A pause with onions.

Lets have some blog so…..it’s late August 2021 and my home county of Cornwall is ‘full’ – of seemingly angry and dissatisfied holidaymakers but it’s almost the end of the holiday season so both Devon and Cornwall should be back to ‘normal’……normal for Cornwall being a relative term of course. I’m about to take a break from the boatbuilding project because we are going to have a break ourselves , not sure where yet but we both need a bit of time away from here and our everyday lives : i quite fancy going over to Norfolk or maybe the Lakes but the latter is very weather dependent and both are a heck of a long drive.

Questions questions : i was asked recently why i always mention the weather in my blogs , oh and if you’re wondering what a pause with onions is about then sit tight and i’ll explain….

Firstly the weather then ; i start by talking about the weather because it affects what i can do on the project – yes the build is under a shelter but it’s an open shelter with only ‘soft’ cover at the side and ends so if it’s raining hard i can’t work at all and if it’s warm it gets very hot under the shelter which makes it impossible to keep control of epoxy glue after about mid-morning. Yesterday for example was a hot one and i tried to do a sequence of small glue jobs and my glue went ‘off’ (exothermed) in the pot as i was working. Warm days such as we are having now make me change my work routine such that i glue up parts at the end of my morning session and they set quickly in the middle of the day. My usual practice of either gluing parts or epoxy coating parts at the end of the day is affected too now ; from being able to leave the build open overnight i now have to cover the whole structure with a tent and if iv’e glued i also set a fan heater inside the cover for an hour or so. For those that have variable results with the epoxy finish i also note that after one coating session i had an Amine blush to clean off the next morning.

Onions to you…..the link is this : in April of this year i wrote one of the first blog posts about the preparation for the project here – https://dirtywetdog.co.uk/2021/04/05/plans-and-onions/ …….in that post my Pathfinder plans arrived all the way from NZ and just as i was about to plant this year’s onions. That was in April and i think i was yet to build even the shelter let alone a first piece of boat, now, it’s 5 months down the line and we have just lifted the onion crop and started the deep-bed maintenance for the year. I’m really going to make my neighbors happy soon because i’m trying to get a trailer load of rotted manure to top-dress the beds with…..nice !.

5 months in…..

In this post i’m going to do a more general review and round-up of the project so far – rather than doing the kind of project post that is really only of interest to other backyard boatbuilders ; particularly those building John Welsford designed boats. Right at the start of the project i created a ‘project book’ in which i intended to log my time on each stage or task, keep a track of my spending and so on – what happened of course is that one day i put the project book somewhere safe and promptly forgot all about it. I also promised to keep a video diary and post regular clips on Youtube ; well, i filmed and photographed a lot but my camera has done something odd with the film clips such that all i have are many thumbnails and no video. I have however got lots of still pictures so i might be able to do something with those and some talk time.

Briefly put – in this 5 month period i have built the shelter, that’s one month accounted for, made most of the kitset of flat parts, another month gone, built the frame and then started main construction in June by scarfing the bottom panels and setting them on the frame. Most of July was taken up just with making the centerboard and it’s case which only went in a few weeks ago. Progress since then looks a lot faster because first the central frames and then the entire bow section went in …..just a week of build time each. At the end of last week i temporarily capped the bow with it’s king plank, got some ‘poxy‘ on and started on the back of the boat. This coming week i should get the transom on and dry fitted, ditto the last 3 frames and the seat fronts ; that will be the framework partially complete and time to fit the stringers. It’s too early to say but with the stringers on that’s the framework complete and if i had to leave the project aside because of bad weather then i wouldn’t be too unhappy.

Yesterday, this week, this month and so on….

After the events i touched upon in my previous post i had a bad couple of weeks where i just couldn’t summon up the energy or concentration to work – i mostly couldn’t sleep either which was was horrible and began to feel like the bad old days when i worked sometimes day and night shifts in the same week but couldn’t sleep either by day or night…..crap management and crappier duty rota eventually saw off my nursing career !. Now, i seem to be back in the flow, this week was a good one in that i can see the results of long days work but not as manic as the week before when i was running up and down the boat with ‘hot’ glue and trying to get dozens of screws into the build from underneath. One time/one frame i was under the bow section trying to drive in the screws that attach the bow girder to the bottom boards, wondered what the awful stench there was and found that it was a small piece of scrap ply that one of my neighbor’s tomcats had liberally ‘sprayed’ ….repeatedly and recently the smell of it.

The end of a week, a month and the transom goes on for the first time.

Transom and frame 6.

Project review 1, time and costs.

The actual build as seen above represents 4 months part time work although i am pulling longer days now and more of them each week as i’m trying to get the frame complete and the planks on before the winter ; i think i can continue the main construction work up until mid October but after that it’s usually too cool and wet outside for epoxy construction. I don’t know how many actual building hours iv’e done because i failed to keep a record and secondly that i still start most days by reading the instructions for that stage and studying the drawings again ; once i get into the flow , as i did with getting the frames on, then things speed up. I can report that some things took a lot longer than i expected – the centerboard and case for example which between them took a whole month and that i can’t account for a lot of that time either…..it just did .

Costs….dirty talk i know but …..before i started the project i asked the designer (John Welsford) and other Pathfinder builders roughly what the build costs would be. Most said that i heavily depended on what quality of materials i chose and then what level of finish and fit-out i wanted but to achieve but also with a small boat that a lot of that also depended on the amount of time that i would put in. John himself thought that it would cost me around £5000 to finish the hull which is where i want to get to this year …..it doesn’t matter that i can’t afford the sails, an engine and a trailer this year because i don’t need them . So far i think JW is close because iv’e got nearly all the materials i need to build the hull and combined between the 2 main suppliers iv’e spent just under £4000 on the timber and the epoxy resin . I know i’ll soon need another pack of resin and some cloth to cover the outside with and that will bring me up to around the 4k on materials. I have had other expenses namely tools as i spent over £500 on a table saw, just bought a reciprocating saw/multi-tool and i know iv’e spent another several hundred on new hand tools and all essential.

One cost that i didn’t estimate well is the cost and number of simple fasteners – simple bolts just for the centerboard case came to well over £200 because in the end i chose an M24 bolt for the pivot and that alone is an expensive chunk of A4 stainless steel. I know iv’e just got through a bag of a hundred SS woodscrews and am on the second , plus i bought in screws for many of the other jobs at the same time. Part of my admin right now is sourcing and costing the rig and the ballast – the rig , at least it’s first version, will be simple alloy tubes plugged with wooden tops and bottoms, the first line of ballast will be 45 kg of 140 Ah battery for which a side project will be making it’s watertight box and dry compartment.

More tools.

Again, right at the start of the project i asked on the builders forum to find out what tools other builders liked or recommended – i already had the average boat DIY-ers kind of set up but i was lacking in decent marking out tools, good saws for plywood plus i was thin on clamps. Quite early on i realized that i was going to have to invest in a table saw or keep running around to a local workshop that has one ; i bought one and it’s been a good tool to have although now i think that a proper bandsaw might have been a better choice…..space for one just doesn’t exist though. I did all of the cutting out of parts with my 2 Japanese pull saws so they have been a solid investment and to be honest they’re not that expensive anyway plus the blades can be changed.

Just recently i started one job….cutting the stringer notches out of each frame chine point : i did one slowly by saw and chisel, noted how much time it took and so promptly went and bought a reciprocating saw/multi tool. With well over 50 notches to cut and not having an efficient way of doing it i was looking at days and days just cutting them out…..another £150 but well spent because it’s actually an all-round genius tool. Next….more clamps bought so that i could start trying to bend the stringers in but i’m still thin on what i need. ; this month for example i think that i’ll have to invest in a load of 4 inch ‘G’ clamps just for bending and laminating the bilge/chine stringers……that job is a super fail of epic proportions right now.

I think i’ll need a steaming rig too although all i should need to buy is some lengths of domestic soil pipe as i’m sure i can rustle up the rest from my years worth of bits and pieces in the shed.

Overall spending on tools…..not sure but about 6 or 7 hundred pounds so far but that’s not starting from nothing so…..

What about the builder ?

As i edit and tidy up this post for it’s Monday morning deadline i have to report that it’s been a trying week on the project and obviously a rough few weeks with what’s happened. This week i had the first major failure in the build so far in that i snapped one of the long and wide bilge stringers ; this post was all-but ready to go and that’s new blog material for next time …..in fact that and my response is the main part of the next 2 posts. My dodgy finger is still sore – i still can’t work or type with it well which is both a pain and a ‘pain’ . My sleep pattern is still terrible and i don’t know what to do about that.

On the positive side i’m still totally engaged by the project and even though it feels as though that it’s completely stalled and i can’t see any progress i’m genuinely pleased and surprised that iv’e got even this far with it ; a lot of that is down to help and support from other builders online…..especially designer John Welsford’s FB page. I think a break…..and not a ‘break’ will do me good though so i’m looking forward to getting out of Cornwall and across to a different coast for a few days.

Major decisions now.

I said in several recent posts that i would soon have to make some critical decisions because things like which rig i’m going to use, whether to have an internal engine well, whether to build a cabin….etc….all affect the build at this stage so …..

My intention with the rig was to build a standing lug, English/Breton style based on a converted National 18 i have some photographs of – and that allegedly goes like that stuff off a shiny shove. My main problem with that one is that the rig i would like to copy is a carbon fiber tube because that’s the lightest and strongest material around….problem being is that i can’t find any way that a backyard boatbuilder can build one. The ‘why’ of that is that a standing lug rig has to be right up in the bow and a heavy rig would depress the bow too much and have to be balanced with more weight aft…..weight in the ends being just what i really don’t want. Secondarily it would be a difficult mast to step and unstep solo because with the Pathfinder’s design it can’t be walked into the boat like a traditional lugger and essentially has to be dropped in/heaved out vertically. I really want to be able to raise and lower the main mast easily, quickly and on my own because then i can ‘shoot’ low bridges like for example many on the broads and that opens up an entirely new facet of inshore cruising.

So……it’s going to be a Yawl but not quite as per the drawings : i’ll cover the intended rig in a lot more detail as i build it but basically it’s going to be a Dutch style high aspect gaff like the ones i described in this old post : https://dirtywetdog.co.uk/2017/08/14/high-aspect-gaff/ that’s not one of my better posts so in brief it’s going to have a taller pole mast, raked back a bit and with a much shorter curved gaff. It’s also going to be in a tabernacle built over a compression post and iv’e already had to do that job as part of building the boat – had to be done at that stage.

Further aft the standard plans show an internal engine mount based on a raised section of the last frame before the transom – and i’m definitely not doing that. My experience with outboard motors in the cockpit is that they take up a lot of space and are horrifically loud – with my last boat all of the engine noise is reflected forward making it impossible to hear anything else and almost painfully uncomfortable. If i use an engine at all it will be a small-un mounted on a simple , conventional outboard mount on the transom : i’ll most likely make provision for that as i build the back of the boat. It will almost certainly get some arrangement to take a sculling oar back there as well as my first intention with the Pathfinder is to go engineless right from get go.

In the middle we already have the off-center board and case done and thus a bigger sleeping flat one side and the beginnings of a large storage locker outboard. Right now i’m thinking about how to ballast the boat as it will definitely need some – JW says 65 Kg and my way of thinking is to make the ballast useful in the form of at least one big battery ; i’m thinking of using a 45 Kg and 140 Ah battery in it’s own watertight box and right on the centerline and near the pitch center of the boat. Cabin i’m still not sure about and i may mess around with some different cuddy designs, either soft or hard and maybe build dome mock-up versions as winter projects.

That’s about it for the review post – this week i go into one of the harder jobs which is bending the bilge stringers into place and in between clamping and heaving carry on with building the transom and stern frames. The weather has cooled again such that i now cover the whole build over with big tarps front and back, i’m starting to get some epoxy coating on but even so i think i’ll be running a dehumidifier inside the tent all autumn and winter.

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