My Backyard Boats:

The Harmonica Log, Part Two

    Part Two: From the outfitting of the interior to the loading onto the trailer.

  • Part One: From before the beginning (of the log) to the flipping of the hull
  • Part Three: From initial launching to present day -- continued fine-tuning.

    Next day, I put the beams in place for the deck.

  • 29 May 02: Today I put in the beams for the deck, though I need to do some more work to support the beams, since I opted for butt joints





  • Deck beams are braced with 11/2 square spruce at the after end. Two coats of primer in place.


    The foredeck got a coat of epoxy and fiberglass tape on the center and aft seams.


    31 May 02: Things are coming right along. Primed and painted the space below the foredeck and cut and installed the deck, too. I was worried about the strength of the beams until I hit on a scheme for bracing, especially the after end. The color scheme now is burgundy red, yellow, and blue glo white, all Interlux. The boat trailer is supposed to arrive early next week. Next building step is to trim and caulk the foredeck. I have an idea for breaking up the boat's boxiness by using a lot of stern knee-style braces to introduce some curves.

First I cut out the windows.


Then I outlined with pine.


  • 07 June 02: I decided to cut out the windows as shown in the plans, which leaves only narrow pylons instead of expanses of plywood on the sides of the boat. More plywood on the sides would increase the problems with crosswinds. The two Harmonicas that I've seen photos of have small windows and lots of plywood on the sides; mine is all windows. Still no word on the trailer.

2 by 2s in place along the boat sides for the two plywood berths.


  • 10 June 02: Hotter today, and getting a bit muggy, which will continue for most of the week, apparently. Glad I did a lot of the epoxy work before this heat; the epoxy has been setting up a bit too quickly of late. I got spoiled by all those days in the 50s. I put in 2- by 2-inch strips of spruce on the sides of the boat down low to support the plywood berths -- one 19-inch-wide by 64-inch-long berth on each side of the central walkway. The view in the pic at right is from aft: You see the partition between the motor area in the after section of the boat, then the cabin section, which is about 64 inches long, and then the cavity under the foredeck. The object in the foreground of the photo is a low stool with a gray top. Tomorrow I'll cut out the berths and stiffen them with 2 by 2s at each end and in the middle, short-ways. If the plywood is not stiff enough after that, I'll add some longitudinal stiffeners, too, and maybe a hand hole. Also might drill some holes in the 2 by 6 stiffeners for ventilation under the berths, which will be in place most of the time. Still no firm word on the trailer, though I keep asking Obersheimer's, and they keep asking the manufacturer.
  • 14 June 02: Outlined the windows with 3/4- by 1-inch pine inside and out. Still need to put thickened epoxy in cracks in the job. In keeping with the theme of this being a boat built only with materials from home stores, I got some beautiful yellow pine strips at Lowe's in suburban Rochester for duckboards. The other day I made the butt joints on the roof plywood, but I'm not going to put the roof on until I paint inside. Lots of detail work to go. Money worries have dictated that I will try to get my dad's post-war 5-horse outboard shipped here so I can see if I can get it to run for this season at least. Still no delivery on the trailer. However, I'm still on track for a launch during July 4th holiday.
Two coats of primer.
That's sand on the deck.
  • 21 June 02: The trailer is finally in, but I have to wait until Tuesday for the guy who does the paperwork to get back from a long weekend. I've been working hard on the boat. Today was humid and mid-80s with an ozone warning. Hard day for painting, but the priming is done. I even put sand in the primer on the foredeck for a non-skid surface. A bunch of little guys from the neighborhood were asking me all about the boats and what was the sand for. I didn't know what to tell them. It sure was odd to put sand on a boat. I'm using that blue masking tape on the trim that doesn't set up hard, so I'll leave it on until I'm done with the painting. I'm still not sure whether I'll epoxy the walkway before painting or just paint. I will be making the duckboards, though. The trim has two coats of high-build marine varnish. After painting, the roof goes on and the railings, too. And a foam-and-fabric cover for the berths. The trailer is a brown color. Looks good. Some other kids came by while my wife happened to be out talking with me. One of them said he didn't think it would float. A lot of people say stuff like that. I suppose it's a logical question ... .

Clockwise from left: The painting is almost over. The walkway, shown at top right, will be yellow, with duckboards on top. At lower right is a closeup of the sanded deck, before the final coat of white paint.



  • 24 June 02: Another hot and humid day. Did about six hours on the white paint on the interior of the boat. The whole week is supposed to be hot and humid. Tomorrow could hit 90. The sand on the foredeck for a non-skid surface came out nicely, and the paint scheme is extremely bright and busy. As my wife put it, they'll certainly see us coming. The next step is to finish the rails that bolt to the bow and cabin at each side, and then to install the roof and 2x4 stiffeners on the roof. Plus a bunch of gussets. Tomorrow I'm going to pick up the trailer and get it registered. Got the hitch ball and wiring done today. I'm on vacation for a while, so a July 4 launch is certain.

Two views of the boat. View at right shows roof overhangs. The stick in the view at right is a temporary stretcher.


  • 27 June 02: Finally got the trailer home today. It took two trips to the DMV. Put the trailer on one side of the garage with the skiff, the dink, and a load of junk. I'll make new bunks that will give Flipper (our name for the Harmonica) better support. Also found out that there is going to be a long delay while DMV in Albany processes paperwork for the boat. This will mean a delay past July 4 for the launch. Also decided to go with regular deep-cycle marine battery instead of a gel battery and special charger, saving about $200. Also picked up about 45 running feet of moulding. And two-part foam to make 2.5 cubic feet of floatation. Also put the roof on. Been busy.

2x4x10-foot roof beams in place and bolted in.


Dry run on the deck rails. The uprights trim flush.
  • 02 July 02: Installed the 2x4x10-foot roof beams and the deck rails. The roof beams take three bolts on each side. I made 2x2-inch blocks from some hard oak These I lag-bolted to the frames and then drilled for the bolts. That was a time-consuming task in itself.  It's been hot and muggy for days, and I've been working 10 to 12 hours on the boat per day, trying to maximize vacation time. July 4th launch is out of the question because of the delays I'm facing in getting the boat registered. I still have a lot to do to finish, including some kind of window treatment and some floatation. It's a disappointment that paperwork is delaying the launch. Next job is to put some moulding around the deck and install gussets that I made today to stiffen the deck rails some, though they don't really seem to need it; I also wanted to introduce some decorative curves to offset the relentless boxiness of this boat. Then paint the walkway zone and make duckboards. Installing the bolts through the hull for the deck rails was a slice. I tried last week to install them but gave up after hours of frustration. This time I triumphed. Lying on my back under the deck on a 85-degree day with high humidity is more fun that I've had since the pig ate my brother. Since I work alone, I used that swell blue masking tape to hold the bolts in place while I crawled under and tightened the nuts. NB: If you build a Harmonica (and I hope you will) be sure to install the deck rails before you put the plywood decking in place. That will save a lot of salty talk.
  • 08 July 02: Still waiting on Albany to process the paperwork for a Hull ID Number (HIN). I got a reply to an email that I sent to Jim Michalak, who designed the Harmonica (did I mention that he is my favorite boat designer?). Jim said that he has never heard of the Coast Guard inspecting a small homebuilt boat. He sent me a document called Safety Standards for Backyard Boat Builders that the Coast Guard offers on homemade boats, which spells out floatation needs and placement, and a bunch of other helpful stuff such as capacity in weight and in persons, engine limits, ventilation, fuel systems, and electrical systems. He said that the Harmonica could take up to an 18-horsepower outboard; could carry 800 pounds total person weight; and would need 8 cubic feet of floatatoin foam, which he suggested putting in the four corners of the boat (though he does not know of any Harmonica owners who have used floatation). He was skeptical of my plan to use a 30-thrust electric trolling motor "in any sort of wind or current or distance," He advises a 5 hp outboard as a minimum for those conditions. His final comment on floatation was that "in the reality of homemade boats, buoyancy chambers work pretty good," referring to the kind of air boxes that he designs into his sailboats.

The two foam blocks at left are for the inside of the foreward bulkhead. I'll epoxy them to the bulkhead on its forward side under the foredeck. The two blocks at right will go in the stern corners. The blocks in the back row are still in the forms that I used.


  • 18 July 02: Been gone for a week but back now. I poured 2.5 cubic feet's worth of two-part foam gunk into a plastic storage box to see how it would act and what it would produce. I got a hard foam blank 16 inches by 18 inches by 12 inches tall, with the top 2 inches domed. Had to cut the storage box in half to get the foam out, and the bottom inch was messed up because of the way I poured in the first bottle, then after sloshing it around, poured in the second. I figure that the mix was off by a hair, which messed up the very bottom of the block. I cut that part off with my Japanese thin kerf saw (Japan Tools in Alameda, CA. About $25 bucks, and worth much more. The Weekend Skiff guys recommend this sort of saw in the plans book). Since getting back from California, I also have epoxy-coated the foredeck rails, the top deck rails, and all the trim pieces I used around the foredeck. One day in California, it was 116 degrees F. Back here it's only 80+/100. Not so bad. That's 80 degrees and 100 percent humidity. Still, I've been doing a lot of sitting in my special boat chair and not much actual work. Two days later, I made a form with thin plywood to make the floatation blocks for the stern corners, and I fished out of the trash the plastic storage box that I had to cut in half to remove the first foam block that I made. I reused it to make a second block.

Starboard side platform in stern (shown) will be a cooking surface. Port side will be the pilot's seat.


  • 24 July 02: Good news today! I called the state office that was processing my paperwork for a Hull Identification Number. They sent the paperwork on to the Erie County Sheriff's Department's Marine Unit on July 5. I called the Marine Unit and will be taking the boat to them early next week. It ends up that their office is on the Niagara River in our part of town. We're going to ask our friends to come by this weekend to put the boat on the trailer, and I need to locate a trolling motor and battery now, too. In working today on the boat, I finished framing in the benches in the stern that will hide and imprison the foam blocks that I've prepared. I went with one diagonal brace, which on each side presses tightly on the foam block. I put three 1-inch by 1.5-inch spacers under each foam block. I'll put two round holes in each top for ventilation, and there is a 1-inch space at the bottom for ventilation, too.

Starboard side bench in place. Port side is identical.

  • 26 July 02: I was sitting around in my study at church yesterday in Niagara Falls and in reading the Local Rag ran across a classified ad for a 47-thrust MotorGuide trolling motor, battery, and charger for $150, which is about 50 percent off the list price for the motor alone. So I bought it. The guy had a small fishing boat last year that he didn't like, so when he bought a bigger boat this year, it came with a trolling motor rig. So the one I got is a year old. I was hoping for a little more oomph that the 25- to 30-thrust models that are readily available in retail outlets here. It looks like a launch next weekend is not beyond reasonable expectation. Last night, I also put the plywood tops and sides on the frames that hold the aft floatation blocks. I used lauan on the top and bc pine on the sides, partly to use up pieces on hand and partly to introduce a little of the bc pine that I can finish bright. The lauan tops match the rooftops. If it looks weird, though, I can always paint the bc pine.

Above: Sittin' pretty. Top right: Photos for posterity.Right, Mike, Mary, and the Reverend take a rest.





  • 27 July 02: Our friends Mike and Mary came over this afternoon to help us lift the boat onto the trailer, which went OK until
    the final push. A guy walking by offered to help, and his added strength made a big difference. The day was hot and what theWeather Service calls sultry, instead of just plain humid. It was about 80 when we did the work. I spent about an hour moving junk around in preparation for the lifting event, and I put the skiff up in the rafters again with a double block that someone nailed to the peak of the ceiling in the garage, which is high because of an equal-hip roof. I also spent an hour moving the two struts on the trailer so they would accommodate the skids on the bottom of the boat. I despaired of getting it right, but after trying a few alternatives, got it right. Later, we got a dolly assembly for the trailer, which will help us push the boat into the garage, since it's just too tight to back in, at my present skill level. We were going to do the cushions in the evening, but I couldn't find the staple gun, so that will be for another day.

The car was moving when the tree hit it.


  • 30 July 02: News flash: I got the Hull Identification Number and the registration numbers today. Things went very smoothly. The deputies were helpful with the HIN (though one did say, "So this is a boat?"), and I was lucky enough to get the same DMV worker who helped me with my boat trailer registration at the Broadway office of the DMV. The weather has been unsettled, and it looks like Friday will be the launch day. We had a lot of excitement in the neighborhood last night. A tree crashed down on a car moving down the street during a thunderstorm. We were without power all night and half the morning. That got me off to a slow start on my quest for numbers for the boat. I also went the Kmart and Obersheimer's and got all the little safety items, such as flares and flags and anchor.
  • Part One: From before the beginning (of the log) to the flipping of the hull
  • Part Three: From initial launching to present day -- continued fine-tuning.

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