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!

Friday, September 29, 2017

I am never going to play Tetris again

Rean doing the electrical thing
The week is over. My nerves are recovering slowly, and new crises tempt me. But one thing: Tetris is not going to be fun again.

Lieb's truck got sick
Let me start at the beginning: On Monday we had a last frantic finishing session. David and Phineas did the last few floors and hung the forecabin and toilet doors, while Rean reviewed the electrical system and wired up the 220 volt side. Then  on Tuesday Lieb arrived with his truck, and we eased Dreamtime out of the nursery where she had taken root. For a few kilometers all went well, but then Lieb's little truck blew its radiator. I hooked Dreamtime behind the Cruiser, but the traffic police took a dim view, and I had to leave her overnight at a filling station.

The next morning Tendai turned up with his roll-on truck, and we were off. All went well, with a small hiccup at Henley on Klip, where a traffic police officer, herself in the heavy load category, judged by eye that Dreamtime exceeded the five ton limit of loads that may go through this benighted hamlet, and slapped a fine on us.

But then we made it to Manten Marina, and left Dreamtime to converse with a few similar boats.

Tendai to the rescue, but beware: Henley does not like trucks
On Friday I was back with the cargo of ingots. Unfortunately only lead, so if anyone knows an alchemist... because the 800 kg lead scrap I bought delivered only 600kg ingots. We need, according to the designer, 800 kg, and I feel we need 1000kg.

Getting the lead in was not fun at all. Reinhard loaded the bucket and kept tabs of the weight, Paolo hoisted it up and packed the ingots for me to stack, and I stacked. I have serious bruises from hanging over the bunk frames to arrange the perverse ingots neatly so that we achieve the highest denstiy, like Tetris with lead blocks, at the extremity of your reach.

New company
We also installed a few items, most importantly the cushions for the seats and forward cabin bunk. And she feels like a home already!

Next week I will work on the masts, take them down and see if we can step them and measure the shrouds, and then bring the shrouds back to be swaged. Yes, I acknowledged, reluctantly, that the square rigger practise of rack-seizing your own rigging was perhaps one step too far.

Thanks again for all the woodwork, Phineas. And David for your ongoing encouragement and support. Rean, the electrics are not done! And also a thank you to Reinhard and Paolo.

Testing the cushions. 

Monday, September 18, 2017


That is a German expression for the panic that sets in as the door begins to close. I am committed to move Dreamtime to water on 26 September, and now have seven million things to tie up. My plan to have her splashed reasonably nearby did not come off, so she will go to Manten's Marina in Deneysville. Check it out on Google maps... A cool 160km from here (That's 99.4194 miles, for the Americans) which means a two hour drive to go and finish all the final jobs. It's highway through some of the more congested highways around Johannesburg, and my nerves are already getting wound up.
Framework for wim platform and boarding step

Last week was miserable: Either the parts I had made didn't fit or I forgot something at home. So I try to work at home and the parts are on the boat... And then on Friday things came together: The shackles that were too big were changed by a friendly girl for a smaller size that was not in the catalog. The swim platform went on as designed, with almost no hassles, and came off again for rustproofing. The net under the bowsprit went on as planned. The electrical panels went on, but will need slight modifications.
Electrical panels: first fitting

The panels between the toilet and the waste water tank came out as planned, now for the pipework. And a problem: The standpipe to the hull is 50mm. The outlet from the tank is 48mm. A 50mm gate valve/ball valve is actually 2 inches, so 58mm thread. And plumber suppliers just shrug and rill their eyes. So that has to be fixed before I can splash her. Also the sea chest inlet is 40mm, and I need to borrow a die to thread that, a ball valve (1.5 inch) is already waiting. A friend has an old plumber friend who will lend me his old manual die, these days everyone use machines to thread pipe and you must just bring your boat to the workshop....
Pirate number one
Pirate number 2

I had help with fitting screws and unscrewing bolts: My pirates boarded me again. Such friendly, well-behaved pirates, Josh and Cooper.

I will only have helpers for two more working days, so there are priority lists...

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Sitting pretty

Research is hard work
Work has been going on, despite life happening. We went looking for an alternative place to splash the boat, and try her out, learn to sail, and have fun. The intensive research (insert smiley) resulted in finding a good steak house not far from a sailing club on a reservoir close by. Water is quite polluted, and much is far from ideal, but it can work. We plan to get out there by end September. It is close enough that one could carry on the fitting out, driving out there would take an hour each way. So that is what we will do.

Shahnaz cutting the insulation
Fitting backing blocks for the starboard bunk.
Phineas and David cutting to the middle of the pencil line.
We have been doing a few things, the most important I will cover in this post is insulation, this time with aluminium-covered bubbble wrap. This is for the main cabin, and the spaces behind the bunks. We also proceeded with the saloon bunks and the lockers under them. Phineas did his usual meticulous work, I helped and held things, David stood by and told us when we started cutting into the crate under the work.

Plastic crate going in.
Pilot berth bottom going in.
A lot of the old bunk bottoms could be repurposed, as the previous shipwright had different ideas from me. Now we are getting to where I want to be.  The shelves will hold plastic crates as drawers, and measurements are more or less standardised for them. The bunks are almost done, and the pilot berth bottom is in and sealed.

The nav table and the saloon table are made, but will only be fitted after the cushions are made and installed.

Nav table.

 Working on the boat can become lonely. Apart from Saturdays when Phineas anbd David are free to help, and Shahnaz occasionally giving a hand, it is easy to lose motivation. Yet every time I arrive the two geese come running to check up on me, and, reluctantly, to accept some grain. I wonder if I should sign them up as crew?

Next up: Some steel work, electrics, sanding, painting, sanding, painting...

And the seats work.
Cushions to follow.
Geese checking up on the progress.