My Backyard Boats:

The Harmonica Log, Part Three

Part Three: From initial launching to present day -- continued fine-tuning.

  • Part One: From before the beginning (of the log) to the flipping of the hull.
  • Part Two: From the outfitting of the interior to the loading onto the trailer.
  • 03 August 02: We launched today! It was fun, and on balance it was for the best that we were alone for the event, since we took on a few gallons of water through some screw holes that need to be plugged. For more pix and text about  the launch day, click here.

Trying out the duckboards.


Underside getting screws.


  • 08 August 02: I finally made the duckboards, after putting the job off for a week or two. I didn't know how hard it would be, so I kept doing other stuff. It was easy, as it turned out. I used some yellow pine I got a while back, and an equal amount of white pine. I alternated the two, and the duckboards in the stern section are of half-inch yellow pine over 3/4 white pine stringers. I used boat nails on the stern duckboards, and boat nails and screws on the duckboards for the cabin. I was off by a hair on two of them but was able to trim to fit. Next I'll epoxy both side of each duckboard section, probably two coats, and then two coats of marine varnish.


At left, the rough epoxy work that stopped the leak. Below, duckboards dry in the hot sun after receiving epoxy coating.

  • 10 August 02: The big news is that the boat did not leak this last time we went for an outing (yesterday). A rough bead of thickened epoxy where two pieces of plywood are joined did the trick. There is a batten of 1x4 pine that reinforces the joint, but the plans specify a gap for water flow and dryness. This makes sense but creates a weakness where strength is needed. The epoxy made the difference. I sanded the duckboards and put a coat of epoxy on them this afternoon. I like how they are coming out. There is still some work to do on the interior trim from white pine and some work on setting up the galley and cabin. We are beginning, after two outings in the Harmonica, to see what we want to do about such things as awnings and placement of cleats. Yesterday, we took a four-hour trip from the launch site in Middleport to the lift bridge at Medina.

At left, the town wall at Holley on the Erie Canal. That's an electric service -- free. The original idea for the Harmonica is reflected in the original name -- Fusebox. Jim Michalak envisioned the boat for little lakes in southern Illinois, but he noticed later that the small marinas on the lakes had no electrical service for recharging batteries. But on the Erie Canal, the Fusebox idea lives on. At right top, photo shows new location for batteries. At right bottom, the new sun awning we made from striped cotton duck.


  • 17 August 02: Still doing finish work and making changes. I put the batteries (yes, I got a second battery, a mondo jobber of 230 minutes of reserve power, which is about double the one we started out with) up on the forwared edges of the benches in the stern, to get the weight a little bit more forward so I can leave the batteries in place. Moving those big boys has been killing my back. Happy to report that the boat rode fine on the trailer with the extra weight, partly because I put all the other stuff forward in the boat to keep some weight on the hitch.
  • Photo above shows stain from leak. At right: Epoxy bead on top of external chine clamp.

    28 August 02: Still having a little bit of leaking in the chine seam on the starboard side toward the bow. I put a bead of thickened epoxy from stem back about five feet. The top of the external chine clamp had opened slightly for a foot or two, and there was a black line that in the worst case would be moisture-related. Hope this fixes the balance of the leaks. This last problem is more like sweating than leaking, but it has to go.
Stern light in place. I'm going to raise it with a pierce of 2x4 to clear the cabin top 2x4 a little more.
Bow light sits on new bowsprit, with screw eyes to lead the anchor rope aft to the cabin.

Photo at right shows a neat idea for a cleat: Take two pieces of fir, one shorter than the other; stack them, and secure with two bolts. You've just made a simple and strong cleat.




  • 14 September 02: I've been working on a project for the anchor, and then navigation lights. The anchor was just going over the bow, so I made a bowsprit and used a screw eye to guide the anchor rope. Then I was going to add a pad eye and roughed one out in 2x4 poplar, but then when I was warned by the Sheriff's Department patrol about not having lights, I realized that the pad eye wouldn't work because it would shield the bow lights. I went with a second screw eye place on the side of the bowsprit to lead the rope back on the centerline into the cabin. I have a cleat on the centerline, but it is small, and I'm afraid that it could catch someone by the trouser cuff as they entered the cabin from the deck and cause a nasty spill. On the outing where I attracted the negative attention of the sheriff's patrol, I saw a neat cleat on the North Tonawanda boat launch dock. It is two pieces of fir stacked, with the lower piece shorter. The two are bolted together, creating a strong cleat that is the ultimate in simplicity and style -- in oak it would look like a Craftsman-style touch. I want to try this style out on the Harmonica.

It was a sunny day today, and windy, too, for the final putting to bed for winter.


  • 08 November 02: Today marks the official end of the boating season at my house. I opened up the garage and set the Harmonica to rights, bringing the cushions inside so the stray cats that get in there during the winter won't impart to the cushions the same aroma that clings to the walls. There will be a lot of work to do next spring on the bright work and the paint, and the electrical system, too. Can't wait.



  • Part One: From before the beginning (of the log) to the flipping of the hull.
  • Part Two: From the outfitting of the interior to the loading onto the trailer.

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