It’s almost the New Year

Don’t forget, we are still in B(oat) time at the moment. Immediately after Christmas I had been rather pleased with progress, even though we had taken a couple of steps back. But we had stabilised the platform on which the bloody boat 1 and I was keen to press ahead with the build. I refitted the second plank, fixing it in place with the cable ties. I was now a little worried about how the whole lot would come together. I knew I had to fit in place a few cross bulkheads and it looked to me as if they would be tight to get in place.

So far I had been following a build plan that seems to be generally accepted in the various books on building plywood boats – stitch the planks together then fit the cross members before using epoxy to glue it all together. However, I could see that this might be difficult. My stature is that of the hooker of a third fifteen rugby team before the game went all professional – short and stout 4 – and I knew I would not be able to reach over the top of plank three to apply epoxy to the seam on the bottom plank ( I could barely do so over plank 2). 5 It was pretty obvious that the assembly would be far too loose to maintain it’s shape if I tried to “get aboard” to apply epoxy. …. I decided to abandon accepted practice and revert to the way I built model ships when I were a lad. Put the bulkheads in first and then fit the planks.

So, off came the plank 2 pair: I cut out the three full width cross bulkheads and the partial one that is to be situated at the aft end of the centre board case and which will form the aft end of the water ballast tank. (Did I say this boat was to be lightweight and water ballasted – well, if not, you saw it here first.) All these items were then positioned on the bottom plank and cable tied in place. Getting them in the right place was easy because the programme for the CNC machine had included blind slots in the planks to mark the position of the bulkheads.

This all seemed to work really well. The bulkheads went into place on plank 1 – with a bit of effort. I had to use cargo straps to hold it in place round the curve by the first bulkhead and to hold it in place with a temporary wood screw through the plank into the bulkhead.

The first two bulkheads – note the strap.

Nevertheless, I blithely proceeded to refit plank 2. And here’s where trouble hit. Despite the application of hot water to soften the plank, 6 there was an ominous and sharp “crack” as I forced the starboard plank into place, aligning it with the top of the bottom plank. Instead of the plank taking up a smooth curve round the edge of the first bulkhead, there was a rather pointy corner and no smooth transition from the bottom to the second plank..

Another problem to solve – and would the dreaded twist return?

I retired for the day to think about it.


  1. As the Owners agent refers to the whole project. 2
  2. This has been the soubriquet 3 that the Owners Agent has applied to all the boats so far
  3. The editor advises me that, strictly speaking, this term applies to the nickname given to a person. Boats do have (or acquire) a personality so I have overruled the editors objection.
  4. Not a teapot, for those of you who remember the rhyme
  5. I refer you to nomenclature in a previous post
  6. I had (fortunately) placed the full kettle on top of the woodburning stove that morning!

And a few steps back

Perhaps my enthralled readership has a more retentive memory than mine, 1 nonetheless I will adopt the practice of the Television producer and tell you what happened in previous episodes. So, if you can remember, skip the rest of this paragraph and move on. Still with me – I’m glad I’ve got company. I had been happily stitching the first couple of pairs planks together, leaving the cable ties loose to enable manipulation at a later date. I’d even got as far as fitting the top plank 2 to the port side of the boat when I discovered that I had managed to stitch a twist into the prow. Now read on.

No amount of pushing, shoving, twisting or other manipulation had any effect – so much for leaving the stitches loose. Here’s where work to a step or two backwards as the top and middle planks were taken off.  I wondered if I had problem of alignment with the trailer – this is being used as the build base for the boat, so I spent several fruitless hours using 17th Century methods 3 to level the trailer fore and aft and from side to side and checked the vertical alignment too (just in case gravity was misbehaving in the shed, under the influence of B time). In the end I gave up and spent fifty quid on a simple laser level isn’t click and collect a great invention. What did we do without Screwfix and Toolstation (to name but a few)?4

The following morning, after lighting the fire, I started to play with my new toy. It took me some time to work out how to get it to “self level” but once I had done so, I was away I made a “surveyors pole” and leapt around the place trying to find out how level the trailer was. Little progress was made until I started noting the readings at the various points (note 1 applies). Then I was off and the trailer and pair of planks were at the correct attitude.

The trailer was levelled from side to side and then fore and aft. Gravity seemed to be pointing downwards.

I thought we’d made progress.

But we still had a twisted prow.

I inspected the port and starboard examples of plank 1. 5 In theory, they should have been perfectly aligned one to the other, because I had matched and clamped them back to back before drilling the stitch holes. Practice had not read the theory, because I noticed that the two halves of this plank did not quite align fore and aft – the starboard plank was about an eighth of an inch forward of that on the port side. I convinced myself that this could induce the twist and, with a few light blows of a heavy hammer, moved them relative to each other and

 (drum roll)

the twist was fixed…..Full steam ahead tomorrow. But it was Christmas so that ended work for a couple of days.


I knew I had a reader! I’ve had a comment to the blog. Saxisgood wants to know where the coffee maker is in the main workshop. Baldly, there isn’t one. It’s not a matter of power supply capacity (although the lights do dim when I power up the angle grinder). Nor is it a matter of the builder not liking coffee. The delicate fact of the matter is the absence of any facility to dispose of the used coffee…..


  1. My Latin master (a long time ago) accused me of having a memory worse than a sieve – ‘at least the sieve retains something’ he said. I agreed and went on to fail Latin 0 level more times than I cared to count. This condemned me to study engineering at the “Godless institution in Gower Street” rather than reading “Natural Sciences” at some Oxbridge college.
  2. I understand from the designer that my terminology is incorrect. The bottom plank (which to me forms the bottom of the boat and therefore should be so named) should be called plank 1, with the subsequent planks numbered accordingly. So the top plank should be called plank 3. Given the problem referred to in note 1 (see above) I suspect that the nomenclature will become pretty confused throughout this blog.
  3. Or probably much earlier methods
  4. Please note, I make no claim to be an influencer. This blog does not monetise its click rate.
  5. I warned you about nomenclature.

A few steps forward

Welcome back, my patient reader. In the previous blog I posited that the boat build has it’s own B space / time continuum and I should have made clear that this blog is included within it. At the time of writing the blog is just about in the third decade of the 21st century CE. The author has to bring it a little closer to real time as he is forgetting where he has got to (something to do with that incurable disease we all get – AGE.

During the Festive Season I was able to escape from some family duties to the Small Items Workshop1 where I had placed the components for the centreboard, rudder and rudderstock, before the Christmas break. In between Mince pies and Turkey sandwiches2, I found time to assemble these parts.

The centreboard is comprised of 5 layers of ply: each of the middle three sheets has a hole cut into it so that sheet lead can be added to increase the righting moment provided by the centre board as the boat heels. After gluing four of the layers together, sheet lead was added to fill the hole and the final outer layer of ply was bonded to the complete the centreboard. But it is still not finished – it awaits being profiled by the angle grinder  3 and then having glass fibre cloth glued all over it.

It will have to go to the boat shed for these messy operations.4  A roll of lead sheet was purchased from the local builders merchant at great expense, the lead was cut into lengths to fill the hole; 12.5 kilos of lead in all.

The middle three sheets of the centre board and the 12.5 Kg of lead

The one half of the bottom of the boat (sorry, plank 1 to use the designers terminology) was placed on top of the other and matching holes drilled along their mating edges. The first cable ties were threaded into place and then the bottom was unfolded. The ports and starboard second planks were then stitched to the outer edges of plank 1. It was beginning to look like a boat.

Adding more planks

An attempt was made to fit the top plank but I noticed a problem – the prow had developed a alarming twist……this was nothing to do with the recent New Year celebrations.

Was the twist eliminated? – find out in the next exciting instalment of Riff Raff – Build a boat.


  1. The Small Items Workshop (SIW), is the garage and is integral with the house so the permission had to be sought from the Owners Agent for this to be allowed.
  2. I’ve been reminded by the Owners Agent that the family (including me) had delicious roast fillet of beef for Christmas lunch. OOPs – I hope my Vgan readers are not upset by this revalatiion.
  3. I would point out that the angle grinder is not a semi autonomous machine – it does require an operator.
  4. The Owners Agent is very clear that such operations are NOT to be carried out in the Small Items Workshop


Gentle reader, you have probably realised that the boat build has it’s special B time/ space1 and the builder has been lost in B space for the last few months.

Nonetheless, I think it’s time that I ensured that B time and space coincides with normal time: after all, it is the start of a new Decade.

I hope you have enjoyed the festive season. The Owners Agent and I have been mildly cultural, taking in a ballet and a couple of exhibitions in London rounding it off with the latest in the Star Wars series. But the boat build has not been forgotten and it’s probably time to get this blog up to real time.

I left you (only last week) in late October, having brought the flat pack boat to the tent in the cow shed, now known as the boat shed. The sheets have been unpacked and some of the parts have been cut out and it is now time to make a start. There’s a lot of gluing to be done.

Several of the components are more than eight feet long 3 ,which is longer than the plywood sheets – so they have to be joined. They have cunningly shaped fingers at the point of the join – the slight snag was that they were cut from the sheet with a slightly under sized cutter, so could not be coaxed together, even with a large mallet. Happy hours were spent fettling the parts to fit. The weather turned cold which would have made the curing of the epoxy glue a long time affair (if ever). So, with the Owners Agent’s permission, these were brought to the warmer house.

The “fingers” forming the join of plank 1 – the bottom of the boat

The gluing went well but there was then the problem of taking these now long and flimsy parts back to the boat sheet. A couple of builder’s old planks4 solved the problem.

Now it was time to get the workshop really ready!

Getting ready.

But B time is still several weeks behind normal time.


  1. L space derives from Terry Pratchett and the library at the Unseen University. Time slows down in L space and all L spaces are interconnected2
  2. At least, I think that’s the idea – go and read the books yourself
  3. Approximately 2.44 metres for those of a Napoleonic disposition.
  4. Remember, the boat shed was a builders junk lot after the last calf had left.