Friday 5 minute blog, February

This series of posts is the once monthly round-up of jobs that i have either finished or am actively working on : and yes i realise that i should never conflate boat jobs or projects and ‘finished’.    For those readers that aren’t familiar with the name of my boat, one of it’s 3 Zen meanings is “nothing is complete”…..thus never finished.

So…..What did i get done or work on in February ?.   Well, it’s been a really busy month down at the boat and with late nights in the shed afterwards.  Compared with January when it seemed to be raining every time i tried to do jobs on the boat, and when the sun only shone all day when i was at work….yes it started to feel personal….well this month i actually managed to work outside in sunshine and get a lot of jobs at least started. As i write the post in a spare few minutes i have just had the best day of the year so far down at the yard, not so much getting stuff actually finished but making progress rather than going backwards.


  1.      I finished installing the charcoal heater. I know that i put that in the January post but there were several things that i hadn’t finished : mainly small detail stuff like trimming off bolt heads (after spiking myself with a long and sharp bolt end in the heads compartment).    One of the secondary jobs with fitting the heater is that i had to take the head-lining panels down to access the under deck to drill through for the flue.  The headlining panels have been a problem since iv’e had the boat because the small self tappers regularly pull out of the deckhead GRP/foam mix.   Bit of a ‘faff’ job but what i had to do was make up a dozen small plywood pads, stick those to the underside of the deck and then get the panels back up.

That would have been easy except that i also decided to add some insulation to the deckhead in the form of closed cell mat…basically cheapo camping mat.    I had some vouchers for one of the outdoor stores so i used that to buy a few simple closed cell foam mats.  Cutting them to shape was simple but glueing them in overhead was a horrible job as i had to use contact cement.  Those of you that have used the stuff will know that you have to apply one layer to one surface and also coat the piece being glued in…that meant slapping on the runny, fumy glue overhead.  It’s truly horrible stuff to work with, like high petrochemical snot that dries on gloves, hands and tools to a foul sticky rubbery consistency.  It’s also the full-on glue-sniffers paradise chemical so i was as high as a kite while i did the job and i could still smell and taste the stuff that night. That evening i was still picking the stuff off my wrists where it had run down over my gloves….incidentally it seems to melt the gloves i use !


The second follow-on job from fitting the charcoal heater was that i had to remove the boat’s switch panel and with that most of the wiring.  I built but didn’t fit my first attempt at making a new box for the switch panel.  As always i built that out of scraps of plywood but i just wasn’t happy with the result so i’m going to try for a much neater version.  What i did get done was to strip down most of the old wiring which comes together in the heads compartment.  That’s now an uncomfortable place to access as to get in there i have to simultaneously step over the centerboard and duck under the rim of the heads bulkhead.  Once in there i can’t stand or kneel and neither can i get into a comfortably high enough sitting position to work on the wiring.  When i come to do the re-wire i think i will have to put the old wanigan crate in there as a seat.

Also, while i am thinking about the heads compartment i have had to do some repair work in there that relates to the mounts for the mizzen mast but i will explain that in the next and much longer section.

2. Rigs.  The big job i have been working on for the first half of the month is making and fitting the new sprit-booms to both masts and moving the mizzen mast aft. I described most of this in the project post.  Both rigs have been down temporarily and out of the boat while i was fitting the new gear for the snotters and reeving new topping lifts. The mizzen rig was quite a lot more work as i have moved it.  To do that i also had to do some remedial work inside the heads compartment where the mast pivot is now through-bolted to the cabin aft face and the bolts pass through a large pad inside the compartment.


On the bench.

The sprit-booms have been ‘on the bench’ and taking up far too much space in the workshop but i am glad to say that they are back on the boat. The last job with those before they left the workshop was adding a wear patch to each one at the point where the sprit will bear on the mast and leathering over that.   The current jobs ‘on the bench’ , as i write the post, are a plywood pattern/model for the mizzen rig spacer box and a new switch panel box.  I had already made a new box for the switch panel but made such a bad job of it that even i was embarrassed so i went out and bought some nicer, thinner plywood and made a neater looking box. The odd looking box-like structure is the model for the mizzen mast mounting box/spacer.

As it was a nice day and i had to be around for most of it i actually tried to do a neater job than i usually achieve.  Both structures are simply plywood boxes and i made both with plywood taped together and epoxy-fillet jointed.  The switch panel box i did think about varnishing but have decided to epoxy-coat instead and then spray paint with some ‘plasticote’ paint that i have kicking around.

Once ready that will remove any excuse i can make to get back in the heads compartment and re-wire the switch panel back in : something i have been avoiding because it’s such an awkward place to work.

I find with boat jobs that i am all over jobs that i enjoy doing, in this case like working on the rig….where it falls down is when it comes to jobs that i don’t particularly like doing or are just plain awkward to do.  The job i have been avoiding is the wiring in the heads compartment that comes together at the switch panel.  It’s now a really difficult place for me to get in there because of the awkward access and terrible working position so i am doing that job in short sessions only.

So, 3. Electrics.

I had to remove the switch panel when i fitted the charcoal heater because it would have been directly behind the flue .  The best position for the new box seemed to be the inner face of the cabin bulkhead where i have fitted a pad to back up the fittings for the mizzen mast pivot block.  That’s actually where most of the electro-gubbins is anyway : the battery isolator switch and the charging regulator so it made some sense to mount the switch panel there as well.

Now, i was reasonably organised when i took everything apart in that i made a note of which leads on the switch panel are positive and which are negative….just to say that it’s got about 8 cables itself and that’s before any of the boat’s wiring loom is added.  So i went down there with my electrics box fairly confident that i could mount the box, mainly shorten and re-route the wiring, battery cables etc and fairly quickly plug everything back together.  Well that’s what i thought as well until i couldn’t find my wiring diagram !

Several hours later, after i had been home to find a similar switch panel on the internet and copy out the wiring instructions for what looked like the same wiring schematic and i still couldn’t get anything to work.  Nothing sparked, fizzed or went ‘bang’  but neither did the little inner switch lights and voltmeter ever want to come on either.  After a long while trying to work out the wiring with my circuit tester i had one desperate look around the boat….didn’t ever find my notes but did find the original wiring diagram that came with the panel and the colour scheme is almost opposite the one that i found on the internet that i thought was the same one as mine.

Ten minutes later and i had several things working including the voltmeter and the switch panel lights but it was getting very cold by then, the light was going and i was uber-stiff from sitting in the heads compartment for too long.

The next fail…..even i laughed…..was that i had been working at the bottom of the tide. I had noticed the change as the boat floated off the mud and started putting some weight ‘up’ on her lines.  She floats well before the several tons of pontoon do !  What i had forgotten was that i had kicked my shoes off before climbing aboard because the pontoon gets very muddy.  You can guess….yes the rapidly rising and flowing flood tide swept my shoes off upstream somewhere !


One of the main reasons i worked on those 2 small jobs when i did was because i hired a local chippie/builder to do the hard work of mounting my ‘curious cabinet’ onto the ‘office’ wall.  He’s been working on that for most of the day as it meant making the demountable French-cleat system and attaching the pattresses firmly into the granite wall. The cabinets themselves are at carcass stage, had some primer on but need to come off the wall again so that i can finish glue-screwing their halves of the French cleats.

That job isn’t finished but the display cabinets are dry mounted on the wall, they will be coming on and off to finish the actual construction and then i can start thinking about the finish work and the much longer and ongoing project of creating the displays.

For the final , i hope, fail of the month i can thank the guy who helped me with the cabinets.  He was partially using my tools and had done some of the layout of the mountings with my long tee-square : the one hanging on the workshop door.  At one point he said “hey have a look at this” as he had drawn lines with it, checked and re-checked them and worked out that the ‘square’ isn’t square at all but off by several millimeters so it at least part explains why so many of my right angles aren’t and why the cabinets aren’t square….they have all been measured off an edge datum and all are out by about the amount the square is out….don’t you just love B&Q tools ?


Video this month.

My video work this month has been a bit of a fail and i only produced a couple of minutes of new film with the sprits project.  That’s mainly come down to me trying to work in a very concentrated and focused way and not taking the time to try and film at the same time as doing the work.  I did one work session with the camera on but then needed to sand and grind quite aggressively and didn’t want the camera gear covered in wood/epoxy dust.

February 5 minute video blog.

What i have done on the filming/photography side is to buy an intervalometer so that i can have a go at doing a time-lapse sequence.  That needs the right timing for tide and reasonable weather as the camera will have to sat on it’s tripod for at least 4 hours and taking a shot every few seconds.  I have continued to play around with the video editing software but still haven’t worked out how to do the next things i want to do for the next mini film.

This month’s fails.

The projects and jobs this month have shown up some of the weaknesses in my workshop set-up and my project organisation.  That’s partially been due to not having the right tool for the job or not having the right parts : mainly small stuff such as rivets, nuts and bolts.  The main fail came about because i don’t have a pillar drill in the workshop and it’s been on the top of the power tools list for years.  This month i really had to drill the mizzen mounting block really accurately and i knew i couldn’t do that with a hand drill as the holes had to be 100 mm deep and exactly in the same place on the back as the front.  That’s an easy job with a pillar drill and i don’t have one…..i had hoped that my next door neighbour (also a Steve) a mechanic and true ‘shedi’ would have one but he also admitted to having had one on his ‘wants’ list for years and not buying one either.

Luckily he knows the who’s who of the area and had just come back from having his Hornet serviced and MOT’d and he knew that the bike workshop has a pillar drill so he sent me up there with a ‘Steve sent me’ …..and the bloke up there did the job for a fiver in hand.   I really must think about allocating bench space for a bench mounted pillar drill though because it’s such an essential tool and now that i have the bigger bench in use i could maybe have one mounted on the opposite side to where i normally work.

The minor failures have been just not having an adequate store of small fastenings for each job, mainly stainless steel bolts, nuts and self-tapping screws.  So far this month that has meant several extra trips down to the city to go shopping and several hours taken out of actual project time.  For a lot of the small stuff it just means a session on the internet ordering parts, where it hasn’t worked quite as well is when i have needed to go and look at parts to work out if they will suit the job.

One really annoying fail i think was totally down to Amazon as i ordered several different lengths of 5mm rivets to complete the mast job with and instead of getting several small packs what arrived was a single mixed pack of mainly 3mm rivets of different lengths….how that is anything like several different length 5mm rivets i have no idea !

I then had a couple of other minor setbacks in the workshop : one i will describe in a post all about glue as i managed to end up with half a pint of raw epoxy resin all over the inside of the glue crate !.      The main fail towards the end of the month is my knee/back problems combination.  I have been pushing things a lot harder especially in the workshop and down at the yard but it’s been ‘work’ that’s the slow grind of pain. The combination of sitting in a bad chair and on the phone all morning and then running around our recovery for the afternoon just leaves me in a lot of pain by the end of the working day……..i honestly think it’s the end of the road for that one and my GP agrees.


To finish on a high note i will briefly mention the gardens here.

For the last few years i have tried to get a picture of the first spring bulbs coming through as i have planted several hundred every autumn here for the last few years. As i look out of the ‘office’ window there is a layer of frost on the bark mulch on the back garden but there a few daffodils already flowering and the little crocuses are just about to open up.  In the garden it’s my favourite time of year as we get a big bloom of colour now right up until early summer.  I don’t think i will get any heavy gardening work done this spring which means i won’t plant up the deep beds but they are mostly covered and mulched so they can go fallow for a while.

So, as i edit the February blog post i am , i think, only a few solid day’s work away from being able to go for a sail.  Iv’e got leave coming up and today the wind did a slow swing into the east…..that and just long enough days suggest a run down to the west to try things out.


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