Monday, April 16, 2018

Boats and boating

Well, the snotworks ChillyBin 276s are all finished and heading downriver on various AzRA trips. The long and short of it, I'm afraid, is that there is a bit too much labor involved to make them a competitive product. But they sure are nice to use.

Janek's leatherwork gets better every time we do a set of oars.

I finally jumped in the car and fled the boatshop. I took Bears Ears up to Lee's Ferry for a little solo run upstream, mostly to test out the transom height for motoring. I guessed right. It works fine.

Moonrise over Badger Creek Rapid during a break from our Wilderness First Responder training.

Then it was up to the San Juan River to explore the stretch from Four Corners down toward the better known reach. It was an odd assortment of craft.

I brought little Bernie.

The trading post is closed.

The views are peculiar in the moonscape of the Morrison Formation.

The Navajos were burning fires all over the place. Lyle thought they might be getting ready to brand.

We found where tires go to die.

There was rock art. Old.

And new.

And I think I found the Rosetta Stone, which deciphers what all rock art really means:

Sunset near Aneth.

This guy didn't want to get branded.

Back in the shop friend Kelly signed up to do a one-gal class, building a McKenzie dory.

By night two we had it formed and the gunwales and chines steamed and bent. That evening Connie brought Running Bare in for new rubber chines. It's a Rapid Robert style boat we built a couple years back. Connie says she had it out on Lake Powell a while back in bad wind and big water. All her friends in big boats were taking on water, but Running Bare took it beautifully and stayed totally dry.

Connie headed out the next morning all re-chined, and we jumped back into Kelly's boat.

Night three: bottom on.

And we take a music break. The Good Time Travelers showed up to do a house concert. Holy crap, those guys are amazing. They'll be back in September for Pickin in the Pines--be sure to check them out.

After hours sometimes gets the best of us.

We took a say off from Kelly's boat to put gunwales on the two new AzRA aluminum dories. It sure spiffs up the hull. I am looking forward to seeing them on the water.

Day five on Kelly's boat. Gunwales on, floorboards made, seats built, hatches getting framed up.

Starting to feel a bit crinkly.

Day six: hatches finished. What a sexy little boat. I think it's going to be named for the old Shoshone name for the Green River: Seedskedee.

My daffodils have been going off in full riot the last week or two. I can't tell y'all how happy they make me.

Monday, March 19, 2018

Fretwater Snotworks

There are a lot of things I really love doing, but working extensively with fiberglass ("frozen snot") is not high on the list. In spite of that, last year I made a prototype cooler for my summer employer, Arizona Raft Adventures (AzRA). The reason being that our old coolers are ungodly heavy, even when empty, and are injected with urethane foam as insulation--which slowly saturates with water due to pinhole leaks. And all coolers get leaks, even if you can't see them. As the coolers get heavier, they lose their efficiency. And our backs hurt more.

With some guidance from my epoxy mentor Greg Loehr at Resin Research, we created the ChillyBin 276--a 276-quart cooler that is lighter than any other comparable sized cooler on the market, and should outlast them as well. A couple features--Handles where we need them in order to load with less trauma; an off-center drain so we can access it without derigging; high density polyethylene skids for ease dragging it in and out of the truck; impermeable styrofoam insulation so it cannot waterlog over the coming decades; 14% more capacity than the biggest current cooler; and nearly 100 pounds lighter than the heaviest of our current coolers. 

Well, the prototype got good reviews, especially from the truck driver who has to drag the loaded coolers in and out of the truck every trip. The only complaint had to do with how good the seal was--after opening and closing the cooler, the warm air that entered the cooler would chill off enough to contract and hold the lid shut. I decided that was more of an asset than a flaw. Anyhow, AzRA ordered four more this year, so last Thursday we fired up the Snotworks.

This time around we pre-glassed all the interior walls, which was way easier than doing it after we'd built the boxes. It also gave us way smoother glass work. Then we glassed the interior corners and took the boxes outdoors to round off the outside corners.

A couple days ago Janek noticed that on our prototype ChillyBin the fiberglass directly beneath the Boatman's Bony Butt (BBB) has begun to delaminate from the foam from repeated flexing. We're hoping to prevent that in the future by laminating in a sheet of plywood to better deflect the Butt Bone Impact (BBI).

Day five and the basic boxes are nearly complete, with the lids close to done. And Owen and I are itching to be done with the project. With luck these will be done in a couple more days and we can get back to boat work. AzRA is also buying four new Yeti coolers which will be evaluated alongside the ChillyBins. We are secretly hoping the Yetis win. Then we won't have to engage in this wretched snottery again.

Meanwhile, our pathetic and fitful winter is giving way to spring. I have been worried that all our flower bulbs may have died--or at least had to go into counseling--due to our warm, arid winter punctuated with dumps of snow. The daffodils have tried four or five times to celebrate springtime only to be thumped into the earth by a snowfall and deep freeze. But the green swords are rising once again. The first stubborn crocus is about to bloom.

Monday, March 12, 2018

High Class Operation

A bit of ketchup on this year's boat school classes. We did four classes again, beginning with Bronzecasting. It's a dirty job. Smelly too. We use the casting sand over and over and over, the oil in the sand getting set afire each time. Phew. But it sure is fun.

Justin carved patterns for an array of saguaro boathooks. 

Dual furnaces, blasting through the propane, burning our fair share. About 500 pounds in four days. 

Aren't they cute?

Next up were two oarmaking classes. Janek and Dan laminating the shafts.

Kelly planing them down.

Betsy squaring them up.

And cutting the blade sides.

Hands down, my favorite part of oar making.

From squares to octagons.

And on to sixteenagons.

Grinding out the blades.

Mark is a wee bit dusty.

Sewing on the oar leathers.

Tooling up the leather oar stops.

And armoring the tips.

Class number two, by no means second class.

Day one of the Briggs dory building class: lofting the lines for our boat.

Expanding out the true shape and angles of the transom. You can almost hear the brains exploding.

Shawn planing out the rolling bevel of the bowpost.

A two-hour assembly of the hull on day three.

Steam bending the chines.

On with the bottom and the chines.

Over she comes.

Joe screwing up. Upward, that is.

Decking her in.

Decks on. Time to fiberglass the seams. Sticky business.

Demonstrating the gunwale bolt drilling technique.

Day eight, afternoon. She may not be done, but goddam near! Amazing.

Winter makes a surprise showing. We'd forgotten it wasn't autumn.