A Matter of O’pinion
by Greg Pullen

When I lamented not having a decent boat to row, my friend Bob did some thinking & recalled a four metre, doubled-ended Peapod he’d seen in some old editions of WoodenBoat magazine. Much discussion was had over the construction method, & finally we hit on the idea of strip planking, using a relative new-comer to the stable of boat-building timbers : CCA treated Radiata pine.

click images to enlarge

A visit to my local timber merchant turned up a large pack of 35x12 mm treated pined strips, 3.0 metres in length, which are more usually stapled into lattice frames. Seemed like just what we needed, so after some friendly price negotiations the whole lot (enough for a few boats) found a new home in the workshop.

We decided, tongue-in-cheek, that “Huonville Pine” would be an apt name for the building material, as we bought it in Huonville, which is the largest town in the region of southern Tasmania where the illustrious Huon Pine grows. We thought it would be quite a contrast in quality to one of the best boat-building timbers in the world.

beginning to glue strips

The Peapod’s dimensions were gleaned from the magazine & the imperial mumbo-jumbo was converted into metric measurements. Bob then lofted the half-breadths, from which we took the moulds.

The stems were laminated from Celery Top pine; the elliptical bottom section cut from 12mm ply.

off the moulds

The moulds were placed upside down, & the strips went on from the gunwales up. We used Purbond (a gap-filling polyeurethane adhesive compatible with epoxy resins) along the horizontal joins, temporarily screwing the strips to the moulds as we went. When we (invariably) snapped a strip, we would butt join it with clamps to maintain the correct twist, then move to the other side of the boat until a similar event occurred.

The process became very difficult as we approached the waterline, with twists & curves in the strips causing frequent breaks. Solution: Rip the strips in half. Then the whole process continued simply once again. Another three laminates of Celery Top were laid over the strip ends as an outer stem.

first coat of paint

Many hours were spent sanding the hull, fairing it with epoxy, sanding it back with a torture board, & finally glassing it with 6mm cloth, doubled under the bottom. The inside of the hull was given similar treatment, before breasthooks, blocked-out inwales, gunwales, rubbing strakes, stern sheets & thwarts were fitted. As expected, it turned out to be a very stiff boat, with no need for ribs, floor timbers or knees off the thwarts.

As the boat was built primarily for rowing, the centrecase was omitted. A Tasmanian oak keel about 50mm deep was added to help with directional stability.

The boat was sprayed twice with two-part epoxy primer & finished with tow coats of paving paint to give it a very hard-wearing finish.

towing O'pinion

We launched the boat in the Huon River on a beautiful summer’s day in late January, naming it “O’pinion”. It’s too complicated to explain the derivation of the name, suffice to say that there were occasional differences of opinion during its construction, and it glides through the water like a bird on the wing. Everyone found the 2.1 metre (7’) oars easy to use, but the later addition of a pair of 2.4 m (8’) oars certainly made it a very powerful boat.

We’ve had it out in some testing conditions (20 knots & one metre-high swells); loaded it with four adults & rowed through the surf off the beach; my 12-year-old son Daniel spent hours rowing it around the Hobart docks at the recent Australian Wooden Boat Festival; and I’ve managed to put it to its intended use as a recreational “get fit” machine. It’s a real pleasure to row - an hour (& the scenery ) pass by very easily. The two rowing positions offered by the offset thwart positions allow for a perfectly balanced boat depending on load. She also runs before the wind easily when standing in the stern with an oar hung aft as a sweep.

Bob in action

O’pinion gathers admirers where-ever we launch her, and Bob & I are very pleased with our efforts. As for the traditionalists & knockers who comment skeptically about her construction, we reckon she’ll be around long after the 25-year treated pine warranty runs out ! And we merely repeat our motto : “We’re not constrained by convention ! “.

(A word of caution to users of CCA treated timbers. CCA stands for “copper/chrome/arsenic”. Always wear a suitable face mask when sanding or sweeping up dust. Off-cuts should not be burned.)

Greg Pullen