Fitting Out (Year 8):

Date Discussion
April 2017 I usually start a new chapter of this tome around April 1st each year. I've tried not reading anything significant into the choice of dates, but it's hard sometimes to ignore the irony. In fact, it first started because the hull was turned "right side up" on 5th March 2010 and that signalled the start of the "fitting-out" process. Hence the start of the fitting out description chapters around each April 1st.

Nothing foolish about that! Now, building a boat, that's another subject...

25 Apr 2017 The "cliff-hanger" at the end of the last thrilling episode was the fitting of the stern tube. A couple of the remaining supports have been glassed in and it is now all quite stable. The shaft still lines up properly with back of the gearbox and I can turn it easily by hand, which given that it's running through four bearings, proves that they must be more or less, in line.

The stern tube goes through the area under the bed, which is to become the aft ballast or trim tank. Now the tube is in, the tank can be progressed. It needs lots more glass and epoxy yet to seal it and a lid with an inspection hatch or two as well. The rudder pintle will sit on a length of stainless steel that goes back forward from the rudder to attach under the bottom of the tank area, but that hasn't been made yet because the dimensions were not able to be finalised. That can now be done, which will make a bit more work for C.E.&A. engineering and my friend Phillip Mathews.

Working in the bedroom now, just for a change, the top and bottom rails for the wardrobe doors are now fitted. The bottom one is simply a length of timber with a slot "routed" underneath so that it sits securely on the frame underneath. The top rail however has a number of complications. The first is that it has to be straight to match the tops of the doors, but of course the roof above it is curved. So, it has a filler panel on top to attach it to the roof and fill in the curved gap. The top rail also has a slot routed in its lower side to hold a length of aluminium "U" channel in which the locating pins for the tops of the doors run.

The search for a workable range hood design is still continuing! I bought a couple of new fans, but when they arrived I realised that they were too small - very careless... I ordered another of the proper size and that has now arrived, but I'm still not sure that it's a good solution. More tea I think...

The remaining exhaust fan for engine bay has been installed together with its 75mm PVC piping. It now draws air from the very bottom of the area underneath the engine. Let's see if we can't keep those pesky petrol fumes out. I originally purchased three TMC bilge blowers and when I installed this one and tried it out, it was extremely noisy. I've had the unit for quite some time and probably don't have the receipt anymore, so there was little choice but to take it apart and "have a look". There wasn't anything obviously wrong, but some additional oil seemed to work wonders, which is distressing at one level, because it's supposed to be a "sealed" motor. Hmm.

There is now only some 75mm pipework left to complete the bilge blower installation in the main petrol tank locker, and then that’s finished. There is still the small matter of building the electronics needed to control them all, but hey - put it on the list.

The next job in the bedroom is to install a proper floor. I can move around quite easily without it, so it hasn't been a problem thus far. However, there are some under-floor things to finish off first like the plumbing and the exhaust system. To that end, I re-fitted the copper part of the exhaust system to the engine and then could position the rubber exhaust hose and muffler.

The muffler will be at the forward end of the system adjacent to the engine, to avoid heating the floor somewhere else less convenient and to keep it below the water line to ensure that it stays full of water. This should keep it cool and make sure that it works as well as it can. The goose-neck riser in the copper part of the system is above the water line, so it shouldn't be possible for cooling water to backflow into the engine.

Holes for the 50mm rubber exhaust hose were then drilled in the underfloor frames and the two very last hull frames could then be installed under the sundeck steps and glassed in place. The hose can now make its way all the way back to the transom. There will be a join in the hose under the steps for convenience and to use up all the available hose. At $50 per metre, it's not to be wasted!!!

I described the raw water reservoir in some detail earlier. The raw water inlet goes through a fairly coarse "leaf basket" filter, but that's not enough to protect the domestic pressure pump. A finer, 50micron, filter is necessary as well and it seemed prudent to put one on the drinking water pump as well, so two appropriate filter units have been purchased. They have removable and washable stainless steel elements and also some very ordinary looking connectors as though they were intended for garden hoses. Still, they are called "Jabsco Connectors", so perhaps they will be OK.

I acquired a set of AGM batteries for the boat what is now several years ago and they were second-hand then! They have been on "float charge" via a fairly up-market four-stage solar controller and solar panels since then, but I started to worry that they may now be past their "Use-By" dates. So, I decided to test them.

To create a meaningful load, I unboxed my very expensive 3Kw pure sinewave inverter and connected it to a 1.5Kw electric heater. The whole system lasted about 20 minutes before it shut down on an under-voltage alarm. At least that works although the result was a bit disappointing really. However, after thinking about it for a while, it is actually not unreasonable. A sudden and consistent discharge rate of over 150 Amps is a big ask!

So, I dropped the load to about 400W by using the system to heat my kitchen Crock Pot, which made a very convenient test load. The battery voltages all stayed within range and nothing got hot - well, except for the Crock Pot of course...

In this test, the batteries supplied more than 30Amps for a full eight hours, which is excellent. That's almost 250Ahrs, and although there should be 500Ahrs available in theory, but that depends on the discharge rate of course. Anyway, the result is absolutely fine and a bit of a relief really, I didn't fancy having to shell out for new batteries just yet!

18 May 2017 The end of April every second year sees the SA Wooden Boat Festival held in Goolwa. It is a very well attended and popular event. The heritage paddle steamer Marion usually attends, which as Skipper, kept me away from boat building duties for almost two weeks - lucky me!

Enough enjoying myself - back to more mundane things. The new frames installed under the sun-deck stairs have had 90mm holes cut through them to allow for the exhaust hose. The holes were coated internally with epoxy to seal them and then had to be very well sanded to avoid chaffing the rubber.

Once the route for the exhaust hose was known, the floors that will go over the exhaust pipe could be planned. This involves a 50mm wide strip of plywood glued to the hull to form a ledge for the floor panels and also to avoid creating a "hard spot" at the ends of the new frames. Ledges around the other three sides have been made up from 50x50 square lengths of plywood laminated up from scrap.

The floor will ultimately be the bottom of a cupboard under the sun-deck stairs that will be accessible from the corridor between the saloon and the bedroom. The access door shape is still to be decided. Heat from the exhaust should not be a problem since it is a "wet" system and the temperature didn't rise above 55 degrees during testing.

Another piece of plumbing yet to be finalised in the engine bay is the carburettor air intake. I decided long ago that the engine should draw air in from outside the hull rather than breathe its own fumes internally. There are two reasons for this; the first is noise and the second is safety. An engine sucking in air is quite a noisy process and whilst the air cleaner suppresses that to some extent, piping air in from outside is better. Engines can "back-fire", which can produce a flame out of the air-intake. It is much better to have this piped outside where it cannot start a fire in the engine bay. There is a spark arrester in the air-cleaner as well of course, but belts and braces together are safer!

The air cleaner, which was taken from a Holden Torana because of its low height, has been significantly modified to allow the attachment of a 75mm fire resistant plastic hose. The hose in turn is joined to a plywood trunking built into the side of the hull that allows access to outside air through a plastic grill.

The subject of fire prevention is always a "hot" topic (pun intended), on a petrol powered wooden boat! So, I was intrigued by an item on the TV recently introducing a new type of fire extinguisher. It is a ball, a bit smaller than a football, that has a heat sensitive outer case. If the ambient temperature rises above a certain point the whole thing literally explodes releasing a significant quantity of fire retardant powder together with masses of carbon dioxide to displace the oxygen and starve the fire. The combination of the three elements, i.e. explosion, powder and gas is remarkably effective. At present they are ridiculously expensive, but before the boat is launched, buying a couple might be a very wise move.

Having finally remembered to take mechanical tools such as spanners and sockets to the boat shed, it was time to finalise the engine alignment with the propeller shaft. The provisional alignment was done using light beams and mirrors (no smoke with the mirrors - promise), and it has turned out to be surprisingly accurate. The front of the engine had to be moved 3mm to port and the front engine mounts raised slightly. The alignment was then checked with a set of feeler gauges and was found to be just about perfect. All the bolts were then tightened and the system pronounced "Ready to go". The centre steady bearing has been packed with grease, but the stuffing box is still waiting for the appropriate stuffing to be installed and then it too, can be grease packed. The shaft is bolted up lightly, but the Woodruff keys for the keyways have temporarily "gone missing". They have no doubt been put somewhere to keep them safe, but they'll turn up!

The shaft alignment will need to be re-checked once the boat has been in the water for six months or so. This is to account for any flexing and settling of the hull structure, which may make a difference to the alignment.

With spanners still in hand it was also a good opportunity to re-install the components that had been removed to facilitate the engine installation. Such things as the exhaust front pipe and the water jacket cover plate. The carburettor, which has been professionally re-furbished with new jets, needle and seat and gaskets etc. was also re-installed.

One of the next jobs in the bedroom is to line the walls. However, the side decks must be installed before doing that, whilst their undersides are still accessible for gluing and painting. The side decks are straight on their inboard side for the length of the bedroom and bathroom and can be installed as a single 4800mm piece of plywood. Naturally, since sheets of plywood are only 2400 long, separate pieces have to be scarfed together to make up the length. Since I was scarfing bits and pieces, it was a good opportunity to use up some of the plywood off-cuts around the place. The pieces cut out from the coach house sides for the windows were very useful when trimmed to about 200mm wide and all joined together. The port side deck is made and installed and looks very handsome. The starboard side is made and ready for installation.

Now the propeller shaft is installed, it is easier to see what space remains in the back of the gearbox area. This space has to accommodate various pumps, filters and taps and it remains to be seen what can fit where. One item that has to be there is the filter box for the shower and hand basin grey water. It has a coarse filter that has to be cleaned periodically and having it together with the other filters makes some sense. It needs to be raised from the bottom of the boat both for convenience and to make sure that it will reach all the plumbing connections. So, a set of small frame pieces, which will also provide additional support to the boat's bottom have been made up and are being glassed ready for installation. Grey water will leave the boat through the transom via a fitting that looks like an exhaust pipe, actually it is a match for the real exhaust pipe which is on the other side of the boat. It will look like twin exhausts from the back, but nothing is what it seems - necessarily...

The raw water reservoir has been completed for some time, but it has been bothering me that the flange that holds all the plumbing connections is somewhat flimsy for its new, rather unorthodox role. After all, it is only a simple threaded 150mm PVC end cap and I had to remove what small reinforcing mouldings there were on its underside, to ensure that the connections could sit properly on a flat surface and not leak. A solution suggested itself in the form of a circle of 12mm plywood glued completely over the outside of the cap and have the plumbing fittings go through both layers. Whilst epoxy doesn't really stick to PVC, the nuts on the fittings will hold it all together and I can wrap some glass tape around the outside to both seal it and provide some additional strength. A much better arrangement I think!

Another job that has been "lurking" around waiting for some inspirational solution is in the bathroom or more particularly in the shower. It turns out that the acrylic sheets used to line the walls expand significantly with temperature. This means that on hot days and presumably therefore in the presence of hot shower water as well, the acrylic panels "bow" and lift away from the walls here and there because they fit together too tightly. The solution is to provide an expansion gap in the corners of the shower and wherever two acrylic sheets meet.

The problem is of course that they are all installed already and cutting a groove as an expansion gap deep in the inaccessible corners is a problem. Having discounted various possibilities, a desperate solution came to mind. Use a 9" angle grinder with a metal cutting blade - sounds "butcherous" in the extreme, doesn't it? Well, it did to me! How could you possibly control such a cumbersome tool in such close confines where the slightest error will be glaringly obvious for evermore! Scary!

Actually, the angle grinder does have a speed control, which helped a bit, but taking my courage in both hands, well the angle grinder anyway, I attacked my very expensive and fragile acrylic sheeting with great trepidation. What a great idea it turned out to be! I cut a neat 3mm gap in all the corners where the acrylic sheets meet, which I will fill with silicone in due course like any other bathroom. Actually, the corners of the sheets guided the tool really well and not once did it go off line or make any horrible marks on my lovely bright royal blue acrylic sheeting! Love it when a plan works - it makes up to some extent for all the other times when... Well, you know.

3 Jun 2017 I'm a member of the local Wooden Boat Association and we occasionally arrange "shed visits" to see what our members are up to - mostly when they should be doing other things. The Club visited Rhapsody "en masse" in 2010 and again in 2014. This October they are planning to come again and since it has been three years since their last visit they will see that the galley and saloon now have roofs and that the windscreen is in as well as the engine, not to mention a finished bathroom!

The reason for mentioning the club visit is that it will bring lots of extra people to the boat, which in turn reminded me that I still need to fix the saloon floor. The floor consists of plywood "tiles" about 500mm square resting on two plywood girders. These are easily removable to expose the large storage area beneath. However, although each plywood tile has a reinforcing frame on its underside, they are still only really supported down their two outer edges, where they are relying on the glue on the single veneer of plywood to take the weight. Not a good design as it turns out, especially for the tiles made of lower quality BS1066 timber. Consequently, several of the tiles have de-laminated and will break altogether in due course - hardly desirable, particularly with the assembled mass of the Wooden Boat Association in attendance. So, a little re-thinking and repair is required.

Instead of just supporting each tile down two of its edges, it would be better to support all four sides. This has involved making new sections of floor girder that slot into place between the existing ones to share the load. They are not fixed because they need to be removed to access the black tank hatches (yuk)! When I made the original floor girders, it turns out that I made one too many and given that they were each 2400mm long, that represented quite a lot of wasted effort and material. Now of course, good fortune has smiled, because I have been able to use up the spare beam for the reinforcing job. In fact, I will have to make another because I now don't have quite enough and there is still a small area around the helm position that doesn't yet have a floor. So, a good result.

I mentioned a while back that I thought that the front face of the raw water manifold was a bit flimsy and so, I would reinforce it with a piece of 12mm plywood. This started out as a trivial exercise in the grand scheme of things, but has become bigger the Ben Hur! Cutting a 150mm circle of plywood was no problem. The drilling of six holes for all the fittings and having them exactly line up with the original PVC end cap was only time consuming and tedious. Then of course, it had to be glassed on both sides to keep the water out and then finished with Peel Ply to create a smooth surface so that the fittings could all seal properly.

The real time wasting only really started when I thought I would wrap some fibre glass around the edge to finish the whole thing off neatly. I did that and it looked awful! So, I thought perhaps I could put it in the lathe and turn the outside edge down to a nice shape. However, before you put anything in a lathe, you have to make an appropriate mandrel to mount it on - more messing around! Once it was finally in the lathe and I could start to dress the edge properly, I quickly realised that there wasn't enough material there to do the job. So, back to the shed to put more fibre glass around the edge and have another go! Grrr....

The engine draws air from outside through a hull fitting and then into a 75mm fire and fuel resistant hose. The inlet side of the air cleaner is much the same area as the hose, which is good. However, it is square and the hose is round, which is not good. Mating of the two involved a significant amount of time, significant use of a heat gun, a significant number of pop rivets and a significant sprinkling of bad language. Still, is now installed - good!

Now the propeller shaft is in place it is time to start planning the other bits and pieces that have to be accommodated under the floor in the area behind the gearbox. One such item is the grey water filter for the shower and hand basin. It is really just a plastic box containing an automatic bilge pump and a removable mesh filter that takes water from the shower and the hand basin and passes it through the filter before pumping it over the side. I have fitted a float switch to the box to provide an alarm if the filter becomes blocked.

Naturally, the filter has to be cleaned occasionally and therefore has to be readily accessible. The most convenient spot is under the removable floor panel outside the bathroom door, although the filter box needs to be raised from the very bottom of the hull to properly align with the plumbing connections. It also makes it easier to reach for cleaning. So, an appropriate mounting frame was made to fit the filter box and its plumbing in amongst the exposed and rotating propeller shaft - Hmm, don't clean the filter whilst the engine is running perhaps!

As part of finishing the bathroom, part of the side deck above the hand basin had to be installed. Since I am now working around the bedroom, it would be convenient if they were installed there too. So, side decks all around? Why not?

The side decks are generally about 200mm wide and straight on the coach house edge and curved on the hull side. They are made of 12mm plywood and follow the shape of the hull as it rises from the stern to the bow. Since they run the full length of the boat of course, they need to be made up of joined pieces. Scarf joints are best because they won't crack, but in various places, adequate support is available to risk butt joins. The two side decks had been scarfed up for the rear half of the hull and it turned out to be a good way of using up scrap timber. Particularly the large pieces of the coach house that were left over from the window cut-outs. In some cases, of course, the scraps were themselves made up of scarfed pieces so that the starboard side deck has end up with five joints. It doesn't matter and it's really good to be able to use up all that plywood - it is $200 a sheet after all!

Installing the side decks turned into a difficult exercise because the panels are over four metres long and since they're only 200mm wide they are a bit floppy - fragile even and really awkward when they're covered in wet glue! Some days, you just need a bit of a hand! My friend Scotty had dropped by to say "hello" and very kindly offered to come back later in the day when I was ready and give me a hand. So, both side decks were installed and it was so much easier with two people! Thanks Scotty!!!

6 Jul 2017 The process of reinforcing the saloon floor mentioned above is now finished. I originally only installed floor girders athwartships to support the 500mm square floor panels. They were each braced underneath of course, but I had to concede that they were inadequate after three panels actually broke. I had an original girder left over, (which had made me cross at the time), so I decided to make small cross girders (running fore and aft) to support the edges of each panel. The "spare" girder wasn't quite enough (naturally) and so had to make another one. In fact, I made another two because I haven't yet made the floor around the helm position and it seemed prudent.

One issue with installing the small fore and aft girders to support the edges of the floor panels is that they have to be removable to be able to access the black tank hatches below. I eventually realised that the cross girders could simply be notched into the existing ones and that the framing on each floor panel would hold them in place, without having to glue them in. It turns out to be a neat solution, but again, it's another week's work with nothing apparent to show from the outside. Never mind having to repair the three delaminating floor panels as well - more painting - yada - yada... Very frustrating!

The other major achievement for this post is that the side decks are all finished. I decided to go with butt blocks to join each piece rather than scarf joints because it's so much easier and since the area of each join is quite small, they are not under any great strain. I may live to regret that decision (Aside - That's a daft expression - if I'm dead, I wouldn't be regretting it much really - although, you never know...)! Anyway, with all the necessary butt blocks installed and sanded to the right profile, the remaining side deck panels were cut and installed. Each one was made to slightly overhang the sides of the hull, which has now been sanded off and it all looks terrific. The plan is to round off the outer edge of the side deck so that fibre glass cloth can then be installed to cover the edge of the hull, across the side deck and up to the window edges on the coach house.

This approach should not only provide a complete waterproof seal for the coach house, but also make a solid backing for the rubbing strakes which have to be installed on the outside edges of the hull. The rubbing strakes are sacrificial and in the case of a mooring "accident", have to be replaceable. They cannot therefore, be permanently glued into place, so the hull has to be sealed underneath where the rubbing strakes will be fitted.

Now the side decks are in place, only the fore and aft decks remain to finish that part of the job. Making these two deck areas would be very straightforward, to the point of trivial, except... There's always "but" with these things isn't there? Actually, there are two "buts" in this case. The first is that neither deck is flat. They both have the same curve as the saloon and galley roofs, so the roof mould gets resurrected for some slight modifications to be pressed into service to make the deck panels. Both fore and aft decks will be made from three layers of 4mm ply as for the roofs and with the experience gained thus far, don't represent a huge problem - only time! The first two layers of the fore deck were glued up yesterday and the third will go on next week when because of the cold weather, the glue might actually be dry. It is winter - I know...

The second "but" mentioned above is because the fore and aft decks both have hatches in them - multiple hatches actually! The foredeck has a hatch to access the gas bottle locker and another to stow mooring lines and the anchor. The aft deck has two hatches for the removable petrol tanks and another two for the aft mooring lines. None of these hatches has to be waterproof because the lockers underneath have all been made with appropriate drains (foresight - yeah), but they do have to be strong enough to walk on and flush enough to not present a trip hazard. Moose has a "plan" for moulding fibreglass hatch frames and when I find out more about it, so will you...

I am so bored with the never-ending story of the raw water manifold that I hesitate to even mention it again. However, it has been the subject of yet more work and if you, dear reader, are wondering (like me) where the last nine years has gone, this is the sort of thing that happens. I won't recap the full story, it's all there in the preceding sections, but suffice to say that I needed to put some additional fibre glass "meat" on the edges of the front plate for reinforcement and appearances sake. That done, it was time to make a suitable mandrel and put it into the lathe for a last "tidy up". The final result is actually quite good and will do the job nicely. You might have realised that one of the reasons that I was keen on adequate strength here is that if it were to fail - the boat would sink in a trice - not good...

The shower and hand basin waste water has to be filtered before being returned to the river. Any filter has to be accessible for cleaning of course, and needs to be placed somewhere to make that as easy as possible. (or it won't get done)!

The shower waste grate is below the waterline, so after filtering, the water has to be pumped out of the boat. I have bought a combination shower pump/filter box designed for that purpose that complies with the EPA's requirements and had long ago decided that it should go under the access panel outside the bathroom door, (along with various other filters). However, to bring it to the correct height, just under the floor panel, a mounting frame was required. Also, in the area directly behind the gearbox there is a large area of the hull bottom that is not supported a well as it might be. So, to combine the two things, a frame was made to fit across the hull for reinforcement and also mount the waste water filter box. Now that the propeller shaft is in place, the frame could be tailored to fit around it (good idea).

Speaking of the propeller shaft, another essential job in that area is stuffing the stuffing box - alright, packing the stern gland, if you prefer. That was a job I had never done before and happily whiled away a couple of hours on my stomach with a mirror and a torch, whilst I could have been doing something more interesting like watching paint dry. However, the grease nipple puzzled me.

The stern gland casting is provided with a grease nipple. It is placed aft of the gland packing material so it's not to lubricate that. The normally water lubricated Tufnol bearing is a few millimetres aft of the nipple and so it's not anything to do with that either. The part of the casting immediately under the grease nipple is bigger than the propeller shaft by several millimetres and therefore does not require any lubrication. Another suggestion was that it was there to allow for bleeding air out of the stern tube to ensure outside water can reach the water lubricated bearings. So, it was a puzzle.

Well, in the absence of any better ideas, what should one do with a likely looking grease nipple except, well, fill it full of grease. The smart thing to do and of course and I didn't think of it until afterwards, would have been to simply ring my friend Phil at CAE Engineering who supplied the thing and ask him what it's for. "Oh, it's not for anything - just ignore it" says Phil. Hmm - it's already full of grease - ah well, apparently it doesn't matter. The same stern gland casting is used in a number of different configurations, some of which have a bearing there - but not this time...

Another matter that has been bothering me for some time is whether to reinforce the bedroom ceiling by making the bed into a "four poster", for example. The bedroom roof is of course, also the floor of the sundeck and who knows how many people might get up there on a pleasant evening? The roof beams in the bedroom have the same, deliberately narrower, spacings as do those in the galley and are specifically designed to walked upon. The beams in the saloon are spaced more widely recognising that they should only need to carry equipment, such as solar panels and lights. However, the galley and bedroom roofs do differ significantly in terms of their span, since the bedroom is approaching three metres wide for most of its area, it is almost double that of the galley. It is comforting perhaps, that the bedroom roof could be reinforced at a later date, if that were found to be necessary.

Another related concern about the sundeck is that it is at a significant height above the waterline and a large number of people at that level may profoundly affect the Centre of Gravity and indeed, the ultimate stability of the vessel. Practical tests during the initial sea trials, (or should that be "river trials"), will establish the actual CofG and Metacentric Height for the boat and ultimately, its stability, but it may be that there will need to be strict weight (i.e. numbers of people) limits applied to the usage of the sundeck to ensure that the boat remains stable, or at the very least upright...

27 Jul 2017 As mentioned above, the side decks are now completed. They are filled and sanded and ready for filleting and glassing to the coach house. The fore deck is laminated up and is installed. I decided that the aft deck has enough supporting structure underneath that it didn't need to be laminated and could just be cut from 12mm plywood. The deck is about 200mm wide and as luck would have it, is 2395mm long, which very convenient given that sheets of plywood are 2400! So, the aft deck is made and installed and now one can walk right around the boat! Nice (watch your head)! The various hatches will be made in fibreglass and installed in the timber decks.

The edges of the side decks have all been rounded over with a router to aid with the glassing and they look terrific. Fibre glass cloth will now be glued all around the boat from the lower edge of the windows, down over the side decks and on to the top edge of the hull under where the rub rails will ultimately be installed. Once the rub rails are in place, the gap where the edge of the hull was rounded for the fibre glass will simply be filled back up to bring it back level with the side decks. The result will make the side decks wider and therefore easier and safer etc.

The foredeck was made on the same curved mould that was used to make the brow for the saloon roof. Whilst the mould was still on the bench, it seemed like a good time to make the lift-up hatch for the saloon, which of course has the same profile. The saloon hatch, which is the main entry point for the boat of course, is now made with the usual three layers of 4mm ply and is awaiting the completion of the hatch coamings so that it can be fitted.

There will be a sliding door in the coach house wall as well of course, which when combined with the lifting entry hatch, should make for very comfortable full height entry and exit from the vessel. When hatch and door are both closed, the outer edge of the hatch has to seal on the top edge of the sliding door and quite how that will work is still the subject of several more cups of tea!

The "cupboard under the stairs" (sounds like Harry Potter's bedroom), which will be quite a large storage area, now has the start of a floor. There was some mismatch of levels that needed a bit of tidying up and that's been done. Once the floor is in, the access door from the passage outside the bathroom door can be cut. Once that's done, the stairway to heaven, well the sun-deck anyway, can be finished off.

The other access panel in the passage is the one that hides the shower plumbing, which is also where the gas, water and electrical connections go to the upper deck. The hatch was originally simply cut out of the wall, but the intention has always been to make a "cutesy" little frame around the edges to hide the joins. That has now been finished using some scrap meranti, which will contrast nicely with the pine wall, once it is all clear finished.

I have fitted a flow meter to the engine cooling system just after the main water pump, to measure the volume of water flowing through the system at any given moment. If there is a blockage in the filters or water inlet, it should be immediately obvious before any damage is done. The flow meter is a length of tube with a small turbine fitted inside and a Hall Effect sensor on the outside to count the revolutions of the turbine.

I'm pleased with the potential usefulness of the device, but have always been a bit concerned that the body of the unit is plastic. Whilst that may be OK for a garden irrigation system, in my case if it were to fracture, it could sink the boat. So, I was delighted to find, again whilst looking for something else, an almost identical unit in bronze and of course, couldn't get to my PayPal account quickly enough!

Incidentally, I had always expected to have to build the dashboard display end of the flow meter system myself. I had designed up a suitable circuit to drive a VU meter style display, but not bothered to build it as yet. So, I was pleased to notice on another site, an electronic digital rev. counter for the princely sum of $7 - I couldn't build it for that! So again, another Internet purchase was made. Whilst the display wasn't really designed for use with my flow sensor and the connections and circuit diagram were all in Chinese, I finally got it to work. Once connected to the kitchen tap, it clearly measures water flow quite happily although what the "units" might be is anyone's guess. I don't actually care what the units are, because I only really care if the flow rate drops suddenly or worse still, stops altogether! So, it's a good solution - if you'll pardon the pun..

Another problem that has been repeatedly ignored for many moons and oddly hasn't gone away, is the matter of actually getting off the boat and down on to a river bank. The front deck is almost 1500mm above the waterline and so getting down from the deck to what may be a beach and therefore very close to the waterline, represents a challenge. This is particularly true as we age and become less agile.

A boarding plank or ramp, long enough to reach down 1500mm without being too steep to use, would be too heavy to manoeuvre. A ladder might be OK for teenagers, but otherwise is simply too hard to use! I did have a conversation a couple of years back with a local business that makes folding attic access ladders, which seemed like a potential solution. He was keen to make something up to try, but it still didn't appeal.

Whilst trawling the Internet looking for something else, I happened across something called a "bow to beach" ladder. My interested was immediately piqued! It turns out to be a concertina or accordion style folding ladder, which looks terrific. It fits on two clips on the foredeck and once thrown over the side, expands to easily reach the beach (or river bank in my case), and can be set away from the boat far enough to make the climb angle manageable. It folds up into a 500mm odd cube and weighs 9Kg. To test the theory, I made up one side frame from MDF and lots of nuts and bolts, just to see if it would work in practice and it looks pretty good.

Made in the US, the concertina ladder is not cheap, but is the only solution that seems workable - and what's another $700 in the grand scheme of boat building. (Certainly not significant in percentage terms)! I ordered one yesterday.

I have found during this project that cheap tools usually aren't cheap in the end. They are either hard to use or don't do a particularly good job, (well, not in my amateur hands anyway). However, there are exceptions. My belt sander failed last week with the usual bearing failure that gets hot and then melts the housing. It was cheap, but I've had it two or three years and it has done much more work than the manufacturers ever envisaged. So, I have no complaint - or recourse for that matter!

Given that my belt sander cost $75 versus a "professional" quality unit at $450, I think it's pretty good value even if I now have to buy another one - my FOURTH! Still, $75 times four is still only $300, so I'm in front. Added to which, in the cheap tool store yesterday, the $75 sanders were on "special" for $45. You have to win one once in a while...

28 Aug 2017 OK - last day of Winter today - Yeah! And, a really nice day too. 20 degrees, bright blue sky, sunny and quite still. A great "epoxy" day.

As a short addendum to the subject of the previous post, my new belt sander is working very well, as you would expect. However, over lunch one day I had another look at the old unit that was still in pieces on the bench, and noticed that in fact, although the main bearing had totally destroyed itself, it hadn't actually become hot enough to deform the plastic housing, which is very unusual. That raised the question of course, perhaps it could be repaired?

I took the remains of the old bearing to CBC and they wanted $25 for a new one. No! I'm not spending that much on a repair that was "iffy" at best! I thought that was rather a lot for a bearing anyway, so I checked eBay (as you do) and was able to buy one from Melbourne for $4.05 including postage - much better. It is now installed and hey presto, the old belt sander is new again!

The top edges of the coach house walls, above the bedroom windows, become the sundeck sides. They have been sitting at a jaunty slope for quite some time. However, that was sheer luck. In order to be able to cut each coach house side from just two sheets of plywood scarfed together, the patterns had to be turned at an angle. So, the angle on the top edges of the final wall panels was the accidental result. Whilst I did quite like them it was now time to finalise their proper shape before putting the bathroom/bedroom roof on.

The original plan was to have fixed seating on the sides of the sundeck, which would have required the sides to be high enough to accommodate them. A hull with such a shallow draft necessarily sits fairly high above the water line anyway and I have always been concerned because I don't want it to end up looking like a block of flats! So, I have abandoned the fixed seating idea in favour of a lower profile.

One of the reasons for the fixed seating idea was to physically keep people away from the edges of the sundeck. There is some concern about the stability of the boat if too much weight is placed at its outer edges at such a height. Ultimately, we may have to impose a "number of people" limit on the sundeck for that reason.

Another consideration is the aesthetics of the proposed Fly Bridge or second helm position on the forward end of the sundeck. The flybridge will have to be built once the boat is moved out of the shed, because the shed isn't tall enough. So, many scale drawings later, we have a final shape for both the sundeck walls and the flybridge. These were transferred to the sundeck sides with a fairing batten and the shapes cut out. I'm very pleased with the final design, which is just as well I suppose.

There are going to be various hatches in both the fore and aft decks. Moose has suggested that we cast the hatch frames and indeed the hatches themselves, in fibreglass. To that end the fore and aft decks need to be finished to get their final shapes defined so that moulds can be taken off to make the hatches. Both decks are now filleted and glassed and look terrific. The side decks now have to be finished around the remainder of the hull. It's not a difficult job, but there are 10 metres or so on both sides!

The area under the sundeck stairs is to be a cupboard, but it seems to have become known as the "Harry Potter Suite" for reasons that will be immediately obvious to anyone who has seen the films. The "HP" Suite has to have a level floor, so battens have been fitted around the sides of all four sections of the hull underneath and plywood floorboards made. The warm exhaust system goes under the floor so it won't be the place to keep the wine!

The "HP" suite has to have a door too, of course. So, an access panel has been cut in the wall opposite the bathroom. It will simply lift out to give access to the cupboard space and a frame of contrasting Meranti timber has been made to hide the saw cuts around its edges. The same approach has been used to hide the saw cuts around the edges of the bathroom plumbing trunk, which is also in the passage.

Now that the "HP" suite is complete, the sundeck stairs can be finished and that gives easy access to the sundeck itself to facilitate putting the floor in. Sounds easy if you say it quickly, but that floor is the last piece of major construction needed to finish the outside of the vessel. In fact, the "F" word comes to mind more and more, which is scary...

22 Sep 2017 The "Harry Potter Suite" mentioned above now does have its door - is it a "Portkey" perhaps? Anyway, it is finished and has two ring-pull catches fitted and looks terrific. The bottom half of the door will have wall liner (carpet) glued to it to match the remainder of the passage and the rest of the boat for that matter. The top half is clear finished timber with a mitred Meranti frame hiding the edges - it looks great.

The floor panels for the HP suite are made and painted and ready to go in. The support rails are in and the whole underfloor area has had its first coat of paint. That has highlighted a small issue with "limber" holes. Limber holes provide drainage for any water that finds its way under the floor either from condensation, rain or anything else, through the various bulkheads to eventually find a bilge pump to be pumped out. However, as the hull design has "evolved" over time, a couple of the "limber" holes now don't actually lead anywhere - another little job for another day...

The completion of the HP suite was a prerequisite for the convenient building of the sundeck stairs. The top two steps were built a long time ago because they make up the top of the heat resistant locker that holds the gas hot water service. The remaining five treads and risers had been left until "later" to leave better access to finish the under-stair area and install the exhaust pipe. The five treads and risers have now been cut out and fibre glassed on their outside faces, since they will be exposed to the weather in the final design.

Building the stairs has been a tedious job because access is very limited and keeping everything dimensionally accurate and level has meant installing a few components at a time whilst there is room for the necessary G-cramps, then waiting for the glue to cure to be able to install the next few bits. Each stair tread also has two triangular supports glued underneath, to provide additional strength and will have reinforcing fillets and glass tape applied later, just to finish the job.

Given that the stairs will ultimately be open to the rain, some arrangements for drainage are required. The very bottom stair tread therefore, is not a plain piece of timber, but a grid or grate with a gutter underneath leading out to a hull fitting. The grate has to be removable of course, to be able to clean out leaves and other debris. So, the final staircase is now complete except for that very first step. The design of the grate is still the subject of another cup of tea or two...

Now the sundeck stairs are finished and the top edges of the coach house have been cut to their final shape, the actual sun deck / bedroom roof can be constructed. Although, whilst there are still a significant number of jobs remaining in the bedroom, it seems prudent to enjoy the extra light and ventilation without the roof for the time being.

The coach house walls are made from several flat sheets of plywood to facilitate the sliding windows. However, in order to follow the shape of the hull (more or less), those sheets have had to be joined. Those joins have to be strong enough to resist cracking with any flexing of hull and to that end, they have been placed against various inside frames and have been heavily glassed in rebated trenches on the outside. These joins have finally had to be faired ready for painting. A very awkward, dusty and time-consuming job, but looks terrific now it's done. The joint between the coach house walls and the side-decks right around the boat, can now also be finished off. Once that is done, the outside of Rhapsody is essentially ready for final fairing and painting. There's that "F" word looming again...

A couple of other small things for the outside of the boat. The navigation light wiring is now installed. Again, nothing is easy or straightforward! The wiring had to be hidden of course, so appropriate trenches were routed into the coach house walls and 5mm aluminium tube buried in epoxy to act as conduits for the wires. Now, each is covered in epoxy and faired ready for painting.

Deck lights on a river boat are not strictly necessary perhaps, but why not? To both illuminate the side decks at night for safety and to generally "show-off" a bit, eight blue LED downlights have been installed around the boat. I better be careful, I'm almost enjoying this...