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by Brian Nimmo - Omaha, Nebraska - USA

I'm a retired software engineer living with my wife in the hills north of Omaha Nebraska. I built the Sylvia Lee to cruise the navigable rivers and their tributaries, following in the wakes of Rene Vidmer and Ray Macke after reading their excellent cruise logs.

I chose Jim's AF4 as the smallest practical craft for efficient cruising on plane that I could overnight aboard. There's room for me to sleep in the cabin with all the gear that needs to stay dry, and I can carry a lot of fuel jugs in the cockpit. I don't intend to sleep every night aboard. In fact I'm hoping I find comfy rooms at the marinas every third night or so to clean up and chow on some carnivore pizza after eating boat food for 2 days.

One of three pages of blueprints. This one shows bulkheads and frames dimensions.
From the top, bulkhead 2, frame 6, bulkhead 10, and frame 13. Frames 6 and 13 (the 'hollow' ones) are used during construction to define the shape of the boat, but will be removed after final assembly. Two more bulkheads to go: 16 and the transom.
Gluing cleats onto bulkheads. Dowels are used to preserve alignment while clamps keep everything flush.
First dry fit bulkheads and sides. Bevels and heights all appear to be in the ballpark. Lots of sanding and flatwork to do before attaching anything permanently.

After building 2 Michalak designs (Ozarkian, Brucesboat) and lamenting both times, "I wish I had a jig to cut the rail scarfs" and now needing a bunch of 20-foot long rails on the 3rd project (AF4) I made a damn jig!

With this jig I can cut perfect 12:1 scarf joints with little effort and no finishing with a sander. I slide the stock into one end of the jig and make a cut with the circular saw. The fence forces the saw to cut a straight line at the correct angle.

The first Michalak design I built (Ozarkian) called for gluing 32 8ft rails into 8 24-foot rails. This is done with a scarf joint by cutting a 10-inch "ramp" on each end of the pieces to be connected. The "ramped" ends are glued together such that the glue joint is spread out over a 10-inch length of wood.

This picture shows 2 rails connected with a scarf joint. Left section "ramp" is on the bottom of the diagonal glue line; the right section ramp is on top.

Those observing the two dowels as "overkill" are correct; my epoxy technique uses dowels for preserving dry alignment after things get wet. This joint was not cut with the jig shown in the following pictures. It looks reasonably good here due to lots of sanding before and after gluing.

The challenge with these scarf joints is cutting accurate narrow angles in skinny stock. Standard table saws and miter saws don't have a setting for this, and my various attempts with crooked rip fences and free-handing a circular saw required a lot of help from Mr. belt sander to get the mating surfaces to even look at each other, let alone mate.

If you really enjoy any form of boating other than paddling, don't live in Nebraska.

If you're stuck living in Nebraska and like building non-trivial projects in your unheated, un-insulated garage, finish them before November.


If you're still in Nebraska and it's after October with an unfinished project in your garage, get one of these radiant/forced air heaters. It's not one of those noisy kerosene "bullet" turbine heaters. This device burns kerosene or diesel fuel and is 100% efficient - no fumes and no soot - and at 60k btu keeps my drafty 2-car garage toasty warm for 7 hours on 2.5 gals of fuel.

Starting to look like boat. Frames and sides assembled with deck screws. Next step is to glue each bulkhead permanently. Will coat bulkheads with epoxy and 4oz fiberglass to prevent plywood checking.
This is what it looks like underneath with a piece of stock inserted and ready to be cut. The stock is over-inserted a bit to show the end in relation to the jig.

The long dimensions are all parallel to each other and square to the short dimension. The angle of the cut is established with the fence.
Four plywood sheets rough cut to shape of the bottom. I'll glue them together off the boat and then attach the assembled bottom to the hull.
Chine logs installed and screw holes drilled and doweled. Ready for the bottom panel.
The black string is the centerline from stem to stern. I've got some twist and/or sideways displacement to resolve before "locking" the shape with the bottom panels. The red fuel can in the back is 14 gallons of diesel fuel for the garage heater. The 12v thermoelectric cooler with white lid is in "heater" mode to keep the epoxy glue warm. Anyone building a boat in Nebraska in January needs their head examined.
Major progress - we put the bottom panel on the hull last night. I preassembled the entire bottom panel using fiberglass tape so I wouldn't have to live with wooden butt-blocks on the floor of my boat. The downside to this approach is the entire panel has to be attached in a single operation. I was able to break the operation into halves by supporting the forward end above the hull while gluing and screwing the back half.
Keel/strakes/skids attached to bottom of the hull. I used scarfed 2x4's for all three. No flexi-floor on my AF4!
The bottom is completely glassed. Per my natural instincts I did it the hard way. Next time I will glass the bottom with wide swaths of fiberglass before attaching the strakes instead of multiple layers of 6 inch tape over and between the strakes.
View from astern. The keel is shortened to reduce turbulence in front of the propeller.
Bought a new Shorlandr trailer yesterday. Now I need volunteers to transfer the boat to the trailer. Free beer for all takers.
The motor well deck is installed. The hollow box underneath is glassed on all 6 interior sides.
Front view of slot top. Hoping some volunteers drop in over the weekend to get her on the trailer.
Interior panels are all fully glassed and filleted. Next boat project will use better plywood that doesn't require fiberglass on interior panels. Cabin decks and slot-top beams are roughed on.
Anchor well in the front of the boat is heavily glassed. It was a challenge reaching down to the bottom to squeegee the epoxy on the fiberglass.
Thanks to friends and family for helping me get her on the trailer. It was much easier than expected.
She floats! No more excuses for avoiding the final finishing and painting now.
Puttin' along with minimal wake. I was disappointed with how the 10hp labored to get the boat on plane with nothing but me and 2 gallons of fuel aboard. I see a new 20hp in my very near future.

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