Getting Ready to Glue the Deck and Bulkheads

Dry fitting the completed parts was fun—and easy. A few minutes work gave me a rough approximation of a boat and something to look at for a few days. But it’s not enough to have the pieces “sort of” fit; before gluing the boat together I need to have all the parts really fit—not an inch too long or a quarter inch too short but right on the money—everywhere, at every point. This meant that I had a long day’s work ahead of me, doing things that, for the most part, were not discussed in the plans. I was putting together a fourteen foot jigsaw puzzle and I was on my own.

The stem was cut an inch shorter to soften the upward curve of the deck. I'll trim off the notch at the tip after the deck is glued. The clamp is holding the stem vertical. The small piece of plywood screwed to the top is a temporary brace.

The stem was cut an inch shorter to soften the upward curve of the deck. I'll trim off the notch at the tip after the deck is glued. The clamp is holding the stem vertical. The small piece of plywood screwed to the top is a temporary brace.

Checking the angle of the cabin bulkhead. Why 71 degrees and not, say, 72?

Checking the angle of the cabin bulkhead. Why 71 degrees and not, say, 72?

A close-up of the forward bulkhead where it meet the deck. It needs to sit at 92 degrees, but a nudge forward or backward puts it out of alignment with the deck.

A close-up of the forward bulkhead where it meets the deck. It needs to sit at 92 degrees, but a nudge forward or backward puts it out of alignment with the deck.

The first order of business was trimming an inch off the stem. I noticed at the dry fitting stage that the deck rose too sharply at the bow. A rakish upward swoosh is nice, but my deck was practically pointing straight up. I double checked my measurements and knew I had lofted correctly. But I also know what looks right, so with a sudden burst of complete confidence I hacked the stem down to size. Once accomplished, I knew I did the right thing.

Of course, it took me half the morning to make the decision and get the measurements just right.

But that was just the first step. I also needed to mark the precise location of the cabin and forward bulkheads. Each is positioned at its own eccentric angle—the cabin leans forward at 71 degrees; the forward bulkhead at 92 degrees. How did the Stevenson’s decide on such odd numbers? I wonder as I set my angle marker and nudged the cabin bulkhead forward a few more degrees. I suspect they just built the boat, then took the measurements. My task is to faithfully recreate their gut feelings.

But it’s not that easy. Because the deck follows a curve, any change in the angle of the bulkhead affects its position along the outside edge of the boat. Tilting the forward bulkhead to the proscribed 92 degrees pushes the top of the bulkhead toward the boat’s interior and produces a quarter inch gap between the bulkhead and what will soon be the boat’s sides.

Well, that won’t do, so I have no choice but to cut a deeper notch in the bulkhead and move it forward half an inch. This also means the mast will sit a tiny bit closer to the bow, but I decide not to worry about that.

And so it goes. All afternoon I circle the boat, measuring, eying and, occasionally, cutting and planing an inch here, a sixteenth of an inch there. I spend six hours doing this and by dinnertime I’m exhausted.

By the end of the day, my visible work is a few notches and a few pencil lines, but it looks like the pieces line up and everything is square and ship shape. I’m now ready to take the next big step—one of the biggest so far—and glue the parts together. But that will have to wait for another day.

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