Clipper's Vera Cruise Build

Clipper's Vera Cruise Build

Saturday, November 30, 2013

The Importance Of Keeping The Dream Alive

Because I decided when I started my project  that I was going to come out of the other end of it with little or no debt related to the build, there have been slow periods while I save funds for the next large purchase. I have a regular budget for the boat, occasionally supplemented when I get some form of financial windfall. So saving can occur on a fairly normal basis.

But as the last two and half months (plus a similar period last holiday season) have shown, progress can grind to a halt if the next needed purchase is fairly large. There are things I can do about this, such as better planning for future purchases. I have been trying to come up with a general plan of construction so that I can try to lessen the impact of these types of events. I will also be able to increase the budgeted amount available starting in the spring.

But invariably, there will be periods of waiting to get through. I have dealt with these in a few different ways. First, I try an organize the purchases in such a manner that I can work on something that needs to be done and that can be done with the materials I have on hand. This current lull is such a session. I still need to purchase more lumber but I have sufficient materials now to keep me busy while I save for the next purchase.

Another approach is to keep a list of smaller tasks that either cost nothing, or very little to accomplish. These also work well when I get into a slump and don't feel like working on the more complex parts of the build. These types of tasks make me feel like I am accomplishing something and they sort of "prime the pump", getting me more inclined to do the bigger jobs.

A third approach, which can be fun, and which is very necessary, is researching and developing plans, and purchases for future work. Designing the electrical system for this boat is a good example of this. I have been doing this for the last month. This is information and planning that I will need to have in place shortly after flipping the hull, since I plan on installing as many systems before building the cabin as I can.

Finally, a fourth technique, and one which may seem frivolous at times, but to me is very important , is drawing and improving my concept of what the boat will eventually look like. In a sense, this is similar to the planning for the electrical system, in that I will eventually need to know what to purchase and do when I finish the outward appearance of the boat. I've just updated the appearance of the drawing and it has been added to this site at the top.

But the real value of this fourth task, and that which the title of this article is about, is keeping my dream of this boat alive. When I originally started this build, I read about other builders who were accomplishing their builds in as little as two years. Even though my boat is somewhat bigger and a bit more complicated, I felt that surely I could finish it in three years.

I quickly realized however, that this was going to take more like 5 years to accomplish, possibly longer (although I hope not). With that length of time, it becomes very important, at least to me, to keep the dream going, especially during those periods when construction invariably slows down.

In addition to working on the external appearance, I will sometimes go out in the garage and just sit and stare at my build, imagining it as it will eventually appear. Yes, I could be working on it, and often I do, but other times when maybe it's too cold, or I'm waiting for epoxy to cure, or I simply have nothing left I can do until more money is available, then day dreaming kicks in.

I do realize that day dreaming can and often does cause projects to either wither and die or never get accomplished. This is why I try and temper this approach with the other techniques mentioned previously.

All of this has been developed from previous long term projects I have been involved in and it has served me well, giving me the patience to see things through, knowing that eventually, this build will be done and I will have a beautiful boat to enjoy.

So, as a final note, I hope that this may help someone re-kindle their own project. I am sure that I am not the only person that engages in these activities or has these down times. Take care and next article I will have some construction updates.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Non Construction Continues

I figured that I had better post something lest readers think I might have given up!

No, with the holidays around the corner, and whilst saving for materials for the boat, I have been continuing to do work / research on balancing and on the electrical system.

It seems that my idea of balancing the boat was somewhat flawed in that I had to take into consideration every non structural component. But luckily for me, the boat has been designed to balance with a reasonable set of equipment and also designed to handle a range of engine weights. Additionally, because of the size of my boat, she is not as susceptible to smaller changes in weight moments like a smaller design would be.

I still have to keep these things in mind, and, if I decide to relocate the more significantly heavy items (batteries, fuel tanks, etc), I will have to try and compensate for the shift by relocating other items. I don't anticipate having to do much of this, but we will see.

At any rate, I developed a small and simple balance software program that I can use to aid in any movement. The original intention or this software was to handle a considerable number of moves. As mentioned, that may not be necessary. But the program will handle the small numbers as well. Besides, it gave me a chance to brush up on some software development skills that I don't normally get to exercise at work too often.

Developing the electrical system for this boat has been challenging. I foresee quite a bit of work to be done in this area before I have a complete plan in place that I can use for construction purposes. My experience with electricity has been confined to installing ceiling fans, and wiring up lights as well as a bit of college many years ago. I also have a small amount of experience with troubleshooting circuits, primarily in aircraft, but which I assume will work for marine as well.

There are numerous considerations involved in this process and I have only begun to scratch the surface of the work needed. There are wiring standards set forth by the Coast Guard. There are safety considerations, voltage considerations, battery management, cost,  weight, and accessibility considerations as well.

I started off by attempting to determine in a general sense what equipment I would like to have on board. Using brainstorming practices that I have used many times in the past, I came up with a long list of items. From those, I weeded out the unnecessary items and any that I felt were overkill. I organized them into priorities as well as grouped them by systems.

Using an example from another builder, I created a simple functional diagram that showed where the items would be placed on the boat. This was a top down view and served a couple of purposes. It aided me in determining how many of some items (for example, lights) that I would need. It also helped me to think up additional items that I missed when brainstorming.

I eventually plan to redraw this diagram to scale so that I can plan wire runs. One of the considerations I have is trying to minimize wire runs. I also want to make sure that I place convenient access points for future maintenance. By scaling the drawing, I can get some idea of how much wiring I will eventually need and I will know where to place them when the time comes to install.

However, before anything else, It will be necessary to design the actual circuits. I have been doing considerable reading on this. I found a book called the "The 12 Volt Doctor's Practical Handbook" by Edgar Beyn which I like because it explains the concepts and necessary work in terms that I find easier to understand. I am also referring to other books I have acquired such as Nigel Calder's "Boatowner's Electrical And Mechanical Manual".

Looking at wiring diagrams from existing designs can be overwhelming, so I elected to break the diagrams into smaller pieces as I work on them. It allows me to concentrate on specific areas without worrying about getting it to fit into the overall plan. It keeps the number of items on any given page to a minimum which makes it easier to read.

One of the ideas I had when I first started planning my build, was to create a maintenance manual based upon what I learned while building. This would include a complete description of the electrical system. I am planning on developing all these diagrams using software so that I can print them whenever needed. I will eventually combine them into a book as well.

It was the software for diagramming where I have had quite a bit of frustration. I first thought I would use a CAD program but quickly realized that the steep learning curve on this would get in my way of designing. So I went looking for diagramming software and found numerous examples of this. But the only one that was specifically suited for my purposes was a $150 piece of software, which was well out of reach for me.

I tried numerous free packages but they all seem to have limitations or difficult to use features. I have settled on LucidChart's diagramming software for the time being. It seems the least objectionable of the packages I have tried. The free version does limit you to 60 items per drawing which is a bit small, but so far I have been able to work with this limitation. I will have to eventually pay for the more advanced version when I want to create more detailed drawings, but this particular software works on a non-contract subscription basis, so I should be able to subscribe for the time I need to do the final work.

In the following image, you can see the first example of my attempt at a wiring diagram. This is still pretty simplistic, and may not be completely accurate. It doesn't use industry standards for wiring either. Some of this is a limitation of what I have available and some of it is simply my lack of experience in this area. For example, having no experience with outboard motors, I am not yet sure if this is accurate, but I will eventually determine what is accurate and the drawing will be modified appropriately.

One of the great things about using software to do this is that it is relatively easy to go back and "tweak" designs as needed. I fully expect to have to do this and I won't finish working on these until I am completely satisfied that they represent what I am after and comply with all the appropriate standards.

In other news, I have ordered the bronze hardware needed to restart construction and I expect to receive those items after Thanksgiving. I will then have enough materials to keep me occupied while saving for the next lumber purchase sometime in January.

We've had some fairly cold weather here this last week, so winter is definitely arriving and with it, the number of days I can use epoxy will be reduced. However, I expect there will be days when I can do some gluing. It will feel good to get back to hands on construction. All of this waiting has been frustrating.

So until next time, take care.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Continuing The Build But In A Different Direction

As I have previously written, I am in a continuing start and stop mode as I save for necessary materials to continue. I get enough to buy the next item, it gets bought, and then I continue saving for the next item after that. Unfortunately, for now, all of these items are inter-connected in the sense that I need certain items which I haven't bought yet (i.e. bronze hardware), in order to continue using the materials I have already purchased (lumber and plywood).

This is frustrating to say the least and I wish that I had though of this possibility earlier in the year. I expect to be able to get the hardware by the end of the month which will allow me to start building again, but I may have difficulties with the epoxy because of colder temperatures. Fortunately, living in central Texas, we have much milder winters generally and can even have days that get up into short sleeve weather.

So in the meantime, so that I don't feel like I'm accomplishing nothing, I have been concentrating my efforts on the planning portions for later stages of construction. At some point, I will need to begin working on the top side of the boat. There is quite a bit of work involved in that besides simply fitting and installing components.

One of the bigger projects is designing the electrical system  and determining placement of components to keep the balance of the boat correct. In order to design the electrical system, I need to know what I am going to put in the boat. In order to know that, I need to do some planning and research. So I will be doing that over the next several months.

The balance of the boat is very dependent upon how heavy particular items are and where they are located in the boat. The traditional way (as far as I know) of handling this is to take each items weight and determine what it's weight moment is given a certain distance from the center of balance. There is more to this subject and I will cover it at another time, but suffice to say that weight moment is how much weight is applied by a given item at the location it is placed at. Think teeter totter.

Anyway, each item is placed on the boat and it's respective weight moment is calculated. The goal is to balance the sum of the weight moments on each side of the center of balance. This can be done on paper, but can be tedious if items need to be moved around a lot to get the correct balance.

I have elected to create a small software program to allow me to keep an inventory of weighted items. The items (such as batteries, motor, fuel tanks, etc) are added to the inventory along with their distance from the center of balance and their weight. Distance is measured horizontally, vertically, and athwartship (side to side) from the center of weight of the item to the center of balance point on the boat.

The software will then automatically calculate weight moments and show the balance of the boat. I also plan on making it possible to easily move items virtually to see how the balance is affected.

This is the plan for the software, but the implementation is another story. I have been working on this for approximately a week but still have a ways to go before it is useful.

Finally, this last week, a friend from one of the builder forums I frequent, sent me some interesting photos and links of a different boat design that uses an outboard bracket in lieu of an internal motorwell to free up space in the aft cabin. This basically places the outboard motor another 2 feet aft of it's original location with a subsequent increase in it's weight moment. It is this idea that prompted me to begin working on the balancing software since if I elect to use this idea, I will need to find a way to balance out the boat .

I am very intrigued by this idea and I would very much like to have the additional space in the aft cabin, but it does present a few challenges. In addition to the added weight aft, it extends the boat's length beyond what I can fit in my garage as I build. I am still considering the idea and trying to come up with options so the jury is still out on whether I will do this or not.

I'm sorry there are no pictures this week. I don't think a picture of me hunched over a computer keyboard would be very interesting or useful. The photos of the outboard bracket idea are not mine and I have made a conscious decision to avoid using other's photos on my blog. I can however, provide a link to some of the photos.

So I guess that's it for now. 

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Work Continues On The Keel And Battens

Since the last posting, I have also purchased the plywood for the transom and have begun fitting all the battens as well as the remaining keel part. There's actually quite a bit that has occurred since last Saturday. Even before last Saturday, I managed to get in some checking of the structure

So I will start with that. Since this structure is made from many individual parts, one of the challenges has been getting all of them to be in the correct position in relation to each other. Certain positioning elements are controlled by the size of the frames. These measurements were accomplished earlier this year when I was manufacturing and assembling the frames. So when I positioned the frames on the building form, I could get some some of the position of the frame very close. This includes the vertical position of frames 1 through 5. The horizontal positions were likewise controlled by their placement on the building form. And centering the frames on the form was accomplished at that time as well.

But he correct position of the frames is only part of the process. There is always some margin for error in these designs and this needs to be worked out as you get further into the build. For example, the notches for the battens were not cut when I originally built the frames because I wasn't confident that their positions would be correct after the frames were mounted. This turned out to be a correct assumption. When I began laying out the positions of the notches, using the battens as a guide, I could see my original marks were off somewhat. I'll go over this more in a minute.

One of the processes I went through was to recheck the alignment of the frame sides and bottom edges by using a temporary wood strip. I wanted to insure that when I eventually add the actual structural members in place, that they will follow a natural curve without any dips or bumps. The following series of photos illustrate this process.

One thing to notice in the third photo is how the wood clamped in position is slightly high from the corner of the frame closest to the viewer. This particular frame is the transom frame and this offset is significant as I will get into a bit later. But as you can see in the photos, the temporary wood strip follows a nice curve around the various places it was clamped. This tells me that in general, I have the frames in the correct position side to side (athwartship).

After I got the mahogany board last Saturday, I cut the remaining keel part from it and fitted it into the keel notch on the frames. I had already spent quite a bit of time on the fit of the keel which I have covered in previous articles. The key point is that the keel needs to be straight from frame 4 aft. Not level, but straight, so that a straightedge set on the keel will show no gaps. This will also come into play a bit further into this article.

There was enough mahogany to cut two 16 foot battens for the bottom of the boat. I will eventually need more material to make the other battens, but I could use these existing parts to set the notch locations for all the battens. The transom frame already had notches cut when I made the part earlier this year. I had measured similar distances on each frame when I was assembling them. But I did not cut the notches for the reasons mentioned earlier.

I laid the batten in potion on the frames and used blue tap to mark the locations for the notches. As mentioned previously, these positions were slightly different from the measured marks.

I started cutting the first series of notches for one batten. This was accomplished using the router and the same tooling I used to cut the keel notches. After I cut the initial notches, I placed one of the battens into position to see how it fit.

This is were I ran into some issues. The battens, like the keel, need to be straight in the aft end of the boat. I checked the batten for straightness using a straightedge and found that there was a significant bow in the batten as it went from frame 1 to the transom frame.

This concerned me quite a bit and I spent several days trying to figure out what was wrong. The keel seemed to come into the transom frame perfectly flat, but the battens did not. This made me wonder if the frame was shaped wrong on the bottom. I measured various elements of the frame, and double checked it's position based upon measurements given on the plans. Everything seemed to be in order. So what was the problem?

If the keel would have been bowed as well, then I could have moved the transom frame up a bit and this would have corrected the battens. But this didn't seem to be the problem. This was mistake number one. I didn't actually attempt to move the frame up to see what would happen. I simply assumed that moving it up would throw the keel off.

I will digress for a moment to talk about my trip to Houston yesterday. I needed to get plywood for the transom skin and after considering all my options, decided to get it in Houston. But before I left yesterday morning, I took another look at the alignment of the keel in relation to the transom frame. I found that if I raised the transom frame 1/8" and added a 1/16" shim in the keel notch at frame 1, that the keel was still flat. Yes!!

So I went to Houston, a very long drive, and purchased my plywood. By the time I got back, I was too tired to do anything on the boat.

But today, I went out and looked at the transom frame again. I saw that I could indeed move the frame up 1/8" and it would correct the issues with the battens at the same time. If you look at the transom frame in the area of the notches, you can see an approximate 1/8" gap in every notch. All of the battens in the photo as well as the keel are straight . The gap shows how far up the pieces must be raised in order to get them to be straight. I also sighted along the notch edge of the frames, lining up the edges of frames 3 through frame 0 and I could see that frame 0 was low. Remember the third picture at the beginning of the article where the wood strip didn't quite line up with the corner of the transom frame. That is further proof that the frame was too low.

So I am satisfied that my concerns about straightness have been resolved. I spent some time today cutting more batten notches. I still have some more work to do on these and hope to finish up this task tomorrow. But here are some photos showing the results on one side. Remember that the wood shown in the notches are not the final battens (since I don't have the material for them yet). One of the pieces shown is too short and doesn't reach the last notch.

After I complete the notches, I will be making mock ups of the chine and sheer parts so I can cut the notches for them in the transom frame. This is because I will be removing the transom from the building form and adding the skin using the plywood I just purchased. I will also take the opportunity to raise the position of the frame when I eventually re-install it on the building form. Since the notches on the transom frame will be covered on one side by the plywood, I need to have them cut out before I add the plywood. I will be covering that whole process at a future date.

I still need to save up enough money to purchase the bronze screws to connect all these parts together, but I have enough work for now to keep me busy for a few weeks. By then I can order the hardware and begin putting parts in place permanently.

So until next time.................