Sunday, April 30, 2006

Thinking Time and Working Time

“Sometimes I sit and think; other times I just sit!”

What has amazed me is the amount of time needed for working out how best to build each part of ‘Faith’, the Paradox sailboat I am currently building. Interpreting the plans correctly requires time; transposing the information to the materials takes time; checking everything is time consuming, but if care is not taken, mistakes can be made, which can be very expensive in time and effort.

Much time can be saved by spending time gathering information about how others have built their boats. In this respect downloading photos and articles from the Internet can be very helpful.

Working time is not always easy to come by because there are so many demands upon ones time. A whole day is very valuable, but even a half of a day can be useful. Quite often it’s a matter of fitting in the odd moment here and there, in between doing those things that have to be done.

A certain mindset is required – that’s a determination to overcome those demands that steal time from the project - time must be spent on building the boat, and yet important things must have the priority. Building the boat is secondary, or is it? This dilemma is a conundrum that poses a question of precedence.

The stage I’m at now is assembling the frames, transom, stem and side panels, prior to gluing them together. It’s a time for checking that everything fits snugly. To do this easily I’ve constructed a building trolley on which the boat can easily be taken in and out of the garage. Being able to work outside is less restricting than being in the confines of the garage and there is the advantage that the boat can be protected from the elements when I’m not working on her.

Saturday, April 22, 2006


I’ve just been watching Liverpool and Chelsea in the semi-final of the FA Cup, with the final score at 2-1 in favour of Liverpool, but how excited were the fans! I’m not really inspired by full grown men kicking around a ball, but I can see how passionate followers of players and teams become. In the end there can only be one winning team that takes the trophy, and the shareholders of their club rub their hands in glee as they know dividends will be coming their way.

No doubt many football enthusiasts will not understand how I can be excited and challenged by building a small wooden boat. Today was a case in point; the challenge of making the heel of the mast fit the step was one of those events. How could I fit the mast into the step socket which was attached to frame number 2? The solution was to jam the frame between the gutter down pipe and wall of my house; thus the frame was held upright ready for me to lift the mast vertically and drop it into the step socket. After many minute changes to the foot of the mast and the step, the two became a perfect fit, but that will not be the end of the matter, because I’ll need to make further adjustments before coating both the mast and the step with several layers of epoxy.

I can tell you I was excited when the job was accomplished; similarly, yesterday I drilled through the mast step support for a distance of over a foot to make a drain for any water that may enter the vent box, but my greatest excitement will be when the boat is finished prior to launching her for the first time. There’ll be no shareholders rubbing their hands with glee because of the profits they will receive, but I’ll reap the benefit of my labour with the satisfaction of doing a job well.

Sunday, April 16, 2006


A thousand mile trek is but one step at a time; so the ancient Chinese proverb goes, but when you take two steps forward and one step back it takes twice the time! That’s what’s happening in my pilgrimage of building a Paradox micro-sailboat. Perhaps that’s not an accurate analogy, but certainly my march is not in a straight line, neither is it with a constant beat of left, right …… left, right, until reaching my destination, i.e., a finished sailing boat ready for the water.

On some days progress is negligible, but on others it is perceptible. I want to be at the end of the journey, and yet I want to enjoy the experience, and paradoxically prolong it. Just entering the garage where the rib cage is almost ready for assembly, that’s four frames and a transom, I smell the pleasant fragrance of wood shavings. My heart beats more fervently at the prospect of the next challenge and I set my mind on achieving an objective before giving up for the day. Just one step will be in the right direction towards the goal, but with many such steps the task will be accomplished.

The mindset is not to think of the many steps, but rather to concentrate on making the current step well. I must do it with adroitness, without error; whether it’s measuring, cutting or fixing, all must be done to the best of my ability. There can be no place for slipshod work; nothing but the best within my ability will suffice. Only then can my steps be achieved with satisfaction.

For those undertaking a boat building project with any substance where duration and commitment are required, a certain mindset is adopted that may be compared with that of a long distant runner, irrespective of the pain, difficulties and setbacks; all effort is focussed on finishing. Getting there is all important.

Monday, April 10, 2006


Happiness; what is it? Usually it is a fleeting moment of inward joy, elation or ecstasy - a feeling that sometimes arrives unexpectedly. This afternoon was such a time.

Initially, as I started working on the transom, a biting northerly wind whipped around the corner of the garage where I had set up my Black and Decker work bench. Dark clouds and few spots of rain made the prospect of cutting the support cleat for the baffle an uninspiring task. Two of my fingers were a bloodless white as I gripped the jigsaw, but I persevered with the mechanical operation of keeping the oscillating blade exactly on the curved pencil line. I followed its path, but it was as if some other person were doing the job, and I was amazed to see the angled saw unhesitatingly stick to the graphite path. One more cut, this time vertical, finished the semicircular cleat, composed of two pieces of ply for the required 25 millimetre thickness.

Using a fine bradawl I pricked a series of small holes into the cleat for brass pin tacks in readiness for fixing it to the transom; meanwhile, the epoxy and hardener were being warmed in the kitchen while awaiting their destiny of being mixed in a ratio of two to one respectively. A half thrust of each pump delivered the required amount for this small job. There followed some vigorous stirring of the liquids to mix them thoroughly.

Having transferred my bench, transom and cleat to the garage to be out of the wind and rain, I had time to spread the mixed resin on adjoining surfaces before it became too cold for easy application. With some delicate hammering I tacked the cleat to the transom.

That’s when a glow of satisfaction transformed my face from having the gaunt appearance of a chilled white skull with dark sunken eyes, into a beaming, smiling ruddy physiognomy with the complexion of a juvenile shepherd like the biblical David, toned by sun and wind. At that moment I realised all the frames with their cleats and floors had been assembled; they only needed to be trimmed and cut for the sheer and chine strakes. Even the hull panels had been prepared for joining, and shortly afterwards I would start assembling the hull. I was as happy as a sandboy!