Construction - III

Progress Report - Oct. to Dec. 1999

Another very productive period. October saw a new personal record with a total of 37 hours of work for the month. Most of this was tied up in a short week (or long, depending on how you see it) of continuous fiberglassing. My parents often lamented during their house building that you became an expert of a task only when you didn't have to do it anymore. The same could be said of my experience with fiberglass. I didn't start off slow with test panels and different methods. I just jumped right in with the first layer on the bottom and went to it.

But I get ahead of myself. First came the installation of the bottom part of the hull. Not easy, seeing how I needed to maneuver a 17 ft. long sheet of 1/2 inch plywood. Since I didn't have an army of hands to help hold it up whilst I applied the epoxy goop, I cheated and used boards clamped to the bulkheads like stilts. Once I was ready, I lowered the stilts and started turning the holding screws like mad. Once done, I had over 200 screws in the bottom panel, about 125 to hold the ply to the cleats, and the rest for the previously installed ballast holders. Like the bone-head that I am, all of the screws in this boat are hand turned; I don't have a drill attachment. I'm sure that when I'm done I'll have forearms and wrists like Popeye.

So after some sanding to clean all of the corners, and installing several center stringers inside, it was time for the 'glassin'. After some amount of thought of how I am going to use the boat, I decided on putting a layer of 20 oz. triaxial on the bottom only, then covering the bottom and topsides with 10 oz. woven cloth. So after cutting everything to size, I was ready to roll. My initial plan was to proceed as follows:

  1. Coat bare plywood with epoxy. Let it become sticky.
  2. Roll on the fiberglass. Adjust as necessary so everything lays flat.
  3. Starting at one end, coat liberally with epoxy, using a squeegy to spread around the excess.
  4. Let it harden for 24 hours.
  5. Coat with more epoxy, filling the weave.
  6. Done, break out the brass band and sip champagne.

The 20 oz. stuff went pretty well, but then it was on a largely flat surface. This photo shows the progress. The white section is the cloth that hasn't been wetted out yet. Notice the centerboard trunk is gone. I glassed right over it, cutting it out later. I found that the cloth didn't like to lay flat when I got closer to the stern (I started the saturation process at the bow). After some amount of cussing encouragement, it stuck but was still not smooth. Another dream down the toilet. I figured that if I was careful, everything would be nice and smooth so I wouldn't have to endlessly fair the hull at painting time. Hah!

Okay, next thought. If I put filler in the epoxy when I fill the weave, maybe it will smooth out the lumps. After 5 feet of applying that philosophy, another dream followed down the toilet. It wound up being hard to smooth and was using an inordinate amount of epoxy. So even more fairing is now required. Aarrghh!

Then it was time for the topsides. This was a bit more challenging because the angle was nearly vertical at the bow, becoming less so toward the stern. Once I started to roll the cloth on the port side, it became apparent that my technique in Step 1 was tremendously flawed. The cloth wanted to stick, but not where I wanted it to, so there was an infernal amount of time spent adjusting and trying to move the cloth. Again starting at the bow, the coating process created bumps in the cloth starting about halfway back. A tremendous flaw in Step 3. But since everything was now stuck, so was I. The bottom layer of 10 oz. went quick with no problems, but then I didn't expect any. The starboard topside, though, was where I had a chance to redeem myself.

Indeed, I attacked the last part with an adjusted process:

  1. Coat bare plywood with epoxy. Let it become hard.
  2. Roll on the fiberglass. Adjust as necessary so everything lays flat, using tape if necessary.
  3. Starting in the middle, coat liberally with epoxy, using a squeegy to spread around the excess.
  4. Let it harden for 24 hours.
  5. Coat with more epoxy, filling the weave.
  6. Done, break, just listen to the stereo with a root beer.

Low and behold the starboard side is a work of art. Several days later I finished off the transom. The sections where the cloth bubbled up I cut out with a razor blade and filled in with epoxy and silica. That'll fix 'em!

Time for the Turn Over?!? Nope, not just yet. I wanted to attach the skeg first. The skeg was a scarfed 17 ft. length of poplar with the outside edges routered smooth. (No, I haven't sprung for a router, I just used a woodworking friend's machine.) Soon after I glued and screwed it down, I planed the ends so there was a smooth transition from the skeg to the hull. I had some sections of 10 oz. fiberglass cloth left over from the bottom job, so I pieced together enough to glass the forward 2/3 of the skeg. That should take the most abuse during a grounding or beaching. The rest was coated liberally so everything was sealed up. Then it was officially time for the...

Turn Over

So on a foggy dark night, I began. The plan was simple. The next two photos show it clearly. An endless loop of rope was run under the bow and through blocks in the ceiling. I used a 3:1 purchase shown in the middle of each picture to adjust the tension. Another loop ran under the stern.

After tightening them as much as I could, I started the exciting process of detaching the strongback from each bulkhead.

Slowly each support was dismantled and eventually, the boat was fully supported by the rope slings. I cleared out the rest of the strongback, swept up, and this picture shows the result.

Now for the turning. I simply grabbed the starboard rail and started pulling up. The boat turned very smoothly until the port gunwale came to rest on the garage floor. Hmm. Obviously I had to raise the boat some so the whole boat would clear the floor. Time to take some pictures.

Here we see both sides of the boat. Well shown is the newly installed skeg and the cutout for the centerboard.

So I huffed and puffed on the bow sling to raise the bow up 2 ft. Once clear of the floor, the hull really wanted to turn upright. It took some effort to hold it back so the rest of the journey would not be a violent one. Turning continued inch by inch and then it was...


Letting it down on the precut blocks was a breeze.

I would have celebrated, but at that point I was too tired. I went to bed instead. But I was extremely satisfied with how everything worked out. I was able to turn over an 18 ft. by 6.5 ft object weighing 400-450 lbs. by myself without even breaking a sweat. Pardon me while I break my arm patting myself on the back.

This whole event occured almost exactly 1 year after I started cutting the first piece of wood. Time spent so far is about 200 hours.

The new perspective inspired more work. Now at least I can see what I'm doing. First up was installing the longitudinal bulkhead under the cockpit, shown here.

Decisions made a long time ago show up here. Remember the extended panel on the centerboard trunk on Page 1? It's here at the left corner as part of the cockpit wall. I love it when a plan comes together.

These pictures show the basic interior between bulkheads E, D, and C. Visible here are the blocks that I glued in to stabilize the lead ingot ballast. Eyestraps will be screwed to the blocks so that the ingots can be lashed in place with rope. I fiberglassed the ingot locations without filling the weave so it would provide a non-skid surface. Even if they do move around a little, the chafe will be on the glass, not the hull ply itself.

Here's some more starboard side detail between bulkheads E and D. What you see here is the first piece of furniture that I installed while the boat was still upside down. It's a non-structural shelf with a fiddle. I thought it would be a handy storage spot under the "galley", and will be accessible through a watertight inspection hatch. The plans didn't call for the shelf, but I thought that without it the space would be difficult to use after the "galley" top was installed.

I use the phrase "galley" and "head" loosely because that's how the plans refer to them. I don't plan on permanently installing either a stove or a sink (or a head for that matter). These spots will be set up to be multi-use.

This picture is very similar to the 4th picture on Page 2, only the boat is right-side-up. This also shows the longitudinal bulkhead that I mentioned in my Deviations section. It will provide additional support for the bunk, as well as strength for the bottom hull panel.

My plan for the next few months is fairly chaotic. The builder's instructions call for epoxy coating, installing the bunks and cabin carlins, but I have lots of little details to attend to which I'll work on in no particular order. I've started cutting the bunks to see what I've left for material.

One comment about material. Different designers have different philosophies when it comes to helping the neophyte. Wharram not only gives a material list, but shows you exactly how to lay out each piece so you minimize waste*. Kirby just gives an approximation of what each piece will consume (Blkhd B = 0.25 sheet, Blkhd C = 0.3 sheet, etc.) then adds them all up. So you blithely walk into the lumber supplier and say "Gimme 13.5 sheets of 3/8 ply!" like the plans indicate. Down the road, the error of this method becomes clear when you try to cut odd shaped pieces out of even odder shaped scrap and it doesn't work. This is why I've just bought material as I've gone along, but you won't get any volume discounts doing this. The amount of waste really depends on where the material goes, but figure on at least 15% - 20% waste to be safe.

Here's my H. Hornblower picture where I imagine myself sitting in the cockpit and sailing into the sunset between my washer and dryer. There's something not quite right about that dream, but I haven't figured it out yet. Maybe it's that the only water here is inside the heater off the starboard bow.

Anyway, back to the details. Lots of cleats need to be glued to take the deck and cabin sides, nearly 70 eyestraps for lashing down the ballast, and then epoxy coat the interior parts below the bunks and cockpit. Then I'll be ready to glue down the bunk parts.

There are a few things looming heavily over the horizon that'll I'll need to start some research on. The first is the mast tube hardware. I might throw in the centerboard, too, since both are made of aluminum. Next will be the mast, since it will probably take a good amount of time to have it built.

At press time I've already cut and fitted all of the "furniture". I'll glue them in place later. I've started coating the spaces under the bunk with epoxy and white pigment to seal the wood and give it a slightly finished look. I've also installed the cabin top carlin and am part-way through installing the cabin side carlins. It's interesting how things are taking shape.

* What was a good idea that didn't pan out in practice. Wharram showed how all pieces requiring 5/8" ply could fit on one 4x8 sheet in his Tiki 21 plans. Regardless of how I measured things they wouldn't fit. So I had to purchase another sheet (for $75!!!) and used a very small part of it. Was I mad? You betcha! But not as mad as when I discovered that Wharram's dimensions for Bulkhead A were too short. Of course this discovery occurred when I was installing it. It made me believe that Wharram may be an inspired boat designer, but he's no engineer.

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