Tuesday, March 27, 2012

A frame goes up and an auspicious arthropod goes down

Frame 5 is the first to go up!
Floor 5 was situated about a quarter of an inch too far aft. One solution (and probably the proper solution) would be to replace the floor. I just shaved a quarter inch off of the timber real quick with a Skillsaw and chisel. Ramon was my hero in making it plumb with the plane.

Treating bare wood with copper napthenate preservative.

And she's up! Three 3/8" bolts on each side. All wood-to-wood contact surfaces were soaked with copper and bedded in tar.

The "X" bracing and the cross beams at the sheer and just below the chine are temporary bracing.

Not the neatest job, but she's strong and deadly to fungi.

The first frame went up last night after a bit of a boat hiatus. Some coaxing with a Skillsaw and chisel got the frame to where it was supposed to hit the rabbet. It's nearly plumb, too. I apparently did a horrible job installing the floors, as three or four of them are not plumb nor flush with the station lines drawn on the keel. I'll be spending a lot of time over the next few days correcting my mistakes with a plane. This part of the boat building process has become tense as I anticipate bending a batten around the chine for the first time. I hope Luna will be beautiful.

Lucky for me, the universe sent me an auspicious sign this morning to calm my nerves.

I woke up at about 4 am this morning to a smelly, wet substance on my arm. I flung on the lights and, without my glasses, saw a blurry yellow puddle with a long, black swirly piece of business on my sheets where my arm had been. My mind immediately thought rats!, as I do have a history of sleeping in places were rats attack me in the night. Given this, and the series of rabies shots that followed, I am deathly afraid of rodents. I decided that, judging from the size of the mess on my bed, this rat had to be HUGE.  I frantically called Ramon to come over.

When I went back into my bedroom the turd was gone! I decided the rat must have come back and eaten it. I freaked. I had a monstrous, poo-eating rat in  my bedroom. I noticed a dark blurry mass moving slowly toward the corner of my bed. Rather than get closer, I decided to get out of there and start doing internet searches for, "feces consumption in rats," worried that there was a correlation between this behavior and rabies. Very productive.

When Ramon arrived, bleary-eyed and sweet as could be, we searched my bedroom with no luck. Ramon suggested the turd was in fact a culebrilla and that there was no rat. I was somewhat comforted by this possibility.

Culebrilla-- apparently common in the Valley, though sightings are rare.
But still-- the smelly yellow stuff made no sense. I resorted to Googling things like, "fat worm smelly yellow liquid" and finally came up with this:
A giant millipede! When stressed or injured, they secrete a pungent yellow substance that contains hydrogen cyanide. We never did find it, and these things live for 5-10 years. There was a lot of yellow stuff though, so one can hope it was fatally wounded. Ah well. Despite the long-lived monster spewing cyanide in my bedroom, I did sleep a little sounder knowing it wasn't a rat. 

The the silver lining in this early-morning fiasco? Apparently millipedes are good luck. Perhaps the chine will be fair after all.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Getting on with things

Boat building has stalled in the last few weeks as I realize that the raising of each frame will bring the project one step closer to completion or calamity. At this point, I'm not sure which it is going to be and am thus reveling in a rather blissful ignorance. When the frames do go up next week (!), I will know once and for all whether Luna will be a beauty or a god-awful mess. The quality of the lofting job I did over a year ago will be put to the test when I can use a batten to check the three-dimensional curvature of the chine and sheer.

The last couple of days have seen me drinking a lot of wine, eating a lot of tamales, avoiding the boat shop,and over-analyzing each step I've taken to get to this point. For each part of the project there were setbacks and things that didn't turn out quite like I'd imagined (these lessons have been mentally filed under "The Next Boat"). After spending a lot of time before each new step thinking about what could go wrong, I realized that the sooner I could deal with what went wrong, the better. I'd stall before each new venture (just as I'm stalling now), think about various outcomes and contingencies, and ultimately had to decide to just do it. Just take a chainsaw to that keel piece you spent a week in the hot sun laminating. Just run a Skillsaw down the side of  keel. Just buy that planking even if you aren't sure it'll wrap around the hull. Just use that adhesive even if it's not proven. Just glue this piece on that piece and bolt it to this piece.

Just build the boat.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012


The floors are going in! Southern Yellow Pine 4x6s bedded well in chapopote (roof tar). 

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Marking and Cutting the Rabbet

The rabbet is a groove cut into the side of the keel to accept the planking. I rough cut it using my Skillsaw and will chisel it out as needed. 

Monday, March 5, 2012

Raising the Keel

In early January, my dad and brother descended on the boat shop like Stormtroopers and raised the keel in no time using bottle jacks and one big truck jack. The keel was up to about 60 degrees when we decided to push her the rest of the way up. One big push and a rebel yell later, we had a keel! 

I wouldn't advise doing it this way, of course. The proper way would have been hooking her to some come-alongs to pull her the rest of the way up.

Friday, March 2, 2012

To sea on a NOAA ship

I just found out I'll be spending a few weeks this summer aboard one of NOAA's survey or research ships as part of the Teacher at Sea program! I hope to bring lots of knowledge and wonderful experiences back to my classroom to share with my students.

The isolation of small-town living, coupled with the traditional character of family life on the border, means that most of my students have little notion of the opportunities outside of the Rio Grande Valley. Many have internalized negative stereotypes of Hispanics, immigrants, and border life and thus have developed a limited view of who they are and what they can become. They worry about “fitting in” or “getting in” to “Anglo” opportunities. It is my job to counteract this by pushing my students to get the best from their minds and achieve more than they thought was possible for themselves. 

Making careers in science seem real and attainable to students is a priority in my classroom. These careers often seem very distant to my students because most of them have never known anyone in scientific research or engineering. I have seen over and over again how a strong relationship with a caring, approachable adult can help students expand their world view and make positive life-altering decisions. I can't wait to leverage this experience to create stellar lessons on waves, buoyancy, pressure, and thermodynamics. Most of all, I'm excited about introducing my students to this line of work and showing them that there is a big, beautiful world out there worth protecting and that they too could have an adventure!

NOAA ship "Rainier" www.noaa.gov

I won't know which ship I'll be sailing on, where I'm going  or even when I'm going until about a month before departure. Maybe the Atlantic? Hawaii? the Arctic? the Gulf? So many possibilities!

Thursday, March 1, 2012


During an early dismissal from school one afternoon I raced to a scrap metal yard just outside of McAllen, TX. I had never been to a scrap metal yard before and I felt like a kid-- wanting to watch the electromagnet pick up big loads and drop them into piles. One of the guys working there gave me a hard hat and we went out to the yard to pick out metal for the ballast. I felt pretty tough in my cowboy boots and hard hat picking out scrap metal. When the guys at the yard saw the tiny Toyota hatchback I wanted to load the 800 lbs of I-beam and rebar into, they laughed. I did zoom back to the ranch riding a little lower than normal.

After another trip to the yard, I had about 1700 lbs of scrap metal at the boat shop that I thought I might be able to jam into the ballast. Even then my poor little Toyota wasn't quite finished-- I also picked up 14 50-lb bags of Quikrete at the local building supply.

A few weeks later, I picked up a cement mixer, got a few neighbors together and we started pouring the ballast. I made the mold for the pour the night before. I built it pretty stout and I'm glad I did because my main concern when pouring the ballast was that the side of the mold (what would become the bottom of the keel when standing upright) would not stay square. It did stay square so I was happy.

 Boat building in hindsight: Overall, I was surprised by how well the ballast pour went. If I were to do it over again, I wouldn't use Quikrete-- I've since learned its not as good as what you can mix yourself.