Friday, September 27, 2013

The Tale of Two Boats

There are two boats in the shop these days. One is Misleading Lady, the 1928 Ventnor Boat Company craft which has nearly completed a thorough and meticulous restoration, and the 1970 vintage Beetle Cat sailboat, which is just beginning hers.  The Ventnor is receiving coat after coat of stain, sealer, and varnish and is taking on a bright, deep luster.  Every day she looks more yachty and more grand. At the same time, the Beetle is shedding parts and looking increasing forlorn.  In wooden boat restoration, as in many aspects of life, things tend to get worse before they get better.

Newt sands a side deck, in preparation for staining
Nearly there.
Last week, the Beetle gave up her coaming, rubrails, and deck canvas.  This week, she lost a few deck planks and is close to being divested of her centerboard trunk.  The trunk, just like virtually every centerboard trunk, leaks, and must be removed, inspected, and either repaired or replaced.  In the case of the Beetle, disassembling and removing the centerboard trunk involved removal of three foredeck planks, including the king plank, in order to gain access.  Then several members designed to brace the trunk against the deck beams could be removed. 

The process was complicated by the fact that the deck planks were fastened with copper ring nails which had corroded to the point where they had essentially become one with the surrounding wood.  Finally, we decided to drill around each nail with a bung cutter to remove the king plank.  While the plank will need to be replaced, it remains intact as a pattern for its replacement.

John and Lee prepare to remove the king plank to gain access to the centerboard trunk.
Jeff pounds out the brace holding the trunk in place.

The brace is removed and the entire trunk is accessible.
The sides of the centerboard trunk are fastened to the head ledges with through bolts, which were removed fairly easily.  Additionally, several copper ring nails had been added for good measure.  Removing them was not so easy.

Aft end of the centerboard trunk.  Nearly all the through bolts have been knocked out.
Once the trunk has been completely loosened, we will flip the boat to remove the trunk and begin to work on the planks.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Under the Covers

The first steps in classic small boat restoration usually involve a lot of taking things apart in order to see what's bad and what's good.  That process has been underway this week at WoW with regard to the new old Beetle Cat number 1564.  First, all the deck hardware was removed and stored.  As always, that task involved contortions and manipulations not suited to the human body, or at least to the specific human bodies involved in the project. One always marvels at the dexterity of the people who originally fastened that nut in a space 10 inches high and 6 feet forward of the cockpit under the foredeck.  Perhaps people were smaller and thinner (and certainly younger) "back in the old days."

The next obvious step was the removal of the deteriorated canvas decking. This process entailed the disassembly of the oak cockpit coaming as well as the removal of the oak rubrails in order to expose the staples holding the canvas in place.  The goal was to remove all the woodwork without damaging it, so that it could be reused.  For the most part, this was possible,the only exception being the aft coaming which had cracked at some point and was repaired by gluing and screwing a teak board to its inner surface.  The screws came out but the adhesive, not so much.  This piece will need to be replaced.

Aft coaming had been repaired with the addition of a teak board.
  The coaming was in very good condition, and could be removed by drilling out the bungs (plugs) over the screws, and backing out the screws where possible. Where the screws could not be removed, wedges were hammered between the deck and the coaming, and a Sawzall used to cut the screw.

Wedges are used to make room for the Sawzall to cut recalcitrant screws.
The coaming was removed with no damage to either the deck or the coaming itself -- a very happy outcome -- and it will be cleaned up, revarnished, and reinstalled after the deck is repaired.

Out comes the portside coaming.
Next up was the removal of the rubrail.  This task was also accomplished with the use of a drill (to remove bungs,) a screwdriver, and wedges.  The rubrail was also successfully removed without cracking, gouging, or splitting, and can be reused if we choose to do so.

The rubrail comes off.  Previously removed coaming rests on the deck.
Finally, we could pull the canvas, which was held securely in place by hundreds of monel staples.  This revealed a cedar plank deck in surprisingly good condition.  Most, if not all of it can be retained, as it is fair and solid -- a credit to those old Beetle boatbuilders.

The big reveal -- not too shabby!
Aft deck shows the swiss cheese pattern of many traveler removals/reinstallations.

Friday, September 13, 2013


WoW got itself a couple of newbies this week: a brand new volunteer --Leslie, and a brand new old boat -- Lee's classic Beetle Cat.  Both were welcomed enthusiastically. 

Leslie was put to work with "a little light sanding."  Late in the process of refinishing the  transom of Misleading Lady, an errant pencil mark was noticed under the varnish.  That would not do on a beautiful restoration like this, so the transom needed to be taken down to the bare mahogany again, restained, and revarnished.  Newt got the take-down started, and Leslie, in her trial-by-sandpaper, got to finish it.  She passed the test, managing to get the transom clear of old finish, and ready for re-staining with NO pencil marks this time.

Leslie gets started.  Newt left the "easy parts" for her.
Hours later, the transom looks great!
The latest member of the ISM fleet to undergo its cosmetic makeover is a WoW built Bevins Skiff.  Her hull has been cleaned up and painted both outside and in, and Steve began to apply the finishing touches -- a bright ISM blue rubrail.  Soon, she will be back in the water for some Fall rowing.

Looking good!

Our other new arrival, the Beetle Cat, is a classic beauty who is just a bit down at the heels.  She has the great bones of the nicely built little boat that she is, and will restore wonderfully.  Lee trailered her down, and we quickly moved her into the shop before predicted thunderstorms arrived.  Then we got a chance to have a look at the work to be done.

Welcome to the Workshop on the Water, Beetle Cat!
Hull number 1564.  Definitely a lucky number.
One of the must-do tasks -- replacing the canvas deck.
Dockmaster George had some work to do eye-splicing dock lines for the fleet. The growing number of boats in the basin coupled with the afternoon boat rental program are making the dockmaster's job more essential.

George splices like the pro he has become.
Charles got to work on a special project -- a memento for the upcoming Olympia fundraiser, Fanfare on the Fantail.  The memento consists of a block of angelique timber from the stock that was used in the recent Olympia redecking.  The blocks are oiled with the same preservative actually used on the Olympia deck, and two commemorative coins minted from the actual bronze of old Olympia propellers are set into the top.  It was a fun project to do, and produced a handsome result.

Olympia commemorative blocks.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Getting Ready for Coast Day

Jeff, Dockmaster George, John M. and volunteers Steve, Bob, and Charles spent a beautiful afternoon on the water jockeying boats and barges in preparation for Saturday's Coast Day events.  John and Bob moved the barge down river from Olympia, into the basin, and the entire crew maneuvered it into position as an extension to the existing floating dock.  

While it was great to have a few hours to enjoy the bright sunshine and moderate temperatures, most of the work was inside.  George, in addition to his usual responsibilities for managing the fleet and getting ready for an afternoon livery session, had an oar to construct.

George patches a bad spot on his new oar with thickened epoxy.
Charles finished up his restoration project -- a front porch rocker from the old U.S. Naval Home in Gray's Ferry.  The chair, which had obviously seen much use as well as much weather over the years, was missing 5 of its original 9 seat slats, as well as two stringers.  With those reconstructed and put in place, the chair could be reglued.  The new work will be colored with a finish compatible with the original, but different enough so the original fabric of the chair can be easily distinguished from the repairs.  While no one will ever rock in the chair again, it is fascinating to imagine the generations of old sailors who swapped stories, reminisced, and rocked away their final years in the chair.

The U.S.Naval Home chair with replaced parts ready for gluing.
Steve spent some of his morning sanding the transom of one of the ISM fleet Whitehalls, in preparation for her relaunch.  She already sports a bright newly painted topside, and fresh bottom paint.  Soon she will be back in the water beside her sister Whitehall, Bruce Almighty.

Steve stains the Whitehall Transom.
Work continues on Misleading Lady.  While Bob and Jeff compile lists of parts needed to complete engine and drive train installation, Newt sanded and stained the mahogany coaming in preparation for many coats of varnish.  

Newly stained coaming awaits varnish
Forward coaming panel masked and ready to be stained.