Monday, July 30, 2012

Fixing the leak

After a first effort to fix the leak and a trip to Europe, I had a second launch and sailing trial.  There were no big rigging errors but rigging the boat still took a while.  The wind was quite a bit slower and the sailing less exciting.  The leak too was slower and the hand-operated bilge pump kept things under control, but the boat still took in water.  Three weeks ago I launched the boat again in the local reservoir, without rigging and with the forward floorboards removed.  The leak was slow enough to make it difficult to diagnose, but I had my suspicions.  The water mostly came in on the port side, and that of course is where I built the ballast box.  One end of the bolt on which the CB pivots lay inside the ballast box, and I came to suspect that I forgot to ensure that it does not leak.  My previous boat has a significantly shallower draft and the bolt is almost always above the waterline, which probably made me too complacent in this case.  My fear was that most of the leak was coming right through the ballast box, soaking the lead shot every time the boat got in the water.   This would inevitably cause corrosion. 
So for many reasons it couldn’t be helped: I had to remove the middle floor plank covering the ballast box and check things out.  So I did, sitting inside the boat while it sat on its trailer.  I saw that the lead shot was showing signs of corrosion already.  I removed the lead and poured water into the ballast box as a test.  I discovered that both forward and aft compartments had gaps along the seam where the side wall met the keel batten, which leaked water in and out of the ballast box, but that did not explain why the boat itself leaked: no water dripped out of the bilge onto the floor.  Then I tested my hunch that the leak may be through the CB pivot bolt hole.  Sure enough, as long as the water level inside the compartment was above the bolt, water trickled out onto the floor in a good-sized stream.  Gotcha!
To remove the bolt I had to cut up and remove the port side wall of the forward ballast compartment.  It was a lot of work, but it could have been worse: the fit was so poor that it wasn’t even glued to the keel batten.  I took out the CB pivot bolt and the CB itself and cut a new side wall.  The next day I epoxied the side wall and puttied several seams that allow water to spread along the bilges.  The third day I replaced the CB and its bolt, making sure I used rubber gaskets and caulk on both sides, plus I glued and nailed the side wall and gave it a second coat of epoxy.  The fourth day I re-caulked the inside of both ballast compartments.   The caulk I used took a couple of days to dry, and then I tested the compartments again for water tightness.  Alas, the bolt hole still leaked.  I used more epoxy compound between the bolt and the CB case, then tightened the bolt and tested again.  By now the leak had been reduced to a slow drip.  After another dollop of caulk (silicone this time) had dried it was time to test again.  The leak had slowed even more, but was still there.  Back to the drawing board. 
So I removed the bolt again (through a hole I had to drill in the compartment side wall) and found the continuing problem.  The pivot bolt goes through cedar, a soft wood that deforms when compressed, plus the epoxy compound I had used had not hardened properly.  So I glued a square piece of marine plywood an each side, slathering plenty of epoxy compound to be on the safe side, and used a longer bolt with neoprene-on-steel washers.  Then I plugged the hole in the side wall with a cork, and tested for leaks again.  Success, at least for now.  Then it was time to finish the job.  After letting the compartments dry, I coated the lead shot with mineral oil to prevent further corrosion and packed it in double layers of Ziploc bags.  Then I replaced the middle plank.  With a bit of luck all this will be sufficient to stop the leak and keep the lead dry. 
This is what happens when you don’t do things right in the first place.  I had boasted that the only thing I had to do over was the oar blades.  Can’t say that any more.  But without mistakes you can’t experiment or learn.  The expense was annoying, because somehow I had timed my purchases so that there was almost nothing left over: I needed disposable gloves, epoxy, wood flour, epoxy measuring cups, brushes and lumber.  These plus a new bolt and washers and Ziploc bags added up to just over $70, including exorbitant shipping fees.  I’ll put that and the 20 hours of work (spread over two brutally hot weeks in a garage with no A/C) down to experience. 
If I was starting from scratch knowing what I know now, I might have foregone the ballast box completely and simply strapped lead bars or ingots to the keel batten, after testing the boat for leaks.  I would have also slathered more epoxy between CB trunk, keel batten and bottom and filleted more carefully every seam that could possibly enable a leak.  But I feel that the two-week-long repeated diagnostic, repair and retrofit process taught me a lot and, hopefully, was successful.  So, after returning from my daughter’s wedding in San Francisco followed by a trip to Paris and Belgium, I expect to relaunch Aerie and, knock on wood, not have to worry and bail any more.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

The reckoning

In the past week I filled the CB trunk-garboard joint, where I am certain the leak originates, with epoxy compound, followed by caulk.  I also caulked the seams on the inside bottom, as a second line of defense and to make the buoyancy compartments more watertight.  Today I tested for leaks by pouring water on the inside.  Absolutely none dripped through the bottom, so I expect we are good to go.  I did some more caulking to stop water from moving across the frames.  Then I painted the tips of the mizzen mast, yard and sprit blue to avoid rigging mistakes.  I will have no trouble remembering that: Blue at the Mizzen is the 20th and last novel in Patrick O'Brian's Master and Commander series of nautical novels.  Finally, I installed clips to hold the oars against the bench seat risers and the boathook under the starboard side deck.  Having received title and registration for the boat, and having put tools and supplies away and tidied up the garage, I am basically done building and fussing.  There will be more of the fussing bit but the building part is done.

So (big exhale!), I can now conclude the boatbuilding portion of this blog with the boat's vital statistics and the cost of building.  I will be posting occasionally about sailing experiences.

  • LOA (length overall):                              14’ 10.5” (4.53 m)
  • L@DWL (length at design waterline):      14’ 2” (4.32 m)
  • Beam:                                                     6' (1.83 m)
  • Displacement @ DWL:                           880 lbs (400 kg)
  • Freeboard:                                              20” (0.51 m)
  • Draft:                                                      6.5” (0.17 m); 31” (0.79 m) with centerboard down
  • Sail area:                                                 110 sf (10.2 m2)
  • Hull weight:                                             480 lbs (218 kg)

And here is the cost (in US$).  Some, like consumables, are estimates, and I may have forgotten some items.  It ended up being about $300 more than I expected.  The cost includes anchor but not boathook, bilge pump, registration and of course the trailer.  Also does not include a few tools, such as a couple of clamps, nail-setting punches and an angle grinder, that I can use for other projects.

Plywood (3 sheets 3/8", 8 sheets 1/4") and oak boards
Cedar boards
Other lumber (spars, oars, miscellaneous)
Epoxy (3.5 gallons)
Bronze nails and screws
Hardware (oarlocks and sockets, gudgeons & pintles)
Sailmaking supplies
Chandlery (blocks, cleats, line, fasteners)
Paint and varnish
Lead ballast
Consumables (brushes, gloves, mixing stuff, sandpaper)


Saturday, May 19, 2012

Launch day!

Today I launched the boat and sailed her, after a few adventures.  Last Tuesday I had her inspected by the state Department of Watercraft, in a parking lot of a grocery store in a university town 25 miles away (long story).  The officer had no issues and was very complimentary.  So, while the title and registration are in process, and armed with a temporary permit, I asked my friend Michael, who is from coastal Maryland and an experienced sailor, to come out with me today.  It was just as well, because as it turns out the boat is very difficult to rig and get under way.  Things will get easier with practice, but there's no going around that it is a two-person boat.  We were extremely busy (and I was stressed out), and we had no friends in another boat, so we only took a few photos, and many of them were bad.  So only two this time, I'm afraid.

So we drove to Marblehead and launched at Dempsey's State Fishing Area, a nice place with a breakwater/ fishing pier and four launch ramps with floating docks.  I had a printed checklist, and all went well at first: I had stepped the main mast (near the bow) and roved the main halyard and snotter, put on the yard toggle etc.  Lauch was easy and the boat proved to be very stable, with each person being able to step in with little rocking. She also sat in the water exactly where I expected her to.

Then we rowed out into the bay and I tried to rig the mizzen.  I realized something was wrong: the yard lay backwards.  Turns out that I had used the mizzen sail and sprit on the main and vice versa.  Because the main mast is very hard to step while in the boat, there was no avoiding it: we had to row back in and fix things.  Unfortunately we had drifted some way away, plus there was a real traffic jam at the ramps, even with four of them.  Well, eventually we docked her, unstepped the masts, switched the halyards, sails and all, and started again.  The breeze by now was a good 15 to 18 mph.  Long story short, we got under way, and the crazy thing can really fly!  She seemed to prefer a beam reach, and to dislike sailing close to the wind.  Here I am looking like a fat slob (I have lost 16 pounds and I'm in good shape, honest!), sunburned, and worried.  But I'm OK, and you can see the mechanics of the mizzen mast and sail.

Then we tried to tack.  Ready about, helm's-a-lee, then nothing.  It flat-out stalled!  We tried again, nothing again.  At some point we had to wear (turn 270 degrees through a gybe) to go where we wanted.  By then my heart sank when I noticed water sloshing under the floorboards!  So Aerie clearly had sprung a leak.  A slow leak to be sure, but I had no bilge pump, courtesy of Wal-Mart which falsely claimed they had one, and then it was too late to find it elsewhere.  And with the water under the boards I couldn't use the bailer either.

So a leaky boat that could not tack.  Great.  I was getting very discouraged.  Fortunately Michael (here he is, looking unflappable, with a good view of the mainsail) had (and always has) a positive attitude.  Poor guy, he had never had to deal with such complicated traditional rigging, but I couldn't have done it without him.  Then I tried to tighten the tack downhauls, which had gotten loose.  Bingo!  The boat tacked fine and sailed pretty close to the wind.  I was too preoccupied to actually measure angles but the day was saved.  We were on the water for about three hours and we didn't take on all that much water, but we called it a day since we were exhausted anyway.  After a nice picnic in the shade we came home. 

To summarize:
  • Aerie  has a leak.  After retrieval I found it, and it's through the joint between CB trunk and garboard.  Nothing that some epoxy compound and caulk won't fix.  Unfortunately the supposedly watertight buoyancy compartments also took on some water, so I have to dry them out and seal them with caulk this time.  Clearly epoxy compound leaves invisible holes for water to come through.
  • Rigging her is a pain, and a lot of things can go wrong.  It takes two people to do it.  On a calm day she could be rigged at the dock, but since the mizzen partner is also the rowing thwart,  I would need a motor, which I dont intend to get (yet, anyway).
  • She rows very well, but the high sides and nine-foot oars make her not a real row boat.
  • She is very dry (well, except the leak anyway), weatherly, stable and stiff.  She has little leeway, and a slight weather helm, which is exactly how I designed her.
  • She can really fly on a moderate breeze.
  • The tacks, and especially the mizzen one, need to be tightly hauled down.  I had been warned many times in books and web articles, but I didn't realize that the consequence would be inability to tack.
  • I need to clearly label yards and sprits so I don't repeat the stupid mistakes of today.
  • Finally, the masts, slender and bendy as they are, performed fine and showed no appreciable bending in the wind.  This could change in a much stronger wind, but for now I am very pleased.
All in all, it could have gone better, but when does it ever, really, on the first shakedown cruise?

P.S.  Just as were coming in, a man on a big, scary looking black twin-hull boat ordered us to turn ours into the wind and wait.  It was a Dept. of Watercraft boat with two (armed, judging by the guy who inspected Aerie on Tuesday) officers on board, who had noticed we didn't have registration numbers and tags on the hull.  I showed them the temporary tag and they were all polite and everything and congratulated me on how great my Aerie looked.  I actually appreciated that they are there, earning their salaries and paying attention, perhaps catching a dangerous drunk or two.  In South Carolina they were nowhere to be seen.

Monday, May 14, 2012

The running rigging

The boat is now fully rigged!  Here it is (first photo) , and it bears a strong resemblance to the hand drawn sketch I included back on November 24, only it looks much better.  Rigging it for the first time was a complicated process with lots of errors in the sequence and fouled lines.  I will have to practice and write a checklist, then practice again so I can get it to be second nature.

This long post is about the running rigging, the edifice of line (rope), blocks (pulleys), cleats (rope tie-offs or stops) and snaphooks that keeps everything in controlled working order.  The boat's masts are unstayed, so there is no standing rigging at all.  With the boat's rig being entirely home-designed and -made, as well as so old-timey as to be almost unknown in sailing circles, it remains to be seen how it works.  Apologies to all non-sailors for the avalanche of technical terms.  I try to explain as I go but it's quite the task.

I used six types of line for the running rigging and other uses.  Low-stretch 5mm Dyneema for the halyards, 1/4 inch line (braided over core) for the sheets, tack downhaulsand snotters (this one a cheaper line left over from my previous efforts), 3/16 inch braid for the sail lacing and the centerboard (CB) and rudder lines, 1/4 inch twisted cord for painter and yard toggles, and 3/16 inch clothesline (!) for the reefing lines.  I will also need at least 75 ft of line for the anchor, but I'll buy that later.

I used a total of 12 blocks.  Most of them are simple loop ones; there are four pivoting ones for the four sheet ends, two larger ones for the halyards, and one cheek block.  The halyard blocks at the masttops are tied with double loops of line and fishermen's knots to wooden eyepads that I fixed there with screws and glue (second photo--sorry, don't know how to rotate it).  I also used four horn cleats (halyards and tack downhauls), six clam cleats (sheets and snotters) and two v-jam cleats (CB and rudder).

Lacing and halyards

First thing I did was lace the sails to their yards.  First the throat and peak (the fore and aft top corners) were tied to the ends of the yards through holes I had drilled.  Then I laced the head of the sail to the yard through the grommets.  It was my opportunity to practice knots.  Never having been a scout (my dad didn't let me, saying they were a fascist organization, which was true in Greece in his boyhood), I have learnt knotting solely for my sailing needs, and I am not too good at it.  Still, I soldiered on while connected to the Internet for quick references.  I used fishermen's and reef knots for peak and throat respectively, plus a row of marline hitches with a running bowline at one end and a double clove hitch at the other for the lacing.  Time will tell how well I did.

Halyards serve to haul the sail and its yard (hence the name) up the mast.  I had planned to attach them to the yards using Jim Michalak's "loose noose" method, in which the halyard wraps around both the yard and the mast and is clipped to itself, with roller beads to ease the friction.  But then I remembered that the yard has to clear the snotter block on the mast, so I tried two new things.  First I used the Goat Island Skiff method of running the halyard through a block (which I lashed to the yard) and around the mast.  That proved unbalanced, and I was short of blocks anyway, so I went back to my original idea of simply tying the halyard to the yard with a double constrictor hitch, and securing the yard to the mast with a toggle.  The toggles for both yards required a total of eight of my old friends, the eyesplices.  More to do but marlinspike work is a good way to pass a quiet evening (thanks to David Nichols' book for both the idea of toggles and for teaching me the skills).  Also they required two wooden eyepads per yard, as opposed to one for the loose noose.  Here is a photo of the finished product (third photo).  Clean, traditional and practical.    The main halyard goes through a cheek block and is cleated close to the forward splashguard.  However, pulling on the halyard twists the mast in its partner and loosens the halyard.  I have to find a way of stopping that.  The mizzen halyard does not have that problem, since it is cleated directly on the mast. 

Control lines

The snotter (which holds up the sprit boom and controls its tension) is attached to the sprit by threading it through a drilled hole and secured with a knot.  It is then threaded through a block attached to the mast with a steel eyestrap, then cleated off; there is an extra block on the foredeck to change the direction of the mainsail snotter (fourth photo). The sprit boom (which bisects the lower sail and holds it taut) is clipped to the clew (the aft lower corner of the sail) with a snaphook, which is secured to the sprit's aft end with an eyescrew.  When reefing, this clew snaphook has to be clipped to the cunnningham (uh, I give up).  If this proves too difficult, I can always use a line through the cunningham to do the same thing.  It took several fittings to find the right length for the sprits, especially so they don't foul each other when they go about: the clearance of the mainsail's clew from the mizzen snotter is smaller than I had designed.

The tack downhaul line, which secures the forward lower corner of the sail to the hull, is attached to the foredeck (mainsail) or to the underside of the mast partner/thwart (mizzen).  It goes through a snaphook clipped to the tack, giving a 2:1 purchase, and is cleated off.  When reefing, the downhaul needs to be clipped to the new (reef) tack.  Again, if needed, I will devise some sort of line system to avoid having to unclip and clip again.

The sheets (despite their name, they are ropes that control the sail's orientation) are double-ended.  They go through a block near the aft end of each sprit, tied through a wooden eyepad, then a block and a cleat on each side.  The main sprit is actually upside down in the photo--I had threaded the snotter the wrong way, but I fixed it since.  Mainsheet blocks and cleats are fixed to the rowing thwart; the blocks are secured to little wooden extensions glued to the thwart's underside (fifth photo).  The influence of B&B Yacht Designs is gratefully acknowledged.  I needed to use bullseyes for the mizzen sheet to change direction so I could cleat off the ends on the splashguards (last photo).

The CB and the rudder blade are kept in the down position with bungee cord, and are lifted with lines that are cleated off.  The CB line has a block to change its direction so I can cleat it at the aft end of the CB trunk.


In all I also had to use eight wooden eyepads, seven stainless steel eyestraps, and a lot of screws: 46 just for these rigging items, plus 18 for the inspection ports and 36 for the hinges.  The hull carpentry of course required hundreds of bronze wood screws and two lbs of bronze ringshank nails.  Not to mention 3.5 gallons of epoxy, three quarts of paint and two quarts of spar varnish.  Or all the plywood and lumber, and the lead shot for ballast.  I haven't calculated the total cost yet, since there were so many mail-order suppliers and trips, large and small, to the hardware store.  But there will be a final reckoning, which I will publish soon, along with the boat's vital statistics.

Monday, April 30, 2012

Tying up loose ends (literally)

Before I go on, I'd like to add another photo of the finished hull, this one taken from the side.  In the last post, the wide-angle camera view made the proportions look deceptive.  This should give a better idea of the boat's freeboard and the relative positions of the two masts.  I find the rake of the masts a little, well, rakish.

I made some good progress in the past week.  A whole bunch of little things still needed to be checked off before finishing the rigging.  I varnished the floor with non-slip grit mixed in, screwed the middle plank over the ballast box, and laid the floor in its place.  I fitted the sliding door on the main bulkhead and glued and screwed its lower rail.  You can see the finished interior in the second photo--looks nice and roomy, does it not?  I put the brass hinges on the three flip-up locker doors, but I haven't installed closures yet.  I have had a hard time deciding how to keep these doors closed (in case of rough weather or a capsize)--the setup isn't right for latches, so I considered using bungee cords and hooks, but I decided they wouldn't look right.  I am thinking of using little pivoting flat blocks of wood, but I don't feel there is much hurry for them.  I also installed a watertight inspection port on the foredeck, and two in the seat risers for access into the buoyancy compartments.  Finally I touched up the hull with blue paint up to the rubrails--I had left an irregular patch unpainted so I could glue the rubrails on.

I also sanded the masts, yards and oars and gave all two coats of varnish  Then I finished both sails--I had a few reef patches to sew on, batten pockets to sew closed, and a whole lot of loose thread ends to tie and trim.  In the coming week I will start on the rigging.  First I will lace the sails onto their yards, then I will attach the halyards to the yards, then install blocks and cleats for halyards, sheets and snotters, then set up the tack downhaul systems, the clew snaphooks, and finally the lines for pulling up the centerboard and rudder.  The end is in sight!

Sunday, April 22, 2012

All but the running rigging (almost)

In the last few days, I started by filling the ballast box with lead shot, 50 lbs of it.  I used silicone caulk and styrofoam to seal it into its two compartments (see first photo: forward compartment after the styrofoam went on, aft one before).  I will be screwing the middle floor plank on top.  Then I finished assembling the floor.  It was quite tricky because I had to do everything upside-down, since the cross pieces were glued and screwed on the underside.  Of course in a home-designed and hand-built boat nothing is exactly square and even, so I had to do some sanding, trimming and dealing with inevitable small mistakes after assembly to make all three parts of the floor fit properly.  In doing some of that I managed to cut my left thumb with a detail saw that slipped; not deep enough to need stitches but it took some work to stop the bleeding.  It was the first (and hopefully last) mishap I've had that needed as much as a band-aid.  Anyway, a good reminder to always be careful.  I also drilled ten 7/8-inch holes in all in the floor assemblies, two (one port, one starboard) for each space between frames.  The holes are for pumping the bilges dry, extra ventilation and for my fingers so I can pull the floor up as needed.

Then I reinforced the bow from the inside with two strips of 3/8-inch plywood, and drilled the holes for the U-bolt that will hook to the winch. Then I sanded tops and insides and laid on the first coat of varnish, followed by the second.  Then I gave three coats of white paint to the fore- and side-decks.

I also gave the floor assemblies a coat of epoxy.  They will be varnished next week, mixed with some non-skid grit additive to reduce slipping.  This plus a few other things (like touching up the blue hull paint below the rubrails, locker door closures, installing the three inspection ports with white caulk and screws, and screwing on the middle plank) account for the "almost" part in the title.

Then, on Sunday, on the first anniversary of beginning the physical boat building (the planning of course went on a lot longer than that), I and some friends transferred the boat from its cradle to its new trailer.  Thanks, Gregg, Mark and Ralph! (second photo). 

The last two photos are of the (almost) finished boat (minus the running rigging).   Isn't Aerie a beauty?

In the next 2-3 of weeks I hope to have everything ready for launch, barring any unforeseen issues.  So keep checking 176inches.


Sunday, April 15, 2012

Getting close to the finish

 In the past week I first carved the letters of the boat's name on the rubrails near the bow, in English (starboard) and Greek (port).  I used a borrowed gouge and sharpening strop and my own rubber mallet to do so, and it was tricky but ended up being good enough (first photo).  I then nailed and glued the decorative top on the centerboard trunk.  I sanded all tops and insides again and put on a first coat of epoxy on those plus locker doors, oars and masts.  Then I filleted the keelson-to-garboard joints on the inside bottom and cut out a scoop on the transom to fit an oar to use as a scull.  I had to stain the transom reinforcements (which are aspen and very pale) to match the plywood, and used epoxy tinted dark with Minwax stain.   Finally, I drilled the holes for the oarlock sockets with a 7/8 inch spade bit, glued on some reinforcements for the oarlock boards from under the side decks and drove a couple of screws through from below on each one for good measure.

I then sanded the first coat of epoxy and laid on a second one.  The weather has been quite cold, so to encourage curing I kept  the garage door closed and gave the garage the occasional blast from a space heater; the combination made the fumes pretty bad, and I was very glad to be wearing the respirator.  The boat is looking beautiful already!  [second photo]  When the decking is painted and the insides varnished it will look even better.  After that I am going to highlight the carved lettering with gold paint (nail polish actually).

Then I drove to Marblehead on Lake Erie and bought a new trailer from Islander Marine.  The winch strap hook needs something to attach to.  I planned to reinforce the bow from the inside and put a long welded eyebolt through the bow, and the inspection port hole makes that possible, one more reason I'm happy I cut it.  Unfortunately he winch hook is too thick for the eyebolt I bought, so I exchanged the eyebolt for a U-bolt.  I need to drill two holes but should be even stronger.

In the coming week I plan to varnish the unpainted surfaces, paint the decking white, install the inspection ports, put in the ballast and assemble and coat the flooring.  So hopefully the boat (except the rigging) will be ready, almost to the day, a year after I started.

Then it will be time to set up the rigging, with blocks, cleats, wooden eyepads, metal eyestraps, bullseyes, snaphooks, a minimum of 64 screws, four kinds of line (sail lacing, halyards, sheets, snotters, tack downhauls, painter, anchor cable, miscellaneous loops, etc., etc.), and other fun stuff like knots and eyesplices.  I already bought all the screws I need (it was tricky and I may have forgot something) and a piece of closet rod for the mizzen sprit (I already have one ready for the main) which needs epoxy and varnish.  Also I will put leathers and rope buttons on the oars.  At the very end I will also make a boarding ladder from rope and oak boards.  I think I will tie the top end in a single loop to hang from an eyebolt or cleat.  So actual sailing may not happen for a while, but I hope soon at least to launch the boat, row and scull it, check for stability etc.


Saturday, April 7, 2012

More miscellaneous progress

This past week I first finished filleting all the seams along the bottom and the splashguards.  I then installed the mizzen mast step and assembled the ballast box with filleting compound, screws and nails.  You can see the box in the first photo.  It has two narrow compartments, and I will pour 25 lbs (11.4 kg) of lead shot into each, on a bed of caulk, after they get two coats of epoxy.  The ballast box will be covered by the middle floor plank.  In the meantime, the lead arrived by mail.  I wonder how the postman avoided getting a hernia or back trouble: 50 lbs in a small parcel was deceptively heavy and very awkward to lift.

I then measured and cut the cedar floor planks and tried them on for size (see second photo--they are not properly spaced or assembled yet).  The 30-inch-wide cockpit can be covered pretty exactly by eight 1x4 planks (3 1/2 inches wide in actual dimensions).  The part of the floor aft of the centerboard trunk and thwart will have eight such planks.  The forward part, however, has a middle plank covering the ballast box, so there are three planks on either side of that plus one plank ripped in two lengthwise for the edges.  On the starboard side I had to cut a notch into one plank to accommodate the centerboard trunk.  I also cut pieces that will connect the planks on their undersides from 1x2 lumber.

Then I mixed up a batch of filleting compound and did several things.  I put in floor supports on both sides of frame 5 (under the thwart) and on frame 7 (which is the bulkhead forming the aft seat and storage compartment).  The floor support on the main forward bulkhead (frame 2) is on already.  So now there are supports for the fore and aft ends of the two parts of the flooring.

I also glued on the boards for the oarlocks, which are centered 10 inches (254 mm) aft of the rowing thwart.  I widened the reinforcement along the top of the transom by adding another board.  Finally, I finished some details on the rudder and tiller and cut the decorative plywood top for the centerboard trunk.  I am now ready for the first coat of epoxy on the insides and decking.


Monday, April 2, 2012

Slow progress

Last weekend I sanded the masts smooth and tried them on again.  They really look good, but it's clear if you look closely that they were not precision-cut on a lathe.  I prefer the hand-hewn look anyway, it has my handiwork all over it.  I will need to sand them with fine grit and epoxy them, but I will do that as part of a big coating push later.  I also cut the hole for the inspection port in the foredeck (next to the mast hole) and began sanding the decking. 

In preparation for further work on the insides of the boat, and for selling the old trailer, I moved the boat to a cradle I built out of the original building frame long boards and some more lumber.  I won't have to stand on a stepladder and lean over a precariously balanced trailer to do what I need to do any more.  Now that the weather is warmer (although not as warm as we had in the middle of March) I have moved all the tools and supplies back into the garage.

This weekend I cut the lumber pieces for the ballast box, drilled a hole in the centerboard for the pivot bolt, tried it in (it fits perfectly as per plan) and test-fitted all the ballast box pieces and the mizzen mast step, which sits at the aft end of the ballast box against frame 5.  I measured the size of the box and estimated how much lead shot it could take.  Turns out it's under 75 pounds.  Given the weight of the boat without the ballast, I decided that 50 pounds of lead shot is a good amount: it will help make the boat more stable without adding unnecessary weight.  And lead is not cheap anyway.

I also gave every part of the boat on the top and insides a good sanding, vacuumed up all the dust and shavings, and started putting in the epoxy fillets along the inside bottom seams and where the splashguards meet the fore and side decks.  In the coming week I hope to finish all that, build the ballast box, and perhaps carve the boat's name on the rubrails.  Then, after a final light sanding, I will be ready to put on the epoxy coats, and finally the paint and varnish.  It's good to be able to see the light at the end of the tunnel!


Saturday, March 17, 2012

Masts planed and fitted

This weekend I planed the masts to a round shape and tapered their ends.  As expected there was a huge amount of shavings.  The masts will need sanding, then two coats of epoxy and at least two of spar varnish.  But before that I had to try to step them to check everything fits.  It took a little extra planing but they both fit well.  I couldn't resist taking photos.  I can now imagine the boat completely rigged, flying in the breeze!

I had said I was hoping to launch the boat on the first warm, sunny day of the season.  Given the crazy weather we've been having, we've already had many warm, sunny days (it is 84 degrees Fahrenheit, or 29 Celsius, as I type, in March, in Northwest Ohio!).  But I still hope to lauch the boat by late April or early May, no more than a couple of weeks past the first anniversary of the first cut.  Wish me luck!


Sunday, March 11, 2012

More mast and sail work

Two weekends ago I sanded the oars down to a ready-to-epoxy stage.  Then I finished the scarfing of the mast boards (or so I thought) by doing a lot of sanding.  Then I test-fitted the boards together.  Amazingly, they fit to the right length (except for an extra inch of length on one layer), but some of the scarf joint surfaces needed to be sanded further for a better fit.  I did some of the gluing at one end of each mast (first photo, left side).  I also ordered as much chandlery as I could think of from Annapolis Performance Sailing and Jamestown Distributors.

Last weekend I re-sanded the remaining scarf surfaces, then I finished gluing up the main mast blank (first photo, right side).  While the epoxy was curing, I bought the lumber for the boat's floor (mainly cedar 1X4 boards), and filled the recessed nail holes in the boat's top and insides with putty.  The next day I glued up the mizzen mast.

This week I finished the sails by putting in battens (photo) and reef points.  Finally, I started on the shaping of the masts.  This involved first trimming the laminated piece from 2½ X 2¼ inches to 2¼ square, then cutting the corners off at a 45-degree angle for an octagonal cross-section (last photo).  The rest will be achieved by rounding the eight corners with drawknife and hand plane, then sanding.  There will be tapering from mast partner to mast step, plus a little at the top.  I will have to do all this to both masts before they can be epoxied and varnished. 

The next steps will be:
  1. Cut a hole for an inspection port next to the main mast hole, for access to the space between bow and first bulkhead.   This compartment may have some water leaking into it through the edges of the mast hole.  Rather than build an elaborate mast tube with drainage system, I will simply dry the compartment as needed.  It may also provide useful storage.
  2. Sand the benches and the decking.
  3. Fillet all the joints along the bottom (seat risers and  bulkheads with bottom, and seat risers with frames).  This will improve strength and the water-tightness of compartments.
  4. Build the ballast box.
  5. Put in oarlock sockets and carve the boat's name on the rubrails (in English and Greek).
  6. Lay two coats of epoxy on insides and decks. 
  7. Fill the ballast box with lead shot.
  8. Put in the floor and epoxy the planks.
  9. Finish everything with paint or varnish.
  10. Set up the rigging.
Wow, that's still a lot of work.  In case you are wondering why I often list my next steps, it's mainly for my own benefit: I need to work out the sequence because I designed the boat and the rigging and everything else and I am figuring out stuff as I go along.

So keep checking 176inches as the saga continues.


Sunday, February 19, 2012

More planing and scarfing

The past two weeks I have been working on the oars and I started on the masts.  Last week I cut new oar blade pieces and glued together new oar blades.  I used filleting compound (epoxy and wood flour) to glue and reinforce the joints, and put the pieces over a heat register to make sure the epoxy cured properly (first photo).  Once that was done, I did a lot of planing to taper the oar blades to the right profile and rounded their corners (second photo).  The oars were a little heavy, so I decided to round the shafts all the way from where they meet the oarlocks (where the so-called button will go) to the blade.  I did it with drawknife and plane, using only my eyes and sense of touch for guides, and created an unbelievable amount of wood shavings (my wife said, "too bad we don't have a hamster").   By now the rough carving of the oars is done and they will need much sanding before they are epoxied and varnished.  Hours of physical labor went into it but there is something very satisfying about this type of woodwork.

Today I started on cutting the boards for the masts and creating the scarf joints.  I thought I would try to cut the joints rather than spend hours sanding the joints away.  First I clamped together six boards, staggered by 4 inches each, and clamped on a piece of leftover poplar 1X2 as a cutting guide for the circular saw (third photo).  It worked, sort of: keeping the blade absolutely vertical is not easy.  So now I have to finish the job by sanding the scarfs flat (last photo), but at least 80% of the material is already removed.

Then I cut two of the remaining boards in two, using the same kind of diagonal scarf cut.  I got two pieces of approximately 48 inches and two of just over 43.  I got three pieces of 24 inches out of the ninth board, and a 19 inch piece from a bit left over from the my original, abortive oar blade work.  Once again the scarf joints were not cut 100% right and they need sanding to the final shape.  After that, the boards will be arranged in the following way:

Main mast: top layer eight feet plus four feet; middle layer two feet plus eight feet plus two feet; bottom layer four feet plus eight feet.  This will create a mast of about 12 feet, with scarf joints at different places to avoid weak points.

Mizzen mast:  top layer eight feet plus 43 inches; middle layer two feet plus eight feet plus 19 inches; bottom layer 43 inches plus eight feet.  This will create a mast of about 139 inches.

There will be more sawdust flying, clamps tightening and epoxy curing, so keep checking 179inches.


Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Yards, oars and masts

The sails are now done.  I still need to sew reef points, which involves sewing on square pieces of sailmaker's tape with a buttonhole at the center of each (some people prefer grommets, but I'm good with the machine buttonhole stitch) .  Reefing, for landlubbers, means shortening the sail and rolling up and securing the loose ends by tying loops of line that go through each reef point buttonhole.  Since the leech of the sail is rounded for maximum sail area (this is called roach, again no idea why) I need to use battens to stiffen it, which means sewing in batten pockets made of folded-over sailmaker's tape.  Both these will wait until I order all the chandlery (blocks, cleats, fairleads, rope, anchor, assorted hardware and battens).

Meanwhile I have rounded and sanded the two yards, and have put on one coat of epoxy.  After drilling holes at the ends to tie the corners of the sail's head onto the yard, there will be sanding, a second coat of epoxy, more sanding and a couple of coats of spar varnish.  That will take time, so I started on making the oar shafts, by laminating together two layers of 1X2 poplar, 1 1/2 inch-square (or 37 mm square) in total actual dimensions.  Then I cut and edge-glued the rough oar blades from 1X2 poplar (center) and 1X3 pine (sides).  You can see them in the photo.

While I was tapering the shafts down to the blade's thickness of 3/4 inch (19 mm) with a hand plane, both blades managed to fall to the floor and delaminate into two pieces each.  Better now than later, I think.  Clearly the temperatures, even in the partially heated basement, are too low for reliable epoxy curing.  I think I will take the opportunity to redo the blades.  I originally decided to use pine on the sides for the visual contrast, but pine is probably too soft for an oar blade that could be scraping against sand and stones.  I also realized that the original blades are a little stubby.  So I will make the new ones longer, and will cut them from poplar like the rest of the oar.  I don't mind: remarkably, this is pretty much the first thing I've had to do over in this whole project.  I will have to glue the blades and shafts together with thickened epoxy, and make sure I keep the basement and/or the piece warmer.  Then the blades will have to be tapered to a thinner edge, the corners rounded, etc.  In the meantime I have started rounding the shafts at the hand-grip ends.  Next I will round the shafts where they meet the oar locks, and that part will need leathering and buttons put on--I'll explain later.  All in all there will be even more planing, shaving, sanding and other work before the oars are ready for coating.

In between all this I will also be cutting 14 mast boards and preparing a total of 16 wedge-shaped board ends for eight staggered scarf joints.  Check 176inches for more details and pictures of mast work.


Sunday, January 22, 2012

Making the sails, part II

Today I finished one of the sails (except for batten pockets and reef points), and the other is on its way.  First I cut and glued together (using double-sided seam tape) all the reinforcing patches, each with three layers.  The tack and clew patches are quarter-circles, and so are the patches at the reef-corners (which are actually known as cunninghams, don't ask me why).  The throat patches are obtuse angles, and the peak patches are acute angles.  (See previous post for explanations of the terms).  In all there were 12 three-layer sets, for a total of 36 pieces.  They look like pieces of a nun's wimple, or complicated origami.  In fact they will keep the stress-points of the sails from being ripped by yards, sprits, downhauls, etc.

Half of these were stitched onto the mainsail, with the inner edges turned under.  The bottom edges of the reef corner (cunningham) patches had to be finished with 2-inch sailmaker's tape.  Then the leech and foot were finished by stitching the edge under.  Then the luff and head were finished with 3-inch sailmaker's tape.  You can see the sail after all the stitching in the second photo, taken from the top of the stairs.  My daughter's cat finds the whole sailmaiking scene an endless playground, so she wouldn't budge.  It adds a little scale and human interest to the whole thing, I feel.  You can tell that the sail has curvature built into it: it will not lie flat on the floor.

Then I put in grommets in the six reinforced corners,  and every eight inches along the head (to lace it onto the yard).  The third photo shows some detail of the grommets.  In some places there were so many layers of cloth that it took a lot of pounding with the cylindrical hole cutter to cut through all of them.

So there you have it.  I don't think I'll be able to finish the mizzen sail this weekend, but both should be done before the month is out.

There will be more, you can be sure of that, so keep checking 176inches.


Sunday, January 15, 2012

Making the sails, part I

Sailmaking (and mending) is traditionally a winter activity, and so it is for me.  The only carpentry-related thing I did since the new year was to laminate together two layers of 1X2 lumber for each yard.  The main yard will be 8 feet (2438 mm) and the mizzen 7 foot 4 inches (2235 mm).  I need to round the edges, sand and finish, but that can wait.  Which brings us to the sails.

I ordered my materials from Sailmakers' Supply, including 16 yards of sailcloth, thread, seamstick (2-sided tape to hold seams together while sewing), sailmakers' tape, a grommet kit (including cutter, punch and die) and a couple of other things.  I ordered 36-inch-wide cloth, with plenty of extra for screw-ups.  The supplier sent me 56-inch wide cloth by mistake (I think) so rather than sending it back I used it.  It took fewer seams and I have even more left over, but the wider expanses of cloth were a little harder to handle.  All in all a good outcome.

Sails are actually airfoils, similar to wings.  They work better if their shape is optimized, and that involves curvature in three dimensions and things such as flare and camber.  Last time I made sails I knew nothing about this and I cut and sewed them dead flat.  They work OK (they stretch and bend with the wind) but I wanted to do better this time.

Before I go on let me spell out the terms.  A trapezoidal sail has four sides and four corners.  Not surprisingly, each has a unique name, obscure to all but sailors.  The four sides are foot (bottom), head (top), luff (leading edge, forward), and leech (trailing edge, aft).  The four corners are tack (forward bottom), clew (aft bottom), throat (forward top) and peak (aft top).

To put some 3-D curvature into the sails, I did the following to each:

1.  I put a curve in the foot (about 3 inches maximum).
2.  I put a curve in the head (2 inches max), partly to accommodate the bending of the yard.
3.  I sewed a dart starting at the tack (3/4 inch maximum fold width, or double that in total overlap) and moving up and in diagonally.
3.  I used broadseaming, that is seams of variable width, with maximum at the luff and minimum about 40% aft.  I used a rule of thumb of about 1/2 inch extra seam width per 30 inches on the luff end, less at the leech.

Working with sailcloth is tough.  It's slippery, crinkly and stiff.  Plus I had to remember after several years how to wind bobbins and thread the sewing machine and all that.  Plus one of our cats went nuts with all the thread, tape, scraps and crinkly cloth, so I had to lock her away many times.  But I am happy to say that the basic cutting and sewing of the sail shapes is done. 

The next steps are:
1. Sew on reinforcing patches for the four corners.  Ditto for the extra tack and clew corresponding to each reef.  I intended to have two reefs in each sail but may keep it to one.
2. Finish the foot and leech by sewing the edges under.
3. Finish the luff and head with tape.
4. Put in grommets in the four corners (and reef corners) and along the head (to lash it to the yard).

I will post photos once the sails are nicely finished.  After that there is also sewing the reef points and batten pockets.  I'll explain then.

Until then, keep checking 176 inches.