2015-05-20

In praise of older hydrography

Somehow you'd think the scale would be better.

Thank the Canadian Economic Action Plan, I suppose, for the low-res graphic above. For those sailors and casual readers who may wonder if they need to up their kale intake, it's the cover of the latest "Chart 1", the Canadian Hydrographic Service's glossary of terms and graphics that is the key to understanding and decoding (at least until it become second nature to do so) the paper charts mariners, including recreational sailors, are legally required to carry aboard under the Carriage of Charts provisions of the Canada Shipping Act, and which are available at the better sort of nautically minded shop. In some cases (but not all), electronic representations of these charts will suffice, but you need to have Chart 1 at hand as a navigational Rosetta Stone to read the hieroglyphs chart makers customarily use. Contrary to popular belief, the closer one sails to shore, the more crowded the water gets from the view of the nav table (another rapidly outmoding term) or the helm plotter.
The U.S. cover is also a litttle hard to read, almost as if it's trickling down.
Of the several countries' waters in which I've sailed (Canada, the U.S., Antigua, the USVIs, the U.K., France and Portugal), most seem to follow similar conventions regarding their nautical charts, and, as world shipping grew, this was reinforced in the last century by adherence to the standards of the International Maritime Organization (IMO). Looking back, the science of hydrography as a practice evolved in Europe during the Age of Exploration, although the Arabs and Chinese certainly made excellent maps and navigational tools. While the actual charts of coasts and little sugar-producing islands were guarded with the same strategically prompted ferocity as are nuclear missile blueprints are today, the conventions of hydrographical measurement tended to standardize on the British, and, to a lesser extent, the French, model. This was particularly true after the fixing of longitude became accurate and mechanically aided, and with the introduction of superior cartographic techniques. Yes, the books linked are strongly recommended for those sailors capable of prising themselves away from the latest romantic peregrinations of The Bachelorette.

The result is that, with any relatively modern country's equivalent of Chart 1, the sailor can use their local hydrographic services and charts. Bias does play a role here, however, as a few countries have charted most of the world for their own national reasons: the U.K.'s Admiralty charts are generally considered the most thorough, whereas the U.S. NOAA charts are both free in electronic form and are in easy-to-download formats amenable to printing. My own choice would be dependent on destination (former British possessions tend to be better charted by the British) and (this is critical) the last update of the chart in question. If the surveyor was Captain Cook, admirable, innovative and careful as that particular hydrographer/explorer was, take the observation as, at best, provisional, and charts based on inaccurate information, irrespective of the media of paper or pixels, is why you keep a watch. Even the chart printed yesterday unrolled aboard still whiffing of ink (or the plastic and brass of an SD card) is only a snapshot in time of what is really in front of one's bow.
One of these things is not like the other.
As such, the debate between which is better, paper or pixels, is, I find, rather sterile. As this brief but excellent paper examines, it is the evolving human tendency to "trust" machines that is causing to fall into abeyance the simple acts of direct observation that would keep electronically navigated vessels safer by simply looking out and around in order to provide a real-world context for what the Playstation Plotter is insisting is real. Any trip to a restaurant in the last five to 10 year will reveal several beautiful couples facing each other with their eyes locked on their smartphones, which, contrary to the name, do not make you smart. And yet I am far from a Luddite; along with Ben Ellison of Panbo.com, I believe the fault is not in our plotters, but in ourselves.
Get the picture, sailor?

This longing for mitigated and interpolated reality is curious to me in the same manner as gazing at a hammer before pounding a nail is. On the other hand, I started sailing in 1999, and, perhaps more importantly, started navigating in 1999 via formal instruction...and I have yet to stop. While plotters existed in somewhat more basic forms in 1999 and were even acknowledged as the coming thing, I was trained to use paper charts in order to grasp the essentials of navigation, such as taking bearings off land marks, the difference between magnetic and true compass readings, and using every bit of information available to me, such as "running the depth contour" to give me a greater confidence that me and my boat were where we should be...or to suggest and confirm that we were not, a situation that can evidently affect even the most well-equipped vessels. Plotters are great and are inarguably convenient, naturally, but I am starting to conclude that they only make you a better navigator if you were a pretty good navigator to begin with. If you are not, on what basis are you going to find errors that could kill you? Faith-based navigation works about as well as anything else faith-based: while there are aphoristically no atheists in foxholes, there are no fundamentalists wielding dividers.

The British example of eyestrain.
For those who suspect that their plotters, if not actively leading them astray, are not teaching them the situational awareness critical to safe and thorough navigation, there's hope in the form of formal instruction, or even in the purchase of dead-simple flash cards and books with which the sensible sailor can grasp the related fields of chart mastery, buoyage, pilotage and who exactly gives way to whom in a crowded (or not) seaway.
Don't leave dock without them.
While British (and while you have to grasp the IALA buoyage system differences), these are of enormous help in relating what the charts says to what you are rapidly approaching and what that might mean to earning a sundowner.





Particularly helpful, and thanks to John C. for the review.


Clearly, if one wishes to spend enough money, there are electronic plotter setups,  particularly the newer (and priced accordingly) ones that provide a 3D view, that can allow easy navigation, especially at night or in fog when, short of creeping right up to a numbered buoy (which I have done more than once) to confirm one's location, you have little other options short of stopping, heaving to, or anchoring, if possible.
Bay Lake, as Canadian as "Avenue Road".

A compromise, rather than the multiplicity of proprietary formats of the various plotter manufacturers is to use a means to rendr paper charts in electronic form, as is the case with the free OpenCPN and other raster-based displays. For some, the familiarity of the paper chart (which have the advantage of the standardized symbols as well as the typically faster updating of a national hydrographical authority) makes the use of raster or vector (know the difference!) charts in electronic form easy, and in some cases, intuitive.



Warning: May not be intuitive.

So if you have paper charts, as is still required, you might as well use them, or at least be able to read them. Gleaning through your local charts with the relevant pages of Chart 1, perhaps with a suitable beverage, is still a good place to start. I daresay that you'll get more out of the fleeting squiggles on your nav app-equipped iPad if you choose to use one. I opt for a mix because sailing for me is more engaging when I have puzzles of trim, helm and, yes, navigation to solve. I have a GPS, several in fact, but I like to take bearings and make little cocked hats and whip out the sextant and even to swing the lead to determine that it's right. It nearly always is, of course. It's the electronic chart that may be wrong: Paper charts, too, can be, or at least you can be the first poor bugger to confirm that by means other than mere charts.

2015-05-10

Torquin' 'bout a revolution

Yes, my bilges are filthy. This will soon be remedied.
Keel failures being top of mind of late, I brought my torque wrench, a half-inch extender and the appropriate 1.5 inch socket to tighten Valiente's keel bolts. There are several 1.5 inch nuts and two 3/4 inch "little" ones at the leading and trailing edges of the keel.

I couldn't tighten the bigguns, hauling with intent and with the torque wrench at 250 ft/lbs., near its upper limit. The smaller nuts took about an eight of a turn. This gives me confidence and reflects what's happened every couple of years or so I've done the job. Unfortunately, it's not easy to get at the keel bolts of many modern production boats, and that's not confidence inspiring.

2015-05-06

When the boat moves on land

One of several places I could fix if I can colour-match the 42-year-old gelcoat well enough.
Aside from this easily remedied scratch picked up recently, my winter quarters for the for-sale boat off Cherry Street are generally uneventful and safe: the snow buries the cockpit and the nearby recycling plant coats the decks in grime, but the price is, for Toronto, as reasonable as it gets.

The custom bow roller seems to suit the boat. It's a rare sight on a Viking 33.
But I prefer being on the water, naturally. The old girl looked nice this morning. The lines looping down are for positioning the boat once in the slings.
Enter Uli and Clayton, the only hands on deck at "Pier 35". They can do this stuff in their sleep, although awake is better.
Enter "God's Chip Fork": the hydraulically powered trailer that lifts up the cradle, baby and all.
The boats are packed so tightly (space equals money in the boat stowage business) that a very fine sense of geometry and navigation as applied to elderly forklifts is required.
Mad skills!
 The wiggle room...literally, as the little forklift has to canter back and forth in the brief video below...can be snug. This is actually one of the easier extractions I've seen.


Push it or pull it, it makes no difference.
 There's no pictures of the crane action today, as I apparently have the Pier 35 "can be trusted not to make things worse" seal of approval and I was helping to move the impressively butch hooks and slings to speed the process along.
Yes, I retrieve ladder, cradle pads and my bike in one go.
 The engine once again started with little hesitation, and I loaded up my cradle pads (they are easy to steal and hard to have made when you notice they are stolen about 30 seconds before you need them) and slowly chugged the couple of NMs back to Base Dock.
Farewell, filthy yet secure boatyard! I may not see you again if I can sell this boat!
As the photos and glassy waters suggest, a marginal day for sailing is a great day for launching and motoring. I've never done this boat point to point so rapidly and with so little fuss. Which is nice.
Back, tied off and charging. Harmony has been restored. Except for the power washing bit.
And, with the mast already in (although I need to tune and replace some cotter pins and rings), I may be able to squeeze in some nice chilly sails this week. Or to give people boat rides. All you have to do is "hold this" when I say "hold this".

2015-05-03

The russet-bottomed Land Rover takes flight

One of the three or four R-class boats clustered at our club. It's like going into a parking lot filled with Toyotas and Nissans and finding a cluster of immaculate Duesenbergs.
Launch day is invariably nerve-wracking for both the things that may happen as for the thing that do. Despite the overall level of confidence I have gradually gained in my own competence and ability to prepare well enough to dodge disaster, every year there are veteran sailors to whom bad things happen. I've had a "waterline view" of some of them as I tend to be crewing on one of the safety boats in the Western Gap, the presence of which is to be the first response to one of the shoreside crew or "slingers" falling into the exceeding cold (2-4 degrees C as of today) water. It's one of the few "all hands on deck" (or, in this case, gravel) events that sees a mass turnout of volunteers, some of whose jobs require a great deal of planning and precision to ensure that closely packed, multi-tonne vessels gingerly take flight and hence to the lake without drama or incident.
This is Fire Escape, a Regal 4260 powerboat belonging to a fireman (clever, no?) and which is, at 10,000 kilos (22,000 pounds) in the same weight class as the 15,000 kilo Alchemy in terms of manhandling.
I was quite busy on the water, which made the surrounding air chilly enough to demand four layers under my foulie jacket despite very benign and sunny conditions, and didn't take many pictures. About 20% of the launched boats seem to have engine or steering trouble daunting enough to keep our club's workboat, Storm King, busy with tows, although I'm not sure why this is, as it's not onerous to do an engine start on land with a couple of pails of water, along with other recommissioning tasks.
Eh, they went with sticky letters instead of my suggestion...

I know that many of our membership are getting up in years (or have died and the boat goes to surviving kin), and that delegating these tasks to less-experienced friends or relatives rarely is as comprehensive a process as the boat's owner customarily performs. One of the courtesies the safety boats perform is to confirm that a freshly started boat motor is exhibiting "throughput" of the necessary cooling water along with the exhaust gases. In my safety boat, we noticed an old C&C which wasn't gushing at all. The single helmsman (not the owner), who we assumed was doing a favour, went below to check the seacock, and emerged, rather quickly for his own years, to announce that the boat was taking on water! A call for a tow was made. As it turned out, and as some of you will have guessed, the seawater intake had not been closed and had not been clamped back on to the motor, and the man tasked with taking the boat from launch to dock didn't know (or couldn't reach) the seacock to either fix it or just to stop the sinking. All was rapidly fixed, but it argues that if you can't, for whatever reason, recommission your boat, you'd best make a meticulous list of "must-dos" for the well-intentioned to do it for you.

Storm King tows the big "Blue Barge" used for lifting mooring anchors off the bottom and other beefy tasks to its tie-off spot. The Blue Barge, while very useful, is an absolute pig to steer and keep on station and has a history of pitchpoling should one's geometry and physics be not up to snuff.

After all the boats (almost three-fifths) had been launched into the Western Gap, the action shifted with the cranes to our basin, where safety boats are not used as there are ladders and far shorter distances at hand.
Alchemy has no waxed gelcoat to preserve, and so no clever gelcoat nappies are used as is the case on Fire Escape.
The cranes used for launching the club boats, which vary in mass from one to approaching 20 tonnes (and no, we aren't the heaviest boat, but we are likely in the top 10) are, I believe, capable of lifting 40 or 50 tonnes...but that's at a near-vertical angle. The cranes operate in circular sweeps: the farther away the boat is from the massive crane truck, the lighter it must be in order to lift without tipping. This means "crane moves" and about 15-20 minutes of prep as stabilizing legs are put down and various bits of gear, such as the "spreader frame" seen below", are moved. It's pretty interesting to see, if at times a touch alarming because the price of getting it wrong is easy to imagine.
Those cables are bigger than they seem because that boom is so long the whole thing is far away, Dougal.
The crane operators are exacting, however, and are able to cherry-pick boats from tight quarters in a fashion that would be called "nimble" save that nimble's a pretty dainty word for hauling big boats around.
At the extreme right can be seen a "pusher stick", meant to keep the boat being launched off the seawall if it is swaying. Little wind yesterday meant that wasn't a big deal.
Alchemy came right after Fire Escape. Because of her full keel, and because she sits fore and aft in her cradle in somewhat different spots year to year, "cinch belts" are usually called for. These keep the slings from moving, particularly when one is on a sloped section of the hull as is the case with the forward sling below.
There are also "sling marks" on the top rail, but they are usually only proximate, as Alchemy's full keel means she doesn't have to land on the same spot in order to be safely upright.
So there's a bit of fiddling and many muddy if purposeful boots on deck. It's why I defer the hull wash until after launch, really.
The lines leading from the fairleads are called "control lines" and are used to "steer" the boat once aloft.
More fiddling and discussion and reminding from the owner of the necessity of cinch belts as will be apparent in a few photos.
Ideally, the aft sling should be forward of this point (especially given the couple of hundred pounds of line and anchors I stowed in the forepeak this spring), but you can only do so much.
 When all is judged ready, the sling handlers step to the next deck due.
Alchemy's mass and general bulk and metal tend to lead to more urgent shouts of "everyone stand back!" It's prejudice, I tell you!
That forward sling would be happier about 30 cm. aft, but you can't have it all. Where would you put it?

I'm not sure why the bottom paint looks a touch patchier this year. It's not like we stinted on it. Perhaps the chilliness of the application opportunities? We'll see if the growth is an issue in the fall.
And perhaps we will decrud or replace those nasty fenders which customarily lurk on the outboard side of the docked vessel.
The myriad things that needed stowing, or at least stowed lower in the boat, did not, despite the bow-down aspect of the boat in slings, did not plummet or lurch, as far as we could tell, during the airborne portion of the program. Despite our relative confidence in getting these parts right, however, I doubt I will ever feel entirely happy seeing our boat fly.
Love is a many-splendoured sling.
But despite the mutterings of "Jesus Christ, would you look at the size of that thing!" and strategic repositioning (which wouldn't help if the cables broke, really), down she came, safe as houses.
I for one enjoy owning a boat that inspires others to invoke their gods.
Nearly there...they call it "splashing", but it's more gentle if done right.

The engine started instantly, the prop turned eagerly and the shifter shifted when pulled and pushed. I think I heard about a quarter-second of squeal from the shaft, but all seems otherwise to spec. You make your own luck through work, it's said, and I believe it these days.
The rarely seen Mrs. Alchemy, who doesn't care for being photographed yanking on a spring line. Or photographed, period, really.

Back at dock, there were still a number of jobs: fetching the nesting dinghy, loading my bike trailer with cradle pads and ladder (yes, it's a feat of strength), and arranging the lines to accommodate our new slip neighbours, a young couple named Doug and Nicole who have just bought an imposing Mainship 390, a trawler big enough to be a northerly windbreak for us and for which we'll have to rig springs to keep our bowsprit out of their swim platform. Valiente launches next week, with I hope will be as little drama as Launch 2015.



2015-04-28

Think zinc



The weather having turned decisively for the better, the crews hired to reassemble the docks bent them back into shape and tugged them back into position. A few boats are already back, and I think I saw a blossom on the apricot tree. It was promptly eaten by a voracious squirrel.

Mrs. Alchemy hard at work applying this years bottom paint. Note highly technical custom-fitting prop cover.
It has been, as was seen in the last post, more or less warm enough to paint, and so paint we have. But other things are required or desired for launch, including the fitting of Dri-Dek tiles cut to fit (partly, anyway, as I hate waste and don't step everywhere down in the engine bay) between the frames and stringers.
Needs more painting down there, evidently.
All of the necessary hose clamps were tightened today, and I am always impressed that they loosen over the winterr without any more vibration than the wind hitting the boat. Anyway, for a boat with very few below-the-waterline holes, there's still a lot of hose clamps.
Unclean, but not leprous, we will concentrate on paint touch-ups and waterline cleaning during the season.
The bottom paint left over from last year was sufficient (and well-enough stored) to cover the bottom, so I will try to exchange the gallon of Pettit I picked up for something I planned to buy, like a nice grate for the standpipe. Prior to Saturday's launch, feeble attempts were made to stow all the paint supplies and tools liable to fly about should launch go pear-shaped.
Teardrops on my rudder...
This is one of a pair of through-bolted zincs on the rudder. I'm curious to see how they fare over the season. At about 30 cm. below the waterline, I can inspect them through the season. The place to put zincs is on the hull proper, which involves scary hole-drilling, but really, this is to help out the prop zinc, the only other sacrificial anode in play. Next post will see boat or boats in the water!

2015-04-26

Waxing unpoetically

The grubby waterline will have to wait.
After a trip to buy a sale-priced buffer, some TLC and VC-17 was applied today to the still for sale Valiente.  So was elbow grease and prop grease. I still need to gelcoat some dings, however. The little if-heavy-by-bike Honda 2000 finally managed to pump enough amps into the batteries to turn the charger's light green, so I suspect I will launch Tuesday or Wednesday, depending on weather, paying work, tax-related administrivia and what happens tomorrow on Alchemy, where it's bottom-paint and fuel-rigging time in preparation for launch in six days.

The prop is shiny where needed and greased where applicable.

2015-04-22

April showers of prep

I am actually going to tighten my keel bolts on Valiente with that big bastard...once I retrieve the 1.5 inch socket from Alchemy.

Yesterday was interesting in terms of  "jobs done in spite of". April, particularly after a hard winter, can and does produce impressive weather as hot air from the States hits the still-frigid (and according to the Canadian Coast Guard, still icy at the east end of Lake Ontario) local waters. So I went to Valiente to do the recommissioning thing and to bring down a hand sanding machine to prep for bottom painting and to clean up the rudder. This involves hauling the Honda 2000 genset down to charge up the batteries, because they aren't nearly fully charged, and because I like light.

Yearly tasks involve tightening every hose clamp on the engine, the engine intakes and all the through-hulls (scuppers, galley and head). I also dog down all the chain plate bolts and (as seen above) tighten my head bolts as per the venerable and hard-to-source "Seacraft Atomic 4 Manual" (link works, but I have no idea if you can still get them) which I have along with the Moyer manual and the original. The Seacraft is the only one that has the order of the head stud tightening and the torque required (35 ft/lbs., evidently). By the way, you'll need an 11/16th inch socket.

Later, I'll service the winches, tune the rig and start cleaning the place up. I was fairly pleased with the sanded, stained and spar varnished tiller, which I didn't attempt to sand down overmuch, preferring the "y'arr" of its well-earned weatheredness.

Bronze and laminate, together again.
Needs a power wash, clearly.
Besides, it's soon going to be a concern of the next owner...fingers crossed. Despite half-hourly 40-50 knot squalls, hail and rain, which I do not recommend experiencing on a cradled boat, by the way, I got a lot done, including a test-fire of the refreshed Atomic 4. This year, it took two key turns before it roared back into life. Not bad. I heard others in the yard (when the howling wind let up) failing to crank their own engines, followed by swearing. Me, I shut down after 15 seconds, because now the engine is mostly coolant-free. I will likely splash next week if it even looks like 10C.
The staff at the as-yet unsigned "Westport Marine Supply".
Those who have watched aghast in the downtown Toronto area as first Genco Marine's Queen's Quay outpost, and then West Marine on Jarvis closed in August and January past, respectively, may have thought "the Dock Shoppe isn't stocked yet...do I drive to Scarborough (The Rigging Shoppe) or to Mississauga (HMP, Mason's/Fogh's, Genco, etc.)? Well, despite the notable absence of signage, there is a new sort-of-downtown chandlery in town. Behold Westport Marine Supply (it's at 4 Carlaw, Unit 8 on the south side) and while they are not super-stocked at the moment (although there's the usual commissioning products), they have a big repair and service space and ambition to match. Some may recognize diesel mechanic and Beta vendor Mark Bird on the right: it's his baby and it's nice to have alternatives after the exodus of other chandleries to the suburbs. To the left, note the Honda 2000-by-bike. Five minutes after this shot, it was blowing yet another frozen hoolie. Such is the life of the itinerant boat fixer.

2015-04-15

It's the most wonderful time of the year...

...even if it involves getting spattered with a wide variety of chemicals, some toxic and most tenacious. It's the run-up to "Launch 2015", and the grudging receding of winter's clammy grasp has proceeded to the point where only a zephyr off the still exceptionally brisk and recently frost-bound lake can break the solar spell.
Valiente's battered battery banks with Honda genset boosting. Yes, it's dirty there. It's pointless to clean up until I'm back at my dock, where there's water and a tap.
Many tasks remain and supplies to be a) located in my overly layered garage/chandlery and b) purchased again if a) fails, as is always the case, but progress is being made. Things are getting serviced, sewn, charged, greased, moused, painted, checked, tightened/dogged down or loosened/freed up, inspected, confirmed and lovingly patted, as is the custom of the sea.
The man who taught me celestial navigation, Nick DeMunnik, has his boat on the hard beside Alchemy. Seeing him yesterday made me think I need to refresh my ability to reduce sights. The top sextant is mine; the nice Freiberger is Mrs. Alchemy's.

When I launch Alchemy is known (May 2); when Valiente goes in is anyone's guess, as the employees of the cheapest yard in the city where I keep her have yet to manifest from their southern soujourns. There's just two men who haul and launch and cradle a few hundred boats in a jammed yard on the east side of Toronto Harbour, and they work constantly on both pleasure and commercial vessels throughout the warm months, only to head south from about November 15th to ...well, now, supposedly. I could launch Valiente with six hours' notice as my dock for her is already prepped. Said six hours would require about half a hour for an engine check and test-fire, more charging time until I reach the blessed green light status on the Guest charger, and various cosmetic work insofar as I can clean and polish the hull when there is only a few centimetres between the parked hulls.
The blessed green light on Alchemy's soon to be repurposed (to the forepeak) battery charger.
Yesterday, the airport reached 17C, which means about 13-14C on the waterfront, but this was enough to do remedial work on the hull to refresh some spots requiring "rust-locking", galvanizing paint and two-part epoxy barrier coat.  My wife, who is of modest dimensions, not to mention younger, tends to do this hull work, whilst I work on the topsides and deck.
Not to mention a provisional prop cleaning and service.
It was also a time to sort out the anchor well with the miracle of power washing and to put on a base coat of Rustoleum galvanizing paint.
Second coat will be brushed on to obliterate the drips. The bitter end eye can be seen to the right. The Dri-Dek, also power-washed, goes around this.
The tarp on the pilothouse roof, installed to keep out leaks due to the failing gasketing (itself to be addressed when I rewire and permanently reinstall the pilothouse roof this summer), was also replaced. This was a "two-tarp winter": even doubled, the wind and weather wore them to ribbons.

The VHF hailing and P.A./fog signal horn doesn't look wildly out of place, I think.
Back aboard Valiente, the main is back on. I need to tune to rig anew, and the winches need servicing, but that can wait until after launch.

Not as wrinkled as this, the Dacron main is actually in pretty good shape.
Make and mend: I have a rather elaborate sail repair and bits and pieces kit on Valiente that, when she is sold, will come over to Alchemy. I sewed a few rips in the sail cover, recycled from a CS 36 and therefore about two feet too long, and can therefore claim a readiness to sail. A readiness to motor? We'll see after the next time I go down to charge and do the bottom paint.
Y'arr, 'tis the bosun's locker, of sorts. Things stowed in here have saved more than one cruise.
UPDATE, 15.04.15: 

More make, mend and paint/sand/varnish today. It took some digging, but I located the pieces used in the tabernacle to both secure the mast to it and to enable it to be lowered for locks, or service or to avoid the bosun's chair:
Bolt, cap, shiny heavy tube part et al.
The idea is that the bolts welded to the heavy tubes can be, when the stays and shrouds are slacked off, raised to bring the butt of the mast up and off the base of the tabernacle. Then halyards can be tensioned and the stays slacked off further (or removed entirely, if needed) to lower the mast aft for service. It seems a good idea to build a gallows, even if provisional, for that.
Appropriately sturdy, I think. Ignore the temporarily deployed boat hook.
The whole scheme, for which I cannot take credit, is designed to allow the mast to rest on the pilothouse roof. I was told this was to facilitate canal travel, which I do not think this boat ever did under previous ownership. Damned handy and good thinking, I say.
I guessed the colour from a chip in a Dulux store. It's close enough for me, and as it will be covered in Dri-Dek and massive amounts of new G70 3/8" chain.
I also covered yesterday's spray can of Zincorama with a thick coat of Metalclad paint. Once again, the staff at the downtown Dulux paint shop understood why I wanted a particular coating and could confirm its properties. I really prefer going to the places that contractors use these days. There's hardly ever hand-holding or explaining to do. Tomorrow I'll check this for curing and then, if it feels cured, I'll replace the flooring and start sorting out the anchors better.

Ar, 'tis a venerable rudder stick, it be.
This rather worn item is Valiente's 42-year-old tiller. You can just make out my fingernail marks. I took off the flaking Cetol coating and thought to pretty it up a bit with a proper sanding, a staining and then a couple of coats of marine spar varnish. I will do a light sanding tomorrow and apply a couple more. The Cetol would last longer, but this will look much nicer, and after that, it's the next skipper's problem. I have been using simple teak oil rubs on some of the discounted teak bits and pieces I've been collecting for spice racks and paper towel holders and whatnot for Alchemy; perhaps I'll try some of this treatment on that. I am on record as expressing my dislike of wood on the outside of boats but I do not mind a more traditional bit of dead tree down below. Because the interior is black cherry battens holding up masonite whiteboard, which is in turn securing inches of closed-cell insulation board, the interior of Alchemy is a bit "Elizabethan pub", but at least it's bright.

UPDATE, 15.04.16: The Metalclad paint was still a little tacky, and I put on a second coat of varnish on the tiller, so I switched focus today and decided to do some measuring twice.
For reasons of physics, I wanted to make sure the helm seat could take the helmsperson's mass even if Alchemy was subject to an unexpected wave.
This involved some test perches on our new helm seat, purchased somewhat impulsively when Genco's Queen Quay location closed last summer. The seat slides back and forth, and can be raised up and down to meet the needs of the rather disparately sized owners (and crew). The seat must allow standing operation, and also must rotate cleanly 360 degrees as it will also be a "regular seat" when we are under autopilot. So I had to fiddle and measure and futz about. Then came The Beast Makita, my weapon of choice for drilling through metal.
This is brutal enough to spin me in place if I am insufficiently braced. It's one of my favourites, and I got it on sale.

Six 3/16" pilot holes later, followed by 3/8" pilot house and the same for the variety of 1/4" aluminum backing plates I trust will keep the base firmly attached to the steel pilothouse deck and I was bolted down. When I recover said deck, I will probably trace around this base rather than remove it again.
Not all vessels come with a Deck Dalek.
The seat, while simple (read: "at the lower end of the marine gear spectrum") fits the space available and is mobile enough to fit all.

Ignore the surrounding builders' tip.
About the only issue is that the base, fully lowered, gives me proper visibility, but my relatively short legs dangle about six inches off the deck. I will have to rig some sort of bracing blocks, or stirrups, or pegs of some description on either side of the helm cabinetry (note the restored cherrywood lip? I do) in order to be braced should we be motoring in heavy chop.
In the raised, closer to the helm "distaff" configuration.
The long march continues...

REALLY, THE LAST UPDATE, 15.04.19:
Well, well: Cleaner, brighter and plausibly organized. Even my clown shoes fit in there.
The anchor situation is clarified, which might come in handy should we have unforeseen engine issues or meet up with a nice fresh squall. The cleaned Dri-Dek is back (now that the paint is also dry decked) and on the right is the Fortress FX-37, secured and with 10 metres of 3/8" chain and about 40 metres of 5/8" rope rode, as per its specifications. On the left is a 20 kilo CQR anchor (for now) with 34 metres of 3/8" chain, most of which fits coiled down into that handy bucket. For now I have the two anchors secured with shackles on wire lines in turn shackled to the bitter end; I have a "devil's claw" to secure deployed chain, but the padeye that is bolted through the deck is really too small to work without fudging about with insufficiently beefy shackles. So we shall see how my "drill through the deck" plans work out...after launch. This is simply a way to have anchors more or less at the ready should a sudden stop be needed in relatively shallow water.