Boat Building at Camp
by Loy Seal

The Baptist Association of Greater New Orleans sponsors a yearly Children’s Camp at our camp north of Lake Pontchartrain. Since our theme this year was “Setting Sail,” what better way to emphasize the theme than building a sailboat at camp. Actually, we wound up building two boats using the plans for the Two Sheet Skiff and added a polytarp sprit sail.
We limited the construction crew to fifth and sixth graders and made boatbuilding one of four electives. Since four girls and three boys elected this option, we built a girl’s boat and a boy’s boat. Since we had only one hour each morning and afternoon to build these boats, another counselor, Joe Zera, and I precut the parts before camp began. Joe and I also worked on the boats between the boatbuilding classes so they could be completed within the allotted time.
Competition was fierce between the two groups as each tried to build their boat faster and better than the other. We started building on Monday afternoon by attaching the sides to the stem and transom. Tuesday morning we glued and nailed the center pieces in place. We used PL Premium construction adhesive. Tuesday afternoon we glued the chine logs in place, cut the bottom to size and glued and nailed it with silicon bronze boat nails. We then sanded everything smooth with belt sanders. Wednesday morning we added the mast partner and began work on the lee board, mast, sprit, tiller, and rudder. We varnished them with water based polyurethane because drying time was crucial.
We painted the boats with Kilz Premium on Wednesday afternoon and began work on the polytarp sails. The gray WalMart tarp was very good to work with since it is heavier than normal and gray duct tape blended in very well with the color of the tarp. We used a 36 square foot, loose footed sprit sail for both boats. Thursday morning we rigged the boats with the sails and hung the rudders using brass screw eyes and one quarter inch brass rod for pintles and gudgeons. We did not get to put on the finish coats of paint because we ran out of time.
Thursday afternoon came with no wind in sight on the small lake at the camp. We launched the boats and set the sails, but the kids had to paddle the boats around the lake. The third boat is my Elegant Punt which I had built over the winter. My daughter named it “Blondie” since it is “a little dinghy” (she is blonde). The sail on “Blondie” was the same as the other boats since it was used as a model for the mast and sails. Blondie was the center piece on the camp stage all week to remind us of our theme, “Setting Sail.” The girls’ boat was water tight, while the boys’ boat did take on a little water but was basically sound. The children were so proud of their accomplishments. One girl could not believe that she had helped build a real boat. Two of them “won” the boats in a drawing and got to take them home.
In the past six months I have built an Elegant Punt, a 15 foot tack and tape pirogue, and these two 8 foot skiffs. I have the plans to build a Michalak Toon2 over the coming winter for use on Lake Ponchartrain. Joe has been bitten by the boat building bug and should start one soon.