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Thursday, July 30, 2009

keel on blocks

The keel is now on blocks and all the welding on the interior of the keel is in progress. Top photo shows Jesus, one of the best welders in the business, and his assistant Jose in the "welding shack". Jesus is the one on the phone... no doubt talking about something very important. The slot you see in the back of the keel in the bottom picture, is for the stern tube which should be arriving early next week. This will be a heavy duty (4.5"OD, schedule 160, 1/2" wall) steel pipe that the shaft runs through from the engine room back to the propeller. Lots on my mind these days as the boat goes together. Sometime in the next month or so, I have to get the propulsion system completed. I found a 5.9 Cummins diesel from a wrecked dodge truck that will be our main engine. It has very low miles and ran great on the test stand. Just needs some minor modifications to be made suitable for our use on the boat. I'll be headed down to Southern California later in august to pickup a heavy duty deep case gearbox, and to pick some parts off a Cummins marine engine that is being parted out down there. Also have the stock for the propeller and rudder shaft (21 foot section of 2.5" aquamet 17) and will need to get some machine work done on that soon so its all set to assemble with the engine/gear/and propeller when the time comes to install everything. 

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Laying the keel

Construction has officially started. Keel is tacked together and is ready to be moved onto the keel blocks. The flatbar on the sides of the keel in the picture is to hold the side plates true while they are welded. They will be cut of after the keel welding is completed. Keel bottom is 1/2" plate and the sides are 3/8" plate... very stout. The site photo shows Jesus and Jose (I'll introduce them soon) leveling the keel blocks that the boat will be constructed on. This step is critical as the boat will weigh upwards of 65,000 lbs when completed, and the blocking must not only hold up under the weight, they must stay level and true as the boat is built so we don't end up with a crooked hull. This has been especially difficult as the surface we are working on is pretty lumpy and irregular- lots of shimming required. Took delivery of a big batch of steel flatbar, angle and pipe, as well as some pieces that Farwest Steel pre-formed for us (curves, split pipe for rub rails, etc). Some of this is visible in the foreground of the site photo. At this point we have almost the entire boat onsite in parts. We've also figured out (mostly) how it should all fit together. Some thanks are in order (I'm sure there will be many more- I'll try not to miss anyone)... Thanks to our friends at CH2MHill for getting a few of their railroad ties over to our side of the fence for building the keel blocks. Also thanks to Big Bill for supplying some of the heavy steel plate and I-beams that we are using for lay-up. Its amazing to me how much assistance we are getting from here, there, and everywhere in order to put this  project together. We are certainly grateful for all the support. More to come... -PB

Sunday, July 26, 2009

The Build Site

Our Build site is located at Mare Island in Vallejo, right next to the Baylink Ferry maintenance facility where I work as Operations Manager for the ferry service. Needless to say, I will be spending a lot of extra time at the office for the next few months. Mare island is located in the North Bay where the Napa River empties into Carquinez Straights and San Pablo Bay. We are starting from scratch, with what is basically a waterfront parking lot. We will be using a shipping container as shop storage, and most of our work will be done outside. Here are some pictures of the site... the big green crane is leftover from the Navy days. Until 1996, Mare Island was a huge Naval shipyard with ship and submarine construction and maintenance facilities. Lots of history here. Mare Island is in the middle of redevelopment efforts, but these are moving slowly, and the area still has a lot of old shipyard equipment and structures. Good place to build a boat. -PB

Steel Delivery

There has been a lot of action on our project this last week so I'm playing catch-up here... Steel order was cut and loaded onto a flatbed at the beginning of  last week. The truck showed up on Wednesday around 4pm. It took four of us (including the driver) about four hours to unload the 46,000 lbs of plate and precut parts (yes, steel is quite heavy). Thats one of our Baylink Ferries docked in the background. The rest of the materials (pre-formed parts, pipe, flatbar, and angle) will be arriving this coming week. Our welding contractor, Jesus,  has also been setting up the build site. What started out as an empty slab of waterfront is starting to look like a small boatyard. -PB

Cutting Steel


Here are some photos from Far West Steel that show our steel order being cut with a computer controlled plasma cutter, then banded and packed for delivery. Every piece of steel that goes into the building of the hull has been modeled and lofted on a computer. The automated plasma cutter takes that data and uses it to cut out all the parts with great precision, including all the hull and deck plating. This saves a tremendous amount of work at the build site. -PB

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Some technical stuff...

Heres some very nice work done by our NA (Naval Architect).
These are final drafts for the lofting which have since been numerically modeled on computer, and turned into cutting files which we sent to Far West Steel in Oregon. All the parts are "nested" onto large sheets of pre-primed steel plate so as to have as little waste as possible. Comes out looking something like this:


Greetings. Welcome to our new blog which will document our adventures, trials, and tribulations as we embark upon the construction of our new boat. We currently live aboard the Seabird, a 48' Trawler built by Ron Rawson in Tacoma, Washington in the mid 70's. Seabird is a fine vessel and has served us well for many years. If you haven't done so, please check out our previous blog: "" which chronicles our adventures cruising from San Francisco to British Columbia and back last summer. 

While we were on our last cruise, we began to think about longer distance voyaging for the future, and what type of vessel could take us "anywhere" in relative safety and comfort without breaking the bank. We came back to a design that we had looked at many years ago by a fellow named George Buehler. Here's his website which pretty well sums up his design philosophy, so I don't have to:

After months of searching the used market for a suitable ocean going vessel at the right price, we realized that with the economy being what it is right now (steel prices down, lots of skilled people looking for work, etc) we might have a shot at building one of Buehlers designs in steel, incorporating our own ideas of what works and what doesn't work in a cruising boat. We figured the time was right and we could do this locally, without going broke (we'll see about that last part).

The design we settled on is a Swan 55, designed by Buehler. This is basically like his 48' Diesel Duck (Koloa is Hawaiian for a native duck) stretched a few extra  feet. This makes for a long, relatively narrow hull which should move through the water very nicely with not a lot of horsepower. I think this size will give us enough room to be comfortable but still be economical to run, and we won't feel like too much of a tiny spec on the ocean when underway. We made a few design changes at the stern and wheelhouse, but are otherwise staying true to the original design, including masts for an auxiliary sail rig.

At this point we have been planning, trying to find bargains on buying parts and materials (surplus where possible), and doing what seems like endless research so we can be ready to make (reasonably) informed decisions about the vessel as she comes together. More on this coming up... -PB