Friday, March 13, 2020

New Rig #2 Synthetic Chainplates

Wharrams don't have conventional chain plates of course, but you know what I mean. The chain plates on a regular sail boat anchor the shrouds to the hull. On Tiki Wharrams, the shrouds terminate in a heart eye, and are then lashed around an anchor pad glued and screwed to the hull. The lashings are also used to tension the rig, in conjunction with the forestay lashing (or bottle screw in the case of Little Cat). I found in practice that the lashings were difficult to tension and caused maintenance problems in that they were hard to keep clean, and were messy and unsightly.

Shroud base

My solution was to use a 3/16 synthetic dyneema loop with a large sailmaker's eye to take care of the anchor pad to shroud anchor, and then to have a simpler lashing between the two eyes (see picture below). This works really well, and is neater, and simpler to tension. I have put 500 nautical miles on these so far with no issues, and will update.

Shroud lashing

Saturday, March 7, 2020

Coastal Cruise to Santa Cruz

During the Big Refit I developed all sorts of elaborate plans to take a month off and run with the wind all of the way down the California coast to the Channel Islands (off Santa Barbara). In reality, I got one week and got as far as Santa Cruz (184 nautical miles return over seven days).

Red is heading South to Santa Cruz, and blue is the return trip.

On a Saturday in November I started my trip by heading offshore with the idea that I might get a big run, to who knows where, down the coast. Once clear of the coast, the NW winds filled in and we got some nice sailing in the Southern Shipping Channel. By late afternoon, the wind had decreased and I ended up going all the way back to the coast for an overnight at Pillar Pt Harbor in Half Moon Bay (45 nautical miles that day).

A bit close to Franklin Pt.

Got away a bit late on Sunday for the next leg to Santa Cruz. The NW winds did not fill in until after lunchtime at which point we were leaving the south end of Half Moon Bay astern. We hoisted the small spinnaker and made some good progress gybing downwind. It was very foggy so only saw the coast once gybing about 0.5 miles off the coast north of Pigeon Pt. The wind started to get sporty so dropped the spinnaker and then put a reef into the main and jib. Got distracted so doing and ran across the kelp on the North approach to Pt Ano Neuvo. This was a bit silly and I should have been checking my navigation as I could not see anything in the fog even though the shore was less than 1/2 a mile away at the closest (see above). We headed sharply out to sea and around Ano Nuevo which was completely hidden in the fog.

Then followed a long run with just a reefed jib to Santa Cruz. The wind had built stronger than forecast to around 20 knots from astern. I could have carried more sail but was tired and didn't want to get wet. Still, we were making 5 knots with the reefed jib and I was hunkered down in the cabin under my canvas cover. In the last couple of hours into SC the wind reversed direction into a 15-20 knot head wind with a nasty short chop and rain. This was a bit much after a long day and I huddled peering out of the little windows in my canvas cabin cover in the dark trying to see if we were going to get run down by a fishing boat. I had the comfort of the new super bright LED masthead tricolor and the wireless AIS that I had installed during the Big Refit.

Finally got around the point into SC and anchored for the night next to the Pier. Not a great nights sleep because of the tremendous racket made by the seals (52 nautical miles that day).

The new three-sided deck tent.

The next day (Monday), we checked into the SC Small Boat Harbor. What a beautiful spot for visiting cruisers! We got an end tie for the night, one down from the huge Team O'Neill catamaran that operates out of SC. We made an asymmetric sight on adjacent jetties - big cat, very little cat. I also got to take some pics of my new deck tent set up. I finished Stage One a while back comprising a simple boom tent using an extending boat hook as "the boom". This was great in hot weather, but much to be desired in a breeze or rain. So, Stage Two was enclosing one end of the tent with zippered doors and windows (so that I can see anything coming when anchored).

Because the boat is usually swinging on the anchor, the closed side is always to windward and three sides is all you need. It is really snug and gives a relatively huge area to live in when anchored. It provides complete shelter from the wind and rain as long as it is swinging in the wind.

Once settled in, I took a long walk around Santa Cruz, including the beaches and Pier. Found a nice bar to have pizza and beer and it tasted amazing, as it always does after a couple of days camp cruising.

Then it was a snug night under the awning. It was early winter and not exactly tropical, so I leave the gas stove running on low for hours at night. With three sides on the tent, there is no danger of asphyxiation, but have to use extreme caution in not burning the boat and oneself to death (two new fire extinguishers were included in the refit).

The three sided tent is awesome!

Tuesday saw us heading out of SC on the start of our return trip. Although there was an option to extend my trip down the coast for a few days, the weather forecast had changed and was predicting 10 - 12 foot swells and a 25 knot northerly by Friday. This gave me three days to get back to the Bay in more benign conditions.

Back into the fog.

Santa Cruz was fog free the two days we were there, but the fog reappeared heading up the coast and we were soon in low visibility conditions again. There was not much wind, and what there was was on the nose, so we motored for hours (with a little bit of unsuccessful trolling fishing thrown in), before pulling into the delightful anchorage at Pt Ano Nuevo (21 nautical miles for the day).

Down anchor at Ano Nuevo.

Ano Nuevo is the only anchorage sheltered from the prevailing Northerly flow on the coast between Half Moon Bay and Santa Cruz. The bight inside the point itself provides lots of shelter, but also the dense kelp forests dampen any wave action that makes its way around the point.

If you look closely you can see Little Cat and the approaching fog bank.

We managed to get right inside the kelp beds off the beach, and let out a generous scope on the anchor for a secure night's rest. I had carted the little kayak all of this way with the intention of getting ashore somewhere, and now was my chance to use it. The only problem was a two-foot swell breaking on the beach. No problem I though to myself as a confident ex-surfer, sure that I could wait for a lull between sets to get ashore.

Returning to Little Cat.

It was not to be. I was laughably dumped over in the shore break fully clothed with all my wet weather gear and boots. I stood on the beach with my boots full of water and pondered my foolishness, but also managed to take a couple of photos. Cold, I decided that my adventure was over and that I should get back out to the boat to get my wet gear sorted out. I waited impatiently for a break in the surf, but not long enough, and immediately got tumbled again. I tried five or six further times to get through the surf and was spat off every time. I looked to the sea and noticed that thick fog was rolling in again with a vengeance and that it was getting late in the afternoon. If the fog came in before I got out, I might not be able to find the boat. The forecast was also for the swell to increase to five feet during the night, so the shore break was getting bigger, not smaller. Just as I was starting to contemplate a night on the beach, I lull allowed me to finally get past the shore break and out to the boat. I immediately rigged the tent, hung up layers of wet clothing, and started the stove to warm me and my gear up.

Passing the ruins on Pt Ano Nuevo.

The fog arrived half an hour after I returned to the boat and cut visibility to a few yards (whew). To cap it all off, I found during the night that my batteries were flat AND that my new LED tricolor and anchor light had failed. I found later that one of the wiring connections between the outboard alternator and the batteries had come apart unnoticed. I still haven't fixed the tricolor and will update later.

Tuesday morning saw us heading out around the striking ruins on Pt Ano Nuevo for the 30 nautical mile run to Pillar Point Harbor. There was a five foot ocean swell but the winds were still light so we motored most of the way. The wind did fill in coming into Half Moon Bay and so got a couple of hours sailing slow tacks to windward. We anchored close to the shore in shallow water in Pillar Point harbor, and had a cook-up with fresh vegetables (above). We were so close to shore that I had a conversation with a dog walker as it was becoming dark. I hung up all of the now-damp gear to dry with stove going late into the night again.

The best sailing of the return trip was the final run from Pillar Point Harbor back to the Golden Gate on Wednesday. The wind was blowing from the south at 10-15 knots and we sailed most of the way back, only firing up the engine as we ran into the outgoing tide at Mile Rock. By the time we reached Angel Island, I could see that the tide was going to be too low to get into Muddy Bay, so I decided to spend the last night anchored at Quarry Beach, Angel Island.

The next morning (Thursday), I was packing up and taking down the tent, when we were boarded by the Coast Guard. They seemed bemused by the Wharram with the tent up, but found that I had the correct flares, extinguishers etc. and then went on their way. It was a short 6 NM back to Big Muddy Bay for a total trip of 184 nautical miles.

Other Pics:

Little Cat, big cat.

Leaving Santa Cruz in the sunshine.

Ano Nuevo beach looking South with wet boots.

Wednesday, December 11, 2019

Not the Bahamas

You don't have to be in the Bahamas to get pretty extreme weather. Right here in San Francisco Bay we frequently get big winds. OK, I know its not hurricane weather, but we are used to very changeable weather in addition to the potent tides.

The Winter is often very calm (see above), but then punctuated by strong winds. Here in the Big Muddy Bay where Little Cat is anchored, we will see 50 knot gusts a couple of times a year, but we get 30 knots quite frequently.

The Northerlies are always the worst, and in Big Muddy they are onshore.

These pictures show Little Cat in the same spot in a Northerly blow. The wind is a steady 25 knots, gusting to 30 knots.

The anchor system is a bridle going to a heavy chain set between two anchors, and has always been reliable.

Friday, December 6, 2019

Ten Year Refit

Well! Finally got to go for a sail in November, nearly a year after I dropped the mast last December to put the boat up on the hard for painting.
Little Cat at Ano Nuevo in November 2019
The long time offline was because the boat was getting what turned out to be a pretty comprehensive refit after 10 years on the go since her launch. In the intervening 11 months, she has had:

- the repaint at Berkerley Marine Center that I have already posted on
- entirely new standing rigging
- a new mast and mast base
- refurbished gaff spar
- new windows (see previous post)
- a brand new mainsail from Rolly Tasker
- refurbished side decks(see previous posts)
- a redesigned anchor mount under the front beam
- a new rear net
- a new deck tent enclosure for cruising trips
- installation of new Lewmar deck hatches and refurbishing of the existing hatches and refitting with gas struts
- installation of fitted seats in both cockpit/cabins
- installation of Whale hand pumps in both hulls
- installation of grab handles inside and outside the cabins
- a new Fortress anchor to replace the one I broke at Muir Beach

In addition to that lot, I also did a great deal of wiring work, including fitting:

- wireless AIS
- a VHF/AIS antennae splitter for above
- a masthead LED tricolor
- internal switchable lights in the cockpits and cabins (including running power from the port to starboard hulls)
- water tight bulkhead fittings for the above
- internal 12v and USB outlets in both hulls
- a deck light
- two Blue Sea distribution panels
- a custom switch box

... and other stuff that I can't remember already, for sure.

Anyway, I will get around to making posts about some of these projects at some point in the future.

The Wireless AIS unit that I stalled and read using OpenCPN on my smart phone.

LED Tricolor from MarineBeam worked great for 2 weeks and then stopped working - more on that later.

Fitted a Whale Urchin bilge pump to each hull.

Tuesday, August 6, 2019

New Side Decks

One of the jobs that was just too big to complete during the Winter re-paint was the side decks - that is, the center side decks.

Red arrows show where the center side decks are

The side decks are a part of the boat that take a real beating. They are the most stood on part of the boat. When you get in or out of the cabins or move around the center deck area, you are mainly on the side decks. These side decks are 10 years old (as is the boat now), and were epoxied but unglassed 1/4" inch marine ply. The plans call for a second narrower strip of ply down the center of each side deck to reinforce them, but the original builder had built two stringers underneath instead of the extra layer on top, which I like because it leaves them flat and the same height as the rest of the center decks.

Nice new coat of 6oz fiberglass

Over 10 years of use the side decks were pretty well banged up and had some surface cracking and checking, and it was time to replace or renovate. Of course I chose renovate as I always seem to do; the decks were still basically sound and just needed a bit of extra help. I started by stripping all of the old paint off down to the original epoxy layer. The next step was a 6 oz layer of glass on BOTH sides, with two further epoxy fill coats.

Underside of topcoated deck

With glass on both sides the decks are now super stiff, and it makes me wonder why glass coating on both sides, effectively turning the plywood into a core material, is not used as  a construction method more often. They are heavier, although not unduly so.

Topside masking up for anti-skid

The paint was next, and what a grind it is to do it properly. Two undercoats with Interlux Primekote, and three top coats with Interlux Brightsides. The five coats were all sanded between layers - lots of time. But wait, there is still the anti-skid to do. I used two coats of Interlux Interdeck after careful masking, and found it really easy to roll on in one go compared to my old method of sprinkling sand onto wet paint.

I also made substantial mods to the decks to make them more usable for my purposes (see above pic). I put new dyneema loops in (see previous posts) through the stringers - I use these for close windward sheeting of the jib, and also as anchor points to clip in my harness when it is rough. I added mahogany foot braces screwed through into the stringers. I have found that when it is very rough, you need somewhere to brace your feet. I also added new raised cleats that I can reach handily while sitting in the cabin/cockpits. I added a line of holes (back filled with solid epoxy) along the center edges that I will screw to the deck center section. The center section is now bolted to the front and rear beams. This final mod will make the hole deck area relatively rigid.

OK, lots of work, but the center side decks are now pretty much indestructible and will not need work for a long time.

Sunday, June 30, 2019

New Rig #1 Starting From the Bridle

While the boat was on the hard over Winter, I took the first steps towards building a new rig, starting from the ground up as it were, with the forestay bridle and bridle u-bolts.

Bridle and u-bolt positions

My original bridle was 5/32 1x19 stainless steel wire with 1/4" u-bolts. They were still tight after 10 years, but there was polish and wear on the u-bolts where they take the load from the bridle wires. The plans say that the bridle wires should be 3/16, so they were undersized as built.

There has been much discussion on several internet forums about building reliable bridle anchors. Later Wharram designs were specified with cord lashings instead of u-bolts. However, I was reluctant to drill multiple holes through the stem and wanted to keep the u-bolts. In an internet posting Rory McDougall had recommended 5/16 "or even larger" u-bolts to be on the safe side. 

3/8 u-bolt bearing surface and 1/4 stainless wire

Word to the wise - use forged u-bolts. Wichard makes a range of them and even the 1/4 Wichard u-bolts are rated to 1400 lbs working load and 4,400 lbs breaking load (that is, around a 4X safety factor breaking to working load). Unfortunately, I was on the hard at the boatyard and could not wait for the 2-week delivery time for Wichard bolts. So I bought some West Marine 5/16 316 (non-forged) stainless bolts - big mistake. These were "rated" to "2,200 lbs working load" which is a strange number because the breaking strength of a rolled stainless 5/16 bolt is about 4,000 lbs, and working load is some multiple of breaking strength (2X, 3X, 4X etc.). So 2,200 lbs is not even a 2X safety factor from the breaking strength of the bolt. Further when I was installing these bolts, I torqued them to the rated 11 foot pounds for a 5/16 bolt and they galled (welded in place). This happened to both bolts, so I bought a third bolt thinking that I had over tightened them, and carefully torqued this third bolt, and it to galled before reaching the final torque of 11 foot pounds. Thanks West Marine! Most of the stuff I buy from WM seems good quality, but these u-bolts were so bad that they are dangerous.

5/16 threads and nylock nuts on shaped base

So, then I found these stepped Ronstan u-bolts that have a 5/16 thread and a 3/8 U section. This gives me a working load for the threaded bolts of around 1,000 lbs (based on the 4,000 lb breaking load of a stainless 5/16 bolt), and the much larger section of the stepped U to absorb the wear of the bridle. Note that with each u-bolt taking the load on two threaded ends, the true working load is going to be much higher than for a single bolt. Unlike the awful WM bolts, the Ronstan bolts could be torqued and un-torqued to the 11 foot pound rating with no problems whatsoever (that is, good quality steel).

OK, so I had my u-bolts.I then spent considerable time drilling the mounting points oversize, filling them with thickened epoxy and then re-drilling them to the correct clearance size so that the u-bolts could be torqued into place and then removed whenever I want to, rather then being glued into place as the previous ones were. I also made aluminum mounting wedge plates that allowed the u-bolts to mount fair and square from the stems (rather then pointing forward because of the angle of the hulls) and epoxied them in place.

Rated triangle link ready to go

The next decision was which wire to use for the bridle. The plans specify 5/32 6x7 stainless wire for the standing rigging and 3/16 for the bridle. That wire (6x7) is generally no longer available, so I used 7x7 which is ideal for self-made rigging as it is flexible enough to use Nicopress swages. Working load for 5/32 7x7 316 wire is 440 lbs and breaking load is 2,200 lbs (see image below which belongs to Suncor USA). This specification from Wharram is obviously usually fine because there are hundreds of Tiki 21s sailing around the world with standard spec standing rigging. However what are the actual loads that a Tiki 21 rig is exposed to? It turns out that there is no easy formula for this important question and expert sources invariably say that there are too many variables to easily quantify. One source is a small table in Brian Toss's Rigging Guide that suggests that loads on a 20 foot boat are around 500 lbs, which fits with the Wharram's original spec.

But what about peak loads? I had a Harken High Load (wire) Bullet Block deform and almost break on the mainsheet bridle (which takes the full rig load). I assume that this was with the rig powered up going to windward in the usual 20 knot summer breezes in San Francisco Bay. That block is rated at 500 lbs working load and 2,000 lbs breaking load. This unscientific study leads me to believe that rig shock loads can approach the breaking strain of the standard spec 5/32 wire or, at the very least, that the rig is exposed to loads way beyond the working load safety factor. So what to do? For my new standing rigging I am going up one size to 3/16 wire which rates at 620 lbs working load, and a hefty 3,100 lbs breaking load - well beyond the shock load that nearly broke my Harken block.

All well an good, but what about the loads on my new bridle? The reason why the standard spec for the bridle wires is larger than for the rest of the standing rigging, is that the angle from the forestay to the bridle wires subjects them to a higher load. The graphic below (from shows that lifting slings need to be rated to match the loads of the angle of the sling. The Tiki 21 bridle angle is about 60 degrees from the vertical, and the chart below shows that this doubles the load on each sling (each arm of the bridle). This means we need a wire rating 2X what it is for the rest of our standing rigging, or, around a 1,200 lb working load.

Going back to the table from Suncor, the next size up is 1/4 wire with a working load of 1,040 lbs and a breaking load of 5,200 lbs. This doesn't quite make the 1,200 lb level but is a full size larger than that specified in the plans, and if the rig does endure shock loads approaching 2,000 lbs, that will be 4,000 lbs at the bridle which is still well below the breaking strain of the 1/4 wire. Also, the 1/4 wire is really hefty, and going to a larger size would look plain ridiculous and would require huge swage fittings.

So that is what I went with, and the bridle was assembled from 1/4 316 stainless 7x7 wire, using a hand Nicopress tool and stainless fittings. The 1/4 size was maximum for the hand press but was quite doable after a bit of practice.

That just left the fitting to join the bridle to the forestay. The Wharram spec is an oblong quick link fitting, but it always bothered me that the oblong shape left the bridle wires at an odd-looking angle. So I sourced the Maillon Rapide 3/8 316 Stainless Steel triangle delta link that you can see in the above picture. It took me a while to find and order this part, and I went to the trouble because it was the only brand that was available in 316 and that had a test rating.

The bridle is now finished and installed, and is now just waiting for me to finish the new mast and the rest of the rigging - more on that later.

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

New Portlights (windows)

What do you call a window on a boat? Porthole? I think of a porthole as an opening window, so not that. In our family we always called them portlights, so that is what I'm going to go with - new portlights.

New 3/16 tinted acrylic (still with the sticky paper on) over the old faded and crazed portlights

During the last haul out, I took on the faded and scratched portlights that had done a good job for 10 years. The original builder had committed the crime of sealing the portlights with silicon. It took a day of solid work to get the silicon off the cabin sides for four small windows. I knew it would be a tough job and was convinced by the interwebs to order and try an expensive product called Debond Marine Formula. I can't honestly say that it did anything. In the end the most effective method was a good ol' razor blade followed by sandpaper. You can never get silicon entirely off, but I got the hull sides dead smooth and clean, if still a little slippery. I then went ahead and prepped and painted the cabin sides with 5 coats.

Pre-applying the butyl tape and screws

I ordered new 3/16 tinted sheet acrylic, and cut out the new windows using the old ones as templates. This made the whole job really easy and starting from scratch without the templates would have been a much bigger job. I clamped the new acrylic windows to the old ones and drilled through the old screw holes to get perfect reproductions of the original portlights.

Leave the protective film on until the portlight is installed on the boat

Instead of using a permanent hi-tech bonding goop, I used an old fashioned product that has come back into vogue - butyl tape. This stuff is amazing - it has the consistency of plasticine and can be shaped to suit what ever you need to seal, in this case a bead around every window.

Back in place

I pre-applied the butyl tape in a bead around each portlight, and stuck each of the screws through the tape ready to re-fit on the boat. It is best to leave the protective film on the acrylic as long as possible to protect it during fitting.

Looking swish

Back on the boat, the fitting was very easy, with the screw holes lining up perfectly. I reused all of the original screws, but bought new nylock nuts and washers. As you tighten down the screws, the butyl tape squishes out and you can stop at the point that you are happy with the seal. The excess can be scraped off with little residue left behind. The best thing is that the butyl never goes hard, and the next time the portlights need to be replaced, they will pop right off. Now I just need to convince one the Little Helpers to come and hold the allen key outside while a do the final tighten down on 60 nuts inside the boat.