Somewhere between 2008 when this refit began and 2012, when it restarted in earnest after the paperwork SNAFU, I spent some time with Sketchup making concept drawings how I thought the aft stateroom would look if the project ever restarted. By the time the SNAFU was resolved, I’d already purchased a new aft fuel tank that would go above the keel rather than outboard, like the original configuration. What I realized eventually was that the fuel inlets for the new tank were in the wrong spot–the pipes were pointing straight up on the headboard end of where a queen-sized mattress will eventually be. The fuel fill pipes on the tank don’t stick up all that much, but by the time I added hose and a 90° fitting it was going to be very tall. About 18 months ago I realized moving the fuel inlets would be the best approach. Then I got let down by yet another local fabricator/welder and decided I’d learn a new skill and buy myself a TIG welder to compliment my other welding machines. Recently I bought an AHP AlphaTIG 200 and have been practicing away on aluminum and also stainless. My first stainless project turned out pretty good–replacement pipes for the fuel fills–and my aluminum TIG welding was looking better with each hour of seat time I get. If I’m going to splash this year, the job’s gotta get done. So I got ‘er done.
I pulled this 1/4″ plate out of the scrap bin in my garage at home when I was practicing my TIG welding. It brought back memories of the profoundly incompetent master fabricator at Chesapeake Marine Engineering, who after having my Miller Trailblazer and spoolgun for two weeks to learn the machine and practice (his shop welder is a different brand…Snap-on, of course), managed to weld the blobs you see on the left side of the plate. The welds on the right side and the fillet around the tube are mine, done after 15 hours of practice time with my AHP AlphaTIG.
Aric Euler, the professional fabricator at Chesapeake Marine Engineering, blamed my lousy Miller equipment for the blobby welds (he owns Snap-on equipment, you see). But it turned out that the problem was he had the polarity switch going the wrong way and he tried to make up for that by welding in short circuit rather than spray transfer. You’d think he could have figured the polarity problem out over the two weeks he had the machine and the manual, being a professional and all that. Perhaps the Snap-On machine does it all for him…
I know…my welds are inconsistent, I’ve got craters in the ends, and since I didn’t preheat the plate the first weld was cold. I also didn’t grind the plate first, so there’s a lot of contamination. But compared to the welds done by the expensive professional, they’re not bad at all. The fillet weld on the pipe, which was particularly challenging because the plate is 1/4″ and the pipe is 1/8″, turned out quite nice, if I do say so myself.
I know I could do with a lot more seat time practicing, but time’s a wastin’. I’ve got to get the tank fills done.
That’s a great thing about these inverter machines–they’re very light compared to older transformer machines. 60 pounds goes up the ladder much easier than 350 pounds does.
Another plan that changed was fuel storage management for the forward 125 gallon tank. If I use the normal fill, I’d have to cut another hole in the exterior. And every hole I cut is an opportunity for a leak or for the paint to fail at some point in the future. So, I’ll use fuel lines and a pump to fill the front tank from the rear tanks. The front tank will supply the genset as well as a hydronic boiler system I’ll be installing one day, and in a pinch it can also supply fuel as a day tank for the mains.
I know, I know…not exactly a “stack of dimes.” But it’s fused well all around.
I’d been practicing welding flat on a table in my garage while sitting with everything at just the right height. Then I practiced vertical welding on the same table with everything just so. I’d heard that “out of position” welding could be challenging…I’m here to attest that “challenging” is a HUGE understatement.
The new tank fill inlets are pointed back at the transom, which is 18″ away. The steering gear is 12″ below the fill, so there’s no easy way to squeeze in and look up at the under-side of it. And my welding helmet adds to the joy of fitting in this confined space. I ended up laying on the tank with my head hanging over the end, basically welding upside-down. The welds aren’t the prettiest, but they’re solid and well fused all around.
That’s a wrap for relocating and capping the fuel tank fills.
Next up in our 1969 Chris Craft Roamer 46 Refit: Installing the Fuel Fills