Warning: This is the most boring blog post, with the best ending
All this Spring I’ve been totally jamming to get finished and get the boat in the water. The boat work went well, but my phone died so there are no pictures! You’re just gonna have to trust me.
I finished painting, figured out the rigging – all the last details.
Did a little driveway sailing to get the sails and rigging set up.
One of my proudest moments isn’t captured on film and it didn’t involve woodwork. I was able to find the trailer VIN, conquer the RMV and get the trailer registered!
Splash day finally arrived. Linda, the kids and I launched at my local hangout, Mystic Lakes. The evening was beautiful and the winds were light. I nailed the ramp on my 18th try.
Linda dutifully stayed on land to record, but Pearl and Abe came along for the inaugural ride. You can’t see them because they’re ducking under the boom.
Linda even captured this glamour shot.
So she works! No leaks and the rigging and sails all work. Now I need to get the boat more secure on the trailer and get A LOT more practice backing up the boat!
Her name is Lucky Pierre. Growing up this was our phrase when someone was lucky, and no one is more lucky than I. Also, my fireman dad got the nickname after he had a brush with death in 1965. We still have his helmet with the name and a pair of dice! (Of course, the photo was lost with the phone. Next post).
Funny moment. I was cleaning up and found this important-looking package of hardware.
Uh-oh! This is the hardware that I was supposed to put on BEFORE attaching the deck! Now I would need to be ElastiGirl to reach in to put the nuts on. I would need to get through this tiny round opening then up – about three feet in total!
I tried to McGiver different tools to get the nuts on – no luck. Then I found that I could get my head and one arm through this hole, but even with socket extensions I could only get one nut on, but no washers.
Not good enough.
After several days of fiddling I gave up and cut a hole through the floor of the anchor well above it. Within minutes the problem was solved and I was on to the new problem of fixing the new hole.
Very few boat terms make sense, but these do. These are rub rails, to protect the boat if you rub up against something.
Much progress. It doesn’t look very different, but the to-do list shrinks every day.
I raided a neighbor’s dumpster for old floorboards that will end up as rub rails – protective railing around the edge of the boat.
There will be a mast at the back of the boat, and the boomkin sticks out the back to control that sail. I held my breath and cut the hole in my beautiful transom. Came out just right!
Another hold-your-breath-and-drill moment. This big hook goes on the front, and it requires two very parallel holes, which I also managed to do.
Each milestone is another part of the boat that gets finished and sealed up, never to be seen again (unless I hit an iceberg). This is the hole that holds the main mast, and the four guides lead to the hole in the bottom.
This is the front of the boat, painted and waiting to be covered over.
Now it is sealed, and this space will be used to store the anchor.
The rudder was shaped to fit the hardware.
The front of the boat is ready to be covered over. This areas got some paint,
Then the seats at the front of the boat were attached.
Winter is basement time, and this winter the first job is the rudder. The Navigator is built to go in shallow waters, so parts that stick down (like the centerboard and the rudder) are built to pivot up when they run into something .
The top part of the rudder assembly attaches to the boat, and the bottom part swings up and down as needed.
First I drew out the plans full-sized, and transferred that shape to the wood.
I cut out the rudder cheeks.
This is what the top will look like eventually look like.
To figure out the shape of the rudder I started with a mock-up in cardboard. Here it’s in the down position, and in the up position.
The actual rudder blade is thick so it starts as a bunch of pieces glued together. The mixed-up grains of all the pieces helps to keep the rudder from warping.
After much shaping.
And here’s where I am right now. The rudder cheeks are bolted and the blade is shaped. Still needs more fussing with the pivot bolt, and I plan to fiberglass the front and bottom edges for when, you know, I run into stuff.
Two other exciting additions to the project. I picked up this cool old spokeshave. Probably more than a century old, it’s a great help in delicate shaping and turning square shapes into round, like masts.
And even better – my sails arrived! That’s one big step closer to sailing. Here’s the small one (the mizzen) in the box and on the kitchen floor.
Last year I made the mistake of stopping too soon, so this year I wanted to try to press on all the way to mid-November if I could.
So the goal was still to finish lots of interior work before winter. The next step was the seat-back supports. This was a cool step because it continued to define the interior and make it easier to see how the finished boat will look.
Showed off my mad chiseling skills by making a slot in the transom for the rear end of the seat support. There’s no way that I could bend thick wooden pieces to make the pretty curve of the deck, so I attached one thin piece, then glued the other half to it.
It was a regular clamp party.
There are no pictures of the next several weeks. Every intersection in the entire interior got the following treatment: Heat gun and chisel to remove epoxy globs left over from planking, sand, create fillets (smooth new epoxy joints), sand the fillets, sand the inside of the planks. By the time I was ready to quit the temperatures finally dropped too low for epoxy to cure. I feel like I’m almost done with this step, but when spring hits I may get more finicky and press for more perfect joints. I don’t want to spend the rest of my sailing career looking at a crappy interior job, wishing that I had just spent a few more hours getting it right.
October 31 was closing day at my most excellent part-time job at Community Boating. There are no action photos because I’m far too afraid that I’ll fall into the Charles River with my phone in my pocket, but I got some glamor shots nonetheless.
The end of the building season also means that the boat needs to move out of the larger garage bay (to make room for Linda’s car, of course). The boat’s too heavy now for Pearl, Abe and I to lift, and besides, and this point she is rigid enough to get off of her frame.
I added hooks in the ceiling beams. I removed the screws that connected the bottom panel to the frame. Only 18 months since I put them in (sarcasm intended).
She gently rose off her frame. Then I pulled the frame out from underneath her, and she floats for the first time. On air, not water. I quickly wheeled the trailer under her and lowered her again. Here she sees daylight for the first time since June. Time for more glamor shots!
Seats out and seats in.
And below, my new favorite photo:
Come on, Spring!!
I couldn’t resist stepping the mast just once.
For now the shop has moved to the basement. This winter I’ll finish the masts and spars and build the rudder. My rudder hardware arrived from New Zealand today!
Oh yeah. In cleaning out the basement I found the first boat that I ever built.
After the excitement of finishing the planking, things slowed considerably. August brought two weeks in York Beach and then the beginning of the new school year. The goals for fall were to finish important interior details and have the boat ready to flip next spring.
First step was to finish off the seats. I made the seats oversized – I wanted to see them in place before making the final decisions. This part is the main seating area where I will spend all my time, so I wanted it to be just right.
As an aside, I was at the point where I was starting to work on parts that will be visible forever, and it has become a little nervewracking.
Anyway, it turns out that the rim of the olive dish made the perfect corner on the seats. Who knew? This was followed by very careful cutting!
Look at me, sitting in my cockpit. The first of many hours, hopefully. The forward seating area also took shape.
I started working on the king plank, which is important as it sounds. It’s on the top of the deck and it provides the main support for the mast. It starts at the top of bulkhead 2, goes around the mast, connects to the top of bulkhead 1, and goes forward all the way to the top of the stem, thus connecting 3 important structural fixtures.
My version of the Navigator has a different sail than the standard plans, and my mast is not supported by wires on the side (shrouds) or the front (forestay). Because of this, the king plank is 40% wider to provide extra support.But as I started to assemble the parts for the king plank I found that, once again, bulkhead 1 was a problem.
In case you’re forgotten, one of my bigger past screw-ups was to install B1 in the wrong place. Now it appeared that either B1 or B2 were the wrong size! When the king plank touched the right place at the ends, it was much too high in the middle.
When the king plank hit the right spot on B1 and B2, it was far too low at the stem.
I’ll never know which bulkhead was too low, and at this point I really didn’t care. My solution was to add to the top of B1.
Unfortunately, this is the only photo of the process, because I was really pleased how it turned out. In this photo I have started to fit a new piece to the top of B1 to raise it about 3/4 of an inch. Then I had to curve the top to make a consistent base for the eventual deck, and then build it up with several thicknesses of plywood to handle the load that it will one day shoulder. I may not be able to do things right the first time, but I think I’m getting better at fixing my mistakes.
Next on the checklist was the mast box. Very important. This box has to be super strong to hold the mast, super accurate so that the mast is straight, and super airtight because it goes through a section of the boat that has to remain airtight (in the unlikely event of a water landing) to make sure that the boat still floats. Phew!
This is the eventual home of the mast box, just on the front side of B2. I had built to the original plans, so some of my prior work had to come out. Damn! Those parts fit!
This is a shot of a trial fix (we boatbuilders call it a “dry fit” because there’s no glue yet). The king plank forms the top of the box.
The bottom of the mast sits in the mast step, a block of wood several inches thick made of several layers glued together. Yes, getting all of the holes the same size is one of those things that I can do now that I couldn’t do before.
In my head I imagined that as soon as Spring hit I would be outside working on the boat, but the reality is that I always forget that between yard, garden plot, work and finishing school, Spring is really busy. But July finally came and I only had one thing on my mind.
Last fall I was excited to get the frame together but now I’m just seeing all the places where the parts didn’t exactly fit. The seats were the next step, but first everything under the seats had to be flat. Lots of tiny additions and subtractions.
I also found several places where the wood stringers had snapped, either during the assembly last fall or sometime over the winter. These all needed to be repaired and cleaned up.
On one seat section I made a pattern of cardboard, then transferred the shape onto the plywood. This was a long tedious method that eventually yielded the right shape.
This was fun. The front of the boat (stem) needs a curved piece, but you can’t bend a one-inch piece of oak. So I cut it into many thin pieces (which do bend) and laminated them together. Gooey but successful!
At last, planking. I started on the rear left. The process has many steps. I cut an oversized piece of ply, clamp it in place and mark the edges. Off the boat to make cuts, back on to see if it fits, then off and on until it’s right. Then glue and clamp and screw in place. The first piece was small and straightforward, but piece number two was not. Because of the length of the plank, the curve of the boat and frame obstructions on the bottom, this was the hardest plank for me. It seems like I took it off and put it back on the boat twenty times just to get it close!
The final bottom plank is the one that other Navigator builders dread, but it went on pretty easily. The challenge is that it starts almost horizontal at the rear, but bends dramatically to vertical in the front. As I slowly tightened the clamps to force it into shape I kept expecting to hear the crack of snapping wood, but it went on without a hitch.
Then the starboard side goes on.
Day by day, plank by plank. 24 in all.
And finally to the top! Now I have a boat.
The last plank is called “The Whiskey Plank” no doubt to celebrate the completion of this important task. And I would never disrespect hundreds of years of naval tradition . . .