The Learning Curve

I didn’t write anything for last Friday. No, it wasn’t another beer launch event but it was a long day that ended with me driving to Cambridge and back by 7:00 pm. So I never got around to posting anything.

On Friday, Jack and I spent the morning caulking the planks we had hung at our individual projects. Jack used cotton caulking in the small seams of the relatively thin ( 1 ¼ ) planking up on the stern. I used oakum in the 2” oak planning down on the bow. No matter the material the process is the same. Small loops of caulking are set into the seam with a caulking iron and a mallet. The next step is to set the caulking into the seam, compacted as a small line.The caulking is set so that there is enough room in the seam to add seam compound on top making the seam flush with the out side face of the seam.

It is not really hard to get the hang of caulking.  There has sort of been a mystic set up around the process, mostly because it is not understood, and practitioners like to maintain that sense that this is some ancient, mysterious process that only those with years of experience and the right moral fiber will ever do right.

I’m sure everyone knows professions that like to maintain that sense that they are the keepers of a secret too awesome to share with mere mortals.

An old time professional caulker I knew in Maine told me anyone can caulk a boat. All you need is a stick, for a caulking iron and rock to hammer the caulking into place. Give it a try. If it doesn’t come out right, try again. Just don’t set off across any oceans until you get the knack. You will, eventually.

Anyway, in the afternoon on Friday we held our boat class. The people who are building our new workboat are getting the knack of boat building. At first everyone was very hesitant to make a mistake, or get something wrong. Now, everyone is ready to tackle almost any part of the project. We make mistakes almost constantly. But, we scratch our heads, figure out what to do to make it right and move on. It is most satisfying to try things and see how it goes.

The other thing that is happening with our project is we are starting to work as a team. At first one person, brave enough to jump in took charge of every step while others stood back and watched. It made for very slow boat building. Now we are learning to let one person drill the hole, one person will drive in the nail, one person to make the next part and one person to stand back and look at the big picture. The best thing is that last person is hardly ever me.

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