A DougD shop visit



DougD travelled down from New Hampshire for a shop visit to do some outfitting work on his Rob Roy. Now, when I say “travelled down” understand that this is Doug.

He called me from the road to say he was at mile marker 34 in Pennsylvania, so I told him “See ya in a half hour”. He called a couple hours later to say he was in West Virginia. He missed the ramp for I-83 and stayed on I-81 for a few hours until he crossed to Potomac into WVA.

He called again an hour later to say “I’m on West Bullphucker Lane and just passed Yokum Farm Rd, do you know where that is”. . . . . . “No, Mike, I don’t know what State I’m in”. . . .

He called every half hour (when he had cell coverage) with tidbits like “I’m on Rt. 16 south”.
“Well Doug, driving south doesn’t sound like it’s gonna help much to me, but Kentucky is nice this time of year”

When he eventually arrived 6 hours late he had completed a 700 mile roadtrip, about which he proudly proclaimed “I never been to West Virginia before”.

First order of shop business was to give Doug the new custom made, full carbon double blade I picked up for him. He spent some bucks on that, but a lightweight carbon paddle is so freaking worth the cost. That stick will be ideal for his big decked tripper Optima, and suitable for low seat/low angle touring in the Rob Roy. Still in the sealed box, wrapped in plastic sleeves, with manufacturer literature attached.

OK, there was a double blade in the “sealed” box. An aluminum shaft Dick’s Sporting Good beast with badly broken plastic blades. Not worth fixing junk from the shop. Watching his face fall when he hefted the weighty plastic bags out of the box was a treat.

The cherry on top was that, despite my waving one of the paddles missing half the blade under his nose, he fixated his barely concealed disappointment at the clunky aluminum shaft without saying a word. Jeeze, I guess Doug was expecting something better for his buck.

It was a considerable straight-faced wait, trying not to bust up, until he finally saw the garbage blades and got the joke. That episode would have made a wonderful video. Doug has a helluva good laugh.

There followed some swapping back and forth of outfitting bits and pieces, some historic.

10 years ago the late great Jsaults gave me a Chosen Valley adjustable height tractor seat back band. I never used it and gave it to Doug, who never used it and gave it back to me. Doug later though he had a use for it and owned it for a second time. I am now the 6[SUP]th[/SUP] sequential owner of a CVCA tractor seat adjustable back band.

It’s up for grabs, it deserves a good 7[SUP]th[/SUP] generation owner. I’ll pay the postage.

Finally, the next morning, we got to some actual shop work. Doug and I had been discussing how to modify the back deck of the Rob Roy to fit a spray skirt rand. (BTW, a Pamlico 145T spray skirt fits the Rob Roy perfectly both cockpit size and tunnel placement/seat wise)

Fits perfectly, except that the back “deck plate” cowling on the Rob Roy is angled 45 degrees outwards /-------- , towards the stern. There is nothing to tuck a spray skirt rand around. WTF?

That back deck/cowling is part of the molded top, and would have worked perfectly for a spray skirt rand if it had been molded with an undercut \ ------- shape. My bet (waiting for CEW to tell all) is that when Bell made the mold for the top someone got confused about mold mirror images. I’m thinking “molds are expensive”, so bass-akwards /------ became good enough for Bell.

Unless you want to hook on a spray skirt.

Doug’s plan, debated at great length over a few months, was to rout a rand-catching groove on the bottom of some wood gunwale stock, steam bend it to a half circle shape and bolt 3 small sections of that to the \------ cowling edge.

My response over the months was always the same “That sounds great, let’s try that and then we’ll just install three snap rivets”.
(Doug, every time) “I don’t want snap rivets”.
Me, every time, “Three f*^#ing snap rivets dammit!”

As we stood contemplating that backwards deck lip Doug, in a rare moment of clarity if not sobriety, declared “I want snap rivets”. Thank god (see steam bending later).

Seating the snap buttons on the nylon spray skirt hem is the only hard part. It is harder if you have several boxes of snap rivets, brass and nickel and stainless. And have left the long-unused snap rivet anvil and flaring tools in the box with the various sized grommet kits. We (very wisely) did a test snap rivet on a piece of scrap material first.

Doug watched, seemingly mystified by the process; hot nail melting a sealed hole in the material, seating the bottom on the anvil, pounding the socket down with the flaring tool. I had not done that is a while and when I was done Doug asked why I just installed a brass grommet on the test piece. F*^#ing smart ass shop visitors.

After a stop and think beer we got out all of the correct parts, pieces, anvil and flaring tool, and the actual solution to the Rob Roy spray skirt attachment took minutes.

It was, I hope, worth a 14 hour drive to use my CCS modified pop rivet head. The spray skirt now fits like a charm, and is actually a lot easier to put on. Very few people hand an 8 foot arm span, and a 7 ½ foot long spray skirt can be a huge PITA to get on; hook the front, walk to the back, pull and arrgghhh the damn front comes off again.

With three snaps in the back isn’t coming off with a moderate tug or stretch, Snap the back, walk up and hook the front, tuck the sides under. It’s a rec kayak skirt, for rain and wind and cold, with a big Velcro tunnel, so in a capsize the paddler would pop out of the skirt without any entrapment issues.

Time for a celebratory beer and some simpler task; four pieces of green High Intensity tape on the green deck. Schweet, a near invisible, perfectly deck matching green, but bright as hell when hit with a light.

Hey, Doug it’s not even noon yet, we have time to drive down to the Virginia/West Virginia State line for cheap beer and cigarettes. Or take I-81 over the Susquehanna again; you were only a couple miles from Blue Mountain outfitters on your multi-State tour. No?

Instead we opted to put Dynel skid plates on the Rob Roy’s worn and original-owner poorly repaired stems. A little 220 RO work to make the stems smooth again, washed and alcohol wiped (Doug is now keen on the spray bottles).

We made bedsheet cloth templates from the rag box, plural, several patterns, each a bit smaller than the last, and Doug cut the Dynel and peel ply on the bias. And learned a new trick.

Since we were adding graphite powder and black pigment to the epoxy mix I showed him the center line trick; we Sharpied a centerline down the lengthwise middle of the Dynel. The Rob Roy has a very sharp stem, and exact placement of that odd-shaped semi- teardrop skid plate, which will later be painted with Doug’s Haida Orca swirl, tying the black skid plate up to the black cockpit seam, was critical. There was not a lot of room for placement error.

With the centerline marked on the fabric laying the cloth to an exactly centered placement is a lot easier, especially if you are working solo without another set of eyes to back away, sight down the keel line and say “No, a little more to the left”. If the Sharpie line is in the apex of the vee, yer good to go.

I’m surprised DougD didn’t know that trick. I’m even more surprised that I didn’t until 10 seconds before I suggested it, but I do now. (That is a “Sure, I do that all the time” confession to Doug. That was my first time too; won’t be my last, especially working solo)

West 105 resin, 205 fast hardener mixed with G/flex, graphite powder and black pigment. Release treated peel ply laid on top after the epoxy had settled, compressed every 10-15 minutes until the resin was firm.

Doug used every known method in smoothing out and compressing the peel ply; top rollers, squeegees, gloved hand and, his now favorite (mine too), a nice wide tongue depressor stick to bevel down the epoxy firming edges. Repeatedly pushed and compressed that Dynel becomes nearly seamless on the stems.

While that epoxy mix set up under the peel ply Doug got out his steam bending rig and showed me a thing or two. We tried to get local friend CWDH over to see a steam bending demonstration, but settled for Mrs. CWDH, who is noticeably less injurious to my beer supply.

Doug’s steam bending contraption consists of:

Two - A metal stand holding a (clean) water filled 5 gallon gas can
Three - Adaptors for the pour spout & threads
Four - A length of thick, lined hose, able to withstand steam heat without melting.
Five - A 1500 foot long roll of plastic sheathing tube to steam the wood in. Only 1400 feet left.
Six – A five foot long piece of 1x1 Poplar. We don’t need it now for the skirted cowling edge concept, we’ll just bend it into a U for funsies.

What about Number One you say. Oh, that would be the heat source. A 20 pound propane tank. That’s back in Penacook.

One of my seldom seen neighbors came to the rescue. He had a nearly full 20lb propane tank in the back 40, under a ratty tarp. When I explained what I needed it for he and his son asked if they could come over to see the miracle of steam bending. Fortunately they did not stay for the entire technique, which I now understand, late in the process, includes:

Five(a). – The plastic sheath tears in half and needs repair
Two (a). – The can runs out of water.
Two (b). – The (now dry) can catches fire.
Six (a). – The poplar bends about 10 degrees and then splits near in half along a grain run out.

Doug, I know you were bummed, and I was looking forward to having a giant butterfly net or dream catcher hoop, but thank the sequential work gods we went snap rivets in the morning and didn’t spend half the day on grooving, routing and sectional steam bent gunwale “cowling”.

That would have seriously cut into our beer time.

Doug left early this AM, and I’m waiting anxiously by the phone for his call “Hey Mike, I’m in Canada!”

For all that joshing and jibing I absolutely love having a skilled shop partner. An extra brain thinking about challenges, an extra set of eyes that see things differently (or sometimes correctly, “Nice grommet, what about the snap rivets”) is a huge boon in the shop.

I quickly settled into my natural “supervisory” mode and laid out the next needed tools and materials, put away unneeded tools and materials, and kept the benches clean and prepped for sequential stages. The shop is as clean and organized as when Doug arrived. 6 hours late.

I wish I had a DougD-ish shop partner who lived closer than a scenic 14 hour tour of the Mid-Atlantic States.

Doug, if my math is correct, and you have finally made it home, that was a 22 hour roundtrip for a 34 hour visit. I owe you a drive north. Sometime after you finish your “Sentenced to hard-labor, summer, 2017” teardown and new shop is build.
Feb 26, 2013
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Long island, ny
Thanks for telling the tale Mike! I enjoyed it. A few good laughs at Doug's expense is always good. (True, but feels weird to say since I have never met either of you two) your shop shenanigans are a great read. I'm glad that you two get together and even more so that you take the time to write everything up and post it here.

Thanks again



I'm glad that you two get together

Shop work with Doug is always a good and productive time, and we both learn a thing or two from watching each other’s technique. And usually catch each other’s mistakes. The centerline on skid plate trick is a keeper.

I am fortunate to have two skilled shop partners, Doug and Joel, with whom I work well, Sadly neither Doug in NH or Joel in Acadia/Everglades is close enough for a “Quick, I need help” visit.

Doug’s new paddle has an anti-theft device. Two actually; more of a lost-paddle-come-home than anti-theft addition. I added a golf-label ID to the throat of each blade, so that if the paddle wanders off it may find its way back home.

To my home; the labels have my name & Gmail. Come on Gmail, Mikey needs a new full carbon stick.

They must be discrete; it took Doug ages to find them. The deal is that Doug can’t take them off until he has put his own contact info on the paddle.
Dec 9, 2014
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Penacook, NH on a back road
I'm working on the write up with pictures slow but sure! Now, if Mike were to move out of that humid armpit area of MD into the crisp and clear air of NE then he'd be closer to that "Quick, I need help" visit. Joel and I, Joel part of the year, are living in God's country! ;-)



Now, if Mike were to move out of that humid armpit area of MD into the crisp and clear air of NE then he'd be closer to that "Quick, I need help" visit. Joel and I, Joel part of the year, are living in God's country!

Hey, this is the “Land of Pleasant Living”. Except between May and October when the humidity soars.

While you are enduring New Hampshire winters Joel is basking in South Florida. Doncha wanna move to Florida Doug? I’d come visit. In the winter.

Edit: I have no use for that awful Dick’s aluminum shaft and broken blade 220cm POS. I should write Doug’s contact info on the blades and chuck it in some river for funsies.
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Feb 26, 2013
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Long island, ny
"Edit: I have no use for that awful Dick’s aluminum shaft and broken blade 220cm POS. I should write Doug’s contact info on the blades and chuck it in some river for funsies."




The blog photo of the Rob Roy’s rear deck anti-cowling shows the issue with attaching a spray skirt rand. I still want to know how that bass-akwards design came to be.

The tape edge on the Dynel skid plates is further away from the fabric than normal, mostly to accommodate Doug’s signature Haida Orca swirl that ties the black skid plates to the black seam line. That design looks so sharp on a decked hull that I’ll be using it myself.

Speaking of learning things I had a surprise a few days ago. The missus went to the hardware store and picked up a can of Rustoleum so I could spray paint some light switch covers. I am very colorblind but said “That’s not black” She said it was. Both my sons said it was. I still said nope.

Yesterday I was in the hardware store and needed a can of red spray paint. I grabbed what I thought was the right color can/lid and asked the person in paint “Is this red?

I received the usual quizzical look and I explained that I can’t tell many colors apart (sometimes I offer the tale of the purple pants I wore for several months thinking they were blue).

“Yup, that’s red”

I bemoaned that nowhere on the Rustoleum can does is say what color the contents are. The helpful paint person showed me that in fact Rustoleum cans do list the paint color.

On the back. At the very bottom. On the bar code label. In 1-point font. “Regal Red”. I have been using Rustoleum spray for 40 years and never noticed that tiny and obscure color label.

BTW, the can of “black” spray paint? Deep Slate Grey.

HA! First time I was ever right about a color


More on Shop Stuff and Doug visit

Doug’s preferred place to bed down for the night is the tripping truck, parked at the top landing way from the house. Extension cord run for lights and fan, clean sheets and pillows. That’s where I would prefer to be as a guest as well.

That bedroom has other benefits. One son leaves for work at dawn or earlier, as do some neighbors, so Doug didn’t need an alarm clock.

The shop was prepped for his visit with a coffee maker, coffee, filters and water supply carboy. Up and at ‘em dawn riser; Doug had the coffee made and was waiting with a cup in the shop by the time I got up each morning.

Things that (I hope) stuck with Doug:

*Don’t drive past BMO while you are mistakenly on I-81 in Marysville. And cigarettes are really cheap in the Virginias, should you make it that far south again.

*Bring paper maps even if you have a GPS. That goes for vehicular travel as well as paddling, but in the truck I am afforded the opportunity to carry a stack of DeLorme Atlas & Gazetteers, one for every State along my route. I probably wouldn’t have brought one for West Virginia, but. . . . .
(BTW, a stack of DeLorme Gazetteers fits nicely in a Xerox paper box lid)

*You just can’t trust some people to play middleman on your pricey paddle purchase. Those are the sort of people who would throw a junk paddle in a distant river with your address and the notation “If found please return postage COD”

*A center line on skid plates is a big help in stem placement. “Suuure Doug, I always do that”. Now I always will.

*Tongue depressor stir sticks are great for skid plate work, and for mixing large pots of epoxy. Much better than skinny popsicle sticks.


(or 300 for $7)

*Rounding off the edge of reflective (or other) tape eliminates the peel-prone right angles. A 25 cent piece fits to draw a perfect half circle on the ends of high intensity reflective tape.
“Nope Doug, not yet, wash your hands first so you don’t get greasy finger gunk on the adhesive side”
“Nope Doug, not yet, alcohol wipe the hull first”
Now if he could just learn how to separate the tape from the backing. Gawd that was fun to watch, especially when I could mysteriously peel them apart faster he could stick them on. I find little bits of personal joy and happiness everywhere.

*Small rollers and pans are the alternative to sloppy brushwork. I have a collection of 4 inch roller pans labeled on the bottom (epoxy, varnish, urethane, paint, etc) and just use the same pans over and over.

*Snap rivet anvils and flaring tools in fact look nothing like grommet seating tools. And Mike is easily confused.

*Tenacious tape is great stuff. Watching Doug try to peel the backing from that was even more fun than the reflective tape.

*Doug appreciated the Handi-cut tool for nipping off clean rope ends, plastic tubing and hose and etc. I do too, enough to have two of them. They weren’t $22 when I bought them, but I wouldn’t do without in the shop.

100 lb zip ties good. Leaving them in the recycled paddle box bad.

*Snap rivets good. Steam bending wood with a dry water can bad.