The Keuka Whaler - Part Two

By Craig Hohm - The Finger Lakes, New York - USA

To Part One To Part Two To Part Three
To Part Four To Part Five To Part Six
To Part Seven To Part Eight To Part Nine
To Part Ten To Part Eleven  


Work on the Keuka Whaler is underway. The moulds were made up in the usual way on the lofting floor. The ribs were made with locust 1/4" laminates to the outline of the moulds, and then faired using a pattern bit router against the mould.


The joining floor pieces were added after and limbers and keel bevels cut. The frames were then pre-finished with epoxy.

Sealing Ribs

The keel and keelson came from a single piece of locust 12' long, 12" wide at one end and 6" at the other.


It was cut lengthwise 6" tapering to 3'' and then resawed and scarfed.

Keel and keelson

The original 10/4 plank weighed 95 #. The centerboard slot was cut in the keelson and the inner and outer stem laminates made up on the lofting floor.

Centerboard slot
Inner and outer stems

With the frame and keelson set up and the end stems glued on, the next big decision was lining out the lapstrake planks.

Mold 4

Iain Oughtred gives several formulas in his book ("Clinker plywood boatbuilding manual") that proportion the planks in decreasing width from garboard to sheerline. I made eight 3/4" x 1" spruce battens 32' long that I used to visualize the layout. Lots of fiddling ensued. In the first attempt the garboard twists down slightly at the second to last frame; I think it looks better in the second attempt below.


Getting it all to look right takes some time. I spent quite a lot of time just looking (ie weeks), standing off to the side, opening the door and walking outside, even looking thru the framework to see the lines from the inside.

Viewing the lines

To quote Iain, "In the end, the only rule is to get it looking good. The problem with this, as John Gardner points out, is that it depends on who is doing the looking." Here are photos of the final decision.

Now on to the sail design. Ansel gives details on eight traditional rigs varying in size from 110 to 352 sq ft. Most of these are sloops: sprit, lug or gaff. In looking at these rigs I worried that the large main sail, with a 20' mast, would be more than a handful for people who weren't born with a harpoon in their hands. I decided to divide the rig up to lower the heeling angle and make the individual sails smaller. My original idea was to do a schooner rig, but the narrow ends of the whaleboat do not allow for a good sheeting angle for a large aft sail. So I turned to Culler's discussion of the cat ketch rig ( ("Pete Culler on wooden boats") This type of design was seen on many traditional boats including the hampden boats of Maine and the spithead wherrys of England. Culler's plan allows for easy sail reduction in varying conditions: with all sail up, the first reduction strikes the mizzen and moves the main aft to another step. As wind increases further the main comes down, and the mizzen goes up in its place.

Culler liked the sprit rig, and I have been using a sprit sail on my catspaw dinghy for 20 years. They are simple to set up, and the most powerful sail type for the length of their spars. Bolger in "100 small boat rigs" discusses them at length. I thought they would be well suited for the whaleboat, and when struck, could be set down in the middle of the boat without interfering with the rowers. In the whaleboat rowers sit outboard, opposite their oarlocks.

I made a 1"-1' scale drawing of the profile of the boat and fiddled around with various square footages using the formulas from Nichol's book (Working guide to traditional small boat sails), eventually arriving at the sail design photo below.

Sail design

A scale stick figure sits on the aft rowing thwart #5, the mainmast is on thwart #1, and the mizzen on #4. In this full sail setting, the main can be brailed up quickly leaving the boat either hove-to or sailing with jib and mizzen. No shrouds or stays are needed. The main is 120, the mizzen 70 and the jib 35 sq ft. The main over laps the mizzen and is boomless. My sailmaker does not care for this arrangement but it was commonly found in working boats and as a friend has pointed out: "the men who did that work were not fools". I worked out the lead for the various reefing configurations and they all fall within 5% of the CL. Bolger notes the lead is less important in long keeled boats, and, in all of Ansel's sail plans the lead is near zero.

With this plan the sheeting angle for the main falls just aft of the stick figure, and the sheet for the boomed mizzen is inboard as well. The first reef will bring down the jib, the second will reef the main, the third will be a reefed main in the second mast position at thwart #3, and the last will be the mizzen alone at thwart 3 (probably a good time to be heading into harbor). The mainmast is 16' long and setting it up is made easier by a custom mast gate made for me by Classic Marine. This gate is fixed on the thwart with the hinge forward; the mast is inserted in the hole and walked up into position. The one remaining worry is the difficulty of reefing the main sprit sail. Reefing is a serious fault of the sprit; even in my little catspaw wrestling with the 12' sprit can be an adventure. What would it be like with twice the length and twice the sail area too? One solution would be to simply brail the main and bring it down into the boat to reef while heaving-to under mizzen and jib. Another is to adopt one of the many variations that have been tried to make reefing easier, all of which complicate the essential simplicity of the sprit design. I have an idea, which I have yet to try, to put the sail on a track and to arrange the snotter so that it does not encircle the mast; then, with the sail brailed, the snotter and sail can be lowered and tied in without becoming entangled.


I still have moments where is think I should use a lugsail but I have not found an arrangement with these that fits so well into the hull.

Next time: 28' planks out of 8' plywood


To comment on Duckworks articles, please visit our forum