Category Archives: Boats

First “Sea Trials”!

There are a few important details that still need to be added to the boat, like a dashboard, motorboard, decks, etc., not to mention a motor and steering wheel! But suddenly the light at the end of the tunnel really seems to be approaching.

The next step is to complete all the framing for the raised deck on the bow of the boat, called the cowl. First step was to install the cowl cleats to the coaming. Once the cowl cleats were in, I added the dashboard. Finally, a bit of framing called the strongback was added, which runs from the center of the dashboard to the center of the bow of the boat. The front end is now completely framed!

Gluing the cowl cleats to the coaming

Gluing the cowl cleats to the coaming

Attaching the dashboard and the strongback

Attaching the dashboard and the strongback

Next, it was time to move to the stern. One of the first parts that I assembled was the motorboard, and now it was finally time to install it. Motorboard assembly was pretty easy, except it was a bit difficult to figure out enough places to put clamps. Breaking the assembly into steps solved that problem, first the motorboard, then all the associated framing. As you can see, the amount of framing is fairly substantial, as the motorboard is put under quite a bit of stress.

Attaching the motorboard, rear view

Attaching the motorboard, rear view

Attaching the motorboard, top view

Attaching the motorboard, top view

Framing complete!

Framing complete!

Once the motorboard was installed, framing of the boat was essentially complete. All that is left is to add the decking. But, before doing that, I wanted to put the boat in water and look for leaks, while access to the interior of the boat was still easy. So, with friends in town, I took the opportunity to float the boat in the pool. Even Roscoe got in on the action!

As you can see, it is going to be a very cozy single-seater! And, it will need a lightweight motor to complement the heavyweight driver. But, trust me, I am not planning to enter any races…

In the boat, with 100 pounds of weights in the back, simulating the motor

In the boat, with 100 pounds of weights in the back, simulating the motor

Oh Yeah… About That Boat…

Well, I have discovered that summertime is not a great time to be building a boat. There is just too much stuff going on, between depositing various kids at various colleges, taking vacations, enjoying the nice weather, etc. Consequently, work on the boat stopped in June, and did not resume until about a week or so ago.

But, the good news is, work HAS resumed!

Last time I posted, I had just flipped the boat. So, this means it is time to work on the topside. The first step was to install what is known as the carling, which is the support frame member that supports the deck where it meets the cockpit.  At roughly the same time, I installed the deck battens. These are frame members that support the deck itself, which is very thin plywood. The picture below shown the carlings and battens clamped in place, testing that they fit properly before attaching them permanently.


In between work sessions, there was a car show in Danville. I rode my bike through on the way to the grocery store, and discovered there were a few boats, too. The most inspiring one was My Sin, a 1938 Ventnor Hydro, very similar to my grandfather’s Juno.

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My Sin got me inspired, and made me eager to get back to work. Now that the framing is essentially complete, it is time to install the coaming. The coaming forms the sides of the cockpit. With it installed, you can really start to get a feel for what the boat is going to look like. Here I am at my epoxy station getting ready to mix up a batch, along with some pictures of the boat with the carlings installed.

Yes, the light is beginning to appear at the end of the tunnel!

Time to Flip!

So, with the assembly of the lower hull complete, it is time to seal and paint the bottom, then flip her over. I had to do some research on just what steps were necessary to finish the bottom of the boat, what kind of paints to use, etc. I determined that the procedure was going to be as follows…

First step was to spend some additional time sanding the hull. In order for the finished boat to look good, I had to smooth out every divot, clean up the edges, etc. Yet more sanding – and after every pass, it seemed like I found new stuff that had to be handled. Finally, I had to declare things “good enough”.

After sanding, I sealed the hull with a clear sealer. The point of the sealer is to protect the wood from the water. Since I won’t be leaving the boar in the water for more than a few hours at a time, it may not have been necessary. But, I figured what-the-heck, might as well do it right.

After sealing, it was time for another pass with the sander. The sealer leaves a rough texture when it dries, so I had to smooth that out. Once the hull was smooth, it was time to prime. The job of the primer is to smooth out imperfections (of which there are many!) and help the paint to stick. It is nasty stuff. Thick and sticky and toxic-smelling. I put on one coat and let it dry, then it was time to sand again. After sanding, I did a second touch-up coat of primer, and put the stuff away, hopefully for a while.


After priming, it was finally time to paint. But before that, it was time to address the paint odor issue. Painting in the basement was smelling up the whole house. And, I was worrying about the toll that all these fumes were taking on my limited stocks of brain cells. So, I bought a cheap canopy and the best respirator I could find, and moved the whole kit outside.

The paint went on smooth and looked awesome when it dried. I went with white for the hull, with dark blue trim. Managed to get two coats of both colors on while fighting the heat wave. Early morning breeze and late morning heat (not supposed to paint when it is hotter than ninety degrees) left me a slim window.


By the way, the safety glasses are actually bifocals – normal if I look ahead, but magnified if I look down, so I can see what I am doing for close-up (like, within two feet) stuff. Ah, the ravages of old age…

The boat looks great from a distance – just needs a little touch-up. I’m not going to let anyone within five feet of her, though… that is where you can start to tell just how much of an amateur I am! But I am happy with things so far.

Usually when boatbuilding, the “flip” is a big deal. With most boats, it is difficult, takes lots of people, and is followed with celebratory drinking afterword. In my case, though, it just takes two of us to pick her up and turn her over – about like moving a couch. So I skipped the party, flipped the boat, put a coat of sealer on the inside of the hull, moved her back inside, and started plotting my next steps.


I’d Say it is Now Officially a “Hull”

In my last post I was excited to report that the side panels were installed, and now I am equally thrilled to report that the tunnel floors are now in place as well, meaning that the hull is essentially assembled. This means that if I turned her over and put her in the water, she would float. I could even get in and paddle around! But, it’s not time for that yet.

The tunnel floors were fairly tricky. Once they are in place, they are difficult to modify. This meant that I had to cut them very close to their final shape prior to installing them. This is not trivial when we are talking about ten foot panels of plywood. At least, not trivial for ME…


Installation was complicated by the fact that there is really no way to clamp them into place. This meant pre-drilling all the screw holes, applying epoxy, holding the panel in place on the frame, and screwing it into place. I was determined not to have a colossal, glue-y mess… and I was successful in this regard.

Once the tunnel floors were installed, there was just one more simple installation step, and that was mounting the splash rails. It wasn’t as easy as it looked, but I got it done in good order.

So, once the splash rails were on, I had a completely assembled hull… complete with rough spots, minor overhangs and gaps, and hundreds of countersunk screws and nails. Hardly something ready to finish. So, I went out and bought some fairing compound, a bunch of sandpaper, and a random orbital sander, and got to work. Thanks to my inexperience, this turned out to be a lot of work indeed! Much, much hand-sanding, filling and refilling, more sanding, etc. A couple weekend’s worth, in fact. It will go much faster when I do the topsides, I promise you that!

Now, while it is not perfect, it is good enough, and/or as good as it is going to get! This means that it is time to seal, prime, and paint the bottom, prior to flipping her over and working on the top side. I am going to get started this weekend, and I can hardly wait!


Side Panels are On!

At the time of the last update, the frame was completely assembled. The next step after that is to start installing the plywood panels that make up the hull of the boat. But, first, there is some fairing to be done.

What, you may ask, is “fairing”? The answer is, fairing is the process of planing, sanding, bending, etc., that makes the frame properly shaped such that the plywood panels fit snugly and securely. The pictures below show an “unfaired” section of the boat, along with a similar section where fairing is complete.





To do this with an degree of efficiency, I needed some tools that I did not have – one of which I bought, and one of which I made. The tool I purchased is a power planer, which makes quick work of removing wood. It generates prodigious amounts of wood shavings, but conveniently hooks up to a shop-vac for easy collection of said shavings. The other tool I needed was a strip sander; that is, a sanding block that is 18 inches long and three inches wide. This tool allows me to sand two frame members at the same time, so that the faces I am sanding are pretty much co-planar. The tool is simply a strip of plywood with handles on one side and sandpaper (actually, a sanding belt that I cut) stapled on. Works like a champ!

WP_20140324_21_12_00_ProWhen I got ready to dig into this task, I noticed something distressing: part of the tunnel frame had warped. The picture to the left shows how bad the warping is – the tunnel side should be exactly square, and is clearly far from it! Not sure why that happened, but I was pretty sure I had to fix it – I had visions of my slightly asymmetric little boat running around in tight circles as her crooked tunnels would not allow her to go straight! It was easily fixed by installing a couple braces in the tunnel itself; these will be a little tricky to remove once the bottom is installed, but we will cross that bridge when we come to it!

Once the tunnel was straightened, it was time to start fairing in earnest. All frames had to be beveled so that they were roughly co-planar, then they had to sanded with my long samding block so that they were perfectly flat with each other – or at least as close as I could get them. It got particularly tricky up at the bow, where the boat is curved, and everything somehow converges together. I have a feeling that at some point it is going to take a lot of epoxy and filler to make everything clean and watertight.

Once fairing was complete, it was time to glue the panels to the frame. With a bit of trepidation (and lots of epoxy everywhere!) I clamped on the panel on the port side. It took every clamp I owned to hold the thing in place, so I had to wait a few days to put on the starboard side. As you can see from the pictures, initially the fit of the panels is pretty rough.

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Once the side panels were installed, another big fairing task was required to get ready to install the tunnel floors. Both the chine logs and the tunnel runners needed to be extensively beveled and sanded so the tunnel floor panel will fit snugly. I am very interested to see how it all comes together at the bow. Hopefully I will find out this weekend!

Here are some photos of the faired hull, ready to start working on tunnel floor fit and assembly. I cleaned things up a bit for the occasion. Enjoy!