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February 2008
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April 2008


Keel1Well because of the fantastic response to my DVD I’ve been super busy running back and forth to the post office to fill all the orders, so I was happy to find some time the other day to get back to work on my boat.  Thanks again to all of you who placed orders and I hope you enjoy the videos.  By the way, they make great gifts too so don’t forget your friends now that the spring paddling season is approaching.

Here are some pics of the keel installation on my Joel White Pooduck Skiff.  The keel was the last major structural component I needed to install before painting the exterior hull

First I made the keel pattern out of scrap plywood.  I marked a centerline on the outside of the hull then set the plywood vertically along the line.  A few 2x4 blocks hot-glued along the side of the centerline held the pattern in place with drywall screws.  Then I marked the "bottom" edge (actually the top edge, but the boat is upside down) of the keel pattern to follow the shape of the hull using a black Sharpie pen duct-taped to a block of wood.   I unscrewed the pattern and placed it on the floor to mark the “top” (actually bottom) edge.   Marking the edge really just followed basic lofting techniques described previously: taking measurements from the plans and transferring them to the wood using those long wooden battens that boat builders always have handy. 

After I cut out the pattern with a sabersaw, I placed it on the wooden board I reserved for the keel.  The wood is meranti, a tropical hardwood I found at Edensaw.  By the way if you are looking for marine lumber Edensaw has just about any kind of wood you would possibly want.  And if you don’t know exactly what you want, just drop by and browse among their stacks.  Just the sight of those beautiful boards will get your creative juices flowing!   I was even able to convince them to give it to me wholesale because I am a Center for Wooden Boats member. YESSSSS!

I chose meranti for the keel because it was half the price of Honduran mahogany and came in the right thickness (if I can save time by not planing lumber down to correct thickness, I will).   I marked it up using the pattern and cut out the keel, then attached it to the hull using 3M 5200 bedding compound and 1 1/2 inch silicon bronze screws (from the inside and the outside) and a single 6 inch long 1/4 inch diameter machine bolt through the widest part of the skeg.  The whole thing was clamped down tight against the hull with nylon Thule straps to get good “squeeze out” bead of bedding compound.   Then I scraped off the bead.  After it’s completely cured in a week I can finally start painting the hull. 


Exquisite Corpse

Seal3Seal2Seal5Seal4Seal1A particuarly gruesome find.  But who isn't fascinated by a dead body?  This poor seal was in a different position yesterday.  There was a big hole visible and some ribs where sticking out.

The insides of bodies can be really interesting, especially when the organs are out and you just have nerves and muscles hanging off the bones, and a little pool of fluids in the gutter along the spine.  The cavity reminds me of the landscape from the movie Alien or the swampy haunted forest in The Wizard of Oz

On the water you don't often get chance to take a really close look at harbor seals and their beautiful spotted coats.  Check out the clawed flippers.   It sure has a lot of guts!  You would think that seals are mostly made up of a digestive tract.

I bet I know what you traditional kayak-builder types are thinking: harvest the skin and bones!  How much do you think I could get for a prepared harbor seal skull on eBay?  Hmmm, that might look awfully suspicious.  It's probably a flagrant violation of the Marine Mammal Protection Act to even touch it!  So it will just have to return to nature.


RampTurtleBoatbuilding manuals suggest using a block and tackle system or the help of a bunch of friends to turn boats over, especially when they start getting heavy.  But with a little planning I was able to turn my Joel White Pooduck Skiff over single-handedly, and without a block and tackle system, for painting the hull. 

First I made a little ramp with a couple 2x4s screwed onto the end of the strongback and padded with old bath rugs.  Then I just slid the boat down from the strongback onto a carpet on the driveway.  I disassembled the ramp, and also modified the strongback so that the weight of the upside down boat would be supported with 2x4 crosspieces. 

Before rolling the boat over I protected the edges with foam pipe insulation, and attached some old kayak wheels onto the stern seat with duct tape (I knew I’d find a use for those wheels someday!)  Then I turned the boat over, making sure all contact points on the ground were padded or covered with carpet.  Once the boat was upside down all I had to do was roll it up to the modified strongback and slide it onto the 2x4 crosspieces.  She's pretty heavy, but not a lot of strength or grunting was involved.

Now the boat is back to looking like a turtle.  And since all my finish work has been on the inside (except for the rubstrips), it looks as if I haven’t touched it since I first turned it over several months ago. 


Skiff_034Skiff_035Ricardo sends these pics of his skin-on-frame Joel White Shearwater in progress at the Bates Boatbuilding Program.  It is designed primarily to be a pulling boat, but the plan is to fit it with a sailing rig and an electric outboard motor.  The skin is going to something really tough -- 24 oz nylon, I think.  He is thinking about taking it on tour camping around the Puget Sound and San Juans this summer.   We may even get a bunch of guys with little wooden boats together and arrange a flotilla!  Knowing how fast Ricardo works, it might even be done before my Pooduck.

Adventures on Paper and Water

FixI’m going to toot my own horn again really loudly here:  I passed my ASA Coastal Navigation and Advanced Coastal Cruising certification exams!  So within one year I’ve gone from being a complete and total newbie, not knowing the difference between a bimini and a boobie hatch, to something resembling a real mariner!  The Advanced Coastal Cruising Standard states that the student should be "able to safely act as skipper and crew of a sailing vessel about 30 to 50 feet in length in coastal and inland waters, in ANY CONDITIONS" (emphasis mine).

Why get certified?  For someone like me who is big on book knowledge but lacking in real world experience I’m hoping it will give more credibility with charter companies when it comes time to do another bareboat charter.  And preparing for the exam gives you something to do when the weather is crappy or you can't spend any daylight hours outside. Plus it’s a real ego boost when you pass!

Both exams took about five hours together.  During that time I plotted my course carefully around islands shrouded in thick fog, avoiding sunken wrecks, and taking into account leeway, current set and drift.  Later I sharpened my #2 pencils, all the while scanning the sky for signs of the approaching cold front.  I had to deal with my engine failing in a busy channel, running aground, and getting caught far from shelter in sea conditions way beyond my skill level. 

The questions are all “short answer” type, so, as an example, a concise answer to the above scenario would go something like this:

1) Put on PFDs/safety harnesses
2) Dog the hatches
3) Reef
4) Obtain a fix
5) Stow and secure gear below
6) Locate emergency equipment (VHF, flares, bilge pump, lifeboat)
7) Assign helm to most experience helmsman
8) Maintain course parallel to or away from the lee shore
9) Maintain crew morale!

In the end my ship was dismasted and I had to manage that too (best taken care of after sharpening the pencils again, a quick bathroom break and few more sips of coffee).  So it was quite an eventful few hours before we finally hauled her out and put her away for the winter.

*     *     *

BigboatBreakwaterFerryYesterday Ricardo and I sailed the sailing club's Catalina 27 "Duck" out to Point Defiance.  Anthony’s Fish House still had their dock put away for the winter, so we ended up floating into the Breakwater Marina next door.  It was a little tense maneuvering around in those narrow channels, with four powerboats coming up right behind me and a sailboat in front.  But I appreciated the opportunity to get some practice turning in tight quarters and docking.

After one pass through the marina to scope out our options we tied up at the fuel dock and the manager assigned us a different slip that wasn’t normally used for keelboats for $5.  We walked over to the spot and you could easily see the sandy bottom through the clear water.  And I wasn’t exactly sure how deep the draft of the Duck was.

“It’s pretty shallow”, he said, “but the tide is rising so if you run aground on the way there all you’d have to do is wait a little while to refloat.”

And as we cast off from the fuel dock he said, “By the way, do you have a fixed or swing keel?”

“It’s fixed."

“Oh.  Well, just go really slow.”

Well we made it OK and had a good walk up to the Point Defiance Zoo and then a stopped for a beer at Anthony’s.  On the way back we ran into the marina manager who looked somewhat surprised to see that we made it OK.


Fb2_2Fb1Here are some pics of the stern seat and floorboards on my Joel White Pooduck Skiff, finally sanded and oiled.  The floorboards are western red cedar and very soft, so over a short amount of time I'm sure they'll get pretty worn and weathered.  One thing is for sure -- they won't ever look as good as they do now.  Now that the interior is basically finished, I'm ready to turn her over to install the keel and paint the hull, as soon as I do a few modifications on the "strongback" to hold the boat upside down.