So we have the lower hull structure – but that’s only part of the boat! The next step in the manufacturing process is to laminate the upper half – or deck. This will actually be the middle saloon deck when its finished. For those who haven’t got a clue what lamination means, this is the process of building a very strong fibre-glass shell for the hull structure. This can be with traditional lamination where layers of glass fibre matting are laid by hand, then painted or sprayed with resin . Alternatively fibre-glass can be constructed with infusion. This is where the resin is forced into the fibre through a vacuum and then compressed. Selene use both techniques, for different modules of the boat.
Lower Hull Structure
The hull was laid by hand into the mould. It is now sitting in the main factory hall on a cradle with steps for access. It’s starting to look like a boat! Inside the shell, we can see the bulkheads are being placed and laminated in – this will form the engine room. The bulkheads form the water-tight compartments within the structure of the boat which add to the strength. The hull is also strengthened by the timber structure under the floor in a transverse layout. This transverse structure was laid before the hull was released from its mould. Behind the water tight structure is the huge cabling loom which is run through sealed conduits from front to back. These will be used later for the electrical installation, pipes and electronics which will be completely sealed inside the walls.
The inside lower floor is also in preparation. We can start to see the floor hatches which will be visible along the lower deck hallway and in the floors when the boat is finished. These will give access into the bilges. Areas deep down into the hull structure where tanks and other equipment will be installed. The deck and floor sections were laminated using vacuum infusion with the moulds looking a bit like a waffle. The waffle sections also add to the overall strength of the structure.
For flat sections – such as the decks – where strong weight bearing is needed – a technique called vacuum infusion is sometimes used.
The vacuum improves the process and results in a very strong structure.
Put simply, the resin is infused at the top and dribbles into all the crevices. The vacuum sucks the resin into all the small spaces in the glass fibre matting and ensures it is completely soaked.
The section is then left to cure as normal before a very strong component is then released.
Deck and Saloon Modules
The second production stage was about making the upper half of the boat shell. This is the saloon deck module and the “lid” which is the forward deck. The process starts with a mould – in the same way the lower hull section did. The gel coat is sprayed on the mould first. Gel coat is the outer layer of the boat that gives its shiny finish. After that, layers upon layers are built up gradually with glass fibre matting. This is then layered with resin, then more matting and more resin in many layers. The result is a very strong structure which is then left in the mould to cure (dry). The process takes several weeks – then the structure is released from the mould and work can begin.
The upper section was laminated by hand in the mould. The mould for the upper section is upside down of course! Its hard to work out what is what unless you know! The cut-outs for the saloon windows are just about visible as well as the rear area of the cruiser stern. The workers inside are spraying and laying down the layers of resin and glass fibre.
When the module is fully cured, it can be released from the mould and then turned up the right way with the crane. At this stage, the structure is very rough. It still needs a lot of work by hand to prepare it for fitting.
We are slowly beginning to look like a boat!