Back on New Years day I was looking forward to what I hope will be the best years sailing that I've had in a very long time. Circumstances had meant that I'd been a little like the cobbler who's children were all barefoot in that I seem to be forever working on other peoples boats, and their boats came first. But I had been offered a lovely little boat at a deal that I could not turn down and had planned an 8 day cruise for mid January. The trouble was that we have a 12 foot tide here, the boat drawing about 2 ft with the centerboard up she needs to be anchored well out in deep water meaning that if I were wanting to go ashore I had a choice of swimming ashore naked with my clothes in a drybag and dressing on the beach, or building a dinghy.
Now nudity is not uncommon on our beaches, but I'd prefer to get there dry and clothed so the other choice was preferred.
My little ship is trailerable, the car has no roof rack, and the only place to carry a dink is in the cockpit, 5 ft 4 1/4in long between the rudder post and the cabin.
So, New Years Day, I drew a set of lines, worked out the numbers, and searched out a heap of scrap plywood left over from other projects. Next day, an hour saw the building frame nailed together, and about an hour each day saw the little boat progress well.
I have samples of some System 3 epoxy products here, and figured that I'd try some. Stitch and tape is not my favourite method of building but for something so small and with weight a major consideration I used System 3 EZFillet for the seams, with just one layer of 6 oz fiberglass cloth tape over it inside and out. My thoughts on the product? It is a high strength filler intended for seams and corners in plywood boats built of stitched panels. Good stuff, very strong, much more so than conventional glue mix, easy to mix, tolerant of mix ratios, easy to apply although its coarse texture means that its hard to get perfectly smooth, and on that its hard to sand so do put the effort in to get it as close to smooth as you can. (Thanks Hugh for those samples.)
I had planned to be away sailing on 24th Jan, thats 3 1/2 weeks from when I drew the lines for what is now called "Offcuts" but without much of an effort I was away to the lake in the middle of town on the 18th. It was without a doubt the launching with the least ceremony that I've ever done, simply picked the 42 lb boat up off the trailer in one hand, the oars in the other and walked down to the waters edge and pitched it in, standing on the painter to stop it driftng out of reach.
She rowed well enough to get me the mile or so from one end of the lake to the other and back, seemed stable enough to be safe, and did not leak so it was back onto the trailer and away.
The day of the cruise came, and I towed the mothership the two hours to where I was to leave from, "Offcuts" strapped into the cockpit, rigged the boat and launched her, and was away.
The little dinghy was designed to tow dry and lightly, and in the boisterous conditions of that first day, and the storm conditions that I encountered on two of the other days she performed extremely well. I had occasion to carry a passenger on two occasions, found her easy to get in and out of when boarding my mothership, found that she rowed well even in waves somewhat higher than her sides and that she sat back on the end of her towrope staying dry and straight even in very poor weather. Lots of people tried her out, all laughed when they saw her, and all who got afloat in her were impressed. She gets smiles wherever she goes, and like a very cute child seems to capture even hardened hearts.
It was fun to build this little boat, she cost little as she was built from leftover materials including paint, fiberglass cloth, epoxy resin, and fittings, and the result is much more than the time and effort that she took to build.
I'll be drawing plans for a slightly larger version, but not for a little while.
Designs by John Welsford.