Fitting Out (Year 3):

Date Discussion
14/4/2012 If you are still with me, dear Reader, you 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 2010, and that's when the fateful phrase "Just The Fitting-Out To Go" was first uttered. This chapter covers the third year of "just fitting out"........

The last job described in the previous chapter was the gluing down of the black tank top. It is in three sections, which were all installed together, held in place by a motley collection of bricks and heavy paint tins otherwise known as "Gravity Clamps".

The edges and centre joints of the top sections have all been filleted and reinforced with fibreglass tape and all the plumbing installed as well. The suction pipes are 50mm with 40mm for the flush pipes, galley sink inlet and air vent connections. They are all in PVC and in accordance with the latest EPA regulations. The outlet from the toilet macerator is 25mm, which adapts to a 38mm hose (weird?) and a suitable hull skin fitting was used to connect it to the black tank. The Wema level gauge sender and "Full" level float switch were also installed. All connections are sealed with Silicon 370 which has a 25 year guarantee. That'll see me through until I'm 90 - so that should be enough.....

The hatch covers were made some time back and have since been glassed and painted with Interseal on the undersides and coated with epoxy on top. Making gaskets was one of last week's jobs and was tedious in the extreme. They are made from 3mm EVA foam floor covering, which seems to be very tough stuff. Another 310 holes, this time with a 10mm wad punch and cut out the gaskets with the trusty Stanley knife.

Finally, it was all assembled and the nuts tightened down and that should be my last sight of the glistening white insides of the black tank - yeah! Finished. It has taken nearly six months to build something that will be out of sight and out of mind to all but the few hardy souls who have either built one themselves or who have struggled through this tortuous description of its construction.

A few weeks back, I described my misadventures with my old shed vacuum cleaner and my discovery that accumulated fibreglass and epoxy dust is very flammable. Once the cleaner had caught fire and burned like a jet engine, spectacular though it certainly was, it didn't actually do much for the motor bearings, which duly expired. However, Lady Luck was at hand and at a Swap Meet last week I found a chap selling vacuum cleaners. He had one second hand bagless unit left and didn't want to take it home, so I offered him $2 for it. Sold. Even more surprising is that it works really well, much better than the old cylinder unit!

You may recall that quite some time back I had a dilemma about how to most efficiently arrange the gas bottle & anchor lockers in the hull to best use the available space. That in turn left the position of the galley undecided and as a result, I couldn't work out its final width. This turned out to be a nuisance because whilst I was making roof beams for the rest of the boat, I couldn't make those for the galley. Now of course, that is all decided and set in concrete (well fibreglass and plywood anyway), so now I'm back to making roof beams. I spent today cutting and thicknessing hoop pine and meranti lathes ready for the five galley roof beams.

Another milestone (Is that a "kilometrestone"? Maybe, but it really upsets the spellchecker!) this week was the arrival of most of the rest of the bits to make the boat move. C.E&A have finished the stern tube, with packing gland. The propeller shaft at 3.2 metres long by 1.25" diameter, which is quite a lump and the rest of the rudder frame ready to have a fibreglass blade with a suitable hydrodynamic profile cast around it. Looks like I won't run out of things to do any time soon!!!

20/04/2012 This week has seen two of the five galley roof beams made.

I intend to use indirect LED lighting throughout the boat by building it into the roof beams and this has been the first opportunity to try it. Each beam is made up of five 10x38mm lathes, two of Hoop Pine, which is white and three of Meranti (Philippine Mahogany), which is red/brown. The lowest lathe, (furthest from the roof), is 10mm wider than the other four and allows for LEDs to be glued to its upper edge shining up onto the inside of the roof. The roof will be painted white and the reflected light should provide a pleasant indirect illumination throughout without any visible (or expensive) light fittings. The LEDs come in a strip 5m long by 10mm wide, have an adhesive strip on the back and are waterproof. They are "Warm White" in colour, have an expected life of 50,000 hours and draw very little current. They can also be dimmed, which is nice.

Interestingly, the LED strips are also available in colour, which allows any shade from the rainbow to be selected at will. Then it's only a short step to connect them to the sound system and...... Well yes it's all possible, but I'm managing to resist the temptation for the moment. Just.........

The galley coach house has to be built on three moulds and they are now completed, which has been a significant design exercise because of the tapering of the hull and the canting inwards of its sides. Tapering sides mean that the roof beams get progressively shorter, which in turn makes the galley roof slope downward toward the bow. This is no bad thing from an aesthetic perspective, but some of the geometry is "interesting" shall we say.

Some weeks ago I laminated up a carlin for the side of the galley before making the moulds. Now I see that the angles are quite wrong and it needs to be consigned to the "experience" pile. Pity, but a lesson learned. I will start a new pair next week.
 
01/06/2012 The month of May saw some timeout from boat building in order drive an historic paddle steamer upriver for a week and for a family wedding. Well done James and Angela. During the month, whilst pondering the need to remake the carlin I had attempted earlier, I realised that not only was it wrong, but so were the galley station moulds. Not the wrong shape exactly, but placed the wrong distances from the bow. Moving them back & forth in the hull to the proper position turned out to be not quite straight forward, because of course, the taper of the hull meant that they were then the wrong width too. Very frustrating and tedious to fix!!

This was also a good time to finally lock in the headroom setting for the boat. I have chosen 1850mm (6 feet and 3/4") although I'm only 1750mm tall. It not only gives a feeling of space, but is also a concession to the fact that in the far, far distant future, it may be important to the resale value of the boat....

Yet another consideration that had been ignored so far was that the side decks should really have a slight slope outwards away from the coach house to allow spray and rain to drain over the sides. So after much adjusting and re-fixing, I am finally happy with the moulds.

Normally, in plan view, the sides of a coach house would follow the profile of the outer edge of the hull, which in this case is a very smooth curve toward the stem post. However, in order to make sure that the galley is light and airy despite its small size, the coach house sides need to accommodate big windows and those windows need to be able to slide open to allow for ventilation. The problem is that you can't easily put sliding windows in a curved surface, so the sides of the coach house can't follow the curve of the hull; instead, they must be made as three straight sections joined with a couple of tight radius bends. The bends were made over a 200mm length each by cutting a half lap joint and filling the space with seven pieces of 4mm ply epoxied and bent to shape with a serious "G" cramp. The resulting carlin fits the moulds beautifully and allows for two sliding windows per side of about 800mm each. A matching carlin was made for the port side too. The side decks now also sport a nice little slope, matching the camber of the roof to drain the spray.

Another problem with the moulds was that I had drawn up the design with the windows in the wrong places. Consequently, the centre point between the windows was wrong, which in turn meant that the centre roof beam was in the wrong place too. Sorting all that out required the beam spacing to be changed and given that we had already decided that they should be on approximately 300mm centres, in order to provide the necessary strength in the roof, I needed two extra beams. That makes seven beams instead of five, but their spacing is now 305mm, which is ideal. The seven beams complete with their concealed LED lighting ledges have all been completed during the month.

When admiring the aftermost mould finally in place, it occurred to me that I now had all the dimensions and complete profile for the galley/saloon bulkhead. If that bulkhead were to be made straight away, the carlins could be permanently installed before the sides of the galley coach house are built, which simplifies things immensely. This week the Joggle Stick had another run out to make the portside part of the bulkhead and next week's project is the starboard side section. This bulkhead is actually in two pieces joined overhead under the windscreen because the galley steps go right through its centre. Eventually the bulkhead will have significant portions removed partly in order to enhance the "light and airy" theme, but also to form a little "breakfast bar" between the galley and the saloon, with at least enough room for a cup of tea! The starboard section of the bulkhead will contain the helm position and the TV cabinet, whilst adjacent to the port side section will be the pot belly stove, with the galley steps in between. We'll see how it works out.

15/06/2012 Both port and starboard sides of the bulkhead between the galley and the saloon are now in place and the carlins glued in. The front mould now has an angled chipboard frame sloping aft to properly locate the front face of the coach house. It also means that all three moulds are now braced fore and aft as well as from side to side. A much better arrangement. Up to now, it's been like trying to nail a jelly to a tree and quite how we can achieve the same rigidity for the moulds for the main saloon walls and roof is something to think about another day.

The next step is to cut the actual coach house sides. This is straightforward in one sense because each is a simple rectangle 443 x 2400. However the complication comes from the fact that each side is not a smooth curve, it is actually two straight sections separated by two tight little bends. The final profile has to follow the inside line of the carlins made a couple of weeks back that are now permanently installed. Plywood can be made to bend to quite a small radius by cutting several slots (called "kerfs") part way though the back of the sheet with a circular saw. The number of kerfs and their spacing determines the radius of the bend and the distance over which it occurs.

However there is another complication, the sides of the galley aren't vertical, they are canted in toward the centre of the boat. This means that the radius of any bend in the sheet is smaller at its upper edge than it is at its bottom edge. In fact, the shape required is actually a part of a cone! Tricky stuff. Moose to the rescue again! The way to create a bend in the sheet that has the profile of a cone is still to kerf the back surface with a circular saw, except that the cuts are not parallel, they get closer to each other as they go from bottom to top. The cuts actually make a triangular shape and when the sheet is bent, it ends up with a larger radius at the bottom than at the top; perfect.

This is all very well in theory, but I decided to try it out with some cheap construction grade plywood before risking a very expensive sheet of marine ply. Having acquired a sheet of CD grade pine ply (about a third the price of marine ply!), the first piece was cut out and the angled kerfs made in the back surface. The bottom edge was then planed off to fit neatly against the carlins and the sheet offered up to its place on the moulds. It fitted perfectly and no one was more surprised than me! A good way to finish the week!

23/6/2012 Basking in the glow of the success from the trial galley coach house wall, it seemed like a really good time to make the real thing. I did and it fitted beautifully. If it works once, why not see if you can get away with it again and make the other side too? That fitted nicely as well - terrific! All that remained was to glue it all in place pronto, before something went wrong. Done!

The top edges of the galley coach house side panels have to bear the ends of all the roof beams, so to reinforce that edge, a beam or carlin was laminated from three lengths of 12mm ply. The outer two pieces are 80mm wide, whilst the centre piece is only 70mm wide. The difference is used to create a recess along the length of the beam to act as a conduit for the concealed LED light wiring. These beams had to have the same bends as the top of the side panels, so relieving kerfs were cut in the back faces of each of the three pieces with a circular saw as before to give the same bend profile.

The coach house sides and the reinforcing carlins along their top edges are now made and installed. The next step is to make the three piece front panel of the coach house and then install the roof beams. The chipboard moulds can then be removed and it might almost be time to consider making the roof!

The helm controls for the throttle and gearbox were originally going to be electric; a sort of "fly by wire" approach. I started pricing the necessary components, although I've bought the servo motors already and was surprised by the cost of electronic "joy stick" type controls to go with them. After some thought I decided to revert to the more common mechanical cable style of control partly because there's no difference in price and partly because a mechanical solution may turn out to be more robust. I am proposing to have two helm positions and I hadn't realised until recently that this is a problem if you have the single lever style control, where a single lever operates both the engine and gearbox. The only solution is a very agricultural mechanical changeover device to select one helm position or the other - very clunky! So, back to the more traditional approach where one lever is used for the engine and a second for the gearbox and then the whole thing duplicated up top for the second helm position. Four levers in all.

I have purchased a pair of very handsome solid cast and chromed Teleflex engine controls direct from the US because the prices even including freight are much better than from the local supplier, which are simply outrageous! Although, since the units are actually sold in Australia, all the accessory parts are available, which is nice.

Another little find at a market during the week was a New Old Stock manual choke cable, for the princely sum of $2.50, which is 10' long. We'll have to wait until the engine is installed to see if it's long enough, but you never know....

1/7/2012 Another July the fourth! This is not the 4th of July, but my fourth July of building "Rhapsody In Glue". If you've read other chapters of this tome, you will know that the first station moulds for the hull were cut in July 2008 and now, four years later, I'm still just fitting out.

Enough of the boat is built that I can now stand inside the hull and look around at what has been completed. Since I have built every part myself, I am intimately acquainted with every panel, epoxy fillet and piece of fibre glass tape, (which also means I also know where all the mistakes are!) However, it is therapeutic to stand back and look once in a while at what has been achieved in order to, at least partially, offset being totally daunted by what remains to be done. Still, one step at a time and the day will come when there won't be any steps remaining. Yeah, right......

Another thing about July is that in the fabulous land of Oz, it is mid-winter! Several mornings this week, by the time I get to the boatshed about 9 am, it is still only four degrees, which is not only hard on the motivation of your very average boat builder, but it makes epoxy so viscous as to be most unfriendly to use. I keep the container of epoxy in a heated "hot box", but even that is not up to the job on winter mornings. Break out the trusty hair dryer before mixing in the hardener, that's if you can get the epoxy out of its container in the first place. It also means that the glue takes at least two days to set! I know, I know, buy some "fast" hardener, but the glue is about as fast as I am on such days, so we complement each other well!

The weather forecast for one day last week was fine (albeit cold), so it was a good opportunity to purchase more plywood and get it back to the boatshed without getting it wet. I bought four sheets of Hoop Pine and four sheets of Gaboon AA/A grade marine ply and was reminded why a boat is so called. It is actually an acronym - "BOAT" actually stands for Bring Out Another Thousand, dollars that is!

The building of Rhapsody has generated some interest locally in the wooden boat community as a result of various magazine articles and club newsletters. As a result, I have had a number of visitors to the boatshed over time and last week it was a Lutheran Minister! He was a very knowledgeable and likeable bloke who had owned several boats and was on his way to buy another. We fell to discussing the merits of building a boat from scratch versus buying a "wreck" and refurbishing or rebuilding it. We arrived at the conclusion that the costs are much the same in the end. The important difference to me is that if you build, you get the design of your own choosing and also you can fit all the modern facilities (such as a black water tank) into the boat from the "ground up", rather than have to retro fit them. I was also reassured, given my visitor's calling, that despite Global Warming, the Ozone Layer, Rising Sea Levels and the Carbon Tax, he was buying an older boat to restore and hadn't been "called" to build an Ark.

Back to the more mundane business of building Rhapsody. Progress in the last couple of weeks has centred on installing some of the roof beams and starting the saloon floor. Given that the walls of the galley trunk are now in place, the next step is to install the forward and aft most roof beams to lock in the structure. This has been finished and the centre roof beam is also cut, but yet to be fitted. There are some "adjustments" required to the relative height of each roof beam to allow the roof panel to lie flat across all seven beams. It's worth noting that ultimately the roof should lie flat, but won't be level; it will slope toward the bow. This occurs because the roof beams are all made to the same shape, (which is a parabola and not the arc of a circle by the way and is a whole new subject for another day), and because the galley tapers toward the bow, so the amount of rise in the crown of the roof beam gets smaller. This would be fine if the taper in galley sides were constant, but it's not, they actually have two different tapers with a kink in the middle. The solution I'm told is a plank down the centre of the roof, known as a king plank, to allow for the necessary "adjustments", which roughly translates to bend the bastards 'til they fit. Watch this space.......

The haunch joints for the remaining roof beams have all been cut, so fitting the beams and the king plank are the next jobs in the galley. The slow setting of epoxy in cold weather means that it's useful to have two jobs going at once (only two?), so the other task in progress is making the beams or joists for the saloon floor. The floor is 400mm or so above the top of the black tank and with a couple of hatches, not only provides access for maintenance, but "out of sight, out of mind" storage as well. The joists are made as plywood "I" beams. The vertical portion is two pieces of 12.5mm ply, 125mm wide, laminated together and the top and bottom faces are single pieces 75mm wide. Since the beams have to be nearly 3m long, because of the width of the boat, each component has had to be scarfed up from several pieces.

The joists will be permanently installed in the hull sitting on pedestals made from 80mm pipe. The pipe is a foam sandwich walled PVC conduit product intended for underground cabling, which was just "lying" around and should do the job nicely. The pipe sits on pads that I have already glued onto the black tank top and each one is immediately above an intersection of the tank's internal baffles giving them direct support from the bottom of the boat and making them the strongest points available.

13/7/2012 Friday the 13th (unlucky for some?) The floor joists are now filleted and glassed, so apart from a clean-up with the sander, are finished. They really are fairly massive and probably over engineered. Still, if you invite two or three friends into the saloon for a small libation, the floor loading would become significant and all the better for not collapsing I suppose.

With the two major joists finished, it's about then you realise that there will need to be quite a number of short pieces set fore and aft to complete the floor. Domestic floor joists are spaced at about 480mm apart and when the area is measured up you realise that another ten metres of joist are required. Hard to believe. So, out with another sheet of ply to make four more joists, each 2.4m long. I've only used a single thickness on the upright portion of the "I" this time - wouldn't want to over do it!

During the "clean-up" mentioned above, my belt sander expired. This was a really cheap unit (from a company no longer in business - you know the one) and I have already replaced the brushes twice and the main bearing once. I assumed that more new brushes were required, but was surprised to find that the armature was almost worn away. The manufacturers do warn that the unit is intended for "light home duty" only, so I suppose being used almost every day for four years is a bit more than they had in mind! All credit to them I say, so I bought another similar cheap unit - hopefully, I won't still be "fitting out" in another four years! (Still, it does have a three year warrantee - not bad for $69).

The major excitement for the week was dry fitting the roof beams and king plank. The king plank's role in the structure is not to provide additional strength or stability, but to provide a mechanism to "distort" the roof beams slightly in order to line them up with each other ready for the decking. This requires the joints for the king plank to be cut with more "green" (spare space) than normal. I was told, "just cut them badly and they'll be fine" - well, I shouldn't have too much trouble doing that! Actually, when I came to do the job, I forgot about that advice and created a real problem; it all fitted to tightly without the necessary room for adjustment. Ironically, just shaving an extra 1/2mm off a joint is much more difficult than cutting the joint badly in the first place - more time wasted!

Since the roof beams are to be clear finished, it seemed prudent to mask up their ends to keep unwanted glue stains away. Another tedious job although it should save significant effort a bit later. Frustrating none the less.

The dry fitting is complete and with the use of two steel beams clamped along the roof line, it all lined up really nicely. Next step - glue the beams in before they decide not to fit anymore.

Done!

18/7/2012 After a weekend of cool weather, the glue on the roof beams seemed to have set and the clamps were taken off the steel work holding the roof in line. The whole structure eased less than 2-3mm from level, which is really pleasing.

The moulds were then removed from inside and for the first time it was possible to stand in the galley space with its roof in place and enjoy the feeling of actually walking into a room that really exists. The galley evolved from just an idea, to a drawing or three, to detail sketches on bits of wood, to waking me at odd hours of the night with additional details not previously considered, to understanding the complicated geometry of parabola, to learning a range of new carpentry skills and with much discussion and encouragement, manufacturing every last piece. Standing in the middle of it after so much time and effort and looking around is profoundly satisfying.

It's what it's all about.

4/8/2012 Another Olympics and still building Rhapsody... I checked my journal and during the week of the Beijing opening ceremony in 2008 I was cutting the mould for station seven in readiness to start building the hull. A lot of sawdust has certainly come out of the shed since then!!!

Back to more recent adventures.

The saloon floor is 850mm above the bottom of the boat to allow for the engine and the main fuel tank. The black tank is only 450mm deep, so a suspended floor is required over the black water tank to match the remainder of the saloon. Two heavy floor joists were laminated from plywood as described earlier and the necessary saddles to support them were made and installed this week. The saddles are each laminated from four thicknesses of 12mm ply; not that they need to be that massive really, but it makes for a relatively easy joint with the joist, which is a significant consideration. I have discovered to my cost that cutting cured epoxy and fibreglass with ordinary tools such as planes, chisels or saws, very rapidly destroys any "edge" they may have had, so I decided to cut the saddle joints with a hacksaw. At least replacement blades are cheap! This turned out to be quite successful except that it's almost impossible to keep a hacksaw cut on the required line regardless of the tension on the blade. Never mind; the new "el-cheapo" belt sander complete with 40 grit paper to the rescue and all is well!

The fridge sits at the front of the galley against the forward bulkhead and has a plywood panel down each side to create a suitable alcove with shelf above. These panels also create a support frame for the roof and front face of the raised galley trunk. The front face is shaped like a windscreen and is in three sections across the boat; it has the same shape and rake as the real windscreen creating a stepped effect when viewed from the side. The real windscreen is 1600mm further aft and 400mm higher - just like the saloon floor - funny that....

The two fridge side panels have been cut and installed this week. Their bottom edges turned out to be a very curious shape in order to fit in with the shape of the hull where it meets with the chine rail, but the value of using a "faux" fridge so long ago to plan the various measurements in all three dimensions has been fully realised, finally. The faux fridge fits in its new alcove beautifully, so presumably the real thing will too, which is good because I'm really sick of it being in my carport! Only a bit of sanding and a coat of paint and the real fridge can go in the boat. (Perhaps I can give up faux beer too, maybe)....

The fridge side panels also serve as the landings for the forward ends of the galley bench tops, so they can now be fully defined. That in turn, also means that the dimensions for the galley cupboard carcasses can now be finalised as well. The construction of the galley cupboards is rapidly rising up the "To Do" list. Scary!

The fridge alcove creates two odd shaped spaces between it and the outside of the hull. The original idea was to use the portside one for the microwave, but it is now obvious that it is too small because of the taper going forward (don't you love that expression?), so I suspect the area will end up being a pantry. The starboard space was intended as the "hidey-hole" for the Hot Water Service (HWS), but again that too may turn out to be too small for the purpose. Humph!

10/8/2012 The more I think about the HWS, the more I realise that it won't work in the space I had allocated. It's not that it won't fit physically; it's just that it will get too hot in such a small space because it's difficult to provide sufficient ventilation and getting "too hot" right next to the gas bottle locker is not a very comforting thought really. The only other space that might be suitable is under the sun deck stairs. The sheer is lower and the roof higher so it's easier to ventilate and there is plenty of room. Back to "ponder" mode.....

The front of the galley trunk is made and glued in place. It looks like a solid timber windscreen, which is weird. It would be nice to have windows or portholes in it, but they would effectively end up inside the back of a cupboard, so not very useful. The three panels are now filleted in to place and sanded back to shape. It really looks quite businesslike and very solid.

17/8/2012 The next major step is the carlins supporting the side decks for the centre and aft sections of the boat. They become the mountings for the saloon and cabin sides as well. The carlins will turn an angle at the saloon / shower wall so that the cabin sides can remain straight whilst the hull curves out and back toward the transom. This is a repeat of what was done down the sides of the galley trunk and is not such a problem. However, what does become more interesting is the fact that the carlins also curve down and then back up again in the vertical plane to follow the dropped sheer. Oh, and they have scarf joints in the middle as well, because of their length. No worries!

Making the carlins is not perhaps such an issue if there were decent moulds upon which to build them; and the perfect moulds are of course, the internal frames that will finally provide their strength and support. Each frame down the length of the boat is different and port and starboard have some variations too, so back out with string lines and the laser level to finally resolve a number of issues that were put in the "too hard basket" so long ago. Issues like the floor dimensions around the head of the bed, the height of the bedside tables and how to provide sufficient strength in otherwise unsupported areas of the hull. Many cups of tea, rough pencil sketches and head scratching hours passed this week!

The key frames that set the remaining dimensions in concrete (well, epoxy anyway) for the entire aft section of the boat are those at the point where the saloon meets the shower. It's the point where the floor levels start dropping from the saloon at 950mm to the bedroom at 500mm above the design base line with matching changes in the roof line and it's the point where the carlins have to turn from the plane of the saloon sides to the plane of the bedroom sides whilst still providing adequate side decks for the length of the hull. These two frames are now made and filleted in place. Only two small panels perhaps, but a significant step forward and the result of much planning and deliberation. One of the penalties of such a long Fit-Out process is that some sections of the boat, particularly around the transom, were completed, what is now, some years ago. There are two panels at the back of the bed head that caught my eye the other day as being out of plumb. When I looked more closely, it turns out that they have been laid back exactly 10mm at their top edges. Now, I've obviously gone to some trouble to achieve that and it's obviously quite deliberate, but the questions remains - why on earth did I do it? What's it for? I have no idea......

9/10/2012 You may have noticed that this document hasn't been updated for quite some time. The culprit is a very handsome heritage paddle steamer known as the PS Marion. The Marion was built in 1897 and is the last wood fired timber paddle steamer left in the world that is still in full survey for overnight passengers.

The Marion is one of a very small number of heritage vessels on the Murray River that have survived and another one, the PS Melbourne, reached the ripe old age of 100 years in September. It was a perfect opportunity to travel to Mildura, the home of the PS Melbourne, to celebrate her birthday. It is a trip of 737 kilometres, taking thirteen days and the Marion has not been that far up stream in more than fifty years. We travelled in convoy with three other heritage paddle wheelers and met up with a number of others, both local to Mildura and from much further upstream in Echuca. It constituted the largest meeting of heritage vessels in living memory and was quite a sight. I doubt such a spectacle will be repeated in my lifetime.

I was lucky enough to be able to spend five weeks on board, the majority of that time as Captain. Of course, a thirteen day trip upstream means that, after a week of side trips and wood loading days, there has to be a 737 kilometre trip home. It was a unique opportunity not to be missed and a great trip, but the "fix it while you're away fairy" didn't visit, so it's back to building Rhapsody - if only I could remember where I was up to!

8/11/2012 I have always imagined that the cabin sides between the very back of the bedroom and the front of the shower would contain a number of windows. I had not worked out how many or what sizes they would be because a number of other dimensions had to be finalised first. However, the only real constraint was that there could not be glass across the area where the shower wall and the back of the wardrobe occur and it would be nice if the window spacing, when viewed from outside, was symmetrical.

The position of the shower wall was set a number of years back now on the basis of the size required for the room; no thought was given to the windows at that time, which was a worry. However, after some thought I realised that it was going to work out quite well. There will be three windows, all matching, with two in the bedroom and one in the shower. The joint between windows two and three falls exactly at the shower wall which is great, although I would be the first to admit that it was sheer luck!

The only slight down side is that window two on the port side will traverse the wall of the wardrobe. This is only an issue when pulling a curtain, and whilst it may look a bit odd, it's not actually a problem.

The forward window of the three on the starboard side has always bothered me because there's no shower room there and it will be looking at the back of a cupboard and staircase, which is hardly an attractive view from outside and a nuisance to get to the curtain from the inside. Lady Luck has come to the rescue again.

I had always imagined that the gas Hot Water Service (HWS) would fit in the galley alongside the fridge, but this area turned out to be too small, or at least too small to ensure that it stayed safely cool during operation. So, I decided to move the HWS to the otherwise unused area under the stairs; it's quite a bit bigger although the cooling issue remains. Having decided on the three window layout, I realised that window three would nicely cover the whole area proposed for the HWS and if it were made as a dark coloured louvered panel instead of glass of the same size, it would look aesthetically fine from outside and provide lots of fresh air for gas fumes safety and cooling as well. A very convenient solution I think.

Having finalised the location and rake angle of the aft cabin sides and finished the first of the frames, it was distressing to realise that there was a problem. They were completed before the number and position of the windows was finalised and they weren't wrong exactly. Whilst the shape, size and slope were fine, they were just in the wrong place. It turned out that one of the frames was going through the middle of the window glass which is what you could call sub-optimal.

Never mind. Starting with the major support frames in the bedroom between windows one and two, the trusty Joggle Stick came out for a run and the frames were very soon ready to go. However, another consideration came to mind. Specifically, these frames not only hold up the sides of the bedroom cabin and support the roof beams, but also take the weight of however many people may be standing on the Sundeck above at the same time. So perhaps we should "beef" them up a bit. How big you make these supports leads to another issue about how much room do you need for your shoulders when you walk down the sides of the bed to avoid having to turn sideways? If your head is spinning with the inter-dependency of all these issues, try having to resolve them! And I haven't mentioned the position of the vertical linings of the bedroom walls and their potential constraints on floor space yet!

Ultimately, the cabin side frames were made wider rather than deeper. They were actually laminated from three thicknesses of ply to make them 37.5mm thick with only a 50mm intrusion into the bedroom. A good compromise, I think.

Having made the frame for the port side, I was pleased that when I tried it on the starboard side it fitted there too, which means the boat is very symmetrical. Something which I'm told is not always true even for professionally built boats - hmm...... The starboard frame was made by simply drawing around the port side one and both were epoxied into the hull.

There needs to be another pair of major frames between windows two and three on each side and more about those later, however because each window will be about 800mm long, there will also need to be a set of smaller frames under the centre of each window. These will support just the side deck and the bottom edge of the cabin sides and two have been made for the middle of window one and are epoxied into place.

Across the back of the bedroom there will be a raked rear screen panel made in three parts like the windscreen across the front of the galley. Ultimately, there will be two window panels in it and some years ago I was involved in making stained glass windows, which suggests a possible option for the back of the bedroom! The rear screen needs to sit on something, so a beam was made (using the trusty roof beam mould) to fit across the forward edge of the transom, which also becomes the mounting for the top of the bed head.

The support beam for the rear screen also supports the forward edge of the rear deck. The rear deck contains two hatches for access to the removable petrol tanks and the mooring line storage lockers. The beam was therefore made with landing ledges ready to support closing of the hatches eventually.

Having spent five weeks away on a paddle steamer, I became very aware of the process of doing the weekly washing by hand, in a bucket. Not an efficient process! Then a friend drew my attention to an advert on Ebay for a mini-washing machine intended for caravans and mobile homes. So I am now the proud owner of a washing machine which is only 450 x 650 and I have the perfect spot for it under the sundeck stairs! All mod cons.............

20/11/2012 The two remaining major bedroom wall support frames are now made and installed. Those are the ones that fit between windows two and three (counting from the stern). Two sub-frames that just support the side decks under window one are also installed. I've decided that sub-frames for window two aren't really necessary because that area gets plenty of support from the frame of the wardrobe front on the port side and from the drawer set frame on the starboard, which are not far from the centre of the glassed area anyway.

The sub-frames for window three occur in the middle of the bathroom wall on the portside and in the "laundry" (for want of a better name now we have a washing machine) under the stairs on the starboard. I realised that the frame in the bathroom might also be able to form the side of the hand basin cabinet and so can wait until more planning is done in that area. I may end up with a corner basin, if that is more space efficient, in which case the sub-frame will be a separate item; either way it can wait. The starboard side can also wait until I see exactly where the washing machine and the heatproof locker for the hot water service will fit once I have a clearer idea of where the stairs go. All in good time!

It's nearly time for the deck shelf carlins along the sides of the bedroom that hold the actual cabin sides as well - very important pieces! I have two hoop pine beams 38 x 48 ready, but they are only three metres long, so yesterday I scarfed another two meters on each. When they are installed they will follow the curve of the dropped sheer from the middle of the saloon to the transom except that they are 10mm higher to provide the side decks with a "fall" to drain away any spray or rain.

The joints in the transom and in the rear deck beam are cut ready to receive the carlins and the only remaining complication is that as the carlins move aft past the back wall of the saloon they have be bent. This is because whilst the walls of both the saloon and the bedroom are straight, to allow for sliding windows, they are not in line with each other because of the curve of the side of the hull. The plan is to remove all but 10mm of the thickness of the carlin for 100mm either side of the point where the bend occurs and then once it's installed, laminate it back to full thickness with some 4mm ply pieces and a very large "G" cramp. This will produce the same style of bend as was used for the galley carlins.

30/11/2012 "The Plan" described above for creating an angle in the horizontal plane of the after side deck carlins turned out to be less than successful. More specifically, whilst the removal of all that material weakened the beams enough to achieve the required bend horizontally, when they were dry fitted into the hull, it was clear that they would no longer properly follow the curve of the sheer in the vertical plane. The weakened area curved at a different rate to the rest of the carlin and was painfully and immediately obvious.

There only seemed to be two solutions. The first was to try and plane and / or sand the required curve into place, which is not only a lot of work, but leaves very little of the beam thickness and therefore strength, remaining. The other alternative was to re-make the carlins and do it properly, which is what I decided to do.

The offending ends of the carlins were cut off and some new timber scarfed on to bring them back to the full length of about 6.2 metres. At the point where the angle is required, seven relieving cuts were made with the circular saw, 15mm apart leaving 15mm depth of timber remaining. Using the hull as a jig, I filled the slots with epoxy and bent them in the horizontal plane only and left them to cure. The next step is to install them into the hull and put on the required curve in the vertical plane as well. I have left room for a 4mm butt plate to be glued on the back of the relieving slots to provide additional strength.

The other little job today was to make some edge beading for the TV cabinet. The TV goes next to the steps down into the galley and when you butt join two pieces of ply at 90° , they need a rounded and rebated beading to make a decent finish. Making three metres of beading takes about an hour with a router and is quite straightforward, even therapeutic! Actually, it's been the first hot week of the season, although it's not summer officially until tomorrow, so it's just about all the exertion desirable! Once the TV cabinet is installed, the main saloon floor and galley steps can be made.

Last year I installed an extractor fan in the wall of the shed. It consisted of an old air conditioner from which the presumably faulty refrigeration gear had been removed, making use of just the blower. In that case I suppose it's actually a "sucker" and they do say it "Takes One To Know One". Anyway, Lady Luck must have frowned on this arrangement as the motor seized fairly soon afterwards and the whole thing had to be taken down and consigned to the rubbish. Fortunately, a larger 3/4hp extractor fan was donated to the cause (thanks Ricardo!) providing a perfect excuse this week to cut an even bigger hole in the side of Moose's shed. It will not only be useful when it's hot, but will be essential when we get around to spraying paint around the place - eventually! It will even provide a "Pet Door" for the birds that regularly visit the shed to harass the spider population and maybe Lady Luck will smile on the new arrangement and allow it to work a little longer......

20/12/2012 OK, a little time has passed in the life of your would be boat builder and as usual it's as a result of life intruding.

The time of year is the first clue. The usual round of Christmas celebrations, of course, plus a little Christmas shopping have taken care of a few days. I still have to buy some food for Christmas Lunch and that may well be later today.

The second culprit, although "culprit" seems a trifle harsh in the circumstances, is my trusty Ute. This is a 1989 Subaru Brumby that has just turned over 415,000kms and is an essential member of the boat building team. I could not have transported all the timber, plywood and the plethora of other necessities required to create Rhapsody without it. The Ute is on its third engine, well second if you discount the one of unknown provenance that I carelessly installed that had to come out again after a couple of months, so I suppose that's not bad really. However, whilst checking the oil last week I noticed that it had gone white, which is not usually a good sign for anyone except manufacturers of head gaskets.

My son's new Father-in-Law, Kevin, to the rescue! Kevin builds hovercraft and uses Subaru engines extensively and happen to have one that he was kindly prepared to donate to the cause - thanks Kevin, a life saver!! I put the new engine in yesterday and aside from a coolant leak and a dirty spark plug (should have cleaned them - I know) it's now running like a Swiss watch. (Do Swiss watches still "run"? They mostly oscillate bits of quartz now, don't they?)

To traipse back to boat building, December did see the Mark II deck shelf carlins installed and I'm happy to say that the result is considerably better than the first attempt. The redesigned horizontal bend is much stronger and using the boat itself as a template ensured that the angle was right.

Once the epoxy had cured for a few days, I applied the vertical bend with a number of G-cramps and it took up the proper curve beautifully. Both sides are now firmly glued in place to keep their shape, although there is a fair bit of glass tape required yet to provide the necessary strength.

Another item that was planned so many years ago (yes, it is "years"!) that has now become a priority is the bed head. The bed head closes off the externally accessible petrol tank and the mooring line lockers and together with the bedside drawer frames internally, forms the upper edge of the bedside table storage areas. The top edge of the bed head, more importantly for present purposes, also forms the bottom edge of the rear wall of the aft cabin and I need that wall in place (or at least a chipboard frame the same shape) to be able to correctly install the girders that hold the aft cabin roof beams and ultimately the cabin sides as well.

A major reason the bed head was not made earlier was that I am hoping to "clear finish" it, which means the timber grain will be exposed. I learnt very early on that my carpentry skills are not really up to clear finishing because the slightest error is clearly visible and I've made a few (daily?). The other consideration is what timber to use? Traditionally, Jarrah, Cedar and Teak come to mind, but would you use veneered board or some form of match boarding to best achieve a good look?

Lady Luck has intruded on this exercise. Some time back I bought some additional stocks of Meranti based Marine Ply. It has a pleasant reddish colour and is much more interesting than Hoop Pine. It is also lighter and although not as strong it's half the price, which for interior fit-out purposes makes it a good choice. However, this particular batch of four sheets had a most unusual "bird's eye" pattern in the grain all over the top veneer and although for most purposes it might almost be considered a flaw, for the bed head it actually presents, what I think will be an interesting solution when clear finished. I am also proposing to groove the plywood vertically every 100mm or so, to look like match boarding and may even put a couple of rows of copper nails across it like the inside of a much more traditional style vessel.

The bed head is now cut out from Meranti ply, complete with its Bird's Eye grain, and dry fitted into place and looks very handsome. It is made as three panels. Whilst the two outer panels will be permanently fixed and sealed, the centre panel will be hinged to allow access to a sizeable, if oddly shaped, storage area I have laughingly referred to as the "Linen Press". However, there is never enough storage on a boat, so it seems like a good plan. Again, noting the time of year, I wish anyone with the perspicacity and persistence to still be reading this missive the very best compliments of the season.

3/1/2013 As you see, another year rolls over. Given that Rhapsody was started in 2008, this is now the sixth year of construction. Maybe this year we'll get its bottom wet.........

Well, Lady Luck giveth and Lady Luck taketh away. In the preceding discussion, Lady Luck is cited in a positive light as responsible for providing some attractively grained Meranti plywood that could be used as the head of the bed. Every positive has a negative. The panels were duly cut out and dry fitted, small vertical grooves were then cut with a router every 100mm or so to simulate match boarding, and all was well, looking good in fact. The next step was to clear finish with epoxy wood preservative. Adding any kind of clear finish to sanded timber makes it take on a much darker colour and Meranti is no exception. However, the resulting colour in this case was so dark it was like chocolate with even darker swirls where the "bird's eye" component of the grain occurred. Very ugly! It looks like the bottom of a swamp. Not what you need for a bedroom.

Back to the drawing board for the bed head. The plywood I have used for most of the boat has been Hoop Pine. It is a very pale colour and has such a regular and tight grain that it has almost no discernible pattern. However, yesterday, I started experimenting with some old water based Baltic Pine stain I had on hand and it actually produced a very pleasant honey coloured result. A second coat highlighted the fact that Hoop Pine does actually have a grain. In sanded raw timber the colour doesn't change across the panel but the density does. As a result it takes up a stain differently which actually produces a pattern. Now, I will finish a stained piece of Hoop Pine with wood preservative and see what the final colour becomes, but it's looking promising at present.

30/1/2013 As you see, another small delay in production has occurred - there's always something!!! This time, some very hot weather made the prospect of working in a steel shed very unattractive and a recurrent health issue has also slowed things down, but no matter, we're back.

The bed head described above was completely re-made in Hoop Pine plywood. The vertical grooves were applied with a router every 100mm or so as before, to make it look like match board panelling. Then, every second or third vertical panel was given a coat of light honey coloured cedar stain. Once it was dry, the whole bed head was given a coat of stain so that some parts have one coat and others have two. This has created the effect of some light and some dark vertical panels which certainly doesn't look like plywood anymore. Quite successful I think.

As further decoration, I thought that a horizontal row of copper nails, imitating rovings, might look good, so I have bought some appropriate cladding nails and we'll give that a try in due course.

A major job late last year was to create the various parts of the framing necessary to support the bottom edges of the aft cabin walls and reinforce the shape of the hull from side impact. That framing also locates and supports the internal plywood wall linings of the cabin (properly called the "ceilings" in a boat - strange). The same framing also supports the main bearers which carry the roof beams that are also the floor bearers for the Sun Deck. It turned out to be a lengthy job to establish all the dimensions accurately for both height and width. The laser level turned out to be an essential tool for this job together with string lines all over the place, which is an interesting mixture of old and new technology really.

The roof beams were laminated up quite some time ago now, from alternating coloured timbers, but did not have the ledges for the LED lighting fitted. This is now in progress and as they are completed, they are sanded and edge routed to tidy things up ready for installation. The first actual roof beam in the aft cabin was installed today, which is quite a milestone and it looks very handsome. Now, all the dimensions worried at and pondered over are now set and all that remains is to install the remainder of the beams, then the cabin sides and the windows and then the roof; easy!

Many of the roof beams are now quite straightforward, but there are a couple that will still require some thought. The aft-most beam carries the top edge of an oddly shaped back cabin wall panel and its strength as a step down to the Transom and the internal LED lighting has all to be considered. There's one beam that forms the top edge of the wardrobe doors that has to support door jambs either side that will be a voyage into unknown carpentry and quite how the chest of drawers and bedroom mirror will be fitted on the starboard side isn't yet clear. The bathroom will have a number of half length beams that only reach to the centreline of the boat, so there will presumably be another bearer in there somewhere to locate their inboard ends, which itself will need to accommodate the bathroom door jambs. And, quite how the necessary headroom going up the stairs to the saloon is to be achieved whilst creating a second helm position on the Sun Deck above, remains to be seen........ Still a challenge or three!

And, all you photograph lovers will have to be patient as the digital camera has disgraced itself and has had to go in for repair. No more photos for the time being!

10/2/2013 The good news is that the camera is back in the land of the living, at least, more or less. The erstwhile magically erectile flash unit no longer leaps to attention when required and has to be lifted manually and held there before it can be coaxed into action. I'll avoid drawing any crass and quite possibly ageist parallels with other areas of endeavour, although it really is very tempting..........

Back to more important things. This week has been all about roof beams. The one installed last week in the middle of the aft cabin was the easiest because there was no doubt about its position. The fore and aft bearers are all installed, which defines the beam's height and the support frames that hold those bearers and sit between the two bedroom windows are also installed defining the longitudinal position. Easy.

The next roof beam was the one adjacent to the very aft wall of the cabin above the transom. A complication is that this wall is not vertical. This is partly for aesthetics and partly because there will be stair treads on the outside coming down from the sun deck to the transom (and then on to a swim deck - somehow....). The wall is raked forward at 13°. Why 13° you may wonder? My friend Philip Mathews of engineering fame, who has made all the running gear for the boat, also casts various chandlery items which include a chromed and polished stair tread unit. Having seen this facility on another vessel and knowing that Philip makes them, the obvious question was "what rake angle is suitable"? Philip quickly replied that 13° will bring the stair tread level, all of which is fine, but why 13°..........

The other complication of the rear wall is that aside from being raked forward, it is also split into three parts. The centre part is aligned directly across the vessel and the two outside panels are each angled forward like a three section windscreen in reverse and not unlike the front wall of the galley. This means that the roof beam has to be aligned to the upper forward edge of the back wall at its outermost edges. The result is that a gap then exists between the roof beam and the centre section of the back wall, which requires a special filler piece. This has all been done.

It turns out that Lady Luck has smiled on this arrangement because the gap between the roof beam and the centre section of the rear wall is about 40mm and that panel has to be reinforced to carry the stair treads mentioned above. That 40mm allows for reinforcement battens to be fitted and then a false front added without any of it showing from inside the boat. It also actually aligns that new inner panel with the top edge of the bed head, which is very tidy. Moose suggested that the inner panel could also be "match boarded" to match the bed head; it just gets better!

Ten roof beams are now installed from the aft of the bedroom to the shower wall. A couple have multiple functions meaning that their exact positions are determined by other considerations. For example, one has to support the top edge of the shower wall on the Port side and the top edge of the dressing table mirror on the other. Another supports the top edge of the wardrobe doors on the Port side and becomes the landing for the sun-deck stairs on the Starboard side. The remaining beams are then evenly spaced to fill the gaps and still be around 300mm apart. Moose recommended this spacing as being appropriate for a load bearing roof since there may be a number of free loaders, err - sorry Guests, on the sun-deck whilst cruising.

A long conversation with Moose today saw some significant re-design of the sun-deck stairs. Principally due to the fact that I had overlooked the need for adequate headroom at the start of the stairs. Another consideration was that the 1.7m hatch I had envisaged covering the whole stairwell would be too heavy to lift and would be practically impossible to make waterproof to keep the rain out! An hour later we had a new design involving disposing of the heavy hatch cover in favour of two doors at the Saloon end of the stairs and changing the first step into a grate with a sump beneath it draining out of the hull. So, if you can't seal the stairs properly, don't - just let it rain on them and deal with the water at the bottom. Easy - I think.

I changed the boat's logo again today. It's the same idea but using a different font - Mono Corsiva this time. Another one of those small things that takes hours. The new version is at the head of the Welcome letter on the Home page. See what you think.