Wednesday, 30 September 2015

Building on Paper

I won't start my build  on the Seagull for a week or two, but I thought I could make a start by drawing out the building jig on paper. 

Let me explain by showing how I draw sailing ships. Take my drawing of the Susan Constant. I started off by slicing the ship up into sections like this:

As you can see there are curved shapes along its length. These curved shapes are called the moulds. (In real life of course I will make Seagull's moulds in wood.)

 Instead of drawing around the moulds to give this:

I shall be putting real planks around Seagull's moulds instead.

Now to hold the moulds in position I will need a building jig. All the information I will need to build the jig I get from one of the drawings in the Plans I bought:

As you can see, to the unpracticed eye these seem complicated, and so I extract the detail I need and instead of making the pieces in wood I draw them out in a clear (isometric) view like this:

So the moulds (the curvey bits) will be screwed to those posts.

By drawing it out like this, I get very familiar with every part, and it's an easy to work to guide when the time comes. also makes me feel I'm not just hanging about ready to start building.

You'll understand better when I make the jig and fit the moulds to it.

Sunday, 27 September 2015

Naming The boat


We were hunting around for a name for the boat-to-be, when my wife, Pat, suggested the name Seagull for two reasons:

   1.  We had missed the sound of seagulls for fifty years until we moved here. 

   2. I had been a Seagull in Germany in the early 1980's .... here's a  link to the clue

Friday, 25 September 2015

The Boat House

The first year of our apprenticeship as shipwrights, in 1954, was spent in the famous Sheerness 'Boat House.'

The Boat House in the 21st Century - derelict

Inside the Boat House in the 21st Century - derelict

Despite the Boat House being built in the 1800's, it still reaches into all our lives. If you look at the way it is built, in the lower picture ,you can see the steel girders. This was the very first time this method of construction was used, and is the precursor to all 'skyscrapers' that were to follow world-wide.

This place was stuffed with wooden boats of all shapes and sizes - and references refer to it as the boat store. To us it was always the boathouse. The first year apprentice training centre was one floor up on the right at the near end. 

We started work at 7am (0700) and finished at 5pm (1700) with an hour for lunch. Additionally we had classes at the Dockyard Technical College two nights a week and one afternoon. A very long week for 15 year old's, and for our labours we were paid £1-10p a week (US$ 1-75c).

The 12 months in the boathouse taught us a lot, at the end of it we were all proficient wood and metal workers - including me!
   On day one we were issued with a large empty black wooden tool chest with rope handles ... and painted on the front mine were the words:

John Simlett
Shipwright App

The first job was to build to specification, a second smaller tool box, complete with dovetail joints etc. (I will photograph both boxes later when there is space in the garage  'er boathouse!).

Soon we had two empty tool boxes, and spent the next 12 months filling them with tools as we made them. 

The smaller box took the metal work tools we made: G cramps, Sash cramps, Moulding cramps, U clamps, toolmakers clamps, engineers squares - large, medium, small and mitre, 12 inch brass dividers, brass bevels, trammel bars etc.

The large chest took the woodwork tools as we made them: planes made in Ash; smoothing, jack, hollow and bollow, rabbet - 3 sizes, plough, mallets, 18 inch dividers in teak, bevels with brass 'blades', large mahogany square etc.

Additional tools be bought for a token price: lots of saws and chisels, adze, draw knife, pin maul (like a sledge hammer), caulking irons, hammers, spirit levels,  etc.

We left the boathouse well equipped with tools and skills, and a good academic grounding. Our next stop was to be the Plate Shop. 

Wednesday, 23 September 2015

In The Beginning

I'm not going to be able to start boat building for a few weeks so I thought I would keep the blog ticking over by telling you what it was like to be a Shipwright Apprentice in the 1950's . 

So how did I become a shipwright apprentice? It certainly wasn't an ambition; like most things in my life it just happened. I'd been to a Technical School that had produced famous scientists, naval architects and ... me. I was the proverbial square peg. The only thing I produced was a wooden egg rack that only held 11 eggs: I sort of miscalculated the design. I was even worse at metal work. The only subject I was good at was Technical and Geometric Drawing.

Shipwrights work in wood and metal and focus on ships and boats, as I was no good with either and didn't know anything about boats I was not a natural match. But life was simpler in those days you simply left school and got a job - there was work for everyone. In our case 'The Dockyard' employed just about everyone on the Isle-of-Sheppey where I lived. Sheerness Dockyard was a Naval dockyard run by the Admiralty (US Dept of Navy equivalent).

Each year the Dockyard had an entrance examination and took over 100 boys in to an indentured five year apprenticeship. Where you came in the results dictated your turn in choosing a trade. The boys that came top chose to be Engine Fitters, Electricians and so on down to Painter. When my turn came I could choose from being a Shipwright, Joiner, Blacksmith or Painter, and so the die was cast. In May 1954 I signed my indentures and entered Sheerness Dockyard. 

The dockyard was very old and had been founded by Samuel Pepys when he was Secretary-to-the-Navy in 1666.


It's 5 m long x 3m high and 3 m wide.
The door to left is to potting shed
The door to right is to workshop
Good happenings: the plans arrived for both boats - the Rathlin and the Lobster boat. The workshop is almost finished.

Plans: 10/10 to Selway Fisher Designs, Paul has responded promptly to my emails and everything is delivered on time.

Workshop:  You may be thinking, "Does he plan to build the boat in the new workshop, as it won't fit?" Well, no, but I can now move all the stuff out of the garage into the workshop and hence will be able to use the garage to build the Lobster boatLet me explain, we moved here 12 months ago last week. I left behind me some very large workshops, and  as there was no workshop here, all my gear got dumped in the garage. 

So why did we move here after 27 years in (landlocked) Yorkshire? Well here's part of the reason, right on my doorstep

Sunday, 20 September 2015

A Dog's Life

We used to have a lovely little dog, Mitzi. She could never make her mind up. If you put two dishes of dinner in front of her she'd could die of starvation: darting between them but unable to choose. 
I've been very much the same as Mitzi in choosing which boat to build.

First I chose the Power22, but then I found out about the strip plank method of boat construction - which appealed more to me - and  led to me choosing the lobster boat. 

However, it didn't end there for my wife, Pat, and I got carried away with the romance of it all wouldn't it be nice to have...

...the cabin, the galley etc, and sailing off into the sunset.....

... and so we picked out a larger strip-plank build, the Rathlin, which has all these facilities.

So I sent off for the plans of the Rathlin. £250 (US $ 390) - well, it was our 56th Wedding Anniversary yesterday, so it was a mutual present.

In the early hours of this morning, logic cut in. This was a big build:
Rathlin 20 MY Particulars
Hull Mid Depth2'11"0.88m
Maximum Headroom5'10" (Wheelhouse)
4' (Cabin)
1.77m (Wheelhouse)
1.2m (Cabin)
Displacement3528 lbs1600 kg
Engine10-30 hp inboard 
Hull Shape
Round bilge
Construction MethodsStrip plank
Major strip wood requirements for hull1970' of 3/4" x 1 1/4" (600m of 18x30mm) WRC
How was I going to turn a boat weighing about a ton? Was it really too big for the garage and so forth, as I turned into Mitzi.

The answer is simple - build the smaller boat and gain the experience. This would allow me to try the Rathlin later. We would have the option to sell the lobster boat to fund the Rathlin build ... or have two boats!

So it's going to be the lobster boat - I sent off for the plans, £75 (US$ 115). 

15' Lobster Boat Particulars
Hull Mid Depth2'3"0.68m
Approx. Dry Weight250 lbs113 kg
Engine5-30 hp 
 20 knots with 20 hp 
Hull Shape
Round bilge with tumblehome aft
Construction MethodsStrip plank
Major strip wood requirements for hull2460' of 3/8" x 3/4" (750m of 10x19mm) WRC
Guidance Use4-6 adults - estuary/coastal
Drawing/Design Package4 x A1 drawings + 4 x A4 instruction/spec sheets
Additions and alterations included with the plans

Wednesday, 16 September 2015


The books I ordered from Selway Fisher Designs arrived promptly, today.

They continue to impress. The books were triple packed to protect them, and packed with an easy to read narrative. 

I quite fancy the Strip Plank construction, here's one below.

15' Lobster Boat Particulars
Hull Mid Depth2'3"0.68m
Approx. Dry Weight250 lbs113 kg
Engine5-30 hp 
 20 knots with 20 hp 
Hull Shape
Round bilge with tumblehome aft
Construction MethodsStrip plank
Major strip wood requirements for hull2460' of 3/8" x 3/4" (750m of 10x19mm) WRC
Guidance Use4-6 adults - estuary/coastal
Drawing/Design Package4 x A1 drawings + 4 x A4 instruction/spec sheets
Additions and alterations included with the plans 

Tuesday, 15 September 2015

Study Plans Arrived, as Promised

The study plans have arrived this morning from Selway-Fisher Designs. Top marks to them as I ordered them, on line, on Sunday and have them here on Tuesday morning.

They show me there are two ways to build the boat, the 'conventional' method and the 'stitch and epoxy' method. At 77, I have earned the right to be old fashioned. I've also grown wise enough to know that the old methods have been largely replaced for reasons that persuaded most of the world they were 'better'.

I'm not in a rush and so I won't make a judgement until I have learnt about the new technology. It seemed logical to send off for books on the subjects and as Selway-Fisher have been as good as their word so far I've ordered the books from them. I sound like a commercial for them don't I? Sorry.

The study plans give me a Materials List which will allow me price up the project, and that will be tomorrow evening's task, as I'm in the middle of building myself  a workshop - which is unrelated to Project Fishwall - that's taking up my daylight hours.

Monday, 14 September 2015

Looking at Suppliers and Costs

I thought I should look around for suppliers of materials suitable for boat building.

 In the UK, Robbins Timber seem just the job

I shall look around for three suppliers and make a judgement on which best serve my purposes. 

Timber is very expensive in the UK and here I do envy my North American friends who find such materials considerably cheaper. If any of them follow this blog and see our costs it's going to make them feel happier about their costs - which they probably thought expensive until now.

This brings me to a good point: I'm open to any advice or ideas 

Sunday, 13 September 2015

DAY ONE (11 Sept 2015)

Project FISHWALL: 
Getting From Fishguard to Cornwall by Shortest Route.

Day 1.  (11/09/2015). 
On the 1st Sept 2015 we drove from Fishguard in Pembrokeshire, to Hayle in Cornwall to visit our family who live thereabouts. The 317 mile journey took nearly 6 hours.

The return journey took 12 hours as there had been an accident on the M5 motorway in Devon; we had to make a massive cross-country diversion. As we sat in Friday rush-hour traffic jams we talked about how stupid it all was for, as the crow-flies, Fishguard to Hayle is only 137 miles. More appropriately, 140 miles as the seagull flies. Thus project FISHWALL was discussed and here, today, it starts.

The Shipwright

Now the good news is, I’m qualified to build boats/ships: I did a five year apprenticeship with the Admiralty to become a Shipwright. The bad news is, that was 57 years ago and I’ve not been in shipbuilding ever since. The good news, is that I have all the tools and the self-confidence to build one.

Type of Boat

Early days yet, but looking at plans available on the internet. I quite like the look of some of the Selway-Fisher Designs. ( They sell a study pack of plans for about £20 (US $30) – these enable you to assess the boat build you’re interested in. Saves the investment in a full set of plans for a build which might not be what you thought it was going to be.

I’ve sent off for a study pack of their Power 22.