An optimist’s cup is always half-full. A pessimist’s is always half-empty. Me? I haven’t been served yet. This is no expression of despair, just a simple recognition there is much more to come in our education as would-be wooden boat builders. To that end, the flood gates opened on the Monday following Thanksgiving indulgences.
Thoughts of turkey-induced naps and pumpkin pie lingering as fond memories, we returned to campus and a daily dose of wisdom from the Jedi masters. Have I mentioned Sean Koomen does his best to keep us all on the straight and level? Or at least on the same page?
Sean serves as the Chief Instructor and source of wisdom on everything from design to “boat sauce.” (“Boat sauce” is the secret recipe employed for providing a bright finish on projects completed here at the school. I would share the mixing—alchemy for boat builders—but have been sworn to secret under pain of keelhauling. Look it up, not a great way to pay for your indiscretion.) In any case, Sean has the challenging task of roll call each morning and then imparting wisdom to a coffee-deprived audience.
Some days the optimist in me gets half full and then there are mornings when the internal pessimist is half-empty. Then I come to a realization that my brain has not yet been served. It is, after all, only week 9. The trick is to take a lot of notes and walk back into the classroom to absorb all the blackboard drawings one more time.
To make life even trickier, the Small Craft program students were offered a very real world challenge on Monday. Following lecture, we were introduced to a Dolphin Club Whitehall rowboat. The Dolphin Club, founded in 1877, is a San Francisco based non-profit providing public access to swimming and rowing of the local waters. Initially established as a means of indulging a rowing addicted audience, the Dolphin Club expanded to include those brave enough to swim through San Francisco Bay in 1917. As a result, the Club’s boats must not only be sea-worthy, but also capable of hauling chilled swimmers back to warm showers.
Confronted with a growth in membership and need for more boats, the Dolphin Club has come to the Northwest School of Wooden Boatbuilding with a unique opportunity—construct a skiff worthy of serving a new generation of rowers and swimmers. So, we are now in possession of Don Baggiani, a 14- foot Whitehall built in 1948 and a set of lofting diagrams. Weighing in at a mere 207 pounds and featuring somewhere in the vicinity of over 1000 fasteners, this lapstrake constructed vessel is going to cause more than a few challenges.
Back to being an optimist.
Down in the Westrem shop, we have started construction on the strongback and molds for our modified skiff, based off of William Atkins’ BABY LOU design. Wait, let me take a step back and fill you in. I forgot to mention smaller boats are constructed upside down. (Not to be confused with right-side up.) This means we need a frame to hold the “molds” up off the floor—or suffer more time on hands and knees. The trick is to get dimensions right and then sacrifice four 10 foot 2 x 6 framing timbers. More sawdust time!
Then comes the move to constructing “molds.” Recall we designed and lofted to “stations.” Now we are physically constructing stations that will serve as internal contact points at key points for the hull to come. Just looking down the resulting set up you can see the vessel to come.
Boatbuilding for the class of 2016 has truly begun.
More measuring, milling and mulling later, we have the lines and shape of what has become wistfully referred to as “Thin Lizzy.” At 12 feet long, she has a 3 foot 8 inch beam and only draws about 2 and-a-half inches. Should be a delight to row, once there is a bottom, sides, and frames, not to mention a stem, transom, seating and oars. Yes, one member of our group is building a custom set of oars. The rest of us pursue various elements as they come up.
Suffice it to say, I have now been served my cup. A day spent milling, pushing a number 4 plane and discussing potential lines for the planking leaves a sense of satisfaction that appeases the optimist and vanquishes everyone’s internal pessimist. Think I will go home and work on more dovetails.
Eric Anderson is a retired Air Force officer who can be found puttering in his shop when not
scribbling on the keyboard. A new resident of Port Townsend, he is an avid sailor, struggling
carpenter, and would-be writer.