Diarmuid

Refitting Fionn

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Started a topic on the refit of our 1972 Ablin Ballad 30 Fionn, but  search won't turn it up, which is probably a comment on how #%$&@ long the job is taking.:unsure: Anyhoo, we're slowly going at it from bottom to top & front to back, with lots of digressions on the way. We have got to the point where specific advice is welcome from people who know more than I do, i.e. anyone.

First up is the custom desiccating head design. None of the existing units really fit  this space, and the tech is simple enuf to invite making our own. We've moved the pooper from an incredibly cramped little booth in the forepeak to the foot of the companion stairs, where it doubles as a nav station bench (port side facing aft). Looks sort of like this, without the split cushions that will go on top:

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Final container selection and pee funnel TBD, but you get the basic idea. Top view with deck removed:

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Question is, how do we mix the poop with the coconut medium? (Figure this is Sailing Anarchy -- these people know from shit-stirring!) Lowest tech is a stick, like a mash paddle for brewing. Then we gotta store it someplace between uses, and rinsing it overboard in a no-discharge zone isn't cool. We could also rig up some kind of crank or lever-operated stirring device. Maybe a drywall mud mixer with a pushrod & bushings top and bottom?

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Any ideas you have are welcome, tho for preference we'd like something simple, quick to remove and install, and requiring minimal perforation of the poop bucket. We have about 1.5" to play with between top of bucket and underside of deck.

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You might look at making the head space layout such that a simple off the shelf manual or electric head can be retrofit.  We have friends who did 40 plus years full time liveabourds with 2 five gal buckets with seats one with cedar chips for two and the other for pee.  It worked great for them.  We have met lots of people with composting heads and it is really a select few who can make it work.  On one boat you can get completely different stories out of a couple on works or not.  That being said a little fore thought on the possibility of adding a toilet down the road is a nice save.

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24 minutes ago, SASSAFRASS said:

You might look at making the head space layout such that a simple off the shelf manual or electric head can be retrofit.  We have friends who did 40 plus years full time liveabourds with 2 five gal buckets with seats one with cedar chips for two and the other for pee.  It worked great for them.  We have met lots of people with composting heads and it is really a select few who can make it work.  On one boat you can get completely different stories out of a couple on works or not.  That being said a little fore thought on the possibility of adding a toilet down the road is a nice save.

We've lived with composting/desiccating toilets before and are satisfied with their performance. We are not planning to live aboard year-round, and mostly there will only be two crew, so this sort of tech works fine. The boat came with a Jabsco manual toilet, a holding tank under the V berth, and an unholy stench in every component of the system. I've also prototyped & used a desiccator in this location on this boat off/on for three years without any odor issues. From research, I'd say at least 80% of Nature's Head, Air Head, or C Head owners are very happy with their install. If we decide we are not, it would be not especially difficult to tear this one out and replace with a conventional head and holding tank. Three pieces of plywood, some hoses and fittings, and we'd be back in Flushtown. (The toilet cabinetry is screwed rather than tabbed into place.) 

In other words, the desiccating head choice is made. :) Asking for ideas how best to fluff the stuff on this design. 

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Still futzing over the composting head. I have abandoned the search for a urine container of adequate volume to fit this space; every available jug was wrong in one dimension or another. Easier at some point to make your own. :) So that's made and the resulting FRP polygon holds 9 qts (an ideal volume).

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Now I need to arrange fittings for it. Possibility #1 is to butcher some kind of container, like a water bottle, & graft the cap onto the lid with 5200 or epoxy:

 

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What kind of plastics would glue securely to FRP? Lexan? Polypropylene?

Possibility #1 is a screw down fitting, like a deck fill or deck plate:

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I kinda like this model because it has an attached lid but no chain to mess with the pee funnel.

Second question is about monitoring the urine level. Overflows would suck. :( Some units rely on a sight glass, but maybe that works better with HDPE than with semi-opaque tank? I've kicked around the idea of a probe with electrodes that would trigger an LED warning light when the pee gets, say, 2" below the top. Or maybe a simple float switch like this?We don't need a running total -- just a warning when almost full. Ideas?

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How about cutting a vertical slot in the cabinet where the pee container abuts the wood? The angled part would be best, then put a bright LED battery operated light behind the container to shine through. You should be able to see the fluid level even with a semi opaque tank. Add a simple switch on the outside and you would not even have to lift the lid. Try it with water and a flashlight first before cutting.

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There's an idea! Which sorta brings up another question I was holding back: There's a ventilation blower that evacuates odors and moisture from the compartment (flex hose visible in photo 2, above). But it's a big blower & we don't want it running continuously. Just maybe 2-5 minutes after use. Push a button, turn on blower, automatic timer turns it off. We could include your backlight in the same circuit, right? 

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Trying your idea about the sight window + backlight, Steele. It remains a question whether the  pee bottle is too opaque for daylight viewing tho. Ordered a 9 LED waterproof LED strip to play with (motorcycle license plate light). Also some aquarium float switches. 

Frantically trying to push deck work along before the weather breaks for good: I think we have most of the main deck hardware mounted finally. Not sure what to do about the vang lead, tho. Plan is for a soft vang, possibly a cascade, with a Boomkicker. Maybe an 8:1 like this

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then back to the port side cockpit (via the fourth deck organizer sheave? Or a separate foot block?). The tail would pass thru the inboard-most ferrule and ... what? We don't want a clutch for the vang, do we? Just a 1.5" cam cleat about where indicated here?

 

 

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ETA: okay, ignore the vang tackle being on the wrong side of the halyards. Doh. You get the idea. Mast collar is right beneath the sawhorse. 

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Composting head is basically done. Still need to swap a few prototype hardware bits for 316 stainless, but it seems to work pretty well! 9 quart pee bottle, with cheapo float switch:

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In situ, with poop bucket & mixer:

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I tumbles quite well -- too well in fact. Had to add the half lid &  stir counterclockwise or it flings (see duff at bottom of chamber). There's a bright LED strip running vertically under phone plugs; it is supposed to work with the sight window shown below, as a first-line water level indicator.

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I split the deck into two parts because it was just too awkward trying to hold the longer version up while pulling the bottle. It will get split cushions as well. Urine diverter is 3D printed from an Arizona company called Johnny Composting Toilets. Overview of the nav station/head, which still needs a bunch of mahogany trim but is functionally done:

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Also finished the anchor locker bulkhead with removable tackle for the inner forestay attachment point. Probably overkill, given the raised section of overhead is 1" thick phenolic slab glassed in & thru-bolted to bulkhead, but what the hell. For the cost of an eye strap, a reused chainplate, and some wee fiddle blocks that came with the boat, we have a straight load path. :)

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Cat comes up ladder to visit, sees string, has interests.

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1 hour ago, Diarmuid said:

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Great bit of multi function design.

Sit on the crapper and navigate and/or pump the bilge. :D

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9 hours ago, SloopJonB said:

Great bit of multi function design.

Sit on the crapper and navigate and/or pump the bilge. :D

Thanks. VHF will hang upper left, next to companionway. So you can poop, pump, and shout MAYDAY all at once. ;) The original head location on this half-tonner was pretty awful. Here at least you have standing headroom, light, ventilation, & you don't need to stagger all the way into the V berth to use the facilities. The Ballad is a 'small' 30 footer, so we're having to work with that.

Need to extend the manual bilge handle 3-4". We'll have some stainless tubing left over from handrails & dodger. I think the lost volume aft of that bulkhead will do for a wet locker, tho the Sea of Cortez doesn't see very much rain.

This rebuild could serve as a textbook example of poor construction management. Order of operations has been all over the map. :(

 

 

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you can poop, pump, and Pan Pan Pan all at once.  

Post polished perfectly. :D

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11 minutes ago, SloopJonB said:

you can poop, pump, and Pan Pan Pan all at once.  

Post polished perfectly. :D

Might add 'pray' for those so inclined. 

Not sure how much overnight passagemaking we'll do on Fionn, but it's nice to have all the watch change neccessaries (nav repeaters, log book, toilet, wet locker, galley for food & hot drinks) in a 4 foot radius. Still dithering over raising the cabin sole 2-3 inches in that area. It would provide a flatter work surface, esp. in the galley, and shorten the rise to the cockpit (tall bridgedeck in the Ballad). But at the expense of some headroom and that extra step/tripping hazard.

You can see the raised sole notched around the composting head. It provides a level rest for the left leg, and also a chase for some plumbing. So many commercial composters (AirHead, Nature's Head, Sun Mar) are fully 20" tall, plus sometimes a further pedestal to account for hull curvature. Yeeks! That just didn't work on this boat.

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Not sure if this would work, but we have our cabin sole on a slight grade.  Aft to fore it runs uphill.  You don't really notice it and it made things work out alot better.  Our NA Tad had a bunch of clever simple fixes like that.

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That is clever -- tho probably won't work on this boat. The coach is rather wedgie and our salon is only 7' long! What we presently have (you can tell I'm not much concerned with protecting the current sole -- it's getting an overlay):

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Most of the galley area is out of level, and the sole just this side of the engine bay is rather bouncy. I've stiffened it near the bilges, but just at the foot of the stairs, it is bowed upwards a bit & not very stiff. What if we built a small riser -- 2.5"-3.5" high, say -- to land on? Mockup:

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We could put a drain/grating there maybe, and also shorten the companion steps. That top step is a doozy & gives my partner much trouble:

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Main saloon bunks sorted. I spent three or four years (!) dithering over how best to create a roomy main cabin double berth for use at anchor. Pullouts, flip ups, stretchers, rigid cushions.... Here's where we landed: the two settee cushions get turned 90°, backrest cushions stay in place, leaving us with a bed 57" wide -- halfway between a double (54") and a queen (60") and fully 6' 4" long. Step one was to chop down the support legs of the drop-leaf table, which will not be used in the new design. The central strip with its two bronze sockets now becomes a mid-span support:

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Plank stows neatly in the largest under-settee bin with the solar oven. SS legs pop right out & hide anywhere. Along the settee fronts you can see a ledger which carries the 26.5" wide panels, which are made of nosed 1/2" MDO.

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Panels will be faced with the same EVA teak/holly foam as the cabin sole. They stow beneath the adjacent cushions, tho the forward one won't quite clear the hull curvature, dammit. The bunks taper from 28" aft to +/-25" forward. So I have to double stack them to port (over the water tank) or split the panels port & starboard.

These cushions came with the boat & are totally different from the ones we are making. Also full of FG dust, blech. But turned sideways, you get the idea of the finished bed width & orientation:

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Question on upholstery foam: we ordered the Sailrite sample pack, which is sorta/kinda helpful I guess. We want a mattress thickness of 4-5": some kind of medium to high density urethane foam, wrapped in batting. The medium firmness foams seem to bottom out easily when you sit on them (tho not so much lying down). The firm or extra firm are likely to play hell with my spine (I need a very soft bed). Should we choose one foam density & stick with it, or should we laminate a medium firm foam over a firm or extra firm foam to give more seated support? What's your preferred mattress foam?

 

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14 hours ago, Diarmuid said:

Question on upholstery foam: we ordered the Sailrite sample pack, which is sorta/kinda helpful I guess. We want a mattress thickness of 4-5": some kind of medium to high density urethane foam, wrapped in batting. The medium firmness foams seem to bottom out easily when you sit on them (tho not so much lying down). The firm or extra firm are likely to play hell with my spine (I need a very soft bed). Should we choose one foam density & stick with it, or should we laminate a medium firm foam over a firm or extra firm foam to give more seated support? What's your preferred mattress foam?

 

Our V-berth is primarily 4" of firm foam topped with 2" of memory foam. The insert is 2+2 and is noticeably less comfortable.

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Get a mattress shop to laminate one for you - they know what works.

We've had one on our bed for 25 years and still sleep great.

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1 hour ago, Ishmael said:

Our V-berth is primarily 4" of firm foam topped with 2" of memory foam. The insert is 2+2 and is noticeably less comfortable.

Nice thing about memory foam is that you can buy toppers really cheap. Bad things about memory foam are rapid breakdown -- it really loses structure quickly, almost as bad as Ensolite -- and temperature. I find it intolerably hot & clammy in summer, and this boat is gonna live in the Sonoran desert. ( It does help my poor curved spine, tho.) Do you think memory foam would be acceptable in a hot climate? Should we put some kind of breathable layer over it? You can buy eggcrate memory foams, but dunno if they add much real ventilation once you sink into them. Wonder if we glued that 2" ribbed memory foam to a 3" medium or firm urethane base, then just lay some kind of quilted polyester mattress pad over the whole thing? 

30 minutes ago, SloopJonB said:

Get a mattress shop to laminate one for you - they know what works.

We've had one on our bed for 25 years and still sleep great.

Not a lot of custom mattress shops here in Wyoming. ;) There are places in Denver that could do it, but that's three hours away and probably out of our price range. Gluing foam isn't difficult -- it gets wrapped in batting and zipped into a cover anyhow, so you don't need a structural bond. Sailrite sells this stuff, which is basically Silly String mixed with hagfish snot (possibly). You can also buy ready-laminated mattresses online, then cut them to shape.

 

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1 hour ago, Diarmuid said:

Nice thing about memory foam is that you can buy toppers really cheap. Bad things about memory foam are rapid breakdown -- it really loses structure quickly, almost as bad as Ensolite -- and temperature. I find it intolerably hot & clammy in summer, and this boat is gonna live in the Sonoran desert. ( It does help my poor curved spine, tho.) Do you think memory foam would be acceptable in a hot climate? Should we put some kind of breathable layer over it? You can buy eggcrate memory foams, but dunno if they add much real ventilation once you sink into them. Wonder if we glued that 2" ribbed memory foam to a 3" medium or firm urethane base, then just lay some kind of quilted polyester mattress pad over the whole thing? 

Not a lot of custom mattress shops here in Wyoming. ;) There are places in Denver that could do it, but that's three hours away and probably out of our price range. Gluing foam isn't difficult -- it gets wrapped in batting and zipped into a cover anyhow, so you don't need a structural bond. Sailrite sells this stuff, which is basically Silly String mixed with hagfish snot (possibly). You can also buy ready-laminated mattresses online, then cut them to shape.

 

I suspect "cheap toppers" and "rapid breakdown" go together well. Ours are 13 years old and they still feel good. This is not a really hot area, but we never had any issues when it does warm up.

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20 hours ago, Ishmael said:

I suspect "cheap toppers" and "rapid breakdown" go together well. Ours are 13 years old and they still feel good. This is not a really hot area, but we never had any issues when it does warm up.

Heat is the killer for many foams. Anyone tried natural latex for a topper material? Just ordered a sample block of it. Rather more expensive than urethane foams, but everyone agrees it lasts longer that urethanes and offers more resilience at a given firmness. 

My partner is a side sleeper with womanly hips; I'm a lightweight back sleeper/thrasher. Possible we will require different cushion designs. Which, given the split design of the saloon bed, is completely feasible. :) She suggested last night we rely on a thick, quilted polyester or bamboo mattress pad to supply some softness & much of the cooling needed. Which is a great idea. Sunbrella isn't the nicest thing next to bare skin, anyhow. Mattress pad will stuff well into the (otherwise useless) cubbies behind the seatbacks.

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