Clipper's Vera Cruise Build

Clipper's Vera Cruise Build

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

V Berth Compartment Part 2

I am sure that most people have times where "Life Happens", "Life Takes Priority", or "Life Gets In The Way".  Well the last month has been like that for me. I won't bore you with the dirty laundry, other than to say that nearly everyday this last month has been used in dealing either with work, or many of the "Life Occurrences" that came up.

Nonetheless, I have made some progress. In addition to several iterations of design work on the cabin seat boxes, head box, and cabinet, I have completed most of the structure for the forward V berth and installed the threaded inserts for the lower V berth floor.

The design work came about when I started thinking about how the remainder of the cabin interior was going to tie into the forward V berth. I realized that although I had a general idea of how I wanted to make the seat boxes and the head box, I had no real idea of what the structure and construction of those items would look like. I started by sketching these out, thinking that this would be sufficient. Of course, that was a fool's errand as I quickly realized there was much more to this than originally thought.

For example, how was I going to provide separation between the head box and the seat box so that the person sleeping on that side would not have to get any unpleasant odors? How was this separation going to tie into the structure making up the seat box and head box? How high is the head box actually going to be and still provide room to open the top?

One big problem was my desire to place the electrical panel outboard and above the head box. The original design of the head box with the side grab rails would have required the head box to be too tall. It would have left insufficient room for the electrical panel and would have blocked the view into the cabin.

This required a rethinking of the head box design which in turn changed the structure and it's tie into the seat box. I had to come up with real world dimensions for the seat main box and the flip up extension.

All of this and much more was worked out and will be covered in more detail when I begin construction of those pieces. I decided however to move back to the V berth and complete most of that work first. I did this for a couple of reasons. First, I wanted to have some real visual progress rather than a bunch of parts waiting to assemble. Secondly, I needed the structure of the V berth in place so I could start finalizing measurements for the seat boxes. And thirdly, I had already rough cut the V berth platform and wanted to get it installed.

Before I could do the V berth structure, I had to finish the lower floor support work. This entailed  installing threaded inserts into the support pieces to be used when installing the lower V berth floor. The actual installation of that floor wasn't critical, and in fact it still needs to be painted. But I thought it might be difficult to install the inserts with the upper structure in the way.

These threaded inserts are designed to be installed in a 25/64ths hole by threading them into the wood. They have cutting teeth on their exterior and have 10-32 threaded on the inside for the screws that will hold down the floor piece. They come with a special installation tool from the manufacturer, however I found this tool to be virtually useless as it would begin chipping the insert long before it was fully threaded into the wood.

What worked far better was using a screw with a nut on it and threading it into the inside of the insert until the nut was up against the top of the insert. Then using a socket and a ratchet, I was able to drive these inserts in. It required a bit of care to make sure they stayed perpendicular to the surface when first threading them in, but it worked well otherwise.

Here is the special tool and how it is intended to be used. The slots in the top of the insert would start to chip away after threading the insert about halfway into the wood. I didn't use this tool for any of the installations.

Here is the way that I installed them instead.

And after finishing.

The V berth structure was initially shown in part 1 of this series. But what it still needed was a way to support the outboard ends of the platform. Originally, I was going to place cleats on the side planking like I did for the anchor well. But that approach requires a lot of extra effort in getting the cleats made at the correct angles at each location. That had been a real pain when I did it in the anchor well. I happened to see a photo of another Vera Cruise V berth where diagonal braces were added instead. This seemed like a much better idea and this is the approach I took.

The idea here is that these supports will also get threaded inserts to make it possible to remove the V berth platform if needed in order to work in the lower compartment (once I figure out what I want to use it for). So far the best idea I've had is to install a marine air conditioner in this area, but that entails a fairly large expense, so for now, it will remain empty. Hence the need for the removable platform.

I have not final fitted the platform yet as I only just completed re-encapsulating the structure (remember "Life Happens"?).

So for now, that is it. I will be touching up the white paint in the V berth area. I've decided to leave the support structure as simply epoxied because it looks nice (even though it won't be visible unless you look inside the lower compartment). I will also get the lower floor painted and installed and then fit and install the platform.

Then, the remainder of the cabin can be started. Until next time, take care.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Cabin Floor Supports - Part 1

I am at that stage in the build where there are many small parts to make, lots of experimenting with ideas, and generally just trying to figure out what needs to be done, all the while trying to make sure I don't forget to allow for some aspect of the build. 

Fortunately (at least as far as building is concerned), my building rate is fairly slow, so I have lots of time to think about things before I do them. That's no guarantee that it will be right, but I am trying.

After completing the initial work on the V berth, I felt that it would necessary to have the next section somewhat worked out since there will be parts that have to work with the things I've already done and the next section aft which I had not done yet. Gobbledygook? Yes.

What I am trying to say is that when I start matching up the aft cabin with the V berth section, there are going to be vertical pieces that have to be designed and fitted in there. Since I have trouble visualizing the end result, other than in a general sense, I have found the best thing to do is work on small sections at a time. This helps to better see what has to come next. Sometimes this working on a small section means doing a preliminary design, such as the seat boxes I included in the last post.

I heard a saying once, something like "You can't really see the mountains in the distance until you climb the hills in front." Poorly paraphrased to be sure, but what this has always meant to me is that if I can complete some small section of work, it makes it easier to understand the next part. I used this same philosophy when I was fairing the boat several years ago. It looked hopelessly complicated when I first started, but each section was easier to do as other sections were completed.

Anyway enough of the rambling. This last ten days I have been making the floor support structure for the forward cabin. There are two sections of floor in the cabin and they will be similarly designed, however I am temporarily out of Mahogany to complete the second section.

I had several criteria I wanted to satisfy with this support structure. First and foremost, I do not want any springiness in the floor. Secondly, to keep mold and mildew away, the bilge area needs to have good cross ventilation. This means that any supports cannot extend from the floor to the bottom of the boat with out providing some way for air to flow through. And thirdly, like the V berth, I want to make the floor removable in case I ever need to work in the bilge.

This first photo, which I've posted before, was the original idea and inspiration for the flooring supports. This was drawn when I was still considering a full width floor up front. But it helped me to understand something of what I needed to do.

The photo shows what look like full height supports. This would not have worked for ventilation unless I cut holes in them. Furthermore, trying to fit these to the bottom and the frames would have been difficult because of the changing curvature and angles of the planking.

So I sat in the boat one evening playing around with various pieces of wood, trying out ideas. I wanted to see how stiff the floor would be using the 12mm plywood I have in mind for the flooring. Here is one shot of that process. It shows the concept of a center support on the spans and the plywood served as a test to see how much it flexed under my weight.

I decided to make four supports per section. Two inboard that would have center supports on the span and two outboard that would not. The reasoning for the outboard was twofold. First there is insufficient room under the forward section for this and secondly, I did not want any support structure resting directly against the hull planking. 

These supports would be made from 2" by 7/8" Mahogany. On the outboard supports, in order to get them to be stiff enough, I epoxied a 9mm piece of plywood to the Mahogany. The inboard supports were going to have a center span vertical support tie into the battens in the hull bottom. All four supports would be cleated on the ends and attached to the frames.

It took a fair amount of work to get these fitted, especially the outboard ones, because the hull curves up sharply at the bow and the supports mount very close to the planking on the forward end. I wanted there to be a gap so that none of the supports contacted the hull planking.

From this point on the visual progress slowed to a crawl while I worked on the remaining pieces and assembled them. The first thing I realized was that the inboard supports did not conveniently mount directly over the battens. Rather, there were approximately in between the battens and the center keel. 

What that meant was that the vertical center span support for these inboard pieces was going to have to be supported by the batten and the keel.  I created two parts to straddle the batten and keel and then mounted a vertical support to them and to the floor support pieces. The following picture shows this as well as another piece which I will explain in a moment.

The flooring will eventually have a access hatch over this center section. Since this access hatch won't be connected directly to the rest of the floor, I felt it was going to be weaker and need some additional support in the center. Hence the cross support seen in the last photo.

I also realized that this area of the bilge might be useful for longer item storage, especially if I can extend it into the next section aft. This might provide a place for fishing poles or an oar. We'll see as I get further into this. But in order to accommodate a long piece, that center cross piece would need to be temporarily removable when the hatch is open. So I built it that way.

This last photo also shows some plywood spacers at the forward end on the frame. These are necessary in order to provide an even surface for a long cleat to support the forward end of the floor. Of course, none of this is mounted permanently yet.

So here are a couple of extra views. 

What may not be readily apparent in these pictures is that the seat boxes will mount outboard of and above the outboard floor supports. The seat boxes have their own internal structure that will need to tie into the floor support structure. I need to start figuring that out next. This is exactly what I meant earlier when talking about working small sections at a time.

The first of these last photos shows how there is plenty of under support airflow. It will be quite easy to keep the bilge clean in this area when the floor access panel is removed.

The last photo also shows the next section aft. It's floor supports will be similar, however, I have extra battens to work with here, so I will probably provide center span vertical supports on all four supports in this area. This area will likely get an increased amount of foot traffic than the forward area, so I definitely want it to be stiff.

Also in this aft section will be the first two bilge pumps which I'll cover in the future sometime.

So that's it for now. There's a bunch of grunt work coming up, sanding, encapsulating, and painting. There is also a bunch of thinking/experimenting/designing work ahead as I figure out how the above floor structure connects to the below floor structure. A lot to think about.

Take care.

Sunday, July 2, 2017

V Berth Compartment - Part 1

With the initial interior mocking up completed and the cabin profile verified, I could finally get started on the next section in the boat. The plan is to work on the cabin interior floor and cabin fittings for a while and then eventually move to getting the fore deck installed. It will take some time to get the cabin interior done even though I will only be working on the basic fittings for the time being.

This means the floor and and it's supporting structure, the V berth including the aft section of the berth (which doubles as seating), the head box, and the cabinet box. Additional trim and fittings will come later after the fore deck is completed. I may also work on getting the cabin housing structure designed and built before returning to the interior. We'll see on that.

What I've been working on for the last few weeks is the V berth forward compartment. There are two areas of concern that I am tackling for now. The V berth platform which forms the forward part of the sleeping berths as well as it's support structure, and the area below the platform.

The plan for the forward V berth section is to use 12mm Okoume plywood for the platform, supported by a mahogany structure underneath. I want the platform to be strong enough to support two people's weight while sleeping and one person's weight if they are standing in the overhead hatch.

Additionally, there will be access panels in the top to allow entry into the area below. This area below is sort of a free area for now as I am not really sure what I can use it for other than storage. For that reason, I have decided to make the platform removable as well. This gives me flexibility to make changes in this area in the future if needed.

The picture below shows the mock up of the platform in position. There will be a 4 inch foam cushion on top of the platform which will end just below the hatch opening in the forward bulkhead. You can also see that the chine blocks extend up the sides above the level of the platform, so there will need to be allowances for this.

On the aft end of the platform, there is a vertical panel that will drop to the level of the floor. In this vertical panel, will be an additional hatch to access the compartment from this direction. All of this is between frame 5 and frame 6, a distance of approximately 3 feet.

In order to provide the necessary strength to the platform, in addition to it's 12mm thickness (approximately 1/2 inch), there needs to be a supporting structure which I have made from African Mahogany. It consists of a cross brace attached to frame 5, at the aft end of the platform, supported vertically in two places on both sides of the previously mentioned hatch.

These vertical supports are attached to the cross brace and to the floor timbers in the frame. Where they connect to the floor timber, I created 9mm plywood gussets. Then running forward in two places, are two additional supports which connect from the cross brace to the floor timber on frame 6 (under the forward bulkhead).

The following pictures illustrate this. In the third picture, you can see the gussets on the vertical supports. The second, third, and fifth pictures show the hatch opening and the vertical supports. The fore and aft braces are shown in the second, third, and fourth pictures. The hatch is sized to be narrower than the seat boxes that will eventually be installed aft of this location. The scrap plywood temporary floor shows how big this piece will be. It will extend from frame 5 to frame 3 and is approximately 31 inches wide.

To make the V berth platform removable, I will be adding threaded nut inserts into the support structure and use screws through the platform to secure it to the structure. The fore and aft braces will get additional bracing to support the access panels in the platform, but these have not bee designed yet. The platform has been rough cut from plywood, but still needs to get final fitting done. I delayed on this step because I wanted to complete the work on the section below the platform.

As mentioned previously, I am not sure how this area might eventually get used, so in order to make it usable as storage for now, and to give it the flexibility to be changed later, and to give access to the bilge area below. I have constructed a removable lower floor assembly. This will be secured in a similar manner to the platform above via screws and threaded nut inserts.

The floor assembly also needed a support structure, however not nearly as robust as the platform. So that structure consists of two cleats. One mounted aft on the frame and one mounted forward across the stem. I am still finishing up the encapsulation and painting of these parts but all are made and in various stages of completion.

The floor assembly is made from 12mm plywood and has 1/4" mahogany strips across the sides and forward edges to keep items from sliding off. It is a partial floor assembly and leaves some open areas around it for ventilation. The topside has received a fiberglass cover and the entire assembly is encapsulated with epoxy.

Before installing the floor assembly, I wanted to paint the bilge area. So this was encapsulated with epoxy first, masked off (including areas that the platform structure will bond to), and then painted with white bilge paint. When I complete encapsulation of the floor assembly and forward mounting cleat, they will also be painted with the white paint.

This is where I am at as of today except for some additional design work on the next section aft of the forward V berth.  Most of that will be covered in the next posting, but one area I will cover now is the design of the seat boxes that make up the aft section of the V berth.

These seat boxes have to serve two purposes and allow for several considerations. I'll cover that first and then get into the proposed design.

The seat boxes, when used as seats, must not be too deep but at the same time allow sufficient depth (inboard to outboard) for storage underneath. They also need to have enough width to allow sufficient room for a sleeping person. These two measurements are different. Furthermore, I am trying very hard to maintain an openness in the cabin since it is quite small. This means keeping as large a floor space as I can manage. The 31 inch width of the floor came about by raising the floor and was mentioned in my previous posting about mocking up the interior.

I want to preserve this floor space when the seat boxes are used as seats. Additionally, for consideration of my wife's need to get out of the bunks after sleeping, I want to maintain a narrow area of the floor space to swing her legs down instead of having to slide off the end of the V berth if it extended all the way across the aft section when used as a bed. And finally, extending the bed across the cabin would have required a large platform that would have had to be stored somewhere on the boat. I wanted to avoid that.

So the plan is to make the seat boxes approximately 20 inches deep and have a flip up extension on the inboard sides which add an additional 10 inches of width. This will leave a floor space gap of approximately 10 inches in the center between the two seat boxes.

This flip up extension box needs to be supported on the bottom side when flipped up and when flipped down, not take up any additional floor space. So it will fold into a pocket on the inboard side of the seat box and will have fold down legs hidden in the underside. To use the extensions, they simply need to be folded up to the horizontal position and the legs folded down to support them. When not needed, the legs are folded up into the extension box and the extension box folded back into the seat box.

There will be an internal wall outboard of the pocket for the extension box that will separate the storage area from the extension pocket. Finally, the top of the seat box will also be hinged so that the storage underneath can be accessed.

The drawing below is a concept drawing that is neither to scale nor properly proportioned. It also contains a few ideas that may not get incorporated (folding flap at the bottom of the extension for one). But it adequately illustrates what I am trying to accomplish.

So that's it for now. It's been fun working on this and I've started working out the design for the floor support structure that comes next. Once that is built, I will start on the previously mentioned seat boxes. So until next time, take care.

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Special Edition: Verifying The Cabin Profile

After nearly five years of work , numerous drawings, many attempts at getting far enough back in my garage, and lots of retries, I finally got the chance to see what my boat will look like in profile.

Of course it's not anywhere near finished, but I now know that the cabin profile is going to work, both on the inside, and equally as important, on the outside. I can have my increased aft cockpit space and still have a usable cabin.

Without further ado here are a few shots.

What may not be immediately apparent here is that the cabin ends at the approximate midpoint of the boat. You can just make out the seam in the poster board where this occurs. The piece aft of the seam is a wing to keep water spray from the cockpit.

Needless to say, I am pretty happy with the way this turned out. So now construction of the interior can begin. Until next time, take care.

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

We Will We Will Mock You

Sorry, couldn't help myself!

This two weeks was all about one thing. Verifying that the shorter length cabin profile is going to work. What that means is will I be able to fit in the berths, the head, the sole space I want, adequate seating, and what will some of this look like when in place. This is going to be a somewhat lengthy blog so bear with me.

In previous photos, I had mocked up a larger forward sole piece in hopes of having a single level sole from front to back. However, one of the first concerns was seat height and adequate headroom for those sitting in the cabin.

Through some experimentation, I determined that a 17 to 18 inch seat height was best. Given that I plan on having 4 inch foam on top of the wood, this meant that the height of the berths had to be around 13 to 14 inches. With the single larger sole piece, the seat height of the "V" berth would have been 12 inches. This meant that in order to get correct seat height for the aft portion of the berth (where people would sit), there would have had to been a step in the bunk height, not an acceptable solution.

With some further measuring and experimentation, I determined that a 1 inch drop in the sole height would allow for the correct seat heights and allow the fore and aft berth parts to blend in evenly with no step. And the actual loss of sole space was minor since all of the outboard edges of the sole were going to be covered by cabinetry of some sort. The only disadvantage will be a 1 inch drop when entering the cabin from the aft cockpit. With a gradual wedge at this location and under carpet, I believe this will not be that noticeable.

When I realized that the outboard edges of the sole were going to be covered, I also realized that I did not need to make it full width. So I modified my temporary under sole supports to allow for the lower height and cut down the temporary plywood sole to the newer narrower dimensions. This change greatly simplifies the installation of this piece since I won't have to create cleats around all the edges of the sole (at least in the cabin).

The next thing was to verify that the 17 to 18 inch seat height was going to work with the cabin profile and height. This was quite easy  with a cinder block and a couple of pieces of wood standing in for the seat. As you can see in these photos, there is adequate head room, a seated person can look out the windows of the cabin.

I was having some difficulty in visualizing the space at this point so I started by placing some lumber vertically and horizontally at certain locations representing what I considered the correct height and horizontal location of some of the interior fittings.

In the last photos you can see a wider piece of wood that is curved as it spans two of the vertical pieces of lumber. I was trying to figure out what to do for the back of the seats at this point.  If you look closely at the forward end of this piece in the last photo, you can see that it creates some crazy corners in the forward berth. I didn't care for that too much.

 Using a photo editing software package called GIMP, I drew in some connecting lines to better try to visualize everything. The crazy corners previously mentioned are more noticeable here.

I created the forward berth from poster board. That was fairly straightforward enough. Then I placed two pieces of wood at what I thought might be the extent of the aft berths, trying to maintain an even distance from the side of the boat and adequate room to sleep. The angled look of this was not all that pleasing, but even worse, it seriously cut in to the sole space.

So how to keep the same sole space and at the same time, provide bunks wide enough to sleep on. Traditionally, this is handled by making a piece that fits in between the two berths that cushions are then placed on forming a larger "V" berth. However, we have a few  particular requirements with our boat. Due to a back injury, my wife needs to have the ability to swing her feet off the bed in order to get up. This would have been difficult with the middle space covered over with cushions. Also, a center piece to cover the gap has to be stowed somewhere and space on this design for something large like this is a bit wanting.

What I decided to do is one of two variations with the second being the likely choice. I'll know more when I get to actually building the berths. The two choices are sections that slide out making the berths wider, or having fold up sides with legs on the backsides that fold down to provide the support. The bottom line here is that either of these two approaches will be designed to leave approximately 12 inches of pathway in the center.

The next requirement was for a head (bathroom for you land lubbers!). I had planned since several years ago to use a composting toilet rather than a chemical toilet or porta potty. Everything I have read says that if these are made correctly, they are not obnoxious from an olfactory point of view.

Since this head would need to be used by both of us, there was a need for a degree of privacy. At the same time, I didn't want something that was going to take up a lot of space and make the small cabin feel smaller and more cramped. I envisioned a box containing the toilet that somehow would open up and provide the privacy necessary. I drew up all sorts of complicated designs with folding sides, folding fronts, built in curtains and anything else I could think of. 

Leave it to my wife to state the obvious solution. Instead of trying to make the box provide all the privacy, put a curtain across the back of the cabin and use the cabin for the privacy. As the readers will no doubt remember, my cabin will be open at the back end, so a curtain is a simple and elegant solution. Furthermore it eliminates the need for a full height head box and it neatly solves the problem of where to put your feet when seated without making the box very deep (and thereby cutting into sole space). 

The basic design is a box approximately 24 inches high from the sole with a fold up top and two doors on the front. One simply opens the top to expose the seating area, and opens the two front doors to provide the additional leg room needed. With the curtain drawn across the back of the cabin, this will work just fine.

So back to the interior. Where to place the head? My concept drawing shows it on the starboard (right) side directly in front of the helm station. But before we hit upon the idea of the cabin curtain, I was thinking of a full height box and I was thinking that if it were in front of the helm, that it would hinder communication into the cabin.

So I did a real quick mock up using a porta potty with it on the port side.

However, I didn't like this too much as I realized that it and the helm station would block much of the entrance to the cabin. After my wife's suggestion for the curtain, I decided to return it to the starboard side.

The composting toilet that I have in mind has a urine diverter requiring a separate container for fluids. This requires additional space. The composting toilet also requires someplace to keep peat moss or saw dust. Finally, and again to accommodate my wife's bad back, we wanted to include hand rails in the head to make it easier to sit and stand up. So I elected to use a full between frames section of 36 inches for the head. This is quite a bit wider than the original design but it proved to be sufficient for my needs.

I determined this by mocking up the design in full size on the floor using tape and taking measurements as needed to insure all space was used efficiently. Here is that mock up.

And here is the cabin after mocking up the box for the head. The mock up doesn't show it but it will extend to the sole. Also, it will probably be a bit taller than shown here.

Another need for the cabin was for the bunks to be long enough to accommodate my 6 foot height. As originally envisioned in my concept drawing, they were right at 6 feet in length. For my wife this is fine, but it would have cramped me a bit. So on the side where the head is located, the bunk is still 6 feet in length. The other side is extended an additional 4 inches. You can see that in the photo above.

That left one remaining space in the cabin to use. I have decided to use this for a cabinet that will house a variety of items and perform multiple functions. It will utilize the remaining space left between frames 3 and 4 on the port side (approximately 32 inches wide) and possibly extend to the sole. It will probably be approximately as high as the cabin sides, but this will be determined later. I would prefer it to be lower if possible so I will be striving for that. The mock up I have here shows it at the height of the cabin. It is also mocked up deeper than it will probably be as I would prefer to not block the cabin opening too much.

At this point the basic mock up of the cabin is complete and the next task is to make sure that the cabin profile looks good when seen from various angles and from a distance. I cannot get far enough back in my garage to do this, so my plan is to move it outdoors temporarily and perform this function.

In order to get a better feel for the profile, I felt that the fore deck and front windscreen needed to be mocked up as well. So I mocked these up. They are pretty rough but hopefully adequate enough to get the verification I desire.

So that's where I am at as of today. Over the next couple of days, I am going to prepare the boat to be moved and then perform the visual check outdoors. I'll report on that and other things in the next post. In the meantime, take care.