Petestack Blog

29 July 2018

Forecabin deckhead

Filed under: Sailing — admin @ 5:44 pm

To quote this afternoon’s Facebook post:

The ‘forgotten’ job from last summer’s stripping: clean back the central section of forecabin deckhead where lining material gets glued direct to the hull. Two solid days’ work to take off the old glue (and ultimately most of the paint) without simply redistributing sticky ridges of gluepaint!

It’s not really so much the forgotten job as the one that got consciously left to get on with the major construction work (and consider how to do it!) then not done because there was never a right time for the mess it was going to make with painting and varnishing of some parts also started. But it’s done now, and more thoroughly than originally planned when I theoretically only had to get the glue (but try taking the glue without at least some of the paint!). The trick, after rejecting various options including trying to clean the glue with thinners, is to run a nylon wheel brush quite slowly on a electric drill, angling it wherever possible to strip glue and paint cleanly without grooving the resin, which can happen with perpendicular brush even at slower speeds if you’re not careful. [Edit: see subsequent post re. the grooving.] It’s patient, patient work also requiring some careful power-filing, hand-sanding and scraping in corners where the drill/brush combination won’t go, but seems to have come up well with just one pre-existing little void in the web glassing curved former to foredeck exposed to repair and a couple more tiny spots I might fill before re-lining. I’d already removed a great wadge of unnecessary car body filler from up the hollow side of the mast platform when I stripped the old linings last year, and found some more doing nothing today (now gone!) out in the open to starboard of that.

26 July 2018

Surprise trip to Stornoway

Filed under: Sailing — admin @ 4:29 pm

Sometimes the best things just come out of the blue!

On Monday 16 July, not long after I’d got back from Beinn a’ Bheithir, I had a phone call from Peter MacKenzie (who’d started sailing with us when we were racing Fly out of Oban donkey’s years ago but moved to Lewis and just kept dreaming of boats ever since) which began something like this…

He’d bought a boat (a Sigma 33), which he’d like to get out of Kip Marina and preferably to Stornoway by the end of July; could I and/or Twig help?

And continued something like this…

Yes, I’m both interested and available, but you need to be thinking proper passage making rather than day hops and I can’t take that on with just the two of us. But I’ll come if we can get Twig to skipper (caveat: you’re giving us a very tight timescale and he’s a busy guy!); would you like me to sound him out?

So I phoned Twig, who answered from somewhere near the Lizard on a delivery trip from Weymouth to Dunstaffnage, had another job to go to on 26 July and had been thinking of coming to do some work on Fly in-between! But he was expecting to make Dunstaffnage on Thursday (19 July) and thought we could do it if we got going ASAP thereafter. Which sounded promising till we heard that Peter and Susan were going to a wedding in Glasgow on Saturday (21 July). Cue text from me to Twig to ask is Sunday soon enough, to which you already know the answer or you wouldn’t be reading this blog! So we had three days to get from Kip to Stornoway, a day to get home, and a whole multi-day chain of phone and text exchanges discussing survey/condition of the boat, what was/wasn’t aboard and what did/didn’t work already in motion, with me the go-between as Twig’s current charge (the 42-foot Ron Holland-designed Double Thyme) made her way north to arrive a day late on Friday (20 July). On Saturday I headed down to Twig’s bringing some missing bits and pieces while he collected others ready to leave Taynuilt at silly o’clock Sunday, which brings us to the Kip pontoons at c.07:30 Sunday loading stuff onto a strange boat we’re proposing to take on a 260-nautical-mile sea passage an hour and a half later…

And setting off at precisely 09:00 with autohelm testing pretty well the first thing on the agenda. Now, we knew the previous owner couldn’t get the autohelm to work, but didn’t know quite what that meant, so left hoping he’d just not understood it rather than it was dead, but prepared to make the whole passage without if necessary. Which looked inconveniently likely with initial failure to power up threatening to confirm the worst case scenario, but ‘Fred’ thankfully springing to life as Twig started taking apart sockets, cleaning contacts and jiggling fuses…

So that was us motoring for the Mull of Kintyre some 50+ miles away against what (generally very little) wind there was and no intention of trying to sail till we could make better use of a south-westerly breeze as we turned north or north-west round it, with north-west outside Islay being the preferred option to eliminate all the tidal gates from the various ‘inside’ alternatives. And there’s not a whole lot more to say about a remarkably quiet, easy start apart from noting our encounter with the Isle of Arran south of Pladda, with the CalMac ferry apparently also heading for the Mull and not on any regular service route…

Since our preferred ‘outside’ passage was looking reasonably comfortable with the big swell Twig had encountered on passing this way with Double Thyme just days earlier clearly down, our first night at sea saw us heading north-west to clear the Mull of Oa and Rhinns with Twig on watch from midnight till 04:00 and Peter and I relieving him thereafter. And, despite some slightly uncomfortable bashing during that first spell, we awoke to a more pleasant motion steadied by a partially-unfurled genoa which I subsequently pulled out to harness completely. And so we continued out past the lonely lighthouses of Dubh Artach and Skerryvore, motorsailing comfortably with the apparent wind still typically well ahead of the beam but the genoa lightening the engine’s load, giving us a knot or more extra and perhaps just as importantly more of a ‘sailing’ feel…

Now, we’d hoped to get the main up and possibly the kite for a great sail north as we turned again at Tiree, but still the wind didn’t play ball, being both fickle and rarely as far to the south-west as anticipated. So the motorsailing continued on a course-with-a-view somewhat west of the direct line, and three sleep-deprived sailors all being caught cat-napping from time to time…

While Twig was down below, Peter M saw a whale, both Peters saw a group of c.20 dolphins leaping in concert with no camera to hand, and Peter D managed one passable shot of one of a more placid subsequent trio against a backdrop of distant Skye…

And so we continued north towards the Little Minch and the second night, with the sun setting as we passed between North Uist and Skye…

It was heading through here on Peter’s and my watch that things briefly got less pleasant with squalls and rain from astern, but conditions came nice again after an hour or two with just creel buoy lookout to really keep us a bit edgy and Twig taking over just before Tarbert to take us past the Shiants on his watch. After which I came back out to give him one final break as we made our way up the Lewis coast. And that’s about it, with Shenanigan of Kip coming home to her new base of Stornoway at 06:00 Tuesday and Susan there to welcome her in after enthusiastically heading down from Bragar an hour ahead of us!

So here we were a day ahead of schedule/deadline after 260 sea miles and 45 hours at sea, already plotting a quick escape from the island to get Twig home with time in hand. And this ‘escape’ included Peter, who needed to retrieve his van from Kip as I did mine, so Rachael (Peter and Susan’s daughter who I’d previously taught at Kinlochleven and had come sailing on Fly with them) drove the three of us to Tarbert because that was the next ferry by the time we’d got the boat fit to leave. After continuing south through Skye from Uig by bus and following a convoy of three massive turbine blades along the A87 down Loch Duich, Twig got off at the Fort for a lift home and my mum picked Peter and me up at Dumbarton to take us to Kip the following (yesterday) morning. But we were all back racing at Glencoe Boat Club last night, with Peter and his van booked on the Uig ferry this morning and presumably home admiring the boat by now. And it’s not the end of the story for the crew who brought her home, with Twig already agreeing to take on some of the necessary maintenance and me expecting to head back for some long-promised sailing (yes, since the MacKenzies starting crewing for Fly all those years ago!) where her new owners will welcome an experienced hand.

Just one more thing to add, which is seeing Twig’s 7″ tablet in action as chart plotter. Now, I’ve often thought of getting a 7″ tablet but wondered whether it’s a pointless supra-phone, sub-laptop form factor… to which the answer is no, it’s just perfect for this. Fly has a chart plotter, but it’s both black-and-white (colour was pretty expensive when we put it in) and immovable where a cheap tablet like Twig’s would be a cost-effective and portable addition. And that’s really it for now, apart from the addition of these two photos of Peter’s I can’t quite place because I ‘stole’ them from Facebook with no original time stamps! ;-)

19 July 2018

Bunk-foot lockers

Filed under: Sailing — admin @ 3:23 pm

Several weeks ago, I said that I didn’t think Fly’s bunk-foot lockers would ‘be anything like as tricky to paint as the heads compartment because you don’t have to get right into them the same way’, but of course I was wrong. While you can’t paint yourself into quite the same inescapable corner, they’re still very, very awkward for other reasons including sheer grovel factor and a starboard locker where (lacking the port locker’s flat fuel tank base) you have to work with brush inside and paint tin outside.

It wasn’t my original intention to strip back to wood as shown in that blog post, but seven out of eight faces got the full treatment in the end… followed by some filling and sanding because some of the ply stripped smooth and some didn’t, on which note it’s interesting to observe the difference in surface quality either side of the scarf joint down the line of my ‘fuel gauge’ sighting holes in the port (diesel tank) locker:

Despite being keen to get the job finished, I only got them primed and undercoated once (not enough to go straight to white gloss!) before boat work got solidly interrupted by end-of-term activities followed by holiday weather too reliably dry not to get the house exterior woodwork painted and stuff like that:

So there was a good three-week gap and a little light sanding between first and second coats of undercoat, followed by gloss today:

And now the pilot berth structures (which fit between galley/nav. station bulkheads and bunk-foot lockers) can go back in any time.

17 July 2018

While the van’s at the garage…

Filed under: Climbing,Walking — admin @ 9:54 pm

I took a walk up Beinn a’ Bheithir yesterday, linking the three main peaks by the scrambling routes of Sgorr Bhan’s ENE Ridge (aka the Schoolhouse Ridge) and Sgorr a’ Chaolais. It’s the first time I’ve descended by Sgorr a’ Chaolais (the so-called Dragon’s Tooth) although I’d done it in ascent twice before. The steep face of the big rounded pinnacle (taken this time in ascent, but normally a down-climb with abseil slings at the top) was quite intimidating on dank rock though I could have bailed down the slopes just above it, and I came down a narrow scree gully followed by much ground just awkward enough to be annoying to reach the track, but probably missed the best way there.

While I was technically on my way down in still-brightening conditions when I received a text from Lochside Garage to say the van (in for service and MOT) was ready, I still had the big pinnacle to climb and some way to go to get back for it.

10 June 2018

Sub-cockpit grovelling

Filed under: Sailing — admin @ 6:54 pm

From the ‘cell of little ease’ to somewhere even worse… most of this afternoon was spent cleaning/stripping the port foot-of-bunk locker for repainting. I’d hoped to get the starboard one done too and prime them, but should have known better with plenty previous experience of grovelling beneath the cockpit! And, while getting them prepared down there’s very awkward and I’m not looking forward to doing the other one, I don’t think they’ll be anything like as tricky to paint as the heads compartment because you don’t have to get right into them the same way.

The ‘ears’ at the bulkhead corners (where the light is clipped on here) are to fix the pilot berths at their aft ends. I’ve still to clean up the holes through the ply (my fuel gauge!) for repainting, but the wooden shelf which supports the diesel tank is epoxy-coated, so doesn’t need refinishing:

The remaining galley paint/varnish stripping got done last weekend and the aft galley bulkhead revarnished during the week, but the bunk fronts just got stripped yesterday. I’m quite relieved how these have come up because they’d been very, very wet during Fly’s darkest days and the port one in particular looked quite discoloured through completely dead, peeling varnish:

27 May 2018

The Cell of ‘Little Ease’

Filed under: Sailing — admin @ 3:00 pm

Long ago, at primary school, we learned of Guy Fawkes being imprisoned in the cell of ‘Little Ease’ (which I recall first hearing as the cell of little ‘e’s!)… a space too small to stand, lie down or even sit comfortably. I’ve thought of it many times while trying to paint Fly’s heads compartment, where relatively quick-drying primer and undercoat have been awkward enough, but sticky gloss unsurprisingly proved more testing yet. Not necessarily ‘torture’ in normal use, but the stuff of nightmares when needing to brace yourself against surfaces you might or might not be able to touch, access a paint tin you might or might not be able to put down, and get past your own body to paint what you might or might not be able to reach or see properly:

So nothing’s perfect when neither physically awkward working conditions nor the impossibility of keeping air, surfaces or brushes 100% particle-free allow it to be, but it looks OK in the photos and at least it’s white in real life unlike that almost pink sunlit glow you see above! Forecabin painting/varnishing’s done too, if no better and not that much more easily than the cell of little ease (the unaccountably missed splash of white paint on the varnished bulkhead will be sorted!):

And the port partial bulkhead and shelf edges are varnished, but not yet the main bulkhead facing (still pending more galley/battery locker work before it can be done in a single sweep):

15 May 2018

Two-man relay team?

Filed under: Sailing — admin @ 10:15 pm

What you’re seeing in tonight’s blog is nav. shelf fitting and cool box construction done by Twig mostly when I wasn’t here, but I’ve also got plenty to do while he’s elsewhere, so still good teamwork!

The new shelves for the navigation area are now fitted and edged, but remember there’s also a folding chart table to shut these off as securely as a cupboard door:

The space behind the (currently absent) sink is now turning into a useful cool box with floor raised above the waterline and drain (visible in the third but not fourth photo) to join the sink outlet before the galley seacock:

And here’s a couple of more general cabin shots to show how the above all fits into the wider picture:

We’ve also got two of the three seacocks apart for overhauling as described on the Impala site (the galley seacock still awaits dismantling), and I’ve still got enough surface preparation, painting and varnishing to keep me busy for, ahem, a while yet… ;-)

10 May 2018

Just doing

Filed under: Sailing — admin @ 8:56 pm

No undoing to report tonight, so just more satisfactory doing…

Twig was here again last Friday, when we had the folding chart table back in the boat to check its pivot points and spent some time adjusting these (clearly not right before!) to get it to sit parallel to the main bulkhead before starting work on new shelves to go behind it. These will be bigger than before because we’ve decided to make the table fold vertically instead of in line with the pilot berths’ folding fronts (which double as settee backs), but that lower shelf’s currently just dry-fitted and not sitting quite right because I knocked the clamp holding its support when I was painting the heads again on Sunday (we’ll sort that tomorrow):

This shot of the galley shows where the cool box will be built (sink fits to left, cool box to right, and cooker to front, all as you look at the photo):

And the satin-varnished wood is looking better now I’ve got to grips with how this particular varnish handles. I’ve got three coats (done Monday, Tuesday and tonight) on the companionway bulkhead facing and engine box since the previous weekend’s ‘undoing’, but note some of the engine box was stripped right back and some wasn’t, so the non-slip area on top (which was) still needs restoring to match the lower one. And the chart table in the background is one of many parts still awaiting stripping and refinishing:

30 April 2018

Doing and undoing

Filed under: Sailing — admin @ 10:41 pm

Some more doing (and even a little undoing!) since last weekend…

I got another coat of varnish on the companionway bulkhead facing on Wednesday evening, then started the forecabin woodwork undercoating while Twig worked on the galley on Friday afternoon (NB Highland high schools now finish Friday lunchtime). Finished that first coat of paint Saturday morning, then some stripping/sanding to the engine box, sanding to the bulkhead facing and varnishing of both thinking that was the final coat to the facing. But I didn’t like the finish at all (think the thickness of the varnish has been encouraging me to keep working it too long when ‘wet’ in pursuit of a nice, even spread), so spent part of Sunday undoing much of Saturday’s work ready to try again with thinned varnish and quicker brushwork.

More good doing on Sunday, however, with Twig’s new partial bulkhead getting fitted to the port side. We could have refitted the old one but, with peeling unnecessary Formica on one face, peeling varnish on the other and redundant cutouts for switch panels etc. we’re changing, a nice, new replacement looked the way to go:

Also got a new piece made for the divider behind the cooker after a carelessly knocked chisel in an increasingly chaotic workshop took a Saturday lump out of the good surface of the one we’d planned to use (it wasn’t my day, was it?), and utilised some leftover mixed epoxy on minor repairs to the detached section of battery locker. And decided at some stage over the past week to build a cool box into the space behind the sink, which coincidentally turns out to be labelled ‘ice box’ in one of the original Impala brochure drawings but nowhere else I’m aware of:

Now I’d got a beat-up old cool box with Fly and somehow (perhaps because of that drawing?) misremembered it fitting there when the available shapes and access spaces just won’t take a commercial offering of much more than lunchbox size. So Twig suggested (just like the water tank) building one in to fit, and that’s what we’re planning to do. While it will extend to the hull sides, it won’t be as big as suggested by my red outline because the drawing shows the full width at deck level. And we’ll need to get the bottom above the waterline (which, with even minimum-weight boats heavier than designed and typically quoted in reviews, is further above the bunk tops than the Impala plans optimistically suggest) so it can drain to the galley water outlet for easy cleaning afloat, so I’ve been doing some careful checking from all available evidence there!

24 April 2018

Working after work

Filed under: Sailing — admin @ 8:19 pm

Nine days since my previous post, and seven of those at work (the day job), but does that restrict my boat work to weekends? Absolutely not now we’ve got lighter, more pleasant, pre-midge evenings, so just have to be disciplined about seeing through good intentions to do this or that when I get home…

What you see here is basically yet more stripping (photos of the battery locker, though I also still had woodwork to prepare in the forecabin and heads) followed by some priming (Saturday/last night) and the start of the varnishing (tonight). Twig was here on Sunday doing some more work on the galley, but I’ve no photos of that because it doesn’t look obviously different to last time.

It was only after I’d spent a good hour or two stripping paint from the inside of the battery locker that I realised the glue holding it to the boat had gone and there were just four screws stopping me taking it off to finish more easily:

The painted areas of forecabin and heads are primed where necessary but still need undercoat and gloss to finish:

And there’s a first coat of varnish on the companionway bulkhead facing. It doesn’t look great here because it’s satin finish and you’re seeing a mixture of still wet and shiny and starting to dry, but should be good when done:

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