Feline

 

Once again, I am a bad student that has fallen behind on my homework. Stuff has been piling up for weeks and weeks and I have been dutifully ignoring it hoping it would post itself. So much for that. It should take me around four posts to get caught up and hopefully nothing will distract me. Wish me luck.

I will start my makeup work with the story of my trailer. When I first started building the pathfinder my sailing buddy Jason contacted me and told me that he had a trailer waiting for me. Many years ago his wife’s grandmother had parked her sailboat, the Feline, at the families metal working shop in Savannah. Over the years the old catboat deteriorated and it was time to go. Fortunately the trailer was fairly new and in good shape, and, if I helped dispose of the old catboat I could have the trailer. That was an offer to good to pass up.

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The boat was buried in the back corner against a fence. Twenty years of vines and stuff surrounded it. Fortunately Jason has a big ‘ol Ram truck with a winch that helped up clear a path. Slowly Feline emerged.

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When we finally dug our way back to her I could see the remains of what was once a perfect day sailor. She was built of plywood and fiberglass with Mahogany trim. Back in the day she must have been beautiful. It was sad to send her out so unceremoniously.

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Turns out the trailer is in perfect shape. I put two new tires on and it rode home fine – the lights even still worked. How about that?

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If You’re Gonna be Dumb…

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It’s Superbowl Sunday in south Georgia and this is how my Pathfinder looks. As you can tell there has been a lot of work done so I really need to catch up on my “homework” so here we go.

I set myself a punch list on the wall of all the things I had to do before I was able to lay the decking:

  1. Fiberglass, fair, and paint the anchorwell
  2. Floorboard supports
  3. Fillet and seal the interior
  4. Deck It

The deck edge supports were a pain in the rear but I got them done. It’s not my best work but I think they will do the job. If you want a picture let me know, otherwise I will let this part of the build be permanently hidden by the floorboards.

Fiberglassing and fairing the anchor well was pretty straight forward. I laid down two layers of glass to help protect from the pointy bits of the anchor and painted with interlux bilge coat. anchorwell

Checklist completed I headed on to decking.

Decking was a refreshing task. It was an easy task with each step leading to huge visual progress. I started by roughing out pieces of 1/4″ and tracing the underlying structure on to them.

Being an aircraft mechanic I really love the neat even rows of rivets on my planes so I duplicated that with boat nails on the decks. I laid out the “rivet pattern” with dividers and pilot drilled the ply. After that it was a simple matter of epoxy coating the bottom of the deck and gluing it on.

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After the deck was on I trimmed the overhang with my router. I still have to shape the front with my belt sander and add the doublers called out in the prints but the deck is on! With that done there are two things preventing me from flipping and finishing the bottom of the boat – the outer stem and the rub rails.

I have been reading about traditional bent frame caravel construction so I wanted to try my hand again at steam bending wood. I made a pattern for the outer steam and busted out the “steam weasel”. outer-stem-one

I had enough oak laying around so I could try bending the stem in a single 1″x2″ piece and, if that failed laminate the outer stem with four 1/4″ strips. If you have been following this blog for any length of time you know how this one ends.

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Lets try that again.

There was a video of the first attempt but it was deemed not suitable for younger audiences or those with weak hearts.

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A little glue and screws and that task was done! After all that work it’s time for a break. naptime

 

 

 

 

The Ultimate Test Drive (Part III)

For me  day two was just a continuation of day one. Between the travel, the heat, and the change in food I was up every hour or so with what can best be called “intestinal distress”. As I returned from my final trip to the dunes I could see headlights bobbing back in camp and I knew it was time to get moving. I grabbed my shower kit and headed to some still water for a saltwater bath.

By the time Peter got up I had packed up but was a physical wreck. I think Peter could tell because he made a great big pot of his awesome coffee to get me going. A big mug of coffee and a good ol mountain house breakfast and I was finally ready to head out. It was just after sunrise and the wind was coming up fast. It was going to be another wild ride today.

One of the more annoying things about the 200 is you are always being judged. From how you back your trailer, to the knots you tie everyone is watching and everyone has an opinion. Fortunately for us we were a well oiled crew this morning and we executed a perfect departure under sail from the beach. Peter and I gave each other a smile as the “old salts” nodded in approval. We started back up the channel to in ICW passing and getting passed by the fleet. On day one I really was too overwhelmed by the event to really look but today I started to get a sense of whom we were sailing with. We had closed on Looney Toons, a wildly painted Michalac Toon 19 and, as we passed I realized that it was sailing on just one sail and they had breakfast going on a galley stove. As I watched them slide by I was amazed by the calmness and complete control they had. I dig it. We settled quickly into what was a repeat of day one high winds, following seas, and super hot temperatures. The land slowly closed in around us and we entered one of the most interesting landscapes I have ever seen.

For the next two days we would be cruising through the land cut. It’s a section of the intercoastal waterway that was dredged out of a marshy salt flat to make a 200 yard wide road for commerce. We slid through this alien landscape at a fast 7-8 miles per hour. The wildlife was abundant and all around us. Salt flats with mere inches of water on them ran as far as the eye could see. Fish jumping, dolphins swimming up the channel, and wading birds watching for lunch kept me mesmerized as the day went on. The only nod to civilization was the fishing shacks that dot the waterways in this part of Texas. Navigation on this section of the trip was easy – follow the land cut and look for a sign that says Happ’s Cut.

Happ’s Cut is the second stop for the 200 and famous for one thing, mud; thick, stinky, shoe stealing, disgusting mud. Words cannot describe how bad the mud is. I was nasty by the time I got everything to shore and had no desire to go back out. Peter stayed onshore for a while and then disappeared to the boat with no plans to fight his way back to shore. The payoff for Happs Cut is something that is rare and wonderful, trees and grass!

For the past two days the wind had been brutal in the afternoon so, after a good nights sleep on the grass, we decided to be one of the first ones out so we could be at camp before the wind got too bad.

Our start to day three was a foreshadow of things to come. Once again we executed a perfect departure under sail, and then promptly stuck it in the mud on the opposite bank. I had forgot to put the center board down so now we were pinned to the shore by the wind and looking like right fools.  After thrashing about in the mud and running the motor we headed out into the land cut with our tail between our legs.

Day three was scheduled to be a short day so most of the fleet had decided to stay behind for a leisurely morning and breakfast in the shade. For us it was a repeat of the first two days. Light winds in the morning building to 20+ in the afternoon. Our next camp was south of Corpus Christie just north of Bird Island. On paper the navigation could not have been easier. This was yet another camp just off of the intercoastal waterway so all we had to do was watch the numbers on the channel markers and turn when appropriate. Unfortunately that didn’t work out.

Peter was taking the afternoon shift and I was forward camped out on the beanbag monitoring the radio and watching the map. Now I could give a bunch of excuses for what happened next but I won’t. In the end the map, GPS, and marker buoys didn’t agree and before we realized where camp was we were a good five miles downwind. We had missed camp and there was no going back.

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As we assessed our situation John and family in their wayfarer pulled along side. They were in the same situation as us so we teamed up to find a camp.

This is where the 200 got real for me. There was no more follow the leader. No designated camp. No fifty boats willing to lend a hand if things went wrong. This is what I came for. We poked and explored little spoil islands until we landed on one with an abandoned fishing shack. When I hopped off the bow I proudly exclaimed “I hereby name you Fuckup Island!”.

The rest of the day was wonderful, we got to know John and his kids, drank beer in the shade and planned our crossing of Corpus Christie bay. It was quite a relief for me to be away from the bulk of the fleet. For some reason there is a lot of posturing and “this is how I would do it” going on with the fleet. Anything you do is judged ad nauseum by the “old salts”.  Here it was just the five of us calm and quiet, each crew with their own plans and solely responsible for themselves.

In the wee hours of the morning I woke up with what I thought was a spotlight in my face. “Thank God John and the kids are here, they would never throw a family off the island in the middle of the night” I was thinking to myself. I unzipped the tent ready to make all sorts of excuses as to why I was trespassing on this little bit of land when I realized it wasn’t a spotlight but a full Texas moon. I walked around the island and enjoyed the scene laid out before me. The breeze was warmer, the stars bigger, and the lights of the city were more soothing than almost any time in my life. I took that moment and held it knowing it was a rare thing. I stayed out for an hour or so enjoying life before heading back to bed, and on to the next day.

 

 

 

What is in a Name

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Idle hands are the devil’s workshop. That is one of the few things that has stuck with me from my years in a Christian school. I never have been, or do I ever see myself as overly religious but the idea that laziness breeds bad behavior is one that I hold to. For me that bad behavior comes out as grumpiness and general depression. Nobody likes a grumpy depressed man laying around. Around 2009 I reached the point in my career where I was no longer going to school and working full time, or after that,  working loads of overtime either. While this is a great place to be it left me way too much time on my hands.

Large projects have been dreams of mine since I was a kid. When I was ten I saw my first issue of Kitplanes Magazine. The thought of building my own aircraft fascinated me then and has stuck with me for my whole life. Fast cars, motorcycles, aircraft, and boats; if you can build it yourself I have a how to book laying around somewhere. So with a good job and extra time on my hand I figured it was time to get to work. The only problem was I didn’t have a place to work. Our house was small but we had a lot of land, and I always wanted to build a house.

It took a little over a year for Cheryl and I to finish the shop. We paid to have the concrete poured and paid for the shingles to be laid but everything else from framing to electrical was done by our hands. I am fortunate to have good friends that love to lend a hand when needed. Darrel and Jason helped us out with heavy lifting and technical advice whenever needed.

 

After construction was over the shop took on a life of its own. It’s a workout studio for Cheryl, a garage for the bikes. With a quick sweep it is our bar when we do not feel like sitting on the couch. Cars, motorcycles, boats, bodies, and brains have been mended here and it has become the workshop where our idle hands go to find relief.

So if Idle Hands has become the name of the workshop, what am I going to call the boat?

 

I See a Boat

I know it has been a long time since I have posted any progress on this site, and in reality, there has been very little progress on my boat until recently. Fortunately that has come to an end!

Shortly after I returned home from the Texas 200 it became clear that I was going to have to put the project on a short term hold. Even with the awesome generosity of Peter and Laura, the Texas 200 had drained most of my sailboat fund. Add that to the list of big chores that had been piling up has set the pathfinder up for an extended nap. It broke my heart but I knew I had to cover her up and get to work on other things.

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Exterior doors were changed, siding fixed, and plumbing plumbed. My motorcycle was torn down to almost nothing for a 30,000 mile transmission service.

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The walls were sanded and painted, vacations taken, and a hurricane named Matthew stopped by for dinner.

Finally, I took the cover off and went back to work.

Cheryl and I laid the last plank on Halloween and I celebrated with a less than traditional whiskey.

The planking is over. I really believe that this was the hardest part of the build. Not only was it technically challenging for me but the size of the planks mandated two people for most operations. It’s not often that Cheryl and I have that much free time at the same time. With her help we got it done and boy does she look good. Since then the pace has picked up dramatically. I am back to working on smaller jobs that I can tackle in an hour or two here and there. I plan on hitting it hard over the holidays and getting back into posting regularly. Wish me luck.

 

OK to Close

I have been taking some heat as of late for not posting any progress on the boat. Properly chastised, I am back at it. I’ll finish up the Texas 200 later, for now here you go Tricia!

Going back a few posts you may remember that I ran out of wood for the planking. Since I was out of wood (the sailboat fund is currently low) and I have been dodging it for a while, I figured it was time to catch up on some of the less pleasant work.

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Sanding is fun, sanding is therapeutic.  Keep telling yourself that over and over. Idle Hands is made of marine plywood and this type of construction has you coat all of the wood inside and out with epoxy. The epoxy soaks into the wood and prevents water from getting to the fibers of the wood. Before you epoxy coat, it’s best to sand off all of the glue goobers and fill any mistakes you have made during construction if you want a good finish. After the epoxy is cured you sand it again, prime, sand again, paint, wet sand, and then you are done. Right now I am just sanding the interior and getting the epoxy on the wood. I am only planning on painting one area now. I’ll save the rest of the painting until I am ready to put the floorboards/seats down.

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One thing that you have to do before you fit the last plank on the sides is to fit the anchor well floor. This panel closes out the very front of the boat and acts as the floor of the anchor well. This is an exciting time because it is the first piece of the boat that is going to be closed out forever. I took my time in this area because I never want to dig down this far again. It was the usual process of fill, sand, epoxy coat, sand, primer coat, sand, bilge paint, NO SANDING!

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With one last check to make sure there was nothing left to do I gave myself the OK to close and glued her down.

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For  now that is how she sits. I have it in the back of my mind to flip the boat over this fall. I still have to finish planking, make the rudder and rudder head, fit the king plank, and a few other things before I flip it so I guess I had better get to work.

Until next time.

The Ultimate Test Drive

Part II 

I had set my alarm for 5:30 am but really didn’t need it. As the morning neared I could hear more and more motion from outside. Sometime around 4:30 am I heard Peter moving around the room and I figured it was time to get up. The whole marina was alive with nervous energy; boats were being prepped, supplies loaded. Peter and I had done most of the work Sunday so all we really had to do was load coolers and personal bags. We shifted and fiddled in our new home getting everything where we wanted it, and then, finally, it was light enough to head out. Peter was as excited as a kid on Christmas day. As we putted out under engine power he broke out the stereo and blasted pipes and drums to set us off right. On either side of the channel homeowners were sitting on the back porch watching us roll out. We cleared the channel and hoisted sail and settled in for the long haul.

The weather guessers had predicted 20+ mile per hour winds for the first few days so we reduced the size of the sail Sunday night.  It didn’t take long for the winds to pick up and our caution to be rewarded. The wind was directly behind us so we had our sails poled out wing on wing. The high winds and wide shallow bays led to us surfing down the front of some pretty big waves at the highest speeds I have ever seen in a single hulled boat. Toward the end of the day we were bumping up against 8 miles per hour!

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The last section of day one involved a right turn and a seven mile sail between Padre Island and South Padre Island to the Port Mansfield Jetties. Peter and I made a plan to face into the wind and drop the main sail and continue in under the jib and the mizzen only. One of the cool things about a yawl is that you can pull the rear sail tight and the ship faces right into the wind and waves so the crew can change sails or even take a break if they need it. As we approached the turn the weather was at its worst. The bay we were in was large but super shallow; the waves had built to 3-4 feet with steep sides and spray coming off the top. We pulled the aft sail tight and the Flying M dutifully faced into the wind.

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We dropped the main sail and faced back toward the jetties. The sails filled and we should have taken off like a rocket but the wind and waves kept knocking us nose into the wind. Finally I was whipped and Peter came aft and fired up the outboard and we headed in. I flopped into the beanbag chair and just held on. As Peter guided us in I could see the other boats in the fleet getting their butts kicked too. The wind and the tide led to some really big waves that broke over the bow of the Flying M and led to a very wet seven miles. As we reached the entrance to the Gulf of Mexico we finally came to camp one. A few boats had already arrived having sailed outside in the gulf instead of inside behind the islands like us. The closer we got I could tell something was wrong.

Peter yelled over the wind and told me to get the radio. I did and heard Matt, the club president, saying there was a sailor in the water outside the jetties and asking if anyone with an engine could go help. Peter and I exchanged a wordless glance and he gunned the engine and headed out. It took only minutes for us to realize that the weather was just too much for us. Even with our six horse engine the incoming tide and waves pushed us back faster than we could go. Not wanting to be the next swimmers in the water we headed in. Peter guided us into the beach and when I hopped off my first words were “shit this is deep” The beach dropped off super steep so only a couple of feet off the beach I was in up to my chest. We anchored the boat to the beach and Peter threw me a beer to celebrate surviving the day.

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Over the next hour or so we set up camp, the swimmer in the water made it to the jetty, then to a fishing boat, and the Coast Guard dispatched a helicopter from Corpus Christi. The boats kept filtering in and, as I was taking some stuff up the beach I heard Peter yell “where is the lifeline!” Peter grabbed the line and I could see what had happened. A large cabin style boat had edged up to the beach and the captain had jumped out with a bow line and no life vest and now he and the boat were headed out to sea. Peter ran over and heaved the line in a perfect throw and I could see the relief in the captains eyes when Peter pulled him ashore. I helped secure the boat and then it hit me. I have had enough. I walked over to my tent to rest for a minute right as the Coast Guard did a low flyby.

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I woke up as the sun was on its way down. Camp one had turned into a small town during the time I was asleep. I met back up with Peter and found out that shortly after I laid down he had to use the lifeline again for the same reason. “I have carried this for years and never used it and I needed it twice today.” The rest of the evening had us socializing and drinking a few of our precious beers. At the end of the night I took a walk down the beach to see how many people had shown up. The numbers told the tale. There were 50+ boats that left Monday morning, 30 or so were on the beach. What a day. With that in mind it was time for bed.