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By Victor Gooch Abilene, Texas - USA

John Welsford designed the Sherpa to be attractive. We built this little-big 9' boat to be attractive. This boat is attractive! One friend suggested that we should hang it on the wall in side our home as an art object!

My wife and I finished our Sherpa "Peggi J" during October 2010. We are going to wait out the winter for the maiden voyage as we are currently without a suitable trailer to carry the boat. Our current project is a folding trailer for the boat. Peggi J was rolled outside on the building jig. The sail was hoisted.

Construction began in July 2009 when the Meranti marine plywood arrived. Cutting parts was the first order of business, starting with the bottom and frames.

A Japanese saw was a huge surprise in that it became the preferred method of cutting parts.

Our intention was to cut the parts using a jig saw or circular saw, however the Japanese saw proved best (except for tight curves, where we used a jig saw which cuts on the upstroke and therefore splinters the bottom much less than some other choices.)

The Japenese saw came in handy for trimming planks.

I learned how to sharpen a plane using Japanese water stones. Even though the plank scarf joints were cut using a router jig, the hand plane was used to advantage after the routing process.

Bending the wood stringers was a challenge even knowing that a lot of clamps would be needed.

Our initial attempts at bending the stringer pairs over the frames involved soaking the wood strips in boiling water. We used PVC tubing to soak the strips before bending and clamping. It seemed, however, that by the time we got the wood fully clamped it was still wet but no longer hot. For subsequent bending we just soaked the stringers in cold water overnight then proceeded with the bending. Even with many many clamps, the twist of the stringers was difficult to control. As advised by others we used big wood clamps in pairs which allowed lashing from clamp to clamp across the boat to obtain the twist needed.

Our stringer wood (soft maple) was without knots but there were a few cases where the grain direction in the wood was not parallel to the stringer and made for less-than-perfect fair curves. We of course let the clamped wood dry completely for several days before using epoxy.

We were sloppy in our usage of epoxy. Later we paid the price in that we had to sand and scrape the excess epoxy as shown in the photo.

Scraping proved to be a better method than sanding to remove excess epoxy.

The knee or corner block should not be glued in until after the rear seat. Like some others, we had to cut the rear seat down the middle to get it in since we had glued and screwed the corners.

It was very difficult to shape and fit the knees (ours is white oak) since it matches so many other surfaces. When we glued in the front seat there was enough bow that we had to brace across.

This picture is how I cut-off walnut dowels that were used to plug the screw holes of the gunnels.

We were very pleased with the contrast between the mahogany rails and the walnut dowels.

Stern view finally finished

and bow view.

Some detail pieces included delrin caps for our aluminum spars, a rowing seat.

Finished view inside.

Many Details

On our oarlocks we added a delrin bushing at the bottom. The mahogany blocks sit entirely above the gunnels.

Special pieces were cut to facilitate lashing the oars.

When the dagger board is lashed the rowing seat can be plugged in the slot.

We used turning blocks near the mast.

The port block is for the downhaul and the starboard block is for the halyard. This is per our Oklahoma friend's advise who rigged his Sherpa "Progress" likewise.

Just in case we ever added a motor (perhaps a 2 hp Honda). I added an aluminum block to the inside of the rear transom.

Untested but perhaps a way to lash small fenders below the seating.

We used the parrel beads along with leather lacing around the spars.

Woods Aplenty

We used Meranti marine plywood, white oak for skegs and some small parts, soft maple for the stringers, and mahogany for the gunnels, and tiller. Strips of old growth fir were used to make the daggerboard.

The white oak skegs, soft maple stringers and our sloppy epoxy no doubt contributed to the excess weight. We estimate that Peggi J weighs hull weighs close to 140 lb. This weight does not include the sail or spars nor the daggerboard and rudder-tiller assembly.

We bent the mahogany gunnels after an overnight soak and let dry for days but even then we had a lot of spring-back. When we finally attached the gunnels we replaced temporary screws with silicon bronze then capped the holes with the walnut dowels.

Leeboad Goof

My bigga mistaka was (ever watch the British Comedy " Allo Allo") I was convinced that the Sherpa needed a leeboard instead of a daggerboard in order to navigate the often shallow lakes of West Texas. So in the building process I left out the daggerboard slot and chaise. I sized and shaped a leeboard using two half-inch thick layers of meranti plywood.

When I finished shaping the leeboard it was so heavy and so big that I visualized a big built-in list that would require us to sit on the opposite side, or when empty, the boat would look crippled.

Fortunately, I had not glued in the seats so it was not too late to retrofit a daggerboard as per Welsford's design.

This I did. We have an old lumber yard in Abilene that just so happened to have an old weathered piece of old-growth (close ringed) Douglas Fir that I cut into strips and glued back together to make our daggerboard.

To control the depth I plan on using use a stretchy card around the daggerboard per the picture and per suggestions by others.

Oarlock Positions

I tried to be careful to get the oarlocks in the right position. I had read various builders who located them with respect to the seat. An issue of Wooden Boats magazine, December 2009 had a special insert on rowing wherein it was recommended that the base of the oarlock should be located on a 14" diagonal from the aft edge of the seat. I discovered that for me and the Sherpa this would be another bigga mistaka!

The seat just aft of the daggerboard case would appear to be where one would be sitting to row so it would be natural to locate the aft pair of oarlocks from the edge of that seat. Unfortunately you would have legs the size of Tiny Tim for this to work. Sit a box near a wall and decide how much leg room you need. My industrious friend in Oklahoma who finished his Sherpa ("Progress" ) way before we did told me that when he rowed his Sherpa he had to (due to leg space) sit on top of the daggerboard slot and that it was not very comfortable there. I am 6' and my friend is perhaps taller. One cannot sit on the middle seat facing the stern whilst rowing unless you have very short legs. I finally located the after pair of oarlocks using the 14" rule but with reference to a row seat that I made which plugs into the daggerboard slot. This row seat stores under the middle seat when not in use.

Oars from Scratch

From what I have read, oars that are 7'-6" are about right for the Sherpa. I decided to build the oars according to the plan in Jim Michalak's book "Boatbuilding for Beginners". We simply lengthened his Pete Culler design by 6". Hopefully they will be functional.

Le Rudder

Instead of a fixed rudder, we designed our own after seeing a lot of others on Duckworks.

Our rudder has a kick back, held down by a shock cord, and a uphaul for cleating the rudder above the waterline. We added a tiller extension.

Finale (to be continued this Spring)

Others have suggested that when we get her all muddy this spring that we will forget how cute she once was. Until then this is the end of the story of the cute "Peggi J".


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