Pooduck Skiff: Down to Brass Tacks


Just a progress note on my Joel White Pooduck Skiff: I lined the mast partner hole with leather, secured with tacks and Pumbler's Goop. Note the brass half-oval rub strips positioned to protect the seat edge from abrasion from the halyards.


I installed the trunk cap using silicon bronze screws and 3M 5200 adhesive. The cap has a couple cleats on it: one for the the jib sheet and one for the centerboard pennant. The plans called for wooden jam cleats but I've gotten too lazy this far into the game to carve them myself, so I just bought a couple small brass ones.  I put a little monkey's fist on the end of the pennant to give it more of a nautical flare.


I also installed two larger cleats on the sides of the centerboard trunk for the jib and mainsail halyards.


The swing-down part of the rudder got a couple coats of red paint. 


The gudgeons were installed on the transom, with screws and more 3M 5200 (I like that stuff!)


The oarlocks were fixed in place with screws and epoxy. By the way did you know that "oarlock" is pronounced "rowlock"? Thanks to Richard Lovering for pointing that out to me. It's probably another one of those silly British nautical things.  When the epoxy has cured she will be ready to row!

Pooduck Skiff: Progress Notes and Varnishing Tips


Once in a while someone will publish an "Everything I learned from building my last boat" post on one of the building forums.  I love those posts because they can be packed with good advice.  Usually while talking with people who are just getting started on their first boat I'll realize just how much I've learned about building over the past few years.  I'll have so much to say and find it impossible to distill everything into a few good pieces of advice, except for maybe "Do your research.  Read the building manual thoroughly." 

I've been asked before what kind of varnish I recommend.  I don't think it's that important exactly what kind of varnish you decide to use.  More important is the application technique.  On my Joel White Pooduck Skiff I sanded with 220 grit before and in-between coats of varnish and vacuumed and wiped off the dust with a lint-free rag dampened with mineral spirits.  I like to roll traditional marine varnish on with a thin foam roller and tip it off with a good badger hair brush.  I used to use those cheap disposable chip brushes because I never liked cleaning brushes but later learned from experience that it's definitely worth it to pay more for a good brush and spend your time cleaning them. 

It is very important to use fresh varnish for the final coat. The final coat of varnish is the only one that really counts.  All the previous coats just smooth out the surface and build up the layers.  Varnish starts to go bad as soon as you open the can, so the while the first coat usually flows on like a dream, the last coat from the same can might end up a nightmare, with little particles in it, and spreading too thickly which will create runs, drips and sags.  I recommend opening a new can just for that last coat.  Another thing that people do that I'm just trying now is to fill the opened can with propane from a handheld torch before closing it back up again.  That keeps the oxygen out.  I got a canister of Bernzomatic for about $13, which is less than half the cost of a can of varnish.


Here is picture of the brass half oval rubstrip installed on the stem and keel.  It is screwed in place and attached with 3M 5200 bedding compound, which provides a flexible and permanent bond.  I just discovered that 3M 5200 now comes in convenient small tubes (instead of caulk gun canisters) and in a fast curing formulation (the original formulation took a week to cure).



Lastly here is a picture of the swing-up half of the rudder after a couple coats of marine primer.

With the weather getting warmer and days longer I'm really getting tempted to try this boat out on the water with oars before the rudder and spars are done.

Painted Hull

Green2Green1Green3Green4Just some building notes on my Joel White Pooduck Skiff: I finished painting the hull and started making the rudder.  My daughter chose the color.  It's Epifanes Marine Enamel, "light green".  At the last minute I decided to paint the red accent stripe.  I followed a masking technique I read about in the lastest issue of Wooden Boat.  After laying the masking tape down, you paint over the border with the same underlying color or varnish, before painting over with the new color.  This seals the tape and produces a crisp border when the tape is removed.  It is important to use fresh masking tape and keep the edges of your roll clean by being careful where you set it down, and by storing it in a plastic bag at all times.   

Still a lot of work to be done but now it's getting close to the point where now I have to figure out how I'm going to get it to the beach!

Show Me The Wood!

ReadyforpaintPaintedFireI originally had planned to paint the entire exterior of my Joel White Pooduck Skiff, but after so many people asked me if I was going to leave the hull "bright finished" I decided to varnish the sheer strake, to show off a little of the wood.  I think that's a good compromise.  I don't want people to think that it's made of fiberglass after all that hard work!

I finally started the long slog of several coats of varnish and several coats of primer followed by paint.  When the paint is dry she'll be totally ready to hit the water as a rowboat (with the addition of a couple oarlocks).  Still, I don't plan to launch her until she's ready to sail away.

I cleaned out the shop a little, burning wood scraps in an old barbeque grill.  It's a respectful way to dispose of all that beautiful cedar, oak and mahogany.   


Keel1Well because of the fantastic response to my DVD I’ve been super busy running back and forth to the post office to fill all the orders, so I was happy to find some time the other day to get back to work on my boat.  Thanks again to all of you who placed orders and I hope you enjoy the videos.  By the way, they make great gifts too so don’t forget your friends now that the spring paddling season is approaching.

Here are some pics of the keel installation on my Joel White Pooduck Skiff.  The keel was the last major structural component I needed to install before painting the exterior hull

First I made the keel pattern out of scrap plywood.  I marked a centerline on the outside of the hull then set the plywood vertically along the line.  A few 2x4 blocks hot-glued along the side of the centerline held the pattern in place with drywall screws.  Then I marked the "bottom" edge (actually the top edge, but the boat is upside down) of the keel pattern to follow the shape of the hull using a black Sharpie pen duct-taped to a block of wood.   I unscrewed the pattern and placed it on the floor to mark the “top” (actually bottom) edge.   Marking the edge really just followed basic lofting techniques described previously: taking measurements from the plans and transferring them to the wood using those long wooden battens that boat builders always have handy. 

After I cut out the pattern with a sabersaw, I placed it on the wooden board I reserved for the keel.  The wood is meranti, a tropical hardwood I found at Edensaw.  By the way if you are looking for marine lumber Edensaw has just about any kind of wood you would possibly want.  And if you don’t know exactly what you want, just drop by and browse among their stacks.  Just the sight of those beautiful boards will get your creative juices flowing!   I was even able to convince them to give it to me wholesale because I am a Center for Wooden Boats member. YESSSSS!

I chose meranti for the keel because it was half the price of Honduran mahogany and came in the right thickness (if I can save time by not planing lumber down to correct thickness, I will).   I marked it up using the pattern and cut out the keel, then attached it to the hull using 3M 5200 bedding compound and 1 1/2 inch silicon bronze screws (from the inside and the outside) and a single 6 inch long 1/4 inch diameter machine bolt through the widest part of the skeg.  The whole thing was clamped down tight against the hull with nylon Thule straps to get good “squeeze out” bead of bedding compound.   Then I scraped off the bead.  After it’s completely cured in a week I can finally start painting the hull. 



RampTurtleBoatbuilding manuals suggest using a block and tackle system or the help of a bunch of friends to turn boats over, especially when they start getting heavy.  But with a little planning I was able to turn my Joel White Pooduck Skiff over single-handedly, and without a block and tackle system, for painting the hull. 

First I made a little ramp with a couple 2x4s screwed onto the end of the strongback and padded with old bath rugs.  Then I just slid the boat down from the strongback onto a carpet on the driveway.  I disassembled the ramp, and also modified the strongback so that the weight of the upside down boat would be supported with 2x4 crosspieces. 

Before rolling the boat over I protected the edges with foam pipe insulation, and attached some old kayak wheels onto the stern seat with duct tape (I knew I’d find a use for those wheels someday!)  Then I turned the boat over, making sure all contact points on the ground were padded or covered with carpet.  Once the boat was upside down all I had to do was roll it up to the modified strongback and slide it onto the 2x4 crosspieces.  She's pretty heavy, but not a lot of strength or grunting was involved.

Now the boat is back to looking like a turtle.  And since all my finish work has been on the inside (except for the rubstrips), it looks as if I haven’t touched it since I first turned it over several months ago. 

Adventures on Paper and Water

FixI’m going to toot my own horn again really loudly here:  I passed my ASA Coastal Navigation and Advanced Coastal Cruising certification exams!  So within one year I’ve gone from being a complete and total newbie, not knowing the difference between a bimini and a boobie hatch, to something resembling a real mariner!  The Advanced Coastal Cruising Standard states that the student should be "able to safely act as skipper and crew of a sailing vessel about 30 to 50 feet in length in coastal and inland waters, in ANY CONDITIONS" (emphasis mine).

Why get certified?  For someone like me who is big on book knowledge but lacking in real world experience I’m hoping it will give more credibility with charter companies when it comes time to do another bareboat charter.  And preparing for the exam gives you something to do when the weather is crappy or you can't spend any daylight hours outside. Plus it’s a real ego boost when you pass!

Both exams took about five hours together.  During that time I plotted my course carefully around islands shrouded in thick fog, avoiding sunken wrecks, and taking into account leeway, current set and drift.  Later I sharpened my #2 pencils, all the while scanning the sky for signs of the approaching cold front.  I had to deal with my engine failing in a busy channel, running aground, and getting caught far from shelter in sea conditions way beyond my skill level. 

The questions are all “short answer” type, so, as an example, a concise answer to the above scenario would go something like this:

1) Put on PFDs/safety harnesses
2) Dog the hatches
3) Reef
4) Obtain a fix
5) Stow and secure gear below
6) Locate emergency equipment (VHF, flares, bilge pump, lifeboat)
7) Assign helm to most experience helmsman
8) Maintain course parallel to or away from the lee shore
9) Maintain crew morale!

In the end my ship was dismasted and I had to manage that too (best taken care of after sharpening the pencils again, a quick bathroom break and few more sips of coffee).  So it was quite an eventful few hours before we finally hauled her out and put her away for the winter.

*     *     *

BigboatBreakwaterFerryYesterday Ricardo and I sailed the sailing club's Catalina 27 "Duck" out to Point Defiance.  Anthony’s Fish House still had their dock put away for the winter, so we ended up floating into the Breakwater Marina next door.  It was a little tense maneuvering around in those narrow channels, with four powerboats coming up right behind me and a sailboat in front.  But I appreciated the opportunity to get some practice turning in tight quarters and docking.

After one pass through the marina to scope out our options we tied up at the fuel dock and the manager assigned us a different slip that wasn’t normally used for keelboats for $5.  We walked over to the spot and you could easily see the sandy bottom through the clear water.  And I wasn’t exactly sure how deep the draft of the Duck was.

“It’s pretty shallow”, he said, “but the tide is rising so if you run aground on the way there all you’d have to do is wait a little while to refloat.”

And as we cast off from the fuel dock he said, “By the way, do you have a fixed or swing keel?”

“It’s fixed."

“Oh.  Well, just go really slow.”

Well we made it OK and had a good walk up to the Point Defiance Zoo and then a stopped for a beer at Anthony’s.  On the way back we ran into the marina manager who looked somewhat surprised to see that we made it OK.


Fb2_2Fb1Here are some pics of the stern seat and floorboards on my Joel White Pooduck Skiff, finally sanded and oiled.  The floorboards are western red cedar and very soft, so over a short amount of time I'm sure they'll get pretty worn and weathered.  One thing is for sure -- they won't ever look as good as they do now.  Now that the interior is basically finished, I'm ready to turn her over to install the keel and paint the hull, as soon as I do a few modifications on the "strongback" to hold the boat upside down.


Thwarts/Centerboard Trunk

TwartsandtrunkTrunkcloseupI installed the centerboard trunk last night.  It involved squeezing a generous bead of 3M 5200 adhesive on the bottom of the trunk logs and pounding it into the slot, then screwing it in from the bottom.  It's desireable to get a good "squeeze-out" of 3M 5200 from the bottom of the logs.  I've been told that 3M 5200 gives you a permanent but flexible and waterproof bond -- perfect for centerboard trunks which tend to be a common source of leaks in wooden boats.  It will take at least a week to cure and is impossible to remove. 

The thwarts (midship thwart and mast partner) were also screwed into place to help keep the trunk in position.  The thwarts and seats will be held in place only with screws so that they can be removed easily if they need another coat of varnish, or if the interior of the boat needs a fresh coat of paint.

The centerboard has actually not been installed inside the trunk, and the trunk cap has not been fixed to the trunk yet (it's on just for show). 

The last pic shows the floorboards for the cockpit.  They are 3/8th inch thick western red cedar boards that will be secured to cross pieces made out of wood I salvaged from an old patio umbrella (some kind of tropical hardwood).  They will be pegged and glued together with epoxy, then cut to fit the cockpit floor, sanded and coated with an oil finish.