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Archive for November, 2013

Lessons Learned (Part 1)

Thursday, November 28th, 2013

Seems to me that the value of this boat blog is two-fold: first, it’s a way to share progress with friends; second, it’s (hopefully) also a resource for other folks building, or considering building, a Ratty-like boat. This post is geared mostly toward this latter group.

With Ratty now upright, and my thoughts beginning to turn toward the interior, this seems like a reasonable place to call a time out and ask: what mistakes have I made thus far? Given that this is my first build, the answer is an unsurprising “many.” I’ll mention a few that seem most salient.

First, I did not make enough annotations on the bow molds (0 and 1) before I started planking. At all the other stations the hard chines make it so apparent where each plank ends, I overlooked how hard it would be to figure this out at the bow while planking. Here the chines are much more subtle—or in the case of station 0, essentially non-existent. Next time, as I’m battening, I’ll mark the heck out of everything.

Second, I would not join my scarfs in situ again. Instead, I think I’d cut the entire strake roughly to shape, glue it when flat on the bench, and then mark and cut it more precisely. THEN I’d glue it to the boat. Each and every one of the scarfs I made this go round required extensive fairing, and I think that gluing flat would avoid this. If I’d wanted to keep the boat bright, that would have been key, since as it stands there is a bunch of filler on the hull that wouldn’t look great.

Since we’re on that subject, I can’t think of anything I’d like less—perhaps other than a stab wound (though even that might depend on location)—than taking care of that much varnish. Laying the strakes whole at once would mean that a helper would be vital, but I found that to be the case anyway.

Third, I’d be more cognizant of which filler I used for which purpose. My wallet hurt at all the epoxy squeeze-out I had from various joints, so as planking progressed I increasingly used some of the squeeze-out to begin building up fillets. Never again. Sanding these fillets was absurdly difficult, and in the process I sanded away a fair amount of wood. Next time, I’d try to reduce squeeze out as much as possible, but I’d doggedly mix up new goop thickened only with fairing filler for the fillets.

Fourth and last, I’d at least think about glassing differently. Instead of just laying a big sheet down and going for it, I might be tempted to glass each strake individually, and then tape the chines. I might even do this on the bench before putting the strake on the boat; glassing flat is so much easier. But then again I might do the same thing I did this time.

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Glassing and a flip

Saturday, November 23rd, 2013

Two main things have occurred in the nascent life of Ratty since last I updated the blog; I fiberglassed the outside of the hull, which went reasonably well (with one gigantic exception), and I flipped the boat over, which was an unqualified success.

Fiberglassing was quite a drawn out process, mostly because it seemed like a rather scary commitment. I therefore procrastinated until nearly the end of September. With some help, though, it turned out to be not too bad. I improvised the following layup schedule mostly thinking about abrasion resistance:  one layer of 2 oz cloth over the second, third, and sheer strakes, one of 2 oz and then one of 6 oz over the garboard strake, two layers of 6 oz over the keel and stem, and three of 6 oz over the bottom of the keel. I put 3 or 4 coats of epoxy over all. I switched from System3’s general purpose system to their SilverTip laminating resin for glassing, and was quite pleased with the results.

Until, that is, I went to sand the sides. Much of the resin just began to chip off. I called System3 to discuss what had happened, and they were nice but not authoritative. I’m not really sure, either. Suspects include: a faulty mix (though I pulled out all my chemistry lab training and got the meniscus just so), temperature (though here too, all seemed well—nice and warm), or perhaps surface preparation between coats (this seems most likely to me; I did none, because online literature steered me away from it. The System3 gentleman recommended denatured alcohol in future).

I haven’t soured on SilverTip, and plan to use it for the rest of ‘glassing later.

At any rate, after so much time sanding, I was thoroughly sick of staring at the bottom of my boat, and unwilling to do the whole damn thing over just then. I’ll just re-sand and glass when I flip the boat back over to paint at the end.

With that decision made, I made plans to flip the boat. In late October, I was about to head into the field to teach a 2-week sailing section to a group of NOLS semester students. I decided it would a) be cool for them, and b) would provide me a great deal of muscle if I did the flip with them on our return to the branch.

Before I describe the process, I must first put a plug in for Moving Heavy Things, a wonderful book by Jan Adkins (he of Craft of Sail fame) it’s a marvelous examination of, well, moving heavy things, using simple systems to ease and control the process. I absorbed its lessons as well as I could.

The barn in which I’m building has nice beams on the ceiling, around two of which the school has hung block and tackles to assist moving kayaks around. I rigged up a couple of fairleads to position these at the bow and stern of the boat, and took advantage of the over-tall stem and transom to secure them (leaving these tall was a great decision) using a through-bolt at the bow and a strop secured to two holes aft.

My original vision for these attachments was to raise the boat by using teams of folks to haul on them, schooner-style. To keep the boat from rolling over too soon (and as a back-up in case bow or stern parted), I also rigged 2 “cradle lines” athwartships at stations 3 and 7—from rafter, down under the boat, then back up to rafter, and finally down to a belay station.

The actual flip went a bit differently than this. With help from some friends and some math, I ascertained that the boat wasn’t too heavy—maybe 300 or 400 pounds. Since I planned to have 10 students plus several members of the PNW in-town staff on hand to help, it seemed quite reasonable to simply raise the boat by means of hands arrayed along the gunwales, and then use the cradle lines and bow and stern lines to support it while I removed the molds from the strongback. To control the flip, I planned to keep the bow and stern lines tight while easing on the cradle lines, allowing the boat to pivot down. And to support the boat once I’d flipped it, I made two cradles to fit under stations three and seven.

And you know what? It all went as planned.

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