Saturday, 26 October 2013

Channel Islands 22

There are times when renovating an old boat can be a lonely business. Too few take on the challenge and
too few succeed. So to cheer myself up I spent some time with Davy and Natalie on their boat recently.

They live on the Island of Jersey but frequently visit my home port in France to stock up on wine, calvados etc – and also to gain a respite from the hustle of an Island only 45 square miles (at high tide) with 90,000+ inhabitants.

A few years ago Davy wanted to purchase a boat and spent a good deal of time looking at vessels he simply couldn't afford. A Channel Islands 22 would be ideal. Designed by Alan Buchannan specifically for these waters, she is a safe semi-displacement motor vessel, capable of some speed, with enough cabin and cockpit accommodation to make two people very comfortable. With, her cockpit tent she becomes almost luxurious.

Davy visited several but even the oldest were beyond his price – until he was invited to see one that had been for sale for several years. Problem with her, according to the broker, was that she was ridiculously slow.  Normally a CI22 will lift onto a plane at 7 knots but no-one had been able to get her to that speed so there had to be something seriously wrong.

Davy looked her over. She was dirty but sound. He also though he had discovered why she wouldn't lift and fly so he took a chance and made a very low offer – which was accepted.

First thing Davy did was to cut away two bilge keels that had been molded onto her hull by a previous owner. They were not part of the original design and Davy estimated that the drag they caused was the reason for the poor performance. He was right. Without those additional keels she flew!

Similar vessels
Next job was to attend to her cosmetically. Davy estimates that he spent 1000 hours sanding, polishing,
painting and varnishing. Natalie also contributed most of her out- of- work hours to the project. The boat is now in better condition that when she was new. There are hot and cold domestic water systems. The heads is now a ‘wet-room’ and the cabin is lined in thin exterior ply, routed, filled and varnished to look like individual planks. There is a 24 volt circuits for use in port where hook-ups are available and a 12Volt system for other times. Floors are carpeted and every window has an individual blind (bought from Mothercare rather than expensive Chandleries). At sea there is stowage for two folding bicycles and on the river, they sit on the cabin top ready for use. This isn't sailing as I know it – this is luxury.

Davy and Nat married last year and spent their honeymoon cruising Jersey, Guernsey, Sark and Herm islands. Initially they had a slight problem getting up to speed. Some guests had tied lines of cans to the stern of the boat (as is the custom in the UK with the bride and groom’s car ) – never seen it done on a boat before though).


Monday, 21 October 2013

Boat Electrics

Boat renovation requires you to think ahead and in some cases study ahead otherwise your project frequently becomes stalled by questions such as ‘what should I do next?’ and ‘how on earth do I do that?’ So for me, bedtime reading during this period of intensive  Gel-coat sanding has centered on trying to gain an understanding of 12 Volt electrical systems and methods of keeping juice in the wires when I’m not hooked up to a land-line on a pontoon.

I had kind of hoped to make a technological leap when I came to considering what my power needs might be. I already have a handheld GPS and VHF so I thought I might be able to go for a very simple system, maybe supported by an Apple I’pad  or something but the more I thought about how I wanted to use the boat and what that meant for power (in and out) the more complicated it seemed to become, especially for me who doesn't know the difference between an Amp, and a Volt.

I don’t claim to be a fast learner but I do know that if I’m told something three times (preferably in three different ways) then I have a chance of understanding and retaining the knowledge. Three books were particularly useful. You’ll find them listed below. Now I’m living in a country district in France so its hardly likely that I’m going to put my hands on these books in my local book store twelve miles away – so thank goodness for the internet and, for people in similar circumstances, the book titles below are links to a trusted supplier. If I were to purchase just one of these books it would be the 12 Volt Bible – but in truth I must confess I needed all three.

I bought mine with the intention of selling them on later --- in retrospect I think it’s a better idea to keep hold of my copies.

It would be impossible to cram all the information on 12 Volt boat systems into one blog post but here is a very brief synopsis of the logical steps in system design and the processes you need to go through to get yourself started.

Essentially you need to consider what kind of sailing you intend to do and list the electronic equipment you will require:

            Echo sounder or fish finder?
            VHF Radio?
            Navigation lights?
            Comapss light?
            Cabin Lights?
            Sound system?
            Electric bilge pump?
            Domestic water heater and pump?

The list can be as long or as short as you feel you need. To my list I added a bank of 12 Volt plugs so that I can always plug in additional equipment or recharge hand held stuff.

The next step is to calculate the ’power drain’ that these items will inflict on your batteries. Careful thought is required at this stage. The packaging and product information will give you and idea of how many amps a given piece of equipment will require when in use but you will have to determine how many hours you are likely to have it turned on for a given stretch of time. 12 Volt direct current also weakens according to the distance it has to travel from the power source to the equipment so you have to accommodate that in your calculation in order to get an idea of the amount of power you need to be able to store (one battery, two or more!). Thought also needs to be given to choice of batteries. Automotive (car) batteries can be less than idea – they are built to provide an enormous power hit over a brief period to start an. Boat equipment however, has a much smaller requirement but will expect power to be provided over a much longer period. A deep cycle battery is therefore more useful. Then thought has to be given as to how you will keep your batteries charged. One way is to use a 24 Volt landline from the pontoon – but at sea, can you keep the batteries topped up using you boat engine, or is solar or wind turbine power more appropriate to your needs? Some would argue that the best idea is to install both systems  so that you have an option of any given circumstance. Finally, you’ll need some mechanism to stop batteries charging when they are full – otherwise they may overheat. If you are considering a 24 volt recharge capability why not also think about dockside comfort and opt for a 24 volt domestic circuit for use while in port?

OK there is a great deal to think about and I’ll let you know how I get on – but if you’re considering tackling your boat’s electrics please remember 12 Volts are unlikely to kill you but a badly set up 12 Volt system can start fires. 24 Volt domestic electricity is always dangerous if it isn't correctly installed but close to water the dangers multiply enormously.

Here are those books I found most useful: 

Title:   The 12-Volt Bible for Boats (Second Edition)(USA Readers)
(UK Readers Click here)

Author: Miner Brotherton Revised by E Sherman      
Publisher: International Marine / Mc Graw Hill
ISBN    978-0-07-139233-4

This is a complete introduction to the 12 electrical system you are probably going to want to use on your boat. It explains how the system works and how to install maintain and troubleshoot problems. If you are installing your own system it offers the basic information and it should be your first port of call for most answers.

Title:    Understanding Boat Wiring (USA Readers)
Understanding Boat Wiring (UK Readers)
Author: John C Payne  
Publisher:  Sheridan House
ISBN       1-57409-163-8

The book is a very practical guide to planning and installing wiring on your boat. It establishes the standards to which you should be working, explains electrical principles, circuit protection and isolation, switchboards and panels, systems for earthing circuits.

Author: John C Payne  

Publisher: Sheridan House
ISBN  1-57409-162-X

Whereas the previous book dealt mainly with power distribution around your boat to drive the electrical systems and equipment on board, this book explains how to choose and install the sources of that power (the battery or batteries) and how to keep those storage cells charged and functioning. I would recommend that this book be read in conjunction with Understanding Boat Wiring (above).

Finally, thanks to significant correspondence from readers, it has become clear that many of us are working in remote locations and that the issue of sourcing materials equipment, tools and information is a central concern to us all. With this in mind you now find a new Page on this site : ‘Seaward’s Boatshed’.  As time goes by you will find here a growing list of all the books and tools I have used and found useful with links to trusted suppliers. In keeping with my own self imposed site policy explained on the ‘Homepage’ however, you’ll only find gear listed here that I have found to be reliable and useful. Other gear may be just as good but if I haven’t had first hand experience of it or if it has let me down – then I can’t recommend it and you won’t find it listed.


Monday, 14 October 2013

Fifty Shades of White

Still sanding the boat – currently using P800 – to be followed by P1000, P1500 and P2000 wet and dry and then P3000 before I apply sealant and wax - this is a boring job so a good music sound system really helps. I’ve just about exhausted my collection of blues music by well known artists and so I’m moving into more obscure stuff. How did Robert Johnson get to be so good? Did he really sell his soul at the crossroads or did he just put in a bit of practice? Or is there a third possibility? Could he have met someone called Scrapper Blackwell? One certainly seems to have influenced the other. Such are my musings as I sand and sand and sand and sand to a twelve bar 12/8 shuffle.  Anyway, there is only so much a person can say about sanding – Did you know there are 50 shades of white as well as 50 Shades of Grey?

So here are a couple of recent happenings from the Rance estuary where I live.  First, a neighbour of mine has managed to purchase a Cornish Shrimper at a really good price. She seems to be seaworthy but needs a lot of cosmetic work so now there are two of us sanding and polishing. Andrew and partner (Stephie) came to dinner the other evening and both Susan and Stephie were amazed at the amount of time two guys could spend talking GRP and Gel-coat.  When I say ‘amazed’ please don’t assume they were also ‘impressed’, - they weren’t.

Second, I had to go to St Malo this week to purchase those fine sanding discs, the shop was on the quayside, so I took some time to wander round the boats. I recognized one immediately ‘Giselle’ a Cornish Crabber from St Helier Jersey. Although I recognized the boat the owner was new to me. It turns out he had purchased her very recently and this was her maiden voyage under his command. The crew comprised his wife and a friend. As I write this I am hoping his luck has changed because when I met him, the trip to date had been quite eventful. On the upper reaches of the estuary he’d left his friend in charge of the tiller while he undertook some chores below. The friend is a musician who thought he could handle the tiller and play a bit of acoustic blues at the same time. Bad idea - he couldn’t. So he ran aground on the steep sides of a well marked channel A good deal of weight and equipment had to be shifted and lots of cushions deployed in an attempt to keep the boat upright on the falling tide.

Apparently, there was another grounding later in the week further north in more open waters. If all is going to plan, he will be at sea now cruising along the northern coast of Brittany. There are fewer sandbanks here – but lots of rocks – hope he’s OK.

Finally, here's a picture I took recently of Le Foc – that’s French for a seal. This particular chic lives alone on the Estuary outside the village of Mordreuc. She seems to love being around people and often comes to join the sunbathers on the beach. Last year, some caring soul tried to provide her with a male companion. Was she pleased? Certainly not! She wasn’t up for sharing the estuary’s supply of bass and mackerel with any other seal no matter how good looking he may have been. There was a brief skirmish and he was last seen heading for open water as far away from Mordreuc as he could get.

Wednesday, 2 October 2013

Sanding an Old Boat

I have been sanding and sanding. Getting rid of yellow Gel-coat and cutting back to pristine white. I have polyester in my eyes, my ears and my hair. It gets into your clothes and it irritates especially if you break into a sweat. I have a face mask but I can still taste it.

It’s all about getting an acceptable finish. My good friend John suggested the 100ft test. Basically, if the boat looks good from 100ft, then you needn't sand, compound or polish any more.

I applied this test to other boats last week by focusing on several boats laying to swinging moorings in the estuary, and then visiting each in turn on my kayak. The closer I got, the more the dings, chips and imperfections became obvious. From 100ft however, even some quite sad and neglected craft seemed fine.

So, I guess I’m inclined to a more rigorous standard. My good friend Helge provided advice at the other extreme – sand down to grades P1000 and then P2000 used wet. Problem is I couldn't source sandpaper so fine – so I settled for P600 as the finishing grade. To date I have sanded, compounded and polished the cabin sides. Other parts of the boat have been sanded to P600 but not yet compounded or polished.

So, is P600 enough? Well ‘yes’ if you apply the 100ft test but ‘no’ if you apply a 15ft test. A more compelling question for me is ‘For how long will she look good?’

I ask this because when I was sanding her down, I noticed that much of the grime on the gel-coat was embedded in grooves previously created by sanding discs. The grime actually followed circular patterns – so this boat has been sanded back before, but not enough, or at least – not fine enough. The grime has returned and settled wherever it can get purchase, i.e. in those grooves which should have been sanded away with finer and finer grades.

Ok so here I am trying to apply a test, achieve a standard, that only time can validate. It does seem however, that the finest finish I can get will be the most likely to stay clean. So, it’s back to Helge and the P2000 grade sand paper. It’s a bit depressing to think that I need to keep sanding with P1000, P1500 and then P2000 wet and dry, especially on the two cabin sides which I have already polished – but I feel I have to do right’ by this little boat. It’s as if there is a belief (call it superstition if you like) that she’ll look after me at sea, if I do right by her during the restoration process.

So, the question last week was - ‘Where I can obtain this mysterious P1000 and P2000 paper that has eluded me so far, and can I buy it cut into discs or triangles for use with power tools?’

The answer came to me on Friday when I had dinner and more than a few drinks with a neighbour in the village. Andrew has just become the proud owner of a Cornish Shrimper, perfectly seaworthy but in need of a facelift. Guess what? He’s got P1000, P1500 and P2000 sanding discs – I saw them and held one! I had the holy grail of boat restoration in my hands. Andrew is a car enthusiast as much as a yachtsman so whereas I was seeking these papers in DIY stores and chandleries, Andrew simply headed for the nearest vehicle body repair shop and came home with the goods. Since then I discovered its also available at the following link:Sungold Abrasives 023212 5-Inch by 5 Hole 1000 Grit Premium Plus C Weight Paper Hook and Loop Discs, 25-Pack  

I went to St Malo) on Monday and now I have my own supply of discs – P800, P1000, P1500 – sadly they are out of P2000 at the moment but I also have a P3000 disc which I am told is the final disc used by professional polishers – so I have a further week or two of sanding to do. Yippee!