Light as a Feather

Lugging an old 14′ aluminum skiff to water for a season got old. While the boat proved to be a good “truck” for rowing the 200 yards to LUNA, the wrestling of it back onto a dolly, yanking the kit up an embankment and then dragging it all across 100 yards of lawn was, at times, just enough to dissuade my checking on the Rozinante. A less taxing alternative was needed.  The answer was found in the Feather Pram, a 1990 Iain Oughtred design.

Iain assured me a finished weight of 40 pounds was attainable using 4mm ply for the shell’s 8 strakes. I promptly ordered plans and then shelved them for months. When a fellow Old Bay Club sailor said he was looking for a light dinghy, I suggested the Feather, hoping to test drive his before building mine. He ordered a kit and before we knew it, two other club members did the same. We had a feeding frenzy. One of the guys, we’ll call him “Generous Bob”, aka “Lord Nelson”, allowed me to trace his kit’s planks in exchange for building a shared strong back and mounting of his moulds. I uncluttered the garage enough for the 6′-8″ build and we were off.

As an aside: Our Eastport Pram has served us well as a tender for our now sold 42′  Emily’s Grace. However, at 7′-9″ and almost 70 pounds the extra 30# is a difference maker when clambering over rip-rap to reach water. If the Feather lives up to its name, such obstacle courses should be completed more easily.

Cold weather slowed the epoxy curing. Clamping planks limited the gluing to one pair of planks per day. Screws could have allowed multiple pairs, but 4mm ply doesn’t offer much holding power and filling all those holes would be more work. After two weeks of occasional work we are nearly ready to flip the hull and build interior furniture.

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My digital fish scale weighed the shell at 27#. That leaves 13# for furniture, finish and hardware. What a catch!

 

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Last Shall Be First

Happy New Years! Today I took Luna from her mooring and berthed her at a nearby marina with floating piers, just until  winter subsides. The thought of leaving her alone, in a cold howling storm, out there on her mooring and not being willing nor able to go attend to her prompted the move. She’ll appreciate the shore power to keep her battery juiced for the bilge pump. She does weep slightly. And, the secluded marina does provide some added shelter.

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So, was this the last boating of the season or the first of the year? I don’t know. The temps were unseasonably warm, 63 degrees and generally overcast. It was good to be out on the water. I miss it so quickly. A forlornness settled upon me as I rowed away from Luna. Perhaps for both of us. Back across the cove and on shore with skiff in tow, I came upon 2 dandelions seemingly out of touch with the season’s portents. They offered some hope that three months might pass speedily. It does so more and more. Soon enough, boatyard rituals will begin anew. Meanwhile, we’ll dream of new paint, varnish and that first overnight cruise. Till then …

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Sunny Day, Gentle Boat, Beautiful Girl

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The week between Christmas and New Years is traditionally our time to winterize boats. The wait until Spring was once an eternity. Now, it rushes by, and yet I easily recall cradling my baby girl as we steered our Pearson “Emily” from the leeward rail. Oh, how her blue lights scanned the view. Now that she has a choice, I’m glad she’ll still come along. Hopefully Wednesday wasn’t this year’s last opportunity …, but we know the window is closing. Our wonderful picnic sail is one I’ll long treasure and savor until warmth returns. Here’s a short minute of the day.

Across the Great Divide

There is no love lost between sailors and powerboaters (forget jet skeeters). And so I know this post will be met with some derision by the purists. I get it, but how much sailing do they enjoy from their armchairs anyway?

UNA has been, and remains, my favorite boat. So little air moves her. Still, there are slick calm periods that can take the shine off a cruise. Long distances can become infinite when the wind quits. Perhaps my oars aren’t as optimal as they could be. I suspect I didn’t slim the shafts down for enough flex. That can be corrected. To date my average rowing speed for any length of time been sub 2 knots. UNA is a sailboat first. Most of those I sail with have motors, are determined to get to “point B” and relying on a cordial tow when the wind quits can try all involved. I either lose friends, find some pure sail-and-oar guys or find a compromise.

You see where this is going? Yep, I designed and built a motor mount for UNA. The plans showed a motor well. I elected not to build that early on. What started as a sketch melded into a plywood prototype that was adjusted and trimmed. A final piece was tooled in teak (I was confident in the solution).

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plans
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section

Last week’s test run worked flawlessly.

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prototype

 

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stowed under seat

Advantages: there’s no well taking up storage aft or creating turbulence to an otherwise  smooth bottom. This engine “strut” follows the curve of the hull and can be stored against it in the gap outboard of the side seat or under the seat itself. Also, the engine can remain on the strut when anchored without interfering with my tent. And, once removed the threaded inserts do not snag anything. Leather pads under the thread protect the gunnel finish.

Disadvantages: a well keeps the prop in the water at all times. A good wake can create enough roll to lift the prop out of the water with the strut. To be used primarily in light to no wind conditions, this rarely is a problem.

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engine on proto

Here’s the end result at 1/2 throttle and 5 knots. Nice and easy.

I’m happy with the results. Forgive me.

A Sticky Situation

A couple years ago I watched UNA’s foremast roll off the boat and land heel first on the concrete garage floor. There was a, “Crack”. Never good. Initial examination revealed nothing. I secured the pole back on the trailer. Not long thereafter when putting the boat away, I heard a rattle when I set the mast down before setting, I hear a rattle. This time I discovered a 18″ split between 2 of the staves where the mast was solid. At the time I decided to monitor it and ordered a fiberglass sock to repair the damage, but didn’t.

Many sails later, I found myself holding onto UNA with two-reefs and needing a third. We were bashing against wind, current and seas to gain shelter in Pulpit Harbor on Deer Island. That split was front and center in my thoughts. Thankfully UNA came through, but I had haunting doubts next time. I needed to fix the mast.

Once home, it was obvious the crack had lengthened. Another problem was the mast would swell and stick in the step on occasion demanding wrestling and wiggling to unstep. Putting a plastic bag on the foot had solved that hassle for too long. So, I hand planed the heel and sanded the problem section with the ROS and 80 grit to 16″ above the deck. The stick was then saturated the wood with straight epoxy and 2 layers of the fiberglass sock were snugged on. Epoxy splashed everywhere. The 90 degree heat rapidly accelerated the epoxy’s flash point. I panicked and ran for packaging tape and saran wrap to hold the works in check.

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plastic wrapped and encapsulated goo

After an overnight set, I cut and peeled the plastic off. Some had doubled onto itself and became embedded in the epoxy. There were also a few air bubble craters.

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Most of plastic removed

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Some rapped plastic and pitting

Alternating stints with the belt and ROS sanders got things back smooth, though I questioned how presentable the fix would be.

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Initial sanding. The itching begins.

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Snow on Labor Day?

 

Glad I donned a mask. Dust was everywhere. Wish I had worn long sleeves. The itching began. After wet sanding (kept dust down), the results improved. I thought I’d have to paint the mast.

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Wet sanding gave hope for a varnish finish.

 

Some of the outside layer of fiberglass was sanded off, but only slightly. Most of the dust was resin. One more coat of epoxy, a quick light sanding and 3 coats of varnish gets us whole again. Glad to cross this one off the list and now I have more confidence in UNA’s defense against the next blow.

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finished