Drinking beers and looking at things

June 23rd, 2014

If I’m honest, drinking beers and looking at things appears to be what boat builders do. Or at least what first-time boat builders do. Or at least what I have so far spent most of my time doing. In fact, between all the beer-swilling and the head-scratching, really it’s a bit surprising that there’s any boat at all sitting in the barn.

(Note please that, on any given evening, the beer comes after the power tools).

I’ve learned many skills in building Ratty. One that continues problematic for me is visualizing the way a given part should look before it has a physical existence. Boat parts are just weirdly-shaped. The transom, for example, is an angled and notched piece of plywood bordered by 9 compound miter joints. On the other hand, the forefoot of the garboard strake is a strongly curving 3-D lamination whose shape is defined by 4 lines – the stem, the keelson and stations 0 and 1.

When I dove into making each of those pieces, they seemed straightforward enough. I had lines on the plans, with angles and whatnot. Easy! No. It turns out that even with detailed plans (and Tad’s are excellent) there is a huge amount of brain-side 3D modeling that has to take place in order for the boat builder to make sense of what he or she sees on the plans.

These pieces gave me trouble because they had very few reference points defining their shapes, meaning there was a great deal of filling in the blanks. At the moment, though, I’m scratching my head and drinking my beers as I deal with the opposite issue: too many reference points.

Because of the way I began filling in the interior of the boat, the midships bulkhead/centerboard case area is the last big structural piece to be made. Thus it’s sort of the catchall (terminal moraine for my mountaineering friends) for any errors I introduced when placing the other bulkheads, and indeed in creating the hull itself. I’ve been unable to completely reconcile all the errors I’ve made (for example the starboard side of the boat appears to be 3/32” wider than the port side at station 5. Can’t figure out why). So I’m doing the best I can—shimming and trimming to get everything lined up, while keeping my eye on the really important reference: centerboard case straight up and down.

The centerboard case/center bulkhead is going to be one heck of a glue up.

Entry Filed under: Building Ratty


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