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Tape Rule

by Joel Thurtell

(Appeared in the September, 2000 Flashes)
Having confessed in a previous column to my latest indiscretion involving a wooden Lightning, I find myself breathing freer. There is a spring in my step. I feel like a man who has rid himself of a tremendous burden of guilt.

For all those months I carried alone the burden of knowing I'd committed that worst of sins—I bought yet another wooden sailboat.

Now some related news from The Thurtell Boatworks. L

ast week, I proudly showed longtime Lightning sailor and wooden boat restorer John Young my now guilt-free second wooden Nickels & Holman, #6279, aka Dumb Ass Idea. John admired the interior brightwork, and then began to inspect the fiberglass on the bottom. Hmmm, he said. That doesn't look good.

Sure enough, what I had failed to notice in some eight months of ownership, John picked out almost instantly. Or maybe this is a recent development. I was aware that a previous owner had installed a fiberglass sheath on the boat's bottom. What I had not noticed was this 3-foot crack all the way through the glass running from near the chine to the keelson. Whoops. When did that appear? I had plans of putting this boat in the water. Not so fast. To launch the boat in this condition would be foolish. Water would flow between the glass and wood hull and might start the process of rot.

Start it?


Lucky if it isn't already well on its way.

We discussed solutions. All seemed to call for turning the boat over, removing the glass and either replacing some planks or replacing the bottom.

How easy it is for one man to tell another all the steps he needs to take to fix a boat.

Let's step back for a moment. Recall that I'm the guy who already has a wooden boat named Plug Nickel which I bought in 1994. I figured I'd be sailing it in summer 1995. Well, the boat may or may not touch water in the year of our lord 2000, six years after the project began. One of the major brakes on that project was more than 100 pounds of hard resin I had to remove from the bottom.

So any thought of replacing the bottom on yet another boat starts to make me seasick. Plug Nickel must come first, anyway. I may suffer from attention deficit disorder, but I do have some control.

As I see it, I have one of two choices:
  1. I can flip the boat over and spend the next six years tinkering with the bottom, all the time fantasizing what it will be like to sail 6279 when it's finished.

  2. Or:

  3. I can seal the crack quickly but temporarily and sail Dumb Ass Idea now.
What would you do?

Well, I do have what passes for a plan.

Hint: I'm in something of a hurry, on account of my incredible good luck, thanks to a Flashes classified ad, in locating and buying a good wooden Lightning mast and boom.

Last year, Dumb Ass Idea arrived at my warehouse with an oval aluminum mast and boom. At the time, the modern touches seemed the big selling point. My original plan was to sail it with the modern rig. Know what? That sounds boring. Now that I'm ready to sail 6279, or DAI, it appears that I'll have a nice old wooden mast to put on it.

And that sounds like fun. Exciting enough fun to make me want to get aboard this "new" 1956 boat.

Now, not in 2006.

So how to seal that crack?

I murmured my solution and got a word of caution from my 17-year-old son:

"Don't use duct tape, Dad."

Why not?

Because, Abe says, Popular Science tested various tapes and found that duct tape is the worst tape there is. Even as duct tape, it's the worst.  Well, if not duct tape, what?

The whole point of this column was to brag about fixing a boat with tape.

So I'm locked into tape. I know—I'll try that fiberglass reinforced packing tape.

Hey, we're not going to circumnavigate the world.

There you have it, folks—yet another high-tech tip on wooden boat restoration, thanks to your Cedar & Spruce columnist.

We're on the cutting edge here—this is a big experiment.

Tell you how it works later.

Gotta tape that boat.

Joel Thurtell
11803 Priscilla Lane
Plymouth, MI 48170
1-734-454-1890 1-734-454-4666

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