In the last post Bill asked if I was going to “glass” the hull, and I responded that the hull would be sealed, but not glassed. The question was timely; I started sealing the hull today.
“Glassing” the hull refers to adding a layer of fiberglass cloth and epoxy to the hull. Glassing is common on wood strip canoes and kayaks, using a lightweight cloth. If done correctly, you can varnish the hull showing off all that beautiful wood underneath and not even see the fiberglass. My father and my brother-in-law both built wood strip canoes, and in both cases the results were spectacular. Glassing is also done on smooth-skinned power and sail boats, but only very seldom on lapstrake boats. My brother and I “glassed” a classic lapstrake power boat that had been in the family for years, but we used dynel cloth instead of fiberglass. Wrapping the cloth around the laps of each strake was less of a challenge than we anticipated, but I left my brother to fill the weave of the cloth with successive coats of epoxy. I remember him stating that filling the weave was less than fun.
On Tammie Norrie, I don’t need the extra strength that cloth provides, so I don’t have to worry about the cloth and I can use straight epoxy as a sealer. On Wee Lass, I used Clear Coat manufactured by System Three, and it worked well, so I’m using it again. Clear Coat is a two part epoxy, but it’s very thin – you can brush it on just like you would a varnish. So this morning a I put a coat of varnish on the transom and shear strake, gave it some time to dry, and this afternoon I put on a coat of Clear Coat on the rest of the hull. After letting it dry, I’ll give the entire hull a light sanding, and repeat the process. The hull will get two coats of Clear Coat, followed by two coats of primer, and then two coats of paint. The hull and shearstrake will start off with two coats of varnish, but that’s just for starters. Prior to launch, anything varnished will have at least six coats.
When I sealed the hull the epoxy turned the plywood a darker color than it had been when bare, but the color wasn’t too bad. It gave me a hint of what the hull would look like if I decide to varnish the inside of the hull. I’ve still got some time before I need to decide whether to paint or varnish the interior.
A little nonsense
Sailing is full of traditions, some of which are well-found and make perfect sense, and others… well, we’re not quite sure where they came from. One tradition is that the tips of the spars should be painted white. In the photo of Wee Lass below, I’ve painted the tips of the mast and the boom.
Some time ago one person asked about the origins of the tradition on one of the internet forums I follow. Other than the obvious fact that it really looks cool, is there any reason for painting the tips? The short answer is that nobody knew for certain where the tradition came from, but like any good forum, lack of certain knowledge didn’t stop the members from coming up with their own theories. Two of them I really liked:
Theory #1: Ask anybody who owns a wooden fence, and they’ll tell you that rot is most likely to happen at the ends of the boards or posts, rather than along the length. Due to the structure of the wood, it is much easier for water to soak into wood on the end grain rather than along the length. Early boat builders try to minimize the likelihood of rot by sealing the end grain. Before good quality paint was available, lead would be ground up into fine powder and mixed into whatever they were using to seal the wood. If you’ve worked with lead much, you know that when it oxidizes it turns into a grayish white. The lead powder was meant to seal the end grain and minimize rot. Later when good quality paints became available, white paint was used instead of lead powder, but the intent was the same. Today’s varnishes have improved to the point where they will seal the end grain just fine without the use of paint, but some people paint the tips anyway as a nod to tradition.
Theory #2: Many years ago two sailors were returning from a night spent at a local drinking establishment. As they staggered back to the ship, one sailor turned to the other and said “You’re drunk!” The second sailor said “No, I’m not! And to prove the point, when we get back to the ship, I’ll hop in the bosun’s chair, hoist myself to the very top of the t’gallant mast on the main, and I’ll paint the tip white!” The first sailor said “You’re on, I’d really like to see that.” When they got back to the ship, the second sailor did just what he promised.
The next morning the captain came on deck, and like all good captains, the first thing he did was inspect the ship stem to stern. It didn’t take him long to discover that the t’gallant mast on the main was wearing a freshly painted sock. The captain turned to the two sailors and said “That looks good, boys. Now get your butts aloft and paint the tips of all the rest of the spars!” And the tips of spars have been painted white ever since.
I have no idea if that story is true. But if it ain’t, it oughta be.