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.
I 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!
Up 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.
Stepping 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.
Looking 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.
Dropping 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.
Moving 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??
Alas, 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!
The 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.
Moving 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.
Up 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.
But wait! There’s more!!
Let’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.
What 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.
And 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.
With 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.