How I built my Seagull
by Paul Groom

Seagull - 15' 3" rowing dory - designed by John Welsford

I have never built a boat before, the inspiration came when we moved to a house near a local inner harbour beach in Auckland NZ. I had a big empty shed, some spare time, a three year old son and summer round the corner

click to enlargeA friend showed me plans for John Welsford's light dory, it looked pretty simple and practical, but after a call to John he suggested his Seagull which has a bit more room for the family. I had to wait a bit for the plans as John is a busy man, so if your letterbox is empty dont despair, they will arrive in time! John is also very helpful if you have a problem, many thanks to him for his support. His website is at time of writing still being finished but its a great place to have a look at what he's up to.

click to enlargeI have a Triton sawbench, the kind where you fit your power tools into (better than nothing but annoying unless the circular saw you use is big and strong), a sander, jigsaw, drill and an odd collection of handtools. My previous building experience is next to zero, handicapped by pigheadedness disguised as enthusiasm. In other words I have a lot to learn.

click to enlargeMy building method was to have a go first, make a disaster, fix it up on second or third attempt and as soon as it looked remotely passable move on. This is not the best way to get your boat on the front cover of a glossy mag, but it is a good trade off for learning and getting the thing in the tide vs a work of art. In the future I would probably go a bit slower, read a few more books and ask a few more questions. the main problem manifested in big daggy fillets, lumpy glue lines and despair at sanding it all back. On the bright side I kept the West people in a job! After finishing it I found a few links to good glue techniques which I advise the newbie to read a couple of times to save a lot of sanding.

click to enlargeThe more accurate your woodwork the better. I had the attitude that epoxy cures all, true but its better to use as little as possible to save on finishing time.

As soon as I got the plans I launched into it by penciling out the bottom and sides directly on to the ply, cutting them out and butt joining them (remember to join the both sides from the inside!) After a bit of head scratching I managed to interpret the frame construction and glued it all together.

click to enlargeThe construction process it pretty simple and in less than three 2 hour days of cutting and gluing I had a basic boat stitched together with electrical ties.

After a spot of guess work I managed to get the fillets and glass tape on, I used the 12 oz double bias tape, you can cut cloth into strips to save a few dollars but I chose the easy way. The next job was to glue the frames in place and then the gunwales. I had a problem here with a glue mix that was still chewing gum after 2 days. I got a bit worried when West tech support said start again, however John reassured me that it would set and sure enough after a week it was hard, Whew! Instead of clamps I used drywall screws and did things like putting the inwale spacers on first rather than clamping later.

click to enlargeAll done and finishing time. I got a bit depressed with the mess I had made with the glue and after many hours sanding and a couple of attempts at fairing I gave up and decided to let the paint "hide a multitude of sins" Of course this didnt work but it serves as a lesson for next time. I did find though that after a supreme effort at finishing and you dont know if you have done enough, a coat of primer will give you an even background to see if you work is ok, and if not a bit more fairing mix still sticks ok.

And it floats!

click to enlargeThe maiden voyage was over a 5km channel to an Island in the Hauraki Gulf, three up with 100kg of camping gear. With a 1 metre wind chop on the quarter she handled it well.

Not so sure of bigger nasty stuff, but these shots are a few days later going up a local estuary for a picnic.

click to enlargeThe Honda 2 horse is a great little beastie. I have nothing to compare it to but at full throttle its a bit noisy in a thumpy way as opposed to 2 stroke whining. No smell! and it used about 600ml (1 pint) for about 50 minutes running. So you could safely work on 1 litre per hour at full pelt.

Under oars its a pleasure to pull and feel the boat move sweetly away. I dont have enough experience to make distinctions, but she rows fine for me.

And our summer is just arriving!