Friday, December 30, 2011

The Day Before the Day Before...

The year is winding down to just one more day… While this year is winding down work on Gardens of Fenwick continues…

Four of the seven frames for the hull have been completed. Fasteners and more epoxy have been ordered. More plywood is to be purchased in the next day or so in order to complete the remaining frames. I am hopeful of completing all seven frames done by the end of next week. The centerboard is ready to be assembled and shaped. The rudder is ready to be shaped.

My thoughts for Gardens of Fenwick have been inclined toward a utilitarian, work-boat type finish - more for ease (a misnomer if ever there was one) of maintenance than anything else as I plan to sail Gardens for some adventures rather than keep her as a 'show-piece.' However, as I've been working with the walnut I purchased for the centerboard case packers I've decided that covering this beautiful wood with paint would be a travesty. So, in a nod to beauty and elegance (with a blind eye to maintenance!) as well as a salute to WildCat, I plan to use okoume plywood with the walnut for the centerboard case and finish it bright (varnish). It will be the focal point of the cockpit (which is as it should be).

I am looking forward to a busy New Year in 2012 and the launch of Gardens of Fenwick.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Odd Satisfaction

Two of today's tasks brought me - a bit to my surprise - a great deal of satisfaction.

I cut six notches by hand (see the note on the Progress Notes page) and enjoyed the work. It was very satisfactory to mark the cut-lines, make the cuts with the Japanese pull-saw, use the chisel to remove the waste and smooth the bottom of the notch and finish up with the rasp.

I also cut limber and ventilation holes in the frames as called for in the plans. When those were cut I used the trim router to round-over the edges of the holes as well as the 'non-contact' edges (edges that are not to be glued/fastened to other pieces) of frame supports and doublers.

Cutting the notches and rounding over of some edges was very satisfying but surprisingly so. Why? Because none of today's work will be visible when the boat is finished. No one but me will ever see today efforts... But I know the effort I put in... and I'm happy with it.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Good Progress

When I begin work on the boat each morning, I make a list of what I want to accomplish that day. Early on, my lists were ambitious and long... and I never completed them. This lead to some minor disappointments and a growing sense of discouragement. "How am I ever going to build this boat if I can't finish a single day's list of tasks?" There are times when a task takes longer to complete - it was more complicated or just difficult than anticipated and I tried to factor that in when preparing lists. And then there are the "unexpected" steps (I had to cut and mill a fairing batten in order to draw the proper curve for the top of Frame #2) that slow things down.

Here is the top cross-piece for Frame #2 being drawn on the plywood:

I was getting things done and making progress but the disappointment of never completing the list bothered me.

The solution? Obvious - shorten the list! I know, I know, simple but it took a few weeks for me to see it. Now my daily lists are shorter and more realistic.

Even now, using shorter lists, there are days I don't get every item on my list done. That's okay, what doesn't get done one day goes on the list for the next day.

Here is the top piece glued and clamped to the rest of Frame #2:

The bottom panel for Frame #3 drawn on the plywood, ready for cutting:

This bottom panel has been cut out, ventilation holes cut and doublers glued on. The side pieces are next.

Since shortening the daily lists and being more realistic about what can be done in a day, I am feeling much better about the progress I am making. So far Frame #1 is complete; Frame #2 is fully assemble (needs the stringer notches cut); Frame #3 is half assembled; Frame #6 is complete; the rudder blade is laminated; the pieces for the centerboard are ready to be laminated; 12 stringers have been cut and milled to size; and an assortment of miscellaneous timbers (for doublers, etc.) has been milled to size.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

A Winter's Day...

…in a deep and dark December…

Well, okay, today was a winter's day and we're nearly deep into December but the day (or the weekend, for that matter) - was not dark. Indeed, the sparkling clear sky allowed the sun to shine and the moon to glow. Wasn't that a gorgeous moon last night? But, it has been cold. Even with the sun shining yesterday and today, much of Friday's light snow is still around making the air seem even brighter.

Yesterday, we cut a tree in the back woods for the Little House Christmas tree. We couldn't find a suitable tree in the woods for the Ann Arbor house so we drove to a nearby tree farm - and found a gorgeous tree (which a commercial tree lot in any big city wouldn't sell for less than $100!) for a very reasonable sum.

Today we decorated the tree here at Little House:

That big tree was packed into the RAV for the trip to Ann Arbor.

It has been a great weekend.

As for the boat work… I've been assembling Frame #2 and finessing the stringer notches in Frame #1. Those notches are a bit fiddly as plywood doesn't respond well to a chisel but they are coming along.

This coming week should see these first two frames completed - which means assembled, doublers attached, notches cut and edges sanded. They will still need to be coated with epoxy before being truly 'done' but, given the temperatures, that will be a fairly long slow process. I also expect to get the spine/stem assembly cut out and assembled this week.

Along with this boat work, I need to find time to get some Christmas shopping done and packages mailed. Typically, I am running behind with my Christmas preparations.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Sawmill Field Trip

I had an overall pleasant field trip today although it did not go as expected.

I had a list of four Amish sawmills to visit. To get to them (they were pretty close together but about 25 miles from Fenwick) I went north on a state highway to Stanton, west on a county road, north on a dirt road, west on another county road to the first sawmill. After that I zigged and zagged north and west on small roads to the other three sawmills. The last was on another state highway. The countryside is pretty right now - ready for winter and waiting for that first snowfall. The day would have been prettier had the sun been out. Can't have everything.

So, here's how it went with the four sawmills I set out to visit:

One wasn't open.
One told me flat out, "We don't do retail."
One told me. "We don't have hardwood."
The last one - the largest of the four - was more gracious about it but basically his message was much the same, "We don't do hardwood and we don't do retail." But he did suggest another sawmill, "...on 17-Mile Road over in Cedar Springs." No name. I didn't know where Cedar Springs is so I went into the nearest town to find a McDonald's for coffee and wifi. Found McDs and found Atwood Forest Products. Cedar Springs was about 30 miles from where I sat but I wasn't doing anything else so I went to Cedar Springs.

Atwood Forest Products is a big operation - well, maybe not huge but much bigger than any of the Amish places I had visited. This is (just a small part of) what I saw when I pulled in to the Atwood yard:

Photo from the Atwood Forest Products website (I didn't pull my camera out today. I'll take some photos next time I go to Atwood's.)

The timbers in those crane mats are 8" thick and run up to 40' long! Not that the ones in the photo are 40' long - but they have them that large. They also have crane mats with 12" thick timbers! I was intimidated - this is clearly a sawmill aimed at a commercial market. Do they even sell retail to hobbyists?

Much to my relief, the woman in the office said, yes they sell retail; yes, they have hardwoods - and would I like a price list? She sent me to the warehouse ("East on 17-Mile Road, past the white house, past the blue barn to the next road... go down that dirt road until it dead-ends. I'll send somebody over to help you.") That 'dirt road?' More like a quagmire... deep mud... standing water... I'm not so sure about this but what the hey, I'm driving a Volvo, right? No problem. I get to the warehouse - it is about 5,000 square feet with a large selection of hardwood boards - without getting stuck.

I nearly apologize to the guy for only wanting one or two boards. His response? "Hey, we're happy you're here to buy something from us. One board or a thousand, we like your business." He asked me what I wanted, showed me what they had (a lot, I mean, come on, 5,000 square feet of space?) and I found some mahogany and some walnut I can use. Looked at the ash but liked the mahogany and walnut better. One mahogany board, 4/4 x 6 x 10' and one walnut board, 6/4 x 6 x 8' and I was out of there for $30. I was pretty happy with that - didn't even look at the price list.

So, I had a good morning traipsing around the countryside, talked with some nice folks and found a source for hardwood (and once home realized Cedar Springs is only 32 miles away). I'm pretty sure I'll visit Cedar Springs and Atwood Forest Products again.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Going 'Public'

It has been almost a month since I began this blog about building Gardens of Fenwick, my
John Welsford designed Pathfinder sailboat. I've actually written and posted more than I thought I would. The blog has had limited distribution - a few family and friends - so far but this afternoon I decided I'd share the link with a wider audience. Read it if you like and, if you do like it, come back once in a while to check on progress.

There's a new post in 'Progress Notes' today.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Stringers Are Done

All 12 stringers (2 chine stringers and 10 hull stringers) have been glued and await their turn in the build sequence.

Next up: Frame #1, the rudder blade, the centerboard and the centerboard case.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Sunday after Thanksgiving

Sunday evening at Little House - the temperature outside is dropping and rain is falling but I have a nice crackling fire keeping things toasty and cozy.

I had a very good Thanksgiving as I have much to be thankful for - a good family, many friends, good health and the ways and means to build my next boat. I don't need more.

Work continues on Gardens of Fenwick although the growing pile of wood doesn't look much like a boat at this point. I have completed 9 of the 12 stringers for the hull. When the last three stringers are done this week I will begin the frames. Perhaps by next Sunday I'll have photos of Frame #1.

Something to look forward to...

Monday, November 21, 2011

New post added to The Shop.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

New Progress Note

New Progress Notes post.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Pathfinder Stability

I've posted a photo on the Pathfinder Design page illustrating the stability of the hull.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Why the Pathfinder?

Why the Pathfinder? A friend recently asked that question.

In July 2011 I discovered I want to explore out of the way places by small boat. Areas such as Les Cheneaux Islands in northern Lake Huron, the North Chanel in Canada, the Maine Island Trail, the Apostle Islands in Lake Superior, the San Juan Islands in Puget Sound and similar areas.

To do this I want a stable boat that can carry gear and provisions for a week or three. I want a boat I can sleep on if shore-side camping is not available. I want a boat I'm not going to capsize - except in extremely rare conditions which I hope I have the good sense to avoid.

The Goat Island Skiff is a great boat. It is fast. It is stable - once one learns its quirks - but it is easily capsized. It will carry a lot of gear. In fact, the more gear the better. But, the Goat Island Skiff has one major camp-cruising limitation: it is not easily set up to sleep on board.

After looking a number of designs I selected the Pathfinder for my camp-cruising boat. The Pathfinder is larger and more stable than the Goat. The Pathfinder has more freeboard and is much less likely to capsize than the Goat. The Pathfinder also has a designed-in sleep platform that makes it, in my mind, the perfect boat for what I want to do.

The Goat is a sports car… the Pathfinder is a pick-up truck with a camper.

When I want to race - and I do enjoy racing - I'll take the Goat. When I want to explore those out of the way places, I'll take the Pathfinder.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Gardens of Fenwick

Gardens of Fenwick - odd name for a boat, isn't it? Let me explain…

I don't care for cutesy boat names. I like meaningful boat names even if the meanings are lost on all but the owners. I also like what I call compound names: Maid of Endor (and the variation, Witch of Endor), Vicar of Skye, Star of India, City of Ragusa and similar names.

When I retired at the end of 2010, my sister and brother-in-law offered their central Michigan refuge, named Little House in the Moonlit Woods, to me as my home-base. Little House is a special place and is not just my home-base, it has become my safe haven, refuge and home. When I decided to build another boat I wanted to pay tribute to Little House and, in turn, pay tribute to my sister and brother-in-law who have welcomed me to Little House in the Moonlit Woods in Fenwick, Michigan.

At the Fourth of July Parade last summer in Cedarville, Michigan, one of the local civic groups distributed packets of flower seeds and encouraged people to plant them. From those packets arose the idea for a boat name: "Flower of Fenwick" but that didn't really 'feel' right to me. However, gardens are an important feature at Little House - flower and vegetable gardens flourish here. Gardens are, to me, visually pleasing, inspirational, meditative and functional. Those are features I want in a boat (along with being seaworthy and weatherly). The idea for the name came to me over a period of several days in a sort of slow-motion stream-of-consciousness. Beginning with the packets of seeds, flowers, gardens… an idea emerged: Gardens of Fenwick. The more I thought about it the more I liked it. In my mind the name references the Little House in the Moonlit Woods, the gardens here and my sister and brother-in-law.

As I looked at designs for a boat suitable for boat camp cruising I was drawn to John Welsford's Pathfinder. I realized those characteristics and features I like in gardens are also present in the Pathfinder - along with some design-specific features. I decided to build a Pathfinder and name it Gardens of Fenwick.

Friday, November 4, 2011


In the summer of 2011, I completed and launched the sailing version of Karen Ann, my Goat Island Skiff. This was the culmination of a rather long and drawn-out building project that saw me go from, "I can't build a boat" to "I built a boat!" At the beginning of that project I was convinced that, despite words of wisdom from those who knew better, the Goat Island Skiff was the one and only boat I would build. That resolve was short-lived (I was looking at the "next" boat plans within three months of starting work on the GIS).

In July of 2011, I took Karen Ann to Cedarville on Michigan's Upper Peninsula for a sailing vacation with my sister's family and Wildcat, their Compac Picnic Cat sailboat. With a few 'new boat' rigging issues to be resolved, I did not sail Karen Ann as much as I might have during that vacation. But, I sailed her enough to realize the Goat Island Skiff is not the camp-cruising boat for me. I dearly love the GIS for daysailing and round-the-bouys racing - but I wanted something different for a camp-cruising boat - something heavier and more stable. Although I had sailed on Wildcat before, I had not sailed her enough to truly appreciate her capabilities. During an expedition sail (five adults and assorted gear for a full-day's outing) in strong winds, I realized that Wildcat's hull design - deep, full and (relatively) heavy - was what I wanted for a camp-cruising boaat. I set about looking for a design I could build with a hull similar to Wildcat's.

What I found, among others, was John Welsford's Navigator and Pathfinder designs. After much deliberation, reviewing the study plans for both designs and looking at everything I could find regarding these two designs, I decided the Navigator is too small for what I want (a camp-cruiser large enough to sleep aboard if shore-side camping is not available). Oh, yes, sleeping space can be created aboard a Navigator by using extra boards but I did not want to do that unless absolutely necessary. Pathfinder solves this concern by having a large flat forward cockpit - ideal as a sleep platform without the need for extra boards. Now, there may be a false economy in this reasoning as the Pathfinder is three feet longer than the Navigator (considerably more material goes into those three feet than would be needed for extra boards for a sleep platform on the Navigator) but here is that 'heart-throb' element of boat design at work: the Pathfinder 'speaks' to me in ways the Navigator does not.

I ordered the Pathfinder plans in August 2011, and began preparations for building my Pathfinder.