As the spring season begins very early this year we start to receive the first yacht deliveries from the shipyard. The first Oceanis 34.1 have already arrived and two weeks ago Beneteau sent the first of a dozen Oceanis 30.1 to our headquarter as well. These two boats make up the vast majority of the sailboats we sell, apart from the small First-racers, and as such, boats ranging around 10 to 11 meters are still the bread-and-butter range for us.
It is the core of our brand to make those series production boats better. We offer and sell a lot of upgrades and enhancements which make these yachts safer, faster, more beautiful or more individual to help our owners turn a mass product into something individual. For the Oceanis 30.1 we already have bumper strips of Teak/steel which are used excessively especially in the North and we also replace the shipyard´s GRP tabletops with wonderful massive Teak joinery. We also came up with a Teak-supplement in case the stocks of our partner will be depleted. Now, last week we worked on another enhancement.
Upgrading a production boat
The idea to offer a shower grating for the Oceanis 30.1 was originally my own. During the unforgettable and wonderful sailing trip with the 30.1-prototype from Germany all the way up to Sweden I had the pleasure to take a shower before switching on the Diesel heating. And it was awful. Especially standing on the bare cold GRP floor was not very nice. Back home again, recapitulating the trip, I took the phone and called our carpenter who makes all these nice wooden things for us.
I asked him if it was possible to make a shower grating for the Oceanis 30.1 as I figured that many more owners of this boat (and other types of yachts as well) would appreciate such a nice feat. Christian, that´s his name, said I couldn´t have called him in a better situation: “I just bought a CNC machine, Lars!”, he told me with excitement: “We won´t have to put together a grating the old fashioned way, I can saw any design you can imagine in minutes!”
Well, in my mind I would have preferred the classic way of putting together a grating with battens – but looking at the non-rectangular shape of the bathroom floor and the expected price of such a handmade product, I agreed to test-produce a grating with the CNC-machine. “Your clients will appreciate the freedom of design choices as well as the later price”, he promised. With a price of some 750 Euros ex VAT for the finished product, that´s an argument.
From a gauge to digital
So after taking measurements of the bathroom floor with a laser- and GPS-aided gadget that turns coordinates in space into 3D-models, Christian arrived back a few days later with a piece of simple plywood to check the rough form of the gauge. We agreed to apply minor changes to its shape and spent some 45 minutes in the bathroom of our new boat discussing the later design.
In this, the challenge was to balance my expectations and sometimes unrealistic ideas of the designs with the properties of the material. If we could use the old-style batten technique, we could have made the grating much thinner and more elaborate. By sawing out the grating holes off a solid wooden board of massive Teak, Christian must make sure that the later grating will not bend, break or degrade in any way.
We found it especially hard to reach an agreement on the measurements of the holes but in the end it was determined to be 2.5 by 2.5 centimeters. Christian took special care in determining the support stands of the grating underneath: When showering, we don´t want the water to rise too high but we also do not want to stand in the water all the time, so the grating must be elevated from the bathroom floor. Christian widened the embrasure all around the grating and promised me to come up with a nice idea for the whole product to work.
Back home, he sat down at the computer that is connected to the CNC machine. Transferring the digital gauge into the milling program, he started to apply the changes we agreed upon to the graphics program: Widened embrasure and a load full of grating holes. In one occasion he called me on the phone and asked how big the radius of the edges of the holes should be.
After two days of finalizing the design he printed it out and sent me a picture of it. In theory (and practically too), we could imprint a ship´s name here, the Beneteau-logo or any other design we or the owner wish to have. I opted for a clean, straight design and no messing around: “No frills!”, I told him and he agreed.
Producing a final gauge
The other day Christian started to feed the CNC machine with the digital model and put on a thick board of cheap plywood again. It has the thickness of the later finished product but before messing around with the precious tropical timber he decided to make one final gauge model of the grating.
The sawing or milling process is fascinating. With unparalleled precision and breathtaking speed the milling tool enters the timber and works its way over the whole batch of wood. A vacuum device is sucking away all the dust and cutoff material. The process of making all of those approximately 220 holes lasts a mere quarter of an hour.
The last production step is sawing out the outline of the grating and after half an hour the first final gauge model is finished. Christian sands away splinters and smoothens the surface and here we are: The first Oceanis 30.1 bathroom shower grating model: But of course this isn´t the final product. So he drives to our yard again to check how it fits and how it looks like.
Dress rehearsal on board
Although it does not have the distinct tropical wooden timber looks we strive for, the grating just looks awesome! It fits the bathroom floor just neatly and sits tight: Even in rougher seas there will be no rumbling around. Christian checks the positioning for each of the 14 support stands, which also will be cut out from Teak or Sapeli and fitted with an anti-skid rubber underside.
“This is what I had in mind!”, I tell him – absolutely excited – looking at the preliminary outcome. Such a grating makes the appearance of a bathroom much more comfortable. It is a classy look and the grating itself will improve the sensation while taking a shower. Cleaning underneath is a no-brainer and since it is made from timber that is capable of being wetted all the time, rotting, mildew or degradation of the product is of no concern.
Finished Teak and Sapeli Mahogany gratings
Christian left with the role model gauge and is now producing the first gratings made of Teak (the last logs in stock) and in Sapeli Mahogany. I am looking so much forward receiving those in a few weeks time and to fit them finally into the bathroom of this new Oceanis 30.1 that is going to be handed over end of April to mid-June: Let´s see how our owners like it!
I like bringing a touch of the “good old” classy times to these new boats. And seeing our CNC-milled end product I must say that maybe this computer generated wooden piece of equipment fits much better than a handmade batten-based grating would. Can´t wait to fit in the finished gratings into the boat and – maybe there will be a chance to do so – try out the grating for a real good morning-shower at a nice anchorage.
You may also like to read these articles:
Making a dream chart table
Gauge model techniques
A new anchor chain-locker for my yacht