Katahdin Part I–The House

This is what 10 years in Alaska will do to a boat.  Actually, it’s about 6 years–the amount of time we have spent rebuilding our homestead across the Narrows.  Now it’s time to turn our attention back to the Katahdin–my first home here in Alaska.  The “Kat” was built in 1899 and has all the associated problems with an old wooden boat–you can read more about her in my new “Pages” section directly above the “Archives” in the right sidebar.    So it’s time to roll up my sleeves….and hire a couple of hardworking youngsters.

Michael is an excellent shipwright and loves old wooden boat projects.  Here we’re digging out rot from the bottom course of the bulwarks.  We discovered this by using a pressure washer!  Not a good sign–probably some of the Mt. Saint Helens blowdown in the 1980s.  This area was logged after too many years which yielded a lot of poor quality boat lumber.  And this is not an easy place to get to.  We’ll slide in a new piece from both sides bolting them horizontally to the existing vertical lag screws–it will be yellow cedar.

Here, Michael installs new siding in the pilothouse–also yellow cedar.  He milled this up with a 3 degree bevel so it follows the curve of the house.  In all, he replaced about 10 pieces here.  Check out the yacht in the background–there are two of these traveling around together–some sort of British flag.  There goes the neighborhood!

I’m lucky to also find Leland, who boasts from Florida.  He’s a faux-painter–that is, he paints things to look old or to ‘disappear’ and all kinds of special effects.  He’s hard working also and loves his craft (or art).   Here’s the results of his magic–it’s a brand new house!

The stairs and rails will be last.

Same treatment below on the main deck.  This tarp I had made years ago has now paid for itself in maintenance saved.  The decks, cap-rails and doors are spared from the vicissitudes of the Alaskan rainforest.  I used varnish on these doors and like all outdoor varnishing, it ultimately fails.  I’ll remove each door one at a time (there are 7 double doors and three full doors) and refinish them with Sikken Cetol.  I use this on all the cap rails, rub rails and the lazarette cover and it is great stuff!

The main mast has rotted out at the base and top–it was installed last in 1982 or so in Seattle.  It is 9″ in diameter and 27 feet tall.  I want to extend it four more feet so I need a pretty sizable tree.  Here I’m measuring with a caliper and this one looks right.  It’s spruce which grows very straight–but the trade-off is it’s also susceptible to rot–oh well, the last one made it almost 30 years.

Earlier in the week  about a hundred yards away on our creek we spot a mamma bear and her cub.  So we look over both shoulders before we begin our ‘logging.’

After laboriously dragging this out of the woods with my tractor and two strong helpers, I peel it and then drag it back into the net shed to dry for a year.   Whew!

Part II will be the hull.   The shipyard has reopened under new ownership and I’m scheduled in a couple weeks.  I’ll redo a lot of the previous work and the hull will be like the pilothouse.  Stay tuned!

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