How I came to build my first boat - part 4

Now we have these sides all cut and chines glued on but we don't have a bow or a stern. So we cut those and we glued the chines for the top and bottom of the stern, as well as the bottom of the bow. We were anxious to get the bottom glued and screwed so we didn't bother with the top chine on the bow. I mean we can always get that later… right? Right.

Here we are… all four sides of our boat ready to go and a big ol piece of plywood just begging to become the bottom of our boat. So we put all the pieces together and… I didn't take into account the thickness of the plywood when I cut the chines for the bow and stern. Ten minutes and some creative cutting with the jig saw and we were ready to go.

Vaughan held the wood while I drilled pilot holes, then he used a ratcheting screwdriver to crew our glue slathered bow and stern to the bulkheads.

A few hours later we turned the whole thing over to get an idea of what it would like when it becomes a boat, and we were very excited. So excited that Vaughan insisted on a photo standing inside the bottomless box.

However I wasn't sure the glue was set so we ripped up a pair or pizza boxes, flipped the hull back over and put the cardboard under the corners to catch any errant adhesive. This of course kept us in good graces with Mama and we figured a good days work deserved a trip to Sonic. So we all packed up in the family truckster and went to Sonic for soda and ice cream. Woo Hoo! Building boats is FUN!

A Day later we decide it's time to put a bottom on this bad duck and transform her into an actual hull. So we flipped her over and hauled in our sheet of plywood. Since we knew she wouldn't be a dedicated racer we went with a thicker heavier grade of ply than we did for the bulkheads. This is because Vaughan is still convinced that while sailing will be cool and everything the best possible use for a boat is fishing. So we know ahead of time that we need something with a bottom that can survive being drug up on to a shore or maybe take the occasional bump of an underwater log as we maneuver into a good fishing spot. So while we will race when we get the chance we don't really expect to be the first one over the finish line, we're much more Chevy Nova than we are a Corvette.

The first thing we both notice is that this thick old bit of plywood doesn't bend as easily as the other stuff. So we very carefully lined it up as true to square as we could and tacked down the back to the stern transom. This caused the front to be WAY above the curve leading down to the bow. No problem, it still looks square and we know from others experience plywood is fairly bendy stuff. We slathered the glue, then started drilling pilot holes, followed by driving in deck screws. We put a screw about every 5 inches or so, three on one side, then three on the other, slowly working our way from the stern to the bow. More than once the wood made scary, crackly noises, but we kept moving secure in the knowledge this has worked for others. Eventually we had a lovely curved piece of plywood secured to our hull. We took photos and immediately wrote to Shorty to get our number. A day later we were the proud proud owners of registered hull number 537 "Water Dancer". Our boats name was first inspired by this photo of a wood duck by Gary Woodburn that we saw on

Then we saw this photo and thought that it was still a dancer, and it was probably much more in the spirit of Puddle Ducking.

So we waited for the glue to dry and were very excited about having an actual boat in our basement. It was at this point we started to tell other people we were building a boat with a bit of swagger and bravado.

I used a handsaw to cut off the overlap at the bow, and we flipped her over. It was when we did that that there was a horrible loud pop and crack. My heart sank. I looked at the bottom and there didn't appear to be any damage. Crisis averted… or so I thought. I soon discovered this was not so. In the meantime I wanted to place the short airtank sides in the hull to determine how wide I was going to make them. Only they didn't go in. I didn't take into account the chine on the bottom of the bow and stern. My second mistake… and very soon my third. In my defense it was late and I was tired and I had just been very unnerved by that loud pop. I grabbed my jib saw… and without measuring I guestimated the size I needed to cut out of front and back bottom corners of the air tank sides to make them fit, then I added about a ¼ inch to be sure and I cut. I cut too much. However they went in very smoothly and I figured out where I was going to place them. I also hadn't counted on the bottom being slightly bowed left to right so there was a gap under the air tank bulkheads. I figured that I would eliminate that gap when I screwed the hull up onto the inside bulkhead, and this proved to be true when I did it.

My third and fourth mistakes are both related to the bottom chine on the bow. I glued it in flat and truly squared against the forward board, not taking into account the curve where the bottom would have to be attached. Therefore I had a small gap on the corners of the hull and a rather profound one on the inside across the whole bow. I filled the corners with glue, twice. I filled the inside with putty. I then plan to put fiberglass on all the seams to both strengthen them and to help waterproof them. This was probably a rookie mistake, and a lesson I won't forget when building any future boat.

My lesson this time… expect the unexpected.

Next time: How I McGyvered fixes for these problems. Tortured plywood and that sick feeling in the pit of your stomach when you move your boat and it makes that loud cracking noise again. Moving the project outside so I could learn the fine art of using fiberglass resin, and it's decision time for what sail we're going to use.