Saturday, September 28, 2019

DIY Grab rail for Sailboat

So we continue in our adventures in getting Constellation ready for travel.  The boat sat neglected for a few years before we got her, so there have been some projects that really, REALLY needed doing.

Along these lines, we discovered on one of our fist sails that, for reasons the surpasseth understanding, someone at some point had removed both of the grab rails from the top of the dog house, leaving nothing to hold onto when working with the sails, going forward, etc, etc. . .

Had to fix that.

I wasn't wild about drilling even MORE holes in the doghouse.  I looked around for some teak or composite handrail that fit the current, caulked-in hole pattern to no avail.  I thought about getting a plank of teak and cutting out some new ones, but with only a small selection of battery powered hand tools, that seemed like a recipe for frustration.  Accordingly, we decided to go with a grab line in stead of a grab rail.
These are stainless 8mm "shoulder" eyebolts, sometimes called lifting rings.

We drilled out the old holes that were used to mount the old grabrail and installed the eyes.

So, on them interwebs, we found some rather nice shouldered eyebolts in the right length.  I drilled out the old caulk plugs from the original hand rail and bolted them in.  Then ran some excess bow line we had down each side.

It makes a great grab line, and is easy to connect things to if you need to do so.  Just one more project out of the way.
Locknuts and washers inside the cabin ceiling hold them in place.

Add some nice braided line and you have your hand holds.
More shortly,  Projects, projects, projects. . . .


Some more from our trip to the Sassafras River.
looking smug at Worton Creek

We weren't the only ones who thought the place lovely.

ALL of the sunsets along these West facing inlets were spectacular!

Friday, September 27, 2019

Making a Floor for our Intex Seahawk2 Dinghy

So for the last several years we've used an Intex Expedition 2 person inflatable kayak for puttering around.  Frankly, we loved the thing.  It let us do work on the boat(s) and do some fun exploring up and down the Middle River.  We weren't exactly gentle with the thing, leaving it in the water most of the time, generally in direct sun.  It's durability has been remarkable.
The redoubtable Intex inflatable Kayak. Love it.
But with our acquisition of Constellation, we began to consider if this was exactly what we needed.  Intending to travel, we will occasionally need to anchor out and find a way to get to shore (this was pointed out rather strongly in a recent trip to Betterton on the Sassafras River when we realize we drew to much to dock at the town dock and had no way to get in to . . .well. . .lunch.).  The Kayak is wonderful, but it's also ten feet long, which is pretty hefty to drag aboard a thirty foot sailboat.  Then there was the issue of the fact that we'd abused the poor thing and it was no longer staying particularly inflated.

So we began looking about a replacement.  Something smaller, lighter, and easier to handle.  Something just for use as a tender and to get from anchor to shore.  We finally settled on a really inexpensive solution in Intex's Seahawk 2 inflatable.

It's simple, lightweight, and has room for 2 people and a bag of groceries, just what we wanted.
From the moment we inflated the thing, we realized it would probably fit the bill.  It weighed a LOT less than the kayak, had room for both of us, and would fit across the bow if we needed it to, or could be hauled up under our solar panel on the stern.  The 20 Mil vinyl seemed stout, and it rowed pretty easily, despite the frankly lame plastic oars (we'll be dealing with that later.).  It was perfect. . .

. . .almost.

When we went to get up onto the boat from the thing with our gonzo boat ladder, it proved difficult.   Let's be honest, getting up into any boat from a dinghy is a potential comedy act.  Everything in that equation can move, each in it's own heading, and coupled with one of those wobbly over-the-gunnel ladders and sinking into the squishy inflatable floor when you try to stand on it, it was an issue.

Turning to them interwebs, we came across a common and easy solution:  Build a solid floor for the thing.  A solid floor means you can put some weight on your feet when boarding, and makes the whole little boat ever so much more rigid and stable.

So we inflated the thing, dragged it up onto the dock, and took some measurements.  The interior of the inflated boat is about 52" (1320.8 mm) long, and around 19" (182 mm) wide, tapering to 17" (432 mm) at the stern.  Since I didn't want to lunch a full sheet of plywood to make the thing, I went to  our local Lowes and got a 2' X 4' "Project panel" of 1/2" exterior plywood.

Trimmed, tapered, and dutch-mended project panel.
I cut the sheet to 19" wide, tapered it down to 17" at the end from the mid-point, added a cut-through handgrip (which will also give a place to tie it on) and rounded the corners.

To keep the wood from splintering into the vinyl and turning it into a floppy submarine, I did a process often called "dutch mending" to the edge.  I took some waterproof white glue (in this case Titebond III, with which I've had really good results), added it 50-50 to water, and saturated a 5" wide strip of unbleached muslin drop cloth in the glue solution, then smoothed it along the edges and let dry.

Muslin strip "dutch-mended" (glued) along the edge of the plywood.
If you want to hinge the bottom, the glued fabric will also work as a hinge, just apply to both sides of the cut.    Once dried, you'll have a smooth continuous edge where the ply meets the plastic.

Three coats of a decent exterior paint.  Be careful to saturate the cloth at the edges.
We gave the new bottom a few coats of some exterior paint that we had on hand, taking care to saturate the cloth really well.  Then it was ready to test.

Bottom in place.
Because we used the project panel, the bottom is a bit short front to back, but that doesn't seem to make much difference.  We partially deflated the sides of the dinghy, popped in the bottom, and re-inflated to lock it in place.  You may find you have to let a little air out of the inflatable bottom so it will sit well into the sides, but the results have been really pleasing.

Now I just have to stabilize the junky ladder.  Stay tuned.
This has been a whole week of additions to and work on the boat, making ready to travel again.  We've done some cool stuff, including new grab lines, work on the ladder above, and other things, which I'll post in the coming days, so stay tuned.  Will also be putting up some of the more spectacular shots from our wonderful trip up to the Sassafras River.

More shortly,
Stay Tuned.


A ketch comes into Worton Creek at sunset. This was a result of me realizing it would cross the sun and madly scrambling to find the camera.  Turned out really pretty, though.

Friday, September 20, 2019

Five Days on the Water

Back from five days aboard Constellation, not touching shore the whole time.  We've some wonderful pictures which I'll post shortly.  Here's a tease:
Sunset at anchor on the Sassafras River

Friday, September 6, 2019

In High Panic

So we've been enjoying sailing in our new (to us) 30' Pearson "Constallation" these last few weeks, getting the thing ready for some fall travel and doing minor tweaking to systems that had . . .well. . .deteriorated over the three something years the boat sat on the hard.  It has been a mercifully small amount of work, and not a lot of things we've found that needed fixing, which is great because we're both looking forward to doing some fall travel.

Was that just the bilge pump going off?  No worries, it's been raining.

Anyway, between that and getting my new book out, we've been a bit. . .

Was that just the bilge pump again?  Well, I just moved back to the cockpit, so the boat shifted, that was probably it.

Anyway, with the new book and the weather finally cooling. . .

Um, that was just the bilge pump again.  Um.  Okay, so maybe we need to check the. . .

<<Pump kicks on again>>


It has to be the stuffing box.  Everything else is fine, so it MUST be the stuffing box.  It was dripping a little when we first splashed but I figured that was just because it was dry, but. . .

<<Pump kicks in again>>

AAAAAAGGGGGHHHHHH!!!  So we jerk all the carefully stacked boxes out of the quarter berth, pull out the teak slatting that closes off the engine compartment.  I grab a huge pair of water pump pliers, and, with a flashlight in my teeth, I crawl into the dank, uncomfortable space to find. . .

. . .nothing.  It's dry.  It's absolutely dry.  Dry as a bone.  Mojave dry.  Sahara Dry.  Dry Martini with a sawdust chaser dry.  Dry.

To quote Deadpool, "What the actual hell?"

We begin working methodically from the stern forward.  Engine throughhull is dry.  Water jacket is dry, muffler is dry.

Sink drain throughhull is dry.  Water line is dry.  Head water intake is dry. . .

Head waste throughhull is dry.  Head sink throughhull is dry.  Dry Dry Dry.  WTAF?

What's left?  Are we holed?  What's left?  I remembered there was, all the way forward, a transducer mount.  Maybe that.  I pulled out the drawers under the Vberth and played the light on it.

Dry.  But right below where I was looking was the head sink foot pump.  That was NOT dry.  It turned out to be the culprit, slowly leaking all the water in our fresh water tank into the bilge.  I pulled it out.  I've a rebuild kit on the way.  Whew.

Really?  The foot pump?
My point of bringing up this little exercise in aquatic panic is this:  With apologies to George R. R. Martin, Winter is coming.  A lot of us will be putting our boats on the hard (we liveaboards, of course, will not) for months on end.  Boats do a lot of things brilliantly, but sitting around not being used is not one of them.  This might be a great time to consider replacing washers, gaskets, hoses and the like so your spring doesn't include episodes like the one detailed above.

Aside from the minor heart attack, it's shaping up to be a really fine fall.  My new book, "Zarabeth's World" is out, (I know, I know, I keep posting this.  We're excited.  Gimmee a break) and the proofs from the publisher were unexpectedly lovely.

Just in time for fall reading.
Feel free to rush over to Amazon in a buying frenzy (but if you love it please make sure you leave a review.  We live and die by those things).  At any rate, the weather has finally cooled a bit, the winds are freshening, and we're looking forward to what are usually the two or three best months of sailing on the Bay.


Got the proof today

Got the proof of the physical copy of my book today.  I'm ecstatic, it's really well done.
Wild Shore did a great job on this one.