A Whole Lotta Boat Building

It was pretty agonizing, trying to decide whether to make any modifications to Ganymede’s cockpit geometry.  I mean, since I’m re-doing it entirely this winter, there’s no better time to make the coaming tops bigger or smaller or change them around entirely.  We went over and over it, while sailing the last couple of summers: should the mainsheet attachment move to here? or here? What about the winches? the running backstays?  There was the haunting notion that somehow the most perfectly perfect arrangement was lurking just out of mental reach and our imaginations were falling short of it.  In the end, it was decided to keep it exactly as it was, since it has worked for so many thousands of miles and we haven’t detected any real problems with it.  Other than the fact that Danielle can’t find a comfortable spot in it—but she has trouble finding comfort anywhere, so maybe that’s a lost cause.

Having decided to just upgrade the existing setup, I began by removing the old Cartagena wood after carefully marking where all the pieces went together and making notes of where the gaps were.  Rather than drag them all over the place and try to keep them together I made a pattern from them out of ¼” plywood—a pattern in two halves, so it could fit in the van for transport.  Using the patterns, I then cut ½” coring foam out and laid it out for fiberglassing.  In places where the winches and mainsheet padeyes go I cut out the low-density (and inexpensive) Divinicell foam and put in a high-density foam called Penske Board, which will not crush when squeezed by bolts.

As I mentioned in the previous post, I have temporary access to shop space, and a whole heap of leftover materials to use, which is really helping with the cost of the projects. It takes a little longer, picking through odds and ends of fiberglass cloth, than it would to simply cut it off a new roll, but the savings is worth it.  Likewise the resin, which is half a drum of a special food-grade vinylester we were building water tanks out of last winter.  It’s exceedingly stable and all but bulletproof when dry, but it is a beast to work with.  Not only does it effervesce slightly when catalized, generating new bubbles in the laminate as fast as you can pop them out, it’s hard to get it to soak properly into the cloth, and the smell is not to be believed.  Lastly, for a full cure it has to be post-cured, which means building a ghetto oven over the laminated parts with space heaters inside.  Still, all bother aside, it’s free resin, which is the best sort, it’s nearly as strong and stiff as any epoxy, and you could eat off of it!

In the meantime, the dinghy is not forgotten. The first step was to sand all the old paint off, to which end I invested in a special kind of sander called a “D.A.”  I have no idea what that stands for, but it runs on compressed air and can be hooked up to a vaccuum cleaner.  It’s lighter, quieter and cleaner than an electric sander, and it’s used in every boat shop I’ve ever seen.  With it and some 40-grit sandpaper, it was the work of only a few hours to reduce the hull to glass and gelcoat. Before getting too far into that, I cut off the old gunwales with a saber saw, since I need to change the sheer and make it more even from side to side.

Having it all sanded, the next step was to set it on sawhorses, making sure it was level both fore-and-aft and side to side. Then the modifications could begin.  To ensure that the mold I was making would release the dinghy more easily, and to make the dinghy look better, I wanted a transom that both sloped and curved.  The way to do this was to cut out a transom-shaped piece of ¼” plywood, hot-glue some spacers to the real transom, and bend the plywood into place. To secure it sufficiently for fairing and building a mold on, I glassed the edges on with some biaxial glass cloth (1708 to be precise: 17-ounce biax with 8-ounce mat sewn on—the boatbuilder’s all-purpose workhorse).  Since I was asking the glass to take a sharp turn  and stick on without much surface area, I helped it along by covering it with strips of saran wrap, then taping it firmly down.  The saran wrap won’t stick to the resin, and keeps the tape from getting permanently glued to the glass.

I have no clever sentence with which to end this post—perhaps that’s all right, since the next should follow so closely on this one’s heels that a lack of literature can be forgiven in the overwhelming quantity of posts I plan to do.  Hang tight! There’s gonna be a whole lotta boat building going on.

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