With the buffing to shiny of the dinghy plug, which is where the last blog post left her, things could really begin to get moving. The traditional procedure would have been to apply eight or ten coats of mold release wax, followed a few more for good measure. Luckily, I have no regard for tradition, and the choice to modernize was easy—especially since I’ve spent far more of my life waxing than is decent.
There are various alternatives to the usual paste wax—all of them very expensive liquids that you wipe on and let dry, without having to put in the elbow grease of a wax job. I used one made by Axel, because I’d used it before and knew how well it works. Three coats of mold sealer, eight coats of release (each of which took less than ten minutes), and the mold was ready for gelcoat.
In this I adhered strictly to tradition and used a hideous orange tooling gel. It’s a good color for molds because no one in their right mind would want a boat of that hue ( I exclude continental europeans, some of whom DO seem to have taste that bad ), and so there’s always a contrast between the mold and whatever you’re putting in it—it helps to show how thick your material is getting. Given that tooling gel is hard to spray without a special gun tip, and that I don’t have a spray gun at all, I just brushed it on. Of course, the surface of the plug was so slippery that the gelcoat wanted to bead up all over it, so it took a few applications to get it all coated.
After the gelcoat came a skin coat—just one thin layer of chopped strand mat which I allowed to cure overnight before starting to pile fiberglass on thickly. It took a few days, building up material, letting it cure, baking it gently ( I was using the last of the food-grade vinylester that requires post-curing), and then rolling on some more. After that was done, I built a simple frame around it, screwed some casters to it, and was ready to capsize the whole circus and de-mold.
Sometimes the de-molding is a painful process: I’ve spent a day and a half sometimes, beating an upside-down mold with a hammer, and driving scores of wedges into every available cranny, trying to get a plug out of a curmudgeonly new mold. It’s truly discouraging, and one of the reasons I wasn’t interested in wax. But getting this mold off the plug was completely painless. No doubt the fact that it was a relatively small and uncomplicated shape helped, but I attribute much of the ease to the Axel mold release. All it took was to make a simple lifting jig, put a couple of hydraulic jacks in the right spot, and out it came.
Typically, there were a few minor blemishes in the gelcoat of the mold I had to fix, but that was soon done and the whole thing buffed out and ready for mold sealer and release.
In the meantime, the bowsprit was making progress as well. Using a strip of core-foam left over from Ganymede’s cockpit coamings, I opened up the slot in the carbon tube a little, to bring it closer to the diameter I wanted. Then I rolled it in several layers of carbon, first twill, then some thick biaxial, then a layer of twill for the finish. After it had baked good and solid, I drilled holes in it for the anchor roller pin, the heel pin, and the hounds around which the shrouds and bobstay will attach. All of these got a fiberglass rod glued through, to increase the bearing surface of the pins or to provide a sturdy shoulder for the soft eyes of the shrouds.
I gave it a quick fairing, though not too much, then sloshed on some of my favorite primer—Awlgrip’s “545”. While I was at that, I also applied primer to two or three of Ganymede’s hatches that I’d been slowly fairing with leftover scrapings from the dinghy plug. In order to maximize efficiency, I got everything ready to paint at once, since the Awlgrip topcoat I’m using is a bother to mix and the cost of roller covers, brushes, mixing cups and cleanup adds up.
Two coats later they were done, ready to put back onto Ganymede whenever I should get around to finishing her. But that’s another story—a race against pitiless time: an endgame intricately played out in a theater of evil weather, abrupt deadlines, and constant challenges.