Monday, January 13, 2020

Grab rails

Safety Grab Rails on the Dodger

I'm sure that every sailor that heads back to the cockpit after working forward at the Mast or Bow in any kind of Sea has their hands reaching for something to grab and stabilize themselves.

On Eximius, Safety is the top priority just above having fun, and I drool over some of the grab rails I see on other similar sized boats. Having almost finished our new Dodger, I was looking for a way to prevent anyone grabbing at the canvas or planting their hands on the new Dodger Window.

Here's what I came up with:-

#1 Horizontal grab rail between the two dodger frame tubes.

It's basically a SS tube with 316 Stainless Steel Top Cap 1" on each end. Held in place with a 4" SS Bolt and a couple of ABS spacers (1" x 1/2"diaand 1/2"x1"dia) and a nylock nut on the inside where the bolts come through the frame tubes.

There's a 3" leather reinforcement patch sewn to the outiside of the dodger canvas.

#2 Diagonal SS tube with a cap end at the top and bottom.
The bottom end is attached to a 16 Stainless Steel Angled Deck Hinge With removable pin, the hinge is screwed to the cabin top juat aft of the cabin top side wooden hand rail.

The lower end of this rail is inboard compared to the top end that is attached to the top bolt. To enable that angle, I re-drilled the hole in the top end cap at an angle. It turns out that not only allows the tube to align with the deck hinge, but it also adds to the rigidity of the Dodger frame.

This provides a sturdy grab rail that's easy to get to before the horizontal rail is within reach. And it reduces the temptation to try and grab or lean on the window or canvas.

The new dodger side windows provide less shade for our Solar Vents above the head and aft berth, so they are running more frequently.

#3 Rear support tube. This is another 1" SS tube with end caps top and bottom.

The top is attached to the aft Dodger frame using a 316 Stainless Steel Rail Mount Hinge 1" and the lower end is secured to the Coaming top with a deck hinge.

This rail is easy to grab when boarding, the lifeline gate can be seen in the picture. It's also a handy grab when leaving the cockpit.

It has a benefit of reducing the temptation to grab the Dodger side windows, a issue that affected our previous Dodger side windows.

The last thing I have to do to complete the new Dodger is replace the zippers on the front window. I had sewn them on and cut them off several times while trying to get the dodger window to lay flat (still got a bit to go) and the window zipper has stretched quite a bit. That's part of the cause of the current 'bumps' or 'Buckles' in the front window Strataglass. New zippers are due to arrive this week.

Here's the parts all available from

Stainless Steel 315 End Cap

I drilled out the hole in the end tab at an angle for the forward top attachment to the Bolts thru the Dodger frame tubes.
316 Stainless Steel Rail Mount Hinge 1"

I could have used Top Slides but didn't want to take the Dodger frame apart

These can be used Mid tube rather than being slid over the end of a tube.

316 Stainless Steel Deck Hinge With Removable Pin

These were used as the attachment points for the lower ends of the forward grab rails.I already has two of them with bolts which I used for the aft support tubes

I have SS rings and will fit them next time at the boat.

I purchased the 1" SS tubing from Sailorman in Fort Lauderdale and Boat Owners Warehouse in Deerfield Beach.

It's been too long since our last sail, there's a need for a pump out, so we're looking for a weather window and suitable tides to get the boat out. Today is a grey day, but we're keeping an eye on the weather.

See you on the water.


Friday, January 10, 2020

Servicing my Sailrite LSZ-1 Sewing Machine

LSZ-1 Sewing Machine Cleaning and Oiling

I clean the needle everytime I change the Bobbin on my machine, it always makes a difference. I had just finished the major part of making a new Dodger for Eximius and ready to start a new project. A good time to service the machine.

Step 1 is to follow the routine in the Sailrite Instruction booklet to clean any lint from the works and Oil the machine. That's the easy part and the machine runs a whole lot better just for doing that. It takes about 15 minutes all told. Not a big deal but well worth those 15 minutes.

Step 2 is to clean the Thread Route from the spool to the needle tip and anywhere that the thread passes.

I find that the #1 cause of skipped stitches for me is gunk in the 'Thread route'

Here's the Middle presser foot, removed for cleaning.
Notice how that blue gunk is on the back side and in the needle hole.

When the needle moves from it's lowest position (below the  Needle plate when the presser bar is down, the thread is loosened so that it forms a loop that is picked up by the Shuttle Gib Hook, at least that's how is supposed to work. If anything prevents the thread forming a loop, then the hook has nothing to capture and the machine skips a stitch.

The pic shows one place where the thread can 'stick'. The blue residue is a gunk mixture of Basting tape glue and lint from the blue Sunbrella that I used for the Dodger project.

I keep a right angled screw driver on hand to make it easy to manage the Needle plate screws.

Just a few bucks at Harbor Freight

Here's the Needle plate, more blue gunk!

Again, just lint and basting tape glue. The blue patch by the aft most screw hole is build up where the glue has squeezed out because the basting tape was too close to the edge of the material being sewn.

And, of course, the Needle tip!
This pic of the needle removed from the machine shows that there's more blue gunk in the needle hole and the length of the groove in the left hand side of the needle. (The pic shows the needle with the scarf cutout on the left, but the needle should be fitted to the machine with the cutout on the side nearest to the wheel. 

This is what I clean the thread route with. It does an awesome job of removing the gunk. 

I typically remove the piece to be cleaned, place it on a paper towel and spray with a small amount of Goo Gone. Leave it for a few minutes and wipe it clean with a heavy paper towel.

The gunk can be really stuck to some of the surfaces (especially those that are not polished, like the insides of holes) So I use a scriber to push the paper towel into the holes.

For the needle, I use a threader tool to push/pull gunk out of the thread hole.

Nearly clean, there's still some gunk in the thread hole. Time for more Goo Gone and use of the threader tool.

When it's finished, the needle is totally clean.

All cleaned surfaces are then wiped down with clean paper towels until there's no residue of cleaner on the surfaces.

Ain't that pretty.

It's clean on both sides too.

I only fitted a needle the wrong way around once! Won't do that again.

A permanent marker drawing on the top of the machine to remind me of the correct direction of the needle saves looking up in the Manual when it's time to change a needle

A pair of Kelly Clamps can be used to hold the needle when inserting into the Inside Presser Foot. Works great for me with my banana fingers.


I insert a Threader tool into the needle to help ensure I get the Needle rotated in the correct direction.

The Threader tool wires should be at right angles to the direction of the walking feet. ie. The needle hole should be from left to right, parallel to the Arm Body of the machine. 

With everything clean and oiled, the machine runs like new. It takes me about an hour to complete the routine service, but it's well worth it.

Here's hoping your sewing is straight.

See you on the water.


Monday, December 23, 2019

Updating the Dodger - Front Window Panel - Wrong

I screwed up the Front Window

When I made the template, it consisted of three parts: The Top and the Front Window, and the two sides. I made the Top and the Brow (the strips that extend from the Top to the forward lower edge of the Front Window and I made the Front Window from that same template. But, somehow, I screwed it up. The Front window had more buckles in it than Blackbeard's Belt. At least it seemed to fit and I was able to attach it to the Top and Brow with the zips and I made marks on the strataglass where it needed trimming. 

It only took about two hours to trim the window and resow the edges along the top and sides and to make an extension for the front lower edge that snaps to the cabin top.. Back down to the boat for a 2nd fitting. Wow! It's worse! Back to the drawing board.

I made a new template using some more Dura Skim, with basting tape and painters tape on the canvas sides around the window and along the cabin top. 

Back home, I laid the new template over the 1st attempt at the front window. Wow again! The new template is about 2" wider than the original. That means that I cannot use the piece of Stataglass for the window, it's too narrow - Grrrrrr! But luckily, I had ordered 3 sheets of Strataglass thinking that I would need one for each side window, however, I was able to make the two side windows out of a single sheet. I had hoped that I could return the 3rd sheet, but now it turns out to be a good thing that I had it.

I sewed the zips to the new template and took it back to the boat, seems to fit a whole lot better but needs some tweaking. The corners need to be adjusted.  I made the adjustment with a sharpie marker on the template material, and I did not have total confidence that the template was as good as it could be, I also unstitched the zippers and attached them with a 2nd layer of basting tape. Back to the boat - I feel that it's better to repeat the fitting rather than blow another $220 on a 4th sheet of Strataglass.

Now, with the template marked up and the zippers attached with basting tape, back to the boat again. This time it's looking a lot better, not perfect, but a lot better. The big challenge is to keep tension at the lower edge of the window panel while checking the position of the zippers against those that are already sewn to the Brow. This is where I had a brainwave. I tried to use a snap to hold the template
temporary Snap-rite socket being used to
hold the template against the ridge on the Cabin top
in position against the studs that are in the ridge of the cabin top, this is where the front lower edge of the window will finally be attached to the cabin top. Using just the Socket part of the snap, I was able to push it over the template material and onto the snap bases afixed to the cabin top. Awesome!

With the lower edge neatly fixed in place, albeit temporarily, I was able to mark up the top edge and corners of the window template, the sides were ok.

Back home again, my car knows the way to the boat too well.

And that brings me to tonight.

It's the night before Christmas eve. We're taking the boat out on Monday, December 30th to Lake Boca where we'll celebrate New Years with out sailing club. And the window has to be done before then. So, tonight I'm sewing the zippers on the adjusted template and hope to take it down to the boat in the morning. Sure hope it fits just right this time. Assuming it does, I have Friday, Saturday and Sunday to get it finished. No pressure!

Thursday, December 12, 2019

Updating the Dodger - Making the Side Windows

Making the Dodger Side Windows

The side windows are pretty simple, no curves, so should be easy.

Side Window Layers
Top covers both the top and forward turn down to the Lower Section

The new template was easy to follow, and I quickly made the side window lower section using the same layers as the Front Window

There are the Port and Stbd side window sections.

The shelter rite is glued (basting tape) to the back of them.

The cut out for the Shore Power Receptacle is not cut out yet.

Sorry about the blurry image, I need to work on my camera skills using the new Action Camera.

Of course, nothing goes that easy and the Sewing Machine spring cover for the Bobbin holder got dinged and screwed up all of the sewing on the first stitch. Luckily, I had a spare spring cover.

The only variation I made to the Layers, was to add binding to cover the zipper edge before adding the zipper, it just made the whole edge look a lot neater.

Note: I have ordered an additional 100' of 1 1/4" Bias Binding tape due to another underestimate. What do they say? 'Measure Twice, Cut Once' well, 'Measure twice and order once'!

One thing I thought I had covered was Basting Tape, I always keep a couple of 50' rolls on hand, and ordered 4 more for this project. Duh! I'll order 10 which should keep me going for a while.

The side windows were made in two sections: The lower Section (Sunbrella & Shelter-rite) with binding completed on the top edge. And the Window glass, cut to size and then glued to the lower section with basting tape, that's 2 rows - that's what I had not considered when figuring the amount of basting tape. And of course, the Zippers.

I'll re-calc the total material used when finished. It's the little things that make a big difference when there's lots of them.

We took the Top, Front Window and the Port side window down to the boat for a test fitting.
Disappointment rang out loudly! The front window had all sorts of unexpected bends in the Strataglass, not the glass's fault, but my sewing! The radius of the window corners didn't match the frame close enough. So back home and make an adjustment. The side window fit great, but my disappointment trod down my plans and I forgot to take pics. But with the Port side window complete, time to work on the Stbd side. The bottom section was already complete. I'm just waiting on the arrival of that 100' of binding before continuing.

Back home, it took me about an hour or more to come up with a plan for reshaping the front window in order to eliminate the buckles in the Strataglass. My plan was to recut the curve in the top corners and restitch the binding and facing to the new edge of the Strataglass. I was very conservative as it's no big deal to remove the facing and binding and trim off more of the glass, it's a rebuild if I cut off too much.

That took about 3 hours, most of the time spent picking out the cut threads. While at it, I also added a 3 1/2" extension to the bottom front edge of the window panel as the reshape would possibly move the lower edge up slightly and it was already a tight fit. Again, having some additional material to grab when connecting the sockets to the snap bases was a worthy benefit.

Right now I'm on hold as everything I have left to do requires that binding tape.

Why did I buy the extra 100' of binding? Because I use it so much, just about everything looks better with a bound edge. In our future are full cockpit enclosure screens - they'll all have binding on every edge. I'll need even more than that 100', just watching the budget a bit after this project.

BOAT - Break Out Another Thousand.

Today is December 12th, and the Dodger has to be finished before December 29th as we actually get to take the boat out on the 30th for the New Years Eve Cruise of the HISC.

Nearly there.

Friday, December 6, 2019

Updating the Dodger - Making the Front Window

Making the Dodger Front Window

Obvious from the previous post, I took the Top down to the boat Tuesday and installed it, fit great, and I added the Buttons to the lower edge of the side strips.

Buttons on Lower Edge of Side Strips

I was concerned that there would not be enough material to pull down in order to set the buttons to the studs, I added a 2" extension on either side. I certainly helped.

On the old dodger, the side strips were the method of keeping the frame in place along with tensioning lines attached to the back of the frame and to a strap on the outside of the combing. The new rear support struts replace the tension lines, but they also fix the frame in place, so the front side strips do not have to hold the frame in place, but they do still have to hold the Side windows and the Front Window in place.

I was concerned about the accuracy of the front and side window templates, so I took them back to the boat.

Dodger Front Window Template

Here the blue painters tape holds the template material to the deck. There's a ridge on the Catalina 34 just aft of the (White box) Traveller Mounting blocks. There's a ridge across the companion way cover too.

With the template held down at the front, taped to the top of the Dodger along the top edge and the sides with pony clips, I was able to establish the boundaries of the window, along the top, the sides, and along the ridges at the bottom.

To make the Front Window, I used the template to mark the Sunbrella for the lower edge of the window panel and used the cutout to mark the Shelter-rite vinyl fabric liner.

I marked and cut out the two Leather patches that will cover the area where the lines lead through the lower part of the window panel and basted those into place on the outside of the Sunbrella

Next I added binding to the outside top edge of the lower edge.

Now the big step - Markup the Strataglass for the window. I measured it several times against the template, marking it with a grease pencil, it cuts easily with scissors.

After applying two rows of basting tape to the outside edge of the Strataglass, I basted the glass to the Sunbrella and secured it in place with my roller.

Next it was time to apply binding tape as facing tape to the inside edge of the Stratglass, again double rows of basting tape and pressed in place with my roller.

Then I sewed the two pieces together along each edge of the binding tape. They're now one piece!

Mistake: I should have sewn the Leather in place before attaching the Strataglass to the Sunbrella - it would be a lot easier to manipulate the small lower section of the window panel through the sewing machine compared to manipulating the huge piece of Strataglass joined with the Sunbrella lower section. Next time (Ha!)

So then I sewed the Leather patches in place, Peggy helped manipulate the whole thing as I steered it through the sewing machine.

With that done, I applied binding, flat, to the sides and top of the outside of the strataglass, some method, double rows of basting tape. Flipping the whole thing over, I did the same to the other side.
Now the Strataglass has a nicely finished edge near the glass. A long piece of binding was added to the outside edge all the way around. The Sailrite binding attachment works great and made the part easy. Just have to take it slow and ensure the work piece is pushed in to the exit end of the binding attachment.

The only thing left to do is add the two zippers. They were quickly basted in place and 10 minutes later they were sewn.

At this point the Window panel is finished. It only took a few minutes to test zip the window into the Top panel. Looked great! Phew!

Time for a glass of wine, or two.

I did take videos of all of this process, but somehow I screwed up with my new action camera and deleted them en bulk. Grrrrr.

I'll take video of doing one of the side windows, it's the same process.

Time to take a break until Sunday morning.

Back soon!

Thursday, December 5, 2019

Updating the Dodger - Adding Leather reinforcement for Round Holes

How to Add Leather Reinforcement for Holes in Canvas

The exact position for the Handrail Bolts through the Top of the Dodger won't be known until we do the final fitting, so my plan is to add a circular piece of Leather in the approximate area of the bolts, large enough to give an inch and a half of latitude.

The only problem is that I've never had any luck sewing leather to Sunbrella neatly!!

So I did a few practice pieces. 1st was a scrap of beige Sunbrella onto a scrap of blue Sunbrella. Pretty ugly but it laid flat.

2nd was another piece of beige, using the same method, pretty ugly, but flat.

3rd was a scrap of thin leather (from a jacket from Goodwill) really ugly, and it bunched up.

4th was another scrap of thin leather, but this time I basted it in place first, much better, no so ugly and it laid flat.

5th ditto - thin leather - but this time I sewed one stitch at a time and rotated the canvas around the needle with each stitch. Wow! This might work.

6th. ditto - but this time the patch was laying over bits of the other patches, I was trying to simulate the actual Dodger canvas top. This really did work well.

Time to try it with the real Pearl Leather from Sailrite.

I cut the piece out by marking it around the base of a small can of varnish with a pencil, then very small cuts to make a very neat circle, it's about 3" around.
Then I basted around the underside edge and a cruciform in the middle. Peeled off the paper to expose the glue and positioned it near where the bolt will pierce the canvas, moving it slightly so that the stitches and the machine walking foot will not trample on the box of a zip that is in that area.

Here's a video showing the sewing process.


Stbd Side - the leather patches are within a half inch of the handrail bolts - woohoo!

I need to adjust the length of the zipper for the bridge piece, it's a simple reduction of  about 1" of zipper, both of them.

The zipper setup differs from the Sailrite version. They show using a single zipper, mine has two, both start at the center of the dodger top.
That way, we can open up the bridge piece from either side to permit easier boarding with boxes or other carry-on.
The creases will disappear when I add the front and side window pieces.

This was the first of four leather patches, my finger shows where the handrail bolt is located.  Right now the handrail is fitted wrong way out. When the sides are done and the position of the handrail bolts is defined, then I'll cut the holes and reverse the handrail.

Later I'll be adding a 2nd handrail that goes from the bolt down and forward to the cabin top wooden hand rail. That should reduce the tendency for anyone to grab or lean on the canvas, they'll be able to hold onto the 2nd handrail.

Making progress.

Friday, November 29, 2019

Updating the Dodger - Construction

New Dodger Construction

Finally making some progress on the dodger canvas construction.

Initial canvas cutting, several pieces:-
  • Top
  • Aft pocket
  • Front (not including the window panel) - 8 pieces
  • Forward pocket
  • Aft Tail
That went well. A couple of notes: The sailrite video shows some edges being cut with scissors, and others cut using a hot knife, most of the scissor cut edges (zippers, binding ends) were later sealed using a hot knife and some left fuzzy as they would never be seen. I detest those fuzzy edges, so I use the hot knife whenever I can, if I do have to use scissors, I always seal the ends with the hot knife.

Again, the Sailrite video shows cutting notches for the center alignment marks, I just make a 1/8" cut with the hot knife, again, no fuzzy edges.

Then it was time to sew those pieces that were complete.

The Front panel (in which the front window will be zippered) will take a lot of strain as it holds the front window and the fronts of the side windows. I doubled up the Sunbrella (hence 8 pieces in the list above). Each of the front support strips that run from the top to the deck are two layers of Sunbrella and they were sewn first. Then the Port & Stbd Front Top Corners were sewn with the support strips sandwiched between them. 

I added binding to the inside edge of the Front panel, but was not pleased with the result. The binding was sewn through the edge of the panel, but the edge did not go all the way into the middle (fold) of the binding and at this stage I'm getting picky so I removed the binding and did it again.

Here are some pics that explain this:

Pic of Binding

This shows the canvas was not pushed deep enough into the Binding tape

Some of the binding was sewn better than other parts. To remove the binding, I used a single edged razor blade, it only took a few minutes to remove the binding, about another 15 to remove the threads from the binding itself - picky picky!

This shows how the canvas flows through the binding attachment when the canvas is held close to the entry point of the binder.

Notice how doing so, pushes the canvas away from the exit of the binder, resulting in the binding being applied closer to the edge of the canvas than is ideal.

If you zoom in, you'll see that the canvas has moved away from the right hand presser foot which is right by the edge of the binder.

The goal is to get the canvas as close the center of the binding so that the stitches are well away from the canvas edge.

Here's I'm concentrating on ensuring the edge of the canvas is pushed into the binder near the exit rather than the entry point.

Note: When sewing a concave edge, the canvas will naturally get closer to the entry point, ie. closer to the binding as it enters the binder - When the canvas is being pushed into the binding at the exit point.Pic of Binding with edge depressed

I used a new piece of binding tape when re-sewing it to the canvas. When the binding is close to the edge of a piece of canvas that has concave curves, it will require a longer length of binding tape than when it's sewn closer to the edge. Also, the binding is sewn much stronger when it's away from the edge of the canvas.

Hope this helps.