Cargo Ferry Prototype

April 2021
A couple of short weeks has slowed progress on the boat. The top and bottom sections of the middle 12m of the lee hull and the 13 bulkheads to go in it have been infused. Not without some dramas, but nothing we couldn’t fix, even if it meant removing a bag, doing some table work and replacing the bag. Frustrating when you realize it has to be done, gratifying when you turn the pump on afterwards and see the pressure drop. 12m/40′ long x 900mm/36″ wide and 10 layers of 400 gsm/12 oz was a bit of a challenge for our pumps, but doing it in stages made (most of) it easy. Bulkheads go in when we are back in the shed, followed by the sides (2 more 12m lengths) and that is the end of the big structural infusions. Then we level up a bit of space outside, move the hull out and put the beams in so we can finish all the jobs that couldn’t be done until we knew where everything went. While we wait for resin to cure, or when it rains, we start on the rigs. Telescoping wings require a lot of thought about what to do when. At the moment, the order is the top (in one piece), middle and bottom tubes in 2 halves, neither of which can be joined until the bearings and controls are fitted. Once this is done, the bottom wing section is attached, followed by the middle and top, each one using the previous one as a mould. Then repeat for the second rig.

Rob R has made the rudder sleeves. Once he adds the tow, we can see if the proposed mounting and steering works. They will be the simplest rudders since steering paddles if they do.

I put some more shelves in the windward hull to stiffen it up and provide some space for stuff. Used offcuts of f/glass which is of marginal stiffness for a shelf, but has stiffened the hull panel noticably.

We finished the main part of the beams. Some things we will do differently next time, but they appear to be pretty good. Carbon pultrusions are definitely the easy way to build them. The struts will be built and attached to them as part of the assembly.

March 2021#1
From Rassy: Uni has commenced and the shed has fallen quiet – Sorta! – That is apart from Rob and I pushing to get the beams completed ASAP. Some of the volunteers have dropped in for a few hours here and there over the last fortnight but mostly it’s just been the two of us. With plenty of shed space and not many distractions, work is getting done, just not on as many jobs as before. On Friday with the help of one of our competent volunteers we completed the last of the beam infusions. Next week should see construction of the beams done and dusted, and the hull insertion boxes fitted. Rob is already thinking and talking about the LW hull mid section build which apart from the masts and rig is the last major piece of the  cargo proa puzzle.  

February 2021#1
Not much big picture stuff happening but plenty of testing and working on the unfinished loose ends. Rob R took the photos and videos, and wrote the following:We’ve been breaking a lot of things lately and I don’t mean the vac pumpsthough the casualty rate there is getting pretty high. The breakages are the result of testing, which was totally planned to happen. On Monday the 18th we retested the original truss sample after adding a vertical support to stiffen the end to make it more realistic to the actual beam situation. The result was a broken web member which had only distorted badly in the firsttest. With that little diversion out of the way we continued working on allthe other projects Rob has on the go. I set about finishing the build on the new designed to fail, scaled test beam. It was due to be tested on Thursday and needed to be post cured prior to testing, so the pressure was on. The beam assembly proved quite easy and was completed with time to spare.Meanwhile things were not going so well on the infusion front, a hull sidelayup got ruined (edit: it will be used for bulkheads, so not a complete disaster) when the pump stopped working after every one had gone home. Also Rob was unable to get a vacuum on the stub mast layup so it had to be pulled apart and the mould recoated with resin. (edit: an opportunity to simplify the construction) On a more positive note I have started on the mould we will possibly be using to build the actual beam. It will be used to make a test piece first for practice and toiron out any bugs with the infusion process. Thursdays test went to plan and has given us the confidence in the engineering calculations to commence the actual beam build. The engineers have given us some material dimensions as well as designdimensions and a load of 200kg as the point of failure. Well! we must have done the build properly and the calculations are correct, because that’s almost the exact load that it broke at. A fluke! I think not! Martin seemed very happy with the result, commenting that we could have a lot more confidence in the numbers now. As the 200kg load was applied and the severe distortion set in clicking and cracking sounds could be heard as individual fibres failed loading the remaining ones more and more till the trickle became an avalanche and the point of catastrophic failure was reached creating a loud crack and the sudden dropping of the load.

To be honest the beam tested wasn’t exactly built to the plan as we couldn’t stop ourselves from trying new ideas and making improvements. As can be seen in the photos the top web was replaced with a single piece layup, saving a lot of time, effort and it appeared weight as well. We concluded the top would be in tension for the test so no cross reinforcing was included. We are calling this part of the beam “The walkway” and if it ends up being part of the build it will have cross strengthening where the side web meets the top members. There will be no diagonals as they will be replaced by the walkway. When the load was removed from the broken test beam it straightened up and was able to lift the 20 kg. load tray proving the top and web were still intact and only the lower member had broken.

I have since repaired the damage with the intention of testing the beam upside down to see how the walkway and beam behave under negative loads. The pictures tell the story, the load was 1/3rd of the right way up.

January 2021#1
Only 2.5 days this week due to a branch falling on the power lines behind the sheep shed.  The joys of a farm build site.
Big news is that Rob R donated a fridge and microwave! Cold drinks make a huge difference when it is 35C and high humidity. He also bought in a box of delicious home grown grapes, most of which I devoured on the drive home. Too much sugar, my brain was still whirring (in circles, unfortunately) at 2 am.
We got the sides  on one 6m end of the lee hull. Several lessons learnt, but it all ended well.  Male and female joins on flat panels work well.  Right angles are easy. The volunteers got the 2nd deck/bottom infused, looks good apart from a kink where the mould frame moved due to too small a bag.  A pretty easy fix, but probably not worth the effort.    They also prepped the 3rd piece for infusion.  Bulkheads are next.  I am making these by adding stiffening (the eps from Bunnings, $Aus50 for 30mm x 2.4 x 1.2m/1.25″ x 8′ x 4′) to one of the side panels which is of dubious quality. It was a great infusion, but a cold night.  The next morning, to ensure it had cured enough to demould I heated it without vacuum. The resin softened and air got in.  Patience, grasshopper! Square section hulls are so easy to make, it is a pity they look so ordinary. 800 x 800/32″ x 32″ looks small on 24m/80′ long drawings, but the 6m/20′ piece is quite large. Certainly large enough to get inside to install the bulkheads, which will make it easier. The first truss we built is a 2D piece of beam size.  Rob R adjusted the test jig to take it and magnify the weight by 2.5.  Loaded it up and at 500 kgs/1,100 lbs, the diagonals buckled, but due to the shape of the sample, didn’t break.  Fascinating.  We will beef up the diagonals and try again.  Rob R has also made the bottom piece of the ‘light, easily broken’ sample beam.  Diagonals and testing next week, followed by some table repairs (grinding off resin which did not go where it should during infusions) and full size beams which will be a change from making flat panels.    We are still having discussions about how to build the beams, so it’s probable that they will be different.

December 2020#2
Another busy week, the students are now good enough that we can use some more volunteers after Xmas when the next shipment of materials arrives.
The photos show:
The 3d printed mould for the rudder leading edge.  This will be built in short sections which are sacrificial.  Damage one section and it is easily replaced.  The rudders should kick up  before damaging the actual join.

The bridgedeck panel with holes drilled for the strings that will support it.  The aim is the benefits of a tramp and a solid deck: impermeable to water upwards and dropped items downwards without the weight, cost, tension and build drawbacks. Of interest in the unrolled panel is the pink stain.  Each time we infuse, I wonder where the first drop of resin to enter the laminate ends up.  We added red dye to the first mix to see.  It spreads out from the resin inlet, indicating that the first area to cure is that closest to the resin inlet, but excluding the spiral hose resin feed line.  This implies that resin added towards the cure time will flow to the dry laminate, not get stopped by cured resin, which is great.  Seems obvious now, but didn’t before.

Coreless bulkheads.  Bit more work and a little heavier than say 600 gsm either side of 20mm foam, but a lot stiffer and cheaper.  The next ones will have half the laminate, and flanges on all sides for easy fitting in the lee hull.

Cork cored step.  I had a sample of cork which we infused to see how it went.  Soaked up a lot of resin, but looks nice clear finished.  The only non work boat part of the fit out until someone scratches it or drips paint on it.  Also the only wood in the boat so far.

Lee hull bow panels:  The volunteers arrive at 10 am, remove yesterday’s panel, have an hour for lunch and lay up today’s panel, which we infuse at 4 pm, go home at 5.30.  Panels are 5.6m/19′ x 0.8m/32″,  8 layers thick, plus female joins on both sides.  The surfaces are paint ready, no one needs gloves or suits, and assuming 1:2 resin:cloth,  the waste is about 150 gsm/0.5oz per sq.   If care is taken, the tacky tape and the plastic mould release sheet can be reused, despite me ‘knowing’ it was not possible and advising against it.  The record so far is 3 infusions on the same tacky tape and plastic, and a large mouthful of humble pie for me.  

Ring frame edges:  Ring frames are usually cored with a back filled edge and a minimum of 150mm/6″ wide. We have halved this and put a rounded, solid tow edge on a non cored laminate.  The result is a very stiff, strong frame that takes up less room.  We will be exploring the limits to this when we add some new shelves and frames to the galley and nav areas on the ww hull.

Access into the hull was not easy, so I lowered the top step.   Much easier to get in and out, but a couple of day’s work which may be unnecessary when we see how the deck and hatch work.

Half stub mast mould with pultruded carbon strips.  Bit of a learning curve which will come in handy for the masts.

Toy box bulkheads.  The toybox has been much more work than I anticipated and I am still not sure it will be stiff/strong enough.  Easy enough to add more laminate, but we are also looking at more radical solutions, similar to the bridge deck support.  Assembly will be a lot of fun/brainstorming.

Toy box hinges: The edge stiffening tubes are used as hinge pins for the toy box covers.  Takes longer, costs nothing and requires no metal or fastenings. Should be nearly indestructible.

WW hull floor stringers: These will be included in the infusion in future.  Possibly with non structural foam, but more likely hollow.

Xmas party: Highlight of the week, put on by marvellous Martin, the UQ prof who made the build possible.  We spent the morning tidying the shed, finding lost tools and throwing out stuff that ‘might come in handy, sometime’ and the afternoon eating pizzas and talking. 

December 2020 #1
Time flies when you are having fun. Which I most certainly am. Got the toybox assembled, the ring frames in it and Yvon and Dong laid up the lid for infusing.  Learnt some catch pot tricks and how to make a too small vac bag bigger.  Surprisingly (to me), this was a success. Prepared the bulkhead infusion.  Be interesting to see how/if  these work. Turned the tender over to work on the bottom.
Rob R got the first rudder ready to join, Nakul CNC cut the frames for the stub mast mould and Sylvia 3d printed some sheaves for the model beam diagonal construction.
Teguh set up and infused a 30mm sq x 300mm long sample containing 250 pieces of carbon tow.  This is the likely laminate for the beam if carbon is used.   One end worked, the other was dry in the middle.  We will have another shot this week, with a different arrangement of fibres.  He also built some of the tubes for stiffening the toybox edges and acting as hinge pins for the lid.  I spent most of it organising/running around not doing much, but spent the quiet time (6.30-8 am) before the troops arrived getting most of one hull of the tender ready for applying the copper/epoxy antifoul.  This is definitely an early morning job as we are getting 30C+ days with hotter to come. Decided to keep the ww hull in the shed for a while to avoid anyone getting heatstroke.  I also glued a stringer in the ww hull bottom to see how many would be needed to stiffen it up.  Not as many as I thought and it is far easier and more pleasant than adding a floor to a round bilge hull.  Also designed the steps, which will add more stiffening.

November 2020#2
This week; Rob R made an anchor roller for the tender and a f’glass anchor cleat from a test piece offcut, then a neat mould for shelf edges which will jazz up the ww hull interior. I played with edging the ring frames with glass tow then Roan and Sylvia did it better. Put in some offcut windsurfer masts as handholds near the hatch. We joined the toy box. It looks bigger than I thought (8.5m/28′ x 1m/40″ x 500mm/20″), room for 4 friendly double beds, which increases our visitor potential significantly! I showed Nakul and Teguh how to cove and left them to it. Neater than me. My management skills are still not wonderful, but it is great to be able to stand back and see what is happening and come up with improvements, which does not always happen when I am immersed in doing the job. The first ring frame took me 30 minutes to install. The last one 2 minutes. Nakul cnc cut  the rudder mould supports at the UQ Maker Space (a magnificent set up with a large range of technicians, tools and equipment that the students can use to build things) and attended the latest round of testing. The results show the ultimate compression load of the specimens and the area under the curves indicates their stiffness.  The samples are short so that they fail in compression rather than buckling. The civil engineers finally impacted a concrete beam with no fibreglass on it.  Smashed it, concrete all over the place. The glass makes a huge difference.  They are now finished and we can move the ww hull outside, turn the tender over to complete and epoxy/copper the bottom and set up individual projects inside. Joining the rudder halves, infusing tow under tension, a model beam that will break in our test jig, stub masts, tube manufacturing and infusing the toybox lid, test bulkheads and the cockpit floor.  

November 2020#1
An interesting week. Finished attaching the topsides and deck to the ww hull. The structure is starting to stiffen up nicely, but some of the panels will need stringers added. Experimented with recycled glass chips from Rob R’s swimming pool filter as non slip.  Applied them to a piece of fibreglass and wiped my size 11’s on them each time I passed.  No noticeable damage so we will use it on the tender when we can figure out a reliable application method.  The grip is excellent, even when wet, but falling on it will probably draw blood.  see pic The areas are reasonably small so this should not be a problem. We are running out of materials to finish tabbing the ww hull and fine tune the truss beam samples, so started on the toybox. Volunteers prepped and infused the bottom on Wednesday/Thursday,  and we’re almost ready to infuse the sides on Monday. The bottom looks good, (see pic) we are experimenting with some stringer options on the rest of it. Interesting to compare it with the tender panels we started with. The higher ambient temperature, Rassy scales, leak/bat detector, gauge, catch pot, unlimited amounts of reusable tacky tape and experience with the set up result in a more relaxed approach and accurate result. I am placing an order, so anyone who wants materials from China at half or less the price from Aus, should let me know this week.We added composite ends to the first full size truss sample so we could test it and Rob R adjusted the holder to suit.  We made and split a 50mm dia glass tow sample to assess the straightness of the fibre and toughness.  The tow alignment was not perfect, but it took a lot of work with a big hammer and chisel to split it.  see picRob R built a neat composite fitting for the tender anchor, including fibreglass roller axles.  The simple first one did not allow the anchor to sit flush. I had a fascinating conversation with a group which has developed a solar panel that produces hydrogen. Not ready for production yet, but they may supply us with some normal panels. We’re also having a conversation about a Pacific shipping line using cargo proas. Rob R and I spent a day at Uni watching some compression tests on truss members we made. They are stronger and have higher fibre resin ratios than expected but lower stiffness, not sure why. Means the beams may bend, but are unlikely to break. We are looking at options including deeper beams, using carbon in the horizontals and better process control. Also had a look around the labs and some interesting projects including sonic testing of composites, producing carbon/carbon laminates with exceptional properties including heat resistance better than steel and a scram jet test tunnel activated by compressed air blowing a 150mm dia hole in a sheet of 3mm thick steel.  Highlight was the Maker Space workshop for student use including a dozen 3d printers, lathes, water, laser and router cutters, milling machines, a robot laminator and a bunch of friendly helpful technicians to help and advise.  If there is a heaven, I expect it will look something like this.  ;-). I am working on getting access. Thanks Martin and John for organising the visit.The full size truss beam laminate range is narrowing down.  Looks like it is going to be smaller than originally expected. We are also reassessing the full size build method so we can infuse as much of it as possible and not have contact with wet resin. Not quite there yet, but each iteration is less messy than the one before it. PhD students exploded some fibreglass wrapped concrete rods in the shed. 16 ton end load, and a 4 kg steel projectile fired into it at 80 kph/50 mph. A loud bang, but surprisingly little damage. On one test, the projectile was ~20mm/0.75′ off centre. The impact sheered the 6 x 8mm/0.3″ bolts holding it together. Fortunately, we evacuate the shed for the firing.   The little boy in me is waiting for the non wrapped concrete tubes to be impacted.  Should be concrete all over the place.  😉

October 2020#21
Rob R says it better than I can: The second beam test again surprised us when we were still unable to break it. This time it was supporting in excess of 500Kg before the load tray started to bottom on the runners supporting the test bed. The test more or less started after we had stacked on the 274Kg achieved the previous test and checked the deflection compared to the last test. It was just a bit less than the first test so the new top web was a bit stronger and a bit neater. Both Rob and I were gaining confidence in the little beams structuralintegrity and were guessing 400Kg before failure and thinking 500Kg would be a magic unobtainable number. With the extreme load came extreme bending with 200mm of deflection proving the forgiving nature of composite materials.Having proven the material strength the design will now be tweaked for more rigidity. So more testing to come. Meanwhile work is continuing on the tender and windward hull while I have started on an internal model truss for the leeward hull, which of course we will be testing. Mostly just Rob and I working this week as it is exam time for the student volunteers. Rob has been going from job to job on the WW hull all the while trying to work out the best assembly procedure. A similar thing is also happening with the truss development as we try to come up with a plan for the actual truss beam build. Meanwhile the truss model experimentation continues with the building of a one fifth scale truss to go between the masts in the leeward hull. The truss building ideas continue to change and evolve leaving behind some cool ideas that seemed like winners at the time only to be replaced by more practical, efficient and less sexy concepts. I’ve lost count of how many tow wet out methods have been tested, with the best wet out so far being done by hand. Needless to say that won’t bepractical for a full sized truss where the tow numbers will be in thehundreds, instead of the 30 or 50 we have been using for the test beams. Amy and Teguh spent a day on the boat, graduated from cutting fibreglass to laminating it. Quick learners. Roan built a fibreglass axle for the anchor roller and installed it in the tender. Unfortunately, the cat sat on his 3d printer so the Opti rig is on hold for the moment. The solar panels for the tender moved several steps closer, and we have started talking with the Power and Drive people at UQ about motors and installation.

October 2020#20
Day 57, 58, 59, 60
Another short week. I spent Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday tidying up loose ends, decanting resin (not unpleasant, sitting in the sun contemplating progress in the late afternoon) and tedious boat building (filleting, tabbing, grinding, filling, sanding) installing a couple more ring frames and a gunwhale on the windward hull, building wing battens and an hour a day getting the tender ready to paint. Assembling the ww hull is going to require some thought as we need to keep access easy and everything supported.  
Amy, Teguh, Nakul and Sai got the ww hull cabin roof ready to infuse, Roan finished the Opti size wing rig battens and mast (2 tops of windsurfer masts) and is making the first sail panel this weekend.  
The tedium ended when Rob R appeared Friday morning with the test rig for the 1/5th model beam which he had spent 2 days building from the scrap metal in the first photo. We spent the day setting it up and could not resist testing it. The rig worked perfectly.  
This beam is a test of 3 build techniques (one excellent, one that can be streamlined and one that ‘needs more work’) and one of several possible truss layouts. Trusses have been around for hundreds of years, so you would think the optimum design would be established by now. Apparently not, and nor are the stresses when it is subject to bending in 2 directions and twisting. Something called static indetermination. The same applies to compression and buckling loads on covered unidirectional fibreglass rods. There is some theoretical work, but not many practical examples. Testing for new data is much more interesting than testing to establish fudge factors between known theory and practice.
The laminate on this beam is a mix of what we had available and what we thought would work. The joins are all experiments to check out their potential. Some are good, some not so much. The next one, and the scale model of the lee hull, will be built differently, take a lot less time with more control and reliability.  
Estimates of breaking load varied from 100-200 kgs, so we were pretty chuffed when it got to 274 kgs and we ran out of pavers to use as weights. Someone commented that as it hadn’t broken, we were none the wiser. I replied that I was pretty happy it had got to 275 and would rather be happy than wise! Thanks Yvon and Dong for measuring and recording, Roan and Rob R for the photos and making sure it all went according to plan. 

October 2020#19
Day 55/56 
Demoulded the 2nd beam web, looks good. Rob R added the side webs to the test beam, will add the top web and we’ll test it in house this week. 
I cut and shut one of the topsides panels (simpler than expected), bonded a couple of ring frames in the hull, glassed the tender bows and trowelled on some bog to make it a bit more presentable.  
The sample test rod exceeded the 1 tonne limit (surprise to the technicians, not to us) on the test machine, they will test it on the 5 tonne machine this week.  
A bit of a summary so far:
In 56 days we have built moulds for and infused 4 x 12m/40′ (2 more next week), 6 x 9m/30′ and 6 x 4m/13′ hull/deck panels, 4 by 3m/10′ rudder halves and many samples and test pieces for various items. We have 3 vacuum pumps, sometimes all of them are on at once. I work 10-12 hours per day (a fair bit of it looking, thinking and drinking tea), Rob R 8 hours and the volunteers about 20 hours a week. We have tried a bunch of new things, including flax instead of f’glass and stringers instead of foam (hopeless and great, respectively), sundry panel joins, minimising consumables and recycling/reusing those we do use. Generating about a household bin of rubbish per week. So far, a couple of minor repairs, but no throw away panels and mostly perfect laminates with half the resin and none of the suiting up, gloves, mess, fairing and waste needed for hand laminating. So far I have spent $AUS19,000 on materials, consumables and the mould table for the 8.4m/28′ tender, rudders, windward hull and beams. If the tests work out, the lee hull, beams and rig materials will cost about the same amount but there will be a fair bit left over from what I have. We are using my crappy hardware store power tools and a couple of medium size vac pumps borrowed from UQ. 
In case anyone is interested, I will be placing another order from China in a couple of weeks. The bigger the order, the lower the pro rata costs (handling, freight, customs, etc), so anyone who wants materials at about half the Aus costs, please let me know.

Day 54 
Diagonals almost as good as they looked, got the 2nd set laid up. Infused the topsides (perfectly) once Brad had found all the leaks.  
I used to test for vacuum by listening for air and pulling up the plastic folds. Worked OK, but I was never sure what was going on. The bat detector, catch pot (not required, but good to know it was there), multiple pumps and no core allow for a much more relaxed approach to the layout, bag sealing and infusion.  
Joined the 2 half hulls. Not quite as unenjoyable (applying wet resin on my hands and knees) as I thought it would be thanks to Teguh doing all the running around for me.  
Lunch time was the usual chatting about boats and building them, when Rob R suggested a really clever way to build the lee hull so that it could be easily transported. Model starts next week to see what is involved.  

Day 53 
Finished the 2nd topsides, Roan learnt the joys of filleting and coving on the tender, then we made the first diagonals for the beam model. Looks good. I made a couple of catch pots for the Uni vac pumps.  

Day 52
Late start, but Nakul and Teguh turned up to help Roan, Rob R and I. Rob R is in the last stages of a cunning truss construction method, Roan did some stringer installation and glassing on the tender and Teguh and Nakul demoulded the 2nd hull half section and started laying up the 2nd topsides.  
The hull half is excellent, the greater angles on the stringers are a little less stiff (I think, it is difficult to tell until they are assembled) but certainly good enough. Then all of them helped me get the halves ready for joining.  
There were a few lessons learnt, one of which is not to cut tacky tape with a rotary cutter. The stuff melts, sticks to and burns skin. Organising is hard work, but the things that get done with no physical effort from me makes it well worth while. Helped enormously by all of them being sensible and competent.