Sunday, December 19, 2010

Good news and bad news...

Not much to post this time related to Dark Secret's progress.

This just in from the Careful What You Wish For Department - it looks like we got the Thomaston, Maine house after all. We expended a great deal of resources back in the spring getting everything together to buy the property before foreclosure. We did our due diligence, inpections, title search, paperwork, financing, etc., etc., but were unable to stop the foreclosure process.

At that point, it went into a big bucket of other properties that needed leg work. We were told that there were dozens of properties in line ahead of it and that it would not get any attention in the forseeable future. We offered to move forward with our purchase, but were told "There are procedures that need to be followed."

With winter setting in, they apparently decided that they are not in the business of owning properties like this, so it was put up for auction. We secured the winning bid and are now anxiously awaiting a January closing date.

The up side is that by waiting out the process we were able to get it for significantly less than the previous price; the down side is that we lost an entire summer that would have served to deal with most, if not all, of the exterior weather-tightness issues. This is not insurmountable, but it means that I'll be up on the roof periodically shovelling out one section between a second-story addition and an original dog house dormer. As you can see in one of the photos, snow, ice, and rain will pile up in there and wreak havoc. That entire section will be re-configured during renovation anyway, but we need to avoid damage to other areas that will be remaining intact.

So there will be dedicated shop space in the barn for all of the tools, projects, parts, lumber, etc., but there is a LOOOOOOOOONG hill to climb before we can occupy the house.

I figure I have about a month to finish Dark Secret's spars, rigging, rudder, hardware, and finishes before I get shut down. There is also stuff to get done on the house in Gloucester (Anyone interested in a Cape Ann two-family?). Strider is, unfortunately, on indefinite hold. No time for cruising, anyway.

Wish us luck. Stay tuned for further developments.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Last run before the snow flies...

Dark Secret resides on her trailer. I am preparing to continue with finish build-up, rig construction, and the other remaining items.

Here are a few photos of her underway.

Be sure to check out my new blog on Strider's re-power.

I'll be back periodically during the winter for updates here.


Sunday, October 24, 2010

Much more betterer!!

That was the ticket. The "new" oars work like a charm. My fingers are numb from stitching the leathers on, but this morning the wind died down so I took her down the channel to the mouth of the harbor. She rows like a dream!!

I need to tweak a few things:

1.) The oars need buttons - Turk's Heads, or leather, I haven't decided. I also need to remove a bit of material from the inside of the oarlock horns. The diameter of the oars with the leathers is a bit snug in there.

2.) I need blocks to elevate the oarlocks about 1" - 1 1/4". My return stroke is a bit wonky, and a small change will go a long way. I have some beautiful locust scrap for these.

3.) Depending on how she feels after making and installing the aforementioned blocks, I may make a new thwart to move myself forward an inch or two (see below).

4.) Some kind of rack for an adjustable foot rest is in order. Frames in a traditional faering are spaced a bit closer together (35-ish inches vs. Valgerda's slightly larger dimension - I have not measured it recently, but recall it at about 38") so that a rower can brace his feet aginst them. As things are now, in order to brace my feet against the frame, my torso interferes with the end of my pull. A foot rest may also eliminate the need for for moving the thwart forward.

As you can imagine, with the exception of the first item, all of the above changes affect each other. Trouyble-shooting 101 says that one should change one item in a system at a time and check results. This holds especially true here.

I don't want to change the geometry too much to suit my rowing technique as I fear I may lock myself into some bad habits. I have never rowed any real distance before. Obviously I have rowed out to a mooring numerous times, but these distances were a matter of a few hundred yards or less. I have never rowed any "quality" craft other than a brief excursion on a sliding seat shell, in which I was a danger to myself and others, and a few mornings on my father-in-law's Gloucester Light Dory. As with anything worth doing, I will need lots of practice before I can begin to do it "right."

If anyone in the Cape Ann area wants to come down and offer some coaching, I'll be happy to get the input.

I'll keep her in the water for another week or two, and she'll get hauled for the winter.

I'd like to continue with building the rig, rudder, hardware, and other remaining items, but I'll need to take a hiatus from the Dark Secret project to get some other stuff done over the winter.

The Thistle needs to have her centerboard trunk out and back in, as well as a significant amount of finish work, Strider's re-power and topsides projects need to get wrapped up (there are many more winters' worth of work to do on her before she is done, but I need to get her back in the water next year), and, most importantly, I have to get a short list of projects done at the house so that my wife doesn't kill me. She has been extremely patient through this project and I don't want to blow it with her by de-prioritizing real priorities.

My hope is that by carefully managing my time I'll be able to get all of it done. I'd like to do the Small Reach Regatta next year with Dark Secret, but there are never enough hours in the day. Something has to give. If I need to back-burnerize anything on the list, it will be the Thistle.

I am hoping to conscript someone to get a few shots of Dark Secret underway. We'll see how that works out...

Monday, October 18, 2010

Modification of the situation

After having rowed Dark Secret with oars that were way too short, I decided to rectify the situation. At one point I was told, "I've got a long pair of oars in the garage that you're welcome to use." People have become so accustomed to the crappy short oars that are sold these days that a 7 1/2' pair seems long.

I made a piar of oars about ten years ago. The were for a tender that I used for getting out to a boat I used to own. The oars were about 6 1/2' long, crudely spooned and way too clunky. They were so miserable in hand that the only use they ever really got was as curtain rods in the house I rented in East Gloucester.

They are made of local spruce, obtained as a "staging plank" at my local lumber yard. I had a chunk of native spruce left over from getting out the spar blanks for Dark secret, so I figured that I'd make the best of things and cobble something together.

I lopped off the handles and cut a nice long scarph (16:1) on the bandsaw. I cut matching scarphs in the new loom blanks, dry fit things together a few time to get the run just so, and glued them together. I let them sit overnight and began shaping them the next morning. They came out pretty decent for the comparatively little bit of time I have in them.

I took lots of material out of the looms, particularly near the blades, and I lightened up the blades as much as I felt I could. My goal was to get the balance point as far inboard as I could. I may have to let in a small chunk of lead to get it where I want it.

The stock I had on hand limited my overall length to 9' 8". I'd like to have been able to go longer, but Manchester harbor is pretty tight. I'm concerned about getting through the mooring field with my 19' 4" beam (9'8" x2), let alone the 22' or so that I had as a target.

I'm building up finish on them during the next few evenings, and getting some more varnish on the boat, too. I'm going to re-launch at the tail end of the week and then call it a season.

More photos soon, as well as feedback on rowing with better oars.

Monday, October 11, 2010

More launch day photos

Here are a few more photos from this afternoon. Enjoy.

Made it by the skin of my teeth.

I pulled it off. A few marathon days, a couple of pounds of coffee (more than a few adult beverages) and quite a bit of slogging through some pretty tedious, but necessary, tasks and I got Dark Secret in the water. I got her in on this afternoon's tide.

It would have been sooner, but I had an incident with the varnish on the sheerplank. I masked the rail for stain and sealer. When I pulled the tape I lost a bit of varnish. DO NOT USE FINELINE TAPE ON VARNISH. I misunderstood the instructions from Kathy, the varnish queen at Manchester Marine. I was only supposed to use the fineline tape along the edge where the transition from stain to natural occurs. Chalk that one up to experience. Fortunately, the stain was not disrupted, so I was able to repair the edge of the varnish and apply a few build-up coats. I'll block the whole thing down flat when she gets final finishes.

But that's enough negativity. What a great day!!! I got up early and handled the last batch of pre-launch punch list items. I gave the ballast/keel joint a final once-over to fair everything in, hit a coat of red lead on any bare spots, and then hit them with bottom paint. I assembled the floor boards (I LOVE the way the stain turned out on them) and seats. I rigged up a quick sling so that I could launch with the fork truck, and then I went home for breakfast and to wait for the tide. When I got back to the yard I made a quick set of turn buttons to be sure that the thwart didn't kick out from under me, tied off the oar lock horns, and in she went.

I purposely kept the event low-key. I have been told that it's bad Ju-Ju to do do any kind of a launch "ceremony" more than once. I don't want to deprive Dark Secret's ultimate owner of the privilege of making a production of the launch, should he so choose, so I am referring to today as a sea-trial. One of my co-workers was on site so he operated the fork truck while another co-worker looked on. I would love to have had my wife there, but today is not a holiday for her.

I gathered up some gear (bilge pump, life jacket, anchor, VHF), double-checked to be sure that the water was staying on the outside, and took her for a row. Unfortunately, the longest oars I could muster up are only about 8 1/2 feet. That being said, Dark Secret rows absolutely beautifully. It's pretty blustery here today, and my rowing technique leaves much to be desired, but she goes right where you point her and tracks straight as an arrow. Even beam to the wind (as long as she is moving) she goes where you want. I was going to head for the outer harbor but it was getting a bit fresh for me. I stayed inside and picked up Strider's mooring for a break and a sip of rum for me and Neptune. Incidentally, 2010 is the first time since 1971 that Strider did not sit on her mooring. I got to use it for about 20 minutes this season. The row back up the harbor was dead upwind. I was concerned from the get-go about the windage in the bow. That beautiful sheer line has to come at some price, right? I was amazed at how she stayed pointed where I directed her.

I look forward to obtaining, or making, a right and proper set of oars for her. I was initially thinking 9' would be plenty but I'm not sure now. If anyone in the Cape Ann area has some long oars that I can try, I'd love the opportunity to test drive them and make an educated decision.

She'll stay in the water for the remainder of the week. That will give me a chance to get some photos of her underway, and to stage a nice shot in the marsh for the "Launchings" page in WoodenBoat. I'll be heading to work early every morning to get in a row while it's calm. I think this week is probably the last of the decent weather. When she comes out I'll handle top coats on all the interior surfaces, obtain and install the forward set of oarlocks, and bore the bench and step for the mast.

I am heading back to the yard to get some more pix now that the sun is lower in the sky.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Sherman, set the way-back machine.

These photos are from back in the spring. I was still optimistic about getting her in for some summer usage, but 'twas not to be...

I post them here to show a clearer picture of the final keel configuration.

Back soon with more.

A major milestone...

Fall in New England. It is an unbelievably beautiful time here, filled with things that we expect every year - true to form despite what they have managed to accomplish in recent seasons, the Red Sox have been eliminated from post-season play (anybody, ANYBODY, knock the Yankees out), the air gets crisp, and the customers' boats start to come out of the water for their winter spa treatments.

I have been ridiculously busy. A few weeks ago I filmed an episode of Smart Boating with Paul Jermain. It is a locally-produced show that airs on community access cable channels in the Cape Ann area, as well as a few other places. We had a blast filming it and it aired this past Tuesday. His website is and there are a twenty-some-odd episodes available for viewing there. Our episode was #85, so it isn't up yet. I am going to see what I can do about posting the video.

As you can see from the photos, I have primed the interior of Dark Secret. That means, for all intents and purposes, the hull carpentry is done!!! HUZZAH!!! There is still a looooong punch list of items to handle, but I no longer need the layout lines and witness marks that have been staring me in the face since she came off the set-up.

The three aft sections of sole are done, complete. I got a few questions about the hole I left in the 'midship sole panel. This was installed so that one can remove a small lift-out to pump the bilge without having to remove any camping/picnic gear stowed on the sole panel. I wrapped up the lift-out today. I still have to bung the two panels either side of the mast step (these are the only panels that will be fastened in place), bevel the forward-most section, and I have to put in the fillers atop the frames between the panels. Once that is done I need to fab and install a hold-down system for the panels. I'm still scratching my head on that one.

Carving the stemhead was a welcome diversion from a hectic schedule. It pales in comparison to Brandon's incredible carving work on his Valgerda, Ravn, , but I'm sure I got no less joy doing mine than he did his. I need to shape the aft stemhead (likely a simple ogee) and then I can stain, seal, and varnish the remainder of the exterior brightwork.

All of this brings me to the following point: Come hell or high water - I WILL BE ROWING DARK SECRET COLUMBUS DAY WEEKEND!!! There is still plenty to do before she can be called complete, but the snow will be flying here before we know it. I have to put her in and test her under oars.

I also got a request for a half-model from a boatyard customer. He has had me make a few for him in the past. This one is a J-42, much simpler than the 6-meter I recently did for him. That one was a bear to get just so... I'll dig up some photos of those projects.

Next post goes backwards to show a few shots of the final keel configuration before ballast installation. I don't want to dwell on this, but I got a request for more shots of the final profile.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

It's been a grueling summer...

Sorry I have been away for so long. Last post was just before Memorial Day and here it is a week before Labor day. Where does the time go?

Lots of project work at the boatyard: a stern rebuild on a 33'Bertram, re-glaze the entire wheelhouse (9 large windows)on a Lyman-Morse 53, various and sundry break/fix projects, and regular day-to-day boatyard operations have kept me pretty busy. There is also the work that has been going on on Strider. A complete topsides strip was necessitated by the fact that one could wrap sandwiches in the sheets of paint that were peeling off. It was a bear of a project, but it is behind me now. She sits in the shed, drying out.

Before I get going on the Dark Secret stuff, I need to apologize for the misuse of the term "metacentric height" in a previous post. This will be clarified (I hope) below.

My sincere hope is that this post will forever quash the debate about the keel on Valgerda. I have primarily been using two sources for the data on stability calculations: Chapelle's Yacht Designing and Planning, and Skene's Elements of Yacht Design. Both books talk about stability as applied to larger vessels (closed systems in which items that will affect a hull's stability remain in fixed positions) as opposed to small open boats (open systems in which all moveable items will have some effect on stability). Chappelle talks about stability in a very conversational, "touchy-feely" kind of way. Skene's takes a much more direct and quantifiable approach. It is entirely math dependent.

The short version of the conclusion at which I have arrived is as follows:

1. The height of the keel has a very small effect on the lead casting's contribution to stability. In fact, the difference is negligible. The LCG (longitudinal center of gravity)of the casting, as designed, is approximately 14 1/2" below the DWL at a point about 1/3 of the way between stations 5 and 6. This point is marked on the lines plan by the termination of the arrow drawn from the noted casting dimensions into the casting in the profile view. The traditional keel I have fitted to Dark Secret puts the LCG at 11 3/4" below the DWL.

Here is where the math/geometry gets funky. Pay attention. The 'midship section when the boat is at maximum heel has to have the same immersed area as the section when the boat is at rest. More accurately, the volume of the boat does not change as it heels, so for all intents and purposes the area of any given immersed section will remain constant through changing heel angles. When this heeled section is calculated, you will see that the heeled waterline runs from a point just below the, let's say starboard, rub rail (it better be below the rail; there's no deck) to a point just outboard of the rabbet on the port side. By finding the center of area of the heeled section and squaring up from it until it crosses the at rest centerline, we determine the metacentric height, for whatever that's worth.

Now for the martini shot: by plotting the distance between the heeled centerline and the a line squared up to the heeled waterline from the keel's center of gravity, we are able to do a simple force x distance calculation to see what the lead does for stability. By comparing the shallow keel to the deep one, you will find that the difference is something on the order of 24 ft./lbs. As I said previously, sliding my 200 lb. ass 1.25" to windward will more than make up for any "lost" stability.

2. While we have quantified the the keel's contribution to stability, its primary reason for being is to bring the boat down to its lines. The traditional faerings had heavier scantlings, and were expected to earn their keep by hauling stuff from here to there. In the absence of both of these factors, the lead is required.

3. The very low aspect ratio of the keel as drawn is not likely to contribute in any significant way to windward performance. Period. Make of this what you will, but for me there just weren't enough pros to outweigh the cons when making the decision as to whether to retain the keel profile as designed. Mr. Atkin himself says that windward performance, even with his "improved" keel, will be limited.

By the time I was done at the drafting table the drawings I had were an absolute mess. I have posted a much simplified (and approximated) version of the above math exercise. There is a much clearer explanation of factors influencing stability located here:

As far as the photos are concerned, all of the parts inboard of the rub rails are dry fitted. Inwales, mast bench, mast step and floor timber still need to be permanently installed. I laminated the mast bench to a slight curve. This is purely for looks. With the strong curves elsewhere throughout the boat, I was worried that a straight mast bench would appear to have a sag.

The mast is glued up, tapered, and eight-sided. The blanks for the remaining spars are milled.

I have been working on the short list of what boat to build next. I'll cover that next time.

And, finally, Brandon Ford has been building a Valgerda of his own out in Oregon. He recently launched her. Check out his blog here:

Congratulations, Brandon. Nice work.

Friday, May 28, 2010

For your viewing pleasure...

While I finish up the work at the drafting table and the tiresome math associated with the next post, here is a quick update to show current status.

Everything is in "first coat." I had to re-stain the sheer plank. As soon as I touched it with 180 grit, it got way too blotchy to do anything but go backward as far as I needed to. I rolled on two coats of Epifanes Wood Finish Gloss (no sanding required if re-coated within 72 hours) to get enough thickness to sand for further build-up. Note that the stem heads are not stained, nor are the rails. I will stain and seal these parts when the inwales are complete.

Batten keel is pretty much wrapped up, ballast is going on next. I'll build a cradle and lower her for fitting of inwale, sole (thanks Crocker's Boat Yard for the white cedar), and thwarts.

The only other update I can think of is that I placed an ad in the upcoming (June 15th) issue of WoodenBoat magazine.

We are going to Maine this weekend. I will assist in the launching of my father-in-law's boat and then I will be blissfully boat-free for the rest of the long weekend. Just kidding. I'll be chomping at the bit by noon on Sunday to get back to the project.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Check another duanting task off the list.

I was dreading casting the ballast keel. It wasn't that bad. I set up the turkey fryer (we bought it from Northern Tools, or Harbor Freight, I can't remember which) and the stew pot that comes with it. It melted 120 lbs. of lead in about 30 minutes. It was important to me to be able to melt and pour the whole shebang in one shot.

Use the proper filter for your respirator, and wear long pants and boots.

This casting is about the upper limit for what I would pour myself. Anything bigger would have been worth the expense to sub out.

The process was pretty straight-forward: build the form (I allowed a bit of extra height so that I can cut off the "slag" that forms on the top of the pour), gather your safety equipment (including a fire extinguisher) fire up the cooker, and babysit the fire. When the whole deal is melted, scoop out as much of the junk that floats to the surface as you can, and have a buddy help you dump it in the form. I did not cover the plywood sides of the form with anything. They smoldered and got pretty charred, but I didn't think that they would go up. I hung out near the fresh pour until it stopped smoking (just to be sure that the form did not ignite) and that was that.

After about a half hour, the temp had dropped to around 170 degrees (as measured by our IR pyrometer), so I moved the form inside and stripped the sides. I was amazed at how quickly the casting cooled.

The plan is to fit, fair, and bore the casting while the boat is inverted, and attach it when she is righted.

Body work and prep continues on the topsides and bottom.

Next posting will be pretty math-intensive. Be warned.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

I feel much better now!!!

There. It's done. I made the decision, committed to it, and moved forward. I feel twenty pounds lighter. The keel has been milled, fitted, relieved for the ballast casting, and dry hung on the boat. The photos show it before it got tapered and relieved.

For all of my bluff and bluster in previous posts, one would think that it would have been easier for me to actually do it. It wasn't. I take very seriously any significant change made to somebody else's work. I know as much about the finer points of yacht design as I do about Santeria. I did not make any of my decisions regarding these changes willy-nilly, particularly the keel profile. They are all the result of careful math, long hours of research, and tapping the expertise of many respected marine professionals. Special thanks to Messrs. Taylor, Crocker, Ford, and Prescott for the advice and encouragement to move out of analysis paralysis.

Forward rang is laminated and dry-fit to the boat. This part is a much tighter bend than any of the others. It is about the absolute limit to what 1/8" laminates will do without breaking. As a matter of fact, during the dry run, there were a couple of ominous cracking and popping noises as I sucked the last of the curve into the stack. Note the ridiculous number of clamps near the center of the part. I let the stack sit in the form overnight. When I removed it, there were three laminates with short grain that had begun to spilt. I pulled them out of the stack and replaced them with straighter-grained pieces. The lamination went without a hitch. It was a wrestling match, though.

I fitted the part this morning. All went well, but one of the laminates blew out while radiusing the edge. It is getting a localized repair and will be installed tonight. I'll glue the outer keel in place, too.

I have re-thought the installation method for the outer keel. I am gluing it the same way the rest of the boat is assembled. I will still run a line of centerline pinch bolts, but epoxy here makes me feel that much more secure. I'm committed, anyway, and removal of the outer keel will involve a sawz-all no matter how it is hung.

Tomorrow, I have to re-locate the project so that final coats can go on the boats surrounding Dark Secret. I will take the opportunity to flip her, prep and prime the bottom, and carry the topsides work to a first coat of black paint. Come to think of it, if I melt, pour, and hang the lead, paint the bottom, and finish the topsides, then there's no reason to have to invert her again. Unless she's in the way of paying work...

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Putting some of the dark in Dark Secret

I decided to switch gears for a couple of days. As I said in an earlier post, the middle third of a project like this involves quite a bit of work and the boat basically looks the same at the end of the day as it did in the beginning.

I elected to do a first go-around on "body work" to prep for a coat of primer. I filled all of the screw holes (I thought), and tended to a bunch of miscellaneous dings, clamp marks, and the like. I knew that a first coat would expose more blemishes, and it did.

The meranti plywood I used for planking really drank up the primer. It will take at least three coats to fill the grain enough for paint, particularly if I go with a black topsides paint. No matter the color choice, I recommend a grey primer for the first coat. Think of it as a guide coat. When you sand it, the sanded areas will show lighter, thus highlighting missed screw holes, scratches, and tear-outs that will show up as dark spots. Fill them, sand them, and re-prime. Sand this coat of primer (the first real, full coat) to be sure that you got everything, and you can switch to a white primer from here out if you are painting a light color. Prime as many times as you need to for grain filling and uniformity. It pays off in the topcoat application. We'll cover that in a week or so (I hope).

I'm going back to slinging goo for the next few days. Forward rang is ready to laminate, and the inwale is a multi-piece part. The change of pace was a welcome respite.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Pictures only

In an effort to compensate for the atrocious Droid camera, here are a few higher resolution photos taken with a borrowed camera.

Monday, May 3, 2010

I can almost taste it...

Ahh, springtime in the boatyard. Every day is Monday. You can't even look forward to Friday because that is the day that everything hits the fan for weekend deliveries. It has been tough to keep momentum going for the past couple of weeks. It seems like the last thing I want to do after the whistle blows is climb on another boat; even my own.

Somehow, I have managed to brush the chip off my shoulder and get quite a bit done on Dark Secret. Both outer stems are on, sheer is finalized, port and starboard rubrails are on, and the aft rang is in. This afternoon, I rolled her in between a couple of the big girls at the yard and took her back off the trailer. She is pretty much on her lines, but I still need to tweak her fore and aft a bit.

In the absence of an owner other than myself, I have procured the stock for the outer keel. It is going to be as described previously. See the link in my previous posting for info on that. I don't want to re-hash the keel argument again. Templating for that timber begins this week, as well as the lamination of the forward rang.

The outer keel will be installed with an adhesive bedding compound, not epoxy. If somebody steps forward and wants to own her with the Valgerda keel, I can more easily remove the part to install the extended skeg. This is the only "structural" part that will be assembled that way. Obviously, the lead ballast will be bedded with something out of a tube, too.

This brings up an interesting aside. I realized this morning that there are very few fasteners in Dark Secret. All of the plank fasteners were temporary. Other than the #8 x 5/8" screws holding the rails on, the entire boat so far relies solely on glue joints. The screws affixing the outer stems were left in place, but they are basically redundant. They functioned as clamps until the glue cured. All of the joints in the boat's assembly are bare mahogany to bare mahogany. This is one of the best scenarios for epoxy to perform to its best possible characteristics. There will be a half-dozen or so 5/16" bronze bolts to affix the outer keel and ballast. That's about it for fasteners in the structure, other than affixing hardware.

I am truly, madly, deeply, ass-over-tea kettle in love with this boat. I will not be inconsolable if she remains my concern for the foreseeable future. I will exhibit her at some regional shows with the hope of building another boat for someone else (I'd love to do Bill Garden's Eel with a laminated frame at each station and epoxied lapstrake planking. That stern would be a knockout). As long as I don't lose sight of why I started this in the first place, I'll be OK. It's not about having another boat; there are too many on my plate as it is. It's not about selling it; money is relatively easy to earn. This is about being the guy who does what he says he will do. And the process.

This has been one of those extremely rare instances in life when the reality far exceeds the fantasy. It doesn't happen often. That thing you are thinking about doing - building a boat, or asking a wonderful woman to marry you, or raising a child, or making a sundae - I urge all of you; invest yourself fully into it. Whatever it is.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Closing in...

She is really starting to come together. I have both outer stems in place (not in the photos taken outside), and I am laminating the rangs this weekend. Rails are fitted and need final shaping.

As promised in the last entry, I have posted "side-by-side" photos of the stern of a traditionally built faering and that of Dark Secret. Be aware that you are looking at the rudder in the photo of the traditional boat, that is NOT a skeg. The hollow in the garboard is clearly seen. Compare that shot to the one of Dark Secret. Obviously the hollow is not nearly as pronounced (there is quite a bit more than what shows in the photo, but I couldn't get the angle right). It doesn't seem like that big a deal, but ask any lobsterman about the difference in a "built-down" boat versus a "skeg-built" boat. Motion, comfort, load-carrying ability, and speed are all affected by this seeming small difference in hull shape. I say it again, it is my belief that the inability to coerce compound curves into sheet planking stock is likely to be the prime contributor to the presence of the skeg as drawn by Mr. Atkin.

For your viewing pleasure (and just in case the photo I used is protected by copyright), here is a link to the site from whence the photo came. It is a Wooden Boat Rescue Foundation listing page:

Note that there is no lateral plane offered on this boat, other than the batten keel.

Moving on, I have had a couple of inquiries on the terms of sale for Dark Secret. As a rowing boat, finished in desired colors, outfitted with bow and stern bouyancy bags, anchor, manual bilge pump, and one pair of 9' Shaw and Tenney oars, the asking price is $8,000. As a sailing boat, all of the above plus spars, sail, rudder (with custom cast hardware), and standing and running rigging, the asking price is $12,500.

I was only half joking in the previous entry about trades. My wife and I are in the process of purchasing an antique home in Thomaston, Maine that needs major attention. We will need, and are open to trades for any of the following:

Ladders, staging, scaffolding
Stationary power tools (table saw, joiner, planer; already have dust collection and portable power tools)
Tractor/mini-excavator with back hoe

Other items will be considered. Interesting vehicles (two- and four-wheeled), 17-22' center-console skiff (an 18' Tripp Angler would be ideal), diesel inboard launch 25' or smaller. These items can (and probably should) be "projects" to be considered for trade.

Marine art, artifacts, and antiques, musical instruments (vintage synthesizers, small grand piano [no uprights, please], electric and acoustic guitars and bass guitars). If you think you have something I might be interested in, let me know.

Unfortunately, I can't do an outright trade. Any trade will have to come with some cash. There are bills to pay.

Hull should be largely complete as of the next posting. I'll be moving on to the sole, inwales, and thwarts.

Stay tuned.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

On modern construction methods for traditional boats, and what makes a faering a faering...

No photos this time. Patience, Grasshopper...

There is a very passionate group of people out there who have been discussing, off and on, the virtues and vices of Valgerda and her skeg. These discussions invariably lead into a debate over whether or not she can be considered a "true" faering. I am going to weigh in on both of these issues here.

First off, I completely understand why Mr. Atkin drew the skeg as he did on Valgerda; protection for the rudder when beaching, lateral plane for sailing, and as deep a position as is reasonable for the small chunk of lead to do its job. I'm sure there were other considerations, too. That being said, it is clear that one can either build Valgerda as drawn, or one can build a Hardangersjekte, but you can't do both (at least not in the same boat). It is my opinion that Valgerda was designed as a sailing boat that will row when needed, as opposed to the traditional faerings that were built to be rowed, but were sailed when the opportunity presented itself.

I can hear your hackles rising from here. Settle down...

It is my desire to build a faering. A long, drawn-out search for designs with any degree of authenticity turned up some traditional boat plans, complete with the hewn garboards and grown-crook frames, or modern interpretations of faerings, most of which are too small for my liking. I kept coming back to Valgerda as she is the best documented design in her size, she is GORGEOUS, she is specifically designed for modern construction methods, and of the modern boats she is the truest to the traditional hull form. Except for that skeg. For me it was a no-brainer: build that beautiful hull and put a "proper" batten keel on her and you'll really have something.

But what will I be giving up without that skeg?

Stability? - Not really. A 110 lb chunk of lead hung (as designed) approximately 15" below the metacentric height on a hull whose heeling abilities are limited by very low freeboard and lack of decks can only generate so much righting force. I, as crew and moveable ballast, will provide most of the required righting force by sliding my 200 lb. ass a bit further to windward.

Lateral Plane? - Yes, but so what. It's not like I'll be banging around the bouys with the hot rod boats. That's why I have the Thistle. Mr. Atkin was very clear in his article for MotorBoating, and the commentary that accompanies the designer's study plans reiterates, that this is primarily a rowing boat that will "sail upwind after a fashion." He also states that "expert sail handling" was required in travelling any distance in boats of this type. It is a conscious choice that I made to give up some windward ability in favor of a well-mannered rowing boat. Read through what Howard Chapelle has to say in American Small Sailing Craft about the peapods that were sailed by the island lighthouse keepers in Maine. Many of these boats were sailed long distances with no centerboards, leeboards, or other appendages. A 4" batten keel provided all of the lateral plane.

Rudder protection? - Yes. This is probably my biggest concern. Rocky Maine beaches can, and will, do a number on the bottom edge of a rudder. Properly designed rudder hardware will allow me to quickly ship and un-ship the rudder, but a kick-up or sliding arrangement will not be appropriate for this application. This is another carefully weighed compromise that I have made.

There is also a group out there who insist that without the grown-crook frames and hewn garboards, it isn't a faering. P'shaw!!! While I am envious of anyone who has built a faering with traditional methods, I am also realistic about how this boat will be transported, used, and stored over her lifetime. Epoxied lapstrake planking and laminated structure is the method that makes the most sense in this situation.

I will grant that there is a level of twist and hollow to the garboards of traditionally built faerings that is unattainable in a plywood-planked boat. Mr. Atkin came very close with Valgerda. A hollow garboard contributes immensely to sail-carrying ability. Was Valgerda's lack of this feature the main reason for the skeg as designed? Quite possibly. Next posting will feature photos to show the contrast between the stern of a traditionally-built faering (believed to have been built by The Apprenticeshop) and that of Valgerda. You'll see what I mean.

At any rate, hull form is what defines a boat like this as a type, not construction method. Aside from hull form, here are a couple of other characteristics that are specific to faerings:

1.)These boats are very limber, due partly to the lack of breasthook and the inwale ending at the rangs.

2.)Maximum beam is well forward of 'midship (cod head, mackerel tail - be aware that you are looking at the chines, not waterlines in plan view. Make a copy of the lines plan and draw in the waterlines. It's more pronounced than you think it is).

That's all I have come up with at the moment. Let me know what you think.

Limiting the definition of "faering" (which is a pretty loose term; Norway has as many types of faerings as France has wines) to traditionally built boats is ludicrous. A Whitehall is a Whitehall, whether it's cedar, oak, and bronze or carbon, kevlar, and nomex.

So, that's where I stand on these matters. Big whup, right?

Thanks for getting all the way through this. I'll be getting more current photos up shortly, and I'll be back to posting more regularly soon.

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Lots done, little shows...

Sorry for the delay in updating. It's Boat Show week here in Boston, so things get dicey, schedule-wise.

This is the point in construction where things look the same at the end of the day as they did at the beginning. It can be difficult to keep momentum and focus, but slog through it and it gets better for the next few chunks of work.

As promised, here is a summary of how I deal with broken screws.

One of the great things about Gougeon epoxy is its predictable behavior. The first step in removing screws from epoxied assemblies is to heat the heads with a soldering pen. Epoxy will begin to soften at about 175 degrees. This makes a huge difference in one's ability to remove a fastener in one piece. Occasionally, despite our best efforts, a head will snap off. All is not lost.

The most important part of the tool kit for rectifying this situation is a Rotabroach. It is a set of small hole saws with a spring-loaded center guide. It is primarily used in auto body applications for cutting out the spot welds that join body panels. Fortunately for us woodworkers, the sizes correspond exactly to Fuller bung cutters.

With a center punch, strike a good dimple in the shank of the screw to guide the Rotabroach pilot. Make sure that the drill is turning before the bit hits the surface. This minimizes tear-out. I find that the 1/2" bit is the absolute minimum size that will allow the rest of this process to work. Go deep enough to get a good grip on the shank, but DON"T GO ALL THE WAY THROUGH!!!

Next, carefully clear out the area between the edge of the hole and the screw shank. Another great use for the ice picks. The less you dig at the edge of the hole, the better the bung will fit. Hold your soldering iron against the screw shank and make yourself comfortable for a minute or two. This can take longer than you think, as evidenced by the fact that the screw broke, even after being heated before its initial attempted removal.

Hopefully, you have already set a pair of needle-nosed Vise-Grips to firmly grasp the shank of the screw. Clamp them on and twist the screw out, being careful to not mung up the edge of the hole.

It sounds pretty straight-forward, and it is. Try it out on some scrap if you are nervous about it. For the really recalcitrant screws, you may have to whack at the side of the shanks with your center punch and "wiggle" it from side to side to break the bond. Again, be careful to not do too much collateral damage to the edge of the hole.

I bought my Rotabroach from the Snap-On truck umpteen years ago. It was pricey, but it has saved me numerous times. I have recently learned that it is available through Fastenal for about $80. That's about half of what I paid way back when.

Glue in your bungs, and you are all set. BTW, I use the G-5 "5-Minute" epoxy for bungs. This is not a structural bond, and I don't get a black ring around the bung that's as noticeable as with the regular Gougeon epoxy. G-5 can be thickened with the same additives as the 105/205 epoxy.

I plan to finish the sheer planks bright. I had a 100% success rate in removing the temporary fasteners along the lap and in the stems, so I used the 3/8" Rotabroach to counterbore for the bungs here. A note to those of you considering building this boat: I used #8 x 3/4" stainless truss-head screws for the first couple of glue-ups. I found that if the fits are true enough, 1/2" screws are more than ample for the temporary clamping duties. The difference in removing the 1/2" screws vs. the 3/4" is like night and day.

As far as other work going on: I stained and sealed the sheer planks. I spent a fair bit of time digging through the stack of 10' sheets of plywood, but even the "nice" stuff has a rotary-cut look to it. Staining allows enough of the grain to show through that you can still tell it's really wood, but takes the edge off the heinous grain qualities. I actually considered vacuum-bagging a veneer over the sheer plank stock. I decided that I'd prefer a sharp stick in the eye.

Forward outer stem is laminated, tapered, and fitted. Photos coming forthwith.

This week's kicker: having been on the fence since construction started in earnest, I have now landed squarely on the "sell this boat" side. While this project started as a labor of love, and will continue to be a much-enjoyed process, at this point in my life it makes the most sense to offer her for sale. I won't be broken-hearted if she doesn't sell immediately, but I have student loans and other obligations crying for attention. Who knows? Maybe I can "shake the tree" with this boat and make something long-term happen for my boat building career. Optimally (I really hope my wife doesn't read this), somebody has a TR-6 or an Alfa Spider and some cash. Or maybe an old Land Rover. Or an old Vespa...No, I should just sell her.

There is a solid up side to this decision. I am now absolved of having to make a final decision as to whether or not to build her with Mr. Atkin's skeg. This is a decision that can be made by her new owner, whoever that may be. I don't know what to do about the fact that she has been referred to as "Dark Secret" since construction started. It's supposed to be bad ju-ju top change a boat's name, but I know it's not everybody's cup of tea. She hasn't been christened, yet.

The last image is the ad that is coming out in the mid-March issue of Points East magazine.

I have been reading through some old forums at the WoodenBoat website that cover faerings in general, and some that cover Valgerda specifically. Next posting will cover my response to the "What makes a faering?" question, as well as other eagerly-awaited (yeah, right) philosophical rants. More photos, too.