So this is more or less what we get when the sides, bulkhead, bow and stern transoms come together at the correct angles. Huzzah! Only there is a small problem….
At the bulkhead on the port side there is a crack in the side board! Last night, after strapping the bow and stern, applying glue, tensioning, securing, bracing, measuring, fastening, we looked at the construction and felt like we had arrived. So we removed the straps and ropes, then following Mr Monk’s sometimes less than ideally explained yet still quite detailed instructions, checked the diagonals to see if the whole construction was properly rectangular rather than a parallelogram of some sort. Oh dear, we were off by about 20 millimeters. (Yes, we do most of our nonconstruction measurements in metric units, the imperial units are just for the actual sizing of wood.) Pippa suggested that we measure along the sides, which were well-curved after the whole assemblage process (as you can see in the image above). I didn’t really see the point, but measurements are always good, so we did that and were surprised to see once again a difference of over 10 millimeters.
Oh dear. At this point I am not sure what we exactly did (it feels a bit like one of these crime scene reconstruction things: “where were you on the night of the 2nd!”) but after whatever led me there I looked at the side where it crossed the bulkhead and was unpleasantly surprised to see a distinct crack, a fissure even, running down from the top edge. Oh dear oh dear.
We channeled Zen, maintained calm and all that sort of thing. Well, there is not much else to do, really! We looked for some reason why the crack was there, tried to reconstruct what might have caused it, all these things. But we had a dinner invitation, so we couldn’t hang around, we had to remove our glue spattered and sawdust impregnated working clothes and head off for a pleasant evening with friends about half an hour outside Linz.
Of course our conversation could only revolve around one thing. What to do next. What did we do wrong? Did we over tension the sides as we bent them together to fasten the transoms in place? Was there a flaw in the plywood? Was the frame not flat enough at the point where the side crossed it thus forming a concentrated point of force on the side that cracked it? We had been hearing creaking and cracking noises throughout this process, but when we looked for cracks or other damage we did not see anything and supposed that these noises were the natural ones when bending wood.
After playing with kids and a nice dinner we broke out several bottles of wine including an extremely price-worthy Italian as well as a Christmas present strong Aussie red from my Mum and returned to the boat problems. Our friends have built their house themselves, predominately from wood, so as a house is “a boat that doesn’t float” we respect their opinion on what might have happened and what we should do next. After long discussions we all agreed that repairs were silly, the only way forward is to replace the entire side, and carried on to discuss more interesting and pressing matters.
Returning today after a great Sunday roast with snow whistling past outside and the wood fire keeping us toasty warm, we set to removing the side. But as we want to re use as much as possible of what we already have, we did not want to just saw the side in half and be done with it. There are the frames, the chine piece as well as the bulkhead and transoms, too many parts that we do not want to measure, cut, shape and re-check!
We took the tension off the stern with a tensioned ratchet belt wrapped around it, removed the screws, cracked the glue seams and still the structure held together. Perhaps we are suffering the ubiquitous Time’s Up overengineering. So we retensioned the ratchet belt, removed the few nails that we had added more or less as a last waterproofing and cracked one more small glue seam.
I stood at the stern transom, took the ratchet belt and began to release it. POW! The whole energy of the bent side discharged at the seam broke open. We are glad no one was standing on the outside of the side when the belt released.
So we had undone the side. The forward transom was next, removing screws and nails, cracking the glue seams. We were glad to see that the glue had held well to the plywood surface, seeing as we had been warned that this plywood has been specially treated to prevent cement from sticking to it, which means that glue sticks to it even less. Thus we had to sand the surface of the plywood well to remove this protective layer and allow a good well keyed gluing surface.
We then could start to remove all the screws holding the side plank onto the frames and chine piece. Unscrewing the longer screws used through the chine piece into the frame at the bulkhead, we were greeted with the head turning but the screw not coming out. In fact the screw was simply broken across the shaft between the head and the start of the threaded section.
Now we knew what had happened. As we were assembling, we realised that the 35mm stainless SPAX that we had purchased were simple too short to hold the three layers of plank, chine and frame together. So we had to resort to a visit to Bauhaus to get backups; luckily they are open over the Christmas / New Year break. We put these 50mm stainless no-name screws in along the chine, but one of them played silly buggers with us and would not set properly. Seeing where it was we thought that, as it was at the intersection of several parts, there would be more then enough screws offering support at that place so it would no be an issue. How wrong we can be. We cannot test this conjecture, but we think that because the side plank was not held down at this point properly, but could float up, and for the want of a good screw, the side plank was lost.
I suppose we can only be happy that this was noticed now and not after we were in the water.
So the next steps are re-cutting a side plank, positioning the chine and frames, then installing it with the correct curvature. Once we get to this stage we will have to put the punt on the back burner because Pippa will not be in Linz until March, so there will be a TUBA hiatus on this project. But perhaps it will be warm enough then that we can complete the vessel and test it without running the danger of sinking into an icy harbour.