Tuesday, May 2, 2023


 After a long, cold winter it's finally started to warm up here in NH and now that I've put away the skis and fat bike, thoughts of boat projects have begun to invade my headspace again.  The new sails have arrived (Rolly Tasker) and they appear to decent enough for the intended purpose and were significantly cheaper than anything I could have had made stateside.  

The new keelbolts are also finished and I was able to get the first 2 sets in and torque'd down so I could free up the forward 2 sets to remove the old rotten ribs and have something for the keel to hold onto while I worked on those.  

The ribs and keelbolts that were in the boat when it followed me home from craigslist were obviously a mess, but part of their problem was that each keelbolt had a single 1" washer that just crushed the wood in the rib.  Seemed like spreading the load would be a better idea, so I cut some 1/8" flat bar 316 stainless to fit in the rib pocket where the keelbots sit to use as a big washer (along with nylon lined nuts to keep the nuts from backing off).  I'm pretty happy with the outcome except that when I tapped the keelbolts after installing them into the boat (I took a different approach for the forward 2 sets of keelbolts), I didn't drill straight up, so one of the bolts is a little bit out of line.

Once the keel was secured, I was able to pull out the forward 2 ribs that support the keel and grind the lumpy mess off of fiberglass that was holding the rotten wood in place.  Satisfied with the grinding, I templated each new rib and cut out the basic shapes on the bandsaw and set to work with a rasp to clean up any high spots in my ribs so they sit flat on the hull.  Next, I cut the limber holes and pockets for the keelbolts and routed all the top corners with a roundover bit so the 1708 biaxial glass will conform when epoxied in place.  

I wouldn't say I planned a different technique for tapping the keelbolts and glassing the ribs, but heavy rains and cold temps in the last week of April forced me to take an alternate approach to what I had done for the previous ribs. The new approach was to hold each rib in place while I had my son go under the boat and tap just enough so that I new where the 1/2" hole should be.  Then I took it to the drill press and finished the tap so it was straight.  I wish I had done that with the other 2 (oh well).  

I also decided to get the ribs glassed over before I put them in the boat.  Obviously, I will need to tab them in with additional glass once they have been installed, but it was certainly easier to do outside the boat rather than having to crawl around on my hands and knees for any longer than neccesary.  The temps are now warm enough to glass outside, but I'll have to wait a few more days for things to dry out before I install them. Hoping the weather will cooperate by week's end.


Wednesday, January 18, 2023

I'm Not Dead Yet

 It's been a while since I last posted, but I did get quite a bit done since November.  We had a solid week of warm weather that allowed me to get most of the transverse ribs into the boat.  Time ran out before I was able to get the last 2 in, but it was for the best as it allowed me to remove 4 of the 8 keelbolts instead of all of them.  

My original plan was to drop the keel and start fresh, but after hemming and hawing about it for quite some time I decided to keep the keel in place and replace ribs 6 and 7 (which hold the 4 aft keelbolts) and leave ribs 8 and 9 in place until the 6 and 7 were completed and bolted back into place.  At this point I'm happy with this decision because I would have needed to construct some sort of lifting gantry to lift the boat off the trailer and drop the keel which would have presented a new set of challenges (and problems).

Anyway, prior to removing what was left of ribs 1-7, I took height and width measurements for each rib based on a slight curve between rib 2 and rib 8 (rib 1 had completely disintegrated and was no longer anything more than food for isopods (yes I found a bunch of the little buggers happily eating what was left of the ribs).  With the height and width measurements taken care of, it was just a matter of patterning the curve of the hull onto each rib and cutting them out with a band saw.  

After I cut out each rib, I dry fitted in place and made adjustments as neccesary before cutting out the limber holes to allow water to drain between ribs.  A far more pleasant task than grinding out old ribs and glass tabbing.  It was also sweeter knowing that I was actually starting to rebuild (rather than tear down).

I cut out and fitted 2 at a time (ribs 6 and 7) and once I was satisfied with the fit, I routed the top edges (and limber holes) with a roundover bit to keep hard edges to a minimum.  Next, I mixed up a batch of epoxy and coated the bottom of each rib and corresponding hull surface where they will be bonded and follwed up with another batch of epoxy thickened to peanut butter with fumed silica and globbed it onto the ribs and hull before setting them in their final position.  I used the epoxy that squeezed out of the bonded surfaces to create a 3/4" filet along all the bonded edges.

After the epoxy had begun to kick, I mixed up another batch of unthickened epoxy and applied the first of several layers of 1708 biaxial cloth to really tie the deck and rib together.  I had precut strips of cloth before hand and dry fitted them before I broke out the tubs of epoxy.

At this point I repeated the same process for ribs 4 and 5 followed by ribs 1, 2, and 3.  I let everthing cure for a few days and then cleaned up all the ribs with 80 grit paper and a shinto rasp (maybe my favorite tool) for some of the tougher sections.  With that complete, I cut and fitted more cloth for the tops of each rib and epoxied that into place.  At this point in time, the weather window had closed for me and cold temps rolled in and prevented me from finishing up.  I tapped 4 holes for the keelbolts but the new bolts I'm having made by a local machine shop weren't complete yet so I just left them as is. Once it warms up (March?), I will clean up and apply a second layer of biaxial cloth to the new ribs to fully encapsulate them.  By that time, the keelbolts will be finished and I can get the first 4 bolted into  place and get to work on ribs 8 and 9. 

Until then, I'll be ordering new sails and figuring out what else needs to be done to get the boat back in the water.


Tuesday, November 29, 2022

Scratch That Itch

 Well, it took me about 10 years to miss the sweet smell of old fiberglass dust, but I'm back at it.  After taking an inventory of everything that came with the boat and labeling everything for a later date, I busted out the oscillating saw and the old angle grinder with 24 grit disc and got to work on the boat's biggest problem.  Rotten floors/ribs.

First, I marked the location of the old ribs so I could install new ones in the same location and then moved onto the keel bolts.  The boat has 8 keel bolts (2 per rib) on ribs 6, 7, 8, and 9.  I was originally going to lift the boat off the keel but I didn't want to spend several hundred dollars to build a gantry so I decided to leave the keel in place and replace the 2 aft ribs with keel bolts (6 and 7) along with 1 - 5 first.  Fortunately, the keel bolts came out easily and only required me to chisel away a small bit of fairing on the hull to access them from the outside.  

Once I had the bolts out I used the oscillating saw to get the bulk of ribs 1-7 out of the boat and then ground down all the loose bits and lumpy old glass with the angle grinder.  I forgot how much dust the angle grinder kicks up and was glad that I hadn't put the boat in the shop.  

With everything all ground flat (yet still pretty ugly), I noticed that the seat tank tabbing on both sides was a bit wonky, so I cleaned up the joint a bit and laid in a filet of cabosil thickened epoxy and a layer of 2" tape to keep it in place. I don't think I took a photo of the joints once the tape was in place, but there is a photo below with the filet laid in.   

With that complete I sanded everything down with 80 grit paper with my 6" RO sander and went to the Goosebay Lumber to find some new wood for the ribs.  The original wood was likely white oak, but for some reason, domestic white oak is stupid expensive right now ($14 bd/ft) so I ended up choosing a lovely 2-1/4" x 8" x 8' piece of douglas fir.  Most of the doug fir I have used in the past is wonky plantation grown crap with about 10 rings per inch, but this piece was 30+ rings per inch in places and was really straight grained and very hard, so I think it will be a good choice.  Granted doug fir doesn't have the compressive strength that white oak has, but it is lighter and I am planning on encapsulating all of it in 1708 biaxial fabric to give it a good bit of strength.   Additionally, the white oak ribs call for 1-3/4" width, but I decided to go with 2-1/4" (width limit under Rhodes 19 class rules).  

Next up, I'll be cutting, shaping and glassing in ribs 1-7.


Wednesday, November 16, 2022

Oops, Something Followed Me Home

While doing my usual Sunday morning Craigslist review of sailboats a few weeks back, I came across a listing for a 1963ish Rhodes 19 for sale in Rhode Island for $300.  Of course it was a mess, but all the parts were there and the trailer appeared to be in decent shape. The boat issues were all correctable and well within my wheelhouse and I've been without a project for a while now and missed that itchy feeling of old fiberglass dust.  

I've always loved the look of a Rhodes 19 under sail, they just have that classic daysailer look about them and apparently there is a pretty large one design racing fleet up and down the east coast.

So the following weekend, my son and I loaded up the car with everything I could think of that would require us to get her home and drove down to Rhode Island to check the boat out.  When we arrived, we pulled the boat off the lawn to get a better look at it and replaced one of the wheels that looked pretty sketchy (I brought a spare wheel with me).  About 10 minutes later the other tire went flat and I was fresh out of spares.  

I was ready to call it quits and head home without the boat when the seller told me that there was a tire shop about 5 minutes down the road and they might have what we needed. So we gave it a shot and drove down and they luckily had 1 tire available and swapped out the old one in about 10 minutes.  I was still a bit worried about travelling 190 miles from Rhode Island to New Hampshire via Metro West Boston with a trailer that I wasn't sure was up to the challenge, but we decided to go for it anyway. If the thing fell apart on-route, I could always just leave it on the side of the road and walk away even if it meant losing $300.  

We spent the next 2 hours changing the bad wheel and securing the mast and gear on the deck and strapped everything down for the road.  By the time we left it was about 2:30.  Fortunately, the ride was extremely uneventful despite a few traffic jams along the way (par for the course in Boston).  We stopped every 30 minutes or so to make sure the bearings weren't on fire and the boat was still secured so it was definitely slow going.  We finally made it home around 6PM and tucked the boat and trailer in the shop driveway for the night.  Mission accomplished.

The next morning I started taking everything apart and putting stuff away.  First thing up was I labeled the floorboards and put them up in the shop attic.  Some were broken, but I think several can be saved.  In any event, I need to use them as templates when I get around to rebuilding them.  My son and I pulled the mast off the boat and set it up in a mast rack on the side of the shop.  I went through a box of miscellaneous stuff and found everything I needed to re-rig the boat.  

With everything stripped off, I got started assessing what I think needs to be done and compiled the following list:

  • Replace 9 of the 10 rotten wood floor ribs that serve as a platform for the deck and more importantly: hold the keel on the bottom of the boat.
  • Replace all the chainplates.  They are probably original and were glassed to the hull. It's likely that they are suffering from crevice corrosion and could fail once under load.
  • Strip and fair the keel and bottom.  The 400lb cast iron keel is pretty rusty and will need to be stripped, coated, and faired.
  • Sand/Grind the hull. There is a lot of old nasty paint that needs to be stripped off, faired and then repainted.  
  • Scrub the decks. If I can get away without painting, I will, but will have to see because they are covered in lichen at this point.  I kind of like the baby blue color though so I hope they will clean up reasonably well.
  • Re-rig the mast.  I'll probably replace most or all of the shrouds, but I won't get to that for a while to see how bad they are.

Stay tuned...

I think those ribs look ok don't they?

Nature in progress

An oldie but a goody?

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Dialed In

Last week I had my 25th sail on the boat and I'm really feeling comfortable in almost every condition.  I've had light days with more rowing than sailing as well as some really windy, gusty days where I don't have a free hand to even get a drink of water.  At this point I have the launch procedure fully dialed and it only takes me about 10 minutes from getting to the launch to sailing or rowing away from the dock.  The thing that slows me down the most is people asking questions about the boat and commenting on how pretty it is out on the water.

As far as performance goes, it just keeps getting better as I learn the lug rig.  I regularly hit 8-9 knots on the GPS once the boat gets up on a plane and had one 10.3 kts registered on the GPS on a windy quarter reach.  It is no slouch on any tack and while it won't quite point as high as a bermuda rig, it's close.  On a broad or quarter reach I regularly sail past performance dinghies.

Over time, I've changed very few things regarding rigging, but have made a few improvements. Most of the items have been rigging performance related including adding dog collars to the main and mizzen booms to keep them close to the mast.  The one big thing I still need to do is to replace the halyards with lower stretch Dynema core because over the course of a day out on the water, I have to keep vanging the main down to keep the sail shape taught because the current halyard stretches too much.  The only reason I haven't done it yet is because with a son off to college this fall, I don't want to spend the money.  I will swap out the halyard this winter.  

The only boat modifications so far are building a removable grate in the 'cooler' just aft of the mast so bilge water doesn't get everything too wet and a storage solution for the 2 piece oars that until just last week have been rolling around in the bottom of the boat.  This winter I have plans for building a tent over the boat for sleeping, but I have yet to do an overnight (that's on my list for this summer though).

Thursday, May 24, 2018

Tuning In

I've been out for five sails since launch and each time I learn something new.  Two of the days were really light (< 5 kts), one was just about perfect for my first day out solo (5 - 8 kts), and 2 were downright windy.  I always seem to learn more about what doesn't work on the windy days, but fortunately nothing completely failed although the conditions (gusts verified to 25 at lake weather station) highlighted a bunch of rig tweaking needed to optimize performance.

Most of the tuning is minor, but the mizzen will need to be raised about 2 inches higher in order to clear the swing arm of the Norwegian tiller because it is offset from horizontal to clear the stern.  It only happens when on a reaching run on the starboard side, but it is a bit annoying.  Right now I think I am going to solve it by adding a small block on the bottom of the step, but I haven't entirely decided yet.

Other things that I've been tweaking are the yard attachment point for both the main and mizzen.  When I originally set them, the sails didn't quite hang right so with some with some online advice I move the point a little bit forward.  I also had to restitch the location of the yard leather as a result.

Keeping the boom close to the mast even with my 6:1 downhaul has been a challenge and on the last windy day sail, I tied the boom around the mast with a sail tie.  Looking online though I found that a lot of people are using dog collars with a big snap clasp so I went to the pet store yesterday and bought a couple and fitted them to the rig.  It seems like this will be a good solution, but I haven't tried it on the water yet.

So now for the good news:  this boat just flies.  It happily gets up on a plane and even though I have been being pretty timid so far about pushing her, I have gone over 7 knots several times on the windy days with much of the time spent in the high 6's even with some lumpy conditions.  The water on the lakes here is still dangerously cold however, so I don't want to push it too much and end up in the water.  Capsize tests will hopefully be held once the water is more comfortable. 

I'm really looking forward to getting the boat out on the ocean with a nice steady sea breeze to see how fast I can get her going, the gusty, squirrely conditions on the local lakes are really challenging and make me think twice about really hiking out because you never know when the wind will hit you from the other side of the sail and throw you in the water.

Anyway, looking forward to more sea trials and longer adventures this summer, stay tuned...

Sunday, May 6, 2018


It happened, it didn't sink, and I'm happy to report that there was no drama at all even though I was pretty nervous thinking about all that could have gone wrong.  The launch actually took place over two days, mainly because it was really gusty on Saturday and I really didn't want the first sail to be in sketchy conditions, but I really wanted to get it in the water. 

So we did a quick run over to a small pond close to us just to splash it and row around a bit and to see how the boat felt being towed on a trailer.  My first impressions were that it rows way faster than the O'Day Daysailer that I have been rowing for years and that it was actually more stable that I expected.  With all four us onboard, it never felt tippy. 

After we came back from the row, I built spar crutches for the main an mizzen steps and mounted the main mast on it.  Everything else tucked into the cockpit easily so there isn't a lot of rigging to do to get ready to travel.  I re-rigged the entire boat to make sure I had everything in order and then stowed it all away again to be ready for the next day.

Today I woke to cloudy skies and rain showers with not much wind.  I could have done without the rain, but temps were in the high 50's and I definitely wanted low wind conditions for the first day out.  So with just my wife and I today (kids were working), we drove up and launched at Newfound Lake.  Newfound is one of my favorite lakes in New Hampshire.  It's big and deep with crystal clear water and a great launch.   

Since it wasn't a very nice day and it's only been about 2 weeks since ice-out (read: very cold water), the only other boaters there were salmon fisherman and most were headed home by the time we got there.  We launched with little fanfare and shoved off under oars.  

Once we were out a hundred yards or so, I raised the mizzen followed by the main and headed out.  The wind was super light, but we ghosted along and crossed the lake in short order.  A little rain here and there, but nothing that got us too wet.  All in all things turned out great, the biggest issue of the day was that I forgot my rigging knife, raincoat, and the battens for the main, but not too bad in general.  

I still have a bunch of other posts to do to cover topics I never got to like oars and the daggerboard, but those will wait so I can bask in the launch.