Saturday, April 8, 2017

Time flew

Jeepers, time keeps getting away from me. Stuff just keeps happening so fast. Let's see, where were we? The Mille Crag Bend made a full recovery and headed on down the driveway toward her next adventure.

The Fretwater ChillyBin 276 achieved completion and is ready to go downriver with me in a little under two weeks. Yikes. It's almost summer.

My beloved dory Cataract came down from the loft after a winter of drying and got her bottom insults doctored.

And another experiment--sailboat flap-valve scuppers to help bail out the passenger footwells down to seat level. Stay tuned.

My orchid, after a dozen years without bloom, is in its third month of showing off this beautiful plume of flowers.

Outside the thousand bulbs we planted last fall are really starting to take off.

And our community project to build Dave Edwards a studio is nearly done. We are having a Boyo's Boxwarming party Saturday, April 15, to celebrate. Come on by!

But lest we get ahead of ourselves, we did launch into one more frenzied streak of productiveness. Nine new oars on order are now in production. Starting with big fat heavy ash planks.

After carefully sorting and testing our patterns, we actually found all nine oars hiding inside those planks. Each one got it's outer laminate milled out as well.

And glued on. I wish I had more clamps.

Then we cut them into a square version of their final shape.

And took the square to 8 sides, 16 sides, and more-or less 32. Rubbing charcoal on between planing sessions helps keep track of where you are.

God, I love running a shop that's full of genuine, hand made, organic, shade grown, free-range, gluten-free wood shavings.

Once the planing stops we work up a sweat with sandpaper.

Outdoors we went after the blades with a serious grinder, then an almost as serious sander. And at week's end we had a mess of pretty sweet oars.

And on go the Loehr Laser-tips.

And a quick seminar on how to open and close recalcitrant oarlocks. Cheater-bars to open.

And a hammer to close and re-shape. It's good to have a block inside the oarlock so the reshaping goes properly.

   And then a pause to reconnect with the river--the reason we do all this ridiculous boat stuff. I headed up to Marble Canyon to re-certify my Food Manager's card, do the annual AzRA guide pre-season orientation, and participate in the annual Guide Training Seminar. My talk was on Doris Rapid--more on that another time. One guest appearance was from Greg Adams, great-grandson of James White--the poor old prospector who was plucked off a log raft from the Colorado River at the foot of Grand Canyon 150 years ago and presumed by many, myself included, to be the first person to float through Grand Canyon. Greg built a painstaking replica of his great granddad's vessel for us to admire.

A close-up of the shirt.

I was headed for bed a little after midnight when the haircut crew got ahold of me.  How would a fella say no to that crowd?

And at noon the next day a bunch of us old wooden boat-heads headed up the river for a few days of frolicking.

Our first day of frolic ended up being under a tarp in the pouring rain, but that's why we brought the whiskey. Always be prepared.

But in the big picture it's still a desert.

Hmmm. Can't motor up that. Better turn around and row.

Mariposa lilies. It must be spring.

And Helleborine orchids. 

So very pretty. Even though they say we lost the best ninety percent of Glen Canyon, the wee bit we still have is pretty amazing.

You never know who you'll run into on the river. We camped next to a group that will likely be all the rage soon: Scary Larry and the Transylvanians. That was pretty interesting.

Then this happened.

Yikes. So it's back to the shop to tidy up a mess of loose ends. And head down the river.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Frozen Snot

The great yacht designer and author L. Francis Herresmhoff is often said to have referred to fiberglass disparagingly as "frozen snot."  

And perhaps he did, although in print he passes the buck a bit. Writing of the new resins he states:
"They are now being used in large quantities in the automotive industry for such things as radios and juke boxes. Some people seem to like this stuff when it is made to imitate onyx and some weird colored marble. Some of the designers who work in it and, of course hate it, call it frozen snot."

He goes on to eerily predict the future of plastic boats and defame all those who would use the stuff:
"There is no doubt that some day large concerns will make motor boats by the ten thousand, all alike, of plastics. These will suit the swill man's son, the ash man's son, and the son of the local politician, for they will all be painted bright red and trimmed with nickel plating. But why someone wants to put these chaps on the water I don't know, for there is nothing on the water they want to see, hear, or smell. Their only desire is to take some bad girls up around the bend of the river and this they might just as well do overland in the swill wagon their father navigated before them."

'Nuff said. I must confess, I don't really like working with frozen snot. Give me wood any day. But there are certain things the stuff will do that wood is not quite so good at, so I do go through a fair amount the nasty, itchy, sticky, phlegmy stuff. Right now I am working on an entirely synthetic cooler--foam and snot--to see if we can compete with, or better yet improve upon, the commercially available iceboxes for river use. The goals: maximum size for the current rafts, light weight for the aging boatman's back who has to move it around, maximum ice life, and durability. Our last generation of frozen snot iceboxes have endured a couple decades of hard abuse

We are calling it the Fretwater ChillyBin 276, as it should hold 276 quarts--ten percent more capacity than any other raft-sized cooler. (Chilly bin is Kiwi for icebox.) One problem with most coolers is that after one wee crack, the urethane foam begins soaking up water, concurrently getting ungodly heavy as it rapidly loses insulation value. So we are using impermeable styrofoam. We have laminated high-density plastic skids into the bottom to withstand years of being dragged in and out of trucks, across parking lots, and about the warehouse.

With the inside and outside laminated with 24oz biaxial glass with a 6oz glass overcoat, doubled up on law corners, it should be pretty tough. Here Janek is laying up the rim of the basic box.

We then covered the wet glass with waxed paper to smooth it out, set a rim of flat particle board on it to give us a good, flat surface for the lid to meet.

Then we put a few hundred pounds on the particle board to make sure the epoxy understood what we meant. It did.

Next we laid up the bottom side of the lid, covered it in thin plastic to make it smooth, and set it in place on the main cooler and weighted it down to take a perfect imprint. It's gonna fit perfectly.

Hinges and hinge fastenings have all eventually failed on earlier coolers. We have implanted anchor points into the foam for a heavy duty stainless hinge which should outlive us. We are also putting two easy-to-use, ergonomic handles on each end. Other coolers of nearly this capacity weigh in from 70 to 160 pounds. the Fretwater ChillyBin 276 will come in at around 60 pounds.


Between snot laminations we moved to the other side of the shop. We brought the warm and dry Mille Crag Bend down from the ceiling and began injecting one nasty crack with epoxy.


And then mashed thicker epoxy in as well, covered both faces with waxed paper, and crushed it between two sheets of plywood. Janek is cranking down a dozen carriage bolts to make sure our repair comes out perfectly flat and strong once the snot freezes. It did.

And now on to the main repairs--we need to replace a piece of sidewall and a piece of bottom on each side of the boat. 

So we cover both side of the scarf joints with runny snot, then thickened mucus, and squash them into place between through-bolted plywood splints. Bingo--good as new. Maybe better.

Then we replace the fiberglass layers and cover them with waxed paper as well. Nothing left to do but a bit of sanding, fairing, and painting.


Enough with the frozen snot already. We made a field trip last night to visit our darling Swampscott dory Stella, who is awaiting a good plan for her sails. With Rocket's help, we think we have a plan.

Up in the house we had another in a series of fabulous house concerts. The first act was Blue Moon: Julie Sullivan and Reno and Shelia McCormick playing the sweetest bluegrass music and singing incredible harmonies.

After an intermission Julie returned with Cabel Breckenridge in a duet they call Secret Handshake. A marvelous and eclectic mix of genres with wonderful guitar work and beautiful vocals.

And out in the forest the first two of the more than one thousand bulbs we planted last fall have bloomed. The entire hillside is erupting in green swords of narcissus. I can hardly wait.