If you hang around long enough in the IBTC boat shed at the moment you get a job on Germaine. She’ s a beautiful Camper and Nicholsons cruising yawl, built in 1882, and has been in the boat shed since 1997; but not for much longer. It’s all hands on deck to get her ready for the big day when she gets back in the water again. She’s taking shape rapidly, and I’ve been hoping that I would get the chance to do some work on her before she goes.
One afternoon when everything on Naiad was either being bonded with Arbokol or was covered with wet varnish, I went and volunteered my services. The first task was fitting a galvanised steel band to her stem. It went on with a bit of persuasion using a 10 foot bit of 6 x 4 wedged in a groove in the floor of the boat shed as a shore and plenty of Arbokol. I was concerned that I might start the launch early as I levered the band against Germaine’s stem, but she stayed firm.
The next job was to install an air vent in the coach roof, which required rather less brute force. Starting with a lump of mahogany, the first task was to make a cylindrical insert that would look tidy and fit in with the beautifully crafted internal fit out. The outside profile was quite straightforward to cut on the lathe after getting the block of wood roughly cylindrical. Cutting the hole out of the middle was a delicate operation, as it would leave the walls of the tube quite thin and therefore there was a risk of it collapsing. I secured it in the drill vice and held my breath as I cut into it with a hole saw on the pillar drill. When I got half way through, I turned it over and drilled from the other end. It held together without collapsing and joined in the middle; not quite as major an achievement as digging the Channel Tunnel, but not far off.
The next scary bit came when I had to use a hole saw to cut a hole in the teak deck on the coach roof to put the vent tube in; I must have measured it about 10 times before committing myself with the saw, but in the end I just had to get on with it. Cutting a big hole through the roof exposes end grain, so I sealed the inside of the hole with epoxy, and stuck the insert in with mastic. The rest of the job was straightforward and just involved screwing things together and sealing them with mastic.
I’m looking forwards to Germaine’s launch next month; it will be a major operation getting her out of the boat shed, with lots of rearrangement of boats required. She will leave a big hole as she’s been an imposing presence in the boat shed for a long time, but I’m glad I got to do a bit of work on her before she leaves.
Tea time at IBTC
There was a leaving do at IBTC this week; every few months the college lays on some beer, wine, bread and cheese to launch another new batch of boat builders into the real world, it’s a fine spread and usually timed to coincide with welcoming a new intake. Class 113 started this week and we got to meet them at the first tea break on Monday. They came in looking a bit quiet and nervous as I’m sure we all did when we started, they got their teas and … horror! sat at the table reserved by the old lags; this is the table where the senior students sit and pontificate on boat building and the world in general while we all sit in awe. Sitting at their table with them would surely be frowned upon at the very least? What would happen? Well … nothing; because it soon became apparent that there aren’t any seniors any more, or that is to say, we are them. So what advice could I pass on to the new boys from this exulted position? Apart from having a good supply of plasters (my thumb is still sporting a tatty one as I type) and Ibuprofen for back pain (if you’ve come from an office job), the main thing you need for boat building is patience.
Naiad’s centreboard case
Michael and I have been working on Naiad for a couple of months now, every job seems to lead to lots of other jobs; there’s always something to snag, or varnish or prime before something else can be reassembled. Learning to do things in the right order helps, but even then it’s labour intensive and time consuming. Naiad is gradually rising again from the rotted planks and timbers which made her so fragile when we first got on board. She’s quite robust now with new timbers and reconstructed centreboard case. The thwarts are nearly ready to go back in permanently when we’ve successfully aligned and drilled all the nail and screw holes through the knees, thwarts and risers to hold them all together. There’s plenty more to do, but it has become what we do all day; there doesn’t seem to be much progress day by day, but it all adds up, and we love it.
One of the jobs I particularly enjoyed was rebuilding the thwart knees which had broken at each end. This was partly due to a fault with the original manufacture, in that they had short grain at the extremities, so were prone to snapping. But to be fair, they have been on the boat for a long time doing their job of supporting the thwarts. I made replacement ends from oak and bonded them on with epoxy. The top end has a tenon inside to support it, and the bottom end has a scarph joint. It’s still short grained at the thick end, but the grain runs along the bottom end. I wonder how long they’ll last before they need patching up again.
Wounded knee: spot the surgery