Construction - II
Progress Report - Apr. to Sept. 1999
Well, a phenomenal amount of
progress has been made, so it's high time to give another
progress report. Currently I have spent around 130 hours
on construction. Quite respectable since it took me 5
years to get to 230 hours on Failure #1.
The most obvious change from the previous page is that
the boat has gone from 2 dimensions to 3. Now at least I
have something to show any visitors. Curiosity even got
the better of my neighbors who eventually asked, "What
My comment last time about
saying goodbye to the garage space has come to fruition
as you can tell from this picture. The strongback was
built first, which holds each bulkhead in position. I
used a rented Dumpy level (like a transit on a tripod) to
locate each bulkhead precisely. I couldn't use the garage
floor as a guide because like most
garages, it is not level. The most difficult bulkhead to
position was the transom because it is at a slight angle.
After a thousand measurements and adjustments, I finally
had it as close as I could. Each bulkhead is held to the
strongback with temporary screws. Now, the strongback is
supposed to be strong, right? Yes, well, regardless of
how strong it is, at this stage each bulkhead wobbles a
bit. I didn't worry too much about it because I had a
plan to help anchor each with some of the stringers that
would eventually be installed anyway.
A note here about
measurement tolerances. My goal at the beginning was to
build the boat within 1/16 of an inch to the designer's
plans. Hah! Further experience has shown
me the folly of this idea. I'll be extremely glad if I'm
within 1/4 inch or even a half inch in some places. But
I'm not worried that I'll have a crooked boat. The
critical parts, like bulkhead alignment, I know to be
The next step was to insert the completed centerboard
trunk. A moment of heartstoppage was followed by elation
when the whole thing slipped into place. Everything
matched up, except for a slight twist in the aft part of
the trunk that I knew to be correctable. That's the joy
and reward of building something like this. Seeing the
parts built separately fit together as if divined to be.
With that, the serious gluing and screwing began.
This picture gives a scan of
the bottom and all of the integral parts. The centerboard
trunk anchors 4 bulkheads together solidly. A cockpit
stringer, shown in the lower center of the photo anchored
the aft bulkheads together. Then it was time for the
chine and sheer logs.
The chine and sheer logs are
made of Honduras mahogany scarfed together to make a
single 20 ft. long board. What I learned about this wood
is...it doesn't like to bend. Not only was it supposed to
bend around the bulkheads, it also needed to twist
somewhat from stern to bow to follow the natural (?)
curve of hull sections. I could only think of one
solution to this dilemna. The Spanish Windlass. If you
are unfamiliar with this concept, become familiar pronto.
It is one of the most useful boatbuilding tools I know.
Over the span of a couple weeks, I forced the logs into
position and then let the area's humidity and heat take
care of the rest. When I sprung them free to start the
gluing process, they had already assumed most of the
shape and didn't need quite the coaxing to get them into
their final resting place.
This brought me to my most
serious headscratching moment--what to do with the stem.
The stem was already cut (oversized) and planed into
shape, but it needed to be on an angle like the transom.
The strongback didn't extend far enough for me to attach
it, so what to do, what to do. I finally screwed a board
to the stem that would stand on the floor, and the rest
was glued and screwed in the proper position to the sheer
and chine logs. Easier said than done, but it eventually
did as it was told and was straight on center at the end.
I did lots of checks first, because once the glue and
screws are in, that's all folks! Very shortly after the
logs were glued in place, I quickly worked on installing
the hull sides because they would help keep the logs in
place as well. I had this recurring nightmare of the glue
failing and the logs flying off the hull like a giant
spring. It didn't happen.
Putting together the topsides of the hull I once again
departed from the building recommendations. Instead of
piecing together the panels on the boat, I glued the
panels together with butt blocks first and then placed it
on the hull all at once. I admit that it's unwieldy to
handle a 19 foot long piece of plywood, but I survived. I
was familiar with this technique on Failure #1
so I stuck with it.
Now a note about plywood that I alluded to earlier
when I was talking about a slight warp in the centerboard
trunk. I used Marine Grade Fir plywood for this project.
After dealing with a number of different types of ply
over the years, I have come to the conclusion that it is
impossible to make a 4 X 8 sheet that is perfectly
straight and flat. Even if you bring it home flat, a few
weeks storage in your garage will invariably turn it into
a potato chip. Well, maybe I exaggerate. Fortunately,
most surfaces on a boat are not straight, so I've made a
habit of seeing how a sheet behaves first and then
cutting it where it will follow the shape of the boat.
A note about measuring, cutting, and running out of
things. It's always best to glue on a piece too big, then
trim it later to size. Glue on too big, trim to size.
Glue on too big, trim to size. Well, you get the idea.
It's pretty important. One small mistake and it's another
trip to the lumber yard to plunk down $200 to try again.
Or worse. As for running out of material, make sure you
have enough of something before starting a job where you
can't stop. I was glueing one of the topside panels when
horror of horrors I ran out of collodial silica filler
before I got to the end. Since I can't glue this without
some form of filler and I couldn't stop part way through,
my panic found me using fine sawdust as a substitute. It
has similar properties as silica so I wasn't too
embarrassed in the end. But lesson learned.
Here is a view of the inside
of the boat looking aft from the forward end of the bunk.
This gives a better picture of how the bulkheads are
attached to the strongback. Although it's a bit
disorienting, you will recognize the shape of the
bulkheads from the previous page. The center stringer
helped secure the forwardmost
bulkhead (A) to bulkhead C so it wouldn't wobble while I
was installing the chine logs. This stringer will also be
part of a longitudinal bulkhead under the bunk that I
mentioned on the previous page under construction
Another view of the space
between bulkheads A and C (B is just visible at the
bottom of the photo). On the left is one of the 2 butt
blocks on each topsides to glue the 3 panels together.
The stringer glued on later will hold the bunk. Clearly
visible are the chine log on top (of photo), and the
sheer log on the bottom. I botched the
bracing on the strongback for bulkhead A, not thinking
about how the topsides and sheer log would attach. So I
had to redo the bracing without moving the positioning.
Must have had a special brain aneurysm that day. But my
mess to fix it is barely visible here so I'm okay!
This shows the aft section.
The transom is on the left, bulkhead G on the right. A
longitudinal bulkhead will be attached to the center
stringers, dividing the part under the cockpit into 2
compartments. This part will be done after the boat is
turned over and before the cockpit is assembled. More
visible here is a white epoxy fillet along the
connection of the topsides to the bulkhead. Plywood is
extremely sensitive to water entering the end-grain so
I've religiously sealed every joint. These fillets are
perfect for that little bit of left-over epoxy that you
don't want to go to waste. All the other surfaces will be
coated with epoxy later to further prevent water
Here's a nice picture of the
bow, neatly nestled between my washer and dryer. The
brown bag in the corner with the 7 inches of sawdust on
top is my golf clubs. The plans call for a 5-1/2 inch
radius curve from the stem to the hull bottom. I cut the
radius in a scrap piece of plywood to use as a template
and then let the belt sander take its toll.
A brief comment here about the stem. I used the plans to figure
the angles and shape the stem. It's a bit weird since it
has to taper from a wider angle at the sheer to a much
narrower angle at the bottom. The moment of truth came
when I installed the logs. The top was perfect, but the
bottom was not. In reality the angle of the logs was a
bit more acute. Some sweating and epoxy filler saved the
day, but my advise to future builders is to find what the
angles are in reality before cutting the stem. The ol'
saying "Your mileage may vary" applies here.
The plans show
the 1/2 inch ply bottom extending over this knuckle and
up the stem to deck level. Ever try to bend 1/2 inch ply
over a 5-1/2 inch radius? Well, even 1/4 inch ply breaks.
Taking a clue from Failure #1, I soaked
2 pieces of 1/4 inch ply in hot water and carefully bent
them over the radius. The 3-layer ply indicated lots of
stress but it didn't fail. After it dried out I glued and
screwed them in place, using copious amounts of silica
filler. Fir plywood is fairly soft, but when heavily
coated with epoxy/silica and then fiberglassed it'll be
impervious enough to do a bow proud. Not that I plan on
testing it or anything. Sailing will be test enough, I
Here's a closer look at the port side of
the transom. The top shows the chine log and topside
plywood has been planed down to match the angle of the
hull bottom (basically level with the floor). The other
side shows how the ply has still been left oversized. It
will remain too long until the deck is ready to be
installed. The ply also extended beyond the transom by
about 2 inches, but has been sanded down flush in this
Finally, a picture of the sheer looking
from the transom forward. If you step away from the
monitor a few feet and squint your eyes just right, you
can tell what the sheer and cabin/coaming looks like.
Actually this might be better in describing the amount of
space I have to negotiate when doing things inside and
around the hull. My son doesn't have a problem getting
around, but he's a bit smaller than I (his tow truck
stands ready in the foreground).
More detail on the
strongback construction is shown here as well.
At press time the bottom sheet of 1/2 inch plywood has been
cut to shape and glued together with butt-blocks. The lead pigs,
made by a local castings place, now sit near the bow.
A word here about my evolution on ballast. I have devised a
plan to secure the pigs by surrounding them with blocks of wood
so they won't move and then lash them in place with lines
attached to the blocks. The lashings would keep them from coming
adrift during a knockdown or (heaven forbid) a capsize. The
lashings will also allow removal during maintenance or a dire
emergency. It will be easy to manage the ballast depending on
loading, wind conditions, trim, and other circumstances. I won't
shift anything once underway, but it allows some flexibility in
how the boat can be set up. The designer requires a minimum of
600 lbs. of ballast with notice that the builder could increase
it up to 800 lbs. So I purchased 700 lbs. as a reasonable start.
So at the moment I am gluing some 40 blocks to the bottom ply
before I attached it to the hull. There are two reasons for this.
First, I want to screw everything in place on the entire hull
before coating it with fiberglass. That way I won't have to put a
screw through the coating later, creating a possible source of
moisture ingress. Second, gluing and screwing these blocks upside-down
after the bottom is installed would be nigh impossible.
Then the next step will be attaching the bottom and
fiberglassing the hull. That will entertain me for the next
couple of months. Fiberglassing is something I never did with the
other projects, so it will be a new experience. Rest assured that
I'll be doing lots of reading up on it before I break out the
cloth. After that I'll be doing the "turn-over"