Caledonia Yawl Project: Naming and Splashing the boat

What a race to the finish line it was yesterday. I knew things would not be perfect and that my list of to dos was too long to have everything done. But I needed to set a day to splash the boat. I was madly leathering the spars and splicing the eyes for the stays.

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And bit by bit people started to stop by and I am grateful for the support and the help I received yesterday. The builder is always really sitting on so much support that allows them to do what they love.

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I put a coin at the base of the mast that happen to be a 2021 pressed Canadian dime of the Bluenose. Which I think is an appropriate choice.

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I ran out of time to rig the main and mizzen sails. But it was really amazing to see the masts up and the jib rigged.

I then took the boat down to the main ramp of the Jericho Sailing Centre and did a little naming ceremony. The boat is called “An aod oolichan” which is a mix of Breton and Chinook languages meaning “The coast oolichan” which to me connects two places and cultures that are important to me. The main fishery in my village in Brittany is the sardine which is a small oily fish that the oolichan kind of evokes for me as an important part of the sea. My boat is not big and so naming it with the name of a diminutive fish seemed appropriate. I also think it will be a coastal boat and so adding the Breton An aod connects it to the coast. It was also the name of my grandmother’s house in Brittany.

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photo credit: Anne Lama
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photo credit: Anne Lama

Then it was time to splash down and do a little sail under jib alone.

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It all went really well and my first passengers were pleased. In 8 knots of wind the boat got up to 2.8 knots under jib alone which bodes well. The centreboard cap plate leaked a tiny bit at the base and the centreboard was a little stiff. So I have little work to figure out how to make that smooth. But overall she floated on her lines and the launch was a success.

More photos from friends to come shortly.

Caledonia yawl project: Spars and rigging

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I made the remaining thumb cleats, jam cleats and fairleads needed just in time to be varnished along with the spars.

I also rounded out the base of all of them that would be attached to a spar, so that they are seated well.

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I also made a copper 6 gauge wire lock for the boomkin brace.

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It rained for a couple days so I moved all the varnishing inside and kept the fan running to help the drying process.

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I’ve also been holding on to pre-1996 pennies that have a high copper content for precisely this use. It is kind of fun to put in some centennial pennies somewhere were they will continue to be admired.

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Then onto making rope strops for the blocs while I wait for the varnish to dry.

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This was a super satisfying moment to see this come together into fully functional blocks. This fiddle block with two eyes was the most complex of them all.

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The dyneema is easy to work with and is so stiff that getting everything snug and tight was relatively easy.

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I have home made, blocks for the main, jib and mizzen as well as the jib halyard.

Today is the eve of my self imposed launch deadline. So I also started doing all the leathering on the spars.

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Tomorrow will be a full day preparing for the launch at the Jericho Sailing Centre. My hope is to be ready by 4pm. I still have to splice the eyes for the halyards, the gaff span and leather the mizzen and boomkin. Then I think the last job will be lashing the sails on and running all the halyards and sheets.

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still a little work to do, but almost ready.

caledonia yawl project: spar building part VII

Progress, progress, progress… it still feels too slow but at the same time it is nice to see things I thought about in advance come into play.

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I had the 6 gauge copper wire for several months and it is quite satisfying to see it work nicely with the home made roves.

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I also did the final shaping of the inside of the jaws with a half round file. In hindsight it would have been better to cut out a semi circle from the but of the spar before gluing and advancing the wedges a little too. But although it took a little more work I think it looks fine.

I finally applied the first coat of Epifanes clear varnish mixed with 50% brushing thinner so that it penetrates into the wood as much as possible.

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It is such a satisfying feeling to finally stop sanding and apply the finish to the wood. I did realize that I had not completed all the little thumb cleats that need to be added to the spars and will need to be varnished. So I started on that this afternoon. I’ll keep at it tomorrow morning so that the next coats also cover the cleats as well.

Caledonia Yawl Project: Spar Building part VI

The boom and the yard come second only to the birds-mouth mast in complexity. The jaws required some attention to detail.

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shaping the yard

The process of going from a square piece of glued up wood to a tapered cylinder is now becoming familiar. But there are still individual particularities to each piece as you have to read the wood and each facet might require planing in a different direction to avoid grain pull out.

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I started to decorate the place with the draw-knife cuttings which are so much fun when they are the full length of the spar.

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Careful mapping of the facets when you get from 16 sided to 32 sided is worthwhile. I found that marking the 32 edges then helped me keep track of where I was when I cut it down to 64 sides. On the yard that ends up being just one or two passes with the planer set very fine. It is in my mind the trickiest part of the process.

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After sanding the yard with 36, 60, 80, 100 and 120 grit sandpaper I was onto the boom. The time spent making this spar gauge based on Harry Bryan’s design in Wooden Boat magazine 277 was worth it but it was kind of bittersweet to think this was one of the last times I’d use it for awhile. (note: I still might use it to make the oars)

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The jaws require a transition from round to square which is an extra challenge when shaping the spar. In the end once marked it is relatively easy to do.

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I still have some of the reclaimed Honduran mahogany that was pulled out of home demolitions by a renovation contractor who was retiring and selling off their stockpile of old window and door frames. I now wish I’d bought more for future projects. But for this project I have enough.

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As per Ian Oughtred’s plans he specifies the jaws should be 22mm thick and made of two pieces. I added a 5mm marine ply to the mahogany to get to 25mm and it will do well to reduce the chances of splitting along the grain on this curved piece.

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I’m also attempting to make some copper rivets according to the September 2015 Small Boats Monthly article by Christopher Cunningham for the yard and boom jaws. I was able to order #6 gauge copper wire and I’m using some leftover 1/2″ copper pipe for the roves.

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spokeshave for the transition from round to square
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The last ridge going from 8 sided to 16 sided on the boom. The last spar!

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Marking the ridges from 32 to 64 sides on the boom and then shaving them down.

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Gluing the jaws layup with the wedges so that I can do some further shaping before gluing them to the yard and the boom.

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Gluing the boom jaw pieces together.

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Then shaping the pieces into something that looks relatively nice. I used the Japanese rasp, the block plane, the spoke shave, the belt sander and the random orbital sander to get it into it’s desired shape.

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The boom and yard jaws dry fitted.

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… and then all glued up. Tomorrow I’ll do the final shaping on the yard and boom and some sanding of the epoxy. All the spars will get sanded down to 150 grit tomorrow and all set up for varnishing. I’ve also got a bunch of little fittings to make that will need to be screwed onto the spars. Most are just little thumb blocks, but I also have to make the jib fairleads. I’m getting close to being able to rig it all up.

Caledonia Yawl Project: Spar Building PartV

The race to be done for my vacation is still on. But I’ve resigned myself to the reality that the first week of my vacation will be spar making and rigging the boat. The finishing line is in sight, but there is still so much to do.

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I’ve tackled the main mast shaping going from 8 sided down to 16 sided, then 32 sided and 64 sided.

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I used a used West Systems thickening powder container as a sanding backer and pulled out some sand paper left over from sanding my floors a couple years ago. I started with 36 grit to cut down the corners. Then 60 grit, and 100 grit sandpaper.

Sanding, sanding more sanding

This was hard work and Vancouver this summer is going from one heat wave to another. Fortunately I went out an bought a large ventilation fan that I mounted to the rafters of the shed. This has worked wonders to help me keep cooler while I work up a serious sweat sanding.

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I then cut the mast head to a smaller diameter with a router. This will create a nice saddle for the shrouds to loop onto the top of the mast.

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I did most of the shaping with the Japanese rasp and finished with the random orbital sander.

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I think the scalloped ends of the plug and birdsmouth look really cool.

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Using this portable guide I drilled the ends of the mortise for the halyard sheaves.

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The tricky part was drilling the hole for the axle at 90 degrees to the mortise.

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I’ve also sanded the sprit boom and the boomkin and finished the ends on those.

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Then onto the mizzen mast. Where I experimented with the difference of using the power planer.

And using the drawknife to cut down from a tapered square to the 8 sided shape.

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My conclusion is that with the drawknife guides it is much easier to control and likely just as fast as the power planer. If kept sharp it is almost easier and certainly quieter and less messy overall. It is way easier to pick up the shavings than vacuum up all the sprayed chips sent out by the power planer. I found it gets me quite close to where I need and then I can just finish it off with the jack plane and the block plane.

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The mizzen mast is now complete. I now have three days to complete the main boom and yard. Then I will lay everything out and varnish them with 6 coats.

Caledonia Yawl Project: spar building IV

This summer it is now a race to have the rigging done before we take our vacation in the second half of August. My intention is that we have the boat ready for some day trips and camp cruising. I’m setting a deadline for myself. So over the last month I’ve been regularly plugging away at the spars. I started with the most complex being getting the main mast glued up.

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I cut the taper on each of the 8 staves which was tricky as they are small pieces and hard to keep square when vertical as the birdsmouth cut did not have two even ends to rest on.

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I ended up resting them on their sides and planing them with the block plane at 90 degrees. it was easier to clamp and not too hard to keep things square.

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The next step was to make the 8 sided top and bottom plugs for the mast. The top plug had to be long enough to cover the area needed for the halyard sheaves. So i made it 50 cm long as I will have the sheaves one on top of the other instead of side by side.

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Dry fitting the top plug into the tapered mast. That was the more complex part of the exercise. Getting the inner diameter taper right. Fortunately this does not have to be perfect as a little space can be filled my thickened epoxy.

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Mapping the taper of the the base plug of the mast I decided should be longer and go as high as to where the boom rests against the mast. Partly because I’m thinking of fixing the cleats for the halyards onto the mast and would like to have more material for the screws to grab onto.

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Testing the diameter of the base plug with an off cut of the main mast staves. This piece was longer and the taper a little trickier to get right as it covered both a flat section and the reverse taper at the base.

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Then I cut out a taper of material on the inside of the mast plug to ensure there are no hard edges that could impact the flex of the mast or create a breaking point.

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Finally everything was ready for gluing. I decided to do this in two steps. gluing up the staves in two clamshells by taping two of the birdsmouth sides. This will allow me to then on the second step to glue in the plugs and the remaining two stave edges.

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I put all six of the staves to be glued upright and slathered them in unthickend epoxy and then squeezed the microfiber thickened epoxy with a piping bag.

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14″ Zap straps worked great to clamp it all together and a bag of 100 was way more than needed. But we have my friend’s two masts for his Penobscot 17 schooner rig to do later. I did use vice grip pliers to pull the zap straps tight. I found this really made a difference.

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Once the epoxy cured overnight I was able to open up the clamshell and remove the clear packing tape I’d used. I did a little clean up of the squeeze out epoxy on the inside where the plugs would go using a heat gun and a small scraper.

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But left things as the are for the rest of the mast. I also decided not to coat the inside with epoxy. my reasoning is that it might be worthwhile to let the wood breath on the inside. There should not be any water ingress or holes in the mast.

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Then the final glue up of the main mast with both plugs well coated in thickened epoxy.

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It was such a pleasure to get to this point and see this complex interlocking set of small pieces of wood come together into a solid monolith.

I will weigh this mast as in theory you save approximately 35-40% of the weight by building it this way. It is however a significantly longer process to make. Some advantages is that you can work form smaller stock and with a few scarfs not necessarily have to have full lengths that you need. Building a solid mast with two pieces glued to each other however would be much faster and for a boat this size with sitka spruce maybe not yet unmanagable as far as weight. I’d be a little more reticent if I had to work with douglas fir which is very strong but also heavier. I feel very fortunate to have had the time to source sitka spruce.