Sunday, January 31, 2016

Didi Cruise-Mini Across the Atlantic

Tony Hussey built himself a radius chine plywood Didi Cruise-Mini in the UK. We have exchanged communications recently, while he has been en-route from UK to the Caribbean in his little boat. This is a cruising version of the little Didi Mini trans-Atlantic raceboat, so it is in its proper element with a cruise like this.

Tony has said that he is very happy with his little cruiser. He sailed her from UK to Spain and back in 2014. Then last year he sailed UK to the Azores and has now continued to Antigua.

From the Azores Tony wrote "Im not pushing the boat as I'm cruising and can't afford any breakages. I also slow down at night to 5 kts to help sleep. My autopilot doesn't handle the spinnakers very well so can't make good use of the higher speeds but the light wind performance with the big spinnakers is amazing for a small boat. On a beam reach in 6/8 knots apparent I'm up to 6 kts boat speed keeping up with the bigger cruisers motoring with not enough wind. Top speed so far is 12.9 but around 12 I chicken out as I can't trust my autopilot to control the boat when I take down the spinnaker."

Now that he is in Antigua and recovering from a back injury he wrote "So far I've done over 8000 miles singlehanded in the boat and very happy with it, always felt safe but never dry!! Joke. The plan is Panama this summer then out towards Australia through Polynesia."

The Didi Cruise-Mini has the same hull and deck as the Didi Mini but with a bit more headroom, more comfort and a more compact sail plan.
Under sail with big squartop mainsail and Solent jib.
At anchor in the Azores.
"Splinter" - Great name for a small wooden boat.
Seagull's view of a beamy little cruiser.
Hitching a tow from a kayak due to outboard problems.
We wish Tony and "Splinter" happy cruising, looks like they are angling toward a circumnavigation. You can follow their adventures on Tony's blog.

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Saturday, January 30, 2016

Didi 29 Retro Project Update

Another project that hasn't seen an update on this blog for awhile is the Didi 29 Retro being built by Bruce Mierke in Murphy, North Carolina. Bruce was away cruising for awhile but is now back hard at work on his boat. He is building her mostly as a day-sailer, with minimalist accommodation in a shortened cabin. He is setting her up for easy single-handing.

The standard of Bruce's work is clear in these photos that he sent me, showing the current state of his project. He is building from a CNC kit that we supplied.
Hull-turning with two gantries.
Deck stringers over bulkheads.

Deck panels ready for fitting.

Minimalist interior.
The very neat work of professional boatbuilder Bruce Mierke.

Cabin structure begins, considerably reduced from the design.
Bruce is doing sweet work on this build, I look forward to seeing the final result.

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Thursday, January 28, 2016

Didi 950 Australia Project Update

Yesterday I wrote about the Didi 950 of Mike Vermeersch in Ohio, today is the turn for the parallel Didi 950 project of Fred Grimminck in Australia.

Fred is building his lifting keel version from scratch, using plans and offsets. He has been progressing very quickly and should be launching within a few months. His boat is destined for fast cruising rather than racing, so he is fitting her out for comfort rather than attempting to get close to class weight.

The lifting keel foil and bulb use similar details to the fixed keel except that it has no flare and root plate at the top and extends through a steel casing into the hull, where it bolts down onto the top flange of the casing. This is right where the engine is in the fixed keel version, so Fred's motor moves to under the companion ladder and is fitted with a saildrive instead of a shaft with stern tube.

Fred has made some changes from the design, so these photos show some differences from my drawings. Among the changes are encasing the lifting keel casing and mechanism all the way up to the deck and swapping the layout from aft heads and forward sleeping cabin to forward heads and additional aft sleeping cabin.

Casing for lifting keel being installed. Galley locker will surround it.
Water ballast tanks and double quarter berth on port side.

Port water ballast tanks and double quarter berth, looking through into lazarette.
Navigation station.
Looking from nav station, through saloon into forecabin, in this case with forward heads.
Companion ladder to cockpit. The motor is behind the ladder.
Cockpit and cabin.
Deck and cabin nearing completion.
Casting half of the lead ballast bulb.
The next update on Fred's Didi 950 will likely be when he launches her.

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Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Didi 950 Ohio Project Update

It has been awhile since I last updated about the Didi 950 amateur builds happening on opposite sides of the world. I was reminded last week by a reader that there are folks out there waiting to see more.

Both boats are progressing at a good rate and both should be launched this year. The boat of Fred Grimminck in Australia, the lifting keel version built from scratch, is nearly complete and should be launched in a few months. Mike Vermeersch in USA hopes to launch his fixed keel version, built from a kit that we supplied, on the Great Lakes in the summer.

Both are building their boats primarily for cruising, so are fitting them out for comfort more than trying to achieve minimum weight. In this post I will include photos of Mike's fixed keel boat and my next post will feature Fred's lifting keel boat.

I wrote last year about Mike's keel that was being built by Howdy Bailey. It was in progress at the time so I didn't include pics of the completed keel, which are shown in these photos.

Pre-formed side plate being plug-welded to the internal tube structure.

Ballast bulb ready for fitting to keel foil.
Keel and bulb mated, faired and primed, ready to be shipped to the builder.
The keel will be bolted to a substantial steel weldment that is inside the hull and bolted to glass-reinforced eggcrate backbones and bulkheads, with the hull skin (also glass-reinforced) sandwiched between the top of the keel and the internal steelwork. That steel weldment does double-duty, serving also as the engine beds.
Engine beds snug between the longitudinal and transverse structural members.
Engine mounted on beds. The keel bolt holes can be seen under the engine.
The engine of this version is located under the galley central counter. It will have large access panels all round for engine work and for access to the keel bolts. Some people object to this engine location, saying that the motor is too smelly to put in the middle of the accommodation. Not so, all of my personal boats have had the motors in this position and I would not want it anywhere else. It makes the engine easy to work on and to keep clean, giving a boat that always smells fresh. A big reason why under-cockpit motors are smelly is that they are so difficult to work on and clean that they tend to be neglected. This location also places the motor close to the centre of pitching, so is good for performance in lumpy water.
U-shape galley being built. The engine is under the counter on the right, cooker to the left.
Epoxy-coated plywood icebox.
Icebox installed and foam insulation poured, ready for trimming.
The rest of the interior is also progressing.
Saloon, looking forward. As designed the settees are water tanks but Mike is installing plastic tanks elsewhere.
Looking down at the top of a water ballast tank, with watertight access covers.
Mike is doing a very neat build. This is partly due to building from a pre-cut kit but most of it is due to him having very neat working habits. I consider my own woodworking to be neat but Mike makes my work look a bit tatty in comparison. It is always worthwhile to keep the build area free of scraps, shavings, dust, tools etc for the sake of safety but also to make it easier to work with glue, epoxy coatings, paint etc without messing up both the tools and your workmanship.
An important aspect that many builders ignore is to round off all salient corners, whether they will be seen or not. It only needs a minute or two to run each timber through a router with 6mm radius bit, leaving soft corners that hold coatings well and won't damage your hands, knees and feet. Neglect this step and you will have an interior that looks amateurish and will also damage you when you fall against it. This small detail will make the world of difference to the final look of your new boat, helping to make it something of which you can justifiable be proud. 

Watch for my next post in a day or two to see Fred's lifting keel Didi 950.

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