Unfortunately Andy got severely delayed by visa issues and I had to go it alone for the first week or so. So the pressure was on. I set up our shop in a sheep shed high on a windy hilltop in the remote community of Pukeokahu, where our employer, Brian Megaw, had secured us space for the month.
The front door was pretty classy:
It came with our mantra stuck to the wall:
Brian didn't really have the necessary tools for such an enterprise so we spent a small fortune gearing up. The clamps, unfortunately, were on the low end. Pro-Grade. If you ever get a chance to buy any Pro-Grade clamps, run the other way. Of the three dozen pictured below, only about ten survived the project.
But the saving grace was the bonus pack of top-notch Makita lithium cordless tools. Oh my good golly heck are they fine tools. Highly recommended. The circular saw, the planer, the drills--all bad ass tools and hell for accurate. Here they are sitting atop the full-size drawings we lofted back in the states.
Here is the view out the lofting bench window: the world's largest golf course. Never been anywhere even close to this green.
Brian was able to get some top-notch boatbuilding wood--Port Orford cedar for framing, Meranti marine plywood for the skin, and White Oak for the gunwales and chines. Here are the first five of twenty rib sets leaning up against the stack of plywood:
I came up with another in a long line of invented scarfing jigs to bevel the plywood so we could glue up twenty-foot sheets. This one involved making a wooden box and screwing the circular saw to it. It is the best jig I've ever used. Note the scarf cut in the bottom of the picture.
The clamping jigs were simply pairs of 2x4s above and below the scarfed plywood sheets, the flat surfaces of the 2x4s covered with black plastic. On the set top I drove wedges between the two 2x4s to distribute pressure, since I only connected the top boards to each other at the very ends. Another grand success.
By the time Andy and Kate arrived, I had all the ribs, bowposts, and transoms cut, and the side-panels and floors scarfed and glued. Gunwales and chines were milled and scarf-cut, ready to bend and glue. On their first morning we drew out the side-panels from patterns we made in the states--here we are truing the lines with wooden battens.
And that afternoon we pulled together the first hull.
Here is a link to a time-lapse Kate Thompson made:
Meanwhile we fired up our improvised steam bender. The jets on the burners were oversized (for burning sheep farts I guess?) so I pounded in a stick of wood in the gigantic orifice and drilled a tiny orifice more suited to propane. Damn if it didn't work. Well, kinda sooty, but it worked. We also found it heated our jackets nicely while improving the bender's efficiency. You can see a set of chines fresh out of the steamer in the previous picture, clamped to the new hull for shaping.
Things never slowed down much. Here is Andy cutting the sheer line on one of the hulls.
We fit in the inner chines next and traced the pattern for the bottoms:
Then we screwed them on and put on the outer chines.
Fortunately we passed our inspection:
Next we rolled them up and screwed on the Tasmanian Blackwood gunwale blocks and chiseled out the ribs to accept the gunwales.
The saving grace of this manic schedule was that we were not decking them as we do in Grand Canyon, but rather installing fairly simple benches.
We saturated the bottoms with epoxy to toughen them a bit for gravelly landings and such. The sides we varnished. Interiors we oiled with Linseed-turpentine-varnish with a touch of pine tar (which is called Stockholm Tar down under.)
After a second coat of varnish we added a 30% proportional stripe for accent. We used Resene enamel--a New Zealand brand that is astonishingly nice to use--high pigment levels, no sags, even the red covered in one coat. Tired of calling them boat number one and boat number two, we nick-named them after the Gabor sisters, Zsa Zsa and Eva. Their proper names are to be bestowed on them by the Maoris over by the Whanganui eventually. Eva has a rust stripe; Zsa Zsa's is blood red.
On our final day of work we crafted a stack-loader for the trailer, loaded them up and drove them down into the Rangatikei River, where Brian runs River Valley Lodge. There we launched Zsa Zsa for a test float. She floated.
The next morning it was off to the Whanganui for an overnight. We had to stop along the way and photograph the newborn babes in front of Ruapehu. And photograph each other photographing each other photographing the boats.
And down the Whanganui we went. Relieved and exhausted in two damned pretty boats. On a damned pretty river. If you are ever looking for a lovely three-to-five-day float, contact Brian at Whanganui River Dories. It's luvly.
Here are Brian and Nicola Megaw in Zsa Zsa, proud new dory owners. Friend Tommy is waving from the stern.