Friday, October 18, 2013

Putting the Beetle Cat Back Together

We have pretty much stripped the Beetle Cat down to her bones, and discovered most of her warts and wrinkles, and now we have begun to fix things.  The most glaring problems, the leaky centerboard case and three broken frames under the foredeck, are our first concerns.  We are removing the broken frames, and replacing them with new ones, one by one, so as not to cause the hull to distort.  

The first step is to break up the old, damaged frame and remove it in pieces. Then, the screws holding the planks to it can be backed out.

New frame fastened in place.  Next old frame forward has been removed.
The new frames need to be steamed, and bent on a jig made from hull templates.  For each frame to be replaced, we need to make a new template, and adjust the jig to match it.

A white oak strip gets steamed.

Frame bending jig with frame just removed.
After the new frame has cooled, it is inserted between the sheer clamp and the sheer plank, and pushed gradually past the keel and into the space between clamp and sheer plank on the opposite side.

Two frames in place.  The upper one has been clamped for screwing.
The new frame is clamped in place tightly against the planks, and against the floors.  Then it is ready for fastening with bronze screws. Where possible, we use the old screw holes in the planks, but if they have widened too much, we drill new ones, and will bung the old ones later.

Screws in place, mostly in newly drilled holes.
We managed to remove three frames, and replaced two of them by day's end. That leaves something for the next crew to do.

Meanwhile, Dockmaster George was finishing cleanup chores from last weekend's Old City Seaport Festival.  Among many tasks, the cannons used in the pirate battles needed their barrels cleaned out and oiled.

Multi-talented George cleans a cannon barrel.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Festival is coming.

Misleading Lady is still getting prettier by the day as more coats of varnish are added to stained mahogany and stain is being added to newly fine-sanded panels.  Latest to receive stain are the massive engine hatch covers.  Newt and volunteers are seeing the process through from beginning to end. Misleading Lady's owner has decided that the boat deserves to be finished to show-quality, so care, precision, and perfection are the standard.

Fine sanded mahogany engine hatch cover awaits staining.
A bit more dis-assembly was required on the Beetle Cat project.  Three cracked frames under the foredeck need replacement, and the only way to insert new frames, which must go gunwale to gunwale between the planks and the sheer clamps, is to remove the sections of deck above the repair location.  As with prior deck removal, these boards were fastened with copper ring nails.  They needed to be drilled out. First, using a bung cutter bit, the board is cut free of each nail.  Then, with the board removed, the nail can be pulled with a claw or cat's paw.  Slow work, but unavoidable.

Foredeck boards have been drilled out to expose damaged frame ends.
John S. removes screws and old, damaged frame.
Old frame has been chiseled out.  Screws are next to be removed.
Meanwhile, preparations are underway for the Old City Seaport Festival the weekend of October 12 and 13.  The ships have begun to arrive. First in was the schooner Hindu, out of Key West.  She sat at the Museum dock in the nor'easter rain and wind awaiting her comrades and the festival.

Schooner Hindu at the dock, through the windows of WoW.

Friday, October 4, 2013

A Tale of Two Boats, Chapter 2

The main focus of the shop continues to be two boats -- the 29 foot Ventnor "Misleading Lady," and the mid-1970s Beetle Cat.  The former continues to get more bright and shiny as her brightwork nears completion.  The latter has turned a corner, with disassembly nearly done, and reconstruction beginning.

The Beetle Cat's leaky centerboard case has been removed and she has been flipped.  The source of the centerboard case leak has likely been determined. The case was fastened to the keel with large copper nails hammered in from below.  Providing waterproofing between the case and the keel was a gasket made of canvas, probably saturated with bedding, which dried out over the decades.  The working of the case against the nails probably loosened the structure also. The case will be rebuilt and fastened in a more secure manner.

Once the hull was flipped, caulking could be removed, exposing seams that were much to wide.  

Removing the old caulk.

We will need to fix these seams!
Too many fasteners over too many repairs had left the keel around the centerboard slot looking a bit like swiss cheese.  Charles routed the keel out an inch wide and an inch deep around the slot, and replaced the holey wood with new strips of white oak.

Routing is complete
New oak strips glued in place.
The Beetle Cat's transom presented an unusual challenge.  It seems to have been oak, originally, but at some point a plastic pseudo-wood grain veneer was applied with what seems to be contact cement!  An unusual treatment, to say the least. The veneer has been removed, and slowly but surely the contact cement is giving its hold. If the oak comes up nicely, we will probably finish the transom bright.  Otherwise -- paint.

The transom with plastic veneer removed but cement very much in place.
Misleading Lady is fully in that iterative process of varnishing and sanding, as Newt works to build up a durable and brilliant smooth finish.  There is no substitute for slow, methodical, and careful work at this step, and quality and care show.

The transom has been restained and varnished.

The starboard side deck and coaming shine in the afternoon sunlight