Saturday, March 1, 2014

A February sail on "The Donkey" has been a while, hasn't it? We moved about a year ago and as a result, I have been pretty busy with house stuff, and setting up my new shop (YES!!!) so although I have been sailing, the blog has been pretty stagnant. Actually, seeing as how the boat is essentially done, I won't have much reason to continue to update this blog, other than for the continuing observations of learning how the Duckpunt sails, and making the resulting commentary as I see fit. Continuing forward, I will be putting most future updates into my more general purpose page- "The Things I Do". I am going to do another boat build soon, so if you have enjoyed this page, please subscribe to that one so you will stay updated with all things Rusty!

Back to Duckpunts. I took "The Donkey" out the on Friday for a sail on Greenlake, which since moving is only a block and a half from my house. This is so amazing because I can simply put the punt on a cart and roll it right down to the lake for a sail, and never have to deal with grunting the thing onto my car, and driving to a put-in. Greenlake is a beautiful little lake situated just north of Seattle, and is a charming sailing location. I feel so lucky to live here!

While thoroughly enjoying it, I am still struggling a bit with truly mastering the Duckpunt. Part of this stems from not sailing it often enough to really build a skill set. I also screw up something in the rigging nearly every time I take it out, which is embarrassing to admit since it is only an Opti rig, and does not get much simpler. Still, I manage to mis-rig something almost every outing! I also sail so conservative that I don't ever realize the hull shape's true potential. The punt must be sailed well heeled over to dig the chine in, and I am just not confident doing that when it is cold out, and I am terrified of the water. More practice is needed, although I am still having a blast, whether sailing the boat as good as I could be or not. It will be a long time indeed (if ever) until I am as good at sailing this boat as the Duckpunting chaps in Mersea. They are amazing!

I was able to film a bit on my outing, and I hope you enjoy watching the video. I hope to continue     filming my punting trips, so if nothing else this blog can serve as a video dump. Click on the link below, sit back, relax, and enjoy!

Sunday, January 20, 2013


"The Donkey" has its maiden voyage!

We finally had a weather window with sun, light breeze, and warm (for January in Seattle) temps in the upper 40's, so I decided it was an auspicious day to finally put the Punt in the water and see if it floated. Of course the first hurdle was trying to get the beast on top of my car! Funny as it sounds, the entire time I was building the boat I had no idea if I could get it on top of my car or if I was going to have to buy a trailer to haul it (which I most certainly did NOT want to do.) Although built with lighter-weight building techniques than the traditional West Mersea boats, this boat is still MUCH heavier than the light weight versions put together by Dylan Winter, or Stan Richardson, so to say I was worried was no exaggeration, particularly after trying to move the boat around during the build. Stubborn, just like its namesake!

Well, I found that it WAS doable, albeit with a lot of muscle and swearing. I eventually found that I could swing one end up onto the trunk of my work truck (actually, my Kia Spectra) and slide it up onto the Yakima rack without too much trouble. Not easy, but I got it up there, and taking it down with gravity was going to be much easier. Whew!

It became very apparent at this point that my paint job left a lot to be desired, and I left a lot of paint everywhere the boat touched. Well, I won't have to worry about dragging it across the beach now! I still think I should just strip the paint and take it to an auto body shop and have them spray the damn thing. Ugly little Punt...

It was pretty damn exciting putting that boat in the water! As I first pushed off, the boat just went! I could tell that it was going to move through the water pretty easily and be an efficient design, as a lot of hard-chine boats are, in the right conditions. But once I got going...I could not make the damn thing do what I wanted it to! I wanted it to go left, it went right. I wanted to go upwind, it fell off. I thought, "What the hell, this thing sucks!!!" Of course, I was making every mistake that was possible to make and it wasn't the boat's fault at all, I just had to figure out how to sail it. This boat is completely different from any boat I have ever sailed, and I love that about it! 

First, balance is EVERYTHING. I was sitting way too far back and once I moved forward, the boat was able to come up on the wind with no problem. The Opti sail is totally new to me too and handles differently than a Marconi (triangular) sail, and that took some getting used to as well. Still, it is a wonderful sail once you understand how to trim it. It wasn't until I got home that I realized I had rigged it wrong and had inadequate luff tension (the front edge of the sail,) so I am anxious to get the boat back on the water and see how the correct rigging improves the sailing performance. 

Well, that brings us to the funnest part of this blog so far...the maiden voyage videos! Never having used one before, or even really testing this one, I mounted a GoPro camera to the bow, pressed "record," and hoped for the best. I admit, they are not the most exciting videos ever made, and I am no brilliant film maker like Dylan Winter, but they are something I am fond and even a little proud of. There are two tacks showing the boat speed in around 3 to 5 knots of wind. It was a beautiful day and a happy ending to a long process. I hope you enjoy them!

Thanks for following along as I muddled my way through this boat build! It was a lot of fun to do, and the blog was a lot of fun to share with you. Who knows, maybe another boat build will be in my future...

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

The end is in sight!

What a looong process. The boat that I thought I could crank out in a conservative six weeks (and the design which Dylan Winter built in only ONE week) has taken me over six months! Granted, as the name of the blog clearly states, I am (or was) a first time boat builder, so perhaps my original assessment of my ability to build a boat was a little optimistic.
There were challenges associated with having to build it out in our courtyard, with all the schlepping of tools back and forth, and no ready electricity. There was the stubbornness of having to do the entire thing by myself, without any help from others. There was the frustration of only having a few hours a week to work on the boat between my job, music, relationship, and all the other things that fill up your time while living life. There was the challenge of trying to figure out what all those lines were on the 8x10 sheets of paper that were all I had for a building plan. There was scheduling when I could borrow a truck to pick up the materials that I needed (and the ones I needed again when I made some dumb mistake!) Oh, and speaking of...all the mistakes, those wonderful learning opportunities which came up again and again. Sigh. Paint masks a myriad of things, thank goodness I wasn't ever planning on varnishing! 
Well, it is certainly not a show piece, and it will never win any awards, but it is good enough for a first boat build, and I am happy enough with it, if not exactly satisfied with how it came out. I have to keep reminding myself that I built it as knock-around boat, and it is going to get pretty beat up in short order, and a Duck Punt is a Duck Punt, not a swan! I still need to put some additional coats of paint on the interior but I am going to wait until spring when it warms up again and call this thing done for now! Enjoy the finished pics and expect my next post to be from the water!

The stern brass skid plates. I don't know why I used two, I think it looks cool though. I should have used countersunk screws but I was out. I'll fix it later.

Here is the bow skid plate. It doesn't fit perfect, but it fits as good as I could get it considering I had to do the bends at work away from the boat.

A boat that is ready to sail! View from the stern quarter.

And from the starboard bow.

And from the port bow.

I still have no idea if I can even get this thing on top of my car. It is really heavy! Maiden voyage will be dependent on decent weather and getting over a little illness I am struggling with. I am a little nervous about sailing it, to be honest. The Duck Punt sails completely different from any other boat I have owned so I have a lot to learn about how it is handled. I hope it is a fun process! Stay tuned!

Thursday, November 15, 2012

"Smooooth strokes, up and down....

 I have finally found something I hate more than epoxy! I hate primer, priming, paint, painting, and anything to do with a brush, roller, or paint can. Well, there is nothing for it, so I started rolling, and brushing, and cursing. The next time I build a boat I am rolling it right into an auto body shop and having them spray the whole damn thing. I can't believe I didn't think of it before! Genius! 

Still, it is nice to get rid of the hideous plywood/epoxy combo finish and turn the boat sorta white. Unfortunately, it is getting quite cold and although the primer is drying, it is not really curing. I had the Punt upside down while priming the bottom, and after a week of sitting curing the primer still scraped off the hull when I rolled the boat to primer the interior. Either the primer was not fully cured, or it did not fully bond to the epoxy. Either way, I came to the conclusion that I don't really care. I am just going to slap white onto this thing until it's covered, and go sailing! This is not a show boat, as I have said before, and I built it to use, not look pretty. It is going to get scratched up, knocked around, banged by rocks and scraped by beaching. I am going to be patching and painting it anyway, so why should I care if it looks perfect from the start? Unlike having a new car, I am really looking forward to that first legitimate scratch so I can claim it as a real boat! Maybe the paint will finally cure next year...

A couple of views so far, with only one coat of primer-

I guess the next post will be the Punt fully painted. I still have to do some rigging and build that interior plank so we have a few more posts to go before we close this chapter as first time boat builder. Stay tuned!

Monday, November 5, 2012

A milestone!

I had thought for a while that I would never say these words, but...I have finished the "construction" phase of the Duck Punt! With the exception of the rigging and the seating, I installed the last piece of wood this week, and began the arduous process of sanding in preparation for painting. I am so excited to be nearing completion and being so close to having a new boat!

I had a fairly long list of projects left to do last time I posted, so let's take a look at what has been done.

I finally tackled the sheer. It sucks. For whatever reason, the sides are not perfectly symmetrical. Perhaps it was building on uneven ground, on rickety sawhorses that moved whenever I touched the boat; perhaps my measurements were a little off while measuring in the dark; but whatever caused it there is a little bit of asymmetry to the sheer, and a bit of twist in the hull. Nothing that will affect performance, but it will be there to remind me that even the simplest of boats are tricky to build perfectly. It's not bad enough to bother me though, and I know the next boat will be better! Once I was done with the sheer I took a router and rounded it over which you can see in the following photos. It gives the boat a much more finished look.

Below you can see the bow which had that former wicked sharp entry. Unfortunately, I need a flat surface to attach a brass rubstrake to so this is the current bow profile. The Punt is a thin water boat and I expect it is going to be running into things from time to time so the brass rubstrake is an important piece!

In the photo below you can also see that I cleaned up the epoxy mess that I had after sheathing the bottom. Another valuable lesson learned...trim your glass to size before installing it and clean up your epoxy before it cures! Grinding off all the excess was a major workout and such a waste of time when I could have just prepped it better. Well, that's what I get for being lazy. This boat is not going to have a mirror finish, that's for sure! I just scraped and sanded the sides and bottom enough to take off the high spots. I think it is going to look kinda rough but we'll see once there is primer and paint on it. Poor, ugly, little punt...

I drilled out the thole pin holes, and since I knew I was going to be spending a lot of time leaning against the planks I gave them a healthy round-over as well.

I decided to deck over part of the bow and stern. This will add rigidity to the hull and give me a place to tie in floatation if I decide to add some. 

Another view of the bow deck...

...and the stern deck.
You can also see in the photo below that I finally rounded over the frames.

It's the return of "Big Heavy Rock!" 
I finally got the punt on the ground and leveled it out so I could put the mast in and figure out the position of the mast step. I used a laser lever to get the mast plumb and marked the position of the mast step and epoxied it down. BHR was there to hold it fast while the epoxy cured. There was no information on the plans for mast rake or placement so after scrutinizing the youtube videos I came up with a highly scientific method and guessed. Probably good enough...  

A complete(ish) boat!

Another view...

So now the main thing I have left to do is sanding. I am not going to go crazy with it because this is a boat that is going to get knocked around a lot, and I am going to be doing a lot of patching and painting anyway. I like the ten foot rule. If it looks good from ten feet, it looks good enough! I also need to figure out the interior deck that you sit on while sailing the Punt. I have seen people use slats, or a central plank, but the Mersea guys use a single piece of plywood and I think that is probably what I am going to end up doing. I think it will be more comfortable, and keep my gear drier too. I also want to rig a back rest of some kind so I am working on some ideas there too. The next post will have this boat painted so stay tuned, we are almost done!!!!

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Runs, drips, and errors...lots of them!!!

This will be a short post. (Keep the applause down, thank you.)

The weather has made a major change here in Seattle, and summer is over. The rain has begun, the temperature has dropped, and the sense of desperation in the Duck Punt build has become tangible. Once the temperature drops below the 50s, the chance of the epoxy fully curing decreases significantly. Well, I still had a lot to do, so I put in some time in the last decent weather window I had, and started sheathing the bottom in fiberglass. 
I had vacillated back and forth throughout the build, trying to decide whether I was going to sheath the bottom, or just leave it raw plywood and paint it. My reasons for leaving it raw were threefold. One being cost; I knew I would have to buy additional epoxy resin and fiberglass cloth, and I wasn't sure I would want to spend the additional money. Well, I needed to buy more epoxy to finish the build so I certainly had enough to do the bottom, and the glass cloth is not that expensive, so that was a fairly minor point. Two being weight; I really want to keep the Punt car-toppable, and adding glass and resin was going to increase the weight of the boat a fair amount. Unfortunately, by using the heavier Hydratek plywood, and generally "overbuilding" as I have gone along, the boat has turned out to be MUCH heavier than I was expecting. I don't know if it would have been car-toppable anyway, but the adding of glass and resin to the bottom was not significant enough to be a factor. And three being time; I am just damn tired of building a boat, and I want to get my ass out there and use it! (Dylan Winter built one of these in 7 days?!) I knew that sheathing the bottom was going to add a couple of weeks to the overall project, and with winter approaching I was worried that I wouldn't have time to finish before the weather prevented me from doing so. This is the disadvantage of building outside when any smart boat builder has their own shop. That being said, I am reminded of what a friend told me when I was lamenting having to build my boat outside. He said, "The vikings didn't have heated shops with lights and coffee makers, they built their boats on the beach!" So...let's get back to work! Sheathing it is!

First, I layed the cloth out and smoothed it over the bottom of the boat, taking out any wrinkles and making sure it was nice and flat and under a little tension so it wouldn't bunch up as I wet it out with the epoxy. Then I trimmed the sides a little long knowing I was going to be grinding and fairing it smooth later. I used a little blue tape to keep it from moving as I was working with it.

The first coat of epoxy wets out the glass and adheres it to the plywood. It's interesting how the glass becomes translucent when wet. The epoxy is applied with a flat plastic scraper which keeps the resin from being too thick and makes it a consistent saturation into the fiberglass cloth.

The second application of resin fills the weave of the fiberglass cloth and gives a smoother surface. The remaining applications of resin provide enough thickness so that you can sand the surface smooth without sanding into the glass fibers of the cloth. I applied two more coats of resin until the surface was built up enough for my satisfaction. Of course, what happens when you apply a liquid to a horizontal surface? It runs, and sags, and drips, and pools, and makes a general mess. That belt sander is going to get a hell of a workout! Below is the bottom with the fourth coat applied.

Another view...

OK, I admit it, that post wasn't as short as I promised. I hope you are still with me! Now, I will let the bottom coat of epoxy cure for all of this week and hope that by next weekend it will be fully cured so I can flip the boat back over and tackle that sheer. I have a feeling I will be using this thing as a toboggan before I get to use it as a boat.  *sigh* 

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Time to step up... making the mast step.

 I will jump right in because it has been a few weeks and I need to get cracking or this thing won't be done before winter!

The mast step is in fact the next step, as it were. This is the reinforced block that the bottom of the mast sits in to hold it in place, and prevent it from punching through the bottom of the boat (which is considered a bad thing.) I used 3 thicknesses of plywood to build the step, as you can see below. The centerline is marked out and the upper and lower dimensions are marked out to give it a bit of taper. 

Then I use the belt sander to grind it down to the lines. After that I cut through two of the layers of ply to make the cup the mast will sit in.

It is easier to see what I am talking about in this pic. This is just a test fit.

Then back to the belt sander to round over the edges.

And finally the stack of ply is epoxied together. Dowels epoxied in will replace the screws. Final fitting will involve checking the mast height at the thwart and adding epoxy into the bottom of the step to make a strong, hard surface for the mast to actually sit on that will not wear out from the mast pivoting on it.

As you remember if you saw the last post, I had just made the thole pin planks (or oarlocks as I see some people call them who sail duck punts) and they needed to be installed. This was a messy, clampy, rushed process so I will just show you the results! 

Gunwales! I had been agonizing about how to procure some hardwood for gunwales in the correct dimension since I had no power tools that could accomplish the job from rough lumber. I found some oak door trim at the local box store so I grabbed it because the idea of trying to mill lumber at this point was unthinkable. Still, it needed to be scarfed up to be long enough but that was not a problem with my now impressive scarfing skills! This job was made a lot easier by the addition of a belt sander to my tool list.

Once the gunwales were scarfed up it was time to attach them. It turns out they are much stiffer than my battens and as a result they revealed some issues in my sheer line. This became an opportunity to exercise the most important skill I have learned in this entire boat building process. The skill of letting go. In a situation where something has happened and there is nothing you can do about it, you have two options- Stop, or Go. Boats are never perfect anyway, so...  Let's keep going!
It took every clamp I had and could borrow but I attached the gunwales. 

A tricky bit is figuring out how to clamp onto a slippery triangle. The answer is attach another triangle! Sandpaper keeps it from sliding and scrap wood provides a surface to clamp to. It is a good thing I keep most of my scraps!

The first gunwale is on and the second one is clamped up and the glue is curing.

While I had the epoxy out I decided to install the mast thwart support arch. This was another area I made a mistake on waaaay back but I figured out a way to make it work. That thwart is now solid as a rock!

Another view...

And both gunwales are now on!

We are getting pretty darn close to finishing this thing, or so it seems. But then I am foolish enough to look at the "to do" list and it just never seems to get any shorter. Still to come is epoxy and fiber-glassing the bottom of the boat, flushing up the stern and the bow, planing the sheer to its final shape, and then sanding, and sanding, and sanding, and sanding, and sanding, and sanding, and sanding, and sanding, and sanding...and then painting, and etc. *sigh*