July 2016

In my head I imagined that as soon as Spring hit I would be outside working on the boat, but the reality is that I always forget that between yard, garden plot, work and finishing school, Spring is really busy. But July finally came and I only had one thing on my mind.

Last fall I was excited to get the frame together but now I’m just seeing all the places where the parts didn’t exactly fit. The seats were the next step, but first everything under the seats had to be flat. Lots of tiny additions and subtractions.

I also found several places where the wood stringers had snapped, either during the assembly last fall or sometime over the winter. These all needed to be repaired and cleaned up.

On one seat section I made a pattern of cardboard, then transferred the shape onto the plywood. This was a long tedious method that eventually yielded the right shape.

This was fun. The front of the boat (stem) needs a curved piece, but you can’t bend a one-inch piece of oak. So I cut it into many thin pieces (which do bend) and laminated them together. Gooey but successful!


At last, planking. I started on the rear left. The process has many steps. I cut an oversized piece of ply, clamp it in place and mark the edges. Off the boat to make cuts, back on to see if it fits, then off and on until it’s right. Then glue and clamp and screw in place. The first piece was small and straightforward, but piece number two was not. Because of the length of the plank, the curve of the boat and frame obstructions on the bottom, this was the hardest plank for me. It seems like I took it off and put it back on the boat twenty times just to get it close!


The final bottom plank is the one that other Navigator builders dread, but it went on pretty easily. The challenge is that it starts almost horizontal at the rear, but bends dramatically to vertical in the front. As I slowly tightened the clamps to force it into shape I kept expecting to hear the crack of snapping wood, but it went on without a hitch.

Then the starboard side goes on.

Day by day, plank by plank. 24 in all.

And finally to the top! Now I have a boat.


The last plank is called “The Whiskey Plank” no doubt to celebrate the completion of this important task. And I would never disrespect hundreds of years of naval tradition . . .


Winter 2016

The end of fall signaled the end of the outdoor boat-building season. Epoxy needs to be at least 50 degrees to harden, and you all know what a wimp I am about the cold.

So I moved the tools back in to the basement to work on the masts and spars until the return of warmer weather.

An unusually warm day in December gave me the chance to cut the parts that would become the mast. At first I couldn’t adjust my very old table saw to make the 45º cut, but after I took off the top, cleaned out the sawdust and oiled the parts, she made it.

Special thanks to Pearl for helping me feed 16-foot-long staves into the saw!


Here’s how the mast comes together. Eight staves with a 90º groove cut out of one end come together to make a perfect 8-sided whole. You can see why it got its name – The Bird Mouth method. On this practice piece I’ve already started rounding off the edges to make a circle.

These are 3 of the 8 sides.I had to piece together a lot of smaller ones  to get 15-foot long staves with no knots.

One of the great advantages of this method is that when you clamp the pieces together tightly they hold each other in the right position.

Hours of work with a hand plane turned it into a pile of shavings and a mast!


The smaller spars were much easier. Start with a square, plane into an octagon, then round.

The boomkin sticks our of the back of the boat to control the rear sail, the mizzen. I copied other builders on the net to make it hollow so that the mizzen sheet, the line that controls the mizzen location, will actually go through the center of the boomkin all the way to the end. I screwed a scrap of wood to my router to act as a guide, then routed a groove down the middle of both halves.

I carefully glued the two sides together, making sure that I didn’t clog the tunnel with glue. These guides helped to hold it in place during the initial shaping, and the cap on top gave a flat surface for a clamp to hold it in place.

Doesn’t seem like much progress for a whole winter! In other news, in April I started working part-time at Community Boating in downtown Boston. Great fun, lots of time on boats, neat people and extra dough for boat building.

On the middle school trip to DC I got to teach some of the kids this important life skill.

I got to make a great trip to the region’s sewage treatment plant. Two of my students came in first and third in the poster contest (out of thousands!). Abe voted for the first time on a special vote for school construction. Thanks, Abe! We need the space.