Buoyed up from finishing planking, we trundled down the hill to the workshop the next day all excited about sanding the planks and fairing our newly built hull to perfection. A bit of sanding, I thought, after planking? How hard can that be……?
I am so glad our boat is only 18ft long. The best tool to use for sanding and fairing a hull is a longboard. This is a long piece of sandpaper attached to a board with two handles on it placed there in a dispassionate nod to the user’s comfort, which is the most effective tool for sanding a large curved surface. It is essentially a large nail file, and a few days ago I was unfamiliar and incompetent with both items. Now it’s just the nail files that are a problem, although sanding serves the dual purpose of paring back both the wood and any remaining skin and nails on your fingers. No need to bite them now. Oh no.
So anyway, back to being buoyed up (I am about to embark on a self indulgent rant about the irksome nature of sanding, so don’t be lured into a false sense of wellbeing at this stage). We started with zeal, attacking the roughest looking planks and glue seams, ripping back uneven joints and standing back every couple of minutes to smugly survey our work and the growing pile of sawdust on the floor. The hull looks better already! We’ll be there in no time! Probably before lunch even! No. Oh no.
The enthusiasm in the workshop dwindled. The novelty of longboards wore off, and our arms began to ache. At first in that slightly annoying way like when you’re holding a really quite light picture above your head while someone nails a hook into the wall. It’s unpleasant, quite boring but fine, until suddenly and inexplicably it turns into a concrete block of a photo frame and it’s all oh no quick I’m going to have to let go in the next three seconds before my shoulders break and I drop it. This was quite similar in a more excruciating, inevitable way.
I briefly considered resorting to weeping and running away type behaviour, as befits someone in their late twenties, then realised I was going to have to stick it out (annoyingly Si was being much more stoic about the situation than me). So I gritted my teeth, adopted what I imagine was a Paula Radcliffe type face of grim resignation and got on with it (while continuing to use conventional toilet facilities). Over the next few days we both became rapidly dependent on sugar and caffeine, sweaty and covered in dust. Small children could have played in Simon’s hair. And at the end of it I am very much in awe of anyone who fairs boats, sands things or files nails for a living. I don’t think I could do it and still crack a smile.
But we got there in the end, via a mixture of longboarding along most of the hull and using an orbital sander on the planks nearest the keel which we couldn’t reach with the boards. We filled a couple of low spots in the planking with a very light epoxy filler and then did one final fair over the whole hull before deciding we were happy to starting coating the planks.
We’re going to be coating the hull with two coats of biaxial glass cloth and more epoxy resin, but as the hull is bare timber it needed a first coat of resin before doing this. Fortunately the sun was shining on Wednesday so we took advantage of the warm weather and ended the day by rollering on a coat of clear epoxy.
It was total heaven to be a) in a dust free environment b) doing something as relaxing as applying epoxy with a roller and c) look how UNBELIEVABLY shiny our boat is now!