's a great resource on DIY composting toilets from one of our readers).

Set-up and -down take but a matter of seconds, for those in haste.

So this has been a paper possibility for a couple of years, now, and I've been drawing them into Triloboat StudyPLANS. But if anyone's built one, I haven't heard... until now.

So here's a sneak preview of the as yet untried system, at the roughed-in stage. Stay tuned for trial and error to come!

Looking aft into to the portside Galley.
Head/Wet Locker aft.

Looking kitty-corner at Head/Wet Locker

Anke holding counter vertical...
will eventually have a barrel bolt into a small, partial wall outboard
(Mirror on the underside?)

Oh God!

Scrounged hinges...
installed 'upside down' to reduce gluteal hang-up
(the pronounced hinge curl could otherwise bite us in the A**
while sitting on counter)

Sitting Pretty
(and able to look out,, 360deg)

Search Keywords: head marine head nautical head head alcove tiny house bathroom compact bathroom

06 November 2014

Insulating the Hull: Retro-fit SIP

Adding inboard layer of 1/4in ply
Next space to my right has fitted foam ready and waiting
Two areas to my right, the inboard face of the hull is exposed

This guy oughtta be wearing his ear protectors!

Insulating the Hull: Retro-fit SIP

Anke and I recently finished insulating the hull cabin spaces, using ply-foam-ply aka SIP (Structural Insulated Panel) construction.

I can think of five, basic options for SIPping hull sides:
  1. Join pre-fabbed SIP panels to make sides
  2. Build one skin, with framing, then add the second skin in one go
  3. Build one skin, with framing, then add second skin in select areas

    ...Join finished sides to bottom and bulkheads.

  4.  Build inboard skin, framed and joined to bottoms and bulkheads, then add foam and outboard skin in one go
  5. Build outboard skin, framed and joined to bottom and bulkheads, then add foam and inboard skin in select areas
We decided the first three had some problems for us.

Building remote, we didn't expect to have the muscle to raise heavy-ish, completed sides into place. Short-handed lifting with mechanical assist takes time and ingenuity.

The first presents framing challenges, since many framing pieces internal to the SIP extend beyond a single panel. No go.

Two is better, and straightforward. But all transverse bulkheads and dividers meet the inner skin...

To join sides to bulkheads, in this approach, fasteners must be on the long side (to reach through the SIP with enough left for 'bury') - expensive. Alternatively, shorter fasteners may be inset and plugged - time consuming. Tape n' glue with judicious use of resin welding (tape n' glue minus the tape) is an elegant solution, but messy, toxic and generates lots of heinous garbage.

Method three addresses these problems, but there's a quandry. Transverse dividers must either:
  • Contact the outer layer (complicated) - SLACKTIDE, with her minimal furnishings, was manageable, but with the many sub-girder furnishings this round, this approach gets out of hand.
  • Attach inboard of the SIP - If using a cleat, then that needs something in the SIP to fasten into (double framing). Resin welding looks preferable, in this latter case, but with resin's downsides.

Method four is intriguing, but we were ultimately uncomfortable with many of its questions and consequences.

For example, which to put outboard; the thicker layer or thin (1/2in vs 1/4in ply)? Thicker outboard makes for better protection against the cruel world. But inboard, it affords more structural integrity and a strong backup to outer skin failure.

Our window framing (2x stock) doubles as structural reinforcement AND we want to see its clear, red cedar in the interior. This implies we want it on the inboard side of the thicker layer.

So number five it is - Retro-fitting foam and ply on the inboard face of a fully functional hull. QED. All framing (2x2 or 2x4) doubles as spacers for 1 1/2in foam (blue-board). Light 'firring' (non-structural spacers) from 1x2 fills in where there's no framing.

A big advantage of this approach is that all transverse panels (bulkheads, partial bulkheads and furniture faces) meet the structural skin of the hull. Not only is this strong, but short (generally 1in fasteners) suffice for the 1/2in ply skin.

Another is that most, if not all inboard panels are relatively small, bite-sized glue jobs. Divide and conquer, with every juncture fully visible until completed (i.e., don't have to try to remember where we put that framing inside the SIP!

So how did it go? Pretty durn well!

In our salon and bunk areas, the surface of seats and the bunks are all the same height. In the galley, all the counter levels are the same height. In a box barge, this implies parallel spaces between framing. Foam and the inner layer of ply can be cut into strips, then lopped off for the necessary length... efficient in both time and materials! Even over the end-curves, we start with the same strip for a given space, and cut it down further to match the odd shape.

We used TiteBond III through the summer months, switching to Gorilla Glue as the days grew cold and damp. This is supplemented by DAP Alex Plus ('siliconized acrylic'... basically a latex window caulk) to fill any larger voids. For whoppers, consider wood or foam shims, and for small ones, consider a bead of (expansive) Gorilla Glue.

TIP: For nice, tight FOAM fits, consider using a tick stick (a stick which is held in place and lengths 'ticked' directly from the structure, then transferred to the material). This is much more reliable than measuring. The tighter the better to exclude air.
 TIP: PLY is easier to fit (and caulk) if it's loose around the edges. Too much accuracy, and you risk wasting time needlessly fighting the material into place. Consider erring on the side of looser.

Standard Operating Procedure is to dry-run and prepare. Take a deep breath. Then...

Slather glue on the inboard face of the hull and framing / firring faces (those abutting the foam). Insert foam working toward one corner to release air (may have to relieve air pressure with a knife, inserted through the foam and given a slight twist). Slather glue on the outboard face (foam side) of the inner ply cover. Nail into framing / firring.

TIP: Consider penciling guides to framing on the inboard face of the inboard layer - 1x along this edge, 2x along that one, nailer line across here, butt-strap along there, etc.. Once you've covered it over and started nailing, it'll be these or your memory to guide you.

We use this order to ensure that plywood faces interior to the SIP are encapsulated by glue, in case of voids. Moving quickly (especially in the case of Gorilla Glue) allows both layers to be completed in one go, avoiding clean-up between layers.

At this point, press outboard near the mid-point of foam areas. If you hear sucky noises as you press and release, you've got a void. Use one or more struts / blocks / wedges (creatively) to provide and hold pressure. Consider that some glues are setting up, and this step must be completed with dispatch.
TIP: Before starting the glue job, consider pre-arranging strut materials to fit the situation. You may not have time to improvise once glue is setting up!
Once the glue is set up, remove struts and caulk edges around the ply with DAP or your favorite trim-in-a-tube.

TIP: It's messy, but we like to fillet the caulk with a blunt (gloved) finger. This forces caulk deep into any gaps, and feathers the edges along the (now concave) 'bead', making for easy cleaning down the road.

E basta!

In theory, the result is a very rigid, insulating wall with no internal voids to collect moisture or dry-rot.

2x2 Framing along top and right edges, 1x2 'Firring' along left and bottom edges
Struts with protective pad and wedge...
Blocking at other end (not seen) adjusts length against opposite wall or furnishing


In these sad and diminished times, little is as it seems. Consider checking your dimensional lumber for accurate sizing (same thickness as your foam). Too thick and you get voids over the foam (plane or saw your stock to size). Too thin and you get voids over the framing (shim or caulk over framing). Either are a major pain where you sit!

Red cedar seems to be an great choice for framing. It's strong, light, glues well and is naturally rot resistant. Works easily and smells good. Be careful of breathing the dust, though... it will sensitize you faster than most (the allergic kind, not the SNAG kind).

Consider laying out your panels on paper, figuring the most efficient way to to get what you need from what you have on hand. It's time consuming, but conserves material and/or $$. Can be done at home of an evening.

Gorrilla glue seems to spread adequately at a rate of about 18oz / 4ft x 8ft / one side. It gets sluggish and inefficient to spread in cool to cold weather. We warm it in warm water to about body temperature to keep it viscous. Still sets down to 20degF (about -10degC)... as low as we've tried it. Feels a little more brittle if applied in the cold, though. Not sure if or how that affects bond. No failures to date, though, on wide-area bonding.

Cutting foam with a table saw produces neat, accurate edges. But when cuts are too wide for our max fence setting, or for short cross-cuts, we use a japanese saw (thin blade, cuts on pull stroke). We walk a quick-square along as a visual guide for near perfect, right angle cuts. The edge is less smooth, but doesn't appear to matter. A whiz might be able to use a circular saw, but I end up destroying one or both sides of the cut.

TRICK: It's easy to lose track of framing that has been SIPped over. Say you want to mount a sturdy row of coat-hooks... can't just screw into 1/4in ply and foam! Before it's covered up, put a galvanized steel nail at each end. Later, when you've forgotten what's in the wall and where, use a magnetic 'stud finder' (they come small) to locate them. Fasten anywhere along the line between them.

TRICK: The method we use calls for a lot of notches in plywood around framing.To lay out notches, keep small blocks of your framing stock handy. Lay onto plywood in the correct orientation and trace one side, then reposition and trace the other. Much faster than squares and measurement, and more accurate.
TRICK: For the deep end of a three-sided notch, cut the two sides with a saw. Layout the backline between cuts on the back face, and slice deeply along from both faces with a sharp knife. Grasp the 'tab' between cuts and bend back and forth until it breaks out. Clean up with your knife, if necessary.
TRICK: If glue sets up and you believe you have a void, drill into it at one edge with a bit sized for your glue bottle, and one or two spots about six inches away. Inject Gorilla Glue until it wells out your other holes. Repeat as necessary, covering the whole problem area. Plug holes after glue has set up (if you plug right away, the expansive glue will likely blow your plug). It helps to cut your nozzle square for this job. Old caps may be saved and used for this.


16 October 2014

Amazing Grace? Yes and No

Bottom first, then Sides and a band overlapping the Chine.
Note the wrinkles low along the Bow Curve sides...
These remained manageably small.. no 'darting' was necessary.

Amazing Grace? Yes and No

Today was our 'coup de Grace'... we finished the installation of the Grace Ice and Water Shield underlayment for our copper plating.

Grace is a self-adhered, rubberized asphalt sheet material (comes in rolls of three foot width). A thin layer of plastic on its outer face protects the world from a sticky, gooey layer, which has the potential to fuse with plywood. This face has a peel-off layer of plasticized paper which must be removed before installation.

Our hope (mostly gratified) was that it would work well with the assemble, flip and join method we used to construct the Bottom.

Needless to say, the company nowhere suggests that Grace might be advisable for marine construction.

The Good News

When it sticks, it REALLY sticks. Especially to itself. 

Once well bonded, it's like skin on the hull. Overlaps adhere even better, with high confidence of water exclusion. It seems to thoroughly gasket fasteners... withdrawing occasional screws showed them to be coated entirely along their length!

The So-So News

Application is meticulous, demanding and slow. 

Any lapse of attention, or initial mis-alignment can result in a messy, wasteful sitchiAYshun. Still, we got through the whole thing with nothing worse than a little curl along an edge, here and there.

Peeling the paper was a challenge, at first. We took to scoring it at workable intervals to keep things manageable. 

Touching the warm, peeled sticky-side makes ya sympathize with Bre'r Rabbit. We did better by taking small folds of the paper - plasticized layer towards the Grace - and using them as grippers along the edge.

The Not So Good News

Adhesion doesn't appear fully consistent, even when temps are in the 70degF/ 20degC range. 

Initial grab drops to near nothing along with temps. In the 50degF / 10degC temps we're undergoing, we had to use a heat gun to achieve grab and bond.

Over-all handling is temperature dependant and awkwardly so. 

It's stiffer when cool, so is easy to handle, but doesn't like to grab or conform to the work. When warm, it goes limp in passive resistance... conforms well, but hard to deliver, and grabs at anything along the way.

There is a fringe of un-plastic-protected tar along each edge which caused problems. It's delicate, sticky, and once it curls back and touches itself, forget it. We finally took to trimming it off before starting.

Even simple cutting is difficult in warm weather, as it sticks to the knife and drags. Possibly, wetting in mineral spirits (a solvent which works well on the stuff) would help it slide along. If possible, plan your cutting in the cool of the day, morning or evening.

And it smells toxic... the box has ominous warnings to WEAR GLOVES and WASH YOUR HANDS. Warnings in ALL-CAPS tend to be worth heeding.


We're basically happy with the results, at this point. But I'm not sure I'd use it again for this application (it's excellent for bedding hardware and between dead-wood). 

We're considering a last pass with a weed-burner, once the copper is on, warming it to hot-to-the-touch and whuppin' it all over with a mallet for good luck.

It was spendy and a lot of work, in retrospect.

In some ways, it wasn't much cleaner an operation than we could have managed with, say, a water emulsified asphalt, or even rubberized asphalt paint. Still, it didn't generate too much hard-to-dispose-of garbage (e.g., paint rollers, etc), and most of the off-cuts and remnants are still useful for other tasks.

Other alternatives we'd considered were tar (messy), elastomeric polyurethane paint (hard to find... 3M used to make some that we loved, but it's disappeared) and Irish felt (traditional and great to work with, but rare nowadays... what we found was prohibitively expensive to transport our way).

Grace is amazing. Time will tell if it has 'saved a wretch like we'.

05 October 2014

A Pictorial Review

Our Humble Laboratory

Curvy Bits: Nailers and Bulkhead Beams

Cheat Sheet... note bevel angles drawn along sides

Deadflat Plates ready to turn and join upright...
After the first one, they are flipped onto loose copper plates which are then
nudged into position and fastened in place.

End Sections... note transverse kerfs to ease bending.
We'll flip 'em, join 'em to the Deadflat and later add their 2nd course of
planking, underlayment and copper.

Lower S'brd Wall and first Bulkheads standing.

End piece about to get joined

All of our projects seem to attract a 'Ship's Cat'!

Three stages of retro-fit SIP (from left to right):
I'm adding the inboard layer of 1/4inch ply,
Middle layer of 2x XPS foam (blueboard),
Inboard face of 1/2in hull, with 2x framing.

As of yesterday... both walls on, Whiskey Plank in sight.
Note Port Wall before Doubler Plates...
1ft lower course visible below upper, 4ft course.
3/4in Doubler Plates (visible aft) provide protection
and act as a Butt Strap, joining the two courses.

24 September 2014

Equinoctal Status Report

Port side open for ease of acess.

Equinoctal Status Report

Well... our best laid plans done gang agley

Tyee has turned out to be a rather more hopping place than we'd anticipated. What with one thing and another, a good chunk of summer sped by at maybe a quarter efficiency. Maybe.

Hard to say how much time has gone into it, so far. It's been four months since we started, but I'd say there've been less than three days of full efficiency work, and at least a solid, summer month pulled completely off the job.


But things are happening, nevertheless. 

  • We've got the bottom deadflat done, copper and all. The ends have their first course of planking and nailers.
  • All bulkheads, including bow and stern transoms, are in.
  • The starboard walls are up, SIPped (ply-foam-ply), and wallside furnishings complete.
  • We built a new dory.

Yet to go are the end bottoms, port wall, pilothouse, windows and decks. These had better be complete before the first heavy snow, which will collapse our current shed. The plan is to make her weather proof, then rebuild the shed smaller for small, winter projects.

Wish us luck!

PS: TiteBond III appears to be living up to our hopes!

Bunk area in foreground, bunk and salon settee leanbanks in background.

Stove in alcove, workbench aft.
Wood stowage under and outboard.

14 April 2014

Building on Edge

Murder Cove Steam Punk
Photo by David and Pearl

I knew, even then, that to love the world, you have to get away from it.
-- Priest from the movie, The King of Hearts

Building on Edge

Huzzah! The shopping is DONE. 

All the fiddly bits that go into a vessel should - if we've planned well - be wending their way toward a Seattle barge line. They'll be stuffed into a container for shipping to Petersburg, Alaska. All fairly normal stuff, to this point.

We're building at a remote site at the southwestern end of Admiralty Island called Tyee (aka Murder Cove), about 15 miles from where we are now. A lodge is being built there, which we caretook in 2012/13 and will again, this winter (2014/15).

Points in its favor:
  • Good people involved.
  • Remote and beautiful, the kind of place we love to hang.
  • Good protection for SLACKTIDE, handy to the build.
  • Work/rent/trade/tools/materials situation, simplifies, reduces and enables finances.
  • Our container can be delivered by the site owner on the same run that supplies our current lodge.
  • Come winter, we'll have indoor spaces for sailmaking, cushion work, details.
  • Time is no object! We won't be building 'under the gun'.

Before now, building in town has been a mixed bag.  

We've been very fortunate, people-wise, in past building situations... friends who tolerate our funky ways and time overruns. BUT...

On the one hand, supplies are just down the street. On the other, supplies are just down the street! Because we don't have to plan ahead, we tend to wing it much more than we should. That means more time commuting to and fro the store, with maybe a treat or two along the way. 

On the one hand, lots of great people stop by to see what's going on and talk shop. On the other hand, lots of great people stop by to see what's going on and talk shop! I'm not the kind of fella who can talk and work at the same time (or much of anything else, for that matter), so maybe a third of our time on site goes to social pleasantry.

On the one hand, there are lots of special occasions. On the other hand, there are lots of special occasions! Picnics and parties and barn raisin's and barn burnin's. Good times all, but they don't get a boat built.

So we like it in town. We love our friends. We love the good times.

But this time, we're going to take a step back...

...and over the Edge.

05 April 2014

Glued, Ply/Frame Construction

Sizing for the different situations around the boat.
We decided 1 3/4in nails over 1 1/2in for better bury.

3in spikes (left) are sized for mechanical assistance to glue.

Praise the Glue but pass the Fasteners!
- George Beuhler

Nail where you can; screw where you have to; bolt where you must.
 - Cap'n Pete Culler

- Name of a DIY boat on the Port Townsend beach

Epoxii vincit omnias (epoxy conquers all).
- A boatbuilder friend's mantra

Glued, Ply/Frame Construction

Glue holds our boats together. Glue. Glue, glue, glue.

I have to keep reminding myself!

If one is to follow GB's advice, fasteners must be sized to function as if without glue. In other words, if the glue fails, the fasteners must take over. Completely. Otherwise we just wast money.

The problem is that both glue and fasteners are spendy items. For many of us, if we invest in one, there's less available for the other.

The holding power of simple, embedded fasteners is technically a function of surface area, but practically, it's linear, and proportional to the mass of the fastener and holding strength of the woods involved. Piddly, that is.

A 'clench', rivet or bolted fastener improves the situation immensely, but only so long as the metal of the shank remains substantially intact. Over time, even noble metals deteriorate, leaving 'icicles' to shoulder the burden. More shank diameter is expensive. Over the years, one of the most expensive refits is to 'refasten' a wooden vessel... something we've seen a lot of in other's boats.

One more consideration is that fasteners, of themselves, don't make a water tight joint. They require some mastic, gasket or caulking, none of which are known to be permanent.

Anke and I put our faith in glue.

The grip of glue on wood is proportional to area, a squared function vastly superior to mere linear ones. Glue's holding power is measured in PSI (Pounds per Square Inch), and modern glues are way the heck up there. With any appreciable area, standard fasteners' holding power is quickly dwarfed (same goes for lashings, BTW, multiplying turns for total tensile strength).

Tape and glue methods are the next logical choice. Unfortunately, resins are generally the only reasonable choice, and they are expensive, messy, and toxic. In addition, fillets and fabric take high volumes of glue, compared to films.

That leads us to quick and dirty, glued ply/frame construction. Frames provide gluing faces and material integrity for joining sheets into girders.

The goal in glued ply/frame design is to maximize the glue surface area, within reason, and complicate it, if possible (I'll get back to this).

The quality of the wood frame (now only supplying gluing surface) can be much lower than structural frames (such as a deck beam, which must support weight). All it has to do is hold together... it needn't be stiff, or hang on to its fasteners. Tight knot grades with high annular ring counts (mostly to resist rot) are fine.

Let's look at the chine logs, for instance - a 2x4, say, framing the hard, inside chine.We observe the following:

  • The bottom/side connection is the highest stressed join in a box barge. We want this one to stand up to anything the sea, and some of what the shore, can throw at it.
  • The 'weakest' face is the 2x face... the 4x face has nominally twice the holding power (a bit more, in fact). We might consider whether a 2x2 would be just as strong (is more than the weakest link a waste?), with half the material. Or should it be beefed up to a 4x4? [2x2 has worked for us up to 32ft LUNA].
  • All joint rigidity is supplied by (ply) sheets joined into girder arrangements. Until this girder fails, the chine log itself is not substantially stressed. Once it's failed, the hull's come apart and the gig is up (we engineer to prevent this!).
  • Complicating the joint adds glue surface AND mechanical strength to the joint. For this reason, Anke and I favor 'doubling plates' along the lower hull sides. These complicate the joint and 'double up' side thickness as anti-puncture insurance. Side impact above the bottom would have to 'peel' the doubling plate, as well as sheer the glue before failure.
  • Fasteners do no harm and contribute mechanical strength, especially in sheer (across the join like a pair of scissors, aka shears). The copper plate helps distribute stress, as well. While we don't rely on either of these, they add a layer of security.

Section View of Bottom/Sides.
Note outboard doubler plate overlapping bottom...
... nearly doubles glue area and complicates joint from line to L.

So the role of fasteners - at least in terms of hull construction - is, for us, to provide clamping pressure until the glues set. Clamps are expensive and slow, and often very hard to arrange.

We prefer ringshank nails... they have holding power near that of screws but are much faster to drive. Because of copper plate, we use bronze to the top of the doubling plates, and stainless above. Stainless for relative economy.

(Hot Dip) Galvanized is an economical choice, but is more likely to cause problems down the line. Still, for a 'low road' boat, it's a big contender, and if it came down to a choice, I'd go galvanized and get out there!

The opening illustration shows how we size our fasteners. Everything's going into either 1x or 2x framing. Ply thicknesses vary by use.

Obviously, we don't want the fastener so long as to poke through. Reasonable bury is a good thing, but can be lower if used only for clamping/sheer support. Too much is expensive waste.

In our case, we had a choice between 1 1/2in and 1 3/4in nails for middle cases. Some were only clamping/sheer, but others could conceivably be called upon to resist pulling (acting in tension). Rather than order two varieties, we went with the longer ones.

One thing we try to do is keep the variety low. Each variety represents a chance to run short, while one fastener for several jobs means 'round-up' can be applied to the next job. Even if it costs a bit more per fastener, it tends to save in efficiency.

Glue is tougher. Manufacturers give coverage values (in square units), but whether it's applied a micron thicker or thinner makes a big difference (we're applying by eye, of course). We tend to round up quite a bit. Extra glue, if any, can usually be sold at the end of the project, or kept on for future maintenance.

Remember to count the gluing surface, not what's being joined. For example, hold up three fingers, representing three layers of ply. Count the spaces between them (two) to find the gluing surfaces, and multiply area accordingly. A bottom, say, made up of three layers would take two times the bottom surface area in glue... not one or three.

Anke and I are somewhat outside the pale, when it comes to glues. We use three kinds: 3M5200 for exterior hull joins (all around the permimeters); TiteBond III for faces wider than 2x, (non-structural) filleting, sealing, foam and bonding fabrics; Gorilla Glue for sheet lamination. This combination has worked well for us, and so far (knock on ply) we've never had a join fail.

But I've never run into ANYONE else doing something similar in cruiser-sized boats. Epoxy/polyester folks are happy with their choice, especially the tape 'n' glue crowd.

It's all good.


When using fastetners, here's a cheap trick to multiply their holding power:

Angle every pair of fasteners slightly toward or away from the other. 

This means the force required to pull one is opposed by its partner.

Make sure the join is tight before driving, as any gap will be impossible to close. Often, you can walk a quick clamp down the line as you go, one set per pair of nails.

26 March 2014

Filthy Lucre: The Rising Cost of DIY

Auntie Em! Auntie Em!
We Ante Up.

If the ante were lower, we'd play hands we shouldn't.
- Heard around Tenakee poker tables

Filthy Lucre: The Rising Cost of DIY

We have entered the dreaded and inevitable shop/buy phase of our project.


First, I guesstimated this boat to cost about $17.5K, all found. Materials, transportation, infrastructure and clean-up... the works.

But it seems that real world numbers have jumped up an average of 50% since we built SLACKTIDE in 2009. My guess is that this is post-peak everything at work, especially in terms of energy involved in procuring raw materials and manufacture and transportation. Our ACX Plywood, for example, is now coming from Chile, rather than our own forests (which have been cherry-picked below 'commercial viablility').

My guesstimate came up about $10K short! We threw up a broadly itemized 'worst case' scenario by supplier/service, for a 'ridiculously conservative' total of $27.7K. After shopping, it looks like that's our scenario.

To cover this, we've gone into debt for the first time in our lives (a very generous advance against next winter's caretaking commitment). While we're very grateful, this is a queasy feeling for us. But it allows us to fit the copper plate in good order, rather than retrofit, later.

Here's our list, to date, rounded a bit:

$1500     Container, SeattleWA to PetersburgAK
$1200     Sheepherder WoodStove from
$9500     Copper
$5000     Plywood, Foam, Underlayment (for Copper)
$2700     Red Cedar Framing, Coamings, Handrails
$2750     Home Depot and Harbor Freight - Paints, Glues, Tools, Sundries
$1200     Jamestown Distributors - Glues, Fasteners
$24350 SubTotal

We have yet to shop for Sailcloth + Rigging, Cushions/Mattress and Electrical System. Some of this will be forwarded from SLACKTIDE, and the latter two can be deferred for later. I expect another $3K?

Ooh! Aaah!! I feel the pain of pennies, wrenched from my skinflint soul.

Admittedly, the path we've chosen for our boats is an odd mix of cheap and expensive. The low road approach (ACX Plywood, Ply-Frame Construction, Nails vs. Screws) is juxtaposed with some higher end features (remote building site in far Alaska, Copper Plate, Ply/Foam/Ply Construction, Bronze and SS Fasteners, use of 3M5200 and Gorilla Glue, Wood Stove (Range with Oven), extra-heavy 2in Bottom).

Factor these out (and lower-cost alternatives in), and we'd be left with a total of around $10K (modest rigging, cushions, electrical, included). Reclaimed framing and scrounging could drop this further.

For a 32ft boat, this is still high. Especially since we count labor as free.

Why build DIY, when the market is awash with cheap, used boats?

Our answer is that:

a) Not one of the affordable boats out there are likely to let us sail where and as we do. Ultra-shoal, insulated, armored sailboats in decent shape are rare as hen's teeth, lying far away, and tend to cost a cod-wallop.

b) Retrofitting what we want as best we may - insulation, junk rig, maybe sheer-legs and metal keel-strip - along with fixing what's iffy - keel-bolts, blisters, backing plates, rig faults, etc? - takes time and treasure, and is tricky to back-fit. DIY lets it all install in good order.

c) Knowing exactly how it's built - the whats, wheres and whys - keeps maintenance manageable.

d) Most of the upfront costs are one-time expenses. They pro-rate over the lifetime of a boat that is exactly what we make of it... that fits us and our ways like a glove. In the long run, we make up an initial price difference (vs a used boat) and more.

e) There is a feeling to setting sail in your very own creation, with which no mere acquisition can compete.

Is DIY for everyone? Nope. Not even for us in some situations. If something were to happen to this one, we'll regroup, if possible, and buy used.

This one's our last, DIY home... better make it count!

20 March 2014

Virtual Boatbuilding

Puzzle Box

A goal without a plan is just a wish.
― Antoine de Saint-ExupĂ©ry

Virtual Boatbuilding

To build for real, it helps to build in your mind, first.

Working out the order of construction in your head(s) influences your choices of materials, tools and infrastructure (sheds, jigs, power supply, etc.). It streamlines and coordinates effort, promoting efficiency. It keeps the horse ahead of the cart.

Believe me, we need all the help we can get!

Here's a general order for upright construction:
  1. Set up the Worksite - Shed, workbench, building jig.
  2. Build (and assemble) the Deadflat - This makes a large, flat work surface.
  3. Build and frame the Bulkheads - We'd best know ahead-of-time how furniture will fit, down-the-road!
  4. Build and frame the Sides - Let's say, full length.
  5. Erect Bulkheads and Sides - Got an order pictured? A method??
  6. Complete the Bottom Ends - Vague, very vague... a solid plan required here.
  7. Build Furnishings, Room by Room - Line 'em up, knock 'em down.
  8. Deck the Hull - With blows and pucky, falalalalaaaa, fala, la, la.
  9. Build Superstructures - Trunk Cabins, Hatches, Tabernacles, etc..
  10. Finish - Putty 'n paint, to make 'er what she ain't.
  11. Detail Work - Handrails, Coamings, CapRails, Hardware.
  12. Launch - What's your exit strategy?
  13. Rig Aloft and Alow - Masts, Sails, Hardware aloft; Stove, Cushions, Bedding, etc., alow.
  14. Liquidate your Land Assets - Worksite, and whatever else you can part with.
  15. Sail over the Horizon - Bet we had this part in our heads from day one!

Straightforward, in many ways. The first six are those requiring the most thought. They're the big, heavy puzzle pieces that must all be made to fit together. After that, it's pretty much a down wind reach.

If short-handed, the Bottom and Sides can be built in a modular manner... this means in small, interlocking parts that can be positioned and assembled in manageable bits.

Finish can be a floating step, working as we go. 

One of our mentors would end each work day with an hour of painting. He'd mark off where he was going to be gluing one piece to the next with a heavy hand, pressing an indent line into the plywood surface. Then he'd paint outside these lines and a little bit over the line. Next day - paint dry - he'd assemble and glue, using the indents to position his work. 

By not deferring finish issues to the end, he was able to launch as soon as carpentry was complete. Taken in one go, Finish is a sizable and somewhat daunting task.

We've manage only a bit of this... it takes true organization, and a daily dedication to shop cleanliness that we have yet to achieve. But it's an option.


A clear picture in our mind(s), and at least one, workable solution in hand for each problem is strongly recommended before our first cut. 

We can wing it, here and there, especially if there's no shortage of materials available, or if we have general experience with some particular aspect. But there's a danger in this... amazing how often some unlooked-for conflict will blindside us if we haven't pictured every detail.

Visualization aids - paper and pencil, mainly - are handy. I personally like a roll of butcher paper, and a block of quarter inch graph paper. There are a lot of balls to juggle, in boatbuilding. Cheat! Consider keeping a notebook of the latest and greatest solutions. What's fresh in the moment of victory may slip away in the next round.

One thing I find... when the elegant solution comes, you know it's right. If an approach feels awkward, keep at it... think out of the box... something will occur to you.

So this is what's been keeping me up nights. Ordering and reordering in my head. Copper Plate doesn't exactly simplify things.

But it's a winning battle!

About Me

My photo
Anke and I live aboard WAYWARD, our T32x8 ketch. We sail by wind, tide and muscle in the waters of mid- to northern Southeast Alaska. We try to maximize the joys of life, and minimize the chores. ........ We live between the communities of SE Alaska, but drop in to visit with friends. Lately, we've worked, every other winter, care-taking Baranof Wilderness Lodge in Warmsprings Bay. This has given us a window on Web. ........ We're working toward a subsistence lifestyle, somewhat impeded by addictions to coffee, chocolate and cheese. ........ We think TEOTWAWKI is looming, and while we won't be ready, we'd at least like comfortable seats.