Sunday, May 27, 2018

She sails!

So she sails! And pointy end forward to boot!

Reinhard and I spent a few weeks stringing together the sails, making endless macrame with the sheetlets, and in general getting knotted up.

A foggy winter morning
At last we were ready, and after postponing the day by a week due to other priorities, we launched early out of Pretoria. It is foggy in the early morning, after all it is winter here. Alexander came and gave invaluable help, and David, who had been an unswerving supporter for the past few years, also came along. Shahnaz provided video services, and I hope to provide a Youtube link.

Hoist up the John B's sails. Reinhard at work.
An ideal day was forecast: very light wind in the morning, gradually increasing through the morning, and then switching to the west at about two.

A few hitches occurred while launching, with the one keel hooking up with one of the new guides, and then we were afloat. The little two horse motor pushed us out into the great open, and then the sails cam
e up, and without a major hitch, although we needed then motor to get away. A little breeze came up and we were sailing at all of 1 knot. It strengthened later, and we reached a maximum speed of 1.7 knots.

They are up! The foreyard fouls the forestay.
There are several problems with the sails. After thinking that the sheetlets were far too long, we discovered that they were too short! Also needed are lines to control the set of the sails. Authors talk of snotters, yard hauling parrels, Hong Kong parrels, and some more esoteric things. Studying will keep us out of mischief.

But even with the badly setting sails we managed to tack through 120 degrees, from 60 degrees to 180 degrees in the GPS. The rig is a little bow-heavy, and we had to keep the rudder over to keep her head into the wind, something that parrels should cure. She tacks readily, but as it is at present she would not hold a course.

Brazil, here we come! Please excuse the tangle
of lines and badly setting sails.
After a few hours of tacking up and down and figuring out the systems we turned for home, and sailed wing and wing. Here, too, we hit 1.8 knots! The sails came down with little trouble, and we motored into the harbour to vanishing wind. Unsure of where to go we slowed down, the wind switched and gusted, and we went drifting sideways. I was on the foredeck, and that lifted the propellor close to the surface, which did not help control at all. I dropped the anchor, but the scope needed was more than the distance left. So we arrived at the jetty with a bit of arrival.

Next time we will sell tickets of our Chinese fire drill arrival. Unfortunately the video card ran out just then, so future generations will miss the entertainment.

Conclusions are that the boat has little lateral stability once she stops moving forward. Also the center of effort will have to be moved backwards quite a bit.

A bit more of work, and now the priority shifts to the motor and propellor. Money!

Video at

Thursday, May 10, 2018

Bending on the sails

Shahnaz wondering where this goes.
So goes the salty saying. You don't tie the washing to strings and pull them up the sticks, you bend on the sails and hoist them up the masts. Well, ok. You certainly need a bender when you have done.

Just for those who did not catch the news the first time round, or who may have forgotten: We are planning a Chinese Junk style rig for Dreamtime. The sails were made a year ago, but only now we got to bend them on, in anticipation of going sailing in a week or so.

Sunrise on the way to the Vaal dam
Shahnaz helped put the battens in, puzzling at the complications of it. Thanks, love. And Reinhard left home at sunrise to help over two weeks to get them up, on to the masts, to unravel the macrame of lines, hoists, sheets, lazyjacks, sheetlets... the list is endless and the tangles unbelievable. Thanks, Reinhard, I appreciate your patience, support, engouragement and help.

Reinhard wondering where this goes
So today we got them up, and discovered a few problems. The mainsail is longer than planned (Ok, my impeccable planning and measurement actually intended it to sweep the decks, which is why I made the pinrail system movable. And the foresail fouls the forestay. Well, the long term planning is to have the foremast, and probably the mainmast too, unstayed. So there.

Oops! The foresail refuses to cooperate
The experts talk about snotters, parrel hauls, Hong Kong parrels, and much more, but for the moment there are enough bits of string to keep a tribe of monkeys happy. We think it works. Or will, with some untangling.

More or less up. The mainsail is too low

There we go. Now for the sheets...

Now the sheets have to be made up, some fettling has to be done, and then we can try her out. If the weather gods are kind we will have winds like today: 1 to 2 meters a second, just enough to raise a ripple. Which should not make for water skiing behind the boat, but will allow us to work out placement for cleats, sheelt attachments and -leads, and in general to see if things work.

If you do not receive a further blog, you'll know she capsized, she sailed with the blunt end first, and we died of shame, or we got lost and are on our way to Brazil.

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

Accidents happen

Gearbox being stripped. Note the condition
 of the needle bearings. 
It has been a long and slow period since the past post. First of all I had a car problem: The Cruiser has had an overheating problem, which I ascribed to menopause. She is, after all, not young any more. A specialist diagnosed a leaking top gasket, and I decided to have the engine overhauled. The result was more or less as monkey business.

More than two months later she is running, apart from a few small things.

Micky Mouse has four fingers

Then came the morning when I forgot to take my stupid pills: The little diesel motor for the boat had a flooded bell housing and gearbox when I got her. I managed to get the bearings and seals to rebuild. The starter was also not working, and the local auto-electrician threw a price over his shoulder for 'strip and replace'.

So I started on changing the oil in the engine, figuring out how the fuel system and coolant works, and also how the exhaust system should work. I then mounted it on a wooden stand and had Prince, the gardener, apply the Armstrong starter. She ran! See here. And a few days later I wanted to run her for a longer time, having learnt how to get air out of the fuel system. Prince dawdled with other work, so I decided to just turn the engine over with the decompression lever down, to pump the fuel and water around. Well, the lever goes back when you release it, and she started. And began to vibrate off the stand. I tried to hold her back while getting to the shutoff lever, and my right hand went into the fanbelt. Little finger broken in five places and almost severed. The surgeon took a look and said: 'Just remember: Micky Mouse gets by with four fingers.'

So, two months later, and a finger only moderately stiff and sensitive, we are almost back to full operation.

The gearbox went together with some care. I used a steel frame and hydraulic jack to press the pieces together, and so far all went well. It turns, changes gear, and it looks as if the polishing of the rusted parts will work. The starter presented its own challenges: After some cleaning and grease the bearings were happy, and the motor turned nicely when powered up. But the solenoid was solidly seized. I managed to get it apart, cleaned everything with diesel, cleaned the contact points with swmming pool acid, and reassembled it. It clicked, pulled in the gear, but no power flowed. Alexander came to help, with his son, Christian. They were of the opinion that diesel was not the best cleaning agent, so we procured some petrol/gasoline.

Now things could get interesting: By its nature a solenoid switch makes sparks, and, with flammable fuel inside, we might have a hand grenade. So an hour in the sun, lots of blowing, and eventually we connected in. On the second try the thing worked, and no explosion!

A few days later we used the electric starter to get the motor running, now mounted on the engine beds. Still clamped, mind you, bolts will come when we have her in the boat. See here.

Now, how does the waterlock muffler work?

And next phase: The sails must be 'bent on' or hung on the masts. Hopefully we can report next week.

Saturday, March 3, 2018


Motor: looks real nice. 
It's a sailboat, Ok? But the 2 horse Johnson does not quite do it. Except for a dead calm it does not quite do for water skiing, so to say.

And when a nearby boat had an engine sitting on the side (they are going electric) I made an offer.

Which becomes a project of its own, as my wife would warn.

The engine is an old 15 hp Arona 190m, a water cooled version of the well-known Lombardini agricultural engines of the seventies, with a Hurth gearbox.

Engine beds, keel cooler will fight. 
A tight fit.
It's not supposed to look like this...
We hoisted it on board, but realised that while it would fit, the builder's planning on a Yanmar would not work for this beast. New engine beds have to be fabricated, some of the cockpit will have to be cut. A universal joint in the drive shaft has to be manufactured, and a stern tube built. No big deal, but still. Problem was, while the seller had run the engine, we could not get it to turn. Diagnosis: gearbox was stuck. Bell housing was full of water, maybe from rain?
Bad news

I took the gearbox home, and found that it, too, was full of water, having been reassembled with no silicon or gaskets. Several of the bearings were seized, some of the running surfaces rusted.

Now the engine and gearbox are old, parts are not available, and the present owner of the gearbox manufacturer, ZF, did not even reply to a request for information. But a morning poking around in Pretoria West brought to light an engineering place that can and will cut and re-sleeve the rusted gears, replace the rusted reverse gear shaft, and recommended me to a bearing agent, who would source all the bearings I need. All for about $120. So another project starts, but it is going to take some time. Which allows me to do another thing: Take high capacity alternator out of the Jeep and fit it in the boat. It also can do 220 volt and weld.

Next problem: we hoisted the engine out and brought it home, cleaned it up, and found that the electric starter is not working. The motor turns, with a grinding sound, but the solenoid does not kick in. Another project. Fortunately Prince, the gardener, swung it and it started! I might have to take him along on our voyages...

Saturday, February 10, 2018

Splash! And she floats! Right side up even!

Making paddles for the canoe was a good excuse
Finally we splashed.

After months of preparation, niggling little things, interior work, I finally ran out of excuses, and set a date. But they had a major regatta, so we postponed by a week.

I did discover that the little 2hp Jophnston needed more space (what girl does not?) and so I made new legs for the outboard bracket. We tied down everything we could, and then the big moment arrived. She slid into the water like a ... well, duck maybe? And the little motor decided to die on us. Luckily one of the assembled multitude had a firm hold on the 20 meter rope, and guided us to the dock. We avoided spearing one of the shuttle boats on the bowsprit by the grace of fending off, and tied her up. There were no leaks.

David and Mieke following her to the water
No leaks?
We accomplished the first task, which was to mark the actual waterline, which corresponded with one of the waterlines drawn by the designer. Then we did a stability test, well, sort of, because by then the entire extended family had come on board. Still, moving 70 kilograms of lead from a meter to starboard to a meter to port gave a 4 degree change of inclination. Pretty stable, I thought.

Bubbly was applied
Grandchildren were sent off on a minor expedition in the canoe, and, having discovered that the little motor runs better when the fuel cock is open, we embarked on the 50 meter voyage back to the slipway. A little traffic made things interesting, and then, with two people in the water, the boat was wrestled and guided back on to her rightful position on the trailer. We need to work on the guidance system, I think.

Pirate expedition
So, finally, she was afloat. No leaks, to major drama. She seemed to be quite at home, and reluctant to be out. I did say we were going to launch in March. Well, we were a few days early, were'nt we?

Two small horses hard at work

She did not want to come out...

Jobs  now: The motor and gearbox is going to be a major adventure: see the next blog. The waterline to be properly delineated, and then we will do some serious painting. The trailer has to be modified to allow for guidance rails. The sails have to be bent on.

Next major step: sail trials.

Friday, December 15, 2017

A long break, and then some surprises.

Running rigging
We were away for a long time, and I apologise for the silence. A great diving holiday in The Country That Must Not Be Mentioned gave me the opportunity to see how real working sailors do their ropework. As soon as we were back I put that knowledge to work in making up my running rigging. And had someone tell me that this was the wrong way to make eye splices in braided rope, and that I was using the wrong whipping twine. Well, the approved method does not work for me, as my braid is too tight to get the core out of the cover, and in any case I was making eyes around the beckets of blocks. Vindication came in video's of some old sailing ships, the tars made the eyes in a similar way. As for the right whipping twine, I used what I could find, which is far better than the stuff they used on the Cape Horners. So there.

Puzzling it out
And the masts go up

Our neighbour knocked down

Keketso and Reinhard came to help put the masts back up again. We had to change our date at short notice, so I did not book the mast crane, which resulted in us waiting for most of the morning as the yard worked on some of their boats. Then we rushed, and of course made mistakes that slowed us down even further. We did learn some interesting lessons in navigation: the automotive tides around big cities must be well taken into account when planning trips. We came home well after dark, instead of some time after two.

Another boat badly damaged
And thereby hangs a tail: We were anxious to get home, and the yard promised to park Dreamtime in her usual slot. Well, four days later a tornado went through the area, toppled the boat next to us, and Dreamtime went walkabout because the workers had not pulled the handbrake. Which is why I believe that you should do, or check everything yourself.

There was serious damage to the marina, the town and nearby villages. Houses knocked down, people hurt, and apparently someone killed nearby. Dreamtime came through her first major storm with no damage.

It is fun working with tar
I finished off some painting, and took the time to wirebrush the rusting trailer and to paint it with Chassis Black, a genteel name for tar. And so re-discovered why sailors were called tars. It gets everywhere, sticks to everything, and it smells nice. Of course I managed to dilute one batch with thinners instead of turpentine. I will insist that it was a scientific experiment. In any case, the bottles look the same. We will see if it makes a difference. 
Sea chest, with black water tank behind. 

Most of the sea chest, or standpipe is done. As usual I bought fittings for a 15mm pipe, only to find that the previous ones are 20mm. Well, the shop has a good returns policy, and I will post the finished product next time.

I also found someone selling a small diesel. An electronics engineer, he pulled his motor to fit a fancy electric system. Five minutes of conversation convinced me that an electric motor is not for me. I made an offer. If it goes through you will have a few more posts to look at.

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Long range affair

Forestay getting measured
Great frustration. It takes me two hours at least to get to the boat through heavy early morning city traffic. Then four to five hours of work, and two hours back. A long day. The Cruiser likes the long distance, I get good mileage. Ok, as good as a Cruiser is going to get. At the moment I go down once a week, and now we will have a three weeks break to go diving.

So here is the report of the latest work: We finalised the doors today, now they need sanding, finishing and painting. We made a simple platform for the generator, which does stop the harmonic vibration of the hull almost completely. This needs sanding and sealing, as well as low profile rubber feet. We stepped the masts, measured the stays, then had them made up. And made up again, not sure if my measurements or theirs were off. Stepping the masts is a three man job, especially when the wind blows as it did at the time. Last cold front of spring, they say.

We also had the name and bow art done, cut on vynil, and applied. I have my doubts as to the longevity, and next option is to have stencils cut. Spray painting is my last resort.

Steel punchings being sorted
Mainmast up, stays getting measured. 
I also sourced some steel punchings to make up for the short weight of the lead, with some left over. Now this has to be cleaned, rust inhibited, coated in bitumen paint, and then bagged in 10kg units. Sounds like a fun job.

There is a lot still to be done, but I want to get her on the water now, even if the interior is incomplete. And if we have wind as we had she will sail well. Question is how to get her out of the marina against the wind. I have a 2hp Johnston, which will work in a dead calm. Now looking at new, but apparently they are making outboard motors from pure gold these days. So looking for a good used one. Later we can get fancy.

Bow art going on. Will it stay on?
Electrics, well, that will have to wait. The seachest needs doing, and again non-standard piping makes life miserable. But I have an Artful Bodger's solution. More in the next instalment. Ceilings: The last ones have to be made and are going in next time. Some internal finishing, sanding and painting has to be done.

Until next time!