Zen, and the joy of cleats.

July Pathfinder build project post – “you had just one job” !

July 2022……many of you will be familiar with the expression ‘you had just one job to do’ and that the expression usually implies that the person concerned failed or forgot that one thing that they were supposed to do – in my case it was that we were in north Norfolk, only half an hour’s drive from the sailmaker, had planned to go there and yes…..I completely forgot about it.

Blog time then : it’s late July 2022 and i’m slowly getting back into working on the Pathfinder dinghy but only going slowly now mainly because funds are low so I am concentrating on doing small jobs that take lots of time or in trying to do the maximum work for minimal cost. When we got back from Norfolk and i started to think about the project I wasn’t even sure where to start over so I just went down to the shed , pulled the covers back, hoovered and wiped out the hull and then read the shed door – that’s where iv’e been writing up my jobs list and shopping list. What that told me is that I needed the next batch of materials so I spent half a day ordering plywood, epoxy, paint and more fasteners before starting on one of several small projects for which I have material in stock.

Cross some off….add some more.

The first thing to arrive in the post was a tin of paint – I use a company called ‘Boatpaint’ and they’re pretty slick at turning orders around – my order was for just a can of Hempels non-slip deck paint which I wanted to use for the cockpit sole, the seats and the large center section lid that forms the cover of the central buoyancy compartment thus. I had a small amount of the Hempels multi-coat in light grey satin so I filled in a bit around the centerboard case – all of it needs flatting now and a second coat later on in the month. I think now that the stern locker cover will be the same light grey because it doesn’t need a non slip finish.

The light was a bit off but the light grey and cream seems to work well together.

Dry fitting the seats, about to start putting the cockpit locker access hatches in.

Fixtures and fittings.

So I was looking the cost of fittings – nice ones that is that I thought would go well with my home built boat – I would really like Bronze fittings, the rudder fittings and mooring cleats for example ; I’m probably going to have to buy the cast Bronze rudder fittings and just ‘take the pain’ but with cleats it’s a different matter.

When I turned the hull over this February I used a system of slings and tackles to lift and ‘sling’ the hull and I brought my lifting tackles to cleats mounted on the side posts of the shelter – one is in the door shed picture. The thing that happened is that i ordered a set of 4 simple Nylon cleats but they weren’t delivered because they were out of stock and a few days later the company actually told me……as I really wanted to get on with the lift and turn I just set-to and made a set of wooden cleats from material that i had laying around – some reasonably good joinery pine.

So I thought “why not make some wooden cleats” I knew or thought that I knew that I had some staves of square Ash which I bought years ago, ten or more, to make canoe paddles with. Since then Iv’e used most of the Ash as an edging strip for my workshop bench but I thought that I hadn’t used two of them……cue much searching of workshop.

Several hours later……

Firstly I made the smaller (200mm) pair at the back – I intended those as quarter/stern cleats and then went back with a slightly better plan and made the single cleat at the front – I like that one a lot more as it’s got better taper and offset bolt holes plus it’s slightly longer. That one , and I’m going to make at least 2 more will become side deck cleats for mooring and where the stbd one will be my primary anchor cleat as I’m going to anchor from the cockpit and the cuddy will restrict access onto the foredeck. My plan for the foredeck is to just have a single cleat mounted behind the inboard end of the bowsprit that is really only for mooring – it will probably have a permanent line on it with a clip for quickly tying up to a mooring that has a top ring.

The spoon is there simply because the job felt a bit like carving spoons – that’s one of mine.

Mushrooms….and the Zen of cleats.

So I got so far and on the second batch I felt that I’d found a decent shape but was then thinking about how best to fasten them, I don’t know why I made this assumption but the shape and depth of the cleat seemed to allow for a countersunk bolt where the head would sit flush with the top surface of the cleat – then I wondered about that and thought maybe it was better to bore them all out a bit more and epoxy plug them and re-bore.

By then I had 1 cleat countersunk and the first pair counter-bored so that a round/cheese head bolt would sit inside a wider top hole but not apply a splitting force on the wood…..then I posted the project to social media and spent the next 2 days learning the Zen of making and fitting wooden cleats. One suggestion was something that I hadn’t even considered which was to use carriage bolts and so while I was looking for those on my usual fasteners site I found some other bolts that have a wide but low profile ‘mushroom’ head with a straight slot for a screwdriver. Then we got into finishes…..some say varnish, most say don’t some say bare wood and some say oil…..yesterday , as I write, we were in town so I went and bought some Danish oil which seems to be a mixture of oils – last night spent soaking and oiling them and the anchor chocks that I made last year.

My main jobs for July are to finish the cuddy – with it’s roof , to fasten and finish the cockpit seats and to add hatches to the cut-outs. I can’t bond the center compartment top on yet and also not the stern locker lid – the center compartment also becomes the battery/ballast compartment and thus needs the big (read expensive) battery and the aft one needs rudder fittings bolted in and the mizzen mast base built.

When I wrote this section I was still waiting for delivery of the plywood for the cuddy roof and I already had the cockpit seats made and they just needed masking off underneath and painting with a bilge and locker paint and then gluing on. I couldn’t see a great reason to screw them down because I think iv’e put in more bearer ‘cleats’ than the plans call for so I first glued and then filler/filleted around the outboard edge of the first one and nearly but not quite lost control of my filleting batch of epoxy glue.

It was so warm that day (in UK terms) that I stopped and retreated to the workshop first and then back inside the much cooler cottage to get on with some writing ; we’re having a mini heatwave here and the build shelter is right in the sun all day so iv’e even been pulling the covers over during the day. The cottage itself stays a lot cooler because firstly it’s granite so it takes all summer to absorb enough sun to be warm inside plus it’s axis is north/south and middle of a terrace so we get sun in the morning and evening and not directly on the front or back at mid day.

Access hatches in and starboard seat glued in and filleted…..port seat just gone in and weighted while the glue cures…..that’s not going to take long today.

Other work.

As I get more of the big pieces in and glued down I’m spending more time going back to those areas and finishing around them – this week for example I did a lot of detail painting around the centerboard case and the big locker to port , that’s going to be my galley and food locker, then working aft I sanded off where Iv’e filled and filleted the stbd cockpit seat, tidied up and painted there. The color scheme now changes from an all cream inside forward except for the grey sole to a cream cockpit sole and seats aft with a light grey hull inside but cream coamings and deck above. If anything the look is plain, clean and a bit minimalist but there’s lots of gear and detail to go in yet so visually it will ‘fill’ a bit although I do want to end up with a clean looking and quite ‘plain’ finish.

On the bow and looking real loooooong. (wide angle lens though)

I made the bowsprit just before we took our break but couldn’t fit it because I wanted it to be removable rather than hard-bonded on so that created one new additional job which was to bond a flat mounting plate onto the foredeck to flatten out the crown of the deck.

So I was fitting the bowsprit……..

It was all ready to go and all I had to do was hold it still and bore down through the holes that I’d carefully measured and positioned such that the aft one should have come through just inside the forward compartment and the forward bolt just aft of the internal bow girder. I don’t know how I managed to get it as wrong as I did but the forward one just scraped down past the bow girder and the aft one neatly and perfectly went down the middle of the first bulkhead…..If I had to do that for real there’s no way I would have got it that accurate ; as it happens I had to bore new holes through the prod and then new holes through the deck as well. Half an hour’s work turned into a half day session.

July main job…..the cuddy.

This is the one job that I wanted to get done but failed on last month just before we packed the workshop up , pulled the covers over and disappeared up the M5 towards Norfolk. I got it wrong on the first attempt because I had it in my mind that flexing a quite large panel of plywood over the cuddy front and sides would be difficult done solo with 8mm plywood but might be done with 2 sheets of 5mm laminated together but by attaching one first and then gluing the second one over it. What I found was that the 5mm plywood distorted around it’s screw holes to create a non fair surface and also that it continually tried to invert.

So , this week my new sheet of 8mm plywood turned up, beautifully packed and all edges protected….good courier as well so it was time to get on with my main job of the month. I used the 5mm piece that i’d already made as a pattern – just had to adjust a couple of measurements and did a dry fit ; as I thought it might be it was a bit difficult to keep it one place while getting screws into the forward face of the cuddy and they still wanted to pop out…..screwing into edge grain plywood isn’t an effective technique. In the end I used some heavy granite blocks and some weight plates to start to make the curve and then got one edge partially down and went back to the first one.

The other job that I did before final fitting was to make and fit a ‘tie bar’ between the 2 rear edge gussets – that should add some strength in the vertical plane as it will form a T girder with the cuddy top and even now stiffens up any side to side flex in the cuddy sides.

Today, as I write iv’e done an early morning session with my neighbour helping me – I changed our technique and so rather that trying to get the center/front on first my man held one side edge up and away from the glue while i fastened the other side edge down. Between us we then put a bit of pressure on the ‘up’ edge and I fastened that side down and then we both worked on tidying the glue joins…..not exactly filleting but just moving glue around to fill where it was a bit open.

First dry fit.

Right now…..the day has gone very warm again so all of the glue and filler is baking it’s way to a cure – later on i’m going to tidy up the corners and edges of the cuddy top, fill all holes and basically get ready to coat the top with a layer (or 2) of 200gm cloth tomorrow morning perhaps.

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