One of those phrases you will never hear somebody working on boats or with wood say: "I have enough clamps". Today I can say that. After cleaning up the mess inside the mast and adding a layer of varnish for protection, I glued Spark's mast back together, all twenty two and a half feet of it.
With epoxy slightly thickened to just below the consistency of apple sauce to keep it from running all over the place, and to add to it's adhesive properties, I spread it liberally on both sides of the split and then clamped it all together. It took every spring clamp I own, all 58 of them, to accomplish this task with a four to six inch spacing between them. Hopefully this time tomorrow, I can sand off any drips that escaped and begin varnishing anew!
I think I need to get more clamps!
Whomever first came up with this phrase must have been working on a boat.
Last night I sanded the boom down to fresh wood. This task was actually harder than doing the mast as the boom is a square section as opposed to the mast's oval. This meant 4 sides plus the ends all needed to be brought down to bare wood in anticipation of fresh varnish. Thankfully I decided to fill all the screw holes and re-drill them later. The wood was darkened around them where water had used the holes to get in around the varnish and start a little rot.
After purchasing a 1/4" (4mm) dowel, I proceeded to drill out each screw hole to the same size. In doing so some blacked wood shavings came out and at the trailing edge of the boom, the carved in sail track split. Hence the use of the term "It's always something."
But, it could be worse, I might have discovered this little issue on my first sail instead of during preparation for varnish. While not life threatening, It would have quickly brought an end to my sailing for the day and possibly the week until I got it properly repaired.
And of course, the split and the repairs. Thank goodness that as a boat builder and restorer, I follow the rule that "you can never have enough clamps". I only needed three, but they were right there for the use after I applied some thickened epoxy. Tomorrow I sand again and can hopefully start varnishing!
In the heyday of sailing ships, Britain's famous "wooden walls" and the fledgling United States Navy, being "before the mast" meant you were an ordinary seaman, with your quarters in the Forecastle, or ahead of the mainmast. Officers lived towards the stern where there was more room and a more gentle motion than the bow's constant breaking through waves and wind.
In Spark's case, I meant it as the mast is finally being worked on. I have most of her repairs done. Holes have been glued shut with dowels, the split at the top of the sail track has been repaired, and I now have the first coat of varnish on. I still need to glue both halves back together, but I wanted to get a few layers of protective varnish on the wood before I got to that point. Next week, I hope.
Being the first layer of varnish, do not expect much. The wood is dry and "thirsty" and simply soaked it in. It will not be till I get about three or four layers on that the magic will start to happen.
First the repairs:
The plugs are where somebody thru bolted the hounds on, and the top of the last had a split in the carved in sail track. I needed to epoxy that back together before I could sand and varnish. I hope it holds or I will have to 'glass it and paint the top of the mast white to hide the repair.
And now the varnish:
You can see the colour difference between freshly sanded and varnished. I would love to know what wood was used in building this mast. I am thinking some variation on Fir or Spruce due to it's lightness. but I do not know enough about wood to be certain.
To the superstitious sailor -everything. Poseidon, Greek god of the seas, does not take kindly to boats and ships without names or those that have been renamed without ceremony. Even disregarding the ancient Greeks and the Romans that usurped their lands and gods, every boat needs a name, even if just for safety's sake. To make a call to the United States Coast Guard from "art's boat" simply does not take the same consideration as a call from the "Sailing Vessel Spark".
With that in mind, Spark's transom is coming along nicely with the mahogany taking on a nice reddish glow below 5 layers of varnish. You can still see the marks and scars, but it is still a pretty stern. Having gotten to the point, consideration was made to affixing her proper name to that lovely wood. In this regard, computers and printers make it so much easier than before!
After choosing a font, one that was neither too serious nor too frivolous, it was time to choose a size. I printed up three different variations and casually taped them to the transom to see how they look. Remember that Spark has an outboard rudder that bisects the stern, so the name has to be both offset and small enough to fit half the size yet still be large enough to be read.
Starting with the small.
It is just a little too small. It does not fit the space properly and would leave too much to be desired in reading from a distance.
Medium is the one I think I prefer, now I am not too sure. It leaves just the perfect bit of blank space between the side of the transom and the rudder and is easier to read from a distance without overpowering the stern.
And now for Large:
Much easier to read and still gives a nice bit of wood showing between the letters and the defined edges of the space. I am caught between the Medium and the Large. Originally I preferred the medium while I was working on Spark, but in the pictures I think the Large looks better. I need to think about this for a set before I finally decide. Still, is progress!
It's funny, I approached varnish with a lot of trepidation. I imagine part of it was unfamiliarity, but a lot was expectation. Being around boats quite a bit, I have seen some truly varnished pieces of work, and I had this feeling I could never live up to that sort of goal. Today, I cannot claim to be an expert in varnish, but I can admit to enjoying the process.
Spark's transom, being solid mahogany, is a wonderful place to play with varnish. The warm reddish hues really jump out in the light with a slick coating of varnish over the wood. Thus far I am on my third coat, lightly sanded between. Already the finished product is teasing me. If it looks this good now, what will it look like under another five coats?
Obviously the first coat barely came up at all, the mahogany drew most of it deep into it's pores, cracks, and crevices, the Second looked better, and now the third, is turning out wonderfully. I just wish she was not stern in so I could back up further to get a better view.
There is an unfortunate side effect to all this... I really want to sand down and varnish Spark's deck. I promised myself I would not touch it or her topsides till after St. Michaels in October, but the urge gnaws at me as it grows
Mahogany is one of those woods that just looks right cleaned up, sanded down, and glistening under a coat of varnish. It has a wonderful reddish tone that looks rich and deep under the bright light of day. It particularly looks lovely with the dancing reflections of wavelets beneath it. If there is a proper wood for a stern to be, Mahogany is it.
Spark's transom is solid Mahogany, a solid half inch thick board that spans the width and breath of her stern. It's a little battered, my GP earned her scars with a 55+ years of existence, the first part of which she was used exclusively for club racing, as most GP14s were in this area. To remove those scuffs, scars, dents, and such would require a lot of sanding and planing to get it pristine. I wouldn't do that to Spark, she's an old lady and those scars, marks, and scuffs are part of her charm. If I really wanted a pristine boat, I would have bought one.
When last we left, I had filled in the screw holes from the old gudgeons and pintles with mahogany dowels, set in epoxy and hammer in before being cut off flush. I sanded them down smooth today and got the first of many coats of varnish down. You have to let each layer dry, so roughly 24 hours between coats. Ignore what looks like streaking, that is the corrugated metal of my storage bin reflecting in the fresh varnish.
Firstly, the transom all smoothly sanded and ready to do. I did miss a bit of epoxy residue, but that should not make a difference.
And now for the first coat of Schooner Varnish 96. I applied it very thin and "dry" to let the wood soak it in. It's been a long time since this transom saw any liquid, so I am sure the varnish was sucked in deep.
Only seven or so coats to go before I can apply "Spark" to her transom and make it all official.
Spark, being a traditional built GP14, was fitted with stainless "holt allen" hardware. While perfectly serviceable, it failed to meet my expectations for how such hardware should look. Much of it, as fitted to a once racing dinghy such as Spark, was also undersized, or in the case of racing, "just enough" to satisfy any rules and regulations. I also prefer bronze of the looks of SS.
Soon to be sitting proudly on the foredeck will be this lovely bronze cleat, reminiscent of the original holt allen piece, but more robust and with more style.
While this week was not a good one for working on anything, or going sailing for that matter, due to the heat and the massive swarms of greenhead flies, I did manage to get some work done. One of the very few places I found any rot on my GP was on the stern where the lower gudgeon pin attached. The screws had obviously pulled out in the past and had been replaced with machine screws and nuts. Perfectly serviceable, but it did not keep the water out of the mahogany. The repair was easy, I drilled it out oversized and filled it with a mahogany dowel that had been covered in epoxy. Once it hardens, I can sand it flush and varnish over it.
I think the new gudgeon pin will look just lovely on Spark's pert little polished stern.
And last, but certainly not least, the drain plugs. The GP14 as designed has two half inch drains built into the stern to let water aboard escape when underway. All well and good, but of you put any weight on the stern and submerge them, water will come rushing back in. The plastic tubes were also past their sell by date and needed to be replaced. These two bronze drains are JUST the right size as the bottom of the flange just sits flush with the bottom. JUST! They can either be set to either barely drain by unscrewing them half way to expose a small drilled "weep" hole or removed completely to allow full drainage.
Some racing "GeePs" use drainage flaps to more quickly drain the boat in the event of spray or knockdown. As I will be using Spark as more of a day sailor and camp cruiser, I would prefer not to let water in when I an trying to rest, so you will not being seeing anything like these flaps on her stern.
Things have been quiet. Not as in nothing is going on, but It is tough to give updates on multiple coatings of varnish and paint -no matter now nicely they are coming along!
Things are slowly coalescing into something boat and trailer shaped though. To pass the time, I thought I would throw a few things out for all to see that I am indeed serious.
Numbers: Save for lifeboats, Canoes, kayaks, racing and rec shells, surfboards, and dinghies used solely between mother ship and land, all boats in NJ are required to be registered. I got Spark's numbers made up by the fine folks at Chesapeake Light Craft ( www.clcboats.com/ ) make mine up in some white vinyl to contrast with Spark's dark green hull.
And for a bit of dry humour, as I own two sailboats, both of which are on trailers, I had a pair of license plate frames made up.
All that waits now is to finish up the varnish. On the second coat now, five more to go! and then some French Whipping to clean it up and make it more hand friendly and it is done!
Between Spark's Centreboard in bad but serviceable condition and my own need towards perfection, it was inevitable that I would be doing some work here. So far I have completely reinforced the "handle" and the trailing edge where it smacks up against the hull when raised. Having done this with epoxy and glassfibre, I spent part of the morning sanding it all smooth before slathering the entire board in epoxy.
Tomorrow I sand again and then a bit of pre-kote primer before I can paint the entire thing in Kirby's "Ivory" and installing it back into Spark.
My new hardware I ordered from the UK has arrived as well. This includes a new bolt with rubber lined washers to keep the water where it belongs, a bump stop at the top of the centreboard case, and a new "brake" to stop the board where I want it.