Sunday, September 16, 2012

Roller Coaster Ride

the thunderbolt
Photo courtesy of Lilly Laemmle
We spent a good bit of our growing up years in Pittsburgh, PA which, among other things, was the home of Kennywood Park claiming the title of "roller coaster capital of the world" from the 60's to the 90's. We used to go to the park at least once a year, it being the location for most school  and church annual picnics, and the roller coasters were the main attraction; the Racer, the Jack Rabbit, the Dipper, the Thunderbolt...whatever the name, the feeling was always the same. The slow, jerky clicking of the chain as it hauled your car up the steep incline leaving you feeling heavy in your seat...the slight sheen of perspiration on your forehead and palms as you anticipated the top where you would be hit with the wind from the surrounding hills...the weightlessness as you crested and hurtled down the back side, with not even the illusion of control.

I was thinking today about how big boat projects are a little like roller coaster rides. The planning, the materials acquisition, the first steps all being that slow, heavy clacking up the hill, but at some point you reach the crest and the project picks up speed and all of a sudden you're looking at the end of the ride and you're thinking, "Wow - that was really fun and terrifying and long and short and...".

The dodger project has been a bit like that. This is without a doubt the biggest project I've taken on for Kintala. Not as big as Tim's battle with all things V-Drive, but by far the biggest one for me. It's also the most expensive one, and a totally custom one, which made me use every bit of self discipline I have to slow the process, to plan carefully, to think, walk away, come back, look again, think some more, walk away, come back and finally cut, so as not to have to replace very expensive materials from stupid mistakes. We did buy a Sailrite kit, but the kit was for a different style dodger so we are merely using the materials (or most of them rather) and doing our own design. It's turning out remarkably well (if I do say so myself) and it's coming in about the dollar budget I expected and many less hours than I expected. I had budgeted 120 man hours for the complete project including Tim's part, and at the moment we have 20 hours for Tim and 54 for me, and I expect to be done in another 16 at the most. These figures are only estimates because it's a little difficult to parse out the many chunks of 3-5 minutes that I end up standing on the companionway steps talking to passersby who want to ask lots of questions and make lots of comments about the project. This is the difficulty of attempting something like this on the main dock, which is unfortunately the only one we fit on.

At the moment, we have the top done as I showed in a previous post, we have all three forward panels sewn and zippers installed and we're ready to begin putting the fasteners in the deck to fix it down. Pictures will be forthcoming I promise.

As an aside, I've had quite a few bloggers ask about doing their own dodger, and I'll pass on my answer to you here as well: If you don't have (1) a LOT of sewing experience and (2) a walking presser foot sewing machine such as a Sailrite that can easily sew through eight layers of heavy Sunbrella, I wouldn't attempt a project like this. Re-skinning an existing bimini or dodger for which you already have a frame installed can be done by any fairly competent person who can follow one of Sailrite's many excellent videos, but building a frame from scratch and making a custom dodger is one of those projects that you might want to consider leaving to a shop to do unless you really have the experience. I'm not trying to discourage anyone from trying, by all means do if you're determined, but if you have never liked riding roller coasters? I'd skip it and leave it to the professionals.

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