Building First Mate

A sailboat designed by Ross Lillistone

Built by Stephen Chatelain

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06/22/2020 - It's been a busy week. Cleaning up old tasks, starting new ones, and lots of sanding!

The mid-ship seat went in. I wanted the seat to "flow" into the centerboard case, so I added an angled piece that wasn't in the plans. It will also catch my butt if I slide backwards when I row.

Here is the "mostly" finished interior. The only things missing are the deck, centerboard case top, hatch covers, oarlocks, and paint. I'm saving those for last. Now it's time to flip the boat.

With a little help, the boat was flipped and the bottom work started. I cut the centerboard slot to match the case and was careful not to cut into the fiberglass on the inside of the case. Next I have to fill all the holes left from the zip ties and the gaps between plywood panels. I'll sand it all down and cover the entire bottom with fiberglass cloth.

I've also started working on the spars. Here I'm laminating three layers of pine to form the boom, and once it cures, I'll plane it down and sand it. I'm keeping the boom and yard square with rounded edges for simplicity.

The mast will be next with four staves of Douglas fir glued in a square pattern and then sanded round.

06/29/2020 - Now I've started a second project. I couldn't find a decent used boat trailer or a cheap new one, so I decided to buy a trailer kit from Harbor Freight and modify it to carry the boat.

Here's the base kit minus the coupler and lights. I'll extend the tongue to 11 feet by swapping out the standard bar for a longer, thicker one. The trailer is rated for 1150lbs. which is plenty for my 180lb. boat. Also, I have to add bunks, side guides, and a winch post. When it's all finished, it'll cost about the same as an old used boat trailer.

Laying the fiberglass cloth over the bottom. There was a lot of prep work to sand the chines down. Chines are sharp edges where the bottom changes angle. And then I had to smooth out the cloth to remove all wrinkles.

Wetting out the fiberglass took about two hours. That was hard work in 90 degree heat. I ended up putting on three coats in one day with only about an hour between coats because the epoxy cured so fast in that heat.

I left it to cure for two days, and then I filled in some low spots and sanded down some runs.

08/08/2020 - It's been too long since I last posted, but things have been moving slowly.

I attached the keel batten and the skeg...

Started shaping the boom and the yard. I was going to keep them square for simplicity, but once I started sanding, I just kept going until they were round. Oh well, they look much better now - and they're lighter.

Primered the hull...

Painted the hull...

And finished the trailer - mostly. Had to work through some grounding issues with the lights. The trailer was very well painted, but that meant I had to sand down to bare metal at five different grounding points.

08/26/2020 - Will it ever be finished?!

Finally got around to glassing the centerboard.

And here's the centerboard installed in the boat in the "down" position. Now I have to fabricate a push rod to raise and lower the board while sailing.

Cutting out the case caps. These will be less permanent (screwed on) since I may need to remove them to maintain the centerboard in the future.

Look at that! I put the boat on the trailer so I can move it out of the garage when I need to. The trailer now has carpeted bunks, a keel roller, trailer jack, and reflective stickers on the tongue. I think I'll still fabricate a winch post at the front of the boat to hold the front securely.

Making a mast is a time-consuming project. My first attempt was with douglas fir, but that went bad in a hurry. So then I tried some simple pine and that was much easier to work with. It finally looks like a mast after much measuring, planing, sanding, and varnishing.

Testing the fit of the mast in the mast step and partner. I'll probably wrap a layer of thin rope around it at the partner to protect it and make it fit snug.

You can see from this pic that the inside has a coat of primer and is ready for paint.

The sail has been laced to the yard and boom. The sail appears to be a perfect fit.

Maybe I'm getting ahead of myself here, but I just had to see how it's going to look with the sail raised.

Last of the centerboard work - I varnished the centerboard case cap and the push rod. I spent too much time trying to figure out how to fabricate the push rod (pushes the centerboard down) and link it to the centerboard. I've seen it made in wood and metal, and always better than what I could do. So I finally went with a simple handle and rod made from wood I had laying around. Then I mounted some stainless steel flat braces to each side of the centerboard, and those will attach to the end of the rod.

10/10/2020 - October already?!

Finally getting the deck on this thing. I may have procrastinated a bit because I knew it was going to be labor-intensive. I had to rough-cut all the panel, epoxy them, glue them down a few at a time (not enough clamps), and then trim them down. And the sanding - so much sanding.

Here's my crazy system to get the bow panels to fit the curve.

All the panels are on. I used a jigsaw to trim as close to the frame as I could, then switched to the belt sander to do the hard sanding. After this I moved to the orbital sander to get that smooth feel.

I also mounted the case cap and rod. Most of these boats I've seen use a metal rod, but I'm no metalworker, so I fabricated something out of wood. I like how it turned out.

This is how the centerboard is pushed in the down position. Seems to work well on the trailer - can't wait to test it in the water.

10/20/2020 - The boat is officially built.

It has been 294 days since I scarfed the first sheets of plywood together, and today I mounted the last of the deck hardware. The boat is officially done.

The hatches are screwed in and sealed with silicone. And the deck is sanded and painted.

Mostly finished here, minus some of the deck hardware.

This shows the twine wraps around the boom and the yard, as well as the mainsheet blocks attached to the boom and the downhaul.

A good shot of the downhaul and the belaying pins. Ignore the reef tie - I know it's not supposed to tie to the boom, but I was quickly testing a reefing system.

Ready for the first test sail. Actually it's a test of the trailer too. I sure hope it doesn't fall apart on the road.

It floats!

Unfortunately, it was too windy to sail - winds were 20+ mph. But I did get to row around and just get a feeling for how it behaved on the water. It's sturdy and tracks well when rowing.

It's been a long project and there are still some small tweaks I want to make, but it's been fun and educational.

Now I can start planning for the Everglades Challenge - the entire reason I built the boat in the first place.