Basic Terms

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Well, Back to the Old Drawing Board!


How often have you heard the phrase, or even uttered the words, ...back to the drawing board?  Ever get curious as to how it got its start? 

In 1941, nine months before the U.S. Entered WW ll,  The New Yorker Magazine called on  renowned cartoonist Peter Arno to bring attention to the design flaws that were plaguing the aviation industry at the time. 

Accidents were on the rise and manufacturers were hard-pressed to turn out more aircraft in much less time. Even though the U.S. was still neutral regarding the war they wanted to guarantee readiness.

President Roosevelt challenged the aircraft industry to ramp up  its  production capability and  turn out at least 50,000 planes a year. This involved expanding from little more than 2,000 planes per year to 4,000 per month. Wow! No wonder they were falling out of the sky!

Nevertheless, leave it to The New Yorker to address such a serious topic by way of satire and still get the message across...  There's something to be said about those lighthearted chronicles...  (Wink)

While Arno most likely had no idea at the time, he would end up coining one of the most commonly used catchphrases still heard to this day, "...back to the drawing board".

It's a term that most people are probably familiar with and undoubtedly still use whenever something just doesn't seem to work as expected the first time around.
Or second, or third, for that matter.  

Take my sailboat restoration for example.... It's ok, go ahead laugh- I'm laughing too...
Woefully laughing! 

When I first bought the boat, I thought that I  would be on the water in no time... I convinced myself that all I had to do was patch a few holes, mend some cracks and it would be smooth sailing from that point forward. Well, that was definitely wishful thinking on my part and I quickly learned that it was just  not going to be that simple . 

As I explained in my last few posts, I discovered quite a bit more damage than what I originally anticipated.  The severity of the damage drove my decision to remove the majority of the internal structure which resulted in the boat being weaker now, then what it was before I started any of the repair work. Essentially, I was the 
proud owner of a hollow shell of something that was once considered a sailboat.

The recurrence of these disappointing discoveries have proved to be quite discouraging and I found myself continuously questioning my capability as well as the overall feasibility of the project which appeared to have been doomed from the start...

Ha!  Now how's  that for melodramatic!?  I could have just said, "This really sucks!" but the previous paragraph reads so much better... 

In a moment of fresh impetus I concluded that the lack of capability and\or absence of feasibility had never stopped me from trying anything before.  Even if it was something foolish,  I was always able to persevere and make a fool out of myself with grit and determination.  That sort of explains how I ended up buying a boat that I didn't know how to fix or sail to begin with...  

So, just like the Engineer in the cartoon above, with an anxious expression, hands clasped and drawings in tow, I would turn my back on the chaos of the situation and head right back to that old drawing board. Why not?  I mean the pilot is ok... That's him in the little parachute!  He's going to be fine...

Now, the big question is where would I find this proverbial drawing board?  Roger MacGregor is the original designer of the Venture 22 so I would somehow have to find his drawing board since I didn't really start out  with one. MacGregor was known for perfecting the trailerable sailboat and has produced more than  38,000  boats over the last five decades. That's a lot of sailboats! 

As it turns out, Mr. MacGregor retired several years ago and turned the business over to his daughter and son-in law.  They have renamed the company Tattoo Yachts so I had my doubts as to whether or not they would have his original drawing board. 

I could not find Roger on Facebook or Twitter and I figured he was probably busy sailing or golfing. 

I decided to pursue the Internet instead and here's  what I came up with:


Perfect!! I now have my own drawing board and  I can go back to it over and over again!  Ahem..
If I need to, that is..... 

So let's take a closer look at what needs to be done here. The  diagram of the cabin appears to be very similar to the layout of a 2 bedroom 1 bath apartment.

It has a a forward berth (master bedroom) , quarter berth (bedroom # 2), a galley (kitchen), and a head (bathroom).

Well, that's fantastic! Especially if you're a hobbit... I'm not the biggest guy in the world but trust me when I say this cabin is tiny! The headroom is just about 4' high so you have to either move around like Quasimodo or crawl around on your hands and knees.  Restoring all of these amenities just did not make a whole lot of sense to me especially since I would only be using this boat to learn how to sail, not as a live-aboard.  Sorry Roger, going for the eraser...

Nevertheless, there was still a good bit of work to be done.  Specifically, the stringers, bulkheads and V-berth. These were all integral parts of the boat's structure and my plan was to maintain focus on the boat's strength.  For comfort, I would still have the forward berth and a bench seat just in case I needed to temporarily escape the elements, or pirates maybe. I don't know, but it's good to be prepared... 

O.k., with that said, what are stringers and bulkheads and why are they important? 
If you read my post, " E=mc² " you may remember that we talked about the different types of stress that affect a boat when it's on the water.  
In order to counter the various stresses and keep the boat in one piece you need to provide support that will stiffen the boat over its length and width. 

Stringers and bulkheads  do just that. They are the structural members that run the length and width of the boat.  A stringer runs lengthwise (forward-aft) while a bulkhead normally runs side to side (port-starboard). They can also provide additional support for flooring (stringers) or overhead decking (bulkheads) as required. These supports can be made from , balsa wood, marine plywood, or more recently foam-core, which is enveloped in fiberglass cloth and resin for optimum strength. 

Good stuff right?
 Now, with respect to restoring the V-berth,  this is important for two reasons.

1 ) The sudden urge to take a nap...  (It happens)

2 ) It will add additional structure and support to the forward section of the boat.


O.K., so let's get busy!  My excitement was growing and I was looking forward to putting some of my carpentry skills to the test. Not that I have many carpentry skills but there is something powerful about tucking a pencil behind your ear. 

It's  as if the second you do it,  you instantly tap into the energy of all of the Master Craftsmen who have left their mark on the architectural world- and that's  when you screw up your first cut! 


As the old saying goes, "Measure twice, cut once" .  Sure, that makes sense! 
Now try applying this philosophy when cutting out a triangle. When I was trying to cut the sections for the V-berth I measured dozens of times and cut even more with little success.  I had to find an easier way.  

I looked over at my scrap pile (which was growing at record pace) and noticed a few  lengths of 1"x 2" strips. I grabbed the strips and placed them along the V-berth ledges. Once they were tight against the walls of the hull, I temporarily tacked them together with screws which gave me a template that matched the size and shape of the V-berth!


Time to dry fit some rough  cuts...   Tape measures are so overrated! 


Once I was happy with the fit, I removed  and stored V-berth sections because they would still need waterproofing before I fiberglass them in. 

I did not purchase marine or pressure treated wood as many people do so I would apply the waterproofing myself.  

I'm not saying there's anything wrong with marine or pressure treated lumber, it's actually more convenient and less work.  However, treating the wood myself is much less expensive and makes for a great garage project on a rainy day. 

Now let's go work on the bulkheads and stringers. Earlier we noted that the stringers run lengthwise (forward-aft) while a bulkheads normally run side to side (port-starboard).    We'll start with the stringers.  


The photo above shows one of the sections that had to be completely removed because of water damage. Although, my original plan was to simply lay new fiberglass over the existing stringers, some portions were rotted beyond repair. I salvaged what I could but in the end I would say at least 30%  of the stringer cores had to be replaced with new wood. 

As for the bulkheads, there were originally two but they were also victims of the same water damage. Both needed to be replaced. 

Looking good right?

It's important to note that there's a trick to how you set stringers and bulkheads in place before you fiberglass over them. 

The rigid wood sitting directly on the flexible fiberglass floor creates what is known as a hard spot. That's when two different materials (one flexible one rigid) come into contact with each other. Over time, the continuous stress will eventually concentrate at these areas causing weakness, blisters and cracks. To avert this issue experts recommend a small gap between the rigid material (wood) and flexible material (fiberglass floor). 

One of the easiest ways to do this is to set stringers and bulk heads in a bed of foam. 
Non structural, closed cell foam, so as not to absorb any water.  We will talk more about foam applications in the next post. 

And there we have it...  The next step will be to cut away the excess foam and start formulating my plan to fiberglass all of the new structure to the hull of my convalescing sailing ship. 

On a final note I leave you with this...  Whenever frustration starts to gain the upper hand in anything you do in life, take a trip back to the old drawing board!  Review, reevaluate, reset, and  redo whatever it was that didn't work the first time around! 

Above all, never give up! 

The Curious Sailor


  1. Well.. you'll have a great book by the time you're done.... ;) Such a terrific writer Vin! Thanks for continuing!

  2. Thanks so much Di! im trying to figure out how to fit the boat through my front door so Hurricane Matthew doesn't blow her away.... :/ Wish me luck!


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