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2016-04-17

Stepping up, part 2


Yes, it's a relatively simple bend and drill and tap and fasten job, but it has to support me and my big feet.
The failure of the fellow pictured here to actually get back to me over the winter, never mind to do the simple fabrications I requested or to provide an estimate, is driving me to attempt things I wouldn't have otherwise. Don't get me wrong, I dislike spending money on skilled labour as much as the next sailor, but unlike the next sailor, I am not, I hope, delusional about my own skills. "In many instances, theoretical" would be generous.

Nonetheless, some decisions can be deferred no longer. The new main is approaching completion, and  I already know that the new Tides Marine batten cars, along with the more robust fabric of the sail itself, will add considerable height to the sail height when lowered above the boom. I needed to stretch fully to unshackle the halyard, to secure the cover and other such putting-away jobs. My wife is a full foot shorter; her only option has been to climb atop the pilot house roof. As the new main will make this situation even more out-of-reach, it's time to get a leg up with "tabernacle steps".

Alchemy's mast sits in a 1/2 inch aluminum plate flange affair about 1.2 metres high. It's massive and is tied into the main beam that crosses the boat under the deck in front of the pilothouse, which in turn is tied into the stringers via secured piping. Throw in the 11 5/16th inch stays and shrouds, and we don't worry about losing the stick much. The mast has a heavy steel pin through it allowing it to pivot aft over the pilot house, which is handy for doing canals or changing mast top lights or other maintenance that might require a bosun's chair. But the tabernacle is strong enough to have two steps secured to it which will allow us to reach every part of the "stack", even in heavy weather.

Should be a nice place to hang coiled lines, too.

I can see my pilot house from here!
The fab-up consisted of a bike trip in the rapidly improving weather to my friends at Metal Supermarket, who recognize me as the only geezer on a bike who buys plate and square tube aluminum.
Partially future garage sale, mostly boat stuff, the drift is shrinking gradually.
Not knowing precisely what I'd need, I had two-inch strips of 1/4" thick 6061 (same alloy as the mast tabernacle) cut to 90 cm. I drilled some preliminary holes on the press in the dim and messy Man Cave.
The elderly bench grinder has just about had it.
The bench grinder acquired from Ken and Lynn of Silverheels III prior to their departure ground down the edges and a cheap-ass Dremel-like tool smoothed things out.

I was going to make a jig, but that wasn't necessary with vises and clamps and dowelling to make nice curved bends.
 Yes, my home bench is messy, too. There is usually more than one project happening at once.

I made marks on the plastic coating in grease pencil to indicate where the bends needed to be.
I toyed with making a jig (see toy below), but I really didn't have the right bolts to hand. I expect if I start fabricating frames and straps to a greater degree, the purchase of a proper and versatile bending jig may be in order.
Eh, a failed experiment is also instructive.
The workshop at National YC had a much bigger vise and its own even beefier drill press. I like quarter-inch aluminum plate, however, because even modest power tools, like an electric jigsaw with the right blade, can cut and shape it easily.
The blue piece of particle board scrap has a rounded corner that was perfect for bending the angles I wanted.
Having determined my step "straps" were considerably too long, I cut them back and fitted them to the tabernacle. I had enough clearance to use nuts and bolts, instead of simply tapping into the tabernacle as some of the cleats have been. I isolated the #10-32 SS bolts with lanolin and secured the nuts with Loc-tite. If I spot issues, I'll go to bushings.
Not so bad with the plastic off.
The reason for doing all this work (about six hours in total, including travel time) is that I have really large feet. Super-wide, too. I literally based the mesurements around my largest New Balance running shoe (13 EEEEEE) and all measurements proceeded from that. The good news is that I don't fall over much, being ballasted by the keel. The other good news is that these two giant steps cost me about $18...pretty low-buck, if you ask me.
The second one is in. This will allow Mrs. Alchemy, who is just over five feet in height on damp days, to reach the new main headboard and to secure the cover.
I'm reasonably pleased with this; it certainly doesn't budge under my weight. I have a couple of displaced anodized cleats to relocate, but I think it's a decent improvement that solves the "new main is too high!" issue. Note, however, that I can't make a full revolution on the port-side winch. This is a deliberate choice. The winch on the port side only handles the jib and the staysail; the first is only hoisted once a season and the second is hand-hauled and only tightened on the winch at the end, so "cranking" less than a full circle is a small price to pay for the ability to safely and easily reach the top of the flaked main stack and to secure the sail cover. If one's boat has the more common mast partners or the "collar" type tabernacle, you can just put them clear of the winch handles. 

If I find I'm really missing the full turn on the port side mast winch, I can rebend that step slightly or I can weld an extender onto a winch handle "starsocket" or even weld up a custom crank. I could also even take that trend and move it up so the extrusion stand-off for the winch supports it, bringing that lower attachment inward, which gives me the clearance. So if this is an issue, I've given myself some options.

2 comments:

Allan S said...

Nice job. I too have "man" sized feet.

Two questions.

1) How wide were the strips? They look about 5 cm?

2) Any problems with stress on the bends? Like cracking and whatnot.

Thanks, Allan

Rhys said...

Man-sized feet (and the ridiculous cost of those dodgy-looking fold-up ones) are the reason I went custom. The strips are indeed 5 cm/2 inches. I wanted a lot of bearing surface for the six bolts, as they are on the small side.

No problem with the bends, because I used a radiused piece of wood in the vise to bend against. I also took the bending slowly, which is also how I would have done it with a jig, incrementally.

It remains to be seen, of course, if these will work in a lumpy seaway, but the price was right and if I have to go to SS straps, it's not a big deal. The only further improvement I think I can make is by gluing small strips of anti-skid to work as treads on the tops of the steps themselves.