Second Chances

Another Saturday morning comes early.  The colors were not quite so brilliant as a couple of weeks ago, but the dawn is no less the start of a new day.  It might be the overflow of good days past, but it could be, just as easily, a new beginning, a page turned, or a second chance.


Out the same east window where the sun rises is a Cleveland pear tree that I planted as a skinny sapling in 1996.  Around 2009, it apparently was hit by lightning and one of the large central branches was broken off.  The main trunk was split in two with a fist-sized crack at three feet off the ground and the conventional wisdom was to cut it down, or at least to cut one half away.  Instead, my son-in-law Jeff Reichanadter suggested that we try pulling the trunk parts back together.

We got some 2x4s and some pipe clamps and managed to close up the gap.  Then we drilled four holes with a long 3/8″ bit, that we tried to line up for two threaded 1/4″ rods.  It was close enough so we could hammer the rods into place, and we quickly got some large washers and double nuts tightened onto both ends of the rods.  When we sawed the rod ends off and took the clamps off, nothing happened so we gave each other high fives and went in.

Below is the tree up close, five years later:


Here is the happy tree this spring.  I guess you could call that a second chance.


The boat has needed quite a few restarts and page turns also.  After the failure of the float test, we went back to the physics book.  That was described in the 9th post, “It’s Elementary, Watson.”  The progress of that story is shown below in the photos of rebuilding the cross frames.

They were originally constructed with dowel-reinforced corner joints and plywood supports, and then shaped according to the first design.  On the photo below you can see how the added piece made it around 3″ taller and was contour sanded for the best fit.


Next the cross frames were cut to a new profile with the jigsaw and shaped smooth.


In the case of the added piece below, it had its own second chance after it survived a wrong band saw cut.  After already having significant time into the piece, I decided to fill the cut with a thin piece of wood.  Then the shoulder cut need a second try with an added shim to make the stringer lay higher on that perfect line.


Another of the repeats occurred to the cross frame shown below.  After I had installed the lower stringer, I had to recut the corner away and glue it again to allow the stringer to move in slightly.  Then it was right.


It wouldn’t really be inappropriate for the whole boat to be named “Second Chance.”  But when the beauty of the corrected lines emerge, it becomes totally worth the extra effort.  Below are the reworked cross frames and the cockpit becoming defined by the side trim:


Here my grandsons, Clayton, Brayden, and Hudson, didn’t need the second try:


But over the years, I did need second chances quite a few times.  One of those occasions, my sister Anne Crist pointed me to Joel 2:28.  It describes the devastation that the army of locusts did to the crops of Israel.  But God promised that if they repented, He would make up for the years the locusts had eaten.  He is still in the business of second chances for anyone who will seek Him with their whole heart.

The Next Step

Six o’clock on a Saturday morning in May is an unlikely time for me to be up with my wits about me, but it is one of those “wake up with an idea” days. I started by writing some notes for the blog entry on my yellow pad since the computer goes to sleep at 10:00 pm and does not wake up until at least 7:00 am.

There has to be some peaceful time that a screen does not beckon. If the screens don’t sleep, nobody sleeps. In an personal poll of kids at the office, I concluded that screens are the most common reason for daytime attention deficit. Now that’s disorder.

I planned to go back to sleep, but when I heard the birds singing, and looked out to see God’s salmon and slate backdrop, it seemed that an afternoon nap could correct any later energy deficiencies. Then the ball of fire lit up the small opening under the clouds. That was a bold welcome to the morning.


It’s time to take a new step forward with the boat also, as the defining contour lines of the front end are now shaped and set in epoxy. This requires more creative planning, as I am at the end of my last list of things to do. For thinking, I sit on the old folding chair, which lost its back a few years ago, and has been useless for entertaining upstairs as long as I can remember. I have a yellow writing pad, and a piece of scrap plywood for a makeshift desk and start a new page for the instruction manual.


Some of the big challenges to be done are the cockpit framing, dash and trim, interior epoxy and glass reinforcement to the bottom, creating the deck with the forward two-seat compartment, and building the transom side extensions. They each have their own special challenges, which are a little bit scary.

I am not sure which thing to do next, but in some ways it doesn’t matter. As the old Chinese proverb goes, “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” You can imagine that day 2, 3, or 28 or 137, for example, also begin with another single step.

Sometimes you just have to start moving, even if you’re not sure of the best path. There is learning in the mistakes, and many of my repeat parts served as patterns to improve on the next try. Just out of curiosity, I did a little figuring to see what step I am on. Here’s how the number of parts in the boat to date added up:

White Oak keel, runners, chine and transom                   22 parts
Yellow Cedar frames and stringers                                     130 parts
Marine plywood corner gussets and hull planks             168 parts
Dowels to reinforce cross frame joints                              170 parts

This 490 pieces does not include a couple of dozen failed first attempts. To complicate matters, only about 8 parts are square on all corners. Fortunately, I am not on someone else’s schedule, as you are never really lost if you’re not out of time.

So then, I decided to focus on finishing the transom framework. Each part has several angles needed to fit well on both ends. I start with oversized pieces, and gradually cut and sand to the best fit I can. Fortunately, epoxy is forgiving as it is good at gap filling, exceptionally strong and waterproof.

Below is the cardboard pattern to make the side of the motor well, and temporary stringers are extended back to create the lines of the stern.


This photo shows the curved frames to support the side of the motor well.


Below is a plywood side in place with a cardboard pattern to build the stern shape. The next photo shows the remaining extension frame parts.



Then, I notice the clutter of a group of tools getting in the way of progress. So for a few minutes, I clean and organize. For one thing, it is hard to make a mistake when you are cleaning up, and it can also be reflective.


Most days, life is like that and needs a little clean up. Confession of sin is the broom for the soul.