A tent for Tammy

I have big plans for this winter, and they all involve Tammy Norie being dry:

  • I need her interior dry to add closed-cell foam for insulation and unsinkability.
  • I need her hull dry by spring to add an osmosis-prevention barrier coat.
  • I need her deck to stay dry so that I can remove all the fittings and protect the deck core.

I’d also quite like to stay dry myself. So I’ve built a tent for Tammy.

My original idea was to build something like a covered wagon using the trailer, bending long hoops of something around the boat and then covering with a large tarpaulin.

But it turns out Dad had a garden party gazebo in the shed. We pulled it out and had a look.  At first, things were not hopeful. The gazebo frame was only just above head height.

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The next day I realized that I could use sections from the six gazebo legs to make longer legs raised the top of the frame above the boat. I used spare roof rods inside spare leg rods to keep things together.  Wobby, but tall enough.

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Dad and I assembled the roof frame and the other legs and managed to walk (literally) it over Tammy Norie.  Then I lashed it to Tammy using mooring ropes to keep it together and in place.

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I huge 10m×10m tarpaulin from eBay was enough to cover everything, at a cost of £60.

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I tied up the ends of the tarpaulin with a sinnet knot, and used bungies to attach the edges to the trailer.

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Here’s the view from inside looking forward. Very snug!

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A little later I used some more of the gazebo poles to make more room above the cockpit.

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A week later heavy rain had pooled in the tarpaulin, threatening to tear its seems. After a few experiments, I found that the dinghy paddles were good at keeping enough of a slope in the roof to prevent this happening.

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After a couple of weeks there was about a litre of water condensed on the inside of the ceiling, presumably evaporated from the boat. I sponged this away, and lifted the skirts around Tammy to encourage airflow.

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So far so good! Working in the boat is quite pleasant, even in the British winter. Water and cold wind is kept out, and the tarpaulin creates a diffuse light that makes things seem quite bright.  I was able to do jobs between about 08:00 and 15:00 in late November.  Not bad!

P.S. If I were making a covered-wagon style tent I’d probably use PVC pipe for the hoops.  Here’s an entertaining video about bending the stuff.

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Filed under Equipment, Unsinkability

Mast screw mystery solved

When I built a new mast step in 2017 I removed the original mast bracket screws, only to discover that they weren’t wood screws at all, but machine screws:

I took a good look down through the holes in the wood and noticed two things. Firstly, the wooden block holding the mast step did not extend all the way down to the bilge as I had expected. There was some sort of void beneath it. Second, there may have been some metal on the other side. Perhaps there was a tapped plate or some captured nuts on the other side. It was very hard to see.

I have solved both mysteries in quite a simple way — by looking in to the bilge with my camera.

Here’s a view forward along the main bilge from the hatch just below the companionway.  You can’t get your eye down here, but my camera was able, and with a bit of fiddling with the settings and flash I was able to get a reasonably clear picture.

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I noticed the strange objects in the distance.  The brown one isn’t that strange: it’s a leaf. But the metalic thing? I managed somehow to get my camera to zoom right in and get a steady-enough shot to reveal it.

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It’s a metal backing plate!  This is no doubt what the machine screw connected to from above.  I expect the reason it is hanging off is that I had to remove the machine screws using an impact driver.  So on the one hand, Newbridge’s engineering wasn’t all bad — they weren’t relying on a machine screw to hold in wood — but it’s pretty bad because there’s absolutely no way for me to get to that plate.

What this also shows is that the mast step block is not resting on the bottom of the boat.  Here’s a picture of it from above, taken through a locker lid.

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Theoretically, I could get this out.  I’d have to cut carefully through the fibreglass tabbing then manoeuvre it out of the triangular locker forward of the mast. My moister meter shows parts of it as being saturated, and this may become necessary at some point. At least now I know what’s going on down there.

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Bouncy battery box

When I bought Tammy Norie in 2013 she had no battery. There was a wooden frame for a motorbike-sized battery in the cockpit locker.

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I really wanted a larger battery — at least 70Ah — and Dad and I first put it here, in the engine locker.

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It didn’t take much sailing to reveal what a bad idea this was. The engine locker is wet, and in heavy weather I noticed how much salt water was splashing around.  I particularly remember accidentally pouring water that had accumulated in the locker lid on to the battery during my first time out in rough water (see Against the Weather). It wasn’t long after that I realized there was a very snug location for the battery inside the boat: under the cockpit.

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It didn’t take long to fix this up, and Tammy’s battery has been snug and dry every since. However, if you study this photo you’ll see that things are definitely not ideal, especially if Tammy were knocked down or rolled over.

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The battery box, although snug, was essentially just sitting in the locker, on a slight slope, held in place by a block resting on the cockpit drain seacocks. It became one of those things that you must sort out “later”. I’m ashamed to say I’ve only really fixed the problem this year!

What mostly held me back was the idea that I’d need to build some sort of enclosing frame for the battery. For example, here’s the battery mounting (again, in the cockpit locker) from Sinobee:

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Chris Boxer’s Emmelène also has a fine battery frame below the companionway. I’m sure I’ve taken photographs of it too, and will link them here if I find them! The thought of wood- and glasswork in the small space beneath the cockpit definitely held me back.

Over time I’ve become more and more interested in solving problems with “soft” solutions: more lashings and ropes and less rigid stuff. I realized earlier this year that I could just lash the battery in place. So I went to the chandler and bought a couple of small dinghy cleats, and and a length of shock cord and made this:

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And yes, the battery is standing on rubber doorstops. I happened to have a few of these because I hoped that they might work as mast wedges, but unfortunately they’re much too weedy and hollow. I was very pleased to find a use for them.

This isn’t the end of the story though.

Firstly, for the curious, here’s what else goes in the volume under the cockpit in Tammy Norie. Forward of the battery go parts and spares. These live in watertight containers that I’ve (mostly) labelled clearly using masking tape and a big marker pen. It helps me find them in tricky circumstances. With this “system” you can swiftly yank out one box and the others tend to fall down surprisingly tidily.

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Forward of the parts and spares go the tools, in water-resistant bags. Tammy Norie is a floating workshop and I have a lot of tools. One day I’ll write a very long and boring post about them all.

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And then finally, forward of the tools goes the removable door with the companionway step.

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Now, as part of the unsinkability plan I’m lining the boat with closed-cell foam. Here’s a sample 1m×1m×30mm of foam that I ordered from Lux Distribution.

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It was quite a simple matter to mount the battery in a foam compartment. Here’s the place before I started.

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I have to say at this point that these pictures look bright because my camera has an efficient flash. In reality, the area under the cockpit has no light, and most of this work was done with a head torch. Also, this space is 30cm wide and 25cm tall!  I have to get to it by shuffling forwards on my belly like a worm, with my arms above my head like Superman. There isn’t enough space to bend your arms once you’re in!

Anyway, the job was remarkably easy. Having measured the areas, I laid them out on the paper backing of the foam and cut it with scissors.  I cut a bit out of the aft foam for the bilge pump pipe (like Superman, remember). I did not, at this stage, peel off the backing and stick the foam to the boat, and I may never do so for this job: the foam isn’t going anywhere and I want to get to the bulkhead for inspection and maintenance.

Here’s how it turned out.

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It was then a simple matter to put the battery in the foam. I say simple, but in fact it involves wiggling into the area like a worm, arms forward like Superman, while lifting a 20kg block of lead and acid over the seacocks. And then you discover that the nice slippery plastic surface of the battery actually has very high friction with the foam, and you have to shoehorn it into place using an HDPE chopping board.

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Once that was done I could withdraw the board and tidy things up. Here’s the battery finally in place and reconnected.

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This is a very “soft” solution.  The battery wobbles like a stiff jelly if you poke it. It’s being hugged in a gentle but firm manner by the foam and the shock cord.  I’m very confident that it will stay put and working even if the sea picks up Tammy and gives her a good shake!

This was also a great opportunity to experiment with the foam. This foam is going to make up the bulk of the floatation I’m planning for unsinkability. I’m hoping to get most of that done this winter. Watch this space!

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Filed under battery, Repairs and Modifications

Project documents and unsinkability

This is a bit of an unusual blog post. It’s here to direct you to another place: the Tammy Norie Project Documents repository.  That’s where I’ve been developing some of the more complicated engineering projects, including this winter’s big ones:

Now, you might find these documents a bit inaccessible. They aren’t really intended as light or entertaining reading. They are engineering plans that I am using to get this work done.  I’m keeping them updated as I get along with the projects. But if you dig a little you’ll find journals within the documents that record what I’m doing day to day, and will eventually be edited in to blog posts.

I decided to publish them so that other people could benefit from seeing the projects develop, and how I approach these kinds of engineering problems. I’m also hoping that interested folks might have suggestions or spot mistakes before I make them!

The documents are stored in the Git version control system on GitHub, so you can see every change I’ve made to the documents. Become a GitHub user and you can leave comments on any part of any document or any change. You’re very welcome to do so.

Lastly, this is not a replacement for the blog. I intend to write articles here on the blog with summaries of things that I’ve done, and these will be a lot more digestible.  But if you’re really interested in details do dig in.

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Filed under Plans, Unsinkability

Maintaining the Hebridean

Last summer I noticed a few problems with my Hebridean self-steering gear. This post is a (belated) log of the things I did to fix it up, and may be of interest to other Hebridean owners.

The first problem I noticed was that the Hebridean’s trunk could collide with the fairleads I put in the mount to allow the steering lines to cross over (described in this video). This is a simple error of planning on my part, but at some point there’d clearly been enough force on the pendulum to split the mount.

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This problem will go away when I turn the mounting blocks upside-down (described below) but in the meantime it’s a fairly simple job to glue the mount back together. I also have quite a bit of spare oak planking from the Hebridean construction that I can use to replace it if necessary.

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You can’t have too many clamps!

The mount itself has developed a distinct curve. I’m not sure what’s caused this. There may have been a collision with my boat when I wasn’t around, or there may be some systematic pressure on one direction.

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The curve has affected the mounting bolts too.

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I haven’t done anything to fix this curve yet.  It doesn’t affect operation.

A much more serious problem is that the carbon push rod that connects the wind vane to the pendulum had split at both ends and come unglued from the plugs that attach it to the rest of the linkage.

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This is much less likely to be a problem with the later versions of the Hebridean, as John Fleming is now using cross-woven carbon tubes and supplies ferrules for the ends of the rods, as seen in this photograph of Emmelène’s mark 2 Hebridean.

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I fixed this using epoxy to re-attach the tubes, and then adding a whipping to keep the tube ends together.

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I noticed that the top of the push rod was colliding with the turret tube at the extremes of movement, and this may have contributed to the splitting. This was easily fixed with a few washers, but it does show that it pays to watch all the parts of your self-steering gear as it operates.

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A much less serious problem is the mascot. I bought a “pen topper” in the form of an RNLI lifeboatman’s head from an RNLI shop, and he’s been sitting on the end of the vane’s connecting rod for some years. For some reason, local birds have decided to eat his face!

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Unfortunately, this item isn’t in the RNLI shop any more, so I’m on the look out for a new mascot.

Here’s a problem I have not yet fixed. The weight of the Hebridean rests on a pin that keeps it floating on the blocks that are clamped by the mount. This forms a bearing that wears at the pin when the Hebridean is steering. A few months of use and the pin looks like this:

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Emmelène‘s Hebridean has a two-part solution for this. Firstly, he has a HDPE washer between the pin and the blocks. (HDPE is what plastic milk cartons and chopping boards are made of.) This more or less eliminates the wear. But an extra clever thing is that his blocks are mounted upside-down from Tammy’s, so that the top edge protrudes from the mount, making room for the washer. Here’s Tammy Norie’s mount (during fitting).

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And here’s Emmelène’s mount.

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Simple and effective. I’ll be copying this arrangement on Tammy. It will also eliminate the collision between the Hebridean’s trunk and the fairleads that caused the mount to split.

I hope this is of interest, at least to other Hebridean owners. I welcome comments!

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Filed under Repairs and Modifications, self steering

Across the Channel! Portsmouth to North Holland, Summer 2019

It was a real pleasure to act as a pilot for Emmelène from Portsmouth to Lauwersoog in the north east Netherlands this summer. Chris was very accommodating and understanding of my disability — you’ll see plenty of references to me sleeping.

Emmelène performed admirably and her split junk rig sail was a joy to handle in the conditions.

Here’s his account.

Emmelène Voyages

262. Across the Channel! - summer 2019 title shot

Summary: In 2019, Emmelène had an excellent summer cruise from Portsmouth to Northern Holland, sailing approximately 400 nautical miles, or 735 km, in thirteen days, including two days of stops.  The boat sailed perfectly throughout, helmed, for much of the time, by “Edna,” the Hebridean windvane.

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“Sailing yacht Emmelène, you may leave from the east harbour entrance,” crackled the voice from Dover port control.  The little Honda outboard pushed us past the car ferries that were manoeuvring into their berths.  Emmelène nosed through the harbour mouth, which looks quite different from the cockpit of a 20’ Coromandel than it does from the towering deck of a ferry; and we were gone.  Above us, the white cliffs of Dover; in our wake, the line of ships stretched south, across the English Channel.  We had already been cruising for several days, but it felt as if the voyage was beginning for real.

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To the Netherlands aboard Emmelène

I plan to sail to the Netherlands again this summer.

Last summer I enjoyed some relaxed sailing around the Solent in tandem with Chris Boxer aboard Emmelène, his split-rigged Coromandel. My health was (and still is) very limited by Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, and I spent what little energy I had on sailing rather than recording all my adventures and blogging. Sorry about that!

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Chris explained that he’d very much like to sail Emmelène to the Netherlands, as I did in 2015, and asked if I’d be able to sail in tandem with Tammy Norie. I had to decline: I have to spend an average of 16 hours per day asleep, keeping me from making solo voyages. However, I felt I could go along with Chris aboard Emmelène as mate, to keep an eye on him and help him with any trouble. And so we hatched a plan.

Unfortunately, the summer of 2018 was almost windless.

But we’ve revived the plan for this year. If there’s any wind at all, we’ll be sailing from the Solent to the Netherlands between 2019-07-15 and 2019-07-28. Our goal is to deliver Emmelène to Lauwersoog, home of Marco and his Wharram catermaran Stern with whom I sailed on my last trip. Emmelène will stay there until next year, when perhaps Chris will take her in to the Baltic.

Maybe by then I’ll be able to catch her up in Tammy Norie, or set off in an entirely different direction. We’ll have to wait and see.

I’m hoping to visit a number of old friends along the way. Let us know if you’d like to meet up!

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