Concrete Boat - Welcome to The Concrete Boat website
I am building a slightly modified Robert Tucker V65 ferro-cement schooner.
Construction started on March 20th 2008 and I anticipate it being at least a (6) 7 (amended December 2009)  10 (amended August 2011)  12 (amended September 2012) year project.
I, and others, have taken some photographs during the construction and I hope to be able to post these on the website every week from now on so anybody deciding to have a go themselves will have a week by week guide of the problems and pitfalls they might encounter along the way.
Grenville Reeves
Blog (not quite as interesting as Belle de Jour)
Weekend 3rd/4th November 2012
Only worked on the boat on Saturday until mid-afternoon, finished fitting the bobstay bolt guides which involved welding up some intricate little permanent jigs and also fitted the through-hull fitting guide for the galley sink waste. Then it was sadly goodbye to the boat per se for a few months.
Regular visitors to the blog will recall that I started work a couple of years ago on a large building at the end of the garden; part of which will become one day the joinery workshop for the boat fitting out. The shell of this is now complete and weathertight and I have been running this project parallel alonside the main boat project. Seems little reason to now spend weekends outside on the boat in the winter when there is lots of nice undercover work to do fitting out the workshop. First job on late Saturday afternoon therefore was to pick up a wood burning stove that Bob has kindly donated to the project.
As promised finally took some photos.
Have now sheeted in the front of the scaffold which faces the predominant south westerly winds (and horizontal rain!), we have even got windows - bliss! The meshed bow of the boat is on the left.
Bay 1 portside finished meshing, 3 layers of mesh on the inside and the same on the outside of the armature, all tied off at 75mm centres with tie wire. I can see why the professional boatyards moved into GRP. But it is still the best medium for a one-off DIY project.
Looking down at the bow showing the partial meshing; the 22mm plugs for the bowsprit holding down bolts and the scaffold vertical corrugated GRP sheeting.
Little bit difficult to visualize what is going on here, we are fixing little wood/plastic plugs into the frames of the boat - think of them as ribs. When the frame/ribs are in concrete we can simply knock out the plugs and we have a ready made bolthole. Hundreds to fit. The Port side forward seeking sonar through hull fitting can be seen at the top of the photo.
Weekend 27th/28th October 2012
Meshing - still in bay 2
Up to Weekend 20th/21st October 2012
Meshing, Meshing and more Meshing.
Have created a spreadsheet to track progress of the meshing, it would appear that we are just under 5% meshed.
Have also fitted the thru-hull templates for the salt water inlets and created the template for the bobstay holding down bolts.
Up to Weekend 22nd/23rd Setember 2012
Mega apologies for the lack of updates, been very busy at work but we have been plodding on just about every weekend bar holidays. Have finished the "margins" and I will post sime pictures next weekend to show what I mean. We are now 4 weeks into the meshing but still not yet out of the forepeak. Although to be fair to ourselves this has been an absolute nightmare in terms of difficulty of access, again I will try to post some pictures next weekend.
Bob and I both think that when we are out of the forepeak things will flow a lot faster.
Weekend 23rd/24th June 2012
Somewhat quiet weekend, but productive in its way. I started extending the scaffold on the stern of the boat, my intention is to get the whole of the scaffold cladded down to the level of the first scaffold lift before the end of summer in order that we can apply mesh in comparaitive comfort and reduce drasically any risk of corrosion throughtout the bleak winter months.
We have been advised that we do not need to follow the traditional concrete curing method of covering the hull in old carpets and keeping it cosntantly wet with a sprinkler system for 28 days to slow down the hydration process and thereby increase the strength of the whole hull by 40%. All you do nowdays is paint the thing with "sealcrete" which has the same effect.
Bob has therefore been stripping out the retainment system we had built to recycle the water and to tidy up the keel "margins". I must take some photographs next week to explain this "margin" process whicis a prelude to full-on meshing..
Weekends up to 16th/17th June 2012
Apologies for not posting recently, other than one weekend off for a hedonistic weekend afloat in the South of France its just been a steady plod every weekend with nothing much to report in the way of progress. The new corrugated GRP roof is on the scaffold which is a great improvement, wish I had done it that way in the first place. Whilst we are in a cladding mood we are continuiing to clad the sides of the scaffold down to the first main lift of scaffold, with windows! (home from home), Not saying it was grim weather for June but chief sandwich maker brought down hot soup for Saturday lunch!
Picked up an old semi-industrial sewing machine on ebay to have a go at sailmaking at sometime.
Try and post some photos next week.  
Weekend 28th/29th April 2012
Pushed on with the meshing on Staurday, had the GRP sheets delivered for the scaffold roof. Sunday was a complete downpour all day, had a day in the office catching up on paperwork (non boat).
Weekend 21st/22nd April 2012
Got the stern thruster refitted (for the third time!), aligned and enough mild steel rebar welded in to hold it in position. Got the  longitudinal and diagonal stringers refitted to the bow thruster, Started playing around with the meshing, its going to be a long job. 
As the boat starts to take shape I am amazed at the number of people who come forward to offer asistance. Kevin, an absolute wizard at 3D CAD, is in the process of producing a "walk through" of the boat. Current version above. Lots more on this later. 
Week ending Sunday 15th April 2012
Another case of one step forwards and two steps back. Decison reached that stern thruster could not be strengthened in-situ. Wilf (fellow boat builder) kindly offered to pitch up with his plasma cutter and 8KW MIG welder (with full size argon gas bottle!) to sort out issues on the thrusters. On Tuesday a posse of local weightlifters manhandled this kit off Wilf's dutch barge into a trailer and transported same down to our workshop. We then discoverd Wilf's kit was on the 16amp 240v system. For the uninitaited this system utilises the round blue plug/socket system similar to the 110v yellow system.   Bob and I spent all of Thursday afternoon fitting a suitable socket at the boat.
Friday Saturday and Sunday went pretty well. stern thurster taken out (again!) Both thrusters massively reinforced, bow thruster re-fitted. Also rudder sleeve re-cut and rudder refitted - looks spot on - hopefully picture next week. Whilst we had the stern thruster on the workbench we have ground the hull margins back to required dimensions,
Weekend 7th /8th April 2012
One of thse very rare weekends when everything went pretty much to plan. Have welded 6mm bar around the margins of the stern thruster tube ready to grind back the tube to suit - what a total faff!!! Have first fixed the bow thuster, marked it up and taken it out for plasma cutting and refitting - much simpler solution. 
Weekend 31st March /1st April 2012
First fixed the Bow Thruster and rudder, also adapted the electric hoist to make it more easier to move around the boat and clamp onto scaffolding. (see separate section on how we built the rudder).
Rudder on stern scaffold.
Bob has decided that the first step in rudder fitting is to take on copious amounts of protein, I am favouring the "phone a friend" technique.
And the finished product!
And first fixed the bow thruster - good weekend and Bob's 72nd birthday on the Sunday so early departure to pub!
Weekend 24th/25th  March 2012
Carried on working on installing stern thruster. Jim kindly used his oxy-acetelene cutting gear to remove most of the surplus steel but it is going to be a long job to fettle up what's left.
Weekend 18/19th February 2012
Had to spend weekend in Manchester - starting to get withdrawl symptons.
Weekend 4/5th February 2012
Off skiing.
kend 28/29th  January 2012
Conveyor finished!! I'd never get a positions in time and costing.
Weekend 21st/22nd  January 2012
Weekend 14/15th  January 2012
Still working on conveyor project! Can't be much left after next weekend.
Weekend 7/8th  January 2012
Still working on conveyor project.
Saturday 31st  December 2011
Had New Year's Eve morning on the Conveyor system, will still need at least next weekend to finish it off.
Weekends 10/11 and 17/18 December 2011
Helped out on another project dismantling a large conveyor system for my ex business partner that I had installed years ago, lots of reclaimed goodies to go into the boat and the main thing it was inside!  Needs another weekend after Christmas then back on to the boat proper.
Sunday 4th December 2011
Still carried on with stern thruster, proving to be far more complex than first thought, miserable weather and bad light, no show from The project commission photographer. Roll on summer.
Saturday 3rd December 2011
Carried on with Stern Thruster - hopefully photos tommorrow.
Sunday 27th  November 2011
Carried on with Stern Thruster
Saturday 26th November 2011
Sealed the entry points for the inboard electrical points, another job ticked off the list. Hoisted the stern thruster tube into position and started welding it in situ. 
Sunday 20th November 2011
Picked up the stern thruster tunnel which Steve had fabricated, cut out the High Tensile Longditudinals and diagonals and set up the electric winch to hoist it into position, need some chain and a shackle to support the winch so another job for next week.
Saturday 19th November 2011
The planned morning finishing off the inboard electrics turned into a whole day, still need to seal the entry points for all the boxes and conduit connections with PU18 - can't rate that stuff high enough. Jim has waltzed off with my caulking gun so that will have to be one of next week's jobs. We now have 3 double sockets working inside the boat.
During the week Bob managed to beg 15 minutes on an industrial electric steel guillotine and sliced some 2mm mild steel sheet into 6mm strips. Back on site I set up our Dexion hand guillotine to cut these strips into 110mm lengths. Bob put a short 90 degree bend in one end and we had a method of fixing the "knock out" plugs. Have made the plugs out of standard 15mm plastic plumbing pipe with a wooden dowl in the middle then cut this into 14mm lengths on the electric bench fretsaw One end of the strip is welded to the frame, the plug is fitted mid frame and the strip tensioned with rebar tie-wire to trap the plug into position, - we have about a 1000 of these to fit. 
Picture of the sole holding down bolts with garden hose protective sheaths.
Saturday/Sunday 12th/13th November 2011
Bob just about finished the fabrication and welding of the vertical reinforcements for the athwartship floor reinforcements. Decided we could do with some electrical power inside the boat so I spent most of the weekend running conduit and wiring to provide 3 double IP55 sockets inside the boat (as well as the 4 IP55 double sockets we have on the scaffold and 6 standard double sockets and 3 fixed machinery fused spurs we have in the workshop! But it is silly and dangerous having trailing cables running anywhere never mind across the scaffold. Didn't finish connecting up the wiring so that is next Saturday morning written off for me following which I will drop back onto the scaffold sheeting. I hope one day to get back and join Bob on building the boat.
Some more work done during the week on the design and fabrication of the bow and stern thrusters. Pictures to come.
Thought we had finished all the captive holding down bolt work but realised that  the foremast support also sits on a concrete bed - will order another 8 x 12mm bolts and washers - its like painting the Forth Bridge.
Got hold of a sample of 2mm x 8mm mild steel strip, we think we might be at last on to a cheap and cheerful system for temporarily holding in the "knock out" plugs. As i have mentioned we estimate there are about a 1000 of these to fit but I have spoken to somebody who built a ferro-cement boat many years ago and he has told me that he wished he had gone down this path rather than drilling them out post concreting.
Bit of a nip in the air - winter draws on.
Saturday/Sunday 5th/6th November 2011
Finished welding in to the hull all of the 54 stainless steel holding down bolts for the sole bearers (floor joists) and capped them all with garden hose pipe offcuts to protect the threads. 
Dropped back on to completing the fabrication and welding of the vertical reinforcements for the athwartship floor reinforcements. (this is dead technical - a "floor" in navalarchitectspeak is a vertical element not an horizontal element). I will humbly request that the Project Commission Photographer takes some enlightening photographs next weekend.
Started to sheet in the scaffold with plastic sheeting to a lower lift to reduce weather issues - again photo later.
The boat when finally completed will comprise a ferro-cement hull and a Timber/Glass Reinforced Plastic (GRP -Fibreglass)  superstructure/interior. This will require over a 1000 bolts to pass through the hull to secure the two together. We are looking at casting into the hull "Knock out" plugs - more later  
Sunday 30th October 2011
Further to the blog on Tuesday 18th October 2011 here is a picture of one of the Marine Grade stainless steel (318/A4) bolts welded to a mild steel washer - we have got 54 of these.
These are intended for a really "bolt and braces" situation, the 100mm x 50mm timber sole bearers will be secured to the hull with some form of "uber glue" (traditionally 2 pack epoxy resin but we are looking at single pack PU18 as an alternative).
The problem arises if the boat ever capsises, it would not be a barrel load of laughs if as well as well as all of your other problems the cabin floor landed on your head!
So we are welding these into the sole plate risers so that after we put the hull into concrete the bolts will be firmly embedded into the concrete hull and form an additional fix to the sole (cabin floor). The red bits are simply 100mm pieces of garden hosepipe sealed with insulation tape just to protect the threads. 
Saturday 29th October
Finally finished the plugs for the rudder bearing through-bolts on the skeg. What an unbelievable amount of effort to achieve such a small step forward.  
As mentioned previously have produced a "test plank".
Photo 1 - Plank with fairly heavy person standing next to it.
Photo 2 - Fairly heavy person bouncing up and down on plank
Photo 3 - Perfectly happy plank apres bouncing. - Plastic concrete!!!
Sunday 23rd October 2011
Concentrated on the rudder bearing support plate through-bolts on the skeg, I started work on the template and Bob started work on the hull. Bob stripped back the high tensile steel longitudinal and diagonal stringers and reinforced the armature with some welded 8mm round bar mild steel.
However, we had totally underestimated the power of the high tensile steel. We refixed it and it completely bent the new reinforcement back to effectively the original position.
Stripped it all back again, lofted two 8mm welded "wiggle bar" panels approx 600mm long x 200mm high, welded these in either side of the skeg and welded in bracing bars between both sides to form a box section. That is now going nowhere.
Didn't get chance to finish the whole thing before the mandatory 1 o' clock Sunday transition from doing things on the boat to transferring the operation to the local hostelry to discuss maritime matters with no less than 3 other boat builders. Another hour should finish this next week.
The project commission photographer has performed a State Visit (under protest) so we have a few photos.
Lofting table with starboard mesh template.
Nice view from the inside
Graceful lines of the bow
Saturday 22nd October 2011
Still down with Man Flu - apparently ten times worse than childbirth. Went over to workshop 2 to look at issues on the side thrusters; agreed a radical change of design and we are now going to go for a rectangular 7mm steel vertical box welded on to the tunnel tube. - More later.
Back at the boat; finished the template for the stern rudder bearing support plate through-bolts on the skeg and also cut 6 short lengths of 22mm plastic plumbing pipe to form the permanent sleeve for the bolts and filled same with expanded foam and left for 24 hours to cure. However when offering up the template it became apparent the sides of the skeg were not vertical but followed the lines of the boat, very aesthetic but no use whatsoever as a base for the template. Yet more fettling required.
Made a jig for the sole plate bolts, I think that will be OK.
Cut down and dressed up some 8mm threaded bar to make 8 No. 50mm bolts for the starboard meshing template but far too windy on the lofting table on the scaffold to be trying to handle a sheet of plywood.
Knocked off at 2. Bob is back tomorrow hopefully we can make better progress working together.
Tuesday 18th October 2011
Picked up the 54 (number) 12mm diameter stainless steel A4 bolts that have now been welded onto large mild steel washers - hopefully the Project Commission Photographer can take some photographs this coming weekend to illustrate what is happening here.
Discussed issues with the bow thruster construction and agreed to meet up over the weekend.
Weekend 15th/16th October 2011
Saturday: Went into town to buy a few bits from B&Q, Decided to bin the idea of the cardboard template for cutting the mesh for the inboard panels, instead cut a similar size template out of thin plywood. Fitted 8 number 8mm diameter bolts about 60mm long to it around the perimeter.  Put a large repair washer on either side of the bolt and tightened up a nut and spring washer on the underside. Now have a flexible piece of plywood about 2m by 1m with 8 number 50mm lengths of 8mm threaded bar sticking out on one side. Drilled holes in the lofting table so that the bolts can locate in the holes and the plywood can sit flat on the table.
Then realised that I am going to need one template for Port and another one for Starboard, so on the basis that.
  • I have got a bad cold as a side effect of my flu jab;
  • The Project Commission Lunchtime Sandwich Maker had failed to turn up;
  • Bob is still in Portugal and I am Billy No Mates; and
  • I have a stack of work to do in the office.
I sacked it for the day.
Can't work on the boat on Sunday as I have got to get the aforementioned work off my desk this weekend, - the joys of being a litigation lawyer. Must crack on when Bob gets back or we will never be ready for concrete next summer.
Thursday 15th October 2011
Professional scaffolding firm came in and patched up the wind damage to the plastic roof on the scaffold.
Weekend 8th/9th October 2011
Saturday: Not the best of weekends, having decided that our Mark II version of cutting the over 70 separate sets of double curvature internal galvanized steel mesh from cardboard templates, rather than doing it in-situ has "good idea" written all over it, means that we either a) cut the first layer and save the template (Cardboard) or b) cut all three layers at the same time from the template, fix the first layer to the armature and mark up and save the (far more resistant to weather than cardboard) galvanized mesh sections for use in the future. This however requires weather resistant mark up labels.
Which meant that I spent most of the the morning in the office on the computer and the plastic laminator to produce the sets of labels and then over an hour on my hands and knees on the scaffold nailing 36 labels to the scaffold to positively identify each bay between frames so we do not wrongly mark up the sections of mesh in the future.
During the week had taken delivery of 54 No. 150mm x 12mm diameter A4 stainless steel bolts. These will hold down the sole (i.e.floor) to the hull. They need to be cast into the concrete so I had also ordered some large mild steel washers. I am assured there is no issue with dissimilar metals when they are inside the concrete hull. Dropped these round to a friend of mine to tack weld the washers and bolts  together using some clever welding sticks he has called "casteline" or something similar.
I had dropped my trusted assistant Bob and his dear Lady off at Robin Hood Airport during the week as they were off for a couple of weeks in Portugal so I was Billy No Mates on Saturday, totally miserable weather, drizzle all day. However, spent the rest of the day having a really good tidy up as the site was dropping well below my normal standards. Stripped down the "test plank" shuttering - absolutely amazing. It is 2m long. 225m wide and 30mm deep. I can put a brick under either end, step on it, it deflects, and when I take my weight off it springs back. Talking to a civil engineer friend of mine that night and he is says in 30 years in the concrete game he has never heard of anything like it.
Sunday: Had to work in the office all day to get a report out for Monday, but hey-ho normally my weekends are pretty much sacrosanct for boat building.
Hoped to be able to show some photographs of all of this but the project commission photographer made yet another excuse, this time about some "Ladies Who Lunch" occasion in Bawtry. I might start advertising for a younger more reliable model if this carries on! 
Weekend 1st/2nd October 2011
Saturday: The three starboard side vertical portlights are back from galvanising, however have decided that in any event they will still need glassing up with matt and epoxy, filling and rubbing down to look spot on so will not bother with galvanising the rest, which moves the job on a bit, refitted port horizontal lights 1,2 and 3 and fettled up port 4,5 and 6 in situ.
Built an 8 foot by 4 foot lofting table for the internal mesh templates - more on this later.
Made a start on fettling the transom/hull joint. The problem is that we cannot tie the 5mm high tensile steel 5mm strings to the very edge of the transom and neither can we weld them (they just are not weldable. So the trick is to weld in a shaped 8mm bar about 25mm forward from the transom/hull line and tie them off to that.
Sunday:Finished the test plank and left it under damp towels, needs leaving ideally for 28 days in a damp environment which prevents hydration and provides a 40% stronger structure.
Re-fitted the starboard side vertical portlight but they have become misaligned in transit. Will need an hour or 2 next weekend to finally fix. 
Weekend 24th/25th September 2011
Started setting up the starboard side vertical portlights but had to hold off awaiting the return of the portside ones from being galvanized to make sure that both sides were aligned to the same dimensions.
Had previously noted that there were 8 instances on the boat where the lines were not "eye sweet" either due to an error in original design "heaven forbid" or horizontal lofting error on my part.  These were all down on the "list of things to do". One of these faults was now however causing an issue on getting a "sweet line" for the starboard vertical portlights. Either way, my trusted friend and mentor Tony Tucker had told me to just release the ties of the armature against the frames and the armature will find its natural position - spot on advice:, the armature came out to a "sweet" position and we back filled and welded the frame. All done in a hour. Hopefully the other seven issues will be as easy.
Removed 3 of the 12 horizontal portlights as a prelude to galvanising. however they are going to need more additional work than anticipated before galvanising.
Estimate somewhere in the region of 20,000 ties in the meshing process, have read every book I can find - started trying to get some sort of power assisted process - more later.
Weekend 17th/18th September 2011
Again slow progress- getting the double curvature work on the 3 portside portlights to "true in" to the hull to look "eye sweet" has been an absolute nightmare, just constantly weld building and grinding back in-situ - and all this on about a square metre of hull on a boat only just over 20m!
Anyway all done and the 3 piece unit has been sent off for galvanising.
Pushed on with with the test plank.
Experimented with a "check stick" method of making a template for the internal mesh sections - more later.
Weekend 10th/11th September 2011
Mixed weekend, have now sorted out the "fettle" of the temporary fixed bearers to true up the starboardside vertical portlights - major time consuming faff for what appears to be such a small issue. However, at the end of the day the plasterers will be using the outboard edge of the metal portlight liners as a template in a very similar vein to a plasterer's angle bead, the difference here is that ours are all twin curvature!! We therefore need to build up with weld and then grind down each edge.
Bob's faithful stick welder (must be 40 years old) has thrown in the towel, needs to go on the RIP TOOLS list. Stillsaw and MIG both gone off to hospital for a complete
Still got problems with the plastic roof, more big holes, have already lost nearly 2 weekends on this, will talk to the professionals this week.
Tried out some new mastic/sealant called PU/18 - absolutely fantastic, apparently Bentley use it to stick cars together. Will expand on this when I've got some photos.
Just for interest's sake am knocking up a test ferro-cement plank (everybody is saying shouldn't I have done that before I started). 
Regarding the ongoing Website upgrade I don't seem to be able to post script against specific photos, again more on this later.  
Hoped to be able to show some photographs of all of this but the project commison photographer made some mickey-mouse excuses about her having to get ready to go to a party (many years ago her school reports said must try harder!).
Weekend 3rd/4th September 2011
Bit of a frustrating weekend, we suffered storm damage to the plastic roof so spent most of Saurday sorting that out and spent the rest of the weekend building jigs to "true up" the horizontal portlights, all a bit complicated, more on this next week with photos. 
Wednesday 24th August 2011
Many, many apologies for the hiatus in updating the Website, this has partly been my fault and partly out of my control, however now back up and running and I shall do my level best to bring the new website up to scratch as soon as possible.
Despite the appalling lack of progress on the Website I can assure you that the project has been progressing on a regular weekend basis. All of the longitudinal and diagonal high tensile stringers are now in place. Approximately 16,500 ties!! The 12 Horizontal portlights are fabricated and first fixed and we have first fixed 5 of the 6 vertical portlights. The rudder gland outer housing and the port and starboard forward seeking sonar housings have all been first fixed, removed, sent away for galvanizing and permanently second fixed.
The project has progressed to a stage where we talk about working "inside" or "outside" of the boat and we have constructed a proper safe access to get inside the boat.
More shortly
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