Thursday, December 31, 2009

From the Land of Ice and Snow

Work on Thumper has frozen - literally. Our boat is hibernating under a plastic blanket and layer of snow. It's kind of pathetic when you consider that this boat was built in Florida and has only sailed in the warm waters and sunshine around Tampa Bay. It's a sad state that's punctuated by the fact that a fellow Rodgers 24 restorer, in Florida (where else), has made rapid progress towards getting his boat in the water. I check out his blog every few weeks only to see images like this one from December 13th. Are you kidding me? How can it be that green in December? Geeez, they have plants growing out of plants.

I know this isn't a competition but that little thing that makes you trim in or foot off a bit whenever another boat is near has got it going on. The synapse group that controls competitive drive is firing away. Yeah, and the envy group is probably making a contribution too. Well, at least someone will be sailing soon. Nice job Florida Guy.
Oh, and sorry about lifting the photo fom your blog. Photo credit - Florida Guy.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

More Fiber in my Diet

I've reinforced the settee tops with carbon fiber remnants to allow for larger access panels while maintaining lateral support to the hull. The settee tops are tabbed into the hull and form the stringers that are closets to the waterline. I'll also add 1" aluminum angle under the 2" wide sections between the openings to keep the carbon fiber in plane and to form the ledge for the access panels to rest on. We don't want anyone climbing off the boat with carbon fiber splinters in their bum because they plopped down on the "bench" a too hard.

A hairline crack formed between the cabinet and the settee on both sides of the boat. It may be a result of the cabinets and the settees being strengthened and becoming more rigid as individual components. In order to tie them together, I routed out a depression accross the crack and laid in three layers of unidirectional carbon fiber fabric. I don't know what this would be called in the boat building world - in the architectural world it would be a gusset. I'll fill it in, sand it smooth, and paint over it.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Cutting Corners and the Fear of Cubism

The cabinet structures are rebuilt and their surfaces are filled and feathered into the surrounding woven roving tabs. The water damaged areas have new plywood that's been epoxied into place with a West Systems microfiber filler mixture. I glassed the front and side of the cabinets with some fabric that was laying around (6oz - I think), and used a low density/colloidal silica filler mix to smooth over it and bring the surface flush with the woven roving. If you go back to a previous post "What Holds Up The Mast" you can see how these used to look.

The image above shows the wicked sharp corners that, if left unaltered, would be a major hazard on the water. Since I'm not planning to use a rail molding around the cabinet tops the edges will be rounded over. I also wanted to add a more interesting geometric component so I clipped off the corners.

Here's the clipped corner with a new plywood wedge temporarily super glued into place. You can see the perfectly intact corner piece in the lower left hand corner of the photo. The precision cut was accomplished with, what is currently my favorite tool, a Rockwell SonicCrafter. I can't think of another tool that can plunge cut with so much control. In fact, it took a lot of personal restraint to stay focused and not hack geometric shapes into everything in sight. If it weren't for an irrational fear of cubism, our boat might have become an aquatic version of Duchamp's Nude Descending a Staircase No. 2. Anyway, the tool is cool.

A wide angle (yeah it's not that big) view of the cabin with rebuilt v-birth bulkhead and cabinet boxes.

The plywood wedge was sized to allow it to plane across the angled cuts on either side and provide a gap for the epoxy/microfiber mix (the white stuff). I'll also fillet in the corners on the inside of the cabinet boxes. This will make a strong wood to wood bond and a more rigid anchor point for the chainplates. The next step will be to refine the corners with fairing filler and round over the edges around the top. In hind sight it may have been easier to take everything back to the hull and start from scratch, none the less, we have progress people.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Every Day is Earth Day

It's Earth Day fellow consumers and hopefully people everywhere will take the time to think about what they might do to better the planet. I'm happy to be a part of an earth friendly sport like sailing and am proud of the world sailing community for it's devotion to environmental issues. Sailing isn't merely a sport, it's a mindset and a lifestyle that requires an interest in the mechanisms of the natural world. Because of this mindset we see sailors at the forefront of many environmental efforts, but there's always more that we can do as individuals and as a community.

Today is also the 40th anniversary of the first non-stop single-handed circumnavigation by Sir Robin Knox Johnson. He finished the Sunday Times Golden Globe race on April 22 1969 to worldwide acclaim. As one of the worlds most prominent and accomplished sailors he has also been an advocate for the marine environment.

Happy Earth Day.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

A New Bow for Thumper????

The weird weather has given me time to Photoshop a modification that I've been thinking about since the boat first landed in our driveway. I bought it specifically for Utah Lake where the average depth is under 10'. The swing keel is perfect for the water depth but the short waterline length and light weight will be a big disadvantage upwind when the wind cranks up. In a fresh breeze the chop turns into steep breaking rollers that are very difficult for a small boat to make headway against. Because of that, I've been obsessed with the idea of putting a new bow on Thumper (here's where boat design professionals should begin rolling their eyes). A Naval Architect would prabably say that a new bow would add wetted surface area without a means of compensating - since we can't change the keel shape.

I don't understand boat design on the level that would guarantee a specific result but, for the sake of what if, let's say that I'm going to wing it. It would take the process back to the days before Pierre Bouguer (no Jerry it's not pronounced booger) when boat building was an intuitive seat of the pants thing. I could template the hull, enter the info into my CAD system, and produce the geometry for fairing the new bow into the existing hull. I read about a construction technique where template plates were attached to an existing hull and low density foam was used to fill between them. This created a faired surface that could be fiberglassed over. I'm comfortable working with the materials but as far as the design goes - complex hydrodynamics and characteristic equations are over my head. In other words, there would be a lot of guessing and probably a little trial and error. Of course, I can always rebuild it or even restore it to it's original shape if I really screw it up.

This is the existing bow shape.
Bow option with a slight rake to the stem.
Bow option with a plumb stem.
Bow option with a tumblehome stem. This one could be even more radical and extend the water line by 3 or 4 feet.
The reality is that this will most likely remain a Photoshop modification only - but it's interesting to think about.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

A Name

We've been kicking around possible names for the boat. One idea, for example, was Pidowit. That's how my daughter pronounced piglet when she was two years old. Why piglet? Well - they look like little boats and they're fast and slippery. Friends have also made suggestions that include the inevitable "Viagra" as well as several things that can't be put on the transom of a family boat. Although this - @#&!%*#! - might be graphically interesting.

At one point I thought about messing with the ultra conservative locals by calling it "Fewer Guns - More Gay Marriages". It's catchy - but maybe a tad wordy. And, radio communications might be a little confusing. An emergency broadcast might go something like this, "Mayday, Mayday, Mayday, this is Fewer Guns - More Gay Marriages two miles southeast of Pelican point.......blah, blah. Not likely to get the desired response - although it might send a fleet of bass boats screaming my way. No, we needed something else.

One day my son Cort was working in the boat with me when he noticed that it made a cool drum sound. We talked about calling it Drum - but - that was the name of a Whitbread maxi (big sailboat) in the mid 80s that dropped it's keel during a Fastnet race. It was also owned by Simon LaBon of the pop band Duran there's that. Plus, Drum seemed too weighty for our little boat. To put it in movie industry terms, DRUM would be a great name for a Major Motion Picture. What we needed was a title for an Animated Short. As I continued to over think potential names Cort said, "How about Thumper"? I liked it! Not too pretentious, looks good graphically, and it fits the personality of our boat. And, if we decide to be really obnoxious and cocky during a race start sequence, we can yell "YOUR'RE GONNA GET THUMPED SUCKA" at all the other boats.

Thumper it is.

Sunday, March 29, 2009


This week saw progress but it isn't really apparent. I replaced or repaired more of the plywood structure and filled and smoothed around those repairs. It's not that interesting - so I'll just describe the concept (so to speak) for this restoration.

Performance is always a priority but this also has to be a creative exercise. In other words, it has to be fun. For the most part, I can only play with the stylistic side of things. The hull and deck colors, random details, and the cabin are open to interpretation.

The great thing about this boat is that the simple construction allows for experimentation without being too concerned about causing irreparable damage. There's no hull liner and almost everything is completely accessible. You can grind out and lay in a tab anywhere. However, we want to keep things simple and we don't want to add a lot of weight. I'd like the boat to have a more minimalistic aesthetic than it already has. But, it should also surprise you a little the first time you peek through the companionway.

There are a few things that will impact how the cabin will eventually look. For example, the settees and cabinets originally had a mahogany veneer with standard teak molding but they've been rebuilt to the point that they'll have to be painted. So, that's an opportunity do something unique like painting them with a metallic paint or cladding them in aluminum or both. The cabin sole (floor) wasn't in the boat when most of the water damage occurred so it can be refinished and reused. I will probably concentrate all the wood finishes in the center of the cabin with the keel trunk clad with wood as well. The boat didn't come with a ladder so I can design and fabricate one that's consistent with the overall interior aesthetic. There are a lot of possibilities and, all things considered, this should be a fun project.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

What holds up the mast

We have some structural issues. At the top of the list are the parts that keep the mast upright. It wouldn't be too swift to drop the mast in the water the first time out of the marina - or any other time for that matter. So, everything associated with the standing rigging is receiving extra attention. For example, there was a partial bulkhead in the middle of the cabin that, along with the keel trunk and cabinets, formed the anchor structure for the shrouds (there are no full height bulkheads). It was made of 3/4" marine plywood and it was wet and rotted. Since the tabbing was solid I removed only the plywood and filled the space with an epoxy/high density filler mixture. This created bolt flanges for new 1/2" aluminum bulkheads. I figured the added tensile strength of the aluminum would allow for a smaller and lower bulkhead - which will make it easier to move around the forward part of the cabin. This has also provided another opportunity for aesthetic improvement.

This shows the plywood bulkhead on the starboard side after being cut down. The red dashed line indicates it's original shape and height. You can also see that portions of cabinet top and sides have been cut away. Since the cabinet adds rigidity to the chainplate anchor points - something will have to be added to compensate for the loss of plywood. I'll cover that in a future post.

This shows the new aluminum bulkhead compared to the line of the old one.

The complete aluminum bulkhead. I couldn't cut 1/2" aluminum plate with my saber saw so each side consists of two layers of 1/4" plate - etched and laminated together with West System Epoxy.

Friday, March 20, 2009

The Sander Never Sleeps

Anyone involved in restoring or maintaining boats knows about sanding. Everything you do requires sanding. Need to reinforce a bulkhead? You'll have to sand it first. Want to fair a hull – get ready to sand and fill and sand some more. And, if you want to paint anything – you have to sand it, prime it, sand the primer, paint it and sand it, paint it again and maybe wet sand that. It’s unavoidable and never ending.

I tried to think of sanding as a Zen exercise bit I didn't attain enlightenment - only a deeper hatred of sanding. When you’re crammed into the stern of a boat in a space the size of a carry on bag, wearing all manner of claustrophobia inducing safety gear, and you’re wrapped up like a burrito by several feet of Shop Vac hose and power cables trying to sand the underside of the cockpit sole, it’s hard for the mystical transformation of consciousness thing to kick in.

Despite that I’ve developed a compulsive desire to buy power sanders. Sometimes I walk into Lowe’s or Home Depot for no apparent reason and walk out with a belt sander. I decided to collect all the sanders from the boat and the tool shed to gage the true extent of my problem. And……………..I am sick. I’m a sick man…………… It might be a compulsion or possibly a fetish, I don’t know, but I am sick, sick, sick.

And, I just realized I'm the Imelda Marcos of power sanders.

The sander collection - minus two that were ruined when water got into the boat last winter and one that burned out.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Deck Repair

The deck had several soft spots that had to be ground out and reglassed, including the area around the starboard chainplate - which is the round spot in the lower righthand corner of the photo.

The repairs along the edge of the deck were solid glass and easy to complete but there was a soft spot in the cabin house under the mast step that was about 24" in diameter. Though there is a compression strut under this area, a soft spot here would not allow for proper tension and tuning of the rig. The only thing to do was to remove the outer layer of fiberglass replace the rotted balsa core and reglass the entire area. The original builders of the boat left the balsa core exposed when they cut a slot for the keel control wire which allowed water to migrate into the core and create the soft spot. To guard against future problems in this area I filled the area directly under the mast step with a blend of epoxy, high density filler, and microfiber filler. This should not only stand up to the compression between the mast base and the strut but should also illiminate the possibilty of future water intrusion into the core.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Coach Roof Repair

The balsa core in the forward coach roof was wet and rotted around the hatch and under the mast step so I cut away the outer layer of fiberglass and removed the old coring until I hit solid dry material. I filled the cavity with solid epoxy mixed with a microfiber filler and shaped it to it's original form. It created a rigid structure for the mast step and made the hatch cutout virtually water proof. I also eliminated the horizontal portlights by glassing them over and cutting in round ones. Now the deck feels stiffer and the round ports give the boat a sort of retro modern style.

Area around hatch and mast step.

Horizontal portlight slots glassed in and faired.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Time Flies

The boys want the boat in the water and sailing. My wife and daughter want it out of the yard. Which means, everyone will happy when it turns into a real sailboat again. These pictures were taken a few months after I brought the boat back from Florida.

This is John removing the original plexiglass portlights - he's 16 now.

And this is Cort, 6 years ago, keeping the lines in order.

Will call this the "Before Photo" even though the boat is in worse shape now.

This is the future "After Photo" - courtesy of Photoshop.

The "cabin" looking back towards the companionway.