Saturday, April 20, 2013

Construction is underway - Week 2

I haven't given any update on the actual construction of the boat.  So far they have been making great progress.  The "mold date" was back at the end of February.  The hull is constructed from the outside-in using a mold to form the outer surface.  Needless to say, the mold is quite large and consists of several sections that get prepped then bolted together.  The mold surface is highly polished since it will create the finished outer surface of the hull.

Below are the two forward halves of the mold, and you can see that they are not yet joined together.  The scaffolding hangs from the cross beams so none of it touches the inside surface.

Hull mold being prepped
 I only know a tiny bit about doing fiberglass work, but to get a mold like this to release from the boat, you need to wax the hell out of it.  Otherwise it will never separate from the fiberglass.  The guys in the hull are probably applying that release wax.

Here's a view from the stern of the boat.  You can see a blue area on the right inside the hull.  I think that's the seam for the extension to the mold that turns the N55 hull into an N60/63 hull.  Obviously the transom section has not yet been attached.

Hull mold viewed from the stern

The transom section gets prepped separately, probably to make access easier that trying to do it after attaching to the rest of the hull.  It appears to have already been gel coated, and the blue stuff I'm told is some sort of bonding agent.

Transom mold prepped and ready to attach

Below is the mold fully assembled

Fully assembled mold

Fully assembled mold
The outermost layer of a boat is gel coat, so that's the first thing that gets applied to the mold.  In the pictures below you can see the crew spraying it on.

Spraying on gel coat

Applying gel coat
After the gel coat is applied, the layers of fiberglass are laid down, slowly building up the thickness of the hull.  Once the hull skin is compete, a series of reinforcing ribs are glassed into place.  Otherwise you would just have a big floppy sheet of fiberglass.  Next, the lower bulkheads are glassed into place, further strengthening the hull, and ensuring it doesn't sag or distort once the mold is removed.

In the picture below, the foreground where the guys are working is the engine room.  Forward of that is the laundry/utility room. Next is tankage - a combination of the fresh water, grey water, and black water tanks.  And the forward most section is the "basement".

Fiberglass ribs and lower bulkheads installed

 And then the mold starts coming off.  The first to emerge is the transom.

Transom mold section removed

And the full hull emerges to see the light of day.  The picture below shows the aft-most bulkhead that separates the engine room from the lazarette

Hull emerges from the mold

 And the full hull viewed from the outside.

Hull out of the mold
On the surface there is no rhyme or reason to the manufacturing process.  I haven't been to the yard yet, but I'm told that one day the boat will be empty, and the next day there will be a person in every corner, closer, and crawl space.  We've dubbed it "swarm manufacturing".  You never know when it will happen, but when the swarm descends, lots gets done is a very short time.

Over the two weeks that ensued after the boat came out of the mold, the swarm appears to have been in full force.  In the picture below which is facing the bow, you can see what I mean.  The two people in the foreground on either side of the boat are crouched on the two main fuel tanks  The tanks (all of them) are fiberglass and get built right into the main structure.  The space between the tanks is the engine room.  The red thing a bit forward and on the right is the top of one of the forward fuel tanks.  Ahead of that you can see some blue and some black.  Those are the fresh water and black water tanks respectively.  Furthest forward where there is another worker is the bulkhead separating the master stateroom from the guest stateroom.

View forward
Below is a view aft with the blue (and a little black) fresh, grey, and black water tanks in the foreground.  Moving aft you can see the red top of the forward fuel tanks.  Beyond that is the engine room with the two main fuel tanks on either side with the workers on top of them.

View aft

And last, here is an overview of the whole thing.

All this represents about 6 weeks of work.  It seems good to me and PAE thinks it's moving very fast too, but there is no construction schedule to benchmark it against.  I guess that's the nature of swarm manufacturing.  My hope is that the swarm will continue, and there is reason to believe that it will.  The yard is just finishing the very first N120, and it has been consuming a lot of resources which hopefully can help move my boat along.


  1. Congrats P. Looking great. When are you going to the yard?

  2. No plans yet, but I'd guess in the next month or two.


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