Sunday, December 27, 2015

End of the year. And what does the future hold?

The interior is bare...
I  had hoped to have the boat on the water, or at least ready for the move to the water by now. That has not happened. But there is steady if slow progress.

Cut and try, the only way.

The interior is taking shape slowly. Cardboard templates give most of the shapes, and then it is a case of 'cut and try' as the old shipwrights said. One problem is that the cleats on the hull, which Wynand welded on where the bulkheads should go, are not in line and also not square. So the bulkheads will have to be packed up.

Laminated window frames took a lot of time
and artistry.
Then Dave, the shipwright, and I had some differences of opinion regarding the need to have the interior built in a modular fashion, so one could take out units and change them, or at least inspect the hull. In the end every part had to fit through the companionway hatch in any case, so we are not too far off the modular concept.

Kitchen unit. OK, the galley then.
We should have the interior in by January, and the floors are now the next priority. Again they must be securely fixed, but must be removable to inspect for rust and water.

And we have a sample piece of sailcloth, so in January we will get the battens, and plan the sails, cut the foresail and begin stitching. Another learning curve. I could not find stainless steel rings for the sails so David made them.

Main bulkhead going in.
And we have begun planning the electrical systems. I thought it would be simple, a few pieces of flex to carry the 220 volt, some more for the 12 volt, and voila! But Rean is an electronics engineer, and suddenly things are not that simple. And the electrical wiring should be in before we tackle the ceilings.

At the same time the plumbing has to go in, yet another learning curve!

Thanks to everyone who helped through 2015, with muscle power, advice, and just by being there.

Zimbabwean Pete advises on the interior.

Monday, December 14, 2015


Progress  has been slow over the past two months. We have been feeling our way along, with many discussions and differences of opinion. At least there is some progress.

This was the easy one! And already rusted behind. 
Cutting into the keel. Yes, we should have done it before painting. 
David, Bongani and I have been concentrating on the hull, eliminating such rust traps as we could, to the point of cutting into one of the keels to get an offending bar out. I will explore coating systems to handle the hidden rust danger early in the new year.

Planning the salon.
Galley mockup. 

Fitting washboards.
Dave has been working on the bulkheads, making a mockup of the galley area, and working out the interior details.

Monday, November 9, 2015

A second voyage

Main mast
Our time at the Profection factory has drawn to an end. One of the last jobs they did for me was to weld up the mast, all 8.3 meters of it, and fix the mast foot and cap. Excellent work as usual. I cannot say enough of the kindness, support and encouragement I had from everybody, even when I asked for small one-off jobs in the midst of large production runs. Thanks, guys! I promise, when I look at Cape Horn and all goes well, I will remember your work.

Then we towed Dreamtine some 60 kilometers east, to Dave's farm, where the woodwork will be done. Again I had assistance from Reinhard, my daughter Hester and grandson Diederik, while Shahnaz looked in between showing her relatives around nearby Cullinnan.

Granddaughter Mieke came to inspect and pronounced
this a happy ship. 

While Dave works on the jigsaw puzzle, I had David and Bongani help eliminate the last rust trap we could eliminate, a construction flange in one keel. Appropriate language helped. Now we have to do the last of the preventative painting, get the hatches working, the hinges in where necessary, and then it is over to Dave.

Grandson Diederick checked the tie-downs

...and handled the communications.

Lieb provided his truck. Thanks!

Rust trap behind chainplates. Injected corrosion retardation product may help

Flange in the starboard keel came out with the help of bad language. Now to clean up and paint. 

Monday, September 21, 2015

A butterfly emerges ...

Trevor sanding the filler.
And at last the rusty hulk that had become a battleship grey submarine becomes a pristine white beauty. Well, almost. 

Teamwork conquers all: Merven and Francois sanding
We are dodging forecasts of rain, badly needed in the reigning drought, but still a problem in our painting program. And a short side trip to Cape Town took an important week out of our dry weather, but made up in good foor and wine. 

Is that going to be a submarine? Well, no longer!
The transformation begins.
So three guys from a shelter for homeless people came to help me 'flat' the hull, which means sanding it until it is a matt finish, which is good 'tooth' for the final coat of paint. And we discovered that the Carboguard undercoat is amazingly hard, so hard it blunts the sandpaper within minutes. 

I also took the angle grinder to the offending filler, and re-filled, but very frugally this time. Still a few small blemishes, but we are getting there. 

Then the girl at the paint place suggested we thin the 2K paint to 30 %, which made it much too thin, so we have a number of runs. And some water in the air line did not help, neither did the new spray gun: someone said we should turn the metering needle out, Eric demonstrated that it should be all the way in with the thin paint. The gun should be held away from the work, no, near the work... The learning curve continues. 

Adding a few extra microns where it is needed
Well, this week we should have time to flat it again, spray polyurethane on the decks, a second coat of epoxy on the hull, and make some progress with the mast step and other fittings. 

My thanks to David and Bongani who helped over weekends and did the major painting, Eric from Profection who showed us how it should be done. Merven, Koketso, Robert and Francois helped sanding, Prince cleaned and washed, Trevor sanded and advised. 

David admiring his handiwork.
As the Terminator said: I'll be back!

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Still painting

More than a month has passed since my last post, and all we have been doing is painting, repainting the paint, sanding, filling pinholes, filling dents and blemishes, sanding, sanding, sanding, sanding.

Adam, on his way to the airport, helped to
paint the tanks. Love the hair!
Some problems: The first spraypainting missed a number of critical spots, especially in places where the rust would strike. Some of these: the seam alongside the double hull, also behind stringers and under decks. Another problem: In a number of places there was still sand from the sandblasting when the painter struck. Which either cemented the sand and paint to the hull, or left the paint on top of a layer of dust and sand.

Trevor, sanding. 
Another problem is that, not far from where I work, there is a galvanising plant, and the smoke from the factory drifts over where I work. So the inside paint had a layer of what looks like dust ingrained in it.

Major sanding, in some cases grinding, was needed to get the damaged paint out. The epoxy paint  is incredibly hard, even an angle grinder was employed, and in a number of cases we went through the paint into the metal.
Alexander showing Molly the correct masking
technique. Gulliver helps.

We mixed epoxy filler and attacked all the irregularities on the hull, thereby creating another problem. Sanding the filler out clogs up sandpaper in seconds. I hope I get done before someone starts buying all the sandpaper on the market!

A number of friends came to help. Adam from Durban helped paint the tanks, and almost turned into a smurf. I got a lecture.

Alexander, an aircraft technician, helped with the spraying, but confided in me: She is never going to fly!
Bongani installing rivnuts

Reinhard helped, so did Trevor, and David and Bongani helped every Saturday and even one holiday. David did a few welding jobs we discovered, Bongani installed more than a hundred rivnuts.

Huan brought Molly and Gulliver: Two very polite kids who helped a lot.

Thanks, all of you!

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

End of the first phase, now the next phase begins

The blasting begins!
We survived the sandblasting and painting. As Dough says: I have learnt so much from my mistakes, I plan to make some more. The steel boat gurus say you should not sandblast more than you can paint the same day. The painters and others say steel does not rust so fast. Well, it does. I had hoped to do the sandblasting and painting in May, the driest month in Pretoria, but one thing and the other delayed us till end of June, a period where fog and early morning frost or dew is a real possibility.

We decided to sandblast inside, and then spray it. Then we would sandblast the outside and spray that. Of course the blasting outside would damage some of the paint inside. As a sop to my paranoia about rust it was conceded to blast the loose parts like tanks and window frames on the last day of blasting, so the painting could begin immediately.

Hard, dirty work. There has to be a better way. 
I had decided to use Carboguard 550 epoxy primer in two colours: blue over the blasted steel so it is easier to see what areas were missed, then a second coat of gray to build up to the required thickness.

The first problem was that, once we had blasted the outside, rust spots appeared overnight, requiring a second brush blast. And the loose parts picked up damp from the floor they were laid on, showing rust within hours, again requiring a second blast. Secondly the blasting opened up pinholes and porous welds, at a time where re-welding was just not possible. Thirdly we did not realise how difficult it would be to remove the spent grit from inside. The contractor eventually gave in and rented an industrial vacuun cleaner, which did the job in minutes.

Rust spots on the rudder within hours. Damp floor is the cause
Luck was with us: the 5% chance of rain did not materialise. Then problems with the airless spray machine caused it to spray a thick first coat, in effect two coats at the same time. Which meant that the inside of the boat and most of the loose parts are now blue, the rest is gray.

Outside blasting did not cause much damage to the inside paint as far as we could see, but I will do a minute inspection once we are in full sunlight.

Next time I build a boat (Wife having hysterics in the background) I will decide on the paint system before beginning to build. All steel will be blasted at a proper sandblasting plant and coated with a  welding primer. Then, as the work proceeds, it will be wire-brushed and re-primed.

And I will not have freshly painted parts nearby when someone brushes grit off the hull....

Pinholes and porosity. 
The idea of building upside down so the grit from blasting inside would fall out has much to recommend it. So too Colvin's idea of leaving the keel plates off, so grit can be shovelled out there. Buckets of grit weigh a lot!

Now what remains is a few spots of remedial painting and cleaning up the site, then begins the woodwork. A lot of new mistakes to make...

And the primer goes on. 

Monday, June 29, 2015

It feels like going down the rapids

My assistant, Prince, had fun with the Karcher, spreading degreaser
I rafted the Owen falls rapids in Uganda three times. That is enough to have you certified. The major rapid is called Silverback, and you have the whole Nile river going through about 30 meters of channel. It looks awesome from the top, and there is really no way to chicken out and walk back. And when you start going down, there is a moment, as the stream begins to take you and the river makes a hump before you, when you wonder if this was a good idea.

The work on Dreamtime is at a similar point. We did a major degreasing today, washing the whole hull about four times, partly because I tripped over the bucket just when we had washed out most of the degreaser, and spilled a whole lot of fresh, expensive degreaser back into the hull, so we had to wash that out again.

And scrubbing the interior. 
Tomorrow morning I have to get up early to collect the compressor and fill it and the jerry can with diesel. The sandblaster and the spray painter will be there around nine, and then we start.

Once sandblasted we have only a few hours grace before we have to have the paint on. Now, the first problem is: Sandblasting should take about three days. Do we interrupt the blasting and paint when half is done, and risk damaging the primer with the next lot of blasting? Do we trust that the rust will give us time?

One power cord. Two hosepipes to drain the water, one to put fresh water in.
Result: one almighty tangle. They say it has to do with string theory.
Pretoria has beautiful sandblasting weather in May. Cold, dry, clear. But we were not ready. In fact we should have been ready last year in May, but things got complicated. Last weekend we had a cold front move through, which brought some moisture. Fog in the mornings, especially the low lying areas. This morning the hull was wet, even under the old swimming pool cover I have over her. So, no possibility of waiting overnight.

And I have only half the paint I ordered. Which should be OK for the first coat, but... It was promised for tomorrow. Insh'Allah.

Saturday, June 6, 2015

Are we ready yet?

Something is dripping ...
And another three weeks have gone. Weeks of grinding drainage holes: Mark Twain told of a steamboat that was like a politician: the whistle used more steam than the boiler could supply so when the whistle blew the boat stopped, like a politician who, when his mouth opened his brain stopped. Well, I have a political die grinder. It works like a charm, for two minutes, then the little compressor has to run for five minutes to catch up. So imagine, if you will, me grinding away for two minutes, then I climb down the ladder to drill holes, grind seams, or do whatever, The moment the compressor stops I am back up the ladder, grind for two minutes....

No, leaking!
The last bit of rewelding of seams had a story to them. Isaac called me to show that they could not weld the central seam, as there was water dripping out where Kenzo had ground it out.
Supports are rewarded

Awkward welding of a support under the side deck

Rudder fittings go on.
So I drilled a little hole.... The closed compartment where the mast support rests was not as closed as it should have been, and was full of rain water. I cut four 50mm holes in it in order to be able to see the hull, which is what I had asked for in the beginning.

I also drilled all the holes where rivnuts must go to 9mm, took out the waste and water tanks and drilled their mounting holes to 11mm for the 8mm rivnuts that will hold them. And today we had the last session of welding the rudder fittings on, and grinding the last sharp edges round. We did not quite finish that, so I have three days to do that when we are back from the coast.

Then the sandblasting and spray painting waits. A compressor is lined up, but I must do the paperwork and pay a deposit. The sandblaster is lined up and a deposit paid. The paint and degreaser is lined up and paid for, but I do not have a delivery date. Airless spray equipment is lined up, but must be checked. The most important element, though, is still missing: the spray painter. I have a name of someone highly recommended, who has worked at the factory before. They trust him on their equipment. But he does not answer his phone...

Thanks to David for helping with the welding, and Bongani for grinding miles of seams and rounding hundreds of corners!

And to the Profection team: Isaac, Kenzo, Lucas and Thomas.

Stay tuned...

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Last of the fix-ups.

Wave breaker built: check.
This was supposed to be a weekly update. But a week-long diving trip, a week-long job, and a lot of frustration has intervened.

Up to now I have been fixing up builder's screw-ups. I have also been fabricating a few additions of my own such as scuppers and a cover for the generator exhaust, as well as drip-catchers for the cockpit drains and the lockers. I also made a wave-breaker to keep the worst of the Pacific rollers off the main hatch.

Pinhole in the weld
We have been adding supports between the stringers where the pilot berth is to go, to carry the steel legs and supports of the berth. The supports will go in next week.

David and Bongani have been kept busy with the grinding and welding. And I finally got Profection to inspect the welds and re-weld. Isaac did beautiful welds after Thomas had ground them out. Lucas supervised. A nicer bunch of professionals I have not met.

More pinholes in a weld. 
And I had the guy from Stoncor out to look at the boat and advise on painting. He is not in favour of coal tar epoxy, it burns and gives a toxic smoke. Apparently a diving platform off Namibia, painted with this, went up in flames recently, and created all sorts of fun and games, not to mention environmental hazards. Insteads he recommended an epoxy coating and a water pipe paint as second coat. Now to get someone to apply it!

One problem is the sun: I can now work till about eleven before the sun makes work

And a big hole. 

impossible. My tarpaulin has been shrivelled by the sun, and today it was blasting down with evil intent!

Jobs for the coming week:

I have to get the little lathe going so I can get the fittings and bearings for the rudder done, then we can weld the fittings in.

The supports for the pilot berth must be measured and welded in.

I have to drill all the boltdown holes for the internal hatches. The stainless steel rivnuts, or 'rabbits' as the guy at the shop called them, are in the toolbox and waiting. But I will install them only after the sandblasting and primer is in. (I suspect I ordered too few, 50 might not make it!)

Thomas grinding out bad welds
We need to grind the outside seams at the cockpit and the rub rail, and do any remedial re-welding. Bongani did half today, the other half is waiting.

As soon as the die grinder arrives (there is a story to get your blood pressure up) the internal drainage holes need to be radiused and the edges broken.

And then we get to the next biggie: The sandblasting and painting.

Isaac doing welding magic. 

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Summary of work done, and what still remains to be done

So far I have been repairing what the builder did wrong, or not the way I wanted to, and I added a few things to the deck, which I asked for but never got.

Izaac cutting the limber holes. 
Today we had Isaac of Profection Manufacturing cut the limber holes bigger, which should have been done at the initial building stage. Some that were provided were so small they got blocked by dust and blown sand. Isaac did have one oopsy, and made a leeeetle hole in the hull, but that will be quickly welded up.

Bongani framed the portholes and welded them up
We made frames of 25mm x 2mm angle steel, to pull the warped topsides around the portholes

Old hatch slides coming off. Note the wave breaker for when we take the seas green over the bows. 

back to a fair profile. Since I was fighting the new inverter welder, it took me all of two weeks to cobble together ten frames. David and Bongani clamped them, welded, and the result is great!

I took off the companionway hatch slides, eventually I had to resort to a cold chisel. Damaged the slides and also the deck. The deck will be easily welded up, the slides will be re-made, nothing that money would not take care of.  Some scrap provided slides for the washboard slides.

On the deck I built a wave-breaker arc, complete with a 12mm rod welded on the top. This will serve to protect the main hatch from waves when we round Cape Horn, and also to fasten a canopy to.

David welding the new slides for the washboards. He had no hassle with the new welder.
More detail of the wave breaker. The Horn to starboard there!
The coming week I will have all the welds inspected, finish off the ends of the rod on the wave breaker, and finish the rudder fittings. Saturday coming we will fit the rudder at least provisionally, fix the deck and the small hole in the hull, and start on the trailer re-design, so that the supports of the boat can be taken off and replace. The trailer cost a lot and that money must not just serve as a boat cradle.

We are also changing the rudder hinge to a more robust and field repairable design. More on that next week.

Then I must arrange the sandblasting and painting. If anyone has ideas about paint, let me know. I am inclined towards coal tar epoxy, but it is environment-unfriendly. There is another epoxy that is used inside water pipes and tanks, but that requires a SA 3 sand blasting finish, something I am not sure we can achieve inside. The third option is an epoxy with aluminium and zinc powder; basically a cold galvanising treatment. Comments are welcome!

And thanks to David, Bongani and Isaac, I appreciate your help, guys!