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Tag Archive Lamination


Selene Factory Visit

The time arrives for our next quarterly factory visit to Selene in China.  This is always an exciting time when we will get to see and feel the boat in the flesh!  This particular visit was quite difficult for me – we were right in the middle of the due diligence process for selling our business.  The completion date was planned for the end of October but there was still so much to do. The buyer did not seem to be able to confirm anything and he was driving me bonkers! For anyone who has gone through this experience, all I can say is it’s the most stressful experience of my life 🙂

The due diligence work had screwed up all our sailing plans for the summer of 2018.  We had intended to have some time saying goodbye to our sail yacht SY Liberation.  Although we can’t wait to get on-board our Selene 6043, we will both miss sailing in a lot of ways.  All we managed to do was sail from Greece to Malta in a 3 day passage.  Since arriving in Malta (where we live), she has just sat in the marina while we worked!

By September it was time to winterize and close her up again.  So just before our trip to China, we made the short crossing from Malta to Sicily where she would spend the winter.  We had no time to get her home to the yard in Greece and not enough time to close her up safely either. The trip to our Selene in China came in the middle, so we left her in the marina and would sort everything out on our return.

The journey

The plus side was we were both in Sicily together – so we could fly back from Catania to the UK where we picked up the Virgin Airways flight to Hong Kong.  It’s always 12 hours of hell for me on the plane, no matter how we do it. This time in Premium Economy did make a difference though as I could sit straight in the chair instead of having to share my chair with half of Ed’s shoulders 🙂 We had no reason to stay in Hong Kong and instead went to transit directly to China on the ferry.  The arrangement in Hong Kong makes this very easy although it’s always a very long journey, however you do it.

During the last visit we stayed in Zhuhai City centre at the Charming Holiday Hotel.  It was a luxurious place but a long trip every day to the factory.  This trip we decided to try out the Ocean Spring Resort hotel.  The taxi driver couldn’t find it – a long way out in the sticks apparently!  Eventually we arrived to find that nobody really spoke English.  It turned out to be an interesting stay there as the only westerners in the hotel.  Again, the place was luxurious and set in amazing grounds.  A self contained resort with it’s own mall and gardens where the whole city came to get married.  It was still around a 45 minute drive to the Selene factory every day so not much gained really – except experience 🙂


We’ve been kept updated in between trips and the last update was just a few weeks ago. We had already seen how the boat looked now with the pieces joined together. There were no surprises therefore when we went into the factory – always the first thing we do on arrival. The deck was lifted off soon after we arrived, so work could continue on the interior of the hull. The floor section had also been removed at some point in between.

The Selene lamination team have made several new fibre glass sections – and it seems everywhere we look there are bits of 6043 in production! The radar tree which will go at the very top of the boat is lying in one corner. It will be a while before that section will be fitted! The transom (back) and the swim platform section is lying in another corner. That section is about to be installed.

Tanks – Water and Fuel

The tanks are the next major part to be fitted. There will be four water tanks in total – two for fresh water, one for grey waste water and one for black waste water. They all need to be laid out in the hull and will then be covered by the floor.

In the engine room, the fuel tanks need to be fitted and they have custom made frames around them to hold them in place.

We were able to watch as the fuel tanks were lifted into the hull using the crane. The tanks were then fitted in place so the retaining sections could be measured around them. With the tanks removed again, the retainers were built to hold this huge quantity of diesel in place when we’re underway! Each tank has 1100 USG capacity – which is about 4200 litres. This means we will be carrying around 8500 litres of fuel onboard – and this is what makes the Selene 60 so special, as that’s enough fuel to cross the oceans.

Selene 6043
Preparing for the fuel tank installation

Interior Selene Carpentry

The other major project which is underway is the interior carpentry for the lower deck. This is quite impressive to watch! The amazing Chinese craftsman are honing this from tree trunks from scratch. There is a supply of raw teak allocated to 6043 and this will be used to construct all the furniture by hand.

The floor section, which had previously been test fitted in the hull, had been removed. It is now being used to build and custom fit the furniture. Each item is constructed, then fitted in its place on the floor. It will then be lifted into the boat in a semi-complete state. This modular type of construction process allows the Selene factory teams to work in parallel with each other.

Electrical and Plumbing Systems

Back in the planning office, we have a lot of discussions on the agenda. During our first visit, the specification was decided at a high level based on the standard construction and major equipment. At that time we focussed on the layout of the boat – called the General Arrangement. For this visit, we needed to get into the detail of the systems. We discussed the electrical installation (although that will change a few times before we’re done I’m sure!). This includes the power supplies to the boat from the shore power, the generators, solar and inverters. There’s also the battery bank and the chargers to specify as well as all the monitoring systems.

We then discussed the plumbing system – with all the pumps, hoses and tanks that involves. We have to design these systems to be able to cope with the different worldwide regulations. In some countries, you can simply pump black water into the sea – but in other countries there are strict rules and pump out is necessary at pump stations. Of course this is perfectly logical as nobody wants s*** floating around them when they are swimming! Destiny also has to cope with tropical temperatures as well as arctic temperatures. She has to cope with the normal 240V/50hz power supply as well as 120V/60hz power supply which is found in the USA, Canada and South America.

Selene Shipyard Experience

This all makes for the pretty complicated boat – and Selene Jet Tern step up to the challenge. They already have a lot of experience with the requirements in different areas of the world. They sell their boats primarily to the USA and Europe, but also to Australia and the Far East. There is a Selene somewhere in every corner of the globe. Destiny means all these skills have to be pulled together. As owners, we also have high demands in terms of the specifications – and we try to plan for every problem.

Lu-yang is the Selene Technical Manager and he works together with Ed to draw out the complex specifications for all the equipment on the boat. Lu-yang doesn’t speak English – and Ed doesn’t speak Chinese – but somehow the language of engineering is common to both! Together with our project manager, Candy, the plans begin to take shape.

Sourcing of Equipment

We have taken a very different approach to the build of Selene 6043 than other owners have done in the past. The normal process is to say what you want, Candy then gets a quote from her suppliers for the equipment and works out the labour costs. This is then given to the owner as an all-in price for the option required.

We have done this with some things – but with most of the major items Ed has taken a very active role and has taken over the procurement himself. We are very used to global procurement – a hangover from our previous lives. Ed prefers to talk to all the equipment manufacturers directly and select the very specific items which will be suit our needs. He’s also a pretty tough negotiator and for some reason I will never understand, always manages to get fantastic deals.

Complexity in design – simplicity in use

This decision has made the build process a lot more complex for us as owners and means that we are intricately involved in the design and build process. The complexity of the design is also a challenge for the Selene technical team! If there are later problems with the boat, we recognise that this means that we are taking responsibility for these systems which could absolve the factory! However, we concluded that we were prepared to take this risk as we are confident the end result will then be much better (and certainly much cheaper!).

We recently read a quote from a well-respected worldwide cruiser who owns a Nordhavn 52 “MV Dirona“. He says

“our approach is to accept complexity in design and installation in order to gain simplicity in use”

James Hamilton, MV Dirona

and that summarises how we view things. We want our boat to be our home and to run in a smart way to provide us with all the comforts we are used to.

When you plan to cruise around the world, the factory is a long way away. You don’t have access to a trusted marina or engineers to help you. In the middle of an ocean, you can’t just call up the workshop and get somebody out to fix your plumbing. To a certain extent, we have done the same thing on our sailboat – we need to be self-sufficient. We both have to understand how everything works and Ed has to be capable of repairing everything on board himself. I’m already planning how we are going to manage the spare parts and tools we need 🙂

Until next time …

And so we end this visit. It has been a very busy one – and my attention has not been 100% on the meetings. I have also needed to keep track on my email and all the things going on with the sale of the business. I’ve had one eye on the whiteboard and one eye on the PC …. so am going to need to do some catching up later on.

We rush back to the ferry terminal in Zhuhai to catch the last crossing back to Hong Kong. We then have hours to wait for the overnight flight back to London but there are worse airports to wait in than Hong Kong! Absolutely no idea where we are going when we land in London at 5am …. the business buyer is supposed to have arranged certain things but we have no news. Are we staying in the UK for briefings with our staff? Are we going to France to show him around our chalets? Or are we heading back to Sicily to close down Liberation? Or are we going home to Malta to keep plugging away? Absolutely no idea. We’ll find out hopefully when we land in London and will have to make whatever travel arrangements we need to from there!

Deck infusion

Deck and infusion techniques

So we have the lower hull – but that’s only half of the boat! The next step in the manufacturing process is to laminate the upper half. This will actually be the middle 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. This can be with traditional lamination or with infusion.

The hull is now sitting in the main factory hall on a cradle with steps for access. It’s starting to look like a boat! Obviously a lot of work to go to make all the other parts.

The process starts with a mould – a bit like making jelly 🙂 The gel coat is sprayed on the mould – which 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). This takes several weeks – then the structure is released from the mould and work can begin.

Each individual section of the boat has a mould. When they are made, they are stuck together and can be changed and re-modelled by hand as needed. Imperfections in the structure can easily be corrected and sections can even be completely changed.

Vacuum Infusion

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.

Deck in process of vacuum infusion

August Activities

August 2018 was about making the upper half of the boat. At the same time, the team were preparing the inside of the hull. The upper section was laminated by hand in the mould. The mould is upside down of course so its hard to work out what is what unless you know! The workers inside are spraying and laying down the layers of resin and glass fibre.

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 strenth of the structure.

Inside the hull, the miles of heavy duty electrical cable were being laid. The cables run through a network of conduits on each side of the boat. This will mean nothing is visible when the boat is finished. The bulk heads (interior main walls) were also being constructed. The bulkheads give the hull itself the strength – along with all the timber cross members. The lower floor was laid into the bow of the hull.

As the work continues, you can begin to see where the cabins will be. Destiny is starting to look like a boat!

Laying the Hull

As soon as the deposit was paid, Jet Tern started the build process of our new Selene straight away.  They prepared the mould for the classic Selene 60 Trawler and laminating began.  One of our key requirements has always been – no white boat!  However, this is a pretty expensive “red line” and there’s always a discussion about how best to get a coloured hull.  Do you lay it in the hull as the gel coat layer or do you paint it afterwards?  For a large boat, painting is considered the best option – and everyone recommends also that you don’t paint for the first couple of years.  It’s better to allow the FRP to settle and cure fully to avoid blistering.  Over time a gel coat layer dulls and is more difficult to maintain and repair the odd knocks and scratches that inevitably happen so painting is the way to go.

To paint or not to paint?

Jet Tern are not keen on painting at the factory.  Although an Awlgrip painted hull is one of the standard options, the huge sheds they used to do this were damaged in a storm so they are struggling to do this in the proper environment.  For this reason, as well as the general recommendation of delaying painting, they prefer clients to arrange this after delivery.  This was a bit disappointing for me.  The boat just doesn’t look the same in white but I didn’t have much choice and she would end up being blue eventually!

However, during the initial specification discussions it turned out that Jet Tern had some stock of a light grey gel coat which they could provide at no extra cost.  It’s a very light grey, so may not look much different to white in the end but we were pleased to accept this as a better interim solution.  Our current sailboat is grey – and I love that – so grey or blue are equally good in my opinion!

Laying the hull of our Selene 6043

So – they sprayed grey gel coat on the mould, followed by layers of fibre-glass and lamination.  Next, they applied a barrier coat to ensure the end quality of the gel coat and to avoid the fibre glass layers showing through.  Gradually, the lamination team built up the hull, layer by layer – and then they compress to give a thin but very strong FRP structure.  Inside, the reinforcement structure was built on top and laminated.  The end result is the strong hull that is needed for an ocean going trawler.  A “gestation” period of a few weeks followed completion of the construction and our baby lay in the mould curing – ready for the planned release when we visit in July.

An introduction to WeChat

During May and June, we got acquainted with WeChat – which seems to be how every Chinese person runs his life 🙂  It’s the Eastern equivalent of WhatsApp – and the whole factory runs using it!  Howard set up groups for the production team and the design team and we are now in touch directly with the guys on the shop floor.  Everyone has their mobile glued to them, much like we see in the West – only I think they are even more obsessed with their phones than we are.

The guys who were actually building our new Selene sent us photos almost every day throughout the initial hull laying process so we could see it come to life in real time.  We were also exchanging ideas, pictures and web sites with the design team at the same time to get together the initial specification for the interior and equipment.  Of course, we both now have yet another social media app to follow – but it’s great to wake up each morning and see the boat developing while we slept!

Looking forward to the trip to China and seeing our new Selene for real!