Spring is finally here, and the results of winter boat building and maintenance projects are sprouting up in both Thomaston and Camden. This month we’re taking a look at the innovative approach we’re taking to the construction of a 57′ wood-composite express cruiser, an explanation of yacht electronics networks, and the intricacies of bottom paint. Plus we’re taking a little trip to Palm Beach for the boat show — and we hope you’ll come visit us! Our monthly Dispatches give you an in-depth look at an assortment of projects we’re working on in both Thomaston and Camden.
In this issue:
Pioneering a Bold Approach to Wood-Composite Boat Building
Lyman-Morse Composites Manager Steve Crane believes that the next revolution in composite boat construction will be about building both aspects of a boat’s hull – the outside and the inside – at the same time.
Crane and the team of craftsmen in Thomaston, Maine, are mid-way through the construction of a custom, 57-foot wood-composite express cruiser for C.W. Hood Yachts of Marblehead Mass. This Hood 57, designed in a collaboration between C.W. Hood and Stephens Waring Yacht Design of Belfast, Maine, will feature all the latest 21st-century go-fast gadgets and luxuries: Twin 1,000 HP Volvo Pod drives, a circular titanium stairway to the fly-deck, and a distinctive retro sport-cruiser design.
But what Crane is especially excited about is the innovative construction approach developed by Stephens Waring that assembles both the outside of the hull and the inside structural laminates for that hull simultaneously.
“What we are doing is assembling the entire hull, from exterior surface through the planking and into the structural longitudinal laminates, in four separate modules,” he says. “Then we will assemble those four prefabbed units into a single structural hull.”
Crane says the construction methods conceived by Stephens Waring are truly innovative. “Nobody I know of has made a composite wooden boat this way before.”
Built Unlike Any Other Boat
“The cutting-edge methods we’re developing use everyday materials,” explains Crane. “But we use a new process that allows us to assemble these simple materials into innovative and cost-efficient modules.”
The bottom module includes the stem of the boat and about 52 feet of the planing surfaces of the hull. Then there’s the smaller transom module, roughly 15-by-8-feet, which is the stern and forms the cylindrical camber of the tumblehome. Finally, there are the two port and starboard topside modules, each about 6 feet high and running the full length of the 57-foot boat.
“Because these module structures are unique, everything about this process had to be reinvented. And I mean everything,“ Crane says. “We were awarded a grant from the Maine Technology Institute just to install the two overhead gantry cranes that traverse the entire length and width of our construction building. That’s what we needed to maneuver these modules as we built them.”
Rejigging the Obvious
At its core, the Hood 57 is engineered to be a fairly standard wood-composite boat. The hull’s planking is traditional Douglas Fir. The fibers that reinforce this wooden core are standard eGlass. The entire structure is either infused or impregnated with well-understood epoxy resins. All materials that can be picked up at any marine supply store.
The composite magic happens in how these elements are combined and then assembled.
For starters, the forms of the jig used to shape the hull are precisely cut with Lyman-Morse’s Haas GR-712 CNC machine. The machine is controlled by direct digital outputs from the computers used to design the Hood 57’s hull.
The CNC-cut jig pieces create a kind of backbone that captures the exact form of the hull. It is this Digital Age skeleton that allows for both the external hull planking and the internal longitudinal stringers to be assembled in carefully choreographed steps.
“That’s what is unheard of in composite construction,” says Crane.
Designed to Save Money
Using the bottom module as an example, Crane describes how his crew assembles the fir hull planking over the jig forms. At the same time, his crew lays out the internal longitudinal stringers alongside the building jig. When the bottom hull section is fully planked and the stringers fully assembled, the planked hull is popped off the jig using the new gantry cranes. Then the pre-finished longitudinal internal stringers are lifted and slotted into precise pre-cut notches in the jigs, aligning them in the required exact location.
Crane’s crew then lays out a giant vacuum bag around the bottom hull section and infuses it with two-part epoxy resin. Once cured, that infused hull section is re-attached to the jig and carefully matched to the longitudinal stringers now sitting in the jig.
Once both are bonded together with adhesives, the outside hull structure and internal framing are now a single unit. Then the port, starboard, and transom modules can be completed and attached. The result is a hull of incredible structural strength that can save builders – and in turn customers – money.
This process will give Lyman-Morse another construction option for owners looking for a custom boat, as there is no need to build and then dispose of the molds. Similarly, this kind of modular construction should allow for more efficient integration of internal structures.
Giving Even Keel an Electronics Backbone
Let us introduce you to Mike Gaulin, one of the crew with the magic marine electronics hands at Lyman-Morse at Wayfarer in Camden. He got his start installing such gear into Sturgeon-Class fast attack nuclear submarines in the Navy, before joining Wayfarer Marine 10 years ago. For Gaulin and his team of four, every job starts with bench-testing, even on electronics built by trusted manufacturers like Raymarine, B&G, KVH, Garmin, and Furuno.
“Every piece of electronics gets tested before it goes into a boat,” he says. “Today’s gear is finicky.”
Once they’ve passed that test, the key to turning these various components into a single robust electronics network involves creating a vessel’s electronics backbone.
Finding A Boat’s Backbone
Gaulin uses Even Keel, a classic Grand Banks 32 cruiser as an example of how he designs a boat’s electronics backbone. He starts by sketching out a schematic of the various instruments and cables that a system might require, using a computer-assisted drawing (CAD) software package.
This CAD drawing maps out the various configurations of the instruments and cables needed and how each will adhere to the exacting specifications of the National Marine Electronics Association, the trade group that defines how devices from various makers communicate on a boat.
These National Marine Electronics Association (NMEA) standards – usually nicknamed “neema” by those in the marine industry – are utterly unlike the internet communications network tools most people use on land. Instead, NMEA standards are a relative of proprietary communications tools found in cars and trucks. They are closed systems that require exactly specified backbone infrastructures of multi-stranded cables, connectors, and software.
“The big difference between NMEA and the internet is that a NMEA network carries not only data, but also power to a device,” says Gaulin. “And you have to be careful to design your network to manage both.”
Right Backbone, Right User
On Even Keel, the main backbone is a 45-foot-long cable made up of an internal power line, a ground line, a so-called high data line, a low data line, and then a shield.
“What you design with that backbone depends on the experience of the skipper,” says Gaulin. Some owners want more powerful electronics, no matter the complexity. Others want a simpler experience, maybe closer to what they find in their cars.
In Even Keel’s case, the owner was all about flexibility and functionality. The boat features two separate helming stations, one on deck and one on a fly-bridge. Each includes its own Garmin 7610 chart plotter that features radar and navigation displays, There are redundant autopilots, several networked VHF radios, a complex Fusion marine entertainment system, a Flir fixed-mount thermal night-vision camera, as well as forward-looking Sonar systems, and down view and sideview depth imaging tools, There is also a Floscan fuel consumption meter that ensures the vessel never runs out of diesel.
The challenge with Even Keel, given its density of electronics, is the NMEA standard strictly requires that each device have its own dedicated connection, or drop cable, from the main backbone line to the device. These drop cables tie-in with the backbone via dedicated T-connectors and can have a maximum length of no more than 6 meters, or about 18 feet.
For a 32-foot boat with three levels, like Even Keel, the backbone then must be carefully snaked to run from up on the fly-deck, down through the main deck, and then down further into the engine room.
“What you are looking for is a physical redundancy where there are no single points of failure,” says Gaulin. “If one cable is broken or a unit fails, I have to be able to disconnect that unit and not compromise the system.”
Once the basic backbone and drop cables are installed, he has figure out how to integrate older electronics systems with modern tablets and smartphones.
“More and more, modern marine electronics have WiFi integration. That means an owner’s iPhone can be a handy extra wireless display, for something like a radar readout,” says Gaulin.
Cover Your Bottom: Antifouling Do’s and Don’ts
Not exactly. In 21st-century boat maintenance, matching the right antifouling paint to the right boat can be surprisingly tricky.
“There’s no one perfect paint that will work in every situation,” explains Kevin O’Donnell, marine coatings manager at Lyman-Morse in Thomaston, Maine. “It is all about finding the paint that works for that particular boat.”
Many factors come into play – budget, paint compatibility, environmental regulations, and changing technologies – but O’Donnell sums up the complexities of matching the right anti-fouling finish to the right application in two simple questions:
How often is a boat used, and is it used in fresh or saltwater?
For Light Use: The Harder, the Better
O’Donnell, who estimates he and his crew paint or finish about 55 boats per year, has found boats that leave the dock or mooring less than once a week cannot rely on the scrubbing action of the water to keep marine growth at bay. Instead, they require harder finishes that carry a spectrum of biocides that limit the growth of barnacles and seaweeds.
These harder biocides usually rely on cuprous oxide or other copper compounds to ward off marine growth. They almost always require careful preparation, including a deep bottom cleaning, sandblasting, bottom fairing and repairs, and a stable base coat. The goal is to prevent water from seeping in between various layers of finishes and creating blisters.
Specifications vary, but O’Donnell suggests that epoxy basecoats should be at least 10 so-called “mils” thick. (Mils are a coatings industry standard for thousands of an inch.) O’Donnell finds that four coats of antifouling finish, of between 3 to 4 mils each, perform the best. Lyman-Morse coatings crew members check the thickness of various layers with measuring devices prescribed by the manufacturer.
If budget is an issue, O’Donnell says most major manufacturers offer lower-priced options, including Pettit’s Hybrid Reactive Technology brand. It can run about one-third the cost of higher-priced options.
For Heavier Use: A Soft Touch
Where serious anti-fouling efficiencies start is when boats are lucky enough to be used at least several times each week. Here, softer antifouling coatings can do the same work as harder biocides.
These softer, so-called ablative paints physically slough off as the boat moves through the water. According to paint manufacturers, these sloughed-off particles are relatively harmless and they do the work of carrying away marine growth.
Softer ablative finishes open up several intriguing application options. Softer finishes can be laid down in various coats of contrasting colors, hardness, and thicknesses to improve performance. First coats can be in a thicker coat of darker blue, while top coats can be in a thinner coat of a lighter hue, or even white.
“That way, as the top white layers scrub off, you can see the blue layer and know right away where your finish needs re-touching,” says O’Donnell.
Again, if budget is an issue, all major manufacturers offer high-quality ablative paints at good prices. O’Donnell recommends Interlux ACT, a reasonably priced ablative coating that comes in a full range of formulations and colors.
Right Home Port
Once the family of hard or soft antifouling finishes is chosen, the next step is matching the formulation to the salinity of the water. Freshwater vs. saltwater can drastically affect the performance of antifouling finishes, O’Donnell says.
While the vast majority of paints that Lyman-Morse applies are for saltwater, O’Donnell finds Interlux’s VC-17m is a high-quality example of freshwater antifouling paint.
The Environmental Debate
Lyman-Morse takes the considerations about the environmental impact of antifouling finishes seriously. All antifouling finish work done at Lyman-Morse follows best-practices for application and remediation. All procedures occur in carefully controlled environments, where workers wear full protective clothing, groundwater is protected, and paint particles are filtered and disposed of properly.
Changing regulations are also part of O’Donnell’s job. He monitors new rules in California that are moving away from copper-based marine finishes. And he’s keeping a close eye on a new family of silicone-based antifouling systems like Seacoat Technologies and Elkem. These coatings are currently seeing test duty in the military and some commercial vessels. They promise 10-year lifespans and utilize much more stable environmentally safe compounds.
Visit Us In Palm Beach!
Spring is a perfect time to make the trip to Florida and the Palm Beach International Boat Show 2019, going on from March 28th through 31st. What began as a smaller, specialty in-water boat show has grown to display something on the order of $1.2 billion (with a “b”) in boats, yachts, and accessories.
The Lyman-Morse crew will be stationed in SuperYacht Villa C, where Drew Lyman and brokers Eric Roos, Scott Layton, and John Morin will be on hand to offer a Maine-style respite from the more flashy options on display. Come enjoy some relaxed conversation and learn about all that we have going on in Thomaston and Camden.
Check out the boat show website for more information, but contact us if you’re planning to come by the show– we’d love to give you the Lyman-Morse VIP treatment!
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