Tuesday, February 21, 2012


As in "Thank Goodness it's Flyday!" Actually, it was one of those seemingly arbitrary holidays that the powers-that-be sprinkle throughout the calendar at the behest of national retail in order to provide an excuse for yet another shopping weekend. It's probably no coincidence that these things boost ad sales for the newspapers, too. Motives aside, the upshot is that the unobtainium mines were closed for the day, releasing me to pursue other, more interesting endeavors. Half the day was devoted to a Geek Squad housecall to repair an ailing laptop, but the second half was mine to do with as I pleased.

The plan was to go out to the hangar to do some work on the RV-12 spinner, but you can't get to that hangar without going past the one that houses the RV-6. I decided more or less on the spur of the moment that perhaps a little practice flight might be in order, a decision that was greatly aided and abetted by an abundance of blue sky and the blessing of light winds. Besides which, I've been hungry to try my new camera in the airplane. One of the deciding criteria in the selection of the LX5 was the alleged quickness and accuracy of the autofocus, an area where my big Olympus was notably weak. I really wanted a true point-and-shoot camera that retained the ability to take a pretty decent picture. All reports indicated that the LX5 would perform admirably, but there's no knowing until it is tried.

I think it did pretty well.

Crisp enough to tell that I left my hangar door open!

This next picture is a perfect example of the need for quick and easy. This is a picture of my neighborhood taken just as I was turning from left base to final, a fairly busy time for the pilot and thus a time best suited for no more than a momentary distraction. Notice the house in the lower-left corner: that's the one I call the Hobbit house. All that can be seen of it from the street is a concrete driveway and wall. From the air, however, it looks pretty interesting.

Yes, they actually do mow their roof!

After a twenty minute flight culminating in a surprisingly acceptable landing, it was over to the -12 hangar to put in an hour of work. I implemented Professor Pete's idea for measuring the hole spacing onto a piece of tape and using that to transfer the markings to the back plate:

Then the over-kerfed gap fillers were clamped into place:

The trusty hand drill again did a masterful job of controlled drilling:

Clecoed in place, only to be removed again for the next step:

Which is to fabricate some backing plates to add strength and to provide something to attach to the spinner, presumably:

Sunday, February 19, 2012

A Brutal February

Brutal? Well no, not really.  As Februaries go, this one has to be the most temperate that I've ever experienced. But that having been said, February is the worst month of my life and my visceral dread of its arrival is such an ingrained habit of mine that even a mild month like this one is cause for an annual semi-hibernation.  Plus, well, I've been busy.

As mentioned previously, I had decided that this would be the year that I finally take the plunge and ship myself off to a live-aboard sailing school. The problem is that I decide a lot of things, but my having done so by no means indicates that the question is, well.... decided. I've never (well, rarely anyway) been the type to make high-dollar financial decisions unilaterally; the CFO would have to buy-in as well. That's something that can go either way, and experience has shown that the broaching of the subject requires precise timing. As it happened, I had a regularly scheduled visit with the family doctor and while there I asked for a prescription for a handful of sleeping pills. Naturally curious, the doc asked what I needed them for.  I told him that I'd be spending a potentially hot and uncomfortable week on a sail boat and that I might need a little help getting to sleep.

In further preparation for the trip, I also ordered a new camera. The old DSLR Olympus is too heavy and bulky for a trip like this, besides being somewhat difficult to use. I needed something small and easier to use, but I also wanted it to take pretty good pictures. Hours of research later, I ordered a Panasonic Lumix LX5.  I had the funds for that from an old GPS that Kyle, trumpet repairman for The Jackson Two, had sold for me on eBay.

It was the next day that I was confronted by the CFO, who wanted to know why I needed a new camera.  "Ah," I thought, "just the opening I was looking for."  I proceeded to describe the vacation that I had decided was hoping to take. There was a bit of back-and-forth on the topic before she finally confessed that she had known about it for a few days - she had had an appointment with the doctor on the afternoon of the day that I went and he had told her about.

So much for doctor/patient confidentiality!

Still, she hadn't torpedoed the idea and buoyed with the excitement of my pending voyage, I began making preparations. Which is another way of saying "shopping spree."  Over the last couple of weeks, I have bought a rain suit, a nice boonie hat, deck shoes, a pair of wet/dry SPF shirts, and a pair of pants made of the same wet/dry material.  

When trying it all on, I look more like a safari guide preparing for a monsoon than a mighty sailin' man.

There is also the matter of the stack of three books that I have to read in preparation for the classes. A week is not enough to teach both the knowledge and practical skills required to operate a yacht, so the knowledge has to be gained via independent study, very much like the way you take the ground school and written test before going off on one of those "10 days to private pilot" courses. The reading has taken up most of quite a few evenings lately.

Squeezed in with the sailing preparations was some parental support for young Co-pilot Egg who, having reached an age where she is allowed to make adult decisions in the eyes of the government, none of whom know her and are therefore eminently unqualified in making the determination of just which decisions she is mature enough to make, decided that she wanted a tattoo. To be fair, this was by no means an impulse decision; she has been talking about it for years. That said, perhaps my conflict-avoidance strategy of saying "You can decide that when you're eighteen" was somewhat shortsighted. But seriously, what parent ever really expects that date to come up so quickly??

In principle, I have no problem with tattoos, although I don't really want one for myself. I also, in principle, have no problem with tightrope walkers, matadors, coal miners, figure skating judges, BASE jumpers, crab fishermen, or ice road truckers. That doesn't mean that I want her to be any of those things! Nor was I opposed (in principle) to the tattoo that she had selected:

No, the problem I had with that tattoo was the same problem the Co-owner had, albeit for different reasons. The Co-owner objected to the shoulder location because the tattoo would be visible when Egg wore formal strapless gowns or halter tops. "Yeah, so?" was my reaction to that. It's a pretty classy tattoo (as tattoos go) and I didn't see that as a problem. The bigger issue in my mind was that, what with my knowing of her abject and hysterical fear of needles, she would quit after just a few lines were drawn, leaving nothing but a floating giraffe head on her shoulder. Now that would be something better kept hidden.

With her being eighteen, I can't make decisions for her, but I can plumb the depths of whatever remaining pool of vestigial parental respect she might have and ask her to take some advice. My advice was to start small and hidden, then sometime in the future, depending on how that went, consider getting something like her shoulder giraffe. She saw the logic in that and agreed to a different tattoo in a different location.

Long story made short, we spent a couple of surprisingly enjoyable evenings getting her tattoo. She bore up well to the agony of the needle, although the week-long healing process might have caused her just a little bit of regret. She maintained a great attitude, though. I think it was on the way home from the actual tattooing visit when an old Eagles song came on the radio:

"He was brutally handsome, she was terminally pretty."

"I've been referred to as 'brutally handsome' in the past, you know," I told her.

"Brutal on the eyes, maybe," she responded, in what she thought was sotto voce.

Yeah, that's my daughter all right!

With a three-day bout with the flu and a trip to the farm to do some shooting also thrown in, a couple of weeks blew by without any work being done on the airplane. Not that I was missing out on anything very interesting - all I had to do next was align the spinner which was, in theory, a pretty easy job. The idea is to prop up a straight edge next to the tip of the pitot tube and ensure that it stays within a 1/16" point in space as the prop is rotated.

This was attempt #1:

That method didn't work very well for a couple of reasons: first, the least little breeze caused the straightedge to wobble around. Second, Van's was onto something when their depiction of the process showed the top corner of the straightedge centered on the opening of the pitot. It would be a lot easier to see relative motion that way instead of trying to remember where on the straightedge the pitot was supposed to be.

Here is method #2:

It worked much better, but as you can see it was still not easy to determine whether or not the pitot was remaining fixed in space because moving the prop actually moved the entire airplane:

Once the spinner was as aligned as I could get it, there were holes to be drilled through it - there were pilot holes in the forward support plate to drill into. That required a deft touch on the drill, so I opted to use the nice, controllable hand drill that I had bought for use on the canopy.

With all of the drilling done, the spinner started to look like a very rotund and very startled cycloptic porcupine!

Then, making a mockery of the patience required to cut the back of the spinner precisely to the scribe line, Van's has us grab a hand sander to sand the back of the spinner flush with the backplate.

Then those remainder pieces cut out of the spinner are shaped to a drawing in the plans. With the weak light in the hangar, I couldn't see through the parts well enough to trace the line. Road trip to the taxiway!!

The Dremel made the first big cuts, but from there it was hand sanding to get the final shape.

And there are the big kerf gaps that I had been worried about. They aren't too bad. Unfortunately, this is one of those "craftsmen" parts that everyone will look at to see how well you did. I'll hear about the size of those gaps someday.

And then it happens again: that which is installed will soon be removed. The prop has to come off.

I'm then supposed to drill four holes through the remainder pieces. No directions are provided for the spacing of the holes. A drawing on the next page indicates a 1/4" space from the edge of the spinner to the outermost holes on these parts. With that and the 2.5" width provided to Professor Pete, he quickly determined that I'd need a 2/3" gap between the other holes. Me? I was just gonna eyeball it. When you figure that the holes I drill are never really at the spots I want them anyway, I imagine either way of doing it is going to be roughly the same as the other.

By that time, my hands were getting too cold to mess with precise measurements. It will wait until the next session.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Premature Spring

The people that are concerned over the deleterious effects of Global Warming must be beside themselves with the glow of "We told you so!" as they deal with the fallout of the revelation of some questionable emails shared amongst a handful of researchers that allowed their righteous fervor to get in the way of acceptable scientific standards, thus sullying their message in the eyes of more questioning critics. Right or wrong, I just have to say this: no one I know is complaining about the incredibly mild winter we're having here in central Ohio. In fact, many of us (myself included) are allowing ourselves to believe that true spring is already upon us. The Karmic nature of Winter will surely disabuse us of this notion soon enough, much to the chagrin of the blooming flowers in my front yard and, well.... me too.

You see, having never really hibernated this year but having still built up a not insignificant case of seasonal cabin fever (the days are still quite short, after all), I have started thinking about my vacation plans for the year. The Co-owner and Co-pilot Egg have already made plans for Spring Break, but those plans don't include me. After a couple of years of Egg and I going to Oshkosh and leaving the Co-owner at home to take care of the estate grounds and the herds of domesticated quadrupeds, it is her turn to take a solo trip with the soon-to-be leaving the nest co-pilot. These things are planned with an almost stunning mathematical precision hereabouts, and the scientifically deduced calculation that is at play here seems to be:

Oshkosh x 2 = Bahamas.

Fair enough. They both love the beach, and the all-inclusive meal plan is always attractive. For me, though, I prefer something a little more active. I think this is the year that I will do something that I've been hoping to do for the last three years: I'm planning on attending a 7-day live-aboard sailing school.

I had looked at this before, but it was at a school located up around Cleveland. This year I did some more research and found a very highly reviewed place down in Ft. Lauderdale. It seems to me that the Florida scenery and sailing on the ocean might be more interesting than Lake Erie. And really, do I really need to go to Put-in-Bay again?

A Week of Learning, a Lifetime of Adventure

Blue Water Sailing School is an American Sailing Association certified sailing school with lessons for sailors at every experience level. Our week-long, live-aboard cruising and sailing courses give dedicated students the experience and confidence to achieve their dreams of nautical adventure. We’re based in Fort Lauderdale, Florida and have additional locations in Rhode Island, the Virgin Islands, and The Bahamas.
Trimming the mainsail
We’re one of the only sailing schools in the United States to offer sailing certification at every level of the American Sailing Association curriculum, andthey’ve given us the ASA’s Outstanding School award five times. Sailing education is all we do — with our specialized approach, you can be assured of the finest training available.

At the end of the week, I should be certified to be able to do bareboat charters, which is like saying "I will be able to rent a car" rather than "I'll take a taxi."

The standard class at Blue Water is done in a 51' monohull:

Dufour Gib’Sea 51: Gitana

A Gib'Sea 51 at sea
The same spacious interior that makes the Gib’Sea 51 popular with charter companies also provides a good teaching environment. With three double cabins, two more doubles that convert into bunks, and five heads this yacht has enough room to serve our larger classes without feeling cramped.
Location - Fort Lauderdale
  • One of the forward cabins
  • The double berths can convert into bunks
  • The nav station
  • The saloon of a Gib'Sea 51
  • The layout of a Gib'Sea 51
  • Cruising along on a Gib'Sea 51
For a number of reasons, I'm opting for the catamaran class, which offers an additional 'Catamaran' certification and the additional benefit of living out the week on a more comfortable boat.

Lagoon 410: La Bamba
A Lagoon 410 catamaran at sea
The Lagoon 410 features panoramic views from its roomy central cabin and has four double berths, each with its own private head. The 41-foot, dual-hull design is a stable non-heeling platform well suited to beginning sailors. With speed and excellent pointing ability that are sure to thrill, the Lagoon 410 also has plenty to offer the more experienced sailors in our intermediate and advanced cruising catamaran courses.
Location - Fort Lauderdale
  • The port aft cabin on La Bamba
  • The cockpit of a Lagoon 410 catamaran
  • The saloon on a Lagoon 410
  • The Lagoon 410's helm
  • Layout of the Lagoon 410 catamaran
That's all months (and quite possibly a few snow/ice storms) away, so for now I am still focusing on building an airplane. While the days are still pretty short, they are getting long enough to allow for an hour or so of well-lit work in the late afternoons when I get home from the diamond mines. The most recent job was to install the propeller and start working on the spinner.

Van's helpfully placed little tick marks on the circumference of the aft part of the spinner which will presumably be used when it comes time to drill through the spinner and into the back plate. Those marks need to be duplicated to the inside of the spinner.

Once that's done, a good half inch of fiberglass has to be trimmed away from the aft edge to reach a scribe line molded in at the factory. I made the first major cut using tin snips, of all things. I didn't want to go all the way to the scribe line because snips make a notoriously messy cut at the edges.

At that point, I wanted to use the Dremel to finish up the trimming, but it was at home. On to hanging the prop, then.

The Van's plans are only mildly useful for the actual installation of the prop, referring instead to the instructions that were included with the prop. That makes sense, although I was momentarily confused as to which of them, Van's or Sensenich, was supposed to have supplied a set of spacers. In the end it turned out to be Van's. Conversely, these bushings were provided by Sensenich:

Notice the ugly white goopy stuff? That's anti-corrosion protection put on the engine by Rotax. I've left it on there to.... prevent corrosion. If you look closely, you will see that it was applied somewhat spottily and corrosion has, in fact, started to set in.

The back plate needs to be marked along the center line of its circumferential flange, also presumably for later orientation of the spinner attachment screws. I used a Sharpietm marker propped (heh!) up to suitable height with some scrap metal:

From there it is just a matter of bolting in the back plate and the back half of the prop hub. There are twelve bolts provided by Sensenich; it is the shorter of the two bolt sizes that is used for that step. Then the blades are fitted into the hub and the front half of the hub is bolted on, along with another spinner plate. This uses the longer Sensenich bolts and the aforementioned bushings provided by Van's.

That was the end of the workable light for the evening, so the following night I went back to finish up the trimming of the spinner. I carved off the remaining area under the scribe line, using the trusty Dremel and a reinforced cutting disk.

Not surprisingly, slots needed to be cut into the spinner to allow the prop blades to fit through. The cut lines are conveniently provided by Van's. The plans suggest using a fine tooth hacksaw blade to make the straight line portion of the cuts. I used masking tape to provide a nice sight line for the cut.

I started with the hacksaw.... we'll see later that I didn't use it for very long.

The curved areas area prepped for cutting by drilling small holes just inside their outer perimeter. Van's suggest either a plexi bit or a Unibit for this. I went with the Unibit.

The dead giveaway that I didn't use the hacksaw is visible in the lower right corner of the above picture. I was in a bit of a quandary. The hacksaw was proving to be hard to control well enough to ensure a straight line, so I used the Dremel instead. This decision may cause issues further down the road, though. The cut-out pieces of fiberglass may be used later to fill in the gaps behind the prop blades, and the much wider kerf of the Dremel cutting disk versus that of the hacksaw may create an unsightly gap.

That's a problem for later; for now I proceeded with the clean-up sanding of the circular cut-out area. That was as simple as wrapping a piece of sandpaper around a big metal socket and enjoying a few moments in the waning afternoon sun, serenaded by the sound of barking seals. Well, at least that's what it sounded like as a scraped the sandpaper over the edge of the spinner.

And there it is!