Thursday, 3 December 2020

More Improvements During Winter Lay Up

 In my previous post I stated my forlorn hope that there may still be a chance of a few days sailing on Lake Windermere before the onset of winter! Sadly the weather continued to deteriorate throughout the autumn thwarting the possibility of another launch. During this laid up period, I have taken the opportunity of continuing to address the logged list of observations and problems that require attention. 

Whilst cruising the West Coast of Scotland, I noticed that when the boat rolled in a swell, the centre plate could be heard knocking against the sides of the centre board case which, also proved to be particularly annoying when moored. I was a little surprised and concerned that this was occurring and came to the conclusion that this may be an anomaly to the intended design characteristics.  I mulled over the problem for a considerable amount of time until I finally arrived at what I thought may be a potential conclusion. 

The 25 mm thick stainless steel centre plate has an anchor/pivot hole bored to provide a reasonable amount of clearance for the 20 mm diameter pin which, is housed in fibre epoxy bearings set in the sides of the upper part of the centre board case. The designed width of the case is determined by laminating two sheets of 15 mm plywood which form an integral part of the boat’s backbone. This thickness of plywood was not available in the UK, I therefore had to use18 mm the nearest thickness available, its use effectively increased the internal width of the case by 6 mm. It was my suspicion that therein lay the problem. 

My solution was to cut two pieces of 3 mm thick fibre reinforced sheet rubber to the exact profile of the upper part of the centre plate, these would then sit either side of the plate acting like two large spacer washers. Fitting proved to be a relatively straight forward job. Firstly in its horizontal position, I located the plate’s centre of gravity, I then provided in situ support with a jack before stabilising its position within the confines of the case with wooden wedges. During the build I had the foresight to fit stainless steel screw bungs either side of the pivot bearings to enable removal and maintenance. Following the pivot pin removal it was a straight forward manoeuvre of feeding in the rubber sheets from below, re insertion of the pin held the rubber spacers in position. 

Since the boat has now had its first season of use, carrying out this operation also provided me with the valuable opportunity of inspecting both the pin and the epoxy bearings, all were found to be in excellent condition showing no apparent signs of wear to any of the surfaces. Since the purchase of the plans I had always considered this area to be a potentially weak point in what overall is a great design, I had therefore made it my priority to undertake this inspection. The results have reassured my confidence in both the design and its construction. I was particularly pleased that the epoxy bearings showed no signs of stress or wear, I undertook their design and construction following consultation with Francois, primarily because I expressed my concern that the pin bearing surfaces being only in plywood might wear more rapidly, possibly allowing the ingress of water into the structure.

The sheet rubber spacers have been cut so as not to project
 below the level of the keel/centre board case.

During my voyages off the Scottish coast, I moored Bunty B at several marinas and as you might expect the pontoon heights varied considerably. On occasion I encountered the problem of having the all-important mid-ships fender tie in point, insufficient in height to allow the fender to protect the rubbing strip, on one occasion I even resorted to tying off a fender through the centre of the shroud turnbuckle which proved to be less than ideal, particularly due to the restricted amount of room in which to thread the line and tie a hitch. I pondered over this problem for some time, trying to source a method of fixing some sort of clamp to the wire shrouds, all it seemed to no avail, until eventually I solved the problem with a simple solution. I purchased two 8 mm bow shackles and ground out the inner clearance to enable them to pass over the turnbuckle jaws, I then simply discarded the clevis pins attaching the shrouds to the turnbuckles and attached the bow shackles passing the pin through the whole assembly.

The adapted bow shackles provide fixing for the shrouds
and a useful fender attachment point.

The cabin shelves above the quarter berths are well designed and indispensable, their usefulness knows no bounds, attracting a multitude of essential’s from smaller items through to books and binoculars, the downside is at times you can’t find the smaller items buried beneath the larger! Furthermore a rough passage distributes the overflowing contents across the cabin floor, more storage space is of the essence. 

Whilst sat in the boat contemplating this conundrum, I noticed that there’s a free void within the cabin where your head very rarely ventures, up under the coach roof aft against the companionway bulkhead. I therefore designed and constructed two small lockers, port and starboard, closed off with drop down doors. This proved to be a tricky little project owing to the geometry of the space. The finished result is both aesthetically appealing and provides a small but additional storage space which is nonetheless at a premium on such a small boat.

Wednesday, 7 October 2020

Voyages And Further Improvements

We had intended that 2020 would in part be spent exploring the sea's and the Hebridean Islands off the West coast of Scotland, but of course no one could have foreseen the circumstances in which we now find ourselves, this dreadful Covid-19 virus has robbed us all of our hopes and plans for the foreseeable future. It was with great disappointment that after all the hours of work spent building the boat over the past few years plus the growing expectations of enjoying the fruits of my labour, I was unable to fulfil those aspirations. However, as the year has progress and following the gradual easing of the restrictions, we have managed to achieve some time and enjoyment sailing the boat as and when the opportunities presented themselves.

The Lake District

During the latter part of July we spent a few days on Lake Windermere. Despite the inclement weather we did manage to sail the boat in a variety of conditions, this coupled with sleeping on board at various anchorages, gave me a valuable insight into how she might eventually handle, but also coincidentally created a list of items that would require attention or adjustment. Most notably, a bow fender as protection against the anchor chain chaffing the hull, a line to hold the tiller fast whilst moored, a shackle to shorten the anchor chain, a steel plate to reinforce the motor clamp point (cracking noticed) plus many more other minor items that will improve our experience whilst on board.

After tacking south for several miles, a dead run back up the lake gave me the opportunity of trying out the new Jib Pole that I had recently manufactured.

I have reinforced the motor clamping point with 5 mm thick marine grade 
stainless steel plate, bolted through the previously beefed up detail of the 
motor well. The pad locks attach a steel wire motor security lanyard.

North West Scotland

An opportunity for a single handed voyage presented itself during August, my wife and sister in-law booked a remote cottage in North West Scotland by the shores of Loch Teacuise. I decided to pay them a visit by sea, moor the boat in the Loch then spend a night or two on shore before sailing back. 

So on the 29th August I  launched Bunty B at Dunstaffnage Marina just a few miles north of Oban, and spent the night on board in a pontoon berth. Understandably I felt quite nervous at the prospect of a single handed voyage at sea at such an early stage in the use of the boat, but my determination that this would be a test of both myself and the vessel, would prove to be very valuable. The following day I had to resort to motoring the 26 nautical miles North West up the Sound of Mull, the wind was right on the nose and I needed to be in Tobermory on the Isle of Mull before the tide turned against me. The next day the wind was on my beam so I was able to sail across the Sound and up into Loch's Sunart and Teacuis. The entrances into both the outer and inner Loch Teacuis is narrow and tricky, littered with rocks, reef's, shallows and strong tidal streams. The local gamekeeper of the Rahoy Estate had kindly furnished me with navigational advice on how to safely negotiate these hazards, this along with my own passage planning using paper charts and the electronic chart plotter, meant that I safely entered the inner Loch within my planned time slot but in a strong headwind which, against the tide produced a choppy ride through the final narrows. 

For the remainder of the week the weather turned against me with winds of up to 40 knots which, basically pinned me down. The can do anything friendly gamekeeper Bill, offered to recover Bunty B from the Loch using the estate tractor to pull her up the stony beach, an offer which I gladly accepted, however I first had to travel back to Dunstaffnage Marina to recover the trailer, a journey that took most of the day including two crossings of the Corran Ferry. It proved to be a difficult manoeuvre getting the boat to line up with the trailer in the high winds, but after several attempts all ended well.

Moored at Tobermory Isle of Mull

Entering outer Loch 
Teacuis under motor to maintain steerage 
whilst navigating the hazards and strong tidal streams

Sailing on Loch Sunart

Inner Loch Teacuis with Bunty B moored in the left of the photograph

The single handed voyage provide me with many insights into the possibilities of making improvements. The two most notable improvements I have carried out as a result are:

When reefing the mainsail the boom drops down and sits on the transom, this I found really problematical with the sail filling the boat and spilling everywhere when trying to tie in the reef. I have therefore devised and constructed a system of lazy jacks suspended from a harness slung from the upper mast hound, this also serves as a topping lift. Two lines passing over two Tufnol cheek blocks mounted either side of the boom just forward of the reefing comb, provide adjustable support, when the boom is at an acceptable level you can simply secure the lines on the boom cleats.

The direction of pull from the jib furler proved to be unacceptable, slicing across the top of the coach roof when pulled. To solve this problem I have fitted a 16 mm Harken Anti Capsize block to the toe rail at a strategic position to provide a more directional pull. I have also replaced the furling line with 5 mm Marlow Excel Pro, I found that the smaller diameter rope was cutting into my hand when furling the sail and that this new line is much kinder on the hands. 

I also had issues with the position of the furling line cleat mounted on the starboard side  coaming. It's a stretch for me to keeping one hand on the tiller whilst cleating the line or  reversing the process, I have therefore resolved to fit an additional cleat at a more convenient location at some point in the future.

The 16mm Harken Anti Capsize Block provides an excellent 
solution to improve the directional pull to the jib furler.

A Return to Scotland 

Following a last minute decision due in part to a reasonable weather forecast, Monday 21st September dawned with us again undertaking the six hour drive back north to Scotlands West Coast's Dunstaffnage Marina, we had a potential nine days at our disposal for yet another voyage. Following the launch we berthed for the night at the pontoon. The forecast the following day was poor with continuous heavy rain, nonetheless we decided on a local day visit destination and ventured out for about two or three miles before turning back, we were soaked by the incessant rain and seas breaking over the bows. Thereafter the weather radically improved and we experienced glorious weather for several days, we cruised south down the Argyll coast calling in at Craobh Haven Marina (twice) and at Ardfern Yacht Centre. I had planned our passage to take us through Cuan sound which proved to be an exciting ride, we were accelerated by up to 10 knots by the tide racing through the narrow passage between the islands of Seil and Luing. Bound for Ardfern we also passed through Dorus Mor, another notable strong tidal stream, where once again we were accelerated through the eddies and whirl pools by the racing tide. 

We experienced an amazing cruise visiting friends, restaurants and pubs along the way, in spite of all the Covid-19 restrictions we still had a great time. We cruised a total of 75+ nautical miles, a mixture of sailing and motoring through beautiful scenery further enhanced by the interesting wild life, pods of porpoise jumping, rolling and playing were a common site,  and all manner of sea birds diving for fish, on our port bow an otter popped his head out above the water as we left Craobh, checking us out before diving back beneath the surface, I even managed to catch some mackerel on my fishing rod. 

So this has been a very brief season as the days grow shorter and the autumn weather begins to bite, and is more than likely our last trip to sea this year, although at least we did manage to get out and get something done. Is it too much to hope that there may still even be a chance of a few days on Lake Windermere before the onset of winter!

Bunty B moored at Craobh Haven Marina

A friend took this long shot as we sailed south past their house

Moored in Ardfern Yacht Centre

Ardfern and beyond to the south

Friday, 21 February 2020

Pre-season Additions

Following the test launch on Lake Windermere 2nd November 2019, a number of issues were logged, most of which were minor, however there were two observations that I considered required more immediate attention.

Whilst towing the boat there is a fair amount of bounce generated by the trailer which was particularly noticeable on the poorly maintained roads around the area in which I live. The mast is secured in a horizontal position on a forward cradle bolted to the tabernacle, this performed admirably whilst the aft end was supported by a crutch which vibrated out of position and worked itself loose requiring attention on several occasions during transit. I have overcome this problem by designing and constructing a solid cradle that sits on the cockpit seats, this in turn is held down fast by two turns of rope around the mast lashed down to deck eyes fitted to the Jib Sheet Cleat Blocks either side of the Coaming's. The mast is held securely into place by a cam strap passed through holes drilled either side of the cradle below the centre line of the mast to produce downward force when the strap is pulled tight.

Heavy leaden skies and rain dominated launch day which proved to be unpleasant but inadvertently useful. I noticed how slippery the painted cockpit seats were, I considered this to be a potential hazard for an inadvertent slip either into the boat or over the side! Following extensive research of the various possibilities for solving this problem, I decided on a custom built solution by creating four teak seat panels. I began by making two templates (reversible for opposite side), which gave a good visual indication of how they would look aesthetically, plus they gave me the opportunity of setting out the planking and making adjustments to the layout before committing to the cutting of any timber. I cut and laid up the teak on the templates before gluing with epoxy to the plywood seats and locker lids. Prior to gluing I had to remove the various layers of paint from the plywood to the exact profile of each panel to ensure a good bond. The result is very pleasing and provides an attractive non slip surface to both sit and stand on.

I have added two additional items of safety equipment, a Horseshoe Lifebuoy and a Safety Throw Line. Because of space constraints, I decided to mount both of these items on the top of the sliding hatch, this provides quick easy access and does not restrict movement around the boat or interfere with any other equipment or fittings. 

Also in the interests of safety and for the convenience of communications, I have enrolled myself onto a RYA / MCA Marine VHF Radio Short Range Certificate course with the exam scheduled for 29th March 2020. When I have completed the course and passed the exam I will apply for a ships radio license and a Maritime Mobile Service Identity number.

The Cockpit showing the four panels of teak planking to provide a comfortable non
 slip solution to the painted seats - the new re-designed aft mast support cradle.

An additional important note: In my post 11th November 2019, I alluded to the fact that I was unable to obtain insurance without a full out of water survey and valuation carried out by a suitably qualified marine surveyor. This has now been undertaken and I have a fully comprehensive report confirming the quality of the build and its seaworthiness. 

Monday, 11 November 2019

The Launch

Despite the fact that I have applied the utmost care, attention and accuracy throughout the build so therefore confident that every joint was perfectly fitted, glued and sealed, I was nonetheless slightly anxious about the transportation to nearby Lake Windermere and of course the launch itself. A cold damp Saturday morning 2nd November 2019 was chosen as judgement day with the family in attendance as helpers and spectators.

The first test was to confirm that my calculations were correct (or otherwise) in that I was actually able to negotiate the tight restricted access from our property to the public carriageway which, in the event passed without a hitch. A setting up period of two hours at the lakeside was longer than I had anticipated, although I expect that with practice I can improve on this and have already identified some areas where improvements can be made to speed things up. The actual launch and recovery on the concrete slipway was a lot easier than I had expected, once reversed into the lake she virtually floated off the trailer and I eased her off single handed. Any concerns that I had previously harboured about the whole process simply evaporated once she floated free, she sat in the water perfectly on her designed lines and looked a pretty picture. 

It was a dead calm autumn day with not a breath of wind so we were restricted to only using the motor, I rigged the sails but they were not hoisted being surplus to requirements. Nonetheless we cruised around the lake for a couple of hours with my granddaughters taking turns on the tiller. Everything worked and seemed spot on with no leaks or apparent faults. The recovery back onto the trailer was dead easy too. Following this day of testing I will lay her up for the winter and carry out a full public launch next spring with the benefit of longer daylight hours and the prospect of better weather.

The only issues I experienced were with the transportation. The aft mast support that I had designed and constructed did not perform as I had expected. Once mobile the trailer can generate some bounce which was particularly prevalent on the rough roads around the area in which I live, this in turn generated some movement of the support. I have since rectified this by discarding the prop and have constructed another to a completely new design.

Family members running behind as the journey down 
from the build site gets under way.

The negotiation of the first of several tight bends which in the event was quite easy. 
Further down it becomes more difficult culminating in the final bend where the 
track joins the public carriageway. I wanted to build a bigger boat but from this 
photograph you can see why I had to settle on this design!

Reversing down to the slipway was easy.
 Note the customised prop on the port side holding 
the trailer tail lights power plug clear of the water.

So to conclude this blog detailing the construction of Beniguet, there are a few things that I wished I had done differently.

·       In the event of having the opportunity to re-visit the build, I would have chosen not to have the plywood parts CNC cut, instead I would have preferred the option of purchasing the Architects patterns for the component parts and cut them for myself as and when required.

·        As I have previously mentioned, I regret using a modern sail cloth material, deviating from the Architects sail plan specification of using polyester of “clipper canvass”. This regret may or may not be unfounded or perhaps seem less important with the passage of time, only time will tell.

·       I am not happy with the scroll design I carved into the rubbing strips at the bow. I have decided to live with it for a while but may cut it out and change it in the future.

Other than that the project has been immensely engaging and enjoyable. The actual construction work consumed 2,717 hours plus many more hours of research and study. From the outset I have made it my business to fully understand every aspect of the design and build, in doing so the subsequent research has taught me so much.

An important note worth consideration; prior to leaving the build site before the launch, I tried to obtain insurance but to no avail. I was informed that because the boat is self-built, insurance companies would not offer terms. One company has suggested that I obtain a full out of water survey and valuation by a suitably qualified marine surveyor, an option I shall investigate further before taking her to sea.

Finally I have to convey my thanks and admiration to Francois Vivier. His plans are superb and extremely accurate, nearly all my queries were answered by simply studying the drawings, on the rare occasions that I needed additional advice, he always replied answering my enquiry fully and without hesitation. 

I plan to continue this blog as the voyages and adventures of Bunty B as they unfold over the forthcoming years.

Thank you for taking the time to read this blog and hope that you have found it both informative and entertaining.


Monday, 14 October 2019

Centre Plate (the final job before launch)

Of all the many materials and fittings required to build this boat, I did not for one minute expect that the supply of the centre plate would be a problem, I contacted several companies inviting them to submit a quotation and received a very mixed response. It seemed that they could supply the plate cut to profile but were unable or unwilling to drill the holes or machine the edges, some never even bothered to reply. To obtain a quote for the machining was a real challenge, citing excuses about handling the weight or just submitting a silly price to make me go away, no one really wanted the job. Out of frustration I decided that I would undertake the drilling and machining myself and placed an order with the most accommodating company to have the 25 mm thick 316 grade stainless steel plate cut by laser to a DXF file supplied by the architect. When I turned up to collect, it was loaded into the back of my pickup with a fork lift.

The plate is very heavy at around 100 kg and I was handling it by myself, I therefore decided to keep it low down to the floor on a pallet and blocks then take my bench pillar drill to the plate. I created the rounded profile on the forward edge by grinding with an angle grinder fitted with a ceramic grinding disc. The chamfer on the aft edge I machined using a milling machine in a friend’s workshop, I blended in the end of the chamfer again using the angle grinder. The centre board case is very tight, prompting a concern that the shackles connecting the blocks might chafe the sides of the case and cause wear, allowing possible water ingress into the plywood. I therefore decided to machine a 5 mm rebate either side of the plate around the anchor points to compensate for some of the thickness of the fittings, I then used Allen key shackles as opposed to the conventional type to further increase the clearance.

Set up for drilling on the barn floor

Clamped down on the milling machine bed ready to machine the chamfer

The machined rebate to minimise the projection of the shackles

The finished article ready for installation

Installing the plate into the boat proved to be a challenging operation. It became apparent that the whole assembly would not feed in from above so it had to go in from beneath. The boat had to be moved back on the trailer cradles to give clear access to the centre plate case which was partly obscured by the beam axle of the trailer, I then jacked up the boat as high as possible from a position just aft of the case opening. The plate was slid under the boat on timber battens then reared vertically on its edge whilst attaching the hoisting blocks, shackles and line. I then raised the plate into the case hauling on the installed tackle plus an additional lifting rope passed through the pre-drilled handling hole, lining up and inserting the pivot pin proved to be easy, an unexpected bonus. Because of the extended clearance between the keel and the ground, I was then able to carry out a test run lowering and raising the plate to check that everything was in line and working as intended.

All that remains is to cap and seal the centre plate case, carry out some further improvements to the rigging and she’s ready for launch. 

Monday, 7 October 2019

Sails and Rigging

Because of headroom constraints I have previously been unable to raise the mast, but now since moving the boat outside and after much anticipation, the time has come. The standing rig is simple, comprising of a fore-stay and two shrouds which I have had made up to Francois drawing. Raising the mast was easy and quick, with one lifting from a position standing in the cockpit and another pulling forward on the fore-stay. Only small adjustments were required to get the whole assembly set firm and true. Now she really looks like a sailing boat.

In addition to the mainsail, the sail plan gives the option of two jib sizes and a balloon jib cut as an asymmetric spinnaker. Initially I have decided to have the larger of the jibs made but thought that perhaps have the spinnaker made at a later date. I chose a local recommended sail-maker of many year’s experience. Throughout this blog I have endeavoured to be completely open and honest regarding thought process and construction decisions. Regretfully I have to report that following my discussions regarding the making of the sails, I allowed myself to be convinced  by the sail-maker to deviate from the plan and use a modern sail cloth instead of the recommended ‘clipper canvas’. I now fear that I may have made a mistake, perhaps after the passage of time this regret may prove to be unfounded, either way I will inform of how I eventually feel about this and their performance. The sail-maker also made the berth cushions at the same time.

The mainsail laid out in the sail loft

There is a surprising amount of work in making up halyards, sheets, reefing pennants etc. plus the fitting out of hardware. During one calm day, I hoisted the sails to enable me to iron out any problems and improve the rig before hitting the water, this proved to be an exciting moment. I have gone for the option of a furling jib using a traditional Wykeham- Martin furler which runs beautifully. When hoisted I noticed that the fore-stay did not run parallel to the jib luff narrowing towards the head. Whilst this did not interfere with the jib when furling, I decided to rectify this detail by designing a shaped hardwood spacer block fitted to the fore face of the mast head, just below where the fore-stay loop pulls against the cleat on the aft face of the mast. 

When raising the mast from horizontal, there was a tendency for the top loop of the fore-stay to jump from its locating cleat on the aft face before hoisting tension could be applied, I therefore solved this by designing and making a stainless steel retaining cap to hold the loop into the shaped profile groove of the spacer block, this has negligible visual effect and has proved to be an effective solution.

The mast head spacer block showing the stainless steel retaining cap

Preparing to raise the mainsail for the first time

For some time I mulled over the problem of how to transport the mast, spars and sails to minimise the set up time for regular launching. I arrived at the conclusion that all rigging should remain fixed to the mast and secured along its length using cam straps to prevent slapping and movement whilst towing, this will allow for a quick and simple erection with only three shackles to secure the shrouds and fore-stay. To support the mast horizontally on the boat, I designed and constructed a cradle which attaches to the aft face of the tabernacle by bolts and wing nuts, a gallows frame set aft on the cockpit floor supports the mast towards its head and straps hold the mast assembly securely in place. The boom and gaff remain attached to the main sail which is flaked over the boom and enclosed securely by a purpose made sail coat. This will be transported by removing the bottom panel of the companion way to allow the whole assembly to span between the cabin and the cockpit. The jib is simply furled and stowed in a purpose made bag. At the end of the season I will remove the sails and stow away for the winter folded into sail bags. I have also constructed a gallows frame to provide support when attaching the boom goose neck to the mast band.

I began this blog by giving a brief outline of my background and introduced my father who instilled in us the pleasure of boating. During the Second World War he served in the RAF for four years in Egypt and during his down time as a detraction from the carnage being undertaken at that time, he sailed his small wooden boat by the name of Bunty. I had always intended to call this boat by the same name and had initially referred to it as Bunty II; however I never really connected with the idea of using a two after the name. During a stroll on a local beach at low tide, I noticed a boat called Sheila B and immediately had a light bulb moment and thought that’s it, assuming my dad’s boat as Bunty A, I will call mine Bunty B, a much nicer name with the added attraction of tripping of the tongue.