Archive for the ‘wooden boats’ Category

Sailing Fee-Fi: Part 1

September 6, 2018

I have not followed up in a while with developments with our sailing tender Fee-Fi the Penny Fee design that we built to move us to and from the Friendship sloop, but she has gotten a lot of use in the last six seasons.

As I have written before on this site, both the rig and the interior layout are departures from the excellent set of plans provided, by Iain Oughtred, but we needed a simple, self contained boat to serve as launch and tender with as few spars and odds and ends to clutter the boat as we could manage. So we made changes that allow us to keep safety gear on the boat at all times and still allow us the maximum amount of room for cargo and passengers. I think she might go to weather slightly better with the yawl rig suggested in the plans, however, we needed closed storage aft where the mizzen would have been and that would have meant more spars and more pieces.

The big advantage to the sprit rig is that the sail can be furled by one long pull on the brailing line. The brailing line collapses and bundles the sprit and sail up against the mast. This allows us to sail right up to the mother ship and furl the sail in one smooth movement with minimal fuss. It also means that should the wind die completely, the sail can be brailed up and we can row without having to strike the sail. Should the wind reappear, we have only to let go the brailing line and we can sail again.

 

Here is a quick video that might give a better idea of what kind of performance we get from her under sail.

 

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New Work on the Friendship Sloop

August 8, 2018

This spring presented some real creative challenges for us, mostly related to our Friendship sloop.

Last fall as we got ready to decommission the boat for the season we found ourselves trying to make a rather tough decision; do we pull the engine and have it reconditioned, or do we replace the it?

On the one hand, our 28-year-old engine always starts. In all the years that we have been living with this boat, it has never failed us. On the other hand, it was developing some problems and the time to intervene was now.

I found that I was going back and forth on what to do. I don’t like working on the diesel, it is about the only thing about working on the boat that I don’t take much satisfaction in, my strengths do not include being a diesel mechanic, so rebuilding, or reconditioning this engine would mean pulling the engine to have a professional do the work. So why is that such a stumbling block? In the first place expense. The cost to have the engine professionally reconditioned is almost half the cost of a new engine. In the second place, where would that get us? We would, in a best-case scenario have an engine that is in better shape, but is still 28-years-old and which has always been underpowered for a boat that displaces almost eleven tons. That second part is key, if you are just going to use the engine to get off the mooring or through a crowded harbor, or when the wind dies, then this is no big deal, but we love to cruise, and have been in many situations where unexpected weather conditions meant that we needed a reliable engine powerful enough to help us get out of harms way. Several close calls in the last few seasons made us realize that our old engine was operating at the very extreme edge of its capabilities. Between us, the woman who will willingly get up in the middle of the night and stand an anchor watch, and I, have more than eighty years sailing experience. You don’t acquire that kind of experience without becoming acutely sensitive to where the edge is, and when you are too close to it, and we were too close to it.

So that would seem to point us in the direction of replacing the engine, except that as I said above, I don’t like working on diesels, and at least I know our old motor, I know what is likely to go wrong and how to fix it. I have spare parts on board and the appropriate tools on board, and there is a lot of comfort in that. A new engine would mean getting to know a new power plant and perhaps having to reconfigure systems around the new engine, what would that involve?

While the choice seemed obvious, the unknown factors were making me very uncomfortable.

Last fall I started to research the answers to as many of those questions as I could. I talked with representatives of just about every manufacturer of marine diesels; I got specs on multiple engines, talked to mechanics, and spent a lot of time in the engine room of the boat measuring. Mostly I asked a lot of questions and listened to the answers.

By midwinter only three things were really clear, one was that we could indeed purchase a new diesel that was physically about the same size as the old, but that had greater horsepower. Second was that if we were going to get the most out of a new motor then a new propeller, matched to the size of the engine, the size and shape of the boat and which would, in turn determine which reduction ratio for the transmission would be needed as well. And third, that I really could not determine how many other things, like the exhaust system, or engine beds, would have to be upgraded until we made the commitment to one particular make of engine.

We began to narrow the field.

As we asked more and more specific questions the answers we got kept bringing us back to Beta Marine. While the package that they suggested was not the least expensive that we looked at, it was the most complete and would require the least number of modifications to the boat as a whole. We would need to replace the waterlock muffler, build and mount a new containment box for the engine start up panel and gauges, and it was clear we would have to move the electrical panel. None of these were, by themselves, that big a job, however, if we were going to go ahead with this then it made no sense to keep the old engine control levers which were completely worn out. With a new engine and new controls it did not make a lot of sense to keep the old control cables, so they would be replaced too. And since we were pulling the old prop and the old coupling, then removing the propeller shaft to change the cutlass bearing also made sense.

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The old engine panel

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Opening up the cockpit to install the new engine panel box and remove a few soft planks at the same time.

 

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New engine box for the new panel.

As is often the case with a project like this, several jobs that I thought were going to be major hassles proved fairly easy; the engine beds for example. I worried about this a lot, but in the end it turned out that modifications were simple and quickly accomplished. The alignment was another thing I was worried about that went easily and with far less complication than I have run into in the past. On the other hand a lot of seemingly little jobs that looked easy turned into major epics. I ended up having to machine connectors for the new control levers and in the process of moving the electrical panel; it became clear that a number of connectors and wires needed replacing. All of this stuff takes time, especially when you realize to move forward you have to stop what you are working on, figure out where you are going to get a part, or parts, then wait for it to arrive. Once back to work, that is when I would discover that there were other parts I should have ordered too.

I won’t go into those epics save to say that it is the details that will kill you.

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Engine beds modified to fit the new engine.

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New Beta Marine 38 in place.

We have been using the engine now for almost two months and so far, touch wood, it has worked flawlessly. It is slightly larger physically than the old Westerbeke, which required a new engine cover, which also required some creative re-working of our companionway steps. However, I was able to make the box that covers the engine out of lighter materials and that makes it less of a chore to get to the engine.

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New engine box (minus trim). Note the electrical panel has been moved up and into a box for easy access.

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You can see here the modification we needed to make to the companionway ladder to fit the new engine box. The new engine is slightly longer than the old, and I wanted plenty of ventilation around the motor. You can also get a little closer view of the box for the electrical panel and the piano hinge along the bottom edge.

Also, when we moved the electrical panel we created a box for the panel with a hinged front. In the past if there was a bad connection in the panel, or a wire needed replacing, I had to crawl into the engine room and work directly over the engine where there was little space and it was hard to get at the back side of the panel. The new arrangement allows me to loosen two screws and the front of the panel folds down into the main cabin where there is light and easy access.

The whole project consumed more than five weeks of spare time, but we feel more comfortable on the water when conditions deteriorate (and they have already several time this season). Working with Stan at Beta Marine U.S. was easy and they were very helpful when we had questions. Later in the summer we will work on finding a new home for the old Westerbeke, but for now we are enjoying the improvements to our systems and to the engine operation.

 

Marine Paint Part 3

March 7, 2017

The lead is gone….

It is March, and that means that the process of preparing for the next boating season has already begun. It is in February and March that I start ordering materials and looking at the work that needs to be done before the boat(s) go back into the water. I have written about this before, but I wanted to write an update on this subject of yearly maintenance because I got a nice comment from one of the Kirby’s regarding their paint.

I wrote in Marine paint part 1 about why I like Kirby paint, (you can read more here) but I commented that it contains lead. It turns out that Kirby paint has not contained lead for over twenty years. They still put warnings on the cans because sanding old paint that might have lead in it can still present a health hazard.

It is great to know that there is one less toxic hazard to face when preparing for another season.

One of the things that I like about wooden boats is that when they are looked after and well maintained, they can last and incredibly long time. We have several friends who own Friendship sloops that are over one hundred years old, those boats are still sailing and are still in good shape.

The key phrase there is “looked after and well maintained”, maintenance that is messy, 8px910qlhbe7m81y94ijvlkj93ohojkeinvolves dangerous chemicals, or results in cleanup of toxic ingredients are typically the first things to get dropped from a maintenance schedule because they are too much of a pain. And few things are more discouraging than doing all the hard work of sanding, fairing, cleaning and tacking and then applying paint, only to have that paint not hold up to the environment, fade, or peel.

A wooden boat is a living thing, and like all living things they require regular care and when a problem develops that might affect the health of the boat, it needs to be dealt with or the boat will start down the road to the burn pile. But it is getting harder to find good quality wood and good reliable products to care for a wooden boat. Good paint that gives consistent results and that does not change its formula or color chart can be even harder to find, but good quality paint is also critical, it provides an absolutely vital barrier to the elements and contributes to the longevity of a wooden boat.

As I have said before on this blog, I like Kirby’s paint, we have used it on our boat now for sixteen seasons and are pleased with the results, and now that we know that it does not contain lead, we like it even more.

 

Summer 2016

November 16, 2016

Well Labor Day has come and gone and so has Halloween, we pulled the fleet out of the water and started winter layup in September,  a little early this year so we could continue renovations on the cottage that the two tortoiseshell cats own.

First a word about sailing this summer; wind.

The summer of 2015 was a light air summer, as a result we got very good at setting and striking topsails. By contrast, this year we only set topsails twice all summer. We joined four other Friendships, a Marconi sloop and a lobster yacht for a two week cruise in July and never needed diesel, and never even topped up the main tank from our reserve tanks. It was a fantastic cruise with good company, good cheer, and great sailing.

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Sailing in the company of Friendships.

Not only was there wind but also we were incredibly lucky in that we had predominantly fair winds. We had one rough day of high winds and big seas getting into Southwest Harbor on MDI. And there were two days on our cruise when the winds blew 25-30 kts, and not from a favorable direction, but we spent those two days tucked up snugly in a hurricane hole, hiking, reading, and relaxing, and those days proved to be among the most relaxing of the trip.

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Moonrise in a hurricane hole.

We spent the last few days of our cruise in Rockland at the annual Friendship Sloop Homecoming and gathering.

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Friendship sloops in Rockland 2016

We had a great time gathering with other Friendship sloop owners and fans in Rockland.

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At the dock in Rockland, I don’t know why John is staying on the dock…

While we were in Rockland we also had a chance to take some of our extended family sailing. There were so many of them they had to come sailing in shifts.

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Sailing with family…do I look worried?

After returning from our cruise we had another six weeks of weekend cruises, some of them extended weekend cruises, and great sailing.

The winds were so consistent and fair, that we did not get out to sail our tender, Fee-Fi nearly as often as last year since we never wanted to miss a chance to take out the Friendship.But even there, when the time came to pull Fee-Fi out of the water, we managed to sail to the take-out ramp in two long tacks, which was a delight since it is usually an hour of hard rowing.

Our lives have been so very full this last year or so that at times we wonder if it makes sense for us to dedicate so much of our time and energy to our wooden classic, but we saw so many beautiful boats, and old and new friends on the water and our summer was so rich an fulfilling that we mostly feel fortunate and grateful for what we have and what we are able to share.

New steering for the launch

August 5, 2014

We have been pretty happy with our Iain Oughtred designed launch, but now that we have sailed her for a couple of seasons we are trying to refine the few things we don’t like, or did not get right on the first go-round. One of those things was the tiller.

Initially I opted for a very traditional tiller. I liked the simplicity of the design and the classic look. However, what we found is that the traditional tiller had some traditional limitations due to how we use the boat. One has to do with sailing; if you are sailing the boat you need to push the tiller very far to port or starboard when tacking. This requires that the helmsman move his or her body all over the place just to tack the boat. This becomes even more problematic if you are single-handing because the excessive movement aft lifts the bow out of the water making the boat less able to windward.

The other issue has to do with taking passengers. The boat will comfortably hold five adults, except that anyone sitting aft has to deal with the sweep of the tiller and the dance of the helmsman.

None of this is totally unexpected, but it has become more annoying than we were prepared for.

What we ended up doing was to go back to the design source. 

Iain Oughtred has another design, the Caledonia Yawl, similar in size to the Penny Fee, with a push-pull tiller arrangement that frankly did not look that great to me on paper. However, I ran into a video of the tiller set up on Off Center Harbor and was totally swayed. I conceded (at least to my self) that it would not look as elegant and simple as the original tiller we had, but to my surprise, I found that the new design, while less classic, has a simple functionality that is also quite elegant.

Another advantage to the new system is that we made the tiller longer than the original so that if you are taking the boat out for a sail by yourself you can sit more forward, almost in the center of the boat which makes the boat balance beter.

It takes some getting used to and the instinct from long time sailors is still to move the tiller from side to side instead of fore and aft, but after taking it for a spin under sail and oar, I find that it is a really neat solution to our previous problems.

We had to come up with a way to lash the tiller when we leave the boat at the float, and that has not been a perfect solution, but we are working on it and that is a small wrinkle to work on.

Now I need to get back to work on the new sail. I am convinced that moving the center of effort aft, even a foot will create less drag in the rudder tacking and may gain us a few more degrees closer to the wind. We shall see.

Where have I been?

July 24, 2014

My loyal readers (both of you) may have been wondering what happened to this blog, since I have not posted much in the last year. The truth is I have been writing a lot, but just not on this site.

A lot of my time during the last two years (perhaps too much of my time) has been devoted to bringing out a new book.

Lasting Friendships, a Century of Friendship Sloops has been in the pipeline since November of 2012. It has been produced and Published by the Friendship Sloop Society, and I have been spearheading the project.

Part of the reason that I agreed to head the group that was putting this book together (aside from a love of Friendship sloops and their history) was an opportunity to work with Ralph W. Stanley.

Ralph has been recognized as a master boatbuilder and is an NEA National Heritage Fellow, but he is also an excellent writer and historian. Without his help the book project would have been much less interesting the finished book much less impressive.

The book also allowed me to meet and briefly work with Maynard Bray, who wrote the introduction for the book. Maynard has a long history with WoodenBoat Magazine and with Mystic Seaport. He is also one of the key figures between Off Center Harbor, a video website and collection of blog posts from some of the more influential sailors, writers, and boatbuilders from this part of the world.

When I took on this project, I did not realize how confused some of our own records at the Friendship Sloop Society were, nor did I fully appreciate how entwined the history of these sloops is with the local history of small towns up and down the Maine coast. We had terrific and generous help from Ben Fuller and Kevin Johnson at the Penobscot Marine Museum. Frankly, without their help I am not sure we would have ever untangled the origins of certain photographs. But we also had help from librarians, town historians, and many members of the Friendship Sloop Society. Without their help this book would not have been possible.

I am very relieved to have this project off my desk and am looking forward to getting some of my life back, and I might even have some time to devote to this blog too.

The book is available in soft cover from Amazon, and in hardcover exclusively from the Friendship Sloop Society.

 

 

The Main Gaff

April 26, 2013

The spar that is.

After twelve seasons of using, living with, and working on our Friendship sloop, we started off this year with only one spar that we had never refurbished, and that is the gaff for the main sail. I had slapped a little varnish on it once, but basically it has been without maintenance since we became the caretakers for this vessel in 2000. It was time to pay attention to this important spar.  On surveying the spar, we found that although the condition of the wood was generally good, the finish had disintegrated, and the service on the slings and horse were overdue for attention.

Gaff before work started

If you look at these pictures you will see that the wood is just starting to degrade where the finish is gone and that the service is worn and in need of repair and that the blacking is essentially gone.

Wear on the gaff

Service in need of attention

 

We have been working for the last month to make-and-mend the needs of the gaff.

We removed the slings and the hardware from the gall and then stripped the finish to bare wood.

Gaff stripped of varnish

Next we faired the spar and gave it an even closer examination. All of the questionable areas disappeared with the removal of what finish was left and with the fairing process.

Thus we started the two pronged process of re-finishing the gaff itself and repairing and refurbishing the service on slings and horse.

Starting to re-varnish the gaff

Refinished service

The same section of the gaff shown above after we started the refinishing process

 

One of the things that I noticed when I first surveyed the spar was that the service on the slings was wearing into the finish and resulting in damage to the surface wood where the weight of the spar was carried by the slings. We decided that the best way to protect both service and gaff was to leather the service where it makes contact with the spar.

Leathering is sometimes dismissed as overly “yachty”, but where bights of standing rigging make contact with any spar, I have found that leathering extends the life of the finish on the spar and on the service significantly. It is also an easy, clean and meditative chore that I don’t mind at all.

Leathering

Finished sling

 

We are working on the last coats of varnish now (ten in all) and then we will reassemble the hardware and walk the gaff back out to the boatshed from the shop. By then it should be warm enough to start on the rest of the painting and varnishing for this season.

The Fleet Is In

September 28, 2012

After what seems like the busiest summer yet, our fleet is home again and we are starting the chores to get all of our boats ready for winter. This includes fresh bottom paint, winterizing the diesel on the Friendship Sloop, cleaning and stowing sails, cushions, pillows, and mattresses, packing up the galley, and most importantly making lists of repairs that need to be done over the winter.

Typically, once the boats are bedded down for winter, they are allowed to rest for at least a couple of months while we focus on the autumn chores  at the cottage,  and then the winter holidays. Come January and February, though, I know I will start thinking about winter boat projects that need to be done before spring-cleaning and painting begins in earnest. Having made a list in the fall saves time and helps push the process along.

When we built the shed it seemed huge—much larger than it needed to be—and I remember wondering if we had not gotten a bit carried away. Now, twelve years later, part of the autumnal ritual of putting the boats to bed is the process of figuring out how to get everything into the building and still leave enough room to move around.

I know I will enjoy puttering on projects in the boat shed over the next six months, almost as much as I enjoy being on the water. And there is something very satisfying about putting all the bits and pieces away, making sure everything is tagged or labeled, sometimes adding a shelf or box somewhere in the shed so that another piece of gear can have a better place to winter over. Like stacking firewood, the process of putting things away, brings a sense of order to what is usually a frantic end-of-season rush, and a knowledge that I will benefit later from the work I do now.

For the moment though I am taking a deep breath and savoring the fact that the boats ate all back safe and sound in the boat shed.

The leaves have begun to change colors, the equinox has come and gone, the boats are in the shed: autumn is here.

New Boat Part 22

August 13, 2012

Observations:

Before I continue with the building of mast and sail for our new Penny Fee, now called Fee-Fie, (the dinghy has become Foe-Fum), I wanted to record some observations on the performance of the boat thus far. We have had the boat in the water and have been using her for about three weeks. We have used the boat to ferry loads to and from the Friendship sloop, and have towed it to Rockland from Boothbay and back, and have basically rowed it around a bit. As of this weekend we have been sailing it too, but I will save my observations on sailing qualities for the end of this post.

Penny Fee: Fee-Fie

Towing:

The first surprise was how easily she tows behind the Friendship Sloop. She is heavier than our dingy, but she also has a much longer waterline and appears to sit high in the water when unloaded. She also tracks well, partly due to the longer waterline and partly due to the lap-strake construction.  The result is a longer heavier boat that does not squat down in the water behind our sloop but that slips along with less resistance than I would have imagined. Part of our trip back from Rockland was in 5 to 8 foot seas with 15-25 knot winds. We found that in every condition except heavy following seas; this is a very well behaved boat. In following seas she tends to surf and surge and a long towline and a watchful crewmember to tend the towline is advisable.

Rowing:

We have noticed that when under oar power it is more comfortable to sit on a seat cushion that raises up the rower about 2 ½”. I don’t think that this is the result of the benches being placed low, either by the designer or in our construction, but rather that we deliberately raised the height of the oarlocks so that the oars would be less prone to rub on the fender of the boat. She does take more back power and a longer stroke than the dingy to propel, but she carries her way beautifully and once moving is easy to keep moving. The other aspect that will take some getting used to is that she rows a little easier with a load rather than without. This is both the opposite of our dinghy and is also a bit counter-intuitive.

Stability:

Another impressive feature is the stability of the boat, it has greater secondary stability than I would have imagined and, in some ways this drove us to make the sail because we wanted to see how she handled the pressure of the sail and how that effected the stability. We have experimented by having a helmsman stand in the back of the boat and steer with the rudder while the rower provides the power from the front bench. Our experience is that she provides a stable platform for the helmsman, to say nothing of the fact that it is just plain fun to stand in the back of the launch and con the boat.

Now on to the last pieces of construction:

The Mast:

I bought two pieces of 2”x 8” spruce stock that were not flawless but that had long, relatively clear sections in each. I got them at the local home center, total cost was about $20. I then ripped out the two best sections and using a dato-blade on the table saw cut a ¾” channel in each that started a bout a foot below the truck of the mast and ended about a foot above where deck level would be. Then the two halves were glued together giving me essentially a mast blank with a hollow core.

The two mast halves with dato ripped

The two mast halves glued together

When the glue was dry I cut a taper using the table saw so that I had a long, tapered, spar that was square in cross section. Next step, cut off the corners of the square so that the spar becomes eight sided, and then move to hand planes to make the mast round in section.

Mast with taper cut and corners cut off to make a long octagonal spar

Spars varnished and ready for hardware

The sprit is made of solid spruce about 1 ½” in diameter, shaped in the same way that the mast was shaped.

The mast has four, unfinished teak cleats; one each for halyard, brail, snotter, and downhaul. There are two heavy cleats set inside the gunwale, port and starboard aft, for the mainsheet. These too are made from unfinished teak. My experience has been that cleats do not hold finish, due to lines running around them, they are also a pain to keep finished. Raw teak weathers well and always looks pretty good without much care.

Cleats on the mast

Building the sail:

We used as a reference the excellent Sailmaker’s Apprentice, although sailmaking is not new for either me, or the woman who will willingly get up in the middle of the night and stand an anchor watch. It is also worth noting that first, the sprit sail is one of the easier and more forgiving sails to make, and second that we are using canvas that we were given free, so, in many ways this is a prototype sail and we might make a more durable version once we have learned all we can from the performance of this canvas model. On the other hand if this sail works, why fix it?

The sail is made of four panels and will take its shape partly from the cut of these panels (particularly the two closest to the mast) and partly to a slight curve built into the luff of the sail. A bolt-rope is hand stitched along the head, luff and foot of the sail to help minimize the stretch in these sections of the sail. We used 3/8” brass grommets for the reef points and the robands on the luff of the sail, and the brail-line grommet in the leach of the sail. The rest of the sail hardware is sewn in by hand. The thimbles and metal rings are all solid brass.

The building process:

One thing we did that made the whole sailmaking process much easier was to recycle the boatbuilding table and use it as a sailmaking table. All we did was cut the table in half into two eight-foot sections. This allowed us to either push the sections together and make one long table to lay out panels and pin seams and that kind of thing, or we could pull the two apart and put the sewing machine in between them and pass the sail from one surface to the other over the sewing machine table. If we were making a larger sail I would have raise the levels of the tales to the same level as the sewing machine table, but with a sail that is only 85 square feet it seemed unnecessary.

Work table with sewing machine in the middle, sail in the foreground

The sail took about two weeks to build working in the evenings and in what free time we have, but I would not want to be misleading about this. As I said before both the woman who will willingly get up in the middle of the night and stand an anchor watch, and I have sailmaking experience, added to which I have a fairly comprehensive collection of sailmaking tools and supplies on hand. It would be a different story if we were having to figure out each step from scratch and then purchase the appropriate tools, materials and hardware. As it was there where plenty of choices to make regarding where to put in grommets, cringles, and thimbles.

Details of the sail showing the hand-sewn hardware at the clew and head

Anyway the finished sail looked great, the question was how would it perform in collaboration with the Penny Fee? The short answer is: far better than I expected.

Penny Fee under sail

This shot shows the boat well

Sailing in light air

There is a tendency to make leeway with very light air, but that disappears when there is any real wind. The boat points higher than I thought it would and virtually flies downwind. Beam reaching it is remarkably stable. The other factor that I love about this rig is how easy it is to haul on the brailing line and collapse the sail and sprit against the mast. It was really fun to sail right up alongside the Friendship sloop, touch the side, and collapse the rig by pulling on one line.

Sail brailed up against the mast

The two aspects of the rig that I question at this point have to do with the mast and the foot of the sail. I went to great effort (explained above) to make the mast hollow and light, it now appears that that was not necessary and that it may in fact be a weakness, because the mast does flex alarmingly in strong gusts. However, if the mast breaks it will be easy and inexpensive to replace. My concern about the foot of the sail is simply that now that we have seen the sail and how it takes shape in the wind, I think we could have easily added twelve to fourteen inches of length to the foot of the sail and gotten her to round up a little faster when tacking.

In both these cases, however, I am splitting hairs and speculating. The factual evidence that we have so far is that this is an easy rig to sail, to break down and set up. It brails quickly so that if the wind dies you can row without taking down the rig, and you can dowse the sail quickly when coming alongside. In short, it is everything we had hoped for and we had a fantastic fun day testing it out.

Really fun to sail

If you would like to read all the posts related to this project together, go to the category at the right called “Penny Fee” and click on it. It will pull all the posts on the penny fee onto one page for you.

New Boat Part 21

July 16, 2012

This will be a long post because while I have been writing and chronicling what has been going on in the boat shops, I have not been good about putting up posts. so now it is catch up time. First we needed to focus on the Friendship Sloop, getting her ready for the season. Then launching and rigging her and even getting in an occasional weekend cruise.

Friendship ready to move, picture taken early in June

Transport day June 10th

Then we had a little time to re-focus on the Penny Fee, we got to do some of the fun jobs. The rope fender, floorboards, rudder, and oars. I would have liked to have slowed down and tried to savor these jobs more, but then we never would have gotten the boat in the water this season.

The rope fender:

As described in an earlier post, we designed the outwale of the gunwale to have a groove or gutter running the length of the boat so that the rope that we are going to use as a fender will lie evenly along the edge of the boat. The fender is attached to the boat with stainless steel screws. The installation is fairly simple, the idea is to place a screw within the twist of the rope so that only the innermost strand is pierced by the screw and secures the rope to the outside of the gunwale. We started at the transom and worked along to the bow, around to the other side of the vessel and back to the transom again. At least that was the plan.

I had bought 36 feet of 1 1/8” rope, which should have been enough to do the job easily. I back spliced an end with almost no waste and started to attach the rope. I got most of the way down the starboard side and noticed that it looked like there was not enough rope. An optical illusion, I thought. To be safe, I felt I had better double check, I checked and found that there was not enough rope. Then I measured the rope and found that it was not 36 feet long, but 32. Oops.

Some desperate calls to Hamilton Marine, and we determined that whatever I had bought was a closeout and not a standard rope. Since they could not match it, the only plan was to replace it. They offered to do so free of charge and a new length of rope was on the way. The new rope arrived in 48 hours, and I have to say that the customer service at Hamilton Marine was excellent. I had found that to be true in the past, but when things go wrong it is always nice to find someone who is going to go out of the way to help you out. Anyway, removing the fender we had already installed took a lot of time and then the screw holes had to be filled. Still, in all the new rope went on fast (under two hours) and looks great.

Rope fender in place

Oars:

We started the oars back in March, but we simply did not have a great deal of time to work on them until recently. All we did was to glue up spruce blanks that were oversized oars. Then we simply shaved the first one down until it was the shape and weight that we wanted. Once we did this it was only a question of whittling down the second oar to match the first.

One oar shaped and the other still in the rough

Matched pair

The oars are quite long (9 foot 6 inches), we decided to leave the loom of the oar above the oarlock position square in section to act as a bit of a counterbalance to the long outboard section of the oar. The oars will be painted to minimize the amount of maintenance that they will need each year. Varnish looks great, but is more of a challenge to maintain on oars.

Oars painted and waiting for their leathers

Floorboards:

This is an area of the boat that we wanted to keep simple. 1”x4” pine boards were a relatively inexpensive option, we have been cutting and shaping them so that they lie on top of the floor-timbers and are fastened to cross-pieces of 5/4” pine with bronze screws, countersunk and bunged. The floorboards will get no sealer and will be allowed to weather naturally. The end result should meet our needs, were quick to assemble, and require little or no maintenance.

Floorboards

The centerboard pin:

A very important piece that sometimes gets overlooked in the rush to launch is the centerboard pin. In our case a piece of 3/8” bronze cut so that it is short. In other words, it is recessed about 3/8” from each side. This leaves plenty of pin to do the work, but it also leaves a space to squirt caulking goop. The goop is covered by a rubber gasket, and that is capped with a bronze plate that is held in place with four screws.

The hole for the pin, with the pin in place, the rubber gasket (red), and the bronze cap-plate

The goop has been squirted into the end of the hole with a caulking gun

Bronze cap in place

The Rudder:

The plans for the boat came with two options for the rudder. One was a traditional wooden rudder, and the other was for a kick-up rudder made of wooden parts. Unfortunately for us, neither of these designs will exactly meet our needs. We do need a kick up rudder, but we need something that will need less maintenance than the one provided in the blueprints. That design is also a bit more complicated than I would like, and requires some hardware that I was not sure I could find in the limited time I had before launching. So I set about pulling together a kick up rudder design of my own, one I could put together with some off-the-shelf hardware, and one where the lower section of the rudder (the kick up part) is made from a single plate of 1/4″ aluminum.

Design showing rudder down

Design showing rudder up

The rudder design is still not what I would call simple, but the dinghy dock is only in about two feet of water at low tide, and we intend this boat to take us ashore on rocky Maine islands, so a kick up rudder is necessary. The top section of the rudder is glued up from three pieces of plywood, the middle piece is slightly thicker than the aluminum plate. This middle piece of plywood is cut in such a way that it not only provides space for the aluminum bottom plate to pivot, but it also provides stops for the up and down position of the lower section of rudder. The weight of the aluminum  section of the rudder will keep it in the down position unless it strikes a submerged object, then the lower section can kick up. A manual line and jamb-cleat on the trailing edge of the rudder allows for locking the lower section of the rudder into the “up” position for extended periods, like when the boat is beached.

Bottom part of rudder with cardboard template.The aluminum was cut with a saws-all and a metal cutting blade. Then hand filed.

Finished rudder in down position

The launch:

Before we trailered the boat to the coast I wanted to launch her here at our local pond where all of the boats we have built have been launched. On a lovely summer evening we sprinkled some hard cider over the bows, slipped her off the trailer, and went for a row. I was too busy checking to make sure there were no problems, but there were not, and as I slowly relaxed, I realized that this was a delightful boat. Stable, she caries her way well, although she does make noise with those laps and a little chop.

The first launch

The next evening we brought the boat over to the sea by trailer, and launched her again, this time in salt water.

Sitting in salt water

The new tender

We need to use her more before we have any real idea what her performance will be like. We will tow her with us to the Friendship Sloop Gathering in Rockland this week, and we will find out how well she tows, then I need to finish the mast, sprit, and sail. Can’t wait to get a sail on her.

If you would like to read all the posts related to this project together, go to the category at the right called “Penny Fee” and click on it. It will pull all the posts on the penny fee onto one page for you.