September 2015

It seems so wrong – but I have to cut a huge hole in the bottom of the boat. The centerboard goes here.


As more parts are complete, I can’t resist the urge to clamp them together to see how they fit.

As the parts go together, I am shocked to see some of the mistakes that I made months ago in the basement.

These pieces were glued crooked! What was I thinking? These were cut off and new pieces were cut and glued in their place.

Odd interlude. I turned around and it looked like a cricket was on my saw blade.


Turns out it was empty. This is an old cricket shell that fell out of the dusty eaves of the garage and landed, lifelike, on the saw blade.

More mistakes. I tried and tried to get the centerboard trunk to fit exactly flush against the keel batten, but I couldn’t get it right. These are big gaps. They will eventually get filled and covered with fiberglass, so there’s no harm done. Just frustrating.

I had to cut out part of the frame to allow for the bottom of the centerboard case.

After attaching the case some bulkhead could be attached. On the right is a worrisome mismatch. The seats rest on these two pieces that aren’t level. When I started making parts in the basement in April, my biggest concern was that when it came time to put them together, they wouldn’t fit.

Eventually I made slight adjustments on both sides to get the seat supports flush, but this was nerve-wracking.

Someday I’ll look back on this and laugh. But not yet. In the shot below I’ve put the parts together and temporarily attached a thin batten to see the shape of the boat. But the way that I clamped the battens onto the front stem completely disguises the fact that bulkhead #1 is in the wrong place. Foreshadowing!


The two sides of bulkhead 6 (or maybe 8) are attached. I thought I was done with bulkheads months ago.


September ends and I’m feeling the pressure of the ticking clock. In just a few weeks it will be too cold to glue, but I want to get these parts together before I wrap up for the winter.


August 2015

Work continued on the centerboard. There was a lot of wood to remove to get the right shape. On this section I cut the grooves to the right depth, then popped off the left-over with a chisel.


Shaping with a Japanese pull-saw


Now the centerboard needed a home. In this shot I’m celebrating the fact that I just cut out two pieces of plywood and they match perfectly.


Another signature move. These pieces support the bottom of the centerboard case, and after cutting I realized that I had gotten confused with the measurements. I was able to fish out the cut-offs from the scrap box and make these extensions, which I glued into place. Fortunately this piece was soon covered by another!

The inside of the case was the spot for my first fiberglassing experience. I was glad to be learning on area that will never be seen again.

Eventually the sides came together to make the case.

The keel batten is the internal spine of the boat. Two shorter pieces were scarphed together and then glued and screwed in place.


Another correction was required. The 1×4 keel batten was slightly thinner than the 100mm width that the plan calls for. But the centerboard case is actually 100mm wide, so I widened the keel batten to make a snug fit.


Can’t have too many clamps.

August ended with a second and final trip to pick up plywood. Same trip, minus all of the snow and most of the panic.


July 2015

Made great progress (and even bigger mistakes) in July.

Made space in the garage.

“The clamps were all hung by the workbench with care, in hopes that a skilled woodworker soon would be there.” Nope, just me.


Laid out the frame in the flattest place I had – the front porch.

Two pieces of ply are planed down (scarphed, to be precise) to make a stronger bond when joined end-to-end. Not bad, you know, for me.

Then I blew it all. Somehow, when I glued the two pieces together I managed to cram this scrap in-between!! You are truly seeing a master craftsman at work.

Do-over. Cut out the offensive joint, re-scarph, re-glue. Drew the shape of the bottom panel, cut it out and attached it to the frame.


Pieces glued up to form the centerboard.


With saw, router and grinder, this big chunk of wood gets whittled down to a more hydrodynamic shape.


Epoxy hardens very quickly in hot weather. Here I was experiment with freezing a layer of ice in-between the two cups.


Lots of progress in July, but it’s not a boat yet, still just a pile of parts.

Spring 2015-The Building Begins

Actually, the story begins in July 2014. My arm was still in a sling when the plans arrived, but that summer I haunted estate sales looking for clamps and other tools for the build. I finally took the plunge on February 14 and made a pilgrimage to Boulter Plywood in Somerville to buy the special marine plywood that I needed. After strapping almost $500 worth of plywood to the roof of a borrowed SUV (thanks Ruth) I was still worried that it might slide off, so I drove with my left hand out of the window holding on to the plywood. Of course, it was 6 degrees at the time, and by the time I carefully drove through the back streets of Somerville, Arlington and Lexington, my hand was a frozen claw. Good times!!


Soon the precious ply was safely stored in the basement. Weird to think that this pile of wood will be a boat. I told the wood, but it seemed skeptical.

February wasn’t a time for doing fun stuff in the basement, it was a time for shoveling. It was March before I made my first cautious cuts into the precious ply. I started with the bulkheads. This proved much more difficult and time consuming than I thought and this lasted until the end of the school year.

Warm weather brought field trips, the last days of school, gardening, home repair and other delays, and it was early July before construction moved outside.




Almost a year ago I started on an ambitious/crazy plan to build a sailboat seaworthy enough to handle everything from local lakes to coastal cruising. Since it’s too cold for epoxy to harden it’s a great time to finally sit down and show what I’ve done so far.

I learned to sail almost 20 years ago at the Center for Wooden Boats in Seattle. The arrival of children, the move back to Boston and the fact that it’s a rich man’s sport had all conspired to keep me off the water. But in 2010 I stumbled into the hidden world of backyard boat builders. The fact that I was an absolute novice at woodworking didn’t stop me from dreaming – and spending countless hours surfing the net watching other guys build boats.


Before my first boat, this was the height of my woodworking accomplishments. I bet it floats!

Summer Breeze

In the summer of 2010 I found free plans for a simple sail boat, the Summer Breeze by David Beede. I was pretty sure that I wouldn’t succeed, and I was also pretty sure that my lovely wife would agree, so I started it on a weekend when The Admiral was out of town. My plan worked! By the time she returned on Sunday afternoon I had something that was vaguely boat-shaped, so I braved her skeptical eye rolls and continued. Much to our surprise I finished, it floated, and it (more or less) went in the direction I wanted.

In the summers of 2012 and 2013 our floating family grew with the birth of two kayaks in festive colors. So now that I had proved that I could make something that floats, it was time to make a serious sailboat.

The Navigator

My search led to the Navigator, designed by John Welsford of New Zealand. Because I’m still a very beginning sailor, I needed a design like this that has been proven to be very safe and seaworthy. I was also attracted to the fact that the design was a good step up for me in difficulty, but not as hard as some other building methods. John has sold over 500 sets of these plans, so there are Navigators sailing all over the world.


Ain’s she purty?

So, with a little luck, I’ll be out sailing in fall of 2016 or the following summer