Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Starting to Ice the Cake

Taking some time and being somewhat finicky with the mahogany trim and mouldings sure goes a long way to hide my usual wood butchery!  Autarkia is even beginning to look a bit 'yachty' I dare say!

I was pretty happy with the cabinet doors too.   I even took an extra day to make  the correct corner joints on them.  The inserts are 1/4" galvanized wire mesh that I spray painted with ivory Krylon.

Still lots to do to finish up the galley area and then on to the 'stateroom'.  There will be bookshelves over either end of the bed, high enough to sit up under, and some cabinetry for clothing under the starboard deck.

Sorry for the short post and crappy images.  The iphone doesn't do well in the dark.   When I get a good chunk more completed I'll do another video tour.

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Galley Floor

Purists will freak.  Cheap laminate flooring belongs NOT on a boat.  And for most boats that is probably the case.

However, Autarkia has been in the water for around six months now, and while we have not had her anywhere other than tied to the dock in Mission, she has proved to be very dry inside, despite constant rain when it hasn't snowed this winter, and much ingress and egress with the hatch open during inclement weather.

Furthermore, it is easy not to bring any water, dirt or otherwise aboard, since we have that large deck, a substantial threshold, and ample locations to put footware, to doff raingear, and otherwise treat her interior as one would treat a nice house.

There will be exceptions of course, as is with a house, that dirty boots, wet gear and so forth will be brought in, and like a house, laminate flooring handles those infrequent occurrences quite well, with a wipe up.

So, for not too much money we went with it for the galley.  And to make laminate flooring installation purists further cringe, we installed it across stringers rather than on a flat plywood floor.

This was done after some structural experimentation, to see how the 1/2 inch or so thick laminate would span a distance of 10 inches or so.  It does quite fine we found out, at least for the kind of loads we would impose on it, namely us in stocking feet, and some furniture.  Not - as one could encounter in a house - a refrigerator or a wall unit.

The structural stringers that give Autarkia's bottom her strength were spaced too far apart to accommodate the laminate, so I had to put in some additional stringers.  I simply used two by fours I had already, notched out to leapfrog over existing structure, and stuck them in place with polyurethane caulking.  I did not want to screw anything into Autarkia's structure and avoided that.

The laminate, designed for the most part to float unfastened, WAS fastened here and there as I saw fit, and only with deck screws, and only to the new interim stringers.

All in all, it looks good, and feels good.  I need to put in some sort of baseboard mouldings to finish the perimeter.  We will likely be using some rugs as well.

I will not put the laminate in the next compartment, but will rather lay some painted plywood and put a nice rug runner on it.

Speaking of furniture, we have decided not to build any in.  We have already a really cool, old gate leg table we bought many years ago at a garage sale and refinished, that will serve Autarkia well.  It folds up and can be bungeed for security underway, and either or both leaves unfolded, and the whole table oriented as required.  Furthermore, with the furniture tucked away, this large floor can be slept on with air mattresses by grandkids, kids if they behave, and friends who 'get it'.

Saturday, March 4, 2017

Autarkia's Pooper Part 2 and To Be Further Continued

Well, a little more on the ergonomics, and anatomical compliance:  We all are just not made the same!

When Yoda gave me the idea of considering a box cover for the toilet seat, my thinker went into gear.  In the process thereof, I sat down upon the deck - sans store-bought toilet seat - and low and behold!  Everything lined up!  "Could it really be this simple?" I asked myself.  "Could I incorporate a lid with some weatherstripping and keep it super simple?"

 Alas, not quite that simple, once brought up for evaluation and discussion.    But here's what we came up with for those who don't fit as well as I do on the seatless deck.  We keep a seat available that can be put on the deck and positioned by the user for the individual's comfort.

I have yet to refine said seat, but will likely glue a non skid material on the underside so it can't slide around.  Also, I will make an attractive holder for the seat for when the lid is closed.

Here are some more self explanatory pics.

I will have a Part 3 once I have the urine diverter plumbed in, removable seat detailed, ventilation completed (still waiting for some computer fans from Ebay - One for the toilet and a spare), and the whole head area set up and decorated.

Weather stripping to be yet applied to the lid.  I put some washers under the hinges on the lid to space it up a bit to accommodate the weather stripping.  Also I drilled some recesses in the deck for the screw heads.

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

A Desiccating Head Part One

The idea of a 'composting' head on a boat - even one as big as Autarkia - is a little misleading.  The composting process usually takes a period of years under the right conditions, where the resulting material has been truly composted into harmless and fertile soil.

Marine composting heads such as the Natures Head and Air Head should really be called desiccating heads. They keep the liquid and solid wastes separate, but mix the solid wastes with a drying agent such as peat moss, sawdust or a mix of both, and further dry it out thereby reducing the volume thereof.  The resulting substance winds up being dry, relatively odour free and easy to dispose of.  But as it is not 'compost',  it may be reconstituted with water to a disgusting semblance of its former self.  Composted properly, the addition of water would just make it wet soil.

But from a practical standpoint after all said and done, on a boat it does not really matter if the poop is composted or not, as long as it is kept dry and consequently odour free.

In past posts where I have discussed having a composting head, we had made a decision to buy a Natures Head as seen below.

It is arguably one of the better products out there, well regarded by those who have them.  Apart from it being a good product that does what the makers promise, there was a secondary reason we were considering:,  and that was the 'social acceptability' - if you will - of a 'store bought' device, costing a lot of money thereby making it all right in the minds of friends and relatives.

You might wonder why that would ever be a consideration for a couple such as us, building a completely unorthodox boat to begin with, and who in other aspects of our lives often reject the values, trappings, and behaviours of mainstream society, but it was.  Go figure.

What really changed our minds though was when we looked into actually ordering one, as Autarkia is now ready for it.  What we though might be an investment of around $1000 all in, turns out to be really about $2000 Canadian with the required accessories (ventilation kit) and after taxes and shipping.  "No way!" we said,  "we're going to make one!".

It has been done before and it is not rocket science.  The key things that are of utmost importance are:

1) Urine separation and collection to keep the poop dry.

2) Ventilation - preferably with a fan that keeps a negative pressure inside the toilet (sealing must be considered here) and that assists the drying process.  A screen over the outlet to keep the bugs out (this advice from RLW of BoatBits fame, who has been using a DIY unit for a decade now).

3) A desiccating medium such as sawdust, peat or a mix of both, to be sprinkled over each deposit.

As long as the above things are considered, a successful desiccating toilet can be built.

Let's look at the first item - urine separation:

For most guys an effective but inelegant way of dealing with this is using a plain old pee bottle.  You can buy these at marine outlets - they are made of red plastic, and have one flat side (I assume because it is also a medical product that can be used in bed).  An attachment is also available for female use as well, and it works.  Not so good though for getting up in the night.  So a means of being able to sit down (for either sex) and pee while groggy or still half asleep has its advantages.  And fellows, we don't go out and hang it overboard in the middle of the night.  Unsafe.

So it becomes an anatomical and ergonomic issue to design such a collector that does a proper job of separation.  That is, to be able to collect a urine stream from either sex, directed or not.  Furthermore, the urine collection receptacle must not interfere with other biological workings further aft!  A fine line must be drawn.

So here is the problem with a factory made device:  The designers must make assumptions about the user's anatomy and design something that satisfies the needs of the many but may not meet the needs of the few.

However, if we are building our own, we can mock up, experiment, mock up some more, experiment some more and come up with something that will work perfectly for us as individuals.

Without going into too many details here is what we came up with geometry wise.  The toilet seat was supported on either side with two chairs, so that one could sit down, reach in under and explore said geometry, as well as one's own geometry in a tactile manner.  Sorry, I tried to be more delicate...

I bought the toilet seat.  The SS bowl was stolen from the kitchen.  When sitting, there is some contact on the aft edge of the bowl, confirming that both guns are on target.  The other thing that has apparent advantage is the opening is quite a bit larger than what the Natures Head provides.  When researching the Natures Head, I contacted the company and asked about 'aiming accidents' in the aft area, and was reassured that cleanup was easy with a spray bottle filled with a water/vinegar solution.  I thought that if the opening were large enough that cleaning up would not be necessary.  This looks good so far.

I used epoxy putty to put the fitting on the bowl for the urine collection hose.  The reason for this was that any kind of fitting that attached mechanically would have a lip that would dam the urine, and not allow the bowl to empty completely.  With the fitting stuck on in this manner there is no lip.  Nonetheless, after each use I think that giving the bowl a spray of water/vinegar is a good idea in this instance.

Further along in the mockup and design phase of the project we are considering the tub to use.  Many designs out there use an orange Home Depot bucket of about 5 gallons capacity.  RLW tells me that the two of them are good for a month of use with one of these, but since I had this 'muck tub' from the farm store, I thought we would use it.  It should provide many months of capacity but there are other advantages too.  The extra space makes it easier to plumb in the urine tube, and the exhaust ventilation tube (probably will be 1-1/2" PVC) can go right down one side to draw air right across the growing pile.

To line the tub, I used a heavy plastic 'contractor' bag.  It is large enough to fit this tub.  At the bottom I put a circle of cardboard.

I then cut a piece of 1/2 inch plywood to fit very snugly inside the rim.

The top deck for the toilet is glued and screwed to the round insert.  The SS bowl was installed with PL Premium glue - very solid.

This is as far as I've gotten.

The top deck is over-sized, but I left the extra material so I can fit it nicely into the boat with a suitable surround for the sides.  I still need to decide how the lid will seal.  I may put the seat itself down with silicone sealant so it can be removed if I have to replace it.  I may have to make a gasketed cover to go over the hole.  I don't think that the toilet seat lid will seal well enough, even with weatherstripping foam.

To be continued....

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Every Boat Needs a Workspace

Since we've been working on Autarkia down in the harbour, my tools have been spread between the house and the boat.  And I never know where anything is on the boat ;  Every task is diminished in its pleasure by looking for this and that, and stumbling around a mess of stuff.

I decided to put an end to that, and make my next priority job organizing the utility room and building a workspace with storage.

Here is the bench I put in.  It is very solid and well attached to the structure.  I still have lipped shelving to build over the bench.  That's next.  I recessed the lower shelve under the bench somewhat to provide knee space.  Now, we can sit there and work on a project, and leave it out if need be.  We can set up the sewing machine, use a laptop, work on a hobby - and most importantly - get away from one another if need be, and neither having to compromise on a nice spot to hang out alone.

While we are out today, I'm going to pick up a nice little vice to mount on that corner.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Autarkia's Bed and a Little Tour

Thankfully the snow and ice has left us, and - knock on wood - we are late enough in the year to have seen the last of it.

We have been working on the platform/storage for Autarkia's sleeping platform.  I have put it together with cheap plywood, and have not used anything to fasten other than deck screws.  This will allow easy dis assembly should we ever decide to rearrange things.

I put some reflective bubble insulation under the mattress, and have wrapped it in black plastic (because I had it) and taped it up with Tuck Tape to provide some protection for the foam.  We will be covering that with some old school felt horse blankets, bean bags and cushions to make a very comfortable sleeping and lounging area.


We found these rugs at Walmart. 100% cotton and open weave.  They fit perfectly with an overlap.  We're going to velcro them at the side of the boat, and put a weighted rod along the other edge hanging over so it keeps it taut and wrinkle free.  Oh, we took the plastic off.  Too noisy under the rugs...

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Getting Back to Normal

Last week was nasty as far as winter storms go.

We were stranded for the whole week.  The problem in Mission is that we haven't any infrastructure to deal with the snow.  The city has a few salt/plow trucks, but the staff is unskilled in their use, and there simply isn't enough equipment or human resources.  And to boot, all day Thursday and most of the evening we were without power or Internet.

It did give us an opportunity to try out the oil lamps we bought for Autarkia.  I must say, it was quite pleasant to experience the quiet, and the warm light, and the conversation.

Today though, I was able to get back at it.  I put the off centre board on some horses outside and went to work with the belt sander.  I am fairly close to being able to glass the board.  There is a little filling and fairing yet to do, along with the piece of steel strapping that will go on the bottom to provide wear resistance, and attachment points for the lift/lower lines.

Lorri and I gave up drinking wine in the evenings and have replaced it with tea.  The caffeine has me deliciously wired and I find myself perpetually in evening design mode.

So I have been playing around with different sail ideas, and I must say I am really liking this one.  It is inspired by the Reddish design, but I have modified to have a scalloped panel at the top just because I really like the looks of Dave and Anke's sails.   The boom and battens all point to an imaginary datum forward of the boat, so the sail should furl correctly like a fan.  If this idea is still making me jiggy in a few days, I may build a 1:6 model of the rig just to make sure that it raises, lowers and reefs nicely.

With this setup I can get away with a mast that's 27 feet long from the bottom of the tabernacle to the top fitting.  By using a 6 inch schedule 40 aluminum pipe for the first 20 feet I can make the upper section with the fir lumber I have.

Jeff - a friend I met locally through this blog - and I are going to help each other make sails.  We have been (when I say we I mean mostly Jeff) doing a lot of research, and the consensus is to use Weathermax fabric.  More on that in upcoming posts.

Monday, February 6, 2017

More Off Center Board Flogging

We have been buried in a paralyzing snowstorm.

Anywhere else, where there is an actual infrastructure to deal with winter snow, this would not be a problem.  But because snowstorms have been a rarity over the last two decades in Mission, and also because Mission is built on the side of a hill, any snow is a problem, and a doozy storm like we've had over the weekend halts everything.  I gave up on trying to shovel any of it; the snow sticks to the shovel and doesn't leave it when you try to throw it.

So I went inside and worked on the OCB.

I laid the board on the bench and mixed up epoxy and wood flour.  You can see the colded rolled 1-1/2" bar is glued to the leading edge with PL Premium.  It all gets encapsulated with the epoxy schmoo.

I can only do one side at a time.  I'll flip it over today and do the other side, but yesterday I got the port side filled.  I'll fair it with a sureform file before any sanding is done.

I also need to get a piece of flat bar stock to make a shoe on the bottom edge of the board - for weight and impact resistance.  I think I'll extend the shoe an inch or so fore and aft, and drill it to accept the raising and lowering line shackles.

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Off Center Board Part 2

The basic shaping of the board has been completed.  Per Dave Z's suggestion I roughed it out with a power plane (a vintage Skill 100!) which worked really well (thanks Dave).   I then used a 3x24 belt sander with the coarsest belts I could find - #30 - to finish the shaping.  Looks pretty good for me.

The wider leading edge is going to get a 5 foot piece of 1-1/2" steel round bar bedded and faired in with thickened epoxy.  Once that is done, the whole board will be wrapped in a couple layers of 10 oz fiberglass cloth set in epoxy resin.  The thinner trailing edge will be left flat and not rounded off.  Ideally, from a hydrodynamic point of view, it should taper to a knife edge.  But that would be fragile.  Also, if I rounded it off, this would create turbulence as well.  So it is best to square it off for the least turbulence.

Monday, January 30, 2017

A Good Start On An Off Center Board

I made the decision some time ago not to use conventional leeboards.  There are several reasons:  The windward board provides no function.  Also, since Autarkia will heel very little, an off center board  able to bear the load on either tack will be effective enough for us.  A single side mounted off center board is used by Jim Michalak in many of his designs.

I intend to mount the board flat against the hull with a single pivot bolt, bearing the flat surface of the board tight against the hull with a piece of sheet plastic sandwiched in between.

Today I started making up the board.  I cut 16 pieces of 2by4 8 feet long.  This is the good structural fir I had left over from the boat build.  Here I just laid them out on the bench and clamped them together to see how they fit and to do some marking.

I drew an arc here.  The area to the right of the arc will remain flat on both sides, since this is the area that will be in contact with the hull side.  It has to bear tight against the hull without any play, and be able to take torsional loads as well as side loads from port and starboard.  Below the arc is where the board will be shaped to a symmetrical foil.   Much of the material to shape the foil is removed on the table saw.  I stop ripping at the arc and use a handsaw to remove the piece.

Of course I need to know what to rip away, so I made up a template to give a rough idea.

I did not angle the saw blade to follow the exact contour.  The reason is I would only be able to do one side since the blade only angles in one direction.  To do both sides I would have to cut from eith end, and that was impossible since I am only removing material partway up the board.  No matter, since once it's all together there will be a lot of grinder and belt sander work anyway to do the final shaping.

Those transitions will get a nice radius and b blended in smooth.

Here they are going together with PL Premium and 3 inch  epoxy coated deck screws.

All together and curing.

So once cured in a couple of days I'll fair it up.  I may use some steel as a leading edge and for weight to sink it, and then it will all get glassed over with a couple of layers of 10 oz cloth set in epoxy.  I may also put in a sleeve for the pivot bolt.

Saturday, January 21, 2017


The cold weather has left us, the ice has melted or drifted away and things are back to normal in Mission Harbour.

Work has continued on Autarkia during the bad weather - during which our little Cubic Mini woodstove has been greatly appreciated.  The water system has been almost completed with only the footpump and 12VDC pump to be installed for the sink spigot.  I have completed the forward hatch made up from aluminum angle and 3/8 inch thick smoked plexiglass.  There are two panels - one vertical and one horizontal that are held in with over-center catches (stainless steel, reasonable quality and found  surprisingly at Home Depot).

I will be ordering the 6 inch foam for the mattress in a few days.  It's big - 73" by 85".  Though part of the bed will extend under the side deck, and no one can actually sleep that far outboard - a leg or a knee or a foot can be nicely accommodated.  With throw pillows and stuff bags it makes for a large lounging platform as well.

With the forward hatch as a means of emergency escape in place, our bed installed, and shore water and power, we will be able to go down and spend the odd night aboard while we finish her out.

In the meantime at home, we (fellow junker Jeff and I) have been working with a fabric store that is becoming a distributor for awning fabrics such as Odyssey, Top Gun, Top Notch and Weathermax.  As a result of our research on the Junk Rig Association website, other blogs, and advice from other junk sailors, we will probably be going with Top Notch fabric to make our sails.  Of course, once that starts there will be much more detail posted here.

More interior detail to come soon as I get her cleaned up, organized and the aforementioned jobs completed.