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.

Sunday, March 11, 2018

Bad blog boy returns


I seem to have been a negligent bloggerist. A seventy-day hiatus in prime blogging season. I have lots of excuses. A lingering cold/flu/thing, four classes, a change in thyroid meds, and a handful of other ridiculous commitments that pretty much overwhelmed me. Instead of hitting the ground running, I've been hitting the bed whimpering. I need a new agent.

But things are slowing down and I'm speeding up.

Okay. So. Where were we? Finishing up Bears Ears. Yeah. That's it. Here are the gunwales going on. It takes good coffee to work this fast, and a beer to calm down afterward.

I sure like her lines.

We are building camber into the hatch lids so they'll seal better. Maybe.

The old dory colors make me smile.

Pinstripes pop those colors.

Wasn't there a book called Men to Match My Mountains? Perhaps A Prow to Parallel the Peaks?

Oh. There were also a few interruptions. RJ showed up with the Surprise Canyon in need of fiberglassing. It was perhaps the last unadulterated Briggs hull, and RJ held out as long as he could stand it before going the frozen-snot route. But it was time. Off with the bumpers and all the paint.

On with the killer bottom and sides.

Out with the annoying extra framing in the cross-hatches. Boom. Done. Modernized. I do feel a bit of guilt, but not too much.

And then there was this other boat I decided to build. A one-third scale Briggs dory bookshelf/geegaw-display/shrine. I was to be honored as a Featured Artist at the Whale Foundation WingDing, which also means you gots to come up with a killer donation for the auction. Sneaky trick, that. We lofted it, made the parts, and built the world's smallest strongback.

I need smaller clamps.

It's a boat.

A pretty boat at that.

Is this a full-size boat or the wee one?

Time for that classic dory paint job.

Awwwww. They're so cute when they're young.

Of course all this is going on in between and/or in spite of teaching and succumbing to the seasonal mung. But then there was this too: Kate came out from Rhode Island to do a presentation with her carved boat and myself (me being the midwife). So we put together a show while her beau Brian got the boat ready. We took it downtown, rolled it up Beaver Street to the brewery, jammed it in the door and had a concert with Peter McLaughlin. (During which we figured out that Peter played at Kate's parents' wedding long ago--and here he was singing in a boat built by the offspring of that wedding--it was pretty cool.) With some of Kate's amazing prints from the boat hanging in the background. 

Then an impromptu parade down Beaver Street to the Orpheum. Peter singing, Kate riding along like Cleopatra.

And into the side door of the Orpheum for our presentation. Then back out and home to get ready for the Film Fest after-hours party. (Which also meant that the night before we had to tear down all the workbenches from oar class, build a stage, tidy up, and decorate.) But it was a hell of a party. Peter played another set.

And late in the evening Craig Childs and the Scatterlithics took the stage for a most amazing performance of Craig's own genre--somewhere between a poetry slam, jazz improvisation, extemporaneous fourth dimensional mind travel, and I'm not sure quite what. Neither is Craig.

The party shut down early--about 3am. Then it was up the next morning to rebuild the shop for boatbuilding class. And get another presentation ready for the WingDing that night. And a talk. 

By then I was running on fumes, but it was a lovely evening, crowned by a fabulous bidding war for the wee dory bookcase. She brought in over $2500 for a great cause. Then up at dawn to teach an eight-day boatbuilding class.

Is it beginning to make sense why the blog has been neglected?

I survived the class, and some boat remodeling afterward and was finally able to take a little vacation. Bears Ears and I headed up to Colorado to visit friends, then on to Moab to meet Bears Ears's step-sisters. The gang at Eddyline Welding have been building three aluminum dories to the same lines I drew up for Bears Ears. And they are lovely. And so similar it is eerie. I've never seen welding this meticulous, or an aluminum boat with such graceful curves. Two of them will get wooden gunwales down here at Fretwater in a couple weeks and join the AzRA fleet. The third one is for sale—get it while it's hot. Click here to find their blog about the building of the boats: CLICK, And to see a video of the build, click HERE.

They weigh in almost exactly the same as Bears Ears--a bit above 650 lbs, which makes sense. A normal Briggs runs somewhere in the low 500s, and these are 25% more commodious.

The aluminum sisters were not quite ready for the river, though, so we joined a small fleet of local aluminum boats for a run down the daily stretch.

Check out the sexy lines and sweet tail lights on Nightcrawler. I can't believe they trusted mr to row it.