Winter’s Final Bite

The final blow to the canopy, after the snow receded.

I mentioned, a few posts back, the ill-fated bow shed I’d built over Ganymede, the Cape George 31 cutter we have sitting in the yard, to keep the weather out.  The alert reader will remember that we last left it tied up with string until we could get to bracing it better.  I’m rather devastated to have to report that before I could get in there and really steady it up, another winter storm, this time of snow so wet it was heavy as lead, dealt the final and fatal blow.  Having been made unable to lean again to either left or right, the shed showed its genius for destruction by collapsing straight down with a heart-rending crack that made us all jump from inside the house.

Ganymede in her new Canopy

It was a couple of days before the snow was gone enough to allow a good inspection, but one glance showed that the wreck was unsalvable.  Not a few of the bow frames were cracked beyond repair, plywood collar-ties had ripped apart, and even some 2x4s had torn right away from their screws.  Grumbling, I took the whole thing apart, and used the remains to build a smaller, tighter canopy right on top of the boat this time.  Luckily, the plastic was still good, and had some shrink left in it, and was enough to make a cover with generous headroom for all the work I want to do on deck.  It’ll have to come apart once I launch the boat, rather than remaining as a shed like I’d originally hoped, but perhaps it’s for the best.  My wife didn’t really want a boat shed there anyway.

But let’s leave Ganymede there for now—she’s not going in the water this summer like I’d originally planned, and I have next winter to give her a good refit—and turn to the breadboats I’ve been working on since….since forever.

One of the advantages of things being slow at the rigging shop is that I’ve had days and days on end to devote to the little dinghies, even if they were in the dead of winter.  Since the last update, we painted each of the girls’ hulls in turn, then set them aside again.  I wanted to build a little cabin for each one, and this was easier to do by using the plug-turned-dinghy as a form to maintain the sheer.  The decks and cabins were framed with the most recently available version of African mahogany—“meranti” in this case, from the local Home Depot.  It doesn’t really matter how cold it is for carpentry, as long as your fingers don’t stiffen up, and I spent the chilliest bit of winter framing and then covering with 1/8” doorskin a deck and house for each of the boats.

The cabin upside-down in the clean shop for varnish.

When the first was done, I put a heater inside on a warmer day and taped the seams with biaxial fiberglass and resin, to maintain the shape, then lifted it off and set it upside down to varnish the inside while building the second. 

That one went faster, since I had the design and measurements worked out, and no sooner was it done and in varnish than I began to fit the first one onto a hull.  It was only a matter of lining up my center marks and making sure everything was level, then I could glass it firmly in.  Once the deck was attached, I trimmed off the flange that had been keeping the hull from distorting, and it was basically ready for primer and paint.

The girls each chose their paint from Kirby’s of New Bedford, which sells old-fashioned one-part boat paints that don’t require hazmat gear to use, and each did most of the priming and painting on their own boats.  There were a lot of details to attend to: odd corners to glass, portholes to cut out, mast steps and partners to sort, but they’re coming along nicely.  I found a shortcut to making swing keels by having them cut out of steel plate stock at a local metal supply, and once they’re in and the trunk glassed shut I can build a rudimentary interior into each one.

Flanges trimmed, side-by-side ready for finishing.

In the meantime, the prototype—the dinghy that was a plug—is getting finished out as an open boat.  She’s all done painting; I just made a sail for her that will fit on the salvaged whisker pole I’m using as a mast, and I just need to sort out the rudder and swing keel, find some ten-foot oars and she’ll be ready for sea trials.  We called her “Psammead,” after a creature in an E. Nesbit book, and Emily painted the name on last time it was warm.

Psammead’s name painting in progress.

It’s gotten cold again—winter reminding us that it’s not done yet, and I have to return to work at the rigging shop tomorrow, but summer’s definitely on the way, and barring any unforeseen setbacks, we’ll have the breadboats ready for an awesome season of seafaring.

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