Shop Partner Fun



(This is kayak intensive, but applicable for canoe work. Read no further if that bothers you)

My favorite shop partner Joel stopped by as he was headed north for the season. We discovered that his rig fits nicely, even camper level, on our top parking pad, although getting the boats off that high van roofline without unhooking the trailer was a challenge.

P5250028 by Mike McCrea, on Flickr

We perform some maintenance on the Caribou and Nomad every spring when he is headed north, and again every fall when headed south. The Caribou is 19 years old, routinely abused as a client boat, and the 8 year old Nomad is Joel’s heavily laden vessel on every guided trip. Both endure thousands of miles of harsh Everglades’s treatment every year. Without regular maintenance and repairs the Caribou would be a jigsaw puzzle and the Nomad not far behind.

Step #1, we scrubbed them clean. First with regular soapy water, then with DougD’s “Magic Mix” of Dawn and vinegar.

P5230009 by Mike McCrea, on Flickr

The badly faded hull Nomad badly had some weird “tiger striped” discoloration that even the Dawn/vinegar mix and a scrubbie wouldn’t remove. Maybe the red tide ate the gel coat.

P5240020 by Mike McCrea, on Flickr

Note: I will continue to use the Papal “we”, but in fact Joel did most of the actual labor, my contribution was, as usual, mostly prepping parts, tools and materials ahead of him for the next steps, and putting away parts, tools and materials away while Joel moved on.

With a skilled shop partner that routine is incredibly efficient. The shop benches were never cluttered, clean and empty each evening when we finished. That cleanliness and organization alone makes shop work with a partner a joy.

P5250029 by Mike McCrea, on Flickr

Eh, shop work with some partners, although DougD and I work together equally well.

Boats back inside and waiting to dry it was time to foist some stuff off on Joel. Transient guiding he travels with damn near everything he owns, and regularly laments that he has too much stuff.

So of course I try to find things he just can’t resist. Added to his burden this time, a couple of shortie single blades, a bag of stainless steel spring Sgt. Knots cord locks, some new bungee balls, a colorful tarp flag and a hammock net with clips at the four corners for the extra storage needed in his van.

P5240013 by Mike McCrea, on Flickr

I expected Joel to go “Meh, no thanks” at that hammock. He grabbed it out of my hands so fast I had rope burn. Doug, I had zero use for the thing and Joel says “Thanks”

Boats dry and ready “we” got to it. Taped to prevent over sanding into the gel coat the Caribou stripes got RO sanded.

P5240015 by Mike McCrea, on Flickr

Next thing I knew Joel was taking another break.

P5240016 by Mike McCrea, on Flickr

My bad; I need to stay far enough ahead with tools and materials that his ass never has time to hit a chair. Sitting is the new smoking, and those are my jobs. Time for some Dynel sleeve on the worn bottom on the Caribou.

The Caribou (originally a stitch & glue design IIRC) has a vee bottom and sharply angular chines. Years ago we did glass and epoxy repairs to the damaged chines and along the length of well worn bottom vee, using 2” E-glass. A few years later we re-repaired that bottom again, this time experimentally using E-glass, S-glass and Dynel in various locations.

We now know that Dynel is the clear winner when it comes to durable abrasion resistance, and the entire bottom vee needed a strip of Dynel.

1 ¾” Dynel sleeve this time as reinforcement along the Caribou’s vee bottom. That Dynel sleeve is from Sweet Composites, listed under Polyester & Nylon Fabrics as “standard weight”, the narrower 1 ½” wide sleeve is listed as “lightweight”. Absolutely the way to go if faced with laying a narrow 16 foot long strip of fabric. One snip for length, no strays or frays to deal with.

West 105/206 with black pigment on the bottom, same mix with graphite powder added as a top coat. The Dynel is black as midnight through and through, and tough as nails.

As technique usual we let the drips stop running, pulled the tape and newspaper, and laid down 6” wide release treated peel ply. Peel ply in a roll, bless you Glenn MacGrady; cutting a 17 foot by 6” strip of peel ply fabrics would be a big a PITA as cutting a strip of Dynel.

Peel ply in rolls from Aircraft Spruce and Specialty

After the epoxy drips had stopped running we pulled the perimeter tape

P5240017 by Mike McCrea, on Flickr

Then laid a pre-cut and re-rolled 17’ run of 6” wide peel ply along the vee reinforcement. Having another set of eyes, standing at the stem to sightline the both Dynel sleeve and peel ply as it unrolled was very helpful.

We (Joel) hard roller compressed the Dynel sleeve under the peel ply several times as the epoxy set up and walked away.

P5240019 by Mike McCrea, on Flickr

Minor screw up. We should have switched to the 1 ½” wide sleeve and 4” peel ply at the narrow vee stems. Narrower sleeve and peel ply would have laid down more smoothly without creases along that sharp stem. Still learning.

Caribou done for now, time to paint the Nomad bottom with white EZ-Poxy. The Nomad didn’t need additional fabric work. We had previously installed 5 foot long 2” E-glass skid plates bow and stern as the stems began to wear. That E-glass was peel ply roller compressed and even the selvage edge of the “tape” was flush and nearly invisible.

But it was E-glass, and the stern skid plate began wearing through last winter. Joel had installed an 18” Dynel sleeve skid over the heavy wear area, and did a pretty good job of it, even without proper supervision, especially considering he needed the boat ready to go back out in a few days.

Heat gun and razor knife removed the vinyl logos on the Nomad bow, followed by taping and sanding, followed by more taping and painting. I rolled and tipped one side of the hull as a technique demo and then turned Joel loose to do the rest.

P5240023 by Mike McCrea, on Flickr

Joel did a better job than my demo on the other side; not being colorblind is helpful in laying a white-on-white paint coat.

P5240024 by Mike McCrea, on Flickr

First coat of white EZ-Poxy on the Nomad and the hull already looks 100% better. That hull will get wet sanded and have a second, and probably third, coat of EZ-Poxy. The sanding and subsequent coats will better hide the still visible scratches.

Of observational interest; the gel coat on the Caribou is much more scratch resistant than the Nomad. Gel coat is still a mystery to me; why is the more used/abused Caribou seemingly impervious to gel coat scratches?

The Caribou deck is orange. Or was orange; in Florida there are said to be only two boat colors, white and turning white. Joel had spent considerable time and elbow grease buffing and waxing the decks back to orange, but we (OK, me) had originally spray painted the chine repairs orange, now fading to a fugly pinkish.

I think spray paint sucks in marine applications, and I’d like that orange refreshed while Joel is doing the actual work. I don’t want orange spray paint aerosolizing next to an adjacent white hull, so the orange stripes got sanded and recoated with brushed on enamel. Those will get lightly sanded, re-taped and second coated as well; that pint can of orange enamel should be a lifetime supply.

Pint can of Rustoleum enamel orange. I watched. The newsprint mask was drip unnecessary.

P5250025 by Mike McCrea, on Flickr

Now that we have tried a few varieties of paint Joel has become serious about quality, and I had to stop him from ordering a $50 can of orange EZ-Poxy for those simple side stripes. During a brief break he read the back of the EZ-Poxy can, and could not be dissuaded from ordering a can of EZ-Poxy Performance Enhancer 3021.

The Pettitt Performance Enhancer additive won’t arrive for a week, so I have plenty of time to wet sand the Nomad and re-tape it. The Caribou’s black pigment and graphite powder bottom reinforcement will get sanded, taped and painted with a coat of black EZ-Poxy, so I’ll use some 3021 there as well. I’m kind of psyched to try using it, and see what difference it makes.

My biggest challenge may be in resisting the urge to mask the black bottom stripe and the orange side strips, and then paint the bottom of the Caribou a brighter, glossier white. Plenty of white EZ-Poxy left, and there is some ugly smutch here and there on the white bottom from past repairs. Joel said he would prefer I not remove the Current Designs logo and Canadian-built maple leaf in order to do so, but he also said I can do whatever I want. I could probably find a Canadian flag decal.

On the other hand that’s a lot of taping effort to mask those three stripes, and if I wait ‘til Joel passes through again in the fall he can do all the taping, rolling and tipping while I watch and put stuff away. Sounds like a plan.

About the time we were ready to take a break some weird hippie dude still living in the ‘70’s wandered into the shop. I think I know him from Facebook. Or at least Mr. Gage does.

P5250026 by Mike McCrea, on Flickr

I may need to post more “No Trespassing” signs along the driveway.

Not a bad day’s work, actually stretched over two days, but maybe 8 hours of actual work and most of that was sanding and taping prep work.


Shop Visitors II, III, IV

For a hermit I have had a full week of company. Joel on Monday and Tuesday. As always the finest of shop times and, as always, very productive.

The local roofers were here on Wednesday and Thursday. Great guys; friendly, funny and talkative when they are off the roof. I noticed that they had no place to keep their water bottles on the pitch of the hot, sunny, dark shingled roof, and gave them a 2-hole yoga block console with coozies and water bottles.

They apparently did not realize this was a gift, and brought it back to me when they were done. I handed it back and said “No, no, that’s yours to keep”. You would have thought I’d given them a new nail gun; one that the owner hadn’t thrown off the roof in frustration on some job.

We exchanged some tool tales, and I allowed that a friend is infamous for throwing tools, even if he has to walk enraged out of his shop and give a mighty heave. He can get 100 yards distance from of a hammer. And later have to search the meadow to find it.

Thursday brought Chip to Freeland to retrieve his Canoe Tripping fundraiser giveaways, and some assorted other goodies. Tales were told and laughter had. The shop benches were oddly more cluttered when Chip left than ever occurred while Joel was here. We did no actual work; not sure what the difference was, must have been Chip. Or maybe it was me playing Show & Tell.

Friday brought my late friend & adventuring companion Brian’s son Ed to Freeland. He showed up with a boat on his car, so I knew the visit would go well.

Ed is planning his first cross country trip, fishing his way across America and backpacking in to spread some of his dad’s ashes in beloved places. People had told him “Go see McCrea” and I am glad they did. We spent half the day in the shop with maps, guidebooks and gear lists, talking places to go, things to see and travel tricks & tips.

Several tales of cross country travel with Brian were told, although I cleaned up some spicier ones for offspring consumption. Ed has the same wry-quiet sense of humor as his dad, and once I got him to stop calling me “Mr. Mike” we had a delightful day with considerable laughter.

I told him “Don’t laugh” before I gave him a copy of my master gear list; 100+ items for every possible activity, place or season. He looked at it and laughed, which made me like him even more. He’s packing this weekend and leaving soon, and thought that master gear list was one of the most helpful things he took home.

I never really got to know Ed as an adult. He proved to be enjoyable company, a great young guy with a lot of his dad in him. Good to see twentysomething paddlers with a thirst for cross country adventure.

Post-Covid this summer things promise to be traveler busy. Ed left with maps and books and ideas for less touristy places along his intended starting southern route; Big Bend NP and little visited Guadeloupe NP; neither exactly on the Great Desert SW Circle Route of National Parks.

Rte 666 north out of New Mexico, starting near where he plans to visit kin (now less devilishly named Rte 180 IIRC). North to the Moki Dugway and Muley Point.

Keep pointing north, Wind Rivers and Big Horns in Wyoming, maybe the Bear Tooth range in Montana. I am comforted to know that some of Brian’s ashes will make their way to Titcomb Basin in the Wind Rivers. That is a special place, and I know Ed will enjoy the trout fishing.

I have not been around people other than family in 15 months. That made for a fun but exhausting week, and it may take a lazy day to get my shopwork feet back under me and return to working on the Caribou and Nomad. No rush, I have them all summer.

Nice quiet shop again, I can plan a sequentially strategic return to further repairs on the Caribou and Nomad.
Nov 22, 2019
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Pinnacle, North Carolina
Nice write up, Mike. It's good to see folks getting back together now that it's safe for the vaccinated to do so.

But I'm not sure the "No Trespassing"" signs will do the trick in keeping the undesirables out....unless you keep a pistol within arms reach as a matter of habit. Canoeists and kayakers are pretty good at stealthy launches and recoveries and those skills transfer to your driveway. :eek:

We were in NY during the time of the Damascus, VA Appalachian Trail Days a few weeks ago so I don't know how that went but next week I'll be volunteering at the Elkin, NC Trail Days. The Mountains to Sea Trail, Overland Victory Trail (a Revolutionary War trail) and the Yadkin River Paddle Trail all intersect in "downtown" Elkin. I'm looking forward to working the MST booth, seeing folks out and about and to a paddle on the Yadkin River that weekend.

Best regards to all,