The View Up Here

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An End In Sight

Posted by Tom Benedict on 23/04/2012

Despite being sick for the past couple of weeks, I managed to work on the boat again over the weekend. There’s still a ton of work left to do, but we’re far enough along now that the end is in sight. Well… an end is in sight. There’s always more work to be done on a boat.

The rudders are now complete. I traded some email with a fellow P-Cat sailor, and his description of his rudders was actually really close to what I saw on mine, minus the wooden dowel. The shock cord just passes through the hole in the rudder blades, and loops up and over the top rudder gudgeon. Here’s the rudder kick-up in all its glory:

Rudders Up

When locked down, the shock cord does a good job of holding the blade down, even though there is no real positive lock the way the blades do on a Hobie or a Prindle:

One Up One Down

(Yes, I’m aware the tip of my rudder blade is clipped off. That’s a project for another day.) And here it is, looking from the cockpit toward the rudder blades:

Tiller Bars

Gotta love those teak tiller arms! (Unfortunately, I didn’t discover until after I’d taken these pictures that I had the two rudders installed on the wrong hulls. On the P-Cat this results in a huge amount of toe-in on the rudder blades. This will be fixed by the time we put the boat on the water.)

I also finished wiring the trailer over the weekend. The light kit only came with eight frame clips to hold the wiring on the trailer frame. When you consider how long a typical trailer is (mine is over 20′ long), with only four clips spread over 20′ of trailer, that’s about five feet of wiring hanging out in the wind between clips! It would be all to easy to have a loop of wire drag on the road. At the very least it would disable the light attached to it. At the worst it could wrap around something like the trailer wheel, and cause an accident.

Thank goodness the folks at Kona Marine are a little more clued in than the people who made the lights. When my son asked if they carried frame clips for trailer wiring, the guy said, “Yeah!” and pulled out a bag of almost a hundred clips. When we got home I stuck clips all over the trailer, spaced about 1′ apart. NOW the wiring is done. NOW it’s not coming off!

I did two other boat projects over the weekend. The first was to seal all the remaining rivet holes in the hull. There were over forty of them. I still need to sand them smooth. The other project was to start rebuilding the skirts at the bottom of the daggerboard wells. This was more of a headache.

The daggerboard wells on the P-Cat are a lot like the ones on an International 404 (or so I gathered from cruising photos in Google over the weekend.) At the bottom of the daggerboard well there’s a rubber skirt made out of neoprene with two aluminum strips screwed on either side of it. The neoprene is slit down the middle, and the daggerboard protrudes through the slit. When I got the boat I had two aluminum strips with two completely different hole patterns in them. Cats have two hulls, so I needed four strips. And for the sake of sanity, I wanted all four strips to share the same hole pattern!

The work started by figuring out which strip’s hole pattern was the best match to what I saw drilled through the fiberglass on the hulls. I threw the other strip in the scrap bin. The strips for the P-Cat are made from 1/8″x1/2″ aluminum extrusion. Thank goodness this is a size that’s carried by the hardware store! A little hacksaw and file work, and I had three new strips ready to drill to match the one I already had. Transferring the hole pattern and drilling the new holes took about an hour. The holes are counter-sunk to take flat head screws so the screw heads are flush with the bottom of the aluminum. When drilling the strips, I drilled two of them with clearance holes, counter-sunk and ready to go. The third I held onto because of a problem I saw:

The holes in the hulls didn’t all line up. They were on a regular spacing, but weren’t accurately drilled. So I filled those holes, too. All forty eight of them. Once the epoxy had cured overnight I sanded them flush and used that last strip to drill new pilot holes in the hull. Once all the holes were drilled in place, I re-drilled the last strip with clearance holes, counter-sunk them, and stuck it with the other strips. Ready to go!

The last step is to punch holes in the neoprene, screw everything into place, and slit the neoprene down the middle to take the daggerboards. That work will take place over the course of the next week. Sorry, no photos of any of this. I’ll try to take some when the actual installation happens.

Hey wait! I take that back! I did two other projects on the boat over the weekend:

I finally installed the new jib sheet hardware. This involved screwing two pivoting cam cleat blocks onto the forward bulkhead of the cockpit. I’d filled all the old holes several weeks ago, but hadn’t installed the new stuff until Saturday. When drilling the pilot holes for the screws, I was surprised to see bits of aluminum coming out of the drill flutes. Aluminum? On a fiberglass boat? YAY! The forward bulkhead is backed by an aluminum plate to spread the load from the jib sheet blocks. No worries about cracking the fiberglass from stress. The more I work on this boat, the more I appreciate its construction. Too heavy to be a serious race boat in this era of eggshell thin hulls and carbon sails, but built just right for working on yourself and teaching kids how to sail!

The last project was to run the jib sheet and traveler sheet. When buying line I bought 50′ of 3/8″ line for the jib sheet, figuring I’d cut off what I needed and keep the rest for spare. Turns out no cutting was necessary. Because the jib sheet runs back and forth across the cockpit so many times, it took all fifty feet just to make it work. I’ll adjust this, if necessary, once we have the boat out on the water.

I did take a picture of the finished traveler system. It gives the skipper 3:1 purchase on the mainsheet traveler – a necessity according to a fellow P-Cat sailor:

Traveler Closeup

The traveler sheet is set up as a loop. As you take line in to pull the traveler toward centerline, the opposite side takes line in just as fast, so you always have the same amount of loop on deck. It’s a little counter-intuitive to someone who’s used to the Prindle style traveler sheet, but it does work. I’m eager to try this out on the water.

So what’s left? A lot, unfortunately. Among other things I need to install telltales on all the sails, finish re-riveting the headboard on the larger main, replace the zipper on the genoa, finish building out the trailer (which will involve a fair bit of welding by a friend of mine), and install a bunch of hardware that should be coming in the mail over the next several days. Still plenty to do. But this isn’t much compared to what my list was like when I started this whole project!

We’re close enough to done that my son and I picked up a bottle of champagne when we went shopping on Saturday. Sorry, we have no plans to crack it over the bow. I’m not that melodramatic, and I cringe when I think of bashing up the boat and signing on for yet another fiberglass repair job. But when the last repair is done and we finally stick the Smilodon decals on the sides of the boat, we’re going to kick it up with a wine and cheese party in the boat’s honor. If the weather holds fair the next morning, we’ll finally go sailing.

– Tom

P.S. I realize that for the last month or so I’ve been fixated on posts about sailing. Well… about boat repair, really. I expect about another month of strictly sailing posts, and then I’ll start posting about engineering, KAP, and everything else I do when I’m not sleeping. Bear with me. Eventually the boat will be on the water, and life will once more be chaotic.


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