Monday, August 25, 2014

SCAMP Camp is over for this year

SCAMP Camp is over for this year. The plywood kitsets and all of the consumables were delivered two weeks ago , the benches and all the consumables set up, one of each of the building jigs and shop manager Scott had everything  ready to roll. Two weeks later 6 boats were wheeled out by their excited owners.
Its like watching your children leave home when the trailers are all loaded and the cars head off out of  the North West Maritime center with the fat little boats following along behind.  New friends head away to finish their  boats, hopefully to be back next year to participate in the next “Red Lantern Rally”.

This course went really well, we as instructors have learned from previous courses, we’ve developed the sequence and the methodology for assembling the kits, have bought tools that speed things up, Scott Jones of the Maritime Center brought his organisational skills to the class and it went so well that we could afford the time to take the middle weekend off to attend the inaugural Red Lantern Rally.

To explain, the SCAMP, being designed and promoted as a small boat with camping capability has a red hurricane lamp as a sail emblem,  hence the “Red Lantern Rally” which is an annual event for SCAMPers .
Held in Mystery Bay off Kilicit Harbour on Marrowstone Island in Puget Sound this attracted 11 SCAMPs and about 50 people including the crew from the SCAMP Camp build class and some from the SCAMP Skills class run by Howard Rice and I in our other roles as sailing skills tutors

Its been an intense 3 weeks,  I’m very glad of a quiet few days helping my host Pete Leenhouts with his project,  he is keen to get the Bolger Clam Skiff he’s building for his brother out the door so he can move the part built SCAMP he’s bought into the workshop in order to complete it, learn to sail it, and then head for Texas for the 2016 Texas 200 ( oops, was I meant to let that cat out of the bag?  Too late now Pete, you’ll be expected on the start line!)
I expect to be there to chase him down the course, I’ve had an offer of a boat to be built to my experimental “Saturday Night Special” design  (I do hope it works), and hope too that the fates conspire to enable it to happen.

 The classroom at the North West Maritime Center is a really nice place to work, well lit with natural lighting, wooden floor to ease the aching feet, plenty of space and a wonderful view out over the water to remind us why we're building boats.  A geat place, 10/10!

This shot was taken first thing on Wednesday morning, a lot of progress to show  for only two days of work.  Here we see the centercase, fiberglassed inside, with frames 4, 5, 6 & 7 set up on the bottom panel, the water ballast tank being that space behind the first frame in this pic, and the panel being held up behind is the port side mate to the starboard side seat front that forms one side of the offset centercase . By that evening the transom was on, everything glued in and the forward frames and bow ready to set up.

Back to Port Townsend, I have to say thanks to the North West School of Wooden Boatbuilding who have run the SCAMP Camps here in Port Townsend.  They have contributed a great deal to the development of the SCAMP class, to the SCAMP kit development and to the way that the build classes happen. 
This years course was the last one that they will be involved in, and the ball will in future be carried by Small Craft Advisor Magazine, Howard Rice and myself through the “Small Craft Skills Academy” (link above) and will be run at several different venues  around the USA and possibly other countries as well.
Thank you NW School, thank you interim Director David Blessing, thanks to the school board and staff, and thanks to then Director Pete Leenhouts for supporting the class and the SCAMP.

 A few days later the boats have been planked up, the outer rubbing strakes are on and here we are putting the inwales on. They support the side decks and the coamings ( seat backrests) and add considerable strength to the boat.
Most of the places inside the boat that will be difficult to access later have been sealed with epoxy resin, the glue joints reinforced with epoxy fillets and items such as the centerboard pin are in place.

 10 working days after we all trooped upstairs to brief the class we're loading the trailers and watching the guys prepare to tow home, some travelling thousands of miles to get back to the the temporary shipyards, otherwise known as Garages, where the boats will be completed.

 Ready to hook up and head out.  Both rewarding and sad, new friends left behind,  but all of us hoping to see each other next year at SCAMP Skills, or the Red Lantern Rally.

See you later guys!

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Boatbuilding at SCAMP Camp.

Port Townsend has become a sort of second home,  I’ve been here several years in succession now courtesy of the SCAMP Camp boatbuilding program and help from  the likes of Helen and Pete Leenhouts who host me while I’m here,  Josh Colvin of Small Craft Advisor Magazine and lots of friends who make the place so welcoming.
I find that I know where to buy the things that I need, right down to knowing which aisle in the supermarket has my favourites, and where in the hardware store I’ll find the bits and pieces that I need.

When I walked into the coffee shop next to the Maritime Center where the class is based I was addressed by name, same with the Point Hudson Café across the other side of the water, and the waitress at the Banana Leaf Thai restaurant smiled and welcomed me back. That’s a great feeling, I don’t get that at home in New Zealand other than at my favourite bookshop in Cambridge ( Wrights bookshop in the main street by the way, good place!)

I pitched in to help Howard Rice with the SCAMP Skills class, four boats and I think 8 or 9 students. A good group of people, and we had a blast! Lots of  time on the water, some classroom time to look over theory, safety demonstrations, and a little voyage or two with a picnic lunch. Great fun, and a perfect primer before heading into the North West Maritime Center for the beginning of the boatbuilding class we call SCAMP Camp. 

 Phil McGowan in his drysuit, ready for man overboard practice. The water is cold up here.
While the boat is very stable and resistant to capsize, it is an open boat so its still possible to tip one over.  Safety being paramount we're experimenting with reboarding techniques and that line along the side is part of the experiment. It works a treat and we're looking at refining it and incorporating it in to the SCAMP Credo.

 Four SCAMPs lined up on the beach at Rat Island across from Port Townsend, two boats make a race, four make you work even harder, but all in good humour.
We’re building SCAMPs of course, the little 11ft 11in camping cruiser designed for Small Craft Advisor Magazine, a boat which is very close to achieving 300  plans and kits sold.  The boat is close to cult status now, and due to the efforts of Howard Rice the class is also a registered national class boat with US Sailing which is remarkable for a home built boat. ( Yes, Gig Harbour Boats make a fiberglass one, but most are plywood home builds).

The class is going really well, shop manager Scott Jones had the place well organised when Howard and I arrived on the Monday, and between us and a very good group of people we’ve made really good progress.
At the end of day five we had just hung the lowest plank, two more to go on each side then we’re into the smaller pieces before dry fitting cabin sides, top and the decks.
 Happenings in the classroom, if you had to go back to school what better subject could there be.
This is the morning of day three and the pre cut kitsets are going together really well.  At this stage the centercases have been fiberglassed inside and assembled, they are installed and frames four through six are in, the seat fronts and stern transoms are on, and the next step is to assemble the mast box and frame/bulkhead four ready to drop the stem in and B#4 and mast box onto that.
We used the Makita builders cross laser level  featured a while back in this blog to keep things straight and level,  its a major time saver! Well done Makita San.

We're also using a Ryobi cordless brad nailer, a brad being a small finishing nail, and thats another major timesaver. I'll give you my detailed impression of that later on.

I’m finding that I’m doing much better than last year, have not had to excuse myself for a break each day to stay on my feet which is a big improvement, although I can tell you that I’m sleeping like a log at night and will be pleased to have a day or two off at the end of the course.

The big news about SCAMP Camp is that Howard and I are looking hard at the possibility of other venues, Port Aransas in conjunction with next years PlyWooden Boat Festival being the leading contender at present,  and if that goes ahead we’d be planning to run a sailing school academy class as well as other skills classes in conjunction with it.  That should be fun, we’d be needing super slow hardener for the  epoxy resin though as its much hotter there on the South Eastern corner of Texas than it is here in the Pacific North West.

We’re off in a few minutes to attend the “Red Lantern Rally”.  SCAMP, being a camping capable small boat has a red hurricane lamp as its sail emblem, hence, the name of the rally.  We’re expecting 10 or 12 of the fat little boats there, and it looks like being a lot of fun.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Birth notice

The new baby has arrived.

I'm in Port Ludlow Washington in the Pacific North West of the USA. Travel is great, they say it broadens the mind but I find that I eat more than I should so in my case it broadens the belly.  Its really nice to connect with familiar places and friends, but there are times when being so far from home is not where you want to be. 
Like this morning, Daughter Sarina has been waddling around heavily pregnant, was a week overdue when I flew out and I’d been a bit concerned as to the well being of mother and baby.
But baby  Kiani  Denny Maia Clark arrived very early this morning. So I’m a granddad again, another little girl to love and spoil.
 Congratulations to Sarina and husband Alby, and a hug for 5 year old big sister Aysha.

( I can still fold nappies ( diapers ) as well as the next guy, I suspect that might be useful).

My friend Chuck Leinweber once said to me that if he’d known grandchildren were going to be so much fun he’d have had them first.
There is a lot in that.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Its a long way to Tipperary

It’s a long way to Tipperary the old song says,  but I can tell you that the cheap flights from Auckland to Seattle makes for an even longer journey,  Auckland to Brisbane, Brisbane to Los Angeles, LA to Seattle takes around 24 hours  including “terminal time”. 
Brisbane is not so bad, they have a transit area so there is no need to go out through Immigration and customs then back as LA forces passengers coming from Vancouver BC ( Canada) and transferring to a flight out to NZ or Aussie as they did to me a few years back. But they do run everyone who’s just come off the plane through the security scan and inspection again, as if they’d not done that to get on the incoming flight.  Ah well! Nowt I could do about it and the officials were polite and efficient.

LA international airport though lived up to its reputation as one of the worlds worst regarded major airports, there were over 2000 people in the queue for immigration and customs, it took an hour and a half to get through that, and as I know the place of old I’d asked my travel agent to book flights such that I had extra time between incoming and my connection so I had plenty of time to deal with the vagarities of the place and not miss my outgoing plane to SeaTac in the north.
As usual the place was filled with great crowds of stressed and unhappy people, and that’s just the staff! Queues of 50 or more at Starbucks and Burger King so no chance of getting even that kind of food. It was to be 3 ½ hours more flying to get to the next chance of refuelling myself and no food on that flight so it was back to my reserve packet of muesli bars and a bottle of water from a coin machine.

So I’m here in Port Ludlow, home of several friends including my hosts Helen and Pete Leenhouts. I’ve about got over the jetlag, coming from New Zealands winter where its dark at about 5 30 pm to here where its still light at 9 30 is as much of a shock to the system as the time zone difference,  the body keeps saying its not bedtime yet and its very hard to get up in the morning.
That will only last another day or so, and I’m in summer which is nice.
It will be springtime when I get back home which will be a treat, this will be a good summer with lots of time out on the water.

I got out on the water the very day I arrived here, Petes friend Ed Davis has a little 12 ft aluminium boat with a 9.9 hp Honda outboard on it, and goes out hunting Dungeness Crab just off the shore where he lives, so I got a ride out to help pull traps.

 Pics by Pete Leenhouts. 

Those are big crabs, shells about 150mm across and two full handspans across the legs,  they are capable of breaking fingers if they get you with their claws.
Nice to eat though, boiled with a little butter.
Thanks Ed,  and Pete.
I sleep better with a full belly.

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Travel in the morning

Its off to SCAMP Camp again, the clinic has given me a conditional clearance, in practical terms that means that I'm ok and my health insurance is valid as long as I dont try running an iron man or competing in a 6 day cycle race.
Good, I doubt that I'd be putting either of those on my list of things to do anyway.

So its pack, shut the ship down, electrical and gas off ( thats the lpg for cooking type gas) . Both diesel tanks taps off, shore power disconnected, seacocks off, fridge emptied and propped open mooring lines doubled up and fenders all checked.

Lock 'er up and I'm on the bus.

I've secure parking here, free of course so the prospect of $5 a day long term parking does not appeal. So I catch the bus, two changes and it will take about 3 hours, but its free on my Superannuants Gold Card ( for non NZers, we get a special card on our 65th birthday that gets us a whole lot of special discounts as well as free rides on public transport during off peak times.  Very handy)

I'll be posting regularly while away, will introduce some friends, show you whats happening at SCAMP Skills ( sailing ) and SCAMP CAMP ( Building) classes, show off any really nice boats I find and "talk" about whats happening in Port Ludlow where I'll be staying, and Port Townsend where the classes are being run.


Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Another tool test, and some other bits and pieces.

Tool test.

Now and again I get power tools for testing in return for writing up publicity stories for magazines, on odd occasions I’ve gone back to the suppliers and told them that in all conscience I could not write a positive report on the tool concerned so would prefer to not write one, and I’ve always ( so far) had an ok response to that.  I guess it adds to the credibility.
A recent one was a little 3.7v l.ion battery screwdriver which was as near as useless as any power tool I’ve ever used.  Now not all of those small screwdrivers are the same, I’ve read credible reports on some of the better “name” brand ones that suggest that they are quite useful for light work, but the one I was handed recently, not so.
I was very pleased though to have in my hot paws a Makita TD090DWE impact screwdriver.  I’d watched others using them and had several people recommend them to me, but had been convinced that the much quieter driver/drills suited me better.
I picked this little monster up and was immediately impressed by the way it sat in my hand, comfortable, light and better balanced than the much longer drills with their gearboxes and chucks.

Now a good friend had recommended these to me, but I’d felt quite happy with the several cordless drills I have on the rack.  All but the Ryobi one that is and that lives back with my ex for me to use on things like fixing her curtain rails.

When I first used the Makita impact driver, at first I found the fast rotational speed difficult to manage.  It spins the screw really quickly until the screw begins to load up, then the impact drive starts to rattle like a racecar wheel change and slows right down.  Yes its got a variable speed trigger but its very sensitive and it took a while to get used to it, and the noise.

But that said, I tend to reach for the tool that I like rather than the one nearest, and as I get more time with this tool I am liking it more and more.  My trigger finger is adjusting ( hands up ponder!) and if I’m doing a long row of fastenings I put my “hearmuffs” back up where they do good.

This little thing will drive monster screws into almost anything,  I used it the other day to build a set of shelves ( again, for the “ex”, the “honey please do” list is still functional it seems) out of 18mm plywood, and the 2in twinstart screws needed no pilot holes, just push on the point and pull the trigger. Whirr, rattle rattle done, countersunk and all!
The little lithium batteries will run for a days work, and charge in half an hour or so, there are two in the kit so you wont ever run out of battery if you remember to put the down one back in the slot.

I find that I like it, I like the light weight, the clip in chuck which makes a change of  the hex bits very quick, it’s a very nice tool of about the right size and fit for building small boats and handy for the “honey do” list.

I don’t think I’d have a reason to buy the bigger one, I’m not putting steel siding or roofing on, and the 10.6 volt unit does almost everything else with a light and comfortable tool.

One more thing, SCAMP Camp at Port Townsend last year was great, some lovely people as always at SCAMP Camp, and Thom Davies was one of those.  We talked about many things Thom and I, tools among them and somewhere along the way I must have mentioned that I was hoping sometime to get myself a leather handled Estwing 16 oz finishing claw hammer. They are not common in the hardware stores, much too light for most uses but ideal for small boat builders.
Thom found one, and sent it with a friend who was coming to NZ.  That was an unexpected treat, its in my hand most days and I think of him, and that “camp” whenever I touch it.
Thanks Thom, very much appreciated.

 Such a nice tool to use, perfect fit to the hand, just the right weight and balance.

I’m off to the next SCAMP Camp in less than two weeks, it was a bit doubtful that I’d be fit enough this year but I went to the haematology clinic for what I hope was the last time yesterday and am cleared to go, there are some conditions attached but I’m ok to travel and to undertake “light work” part time. Sitting on my chair in a sunny corner and telling others what to do might fit that.


Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Back boatbuilding again.

Back to work on SEI.

With the bottom panel all scarfed up and the edges faired off with a hand plane it was time to cut the daggerboard case slot and fit it to the framing.

I measured the frame to get the “case” position, then the width and such, drew the ‘case” shape out and drilled a couple of holes big enough to take the jigsaw blade.

Off topic for a moment, I regularly get people asking about jigsaw blades, and why theirs make such a splintery mess of their plywood and mine don’t.
I use hollow ground veneer blade, in Makita these are number 10s, they have not got the wavy “set” that the usual blades have on the teeth in order to give the blade clearance in damp or resinous wood, rather they are shiny ground on the sides, have seriously shark like teeth which are straight, not bent outward like  a handsaw blade and cut on the up stroke.  The downstroke veneer blades look similar but are not what you want at all.
Most major brands supply an equivalent, as do most of the specialist manufacturers of jigsaw blades, they are used by cabinet makers and those odd types who putter around in their garages building plywood boats.

Back to our topic.
After cutting the case slot and dry fitting the 9mm plywood bottom, I reached in underneath with a pencil and traced off all of the frames onto the plywood bottom panel.  I then lifted the bottom off, flipped it over working from the outside drilled pilot holes and countersinks for all the screws.
This procedure meant that all of the screws hit their target when driven through from outside.
I masked up the few places where I did not want the glue to stick, temporary cross members in the main and I was ready to make it permanent.

Mixed up the system 3 epoxy glue, applied just enough to make sure it all stays where I want it to until the boat is all planked up and seams taped, the boat then being ready for the interior to be filleted, then fitted the bottom to the boat with screws driven in.
It’s a big step, takes her from just “bones” to, well, not a boat really but a bit different from what she was.  Visible progress.

 Sorry about the light, it was late on a very gloomy day, and my camera insisted that the light outside was nicer than the gloom inside.
You'll get more in a few days, but this will show you where I'm up to.
The next job is to hotmelt glue a spiling plank together out of MDF door skin strips and work out the shape of the garboard plank.
Sunday! I'm out of action tomorrow through Saturday.

One of the reasons for the progress in the shop today is that its blowing like stink here, again!  The weatherman says it may be the worst storm in a decade!  The nowcasting buoy off the river mouth is reporting gusts of 60 knots.  That’s better than it was a couple of hours ago! The trouble is that its blowing straight down the estuary so its much rougher in here than it would usually be, “the ship” is beig bounced around enough to make work at the drawing board quite uncomfortable so it’s been a workshop day.

Out in the workshop is nice, gave me a chance to do some comparison between the new sample Blu-Mol drill set that I had handed to me a few weeks ago.

 This shows the inside of the bottom panel, all pencil marked and drilled, the case slot cut and test fitted, and I"m ready to flip it over and drill the countersinks with my nice new Blu-Mol drill bits.  

These have whats known as a “split point” configuration on the point, plus are ground for more clearance angle than is usual in an engineering twist drill (the kind that we almost invariably use in our smaller sizes).  Breakout is an issue with most drill bits, as is clogging when pushing into a deep hole.
These new drill bits are made by (or for) the old Disston company under their Blu-Mol brand.  I’ve come across these in their holesaws which are pretty good tools, and was keen to see how these drill bits worked out so asked the distributors for a sample set so I could put my impressions up here.
( thanks guys,)
These are impressive drill bits. On metals they work really well, cutting cleanly and smoothly in mild steel, cast iron and aluminium. Sizing is accurate, they don’t vibrate in the cut and they clear well.
Not good on thin sheet metal though, but then, not many drill bits are.
When drilling wood or plywood they are significantly better in terms of surface breakout around the holes, and seem able to go further in without clogging the flutes up than a conventional  drill bit. The extra clearance behind the cutting edge down the flute makes it possible to cut laterally if you are careful, not like a router bit of course but it will cut an oval or enlarged hole for you.
They seem to cut faster as well, always helpful.
The drill set is housed in a very nice case, that case has drills from 1.5mm to 10 mm ( I am told that there are imperial sets available in the USA ) and has two extended driver bits in it as well. In this case a pair of number 2 square drives.
Points? Say 8/10 where a normal engineering twistdrill set in their usual plastic case scores 6/10.  I like them, will be looking to get them in preference to the usual ones in future.