Wednesday, February 29, 2012


In general, I've found that every major project, boat related or not, seems to take me roughly four times longer than it should.  I cannot account for where that time goes.  I don't think I'm unduly optimistic in my estimates, or that I grossly underestimate the scope of the work.  It just takes longer.  Building a railing for my front porch, call it a little over a day.  Takes a week.  Painting a room, call it a half day.  Takes two.  I'm pretty sure I could knock out a stitch and glue kayak in two weeks.  Takes two months.  No matter how hard I try, it just works out that way.  It used to really stress me out, as I would work long days and struggle hard to get back "on schedule."  Takes all the fun out of it.  In order to save myself a lot of stress, I've learnt to accept this fact, and build it in to my expectations.  I still think a task should take less time, but I know and accept that it'll take four times longer.  Where does the time go?  Into the mysterious time sink.  Why?  Because it does.  Simple.

Of course, that's in general.  Sometimes I can actually identify concrete reasons that things take longer.  Oddly enough, knowing why something took so long can be more frustrating than dealing with the now-accepted "mysterious time sink."  Unfortunately that's what I've been dealing with over the past few weeks. 

After the progress reported in the last post, I had just completed a major step forward, and was looking forward to continuing to move forward.  But first, a three week business trip to the UK put boatbuilding activities on hold.  Not so that la vie en bateau was on hold.  I was hoping to visit the Chatham yards when I was there, but work got in the way.  I did, however, get in to London and visited the re-creation of Francis Drake's ship, The Golden Hinde.

The Golden Hinde

The gun deck had less headroom than PocketShip's cabin!
I doubt I'll be using this paint scheme on my PocketShip

Every day that I was in England, I was reading the PocketShip manual, looking at the plans, and plotting my next steps.  I had been a feeling some trepidation about some of the upcoming steps, but by the time my trip was over, I was bursting with enthusiasm!

Getting back to work was a little troublesome, though.  The jetlag was a little bad this time, and my ability to maintain any level of sentient activity into the evening was severely lacking.  The Monday after I got back, I headed into the shop after work, only to look around, throw up my hands, turn the lights back off, go inside the house and crash.  Score one for jetlag.

Outboard upper seatback framing
A few days later, I was ready to try again.  I figured I'd tackle the seatback framing.  This more or less consisted of cutting a bunch of long pieces of 1/2"x3/4" timber, beveling the ends, and gluing them in the notches in the seatback frames.  Easy, right?  Well, the upper outboard ones were easy, though it took several attempts to get the bevel at the cabin wall right (the transom end just runs out the back until later).  Then the upper inboard ones.  I convinced myself that the long edge that'll later meet the seatbacks needed to be beveled to receive the seatbacks.  I measure it carefully, set up the table saw and went to town.  The end result was...wrong.  Hmm....  I measured again, in a slightly different way this time, and ran another piece through the saw.  And...?  Wrong again.  I threw my hands in the air and decided to work on something else.

There are two long 3/4"x1" cleats/carlins/gunwhales/"shear clamps" (even though they are not at the shear)/whatevers that run from the aft cabin bulkhead, through a notch in the foreward cabin bulkhead, and then meet at the bow.  Since I'm thinking about leaving these bright inside the cabin, I decided to make them from mahogany.  It took a long of work to get the compound angle right at the aft cabin bulkhead.  I then had to work it against the topsides panel forward toward the bow.  Since it was still long, it overran the bow and thus couldn't settle all the way down.  I pondered a bit, because figuring out how to mark this guy to length was in no way straight-forward.  I decided I'd get it close, but still a little long and work in little nibbles from there.  So I made a mark at what I figured was about 1/2" too long, pulled it out of the boat, and made my cut.  I dropped it back in the boat and found that I had cut it too short!!! By about 1/4".  Score another one for jetlag.  I threw my hands up again, turned the lights off, went inside the house and crashed.

The jetlag was still in full swing, so I woke up at 4:30am.  But, as I was pondering whether or not to try to sleep more or just give up and go into work early, I had some insight.  The upper inboard seatback framing was supposed to be square, not beveled!  Why didn't I see that before!?!?!?!  And, while I'd just wasted a nice piece of mahogany, I could at least use it as a pattern.  It had all the angles right on it, just add 1/4" and I'd have it perfect!  I jumped out of bed, was at work just before 5:30am, home again and in the shop by 3:00pm.  Things were off to a good start.  I tried the square cross-section seatback decking and it was a winner.  I whipped up a new port-side carlin.  Winner again.  I set to work on the starboard-side carlin.  I got the aft end beveled right and was working my way forward when, snap!  The darn piece of mahogany broke.  I knew this was a possibility, since mahogany can get a little cranky when you ask it to bendtoo much.  I had been working quickly and had been horsing it a bit.  Still, I was frustrated and getting tired (it was after all, getting close to 6:00pm :-) ).  Another point for jetlag.     I threw up my hands, turned the lights off, went inside the house and crashed.

The next night, I was ready to try again.  I milled a new carlin, and cut the aft bevel.  This time I was really slow and gentle in bending it.  Almost there and...snap!  Broke another one!   Jetlag: 4, Jon: 0.  I threw up my hands, turned the lights off, went inside the house and crashed.

Soaking the starboard  side carlin
I had that Friday off.  I spent some time playing around with the boat.  I started work on the lower seatback framing.  This one does get a 72 deg bevel along its length.  Speaking of length, these guys were a little trickier, since they butt up against the cabin bulkhead at the forward end (compound angle, of course) and the transom at the aft end (another compound angle).  Getting both of the angles right and getting the length correct was tricky...lots measure once, cut twice work.  But I got it.  I was going to glue these guys down, but decided that the port side one didn't quite look fair, so I put it off for later.  I then took another turn at the starboard carlin.  I cut a new one and got the cabin wall intersection right. Now time to work forward.  This time I was smart.  I bent it about 3/4 of the way in, clamped it in place, and laid a bunch of wet rags along its length and left it overnight.  The moisture helps loosen up those little organic fibers, relieving the stress and helping it take the bend.  Then, since it was an absolutely gorgeous day, I loaded up my cedar strip kayak and took an afternoon paddle around Jetty Island.

Saturday was a beautiful day too.  So I went snowshoeing.  Turns out, Sunday was astonishingly beautiful.. So, I took a bike ride.
I met this guy whilst kayaking

Aaah, the mountains in winter.
Finally, the rain returned and it was back to it.  A weekend of proper recreation had more-or-less resolved the jetlag issue.  Still, I couldn't muster the emotional resiliency to figure out what my lower portside seatback framing wasn't fair, so I just decided to glue in the upper bits sot that I felt like I was moving forward.  I then finished fitting that forward carlin.  I didn't have to fight it much this time, and that was nice.  Then, looking at the geometry of the situation, I realized that 'glassing and sanding the foredeck would be a lot easier without the carlins installed permanently.  So out they came, and in went the fiberglass. 
Installing the upper seatbackframing.

Fiberglass on the foredeck

Since the Pygmy kayak, I've had a pair of Black and Decker electric scissors that I've used to cut all my fiberglass cloth.  It's so fast and easy, jut zip!   The cuts are really neat and it seems to minimize frayed ends.  Sadly, though, the cutter head needs to be replaced badly now, and I was unable to use it on the foredeck.  I used regular scissor, but it just wasn't the same.  Such a mess.  I'm going to have to buy a replacement cutter head quickly!

Anyway, after three coats of epoxy, some sanding and several days, the foredeck fiberglassing was done.  I made up the two cabin deck carlins that run from either side of the companionway to the forward bulkhead.  Then it was time to mix some epoxy and go carlin crazy! 

I love to show off my clamp collection!

The tops of the seatback framing get planed down so that they are flat across the tops, parallel to the floor athwarthships, if you will.  Working with plane and chisels was a surprisingly good balm for my still slightly frustrated disposition.  The smooth motions of this tools, the feeling of craftsmanship, seeing the long curls of wood falling to the ground...they put you in touch with the basics elements of boat building.  So relaxing. 

I found using the surform in conjunction with a block plane made quick work of things
I needed that lift in spirits, since after that I started fooling around with fitting the transom "skirt."  This is a piece of 3/8" plywood that gives a nice visual cap to the transom.  First off, I installed some blocking on the topside panel which provides a nice place to mount the "skirt" to.  Then for the test fit.  Or the test lack-of-fit.  When I tried it out, there ended up being a huge (~1/2") gap between the transom and skirt in the center.  No matter what I did, I couldn't figure out a way to get things to work out right.  I've decided that the best course of action is to just make a new transom skirt that has the correct geometry for my boat.  I have exactly one scrap of 3/8" plywood that is big enough for this, so hopefully I get it correct on the first go!

This bit of blocking gets cut back to the correct angle to provide a mounting surface for the "transom skirt"

Original transom skirt...doesn't quiet fit right
Finding myself once more in need of an easy victory, I decided that it was as good a time as ever to glue together the two halves of the cabin deck/overhead.  I found that I no longer have adequate floor space in the shop for such a large assembly to lay flat, so once again the upstairs room in my house was annexed by the boatyard.

A zen moment...the cabin deck pieces becoming one

In other news, I've purchased a Suzuki 2.5hp outboard for PocketShip.  I've also been soliciting bids from local sail lofts for PocketShip's suite of canvas.  As usual, more to come!