Archive for the 'boat projects' Category

Searunner 31 Skeg Rudder

Tuesday, February 3rd, 2009

Someone sent me these pictures anonymously in response to my older posts on trimaran rudder design (1, 2). They show Jim Brown’s skeg rudder design for the Searunner 31. This is the best design for offshore. It allows the boat to navigate at it’s shallowest draft and the rudder is always protected by the minikeel. Also, the unbalanced design will improve tracking, especially when surfing down steep waves at high speed (at the cost of reduced maneuverability at low speed).

We had a couple of white knuckle rides during which I was wishing for a rudder like this. Once when we sledding down 30 foot swells north of Punta Baja (often approaching 16 kts). I also blame the broach we experienced entering Bahia del Sol on our rudder.

Also, note the trim tab on the trailing edge. This is part of a self steering wind vane system. A small force applied to the trim tab by a wind vane or tiller master is amplified (by the passing water) into the larger force needed to deflect the main rudder (in the opposite deflection).

Time Machine Refit

Thursday, January 8th, 2009

We just heard from the new owner of the Time Machine. Donald is doing a complete refit. It will look great with a new paint topsides.

innovative searunner 31 outboard rudder

The rudder of my dreams. The design for this is based on Bill’s rudder on Wing and a Prayer. It is firmly mounted in a (break away) sleeve but can be raised out of danger to operate in shallow water or pushed deep for maximum performance.

How much did it cost?

Wednesday, November 28th, 2007

pelicans at the puerto balandra anchorage , near La Paz, Mexico

[Puerto Balandra, Mexico 2005]

We were often asked, “How do you afford it?” In fact, that’s probably the most common question we got when we met a land tourist or cruise line passenger on the beach. Usually the people asking the question obviously spent more on their 10 day vacation then we did all year. It can’t be answered in any meaningful way because every person has a unique economic situation and different priorities. However, since we bought the boat, went cruising, then sold it all in a relatively short period of time we can answer the more quantifiable question: “Hom much did it cost you?”

Neither of us are accountants but due to the wonder of internet banking records I can come up with a pretty good estimate. The following table lists all the major expenses we encountered from buying the boat, storing it for a year, cruising for a year and a half, then selling it. We owned the TimeMachine for almost exactly 3 years and lived exclusively aboard for 18 months.

Buying the TimeMachine
Asking Price $32000
Survey value $30000
Purchase Price $27000
Taxes1 $300
Sold included trailer -$100
Sold included 9.9 hp outboard -$250
New Tohatsu 6hp Outboard $1200
Outboard parts (kits and spares) $300
Inflatable Kayak $400
Used 10′ Porta-bote $850
Hand held GPS, VHF, Binoculars $350
Portable Generator6 $400
Cruising guides and charts $300
EPIRB $800
Paint, Epoxy and supplies $600
Fabric and hardware for trampolines and other miscellaneous projects $1100
Coyote Point Slip 1yr $200/month $2400
Boat US Insurance (1st year only)3 $300/yr $300
Mexican Liability Insurance (1 year)4 $200/yr $200
Mexican Fishing Licenses $230
Storage unit in Foster City $70/month $1680
Health Insurance2 varied $2240
6 week trip to US in summer ’06 $3000
Santos watching boat/cleaning bottom $50/month $150
Panama Canal Transit $650
New Tohatsu 15hp outboard $2000
Sold EPIRB -$600
Sold Porta-bote -$750
Sold 6hp Tohatsu Outboard -$750
General Expenses5 $23000
Selling the TimeMachine
Survey Value $28000
Asking Price $25000
Selling Price -$22000
Broker Fee $1500
Total $46500
 1 We were able to successfully avoid most of the sales taxes with some paperwork hokey pokey.
 2We were initially paying $70/month/person but they dropped us after a year due to a payment mix up. We then found international medical coverage that was only $300/year/person excluding treatment in the US. In the end this was a mistake because those laws which guarantee coverage of pre-existing conditions when you have continous coverage don’t apply if the coverage is through a foreign company.
 3Liability insurance is required to rent a slip at nearly any marina in the US. Boat US doesn’t offer insurance south of Ensenada so we allowed the policy to lapse as we were leaving.
 4We were only asked for this a couple of times. I think we could have gotten away without it. After leaving Mexico we were completely uninsured.
 5This estimate is based on our bank statements and does not included US income taxes paid during this period. It includes all other incidental expenses like groceries, eating out, fuel, booze, and beer. There are probably things in here that deserve to be line items but I forgot (or just got tired of revising the table).
 6The portable generator was a total luxury and it’s primary use was to keep the camera and laptop batteries charged. We also used it to run power tools. One disadvantage to using an outboard for power is that they aren’t very efficient at charging your batteries.

I may have missed a few things but the error is no more than a couple thousand. I can confidently say that the entire experience cost no more than $50k. The cost of ownership of the boat itself (discounting living expenses, fuel costs, etc.) was only about $6000 per year. I expect that this would be an extremely low number by industry standards.

Looking over the numbers a few obvious things jump out. Keeping the boat at the dock, even at the bargain price (for the SF Bay) of $200 per month, ads up quickly. Dock fees and insurance represented %10 of the purchase price of the boat per year. After leaving California, we didn’t pay marina fees of any kind. This is important because marina fees are almost always more expensive than we are accustomed to in the US. Remember that most of the world doesn’t have a large middle class and marinas are built for the rich.

Since we were able to store the boat at my Dad’s place in Texas for free, it may have been tempting to hold out for a higher selling price. However, we felt lucky to have sold it so quickly. A boat is almost never an investment and a neglected boat is probably the worst investment of all. Had we planned to stay in Texas or if we weren’t expecting a baby we may have made different decisions.

The TimeMachine was expensive for the amount of living space provided. An equally capable boat could be found for under $20k and maybe as low as $10k. Do a quick search on yacht world if you don’t believe it. Having a small and humble looking boat will save you money in many ways. The officials are much less likely to gouge you and/or ask for bribes and the local people will treat you better.

Buying a fixer upper can be tempting but is probably false economy. The extra cost of fixing the boat up, storage, and insurance will probably quickly eat up any initial savings even if you consider your own time to be free. The same thing goes for purchasing your boat too far in advance. You’re better off keeping a small day sailer until you are almost ready to go. That goes double if, like me, you aren’t much of a day sailor (Over the horizon or nothing!). Unless you live aboard, 5-10 years upkeep on your 40′ dreamboat will cost years of a cruising budget.

There are lots of people out there right now doing it for just a fraction of what it cost us. A practical minimum budget is probably around $800 per month for 2 people not counting the initial expense of the boat. You don’t need most of the crap in the west marine catalog. Our navigation electronics consisted of a hikers model hand held gps, a VHF radio, and a depth sounder. These are essentials but we met people without radios and at least one couple without a depth sounder. GPSs are so cheap these days that going without is silly, but I’m sure there are people who eschew those as well. We later bought a SSB/short wave receiver for listing to weather.

I’m not sure who said it but you’ve probably heard the maxim: “go cheap, go now!” That’s probably the best advice you’ll get. Ignore everyone (and it is nearly everyone) whose advice consists solely of things to buy. Whatever it is, chances are you don’t need it.

Trimaran Rudders

Thursday, November 15th, 2007

Readers will remember that we had trouble with the rudder on the TimeMachine. I’ve been collecting rudder designs in my head for an eventual redesign for the rudder on the TimeMachine. Of course, that’s not my responsibility anymore, but I thought I’d post details of all the designs I’ve examined for other people who face the same dilemma. Also notice the various outboard motor mounts.

searunner 31 trimaran TimeMachine kickup rudder

searunner 31 trimaran TimeMachine kickup rudder

[Searunner 31, TimeMachine]

The plans for the searunner 31 included 3 rudder designs. The skeg rudder, the break away rudder, and the kickup rudder. The skeg rudder would have a fixed skeg permanently attached to the hull with the rudder surface at the trailing edge. The break away rudder design is very similar to the kickup rudder. The difference being that instead of kicking up in a box, the pintles would break free but still be repairable at sea.

As it turns out the kickup rudder box design included in the plans is simply not strong enough to handle the large surface area of the rudder. Our experience was that if the rudder kicks up while underway in a heavy sea, the forces involved simply destroy the rudder box.

If I were to build a new Searunner 31 from plans I would definitly choose the skeg rudder. It will give better control at high speeds and is shallower than the minikeel so you won’t have to worry so much about groundings. Unfortunately, retrofitting a skeg rudder would be a pretty big job.

Corsair F31 trimaran rudder Gimme Samoa

Corsair F31 trimaran rudder Gimme Samoa

[Corsair F-31, Gimme Samoa]

The Corsair F-31 design is functionally the same as the searunner kick up design. However, there are a couple important differences. The rudder kicks up all the way completely clear of the water. The surface area is comparatively small, the pintles are much closer together, and the construction is sturdier.

Corsair F31 trimaran rudder Quetzal

Corsair F31 trimaran rudder Quetzal

[Condor 30, Quetzal]

The Condor 30 utilizes a similar kick up design. I especially like the additional line for hoisting it clear. We could have used a system like this on the TimeMachine to prevent our rudder from being fouled. Again, the pintles are close together and the construction is very sturdy.

Custom 30 trimaran rudder Wing & a Prayer

[Custom 30, Wing & a Prayer]

This unique design on Bill’s custom trimaran uses a dagger board in sleeve. There is no kickup ability but the depth can easily be adjusted for current conditions. Note the forward rake that provides balance as the rudder is pushed deeper.

This type of solution would be very workable on the Searunner. It has the ability to provide a very large control surface when needed, but still allow you to operate in shallow water. This is the only design I’ve seen which can be adjusted in this way. None of the kickup designs can be used half deployed. They must be fully down while underway.

Kurt Hughes 30 trimaran rudder Side Effects

[Kurt Hughes 30, Side Effects]

The interesting thing about this Kurt Hughes design is the split lower control surface.

genesis 32 trimaran rudder Tri Harder

[Genesis 32, Tri Harder]

I don’t know much about this boat, but the rudder looks very similar to Jim Brown’s break away design.

Update: Two followup posts include photos of Jim Brown’s skeg rudder design and a custom Searunner 31 rudder based on Bill’s design above.

Recent Boat Projects

Sunday, July 8th, 2007

Lamely, I have not been regularly updating the blog like normal. Joshua has been posting filler photos hoping nobody will notice. This past week and a half have been consumed utterly with the Family Reunion, and we have averaged maybe 35 minutes of waking time at Joshua’s dad’s place per day. So, updates have been largely nonexistent. Before the family reunion, we were doing boatwork!


Rudder. After dragging the boat up onto the lawn at Jeff’s house, we promptly removed the rudder and broken gudgeon. And kind of stared at it for a moment. Then we decided that maybe we’d work on some other projects first. A month later we still haven’t done any work at all on it; it has just been sitting in the breezeway under the house being largely ignored, I mean, where it can dry out thoroughly. The rudder itself isn’t really that big of a deal, we are still just sort of pissed off at it. There is a small section on one edge where the fiberglass is cracked and so we’re going to cut that away, epoxy, sand, re-glass, sand, epoxy, sand, epoxy fair, sand, and paint it. A lot of work for such a small spot. That’s usually how it goes.

Also, the infamous broken gudgeon. John Williams, the owner of Gimme Samoa, is chief engineer on a 900-some foot container ship and he generously offered to weld up a new piece for us during idle hours between Hawaii and Southern California. This was a deal we could not pass up. We just got the new part in the mail and are have been fighting over who gets to sleep with it at night, it is so BEAUTIFUL!

rudder gudgeon john williams

Behold the splendor. John did an awesome job and we are so happy!

searunner 31 rudder gudgeon

Compare to the old part we had hacked together for us in Guanaja. The ends are totally sheared off (where the double arrows are); this happened during the Gulf of Mexico crossing but we had it lashed to the rudder through those little cheek blocks. This was a sketchy situation though because the rudder knocked around inside the part, widening the legs and threatening to rip again where I have a single arrow, and where it had ripped three times already. We knew the area must be pretty brittle.


searunner 31 centerboard

[Centerboard below with fairing epoxy ready for sanding. Again. A freshly-painted aca is balanced over it.]

When we first bought the boat and were sailing it down the Sacramento River to the San Francisco Bay, we had a minor anchoring mishap. After chucking the anchor overboard while pointing upwind, we dutifully attempted to reverse downwind to set it; however, the opposing current was so strong that we were spun around in a circle, running over our anchor line and wrapping it around the centerboard, which we forgot to raise before anchoring (oops). The damage was a one-inch notch in our centerboard, which we patched up “temporarily” with some Splash Zone-like epoxy putty hoping it would stay put. It held out for a very long time, until a few months ago actually, when we accidentally did the exact same thing, popping the epoxy right back out of that notch. We figured it was time to remove the board and repair the notch for real and see if there was any other damage. We dug a hole under the boat and dropped the board out from underneath. Like the rudder, there were some cracks in the fiberglass along the leading edge of the board so we ground it all off, did the whole sand/epoxy/glass/sand/etc. number, and now we just need to paint the thing. And put it back up inside the boat, which I seem to remember being much more difficult than removing it the last time we did this…

Acas. All four of the acas (the cross pieces—not the A-frame structural bits) have fiberglass cracks. They are pretty minor, but they look ugly and are one of the first things you notice when climbing aboard the boat. To fix them, we just need to remove them (one actually, Jeff fixed without taking it off the boat at all), grind/epoxy/glass/sand/fair/whatever to fix the cracks, then repaint and replace. Unfortunately, with the boat sitting out of the water, we are afraid to remove more than one piece at a time (in case the boat torques a little and we can’t get the bolts back into place). This is a pain in the ass in that we must do each one separately, one at a time. We just finished the paint and have two to go.

Hatch Covers.

searunner 31 hatch covers

The lazarette covers in the very bow and stern of the boat had major fiberglass crackage and were in general, hugely ugly and in danger of rotting. We removed them, did some prying and grinding to get rid of some of the totally gross glass and layer of rotting wood underneath on the edge and then wondered if we should just start from scratch constructing new ones. After realizing that this was probably a lame idea (the wood was fine everywhere else—just not on the edges), I removed the remaining glass from all edges, ground off all soft wood, and peeled up any sort of delaminating bits, wedging shims underneath so the air could get in and dry it out. Then I laid them out in the sun for a week. Once they were satisfactorily dry, we re-epoxied down the good-condition glass on the tops of the boards, then reglassed all four edges of all the hatch covers. This took about a million years. Much sanding and exoxy fairing and foul language later, they look better than I think they ever have and are ready for paint. Um, all except one set, which we sort of forgot to check for size after I ground away soft wood on the edges—we need to make them a little wider (only 1/8 inch but still, what a hassle); I think we will just add some more fiberglass layers, refair it, and call it good.



[So. Shiny.]

The companionway handles used to be lovely varnished glowing wood; however, after two years of rubbing sweaty hands covered with deet and sunscreen over them every time we got in and out of the cabin, the varnish was goopy and the handles were darkened and ugly. In addition, there were a couple other little pieces of wood (like in front of the sink) that had some varnish rubbed off. I removed these, sanded off all varnish entirely, then clear epoxied, sanded, and varnished them. I ended up painting four coats of varnish in the end, although I had intended to only do three (sanding between coats gets old fast). Unfortunately, right after I painted the supposedly third and final coat, the wind shifted, upsetting a large amount of fresh sawdust from the upstairs construction. This swarm of sawdust navigated down the stairs, circumnavigated the house to the downstairs breezeway, and evenly coated all my wet varnish. I couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw it. After much grumbling, I finally drove my pile of sticks to Tucker’s house to do the new final coat in his garage. They are back in place in the cabin and look really really nice. Varnish is a wonderful thing.

searunner 31 varnish

Minikeel. There was a three or four inch crack in the fiberglass in the minikeel. We weren’t sure if it was a small or large issue but figured it ought to be ground it away to make sure the wood underneath was still good. Grinding was interesting in that we discovered a little pocket of water under the glass but we also found that the wood underneath was still totally solid. Joshua ground away a huge swath of glass maybe three feet long on both sides to make sure there weren’t any other hidden water hidey holes and we let this dry out for a week or so. Joshua then laid new glass over the whole area. It now needs a final sand and paint.

Beneath the minikeel was a wormshoe. This is a piece of wood, usually unfinished but in our case, neatly glassed and painted with beveled edges, meant as a sacrificial snack for would-be pests and boring critters. We pried the remains of this gnarly bit off with a crowbar and trashed the thing. It was fully rotted out and perforated with holes. Wormholes, presumably. The minikeel was in excellent shape (aside from the glassy bit above I mentioned) so I guess it did its job.

Catwalk Supports.

searunner 31 catwalk supports

[Just in case you weren’t sure, the old pieces are on the left, bleeding rust. The new pieces are faired and ready for paint.]

These were originally made from ferrous metal and then painted to stave off rust. Clearly, this did not work out so well and the rust had oozed orange stripes down the boat. Finally, in the last couple of months, they rusted through completely and needed to be replaced totally. Joshua’s dad decided he would make new ones from scratch from plywood, so he partook in the cut/sand/epoxy/sand/fair/sand/drill holes/epoxy/etc. fun. They are ready for paint now and are looking great. I’m particularly happy that they will no longer drip nasty gunk down the boat. There is a product called “Sno-bowl” (like Tilex) that was recommended for the rust stains and it worked great! (We were highly skeptical that the stains would come off.)

Cockpit Seat. There was a tiny hole in the drainhole of the cockpit seat and eventually, this leaked water into the seat and delaminated the fiberglass (and possibly the plywood). We decided to add a hardwood support underneath, drill holes into the top of the seat to dry it out, then inject it with penetrating epoxy and regular filler epoxy after. I made a piece for the support and drilled a zillion little holes in the seat. About three days later, right around the time it was nearing bone dryness and was about for filling, it began to rain. We freaked out, blue taped up the holes as best as we could, and rigged a tarp over the area to keep the water off. Unfortunately, when it rains here, it comes down either sideways and upside down or as a solid lake—and it tends to last for days on end. In this case, about seven. Water got on the seat. Water mocked my blue tape and got in my holes. CRAP!!

To make a long story short, the seat is drying out once more. We’ll hopefully get to it soon here. Hopefully it won’t rain for a few days.

Bottom Paint. Joshua sanded the bottom and it’s essentially ready for paint when we are ready to apply it. I plan to tape off the main hull adding a couple of inches to the water line. When we were traveling and loaded down, the line was exactly at the water level, which made us feel fat. When empty, of course, the main hull has around three or four inches to spare.

Misc Leaks. There are a couple of drippy drips that happen when it pours outside. One is forward where our running light sits—we need to goop that sucker up with some marine silicon. Also, checking the windows might be a good idea before we leave the boat. We also have a leak from the boom track, which will require us to remove it, dry it out for a day (if necessary), re-goop and bolt the thing back down. We were procrastinating on these minor tasks during the nice weather and then of course, we couldn’t do anything when it was raining

Cheyenne Weil, Joshua Coxwell