Fitting Out (Year 2):

Date Discussion
16/4/2011 Regular readers of this epistle will know that Rhapsody's hull was started in July 2008 and completed in February 2010. The hull was turned "right side up" on March 5th when the fateful phrase "just the fitting-out to go" was first uttered. This chapter covers the second year of "just fitting out" and there will be more......

I've been away up river for the last couple of weeks and having suffered through sixteen years of drought, it's ironic that our trip was cut short because of a mini-flood. Mother Nature has finally fixed what the politicians could not, which tells you something!

It is also very interesting to find out how a paddle steamer handles very differently in high current flow...

Anyway, back to building "Rhapsody In Glue".

This week saw another milestone reached, the last of the construction stations or moulds was removed. Number Three station was cut out and installed on the strong back in August 2008; it has taken over 2.5 years to get to the point where it can be taken out. I wouldn't have believed it could take so long to get to this point, but looking back and understanding better what is involved in building a boat this size, I'm really quite happy with the rate of progress. I have always regarded designing and building the boat as part of "journey", to be enjoyed just as much as the "destination", the finished product!

After each station is removed comes a period of cleaning up the inside of the hull, filleting and fibre glassing the plank seams and floors etc. In this case, I can also, finally, get to clean up the inside of the stem post, which has bugged me since it was built. It has been a bit of a muddle because it was necessarily built first and that was before I had a clear understanding of the varying tapers and angles that occur between the stem and the hull planks. My understanding is only better now because they exist and I can actually see and touch them!

I still have to finalise the anchor locker, gas bottle, fridge and galley layouts, but it's much easier when you can stand in the middle of the space with a cup of tea and ponder......

13/05/2011 Friday the 13th - not that I'm into omens...... Not really.

Have been busy this week filleting and sanding all the plank seams, sheer and chine joints, and the angles of the floor ready for glassing. I have also, finally, been able to fill and sand the inside joints on both sides and at the foot of the stem post. All that ugly carpentry from very early days is gone at last; well it's out of sight anyway and never to be seen again with a bit of luck. The up-side is that the epoxy around the stem post is now 200mm thick or more and ridiculously over built - good!

After much head scratching, the layout of the various areas in front of the galley is finalised. I have been playing with two basic designs; one has the gas bottles side by side as far forward as they will go, then followed further aft by the fridge with cupboards either side. The other plan has the fridge pushed right forward with a gas bottle each side. There have been many other considerations too, such as efficiently accommodating the hot water service and a microwave oven.

The first plan wins because it uses less of the available length of the hull and leaves areas at the sides of the fridge in which I should be able to accommodate the microwave and the hot water service. I had struggled with this approach previously because it leaves an awkward shaped anchor locker, which doesn't matter particularly except for maintenance access. Then I hit on the idea of a semi-sealed hatch in the back of the fridge space to allow access to the anchor locker from inside the hull. Easy - eventually!

The anchor locker will also require separate drainage arrangements so I'll run a 40mm pipe through the proposed ballast tank, which will be under the galley floor, to a bilge pump in a sump under the galley steps.

The gas bottles will be in a gastight locker. Gas is heavier than air, so drain vents to the outside will be needed. A hatch in the foredeck gives access to the locker from above for changing gas bottles. An automatic bottle changeover unit and pressure reducer, together with an electronic gas shutoff valve on a timer, will also be installed.

Another dimension that now can be finalised is the length of the foredeck and therefore the position of the start of the deckhouse. We will soon be able to see what the overall shape of the roofline will be.

20/05/2011 This week has been all about sanding, filleting and glassing.

Joy of joys, the inside of the stem post is now finished and looks terrific. Smoothly filleted and glassed ready for painting. You'd never know that it didn't fit as well as it should have when it was built, and now no one will ever know. It fully justifies Moose's adage (one of them!) that "Bog is Your Friend".

Since I now know exactly where the fridge and gas bottles will be, I can work out the required length for the foredeck deck beams. The first was laminated up yesterday and once the remainder of the glassing in the galley floor is done, it can be installed together with the forward bulkhead.

4/6/2011 The filleting and taping of all the seams is now finished, and the inside of the hull is completely fibre glassed up to the chine.

The first foredeck beam laminated up last week has now been permanently fitted, so we are now committed to the sizes and layout of the anchor, gas bottle and fridge compartments - finally! That beam also defines the position of the raised galley roof, the forward hatch, and the crown or curvature of the deck - all serious stuff.

A bulkhead has been cut out using the trusty joggle stick (also called a Tick Stick I believe) to separate the back of the fridge and the front of the gas bottle locker at its top and the anchor locker at its bottom. Maintenance access to the inside of the anchor locker is provided via a hatch, which will be screwed into place and semi-sealed.

The bottom panel of the gas bottle locker has been made and reinforced to take the weight of an inevitable "dropped" bottle. It has a downward slope toward the aft of the boat for drainage of any leaked gas out through the hull, so I'll make a removable platform to provide a level stand for the bottles.

Access is a bit tight in behind the bow now, making the order of assembly more important and suggesting that it might be prudent to seal and finally paint the inside of the two lockers while I can still reach them relatively easily! The bulkhead can be fitted later.

The riding trim of the boat is dependent upon the amount and distribution of weight in the hull. There are tanks for fuel, fresh water and black water that together can, when full, represent up to 40% of the boat's total weight. The problem is that they are not always full; in fact, their weight varies continuously, which makes trimming the boat a problem. The solution (I hope), is to have two water ballast tanks, one in the stern and the other in the bow, which can have water pumped in or out as required to change the overall weight and its distribution, to level the boat to its lines.

A ballast tank is already in place in the stern, under the bed, and now the area under the galley sole will become the forward ballast tank. The galley sole, (the bit you walk on) is about 200mm above the floor (the inside of the bottom of the hull) and this space, across the full width of the hull, should hold about 450 litres. It will have longitudinal and athwart ship baffles fitted to reduce free surface effect and to provide "egg crating" reinforcement for the front of the hull.

10/06/2011 This week has seen the gas bottle locker built and installed, with a sloping floor and removable bottom with the opposite slope, to make the actual bottles stand level. The bulkhead, which forms its aft face, is made and dry fitted, but I won't install it just yet because access is getting a bit tight. I'll finish fibre glassing the inside of the gas and anchor lockers and even paint them while I can still reach them relatively easily.

Have finally taken off the physical measurements for the propeller shaft and shaft tunnel so that Phillip Mathews at C.E. & A. can start making the remainder of the drive train. The prop shaft is 1.25" diameter, but it has an unsupported length forward of the rear seal of nearly 2 metres, which needs a centre bearing to stop any whipping. No whipping on this boat!

29/06/2011 The end of the Third Year! Hard to believe.

As I have said elsewhere, building an interior without a previously determined plan is doing it the hard way. Having said that, if you're an amateur like me, you don't have the skills to "see" it all in your head especially in all three dimensions, and you can't make a proper job of the design until the thing exists and you can sit in it and touch and feel it. So yes, it's doing it the hard way, but there's not really much choice except perhaps to give up the idea of building what you want in lieu of what someone else wanted. No thank you.

Now that the galley floor is in place the position of the main bulkhead between the saloon and galley can be fixed. It is almost exactly where Station 3 was during construction. This is handy because I kept the station when it was removed so that I could use it as a pattern for the bulkhead. At least I know it will fit!

Now the floor levels and bulkhead positions are fixed, the tank sizes can be finalised. The forward ballast tank will hold 380l and the black water tank about 1100l, all of which is great.

The next jobs will be the galley workbenches, cupboards & drawers, then the baffles for the black water tank and the steps from the saloon to the galley. The galley floor is also the top panel for the forward ballast tank and needs to be removable, so how best to make it? I have come across a Polyethylene sheet product that is manufactured from re-cycled soft drink bottles. It is strong, dimensionally and UV stable and impervious to just about anything and not too expensive. Its main disadvantage is that you can't glue it, although as a floor, particularly in the galley, it's "non-stick" properties means it should be outstanding as a practical floor surface. It even has a slightly grained surface, which means it won't need carpeting or tiling either.

The gas bottle locker drains are in and the whole inside surface glassed ready for sealing with more epoxy. I wasn't going to glass the anchor locker because anchors aren't used much on the river, and it's a fag. However, the expression "spoiling the ship for a ha'porth of tar" comes to mind, so perhaps I will.

13/07/2011 Ok - I seem to owe the "blog" a bit of an update. Life has been intervening in the boat building process again. I seem to have had cars to fix, TVs to fix and have been summoned for Jury Duty for all of the month as well, so July has not been going well for Rhapsody.

Today I cut the lower part of the main bulkhead that goes between the galley and the saloon. It's almost exactly where Station Three was during the construction of the hull. I used the old station as a mould for the bulkhead and it fitted perfectly, which tells me the hull hasn't "sagged" or otherwise changed shape during the fit-out process with all the moulds removed, which is a relief.

We can now confirm that the galley will be 1750mm long and triangular. The narrow end, across the door of the fridge, will be 500mm and the wide end about 1000mm. The saloon will be 3m square, which is a nice size.

The anchor locker is all filleted & glassed and ready for epoxy sealer and then paint.

The gas bottle locker will have an external hatch, and the top surface will be curved, which creates a bit of a problem for the hatch hinges. Looking through an American magazine, I came across the "Intelli-Hinge" from Taco Engineering. What a clever device! Instead of the normal hinge pin it has a ball and socket, which means they can work on any surface (within reason) even if it is curved or otherwise out of line. Beautifully made out of cast and polished stainless steel, a great gadget! You can't buy them in Australia, but the strong dollar eases the pain of importing a couple of pairs......

The drain for the anchor locker is a 40mm PVC pipe that goes right through the forward ballast tank and empties into a bilge sump, which is at the very aft end of the galley floor. It is finally glued in and ready for sealing.

11/08/2011 OK, as you can see, a bit of a gap in production!!!!

Jury Duty is finished, which is a relief. Unless you are assigned to a case, you have to be available to go to court every day if summoned by SMS the night before. I ended up on a case which sat for a couple of weeks and having to deal with what folk do to each other behind closed doors is something I could have done without - especially where children are involved. Ugly.

Anyway, back to more mundane and pleasurable matters. I mentioned above that the galley floor frames are now all in place. Their flat surfaces were fully glassed on the bench and now all the joints are filleted and glassed as well. This is to be the forward ballast tank and needs to cope with being full of water for considerable periods, so the plywood frames and ends panels need to be completely sealed so that they don't rot. It is tedious and slow, but it is also good practice for building the black water tank, fresh water and aft ballast tanks, which are similar except that they don't have to have a top cover that is also a high traffic floor.

Trying to find a way to provide effective landings for the edges of the removable cover that can be sealed effectively has led to much head scratching. The cover is to be secured by screws on a bed of silicone or something like it. To be removable, you have to be able to get reasonable access to the screws with a screwdriver under what will be the front edge of the kitchen cabinets, which is fine if you knew exactly where the cabinets were going to sit.

So, back up a bit and let's plan where the cupboards are going to fit. Hang on, that depends how big and what shape the sink and stove are and how they are going to fit in a sloping sided and tapered galley. All very confusing. Happily, I have already bought the stove and sink and can make templates of both. The stove particularly presents a problem because it includes an oven, which significantly increases its depth at its lower edge. Time for another "faux" appliance! Yep, a faux stove which can be test fitted into where I think the kitchen benches will go.

I had already decided to have the stairs down into the galley offset to port from the centreline of the boat. This was done to accommodate the pot belly heater on one side and the TV conveniently on the other, next to the helm position in the saloon. Now of course I discover that the stove won't fit on the port side where I had intended because it needs a wider bench top because of the depth of the oven and that won't fit with the stairs.

Back to the drawing board! OK, move the stove to the starboard side of the boat and the sink to port. Actually, that's quite a good arrangement because the offset of the stairs now not only gives you room to stand at the stove, but as a real bonus, not considered previously, it also gives you room to actually get the oven door open as well, outstanding! I knew that.....

Now, aside from a few minor irritations like having the stove on the starboard side instead of port means that the fridge door opens the wrong way to be really convenient, all seems to be well.

You will remember that all this head scratching started with trying to work out the shape of the floor and from that, how best to manufacture it. It's a long way around sometimes when everything is so interdependent on everything else.

Right, back to the floor. Knowing now the sizes and placement of the kitchen benches and cabinets, makes marking out the floor joints to ensure easy access quite straightforward. It turns out that the floor area under the kitchen cabinets is much smaller than I had imagined, because of the taper of the hull it only needs to be 50mm wide or so before it joins on to the removable section (on the port side at least). Quite small enough to be sealed effectively.

Again, after a lot of consideration, I decided that the easiest way to provide a landing for the removable area of the floor and join it to the fixed part was to use a "T" shaped aluminium extrusion. The aluminium is epoxied and glassed on to the edge of the fixed section of floor before being glued and sealed into the hull.

With all those decisions made, I have just to finish making the rest of the floor to see whether I've got it right........
We'll see.

17/09/2011 OK - I'm back!

As you can see, there has been another break in progress and I have really appreciated those people who have asked me what's going on? At least, it shows that someone else is reading this diatribe, (or not reading in this case), other than me!!

Actually, this site averages between 5 and 10 hits a day, of which about 30% are new visitors, although a few don't stay for more than a few seconds, which I suppose means they came by mistake. In any event, over the nearly four years of its existence, that's quite a lot of people who have shown an interest in the site and from absolutely all over the world too. Quite a buzz really!

So the excuses? OK, after completing a month's jury duty, I contracted a chest infection. In order to cure the chest infection I had to stop taking the rheumatoid arthritis (RA) medication, which gave the RA free reign to assault all my joints. Can't walk, can't grip a doorknob enough to open it, and can't open a carton of milk. Etc. Etc. Not good! Still, a couple a days on steroids, some knee injections, and all is well again and we're back in business.

19/09/2011 The remainder of the galley floor is finished and installed. The inside surfaces, of what will be the ballast tank, are all glassed and have had additional coats of epoxy applied. I have a flexible epoxy tank lining paint to put on as well. It is designed to waterproof concrete tanks, so it will cope with small cracks and a little flexing or movement in the base material. Should be fine. It is also rated for use with drinking water, so this tank will serve as a practice for coating the other tanks as well.

The interior of the anchor locker and gas bottle lockers have all been sanded, fibre glassed and sealed with epoxy wood preservative and are now ready for painting.

The bulkhead that separates the gas bottle locker and the back of the fridge is now glued in and filleted as well. It has a hatch in it that will be out of sight behind the fridge and screwed down, but it will give maintenance access to the bottom of the anchor locker if required. It is not possible to reach that area any other way because of its shape.

The fridge cannot sit directly at the galley floor level because the flair of the bow makes the hull too narrow at that point; it has to be lifted about 150mm. To do that, I have made a plinth, the size of the bottom of the fridge, for it to stand on. The plinth has a small hatch in the front, which not only allows the area under the fridge to be used for storage, but will contain air vents to provide cooling for the compressor and radiator at the back of the fridge.

The galley will have a raised roof and the forward upper edge of the fridge is set just inside the raised portion, which will allow a bit of space above it. Once we resolve the final roof height, we'll know how much spare we actually have. (It should be about 200mm - but we'll see!).
Digression As I've said many times, I don't have a plan for Rhapsody, at least not for anything above the water line and I'm just making it up as I go along. A number of people have asked me if I have a final design in mind and if so where's it come from. Effectively, the question is "what are you trying to build" here?

A fair question I'd have to agree and until quite recently, I didn't really have a clear answer. I do have a "look" in mind now, but that's about it. Where did that "look" come from - I don't know. Did I have the "look" in mind when I started; no, I don't think so, at least not consciously, but perhaps there are other forces at work here.....

I mentioned at the very start of this document that I spent many of my summer holidays with my parents on the Norfolk Broads on the East coast of England. Since there were just the three of us, we only needed to hire smaller boats, but of course there were many other boats available. Some were much, much bigger and I thought at the time, very grand. One such fleet of boats, and I remember them clearly as the most "desirable" and of course most unattainable for me, was built by Hearts Cruisers. They had many boats named after playing cards such as "Knave of Hearts" and "Ace of Hearts", but the pinnacle of the fleet was the "Queen of Hearts".

A little research has shown that the Queen of Hearts was actually built in 1951 and was 34'9" long with a beam of 10'2", Rhapsody is 36'8" by 10'4", which is some coincidence! Perhaps, in the end, we are all just striving to relive the happy memories of childhood.

I recently found a picture of the Queen of Hearts on a Broads' history site and I've put it in the Title Bar above, so that it appears on each page. Seems appropriate somehow....

Post script:

The Queen of Hearts has changed hands many times over the years, but she was last sold in 2009 to a sail maker in Norfolk who wanted to restore the boat to her former glory. Ultimately however, when they put slings under the hull and tried lift her from the water, it was realised that she was in much worse condition than had been thought and that the only realistic option was to break her up before she fell apart. (Sigh).

Historical Note: During this research, I discovered that during the 1960s there was actually a "King of Hearts" built as well. It was much bigger at over 50' long, but the design was very similar. Unfortunately however, so was its fate....

21/09/2011 Have made the floor for the fridge plinth today from two layers of 9mm ply arranged so that it just drops in and is removable at any time for maintenance access (First move the fridge - I know), but at least you'd have an excuse to drink all the beer first!

A temporary galley floor is also cut out and dry fitted using 12mm chipboard. It will make it easier and safer to walk about in the galley area and help check that the planned bench and roof heights are going to work.

7/10/2011 I have completed the measurements and drawings for the blackwater tank components this week and cut out the two athwartships baffles. These baffles are required not only to provide the necessary reinforcement for the bottom of the hull, but to stop the contents of the tank from "sloshing around" like bath water. More properly known as Free Surface Effect, with the tank holding over a ton of, umm, stuff, when it starts moving around, it can seriously affect the stability of the boat. Each baffle has two 150mm interconnecting holes cut in the lower edge and 50mm air vents at the top. All the holes are lined with sections of PVC pipe glued into place to protect the end grain of the plywood. The baffles are now fully glassed on one side, ready for the other side next week.

All things being equal, these are the last construction panels that will have to be cut to fit in the bottom of the hull. All such panels required for Rhapsody are now finished. Hmm - Is that the first time I've used the word "finished" in connection with these ramblings? Outstanding!!!!! I hope to use the word a lot more........

21/10/2011 The black tank athwartships baffles are now glassed both sides and sanded ready to be installed. Two longitudinal baffles are next; they will be in three parts each and when they are installed will effectively divide the tank into nine compartments linked by the large holes at the base of the baffles. Today, it occurred to me that pipes are required to carry flushing water into each compartment and that they will need to go through these athwartships baffles as well, so I'd better do them now before they're installed - much easier.

I decided to use three lengths 20mm PVC water pipe, with spray slots cut every 100mm or so, joined to a common manifold outside the tank to distribute the flush water. The feed from the public Waste Disposal Stations are via a 19mm hose so three times 20mm in a 40mm manifold should provide adequate capacity.

I've let three 20mm joiners into holes in each baffle and glued them in. I can cut individual pipes to fit during installation and drill the spray holes in the pipes beforehand. At least the holes in the timber of the baffles will be fully sealed long before then. Sounds a good idea in theory - we shall see....

4/11/2011 The 20mm joiners were glued in and lengths of 20mm pipe were glued into the joiners on one side of each of the baffles before they were installed. It turned out to be a good plan and worked well.

I tried making slots with the angle grinder in a scrap piece of 20mm pipe to see what the spray pattern would be like. Not only was it too hard to control the size of the cut, it didn't produce the spray pattern I had expected. All pretty dismal really. Back to Plan "A" and drill a line of 2mm holes down each side of each pipe - tedious to do, but should work OK.

Now the athwartships baffles are filleted and glass taped into position, I have been able to finalise the fore and aft baffles' measurements. They are all cut and have their 150mm connecting holes in place and lined with quarters of storm water pipe to protect the end grain. They have been glassed on their first sides today ready for the second side at the next session.

Glassing the inside of the tank has been a good opportunity to use up all the odd scraps of glass matting because I don't much care what it looks like, it just has to be sealed really well!!!! Actually, I'm hoping that once its lid is on, no one will ever see the inside of that tank again - especially not ME!

20/11/2011 Still messing with the longitudinal pong box baffles. They are all glassed and were actually installed, at least held in place with dabs of hot melt glue ready for filleting, until I realised that there was a problem.

Incidentally, the little hot glue gun from the craft shop is a really useful tool. You can dry fit a panel or other piece and if you're happy with it just squirt a gobbet of hot glue on it, it sets in seconds and it won't move. If you do need to remove it however, it will come out quite cleanly with a bit of a thump.

I was glad of that option today. I realised that I had only made air holes in the forward and aft direction not across the tank. Given that there will only be one breather pipe and that's on the starboard side, the centre and portside compartments, six in all, would never fill and would never empty if they did. Oops!

Another couple of hours work with not much to show visually, but the missing air holes are now in place, they are lined with bits of PVC pipe glued in and all ship shape. I took the opportunity to paint timber preservative on all the edges of the baffles. They will all be buried in epoxy and the joints glassed, but the more sealing the better if it means I'm less likely to have to get into a dirty tank and repair it!!!!!

I have been shopping for PVC pipe fittings. In their latest publication, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has specified 40mm pipe work for flushing water and breather pipes and 50mm pipes for the black water pump-out connection. It makes sense to have duplicate connections on each side of the boat so that it can be moored either way around depending on wind and current. The present connections to shore based pumps is via 40mm camlock fittings, but the EPA has a plan to change these to 50mm in due course. The marine chandleries haven't caught up with this yet and don't have the larger size deck fittings available. The result is that, for the time being, the 50mm pump-out pipe from the black tank has to go through a fitting with only a 38mm inside diameter before it can get to the pump, which is daft. Still, the suppliers will catch up with the EPA eventually I suppose, although the EPA haven't actually fitted any of the new size connectors to the waste stations yet, so it's all just a "plan" for the future. We'll see.......

Moose made a good suggestion on Friday. I had proposed a single 50mm suction pick-up pipe to connect to the shore based pump-out facilities, but why not have two equally spaced across the deepest part of the tank? Easy to do and it provides twice the pump-out throughput. Also and more importantly, if one pipe should block, you can still empty the tank before having to get into it to fix the problem. At least, that way you're not working in the tank up to your armpits in, umm, "stuff"- yuck! Simple ideas are the best sometimes!!

One of those "little jobs" that I had been trying to ignore finally came to the surface this week. The edge of the galley floor panel sits on some "T" profile aluminium extrusion which is 3mm thick. This means that the edge of the floor sheet is held 3mm above all the remainder of its supporting joists, making the panel flex as you walk on it. The solution: make up some lengths of Meranti 12.5mm wide and thicknessed down to 3mm and glue them over the top of all the floor joists as spacers. Tedious in the extreme and a bit "Heath Robinson", but still it's done and it works. There is side benefit of course, and that is that it has sealed the end grain of all the plywood joists as well and since I had some timber preservative mixed up today they're all sealed now too. Another tiny job finished. (There's that "f" word again; maybe I can use it again soon...... feels good!)

14/12/2011 I'm still in the Poo. Well, in the Poo tank at least. It is turning out to be one of those jobs that are composed of enumerable little details that seem to take for ever to do and give you nothing much to show for your efforts along the way.

I mentioned above that I had suddenly realised that a set of breather holes were missing from the tank baffles which would have stopped it filling properly. These are now cut out and lined with PVC pipe, but it raised another problem. The edges of the lids for the tank, which are to be in three parts because of their size, sit right over the air vents leaving nothing for the lids to seal against. So, out with the router and cut some small slots to take a piece of timber over each air hole to seat the edge of the tank lid. Each one of the six pieces cut, sanded and epoxied - very time consuming!

After dry fitting, the tank baffles were glassed both sides on the bench and then refitted into the hull. They were then filleted into place and the fillets covered with glass tape as well. This is as much to try and ensure there are no leaks as it is for strength. However, the "egg crating" effect of the tank baffles should ensure that the bottom of the hull is as strong as or stronger than it needs to be. It is just in the area that will take the main weight of the boat when it planes, (or goes aground) so it's no bad thing.

The tank lids will sit on and seal against ledges all the way around. If these ledges were made of timber, they would be very hard to seal against moisture, so they will be made as epoxy fillets against removable moulds. I just have to make the moulds..... Actually, I have made three sets this week, and there are three more to do. The fillets will be glassed as well eventually, then once the lids are dropped into place on a bed of epoxy it will be the same structure as if they had been filleted and glassed into place in the normal way, which isn't possible in this circumstance because you can't see or reach the joins. Clever stuff. (Well, Moose's idea really!)

30/12/2011 Last post for the year, or is that just Last Post? It feels as though time is romping by and not a lot is being achieved. I suppose that Christmas is not the best time to be disappearing off to the boat shed for days at a time - seems a bit unsociable really.....

I noted above that the ledges for the Poo Tank lids have to be made as epoxy fillets against removable moulds and then glassed in. That is now all done, so I'm ready to start on the actual lids. The placement of the baffles has really divided the tank into nine linked compartments and each will have its own inspection hatch. The hatches will be made from recycled polyethylene sheet (chopped up Coke bottles!), which is impervious to just about everything. The hatches will be bolted down using 304 SS bolts embedded in epoxy as studs and then sealed with a rubber gasket and silicone. That should keep it closed up, but still able to be removed ultimately if necessary. (By someone other than me with a bit of luck!).

If you need stainless steel fixings, go to my friends Wayne & Jo Harris at JW Fasteners who are really helpful people for folk like me who don't know one type of stainless from another. (

Other items that have to be acquired and fitted into the tank lids, aside from the plumbing discussed earlier, is the level sensor and an emergency Full Tank float switch. The level sensor will drive a gauge on a "Tanks Status Panel" along with gauges for the two ballast tanks and the fresh water tank. It will have Fill/Empty switches for the ballast tank pumps as well. The gauges will take the form of LED thermometers with ten segments going from green to red. There will need to be some custom calibration since the sides of the tanks are not upright the gauge readings will be non-linear, which we'll just have to get used to.

I did look at some ultrasonic sensors that can be programmed for non-linear tanks, but aside from being several hundreds of dollars each, they can't measure accurately below about 600mm (the speed of sound becomes a problem!), so you would never know when the tank was approaching full, and given that Rhapsody's tanks are less than 500mm deep, they're a bit of a waste of time. I did try making some with magnets on a float and a tube full of Hall effect magnetic diodes - all too hard! Finally, I bought a Wema brand level sensor, which is stainless steel and specifically designed for waste tanks - easy.

The float switch is a bit of "belts and braces" really. I could use it to disable the water pumps so that, once the black tank is full, nothing else can be pumped into it. However, that seems a bit harsh since then you wouldn't be able to use the shower or hand basin either. I think I will just use it to switch on "Full Tank" warning lights in the toilet and the galley, just to remind people not to use those facilities until the tank can be pumped out. Tough - find a paddock and take a spade....

Next jobs after the black tank inspection hatches are the cockpit floor joists, the floor itself and the steps down into the galley. The cockpit floor also extends aft from the black tank over the main petrol tank and the engine, so I guess we'll have to think about fitting those bits and pieces too at some point in the not too distant future........

See you next year dear reader!! And if you're thinking of building a boat, talk to me first!! I might be able to highlight the merits of stamp collecting instead........

17/1/2012 The advent of 2012 sees us at the 3.5 year mark of building Rhapsody in Glue.

The glass and epoxy coatings on the inside of the blackwater and forward ballast tanks are now complete and just two coats of tank lining paint remain. The tank lining paint (Interseal670 HS) is a two pack sealer that stays flexible once cured. It is designed for concrete tanks and it will stretch to maintain a seal even if cracks or pinholes occur. It is also rated for use with potable (drinking) water, which one would hope is not relevant for the blackwater tank, but it is good practice for the drinking water tank which is yet to be completed.

I mentioned above that a level gauge had been acquired for the blackwater tank, but that given that the tank's sides are not upright, its readings would be non-linear and something to get used to. Not so! Whilst researching something else on the trusty Internet, I came across a bloke in the UK who had designed a very elegant solution to the problem for his race car. My background is electronics engineering and this solution is so simple, but I hadn't thought of it - humph! Back to the electronics bench and build a bit more circuitry!

The first of three parts of the blackwater tank lid is made and is ready for glassing. Holes for the various connectors have been drilled oversize and lined with epoxy, cast to size on moulds, to protect the end grain of the plywood. The Port side lid has connectors for the galley sink and toilet waste pipes and for one of the three pressure flush pipes. Holes for the hatches have been cut and had their edges chamfered, to ease the glassing process. The bolts to secure the hatch covers haven't arrived yet, but there are two more lids to make yet, so no big problem.

I had intended to use recycled polyethylene sheet for the hatch covers, but I notice that the pricing of the so-called Marine Ply Replacement sheets is now 50% above the cost of the most expensive ply. So, we may all want to be "green" and enjoy the "warm & fuzzies" from usefully recycling our waste products, but blatant greed is still very much in evidence in the marketing of recycled products. Shame....

Another digression recently has been designing a logo for the boat. I'm not a graphic designer as is probably blindingly obvious, but I'm pleased now with the final (at least I think it's final) result which you can now see on the Home Page.

The weather forecast is for 39? today, so I think updating this Blog in air conditioned comfort beats working in an iron shed for today..... Might go and have a cool drink..........

25/1/2012 The last of the tank lids was finished today and all three of them are now dry fitted together as a set. They have to be glassed yet and have the hatches made, but enough visible progress is evident to warrant a new photograph at least. That makes a nice change because most of the activity in the last two months has been on stuff that is out of sight? Frustrating!

I've put a roof beam up today on temporary supports, where the galley meets the saloon. I'm still a bit vague about exactly how the roof line and the two sets of windscreens will work. The top edges of the windows in the galley have to line up with those in the bedroom to preserve a nice "line", although they are actually 150mm offset because of the differing floor levels. Moose has suggested we can achieve the effect with a painted detail line to draw the eye to the proper line. A neat trick.

7/2/2012 In hospital for a quick inguinal hernia repair - be back in a few days....

17/2/2012 Back on the job. Moving a little slower and avoiding heavy lifting, but otherwise all is well.

I have glassed the tanks lids with 200gsm plain weave cloth and then put another two coats of epoxy on top of that this week. Two coats of Interseal670 still to go on. I'll wait until the hatch covers are ready, then seal everything at once since you have to mix all of the Interseal670 in one go. We might have a think about how to divide it up for the two coats; maybe we'll put half in the freezer to slow it down! We'll see.

I cut the nine hatch covers today and although a bit of trimming and sanding remains to be done, they are close to ready. They have to be glassed now and have two extra coats of epoxy as well. I'll use Peel Ply around the edges to ensure that there is a flat surface for the gasket that seals each hatch.

The nuts & bolts have arrived last week, thanks Wayne & Jo! Because of the space taken up by the 45? chamfer around the edge of each access hatch, I've had to increase the overlap of the hatch cover over the size of the hole to 45mm all around to ensure that the bolts have flat timber to seat against. It's a bit more than I originally planned, but everything still fits, which is nice. You have to win one once in a while.....

24/2/2012 This week has been glassing and epoxy coating.

The tank lids are now glassed with 200gsm plain weave cloth and epoxied on both sides and, apart from the Interseal coatings, are finished except for having 310 8mm holes drilled and the bolts glued in. The top side of the lid that mates with the hatch cover via a gasket has been finished with Peel Ply and sanded to provide a smooth sealing surface.

The nine hatch covers are all now finished in similar fashion as well.

It's odd how small matters can still take more than a small while to resolve. Gluing a series of bolts into drilled holes sounds easy; however, think it through. Once you put a gobbet of glue in the hole and go to push the bolt through, what stops the epoxy from coating the full length of the thread on its way by, making it useless? Moose to the rescue again - coat the part of the bolt where you don't want the epoxy with wax first. Right! All we need is a dish of molten wax to be able to easily coat 310 bolts.

Most practical folk subscribe to the theory that you never throw anything away because "it might come in handy". I bought a coffee machine some time back that included, as a free gift, a separate electric coffee pot warmer for the table. I had no immediate use for it, so put it in the shed, as you do! I even knew where it was and suddenly it occurred to me that it might make a great wax warmer - no exposed flame, so very safe too! I tested this during the week on a slow TV night and sure enough, it works like a charm! A dish of wax, salvaged from old candles (in a delicate shade of pink), filled to exactly the depth of thread I'm trying to protect and it stays at just the right temperature, allowing each bolt to be fully protected with just a quick dip. I bought that coffee pot with the apparently useless pot warmer in 1972! So what if it took me forty years to find a use for it, it still proves the wisdom of the adage.....

My friend Ern has been a regular reader and vocal, if only "tongue in cheek", critic of these pages from the very start. His support has been most welcome. Ern, apparently in good health, had a stroke last Friday and died during the week. There's nothing good about old age, so don't make plans, just get on with it. Fair winds mate........

27/02/2012 "Thrilling drilling" could be the caption for today's efforts.

I drilled 720 holes and coated the first 12mm of each of 310 bolts with hot wax ready for gluing into place to secure the nine hatch covers.

Perhaps that should be "fulfilling drilling" - because it had to be done and it's just that - done!! Good.

29/02/2012 What about "revolting bolting" for today...... All the bolts glued in. Tedious and then some.

A bit more serious planning today too, which is much more fun. The galley roof start and finish points need to be finalised quite soon. The forward extent is easy enough; the aft most wall of the gas bottle locker pretty much nails that point.

The galley / saloon boundary is a bit more rubbery. There has to be adequate headroom above the steps going down into the galley to avoid banging heads too often. Organising the best way to do that is still "work in progress". Bringing the second windscreen forward 300mm from the end of the galley seems to be the best solution at present, leaving a shelf in front of the helm position for maps, coffee, glass of champagne - everything an overworked captain needs. But, who's going to peel the grapes..........

10/03/2012 This week has had a few interruptions; however the shape of the galley coach house is now set and transferred onto a sheet of chipboard as a template to make up two laminated carlins. These will support the deck shelf for the walkway around the front of the boat and also be the supports for the vertical portion of the galley coach house. That nearly vertical surface will have two windows each side to light and ventilate the galley. The actual size is still to be finalised, but they will be made by Complete Sliding Windows and be about 650 x 250. They are made from aluminium channel and are complete with safety glass and fly screens.

The "fix-it-while-you're-away" fairy has been remiss again. The forward ballast tank, which I had considered finished except for a couple of coats of Interseal, was in fact still short of its plumbing connections. This week I have made epoxy lined entries through its aft bulkhead for the water in and water out connections and through its top panel, which will be hidden under the stove, for the air vent connection and for a float switch to indicate when the tank is full. I have also allowed for a cable entry to supply a submersible pump to empty the tank when required. The pump mountings have also been glued into the bottom of the tank.

The pump is a Rule 360 (23 litres/minute) and given that my rough calculation shows the tank will hold about 250 litres, it will take a bit over ten minutes to empty. I propose to activate the pump via an "Empty" button connected to a timer in order to stop the pump automatically after a set period. The "Fill" system will work the same way. Filling via the house water supply, which is a Jabsco Par-Max 3 pump delivering 13 litres/minute, through a 12volt solenoid tap, should take about twenty minutes to fill and trip the float switch, stopping the supply.

It's useful with all of these systems to consider the ramifications if they fail. In this case, if the filling system fails to switch off, it will simply overflow via the air vent back outside the hull. If the empty system fails, the pump will either just stop or run dry for awhile and probably blow the fuse in the end either way. I'm sure the God of Marine Disasters will think of some other, more bizarre failures to inflict. Still, we can but try.....

13/03/2012 The first coat of Interseal went on yesterday. Both the forward ballast tank and the black water tank are now dazzling white - what other colour would a Black Tank be ?

Closer inspection of the Interseal instructions revealed that mixing by volume instructions are actually provided in addition to those for mixing by weight, which made mixing half the mixture really easy after all. As we all know, "When all else fails - read the instructions" and it worked in this case.

The second coat of Interseal went on today and it all looks snowy white and pristine. Won't last long once it's in use, but let's not dwell on that.

I masked up the three spray flush pipes in the bottom of the black tank some time back and not having masking tape handy, used packaging tape. This turns out to be not such a good idea. After it's been on awhile, its glue sets and it is ridiculously difficult to remove, but it gets worse, the stuff is quite contrary in that some of it didn't stick at all! Naturally, in all the spots where there was no masking tape, the Interseal had blocked all the spray holes. You remember the 200 odd 2mm holes drilled in the PVC pipes for the spray flush system? Well, today I had to re-visit each hole with a piece of wire and a drill bit to clean and/or check them all out by hand - no space for an electric drill, just to make sure they were going to work - tedious stuff!!!!

Still, it's not all boring work. I have been using an old cylinder vacuum cleaner to clean up inside the boat as work proceeds and despite being emptied on the odd occasion when I think of it, the motor section must have been full of very fine epoxy/glass dust. I switched it on today and the dust exploded. Given that the motor was then running at full speed and providing a fine old draft, the vacuum cleaner looked like a jet engine with a 500mm tail of flame out the back and roaring like a plane ready for take-off. The body of the unit, which happens to be red and being lit from inside, looked as though is was actually red hot too - very spectacular!! And scary!!! Pull the plug, clean the dust out and back to work! Not for long as it turned out because the fire had melted the rear motor bearing and the engine seized after a few minutes. Time for a new one.... (Well, not 'new' exactly, let's not get carried away here.)

17/3/2012 A quick visit on St Patrick's Day to finally glue the black tank lids in place. It was a cool day, which was useful because it extended the pot life of the Epoxy so that I could do the job all in one go. The three sections had all been dry fitted, but needed to go in together as they are a fairly tight fit.

Once all three panels were glued in they needed to be held in place and I didn't want to make screw holes in what is supposed to be a watertight section, so out with the 'Gravity Clamps', otherwise known as bricks, tins of paint, basically anything heavy to hold the panels in place while the glue goes off. Good stuff gravity - free too....

Anyway, that's enough for a Saturday! I'm off to listen to Irish Music tonight and I might even have a glass of green beer too...... Hmm. I'm not Irish, but who cares!!

See "Fitting Out - Part 3" for the next thrilling instalment.....