First Cut Fever

My sailing experience can be summed up as a handful of seasons bobbing about on other people's boats, but never my own. While spending some time teaching Sea Scouts to sail dinghy's, more than one discussion arose amongst the adult leaders regarding various fun sailing-related activities to do with youth. One of those talks brought me to the PDR website, and the fire was lit. I'm no boatwright, but over the years I've found one excuse or another to acquire this tool or that, and I've managed to put together a reasonably-equipped tinkerer's workshop. The simplicity, robustness, utility, ease of build, and low cost of entry make the Puddle Duck Racer my ticket to becoming master of my own vessel.

I spent a lot of time on the PDR website and builder blogs, studying what others have tried, what worked for them, and what didn't. Those websites have proven to be an invaluable source of information. While I tweaked some things here and there, I ultimately decided not to stray too far from the mainstream. The PDR is a solid design that seems to work well as-is. While I have no real interest in racing, I decided to keep my boat "class legal" should the occasion ever arise. After all my prep work, I made the trek over to my local home improvement store, loaded up with supplies, and began my journey to become a "ducker".

I hope to eventually acquire a small boat trailer so I can launch and recover my boat via ramp, but until then I plan to load her in the back of a pickup. I expect a fair amount of abuse and rough handling, and since racing isn't a goal for me, I'm opting for robustness over weight. Therefore she's built using a 3/8" plywood keel, 1/4" plywood sides and decks, and 1x2 lumber for chine logs. She's tacked together with finishing nails, but I'm counting on generous amounts of TiteBond III glue to really hold her together. Since this is a fun boat and not an heirloom, I tried to keep the budget in check by using numerous coats of inexpensive exterior latex paint to add some protection to the wood, and hopefully keep some water out. If she were meant to stay in the water for any length of time, or even be stored outside, I would have likely glassed the bottom (or at least the seams), and used a more marine-appropriate surface coating. But she's going to be stored inside, and hauled to the lake for day sailing. Should be fine, right? (Fingers crossed).

Construction is typical chine-log technique using the nails and glue as mentioned, but I did take an extra step by mixing up some wood flour and glue to make a putty. I've done this in the past using wood flour and epoxy, but have learned to like the glue better. It's non-toxic, has a much longer working time, and is far easier to work with after it cures in terms of sawing and sanding. I used the putty to (hopefully) seal up the edges of the plywood so it doesn't wick water, and to act as a caulk to close up the seams. I went with a side airbox design for flotation, because I like the idea of keeping the cockpit as dry as possible when, not if, I flip her over. I worked in dual flip-up rudders similar to a Hobie Cat, and a single flip-up leeboard. For sail rigging, I wanted to be able to experiment. My step/partner arrangement allows two positions for an unstayed mast. After considering a number of designs, I opted for a balanced lug for my first foray into sailmaking. A friend procured a Sunfish lateen rig for later use, though I'll use the lug for initial "sea trials". My sailmaking experience equals that of my boat building, but after a couple afternoons with tarps and duct tape, I ended up with something that might actually work. It's smaller than I hoped, probably 50 sq.ft. or less, but should be able to move the boat around enough to get a feel for how she handles. I'm also borrowing an idea from other builders of using electrical conduit (EMT) inside of PVC pipe for spars. They're conveniently sized for balanced lug rigs, cheap, and assemble very quickly.

I ran short of building time before it got too cold in the "boatwerks", so she hasn't launched yet. I estimate she's 99% complete, with the few remaining tasks including minor things like mounting cleats, installing a name plate, hull number, etc. I'm looking forward to a spring thaw and accepting command of "Feisty Too". I'll be sure to send an update once she gets her keel wet.