Sunday, February 10, 2013

BBY - Week 6

Week 6 involved mass amounts of fiberglass. On Monday, we arrived at work to find the vacuum bag stripped off the starboard side and the port side already coated with epoxy. By the end of the day Monday, even the vacuum bag was in place, allowing us to do a morning infusion on Tuesday. After laying out the layers for the port side infusion, Will and I were tasked with pulling the peel-ply off the starboard side. This is the final layer on top of the glass and (theoretically) pulls right off to give the correct finish to the fiberglass... And come off it did. Very, very slowly and with a lot of effort. And apparently the sight of a 5' 2" girl attempting to strip peel-ply is enthralling enough to merit all sorts of commentary and encouragement from those working on nearby projects... If nothing else, I added to the entertainment value of the day.

The new Sonny as of Monday afternoon
Tuesday's infusion went even better than Friday's because the shop was a good bit warmer, coming in at an hour and fifteen minutes and cutting at least a half hour off Friday's time. Wednesday was spent stripping the hull of the vacuum bag and numerous layers between it and the fiberglass. Having sat for only a day, stripping peel-ply was much easier than it had been Monday, and nearly all the commentary was congratulatory. After lunch, Will, Doug (another member of the crew working on Sonny), and I set up and infused the transom of the boat.

Sonny with both sides stripped and the transom infused
Thursday, after stripping the transom, Will and I made our way to the third floor to help sand the doors providing access to the engine compartment. In the meantime down at the boat, the rudder post hole was being drilled. Based on stories going around, in the past, a similar hole could take days to drill. However, with a schmancy borrowed electromagnet mounted drill and a massive hole saw, this feat was accomplished in a measly three hours.

Chris in the boat with the schmancy drill
Brian on top of the boat with the shaft that guides the scmancy drill
And the hole is complete!
Friday morning entailed a fair amount of cleaning until our supervisor Brain found us and told us we got to go on a field trip! So we climbed in Brian's car and drove off into the budding blizzard to a little speed shop called The Toy Box (from which the schmancy drill was borrowed, hence the visit). Once there, however, there was absolutely no sense in not looking around, so we checked out the engine that belongs to the runabout Pardon Me that BBY will begin restoring soon.
Giant engine... Very fun.
Along with the engine there were a few restoration projects giong on in the shop and the proprietor's small collection of absolutely gorgeous toys. Any one of which I would not mind having as a future Christmas present... So much fun. After dragging a drooling me away from the beautiful cars, Brian decided to take us over to Brion Rieff Boat Builders ( for a tour of their yard. Brion Rieff was kind enough to show us around all the different projects they had going on as well as showing us around his design office and original designs. All in all it was quite a field trip! Once we got back to work, we fit sound insulation to the doors we sanded on Thursday before heading home a bit early to prepare for the incoming blizzard. Almost two feet of snow later, all is well and we never even lost power!

Sunday, February 3, 2013

BBY - Week 5

The first part of this week was spent fairing the hull of Sonny. This is a three step process. First, all the major lumps and inconsistencies in the depth of planks was taken off with grinders. After that, we went over the entire hull with long jack planes to make sure the hull was fair on every axis. This process took the better part of two days, after which we were pretty worn out. Once the whole hull had been planed smooth and shiny, we used 30" longboards (AKA torture boards) to get the topsides 100% fair. This was a time consuming and monotonous process. About a half-dozen of us lined up and sanded the whole length of the hull. Each of us went down the entire length four or five times and then we dropped the staging 6" and repeated. It was worth the work, however, because the hull was quite fair once we were finished.

Part of the stern planed smooth
The entire boat planed. 

One afternoon we got to help attach the deadwood to the top of the keel. The lead keel was cast up in Canada and shipped down here a week or two ago. the deadwood, which goes between the lead and the hull, was built here out of laminated mahogony. The two needed to be joined together. The holes through the deadwood for the keelbolts were a very snug fit, so in order to get it tight against the keel we worked for about 45 minutes torquing all the nuts on the keelbolts with extra long wrenches and hitting the deadwood with a sledgehammer. Fortunately brute force works, and we eventually got it worked down far enough.

Fiberglass! Everyone here seems to have a love/hate relationship with this stuff... A layer of fiberglass really makes maintenance of these boats much easier, but few enjoy working with it

After the hull was faired, we got it set up for fiberglass. There is one layer of fiberglass infused on the outside of the planking. We did each half of the boat separately.

Brooklin is one of the only yards doing fiberglass infusions of this sort, and being on the bleeding edge of wooden boat technology can be a bit experimental. This is the largest boat that they have infused here. Although infusion is common in composite yards, slightly different techniques have to be used with wood. This is the first time they used a coating of epoxy underneath to try to prevent the wood from sucking up too much epoxy. We'll see Monday how well that worked out.

Coating of epoxy on starboard underneath the glass. Doing the coat of epoxy only took about 20 minutes from the time we started - I was quite surprised at how quickly it went.

Fiberglass cloth layed over the hull

A layer of peel-ply over top of the fiberglass so that everything above the fiberglass will pull right off once the glue is cured.

A layer of perf-plastic that allows the resin to flow while preventing the peel-ply from getting totally encased in epoxy, in which case it would not peel and we'd be in all sorts of trouble.

Breather layer

Flow tubes for the resin with an extra breather layer along the center line. This is all that goes under the bag

Setting up the vacuum bag

Setting up the tubes for resin to flow through. Getting all these to not leak took quite a bit of doing.

Infusion time! The epoxy is about 2/3 up the hull. As the resin passes each layer, the lower tubes are blocked off and the upper tubes start sucking resin. That's Kelly in the black sweatshirt

Everything worked so far as we can tell at this point. We'll see Monday how well it actually went
 I actually wasn't working much with the infusion process - I was inside the boat fairing the interior and giving it a coat of epoxy. Kelly got to help with it though. We should be doing the other side early next week.

Elsewhere in the main shop things are progressing on the two 47 footers. We haven't been working on them, but they're right next to Sonny so we can keep a pretty close eye on what's going on.

Getting both 47s in here was a bit of a trick. We ended up moving the staircase to the second floor to the side and  making a few other slight alterations to the building's arrangement.

Interior hatches for the engine compartment on Sonny

Things are tight in the shop with all three boats inside! Off the bow of Sonny you can see the keel and deadwood assembly.

Cabin-top for one of the 47s under construction

The view of center harbor from the third floor isn't too bad...

That's it for last week! This weekend we went exploring some of the inland areas of downeast Maine. It's amazing how few people there are in much of this area. Even driving along the coast, the only areas with anything that might be called a town are little fishing villages with a gas station and sometimes a grocery. It is amazingly beautiful to look over the lakes, mountains, and harbors up here. Man-made stuff will never be able to approach the magnificence of Maine landscapes. 

Monday, January 28, 2013

BBY - Week 4

With week 4 began the final layer of planking. We set three inch wide, five-eighths inch thick mahogany planks longitudinally into a layer of epoxy and screwed them into place with temporary waxed screws that we then removed the next morning after the epoxy was mostly cured. This layer of planking went rather quickly, with only four days of planking total. As the final planks neared, we kept hearing more and more about the final plank that is often referred to as the "whiskey plank." So when the whiskey plank was finally set into place a mere seven minutes before the end of the workday, the mood was jubilant and no one seemed to mind staying at work an extra hour or more... I'll leave the rest to your imagination.

The new Sonny awaiting the "whiskey plank"
The new Sonny with planking complete
Even before the final plank was put into place, all spare hands were set to the task of bunging. This involves drilling out every screw hole in the hull (of which there were thousands), filling the hole with epoxy, and inserting a small mahogany plug (or bung) into the epoxy and hammering it in. These bungs then had to be ground even with the rest of the hull. This task took some of Thursday and nearly all of Friday before the fairing began. Late Friday afternoon, our supervisor took most of the crew downstairs, handed us hand planes, and told us to make the boat shiny.... And shine we did. For two hours on Friday, eight hours today, and what looks to be another full eight hours tomorrow. It's fun, don't get me wrong, but taking a two and a half inch wide blade repeatedly to every inch of a seventy foot sailboat makes for some exhausting work.

The new Sonny bunged, ground, and slowly becoming fair
So looking into the week ahead, we have at the very least one more day of fairing with the hand planes, a day or two of long-boarding (think giant sanding blocks that are manned by at least two people, about five to eight feet long, and six inches wide), and high hopes to apply fiberglass to one side on Friday.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

BBY - Week 3

This week we made a lot of progress on Sonny. We completed the two layers of cold-molded veneers and started the final layer of planks.

After finishing the first layer of fir longitudinal planking last week, we started off this week by dry-fitting the two layers of veneers. these veneers are approximately 1/4"x6" Western Red Cedar. They are aligned approximately 45 degrees off-axis in each direction to add stiffness. The planks were dry-fit at first so they could all be cut to length with the proper angles at the ends and spiled to the proper shape. Since the hull is a complex 3D shape, simply butting the planks edge-to-edge would produce a lot of odd bubbles in the planking with the wide planks we were using.

Starting to fit veneers

First layer completed both sides,  starting the second

Kelly screwing some veneers in place

The starboard side is completely removed and a strip of epoxy has been added so the vacuum bag can get a good seal

Once both layers of veneers had been cut to shape, each board was marked and the temporary screws were removed. Then the fun really started. In under three hours, we had to completely re-plank half of the hull with both layers of veneers  fully saturated in epoxy and secured with nylon staples and then set up a vacuum bag to make sure the glue fully filled the planking. This process took not only everyone working on Sonny, but also many people regularly working on other projects. It was quite interesting to see so much work get done in so little time, however Kelly and I were busy enough with our tasks that we had little opportunity to get any photos while it was going on.

Dry-fitting a breather layer of plastic with holes and a layer of baby blanket

Assembling the vacuum bag after all the veneers are in place

Checking for leaks

Lots of people with their ears to the hull... One tiny leak can prevent the bag from getting enough suction and leads to voids
We got a pretty good seal! It sat in the vacuum overnight

After pealing off the vacuum bag

Dry-fitting the breather layer on Starboard

Pulling the vacuum bag plastic over the wet planking

Both sides cold-molded and smoothed.

After grinding the hull to a reasonably fare shape, we started planking the final layer. This is a layer of mahogany oriented longitudinally. It is going on more quickly than the first layer did and we should be finished planking by the end of next week.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

BBY - Week 2

Week 2 commenced with no small amount of planking on the new Sonny. For us, that meant that while one of us was planking the boat and cleaning up the outside, the other got to have excess epoxy drop onto them sporadically as they tried to clean up the inside of the boat. The planking was great fun... The epoxy cleanup wasn't too bad until you went home and had to try to get it all out of your hair. It didn't seem like quite as much fun at that point.

After a couple days of that, we took epoxy putty and smeared every screw hole and gap in the planks... As you can see, it adds up to an awful lot of putty, but with the entire crew either applying putty or grinding it even with the hull the whole process took just over a day.
The new Sonny after the first layer of planking and puttying
The next day began the placement of veneers, which involves planking the boat diagonally with 6 in wide, up to 18 ft long cedar planks. Luckily these go on dry at this point (cutting down on cleanup immensely) and after only a day and a half of work, we have almost a layer and a half done.
The new Sonny with just over half of the veneers placed
Once two layers have been placed (probably early next week), they'll all have to come off then get put back on over a layer of epoxy and vacuum bagged one side of the boat at a time.

Fun facts from this week; apparently we're from Estonia and my name is Helga... At least that's the story going around the yard.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Exploring Mt. Desert Island

This weekend we went up to Mt. Desert Island for an afternoon. Maine in the winter is absolutely stunning! 
Click on any of these pictures to open a gallery viewer.

Our first stop was Bar Harbor. It was neat to see this town without any of the tourists!

Next we drove through Acadia National Park. Much of the outer loop was impassible for anything but snow-mobiles,  but there were still numerous amazing views accessible. 

Getting to Sand Beach took trip down some stairs which were more like an ice-ramp than anything else, but it was well worth it. The combination of snow, mountains, beach, icicles, and rocks is indescribable.

 We got to Northeast Harbor right at sunset

This is definitely an area we'll go back to!