I’ll Need a Volunteer

I can saw a woman in two,
But you won’t want to look in the box when I’m through.

—Warren Zevon; For My Next Trick, I’ll Need a Volunteer
(added to HJ Sailing playlist)

A couple weeks ago, my friend Sarah forwarded me a text:

Sarah, tell your sailing friend that I have been listening to his HJ Sailing playlist. I really liked it and loved the old sailor songs. I forwarded it to Charlie and his friends—who are sailing right now on Lake Michigan! So other sailor are listening to it too. Thank you.

I have no idea who wrote the original text or, for that matter, who Charlie is—but it made my day…made my week. As I prepare for more voyaging, I’ve been thinking a lot about how important human connection is and how wonderful it is to think of others—other sailors—enjoying this playlist out in the unsalted Lake Michigan.

In a couple posts, I’ve peripherally mentioned that I’m building a proper dinghy for Hazel. That work is progressing and even before her hull started to take shape I named her “Lil’ Dinghy”—kind of like a young couple choosing baby names before they’re pregnant.

When I say “proper”, I mean a hard-dinghy (not an inflatable). Inflatable dinghies work fine with noisy outboards on the back but they row terribly. Well-designed hard dinghies row well but they are cumbersome to store on the deck of a small boat like Hazel.

Therefore, Lil’ Dinghy is going to be a nesting dinghy. “Nesting” being that the dinghy comes apart and one half nests inside of the other half (like a Russian doll). Fingers crossed it only comes apart when I want it to.

To make sure that the two halves of Lil’ Dinghy would fit together well and her lines would be fair, I built her in one piece and then cut her in two. While it took some guts for me to take a wood saw to her, I’m sure she had a lot more trepidation than I did, and she wouldn’t have volunteered for it. Kind of like having a surgery when you are feeling well versus surgery when you are sick and in pain. Here’s a photo journey of the event:

An early picture of Lil’ Dinghy as the strakes were going on (the side panels). I took this photo during a thunderstorm and Jengo hates thunderstorms so he was “helping”.
Another angle with another set of strakes (the strake on the right has not yet been bent to the hull). In both pictures, we’re looking from bow to stern (front to back). The bulkhead (the board with the blue tape) is where she’ll eventually be sawn in two. The aft bulkhead, with the cutouts, is temporary and will be removed after the strakes are glued.
The completed hull flipped over. All the strakes are in place and glued. The skeg (fin in the back) is being glued.

So now we’re ready for her to go under the knife (in this case, under the saw). The secret to cutting her in two is the bulkhead. The bulkhead is actually a sandwich with a bow half and a stern half. Between the two is a cardboard spacer. In boat-building parlance it’s a “sacrificial” spacer since it sacrifices itself to the greater good. Beefy bolts (carriage bolts to be exact) secure the layers of the sandwich—like those frilly toothpicks in a club sandwich. They also ensure the halves align when putting the halves back together again.

The compound bulkhead looking from port (left) to starboard (right). The sacrificial cardboard spacer is clearly visible in the middle. We used the long drill bit to locate where the hull should be cut (by drilling holes through the cardboard, from the inside out).
The cut-line scribed on the hull with the help of the holes and the long drill bit. Notice the mis-marked line with the “X” through it—measure twice and cut once!
Jack supporting the hull as we start the cut with the hull right-side up.
Continuing with the hull flipped over
The cut completed and the hull ready to be pulled apart.

Drumroll please!…

Ta Dah!
Note that the rear seat is removable so the two halves have space to nest.
Lil’ Dinghy doing her best Russian doll impersonation.
Dry fitting the nested Lil’ Dinghy on Hazel’s deck. Fits perfectly!

Now, we’re on to sanding, painting and varnishing.

All this talk of Warren Zevon and sandwiches got me thinking back to one of his last public appearances. It was October 2002 on the David Letterman Show and he was dying of lung cancer.

From the beginning of his illness, he was very public about its prognosis. David asked him if his condition had taught him anything about life and death. Warren replied, “How much you’re supposed to enjoy every sandwich.”

I’m looking forward to lots of sandwiches on Lil’ Dinghy.

Fair winds and following seas…

PS: For Charlie and his crew on Lake Michigan, I added a couple versions of “Into the Mystic” to the playlist, one of the greatest old sailing songs there ever was.

6 thoughts on “I’ll Need a Volunteer

  1. Cool dinghy, Dan. Thanks for the shout out, we love Into the Mystic … And make no mistake Van IS the man.

    1. Therese and Charlie: Thanks so much for the note and here’s to meeting fellow sailors! Hope to sail with you someday and let me know if you’re ever in South Florida.

  2. D – was asked to play at a viewing of a friend’s wife who was killed in a car crash recently. We met them while I was on stage at a local bar years ago and have stayed in touch. A clear memory is the first time she requested “Into the Mystic” – one of my favs. So here I am, sitting in front of her open casket, next to her husband – belting out the song. And in that moment – thought of loss, and thought of hope. Weird but heart warming. Hoping the sun is keeping yours warm as well! Until we see each other in person – T

    1. Tim: Wow, that’s powerful. Thanks so much for sharing. Who, knows if the pandemic keeps surging I may be sailing up the Atlantic East Coast this summer and will see you then!

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