Monday, December 22, 2014

Travel Orders

Some time ago, I wrote on these pages that I actually started this blog to trace my efforts to join the Department of State as a Foreign Service Officer. Last May, I passed the final test, the interviews in DC, and then spent the next year or so waiting for my clearances (one must earn a Class 1 worldwide medical and a TOP SECRET clearance, which is a whole 'nothing process entirely). In the meantime, I went about my life including some travel, boatbuilding, and sailing in the Caribbean.

While in St. Maarten, I received notice that all the final hurdles had been passed and I was cleared to be hired.  Then I had to wait for Congress to get its act together, pass a budget, and provide hiring authority for the next diplomatic boot camp called A-100.  Well, that next boot camp is January, 2015 and I received my official travel orders last week.  In other words, less than 3 weeks from now as I write this.  I will be packing up what I can on January 8 and driving out to begin a new career and life as a federal employee.

What does that mean for PocketShip?  It's no secret that I've been, at times, a lazy builder.  With other things to do and higher priorities, I've let the boat lag.  So as I've seen boats started later than mine sail before mine, I have to admit a twinge of jealousy and more-than-annoyance with myself.  But I never thought I could finish within the 18 month time frame I set.  I'd always said two years, which would be May 2015, and that's the schedule I was internally working towards.

As it sits, it has the keel fillets in place (but not sanded) and I think I can get it 'glassed and sanded before it goes into hibernation.  If I can get it painted, that would be terrific but I have a million and four things to do between now and January 8 and I  just don't see it happening.  Taking it with me isn't an option.  I'll be living in an apartment complex with no access to power tools, a garage, or space.

That means PocketShip will be moved into the garage next door for storage.  I will cover it and gently put it away here in Minnesota until I'm able to tackle the myriad bits and pieces it will take to finish it.  It's a bitter pill; I'm not one to leave projects incomplete.  It's also not lost on me that I'm moving about an hour from CLC and would have unfettered access to equipment, hardware, and assistance.  So I'm thinking maybe if all goes well, once the dust settles out there, I might be able to come back and trailer it to DC and bring it a bit closer to home, wherever home might be.

Until then, this is likely the last PocketShip post you'll see from me for awhile.  I hope what I've written on these pages was slightly entertaining and maybe even a little bit helpful.  I've enjoyed the build and the interaction with the community.  I've made real friends from these pages and to them I'm eternally grateful for the assistance and support over the last 18 months.  This isn't the end, though, just a slight pause in what comes next.

Before signing off, let me reveal the worst-kept-secret in the history of boatbuidling:  the name.  My PocketShip will be called, of course, Sun Monkey.  Save me a spot in the flotilla.


Sunday, October 26, 2014

A Flippin' Boat Party

One of the great milestones in the building of PocketShip is the flip. This is when the topsides and the cockpit are essentially finished so that the lower half of the boat, including the hull and keel, can be accessed by flipping the boat on its head.  Many other blogs have detailed the actual event, but not many have discussed the process to actually get to that point.  I've made other progress since and before (finished the rub rails, bought a trailer, cut the mast) but figured the flip was monumental enough to deserve its own space here.

My friends are a bit flaky, and those who aren't, are always busy. Those who are both flaky and busy are some of the more interesting people I know, and indeed some of my best friends, but man is it hard to get a few flaky, busy people together on a single Sunday afternoon, including myself. 

After multiple aborted dates, the crew finally got together to help with the flip.  And what a crowd it was.  They were computer engineers, technical writers, law students, marketers, railroad welders, and good friends, one and all.  They showed in spite of the fact that 7 out of 8 of us spent yesterday evening celebrating our buddy's wedding reception.

One showed up with massive furniture straps.  Others showed up with pulled pork, chicken wings, and booze.  All showed up with a good attitude.  And I have to reserve a special call out to the groom whose reception the night before ended at 3am.  He then woke up at 7 to help clear the reception room, tossed a few cookies over the course of the day, and showed up just as the boat got back in the garage to much applause.  I had to wait about 14 days for this evening, but what an evening it was.  Missing were Chris & Sean, they of the other Minnesota PocketShips.  Chris actually stopped by last Saturday but it was just the two of us and that just wouldn't do.  Sean was traveling and couldn't make it, either.  Hopefully they can make it to the reflip!

Testing the furniture straps.  These were affectionately renamed the strap ons.
There isn't a lot to add to the literature already out there on the flip.  It took a lot longer to clear and secure the garage than I expected.  Nearly two years of accumulated crap were gathered up and tossed.  I also almost forgot to remove the lift outs from the sole.  That would've been bad.  One of the downsides of the now upside down boat is that I can't store the power tools in the cockpit anymore.  I'll need to find an actual place for them.

Calculating the sizes. The garage hasn't looked like this in almost two years.

G and M help fit the bow.  Four others guide from behind.
A big help were the furniture dollies.  Since my garage was deemed too small to do a flip in place, we lifted the boat and settled it onto the dollies.  The whole thing got wheeled out along the concrete, then lifted onto the tarp on the lawn.  We then rolled it over the tarp, taking care to align the tires just so.  I broke apart the boat cradle as needed and will probably just stick with the tires from here on out. 

Guiding it forward over the pallet cardboard.
Wheeled and carried over to a tarp on the grass.
Discussing the engineering.  The lines are feathered fiberglass pieces, the weaves not quite filled.

Nearly on its head at this point, settled on tires.  This also served as a test for the garage fitting.
The only part most folks were worried about was the top part of the cabin, the two corners of the aft cabin wall and the cabin decking.  We put the tires behind these, not on them, and that worked well.  The team felt confident enough to carry the boat upside down and backwards and that confidence was rewarded with an efficient replacement.  Some members had to grip the boat by the rub rails.  I prayed they'd hold, but knew that if the snapped, I'd just make them anew.  I left the power screws in there, visible as the gold screw heads.  They are the 1/4" x 2 1/2" screws with T-30 tops.  It was the only way I could get enough leverage to make that final bend, despite heating the wood.

The team agrees the tires will be fine.

Hauling it back into the garage.  My wife, who took these photos, was needed to put the tires in place.

The crew settles in for the requisite beer shot. I'm sitting on the furniture straps.
I was pleased to see that the wreckage of the hull was not as severe as I expected, though still quite a mess.  I joined the hull panels quite awhile ago; the same joints would be much better now.   Epoxy drips from the keelson and other areas poke out here and there.  The transom area is in good shape.  This won't be too bad!   It will take some work and quite a bit of epoxy to address these issues but they're imminently fixable.  And the boat looked terrific out on the lawn, amazingly so.  I'd never seen my boat out of the garage before, in full view.  It was so nice to be able to walk around the living, breathing, 3-dimensional object and take a few steps back and admire the lines once more. I answered a lot of questions about the boat and one of the fellas said he would look into the kit.  I'll take my CLC commission in epoxy, please.

We ended the evening with good beer, some baseball, the Packers, and plans for next time.  I am deeply thankful to the crew, those who were able to join and also those who were here in spirit.

Oh my.. there's a lot of work yet to do.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Halfway through the Rail - Rub Rail Redux

Back from St. Croix, I don't think I can ever tire of boat pictures.

The marina at Christiansted.  This was the view from our hotel room.

View from Rum Runners, a famous bar/restaurant on the boardwalk.

No boats in sight still very nice.  Rainbow Beach on the west side of the island.

After allowing myself some time for reminiscing, I started work on the rub rail.  Another builder noted that it took him about a week to get all of the laminations down.  I agree with that.  One side has to go on after some bending, then the other, then the laminations.  Add curing time, sanding, prep, cursing, rearranging, and final prep, it's easily been four days for me as of today.

I first pulled all of the old screws out and redrilled a couple new ones into the lower breasthook where I embedded three stainless steel screws.  This is to give a little extra holding power near the bow in addition to the glue (thanks, Chris, for the suggestion).  I'll add similar embedded screws on each of the other laminations.  Unfortunately, all this screwing around I'm sure has affected the integrity of the rail, so it's a good thing the rub rails aren't exactly structural.  Nevertheless, I filled in each of these holes with epoxy and prepared for the second layer.  The second layer is ash, which will of course be followed by padauk.

Here a hole, there a hole, everywhere a hole, hole...
Unlike the first layer, the second layer screwed and glued pretty easily with only my body weight forcing the curve instead of my body weight plus hot water plus voodoo magick.  I didn't have to wet this area down nor form it in any way.  Like the first layer, I drilled and screwed in the first three screws without glue then added glue to the rest of the length of the strip.  I then went down the line drilling and screwing the layer in permanently until I reached the stern.

At that point, I unscrewed the first three screws at the bow, plus one other, and added glue to this section.  Once the glue was applied, I leaned in and rescrewed all of them back into the first layer.  Whew!  Since my ash strip is about 20 feet long (I started with a 10 foot board and scarfed them together, not bothering to cut to spec just yet) there was plenty of leverage available to use, which I cut away once done. 

Aft part done.  Unscrewed forward to secure this permanently.  You can see the three countersunk screws in the first layer here.
Lamination done.  I'm thinking the epoxy clean up here is going to be awful.  All those folks who volunteered to help -- yes.

View from above.  I think it looks pretty good.

I think the padauk-ash-padauk lamination will look good, but I worry about carrying a theme too far.  I remind myself that part of the reason for this is because I couldn't bring myself to buy another board of padauk.  Still, there's something to be said for committing to a design.

Test fit of the last layer.
Another view of the test fit.  I was testing the curve here.  It'll be OK.
I'm hoping this cures well enough to do the final layer on the port side tomorrow morning.  I decided to do it this way as I can more easily fit the bow area with the three layers down instead of trying to meet them up one layer at a time.  In the meantime, I'm on the hunt for tires I can use for the flip.  Yes, it's a neverending thing.