Monday, March 21, 2011

Ready at Last - Sails Included

After some 200 hours of toiling for three months and seven days, March 20th was the day on which I finally pronounced my little ship to be seaworthy and good to go.

Phew! No spring fling this little winter project would be!

Also: I am happy to report that the ice on Lake Arthur has vanished. Instead, hundreds of Buffleheads and Mergansers are frolicking on the lake. A great opportunity to do some birding of early migrants, don't you think? This coming week does not look promising but I am keeping my fingers crossed for next weekend.

I had fiddled around with rigging the down-haul but now have a nice arrangement with a double purchase. I may set up a cam cleat on the mast step but that can wait.

It did take me quite a while to figure out an elegant method of attaching the sail to the boom and yard.

John Harris, the designer of the PMD (and owner of CLC), had suggested that these spars would probably be attached in a semi-permanent way much like the sail of a sunfish.

In response to my question, he suggested using the reefing knot where the two ends would be capped with a half-hitch thereby preventing the relatively loose knot to get undone. With an 1/8" line this obviously will work well,  and look pretty tidy.

However, after messing around with the lug sail and spars in my basement for some time, I found that it was impossible to flake the sail nicely with both spars attached.

I wanted therefore to be able to detach sail from yard relatively easily. This would allow me to flake the sail along the still-attached boom and then roll it around the yard for sail-kindly storage. With that objective in mind, the proposed knot would not be convenient. Eventually I came up with a solution that looks quite neat, can easily be undone and seemed practical.

I started with 20" pieces of 1/8" Dacron cord.

 After cutting the pieces, I dipped the ends in Liquid Rope Whipping.

I then folded the line in half and tied some whipping twine as though it were the end of a rope.

The result was a loop in the middle of the line which could be opened and closed by slipping the twine up and down like a quasi-zipper. 

The two ends were then threaded together through the noose...

...and knotted with a twin half hitch.

The Liquid Rope Whipping kept the two ends together quite nicely.

Voila! All that needed to be done now was to "zip up" and pull the double half-hitch toward the noose.

The resulting ring could now easily be opened and closed and slipped through the cringle in the sail and around the spar.

*  *  *

As it turns out, I really only need to open about five rings on the yard - after that, the yard simply slips out of the remaining cord rings.

In part I had complicated my task a bit since I stitched leather around the parts of boom and yard  which intersect with the mast of this balanced lug rig. More on that and other lug rig specific items in a future blog.

*  *  *

Broad-reaching up my driveway - ready for some real action!
So now, all that is left to do is to secure the boat on the trailer for a safe and kindly ride. When I initially place the boat in its trailer bunks, I realized that the boat would tow with more stability, if the skegg would rest on the end roller. So now that this has been corrected, the boat sits firmly on the bunks without rocking.

Ready to launch!

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Hatch Now - Launch Later

Even though visiting friends had admired the work in progress, I know that deep down they seriously doubted that I'd be able to transport the boat to the outside without tearing down a couple of walls.

Admittedly, as the parts came together the boat looked a lot larger than I had pictured. My friends' raised eye-brows caused me to remeasure the door way more than once.

But I had faith in the instructions which clearly stated the needed minimum dimensions of the exit in order to hatch this little duckling unscathed. Accordingly I should have room to spare.

The final coat was applied to the outside and though there are a couple of minor surface tasks any job here on out can be accomplished with the boat on the trailer.

So, this past Sunday I called up my friendly neighbor and neighborly friend John for a steel-nerved assist.

First we did a dry run and placed a floor mat where we needed to put down the boat in order to step down a small ledge.

Then we hoisted the boat out of its cocoon - cracked the shell, as it were - and slipped it through the door with an amazing amount of room to spare. Wow, that was easier than I thought. THANK YOU, Sir John!

Though the launching date is still some time away, the boat on its new trailer is starting to look rather shippy and salty, don't you think?

As soon as the vessel sat on its bunks, I grabbed the wooden mast to see if and how it fit in the mast step. After all, this was the first time I had sufficient air space to raise the mast. It's an excellent fit. I will craft a little wedge to ensure that the mast has no room to pump.

After I was done admiring the virgin state of my PMD and figuring when and how I would install the hardware, I returned to the sun room / workshop to clean up a bit.

Gosh - I almost felt a bit sad that the main work was finished now and that I would have to relinquish my little workshop to more mundane living.

Anyway, I'm not done yet and besides, soon there will be the fun of sailing or rowing it. I will wait for a reasonably warm day to hoist the sail and to install the horn cleats on the mast and some other arrangement to control the down haul. The kit did not come with anything in regard to the down-haul, so I'll have to draw upon my little sailing bag of tricks.

Next time a word about the lug rig.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Satin Doll

As I began to think about the final look of my boat, I thought on one hand of the almost museum-quality creations of many fellow PMD builders as evidenced on their blogs and on the PMD Forum. In fact, my own vessel started to look like that after the fourth coat of varnish.

On the other hand, I considered the practical aspect of sailing and found the high gloss appearance not practical for two reasons: (1) I would anticipate that on the first heavy weather day it would scuff and scratch and (2) I thought that the super-smooth gloss would be too slippery with the first splash of water.

I was not even aware of the possibility of a finish other than the high-gloss varnish until I saw this picture which I came across as I was trying to figure out how my lug-rig components was intended to work.

I called CLC and yes, they do have another varnish BUT it does not offer UV protection. Therefore, you have to apply a minimum of three coats of the hi-gloss varnish before you can put on this other stuff.

As most of you know from conversations with your favorite house painters, the opposite of glossy is matte - (and yes, there is the dreaded semi-gloss but never mind that one.)  Not so in varnish terminology. I guess, matte sounds perhaps a bit too dreary for your average shipwright, no?

So, after five coats of high-gloss Schooner varnish...

First coat of Satin - with day light

...I am now applying Interlux Goldspar Satin. This is the varnish which will provide the finished look of the bright work, i.e. the entire inside of the boat as well as the top plank of the outside. I am planning on two coats - with you-know-what in between coats.

The foils will also shine in satin but I am not sure yet whether the mast, yard and boom will receive the same treatment.

Satin coat with artificial light
Instead of a shiny reflection of the high-gloss varnish, I am aiming for the amber glow of Okume wood - from within.

Heck! With enough coats of high gloss varnish you can make almost anything look pretty and sparkly but the sumptuous satin draws the eye below the surface and will only work on something that is worth looking at.

Besides -

this seems to make for a better contrast with the shiny Hatteras White of the lower strakes and rudder head, don't you think?!

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Zen and the Art of Sanding

They say that 80% of boat building is sanding. Sounds about right to me.

The drone of the orbital (rotary) sander becomes quasi hypnotic. This was less so when I was working on the individual strakes, planks and other components prior to assembling the pram.

But now these components are formed literally into a sound chamber which amplifies the vibrations much like the body of a lute amplifies the oscillations of its strings.

The vibration transferred in the hands last long after the sander is turned off even though I've been working on a "light touch" and wear gloves. Also, I notice that in between coats of varnish the orbital seems to take off more varnish than it should - even at its slowest speed. . What to do?

Switch off the machine and go into manual mode. Okay!

After sanding the fourth coat and wipe off
It'll be slower going but quieter. I might even listen to some music. But wait - its all about focus on the task at hand - being in the moment, you know - concentrate but relax at the same time. So, hold the music.

Mindfulness is what the Buddhist monk, poet and Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh calls it. In the Jewish Tradition this state of directed consciousness is known as kavanah. Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan explains that kavanah is clearing the mind of extraneous thought and concentrating totally on the action at hand.

A meditation on sanding then... breathe in - breathe out! (BTW: not so easy whilst wearing a breathing apparatus to avoid inhaling the micro-dust.)

With fifth coat of varnish applied
You sand the very same planks over and over again - much like washing dishes - you'll do it again tomorrow. Master Thich Nhat Hand advises: Do not try to hurry to get the job over with. Consider washing the dishes the most important thing in life. - Roger that!

Not much seems different from the last time you did it. You almost have to forget about outcome and simply enjoy the work without some immediate result or completion in mind.

As I sand I don't notice that I am bending my back in awkward ways. But when I stop sanding I ache. Breathe in - breathe out!

As I sand I don't notice that my hand and fingers are gripping the pad a tad too tight. But my finger joints complain about it when I finally rest. Breathe in - breathe out!

As I sand I don't notice that my arm moves more vigorously than might befit my age. But when I stop, my limbs demand that I come to my senses. Breathe in - breathe out!

I almost stopped counting time. I do know that the project tallies well north of 200 hours... but that includes tasks such as building the trailer

What is time when the task is timeless?  And how long exactly is NOW?