Carpentry Cover-Up

Our intrepid builder uses interior trim to hide some of the gaps and chips in the planking-and in his carpentry skills. "Hands-On Sailor' for our October 2009 issue

Zartman cover up 368

As Ganymede's interior takes shape, redwood planking hides the hull, while fir trim will hide (most of) the dings and dents in the joinery.Danielle Zartman

Every so often, during the long and weary months I spent insulating and planking the inside of Ganymede, my family's Cape George 31 cutter, one of the redwood strips wouldn't fit just right or would come up short because I'd read the tape measure upside down or would split as I hammered a nail through it. Whenever this happened, I'd comfort myself with these words: "It's OK. The trim will cover that." It became my mantra, repeated over and over: "That will look OK with trim."

But the piper, as they say, must be paid, and as I toil away now at installing the trim, I wonder if more care then would've saved me trouble now. Probably not, since the trim actually is covering most of the bad spots in the planking. The trouble is, there won't be anything to cover bad spots in the trim. Well, that's not entirely true. Several gimbaled oil lamps hide-or at least distract one's attention from-the two big seams where a couple of planks refused to match up; some framed photographs of our last boat, along with a spice rack, will disguise several other glaring blemishes. But I fear that on the whole, my lack of carpentry skills will be evident to even the most casual observer.

"If you were using a less splintery wood, it'd probably look neater," my wife, Danielle, said, running her finger over a screw-hole plug that had chipped a little as I countersunk it.

"If I were using a less splintery wood, we'd be flat broke," was my only rejoinder. "This fir from Home Depot costs quite enough as it is, especially since we're buying so much of it." I felt compelled to draw the obvious conclusion: "Even the nicest wood won't make me a better woodworker. It'd be a waste to use hard maple and cherry and not get it perfect."

Danielle wrinkled her nose. "I don't want a perfect boat," she said. "We'd be worrying about the finish all the time, and we'll have enough to worry about with the kids. I just want our new boat to be comfortable."

"That should be easy," I said, gesturing at the four- by seven-foot double berth taking shape forward and at the ample settee frame I'd built so there'd be somewhere to sit while I was trimming the rest of the cabin. "We'll just get really fat cushions."

"Will our heads fit under the deck if we have such thick cushions on the settee?" she asked.

I sighed. That design issue-of whether to build the wraparound settee low enough to leave headroom, high enough to provide legroom, or inboard enough to ensure both-had required more measuring, musing, and what if-ing than almost any other aspect of the interior layout. In the end, I put the settee in the only place it could go without creating shin-banging angles or blocked doorways. The layout of the rest of the cabin dictated the settee's boundaries.

"My head already doesn't," I answered. "I'll always have to sit on the thwartships seat. But short people can sit on the fore-and-aft leg."

Our two short people -Antigone and Emily-were already crawling about on the settee and doing gymnastics around the locker framing above. "I wish we had cushions now," said Danielle, reaching out to save Emily from toppling onto the bare boards of the settee.

"They'd be ruined in a week!" I laughed. "I've got the chop saw throwing sawdust everywhere, and you've no idea how often I drop chisels, saws, and screwdrivers.

"Besides," I added, keeping my face as straight as I could, "if I can finish the trim, I keep telling myself that the upholstery you'll be sewing will cover all the bad spots."

Danielle glanced around the cabin. A bare screw head winked from the edge of the bathroom-door frame, and up forward, a bit of insulation and several plank ends could be seen peeping through a gap where the trim and the ceiling parted ways.

"With cushions that thick," she said, "it oughta really be comfortable."

Ben Zartman writes every other month from Mariposa, California, about the
progress of his Cape George 31 cutter from backyard to boatyard.