By Paul Austin - Dallas, Texas - USA

With Winter Comes Thoughts of Building

Ah yes,
it is the winter wild
when a young man’s heart
naturally turns to thoughts of. . .

Well, the poet didn't say it just like that, but then I'm not a young man and don't want to be, either. So I have been thinking of this winter season and boats. Of course, I've been known to think of fruit cocktail and boats, so this is not unusual. Except that the winter is the perfect time to fire up the garage heater, spread out boat plans, and dream of a spring breeze beneath a blue sky.

If you want to hum Irving Berlin's Blue Skies while you're in the garage with the radio loud enough to irritate your kids, go right ahead.

Those of you Duckmeisters who have read my columns know I love little boats. So I've been looking at the Michalak Slam Dink. For all of Jim's interest in practical boats, he went off on curving rocker and sides here. It's probably too short for my 240 pounds of dinner muscle, but it's a perfect kid's boat with a big-boat bow and nice curves everywhere.

However, at 7 1/2 feet waterline it has the trouble most V-bow boats have when the waterline is shorter than 10 feet. Bending the chine could launch you through the garage window. I think I'd want some extra chines around.

But there are several things you can do.

One is to put the chine on the inside and shape it like this:

You can carve a little more out of the middle than I have shown here. The top can be thicker, but not much, since it is where the bend must take place the most.

If you put the chine on the outside, you can use an ordinary clothes iron to steam the chine while you bend it a little at a time. I would not bend it too much at one time, since any bending of wood beyond its' normal state weakens it. You might take a tip from the Splendid Splinter, Ted Williams. Use a glass coke bottle to rub the fibers smooth so they lay down as the chine cools from the steam.

Now you're thinking of stitch and glue. Well, builders have come up with different ways to keep the plywood together while the glue sets. The original method-or the one I saw first- was by Sam Devlin, wire ties. He may have begun with wires because he was building boats with more stress on the ties than 8 to 10 footers.

Dynamite Payson then tried to make this idea easier by using tape. He called it Tack and Tape, as he was temporarily nailing the panels in place with frames, then taping the panels with strong tape the full length of the panel. This enabled him to mix the glue and filler right there in the chine. It also meant he didn't have to cut wire ties off after the glue set.

Some builders found this method easy but not effective. By that I mean the tape didn't make the panels as immovable as the wire did. And the tape didn't work when the angle of the flare was too great. A boat has to be designed with tape in mind, and this can be done. Ken Simpson does this with his two and three part boats.

Ken specializes in take-apart boats which perform well. He uses only slightly curved sides. This enables him to screw the corners down and tape along the sides, as you see below. He uses Titebond III to glue the insides first, while the tape holds the panels in place. Ken recommends using the strongest tape you can find.

This is a page taken from Ken's design called Toter 2. It fits in the trunk of most any vehicle, designed for paddles, oars, or small motor. His plans include very good photographs of the Tape and Glue process.

Another solution to the bend of small boats was described by Harry Bryan in Wooden Boat Magazine a few years ago. His design is called Daisy, a 11 foot dory skiff. He demonstrated an traditional technique using the chine.

This is how he cuts it, not all the way along the chine. Glue is applied to the inside of the cut after it is put in place. One end will bend longer than the other, so the short end needs to be long enough.

When I was cleaning out my tools closet, I found a box of clamps sitting there. I stared at them long enough to imagine another way of dealing with short boats with a curving chine. The idea is to cut the sides out of, say, 3/8" plywood. Then cut a strip one inch wide out of that same 3/8" plywood to lay around the outside of the topside panel, clamped and glued. With two edges you have 3/4" of landing width.

Then take the same clamps and clamp the bottom to the outside layer of the chine. It's the same method as the original Instant Boats only with plywood instead of solid wood chines.

A traditional C clamp will not hold since it’s two points are usually made movable. However I have about 30 spring clamps from Home Depot which will do the job.

Now let's say you want to arc the bottom of the boat. This will improve a small boat's rowing qualities, although it will not necessarily sail any faster, except in light air. Still it's fun to have some techniques at your disposal.

What you do is add a third layer of 3/8" strip, but make it 1/2" taller than the other two chine layers. Then cut the bottom slightly larger than the sides and press it in from bow to stern. The bow width will have to be the same as the chine width, with the bottom width increasing as you cut it aft.

Of course at this width, 9/8" you could also use screws or nails for the side sections and then press the bottom section in and glue it.

There is a variation on this plywood strips for outside chines method, with an arched bottom. It’s easier, but I’ve never actually done it. What you do is the same two plywood chines on the outside, but the outside one is lower than the other, creating the angle of arc.

With these two methods for an arched bottom, taping the outside with glue would be best. You don’t necessarily have to bevel the layers of plywood. In fact keeping the straight edges inside the joint creates a way to trap the glue in place. Just make sure the edges of the plywood
are sealed well.

A great rig for a small boat is a lateen rig, along the lines of the Sunfish and Sailfish. It can be built with a mast and two spars which fit inside the boat, or a mast and one spar. It can be built with no boom to go boom all over your head.

One advantage of a loose-footed sail is that the sail can be cut fairly flat for windward work while it will still have a nice curve for downwind sailing. The great limitation of a loose-footed sail is it can only be sheeted in relation to the cut of the sail. This usually means well aft. You have to deal with a loose-footed sail, you can't just tie it off on a cleat and kick your feet up. And it has another limitation, with which we can deal.

Sails pull based on the wind hitting the sail facing the wind, and the lift of the sail's curve on the other side of the sail. When the mast is on the windward side of the sail, it interferes with the wind very little, but when the mast is on the other side of the sail, that curve of the sail is interrupted. The sail becomes flatter, which is not so bad, but with the loss of that leeward curvature, the power of the sail is reduced. You won't lose performance toward the wind, but on nearly all other points of sail you will.

So what can we do to get the sail on the other side of the mast, when you tack? Lug sails have different methods, depending on the size of the sail and the men on board. Since I'll assume you are the only one in our small boat, we can leave the sail where it is with little sail area before the mast or we can move the sail.

In order to move the sail around the mast, the sail must be loose-footed, which is good. The first option is to cut an equilateral triangle sail. Then we hang it right at the midpoint along the top spar. This actually doesn't look too bad to me.

This shape gives you some sail area higher than the mast, where the wind is usually stronger than near the deck and it gives you some sail area forward. In order to tack, this is what we'll do. We'll have two lines fed through a hook in the breastplate, one from the tack to the bow and another one from the peak to the bow, on the windward side of the mast. When you tack, pull the sheet attached to the peak-which goes around the windward side of the mast-and the sail will rotate around the mast behind it for the peak to now become the tack. In fact, the wind will help the sail go around the mast but you'll still need to tie it off.


The line in your hand, the sheet, will stay there, it will simply turn over. You actually won't lose any momentum tacking if you adjust your turn of the tiller to the movement of the spar. Both lines from the spar will have to be run aft, so you can tie them off without leaving your seat. I will give you one warning: don't tack near the dock as the sail actually never dumps its wind-Hello!

That's one way, and I've done it so I know it works. There is another way, which I've never done or witnessed, but I've deduced it from historical accounts and paintings of big lateen rigs on fishing ships around the Mediterranean.

With this method the sail goes around forward of the mast. Most everything else is the same as the previous method. This method means the spar will have to be secured to the mast very close to the mast top. The reason for this is so the spar takes the wear of scraping the mast, rather than the sail. The line which moves the sail around forward of the mast does not come from the peak but the clew. It simply rotates the sail around before the mast from the clew rather than rotating it around aft of the mast from the peak.

The line from the tack to the bow does not move. An eyehook or something similar is used so the line can rotate as the sail turns over the mast. Each side will have two lines: one to pull the sail around and one to tie it off.

This is a technique for a larger craft than, say, an 8-12 footer, due to the need for room aft. The boat will have to be tacked most of the way all around before the wind helps the sail. It probably worked well enough on Mediterranean fishing boats which would sail out on one tack, make their catch, turn around and sail back home.

Paul Austin



To comment on Duckworks articles, please visit our forum