Welding Wonderland

Welding Wonderland

This was not only a full 5 day week is was 5 days filled with welding, welding, welding.  Not that this is anything new, building a metal hull is mostly about welding.   This is all more so the case now that almost all the cutting is done with CNC machines which take their code directly from the 3D models and precisely cut the sheets of different thicknesses of aluminium into the thousands of individual pieces of aluminium which are then fit together in a very jig saw puzzle like way.  Because all the individual pieces now arrive at the shipyard direct from the AL supplier all precisely cut and marked, there is very little cutting and fitting during the build as most parts interlock and fit together as is.  The focus is thus largely on assembling the pieces, tacking as needed to keep aligned and then doing the finishing welds.  In the not so distant past all the steel or aluminium would arrive at the shipyard as whole sheets and the parts would be individually laid out and cut by hand to much rougher tolerances which then required a significant amount of grinding and cutting and fitting of each piece for it to be tacked and then welded, hopefully in just the right place and position.  This all worked well however it meant that the alignment and fitting of all the parts and the overall boat itself was up to the skills of those people building the boat and it required a tremendous amount of time for all this skilled labour.

There is no less skill in building metal boats these days but the skills are changing and distributed differently than in the past.  The initial focus and larger amounts of time are now being spent on the design and engineering to create extremely complete 3D models which can be tested for strength, faults, balance and stability before any metal is cut or actual building has begun. 

In the past few years the efficiency of the overall building of a ship has jumped up another notch, pun intended as the parts are now all “notched” or otherwise made to be interlocking and self aligning anywhere possible and not at all unlike the way interlocking blocks and puzzle pieces fit together.  By having all the pieces interlocking and also marked wtih alignment points it is possible to almost eliminate the chance of any part going in the wrong place or wrong way and so the initial part of the building of a hull, as you have been seeing here each week update on the building of XPM78-01 is a process of assembly, putting all the individual pieces together, tack welding them where needed to hold them in place and then once that whole assembly has been put together it is added into the other sub assemblies to create the hull, deck and superstructure.  With most of these pieces interlocking, as each piece slots into the next they are held in alignment by each other and as each additional part is slotted in place the alignment tightens up and the final assembly is almost assured of matching precisely with the 3D model from which all these parts originated. 

The skills of the tradespeople building boats this way today are no less critical to successfully building of a great boat than they have been in the past, but the build process now requires far fewer person hours and the skills are distributed and focussed much differently than the past.  Build wise the focus has shifted away from specific skills in things like hand cutting and fitting and is a more holistic view with a critical eye for fit and alignment of the sub assemblies and, taking us back to were I started this tangent; welding! 

If you’ve been following along with the build of XPM78 aka Möbius, you’ve been aware that welding has been a constant presence from the very beginning.  You may recall for example that the first step in the build process was building the jig on the ship floor upon which the whole hull was initially built upside down.  Throughout the assembly of all those interlocking pieces there was tack welding going on throughout and as the hull came together the continuous welds to finish assemblies started to lay down literally nautical miles of weld which continues to this day and this post.  Hence this week’s title.

So with that much too long intro, let’s get into all the progress Team Möbius has made this week of November 5-9, 2018.

IMG_20181106_103851I will start from the bottom of Möbius and work our way upward and here we see Sezgin our Master Welder expertly laying down his trademark beautiful MIG welds where the prop tunnel plates join the outer hull plates.  All of this is 15mm/5/8” plate so this area is enormously strong and perhaps even more importantly this thick plate has been carefully shaped into the very complex collection of curves required to make the many transitions from the hull to the tunnel to the skeg.


Here is a good view looking forward along that welded edge of the prop tunnel and hull side as well as the welds along the upper corner of the skeg where it connects to the prop tunnel plates and around the prop shaft tube.


I will give you a before and after set of photos of this tricky transition where the prop shaft tube emerges through the sides of the skeg plate.  You may recall that in the middle of this shot the vertical 25mm frame used to fully encircle the prop shaft tube to ensure that this critical tube was locked into just the right position which is another example of the interlocking nature of this build I described in the intro. 


Now that the Skeg is all assembled and tacked together, that outer 25mm frame has been cut off to expose the tube sides and this area along with all the slots are ready to receive their final welds like this.

The only area of Möbius that will be painted is the below the waterline hull surfaces which means that once these welds are all ground down flush we can apply some epoxy filler to create perfectly radiused corners and fillets.  Smoothing these regions serves two important purposes.  First and most importantly such super smooth transitions help to ensure that the laminar water flow along these surfaces stays very clean, smooth and uninterrupted as this is the water that flows into our prop blades.  The cleaner and smoother this flow of water is, the more efficient the prop is at absorbing the torque from the Gardner engine and converting it into thrust. 

Secondly but equally important to Christine and me is that smooth surfaces and well radiused corners are MUCH easier to clean when we are scrubbing the bottom regularly to keep it super smooth and slippery.  We have onboard a hookah type system which is essentially an air compressor with twin airlines connected to a SCUBA regulator which is often referred to as a SNUBA setup because it has all the combined benefits of SCUBA tank type gear along with snorkeling.  The quick video below will show you the unit we had on our previous sailboat Learnativity and you can see why we liked it so much.

We will probably have two different versions of this on Möbius, one that works off a built in compressor in my Workshop and has oil less compressed air quick connectors on the swim platform so we can simply plug in our twin 25m/85’ air lines in and either explore the immediate seabed surrounding us or more typically go to work on scrubbing the hull.  The second setup is the one you see in the video above where the 12v compressor floats on the water or is in our tender and allows us to go “Snuba diving” wherever we want.  These units are usually good enough for one diver to get down to 60’ which I’ve had to do a few times to rescue items from the bottom as much as 80’ or more but most of the time Christine and I find that most of the fun and colourful underwater attractions are in the first 10m/30’ so this Snuba gear really opens up this eXploration for us and has already provided phenomenal experiences for us on Learnativity which we can’t wait to continue on Möbius.

I have actually come to regard this Snuba setup to be a key component of our SAFETY at SEA equipment because when (never if) we have some problem underneath the boat and water, I can be down there breathing easily for as long as needed to make the neccessary repairs.  This would include things like snagging a stray line, fishnet, kelp, nets and such that end up wrapped around the prop or as was the case with Learnativity once and on what we call our “first date” when doing the 3 week passage from Fiji up to Majuro in the Marshall Islands and the rudder broke off!  Just think about the difference between trying to work on such problems at sea, usually very rough seas, with a snorkel or less compared to having a constant supply of air.  You know our choice!

IMG_20181108_164449Speaking of the Swim Platform let’s climb up there next and as we do we can see that it too has received its finished welding to the hull plates

IMG_20181108_164504Up standing on the Starboard/right side of the Swim Platform we see that the plinth providing plenty of headroom when you walk through the watertight door into the Workshop has been all welded up and ready for cleaning to get it ready for the glued on EPDM insulation that will go on next.

IMG_20181105_103545Stepping through that doorway and we now find Sezgin up here where he is laying down the finished welds on the inside of the welds you saw him doing above around the prop tunnel.  This area he is in will be the big open area part of my Workshop along with two eXtremely long workbenches, all 5m/16.5’ of them running down both sides of the hull.  Not that I’m at all excited about this.

IMG_20181105_103642Looking inside the Engine Room or ER Enclosure we can see more of Sezgin’s craftsmanship with the now fully welded interior areas where the skeg and hull plates come together and attach to those beefy frame rails running across into the two thick lengths of plate running lengthwise which provide the beds for mounting the engine and CPP servo gearbox.

IMG_20181106_104026Dropping down and looking aft with my foot for reference, this is the other end of the prop shaft tube where it enters the boat and many more welds proudly on display.  The dripless shaft seal will be attached to this end of the prop tube to keep the water out as the prop shaft extends forward and is bolted onto the output shaft of the CPP servo gearbox.  Note too the limber holes you can see in the very center of this photo on either side of the keel bar which ensures that any water that might get in her can drain easily down this sloped area to the very front where the bilge pump pickup can suck it all up and out through the exit sea chest.

IMG_20181106_104144Moving forward along the Port/Left side where one set of those fabulous workbenches will be, we step through though the next WT door seen in the top right here which takes you from the Workshop into the corridor that lies alongside the Guest Cabin and Christine’s Office on the right or straight ahead to the stairs up into the SuperSalon. 

But Ohhhh NOOOOOO!!  What have you done Umit??!!!  You’ve cut big square holes in our boat!?! 


Double Oh Oh!! as we see you’ve cut more holes into the tops of the tanks in the Basement area too!!!  I am baffled as to why you would do this??

IMG_20181106_104103Alas, not to worry, all according to plan, these of course are some of the many access ports into all the baffled tank areas.  On our yearly inspections or in case of a problem with dirty fuel or water it is very important that I have good access to all each of the compartments created by all the baffles inside each of the 14 fuel and water tanks.  Peering through one of these access port holes near that is on the centerline and deepest part of the tanks which run alongside of the big keel bar, you can see that I will have very ready access to all parts of each compartment.


Aha!  Now we see the method to Umit’s madness as he is prepping the U shaped 25mm thick pieces what will be welded together to create the frames for each tank access port.


These access port frames have been CNC cut in two pieces so as to reduce the waste that would have been if these were cut as one piece.  These U shapes can all be nested very closely together to use the plate very efficiently and then welded together along the deep V grooves created by the joining ends you see here. 


The X crosses have been marked by the CNC machine to indicate where the threaded holes will end up for the SS bolts which will fasten each gasketed lid in place.  Once these frames have been welded and the holes drilled and threaded they will be welded to the tank tops surrounding those cut outs we saw earlier.  This creates blind threaded holes, which don’t penetrate the tank tops eliminating any possibility for some liquid to seep through the threads into the interior.  While I love the power it has I DETEST the smell of diesel inside a boat so we are making sure there is no chance of even the tiniest of fuel, or water, leaks inside the boat.


Continuing with the welding theme here are the frames with their alignment plates tacked firmly in place to keep the whole frame is perfectly square and and flat and ready for………………….., you guessed it, welding!

IMG_20181108_164550And here is one batch of frames with the welding all done and cleaned up, ready for surfacing the faces to make them dead flat then drilled and threaded and finally welded onto the tank tops.

IMG_20181108_103527The ever busy Energizer Bunny aka Sezgin the Master welder has also been busy welding up the cantilevered roof that extends aft from the SkyBridge over the Aft Deck and provides such great protection from the elements for the BBQ and outdoor kitchen area on the aft deck and even more importantly wraps around and overtop both the doorway leading into the SuperSalon and the stairs up to the SkyBridge.

IMG_20181105_103824Moving inside the SuperSalon and looking up from its floor level reveals some of the eXtremely strong framing that is the hallmark of these XPM boats.  This shot is looking forward along the Stbd/Right side and shows how the side decks run alongside those beautiful big glass windows that wrap around the entire SuperSalon. 

In addition to their thick I beam type construction you can also see how these frames are all tied together in one continuous loop curving their way up to create the mullions for the windows and then arcing over to the other side to create the ceiling of the SuperSalon and floor of the SkyBridge above.  These same fame members curve down along the hull side plates and then tie into that big thick keel bar that runs from stem to stern of the hull.

The round and oval cut outs you see in the frame here will have matching shaped AL pipes welded in to provide smooth support for the hoses, plumbing and wires that run though here.

IMG_20181105_103910Up on the foredeck we see that the coaming that creates a sleek bases for the window glass that wraps around the sides and front of the Pilot House has now been all tacked in place and awaits its final welding.

This coaming extends forward more as it wraps around the front windows to provide a stylish way of helping to break up and deflect any large amounts of sea water that might come over the bow and down the decks. 


Gussets are welded in place to support the surface plating which Uğur is tacking into place here.

IMG_20181108_103847With all the tacks freshly cleaned up these are now added to Sezgin’s always growing list of things to weld.

IMG_20181108_103856Standing back you can see how this has all shaped up very nicely and you can also see quite clearly how transparent this whole area is and why we’ve named it our SuperSalon.

But wait!  There’s more!!

Arch up   downLet’s not forget that big beautiful arch that provides support for our paravane A frame booms, one of which can be seen on the far Starboard/right side here in its dark gray up and Orange down position. 

This arch will also provide support for the aft end of the bimini roof over the SkyBridge as well as a convenient place for mounting the some of the many antennae we will have along with multiple GPS receivers, RADAR units, search lights, etc. 
I will show you the details in future posts but the very significant feature of this arch is that it is hinged on each side just above where the double posts exit the Pilot House roof.  Dark Gray shows the arch in its normal Up position and then Purple shows it folded down.  This enables us to dramatically lower our “air draft” or height so we can cruise through places in the world such as the canals with lower span bridges.  And as if that isn’t cool enough, Dennis designed it such that when the arch folds down the bimini roof folds down with it!  Here you can see the Green SkyBridge bimini in its normal Up position with the 8 Blue solar panels atop and then in Purple down in “Canal Mode”.  But that neat feature will have to wait for a future post.

IMG_20181108_102932What I can show you now, in addition to more welding of course, is Uğur and Nihat starting to build the top span section of the arch.  The flat plates you see them tacking in place here create a nice box section and surface for mounting the various bits and pieces of electronics that go up here and a waterproof area to house the connections and wiring.


These two sections form the two vertical legs of the upper arch parts of the Arch which attach to the deck and extend up through those “wings” you have seen in previous posts which extend back from the aft corners of the Pilot House.


Which in turn have these two box frame arms that extend forward to provide the pivot point for the bimini roof.  If you click to enlarge the rendering above you can get an idea how this all works and interacts.

And as if all THAT wasn’t enough for this week check out what else was happening here at Naval Yachts in the Antalya Free Zone.

IMG_20181105_113556Looking up and outside the Naval Yachts shipyard on Wednesday this little fella went slowly sliding by heading for a refit in the shipyard next door.

IMG_20181107_100129And then two blocks over at the new home for Naval Yachts they have now poured all the concrete for the driveways and outside parking and storage areas around the new shipyard building.
IMG_20181108_102219With the exterior concrete now in along with the Palm trees and grass alongside, the new Naval Yachts is rapidly nearing completion and we should start moving in by the end of this month.  So nothing but exciting news and progress over here.

Finishing up for this week I will leave you with this video summary of the week and an updated guided tour for you.  It is a bit longer, 13 minutes, than the fast time lapse summaries of my regular weekly video summaries so please do let me know your thoughts on these different formats and what you prefer as well as any and all other comments and suggestions for improvement.  I would be sincerely appreciative of any and all help to make these blog posts work better for you.

I leave tomorrow for Amsterdam to experience the huge Marine European Trade Show or METS this is the largest marine show in the world and primarily aimed at the ship building industry so it is the perfect opportunity for me to go see all the latest and greatest materials and equipment for boats like ours and get some in person time with some of the worlds experts.  I’ll do my best to capture some of this in pictures and video and bring you some of that in a special edition blog update next weekend. 

Until then thank you VERY much for taking the time to join us on this adventure and as always, please be sure to add your comments, questions and ideas in the “Join the Discussion” box below.

– Wayne

Stairways to Heaven

Stairways to Heaven

It was only a 4 day week here as it was the big Republic Day here in Turkey marking the 95th anniversary of when Ataturk formed this amazing country we are now enjoying so much.  However the shorter week certainly didn’t slow down Team Möbius as they all picked up the pace first thing Tuesday morning and by weeks end most of the 14 integral fuel and water tanks had their top plates welded on and pressure tested, the Pilot House had its front window frames and surrounding coaming tacked in place and as per the title of this week’s post, the curved stairs leading from the forward and aft cabins to the SuperSalon were in place for testing as well.  So let’s take a look inside shall we.

IMG_20181031_112512Picking up where we left off last week, the plinth for full headroom access from the aft Swim Platform into the Workshop received its nice large radius corners all around and is now ready for finish welding and then installing the WT door framing. 
IMG_20181031_160329Flatbar are tacked to the outer surfaces to keep them all straight as they are welded and will then be removed and the tacks ground off so they disappear.  This ease of adding and removing things and the ease of fabricating in general is what makes working with aluminium such a treat and we are VERY happy with our choice of material for Möbius.

IMG_20181031_112522We will also add at least one glass hatch in the sides and perhaps one on top to provide a good flow of natural light and air into the aft end of the Workshop.

IMG_20181102_113008Heading on into the Workshop (sorry couldn’t resist), we find Sezgin sitting in the aft end of the Engine Room Enclosure.

He is sitting where the Nogva CPP gearbox will eventually mount to those two thick engine bed planks on either side.


Sezgin is hard at work laying down more nautical miles of aluminium MIG wire to the hull.  Here he is welding the 15mm thick prop tunnel plates to the 25mm keel/skeg plates and engine beds.


Standing up on the aft deck looking down through the big hatch opening you can see the finished structure of the ER and the beds and framing underneath.

This dedicated Engine Room is going to be one of the best Engine Rooms on any boat I know as it has full 210mm standing room and almost a meter of space on either side of the big Gardner engine.  By dedicating this room to just the engine and the CPP gearbox and putting everything else outside provides me the rare luxury of clear and open access to all parts on the engine and gearbox.  We have designed this so there is also more than 300mm/12” below the Gardner’s massive cast AL oil pan so plenty of easy access below as well.  As a point of reference I had 5mm clearance between the oil pan on the big Cummins engine and the ER floor in Learnativity our previous 52’ steel sailboat.  Sorry if I seem overly excited about an Engine Room but If you’d spent as much time in ones as I have, wedged like a pretzel between burning hot engine parts, you’d be excited too!

** FYI, over here on the Trawler Forum there has been a lively discussion about our Engine Room Enclosure design which Dennis, our gifted NA and designer, initially proposed and it prompts me to do a separate post here on the blog to get into more details as to what led us to create this dedicated ER Enclosure rather than a full width ER so watch for that post to go up soon and in the meantime many of you might enjoy reading the rich resource of articles on Trawler Forum.

IMG_20181102_112334Moving forward from the ER into the Guest Cabin/Christine’s Office you can see (click to enlarge this or any photos) that the tank tops are all welded in place now and have all passed their pressure tests.

Next up will be welding in the many access ports to all these tanks and in the meantime they are cleaning up all the interior AL surfaces and welds so they are all nice and clean for the self adhesive EPDM insulation foam that will soon be covering the entire interior of the boat.
IMG_20181102_112304Continuing forward through the next WT Bulkhead into the Basement area we find more tank tops all welded in place and fully sealed.  One of the 3 battery boxes is seen on center here and these will eventually have AL top plates bolted on with sealing gaskets.


But THIS is the latest and most exciting development for Christine and me; STAIRS!  Both the forward Master Cabin and Aft Guest Cabin are down four steps from the raised SuperSalon floor and each of set of stairs has a slight twist or spiral to them for safest entry and exit positions.  Plus we think they look cool!

Here are the first two steps leading down into the corridor to the ER and the aft Guest Cabin which is where I’m standing to take this picture.  .  The remaining two steps will be added once the tanks which make up the floor are all finished.


Up forward leading down to our Main Cabin you can see how the full 5 steps look.

If you look at these two stairwells you will see how they completely close in the Basement area such that it becomes another WT
IMG_20181031_155650Looking straight down you can see how you move through about 90 degrees as you enter along that very top edge in this photo and then wind down to the floor level in the Main Cabin.

Each staircase is a bit different as you enter and exit them differently but they both provide very secure footing in any conditions at sea.

IMG_20181031_155853Stepping up into the SuperSalon we find Nihat prepping the framing underneath the the forward stairs.
IMG_20181102_112856Last but not least for this week the frames for window glass is now all tacked in place.
IMG_20181102_112103These frames are cut from 12mm plate so they are one solid piece and provide the wide surfaces for the  very thick 28mm/1.1” adhesive mounted panes of tempered laminated glass.

IMG_20181102_171355This strip along the side windows creates a slight coaming off the deck which protects the bottom edge of the glass panels when they are glued in place.  The sides of each pane of glass but up against each other with adhesive filling the small gap between them so as to create the look of a seamless glass surface.
IMG_20181102_171330As the coaming wraps around the front windows it extends out an angle you can see in these gussets that Nihat is tacking in place. 
IMG_20181102_171446Next week you will see how the plates on the deck Nihat is sitting on will cover this framework to create a smooth transition for any big “green water” that we might take on over the bow when slicing upwind through big seas.  The energy of the water would be reduced and reflected back forward as it flows smoothly from the deck and makes the transition up the angled coaming onto the window glass and then back forward.
IMG_20181102_112043You can imagine how sleek and maybe a wee bit sinister this will look when it is entirely covered in glass.  This is a similar type of construction that has been developed for sheathing high rise buildings in glass and is enormously strong.  With their negative rake/angle and the generous roof overhangs they will also pick up less rain and have very little reflections inside at night.  Best of all though will be the views that wrap themselves all around you when you’re in this super space and why we call it our SuperSalon.

Leaving you as always with a video summary of the week’s progress that I hope you will enjoy watching and give you a bit more insight into what you’ve seen above.

Please add your comments, questions and suggestions in the “Join the Discussion” box below and thanks for taking your time to join us on this grand adventure.

Much appreciated.