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A Tale of Two Sisters:
Carvel vs. Cold Molding

Wooden Boat Magazine
January/February, 1982
By W. Tay Vaughan, III

Photo Album

In the winter of 1980, the giant container shipping company SEA-LAND phoned to ask if we could build them a 26' Monomoy surfboat for delivery in six weeks. This call began for the Bay Area Marine Institute a saga of two boats, identical in lines but differing greatly in construction, which were subsequently built during the next 14 months.

The building experience is worth recounting, for it illustrates not only new vs. old construction methods, but the boatbuilding process as a whole. And we have distilled several axioms from this experience that we would like to share with you. But first of all, some background.

The Marine Institute

The Bay Area Marine Institute is a nonprofit post secondary training facility for Marine Services Technicians, or "MST"s. These are the craftsmen who build, repair and maintain yachts and small craft. It is a newly defined occupation (DOT No. 806.261-500) that synthesizes carpentry, electrical, painting, plumbing, fiberglassing, rigging, mechanical, and other skills used in and around boatyards and building shops.

The Institute maintains a 76,000 sq ft waterfront facility in San Francisco with shops, docks, classrooms, a 25-ton crane for haulouts, and building space. In addition to the lO-month full-time MST program, the Institute also teaches some 15 evening classes that range in subject from lofting and boatbuilding to celestial navigation and Coast Guard license review for operators. As an access point to the water and to things maritime, the Institute supports on-going programs of research in such areas as commercial fishboat design (wind-assisted), application of computer technology in marine education and naval design, and state-of-the-art construction methods. In the shop today you will see a lovely Pete Culler lapstrake tender being carefully laid up, natural, in Port Orford cedar alongside an experimental fiberglass and aluminum hovercraft painted in deadly nonreflective "nuclear submarine black".

In the training of MSTs it is critically necessary that classroom technical instruction be augmented with real hands-on experience. While transducer installation, for example, can be illustrated on a blackboard, until a student actually rigs a 1/2" drill with a holesaw and lays on his back to breach the hull of a boat, hassling with wedge blocks, gooping polysulfide, and running wires (not near the alternator, he remembers from class), the technical instruction does not come into focus. Thus the Institute takes in work projects ranging from simple bottom jobs to fiberglass repair and linear polyurethane painting to newbuilt one-offs. The school's curriculum is structured in such a way that this work is coordinated with instruction.

Nonprofit status is intended to express a philosophy of charitable and service-oriented activity. Any nonprofit organization will assure you, however, that keeping books and maintaining a positive cash flow is as essential for them as a for a profit-making company. The Girl Scouts sell cookies, the church has bingo games, the university press edits and sells books the Bay Area Marine Institute builds and repairs boats as a natural adjunct to its teaching activity.

So when SEA-LAND called, we said "yes." Nonprofit is supposed to be a philosophy, not a way of life, and we felt we could add to our general fund with this project as well as use it for a lofting and building exercise. You will see what really happened.

The Monomoy Surfboat

The Monomoy design is an evolution of the classic utilitarian whaleboat: a double-ended, lightweight, cheaply constructed boat to be rowed or sailed under all conditions in pursuit of whales (sic) and for use in general ship's work. In 1934 the U.S. Coast Guard standardized the design for contract purposes, and thousands were built for use as lifeboats and gigs aboard not only naval and military ships but also commercial freighters and ocean liners.

The standard Monomoy, according to Coast Guard Plan No. 90870 of May, 1934, is 26'0" between perpendiculars, 7'0" breadth to inside of planking at sheer, and has a molded depth of about 2'4" amidships. There are stations for 10 rowers, a centerboard and rudder with a lug-rigged sail, and a plank across the stern for a steering oar. With the addition of heavy-duty hoisting gear at a "standard" 20' spread, the boat is quite simple and Spartan.

In reading Willits Ansel's excellent study of whaleboats compiled at the Mystic Seaport Museum in 1978, we note that a similar whaleboat built in 1933 by Charles Beetle of New Bedford cost $440 fully equipped with sails and rig, a price double that of boats built 50 years earlier. We see that the increasing cost of boatbuilding is not linear but geometric, and derive our first axiom as follows:

Axiom I

The Next Boat You Build Cannot Be Cheaper Than the Last One

The Cold-Molded Sister: 1980

SEA-LAND wants a simple boat in six weeks. We will build it.

Discussion began regarding construction method. SEA-LAND will use the boat for rowing only, with eight rowers and steersman, or coxwain, at the stern. They are entering the competitive Monomoy racing activities on San Francisco Bay and need a boat that will be durable and easy to maintain. They do not have a large budget, so the boat must be cheap. There are no boats available to them from the existing small fleet of Sea Scout Monomoys usually chartered to the steamship companies. These are taken already by Matson, Utah International, American President Lines, and other rowing groups. After consulting with the Propeller Club (Maritime Day race sponsors) and the other rowing teams, we find that the only construction rules for these racing activities are simply that the boat be a Monomoy and be built of wood.

Given these building parameters, we ran the options through the sorter. We looked at the existing fleet: tired carvel hulls under heavy service with crews sharing them as much as six hours a day for practice. Unfair lines. Lumpy repair work. Leaking centerboard trunks. Companies complaining about expensive yearly maintenance. It was clear that under this heavy service the carvel boats were neither holding up nor easy to maintain.

We suggested to SEA-LAND that we build their Monomoy cold-molded over strip planking. It would be of wood (to meet the informal rules requirements), and with no frames or centerboard trunk we could put a layer of six-ounce fiberglass cloth and epoxy both on the inside and outside to protect the wood. Then we would finish it out in clear LPU to show the natural wood. It would be simple to maintain. They liked the idea.

We figured we could do it for $9,600: in six weeks we estimated that we would spend 602 hours of labor and about $3,000 for materials. SEA-LAND said "go ahead" and we shook hands. From lofting to launching we dealt with SEA-LAND on a handshake, and in retrospect it is comforting to know that such a big company can still conduct business this way.

We ordered more than 1,000 sq ft of 1/8" knife-cut western red cedar at $360/1,000 from the Dean Company in Gresham, Oregon. We ordered 500 bd ft of Alaskan yellow cedar at $1,740/1,000 from a local yard and had it milled to 1/2" x 3/4" with rounded top and coved bottom edge so each strip would "articulate" to the next as we laid it in across the curved shape of the mold. We had in hand several barrels of Araldite 502 epoxy, strongbacking lumber, and plenty of clamps and the right tools in a well-equipped shop. We bought 12 sheets of 5/8" particleboard for station molds. We splurged on mahogany for interior and trim, as we were offered a good price on Honduras ($1,900/1,000) at a local yard. We were underway. It would be a fine boat.

What looked awfully much like a PERT Chart was worked out so that in six weeks we would deliver the goods:

Task & Estimated Man Hours

  • Architect New Scantlings (16)
  • Lofting (25)
  • Build Strongback (8)
  • Transfer & Cut Stations (24)
  • Install Station Molds (5)
  • Laminate Stem & Keelson (5)
  • Laminate Caps (5)
  • Laminate Risers (5)
  • Strip Plank (79)
  • Fair Strip Planking (18)
  • Cold Mold First layer Veneer (40)
  • Fair First Layer Veneer (4)
  • Make Up Floorboards (30)
  • Cold-Mold Second layer Veneer (51)
  • Fair Second Layer Veneer (32)
  • Fiberglass & Epoxy Exterior (16)
  • Prepare Interior Parts (17)
  • Build Receiving Cradle (6)
  • Fair and Finish Sand (32)
  • Remove From Mold (6)
  • Fair Interior (12)
  • Fiberglass & Epoxy Interior (24)
  • Install Floors, Clamps, Risers (12)
  • Install Decks (12)
  • Final Surface Prep & Sanding (12)
  • Apply LPU and Varnish (30)
  • Install Hardware (35)
  • Gopher Parts & Materials (25)
  • Misc (20)
  • Total: (602)

The contract price of $9,600 seemed such a large amount of money for a rowboat that we knew there would be plenty left over at launch time. This intuitive thinking and estimation technique leads us to our second axiom:

Axiom II

The Cost of Doing Business Is Directly Proportional to the Height of the Doer's Expectancies

So with high expectancies we thought we had a fine deal for the school.

Building Coldmolded

Dave Mancebo, a marine designer and part-time instructor at the Institute, developed additional mold stations midway between the nine stations given on the Coast Guard plans. Three feet or so was too far to bend our thin and narrow strip planks without losing hull fairness. The molds were lofted to the inside of the planking, as two layers of 1/8" veneers over 1/2" of strip planking netted the design hull thickness of 3/4". Matthew Walker, photojournalist and occasional boatbuilder, had just returned from Europe where he had put together his new book, Down Below. We hired him as a knowledgeable "Amicus Institutus."

He assembled the station molds on the strongback using traditional plumb-bob and level methods. We spent a few hours trying to round up a laser to shoot the reference line, then decided we were getting too fancy. Time's money and we were about a week into the six-week deadline.

With the molds set up we were still on schedule and everyone was feeling great. The milled cedar strip planking arrived on a flatbed, about one and one-half miles of it neatly tied in bundles. We bought a pneumatic brad driver from Duo-Fast and 20,000 1-1/2" aluminum sintered-head brads for edge-nailing the strip planking on 3" centers. We also bought three electric staplers for the 15,000 bronze staples we would leave in the veneers and 15,000 plain steel staples that would be pulled later from the natural-finished topsides (no sense wasting bronze). Meanwhile, the stems and keelson had been laminated to shape on the form from 1/4" strips of cedar, removed for cleaning of glue squeeze-out and to radius the edges neatly with a router, and replaced. We were ready now to start building!

That was the night it rained. Hard. Next morning Cliff Trinidad turned up with his cousin (Cliff had been the government monitor for a CETA experiment at the Institute and we knew he could pay attention to detail-he could also aim a hammer and push a sander) . He walked into the shop and looked at the roof over the form and the puddles on the floor and said, "I don't mind working in the rain." We hired him and his cousin, too. We had a lot of man-hours to cover.

Four people worked all that first day laying in the strip planking. At about five o'clock Paul Kamen, Chris Barry, and Colin Moore dropped by and were coerced into volunteering. They are naval architects who design oil rigs and supertankers and submarines for a living and mess about in boats to stay sane. From 6-10 p.m. we had a crew of nine people slinging epoxy and driving brads. It was a symphony .

By eleven o'clock we were standing back to look at the first day's boatbuilding. Jeans were covered with epoxy and would never walk again. Cliff had a permanent rooster tail in the back of his hair. The brad driver needed a complete overhaul. Matthew sprawled in a corner, so tired he couldn't raise his Coors to the level of his mouth. The trash was filled with dozens of gnarled latex gloves and sticky remnants of cedar and glue. Mancebo said, "My wife is going to kill me."'

But the boat! After about 60 man-hours of strip planking starting from the keel downward to the sheer there were only about 18" glued each side! Three feet done, another six or seven to go. Half inch by half inch. We had budgeted only 79 man hours...

Axiom III

If You Think It Will Take Ten Hours, It Will Really Take Twenty

The rain stopped. Next day we revamped methods, streamlined approaches, and settled down to make the best of a very tedious situation. We rented another brad driver and cut little scarfs by the hundreds on the table saw. The sharp tang of cedar oil hung heavy in the shop. We finished strip planking five days later, three behind schedule and some 65 man-hours in the hole.

These strips weren't like regular wood that you can heft in your hands and feel and understand. They were light, wiggly, ethereal buggers that would split (kiln dried, of course) if the driver wasn't exactly centered when you pulled the trigger for an aluminum spike. We identified with the thousands of nameless weavers who make rattan furniture and baskets in Indonesia or rugs on the steppes of Asia...Our MST students, accepted into the program because we felt they were bright, brightly avoided the shop during the entire week.

But we managed to catch up to the delivery schedule with a long weekend of volunteering and conscription, and by week three were happily spiling clean veneers over the odious yellow strip planking. Meade Gougeon sent us a dozen copies of his and Jan's excellent new book (The Gougeon Brothers on Boat Construction) about cold-molding. The students not only had immediate reading assignments but were able to apply what they learned. (We apologized to Meade for not using West System resin.)

Actually, the spiling went on schedule. The electric staplers crapped out early on. They filled up with epoxy where the staples come out, and MEK couldn't keep them clean enough. Both quit the same day, and Mancebo said he could fix them. By the time he had solenoids and springs and triggers lying all over the table, we called DuoFast. Our salesman smiled when he saw them and unpacked for us a very nice pneumatic job. Expensive, but we were beyond caring. And he credited us for the little green toys that were better used for decorating the Spring Prom. Nice people.

Axiom IV

In the Long Run You Can Afford the Better Tool

We had been having trouble with our epoxy. The weather was so chilly that the resin wouldn't harden up with that crisp, cured feel. So we called Ciba-Geigy (makers of Araldite). They suggested that a little accelerator would do wonders. Minimum order five gallons for $105. We had it shipped Blue Label. The technical guys were very helpful, and the Institute ate up many minutes on their WATS line. But that still wasn't the reason we had to remove four veneers from the second layer one of the crew sheepishly admitted to not knowing if he had mixed in the hardener...Ha!

It took far longer to remove the staples from the natural topsides than it did to drive them. We used scrap cedar veneer material to buffer the staple from the finish layer. When we knocked the wood away from the staple, enough space was left for the staple puller. It took two man days to remove all the staples in the topsides. We used Bostich pullers for this, as they left fewer dents in the soft cedar than the Duo-Fast version.

By now we were four and a half weeks into the project, and SEA-LAND was arranging the catering for the launch party at the yard. We were a week and a half from launching. We fiberglassed the exterior, faired it, and turned the boat over. It was huge. Hank McGloughlin, Gil Dech, and Lee Sawaya put together the mahogany floorboards while the rest of the crew laid in seat risers and decks and installed caps and guard rails. Of MST graduates, Hank seems to have done best: after graduating he worked at one of the better yards in the Bay Area, then quit to go gold mining in the Sierras. We heard that he and his partners discovered four pounds in a riverbed. No kidding, four pounds!

Axiom V

There Is No Money In Boatbuilding

We went up to the local plumbing wholesalers who allowed us to rummage among the shelves to put together a rather unique lifting system. The 1934 plans called for "standard Monomoy hoisting fittings," referring to plans that we didn't have, and "Federal Specification QQ-C-591, latest issue." We did just fine with some chain, stainless steel, and brass pipe flanges for deck plates. We found a bundle of #3 rowlocks and sockets at a local supplier. We think they had been on his shelf since Pearl Harbor. We decided that a simple hole and weep could substitute for the "standard flag staff socket and step." There was a lot of phoning and running around to gather up the right outfit equipment.

Paul Oliphant, an acoustical engineer and the Institute's fiberglass instructor, sprayed out the exterior with clear Interthane LPU. It was a nighttime job because we didn't want to poison everybody with the iso-cyanates and the other side-effects of the best finish available, and we didn't want to move the boat from the shop. Paul was a masked shadow moving among the great portable lights, all alone. There were only four days until launching, and we had six days of work left.

The Coast Guard plans provide no "design waterline." We gave the drawings to Chris Barry, who quickly produced a magic series of numbers for bottom painting. Putting a precise straight line on a compound curving surface with water levels and squares is a drag. We wished now that we had found a theodolite laser; it would have been easy to use to level the boat and shoot red dots along the waterline. As usual, however, traditional methods proved effective if only more time consuming.

Two days and two half-nights closer we had the seats installed and the first coat of varnish applied. We decided to use varnish on the mahogany because it seems generally easier to maintain than the LPU finish, although it is less durable. The crew wasn't getting enough sleep. Melanie Polos brought lettering material over and made up a fine sheer stripe with the SEA-LAND logo and the boat's name, INDEPENDENCE. It was looking real.

The launching party was at two o'clock in the afternoon on Saturday, March 22. At three in the morning of the 21st, two of the crew were putting plugs in the counterbored fastening holes in the seats and seat braces, and Debbie Smith was trying to get the second coat of varnish on the brightwork, dancing in and about the other crew, carefully picking wood chips from the immaculate finish. It was a ballet in its last act.

By the afternoon of the day before (funny how time compresses just before a launching) the last of the rowlock sockets were being let into the cap rail, and the steering oar brace was cut to fit the aft quarter. Someone actually found a smart American flag in all the confusion, and a socket was drilled. Smith decided she would come in at 5:00 a.m. and put a final coat of varnish on her brightwork. That was cutting it close.

But, by damn, the boat looked great! Everyone was too numb to enjoy it, and anticlimactically the tired crew drifted homeward by ten o'clock. "See you tomorrow" was the word.

Launch day was incredibly bright and sunny. The clouds had broken and it was shirtsleeves weather. Randy Quinton hung up all the signal flags and bunting, and Smith applied her last coat of varnish. Students and volunteers cleaned the shop while the caterers set up magnificent plates of edibles and bottles of wine. There were speeches and handshakes and lots of laughter. At about four the SEA-LAND rowing team rolled their new boat to the water's edge. Champagne christened, the boat was lowered into the water by crane.

Axiom VI

Concentration of Effort Is Inversely Proportional to Time Remaining Until Deadline

The fun was over. Now came the reckoning. We had spent more than a thousand man-hours building the boat. Net revenue to the school's general fund had been absorbed in underestimation and added time and wages. As a school project it was highly successful; as an economic venture, it was at best break even.

The cold-molded sister cost us a great deal in labor. Indeed, as Jim Brown pointed out in his recent series on Constant Camber (WB No. 41), standard cold-molding is very labor intensive and the "lamination of flat 'boards' into compound-curved surfaces, like boat hulls, presents certain complications..." Complications mean time. This, coupled with the horribly time-consuming strip planking, set us back greatly. We estimate that the natural finish (being very careful with the wood and pulling staples and fine sanding) almost doubled the manhours for cold-molding. Glass and paint can hide many sins-like staple heads and microballoons.

So you can well believe that when we were asked to build another Monomoy some eight months later, we were rather pleased that it was specified as carvel planked. What a relief to deal with eleven strakes per side, some caulking, paint, then put it in the water. Finally we could generate some money for the general fund-we thought.

The Carvel Sister: 1981

We received a rather plain Manila envelope in the mail, obviously government issue, with a postal frank that said something like "Stay Alive at 55." Inside, to our surprise, was a formal bid request to build a Monomoy for the State of California. The big league. And obviously not to be managed on a handshake, as we read through six pages of specification compliances and general provisions. Indeed, to our great pleasure, also in the envelope were the complete plans for building a Monomoy, including drawings of hardware and special fittings and the "Refer to Dwg. 91795" drawings that we had always assumed to be locked up in some humidity controlled East Coast archive...

The California Maritime Academy wanted "one each, Boat, Wooden Hull Construction, 26' Monomoy Surfboat, including 10 oars, 10 rowlocks, 1 steering oar, 1 steering oar rowlock and 1 rudder and tiller per the attached Monomoy Specifications, dated November, 1980, of 1 page, and referenced plans."

Well, O.K. We had experience and we had a building form. But the Academy wanted a traditional boat, carvel planked over oak frames and finished as per the 1934 plans, built to match their existing fleet of five classics. After a brief phone conversation, it was clear that they didn't want a modern cold-molded version. We shrugged our shoulders and worked up the cost for bending oak frames and fir planks as per plans.

Johan Carlisle, the Institute's Academic Dean and small boat builder (Whitehalls, guideboats, and fine rowing craft) reduced the plans to a simple materials and time list. Not as fancy as our cold-molding PERT Chart, it looked entirely believable. A good craftsman will examine a boat with X-ray vision, seeing that the keel connects to the keelson that connects to the floors that connect to the frames that connect to the planks, etc. Rabbets, scarfs, dabs of polysulfide, boatnails, plugs, and lumber fit together in a logical pattern. Johan is an organizer who understands the pattern:

Task......(Estimated Hours)

  • Planning and Materials Acquisition (40)
  • Lofting and Mold Rebuilding (140)
  • Steaming and Bending Frames (50)
  • Planking, Caulking, Fairing Keel, Keelson, Centerboard Trunk (100)
  • Gunwales, Guards, Seats, Floors and Interior Outfit (210)
  • Final Hardware, Rudder, Centerboard, Rowlocks, etc (40)
  • Oar Preparation from Existing Stock (20)
  • Paint and Finish (40)
  • Total Estimated Hours: (880)

Eight months had gone by since the cold-molded sister was launched, and everybody was feeling that special urge to build another boat. We had a "go for it" euphoria and wanted this job.

Bids are just that. Competitive. We had no idea who else might either be capable of or wish to build an old classic like this, but we figured the bid invitations must have gone to at least a hundred yards and manufacturers in the state. So there couldn't be too much fat on the project, we knew, otherwise we wouldn't get it at all.

We sketched out the lumber requirements and did some price checking and decided we would bid just short of $16,000. That was a lot more than the $9,600 for the SEALAND boat, but we didn't want to repeat those late nights with conscripted volunteers in order to get the job done. We even included a color glossy print of the cold-molded sister just to show our stuff.

And, because the fine print demanded that "no substitutions of materials or design changes are to be made...," we added a caveat to our bid that it "...is submitted with the understanding that modern building materials (for example, polysulfide caulking compounds, epoxy glues, linear polyurethane paints and varnishes, etc. ) may be employed where sensible and appropriate." We had visions of hunting though chandleries for "Composition G" metal and crucial oddments, such as "standard Monomoy fittings,'' whose casting patterns probably adorn the walls of an artsy restaurant in Newark or Baltimore...We sent off our bid to the State in a Manila envelope in triplicate. Then we spent the next few weeks in that "it doesn't really matter, but wouldn't it be nice" wait-and-see mood.

Christmas came and went, and we let curiosity get the better of us. The afternoon of the bid opening, we called long distance. Yes, we were the lowest bid. No, it wouldn't be decided for a few more days until the officials from the Academy could examine the bids. They would let us know. You don't win a bid by being least expensive, it turns out.

Patience. Then they called. We had it! The lady on the phone was very nice, and said she would follow up with a written purchase order. We couldn't resist asking what the next highest bid was, figuring that we had outwitted the competition by being shy of $16,000, and they had bid on the even figure. She said that there were only two bids for the job, and the other one, if she remembered right, was about $40,000.

Stimulated by a notion of dreadful wrongness, the pulse slows, and sphincter muscles relax. Our bid, on its acceptance, had already become a binding contract. Was it the same boat? In consternation, we decided it must be a builder who really didn't care about the job but, what the hell, everything has its price.

Over cocktails later that very week we ran into the Academy's president, Admiral Rizza. He had been told of the bids, and with the dry humor special to school superintendents he offered that even $16,000 was too much. He left before we could rally the perfect riposte, demonstrating yet another good administrator's talent. But we felt better, because we had the impression that no bid would have been accepted had it been much higher than ours.

Word was out that we were looking for a few good craftsmen to help put the boat together. The MST students were involved in special on-the-job training at several engine mechanics' shops, and wouldn't be available for most of the project. Larry Hitchcock agreed to help but first had to bring down a boat from Oregon. Alan Cameron would help and could start immediately. It was February, raining again, and we had five months to complete the boat. Plenty of time, we felt, noting that the legendary James Beetle, Charles's brother, claimed that prior to 1835 it required 20 days' labor for a man to build a whaleboat, but with modern (1889) machinery it required but 120 hours. These numbers tweaked our conscience, but we realized that today nobody could build a Model T Ford from scratch as fast as Henry could decades ago.

Larry phoned from Tucker's Mill in Langlois, Oregon. He had come across 600 board feet of Port Orford cedar at what worked out to $1.80/bd ft. A deal! We called the Academy with our first request for deviation from plans. They agreed to cedar instead of fir or cypress for planks. It would be easier to work with and was actually less expensive than locally available fir. Port Orford cedar is an excellent boatbuilding wood and, like good spruce, is becoming very dear.

We had decided to build the boat upside down on the old form, and Alan was hard at work paring off several inches so we could lay on ribbands over which to steam bend the 11~" frames. He also lofted the keel full length on the shop floor. We made the keel of Honduras mahogany instead of oak, laminating the stems for extra strength, another approved change. Alan spent about 55 hours cutting down the existing form and hanging ribbands. "If I had to do it over, " he grumbled, " I would start from scratch." Yet we had spent about 160 hours lofting and building the original and we were able to reuse the materials.

Axiom VII

Never Throw Anything Away

The steam box was broken out for framing. Plans called for sawn bevels and tapers from keel to sheer. With permission we avoided molding the frames with taper, and in retrospect we should have also requested to lay them in without bevels and allow the frames to run naturally. The precut frames were steamed for 30-40 minutes then rushed to the form for clamping. Several were wasted as they tended to split out with the grain where the sharp edge of the bevels were stressed over the tight radius of the bilge. With the outer edge in tension and the inner edge in compression, the wood was too easily distorted.

At the end of steaming day, Larry brought out six dozen Tomales Bay oysters for broiling over the remains of the fire. Billowing white steam and oysters eaten on the blade of a rigging knife. Yeah, it was clear that old-fashioned boatbuilding had its advantages. Easy pace, no epoxy, and there were real wood shavings on the floor (long and curly, not like the oatmeal that sprays out of the powerplane).

Rabbets were cut into the stems and frames were dubbed in preparation for hanging planks. The plank stock was four and six-quarter random width, and because our surface planer is limited to 13" wide boards we spiled the planks on the rough material, sawed them out, and then milled them to their net 3/4". The shop was again alive with cedar oils for about 20 days.

Burrs over copper nails or Everdur screws were specified in the plans for fasteners. We opted to use # 12 stainless steel screws. With counterboring tapered drills and power screwdrivers, it would go fast. Stainless was also considerably less expensive than copper or Everdur, and, we felt, even a better fastener. A student was assigned to trim off the floors at the turn of the bilge, and where at 'midships they reverse sides along the frames, he kept on going, neatly severing frame #16 in half. Alan is a very stable and level craftsman, and it was the only time we have heard him remark about anything in more than a pianissimo. The Institute's basic philosophy of absorbing student errors was strained as he lit up the steam box again and fished in a new # 16 frame behind the garboard and sheer planks. The student was put to making plugs, and as he worked the drill press in the corner of the shop, a tall, pointed cap would have been meaningful.

Axiom VIII

The Head Must be Ahead of the Hand

Spile and hang. The garboard and sheer went on first, and we then continued the planking both downward and upward until they met at the turn of the bilge with the shutter plank. Howard Chapelle's text Boatbuilding: A Complete Hand book of Wooden Boat Construction describes round-bottom hull construction in great detail, and we listened to his excellent advice throughout the building. At the turn of the bilges, we milled the planks to better than l" thickness, then cupped the insides so they would hug the curve without splitting the planks. Until we later faired the outside, the hull looked more like a roll-top desk than a dynamically smooth surface.

The student came out of the corner with his multitude of plugs and they were glued and tapped in with Weldwood Plastic Resin, neatly aligned with the grain. We opted for the urea glue rather than epoxy so future repair craftsmen wouldn't cuss at us when they needed to pull a fastening. You tend to take away not only the plug but also great pieces of the plank when removing epoxied plugs. For a few days the boat looked like a porcupine.

Rough fairing was accomplished with hand planes (and the powerplane too), and three men drove seam cotton for a day. We had a tip and a good deal on some surplus aircraft-grade polysulfide rubber caulking. In a major job, it is far better to use the mix-it yourself two-part polysulfide rather than the stuff in tubes. The stuff in the tubes requires either moisture in the air or oxygen (depending on the brand) to activate the blended-in catalyst and takes much longer to cure. We were promised that our super-grade material would set up ready for sanding in 12 hours. The next day was spent gooping the seams with foul-smelling gray liquid rubber.

Two days later the compound was still sticky and a fearful depression set in. We were thinking that this good deal was going to set us back a week of gummy seam reaming. We rolled the boat into the springtime sun and baked it. Finally, after five days it could be sanded.

Axiom IX

Risk of Failure Is Inversely Proportional to the Relative Cost of the Bargain

Fair and sanded, the boat was painted out with an acrylic sealer and high-build undercoat. With it turned over, we soaked the bilges with Cuprinol, and fitted the trim and interior. Larry made up a very nice centerboard trunk, which was installed on the keel. Most of the existing Monomoys that we had seen had significant problems along the garboard where the centerboard meets the keel. We scabbed on oak logs at this joint for extra beef.

Gathering and making the hardware for this Monomoy was the most difficult and underestimated portion of the work and expense. None of the items were on the shelf at any of our suppliers. Most of the hardware was bronze or monel, and if we didn't comply to the bid specifications, maybe the Academy would refuse to accept (and pay for) the boat. We cast rowlocks, breast hooks, the sternband and pintles for the rudder, the mast step, and the fancy steering rowlock ("standard," it said in the plans). Klockar's, the last blacksmith shop in San Francisco, made up the strangely pear-shaped ("standard") lifting shackles. We machined the lifting gear from large blocks of steel as per plans, and with the 1/4"-plate centerboard, sent the ferrous parts out for hot-dip galvanizing.

Alan drove across the Bay for this and described the hot dippers as a midnight view of Hobbit industry. Amidst clouds of acrid vapors and in earthen works, dark men toiled with claws and hooks lowering heavy steel into bubbling vats. We knew of this place, and Alan was given a bottle of Wild Turkey so the foreman might speed things up. Just as we had heard, it would take three weeks before they could get to it-until Al pulled out the bottle. They dipped the parts while he waited.

Sixteen seat braces were brazed up by Ben Pearson, an MST student. Each had its own angle of attack and was painstakingly fit to let-in mortises. By the time we were done with the hardware, we had spent over $1,000 for "rare" metals and services and we had invested about two man-weeks. For the SEA-LAND boat, most items had come off the shelf as functional compromises to the plans. Not so for this boat.

The interior was finished in white and beige, and all oak seat thwarts, the gangboard, and caprails were varnished. The exterior received two coats of white enamel. The boat was stunning! The building crew put together a launching party for May 15, two weeks before our delivery date. It felt wonderful.

We added up the costs:

  • Lumber - $3000.98
  • Fasteners - $612.28
  • Hardware - $1002.46
  • Paints, misc. - $1253.58
  • Labor (990 hours) - $7535.25

When we added in the administrative overhead and the long-distance calls to Sacramento, the traveling and gophering, and a portion of the rent and utilities, there we were again. Break even!

But we are as good at rationalizing as the rest of the wooden boatbuilding family...Hell, we kept a bunch of people in food and clothing for five months, and more important, we had given birth to a really lovely issue. More like artwork than an assembly line product, we reasoned.

The Final Analysis

Both sisters were lovely. Twins, for sure, but certainly not identical. The cold-molded sister was perhaps more striking in appearance, with her brilliant natural topsides and brightly varnished mahogany trim, but the painted carvel sister had a depth of character and history that easily made up for deficiencies in glamour.

The cold-molded sister cost the Institute $10,088 to build (including oars), of which some $4,926 was spent in materials. Our estimate of 600 hours labor turned into an amazing 1076 hours by the time we were finished (see Axiom III) . We were paid a total of $11,220, so the books show a revenue gain of $1,132. Without volunteers, however, we would have been up the creek without oars (having had to give them to SEA-LAND as agreed).

The carvel sister cost $13,404, for which we were paid $16,085 (including special aluminum stretcher cleats, which were extra). So the books show a revenue gain of some $2,680.

Too many boatbuilders have a tendency to underestimate, failing to account for the many small things, like gas for the truck as they drive around for materials, telephone calls, new bandsaw blades, bits and pieces from stock (maybe left over from the last boat) that have value, or that extra coat of varnish so the job is really perfect.

Axiom X

The Softness of a Boatbuilder's Bank Balance Is Proportional to the Softness of His Heart

The skill level required for construction of both the coldmolded and the carvel boats was similar, but the ambiance of each was distinct. Each has its special remembrances to fix it on the canvas of memory. The cold-molded boat is remembered as love-hate olfactory/tactile experience of sticky-sweet epoxy glue; the carvel for a desire to carouse in the clean and good-smelling wood shavings like a kid in a pile of September leaves.

The cold-molded boat, we feel, will live a long and maintenance-easy life of heavy rowing service. She is a few hundred pounds lighter than the carvel boat, inherently stiffer, and there are no seams to caulk each spring. The carvel sister will also see a ripe old age, surviving year after year of cadet training exercises and student wear. After some deep soul searching, we cannot justify an oracular pontification or "expert definitive statement" that one building method is better than the other. Each sister has her own unique character, and character is an option chosen by the preference and taste of the owner or builder. In that light, we hope that this "brutally honest" analysis provides a useful description of both methods in order to make the choice easier for others.

The Monomoy form is tucked away in a corner of the yard, and we know that we will build another sometime. Having parented two, we have become old hands and somewhat hardened; experienced now, we have no doubt that the next one will, of course, yield great revenues to the Institute's ever needy general fund.

Before organizing the Bay Area Marine Institute, Tay Vaughan was pursuing a Ph.D. in medical sociology. He turned to the sea instead and built a boat which he sailed 17,000 miles, signed on as master carpenter to rebuild INTREPID, served as dean of the Chapman School of Seamanship in Florida, and started his own engineering and marine surveying company.