Wednesday, November 30, 2011

NHS Winter Retreat

I'm definitely slipping in updating this blog lately - the holiday rush can be thanked for much of that.  We've had lots of visitors to the Dockyard over the last week, but mostly just to check things out and not much actual work has been accomplished.  Oh well.  Now we have a short dash until Christmas and then on into the new year!

But Dockyard work aside, we do have a great event coming up - our winter retreat.  Last year, we just called it a board meeting - as it proved one of the rare occasions that our entire Board of Directors assembled in person to conduct business.  It also allowed our membership to come out and take part in the proceedings and discussions - so that the humblest of us could play philosopher for a few days.  The setting helped dramatically - rather than being cooped up in a board room, activities were held on the top floor of a board member's beach house in North Carolina's Outer Banks - with phenomenal views of the ocean, Pimlico Sound and Hatteras Light.  Everyone was accommodated in private suites, giving the proceedings a more casual, family-like feel, and the heated pool and hot tub were phenomenal, even in January.

This year, we're putting more effort into non-board business with several working groups and discussion forums.  What will those be, exactly?  Well, we hope our members will help us decide that.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

You leave me no choice

A recent South Park episode entitled A History Channel Thanksgiving proved funny and sad all at the same time.  To summarize, the characters in South Park decide that rather than read books about Thanksgiving they'd watch the History Channel instead.  After waiting through Swap People, Hairy Bikers and Ice Road Truckers (I seriously could not have made those up), a show comes on about how the Pilgrims were really aliens from another planet, as were the Native Americans.  I nearly peed myself laughing.  And of course the episode goes on to get dumber and less funny - but as I stopped laughing I realized - this is it.  I'm not the only person who thinks HC programming is crap.  They get a lot of criticism, but stand staunchly behind rednecks and hillbillies as part of their network's programming objectives.  I've long since stopped pausing on HC to see what's on - but if it's part of their master plan, then someone must enjoy that crap.  That South Park episode was the first hint that anyone other than history enthusiasts despise their programming - that the idiocy can be recognized by mainstream viewers.

And so it begins - if this seems stupid to everyone, then you. leave. me. no. choice.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Ruby slippers authorized

Progress on the restoration of Monomoy No. 3 is moving along quite quickly - so quickly in fact that last weekend we totally expended our supplies of fasteners and epoxy putty - both critical materials in our re-framing process.  This isn't a wholly bad place to be in - it's a startling change to our usual schedule of movement, i.e. too slow.  But it does pose a problem in that our enthusiastic volunteers have picked up some great steam, and once you've got turns on, killing the momentum is deadly. 

So in our latest edition of The Pennant (the NHS weekly newsletter) as well as in a previous blog entry, we decided to create a "wish list" and ask supporters to chip in.  There's no gift like fasteners.  There's no gift like fasteners.  There's no gift like fasteners.  You get the idea.  I suppose it's better than asking for a heart, brain or courage - though we might start there too, soon.  We weren't really sure how well this would go over, but at least by allowing supporters to buy materials and send them to us, vice send money, at least they could be sure we weren't using the money for drugs.

But I'm very happy to report that less than 24 hours after publication, we've got enough material on its way to the Dockyard to keep efforts going for several weeks, maybe even months.  So thanks to those generous supporters who chipped in and helped keep our efforts going.  That said, I need you to be cool, honey bunny.  If I'm curt with you, it's because time is a factor. I think fast, I talk fast, and I need you two guys to act fast if you want to get this boat done.  That's right, we're going Harvey Keitel and a little Amanda Plummer on this thing. 

Or maybe, like most people, you just didn't get that quote at all.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

All about drills, or, using your powers for good or evil

Actually, according to one of my favorite characters - Strongbad - you can only use your powers for good or for awesome.  Today, I'm eagerly awaiting a fascinating new machine - my taper bore countersink drill bitts with stop collars.  Kind of sounds like a Red Rider BB gun with a compass in the stock, doesn't it?  And like Ralphie, I have no shortage of people telling me I'll shoot my eye out, in one form or another.  The bitts cost a pretty penny - $90 plus $14 shipping for a set of 4 bitts and other assorted goodies - and like a kid at Christmastime, I'm waiting to rip open the package.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Open up a can of INSPIRATION!

Lately we've seen a steep decline in the number of volunteers who manage to make it out to our weekly working sessions.  And while I'm pretty sure it has a good deal to do with having to reef seams and dig out old fasteners, the work is becoming more enjoyable and even therapeutic as we progress into some more palatable aspects of restoration - such as scraping paint.  Or not.  But in all seriousness, between all the military personnel who have transferred in the last several months, we're down to a bare bones staff working excitedly on Monomoy No. 3 in the hopes of getting her into the water next year.  What's so exciting about that?  Well, that's where the inspiration comes from!

The things best learned by failure

Last week, we had a few problems with our steam bending as we started work on the pieces that had a tighter bend at the turn of the bilge.  Throughout the whole process I'd read just about everything there was to read about steam bending, at least as far as laying in frames "hot" - that is to say, right from the steam box into the boat.  But as I returned to the great and venerable texts from which I'd drawn much of my information I discovered that I had wholly discounted a different method, which the late great Howard I. Chappelle describes as "great for building single-handed".  Cool - that sounds about right for our skill level!  And on reading, I kicked myself for the simplicity of the most basic concept that had, until that moment, completely eluded me in all my research - that the hot bend was not, in fact the end-all, be-all of steam bent frames.  All at once I remembered why I pine so for the guidance of experienced builders that simply don't seem to exist in my neck of the woods, and despite all of my study, went back to feeling like the relative novice I am.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Where are THESE trees?

Last night's working session went over well, with the exception that the one frame we set out to bend ended up not cooperating.  Getting the hot frame correctly pre-bent and clamped in place proved pretty challenging, and ultimately proved to us that we need a pre-bending jig, or 'horse' to get the tight radii of the turn of the bilge before handing up the frame.  As I said yesterday, embrace shortcoming, learn and move on.

Luckily, I've found a few trees that might help with that appreciably.  I have no idea where these are but we need to find and harvest them ASAP.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

NHS Steampunk

Well maybe not that steampunk.  But certainly a little Rube Goldberg-ie, and steam is definitely involved.  Over the last two weeks, Monomoy No. 3 has been prepared for her first replacement frames to go in.  On Halloween, I decided of my own accord to go ahead and jump the gun, firing up the steam box and laying in some stock.  And even though I've followed all of the directions from every major boatbuilding publication almost to a tee, I was still amazed that the process worked relatively flawlessly and that I, decked in leather apron, welding gloves and knee pads, managed to singlehandedly replace two of the floors with brand-new gorgeous white oak in only a couple of hours - most of which time I spent reading the newspaper.

So while I may not have been 'steampunk' by the modern pop-culture sense, I still certainly felt like it.  Maybe I ought to invest in an old leather jacket and some round eye goggles.  Then maybe we can get some Comic-Con types to start volunteering - you never know.