Friday, October 9, 2009

First paddling trip!

Over the past couple of days, my dad and I were able to get the XCR out paddling. This will probably be our only time paddling together before the Watertribe Ultra Marathon this coming March. We decided to split our paddling into two days since the weather here has been so nasty. Well, maybe typical for Michigan this time of year, but still not great for paddling. It has been rainy and low to mid 50s for the past few days. At least it wasn't very windy... :) Anyway, on our first day, we headed west from the canoe launch at Dunton Park, on the east end of Lake Macatawa. We paddled about 6 miles, almost to the end of the breakwater but decided to turn around before we hit the big lake. The waves coming into the channel were 4 to 5 feet and pretty steep. We were able to surf down the face of a couple of these waves which was thrilling. We then paddled back to the launch since we needed to get back home for my daughter's 3rd birthday party. Here is our GPS track:

The second day we started from the same spot, but headed east up the Macatawa River (also called Black River). Just at the mouth of the river, we passed a large lake freighter which appeared to be unloading road salt. Like I need a reminder that winter is coming... We headed up the river about 5 miles before it got a little to small to easily navigate the XCR. We turned around and paddled back down the river, this time taking the canal that runs around Windmill Island. If you are ever in Holland in the spring time, this is a must see! Once back to our launch beach we decided to do a couple more miles (since we couldn't get enough of paddling in the rain!) before heading back home for lunch. Here is our track from day 2:

And finally, here is a slideshow of pictures from both days:

Friday, September 18, 2009


First coat of topside paint done. I plan on putting on a second coat tonight.

Interior shot, looking from front to back (rear seat is removed) I plan on painting the interior as well, using the same topside paint as the exterior, but in a "sand" color.


Again, I have a few days of progress to report... After our successful launch, I had to get around to actually finishing everything. I started with a long session with the random orbital sander, smoothing down all the rough spots from the first fairing coat. After that got smoothed out pretty good, I put on a much thinner second coat, limited to the area around the fiberglass joints. After this was set, I ran over everything again with the sander getting the hull and deck nice and smooth. There are still a couple rough spots here and there, but you have to be pretty close to see them. Then finally, I put on the first coat of paint. I started with Rustoleum Wood and Fiberglass Primer, which went on without a hitch. I used a foam roller (cut in half to ~4") for the majority of the hull, and a small brush for the coaming. Last night, I put on the first coat of Rustoleum Topside Paint after giving the primer a quick, light sanding. The boat looks great, I'll try and get a couple new pics up soon.

Thursday, September 10, 2009


The XCR got wet today! Still not faired, sanded, or painted; but who cares! We took a very short trip on Lake Macatawa since we had our kids with, but still had a great time. Sara (almost 3) enjoyed peeking over the edge of the coaming, while David (1) promptly fell asleep:

How this is comfortable, I have no idea...

Because I took a bunch of pictures, here is a little slide show:

Pre-launch Marathon

So, I had given myself a goal of getting the XCR in the water on Labor Day... that didn't quite happen, but not because it wasn't ready to go. Anyway, I have a few days worth of work to report on. I narrowed the tasks down to the minimum necessary to get the boat into the water: getting the trailer finished and roadworthy, installing the seats, and installing the carrying handles.

First the handles. What should have been simple turned into quite a struggle. I found a place that looked good, then drilled holes for the mounting screws through the deck and backing block. I was using machine screws, so I needed to put the nuts and washers on the inside to hold everything together. Since the handles are near the front (and back) of the boat, the nuts and washers are inside the closed off area behind the bulkhead. I had installed a hatch, so I should be able to just reach in there and spin on the nuts right? Wrong. First of all, I peak in there and don't see my bolts... hmm... I figure out that they are not long enough, so off to Menards for some new ones. Back from Menards with new bolts that are plenty long, so I check the fit with the mating nuts. I find out that I ended up with course thread bolts and fine thread nuts. Arrrggghhh!! Off to Meijer this time (Menards in closed by now...) to get the right size nuts. Back home, checked everything again, and it all fits, good. So now to just reach in a thread them on... not quite so easy! I had to squish myself into the narrow front of the boat, and reach through the small hatch all the way to the very front and thread those nuts on blind. After much stretching, wriggling, and sweating, I finally got them on and tightened down. Whew!!

The seats were a lot easier to get installed. I first made 8 aluminum "L" brackets that the seats hang from. Here is one without the holes drilled:

These were mounted to the seats using some more stainless steel machine screws where this time, everything fit the first time! I then used some larger diameter bolts to attach the "L's" to the previously installed seat brackets:

Finally, the trailer... First I put the plywood bedding on. Then I built "bunks" starting with the 2x6's I had previously cut to match the bottom profile of the boat. A couple notches were cut into this part for the U-bolts that held the bunks to the bed of the trailer. Then, I glued and screwed a 1x4 to the top, glued a piece of camping pad to that, and wrapped the whole thing in trailer bunk carpet.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Seat frames

I epoxied and fiberglassed the seat mounting frames in place last night. The frames are made of 1/2" plywood fiberglassed on both sides. Several sets of stainless steel nuts are embedded in the frames to allow for a variety of seat heights and angles. The seats will be held to the frames using aluminum angle brackets and thumb screws.

Also, the trailer is mostly assembled... I still need to put on the plywood decking, mount the bunks, add the tongue extension, and install the wiring and lights:

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Back upright

Having been a few days since I last posted, I have several days worth of progress to report. After all the bottom fiberglass and other reinforcements were added and faired, I applied a couple coats of epoxy / graphite mixture. This mix has been shown to be a very durable and low friction bottom finish. You can read about some others's experiences here and here. I ended up doing the application with two rather thick coats, instead of 3 light coats. Here are some pictures:

We had some unseasonable cool weather here in Michigan (mid 60s during the day, 40s at night) so I ended up putting a little heater "inside" the boat to make sure the epoxy cured nice and hard:

Final appearance after 2 coats:

After letting everything cure for a day, I cut some simple shallow "V" blocks (that will eventually be used on the trailer), called over a couple friends, and flipped the boat upright again. Here is my wife trying it out:

Friday, August 28, 2009

Reinforcement and Fairing

Application of the reinforcement layers was pretty straightforward. I used some more kevlar on the stern to provide extra strength for the rudder mounts. I once again used the "plastic sheet" technique to give me a smooth finish. After wetting out the kevlar, I simply wrapped a sheet of plastic over the cloth and smoothed it out:

Then, last night, I knocked down the rough edges and high spots with a plane, then applied some fairing compound (epoxy + silica + microballons) to give everything a smooth uniform finish. I did a test fit of my rudder gudgeons and found that I needed some small spacers between them and the stern. They are epoxied on and reinforced with a couple strips of fiberglass. They can just barely be seen in the following picture:

Here is an overall view of the stern:

Wednesday, August 26, 2009


My plans for the XCR include expedition style trips to a variety of locations that include plenty of rough landing areas: rocks, oyster beds, sand, logs, etc... Therefore, I am planning to heavily armor the front few feet of the boat. It may be excessive, but I am not that concerned about a few extra pounds. What I am planning is:
  • 4" strip down the full length of the keel, extending all the way up the stem
  • 8ish" strip from halfway up the stem, extending about 2 ft along the keel
  • 12ish" strip from the bottom of the stem, extending about 4 ft along the keel
This, along with the epoxy / graphite fill coat should make the front end of the XCR pretty much bombproof. Here is a picture of the cloth laid up dry:

More fiberglass...

I got the second layer of exterior fiberglass applied without incident last night. However, I had two other experiences that are more interesting than repeating what I did on Monday night. The first was that I went out to the garage to get started, went to put on some gloves and found that I had only one left (how did I go through that box so quickly?!?!?!) Oh well, so it was off to the store. It turned out that they were out of the kind I bought before (latex stretch) so I wandered over to the "medical supply" section of Meijer and found a box of blue nitrile gloves. Wow, I am definitly converted. I was having a lot of problems with the latex gloves tearing and getting holes in them, maybe I just got a box of really flimsy ones... Anyway, the nitrile gloves work great.

The other interesting thing was that I met another neighbor. I always work in the evening, with my garage door open, so it is very easy to see what is going on inside. This is actually the second time a neighbor I have never met before stops in my driveway and walks in to see what is going on. We chatted for a while (not too long, I was still working epoxy into the fiberglass) and it turns out he built a cedar strip kayak a few year ago. I'm pretty sure I want to build one of them myself, but I really can't settle on a design... I digress... Anyway, if you want to meet your neighbors, build a boat in your garage, they will flock to you!

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Fiberglass and a trailer

I got a lot accomplished yesterday. First, I got a trailer to haul the XCR around on:

Due to the length of the XCR, I will be adding a long tongue extension which I am picking up locally. Because the trailer is bolted together, it is really easy to add the extension. I also plan on making some custom "bunks" for the boat to sit on. At this point I am planning on keeping it upright, so I will also need some sort of cover for hauling it long distances. I'm thinking a simple plywood cut-out shaped to fit around the cockpit... Any other brilliant ideas?

After the kids were in bed, I put on the first layer of bottom fiberglass. Because I got 60" wide fabric, it reached from gunwale to gunwale, so I could do it all in one big application. I ended up wetting out the cloth in "quarters." I started in the middle of one side, and worked my way to the front. Then, I completed that side working from the starting point to the back. Once that whole side was complete, I switched to the other side and did the same thing. This way, I didn't end up with any wrinkles in the cloth that needed to be pulled or cut out. I was able to work quickly and smoothly and I never had any batches of epoxy "get away" from me. It helps that it has cooled down to the high 60s / low 70s around here. Hopefully I get the same weather treatment for the second layer tonight!

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Upside down!

The boat is now flipped upside down. Hopefully this is the only time it ever ends up that way! :) The first step is the plane down the chines a bit, then to fill any gaps and / or stitch holes. Then, once everything is nice and smooth, fiberglass!

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Thwarted again!

...well, maybe not, but it is a good post title... Anyway, the thwart tubes are now installed, but lets back up a bit. After completing the cockpit rim, I planed and sanded the deck and deck-to-hull joint in preparation for fiberglassing the deck. Once that was smoothed to my liking, I rolled out my fiberglass and cut it to fit. I ended up with three sections; one that covered the forward and starboard decks, one that covered the port deck, and one that covered the rear deck. Since I was cutting these pieces out of "extra" fiberglass, it was just easier to do it this way. Here are a couple pics showing the glass laid out:

Wetting this out was pretty straightforward. I started using a foam roller and plastic spackel knife, but ended up not using the roller that much; it was easy to spread the epoxy and work it into the cloth with the knife.

Then, last night, I cut some big holes in the boat! Fortunately, they are above the waterline... The holes are for the twart tubes which provide structural support to the decks and gunwales, as well as holding the akas for the sailing rig. I epoxied the tubes in place and applied some fillets to the inside and outside joints. I also added some small strips of fiberglass tape around the internal joint to make sure everything is nice and strong. Here are some pics:

And finally... I got the rear seat supports dry fitted. This was definately a challenge since everthing is curves and angles. I started by cutting out a scrap of chipboard to the size of my seat. I then laid it in place, took some measurements, and cut out my first attempt at a seat support. After plenty of re-cutting and planing, planing, and more planing, I got everything to fit nice. The funny thing about the pictures is that the seat supports look crooked and out of square, but in fact, they are the only square, plumb, and level thing on the boat!

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Mostly finished cockpit rim

Well, the cockpit rim is almost completely done. Since the thwart tubes are covered in this cool looking carbon / kevlar sleeve, I wanted to see if I could find something similar to use as the outer fabric reinforcement on the cockpit rim. After some searching, I found that U.S. Composites caries 4" wide carbon / kevlar tape (all the way on the bottom). So I ordered some, and it is now epoxied on. It happened that it was really hot and humid the day I did this, so I needed to work really quickly. I managed to get everything laid up without losing any batches of epoxy, so I was happy about that. The nice part about the heat was that a few hours later, the first coat was pretty much hard, so I did my fill coat right away. After letting things cure for a day, I am really happy with how it looks. I cleaned up some of the edges with a chisel (the ONLY way to cut epoxied kevlar) and ran a fine grit sanding block over everything. Once the boat is painted, I will add a coat or two of varnish, and it will really glow.

Friday, August 14, 2009

More cockpit progress

I have a couple days of progress to report... I did get the riser filleted and taped, that went really well. I once again used a disposable plastic frosting piping bag to apply the fillet, and I am loving how easy they make it. Unfortunately, I have only one left... need another trip to Meijer! Next, I cut out the coaming flange (flat part). I used my last remaining big piece of plywood, and made the flange out of only two pieces. Tonight, I glued the flange on. I don't have enough long bar clamps, so I resorted to painters tape to hold it down. In a few places, it didn't want to lay flat, so I just layed a couple blocks of wood across the boat to keep everything nice and flat. I also applied a coat of fairing putty (epoxy + microspheres) to the deck and deck joint since I am planning to fiberglass the topsides soon.

And last but not least... I epoxied the cool kevlar / carbon sleeve to the outside of the fiberglass thwarts. The thwarts are hollow fiberglass tubes that will eventually hold the akas when the sailing rig is added. Besides looking cool, the kevlar / carbon sleeve should make them a lot stronger and stiffer.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Cockpit coaming riser

Over the past couple of days I have gotten the cockpit coaming riser installed. I am making it out of two layers of 6mm plywood instead if the designed 4mm. My reason is so that I have a thick enough rim to install some screw-in snap studs, so I need the rim to be at least 3/8" thick. The snap studs are for the cockpit skirt I am planning on making. One of the Watertribe rules for semi-open boats is substantial decking (which the XCR already has) and a full skirt based on the one described in chapter 7 of Cliff Jacobson's book "Expedition Canoeing." Anyway, both sides of the riser are installed now, tomorrow it will be filleted and taped.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Cockpit coaming begun...

Last night I went to work on the coaming riser clamp with a hand plane. The coaming riser should be vertical, so there needs to be a rolling bevel cut into the riser clamp. Working with the plane is always fun, I love making nice wood spirals. Especially cedar ones, since they smell so good :)

After a while however, I decided to switch over to the belt sander with a 50 grit belt which made very quick work of finishing things off. Then the boat went back inside (it was outside so I didn't cover the garage in sanding dust) where I started on the coaming riser itself. I cut some 6" wide "strips" of 1/4" plywood and clamped them with the bottom edge of the plywood just below the bottom edge of the riser clamp. Since the riser is intended to be 2 1/2" tall, I used a pencil and a block of wood to scribe a line exactly 2 1/2" above the deck all around. Tonight I plan to start cutting and gluing.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Some outdoor pictures

Forward Quarter:

Rear Quarter:

Interior (port cockpit riser clamp not yet installed):