Thursday, July 26, 2012

The Boat Sanding Blues

Sanding a boat is a long, tedious process. Since your mind is not engaged, you have lots of time to think.  Maybe you plot out the next steps of the project, or maybe your even daydream about being out on the water.  Sand long enough, though, and you run out of things to think about.  Your mind spins out-of-control, and you can't be sure of what it'll come up with.  While sanding the seventeenth acre of this boat's hull, my mind was well into that mad, out-of-control phase and somehow, for some reason, it ended up coming up with a song....  Here's the result:

It's not my fault, it's the sander's!

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Composites in Action

Taping for Fillets
It''s not obvious, but there are some
monster in place here
I had another three week business trip coming up, and I pushed really hard to get the boat flipped before departing.  In a burst of post-flip energy, I also filled all of the external seams with thickened epoxy.  When this dried, I took the big grinder and set about rounding over corners.  With that done, I did the fillets between the keel and the hull....pretty much the last fillets I'll be doing on this boat.  I sure won't miss doing that!

Then it was off to England.  It rained.  The whole time.  That, combined with the usual long work hours didn't leave much time for sightseeing.  But, there were a couple of fun excursions on the way.  For one, I was able to get out skiffing on the Thames with Malcolm and a co-worker.  Those skiffs are gorgeous lapstrake boats, and they pull oh-so-sweetly.  Getting out on the river is always a blast.  Thanks, Malcolm!

A-skiffing we go!

I also took a long walk along the Basingstoke Canal, and even saw a canal boat that a group of people were taking an excursion on.  Staying on one of these would be cheaper than a hotel and I could tie up within walking distance of work.  Unfortunately, I have yet to convince the powers that be to pay for one of these babies for a couple of weeks instead of a hotel and rental car.

Finally, a really big highlight was that the last week I was there was the week before the big Farnborough Airshow.  Lots of airplanes arrived early and spent the week practicing their routines.  I'd get off of work and just hang out by the airfield and watch!

Eurofighter probably put on the most dazzling pre-show show.

The F-18s were no slouches either!

See the 787 performing was the best of all.  While not as exciting a display
as the fighters, seeing something that you worked on cavorting about is a decided thrill.

With the England trip out of the way, it was time to get back to work on the boat.  An hour or two with the sander lead to smooth surfaces, radiused corners, and generally refined lines.  That quickly, it was time for the 'glass.

Had I followed my approach on much of the rest of the boat, I would have tackled this one section at a time, carefully masking off the borders, wetting out the 'glass, and trimming it back to the tape line.  This is a pretty good strategy for breaking up the work and minimized sanding (no frayed ends). Well, for whatever reason, I abandoned this disciplined process and decided to 'glass the entire lower hull in one go.  Was is jet lag?  Impatience?  Ambition?  Yes.

\Laying out the fiberglass.
It took most of a morning to get all of the fiberglass laid out, smoothed down, and trimmed back.  There are overlaps on all the seams, and in the case of the keel-to-hull joints and where the scarf joints are, I also added a third layer of 'glass.  This boat'll be brutally strong!

The great wet-out begins.
After lunch that day, I started the great wet-out.  I have never tackled such a big fiberglass job before.  I tried to work as quickly and efficiently as I could, but it still took over four hours to get it done.  The end result was ok...I've definitely done better work.  I justify this in that the added sanding time is less that the flow time required to employ the section-at-a-time method.  In other words, there may be more sanding, but I'll get out on the water sooner.
Epoxy has been applied, and it is time to sand.
The subsequent fill coats of epoxy took progressively less time (two hours and the one hour), but it was still a big job.  And this is just the lower hull!  I've already gone through this process on the upper hull and the entire interior of the boat.  Looking back at it all, this really is one big little boat.  And, of course, I'll really get to experience this bigness in all its glory when I hook up my sander and reduce this mess to a smooth surface.

And thus starts the endless sanding....

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Transform and Roll Out

The Boat sits in the garage, ready and waiting to be flipped onto her back.  Here it was concieved, here it grew, here it lives contently as it is advanced for towards completion.  It cannot know that a major transformation awaits it and that its world is soon to be turned upsidedown.  The Builder, however, knows, and has been readying The Boat for this day.

Now, the time has come.  The Builder, in preparation, sets about applying liberal peer pressure to his colleagues and is soon able to muster a brave crew.  A date is set, and the clock is ticking.

With the building cradle removed, The Boat sits unfettered.          
The Builder rushes to make everything ready.  The tools, supplies, and scrap wood that had lived in and around The Boat are swept away.  Rubbish is disposed of.  The Builder flits about the boat, sandpaper in hand, knocking down any sharp edges or sundry roughness that had the potential to damage the hands of his pressed crew.  Foam and carboard padding are gathered and staged.  A test run of opening the garage door and deploying the padding is conducted.  In the final gesture of absolute readiness, the sides of the cradle in which The Boat took form are stripped away, leaving her resting on her keel, balancing on a sawhorse strategically placed under her starboard rubrail.  She awaits in readiness.

The day arrives.  Mountaineer, U-Boat Driver, PACSman and The King come out to help.  Some members of the crew have just supped at Restaurant of the The Grouchy Chef, so that they may be strong for the awaiting task. 

The door is flung open and sunlight pours in onto The Boat's bow.  Padding is deployed.  The Plan is laid out for the crew.  It is simple enough: coax the boat out of the garage, roll her, and return her to from whence she came.  The benefits of having gathered over 60 years of engineering experience is clear, and some minor details are quickly ironed out.  The Plan is incrementally improved.

The crew surrounds the vessel and sizes up the task.  The King grips the rubrail and gives it a tug, querying, "is this structural?"  The Builder assures The King that said rubrail is fully capable of supporting the weight of the boat.  The Builder is not as sure as he looks, however, and feels his throat constrict ever-so-slightly as the crew seizes the rubrails and begins to haul.  The rail holds.  The Boat hobbles forward.  A crew of four could have managed, but the task would have been more daunting.  Likewise, a sixth crewman would have lightened the load, but was unnecessary.  With Builder and Mountaineer forward, U-Boat Driver and the King aft, and PACSman at the stern, The Boat sidles into the sunlight.

Mountaineer, U-Boat Driver, and The King contemplate the next step. 
PACSman hides in the shadow of the King.
The Boat is in position.  The Builder worries.  While all rational analysis tells The Builder that his creation is well founded and fully capable of withstanding the loads about to be applied, there nevertheless lurk the phantoms of doubt in his mind.  The dark vision of joints parting and The Boat unzipping midway though the roll cannot be fully dispelled.  His heartrate rises slightly.  The Boat, monolithic in its strength scorns this doubt and in defiance does not emit so much as creak or groan as the roll begins and load transfers from keel to chine.  Soon, the point of crisis has passed, and The Boat is safely balanced on her rubrail.

Halfway there.
U-Boat Driver dives under the keel.  He is neither lifting nor restraining, but merely keeping the boat in equilibrium.  PACSman takes position at the stern and provides longitudinal stability.  Mountaineer and The King position themselves to recieve The Boat's weight as she rolls past 90 degrees.   Mountaineer provides propulsive effort while The King ably controls the roll.  The Builder dashes about from side to side, trying simulateously to help, supervise, and take photos.  His help and supervision are equally unneeded and in the excitement he largely neglects his camera.

U-Boat Driver, PACSman and The King survey the capsized boat.
Swiftly, smoothly, surely, The Boat is inverted.  The Builder takes the opportunity to thoroughly sweep out the garage for the first time in two years.  Padding is re-deployed.  All hands again take hold of the rubrails and the boat is whisked back into position in the garage. 

The Boat returns to its home with a new outlook on life.

The big roll is complete.  Theend is almost anti-climactic.  The Builder breathes a sigh of relief.  Now filling, fairing, fiberglassing, feathering, and a lifetime of sanding await.