To meet our expected launch date we are putting in some extra shop time. At this stage of the construction there are lots of small jobs to be completed. Today was a good example: the frame extensions were glued in place, the shaping of the stems was completed and additional braces were added to strengthen the thwarts. The trailer bunks supporting the boat on the strongback were removed and are now fastened to the trailer frame.
A very busy day in the shop. The sheerstrake rub strips were attached with screws and a coat of varnish instead of glue so they can be easily replaced if damaged. The floorboards are coming along, the stems are being shaped and the breasthooks are almost ready to be glued in place.
Our trailer will be finished next week at which point we will lift the boat onto it. Any remaining work to be done on the boat will be completed with it on the trailer.
Things are so much easier the second time around and that was definitely the case with the gunnels on the starboard side. Gluing up three laminations, 22 feet in length, all in one go is a daunting task. Next steps involve fitting the frame extensions and the coxswain seat and floor supports. Once those are done, plus a final cleanup of the interior, we’ll need to search out our paint brushes.
This week is all about gunnels. Not unlike laminating up the stems, with fewer but much longer pieces, it took just as many hands, clamps and quantities of epoxy. The first step was planing the 12 foot lengths of ash and then tapering the last few feet towards the stems. One end of each strip had to be shaped to fit the stem and the opposite end was bevelled for a scarf joint. All three laminations were glued up at once which took a considerable amount of time and made us appreciate the fact we are using the slow epoxy hardener. The whole process now has to be repeated on the starboard side.
Unfortunately we were so busy that photos of the other jobs taking place in the shop were missed. The trailer received a coat of primer and the fenders were fabricated, floorboards were cut to length and fastened together to make four removable sections and the oar blades were sanded in preparation for painting.
Spacer blocks were glued and clamped to the inside of the sheerstrake before the gunnels are added giving the appearance of ribs in traditionally built boats. Almost every clamp in the shop was put to use and that was just for one side. Hopefully we can space the clamps further apart when we attach the next pieces, allowing us to glue both sides at the same time.
One of the most enjoyable aspects of this project is meeting people who share our enthusiasm for the St. Ayles skiff. Today was no exception, with five visitors from the Bowmanville area who came for a shop tour. We all agreed that getting the first boat on the water will be a great incentitive for other community groups to build.
A trip to Toronto this past weekend put us a step closer to launching our boat. The Argonaut Rowing Club of Toronto generously donated 5 Macon blade sweep oars to our project. We also received 4 Concept 2 oarlocks from Peter Code, a boatbuilder in Mississauga. Peter has taught traditional boatbuilding for many years, his latest project is a 39 foot gig equipped for both sailing and rowing with 10 oarsmen.
On our little boat we continued the cleanup in preparation for painting the interior. A sheerstrake edge covering was glued on to disguise the plywood planking and we installed some temporary floorboards. The next step is to work on the gunnels, which will accept both our Concept 2 oarlocks and traditional kabes.
The shop returned to its former glory today. Prior to us adding a layer of sawdust to everything in sight, this space was originally used to manufacture horse trailers, some large enough to accommodate 6 horses. With all the equipment on hand, the trailer frame only took a day to be fabricated. A little paint, running gear and lights and we’ll have a trailer ideally suited to match the size and weight of our boat.
Meanwhile, at the other end of the shop, additional cleanup of the boat interior was underway, scraping and sanding to get rid of any excess epoxy. The support structure for the floorboards was installed, cleats were cut for both sides of the frames and floors were shaped using the moulds for patterns. All the pieces were then glued and clamped in place.
For anyone in Scotland who follows this blog, you may have noticed a familiar face in last week’s post. The gentleman in question is our new coach Stewart Bates. We are extremely fortunate to have someone so qualified to offer us his services. You’ll understand why we are so excited after reading the following:
Stewart spent most of his adult life in Scotland and retired to Perth, Ontario in 2006. For over 25 years he was involved in competitive rowing. A member of the Royal West of Scotland Amateur Boat Club, he rowed in both sliding and fixed seat boats. He is a qualified Scottish Rowing Coach and a highlight of his coaching career would be two Royal West oarsmen going on to row for Great Britain in world championships. He himself was Scottish Champion on a number of occasions.
Sparks were flying in the shop today from cutting and welding equipment as work got underway on the trailer. Not only do we have boatbuilders in our group but we also have someone who is expert in trailer design and construction. Unlike the boat however, this project will only take a few weeks to complete.
The trailer bunks, that we had formed on the moulds are temporarily being used to stabilize the boat while we work on the interior. There doesn’t seem to be an ideal height to work on the boat. Lower makes it easier to get in and out, but requires a lot of bending over. We chose to set the boat up on the building frame, getting in and out is more difficult but its a very comfortable height to work on the gunnels.
Our boat is now sitting on her keel. With all the moulds removed and the thwart supports clamped in place to brace the hull laterally, we lifted her off the building frame and performed the ceremonial turn over. Time for a well deserved wee dram!
Before applying the last coat of paint, the hull received a light sanding followed by a rub down with Scotch-Brite pads. The sheerstrake will get a coat of dark green paint tomorrow and then we can put our brushes aside for a few weeks until the interior carpentry is completed. Wednesday will mark a milestone in the construction of our boat, she will be turned over in the presence of the builders and invited guests.