Thursday, June 28, 2007

Hey, will you pay me to pedal the canal?

Well, I realised I'd not blogged anything for a while, and why not? To be
honest it's because not a lot has changed, but why should that stop me?

I'm now at the stage of having planned everything, designed most things and
now the actual doing starts. This is my to do list:

Decide, finally on the charity.
Publise the event.
Build the boat.
Transport the boat.
Pedal the boat.

So not that much really. But before I do any of this I need to find some
money. And, that's where I fall down, because I get shy about asking for
money to pay for my enjoyment. I know deep down that it's not really
begging, that it's fundraising. I can justify it because if I didn't ask for
a little cash to pay for things, then I wouldn't be able to raise a lot more
cash for charity. But, there's still a little bit of me which says "you're a
cheeky sod, why should people give you money?"

I'm sure I'm not the only person who'll ask this either, but I jsut have to
keep saying to myself, if I don't do it then the moeny doesn't get raised.

So fundraising is the focus. At least I'm not trying to raise thousands, I
think I've planned almost all the money out of this boat, and got it as
cheap as it can be, and i think it's a good return on anyone's investment
too, because it's such an od thing to do, so people look, and when they look
they see the sponsors. Hey, it's a pedal powered floating billboard, and
damn cheap at that.

So, mister, give us some cash.


Part two of my thinking is when, when will I do this? Now hopefully this
year will be like all the rest and summer won't really kick in till
September, and the good weather will carry through, so I don't see that as a
deadline. But, I've discovered that there's a big festival of the canal in
Nantes the first week of September, and what better way to finish a journey
than with a festival? Of course that means that the start date would be the
middle of August - seven weeks away! Can I get it all done in seven weeks?
Would I be better changing everything round an starting in Nantes? I don't
know, it all depends on the answers to the questions in the last blog.

Watch this space.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Bend me, shape me, anyway you want me

I've had my song in my head all night, and it certainly seems appropriate as
I'm thinking about the hull construction. Again it's a tale of options, and
going through the pros and cons of each one.

I started with "tortured PVC" the idea being to take large 2m x 1m sheets of
PVC and bend them over a skeleton then fill the whole lot with expanding
foam. I moved away from that to the foam sandwich idea.

The foam sandwich would be 40mm sheets of expanded foam each cut to follow
one of the contours of the boat. Then they're all laid one on top of each
other and given the final shaping. Once the hull shape is there the whole
lot is covered in fibreglass and epoxy. But then yesterday I discovered a
new method.

This one involves building an "external framework" which matches the ull
shape.Then, thin, rollable expanded foam is laid inside this and glassfibre
and epoxy applied. Once it's all dried you pop it out of the framework and
glassfibre the outside. The idea is that each half hull can be built in the
same framework, simply by flipping the framework round.

So which one to do? I'd discounted the tortured PVC as the curves began to
get a bit complex and I found that PVC sheets were smaller than I thought,
but then I discovered that the expanded foam is much more expensive than I
though, it also involves huge amounts of cutting and sanding and there's the
problem of mounting the pedal and seat frameworks. The external framework
looks interesting, the foam's readily available, but I'm worried about how I
could keep the hull form in place during the build up.

So I'm wondering again about tortured PVC. First of all I've found that I
can get PVC in bigger sheets than I thought and have read more about
thermoforming, secondly I like the idea of the finished hull being in large
sheets, somehow to me it seeems more abrasion resistant, thirdly the egoist
in me likes the idea of using a method I'd though of myself, and finally
I've realised that the curves, whilst more complex are also larger than I'd
been thinking of.

So yet another change, and for now I'm going to look more at the PVC method,
but with a twist. I'll still have the internal framework, but I'm thinking
that combining that with parts of the external frame male mold, to help the
thermoforming process.

Watch this space, as they say.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Final drive - well for now anyway

Building this boat seems to be a continual process of design and redesign.
The last couple of days I've been focusing on the drive, gettoi the power
from my feet on the pedals to the propeller. I thought I'd found the ideal
with Rick Willoughby's swing-arm double roller clutch mechanism till he
pointed out that the prop freewheels when you're not pedalling, and that
means you can't back-pedal. Back-pedalling could be important for
manoeuvring and also for unwinding any weed so I had to think of another
idea. So then I thought of some form of belt drive using steel cable, but
how do you join it?

Yesterday though I had the breakthrough (well I hope it is). I got to
thinking about the flat belt drives of the old cotton mills. They'd twist
and turn around the place so why couldn't I do the same? But what to use for
the belt that wouldn't stretch or slip? Nylon webbing seemed to be the
answer to the stretching, but the slipping? Then it hit me, Velcro! It's
very flat so easy to join, it can be stitched even, and if I used the hooked
side as the belt I could put the fuzzy side on the pulleys. I can even melt
stripes into it so that it becomes a fuzzy cog. That means that the peeling
off part as the belt comes off the pulley will be easier too. And it's easy
enough to make up my own pulley wheels to get just the gearing I want.

No doubt there's downsides I've not thought of. Possibly it's not the most
efficient system in the world, but as I'm not worried about 100% efficiency
that's not a problem. Perhaps it'll stretch or slip too much, well it's easy
enough to make up a test rig to find out. For now though I'm happy.

Now on to the next problem.

PS I've blogged this from my mobile, so excuse the typos, please.

Saturday, June 09, 2007


Well I finally seem to have got a design that could work. Over on the boat
designs forum, people much wiser than me have plugged in the numbers and
worked out a whole series of numbers which show she'll be reasonably stable,
and should, at a normal pedal do about 10 km/h. That's pretty good, as I've
always thought I'd do about 6 km/h on this trip, which with six hour days
meant I'd take ten days from one end to the other. This way I've got some
flexibility. In all this I have to thank Rick Willoughby, in Australia,
whose patiently explained things.

It's Rick too, who showed me what I'm almost certain will be the final drive
solution. He's used pedals on swinging arms connected to two roller clutches
as a way to twist the drive through the 90 degrees. It looks like a good
reliable and cheap solution. All I have to do is find the roller clutches.

So that's where Voie Bleue stands at the moment, a finalised shape - which
will no doubt change as the build goes on, and a drive system where I have
to find the parts. Not too bad, now I really want to get on and build,
before summer really comes.