Sheeting the Hull

This is the last chance to get things straight and level. If we come out of this less than perfect, then the boat's handling characteristics--and possibly safety--will be affected.

Days 12 & 13 ( Jan 11, 2006): There are still some parts of the frame to install, but not until after we get the sides sheeted in. So let's get going!

Well, I spent all day Saturday fairing (shaping to an effective and pleasing form) the port chine logs and sheer clamp. And then Devy and I got busy cutting plywood sheets!

This was not nearly as difficult as I expected. Devy held the plywood sheets in place while I adjusted their positions and set clamps. We drew a few lines along the chine and cut to shape. These panels had no curves sharp enough to prevent the use of our circular saw, so zip! and they're done. Well, almost. Some trimming will happen as we put things into their final position and some trimming will be done after everything is permanently fastened.

Here, Devy caught me trying to decide whether we had a good position on the bow sheet. I felt pretty good about it, so I marked the lines and cut.

Bow Side-panel


So, with the bow piece cut, we clamped both the panels into place for a quick look at how things will go together. There is still a bit of trimming to be done where the two sheets meet, and we'll also have to put a backing piece in place to stabilize the joint. There is also a bit of trimming to do at the stem (the extreme forward end, to the left in this shot) to finish up the final shape. That will be done after the sheet is permanently affixed.

Side view of both sheets clamped in place


And here is a view from the bow. I was surprised at how easily the plywood took the curves, but I guess that's all part of the designer's job. Everything I've read suggests that the bottom sheet at the bow end will be a bit trickier. I wouldn't be surprised--not only is there a kind of nasty curve (actually a compound curve!), but the bottom plywood is 3/8 inch instead of the 1/4 inch used on the sides. After we took this shot, we unclamped and transferred the sheets over to the other side to test fit them there. Lo and behold, they fit, so we were able to simply use them as templates to cut the other side.

Front view of sheets clamped in place

Days 14-16 ( Jan 15, 2006): The sides of the hull are completely sheeted!


We went out Friday evening (the first time we've done so) and coated the inside of the side sheets with epoxy to get them ready for installation on Saturday and Sunday.

Then on Saturday we got starboard side sheeted in. There were a few minor challenges, mostly related to the bow area and getting the curve in place. In the end, it turned out fine. However, the need for a clamp at the bow prevented us from continuing with the port side. Oh well, there's always another day.

Starboard sheeting in place


Today (Sunday) we got the port side on. This side went on much easier than the starboard side. I suspect that the major factor is practice. We used the starboard side to learn how to cut the sheets, so we did a better job on the port. We also used the starboard side to learn how to put everything together, so we did a better job on the port. Anyway, here's what the port side looks like.

Port sheeting is in place.


And finally, here's another shot of the starboard after the port sheeting is in place. One thing that I found quite interesting was that the battens didn't interfere at all with the installation of the side sheeting. Everything I've read says that the side sheeting can be installed much easier if you leave batten installation until after the sheeting is complete. We had notched the frames for the battens and laid them in place just to get a sense of how things go together, but he didn't fasten them down. We might as well have fastened them into place, because they weren't in the way at all.

 Days 17 & 18 

( Jan 22, 2006): The bottom of the hull is nearly sheeted in! At the expense of a drill.


The bow was a bit of a challenge. We fought with it for quite a while on Saturday before it became obvious that we had to both cut away wood that we knew was safe to remove and work with strategically placed wet rags. We knew all along that we were going to need to do the hydrating thing, but we didn't expect it to be as critical to success as it turned out to be. I was also surprised at just how much easier things went once we let the wet rags sit for a few hours.

100 Screws

Wow!! Are there ever a lot of screws to install! In fact, there were so many that we killed both batteries for our cordless drills then switched over to our backup (a corded drill) and burnt the motor out. That wasn't a big deal, because that drill was a gift from Devy's dad in the early days of our marriage. I'm guessing that the it was 25 years old, so it doesn't owe us anything. Anyway, we took that as an excuse to go out for lunch and tool shopping. If it wasn't for that little glitch, we would probably have finished the port side, too, so things actually went quite well. Our choice was between a couple of spare batteries and a new corded drill, both options in the same price range. We elected to go with the spare batteries. Well, I opted to go with the spare batteries, because I hate cords. Besides, we have two matching cordless drills, so as long as we have battery power, two of us can work at the same time.

So, here's what the starboard side looks like. There is still some finish work to be done along the chines (where bottom meets side) and along the keel and bow. And there are way too many screws to putty over.

Side View

Here's another shot of the starboard side from an aft position. When we started this, one the things that I was hoping for was to get a nice enough job on the sheeting to actually have the option to leave it unpainted. So far, we're on track to achieve that level of finish, assuming that standards are not kept too high. There are a few spots where the screw spacing is off because somebody got overzealous with the counter sinking and there are a couple of spots where the line of the screws is crooked because somebody misjudged the position of the battens. However, if the bottom sheeting on the port side comes out as nicely as this, then the only fairing (think body filler) will be in places that are only visible if you crawl (or dive!) under the boat. In any case, the final decision to paint or not will be made only after the hull is faired and fiberglassed.

Aft view


Days 19 & 20  ( Feb 1, 2006): Sheeting of the hull is 100% complete!

Let the bells ring out and the banners fly! We're finished sheeting in the hull. We finished off the starboard side last week-end and this week-end we finished off the port side. It actually looks like it will float! (Well, duh, it's wood, right?) Anyway, the starboard presented it's own trials and tribulations, but the port side was just plain nasty. On the plus side, we had everything precise enough that we were able to use the starboard sheets as a template for cutting the port sheets. On the downside, I did something wrong, either when we were getting things lined up and setting up the alignment screws or during the actual installation. It quickly became apparent that the port sheet was going to overlap the starboard sheet at the stern, starting about 2 feet from the transom and to a maximum extent of nearly an inch. In a race against time--the epoxy has a working life of only 30-40 minutes--we pulled a few screws, did some realignment and charged back in. I tried to stay relaxed so as to avoid making things worse and I kept a close eye on the epoxy in case we had to quit, scrape everything off, and start over. In the end, we got the panel in place just fine, although even with 4 fresh batteries, I still had to use the backup corded drill for the last dozen screws. I guess the motor isn't actually burnt out as I thought last week, but it's definitely never going to be the same. And I guess we should probably invest in a new backup drill!

Starboard sheeting is complete


When were getting started on Saturday, the Plant Manager told me that we had to move from this spot to another location within the warehouse by Monday at 8 am. On Sunday, after giving things overnight to cure, I went back in and cleaned up the rough edges and then did a preliminary inspection of everything, looking for humps, hollows, and other imperfections. I checked measurements. I check horizontal and vertical alignments as well as verifying that things are still level and plumb. I got out my 8-foot straightedge and looked for large areas that might need filling. The verdict: pretty darn good!

Then I set out to move everything. I didn't anticipate any problems now that the hull is fully sheeted and everything worked out fine. Since we had anticipated this possibility, we had done all of our set up on a 16-foot pallet that we made more stable with appropriately located lumber. I put a pallet jack under the stern end and a hand wheeler under the bow and zipped it right over. Then I gave things another fairly detailed inspection and couldn't find any evidence of shifting or twisting. In the end, the only spots besides screw heads that needed filling or filing were at the actual butt joints on the panels (16-foot plywood is too expensive, and scarf joints weren't deemed necessary). Those joints came out so well that there was very little sanding required and just a small amount of filler.

There actually is a slight dip across the entire bottom extending about 4 inches forward from the transom. In fact, this looks like it might make our life easier when it comes to truing up that region as part of sheathing the hull with fiberglass. Fiberglass doesn't work very well on sharp corners, so every corner has to be rounded. However, my Glen-L book on plywood boats (or was it the fiberglassing video?) makes it quite clear that the corner where the bottom meets the hull should be 'crisp' (sharp, not rounded). To that end, the builder is expected to put a few layers of fiberglass over the corner and then grind things out to nice flat surfaces with a crisp corner. That slight dip near the transom looks like it should reduce the amount of grinding on the bottom of the hull, which doesn't hurt my feelings at all.

Port sheeting is complete

Day 21 & 22 ( Feb 7, 2006): The plywood is in place, so it's time to make everything smooth and pretty.


Fairing - Starboard view

What we have here are a couple of photos showing all the places that needed to be smoothed out. It's really not as bad as it looks. All the screws were countersunk (at least the ones done right!), so they need filling. The side panels are 1/4" plywood and the bottom panels are 3/8" so there are unavoidable mismatches (at least with my skill set). The panels are cut from 8' lengths of plywood, but the boat is 15' long so there are unavoidable joints. The bow joint is, well, let's just say that it needed a bit of straightening out. As far as any dips or humps caused by poor alignment of the frames or battens? NONE! All of the other stuff I knew would be there, but I'm very pleased with the results of having put the effort into getting and maintaining alignment during all phases of construction.

Fairing - Port side view


 Days 23 & 24 ( Feb 14, 2006): Fiberglassing is fun!

Fiberglass - stern view

These photos show the results of the fiberglassing. There isn't a lot to see, but if you compare with last week-end's photos, you should see two things. Obviously, there is a bit of sheen now, the result of reflections from the epoxy that saturates the fiberglass cloth and bonds it to the wood. Less obviously, you can see that sanding between then and now has dramatically reduced the area covered by fairing compound--everything is very straight and smooth even if it's not in a state that allows it to go unpainted. Not a problem, because we've assumed from the start that we'd be painting as opposed to varnishing.

Everything went well, although we did have a bit of a challenge with laying out the fiberglass cloth. I was expecting to find either two pieces of cloth, each one wide enough to cover keel to sheer with some overlap and both long enough to cover bow to stern including the full height of the transom or three pieces of cloth, one wide enough to cover chine to chine across the bottom and bow to stern including the full height of the transom and two pieces each wide enough to cover the sides. What we got was two pieces that had to be cut and pieced in strange and wondrous ways. Well, it wasn't that bad, but it was unexpected. Or maybe we just didn't see the right way to lay things out sensibly, but everything actually came out very nice.

Fiberglassing - bow view

Days 25 & 26 ( Feb 22, 2006): Well, that was fun!


Spray rail

Well, it sure doesn't look like much has been done since last week-end! So what went wrong? Let me count the ways:

  1. I skipped a page in my planning manual. I thought the only thing left to do to the hull was paint it. That would have left us without spray rails, keel strip, skeg--not good.
  2. When I did find my place, I managed to not follow the instructions! I was busy trying to attach the wrong piece of wood at the joint along the keel/stem and wondering why it wouldn't work. Fortunately, I did finally give up and go back to the instructions and match up what was written with the bill of materials.
  3. We did something funky with the starboard spray rail--the one that looked like it was going to go on easy. When we were actually fixing it into position, we simply could not get a really good alignment with the port spray rail, nor could we get back the nice fit we had against the keel strip.
  4. So, there I am trying to apply a filler to try and compensate for the problems outlined in number 3. No problem, right? Wrong! Somehow I managed to get the filler mixed up a little on the sloppy side and it just refused to stay where I was putting it.

Needless to say, I eventually realized that my native stubbornness was proving to be a liability, so I just shut things down. Next week-end isn't that far away. I won't have time to finish the planing and filling and still get to the paint, so that'll put us 2 weeks behind--that's further behind--but it should be a relaxing couple of weeks. We'll take our time and get things right. And we can lose another few weeks and still be in the water before winter comes back around.

Day 30 ( Mar 8, 2006): The first coat of paint!

First coat

We got the first coat of paint on! It obviously needs at least one more coat. I think that'll do it, but it might need a third one after that. As you can see, part of the spray rail and part of the keel strip have been painted. Let's just say that there are good reasons for this and leave it at that. We've been struggling with what kind of blue trim to apply and we've decided to put a kind of wedge of blue starting about 18" either side of point of the bow and angling back to near the flat part of the bottom.

Days 31 & 32 ( Mar 13, 2006): The paint job is complete


Last coat of white

Well, I got the last coat of white paint applied on Saturday. I did a bunch of work on the trailer during the day and then did the painting just before I shut it down for the day. I'm quite pleased with the way it turned out.

Blue from Bow

I did more work on the trailer on Sunday and then just before leaving for the day I painted the blue wedge on the bow. We went back later in the evening to take off the masking tape (forgot the camera!), but confirmed that we're done painting!

Blue from starboard

It doesn't look all that great while upside-down, but I did some image rotation and think that it'll work out fine from a different point of view. We are ready to turn this over onto the trailer to finish the top side! I can't tell you how happy I am to have reached this milestone!


Update: March 15, 2006

After I posted these pictures, a couple of funny guys decided that it was important to take that different point of view. In more ways than one!

First off the mark was Uncle Norm with his rendition of the Ron-Dev-OO (he won't give up on the name obviously thinks the paint scheme could use some help).

RonDevOO from Uncle Norm

The next guy to weigh in was my brother Dave. He left the paint alone, but felt it was important to put it into a more realistic setting.

drBoat from Dave


Once he saw that others were having a bit of fun, my brother George decided to contribute. I guess he's never really understood that we're building a powerboat, not a sailboat. Oh well, nice job anyway!

Thanks to everyone for the artists' conceptions.