My Backyard Boats:

Archive of On Deck log entries: 22 February 03

First you build a boat in the mind

[Read the original, tone-setting post to this log]

   22 February 03: After weeks of bone-chilling weather, unlike anything that we've had for many winters, there's been a warmup lately. Although I'm not tricked by this, I do feel the dim belief that warmer days and things like the building of backyard boats will again be part of my life.

    Somebody say amen.

    I've been thinking a lot for a while now about just what boat (or boats, plural) that I'm going to build this coming warm season.

    These are the pertinent factors:

  • I need to stay within a reasonable monthly amount -- enough to bankroll a boat of modest size in one season of building or a boat of more generous size over two seasons of building.

  • I would like to build a sailboat, either for occasional use alone or with my wife. That is, either an 8-foot pram or a garage-length sailboat with cuddy.

  • We're planning a trip in late summer to Selkirk Shores State Park on Lake Ontario where we've spent time in the past. I want some kind of dink or canoe to play around with then.

  • I have sets of boat plans coming out the aft end, including:

    • Music Box 3, a prototype Jim Michalak sailboat of 15 feet that follows the spirit of legendary small boat designer Philip Bolger's Micro but uses water ballast instead of 400 pounds of molten lead (okay, okay, okay -- the lead will only be molten for a while, for an extremely dangerous little while.)

    • a 13.5-foot boat called Tread Lightly designed by John Welsford of New Zealand, who designs beautiful multi-chine boats that aren't (somebody say amen) simply stitch-and-glue but have stringers behind each lapstrake joint for gluing. Down side? The plans, despite vague assurances to the contrary, are in metric notation. On balance, I would like to try using metric measures.

    • The Moby Dink plans that I used last year to build a boat that I ended up giving to my brother-in-law. Up side: cheap and fast, and this time I can put on the gaff rig. And two would be a fleet.

    • Bolger's Old Shoe, which I love except for the mere 200 pounds of molten lead (okay, okay, okay) that I would have to face and endure. I've toyed with the idea of mixing lead with epoxy or cement, but I figure that if I ever build an Old Shoe, I'll do it right or not at all.

    • Michalak's IBM, a neat boat of about 13 feet with a lug rig and birdwatcher cabin. Down side: stitch and glue construction (which just doesn't appeal to me).

    • Michalak's Toto, a canoe-like 15-footer made with stitch-and-glue construction.

    • The Six-Hour Canoe, a boat designed by professors at Buffalo State University, which is a few minutes from the house. I have built their Weekend Skiff, and when I want to cheer myself up, I close my eyes and remember the joys of building that boat. Down side: It take much longer than a weekend or a few hours to build one of these boats, and the canoe, based on the lines of the skiff and the construction approach, would be less boat for almost the same time and money.

    • The aforementioned Weekend Skiff. Down side: I already have one hanging from the rafters in the garage.

    • Plans for an International 14 skiff that I attempted to build ages and ages ago, without success. Down side: been there, done that, bought the T-shirt.

    • Five sets of vintage plan reprints, including a 16-foot sailboat called Petrel, a design that I've loved and rejected time and time again, beginning with the process of elimination that led to the International 14 project. I think the line are not quite right; the boat looks like an adaptation of a power boat or something. Still, it has spurred countless reveries countless times.

    • David Carnell's $200 Sailboat, a Bolger designs that features recycled Sailfish rigs. Supposed to be a fast, fun boat.

    • There are others, but I can't recall them at the moment.

    As you can see, there is no lack of options. So, of course, I'm strongly considering a design that I have yet to purchase. It's an eight-foot pram -- called Cygnet -- designed by Richard Ellison. When he moved from the East Coast to the Tennessee Valley Authority lakes region, he moved his love of multi-sail rigs but not his cabin sloop, so he build a pram that has a sloop rig (no kidding) as the default rig, with options for a spinnaker and a bunch of jibs, including a genoa. Up side: I have always wanted a sloop-rigged sailboat and never have had one. Ellison also has the option of using strips of poplar to make one's own plywood-style panels. I've been using some poplar in my boat work lately, and this appeals to me.

    If you haven't figured it out yet, here it is: I like to fish it out and play with it, and then put it away again, only to repeat the process, again and again. Half the fun of using boats is building boats, and half the fun of the building is the process of deciding on the one boat to build next.

    So for, this is what I'm thinking about: making a dink or canoe for the family vacation on Lake Ontario, then starting a big sailboat project in the fall, with the idea of taking a few seasons to finish. After all, I am still hoping to spend lots of time on the Harmonica with the Reverend on the canal. The designs that have the inside track are Ellison's sloop pram and the Tread Lightly (or the Music Box 3).

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