Fitting Out (Year 5):

Date Discussion
1/4/2014 Well, yet another new chapter!

The usual memory refresher follows for those who start reading this tome here at Chapter 7 - silly people. Why not subject yourselves to real punishment and read the whole thing? The last episode covered just twelve months and ran to 20,000 words or more. I know, I know, if I spent as much time building the boat as I do writing about it, I'd probably be off cruising by now.

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 fifth year of "just fitting out"........

The total construction time is now approaching six years, which is astonishing. How can a job take that long? And, it's not finished yet. Even the major parts are not finished, never mind the myriad of details like trimming, painting, plumbing, glazing and wiring. Still, one war at a time........

10/4/2014 The parts required to recondition the gearbox arrived last week and I was disappointed to find that one bit was missing. I emailed the company a couple of times drawing, no response. So, time to ring up! Actually, time turns out to be the least convenient aspect of chasing a supplier who is in the US. When they are opening in the morning at 9:00am, it is 11:30 pm for me. Never mind. The person I spoke to (my new best friend, Chelsea) was most apologetic and promised to send the missing part by airmail, pronto. I haven't seen it yet, but we live in hope. She commented that all the "sales" emails go direct to their Sales Manager, who is not good at reading emails! Hmm, time for a new system I think, or new Sales Manager perhaps....

The parts were all advertised as made by "Velvet Drive", giving the impression that they were all original manufacturer's parts - not so, as it turns out. Some are at least American, the remainder are from the Sachs factory in Brazil. I might lodge a gentle complaint about the "misrepresentation" perhaps, but not until I have all my parts maybe......

The petrol tank support frames are both installed and painted as is the air vent trunk required to be able to properly ventilate the under-tank area. The tank has to be clamped down onto its frames to stop it moving and the floor has to have some supports, so the two requirements are combined. As it turns out, the floor beams, similar to the "I" section ones used under all of the saloon floor, just touch the tank and with a couple of doublers, will do the job nicely. They have both been made and await glassing and painting.

The tank retaining beams will be installed using aluminium butt plates and bolts so that they are removable just in case the tank needs to be removed at some time in the future. What an awful thought.

The aft-most floor panel, which will be under the dinette, will also be made removable for the same reason. The floor panel actually serves a second purpose as well and that is to brace the back of the shower wall, to stop it flexing.

I mentioned the dinette above. Some planning work has already been started to determine optimum sizes and angles for seat squabs, seat backs, table heights and a myriad of other fine details designed to make life more comfortable. I wasn't so surprised to discover that there is an Australian Standard for chair design, but I was astonished at the number of different types of chair that it recognises. They deal with dining chairs, armchairs, office chairs, etc. etc. All good stuff.

What has quickly become clear however, is that if you want a dinette to perform its traditional dual function of a dining table that drops down to become a double bed, you can't make it comfortable to sit on. To be a bed, the seat squab has to be flat; to be a comfortable chair, it has to slope down. Similarly, a ninety degree corner, so necessary to become a usable bed, is impossible to incorporate in a comfortable lounge. So, the whole idea of a dinette converting to a double bed for occasional visitors is out! The prime purpose of the dinette, perhaps we should now call it a "banquette", for 99% of the time is to provide comfortable seating for my partner and me. Making something that is uncomfortable 99% of the time just to cater for the 1% of the time when someone else wants a bed, is unreasonable. A blow-up double bed on the floor or a swag on the sun deck or the river bank will have to do.

The two vertical supports for the saloon roof are now made. They consist of five alternate laminations of Meranti and Hoop Pine that will end up 60mm by 47mm. The last lamination has been left off for the moment so that the supports can be bolted into the hull with some 6mm threaded rod. Once that is done the last lamination will be glued into place and the fixings will be invisible.

Another job that has finally risen to the surface is putting the lighting tracks onto the saloon roof beams in readiness for their installation. In effect, it is simply an extra lamination, 10mm wider on one side than the remainder of the beam. So out with the roof beam mould yet again. I was told at the beginning of the project to make the roof beams first, which I thought I did, but here I am six years later, still doing it! Still, only four more to go now.

25/04/2014 The missing gearbox part has now arrived and all the bits have gone to Peter Starkey from PR Automotive, for re-assembly. I do need to get one more part as it turns out, because in one instance I ordered the wrong thing. Peter was only able to give me internal Borg Warner part numbers, which were not so useful, so I had to guess the actual part numbers from the diagram in the Service Manual. One of my guesses was not right, so back to the trusty Internet (and my friend Chelsea).

All the saloon roof beams are now complete with their LED lighting track laminated in place and are sanded ready for clear epoxy. I have stowed the roof beam mould because I shouldn't need it anymore, but I can't bring myself to actually dismantle it just yet - you never know...

The petrol tank retainers are also the floor supports for the area around the dinette. I had intended to site them so that they would perform both functions. However, I have decided that it's easier if I make the dinette frame as a separate entity, off the boat. This will make it simpler to build and install and it can also be transported to the upholsterer for covering, which is better than having the upholsterer come to the boat.

The tank retaining frames are complete, epoxy filleted and glassed ready for painting. Today I made all the aluminium brackets necessary to install them and still have the beams removable should the need arise. I sincerely hope it doesn't!!

The aluminium brackets and the tank retaining frames are now fully installed and a piece of chipboard cut as a temporary floor. It's interesting to see the whole saloon area as a completed flat floor. It is three metres square and looks quite large - dance anyone?

Whilst suffering an attack of "impulse purchase disorder" last year, I bought a contra-rotating circular saw during a Fathers' Day sale. I had hoped to use it for cutting Laminex/Formica sheet without chipping the edges, but it turned out that a pair of metal shears were the best solution to that problem. However, I have since discovered that the contra-rotating saw is an absolute whizz for cutting aluminium. In this case, I'm using angle that is 5mm thick, with 60mm sides and the saw cuts it like butter. I'm not sure how long the blades will last with this sort of treatment, but we'll see. They do have a wax lubricating mechanism, which should help.

The next job is to finish and paint out the engine bay in readiness for the fitting of the engine. There is a bit to do yet. The epoxy beds for the engine mounts are not flat and have to be filed down and some of the engine bed timber has to be removed to accommodate the size of the second alternator that has been added to the engine. However, I think I've got a little time yet... Hmm...

Once the engine is installed, the aft ballast tank, stern tube and propeller shaft can be created/installed, all of which should keep me busy for a while.

8/5/2014 After some thought over another cup of tea, I realised that the engine bay isn't ready for painting at all. I have planned all along to have a comprehensive air scavenging system to stop dangerous petrol vapours from accumulating in the bilges. This involves a fan of course, which is always called a "blower" despite the fact that it actually sucks, which is weird. However, the fan is no problem until you consider how it should be mounted.

You quickly realise that it should scavenge from the lowest point in the engine bay because petrol vapour is heavy and therefore some trunking is required to connect the scavenging fan with the bottom of the engine bay where the vapours lurk. In addition, to be able to suck air out of what is essentially a closed compartment, you have to allow for air to enter the space to replace it. In this case it should be fresh air from outside, so a vent in the hull is needed. Of course, the bilge blower needs to exhaust the fumes it scavenges, so a second hull vent is needed.

The same situation exists on the Port side where the petrol tank compartment is to be similarly ventilated and another set of inlet and exhaust vents and trunks are required there too. For convenience and noise considerations, the bilge blowers should be mounted below the floors, out of sight and within the compartments they are ventilating (yes - they are spark proof models). However, from an external perspective, it means that the vents would come out only 500mm or so, above the waterline, which is not enough. So, more trunking is required, this time above the floors, but hidden inside the saloon wall cavities. It turns out that there is a gap of about 65mm between the saloon wall lining and the hull, which is just enough for an air trunk to connect the scavenging system below decks to hull vents up near the sheer line. There are two such trunks required each side.

Yet another user of fresh air below decks is the engine. Very often, engines are left to suck air from within their compartments and some people even argue that this is useful for absorbing unwanted vapours. This approach is fine until there is a problem starting the engine that can result in petrol vapour being around when a backfire occurs. A relatively rare occurrence perhaps, but decidedly unwelcome and very scary in a wooden boat. So, the carburettor air intake is to be vented directly and separately to the outside air and of course, that's more trunking and another hull fitting!

The five trunks described above have been built and dry fitted ready for filleting and glassing. Bilge blowers use 75mm hose for connection, but I decided that bigger hull fittings would allow for better airflow volume. With any hull fitting, its outward projection from the hull is also a consideration since close mooring against a jetty will soon demolish any item that protrudes. I found some 100mm fittings that have only a 3mm projection. They are louvered against rain entry and have bug screens in them too - ideal.

The engine mounting bed has been modified to accommodate the second alternator and re-glassed to seal it ready for painting.

The frames in the fuel tank compartment on the Port side that hold the petrol tank also provide bulkhead style dimensional support for the hull. The engine compartment on the Starboard side is the same size, but has no supporting bulkheads along its length. To provide that support, I've made a new frame to sit around the mid-point, just to give a bit more bracing for the hull and I suspect, a mounting point for the muffler in due course, but we'll see.

The petrol tank compartment requires a float switch, as noted earlier. A suitable switch has been purchased and the correct length of wire attached. Suitable non-split corrugated cable trunking has also finally arrived so that the switch can now be installed under the tank. This is the last step holding up the final installation of the petrol tank.

All connections to electrical items, such as the float switch, are to be by plug & socket and all crimped connections, where possible, are soldered as well. Crimping electrical connections is a notoriously poor way of joining wires, plugs etc. A poor joint can be intermittent, produce heat and maybe even sparks too. A badly executed soldered joint can be troublesome too, but it is a much rarer occurrence.

14/06/2014 The scavenging trunking is now complete. Some of the panels will be screwed in place and just sealed with Sikaflex, rather than glued in, to allow for cleaning. The panels holding the blower motors have been finished with 75mm epoxy lined holes and fibre glassed, ready for installation and painting. The holes for the external hull fittings were cut oversize and have been lined with epoxy to keep them waterproof. The fittings will need small SS retaining screws eventually.

The scavenging blowers only need to operate when the engine is running. However, they should be run for a couple of minutes before the engine is started to clear any vapours that may have built up, so an appropriate timer unit is required. Additionally, the blowers don't need to run all the time and after some research, I decided that they should run for two minutes and then can be off for eight minutes or so, before the cycle repeats. This complicates the timing circuit a little but I have built one to suit.

I have also purchased an electrical "sniffer" unit, which has a sensor that reacts to the presence of petrol vapour. If it detects any such fumes, it will turn on the scavenging blowers automatically regardless of whether the engine is running and whether the boat is even occupied for that matter. The particular sensor selected reacts to LPG fumes as well and has two separate pairs of "sniffer" heads. One will be placed in the engine space and the other in the galley bilges, which is where the heavy LPG might be expected to gather in the case of a leak.

The latest update on the gearbox reconditioning is that it's finished and back in my shed, although it's not actually back on the engine yet. Another job waiting for a "round to it". After ordering a second set of case bushes from the US because I had the wrong ones, I also discovered that the new rear main bearing I bought was wrong too. Borg Warner actually use three different bearings in their gearboxes depending on which reduction gear is fitted and of course I had the wrong one. Still, a quick trip to Gardiner Bearings sourced the proper item and all is well. The whole process of sourcing the parts myself, directly from the US, saved well over $1000, although it's a bit of a tedious and time consuming business. However, well worth the trouble considering the ridiculous mark-ups that are applied to goods imported into Australia by regular wholesalers. I consider that the 5000% mark up on gearbox parts is bordering on criminal.

Another worthwhile outcome of the gearbox reconditioning process has been meeting Peter Starkey from PR Automotive. If you have a Borg Warner Velvet Drive that needs attention, go and see Peter.

Another supplier who has been most helpful yet again is Adelaide Belt & Hose at Mile End. As an amateur, I really appreciate firstly, being taken seriously when I'm sure my orders are so small as to be more of a nuisance than anything else, and secondly being allowed to wander around their warehouse looking for the parts I want because I don't know what they are until I see them. Thanks Guys! Recent purchases were the non-crush petrol proof 38mm hose for the tank filler and the high temperature corrugated air hose for the carburettor.

Another set of interdependent jobs that has been lurking in the wings relates to the passage that leads from the saloon to the bedroom. The two final roof beams in the bathroom don't go right across the boat because they stop at the wall of the sundeck stairs. They also cross and form joints with the lintel above the bathroom door. The lintel also forms the top edge of the wardrobe wall after being jointed to two other existing roof beams and its final size and shape depends on the door jamb mouldings, none of which are made yet. The lintel also forms the start of the King Beam for the bedroom roof, although its alignment is slightly askew because of a change in sizing. Another issue is that the bathroom wall is slightly out of line with the centreline of the hull and there has been some debate about the best way to hide the error. Like most of these jobs the real problem is where to start.

I decided to put the lintel in first to provide a key piece to which everything else could be securely attached in its turn. The lintel is made of four thicknesses of 12mm plywood laminated together for most of its length. Some of it is only three thicknesses and it has a half lap joint cut where it meets the aft-most bathroom roof beam. It then goes on to the next roof beam, forming a landing for the top edge of the wardrobe side in passing and is jointed with an odd sort of half lap that locates the beam and forms the start of the King Beam for the bedroom roof. After the design process, the making and fitting of what is quite a complex shape, was very time consuming, but is now completed.

The slight alignment error of the wall was lost in the opening or forward most side of the door frame and the lintel. What misalignment......?

The passage from the saloon to the bedroom now has most of its starboard side wall too. It is grooved and stained to match the rest of the woodwork. Since it is 1746mm long and more than a single panel width, there is another 546mm piece to come. That piece too, has been cut out, grooved and stained ready to install.

The bottom section of the passage walls on both sides will be carpeted up about 450mm and stained for the remainder of their height.

With the starboard passage wall in place it is now possible to see clearly where the sun deck stairs will go and it's immediately obvious that they are a bit narrow. They are only 550 wide compared with the passage at 650mm. That makes them too narrow for comfort and the only reason they couldn't be a bit wider is the proposed placement of the Hot Water Service (HWS). It may be time to try and find another home for the HWS - yet again! The unit is only 570mm tall, but it has various plumbing and gas connections and of course, gets very hot in operation. All of which makes it difficult to find a good spot for it on a wooden boat. It has already been relocated a couple of times. Hmm - more thought required.

On a lighter note, it is intended that where the floors meet the walls in both the saloon, bedroom and possibly elsewhere, there will be hidden courtesy lights. Whilst idly wondering what colour they should be it soon became clear that they should be RGB LEDs that are capable of producing any colour of the rainbow. The LEDs were ordered and have arrived with a colour shifting controller that will provide hours of amusement......... Perhaps we could connect them to the stereo as well? Ah, small things please small minds........

21/07/2014 Short report this month, because I'm going to be busy - more about that later.

The wall of the passage opposite the bathroom door has been made, stained and installed, although it's not yet clear finished. It looks terrific, you get a real sense of walking around in a designed space.

The door at the bottom of the sun-deck stairs and one of the two main entries into the boat, has had to be redesigned. I had planned to have two 300mm doors opening outwards over the first step, which was then of course 300mm wide to accommodate them. The stairs are fairly narrow anyway at 600mm and when the doors are open, assuming they are 25mm or so thick each, the space is then reduced to 550mm or less. Not much. Thinking about this some more, I started playing with the idea of a tri-fold design. Each "fold" would then only be 200mm wide and it could be made to "disappear" into the gap between the stairs and the hull. This involved moving the HWS yet again, again, again! Still, it's an "ill wind", because making the first step only 200mm wide instead of 300mm allowed room for the HWS to be moved to a new place under the top of the stairs, because now there's room and it's really a much better spot.

Until now, the sun-deck stairs and the main entry steps into the boat have been in the same corner of the saloon. When thinking more about the entry steps, it quickly became clear that if they are to have a comfortably gentle slope, then they will have to partly block the bottom of the sun-deck stairs. Not good. So, a solution is to move the entry steps forward to use the front window area on the Starboard side and I wonder if the steps could be combined with the helmsman's seat? Having an opening door by the helm is a great idea for visibility during manoeuvres, so we'll think more about that.

The engine space is now finished and fully painted. I went to install the engine mounts and after cleaning four years of crud off the threads, despite being masked and covered with wooden blocks, discovered that the nuts are the right diameter, but the wrong threads - bugga! Back to the hardware shop.......

Now that the engine space is finished, I started looking at the gearbox space. This is under the stairs to the bedroom and has been out of sight and definitely out of mind, for some years. It turns out that even the filleting and glassing in there was not finished! So, out with the glass cloth to finish the area, a process that had to be postponed on several occasions because it's winter and too cold for glassing. Below about 10° the epoxy is not only too viscous to easily penetrate the weave of the fibre glass, despite being in a heated box, it takes days to set....

You may remember quite some time back, that I had to move the steps over the gearbox space forward 200mm because of a problem with headroom. I also took the opportunity, at that time, to make the steps narrower to allow for carpeting the walls and still being able to remove the steps to check the gearbox and shower sump. That change was never completely finished, but it did mean that I could remove the step supports that hadn't been finally glued in, which made the glassing much, much easier - ah well! I now have to make a new floor the correct size and paint the whole area. Then, just maybe, we'll be ready to put the engine in......

Little jobs sometimes seem to take a disproportionately long time and often there's almost nothing to show for them. I have finished the trunking for the under floor ventilation system and was looking at mounting the bilge blowers. The instructions suggest using 10g wood screws - easy. Of course, if I can over-build it, I will, so I thought some 5mm stainless steel studs would be nice. Ok, so drill the holes for some 5mm bolts, countersink the holes so that the bolt heads disappear and epoxy the whole lot together. Of course, you have to make some jigs first to make sure that the bolts stay absolutely upright. The whole job seemed to take hours and although it's come out very well and looks great, no one will ever see it...... That's how it goes.

23/9/2014 Gee, it's quiet in here isn't it? Has anyone seen a boat builder lately?

Actually, we've been away on a two month holiday to Ireland and the UK. Great fun, did lots of sightseeing and meeting of friends and family. We covered about 6,500 km and slept in about 40 different beds. Gruelling is a word that comes to mind, but well worth it.

The "fix it while you're away fairies" must be on strike, because the boat is exactly as I left it except for extra dust and mouse turds. Still, I got the paint roller out today and painted the topside of the two engine hatches which were lying on the bench. I can't remember what else I was doing, so I'll have to make a new plan.

The wall between the shower and the passage installed so long ago didn't allow for the rising roof in the passage required to provide adequate headroom. I had cut a triangular piece to glue on its top edge and make it the right shape, but I decided today that that's going to look really daggy when it's grooved and stained because there's no way to hide the join; there's always the option of a cover or trim piece, but how ugly is that... The solution: cut the whole panel out and make a new one without a join across the middle: easy. It won't make the boat any better, stronger or anything else, but I know that it will always bug me if I don't do it, so better to fix it now.

If I ever get over this "Jet Lag", we'll get on and do a bit more.....

4/11/2014 I'm a member of the local Wooden Boat Association and one of the events that happens occasionally is a "shed visit". The Club last came to my shed in 2010, which was not very long after the hull had been turned over. It's reassuring that in the intervening four years, or so, there has been at least some progress to show! Actually, there has been a lot of progress and the event was useful to remind me of that.

The galley is largely finished, except for bench tops and cupboard fronts, but the stained timber trim that I had intended to install down both sides, above the shelving, was missing for no good reason except that I had not got around to doing it. It was a simple job, so I thought that would be useful to complete it before the Club visit, so that people could see the galley as nearly finished as possible. (It's still got no windows or roof, but hey, use your imagination)....

The trim panels are made of 4mm Hoop Pine plywood, grooved and random stained as I have been doing elsewhere. Actually, it is becoming a bit of a decorating theme throughout the boat and that's no bad thing. Tucking the trim panels in place on the sheer rails it occurred to me that I could leave a gap behind them which would be useful to run some wiring. I want a couple of 240v power points in the galley and there will be some 12v required for the fridge and forward lights etc. However, that would mean creating a permanently closed space and that's not so good for access in case of damage, mildew or rot. So, the panels are installed with spring clamps for the moment while we think about that a bit more.

A friend made the mistake of dropping by for a coffee recently and of course, was very soon given a job. I had been wondering how I could lift the fridge into the boat to replace it's somewhat less than functional chipboard ersatz self that had just been used for sizing. Thanks Jan!! The fridge is a two door fridge/freezer with a soft-start 12v compressor. The new, bigger solar panels should allow it to be left on all the time without running the engine; we'll see...

You may recall that I bought a pair of fog lamps from a Subaru Outback. They are intended to be installed in the vehicle at a funny angle in the Bull Bar, which just happens to suit the front of Rhapsody's hull. I cut two oval holes with much difficulty in the front of the hull, like hawseholes, and then lined them with PVC to seal the end grain. I had to make up two mounting blocks for the lights themselves, both of which turned out to be very weird shapes indeed. However, it is all finished and seems to work well. For the Club visit, I installed one of the lights together with a battery, so that with its lights on, Rhapsody gave the impression of "life". Trivial, I know....

The next major job is building the walls and roof for the saloon. That is being delayed in order to leave access to more easily install the engine, which still isn't quite ready. However, even if it were ready, whilst the engine space is finished, the gearbox space is not. Also, I had moved the bedroom stairs some time back because of a design "oops' in relation to headroom and since the steps sit over the top of the gearbox, the fairly temporary fixings that had been "out of sight and out of mind" remained to be finished as well. This job is now almost finished. The sides of the gearbox area have been fully filleted and glassed as well and the supports for the steps are permanently installed together with a new floor panel made to suit the re-sized access hatch area. Just needs a coat of paint.......

The reconditioned gearbox is reunited with the engine and the repaired cam gear cover reinstalled. A new cam cover really demands a new crankshaft oil seal and, it turned out, that the harmonic balancer journal on which it runs was not too good either, so I decided to replace it. No problem. As an aside, we get used to buying stuff on eBay and saving a bit of money. I looked for a replacement harmonic balancer and the best price I could find on eBay was $49.99 plus $16.50 postage, which I was about to accept when I thought I might as well telephone the local parts supplier first. Not only was their price only $40, they had the unit in stock. So, rather than spending $66.49 and waiting a couple weeks for a snail mail delivery, I drove down the road and came home within 30 minutes with a new unit in my hand and all for just $40.

When running the engine a little while back I realised that my complex twin alternator set-up was not actually going to fit in the engine space available. This was a bit of an "oops" really and no easy solution has presented itself. So, it's back to a single alternator and all the delightfully complex mountings I made have been removed and put in the "down to experience" box. So, now to make a new mounting for the '94 EF Ford Falcon 110 amp alternator (Mitsubishi) and start looking around for a twin battery charging system.

With the gearbox back on the engine, it's time to plan how the gear change cables can be attached. The issue is slightly complicated because there are two helm positions and therefore, two control cables which not only have to operate the gearbox, but have to operate each other, so that the two helm controls remain in sync. The same set-up with the same issues, will be required for the throttle control in due course.

Back in the boat, one of the items that has been planned and drawn-up more than once are the sun deck stairs. Designing stairs turns out to be reasonably complex, but I think we have a solution now; eight steps with a rise of 207mm and a tread of 204mm + 40mm overlap. They will be quite steep, at about 45°, but that should be manageable, hopefully. The first mounting required for the stairs is the one that carries their highest point. A flat panel comes down from the roof beam on to what will be a little dressing table area and on the bedroom side, it will carry a mirror. That was made today and glued in.

The next step in building the stairs (ha ha) is to make all the treads and risers and attach them to two side rails. They have to be strong (I seem to have a reputation for over-building, so why stop now)? The stairs will be permanently exposed to the weather, so they have to be well sealed against UV and rain and the bottom step has to have a drainage grill to let the rainwater flow away through a hull fitting - another one.... The side rails are cut out, so now for some treads and risers.

It's all on the "up and up". (Groan).

13/11/2014 I can't believe that I still haven't resolved the issue of where to put the hot water service. I have moved it on the plan so many times now that I can't keep track of it. I've made a chipboard replica (of course) just to test for size in every possible site, but I keep finding a reason why it has to somewhere else. It is 600mm tall and 370mm wide. It has to be upright and in a largely heatproof area. It has to have access to plenty of fresh air and somewhere for any escaped gas to drain. It has to have a flue above and access from below to be able to play with the controls and change the ignition batteries. It should not be accessible from inside the vessel.

Under the top two of the sun deck stairs has been my preferred (and only) solution for some time, but when I came to actually make the heatproof box, it quickly became clear that it wasn't going to meet all the criteria.

29/11/2014 Another birthday passed! It is now more than ten years since I first went to evening classes to learn about wooden boat building with the idea of perhaps building my own boat. An old friend, only recently becoming aware of this project, asked me ‘How do you maintain the passion?' Some days, when it's really cold or when I'd rather have a "lie in", I wonder that myself. One answer is that there is now so much time and money invested in Rhapsody, that walking away isn't an option. It's not finished, so it is not a saleable proposition, except at garage sale prices perhaps, and that would be really sad this far into the project. The other reason is that when you walk into the shed and turn on the lights, it's a beautiful thing. As you run your hands along the hull, the gentle curves and solid feel are deeply satisfying. You can't wait to see it in the water and hear the hiss of the water passing by..... OK, OK, enough of all that, back to building the sundeck stairs.

I mentioned before the idea of building stairs on two supporting side rails, much as domestic stairs are made in houses, well in my house anyway. Then it occurred to me that on the starboard side at least, they still have to be sealed from the weather because that particular window will not have glass in it, but a removable stainless steel mesh in a frame instead, allowing access and air flow for the HWS. This requirement suggested that a full panel would be better proposition and in order not to create inaccessible or closed spaces, the panel should come down from the roof level starboard side rail to support the stairs from above, rather than hold them up from below as is more intuitive; and, if you think that's hard to picture in your mind and explain in these ramblings, try making it!

After a number of detailed scale drawings were made and discarded, a workable arrangement evolved, which in the end is quite simple. It has long been a guiding maxim that if the solution to any problem, when finally realised, then looks simple and downright bloody obvious and in the "Well, why didn't I think of that before?" category, then you've probably found the right answer. So it is here. The panel was quite easy to make and install and it then became obvious that a home for the pesky HWS had finally been found too! By turning the unit sideways, athwartships, and placing it under the top two steps. It's open to the air, has room for the flue, can be sealed and vented to the outside and there's room to line it with cement sheet for heat proofing and it's not accessible from inside the vessel. What a relief, finally.... Mind you, I've said that before.

I've mentioned before that the door at the bottom of the sundeck stairs will be a tri-fold design that folds back into a space between the hull and the side of the stairs. The panel needed to create that space and join with the new stairwell wall has also been made and installed. It goes from the top of the sundeck roof side rail down almost to the chine and so provides some more bracing for the hull, which is always nice.

Having put these two panels in to create the sundeck stairwell, it is very clear now that they should have been glassed before installation. Now, I have to seal them against the weather with large sheets of glass cloth and access is really quite tight. Tricky. We think we live and learn, but....

19/12/2014 Ok, all that glassing is finished. Rotten job, big area all covered in Peel Ply as well; anyway all finished now. The stair side panel is in and fully filleted and glassed inside and out.

I am proposing to create an enclosure for the HWS under the stairs using the top step and the next one down, for its upper surfaces. This creates a box 600mm wide, 405mm deep and about 750 deep, which is completely open to the outside air on one side.

The flue from the top of the unit immediately goes into a 90° bend that takes the fumes straight out of the boat. It is a very cunning double skinned unit from Dura Vent in the US. It is swivel jointed in five sections so that it can be adjusted away from the nominal 90° by quite a large amount in any direction. Being double skinned, according to the specifications, it can be placed within 25mm of flammable wall material, which may be so, but not on my boat thank you. The flue is no less than 35mm from the wall in any direction and the walls are cement sheet not timber.

Actually, the walls of the HWS enclosure are plywood, but they are covered with 6mm cement sheet mounted on spacers to leave a 10mm air gap between the two. This approach should insulate the plywood from the heat of the HWS really well.

The top surface immediately above the flue is also the tread of the top step and since that is likely to be the hottest point around the HWS, I decided that it should not be made of lined plywood like the other surfaces, but a solid piece of 15mm cement sheet. Interesting stuff to work with too! I thought I would put a metal cutting blade in the Jigsaw and use that. It cut precisely 15mm before all the saw blade teeth had gone, worn away! It's seriously tuff and abrasive stuff. OK, no more Mr Nice Guy, out with the angle grinder complete with stone cutting wheel; no problem.

The aft-most wall of the HWS enclosure is in place and its cement sheet lining is installed too. I created the air gap between the two sheets using piles of washers as spacers. I drilled the mounting holes and then glued the washers on to the back of the cement sheet using hot glue gun sticks to align the piles; it's a tedious and messy kind of job, but it actually produced a very nice result. The cement sheet was then screwed in with 10g self-tappers and Mudguard washers.

Then, the actual HWS itself, not a timber mock-up, the real thing, was screwed into place and it all fits very nicely. Given that I have been agonising over a suitable location for the rotten thing for several years, it's a great relief to see it finally bolted into what looks to be a great spot. It will have to have a gas vapour & rain drain built into the bottom of the enclosure at some point, but that can wait.

The remaining cement sheet lined panels are ready and on the bench awaiting final assembly into the boat, but that will have to wait now because it's time for another small holiday. It's time for the jolly old gentleman in the red suit to come down the chimney (yes - I do have one, well a 5" flue anyway) and provide us with a grand excuse to eat and drink to excess and enjoy the company of family and give boat building a rest for a few days.

So, to all my avid readers, yes, both of you! Have a very Happy Christmas and a safe and prosperous New Year and if you're thinking of building a boat - come and talk to me first.... J

31/12/2014 OK - last day of 2014. I'm having a break from boat building for the Festive Season, but since the weather has been nice and cool it seemed like a good time to get into the shed and have a look at the boat's engine.

I had sadly arrived at the conclusion just recently that the elaborate twin alternator set-up, of which I was so proud, was fine so far as the engine was concerned, but wouldn't actually fit in the available space in the hull. A sort ‘oops' moment you could say. So, amid a flurry of short words, the twin belt and twin alternator mountings that had been welded to the engine mounts, just for extra strength you understand (and painted too), had to come off. I must have used the "F" word somewhere; describing anything as "Finished" is fraught with danger and now I'm paying the bill.

There's nothing quite as dispiriting as attacking you own good work with an angle grinder. Still, the Mark Two would be better. Actually, it was to be the Mark Three as it turned out. The marinising kit from Tawco for the Red Motor includes an aluminium pulley that bolts on to the existing fan pulley to provide a take-off for water pumps and for second alternators in my case. However, it is only 75mm across and quite a bit smaller than the existing engine pulley. Whilst re-fitting my 110 amp Bosch alternator, I realised that using the larger existing pulley would make the alternator charge better, since power output is more or less proportional to rotational speed and a bigger pulley would raise the gear ratio.

I tried for some time to mount the alternator to use the existing engine pulley; note reference to Mark Two mounting above. However, whilst the alternator was not a problem, the Jabsco cooling water pump certainly was. Ultimately, the pump could not be aligned with the existing engine pulley without re-making the mountings, which is way too hard. It begs the question as to why it had been built like that in the first place, but who knows? Anyway, a solution would be an additional fan pulley, bigger than the Tawco unit and not sticking so far out from the engine. That was why the alternator mounting had to be "over-built" in the first place!

I did recall seeing Holden Red motors years ago with a variety of bolt-on extra fan pullies, for power steering pumps and the like, so off to the wrecker's yard I went for a look around. And Lady Luck must have been having a good day, because the very first vehicle I looked at, a VL Commodore, had a 125mm pulley on the front of the engine driving an air-conditioning compressor. Terrific. The Mark Three mounting was on its way, all made now, fitted and aligning beautifully. The Jabsco pump was fitted with a new spacer to align its pulley and all is well there too. I had an 11A1245 (changed later to 13A1270) vee belt in the shed, which seems to fit really well and I just have to make the alternator/belt adjusting bracket to suit. Change the wiring loom etc. etc. Then maybe we could risk that "F" word again..... Maybe just whisper it this time.

I have calculated that the boat will cruise at 10 Kph at about 1500 rpm. So, a side benefit of the larger pulley is that not only will it run the alternator at closer to its optimum speed, but with the Jabsco pump's new ratio of 5:7 instead of 3:7, it will also improve the available cooling water flow, still without exceeding the pump's specifications, which can only be good

On the subject of Jabsco pumps, I took the opportunity to check prices on replacement impellors. They are around $50 from various suppliers and on eBay they can be had for half that. However, one Chinese supplier offered a guaranteed direct replacement neoprene impellor for $2.50; yes, $2.50. That's 95% off? Incredible, mind you, it is true that I would have had to buy 50 units, but even so, it does indicate that the actual cost price of an item, for which you routinely pay $50, is in fact, less than $2.50. That can't be fair surely?

Happy boat building in 2015 to me - Oh. Alright then, you too..............

17/1/2015 The Hot Water Service locker under the sundeck stairs is now almost complete. It's another one of those things that has taken hours to design and make and there's nothing much, from the outside at least, to show for it. The last component is the cement sheet lining for the back panel, which is on the bench with piles of spacer washers glued on, waiting to be installed. Once that's screwed in, the whole thing can be sealed with high temperature firebox sealant making it fireproof and gas tight. The bottom panel has been set at a downward angle, out toward the gunnel, to allow for gas vapour and rain water drainage. Another skin fitting for the hull has been installed and holes in the bottom panel drilled. It remains to make a small trunk underneath the bottom floor to complete the picture.

The very bottom panel is not lined with cement sheet since heat rises and it is quite some distance from the radiant heat source. Entry holes have been made for cold and hot water pipes, plus a gas feed in the side panel; all above the level of the drain of course. The ignition source in the HWS is electronic and power is provided by two "D" cells. I agonised over providing simple access to change the batteries before realising that in a boat full of electronics that whole approach is a bit pedestrian. So, the shiny new HWS was promptly dismantled and the connection to the battery compartment removed. An extension cable was installed to bring the connection out ready to plug into the main boat system. However, since the HWS is expecting a 3 volt supply a DC-DC converter is required to change the 12v supply down to 3v. A suitable unit has been ordered from - well, you guessed it - for the princely sum of $1.50 delivered from China. At that price I ordered two; hang the expense! It never hurts to have a spare. The cable now has its own hole in the side panel of course, but that's it, I think.

I'm not going to build the remainder of the stairs just yet since there are a number of other bits to finish that will be under the stairs in the end and access is already getting a bit awkward. There's 1500mm or so of hull below the chine area under the stairs that is currently unsupported, so a couple of frames are required there. I'm not sure whether a floor is necessary yet because the final use for that area is not decided. It's awkward to get to and the hot exhaust pipe runs through it, so the options are limited, perhaps tools, oil and spares?

The other absolutely essential and major item to go under the stairs is the sub-woofer. The rotten thing is too big to go anywhere else and whilst some may say it's frivolous, it's all about quality life style and is a mandatory feature for the finished vessel. Rhapsody may never the best, fastest or prettiest boat on the river, but it's got a sporting chance of being the loudest. (Your title is under threat Shawn)!

The engine now has its alternator re-mounted on a new, freshly painted bracket and the gearbox has two mountings for standard Type 33 gear selection cables made and fitted. There are two helm positions, so provision for two cables is required. The throttle cables remain to be considered, but the notion of a swash plate attached to the two cables that then attaches to a bicycle style Bowden cable seems promising. The only other bracket work outstanding is an optional engine lift point at the front of the engine, but that may or may not get done.

The next major area to be given some attention is the bathroom. It needs some floor frames first, the exact shape of which are dependent on finalising the drainage arrangements and the positioning of the toilet etc. There's a bit of an issue with keeping the toilet bowl outlet higher than the black tank inlet - for obvious reasons... One item that I've been studiously ignoring however, is the corner where the stained and grooved panels that are the saloon and passage walls meet. These are already installed and don't actually fit all that well; it's called "character"! The passage wall isn't quite upright and making a corner batten is awkward because it will be in full view of the saloon and will have a very obvious taper which will highlight the error. Anyway, I decided to make it in two sections, one behind the join, which will provide the strength, but be out of sight and then consider a capping trim for the front face, averaging out the error perhaps; some of it will be hidden behind the dinette too, which is good. A triangular batten was cut and is now glued in place; that's the easy bit, but at least it's a start.

6/2/2015 The remaining capping trim for the saloon/passage wall junction has now been made and installed and the "out of square" error has simply disappeared, which is great. It's made of Meranti, so should provide a nice colour contrast as well, once it's clear finished.

The inside batten mentioned above not only reinforces the corner of the wall, but forms one of the landings for the bathroom trunking access hatch. The 90° corner of the shower alcove is cut off at 45° to create a triangular trunk up the wall of the bathroom. It will carry the plumbing for the shower head and taps together with the control cables for the upper helm position and sundry wiring plus the gas supply for the sundeck BBQ.

The other landings for the trunk hatch are all installed now as well. The long side has a triangular section and becomes the mounting for the flat trunk face panel too. The trunk face has been dry fitted and is on the bench having been glassed both sides. It cannot be installed until the remainder of the shower alcove has been finally glassed.

The aft wall of the bathroom, which is also the back of the wardrobe, is only partially installed. Because of its width, it was made of two separate panels. In order to reinforce the necessary butt join, a vertical butt plate is required, which just happens to be in the centre of the wardrobe. (It might have been designed that way....). The colonial louvre wardrobe doors have been measured-up and now the butt plate can be correctly placed for final installation of the remainder of the bathroom wall. The wardrobe doors were purchased from a garage sale and are 1100mm wide, which is fine, but have to be shortened by 80mm or so, which should be interesting....

The remainder of the wardrobe can be made now that the final dimensions are established. This will consist of one small wall panel and three or four routed mouldings. The window side of the wardrobe encroaches on the glass area of the window, but that can't be helped and sufficient clearance must be left to open and close the curtains.

Glassing of the bathroom underfloor area has been finished and some of the access holes cut through to the gearbox compartment for ventilation and for drainage hoses. The first of the floor frames has been made as well and the required "fall" for the bathroom floor established. It will drop 20mm over 1200mm to the drainage grate. That's a standard for houses, but of course assumes that the boat is always standing level, which it absolutely won't be, so the efficiency of the drainage system is a bit of an unknown for the moment. Two more frames are required to properly support the floor and brace the hull below. A longitudinal panel will also be required to support the butt join of the hull panels below.

Once the 45° shower trunk is installed, the final length of the stainless steel drainage grate can be determined and the purchased unit modified to suit. The toilet bowl has been moved to the boat shed after having sat in my car port for almost five years (thank heavens for that), so that it can be measured and a final layout plan for the bathroom established. The toilet has to be on the window side of the bathroom so that its outlet will be high enough to ensure that the flushed "stuff" flows into the black tank and not the other way around. Actually, I since realised that there will need to be an "S" bend, with anti-syphon valve, in place as well, so it should all work out very nicely.

The Hot Box for the HWS is now fully lined and sealed and one might even use the "F" word, but let's not be hasty. There is still the little vent trunk to the outside to make.... The side benefit of finishing the Hot Box is that the top two steps of the sundeck stairs are now finished too. Well, aside from a final layer of glass to waterproof them. The final glassing for the outside face of the sundeck stairs is also now complete. The window alongside the hot box and the sundeck stairs will not be glazed; instead it will be made of stainless steel mesh that will be removable with a few screws. So, some consideration is still needed for the issue of disposing of rain water coming through the mesh - a later job.

Another component that I had imagined would go under the stairs was the sub-woofer, but no such luck. It is sloped on one face and I had thought that it would fit under the stairs really nicely. However, it turns out that the amplifier connections and controls would then be on the wrong side and the whole thing would have to be mounted upside down. No good. Anyway there's always an alternative, because of its height it will just fit under the saloon floor, on top of the black tank, which is just fine. Over by the wood heater seems a likely spot at the moment, since that corner can't be easily accessed to store much else.

One of my earliest mental visions of Rhapsody had it with a pair of port holes in the sloping front wall of the galley. This would allow one to stand at the galley bench peeling grapes for the Captain and still see where we are headed. I didn't particularly want opening port holes because of the complexity and therefore cost of such units. A 5" brass port hole is usually around $400 and I need two! In addition, they don't generally have fly screens, which wouldn't endear them to my partner. (Whilst peeling grapes?? Hmmm...).

Happy was I then, to spot at a local swap meet a pair of second hand port holes. Actually, since they are just windows and don't open, they are more properly called port lights. They turned out to be 5" diameter and made of brass. The glasses were broken, but on rummaging further in the bottom of the box, I found two spare glasses, which is astonishing. The asking price was $50 and money changed hands very quickly indeed. Apparently, they were found in the river mud at Goolwa during the drought. So, presumably they belonged to a river vessel of some sort, but I don't suppose we'll ever find out more of their provenance, which is a pity!

Two holes have now been cut in the front wall of the galley and a moulded epoxy lining made to properly seal the port lights and they look terrific. A lucky find indeed and now a nice view forward from inside the galley as well.

19/2/2015 My partner's mum died in a car crash - RIP Rene.

25/02/2015 Big day today. I finally moved the engine down to the boat shed. Of course, nothing is quite what it seems or without issue. The reason the engine had to be moved now is because I sold my Subaru Ute. Why sell the ute? Well, because it's losing water again and it's coming out the exhaust pipe, which suggests that the head gasket has failed and I can't be bothered fixing it - again! You have to remove the engine completely on that model to be able to remove the cylinder heads and that's hard work.

What do you get for a ute with 470,000 Ks on the clock and a leaking head gasket - well, I've swapped it for a trailer, which seem like a reasonable deal. So, there's been a small hiatus in the boatbuilding in order to get the boat engine ready to transport to the boat shed ready for installation!

As noted previously, a new alternator bracket has been made and fitted and so has a new larger pulley for the crank shaft. I've been running the engine with the new gear and have been very pleased with the lack of ugly noises from either the engine or the gearbox. The water temperature is stable at around 55°, which is a bit low perhaps, but quite acceptable. The oil pressure at 1000rpm is steady at about 38psi after running for four hours, which is pleasantly reassuring.

There have been a few water leaks around the cooling water bypass tap. The original idea was to be able to adjust the engine's working temperature by diverting some of the cooling water flow straight out the exhaust pipe instead of through the engine. I eventually decided that it was an unnecessary complication, so I took it out.

I couldn't stop the connections to the flow meter leaking either and decided to tighten them just that little bit more; the flow meter broke in half, which was disappointing. I still think the ability to measure of the water flow through the cooling system and display it on a gauge on the dashboard is a useful thing and so went to Jaycar and bought another one. Still, looking on the bright side, they were on special that day at half price, so that cheered me up.

To get new brass fittings for the flow meter, I went to see my friends at Northern Plumbing and they were able to find a couple of suitable connectors, although I did have to put them in the lathe and modify them a bit. No problem. That set of leaks is fixed.

I made the exhaust manifold by silver soldering various bits of copper pipe and fittings together and one of those soldering jobs wasn't too good as it turns out. Once the used cooling water is injected into the exhaust pipe, there seems to be a fair bit of pressure in the pipe, which is odd really, however it quickly found a pin hole in my soldering and although it's simple to fix, it's still another nuisance.

Given that the original Holden alternator was a 55 amp model and the new one I have fitted is twice that and therefore requires twice as much horsepower, I decided that a thicker fan belt might be a prudent move as well. I've now changed it to a 13A1270 and we'll see how it fairs.

While running the engine for a few hours, it soon became clear that the carburettor was leaking petrol; not something you need in a wooden boat. So, off to Joe Kenner at Auto Carburettor Services for a re-build.

So finally, the engine was running properly and ready to be moved down to the boat shed, but Murphy's Law hadn't quite finished with it yet. Having loaded the engine into the back of the ute, which necessitated sitting it at a significant angle downward toward the back and aggravated presumably the movement on the trip, it was clear that there is an oil leak at the back of the engine. Given that it didn't leak whist the engine was running, I'm hoping against hope that it's just the sump gasket, which has a separate piece that's supposed to seal the back under the main bearing. We'll try that first, but it's seriously aggravating, because the sump has to be removed, re-fitted and then set-up for another test run, when all the gear to do that is in my home shed! Grrr!

Still, better to find out now rather than once it's installed in the boat I suppose.......

13/03/2015 The final two frames to support the bathroom floor have been made and together with the first one, made some time back, have been glassed on both sides ready to install. I will cut some big holes in the frames first to allow for air circulation under the floor to try and reduce mould growth. It may prove to be a good idea to add another bilge blower in the area as well, to ensure that there is adequate air movement recognising that it is also open to the back of the gearbox, which in turn, is open to the engine bay.

The starboard side requires a couple of frames under the sundeck stairs, to brace the hull and provide for a flat (read ‘levelish', as well) floor for what I have now decided will be a simple storage space. Access will be from the passage opposite the bathroom door via a removable panel. It will be useful for bulky items like spare life jackets etc. The two starboard frames, which although it's hard to believe, may well be the very last ones ever required for Rhapsody, were cut out with the trusty Joggle Stick and glassed on the bench. These too, will need some holes in them before installation to allow not only for air circulation, but for the exhaust pipe to pass through on its way to the transom.

One of the out-of-sight and forgotten things that takes a lot of time is providing limber holes in all the floor frames. Each semicircular hole is lined with a piece of PVC pipe cut to suit and glued in to protect the end-grain of the plywood used in the frames. Not much to see, but very time consuming to do. Hopefully however, it will stop water from getting into the edges of the plywood and rotting it from the inside.

The rear, or aftermost wall of the bathroom is quite large and required more than a whole sheet of plywood, so it was made in two parts (obviously)! The butt join between the two panels needs to be supported and in fact, the whole wall needs to be braced as well to stop it flexing when you lean on it, which would be a bit disconcerting. So, in a masterful stroke of foresight and advance planning, the join in the panels was aligned with the middle of the wardrobe hanging space so that a "T" shaped girder could be placed down the back of the wardrobe space providing both support for the butt join and bracing for the whole wall as well.

The 100x80 "T" shaped girder was made up, filleted and glassed, as was one of the panels, which hadn't actually been glued in to the boat yet. The two components were duly installed and the rigidity of the resulting wall is quite surprising. Incidentally, the front wall of the bathroom will need reinforcing for all the same reasons and the plan is to use the structure of the back of the dinette seat to provide that support.

The re-conditioned carburettor was picked up during the week and being unable to think of any reasonable excuse to prevaricate longer, a plan was started for a throttle linkage. The aim is to use standard parts where possible and so a tricky little plate was made up to connect the standard carburettor linkage to a bicycle cable for ultimate connection to the engine control cables; more of which later. The final "tricky little plate" mentioned above is actually the Mark III, the result of some tedious and time consuming development.

The engine has an oil leak at the back of the sump, as mentioned earlier and since I haven't fixed it, presumably it still has. However, I have purchased a new sump gasket ready for the day when the necessary fortitude is available to fit it. One of the reasons for shopping at my local AutoPro store is the most helpful staff member there who knows Holden Red Motors very well and is more than willing to share that knowledge. In the new sump gasket kit I noticed two little 5mm cubes of rubber and thinking they were stray offcuts, pointed them out with some amusement. ‘Ah no', said the voice of experience, ‘You'll need those for some of the older engines, they need a different size gasket and that's what they're for. Did you fit them before?' Ah well, I have absolutely no recollection of the two little rubber bits from when I fitted the gasket the last time so perhaps, that's why it's leaking; bugga.

The covers for the engine bay fit quite snugly and having been in place for some time and walked on routinely, are now fairly difficult to remove. Back to the trusty Internet for some suitable handles and although those covers will be carpeted, the handles have to be fairly flush so that they are not a trip hazard. Suitable handles were sourced from Queensland and with an appropriate recess created with the router, were fitted into the engine cover. I have also put handles in the cover to starboard of the main engine cover, so that both panels can be removed for better access.

I mentioned before that the engine mounting bolts had been taped with masking tape to stop the threads being filled with glue, paint, dust and all manner of detritus from the construction process. That was a good idea except that I overlooked the fact that after any length of time, masking tape can be very difficult to remove, which is especially true when covered in all the goo mentioned above. I couldn't remove the tape, so I tried cutting it out with a Stanley Knife thread by thread. This turned out to be seriously tedious and time consuming, not helped by the fact that working bent double in the bottom of the engine bay is exceedingly uncomfortable. It was not a good plan, so finally, off to the hardware store for a 3/8" BSW die to re-cut the threads, well just clean the existing ones really. There, done - half an hour with the correct tools and it becomes an easy job. The engine mountings are now all ready to go and isn't hindsight a wonderful thing? Again!