Thursday, January 23, 2014

Home Stretch for a Cold Molded Custom Catboat

From this humble beginning (above), we have come all the way to this (below):
This morning we freed the boat of all plastic and tape. The final finish turned out beautifully. It was better than I imagined, but what I had hoped for. Brian did a phenomenal job spraying four coats of semi gloss AwlGrip. Seth and the crew did an incredible job getting the boat to this stage, no doubt about it. The green bottom paint and brightwork will be the zinger to complete the hull. The rig will be the crowning moment, tying it all together.

Bottom paint really makes a difference. 

We are getting closer to looking like the original concept,to what the owners and I had envisioned. There's still much to do but we've peaked and now we're on the descent. By the end of February, we should have a boat ready to sail. 

These photos give the idea of how involved the process gets. It accounts for a thousand big steps and many more smaller ones in between. There is the constant need to helicopter over the whole scene to be sure we're on track, and then zoom back in to the task at hand. This is basic boat building, or building of any kind for that matter. From the first discussion to this point in time, it means staying the course, keeping the original vision in mind, listening to one another, and to the customers. Changes are inherent, but cannot distract from the main objective. Each person has played their part, and so very well. It's almost possible now to dream about how this catboat will perform. That stage has been kept very quiet, although we sense that she'll be a good boat. Back to much more to do!

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Our Cold Molded Custom Built Catboat Gets an Awlgrip Paint Job

Days away from painting there's still so much to do. We opted to paint the boat with a two part Awlgrip paint system. While it is more labor and materials-intensive and expensive up front, we decided that in the long run it will serve the owners well. The durability of the material alone will be a huge savings on yearly maintenance. But the main reason to go with Awlgrip: compatibility with the epoxy cold-molded process. We'd seen enough paint failure and print-through on past projects which were smaller in surface coverage and therefore not as significant to repair. This hull has volume! Add to the volume all the deck hardware, cabin trim and do-dads and repainting this boat would be a horrible annual chore. So that settled the argument!

Today, Brian, Seth and Tait sanded, puttied and re-sanded every spot on the hull in preparation for painting tonight. The boat has been taped off. The shop has been cleared out in case of over-spray. This will be the final finish after thirteen months of hard work.

The second coat has been sprayed on. Brian's mixing up the third coat batch. He's added a flattening agent to subdue the gloss a bit. It is a catboat after all. That is haze from the over-spray. Needless to say, we're all out of there. Brian is suited up with full face respirator. Fans will deploy as soon as the last coat is applied.

Second coat; two more to follow. Tomorrow will be the proof. There's always another coat if we're not happy. From my perspective, it's probably going to be good enough. That's always the defining moment in a shop like ours; just how good should it be? Looking down on the cockpit, I get the sense that this boat is going to be loved, sailed well, full of family and friends all enjoying the day out on the boat. That is the main thing in the end.

Friday, December 27, 2013

A Custom-Built Hurricane Sloop is Shaping Up

The Hurricane sloop we've been building for Bill Ryan is finally nearing completion. It's been a long process since we decided to include a new deck mold in the project. Norah is stunning; a real sleek and fast-looking profile until you get a look at the cockpit. There's so much room! Without skipping a beat on details, we have worked hard to keep the construction simple but stylish; function but beautiful.
The trim on this boat is all teak with varnished coaming and bare seats and floors. The rails have been left unfinished as well. The juxtaposition of eight coats of varnish alongside the unfinished seats is stunning. It will keep maintenance and varnish anxiety to a minimum; an important consideration as far as sailing priorities are concerned. 
The floorboard details are unique and a stand-alone feature that we hope will distinguish our Hurricane from other day sailors. The storage on board is amazing for an open boat. Forward under the deck is a roomy anchor locker. This boat will not have a hatch, opting for easy access to stowed gear. Under the seats are bays that can hold life vests, cushions, and other gear. Cushions would be a lovely option!
The bridge deck serves as storage on Norah. Our first Hurricane, Meander used the bridge deck to store batteries to a Torqueedo outboard. This owner has chosen a sweep! We have designed a simple spruce oar that will stow under the deck out of the way. When needed, it can slip into a rowlock located on the transom.
Not everyone would be comfortable rowing out of a tight spot but this boat is a perfect size and weight to skull. 

It will look like the sweep pictured here on the right. Granted there's no reverse but warping a couple of dock lines could get you out of this situation. Norah will be on a mooring and not docked, and will have a good chance of maneuvering out of tight spots. 

One of the challenges we face as production and custom boat builders is knowing when to draw the line. If the owner is creative and willing, this boat calls out for customization. The cockpit is a prime example. We can configure it to accommodate any design. We are toying with the idea of installing a Mastervolt Pod E Propulsion System in a Hurricane. It may require altering the bridge deck but it's certainly feasible. How wonderful that could be to not have an outboard hanging off such a beautiful transom!

Rigging, hardware and a test sail are next on the order. The spars are made, varnished and ready for the final hardware fitting. The remaining deck hardware just arrived, and those parts will dress up the somewhat barren look very quickly. We are setting up the main sheet system same as Meander. There'll be two cam cleats on port and starboard, allowing sail trim from either side of the boat. It also keeps the cockpit clear of lines and hardware to trip over. Jib sheets will have winches and halyards will run aft for easy access. This boat couldn't be easier to single-hand but has all the modern techno materials to make it thoroughly functional and fun!

December: Our Cold Molded Custom Designed Catboat Takes Shape

The shop is closed for the holidays and the crew is getting a well-deserved break. The next month will be a huge push to finish two custom orders. The Hurricane Norah is ready for all the hardware. But it's this 20 foot catboat that has consumed the shop for the last month. We'll mark the one-year point in a few days, and the Cranmer's have started their punch list. The Mastervolt 3.5 Ultra will arrive at the very end of January.
All the trim has been installed. The bridge deck interior is nearly complete. There's still a floor for the lithium batteries to install, but not before the plumbing. There's a tendency to start to rush after all this time, but we have to go slow, make lists and be sure we've remembered what gets buried below the floor before it is too late!
The hatch is beautiful and functional; best of both. The louvered washboards are ready for installation after the break.

The cockpit sole has finally been permanently installed, tabbed and marked out for the engine hatch. The seat uprights are tacked in. They still need some trimming. Not having the actual engine to measure from made everything very difficult and we almost boxed ourselves into a serious miscalculation. But that's why I prefer to work as a team. Someone is bound to call out the error. We caught it, fixed it and moved on but not without losing a few days in the process.
January will see even greater progress.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

November: Building a Cold-Molded Custom Designed 20 Foot Catboat

November 2013: Paint Plus
Now we're getting somewhere! Steve Smith from AkzoNobel worked with Brian and Seth to prep and spray the non-skid on the house roof and deck. We had decided to add a step in the process by taping off where trim was going so there wouldn't be that awful issue with varnish bleeding under the taped non-skid. We had started doing it with the Classic Cat deck but wished we had created it in the mold. Regardless, it makes is so much easier to apply varnish or other finishes without the headache of detailing afterwards.

We're using Awlgrip throughout on this project, for several reasons: durability and compatibility.We know that Awlgrip boasts a 10 year life span, which sounds good on a hull this size, stored outdoors in Maine. There will rarely be an optimum time to paint. The second and most important reason is compatibility: we'd seen the failure of one part paint on a cold-molded hull before, and seen plenty of print-through. It seemed silly to build the boat so conscientiously only to slap on a one part paint as the final finish. Penny wise, pound foolish as my mother would have said.
The deck and house were sprayed first with two coats, then the cabin and coaming were primed. The final coats of Awlgrip white will be sprayed once all the woodwork is complete. She is beginning to look gorgeous!

October:Building a Cold-Molded Custom Designed 20 Foot Catboat

October 2013: The Dynel Process Part Two
The sequence of wetting out is shown below. One half per day and there's little room for mistakes. The cloth must lay nicely or the crinkles + wrinkles will forever be set in epoxy.
when it's done properly, the results are wonderful. The guys did a perfect job of it.

October: Building a Cold-Molded Custom Designed 20 Foot Catboat

October 2013: The Dynel Process

The house gets a layer of 1/2" plywood which in turns gets puttied, sanded and re-puttied as needed. The companionway opening is cut. Seth has cut some hatch slide dummies to get a sense of things. In the meantime, working off the boat, he's built the centerboard (1" PVC) and installed it. The lifting mechanism needed to be designed around the hanging locker next to the centerboard trunk. All in a day's work.

Dynel is a very fine weave material that runs and snags if there's anything to catch it, making a mess of the cloth pattern we're hoping to maintain. The fabric mimics traditional canvas. Because it's wetted out in epoxy, it really adds an additional layer of protection against abrasion. at the risk of repeating myself, it's all in the preparation.