Thursday, May 28, 2009

Day Three Dinghy

Well it is the end of day three. The plans say that I would have spent three hours on the build till now and I am on three days. I am busy with other stuff though; Honest! Remember I have very few tools, so what resembles a flat pack boat above, is the culmination of lots of hand sanding as the jigsaw I used produced very wobbly lines!

Apart from having most of the sections sanded and marked out, I am making the daggerboard case. This is crucial before assembly of the boat as I will need to cut out a central sections from the middle thwart. In order to retain the sahpe of the hull this is done by partly cutting a space leaving tabs that can be cut at a later stage when installing the centreboard case.

Top photo shows the storm drain I am suring as a cutting surface; this is a very basic build and as I am not here for long, don't want to invest in tools.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Day Two of Dinghy Build

All the panels are cut out now, but as I have no power tools I am hand sanding all the edges and this will take me a day. The times in the plans are highly ambtious. 1 hour to cut out all the shapes is seriosuly ambitious. Anyway, we are forging ahead.

My only realy worry is that a friend donated an Acorn dinghy lug sail for the build as there are no sail makers in El Salvador. This sail is aroudn 50% larger in size than the design spec and as result I have worked out the the COE will be too far forward with this sail. The foot is 7ft long and the dinghy is only 7' 8" long! So trying to work whether I should build the daggerboard case a little bit more forward of its design position. Maybe add a bumpkin. I have decided on a deeper daggerboard and a deeper skeg too - the skeg is really small on the plans anyway. All these things should help her stand-up to her sail better.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Last Voyage of Lucette

Just finished reading the “The Last Voyage of Lucette”.
I have always been interested in reading this books it chronicles the voyages of Norman Dallimore’s first gaff schooner design. Designed in 1920 Lucette was cruised to the Baltic and her Amercian Skipper wrote a book about the voyage. It was quite a pioneering voyage for the times; up there with Falcon, Dusmarie and Recundra.

She was found by the Robertson Family in Malta in 1970 and brought back to the UK specifically to fit out for an around the world Cruise which started in 1971.

Lucette, under her Robertson stewardship, sails across the Atlantic via Lisbon and the Canaries, Caribbean, Panama and then Galapagos. On day three of there departure from the Galapagos they were hole after an attack by a pod of killer whales and the 45ft schooner went down in under a minute. They managed to launch the life raft and the dinghy, which is just as well as after 17 days in the life raft they needed to abandon it. The floor came away from the edges. The six of them transferred to a 9ft cockleshell fibreglass dinghy and lives aboard that for a further 21 days. They were picked up 300 south of Costa Rica on the shipping track to the Panama canal from North America. Quite an amazing feat of survival. All the more poignant for me as I know the coastline and weather well around these parts, and the fact that they managed to survive the sun alone beggars belief.

It is a good book, but I can’t really distinguish who has written it. Although the Author is said to be Douglas Robertson, the text appears to be very much from the perspective of Dougal (the father). He has written a previous book called “Survive the Savage Sea” and some of the text from this is used in Douglas’ book, although how much it is hard to tell. The fact is that the family dynamic is very interesting. A very authoritarian father and skipper, who has spouts of violent rage on quiet a regular basis. The sort of skipper that I would imagine could endanger a ship in his own right! Interesting to read just to get a feel of how other sailing families work.
As far as the sinking is concerned, it is clear that their life raft was really not upto the job (It would be interesting to see what make it was). The fact remains, that the best way of surviving in remote parts of the world are to have means to sailing to shipping lane, some cover from the sun, a fishing kit, a means of collecting and storing water, some flares and a knife (not the life raft sort – one needs an open blade). Quite sobering really. I would also say that they would have fared better with a pre-prepared grab bag containing some essentials. Also, In this case a Claude Worth recommendation: a pre-prepared wooden frame over which some canvas is stretched, with copper nails readily attached, would have helped them quite a bit in stemming the ingress of water I would imagine. An abandon ship routine should have been practiced – and they recommend that themselves.

I don’t have space for a decent rigid dinghy aboard Roach, but I have to say that reading this book has made me really think what I would do in such a disaster. I will certainly make a grab bag of things I think necessary, and will also make a Claude Worth canvas frame just in case. Can’t afford a liferaft at present, but for longer passages I think it is worth getting one! If I had a bigger yacht, I would certainly get a rigid dinghy that had sailing rig, some sort of cover, compass, all ready stowed to go incase of emergency.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Day One of New Dinghy

Interpreting the plans
Lofting the dinghy on the floor. I managed to survive a sustained attack from mosquitos.

Look how damp the paper is! Here I am roughly marking out the nesting of the shapes to make best use of the plywood.

Well have started on my little pram dinghy here in ES. Day one of the build was spent running around town looking for the plywood. In the end, I found some Cedar ply, which is much better than the shuttering ply, but at $35 a sheet it ait cheap specially as it aint WBP – the hull will be encapsulated anyway so I am not worried. The dinghy should be made from 3 and ½ sheets of ply, but as they don’t do half sheets here we are talking 4 sheets.

Yesterday I managed to loft ¾ of the build onto the plywood. Well the plans don’t call it lofting, it is more like tracing, but as it is very damp in the rainy season here, and the fact that paper can expand by as much a 2% I decided I would loft the larger sections to avoid dimensional problems.

Having had a look at the lofted plywood sheets carefully I have decided against moving the dagger board case. The boat is simply too small to start making changes like that. I will make a simple false seat in mahogany that will hinge over the top the of the existing thwart, thus allowing a dry bum. Other modifications will include a wheel on the base of the skeg for moving it around, and I quite like the idea of making two holes in the bow in order to slot the oars in to make it a bit of a barrowboat. I will also redesign the daggerboard to make it much deeper given the extra 20sq ft of sail area of an acorn lug sail that I brought out with me.

The 20 hours suggested build time looks very ambitious to me. I already spent 3 hours lofting when the plans suggested only 1 hour. I am not worried though, we should speed up as soon as we have something resembling a boat.

Costs are slowly creeping up. Even on a budget, it is hard building a budget boat. The epoxy was $160, the ply $100, fittings and stuff brought from the UK a further $100. The plans were $50 and another $50 to make a set of copies on a architectural plotter. So we are at about $500 already – and have nothing the resembles a boat yet. The $1,000 Walker Bay dinghy that was for sale in Guatemala looks like a very good deal now – nevermind. It does not have the same sense of satisfaction as building ones own!

Thursday, May 21, 2009

The CQR - a Great British Design Classic

I have to admit that until now Roach has only had an poor imitation CQR anchor - I have been scouring the country for a 20lb second hand one for ages; eventually one came up for sale and I snapped it up. I am very happy!
Many people were saying that I should have gone for one of these new fangled anchors with roll bars, sharpened tips and day-glow yellow reflector stickers on them; I rightly and strongly resisted.
The CQR is a Great British Classic Design, designed in 1933 by Sir Geoffrey Ingram Taylor who tested it at the Felixtsowe Flying Boat station. The design was so innovative in under halving the weight per power ratio of traditional anchors that it was widley adpoted by yachts; small ones in particular, due to its hinged shank and therefore ease of stowage. Flying boats adopted the used the anchor becuase of its small pack size and low weight. But it was effective in larger sizes too, and was the anchor used to secure the Mulberry floating harbour during the D-Day landings. I strongly believe that all "new age" anchor designers are very much endebted to the CQR design.
So I have a 1948 yacht with a 1930's anchor. A combination I am proud of. I am also proud of using the enchor in the same cruising grounds that Sir Geoffrey sailed. I have never dragged even on the imitation, so my original one should perform better, and if it does not, well there is the famous lifetime service guarantee, which few "new age" anchor manufacturers dare to offer.

Monday, May 11, 2009

A Few Pictures of El Salvador

Boats are really expensive in this part the world. This one was up for sale for $10,000 and has not been used in ten years!

A friend has kindly donated a lug sail to the dinghy project. This has been a huge relief as there are NO sail makers in El Salvador. A really nice sail designed for an Acorn dinghy; but now I have the sail I can make the spars to match. This is reverse boat-building!

A Mahogony table top for a table I am making for my Mum. Not the best Mahog, but at 3" thick and at $60 negotiated final price, I am not complaining.

Lake Ilopango, where I hope to sail my new dinghy is a lovely lake around 30mins drive from the capital. These yachts are the ONLY two yachts in the whole lake. Poeple prefer power boats.

The J-24 some chap wanted to sell to me for $14,000. I would have been tempted had it been a cruiser, as a dream of mine is to sail to the Galapagos. It is around a week's sailing due South from here. I dont think a J-24 is an ideal single-handed cruiser though, and at $14,000 with no engine she is very dear. Atleast I know what 24' of plastic looks like, and I would prefer to be in Roach in bad weather anyday!

Friday, May 08, 2009

A new dinghy in order to go mangrove sailing

Well due to a family medical emergency I will be based in El Salvador in Central America for the next few months. I very much doubt that Roach will get launched this year but in an attempt to get some sailing in, I have decided to take the rather challenging step of building a dinghy whilst I am out there. At least I can get afloat.

There are two areas I would like to explore. The bay of Jiquilisco, which is a massive river system with mangroved banks and islands. The only marina in Salvador is based there. Then there is the Golfo de Fonseca, which is a lovely bay toward the South of the island where the Rio Lempa has an estuary. There are several islands in the bay, and I might add, where Honduras, El Salvador and Niquaragua have claims. Lastly there is also the Ilopango crater lake which I would like to sail on.

Anyway, the dinghy will be simple as it needs to be built quickly. The plans I eventually chose are the P7/8 in the pciture above gives an idea.

The advantage of the this dinghy is that it is car toppable on my own, can be made from single sheets of 8x4 ply (with no butt joints), has a simple unstayed lug rig and is small enough to encapsulate in epoxy completely to make up for poorer quality plywood. It also means that with the plans I can make another one back in the UK as tender and sell the one I am making as tender in ES too.

So for the next few months, you will hopefully see some progress on the challenges and rewards of making a dinghy in developing country. If you’re lucky there might be a few adventure to recount too!