This blog originates on the banks of the Atchafalaya River, in Louisiana. It proposes to share the things that happen on and by the river as the seasons progress. As the river changes from quiet, warm, slow flow to rises of eighteen feet or more, there are changes in the lives of the birds, fish, amphibians and reptiles that use the river. And the mood of the river changes with the seasons. I propose to note and comment on these things.

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Location: Butte La Rose, Louisiana, United States

I transitioned a few years ago from a career as a water-pollution control biologist. I want to do this blog to stay in touch with a world outside my everyday surroundings, whatever they may be. I like open-minded company and the discussion of ideas. Photo by Brad Moon.

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Bateau Building IV

Well, we did the fourth day of the apprenticeship project at Myette Point today. People look at the first couple of days and say that the boat is nearly built and how fast it was to do it. It is getting a lot closer, but it’s a long way from complete. It’s kind of like watching a house being built. One day there is nothing and the next day the framers do their thing and WOW, it looks like in a couple more days the house will be finished. But it isn’t, of course, the work is just getting started. Same with this boat.

Last time we stopped after building the stripping on the boat – the inside strip, the two top strips, and the rub rail strip on the outside of the gunnel. Today we began with the deck. We had to put in a support piece to rest the deck boards on at the front, and that got done first (top picture). After that the boards that formed the deck itself were cut and shaped and installed. As before, each board has to be angled and beveled to fit into its assigned space (left), and that ain’t easy, but the finished result sure is pretty. Some people say you should leave small spaces between the deck boards because they get wet often and have to have room to swell. You can see some small spaces but Edward is not sure he wants to leave them and may replace the deck boards, leaving no spaces, later.

Next we went to the back of the boat to finish shaping the stern board (transom). It had to be angled in to match the angle of the stripping on the tops of the gunnels, and then it had to be measured for the correct height to receive an outboard motor. It is already angled right for that, the angle at the back of the gunnels did that. The boat is designed to use a short-shaft motor and that means the stern board has to be 17 inches high where the motor is attached to it, including a ½ inch bottom in this case. To be right, the cavitation plate (big flat thing just above the wheel) on the motor has to be even with the bottom of the boat or the wheel will tend to catch air and do bad things – so to speak. So, 17 inches is what we want. To do this, the stern board is notched out to the right amount (below, before and after). I suppose you could do the same thing by just having the stern board straight across at the right height, but it sure looks better this way. Once that is done, the whole top of the stern board is sanded to create smooth corners and edges.

It turns out that the head block was not cut quite tall enough to suit what Edward wants it to be. And this provided an interesting situation in itself. It made an opportunity for Edward to demonstrate how to add a piece to the top of the head block and make it look like it belonged there, instead of being an add-on. He and Justin looked at it, and studied it, and cut and fitted and studied it some more, and finally nailed and glued it in place. The result is a piece that does look like it was designed that way in the first place. (left above)

I must have heard Edward say “It sure is pretty!” at least three times today. He would stand back and look, and say that. And it gives you a kind of warm feeling to hear that, because I must say that to myself twenty times a day, if not more. It is the wood color, and grain, and smell, and the curves that shape the graceful thing that is this boat. He was in a good mood and even took an opportunity to sit on Lena Mae’s lap, and I never saw that before!

When we finish with the day’s work, Edward always covers the boat with a tarp to keep the afternoon sun off of it. He says the wood could still crack if exposed to strong sun.

So that was day four. It was another really good day! The top of the boat is finished now. Next time we will turn it over and begin planing the bottom structures to be perfectly even where the plywood bottom will contact what we have just finished building. Edward says this could take most, if not all, of the next meeting. It will be about two weeks before we can get together to work on the boat again and do this.

I was fussed at for not getting this blog posted the same day we did the work last time, so here it is on the same day. Also, it was requested that I include more pictures so there are more in this posting but they are smaller. Click on them to get a bigger image.

I guess there is some rule about how much fun the universe can stand for you to have in one day, and I must have reached and passed my limit today. I always take the levee road from Butte La Rose to Myette Point if I can. On the way back from Myette Point today I had a tire blow out on the gravel road between Lake Fausse Point and Charenton. I think this may have been the first 90 degree day this spring, I know it felt that way. Getting under the truck and releasing the spare tire (whew! It had air!) and getting under the truck and setting the little jack under the axle, and getting the old tire off and the spare on, and having a kid pulling a boat stop to ask directions and then wave and say “have a good one” as he drove off without offering to help– all this put a little humility back in my day. I swear there is a conspiracy somewhere that makes a 17 inch truck tire weigh 15 pounds more every year. I’m putting 32 pounds of air in those tires and I may have to reduce that. Have to lighten them tires somehow. But I did see an eagle close to where I had the blowout, and that helped a little.

The river is at 7.9 on the Butte La Rose gauge, going to 7.3 by Wednesday. The Mississippi is falling all the way up, but the Ohio is rising a little. We are kind of in a holding pattern right now, it seems.

Rise and Shine, Jim


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