Making Hay

 Winter Wheat, Start of Summer


(to start of project)

Pastures are smooth again from a first cut. Winter wheat is followed with corn, green shoots poking up through straw stubble, and what hasn’t been bailed or reaped is tall in Chicory, Day Lilies and Queen Anne’s Lace. In a few days the Solstice will pass, and we’ll enter a third season.

The local paper did a story on the boat project, and now people in town stop me to ask about it. From these conversations I learn many things. For instance, that someone I’ve known for years used to surf competitively as a teenager, and made his own custom boards. Things like that.

We threw a garden party birthday for the First Mate, attended by lady poets, writers, musicians and artists, and the preparations took precedence. We’re also trying to find a car for Em, since her sister got the one they shared. Life intervenes.





In the meantime, snatching a half hour here and there to work on the boats reduces progress to a slow trickle – a row of planks get snuck in, then lights off again for a few days – but it’s progress. You take what you can get. After three weeks, the decks are nearly closed up, almost ready for sanding and glassing.





Except for the slow pace, this part is surprisingly easy going. You could do it all in about four days, if you had four days. Bungies and a few clamps set the bend, and the hot glue holds it.





The Cypress is nice to work with – smooth, consistent and well behaved. My grandmother, on my father’s side, grew up in the brackish swamps on the edge of the Dismal Swamp in North Carolina. Her brothers and cousins were watermen of one kind or another – a tug boat engineer, a sailing yacht delivery captain, and such. She always kept a smooth polished Cypress knee with her wherever she and my grandfather moved. It was an odd looking otherworldly thing, like a stalagmite from a deep cave, about two feet tall, and usually stood on an end table or the bar. I realize now it was a little piece of home she carried with her everywhere, and must have reminded her of that strange world where she lived as a little girl, where the ground was mostly water, and there were more bears and bobcats and alligators than neighbors. It will be nice to have some of it on the boats.








The folks who’ve done their decks in mahogany plywood have had trouble getting the prescribed crown in the foredeck. To get the wood to lay down they usually have to shave off the tops of the frames. Since almost all the boats I’ve seen were done this way, it seems odd to see a deck with the actual shape shown in the plans. I keep rechecking the measurements to make sure I haven’t made a mistake, but everything checks out. It just doesn’t look as flat and trim as a ply deck. The incomplete stripping only adds to the effect, so at first it was really worrisome. Now the lines are beginning to take shape, though it still looks a little proud.









Molds ready for decking


(to start of project)

At this point, the interiors are ready for finishing and framing. Since I’ve built the deck camber and crown into the molds, though, I want to use those as forms for stripping the decks. The partially finished decks will then come off while the interior work is completed. Most normal people would build all the framing and then strip the decks down directly on top. There’s a small problem with that, though:

Boat designers and naval architects take exquisite care in modeling, measuring and plotting out the hulls of boats. The rest? Not so much. Continue reading “Decking”

Cypress Strips & Visitors

Emily helps make sawdust


(to start of project)

The girls are home from college for the summer, so when it came time to rip the Cypress into all those little strips I got some help. Saturday we did the ripping. I didn’t think I could rip to consistent widths, so ripped them all to 3/8”, leaving room to plane them down to an even 1/4”. Turns out my fence jig worked well enough I probably could have done without the planing, but a pass through the planer on each side cleaned them all up nicely. It will save on sanding later I suppose. Continue reading “Cypress Strips & Visitors”

Flipped & Scraped

North hull ready for framing


(to start of project)

Flipped both hulls this weekend, and added braces to the strongbacks to hold everything steady for framing and decking. Scraping glue drips off the insides went pretty quick, as there was minimal glue squeeze out, and what was there just popped right off. I’m changing the order of things a bit, so won’t do the final sanding and glassing of the interiors for a while yet. Continue reading “Flipped & Scraped”

Mountain Orchards

Apple Orchard in Bloom, Blue Ridge

We drive through the little valley below Jefferson’s Monticello every day. Up above Monticello, along the ridge of Carter’s Mountain, is an orchard and vineyard with wide views of the Piedmont to the East and the Blue Ridge to the West. We’ve been going there since the kids were small, picking warm peaches in summer, pumpkins for Halloween, then apples and cider right up to first snows. In Spring, cycles of bloom sweep over the ridge like vast, slow moving clouds, starting first with the cherries. Continue reading “Mountain Orchards”