Posts Tagged ‘boatbuilding’

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.



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 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 15

March 15, 2012

Interior prep, centerboard, and bulkhead templates:

It has been months since we have been able to work on our Penny Fee project, but with the arrival of March it looks like we might actually get something done on this lovely little boat.

If you cast your mind back to a much earlier post on this project (New Boat #8 ) you will recall that when we clamped the strakes together we used long battens screwed through the strakes to hold the planks together until the epoxy dried. We plugged those holes from the outside before we painted and flipped the boat. Now it was time to clean out the boat and plug the interior ends of those holes. This is one of those jobs that often gets glossed over because it is not all that romantic or glamorous to climb all over the bilge of a boat wielding putty knife and pot of epoxy spooge, but in fact it is vitally important; an unplugged hole in the bottom of the boat is a very bad thing.

Filling interior ends of screw holes

With the interior ends of the holes plugged, we needed to sand the interior.

While this was going on we were making the templates for the bulkheads. The plans do not call for bulkheads, but because of how we intend to use this boat as our launch, we want lockers fore and aft which will allow us to keep gear for the boat locked on board. In addition we want areas where we can put inflatable floatation. Knowing this we have figured out the location for our bulkheads and are making templates in cardboard. One of the nice things about lapstrake construction is that making templates is relatively easy because the section of the boat is made up of a series of short straight lines. We used a shop compass to get the templates close, and then hot-glued short pieces of cardboard onto the master template to make any corrections.

Cardboard template for aft bulkhead

Corrections made with scraps of cardboard and hot glue

We have also been working on the centerboard, which is made up of three layers of marine plywood leftover from the planking that have been glued together. The idea is to create a wing-like cross section to reduce drag through the water. The leading edge is simply rounded, but the trailing edge poses more of a challenge because it has a significant taper running from the bottom trailing edge up to about half its length, at this point I wanted to keep the aft edge of the board rectangular in profile so that the board will not twist or rattle in the centerboard trunk. This meant that as I shaped the trailing edge there would be a sort of scooped place halfway down the length of the board that would ease into a hydrodynamic trailing edge. In essence the problem was to scoop out some of the laminated plywood without raising the grain too much.

After some experimentation, the best tool for the job appeared to be a round-bottom plane that I originally bought for shaping the propellers of a full sized airplane that I built in High School (a story for another time).

Round-bottom plane

After roughing out the shape the rest of the shaping was simply done with a sander.

Roughing out the centerboard

The board will be coated in epoxy and the leading edge will be glassed with 4oz fiberglass to protect it from groundings.

The centerboard after shaping

Coating the centerboard with epoxy

Meanwhile the interior of the boat with all holes plugged, was sanded and cleaned. This allowed us to apply a sealer coat of epoxy to the interior below the waterline. The idea is to protect the interior if it has to sit with rainwater in it for any extended period of time.

Cleaning out the interior of the boat after sanding

Coating the interior with epoxy

With any luck we will be shaping floor timbers, finishing up the centerboard, and building the centerboard well soon.

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 14

January 19, 2012

The inwales:

With all that has been going on this fall and winter, it has been very difficult to find any time to work on the Penny Fee. However, we still managed to get one or two things done. We have been working on finishing the gunwales. In order to do this we needed to make up both the breasthook and the transom knees that connect the inwales to the structure at the stem and to the transom. All three pieces are made from 6/4 white oak. The breasthook is made of two matched pieces that are splined together. We glued these in and backed up the glue with bronze fastenings.


Transom knees with inwales in place

The outwales, which we installed last summer and were described in an earlier post, were glued to the outside top edge of the sheer strake. The inwales are glued to the inside edge of the sheer strake. The three parts together, outwale, sheer strake, and inwale, collectively make up the gunwale.

We wanted inwales that have spacer blocks, and the best way that I know of to get a symmetrical set was to glue the two strips that form the inner face of the gunwales  and spacers into one unit: sort of like a very narrow ladder.

The narrow ladder

Then, when the glue dried, rip the single unit into the two respective, matched inwales.

Dry fit of inwales

This done we dry-fitted the whole together. There was a long interval between the dry fitting and finally getting to do the gluing, but eventually we got it done. As with every other step in glued-epoxy-construction, we spent almost as much time taping off areas and scraping and cleaning the glue that was squeezed out by the clamps as we did making the parts to be glued.

Gluing in the inwales

With gunwales installed the boat is much stiffer and I feel better about getting into the boat to finish the glue clean up.

Finished gunwales

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 13

July 20, 2011

Over she goes, and gunwales:

Yes the boat is now upright. It took some doing but I managed to roll the boat over by myself.  She is light as advertized, actually I think most of the weight might be the molds, which we left in to help retain the shape. I discovered that the boat is so rigid that once I got the boat upright, the molds were not doing much save getting in the way.

Upright and some of the tape removed

We removed all the tape from the interior, and did some basic clean up to the interior where epoxy oozed out of the laps, there is more of that to be done but for now I want to stabilize the shape of the boat by getting gunwales and knees in. Before doing this we put the key molds back into the boat so that there is less chance of the boat becoming asymmetrical if we glue one gunwale on at a time.

The Gunwales

We are doing something a little different with the gunwales, or more specifically the outwale. I had looked at the very high quality fender material that is for sale at most marine chandleries for the exterior trim of the gunwale, but the material costs were going to be en excess of $300, so we went another route.

Crossection of outwale

Instead we shaped the outwale with a 1 inch wide hollow groove running the length of the wale, the groove is 3/8 inch deep and in it will be seated a piece of soft nylon three strand rope.

gluing on the outwale

Outwales in place

The rope will act as our rub-rail.  I have seen this done on traditional boats over the years and always thought that it certainly looks nice, but the main reason that we went this route is that the rope costs a little less than $60 in order to create a functional fender as opposed to the $300 store bought.

How the rope will look when it is in place

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 10

March 30, 2011

Sheer Planks and The Keel:

In the last post we saw that the skeg had been set and glued in place. I wanted to point out that we are not relying on glue alone to secure the skeg, there is also a large eight-inch by three-eighths bronze lag-bolt buried in the skeg at the aft end; and an assortment of  bronze screws that span the skeg, the laps between the garboards, and the keelson.

Transom with shop crew

Since the last post we hung the sheer planks and got the rest of the boat ready for the center keel and outer stem.

Sheerstrakes in place.

In many ways the center section of the keel is the easiest to shape and attach since it is basically a piece of quarter-sawn white oak laid flat. It, like the skeg is bedded in epoxy, but also backed up with bronze fastenings.

The center keel in place.

The outer stem is really more about gluing a laminated curve than anything else. The inner stem, or “apron” of our boat was made in a more traditional way with three pieces of heavy white-oak stock, cut and splined together. The combination of this inner stem with the outer stem should result in a bow that is virtually unbreakable—not that we intend to ram anything; my service in the Greek Trireme cured me of that.

Laminates of white oak bent around a form bolted to a backing-board.

You can see the smooth curve from this angle.

There is a scarf joint between the stem and the center section of the keel, and the aft end of the center section of the keel brackets the skeg. The result is a strong backbone to the boat made of multiple layers of wood laminated and fastened together.

Skeg, keel, and stem in place.

There is still plenty of fussing to do on the hull before we roll it over (in terms of the whole project I would say we are only about half-way there), but this has been a productive two months. At the beginning of February we had a transom and stem linked by a keelson suspended over the molds. Here it is the end of March and we have a hull just about ready to be primed, painted, rolled, and finished out.

This is where we are now.

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 5

January 26, 2011

Despite how busy the late summer and fall were, we did get in several days to work on the new boat, the Penny Fee that we are building as a sailing launch to serve as tender for the Friendship Sloop.

All of the planks have been scarfed and glued, and are waiting to get twisted and bent into shape.

Next we set up the molds and set the keelson in place and started the shaping of the keelson as well as the transom. The keelson needs to be shaped so that the bottom surface presents a smooth curve that matches the twist of the plank. This is a little time consuming and it is important to get it correct. This step is the equivalent of cutting the rabbet in the keel of a boat that is built in a traditional manner. In either case it is a fussy step that is dictated more by the twist of the garboard plank than anything else.

molds, keelson, and stem

shaping the keelson

father and daughter shaping the keelson

So far there have been few surprises with the kit part of the boat. We did find an anomaly with plank number five where the clever holes and string method did not quite work out, but by that point we had enough experience laying out and aligning the parts of the planks to figure out how it was supposed to go together, and we did have to do some puzzling with mold #1 where it comes in contact with the keelson, otherwise, no problems.

The next step is setting the first garboard. Soon….

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.