Building First Mate

A sailboat designed by Ross Lillistone

Built by Stephen Chatelain

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04/05/2020 - So it's been a while since I posted anything. It's not that I haven't been working on the boat, I've just been doing a lot of little things that aren't photo-worthy - and also I did go through a slow period due to the cold, coronavirus and just being lazy.

I reached a point where it was more productive to start about 5 mini-projects at once because it's just getting to a point where there's a lot of little things to do.

First, I laminated the centerboard from two pieces of 12mm plywood (1/2 inch). The lines are drawn where I need to shape it into an airfoil so it cuts through the water to help the boat track upwind.

Next, there are four knees that need glued in to help hold the side deck on (when it's time for that).

Framing for the rear deck. The two on the right are the side walls for the motor well. I'll glue in the bottom when this whole assembly dries. So, the plans call for an outboard motor well which can take a 2hp motor. I doubt I'll use a motor since this boat was designed for sailing and rowing, but it's there if I ever want it and it will make a great place to sit a beer and a sandwich.

Finally, I dry-fitted the rear seat. I still need to install the framing for it so it doesn't break under my butt.

04/11/2020 - I finally got around to fiberglassing the inside of the centerboard case. This will prevent wear from the centerboard as it slides up and down. Maybe I put it off so long because it was my first time laying up fiberglass cloth and I didn't want to screw it up. And it was 45 minutes of slowly spreading epoxy around - very tedious, but the end result is satisfying.

Here I started by roughly cutting the cloth to size. Then I used a bondo spreader to smooth out all the wrinkles before spreading on the epoxy.

A close-up of a perfect application where the cloth is fully wetted, yet without any pooling of the epoxy.

The first coat is finished! Only two more coats to go, but those will be much quicker.
Unfortunately, there is one mistake. You can see in the lower right corner of the picture that there is a chip out of the plywood which prevents the glass from laying flat. I was going to fill it with thickened epoxy, but completely forgot until it was too late. We'll just have to see how the glass sets up over it. I may have to sand it out and fill it in later.

05/08/2020 - All the little things...

The centerboard case finally went together.

I formed the mast partner from a nice piece of lumber a friend left with me before he moved to Florida. This will hold the mast in place along with another block that is glued to the floor.

Each gunwale was scarfed together from three pieces, then glued to the side, and finally planed down to match the angle of the yet-to-be-attached deck. I had to glue them about 6mm higher than the sides to allow enough material to plane off.

I made them slightly thinner than what I've seen most builders make because I don't like the look of wide overhangs. It may allow a little more spray into the boat, but I can live with that.

The king plank gives the bow and foredeck some extra support.

This pic also gives a nice view of the mostly finished gunwales.

Side deck carling blocks (the triangles) will work with the knees to hold the carlings in place. Carlings are basically long boards that curves around the inside to give support to the side decks. The unglued carlings are laying in the boat in the "king plank" picture.

This will all make more sense when I get them glued in this week and post a picture.

The motor well is finally finished.

The inside of the bow compartment is finished, so it's time to primer. No one will really see in here, so I didn't bother spending time to sand the fiberglass down. Also, I'm going to leave it primered since there's not much point is wasting paint in here.

The stern boyancy compartment got primer too. I should have done that before adding the motor well.

The mast partner and mast step have been cut out for awhile, so it's time to finally get them into the boat. Everything is measured and marked. I have to be precise or the mast won't stand at the correct angle and the boat won't sail right. Just dry-fitting in this picture, but they'll get glued and screwed to be extra secure.

And now we take a step backwards. I wasn't content with the centerboard case; due to the end posts not being cut square, the sides bowed in about 3 millimeters and would have caused some rubbing with the centerboard. So, I cut it apart.

I didn't want to cut into the fiberglass, so I cut as close as I could and then sanded down to the glass.

New end posts cut square from some 2x4's I had laying around. Glued it all back together and I'm very happy with the measurements this time.

Yes, that's a hole in the bottom of my boat. Like a first-time surgeon hesitant to make an incision, it took my ten minutes to get up the nerve to cut into the floor. The centerboard case end post will fit into the hole for positioning, and the rest of the centerboard slot will be cut out once the case is glued in and the boat is flipped over.

One hole cut out, one to go. And the lines show where the centerboard case will sit.

I dry-fitted the centerboard case to test my measurements. Then I ran a string down the length to make sure the case is centered and vertical. Looks good. I was honestly expecting it to be off by at least 10 millimeters.

This is what the centerboard case will look like once it's glued and screwed into the boat. It sure adds some weight, though.

05/27/2020 - Wrapping up work on the inside...

Installing the carlings. You have to be creative sometimes when finding a way to hold pieces together while they glue. And the clamp blocks MUST be wrapped in something the glue won't adhere to (like this waxed paper or plastic) or you end up with extra pieces attached to your boat.

The carlings are in! I didn't break them trying to make that bend, and all the glue held. That is a nice looking curve.

I primered under the aft seat and installed the seat braces. The plans call for three braces, but I went with four since I'm only using 1/4 inch plywood for the seat and I don't want any bowing under my butt. Besides, I can envision this being used as a step to get into the boat, so it needs to take my full weight.

I'm getting ready to install the mast partner and I want to get the measurements perfect. There should be a 5 degree back angle, so I mocked up this "test" mast from some spare pvc to see how it will look. The actual mast will be slightly thicker, but this is a good visual.

05/28/2020 - Moving day

It's time for Phase 2. We moved the boat out of the side room of the garage and into the main garage. It's about to gain some weight, so we wanted to move it before it got too heavy. Tipped on it's side, it got it through the doorway without much trouble.

So much more space to work! But it kind of makes the boat look smaller.

I put it on the floor until I can decide the best height to work on it now. And I got a chance to sit in it for the first time to get a feel for it's size and comfort. I'm loving it.

Unfortunately, moving it into the garage means I now get to park outside until the boat is finished.


The centerboard case is finally in - along with the small frame it's attached to. I think I dry-fitted it four times because I was so nervous about getting it right. It is one of the most important parts of the boat as far as I'm concerned. If it's not in straight and level, the boat won't sail straight.

I'm still debating with myself whether to fiberglass it in or not. The plans don't call for it, but I'd like to know it was extra secure. This should be the last of the stress - after this, there isn't much that I can mess up.


Midship seat bracing is in. This seat is where the boat is rowed from and will align with the oarlocks.

All four pieces of the rudder assembly are cut out and dry fitted to make sure the rudder will swivel up and down. You can see the pencil lines where a cut will be made to hold the tiller.

The plans called for three laminations of 1/4" plywood, but I was running low and need it for the decks, so I went with solid pine lumber and hope the fiberglass will give it enough strength.

Shaping the rudder was fun. It was like the centerboard, only easier. There is definitely an art to it.

Glassing the rudder to add strength and durability. Notice the circle of hardened epoxy - this is where the bolt goes. I drilled a large hole and filled it with epoxy. When the fiberglass is finished, I'll re-drill the correct (smaller) size hole which will leave some of the thickened epoxy to act as a bushing for the bolt.

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