Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Day 5

Bryan once read that the most important tool in a boatbuilder’s arsenal is a good pondering chair in which to sit when solving a problem or recovering from a mistake. So last night we went back to the boat, but we mostly sat around on the ground trying to plan a way around our gunwale problem (it’s pronounced “gunnels,” by the way. No whales were injured in the building of this dinghy:-) We weren’t sure if we could finish the gunwales, the interior seats and the last of the fiberglass all in one day, but if we tried to work any later into the night, we were only going to make things worse.
This morning, Bryan went up to the build site first thing and the girls and I followed a few minutes later. First, we worked a bit on the interior seats and compartments, gluing the supports into place with thickened epoxy. We ran out of wood flour, our regular thickener, so I dug out my precious supply of white whole wheat flour and donated some to the cause. We mix it in “until it looks appetizing,” Bryan says, until it’s the consistency of peanut butter. Then we spread it on the pieces and clamp in place. The thickener is essential on vertical planes, for obvious reasons.
Next we tackled the recalcitrant gunwales. Since they wouldn’t bend properly on the outside of the boat, we decided to glue them in section on the inside. Some boat designs use the gunwales to help shape the boat panels into place, but we have internal frames to do that job. The gunwales here are just for added strength, and cutting them in pieces wouldn’t affect that. Bryan measured and cut all the pieces, and I mixed epoxy to order. The fast curing epoxy starts getting unworkable right away, especially in the warm temperatures here. We worked fast to get each section clamped into place. Then, because we are sincerely low on clamps, we screwed the gunwales in from the outside of the boat and retrieved the clamps for use in the next section.

For comparison, here’s a shot of the day we glued the gunwales onto Splitpea.

Bryan had seen some natural rope in one of the stores he’s been in this week. This afternoon, he managed to find it again and we bought some, hopefully enough to line the upper edge of the boat and cover all the messy screws (now you know our secret…don’t tell!) Bryan ordered 7 meters but the man behind the counter just counted off arm lengths of rope. “Mexican meters,” he said, grinning.
By the time the gunwales were done, Bryan was ready for a “break.” By which I mean, a walk to the fiberglass store and a lunch run. We stayed behind and I coated every remaining bare surface with a layer of waterproofing epoxy. We’d had to scavenge gloves from friends and the shop workers, so I didn’t have the girls join in. They’ve been such troopers about this whole thing, cheerfully jumping in when they can and patiently waiting (e-books help!) when they can’t. It took Bryan a long time to get back (he was running all over town looking for more gloves!) but after lunch, we installed the last gunwale, flipped the dinghy, patched in the last of the fiberglass, and installed the skeg—the little keel-looking thing that will help the boat track well in the water.


Oh, and we installed some of our scavenged “floatation devices. I even tossed in a recently emptied bottle of saline from my contacts and Hannah laughed and laughed at the thought that it was part of our floatation solution. We didn’t have quite enough to fill the compartment, but on his errands today, Bryan located the floatation motherlode, an empty lot with a huge pile of drink bottles. Tomorrow when we need a break, we’ll go pilfer a few and add them in.

After the fiberglass work, the dinghy needed a few hours to dry. Hannah hung out on the boat, while we did laundry and Meira played in the pool. Then in the evening, we left the girls on the boat and Bryan and I went back to the build site, hoping to get everything ready for painting tomorrow. The evening shift went very smoothly. Yesterday was definitely the slump day, but today felt like we were speeding toward the finish. We installed the last seats and finished the last coat of epoxy on the new fiberglass and skeg. We worked by headlamp and the light of the rising full moon. Maybe it’s not your traditional romantic trip to Cabo, but it’s not without it’s wonders if we stop to pay attention. And I wouldn’t have it any other way.
That means tomorrow  (today, I guess…it’s after midnight as I type) we only have to sand, paint (2 coats inside and 2 coats outside) and screw on the rope and finishing hardware. 1 day of prep and a 5 day build? We might make it.

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