Building a New Companionway Bubble Hatch.

When it rains it pours, and it is pouring down my hatch right now every time it rains. My most pressing issue became the replacement of Dagny’s companionway hatch. Remembering Roger Taylor’s Mingmind and Bernard Moitessier’s Joshua, I decided to add a Lexan (polycarbonate) bubble to the hatch so I could have a look outside without exposing myself to the elements. My friend Erin drew the hatch on his CAD station and sent the file to Marc at Elite Woodwork in Sarasota, who is also a friend and incidentally my last Systema instructor. Between the two of them it didn’t take long before I was heading back home with my three layers of cut half-inch marine plywood. Marc’s CNC cutting machine is amazing, just watch the video:

Next I epoxied the bottom and middle layers together. My resin pump broke, prompting me to eyeball the mix, not a good idea. It seemed to have worked this time.
I could have waited to set the bubble in until I was at the boat, but there was still quite a bit of work to do and it would be much easier to do it at home. I decided to set the bubble in, trusting my measurements and the computer model. Again I eyeballed the epoxy mix. Next was gluing the side rails in. This time my luck ran out with my mixing scheme. It took forever for the epoxy to set. The result is probably not as strong as it could be. I hope it will set fully in time.
Fortunately I found another pump to finish the job. I glued the transversal bars on the bottom of the hatch. They will receive the flat metal bars that keep the hatch secured and allow it to slide to open and close the companionway. Hopefully everything will fit. I will put one last coat of epoxy over everything tomorrow and hope to go to Dagny on Sunday. The varnish will have to wait until the hatch is installed.

Success!

Hatch Installed

Hatch Installed

The hatch fits like a glove without even a hint of sideways play. What an improvement! Happy as a clam right now..

On this next trip, the main goals will be to finish the cabin interior painting and install the hatch, along with a flurry of other small tasks of course. My radio installation isn’t quite complete. I still need to install my kerosene stove, the companionway lock, and fix the five feet of rub rail I removed. There are two small spots of rot to take care of. The list never ends. I hope this will be the last big work session on Dagny. All the big tasks should be done by Thursday.

As my departure date approaches, though I have no precise idea when that will be, the whole project is getting closer to reality. It is quite different to plan and work on a boat than actually realizing that a big adventure might soon be starting. Not that getting Dagny ready hasn’t been an adventure in itself, but leaving for me will be the start of a whole new life, hopefully. There comes a time when your days all look the same. I could describe the last three years of my life with a few sentences. That scares me more than storms, pirates or anything else. Ideally I would leave in about three weeks. There are so many things I need to do before then, it just seems overwhelming; not to mention finances and health concerns. I am forging ahead, and like we say in France, “advienne que pourra.”

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Fiorentino Sea Anchor Delivered.

Christmas was a bit early today with the delivery of my 6ft diameter Fiorentino Sea Anchor. I was surprised by the small size of the box. The sea anchor comes with a nice green bag, which was to be expected given the $400 price tag. I have to say that it does look very sturdy. The hardware is massive, with a large swivel, which I suspect to be the same for all models. The fabric is nice and thick. The nylon lines go all the way around the canopy. It does look small for my boat, but that is what Fiorentino recommends for a 10,000Lbs displacement vessel; the Morris Frances 26 weighs 7,900Lbs. There are a couple weights sewed-in the bottom perimeter of the canopy to prevent it from spinning too much.

Fiorentino Sea Anchor

Fiorentino Sea Anchor


Fiorentino Hardware

Fiorentino Hardware

I will use the anchor with a 10ft 1/4″ chain leader and a float on a 30ft line attached to the rode side of the swivel. 1/2″ nylon is what is recommended for the anchor rode, which does seem thin, but who am I to contradict the manufacturer, and my wallet.. 300ft would be a minimum. I can either use my backup anchor rode or buy a new 300 or 400ft spool, we’ll see..

Tomorrow I am getting my CNC-cut hatch parts, and will build it over the week-end. I can see a road trip in my near future!

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Sea Anchor Choice.

Storms happen and really, who wants to be tossed around like a salad? It takes only one big wave on the beam to ruin your (last) day. The boat must be slowed down or stopped. This is usually done with a drogue or a sea anchor. I looked into Jordan drogues, which are made of a series of fabric cones attached to a line. They have a good reputation but a one-hundred-cone drogue for Dagny would cost about a thousand dollars. A drogue is deployed from the stern and slows the boat down. You are still moving with the storm. If it is in your intended direction all is fine, except that you might spend a bit more time inside the storm. If a rocky shore lies ahead, well.. You need very strong attachment points and the rudder is still exposed to the waves.

A sea anchor is basically a parachute deployed from the bow. It practically stops the boat, bow to the waves. A better way to deploy it is explained in “Storm Tactics” by Lin and Larry Pardey. A briddle is set-up so that the sea anchor is at a slight angle from the boat, heaving-to as it normally would using sails and rudder only, but without drifting too much.

Fiorentino Sea Anchor

Fiorentino Sea Anchor

I decided to go with a sea anchor, ordered one this morning, a Fiorentino offshore model, which set me back $400. Oh well.. I hope I never have to use it. I would use my anchor rode with it, 250′ of 5/8″ and 300′ of 1/2″ if needed. I need a block for the briddle and some kind of chafe prevention gizmo, maybe a rubber hose of some sort.

I am working on my rudder right now, waiting to build the new companionway hatch. It has been more than a month since I last saw Dagny and I worry a lot. My worst nightmare would be receiving a call telling me only the mast is sticking out of the water! Knock on wood.. The bilge pump is powered by the battery, which is charged by solar panels, so all should be well. Still, I need to get there asap.

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Rudder, Hatch and Dinghy Outboard Motor.

Luck favors those who help themselves. Browsing Craigslist I stumbled upon a Mercury (Tohatsu) 2.5hp two-stroke outboard motor in great shape. It necessitates mixing 2% of oil in the fuel; small inconvenience for half the price of a new four-stroke model. I know those small outboards can be tempermental but it beats rowing against current on a windy day, every time. Two-strokes are noisier than the four-bangers and less reliable. they make up for it with good power and light weight. I was really surprised at how light it is. I can easily lift it above my head with one arm. It will be great on the Achilles LEX-77. As I have mentioned in my previous post, a dinghy motor is a matter of safety. Sometimes rowing out of trouble just isn’t an option.

Mercury 2.5HP

Mercury 2.5HP

Next urgent problem is my companionway hatch falling apart. I ordered a 14″ lexan bubble from EZ Tops Worldwide, which should be here on Wednesday. Lexan is much stronger than the clearer acrylic, though it scratches easily. I’d rather go for strength. Thickness is 1/4″, 7″ tall. It will be incorporated into the new hatch. I got the idea from Taylor’s Mingming pocket cruiser. It should keep me dry by avoiding going outside to look around in bad weather. My friend Erin created a CAD file for my other friend Marc at Elite Woodworks to cut with his CNC machine. The hatch is three layers of 12mm marine plywood epoxied together.
Bubble Hatch

Bubble Hatch

My rudder is still less than half-way done, shame on me. I yet have to varnish the first side. The anti-fouling and white paint are done. Then it’s on to the other side.
Morris Frances 26 Rudder

Morris Frances 26 Rudder


Giving myself a week to complete the hatch, mainly because of varnishing, that brings me to mid October for a new work session on the boat. I should then install the new hatch and finish painting; four days of work probably. The next trip should be at the end of the first week of November, with a Uhaul van to bring everything to the boat. Then the wait for a weather window will start.

It is with mixed feelings that I approach departure. You make a lot of friends by living anywhere for twenty one years.. Leaving everyone behind will be hard. There is also the uncertainty, physical and financial. Being a programmer I can work anywhere there is wifi. I won’t be online every single day however, and that might be a problem, or not.. I am mostly concerned about my health, which has declined for the last few months. I hope a new environment free of stress will help. There is also the learning curve I will face, having only sailed locally. This is the way I approach new challenges, very cautiously and with a lot of preparation, if not experience. I hope to stick to my schedule, but nothing is certain, money being the biggest obstacle. Time to start packing up.. Change is coming..

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Dinghy Outboard Motor and Safety.

My first thought was just to row… My Achilles LEX-77 rows well, though I have only used it on flat water. Browsing various cruising forums (Cruisers Forum and Sailnet, user gilgsn) it appears that not having an engine can be pretty unsafe. Winds and current can blow you out to sea or on rocks. So I decided that if possible I should look for a dinghy outboard motor of 2 to 4hp. If I could afford a new one, which I doubt, there are four models perfect for the task:

All these outboards except the Suzuki cost between 800 and 1000 USD.

The lighter model is the Honda at less than 30lbs. Its reputation is to be reliable but noisy due to air cooling.

The Yamaha, well, it’s a Yamaha and would be my first choice. It seems to be hard to find.

The Tohatsu is the same as the Mercury, and some other brands. With 3.5hp it might prove useful when wind and currents are strong or the boat is heavily loaded.

The Suzuki is said to be pretty powerful for its stated rating but not as reliable as the other three. It is also cheaper.

My main requirement is to be able to lift the engine with one arm, which I can do up to 50lbs, but 40 or less would be much easier. Two-strokes have a better power to weight ratio but require mixing oil in the fuel. They are also no longer available new in the United States, thanks to the EPA. When you think of how much oil BP has leaked in the Gulf of Mexico or how much and what large ships illegally dump in the ocean, it makes little sense. Four-strokes are quieter, more efficient, but their carburators gum up easily due to their small size. I was told it is better to turn them off by shutting off the fuel.

Any suggestion or offers would be welcome…

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