I hope this site is of value and contains information. I will record my ramblings regarding sailing adventures, my boat projects and anything else that might interest people attracted to a site about Wharram catamarans.

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Saturday, 10 June 2017

Real Sailors

As ever, we were late starting and guess what? It was on the nose!

I'd watched a series of forecasts over the preceding 10 days: Windguru, UK Met office, XCWeather. None agreed, all changed with regularity. What was common was the clear, dry weather would end the day of our departure. If only I could press a pause button when the forecast was favorable.

On the Friday evening before departure, I set off to Gratitude to load provisions and camping gear. The east wind blew so hard across the estuary, that I abandon the idea, fearing the lee-shore in a cheap dingy with only oars.

Friday night was curry night and a late one with my crew travelling from London and Blackburn. Several drinks later, the alarm was set for 5am it was off to bed.

For once we were at least at the boat early. After loading up, I followed my skipper's course instructions and actually did a briefing. The plan was to make a full day's pilotage south down the coast and then west. With a strong southerly, it was clear that this might not happen .

The first sign of trouble was a passing a small fishing boat returning to the river with the skipper shaking his head. Looking out to sea, we began to understand the problem. The swell from the previous day's easterly was now mixing with a southerly chop. Grey clouds and white caps made for an unappealing seascape. An attempt was made to cut out the long fairway, and nip through a gap in the sand bar and head south. No sooner than we set on a southeasterly beat, we could see something blocking our way. Our route was cut off by a huge floating dredge pipe that's working to pull in sand to fix erosion on the Warren.

Attempts to sail south were further thwarted by the chop and strong winds. Rick was silent and we soon discovered he'd 're-enjoyed' his curry. We pushed past the dredge pipe and headed into the coast to gain what little shelter we could find. From Teignmouth the engine worked hard until we finally made shelter at Ansty's cove where we heated some food and considered the plans.

A nice curry, again.

I was keen to make some distance, but felt that Torquay might be the only sensible option. After some warmth and with renewed energy we headed off around Hope's nose and into Torbay where conditions were a little better. The day began to take shape, at last.

With our early start we made Dartmouth despite the conditions. We had too much sail up coming in towards the river mouth at 10 kts. Finally we reached shelter and Rick (our new recruit) was rewarded with the Tolkienesque entrance to the river. We had time to kill before we could push up to Tuckenhay on the tide and so it was ice cream and pub time.

Dartmouth is a wonderful place, and the motor up river was beautiful. We had occasional glimpses of the sun, but with the evening drawing in, the wind chill dominated the journey.

As expected, the bank holiday and evening spring tide, filled the Tuckenhay pontoon with a crowd of boats up for the evening. We rafted up next to a bigger cat from Topsham and poured a gin and tonic to prove that we too had our luxuries, including ice!

By the time our pub supper was washed down with beer, the pontoon was clear and us sea gypsies could spread out once more. Pontoons are great for boats with tents.

The first day had been long. Water was everywhere and we'd lost electrical power. We sponged out, fixed camp and bedded down hoping for better weather to come.

The second morning's conditions were a secret. Hiding several miles inland, with no internet or phone signal and in the bottom of a wooded valley wasn't not an easy place to assess your sailing plan. We showered, made breakfast and we motored back down river checking the clouds for speed and direction. Soon enough the phone signal brought a weather update. A brisk easterly was forecast but nothing too bad. Downwind sailing is easy right?

On reaching the sea, we set a course for Start Point in a nice breeze and pleasant conditions. 'This is more like it', I was thinking. A little distance from the point we rounded with the last of the fair tide and into the slack water. Start Point has a bit of a reputation and we were on a big spring tide, so timing was important.

By this time we had my home made spinnaker up and it was working well. We heading along the coast at increasing speeds. We had fun watching the GPS. The boys called out the numbers. "Ten knots... twelve! ". As the bucketfuls of cold, salty water were thrown in our faces, we watched the gap to the 40 footer ahead of us close. This should all be a signal? By now we'd passed Salcombe and were below the cliffs at Bolt Head and Bolt Tail. The boat behind had dropped sails, and was gone, presumable into Salcombe.

"14knts .... ", shouted Rick as the water began slapping hard from underneath, dislodging the central platforms, requiring us to sit on them to keep them down. It was at that point I realised my error. Caught up in speed records and the prospect of overtaking a big boat, all sails blazing, I'd not read the signs. We should have reduced sail waaaa....yyy back! We headed down wind, dropped the spinnaker, reefed and hoisted the working jib: a good move.

We screamed along the coast, put in another reef, went just as fast and entered Bigbury Bay. Heading up toward Burgh Island, put us on a reach. I had to keep baring away as we just went too fast and the leeward shroud looked like a loose halyard. Slowly things eased as we neared Bantham and the Island. There wasn't enough water in the river, so we retreated behind the island. A warm drink from the flask allowed an assessment of the conditions, which were clearly improving. We headed down the coast to Mothecombe beach, our intended first day destination.

Bumping onto the sandy beach with the rising tide, we felt it was important to fully enjoy the lovely weather with a beer. It was more a celebration of the dying wind. After watching goose pimpled swimmers and chatting to interested boaties on the beach, we debated the wild camping option for the night, but as the surf turned us side onto the beach, we started the engine and headed for the comforts of the nearby river Yealm.

The wind was now a sensible force 3, and it was a downwind sail to the Yealm and Noss Mayo. Pulling up to the visitor's pontoon for the second time in a month (the first time on a 30ft Bavaria during my Day Skipper practical) it seemed that, once again, Noss Mayo was the limit of my cruising on Gratitude as the next day we'd be turning around and making our way home. We pitched the tent, chatted with the other boats and ate our supper. I was a bit put out by one woman who asked "are you on an expedition?". Hardly, I thought as we pumped up the dinghy and made for the pub.

The next morning I peered out into the mist and promptly went back to sleep. Perhaps we were on an expedition, we'd certainly had every type of weather. Breakfast was prepared in anticipation of another day's adventure as we chatted to the harbour master about the fog he'd seen on his early morning run out the the river mouth. A quick shower and with all the safety gear I could muster, we were into the bay. It was calm, the sun was trying to come through as the fog rose and fell. A fog horn could be heard some way off, and it was getting closer. But, we're not that far out into the bay right?

That's close enough, thank you. 

We passed a few yachts as the conditions improved. My new pilot plan for the day was relaxed. We'd follow the now westerly wind back to Salcombe for the final night. Event free sailing it was. A good lunch on deck as we sailed along in the thin, lifting, fog and faint sunshine. 

Salcombe looked delightful and the harbour master gave us a warm welcome and options for the night. We elected for the pontoon, hoping to spread once again. We rafted on the busy pontoon and celebrated with excellent rum and ginger. Sadly, the ice was now gone.

The water taxi scooped us up from the end of the pontoon and into town, stopping off to collect crews from boats very different to ours. People emerged from cockpits dressed in what you might call apr├Ęs-sail attire. We asked the time of the last taxi and disappeared into the town for a good restaurant meal.

Returning to the harbour office, I asked for the last taxi to the visitors pontoon and was met with the tone of a man ready for bed. Others joined the taxi and we sped up and down between moorings. The driver gave some a hard time when they couldn't pick their (large) boats out amongst the many other large boats. We were last and wondered what whip of the tongue we'd be dealt. "Now I'll drop off the real sailors", he said!

The next morning was the last. It was a late night and an early start to get to Start Point with the fair tide. We packed quickly and got away early as Peter had decided against the tent and braved a shower or two on deck with a tarpaulin for back up.

We sailed at a leisurely 3 to 4 knots toward Start Point, measuring our speed against other boats. We tried various sail arrangements and angles and enjoyed the best of the weather so far. Start Point delivered a few long standing waves and some great wildlife.

As we made our way east the wind increased and we even prepared for a squall that never came. (So I am learning). As we made our way north we were reaching and covered the ground at speeds between 4 and 9 knots. It wasn't long before we swept across Torbay and around into Ansty's cove for a last lunch. Again we headed north reaching at speed and made Exmouth in time for the full ebb to exercise the outboard one last time.

What a great boat a Tiki 21 is. What other 21ft boat has space for three blokes and can carry a pace. As they say "the smaller the boat the bigger the adventure".

Wednesday, 17 May 2017

Forestay, Roller, and My New Sails

Last autumn I was bought a set of second-hand sails from another Tiki 21 that had sadly been put out to stud as a committee boat for a local yacht club. It no longer needed its sails.

I'm very pleased with my new wardrobe which includes a main, genoa, working jib and cruising chute. All are in good condition and better than my old sails.

The main difference now is my old set up included a furler with the luff cable as the forestay. Now, with a choice of foresail I need a fixed forestay, and as the new sails all include a luff cable, a method to tension the luff. The new sails are not hanked on.

Roger's posts on the jib downhaul are most helpful. He has hank-on sails, but it's much the same set up.

I wanted to get a little separation between the forestay and the sail, so rather then have them to a common fixing, I've made up a bracket.
Cut from a 4mm A4 stainless plate, drilled, ground and polished, the new plate finally went on the boat over the weekend. I went for a short test sail, and all seems to work well. I'd like more tension in the forestay, but I'm out of adjustment on the bottle screw. Here's the finished article.

Here's the original set up, way back when ...

Friday, 10 February 2017

Spinnaker Spun

This is the final spinnaker construction post. There will be something on how it flies, but we'll wait for the weather.

The final tasks were sewing on foot and leech tapes, and the luff tape. The foot and leech are finished with folded strips of ripstop nylon. I cut 20 mm ribbons of cloth from the scraps after cutting the panels. The ribbons were taped on the inside of the marked out lines and cut with the soldering iron. I then used the tape to baste the ribbons on one edge of the sail and then folded the ribbons around and onto the other side of the sail.

This looks difficult, but it worked out well. 

Once the ribbon was tapped in place, it was easy to zig-zag stitch over the ribbons with the machine.

The next task was the luff tape. This is made from a 50mm Dacron strip. This was folded and creased over the edge of a table (see Sailrite Spinnaker videos) then tapped on and sewn. Easy. You can see the luff tape in the picture below.

The luff tape also has a 1.5mm dyneema luff cord inside with small loops of webbing sewn at each end to allow the cord to be tied off as follows:

The final job was to make up the corners. I used a similar construction to that shown in the Sailrite videos. I found the lengths of my panels were not as consistent as I'd hoped, but I was able to cover up and compensate using the corner patches.

I used three colours of webbing in the corners so as to mark the head, tack and clew. 50mm stainless rings were sewn in.

Pudding and eating comes to mind at this stage. If it's a disaster, will I tell you all ? We'll have to wait and see. Only another few weeks until the boat goes back in after the winter. Would I build another sail? Well probably as with experience, another would not be too much work. It's been enjoyable.

For information the sail is: Luff: 6.2m, Leach 5.8m, Foot 4.6m Total area - 21.5 sq m.

Monday, 6 February 2017

Bright Ideas

On and off, I've been working on my navigation lights project for some time. I've created a few 3D model clips for the Guardian Adventure Lights I plan to base my design on. I need to replicate the clip so that the light will fit onto the shield that will create the 112.5 degree light arc.

After the first print, I realised I had simple modelled it to the wrong size. With this corrected, I printed a new clip. After a little fettling I tried it with the light and it fitted perfectly. I like this 3D printing thing.

I then started on a basic light shield to ensure the light is only seen over the correct arc. I needed a couple of goes at this to realise just how much light can be seen even from the tip of the light. You can see the evolution of the basic design here:
It's also worth noting the arc of light you can on the table top. This is caused by the lensing of the light's cover. It measures almost exactly 112.5 degrees.

The next thing to think about is where on the Tiki 21 these lights should be mounted and how. My first thought was to mount on the beam ends. From here it seems the lights would be prominent and perhaps easily mounted. There are a few problems with this position:
  • Nav lights will often be used coming into a port (in the dark!). For a Tiki 21, this is probably not according to "Plan A"! When you arrive at the end on a long day (Plan B), in the dark, the last thing you want it to break out the dock lines and find the beam ends cluttered with nav lights.
  • The beam ends are often close to and at the height of the dock. The light are vulnerable.
  • Moving the lights to the front beam would help, but in the dark and under less than ideal conditions, moving forward to position the lights is not good. 
  • Mounting over the water, means they will eventually get dropped in the drink.
The more I think about position, the more the beam ends are wrong. Next, the gunnels? A small threaded nut, recessed into the wood and a thumb screw on the light? Complicated I think.

Mounted on the top of the mast beam, just back from the cleat seems good. It also allows a better shape for the overall light housing. This is the approach I'm currently following. I've started on a full housing shape and it's looking good. See below and watch this space.

Monday, 30 January 2017

Plotting and sewing a spinnaker

With my spinnaker model complete in Blender 3D and the paper cut plug-in generating 2D panels, I'm ready to go. Here's an update on the progress since the last post.

How do I mark out large cloth panels? I considered a number of possible approaches:
  • Generate a series of vertex coordinates and manually plot them, then and join the dots;
  • Create a scale drawing and linearly extrapolate each vertices then joint the dots;
  • Project the image onto a large board at full size and plot;
  • Build, borrow or buy a giant plotter;
Of the possibilities the manual approaches all seem too laborious, buying a second hand plotter is not a bad idea but they are huge and might cost a bit too much.

If the projector approach can work, it seems the best approach, but there are a set of possible problems:

Size: The digital projector in my office is fixed to the ceiling and the screen is about 2m (6ft) by 1.2m (4ft). I need an image about 3.5m by 1.5m for cloth and largest panel. The room is too small. I need to move the projector further away and need a bigger wall or high ceiling with clear floor space.

Accuracy: How do I know a 1m square projected onto the wall will be the same size wherever it occurs in the image (i.e. vertical and horizontal linearity)?

Marking out: How can I mark the cloth according to the projected image? The edges will be long sweeping curve.

Cloth Use: How do I know that I can fit all the panels on the size of cloth I've purchased, especially if I want the warp of the cloth generally aligned with the panel lengths?

Scaling: How do I ensure the shape projected onto the cloth is the correct size?

Below are the detail of what I finally did.

Plotting and sewing a spinnaker

I set up a projector in my office where I screwed a 2.4m x 1.25m MDF panel to the wall. I marked out the wooden panel with a 500mm grid. I set up the PC with Adobe Illustrator and created the test grid. I scaled the drawing until the projected grid was close to the marked out grid on the wall. I then fine tuned the projector position until the grid was aligned. To my delight I found I could achieve a gird which aligned to within a few millimeters over the range both vertically and horizontally.

Next I imported the 2D panels into Illustrator and set about moving the panels into position. Illustrator allows a maximum drawing size of 5.75m X 5.75m. Some of my cloth is over 5m long. It won't fit, so I worked at half scale.

I set up illustrator with a page size of 5.5m by 0.75m. The next problem is to ensure the imported Blender drawing is the correct size. I had anticipated this, so when I created the sail panels I also create some simple 1m by 1m squares as references. Once the panels were imported, I scaled everything until the reference square was 0.5m X 0.5m in Illustrator. When projected onto the wall, I checked the reference square size on the wall, and it was spot on at 1m x 1m.

The panels were still much longer than board. You can see one of the smallest panels in the picture below.

The procedure for larger is as follows:
  • Project one end of the layouts onto the cloth. Mark the centres of the reference grid on the cloth as registration marks.
  • Use an awl pushed into the board to press the flexible ruler (I used 2.5m long UPVC angle bead) against at two points on the panel. This gives a nice smooth curve which follows the projected edge. Mark out the panel with a soft pencil.
In the picture you can see the panel, the awl and some red lines which were added to the Adobe file to show where the seams go. A seam is where an extra 8mm is added to overlap the next panel. This is taped and then stitched. The procedure is:
  • Stick a bit of masking tape to the panel and write on the panel numbers and mark the seams and the numbers of the adjacent panels. This will help with cutting and sewing later.
  • Once the panels are marked, shift the cloth along and move the image left/right to get the remainder of the panel onto the board. (This might require a few steps to complete the whole thing).
  • Carefully align the registration marks on the cloth with the projected image reference grid. 
  • Continue marking out the panels.
  • Shift the cloth up/down to complete the process for the whole vertical extent of the cloth.
With the cloth marked out, the question is how to accurately cut it out. Nylon should be cut using a hot knife to seal the edges and avoid fraying. I experimented with a temperature controlled soldering iron turned up high. The pointed tip worked well and easily cut the cloth, but a guide edge was required.

The cloth is first stuck together using basting tape. This double sided tape is a very thin acrylic tape with a paper backing. I found the soldering iron will run along the backed tape and create a good clean cut. I used the tape for all edges, ensuring I cut the inner edge where the panel has no seam, and the outer edge where the panel has a seam.

You can see a panel below, where the tape has been set out along the pencil lines and the cut made with the soldering iron. Note that the iron doesn't really burn the MDF board.

Here's another set of panels, taped out ready for cutting. Note the green tape labels that indicate the panel numbers and which edges are seams.

Here are some of the finished panels all ready to be stitched and a printed out plan with panel numbers for reference.

The panels are now assembled. I did this in three large triangular sections; the whole head section, the clew and tack sections with the natural vertical break. These were then to be sewn together. When assembling a section, I taped a panel and then stitched, then added another and stitched. This way only one panel, the new one, has to pass under the machine's arm as shown below.

I'm used a 3 step zig-zag machine which gives me a 6mm wide zig-zag. This is smaller than a pro-built sail, but I can't rip the seam apart so I think it is strong enough. Stitching over the tape is not a problem and fears of the needle gumming up have come to nothing. I'm using a fine point needle and V46 bonded polyster thread. Here are the finished seams:

You can see how the clew corner has not quite come together here. More on that later. Here's the finished assembly. Just the luff, leach and foot seams and corners to do.