I don't know in general, but in this case it was the desert north of Phoenix. I heard of a thistle I didn't know was in town. The description said the rails were lying in the bottom of the boat. I contacted the owner, who said I could have the boat to rebuild (I want to lend it out to get more people racing in our local fleet) -- I just needed to put new tires on the trailer to move it.
When I pulled up to the boat in Nov 2005, I was pleasantly surprised to find the rails still attached. Moving the boat without any rails had concerned me. Then I looked closer and saw the condition of the transom. It had been a piece of plywood, but 10+ years sitting in the desert had thoroughly destroyed it. I changed the tires, tied everything down securely, and hauled it home. My wife quickly decided I was crazy (actually, she already knew this), and my brother has a standing offer to dispose of it -with a chainsaw.
The purpose of this project isn't to get a super fast boat. If I wanted to do that, I'd put the effort into 3521. The purpose is to get this boat raceable so I can build interest in our fleet. As such, I expect it'll get as much TLC as a typical fleet/club boat: Practically none. So the emphasis is going to be on function and durability, not beauty. I'm not replacing the hardware if it's not broken. (Unless someone wants to donate their old hardware) The sails are 5yrs old out of another fleet member's retired pile in their garage. I got a great deal on a "kit" silver mast ,so I upgraded the gold mast that came with it- now I have a spare "good" mast. If I paint the interior, I'll do it before installing the grates because it'll be easiest then.
Aquarius spent the next year taking up space in my garage while I tracked down a new rudder, a silver mast, and the wood to build the rails out of. Finally, in October 2006 I went to San Diego for a race at Coronado YC and stopped at Frost Hardwoods where I picked up several pieces of merenti mahogany (a philipine mahogany). Just after Christmas I put together a jig and began building several sets of rails. The first will go on 2682, the second has already been put on 2060. After I had the rails ready I started the grates, but put them on hold in case the boat got famous.
In March of 2007, an ad appeared on the local craigslist with the subject: "Want to fix your busted boat and be on TV?????" They said they were looking for boats that were at least partially wooden to repair for a TV show. I responded, and after several emails they had their field producer come by and look at the boat. Ultimately, despite their being offered nearly a kit to assemble, full plans, my help, and other experts to consult, they passed. It seems their team were more furniture restorers than boatbuilders and decided it was beyond their scope. It would have been nice to have the boat done sooner and with much less effort on my part. However, since they declined it was just a further delay.
Finally in early May 2007 I began serious work. I removed the stern grate and tanks, then the original transom. It almost came apart as I scraped it off the fiberglass. Curiously, it appears the stern side had been kerfed.
After removing the old plywood I clamped the blank to the stern and traced the shape onto the blank (This is just to get the shape-the board will go inside the fiberglass). I sawed it out on the bandsaw then began refining the shape with a spokeshave. I tried using blue marking chalk to indicate where to trim, but that didn't work so well. Just when I thought I had it fitting well, I looked at it from the bow side (which you tend not to do when the boat's sitting on the trailer) and saw that I'd badly missed the taper on the edges- in places it was 1/4" off. So I made another trip to the lumberyard for more mahogany. $75 later I was back at home making a new blank. This time I also used my sliding bevel to help get the taper right. (which also doesn't work ideally since the taper changes). This one's not perfect, but it's definately better.
I thought I was ready to put in my new transom, but before doing such a major step I decided to post to the thistles yahoo mail list for input. The replies that came back were universally: "The full wood transom used by Schock is unnecessary. Just put in enough wood to go below the grates like everyone else did/does." I thought about this, and decided it would be lighter, easier to clamp up, and just better. My concern was the tanks- I thought they were notched along the top to fit around a board that attached to the transom. So I cut the transom extra tall- tall enough to cover the top bolt holes and fit the notch in the tanks.. Then I looked more closely at the tanks-- they were notched to let a board run through them --the top extended all the way back. So I cut more off the transom until it cleared above where the tanks would go.
I often say people should listen to that tingly feeling they get just before doing something stupid. In this case, the voice in my head said "That's an awfully big, complicated layup, and it's 107 degrees. Will you be able to get it done? Will the tanks even stay put?" But I want to get this done so I have a couple weeks to work on 3521 before PCCs and nationals.
After spending most of the week prepping-- cutting holes in the tanks for inspection ports, cutting strips of cloth for tabbing the tanks, grinding to prep the tanks, trimming the transom, making a board to bolt through for the pintles/gudgeons, I got up early on Saturday and started the layup. First, I put on the spreader bar I'd measured earlier to pull the sides in, then checked to make sure the boat was symmetric. (measuring from the centerline to where the squeeze bar was holding the sides.). Everything looked good.
With help from my brother, I coated the stern with resin/microfibers, then applied a full piece of mat on the stern to bed everything else to --then my brother had to leave. We worked in small batches of resin-the largest was 5 pumps. Next I installed the tanks port first, then starboard. The starboard tank went so smoothly I started getting worried-- something had to go wrong. The pintle block was next where I proved you should put the bolt through the fiberglass while holding the glass with your hand-anything else and you tend to wrap the mat around the bolt and wreak havoc on your carefully applied/rolled out mat. Then I really screwed things up. Using the drill to tighten the bolts on the pintle board, I set the drill down on the starboard tank-- causing the tank to move, shifting the tabbing and messing it up. I got it back where it should be -- I think. Finally I got the transom board, coated the back with resin/microfibers, pushed it down until it contacted the pintle block, and clamped it in place with blocks on the outside to distribute the clamping force evenly.
The layup started just after 8am, and I finished a little after 11. That included an emergency run to Home Depot for more brushes to fix the starboard tank. I went through one foam roller, a 2" brush and 2 1" brushes. If it had been cooler or I'd worked faster, I wouldn't have needed as many brushes. Even working with small batches I had a couple gel in the cups.
Which I might end up doing, if this doesn't work and I have to take it apart.
I should have gone in where I wanted the tanks to sit and applied about a 1/2" square x4-6" long blocks to the sides, back, and bottom of the hull so I had places for the tanks to press against. The blocks would end up inside the tanks, and the tanks would press down on them on the sides/back and I'd put something to press the tanks outward on the inside. I'd glue these in place ahead of time-- they'd serve as fixed anchor points during assembly. Then I could apply positive force to keep the tanks in place.
After letting things cure, I looked at how the stern tanks were seated, and didn't see much I liked. In places they were nearly 1/2" from the hull. I debated between ripping them out or just reinforcing the tab. A neighbor who works on airplanes suggested just filleting them with resin/microfiber mix. Ultimately, the prospect of having to do a repair under the stern grate led me to remove the tanks and redo them. I switched from the air sander to an angle grinder w/ a sanding disk to remove them- it went much faster. This time I put a cleat on the side and stern and was able to use a spreader clamp on the corner to push them in tight. A little extra prep with the sander to make sure they fit the hull snugly and I got a much better fit. Not perfect, but much better.
I finally stopped and washed the boat, removing all the foam (which mice had nested in the bow tank) and cholla needles. Suddenly the boat looks almost respectable. It turned out the hull number is there, you just have to have the keel wet to see the numbers through the scuffed fiberglass.
After a break for lots of traveling (including Nationals in Eugene), I got back to work. A call for help installing the rails had 3 members of the local fleet show up at 8am on Saturday to help. I hoped to be done in a couple of hours before it got too hot. At 8am it was already over 90° and quickly rose toward the forecast high of 110.
After the issued we encounterd on Bill's boat with things not seeming symmetric, we began by checking where Aquarius started. A quick stretch of a centerline and a few measurements showed the hull was nicely symmetric. However, the mast step was 1/2" off center, and the board under it was a full inch out. I guess I feel better about the 1/4" we were worried about on Bill's boat.
I'd already reworked several of the spreaders from when we rebuilt 2060. While I finished making a couple new ones for this boat, Bill sanded off the spots where epoxy had dripped onto the rails while they were being built. Skip and Trey disconnected the front grate from the stanchions-with a crowbar since the screws were stubborn. Once the spreaders were all ready, we removed the old rails. This took about 15 minutes instead of the 4 hours on Bill's boat.
The next several hours were spent fitting and cutting the rails. This process is one that shouldn't be rushed. We first matched the rails to the hull so they had the best fit to the curve of the glass, then cut their fronts. Careful trimming with a block plane so the rail would match the many round edges of the fiberglass. Once each side would lie nicely against the stem, I used a combination square to mark where I thought the centerline was and marked the starboard rail. I think I should have lined it up with the back of the stem instead of front of the glass-- it ended up slightly too far right. After we had that rail cut, we set the port rail in place, scribed it to match, and scribed the stern end of both rails.
Things didn't come together nicely-- the port side seemed too far in. We decided things were too tight, and cut about another 3/16" off. This made the rails come together in a much nicer (but not perfect) joint, but ultimately proved to be too much- we ended up with a 1/16" gap I'll have to fix later.
After pre-clamping, drilling the pilot holes and installing all the screws to check how the rails fit, we took it apart. This kept any sawdust from when we drilled the pilot holes from getting between the rails and the hull. The rails were wet down with plain resin, then coated with resin/microfibers mixed to about the consistency of mayonaise. With the temperature over 100° already, we had to work fast. After the rails were coated, we split into 2 teams, each team working from stem toward sterm-one person positioned the rail, the other drove the screws back in. As Skip and Bill finished up the last screws, Trey and I wiped off the excess with acetone soaked rags.
Once the rails were screwed on, we tightened up the spreader bars, then worked from the stern, clamping the glass tightly between the rail and cauls that were cut to the shape of the boat. The forward section with its large curve was simply a narrow board clamped to the outside. We finished the bow with a block on top and bottom holding the front pieces level so I can insert the bow blocks later. It was 11:45-- things had taken almost twice as long as I'd hoped. They probably should have taken longer-- especially the fitting/cutting of the bow and stern. We hurried a bit because of the heat, and it's added to the work I'll have to do later.
The boat's a lot stiffer now, so it was a good day. I should have started the day by walking everyone through the plan. We kept things moving real well though -- even with 4 people nobody was standing around much. There weren't any major mistakes, but a few details (like making a fillet with the drips under the rails) got missed. I'd have liked to put cork on the cauls so they were softer and more equally distributed the force along the hull, but that didn't happen. Doing this when the temperature was 100° was not my first choice, but if I want this boat to sail the fall series (which starts Sept 29), it had to happen now. I probably shouldn't have cut the stern ends of the rails until I was happy with the bow-that would have given me more options if I made a mistake on the bow. The rails were rather chewed up from 8 months of getting moved around in the garage.
After lunch on Sunday, I went out and took off the clamps. The rails were solidly attached to the hull. The gap at the bow was as bad as I though, but at least it's a consistent width - it should be easy enough to fit a thin piece of wood in there and epoxy it in. The port side (which went on first) shows more squeezeout than starboard, and a tighter joint. It definately shows the difference 5 minutes or less makes in setting up the epoxy at 105°. I also noticed condsiderable variation in the height of the rails above the glass. This is partly due to the glass being inconsistent, but we could have watched it closer. The varying height and "thickness" will make installing the outwales more challenging. I started scraping out the excess epoxy/microfiber mix, then decided I'd leave it until I was ready to install the outwales-for now it's protecting the edge of the inwales. I want to buff the bottom of the boat, so I'm going to install the grates first then flip it to work on the bottom. I'll install the outwales after I get her back upright-they'd just be in the way when I was doing bottom work.
I spent the week finishing assembling the grates and adding some fiberglass to the port tank where it hadn't matched the hull curve as nicely as I'd like. On Saturday I got the grates trimmed so they fit and were centered in the boat, and marked the rails where they went and marked the grates so I knew where to spread the epoxy. I used a wire tied at the bow to ensure the grates were square in the hull. Sunday, my brother came over and helped me do the installation.
To fix the gap at the bow I used a spreader clamp to push apart the rails and let me install a thin piece to fill the gap. Then I added the blocking and clamped it -with one clamp pulling the blocks into toward the bow and several squeezing it all together.
We checked to ensure the grates were centered when installing, then epoxied and through-bolted them. We did the front grate first, then, after making sure the trailer wouldn't tip backward, I crawled into the stern of the boat and screwed the back grate into the transom-the back of the grate had already been covered with resin+microfibers. We clamped everything, wiped up the excess, and left it overnight to let the epoxy cure. With the spreader bars off and the grates in it definately looks like a Thistle.
I'd already scarfed pieces of ash to 22' long when I was making the rails. I planed them so they were 3/4" wide and just under 1" thick. Then I cut off the extra 2' from each one and used that to refine my table saw adjustments. This was trickier than in the past because the fast set of the epoxy had created a couple places on the starboard rail where I needed a larger overhang than normal. So I spent a good bit of time refining the setting on the tablesaw until I was sure I'd get the tightest fit I could. I tilted the blade a little more (about 6.5° instead of 5°). This was actually a little too much, I should have stayed with 5°. Before actually cutting the outwales I added more featherboards than are shown in the picture, including 2 holding the board down.
Fleet Fix-it day turned into "Put the outwales on 2682". I'd hoped to have worked on the hull bottom and then scraped off all the excess epoxy from installing the inwales. Unfortunately neither happened. So while I installed the mast step board and the stanchions, the others worked on scraping the rails. This was slow work, even using Skip's idea of putting a stop on a chisel -we used my honing guide for the stop. (My earlier chisel work had split part of the rail up). After about 2 hours with Skip working the chisel and myself and Wieslav using scrapers, we had the joint as clean as we could. Unfortunately the scrapers had gouged the soft mahogany of the inwales, so the final appearance won't be ideal. Doing one outwale at a time, we lightly clamped them to the boat, then adjusted them where they reached the stem and stern-the lip of the outwale needed trimmed. Then we coated in resin, then resin+microfibers and put it onto the boat. Here we used a 4 person team- one clamping everything tight (we're using machine screws, not wood screws, so it has to be tight before screwing), the 2nd drilling the pilot hole, the 3rd driving the screw, and the last cleaning up the squeezeout. The only issue we encountered here was the impact driver used on the screws so they didn't strip also would drive them so deep as to split the outwale-we had to glue and clamp a couple places. Doing it again I'd make sure whatever was driving the screw had a slip clutch-even if it meant putting up with some stripped screw heads. We'd started around 9am, and it was nearly 1pm when we finished.
Generally this went very well, but as usual there are a few things I'd do differently. We marked where the old screw holes were, so we got a regular spacing, didn't weaken the fiberglass any further, and avoided the screws holding the hull to the inwale (we'd broken several drill bits on 2060 when we hit those screws). I'd intended to draw a line down each outwale so my screws were in a nice horizontal line. I forgot for both sides because we were in a hurry. There was a blob of old epoxy/gunk on the starboard bow that ended up keeping the outwale from getting up tight at the bow-it should have been scraped off. I'd copied the height setting of the tablesaw blade using scraps off 2060s rails. Since we'd put those rails 3/16" above the glass and these were 1/8" above, that created more work for me when I went to plane the excess off. Skip's idea to put a stop on the chisel was a great idea. I wonder if I could have made a scratch stock and helped preserve the inwale while scraping.
After letting things setup all afternoon, I went out and planed the port outwale down that evening. The next day I went out, did the starboard rail, chopped the hole for the forestay, and began working on the jigs I'm going to use to cut notches in the grate for the 45° braces.
On Monday I made plugs and filled in the screw holes in the rails and grates. After letting the plugs cure overnight, I went out and trimmed them. For those in the grates, I used a japanese saw to trim them flush (a chisel will tend to tear them out). For the ash plugs in the rails I used a template bit in the router. To keep the router from pulling the plugs out I did a climb cut-usually not recommended since it's trying to pull the router forward. But since I was only trimming a small amount of material (and I had a new, sharp bit) I just had to be sure to keep a firm grip on the router. This left a nice finish down the rail. I did have 2 problems- partway up the port rail the height slipped a bit and let the guide bushing come over the rail, and near the stem (which is 1/16" above the bow block) the router tipped in, lifting the guide bushing over the rail and letting the bit cut fairly deep into the rail.
I definately want 45° braces on this boat for the support they provide the rails right where the shrouds pull on them. However the thought of messing up my new grates was daunting, so I decided to build a pair of jigs (a mirrored set-one for each side) to use with my router. After I had the jigs done I compared it to what was on 3521-and prompty emailed the chief measurer for clarification since that brace was more like 30° relative to the grate. The next morning I called Doug Laber who confirmed my approach was correct. Several people have asked me for details on how I do this. Rather than boring those who aren't interested, I put that in its own page.
Something I should have done as I was cutting off the plugs in the rails. Then I'd have had the extra large router base on and wouldn't have ignored my little voice which was saying "Take 3 minutes and put on the bigger base. You don't want to slip with that template bit and take a chunk out of your transom. Very soon thereafter, I put that nice notch into the transom. (It's since been filled w/ resin+microfibers). I'd leaned forward to try and see how it was cutting and let the router tilt down-which pulled the guide bearing off the fiberglass. Maybe I'll learn someday.
Just a 1/4" roundover bit in the router here. To get in close to the rails, mast step, etc. I modified the base of my router so the base would go over the obstacles. As long as I didn't tip it this worked great --except up against the transom where it didn't get into the tight areas. I'll have to borrow a laminate trimmer to get those areas.
The only complicated part here is that the thwart ends aren't square,they have a bevel of about 1°-- just enough to be a pain on the miter saw. I copied the original centerboard cap which is a rather wide, tapering board. Because os a recent discussion on the listserve on what to use for bedding compound for a centerboard cap, I used 3M 4200 to bed the cap and the thward. You can see a little of it in the picture if you look close.
With the arrival of my schroud plates I rounded over the rails. Pretty simple- 3/8" roundover bit and a lot of careful walking. The only problem I found was that I should have done it sooner. The bit wouldn't clear the grates and the area around the transom wasn't reachable. The grate areas were done first with a pass of the router with the bit raised to clear the grates, then everything was brought down with planes and sandpaper. It would have been better/easier to have routed the inwale before installing the grates and at least the last 6" of the inwale ane outwale before they were installed on the boat.
It felt good to be finally putting things back on the boat. However, when I went to put the pintles from the old rudder on my new blade, I realized the old hardware was too narrow -it had gone inside the cheeks of the old rudder. Further complicating matters, new hardware uses 3/8" pins while the old was 5/16". So $75 later I had complete new pintles and gudgeons. I changed the hole spacing so that I would be able to use this rudder on 3521 if I needed to.
Making a new wooden tiller was really simple. I started with a stick of ash, tapered it a little on the jointer, used the belt sander to round the front, then planed to fit the rudder head and sanded. That was my mistake. I should have left it a bit large when planing because after sanding it was just a little loose.
We pulled it over to one of the little neighborhood lakes near my house and dropped her in. Other than dragging the centerboard on the bottom, everything went fine.
With all but a few rigging details and the rails to finish, I turned my attention to the trailer. The existing "cradles" had been carpeted 2x on their side- so the boat basically rested on two 2" wide strips. Bad, very bad. And the hull showed it.
After we floated the boat, I took it home and with some help flipped her over. I then molded some 12" wide wiggle wood cradles for it. While I had the boat off the trailer, I completely repainted it (and should have replaced the bearings then instead of waiting until the boat was back on the trailer).
I guess getting the wheels wet was the cause of their demise. I should have probably filled them up with new grease before dipping the trailer in the lake. By this (2008) spring the wheels didn't want to turn. So I ended up pulling them apart and replacing the bearings, races, and seals. They weren't rusted much, but the grease was quite dry and stiff. Other than the inside race on the starboard wheel, things came off pretty easily.
This is a quick estimate of what I've spent so far. It's not super precise-I haven't kept all the receipts. It doesn't include a lot of expenses for things that are a result of this project but not part of the boat-like $300 in new tools or $250 in lumber that didn't get used for rails. Also, a few of the expenses (like most of the transom) could have been avoided.
|Rails (wood only)||$100|
|Transom and other woodwork (thwarts, 45's, etc)||$150|
|New Trailer Cradles||$120|
|New Trailer Bearings, Races, and Seals||$80|
Other than a tiny amount of rigging, she's done. I have a new silver mast that I need to assemble and will replace the gold mast. The hard part so far is finding someone to drive her.
Please email me if you have any questions, comments, or suggestion. Did I do something stupid? Something clever? Is something unclear? Let me know. I'm learning as I go along.
Looking for something to put on your desk? A different idea for trophies? A "Thank You" gift for the PRO at your regatta? The defining feature of the bar at your next fleet party? Here's where to go for truly unique thistle stuff. Want something other than Thistle stuff (Navy?, School colors?) Contact me.
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