Utah Lake State Park

For the second weekend in a row I was able to get my boats out on the lake.  Like last week all three of my littlest girls came along.  This time my son Zachary was able to come with us as well.  It was a lot of people for two small boats, but we made it work, and everyone had a good time.  In fact, I am not sure that taking my family boating in my small boats is not a perfect prescription for learning to get along with one another.  The kids were good to take turns on the mouse boat, and were all helpful with Stella.  We spent just over 4 hours out on the water, and everyone got along great.

The original plan was to head for Bird Island out in the middle of Utah Lake.  My kids are obsessed with the stories from my childhood where my friends and I used to row, paddle, or sail out to the various islands in Moses Lake, Washington.  They want to visit an island as well.  Unfortunately, Utah Lake really only has one island, and it is right out in the middle of the lake, miles from anywhere.  It seemed unlikely that we would be able to make it with my rag tag crew without having to turn around and come home, but trying to get there sounded like fun, and it gave us a direction to sail.

I also decided that I would try launching from somewhere other than Lindon Beach.  The advantages of Lindon Beach are that it is close to my house, and it is free.  The disadvantage is that it is a long slog down to the water with all of my gear.  With the water out as far as it currently is it is easily a quarter mile to from the parking lot to the water, and much of that distance is steep enough that it requires either stairs or a handicap access ramp with a switchback.  I actually measured the entrance to the handicap access ramp when I was designing Nephi’s Courage.  I wanted to make sure that I could cart the boat the quarter mile to the water.  This week I really really wanted to try out the new rigging changes that I have made to Nephi’s Courage, and carting the boat adds a lot of time to the setup process.  I wanted to see how much time I could save by using a launching point that was closer to the water.  The fact that the Utah Lake State Park is also closer to Bird Island sealed the deal.

So we hopped in the car and drove out to Provo.  While I was setting up the Puddle Duck Racer Zachary tried out the mouse boat for the first time.  By the end of the day he was getting very good.  I do need to make a longer paddle though.

It wasn’t long before Nephi’s Courage was ready to launch.  Utah Lake Stake park has an enclosed harbor, and I decided that instead of sailing out I would row out and then raise the sails.  Eliza took the video, she still needs a bit of training.  You will notice that I am towing the mouse boat.  I did a lot of rowing on this particular trip.  It was probably good for me.

I have spent quite a bit of time this winter tweaking the rigging so that I can raise and lower the sails out on the water, and I was anxious to try the modifications out.  It was a bit difficult actually getting the sails up with so many little girls in the way, but the rigging changes worked quite well.

Cautious listeners will notice that Eliza was still having problems remembering where we were.  You’ll also notice that Eliza didn’t quite wait for me to get the main sail all the way up.

Oh well.

The wind failed us almost immediately, but I did manage to get a bit of video of us actually sailing.  As you can see the boats are pretty well packed, but my kids didn’t seem to mind.  Even Stella is enjoying herself.

This next video is only 3 seconds long, but it is currently the best piece of video that I have of Nephi’s Courage under sail.  Eliza took the video from the mouse boat, and she went on to get a series of very nice photos.  I only wish she had taken more video.  I really need to get some video of Nephi’s Courage when there is more wind.

And here is the best of the pictures that Eliza took.

That is a lot of people on that little boat.  It is a good thing we all love each other.
That is a lot of people on that little boat. It is a good thing we all love each other.

The rest of the trip was mostly just a lot of rowing, paddling and singing.  The kids took turns in the mouse boat.  When I wasn’t serving drinks or snacks I rowed towards Bird Island.  KaeLynn sent us with lots of food.  We had everything from fruit snacks to burritos, and all of it got eaten.  I need to check my GPS tracks to see how far we got.  It was clearly the farthest out that any of my kids have been out in a boat, but we still had a long way to go to get to Bird Island.

Along the way Zachary found out that he could stand up in the mouse boat.  Somehow we failed to get pictures of him using it like a stand-up paddleboard.  We did get this great shot of Eliza though.

Eliza standing up in the mouse boat.
Eliza standing up in the mouse boat.

All in all it was a great day.  All of us can’t wait to do this again.  Perhaps a trip to Deer Creek Reservoir is in order.

Puddle Duck Racer Refit — Leeboard

I am not a naval architect, but designing boats is sort of fun.  My pdracer is inexpensive enough that I am more than happy to experiment, and at some point I am hoping that experimentation includes some racing.  To me, that’s the beauty of the Puddle Duck Racer.  They are easy and inexpensive to build, but there is nothing stopping you from treating them like a real sailboat.

This winter I had a list of changes that I wanted to make before it was time to hit the water again.  I had already dealt with the two most important issues, the delaminated rudder, and the gunter jaws that were prone to breaking.  So this last weekend I took a bit of a break from remodeling my laundry closet to play with the leeboard.

My original leeboard design was based around several Internet articles saying that the submerged area of the leeboard should be 4% of the sail area.  As far as I can tell this number originated with Jim Michalak (who might well have borrowed the figure from Bolger).  Whoever it was that came up with the number, they probably used some maths, so that’s good enough for me.  I knew how much sail I wanted to carry, and so it was easy to decide how much leeboard to use.

My leeboard design was based around two basic design principles.  The first was that I wanted to carry a lot of sail, so I needed a lot of leeboard.  The second was that I wanted to build the leeboard out of plywood laminations.  To get the most board out of the plywood I wanted a board that was no more than 4 feet long.  As a secondary concern I also preferred a longer thinner board over a short fat board, as performance was important to me.

This desire lead to the first of many compromises I made.  If you look closely at Nephi’s Courage you will see that the top of the leeboard does not line up with the sheer line of the boat.  I did this because every inch that I lowered the board gave me another square foot of wetted surface without having to create a leeboard that was longer than four foot.  The leeboard was already going to use over half of a sheet of plywood.  If I had to cut the board out the other direction it was going to waste significant portions of 2 sheets of plywood.

I made this slide from my CAD drawings so that I could use it to teach the Small Boat Sailing merit badge.  It is useful here because you can see how I lowered the leeboard, as compared to the sheer line, to maximize the amount of board I could get in the water while still using a four foot piece of plywood.
I made this slide from my CAD drawings so that I could use it to teach the Small Boat Sailing merit badge to my Boy Scouts. It is useful here because you can see how I lowered the leeboard, as compared to the sheer line, to maximize the amount of board I could get in the water while still using a four foot piece of plywood.

At some point while designing the leeboard, I read an article on Duckworks about building a proper NACA foil blade out of plywood laminations.  This lead to a further refinement of my design.  Instead of 5 laminations of the same size.  I cut the sheets of plywood out so that I could sand down all of the proud bits and end up with a foil shape.  Or at least that was the plan.

I am pretty sure that when I took this picture I was more interested in the rudder.  However it gives a pretty good picture of my attempt at a NACA foil made out of several laminations of plywood.  Notice how I basically just rounded the corners.  I wanted as much surface area as possible.
I am pretty sure that when I took this picture I was more interested in the rudder than the leeboard. However it gives a pretty good picture of my attempt at a NACA foil made out of several laminations of plywood. Notice how the leeboard is basically a big rectangle with slightly rounded corners. I wanted as much surface area as possible.

I was at least partially foiled (ha ha) in my attempts to build perfect NACA foils by the fact that I had run out of winter.  Add to that the fact that I don’t own a power planer or even a belt sander, and shaping foils becomes a fair bit of work.  As fun as it was making these fins, what I really wanted to do was go sailing,  So, I decided these foils were “good enough.”  In retrospect that was clearly the right choice.  Summer time is for sailing.  There is plenty of time for alterations to the boat once the snow starts to fall.  Plus, it is hard to know what really needs adjusting until you get the boat out on the water.

For example, when I originally launched Nephi’s Courage I didn’t have any hardware at all to keep the leeboard down.  I didn’t even have a stop.  This wasn’t because I hadn’t seen plenty of pictures of ducks with elaborate leeboard setups, but because I was in a hurry, and wasn’t sure what I really needed.  Besides, as a child I had done all of my sailing in areas where it got four or five feet deep really quickly, and once it got deep, it stayed deep.  Because of this previous experience I wasn’t particularly concerned about what the leeboard did when it touched the bottom.

Once I actually started sailing, shallow water became very important.  Where I launch at Utah Lake it takes a couple hundred yards from the beach before I can deploy my leeboard fully, and the place where I launched at Bear Lake was nearly as shallow.  Plus, where I sailed at Bear Lake had shallow patches even farther away from shore.  I would be sailing along great and all of a sudden the leeboard would kick completely up (sometimes with a fair amount of force), and things would get crazy.

What I needed was a way to set the leeboard at a certain depth and position and then have it go back to that position if I happened to touch the bottom.  This is what I came up with.

Caption goes here.
There are two primary components to my leeboard control system.  The first is a long bungee cord that is connected handle of the leeboard and pulls the leeboard handle aft deploying the leeboard.  It is the bright red line that is fairly easy to see.  The second component is harder to see.  It is a bit of red and white line in front of the leeboard handle that goes around a block and comes back to a clam cleat.  There is also a stop that I added before the bungee cord setup and that I haven’t bothered to remove.
Top view of leeboard controls.
Top view of leeboard controls.
Side view of leeboard controls.
Side view of leeboard controls.

The system is actually pretty simple, and it works surprisingly well.  The bungee cord pulls the leeboard handle backwards deploying the leeboard.  A line pulls the leeboard handle forward keeping the board deployed in whatever position it has been set in.  If the board strikes the bottom then it can fold backwards without any problem, and once the  obstacle has been cleared the bungee cord will pull the leeboard back to its set position.

There are some minor issues with the system.  The bungee cord provides enough force that setting the leeboard is best done with two hands (one on the leeboard handle, and one to set the line in the clam cleat).  When I put less force on the bungee and it did not deploy the leeboard reliably.  This also means that it doesn’t take much contact with the bottom for the dragging leeboard to bring the boat to a complete stop.  This is quite unlike the weighted rudder, that would happily drag across the bottom in even the lightest of winds.  After having to repair a delaminated rudder that was almost certainly the direct result of its having been dragged for hundreds of yards every time I beached the boat I am not sure that the leeboard doesn’t do the right thing.  I am happy to adjust the leeboard if I run aground as long as I don’t have to worry about the leeboard disintegrating.

The astute readers will also notice that the front bottom corner of the leeboard has been softened and the curve made much more gradual.  I made that modification this winter, and I have yet to see if it affects how the boat sails.  I removed the corner in the hopes that it would make the leeboard more effective in shallow water.  The problem with the old corner was that it touched the bottom before much of the board was even in the water.  I am hoping that the removal of the corner will allow me to get more of the board in the water when the water is really shallow.  After playing with the new board this appears to be the case.  However, I haven’t sailed the boat with the new leeboard, so it remains to be seen if the board is actually effective in shallow water.  It also remains to be seen if the leeboard modifications alter how well the leeboard performs when it is all of the way down.

On the bright side, I have already been on the water once this year, and so it is probably only a matter of time before I actually get to go sailing.  As you can probably imagine, I will keep you posted.

First Boat Outing 2015

The stars finally aligned, and I got my boats out on the water for the first time this year. The day got off to an inauspicious start. Eliza had a bad cough, Abby wasn’t feeling well, and Stella, well Stella is always a little difficult.

However, Eliza and Abby have been dying to try the mouse boat, and I really wanted to see how the pdracer rowed.  So I figured that we could probably sneak down to the lake for just a bit.  I wouldn’t take the time to rig the pdracer for sailing. I would just throw the boats in the water and paddle around a bit.

Of course, even that was easier to say that do. KaeLynn and the two oldest children were off doing other stuff. Getting the three littlest girls ready for an adventure, and loading two boats on the trailer turned out to be more work than I would have guessed. Plus, they closed the road that I usually take to the lake, and the alternate route was completely jammed with trucks hauling stuff to the dump. It took well over an hour to get everything ready and drive the few miles to the lake.

Once at the lake, however, things really started to look up. First of all, my new cart worked much better than my old one.  The the much wider wheels made a huge difference in the sand, and the fact that I could use my boat as a wheelbarrow meant I only had to take one trip.  If you are looking for an inexpensive way to move your puddle duck racer around, I highly recommend building one of these.

Getting my boats to the water requires that I carry them from the road down the wheel chair ramp, and finally across the beach.
Getting my boats to the water requires that I carry them from the road down the wheel chair ramp, and finally across the beach.  On the way back I also had to carry the girls.  I think I have invented a new form of exercise.

The mouse boat got launched almost immediately.  Eliza was loving that thing.  Considering the fact that she’s never really paddled anything before, and the paddles I made are way too short, she did very well.

The Nephi’s Courage took a little bit longer to launch (mostly due to Stella), but it wasn’t long before we were all out of the water with Abigail happily filming a small documentary.  Caution, if you get motion sick easily you probably shouldn’t watch this video.

After a while, Stella and Abigail decided to play in the mud while Eliza and I continued to row (and paddle) around in the boats nearby. It is amazing how shallow the drafts are on both of these boats. The oars were really nice. They balance really well, and they allow me to launch the pdracer in just a few inches of water.  No more pulling the boat out until the water is deep enough to deploy the leeboard.

Then Abby wanted to try the mouse boat, and Eliza wanted to take some video.  The following video short is the resulting masterpiece.  It also moves around quite a bit.  It is not move around quite as much as Abby’s video does, but she could also clearly use some pointers on shooting video.

I have saved you some time and cut out what is, at least according to KaeLynn, the best part of the video.

To recap, the oars worked great, the mouse boat was genius, and my cart worked much better than last year.  Eliza and Abby both thought that Saturday was “the best day ever,” and Stella hated the boat, but was very cute doing so.

Puddle Duck Racer Refit — Gunter Rig

Nephi’s Courage sports a nifty gunter rig, and I really like it.  The rig allows me to sport a ridiculous amount of sail area on spars made from 12 foot 2×6 boards.  Yes, 12 foot spars don’t fit in the boat, but they do fit well on top of my minivan.

Of all of the design decisions I made when building Nephi’s Courage the decision to use a gunter rig was by far the most nerve racking.  I’d never sailed a gunter-rigged boat before.  Heck, I had never even seen a gunter-rigged boat before.  I had no idea how the rig would work in real life.  Fortunately, I live in an age and time where I do not have to rely on just my own knowledge and the knowledge of the boat owners in my area.  Once I started thinking about a standard sloop rig with spars that were less than 12 feet the gunter rig started to look like the right solution.  However, it wasn’t until I started watching videos of Mirror Dinghies that I started to believe that a gunter rig might actually work in real life.  Now that I have sailed one for a season I am sold.

Doesn't that gunter look beautiful.
Doesn’t that gunter look beautiful.

 

There was, however, one serious problem.  I kept breaking the gunter jaws.

This was the last straw.  I finally decided that something needed to be done.
This was the last straw. I finally decided that something needed to be done.

The root of the problem, of course, is that my mast is square.  That meant that the gunter jaws could not rotate around the mast.  This was not a problem once the gunter was all of the way up.  The halyard holds the gunter flush against the mast and so the wind has almost no leverage to spin the gunter around the mast.  However, care had to be taken when raising and lowering the sail.  The top of the gunter tended to drop first, and once that happened the wind would want to push the gunter around the mast, and the jaws would break.  It was easy enough to take care of while the boat was still on shore, but every time I tried it on the water the gunter jaws snapped like a wishbone.  Jury rigging a repair was straightforward.  A small length of cord around the bottom of the gunter would work well enough to get me back on my way, but I decided I needed to do better.

Here are the jaws before.
Here are the jaws before.

My first instinct was to round the mast.  That’s the solution that most gunter-rigged designs adopt.  My pdracer was even well suited to this modification.  The mast is stayed, so the fact that the mast would be less stiff was not really an issue.  Thanks to the paddle and the oars I had made, I even had had some recent practice turning square pieces of lumber into round ones.  In the end, however, I decided against it.

The official reason that I didn’t want to round the mast was that I may, some day, decide to switch to a balanced lug rig.  The gunter rig that I currently use was drawn up specifically so that the center of effort of the sails fell in the same place as the balanced lug rig that I originally planned for the boat.  I could even reuse the mast and boom (I would need to make a new yard though, the 8 foot gunter is too short).  The mast step is the same for both rigs, and the leeboard placement is close enough that it would have been an easy adjustment to sort out.

The real reason that I decided against rounding the mast was that I was afraid of screwing up the mast.  The mast took a long time to make, and it required the help of my neighbor that owned a table saw.  If there was a solution that didn’t require changing the mast then I was definitely interested.

So I scoured the Internets, and I put on my thinking cap, and this is what I came up with.

dscn0877
This is what I came up with.

I have now basically replaced the jaws with a short piece of line.  A 3/4 inch piece of Douglas Fir was glued to the back and the holes for this line were purposefully offset near the back so that when the gunter is pulled completely upright that the line binds the bottom of the gunter tightly to the mast.  Getting just the right amount of slack was tricky, so I added a stopper knot so that I could pull the line tight, cleat it off, and have it be just the right tension.

When the gunter is lowered, there is plenty of slack in the line.
When the gunter is lowered, there is plenty of slack in the line.

I’ve done a bit of testing (in my back yard only, so far, but spring is nearly here), and the new setup definitely works much better than the old gunter jaws. Getting the gunter can be a bit difficult as the head of the sail wants to rise first and so the line at the bottom starts binding down hard before the sail is all of the way up. The two parrel beads that I added help a lot. If I was less stubborn I would probably just loosen the tension in the line I use at the bottom of the gunter as a jaw replacement. However, I really like the fact that, once deployed the gunter basically becomes an extension of the mast. There is essentially no play at all. So instead I simply push the throat of the gunter most of the way up first. Since I can do this sitting down on the air box, I think that it is pretty safe to say that I will be able to do the same thing out on the water. We’ll see.

Most importantly, when I release the halyard the sail comes right down with no issues whatsoever. Since my primary goal was to be able to strike the sails while I am out on the water, this modification is a huge win.

Mouse Boat One — Details

This last summer, while picnicking (and sailing) at Lake Cleveland we met a really nice family that let my children paddle some of their Lifetime “Wave Junior” kayaks. The kids had so much fun with these boats that I realized that I had to get one. Not only would this give the opportunity for the kids to captain their own vessels, but it would bolster support for more family outings to the lake. However, these plastic kayaks, cost upwards of $100 and they only hold one child apiece. With 5 children (and one on the way) getting Wave Juniors for everyone that was interested was going to cost way more than KaeLynn lets me spend on boating.

Besides, I sort of like building boats.

I ran across the mouse boat (and Gavin Atkin) when I was trying to decide which sail boat to build. If I would have been looking for something to paddle, the mouse boat would have been at the top of the list. Well, now I was looking for something that I could paddle.  The mouse boat looked easy and inexpensive to build, and stable to paddle.  Add to that the fact that Shorty Routh (of Puddle Duck fame) also has a mouse boat variant (The Flats Rat), and I was sold.

The question then became, could I build a mouse boat inexpensively enough so that it fit my budget. A bit of back-of-the-envelope calculation and it seemed that I could build a nice mouse boat for less than the cost of a Wave Junior–if I didn’t value my time very highly.  However, I am a Scout Master who is always looking for inexpensive and fun things for boys (and me) to do.  So I didn’t really have to worry about labor costs.  I am actively looking for these sorts of projects.  If I could drive the price of the materials for the mouse boats down low enough there was a chance that I could build boats with both my Scouts, and with my children.  It seemed doable, and so I decided to do some more exhaustive research.

With the pdracer I purchased Jim Michalak’s book after I had already started, and then learned that I had made quite a few rookie mistakes. Plus I learned that I had spent quite a bit of time and energy designing hatches for my floatation chambers only to find that he had plans for better hatches, that were much easier to build, in his book.  I decided to be smarter this time so I purchased Ultrasimple Boat Building before I purchased any materials.  I highly recommend the book.  It is a worthy addition to any boat builder’s library, and it is chuck full of plans for interesting boats.  There is no question in my mind that my mouse boat is a much better boat because of Mr. Atkin’s many insights.

In some ways, however, the book was a little discouraging. Mr. Atkin warns against using many of the materials that I had already decided I was going to use. Titebond II, for instance, is much less expensive and much less toxic than the other likely alternatives. Since I was going to be building this with my little girls, and since the goal was to make a small fleet of these boats both of these considerations were pretty important. I had also decided to use inexpensive RevolutionPly 5mm underlayment plywood, and drywall tape to tie everything together. I used both in my pdracer and it still looks fine after a year of hard use and being stored outside.

I decided to press ahead with my material choices.  It will be interesting to see how long I can make a boat like this last.  The fact of the matter is that I have friends that have spent nearly as much time and energy on boats made of cardboard (for Scout competitions).  If the boat fails spectacularly I will be sure to blog about it.  Otherwise, the fact that I am cost and toxicity sensitive made the choice for me.

This gave me a ridiculously inexpensive shopping list:

  1. 2 sheets of plywood (half a sheet would be left over) $13 a sheet at Lowes.
  2. One roll of Extra Stength Fibatape (250 ft) $11.
  3. One Gallon Titebond II $18.
  4. One Gallon white semi-gloss exterior latex paint $22.
  5. One 12 foot 2×6 that I ripped into 11/16 strips $8. This provided enough strips for the chine logs and spars (when laminated togeter) for my pdracer, plus gunnels for the mouse boats.

It should be noted that this is enough paint and glue for at least two mouse boats, and 3 sheets of plywood would also serve for two mouse boats as well. So adding that up that’s under $110 for two mouse boats. That I can swing.

Here's the sheet of plywood that will become the hull cut into the various panels.
Here’s the sheet of plywood that will become the hull cut into the various panels.
Here's my buddy Karl helping me tape the boat together with duct tape.
Here’s my buddy Karl helping me tape the boat together with duct tape. We are almost 3D already. This seems pretty easy.
Here's Abigail helping me tape the panels together with Extra Strength Fibatape and Titebond II.  If I were using epoxy she would not be able to help.
Here’s Abigail helping me tape the panels together with Extra Strength Fibatape and Titebond II. If I were using epoxy she would not be able to help.
Closeup of seam work.  This might actually float.
Closeup of seam work. This might actually float.
Inner seams all taped.
Inner seams all taped. Here’s a peek at my fancy tools as well.

It was exciting to go from a pile of wood to a 3D boat in a few hours. Especially considering the fact that this boat wouldn’t have any of the fiddly bits that take so much of the overall time when you are building a sailboat. With the mouse boat once the hull is done, that’s all there is too it.

Well, not quite. I also had to make a paddle, but that’s definitely going to be another. This post is out of control.

By Wednesday September 8, I had taped in the bulkheads and taped up the outside seams.  Mr. Atkin’s book suggests that we put the bulkheads in first, but this technique worked very well.

Taping in the bulkheads.  This made the boat a lot stiffer.
Taping in the bulkheads. This made the boat a lot stiffer.
Bulkheads all taped in.  This is really starting to look like a boat.
Bulkheads all taped in. This is really starting to look like a boat.
I don't really have any good pictures of the chines being taped up, but here's Eliza showing off our work on the center seam.
I don’t really have any good pictures of the chines being taped up, but here’s Eliza showing off our work on the center seam.

I then took a most of a week off from the boat to build a rabbit hutch.  That was a bit discouraging, because I knew I was running out of good weather.  However, Eliza has been asking for a rabbit since before she could talk (really), and we came across a great deal on a Norwegian dwarf.  We bought the rabbit before we had an appropriate place to put it, and when I went to price out pre-made rabbit hutches I was shocked.

Still by September 13, I had gunnels on the boat.

The boat is now stiff enough that I sort of want to see if it is actually going to float.
The boat is now stiff enough that I sort of want to see if it is actually going to float.

And on September 15, we tried the boat (unpainted and without decks) on Utah Lake.  It worked spectacularly.

Holy smokes, it floats, and it doesn't even leak.  I was mostly interested in sailing my pdracer, but the girls had a blast in the mouse boat.
Holy smokes, it floats, and it doesn’t even leak. I was mostly interested in sailing my pdracer, but the girls had a blast in the mouse boat.

However, the test float did point out a few issues.  First was that I really needed a double ended paddle and a skeg for the boat.  I originally planned on building the mouse boat without a skeg, and the float test showed that the boat tracked well enough for me even with a single bladed paddle.  However, for the girls it quickly became clear that a double bladed paddle and a skeg were going to be requirements.

So I put off mouse boat building for a while to think about how I wanted to do that, as I didn’t really like the non-epoxy solution in Mr. Atkin’s book.  In fact, I didn’t think that a single ply of the plywood I was using was likely to work no matter what sort of adhesive I used.  Plus, I needed a paddle anyway.  I thought I would try my hand at building one of those.

So instead of mouse building I built a paddle, refit the gunter on my pdracer, and added a topping lift and seat to the pdracer.  Add in a trip to Disneyland and a pair of major holidays and it wasn’t until January 6, that I got back to the mouse boat.

Eliza showing off the new skeg.  From this angle it even looks straight.
Eliza showing off the new skeg. From this angle it even looks straight.

Even though I was back working on the mouse boat I still had lots of projects for the pdracer that I wanted to finish.  I built oars, and a new cart for dragging the pdracer down to the lake.

Plus, I apparently didn’t take pictures of me working on the decks and painting the interior of the floatation chambers.  So it wasn’t until February 13 that I finally glued on the decks.

Rear deck being installed.  Note the mixture of clamps and lathe screws.  Classy!
Rear deck being installed. Note the mixture of clamps and lathe screws. Classy!

There are some major pieces that I am leaving out.  Putting on the seat supports, for example.  Covering the gunnels with drywall tape took most of a Saturday (I am not sure I am going to do that again).  I did learn–near the end of course–That taping the drywall tape down with masking tape if it lifts once the glue is added works quite well.  I might do a separate article on the seat, as that turned out well, and I have good pictures of it.  If you are reading this and would like a detailed account of how I built the seat (or anything else really) please feel free to get a hold of me at jearl AT notengoamigos.org.  Or just leave a comment.

For a detailed account of the final bit of painting read this article here.

dscn0848
Eliza posing with the new mouse boat.

Serial Boat Builder

This Saturday the girls and I finished our second boat.  The tentative name is
“Lizer Pizer,” but Eliza doesn’t get to officially name her boat until I have built one for Abigail as well (I am going to vote for Fabbylosa for that one).

I touched up the white paint on Nephi's Courage while I was painting the new mouse boat.  I also took the opportunity to take a picture of both boats together.
I touched up the white paint on my pdracer “Nephi’s Courage” while I was painting the new mouse boat. I also took the opportunity to take a picture of both boats together.

My records show that I started this boat on September 6, 2014, and I did a much better job of documenting the build with pictures than I did with my pdracer.  I have already started another article with the details.  Today I just want to talk about the fun that we had on Saturday painting the boat and finishing it.

Before we actually started painting the girls all wanted to get a picture sitting in the boat.

Eliza, ready for adventure.
Eliza, ready for adventure.  Notice the can of glitter.  That will play an important role soon.
Abigail can hardly contain her enthusiasm.
Abigail can hardly contain her enthusiasm.
I haven't had the heart to tell Stella she can't go in the boat by herself yet.
I haven’t had the heart to tell Stella she can’t go in the boat by herself yet.

We started painting outside, but it quickly turned cold and windy.

I am not sure I have ever seen all three of these girls actually working at the same time.  Small boats are a huge miracle.
I am not sure I have ever seen all three of these girls actually working at the same time. Small boats are a huge miracle.
The older girls wore my clothing so that they wouldn't get paint on their clothes.  Apparently Abigail can pretend my shorts are a skirt if she only uses one leg hole.
The older girls wore my clothing so that they wouldn’t get paint on their clothes. Apparently Abigail can pretend my shorts are a skirt if she only uses one leg hole.  Eliza is wearing my shorts as well, but I am pretty sure that shirt is hers.
My shorts are pretty big on Abby.
My shorts are pretty big on Abby.

When I told the girls that all of the boats were going to be white (I didn’t want to have to purchase small quantities of various different paint colors), they were disappointed.  Eliza asked if she could apply some glitter to the first boat.  My initial reaction was “no.”  I am probably going to use this boat sometimes, and it is likely that my scouts will as well.  I didn’t want a glittery boat for the same reason that I didn’t want a pink boat with unicorns on it.

However, she persisted, and it occurred to me that perhaps glitter would be useful as a sort of low cost non-skid surface.  So we applied some glitter to the cockpit.  I didn’t include the glitter in the price list because we always have glitter at our house.  Pictures just do not do this justice.  The glitter is very sparkly.

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My eyes!
Abby and Eliza sparkling next to the new applied glitter.
Abby and Eliza sparkling next to the new applied glitter.
The new boat, the next day, out in the sun.
The new boat, the next day, out in the sun.

I am ridiculously pleased about this boat.  I think that it turned out extremely well, especially considering the materials that I used.  I am expecting to have a lot of fun with this boat this summer.

Michalak Oars

I had always planned on a set of oars for Nephi’s Courage.  I drew oar locks into the plans, and I purchased an inexpensive set of nylon oarlocks from Duckworks when I made my big order from them, and I even installed the oar locks when I built the boat.  It turned out to be a good thing too.  When I first launched the boat I didn’t have the clam cleats yet for the jib (I forgot them in my order to Duckworks), and so I used the oar locks as a fairlead for the jib as they are mounted in approximately the right place.

What I did not do was actually purchase oars.  My alternative power source all of last season was a tiny orange collapsible paddle that my neighbors gave me (thanks Karl).  Several times last year I was becalmed enough that I actually had to use that paddle.  I would lean against one of the air boxes and paddle one handed, while trying to steer the boat with my foot.  This also provided part of the motivation for a “tiller tamer” mechanism that could lock the tiller in place, but I hope to write about that later.

Perhaps the worst part about not having oars was that it required me to get wet up to the waist every time I launched.  Nephi’s Courage doesn’t require very much water to float, but the prevailing wind where I launch requires that I launch right into the wind.  Since I can not really make headway until the leeboard gets down a foot and a half, or so, I ended up having to pull my boat out quite a ways from the beach before climbing into the boat.  I tried using the paddle but without a lanyard to hold up the rudder blade, or at least a workable way to keep the tiller straight, these attempts just made me look ridiculous.

I may be a fat guy, in a tiny, obviously homemade (read ugly) wooden boat, but flailing around ineffectively with a orange plastic toy paddle in a few inches of water is too much for even me.

And no, I don’t have any pictures of my attempts.  I didn’t have any free hands for filming.

Anyhow, oars have been on my wish list since I first started dreaming about the boat, and they were definitely something that I wanted before boating season rolled around again.  Unfortunately, buying oars was out of the question.  My wife is willing to put up with my pdracer fixation as long as it doesn’t cost actual money.  I was able to find 6 foot boat oars for as little as $30 apiece, but $60 was just outside of my mad money price range.  Besides, I own a copies of both Boatbuilding for Beginners (and Beyond) and Ultrasimple Boat Building and both of these books have plans for the exact same set of oars.

That definitely seemed like a sign to me.  The fact that the pine boards that I needed to build these oars cost less than $6 sealed the deal.  I picked up a pair of 8 foot boards at Lowes, and headed for home.

It then took me a couple to get around to actually starting on the oars.  In that time the boards warped.  That made making them even more fun.  I was pretty sure that I could still get something useful out of the boards.

Oar cut out.
It only took a few minutes to mark out the lines, and then it was time to cut them out. I used my cruddy old jig saw. It doesn’t cut very straight.  I think that those are actually the off cuts from the other oar, which is why they don’t appear to match.  Hopefully you get the idea.
Here's an oar glued up.  I used the center from one board with the off cuts from the other.
Here’s an oar glued up. I used the center from one board with the off cuts from the other.
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Here’s the loom and handle on the same oar. Notice how there is just enough material.
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The idea was to take out the uneven bits when shaping the oar.
Both oars all glued up and ready for shaping.
Both oars all glued up and ready for shaping.

Once the oars were glued up the real work began.  I don’t have any fancy wood working tools.  I have a block plane I purchased from Harbor  Freight, a rasp that I picked up from Lowe’s, and an Old Hickory butcher knife that takes a great edge.  That, along with a spar gauge that I made out of a piece of wood and a pair of sheetrock screws are all of the tools that I used to shape the oars.

I use the butcher knife to carve out the handles.
I use the butcher knife to carve out the handles.
Here's a picture of my fancy spar guage.  The measurements are available on Jim Michalak's website, and nothing could be easier to make.
Here’s a picture of my fancy spar guage. The measurements are available on Jim Michalak’s website, and nothing could be easier to make.

Despite my primitive tools carving the oars to the basic shape was actually pretty easy.  I am surprised, for example how quickly the block plane turned the shaft of the oars into a cylinder (well, I left a bit of oval shape to the cross section on purpose).

Eliza and Abby volunteered to be "boat models" and show off the nearly finished product.
Eliza and Abby volunteered to be “boat models” and show off the nearly finished product.

Once I got the oars shaped, and made sure that they fit the oarlocks I had ordered, I needed to decide how I was going to finish them.  Both Michalak and Atkin advise wrapping 8 inches just below the square part of the loom with synthetic twine and then varnishing everything (including the twine).  I am not interested in varnish.  Paint is cheaper, and it covers the ugly better.  I don’t have the patience to build beautiful things, when useful ones will suffice.

I painted the oars with white exterior latex paint and then seized part of the loom with nylon bank line.  After that I decided to paint the bank line with Titebond II.  You can see the glue still drying on the top oar.
I painted the oars with white exterior latex paint and then seized part of the loom with nylon bank line. After that I decided to paint the bank line with Titebond II. You can see the glue still drying on the top oar.

 

This is precisely the sort of flaw that would not have looked good covered with varnish.
This is precisely the sort of flaw that would not have looked good covered with varnish.
Stella wanted a chance to be a boat model as well.  Here she is with the finished oars.  From there they look pretty good.
Stella wanted a chance to be a boat model as well. Here she is with the finished oars. From there they look pretty good.

Puddle Duck Refit — Rudder

I built my puddle duck racer with a Michalak-style kick up rudder, and I still think that was a pretty good choice.  However, the place where I typically launch is shallow for a good distance, and I did not take the time to install a lanyard that would allow me to pull the rudder blade up manually.  So my rudder dragged the bottom a lot.  I didn’t care last summer, because sailing is more fun than fixing rudders.  I hoped that I could make the rudder last the season, and with a bit of emergency repair it just made it.  I definitely needed to fix the rudder before I could take the boat sailing again though.

This is a piece of the leading edge of my rudder.  As you can see, it is no longer plywood.
This is a piece of the leading edge of my rudder. As you can see, it is no longer plywood.

I have come up with a two pronged approach to fixing this issue.  The first is to cut out the delaminated parts at the front of the rudder and replace it with a solid piece I cut from an old oak floorboard we ripped out of our kitchen.

De-laminated piece cut away, New oak rudder toe installed.
De-laminated piece cut away, New oak rudder toe installed. If you look carefully you can see the recessed area where I poured in the molten lead. I decided to do a better job fairing that up as well.
All taped up and faired (good enough for me anyway).  It is ready for painting.
All taped up and faired (good enough for me anyway). It is ready for painting.

The second prong was to fit the rudder with a lanyard that would allow me to pull it up.  My first attempt at this is clearly not ideal.  I can not just pull on the lanyard and have the blade come up.  Part of that is due to the very poor angles involved, and part of that is almost certainly due to the fact that the blade is very heavy.  I bought a lot of lead, and I was quite sure that I didn’t want a blade that was too light.  So I over did it when I weighted the blade.  However, the lanyard will hold the blade up once it is up and has been cleated, and if I pull on the line near the blade I can pull it up (even when it is not in the water).  That’s probably good enough.  Hopefully it works when I get it in the water.  At the very least I  can launch the boat with the rudder up.  That’s definitely going to be a win.

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Here’s the new rudder blade lanyard in the “up” position. You’ll notice that the angles are not good for actually using the lanyard to pull the blade up.

New Sail Boat Cart

The weather here in Provo has been beautiful.  In fact, it has been so beautiful that I am starting to believe that maybe I will be able to get out on the water sooner rather than later.  With that in mind I decided that instead of painting the mouse boat today (more on that in another article), I would build a new boat cart.

My last cart barely lasted the season.  I designed it around car topping it on my wife’s Kia Sedona, and  the wheels I chose were way too small.

This wasn't much of a cart, but it worked for a year.
This wasn’t much of a cart, but it worked for a year.

Like always the solution had to be inexpensive.  It also had to be able to be made with a minimal amount of tools and skill.  This is what I came up with.

Here's the new cart.  Sweet and simple.
Here’s the new cart. Sweet and simple.

Basically, I just cut a 2×4 down to size and put wheels on the ends.  Then I simply lashed the board to the boat with one of the racheting tie downs from Harbor Freight.  The boat already has handles.  I just use those.

Close up of one of the wheels.
Close up of one of the wheels.

When I first started designing this cart I started by looking for an axle that reached all the way across the boat.  It quickly became apparent that a full axle was going to cost more than I wanted to spend.  So instead this is what I built.

Bottom View of my cart.
Bottom View of my cart. Yeah, the wheels are a bit crooked. Apparently I put it on that way.

Lowes had galvanized 1/2″ x 10″ anchors for $0.97 (I needed 2). and the pipe anchors were $0.63 for four (I used 6).  I already had the PEX pipe (I used it for the handles on the boat and some other stuff), 8 feet of PEX pipe cost me about a dollar.  I got the wheels from Harbor Freight.  They cost $4.99 each.

I dragged the cart around my neighborhood.  My neighbors are used to my oddities.  The board didn’t slip even when I flipped the boat on its side (yes, I put it on a little crooked and it stayed that way).  Once I verified that the cart was actually going to work I enlisted the help of some “boat models” to help show it off.

The girls make the boat look good.
The girls make the boat look good.

My old cart only worked with the boat upside down.  The new cart can be used either upside down or right side up.  Right side up it also doubles as a wheel barrow.  This is a big deal as I have to drag all of my boat stuff about a quarter of a mile to the place I normally launch.

This is going to save me several trips.
This is going to save me several trips.
Detail of the underside of one of the wheels.
Detail of the underside of one of the wheels.

Nephi’s Courage

In October of 2013 I started building an 8 foot sail boat.  Or, at least that was when I made the first cut in the wood that I purchased.  I had decided to build a boat after spending some time looking at the prices of new sail boats.  I now think that if I had been more patient in looking at the used sail boat market that I probably could have found an old sunfish (or something similar) that just needed some love, but now I am glad that I wasn’t more patient, because building a boat was awesome.

The boat I decided to build was a Puddle Duck Racer.  This is an 8-foot, home-brew, racing class designed around the idea that everyone has to have the roughly the same size hull, but that the rest of the rigging can be up to the builder.  In case you missed the earlier link you should just Click Here and see what these crazy people have done.

The Puddle Duck looked like a great way to get out on the water inexpensively. What’s more, it looked very easy to build. The boat is basically a sandbox with a polytarp sail. So I downloaded some free plans, learned how to use a CAD program, and began drawing up the plans for my very own Puddle Duck.

Even though the pdracer is a relatively easy boat to build, it is still a sail boat, with tons of fiddly sail boat bits that all have to work together or the boat won’t sail. Plus, none of the free plans had exactly the kind of rig that I wanted to build, so I spent quite a bit of time researching and designing my own boat. In fact, I even changed the rig after a trip to California, and a few hours spent with Zachary in a “real” sail boat.

So the build took me considerably longer than I had originally expected. However, Nephi’s Courage was launched at the Earl Family reunion July 25th, 2014 at Bear Lake (on the Idaho and Utah border). Fortunately, most everything worked very well right out of the gate. I was a little concerned that I was going to spend the entire reunion tinkering with my boat trying to get it to sail. Instead I spent several days giving rides to all of the kids. It was amazing. There were a few things that could be improved, but for the most part things worked spectacularly.

Which is good, because I was really concerned that boat was going to fail dramatically in front of my entire family.

Launch of Nephi's Courage
Zachary and I getting ready for the maiden voyage.
Nephi's Courage Full Sail
Jason And Zachary sailing Nephi’s Courage on Bear Lake

This article is mostly an introduction of sorts. I have a whole pile of articles that I want to write about making the mast, leeboard and rudder, and the rigging in general. I have separate articles planned for re-doing the gunter jaws, adding a topping lift (such cool names, right), and building my own oars. Not to mention the fact that I have planned articles on the fleet of smaller boats that I have started to build so that my children will have boats of their own. In fact, the first of these boats just needs to be painted. It seemed like the easiest way to entice my family into boating with me was to make sure that everyone could be their own captain. More on that later.

It didn’t seem right to just jump into these articles without a little backstory, so here it is. A formal introduction to my Puddle Duck Racer, Nephi’s Courage.