Sunday, May 8, 2011

Saturday Night Special, a day or so later.

Out in the shed,
I’m not doing well today, dog tired in spite of a sleep in, off to the Doc today for my monthly visit  so I’m taking it quietly and am sitting here annoying you instead of working.
Its been a long time since I built a boat, I’ve got started on several projects but life seems to be something that happens in spite of your best planning, and with issues such as house building, health, employment and such those projects never got much beyond a tentative start.
But the house is, after several years of building, pretty much done.  There are always more things to do but it should be signed off by the building inspectors within a week or three, employment is still an issue, I’ve been made redundant from my last three full time jobs and have given up on that so as the health issue improves I’m working more on design and selling more boat plans.  That’s not easy in the current economic climate but there seem to be signs that things are coming right in some parts of the world, and hopefully that will continue.
Sailing my little gaff sloop has given me a real taste for being back out on the water, the issues that stopped boatbuilding had kept me away from sailing for some years but now that things are on the improve and I’m getting some time afloat the passion is returning, its like an awakening, and about time too.
So, the workshop tidy is coming along, I can get at all the machinery, the bench is tidy enough to work on, I spent a whole afternoon just reorganising the screws and fastenings, and while the floor is not properly clear I can at least walk about without tripping over things all the time.
My wee boat which I don’t refer to by her given name of “May” which is a bit dainty for what is really a pretty tough little adventurer and I’m going to rename her when inspiration strikes, is a bit heavy and a bit time consuming to take out on the lake for a quick sail of an evening so I am building a boat with that in mind.
Now, in the past every boat I’ve built (I’m up to 24 so far) has been an opportunity to try out a bunch of ideas and this one is no different.  Last year my friend Blair and I pumped out the hull of a light planing sailboat called “Saturday Night Special”.  It was a 3.9m (13 ft) stitch and tape balance lug rigged boat, designed so that the builder could make up the rudder, centreboard, frames and transom, put all the bits plus sail into a mountain bike transporter bag along with some basic tools and fly into an event like the Texas 200 ( do read the photos and accounts,  both entertaining and fascinating ) and build the boat before participating.
The vision was that a team of two or three would arrive at a venue where some shelter would be available, rent a van, go to the local big box hardware for cheap plywood and lumber, have the very few fittings required plus epoxy and some glass cloth shipped in beforehand from or similar, and for spars buy some alloy pipe from the likes of
Blair and I proved that with some organisation that a boat can be hung together in four or five days, and three couples could easily have three boats sailing inside a week.  Rough, but watertight, painted and sailing.
At the end of the event, the expensive parts can go back in the bike bag and back on the plane while some lucky soul would get a free boat, or it could have a Viking funeral on the beach.
The issue we were trying to solve was how to participate in the event when it’s not practical to transport a boat from somewhere far away (Blair and I are in New Zealand, or at least I am and he’ll be back in a few months).  Quick and dirty was the aim, but fast, easily handled, quick to rig, stable, safe in difficult conditions, and in this case designed for sustained high speeds off the wind while retaining good windward performance so the boat can be sailed upwind away from lee shore traps.
The prevailing wind on the Texas 200 course at that time of year is a strong quartering tailwind which often sets up a short steep chop in the shallow waters inside the banks that shield the course from the Gulf of Mexico,  so S.N.S was drawn up to suit those specific conditions.
Blair and I got the hull done, stitch and tape is not my favourite way of building and the cheap plywood did not bend as fairly as I’d like but the boat will work ok all the same.  Blair has had “life” happen to him, and the project is sitting while he is away out of the country working so we’ve not seen her in the water as yet. But I had all the frame templates, my tidy up revealed that I had half a dozen sheets of plywood, a heap of various bits of wood, and a whole lot of epoxy.
So, I’m started.  Here is “Sunday Night Special”, that’s what you get when you begin with a Saturday Night Special and think about it for a bit longer.
The piece of plywood I have for the bottom is longer than the original so I’ve stretched the boat a bit and its now 4450 long,  1700 wide, 9.8 sq m of sail about 70 kg in weight   ( 14ft 6in x 6ft 6in 105 sq ft  154 lbs )
I’m building “Sunday”  stringers over frames, but the frames are further apart than is usual as I’m trying to see where the limits are in that respect, and there are a few other experiments happening as well.
There will be a big buoyancy tank each end, wide side decks to sit on but no seats, balance lugsail on free standing mast, on halyard, one downhaul, one sheet, daggerboard and rudder.  As simple as its possible to be, note no seats, that’s weight and complication that costs time and materials to build and is weight to lug around.  If you want to be comfortable in this boat, go and buy a pool bean bag and tie it in with a lanyard so it can’t blow away.
This is a rough build, quick and dirty, uses leftover and scrap materials. It’s a proof of concept boat, not intended to be an outstanding example of classical boatbuilding, as long as it doesn’t break and the water doesn’t come in that’s fine by me.  (no comments about the build quality from the cheap seats please)
If it works, there will be plans.
Watch this space!
John W
From the drawing I built this planking model, its 1/10 scale so is about 1.3m ( 4ft 4in ) long, planked up with doorskin MDF its accurate to about 2mm or so and the panel shapes were taken off and scaled up.

The bottom and chines laid out, stem up, and Blair is just beginning to lace the panels together before pulling the chine panels up to the stem.  Cable ties proved to be inadequate, ok for handcuffing terrorists but not for keeping plywood panels in line.

Here is "Saturday" all planked up, the centercase goes ahead of the frame up there  just forward of midships.  There are a few wedges and fillets of filler to put in yet as this cheap plywood is not very co-operative.

Half the deck on, the idea is that the crew will sit on the side decks or in the bottom of the boat, no seats, no frills, cheap fares, peanuts and coke for inflight meals.

The beginning of "Sunday".  I'm building on a jig this time, the cross members hold her bottom in the right fore and aft curve and level across, the stringers are very roughly ( you'll hear  that phrase a lot on this project) pre bevelled to take the chine panel and the stem will be the next thing to be added to the structure.

A couple of weeks later, had the time and energy to go out and do some more.  I said that the workshop was tidier, you should have seen the mess before!
Here I have the transom, after frame, midships and bow frame, stem, king plank and lower mast step in place.

View from forward, that vertical wedge shape is the stem, there will be a rounded capping fitted after the plywood is all on.  

Mast step, seriously well fastened in, this is possibly the most highly stressed item in the boat so I made very sure it was not going to move.

The vertical member is the centercase brace, I'm building from a drawing which shows the shape of the hull and the position of the centercase and rig, and the rest I'm making up as I go.
I've got the centercase sides cut from scrap ply salvaged from a freinds bathroom rebuild, and thats the next thing to be fitted.
Oh yes, years back a freind,  ( have more than one!) gave me a set of foils from a decent sized sailing dinghy so I already have the centerboard for this one.  Less to build! Sooner sailing!


  1. Great to see SNS come alive again, wondered what had happened to her. Nothing like clearing up the workshop to make a man feel better about the world. look forward to seeing her sailing.

  2. Great to see this design back on the front(ish) burner. Love the lines! Have you made any refinements to the original shape? In what areas and why?

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  4. Congrats on getting this interesting design to completion.
    Would love to see pics of the completed boat (interior), hardware, and rigging (the rudder assembly too).