Category Archives: Repairs and Modifications

A nasty hack on the shin

In the summer of 2015, while departing for the Netherlands, I hit the concrete footing outside Fort Blockhouse in the entrance to Portsmouth Harbour. There’s no excuse for it — I was cutting a corner inside the channel marker, confusing it with the next one out.

This Google Maps image shows the footing quite clearly, but not the channel marker. In reality, this concrete is hidden under water, but you can see how nasty it is.

It was a big knock for Tammy, but I didn’t get to see the damage until I hauled her out in early 2016.

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Oh dear. That’s the forward edge of the starbard keel, about half-way down.

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And that’s a bit further up on the inside.

I ground away the damaged fibreglass. The hole went right through the skin, revealing a black wet fibrous substance behind. I’m still not exactly sure what it is, but I suspect it is some kind of resin encapsulating the keel ballast.

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The material stayed wet, so I decided to investigate by digging a small hole into it.

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The hole wept a black fluid, which kept flowing for two days, gradually slowing down. Once it stopped flowing, I stuffed tissue paper into the hole to encourage the moisture to wick out of the material, and eventually it dried up.

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What was left was slightly fibrous and crystalline.

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I decided not to worry about it any further at the moment. The next time Tammy is ashore for the winter, I may drill holes into the bottoms of the keels to drain them and then re-seal them in the spring, possibly with some kind of shoes attached. The undersides of the keels are looking worn, as you can see in this picture taken while she was on a crane later that year.

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Here are both the holes, cleaned up and dry. Some of the fibreglass along the forward seam was looking a bit dodgy, so I decide to patch that as well while I was working. You can see where I’ve cut a groove between the holes.

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With that done, I started to lay up glass to repair the hull. As I’ve seen recommended in several videos, I laid down a large patch first, then added smaller patches until I’d built up a repair.

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I then ground away the excess to restore the keel shape.

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With hindsight I could’ve added another layer of glass.

Finally, I applied clear gelcoat, then sanded the result smooth. I somehow forgot to take a picture of the smooth result!

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You might wonder why I chose to use clear gelcoat. Well, these repairs are below the waterline, and will be covered by antifouling, and I didn’t see any cosmetic reason to hide them. I’d rather be able to see clearly where my repairs are and perhaps see into the top layers of layup for problems. I also have no motivation to hide my mistakes and repairs, as you can tell by this blog!

This year I dried out Tammy at Portchester Sailing Club, to inspect and clean her bottom, and that gave me a chance to look at my repairs.

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There’s no sign of any problems, and I’m happy that Tammy is seaworthy. I plan to make a more thorough investigation of both keels when she comes out this winter. In particular, I think I’ll make some small inspection holes from inside the boat and send in my dad’s endoscope to see what’s there. I’ve read articles from Corribee owners saying there are quite large voids above the ballast, and even one suggesting they might be a good place for water tanks.

If you have any suggestions for improvement, or ideas about what’s inside my keels, I would be very interested to hear.

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Filed under hull, Repairs and Modifications

Sister Rings

When I first rigged up the Hebridean wind vane self-steering, I used some hard anodized aluminium rings instead of blocks to run the tiller control lines. These rings are mechanically simple and very slippery, and they’ve done a great job. A couple of years ago I started to think about where else I could apply them.

Tammy Norie has “sister blocks” in the main sheet to evenly distribute load across battens. These are simply two blocks attached back-to-back.

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There’s nothing wrong with this, and Tammy’s are in good condition, but I wondered if something simpler and lighter could be made from anodized rings. And here it is: the “sister rings”!

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This is such a simple idea that I can’t believe someone hasn’t done it before. It’s just two rings joined together with a double eye splice. In this case, two 16mm Barton “high load eyes” joined with Dyneema.

This is a simple, lightweight, cheap, strong, and easy-to-make alternative to sister blocks, with comparable friction, unlike the traditional wooden euphroe.

To form the splice using single-braided line (such as Dyneema), form two eyes like this. Note that the long end passes through the short end (the opposite to what you might expect) and this involves passing one of the eyes through the braid.

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Once you have the rings in place and have tightened the eyes, trim and tuck the ends inside the braid between the rings, fixing the eyes.

I use Selma fids for this kind of splicing.

I’m experimenting with using these rings to replace blocks in other parts of the rigging. It’s easy to carry rings and line and make up or repair things that you need on board, and that very much fits with my philosophy for Tammy Norie!

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Filed under Repairs and Modifications, sheet

Rotten to the core

 

 

Some time ago I read an excellent article by David Pascoe called “Attaching Hardware to your Boat”. I highly recommend it, and all his other maintenance articles too.

To summarize: bolts and screws through your deck core will eventually make it rot away.

Now I have proof!

I’ve been sitting aboard Tammy Norie in the rain for several days recently. That gives me a good chance to look around for leaks. I noticed some drips in the heads compartment, and traced them to a nut on the ceiling. It was a bolt from the boom gallows attachment.

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I remembered David Pascoe’s article, and decided it was time to grit my teeth and investigate the deck core. So on the next dry day I dismantled the boom gallows and used my 20mm hole saw to cut out the inner fibreglass layer and core (but of course not the deck).

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What came out was not pretty. Instead of crisp balsa, I got brown mush.

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You can see here how the balsa wood has lost its integrity.

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And here are the damp sweepings from drilling out the other three holes.

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Looking in to the cut out I could see the dark brown discoloured wood. I can only hope that now that it’s exposed to the air it will get a chance to dry out. It won’t regain structure, but at least I will have stopped the rot.

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Out of the four bolt holes, only one looked good. You can see the contrast in the colour and texture. Note that only one of the bolts showed any evidence of leaking. That means two of them were secretly leaking into the core.

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I re-fitted the gallows using new bolts backed with washers through just the deck layer, all sealed with butyl tape.  These stayed dry on the next rainy day.  Even if they do leak a little, the water should drip off the bolt and not touch the wood.

David Pascoe recommends sealing the exposed wood. I will do this once it has had a chance to dry out.

So take heed! If you have bolts through your deck core, get them out before it’s too late. Don’t delay!

I’m now looking at all the other fixings with suspicion, and will be working my way around them all.

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Filed under Repairs and Modifications

The Trials of my Hebridean

I have finally edited the video footage of my various trials of my Hebridean self steering system during and after my Netherlands cruise. This is a system I built over two weeks in July. Here’s the result.

Here are a few things I mention in the video that are worth repeating.

  • When I set off, my Hebridean was not complete and I had no experience with wind vanes.
  • This is a story about my Hebridean on my boat.
  • Very small boats and junk rigs may require mods to the plans.
  • I should have spent more time experimenting with the bungee.
  • Don’t copy me until you have tried the system according to the plans.

Thank you everyone for your help and support with this project. Special thanks to John Fleming for showing great patience when dealing with me. Paul Thompson for keen technical insight. And Stephen Crowther for useful observations and support.

I’m sure the story’s not over yet, but part one is complete.

9 Comments

2015-09-14 · 21:42

Bow light LED hack

WARNING

Before you install LED bulbs in your fittings please consider carefully how they might affect the colour and visibility arcs of your lights and the insurance of your boat. Please check MGN 393 Navigation light units: maintenance and the use of new technology light sources, such as light emitting diodes (LEDs), as navigation lights on SOLAS and non-SOLAS vessels and also I suggest Warning not to use LED bulbs in filament bulb navigation lights from PBO.

My battery ran very low after my 32 hour passage from Rye to the Breskens. The main power draws were the tiller pilot, the VHF, and the navigation lights. The lights were the worst, drawing over 2A by the ammeter. I had incandescent bulbs that came with the boat: 10W in the stern and 25W in the bow, so they ought to be drawing 2.9A.

The chandlery in Willemstad had a cool white (6000K) replacement for the stern bulb, but nothing suitable for the bow. If you put a 6000K LED behind the usual green plastic filter then it shows up as blue. The only solution I’ve seen for this is to use an expensive bi-colour LED bulb.

But the chandlery also had warm white (2500K) domestic LEDs with brightness equivalent to 25W. They ought to give the correct colour, and they were much cheaper. The only problem was the fitting.

Time for a quick hack with the soldering iron!

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I soldered some copper flex into the feet of the LED bulb.

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The spring contacts to the bulb unscrew and come out, leaving holes for the flex.

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The unscrewed contacts have a convenient hole drilled down the centre. I threaded the flex through these holes.

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Then I just reassembled and tested the bow light.

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It showed the correct shades of green and red, as you’d expect, since the incandescent bulb would also be at about 2500K.

I taped the spring contacts to the old bulb and put it in the spares box along with the old stern bulb.  Nothing was destroyed by this hack and it’s easy to put things back as they were if necessary.

The current draw for the LED bow and stern lamps was about 200mA, less than a tenth of the incandescent bulbs.

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Filed under lights, Repairs and Modifications

Stern locker hinge repair

Climbing all over the stern lockers to mount/unmount and control my Hebridean wind vane self-steering eventually broke the weak locker hinges, mainly because the lockers didn’t fit very well. Here’s a video showing the fix I made in Harlingen. There’s more work to do, but the lockers are much more stable.

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2015-09-05 · 16:21

Why I can’t review the Hebridean

I’ve had a number of people pressing me for an overall opinion of the Hebridean wind vane self steering system.  I can understand why — people out there are reading my experiences and trying to decide whether to go with it.

I’m afraid I can’t give you a review, and here are a few reasons:

  • I have no experience with other wind vanes.
  • I have only constructed one Hebridean, possibly badly.
  • I have only used my Hebridean for a couple of weeks on one small junk-rigged boat.

This site is a blog of my experiences. The intention is to share what happens to me in the hope that it’s useful to others. Writing it is a good exercise for me and helps me interpret my own experiences. I also gain a lot of helpful feedback from other people. My writing about the Hebridean is an account of what’s happened to me. I hope it helps you, but it’s not intended a guide to choosing a system.

Here are a few things I can definitely say.

  • The Hebridean took me two solid weeks and over 100 hours to build, using a small workshop.
  • The Hebridean has cost me around GBP 600 including the plans, the kit, materials, fittings, and tools. (I’ll see if I can get exact accounts together at some point.)
  • I found the plans and instructions quite difficult to follow in places.
  • John Fleming is patient, helpful, and responsive.

My last word for now is this: I’m not a person who will stick with something just because I started it. If I believed it made sense to switch to another system I would do so. The Hebridean is a unique opportunity to build your own, based on John Fleming’s hard work on the design, and gain both the satisfaction of building, and the ability to maintain and repair your own system.

I’m sticking with it. And if you want a review, you’ll need to wait a year or two!

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Filed under Constructing the Hebridean, self steering