The wife and I packed up the 3 kids and headed down to sunny Florida for a little R&R. The weather was beautiful and we had an absolute blast. The family was long overdue. Here I sit, almost a week returned to reality, and my head is still sitting in a beach chair in the soft coral-dust sand watching the kids jump and scream in the ocean. I always have a hard time getting my head back in the game after a break and this is no exception. So I figured I’d take to the basement and spend some time boat building. Unfortunately, it was one of those days when forward progress seems impossible.
A couple days prior, Harry (6) and I worked a bit on his Wood Duck Kayak. The task for the night was to stitch together the deck. It started out OK. but as we progressed, I could not get the sheer panels to fit to the deck. The cut seemed way off. I am working with full sized plans so I was not concerned with any botched measurements, but did the paper plans shift as I was marking them to the plywood? I could not figure it out. Under normal circumstances, I would sit down in the thinking chair and go through the process in my head and try to figure out any mistakes I may have made. The problem is that I had a 6-year-old kid staring me down and waiting for his next task to rescue him from the doldrums of boredom. I was not allowed the luxury of time. I fidgeted with it a little while longer and decided to call it a night. Cutting the session short was better than having Harry stare at his dad perpetually re-wiring the same joint unsuccessfully. I would leave this one to tackle on my own.
Tonight, I wanted to dive back into the Bobcat construction. Last time I worked on the Bobcat, I was working on getting the bottom and side panels fitted to the stem and things were not going well. I decided to take a step back and have a look at our stem. Maggie (8) and I laminated the stem together. Laminating 10 layers of plywood with an 8 year old is great fun. Let’s face it, kids love glue. We slobbered on the epoxy, slapped on another layer of plywood, and slobbered on more epoxy, and had a grand old time. Maggie smiled throughout the whole process. Once completed, I wrapped the whole contraption in wax paper and threw some 10lb weights on it as a clamp. I was impressed with Maggie’s attention span and delighted with her interest, but I should have been paying attention to our stem. The whole laminate slid sideways a bit. I had drilled holes for a couple of wooden pegs to hold the whole assembly straight, but they obviously did not hold well enough. When I came down the next morning, I found the stem looking more like a series of tiny staircases made of 1/4″ treads. I figured a good sanding would make things OK. It would be a little off, but no problem. Yes, problem.
As I mentioned, the bottom and sides were just not joining up with the stem correctly. With a Spanish windlass, some Irwin clamps, and my Hitachi pin nailer, I tried a number of different configurations, but it was just off. So tonight I pulled out the sheet of 3/8″ Okoume I purchased for the centerboard and decided to properly measure out a new stem so I could at least compare the lines to the cut stem. I was WAY off. The length, the shape of the curve, and the angle of the face where it mounts to the bulkhead were all off. In a way I was relieved to have found the problem, but this obviously sets me back about an hour since I will need to cut and laminate a new keel….CAREFULLY this time. I also took some time to measure out the centerboard on my sheet of plywood so I could figure out if I had enough material. It will be tight, but should be OK. I first figured that I would go it alone this time, but then decided that Maggie and I should do it. She had a blast doing the first one, and I thing it will be a good boat building class lesson for her that we need to pay closer attention to detail and that sometimes we make mistakes that need to be corrected.
This blog post may seem a little doomy and gloomy in that nothing seems to be going right with these boat builds, but it is just the opposite of that. I knew that if I embarked on these projects with the kids that we would make mistakes (more than usual anyway), and that it is an essential part of the boat building learning process for both the kids and I. Mistakes and puzzles are OK. You just want to keep the mistakes to a minimum and solve the puzzles the right way the first time. If we didn’t make mistakes, we would never learn how to fix them.
Thank you for reading!