Catching Up

A half dozen or so blog posts back, before getting distracted by the tiny schooner Pshrimp, I hinted at a couple of other projects that were in the works.  Now that Pshrimp is hauled out on her trailer, wrapped, winterized, and parked behind the house, let’s devote some spare brain cells to those other things.

It’s been since before Pshrimp arrived on the scene that I’ve been working on the children’s breadboats—the 12-foot sailing dinghies we designed in our heads while we were still out cruising.  If you care to read back you’ll find reference to them in a long-forgotten post.  Now, I’ve built plenty of boat plugs from which to take molds, and every time I do it I learn a new and interesting way not to do it next time.  This was no different, either: it’s like history won’t let go or something.  I started off strong: frames lofted on the floor; perfectly level rails to set them up on, inset ribbands—the works.  Then it occurred to me that making a plug to throw away was a terrible waste:  why not turn the plug into a prototype breadboat?

Dinghy building
Double-cut foam: doesn’t drape very well in a two-axis scenario

It seemed like a great idea at the time: all I had to do was make the plug out of very expensive  core-foam and fiberglass so it would be a viable boat once the mold was taken off.  And here’s where things went south.  You see, instead of using core foam strips to diagonally double-plank the hull like I should have, I used double-cut foam, hoping it would drape nicely over the frame.  Well, it didn’t, more’s the pity, but by the time I discovered that I was too committed to back out.  My only recourse was to turn to my oldest friends and bitterest enemies: fairing compound and sandpaper.

Poly-fair comes in five-gallon pails.  I used up two of them trying to get things straight enough for my standards, which aren’t very high, and most of a gallon of Bondo when the buckets ran dry.  In the end I had a lumpy, knobby, but mostly symmetrical dinghy plug ready for final glass.  Here I listened to experience again, and very carefully laid on four or five layers of 10-oz woven fiberglass cloth, butting the seams to avoid lumps, changing the axis of the seams to avoid weak spots, and doing a job of it that required very little fairing beyond the inevitable filling of pinholes.

Once it was pinholed and sanded and waxed, to splash a mold off it was a matter of a few evenings.  I didn’t bother making a super-duper durable mold: it only had to last two or three cycles.  Then both the plug and the mold were back-burnered for winter, when my unheated shop doesn’t lend itself to fiberglass work.

What with being busy with the house and with Pshrimp and with going rockclimbing in New Hampshire, summer was pretty well advanced when I finally started working on the breadboats again.  The plug got her sheer cut and an elegant inwale put on, which hides nicely the different thicknesses of the edge of the hull, and a layer of glass or two on the inside. 

The mold got a good scrubbing, some mold release, and in quick succession Antigone and I laid up two hulls, one after the other, while the weather was still mild. 

Setting the mold aside, I sanded, primed, pinholed, and painted each hull in turn, then set them back outside where they’ll wait till spring allows for fiberglass work again.  In between times, I put a foredeck and side decks in the prototype before the weather got too cold.  The centerboard trunk and aft deck will simply have to wait till spring.

It goes so fast to tell of it, but it’s been a mammoth task, with hundreds of hours, reams of sandpaper, untold gallons of primer, and paint, and resin; cutting glass, shaping foam, smearing goo, cleaning up.  There will be hundreds of hours more: I have to make rudders and centerboards, decks, spars, sails, rigging—but much of that can be chipped away at while winter wears on.  The question is: will winter be long enough to get caught up, or will spring arrive and find us unprepared to launch a single boat?  Summer has a thousand distractions, so I guess I’d better put my head down and get to work.

Shopping Cart
Scroll to Top