Day 25: Kentucky, or, 💯‼️

Fantastic day! After threatening it for nearly a month, I finally got a whole century done- fine weather, flat land, and a need to atone for a day spent inside a WalMart all helped make it possible.


tumblr_ny80ovVdEE1uj13z1o1_1280Despite the excellent outcome, the day certainly had its ups and downs. It started out weird- on the banks of a river engorged by the recent rains, I had dreams (nightmares?) of the river sweeping me away as I slept. Although I was a considerably safe distance from any erosion, I think that being able to hear the bank wearing away may have prompted these particular dreams.


The day could really only improve from there- just waking up to find myself not being swept to sea was an improvement on its own. Post-rains, the weather was fine and warm (at times I felt like I was inside a computer desktop image), and I was able to get underway before 8 without needing to bundle up too much. I stopped for lunch, where I met s very kind cyclist (truck driver as well, but primarily cyclist) who’ll be riding the Trans-Canada Highway next summer. We got to talk about biking logistics, the best bike paths in Canada (alongside the canals!), and even rowing- he was very familiar with the rowing scene in Welland, Ontario. I also met an Amish guy who, and I must quote this exactly, said to me: “I would be remiss if I did not ask you if you would like to smoke some home-grown, Wisconsin marijuana with me.” I don’t smoke (and I suspect that Kentucky has a capital punishment for weed, if trespassing is liable to end in death) so I said no thank you, but I’ll always remember that as one of the most exciting lunch breaks of my life.


The remainder of the day was smooth rolling- a bit windy at times, but not bad. I thought about rowing a lot during those miles, and almost before I knew it, the sun was setting beautifully, the lights were on, and I was fast approaching 100 miles. After making a last turn into Kentucky Highway 1738 (which is a number I hear has some relevance for “today’s youth”), I rolled down a hill and finished the first century of the journey- a great way to end a great day.


Day 24: Kentucky

Gray day this morning, quickly becoming a gray and rainy day.

I wish that rain didn’t mean no riding- but trying to stay on the road while cars blast by and spray me doesn’t seem like a good way to stay safe. While the rain is on, anyways, there’s no sense in setting out- everything gets soaked and no one wins.

I found Arabian Nights in the WalMart bargain books aisle- it doesn’t seem to be a hot seller in this part of America- so I got to settle down and wait on the weather with 700 pages of classic literature. (As an aside, WalMart has all these ridiculous drivable trucks and cars for kids. For God’s sake, get your kid a bike instead. It’s cheaper and faster and more dangerous and everything you could want in a toy.)

By 4:00, the weather and radar had both cleared up, leaving a little time for riding into presumably improving conditions. Trying to take advantage of what time there was left (and also to deal with the feelings of restlessness that come with sitting in WalMart for over 6 hours), I set off. The weather held, and I even saw the faint glimmer of a sunset, as well as some incredibly purple skies and distant hills, before the rain settled in again. Bummer. I stopped in a barn for a moment to check directions, where I learned that although I was on the right road, I’d probably get shot if I tried doing that again. Slightly Ill at ease, I continued onwards to find a good camping site, hopefully safe from bullets, stray or otherwise, that might be headed in my direction.tumblr_ny2ed6L5581uj13z1o7_1280.jpg

Day 23: Kentucky

After a cozy camp out last night, I stayed in a little later than usual today to wait for rain showers to pass before heading on towards Bardstown- a mere 60 miles away.

Along the way, I passed a vaguely sinister plant of some sort (far, far to the north of me), was warned of the hazards posed by horse and buggy, and perhaps more tangibly, actually visited the Abraham Lincoln Homestead and Golf Course. (Yes, it is actually billed as a combination historical monument and golf course.) It was very closed, not very informative, and I got a flat tire while there, so unless you’re a very avid Abe Lincoln fan or really want to golf the same course as the Lincoln family did in times of old, I recommend skipping the whole attraction.

Although the rains held off, the sun never actually made its way through the clouds today, resulting in some fascinating opalescent sky effects that had a shimmering property besides the normal “gray” of distant rainclouds.

As I mentioned, the ride into Bardstown was pretty short, so I arrived with plenty of daylight left. Checking in at the post office, I found out that general delivery mail does actually work- there are few things like getting a letter to cheer you up.

tumblr_nxzjdfNaWy1uj13z1o6_1280In addition, I found that most of the trees around here still have leaves on them- it’s like they don’t even know we’re in the middle of November! Warm weather bodes well for the next few weeks- as long as I can avoid the rain, camping should be easier and quicker, and I’ll be able to get more miles in as well.

Well, except for tomorrow. The forecast doesn’t look great, so I’ll be spending a lot of time indoors- museums? Walmart superstore? We’ll find out soon- I want to replenish some supplies (rear tire is starting to look a little thin, plus yesterday’s flat meant I had to use my last spare tube) and write off some letters and postcards as well. Then, it’s off into the flattening West!

Day 22: Kentucky, or, Kentucky with fewer mountains than before.

tumblr_nxxpqgUc3L1uj13z1o1_1280A frosty (beautiful) morning in Booneville today. Got going pretty smoothly, and after getting lost just once (Kentucky, at this stage of the game, has stopped taking care of their route markers and distinguishing landmarks) I was making pretty good progress until I stopped for lunch just after passing JCHS Road. I assume that’s an acronym, but… It doesn’t really roll off the tongue. After lunch, I found myself in Big Hill, Kentucky, luckily rolling down the 2-mile 6% grade into a blissfully flat landscape as far as I could see.

I’m not saying that the part of Kentucky I’m in now is absolutely, South Carolina Lowcountry flat- but compared to Appalachia, it is beautifully flat, the hills are smooth and rolling, and rarely do I need to gear waaaay down and crank my way up switchbacks anymore. I’m back in farm country, a huge relief, and was able to make a pretty easy 89 miles in less than 8 hours- definitely the fastest average speed of the last week. I ought to make Bardstown by early tomorrow afternoon. The forecast calls for thunderstorms Wednesday… Maybe I’ll get lucky. With the new terrain, I don’t feel the need for a rest day just yet, but if I need to take a day off, it would be good to have it land on a place where I can refuel, make bike repairs, and of course, check out a distillery.

Day 21: Kentucky Canines and Caverns


tumblr_nxxoctW2uM1uj13z1o1_1280Maybe because yesterday was Sunday, maybe because people like to stay inside here, or maybe because mountain spirits regularly transform people into dogs here- I’ve seen more dogs than humans for most of the last two days. Western Virginia/Eastern Kentucky has every kind of dog imaginable- big dogs, small dogs, huge dogs, tiny dogs, loud dogs, quiet dogs, dogs in cages, dogs on chains, dogs that follow you half a mile down the road, dogs that ignore you, dogs that come over and sit with you while you’re having lunch. I will now do my best Roger Williams impression to describe my encounters with some dogs, including liberally replacing “s” with “f”:
The beasts, which possess four legf, doth run, bark, and yap without fail when a rider paff them by. One could believe that they have nothing to do all day, being penned up in cage and held by chain, and made to protect their mafter’s home. On occasion, one of thefe creatures will break free and thuf does follow, tapping at the wheels of mine trailer or attempting (with no great succeff) to halt my westward progreff.

Thanks for letting me get that out of my system.

tumblr_nxxoctW2uM1uj13z1o2_1280I can also see why there is so much coal mining here- coal literally falls out of the hillside onto the road. I took a break next to an intriguing looking cave, and upon venturing inside, found that it was an abandoned coal mine. “Sweet,” I thought, “this is both a fascinating geologic formation and a great way to die!” I grabbed a handful of semi-anthracite and headed out, before I could get lost, caved in, asphyxiate, get black lung, cause and explosion, or any of the other typical hazards of coal mining. I’d actually hoped to find fossils in the cave, and I suspect that there were a few if I’d taken the time to explore, but I’m happy to say that I avoided the temptation and returned to scanning for fossils as I biked- not very fruitful, but possibly safer nonetheless.

tumblr_nxxoctW2uM1uj13z1o3_1280Continuing on, I stopped at H.C. Sparks’ grocery, where I found they’ve been keeping a logbook of every cyclist to pass by (and stop in) for the last 40 years. I didn’t take a picture of the store- it was great, half of it was grocery, half of it was a hardware store, and the last half was an “indoor yard sale”- but you will notice the Log Cabin Cathedral right across the street, a fascinating sight to behold as you eat peanut butter sandwiches.

tumblr_nxxoctW2uM1uj13z1o4_1280Post sandwich break, high points included reaching 1,234 miles and breaking into song (1, 2, 3, 4, climbing hills, my legs are sore…) à la Feist, and seeing another very lovely sunset as I came into Booneville.

Booneville is a city that, despite its appearance on the map, is actually just an intersection of 4 highways, with the county courthouse at the center. It’s actually a very interesting proto-traffic circle- the highways all meet, and you can just do laps around the courthouse without ever actually going anywhere. It is also a great place to camp out. @adventurecycling

Divide and Conquer


The scarfed pieces, fully cured and ready to be cleaned, is turned into our full length keel plank and then milled to its final thickness before being sent over to Jake for marking and shaping. We’ve now got five people working on four separate projects for the Corinthian; although there’s less opportunity to double check each other’s work, we’re making acceptable progress (for five novice boatbuilders).

Meanwhile, work continues on the bedlogs and centerboard trunk. The trunk’s edges are routed down to match the fore and aft headledges, and the rabbets on each bedlog are further refined to hold the centerboard trunk.


Finally, a stack of 2 inch plus (or 9 quarters) white oak is eyed over to select the bits that will make up our skeg and deadwood laminates.



What to do when the plan calls for a 20 foot long piece of Sapele and you can only find a few measly 12 foot lengths? Well, you just make a longer piece, obviously.

Scarfing joins two (or more) shorter peices into a longer (or much longer) one by beveling two edges so they have a relatively huge surface area, then glueing and clamping them into effectively one piece of wood. Angle is everything in the scarf – for each inch of material thickness, we want 12 inches of material length for an optimal joint. It’s critical that both bevels are cut at the same angle so the finished piece will lie flat, and that we avoid any lows or highs in the cut surface that can cause the epoxy to cure unevenly (or worse, leave voids).

Fortunately, there’s an easy way to do all of this.

The scarf jig is a very simple tool to cut an even angle acros the two pieces. Simply take the thickness of the piece, multiply by twelve, and draw a line across the first piece of your scarf material. Align your second piece of scarf material with this line, and then draw a line on the second piece. Clamp it down real nice, and you’ve got yourself a scarf jig.

Get out your power plane and start working, because you’re remooving a lot of material when you’re working with these big pieces. After a few hours, it’s close enough to smooth that it’s time to switch to a hand joiner plane to even things out. Important note: you can use the plane base as a straight edge to check for levelness, and a flashlight to spot any highs or lows by the light that leaks through.

Once finished, the mating surfaces aretest fitted, and then epoxied. First a layer of unthickened epoxy is applied to soak into the endgrain, then a layer of epoxy thickened with colloidal silica for bond strength. Finally, a layer of clamps complete the setup.


Across the shop, work continues on fairing and matching the bedlogs and setting up the strongback for construction. There’s a lot of measuring, remeasuring, squaring, remeasuring, nudging, remeasuring… you get the idea. We want the strongback to be perfectly square and level so it can be used as a reference datum for the contruction of molds.

Odds and Ends

Mondays are for odds and ends, and preparations, and trying to do things that will make our lives easier later on. This week, that means taking a look at this 200 year old model ship that the museum picked up from the Seamen’s Church Institute in Philadelphia. It’s big and cool and old and really impressive.

Lots of insane detail, which the new caretakers are very interested in learning about and cleaning.

Back in the shop, we check out our stem… and it’s not good. In the laminating process, we made sure that we made it as un-square as possible, twisted it a little to the other side, and then twisted in back. That’s why you make these parts oversize, I guess.


Still, it’s the right shape in profile, which is the important bit. After some judicious use of a handplane and blue chalk, it fits up okay.

The centerboard case, which has largely sat around unnoticed for a few days, get a quick coat of pre-varnish sealer on the outsides and a coat of epoxy on the insides, which will hopefully never see the light of day again. Everyone adds their two cents on varnishing technique, debates the best place to hold your wet edge, and tries to show off.20180717_103621

Lumber shows up after lunch, and the rest of the day is spent sorting, stacking, moving, and shuffling giant pieces of wood around the workshop to make room for everything we bought. It all fits in the end, and there’s even kind of an organizational system to it.


The day’s final project is to move the Ventnor forward into her new home until launch time, which also gives us the floor space we’ll need to set up for the Corinthian. Moving hulls in a shop is always exciting, because it invariably means that you’re actually making progress on a project and not just amassing a collection of highly varnished sculptures. For the apprentices, this move is especially exciting because now we’re staking out our own project on the shop floor, and feel a little less like interlopers. This is also the time to do a shop deep clean, and for anyone who has criticized me in the past for not cleaning enough, my response is: I actually love cleaning, as long as it’s dirty enough. Vacuuming three inches of sawdust off the windowsills is an absolute blast.

The move goes pretty easily, as the boat has been sitting on trucks the whole time and doesn’t need to be slung or jacked or carried; A few blocks are removed and she gently rolls to her destination. The result? A Corinthian-sized block of floor.20180717_143022


Laminating is the 20th century version of scarfing – making a bunch of smaller pieces of wood into one bigger one that is the size or shape we need. In this case, the stem is laminated from a number of smaller, thinner strips of sapele that will be hugely easier to work with than trying to saw or bend one giant piece into shape. There’s a lot of epoxy involved, and it’s a pretty big mess when we get back to it in the morning.

Here’s what it looks like in the middle of knocing down the bumps with a combinationg of chisels, handplane, and scraper- whatever seems like the most fun at the moment.

Next, the centerboard trunk sides get some love and sanding, as we level them out, choose which sides will be the show faces, and think critically about what it means to be “flat.”

Raw materials

A trip to Delaware County Supply yields most of the wood (white oak and sapele) we’ll need to for early stages of construction. Out of a few hundred pieces we examine, only a couple dozen make the cut for inclusion (which makes me wonder about what the rest is going to be used for).

Back at the shop, we start progress on a bevel board. This transfers the angles of the lofting to awill board, which we then transfer to the formers so they’ll lay flush to the planks when they go on. Everything is about looking 4 or 5 steps ahead, trying to make later work easier.