Doldrums

Becalmed, listless, stagnant; at the end of summer 2017 that is where I have found myself. I could blame it on several other things but it always comes back to me. To say I lost my drive after finishing the bottom of the pathfinder is an understatement. For months she sat in the corner as I piddled on other things. I worked on the house, I worked on the bikes. Occasionally I would poke about the pathfinder but never really accomplish anything. The excuse I was using was the fact that she was upside down and I had finished everything I could do with the hull inverted. Things are busy at work, how could I get help to flip the boat when all of my friends (and myself) were working lots of overtime? As the summer ended the old itch came back. I started looking for alternate ways to get the pathfinder upright.

At the end of August, I had the first free Friday I had seen in ages and I spent it in the shop. To get myself moving I decided to jack up the boat, pull it off of its current stand and build a new stand for the bottom.

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This move really committed me to getting the boat flipped. I know several people have built this boat and ones like it in smaller places. I cannot live day to day without being able to move stuff around the shop. Now, how do I flip it myself? I tried to roll it over with no luck. The old girl has gained a few pounds since we turned her over the first time so I was stuck looking for other options. The answer came indirectly from my friend and master motorcycle mechanic Darrel. In his garage at home he has placed a beam in the ceiling and a hard point that lets him suspend an entire motorcycle. A sport bike weighs between 400-500 pounds, not too far off what the pathfinder weighs now. Maybe that would work. A quick trip to Amazon and the parts were on the way.

“Oh man I am screwed”

I had rigged the hard point in my ceiling and attached the hoist to the boat. My original plan was to wait until Cheryl got home from work so she could help me photograph the flip and lend a hand when needed. It was around two when I got everything rigged up so, of course, I wanted to test it out. Slowly but surely I tested the limits of my rig. I would lift up on the side and use the hoist to hold the load. Heavy work but still controllable. I raised it higher and higher every time until all of a sudden it stood up right on its side balanced on the oak rub rails. The one thing  I didn’t count on was the boat sliding several feet and now almost touching the far side wall of the shop. This left me in a bad predicament, because the hoist was rigged to the center point of the shop, and the boat had slid meaning I couldn’t let the boat back down easy  with the hoist. As the load went over I had to hold the full weight of the boat until the slack was taken up. I know I couldn’t handle that load. On the other side I could not continue to flip the boat  because it was too close to the far wall. What the hell!

I ran through my options and none were good. My neighbor was at work, no help there. Cheryl doesn’t get home for three hours, no help there. I can’t call my dad because the phone is on the other end of the shop plugged into the stereo. Shit! I couldn’t take my hand off the boat, too unstable. #$@%! I would have to flip it or wait until the lovely bride got home at six. With the rope in one hand and the boat in the other I slowly rocked the pathfinder to the center of the shop. Committed, I slowly let her down.

 

At the end, I was truly shocked as to how strong these boats actually are. There was no flex in the hull when I had it up on its side and later when it dropped off of my floor jack and hit the ground there was no damage, just a solid thunk when it hit the ground. The only casualty was a little paint scraped off the bottom as it slid around.

Peekaboo

With mobility restored, it was time to clean the shop and take a well needed rest.

captains chair

 

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R&D

It seems almost un-American to say but I really hate summertime. Not everywhere of course; summer time in my wife’s hometown in upstate New York is phenomenal. Warm in the daytime and pleasantly cool in the evening. No, the summer I hate is the wet, hot summer of the deep south. I think a lot of the reason why I hate the southern summer is I have spent my whole working life outside in the elements. My lovely bride who has a Master’s degree and a respectable job comes home with a jacket on, because the office is so cold. She bought a space heater for under her desk. She mows grass in the evening to “warm up”. I come home covered in sweat with no other goal than to become a hermit; shying from the sun and praying for September. That doesn’t mean I am idle, I just am inside. Last years summer project was the 30,000 mile service on my old BMW. I covered the pathfinder in plastic and dug in to the bike. That kept me busy the whole summer  and in the AC!

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This summer project was a little different. It was time to turn the old kitchen into the new kitchen.

New floors in the bathrooms, kitchen, dining room, and laundry. The cabinets were sanded and painted. A new range hood is on the way. I blame HGTV. I have been really busy lately but still able to sneak in some time on the pathfinder – here is a look at what has been accomplished during the “dog days”.

With the hull painted I had some time to take stock of the project as a whole. After all of this work it’s hard to believe that the build list is down to just a few items.

  1. Mast and spars
  2. Floorboards
  3. Splash guard on deck
  4. Finish the centerboard and rudder
  5. Fit the motor
  6. Paint the top and inside.

That’s the big list. Six items and I am off and sailing. There are a lot of little things that are going to take up some time but those six items are the broad strokes. Item one has been a big concern for me for a while. You see Mr. Welsford calls out for aluminum masts and booms. I am comfortable working with aluminum but I really wanted that traditional look for the pathfinder. More than anything else I was worried about my ability to build a proper birds mouth hollow spar mast. With summer here and my free time limited it was time for some R/D.

There is a ton of data out on the web as to the construction of a birds mouth spar so I will not go into it here. Check out Duckworks Magazine, there site is a good springboard for all things boaty. I had some junk pine 2×4’s laying around so I decided to practice.

Test spar 1Test Spar 2test spar 3Test spar 4

It turns out that hollow spar construction isn’t all that difficult. My first 8′ blank came out mostly round and super straight, I was really happy. After the glue had properly cured it was time to go into destructive testing mode. I abused the cheap pine in every why I could imagine and it turned out much stronger then I had imagined. If a mast made out of cheap knotty pine is this strong one made out of clear douglas fir should be bullet proof.  This gave me the confidence to go ahead with a full sized hollow spar. Now I just have to find the wood…

Details, Devils, Whatever

Perfection is the enemy of production. Remember that.

From the start of this project I have known that I want a “workboat” level of finish on it. Still I found myself getting sucked into the madness that is a perfect final paint job. In both composite aircraft construction and in boat building you can measure the quality of the finish by how far away you have to be to see the imperfections. 10 feet is a good workboat finish, Three feet is a work of art, and on occasion you see a one foot boat. Those are best in show winners. I have said several times that I am not the greatest woodworker around and that is very true but, one area I do know well is composite construction.

I have been working with advanced composites for quite a while now and I knew that a three foot boat was well within my abilities. Over the course of almost two months of part time work I found myself sliding deeper and deeper into madness chasing that three foot boat. Follow me on my journey and use this as a warning for yourself.

Picking up from the last post I had the bottom fiberglassed and the center line runner and skeg installed. The next operation was to get the hull ready for paint. The first step in this process was to fill and fair all of the screw holes, panel gaps, and plank edges.

fillet 2

This is a view looking at the junction of the number one plank and the number two plank. You can see that there are voids that need to be filled. The plans tell you to use high density epoxy putty to fillet these areas.

fillet 3

The areas were masked and filleted.

fillet one

I went through a lot of trouble on this step to ensure that I cleaned up all of the goobers left over and smoothed the fillet out so there would be little to no sanding later.

You can see from the pictures above that a ton of screw holes needed to be filled. I broke out the QuickFair and went to town on both the screw holes and the panel joints. I will give you a warning on this. NO MATTER HOW MANY TIMES YOU PURPOSELY AND CAREFULLY FILL THE SCREW HOLES IN YOUR BOAT, YOU WILL ALWAYS FIND MORE LATER. Enough said. For fairing the panel joints I had a full arsenal of sanding equipment. Stiff long boards, flexible long boards, sander, foam pads, soft blocks etc. It took a while but I finally got the hull to where I was happy with it and started coating the entire outside hull in epoxy.

coated

Coating the hull is a critical part of this style of wooden boat construction. First it seals the wood, and secondly the plywood it is made out of is super soft and needs epoxy to toughen it up. Most designers recommend two coats of epoxy before paint. To make sure that I had a full two coats left after sanding I rolled on two coats of clear epoxy followed by two coats of epoxy with white pigment in in. This allows me to see the color change as I get closer to the base coat so I do not cut to deep. At this point I hit all of the high spots with 80 grit and the whole boat with 120. This is the point where all of the defects stand out. It hurts. To correct it I started the process of mixing epoxy/microballon paste, evenly coating the boat, and then sanding almost all of it off. This went on for almost a full week until the lovely and level headed Bride told me to cut it out, “It’s the bottom of the boat, no one will ever see it!”. Yes ma’am.

sanded

During the times the epoxy was curing, I broke out the plug cutter and some mahogany type wood I had laying around and cut plugs for the upper rub rail and installed them.

At this point I stood back and looked at hull and decided that I had done all I was going to do. F&%$ it I am painting.

After reading a really good article in Small Craft Advisor magazine and talking to several people that have painted wooden boats I decided to go with an oil based alkyd enamel paint in a satin finish.  I started with a coat of primer under the watchful eye of the shop foreman.

priming

From there two coats of color on the bottom.

hull 1st coat

The blue took four coats to get a good deep finish.

transom final

profile final

Cheryl picked out the colors and I couldn’t be happier:

Gray – Sherwin Williams Knitting Needles

Blue – Sherwin Williams Navy

With the masking tape pulled I have a little bit of touchup to do here and there but I am super happy with the overall quality. It’s not a three foot boat but I can live with a really good 10 foot boat.  At this point there was nothing else to do but clean up two months of mess and enjoy the view.

Painting final

The Devil’s STILL in the Details

Moving right along with the build list – it’s time to make a center line runner and skeg. There isn’t a whole lot of info on the skeg and center line runner in the plans or the build instructions so I kind of figured it out as I went along.

Runner 1

I started by continuing the outer stem to the center case. I used the same white oak that I had used to laminate the outer stem. You can see in this picture that the outer stem and the centerline runner do not quite line up. The boat was still in the build stand when I attached the outer stem and I had to guess where the center line was on the bottom. Looks like I got it wrong. Oh well. Once it’s faired and painted it’s going on the bottom never to be seen again. Hopefully.

skeg 4

The last of my Eco Relics white oak was milled up and put in the clamps for the skeg blank and while it set up I went to work figuring out what it should look like.

skeg 2

I picked up the overall height of the skeg from drawing 2. It looks to me to be about 150mm. Starting with a piece of plywood that approximated the curve of the bottom, I used a long piece of 80 grit sticky back sandpaper stuck to the bottom and a whole lot of elbow grease to perfectly match the ply to the boat. A long straight edge from the center case surround to my 150 mm mark on the plywood gave me a rough outline of the skeg. With that done I cleaned the skeg blank up in the power planer and then transferred the shape from the ply to the skeg.

skeg 3

Purely for decoration I cut an “S” curve into the skeg, glued it down, and called it good. Since I was in an “S” curve mode, it was time to make the trim pieces for the upper plank.

I am not sure what they are called but I approximated the shape from the plans and used my jigsaw and spindle sander to shape them. The screws are temporary. After the glue sets up I am going to pull them out and fill the holes with QuickFair.

This is the aft one.

finalie 2

And this is the forward one.

The shop foreman kept a close eye on my progress. So much so it wore him slap out.

Wore out

Devil is in the Details

So the boat is flipped, now what?

Flipped 2

 

With the beer drank and the help gone I was left to survey the job ahead. Screw holes, panel gaps, and miss aligned panels stared at me. From the bottom to the top I could see how my skills have progressed over the course of the build. The only problem is that I have to fix the mistakes I made in the early days.

Mr. Welsford suggests tacking a batten along the panel bottoms and using a rabbet plane to fair out the bumps in the panel. I was pretty proud of how well I had done on the panels until I tacked the batten up…

Batten 1

Looks good right?

Batten 2

Yeah there it is. It was like this over all of the planks. I sharpened up the iron of my plane and got to work. Do not skip this step. It makes all the difference in the world. I do not have the camera technology to show you how much this helped the overall appearance but trust me it is a must do. Time to get it ready for fiberglass.

System 3 Quickfair. Lots of it. You can see in the picture below how many screws I had to fill and panels fair.  That is all I have to say about that. On to fiberglass.

Fiberglassing was pretty straight forward. I ran two lines of 6″ bias ply tape over the junction between the bottom board and the first plank and then two layers of 6oz boat glass on top.

I picked up a cool trick from John Harris at CLC boats. In their video on the construction of the teardrop camper they used normal thumb tacks to hold up the glass on vertical surfaces. Good idea and  promptly stolen.

 

With a Little Help…

rub rail 3

It turns out that the day you flip your pathfinder is much more exciting than Christmas. Christmas comes once a year but it’s taken me two to get to this point! When I left you last I had finally installed the upper and lower rub rails and located the chain plates for the main mast rigging. Since then I had cobbed together a rolling stand to place the boat into after we flip it. You can see it sitting inside the cockpit above. I have seen a lot of complex rope and winch designs that folks use to flip their boats but I figured out a better way, I have really strong friends.

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With the promise of lunch and cold beer afterwards, I lured a bunch of folks over to muscle her out. We hung out and got a feel for the task and, in short order, a plan was devised. Turns out it was super easy.

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Six guys and some scrap wood got her out to the grass.

move 3

Then I hopped in to unscrew the boat from the build stand.

move 4

The build stand was removed and the boat gently rolled over in the semi soft grass.

And there it is.

flipped 1

Now that the pathfinder was upside down you could clearly see the learning curve I traveled during construction. I have to admit I was slightly embarrassed when all of my rookie mistakes were laid bare to my friends, but after a close examination they all pronounced it good. With that it was time for beer and barbeque!

Many thanks to my friends, Darrel, Mike, Nestor and son, Donald, Mark, Kevin, Gabby, and my lovely wife Cheryl. Couldn’t have done it without you.

Rub Rails

I am sure that you have picked up on this but finding quality building materials in my neck of the woods is difficult at best. With the outer stem bent I had used the last of the oak I had on hand and it was time to find some more. After scrounging the area for years trying to find a good supplier I have found my place, Eco Relics. They are an architectural salvage warehouse on the north side of Jacksonville and have all I need. Red oak, white oak, 1/4 sawn, live edge, Mahogany, Cherry, Babinga, you name it. With a little help I found the planks I needed and almost choked at the price. It was 1/3 the price I was used to paying at WoodCraft. Needless to say I loaded up way more than I needed and headed back to the shop. If you are in the North East Florida area look them up.

http://ecorelics.com/

Joined, planed, and sawn the discount oak looks great.

rub rail 1

I started on the forward side to see if steam bending was in order. Fortunately the rails bent in with no problem at all. Before I mounted them permanently I had to locate the chain plates for the mast rigging.

I had to lift the measurements for the chain plates off of the master rigging drawing. Mr. Welsford gives a measurement off of bulkhead three and leaves it up to you to locate that on the upper planks.

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I measured 500 mm off of the bulkhead and marked it on my stem. Then, with a straight stick and a plumb bob I transferred it to the planks.

Measurements to the nail on the bow evened them up. For the chain plates themselves I wimped out and bought the racelight plates. I didn’t feel like cutting stainless. The last order of business was to mount the rails on.

rub rail 2

rub rail 3

The rails went on in a normal way with little fight and just like that I was done with the build stand. You have no idea how happy I was to reach this point in the build. Two years of joy and frustrations all welled up together. It’s finally coming together.