Monday, March 31, 2014

Day 1 - Lees Ferry to Jackass Canyon

The boats were tied up over night at the river runner camp just below the launch ramp at Lees Ferry. Our boat (foreground) was loaded and ready while others continued stowing gear.

A required part of any Grand Canyon river trip is the ranger briefing. Peggy did the briefing for our group and the other group that was launching. For many, this was old hat while for others this was their first trip and they paid closer attention.

After the briefing, we were the recipient of additional gear,

which we stowed and tied down.

Squeak found a spot on top of my day bag where he could watch all that was going on.

Lots of friends came to see us off. Norm was scheduled to go on this trip but had to back out several weeks ago. His misfortune opened the spot that I was able to take. Norm made some really great equipment for the trip including lantern stands, the groover seat, and really great reflective arrows to designate the path to the groover.

Finally, after much ado, we were able to launch at 1:30 p.m. on March 5th for our
trip. Izzy was our boat captain and rowed the vast majority of the trip. She's co-owner of a guiding and outfitting company in Boulder City, Nevada.
John West was at the Paria Riffle taking pictures as we passed by.

BJ got this picture of Izzy and I as we pass by the muddy water of the Paria River where it merges with the cold, clear water of the Colorado below Glen Canyon dam.

Just over 4 miles downstream from Lees Ferry we approach the Marble Canyon bridge. This will be the last road we see until the rough road access at Diamond Creek, 225 miles downstream. It's the last bridge until the Black bridge, just upstream from Phantom Ranch, 88 miles downstream.

John West got a photo of us as we passed under the bridge that serves as proof that I did row some. The yellow at the back corner of the raft is a drag bag where Izzy chilled her supply of Diet Coke. The yellow rectangles on the raft are Paco Pads that serve as waterproof cushions during the day and mattresses as night.

We stopped to scout the Badger Creek rapid. It is rated a 5 on the 10 point scale used to rate Grand Canyon rapids. It's the first rapid of significance, with boulders washed into the river from canyons on both sides of the river.

Our camp for the night was just below the rapid on river left. Dave Mortenson, Izzy, and I had dishwashing responsibilities for the first cycle. There are three rotating duties - cooking, dishwashing, and groover (toilet). With five teams, you also get two days off in each rotation.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Day Zero - Rigging Day

Susie Too showed up at Lees Ferry for our rigging day, all painted, but still without her name on the bow.

She did, however, have dark shelf paper hiding the beautiful oak on the inside of the splash guard. The original Susie Too had black paint on the inside of the splash guard, so the shelf paper was a nod to authenticity.

The Flavell II showed up looking very racy

with some details to be finished up.

Since the Portola did the trip two years ago, this was old hat for her.

Meanwhile, the rest of us were busy rigging the four 18' rented rafts and Helen's 18' cataraft that Tony would be rowing.

Each raft was fitted with a main rowing frame that included a forward hatch that served as the passenger seat and a large ice chest that also served as the seat for the boatman. There was an additional hatch frame mounted behind the main frame, and room for additional cargo under the net in the back of the boat. Each raft got five days of dry and frozen foods in numbered boxes and bags as well as personal gear.

It was a long day of rigging, but everyone was excited and looking forward to dinner with friends and tomorrow's departure.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Day -1: Headed to Lees Ferry

When I volunteered to help Helen and Tony build a dory, it was simply to enjoy building yet another boat, help a favorite river friend, and bring some complimentary skills and experience to the build team. I didn't have any expectation that I'd have an opportunity to share in the boat's maiden trip. When an opportunity to join the trip opened up about three weeks ago, BJ encouraged me to jump at the chance even when she had no interest in seeing the canyon from the water.  280 river miles over 25 days through one of the seven natural wonders of the world!

With both my river gear for 25 days on the river and camping gear for a couple nights of tent camping for BJ and I at Lees Ferry, we headed north a day earlier than absolutely necessary because I wanted to see Tom Martin's GEM replica. Tom made a comment to me a couple days before the opportunity to join the trip opened up which was a very positive influence in my decision to join the trip.

We stopped in Cameron on the way north at the Cameron Trading Post for our customary Navajo Taco. It was really tough leaving most of the fry bread on the plate but I respected my low carb diet to the extent possible. As we head down the river, that may be a bit tougher.

Tom Martin's group was on the ramp rigging an assortment of six rafts and his GEM replica when we arrived at Lees Ferry. Tom is the author of "Big Water, Little Boats" as well as the best of the Grand Canyon river guide books. He is a font of knowledge and stories and experience.

Here's a picture of his dory replica. We're planning to cross paths with his group at least a couple days on the river.

BJ and I as well as a couple others who are going on our trip went to dinner with the group for their last supper at Cliff Dweller's Lodge. Good food and great conversations.

Tomorrow is rigging day for our group.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Knot Too Shabby

I realized that Kathy's kayak is directly tied to almost all of the boats I'd built previously.

The Port Orford Cedar in the centerline feature is what was left over from the POC that I used on my first kayak, the If-N-When II.

The Alaskan Yellow Cedar in the center of the pinstripes is left over from the wood used for gunnels and ribs in my skin-on-frame Greenland style kayak ("Knot Much")

and in the feature stripe and inner gunnels of my solo canoe - ("Knot Again")

The Honduran Walnut was used for a pin stripe on my favorite - and only remaining - touring kayak - ("Knot Likely").

The Western Red Cedar used on the deck is left over from the Knot Likely and Knot Again projects.

The thin plywood was left over from the hull of my "Too Knotty" project - a stable, short tandem that I built for my mother-in-law's lake cabin.

What surprised me was Kathy's decision to follow in the "Knot ..." naming tradition. She's planning to name her boat "Knot Too Shabby."

This is the last of the scheduled posts - there won't be any more blog updates until I get off the river after the Grand Canyon river trip on March 29th. If we're on schedule, we should be camping at Parashant Canyon (river mile 199) when this is published. Seven more days and about 82 miles to our takeout at Pearce Ferry on Lake Mead.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Looking Good!

On the 12th day of the kayak build project (most were full days but 3 or 4 were short days or evenings) we were ready to put fiberglass and epoxy on the deck. Kathy had done one final sanding and masked off the hull so the deck wouldn't get stuck to the hull.

The glass went on in one piece set corner-wise as much as possible to aid the cloth in draping over the curves. The excess was trimmed off and will be used on the under side of the deck.

The epoxy was applied by pouring and spreading with a credit card. The epoxy turns the cloth clear and we get our first view of what the deck will really look like. Couldn't resist a picture with the first coat on just the rear deck.

It was really tough to get a picture without glare. This was after the first coat. We noted the cedar was really thirsty and pulling epoxy from the cloth in a few places so we mixed up some more and added a second coat.
Even from the other end I got glare

until we turned off most of the lights. The boat will essentially set as-is until I get back from my Grand Canyon river trip with the exception of trimming the excess glass and building up the vertical portion of the cockpit coaming.

As this is published the Grand Canyon river trip should be camped near river mile 172 enjoying our second layover day.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

A Bit Twisted

With the easy strips out of the way, it's time to tackle the hardest ones. This strip is the first that continues from the front deck to the rear deck. All but about 1/8" of it is cut away where it passes the coaming base. After it is fitted, it will be bent, twisted, and curved to fit in place.

This is the matching strip on the other side, clamped in place so the glue can dry. Rubber bands, blocks, spring clamps, and miniature bar clamps all played a part in convincing it to stay put.

We ran out of Western Red Cedar strips so the last ones on both sides are new growth Port Orford Cedar. Just one last strip to fit and place.

After gluing the last strip in place, I used the heat gun to set the glue quickly. Over eight hours to fit the last 12 strips!

Time for more sanding. Kathy did a lot of sanding (until midnight, I hear) to make the 86 strips, each individually fitted and glued, look like one. We'll have one more pass with the sander and then it's time to glass the outside of the deck which will make the wood colors really pop.

If the Colorado River trip is on schedule, we should be camped below Deer Creek near river mile 138 when this post is published.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

All the Straight Stuff

Saturday morning we started with the first Western Red Cedar strip. With the boat divided into four quadrants we were able to to work around it. By the time the strip for the fourth quadrant was fitted and glued, we were able to remove the clamps from the first quadrant and start fitting the next strip.

Because of the curve of the deck, especially in the front of the kayak, some of the strips needed to be beveled so that they would fit tightly together. A dado in a length of 2 x 10 holds the strip on edge while the low angle block plane makes quick work of the required bevel.

A wide variety of clamps were used to hold the strips in position while the glue dried, but my favorite was a strip of inner tube and large binder clamps. By using clamps like this, we were able to avoid using staples in all of the strips except for the shear strip.

I didn't take many pictures but by the end of the day Saturday, we'd fitted and glued 44 strips. This picture was much earlier in the day.

After church on Sunday we picked up where we left off, hoping that we would have the deck totally stripped before the end of the day, but

when the plane hit the floor, all work came to a screeching halt. With the stud broken off the toe plate, one of the most essential tools was down for the count, just when we were getting to the interesting (or perhaps better described as challenging) strips.

If we're on schedule, we should be camped just above Granite Rapid (river mile 93.7) when this is published.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Let's Start Stripping

With the hull glassed and cured, it was flipped back onto the strongback so the deck forms could be installed yet again. This time the hull shear is covered with blue tape and the deck forms are covered with tape so that the deck strips won't get stuck to the forms. With the coaming base clamped in place, it's time to start stripping.

There are lots of ways to strip a boat. I like to start with a shear strip on the outside to insure a fair curve, and then strip in line with the centerline of the boat. In this case, the shear strip is Honduran walnut to contrast with the Hatteras Off-White paint planned for the hull.

We added some thin contrast strips including an 1/8" inch strip around the coaming base. The curve at the front was sharp enough that we needed to help the strip bend by soaking the area in boiling hot towels.

Each individual strip is cut and fitted and then edge glued to the adjoining strips. By the end of the day, we had the shear as well as all the feature strips in place.

If we're on schedule, we should be camping somewhere near Lava Canyon (river mile 65.9) when this is published with a layover day planned for tomorrow.