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.