By Jim Luton
(previously publish in the SCC EBLADE, Dec. 2015)
On any big boat project, progress more often than not appears incremental, until some seemingly magical event renders that progress as sudden and huge. In reality, months of work and scores of small tasks are tallied until the work done is deemed sufficient to move forward into the next big phase of the build. Such was the case recently with our “rollover” and celebration of the past year’s work on Canarsian, the club’s Point Comfort 23 powerboat construction project.
Our committed crew worked away all through last winter’s ice and snow and through the summer’s heat and humidity until that big hull was ready for her skin of glass. Back in July, progress had seemed quite rapid with big sheets of planking hung one after the other. This all slowed down as we approached the bottom planking from amidship to the bow. Now, instead of a single layer of 3/4” thick planking in full eight foot lengths, we were hanging two staggered layers of 3/8” plank, in lengths that got progressively shorter until they spanned only six inches at a time right at the bow! There were forty separate planks, each dry-fitted, screwed, then removed. These planks were then re-hung in one go with glue this time. That’s what I meant by “incremental”. That bow took as long to plank as all of the rest of the hull, three weeks (of weekends) in fact. Then there were hundreds of holes to fill with little hand-whittled cedar plugs, lots of edges to plane and sand, and multiple coats of fairing compound to trowel on and sand smooth until the hull was ready for glassing.
Glassing a big hull is a job that takes considerable organization, preparation, and a well-coordinated crew. We were fortunate to have a dedicated group of club members ready to come early and stay late to get this messy job done. On Saturday, the first crew gathered to cut glass, mix epoxy, and sheathe the hull. We started at nine that morning and finished up about six that evening, laying down nearly 200 square feet of glass and epoxy. On Sunday, a second crew came out to lay down two more coats of neat epoxy, fully saturating and filling the weave. Over the next two weeks, another round of fairing compound was applied and sanded, and a final coat of epoxy went down. The spray rails were fabricated and installed, and a dozen little last-minute details were completed to get the hull ready for paint. Some of the epoxy and glass crew were called back in to help lay down two coats of gray primer, and at that point we were done (for the moment) on the hull exterior.
The rollover is that magical event that marks a real turning point, literally, in the construction of a boat. After several months of seeing her upside down, we finally get a look at her as she is supposed to be, and we get a new sense of her interior volume as well. I wanted this rollover to be a true celebration, and I felt that it was important to involve the whole club in the event. I invited all members to submit a potential name or names for the new boat, which were written down and placed in a box inside the boat shop. Those names were published online, and then everyone was welcome to vote for two of their favorites. The two most popular names were then put into a hat, with the winner to be drawn at the rollover celebration.
We had a grand turnout for the rollover, with thirty or so members participating. This was real participation too, not just a symbolic gathering of interested bystanders. The crowd literally picked up this twenty-three foot boat, carried her outside, and rolled her over onto pads and blankets. It was comic in some ways. The shop doors are not wide enough for both boat and carriers to pass through, so the boat was handed off to those outside as she came through, while those displaced inside ran around the building to rejoin the effort a few seconds later. I was directing the affair, so I couldn’t just stand back and watch, but those that could found it humorous! When the strongback was torn down and reassembled for the right-side-up orientation, we all picked her up again, and carried her back inside, where she was carefully leveled and shored up. A grand feast commenced back in the clubhouse, and the boat’s new name was drawn by Severn Clay-Youman’s son Kaspar. Canarsian was the winner, and is a great name for our new boat!
We’re back to “incremental” again, as the interior construction gets underway, and the layout is planned and finalized. I have been extremely pleased with our progress, one year after our budget was approved. We have engaged many people in the process, and I hope it has been as rewarding for them as it has been for me. I look forward to this winter’s work, and a launching celebration some time next season. It’s too early to pick a date, but stay tuned!