Boat Work

Update from the Yard

Well, things are moving a lot slower than expected. Last post I was targeting early July for having the boat back in the water, but it’s now looking like early August. This probably isn’t entirely a bad thing since the fiberglass needs to dry out before I barrier coat it. In the meantime I’ve been working on the boat almost every day, removing everything under the waterline, down to bare fiberglass. I’m now working on fairing the hull, which is extremely tiring work. What’s amazing is the hull felt almost perfect to the touch, but slather on some fairing compound and a do a bit of longboard sanding, and a bunch of filled-in spots appear!

Faired part of the hull.

I’ve also filled in all the keel blisters and ground out some of the cracks in the flexy areas and glassed them over.

Note how all the other boats come and go but Idefix stays put.

Hopefully next week I can start barrier coating.

I’m also working on a French translation for this site, for my handful of francophone fans (stalkers?). Given how much time it takes me to get things posted in English, don’t hold your breath, this may take a while!

Like a Fish Out of Water

What a bicycle packed onto an Olson 30 might look like.

I rode down to the WAC last Friday night, packed my bike into the boat (!) and left the dock on what I think was my first solo sail on Idefix since getting back from Hawaii. Hit the Sound about 2215 and motored North until the wind picked up to 4 or 5 knots about a half hour later. I then had a quiet night of sailing in a light breeze, fighting the flood to Kingston, anchored in Appletree Cove and went to bed at 0200. It was relaxing to be alone on the boat, doing my thing on a quiet night. A couple thousand miles of singlehanding has definitely taken the edge off, although autopilot troubles made me sweat for a little bit as I left the dock. The wind was dead the next day so I motored against the morning flood towards Everett. There were all sorts of weird patterns on the surface of the water from the current, and I did my best to try to use them to get to my destination quicker, although I think I was only mildly successful. The currents around here are both fascinating and frustrating.

My colleague Brian, his wife Jamie and their twin 3-year-olds Jordan and Tatum met me at the dock in Everett and the wind picked up to 6 or 7 knots as we went for a little sail on Possession Sound. Jordan drove the boat for a little while and I’m considering hiring her as a helmswoman.

After 4 hours of sanding... white stuff is gelcoat.

In the afternoon it was time to drop everybody at the dock and haul the boat out. The bottom paint is in good shape, but the hull is covered in little blisters, which for a race boat is not a good thing… Olsons are known to blister if left in the water, so I’m going to sand the bottom paint and gel coat off, cover the bare glass with an epoxy barrier coat, and repaint. Hopefully the barrier coat will keep the blisters from coming back. This will probably be a couple weeks of extremely arduous work…

Blisters on the hull. I've peeled a couple off with a knife, revealing gelcoat.

There are also a couple bigger blisters in the keel. I poked one with a knife and water came spurting out, in the end I removed a quarter-size pocket of fairing compound. With that and the couple little dings in the keel, there will probably be a little work to do there as well.

Keel blisters.

I’m hoping to have the boat back in the water sometime around the first week of July, but everything always takes longer than I expect, and for now it’s strictly DIY – just me and the boat… The yard fee is $30/day, so the quicker I can get it done, the better!

Memorial Day Sailing

Solar panel mounted on the stern. Not going to produce much in Seattle...

The weather this weekend was pretty horrific, which isn’t atypical for springtime in Seattle. Peter and I still managed to get a lot of work done on the boat, installing the sea hood, solar panels, and speakers (mostly to boost the AIS alarm volume, but also so we can cross the Pacific in style!). I spent a lot of time on the sewing machine stitching the jacklines and spinnaker net.

After three days of nonstop rain (most of it falling during the three hours we were struggling to get the solar panel fitted on the back of the boat), it finally cleared up, the wind picked up, and we took the boat out for a spin, testing the new heavy reaching chute, calibrating the autopilots, and swinging the compass. Everything went off without a hitch, and we even got to test some creature comforts like the beanbag chair and quarterberth “lee cloths”. There’s still a bit of wiring to do, and probably a couple little mods to help with storage (the Olson 30 really wasn’t built with storage in mind), but overall the boat is starting to feel capable of a real voyage.

Spinnaker and carbon pole on their maiden voyage.

Auklet sails by as we motor in circles getting the compasses calibrated.

Hangin’ In There…

Self-portrait from 42 feet up. Don't drop the camera, Adrian!

With only 5 weeks left to go before casting off for the delivery to San Francisco, the last couple weeks have been pretty busy with prep work of all sorts. I spent about 4 hours this weekend hanging from the mast. Step one was trying to feed the wiring for the wind vane, masthead lights and VHF antenna down the inside of the mast. It got caught up a bunch of times and we ended up losing the messenger line, but eventually we prevailed. Once I got back on the ground I tested the lights and to my consternation the tricolor refused to work! I was pretty bummed about this, but slept on it and remembered that the fancy light has a sensor that shuts it off during the day – It’s not broken, it’s a feature! While I was up the mast, I had to replace the protective cover on the top of the forestay. I’ve only sailed the boat 3 times since putting the stick back up, but the halyards had already chafed through the 1/8″ fiber-reinforced hose like it was butter, almost exposing the Dynex Dux! I wrapped the forestay in (expensive) Teflon tape, then snapped on the old Harken chafe protection, and put on a bunch more Teflon tape, which I think makes for way better chafe protection than rigging tape. I hope I’m not going to regret using rope for my standing rigging!

My boat looks so small from up here!

Some Pacific Cup boats had scheduled a SSB radio test with boats in California and Oregon, so we pointed our antenna South and tried to call in, but couldn’t make contact. Peter and I could hear a bit of faint chatter in the static, but no distinct words. Then Fri boomed in loud and clear from Seattle, first calling California Girl, then Idefix. We answered, but it didn’t seem our message was getting through. Later, Norm the radio guru strolled by and gave me some pointers on the installation that might help. Hopefully I can get this thing working…

Finished off the day drilling 16 holes in the deck for handrails, routing out the core and filling them with epoxy. We’re getting pretty used to this whole making holes in the boat thing!

CFRP Deck Reinforcement

The new carbon fiber deck reinforcement.

One item I wanted to take care of before putting the mast in was some sort of reinforcement for the deck. The underside of the deck is currently strapped down to the front of the mast with a turnbuckle, but a lot of Olsons race with an aluminum or carbon fiber “beam of destiny” bolted between the chainplates. Unfortunately, this restricts passage to the area forward of the bulkhead, which I don’t think is worth it, especially for 6 weeks of sailing on the Pacific. I decided to do a compromise and create a carbon fiber rib in the deck just forward of the mast. This is against class rules, but I figure the odds of my racing the boat in a class event are pretty low anyway, and the boat doesn’t meet the rules for a number of other reasons.

Second layup inside the vacuum bag.

Peter and I spent Thursday night sanding away the paint and into the glass, which created a gigantic dusty mess throughout the boat. On Saturday morning I set up all the bagging equipment and cut the carbon and trimmed the foam, which I had previously shaped. We then used some spray adhesive to stick the first couple layers of carbon overhead before wetting them out. Some more adhesive got the next layers sticking too, but the foam just wouldn’t stick to anything, so one of us had to continuously hold the rest of the assembly against the cabintop while we finished the layup of carbon, then peel ply, breather, and the vacuum bag. Getting a good vacuum was very tricky, even after I realized I should plug the holes for the jib track and downhaul screws in the cabintop.

When the first layup went off, we tore off all the bagging material and did it all over again to add a couple more layers of carbon. This time the vacuum was solid right from the start. Tearing off the bag a couple hours later was very satisfying. There’s a slight misalignment between the two pieces of foam I used, but overall the beam looks really solid and I think it will stiffen up the boat nicely and keep the deck solid for a while.

Stick is Stepped

The bilge, my home for the last couple days.

Finally got the mast back up this weekend. Progress on the rigging was really slow. Here’s an overview of what’s been done to the boat in the last few weeks:

Keel Nuts & Bolts

I spent a couple days cleaning out the bilge with a toothbrush, cleaning off the threads on the keelbolts, and replacing nuts and washers. The keel bolts are all in good shape, except the big one, which is heavily corroded. This is probably because it’s almost impossible to fit a 1.5″ socket on it to remove the nut, and the bilge pump inlet sits on top of it, which probably keeps it wet. Unfortunately, this is the one that the lifting eye fits on. There seems to be plenty of steel left, but I’ll be pretty nervous if I ever have to use a single-point hoist.


Home-made backing plate with the "jock strap" plate bolted to it.

I removed the old chainplates, filled the bulkhead and deck with epoxy, and redrilled holes to the new chainplates. Unfortunately, a bunch of the epoxy didn’t cure completely hard. I have no idea why. It seems like it will seal all right, so I’m just going to leave it in, but it’s a little soft, and a couple years down the road I might have to redo it. Made some chainplate backing plates out of 1/4″ aluminum and put the new chainplates in with new hardware all around.

Read on for more boatwork.



My bedroom is a mess of line...

I’ve been re-coring all four of Idefix’s halyards. Each one is about 85 feet long, and has the cover stripped off the top half. What I do is cut the stitches holding the cover on the core, splice a new core to the old one, and feed it though the old cover. I then taper and bury the cover into the new core (this is the hardest part), and put a new shackle on the end of the halyard with an eye splice.

One of the halyards had a splice in the middle of it, so I had to buy a cheap line and use the cover off that. It’s funny that it’s cheaper to buy single-braid spectra and a cheap double braid line and swap out the spectra for the other line’s core than it is to buy spectra with a cover and strip off part of the cover…

I’ve also been working on the new spectra forestay, backstay, and topping lift. These are going to be pretty slick.

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