Monday, April 30, 2012

Fixin' a Hole

I was talking with a colleague the other day about boats and boat building.  I mentioned that I was building a 15' sailboat.  Being a kindred spirit, he was interested, so I pulled up some photos.  The first photo I showed him was one from the foredeck looking aft into the cockpit.  His jaw dropped a little as he took in the deep, spacious cockpit.  When I said a 15' boat, he was imagining something smaller.  Something dingy-like.

The PocketShip design is unusually large for its size.  There are times during construction that this bigness hits you.  When the hull first get stitched together and you see that big internal  When you are working the thousands of miles of fillets or fiberglassing the interior, or sanding the square miles of surface area that make up this boat, you realize that this isn't a little boat.  In the last few weeks, I once again was hit by how large this boat is.  That happened after I got the cabin deck glued down.  Suddenly, the "on deck" and "below deck" became distinct places.  I find myself going below to look for some tool or a pencil I left down there.  Or I can work topsides sanding the day away...   But, I get ahead of myself.

I've got to admit, my last few posts have contains elements of whinny-ness.  There were been tasks that I'd been struggling with, and that I had to labor through, and ...well, boat building is a long-term relationship of sorts, and like any relationship you've got to work through the bad times as well as the good.  After that last rough patch, though, things have been  smooth, peaceful.

Working with a hand plane is one of the most soothing boat building activities there is.  Shaving at a piece of wood, using nothing but a steady hand and patience to transform a piece of wood into new, desired is hard not to wax poetic about the process.  And since all all of the framing for the cabin deck needed to be planed down to the appropriate angles to accept the deck, there was lots of soothing activity to be had.  In fact, in sizing up the project I figured that I'd have several nights whittling away at it.  As it turned out, though, it only took a few short hours. 

 A test fit of the cabin deck 
After that, I test fit the deck.  Almost perfect.  A couple more whisks at the plane and that was it, ready to go!

I did another test fit, and carefully marked the locations of all the framing so I would know where to drill for the temporary screws that hold the deck down while the epoxy dries.  Also, the deck is a little oversized the in the plans.  It is suggested that one use a router with a flush-trim bit to trim back the deck once it is installed, but after reading about Dave's slipped  router experience, I was a little gun shy.  So, instead I marked the actual dimensions of the deck while I had it temporarily fastened, and then pulled it off and trimmed it with the circular saw.  Another test fit showed that everything turned out right.

Padded, perforated hull liner.  Posh stuff.
Before installing the cabin deck, I sanding the epoxy coated overhead (the inside of the cabin deck).  Also, I've bought a bunch of perforation, padded hull liner material.   I'm planning to line the overhead and the sides of the cabin with this.  Since it was convenient to use the as-yet uninstalled cabin deck as a template, I took the opportunity to rough cut the pieces for the overhead.

Taping off=easy cleanup!
Having run out of other things to do, it was time to install the cabin deck.  The manual recommends having a helper when installing the deck, since it is so big and unwieldy that you could easily end up with a massive, epoxy-slathered mess if you tried it yourself.  I, however, would be tackling this one alone, so I rehearsed the procedure for getting the deck hoist up onto the boat and aligned properly until I could do it without having to slide the deck around too much.  It actually wasn't too hard.  I could maneuver the deck from the cockpit up and onto the temporary cut-out spacer thing that spans the companionway.  I'd drop finish nails into two of my pre-drilled holes (for the temporary screws) to help me align everything.  With the deck still precariously balanced overhead, I'd slip into the cabin, lift the deck straight up, move it forward until the finish nails were right over the corresponding holes in the deck, and then drop the thing down.  Easy as pie. 
Time, then, for the real thing.  I carefully taped off the areas on both the deck and the boat so that most of the squeeze-out could be easily contained.  I mixed up some unthickened epoxy and hit all the mating surfaces with it.  This was followed by a big batch of thickened epoxy, liberally slathered everywhere.  Next came, highly choreographed, oddly well practised dance of maneuvering the deck into place.  Up, over, down, up, down, and out.  Time to drive the temporary screws.  I had chosen to place these about six inches apart, so there ended up being a TON of them.  Peel the tape, clean up any remaining squeeze-out.  Job done!  Well, almost.  I couldn't resist finally knockout out the cut-out spacer thing, finally opening up the companionway properly. 

Wide open spaces.  The companionway is liberated of the spacer!
 The next day, the glue was dry and the screw came out.  With all my temporary screws liberated, I figured it was time to fasten down the seatback decks.  Like the cabin deck, these guys had undergone an intensive training program of test fitting and trimming, so installation was a breeze.  And, with these installed, I also ran fillets about the seatbacks (I had been waiting for the seatback decks to go on to do this, so that I could fillet the deck-to-aft cabin bulkhead seams at the same time). 

Stepping back, suddenly, there was the hull of my boat, sitting there in front of me, essentially whole.  All the major components are now part of the boat.  Sure, there's plenty more work to do, fiberglassing, sanding, attaching little bits a pieces, but this is still a major milestone!

The whole hull.  OK, you can only really see the cockpit area, but I can't find anywhere that I can stand to get a picture of much more of the boat.

With this done, It was time to make some refinements.  Variously employing planes, grinder, and sanders, I slowly worked to mold the shape to perfection, filling holes, making things flush, rounding corners.  I queued up Sgt. Pepper on the old MP3 player and set to work...perfect music to accompany this kind of work. There were lots of holes to fix, and cracks to fill.

Since the next big step is to fiberglass all the topsides, essentially setting their form in stone, I've allowed my perfectionism to run wild at this point.   I've spent several days so far carefully refining PocketShip's curves.  Still have a little more work to until she's just right.

"I'm fixing a hole where the rain gets in, and stops my mind from wandering"
Fairing the topsides
  One thing that I wasn't really happy about was that there were a few spots where my stitching job had pulled things slightly out-of-fair.  I bought some fairing compound at Fisheries Supply and have been working to correct this.  Fairing compound is an easily sandable, epoxy-based filler, and man, it is soooooo easy to work with.  Adding microballoons to epoxy accomplishes the same-ish thing, but it takes some work to get the consistency right.   Fairing compound is just boom, right out of the box.  Still, it takes some time and patience to identify low spots, fill them, sand, and slowly fair the boat.

Replace your divots!

On another front, I've ordered my sails.  In the end, I chose to buy the Douglas Fowler-made sails from CLC.  It took a lot of deliberation to come to that decision.   I really wanted to have a local loft make them for me, but when I boiled it down, my local choices fell into these three categories:
  1. The finest sails in the world...around twice the price of the excellent Douglas Fowler sails that CLC offers.
  2. Sails equal to Fowler's, only more expensive
  3. Quality sails slightly less expensive than CLC's.

For the first category, while I desperately wanted the Schattauer or Hasse sails, I just couldn't justify the cost. Even if I use this boat as much as I dream I will (which I probably won't), I can't imagine ever putting them to the kind of use that would allow their magnificience to truly shine.  As for the second category, well, why pay more?
That left category three.  There was a small sail loft in Eastern Washington that tendered a bid lower than CLC's sails, and I gave the bid a lot of thought.  In the end, though, it was only a couple hundred dollars cheaper, and the CLC sails were a known quantity.  Folwer has already cut sail for PocketShips, and there is something to be said for experience.  Also, I've noticed that John Harris doesn't seem like the kind of guy who would tolerate mediocre sails on his boat, so if they're good enough for his PocketShip, they're good enough for mine.  Sold.  I still may yet order a spinnaker from the Eastern Washington outfit.  Time will tell.
So, next up will be a ton of 'glass work.  

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