Sunday, December 10, 2006

Ideas From Readers...

Here are two comments from readers who posted on our thread on the builder's forum at

---Comment 1---
The thing is, high-build primer is expensive, so getting a good sanding done first will save you time and money.

That said, I would do just as you wrote, prime, take a look, and then work those areas that specifically need attention. I've had best results with two coats of the high build then sanding. You might try that misting thing Joel has been doing on the FS14 thread. It seems like a great way to really pick out the problem areas.
---End Comment 1---

---Comment 2---
Before you put primer down...

1) Use straight edges with a light behind it to look for a fair surface. The light will show through between the hull and the straight edge if it is not fair.

2) Position a strong light close the hull surface. Step 6 or more feet away from the hull and look right down the side (block the light with your hand while you can still look down the hull). This will show many imperfections if they exist.

The above doesn't take very long and will tell you if you are ready.

Resist the urge to forge ahead if you have doubts that you are really ready for the next step.
---End Comment 2---

Saturday, December 09, 2006

For Clarification

I want to clarify things a bit. From my perspective, there's no tension between Greg and me on this project. We have the same vision for this boat... a high-quality watercraft that we built with our own hands. I know that this is ultimately his baby and I'm basically playing "Gilligan" to his "Skipper." He's a mechanical engineer and has done tons of research every step along the way. He's got a more developed vision than I do, and more knowledge and insight about how to achieve that vision.

At the same time, he's not autocratic. When I have an idea or disagree with his approach, I tell him what's on my mind and he listens. Sometimes we implement my thoughts, others we don't. When we went into this project, we knew we'd occasionally disagree. Since it's ultimately his boat, I've got no problems with doing what he wants and to his satisfaction. We really are doing this as a team; we're simply using the fact that it's his boat as the tiebreaker.

My frustration is merely that we've been stuck in the sanding and fairing stage for over seven months. Part of this is the pursuit of perfection, and part of this is because we're both family men who can only devote a few hours per week to this project. In the end, please don't think that my previous post was designed to imply that I'm frustrated with Greg, because that's not true. Mainly I'm illustrating, with my own personal experience, that building such a large boat carries its share of challenges and frustrations.

Friday, December 08, 2006

A Snail's Pace

Once we're done with this project, I certainly hope that the boat goes through the water faster than we're progressing on the boat. It was two and a half months ago that I declared us "almost done" preparing the hull for painting. In retrospect, I feel like Bush proclaiming an end to major combat in Iraq.

Since saying "almost done," we've done still more sanding and fairing and filling holes, and I'm starting to get frustrated. A couple of weeks ago, I asked Greg if we could set the end of 2006 as a goal for flipping the boat. This would require us to be finished sanding, fairing, and priming the hull, and painting the bottom. He said it was doable and we set 12/31/06 as a tentative date for flipping the boat. We pissed away the next two weekends doing more sanding and fairing and quite honestly, I'm tired of it. I understand that Greg wants the boat to be perfect, but eventually you need to say "good enough." Part of the issue is that the boat is a huge patchwork of different colors and textures. There are areas where the eye says "this area needs to be filled in a bit more," but the hand says "it's perfectly smooth." There is one minor area on the port chine, toward the front, that needs to be touched up, but other than that, I think it's ready to prime.

Greg agrees with me in theory, but in practice we end up sanding and fairing when I get over there. We're both tired of the routine and we're both failing to see real progress. I think it's time to finish up the chine and prime. The primer we've bought is high-build primer, so it will perform two complimentary functions. Because it's high-build, it will fill in the smallest flaws, and because a primer coat would make the boat a uniform colors, it would expose any remaining flaws.

Your thoughts?

Sunday, October 08, 2006

A Flow Coat


Greg finally decided to do something different. After months (yes, months!) of sanding and fairing, Greg decided that enough is enough. We flow coated the boat yesterday. When I went over there, I was expecting another round of sanding and fairing, so I didn't take the camera. (Like I've said countless times, there are only so many sanding and fairing pics I can take.)

One of our concerns was epoxy runs. In order to address this, we thickened the epoxy ever so slightly with just a touch of wood flower. It seems to have worked, but we won't know for sure until after the epoxy dries. Wish us luck.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Almost There

Almost There
Originally uploaded by OzzyC.
I figured it was about time for another actual picture of our project. This photo really doesn't do the boat justice, but I wanted to show you something. Next time, I'll take the shot from the bow, and you'll get a better idea of the boat's overall shape and progress. (This shot makes the boat look more like a giant brick than an actual watercraft.)

What you should notice in this picture is just how sharp we've cut the chines, how flat the boat is, and how patchy the boat looks now. (If you click on the picture, you will see a larger picture, complete with notes on the boat.)

Along the chines, you will see something that looks a little like mold. Greg did a fog coat of black spraypaint. The idea here is to do a very light hand sanding with a long sanding block. After this sanding, we will be able to identify the low spots. These low spots will be easily seen because the fog coat of black spraypaint will remain in the low areas, whereas the paint will have been sanded from the higher areas.

Feel free to click here if you'd like an idea of how things looked before we built up the chines.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

A Good Day's Work

As I've mentioned time and time again, summer seems to slow Greg and me down on our quest for the perfect cabin cruiser. Today however, we made some great progress. We sanded down the hard chine on the port side and began the fine work with quick fair. It wasn't a long session time-wise, but we accomplished a lot. Additionally, we discussed ways to work smarter. The problem we've been running in to lately is that we can only put in an hour or two of work and then are required to wait for things to cure. Since the starboard side is about ready for flowcoating and priming, I brought up the idea of flowcoating and priming the boat in sections. This way, if there are areas that we need to revisit, we can be more effective in our work. Your thoughts??

Sunday, July 09, 2006

The Law of Diminishing Returns

Yes it's true... I've been horribly remiss in my postings lately. A small part of this is because we've been taking a slower pace lately, but mainly because there's really nothing to report.

Summer brings about a special set of challenges for our project. Part of the issue is that summertime brings about the opportunity for far more activity. Whether it's a chore such as mowing the lawn, a pleasure such as an afternoon drift down the river, or a picnic with the family, there's a lot more to do during the summer. This, of course, means a little less time to work on the boat.

The next challenge is the heat. We're building this boat in a non-air conditioned garage, and during this time of year, the heat is sometimes unbearable. Add in the fact that we're wearing tyvek suits, dust masks and safety glasses because we're sanding and fairing, and you should completely understand the lack of demonstrable progress on our project. I can only say "still sanding" so many times...

We've been sanding and fairing for about three months, but it seems like three years. Sanding and fairing is widely considered the most tedious, unrewarding phase of building a boat, and I honestly thought we were mentally prepared for this. I was wrong. In fact, I honestly believe that part of our slowed progress is based on burnout.

That said though, Greg is finally to a point where he's ready to say "good enough." To paraphrase a post from Wooden Boat Sailor, at some point the Law of Diminishing Returns kicks in. In the early stages, the sanding and fairing is essential, otherwise the boat looks and performs like absolute shit. As the process continues, there's a progressively smaller payoff for the same amount of work. Eventually you come to the point where the amount of work exceeds the amount of satisfaction you get from the work you put in. This is the "good enough" stage. Greg and I still have a little more work to do, but he's to the point where he realizes that any more work on the bottom of the hull is excessive. One of the sides is done, which leaves both transoms and the other side. If we haul ass, we should be ready to lay a coat of primer in about four to six weeks. Thank God! I'm soooooo ready to be finished with the sanding and fairing.

Monday, June 05, 2006


Boys Trip 2006 041
Originally uploaded by OzzyC.
Though this experiment met with one mishap after another, it's one that I wouldn't have missed for the world. Despite the fact that we spent two hours repairing our craft for every hour of sailing (or some semblence thereof) -- kind of like owning an Italian sportscar -- it's something I'd do again. This trip was a blast... or should I say "gust?"

Half Mast

Boys Trip 2006 026
Originally uploaded by OzzyC.
The final insult was a break that we couldn't overcome. The mast broke. Greg fashioned the mast out of a 16 foot aluminum flagpole. Though it was stressed far beyond anything it was engineered for, it held up for two days under strong winds. In the end though, mother nature's force was too much for the mast, and it snapped in the middle. The ironic part is that we were sailing for shore.

Greg wanted one last day of experimentation and sailing, and I wasn't about to let him go out in the boat alone... we'd both end up stranded that way. He'd be stuck in the water, and I'd be stuck on the island. So we shoved off one last time and tried to tack upwind, to no avail. We pulled the sail down, and as Greg frantically attempted repairs, the wind pushed us slowly downwind from our campsite. We were approximately a quarter mile downwind, when I announced that it was time to bring our experiment to a close.

I suggested using the wind to our advantage by bringing the sail up one last time and harnessing the wind's power to at least get us to shore, allowing us to paddle back up to our campsite in the island's wind shadow, thus fighting the wind less.

We hoisted the sail, flew for five feet or so, and heard that final **SNAP**. We looked up just in time to see the sail and mast tumbling. It was the final defeat in our experiment.

Broken Mast Support

Boys Trip 2006 001
Originally uploaded by OzzyC.
Take a little too much wind, add a makeshift watercraft, and throw in a couple of inexperienced sailors... what do you get? A recipe for a disastrously humorous adventure.

Our next malfunction was a broken mast support. The mast support consisted of a wooden dowel, a couple of turnbuckles for adjustibility, and more hose clamps and bolts to hold the supports in place.

One particularly strong gust of wind ripped the turnbuckle from the dowel. We repaired the break with glue, but ended up going with another mast support made from a tree branch, lashed in place with ropes and ratchet straps.

Rudder Problems

Boys Trip 2006 079
Originally uploaded by OzzyC.
The next problem we encountered was a rudder problem. We used a canoe paddle as the rudder, which was bolted to the catamaran frame using something that Greg fashioned. This mount broke, and we ended up having to ratchet strap the canoe paddle to the frame. Once this was done, the rudder didn't function quite as efficiently, so I periodically resorted to using two canoe paddles to achieve my objective.

Repaired Leeboard

Boys Trip 2006 086
Originally uploaded by OzzyC.
After repairing the leeboard, we again tested our craft for seaworthiness. As you can see in this picture, the repair was fashioned out of a steel brace, hose clamps and a log provided by mother nature. Greg sunk a lag bolt in to the log. We tested things out, and the repair held, but there was yet another problem. By repairing the leeboard in this fashion, the board didn't sit as deeply in the water, effectively eliminating a portion of our ability to tack. We were able to tack one way against the wind, but not the other.

As you can imagine, this necessitated another long arduous paddle back to shore. Fortunately, we were picked up by a pair of boaters who towed our crippled craft back to our campsite for still more repairs.

Saturday, June 03, 2006

Engineering Problems A-Plenty

Boys Trip 2006 066
Originally uploaded by OzzyC.
As I mentioned yesterday, our first trip was completely uneventful. This is mainly because there was just enough wind to get us from the landing to our campsite, so we cruised to the island, set up camp, ate, and hoped for more wind the following day. Our wish was fulfilled.

After a hearty breakfast of beer and eggs, Greg and I were anxious to continue our experiment and to test our skill as sailors. We did a quick sail in the water immediately next to our camp site, and were soon satisfied that our boat and our skills were solid enough to venture further into the open water.

Being novice sailors, it took us a little bit of time and experimentation to learn the ropes, but we took great pleasure in the new experience... until we heart that first **CRACK**. I don't remember whether it was caused by shallow water, or by actual stress, but our leeboard mount broke. As this picture shows, the leeboard itself held up to the stress, but the frame wasn't quite as strong, flexible, or whatever.

Despite our hobbled watercraft, we were able to limp back to our campsite, which was upwind from us when the malfunction occurred, and fortunately Greg brought plenty of material for repairs. He pulled the leeboard mount and had soon fashioned a repair of glue and screws. On the downside, we had to wait for the glue to cure, so our sailing was finished for the day.

Stay tuned for our continued misadventures.

Friday, June 02, 2006

How We Did It

Boys Trip 2006 055
Originally uploaded by OzzyC.
Our construction process was precise yet simple. Engineer-boy took the measurements and did the conversion mainly with things he already had laying around his garage... plywood, 2x4s, wooden dowels, ratchet straps, hose clamps, lag bolts and so forth. About the only parts he needed to buy were the flagpole that we used for the mast, and the tarp that he cut to the shape of a sail.

When we got to the reservoir, we spent the first two hours or so assembling the catamaran. By the time we finished the construction, got to camp, set up the tent and ate, it was time to go to bed. Additionally, the maiden voyage from the landing to the island occurred on a day with almost no wind. We were able to make our way to the island, but it was slow going. Our real test would have to wait for another day.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Look What We Did to Our Nice Canoes

Boys Trip 2006 035
Originally uploaded by OzzyC.
Per our tradition, we took our boys' trip over Memorial Day weekend. For several years we have been travelling staying in Nicolette Forest in northease Wisconsin, for a few days of whitewater kayaking. This year, we decided to get back to our roots and do some canoeing. Greg and I took things a step further, and rigged up the Nice Canoes we built a couple of years ago as a makeshift catamaran. Greg, being engineer-boy, calculated the dimensions, measured the sail, and determined where to put the various parts. It worked surprisingly well -- for one day. The boat was structurally sound, but anything that directly related to the sailing aspect was woefully under-engineered. Stay tuned for the complete story... it's quite a ride.

Saturday, May 20, 2006

A Brief Diversion

You may have noticed a lack of recent posts about our boat project, and if you think it's because we haven't done anything lately, you're right. You see, it's almost time for our annual boyz trip pilgrimage. Every year over Memorial Day, Greg, two of our friends from high school and I go on an extended trip. The trips have varied tremendously over the years... sometimes we do long, self-contained downriver canoe trips, sometimes we do whitewater kayaking, occasionally more than the "core four" of us will go. Our trips have varied from three days to a week, and we have hit too many rivers to count. We started out taking these trips over Labor Day weekend, but changed to Memorial Day a few years back when we figured out that the water levels are generally higher this time of year.

This year, we will be travelling to North-Central Wisconsin and doing a self-contained island-hopping lake canoe trip, utilizing the canoes we built a couple of years ago. To add to the adventure, Greg and I are temporarily converting our individual canoes into a catamaran sailing vessle. We're going to a brand new area, doing a variation on our trip that we haven't really done before, and trying a new feat of engineering. This should explain the lack of progress on the main project. We've been planning the trip, and working on the rig that will convert our paddle-powered canoes into a wind-powered catamaran.

If you’re interested in some of the history and stories from our various trips, here are a few links for you to check out…

From earlier posts in this blog:
How it all Began; A Quick Sidenote:
A Well-Deserved Vacation
Pictures of the Canoes

From posts on my other blog:
Commemorating a Practical Joke

Saturday, April 15, 2006

Sanding and Fairing and Building the Edges

Greg and I haven't forgotten about you, this blog, or our project. It's just that we haven't recently hit any milestones worth blogging about. As I mentioned in some of my recent postings, the part we're on now is very long and tedious... not much worthy of a blog entry. Despite my lack of posting though, we have made significant progress, and it's very close to the rate that I expected. This is largely due to Greg's work.

My family and I went to California for vacation recently, which prevented me from assisting Greg for two weeks straight. In all honesty, I suspected that very little would be done during my absence. (This is partially because much of what we've done to date is highly expedited by having two people working, and partially because I realize that I help keep Greg motivated.) But when I got back home, I was pleasantly surprised to find that Greg had made significant progress during my absence. While I was gone, Greg enlisted the assistance of our mutual friend Dan. Dan, thanks for your help while I was gone. I appreciate it, and I know Greg appreciates it.

As you can see in the first photo, Greg and Dan made great progress in filling the bottom of the boat. It's very close to being finished.

Greg also made a lot of progress in rebuilding the hard edges of the boat. Remember, this boat is designed to have a planing hull, so a perfectly flat bottom and very hard chines are essential in order to have this boat perform as expected at planing speeds.

In the picture to the right, you will see how we made the chines with relatively little work. Greg screwed thick sheets of plastic to the hull, as shown in this picture. This gave us (when I say "us," I'm including Dan, because he was part of this particular process; he also provided us with the plastic.) a fairly straight, and very sturdy platform with which to work. We wedged epoxy thickened with wood flour and fiberglass particles into the space between the plasic, going slightly higher than the bottom of the hull. This way, we were sanding down, instead of requiring a second fill coat.

In this picture, you will notice the applied thickened epoxy. After the epoxy dries, we remove the sheets of plastic, and voila, a sturdy chine, ready for sanding.

This shot will give you a basic picture of what the chines look like after the epoxy sets and the plastic is removed. What you're looking at is the starboard side. You will notice that the chines are not built up throughout the whole starboard side. This is because of the limited plastic available. It will require a second session to finish the side. You will also notice that we (again, "we" includes Dan) have been sanding and fairing along the entire bottom of the hull.

This final picture is taken from the bow, starboard corner. You will notice that Greg has also filled the front transom area, and the front bottom area, to compensate for the three-to-six layers of fiberglass. You will also notice the fair amount of fairing done on the bottom, and the hard chine. Like I've said, it's not that we haven't been working, and it's not that we've forgotten about you. It's mainly that we're at a relatively tedious section of the project, and there's not a lot to report. After all, how many times can I say "Yep, we're still sanding" and keep you all interested?

Until next time...

Oh yeah, you may have noticed that the boat has several different colors of filler. This is because Greg is utilizing a combination of what's cheapest and what works best for sanding and fairing in a given area of the boat.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

The Good and the Bad and the Good

The fairing and sanding continues. Greg read about a really neat idea that will likely save us countless hours of eyeballing, and in the end, provide us with a significantly more accurate finished product...

In my last entry, you saw the level that showed approximately how much filling we need to do. Well, Greg decided to wrap that level in plastic, run a strip of filler under where the level was, and then essentially mash the level into the filler and let things dry. After the filler dried, he removed the level, shaved down the excess epoxy and voila, he had a "rail" that gave us a guide for how much filler we need to use. By running a second "rail" down the center, and a third one down the other side, we had a rail system built, which will allow us to roll out a single, thick, accurate layer of filler and dramatically reduce the amount of sanding and fairing we will need to do. A stroke of genius!

On the downside, when sanding yesterday, we came across a big spot that was starved for epoxy, as shown (and outlined) in the picture to the right. This is an area that's come back to haunt us from way-back-when. The area is approximately 4"X3." It's nothing that can't be overcome, but is a little frustrating.

We have yet to decide how to address the issue, but Greg has two ideas... one is to use fiberglass filler and epoxy, the other is to use glass micro-filler and epoxy. I've found one or two other spots like this, but they're small, in non-structural areas, and easy to fix.

Here's another small stroke of genius Greg ran across...

-Are you tired of constantly stirring epoxy and/or thickener?

-Are you working by yourself and would like to save a little time?

-Are you working with fast hardener, and tired of worrying if it's going to kick too quickly?

If any of these problems apply to you, then you should try what Greg's doing in this picture to the right. Use a drill (or drill press) and a paint-stirring bit to do the work for you. It's quicker and easier. Just remember to take measures to protect your drill. It would really suck if you ended ruining your drill because it got all gummed up with epoxy.

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Time to Fair

Greg and I started the long task of filling in the low spots. This pic is a "before" shot that will show you how much area we have to fill.

You may also be interested in seeing me do another household project using epoxy.

Sunday, January 29, 2006

The Outside of the Hull is Glassed!

We reached another major milestone yesterday... we finished glassing the exterior of the hull. Now we're on to the long task of fairing and sanding. Based on our current pace, I expect this to take about three months.

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Glassed Rear Transom

Yesterday we glassed the rear transom. After we glass the front transom (which we plan to do next weekend), we'll be done glassing the exterior. Then comes the fairing.

We've gotten pretty good at laying glass, and have devised a method that lets us lay two layers at once. The first time we did it was a little tough, but through a little trial and error, we've got it down to a science. By doing two layers at once we are saving time and I think we'll have a stronger boat, because laying two layers at once will give us a single chemical bond in addition to the physical bond. It also seems to cut down on the amount of sanding we need to do.

Here's a picture of the glassed side (which we did last week). We glassed the side using the aforementioned both-layers-at-once method, and I'm quite pleased with the results. Glassing the side took us about four hours using this method, and the rear transom took about two hours.

Our double layer method consists of measuring the glass cloth and laying them in place, and laying a coat of epoxy thick enough to saturate both layers of glass. The horizontal surfaces are very easy, but the vertical surfaces are a little more tricky. We've found that it's best to use a roller to work a thick layer of epoxy into the glass at the top, and then slowly squeegee the excess down the side. Make sure to do this very slowly, so the epoxy has a chance to saturate the cloth as you go down. If the epoxy is rolling down the surface as you use the squeegee, you're moving too quickly.

One note: I do NOT recommend doing this double-layer method unless you've got two people for the task.

Saturday, January 14, 2006

I dropped by Andrew Lucking's site today. Andrew is building a VG23 sailboat, but has had to cease construction for the winter. In the meantime, Andrew has found a few cool links that you may find interesting...

Peter Gron is building an Arctic Tern Sloop that promises to be a beautiful lady when she's done. Peter came up with an brilliant way to make the stitches tight at the bow, but I'll let you read his web site and find it for yourself. He's also got great pictures of the jig he built for rolling the boat.

---Blatant lifted from Andrew's page, so I don't have to re-type---
I didn’t mean to but… - Tim Zim is in the midst of converting a fishing trawler into a liveaboard. Tim complains about busting rust the way I complain about sanding. And his “Lady Jane” is 90+ feet!

Ceilydh Under Construction
- Evan Gatehouse and family are reconstructing a Woods Meander 40′ catamaran. Any boat project that begins with a chainsaw is okay in my books.

Waterlogged: living on a wooden ship
- These folks are living aboard the MV Bowie, a 136 foot former WW II US Navy subchaser, as they renovate her. Something about life on a huge old wooden ship with a hot tub on her stern really appeals to me.
---End Blatantly Plagarized Section---

While you cruise through these sites (hopefully getting ideas and staying motivated about your own project), be assured that Greg and I are still sanding and laying fiberglass on the hull.

Saturday, January 07, 2006

Fiberglass Filler

Patched Hull
Originally uploaded by OzzyC.
Here's a picture of the fiberglass-filled patch. You see that Greg used epoxy filled with fiberglass particles, which he used to fill the areas he cut out, and blended in with the glass cloth. The strength is solid, and it will undoubtedly work better than the original plan of injecting epoxy into small holes. It's a little more work, but we both agree that it's worth it.

We Re-Interrupt this Program...

Shower Repair 8
Originally uploaded by OzzyC.
For an update on my shower repair. You may notice that my last update on this was in Mid-December. Since then I have had precious little time to work on the shower, and when I did work on it, the progress was slower for various reasons...

The patch job still isn't re-grouted and re-sealed, but that'll come in the next couple of days. And of course, it's not perfect, but it's designed to be a semi-permanent patch job, not a total reworking.