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Thread: To Build A Boat

  1. #1
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    Default To Build A Boat

    Ever since I was a child I have always been fascinated with transport, the vehicles that move us and our things from A to B with purpose, style, or grace and sometimes all three of those things at once. Like many, I eagerly devoured stories of high seas adventures, long treks through barren deserts, or pioneering flights into the unknown. After many year away, my wife and I returned home, to the land locked city of Juneau, Alaska in the fall of 2001, and I found that my interests shifted almost exclusively to boats. Being bound by salt water, boreal forests, mountains, and ice fields this is not surprising. To travel in Southeast Alaska means to boat or fly. What was surprising to me was that this interest developed into a desire, a desire to build a wooden boat. This is a story about how that desire became reality.

    But first, let me back up a little bit.

    I believe that we, as people, have an innate need to express ourselves creatively through direct interaction with our environment. But the tools needed to do that are less and less frequently passed on to our younger generations. This is especially true in this increasingly computerized age where even common social interaction comes with an interface. Things that were once common place in public schools like art, music, home economics, and shop class are increasingly squeezed out in the battle for higher test scores and shrinking budgets. This is a shame, kids end up missing out on the experience of connecting with the physical world in a real and creative way. Missing out on the process, they are left instead to come to it on their own. Some will be successful at this, but for many it will be a struggle to get there and some never will find that creative mastery of the physical and the self-confidence that comes with it. For me, the dream of interacting with my environment is expressed in the tangible process. In turning a wrench or running a hand plane along a board, achieving that fine fit as two pieces are joined perfectly together, or not so perfectly as is often the case. These actions that hopefully result in another opportunity to further the dream or open the door to an adventure that wasn’t there before.

    Throughout high school and for a few years thereafter, it was trucks that held my attention more than any other mode of transportation. The dream of being able to hop in and go, go anywhere, see new things and have new adventures. For me this dream always included lots of sunshine and long stretches of desert highway. Probably not a very surprising dream for a kid from a land locked town in a temperate rain forest, but there it is. To that end, a string of ratty old Ford pickups came through and mostly stayed at my folks’ house. Armed with a mismatch of hand-me-down wrenches, a greasy shop manual, and a stack of Hot Rod magazines for inspiration, transmissions were changed (more than once), engines torn apart, differentials rebuilt, mashed fenders replaced, crunched cabs fixed, and there was sanding, oh so much sanding. Eventually one of those old pickups emerged with a shiny new coat of paint, ready to escape the confinement of the rain forest. The pickup was loaded up with tool box, a rucksack full of clothes, and the dog (a cheerful yellow lab named Shad-o). Off south we went, not quite sure what we were getting into, but buoyed by that youthful certainty that it would all work out.

    Last edited by jsjpd1; 04-10-2013 at 09:20 PM.
    -Jim

    Sucker for a pretty face.
    1934 27' Blanchard Cuiser ~ Amazon, Ex. Emalu
    19'6" Caledonia Yawl ~ Sparrow

    Getting into trouble one board at a time.

  2. #2
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    Default Re: To Build A Boat

    Great thread so far! next part please!

    A homemade flatbed on an old Ford! You'r a Bubba! Is it stationary or will it dump? I cant wait to find out what kind of boat the owner of that truck built.
    Last edited by Oysterhouse; 04-10-2013 at 09:27 PM.
    Even a fish wouldn’t get in trouble if it kept it's mouth shut.

  3. #3
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    Default Re: To Build A Boat

    Arriving safely down south I went to work hauling logs in the Cascade Mountains of Washington State, and spending my free time making some of those daydreams of driving through deserts a reality, often accompanied by a beautiful young woman named Leni, a close friend and fellow escapee from home who would eventually become my wife. When the weekend approached we would drop everything hop in the pickup and just drive. Eventually, as time progressed and our relationship grew more serious we felt the pull of the remote water ways and deep forests calling us home to Juneau (well, really it was the 30 credit hours needed to finish my bachelor degree). The winter of 2001, and spring and fall of 2002 were very eventful for us winter saw me engaged in a full load of classes, in March we flew to the desert to get married on a pirate ship (yes, really), in May I graduated from the University, and in November with a lot of help from our families we bought our first house.

    The house was nothing special, a 1500 square foot attached home with a one car garage, a house that would have been described by the realtor as having ‘good bones’. The carpeting was beyond shot, the trim was trashed, and the fixtures were dated at best. Being long on enthusiasm but short on money we decided to do all the work ourselves, never mind that we had never done this type of thing before. We would learn by doing. So out came the carpet (it took about a year to get all the new laminate flooring installed), and the bathroom remodel was started, and a new wall was put up to define what was dining room and what was living room, and new paint was applied to most every conceivable surface, and the tool collection grew. As the house took shape around us, I started looking for a new way to express my need to create and make useful things. We needed a dining room table so that was first on the list, then a coffee table, some end tables, nightstands, the projects kept coming. Each piece of furniture a little more refined and polished then the next one. Woodworking became a passion for me, always looking for the next project that would teach me something new. The exultant joy of a perfect fit and well executed plan was something I craved. Though often times despair was my fate instead, when those plans went awry.

    During this time of course I was also doing a lot of reading on all these new endeavors and the magazine collection started to grow; the Family Handyman, Fine Woodworking, Fine Home Building, and eventually Wooden Boat. I don’t remember now exactly what prompted me to start reading Wooden Boat magazine. We’ve always been a family of readers and I remember thumbing through old copies of the magazine at my grandfather’s house, looking at the pictures. Grandpa always had interesting things about, all sorts of books and magazines on aircraft or boats or trains, dozens of models stacked neatly on every conceivable bit of open space, stuck in between bits and bobs of old brass. Truth be told I was more interested in the models and bits and bobs than I was the in the magazines. But what I was really interested in was the stories that Grandpa had to share, like working for the Forest Service, flying into remote lakes in a Grumman Goose to build recreational cabins. The plane filled with a pile of pre-cut cabin parts and no room to sit but on top of the pile. Telling me how he would take my dad and aunt camping in their small boat and staying at this cabin or that lake, fishing and exploring. Often the stories had an element of adversity to them, the plane that crashed, the bear that came to camp for the fish caught that day, or the skiff that ended up with a hole in it and how they had to load everything to one side to keep the hole out of the water while they made their way home. I didn’t realize it at the time, but these stories made their mark on me and shaped what it meant to me to grow up in Southeast Alaska. As my wife and I started our own family these stories came back to me more and more and I realized I wanted to share those types of experiences with my children as well, for them to grow up connected with their environment in a way that cannot be had from a television or computer screen.
    Last edited by jsjpd1; 04-26-2013 at 12:45 AM.
    -Jim

    Sucker for a pretty face.
    1934 27' Blanchard Cuiser ~ Amazon, Ex. Emalu
    19'6" Caledonia Yawl ~ Sparrow

    Getting into trouble one board at a time.

  4. #4
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    Default Re: To Build A Boat

    thanks for this
    Simpler is better, except when complicated looks really cool.

  5. #5
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    Default Re: To Build A Boat

    Quote Originally Posted by Oysterhouse View Post
    Great thread so far! next part please!

    A homemade flatbed on an old Ford! You'r a Bubba! Is it stationary or will it dump? I cant wait to find out what kind of boat the owner of that truck built.
    You have no idea!

    The flat bed is stationary. This was my daily driver while I was putting that one back together.



    Note the front clip from the green body in the back. Very classy.

    Jim
    -Jim

    Sucker for a pretty face.
    1934 27' Blanchard Cuiser ~ Amazon, Ex. Emalu
    19'6" Caledonia Yawl ~ Sparrow

    Getting into trouble one board at a time.

  6. #6
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    Default Re: To Build A Boat

    Quote Originally Posted by jsjpd1 View Post
    You have no idea!

    The flat bed is stationary. This was my daily driver while I was putting that one back together.



    Note the front clip from the green body in the back. Very classy.

    Jim
    And note the bungee cord muffler hangers with the dual thrush tubes! Double Bubba points for you!
    Even a fish wouldn’t get in trouble if it kept it's mouth shut.

  7. #7
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    Default Re: To Build A Boat

    So here it was, 2004. Our first child was just about to be born; our house was taking a comfortable shape and I had picked up a copy of Wooden Boat from the grocery store. The cover still stands out in my mind’s eye, a beautiful Caledonia yawl floating on calm crystal clear water, jagged shoreline just a few yards away, and a man perched on the stern slowly paddling. Inside was the start of a series of articles on how to build this wonderful boat. I eagerly read and reread every one of those articles, becoming more and more convinced that I could build one too. But it was that cover shot that sold me, I don’t know how many times I came back to it studying every detail. This may be flight of fancy but looking very closely I could just make out the words on the back of the man’s tee shirt. They said, “You need a Wooden Boat”, the more I studied those articles and pictures the more I agreed. Shortly after that a set of plans showed up at my doorstep.

    False Start
    Receiving a new set of plans is always exciting. Surveying the potential locked up in a set on lines on a few sheets of paper, visualizing the happy ship bobbing gently at anchor in a sun dappled cove or charging down the channel on a close reach. This being my first set of plans the potential seemed enormous. I spent the first couple weeks just staring at them, taking in the details of each exquisitely draw sheet. A friend of mine likes to tell me that projects have weight and he is right, the bigger the project the heavier the weight and if it sits gets heavier and heavier. The only way to lighten the load is to break the project into smaller pieces and take action. Not every step or action needs to be big, grand, or perfect; it’s the action, the forward progress, that’s important. But I didn’t know that then, the more I stared at the plans, the more complicated it looked and the heavier it got. Staring at the plans it slowly dawned on me just how big a difference there was between day dreaming about building a boat and actually building one. Could I do it? Would I lose faith or interest half way through? It wouldn’t be the first time a project of mine had failed to see a successful conclusion. Could we even afford it? What would my friends and family say about this hare brained scheme? One question that never entered my mind (and probably should have) was; will I be able to sail it when it’s done?

    Putting these questions aside, I told myself, just build the molds. I had a pile of scrap lumber and a coffee can full of screws already, so they would cost me nothing but time. Not having enough plywood for molds, I proceeded to carefully take the angles and measurements off the plans. Then I built up each mold, piece by piece. I was definitely doing it the hard way. It was painstakingly slow work, but progress was being made and slowly my pile of molds was growing. I remember how good it felt to finish the last one. Buoyed by this success and the encouragement of my wife it was time to move on to the stems. Using an old table top on saw horses as a make shift laminating bench, I carefully taped off where the stems would go, with packing tape, so they would not be permanently part of the table. Then I ripped the laminating stock from a lovely old piece of Doug Fir that had lived a former life as a cross tie on a telephone pole. This was beautiful tight grained wood and even though it had lived a live exposed the elements, there was not defect in it. With some epoxy left over from a chair project, the stems went together without a hitch. Then the project stopped. The time had come to commit, to dedicate the space in earnest, to set up the molds, to spend the money. The questions and doubts came back and I couldn’t do it. The newly made pile of pieces sat and the project got heavy. Life moved on, our older daughter, Gracie, was born in September of that year. In December my grandfather, George, past away he was a good and gentle man who lived a full and active life right up to his last day, just one day shy of ninety. Between having a new born in the house, a new job, and helping my folks deal with grandpa's things life sure didn't slow down any. In the back of my mind the boat project was still nagging at me, but the dream was getting fainter.

    George and Gracie
    Last edited by jsjpd1; 04-26-2013 at 12:48 AM.
    -Jim

    Sucker for a pretty face.
    1934 27' Blanchard Cuiser ~ Amazon, Ex. Emalu
    19'6" Caledonia Yawl ~ Sparrow

    Getting into trouble one board at a time.

  8. #8
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    Default Re: To Build A Boat

    The next year we sold our house and moved across the channel to grandpa's house and the molds were packed up with the rest of our stuff and made the trip too. In the meantime I had picked up a new boat project, in the form of an ancient skiff that had been derelict on the beach for as long as I could remember. This skiff was in tough shape, every piece of wood, from the transom to the little front deck was gone or so rotten it could barely be used for template. The hull was some type of almost fiberglass material, like Tufnol, and had a big crack running half the length of one side. It was so thin a strong wind could have blown it inside out, like a grocery sack. It was perfect and for some reason I thought it would make a good sail boat (it didn't). I don't know why, but the idea of rebuilding an existing boat was so much less daunting then a build from scratch. Maybe it was because it was already a boat, or at least it had been, and so, in my mind, it was already half way done. In any case, I threw myself into this really bad idea of converting an old planning skiff into a sail boat. Starting with a new transom and working forward, puzzling over a dagger board case, building a new rudder. I had been enthusiastically discussing my project with Mark, a friend at work, and he gave me an old sprit sail that he wasn't going to use. Knowing that what I was doing was foolish and possibly dangerous, I packed lots of Styrofoam under the seats for extra flotation. I needn’t have bothered; there was no way I was ever going to flip this wide flat boat over with the little sprit sail.

    As the day of my first sail drew nearer, Mark began to have second thoughts about his generosity and told me the story of his learning to sail experience. He and his wife had just moved to Ketchikan to teach and they'd bought a thirty-something foot sail boat. They'd gone out on their first sail and things were going well. They were sailing back to the harbor, running down wind, and Mark decided it was time to lower the sails. So he turned the helm over to his wife and headed forward. On the way to the mast the boat accidentally gibed. As the boom came across it knocked Mark in the head. There was a lot of blood, fortunately for Mark and his wife, he managed to stay on the boat and conscious. They were able to bandage him up and make it back to the harbor without further mishaps. Once they got back to the harbor, one of their dock mates noticed the bloody bandages and, concerned, got the whole story. He later gave them a few lessons so they wouldn't kill themselves. As I headed off into the rainy afternoon to try my newly refurbished craft, the last thing Mark said was, "Don't kill yourself."





    -Jim

    Sucker for a pretty face.
    1934 27' Blanchard Cuiser ~ Amazon, Ex. Emalu
    19'6" Caledonia Yawl ~ Sparrow

    Getting into trouble one board at a time.

  9. #9
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    Default Re: To Build A Boat

    My first sail on the boat, which I'd named Flotsam, was not nearly as exciting as Mark’s had been. It was a typical early fall day in Southeast Alaska. The temperature was in the mid-fifties. Mist scudded along the mountains sides, through the spruce and hemlock, along with waves of rain. A firmer blanket of grey clouds hung at about five hundred feet, obscuring the mountain tops, and the wind was blowing a steady ten or eleven miles an hour out of the south. To get to open water from the beach you need to first cross a salt pond and then pass through an eighty foot long culvert that passes under the highway. The tide was coming in and weight of the entire channel trying to push itself through the culvert made for quite a strong current. I’d been through the culvert plenty of times before, helping to bring grandpa’s boat out or put it away, but that was always at slack water. The little half horse outboard I’d brought along made quite a racket as Flotsam slowly gained against the tide. The tide was chosen with the idea that if Flotsam could make it out, then coming back would be easy. It almost worked out that way too.

    The channel had never looked so big as the first time I nosed Flotsam out of the culvert. The wind was noticeably stronger out in the channel but by this time the rain had increased and was beating the water fairly flat. I cut the motor and just drifted for a minute, watching the shore move past as I floated up channel with the tide. The boat felt comfortable and steady so I stepped the mast hewn a week earlier from a small hemlock tree. Next I unfurled the sail, set the sprit pole, and brought the sheet back to a cleat on the transom. The boat slowly picked up speed. I was sailing! I could hear the water gurgling past and sitting in the bottom of a boat without floor boards, I could feel it too. At first I sailed without purpose, just playing and making it go. After a while though, I was pretty far up channel and decided I had better try to work back down towards the house. This is where my mistake was made clear to me. No matter how I pointed down the channel, I could not drag that fat transom fast enough to work against both the tide and the wind. It is an uncomfortable feeling sailing against the wind, feeling your forward movement through the water, and watching the shore line move in the wrong direction.

    I wasn’t really ready to quit yet and decided the only thing to do was go in the direction the boat wanted. Besides I had the out board to get me home. I pointed Flotsam downwind and off we went. Before too long I started to run out of room at the upper end of the channel, it was time to head home. Bundling the sail and pulling the rig went fairly smoothly and I started the outboard to head for home. The outboard ran for about five minutes then quit. Uh-oh, that wasn’t good. But it started right back up. Another five minutes of run time and it quit again. I got five more minutes out of it before it quit for the last time. Unfortunately, that wasn’t enough time to get me home. The current was still too strong to row Flotsam against (turned out not to be a stellar row boat either) but I had edged over close to shore to have the easiest time of getting back. I made the decision to get out of the boat and walk it the rest of the way along the highway embankment back to the culvert. There was about a quarter of a mile of leading Flotsam along like a dog on a leash, kicking the bow out ever few yards to keep it off the rocks. Once back to the culvert, the tide was still running in, making it possible for me to get home again. I had survived my first outing. It was great.
    -Jim

    Sucker for a pretty face.
    1934 27' Blanchard Cuiser ~ Amazon, Ex. Emalu
    19'6" Caledonia Yawl ~ Sparrow

    Getting into trouble one board at a time.

  10. #10
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    Default Re: To Build A Boat

    This is already one of the best narratives I have ever read on the forum, and I can see you're only just getting started. Kudos, Jim! More, please.

  11. #11
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    Default Re: To Build A Boat

    I had survived my first outing. It was great.
    Ain't _that_ the truth! ;-)

    great story, Jim.

    Thanks!
    bobby

  12. #12
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    Default Re: To Build A Boat

    Don't Kill yourself, that sounds like sage advice to me I'll keep it in mind for when I get round to building my boat. I like your mention of how heavy it can get if you look at it as a whole instead of discrete pieces of work too. Cool Thread.
    My First Boat Build:
    http://forum.woodenboat.com/showthre...acgregor-Canoe
    Iain Oughtred - Macgregor Canoe - 15 foot

  13. #13
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    Default Re: To Build A Boat

    Ratty's aphorism fits this neatly so far.
    Gerard>
    Everett, WA

    Next election, vote against EVERY Republican, for EVERY office, at EVERY level. Be patriotic, save the country.

  14. #14
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    Default Re: To Build A Boat

    Thanks for the kind words guys.

    Jim
    -Jim

    Sucker for a pretty face.
    1934 27' Blanchard Cuiser ~ Amazon, Ex. Emalu
    19'6" Caledonia Yawl ~ Sparrow

    Getting into trouble one board at a time.

  15. #15
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    Default Re: To Build A Boat

    The refit of Flotsam had shown me a few things. The realization that I could get through a larger project like this was a huge step for me and one that I should have come to sooner. After all, Leni and I had spent three years on the major project that was our first house and that ended successfully. In my mind though, a boat was a different animal. Something about all the curves and angles, with no firm fixed reference point, took it outside of the realm of the more mundane house bound projects. It took a while for me to wrap my head around the concept. To just pick a convenient point to measure from, any one you want. The goal is symmetry and an eye pleasing shape. I was still reading Wooden Boat, of course, and just about every boatbuilding book I could find at the library. My favorite was Boatbuilding by Howard Chappelle, a wonderful book full of great drawings and all the arcane knowledge needed to build a traditional wooden boat. I must have read that book a dozen times. The first couple of times it was just to try and figure what in the world he was saying. The language of boatbuilding is pretty opaque, with every boat part and half the jobs having a special name. Like floors (that aren’t), sole (which is really the floor), keel, keelson, rabbet, thwart, futtocks (sounds dirty, it’s not), spiling, or caulking, the list goes on and on. If it wasn’t for the cool drawings I probably wouldn’t have made it through the first reading. I stuck with it though and before long the process that was laid out by Chappelle started to make sense. That book and the pretty pictures in Wooden Boat Magazine along with the accomplishment of finishing Flotsam really made me want to build a wooden boat.

    You will often hear amateur boat builders who’ve been bitten by the boat building ‘bug’ talk about how, half way through their current project, they were already thinking about the next build. I was no exception, the thought of those Caledonia Yawl molds waiting to be set up kept coming back into my day dreams. My boat building skills still had a long way to go, though. I could cut a nice tight square joint, no problem, add in a complex bevel or a curve the all bets were off. But Flotsam also showed me the power of epoxy, the miracle goop that could help guys like me overcome our deficiency in the joinery department by filling those pesky gaps. Not every joint had to be perfect. Heck, the epoxy was actually more effective when the joint wasn’t perfect. I still wanted to achieve the perfect joint, to bend the material to my will and have the skill to turn the idea in my head into a finished reality I could be proud of. But it was okay to allow myself to build that skill as I went and not tear myself down just because I couldn’t do it right out of the gate.

    With the maiden voyage of Flotsam I learn a couple things about being out on the water too. I had been out on Gastineau channel before in a small open boat, but that had been in grandpa’s lap strake cedar row boat, a boat designed to row well. If I was going to keep using my new sailing vessel it would require planning and paying attention to the tide. Fighting both wind and tide would not be an option. This was a good lesson and one I was glad to learn early.

    The other lesson I learned was outboards suck, and given half a chance they will fail at an inconvenient time, at least any outboard I was likely to own would. Between house buying and starting a family our finances were a bit thin and, as you may have noticed, I had developed a bit of a habit collecting old things to fix up. There was no way a new outboard was in our future anytime soon. That wasn’t a problem though, because I had found one and saved it from going to the garbage dump. The outboard was an air-cooled two stroke job called a Cruise n Carry, if you’ve ever seen a gas powered weed eater, then you’ve seen this outboard. It didn’t run when I brought it home but a new spark plug and some fresh gas soon fixed that. I was ecstatic. I was less ecstatic when it failed to get me home on Flotsam’s first voyage. Instead of retiring it right there on the spot, I decided I could fix it. After a rebuilt carburetor and cleaned points, it was running again. It turns out some lessons need to be learned more than once.
    -Jim

    Sucker for a pretty face.
    1934 27' Blanchard Cuiser ~ Amazon, Ex. Emalu
    19'6" Caledonia Yawl ~ Sparrow

    Getting into trouble one board at a time.

  16. #16
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    Default Re: To Build A Boat

    Your'e a good writer Jim, the story is coming along well.

  17. #17
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    Default Re: To Build A Boat

    Thanks Bruce!
    -Jim

    Sucker for a pretty face.
    1934 27' Blanchard Cuiser ~ Amazon, Ex. Emalu
    19'6" Caledonia Yawl ~ Sparrow

    Getting into trouble one board at a time.

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    Default Re: To Build A Boat

    Plus 2!

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    Default Re: To Build A Boat

    OK, its been over 4 hours. Where's the next installment???

    Enjoying this a lot, thanks.

    Bobby

  20. #20

    Default Re: To Build A Boat

    Awesome story! Thanks
    Life is too short to sit on the lake shore

  21. #21
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    Default Re: To Build A Boat

    Let's fast forward a little, to April 2008. The snow had gone, but the mornings still had a nip to them. I spent the previous summer turning an old wood shed next to the house into an enclosed space that might be useful and thinking about where I could build my Caledonia Yawl. The shed was a standard open air type affair, basically a bunch of four by four posts holding up a roof. It was big enough to park a 1968 International Harvester pickup in, just. If I had to guess, I'd say it was built sometime in the sixtes or early seventies and over the years the bottoms of the posts had slowly rotted into the earth. By the time I'd decided to fix it up, there was about five feet between the pieced together sagging rafters and the dirt floor. Really, I should have just knocked it down, but I'm just not wired that way. Instead I jacked the whole thing up, put in new posts and a cinder block foundation for them to rest on. Then the spaces between the posts were filled in with windows doors and walls. The saggy rafters, apparently built during a long board shortage, were straightened and sistered with new full length ones. The translucent plastic roofing, which had seen a few too many hits from branches blown out of the trees above, was replaced with sheet metal. A new plank floor was added to finish off the make over.



    Originally, I had thought that the shed might be just the place to set up the molds for my new boat. That plan was quickly thrown out the window though when it became apparent that the boat might fit, but nothing else would. I had been hoping for an inside space to build in but one by one my limited options had been ruled out. The basement, where I already had a workshop of sorts, was big enough but a finished boat would never make it though the door. The carport was also briefly considered, the space and access were adequate but other considerations soon ruled that out too. I was going to have to build outside. Our house is tucked up on a bench at the foot of Mt. Juneau, a thirty-five hundred foot mountain that rises steeply up from the shore of Gastineau Channel. The mountain side is densely forested in spruce and hemlock, broken by several avalanche chutes reaching like gigantic fingers to the sea. I wanted an out of the way place, that was fairly close to my tools, to set up. In the front of the house there was just enough room for the pathway next to a thirty foot embankment that ends at the beach. Between the road and the back of the house the small yard sloped sharply down from the driveway to the old woodshed. Just around the corner of the house, between the house and the woodshed, was my spot, a nice flat twelve by twenty-five feet. The only issue with it was the grade which dropped about three feet in twenty. When I set up the ladder frame, that my molds would rest on, I did my best to get as level as possible. But that wasn't going to work, with the uphill end of the frame a foot off the ground the downhill end was four feet off the ground. Then it dawned on me, it really didn't matter if the frame was level or not, as long as the frame was square and flat and the molds were square to the frame it would work out just fine. I reset the ladder frame an even eighteen inches off the ground and got the first mold. Hot dang, I was in business.

    The rest of the station molds went up fairly quickly after that, with only a little bit of head scratching as to which side of the line they belonged on. I had bought a handful of knot free cedar one by twos, to wrap around the station modes after the stems were fit in place. The idea was that the one by two stringers would tie the station modes together, making the whole lattice work that much stronger, and I’d get a sneak peak at what this boat might actually look like. While I was fussing over setting things up just so, an unprecedented thing happened. There was an avalanche. Not just any run of the mill avalanche either, but one that would adversely affect our entire community of thirty thousand people for the next half a year.
    Last edited by jsjpd1; 04-16-2013 at 12:27 AM. Reason: Changed the year and added a bit.
    -Jim

    Sucker for a pretty face.
    1934 27' Blanchard Cuiser ~ Amazon, Ex. Emalu
    19'6" Caledonia Yawl ~ Sparrow

    Getting into trouble one board at a time.

  22. #22
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    Default Re: To Build A Boat

    Juneau has had the good fortune of a long association with hydroelectric power, with three major hydro projects being developed between 1912 and 1915 to service the gold mines in town. In 2008 eighty-five percent of the city’s power was produced from local hydro projects. The major producer of hydro power was Snettisham, a project thirty miles south of town that had been producing power since around 1973. Why the history lesson on hydro power? Because on the morning of April 18th, 2008, a massive avalanche in a particularly inaccessible and treacherous section of the transmission line’s route, destroyed one transmission line tower and damaged another. It would take six months and a huge amount of effort on the part of the electric company to restore the downed line. In the meantime Juneau was switched to diesel power generation and the price of electricity went from eleven cents a kilowatt hour to fifty cents a kilowatt hour. There was no way that we could afford to see our electric bill jump from $135 a month to somewhere north of $600 dollars a month. So, like many of our friends and neighbors, we unplugged almost everything. Boat building just got more interesting.

    Up to this point in my building career I had been pretty much a power tools only kind of guy. My experiences with hand tools had been less than satisfactory, with dull tools and lousy technique quickly leading to frustration and a poor fit. There was still to be plenty of that in store for me, but with the change in the power situation, power tools were now persona non grata unless absolutely necessary to move the build forward. I had inherited many of grandpa’s hand tools and now I would get the opportunity to put them to good use. The bit and brace for driving screws became an immediate favorite. Slowly, smoothly, quietly driving a screw through stringer and station mold, sucking the stringer down until it just kissed the corner of the mold, revealing the elegant curve the new boat was going to take was a real joy. After a little bit of practice at sharpening, the hand plane also started to give me joy as I put it to work, stroke by stroke, making the keelson take the shape of the planks that would soon be mated to it for the rest of its life. The hand saw took longer to master, but as the project progressed so would my skill.

    -Jim

    Sucker for a pretty face.
    1934 27' Blanchard Cuiser ~ Amazon, Ex. Emalu
    19'6" Caledonia Yawl ~ Sparrow

    Getting into trouble one board at a time.

  23. #23
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    Default Re: To Build A Boat

    Even though I was taking great joy in the process, I’m afraid my standard of build quality was still on the rough end of the scale. The hull consisted of four marine plywood planks, or strakes, per side glued together with epoxy. Since a sheet of plywood measures four feet wide by eight feet long and the planks were in the neighborhood of a foot wide and twenty feet long, some piecing together was required to turn out the shape needed. The woodshed had been renamed in my head and would henceforth be called The Boatshed. While it was still too narrow for the actual boat, the long skinny shed was ideally suited for working on the long skinny planks. The bottom planks, called garboards, had been cut to shape and the two pieces needed to form one plank had to be put together.

    Nothing works up a sweat faster than cutting scarfs on a stack of plywood planks with a hand plane. To scarf something is really just to join two pieces together with a long diagonal joint. In the case of the garboards, it was just a matter of stacking up the four pieces to be joined, butt ends together, then spreading them out until they made a little staircase, each stair being half an inch tall and six inches deep. After the stairs of the scarf were laid out and clamped in place, the real fun began. Attacking the staircase, with a long heavy plane that was older than I was by several decades, eventually resulted in a nice even slope that would allow two pieces to be turned into one. This first scarf was the hardest one to cut, the garboard being the widest plank at around twenty-four inches or so. The plywood quickly dulled the plane’s blade. By the time I was finished, my arms were screaming for mercy. The glue up was next and thankfully gave me no trouble. Happy at seeing my first plank almost ready to go on the boat, I retreated to the house, impatiently returning every hour or two to see if the epoxy had cured yet.

    As it tends to go with large projects like this, the first set of planks was the hardest to figure out and put together. Nevertheless, once complete, they were the easiest for me, working alone, to actually hang on the boat. With the epoxy set, I carefully eased one of the now sixteen-foot-long planks out of the shed and flopped it up onto the frames for a final fitting. It was close. Marking a few spots that I thought needed adjustment; I took the plank back to the shed, clamped it to its mate from the other side, and trimmed them down. I must have gone back and forth with that plank a half a dozen times before I was satisfied that it would work.

    With the first side done and firmly attached, its mirror image on the other side went on quickly. Next, using a handsaw, I cut into the edge of the plank at each frame marking the depth and angle of the next plank, that way I would know when I had planed away enough of the plank on which the next one would land. Although plywood is no fun to plane, it does have one advantage over solid wood. As the unwanted material is slowly removed and the next ply revealed, a pattern reveals itself, like the lines on a topography map, showing the steepness of the slope and the contour changes as the bevel changes from one angle to another from frame to frame along the plank edge. That done the process repeated for the next plank, and the one after that, until there were no more to add.

    Have you ever noticed how just about every kid loves playing in small enclosed spaces? Any space will do, the more fort-like the better. I was certainly like that when I was a kid; give me a blanket fort, a tree fort, or any other small space, as long as there was room to crouch inside, I was happy. We as a species must just be hard wired that way, to seek out spaces that are our size and fit the scale of our bodies. As soon as the first couple of planks were on, Gracie, now age three, took up residence under the boat. She would happily spend an hour or two at a time exploring her new domain, while I toiled above. Who could blame her? Think of all the wondrous stuff she must have found in her new fort, the endless miles of wood shavings from the keelson, the odd blobs of cured epoxy, or the occasional screw that could be put to good use later. When she wasn’t exploring, she was putting a rake to good use helping me keep the place tidy and helping to remind me why I was building this boat in the first place.











    -Jim

    Sucker for a pretty face.
    1934 27' Blanchard Cuiser ~ Amazon, Ex. Emalu
    19'6" Caledonia Yawl ~ Sparrow

    Getting into trouble one board at a time.

  24. #24
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    Default Re: To Build A Boat

    I was surprised at how quickly the planking went together. Even with a few setbacks, like an unfortunate gluing mishap that had one set of planks so badly misaligned on the gluing bench they needed to be cut apart and redone, the planking was finished off by June. By July, the centerboard slot was cut, the stem and keel had been added, and the boat was ready for paint. My dad had given me an old car tent frame that he no longer needed, so the boat had a snug new home for painting. The prior sheltering solution was a very large tarp, tied as high up in convenient trees as I could manage. The tarp sagged in the middle, just touching the top of the boat and creating a giant bowl to collect rainwater and pine needles. To stave off potential disaster, the middle of the tarp was propped up like a circus tent with a handy piece of lumber, left over from ripping the keelson. It was an okay solution during planking, not an okay solution for painting.

    August was cool and wet. Leni had been periodically lending an extra hand when needed. She and I had been doggedly working on the painting, but the progress was slow. We had not yet learned the wonders that Japan Dryer can work on paint in our cold environment, consequently a lot of time was spent watching paint dry and impatiently watching the days tick by. I had convinced myself the boat was almost finished, it wasn’t (repeat after me, ‘a finished hull is not a finished boat’), and I was becoming impatient imagining the end of the project so tantalizingly close.

    The day to roll the boat over finally arrived in late August. The paint had had a week or so to cure and the rain was giving us a break as well. My folks, sister, and nephew showed up on the big day to lend a hand. It actually took longer to discuss the plan then it did to roll the boat. I had crawled inside and took out the screws holding the station molds to the ladder frame. Then we just rolled the whole works off the frame, molds and all. I had made a couple cradles ahead of time, for the boat to rest on right side up and in no time at all we had the boat set up in its new position, with most of the station molds removed. Stepping back to admire our handy work, my first thought was, ‘man, that’s a big boat’, the next thought was, ‘I’m nowhere near done.’

    Gazing upon the wide-open expanse that was the interior of my Caledonia Yawl left me in a bit of a quandary. Where to start? There were so many options to consider and convenient points were so plentiful that they blended together hiding in plain sight. How hard could it be, right? Put in a centerboard, decks, benches, and you’re done. Go sailing. But looking at that empty space that needed to be filled, I felt a bit over whelmed with the totality of what yet needed to be done. The project was getting heavy again. I returned to the interior layout in the plans and studied them intensely, trying to tease out the best place to start and to determine that spot in real life. After a while, it dawned on me that the only things in the layout that really mattered were the placement of the masts and centerboard that would be required to make this boat go. The rest was just a guideline really. I could build it any way I wanted, as long as I didn’t do anything too crazy like add a cabin to my open boat, it would be fine.

    Teasing out the locations of the mast steps and just focusing on those was doable. With a starting point in mind and the inertia of indecision broken things got a little lighter again.







    Gracie blessing the boat with grass just after roll-over.

    -Jim

    Sucker for a pretty face.
    1934 27' Blanchard Cuiser ~ Amazon, Ex. Emalu
    19'6" Caledonia Yawl ~ Sparrow

    Getting into trouble one board at a time.

  25. #25
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    Default Re: To Build A Boat

    Really enjoying this. Thanks Jim.

  26. #26
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    Default Re: To Build A Boat

    Jim -- Great job! With the power vested in me, I hearby declare you the winner of a WB hat for best post(s) lately.

    Please pm me your choice of hat, and your mailing address?

    Fabulous writing. Thanks, Carl

  27. #27
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    Default Re: To Build A Boat

    Quote Originally Posted by Carl Cramer View Post
    Jim -- Great job! With the power vested in me, I hearby declare you the winner of a WB hat for best post(s) lately.

    Please pm me your choice of hat, and your mailing address?

    Fabulous writing. Thanks, Carl

    "Hear, hear"

  28. #28
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    Default Re: To Build A Boat

    Thanks guys.

    PM sent Carl

    Jim
    -Jim

    Sucker for a pretty face.
    1934 27' Blanchard Cuiser ~ Amazon, Ex. Emalu
    19'6" Caledonia Yawl ~ Sparrow

    Getting into trouble one board at a time.

  29. #29
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    Default Re: To Build A Boat

    After the mast steps were in, it was time for the centerboard case. Centerboard and dagger board cases had always struck me as slightly magical things, boxes without a top or a bottom that go over a hole cut in the bottom of the boat and still keep the water out instead of letting it gush up like a fountain filling the boat. If I’d been smart, I would have built the centerboard at the same time as the case, or at the very least, drilled the holed for the pivot pin that would attach board to boat, before the case was glued to the boat. But I hadn’t thought that process through all the way yet, it was an oversight I would regret later. While putting together the centerboard case, I was also thinking about the breasthooks (is it still called a breasthook if it's in the stern of the boat?) and inwales. I had decided that the inwales would be the open type, an alternating row of blocks and spaces running the length of the boat sandwiched between the innermost rail and the top of the sheer strake. If asked why I was doing it that way, I would have said something about it being easier to clean out the boat or tie things off with open inwales (both true by the way) Truth be told, I just thought it looked cool.

    Many of the choices I had made were aesthetically driven. I wasn't just building a plywood box to get out on the water; I wanted this boat to be pretty, as well as practical. The spacer blocks had a bevel cut on one side to make the top of the rail level as it wrapped around the inside of the boat. Like many of the solid wood pieces on the boat, the spacer blocks and rails had been cut from recycled doug fir beams that Grandpa had stashed away in the boathouse many years before. I had been carefully re-sawing these beams, taking great satisfaction in getting as many parts as possible out of them, but with the inwales complete, my supply had been exhausted. At that point, I was ready to move onto the bulkheads for the compartments in the ends; however, mother nature had different ideas. As the season wore on, the temperatures had been getting colder and the epoxy was taking longer and longer to kick. It was time to be done for the year. I carefully covered Sparrow, the name I had settled on after many hours of pondering while working on the interior, and surrendered to the oncoming winter season.


    Last edited by jsjpd1; 04-24-2013 at 11:50 AM.
    -Jim

    Sucker for a pretty face.
    1934 27' Blanchard Cuiser ~ Amazon, Ex. Emalu
    19'6" Caledonia Yawl ~ Sparrow

    Getting into trouble one board at a time.

  30. #30
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    Default Re: To Build A Boat

    Hat on its way to you, Jim. The least we can do in honor of your words.

    Quote Originally Posted by jsjpd1 View Post
    Thanks guys.

    PM sent Carl

    Jim

  31. #31
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    Default Re: To Build A Boat

    Back in the house, the project continued at a much more subdued pace. I had ordered some fancy rudder hardware from Classic Marine in the UK, and a few weeks later, a very battered package arrived at my doorstep stamped Royal Mail. The journey half way around the world had apparently been a hard one. The small cardboard box that the parts had been placed in was completely shredded and misshapen, with bits of bronze showing through here and there. Only the tenacity of the packing tape had kept this little package from disintegrating all together and allowed it to complete its journey. The heavy bronze parts inside were completely unfazed by all of this, of course, and I couldn’t have been happier.

    The rudder itself was going be a kick up style rudder, where the blade would pivot up out of the way if it encountered anything hard and unfriendly, like a submerged log or the ground when coming into the beach. It took some time to figure out the lines that would allow me to raise and lower the blade, while in the boat, and to carve that blade into a nice foil shape, with a fat round leading edge tapering nicely to the almost pointed trailing edge. Because a Caledonia Yawl has a small mizzen mast located all the way in the back of the boat, between the helmsman and the rudder, a conventional tiller was out of the question. To get around the mizzen a Norwegian push-pull style tiller would be used, with a tiller arm coming out of the side of the rudderstock with a long stick leading up to the cockpit area, tied to it by a bit of rope. There were other ways to get around the mizzen mast of course, like laminating a tiller with a big bend in it to snake its way around the obstruction. The plans were great that way, with Iain Oughtred (the Caledonia Yawl's designer) showing in great detail some of the many options available to the builder. For me, it was never really a question though; the push-pull tiller just fit the character and style of the boat.

    Like many first time builders, over building was something I needed to watch out for and avoid. In some areas, like the hull, I did pretty good, following the plan closely and sticking to the recommended scantlings. In other areas, like the tiller arm, I succumbed to the temptation to make things just a little more beefy (if a one and a half by two inch section is good, then a two by three inch section is better, right?). A couple of years earlier, Leni and I had read a book by Barbara Kingsolver called Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, about Kingsolver's family and their goal to only eat locally-produced food. This had inspired us to think more in that direction ourselves, getting a couple of chickens and starting a vegetable garden of our own (in case you didn’t know, eagles really like chicken, and deer really like broccoli, but that’s another story). That more local way of thinking had spilled over into my wood working habits too and I started keeping my eye open for bits of found wood that I could stash away for future use. Yellow and red cedar found on the beach was packed home whenever possible, straight sections of alder, cherry or spruce from the yard or back woodlot set aside. Looking around in the wood stash, I found a decent chunk of cherry, from a tree that had blown down in the yard the winter before, to fashion into the tiller arm. I remember feeling pretty pleased and resourceful as I drove that stout new tiller arm into place in the rudder. Sometimes, right or wrong, it’s the little things that bring the most joy on a project like this.

    The rudder was finished and things were quiet on the boat front when, one evening in early January, my neighbor knocked on the door. He was remodeling a dentist’s office and he wondered if I would be interested in helping out in the evenings, after my regular job ended. I was a bit surprised by the offer and told him I’d never worked construction before, but he said that was alright. He’d been watching Sparrow go together in the side yard and figured if I could build a boat I wouldn’t have any problem on this job. The job was gutting and then putting in a new dentist’s office on the second floor of a large house built in 1904. Almost all of the interior walls had to come out studs and all, but I could salvage any lumber that looked useful. I had hit the jackpot and my pile of old growth doug fir and mahogany quickly grew. That job lasted a couple months and by the time it had ended, the days were getting longer and slightly warmer. It was still too early to start on Sparrow again, but it was getting close.
    -Jim

    Sucker for a pretty face.
    1934 27' Blanchard Cuiser ~ Amazon, Ex. Emalu
    19'6" Caledonia Yawl ~ Sparrow

    Getting into trouble one board at a time.

  32. #32
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    Default Re: To Build A Boat

    During the winter the question of whether or not to include a motor well in the fit out had been nagging me. Quite frankly, I was on the fence about the whole thing. On the one hand, I didn't really have a suitable motor to fit the well. On the other, could I really handle a big twenty foot long boat without a motor?
    -Jim

    Sucker for a pretty face.
    1934 27' Blanchard Cuiser ~ Amazon, Ex. Emalu
    19'6" Caledonia Yawl ~ Sparrow

    Getting into trouble one board at a time.

  33. #33
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    Default Re: To Build A Boat

    The Cruise-n-Carry had been used twice more before being retired permanently. The last time was in June of 2007. I still retained lesson number one from the first outing with Flotsam: always go with the tide. But lesson number two: outboards suck, still needed some reinforcement. This would be our only boat outing of the summer, as we were expecting our second child, Isabel, in another month. The weather had been nice and we intended to take advantage of it. The plan was to leave the house just after high tide, sail down to Sandy Beach, which was three miles away, and then sail home when the tide changed. As usually happens around here on sunny days, there was a north wind blowing fair for Sandy Beach. So, I unfurled the sprit sail and off we went, Leni and I taking turns at the helm. Even with the wind and tide in our favor, it took about an hour to make it the three miles to the beach. Once there, we had a great time playing with Gracie and waiting for the tide to change. As also sometimes happens around here on sunny days, by the time the tide had changed the wind had completely died. There would be no sailing on the way back. ‘That’s okay,’ I thought, ‘we have an outboard.’

    I fired up the trusty Cruise-n-Carry and we puttered out of the Douglas Boat Harbor, cleared the breakwater, and headed up the channel. A couple minutes after clearing the harbor, the motor quit. The next fifteen minutes were spent trying to get the little outboard to run for more than thirty seconds at a time. There was no joy to be had there, I’m afraid. But we were slowly drifting in the right direction and I turned to the oars to get us home. It took the next couple of hours to convince me of the following two things: (1) outboards suck and (2) we needed a better rowing boat. Once back home, the boat was pulled high up on the beach, thus ending the final voyage of Flotsam and the Cruise-n-Carry.

    After Grandpa passed, Dad had decided to keep Grandpa’s boat and the same summer I started on Sparrow, he decided he needed a new kicker. The one he had still ran good, but the old eight-horse Johnson was maybe getting a little tired. He didn’t have any plans for the old motor, so I asked if I could have it, thinking maybe it would work for Sparrow. In the back of my mind, I knew that this was the wrong motor for Sparrow, but it was available and you never knew. I spent a lot of time thinking about that motor. Would it fit? Where would it go when it wasn’t being used? Would it be reliable enough? How would manhandling it around in the boat work out? Would I be able to handle the boat without a motor? With all these questions still unresolved, I decided to go ahead with the motor well as drawn on the plan.

    April had arrived and I could wait no longer to get back to the build. Like the previous April had been, it was still cold in the mornings, but by the time noon rolled around, it was up to epoxy temperature. I stripped the cover off Sparrow and started where I had left off the previous fall, fitting the bulkhead for the aft storage compartment. With the bulkhead in place, I installed the aft deck framing, using some of the doug fir reclaimed from the dentist’s office. Then I built the motor well. Things were ticking right along and I was feeling good about my work. The only head scratching moment came when it was time to cut the hole for the mizzen mast in the main deck beam. But even that was sorted out in short order. The quarter inch plywood sub deck went down next. I had also recovered a lot of mahogany trim from the dentist’s office, so I hatched a plan to rip and plane it down to two and a quarter by three sixteenths inch strips. Then I would epoxy the strips to the plywood sub deck, giving the appearance of a nice laid deck. I still hadn’t cut the hole in the bottom of the boat for the motor well, but I figured I could always do that later. With the aft compartment finished, I moved to the bow to repeat the process.

    Last voyage of the Flotsam
    Last edited by jsjpd1; 04-26-2013 at 01:53 AM.
    -Jim

    Sucker for a pretty face.
    1934 27' Blanchard Cuiser ~ Amazon, Ex. Emalu
    19'6" Caledonia Yawl ~ Sparrow

    Getting into trouble one board at a time.

  34. #34
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    Default Re: To Build A Boat

    The bow compartment was actually more complicated than the stern. The mainmast was so much bigger than the mizzen, just putting a hole through the center beam of the deck wasn’t an option. Added to that, the geometry of the bow is slightly trickier, being swept up higher than the almost flat stern, making the angle of the deck more acute. Even though I only put in one mast step forward, instead of two to give the option of sailing without the mizzen, I decided to build a mast step box through the deck, like in Iain’s book Clinker Plywood Boatbuilding Manual, a book that had helped me a lot on this project. The hardest part was setting that first deck beam where the front of the mast box would be. It had to be on the same plane as the bulkhead and fit snuggly against the sides of the hull. A little too long and it would sit proud, making a hump in the deck. A little too short and a hollow would result. I sweated that first piece, once again having to pick a convenient spot, out in space, with no firm relationship to any other parts yet.

    I selected a nice piece of tight grained fir, cut the beveled deck camber into it, and ever so carefully cut the compound angles where the beam met the hull. It was, of course, too long. That was a problem I could fix, sneaking up on the right size by trimming it just ever so slightly, bit by bit. Unfortunately I misjudged what ever so slightly meant in this situation and now had a board that just missed reaching across the required span. Darn. But did it really matter? I could just move the beam forward a little to bring it back up to grade. I was trying to get the beam and the box for the mast as far back as possible to leave space on the foredeck for a hatch, but a quarter of an inch one way or the other really wasn't going to matter much. The next beam went a little easier, and then came the fore and aft framing, connecting the deck beams together and creating a space for the hatch. More fore and aft framing connecting the beams to bulkhead soon followed, out lining the top of the mast box.

    Out of all the jobs required to build Sparrow I enjoyed framing the foredeck the most. Cutting all the complex angles and notching together the beams had me feeling like a real boatbuilder. It was then that I started thinking about the next boat. Well, the next series of boats really. In my secret heart of hearts I wanted to build a big traditional boat. Something that the four of us, Leni, Gracie, Isabel, and I could sail away in for a month or three or six. It was a pleasant daydream and I resolved to further that daydream by making sure that every new boat project stretched my skills and understanding. I would master steam bending frames, riveting, spiling planks, caulking, and a myriad of other task associated with traditional building but I needed to finish this boat first.
    -Jim

    Sucker for a pretty face.
    1934 27' Blanchard Cuiser ~ Amazon, Ex. Emalu
    19'6" Caledonia Yawl ~ Sparrow

    Getting into trouble one board at a time.

  35. #35
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    Default Re: To Build A Boat

    Quote Originally Posted by David G View Post
    Jim,

    I know you shared much of this with me before - but it's really nice to have the whole thing here in one place, with added detail... and fotos, no less. Keep dealin' Slim!
    Hey David,

    It's been fun reliving this project over again and a bit of a brain stretcher too, remembering things I haven't thought about in quite some time.
    -Jim

    Sucker for a pretty face.
    1934 27' Blanchard Cuiser ~ Amazon, Ex. Emalu
    19'6" Caledonia Yawl ~ Sparrow

    Getting into trouble one board at a time.

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