Sunday, January 15, 2012

Holiday Pounds

Like many of us, over the holidays my boat put on quite a bit of weight.  Fortunately, I think it packed on more pounds than I did.

Stitch and glue boatbuilding consists of long stretches of slow refinement, interspersed with brief flashes of transformative change.  My boat just underwent one of those flashes.  Thanks to the miracle of stitch and glue boatbuilding, the boat again looks significantly different.

Rather than a boring narrative, here it is in pictures:

At the beginning of the day...

Seatback frames...

Aft cabin bulkhead....

Starboard topsides...

And an hour and a half later...a whole new boat.

And there it is.  Months of work slowly advancing the boat, and then suddenly, in well under two hours, she's completely transformed.  Presto-chango!  Her final lines are not yet fully visible, but the bits that are still missing are easily imagined.  Her cabin is well defined.  Her cockpit is taking shape.  I was so excited that night, I could barely sleep, dreaming of the exciting adventures sailing my "nearly complete" Pocketship!  :-)

Next step: make it permanent.

A couple of quick batches of epoxy later, I had tacked all the new parts into place.  This is when I discovered that I was running low of wood flour...the 10lbs that came with my PocketShip Epoxy Package would be nowhere near enough to finish filleting the topsides, let alone finish the boat.  I shopped a bit online, and saw wood flour going for something like $30 for a half gallon.  I wasn't sure how much I needed, but mentally braced myself  to drop $200 on wood flour.  I drove in to Fiberglass Mart, and asked for wood flour.  I love Fiberglass Mart.  Luis, the guy who runs the place, is friendly, the prices are good, and best of all, it has a name like Fiberglass Mart!  He had it in bulk, and started scooping into a big plastic bag until I figured I had enough.  We dropped it on the scale..8lbs.  I closed my eyes and grit my teeth as he rang me up.  What would it be.  $100?  $200?  He punched a few more buttons on the cash register, and then delivered the bad news.  The total came to.....$16.00.  I could have hugged him.  Did I mention that I love Fiberglass Mart?

I glued stuff up fairly early in the day, and had hoped that by using fast hardener that it'd be dry enough by evening to pull out the stitches.  Unfortunately, this time of year it is just too cold, so pulling the stitches had to wait a day. 

Tacking the topsides and seatback frames in place.
The next day, it was time to tackle filleting.  Pretty much the same procedure as before...tape off everything, dispense big lines of thicken epoxy for a "pastry bag" made from a 1 gallon big Ziploc, run a filleting tool (a small piece of plywood with rounded ends) over the caterpillar shaped lines of epoxy, turning them into fillets (and spreading collateral squeeze-out all over the tape), and finally peel up the tape (taking the squeeze-out with it) leaving nothing but beautiful fillets. 

Tacking in the topsides in the bow.  By this point, I've also applied tape in preparation of filleting.

Tape and tack welds in the cabin.  ready for fillets!

Fillets in the bow/anchor well area

The fillets joining the topside panels to the lower hull were particularly tricky. Like the bilge panels, they are at very obtuse angles to each other, making them very trick to fillet. Unlike the bilge panels, I seemed to somehow acquired "the touch" on the topside panels, and they actually came out pretty neat. These joints also have the distinction of being reinforced with fiberglass tape, so once I pulled up the make-the-fillets-neat tape, I immediately laid down another layer of tape about 1.25" away from the center of fillet, pressed some fiberglass tape into the still-wet fillet, wet out the tape, and then did the wait-two-hours-trim-the-'glass-at-the-tape-line-and-peel-up-the-tape thing. That's quite a long hyphenated word.

Topsides joint near at the stern, filleted and taped.

After filleting the seam, I taped up again in preparation for applying the glass tape.  Home Depot's quarterly profit will by entirely attributable to my masking tape purchases.

Since these joints are very, very, very, very, very visible in the cabin, I worked extra hard to make them neat.  I'm happy with how they turned out.

The aft cabin bulkhead also got the fillet and tape treatment.  The bottom seam is also another very visible seam.
Since the boat looks so much more complete now, I wanted to stand back and take some pictures showing the whole boat.  Unfortunately, at this point, I can just barely walk around the boat, so there really is no place to stand back to take a picture from.  These were the best I could do.  My garage door is mildly non-functional at the moment, but I'll be sure to get a shot from the bow once I get it back in working order.

Is it just me, or is this out of focus?

One thing you can see here is that I used whatever excess epoxy I had mixed up to fill the outside of the topsides-to-hull seams.

At this point, I find myself a little conflicted.  I'm excited and motivated, because it really feels like things are coming together, yet I'm a little daunted by the work remaining.  There is a huge reward in seeing the final lines of the boat take shape.  But, there is also a feeling that I'm not as far along as I'd thought.  For quite some time, I've been able to look back at a mountain of filleting, fiberglassing and sanding work that was done.  Now that's all covered up and now all I see is another mountain of  filleting, fiberglassing and sanding work ahead.  It is almost like all that work that was "done" has been undone.  I know it's not rational to feel that way, since all that work, including the trickiest fiberglassing in the whole project is still done.  But then, the experience of building a boat isn't rational.  Progress isn't measured by months or years spent (or left remaining) on the project, nor by number of pages completed in an instruction manual.  Progress is measured by how you feel about the work you've done and the work remaining.  This is important to understand,and accept, lest you be discouraged when you take a major step forward and suddenly feel that the project just got bigger.   As you build a boat, "progress" may be forward, backwards, or both simultaneously.  You just have to keep building.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Deck the Boat with Bows of Okoume

Fa-la-la-la-la, la-la-la-la.

Oh, I was so proud of the title.  I was installing the decks on my boat, it's Christmas time, how perfect does it get?  But something about the title kept bugging me, like I'd seen it somewhere before.  Then it hit me.  I looked back at Dave Curtis' PocketShip blog and found an entry titled "Deck the Halls with Hardwood Teak, Fa-la-la-la..."  Shoot.  Well, I'm going to semi-paraphrase/plagiarize it....

So, since last time, I spent a couple of nights painting.  First came two coats of primer.  Then...more sanding.  Once I got the primer sanded down, it was time for the topcoat.  I've chosen a cream colored semi-gloss paint for the interior.  I figured the color and sheen would contrast nicely with the satiny reds of the lyptus sole and create a nice, warm, cozy cabin...a perfect place for spending a drizzly Western Washington morning.

Primed and ready to go

Topcoat drying.  It looks shiny here since it is still wet.  The final sheen is semi-gloss.

With the painting wrapped up, the next step was to reinstall the now-finished cabin sole.  This was one of those high-reward moments.  Seeing the finished sole against to newly-painted cabin interior...ahhh, well, let's just says that it felt good.

Reinstalling the cabin sole

More planks go in.  It was much easier to reinstall the sole than it was to put it in in the first place.  Still, it took an hour or two.

Glamour shot of the shiny interior, looking aft.

Another shot of the interior.  Note that bulkhead #2 is only partially painted so far.  That'll get more paint later.

While I was working on the cabin, I thought I'd take care of a couple of other tasks.  The first was to make up a nice place to mount some speakers.  I shamelessly stole the idea  of building speaker boxes into the forward storage locker from Sean, another PocketShip builder.

The speakers will mount onto this piece of plywood, which in turn will be the forward storage locker.

The speaker boxes mount up against Bulkhead #1.

Here are the speaker boxes being installed.  Like so many other things on this boat, the preferred method of construction for the boxes is Stitch 'n Glue.  The design was pilfered in its entirety from another PocketShip builder, Sean.

Earlier, I had made up a panel on which I planned to mount my electrical distribution panel and battery switch.  This panel was to have been mounted to bulkhead #2 at the forward end of the cabin, and covered up with a decorative little hatch, thus neatly hiding the more unsightly electronics.  In that version of "the dream,"  the head unit for the stereo, along with various light switches  would have been mounted directly to bulkhead #2 and always visible in the cabin.  After many sleepless nights spend pondering the aesthetics of this layout, I changed my mind and decided to mount all of the electronics on a recessed panel.  So, I had to build a new panel.

Electronics Panel, Mark II
With the new panel in hand, I decided to take the plunge and cut a hole for it on Bulkhead #2!  There's something intrinsically scary about cutting into a piece of permanent structure on a boat that you've spent over a year building.  Fortunately, all went well, and I test mounted the panel.  I also laminated up some bloodwood/maple into what will become the hatch for this panel.

Way past the point of no return here! 

Whew...looks like I cut it right.

Here's the hatch that I'll use to cover up all the electrical doodads.

With that bit of frivolity out of the way, it was time to resume the serious work.  I decided to focus first on getting the foredeck installed. 

 PocketShip is designed to have positive flotation, and the watertight compartment forward of bulkhead #1 is spots designated to be stuffed with foam.  So, stuff it I did.  I picked up several sheets of blue foam insulation from the hardware store and set about cutting hunks of it to fit in this compartment.  This actually ended up being one of those rare times when things went faster than expected! 
If my PocketShip were ever to capsize, I'll be very, very happy that this foam is there.
With that done, it was time to button up the bow forever.  I mixed up a batch of thickened epoxy, slathered it on every horizontal surface I could find, dropped the foredeck into place, and drove in some temporary screws to hold it while the glue dried.
Glue everywhere!

No moving it's the foredeck in place.  Actually it is too bad... I sorta wish I had installed it about 1/32th inch further to port
I really felt the momentum building at this point, as I was quickly approaching the point where I'd be attaching the cockpit deck.  To protect the shiny, new interior, I had to cover up everything with cardboard and newspaper.  This was harder than it sounds.  Not physically harder, but emotionally.  The fresh paint, the soft color of the cabin sole....aaah.  After painting and reinstalling the sole, I'd occasionally nip out to the shop and just look at it.  Maybe even lay down.  So hard to cover it up...I'm going to miss it. 

I finally mustered the emotional fortitude to cover up the interior and move on.   A quick batch of epoxy later and the footwell sides and cockpit sole were installed.  I also installed the sheave for the centerboard pendant and the inspection ports for the centerboard.
footwell sides in place. 

More foam flotation goes under the cockpit sole.

Centerboard inspection ports in place.
All right, deep breath.  A quick trial fit of the decks to make sure that everything would go smoothly, and it was time to go.  I mixed up a batch of thickened epoxy, spread it over the deck framing, dropped the decked in place, drove in some temporary screws, and it was done.  Just like that.  Sounds anti-climatic, but it sure felt good.
Centerboard sheave in place.

Spreading the glue on all the deck framing.

Portside deck in place!

And the decks are on!

Looking forward.  Without the topside panels, aft cabin bulkhead or the seatback frames in place, the deck looks staggeringly vast.

 Installing the decks represents a major milestone. The boat has more or less looked the same last May, when I first stitched the hull together. Sure, tons of glue, fiberglass, paint, and timber, and hundreds of hours of labour have gone into the boat since then. But, if you were to stand back 10' from the boat it would more or less look the same. But, with the installation of the decks, the boat has  moved forward, stutcturally and visually.   One chapter in the construction of the boat, the construction of the lower hull, has closed.   Now, time to move on to the topsides!