Boatbuilding Blog

January 5, 2009

Another Thrilling Saturday Night

Filed under: Building - Cabin — tomlarkin @ 1:18 am

The sad thing is, I can't think of anything I'd rather be doing on a Saturday night.

November 29, 2008

Cabin Progress

Filed under: Building - Cabin — tomlarkin @ 7:04 am

Despite breaking a couple of ribs (I tripped while taking out the trash!) and the distractions of Thanksgiving and Halloween, the cabin exterior is progressing pretty well. I’m trying to finish the pilothouse top trim and the sliding door frames.  I’ve been too sore for a couple of weeks to do any productive work, and it’s driving me crazy.

Pilothouse top trim. The athwartship piece in the foreground is for mounting equipment in the future. I have an urge to install an emergency-style light bar up there. I’m not really sure why though. 🙂

Pilothouse top trim

Here’s a mocked-up sliding door in the closed position.  When the door is open, the window in the door should line up exactly with the cabin window. I’m going to order the windows soon, from Diamond Sea-Glaze. I’m concerned that the window trim for the 2 windows might interfere with each other so I want the windows in hand before constructing the doors or installing the sliding track.


The cabin is mostly glassed and faired. I’ve sanded the hull one more time since I took this picture.  It’s approaching the primer stage.  The dark lines around each joint inside the cabin roof are from thickened epoxy applied with a caulking gun and smoothed with my finger. It’s a really nice way to make a very smooth, even fillet. Fisheries Supply sells empty caulking tubes.

Pilothouse and hull

Current launch date estimate: July 4 2009 – a year beyond my initial estimate, and 2 1/2 years total construction time.  I just looked at my first blog entry, and it’s been exactly 2 years since I started building the boat shed, and just under a year since I flipped the hull and started the interior construction.

September 4, 2008

Photo Essay – Installing the plywood cabin top trim

Filed under: Building - Cabin — tomlarkin @ 10:12 am

(Or – why boatbuilding takes a long time :-))

For the last few days I’ve been adding the trim pieces to the rear cabin top. These act as reinforcements and rain gutters. All of Sam’s roofs have them. This is a short essay describing how they got installed and finished.  Here’s the cabin top before this work started:

Before the trim pieces

First, I cut out the parts out of half-inch plywood, and radiused the edges with a plane and sander. Then I epoxied and screwed them into place onto the cabin top. After the epoxy hardened a bit I smoothed a thickened epoxy fillet along all the edges so the pieces make a smooth transition to the roof. I let the epoxy cure for a couple of days, then rounded the outside edges with a power plane and a random-orbital sander, finishing with a longboard to keep the lines straight. Small sanders tend to make a wavy edge.

Here it’s all sanded, ready for glassing. Note how solid this is – with the trim piece, this is 1 1/2 inches of solid marine plywood:

Sanded and ready for glass

I draped the glass cloth over the top and smoothed it out:

Dry glass cloth ready for epoxy

Then I wetted out the cloth by pouring a quart of epoxy on top and spreading it around with a plastic spreader, rolled it smooth, and squeegeed the surface to remove any raised areas or bumps. I made sure to add wet epoxy to the edges because the plywood edge-grain really absorbs a lot of epoxy.  I let it cure for a few hours:

Epoxy & glass curing

I trimmed the glass off the bottom edge with a razor knife and rolled on a layer of gray-tinted epoxy. This is to start filling the weave of the cloth:

First filler coat

After the first filler coat set up I rolled on another. The glass weave is mostly filled now, so I can sand it later and not sand into the cloth.

Second filler coat

Now I will leave it alone for a few days to cure. Then I’ll sand the whole surface, fill any indents with fairing compound, sand the fairing compound, and coat it with epoxy again. When the whole cabin is done, the epoxy gets sanded one last time, and the surface gets a couple of coats of epoxy primer. When this is sanded smooth, I’ll apply the finish paint. Then I can install the handrails that mount along the edge of the roof.

These steps have to happen to almost every part that makes up the boat. It takes a long time!

August 25, 2008

Cabin Tops

Filed under: Building - Cabin, Uncategorized — tomlarkin @ 12:21 pm

I laminated on the aft cabin top this weekend – the pilothouse roof went on last weekend.  These were the last major structural parts to install – the form of the boat is complete!

I mounted the first piece temporarily, traced the contact outlines, and raised half at a time to paint thick epoxy on both surfaces. This way I didn’t have to worry about lining everything up again with wet epoxy all over the place. I finished this side, screwed it down, and then did the same on the other side.  After the second layer was laminated on I fastened it down with screws every 10 inches or so. The top layer encapsulated all the screw heads.

Pilothouse roof

Gluing the top 

 Port side

A couple hundred pounds of dirt provided the clamping pressure. There’s a temporary beam underneath to keep the surface from bowing down. I’m working on a design for a dinghy/bicycle/handrail rack, so I tried out my bike for size. Looks like it will work OK. We like the idea of showing up in Leschi or Olympia and riding around town.

Organic clamps 
  Test-fit bicycle

The aft roof has four layers of 1/4 inch plywood. Devlin suggested the additional layer if we plan on walking on the roof occasionally. Also, this roof has no supporting beams. The hole in the back of the cabin is for a Lewmar Ocean hatch. There’s also a small hatch on the pilothouse top, to act as a wind scoop.

Now I need to get the outside finished and painted before the weather gets too cold (the gray hull is just tinted epoxy). I’ll spend the winter finishing the interior and installing the electrical, plumbing, electronics, and steering systems.

August 11, 2008

Windows and Doors and Cabin Tops!

Filed under: Building - Cabin — tomlarkin @ 11:36 am

A long, busy weekend. I took Friday off and got a lot done.

I marked and cut the windows and doors. Here’s the last window ready to be cut out. Note the notches for the cabin top beams. I mounted the heater to confirm the fit, and that I can see the flame while lying in bed.

Cutting out the windows    Propane heater

Friday night I pre-coated the underside of the first layer of the top, so I won’t have to do that work overhead. It rained lightly overnight, and the uncured epoxy got all bumpy and gooey. I asked the WoodenBoat guys what to do, with mixed reaction. Most said wait and see, which I’ve done, and it’s starting to set up now. I was hoping to attach the piece this weekend, but in the meanwhile, it’s on top, held on with screws. I still need to remove it and sand and recoat before attaching it for good.

The tops are made of 1/4 inch Okoume, in 5 x 10 foot sheets. Five feet is wide enough that I could make each layer as a single piece. I didn’t need to splice or join anything.

After cutting out the windows, there didn’t seem to be much structure forward, so I added a layer of biax and 6 oz cloth inside and out to all the uprights. I glued in the roof beams and temporarily added the first layer of the cabin top.  It finally looks like a boat!

Port, facing forward   Starboard, facing aft   Sunset through the new windows  Night shot

Aft Cabin

This afternoon I started the aft cabin top by laminating a lip to the bottom of the rear of the pilothouse. This will be the forward support for the aft cabin roof. I cut all four layers of plywood for the top, and pre-coated the first one like the pilothouse top. I think I’ll store it inside tonight, just in case  ;-).  This top won’t have beams because I think we’ll whack our heads on them, so it will be made of four layers of 1/4 inch ply instead of three like the pilothouse top.  I’ll add some temporary beams to laminate on top of.

Laminating the support lip   View from the stern

So, next step is to finish the tops, and complete the exterior glassing. I want to do this while the weather holds so I can paint the exterior. I’ll spend the rainy fall and winter finishing the interior.

October 2, 2007


Filed under: Building - Before Flipping, Building - Cabin, Building - Interior — tomlarkin @ 1:37 pm

We flipped her over yesterday. With the great help of two friends – Jim and Eric, we got the task done in just a few hours. Not even any injuries!

There were some challenges – mostly that the tent it’s in is only three feet wider than the boat and only 18 inches higher than the beam of the boat. And the tent frame is too fragile to fasten anything to for lifting. So what we did was to spin it more-or-less in place, using ropes and come-alongs.


Here’s a sequence showing the whole process.

(Link to full-size images, hosted on Microsoft SkyDrive.)

Saturday morning I raised the stern with a hydraulic jack, set it on sawhorses, and dismantled the strongback. The bow is resting on the stem piece.


Then I swept and vacuumed below.  I built a sled from a sheet of plywood with steel eyes to hook 2 come-alongs to.


Then I slowly lowered the stern to the deck. I jacked up one side of the boat so most of the weight was on the sled.  Meanwhile, I ran four lines (2 on each side) from the internal bracing around the boat and through holes punched in the tent walls to solid points on either side. The South side mounted to the house, and the North side went to a canoe rack I’d installed a couple of years ago.  I replaced one of the South lines with a webbing-style come-along because I knew that would be the line that needed most of the lifting force. You can see the lines below.


Early Sunday afternoon the guys showed up and we jacked the North side up bit by bit until all the weight was on the sled. We took up the slack on the South side lines and removed the supports and the boat stayed up like we hoped it would.


More lifting. You can see the temporary diagonal braces bolted to the bulkheads. At this point we couldn’t raise any more because the side of the boat hit the tent poles on the South side. So we slid the bottom corner of the boat North using the come-alongs hooked to the sled.


More sliding. We’re approaching the point where she will want to fall to the left instead of the right, so we tightened up the North side lines.


I’m testing the line as the others stand wisely out of the way in  case she slides or falls.


Adjusting the blocks on the sled.  She was pretty stable in this position with all four lines tight. As far as I could tell she didn’t flex at all while we did the turning.


A little further…


Once she was fairly stable on her side we moved her over on the sled by rocking her forward and aft until she was in the right spot.


Jim and Eric lowered her down by letting out the lines a little, one at a time. Each line went through a pulley to a cleat, so they had pretty good control all the time. 


Moving the sled over to keep her centered in the tent.


Almost down! You can see Jim on the right letting the line out while Eric and I steady.


She’s upright! I’ve never had such a complicated series of tasks work so well, with few unforeseen problems. A lot of that is due to the thought and safety-consciousness of the guys helping.


After flipping, we had a great meal made by Meryll, drank lots of beer, and sat around for a while. Jim had to leave, so Eric and I spent a while leveling her with jack stands and various blocks.  Then we drank some more beer!

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