Tuesday, 19 August 2014

Back In The Doghouse

With the doghouse placed in position I drew a pencil line around the deck, both inside and outside. First I used the dremel to define the pencil line in the gelcoat, then went to work with the power file...

...the gelcoat has been ground back to the glass fibre beneath ready for laminating.

When finished I noticed the interesting glow below decks now the opaque gelcoat has been removed.

It would be nice to get this laminated before the weather deteriorates any further!

Sunday, 17 August 2014


After a few hours of careful work with a dremel the epoxy edge to each portlight surround has been trimmed to fit each perspex portlight...

...there's just a few millimetres between the portlight and its surround for a bead of sealant, I'll need to do a bit of research to find the right type of sealant, maybe something along the lines of a car windshield glue would be good?!

Friday, 15 August 2014

Fillets And Frames

The main bulkhead now has a foam fillet...

...two small gaps have been left for the cap shroud u-bolts to be fitted. The foam needs a gentle curve shaping in to it and then biaxial glass cloth taped over to complete the installation.

All three round port lights have an epoxy filled edge...

...this needs to be sanded smooth before the whole doghouse gets a sand. There'll be filling and fairing before laminating the whole part to the deck.

The new deck drains are standing up to the rain, keeping Betsy bone dry!

Wednesday, 13 August 2014

Taking Shape

Though the long hot sunny days appear to be over we have continued to make some good progress.

A 5mm stainless steel plate stem fitting has been fabricated to make a new forestay attachment, the gelcoat on the bow has been trimmed back so the new stem fitting will lay flat, holes drilled through and a generous carbon fibre laminate added to the inside of the bow creating a flat surface for the penny washers to support the machine screws.

The forward bulkhead has been shaped and fitted, a 10mm foam fillet sits between it and the hull to avoid hard spots, it will be shaped to a curve and laminated over with biaxial cloth. A water tight inspection hatch has been fitted, the end grain of the hole in the plywood has been smoothed round and laminated over. The old anchor hawse pipe hole has been filled with a wooden plug to match the existing deck reinforcement and again laminated over.

The largest of the flat foam and fibreglass panels I vacuum bagged months ago has been cut in to two pieces and shaped to make the forward flotation compartment, there's just enough room for them in the bow whilst I get the new bulkhead laminated in place under the carbon beam...

The bulkhead itself has been shaped to leave a 10mm gap all round, a foam fillet will be added as per the forward bulkhead. After much procrastination a hole has been cut in the new bulkhead for access to the forepeak, just big enough for me and leaving enough in place to form the forward end of the two main stowage compartments.

The two through hull holes for the cockpit drains have been ground back to a taper and laminated over, the cockpit drains themselves have been enlarged for the new drain fittings... just in time for summer to end and the rain of Hurricane Betsy to spoil things!

The rain prompted some furious hole filling around the entire boat, whilst Betsy was all stripped out I didn't mind the odd dribble of rain water here and there but now we are beginning to reconstruct the interior I would prefer it to stay bone dry.

The lazarette has had a stringer added to match the existing one on the port side, although the new one is sheathed in carbon... an off cut from the bulkhead.

The old fuel filler hole has been filled, another hole another pancake of biaxial glass cloth and epoxy, that makes 12 holes filled not to mention countless little screw holes from numerous old deck fittings long since removed. I have the dove grey polyester gelcoat now so all those little holes can be countersunk and gelled over.

The doghouse has had three holes cut in it for the port lights, three foam and fibreglass rings have been shaped and laminated to form a framework for the perspex portholes to sit against. All three have been laminated in place...

...and the largest of the three now has an epoxy reinforced edge...

Using the circular laminate cut out to form the hole, I have wrapped the edge with teflon peel ply and filled the gap with thickened epoxy, some of the core foam has been removed from between the fibreglass skins so the edge will be watertight and strong, once cured the circle can be peeled out and a smooth edge should remain?! One down, two to go!

Sunday, 29 June 2014

Carbon Copy

With the laminating table now surplus to requirements, both sides have been sheathed in carbon and today cut out to match the cardboard template...

...the new bulkhead is coming to life.

There will be a hole cut in the middle to allow access to the forepeak but not until I am exactly sure how large the stowage compartments will be, the stowage will sit either side of the hole so I won't be getting too carried away with the jigsaw just yet!

Friday, 20 June 2014

The Circle Meets The Curve

It has been a productive day.

The final two pieces of foam core have been laminated with cloth which means I can begin to cut the sheet of plywood, used as the laminating table, in to the shape required to make the main bulkhead. What remains of the ply will be used to make a small forward bulkhead, a battery box and some backing pads for the stanchion bases etc.

Some time ago I bought some perspex circles to make portholes for the new doghouse, two smaller circles, one for each side, and one larger circle for the top. The idea being I can both view the horizon and the mainsail without needing to venture in to the cockpit.

The larger circle needed a curve to meet that of the doghouse, some searching on youtube and I had a plan. Heating the perspex in the oven, slowly ramping the heat to approx. 140 degrees C, on a non stick baking tray, I then laid a piece of synthetic felt over it and turned the whole lot upside-down on top of the doghouse, removing the baking tray and leaving it to cool...

...and we now have a custom curved porthole, perfect!

Sunday, 15 June 2014

It's Only A Model

Somewhere between the reality that is Betsy and the fantasy that is my imagination lies a whole world of cardboard cut-out compromise...

...it's only a model of course, a template for the plywood reality that is to follow. The foam and fibreglass panels I have laminated will be used elsewhere to form the stowage and foam filled buoyancy compartments for example.

With a bit of luck and good judgement, the existing companionway will be just big enough to get the bulkhead in to the boat as one whole piece, before I get too carried away with fitting the new hatch.

There will be just enough room between the port and starboard stowage compartments to allow for a hatch through to the forepeak, some of which will be filled with EPS foam for buoyancy should the worst happen?!

Sunday, 8 June 2014

First Fitting

Otherwise known as "offering it up to the unit"!

Having laminated the dog house inside and out it was time to see how it looked on top of the old sliding hatch position...

...not too bad, a little daylight between the edges and the coach roof but nothing that cannot be trimmed to fit.

It's good and stiff too, I can stand on the forward section and once it's tabbed to the deck the whole piece will be solid.

The Lewmar hatch is reasonably well recessed without reducing internal volume too much and it can be opened fully without interfering with the dog house whilst still providing some protection from spray, rain and waves etc.

Then comes the internal stowage issue...

... I have more watertight stowage containers than pictured but there is enough here to get a clearer picture in my mind of the internal layout and it's potential.

There is more than enough curved laminate to make the internal corners of the main stowage areas, on port and starboard, immediately aft the main bulkhead. The square flare containers will sit against the bulkhead to minimise the "shifting about" whilst at sea.

Tuesday, 27 May 2014

Custom Stowage

I've never really liked hard corners in the cabin of a boat, the thought of being thrown against one, alone at sea, is not pleasant.

I decided some time ago to mould the interior of Betsy to the watertight stowage containers.

Whilst the 9mm foam core has some flex, enough to make the doghouse match the original deck, there was not enough 'give' to make it form to the containers. I cut the foam at 1cm intervals along it's length to approx. 2/3 rds it's depth, this gave it enough flex to conform to the new shape. Mixing up some epoxy and filler, I filled the grooves and...

...stacking three of the containers on end, wrapped them in cardboard, plastic, peel ply, foam core, peel ply and held the whole lot together with 50mm parcel tape until cured.

I will cut the curved foam lengthways to give me 2, 90 degree corners.

I'm pretty pleased with the result so far, obviously this only takes care of the corners of the stowage compartments, the remainder will consist of flat panels and the whole lot fibreglassed together.

Meanwhile the doghouse is out of the bag and had some sanding before I continue laminating it all together on the underside.

Sunday, 25 May 2014

Back In The Bag

Having attached a piece of laminate to the front of the dog house and shaped all the hard corners, soft and round, it all went back in the bag...

...all the joints have been covered in biaxial cloth and once cured, it will be given the same treatment on the underside.

Friday, 9 May 2014

The Great Escape

The doghouse has taken shape, endless trips back and forth to the garage, where I can sand the foam and fibreglass to my heart's content...

...I have now glued the various pieces together with a thickened epoxy and that's about it for now.

I will have to sand, fillet and fibreglass the whole thing together but that will have to wait until next week.

It's the start of the Jester Challenge 2014 on Sunday the 11th and I'll be there for the weekend and out on the water for the start to see them all off!

Tuesday, 6 May 2014

Hatching A Plan

Using the old sliding hatch once again, I laminated the two top panels for the new doghouse together.

Fortunately this time there were no vacuum problems and the warm sunny day assisted the curing process.

Whilst it was curing, I screwed the new hatch to a length of timber and simulated the new companionway to check the cardboard mock-up of the new doghouse for size and fit.

So far so good!

Soon I will be able to start fitting the pieces of laminated foam core together, making all those curved edges fit neatly together will be the challenge but hopefully the result will be rewarding.

Saturday, 3 May 2014

Chasing Leaks

Betsy has a sliding hatch and a perspex washboard, neither of which I fancy in a gale of wind and or a breaking wave!

Red Admiral had a one piece hatch that could be locked in place with Lewmar hatch handles, continuing this theme I intend to make Betsy considerably more watertight.

I have acquired a Lewmar 60 hatch and intend fitting it at a 45 degree angle with a rigid doghouse built over the top, in place of the sliding hatch.

I made a cardboard mock up to check the size and ergonomics of such a construction, happy with my plans I have begun to fabricate the wedge shaped doghouse using the curve of the original hatch as a mould to increase the strength and keep the doghouse in keeping with the existing coachroof... at least that's the idea?!

The G-PET foam core is 9mm thick and has enough flex to form to the shape of the curved hatch, providing of course that there is sufficient vacuum to hold it down... which today, sadly, there was not!

Having laid up the glass, foam core and bagged it all up on top of the old hatch... could I for the life of me chase down the leak that conspired to thwart my designs... no!

As a last resort I pinned it down with 50mm wide cellotape whilst taping up an outer bag to encapsulate the lot.

Fortunately when I switched on the pump and pulled down the vacuum the whole lot clamped down bar tight... phew!

Friday, 2 May 2014

Seeing Red

When I first viewed Betsy, that cold, grey, winter's day down on the Norfolk Broad, I spied a chip in her paintwork... a little glimpse of red showing through.

Back home, sitting on her trailer, I could see the full extent of the patched up paintwork. At sometime in her life I believe she's had a reasonably good spray job but since then overpainted by brush, brush strokes and all!

I have spent the best part of this week finishing off what I started months ago, the improved weather, lighter nights and some time away from work have all combined to return Betsy to her original gelcoat...

...there's plenty still to do but one thing's for sure, Betsy will be nowhere near Plymouth for the start of this year's Jester Challenge.

But then... there's always next year?!

Wednesday, 19 March 2014

Two Down, One To Go

The largest panel yet, weighing in at 1650mm x 1005mm!

I am becoming more confident with the fibre to resin ratios, using less resin than the weight of cloth.

Mixing the resin and wetting out the glass fibre whilst the temperature is a little cooler than ideal buys me a little time and helps to ensure a full wet out without the resin gelling, before getting the bag sealed and the vacuum pulled, the heat is then ramped using the cardboard oven and left overnight for a full cure.

This panel is enough for both bow sections, the next challenge is the final panel measuring 1005mm x 2440mm!

Sunday, 16 March 2014

One Down, Two To Go

It's been a pleasant week off from work and working on my boat never feels like work, there's a lesson in there I'm sure...

"Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life" Confucius.

A lot of this week has been spent on my hands and knees, I now have two, 1 metre by 1.2 metre laminated panels ready to shape in to the main bulkhead... and a pair of sore knees!

That leaves two full sheets of foam core to work with, I'll no doubt run out but it will complete the bulk of the project. There's the forward watertight bulkheads to construct, a pair of bunks, stowage compartments on port and starboard, immediately aft of the main bulkhead and the new companionway hatch arrangement.

Friday, 14 March 2014


After numerous communications with people in the know, I had a short list of possible causes.

Gurit suggested I had applied the vacuum too early, waiting for the resin to begin to gel was advised.

East Coast Fibreglass Supplies suggested the laminate was insufficiently cured before debagging and peeling, they have very kindly sent a sample of teflon peel ply and perforated release film for me to try.

And, Tor recommended perforated core material to equalise the vacuum pressure and release film between the peel ply and breather.

Yesterday I ran another test, using fast hardener rather than the standard used before and waiting a while before applying vacuum, I laminated another piece. Leaving the laminate in a cardboard oven overnight...

...the result is very satisfactory!

The laminate appears to be well saturated and yet there is still plenty of resin in the breather/peel ply material, perhaps I am using too much resin in the first place?

No perforated release film was used in the making of this laminate!

Wednesday, 12 March 2014


Good... and not so good!

The vacuum bag, from the laminating table up, consisted of vacuum bag, peel ply, glass cloth, foam core, glass cloth, peel ply, breather and vacuum bag.

Peeling the bag apart this morning the side of the foam core with just the peel ply looks excellent, really pleased to see an even finish and super flat too...

...however, the upper most side, the side with the addition of breather material has failed. It would appear that the breather has drawn the resin away from the foam core, as I peeled the peel ply and breather away from the laminate the laminate came with it!

Any minute now Tor will leave me a message to tell me where I am going wrong...

Tuesday, 11 March 2014

The Test Bed

I know, I know, it's been a long time but one thing leads to another and before you know it...

I have a whole week of annual leave to squander on my little boat and so far I have been blessed with lovely sunshine. Yesterday was spent with a sander in my hands, there will be further sanding, filling and fairing before the hull and keel are up to scratch.

Today I conducted a test, having spent time over several months gathering materials and equipment necessary for vacuum bagging. I converted my pressure cooker from the Red Admiral days in to a catch pot with vacuum gauge...

...the handle on the lid snapped off on my return from Newport so I'll be needing a replacement!

I've taken a small sample of the G-PET foam core I bought months ago and laminated a piece of 600 gsm biaxial glass cloth to each side of the foam using Ampreg 20. The resin has a fairly long open time, giving you the breathing space to work with larger pieces before it all starts to gel.

There's a leak somewhere in the system, with so many connections I'll have to chase it down and I'm pretty certain it's not within the vacuum bag itself?!

So far so good, at least what I can see of it looking through the vacuum bag, breather, peel ply etc.

I'll know either way come the morning...