Thursday, July 31, 2014

In to the great wide open

Gra-go-deo... Gaelic word meaning forever love. The name's not painted on the transom, but a bottle of champagne has been busted on her bow, so it's official in our book.

Preparing for getting her in the water found me working late in to the evening's for days prior Wednesday. No matter how one tries to approach getting stuff done, it all takes time, and there's just not enough hours in a day to get everything completed. So for the last few days, the focus shifted to getting her float ready.

As per recommendations from the designer, I loaded 300 gallons of fuel on her and a good guess at 1/2 of her water capacity which is around 150 gallons ( I"m guessing 300 total gallon water capacity). When It came time to load water, I didn't have a 5 gallon bucket handy to try to  measure the flow rate of the boat yard's system, so I had to guess using my home made water tank level monitoring system. The basics of this is that I installed a "T" in to the water pick up line where it heads to water pump along with two valves and a clear tube stand pipe on the water tank side of the "T". To check the water level, I close the valve to the pump, open the valve to the clear stand pipe, and loosen the cap ( to get rid of the air lock in the clear tube. More on air locks later) so that the tank water level can be visible in the tube. I'm proud to say that the site tube worked great and I was easily able to guess the water level as I could watch it rise in the tube. The only problem I had was that I forgot to dope up the lower threads on the site tube, and when I closed the valve, the water in the tube trickled in to the bilge and collected at the bilge pump. This little bit of water in the bilge had me believing I had a water tank leak until I noticed the empty  tube... big relief. Along with water and fuel, I placed 2300 lbs of ballast in the designated area to save from carting it down the dock at a later date.

The fuel went in to the boat good. I had a truck bring me the fuel and the driver was apprehensive as most boats  he fills cause him grief. The flow rate on his truck was capable of 50 gallons a minute. The two inch fill pipe I used along with the 1" vents allowed the driver to quickly fill the 300 gallons with no spill or burping of the tanks at all, and he commented it was one of the best boat fills he done. I put all 300 gallons of fuel in the port tank to get the driver of site quickly, so I had to use the transfer system to move 150 gallons to starboard, and the system worked great moving 4 GPM. I started a log of fuel and transfer amounts, as I have no fuel gauge, and will have to rely upon transfer log data and a measuring stick to monitor fuel.

Launch day came quick, and I was doing some critical work up until that morning. I invited an engineer friend of mine to help me with the launch duties as Shanon had her hands full with the kids and other family members.

A few problems with picking the boat arose, but I can't say that it was unexpected as no one has ever picked this boat before. The wheel house sits forward and it order to get the slings under the bow far enough, the travel lift was too close to the brow on the wheel house. As she was being lifted, she swung forwards, and the brow hit the travel lift,  slightly bending the brow and one of the horns. She had to be put down to re position the slings, and tie the slings off as to not allow the front sling to let the bow slip out and have her drop to the ground. The damage is minor, and can easily be repaired. I will say that if it were a fiberglass boat the damage would have been more as I think some plastic would have cracked giving one a few day repair. In the case of our boat, a little persuasion on the brow along with a few brush strokes of off white epoxy paint and no one will be able to tell. The air horns are inexpensive Ebay finds, so no big deal on that part. On a project like this, things happen, and that's just the way it is. Gregg at Washington felt more bad at this than I did as they take pride in what they do, and they don't hit boats as they move hundreds a year around their yard.

Watching her drop in to the water found me a bit nervous along with relief. A bit part of my life was being verified and I was happy our family was together to watch this. Other than myself, no one in our family has seen this type of operation, and they were in total amazement watching "the boat" being picked like a toy and lowered in to the water. I took pictures as she touched the water, but I was more interested in getting on board to check for leaks.

The area for leak checking were the PYI dripples shaft seal, the bow thruster tube, the depth sounder transducer, the engine room sea chest, the rudder post, and the holding tank discharge sea cock. Making a big day even better had no leaks found and everything was bone dry.

Stepping back on to the dock to look at the water line was a little disappointing seeing her down on the water line on the stern. The designer told me this model launches stern heavy, and he was for sure right. The swim platform looks good being about 16" out of the water, and the bow looks about perfect. I'll talk to the designer in the next few days to get some insight and find out exactly where we are sitting.

Putting her in and out of gear a few times found the transmission working as it should, so we moved her from the lift pit to the dock. The next few hours found were spent cleaning up and doing a few jobs such as commissioning the generator.

What I really should have been doing was putting a load on the engine to see how the temperature was going to hold. I had topped off the cooling system weeks ago, and had noticed after a few days, the coolant level in the site gauge would drop, so I added more coolant. Knowing we did not have a leak, I figured there was air trapped in the keel cooler, and it would work it's way out once we got her to operating temperature and coolant was circulating. The problem with my thinking was I forgot about how pumps can sometimes respond to air inline, and get air locked. This problem reared it's ugly head two miles from Washington in the form of the high temperature alarm screaming at Shannon while I was in the engine room checking things out. One side of the cooler pipe going in to the hull was hot, and the other side was bone cold as a stone... no circulation... probable air lock.  After shutting her down, throwing the anchor, and adding coolant, we decided to limp back to Washington. Watching the temperature gauge hold steady at 190 while turning 1200 rpm, we changed course and decided to head to New Richmond. We had ten miles to go and were making 5 knots, so once the over heating danger had subsided, it turned out to be great little cruise, and a great way to decompress. 

This boat for sure does not handle like our 30 cruiser, and parallel parking it between two other boats found me calling Joe at Skippers to come down and grab our lines. Our first attempt at getting the stern to kick back to the dock had me discovering just what "prop walk" is. Besides prop walk being a odd name, it's darn frustrating. Docking did go off without a hitch, but the learning curve has found me again.

I'm typing this on the morning after and find myself happy beyond words. A few bugs have to be worked out, but she's in the water and ready to begin finishing. The boat build for sure will continue on through the summer but with a much improved view. As I was alone last night shutting things down, I  heard some strange noise.... water lapping against our steel hull...perfect.



Wednesday, July 23, 2014

I'm running out of places to stack my tools

Late on Sunday afternoon I had just nailed in the last piece of shoe molding, and after surveying my build, I sort of realized I had nothing else to nail up. I had nothing else to rip, and nothing else to cross cut. The next thing I did was throw every piece of lumber off the boat to be hauled away in my truck ( well almost every piece... I stashed a few bits in the engine room). Once the lumber was off the boat, I hauled the table saw off the boat and placed it under the hull, covered with a tarp. Shannon had just spent five  hours giving the below deck areas a thorough cleaning, and along with the left over building material and the lumber I just threw off the boat, we had a very full load for my service truck. Throughout the build I've always had this fear of not having some piece of building material, so I sort of hoard left over material, and today was the day we realized 90% of it had to go. 

I actually have decided to some time soon make a list of things I need to complete in order to launch. Lots of little things have been getting completed along with some big ticket items. I can officially say my bilge pumps are wired, and I have the picture to prove it. I guess I should clarify this a little and admit that two of the three pumps are wired. The engine room bilge pump along with the pump in the cabin area are complete. The pump in the lazzarette is not wired because it's not purchased. The two pumps I have wired are big pumps being Rule 3500's. I had to wire these off the the battery switch panel as these breakers are always hot even if the house bank is turned off. I did have to install 25 amp breakers for each one of these pumps. Using #10 wire, I wired these two pumps to the wheel house so I could see when and if they come on. A pump control  panel seemed to  make sense and the Sea Dog panel appears to be what I was looking for. The panel has a manual and auto mode along with having an audible and visual alarm. If the switch is inadvertently left in the off position, and water rises up to the alarm float, the alarm float along with alarming, will turn the pump on.

We have a few intake and exhaust pipes I had to deal with in regard to insect screens. Using a slice of PVC schedule 40 and cross cutting the slice creates an internal clip that works great holding screen in. You'll have to fool around with how much to remove from the slice,but when you're finished, it gives a nice clean look that's easy to get in and out, holds the screen great, and doesn't corrode.

Because the finished flooring is now complete, we were able to move in the reclining love seat. I've been on too many boats that did not have at least one comfortable seat, and I for sure did not want our boat to be one of those. The recliner sort of buries the book case, but you can still get to the shelves, and that's a small price to pay for a super comfy place to sit.

The counter top fabricators finished the granite tops, and there's not a bad thing I can say about this. Because we have so much wood in the salon, we decided to do away with the wood top on the book case, and use granite. This little detail changes the way this area looks, and is a much appreciated improvement. The guy who made the templates for the fabricator knew what he was doing, and the tops fit like a glove. The installers did a top notch job and we couldn't be more happy. Before we started the install, I had told the template maker we had to glue the tops to the cabinets. True to that conversation, the installers showed up with the adhesive needed to do the work.

We decided to go with an under mount sink, and I'm glad we did for the one reason of being able to fabricate a cutting board that will fit exactly in the sink.

As I've said before, in order to do this boat launch thing the right way, more time is needed on my part to make this launch happen. I keep going back to needing about another year. If we put off the launch to much longer, we're at the end of the summer, and at that point we should just keep her at Washington and finish her up righteous over the Winter. It sure would be nice to have her in the water being 100% complete with nothing left to do... I mean it's only time, right?



Sunday, July 13, 2014

Started ballast

Anyone who's thinking about building a boat, take some advice from me and don't wait until a few weeks before your anticipated launch to start pouring your ballast.

I don't think I could have picked a worse day to start pouring lead ingots. At noon today the temperature in the shade was 94, and the dew points seem to be in the 70's making for oppressive humidity. I consider myself a pretty tough guy regarding manual work as I'm in decent shape, and I've been doing physical work all my life. I have  no problem admitting that today's task of pouring lead ingots kicked  my ass.
The design of the boat calls for 4300 lbs of ballast  under the forward sole. For our ballast, I'm using lead that came from the demolition of an MRI machine. The material is as clean as can be, and with each lead shingle weighing 30 lbs, it's relatively easy to handle.  I must have messed up somewhere at some point, because I only have 3000 lbs of lead on my site. I could have sworn I had 4500 lbs, but I now know for a fact that I'm going to be lite.

Having a skid steer loader at our place made this nasty job a wee bit easier. Moving the lead from the storage area to the melting area was made easier with the loader as was handling the fire wood and moving the freshly pour ingots in to the shop for cleaning up and weighing.

I made a melting pot out of a piece of 12" pipe and framed a stand for it to sit on giving me room for the fire. Lead melts fairly easily, but it helped immensely by using my back pack blower to force feed the fire. The melting pot comfortably handles 200 lbs of lead.  The pour spout is a 1" nipple welded into the melting pot with a 1" 90 and a short length of pipe to get the material to the molds. Before I pour, I have to use a propane torch to heat the pour spout so the lead from the previous pour can be melted in the spout.   I made two molds to try to  help speed things up. Each mold contains six ingots, and once the mold is full, it weighs about 100 lbs. After a pour is made and the lead has set up enough to pick up the mold, I drop the mold forcefully into a spare bucket for the loader to part the ingots from the mold. The problem is that if the lead doesn't part on the first throw, picking up the 100 lbs mold a few times gets tiresome.

Using a circular saw to cut the thin piece of lead between each ingot is how I process the ingots prior to weighing each ingot. I write the weight on each ingot so I can keep track of how much lead is going into each ballasts compartment.

I  now know I'm going to be  lite on the ballast, so the question is how will this effect my launch. Out of the 4300 lbs designed, I think I'm going to end up with 2700 - 3200 lbs installed for launch. Because the boat is going to spend the rest of the season on the Ohio River ( about as tame a mill pond as one can find), I think I'm going to be OK. If I was launching at the Ocean or Gulf, I'd feel a lot less comfortable being lite, and for sure would not try to go off shore without the designed ballast.  I'm going to run this scenario past the naval architect and see what  he says.

For some reason, I thought I'd get all this ballast poured in one day. Today's pour netted me 1300 lbs of ingots.  


Sunday, July 6, 2014


As much as we wanted to put off installing finished floors, the last two days found me installing the Cork flooring in the wheel house and salon. The flooring down below in the cabins is going to be carpet, and it for sure is going to wait until we go through some sort of sea trials and a few shake down cruise's.

We've committed to the last week in July for our launch, and with the launch date rushing upon us, I started to finalized a few more systems. AC power comes on board from shore via two 30 amp service cables and is distributed via two AC buss's in the main on board electric distribution panel. During construction, I've been using an extension cord to power the on board distribution panel and as a result, I have loaded up one AC buss. Because we intend of having an inverter along with our generator, I want all the inverter loads on on AC buss, and all the heavier loads on another AC buss. This way, when an inverter is added, it should be a fairly simple upgrade as all the correct loads will be on one buss. So today, I took an hour of time and switched all the heavy loads like the battery charger and air compressor to the correct buss, and move the fridge and microwave to the other buss. The real reason I did this is because I had left over Chinese food for lunch, and I wanted to heat it  up in the microwave without using an extension cord. The other big ( heavy is a better description) was to mount the two 30 amp isolation transformers. Each transformer weighs 75 pounds so I doubled up the plywood on the forward wheel house bulkhead to help spread the load out some. The forward bulkhead is stout in it's own regard, but having another 3/4" of plywood to give the lag screws something to bite into made sense. The transformers are not wired to the AC system yet, but this is a simple job that will take about an hour of time.

The flooring we chose is a natural Cork plank measuring 5 1/2"W x 36" L. As of right now, there's nothing bad I can say about Cork flooring. The stuff feels great under foot, it's sustainable, supposedly extremely durable, has great insulating and sound deadening values, and was a breeze to install. We chose a floating floor vs a glue down floor, and again I could not be more pleased. The floor is designed to be installed over a foam underlayment that adds  more sound and insulating  values to the floor. The underlay is also designed to help the floor from not moving. It is recommended to leave an expansion gap along the width of the floor, and I just used 1/4" plywood between the flooring and the wall to hold the floor firm while I did the install. Once the installation was complete, I removed the plywood spacers.

Because of the expansion joint, I'm going to have to trim things out with a shoe molding. I'll contact my lumber guy in the morning and see about having some Cherry  milled in to a clover profile. I've not measured, but it won't take  much, and I'd guess 100' should do it.

I held all the cabinetry case work up off of the metal floor, by about a 1/2", and that elevation turned out to be barely enough. I was cutting things a little too close. All the drawers and doors are good for clearance, but in the wheel house, the door under the wheel is clearing by less than a 1/4. The fridge is also going to be a tight squeeze regarding height, but it too should go. We'll know soon enough on the fridge, as it's supposed to get delivered sometime on Tuesday.

Now seemed like a good time to get rid of the construction grade steps going from the salon to the wheel house. The steps are 26" wide and have 12" treads with 5 1/2" risers. In regard to steps, that's about as good as it gets regarding the ratio between rise and run. Because of how much room I'm afforded with the steps, we decided to  hinge them to make a decent storage cabinet for either canned goods or bottled water. I'm going to guess, we'll be able to fit two case's of bottled water under the steps. I milled the lumber for the steps in the barn early this morning, and spent most of the morning building the steps before family duties called me away from the boat. Granted there's no finish on the steps yet, but the color difference between the aged Cherry and the freshly milled stock is quite a difference.

Of course there's still a boat load of work that needs to be finished prior to launch, but getting the floor down really gives us a sense of finish. The counter tops are being fabricated and once their completed, the  level of finish will be where we want. There are a few critical jobs that have to be completed prior to  launch, and one of those is the ballast. I've built a melting furnace, and have my molds  welded up and have a few ingot pours under  my belt figure out what I need to do. I have two molds that each form 5 ingots. I have all the lead I need in the form of lead sheathing from an MRI demolition job, and weather permitting I'm planning of pouring ingots all day next Sunday.  I don't know if I'll get all 4500 lbs of ballast poured, but I think I'll be able to get the lions share done, and hopefully enough to safely launch her.

How will she sit on her water line? Hopefully, we'll find out soon enough. In  case anyone is curious, the anti foul is 2 1/2" above her drawn water line.