Progress, Interrupted

Momentum is the key to any large project and I am starting to realize how easy it is to lose. I have known for a long time that one of the key components of a successful build is working on the project every day. I doesn’t have to be a lot, maybe even just sitting in front of the computer and talking about it will do, but something has to be done every day. It seems like the longer you go between work sessions the harder it is to get back out to the shop. I came out of my week off in June like a steamroller. During the weekend I would do the major, time-consuming processes and leave the small half hour or so projects for the weekday. Cheryl is also a major motivator for me. We get home about the same time and she likes to work out in the shop for an hour or two so that gives us some time together in the shop.

Finishing the building jig and laying the keel let me “temp install” the frames and, for the first time, see the shape of the sailboat to be.


Just by standing the frames up I realized just how big this “sailing dingy” is. Of course I hopped up in the captain’s chair and did some daydream sailing. Snapping back to reality this gave me the boost I had been needing.

For a little while I had been stuck in a rut. I had finished all of the frames from the stem to frame six but for some reason I just couldn’t bring myself to work on frame 6a or the transom; thinking back now I understand why. This frame makes the forward side of the motor well and is the place the outboard clamps to.  Both of these frames come with a warning in the build manual. “Make this frame with care as the vibration of the motor may destroy any poorly glued joints, and note that those area under particular stress are screwed as well as glued.” That warning and a buildup of small defects in the other frames eroded my confidence just enough to keep me from finishing these two frames. Now that I could see Idle Hands coming together there was no way to put it off any longer.

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The transom turned out to be the big interruption in the build. I had been moving quite well, buoyed up by seeing the final shape of Idle Hands. I had hopped up on my workbench to drill a couple of holes for alignment pins on the rudder doublers. When I had finished I hopped off and my foot landed on my pile of off cuts that I had been tossing on the floor all day and rolled to the side. The end result was a trip to the walk in clinic and a full week in a cast and on the couch. After the cast came off I made it a point to stay out of the shop for another week just to make sure all is well.

I am back at it now but I can tell you that I have nowhere near the drive that I had before I sat on the couch watching Dr. Phil for a week. I can understand how, if you take an extended break from the build it would be almost impossible to finish. Even over the last couple of weeks I can find more and more excuses to stay away from the shop. Today I break that pattern! Wish me luck as I head out to the shop for a productive weekend.


Born on the Fourth of July

Some days I sit down in front of the computer and the stories just roll out. Some days all I can think about is the story that is running through my head and I won’t sleep until it’s on paper.  Today isn’t one of those days. I have been typing away trying to make this post interesting and maybe even poetic but I just can’t do it. It really seems like the story is fighting me tooth and nail. Looks like you are going to have to deal with a “Captain’s Log” style post today.

July 4, 2015. Cheryl and I got up early today and headed out to the Idle Hands workshop to honor one of the oldest maritime traditions. From the earliest days of sail to the newest aircraft carrier to roll down the ways there has always been a coin under the keel during construction and one set under the main mast during rigging. The coin under the keel was laid there by the shipwrights to bring good fortune to the build of the ship. Often the coin was recovered and used over and over again, a good bargain if you ask me. The one under the mast served a slightly different purpose; not only did it bring luck but when things went wrong it was there to pay the ferryman to take the souls of the unfortunate sailors to the underworld. That coin stays with the ship forever.  I had finished the building stand two days before but there was no way I would lay the keel until the fourth. Call me a silly redneck but the thought of laying the keel to Idle Hands on the nation’s birthday was just too much for me to ignore.


My coin is a 1941 walking liberty silver dollar. When I went to the pawn shop it jumped out of the case and asked me to take it home. I made a cradle out of boat nails on the build stand underneath the center case, said a few words, placed the coin, and Cheryl and I screwed the bottom of the boat to the cradle. This is the first step in building a boat instead of building boat parts. After Idle Hands comes out of the cradle I am going to place the coin under the main mast step in a custom holder.  I hope it brings me luck during the build, and, after it’s under the mast I hope its enough to pay Charon if I ever meet him.

The end of Phase 2

As I write this, I am at a critical juncture in the construction of Idle Hands and it’s time to put the puzzle together. Since March I have been working on what John Welsford calls in his plans “a kit set” used to build the boat. I never would have thought it but it has been a lot of work building the components that make up the frames of this little boat. My week off in June gave me the push forward I needed to show some real progress on the boat. All in all I worked about 60 man hours over the course of ten days. Not to bad for a redneck from south Georgia.

 center case packers

The center case is as complete as I can make it now. I have repaired the disbonded fiberglass (I have the video and will post it when I get time to edit it, its super boring), glued and screwed the packers in place, and added the seat stringers on the outside. If you have a set of plans and notice that my hardwood packers look a little different that Mr. Welsfords it is because my plan is to cap the entire top with a block of hardwood made to look like a cutting board. This will tie the whole thing together into one huge super strong block of exotic hardwoods. I have almost enough to make a cutting board style cap with four types of really nice wood. I am going to mount my compass there and I might make a compass rose inlay if I can figure out how to do it. Any way that’s a long way down the road.

The centerboard has been shaped and fitted to the centercase. I still have to install a 50 pound lead block to the centerboard and fiberglass it before I am truly done. I am currently scrounging for lead so it might be a while.

fitting centerboard

The frames themselves are as done as I feel comfortable in making them. I still have a bunch of work to do but all of it would be better done after I see how they all fit together. There is going to be some fitting of the parts and a bunch of sanding before I can fix them all to the bottom of the boat. The bottom of the boat is cut out also. scarf

As large as the bottom of the boat turned out to it was also the easiest part of the whole build. The plans call for a 6/1 scarf so I stacked two sheets of 12mm ply and one sacrificial layer of MDF together and then used my jack plane and belt sander to make the scarf. I had been a little nervous about this cut as I didn’t want to mess up two sheets of plywood but cutting a scarf really is as easy as they say it is. Its time-consuming and physical work but easy. After that it was a matter of gluing the two pieces together


Under the expert supervision of Archibald T. Wiener I glued the sheets together and left them for the night.

The last piece of this puzzle was the build stand. It took me about three days of part time work to get this one right. Fortunately the floor in the Idle Hands workshop is pretty level. At each foot of the stand I installed a T nut and adjustable foot to make sure that the stand was as level as I could possibly get it.

Build stand 1

With the last piece in place all that was left was to officially lay the keel.

A Happy Place

I walked out of the hotel before dawn rummaging through the saddlebags of my motorcycle looking for my tea-cup. I had woke up early and wanted Cheryl to get some more sleep. I fired up my stove in the parking lot of the Erieau Motel and Marina and made my tea. It was day three of our annual motorcycle trip and we had ridden from south Georgia to Canada just ’cause. It was May and still cold; a light coat of frost was on the bikes and I was wearing everything I had brought with me. I am sure that the locals thought it was a warm morning after the long winter. Tea in hand I walked out to the dock on the bay side of Erieau. As the sun rises over my shoulder I sit cross-legged on the dock and try to open myself to the moment.  Across the bay the windmills are still, I love the sight of them on the horizon. They may not be popular with the locals but I love them. A small flock of duck skims over the bay just touching their wingtips to the water. The world is so silent I can hear the wind moving through their feathers. The bay is as smooth as glass and just as clear. Beneath the dock I watch the fish come and go, swimming around the rocks and through an old tire. The smell of the lake is strange to me, I am used to the taste of salt in the air. As the sun rises the breeze picks up and I can smell the farmland around me rich and earthy mixed with the scent of the lake. The dock shakes as Cheryl walks up behind me silently. She lays a hand on my shoulder and takes in the moment. I close my eyes and try to freeze time. I am calm, both mind and body. The miles fade away, the stress of work, the cares of life are gone, I am content, free, happy, and loved. I open myself and try to absorb all of the beauty around me, to take it in and hold it.

I open my eyes and I am in south Georgia. The Gulfstream I am working on says the temperature is 113 on the ramp. It’s June and I have been home for a year. The mechanic working with me looks over and asks me why I am smiling. I just shrug and get back to work – he will never know I have been to my happy place.