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Planking the Merlin Yawl – another day apprenticing at CBMM

Merlin Yawl with a couple planks Last Sunday I got out to the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum again for another Apprentice for a Day outing. Planking was the order of the day, as the lovely Merlin Yawl gets her skin.

I arrived to find the garboard planks glued in place and the starboard first broad strake glued and clamped in. I was pleased to hear that the garboards went on well against my planed keelson, with a minimum of filler goop required (and those spots weren’t mine; that’s my story, and I’m sticking to it!).

First broad strake The first task was the port-side first broad strake. The prior day’s crew had marked it out, but we started by cutting it (yours truly on the jig saw) and then trimmed it off with hand planes. Happily, my cutting was fairly solid and we had light work here.

The test fit proved fairly successful. Some judicious clamping, pushing, and well-aimed mallet blows, and we liked the look of her. Off came the plank, on went the epoxy, and – boom – both first broads were on.

Picking up marks for second broad strake By this time, the starboard first broad strake had completed its clamp regimen and we could turn to the second broad strake on that side. First we fit a batten along the marks for the next plank, with the batten inside the marks. We then cut up scrap planks to lay between the batten and the first broad strake, joining them with butt-blocks and hot-glue. We then glued on scraps that pointed to either or both the batten edge or a line 3/4″ inside the first broad strake representing the overlap of the second broad strake. By moving this template to the plank stock and connecting the tips of the pointer pieces with a batten, we got the plank outline on the plank stock.

Scarfing plywood From here, the team split tacks. While some worked on cutting and planing this new plank, I took on preparing more plank stock. And that meant scarfing plywood, something I had not done before. Me and a nice, long plane got to it. It is a little tough to tell from the picture, but the sheets are at a bit of an angle to each other to account for the sweep of the planks. Additional scarfs will continue this sweep; hopefully they’ll get a couple planks out of the completed stock piece (the sheets are fairly narrow).

Gain for lap at stem Finally, to finish this productive day, I went back to the boat and did one bit of final prep for the starboard second broad strake: cutting the gain in the first broad strake at the stem. While a saw cut helped set a nice edge, this was mostly work with a chisel and, for my first time, a rabbet plane. It came out pretty well, I think.

So, another great day as an apprentice. I definitely learned some useful tricks and got practice in areas I hadn’t touched yet. This boat is going to be great and I am eager to see her afloat. Now I have to negotiate for another day or two out there… At very least, she launches on June 8th and I am hoping it will be a fun family outing.

Rollin’, rollin’, rollin’, plane those rolling bevels…

You Editor-in-chief here at Chine bLog spent the day over at the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum‘s Apprentice for a Day program again today, and, as always, I had a great time. In my haste to get to making sawdust and shavings, I didn’t catch the name of the design [Editor's note added after publication: it is called "Merlin Yawl" and was designed by Kees Prins and Bill Bronaugh] for the boat the program is working on this year, but, unlike most of the others, this is a new design, not a traditional Chesapeake boat with traditional construction. This boat does, however, have a traditional style, but it will be done using lapstrake plywood construction. Today’s focus was the backbone.

Let’s look at the design. She is a bit whale-boatish in appearance, roughly 17′ LOA and 7′ abeam. She is called a yawl and has yawl proportions, but, as is generally the case in small, open boats, she is technically a ketch (mizzen forward of the rudderpost).

17' yawl - lines

Looking at the lines, you can see she’s pretty. Even if she was drawn in 2013, she would look at home a century or more earlier. We here at Chine bLog are generally fans of her basic look: double-ender, plumb stem with a nice round in the forefoot, and somewhat raking sternpost.

17' yawl - sail plan

When I entered the now familiar building shed, I found the strongback and molds set-up with the keelson laid down and attached to the inner sternpost. One guy was shaping the inner stem. Keelson, showing rolling bevel My job was to finish shaping the keelson, then two layers of 5/8″ (I think) angelique plywood [Editor's note: our bad - it is okume] laminated together and cut to shape in plan view. One guy had started to plane the bevels in, and I took over the task today. If you look at the lines, you can see there is a bunch of twist in the garboard at either end, and I had to get the keelson beveled to receive that twisted plank. This is to say, I had to plane in a pretty crazy rolling bevel along the length of the board. You can get some sense of the job from the results pictured here.

We also got the inner stem in (that’s program manager Jenn Kuhn checking it out) and, ultimately, glued it and bolted it to the keelson.
Keelson and inner stem - before

I did the shaping of the keelson from this fitting (at left) to the roughly finished result below. I am fairly happy with the results.

Keelson and inner stem - after

With that done for now, the last prep was cutting the slot for the centerboard. My handiwork here too.

Centerboard slot

Another guy spent much of the day doing calculations to line off the planking. They will be carrying on with that tomorrow, and I am sorry to miss the task. I got a bit of a flavor of it and picked up some tips. #1 – don’t forget to calculate in the rubrail! They’ll have to backtrack a bit on that tomorrow. I would surely have missed that and ended up with a puny sheer plank.

Battens for lining off

I tried some new things, learned some good lessons, and had a great time. I can’t wait for round two in two weeks, when planking will be the order of the day! Stay tuned for more on this lovely boat.

A quick musing on epoxy use – or overuse – in wooden boat building

The most recent issue of WoodenBoat includes part I of a three-part “how to build” piece on the Phoenix III, a cute sprit-rigged day-sailer from the desk and shop of Aussie Ross Lillistone’s Bayside Wooden Boats. As is generally the case with these pieces in WoodenBoat, the boat is pretty and fun-looking, the article clear and interesting, and the detail on target for the need. Mr. Lillistone clearly has a nice eye as a designer and we are sure he is a great boatbuilder. We don’t want to impugn the big-picture here at all; again, we really like the looks of the boat.

One bit in the article really bugged us, though, and we are interested in others’ opinions. In writing about setting up the transom, Mr. Lillistone writes:

The transom edge, like the bulkheads, is simply cut square, relieving the builder of the tricky process of cutting compound bevels on its edges. The planking will contact only the outer corner of the transom. This is no cause for worry, since the gap will be filled with thickened epoxy when the hull is being planked. After the planking is completed and the hull turned upright, this joint will be further reinforced with a large radius epoxy fillet and double-bias ‘glass tape, making it exceptionally strong.

We would fully expect the method described to do the job, but does it strike anyone else as crossing a line from being accessible to being sloppy and leaning on a crutch? We here at Chine bLog are all about getting as many fine boats like the Phoenix III built as possible and that clearly means knocking down barriers to entry. Epoxy and ‘glass methods like stitch-and-glue, lapstrake-plywood, and the like are valuable ways to do this. We find ourselves getting ruffled, though, when we are leaning on epoxy so much that joinery is getting tossed out wholesale. Yes, the bevels present some extra work, but it’s hardly the trickiest task one faces. We would be curious to hear what you, our readers, think of this. Is there a line of artistry the we should try to hold or have we gotten curmudgeonly here?

Gap filled – Chapelle’s “American Small Sailing Craft” now resides at Chine bLog HQ

American Small Sailing Craft
It was shameful. Howard Chapelle’s classic treatise on American traditional boats, “American Small Sailing Craft: Their Design, Development and Construction,” did not exist in our bookshelf here at Chine bLog headquarters. Until a week ago, that is, when Mr. & Mrs. Chine bLog Senior filled this gaping hole. Merry Christmas to Chine bLog!

We have started reading it already. It already seems like it is going to provide so much information that we’ll be even more embarrassed by its absence a month from now. Oh well, at least it is here now.

The Crotch Island Pinky needs – and gets – its own post

On our prior post regarding the Chewonki Institute’s Solar Sail program, our friend Ben Harris was kind enough to provide some great commentary and point out his favorite Chewonki boat, the Crotch Island Pinky. We are posting the photo Ben linked to, the source of which is the Scholarshipwrights of Rockland, which seems to be Lance Lee’s latest incarnation of / successor to / parent organization of the Apprentice Shops he launched over the years. I hope everyone is happy for us to better share this boat, as she is a beauty.

Crotch Island Pinky

This is a classic Maine fishing craft for sure, so I expect Ben’s description of her, “she was… nimbler to weather, dry, and easy to handle,” stems from some ample development in practice over the years. Thanks for sharing, Ben!

Great-sounding trip for teens – Chewonki’s Solar Sail

Chewonki Solar Sail boatThe other evening, the editorial staff here at Chine bLog got flipping through one of the kids’ copies of Ranger Rick magazine, the venerable publication from the National Wildlife Federation. Usually the magazine is a source for pre-teen wildlife education, but this one issue actually contained Chine bLog fodder: a picture of a gorgeous, traditional open boat with a gaff-headed ketch rig. The article discussed a program called Solar Sail, a Maine coastal adventure for teenagers. We had to dive in to this story.

The boat is part of the fleet owned by Chewonki, a one-time summer camp in Wiscasset, ME that has grown into a broader environmental education organization. We know of it first because we spent a week there in fifth grade and secondly because it is just up-river from a former Chine bLog family property. The area is all kinds of mid-Maine gorgeous and the organization well-regarded.


View Larger Map

The Solar Sail trip is for girls and boys ages 13-16. It begins with land-based education on sustainability, but then takes to the water in one of these lovely boats for a multi-day camp-cruise from Montsweag Bay to Mount Desert. Obviously the trip is fully “naturally” powered – sail and oar to move the boat and solar for the safety electronics.

We couldn’t find much about the boat itself beyond the pictures. It looks to be about 30′LOA, double-ended, and fully open. She appears to be wooden and has attractive, rough-hewn spars. The rigging looks traditional and relatively simple. I love the plumb stem and raked stern post. Can we convince the kids to join up in a couple years?!

Fun chance meeting with photographer Ellen Tynan

Last weekend we were out for a hikelet along the Potomac river and happened upon a woman enjoying the view of the marsh. We got talking and she mentioned, in particular, my Wooden Boat hat. She then revealed that she was a photographer who specialized in classic and traditional boats, and she noted she had been published in the magazine. Her name is Ellen Tynan and, on review, I am sure I have seen her work (also on Flickr).

She is hoping to publish a book in the not-too-distant future: “Boat Lines.” It will compile her photos of traditional boats from six regions of the world: Maori New Zealand, Ireland, Alaska and British Columbia, Peru, Indonesia, and Egypt. Good sampling, there, eh?

I’d suggest browsing through her work and getting a sneak peak at what might be in the book. A quick selection of works that jumped out at us, here at Chine bLog, includes (will open in new tabs/windows):

There are many more great ones. It would be well worth your time to browse them all on your own. Keep an eye out for this great sounding book.

Learning to plank – a great time as a CBMM Apprentice for a Day

It happens all too rarely, but I was able to cash in a Christmas gift and spend another great day with Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum‘s Apprentice for a Day program. The current boat is an enhanced reproduction (a reproduction with some more modern updates incorporated) of GHOST, a deadrise bateau from about 1920. GHOST, a deadrise bateau GHOST's transomShe is a longtime fixture in the museum’s collection but has not, as I understand it, seen the water in that time. Little is known, therefore, about her performance. She is just shy of 16′ LOA with a beam shy of 6′. In her day she carried a sprit rig with 146 square feet of sail.

I found her reincarnation with two rough side planks clamped on to molds and an oak stem. Her chine logs and transom were in place – check out that upsweep in the chines and the laminated keel – as were the initial stab at that most curious of Chesapeake boatbuilding creations, the chunk bow.transom and aft end of chine log Chunk bow Rather than planking the forward portion of the bottom, where planks could get twisted and tricky, the builders took a page from the dugout-builders of yore and carved pieces from solid stock. Arduous, but it did the trick.

Our first task was to fit the bottom-most port side plank (the bottom will be diagonally planked).
Continue reading Learning to plank – a great time as a CBMM Apprentice for a Day »

Possible faering kit from Chesapeake Light Craft – do it!

CLC Faering Gunter Sloop RigChesapeake Light Craft’s John Harris had a great blog post a bit back on two faering designs he developed. The post gives a good overview of these lovely Scandinavian working boats, but the thrust of the piece is that John designed his own faering for stitch-and-glue construction.

At the moment, plans to make a fully-fledged kit for this boat are in limbo, but here’s hoping CLC goes forward with it. While their current fleet does have a nice traditional feel, notably, in this case, the existing Iain Oughtred-ish Skerry, this faering design extends the offerings to include a more interesting, “exotic,” traditional boat. That, in turn, introduces kit builders to designs beyond the more established set. Understand I have absolutely nothing against dories, skiffs, and prams – I just want a wider interest in all the other kinds of craft the world has to offer, and kits like CLC’s are a great avenue for achieving that end.

I was even more intrigued by the second boat Harris introduces, a scaled up version based on a Scandinavian craft called a fembøring. This craft includes a small, aft cabin. Harris’s boat includes such a cabin as well as a sliding seat, a lug rig, and a self-draining cockpit. An exceptional pocket cruiser / camp-cruiser, in other words. This one is unlikely to make it to kit form, though I believe I read Harris correctly that plans could be available. It’s a pretty cool-looking boat.

Achingly beautiful cutter and more Friendship Sloops

Double-down on Friendship Sloops – with which we have no problem – because Great Harbor Boatworks posted a nice set from the Southwest Harbor Friendship Sloop Race on its Facebook page (thanks to Thomas Armstrong of 70.8% for the share). The lead-off boat in the photo album is the one below, which is a cutter we believe named RESOLUTE. She is so beautiful it hurts.

Cutter RESOLUTE