Petestack Blog

12 August 2018

Jigsaw pieces

Filed under: Sailing — admin @ 10:24 am

Having got about as far I can with on-boat work till I can check everything with Twig, I’ve been turning my attention to some of the removable pieces stored in my workshop. So now reporting progress with the chart table and forecabin bunk boards, and it does feel like the pieces of the jigsaw are starting to come together even if there are plenty more (battery box, heads door, pilot berth sections, saloon floor, headlining panels etc.) still to ‘fit’.

When we tested the folding chart table (first photo) for fit between original main bulkhead and replacement nav. station bulkhead, we discovered that it had never sat right. It folded up parallel with both, but folded down (to use) so far out of parallel with the main bulkhead that Twig couldn’t stand it any more than me! But we couldn’t rehang it straight with the existing lugs because the boat geometry just didn’t allow it, so had to drill a new pivot hole in the main bulkhead and adjust the pivot points on the chart table lugs. Now it folds up straight and folds down straight, but it took the best part of an afternoon months back to get this right, and I’ve just caught up on the associated lug surgery (see the two pieces I’ve cut off) and varnish stripping. We’ve also discussed adding fiddles to the lid and fixing a teak strip to the main bulkhead to support the forward end of the table when it’s down so it can hang on one (aft) cord instead of two, and I’ll need to replace the horrid little hooks and eyes that held the chart table shut after having to file the heads off almost slotless steel screws to get the catches off for varnish preparation.

I wasn’t planning to strip the forecabin bunk tops (second photo) back to bare wood, but the paintwork was in such poor condition over large areas that it quickly became a no-brainer. I’d already got the smallest one sanded (retaining much of the paint) for repainting before the middle one changed my mind, but it really wasn’t a lot more effort to strip them all completely despite finishing off three old nylon flap brushes and two-and-a-half new ones in a mere six hours or so! So now considering varnishing or resin-coating instead of repainting because (while not perfect) I think they’ve come up well enough for either.

In other news, the new hose for the pressure washer came yesterday and I’d better order some more flap brushes for jobs yet to be done. I’ve also gone through c.40 dust masks in 13 months (so c.40 days of paint or varnish stripping) and am well on the way to killing a third 240V drill with last summer seeing off both my old Black & Decker and the locally-bought Einhell (all I could get) that lasted just days, and the bearings on their basic Makita replacement undoubtedly the worse for wear now after so much work since. Hopefully that one will see out any remaining stripping jobs, but I guess they’re just not designed for constant sideways pressure!

8 August 2018

Cavernous hellholes of peeling paint

Filed under: Sailing — admin @ 10:43 pm

No more!

You have to read that with the title because, one week and approximately 41 hours of work after I described Fly’s cockpit lockers as ‘cavernous hellholes of peeling paint on dirt on paint on dirt still awaiting a good clean back’, they’re just about ready (bar some minor filling etc.) to recoat with something more practically durable. Some surprises along the way, not least discovering that the plywood bulkhead we’d decided to strip to resin-coat appears to have had a very thin coat of resin (now gone) under the paint all along. But it’s a moot point when the paintwork was both terrible and not coming off without it… perhaps I might with hindsight have considered trying to sand and repaint that part without going right through, but then I’d never have found out and it’ll do no harm to treat it again our style. Also still planning to tidy up the wee bit of paint on the bulkhead up beneath the centre locker (ex-outboard well) floor before coating, but think that’ll be quick and painless enough when I work out how…

You might also notice a pretty cursory attempt to clean the surrounding deck area for the photographs, which was never going to be thorough just now but became even less so when the pressure washer hose burst and I had to order another one. Not that it’s easy to do some bits (e.g. the side decks a bit further forward) with my temporary roof in place anyway!

2 August 2018

What I’ve learned about nylon brushes

Filed under: Sailing,Uncategorized — admin @ 9:41 pm

Last year, when I started stripping that infernal flaking paint from Fly’s internal hull surfaces, I quickly settled on a electric drill with (mostly) nylon brushes for the job. And equally quickly discovered that some of the most useful looking ones were effectively useless! Nylon cup and pencil (aka end) brushes just melt out in no time, especially if you angle them and/or raise the speed at all (NB all brushes are being used within their recommended speed range because my drill’s not capable of turning faster). Flap wheels aren’t man enough for most paint-stripping jobs although I’ve come back to them for varnish, of which more anon. So my staple has been 4″ orange (coarse) wheels, which have been great on glassfibre but need (even) more care on wood. And I thought I’d learned everything there was to know about orange nylon wheel brushes till something I wrote just days ago proved I hadn’t. I prefer to use them perpendicular to the surface being stripped because they last much longer if you do, but found myself angling them to take the old glue and paint from the forecabin deckhead, then had to keep them angled to avoid grooving the resin. But today I discovered that this grooving is caused not by using the brushes perpendicular (which I’ve done successfully many times) or carelessness (when I’m really pretty careful), but by using them perpendicular after they’ve been reshaped (bevelled) by using them at an angle. And trying to reshape them by angling the opposite way just compounds the problem. So I had a brainwave and trimmed the offending strands back perpendicular with some snips, and all was sweetness and light again. Or perhaps not, because eight hours of non-stop paint stripping can never be described as sweetness and light!

So what of those flap wheels, of which ‘more anon’? Well, I’d been using the blue (fine) wheel brushes for stripping varnish off wood, for which they’re excellent if fast-wearing where the orange ones are really too abrasive, but the blue wheels more than doubled in price overnight while I had several sitting in my Amazon basket waiting to buy and never came back down, with similar apparently permanent increases everywhere else. And, while I was prepared to write off a blue brush in a morning’s work* at less than £6 each, I’m just not tempted at nearly £15! So here was me stumped when I’d been depending on piles of them to make a good job of the wooden surfaces of which I still have plenty to do. But then I remembered the hitherto rejected ‘puny’ orange flap wheels, and have since found them nearly as good (can be used with similar impunity!) as the blue wheels for the job.

*They don’t wear down in that time, but the strands quickly start splaying out to a broader edge that doesn’t strip the varnish so cleanly and easily.

Anyway, enough of that! What have I been doing with orange wheels today?

What you see in the first three photos is what you can do to a cockpit locker if you work non-stop for about eight hours. It’s not finished, but getting there. I was originally planning to try knocking off just the really loose paint (see final pic of port locker for the state of these things!), but soon discovered there’s really no satisfactory halfway house. The wooden bulkhead is to be epoxy-coated like so much else I’ve stripped of dying paintwork, and probably the whole lockers too now. And, yes, the outside of the boat’s filthy even though I cleaned it again last year before building the Noah’s Ark roof over the main hatch!

Nylon brush summary from one year and hundreds of hours use:

  • Orange wheels are the most useful overall as well as the most robust, but too abrasive for some softer surfaces and can be compromised by using at an angle. Also impossible to use in narrow spaces and/or where flat surfaces meet at acute angles (obtuse angles are fine).
  • Blue wheels are excellent for stripping varnish from wood, but currently unattractively expensive.
  • Orange flap wheels are a useful substitute for blue wheels at a saner price.
  • Cup or pencil/end brushes of any colour are wasted money when you can destroy them in five minutes.

1 August 2018

Cockpit locker false floor

Filed under: Sailing — admin @ 5:09 pm

So what can I tell you about Fly’s cockpit lockers? In 26 words, cavernous hellholes of peeling paint on dirt on paint on dirt still awaiting a good clean back and not seen at their worst in these photos! Today I cut out the starboard locker’s plywood false floor identified last October as rotten, non-structural and surplus to requirements since we installed the inboard and haven’t needed a level base for a petrol tank in there since 2001. There’s one little corner to tidy up in the angle between side wall and cockpit bulkhead, but really a pretty clean job when I’d expected some minor glasswork to be necessary somewhere.

Note the slight bulge below the drain tube in the first two photos but gone in the last, which had no port-side counterpart and turned out to be holding a vertical piece of ply to support the false floor where the front of the central locker (ex-outboard well) angles up to meet the bulkhead.

31 July 2018

Main hatch

Filed under: Sailing — admin @ 6:56 pm

Should have photographed this main hatch while it still had strips of soft lining and polystyrene backing hanging from it, but didn’t think of it. Stripping the old lining and glue from it would be so easy with the hatch off the boat, but it’s held captive by fitted teak rails that would be a major faff to remove and refit, so done in situ. Managed to get most of the dead liner out of the sides with a ‘tool’ I made for the job, but there are still a couple of stubborn wee strips I’d like to lose and a smidgen of glue to clean from the corners when I work out how. Think the new stuff will probably go on as a flat square and not down the sides, so just need a good key for the edges where access is tricky between hatch and surround…

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:

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