Catching up Some More

Gaff rigged Cape George cutter Ganymede
Ganymede uncovered in winter

In a huge departure from my normal practice of letting everyone forget I even have a blog in between posts, I’m posting a second one hard on the heels of the last, with apologies to those who feel that two updates a year is already more of me than they want to hear.  The thing is, being too busy to blog means I have a backlog, or “backblog,” if you will, of material to write about.

The alert reader will remember Ganymede, the 31’ Cape George Cutter that this blog was originally about.  For the past year or so, Ganymede has been sitting on stands in the yard, patiently waiting a much-needed refit.  She’s twelve years old, after all, and has been sailed as many thousands of miles.  And even though we’ve been careful to maintain and upgrade and improve many things, I had a list a mile long of things to do when finally I should find leisure.

Turns out, leisure is hard to come by for me, but nonetheless a few things have got started, enough to write about before they inevitably snowball out of control.  First of all, after a winter of sitting uncovered next to the house, I decided to build Ganymede a temporary shed to keep the weather off while working on her.  It took several weeks to glue up bowed rafters, one per day, out of cheap furring strips and scraps of 2×4 on a jig I made on the shop floor.  It took somewhat less time to set them up on some tall-ish walls that I calculated would give me the headroom I needed to walk about on deck.  Unfortunately, it took me longer to get around to properly cross-bracing the structure than it took a shocking gale to come by and blow it askew before it was properly finished.

Grumbling, I straightened it and shoved some braces here and there.  Just in time, it seems, for the next gale of wind that tweaked it in the other direction.  Grumbling more loudly, I jacked it up here and there again, adding more braces and more ballast.  Now impervious to any gale from any quarter, it suffered the final indignity of a huge snow load that bent the walls outward until several of the furring strips cracked.  It is, for now, literally tied up with string so it doesn’t bulge out again, and when the weather allows, I’ll put in yet another set of braces.

In a happier storyline though, we come to the boom gallows.  Originally, I made the mooring bitts and boom gallows stanchions from mild steel painted white:

It was an expedient of poverty, and one that got us pretty far along before a refit in Virginia allowed me to replace the bitts with aluminum, and the gallows stanchions with stainless tubing.  That second set of gallows also wasn’t meant to be permanent—it was just to stop the rust that had plagued our decks and scuppers for six thousand miles.

gaff rigged cutter transom
….everything by itself and a million empty bolt holes…

I had formed a notion, from pretty early on, that a more elegant solution to the homemade outboard bracket would be a jack-plate incorporated into a stern rail.  The stern rail would  be part of the boom gallows as well, and support the windvane self-steering hardware in one tidy package, instead of everything by itself and a million empty bolt holes in the transom.

It would be a time-consuming process, but as it happens, I’m in no hurry to get Ganymede back in the water just now.  I began by making an Object, based upon the existing boom gallows, that would serve as a pattern for the future rail.  It was an obscene thing of tape and lashings and struts and hot glue and bent doorskin with notes pencilled on, but I felt it conveyed tolerably well the thing I wanted. 

It was met by the welders with ghastly incredulity, and I had to meet with them several times to explain myself and my drawings.   The Object took on for us something of the nature of a savage totem about whose feet we’d dance, reverently approaching with measuring sticks, murmuring, gesticulating and consulting the arcane texts whose scrawl even the author (me) couldn’t decipher.

Gaff rigged cutter Ganymede
The sinking jackstand, the original gallows and windvane trim-tab that didn’t work out, and the glassed-in cutout

When I was first building Ganymede back in California, I didn’t realize that she was settling by the starboard quarter as the jackstand there slowly sank into the ground.  Bullet-hard in the summer, with the rains of winter the earth becomes a slippery, soupy, slow quicksand.  And like the proverbial boiling frog, the list was so gradual it went unnoticed while I built everything plum and square with a spirit level.  It’s barely noticeable, unless you know where to look or are measuring for something, and the asymmetry is organic enough to not be jarring to the uncritical eye.

The crooked really shone through, however, when the new rail was dry-fitted in place, and in the perfection of  symmetry it betrayed the homely face of the cockpit and the afterdecks. 

No matter: once the clutter of windvane, propane tank, engine and tiller are back there again, and the eye has grown accustomed to the rail, it will be noticeable no more.  Forgive me, reader, for going on so long, but there is just one more thing I must tell you about before I’m done.

rudder pins
How rudder pins wear

Believing then, as I still do, that cutting a huge hole in the sternpost and rudder of a boat to accommodate a propeller isn’t a great idea—I mean, what’s the point of a full keel with a smooth run aft if you put a giant drogue right where the rudder needs flow?—I had glassed in the hull cutout, (see the picture above) and made the rudder solid. That rudder is a pretty monstrous affair, hung on four bronze gudgeons, and had not been off the boat since I first installed it.  During the several thousand miles between California and Rhode Island, the pins had worn somewhat, and the rudder tended to clunk.  While working in a shop in Newport with access to big machinery, I had reamed out the lower pintle and gudgeon (without unshipping the rudder), and put in some delrin bushings.  These were a huge help, and the rudder still doesn’t clunk, but the other pins need replacing, and at least one more bushing will be nice.

Gaff rigged cutter sternpost
Cutout insert ground and ready for more glass.

I had to cut several of the pins to get them out, and one is still stuck in the pintle, but the hard work is done.  And with the rudder off, I could finally address the cutout-insert, which seemed to show some cracks around the edges.  The insert is glassed-over foam, with a pretty huge amount of fairing compound over all.  Choosing a day that was both dry and above freezing, I took a grinder to the boat.  It was the work of mere moments to ascertain that the cracking was only in the outer layer of fairing compound, but since I had the grinder out there, and had determined to give it a better layer of glass with Vinylester resin this time, I gave it what-for, and reduced it to a glass-ready surface.

It’s January, as the alert reader will have noted, so glassing will have to wait a couple months, by when I’ll have a few more projects for glass lined up.  For now, it’s time to get back into my heated shop, and get busy with the industrial sewing machine that we’ll catch up about some other time.

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