Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Happenings with Radius Chine Plywood Projects

My agent in Italy, Leo Giammanco of Nautikit, sent me photos a few days ago of a new Didi 40cr. Many of these boats in the Didi 38/40/40cr series have been or are being built in Mediterranean countries, including 6 in Italy. This one is named "Mia" and was built by Stefano Consolini. She was launched at the Marina di Ravenna, east of Bologna on the Adriatic Sea.

Stefano appears to have done a really nice job of creating "Mia". He has built her as a nicely-detailed comfortable cruiser with 18mm skin and concentration on strength, rather than lightness and performance. Stefano started the project in 2006 and worked as a lifeguard to finance the build.
"Mia" gets wet for the first time.
Nicely finished as a fast cruiser.
Meanwhile, in Russia, Vitaly Ghazarayan of Krasnodar has stepped the rig on his Didi 34, with the help of a group of friends. They did this without a crane, showing that with a good dose of resourcefulness, amateur builders can do almost anything. Those of us who launch where yacht club cranes and derricks are readily available, wouldn't dream of doing this.

This series of photos shows the process that they used.

Moving the mast into position.
The lift starts, using a pole fastened to the cabin roof as a spreader to gain mechanical advantage.
Up she goes, nearly there.
Securely in place, sorting out backstay, halliards, electronics etc.
To see more of these and our other designs, go to our main website or our mobile website.



Monday, July 31, 2017

Wooden Boat Festival, Port Townsend

That season is coming around again, time for the Wooden Boat Festival in the beautiful little Pacific Northwest town of Port Townsend, WA. This is the 41st edition of one of the most popular wooden boat events in the world, with hundreds of wooden boats on show and dozens of presentations on a wide range of subjects of interest to boating people. Dates are 8th to 10th September 2017. The festival website is not yet fully functional but that will come soon.

Among those many boats will be three of our 21ft plywood sailboats, all different, which can be visited on the docks.
David Blessing's Didi Cruise-Mini "Segue". This is the detuned cruising version of our Didi Mini single-handed trans-Atlantic raceboat.
Michael Baccellieri's Cape Henry 21, "Slough Coot". She was built with some deviations from our design but the current owner is working to get her closer to the original drawings.
Mark Paterson's Didi Mini Mk3 "Voodoo Child". This is the full racing version of our Mini-Transat racer, with the newer hull shape and rig. 
I will also be taking part in the presentations. I will participate in the Designers' Forum, along with other boat designers, moderated by Jay Benford. This is from 12h00 to 13h00 on Friday 8th in the Cascade Room. Bring your boat design and construction questions to this session and observe how diverse the range of opinions and solutions can be among designers with different backgrounds and design styles. This is normally a very interesting gathering.

I will have my own session in the Cascade Room from 09h30 to 10h30 on Sunday 10th. My presentation is titled "Surviving a Capsize on the Ocean". Nobody can guarantee who will survive an ocean capsize but this presentation is aimed at making boaters aware of the many factors that are working together to reduce their chances of escaping alive from a capsized boat. Armed with that knowledge, they will be better prepared to choose the best options if they do ever have the misfortune of being inside or under an inverted boat.

To see our range of boat designs, go to our main website or our mobile website.

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Two New Steel Boat Launchings

Steel boatbuilding has been in a slump for a decade or so, with not many new builds starting, either as professional projects or by amateur builders. It has even become very difficult to find any professional boatbuilders who are still working in steel, in many countries. Most of the steel boats currently being built are the work of amateur builders.

I think that this was due to a combination of causes, mostly related to the state of the world economy squeezing disposable income. Fewer people able to afford spending years cruising the oceans of the world has changed cruising dreams to smaller boats of their own for coastal or trailer-sailer cruising, or chartering bigger boats for a week or two at a time from others in the islands.

That may be changing though, we have recently seen an increasing interest in our more serious cruising designs, including those of steel. There still remains the problem of a dearth of professional yards that will build in steel but it does seem that the interest in steel boats may be returning.

The past few weeks have brought two new launches of steel sailboats to our Dix 43 Pilot design. These two were built many thousands of mile apart, in different hemispheres.

Ian Edwards built his boat in Caernarfon, Wales. A 10-year project, she is now in the water and ready to start cruising.
Ian Edwards built his boat in Caernarfon, Wales
Ian turning his hull using the spit-roast method.
Andre Siebert built his boat in Gauteng, South Africa, then had her trucked 1000 miles to Cape Town for launch. I have a few more photos of Andre's boat than Ian's, so apologies to Ian for showing more of Andre's boat.

Andre's boat about to hit the highway from Gauteng to the ocean.
Andre Siebert's launch of "Sea Bird" at Royal Cape Yacht Club, Cape Town.
Beautifully finished pilothouse of "Sea Bird".
"Sea Bird" with her rig stepped.
Congratulation to Ian and Andre for their impressive projects. We wish you happy cruising.

To see more of this and our other designs, go to our main website or our mobile website.

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Argie 15 & DS15 at Wooden Boat Show

This past weekend was time for our annual road trip to Mystic Seaport in Connecticut, 500+ miles each way. We had our usual Paper Jet, slightly spruced up with a new coat of deck paint and non-skid. Normally we would take one boat on one trailer, an easy tow. This time we also needed to get the new Argie 15 to the show for Kevin Agee to exhibit in the I Built it Myself division of the show. So they had to both go on one trailer. The two boats made a neat package, more aerodynamic than the Argie 15 by itself.
Argie 15 and Paper Jet, the way we travelled to Mystic.
12 Hours aft of us on the road was Hunter Gall with his Didi Sport 15 (DS15) All three boats and our booth in the main tent were set up and ready for visitors Friday morning.
From left, Hunter Gall's DS15, Kevin Agee's Argie 15 and my Paper Jet.
This 26th edition of the Wooden Boat Show proved to be an exceptional one for us. The weather was good and the show was well attended, with a tremendous amount of interest in the two brand new boats. The high quality builds were rewarded with first place for Hunter and runner-up for Kevin in the "Owner-Built Sail" division of the competition. I extend my congratulations to both of them, their hard work and attention to detail really paid off.

Hunter's DS15 is a very interesting boat and really drew the crowds to talk about all of his details and innovations. It might be best described as stated by the head of the judging panel, who said that Hunter is like "the mad scientist of boating". I provided a clean and simple design, which Hunter used as a blank canvas onto which he applied almost every go-fast innovation that he could imagine. Of course it is his boat and the final result must make him happy and fire his passion for it.
Hunter's DS15, with red, white and blue colours achieved by staining the wood before applying the epoxy coatings.
The wet deck with open transom seemed to worry some visitors, mostly women. Surrounded by mostly traditional boats, they can't imagine boats sailing faster than the waves around them.
Hunter had intrigued the judges with his explanations of the theory of tacking daggerboards, his removable heart-shaped daggerboard foil and other add-ons, as well as the unique ways that he had executed some of the more mundane dinghy features. The judges encouraged visitors to chat with Hunter about all this and he had a ball with it. The boat has many 3D-printed items on it, including a carbon spinnaker chute that he had modeled in a 3D CAD program for printing.

Kevin's Argie 15 provided a big contrast, standing right next to the DS15. It is a big 3:1 dinghy that is outfitted for easy and efficient sailing with a minimum of fuss, able to get onto the water quickly and also to carry a family of adults and children in safety and comfort. Kevin built this boat to a standard that caused many to ask why a fiberglass boat was being seen on a show for wooden boats. The bright-finished woodwork of the boat is all two-tone in poplar and cedar, which set off the nicely painted hull and deck surfaces.
The pretty sheer and clean lines of the hull attracted many admirers to the Argie 15.
Spacious interior with minimal complication, as well as space for a bunch of people.
The Argie 15 may have originally been conceived as a 3:1 dinghy for basic family fun but it morphed later by adding seating all-round. This added 40-50lb to the weight but improved comfort big-time, also boosting safety by adding buoyancy if capsized or flooded. These are all features that attracted the lovers of simple boats.

The Paper Jet, Argie 15 and DS15 provided a nice contrast to each other, three very different boats from the same designer. Between the three boats and our display booth, Dehlia and I were kept very busy for most of the three-day show. I would like to thank both Kevin Agee and Hunter Gall for their efforts in building and showing their boats, also for their obvious pride in their own workmanship.

To see more of these and our other designs, go to our main website or our mobile website.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Wooden Boat Show at Mystic Seaport

The Wooden Boat Show happens the last weekend of June, at Mystic Seaport Museum in Connecticut. This has been the venue for the past decade, all of which we have participated in the show. This started with us exhibiting the prototype Paper Jet at the 2007 show, where she won the Innovation Award on the Concourse D'elegance. She was a lonely modern trapeze skiff in a sea of traditional boats.

This year the show will be 30th June through to 2nd July. We will have the Paper Jet there again but she will be accompanied by two of our other designs, both exhibited by their builders in the "I Built it Myself" part of the show.

The Argie 15 that Kevin Agee has been building the past few months will be there. I built the striped spars using birdsmouth details, from alternating strakes of poplar and cedar. I also completed the daggerboard and keel using the striped blanks that were laminated from the same two species by Kevin. We launched her on Sunday and I will be sailing her on the North Carolina Sounds at Cape Hatteras for the next few days. For the moment she has some rig pieces filched from the Paper Jet due to lack of time to make new but she will have all her own parts for the show.
"Argie" gets wet for the first time. Me at the stern, builder Kevin Agee at the bow.
The first sail, in very light breeze.
The Argie 15 is our most popular design but we haven't seen one on the Wooden Boat Show before. If you are in New England and have built an Argie 15, here is an opportunity to show your boat along with our new one.

The other new boat is the prototype of the Didi Sport 15 (DS15) design, which was commissioned by Hunter Gall. Hunter has built her over a long period and has produced a very interesting boat in a red, white and blue colour theme. Hunter is Australian but now Naturalized American. The red/white/blue is a patriotic choice of colours and his hull has a small US flag laminated into the epoxy under the stern.
Red deck, blue hull and white trim

The DS15 has a very modern hull with a bit of retro-styling in the deck details.
The colours aren't sprayed paint, as most would expect, which would give opaque finishes. Instead, Hunter dyed the plywood surfaces to allow the grain to show through, then coated with clear epoxy finished with clearcote to add depth and UV protection. This is a radius chine plywood boat, so the rounded part of the hull is laminated from two layers of plywood strips. The strips of the outer layer were edge-matched so that the grain runs through, with very tight joints that are almost invisible The result is a very interesting boat. Come to the show to see her, inspiration from an amateur builder who has never built a boat before.

To see more of these and our other designs, visit our main website or our mobile website.

Sunday, June 4, 2017

Argie 15 Nearing Completion

It has been a long time since my last post about our Argie 15 project. Work has been going on but big life events have taken away from the time needed to write blog posts. The main event was a change in the status of builder Kevin  Agee, now our son-in-law after marrying our daughter Michelle last month.
Newly-married, our daughter Michelle and new son-in-law Kevin Agee.
OK, time to get life back to normal. The Argie 15 is nearing completion and looks very different from when you last saw it. It took its first road trip, on my Paper Jet trailer. The destination was my own garage, for painting.
Ready for preparation for paint.
After turning the boat upside-down, final inspection, masking the rub-rails and other bright-finished surfaces, blowing off the dust with a leaf blower then cleaning with acetone, it was ready for spraying to start.
First coat was a high-build epoxy primer, to give an easily-sanded layer to form the foundation for a good finish.
Next came a white primer. This was needed to cover the grey epoxy, which can cause blotchy problems with finish coats.
When I sprayed my Lotus, I changed the colour from the original red to yellow. I sprayed the yellow over a grey primer and found that yellow paint has problems covering grey. What initially looked like good cover is a bit green and blotchy in low-light situations. The green tone is the grey primer showing through and the blotchiness is caused by variations in the yellow film thickness. I must spray another coat over the car to get a uniform yellow colour. Lesson learned, we added a coat of white primer to the paint schedule of the Argie 15 to ensure good cover.
A coat of high-build epoxy primer also went onto the vertical surfaces of the cockpit because these will be gloss white. The horizontal areas will be beige non-skid, so a perfectly smooth surface was not needed.
The transom was to be white, so that was sprayed first, then masked off with paper before spraying the rest of the hull.
Completed hull painting, with yellow hull and white transom
The varnished rub-rails laminated from cedar and poplar set off the hull nicely. The holes through the hull sides are to drain the leeward side seats if any spray comes aboard when sailing in lumpy and breezy conditions.
 The new boat made its first public appearance by doing bar service at the wedding. It worked as a giant cooler, holding beers and soft drinks on ice for the wedding guests.

The other work that has been going on is building the spars. I am doing that work, having decided to make wooden spars using the birdsmouth method. In keeping with the varnished woodwork on the hull, I have made the mast and boom from alternating strips of cedar and poplar. I won't go into the details of building the spars in this post but will do that in later posts on my Boatbuilding Tips Blog. The Argie 15 plans show the mast in two sections, so that the rig can be stowed inside the hull. I could have made the mast in one length by scarphing the strakes into long lengths but elected to stay with the two-part mast. This allowed me to work with lengths that fit more comfortably inside a single garage.
Gluing a mast section using the bidsmouth method.
Mast sections and boom shaped and being epoxy-coated. The one closest to the camera is the boom, the other two being the two sections of the mast. The long mast higher up in the garage is my Paper Jet mast, built by a similar method.
Launch day is approaching. The sails have been made and hardware will soon start going onto the deck and rig.

See more of this and our other designs on our main website or our mobile website.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Argie 15 - Fitting the Daggerboard Casing & Rub-Rails

Moving on with the Argie 15 project, I covered the bottom runners in my previous post. The runners serve multiple purposes, which I forgot to explain. The runners give some protection to the bottom when beaching the boat, by lifting it a bit when pulled onto rough beaches. They strengthen the bottom by serving as stringers but, being on the outside of the boat, they keep the bottom of the cockpit clean for a more comfortable sleeping space when camp-cruising. They also help to improve the efficiency of the planing surface by channeling the water parallel to centreline rather than losing energy by moving off to each side.

At this stage we also checked the fit of the daggerboard. It slid nicely through the slot in the hull. Kevin had glued the end spacers to the one side of the daggerboard casing but the second side was still loose. When we checked the fit, the board wouldn't go through. Checking the sides for straightness showed that they bowed inwards a few millimeters, enough to jam the board. That gave warning that care had to be taken when gluing it all together to ensure that the sides remained straight throughout the height of the casing.
The daggerboard casing glued up, including the top and bottom framing. The blue pieces at the top are spacers to force the sides against the framing, to ensure that there is no curvature in the surfaces to reduce the width and jam the board.
The casing glued in place. The blue spacers were left in place until the glue had cured, so that there would be no chance of the casing distorting and reducing the width of the slot.
Next on the "to do" list is the rub-rails. These are laminated to the outside of the hull, at the gunwales. They stiffen the hull, changing a fairly flexible plywood edge into a robust gunwale that is capable of taking a knock if needed. Some builders of the Argie 15 don't use this detail from our drawings, instead changing it to an internal scuppered inwale detail. That is a very pretty detail that is well-suited to traditional rowing boats and similar craft, adding the benefit of tie-off points anywhere that you want along the gunwales but is more difficult to do. For the Argie 15, which will be sailed with the crew sitting along the sides of the cockpit, the inwale creates an uncomfortable surface to lean against instead of the clean surface of the original design.

Kevin called on me to assist with fitting the rub-rails. The laminations are fitted in single lengths (scarphed from short pieces), so are awkward for one person to handle in a confined space. Getting them correctly positioned on the wet glue while also working with clamps calls for some ingenuity if working by yourself. It is simpler to call in a pair of extra hands.

This job calls for lots and lots of clamps. We did both sides in one evening, which needed all of Kevin's clamps as well as all of mine. If you are brave and short of time then you might want to laminate all layers at the same time. This is risky because it needs slow-setting glue that won't set before you are able to wet-out all strips, get them into place, manipulate three or fours slippery lengths into proper alignment and get all the clamps in place and correctly tensioned.

We chose instead to do one layer at a time. Rather than four layers of equal thickness, Kevin prepared inner and outer layers of poplar and a middle layer of cedar of double-thickness. This gives a nice stiff gunwale with a tougher outer surface than if all layers were cedar. It is also very pretty.
Kevin with the Argie 15 after clamping the first layer of the gunwale.
Two days later we also glued the second layer of the rub-rail. We managed to break one of the scarphs even before starting with the gluing. The epoxy was not fully cured yet so the epoxy was well short of final strength. We were able to still laminate it onto the  first layer by carefully clamping at the joint to hold it closed against the bending loads applied by the curvature to which it had to comply.

When gluing all laminations after the first one, it is best to get the bottom completely flush and let the top look after itself. The reason is that it is very easy to clean up and neatly finish the top  but much more difficult to do the same to the bottom of the rail because of the adjacent plywood.

That's all for now. To see more of this and our other designs, go to our main website or our mobile website.

Monday, April 3, 2017

Finishing the Bottom of the Argie 15

My last post was about making the rudder and daggerboards for the Argie 15. While I was doing that work, Kevin Agee was making good progress on the bottom. He has glassed all of the outside seams, sanded, filled and faired them so that the chines are smooth and fair curves, cut the daggerboard slot and installed the bottom runners and skeg.

This work all needs to be nicely done because the hard chine edges are what defines a hull like this. Unfair and wavy edges with lumps and bumps catch the eye very quickly and also cast odd shadow lines, spoiling the overall look of the finished boat. It is worthwhile taking this work slowly and being very happy with your own work before moving on to the next step.
The tapes have been sanded smooth and the tape edges have been feathered. 

If this boat was to be clear-finished then sanding and feathering the tape edges is about as far as fairing can go before final epoxy coats and varnish are applied. Our boat will be painted, so fairing can be more conventional and more extensive. This photo shows epoxy fairing compound  that has been applied then sanded down to fair it into the surface, making it completely disappear.
A closer view of a chine after fairing. It fills the slight hollow alongside the tape because of the two thicknesses of glass sitting on the surface of the plywood.
Runners glued to bottom. They are being held by temporary screws, assisted by a ratchet strap at the bow.
A sliding bar clamp in the daggerboard slot helps to keep the end of the centre runner in contact while the glue cures.
Sliding bar clamps secure the aft ends of the runners and skeg at the transom. The runners will be trimmed off flush.
Junction of the centre runner with the skeg.
The final coat of epoxy resin before turning the hull back upright for deck finishing.
The next post will likely be about laminating the rubbing strakes to the gunwales and other finishing work on the decks and transom.

To see more of this and our other designs, go to our main website or our mobile website.

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Shaping the Argie 15 Foils

I said in my previous Argie 15 blog post that Kevin Agee laminated the blanks for the foils from strips of cedar and poplar. Aside from making very attractive foils, it also has the benefit that they can be made from relatively inexpensive wood that can be bought at your local hardware store. Cedar that is available from Lowes or Home Depot is generally of inferior standard that may not be suitable for foils. Laminating strips of timber of differing characteristics can use the one to strengthen the other, at the same time serving a decorative function.
Daggerboard blank, cut to outline shape and sanded smooth, ready for shaping.
I won't go deeply into the shaping process for the foils, I will do that in a separate post on my Boatbuilders Tips blog. That should be posted in the next few weeks. For this post I will show only the basics.

The daggerboard is shaped to an airfoil section below the hull and rectangular where it is inside the daggerboard slot. Similarly, the rudder blade is foil-shaped in the water and rectangular where it is inside the rudder stock. I did this shaping with a hand plane, a belt sander, a Japanese Shinto rasp and hand-sanding with a sanding block.
The shaped daggerboard, foil section over most of its length, rectangular in the hull.
Note all the sanding dust on the floor, which must all be vacuumed up before any glassing starts.
The shaped rudder blade. Holes are for pivot bolt and up- and down-haul lines.
The next stage was to sheathe them in fiberglass fabric, in epoxy resin. The rudder is small enough to clamp in a vice, leading edge upward, then to drape the epoxy-saturated glass fabric over both sides of the blade at the same time. This I did by wetting out the glass with epoxy on a flat sheet of plastic, then moving it to the rudder, which was firmly clamped in the vice fitted with soft jaws. The top of the rudder is in the vice, so can't be glassed at the same time and must be glassed as a separate operation later.
Glass fabric draped over rudder to glass both sides at the same time, meeting at the trailing edge.
The daggerboard is a lot larger then the rudder, so maneuvering a piece of glass fabric large enough to cover both sides and weighed down with epoxy would be very awkward, so I chose to glass that one side at a time. I laid the board on a sheet of plastic to protect my workbench from droplets of epoxy. Doing one side at a time allowed me to lay the dry glass over the whole of one side of the board, wetting it out with epoxy in place. I supported the glass that was projecting past the trailing edge with a spacer under the plastic sheet, to stop the glass from drooping, which would mess up the clean trailing edge that is needed.
First side of the daggerboard glassed.
Some of the edges of the rudder and daggerboard don't have glass covering them after this, so they are covered with glass tape to complete the covering. There is also a lot of sanding going on between these steps, to feather edges of glass fabrics and tapes and to generally make smooth surfaces.
Glass-taping the leading edge and bottom  of the daggerboard. This batch of epoxy went off faster than I expected due to warmer air temperature, so the glass is a bit rough in places, needing more sanding.
I added another two coats of epoxy over all the surfaces, with more sanding between coats and after the final one. As a last step on the rudder blade I blanked off one side of all holes with painters tape then filled those holes with epoxy. I let it stand for about 15 minutes for the epoxy to soak into the timber, then removed the tape to allow the excess to drain out. This step is to prevent (or at least minimise) the absorption of water into the wood.
Daggerboard and rudder after 3 coats of epoxy, before final sanding.
The daggerboard still needs a handle, so I cut this from a poplar plank, in two matching pieces. I glued these to the faces of the board along the top edge.
Shaped timber handle pieces glued to both sides of the daggerboard. The board has been sanded to ready it for finishing with varnish.
I have now sanded and epoxy-coated the handle and the foils are nearly ready for varnish as the final finish.

To see more of this and our other designs, go to our main website or our mobile website.