Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Skeg, keel and all

I spent the last two weeks mostly doing things that are neither glamorous nor spectacular, namely trimming strakes and filling seams with filleting compound (epoxy and wood flour).  Then in the last few days I put on the skeg, keel and bow trim.

The skeg (on the right) was cut and laminated from two layers of 3/8 inch (9mm) plywood.  It was screwed and glued on with some difficulty (and with my wife's help), since I had to duck under the boat and drive the screws from below through the keelson.  Once that was done, I reinforced the bottom of the skeg with a 3/4 x 1 inch length of solid oak. 

Then I screwed and glued a strip of 3/4 x 1 inch oak along the rest of the boat's bottom.  It's a little small to call it a keel, but really that's what it is--a sacrifice keel to be precise.  It's there mainly to stop rocks and other stuff damaging the bottom.

Then I put on the bow trim.  As I said before, the bow was angular, so I used the trim to give it a nice rounded shape (left).  This I achieved with two 3/4 x 1 inch pieces and one 3/4 x 2 inch piece.  The latter was the one that was cut and sanded to achieve the necessary curvature.  Skeg reinforcement, sacrifice keel and bow trim were all secured with bronze screws from the outside.  They are recessed and the holes will be filled along with all other holes, gaps and blemishes.  Throughout I was once again reminded of how hard oak is, with several screws inevitably getting stripped or broken.

The final photo shows the entire boat.  It is ready for recessing the last nails (I have done over half), filling all holes etc., sanding, two coats of epoxy and two coats of paint.  I chose the most standard paint I could find (which happens to be one of the cheapest too): Rustoleum topside boat enamel, navy blue high gloss for the bottom, white semi-gloss for the fore and side decks.  The inside will stay natural with spar varnish.  I am not using bottom paint, since the boat will be trailered and does not need protection against gunk growing on it while sitting in the water.  The colors were chosen to reflect the colors of the Greek flag, and they are (along with the brand of paint) standard and ubiquitous: fancier paint is less likely to be around when I need to repaint the boat.

So there we have it.  Next time the plywood and oak will look smooth and uniform in their gleaming epoxied form,  and after that shiny and positively naval in blue paint.

Until then, keep checking 176inches.


Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Back from Greece

The last two weeks I was in Greece, mostly on vacation but taking care of some family business too (as usual).  So I didn't do any work on the boat but heck, I needed the vacation and the inspiration to continue, since the plan is to take the boat there when I retire (eventually).  It will obviously cost far more to ship it than to build it, but if it's part of a half-containerload of stuff we may be moving anyway I'll be able to justify it.

There was plenty of inspiration from the beautiful beaches and the sea, which ranges in color from the purest, palest aquamarine to the deepest indigo, depending on depth, weather and what's on the bottom.  When crossing on the ferry I am always reminded of Homer's frequent reference to sailing "on the wine-dark sea" (epi oinopa ponton).  This is very appropriate since the island has had a reputation since early antiquity for superlative wine.  The house we built for our retirement sits on what used to be a vineyard for three generations, up to my grandfather who passed away in 1963.  He was a Greek Orthodox priest and my strongest memories of him are olfactory: a mixture of incense, sweat (from toiling in the fields in a black cassock) and ouzo, which he distilled in copious quantities and partook of in moderation.

While swimming at a different beach every day, I was always aware of wind and wave and made mental calculations of  what it would be like to hop from beach to beach.  The island's circumference is about 60 miles, with dozens of beaches, many more-or-less inaccessible by car.  However, I didn't get much inspiration from other sailors.  I am in my fifties but I do not remember seeing a single traditional boat with sails when I was young: motors had already eclipsed sails.  The occasional sailing yacht makes an appearance but none seem to be from the island.  What I did see was perhaps the sorriest spectacle of lubberly incompetence I had ever seen, in what is arguably the most stunning cove and beach on the island.  A group of tourists (from some Balkan country by the sound of them) had rented a sweet little catamaran built on inflatable pontoons.  Using a large outboard they moved it from its mooring, through the swimmers (I almost called the police for the brazen breach of safety) to the beach.  There they proceeded to hoist the mainsail (a tall, narrow, fully-battened Mylar affair) and unfurl the jib.  Then they used the outboard to move part way up the cove, cut the motor and started sailing straight for the rocks.  Clearly they had no more than a vague idea about how to tack, and I suspect that they hadn't even deployed the very small centerboard.  They brought the jib over but did not put the helm to the lee, or the helm did not obey.  In the nick of time they fired up the outboard and managed to exit the bay.  Then they spent the next hour or two making approximately 20 feet of headway, until they ran out of patience and motored back in.  All in all, a waste of boat, wind, water and beautiful scenery.

Hopefully my boat will do better in that setting.  BTW, I thought of calling it Aerie (every one of the four vowels is pronounced separately in Greek), after a Homeric name for the island which means airy or breezy.  I may be mixing Ionic and Attic dialects of ancient Greek in spelling it thus, but I like the sound, look and concept of the name.  We'll see.

This coming weekend I'll be resuming my work, so keep checking 176inches.