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Eastport Pram Build #8: The Whole is Greater Than the Sum of its Parts…

So, a lot of stuff happened again this week, but the finish line seems to keep retreating just over the horizon. I over-drilled (1/2″ hole for a 5/16″ bolt) the holes in the rudder as per the directions. I also over-drilled the holes in the rudder head cheek plates, which I’m not sure I was supposed to do as per the directions. The directions weren’t very clear at this point. I think it’s a case of the writer knowing what he meant, just not explaining it quite clearly enough for someone else to follow (which is something I do all the time). My reasoning is that they will both be through-bolted and exposed to water, which needs to be isolated from potential damage. The good news is that it’s easy to put a piece of tape on the bottom of the hole in the rudder and fill it with epoxy. It’s not quite so easy to fill the holes in the cheeks. I put tape on one side and filled it through the hole on the other cheek. Tomorrow, I’ll drill out the proper sized hole (5/16″) in the epoxy and put tape over the other hole and fill it from the other side. Although these parts don’t take a lot of wood, they do take several steps to build, so I’d like to keep this one for a while.

Also, I test fit the rudder into the head and cracked it open a bit, which I’ll have to fix. The directions say to grind away some of the top of the rudder (see lighter part below around hole), but I need to remove more wood further down the rudder where it pried the cheeks apart.

I’d been wondering about where to source some Sitka spruce or clear Douglas fir for the spars. That was proving to be logistically difficult and expensive. While wandering Home Depot the other day getting stuff for the shop, I discovered some very clear hemlock boards. I had originally thought of poplar because it was cheap and clear, but they only call poplar a “hardwood” because the tree has leaves instead of needles. Actually, pine is much harder than poplar. Really, the only thing I make out of poplar are drawer cases and drawer dividers. Anyway, a quick check on my phone in the aisle said that hemlock is not substantially softer than any of the other wood people have used to laminate their spars with on the boatbuilding blogs, so off I went with three sticks.

The mast is supposed to be 1-7/8″ square, and my three sticks were just over 2″ thick when stacked, perfect for laminating. The boards were 2-1/2″ wide, so plenty of room to trim off from both sides to clean up the glued edges. When I got back to the shop, I noticed that my plethora of 2″ clamps didn’t quite span the three boards, which was a pretty serious problem. I’d planned on clamping the mast lamination as securely as I had the outwales. In the end, I just spread out the glue (have I mentioned my Rockler glue roller?), stacked the boards, clamped it to the bench with the few large clamps I had and put really heavy things on it. BTW, I’m still repeating the same mistake of using Titebond II. If this project is going to fail, I want it to be epic. Can you say Viking funeral?

Hemlock glue-up…

The next day, I removed the weights and clamps and the glue up looked pretty good. I set the table saw to just over 2″ so I’d have room to shave the other side on a second pass and with the help of a friend and work, wrangled the 10′ stick through the cut. This is when you can really see if the lamination worked, and mine looked pretty good. I rand the stick through a couple more times on the other faces to get a square cross section. I’m always quick on the draw to do a test fit, especially if it’s fun, so I ran over to the boat with the mast and tried to stick it in the hole in the forward thwart. The square edges kept if from sliding in, but it looked close. I would have to route the edges to make sure. I took everything outside and did all my routing and sanding and it fit with just a little slop. I figure I’ll wrap the mast where it goes through the thwart with some chafe protection and it’ll be nice and snug. There are various holes to drill and I still have to cut it to length, but that’s an important part of a sailboat almost ready to go!

Mast laminated, cut square with edges rounded over…

Speaking of Home Depot, I’ve got to give a shout out to their “Bucket Head” vacuum that fits on one of their 5 gal buckets. It’s a great little wet/dry shop vac and costs about $35.

There have been other processes that needed to happen that I’d been dreading. Remember if you biff something at this stage, you’re out the wood and all those days of cutting and gluing. Now it was time to cut out the handle on the daggerboard. If done properly, it looks professionally made. If not, it looks like some kid cut it out to sail on a pond on summer vacation. Luckily, I’ve had lots of experience with templates, so I rough cut out the hole in the handle and set about fine-tuning the 1/4″ masonite template. It faired pretty quickly so it was time to slap it on the daggerboard and bust out the pattern following router bit. Things went pretty well, except for the fact that it might be nice if CLC didn’t make any curved edges tighter than the router bit. This was true for the daggerboard and the transom handles. It would’ve been much easier if I/they had stuck to any radius larger than 3/4″. Otherwise, I had to do a lot of fine-tuning with a hand file. Note to self for next boat…

I think it turned out pretty well. Note the tight radius…

Speaking of “next boat”, the Port Townsend Wooden Boat Festival is only a month away!

Now let me get something off my chest. I’ve mentioned it before, but CLC says to wait until the boat is structurally built before adding the transom doublers. They specifically mention this time and again in the directions, even correcting when the doublers are shown installed “too early” in the photos. Since I made the mistake of following the directions on this step because they made such a big deal about it, here are the extra steps I had to go through:

  • Custom fit doublers around 1″ radius fillets in the corners of the boat.

  • Glue the doublers onto the slanted transoms using heavy weight to push the doublers against the transoms since I don’t have deep enough clamps.

  • Refair the edges of the transoms so the doublers match perfectly.

  • Route the hand holes into the transoms which are at a very weird angle while holding a 15 pound router very precariously. If I had botched this step, it could’ve ruined the boat.

  • Redo the 1″ fillets around doublers.

That’s a lot of extra time, potentially dangerous and what I consider unnecessary steps. I think I will ask Mr. Harris personally at the boat show exactly why I’m not supposed to glue the doublers in place before I stitched the boat together. This is definitely a case of “but all the other guys are doing it”…

Aft starboard transom handle. Looks pretty good…

So the other night, I mixed up the ubiquitous batch of “mustard” epoxy with silica and glued the rudder head together. It squeezed out, making me feel like I had a good bond. I was careful to clean up the squeeze out inside, between the cheek plates with an acid brush so it didn’t interfere with the rudder. While outside, I used my belt sander to grind down all of the epoxy and fair the rudder head assembly. This was a part composed of two separate parts, which each had their own templates, which turned out slightly different for some reason. Once glued up though, you can sand them to the exact same shape.

Rudder head glued up…

With the understanding that any epoxy step is by definition an overnighter, I’ve been trying to think of a critical path to limit the number of days/steps. Here are some of my critical path criteria:

  • Before I epoxy the thwarts in place, the air tanks have to be waterproofed.

  • Before I install the aft thwart, I have to install the skeg.

  • Before I install the skeg, I want to get as much stuff done on the inside of the boat as possible because the skeg interferes with how the boat sits on the sawhorses.

  • I still have to do the scariest part of building the boat and cut the hole in the bottom for the daggerboard slot. I have to figure out the best way of doing this and how it dictates epoxying in the middle thwart.

  • I have to epoxy the forward thwart in place and install the skeg in order to determine where the mast base should be installed for proper rake. This directly counters the sawhorse dilemma.

So I set the thwarts in place and traced their edges in the hull to determine the exact shape of the air tanks. Then, I mixed a small batch of unthickened epoxy and painted everything below the line. This caused the fillets to be really glossy and darkened the oak nicely, which gives a great preview for what the finished interior will look like.

Air tank waterproofed…

As you can probably tell, even when I’m home, I think about the boat a lot and boat stuff. Since I also love t-shirts, I thought I’d try to create a stencil for a shirt to commemorate the build. It’s still a work in progress because I need to find a proper shot of an Eastport pram with enough contrast to make it stencil worthy. Here’s a first attempt based on the product image on

Possible t-shirt designs for Port Townsend… Might even make one for John Harris…

Where we were last episode:

Previous totals: 50 hours $559

Where we are now:

  • Laminating mast, waterproofing air tanks, laminating and sanding rudder assembly = 5 hours

  • Hemlock for mast = $45

  • Pintles & gudgeons = $96

  • Lug sail kit and tools = $255

New totals:

55 hours


Wow! It really adds up quickly…

What’s next? Well, I made a spreadsheet punchlist to make sure I try to stay on the critical path. None of the seats are still attached, the centerboard is still sitting on the bench, so I’ve still got a lot of structural stuff to get done. It’s an interesting dilemma that the sailing kit parts take so much time, effort and money, but I could still just putter around in it if I get just the boat part finished.

Okay, by the time I got this post written, I’ve already made some progress on the boat for the next post. To be continued…

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