Monday, January 17, 2011

Ravn's New (Old) Mast

Back in August I bought some nice old-growth fir for Ravn's mast with enough left over for a set of oars. I built the oars first and I'm glad I did. This is wonderful wood, don't get me wrong. It was air-dried for 10 years and is perfectly clear with tight growth rings. But the stuff is heavy. It will work fine as oars, once I shave them down a bit more to improve the balance, but it was just too heavy to make the mast.

Enter Doryman. Doryman, who writes the best small-craft blog on the web, only lives about 40 miles from my house and about 10 miles from where I work. He is a fellow Coot. Over the past couple of years he has turned from a virtual friend on the web to a real friend in real life.

Among his fleet of sailboats and pulling boats is a Valgerda. His boat, the Reinsdyr, was built in 1966 by Keeler Boat Building of Portland, Oregon, for the Weyerhaeuser family. If you live in the Northwest, you know Weyerhaeuser as a giant and successful forest products company. My guess is that the Weyerhaeuser family could buy just about any kind of boat they wanted and it pleases me to think that they chose the Valgerda design to purchase.

The boat is built to very high standards and is heavy, with three-eighth-inch plywood planking, decks on the sides bow and stern, rudder hardware that is stout enough for a 40-footer and, until recently, an inboard gas engine. When Doryman bought the boat the engine had been removed, but the boat is still quite a bit heavier than its designed weight of 600 pounds.

Until May 2010, John Kohnen, another Coot and keeper of the Atkin web site, owned the boat. John came with two other Coots to help me when I turned the boat over. I knew he had a Valgerda. One thing led to another and I bought Reinsdyr's sail a month or so after the boat turning.

Doryman purchased the boat from John. He worked hard to get it ready for the Toledo Wooden Boat Show and it really looked great! With fresh coats of paint and varnish you can see why the Weyerhaeuser family bought this little yacht.

During the Toledo show, both boats were tied up at the same dock offering a chance for people to compare the two now very different boats. Doryman ribbed me a little about taking the sail from "his" boat, but said that because his boat is so much heavier he wanted to increase the size of his sail.

He recently took delivery of a beautiful new sail made by a Eugene sail maker. At 119 square feet, his new sail is more than half again larger than the original. Needless to say the 14-foot mast on his Valgerda would not accommodate this cloud of canvas. Lucky me.

I went to Doryman's house bearing gifts and managed a trade. I think it wasn't so much the quality of my trade goods as the fact that Doryman wanted the mast to go to a good home. As he said, "the mast ought to go with the sail."

The mast is made to the exact dimensions from Atkin's plan. The only exception -- and it's a nice one -- is a finely-formed button at the truck. There's a beautiful bronze sheave for the halyard too. Doryman put a lot of work into the mast: scraping it to bare wood, filling a groove that held the wire for a masthead light and priming the whole thing with epoxy. Like everything Doryman does -- from writing his blog to building boats -- the workmanship was excellent.

A little epoxy got in the halyard slot freezing up the sheave, but I was able to work it free. The bottom 30 inches or so of the mast was left square, which won't work on Ravn. So I am in the process of rounding that section and I cut a tenon in in the bottom to fit my mast step.

This has reinvigorated my efforts to get Ravn sailing. Thanks Doryman!

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