Sunday, April 28, 2013

She sails

Today I took WHISP out to the lake and tested her sailing rig.  She sails.  Success and surprise.  The surprise is that she sails without the use of any added underwater parts (centerboard or rudder) and that she even sails to windward this way.

At first I was using the oars for steering, that was awkward but somewhat affective.  While going forward to take up on the snotter for the sprit yard I noticed that my body weight moving affected the track of the boat.  I had the mainsheet made fast to the cleat and moving forward caused the boat to head up into the wind.  Moving aft caused it to fall off.  I also noticed that leaning to leeward could add to the affect of heading up and leaning to windward caused us to fall off the wind.

I also think that the external chine has a large affect on reducing the boats leeway.

I was able to tack the boat thru the wind twice, simply by moving all the way forward and to leeward until the boat came about, then moving back aft as the sail filled on the opposite tack.  I was really amazed.  I did miss a tack completely once, but used the oars, which were at the ready, to easily move the boat around.

The nicest thing about this is the freedom of clutter in the boat and the simplicity.  No center/dagger board, or leeboard to deal with.  No tiller.  I was able to lie prone with my head on a boat cushion and the mainsheet in my hand and by simply moving my feet from one side of the boat to the other and leaning my body a tiny bit, was able to steer a coarse.  Another thing is I had no worries about catching the under body on a rock.

I hope to post some pics or vids of the boat underway in the next week.

I think I will build a rudder for the boat in case of being out in stronger winds and needing to use my body weight more robustly.  I may also try a leeboard as well.  I can always not use them if I find I don't need them.

I am very happy that the sail worked out.  The shape of it was pretty good for making it out of a reclaimed old jib from my 27 footer.  The sprit rig seemed much simpler to use than the lug rig I had used on a dink I had set up a year or so ago.

It is nice to be sailing in one of my own boats once again.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Project Completed, "Tartlet", the Sam Pram single sheet plywood boat and custom oars!

A bit of chill in the air but otherwise a sunny, beautiful sunday morning.  The dog and I took the little boat and it's newly made oars across the way and down to the pond to give it the official trial and launching.  It works, and even better, it works well.  The oars turned out to be just right.  My "thole pins"  work to, though not as well as I would like, but I have ideas of how to make them even better.

I am surprised by how well the little boat tracks with such a short water line.  My fiberglass dinghy that has been the tender for the Bristol has always made me very happy and comfortable with it's rowing characteristics, even when going out in 30 knot plus, 5 foot short cycle waves, when all the inflatables were left tied to the dock.  It tracked well but was agile.  This little boat feels similar, but to a lesser degree.  That makes it comfortable to me and a boat that comforts me is a good boat.

The elevated floors and seating proved itself today when I picked up some wet trash from the pond (why do litterbugs always have such bad taste in beer?).  The bottom of the boat ended up with about 3/4 of an inch of water but I stayed very dry.  I gotta remember to keep a sponge on board.

I was also surprised at how easy it is to carry this boat.  The oars tie down to the floors and the whole thing is carried like a turtle shell, using the braces for handles and the oars rest pleasantly against my back.  I was worried that they might be a bit heavy but they were no problem.

While sitting and looking at the boat I had the epiphany I had been waiting for about the updated and "yacht tender" version of this boat.  It would be a simple thing to come up with if I were to give up my "one sheet of plywood" requirement, but where is the fun in that?  Lots of boats have been drawn that will serve as a small tender, but not many are made so conservatively.  Anyway, I think I know what to draw for the next version, though it may not be a pram as much as a pointy bowed skiff. I do like the utility of a pram bow over the pointy end which has less useable interior space.  At this scale, every inch counts, literally.

Now is the time to set aside the boat building and get on with the boat using.  So much the better because for me building boats is a necessary evil, first to get me thru the winter, secondly to get me a boat that I might not otherwise be able to afford, and thirdly, it gets me messing about in boats, but the best thing is just to be out on the water in boats.

"Tartlet", the Sam Pram, one sheet plywood boat with custom oars.
Project completed April 21, 2013. (begun Jan. 10, 2013)

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Leathered and Laced.

Stitching on the leathers on a Friday evening after dinner was a pleasant way to spend some quite time.
leathers laced on.  Note the extra lace
left on until they settle in for a time, in case they need to be tightened.
 I cut 2- 6" by 5" pieces of leather from a big piece (like an entire hide) I bought years ago when I found a good buy on it at some shop, for just such purposes.  I wet them down and then temporarily attached them to the oars with plastic tie wraps so that I could do the final trim marking, making sure to mark the orientation and which oar they were intended for.  I marked them on the inside with ink pen.

I used tarred marlin doubled for the stitching, pre-drilling holes every half inch on each side.  I tried to keep as most of the lacing under the leather to protect it from chafe.  I guess I ended up with half under, half out.
I had to re lace the first one to make it match the 2nd and the better pattern.
 It took me about of week to get these done.  Not very long and much less in actual time spent working on them.  But the time was enjoyable.  Shaping the oars was a lot of fun.  Now having custom made oars that just fit their purpose is very rewarding.  I am especially happy about them having paint that matches the boat they are for, that they are made from reclaimed wood, shop scrap, limited power tools (I used the table saw to rip the lengths of wood, and the belt sander for a few short moments before the belt broke, took that for a sign!) and mostly they were shaped by planes and a spokeshave.  The dimensions are all my own on research I did by looking thru every book I owned and magazines and the internet.
custom made oars, finished.
Over all, a fun project that has removed my fear or doubts about my ability for success.  I am more inclined to build a set for the skiff now and a sculling oar for the Bristol and..............!

Thursday, April 18, 2013


The varnish came in at the hardware store, so brusha, brusha brusha!
first coat of varnish.
The spars for the skiff are in the background and get another
coat of varnish while I am at it.
 As I was varnishing the oars I noticed that there was something different about them, or the way I felt about them than how I felt about the boat.  I think it has something to do with the fact that I had to find the shape of the oars within the larger block of wood, be it a few pieces laminated together.
sculpted ridge on oar blade
 The shape was less determined by the predetermined characteristics of the plywood that I used for the boats hull.  I also got a lot of satisfaction at having to not only carve out the proper shape of an oar, but having to match it on both oars.  Not at all a perfect match, but close enough I think.
the dark hardwood tip looks nice on the end
Using the blades, the plane and spokeshave, and using the sand paper to do this shaping takes a bit of time, but it is time well spent and the piles of shavings that accumulated on the shop floor added to the sense of accomplishment.  As the pile got deeper the shape of the oars became clearer.
I prefer working with wood over fiberglass to an immeasurable degree, but I think I might prefer to work with solid wood over plywood to a great degree as well.  Makes me want to build a boat from solid wood.

Monday, April 15, 2013


I think I have shaped them enough.  So now I have put on a bit of paint to help them match the pram and when I get some more varnish I can do that.  They feel pretty strong and pretty light weight.  Once they are varnished I am done with the pram and can get to regular use of it.
Painted but not varnished.  I am thinking of putting
the name of the boat on the square part of the loom.
Shaping by eye and planes and spoke shave takes a bit of time and there were some compromises that were made from taking a bit too much here or there, but overall I am pretty happy with these.  I did use the belt sander on the blades for a moment until the sand paper belt tore thru.  Took it for a sign and sat in the sun with a wood block and 80 grit paper to finish that shaping.

Sunday, April 14, 2013


All the glueing up is done.  

 Trying to figure out the final shape had me looking at picture after picture of different oars.  With a basic idea of what I wanted I started drawing in lines for dimensioning and then planning down to those lines.
Keeping the oars right next to each other helped me make sure
that I shaped them the same.

the basic shape.

planning the blades flat.

Square looms help to offset the weight of the blade.

Looks like a big wooden screwdriver.

Keeping the handles thin for an easy grip.

Just a bit of tapering of the shaft, then on to thinning down the blades.

Friday, April 12, 2013


Today I found a piece of mahogany, I think, that will make a nice blade end for the oars.  It will contrast the color of the rest of the blade and deal with the abuse the end of the oar usually gets.  The wood is scrap from a friend who was cleaning out his garage last year.
hardwood blade tip for protection
I was doing research on the shape of the oars, after I already decided on the shape and glued up the first oar.  I found some great ideas on laminating contrasting colored woods and realized I have some cedar that would have been great, had I thought of it earlier.  Maybe next time.
I knew that 6 foot long clamp would come
in handy for something!
 I was going to try and clamp on the end piece with some line run around the length of the blade, so I would have to glue up the piece before I cut the shape out, but then I realized that I have this really long and awkward furniture clamp, 6 feet long.  I had wondered if I should cut down the pipe to a reasonable size, now I am glad that I didn't.  It just fits the entire length of the oar.
Initial planing of the shaft to match the blade has started.
On the first side, I used a saw to cut the shaft flat to match the blade and although it was quicker it wasn't as nice a finish and on the second side just used the planes and spoke shave.  It takes longer but it gives me time to look at the piece while I am working and finalize the shape I want it to be.

I will have to deduct the length of the end piece from the other end of the oar at the handle in order to keep the oar short enough to store in the boat.

Thursday, April 11, 2013


I ripped 4 pieces of the yellow pine at 1-1/2 inches.  It's 3/4inches thick and 5'6" long.  I then glued them up.  I am still using the Gorilla Glue.  I have become partial to the ease of use.  I still don't know how long it will last.

Today I drilled the loom for dowels that I hope will add some strength to the blades.
Dowels for blades go thru the loom
The blades are made from the same stock as the pieces I made the looms from.  Each piece is 18" long by 3/4"x1-1/2".

glueing one oar at a time as I only have 3 clamps large enough.  The lines for the finish shape are just visible
on the blades
 The blade will be about 4-1/2 inches wide and somewhere less than 3/4 inches thick.

Rough oars.
I am thinking I will trim the shaft down to about 1-1/4 inch just above the blades, but after the position of the oar leathers I will keep the square is shape, the full 1-1/2 inches, to help balance the weight.  I also have always wanted a set of oars with the square loom.  They look so traditional!  Of coarse I will trim down at the handle, maybe to about an inch again.

I am thinking about making the oars have a set position, like the racers use, by keeping the flat sides where the oar rest on the oar lock so that the oar "falls" into flat and vertical.  We'll see.

tomorrow I can glue up the other oar and start shaping the first one!

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Skiffing about, back on the lakes!

Took the Skiff out on the lake on Tuesday.  I love this boat.  I was with a friend who was in his kayak. While I was not as fast as him, we moved along together for a nice circumnavigation of the lake.  When I was feeling the afternoon lull of energy I just laid back and dozed off.  You can't do that easily in a kayak, at least I can't.  We rafted up and lashed the boats together and just drifted along for a while, sharing some food.  Again, I was laid back, head on a cushion, shoes off, feet up, loving life, while he was sitting, comfortably, but still sitting up in his kayak.  I really prefer a row boat and especially this one.

The removable thwarts and the cedar floors all work great to make for very comfortable boating.  I could easily camp aboard this boat.  Now if I can only get the sail rig completed!


took the boat out for a test row.  It rows great, even though the oars I had were too long.  The rowing position is just about perfect for balance.  The "thole pin" set up I came up with works great.

Stringer and thole pins.
I used an alternating stroke with the oars to get past the struggle of them being too long and that worked great.  I think I will build a set of oars, 5'6" long just for the boat.  This will allow the oars to travel on the bottom of the boat, fitting between the cross braces.  That would leave me with about 4 feet of oar out of the boat.  It is on the shorter side, but then so is the boat.

I just discovered a boat on Duckworks that is called a "Jackson Pram".  It is very similar to my boat but a 4 inches longer and 7 inches narrower.  It also has no floors so you will sit in any water that comes aboard.  It is designed for a double paddle.

I like the lines on "TARTLET" and I do like the sitting position on the longitudinal thwart/floors.  I used the double paddle after the oars just to compare.  It does well with either but I just prefer rowing.  By the way, it rows pretty fast.

The oars I used came off the skiff.  They are heavy and made portaging a bit of a struggle.   I still have some of the yellow pine left from the crate, it's the same stuff that all the dimensional wood in the pram is taken from.  I think I will use this to make the oars.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Rowing set up

Today, I put the last coats of paint and varnish on the boat that I am doing.  I also made the "kabes" which is the word I got, from a book by Iain Oughtred, for a type of thole pin.  I made them to slide over the aft rib.  I also added a "stringer" of sorts on the ribs.  It will help to keep the kabes in place, and make portaging a little easier.  Also a good place to tie off a fender.  The kabes will be lashed to them to keep from loosing them

the rowing set up.
The yellow line was found during a clean up day down at the pond.

Something for the oar to work against.

The piece just slides over the top of the rib.

When using the double paddle the kabe can just hang on it's keeper.
I also spliced a painter thru the two holes that I drilled in the bow.
The painter.
I hope to test the boat with oars tomorrow morning.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

"TARTLET" launched

What do you do on a nice early Spring Sunday morning, launch the boat you been building all winter.

The Sam Pram, TARTLET
LOA: 7'6"
Beam: 3'3"
draft: 3" (?)
weight: 30 lbs. (?)
cost: $60.00 (?)

It is light and not bad to carry from the house,
 the pond is about 700 feet from the house.
(the oars tie into the floors for easy portaging)

feather lite.

 This is good because I don't want to leave it at the water

 Which is what I had planned to do.

It came out just about right for the pond.
Add caption
except that a dog doesn't fit.  Maybe that's a plus.  I guess she could fit, but as Liz says the dog running the edge of the pond is probably good for her.

While paddling I went passed the 2 beaver lodges, some canadian geese, some wood ducks, some mallards and a Great blue Heron that flew over my head.  I feel very lucky having this as my front yard.  I am hoping mornings for a paddle or row can be a regular occurrence.  It is makes me very happy to have my design work out.  It is a simple start, but it's a start (maybe an end as well) and it feels good to know I did it. 
Now to clean off the muck and make the parts, the kabes or thole pins, for the oars, oh ya, I guess some custom length oars too, and put on some more paint and varnish.
lots of freeboard for a single sheet of plywood.
I guess it really is more closer to a canoe than a pram.
While paddling I went passed the 2 beaver lodges, some canadian geese, some wood ducks, some mallards and a Great blue Heron that flew over my head.  I feel very lucky having this as my front yard.  I am hoping mornings for a paddle or row can be a regular occurrence. 
I suppose the boat is more shaped like a canoe than a pram, but I am going to set oars on it for rowing, so I call it a pram.  The compromise of 3 foot beam makes it a bit wide for paddling, but a bit narrow for rowing, either can be done but neither to the best degree.

The double paddle works really well, the single, not so good.
The length makes the single paddle a lot of work.  I suppose I could have put a keel the full  length and that might have helped a bit, but it is a short boat.

I think the next version of this boat will keep the beam all the way to the stern, 2 feet wide, but it will make the shape a bit of a challenge and might require a sliver more than one sheet of plywood.  Still working on that.

The boat is much more stable and buoyant than I thought it would end up.  Ya!  
The ribs though screwed threw the sides of the hull should be shaped better on the next version and maybe attached only at the gunwale.
I'd also like the next version to have an outside chine, it's just easier and no reason not to on this boat.  It would make for a better fit on the joint.
I kept the 2 foot beam over 2 feet, 2 stations, amid ships.  I think in the next version the fair curve would be a better choice.  A version with a sharp bow would be interesting too.  So many options!

Over all, I am very happy with the Sam Pram.
Happy just messin' about with boats.
Maybe a small sail?????

Saturday, April 6, 2013

More Paint, The Sam Pram, "TARTLET"

Paint can change the entire feeling of a boat.  I am working with a color that might have been considered outside of my comfort zone, but I really like it.  The boat is basically done.  I guess the next thing is to see how it floats.
Presenting The Sam Pram, "TARTLET".

I think the color works alright combined with the white paint and bright work.  Benjamin Moore calls this "Northern Lights", I think it is
My single sheet of plywood challenge has been accomplished!
Now it is just about sanding and adding coats
of paint and varnish.
Tomorrow we might see how it does when wet!

I got a nice note from a friend about this little boat, in the form of a quote:

"Wynken, Blynken and Nod one night
Sailed off in a wooden shoe.
Sailed on a river of crystal light,
Into a sea of dew."

I don't know who wrote that.  I'll have to ask him.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013


There are now 2 coats of primer on the bottom and sides and on the inside bottom.  I also have the first coat of varnish on all the parts that will be finished bright.
Just as when I built the skiff, I get a bit sad at painting over the wood, but this boat especially is built to be painted.

first coat of primer!

Primer but no varnish yet.