Friday, February 16, 2018

Review of Autarkia's Asymmetrical Layout

Autarkia evolved as she was built.  This is a process that many would be reluctant to take.  After all, a boat, even one such as Autarkia, is a large committed investment.  Yet, when we began to build her, the boat we had envisioned was very different from how she eventually turned out.

Original Concept

We had planned full standing headroom throughout.  We thought we needed that much space!  It did bother me though, that our roof/deck height would be a good five feet above the waterline along the sides, as well as being sloped.  It always sat in the back of my mind that this might not be such a good idea considering that we are getting older.

And the moment we took it upon ourselves to have a complete rethink was when the hull was turned over, and brought home to our driveway.

The Hull Was Huge!

I am very grateful to Lorri that she was able to consider something different, knowing that she would be giving up on the cabin space and full headroom that she thought was so important at the time.  But we saw that we had a huge blob of putty in our hands that we could shape into anything we wanted.  And I for one, immediately wanted wide side decks.  We talked about it, and even laid lumber down to walk on on and further envision the advantages.  Among them of course would be the safety of level walkways at around dock height - something that would prove to be a wonderful feature of the boat.

But what would we do with the reduced square footage of cabin?  Well, this was where I began to draw and play with layouts, and overall look.  And it became very apparent that the boat simply would not look right if we kept full headroom throughout.  Much discussion, some of it lively, resulted in a realization that standing headroom was quite necessary where one would stand and move about in the galley, but not quite so important where one would either sit or lay down.  Of course, raised trunks with standing headroom for the galley and reduced headroom in the rest of the boat is nothing new.  Lorri was wary, but she agreed.

The next issue though, was how would we lay her out?  Most sailboats are fairly symmetrical, with a companionway centered on the cockpit, headroom gained by the camber of the roof, and accommodations and furniture laid out to either side.  It seemed though, with the size of this boat, that we did not have to stick to such convention.  One of the things we saw and realized, that we would be limited in the kind of berth or berths we would have with a central corridor.  True, the boat was wide enough for a double berth on either side - double as boat standards go anyway.  But double berths were not what we wanted.  We wanted a very large sleeping platform that we could use a a lounging area as well.  It would have to be all on one side.  Given that neither of us would compromise on this, it became very apparent that the boat's 'corridor' would be off center.  That cleared up where the forward and aft companionways would go.  I might add here that this was possible because Autarkia would not heel more than a couple of degrees.  A more conventional sailboat that does heel is symmetrical  because it must function on both tacks.

Now the bulkheads were placed with the original design in mind.  And in the original design the middle cabin was going to have a settee and dinette, with the forward cabin having a queen sized berth athwartships, requiring us to get in and out of bed from the foot.  Also, we thought that it might be some sort of luxury to have a companionway in said stateroom out to the fore deck.  I am so glad that we did not do this, and were I a proper boat designer I would not even have considered such a thing in the first place!

Anyway, it just started to make sense then, that this forward cabin could be utility space (and we now call it the utility room for lack of a nautical term).  It houses the composting toilet, a workbench and vice, and is a general storage area for the sort of stuff that needs to be handy, yet makes a boat look cluttered and messy.

The center cabin would now become our 'stateroom' and we were able to build a sleeping platform 85" long by 76" wide extending under the side deck.  We can orient ourselves any way we want to sleep, and I must say with the custom foam mattress, egg crate foamy, and the bedding and pillows we have, it is the most comfortable bed we have ever slept in.

But what about the dinette and settee we were going to have in this center cabin?  How could we squish all on that in the aft cabin along with the galley?  Well, we brought in some chairs and mocked up various configurations and discussed the advantages and disadvantages of each, and I thank Lorri once again for this - why build any permanent furniture at all?  This area could be very functional with chairs and small tables we could move around or stow away.  An absolute eureka moment!

And this is what we have.

Our time out on the water has been limited, so I have to reserve judgement for the efficacy of Autarkia's layout while cruising.  Suffice to say that in that regard while out on the water the side decks are great, the large fore deck is great, and the clear path inside from aft companionway to the forward companionway is great.  It certainly has worked well on the Fraser.

Otherwise, in the year or so we've had her finished out and while at the dock in Mission, we can find no issues with our accommodations inside.  It all works wonderfully.  Storage is more than ample, comfort is high, amenities are sufficient, and she has turned out to be a very cosy boat indeed!

Monday, February 12, 2018

Dealing With The Companionway

As some of my long term readers may recall, I was under constant pressure from the District of Mission to get the boat out of the driveway while she was being built.  I'm still a little mad about that...

So, a lot of things got rushed.  One of them was the companionway hatch, that wound up being a simple flat horizontal plywood affair hinged on the starboard side, along with a drop board for the vertical portion.  It turned out to be weatherproof enough and has worked well enough for us given the type of use Autarkia has served for the past year and a half.

However, we have been spending most of our nights down here as of late, shaking down the changes and mods we must make to have her more accommodating for long term stays (the Natures Head was a result of that process).

And so far, the boat is turning out to be very comfortable and a very pleasant place to stay, at least while docked here at Mission Harbour.  But having to lift that companionway hatch and set it down on the rail, then undoing the hasps for the drop board and then lifting it out and placing it somewhere is a real PITA.  Especially for Lorri, since that stuff is fairly heavy.

And so, I will be fabbing up the replacement hatch forthwith, and as originally planned.  The 'doghouse' you see in the SketchUp drawing does not allow one to stand erect inside though.  I have drawn it with full headroom and it just doesn't look right.  So a little crouch is need when going in and exiting - not a big deal since we have to crouch even more to go through the boat boat forward of the galley.  It has not been an issue.

The one thing I will do that was not in my original concept, is to make the whole shebang removable.  The doghouse along with the aft door panel will simple be bolted in place, with some kind of non-hardening sealer (electrician's duct seal?) to bed it all in.  That way replacing the mattress, moving furniture and so forth will be easy.

Thursday, February 8, 2018

Autarkia's Pooper - Epilogue

Autarkia's Brand New Natures Head Composting Toilet

If it were me alone living aboard Autarkia, I would have managed quite well with the homemade, experimental design composting toilet that has been detailed in previous posts.  Alas, I was not able to get the ergonomics right for the fairer sex (can I still say that?).

After spending quite a few nights aboard recently it became clear that a remedy was in order for the human waste issue.  I did not hesitate.  I have been reading reviews of this toilet for years, as well as watching some video reviews - some of them quite humorous - on YouTube.  You can find them yourself quite easily.  Suffice to say, no one has anything bad to say about these toilets.  They are happily being used in RVs, boats and tiny homes.

I ordered one one last Monday morning from our local BC distributor and got it by courier the next day.  It took me about ten minutes to install.  Of course we tested it shortly thereafter.

Autarkia has always been a happy place.  She is now a much happier place.

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

A Boat for A Friend

I am helping a friend of mine conceptualize a houseboat as a liveaboard for a single person.  Since I have learned a lot by virtue of designing and building Autarkia, I thought that incorporating her successes into the design, as well as a few mods specific to his requirements might lead to something interesting.

This boat is smaller than Autarkia.  Her length minus the motor mount/swim platform is 28 feet as opposed to Autarkia's 34 feet.  She has a 9-1/2 foot beam as opposed to Autarkia's 11 feet.  But she would be built in very much the same way as Autarkia using multi-layers of fir plywood and fir 2by4s.

She is not meant to sail and would be powered with a 15-25 hp outboard.  I would also not have a dedicated steering station, but rather a wireless remote helm that can be used anywhere on the boat (this is a future project I intend to do with Autarkia).  Even though she will not sail, a small retractable off center board would help steering and keep her easier to control in a breeze.

She does not have a utility room as does Autarkia for obvious reasons, but would have a queen size bed on the port side of the fwd cabin, with bookshelves and storage above.  A desiccating head could go under the fwd hatch like Autarkia, that also serves as a step to get in and out of that fwd hatch.

The aft cabin with standing headroom could be laid out in a number of ways, however I am a fan of open concept using furniture that can be moved around as required.  But there would be a built in galley across the aft bulkhead, as well as cabinets above the windows.  The windows are at eye level when seated.

The covered cockpit is self draining with the sole above the waterline.  Deckboxes can house fuel, propane, anchors etc.  A BBQ is mandatory!

There is lots of roof area for flexible solar panels, and the roofs are guttered to collect rainwater.  Water tanks and a chain locker are under the fwd deck.

Friday, November 17, 2017

Here We Go Again

Some time ago I kicked around the idea of rigging Autarkia as a Gundalow typical of the sort that plied the Piscatauqua River in the late 1800's and early 1900's.

The idea keeps coming back to me for the following reasons:

The rig lowers in seconds to get under bridges - one simply lets off the block and tackle at the base of the yard, and the counter-weighted rig slowly descends with a gentle pull on the back-stay.  Shoot in under the bridge and haul the yard back up.  That is it.

Also, we will be making many trips downstream from Mission, and the rail bridge is right in the way.  Without a dipping rig we will have to cross the river and get the bridge swung.  If we go upstream, our destination is likely Harrison Lake via the Harrison River.  Two bridges to deal with there, and the highway bridge requires a wait of up to a week.

This type of rig points into the wind better than a junk rig but it does not reef easily or quickly like a junk.  I've been thinking about that though.  The fact of the matter is, winds here are very light - if we get them at all.  I think in any case a crazy rogue gust can be dealt with by letting go the sheet and lowering the rig.  It isn't like we simply have to keep sailing - we have a motor.  Even with a junk rig - for us there will be a learning curve and we will have to figure out how to use the rig properly in any case.

The stub mast and yard can be made from steel.  The yard would be sections of Schedule 5 and 10 pipe telescoped and welded together.  I have hundreds of pounds of tire weights I can cast into a counter-weight for the base of the yard.

The biggest job will be to sew a sail but unlike a junk sail with batten pockets and such, it will go together faster.  I will have to use proper sailcloth, and borrow a better suited sailmaking sewing machine than my Granny's Singer Featherweight but no big deal.  I also bought a copy of The Sailmaker's Apprentice and have been reading it voraciously - so I think I can do it.

One unconventional thing I may do is to attach the yard to the top of the stub mast with a fabricated U-Joint of sorts, rather than chaining it up there in the traditional fashion.  Since the stub mast will only be six feet off the fwd cabin top keeping it greased and maintained will be easy, and there will be no rubbing or chafing. Still thinking that one through.

I've done some of the engineering and calculations for the pipe sizes, and have figured out how much counter-weight I need at the base of the yard, but will post those details later on should I proceed with this route.

As a matter of interest, the folks at The Gundalow Company have been quite helpful.  Please check them out.

I have not been very active blog-wise as of late, like many of the fellow bloggers I like to follow.  It is simply life.  Gets in the way sometimes :-)

On a last note, I made a change to the wood stove installation aboard Autarkia.  I lowered down by a foot and replaced the flue with insulated pipe.  The stove works better now and also heats the nether regions more efficiently.

Here's a pic:

Monday, September 25, 2017

An Informal Sea Trial

We took Autarkia out for a little trip down the river yesterday with our friends Tom and Julia.  Julia is recovering from a severely broken ankle yet did quite well getting around the boat.  Autarkia's large foredeck was a hit!

A points about performance:  She is slow and heavy so takes a little while to respond to the helm.  That said she'll turn quite sharply due to the OCB.  I could get her up to hull speed with the motor revved up to 4000 RPM, but we found that cruising at 2800 - 3000 RPM was a nice compromise for noise and speed.  At that power setting we did 3.5 KTS going upstream against a 1-2 KT current (it varies, and is slower this time of year).  Downstream of course, was a very respectable pace.  Getting to Vancouver in a day would be easy I think.

If I got her pointing straight enough I found that I could leave the helm for minutes at a time and she would keep course.  The foredeck is so pleasant a space, and quiet (you can't hear the engine up here) that I am already thinking of a forward steering station of sorts.  Another future project for the pile - and it's pretty high already.

We were out for the whole afternoon and the engine ran the whole time except for a little stop when we tied up to a log boom for snacks.  We used about 6 litres of gas.  I am very impressed with the Evinrude E-tec 30 HP.

At the Helm

Looking Upstream Towards the Mission Rail Bridge

Municipality - "Not Our Responsibility" Province of BC - "Not our Responsibility" Federal Government - "What mess?"

Getting Snacks

Look Ma - No Hands!

Grape Juice From Tom and Julia's Garden Mixed With Club Soda

A Typical Fraser River Saw Mill

Another Eyesore

Derelict Queen of Sidney

More Mess

Lot's of Gravel Barges

Friday, September 22, 2017

A Cosy Stateroom

We made another little push to finish up Autarkia's interior with some recent work on the 'stateroom' (sounds a little hoity-toity don't it?).

Anyway, some overhead shelving for books, clothing etc adds to the storage space.  I also put in an LED hidden light strip that illuminates the whole space nicely,  and to add to the illusion of size - a mirror across the bulkhead.  That will encourage us to stay slim and attractive :-)  For safety, I covered the back side of the mirror with Gorilla Tape so that should the mirror be broken (by virtue of me looking into it beyond a reasonable interval or otherwise) the shards will be restrained.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Ground Tackle

The windlass is a used Lofrans I got at a ship breaker.  I took it apart, regreased it and it is as good as new with a fresh coat of paint.  The bow roller is for a boat trailer and works well in this application as well.  The cleat and windlass are bolted to the deck with aluminum angle reinforcements on the under side.  The hole in the windlass where the chain feeds through is capped with a piece of plastic and some weatherstripping.  The anchor chain hangs from the cap and its weight holds the cap in place keeping the rainand spray out.

I have 150 feet of 3/8" chain.  Pretty heavy!  

Here is the cap held in place.

There is lots of room for the chain to pile.  The bitter end is shackled to the structure, but I do have a couple of hundred feet of rope as well if I need to extend it.  Those aluminum bars help reinforce the aluminum angles on the deck stringer, and carries some of the load down to the bottom stringers.  I have some rubber mats for the chain to pile on, and if I need to wipe up any water it will collect against a cross piece.  I intend to wash any mud off the chain as I stow it.  We'll see how easy (or not) it is to keep this area clean.

I have a Rocna 13 lb with chain and 200 feet of rode that is stowed in the propane box.  I intend to keep looking for more anchors to add to the collection but for now I think we are good for this area anyway.

Monday, September 4, 2017

A Visit From a Fellow Blogger and Sailing Barge Builder

It was a delight to have Dennis Donohue come by and visit us aboard Autarkia today!  Dennis is building a Triloboat and has been blogging it here:

Nice guy and definitely a kindred spirit!  So good to make a new friend...

An Improved Steering System For the Outboard

When I launched Autarkia last October it was under pressure and duress imposed by the city to get her off the property.  Hence some things were rushed and one of them was the steering system for the motor.  I had to be able to power her from the boat launch into the harbour a few hundred yards away.  So I rigged this very simple tiller bar to the motor that worked rather well.  Well enough in fact, that I used it once again to take her out and test out the off center board this summer.  What I noticed though, was I zigged sometimes instead of zagging.  You see, with this setup you moved the tiller bar left to go left and visa versa.  Makes sense when you think about it, but quite counter-intuitive for someone used to tiller steering with an outboard motor or a rudder.  Another drawback was that you couldn't let go without it wanting to change course.

Here is the original setup.   the tiller bar was hinged at the edge of the deck and in the pic the motor is turned all the way for a right turn, with the top of the tiller bar pushed all the way to the right.  The linkage to the motor was with some aluminum bar and a ball end.

So I finally pulled that out a couple of weeks ago and replaced it with this:

The steering shaft is 5/8" keyway bar stock I got at Princess Auto, along with two bearing blocks; one for the top and one to go through the deck.  The upper support was made with some ABS plastic I had, mounted and bedded to the cabin bulkhead with aluminum angle and SS bolts.  I parceled and served the shaft with tarred seine line and will varnish it.  Also I have yet to make a a boot for the bottom end to protect the bearing.

I made the steering crank with some steel bar stock and had it welded to a weld-on hub - also from Princess Auto.  The knob was cut out from a 3/4" piece of HDPE plastic I had.  I simply used a hole saw to get the round shape.  I chucked it into a dril and sanded the edge a bit.  It now spins on a 1/4" SS bolt.

The bottom end of the shaft has two more weld-on hubs spaced a couple of inches apart, over which I was able to very snugly fit a piece of heater hose.  It made a dandy drum.  Poly rope and bearinged  garage door pulleys complete the arrangement.  Since the photo was taken I tweaked the placement of two of the guide pulleys.  That piece of white PVC pipe is a tunnel for the fuel line running from the deck box housing the tank down to the motor.  I store no flammable liquids inside the boat.

Here is the starboard side.  The burlap bags are filled with 2x4 cutoffs for the wood stove.

I fed the rope through pex pipe fittings in the sides of the motor well and bedded them in with polyurethane caulking.  Also, I smeared lithium grease on the rope where it passes through the fairleads.

I haven't taken her out yet, but have run her tied to the dock at all power settings.  The motor turns from lock to lock with a little over two turns of the crank.  It is as smooth as butter.  The motor also stays put when you let go.  I am quite happy with it and when it breaks it will be easy and fast to fix.

The Mate approves!

Monday, July 17, 2017

Pondering the Post-Apocalyptic and Whether I Will Need Bridge Swings

I have finally abandoned a requirement I imposed upon myself from the very beginning of the Autarkia project.  And that was to have a mast that can fold down from a tabernacle, so that I could easily get in under the local bridges.

This stemmed from fears of a post-apocalyptic Lower Mainland BC, where in this chaos - if bridge swings were still possible at all - they would be controlled by trolls and overlords - requiring me, in the dark of night, to stealthily sneak under.

There!  I now admit that I have gone overboard in a train of thought mostly born and fed by reading to much Dmitry Orlov, James Howard Kunstler, and others.   No, I am not a doomer.

That said, I still believe that we are in for a heap of trouble nonetheless that will include predominantly a financial crisis.  I predict though, that most infrastructures (including those involved in transport) will remain intact and functional.  So, the bridges will still swing.

So to move on with getting Autarkia a sailing rig, I intend to have her masted at least this year.  I am presently making inquiries and getting quotes for a steel tube, and the cost of getting it hot dipped galvanized.

Details to come....

Sunday, July 9, 2017

Off Center Board Installed and First Test

Yesterday, My son Wesley and I brought the board down to the boat.  It is quite heavy, and the two of us huffed and puffed a fair bit to get it from the pickup truck, up and over the dyke and down the ramps to the dock.

I had previously turned the boat around so that the starboard side was against the dock so we could set the board in place.

Since the board, despite the weight, has a fair bit of buoyancy, it was not too difficult to get the bolt through the hole in the hull.  I smeared everything with lithium grease.  Once the nuts and washers were in place it was easy to push the board under and haul it down vertical with the line tied through a hole in the leading edge at the bottom.  There is a similar line on the trailing edge to use as an uphaul.

The bolt hole is reinforced with some angle steel lag-bolted to the stringer.  The only load on this fitting is the tension on the bolt.  The board bears against the gunwale at the top, and at the chine at the bottom.  Both are very beefy structures.  With the bolt snugged down tightly the board is very stiffly held in place.  Yet, I believe that it will 'give' sufficiently should it collide with an obstruction.

After the install Wesley and I took her out for a little test outside of the harbour.  Compared to when we brought her in last October, the boat was much easier to handle.  At speed, she turns on a dime without skidding at all!  Sharp turns to starboard have avery tight radius that is only slightly larger turning to port. Nonetheless, she is a heavy boat and there is a some delay in her response.

We will take her out again soon, and document it with lots of pics and maybe some video in an upcoming post.