Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Last details

This boat makes me feel like a boat perv. I just keep staring at her sexy lines instead of engaging in an intellectually stimulating conversation. I find myself putting my hands, uninvited, on her voluptuous curves.

One of the more remarkable things about building Bernie was that we used up my entire old stash of long, wide northern white cedar left over from building Edith in 2011. We got all six strakes out without scarfing, with margins of about 1/16" on a few. But the magic continues. My last two shorter pieces were perfect (barely) for the seat rails.

Using the proper tool: Janek's hands are far steadier than mine for painting pinstripes--and far more artistic.

I am trying out a sample of a new nonskid product on the floor--SoftSand--it is made from pulverized rubber. It feels really cool. Since I plan to stand and scull a fair amount in this wee tippy boat, I think a solid footing is well advised.

That seat rail sure looks wacky as it plunges into the stern.

After consulting with my East Coast mentors on how to treat the stemhead, we came up with this.

I have a set of sweet Port Orford cedar oars set up for the Edith, and I discovered that if I place the oarlocks outboard of the gunwales, they should work perfectly. I may have to cast some sexy bronze oarlock pads next time we fire the foundry.

Meanwhile Columbine Falls continues her recovery.

Dory archaeology: In the center is our new Meranti patch. It scarfs outward two inches on all sides toward the outer face of the boat. Surrounding the new patch on its left side is an older Douglas fir patch. And above that you can see the edges of an even earlier patch. This is where the Columbine Falls finds itself attracted to rocks. Its her karma corner.


But so what? Go ahead and try to make an aluminum dory that has suffered repeatedly look like this again. Seriously.

Meanwhile Bernie sits here waiting for me to get my act together and go boating.

Oh, right. Boating. Is that why we build these things?

Friday, March 25, 2016


I've been driving a Toyota Previa van for about twenty years. But it's been about that long since they made them and my last one was down to her last breaths. Plus, I have been planning to build a double dory trailer for a while, based on a successful model I invented about 25 years ago. After a few weeks of craigslisting, I came up with a scheme. Hoping I had found what I was after, I made a run to Parker, Arizona to pick up the trailer. Oh yeah, just the one I hoped it was. Then I towed it up to Las Vegas to buy a new (to me) 4Runner. Another score--immaculate and very reasonably priced. The poor old Previa made her last run with honor, spewing fluids and gasping all the way. And she earned a free ride back home. She's for sale if anyone wants a project! 

It feels so weird to be driving a basically new car. First time in my life. I feel like an imposter. I keep wondering whose obnoxiously shiny car is in my driveway.

Back to work. The finish washers arrived for Bernie, so I put those in.

Janek and I glassed the outside of the bottom and garboards.

Columbine Falls stopped by for a visit. She had a bad run-in with Waltenburg Rapid last year. Waltenburg, to be quite frank, has been a real asshole lately. Mean. Lashing out at old friends.

No problem. Just a scratch.

Bernie gets his garboards painted and the rest of him oiled. All done but seats and oarlocks.


I'll start out with a bit of review here, with some nice shots David Witton sent in from the lapstrake course. Here are last year's molds being trued up on this year's strongback.

We drew in and chiseled out the rabbet on the stem. Then David carved the leading edge.

Rooster is cutting out the bottom.

And I am beveling it. Okay--full disclosure. I marked out the first attempt on the bottom with the dimensions of its lower face--the narrower face. Oops. That made it a couple inches too narrow. Of course I did this for the benefit of the class, so they would know never to do that. Okay, I wasn't thinking clearly. I was in a rush to close up early and go see Bernie Sanders. But we were too late anyhow. Popular guy around here.

The second bottom fit quite nicely.

After which we spiled out the plywood garboards and glued them on. That completed the stitch-and-glue section of the boat. Here we are spiling the shape for the first cedar plank.

We are trying to find a plank with the perfect kink to cut the strake. Amazingly, the seven planks I had--left over from building the Edith in 2011--provided all six cedar strakes by mere fractions of an inch. Lucky, lucky lucky.

And on they went. Rivets every three inches, skipping every third rivet so the ribs could go in later.

It's nice to be running a real boatshop. Ankle deep in shavings from real planes cutting real wood.

And on with the sheer strakes. It's a hull.

Up she comes. Time for interior work.

First we do the fiberglass coat over the plywood section. The bottom several inches of the boat will be pretty impervious.

And in go the white oak ribs. It turns out that at 7,000 feet above sea level, a steam bender never really gets hot enough for ideal oak bending.  They really didn't want to bend quite like we wished they would. Next boat maybe we'll drive the whole apparatus to Phoenix for the day.

After staring at the boat for and evening and a morning we agreed she was a touch tall amidships. A little flat. We cut down the center sheer by an inch, which added oodles of grace to her profile.

On with the inwales.

And the outwales.

And so ends the five-day course. We named the little thing Bernie. He's probably going to pull pretty hard left.

Here are the victors: Brian, Rooster, Ants, David, and myself. Thanks to our part-time assistants too--Missy, Zasha, Janek, Roy, Deanna and a few others... And a special thanks to the burrito truck that fueled our afternoons. Yum.

 Can't take my eyes off.

Friday, March 18, 2016

Little Swampy

A year ago my friend Wade came out from Connecticut to help teach a little fundamentals of boatbuilding course with me. I focussed on building a wee drift boat in the south bay, while Wade took those interested into more intensive lofting in the north bay. They drew up the cutest ever little Swampscott dory and got a few parts built and all the molds for forming the hull.

This year we are taking the next step, building the little thing. Getting started was the hardest part--figuring out what was what and where the parts go. What do these lines on the mylar mean, anyhow? 

On day one we put up the strongback, finished and installed the transom, and chiseled out the rabbet line of the stem.  Here's David, Zasha, and Brian chiseling away.

At day's end I cut out the floor wrong and had to make a new one. Damn it. Then we went to see Bernie, but got there too late. 

Today went better. We fiddled around a good deal getting things in just the right places, cut out the floor correctly this time.

  Ants is screwing the transom to the foot.

Rooster is cutting out the garboards.

Then we hung the garboards, which are the bottom-most side panels. 

And congratulated ourselves. Tomorrow we rivet.