Thursday, March 30, 2006

Seat touch-up

It was a quick job to touch up the fillets on the bow seat. Adding to the base set down previously, I filled it to a level flush with the seat surface, and shaped it into the contour of the bow. The only tasks that remain are to install the bow and stern transom knees, motor pad, and oarlock blocks. It is amazing how rigid the hull has become with the final addition of the seats; such a long way from the collection of flexible strakes that I started with a few months ago. Total hours 70.25.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Bow seat

Another batch of peanut butter epoxy, another seat. The bow seat presented its own obstacles during the installation. There was a sizable gap--about 3/4" -- between the #3 and #4 strakes and the edge of the front seat about 8" aft of the bow transom. Whether this is normal, or due to a flaw in my construction, I can't be sure. But it will require a process of building up some layers of epoxy to fill the gap. The space couldn't be spanned by one fillet of epoxy, but will instead require a second fillet be applied later over the one laid down tonight. Apart from the gap that ran for about 10" on either side of the bow seat, everything else went well. There was a very slight curve in the piece of plywood that makes the seat, so I added some weight in the form of my homebrewing propane tank to maintain a tight contact between the seat and the bow bulkhead. In all the rest of the edge, a standard fillet could be applied and smoothed. Total hours 69.75.

Monday, March 27, 2006

Aft seat

I tried my hand at the permanent installation of one of the seats tonight. It looked like the stern seat would be easier, so I started with that one. After mixing up a batch of peanut butter thickened epoxy, I laid a bead on top of the bulkhead so as to provide a good seal. Using the zip-loc pastry bag dispenser, I also lined the edge of the stern transom where the seat would meet it. When I put the seat in place, I found a small gap of maybe 1/8" between the seat edge and the stern transom. Accordingly, the seat had a tendency to sag a bit there. To support it, I hooked a wire coat hanger under the edge, and bent it over the top of the transom. I then put a small fillet of thickened epoxy around the perimeter of the seat, except at the location of the wire support. After a couple of hours, the fillet was smoothed as usual with an alcohol-dipped gloved finger. I'll fill in the remaining gap after this fillet cures, resulting in a completely air-tight chamber. Total hours 69.00.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Lay Lake

Fully intending a day of boatbuilding, Kathy and I instead took a Sunday drive to the site of our planned first sail of the Passagemaker dinghy. I refer to Lay Lake, a hydro-power reservoir on the Coosa river. The lake is part of a system of lakes created and maintained by Alabama Power. Lay Lake is one of the smaller in the system, but after our visit today, we saw it will be plenty big for sailing. We checked out a free public boat ramp that at about 25 miles away, is the closest to home. It is a nice facility, with two cement boat ramps, nearby docks, and plenty of pull-through parking for boat trailers. Also, just down the road is a second boat ramp facility at a commercial marina called "Paradise Point" marina. Curiously, the road to paradise is strewn with potholes. The free public ramp at Beeswax park is much nicer. It off of the main lake in a small protected cove. Perhaps in a month, we'll be able to have a little boat christening ceremony, and go sailing.

After returning home, I did a quick oil change in my car. After that, I had time to cut the upper opening in the daggerboard trunk. This was done in the same way as the lower one, by drilling a 1/2" starter hole, then using the router with a 1/2" flush-cut bit to cut the slot even with the interior surface of the trunk. The edge was then shaped with the 3/8" roundover bit. A slight unevenness at one end was the result of a stray glop of epoxy that was squeezed out of the joint which the bit bearing rode over. This will be smoothed out later by hand.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Rub rail redux

Over the last two nights, I've continued to lay up the rub rails on the port side of the Passagemaker dinghy, and tonight the task was completed. Turns out it's true what they say about practice making perfect; by the fourth and final strip, I was getting pretty good at applying just the right amount of thickened epoxy, and attaching all the clamps to hold the strip in place. Once this final strip completely cures, I can trim the ends and shape them, sand the laminated strips smooth, and give the edges a nice shape with a router. After that, things enter the home stretch, at least as far as major boat construction goes. I hope to get the fore and aft seats in place this weekend, after which there are only a few small parts to install: bow and stern knees, and motor pad. Then the extended period of finish sanding, painting and varnishing begins.

Yesterday morning, I stopped by the local License Office to pick up the forms for registering the boat. This is never my favorite place to visit. Nonetheless, Alabama state law requires that motor-driven and sailboats be registered. (Whether this also includes vessels like the Passagemaker dinghy when used as a row boat is unclear.) The first step in this process will be to apply for a hull serial number from the state Marine Police, a division of the state troopers. Once this number is assigned to a newly homebuilt boat, the registration and yearly fee is obtained from the county License Office. Fortunately, Alabama has no provision for titles or license plates for boat trailers, so I am spared that hassle. Total hours 68.25.

Monday, March 20, 2006

Noah's dinghy

On such a rainy night, it seemed appropriate that I should be building a boat. If the storm lasts much longer, I'll have to begin gathering two of every animal. My task tonight was a brief one: the second layer of the starboard rubrail was attached with cabo-sil thickened epoxy. It was a fairly quick process, and I only charged the Passagemaker dinghy building total with a half hour's effort. But I continued on with the final touches of the trailer assembly. This included the wiring harness. A simple enough affair, made up of four wires and a ground strap. But fishing the wires from the hitch through the frame of the trailer and out the small holes provided in the frame proved to be easier said than done. On top of that, I wasn't content to use the crimp connectors provided with the kit. Instead, I soldered the connections for the running and tail lights, with the idea that they will last a little bit longer. We'll see. Total hours 67.75.

Saturday, March 18, 2006

Rub rails

After bolting together the trailer, and taking a break to mow the lawn for the first time this year, I turned to the rub rails. These are strips of wood that were scarfed together on the first day of boat construction. Today, they finally join the boat. A small batch of cabo-sil epoxy was mixed up and coated on one side of the first of four strips. Each side of the boat will end up with a rail made up of two thicknesses of strips, laminated together. I don't have sufficient clamps for two sides, nor do I have enough hands to glue both strips in one operation. So I settled for the slow approach, doing one strip today and letting it cure overnight before adding the second strip. Total hours 67.25.

Boat trailer

I took an afternoon's break from boatbuilding to assemble my boat trailer. The thing came in three large heavy boxes, which included a couple of bags of nuts and bolts. Unfortunately, a critical castle nut was missing from the collection, and I am attempting to get a replacement from the company now. Since this is the nut that holds on one of the wheels, it is fairly important. The assembly was very straightforward, and went smoothly. In fact, I made a short movie of the process. If you have Windows Media Viewer, you can watch it here. The trailer looks reasonably sturdy, and a good fit for the Passagemaker Dinghy. I plan to use it as a cradle for the boat which will be slightly lower than my sawhorses. This should allow easier access to the interior as I install the rubrails and seats.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Skegs & skids

With the last night of an available assistant, I was able to permanently install the skeg and skids. They were all unscrewed, and the area underneath them was scuff sanded. A batch of thickened peanut butter epoxy was mixed and applied to the mating surfaces of the skeg and skids. They were then returned to their positions and screws were driven back into place. A strap was tied to one side of the skeg to keep it plumb as the epoxy set. A large fillet was applied to the length of the skeg, and excess epoxy was wiped off the skids. Total hours 66.75.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

First skeg fitting

The positioning of the skeg and bottom skids was one of those tasks that require a second pair of hands. Fortunately, Kathy was off work tonight, and was available to help out. A centerline was marked from the stern transom to the daggerboard trunk slot, and four holes were drilled through the bottom panel along this line. The position of the two 41" long bottom skids were also marked, 41" from the stern transom and 7-1/2" from the centerline of the hull. Holes for four #8, 3/4" woodscrews were drilled from the interior and countersunk. Then, with Kathy holding the skids down, the pilot holes were drilled into them and the woodscrews screwed into place. After practice with the skids, the same process was followed with the skeg. The only difference with the skeg was that care was taken to hold it square to the hull as the holes were drilled. With all the parts test fitted and in place, they now are ready for epoxy and final installation tomorrow. Total hours 65.50.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Skeg prep

Some prep work was the next task, before attachment of the skeg. After being glued together, the skeg has sat untouched. Before attachment, it needed to be sanded to remove drips of epoxy that has squeezed out from between the two layers, as well as evening up slight mismatches between the halves. Next, the edges were finished off with a router and roundover bit. A brief check showed that the mating surface contour fit the curve of the hull fairly closely. Tomorrow, woodscrews will be countersunk ahead of the final installation of the skeg. Total hours 64.25.


A reader recently asked about the time spent on building a Passagemaker dinghy. As it so happens, I had recently totaled up my hours on the project to date:
  • November- 10.50 hours
  • December- 15.00 hours
  • January- 16.25 hours
  • February- 16.25 hours
Obviously, not a blistering pace. But since it is my first attempt at boatbuilding, the cautious approach is best. I am constantly amazed at how quickly a beautiful wooden boat can be put together: At the CLC classes, intense work over a week produces a complete boat, ready for finishing. If only it were possible to really build a boat as fast as this! The wonderfully warm, breezy weather this past weekend in central Alabama reminded me how nice it will be to have a finished sailboat.

Also, this reminder: for further discussion, surf on over to the Passagemaker Dinghy discussion forum. The growing community of builders welcomes you! And the Passagemaker survey is still open. Take a few minutes to fill it out so we can have a better picture of the Passagemaker makers out there!

Finally, thanks to all of you who have shown an interest in this project. The attention from visitors from around the world shows what a universal allure the wooden boat has.

Monday, March 13, 2006

Second bottom coat

After an enjoyable weekend with guests from out of town, it was time to return to boatbuilding. Tonight the exterior got a second coat of epoxy. But before it was rolled on, some sanding was needed. Because the exterior #1 panels had previously been coated with their first coat, a bit of sanding was required to smooth out what may have been outgassing. Also, the bottom panel with its layer of fiberglass benefited from some sanding to knock off the tops of epoxy on the weave. This sanding reduced the amount of epoxy that would required to fill the weave. Total hours 63.75.

Saturday, March 11, 2006

A wooden boat is born

I read this morning that a new wooden boat is nearing her launch. The Godspeed is a reproduction vessel modeled after one that brought some of the first European settlers to North America. She was built by Rockport Marine in Maine, and the company web site describes the project:
Godspeed is a replica of one of the three-boat flotilla that came from England to America in 1607 to found what became the first successful English colony in the New World. She is being built by Rockport Marine for the Jamestown-Yorktown Foundation of Williamsburg, Virginia, and will be used as a fully operational display vessel at the Jamestown Settlement living-history museum. Her design was created by Tri-Coastal Marine of Richmond, California.

A nice pictorial of the Godspeed's move from the shops to the shoreline, and the stepping of her main mast is here.

As for my own, somewhat smaller boat building project, I hope to return to it tomorrow. We have weekend guests visiting, and I am doing my Chicagoan's rendition of southern hospitality. More soon: stay tuned!

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Parts is parts

Intending to put a second coat of epoxy on the exterior hull, I instead got sidetracked, and messed around with various boat parts. I first started finishing the daggerboard. Previously, the handle was laminated on the piece of plywood that makes up the daggerboard. Today, I shaped the board to be more hydrodynamic. The leading edge of the submerged portion was rounded, and the trailing edge was shaped to a fine taper with a belt sander and 100-grit paper. Other edges were rounded with the router and a roundover bit. I switched to the 3/8" roundover bit to shape the handle, which turned out to be good looking with the round contour and all the layers of the laminate showing. I then turned to some finish work on the spars. I attached the gunter yard jaws to this spar. The jaws are shaped plywood that form a fork where the gunter yard rides along the mast. The instructions for this task are a little unclear, with only a warning to put the jaws on the correct end of the yard. However, it is unclear - and not shown in a photo on the page - which direction the jaws angle towards. (Although, after thinking about it, I realize that if they are put on the correct end of the yard, there is only one way they could angle.) For Passagemaker builders, be sure to look ahead to page 85 (the first page 85; my copy of the instruction book has two) of the instruction book for a photo of the correct orientation. Additionally, the instructions call for the jaws to be preliminarily attached by countersunk screws, but don't specify which of the myriad screws that are included in the sail kit are to be used. Since the yard is rather narrow, I used four of the shortest bronze woodscrews supplied in the sail kit. Later on, the jaws will be permanently epoxied in place along with the screws. Finally, the gunter yard and the mainsail boom were sanded and edges were rounded off with the router to give a finished look. Instructions advise that the spars need not be epoxy coated, but only varnished, which is something I will do later, after the required rigging holes are drilled in the yards.

By the time that was all done, it was far too nice a day to be inside boat building. I took the rest of the afternoon off to enjoy the weather. Total hours 62.75.

Saturday, March 04, 2006

First bottom coat

At this stage, the instructions call for two coats of unthickened epoxy on the entire exterior of the hull. The exterior sides of the #1 strakes to this point have not received any epoxy coating, and the layer of fiberglass on the bottom panel still requires that the weave be filled. A good session of sanding preceded the first coat of epoxy. I made sure to smooth down all the filled stitch holes, as well as some little "spines" of cabosil-epoxy that had wicked up underneath some of the stitches as the seams were glued. When the wires were removed, these little ridges remained and had to be sanded away. After a tedious period of sanding, I mixed up some unthickened epoxy (it turned out that 14 pumps were necessary to cover the whole hull and transoms) and rolled it on. I am eyeing my epoxy supply with a little apprehension: after the coating of the hull, no tasks remain that require large batches to be mixed. Even so, plenty of little things remain that require epoxy, like coating of rudder and daggerboard parts, gluing the motor pad, filleting seats and knees, and the like. I have been careful to be economical with what was supplied with the kit, but I hope what remains will hold out. Total hours 61.25.

Daggerboard bottom slot

With the interior bulkheads in place, the instructions call for the hull to be flipped over, and epoxy coated as the interior was. However, in the instructions, the daggerboard trunk bottom slot is to be cut at a later time. I reasoned that since this would expose some bare wood that would need to be epoxy coated, I would go ahead and cut the bottom slot early. This would allow the edges of the bottom panel to be epoxy coated in the same process as the whole hull.

Cutting the slot brought me back to my old nemesis, the router. I'm not sure why this tool intimidates me so much. I guess it is my inexperience with it, and the thought that irreparable damage to the project could be done so quickly if it were to get out of control. But with a 1/2" flush-cut bit newly purchased last night, I set to work. And I needn't have been so worried. I drilled two 1/2" pilot holes to enlarge the tiny marker holes I had drilled from the inside just before installing the daggerboard trunk. So I had no fear of missing the interior chamber of the DB trunk. I then turned on the router with its new bit, and was amazed how quickly and smoothly it removed material to create a clean, neat slot in the bottom panel, perfectly even with the interior surface of the DB trunk. There was one tiny irregularity in the edge, where the bit's guide bearing rode over a glob of epoxy that had squeezed out of the bottom DB trunk joint. That was quite unavoidable, and easily fixed with a rasp.

So now I have a long afternoon ahead of me, sanding the lapstrake joints and filled stitch holes ahead of epoxy coating the exterior hull. Total hours 58.10.