A builder’s dilemma
and realization with several touches of insanity
The first day of spring brings out the angler in me. With April’s
first hint of soft, sweet, warm air and a light southerly breeze
that is so different from the hammering northeaster snowstorms
of winter I cannot resist the urge to launch the skiff and go
catch a trout. Usually, a few passes across the lake while trolling
a small Colorado spinner on a light spinning outfit will vex a
stocked fish enough to entice a bite.
It was on the third pass across the Ashland Reservoir that I
looked down at the floor of my much beloved (and 2nd generation
– but that is for another story) 16’ Bolger Diablo
when I noticed that the floor had a very unusual movement to it.
Bending down, I pressed against the ½” exterior that
had been sheathed on the outside with Dynel glass set in epoxy.
Lo and behold it was rotten as Denmark (my apologies to our North
Sea friends, but Shakespeare said it first). The only thing between
myself and the bottom of the inland lake was a layer of 6 oz fiberglass
set in WEST system epoxy; God bless the Gods of goo.
After unloading all at home, I realized that the entire bottom
from stem to stern was a combination of delaminated ply, dry rot,
and thoroughly saturated plywood. The ¼” panels on
the sides were literally “rotten to the core” as well,
and this boat was declared deceased, departed, gone to meet it’s
maker, and expired. It ended unceremoniously with a chain saw,
5 lb sledgehammer, lighter fluid, and a match. The story of the
18’ Work Skiff begins here.
||Bolger Work Skiff
After being without the powerboat for a few days, I realized
that the fishing might be limited this summer (07), so I immediately
began to seek out a suitable replacement. Like many others who
might take the time to read this, I have quite a few unbuilt,
stillborn dreams sitting in tubes and folders in the man cave.
I always begin by making a list of what is most desirable in the
boat to be built. In other words, the wish list:
1. I wish the boat would not blow around so much at slow speeds.
The Diablo had a tendency to blow around at slow speed; after
all it did plane with two aboard with the 10 hp Johnson.
2. I now own a 10 hp Johnson with no boat. This needs to be fixed.
3. I wish there was room for 2 people to go fishing for stripers
without banging rods during casting or the boat rolling so much.
Stability would be at a premium.
4. I wish I could build it in my garage. Measurements taken, indicated
that I had about 19’ MAXIMUM to work in. Note to self: also
measure THE BEAM.
5. I wish my wife would go out in the boat(s) more. The ideal
boat would have room for a chaise lounge for her to lie in and
read a book, while I could fish in the stern area without so much
as disturbing her.
All this led me to the 18’ Bolger Work Skiff. This boat
has room for two anglers, is the most stable boat I have ever
been on, and can be powered with a 10hp motor. PERFECT! Read on…
The Second Coming
Further and further in a widening gyre…the falcon cannot
hear the falconer, things fall apart…the center cannot hold…or
something like that. This is how I build boats. Things just happen;
you deal with it. The movement from idea, or curiosity to project
is the kind of thing that is disturbing to my family and a curiosity
to the neighbors. I get this glazed, possessed look on my face,
and all semblance of rational thought departs and sawdust and
epoxy arrive in mass quantities.
Night after night, I study the plans with a scale rule in hand.
These plans were purchased eons ago from the writer and purveyor
of Instant Boats, Harold Payson. I mean, how hard could this be…I
had built a Nymph dinghy some 26 years ago, built the 10’
Pointy Skiff (still going strong), a Micro, and two Diablos).
This would be a snap; after all it is just a flat skiff slightly
longer than the Diablo. It is simply amazing how the human mind
can rationalize irrational thought. Freud and Jung would have
a ball with this kind of stuff. Rational thought never built a
A tidy list of initial supplies was created on an excel spreadsheet
with mock building schedules just to keep me on task. How much
would this cost? Would we really need 11 SHEETS OF ½”
MARINE PLY? How much epoxy is this really? What were the real
failings of the Diablo, and why did the Pointy Skiff outlive it
5:1? Real questions for real people living in the real world.
Fortunately, I don’t live in the real world and just went
out and located a local supplier of ½” Marine ply
and purchased enough Douglas fir and ply to get going on the basic
For Real…the beginning after too much phutzing around.
To my south, Downes and Reader supplies very nice plywood and
exotic hardwood for real woodworkers and craftsmen. I always feel
intimidated when working around folks who do this for a living;
creating works of art from cellulose fiber. They had what I needed,
six sheets of ½” plywood and a lot of Doug’
fir for the framing. This would give me enough for the stem, frames,
and transom. The unfortunate part was that it was already October
and winter was fast approaching. This garage is unheated and there
is not space for a heater without putting the entire structure
at risk of combustion. I needed to get as much done as possible
prior to Thanksgiving.
The stem was no issue, having used a solid timber of 4X4 fir
from which it was sided and molded. The middle frame was also
a piece of cake. Now on to the transom… The transom is assembled
from 3 layers of ½” ply resulting in a 1 ½”
solid frame from which motors up to 40 hp could supposedly be
hung. The final layer is initially under sized and the sides and
bottom are framed with a better nailing wood such as mahogany.
The first attempt was a failure. It came out very undersized and
I realized I measured the bevel on the bottom backwards and took
the measurements inside out. This was a relatively expensive mistake
between the ½ sheet of plywood and the epoxy (ok, I should
have ordered the epoxy through Duckworks). The second attempt
was much better resulting in a nice transom rimmed with 5/4 mahogany.
I still have the undersized frame for posterity and perhaps a
fish cutting board.
To be continued…
For more photos see Picassa: