To the Ocean

I’m really excited that in just a few days all three boats will be on the trailer heading to Nags Head. I’ve been doing a bunch of little work on the boat to get ready. I drilled 5 holes in the boat and filled them with epoxy to make waterproof bushings for holes for lines. I removed the cheap plastic cleat from the front of the boat and drilled a large hole to tie a short painter. I drilled two more holes on the dagger board case to attach a piece of shock cord to hold the dagger board down. Finally I drilled two holes in the aft bulkhead wood to tie a line across the back of the boat to keep the tiller from slipping into the water when dropped. While I had the epoxy out, I filled the rudder mortise and then sanded it back to get a tight fit on the rudder arm. It’s not a perfect fit where the mortise and tenon come together, but it’s very tight now. The pin is decorative at this point. It’s not moving on its own.

I finished off the trailer by putting down 2″ of foam on the bed of the trailer and screwing down the outdoor carpet to it. I’m still thinking about the best way to tie down the kayaks on top. Right now I’m just using dock lines and truckers hitches. The good thing about that is that when they are off there’s nothing getting in the way of the skerry, but it’s not the fastest thing. Debating whether to keep one up there all the time for fast access to the water.



Rudder arm part 3

I was supposed to be out sailing today, but a sick daughter shot that plan. Instead I worked on the rudder arm and the boat trailer. I’m really happy with the rudder arm. This is definitely the best wood working project I’ve done to date. The oak is beautiful and the sweep of the curves very pleasing. The mortise and tenon could have been a little tighter, but it should be fine when pegged. The wood sanded up nicely and I got a first coat of spar varnish on it.

bottom of rudder arm

bottom of rudder arm

top of rudder arm

top of rudder arm

side view

side view

Next I got the steel on the trailer painted with some flat black Rust-Oleum. Then it was on to the trailer lights so I can finally take this thing out after dark. I put some outdoor carpet on the crossbars and loaded up the kayaks next.


Just a few more hours on this thing and we’ll be ready for some great adventures this spring.

Rudder arm part 2

It’s been a mild winter and is supposed to be 70 with a nice breeze this weekend. It’s time to get this rudder arm finished up. Tonight I shaped the arm into a taper from the full thickness down to roughly 1/2″ at the tip of the arm. I also started cutting out the tenon. There’s more trimming to do before it will fit the mortise, but it’s a good start. I hope to have a rough fit tomorrow. It won’t be fully done by Sunday, but hopefully close enough to get on the water and sail.




Welcome 2017

Last year I made it a goal to get on the water at least once every month of the year. I’m happy to report I kept that New Year’s resolution and hope to hit it again this year. Between kayaking, rowing and sailing it should be an easy goal. I’ve already had the Skerry out this month. It was a beautiful sunny, day with winds blowing 10-15 knots. I had a great sail across Falls Lake, but as I was coming in to shore I let go the tiller stick in order to pull up the dagger board and it slipped over the side. My best guess is that it hit the bottom and the forward momentum of the boat translated that into an upward force and the rudder arm snapped right off. It was made from 2 layers of 1/4″ Okume plywood glued together and then epoxied around the rudder head. It snapped right at the epoxy seam. I’ve decided to replace it with a mortise and tenon solution. My buddy, Matt, gave me a good sized board of white oak 1.25″ thick. I used the old arm as a template and cut out the rough shape on the bandsaw.


By the way, I love the vise. It’s a WoodRiver universal vise. I bought it over a year ago and finally installed it today. I couldn’t have done what I did without it. It operates in either this position or laid over on it’s side. It swivels until you tighten the work piece and that locks it in place. It’s a great feature for re-positioning angles on the fly.

I’ve never really worked hardwoods like white oak before. I was a little worried about working such a hard wood. To get the bandsaw chatter marks out of the white oak I tried a couple of different tools, but ended up with my Shinto saw rasp from Duckworks. The rough side ate through the oak just fine, the smooth side cleaning up the marks before sanding. It worked great.

The vise did a great job holding the rudder while I cleaned up the broken wood and epoxy.


Then I took the rudder over to my old drill press and drilled a series of holes to make the mortise. Then back into the vise to clean up with chisels and files.


The oak arm will head to the table saw next to cut it down from 1.25 to 1″. Then to the bandsaw to taper it from 1″ down to 3/4″ at the end of the arm. Then I’ll probably round over the edges with a router before hand finishing.


I also did some work on the trailer this weekend. A neighbor loaned me his welder and I used it to reinforce the bolted on tongue extension I originally added. I also replace the flimsy punched steel winch stand with welded angle iron. It’s much sturdier now. I need the weather to clear up and dry out so I can paint it. Then I’ll add lights back and get the padding finished. It’ll be in fine shape and ready for a good trip down to the coast in the spring.


(Don’t look too closely at those welds. They are pretty ugly).

CLC Skerry

With life getting in the way, there hasn’t been much boat building going on. I still haven’t glued up that birdsmouth mast, but suddenly a CLC Skerry showed up on the local craigslist. A local hobby boat builder was selling it for the previous owner he had built it for last year. It came in complete at $2,300 with the entire sail kit still in the box. That’s cheaper than you can buy the kit from CLC. I couldn’t resist.


I still want to make a few tweaks to her. The oars need to be leathered as well as the spars. The downhaul for the sail needs to have some pulleys to give it some stronger purchase. There needs to be a line in the back over the tiller to keep it from slipping over the side of the boat into the water. I got a set of navigation lights for Christmas that can be strapped to the front. Still need to work out storage for the bilge pump. Eventually she’ll need an anchor for coastal exploration. The new Garmin 78SC will help with that too.

Since I haven’t been boat building, I decided I needed to get some proper fids to tie splices in braided line. I ordered the Selma fid set from Duckworks. It took 4 tries but I was finally able to get a splice around a block for the main sheet.


I used the leather sailmaker’s palm, needles and waxed thread from Duckworks to bind it off.

I also needed a trailer for the Skerry. I started with a simple box trailer that I inherited. I cut the trailer tongue and extended it with some angle iron. I added a winch-stand with punched steel pieces, but it’s a little flimsy. Version 2.0 of the trailer will be properly welded once my neighbor finds his welder again. The boat is flat bottomed so the flat trailer works great. I’ve added side supports and crossbars to carry the kayaks on top.

trailer in progress

trailer in progress

trailer complete

trailer complete

The winch stand is too flimsy to really hold the boat from moving. Over a bump on the way to the lake the boat shifted and slid off the roller.


Took the boat out today, the last day of 2016, for an afternoon sail. Temps were in the 40s. I wore multiple layers with the outer layer being water proof. Winds ranged from 5-15 depending on proximity to shore, etc. According to the new GPS we topped out at 6.4 mph on a beam reach. Much of the time we were doing 4-5 mph. Close hauled we’d drop down to 3-4 mph. There is still some work to be done to tune the sails a bit more, but I felt like it was pointing fairly well.



That max speed is obviously wrong. Should have been around 5.5 per the Garmin which would make sense. The angles on the map don’t look like we were pointing very well, but the wind was really shifting direction around the point.

I stopped to pour tea and eat some crackers near the end of the trip. I started in irons but the boat quickly fell off. By letting the sail fly free and pushing the tiller over we drifted slowly downwind taking the wind over the beam. This worked fine with no waves, but wouldn’t be very comfortable if we were rolling. All-in-all I’m very pleased with the Skerry and I think she’ll be a fine adventuring boat to take camping and down to the shore.

finishing yard and boom

I still haven’t glued up the 8 piece mast yet. There’s been a lot of crazy happening both in work and personal life. Today I wanted to get some boat work accomplished so I decided it was time to fiberglass tape the ends of the yard and boom. I’m using the Duckworks DWX epoxy to coat the glass and since it has built in UV resistance you can use it as a finish, so I just painted it on both spars. It has a long pot life, so I mixed up 3 pumps each. I didn’t have quite enough to do all 4 sides, but I coated 3 sides each. It started to get a little gummy toward the end and I’m worried about drips and runs. I’ve gone back over it once to remove drips. I’ll check back in a while to see if there are more. At least there’s a little progress.


8 piece mast

Finally made some progress on the mast this weekend. I got the 8 strips cut down to size and notched the 45 degree angle into on side of them using the radial saw. The next trick was to taper them from 19/16ths down to 15/16ths over a 10′ span. I set the pieces up on some of the left over 2×12 on saw horses.


I marked out the first one and carefully cut down to the line with a block plane and a number 4 plane that I just got from my friend Shawn. It belonged to his grandfather and I’m honored to have it in my shop making boats. With the first one cut as a template I thought I’d get out the router with the flush cut bit and trim the next one to match the template. That didn’t go so well. Lots of noise, dust and a big gouge later:

router gouge

router gouge

For the next one I just used the No 4 plane, set the blade a bit deeper and knocked it out in no time. Should have just done that from the beginning. It’s so much nicer working with a plane than power tools. It came out just fine.


With a break in the middle for lunch and a swim with the in-laws, I got all 8 of them cut out and ready to assemble. I’m hoping to get the yard and boom epoxy coated this week and then get the mast assembled this weekend. I’ve decided to build the GIS with the mizzen mast, so that means one more spar to build before I get moving on this hull.