A Modest Proposal – Parts 2.7 and 2.8


Dan’s plan

“After a week or more of this totally disgusting slave labor, I had been edging toward a hiatus of some sort. But, tonight, as soon as I had managed a mostly miraculous (imaginary) effort to twist and dock with an expanded committee of grizzled fishermen and local loungers arrayed to watch breathlessly – in my own mind, at least -suddenly the normal tables were quite dramatically turned.”

A Modest Proposal – Part 2.7

I think the guys that know this stuff call it a cognitive dissonance. I’m supposed to be one of those guys. But, it’s late; and my edition of the DSM is woefully outdated. Anyway. Some sorta’ dichotomy, at least.

I’ve been swamping out this endless supply of soggy foam, plywood-turned-to-crepe, and once-robust 2 X 12 fir stringers – now gone to a couple stages removed from fossil. Yep. Started another one. Not really on the priority list for this month. Not really on the gottahaveit list for the whole cotton pickin’ Building Season, if you ask SWMBO. But, I’ve been rather aggressively getting this hull “to a stage where I can roll it into the shop, and put it away for a while.” I’ll bet you know somebody just like that.

It’s been a real bugger. The Planning Department might put an hour on the board. When I turn in my time sheet, that same damn task is still incomplete after a day or two or even three! I think I’m up to more than 800 pounds of rotten and soggy stuff that I’ve had to reduce to little chunks and piles and cram into contractor bags. That stuff just keeps coming out. Like a constipated hippo in the laxative aisle. I’ve been pulling and chipping and kicking this stuff free of the thin fiberglass hull (lotsa’ chopper gun) so much; the remainder of the shell is wobbly and giggly. Sorta’ like an open-toed combat boot with no laces in the mud pit-to coin another allegorical gem on extremely short notice and very tight budget.

You could say that I’ve kinda’ begun to lose interest. Thoughts of just sending the whole remaining mess off to the land fill have crept into my cognitively dissonating place. Thank you very much. So, about knock off time tonight, I just sorta’ sat in where the aft cockpit will go in a week or so – if I keep showing up for work, that is.

Before I knew it, I was off towing this putative bunkhouse barge across an imaginative body of water. There, I was. Cognitively picturing Miss Kathleen with ol’ Mobius under tow. We were veering warp, and coming alongside, and doubled up on the hook in deserted coves – someplace well north of 48 degrees, to judge by the tree cover and lack of cars and horses and people and houses on those shores.

Then it hit me slam-upside-the-head.

After a week or more of this totally disgusting slave labor, I had been edging toward a hiatus of some sort. But, tonight, as soon as I had managed a mostly miraculous (imaginary) effort to twist and dock with an expanded committee of grizzled fishermen and local loungers arrayed to watch breathlessly – in my own mind, at least -suddenly the normal tables were quite dramatically turned.

I’m convinced this old hull has been clinging to life as she once knew it. Before the cancer took all her vital organs. Before, a significant oversight on my part split the engine block with ice from water still trapped in the cooling galleries over the cold months of last winter. Life as she must have known it, back a half-century ago when she was shiny and new and loved by her original owners. She and I, even had a brief history.


But, that was all “before.” Lately, she’s been clinging to that bygone moment, and simply FIGHTING ME over what I think is her only chance for a useful future. Anyhow.

There I was, just sitting and kinda’ recovering from another session of pulling vinyl sheets from her interior topsides, prying even more rotted wood and soggy foam from the bilge, etc. Just sitting, and trying to imagine a different future for the two of us. It was short and limited at first. But, before long, she was talking to me! Yep.

Well, your boats talk to you, don’t they? Sure they do.

As I got the old mental etch-a-sketch down from that sawdusty shelf, and began to trace lines across and throughout the still-in-excavation cabin interior; she started to talk back. Hey, I’ve been in the boatwhisperer business as long as anybody. And, this one has been a real hard case. Until, finally, tonight.

Tired, and sore; I just couldn’t quite say, “goodnight.” The two of us just went on, and on, about where the entry companionway should be. The placement of the all-important head-with-door got about a half hour of discussion. Stuff like exterior gingerbread got another 45 minutes. Quite the session.

I can hardly wait to see what the mid watch crew has gotten done, with all those ideas we left scattered all over the shop tonight. I’ll let you know.

This particular frankenbuild has presented a difficult challenge, and I’ve met that challenge with an unusual approach. The problem is centered on the fact that most of the hull stiffness in its former life, came from the flotation foam that was tightly packed from hull shell to rather-expansive plywood floor. Now that I have removed the foam, and other debris from most of the hull, the darn thing is overly flexible. Downright wiggly.

And, my solution has essentially boiled down to simply ignoring the problem. Well, I can’t literally ignore this state of affairs. But, I’ve done almost nothing to re-stiffen the hull. And, for once, I more or less am at a loss for words to try and describe what’s going on here. That cambered cabin top is probably 100 pounds. It did take a close-to-herculean effort to get it suspended in about the right spot in the air over the boat. I say, “about the right spot,” as this top thing is a bit wracked, and leaned over to one side. Just a wee bit. But that sort of thing happens when one does this sort of thing.

Call it smoke and mirrors; but I’m stiffening the bottom and suspending the top, by pushing out on the sides. Sort of. Honestly, I’ve never gotten into one of these frankenbuilds where there was less of the original structure, still in place, to attach too. So, this will either work, OK. Or, not at all.

I put a sort of floor pan between where the stringers used to sit in all their chopper-gun-tabbed-in-place glory. This was framed with conventional cedar 2×4 stock and a two foot wide piece of half-inch mdo.

A bit wiggly in its own right. But, I had to be able to pick it up and shape the underside to match the residual globs of chopper gun tabbing. And, three-quarter was probably gonna’ be too hard to manhandle. Soooooo, to continue with the Jell-O and marshmallow sandwich.

The still-missing piece is how I think I’m gonna’ connect the floor with the gunn’ls. The deck has a conveniently placed flat running more or less parallel from bow to stern.

Turns out, there was room to stick a 2×4 up there and hang it with deck screws (in tension.) Then, when it came time to replace the “skyhook” holding the top up in space, with legs; the legs were screwed into these 2×4 runs with more deck screws (in shear.)

And, in a bow to cutting down my labor costs-running a crew as big as we have here at Frankenwerke can get really expensive – I stood the top up with more of those from-the-lumber-yard cedar 2×4’s.

Certainly not as elegant as what the Real Boatbuilder Guys would craft carefully from grain matched layers of box elm and rare tropical hardwoods, ersumpin’. But, this allowed some shimming and gerrymandering of the corners and sides until things lined up more or less to “plan.”

Perhaps, you’ve noticed that I function largely without reference to the “P-word.” So, anyhow.

My engineering background is pretty much limited to watching one Volkswagen commercial. Remember the one, where they park a New Bug in front of a Roman archway to demonstrate how a sphere can hold a bunch of weight? So, as a proud graduate of the Volkswagen Commercial School of Engineering, I was able to impress The Boss with this idea. We’ve invested a couple days and about a couple hundred deck screws into this contraption where the top pushes down on the bottom, and the sides push up against the top, and the front and back push against each other with sheer panels and liberal globs of PL premium-and lotsa deck screws.

The interior furniture, which is still just in the Imagineering Phase, will carry the rest of the stress patterns back to the floor pan. Then, when everything is sort of happily trying to tear itself apart, I’ll probably come back with chunks of bi-ax glass and Duck’pox to tab the legs to the gunnl’s and hull gussets to the wobbly topsides.

In order to cut down on some of the weight above current CG (as if I could in any way calculate THAT squirmy little equation), the substrates for future exterior and interior panels are only quarter-inch ACX.

Lots easier on the ol’ hands and wrists and knees in all the ladder climbing and repetitive runs to saw and sanders. But, the “trademark” wood staving will in some fashion glue to these panels and give them – hopefully – the required stiffness. At least they’ll look better than the rough stuff right now. This will also allow for a double wall and insulation scheme throughout the walls and top. After the windows get cut in (dunno if it’ll be port holes or arches or some other tomfoolery, yet.)

Amazing what you can learn by watching commercials, eh?

A Modest Proposal – Part 2.8

The transmogrification of ol’ Mobius the stinkpot has been running apace. One of the biggest rewards for this sawdust-to-prose conglomeration I attempt to maintain is that I have a fairly extensive group of “Usual Suspects” to correspond with. I’ve had the good fortune to meet boatfolk from all over the place. Some of these guys and gals I’ll never likely even get to talk to in person. But, I do hear back from quite a few-especially when my Frankenwerke crew is up to something a bit more outlandish than normal. This current project has attracted a pretty wide range of comment.

Normally, I don’t line up words with names, but it’s fun to toss in an excerpt here and there. Both plus and not-so-plus, as they come “over the wire.”

“damn, you are good, Dan – keep it coming – wish i lived closer! (You have a coffee pot in there somewhere, right?) I had visions of towing a small bunk cabin just like that when I owned my little tug, but that’s not too practical now. So I am enjoying your writing and works vicariously! ”

“Visited my to-be engineer son over the past couple of days in Bozeman. When asked for critique of my rough drawings of my sailboat conversion all he says is,”Looks good to me”. I’m thinking he just wants to see me get with it and go fishing on this boat or maybe camping on Ft. Peck for a week. (This one, from a fellow Frankenbuilder)”

“I remember once at Hooper’s where a young guy showed up with a small keelboat that he had removed all the interior structure. It wiggled until we installed floors and a cabin sole and a couple bulkheads. He had gotten in over his head.”

“Been enjoying the dialog and pix on ‘yur’ projects. BUT, I’m also amazed to notice how you continue to be such a ‘glutton for punishment’ ‘O’ the ‘ol’ bod and wallet. BUT!, yah – but, I also hate to see you ‘spinnin yur wheels’ on these potentially neat projects. ‘Whaddua’ mean ‘spinnin yur wheels’? Well I’m glad you asked. ”

“Building a boat from scratch is far easier than trying to fit a barge into a too small of a hull. A square plywood barge would be very easy to build and it could do a much better job than what you are planning. I would be happy to design it for you if you are willing to listen.”

“Fun to get your updates on the project – gotta wonder at this point if the combination of structural compromise of the hull and top-heavy effect of the superstructure could render the vessel unsafe in all but flat water conditions? Asking for a friend :-)”

I know there have been quite a few more over the past week. But, this former career navy “admin puke” has become decidedly sloppy in record keeping in the intervening years. I suppose age, deteriorating memory, and “eye problems” have something to do with that. I just can’t see myself getting too fired up over repetitive, non-creative stuff anymore-like filing and record keeping. Believe me, this current project has taken on a rather creative air.

It’s also “gone 3-D” very quickly. In fact the night shift guys got it together, last night, and completed the basic interior framing.

This is part of the facing berths/couches up forward. Those “vertical” faces are leaning over at 15 degrees. In order to get six-foot headroom, I did have to make the floor area pretty narrow, and down into the basement, as far as practical. Sooooo, one of the ergonomics consultants that drop by our morning staff meetings suggested that we could open up knee room a bit by trying this idea. Obviously, the jury is still out on this one. He was also rather insistent that we should get the backrests figured out.

This whole project was spawned around the idea that a stand-up head, with-a-door, would attract Spousal Units of the female lady person persuasion to our mini cruises. That was what got me into this current Tar Baby in the briar patch routine. Only a couple weeks ago. Seems like a whole Building Season has come and gone already. But only a couple weeks. Anyhow. The coffee can is there as a stand-in for where the thunder mug will someday mount.

The height of the aft cockpit sole has been subject of a rather contentious design effort. The big idea has been to suspend a floor that is high enough to self-drain, and allow for me a peek over the coachroof, while standing. It also couldn’t be too high for easy cabin ingress/egress. Turns out that a simple step with 9-inch rise makes it all work out pretty close to OK.

One of the projects that has had to wait, is cutting all those deck arches into curved bottoms to match the curved tops. Just a good thing I didn’t do it any sooner. All those flat bottoms have been a very satisfactory place to measure down from to level out berths, floor pan, and what have you. Not too shabby, for somebody who can’t seem to plan very far ahead, when it comes to this spontaneous building thing we do here at the Frankenwerke.

Aft, to starboard is the vestigial galley flat, and a spot for the cabin heater. This one is an antique kerosene unit that I got a while back off e-bay.

But, I think the Pullman train car coal-fired (cast iron) one that has been decorating our cottage-in-the-woods will go nicely here.

I do admit that Kate was less than enthusiastic about that idea. I guess we’ll see what turns up, huh?

So, if I can get that lazy, layabout morning crew up and off to work, maybe we can get some more of those three “Deeze” things cut up and stuck down here and there.

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