The continued adventures of Sandy…

The latest updates on the building of the Greta T (as of July 12):

My apologies for the dearth of updates but I have had my head down and have been working hard (with Skip Izon, the builder and designer) to get the boat finished and ready for the journey. Now that the restrictions are being eased we are working 5 days a week from 8 – 4 with 20 minutes for lunch and a 15 minutes break in the afternoons.

I am thinking of changing my middle name to “Sandy” as that has been a dominant feature of the work – sanding and fairing the rudder and centreboard and fabricating the mast and boom holders (the unusually shaped piece that allows the masts to rotate and tilt at the same time).

In the pictures below you can see how I first made the holders in rigid foam (insulation material) as one piece that separates into two halves. The second picture shows them taped off for fibreglassing. This will be removed from the form/mold and the foam on the inside shaped to make another fibreglass part that will take the mast and boom. These will then be further shaped and sanded and faired before joining the two parts into one unit that will be coated with multiple layers of special carbon fibre cloth for stiffness to resist the forces on the mast and boom from sailing. The colour scheme is a result of the rolls of electrical tape that I had – pretty jazzy, eh? The shiny tape allows the fibreglass to be removed from the form easily, but just to be sure I waxed and buffed it as well.

The small “bulge” at the front is to provide an internal cross-sectional strengthening piece to stiffen the boom (holds the sail at the bottom edge). On conventional sail rigs, there is a pivoting piece called a “gooseneck” that holds the boom to the mast and some rope/pulley arrangement called a “boom vang” to hold it down and help shape the sail. The Greta T is a very different boat in that there is no room for this – the mast and boom form a rigid (almost 90 degree) angle.

It is these many small details which are “different” to your average boat that make the Greta T unique, but are time consuming to figure out and build. Since this is likely the only/last boat that I will ever build I have decided that nothing ventured, nothing gained will be our motto. Skip and I are fairly sure the design is fast, that the boat will be robust and safe, and that the decidedly different systems for rowing and holding the mast and sails will all work as intended. We have a backup plan (a slightly more conventional system for the masts and sails) but I really hope we don’t have to use it!

The oar holders are another part that has taken a lot of time and thinking/problem-solving. Basically we needed a unit that would hold the EZ row units at the right height and angle to the water and withstand the stresses that the rowing motion generates but still allow the oar units to be detached for sailing. We came up with a two part system (a box that is bolted to the rowing unit and then drops on top of the “adapter shape” that is attached to the boat. Skip built and shaped pink foam into this shape then fibreglassed and added carbon fibre to it. The system of bolts to attach it to the hull required carefully fitted blocks inside, each shaped to the curve of the hull.

Here you can see the two shapes – the long narrow parts will face forward and are shaped to cut the water cleanly if the boat is heeled while sailing. The raised “pad” on the top is to snugly hold the box part which is bolted to the EZ row unit. Two rope straps with a purchase system of small pulleys will hold it all in place. The idea is that I will row if the wind is light and then as it increases, detach the oar unit and stow it in the stern in specially shaped holders. The black (for now, as it will be painted grey to match the hull colour) “receiver” shape gets left on for sailing.

I realize as I re-read this post that it is a bit technical and perhaps more of interest to those who are really into sailing and boat-building. So here’s something a bit more personal, while still part of our building process.

We needed two laminated curved wood pieces (one for the stern to support the rudder post and fittings and the other to stiffen the mid-ship bulkhead which supports the main mast). We made these from 5 thin (1/8”) slats epoxied in layers (with two carbon fibre layers) and clamped on a curved form. The curve mimics the curve of the fore deck and is derived from a mathematical curve called the “bell” curve or normal distribution – a shape that my mathematical self finds highly pleasing.

The top layer we made from some 60 year old mahogany bequeathed to me by my father, Jack Robertson, who was a skilled amateur woodworker; it was an off-cut from a built-in wardrobe he made for our family home in Hamilton. I have included the picture of the lamination in the clamps and one of the two finished pieces. So I will be traveling with a nice little memory of my Dad and our home on Concession Street with me! As the offspring of a pack-rat I obviously inherited the gene.

Published by Ian C. Robertson

I am a retired Mathematics teacher and formerly a sailing instructor and Instructor-Evaluator with the CYA. I have been planning this fundraising trip for a number of years now, and despite setbacks - notably a cancer diagnosis and the pandemic - I am now at the building stages of a light, wooden, 16 foot rowing and sailing boat for the trip. The trip: 1,3000 km. along Lake Ontario, up through the Trent-Severn Waterway, along Georgian Bay to Lake Huron, through the St. Clair River, Lake Erie, alongside the Welland Canal and back onto Lake Ontario to get home to Grimsby! I am offering to match all donations to the WWF for this trip up to $8,000 and I hope and believe that there are lots of people who will support me and the WWF!

%d bloggers like this: