My Backyard Boats:

Moby Dink building log


Hull approaching completion.


    Fall 2001: Jim Michalak, my favorite boat designer, created the plans for Moby Dink. I started Moby Dink in the fall of 2001, completing the hull but not the spars or sail stuff such as the daggerboard and rudder, because I also wanted to start Harmonica before the cold and snow started.

    The interesting thing about Moby Dink is its gaff rig. I love gaff rigs. And dinks. The boat has high sides and pram ends.

    I am planning some sort of modification to the plans for floatation. The plans show a block of foam, but that doesn't make sense to me. I'll either get a truck inner tube or frame in some space with plywood and make a port for ventilation between outings to cut down on the moisture threat. A port would also make the framed-in space useful for personal items such as camera and water and snacks.

    Right now, the dink sits on its side in the garage. The hull is of 5 mm lauan plywood, with external chines. I've glassed the bottom and ends. So far it looks like I can finish the boat bright if I wish. That's the plan for now, anyway.

     The way that Michalak operates, plans are cheaper until a prototype is built. He built the prototype himself, so this design has more than the usual amount of building instructions, especially given its small size.

    The complete building log follows:


At left: The bow plate in place.

Above left: The dink in the last year became a storage bin for poly tarps and such.

Above: When I cut away stock to make room for the stern plate, the clamp separated from the plywood. That's fixed now.




  • 19 September 02: I've decided to try to finish Moby Dink this fall before the snow flies. Tonight I finished fitting the bow plate and epoxied it in. Also fixed a boo-boo when the sheer clamp separated from the side of the boat. I've decided to use the mast that I made for The Weekend Skiff, since I don't plan to do any sailing in the skiff any time soon. The mast happens to be the same size and specs as are called for in Moby Dink's plans. I had to take everything out of the garage and switch the Harmonica to the other side (there's a partition down the middle) so I could work on the dink on the side that has power, lights, and my tools in place. It was hotter than blazes that day, too. We've been having hot, fine weather lately, though not as hot as the summer was. I have a gaff sail that I made for the skiff but abandoned, so I may use that as well at least to get on the water sooner. I was trying to remember why I started two boats -- Harmonica and Moby Dink -- in the fall of 2001. Madness, I guess.

Bow plate in place.


The progress.


  • 20 September 02: Worked on the bow plate this afternoon. Epoxied it in place and had a bit of epoxy left over so also began to coat the inside and the transom. The next step is to cut and fit the skeg, the rear seat and the fitting that goes over the bottom board of the frame to hold the leeboard in place when it is being used as a rowing seat. Then grind off a lot of the fiberglass tape and re-tape the chine and ends. The day last fall when I applied fiberglass tape to the clines was cold and wet. The bond was poor and it pooched in many places. I'm going to cut into the edges so it will lie flat, sort of like cutting the fat on the edge of a steak so it will lie flat on the grill -- if you know what I mean, and I hope that you do.

Time to sand the fiberglass.


  • 23 September 02: Two sessions with the grinding power tools, including a new angle grinder that made short work of the fouled up fiberglass tape on the chines. There's white dust everywhere, and I'll have to vacuum endlessly to get it all. This is my least favorite part of the process. The sides are a mess, too, because of runs of epoxy mixed with cabosil. I don't use anything but wood flour anymore. Cabosil is a bitch to sand, and microballoons stain the wood, and the result is a bitch to sand, too. I'm toying with the idea of coating the hull with another coat of epoxy and putting a bead of thickened epoxy on top of the chine clamps, instread of using that freaking fiberglass tape again. The chine clamps are external, so there is an inch-wide epoxied joint, with a good seal on the inside. I'm also toying with the idea of finishing the hull bright inside and out. Especially out, since this is a boat that I will lift in and out of the truck, promising a lot of banging and scraping. The Weekend Skiff looks like it has been antiqued after last season's abuse at our hands before we got the trailer.I think that the varnish over epoxy will hide the scrapes much better, and I can't see painting the inside if the outside is finished bright. I don't like painted interiors much. I regret painting the inside of the Harmonica.

Detail of fiberglass tape.


More detail.


  • 27 September 02: I worked into the night and coated the outside with a layer of epoxy after doing a few more hours of sanding in the afternoon. I decided to put fiberglass tape on the box and stern where they meet the bottom, and the stern is good and the bow is fair. I cut slits in the tape on the stern, but I'm not sure that's the difference. I'm going to apply some heat next time to see if that helps.
  • 28 September 02: Spent the day working up the skeg and installing it, which meant giving the hull another sanding to level the epoxy I put on yesterday. It was a lot hotter today; I lost a lot of the epoxy tht I mixed. It was smoking, even. I took a lot of pix of the skeg sequence. Click here to see 'em. There are 12 pix in the sequence.

First coat of varnish.


  • 30 September 02: Put a coat of high-build marine varnish on the outside of the hull. One more coat and I'll flip the dink to finish the interior. It sure looks pretty now. I sanded for a while to touch up here and there, then rubbed down the hull with mineral spirits. I usually sand with a 60-grit paper, and I don't worry overmuch about the dustiness of the shop when I paint or varnish. My eyes aren't good enough to see any defects in my approach, though all the best authorities say to make the environment dust-free and spit over your left shoulder and say hinkum-dinkum three times forward and three times backward, while balancing on one foot and crossing your eyes. No one has ever complained about my finishes.


  • Rear seat dry-fit.


    After a coat of epoxy.


    02 October 02: I made the rear seat and dry-fit the parts. Then I sanded the interior, gunwales and bow and stern plates. Then coated the inside and other prepped surfaces with epoxy. And sanded the hull lightly to smooth the varnish. The weather was weird -- warm and humid, then rain, heavy at times, into the late evening. The rear seat was not too hard to make. Used poplar, my new boat wood. It works up nice, but it doesn't have that pine smell. Oh well.









Top left: Looking aft.

Top right: Looking forward; clamp holds oops with screw gun until glue sets.

Left: Looking down on the yoke.I offset the uprights to accommodate the screws and to make a positive stop for the seat

Below: Rowing seat dry-fit.
  • 04 October
    02: I made the little holder for the rowing seat that goes over the frame like a yoke. It's of poplar. Also cut out the three pieces of lauan that I'll laminate to make the leeboard, with is also the rowing seat, if you catch my drift. I'm close to a launch day for the rowing version, probably in about a week. I used 3M 5200 bedding compound and screws to put the rowing seat yoke together. I wanted to see how the bedding compound would work as a glue, and because I didn't want to mix a small amount of epoxy, though I will coat the whole thing with epoxy, which will add some strength and also some additional waterproofing. I was tempted to just screw the thing together, then coat with epoxy, figuring that the epoxy would penetrate into the joints, but I think that this is a better option, since the joints are coated before the epoxy enters into the mix. The bedding compound is perfect for dipping screws into before driving them home. I got that idea from an article in a recent issue of WoodenBoat. The stuff is great for that purpose. I also have used a bar of soap to coat screws so they drive easier, but introducing soap into the boat didn't sit well with me for some reason.

At left: The pieces that got epoxy coatings.

Above left: My Moaning Chair (absolutely necessay for boatbuilding; it also doubles as a Victory Chair).

Above: The setup of angle grinder and variable-speed unit. The unit has a clip so you can put in on your belt.

  • 05 October 02: I ordered a variable-speed unit for routers from the Phillips Bros. builder's supply store. I got a call that it was in, and I went to get it because I was planning to sand the epoxy on the inside of the dink. The unit works well. It slows down the tool without reducing the torque. I basically have the functionality of a unit costing as much as $150. I got a 4.5-inch angle grinder for $40 and the vari-speed box for another $40. It's a winner. The angle grinder spins at 10,00 rpm. At that speed, I could  grind through 5 mm lauan in a few seconds. With the vari-speed dialed down, it's still aggressive -- but also manageable. I find, though, that my grinder of choice is still the random-orbit sander. I've had a Makita for about five years, and it's wonderful. This other setup will be good for globs and big jobs where I need to take a lot of epoxy down quickly. Can't have too many tools. I also epoxied the little stuff that I made yesterday, such as the yoke for the rowing seat and the rear seat. I also laminated the three pieces of lauan that I cut out yesterday for the leeboard/rowing seat. I used drywall screws spaced about 4 inches apart to clamp the pieces together. First I coated each face except the outer faces, then hit the mating faces with epoxy thickened with wood flour.
Inwales, two pieces per side, in place with clamps.
  • 07 October 02: I worked long and late to cut, fit, and install inwales on the dink. I opted for two pieces on each side, bisected by the frame uprights. The doubled gunwales give all the strength and rigidity I need, so using shorter pieces of poplar for the inwales allowed me to use a six-foot board I've been saving. I used screws spaced six inches apart to hold the inwale pieces, and I thought that that would be enought, but I had to scramble to throw on clamps to keep from having a lot of gaps.

Left: Leeboard ready for a coat of epoxy -- as soon as I decide how to treat the edges.

Top left: The dink to this point.

Above: Detail of the inwale pieces showing the bisecting upright of the frame.
  • 08 October 02: It's been a lot colder lately, so the epoxy is still setting up from the work of yesterday. I worked on the leeboard, running the laminated blank through the table saw to fair the long edges, and I faired the short sides with the cutoff saw. It ended up about 1/8 of an inch shy of the width called for in the plans. The problem was that I didn't cut the three pieces of lauan a little wider to start. Just wasn't thinking right at the time. No harm done, though. The inwales look OK, but I wasn't able to work on them. The epoxy gummed up the block plane to the point where I had to take it apart and clean all the pieces. I'm shooting for a rowing-version launch this coming weekend. All I need to do is epoxy in the rear seat and install the oarlocks. I'm still hoping to finish the inside of the hull, too, with a couple of coats of varnish. I also may do one more coat of epoxy on the inside, too. I'm researching how best to bevel the edges of the leeboard. The plans call for a 2x2 block on the leeboard to support a pivot bolt. Instead of ripping out a 2x2 from a poplar 2x4 piece I have, I laminated two smaller pieces to achieve the specified dimension. I figure that will be stronger. This was one of those days when a lot of people noticed that I was building a boat. One buy stopped and talked for a while. He said he wanted to build a cigarette boat. You would have admired my restraint. I just nodded, and offered to resource him on designs. A kid from the neighborhood sat on the floor of the shop and asked a bunch of questions. I had the dink out in the driveway, and I enjoyed all the double-takes from people driving by. The sun was warm and wonderful. It was a good day just to be sitting in the Victory Chair, let alone building on a boat.

Leeboard ready for finish.


Detail after rounding.


  • 9 October 02: Spent the evening until late on the dink. The most time went to shaping the edges of the leeboard. After reading up on the subject, I rounded the leading edge and made the trailing edge blunt. Most of the time I used the wood rasp, finishing up with the belt sander and the random-orbit sander. I also cut the ends of the sheer clamps to make the profile more pleasing. That was a good job. Looks much better. Then I rasped the tops of the inwales and gunwales. I was working hard in hopes that I would be done when I launch on Saturday, which promises to be a warm and sunny day, according to the forecast. However, I won't be able to varnish all, but all surfaces will be epoxied.

Photo shows placement of oarlocks -- two per side, for solo rowing and rowing with a passenger.


  • 11 October 02: I donned dust mask and ear protectors and sanded the inside of the dink and the gunwales and inwales. The old back hurts. Tomorrow I'll take the dink rowing on the canal. I decided to put varnish on the surfaces I prepped. I can always add a coat of epoxy if I decide it is needed. Put on the oarlocks, a pair. One position for solo rowing, and one position for rowing with a passenger on board.




  • 12 October 02: We launch the rowing version of Moby Dink. For pix, go here.


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