19 10 2010 Posted by Daniel

I’m going to put this out there now, so that by stating it publicly I can hopefully get some of you to hold me accountable and encourage me to finish up this work and get out there:

I plan to have the boat ready for ocean-crossing departure by 11/11/11.

This is a Friday. I will not LEAVE on this day, but the boat will be ready. I plan to leave the next available day that suits leaving.

Some of you will ask why I chose a date so close.
Those of you who sail will ask why I chose a date so far away.
Those of you who are mathematical will ask if I chose it just because its all 1’s.

The answer to that last one is maybe.

I have a number of reasons for this date, not least of which being its around a year away, and I feel like I need to work both on my sailing and for money for about a year longer. It lets me do one more racing season in the area. And I expect it will take about that long to wrangle together a good sponsor program and put some plans I have into action.

Interestingly, its also the one-year anniversary of the date I finally sailed the boat out of Florida. And last year, many freeing and life-changing events happened to me very close to this date. Events I am very grateful for now, but wasn’t necessarily so grateful for at the time.

And, most importantly, it doesn’t have to mean the departure from where I am now. I reserve the right to make the Grand Departure from wherever I happen to be at that time. And yes, it will be Grand.

But make no mistake, if for some reason I am ready to leave before then, and it works out, we’ll move the date up. I’m not as flexible with pushing the date out. Its a self-imposed deadline, its a target, its a goal, and it feels right to me. Its something that will still be a challenge to hit from some perspectives, but one that I can also do with a lot of effort and a little fortune.

Its also a very cool date in and of itself, and reason to have a party.

So, THIS year, on 11/11/10, I’d like to invite all of you - anyone who is interested - to a little one-year-out party. The actual party will be on Aletheia. If you want to join it, either in person or by calling in, emailing in, or by video chat, contact me (phone or email if you know them, comment here if you don’t) for details. And at 11:11:11 on 11/11, we’ll toast the boat, the season, and life.

And I’m hoping that this year, 11/11 will be as positively life-changing as last year’s 11/11 was completely life-changing. I hope that for you, too.

Keep it locked, and I’ll see you here!

Shine on, you crazy... silicon?

19 10 2010 Posted by Daniel

Yep, its that time of year again. The time when people order solar panels, call heavy industry to arrange for truck freight shipping of bulk marine-grade aluminum, and make an appointment with their local TIG welder. What do you mean you don’t do those things on an annual basis?

Ah well. I suppose its just me.

Today I’ve gone ahead and am making final preparations for the shipment of my first boat-related truck freight order. It seems that every major moving object I have ever tinkered with has resulted in at least one and often multiple truck freight arrangements for various reasons, none of which you’d ever think would necessitate an 18-wheeler. But apparently moving 20-foot sections of aluminum pipe and only 120 lbs of total aluminum bar and plate requires such an arrangement.

I’d like to make a few technical notes about aluminum alloy, in particular to discuss a number of misunderstandings in the marine world about what makes an optimal marine grade aluminum. If this stuff bores you and you want to get to “why is he ordering industrial quantities of aluminum”, skip ahead a paragraph or three.

The standard aluminum you hear bandied about is typically 6063 or 6061. These are magnesium-silicon alloys which are almost always heat-treated (annealed) to a specific hardness. The other alloy set commonly used is the 5083/5086 pair, which are primarily magnesium alloys, without the silicon. These are NOT heat treated and are typically cold work-hardened and strain relieved. The main differences are as follows: 6061/6063 are used when high polish finish and overall hardness is important. Note that I did not say “strength”, but “hardness”, these are very different. They have good corrosion resistance and take anodization and dye color treatment extremely well. This is a very good typical alloy for general use and is quite common in aircraft frames, building construction, furniture, and other general purpose uses.

When was the last time someone called near-continuous exposure to salt water, salt spray, and wind load “general purpose”? Yeah… enter the 5000 series of alloys. 5083 and its more salt-resistant cousin, 5086, are specifically designed for the marine environment and are VERY expensive and hard to find. The commercial pricing I was able to obtain put the 5086 alloy at nearly 5 times the cost of the 6063 alloy. However, 5086 has a much higher resistance to surface pitting and crack corrosion than 6063 does. In addition, 5086 has one other major ace in its hole: its stronger, and after welding, its FAR stronger than 6063. 5086 is listed as a marine grade structural aluminum. Its yield strength (strength before permanent deformation, e.g. denting) is higher, especially after welding. Its total strength before failure is also higher, and when you add the enhanced corrosion resistance, well, you pretty much have the exact right alloy for marine structural purposes, particularly those involving welds at key stress points, such as mounting brackets, the hull and stringer materials, and structural arches and davits. 5083/5086 also takes anodizing quite well, although it doesn’t need it as badly as 6061/6063, but will typically look slightly “milky” and not quite as highly polished. Just a fact of the alloy.

So its clear that if I want to build a structural framework to support the solar panels in a very high wind load and also provide a solid framework to build lifting davits and whathaveyou, for a boat destined to sail the oceans in any and all conditions, 5086 is the only really worthwhile alloy to consider. I’ve also got a local company lined up to custom anodize it to MIL specifications as well. Do it once, do it right.

Only problem is, you can’t exactly go down to your local hardware store and say “I’d love about 4 20-foot sections of 5086 1.25” schedule 40 aluminum pipe.” Because they’ll look at you and go “huh?” About the only place on the gulf coast you can find this stuff is in the major industrial suppliers to the shipbuilding industry in New Orleans, LA. And thus was borne the beginnings of my truck freight order.

The general idea is to build a frame around the cockpit that not only mounts the solar panels in a solid and structurally integral manner, but also provides the enclosure frame for a bimini and mounting points for lifting davits. As we progress I hope to take some pictures and show you how it goes. If I have any extra material left over I’ll use it to frame the dodger more thoroughly.

As the parts start piling up in the cabin, I’m definitely getting excited and feeling the itch to get the boat ready!

The next major project is going to be replacing the entire standing rigging, which I will probably do when the boat is out of the water, on the hard for her haul-out, as I can have the crane in the yard unstep the mast while she’s over there, work on the rigging for the week, and then have it all re-stepped without paying additional yard stand-time. More on this project shortly.