Pathfinder project post end of May 2022.

It’s almost the end of month 4 of this year’s work on the project and I’ll be taking a break soon because we’re off on holiday quite soon before the school holidays start – we’re off to Norfolk again with a week booked in a camping pod but there is an ulterior motive for driving all the way from Cornwall to Norfolk and that is going to see the sailmaker just outside Norwich. This week one of my planning jobs was to make contact with the same sailmaker who made the sprit-boom mainsail for my little Liberty and is my chosen sailmaker for this project ; a small point of detail is that they seem to understand modern gaff sails and are used to making the high aspect/short gaff sails with sleeves which Hanneke Boon developed for the Wharram ‘Tiki’ catamarans.

This week just gone has been a strange one – too warm one moment and cool the next, jumper on/jumper off and it’s been heavy with pollen ; something must be pollinating locally and it seems very early this year as the things that normally get me don’t do it this early in the year. The week has felt odd work wise too as iv’e been out there pulling long days and really going at it but at the end of a week I can see little difference in the boat ; what I seem to have done is lots and lots of small jobs that each need half an hour or so such as making and fitting a seat/locker bearer or just epoxy coating some already made parts.

One very useful thing did happen this week and that was an Origo alcohol stove that came up for auction on Ebay – I was glad to win the auction on that one because I really wanted an Origo stove for this boat having had one on the Liberty and one on the Deben – they’re not made any more and can fetch silly prices secondhand and while I really like the Origo stoves iv’e never liked the more commonly used Trangia type stoves that many dinghy cruisers use : the Origo stove is quite heavy and sits well having a square base. What that means is that I can start to design and build one half of the big galley side locker – the half that is going to hold the cooker/s and all of the galley gear plus being the day food/dry food locker ; the other half is going to be an icebox.

Starting with the Origo stove this week I had an enjoyable half hour designing the foward locker lid around being able to lift the stove in and out and then working out a way of securing it inside the locker so that it doesn’t go flying about in a lively sea……or worse… a potential capsize. One job for this coming week is to heave my big camping support crate out of the shed and find the best way of stowing much of the gear from that crate which will live some of the time in that locker ; another small job is to work out a way of securing the stove in an at-sea arrangement for making a brew in a reasonably quiet passage……in coffee desperation i could always just heave-to just as I did a couple of times on passage with the Liberty *

Main jobs this week.

1.Cut out my first attempt at the cuddy side window bearers and made new ones – the new ones are basically a plywood backing plate or doubler that are glued to the inner side of the cuddy sides leaving a flange/rebate for the acrylic window to sit in – while I was on that job I made and fitted the top bearers that will take the cuddy roof when I make it ; at the end of the month i’m going to order a couple of sheets of 5mm plywood which I will laminate to make a 10mm roof.

2.Started work on the galley locker by making the lids and surrounds for both access holes into the locker space – the forrad one is designed around being able to lift the Origo stove in and out of the locker – while I was on that job I made and fitted a small shaped filler piece to fill a small tapering void in the base of the locker which would otherwise make a convenient trough which would be difficult to clean and keep dry.

3. Finally made a successful pattern for one side of the coaming and went straight ahead and cut the starboard side coaming and dry fitted it – I’ll do a bit of prep work before fitting it as it will be far easier to epoxy coat it before it goes in…..I may even mask off the ‘to glue’ areas and prime the plywood too. Made and dry fitted both coamings. A multiple small job while making and fitting the coamings this time was making the many small bearers which go on the frame ends to help support the coaming board. End of week correction – both coamings on including the packing pieces and little covering boards where they meet the cuddy.

4. Masked off the hull below the lower edge of where the rubbing strake will be and glass/epoxy taped the hull to deck edge join both sides – my plan is to glass/epoxy coat all of the deck areas and the cuddy roof once iv’e made and fitted it. Glass and epoxy coated all of the deck, filled and faired same – that’s all of the glass on except for the cuddy top.

5.Applied one top coat of finishing paint to the hull sides inside the cuddy area and to the sole from the forward bulkhead to frame 3 in the center. The hull side (inside) paint is a Hempels one pack product called ‘Multi-coat’ and is a satin finish – the sole was going to be in the same product but in light grey rather than cream ; I found the coverage and finish slightly better with their bilge and locker paint (also in light grey) so I’ll see how that goes ; it will need , I think, a small area of deck paint or non-slip finish where I will stand just behind the line of the cuddy roof.

6.All access hatches in the bunk area sealed in and bolted in. Inside of cuddy painted.

7.Aft – cockpit lockers primed and painted except for the stern locker where I have yet to sort out the mast foot arrangement.

This week’s main mistake….right at the end of the week my plywood order for the cuddy roof arrived in the form of 2 sheets of 5mm BS1088 plywood so I got straight on and measured up the first piece to form the first of 2 layers. That day I dry fitted the piece and I really don’t like it as the wood seems excessively floppy and prone to deforming everywhere and anyway I put a screw through the plywood to fasten it down….and that’s on a fair edge and fair side bearers. Although I can see the line and shape of the complete cuddy I can’t see a sensible way of laminating the 2 pieces together in place except perhaps for passing bolts through both pieces and bringing them together with a big pad either side. My mistake I think was in ordering 5mm ply for such a large piece where a single sheet of 8mm would probably been better or a pair of 6mm pieces which I think would have held their shape better.

In the photograph below the foredeck looks huge and the back of the boat tiny…that’s just an effect of the camera lens I have to use when up against the boat – in real view the boat currently looks like a little workboat/harbor ferry and surprisingly like the half decked dayboat which inspired the shape and layout of this boat.

Cuddy lid goes on dry-fit.

My main organisational/project management jobs this week were – firstly bidding on and ‘winning’ the Origo stove in an Ebay auction, second….making first contact with the sailmaker and discussing the sailplan ; one night during the week I got the set of drawings out and played around with drawing my rig over John’s drawing for the Yawl version – my version will have a taller mast which will be slightly further aft but with a shorter gaff and where the sail will have a more vertical leach and be shorter in the foot. Third organisational job this week was ordering more of the materials that I’ll need next ; 2 sheets of 5mm plywood to make the cuddy top from, some more glass tape and cloth for the decks and cuddy top and more basic consumables……as I write we’ll be taking a break ‘dreckly’ as we says down-ere…..and heading into town for a coffee break and to visit the country store which just happens to stock the thicker Nitrile gloves that I use……ideal for working with a fingertip to smooth an epoxy fillet or for sticking said finger up a horses bottom I guess.

The other project management job iv’e been working on this week is the start of a slow search for a suitable trailer because I’m also not far off needing to move the boat around – yes it’s on a low dolly right now but that is only on 4″ casters so it’s not ideal for moving the boat a long way up our rough and uneven drive. I did a search through the online boats and gear site (Apollo Duck) and then just for luck Ebay…..I was surprised as on Ebay there were several pages of boat trailers and one looks promising as being 19 feet and having once had a 21 foot boat on it – according to the seller. While long term I need an EU compliant trailer so that we could take the whole rig onto the continent I need at the least a trailer with a builders plate and one long enough to take a light board solidly attached and not just taped onto the boat’s stern. This week I’ll try and have a chat with the seller and see if it will do the job – if it does then we need to get the car in for a tow hitch and the electrical kit.

In this new style of once a week post I’m trying to take the time to work and think beyond just what iv’e done during the working week and what I need for the next one – as I write it’s a lovely warm Sunday afternoon and i’m not outside working hard, rather I’m having the day off deliberately because I’m then fresher when I come back to the job…..ok so I snuck outside while the kettle was coming to the boil and just wandered down to the boat and did a tiny section of light sanding with the piece of sandpaper which ‘just happened to be there’ and in a while we’ll head out for coffee and lunch and a quick shopping trip that will include some sealant for the access hatches.

In this week’s post I want to carry on with a theme and thread that I started last year – the thread where I was discussing the RNLI statistical and personal/experiential look at problems that occur at sea ; from there I’m going on from known and experienced problems to actual solutions especially where I can build a feature into the boat now. As Iv’e said several times the most common failure at sea is simple mechanical failure and I am likely to have a small outboard motor for end of passage problems when I’m tired and want to get into harbour over a foul tide so I also need all of the solutions in place early to deal with mechanical failure…..sails of course but also anchors, paddles and oars.

This week I had a first proper look at how I could set up now to paddle the boat with a long canoe paddle (I own several) and then how to set the boat up for a sculling oar off the stern and for a sweep oar either side – I’m not sure that the wide Pathfinder will row well conventionally but having seen similar sized boats being moved around with a scull or sweep while I was in L.Aber-Wrach i’m sure that it can be done but might be done best by standing and pushing on an oar rather than heaving on one…..Japanese/Chinese style rowing rather than conventional English style rowing. I had a quick mess about with a canoe paddle – all fine as I can adopt a good ‘high kneel’ position on the cockpit seats but there was either a granite wall or the shed in the way when I tried to deploy a sweep or scull off stern or side deck …… at this stage I think I need an oar of around 9-10 feet to be at a good angle but I really need to move the boat forward to experiment with that and I may as well leave the move until I have got other things that I need to fit ( rudder, mast and boomkin) that need the boat pulled forward. All said and done even a professionally made oar will be a lot cheaper than the smallest outboard motor so one is on the list of kit to watch out for.

Moving on….many of the things that I have to work out at this stage are how to do the many small tasks of a sailing boat and a lot of those things are small ergonomic problems where the job can be made easier or harder by moving or stowing the gear slightly differently ; a good example is anchors and anchoring where a conventionally (bow) stowed anchor can be a pain in the bum to deploy especially if there is a cabin or cuddy in the way or where there are narrow side decks. I learnt a lot of this the hard way with my last cruising boat where I went from a Frances 26 with a huge foredeck and good side decks to the Liberty with very narrow side decks and low guardrails that at best acted as tripwires……with that boat I ended up stowing my primary anchor aft in the cockpit and then just started deploying it and retrieving it from there ; it just seemed and was so much easier to work in the big cockpit space right next to the controls and not scramble forward to get at the anchoring gear.

With the Pathfinder as i’m building it there is a large cuddy right in the way of access forward and only the narrowest strip of side deck – in my earlier design of hull side to cuddy side there wasn’t going to be a side deck at all but in both cases it’s easy to work from the middle of the boat and difficult to move forward. One of my current solutions for anchoring is to set the gear up so that both ends of the rode come to the cockpit just as I did with the Liberty and in this case to stow the anchor to one side just ahead of the raised center section and directly opposite the big galley locker such that the weight there is somewhat balanced by the anchor and it’s rode. I can see a nice project coming along wherein I have a go at making a stowage bag in heavy polyester and Cordura fabric to take the hook and it’s warp.

Second anchor stowage position….needs rope bag or rope bucket.

At the end of this week I feel that progress has slightly stalled even though Iv’e put a lot of hours of work in – it’s really tempting to paint out the 2 large center lockers but I can’t do that yet because I don’t just want to end up with 3 huge bins ; on the galley side I must spend a morning just working out the best way of stowing the galley equipment in the forward half of the side locker, aft iv’e got to make a decision on insulating that part of the locker and the problem there will be accessing under whatever insulation I build in so that I can swab it out. In the big central locker I’m going to build a battery box and then a dry locker but I don’t have that battery yet, equally I would like to fasten the seat tops down as iv’e painted the lockers out but it would be better not to do that until iv’e bought and installed a bilge pump in one side at least.

If anything i’m winding down to a break now so mainly what I’ll do this week is make my first list of jobs…..all of the small jobs that need doing but where each one affects something else slightly further on down the line. Tomorrow’s first job I think is to nip into town and get some more primer and topcoat so that I can do finishing work where I want to close things up.

Cuddy top first dry fit and starboard bulkhead knee pattern.

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