Sunday 30 November 2008

Time Lines and Deadlines.

Chris Perkins' Oughtred designed MacGreagor Canoe drifting in the glassy waters of Beal Park lake having just lifted first prize in the Watercraft amateur boat building competition.

When I was building "Caitlin" my Oughtred Whilly Tern, people were always asking when she would be finished, when was I planning to launch her etc. I tried to explain that I had enough deadlines to meet at work and that putting myself under needless pressure over what was supposed to be a hobby was counterproductive. Instead of being a relaxing pastime to de stress it was likely to wind me up if i was a week behind an arbitrary mile stone on an imagined project plan. Now I can budget, resource manage, and monitor progress against milestones on a gant chart the size of a small country but I prefer to leave such things in the office. So why is it that since I started this build I've been putting myself under pressure to get it done?
I know its partly because I feel I'm "cheating" using one of Alec Jordan's Kits for the planks and therefore expect to get it done much quicker, and also because I'm keen to see it on the water. Last weeks frustration over the keelson only made matters worse so its time to start listening to my own advice. It'll be done when its done.

Today dawned wet cold and windy, excellent! A fine day to be in the garage The Keelson is now firmly glued in place and i've spent a happy time with my block plane in hand chasing bevels from Transom to Stem. Much happier!

Saturday 29 November 2008

John Strictly Speaking I'm Only Dancing

Its been a bit frustrating down at Port-na-Storm this week, with associated levels of bad language and despondency but thankfully we're over that particular stage and can look forward to the next one.

I spent a few days cutting out the moulds and setting them up on the strong back, which was fairly straight forward. Of course when I say days I really mean hours as I only manage about an hour and a half in the evenings if i get out there at all. Even at weekends I try to work around everything else so manage to grab the odd hour here and there. Thank God for Strictly Come Dancing at least then I know there are a couple of hours when I can sneak out and not be missed. Anyway its not been the same since John Sargeant hung up his pumps.

Anyway, next step was to make the Keelson, a fairly straightforward task getting the 1" stock down to 3/4" tapering the end and then routing out the centreboard slot. I was cooking on gas now getting excited that pretty soon I would be laying those planks and turning her over, oh yea?

Offering the keelson up to the moulds everything went smoothly, slotting into place where it should and importantly all ligning up nice and square. The problem came trying to bend the aft end of the keelson down into the transom. Could I get the thing to bend? Writing this now, with the usual 20:20 hindsight it seems so bloody obvious, but at the time of course being so close to the problem meant I couldn't see the obvious when it was sitting on my shoulder and laughing in my ear.

I checked and double checked all my measurements to ensure the moulds were all in the proper place. I sent an emergency e-mail to Alec asking for advice. He proffered suggestions like steaming and spliting the recalcitrant stick down the middle, however the problem was finally solved when, as suggested by Alec I fitted the keelson into the transom FIRST then bent the keelson forward over the moulds. Basic school boy principles of leverage, Doh!

So as I write this the keelson is in place and the epoxy is cureing very slowly in the cold garage. All is well in the world again and look at the time, soon be time for "strictly", where did I put my pumps?

This weeks listening pleasure, Gram Parsons, Grevious Angel

Monday 17 November 2008

Groovin' On a Sunday afternoon.

There hasn't been much time for postings recently but this sequence of photos should pretty much explain where we are up to. Making a transom is a new experience for me after a canoe and a double ender, so the learning curve is vertical.
The transom is made up from three boards to get sufficient width, and in order to get a strong enough bond these have to be biscuit jointed. So I cut a 6mm groove in each face with the router and then used 6mm ply for the biscuits.
I cut the planks close to their final shape before gluing, and then laid them flat and wedged them together while the glue went off.

The thing I was dreading the most was routing out the name plate. Convinced that the router would
take on the persona of a whirling dervish and go skating off across the grain leaving a spiral of disaster behind it. I'm glad to report that after a few practice runs which didn't exactly boost my confidence, it all went fairly well in the end.

This week, setting up the moulds. More soon...........

Thursday 16 October 2008

Friday on my Mind

A long time ago in a far off land I made a decision not to work in an office but to work outside travelling around to interesting places with strange sounding names, I would be wind swept and interesting as Connolly once said and would leap from landrovers and helicopters with a single bound. So I joined the Ordnance Survey and became a surveyor and to be fair did my share of bounding with the best of them. But of course eventually the desire to settle down sets hold and the need to pay the mortgage encourages a bit of slippery pole climbing and here i find myself doing that fairly boring office job I said I wanted to avoid.
Such indeed is life, and as I sit waiting for Friday to come I dream of sailing here or paddling there when I should be project planning the build .
So I suddenly realised I've now finished the scarfing and have all the planks glued. What's next? Well i'm going to need a transom, keelson and stem before I can assemble the moulds and back bone.

Friday comes, I book a half days leave and suddenly I'm a boat builder again, so it must be time for a visit to Bamptons Timber. Dick Bampton is the President of our little Sailing and Rowing Club. Indeed it was from Dick's launch that the photo above was taken of Southampton Water looking all broody with an extreme cat equipped with those fancy kevlar sails being harried by its attendant Rib.
Dick's joinery and wood store is situated in an old boat yard right next to the River Itchen. They have a few pontoons out the back where a pretty eclectic bunch for people moor their equally eclectic bunch of boats. We are up the low rent end of the river here well away from the rich man's boat parks at Ocean Village and Hythe Marina.

In fact come to think of it Dick's address is R & A Bampton , Four Maries Yard, Vespasian Road, Bittern Manor, Southampton. So in terms of Interesting places with strange sounding names that'll have to do for now. P.S. Also some pictures of epoxy drying. zzzzzzzzzz

P.P.S. In a new and infrequent addition to this blog, music choice of the week,

A Piece of What You Need by Teddy Thompson. excellent!

Teddy is the son of Richard and Linda Thompson and if you don't know who they are, boy you need educating.

Friday 10 October 2008

Never mind the width, get your scarf on

Its not been a particularly productive week and photo's of the inside of my garage can be a bit boring so here's one I took earlier of a fishing boats in St Ives harbour Cornwall. I've had a couple of chats with Alex Jordan this week. I couldn't understand why the paper pattern of the transom differed so much from the ply template I'd made from the table of offsets. Of course the reason is that Andrew Wolstenholme gives his dimensions to the extreme aft of the transom while Alex has compensated for the bevel by bringing the measurements forward by an inch, the thickness of the transom. The difference is half an inch which was surprising, anyway that's another thing I've learned.
I cut the planks from the pre cut ply in a couple of hours, I used my Japanese Pull Saw which avoided the nasty buzzing of the jig saw and gave a very accurate cut which needed very little sanding. I then started to cut the scarfs. I'm just using my old jobbing plane to rough out the scarf and then going in with my trust block plane to finish off. I know this part of the process puts a lot of people off but it really is fairly straight forward if you sharpen your blade and take your time.

The main thing to watch out for is to make sure you cut the scarf on alternate sides of the plank so that you get a join not a great V shaped void!
I'm going to use the building frame as a work surface for gluing the scarfs which should help keep things fair and even.
I wrote to Steve at North Sea Sails the other day to get a quote for a sail. He made the sail for Caitlin on Iain Oughtred's recommendation. He is a very frendly bloke and liable to chat about all sorts of things, I think he gets a bit lonely in his sail loft over in Tollesbury. He told me he makes lots of sails for Oughtred boats in Norway and Sweden and that he's currently making a set for a Macgregor Canoe being built in Eyemouth. Steve's quote was £399 to include two rows of reefing points a canvas sail bag VAT etc, which seems very reasonable and a good bit cheaper than the quote I got from Jeckells, so Steve gets the job. I think I'm getting ahead of myself again. Back to work. Oh and by the way, its to be a wee girl.

Thursday 9 October 2008

(Doh) Ray & Me

I have a pretty good excuse for not getting much boat building done last week-end and I make no apologies for the unabashed name dropping here. Every year Ordnance Survey give away free maps to every 11 year old school kid in the country, 750,000 per year, since you're asking, we've just passed the 5 million mark. There's a competition the kids can enter and the prize this year was a day out in the woods with Ray Mears. I've played a small part in getting all those maps out so I get the chance to accompany /supervise them on the trip. So off we go tramping through the woods learning how to navigate and light fires, cook squirrels and hunt down bigfoot etc etc. Great Fun.

Ray is of course a boat builder par excellence, famous for his birch bark canoes, so deserves his place on this blog. He is also a very very nice man and can light a fire with a snap of his fingers.

The kids were taught all sorts of useful things about woodcraft and how not to get lost in the woods. They were all given a flint fire starter, taught how to light a fire using birch bark as tinder, boiled a billycan of water straight out of the stream and made a hot drink to wash down their sarnies, brilliant and not a mobile phone in sight! I know the kids had a great time, so did I!

Friday 26 September 2008

Kit-N-Caboodle @ Port-Na-Storm

Guess what arrived today! I've been like a kid on Christmas eve all day. Alex phoned on Wednesday to say the kit had been dispatched and would be here on Friday so i dutifully took the day off. I cleared out the garage, (anybody want to buy a tandem?) and dragged the old building frame out from down the side of the house. This has been out in all weathers since I launched Caitlin but it is tannalised, so apart from a few dead spiders its not too bad. It had warped a wee bit though so its taken a bit of fiddleing to get it straight (ish).
The Kit looks great just like an enormous balsa wood kit from childhood. And just like childhood I had this really strong urge to start gluing bits together without looking at plans or instructions, usually with disasterous results. Alex' paperwork hasn't arrived yet so next week should see the start of scarfing up the planks but in the meantime Port-na-storm has never looked so tidy.

Tuesday 23 September 2008

Great Expectations

I can pretty well guarantee that I will never forget the day the plans arrived from Andrew Wolstenholme, yes I was pretty excited to get the tube through the post and pour over them but that's not the reason. It was also the day when I found out I was going to be a grandad. Now of course normally this would be a happy occasion worthy of a drop of sherry, however mum to be is a mere slip of a lass and dad is still a bit wet behind the ears, to say it was unplanned and unexpected is to master the British tendency to understatement, something I've never been guilty of. I'm afraid the Celtic blood in me won through so I was sent out to the garage to rant and rave for a few hours.

I did manage to use the time fairly usefuly, desperate for something to keep my mind occupied I decided to start marking out some templates onto some birch ply I had lying around. Within a few hours I had templates for the rudder, stock and centre board as well as the transom. I later discovered that i'd made a complete botch of the rudder and had to do another one.

All around this time I was still not totally committed to building Coot. I'm in no doubt that she is a truly beautiful design but I did have doubts in my ability to build her. Looking at the plans I realised that Andrew leaves the builder to line her off and decide where the clinker planks should run. This was turning into a bigger task than I had imagined so decided fairly quickly to go for plan B. I would order a set of planks from Alex Jordan once he had completed all the CAD work, which he reckoned would be about September. But in the meantime I could be getting on with all the other bits......

A Week-End Clubbing

The stalwarts of the HBBR braved the bleak summer weather to meet up at Cotswold Water Park for what has become an annual fixture on the Calander. Full details can be had on the UK-HBBR link. The weather wasn't exactly brilliant but it did stay mainly dry on Saturday and a bit better on the Sunday. Unfortunatly there was a very noisy Corporate Event in the next field which went on until 3.30am. Then the Triathlon which was happening on our site kicked off at about 7.00am so it was a very bleary eyed group who gathered around the shore on Sunday morning.
Being without a "proper" boat I took my canoe variously known as B&Q, Polythene Pam, etc, and I must say had great fun pootleing up and down the lake. Sailing conditions were just about perfect with a nice gentle breeze blowing across the water. The canoe was a bit reluctant to tack, getting caught in Irons a few times, some felt that the dagger board is a bit too far forward, so the R & D dept will have to look at that during the off season. It should be a fairly busy winter as I've ordered the Coot kit from Alex Jordan and its due to arrive on Friday. I'll try to record progress on the build a bit more frequently than of late.

Sunday 22 June 2008

The game is afoot. Or possibly a Coot?

I've sent a cheque off to Andrew Wolstenhome for a set of Coot Plans. This little design ticks all the boxes in my wish list.

She is drop dead gorgeous, at 11ft just the right size for a single-hander like me, easy to handle on and off the water.

I particularly like the rig which Andrew describes as a Cat Gaff.
The cat rig has the mast pushed right forward into the bow leaving lots of free space in the boat, The gaff has a proper goose neck and the lazy-jacks act like a topping lift which together keep the yard under control when the rig is dropped. Unlike the balanced lug rig which tends to come clattering down round your ears.

The hull can be built as strip plank, cold moulded or clinker ply. I'll go the clinker route as it doesn't involve nasty epoxy sheathing like strip plank, and cold moulding is just too labour intensive, and oh god all those staples!

So all I have to do now is start clearing the workshop and wait for the big tube to arrive through the post. Excited? Moi!

In the meantime here are a couple of pictures of Andrew's own boat at Beale Park, being expertly helmed by his daughter above, and below by Matt Newland of Swallow Boats fame indulging in a bit of Industrial Tourism no-doubt comparing her to his own little Trooper. Both photo's by Chris Perkins.

Wednesday 11 June 2008

Falling in love again.

We went to Beale Park boat show at the week-end and had a really great time meeting up with old friends and making some new aquaintances. It really is a great atmosphere, everyone is very friendly helpful and they generally know their stuff so its not a place for blagging.

A couple of months ago there was a really nice photo in Classic Boats of Andrew Wolstenholm's little Coot dinghy, it really has the prettiest sheer and looks great on the water. This was Andrew's own boat which he sails with his daughter.

Walking around the Old Gaffers trailer section boats I noticed a similar boat which looked really great. Talking to Chris P he told me this was the very same boat, and I can promise you she looks just as nice in reality and I am truly besotted.

Earlier in the day I'd seen a very pretty dinghy with a swallow emblem sailing on the lake and was informed by Chris P it was a Wolstenholm Swallow.

I later watched its owner builder recover her and went over to admire his handy work which Chris P reckoned should have won the competition last year ahead of his own Scotch Mist, praise indeed! Standing chatting as you do I slowly became aware that the other bloke with him was in fact Andrew Wolstenholm himself, who had just had his first sail in a Swallow!

It was Andrew who told me that Alex Jordan was working up a planks kit for the Coot and to have a word. Its that kind of show.

All of this reminded me of a very pretty boat which came to the Cotswold HBBR meeting in Sept '07 called Jackson's Cracker, again a Wolstenholm design this time the Mallard. This little trio of boats are all really pretty but my heart has been stolen by the prettiest of them all.

Now where's Alex' phone number.

Wednesday 28 May 2008

A Breezy Broad at Barton Turf.

Well I dragged the canoe all the way to Barton Broad in Norfolk at the weekend. The HBBR had their first meeting of the year at the Barton Broad Adventure Centre. There was a good turn out with some old friends and a good few new people.

Saturday was a fine day with blue sky's but there was rather too much wind on the broad for a wee tippy boat like the canoe. So I had a couple of paddles up the river Ant which was realy interesting. Its an old cliche but you really do get much closer to nature in a canoe. I don't believe the holidaymakers in their cruisers saw half as much as i did.

On my first outing i didn't set any sail and just paddled, i found that she is affected by cross winds especially when trying to turn up-wind. When i later went out with the mizzen only she was much better behaved, the mizzen acting like a weather cock and helping to turn head to wind. I also got a very helpful push when running down wind.

I did go and stick my nose out into the Broad but it seemed very big and windy so decided discretion was the better part of valour and headed for home.

And here i am looking slightly gormless!

I also got the chance to helm for Chris Perkins in his Highlander 14 Polly's Folly. Chris is a somewhat in experienced sailor and I was a wee bit concerned that i didn't dump him in the water as he casually reminded me just as we left the jetty that he doesn't swim!

The wind in the cut leading out was very fluky which led to a fair bit of faffing about and a minor collision with a post. Chris's boats are finished to a very high standard so I was a bit embarrassed! Once out into the broad we took off like a train even with a double reef tucked in. The Folly was faultless, very stable and well behaved.

The conditions don't look too bad in the pictures, and really i suppose they weren't, but its worth mentioning that Tony broke his mast in his Joel White Shearwater.

and Wayne everhopefull didn't stop till he hit the catch net at the other end of the broad, and needed a tow back.

Wednesday 21 May 2008

Polly Wobbles but she doesn't fall down.

I had last week off work and we went down to Dartmouth for a couple of days, we even did the tourist trip up the river to Totnes which was really nice. I hadn't realised how big an expanse of water there was I'd really like to go back there in a small boat and explore. Maybe that's what made me finally bite the bullit and launch the canoe again.

The HBBR are having a meeting at Barton Broad this week end, and I'm planning to drive the 200 odd miles each way to take part. In truth this is the main reason for re-fitting the canoe and adding a sailing rig. So I thought I'd better try it out before going all that way and either sinking or turning turtle at the first attempt.

The Forecast was for 12 -15 mph breezes which was really a bit more than I wanted first time out, well actually it was a hell of a lot more than i wanted, but time was running out so nil desperandum or something. Of course the guys at the club didn't help my confidence much with their gentle piss-taking, old Barry asked if she had outriggers and just shook his head when i said no, he knows a bit does barry! I decided to give her a try under paddle at first just to remember how tippy she is and to try out the foot operated rudder mechanism.

Steering by foot is very strange at first especially working out which leg to push with to turn to Port or Starboard. I did a fair bit of adjusting the ropes to get the tension right but things soon settled down. Right then back in for the sails!

This is the first wobbly attempt which is why i look rigid with fear, but I was also amazed that she was actually moving, propelled only by a bit of polytarp. I was also quite surprised how stable she seemed. I've had a lot more kayak experience since i built her so she now feels stable and broad compared to the little ones we have at the club. Pretty soon it was time to either put in a tack or hit the wall so right foot forward and ....gradually........ round we went.
Things were beginning to relax a bit and I was really enjoying myself, I was really chuffed to bits. So back to the pontoon and on with the Mizzen.