Sunday, March 29, 2020

Love Me Tender, Volume X

Ready to load on to top of car.  Note the red PocketShip in the background.
Carting down to the water.  Having a kayak cart makes moving the boat around a breeze.  

Initial sea trials consisted of rowing...

And sailing tests.

Time on the water was limited, so the maiden voyage was just a tour of the boat basin 

The simple rig and lug sail were intuitive to use.  

The hull is actually vert shapely, something you lose sight of when building in the garage

The Eastport Pram has excellent stability, making shifting your weight when tacking uneventful.  It has been a while since I've sailed a dinghy, though, and it took a while to get the "behind the back" handoff between tiller and mainsheet back to a graceful motion. 

A real pleasure to sail!

Ready to go home.  The sail gets rolled up around the spars.

Car-toppable fun.

Sunday, March 22, 2020

Love Me Tender, Volume IX

Never pause building a boat when the next step is sanding.  Back in 2015, when I last posted (and worked on) my CLC Eastport Nesting Pram, I took a quick break to work on a few car projects, with every intention of getting back to the back as quickly as possible.  Well, the car project went pretty fast, but then it was summer and who wants to sand a boat during the summer.  And then it was fall, and things got busy, and then it was 2016, 2017, 2018...  Somewhere in there I got distracted and built a kayak too.

I finally got back to the pram in the spring 2019.  I has intended to only finish the boat in a rowing configuration, and skip the sail, but, on a lark, I picked up an Eastport Pram sail.  That got me to the point that I began to move other projects out of the shop to make room to resume work on the pram.

The second event that really got me going was competing in the 2019 Edensaw Boat Building Challenge at the Wooden Boat Festival in Port Townsend.  Over the course of two and a half days, my team built a CLC Jimmy Skiff II, complete with sailing rig.  Getting through that and getting sailing gave me the oomph I needed to resume the Eastport Project in earnest.

When last I reported, the boat was freshly sawn in half.  At this point, the boat requires a whole lot of sanding, and a few coats of epoxy, followed by more sanding.  I started by cleaning up the edges of the hull where the cut was made, sanding the edges of the planks flush with the bulkheads, and filling in any voids in the plank-to-bulkhead joints with thickened epoxy.  I also hit any previously unsealed wood with coats of unthickened epoxy.

From tabernacle to tiller
Next up, I started finish sanding, but found it slow going.  To keep the momentum up, I switched over to working the sailing rig.  I took a trip over to Edensaw in Port Townsend (partly just an excuse to go to Port Townsend) and picked up several lengths of Sitka spruce for the spars.  Back home, milled them to size, rounded over the edges, and sanded them down.  On PocketShip, the spars received several coats of epoxy before varnish, but since the pram is going to get lighter use, the spars will be stored indoors, and I did not want to sand all that epoxy, I went straight to several coats of varnish.

Although I had not intended to build the sailing version, I have laid out all the plywood parts back when I started the boat, so I actually had the rough cut parts for the rudder and daggerboard, so assembling and shaping these was straightforward.  I had recently replaced the tabernacle on Solitude III with a brand new one (the old one had some unfortunate damage).  I repurpose the 1" thick solid Sapele from one of the sides of the old tabernacle to make the tiller so the pram, so part of Solitude III is now in the pram!

Switching back to the hull, I started sanding.  I have to say, it took entirely too long.  I recognized this, knowing that it was a sign of out of control perfectionism, but could not figure out what it was I was perfectionizing about.  So, I kept sanding, sanding, sanding.  

At the Edensaw Boat Building Challenge, one of the other teams (representing the Wooden Boat School), introduced me to their "boat sauce," a mix of 4 parts teak oil and 1 part varnish.  This finish can be rubbed on, does not required sanding between coats, gives a nice satin finish, and can be refreshed just by rubbing on another coat.  I decided to experiment with the on the interior of the Pram.  It worked very well when I applied it to the raw wood on the tiller, but just did not seem to cut it when applied to the epoxy-covered surface of the inside of the pram.  So, I switched over to varnish, ending after multiple coats of gloss and a top coat of satin.

The boat gets finished with the two halves separated

Ah, varnish!

For the exterior of the hull, I decided to go with white -- a hackneyed choice, but it just looks too right on this boat to do anything else.  Painting the outside of the hull was more of a pain than I expected.  First, the highbuild primer took way longer to sand smooth than I remember on PocketShip and kept clogging the sand paper.  I do not know whether this was because the can of primer I was using was really old (dating back to PocketShip), or because the temps in the garage were too cold, or what.  Also, just the act of rolling the paint on was harder than I expected.  In many places there just wasn't enough room for the roller, particularly between the skeg, rub strips, and bottom-most lap.  It is a little strange, but it seems to take less time to paint the large surface of PocketShip's hull than the little hull on the Eastport Pram.

With the paint on, the most enjoyable part of any boat build came, rigging.  Here, all the sanding is behind you, you are in the home stretch, drilling holes, driving screws, lacing sails and reeving rigging.    The best method for lacing lug sails appears to be a controversial topic, though I cannot figure out why.  Mostly on the basis of looks, I went with the half hitch method described here:

With all this complete, the only thing that remains is getting the boat out on the water.

Solitude III in Small Boats Magazine!

I was recently invited to contribute a review of PocketShip for the March edition of Small Boats Magazine.  Read the full article here:

Thursday, September 21, 2017

New Adventures - 2016

What a relief to finally be able to use Solitude III again for the purpose she was built.  As early as March I was out sailing locally, lingering on the water until late to make it a sunset cruise.  After a winter on the trailer, under a new cover, the new centerboard was still working perfectly.

At anchor in Langley

Everett, WA, a lovely place to go sailing
Another highlight was a day trip across Possession Sound for lunch at Langley on Whidbey Island.  Langley is a beautiful little town, with a nice marina and plentiful shops and restaurants.  Little did I know, however, that crabbing season was on, and the harbormaster would refuse to grant me even an hour of transient moorage.  Instead, he suggested that I anchor out. 

I bought an anchor when I was first fitting out Solitude, but had never had cause to use it – time to see if everything I had read about using the anchor would work in practice.  I eased Solitude in to the anchorage and dropped the hook.  I backed it in and satisfied myself that it was holding.  It seemed so…I guess I got it right the first time.

She looks good on the hook

Now for the next bit of unused kit.  Some time ago, I had picked up a little two-man rubber raft on sale.  It sat since then, wedged in a little space in the cabin underneath the foo
twell.  I crawled unded, retrieved the unopened box, and hauled it on deck.  Within a few minutes, a little dingy was floating aside the mothership.  I cautiously lowered myself over Solitude’s side, and rowed ashore.

After lunch, I returned to the boat, stowed the raft, pulled up the anchor and took off.  I set full sail immediately on leaving Langley and took off into the gentle wind.  On the way, the wind started picking up and I the sailing was actually quite spirited off the north end of Hat Island…what a wonderful little trip!

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Cruise to Port Townsend - Sept. 12, 2015

I finally had a working boat again.  It was time for an adventure! 

The Wooden Boat Festival in Port Townsend was going on this weekend, and I hatched a plan.  I could tow the boat up to the little boat ramp at Keystone harbor, 4 miles due east of Port Townsend and sail across.  I couldn’t dock at Port Hudson, where the festival is, but reckoned I could get transient moorage at Port Townsend’s other marina, Boat Haven.  Failing in that, I could always anchor just off downtown.  Fellow PocketShipper Jer McManus had brought his boat from Montana, and I was hoping that I could drop by and see his boat, and perhaps lure him out for a fleet sail. 

It took longer than I expected to get packed up and going, and then longer than I expected to get to Keystone, arriving in the late afternoon.  I promptly got the boat in the water, and set sail for port Townsend. 

Beautiful Port Townsend
The waters here are interesting.  Being at the intersection of Puget Sound and the Strait of Juan de Fuca, the bulk of the water going into or out of Puget Sound has to make a sharp turn here, creating unusual currents.  On the chart, there is something marked “swirls.”  What exactly are “swirls?”  I found out quickly.  Just outside the harbor there where large circles of smooth-looking water.  Entering one, I quickly had to fight hard to maintain heading.  I got the heck out of that as quickly as possible, and avoided future swirls. 

The wind died off as I approached the edge of the Puget Sound shipping lanes, so I fired up the noisemaker and jetted across.  The wind picked up again as I entered Port Townsend Bay, and I approached the waters off Point Hudson under full sail.  It felt great to be moved by the wind again!

It was too late to execute my original plan of stopping by, and so I settled for a sail-by.  Chesapeake Light Craft’s booth was set up right on the tip of Point Hudson, and so I reached up and down the shore in front of them a few times.  I thought about shouting out “Send out Jer!!!”

The hour was getting late, so I decided to head back.  About a mile from Port Townsend, I hear a “pppppffffffft,” and caught sight of a minke whale that had just surfaced next to me.  I grabbed my camera and waited for it to come up again. He must have been going somewhere fast, because I didn’t see him again.   The wind again died as I approached the shipping channel, so I dropped sail and steamed the rest of the way back. 

I arrived in time for the schooner races
Another interesting feature just off Keystone that noted on the charts are rips.  Well, sure enough there was one right in my way as I approached shore.  It looked compact and I decided to plunge through it rather than go around.  The cop quickly became steep, and I had to slow down substantially to keep things under control.  The boat did fine, but I was nervous as all get out getting through that.  Just as the sun was setting, I exited the rip and moments later entered Keystone Harbour, completing an excellent “return to the sea” mini-cruise.

A good cruise

Sunday, June 4, 2017

Fixing the Centerboard

After quite a long writing break, I thought it would be good to catch up on the blog a little.  The biggest bit of news is that I finally resolved Solitude III's stuck centerboard.  

A centerboard that goes down is a sight for sore eyes!
It was an issue that plagued me for well over a year and a half.  It started after a weekend cruise, when I noticed that the centerboard seemed to drop a little less freely than before.  Things slowly worsened, and soon I was needing to open the inspection ports and push the board down using the hand of a pair of channel locks.  It kept taking more and more force until, on day, it would not go down.

My first suspicion was that there was some flotsam jamming the board, but on inspection, I could find none. One day I dropped the boat into the water, pulled out all the ballast, secured a line to the masthead and hauled her over onto her side. I then waded into the water and set to work. Between prying with a screwdriver and applying excessive force, I managed to get the board ALL the way down. The was a little bit of seaweed and the like on the board and in the trunk, but nothing major. I cleaned it as best I could. I then tried running the board back in. Still very, very jammed. 

After eliminating lodged debris as a cause for my centerboard woes, I determined that there had to be  some water intrusion that was causing swelling.   The question was whether it was on the centerboard side or the trunk side.  It was getting toward the end season, so I parked the boat jacked it up slightly off the trailer and let it spend the next five months out of the water, airing out. 

After quite some time, I launched the boat and tried it again.  Still stuck.  From there, between the discouragement of having a stuck centerboard and having a total lack of time to actually make progress, things bogged down.

Finally, I got serious.  I built a new centerboard, and re-careened the boat.  Out came the old board, in went the new.  Except it didn't.  Stuck.  This time I came armed with diagnostic tools, namely a few sticks of varying thickness from less that 3/4 inch (the thickness of the centerboard) up to 1 inch (the original width of the trunk).  I probed carefully and determined that the wood at the bottom of the centerboard trunk had swollen.

The root cause of the problem was that, in my rush to finish the boat, I sanded through the epoxy/fiberglass in the neighborhood of the centerboard slot and didn't reseal it. The breach in the epoxy was just at the bottom of the keel, so water was getting lapped up via the "endgrain" edge of the plywood. The one "for sure" spot that I found was about `at the midpoint of the centerboard slot lengthwise, and actually on the outboard edge of the keel. I have been known to be a flagrant violator of maxims such as "always keep your sander flat against the surface" and "don't use a power sander on edges," and in this case, I was roundly punished for my transgressions.

After consultation with John Harris, I decided to strip the paint in the area, apply liberal doses of epoxy to seal it, repaint, and replace the centerboard with a 1/2" one covered with two layers of 'glass.  In addition to patching and resealing the one clearly obvious spot, I also overreacted and hit everything within 2" of the centerboard slot (around the keel, and yes, up into the slot) with several coats of epoxy.

You don't want to do this to your boat if you can avoid it.
For the resealing of the slot, I was able to jack the boat up off the trailer far enough to gain access. I used the careen-at-the-dock procedure to get access to the board for installation and removal.

After I got her back together, re-rigged, and in the water last night, I raised and lowered the board.  Smooth as could be.  I took her out for a brief test cruise, but the wind forgot to show up. It wasn't until a week later that I had another chance to go sailing.  The trip took me across from Coupeville to Port Townsend to sail by the Wooden Boat Festival (which I had not registered for, since I did not know I'd have an operational boat in time), but that's a story for another time.

Under Sail Again!

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

PocketShip #1 at the 2016 Wooden Boat Festival

It's been a while since I last posted, and there are quite a few things to catch up on, the major one being that Solitude III's centerboard woes have been rectified and sailing is once again a wonderful possibility.  When I get a chance, I will try to post some updates about what's gone on there. 

In the meantime, I got Solitude over to the Wooden Boat Festival in Port Townsend for the first time in a few years.  PocketShip #1 was also there, and we managed a brief sail together, with the Geoff Kerr at the helm of ol' #1.  Sailing in company with PocketShip gave me the opportunity to really see her up close and in action.  Seeing her from that perspective renewed my appreciation for her graceful lines.   And sailing side-by-side within easy speaking distance, feeling the wind motivate Solitude forward, and seeing PocketShip gleefully surge forward under the same gust, reminded me of just how sweetly these boats sail. 
Here are a few photos of PocketShip from Solitude: