The New Boat Part 2

If the reader of this web log is wondering why there has not been more frequent posting about the new boat we are building, here is an update.

The shop is cleaned out, I have built the new building table, and purchased the hardwood for the parts of the boat that are not supplied with the kit and…no kit. There was a communications gaff between Jordon Boats and the kit-cutting company here in New England.

Two weeks has gone by and I still have not been able to sort out what went wrong. In any event the kit is now several weeks over due. Unfortunately the father daughter team that was coming from Oregon to help start the boat has come and gone with no kit, but rather than focus on what we can’t change, I will focus on the boat.

In my last post, I wrote about the decision process that led us to choose a larger boat than we originally thought we needed, and why we chose to go with a kit rather than build from scratch. In order to elaborate on the choices we made, let me say that I have built a number of small boats using traditional means. They were all beautiful (at least to me) and the process of traditional boatbuilding is a joy to me. Oh, and another thing about those beautiful traditional boats I built; they all needed constant maintenance.

Last summer I ran into two different friends on the water who had each built plywood-clinker boats to Iain Oughtred designs. The boats were beautiful to look at, light, and were of seemingly bombproof construction. I was impressed. I have a more than passing familiarity with marine epoxy, and frankly, in a larger wooden boat I feel it has limited applications. This is because in a larger boat, part of the long term upkeep means that parts of the boat need to be replaced from time to time. Traditional construction methods, in various degrees, allow for the removal of pieces of the boat with relative and predictable ease to encourage timely and appropriate replacement of parts of the vessel as they wear or are damaged. Once you start “fixing” things with epoxy you are committing yourself to a much more involved repair later on. However, on a small boat of the type we want to build, there is a kind of marriage that can be achieved by combining some traditional materials and methods with newer materials and methods like marine plywood and epoxy welds. The end result is neither traditional, nor a glass or plastic mass production boat, but rather a form that is essentially a composite construction.

The two examples that I had seen last summer were each unique craft. Their owners and builders had made them that way, each adding some small change in design or construction that met the need, or needs of that builder-owner. One of the boats was a tiny rowing tender, buoyant, light, and seemingly indestructible. The other was a sailing tender, again too small to meet our needs, but admirable in it’s dexterity under sail and the ruggedness of it’s construction. Neither leaked a drop. This very fact left me feeling a little out of touch with reality.

At the time that I was introduced to these two boats, I was aware of Iain Oughtred and was familiar with several of his more traditional looking designs, but I was unaware of the Penny Fee. When I stumbled upon this design, it seemed custom made for us. Large enough to hold several adults and the ship’s wolf even on longer expeditions and ship visiting, small enough to tow behind the friendship sloop, at least on a cruiser’s schedule (We will keep the current dinghy for deliveries). The Penny Fee has the added advantage over the dinghy in that we can sail it. I love the traditional look of the boat, and hope to have a much less intensive maintenance schedule for this particular craft so that I can still lavish time on the friendship sloop.

Penny Fee

Despite the lack of kit, we have moved on and built some of the parts that do not come with the kit, like the keelson, transom, and stem.

Father and Daughter work on keelson with the stem in the foreground.

We still have choices to make. The boat can be rigged as a yawl or a sloop and as a gaff rig, Marconi, or lug rig. We are leaning towards a lug-rigged sloop to keep it as simple as possible, but we have not figured out how much that might affect the interior layout and the placement of benches for rowing. I am looking forward to the discussions and the decision-making as much as anything else.

So there you have it; the tools are sharp, the space is ready; we just need the kit to arrive….

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