Archive for March, 2010

Cockpit combings and such

Friday, March 5th, 2010

Bodhran anchored at Port FitzRoy:
Bodhran anchored at Port FitzRoy

My last post found me about ready to haul Bodhran in Gulf Harbour to determine whether or not I needed to replace my cutlass bearing. Upon hauling, my cutlass bearing was deflecting less than 1/16th of an inch, so it wasn’t the problem. I then investigated further and quickly found that two of the four bolts connecting my prop shaft to the transmission had come out and the other two were loose. Oops. Seems that when I put my engine back in in November and replaced those stainless bolts in the coupler with some mild steel ones I forgot to put on any lock washers and after a hard 4 hours motor sailing into 25 knot winds the nuts just vibrated themselves free. The fix took 15 mintues and $5 worth of hardware, this time including some $.15 lock washers. So I’ve got Bodhran hauled, Tiffany is gone for 10 days traveling with her mother, now what am I going to do? I’d been talking about building cockpit combings for Bodhran for 5 years or more and figured that now was a fine time to do it. Pat on Eeylos had lent me his transformer so that I could plug in all my power tools, Arek and Iwona lent me one of their cars to run errands in, the timing was perfect to start a building project.

Combings, for you non-nautical types out there, are a barrier built around the cockpit to keep water from the deck rolling back into the cockpit. They also normally serve as backrests for the cockpit seating. For one reason or another, the Downeast 32 was built with a wonderfully clear, clean deck that runs uninterrupted from stem to stern. In theory, any water reaching that deck is supposed to drain out through two drains on the side deck. In practice any water coming aboard in a seaway rushes right past those deck drains and back to cockpit soaking any butts in might find on the way. So after 9 years of getting a wet butt, I’d finally had enough. In the past I’d thought about just running a single board from the back of the cabin to the winch bases to serve as a backrest and keep water out, but my cockpit locker runs too far outboard and I would need to taper the board as it went aft so that it wouldn’t interfere with the winches. It would have been simple, but I didn’t like it. Instead I went with the much more complex 3 dimensional combing that would flare out from the cabin top to clear the cockpit locker, allowing the inside to lean outboard making a comfortable back rest, while also allowing the outside to angle inboard matching the cabin and providing storage inside for sheets, winch handles and such. This is a pretty common combing design on more modern boats, the problem is that the rounded flare from the cabin back forms a complex curve with the top radius smaller than the bottom. Originally I was going to laminate together ¼” plywood strips, but quickly found out that I’d have to notch the plywood to allow it to compress at the top and after breaking a few pieces I decided this was far beyond my wood working skills. Fortunately my buddy Arek off Ariel was helping me out. He suggested cutting little wedges out of the 1/2” ply we were building the rest of the coming out of. These trapezoidal pieces were then attached with the wider portion at the base and the narrower at the top to form a chunky curve that went through a 75 degree radius while leaning inboard the entire time. From there, all I needed to do was add a bunch of fairing compound and sand the crap out of it and a nice smooth curve eventually took shape. The other tricky part of the design was integrating into the old winch bases. I’d wanted to raise my winches for a while. I would get overruns whenever I had more then one wrap on them. So it made sense to raise the winches instead of tapering the combing down to the level of the winch bases. I wanted to keep the attachment for the winches as strong as possible, so I laminated together 6 pieces of ply with thickened epoxy precut into the shape of the winch base, determined how much of that I would need for the winches to attach through and then cut a recurve in the rest so that it would transition down into the rail.

Arek with the combing base and sides in place:
Arek with the combing base and sides in place

Another view of the combing with the top being fitted and the 1.25” half of pvc pipe for a drain:
Another view of the combing with the top being fitted

With the wood all cut and fitted, I glassed together the base and sides from the inside and stripped all the bottom paint and gelcoat with a grinder. I gooped up the base with thickened epoxy and then screwed it to the deck. I painted the inside and screwed the top of the combing on and then glassed in the whole thing with 8oz cloth. That was all I got done before Tiffany and her mom got back. I had just got Bodhran back in the water and wanted to get them out for a sail. Fortunately the wind was light as I didn’t have any jib sheet winches, but I was able run the sheets up to the staysail winches on the cabin top. Two days later found the boat in the same shape when I got Iwona’s family from Poland out to Tiritirimatangi Island. Intermittent rain and getting people out sailing were definitely slowing down progress, but we got a couple of rounds of fairing done while in Gulf Harbour and mounted the new Lewmar 40s I’d picked up last Summer. So with a couple more rounds of fairing to do, we called it good enough and got the hell out of Gulf Harbour and sailed across the Haruki Gulf in a lively 25 knot southwesterly out to Great Barrier Island for a week.

Arek and Tiffany on Tiritirimatangi:
Arek and Tiffany on Tiritirimatangi

Sailing out to Great Barrier with the combings nearing completion:
Sailing out to Great Barrier with the combings nearing completion

It would have taken at least three weeks to really explore Great Barrier, but Tiffany only had 10 days left before her flight back to Spokane. So we spent our entire time exploring the bays around the amazing shelter of Port FitzRoy. It probably would have taken 3 weeks just to cover the hiking trails around the island. We ended up doing two. The first was through Sven’s property where he harvests Manuka and Kanuka, both types of tea tree, and extracts their oils for soaps and balms which he sells from his distilling shack. The second was a grueling 7 hour hike up the Cooper’s Castle route and then down the other side to one of the old Kauri dams before looping back to Port FitzRoy. Amazing views, but certainly a trail that would have been better done in shoes rather than sandals. The Kauri’s were pretty much all harvested back in the 20s and 30s. They would cut them down and leave them in the creek bed until they had enough and would then trip the dams to flush them down to the bay. The few Kauri that remain have been protected since the 40s.

Tiffany gathering cockles:
Tiffany gathering cockles

Tiffany at the top of Cooper’s Castle:
Tiffany at the top of Cooper's Castle

Myself and Tiffany at the lower Kauri dam:
Myself and Tiffany at the lower Kauri dam

The rest of our time on Barrier was spent fishing for snapper, gathering cockles, reading, and fairing the combings. Again rain interrupted our painting and I think that I’m going to need to strip and redo a few areas, but we got two coats of paint on while at Great Barrier. We left night before last at sunset with a forecast for 15 knots out of the southwest, turning south overnight. Southwest would have made our return sail to Whangarei a beam reach. With an almost full moon and a moderate breeze, it should have been great. In fact, it wasn’t bad, but Tiffany’s first night sail and my first one in well over a year found us sailing into 6 foot seas at about 60 degrees of the bow and 20+ knots of wind. Fortunately the wind subsided to 10-15 overnight, but shift more westerly barely allowing us to make Bream Head with out tacking. Sunrise found us heading up river and now Bodhran is back in the same slip she spent most of the last 15 months in. Tiffany’s flying out on Sunday and I want to try and get some more projects done before heading up to the Bay of Islands at the end of the month. The combings and new winches preformed admirably keeping our butts dry and handling the jib easier than they ever have before during our sail back. I still need to shape the winch pads a bit and get some more paint on, but the combings are a resounding success.

They’re not quite done but here’s the combings as they stand now: