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Thread: Trailered Boat - No Epoxy?

  1. #1
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    Default Trailered Boat - No Epoxy?

    Hey, gang. Iíve been researching this for years, but now itís go time as I approach a build. I completely understand the Ďadvantagesí of epoxy and plywood construction for a trailered boat, but in addition to greatly preferring traditional lumber-and-fastener construction, I have trouble with epoxy. I donít think Iím fully allergic to the ones Iíve used in the past, but I would say Iím significantly sensitive to them. I feel pretty ill after even a short exposure. SoÖ Iím up against a tough decision: How to build a boat that will live on a trailer without getting sick every time I have to get out the pox?

    This build is going to be a flat-iron / sharpie. While Iíd love to build traditionally with a cross-planked bottom and planked sides, I get the difficulties this entails for the boat to be happy on a trailer. Then there are the future buildsÖ traditional workboat types where I hope to explore lapstrake and carvel construction. Is there a way to build a boat to live out of water 95% of the year without using epoxy? Pre-trip prep and post-trip remediation?

    Hereís my specific scenario for a trailered boat: Itíll live in humid (summer) and damp (winter) central Pennsylvania, outside under a cover. We live along a mid-sized stream and weíre surrounded by wetlands (12 acres of which we restoredÖ). Boat will get trailered to New England or the Chesapeake for a week, maybe two (not consecutively), each year. Boat will most likely be hauled each day and spend the night on the trailer. So maybe 10 hours in the water daily. We hope to eventually do some multi-day camp cruises, but thatís not likely right now. Maybe a few other day trips through the yearÖ but maybe not. Mostly out of the water, and never in for very long. Figure the longest it will be afloat will be 6 consecutive, full 24-hour days.

    That was long windedÖ Above condensed Ďlikelyí scenario: A week of daysails with the boat back on the trailer each night. Maybe a second week doing the same separated by a month or more.

    SoÖ can I build a boat to happily live on a trailer without epoxy? Preference would be for well-payed lumber mechanically fastened rather than plywood glued with something other than epoxy, but as long as I can avoid the pox, Iíd be happy. Suggestions for materials, methods and goop greatly appreciated.

  2. #2
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    Default Re: Trailered Boat - No Epoxy?

    From your description...I would think that a traditional lapstrake boat would live happily at your home. I would expand your horizon beyond the plywood boxboat. And it will be more pleasant to build. Perhaps you could build a small boathouse for it; moistened shavings would keep thing moisturized.
    Remember, lapstrake was what was used for dinghies in the old days. Besides, it would look so much better than a boxboat.

  3. #3
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    Default Re: Trailered Boat - No Epoxy?

    Lapstrake would be best, but I have a cross planked crabbing skiff that lives on a trailer. It leaks if I launch it dry, but that isn't the end of the world. I usually put a few inches of water in it the day before use, it drains out so I add a bit more as needed. Usually when I arrive to the launch ramp after having sloshed that water around all the way there the boat has mostly taken up and there is no further leaking.

    Probably wouldn't fly with the FG boat crowd, but it works fine for me. I do have a foot pedal bilge pump that I can use as needed.

    Don't add more than an inch or two of water, the boat doesn't want the weight on the inside like that. I've seen people fill it right up and break the boat.

    I rolled a strand of cotton between each bottom plank, painted that, and payed with slick seam. Can't get slick seam anymore, much the pity. It's advantage was that it could be re-tooled indefinitely for a quick seal. I would use Interlux topsides compound in your situation. Its softer than the bottom compound and will work fine with your occasional submerging.

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    Default Re: Trailered Boat - No Epoxy?

    This may not be helpful but here in Aus we have Bote Cote epoxy which is slow curing so isn't full of those toxic chemicals that are problematic for you. Maybe there is something like this available in your part of the world.

    Another thought is what I've heard being done in Tasmania, use the old build technique and run a nail head or something along the land between planks and put a fine bead of suitable silicone in the groove to create a more permanent seal.

  5. #5
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    Default Re: Trailered Boat - No Epoxy?

    There are other glues. Thousends of ply boats were built with formaldehyde resin glue or, much better, resorcinol, though that might be more diffiult to find now. There is always the polyeurethane types.
    Last edited by Andrew2; 09-29-2021 at 11:25 AM.

  6. #6
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    Default Re: Trailered Boat - No Epoxy?

    Glued ply lapstrake can be built with TB 111. I built a plywood dory with TB 111 8-9 years ago and the ply joints are fine. Keep it painted, basic maintenance and it will be fine.

  7. #7
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    Default Re: Trailered Boat - No Epoxy?

    Batten seam construction is an old method. Or other traditional methods with modern sealants.
    I formerly owned a Swampscott dory built of pine on oak. It lived in my garage/basement on a concrete floor most of the year with infrequent use. When launched, it leaked enough to bail some, but not enough to worry. It usually took up after one use, or if soaked first.

  8. #8
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    Default Re: Trailered Boat - No Epoxy?

    I had a nice long response written out and then... forum goblin. Ugh.

    Anyway... It certainly sounds like there are options. Most say lapstrake is best for a mechanically-fastened solid-wood boat living on a trailer, but I've read about carvel and traditional nailed-strip planking working as well... all involve well-payed seams and some modern compounds beyond cotton and red lead. Bob Smalser had posts in the past that gave hope to a traditionally build boat working off of a trailer, and I've read somewhere that Walt Simmons has a method where a compound is applied in a grove in the laps in a traditional lapstrake build to keep the boat dry. Simmons apparently uses something that stays flexible... not an adhesive... so the wood can move, but stay sealed.

    Glued ply using something other than epoxy is always possible. I have experience with alternate glues like TB III, Urac and Uni-bond (Urea Formaldehyde) and Resorcinol in other applications (bamboo rodmaking...), but not in boats. Using those glues, how are the open plys on edges of plywood sealed?

    Still, my preference is to go with lumber. In my situation I believe it can work.

    I have a cross planked crabbing skiff that lives on a trailer. ... I rolled a strand of cotton between each bottom plank, painted that, and payed with slick seam.
    J. - What's the bottom of your skiff planked with?

    As for plywood box boats... not for me. I'm setting up to build a traditional flat-iron of the crabbing or oystering type. 18'-20'. Still deciding on a specific design. I'm familiar and comfortable with the joinery needed in this type of boat and can build it fairly quickly... which gives me a boat to enjoy while I build something more ambitious... like a Kingston Lobster, No Man's Land or Woods Hole boat.

    You know... something like this:
    67062_5358_4363_lg_01.jpg
    Likely a different rig though...

    Appreciate the comments. Keep 'em coming!

  9. #9
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    Default Re: Trailered Boat - No Epoxy?

    If I were doing it I would use LifeCalk polysulphide in the laps, riveted or clench nails.
    Some may say a Sika product instead, and that may or may not be better,.. I don't have any hands on knowledge of Sika products myself.
    You should get a leak free boat with decent laps.

  10. #10
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    Default Re: Trailered Boat - No Epoxy?

    I know you stated no poxy.

    However, forumite, "dmede," built a skiff of traditional woods, but did the bottom in hybrid fashion so the boat could live on a trailer without needing to take up after launching. Here is one of his posts that gives the gist.


    Olallie is about 6 years old now, she was launched just a few months before my first son was born. The planks are all western red cedar. Frames, thwarts, keel, stem and transom knee are high ring count doug fir. And the rest is mahog.

    The WRC was sourced from an old downed tree in Oregon. A sawyer who specializes in reclaimed wood from downed trees cut it up for me and I drove up to bring it down to CA. Planks are 3/4" think, so although light for their size they are plenty strong. The stem is also massive for such a small boat. This is less a skiff then a little ship in some ways.

    The bottom planks are not 3/4" in single planks, they are two layers of 3/8 thick planks with offset seams. They are also not bedded or caulked traditionally but fastened to each other with epoxy and bronze ring nails, and to the chine logs with sika and ring nails. Then coated in red led (outside only), painted in at least two layers of kirbys. So they are well sealed for the most part, but do still take up some water when out for long periods of time. I notice that anytime the boat is in the water for more then maybe 5 or 6 hours or especially over night, the joints between some of the bottom planks will swell and pucker just a bit. I need to re sand and seal the bottom this off season actually.

    The rest of the boat is also bedded mostly with sika, not caulking or plain wood to wood joints. So it's a bit of a hybrid in terms of traditionally planking and modern bedding and caulking. The result has been a boat that is only ever wet inside becasue I bring the water, not from dry plank seams etc.
    Kevin
    There are two kinds of boaters: those who have run aground, and those who lie about it.

  11. #11
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    Default Re: Trailered Boat - No Epoxy?

    I now remember reading of a cross planked bottom in two layers with paint soaked canvas in between. You could also cover the bottom with other fabric, like skin on frame stuff, and paint that for water tightness.

  12. #12
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    Default Re: Trailered Boat - No Epoxy?

    The double-plank bottom for a skiff is interesting. I wonder about water getting between the layers and hanging out there, promoting rot. Canvas between has merit as well. So does a skin. Hmm... lots of ways to go about it.

    Timo - I think Walt Simmons recommends a polysulphide between the laps. I don't have his book, but I believe that's what I've read elsewhere on the forum. I have zero experience with Sika, LifeCalk or other modern bedding or calking compounds. Much to research, but there's time.

  13. #13
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    Default Re: Trailered Boat - No Epoxy?

    There was the double diagonal method of rivited layers with cotton soaked in white lead between the layers. Used mostly in WW11 to produce fast light patrol/torpeedo boats. Worked very well, but was not expected to last long. The few examples still floating do take some work, as it is not easy to repair.

    Oh, on the ply edge exposure. Back when my father designed and had built quite a lot of hard chine ply boats, the exposed edges, like at the transom, were capped with hardwood strips. Aerolite 306 was the glue back then.
    Last edited by Andrew2; 09-29-2021 at 11:37 AM.

  14. #14
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    Default Re: Trailered Boat - No Epoxy?

    The last few traditional boats that I built (cedar planking, rivets, frames, etc.) are basically trailer boats that were only launched for day trips. I did use boat caulk between the planking and customers tell me that they barely leak when launched. Also did not see much water come out when soaking the planking on inside for cleaning or checking. Only needs to be below waterline.

  15. #15
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    Default Re: Trailered Boat - No Epoxy?

    Rod, were those clinker or carvel planked boats? That's good real-life data... that you've built traditionally for customers that trailer and day sail and you've gotten encouraging feedback. Do you think there would be issues if the boats were in for a week or so, then pulled out for a few weeks?

    This is all pretty encouraging. I always thought it could be done... history sorta indicates that it could be. But there's enough horror stories around and a pretty firm 'if you trailer, use epoxy and plywood' mantra being reiterated that it gave me serious pause.

  16. #16
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    Default Re: Trailered Boat - No Epoxy?

    The cross planking on my skiff is second growth Doug fir from a 60 year old tree. Fairly wide growth rings by boat standards but I did use quarter sawn stock. It's a utility skiff, built with galv nails and home grown lumber. Guilt free boatbuilding and pleasant to look at and use.

    I have also built a skiff with two layers of cross planking with a painted canvas layer in between. I would only do that with fairly thick planking so the layers don't require intermediate stringers for stiffness. It does need trim around the perimeter to cover the canvas edge. I would not glue the two layers with epoxy it will crack somewhere. A flexible urethane glue might work for a dual layer bottom without canvas though.

    For my own boat cotton caulking and solid planking makes me happy even if it does leak a bit more.

  17. #17
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    Default Re: Trailered Boat - No Epoxy?

    I am allergic to epoxy. I used to break out in a rash on my arms and chest. What did I do about it? I approach it like I am doing surgery. Everything is pre-positioned with a dry run. Then I garb myself in total coverage with nitrile gloves and a filtered mask. Now I don't get symptoms because there is no mess, no fumes, no contact.

  18. #18
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    Default Re: Trailered Boat - No Epoxy?

    Quote Originally Posted by J.Madison View Post
    The cross planking on my skiff is second growth Doug fir from a 60 year old tree. ... snip ...

    For my own boat cotton caulking and solid planking makes me happy even if it does leak a bit more.
    Great quote. The painted canvas between double-planked bottom is a great idea, but probably not needed for my build. Also totally agree no epoxy to glue two layers of solid planks together.

    Quote Originally Posted by W Grabow View Post
    I am allergic to epoxy. I used to break out in a rash on my arms and chest. What did I do about it? I approach it like I am doing surgery. Everything is pre-positioned with a dry run. Then I garb myself in total coverage with nitrile gloves and a filtered mask. Now I don't get symptoms because there is no mess, no fumes, no contact.
    W. - I admire your fortitude! That doesn't sound like fun, but if one is determined, that's a viable procedure to get it done.

    Anyone have other practical ways to seal up plywood edges without epoxy? I'm feeling pretty good about solid wood construction, but want to have something in my pack pocket if I decide to use a ply bottom.

    This place is great. Thanks for the real-life experiences.

    R

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    Default Re: Trailered Boat - No Epoxy?

    Quote Originally Posted by RyanGillnet View Post
    Anyone have other practical ways to seal up plywood edges without epoxy?
    Paint.

  20. #20
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    Default Re: Trailered Boat - No Epoxy?

    I'd rub surfacing putty on the edge before painting.

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    Default Re: Trailered Boat - No Epoxy?

    I used Petit Easypoxy (EZpoxy?) to seal the edges of all the plywood planks when I painted my boat. I primed all the raw ply with the paint thinned with the proprietary thinner and hot coated with paint straight from the can. I hit the edges a couple times until the paint stopped soaking in. Sanded with 150 and hit once more. No problems so far.

  22. #22
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    Default Re: Trailered Boat - No Epoxy?

    The boats were traditional build with lapstrake (clinker) planking. One sits on a dock the other is trailered on bunks.

  23. #23
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    Default Re: Trailered Boat - No Epoxy?

    Plenty of plywood boats were built before epoxy. My father and I built one using powdered Weldwood glue you mixed with water, never had a problem. Polyester resin would be fine for sealing the edges, with or without fiberglass to protect it from abrasion. It's smelly, but I haven't heard of people having an allergic reaction to it.

  24. #24
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    Default Re: Trailered Boat - No Epoxy?

    Yep, glue and paint worked fine for decades and still can. Your bigger issue is wood movement with the repeated wet/dry cycles. Some woods, if I recall correctly cypress is at the top of the list, barely change dimensionally at all when soaked. Cypress doesn't tend to rot, either. If you were to build old school with a stable timber, holding all parts together with screws and nails and bedding them well, the boat should stand up to your intended use.

    But the lumber choice would be critical. I watched a very nicely built Delaware duckboat type self destruct as it sat on a trailer -- it was 100 percent cedar. Even the wet/dry weather cycles got to it.
    -Dave

  25. #25
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    Default Re: Trailered Boat - No Epoxy?

    Good thought Dave! My ketch is cypress and does not dry much or shrink during winter storage on the hard. I believe that her strip planking also helps.

  26. #26
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    Default Re: Trailered Boat - No Epoxy?

    Movement beyond just taking up is certainly a concern for me. Timber selection will be important if the boat is to last. A real shame for that duckboat. Cypress isn't typically available up here in Central PA, but I know it is used quite a bit in the mushroom houses down in the southeastern counties, so getting enough to bottom and plank a flat-iron might be possible. Not a ton of beam, depth or freeboard, so not a ton of planking. Also... I wonder if when the boat is constructed would make a difference in staying tight while not cupping and pushing itself apart. Cross plank the bottom in damp conditions or dry?

  27. #27
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    Default Re: Trailered Boat - No Epoxy?

    Quote Originally Posted by RyanGillnet View Post
    Movement beyond just taking up is certainly a concern for me. Timber selection will be important if the boat is to last. A real shame for that duckboat. Cypress isn't typically available up here in Central PA, but I know it is used quite a bit in the mushroom houses down in the southeastern counties, so getting enough to bottom and plank a flat-iron might be possible. Not a ton of beam, depth or freeboard, so not a ton of planking. Also... I wonder if when the boat is constructed would make a difference in staying tight while not cupping and pushing itself apart. Cross plank the bottom in damp conditions or dry?
    I know of a boat built in larch in a very dry shop that sort of slowly exploded when put in the water. I'd keep the humidity fairly high while building.

  28. #28
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    Default Re: Trailered Boat - No Epoxy?

    My little skiff has no epoxy, just Titebond II and a little polyurethane.

    SAM_9232.jpg

    My bigger boat has almost enough epoxy to laminate the double layer bottom with - I ran out and finished with polyurethane glue because I could run to the hardware store and get it fast. Otherwise it's Titebond III everywhere.

    242265805_3094513847534922_3507062953163527811_n (2).jpg

    By the by, the bottoms of both boats are sheathed with fiberglass and polyurethane resin. Not a bad way to go for a trailer boat. You really can't beat a fiberglassed plywood bottom for a trailer sailer, and poly resin still works just fine.

    But in your case, I'd probably just do a cross plank and batten seam bottom.

    In any event, I highly recommend the cat-yawl rig or similar double-unstayed-mast-sharpie-type-rig.
    It's the most fun of any rig I've ever used, and an amazing performer.

  29. #29
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    Default Re: Trailered Boat - No Epoxy?

    Great boats! Thanks for the input. I’m not keen to fiberglass, but plywood, epoxy, glass - all make good sense for a trailered boat. ‘Good sense’ is something I’m probably short on…

    I don’t think I’d batten-seam the bottom, but I’ve read about splines being used in cross-planked bottoms.

    Rig will depend on which particular skiff design I choose (currently compiling my list of potentials…) and how brave I’m feeling about going with something other than as-drawn on the plans. I definitely would prefer a two-mast rig. There’s a long thread in the design forum on traditional rigs that has me thinking. Deeply.

    Absolutely unstayed masts, though.

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