Closing up the planking

These days everyone is focused on getting the hull ready for launch. In the last entry you saw some of the paint prep happening around the boat. But wait, there’s more. After all the stripper is applied, someone has to come along and scrape it off. Someone like Ali, for instance.

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Or John and Maggie.


John has been painting houses with his dad since he was a kid, so he’s taking the lead on this project.

There’s still caulking to be done around the boat. Sometimes a plank will go in very tight and the caulking seam will disappear. Evie has identified some of these spots.

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She then goes back with a dumbing iron. This looks a lot like a caulking iron, but it’s really just a thin wedge.

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She drives this into the seam to open up a slight gap. This is enough to start caulking.

Once the seams have been caulked, the oakum (the top layer of caulking) gets a good soaking of primer paint. This is slow work, done with a stiff brush to really get the paint into the seam.

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If the planks have dried and shrunk a bit, the caulking will be hawsed in further. Hawsing is the process of really driving the caulking hard into the plank seams, and it’s only done on big boats. Here are Jamie and Matt working along the starboard side.


One person holds the hawsing iron


in the caulking seam, and the other gives it a solid whack with a beetle.


You may recall that this was done earlier on the deck, using the same tools. Decks are particularly tough to keep watertight as the wood shrinks and swells with the sun and rain. Deck caulking has to be exceptionally tight.

As we approach launch day, we’ve brought on two professional caulkers, Frank


and Gino.


Before the caulkers get to an area, it’s assessed for plank shrinkage. If the planks have opened up too much, they get feathered to decrease the gap. John has been making feathers to go in these seams.


Each seam is checked to make sure that the existing caulking is in good shape. If not, it’s pulled out (“reefed”) so that new caulking can be driven in. Here’s Kevin reefing seams along the port side.


You can see the old oakum on the staging at his feet. It almost looks like a barber shop.

There are fewer and fewer areas left to plank. The starbord aft quarter is just now buttoned up. Here’s with one plank left to go,


followed by the shutter.


You can see the amount of wedging and jacking required to bend and twist these thick (3 3/4″) planks around to the transom.

Walt has been working on the port aft quarter,


and he’s now buttoned that section up.


Rob and Phil help out with the plank jacks to twist and shove the plank in place.


And there we go, buttoned up.


Just one plank left amidships on the starboard side.


You can see the salt shelves there in between the frames.

Trevor has been working on the starboard bow. Early in the month he installed the top whale strake, the one with the bead along the top.


By last week, he had two planks to go.


and as of yesterday, this side is closed up.


Chris, Jeff, and Barry continue to press forward with the remaining planking.


Jeff was psyched when he found that his welding goggles had clear lens options. They now double as great eye protection when sawing.


Here’s a plank of Jeff’s going in on port amidships.



Chris has the port bow, and here’s Shelly helping install one of his recent planks.


Nice photobomb, Matt.

One trick that’s worked for pulling thick planks around the bend at the bow is to use a high strength cord attached to a comealong in the fo’c’sle.


You can see a steel pin pulled against the plank face in the above photo, and if you look just to the left of this, you can see the line extending from the inside of the plank towards the hull. What we do is anchor a comealong inside the boat, drill a small hole through the ceiling planking, and feed out a loop of spectra cord. This goes through a hole in the plank, and is captured by a steel pin. The person inside the boat then ratchets the plank in to the point where we can hold it in place with ring staffs.


I’ve mentioned how dramatic the spring light is in the shop. Here’s another example. Walt is working on his final stern plank in the foreground, while Roger works at the band saw and Shawn cuts trunnel stock on the rip saw.


More later, not so long a time gap this time, I promise!