Ready for Summer in Time for Fall

Dyneema on Carbon Fiber, with rosewood toggle
Custom-made strops and splicing are the lifeblood of Abednego Marine.

With the coming of summer, and having the dinghy project wrapped up, I was finally free to turn to a few other bits and pieces that had been pushed off the edge of the winter’s to-do list in favor of more important things. Of course, with summer underway I had plenty of other things to push them further back—a hefty load of rigging work, regular work, and taking Ganymede sailing has kept me pretty busy, but in the nooks and crannies I’ve still managed to chip away at a couple of other things.


Carbon fiber and epoxy, the most modern oar ever.
Antigone helps apply epoxy to the carbon sock on the oar loom.

The first is Ganymede’s sculling oar, a sixteen-foot sweep I’d made out of an old Beetle Cat mast while working in the Coronet shed. Though the length was good (the first one had been too short at 14 feet), it was remarkably whippy, and more energy was wasted in bending the loom than in forward motion. The best way, of course, to stiffen something up without making it excessively heavy is with carbon fiber, and the neatest carbon fiber for shafts is a woven sock you can buy by the foot. I got some of that, as well as a roll of unidirectional strands, and after sanding the loom for good adhesion, wrapped it up, unis first, then the sock over all. I then made the mistake of wrapping it in peel-ply: though convenient for the avoiding of further sanding, it wrinkled the sock and spoiled what would have otherwise been a very nice looking finish. I wonder if they make peel-ply socks?

The old green paint—a beautiful Shipendeck enamel called “Marsh Grass” is no longer made, much to my wife’s relief. We chose another traditional boat paint—Kirby’s, out of New Bedford—since I was tired by now of dealing with two and three part paints. This is an easy, inexpensive, oil-based enamel that thins with regular paint thinner and isn’t violently toxic. The blue that Danielle picked was a little too bright for me, so I mixed some leftover black paint in it to darken it up. Of course the children protested, and in the end I compomised by painting the loom bright blue and the blade darker. Then I surreptitiously painted the dinghy oars with the darker mix before anyone could object.
We tried the oar out next time we took a sail: it’s stiff enough that I can actually get good way on, though I hope I never need to scull more than a couple hundred yards—it’s a real workout.

Prepreg carbon fiber, it even looks fast!
Dry-fitting the new skylight. The old one is in the foreground.

The last big sort of project for Ganymede is a new skylight hatch. Before we went to Canada I replaced the original one, that only let light in when it was open, with a glass-topped one I made from Coronet offcuts and some panes I found in dumpster. It worked great on our northern voyage, where we never wanted to open it for ventilation because of the cold. But it’s heavy—it’s about all I can do to open it when we do want ventilation, and what’s more, the paint I used doesn’t match the rest of our newly-painted boat. It was the same cream sort of color I’d painted the dinghy with before the Canada trip, and as it turns out, it’s the sort of cream color Danielle hates the most. I had neglected to ask her opinion before buying it, imagining in my innocence that all creams are created equal. (Note to men: the line between “beautiful” and “revolting” is razor-thin, and undetectable to most of us. But there is such a thing as Too Yellow. Who knew?)

3/8" tempered glass
New skylight in position. Lookin’ good.

The new skylight hatch (which is painted with the same Awlgrip color I used for the rest of the boat and the dinghy) is made from an off-cut sheet of foam-cored carbon fiber I was given by a friend. I ruined the blades of my table and miter saws cutting it, but it was worth it to get straight edges and nice corners. It took a little creativity to get all the pieces out of the one odd-shaped plank, but it went together nicely and required only minimal fairing. Rather than just a flat box, like the first two, I made it peaked in the traditional fashion, and exposed more area to glass, so it gathers better light. I glazed it with 3/8” tempered glass, which almost ruined my weight savings, but should be all but bulletproof.

Light air fun.
Out for a sail and a… swing.


With that Ganymede is finally ready for the sailing season, barring a buff and wax that her hull desperately needs, and probably won’t get until goodness knows when. No matter—we’ve been having her out for sails all summer, and if there’s still improvements to do, they’re nothing that can take away our joy at getting out for a sail and a swim and an occasional night aboard for old times’ sake.

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