Winter Boatbuilding At VCB


Lorne Swarthout

On Sunday the VCB boatshop was rocking like it was February 2020. Of course, on this second anniversary of the first great 21st century pandemic, everyone was vaxed and boosted and masked. Things are not yet—and may never be—the same. Nonetheless, out there on Pier 40, beneath the roar of the gas heater, a dozen volunteers were hard at work building and repairing boats. They were sanding, planning, gluing, painting and fiber-glassing with focus and camaraderie: it felt like old times.

Our boatshop has been slow to reopen this winter. Like everyone else, we have hunkered down as the blizzard of delta and omicron has swept through our region. Now that it seems the worst is past, we are cautiously putting out the welcome mat on Wednesday and Sunday afternoons for volunteers who want to help refurbish our gallant fleet of Whitehall gigs or lend a hand with a new project, a 14’ Maine peapod.

In addition, on Fridays after school, a clutch of VCB high school rowers are learning new skills as boatbuilders. They are tackling an 8’ Opti row/sail pram which is a continuation of a winter 2020 project. This crew is making good progress and having a good time in the process.

High school (and college) students who are working on the Opti, Fridays
from 4:00 to 6:00.
Drilling holes to mark out the centerboard slot.
Bending some reluctant boards to make the gunwales.
The Notorious G.I.G. is in the shop for its five-year overhaul. It needs to
be scraped and sanded inside and out before we put on three fresh coats
of varnish.
Five years of vigorous rowing have worn down the thole pin blocks,
We replaced the old ones with white oak.
The bilge got a new coat of red paint to match the red sheer strake.
Some people wanted to paint the whole interior, but Sally is very partial
to the all-natural look. (We don’t always agree on everything)
A cracked plank needs to be cut away and patched, backed up with a
butt-block inside and fiberglass outside.
Everyone got together to lay new glass cloth on the keel. Far in the
back, you can see Frank working on the new electric lines.
The Peapod is being built around eleven “molds” that rest on a strongback. Straight and level is important.
The steam box (with the tea kettle) is ready to go. The thin pieces that will
be laminated for the stems need about an hour of hot steam in order
to be flexible enough to go around the form in the back.
Even with the steam, persuading all ten laminations to go where
we want them calls for all hands on deck.
Marking carefully for the next plank.
We are making patterns for each of the five planks. It is an extra step
but it assures a better fit and less chance of wasting expensive wood.
Once in place and attached to the bottom board, the stems need
to be shaped to accept the planks.
The first plank is down! Celebration!
All work and no lunch? Not at VCB.

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