Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Betty Crocker, epoxy guy's sweetheart

Making my weekly rounds to the Dollar Store, I found an unexpected treasure trove: a rack of Betty Crocker silicone implements. And kitchen scissors! And measuring cups! All quite nice and practically for free. I bought thirty bucks' worth.

The scissors seem to rip through biaxial cloth without flinching. The cups are quite festive in the epoxy additives. But I am most excited about the silicone spatulas and basting brushes. You can trim the brush short, trim the spatulas to whatever shape and stiffness you want.

So exciting. Anyhow, we pull the side box out of its clamps,

drop it in the boat (it fits--amazing!) and begin to lay up the sides of the second one. Then we mix up some epoxy. 

We paint straight resin on the joints with the basting brush, then spooge the epoxy along the joints with a ziplock bag cut like a pastry bag, then fillet the joints with the custom-trimmed spatulas.

Then set the yucky, sticky tools down, have a beer and go back to the house.

Later, when the epoxy kicks, just bend the silicone. It really doesn't stick very well to anything.

Not even the basting brush.

Boom, like that. All ready for the next batch. Plastic squeegees are supposed to clean up like that, but they never do. Silicone does. And the price is right.

Meanwhile, Jim is burning in the name. Smells good in here.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

February in Grand Canyon

We launched on February 20--the only month I had not been on the river. We had two-and-a-half days to row to Phantom Ranch to pick up our scientist clients--88 miles. Fortunately the air decided not to go to Manitoba and we had easy rowing.

Here's a little fixer-upper. A little worse off than the Betty Boop was but I think we can get her floating.
This is Bert Loper's Grand Canyon, which has lain here in the rain and sun and snow and rockfalls for more than six decades.

Oh my. Last year's new rockfall at Mile 42 got a little newer.

Like, maybe yesterday. Because the day before yesterday it rained like hell, and all this dust on the opposite shore is dry. About a quarter-mile of it. Yikes. Glad we didn't start a day earlier.

Our home for seven nights, at the foot of Bass Rapid. Each day the fisheries biologist march over the hill to deplete the chub-eating trout population in Shinumo Creek. Tasty little things, those troutlets.


We forgot to bring tortillas. No matter. If you empty a Jameson bottle, it makes a fine rolling pin.

Randy showing the final products. I am pretty sure it would not have worked if we had left any whiskey in that bottle.

Derik and I crossed the river one day to double-check the measurements Andy Hutchinson and I and a few others took a few years ago. The old Ross Wheeler is on my docket for replication for its centennial in 2014. Gotta get it right.


I'm not sure I have ever seen the ever-so-faint lettering on the transom before. Here it is digitally outlined. This will be fun to replicate on the new boat.

The product of the day's measuring.

 The trip was pretty hellish, but we somehow survived.


In mid February, a couple days before I left for the river, Cam Staveley brought by his grandfather Norm Nevills's ol San Juan Punt, Redbud Canyon. Cam has been working on getting her river worthy again, and had come up against a fractured and rotted out section of the side panel. Last year when I was taking measurements of the Redbud in order to build a replica (named Boxcar, see late October and early November blogposts), I offered to help Cam rebuild the side.

Nevills being one of the demigods of Grand Canyon boats and boating history, several other boaters showed up to join in the fun. Here is the side panel in question--what you can't see are the full fractures and rot going through the 5/8" plywood.

Cam watches as I take a power saw to the boat his grandfather built about seventy years earlier. It was kind of scary.

 Carbide blades are wonderful things.

Jim and I ground a three-sided scarf into the missing side.

Meanwhile Dan assaulted the opposite side, where the oarlock stands were in deep trouble.

Jim is pulling nails while Owen starts work on the rear deck.

While looking for the right scrap of plywood, Jim found a new pair of pants.

The finished scarf cut.

Cam, Owen, Marieke, and Dennis rebuilding the rear deck. The supports had collapsed and the decking had been crunched.

The new side-panel gets scarfed and clamped back together.

And a new deck goes on.

The resin kicks and we delight in our handiwork.

Here we are re-laminating the top of the plywood side where it had split, rotted, and crunched.

By dark we were pretty much done other than a late-night fairing of the new work and a quick morning sanding. Cam came by before I had the wits to photograph the final product, but suffice it to say, it looked pretty good. From here on out it is mostly a matter of sanding it down a bit more, stabilizing any funky plywood, and painting her. Then it's off down the old San Juan.

Home is the sailor

A Grand Canyon trip  suddenly materialized, luring me downriver and interrupting the flow of things at the boatworks. I'm back for a week or so, then off again. Before I left we rolled Julius right-side up again, sanded and re-caulked the decks, and Jim rebuilt the hatch lids. While I was afloat Jim kept plugging away, attending to details and rubbing in more love. The old boy is ready to rock again.

Still to do: 

Re-burn in the name Julius on the bow (the old letters faded away--I think I really only burned the oil last time, not the actual wood.)

Build a couple side-boxex, like I did with the Edith. They aren't authentic, but they sure keep the cockpit flooding down and add greatly to the convenience of stowage. Especially since I am the lunch boat next month.

Go boating.