Sails, Cabin, Boiler & Gally – February ’20 update

Just a note to record the things we have been doing over the last month or so.

Most importantly we have secured a berth at Ferry Nab on Winderemere, so Befur will be exploring new waters this year. So, as always, the cosh is upon us, with the berth being available from the 1st April (yes, we know, not an auspicious date!).

The work has divided into annual maintenance, finishing/installing the sailing rig and finishing the fit-out of the galley – and sundry diversions.

Maintenance: Boiler and Engine

As noted earlier we has some work to do on the engine. We have now progressed to the annual inspection cycle on the boiler. This will take 3-parts:

    • cold internal inspection
    • hydraulic test
    • steam test

The internal inspection was completed. All was good, although there is some signs of oil being carried over from the engine, so we will complete some washouts with detergent/soda to clean this up. It’s sooty (on the outside!), but a couple of pictures show progress…

boiler with covers off

Boiler with covers off, ready for inspection

Boiler showing tube banks

Boiler showing tube banks, with some soot in evidence – but all in good shape!

As can be seen, it all looks good, and apart from minimal loose rust, from where it dried out, no obvious corrosion 🙂

Once it has all been reassembled we will be able to undertake a hydraulic test (after the washouts).

Then we will probably delay the steam test until we are on the water.

Once we have the covers on, we will enlist the help of one of the local farmers with a hydraulic bucket to re-install the engine… We have fitted a permanent strut to locate the pump and alternator assembly, so this should be easier.

Cabin Repairs / Adaptation for Tabernacle and Mast

Again, as noted before, we had suffered some delamination of the roof ply, where water had got in around the radio antenna cable. In the end we replaced a complete sheet of ply on the forward half of the cabin.

This was not all wasted work as we needed to cut a large slot to allow the heel of the mast to swing up/down as the past is stowed and raised (see here). So a set of mahogany combing was epoxied into place and new epoxied roof panels were fitted to each side.

Further examination showed that water had also got in around the screws holding the solar panels. In both situations the screws/cable had been driven into Sikaflex, but this had not worked. Also there were small cracks appearing on the end-grain of the roof panels, again risking water ingress…

So, two lessons are learnt:

  1.  We should have, and will now, clad the roof panels in glass in epoxy cladding (as with the rest of the hull), making sure this covers the edges of the roof, and then fit wood trim to the cabin edges to try to make this solid and tidy.
  2. ANY hole in the cabin roof should be avoided if at all possible. So when we are refitting the solar panels, handrails, deck tackle and winches for the rig, and any cables we will either rely on grab adhesive (silkaflex) without screws, or adopt the West System’s approved approach of drilling holes, filling them with epoxy and then either embedding bolts into the wet epoxy (either to hold studs or provide a cast epoxy nut) or through-bolting to ensure no more water gets in  – a lesson learnt!

The last bit of work (sort of now or never) is to make and fit some drawers into the cabin, under the chart table to help with stowage.

Drawer Making

Making drawers for the galley – lots of mess… but those clamps come in useful again!

I undertook my usual approach of buying sawn carcassing timber to save money, and AGAIN learn the lesson that our local builders’ merchant appears to store their timber underwater – so several days of sawing, drying and cursing ensued to make 9 draws (almost all different sizes) to “fit” in the available spaces – I really don’t enjoy woodwork, and using cheap, nasty and wet timber just makes this process even more painful – either way I hope we will appreciate the ability to store things!


sail on drive

Sewing complete – a sail on the drive

Louise has completed the sewing of an 18sqM sail for Befur, using Arne Kverneland’s excellent instructions on DIY sail building on the JRA’s site. The picture shows the sail-maker and sail laid out on the drive, (with modest rocks holding it down in the wind!)

The sail is made with “camber” sewn into each panel (to form the aerofoil shape), and a webbing bolt rope around the edge to take the loads. The next step is to fit the aluminium tubular battens into the pockets in the sail, stretch the sail between these, and then lash the boom and yard in place.

Then “batten parrels” (more webbing) are fitted to hold the sail in place against the mast, then multiple sheetlets are attached to the aft end of the battens (with appropriate blocks) to provide a complete sheet system. The halyard is attached to the mast and yard to hoist the sail, and then various other “parrels” are attached to adjust the for and aft position of the sail, and to “peak” the yard. (with Lazy-jacks to hold the sail when reefed – don’t you just love the nautical terminology! – a whole other language).

We still need to make final decisions on the location of the deck hardware (blocks and winch) and decide how to attach the sheets to the transom (some form of chainplate I think.)

However, the rig is certainly coming together!

Finally a couple of notes on other things we have been “playing with” while the weather is too bleak for working outside.

Taper Threading

Tapered screwcut BSP threads made with the new lathe

Tapered screwcut BSP threads made with the new lathe

After many years of procrastination, I finally decided to upgrade my lathe. After a lot of thought I eventually opted for a newer version of my 1940’s Harrison lathe… this one from the late ’60s!

The reasons for choosing this were, that a) I know and like the basic machine, 2) this one had an extra inch of centre height, 3) it comes with a much bigger (32mm) hole through the headstock, 4) it came with a quick-change screw-cutting box (metric and imperial) and lastly it had a taper turning attachment….

All of this was put to good use in the picture above – it had not occurred to me that a taper turning attachment would allow the cutting of taper threads, but it does! The new gearbox allowed all those odd sizes that BSP threads require (like 19tpi), so a practice run produced a really nicely threaded 1/2″BSP tapered thread – smug mode on!

Digital Indicator

Digital Indicator Under Development

Digital Indicator Under Development – desktop prototype

On an entirely different track, I have for some time been thinking that modern computing technology might allow me to design and build an “Engine Indicator” for the steam plant. An “indicator” is designed to show internal cylinder pressure throughout the stroke of the engine while it’s running. A form of test tool for steam engines.

Traditionally these employed paper sheets wrapped around a drum, bellows to move the pen to sense pressure and string tied to the connecting rod rotating the paper drum to provide piston position – I kid you not. You will even find pictures of mainline locomotives with what appear to be garden sheds erected on the front buffers to house the brave men using one of these instruments while hurtling down the track….( you can see a posh one here).

So, I have been working on a prototype here. The plan is to use a PIC microcontroller (the sort of thing you find in your toaster or microwave) to do the data capture, and then a Raspberry PI to process the raw data and display the resulting “indicator chart” on a small hand-held screen.

The picture shows the PIC processor (red board on the right), the Pi on the left (coupled to a breakout board and some thermocouples to provide some practice data, and the blue board at the back is pretending to be a steam-engine crankshaft generating TDC pulses.

It has provided the incentive to make me learn a modern programming language (“C”) as all my professional programming was in the 70’s and 80’s in languages no-one speaks any more!

It’s taken a few weeks, but the results are encouraging… the little $10 PIC achieved the following:

  • captures and digitises 4 input channels (upper and lower cylinder pressure in HP and LP cylinders) to 12-bit accuracy (1 in 1024).
  • reads the TDC pulses and computes RPM and generates an interrupt (and data capture sample) at every 5-degrees of crank rotation.
  • passes the resulting 432 data items (864 bytes) of data to the PI using I2C protocols on request….

…and it does this all at engine speeds of up to about 1,750 RPM… that’s a data sample every 1 ten thousandths of a second! Amazing……

We will keep you appraised of progress!


6 thoughts on “Sails, Cabin, Boiler & Gally – February ’20 update

  1. cornbeamnick

    It was Greenpeace that said a boat was a hole in the water into which you pour time and money.
    Well done keeping it it going and moving forward.

    I wonder if you need a traveler for the main sheet so it can be set either side without disconnecting it.

    1. sybefur Post author

      The “book” suggests that a fixed sheet location is the way to go, with it set on the same side as the sail (starboard in our case. I am a bit concerned that the sheets might get tangled with the tiller, so I think I will opt for a lashing onto the stern ladder, then either replace that with a permanent chainplate or construct a horse to hold it clear…..I think? ??!!!

      1. sybefur Post author

        …Nick, in the end I opted for a “chainplate” on the transom to raise the blocks above the tiller… We tried her under sail last week, and while the airs were very light she did go along, and even in the direction we were aiming for, so it looks hopeful 🙂

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