Peeling the Onion
(Discovering what I had bought and figuring what to do next!)
While considering the purchase of Ada Hardy I sketched some design concepts for a conversion, to help me reach a decision whether to go forward or not. The sketch below, which contemplated converting her to a "raised forward pilot house" configuration is one of the earliest drawings I made.
First concept design sketch prepared early 2003
The scheme would require the removal of the existing wheelhouse and raised aft (poop) deck as well as cutting through the majority of existing full width deck beams. This involved major structural alterations, and whilst anything is possible if you throw enough money at it, I had serious reservations that this was the best solution and resolved to keep an open mind and explore other design alternatives over time.
I brought the boat to Sydney from her home port of Triabunna in Tasmania and set about using the boat as much as possible to better understand her existing bones, her strengths and her weaknesses - to peel back the layers of the onion, so to speak. Over the next few years Karen and I grew to value many of the boat's existing features, in particular:
- the huge uncluttered foredeck which provides an outdoor living space rarely found on boats even twice her size;
- the location of the wheelhouse and main accommodation area being well aft is particularly comfortable at sea;
- the sizeable foc'sle is physically separated from the other accommodation and living areas and makes for a cosy "apartment" for guests with a high degree of privacy;
- her canoe stern and massively high freeboard aft (under the area of the poop deck) provides a huge amount of buoyancy making the boat particularly safe in large following seas.
The huge uncluttered foredeck soon emerged as a "must keep" feature
Her "fat bum" is not her prettiest angle, but provides masses of reserve buoyancy making her particularly safe in large following seas.
Whilst it was my intention to do most of the detail design work myself, I wanted to keep the boat in commercial survey and as there would undoubtedly be some structural modifications, I engaged an "old school" naval architect (one who understood wooden boats!) to assist.
First Haul Out
We hauled the boat at Goat Island in Sydney Harbour in June 2003 so that my naval architect, Jan Faustman, could confirm the original lines plan. I also wanted to seal the 150 odd penetrations in the hull which allowed fresh sea water to circulate in the "wet well" and carry out a detailed underwater inspection.
I was pleasantly surprised to find all the "underwater parts" to be in excellent condition.
On the slips at Goat Island. Note the stabilizer outrigger arms folded back against the topsides aft. I cut these off and jettisoned them at sea on the way to Lord Howe Island a few months later.
The prop had obviously been damaged at some time and been repaired and was also showing some signs of electolysis. I ended up replacing the prop 3 years later (during the main conversion project) with a new one whith slimmer (higher aspect ratio) blades and 2"more pitch.
I was a little concerned about the signs of electrolysis despite the underwater metal parts being protected by a dozen or more anodes and all skin fittings, shaft, etc being fully bonded internally. I arranged for a marine corrosion consultant to come and have a look and he recommended removing every anode and de-bonding everything internally.
55" diameter x 38"pitch 4-bladed propeller showing signs of repaired physical damage and some electrolytic corrosion. The rudder has a chord length of 0.9m and a height of 1.5m and helps make the boat extremely controlable in a sea way and wonderfully manoeverable at slow speeds.
His opinion was that a system of sacrificial anode cathodic protection in timber hulls is often unnecessary and can give rise to alkaline degradation of hull timber (galvanic rot) around metal fittings. He recommended inspecting all metal fittings regularly after removing the anodes and bonding systems and then dealing with any individual problems if they arose. I can happily say, 15 years later, that I have never had the slightest indication of any electrolytic issues since. It is also interesting that every time I haul the boat yard staff are incredulous that there are no anodes fitted. (Note that I did subsequently fit a Victron isolation transformer to provide protection from from faulty shore power connects and stray currents from other nearby sources.)
Wet Well Plugs
Workers preparing to seal wet well circulation openings. Note also doubled section of planking to provide protection to the hull at the location where cray pots were hauled on board.
Prior to hauling the boat for the first time, I had discovered somewhere on board a number of beautifully crafted wooden boxes which contained a total of 150 no. x 75mm diameter bronze threaded discs. It was clear they had never been used and I had no idea what their intended purpose was. Being the hoarder that I am I kept them figuring I would find a use for them one day. When we hauled the boat it immediately became obvious that these bronze discs were plugs to seal the 150 wet well sea water circulation holes - each of which had been fitted with a threaded bronze skin fitting to receive the plugs.
Excerpt from original plans showing a section through the wet well.
I had no idea the circulation holes were each fitted with a bronze skin fitting and this was yet another example of how well the boat had been built. It was also a welcome saving to not have to manufacture 150 timber plugs to glue in place! Something that had not occurred to me, was that plugging the wet well holes replaced 8.6 tons of water in the hull with air, causing the boat to float well above her design lines! I spent the next 3 years (prior to the refit when I added diesel tanks and ballast) filling and emptying the tank by pump everytime I took the boat to sea.
After about six months, I moved well away from my original concept of a forward raised pilot house towards maintaining a wheelhouse on the raised aft deck. The main reasons for this were to maintain the sea keeping benefits of high freeboards and bouyancy aft; the better ride comfort of an aft wheel house and thirdly that the main deck under the raised aft deck had not been constructed as a weather deck and would require substantial modifications.
I had become a little frustrated with my original choice of naval architect by this stage, because whilst I thought his timber engineering skills were sound, I felt he lacked imagination in coming up with design alternatives but more frustratingly still hadn't discovered CAD design and electronic communications!! He drew everything by hand and insisted on hand delivering full size "blue prints"of any finished work. So I reached out to a sailing buddy yacht designer, Andy Dovell of Dovell Naval Architects to see if he would be willing to get involved - which surprisingly he was!
Andy started work from the point I had reached with Jan Faustmann to that point. The scheme that emerged incorporated a new enlarged wheelhouse with an extension in front of the wheelhouse to provide full head-height access into the main saloon from side decks and a trunk cabin over the fore deck to provide below decks access to the foc'sle and accommodation space in the midships portion of the boat where the freezer and wet well were located.
First pass Profile and General Arrangement prepared by Andy Dovell
(Click on plans to expand)
This latest scheme wasn't doing it for me! Specifically, I didn't like the look of the annex in front of the wheelhouse and I felt there was too much space given over to accommodation (who wants 8 people on board!!) and not enough space for storage, miscellaneous equipment and tanks for diesel and fuel. The most significant thing however was that Andy had proved conclusively that the only way to build accommodation into the belly of the boat was by adding a trunk cabin (and thus loosing our by now treasured fore deck area) as there just wasn't enough head room (due to the wine glass shape of the hull).
So it was back to the drawing board!
At this time I had owned the boat for nearly 18 months and had used her extensively including a 10 day trip to Lord Howe Island and a six week trip down to Tasmania and back. This extensive use of the boat in conjunction with the significant time spent exploring ideas on paper got me to the point where my ideas were firming up. Andy had by now constructed a complete set of electronic plans for the boat so I took these and spent the next six months or so cutting and pasting and moving things around until I finally settled on the final arrangement.
We became totally committed to keeping the wide open spaces provided by the flush deck