Monday, 6 July 2009

Take two
Work has slowed down again so i've awarded myself the week off to ready the back garden for the boat. I have decided (for what it'll cost) to build another cradle although Chris's old one works fine theres no room between the box part of the cradle and the keel stub.

Therefore to make repairing the keel stubs easier i have built a new box cradle

The design of the box is a foot narrower although the cradles endplates are still the same size (4 foot) i beefed up the actual box so it wouldn't twist as the original had (slightly).

The added benefit of this cradle will be having the boat sat as it would in the water (level) which will help alot. i know all this sounds a bit over the top but as there is a lot of interior work to do i don't want the hassle of trying to level things when the time comes.
How bigs your cat?
Feeling slightly demoralised after tearing the canopy down it was time to go to the merchants and order everything over again (sleepers, timber, coach screws etc) it all came the next day on a flat bed as promised and so construction on the worlds largest litter tray began.

Now a dab hand with the hole driller i got through the soft soil in minutes, set the mixer up (again) and went for it, long story short, got the foundation down in two days and the plate bolted together in about four hours, a new personal best for Centaur canopy building.

Next it was down with the poly sheeting and add two tonnes of gravel to taste, then doing by best not to knacker my back place two railway sleepers on sharp sand to level accurately et voila.
Did you get planning for that?
"Its a temporary structure" i told the passer-by, that coupled with dirty looks from all and sundry who either drove or walked past over the proceeding two weeks finally led to a letter from the local council (NFDC).

Very politely it asked me to remove the 'enormous structure' within 21 days or it would be done for me. I then got serious (doesn't happen very often), fearing a good few quids worth of materials and tools was all for nothing i got a meeting with the senior planning officer.

Given the way local authorities have a perchant for rules and regulations i was expecting an officious pain in the arse.

Imagine my surprise when i was greeted by a very friendly helpful face by the name of Mrs Williams, (senior planning officer) after sharing a few jokes about no problems finding the place, the upshot of the meeting was that for it to stay as it was it would need to go in the back garden where it wouldn't pollute the street scene.

And like that the meeting was over, in my opinion i got the impression she wasn't really that bothered and so now this months challenge was to reproduce what was in the front in the back garden.
Nice erection Rog!
Managing to collar older brother Richard for a weekend we got the canopy built on what was the windiest weekend of the year, still it was now or never. I'd only seen my creation on a sheet of A4 paper and was amazed by the sheer size of thing as it came out the ground.

I built the canopy walls in two stages, the first (that bolted to the sill plate) being head height and the second stage (eaves) so it would clear the gunwale of the boat. Next we built the scaffold towers up and got the roof on, then ran vertical braces from the eaves of the canopy to the base of the cradle for abit of insurance against the weather conditions

Both Rik and i walked across the road to view our weekends work.

I'd be lying if i said i wasn't already having doubts about complaints, and sure enough it wouldn't be long.............................
Gimme shelter...........................
I was racking my brains for a suitable enclosure or canopy that would close in the Centaur without too much visual impact. But to be honest trying to hide anything 26 feet long and 10 foot high is going to be a tall order.

Still i spoke to my neighbours along the street who it would impact the most and assured them it would only be up for 6 - 8 weeks while i carry out repairs, to which all were positive and quite interested seeing as the boat become a local point of interest.

I then set about the internet to see if i could get something 'off the shelf ' all i turned up was this but spluttered at the price, not to mention it would still need some form of foundation to bolt the whole thing to. Undeterred i set about working out a specification and design to be built from wood.

I based the frame of the canopy along the lines of a stud wall , but using 2x2 instead of 4x2 to make it practical to move around.

The weather was decent in April, so seeing as i had sod all work on i set about making the frames that would build up into the four sides in the back garden.

The foundations needed digging next and being an ebay addict (and abit lazy) i swore after digging the pilings (by hand) for my summerhouse i would never dig a hole by hand again. For £200 i got what can only be described as a chainsaw motor with a comedy size drill bit on the end but was told it would be perfect for drilling holes quickly.

I set my plots out with string remembering my basic 3 4 5 triangle theory from school & made a giant string rectangle around the Centaur, being english about these things i thought i'd use the boat for cover to drill the first few holes incase of some embarassing accident with the drill.

To my surprise it drilled a perfect 8" diameter hole three feet deep, i drilled six more either side and two fore and aft to bolt a 4x2 sill plate to.
Keel Stubs
Its fair to say that until i cleaned the starboard stub up i presumed it needed a little grinding back maybe some cloth and resin where there appears to be impact damage but having taken a closer look was quite shocked when the sun was setting at a particular angle so much so that it cast light over all the lumps and bumps.

To say its osmotic is putting it mildly, having earlier looked at the starboard keel before i started filling and fairing it appears something or someone has hit the aft end of it as the pattern of damage is in the same place on the keel and stub (around the furthest aft keel stud location).

Looking at the stub along its length (with the sun shining on it) showed up bloody huge blisters around every keel stud location. So for me to begin the process of grinding back laminate, drying and repairing the affected area would require some sort of canopy over the boat.

Sunday, 5 July 2009

Go go gadget pallet truck!
Recently acquiring (be it on a temporary basis) a one tonne pallet truck, i thought it would be useful in re-fitting the keels, making them mobile.

The idea came from the way i reinforced the cradle to take the weight of the keels so i thought of making something similar to palletise them.

Basing the dimensions on how much room i had around the keel stub i then proceeded to work out the angle of attack that the keels attached themselves to the boat and built what looks like a very sturdy single seater sofa.

I made one of these in the nick of time as the shop was getting abit crowded so it was a great moment to get one finished keel out the shop and have it mounted in its own palletised steel crate.
How much?
With both keels now in the shop i turned to the issue of keel studs and whether or not to replace them, it was after removing all them from the starboard keel that realised it was pointless keeping them since they were all bent into various different shapes.

Curiously the tapped hole that each stud went into was (in my case at least) about 40mm deeper than the length of the stud that sits in the keel, it still blows me away to think that the keels stay attached via 7 stainless steel studs about 150mm long with 50mm protruding from the top of it, the more i thought about that the more i realised replacement was the only option.

So i went online and found a host of suppliers that could supply A4 grade (316L) stainless steel studding and the corresponding nuts and washers, i was taken aback by the cost of buying 2m of 1"UNC and 1M of 3/4"UNC studding plus 28 nuts and 14 washers.

The dearest was just under £850 (bearing in mind i would still have to machine the studding myself and the cheapest who were www.inox.ie came in at little over £300 inc vat and carriage, and were incredibly helpful. Job done!
Turn hard to port................
With the starboard side well underway my attentions turned to getting the port side keel off and sorting the stub out as well. After laying out the plywood on the gravel next to the keel it became obvious i'd never fit the engine hoist between the keel and garden wall.

It was time to pimp my engine hoist! This generally involved cutting a foot off the hoists legs and beefing up the wheels since they had both buckled under the strain of the previous keel. So with a new and improved hoist off came the port side although not without a little interior surgery to get access to the nuts.

After some persuading with various air powered implements most of the GRP around the keel studs saw it my way and relented, however once the encapsulations and nuts were removed it proved a complete bastard to loosen the keel enough to drive in the wedges between the stub/keel joint.

Not for the first time impatience got the better of me and so i solved this problem by way of wedges cut from 4x2's and a set of (previously decent) chisels. The noises this keel made were horrendous - the kind you don't want to hear when the boats in the water, a cross between slow tearing and the sound of fibreglass cracking, you know that brittle 'toppy' sound.

After bucket loads of sweat and alot of filthy language a joint that hadn't been touched for 37 years was finally disturbed and the port keel was off.


Whats the biggest hammer you sell?
Inbetween filling and fairing the keel i got to work preparing the inside of the keel stubs for reinforcing, this involved cutting out all the old work..........well i say cut out more a case of pull out with your own hands!

Having seen the bill for this supposed reinforcing work that was done a few years prior to my dad owning the boat i' d imagine the previous owner would be as sick as a parrot.

I'm not into doing people down but to bed reinforcing fillets straight onto oily bilges and pour neat resin all over the interior floors of the stub is beyond amateur to me.

Still after giving up using conventional means (bloody great hammer and chisel) i ran air lines out to the boat and fired up a selection of air chisels, which made light work of digging out all the crap that had been put in there.


Swings and Roundabouts...............................
Alot of owners on the forum recommend sandblasting keels but the amount of damage i did just with a de-scaler proved that had i gone down the blasting route there would be nothing left to bolt back on the boat.

Also the fact that both keels would be encapsulated in epoxy resin made me confident of halting any further corrosion and would effectively form a barrier between the sea and iron of the keel, from this point of view you can see my logic in not becoming obsessed with losing every bit of corroded metal.

It was now a case of filling and fairing the keel into some kind of profile that resembled the old shape, for this i chose to (on top of the 3 layers of POR15) do two barrier coats of plain west system epoxy resin with black pigment in it and then using a combination of low density filler (pinky/purple colour) and high density filler (white) began to shape the keel.

Tools for the job were a plasterers hawk and trowel plus a pad sander and various grades of sandpaper (40, 80 120) all from screwfix. Also a decent 3M mask with fine filters, measuring cups for epoxy and blue nitrile (chemical resistant) rubber gloves.

To be honest it was a bloody laborious task largely because i started this last winter (2008) so the epoxy was taking forever to cure even with four infra red heaters on 24 hours, but it was worth it.

The moons smoother than that!
Having attacked both sides of the keel with a recently purchased air needle de-scaler it was time for a bath............not me - the keel! and then lots of metal primer

It was around this point in the proceedings i noticed what looked like fibreglass mat on top of the keel upon further investigation it was covering the original casting holes for when i dug out all the old foam and got to the bottom there was good few inches of sand left.


Anyone know a decent osteopath?
Thinking i should let my back recover from its radical workout i decided the course of action should be to strip off all the loose rust and give the keel a chemical bath to try and stabilize whatever was still stuck to to it.

Opinions seemed polarized regarding treating rusty keels, i spent much spare time reading the owners forum seeking advice and a lot i found puzzling but one name kept coming up when i did any searches on the subject was POR15.

From what i found on the net this seemed to be the kiddy it was sold as a system, (or at least it was to me) you bought the chemical bath product (marine clean) then an acid etch primer (metal ready) then finally finished off with 2-3 coats of the metal primer (POR15) and most encouraging of all the whole lot came to £80 or thereabouts.

I bought all my product from this place as they were the cheapest.
Right
The starboard keel is now effectively independent of the boat, its time to get it up the drive way to the workshop, bring on the engine hoist. So far so good, i have roped on and got clear of the boat but the problem being where i released the ram on the hoist abit quick the keel effectively fell onto the legs of the hoist buckling one of the wheels.

I'm effectively trying to pull 600kg along the ground with a hoist thats now got a supermarket trolley wheel for steerage.......... Great!

After much huffing and puffing up the drive way and placing one sheet of ply in front of another i finally got it to its place of rest - outside the shop ready for work.
See......nothing to it.
With everything in place i turned my attentions to inside the boat having purchased supersize sockets (nearest metric equivilents were 32mm and 38mm). This became abit too easy as once the socket was over the locknuts of the starboard keel they just undid with the slightest of touch, basically they were just above hand tight!

Having now taken all the nuts and where there were any - locknuts off, i proceeded to air chisel out the washers which had been laminated in for some reason; once these were out of the way i made sure all the chocks were in place and a couple of car jacks were under the bottom of the keel to take the weight.

I then began hammering the tops of each stud working inwards from both ends of the keel, eventually enough of a crack appeared to be able to drive in wedges into the joint between the stub and keel.

It was really then a case of lowering the car jacks 5 - 10mm at a time and driving the wedges in deeper, that the keel was almost out (top of the studs visible in places) when i got impatient and put a jemmy bar between the keel and stub and then leant down on it with all my might.

With a brittle sounding crack she came to rest leaning on her supports.
How much do they weigh?
Lifting anything becomes tiring, but the keels took this to whole new level - i knew how i was going to get them clear of the boat but after that i'd drawn a blank. One idea was to buy a fork lift truck but that was discounted on cost grounds, the second idea was to hire something, but again the prices were almost comparable to buying.
Feeling a dull ache between my ears i knew an idea was forming, then it came to me - engine hoist! EUREKA.

I found one on ebay that would take two tonnes and was only £140 new, so immediately bought it, next i needed some ply to lay down on the ground to create the smooth surface over which the hoist would move.

With all this set up and ready i set about the task of removing the first keel, my first contestant would be the dodgy starboard side seeing as it was already quite loose.

As i didn't want any 'you've been framed moments' i set about reinforcing each side of the cradle behind each keel this would help support the keel as it came loose and help in its removal by keeping it upright so i could get slings round it.

Saturday, 4 July 2009

Plugging away at it......................
After a couple more weekends of sanding and fairing the plugs both halves were primed using 2k (2k means 2 pack polyurethane) hi build car primer. I use this paint system because of its composition; it dries rapidly and sands brilliantly, you can get this on ebay relatively easily.
After that was done the plugs were top-coated and waxed, they are now in my loft awaiting a mould to be taken from them, until i finish the keels the rudder can wait......keels, that reminds me.

Raising my profile...........
With the blade now lofted out in 2D it was time to make it 3D, this involved putting in a number of profiling stations perpendicular to the shaft to create the blades shape and profile through the water.
Again keeping it simple i went with MDF and extruded polystrene block (modelling foam) as i could put both through my bench saw without worry, this created the basic three dimensional shape before any shaping took place.

I got the profile for the new rudder by a combination of measuring the old one and looking at the nearest equivilant profile from NACA (National Advisory Committee on Aeronautics). This sounds technical and it is, basically these boffins came up with a family of symmetrical profiles for aircraft wings back in the day, that relate the thickness of the wings (or in our case rudder's) chord to its depth.

The nearest i got was NACA 0015 profile which in laymans terms means the rudders thickness at its widest point is 15% of the rudders depth........................christ that reminded me why i never completed my yacht design degree, anyway thats the science bit done, it was then back to what i am good at, using my hands and eyes and you get something like this.
How hard can it be?
Having seen both my dad and older brother repair various daggerboards and rudder blades from dinghies we'd owned over the years i didn't really give much thought to how hard the task might be.
Having absolutely no moulding experience (apart from trowelling tons of car body filler into the roof and a-pillars of my first car) i realised how much work would be needed when i started dimensioning and generally surveying the existing blade.
This was the beginning of my interest in West Systems Epoxy, according to older brother Rik he recommended this on the basis of its strength and ease of use to work and the fact that there is an additive for every application.
By this i mean whether you are filling some surface scratches in the gelcoat of a dinghy to rebuilding a yacht with the side torn out of it; Wests make additives that get mixed into the basic epoxy resin to give a different chemical composition depending on the application required.

I'd found out to make the plug of the rudder i'd need a mix that could be sanded and shaped fairly easily but still retain its strength. Whereas the making good of the keels would require a high density filler (but more about that another day).

Being as i make things with my hands for a living i approached it logically and drew both sides of the rudder blade out 1:1 scale on half sheets of MDF.
Is a rudder that important though?
It was early last summer (2008) and the boat was back home, everyone in the street was asking "how high were the tides last night?" as they didn't remember seeing the boat there before, it had become quite a talking point.

So having now drawn up a schedule of works my first job was to take the propeller shaft out and start work on preparing the engine bay to take the new engine and its different mounts. To do this meant removing the existing rudder blade, having duly removed pins, nuts and bolts (oh yes and having dug an 18" deep hole underneath the blade) i could remove it.

It came out of the boat not so much with a thud but more of a slosh, so i got it into the workshop to take a further look.

The first thing i noticed was its bladder weakness - wherever i stood it upright in the shop big puddles would form around it, now i know shes old but those problems shouldn't occur until very old age!

Nevertheless i drilled a few holes in the bottom of the blade and all that came out was rotten foam (core material) so i drilled many more around the whole blade making it look like swiss cheese, i then left it for a couple of days to dry out. At the same time i scraped all the antifouling off of one side to reveal the raw grp colour tinged with a black hue which wasn't a good sign. Still the rudder blade was now no longer incontienent but you could move the blade independently of the stainless steel shaft.

After much thinking how to cure this rudder of its rotten core i decided to make a new blade based on safety grounds and the fact that the current blade was skegless and so would be a great opportunity to optimise the shape of the rudder and incorporate a skeg into the design.




Its time to go.......
It did feel abit sad taking the boat out of the yard considering that had been its home for the last twenty years but as things stood it would be more practical to have the boat where the workshop was - at home.

One of the last jobs i got done before leaving the yard was to remove the old MD2B engine, it was a decision i had made as i want to uprate the on-board electrical systems and feel the engine won't be able to put out the charging capacity i want.

I subsequently bequeathed the engine to the owner of a Hillyard next door to me in the yard who had the one cylinder version of my engine. He needed parts for his, so bits of my engine will live on at least. This made things interesting as now with no engine it would take abit of expertise from the guys in the yard to tow it across the river to where she'd be lifted out and driven away on the back of a lorry.

Any worries proved unfounded as i got a call from the adjacent yard to tell me the boat was ashore and ready for loading. A couple of calls were made and before i knew it Solway Cloud was homeward bound, nowhaving seen the Centaur amongst other boats in the yard it never looked that big but now planted firmly on my old front lawn it looked really rather big.


Having spent the remainder of 2007 taking more and more bits off the boat and generally not getting an awful lot done i was finding it a chore running backwards and forwards to the boat in the yard and especially so if you had forgotten something.

So at the beginning of 2008 i decided to bring the boat home, but for me to successfully work on the boats keels i would need a cradle not having the luxury of heavy lifting gear to hand.

It was with some interest and alot of luck i saw an advert a few months previous on the owners forum for a cradle for a Centaur.

Now it may sound odd considering the fact shes a bilge keeler, but to do the keels on a Centaur you need some way of propping the boat up while you re-bed /reinforce them or take them off and having seen some of the pictures on the forum i didn't fancy going the Heath-Robinson way of using anything to hand to prop three tonnes of boat up.

So one trip to devon later to meet a nice chap called Chris Fulford owner of a Centaur called Gemini and i was now in possession of said cradle.
With the front lawn now successfully a memory (cool - no more mowing) i could bring the boat back home.
Getting high wasn't what i had planned for, but it goes to show what not reading the label can do for your brain chemistry.
My first big job after emptying the boat was to remove all the vinyl linings in both cabins. It was after reading a couple of comments on the owners forum that someone mentioned 'auto glym' tar remover was the kiddy for removing the glue residue left behind once the headlining had been removed.

With this in mind i went to my local halfords and cleared them out of all their product on the shelf, i think it was seven bottles. i then headed back to the yard and started spraying the main saloon ceiling and left it to soak.

After another few minutes i found myself panting like a dog and feeling really dizzy. Then, thinking my glasses had misted up i took em off to find the haze was still there, i must of pumped two maybe three bottles of the stuff around the main cabin by this time and realised i was swimming in it.

It was time for a breather and something to eat, after that i made sure to keep hatches and companionway open whenever i used the stuff, i think in the end to do all the linings throughout the boat i used a total of nine bottles it really works though even if it is a little nasty to breath.

Also a top tip (in hindsight) would be to invest in mask and goggles, i remember getting good results especially in the quarter berths and forecabin with a 'face-off' disc and wire brush attachments for the drill after leaving the remover to soak in for ten mins or so.

Admittedly not an easy job to do but the end result looks good.


Operation empty boat in progress...................
It was mid 2006 and time to empty the interior out, its hard to believe that a boat of 26ft long can hold so much stuff, but then the centaur is known for shed loads of storage, still after about three trips in the van and one full loft later the boat was at a point where work inside could begin.
I'm a pictures man myself...................
Just a quick word on the pictures for this blog, i use picasa 3 to store all my pictures online so from this point on any word or phrase that is orange will be a link to a point of interest usually pictures of the boat or something relavent to the boat.

Just in case you thought i was boring you with text only.

Also so as not to confuse the issue you might want to right click the said links to open them in a new window as i have found out through publishing this blog you tend to forget and then close the album and in doing so the entire blog.

Cheers rog

In the beginning.....

Although this blog is only a couple of days old the actual project its dedicated to dates back to 2005, thats when this first piccy was taken, comprehensively covered in muck but after a good days scrubbing looked quite impressive.
On close inspection it became apparent several jobs needed tending to, firstly the keels. i remember as a kid the starboard one was forever letting water by whilst the port one stayed dry.

The port keel bolts being largely inaccessible under the dinette floor looked to have been encapsulated in GRP from the time of manufacture.

However when the boat was lifted to check for movement in the starboard keel both of them seem to slump towards the centre of the boat, in fairness i was told by several owners this as fairly normal but to me the thought of 600kg of keel swinging about filled me with worry.




Friday, 3 July 2009

Is there anybody out there.............?
Welcome to my blog of the rebuilding of 'Solway Cloud', a Westerly Centaur that has been in my family for more than twenty years.

Originally built in 1971 she has the yard number 319 and was commissioned with the sail number 329. Her general condition is very good considering her age, but now the boat is my responsibility i feel she's deserving of something more than general maintenance as certain jobs can no longer be overlooked.

The aim of this blog will be a pictorial record showing the reworking of this classic marque including a number of modifications to the original design that are both simple to make and long overdue.

Cheers Rog