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.

1 comment:

  1. Awesome job Dude! Keep it up! You are terrific at this stuff. I am using this blog page as a reference for my building boat activities.