Twisted Seagull
by Bruce Hector

I take her for a spin
(click images to enlarge)

I started my John Welsford designed Seagull on a Friday afternoon when the plywood arrived at 4 pm. By Sunday afternoon, I had the hull completed in a single weekend of intense work.

But although she looked like a boat, she was less than 1/3 done.

Fitting the thwart tops was obviously going to be a "by guess and by golly" affair, as dimensions for these parts were not on the plans. I guess everyone's would end up slightly different.

The forward seat

What I did was take measurements every 100 mm (6") from the centerline thwart supports I'd epoxied in place, and transferred these measurements to the plywood seat stock. Then I cut them out 1" too large. Holding them in approximate position, I drew the actual curve by holding a pencil firmly and steadily as I drew my knuckle along the side panel. This left a pencil line on the seat top that more accurately corresponded with the contour of the side panels. I then cut this out and trimmed it to fit and fall half way across the centerline support. Viola, it was within "epoxy range", 1/4" gaps or less, except in one spot where it approached an inch for a few inched. Good enough. I flipped it and cut a mirror image for the other side. A bit of fiddling with the plane and I got them both to lay flat sharing the centerline support beam.

improvised weights

The process was repeated for the stern thwarts.

A 5 pumper mix of West was made, and all the edges and the side panels were brushed with "clear" epoxy to prevent any joint starvation. Then I thickened the mix to a peanut butter consistency with wood flour and spread it into the gaps. I'd thought I might have to roll up some paper towel to jam in the bigger gap to prevent the slop from falling through, but it held in the gap by itself.

breast hook

The next morning we made up a finishing mix of epoxy thicken with micro balloons to go over these rough fillets and smooth it all out.

A breasthook was cut out of 1 by 6 pine and the skeg was cut from the same stock. Both were epoxied in place. I also cut and epoxied in a reverse transom knee to transfer and spread out some of the thrust loads of the outboard.

transome knee

While we were away attending the Rend Lake Messabout Gary Sexsmith, who works with me and is a auto painter by trade, sprayed her white. It came out very well. I decided to finish her bright after admiring the bright work on the D4 and Melonseed at the Messabout.


Gary and I brushed on a coat of polyurethane spar varnish, which took forever to dry on the epoxied hull. It was still tacky after 3 day! Two more days of setting her out in the sun whenever possible finally had her dry enough to continue. Because of the long drying time, I decided to neglect a second coat at this time. I'll brush on a few more after I've rowed the wheels off for a while.

glueing oarlocks

I cut oar socket blocks from red oak and epoxied them in place. Rather than cut the tricky bevel, I simply waited til the next day and brought them level with the belt sander. I bored the holes by drilling a pilot hole, then alternating between 7/8" and 3/4" wood bits, stirring them a bit, to produce the tapered holes that roughly matched the taper on the socket set I had.

painting waterline

We rolled an off white cream oil enamel over the white interior, with the idea of painting the seats a medium brown. Then Gary and I thought that if we made the seat tops green to match the trim, we'd have a prettier boat. So more painting was accomplished after work with only a few short beer breaks.

screwing deckplate

I got a good deal on two plastic deck plates, and we cut and mounted them in white silicone with stainless steel screws. Also mounted the oar sockets and a bow cleat.

We were done! I scheduled a launch party for Friday June 20 at 6.

Then we took her down to Peter Music Boats on the Cataraqui River at lunch time Thursday for a trial run to make sure she floated and to pre-warn ourselves of any surprises. There weren't any.


Peter Music is an experienced boat builder. The kind who can eyeball a garboard, plane it in his lap, and have it fit like a glove. He's not like me at all. He got to the west by building a rowboat and rowing across the Adriatic from Yugoslavia in the 1950s. But "Twisted Seagull" earned his praise. He said it was my best yet, that she rowed and trimmed well and that the water-line was perfect.

High praise for an epoxyman like I.

first time wet

"Twisted Seagull" went feet wet for the first time at 11:45 am Thursday June 19, 2004 and floated high and dry.

I took her for a quick first row. She went like she was on greased rails, glided beautifully between each stroke and was a pleasure. I loved her at once. Trevor Lowe, my foreman, then took her out and had a great time for 20 minutes in which I swear he covered over a mile. Twisted Seagull looked so sweet, and her sheer line is a credit to her designer.

Then we tried her with a good, healthy load. Elaine, Trevor and I hopped in. E at the bow, Trev rowing and I resting in the stern sheets to trim her flat. Even with this 600 plus pound load she rowed easily and didn't quite settle to her waterline. I was relieved to note the complete lack of screeching or snapping sounds.

Elaine rowing

Elaine then took her for a short row before we slid her back in the truck and returned to the shop for a few last minute touches.

I roughed up the back side of a Loonie (a brass Canadian $1 coin) and epoxied it onto the bow thwart near the stemless stem. This is an old seamen's tradition. Should the vessel flounder and any hands are lost, they are said to use this coin to pay Charon's fare to ferry them across the River Styx to the gates of hell. Not wanting to find myself without a fare in such a situation, I epoxied another one in a more hidden location, for emergencies only.

at the dock

A final coat of green was rolled onto the gunwales and Twisted Seagull was put to bed to await her launching ceremony tomorrow. She'll be christened by my sister, just returned from Malawai, Africa. Twisted Seagull got her name, when I noticed I'd built in a small 1'2" twist when I first filleted her together. This was my first stitch and glue boat, and I didn't know to carefully eyeball it from all angles before I spread on the thickened epoxy fillets. Only the next morning, far too late, did we notice one side of the stern was 1'2 higher than the other.


The designer advised me not to try to correct it until I'd seen her in the water. As the lower side, would have more buoyancy, and the effect might be minimized. John was right, she looks just fine to me, under load or empty.

I'm mighty proud of her.

Bruce Hector