Building the Hull:

Date Discussion
10/7/2008 I have decided to split this document into sections to make it a bit less daunting to read. I seem to be rambling on about all sorts of minute detail, which may even become marginally interesting one day.

The earlier chapter deals with the dream, the design process and the events leading up to making the commitment to build a boat. The story continues with the building of the hull:-

My friend Ricardo has just given me 10 second hand fluorescent light fittings and I have repaired them ready to install. Moose (the Shipwright and owner of the shed) has 6 similar fittings, which makes 16 x 4' fluoros for a 40' x 20' shed. That should be better!

14/7/2008 The new light fittings are in and wired - at least now I can see what I am doing.

21/7/2008 The strongback is finished and bolted to the floor. The donated chipboard sheets have been moved to the workshop, together with a long bench that Ricardo gave me, so I am now ready to start lofting out the station moulds.

I will start with Station 5 because it is the tallest and will determine the necessary height for the Design Water Line (The base Line) above the floor for the whole of the boat. Will need access hatches through the stations to get inside the forward part of the hull because the sides will be flush with the floor.

28/7/2008 Lofted and cut out the first full size station today (decided on Number 11 in the end). It is now attached to the strongback and looks very businesslike. The curved sides faired reasonably well, but I had to make a couple of corrections along the way.

It is difficult to be accurate when taking the Offsets Table measurements from a 1/10th scale lofting. I'm quite satisfied with the result, but will now draw up a larger plan view to try to better fair the various waterlines from station to station.

31/7/2008 Have cut out and mounted Station 10 today and lofted Station 9 ready for the next session.

Have been trying to fair the rest of the boat on the plans. It is a very tedious process and trying to get shapes that can be faired in both horizontal & vertical planes is a pain in the butt. I think I may be close now, I have redrawn all the Stations and faired all the individual Water Lines separately although I'm still not sure how to plan the plank landings on the Stem; I'll think about that some more.

Next job is to produce a "Bill of Materials", specifically how many sheets of what thickness plywood to buy. I have decided (with Moose's guidance) that the bottom will be two layers of 12mm and the keel box will be two layers of 9mm and the Clinker sides will be a single layer of 12mm.

All seams and joints will be filleted and reinforced with fibre glass tape. The whole hull will be covered in 400gsm double bias fibre glass as well.

I realised somewhat later, that the so called 12mm ply is, in fact, 12.7mm thick, as a hangover from the imperial measurement of 0.5 inch. It should have been obvious I suppose since a 2.4 x 1.2 size is really only an 8' x 4' sheet in disguise.

The accuracy of most of my carpentry is not affected by 0.7mm either way so it's not a problem. However, once you start laminating more than one thickness it becomes a consideration. I suppose the same is true of 9mm sheets too, are they really 9.525 mm ? I must check!

08/08/2008 Opening of the Olympics and the first seven Stations are complete. Some minor lofting issues, although again, considering the plans were only lofted at 1/10th scale where a 0.5mm error (the thickness of the pencil lead) equals 5mm on the finished design - not too bad. I have had to make the odd correction to my offsets table as I have faired the curve of the clinker section on each Station (in case I ever build another one maybe - hmm ?)

I have redrawn the new stem many times over the last few weeks and could not get it to "sit" properly. Then I realised that Mr William had made a couple of errors in the original Offsets Table relating to the position of the chine. I took a new set of Offsets for the chine by scaling from the original drawings, and now it all seems to be much better. I have replicated the shape of the stem as closely as possible although the sheer is raised significantly.

11/8/2008 I have had to have yet another go at the design of the stem and Stations 0 through 3 to get Station 0 to not only sit properly vertically but horizontally as well. Just in time as I have only Stations 2, 1, & 0 left to cut out plus the Transom then we're committed - no more changes...

I have started pricing epoxy. West System seems to be about 50% more expensive than Fibre Glass International, but they do have all the products I want and are considered to be the best. So, the expression "spoiling the ship for a ‘ha'porth of tar" comes to mind, and I may well go with West products at least to start with. That way if I buy cheaper stuff later, I will have something to compare it to.

The Stations moulds are completed, so making the Stem Post is the next job. This will be cold moulded from 4mm ply on a chipboard mould so that it has a width across its aft edge of about 100mm. This allows room for fibre glassing inside the boat. The bottom of the stem post will continue almost to Station 1, where it meets and will be lapped onto the 24mm bottom panel. This should make the hull very strong and resistant to the odd mooring mishap!! Ultimately, once the clinker planks have been attached to the Stem Post, a trim piece can be added over the forward face to make it look like a traditional stem with rabbet etc. etc.

15/8/2008 Finished making all the moulds yesterday.

I have been correcting the Offsets Table for faired curves as I made each one and none of the measurements made from the tenth scale lofting were more than 5mm out, which is a half a millimetre on the drawing. Very pleasing! (Surprising too!)

Will start setting out on the strong back today. It turns out that a 12x6m shed is not big enough to set out the moulds as you go because it doesn't leave enough room to manage the 3.6x1.8 sheets of chipboard, which are too heavy to lift as well.

Have done a lot of research into material prices, since I am now ready to start buying timber and epoxy, and have been in contact with Duck Flat Wooden Boats

23/8/2008 All Stations are now complete and installed on the strongback. The boat looks surprisingly large and it is really nice to see the shape of the hull full size - to walk around it and imagine the interior layout in place.

Duck Flat offers a very competitive price for epoxy using Bote Cote brand, which is made in Australia so it's a simple choice in the end. Clear oregon doesn't seem to be imported any more, so plantation grown Hoop Pine is the next best alternative. Duck Flat among others keep stocks, so that should work.

The stem is now lofted on to a piece of chipboard ready to set up as a jig for laminating, and after much head scratching, I have worked out the dimensions of an inner and outer stem arrangement for building. The inner stem will be made of laminated 4mm ply and the outer stem from laminated sawn timber. They can both be made on the same jig at the same time.

I am a regular volunteer on the historic paddle steamer "Marion" moored at Mannum, which had some work done on the hull and superstructure last week. Whilst I was there yesterday I realised that the old hull timbers that had been replaced were about to be used as firewood! For the sake of asking, I was able to get enough 19th century Red Gum to make the stem for my boat, and there is something very special for me about having my stem made from original timber of the P. S. Marion, which was built in 1897, and upon which I have spent many happy hours as volunteer crew.

Someone suggested that the name for my boat could now be "Maid of Marion"........... :)

Sep/Oct Holiday in New Zealand

7/11/2008 Been busy for the last few weeks.

However, the engine is now together and has an extra generator mounted on the engine frame to charge the house battery separately from the engine battery. It is quite possible to use a single generator, but this setup was easy to do and provides some redundancy. The original alternator is now replaced with a tiny 45 amp unit from a 91 Daihatsu Charade and the extra one is a Mitsubishi 110 amp unit from a 94 EF Ford Falcon.

All the hoses and belts have been replaced and the cooling system now has a decent flow. I found part of a rubber water pump impeller blade jammed in one of the copper water pipes and it's not off the current impeller, although that has been replaced as well, so it must have been there for quite some time. It makes you wonder how the cooling system ever worked.

The engine just needs to be painted now and aside from the minor and really annoying fact that it won't actually run - it's all finished. We'll get to the bottom of that in due course.

It has spark, although the distributor was labelled with the wrong firing order, which is a worry, and it has good compression. The carburettor seems to just pour petrol into the manifold without vaporising anything much, so that's the suspected culprit at present.

The stem post has been laminated from strips of 4mm ply and is a really meaty lump. Moose has suggested that the boat is a bit "overbuilt"- but better that than "under built" I would of thought, especially given the number of mooring mishaps that are inevitable! The stem is now fitted to the strong back and to Stations 0 & 1.

The bottom panel of the keel has been lofted full size and patterns cut from 3mm MDF. The keel bottom will eventually be laminated from two layers of 12 mm ply. The first two pieces of the first layer have been cut and installed, so still some way to go although it is straight forward enough. Starts to look a bit like a boat now, even though it is upside down.

Since a couple of bits of what will be parts of the finished product are done, the boat actually seems to exist now, rather than just a lot of drawings and moulds.

20/11/2008 My mother passed away - RIP

10/12/2008 Bit of a gap in production.

Have been to the workshop for the odd day here and there and actually have made some progress. The "bottom" of the box keel is now finished. It is made of two layers of 12mm marine ply laminated and offset by the width of a sheet of plywood.  I lofted a pattern on 3 mm MDF.

The stem post is installed and joined to the Bottom.

The Transom is also two layers of 12mm. One layer has already been lofted, cut-out of two sheets because of its width and butt joined in the middle. The next step is to make the second layer and laminate the two. Then the Chine Log and bed for the propeller tunnel when I work out a way of doing it so that I can mount the rudder as well.

18/12/08 The Transom is now complete and mounted on the strong back.
It turns out that the floor of the shed is not flat, particularly near the doors, and although all the stations were levelled with a laser spirit level, the moulds still need adjusting. I will use the traditional water level approach, using a clear plastic hose full of water. Tedious, but gravity works really well.

I have made a hog piece from two layers of 12mm ply to support the inner edge of the reverse dead rise panels between stations 10, 11, & 12. Cutting a slot in Station 10, together with notches in station 11 and the transom allows the hog to pick up the correct curve, and once the block that forms the propeller shaft mounting is made, the surplus part of the hog can be cut off.

19/12/08 I have had the engine running today. The fitting of another ignition coil was all that was needed. Now, a quiet whisper of sweet words and it practically springs into life by itself. The engine sounds good, no expensive noises and the gearbox operates smoothly.

One of the issues with using a marinised car engine in a boat is that you generally need a Left Handed propeller. In conversation with the previous owner I found that he solved the problem by running the gearbox in reverse to go forward etc. etc. Neat solution perhaps, but specifically rejected by Borg Warner who claim the reverse gear set is not intended for 100% duty - and I have the whine in reverse now to prove their claim. However, there's always an upside, the wear on the forward gear set is negligible!

24/12/08 It is a year today since I ordered the plans for "River Belle" from Pat Atkin.

Progress has not been as fast as I would have liked, but in the words of the song, "Life is what happens whilst you are making other plans" and life has indeed intruded on the boatbuilding plan.

Never mind, 2009 is just ahead and an appropriate New Year's Resolution comes to mind. If you look at the construction so far with one eye closed and the appropriate squint for the other, you can actually see, mostly in the mind's eye, that what we're building is not only a boat, but a very handsome River Cruiser.

17/02/09 Scarfed the chine logs today and notched the moulds to receive them.

In preparation for installing the chines, it turned out that a lot of re-alignment of the moulds was required to fair the lines. The workshop floor is far from flat and the odd rounding error in the offsets table combined to make a lot of adjustment necessary. A water level in a clear hose plus several string lines does the trick. I have tried a laser level too, but it actually isn't as easy to achieve a good result as with the more traditional methods!

You may notice that a couple of months has passed since the last mention of any progress and the comment above ‘that life intervenes'. Since the end of November, I have been introduced to the downright nastiness of Sudden Onset Rheumatoid Arthritis.

I am 61 and reasonably fit and healthy, but I woke one morning with a sore wrist, which is no big deal and not even that uncommon, so I assumed that I had strained it without realising it. Within a couple of days however, the other wrist was the same, as were both thumb joints. This quickly became a real nuisance, it was really painful and wasn't getting any better and with no strength in wrists or thumbs you can't even open a carton of milk never mind do anything useful.

Within two more weeks the pain had spread to my ankles and much more importantly both knees. So now I couldn't walk, and even getting out of bed or a chair is a real problem. With a couple of blood tests, a diagnosis was made and confirmed as Rheumatoid Arthritis for which there is no known cause, and worse still, no cure. There is a drug regime that will suppress the symptoms, but it takes anything up to twelve weeks to become effective and in the meantime I had become a cripple.

This whole event opens your eyes to what old age and infirmity is all about. It reminds you that the dream of building a boat, or any other dream for that matter, is a fragile thing and entirely dependent upon your health.

Having to come to terms with the idea that I may not be able to achieve those dreams and perhaps having to abandon the boat was a sobering experience.

On the brighter side, I have since discovered corticosteroids. These remarkable little pills fixed the pain overnight and are astonishing. I am back in action, hope returns and all is well, more or less. The only catch is that corticosteroids have a few nasty side effects and you cannot keep taking them. Therefore, it's a balancing act between bad drugs and not so bad drugs to keep the pain away without killing you in the process. Terrific.

These events make you appreciate the life you have, but remind you that it is passing, so enjoy every day because one day you will run out of days - nothing surer!

13/03/2009 Back to work again. The laminated stem has been repositioned and the moulds reset for level in all directions. Station 0 seems to be a bit superfluous so is gone.

The Chines have been fitted and it is really satisfying to see the compound curves of the hull start to take shape. Even though the original plans were intended for sawn frames, the chines sit really well and are quite fair.

The chines have been planed to take the bottom panels and the first bow panels fitted to each side after making templates from 3mm MDF.

The panels sit very well except for a gap where the stem meets the bottom panel. I have shaped some filler blocks from 12mm ply to fill the gaps and fair the bottom edge of the panel. The next panels after the bow, moving aft, have also been made and fitted.

While the epoxy on the bow panels was hardening, the aft most box keel panels were cut and fitted. A solid piece was cold moulded to take the trailing edges of the box keel and 50mm square hole left for the propeller shaft at the same time. This will save having to find a boring bar later.

The next box keel panel moving forward has also been made and fitted to the top (bottom actually, since the boat is upside down). This is for the extra chine which starts after Station 5.

22/03/2009 The last piece of ply to go below the chine has been fitted and although there is another layer to be applied yet to bring it up to its full thickness, you can now see the real shape of the Atkin Tunnel Stern. It is a lovely thing, a set of compound curves running the length of the hull that you just can't resist running your hands over just to get a sense of the smooth curves. It's a pity, in the end, to put such a lovely shape under water, where it can't be seen.

Although the plans were not intended for plywood construction, the panels sit on the moulds just beautifully, and nowhere is the twist in the plywood unmanageable.

30/03/2009 The first piece of the second layer of 9mm ply went on to the bottom this morning. It sat down very well. So, nothing much to show visually, but it is all progress.

Whilst attending the Goolwa Wooden Boat Festival a few weeks ago, I met Phillip Mathews from C.E.& A. Phillip's company can supply all the drive train hardware such as prop shaft, stern tube, seals and bearings etc. He also supplies Poly Flex engine mounts and flexible drive plates.

Phillip is a really helpful bloke and has proposed drawing up all the components I need, and then I can just let him know when I'm ready and he will make them for me. Easy!

I ordered the engine mounts yesterday so that I can finalise the dimensions for the steel sections of the new engine/transmission mountings. I will make those myself when I get a minute.

18/04/2009 Engine mountings have arrived already and I have started remaking the steel engine framework to suit. I have now realised that my mounting arrangements for the second alternator are not going to work with the new engine mounting frame, so back to the drawing board for a new alternator mounting.

I have just bought two more sheets of 9mm ply because although the original estimate was pretty good, I have not been too efficient in cutting out, so the volume and size of the off cuts is more than I expected. I would also have to admit to the odd mistake here and there too. In fact, the very, very first panel I cut out for this boat was OK except that I took it from a 9mm sheet instead of a 12mm sheet - not an auspicious start and the reason at least one 9mm sheet was wasted. It's all a learning process...

The bottom of the hull is made up of two layers of plywood. The bottom of the keel is double 12mm and the rest, up to the chine, is double 9mm. This was necessary because it is hard to buy plywood that thick, and even if you did, you couldn't bend it to the required shapes. However, fitting the second layer of everything is a bit boring because you don'tsee any progress toward the completion of the hull. One layer looks much the same as two layers. Still, the second layer is almost complete, so very soon I can start on the clinker sides.

It is also time to buy some fibreglass. I need two layers of 400gsm double bias (±45º) glass mat all over the bottom plus 100mm above the chine, on the first strake, so better start checking prices.

25/04/2009 The second layer of ply on the bottom up to the Chine is almost complete there are two panels remaining.

I have started thinking about the Topsides now and consequently I'm back to having to finally resolve the interior layout. I can't believe it, but I've decided to move the Stateroom back to the aft of the boat again and this time put the Galley in the forepeak area.

The position of the bed has been like a Yo-Yo! (Perhaps I should have two - one each end?). Anyway, I had become a bit concerned that the bedroom up forward would be really ‘pokey' and even claustrophobic. Moving it back aft has a number of advantages, particularly that the area is much wider and therefore much more airy, and also, the toilet and shower are now up at the Helm deck floor level, which is above the waterline and waste holding tanks - so there are no extra pumps to buy, install & maintain - which is a real bonus!

This change now allows me to firm up on the roof line, and it is now obvious that the area above the Stateroom is the ideal site for an open sun deck. A Bimini or hard top over the sun deck and a second steering & control position will complete the picture.

The area above the Saloon, which is 400mm higher than the sun deck floor, won't be part of the Sun Deck because putting significant weight that high above the waterline may introduce some stability concerns. However, it turns out that it would be the ideal spot for an array of solar panels.

You will remember the original design goal for the boat was to be solar powered and whilst the cost of the solar equipment is prohibitive and out of my budget range for the time being, I haven't changed the hull design, and solar power could be retro-fitted at any time in the future once prices moderate (or my finances improve!). A quick check yesterday suggests that the price of solar panels has almost halved whilst the boat has been under construction. So maybe it's not so far away...

I have started planning the plank landings for the hull sides, and before that can be done, an inwale or false sheer, has to be created and drafted. Moose has lent me some old MoToR BoatinG magazines, circa 1936, to get the style right, and now I can use the drawing program (‘Paintshop' in this case) to render the inwale to scale and take off the measurements to mark up the actual hull. Looks better all the time. Almost looks like a proper boat - amazing!

WARNING Technical Bit ! Solar Power - is it feasible?

Let's revisit the original proposal that "the boat be solar powered" and see if it is actually feasible, disregarding the cost element for a moment.

We can start with a rough calculation along these lines: given that the available area of roof above the saloon is about 7.8 m2 and that the current generation of solar cells are able to produce about 170 watts/m2 on a cool sunny day, then such an area should produce about 1.2Kw fairly continuously.

Using ‘FreeShip' hull modelling software to calculate the ‘drag' of this hull form, it shows that 1.2Kw (1.6hp) would produce a boat speed of about 4 knots in ideal circumstances. If you add a set of batteries into the equation, it becomes even more interesting.

Assume that on a normal summer day in Australia, the sun will shine for 10 hours, but you only want to cruise for five. The batteries will be charging happily during the five sunny hours that you're not cruising and that power will be stored. Therefore, when you finally cast-off, you have 1.2Kw/h available from the solar cells, and another 1.2Kw/h available that the batteries have stored previously (all being 100% efficient of course - yeah right!).

Put another way; as a solar powered vessel it should, in theory, be able to cruise at between 4 & 8 Knots (7.5 - 15 Kph) indefinitely without cost, noise or pollution. All of which is pretty neat.

To complete the picture, any solar powered vessel would have to be equipped with a diesel generator as well so that it can still be used during continuously overcast weather. The size of the generator you might chose is a matter of cost, weight, and personal preference, but anything over 2.5Kw would at least duplicate or better the "sunny day' scenario described above.

Of course there is nothing to stop the generator being run on a sunny day together with the solar panels and the batteries all contributing to the power available, which would then be up around 5Kw or 6.5 hp. It is not enough power for the boat to break through ‘hull speed" and plane, but for river cruising, it would be more than adequate.

The motors selected for the boat are a pair of MARS brushless DC units with separate controllers, each rated at 6hp (15hp peak), driving a single shaft. Although it is quite possible that one motor would be sufficient, it seems prudent to allow for a short burst of high power to be available for emergencies and during mooring.

So, is solar power feasible? You betcha !

30/4/2009 Have finally finished the entire second layer of ply. As noted above, this part of construction has not been very satisfying because the hull doesn't look any different than it did three or four weeks ago. Still, at least now I can move on.

The next step is to install the inwale which defines the upper edge of the clinker planking before the gunwale. Once that is done, I can calculate and mark out the landings for each plank.

The whole gunwale area will be a single piece and probably painted a different colour in the finished boat. Once the first plank is on, the bottom can be fibre glassed.

5/5/2009 Have purchased timber (hoop pine) for the inwales, gunwales and carlins. Also, 65 m2 of double bias, 435 gsm fibre glass cloth, 35m2 of Peel Ply and another 30l of epoxy.

I spotted a 40 channel UHF CB radio on Ebay the other day too - I thought I definitely need that! (I know; it's a bit premature really!).

I have also bought a depth sounder. I'm not the least bit interested in fishing so it just shows depth, which is really important in a shallow river. The unit had to be acquired now, because it has a ‘through the hull' transducer and needs an epoxy lined hole created in the hull before the fibre glass goes on, to ensure that any water seepage doesn't ever come into contact with the plywood.

I cut an oversize hole, rebated the inner and outer edges, and then cast a solid block of epoxy with the correct sized hole in the middle.

That has prompted the thought that the other skin fittings in the hull should be done in the same way. So, another shopping list, this time for water inlet fittings for engine cooling and domestic supply.

Taking a hole saw to my newly finished hull seems almost sacrilegious!

7/5/2009 I have scarfed up the timber for the inwales and marked up the moulds ready to have notches cut out to receive them.

14/05/2009 A frustrating couple of days!

The mould notches are cut and the inwale planks scarfed. OK, just fit the Inwales and life is good? Not quite.

The starboard side plank fitted quite nicely and using ropes and sash cramps, it took up the curve to the stem post and was duly screwed into place. Fine.

Assuming that the port side would just be a rerun of the starboard side, the plank was put in place and bent around to the stem with what turned out to be unwarranted confidence. I should have noticed that I had forgotten to turn the plank end-for-end which would have placed the scarfed joint away from the major stress point. Consequently, as the tension was applied eventually the joint gave way.

Realising my mistake and amid a flurry of short words, I removed the plank and using another length of timber, re-scarfed the two parts ready for the next day.

Now turning the plank end-for-end to apply the bending moment to solid timber, confidence returned and the new plank was installed. It took up the curve very nicely and was duly screwed to the stem. No problem, time for a cup of tea (English heritage showing?) and enjoy the eventual success? Not quite!

Ten minutes later, after the first sip of tea, there was an enormous bang and the plank broke spraying screws and G-cramps in all directions! This is 50x38mm #1 Clear Hoop Pine - it shouldn't do that! Especially since the starboard side plank was still sitting in place seemingly quite content with its bent lot.

Given that the plank was now too short and I didn't have much to lose, I thought I would just try end-for-ending again and see if the new scarf joint was any stronger that the last one - it wasn't! It broke too, so what to do?

Perhaps I should laminate a bent plank out of plywood? No, don'tgive up. Take yet another length of timber, don'tscarf it up, but just see if it will take the bend. I selected another very straight grained piece and although it was too short, just fitted it around the bend to the bow. No problem apparently. It just sat on the curve, was attached to the bow and seemed quite happy.

Time for another cup of tea and watch it for a bit perhaps? Actually, it was time to leave for the weekend, so we'll just leave it under tension and see if the fourth attempt survives until Monday. Note Port and starboard are very confusing terms when a boat is being built upside down - it's all "bass ackwards"!

19/05/2009 The plank survived the weekend, and now both inwales are fitted and glued in place - no breakages yet.............

25/05/2009 Box keel joints filleted and glassed.

This is my first dealings with fibreglass and with a bit of assistance, the box keel joints are now glassed. These joints are essentially only butt joins. Each plane is made up of two layers of plywood stepped into each other, but they really are not very strong compared with the rest of the hull.

Samual Devlin's fine book about building with the Stitch & Glue method recommends that the radius of the fillets on such joints should be about 2.1 times the thickness of the material being joined, which is 18mm in this case. So a 40mm radius fillet of Hi-Strength epoxy was put down both sides of the box keel and covered in 435 gsm Double Bias fibreglass cloth whilst still wet. Peel Ply was then added to produce a smooth finish. The result is excellent. When the entire bottom of the boat is covered in another two layers of 435 gsm cloth, it should be quite strong enough.

The longitudinal join in the panels above the propeller is supported by a special hog attached to the Station Moulds. This was done to ensure the correct curvature was maintained in the tunnel section whilst the sheets were put in place and it was decided to glass that join too because of the stress of the propeller wash lifting the hull and taking the whole weight of the stern along that join.

17/06/2009 The Inwales have been in place for a month now and seem quite happy with the bend applied to them - at least they haven't broken yet, which is reassuring!

With the inwales installed, the plank landings were marked up and an 11 metre batten attached to the marks to allow a template to be made for the first plank.

I decided to have four planks each side, apart from the raised sheer panel, because five would look too "busy" on the stem post and three would make the hull a bit "slab sided" and the curves would be lost or at least made less obvious.

The planks of the hull are 12mm thick and the double skin below the chine is 18mm. Consequently the chine rail needs to be packed up a little to ensure that the timber below the chine aligns with the timber above the chine. This was achieved by gluing a 4mm strip on the chine rail to sit under and lift the edge of the first plank for the full length of the boat. The stem post and transom were similarly adjusted.

Making the planks is an aspect of the job that had been bothering me for some time. How do you handle an 11 metre plywood plank with five scarfs in it, without breaking it and bearing in mind that weighs around 25kg? I had considered webbing straps in the shed roof but given that the plank would undoubtedly have to come on and off the boat several times to achieve a dry fit, it represents a real problem.

The other issue is that scarfing five sheets of plywood together and then cutting a whole plank in one piece wastes a lot of plywood. When a clinker plank is laid out flat is actually "banana" shaped and it is much better from an economy perspective to cut it out in pieces and then scarf them together. However, keeping the sections aligned with the template during this approach turns out to be quite tricky. The only remaining alternative is to scarf each panel at both ends on the bench and actually mount them on the hull for gluing.

The first plank now has four sections all glued up and in place and it looks good. The last section will complete the first plank to the bow and then three more planks will complete the hull to the inwale. Sounds easy if you say it quickly!

23/06/2009 The remaining sections of the first plank have been fitted and glued in place. The packing pieces, mentioned above, used to align the differing thicknesses of the material below and above the chine were spectacularly successful and the plank really does fit very well! I shouldn't sound surprised - it gives the game away!

Today, I have started on the template for the second plank. Now I have a clear idea of how to proceed from my experiences with the first plank, it should take a bit less time too! This is the twelve month anniversary of my lease on the shed and therefore the start of the building process, and eighteen months since I purchased the plans for River Belle. In that time, I was on holiday for one month and sick for another two, which leaves nine months of work at an average of two or perhaps three days per week. I don'tknow whether that's good, bad or average, but I guess in the end, it takes what it takes!

29/06/2009 The template for the second plank is complete, but then I realised that before I can go on, I need to plane the plank landings where the second plank is glued to the first.

The electric planer proved to be too savage for this job, so back to the old fashioned way!! I also need to plane tapered edges up to half the plank thickness on the bottom edge of plank one to allow plank two to end up the same thickness by the time it reaches the stem, properly called a "jerrald".

Although it's not strictly necessary, I also chose to do the same at the transom just for appearances. I'm not sure about all this manual planing though - I'll end up with arms like Popeye!

With all the landings done, the first two sections (starting from the bow this time) are cut out and glued in place. I have had to measure all plank sections from the transom because the stem is out of line by a small amount ( <20mm).

29/07/2009 The second plank is fitted on both sides.

I have refined the job of cutting scarf joints on the bench and then gluing to the hull fairly well now. I use timber support blocks on both sides of the joint and screw it right through. It creates a small area that is flat rather than following the proper curve, but too bad - I can't think of a better way at present.

The last couple of weeks I have been filling gaps and sanding ready for the fibre glass to be applied. The glass will be glued in transverse strips right across the bottom of the hull terminating at the point where the first plank laps the second. This should ensure that the edge is not too obvious.

Sanding has been a bit of a learning curve. I have a random orbital sander, belt sander and a sanding arbour fitted to my variable speed angle grinder. I have ended up using the belt sander with 40 grit belts for most of the work.

The end of the box keel plywood immediately behind the propeller has been "sculpted" with the angle grinder using a 16 grit disc. I'm sure the random orbital will have its day later in the piece!!

5/08/2009 This week has been a fibre glassing spectacular.

I don't know much about fibre glass, so with the help of an expert shipwright, Grant Smith, ‘we' have managed to apply two layers of 435 gsm Double Bias fibre glass and cover the lot with Peel Ply. Actually, Grant laid the fibre glass and I mixed seemingly endless batches of epoxy! We used 65m2 of glass, 30m2 of Peel Ply, 30 litres of epoxy and 100 disposable rubber gloves. Big job!

One of the major decisions taken during the planning of the boat was to set the desired length. I had decided that given that you have to build a bow and a stern regardless of the size of the boat, it might as well be longer rather than shorter because the final length of the "bit in the middle" didn't matter much. Hmm. That was before I had to consider the amount of glass, or the area to be sanded, painted and anti-fouled etc. I wouldn't change anything, but the "bit in the middle" certainly does have an impact after all!

13/08/2009 The glassing is all finished and I have started sanding - I think the boat is getting bigger..............

Actually, the finish Grant has achieved with the peel ply is outstanding. There are a few high spots here and there to be sanded off, but after that, a layer of bog and a Hi-Build undercoat should see it up to the standard I want. I'm not a shiny paint nut, particularly under the waterline, so it only needs to be adequate and functional.

25/08/2009 Planking is proceeding. There are five planks to do and each plank is in five sections. Yesterday I completed plank three, section three, so well over half way! The last plank is actually the raised sheer and so will have to wait for the side deck shelf beams to be installed.

The deck shelf has a curved section in the centre that will need to be cold moulded. In addition, the hull is too near to the concrete floor to allow the deck shelf to be installed easily, so part of the steel of the strong back will need to be removed to make room. The hull is dimensionally stable now, so it's not a problem.

Many months back, there was some "dynamic designing", otherwise known as "Make it up as you go along" happening, and as a result the stem post is too short. A small extension piece of about 200mm has to be laminated and installed so that the deck shelf has somewhere to terminate.

The process of "scarfing on the job" has evolved a bit too. I am still cutting the scarves on both ends of each plank section on the bench before installing them. However, I had been using a single flat piece of timber on each side of the scarf and screwing them right through during gluing. It turns out that that produces a "flat" in the plank at the joint and it is now obvious to the eye. The solution seems to be to support the scarf joint with two, much narrower, pieces of timber during gluing. Each is about 30mm wide and screwed directly over the feather edge of the scarf one at the front and one at the back. This allows the scarf to set at a curve if it needs too. The result is much fairer to the eye and no more difficult to do. Good outcome I think. Too late to fix the ones already done, but too bad...

27/08/2009 Third plank is finished. Actually, whilst I've cut and dry fitted the last section of plank for both sides, I haven't actually glued the port side piece in place. I'm getting so near the floor of the shed that I'm having trouble physically getting inside the hull to mark templates and clean up new sections. I've also had to cut access hatchways in all the station moulds so that I can move around inside the hull, which is a really nice problem to have - I must be getting near the end of the planks.

Two to go! I mentioned a while back that the stem post was re-positioned because of a change of plan for making the bow, which made it too short. During the week I have extended the laminations by about 200mm to reach its proper length. Also, because the sheer clamp is so close to the shed floor, I have had to remove the section of the steel strong back that was in the way. Nice to think that as the hull approaches completion, it is dimensionally stable enough to start taking some of the strongback away.

I have calculated that the hull has used over 1,200Kg of timber, epoxy and fibre glass so far! Turning it over will be very interesting!

1/9/2009 First day of spring in Australia and a good time to finally settle on a name for the boat. Welcome to "Rhapsody in Glue". This name was suggested whilst attending a Wooden Boat Building school quite some years ago and it still makes me laugh because it is oh so true... There are no screws, nails or other fixings holding the final hull together, just glue....

My boat building lecturer's mantra was "Bog (epoxy glue) is your friend". Bog covers every mistake, joint that doesn't fit, in fact all "sins", and once painted, they never happened....... Well, the name seems to have stuck too, so that's a pretty good recommendation. Another mantra worth remembering is "Cumulative errors never self cancel"

23/9/2009 A few days seem to have passed.

The template for plank four has been made and the first two parts of the real plank have been cut and installed. This part of the process is a bit boring and progress seems slow because there are five planks all together and each plank is in five pieces because sheets of ply only come in 2.4m lengths. So, each piece is not only cut to the shape of the template, but then has to have a scarf cut at each end - that's 100 odd scarf joints.

By the time I have finished I'll be getting nearly adequate at cutting them too - maybe.

20/10/2009 There is one more inwale left to be installed, more properly called the Sheer Clamp as it forms the top of the hull and the first part of the support structure for the deck.

I'm using more of the 38x50 hoop pine used for the false sheer, but I have selected the grain rather more carefully this time. I don'twant to go through that circus again! Unfortunately, the plank with the best grain was a bit short, so the scarf join necessary to make it the right length occurred right on the spot with the maximum bend.

Sure enough, same result as before. Some ten minutes after applying the bend to the planks and securing them under tension with sash cramps there was huge "bang" and the scarf joint let go - very frustrating!!

I have re-made the plank and will slot it longitudinally on the band saw for the better part of its length to effectively laminate the plank across the point of maximum bend. We'll see if that fixes it.

The after part of the sheer clamp was fitted today whilst waiting for the glue on the repaired plank to harden. The aft part fitted really well and sat on all the curve points on the Stations without a problem. Looks really good - nice smooth curve tapering in to the Transom.

The sanding of the fibre glassed area is continuing. It's not the most exciting work, but an hour here and an hour there should get it finished eventually. I have started fairing the sanded area with an epoxy mix thickened with fairing powder. I can't get the thickness of application right at the moment, sometimes too thick, sometimes too thin, but I guess practice will make it easier - eventually.

28/10/2009 Have just realised that the after part of the sheer clamp described so glowingly above has been fitted in the wrong place.

To compound the problem, being so sure it was right and removing the "green" or waste timber the planks are now too short to be fitted properly. So, off they come, more scarf joints to extend each plank by 385mm so they can be refitted in the right place.

Have been struggling with the forward part of the sheer clamp, not because it broke - as described above, but the alignment seemed wrong. Although curved in plan view, the planks in profile view should be straight and horizontal - and they're not! After much head scratching, I had to resort to the water level to resolve the problem.

Again, I have bumped into the problem of the floor of the workshop not being flat. Now, because I am working so near the floor, there is not actually enough room to fit the rail. The hull has to be lifted by 30mm or more to give me room to fit the sheer clamp rail.

I propose to put a couple of jack stands under the Transom and simply jack up the bow and space all the Station moulds up on blocks. I hope the hull is strong enough by now to stand this sort of treatment - it should be! And if it's not, then now is perhaps a better time to find out than the first time we run aground!!!

28/10/2009 Refrigerator arrived today. Warning - technical bit:-

There are three types of fridge to consider. The first runs on kerosene. These have been around for a very long time and were quite common in rural areas without mains power. They are very efficient but can be smelly in operation and of course need an appropriate flue arrangement to keep hot toxic fumes out of the boat. Naturally there are all the issues of keeping them alight, yet another fuel to store on board and ultimately still a naked flame burning in a wooden boat. Not ideal!

The second type of fridge runs on gas (LPG). These are quite commonly available though not cheap to buy. More importantly perhaps, they are not too cheap to run either! In hot weather, a gas fridge can cost $10 per week just for gas. Again, there are all the issues of naked flames on board as mentioned above.

The third type is really a version of an ordinary domestic electric fridge designed to run on 12 volts. It is possible to run a normal 240 volt fridge on 12 volts by using an inverter, but every time the compressor starts it draws an enormous surge of current which means that the inverter and battery pack have to be very large. The 12 volt fridges have a special slow start compressor that eliminates the high current surge problem.

Given that all the lighting and other equipment in the boat will be running on 12 volts from a "house" battery separate from the "engine" battery, the 12 volt fridge is a very easy approach. However, it would mean that the engine would need to be run every day to keep the batteries charged just to run the fridge, which is not necessarily desirable!

Back to solar power! In simple terms the fridge draws 6 amps, which is 72 watts. A solar panel to power the fridge would need to generate twice 72 watts, or 144 watts, because the sun only shines half the time (no sun at night:)). Solar panels are often sold in an 80 watt capacity so two of those will do nicely and will fit happily on the main saloon roof. The unused power from the solar panels in the daytime of course has to be stored in batteries to be available for use overnight, so how big do the batteries need to be?

If it is dark for 12 hours, we need to have a battery capacity of at least 6 amps x 12 hours, or 72 amp/hours. The batteries being proposed have a capacity of 250 amp/hours, so no problem.

This approach also means that the "house" battery will be kept charged when the boat is unattended so that power for things like bilge pumps will always be available without the need to plug into shore power. You can even leave the fridge running if you choose!

This is all a bit simplistic and assumes a perfect world with no losses or inefficiencies etc. etc. Also, the consumption of the fridge is not constant; it depends on things like the temperature of the day and how often you open the door!

30/10/2009 Bit the bullet today and lifted the hull by 50mm.

Two hydraulic jacks and some jack stands made it an easy job. I made spacers for the bottom edge of each station mould, and refitted the temporary "legs" on the Transom.

Out with the water level tube again to re-mark and cut all the notches in the moulds for the sheer clamp and surprise, surprise - it fits perfectly and is dead level. The Starboard sheer clamp is now dry fitted ready for gluing.

4/11/2009 Another break in proceedings now to have a cancerous prostate removed - the message - get tested guys - soon and regularly! It's more common than you think (1 in 4) and it will kill you!

17/11/2009 The Starboard sheer clamp is now glued into place and fits very nicely, all square and level.

The stem post is not quite long enough again, even after being extended once. Still, it's only about 20mm short this time, so I've used the leftover epoxy to start building it up. The stem post is a good example of a mistake made 18 months ago that is still coming back to bite me!

The after section of the Port sheer clamp is fitted to the station moulds and glued to the Transom. The forward portion is dry fitted - looks good too! The joint between the forward and aft ends of the sheer clamp log is essentially a scarf which is not straight. It allows for a down angle of about 20° toward the stern. I drew the proposed joint up full size and set the bevel on the timber accordingly. Both sides have fitted beautifully!

Nice when a theory works out in practice - pity it doesn't happen more often.........

20/11/2009 Installation of both sheer clamps now completed. They are actually square and level too - astonishing......

30/11/2009 The solar panel charger controller arrived today. Warning - technical bit:-

Another thing to learn a bit about is Solar Charge Controllers. Firstly, charging a battery properly is a complex process. Different types of battery (Lead Acid, Gel, AGM etc) have to be charged differently and their current state of charge changes the requirements as well e.g. stop charging the battery when it's full! So, one of the major selection criteria for a charge controller is whether it has "intelligent" charging systems.

The very simplest controller provides a single voltage (e.g. 14.4 volts in a 12 volt system). The better units have a four stage charging algorithm which operates on a 28 day cycle. Given that batteries are surprisingly fragile devices, the quality of the "care" provided by the charge controller makes a huge difference to the life of your batteries. A cheap controller may cost a fortune over time.

The other complexity is that as the sun's intensity varies during the day, it is the output voltage of the solar panel that changes rather than the output current, (ignoring load characteristics for the moment). A battery charges best if the voltage stays fairly constant and the current changes, which is about as incompatible as it can be. So, the other requirement for a charge controller is to deal with the varying voltage from the solar panel.

The simplest approach is to simply "lose" any voltage that is higher than that required by the battery and there are several ways to do that. Some methods are efficient, such as Pulse Width Modulation (PWM), and some not. The overall result however, is that some of the power from the panel is simply unused. A more efficient, but rather more complex way of approaching the problem is called Maximum Power Point Tracking (MPPT).

An MPPT controller is essentially a DC to DC converter that takes whatever voltage is coming from the solar panel at any particular instant and converts it to the voltage required by the battery. The big trick is that it doesn't "lose" power in the process (well, not much anyway). Suppose the panel on a cool but sunny day is producing its maximum of 28 volts at 3.5 amps (100 watts) but the battery only requires 14 volts. An MPPT controller will convert the 28 volts at 3.5 amps into 14 volts at 7 amps which is still 100 watts. Power hasn't been created (Newton would be offended), it has just been changed into a form that makes it more usable. Manufacturer's data suggests that an MPPT controller will harvest up to 30% more power from a given panel than an ordinary controller.

So, the best combination is an MPPT controller with a four stage battery management system suited to multiple battery types. There are a number to choose from and although they are considerably more expensive than the simpler units, the energy harvest will be maximised as will battery life.

I purchased a Sunsaver MPPT from MorningStar. .

4/12/2009 The final plank or false sheer plank, like all the others is in five sections because of its length. I have finished the first three sections this week and it's really hard to believe that there are only two sections left to complete the last plank.

All thing being equal, they should be finished next week.

11/12/2009 Eighteen months of work and many thousands of dollars have come together today with the placement of the last piece of hull planking.

23/12/2009 With a bit of help (extra weight in this case) from Moose to bend and attach the laminations that make up the outer stem, the building of the hull is essentially finished today. Well, aside from fairing, painting etc etc - doesn't sound much if you say it quickly! In any case - a very special day!

7/01/2010 After the Christmas distractions we're back into it - the magic "finish it while you're away" fairy hasn't visited, so I guess we just have to press on.

The fibre glass has all been sanded. Not the best of jobs, but Grant made such a good job of putting the glass on it was a lot easier than it might have been. In fact, I realised that you really only need to knock off the high spots as the fairing compound will fill in the rest of the irregularities and fairing compound is much easier to sand than the fibre glass. I was actually doing more than was necessary - hmm....

You don'tactually want to remove the glass anyway - duh ! I have faired the new Outer Stem into shape and it looks really good. It is made of Red Gum which is a very hard timber - should help reduce damage from the inevitable mooring mishaps.

At some point in the re-design process, I inadvertently changed the angle of the stem post, probably to make the planks "sit" better however, that changed the "look" of the bow. I prefer the more old fashioned look of an upright stem and whilst the fairing of the outer stem hasn't entirely fixed it, it does look much better.

The outer stem is 70mm square and I decided to taper the leading edge to reduce the turbulence - actually, I just think it looks better. So, an hour with an angle grinder loaded with a 16 grit disc, made a very presentable tapered stem post called a "cut water" I believe - obvious really......

Another side effect of adding an outer stem is that the boat is "growing" longer - it's now up to 11.18 metres or 36'4". That discovery prompted me to measure the beam and it seems to have grown a bit too; it is now 3.16 metres or 10' 3.5".

I knew that........

15/01/2010 Outer Stem is shaped, sanded and now glassed in to place. A double layer of 435 gsm fibre glass reinforces the whole stem joint from each plank on one side, across the point of the bow to the corresponding plank on the other side. Another strip of glass is glued from top to bottom on the front edge and overlapping at the sides. Once it is painted etc, a 20mm wide strip of stainless steel in a "D" profile should complete the picture.

The ends of the strips of glass were extended up to meet the bottom panel and the shape just allowed the extra bits to sit beautifully like a diagonal bandage across the forefoot (the very bottom of the stem where it joins the bottom panel), which has a couple of layers of glass on it anyway so now it has four more layers; six in all!

Given that the forefoot is usually the part of the boat that strikes the bank first when mooring bow to, it's a great place to have some additional abrasion resistance. "Built like a brick outhouse" comes to mind!

Ricardo attacked the task of applying fairing compound yesterday and managed to complete well over half the boat and made a great job of it. (A bit of experience fairing Gyprock comes in very handy sometimes)!

Fibre glass has also been applied to the joint between the planks on both sides and the Transom today. A 40mm fillet of structural epoxy has also been put around the same joints from inside the boat. Moose suggested this as a prudent step to give extra strength for all around the transom in preparation for the stresses of turning the hull, which is getting nearer all the time.

As part of working inside the hull, I realised that Station 11 was not actually doing anything. A large portion of its top section had been removed sometime back to get access to the tunnel hog and since jacking the hull up by 50mm it really wasn't carrying any weight either; so I decided to take it out! A bit of a milestone really.

Station 11 was the first station lofted, cut out and mounted on the strongback and now it is the first one to be removed. It was installed on 28th July 2008 and removed on 15th January 2010 almost exactly 18 months.

30/01/2010 Part of the rationale for building a 36' boat, which some have considered a bit ambitious, was described earlier. Basically, I decided that if you had to build a stem and a stern, how much ‘middle' you put in the boat didn't matter that much. I have come to rue that statement in the last couple of weeks whilst fairing and sanding the hull ready for painting. The overall length may not make that much difference to the final materials cost perhaps, but it makes a monumental difference to the amount of work involved!

The boat seems to get longer and longer and each sheet of sandpaper smaller and smaller. The area to be sanded seems to go on for ever! For every ding, gap, or blob in the surface that you fill and sand off, at least two more seem to appear.

It is a very frustrating part of the process. You start off with plywood sheets that are delivered already sanded satin smooth. You build the boat and all the joints and screw and nail holes all stick up or stick down or both. Your once nice smooth plywood now has to be filled and the sanded again. You cover the now smooth again plywood with fibre glass and even using Peel Ply, the surface is covered with the weave of the fibre glass, thick and thin patches of epoxy, drips, missed bits and all manner of irregularities.

Then cover even the still smooth bits with fairing compound and sand the whole bloody thing again and again and...... Does anyone want to buy an almost finished hull??????

Actually, the bottom is finished now and most of the forward part of the fibre glassed area too. The clinker planks are all patched and sanded around the scarf joints and screw holes so are pretty much ready to go as well.

The area around the propeller has required a lot of fairing to ensure that the water flow is smooth and that is all finished too. So actually, there is not that much left to do, but it's very "character building" shall we say....

16/02/2010 Another round of patching and sanding for the planks and scarf joints and some more work on high and low spots in the fibre glass and the fairing is finished. Some of the underwater area is still not good enough for a "mirror" finish, but I decided that if the fish want it any better they can do it themselves! In any case it will be painted with anti-fouling using a roller, so any better finish would be wasted.

I painted the clinker planks (all the non-fibre glass area) with timber preservative today. It is a really low viscosity two pack epoxy mix that soaks deep into the plywood, particularly important for the remaining exposed end grain areas, to make a waterproof barrier. In an ideal world the plywood should never actually get wet - yeah, right..... Anyway, after two coats it's not soaking in anymore, so that must be good.

Today was a good day for painting as it was relatively cool, about 25°C. The forecast for the remainder of the week is ramping up to 37°C by Wednesday and staying there for the following few days. The paint would be dry before you got it onto the timber and the pot life would be down to minutes.....

26/02/10 Another momentous day. The first coat of paint went on today.

I'm using a Hi-Build two pack epoxy primer and it was great fun to watch all my carpentry sins disappear for ever. All the filled screw holes and scarf joints, pencil construction lines, potential layout diagrams, names and phone numbers: all gone for good.

Now it's all one colour it seems bigger. It seems complete. It actually looks like a real boat now except that it's still upside down now, but soon.....

3/03/2010 After sanding all over with 100 grit discs, and filling a few dings, put a second coat of undercoat on today. I have now used 22 litres of undercoat.

5/03/2010 The big day - Sunny Side Up day!

I worked out that having removed every second station mould except at the bow the hull now weighs about 1500Kg. However, using four lifting blocks and two 3 tonne webbing straps, we were able to lift it quite easily, simply using the roof beams of the workshop.

Lifting one side to an almost vertical position was no problem at all, giving an opportunity to clean the mass of debris from underneath. We had to remove the tubes from one of the overhead lights just to clear the beam of the hull whilst standing upright, which means that we had about 50mm to spare under the roof. No problem - we knew that!

After gently resting the hull on its side, the webbing straps were repositioned and the turn over completed with absolutely no drama. A very gentle and controlled event with no sudden moves or surprises; just as the shipwright said it would be. Thanks Moose!

Using a couple of carpet covered railway sleepers of different thicknesses to account for the slope of the bottom of the hull, we were delighted to finally see the hull standing flat, square and level.

What a sight!

After six years dreaming, nearly two years work and a significant pile of dollars, it's very, very satisfying.

Now for the inside............