Category Archives: Repairs and Modifications

Tammy Tent Two

A couple of weeks ago I built a tent for Tammy so that I could dry her out and work on her during the winter. On Thursday 12th December the rain came and destroyed the tent, forming heavy pools in the roof that bent and broke the metal frame. This has set back my plans. Rather than working on installing insulating flotation foam, I’ve had to spend time cleaning and drying her out and building a new tent.

At first, I tried my original plan of building a curve-topped covered wagon using 40mm PVC pipe, but I could only find 2m and 3m lengths at my local B&Q and had no way of joining them that would create a continuous curve: the pipe joints available aren’t designed to take any strain.

After much head scratching I realised I could build a tent-like frame on board.

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Each side consists of five 2m pipes. One T-juction joint in the middle supports a ridge, which is made of two sets of pipes. Because I’ve used only 90 degree angles, the soft and flexible pipes are well supported. Finally, the whole thing is stiffened up with triangulating lashings.

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The key difference this time is that the top of the tent has a steeply pitched angle. This should make it impossible for water to pool in the tarpaulin and pull the tent down.

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Here she is with the tarpaulin over the frame.

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The tarp is mostly held down against wind by some heavy nylon ropes. The skirts are rolled up and tucked onto the trailer to allow some air flow and help with drying.

The frame is held together and to the boat with traditional duct tape.

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Heavy rain is forecast for the rest of the week, so this will get a thorough test!

Meanwhile, I did something seasonal!

There are plenty more pictures, with details in their descriptions, over at the Flickr album “Tammy Norie winter tent”.

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Filed under Equipment, Unsinkability

Yesterday, it rained

…and ruined many things.

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Filed under Equipment, Unsinkability

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

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

Sealing the forward window

Tammy Norie’s forward window had a slow leak from when I first sailed her in 2014. It wasn’t very significant, but in the winter of 2017 it managed to rot a couple of books, even though they were in plastic bags. I did two things:

  • Moved the books into waterproof bags
  • Dismantled and re-sealed the window

I’ve been somewhat afraid of dismantling Tammy Norie’s windows in case I couldn’t get them back together without unobtainable parts. As it happens I did have to make modifications. This post should help others with similar windows.

Firstly, I chose a dry day with many more dry days forecast. Then I cautiously loosened the screws around the window frame. At this point, I had no idea what kind of screws they were or what they were screwed in to.

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About half the screws didn’t really seem to be attached, and were probably held in by old sealant and dirt as much as anything. Worse, they were self-tapping screws, not bolts. What were they supposed to bite against?

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Once they were undone I carefully pried the window away from the cabin top using a scraper, breaking what remained of the outer seal.

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With the window removed I could see the old sealant tape, which was in quite poor condition.

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Grains of old salt or possibly aluminium compounds had built up behind the window seal.

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The dried-up sealant was easy and satisfying to remove with a scraper.

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The rubber seal around the window glass (actually a sheet of curved acrylic) was also easy to remove.  It was in good condition, in spite of its age, and only needed a bit of a clean with washing-up liquid.

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The next task was to figure out how to get the glass out of the window frame so that I could renew its seal. I could see that the window frame was in two halves, but didn’t know how it was joined together. At the ends of the window were some very coroded screws, which refused to turn without severe damage.

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In the end, I was only able to get one of these screws out without destroying it.

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Pulling apart the halves of the window frame revealed a metal block that holds the halves together, serving as a nut for the corroded screws. If absolutely necessary, the screws could be drilled out and this block replaced.

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Now the frame was being held together by another strip of sealant around the window glass. I was able to separate the glass from the frame using a soft plastic scraper.

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Then at last I was able to get the glass out of the frame.  In this picture you can see the old sealant tape on the inner side of the frame where the glass was attached.

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After cleaning out this dried-up sealant, I inserted two replacement beads of butyl tape in its place — one on each side of the glass.

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Then I was able to squeeze the window glass back into the frame. There’s plenty of time to do this, since butyl tape does not set. Any excess is easy to gather up for re-use.

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Now, on to the mystery of the self-tapping screws that were failing to hold the window to the boat. Fortunately, they weren’t screwed in to the fibreglass. Less fortunately, they were screwed into a thin layer of aluminium on the inner window frame! Very poor engineering. What’s more, the areas around the screw holes on the inner window frame were severely coroded. No wonder half of the screws weren’t doing anything.

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Still, I didn’t really want to modify the frames, so I attempted to repair the screw holes with Milliput epoxy putty. This was a bit of an experiment, since I hadn’t used Milliput before.

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When the putty had cured, I attempted to mount the frame, first laying a bead of butyl tape around the hole. I gradually tightened up the screws, giving the butyl tape a chance to spread.

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But the screws soon started rotating without biting properly. The putty wasn’t strong enough for this job. Back off with the window and on to plan B. Fortunately, butyl tape is forgiving, and you can gather it up and re-use it.

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Plan B was to replace the awful self-tapping screws with 4mm machine screws, passing right through the inner frame to proper nuts. This unfortunately meant drilling holes right through, and that nuts would be visible inside, but it allowed the frame to be tightened properly. It also means the window is properly attached to the boat!

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(I later bought stainless-steel dome nuts so that the ends of all these screws are covered up. This looks very nice, and also reduces the chance of any injury. I must take a picture of this and insert it here.)

An important detail that I learned by trial-and-error. Do not turn the machine screws in order to tighten them. This tends to make the screws pull away from the butyl sealant, making them leak. Instead, add an extra blob of butyl tape to both side of each hole, then slowly push the screws through. Then tighten up the nut. After this, none of the screws leaked.

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Here’s how the window looked after tightening up the screws, but before I’d cleaned up the excess butyl. A little more squeezed out over the next few months, but was easy to tidy up using a plastic scraper.

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Now, did you spot the “deliberate” mistake? At this point, my windows were still leaking slightly. I was rather frustrated. But by careful observation I was able to work out what I’d done wrong. I didn’t put extra butyl behind the joins in the outer window frame. This mean there was a path for the water from outside to get around the window glass. Here’s a close-up of one of the joins.

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Fortunately, I was able to fix this without dismantling anything. I simply pressed a generous amount of butyl tape slowly through the crack with my fingers.

I tested the window simply by pouring and throwing buckets of water around. But it had a much more thorough test through the winter of 2018/2019. I’m pleased to report that there is no evidence of any leaks.

I’m pleased with this work for three reasons:

  1. I stopped the leak.
  2. I now know how the windows are constructed and can service the others.
  3. The window is now firmly attached to the boat!

That last one is reason enough to service all the windows, so that’s going on the to-do list.

(You can also browse the photos in this album on Flickr.)

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Filed under Repairs and Modifications, windows