Saturday, April 26, 2014

Progress on SEI

 Saturday April 25th

I spent a large part of the day reading and writing, puttering around cooking to fill the cake tins and the freezer and doing some laundry. It’s Saturday you know, and a holiday weekend with Anzac day being on Friday so I gave myself some of the  day off.
Did my usual 40 mins in the kayak at dusk though, lovely.

I did get some work done on SEI.  I have begun to do the setup, note that I have a wooden floor in the boatshed so will simply stand each frame up on legs, screw those to blocks on the floor, true them up and then brace them so they cant move.
People talk about their project going 3D.  Yup, it feels different, there is already a little hint of a shapely stern (c’mon, you are NOT supposed to think like that)  and I’ve just assembled the daggerboard case.

 Its all a bit unsteady as yet, but there are diagonal braces to be fitted in both axes and as the other frames are erected and added the structure will become much more rigid.

While the glue was setting on the other parts of the project, I got in with the angle grinder and shaped the foil section on the rudder blade.

 Heres the daggerboard case ready for final assembly, note that the inside of the case sides have been fiberglassed and the hardwood end logs coated in resin. Its hard to get down in there to coat it when its been put together.

All glued up, some trimming to do tomorrow then I can fit a frame to each end and thats the midships sub assembly ready to stand up.

Tomorrow I”ll be getting on with drawing in the morning, then will get back out to the boatshed, trim up those bits that I glued up this evening and start assembling the forward sub assembly.

Progress indeed, I like this stage of building as progress seems so rapid.

Just as a by the way, I like my little Lithium battery powered Ozito brand cordless multitool, its working out to be way better than I though, gets used all the time both as a sander and a saw!

Wednesday, April 23, 2014


Back on the river, musing about life, the universe and everything.

Wednesday evening. I’m back aboard.  Among other things I’ve had a trip to lovely Clare the doctor back in my old hometown, that’s been a regular as has the clinic where the treatments are inflicted upon me.  All that has had to be regular for some time but she tells me that I can now stretch that out to 6 weeks between visits.  She’s a real sweetie, but while I’ll miss her smile I wont miss having needles poked in me so often.
Blood pressure is much improved, back up to 100/65, I can sit up suddenly without much problem now so that’s a good start.
Note to anyone in the lumber industry, stay clear of Pentachlorophenol wood preservative. Fortunately its very rare now, but if they use it where you work, quit and go work somewhere else. Right now!
Its effects can surface decades later, and are not at all nice.

All that said, I'm happy to be back on the river, its near dark, there are a few lights on in the houses in the forest along the riverbank and they are perfectly reflected in the mirror calm waters, tide coming in, I can hear the crackle of the crabs on the muddy bottom under the ship, and I’ve a heater on to warm the interior up a little.
This is great, I'm warm and comfortable in my bunk, the song birds are having a discussion in the patch of forest along the riverbank, there are fish jumping, seabirds  are out hunting their dinner and the ship is moving just enough in the tidal current to remind me that I am afloat.
Why would I buy a house instead? This is the cheap option, the old ship cost maybe 20% of what  the cheapest house I could find that was near the water would cost,  and with the floating berth, the boatshed workshop and the ship this is about as nice a place as one could wish to live work and play.  My costs are a fraction of those of maintaining a house with its property taxes, insurance, maintenance etc and even then I’d still need a boat or boats so would have those to drain the bank balance as well.
This way I’ve got everything at a bargain price.

My loving and very dedicated lady is carrying on with her career, being much younger than me she has sent me off to live some of my dreams, living on board and playing with boats being the top of the list. She and I spend a lot of quality time together, and it’s working pretty well.  Although she finds small sailing boats uncomfortable and does not understand or enjoy them she really enjoys cruising in the ship.  We have a “honeymoon” more weekends than not.  Absence sure makes the heart grow fonder.

But back to serious stuff, give me a day to get over the session at the clinic and I’ll be working on SEI again. I’ve precoated  the frames and stems where they will become hard to access when the seat tops are on, One more coat and its setup time. I’ve stripped a couple of pallets for lumber to set the frames up.  That’s this weeks workshop task.

I’ve decided to build this little boat for several reasons, she is a departure from my usual transom ended boats and I’d like to try some of the ideas and theories in the boat myself, it’s a good idea to have the design and drawings thoroughly sorted before any plans go out so I can be confident that she will work as I expect and be sure that I have not designed in any traps for builders. 
All that plus the only boats that I have of my own design are a kayak, a 14 ft rowing boat and of course Scraps, at least until Scraps goes off to her new home in September.
 I like to experiment, have built several boats in “partnership” with friends, borrow them when I’m able and that’s a good way to try a new design. That experience of course ends up helping future designs, but while its very helpful its not the same as having one of my own tied up at the dock.

My 18 ft gaff sloop Spook, although not of my design is a classic, had been close to derelict in someones back yard for years and would not have survived there for long.  My friend Bruce had her rebuilt, but was sadly unable to keep her. She is deserving of a good home, so I took her over, take Bruce sailing now and again, and now that I have built a new set of spars, re rigged and tweaked her, done some deferred maintenance, and added some interior furniture she is sailing really well.  She makes a lovely weekender, so she remains in the fleet, much loved and admired. 
I learn from her as well, my Pilgrim and Pelegrin designs both incorporate lessons learned from the experience she has brought. Its never too late to learn.

Where to from here?  I’ve not done much work of any kind for a while,  (see the first paragraph) but now can work a few hours a day if I’m careful. I’ve a couple of custom designs part done, some of those will not be available as plans as they will belong to the client who has commissioned them, and those have kept me busy and meant that I’ve not done much in the public eye for a while.
One of those is a big very long range voyaging power boat, I’d really love to have one of that design for myself but she’d have taken me years to build, and even building her myself she’d have cost around 5 times what my little ship cost, so that was not an option, I’ll have to be satisfied with going on the maiden cruise with the owner when the builders yard has launched her.

So I’ve several small boat designs on the go, little Scraps is done, plans will be completed in a few days, SEI being the next set of experiments and those plans will be completed when I’ve done some serious sailing in her to find out how she goes both in build and in her performance. There are a couple of others which are high priority to complete including a sailing canoe, and then?

The mind likes to stay busy, so there are always thoughts of what designs might be way off in the future.
I’ve been asked for a really serious long range sail and oar voyager.  That’s a subject very close to my heart, but as a designer there are risks and obligations in something as extreme as this boat.  I’ve not drowned a client yet, in part because I refuse to get involved with such as the gent who wanted to row from New Zealand to the Antarctic Ice then manhaul to the pole, or the guy who wanted to solo sail a 9ft boat from UK to Japan nonstop, or the guy who wanted to journey from NZ to Germany in a kayak.  All of these are theoretically possible, but I prefer not to be part of someone being seriously at risk.

So what to do about the “serious sail and oar voyager”?

I’ll think about it.

Meanwhile, I’ve a whole lot of work to catch up on, I’m not at all short of things to do. And, most of them are fun.


PS, a friend of mine, a very capable and experienced sail and oar voyager, one of the best, got tipped out of his boat the other day. There are threads running on a couple of internet forums about the incident which I’m finding very interesting.   Some of the questions and answers are making me think very hard about what is really needed to make a boat of this the best it could possibly be.

He may have done me, and a lot of other people a favour in that respect.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Progress, life gets in the way a bit.

First, there have been several requests for the little double enders vital statistics.

Sail area is 7.1 sq m.  Thats  76.5 sq ft.

Length is 4.45 m   - 14ft 7in
Beam is 1.55m  - 5ft 1in
Weight should be around 75 kg  165 lbs
Draft 175mm board up  7in
1.1m board down.  3ft 7in

I dont expect to have to build a proper boat trailer for this, I figure that I will be able to just lift the bow up onto the end board of a handyman trailer, pick the stern up and push the boat forward. 
I'll put plastic imitation grass on the end board to make it slide, and will slot the board to take the skeg which will make it stay centered as I push it.
Managing it on the beach will be with a couple of inflatable sausage shaped fenders used as rollers.

I had an “Off day” yesterday. Not every day goes as planned, sometimes  ones frailalties get in the way.
So there was not much done, and I’ve decided to take my own advice and just build when I feel like it.  No pressure, and it makes it much more fun than trying to meet deadlines.

I did though go to a Folk music club meeting last night, its only the second meeting of a brand new club and it being a new group means that the social structure is not so entrench and I’ll fit in more easily.  I used to play several instruments, ( badly but enjoyed them) and should really get one or more out and practice. This will be an incentive.

I’ve also joined a Writers Club, while I have written a great deal of technical and non fiction, writing fiction is very different and I’m doing a little of that for fun and to make friends here in my new home area as well. There is no need to be lonely.

Back on boat things, I’ve roughed out the foil shape of the daggerboard.  Its three laminations of 9mm plywood which is easier for most people than making it up from strips of solid wood.
 I use an angle grinder with a 40 grit sanding disc to form the shape up where it transitions from the rectangular shape that fits the ‘case, to the foil shape and rough from there down to the tip with a power plane.  Next is the hand plane, the dark glue lines of the plywood make it easy to get the section constant all the way down, and its at this stage that I go from “eyeball” to fitting the template that I’ve made from the foil section I drew on the plans.
That section by the way is not an NACA section, its one that I got from a hydrodynamics software suite that I have, its designed for high lift at moderate speeds and to have a very high stall angle, the aim being that it wont stall when tacking at slow speeds.
While SEI should be moderately fast for a somewhat trad styled boat the fact that its double ended means that it will be slower than boats with near parallel sections from the widest beam aft, that plus even a really fast small boat is not fast in terms of true speed through the water (compared with say a 70 ft ocean racer) so the medium speed section is more appropriate to the use.

 Laminating the three layers together, use whatever happens to be handy to put pressure on the glue lines.

Fitting the template to the foil.
From here, I’ll knock the bumps off with the Festool Rotex sander then coat the ‘board with System 3 fairing compound and carefully fit it to the template.
I wont glass it, but have put a strip of hardwood down the leading edge by cutting the middle layer of plywood back 20mm and laminating a piece of mahogany in there. That will reduce impact damage quite a lot.

Up to the stage where you see it, that shaping of the foil took about an hour, the rudder blade is next…


Sunday, April 13, 2014

SEI. Some photos of the new project.


I promised some pics, and here they are.

Note that she is a "sailing boat" first, thats evident in that the maximum beam is further aft than would be the case if she was to be a rowing boat first and a sailing boat second.  That said, anything this light and shallow will row pretty well, the difference being very small. But for sailing the skipper will sit down in the boat just aft of the center thwart, back to the gunwale and feet across, well supported and sheltered. To do this the underwater volume had to be be so distributed that she is on the correct trim with say, 200 lbs sitting there, that plus the wider after end will contribute stability at speed under sail so she'll heel less.

I now have all of the frames made, you’ll note that they are just simple plywood web frames rather than laminated ones, quick and easy to make. The same with the two stems, bow and stern, they are 9mm plywood (about 3/8in) with doublers each side which will take the bevel where the planking goes on.

The boat is made up of sub assemblies, one at each end carry two frames each slotted over the stems, these will be closed in by the seats forming big air tanks for buoyancy, and there will be another sub assembly using the daggerboard case to support Frames three and four.  Only Frame five is not located by slotting over a spine or the "case".

 The stern sub assembly, stem, frames 7 and 6.  You can see that when the seat top is on there will be substantial enclosed volume in there, that can be used for small item storage and or bouyancy in case of a big "oops".

The bow sub assembly. She has a very fine entry and a much wider stern, that in part to reduce pitching in a head sea.

I expect some flack about the daggerboard, but I could not get a centreboard case in there and still have the seat height right for rowing. The board itself is fairly light and easy to manage so I don’t expect it to be a big deal in use, I’ll make a little cap to put in the top of the slot when rowing and will hold it down with a shock cord loop to minimise splash when rowing in rough weather.

This little boat is intended to be as simple to build as I can get it, and to require as little in the way of tools as possible. You could carry every tool needed to build this boat in a two gallon bucket, including clamps and whats required for the painting and fittings.  As always, more and bigger tools, things such as a bandsaw and a power sander will make it quicker but not really all that much.
I built my very first bigger boat, a 21 ft trailer yacht, with the only power tool being a 3/8in chuck Hitachi two speed drill with a jigsaw and orbital sander attachments.
The sawing of stringers, sanding of paint etc meant that my arms were pretty fit, but I don’t recall being much slower building than some of my friends doing similar boats.

Spars will be aly drawn tube with turned wooden plugs in the ends. I can start with bare tubes and be rigged by lunchtime, only needing to wait until the paint on the wood dries off so really its 24 hours from picking up the tube until I can go sailing.
The sail? I might just make my own this time,  I have a trade account with an outfit that supplies sailcloth and such, and  a brand new basic model sewing machine is surprisingly cheap.  That means that the trade ins are only pocket money so I’ll do a run around the shops sometime.

Oars, I don’t much like making oars and usually just buy a pair of seconds about the right length and attack them with a plane and spokeshave. That’s a little way off yet, so I wont worry about it for a while yet.

I have to build the boat first, this evening I glued up the three layers of 9mm plywood that make up the dagger board blank, and cut out the pieces that form the rudder blade. I’ll glue them up in the morning.

I’m very much enjoying this build. Its been a couple of years since I have been well enough to do much, and I find that as I get better I am ok for two or three hours a day out in the boatshed,  that is so good for the soul plus the exercise is bringing the body back to normal.
I’ll be sailing again next summer ( southern hemisphere of course), that’s around November here, and I want this little ship ready to go.

Thursday, April 10, 2014


SEI, pronounced either "SAY"  or "SHAEE" depending on where you are or what language you were born to, are a species of whale.  Small, fast swimmers, highly maneuverable and very capable.


Hardangerbot.  Should have the little " over the O but I cant get my computer to do that. Yet.

A small boat indigenous to the area around Hardanger in southern Norway. Typically three planks a side, sail and two pair oars, and very typical of the small boats of the Norwegian coast.

Plywood.  What we use today for building small boats that otherwise would have required very wide planks high grade planks in rot  resistant wood species, those planks are now measured in tens of dollars per handspan of length ( we dont use cubits any more, but please, some of you are metrically adept and some prefer the measurements based on various body parts of a long dead English king with some things such as the length of a piece of cloth that goes around the hips or the length of a longbows arrow, that latter being slightly more than the distance from the archers thumb to his chin with the bow drawn. Thats a yard by the way)

I do get off subject a bit don't I.

Anyway all those things come together in the next building project, SEI is a double ender, 4.55m long ( about 15 ft) by 1.5m wide ( about 5 ft) intended to remind people of the small boats of Hardangerfiord in Norway, and hopefully as fast and nimble as the SEI whale.

I've begun building, have all but two of the frames, plus both stems built and although I have to go and work ( dirty four letter word that is) tomorrow, I expect to be setting the frames up on the building frame by Monday.

Ah! The building frame. I'm into recycling.  Well, more into not spending money where I don't have to.  I needed some light uprights, bracing and some long pieces of wood.  Not of any great quality but they need to be straight and dry enough so they wont warp and move during the build.
Around here people in factories and warehouses put their non returnable pallets and freight flats out on the road verge for other people, the kind who have fireplaces or who are about to build a nice little plywood double ended sail and row boat, to pick up and take home to carefully disassemble into the various pieces needed.
Guess what I was doing late last night? I was hoping that the security guys and or police did not stop and ask me why I was driving around the industrial estate, looking down the driveways of the factories.
As it happened, between two boatbuilding companies I found exactly what I needed, loaded them into the truck and beetled off home in the dark.  I fondly imagine that the wood in those pallets has absorbed some of the ambiance of the boatbuilders each side, and so will be at home holding my new project together while I hang planking.

I'll have photos in a few days, thats a promise.

Buying plywood, and dont some people really annoy you!

I went out to buy some plywood today.  While I only needed one sheet of 9mm marine bonded ply, I intended to buy a dozen sheets as I have enough projects planned to use it all, and it made the half hour trip to town worthwhile.
As the various outlets that sell the stuff are scattered around the city I figured I’d phone and check out that the nearest ones had the product that I wanted.
Now I have worked in a plywood factory as a production supervisor,  have been building plywood boats since about 1972, and think that I know my way around the various grades, glue types, veneer types and wood species.  So I had several specific questions to ask when I rang the first guys for information on what they had in stock.
I asked the first question, and the second, and as I was not getting answers that indicated that the guy I was speaking to had really understood what I was wanting to know, I asked the questions a different way, rephrased them as it were.
In reply I got  the beginnings of  a lecture on glue types, which was not what I’d been asking about, and when I tried to make the point that I already knew what he was trying to tell me he got very short with me and hung up!
Actually that’s not the first time I’ve found their shop staff to be lacking in courtesy.

Ok,  I wont be going there, and wont recommend them to anyone either.
Be Warned!

Plyman, in the Concourse, Henderson, Auckland.

So, that left me still wanting some plywood.
I rang Gunnersens ,  Patiki Rd Auckland.
Had a very pleasant chat with a phone sales lady, she referred me to the plywood product manager who was really up front and helpful, and as a result I climbed into the little truck and headed on in there.

Frank the plywood product manager was very  friendly, has a very good knowledge of the several plywood factories that the company buys from, and was able to advise me as to which of the several grades of marine plywood that they carry would be best for my use.
From his desk I went out to see Henry in the warehouse, he was friendly and interested and in about 2 minutes we were like old friends.  His helper loaded up the fork truck and whizzed my order around to the back of my truck, helped me load it and I was off back home.  Job done.

I’ll be going back there!  You should too. They ship, NZ wide, and have branches in Aussie as well.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Notes on Scraps

Notes on “Scraps”.

We have a fish around New Zealand called “Orange Roughy”. It’s a deep water fish, one that cooks up really well but is very long lived and slow growing so the harvest is severely restricted. 
Well, this little boat could be called “Yellow roughy”. I’ve taken a few shortcuts, built it in a hurry, used materials that truly were otherwise scraps and some epoxy that was way way past its use by date so she’s not exactly a showpiece.
If I could not smooth it with the power sander  or angle grinder it did not get done!
But she is strong, and more than adequate to test the plans and her function.
I’ll do some more painting today, another coat on the interior.  I’m using water based enamel in pale grey. I might even put a coat of varnish on the rowlock block supports, they were a scrap of mahogany I picked out of the rubbish that I cleared out of the ship when I did the initial tidy up after buying her.  She deserves a little “nice”.
For that matter, the corner knees are 18mm construction plywood left over from a cupboard I built, the gunwales salvaged from some birdsmouth mast staves that did not cut the mustard for that job, the ply was two part sheets of 6mm Meranti that were left over from another boat, and the epoxy was the last of some samples of System 3 that the local distributors donated for me to publicise.
(good stuff by the way, incredibly tolerant of mix ratios among other virtues)
The rowlock plates and backing plates for the towing eye came from under an old Scow Moth I bought for $10, salvaged the fittings including some 20mm x 3mm brass strip which did the above jobs, the oars and rowlocks came from another boat, the paint was left over from repainting Dennys kayak, and the screws, well, I buy them in boxes of 1000, they are so much cheaper that way that it makes sense to buy a box even if I only need 2 or 300 so I always have a supply on hand.
Even the excellent Mirka Abranet sandpaper was a freeby, kindly donated for my beginner boatbuilder classes by Autolink Distributors Ltd

I cant think of any part of “Scraps” that I had to go and buy specifically for the project. Everything came from corners of my shop, piles of leftover material or off the shelf stuff that had been bought for other purposes.

She’s been in the water every day since her “birthday”,  everyone who comes to visit me here on the river has been in and rowed her around, she never fails to raise a smile.

That was a fun project, and I’m pleased with the result.

Pics below, I'm sure you don't need captions, its 9 10 am and I need to get on with packing my tools in the truck.


This afternoon I’m off to service a shopful of machinery at an educational institution.  I think that its run by accountants with no idea of the realities of machinery, ( apologies to those accountants who have) as the shop was built some 20 years ago, 12 woodworking machines installed, the teachers are essentially arts and graphics teachers with little or no practical experience with these machines. There has been no budget allocation to maintain them, no skills employed in house to set and service them, and now, only one of the 12 works!
I wonder why?
The management have just discovered that they cant run their courses because the national standard requires that the students learn to use these machines, and they need them set up and running.  So they want them all fixed “yesterday”.
That’s going to take a full day, plus 250 km travel costs.  That’ll help my budget no end.

Back to boatbuilding next week. Have a good weekend eh!