Last Song of Summer

Despite the thunder and lightning at the end of August, summer has conducted a fighting retreat and September has been a glorious month. The local harvest has been safely gathered in, basking in warm sunshine. Nonetheless, the evening twilight comes earlier and is increasingly chilly to remind us of what’s coming. The leaves are turning on the trees and rattle (yes, rattle, not rustle) in the stroner breezes.

To the sound of mice running around the insulation in the cow boatshed roof, the boat building has continued. To be honest, it’s getting a bit tedious. All the big stuff has been done, it looks like a boat and she’s itching to get in the water (or I’m itching to get her in the water). I’ve even got a name for her……..

But there’s lots and lots of details to be completed. And, as the Owners Agent will be delighted to tell you, I’m not a completer finisher.1 So this bit of the build is proving difficult for me and I’m always finding things to do that do not include boat building.

The gunnels down the side of the boat (at the join between hull and deck) are to be made of hardwood, about 70 mm wide and 10mm thick. The timber that I had was 3 m long, but each gunnel is over 3.5 m, This meant that scarf joints were required.  These are joints where the ends of  two pieces of wood to be joined are cut at the same shallow angle and then the resultant faces glued together to make one long piece of straight timber.

I don’t have the skill to make such joints by eye, so made up a jig that would hold each piece of timber at a constant angle to the saw blade. The Mark 2 version worked surprisingly well.

The Mark 1 Scarf joint jig – trying to cut both pieces of wood at the same time.

The decks have been glued to the hull, so some compartments have now been sealed permanently (I did vacuum and wipe them clean before gluing the deck on and counted my tools to make sure I hadn’t left any behind). The decks have some awkward camber angles and I was a little at a loss about how to clamp them in place whilst the epoxy set. In the end I used stainless steel wood screws to hold them down.  There is a danger with this technique as the effects of temperature changes might make such screws emerge from the deck over time so I crossed my fingers when screwing them in, hoping that I could get them out2. To my surprise (and delight) I was able to extract most of the screws after the epoxy had set. Those that I couldn’t extract usually hid themselves as the screw heads shearied off.

I’m now reinforcing the edge of the deck around the cockpit and forward hatch, fixing some hardwood edging around the centreboard base, making up a grating for the bilge well and upper and lower supports for the mast.

Now the deck is in place, I can tackle the awkward gunnel around the transom but the bend required here is too much for one thickness, so I will have to resort to laminating it. Here’s a selection of pictures:

Adding the lip around the forehatch
Another view of the foredeck
The bilge grating
The lower mast support block (note – that’s a piece of drain pipe……)
The transom gunnel taking shape

There’s still lots to do before I can take her to be painted – getting her on the trailer will be a big challenge for she is now heavier than I can lift on my own…..


  1. A long time ago, when team building was the management buzz word 3, I had to complete a survey of my management traits. I discovered I was a “plant”4 and wasn’t very pleased about it.
  2. A bit like Boris when he signed the “Leave the EU” treaty although I don’t have to break international law when not boat building.
  3. It probably still is (or would be if you workers were allowed to meet f2f).
  4. It turned out that a plant was (is?) s someone who is full of ideas: I was moderately pleased about that until I read the next bit of the description “some of a “plants” ideas might be useful if given to a completer finisher to execute but most were usually judged to be too ‘off the wall’5 to be any good”.
  5. Naturally, it was an American course.

Bye Bye Summer

It’s a wet, chill afternoon in late August. Lightning bolts have lit the sky and thunder has rolled around the Chiltern Hills. The epoxy is taking ages to set and I suppose I should light the stove. But the boat is too close to it and the epoxy is soft – it’s best not to move her. I know –  I’ll write the blog, it’s been a while.  Many thanks to all you who have expressed support (if not sympathy!).  And please accept my deepest apologies, I’ve been forgetting to approve your comments. 1

Martyjn – the now not so new owner of Riff Raff – sent a photo of her from somewhere in Holland and said it was a good job that I’d thought about the waterline and the ballast tanks. It was but I fear my solution to the problem may have been a little cavalier – there were gaps and holes in insulation I used2 so she may not floaton an even keel when the tanks are fully loaded.

The retired anaesthetist thought I was being artistic in the build of the boat – I’m too sure why

Patmf likes the idea of a boat builder making his own tools – well, Pat, if you read on there’ll another one on display in this edition.

But, as usual, I digress, although less tangentially than usual.

I’ve checked. Blog time3 is still set in July, so it’s overdue for an update. Sadly, very little seems to have happened in the month. I’ve fitted the stem post. I’ve coated the main forward locker with white coloured epoxy – at least it might now be possible to see stuff in it. I’ve bought a pair of bronze rowlocks (very posh). A samson post has been fitted just ahead of the locker. The engine mounts have been glued in place. I’ve trial fitted the bulwarks and attempted to make two scarf joints. I’ve discovered that bending the bulwark timber round the transom is impossible…..

That’s it. I’ve also replaced my 8 yearold  obsolete laptop with a new one. WWW no longer stands for world wide wait but why does getting the files from the old one, and getting it to remember all those passwords take so long?) . And I’ve attemptd to assist the cabin boy5 with his A level Maths……..

So, I suppose, you might like to know the detail. I think I’ve some photos.

The stem post was provided to me with the flat pack of plywood – machined out of (I assume) Utilie hardwood. I had already trial fitted it when I put in place the keel strips7 and also prepared a flat bed of epoxy on the prow so that the stem post would line up with the center line of the boat. All I had to do was mix up some epoxy, line everything up and push the stem post into place….

The laser level was brought out of the cupboard…

The laser level was fired up – but the batteries were flat. A trip to the local garage supplied new ones. The boat wasn’t level but I found a setting on the laser that allowed me to align the laser with the centre line none the less. The bottom end of the stem post had been shaped to match the hardwood at the foot of the stem and required careful positioning to make the join almost perfect. But how to hold it in place whilst the epoxy set? The weight of the post caused it to slip slowly downwards dispite the efforts of a G clamp over the top. Eventually I hit on the idea of glueing a small strip of plywood across the inside face of the post using an instant glue.8 This allowed the post to hang on the plywood bow in the right place and the G clamp then completed the fix. The epoxy was mixed up, slathered into place and, eight hours later the stem was complete.

Then followed the samson post. “Get a large square section of utilie and epoxy it to the forward side of the forward bulkhead” I was told. How large? “Large enough.” The biggest length I had was about 40mm x 30mm. So two were glued together and then sawn square. The laser pointer came into play again to place the post vertically on the bulkhead and it was epoxied into place. Then I spotted the obvious fault. OOPs, I hadn’t take equal amounts either side of the seam, so the Samson post has an obvious off centre join – but at least it’s lined across the boat, rather than fore and aft.9

The motor slide mounts in the well at the stern were postioned using a simple jig which had been “laser cut”10 somewhere in Scotland. These mounts have to be reasonably aligned so that the motor can slide up and down out of and into the water as required. After a little jiggling about and more instant glue, the jig was held in position and the utilie mounts were glued into place.

Motor slide mounts held in position by laser cut plywood jig

I sense that I’m in the home straight. Only the gunwales to fix in place, and then the deck and the rowlocks and a grid to cover the bilge well, the fairing of the top plank and the deck and the painting…

But I’m getting ahead of myself. The gunwale, that strip of wood that runs along the ede of the deck and plank three needed to be over 4.5 metres long. My timber was only three and a bit. This called for a scarf joint – a long diagonal joint in the timber. I knew I’ve never cut that unaided by hand so; it called for another jig. You’ll have to wait to discover how it worked out.


  1. There done it. You can see them all now going back to the beginning of the project.
  2. See previous post “Imagination and Bloody Mindedness” for the full story
  3. This is a derivation of Terry Pratchet’s L space where all libraries are interconnected in space and time and you enter a library and lose all awareness of time and space. AS was outlined in both dimensions. Blog time was fully explained in a previous post but that itslf is now lost in the past. In summary blog time is time past, when the author last put finers to keys.4
  4. The new computer and the old remote kybaord are  kybord  are not getting on too well. Somhow letters kep eing missed. It’s as if there’s Brmuda trianleof some sort, covering an area of the keyboard bounded (and including) etgvxs where, every now aain, ky presses are not rcognised. I think it might be related to coffee spill a week or so ago…..
  5. Well he was when he helped me  launch Vagabond several years ago. H’s now a 17 yar old, who is taller than me. 6
  6. Not difficult
  7. See an earlier post “Real Rough Carpentry”
  8. Where would I have been without instant glue and accelerators? With more skin on my fingers.
  9. This was entirely by chance.
  10. High tech precision stuff.