Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Hang em High Part II--Getting the Motors Out of the Water.

Dragging the motors is slow. Worse, keeping them wet is a great way to speed corrosion, the most common cause of death in outboards. The original motors tipped up nicely and lower nicely with latches and lines. Well, until the latch mechanism corroded up tight. But they still went up and down with lines easily enough, lifting clear of the water and held fully down by a sea belt strap.

My new motors latch up and down nicely. Yes, I have to lift the seats, but I've made no effort to convert them to the original line system. The new motors have a manual choke that I need to set, I like to see the water stream, it makes me double check the lock, and it encourages me to check the oil more often. The only problem is that if I pull them full up and they latch, there is no room to insert your hand to release the latch? Even worse, sometimes they are so tight that there is no slack to release the catch and they cannot be lowered without considerable effort, time, shoving and bruising. I spent a season trying to pull them "Just" short of latching, but then they often touched the water even at anchor. Not good. PDQ seems to have good dimensional quality control; the fit problem was identical on both sides.

Some friend suggested wedging the transom to change the latch angle. workable, but that wouldn't get the lower unit fully out of the water. I like it pulled up tight to the hull.

A little trimming was the answer. First some rough cuts with a hole saw and saber saw, then some finishing with an angle grinder. Finally, several coats of epoxy to seal the wood. Yes, wood. The PDQ has an odd mix of solid glass (winch mounts and below the water line), foam (decks and cabin top), balsa (interior bulkheads), and ply (interior equipment mounts, engine mounts) as core, each employed where it was best for the job.

Nice and high now.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Wear and Tear

Time. We do the maintenance, build new, and still we go backwards if we glance away too far or for too long. We wonder about others that let things go, often for want only of some paint in time or a nail the right place. We try to balance effort and reward.

Aging has its own charm, we pretend, if we look at the changes as "character" and texture, but only when carefully groomed and cultured is it valuable, different from just "falling apart."

Parts of me are falling apart--no doubt about that. Today I looked forward to opening my afternoon mail to a new DonJoy Playmaker knee brace--I wore the old one out--rather than something fun.


On the other hand, I also got my new Chesapeake Bay Magazine Cruising Guide. I'm planning a busy summer!

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Better Boarding--Extended Transoms

rev. 6-3-2013

On my last boat I had a few grand projects in mind that I delayed too long. They would have been fun. Extended length and beam, extended rig. On a Stiletto they wouldn't have been big money and they would have been exciting. I dithered too long.

I really like my PDQ 32. It may be the last boat I own. It certainly has the basic durability, I have determined that I am unlikely to cruise beyond the Chesapeake, and if I do ZTC has proven that is no problem. I like the smaller size as everything is lighter, and my joints aren't getting any better. I like the ease of getting slips.

So what would I fix, if I had a dream list?
  • AC. I hate the Cruise-n-Carry, but for now it will do. I will build something in when it breaks.
  • New mainsail. Mine has a terrible leach. Easy, I'll order a new one in a season or 2.
  • Pitching. Longer is better.
  • Easier boarding for my wife and parents. She has a fake knee, balance issues, and the nastiest ankle fracture I've ever seen, right through the joint surfaces. The cartilage in my right knee is also fading fast and I've been told further surgeries won't help. I wear a big knee brace a lot. My parents, of course, are quite long in the tooth but always game to go sailing.

And that's that whole list. I'm OK with the outboards. I like the kitchen and I like my propane heat just fine (we did a long cruise on 25-40F temperatures this winter and it did very well). I love the aft cabins and I love the 270 degree view from the salon. I like the size; bigger would mean bigger anchors, bigger sails, more maintenance, and higher sheeting loads. Not useful in a small place like the Chesapeake Bay. I like the small size for the smallest of harbors.


I am considering low transom extensions (like PDQ 36 Pacifica) rather than the high-sided extensions seen on the Seawind 1000/1000XLs; though the Seawind aesthetic is very nice, blocking the sugar scoop steps is incompatible with disabled access. There are a few faults in the Pacifica-style  extensions (did not follow hull lines but swooped up too quickly for best efficiency, and the profile was not faired to blend with the existing  topside lines) I can resolve and I really only need an 18-inch extension (note: became 22 inches as-built) to solve the boarding problem. They will be relatively low, like Pacifica's because I do not want the higher sides as on the Seawind extensions; we use the lower steps when boarding from floating docks. The high sides would flow nicely going up wind, but down wind they could catch waves, so while they look pretty, I believe they are less functional for us. Other benefits?
 After extension
  • Better speed? I doubt it will be measurable, and calculations suggest it will only matter at lower speeds. perhaps 0.1-0.3 knots, depending on the speed.
  • Load carrying. A little.
  • Pitch reduction. Won't hurt, but too small to notice.
  • Many days on-site fabricating. I live 1 hour away. Ugh.
  • Difficulty match gelcoat and fairing. Fortunately the bottom paint and boot top will cover most of them.
  • Increased resale value if done well. Of course, I may be dead by then.
  • Length. My slip is not priced per foot (fixed by beam) and the practical docking length does not change (transom will not extend beyond tender on davits). 
  • Appearance. I think I actually like the new lines a little better. certainly not ugly, if I spend some time playing with the curves and angles, matching her existing lines.
  • Fun. A place to dangle feet.
  • Practical. A place to wash pots.

As for building a mold, I'm considering simply applying several coats of PVA mold release to the last 30 inches of the hull and pulling a molds of the lower foot (all that I need). Yes, I would need to narrow the mold by taking a seam down the bottom. I would need to attach the form to plywood stations and glassed-in stringers, but I would get a nice smooth surface with the desired compound curvature; after all, I want to match the existing rate of curvature. This should save a LOT of fairing and any glaring transitions in hull form. Glassing in the platform and new transom is simple. There is no internal access so I'll have to include some sort of inspection ports; I'm sure they'll leak.

(Note: this is what I actually did.)
Alternatively, I may just build a metal mold, following the hull lines straight back. I've done this before; after getting the shape you like you fix it with transom and some stringers.

Very handy for boarding.

Your thoughts? Comments PLEASE. Forget structural concerns; I'm an engineer and will get past those. I think it will look OK and the function in terms of fun and practical access to the water, and limited mobility access to docks and the tender seem overwhelming.


Some practical considerations. I'll be collecting my notes here over the next few months.

No core in bottom half. The PDQ was laid up solid below the water line, and given the sidewalls are mostly below, I'm going to skip core materials. Just cloth and mat.

Epoxy resin. While polyester resin could certainly be used, I'm much more familiar with West Systems and there will be quite a bit of secondary bonding. It also smells better and I'll be working in the basement a lot. It is more water resistant and barrier coating will not be needed.

Pre-laminated FRP transoms. I have the scrap. Also tabbing and stringers, as needed.

(used pre-lam 1/4-inch FRP from McMaster/Carr)
Deck may be glassed 1/2-inch marine ply, unless I get a better idea. My FRP scrap is not wide enough.

(Yup, worked fine)
Tenting. I do not have an angle grinder with an effective vacuum attachment, so I may use an old camping tent. With the door open, it should swallow the work area.

The mold will most likely be 2-part to ease removal. I'm going to have to seam it down the center anyway....

As an alternative to pulling a mold from the hull I may build a sheet metal, simply strapping it to the hull, as was done by Roy Chandler in "A 30-foot, $6,000 Catamaran." He modified a stiletto27 by adding 3 feet to the transom, following the lead of the factory, which extended the hull to 30 feet using the same lines for the Stiletto 30. However, this would make it a bit trickier to beef up the form and I would like to keep the slight compound curvature.

rev. 6-3-2013

I'm leaning more to metal mold. This would allow me to do both hulls at the same time, since the mold is simple. It would allow me to do the work in the field, which would solve fitting problems. The PDQ 32 has a nice extended hull flange that will make bonding on-site very strong and simple. The mold will consist of the aluminum with ~ 6 firring strip stringers screwed to the outside and a square false transom on the tail (the actual transom will be angled and prelaminated, and tabbed in later, after trimming the initial layup). A metal mold can be 1-part as it will flex on removal, allowing it to be pealed off even if there is some sticking.

I've been practicing with the PVA and like it far better than wax; easy release and washes right off... with sweat drips if not careful.

Video of Pacifica installation process. Different approach.

Video of flow before modifications.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Muddy Water

 Pautuxent River Park, Jug Bay Natural Area
While the skies were certainly blue enough on my Friday off, the water wasn't and the air carried the slight musk of a freshwater tidal marsh. That, of course, was no distraction to the ospreys, cormorants, rockfish or emergent flora. Just the right mix of silence, water lapping, and spring calls.

A pair of projects has me focused on paddling lately; an article on kayaks for the sailing cruiser and a new Chesapeake Bay guide to "The Other Chesapeake." One will be finished this fall, the other--about real backwaters and tiny beaches and everything I like that is not in the guides--I expect to be years in the writing. So what, the work is the payoff, or at least most of it.

I spent this morning at a kayak demo held by Eastern Mountain Sports on the upper Potomac River, paddling a dozen different boats and collecting my ideas, regarding handling, practicality and durability. Except for the cold feet, all fun stuff. I even tried a stand-up paddle board (it was suggested that they solved some of the on-board storage issues), if only to confirm that it's not for me.