25 January 2010

DInghy Build (Part dos)

Okay, here we go: the pictures...
Step two thousand, four hundred and ninety seven: Sea trials. Only one thing left to do. Drop it in the water and see if it floats! Luckily, our first sea trials were not only successful from the floating aspect, but we even managed to stay dry! Up and down the canals, one person or two, we tested that Acrux does exactly what she was intended to do. Float, row, and transport us across the anchorage.

And last but not least, here she is resting on her preferred transport spot. Most of the time on the ICW we'll simply tow her behind, ready for quick deployment once we're at our anchorage for the night. But for crossing larger bodies of water, or just for extra security, this is where she'll rest.

Dinghy Build

So, as broke college kids, we'll be spending a lot of time at anchor, instead of marinas. As such, we need a method of getting to shore and back with groceries, water, etc. As the inflatable canoe was deemed unacceptable for such matters, we needed a dinghy.

We had two options. Buy or build. After looking at various inflatables and hard dinghies, I decided they did not meet several of my major requirements; inexpensive,
lightweight, and low maintenance. The inflatables had a high initial purchase, questionable durability, and the added hassle of having to inflate it every time we wanted to use it. The hard dinghies were simply too expensive, not to mention the lightest one I found was almost 100 pounds. Just too heavy for Darcy and I to hoist over the side to lash it on deck. So, we build...

Acrux (or Alpha Crux, or Alpha Crucis, depending on who you ask) is a plywood dinghy of stitch and glue construction. This means she's simple plywood panels that are stitched together with wire ties during the initial construction, then later held structurally with epoxy resin. She's modeled after the D4 plans offered free from www.bateau.com, with some slight modifications. Anyway, here's the process of building a dinghy.

The first step: lofting. Here, we take two measurements from different sides, at a 90 degree angle to each other. At the intersection, you place a dot. After you have an entire panel lofted, to simply connect the dots, and cut the panels out.
The second step: cutting out the panels, and drilling for stitches. This part is fairly straight forward. Cut along the lines you just drew in the lofting phase, then drill a hole every 6 inches on the sides being joined for your wire ties. Here we can see the frames and side panels ready for assembly and stitching.
The third step: stitching it all together. Yet another relatively easy part. Simply align the panels and frame, match up the holes you just drilled, and wire tie them together. Her we have the bow and stern transoms in place, along with the center seat frame to give the boat some shape:
And here she's been flipped and the bottom panels stitched on:
Now, on to making it a functional boat: laying epoxy fillets in the seams. This step provides part of the structural strength to the boat. Mix resin, hardener, and filler (in this case cabosil), and push it into all the internal seams. After this hardens, you can remove the stitching, and sand the outside smooth. Once that happens, you can lay out fiberglass tapes on the outside surfaces. These tapes hold resin against the wood, giving the joint its strength. If done properly, these joints are actually stronger than the wood itself. Sorry, no pics for these steps. I was in the process of moving the dinghy from my bedroom in New Bern to Moyock. And yes, up until this point, all construction took place in my bedroom in New Bern. Don't tell the landlord.

Step number five or six: taping the inside. Again, fiberglass tapes are used over the fillets to give the joints strength. After that, the entire thing is coated in resin to seal it. We opted to cover the entire bottom in fiberglass cloth, just for an added measure of strength, and to add some durability for dragging over beaches and the like.
Steps twenty and twenty-seven: Finishing touches. Now that the structural parts are done, we have to 'glass and laminate the finishing touches. Rubrails, skeg, all that sort of stuff goes on.This process took several days. a lot of things needed epoxy laid on, then sanded down, more epoxy, then sanded. A whole boatload of fun...

Step one hundred forty seven: Flotation. We opted to fill all three seat compartments with chopped polystyrene (read as: old electronic and appliance packaging) for emergency flotation. You could break this dinghy in half now and she'd still float.
And now, the big finale: PAINT. And lots of it, at that. Green, black, and blue. And fluorescent pink. Because who doesn't want a fluorescent pink boat? I lay no claim to the beautiful paint job seen in the following pictures. Caleb and Darcy cut out some stencils, and after the paint was purchased, I left the garage, Darcy, and Acrux to their fate. To be continued... (I think I've exceeded the size for a post.)


23 January 2010

Stuck in the Mud

I've been in Carolina for three weeks now, and we've only been floating for a few days.  At the beginning of the week we had plenty of water, but yesterday it seemed the water rushed out in the space of a few minutes while we were working on the boat in the morning.  It actually took a little longer than that, but I didn't notice anything wrong when I stepped onto the boat, but later we were almost sideways (15 degrees feels like sideways when you're trying to walk straight!).

At any rate, we're going nowhere soon.  It's the location of the boat - a north wind drives out all the water, while a south wind brings it all back.  It surprisingly has nothing to do with the tides.  Well, it surprised me.  Despite that, we're hoping to get out of here around Tuesday (26 January).

But, in the meantime, the job list is endless.  Here are some of the fun things I've been working on:

Dehydrating food.  Kyle's parents have a dehydrator, and after they made some jerky, Kyle and I went to Sam's Club and bought a metric crapload of fruit.  Not-so-obvious in the photo are blueberries, apples, kiwis and bananas.  I'm not a huge fan of dehydrated fruit except in granola; I'm not really sure what Kyle's plan for eating it is.

Sewing.  Specifically, curtains for each of the ports, and hemming a large sheet to give the front berth a little privacy.  The port curtains in the salon match the settee cushions, but that fabric is fairly light and so I wanted something a little darker for the head and the v-berth.  For the non-nautical, the curtains for the little windows in the living area match the couch cushions, but I wanted something darker for the mini-bathroom and the bed in the front of the boat (shaped like a triangle, hence the 'v' in v-berth).  Since they're so small, we decided that it would be more economic to roll them up rather than bunch them to one side like normal curtains.

My favorite: gardening!  I've started an herb garden right now...well, let me tell you the story.  For Christmas, Kyle's dad and step-mom bought us a herb starter set.  Kyle planted these, but they were poorly maintained so when I arrived I took over.  The parsleys were looking marvelous, but the rest were pretty dismal.  I have been replanting and expanding and caring for the plants like they were my children.  However, I unfortunately decided to put them outside on one of the "warm" days.  It truly was warmer than usual, but after a string of freezing days, it doesn't take much to seem warm.  Well, all but one parsley perished.  Also, the tarragon didn't fare so well after that either.  Ah, garden woes.  The good news is, the cilantro are raging, the basil (clear cup) have sprouted with an unforeseen fury, and I'm still waiting for the chives to make their reappearance.  Oh, and I've given up on the cumin (blue cup) seeing as the seeds I planted were meant to be eaten rather than planted.  Also, the mint is doing no better nor any worse than it has been doing for the last three months (not pictured).
Now, if you're thinking logically, your next question ought to be how we could possibly cultivate plants on a boat?  And after we're underway and I've actually done some gardening, I'll make a post completely about boat gardening (by that time we'll have planted some vegetables as well, I'm sure).  Or I'll do a guest post on my mother's blog, Cadillacgarden.  But in the meantime, Kyle has granted me the use of some power tools and I only cut myself once, and never did I saw off a limb.  The result?  Voila!  A tiny greenhouse.  Not the best construction you've ever seen, but it was my first time cutting plexiglass and plastic tote, though not my first time using a drill press.  Still, I'm quite proud of it.

It's not currently in use yet because I want to baby the plants inside for as long as I can.  It hasn't gotten below freezing lately but herbs are pretty finicky.

So, I hope this is a sufficient post for all you whiners out there (Caleb and Kenny...).  Joking!  Love you all :)

Oh, and here's some extra photos just because I take pictures of EVERYTHING (and yes, Mom, I've been taking pictures whenever I make food here too).
Here's our going away present from Kristy (champagne and two plastic flutes).  Oh, also Howie and Rita got us a lovely Cabernet Sauvignon, some Dramamine, and some Aleve - our emergency kit.

And here's the mud I have to walk through any time I want to go between the house and the boat.  The backyard has become a swamp; I never wear shoes through there anymore.  Only swamp boots.
I'm trying to talk Kyle into a post regarding the dinghy building.  Since he let me paint it, it's really quite...distinguished.  Definitely one-of-a-kind.
Alright, that's all for now.

Edit:  Oh, and in other random news, tomorrow is my birthday.

14 January 2010

Random happenings...

So for my first post, I figured I’d try and round up some of the random things and to-dos that have occupied our time for the last few weeks.

Rigging inspection. One of the most critical systems on a sailboat is the rigging. A failure here means a loss of our primary propulsion, or worse. So, a thorough inspection was in order. In addition, a spreader light fixture (shines down on the deck) was in need of replacement. Tools gathered, checklist in hand, and crack safety crew assembled, up the mast I went. Head plumbing. Something no one ever really wants to talk about. The plumbing in our boat was old, hoses cracking, things growing where they ought not to. Obviously, this was in serious need of some work. So instead of trying to repair and replace it piecemeal, I pulled the entire mess out. Some parts were sterilized and reused, others were simply replaced. In any case, below is the end result: Wiring. Yet another vital system, we rely on our electrical system for many crucial needs. It runs our bilge pumps, starts our engine, provides lighting, powers our navigation instruments, and so many other things. While the boat's wiring system did not seem insufficient, it was deemed wise to go through it all and ensure everything was in proper working order. Most was just inspected, cleaned, and new terminals installed where they appeared sketchy, but a few modifications were made.This switch was added to enable us to start our engine off any of our five batteries we choose. In combination with two 3-way switches, one for each bank, we can start the engine and run critical systems off any single battery, or any combination of the five available. Also, one battery was selected to be used solely for starting the engine. The only thing that can draw energy from it is the starter, and it can be charged by any or all of the three charging systems available: engine alternator, shore power, or solar energy. This ensures we will always be able to start our engine, even if we completely drain our house batteries.

In the area of solar energy, Southern Cross' batteries are maintained by solar power. Two 34 watt flexible photovoltaic solar panels are used to keep the batteries topped up when not running the engine or plugged into shore power
. Unfortunately, the solar panels were inherited in less than optimal condition.Luckily, Darcy was up to finishing the task I set about three months ago: sewing the panels back together. Pushing a needle through two layers of thick vinyl, an eight inch of dense foam, then hitting the holes from previous stitching in the plastic layer is no easy task, as I'm sure she'll tell you...

Settee cushions. Okay, so this isn't a vital system in desperate need of repair, but it has bothered me since I purchased the boat. Also, I have never used a sewing machine, so I figured this was as good a time as any to learn. The old cushions were covered in some rough green fabric along the lines of that indoor/outdoor carpeting you see being used as doormats. It was beginning to split at the seams and let foam escape, in addition to holding dust so well when you set something on it a small puff of fine particles would float away. So, I had to fix it.
Shown above are the new cushion covers (left) compared to the old ones (right). A simple draw cord was installed on the hidden end, so they can be removed and washed when necessary. This dramatically cut the dust problem, and no more foam bits scattered around the cabin! They also lighten up the cabin, making it seem more spacious.

Okay, that's enough for now, we'll do another post about more random tasks later...

07 January 2010

Waxing Cheese

Power is a crucial element of live-aboard boating - even sailboating. Particularly for the IntraCoastal Waterway (ICW), where we will be relying on the diesel engine rather than the sails for the majority of our travels. And, being two poor college kids, we're trying to avoid expensive marinas and just drop anchor in secluded inlets.

This poses some extra problems - we rely on batteries for all of our power, which can be recharged by running the diesel. However, when we're not connected to shore power (ie when we're not at a marina), we need to be very conservative with our power. This means NO REFRIGERATION.

Wait. No fridge? But then how will we handle meat, or milk, or eggs, or leftovers, or...? Well, yeah. That's kind of a problem. I suppose we could just go vegetarian for a while, but I actually have an emotional attachment to cheese. I consider it my main food group. And while fresh fish is only a fishing pole away, I do enjoy some good venison (having been raised on venison, I can no longer enjoy beef. I can almost hear the "Gasp!" from all the steak-lovers, but I'd take venison chops over a New York strip any day).

So, in order to cater to my love for cheese, I had a problem to solve. Question #1: Does cheese need to be refrigerated? Some quick internet research tells me both yes and no, but being an optimist, I choose to believe those that say 'no.' Question #2: What needs to be done to keep cheese from going bad outside the cool climes of the fridge? Cheese has been around for much longer than refrigeration. This question actually led me to consider making my own cheese, but it didn't seem worth the effort. Anyway, the answer to the question is an integral part of the old fashioned cheese making procedure: sealing the cheese in wax.

My foremost barriers to waxing cheese were the availability of cheese wax. Cheese wax is less brittle than paraffin. In fact, even at room temperature it was slightly pliable. This means it is less prone to cracking, thusly ensuring your sealed wax is fairly safe through a few tumbles. My aunt, who makes her own cheese, recommended I visit her favorite home brew store for some cheese wax. She and I both make wine, and apparently making cheese is closely related to making wine. Second, the site I trusted most as a guide (Cheese Wax Will Save Us All - clearly these people understand my relationship with cheese) referred to a "boar's hair brush." I never actually acquired one of these brushes, but did okay with a substitute brush. Third, I needed a double boiler for the wax. Mom wouldn't let me destroy any of her pots, so I used a clean tin can in a pot of water. Also, I highly recommend gloves. My guide said use them for sanitation, I think my biggest benefit from using them was that I kept dipping my hands in the wax, too.

So, having assembled my equipment (and cheese, of course), I began devising my own directions. The Cheese Wax guide said I should hold each dipped bit of cheese in the air for 90 seconds. Well, that might work if you're waxing a large wheel or block, but I was waxing a pile of portion-sized blocks. Dip half, wait 90 seconds. Dip the other half, wait 90 seconds. 90 seconds times 2 halves times 3 coats times 20-30 blocks of cheese equals a whole lot of time I don't have.

So, instead, I assembled a doable line of cheese. I waxed half, then set it on wax paper to dry. Then I moved on to the next block of cheese. After having done half of each block, I then did the other half. For the second and third coats, I rotated the cheese blocks so that the seams were in a different direction each time (a seam being where Half 1 meets Half 2 of the first coat). So there were three dipped coats of wax, and then the instructions said to apply a fourth coat with the brush. That fourth coat is where things went a little awry, I suppose.

My sources said to keep the wax around 200 degrees F, which I couldn't really measure, but the pot of water was kept to around 200.

Of course, I encountered some problems. Mainly, there was an occasional bubble where the wax didn't stick to the cheese. It usually stuck the second or third coat, so I didn't worry about it too much because there was still a seal, but we'll see how it turns out later. Also, wax occasionally dripped into the pot (Mom, don't read this). Make sure to lay out newspapers everywhere!

The brush I used for the fourth coat was not extremely pliable, and so the last coat was full of serrations - not very smooth at all. Possibly too thick. But there were no boar's hair brushes available at the place where I bought my cheese wax and I didn't want to wait to order one online, so I knew I was working with substandard equipment for that fourth coat. Even so, I think the cheeses still turned out alright. I'll find out for sure once we're under way and crack one open! The best part about cheese wax is that it peels right off the cheese, and then can be melted and reused! Most internet sites say to melt it then strain it through cheese cloth or similar, but in a pinch, any little cheese bits float to the top and are pretty easy to scoop off. Oh, and finally, I tried to wax some cheese with bits of jalapeno in it, but it was pretty oily and the wax didn't stick too well. Also, when I finally gave up on that and tried to peel the wax off, it was full of jalapeno bits and not really usable.

Behold, my cheese supply! I believe I waxed around 5 lbs with 1 lb of cheese wax, but since I was using small blocks of cheese, there was a lot of surface area. Using larger blocks, one pound of wax will go a long way.