Today’s Costume: Boatbuilder

…in which I get back to the business of building boats.

boatbuildress  Just before I left last fall I put my unfinished boat to rest. I covered the windows to keep the winter sun off her and I made sure she wasn’t in under any of the spots which had previously leaked. I covered her up. Then I uncovered her lest she hold moisture. I made sure that the hatch covers were at the right ends then I locked the door and walked away. I am glad now that I didn’t rush to finish her – it would have likely been a recipe for disaster.

As I left her.

As I left her.

When I donned my coveralls and unlocked the barn last month I suddenly wished that I had jotted down a few notes about where I left off and any problems I might have anticipated. I wished I had organized the tools so that I could put my hand right on the one needed. But things were frantic after the travel to the reunion, the house sale, and the packing up of the camper for the winter and on my return I found my workshop to be in a very haphazard state. I thought that I had finished the epoxy work so I set in to sanding but noticed there was still a lot of weave showing so it was back to mixing hardener and resin and laying on one more top coat on the deck. Thank goodness I had the foresight to bring the epoxy into the house so that it wouldn’t freeze. And so it was that I set about sanding.

This is the way we sand our boats, sand our boats, sand our boats. This is the way we sand our boats, so early in the morning.

This is the way we sand our boats, sand our boats, sand our boats. This is the way we sand our boats, so early in the morning.

There is an old adage that says that boat-building is 95% sanding. ‘Tis indeed. The epoxy has to be smooth as, as smooth as what? Is it inappropriate now to use the expression “smooth as a baby’s bottom” or “smooth as a boiled bone?” Essentially it has to be flawless. Five days of it was all I could give. It is not flawless but it is more than acceptable. Like I told the fellow at CLC, I don’t expect perfection, I just don’t wish to hear anyone say “Look at the mess that woman made of that perfectly good boat kit!”. Anyhow, by the time I finished on the last day my fingers were buzzing, I was courting carpal tunnel syndrome and I had used a small rain-forested beach worth of sandpaper. There was a thick coating of dust on everything in the shop and it penetrated into the cracks and seams of any exposed object.

In the raw - freshly sanded epoxy.

In the raw – freshly sanded epoxy.

The five days of sanding was followed by three days of vacuuming and wiping down. Let it be known that I have never put in that much elbow grease on housework! The room being as dust free as I could make it, I was ready to varnish. Dang it, the closest place to buy the type of varnish I wanted was in Halifax. Whee, road trip!! And so the final stage has begun.

Half and half.

Half and half.

It poured rain all day but I took the risk of having a delay in drying time and varnished anyway; I was afraid to take a day off lest I not be able to get going again. As I type this tonight there are two coats on the boat. I thought the sanding was all done but today I learned that you also have to sand between the coats of varnish, of which there will be five. On the hull. Then I turn her over and repeat on the deck. A coat a day. So how many days is that before I install the sliding seat and hatch toggles? Oh dear, where are the hatch toggles? They also need five coats. And how much dust will I stir up finding them? I shall put a big note on the door right now.


Tonight I have a headache even though I wore the respirator all day. I think it leaked as I could often smell the varnish. Need to tighten it up tomorrow or I won’t make it to the end. Or perhaps my headache was from yesterday’s first row of the season, my biomechanics altered by recently sprained ribs. No matter, I am drugged up and looking forward to running my hand over the shiny hull in the morning. In the meantime, I am happy to have one boat in the water already – but that’s another post.

© Judy Parsons 2016

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