Category Archives: Projects

Boat projects

End to End Issues

One of the projects we had set aside for New Bern was to  move the stern light.  The original position was on the pushpit just to port of the stern walk through.

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This was fine until you lifted the dinghy up in the davits.  The dinghy ended up at the exact height of the light and this caused 2 problems; the light could not be seen by other ships at night and the reflected light ruined night vision in the cockpit.

After some consideration, I decided to move the light above the bimini, where the flag pole was mounted.  It came out of the solar panel supporting framework.  I would cut the flag pole and attach some angled stainless plate to act as a light shield so that the light would not hit any equipment that hung off the back of the boat.  After cutting the flag pole, I cut out some cardboard, folded it and attached it to the pole.  With the light temporarily affixed I was able to shape the cardboard to ensure that no light hit the boat and it could still be seen by other boats even when we were heeled over.  I found a guy called the GrillMan who custom makes grills so I got out the bike and make the 17 mile round trip to see him.  I provided the flag pole stub and the cardboard and he told me it would take a week to make.

While the piece was being fabricated I pulled the old wiring out of the pushpit tubing and ran new cable from the breaker panel, through the pushpit tubing and up the outside of the solar panel framework to the lights new position.  For the return trip to pick up the new mount I borrowed a friends car, luckily we have good friends where this is sometimes an option 🙂

The pictures below show the final installation.

Now for the other end of the boat 😦

While Debbie was polishing the stainless she noticed that one of the bolts that held the bowsprit on was missing its head.  After inspection it was obvious that crevice corrosion had caused it to fail and fall off.  I decided to replace all six bolts that held on the bowsprit just to be safe.  I had to replace the bolts one at a time as the standing rigging was still fully tensioned.  Debbie’s keen eyesight had possibly saved the day as 4 of the 6 bolts had crevice corrosion that was so bad that the bold heads snapped off with almost no effort while trying to loosen them.

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crevice corrosion on 4 of the 6 bolts

Now I became concerned about the bobstay attachment fitting on the bow just above the waterline as the same bolts were used there. The bobstay is a part of the rigging which counteracts the upward tension on the bowsprit from the jib and forestay.

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bobstay attachment fitting with bobstay rod going up to the bowsprit

I slackened off the backstays and forestay so that there was no tension on the bobstay and then removed fitting.  Three of the four bolts that held it on were in good condition and the fourth had a small amount of crevice corrosion but not enough to be of any real concern.

new-bern2-001

I bought all new bolts and washers just to be safe.  I then cleaned up the bow to remove all old sealant and check the fiberglass was all OK.

While polishing the bobstay attachment fitting prior to refitting, I noticed that there was stress cracking around the tang which the bobstay attached to.

As I could not tell how long it would be till this sort of issue caused a failure I decided to replace the fitting.  It is not an of the shelf item and therefore I cycled back to see Chris at GrillMan to get a new one fabricated.  To ensure it would not happen again, I decided to beef up the specifications.  I went from a 1/8″ thickness backing plate to a 1/4″ plate.  I also up-sized the tang from 3/8″ to 1/2″ thickness.  The end of the bobstay rod had space to allow the thicker tang.

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old fitting showing available space

Chris had the new fitting made in three days so bike ride number three was undertaken.  The old and new fitting can be seen side by side as a comparison.

It was then time to reinstall the new fitting.  It was through bolted to the hull.  Just to make the task that much more enjoyable, the space behind the hull is the holding tank for the forward head… yaay!!!  I had to reach down through a 4″ inspection hatch to get to the nuts at the back of the fitting at the bottom of the tank.  This involved getting my arm in the tank up to my armpit.  I volunteered to hold the wrench on the bolt heads on the outside but Debbie suggested that if I wanted her help I might want to let her take on that role.

After liberally applying sealant to all the bolts the job went relatively smoothly.  Now we have all new fasteners supporting the rigging at the front of the boat and a little more peace of mind.

Galley Sink Overhaul

After 22 years the galley sink was starting to look a little long in the tooth.  The fixtures were out of date and looking ragged.  Beyond that were the following issues…

  • the hole that was used for a pull out spray head for the faucet was now being used for the water maker sampling spout. This meant that the pull out spout, which we never used, now lay on the shelf under the sink
  • the tubing that connected the Qest water supply pipes to the faucet consisted of several pieces of tubing a lots of pipe clamps which was unsightly and invited the possibility of leaks
  • there was a small leak around the sink’s seal to the galley surface which allowed water into the cupboard below if the counter around the sink got too wet
  • the sanitation drain hose from the 2 sink bowls had a low spot which allowed gray water to partially block the line from time to time
  • the “plumbing” fittings from the sink drains to the sanitation hose were over complicated and took up valuable space in the cupboard below the sinks

For these reasons I decided to over haul the sink area.  I would alleviate all the issues listed above as follows…

  • a new faucet would bring the look up-to-date and remove the pull out spray head
  • proper Qest fittings would clean up the connections to the new faucet supply lines
  • remove the sinks and reseal with 4200
  • remove 4 inches of sanitation hose and move the cupboard penetrations to remove the low spot
  • change out the drains for Scandvik low profile drains with right angled drains

The work took about a day with the time required to wait for the fast cure 4200 to setup.  The before and after pictures can be seen below.

The only outstanding work to do is to epoxy the plugs that were drilled out of the cupboard penetrations into the old holes.  I will do this once the surfaces have fully dried out.

 

Water, water everywhere…

As our Caliber 40 was one of the models built before the Caliber 40 LRC (Long Range Cruiser), it does not have the tankage that the newer model does.  This means that from the factory it came with a 60 gallons diesel tank and 150 gallons for water (in one 80 gallon and one 70 gallon tank). We wanted to get more range for diesel and so had the intention of converting one of the water tanks to diesel and installing a water maker to supply the one remaining water tank.

The closest water tank to the engine was the 80 gallon tank, so once completed we would have 140 gallons of diesel and 70 gallons of water with the ability to top up the water tank from the water maker whenever underway in clean salt water.

As we are no planning a crossing till next year we don’t really need the larger diesel capacity at this point.  Last year some friends of ours from TMCA, Chris and Jerry, won a Spectra Ventura 150 Deluxe water maker at the Southwest International Boat Show in Kemah.  They had no use for the package and so we agreed on a good price for all parties and had the unit we were looking for.  It took 7 months before I got around to carrying out the installation due to other pressing projects.

First was the planning.  I had to work out where to put all the pieces.  The package is a modular design and so you have some latitude with where everything goes.  The major parts are…

  1. Clark pump (pressure intensifier used to force the salt water through the reverse osmosis membrane)
  2. feed pump module (Shurflo pump and fresh water flush filter)
  3. accumulator
  4. sea strainer (used to remove large items from the seawater supply)
  5. 5 micron pre-filter (to remove all other solids)
  6. product sampling valve (used to divert product water for testing  before sending it to your tanks)
  7. gauge board (flow and pressure readings for the water maker)

The noisiest component would be the feed pump module so I wanted to place that where it would disturb us the least.  Almost all parts could be possible sources of leaks and so would have to be placed in a part of the boat that could drain to the bilge.  After much back and forth I decided to place all the major components in the lazarette.  The Clark pump would go on the existing shelf just outboard of the lazarette hatch.  The feed pump module would go on the forward wall next to the shelf.  The sea strainer would go below the feed pump module and the gauge board would be mounted above the breaker panel at the nav table.  This would put the connectors to the gauge panel in the lazarette just above the Clark pump.  I would run the product piping from the lazarette, down beside the engine and up under the sink where it would connect to the sample valve.  From there the product piping would go to a spout next to the sink and forwards to the 1 water tank.

The galley already had a pull up hose attached to the faucet which we never use.  I therefore removed that and used the existing hole for the new product sampling spout.  This would allow us to run the water maker and drain the sample product directly into the sink until the water quality was good enough to divert to the water tank.

This proposed design did pose problems… naturally.  First was that the inverter/charger used for shore power hung directly below the shelf I wanted to install the Clark pump on.  If there were any leaks, and water reached the inverter/charger, this could cause a dangerous situation.  I therefore painted the shelf with several coats of bilgecoat to seal the shelf surface.  I also used butyl tape to seal any penetrations used to bolt the Clark pump to the shelf.  There is a drain hole at the corner of the shelf, far from the inverter/charger and so this, along with the other measures, would hopefully suffice.

IMG_0693

Clark pump installed on the lazarette shelf

The thru hull used to pull in sea water should be mounted as close to the centerline of the boat to ensure that it can pull water no matter how far over the boat is heeled.  The best place to drill this hole was under the cupboard lid in the lazarette.  There was an existing hole in the cupboard roof which I could use to run the hose from the thru hull to the sea strainer.

The Shurflo pump is mounted to the pump module with rubber vibration dampeners but is still quite a loud pump.  I therefore added rubber dampeners to the module when attaching it to the wall to reduce the amount of vibration as much as possible.

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Pump module mounted on the lazarette forward wall

The fresh water flush is used to flood the Clark pump with fresh water after water production.  This educes the possibility of bacterial growth between runs.  This requires a fresh water supply to fed the charcoal filter used in the process.  I tied into the Quest piping that supplies the swim platform shower.  I brought this under the shelf  to the filter.  That can be seen in the left of the picture above.

The hose from the sea strainer to the feed pump is attached with plastic fittings.  As I knew there would be heavy items in the lazarette, which would shift around during heavy seas, I fashioned a cage around those parts to protect them.

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protective cage between sea strainer and pump module

The hose coming out of the feed pump leads under the shelf to the pre-filter which is attached to the aft end of the shelf right next to the accumulator.  From there the hose goes to the gauge panel and Clark pump.

 

I attached the product sampling valve off to the side of the door for the cupboard under the sinks.

To get the water into the tank, I drilled and tapped the inspection plate in the roof of the tank and added a quick connect fitting so it could be unattached at any time

watermaker 018

As I had the inspection plate of the tank off,  I also removed the plate from the other tank and pressure washed both tanks to remove a few years of “gunk”.  I dried out the second tank so it would be ready when it was time to plumb it for diesel.

I bought one other item to improve the water maker.  Spectra sells a Z±ion filter.  This will stream silver ions into the water supply when flushing the unit after use.  These silver ions inhibit the growth of bacteria and mean that you can leave the water maker without use for up to 30 days.  Without this, the water maker must be flushed at least every 5 days.  It is a direct replacement for the regular fresh water flush filter and required simple wiring into the feed pump power supply.

Underway we can now turn salt water into fresh water at a rate of 7 gallons per hour with a current draw of about 8.5 amps.

Trying to get further off the grid

Note:

This is another project blog for work carried out before we left in May.

Yours, Captain Procrastinator

In an attempt to reduce our dependence on shore power and running the engine, we decided to get some form of renewable energy device to compliment the solar panels that the PO installed.  I was interested in hydro as well as wind generation as an ocean crossing would hopefully be a predominantly downwind journey and wind generation would therefore be less effective as our forward speed would reduce the effective wind speed from behind.  Hydro generation also tends to be more efficient as water is a better medium for transferring its energy to a spinning blade/prop.  During my research into options I came across a company who makes a unit that combines both, i.e. their unit could be used for either wind or hydro power generation.  The company is called Eclectic Energy and they are based out of the UK.  The model is called the DuoGen3 (the 3 comes from the revision of the design).

The tower used to hold the wind blades above the bimini pivots at its base and can therefore be lowered into the water behind the boat.  This means that when you remove the blades and replace them with a propeller you can generate power based on the boats speed through the water.  The yaw arm used to orientate the blades into the wind when in wind mode is also a float and holds the propeller close to the surface when in hydro mode.  A dive plane below the propeller holds it the required amount under water.

As it does double duty from an energy generation standpoint I fully expected it would be a jack of all trades and master of none and that it would not perform as well as a dedicated unit for either wind or hydro.

As the alternator is at the base of the tower and not directly attached to the blades, the weight of the unit is at its base and so a substantial support structure is not required.  In fact the unit bolts to your stern rail directly and comes with all the support structure that is required.

One of the precursors to carrying out this installation was to move the solar panels from above the davits to over the bimini.  This was to allow the tower to be swung down from the wind mode to the hydro mode as desired.  This project was carried out and posted back in March… I know, “do your damn blogs in order, Moray”.  Here is a picture showing their old location which clearly shows why it would have been an issue as the DuoGen mounts on the transom and sticks up above the bimini.

DuoGen 004

The parts arrived from the UK after some “customs” issues.  I guess the Fedex customs person got out of the wrong side of the bed the morning this collection of packages came across their desk as they required me to fill out an importer form although the UK company had not been asked for this before.  Once I sent that to the Fedex person they asked what all the contents of the spare parts package was, I had to get this from the manufacturer.  Once they discovered that there was 2 types of silicone grease in the package I then had to fill out a toxic substance certification form on products that I had no knowledge about… bloody red tape!

The packages did finally arrive and it was Christmas all over again!

Solar0 011

I checked the contents of all the packages and took them up to the marina work bench to get an overview of the assembly process.  I had no intention of carrying out the assembly that day.  One of my neighbors at the marina, Brad, had shown interest in seeing the unit and came along for a viewing.  As happens, when guys get together, we had the unit assembled within the hour and were walking it down to the boat for a dry fit.

I had no intention of actually installing the unit on the transom that day… hmm, didn’t I basically just say that?  Must be Brads bad influence.  After 4 hours it was a done deal.  Fully installed, bar the wiring.  It must be said that the installation was relatively easy as the kit comes complete with all mounting hardware required.

The next day I installed the regulator, dump resistors (used to dissipate extra energy if the batteries are fully charged) and wiring to the batteries.  I ran the cable from the alternator through an existing clam shell vent used from the Questus radar wiring and mounted all the electrical hardware in the engine room on the wall that is the foot of the rear quarter berth.

The finished installation looks as follows.

DuoGen 001

The unit has now been installed for three months now and so I can report back on its efficiency.  Truth be told I am underwhelmed by its performance.  I have only used it in hydro mode a couple of times and it seems to perform adequately.  However in wind mode this is not the case.  The yaw arm, due to its shape and attachment method to the tower, has a lot more resistance to rotation than a typical wind generator and therefore it takes more wind to swing the unit into the wind to actually start spinning.  This means that it can miss out on power generation altogether if we are in moderate winds and the unit is not already facing the wind.  This is not typically a concern as we find ourselves anchoring more an more.  Because of this, the boat will orientate itself to the wind anyway and as the unit can be locked into a forward facing position, it automatically is facing the wind at anchor.  The blades also seem to take a little more wind to start moving in the first place.

I will take the time to carry out a more exhaustive benchmark some time in the near future.  This will involve unplugging the solar array with the engine off and turning of all electrical/electronic devices. To ensure that the alternator is able to supply current to the batteries I will first have to make sure that the batteries are not fully charged.  If I then monitor the true wind speed in front of the blades and compare that to the voltage/current produced by the unit I should be able to see if it is producing power close to its specifications.

I will also polish the tower with a silicon based polish, as recommended by the manufacturer, to ensure that the yaw arm is as free to rotate as possible.

Engine Overhaul

Note:

This is another project blog for work carried out before we left in May.

Yours, Captain Procrastinator

This project had been on my mind for several years now but I had left it to the bitter end, in terms of us leaving, as I really didn’t know how to tackle it.

Not long after getting the boat I noticed that the port side engine rail had some rust on it.  The engine is mounted on rubber isolation mounts which are in turn mounted to a piece of angle iron on either side.  This is through bolted to wooden stringers which are fiberglassed to the hull of the boat.  I was unsure of how bad the corrosion was as it was hard to access the area to get a good look.  Two years ago, Paul and Diane, a couple we are friends with, had a near disaster when one of their engine mounts collapsed due to rot, while underway.  They had a costly repair and this was what set my mind to ensuring that we did not have the same issue once we set off.

I enlisted the help of Larry, who has turned out to be a good friend and all around nice guy 🙂  He has beaucoup experience with diesels and offered to help once I had outlined my intentions.  He tried to dissuade me from removing the engine altogether, but instead hoist it far enough to access the mounts only.  I had wanted to take the opportunity to carry out some other work on the engine and engine room while it was out which would have been very tricky without removal, so I declined.

Once I had the whole plan in my head, I booked an engine lift with a local yard, South Texas Yacht Services (great guys), and a dock to dock tow with Sea Tow (waaay better than Tow Boat US).  This would allow me to fully disconnect the engine from the rest of the boat before being towed over, thus reducing the time at the yard.  I took over 150 pictures of the engine room from all possible angles to ensure that I wouldn’t have a “where does this go?” moment upon re-installation.  This included all electrical and pipe runs and connections among other things.  A selection of these pictures show the corrosion of the port side mount as well as the engine casings themselves.

 

Larry helped me with the disconnection process with insights that I would never have thought of and therefore, when the day came, we were only at the yard for 20 minutes before the engine was in the back of Larry’s truck and off to his storage unit.

With the engine removed the boat was towed back to the dock so we were able to get back on with the process of living aboard.  Now the fun really began.  The work that was carried out on the engine was as follows…

  1. removed the engine rails and inspect them.  After removal of all the rust it was obvious that the rails were still in good shape.  They were sent to a shop along with 2 of the mounts which attach the isolation mounts to the engine body.  The shop shot blasted the metal and then primed and powder coated them black.
  2. degreased and washed the surface of the engine, then painted all surfaces showing signs of corrosion with Gem (another brand similar to Ospho).  This is a solution that contains phosphoric acid which reacts with rust to form iron phosphate.  This is a hard layer that readily accepts paint and protects the metal from future corrosion.
  3. removed and replaced all hoses and pipe clamps from coolant lines to injector return lines
  4. replaced all 4 engine isolation mounts
  5. sent all injectors to a shop for rebuilding
  6. overhauled the heat exchanger vented loop (replaced the vented loop diaphragm and replaced the nylon elbow on top with a bronze one that actually had the threads wrapped with PTFE tape!!!!!!!)
  7. removed, wire brushed and repainted the oil cooler assembly and the coolant pipe below the fresh water pump.

    engine 030 (2)

    after wire brushing and before painting

  8. sanded the mating surfaces of the prop shaft and transmission and then filed off any burrs.  This would ensure that when it came time to use the feeler gauges to align the prop that there would be no misreadings due to uneven surfaces

Next on the list was the engine room itself.  The sound insulation had long ago ceased to offer any insulation.  It’s sole purpose now seemed to be to rain down insulation powder on any surface in the engine room.

engine 014 (2)

I removed all the batteries (house bank and starter) along with all equipment that was attached to the engine room walls.  This was a considerable amount of stuff to remove.  Once done, I scraped all the old insulation off and cleaned the surfaces.  I had decided to use Soundown for the new insulation as it could be glued in place.  Soundown is a heavy material which consists of a layer of sound deadening PVC sandwiched between 2 layers of foam and covered in a rip stop Mylar vapor barrier on one side.  It requires that spiked fasteners should be epoxied to the walls to give extra support for the panels where there are large sections installed.  The following pictures show the before, during and after pictures of some sections of the engine room.

Before…

During…

After…

With the walls done I then cleaned the rest of the engine room and repaired/repainted the house bank battery box which had some delamination of the plywood on one corner.

Everything was then replaced and reattached to the walls, and the engine rails and isolation mounts were reinstalled.  We were now ready for another dock to dock to drop the engine back in the boat.  30 minutes after arriving at the yard we were ready to be towed back to the dock.

Larry then took charge and I assisted in the alignment of the prop shaft which took about 3 hours to complete.  Once finished, I set about the task of reconnecting all wiring/piping.  I replaced the exhaust pipe tubing from the mixing elbow to the muffler box and replumbed the way some of the hoses ran around the engine to minimize chafing. I added tubing on the outside of hoses that had to run against vibrating surfaces.  I rewired the panel for the backup bilge pump as the existing wiring was a mess.

engine 012 (2)

3 days later, with an oil change and coolant flush, and I was ready to turn the key.  Larry helped me bleed the system from the Racor filter forwards and each injector at a time.  It turns out that the bleeding cannot be done correctly without the ignition being turned on.  I have to assume that this is because some component in the injector pump is energized by the ignition and this allows the diesel to flow through the pump.  Once we worked this out all went according to plan and the engine fired without issue… can you say HUGE RELIEF!?  We then ran the engine at the dock in forward and reverse to verify there was no excessive vibration from the prop shaft which there was not.

After much patting on each other’s backs the project was finished and checked off the list.

 

Solar Panel Relocation

When we bought the boat it already came with 2 Kyocera 135W solar panels mounted on a tilting frame over the dinghy davits.  I had wanted to move them over the bimini for the following reasons…

  1. less weight outboard
  2. less stress on the davit arms
  3. with quick release couplings and MC4 connectors for the power supply cables, we would be able to remove and stow the panels more easily if we were caught out in a blow
  4. would allow us to pivot the soon to be purchased DuoGen3 from air mode to water mode

The image above shows how far aft the panels sat, admittedly in a shade free area of the boat, just an impractical location.  The existing bimini frame was made from 1″ stainless tubing and was supported in 4 locations and so was pretty rigid.  I didn’t think that the extra weight of the panels (58lb) and supporting tubing would compromise its strength.

My plan was to make a framework that stretched across the width of the boat, sitting just above the bimini and attaching just below the canvas.  It would consist of 2 tubes to support the panels and one tube running fore and aft to hold the supporting tubes together.  I didn’t have a pipe bender and therefore wanted to get something already shaped correctly if possible.  I managed to source a second hand bimini frame set which was 2 sets of 2 bows, in 1″ tubing, from a boaters resale store for under $200.  This came with all the stainless fittings attached and so represented a great deal.  It was for a boat that was wider than ours and so I would have to cut out some length in the middle of the arches and rejoin the tubing somehow.  The same resale shop had a small length of 7/8″ tubing which had an OD which was perfect for the ID of the tubing I was using.

After dissembling the old frame I took one single bow and held it in place where one leg was where I wanted it on the side of the existing bimini frame.  I then measured how much extra there was in the bow length to have the far leg in the correct location at the other side of the boat.  With this measurement in hand, I then found the middle of the bow span, and cut that much out of the length equidistant from the middle point.  I went back to the boat to ensure that the two pieces were the correct length overall.  I then slid a stainless tee onto one of the pieces.  This would be used to attach the section that ran fore and aft to hold the supports together. I cut a 6″ section of the 7/8″ tubing and inserted it into one of the 2 sections.  For inserted read… “liberal use of a hammer and propane torch to expand the 1″ tubing” 🙂

I slid the tee over the join to hide it and then cut the legs so that the bow would be at the right height over the bimini canvas.  One of the tricky things to do was to get the jaw slide that would support the end of the bow in place on the existing frame.  I didn’t want to make any adjustments to the bimini frame as the bimini canvas had been cut to fit and so any changes would either cause wrinkles or worse.  I therefore detached the bottom of the existing frame from the stern rail and slipped on a jaw slide.  After reattaching the frame, I disconnected the first jaw slide moved it up 3 inched and replaced it with the one I just slipped on.  I then moved onto the next slide up the support and repeated the process until all were done.  A picture is worth a thousand words so the red boxes show what had to be swapped out

solar 003

With that done on both sides, I attached a top cap on the legs of the bow and fixed it in place.  This whole process was repeated for the second bow.  The only difference was that I could not find a second hand tee for the second bow to hide the join in the bow and fix both bows together.  I had to settle for a 4 way tee (more on that later). I then cut a straight length from the third bow and used it to span the distance between both bows i.e. from tee to shining tee.  Below is a couple of shots showing the structure.

 

Once that was done I tested the new section of frame for strength.  It was OK, but not great, as the only points that the new section of frame was attached at were 4 end caps that had a little play.  I wanted to attach the new section to another place on the old section of frame to add rigidity.  The only other place that the frame was visible was where the bimini was zippered to allow it to be fitted around the backstays.  These 2 zippers went directly aft from the backstays and at their ends was a small clear area of the old frame.  I bought 2 new tees and 2 split jaw ends.  I disassembled the rear bow and split it at the join to allow me to slide on the 2 tees.  The split jaw slides were then fitted over the old frame bow at the point where the zippers ended.  The tees and slides were joined by 2 small sections of tubing.

Solar 011

Once everything was tightened back up the difference in stability was considerable.

I had to rework the bimini canvas in that area a little to make room for the fittings.  1 hour with a hot knife, scissors and our Sailrite sewing machine and it was all done.

I bought 8 lighting fixtures to act as the quick release for the panels and fitted the MC4 connectors to wire them all together.  A word to the wise, buy high quality MC4 connectors as they are not all created equal.  I got mine here

 

The final picture above shows the 4 way tee that I had fitted for the aft bow.  As I had lots of stainless tubing left over from the 2 bows that I had not used, I made a flag pole for the fourth hole of the tee.  I drilled through from top to bottom so that I could insert a fastpin to hold the pole in place when mounted.  I used a section of the bow that was at the corner so that the pole curves upwards by about 20 degrees at the start and then fitted a top cap and jaw slide to hold the ends of the hoist on the flag.

Now we have solar power back and one more project Post-it moved off the table!

Upholstery project

I’d managed to avoid having too many projects of my own on Sol Purpose, but now the time had come! The cushions in the salon were reupholstered by the previous owner, but now both the foam and the fabric were looking a little (or rather a lot) the worse for wear.

Upholstery 007

We looked at a LOT of fabric. We wanted something dark enough not to show every speck, but no so dark that it would look oppressive in the salon.  As this is our home, we also wanted something that wasn’t nautical or marine-related.  We narrowed the field down to a few and obtained some swatches from Sailrite, so that we could see they would work in our salon.  At long last we settled on Stanton Greystone, a striped Sunbrella upholstery fabric.

Next we took a look at the cushions. Those on the starboard seat are not used very often, so we decided that the original cushions could be recovered.  Not so for the port side.  The cushions were flattened and very uncomfortable to sit on, so we decided to replace those, and in the process, to take the opportunity to divide one long cushion into two shorter ones, to provide better access to the under-seating storage.  Moray researched the various types of foam, and decided on a 5 inch thick, high resilience, open-cell foam, which he purchased from foamonline.com.  He provided the sizes and the company delivered the ready cut cushions.

Now I have done a little sewing in the past, but never anything as ambitious as this. Add to that  the fact that we had picked a striped fabric which makes the whole project more complicated, and I’ll confess to being more than a little daunted.  Thank goodness for the Sailrite instructional videos.  I think I can probably quote them verbatim by now, I watched them so often!  I can’t stress how great a resource these are.  The main one I used was http://www.sailrite.com/How-to-Make-Salon-Cushions-Video.

So next we calculated how much fabric we would need. We gave ourselves enough leeway to make a mistake, as well as to have sufficient to line up all those stripes.  We chose a cushion underlining for the cushion bottoms, rather than use the Sunbrella.  This had the dual purpose of making the cushions non-slip and breathable.  We also purchased 25 ft of YKK zipper #5 and sliders.

To get some practice making the templates, cutting the fabric and stitching accurately using our Sailrite Ultrafeed LSZ-1 machine (which Moray purchased a few years ago when he made the awning), I used some old sheet fabric to make covers for the cushions which would serve as a lining to protect the foam. Once I had done that, I could put off the deed no longer.  I started with the backrest cushions, as this would need to be in place to set the stripes.  I carefully dismantled the existing covers and used these as templates.  Of course, every one was different!  I was now at the point of no return!  I took the fabric, templates, tape measure, marker and hot knife up to the marina’s mail room, as I have nowhere large enough to unroll sufficient fabric.  Once there, I bit the bullet and marked up the fabric before cutting it, just as my new best friend at Sailrite instructed!  Once done, I brought everything back on board to start stitching.  The machine is relatively easy to use, and this part went smoothly.  I did need to make adjustments on a couple of the backrests to ensure that they were taut enough, but nothing major.  The hardest part of this task was stapling the fabric to the seat backs.  We tried a couple of electric staplers but neither was up to the task.  We eventually went for a pneumatic stapler, running off a compressor, which worked perfectly.

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Next we made the snap together buttons with the fabric for the backrests, again using the Sailrite video. They are a little fiddly, but looked good once they were finished.  Moray attached the buttons before finishing the backrests with marine ply.

Now that they were done, I moved on to the cushions themselves. First, I covered the tops and visible edges of the cushions with batting to add a little more comfort and to give a rounded edge.  Next,  using spare fabric strips stuck on to the cushions, I lined up the stripes with those on the backrests and made my way back up to the mail room, two cushions at a time!

This part of the cutting was more laborious, as I had to ensure that the top plate of the cushion lined up with my spare fabric strips, and then the front and rear side pieces had to line up with the top. It was time consuming, but I didn’t want to mess this up.  The bottom plate was cut from the underlining, so no matching needed to be done there.

Once the pieces were cut, it was back to the boat to start stitching. First of all, following the Sailrite instructions, I made the zipper piece.  My only experience of sewing with zippers was using the pre-fabricated short zippers.  This was going to entail cutting a zipper to size, stitching it into place, making the stops so that the zipper would close, all while keeping the stripes in place!  I took my time, and it was actually not too hard to do.  Next I stitched the four side pieces together, before attaching them to the top plate.  On the first one, I did not pay enough attention and one of the pieces was upside down.  I learned my lesson, and took more care with the placing on all the others.  I also had a few occasions when attaching the top and bottom plates to the side pieces that the corners did not fall correctly, but after unpicking all the stitching and starting again, it always worked out!

We had decided to purchase silk film to wrap the cushions, which would make it easier to put the cushions into the cover. The process is to wrap the foam in the silk film, suck out the air using a vacuum cleaner and then put the flattened cushion into the cover.  Once the vacuum is turned off, the cushion rapidly expands back to its usual size, filling the cover.  Unfortunately, this did not work for us as our vacuum did not have sufficient suction, so it was back to the usual contortions to fit the covers.  Maybe if we ever get a more powerful vacuum….

One final step we decided to do was to make removable covers for the backrests as these would not be washable. I cut rectangles of fabric, lined up with the backrests again, and stitched a one inch hem all around.  Moray attached snaps to the backrests and then to the removable covers.  These can now be removed to be washed.

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All in all, the project took about 14 days, but it was time well spent!  Below is a collection of shots showing the final product.

Sailrite liked the work enough to post it on their Facebook page…

Debbie and Moray knew they needed new cushions for their saloon aboard S/V Sol Purpose. So they replaced the foam and…

Posted by Sailrite on Thursday, February 11, 2016