How I came to build my first boat - part 5

So now our hull is sitting on the basement floor waiting to be transformed into the wondrous boat that we all know she is going to become. I've gouged out the corners of the air box bulkheads and cut some supports/spacers to make sure that the inner bulkheads are all even and square with the outer bulkheads. We went with a nine inch spacing. This gives us enough room to sit on the top of the tanks and still have plenty of deck space in the cockpit for feet and a cooler and tackle box. We glued up the end of the spacers and screwed 'em in place. I like the way they look…even if there is still a gap at the bottom and corners.

Well now we want to know what it would look like with tops on. So I cut the tops. I cut them a wee bit wide, and wee bit long. I figure it's easier to shave some off than it is to try to glue some on. Having just learned my lesson about cutting big notches because of chine logs I was much more careful when cutting the corner slots out for these decks. I don't mind problem solving but why create a problem if I can avoid it.

Of course when I laid out the tops of the air boxes Vaughan had to try them out, and he was very very pleased with the work we've done so far. We still need to put inspection ports or some sort of hatch into the air boxes. We've been toying with paint bucket tops, and cat litter bucket tops, and even *gasp* for real inspection hatches. We're still on a budget, and so we're still debating this. We can afford to do this for a bit longer, but we're gonna need to make a choice soon. (Right now the rectangular cat little bucket tops are in the lead. We are watching our pennies and we have to have cat litter anyway… the math is starting to add up.)

Dancer is looking much more like a "real" boat with the tops on the air boxes. We're still short one chine log though, so we break out a 1x2, the jig saw, the glue, and the clamps, and in no time at all we've glued on the top chine to bow. Now we glued flat against the bow which means is was at an angle to the topsides. We did it anyway and after the glue had cured properly we sawed off the bit sticking up past the top of the sides. No gaps for us when we go to put the deck on the bow! (See, we CAN learn when we're paying attention.)

The weather is starting to turn warm at this point and my very lovely and understanding wife is hinting that maybe it might be nicer to work outside, you know in all that wonderful, fresh, spring air. Less sawdust in the rugs… less noise to compete with the TV and stereo… Less toxic chemical smells… Whoa, whoa, whao… hold on a second. I switched the glue from the super smelly toxic stuff that I think is going to hold better to the water-based not smelly stuff after two tubes. I should get some credit for keeping the fumes down. However I will need to be using fiberglass and that stuff is REALLY bad so I agree that it's about time to move outside. However April in Philadelphia means rain… lots and lots of rain. So the Dancer has spent most days outside looking like this…

Before we moved her though we very carefully marked out where the chine logs were on those side air tanks and drilled some pilot holes again, and three by three from aft to fore we used deck screws to secure those bulkheads, and I was right… the bottom drew up tight (mostly) to the chines. Again though with that cracking noise, and I don't mind admitting that I hate that sound. We then muscled her up on her side and there was a horrible, terrible, loud SNAP! I ducked cause I wasn't sure something hadn't snapped off and was going to hurt me on the ricochet. About two feet from the transom on the bottom the plywood had split. There was a long crack of about 26-30 inches in the outermost layer of ply, and in two places is was jagged. I don't have a photo cause I was unhappy and using language best not repeated in a family friendly forum. What I did was to take out my trusty utility knife and cut away the jagged bits. It was while doing that I was able to determine it was only the outer ply of the four layers of ply that cracked. I told myself this wasn't so bad. I told myself that three good layers is all right. I filled in the gap and the crack with automotive body putty and sanded it down. I feel all right about my fix for two reasons. I was very aggressive about making sure the putty went as deep into the crack as possible, and when it cured it was very solid stuff. The other reason is that I decided to glass over that area as well as the seams. I'm confident it's as strong now as it was before the crack.

There were a few clear days though and we used them to good effect. We filled in those quarter inch gaps on the front corners of the boat with glue let it set and shrink and then did it again. This seems to have worked. We also used this same method to fill voids in the plywood when we noticed the little gaps on the outer edges. When filling those voids this way it was slow and tedious. Some of them accepted very little glue at a time, and so it took days to fill the voids this way. I think it was worth the effort though, at least it gives me peace of mind to know I did everything possible to avoid disaster. I also used bits of scrap wood and PL glue to fill in those big gaps in the air tank where they met the chine logs. I had also filled in the gap on the bottom bow chine with wood filler. I think now that may have been a mistake and I should have used an all-purpose putty instead, but it's too late now, and I've decided I will do my best to glass that before we paint and hope for the best.

In between the rain showers I've been learning about mixing and using fiberglass resin and cloth. I have glassed the bottom seam of the transom, the bottom of the bow, the long crack across the back, and the port side bottom hull seam. That long port side seam is going to have to be sanded and redone though because I mixed too much resin and hardener and it started to go clumpy before I could finish. I rushed through it but the clumpy bits are all through my work and it looks bad and I don't know how well it covered or bonded. So it's going to be a long bout with the sander for me.

The thing I'm learning about both the body putty and the fiberglass that I used is that they both are toxic to breath. Use proper ventilation and invest in a proper mask. The other thing is that when mixing the resin use small amounts and work fast. I was getting about 10-12 minutes between mixing and clumping. USE GLOVES! Get a bunch of cheap $1 brushes from the dollar store and plastic cups/bowls/whatever you are going to mix in from there as well because they are use once and throw away items. You can not use them again.

[ Editorial note: the "resin" mentioned in this article is polyester resin, which is different than epoxy. Also the auto body product "bondo" is a polyester resin based. ]

Take your time with the fiberglass, use small amounts, be patient but be fast. I think that's mostly true about the whole build. Be patient, with yourself, with the wood, with the build. The boat will get built, and it will be sailed, but it takes time to build a work of art, and a sailboat.

Next time:
Lots of rain means turning our attention to the foils, the sail, and the mast.