Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Machining, boring stuff

Willem Buys turning the bearings
Since we are full speed on to getting the diesel installed, the prop shaft demanded attention. Francois van Wyk at Vortex engineering got working on the shaft itself and the hub, finishing it with three M6 grub screws. I need to weld up the hub and propellor now, and if it does not come out well I will ask David to work his magic on it.

I asked Willem Buys to take a break from his goldsmithing to turn up the bearings from high molecular weight poly-ethylene. My little Unimat just could not grip the pieces, but Willem did a fine job. It took me a while to get a universal joint to fit on the flex joint. The one I got was, of course, inevitably, imperial, so I have to shim a 25.4mm yoke to a 25mm shaft. And all the ship plate is in thousands of inches. I could not get imperial grub screws, only bolts, which would work for the moment. 6mm key bar will work on a 6.2 keyway, I hope. If only the USA could get to honour their commitment to Napoleon...

Marking the thrust collers
Rounding the collars
The thust, in reverse gear, will be taken by a collar, which I turned up in the little Unimat. It was fun making two up from flat bar cutoffs. Rounding it was tedious, but boring the inside was a challenge. I can only fit a 10mm drill in the chuck, so from there to 25mm was going to take a long time. I tried the little boring bar that came with the Unimat all of 40 years ago, but that was slow and blunted quickly. A little lateral thinking ensued: a drill bit is a boring bar, isn't it? A 7mm 'cobalt' drill bit, sharpened and set at the right angle did a great job, producing the longest steel shavings I have ever seen. Tapping the 6mm threads for the grub screws with my cheapo chinese tap did not work, but a new tap from Cosmo worked a charm.
Boring bar?

I know the bearings and stuffing box will give rise to comments, so an explanation. The bearing at the propellor end could have been an old-style cutless bearing, if I could find one. However, several engineering people suggested either PET or HMWPE. Both should be water lubricating, although both have rather bad expansion rates when they run hot. A pump rebuilder told me they replace bronze bushings on industrial pumps with HMWPE. Vesconite claims to do stern bearings for oil tankers from their product. So I will try my way. Refitting is always possible.

Drilling the holes for the grub screws
The stuffing box, again, would be rather expensive to import, while the HMWPE cost relatively little and was not too difficult to work. I could find very high quality gland packing, used in indistrial pumps, but have to buy 8 meters, while I will use maybe 500mm. A pump rebuilder suggested I follow industrial practise and use oil seals instead. I plan to try, as shown in the photo, and fill the gap between with a suitable marine grease. The sea-facing seal has had its spring removed, which might reduce its lifespan to ten years.
New tap works better

But if the outboard parts arrive, I intend going sailing in the next week or so, just to try out the modifications we have made.

Stuffing box/stern gland, showing oil seals

Trial fitting of shaft. It will be cut to length once we get it all to the
boat and installed. 

Friday, July 6, 2018

Excuses, and creativity

I can offer several excuses for not going sailing: Very cold weather, fuel price rises, other engagements for key actors, but I won’t. Suffice to say that we made some changes to the sail system to be able to set them better, but have not had a chance to test them. 

First steps to a propellor
Work on the diesel propulsion system is slowly progressing. I had the propeller hubs turned, thank you, Willem Buys! A 6mm steel base plate has become the blank for the propeller. NotwI must find a way to put twist in the blades. I have a supplier for the propeller shaft, I must just get to the airport to pick it up, and then find someone to turn it. And, most important, I must find a way to cut a key slot in both the shaft and the propeller, once the blades and hub are welded together. 

Getting there, but now some twist is needed.
I am also on the hunt for a universal joint coupling. Next week I want to get to a drive shaft manufacturer in Pretoria West, but I also know there are good stuff out in the tractor Pro world. Problem is they don’t speak the same language I do. I will get out to the farming community in Schweizer Renecke, where there is a shop…

Alexander is on the tracks of someone who could turn the bearings and stuffing box, and I have a lead on PTFE/Graphite stuffing cord. 

Expensive broken cable end
In the meantime I bought an old 4.5 hp outboard to drive the boat, but there also I hit snags. The throttle system was hard to operate and the cable end fitting broke. A new cable can be ordered, at just about what I paid for the motor. So I fired up the little Unimat lathe and made the end fitting out of an old bras power fitting. Works, but the system is still stiff. 

Little Unimat at work making a new cable fitting
I also have problems with the carb. Fuel gets through, but not in a dependable way. A rebuild kit is on the way from China. But maybe the old Italian out in Pretoria West might also have some ideas, he has already given me some parts out of an old motor. 

But as soon as the weather is better and we have dependable propulsion we are going sailing!

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 https://youtu.be/4GTaRRm5QVw

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.