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Sparkle’s Dazzling New Chaps

Here we are in New Zealand Lockdown 2020 waiting for who knows what our future has in store for us.  Projects abound on Dazzler and the next project du Jour is a new set of Chaps on Sparkle.   Last week I sewed up five new fuel can covers and this week it’s a new set of dingy chaps.  Things are going swimmingly.  Because I’d made chaps before, I learned several things during that construction that I thought I’d do differently if I ever had to make chaps again.  I thought way back in 2009 that I’d never have to make another set of chaps again.  Well, here we are in New Zealand and in need of having a new set of chaps for Sparkle’s facelift. 

I first used some clear plastic painter’s drop cloth to make a pattern of her new tubes.  I then transferred the pattern to the new Sunbrella fabric that we had onboard from Mexico.  After the pattern was transposed to the fabric, I did the first cut of fabric.  I decided that I wanted all of the cutout openings around the handles and other equipment to be pre made before the cut out of the fabric was complete to save some time and frustration of turning a bunch of fabric two or three times through the yoke of the sewing machine.  So, I made uniform patterns for the handle cut outs from a coated fabric that has a high UV resistance.  I made two identical pieces for each opening, sewed them together and trimmed the inward edge with leather trim.  Much easier to get a good pattern and finished look with a smaller piece of fabric.  The purpose for the two identical pieces of this fabric would make it easy to sandwich the chaps fabric between them and then over stitch it to secure it in place with a more precise finish and placement of the opening trim.  And in the process make it easier to sew.  We will see what happens.  All things were working nicely so far. 

After all the openings were stitched onto the main panels, it was time to start stitching the panels together.  This is where it can get a little tricky.  I did make some alignment marks to help set it up for sewing.  I’m not sure how many trips I made back and forth from the dock to the companionway and down below where my Sailrite sewing machine was set up.  My social distancing exercise was almost done in place at Dazzler’s dock.  The old adage of measure a butt load of times and cut or sew once was in full usage.  Needless to say all went well with stitching the panels together.  

Next were the stern cones attachment to the panels.  I used Phifertex mesh fabric to allow any seawater that gets forced up under the chaps the ability to drain out with ease.  After the cones were stitched in place, I finished off the interior edge with a pre-made hem along the straight run and used leather binding to finish off the cut edges.  By the way all of those areas that had a cut edge had reinforcing fabric placed underneath and stitched in place.  This was done were sharp 90° corners existed.  This makes the corner stronger and more resistant to corner tears from stretching as the fabric gives and shrinks.  And yes, even Sunbrella fabric in my experience will have a bit of shrinkage.  So allow about an inch per side for the inevitable shrinkage factor.  

Next, I finished off the trim around the stern cones to get ready for the exterior hem to be added.  Everything was taking shape daily and all the other boaters on the dock would give their positive nods, looks and comments as they would walk by on their journey keeping two meters away from me while they headed off to do their grocery store trips or exercise tracks.  They could see the daily progress and of coarse they asked lots of questions and made comments like, “When you’re done there come on over to do ours next.”  LOL. Our neighbors on the sailing vessel Greyhound, may have decided to get new tubes made for their tender now before they make their own dingy chaps.  Marie did say she was jealous because she hadn’t purchased any fabric before the great lockdown of 2020.  

The next step was to make the exterior hem which was about 260 inches long.  I first joined several sections of six inch wide fabric together to make the needed length.  Then I started folding and stitching the long runs to accommodate the needed hem for the exterior of the chaps.  This hem will also house a 3/16” Dacron cord to act as a drawstring to cinch the chaps just below the rub rail of the dingy sides.  With the 250 thousand foot hem, LOL, and Dacron cord ready, I grabbed a sandwich, a beer, turned on some sewing music and started folding the cord into the hem and stitching it onto the exterior cut edge of Sparkle’s new sexy chaps.  A day and a half later, my sandwich was gone, I was on my third beer and Jilly was covered in what looked like a blue and yellow heap of fabric as she was sitting on the opposite side of the table from me.  I couldn’t immediately see her so I yelled out, “Marco?”  Her response, “Polo!”  There she is!  And yes, she did a great job supervising while recuperating from her torn muscle injury.

Drum roll please…  It was time to go out and test fit the chaps onto Sparkle’s new tubes.  Tada, She fits!  A little tug here, pull there, stretch the draw cord and tied it off to the transom cleats on the stern.  She is finished!  The only thing left to do was to attach a yellow racing stripe on each side for easier identification during full moon dingy racing and add the Snads and snap fasteners to the inside of the tubes to hold the inside fabric in place.  Snads are a product manufactured by YKK and have a very robust 3M adhesive backing that easily sticks to the inflatable tubes without drilling any holes.   

Cracked open a celebratory beer, took some hero photos and got ready for the next project.

Until the next project, keep two meters away from each other, enjoy your lockdown confinement and stay safe.

Cheers!

Captain Dan

P.S. As an afterthought I decided to add a couple of pockets for the ores to sit in. Turned out quite nice I think.

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Sparkle’s Makeover

Sparkle BEFORE!

Sparkle has been Dazzler’s trusted Apex tender since 2005 when she was purchased new. Relatively speaking that’s a long life for a rigid inflatable boat (RIB) tender. In 2009 I made chaps for Sparkle and they lasted through the harsh climate of the northern Sea of Cortez during the summer months and all the sun exposure during the rest of the year.

When we departed Pacific Mexico for the South Pacific islands and other countries, her chaps were in good condition or so we thought. LOL. While in the Marquesas some local kids were jumping off all the tenders tied at the wharf, including Sparkle, and her chaps became ripped beyond repair. I know that things around the sea water and in the sun don’t last forever and I had been preparing myself for the inevitable thought of having to replace Sparkle and her chaps somewhere in the South Pacific. The chaps part was easy as we stored extra fabric to make new ones. The new tender was a different issue. While searching through the Apex website, I saw that there was an Apex dealer in Papeete. Great! We’ll try to get one there.

Well, the Apex website was inaccurate. Yes, the local boatyard/chandlery did sell Apex tenders at one time but not anymore.

So why didn’t we just get a different tender. Well, I’ll tell you Shouty! Sparkle’s outboard is a 20 HP Yamaha that we weren’t planning to replace, so a new tender had to accommodate the size, weight and trust of the 20 HP outboard. Second, and more importantly, we only have so much deck space to store Sparkle on the foredeck while we are making passages so we had to find one that would fit.

Those of you that know me know I don’t rush into large purchases. So we spent over two years looking for available tenders, their price points, Dazzler specifications (space and outboard) requirements, how many more years of cruising we are planning to do and of course it had to look pretty. LOL. All the while we held our breath hoping that Sparkle’s glue joints would keep holding air.

Fast forward…We arrived in New Zealand last November and it was looking like we would be spending close to $6000 NZD (@$4000 USD) for a new tender here. And just like that, the clouds parted and a light shone down from above and it delivered unto me the answer. “Dan a small NZ company called Seafarer Inflatables can replace the existing inflatable tubes of your RIB at a fraction of the cost of a new tender.” This was something I hadn’t even considered with my new age western mentality of replace rather than repair. Wow! It was an incredible possibility. What do I have to lose with an inquiry? Nothing, right! So, during one of our trips to the Auckland area visiting our friends, Jilly and I stopped by the modest facility of Seafarer Inflatables and met with the owner Neil Curtling. Neil was gracious with his time and spoke with us about the cost of having Sparkle’s tubes replaced with a new fabric called TPU. Neil quoted us a price of $2400 NZD that would be about $1500 USD with current exchange rate. Say it all together with me now…“WOW!” That’s a savings of over half the cost of a new tender.

I have to say Neil’s newly constructed tenders are nothing but gorgeous as well. But, for us we were a bit more focused on budget and quality tube replacement.

I know what you’re thinking. “What about the 15 year old fiberglass hull?” I’m with you. If you go to Neil’s website www.seafarerinflatables.co.nz you will see that as a part of re-tubing the tender, his specially trained technicians will also make any repairs needed to the hull while it’s all apart. In Sparkle’s case this turned out to be an added benefit.

What’s not to like about this home grown Kiwi business? Neil told us that his average turn around time would be about 10 days depending on any repairs needed. We arranged to drop off Sparkle at Neil’s makeover salon before we left for the states in January so she would be ready to pick up after our return.

A bit about the Valmax TPU fabric choice we made. We could have chosen between PVC, Hypalon or TPU. Neil highly recommended the TPU fabric for all tenders spending time in the tropics. Neil’s website states, “We only use the finest quality German Valmax PVC & TPU fabrics, welding these fabrics is our specialty with our unique duel lap seam welding system. Our thermobond welding machine has been customized to suit our manufacturing systems to enable the most reliable high quality welds & allow us to 100% thermobond weld the tubes.”

Additionally, at the EREZ website you can read more about the fabric specifications.

A side note that has some level of importance here. We were faced with the dilemma of transporting Sparkle to Neil’s facility and then getting her back up to Whangarei. We were going to rent a truck but when our good friend and Scottish Kiwi Allan Gray found out our transportation issue, he gladly volunteered to use his van. Not only did he use his van, but he actually took off from work and drove Sparkle and I to and from Neil’s. Wow! Not many people today do things like this. Thank you Allan and Wynn Fraser Paints!

Thank you Allan!

After returning to NZ we retrieved Sparkle from Neil’s tube make over salon and dropped her off on the ground next to the mothership at Harbourside Boatworks in Whangarei. What an amazing job Neil did! Neil did have to make some fiberglass repair on Sparkle’s sides. Apparently, her joints between the hull and the interior floor had become separated. Neil prepared, epoxied and clamped the separated joints for an additional cost of $250 NZD.

All we had to do now was give Sparkle a new paint job to complete the transformation. Off to Wynn Fraser Paints to get supplies. A good quality linear polyurethane primer, and a top coat paint and all the consumables. For the non skid areas I used my favorite paint product of all times, Kiwi Grip.

I had a plan of completing the interior first and then the bottom and aft edge of the transom. All in it took about 10 days from start to finish with only two days delay due to rain. And the results…Amazing! Sparkle looks like a brand new tender. Even Nick and a few other workers at Harbourside thought it was a new tender. I guess I got lucky. They say even a blind squirrel finds an acorn once in a while. LOL

That’s it! All in, the upgrade make over was about $2000 USD for what looks like a new tender that can handle the 20 HP outboard motor and is ready for new adventures to wherever the winds blow us. The only thing left to do is make a new set of tube chaps. That’s a story for a different post.

Until then, keep the water on the outside and your beer cold! Cheers!

Captain Dan, SV Dazzler

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Working In Exotic Ports

Cruising = Working on your boat in exotic ports. Or as I like to say paying the price for enjoying work-free cruising to the cruising gods with personal labor and shiny varnish.


The parts that didn’t get stripped to bare wood only have two more coats. The pieces with new varnish still have about 6-8 coats to go. Ain’t nothing, but a thang. And the two rebuilt hatches got their first two coats of varnish as well. I know there is a light at the end of the tunnel.


Where is Jilly during all this? Not around any varnish…she sheds. Picking hair out of wet varnish is bad enough, but sanding hair out of dried varnish…….Priceless!

Now it’s time sto sit back and enjoy a few days off to enjoy Christmas. Then it’s back to work.

Cheers,

Dan