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Passagemaker Dinghy Build: In the Beginning - Build Your First Boat Second...

The 8' Eastport Pram I made a few years ago was built as a foray into wooden boat building. Little did I know how addictive it would be. Before I was even done with the first boat, I was dreaming of what I would build next. Attending the world-famous Wooden Boat Festival in Port Townsend every year for my birthday has not helped either.

Here's a pic of me and my little buddy (Captain of the "Tot Yot") sitting in a Passagemaker in PT.

The Passagemaker Dinghy is another "pram" design, meaning it has a flat bow. This has a few advantages over a pointy boat, it's easier to build, has more buoyancy up front for going over waves, and will take a bit more abuse when docking, etc.

Chesapeake Light Craft offers plans and kits for the Passagemaker in two options, the standard, solid, one-piece boat, and a take-apart version. The take-apart is built almost exactly like the solid boat, except that on some fine day in the not too distant future, the builder will take a saw and cut their boat in half (or more accurately, about one third/two thirds). While this is not a true "nesting" dinghy, where one part fits inside the other part like a puzzle (I find there are usually too many trade-offs in the boat's design when nesting is a criteria). The brilliant design feature in the take-apart version that makes dissecting the boat possible is instead of a solid bulkhead (like you'd install if you're making the standard boat), you make a bulkhead sandwich with some cardboard between the plywood. This gives the saw a path of least resistance to follow as you do an impression of a magician cutting his lovely assistant in half, so that hopefully you're left with two relatively intact/unscathed bulkheads.

The Passagemaker is basically just the big sister of the Eastport Pram that I'm already very familiar with, so I think the build should go relatively smoothly. I'm a plans builder which means that I'll be cutting out all of my own parts. I've had the plans for several months and have read the manual numerous times. It looks like I'll be using penetrating epoxy on the panels below the waterline to combat water damage prior to coating with regular epoxy.

I want to take a moment and give a shout out to MAS Epoxies for their support of this project. J.B. and all the gang at Endurance Technologies have been VERY supportive of my projects over the years. I'll be using not only their epoxy, but also trying Gluzilla™ and Woodzilla™ where applicable. One of the main reasons I've switched over to MAS products is that I've become sensitized to West System and System Three epoxy over the years, and I've been told that there is much less risk of this with MAS. I certainly hope so, because the reaction is not pleasant. Another benefit of MAS epoxy is that it is non-blushing, which means you don't have to worry about that thin layer of amine blush forming on your nice new coat of epoxy, slowing you down when adding the next coat. MAS just also happens to be the product that CLC ships when ordering a kit from them, so I know the product is legit since thousands of boats have been built with it.

Here are a few "boat porn" pics from fellow PM builders that I've found on the forums over the years that have inspired me. At the end of this blog entry, I'll make a list of the build blogs that have helped me so much while researching this project. Unfortunately, the most useful forum, is now offline (hence no hyperlink). Luckily, before it disappeared, I had read the entire forum and taken some comprehensive notes.

You can see the take-apart seam at the front third bulkhead.

I also really dig the compass rose inlay at the bow.

It is also important to note that the PM comes with two sail plan options, the original gunter-sloop rig (main & jib) and the lug rig (main only). In boat design, everything is a trade-off, so let's discuss these two options. The sloop-rigged version provides more upwind performance due to having more sail area in the right places. The trade-off is that it also requires some standing rigging to hold the mast up. This takes time to rig and can be frustrating and in the way for some people. Tacking/jibing a small boat with a jib can also be more challenging for new sailors. The lug rig has none of these issues, easy to tack/jibe, free-standing mast that just plugs in, etc. The main trade-off is that a lug rig is a little less efficient upwind.

This performance issue is a big deal for me and since our Eastport Pram has a lug rig, I've already scratched that itch. Plus, I'm comfortable dealing with a jib, I don't mind spending a few minutes rigging the boat (usually means I'm talking to people admiring the boat while I'm doing it). I'm also a professional sailing instructor/sailboat rigger which makes things a bit easier for me. There is a notable increase in expense when ordering both sails for the sloop rig from Sailrite, but this project takes such a significant amount of time, you can buy what you need now and defer buying the sails until much later, thereby creating your own self-financing arrangement. Heck, you can buy just the main, then the jib later on if needed. Both sail plans are relatively easy to reef under sail, but the lug rig is a bit more forgiving during a jibe since there are no shrouds. SIDE NOTE: I will also admit that sewing the lug sail kit for the EP was almost more difficult than building the boat. There's definitely a knack to wrangling a bunch of slick Dacron through a cheap sewing machine.

Lug Main Sail Kit = $221.37

Sloop Main Sail Kit = $187.67

Sloop Jib Sail Kit = $142.37

Total = $330.04

The wind is free, but nothing else is... - Unknown (aka Captain Skully, aka Midnight Maker)

Sailrite Lug Main Sail Kit (link)

Sailrite Main Sail Kit (link)

Sailrite Jib Kit (link)

One of the main reasons for this blog is to document the build for myself and others. I'm going to do my best to record significant things like time and cost, but in all fairness, I've been able to purchase a significant amount of my building supplies/materials at employee prices from the various chandleries I've worked at over the years. With that being said, there's nothing stopping you from getting a part-time job at a marine store and doing the same thing.

I purchased the plans online for full price (a whopping $99), you can buy just the manual for a casual read for $15 or the study plans for $1 (a PDF suitable for framing). You can often find deals on plans at boat shows or certain times of the year. If and when you get the manual, they're not kidding when they say read it cover to cover first. While not perfect or infallible, the manual is great. Much like religion, you should ask questions and then determine for yourself how you're going to proceed. Sometimes I read a manual and it just doesn't jive with how my brain works, and there's always "the author knew what he meant" issue that I have even when doing my own technical writing. CLC has a great forum and I do my best to answer questions that I feel I have knowledge and experience with.

Here are just a few of the great build blogs I've read stem to stern. I've even gone back in the blog time machine to find the beginning of the builds for you. It's great to see how everybody approaches the same issues. Also, there's a few deviations, mods, etc., some great philosophies. Enjoy.

C-Lute Build

With every boat build, not only should we go into the "How", but also of the "Why". These kinds of projects are men's therapy since we rightfully don't feel the need to share our feelings. For me, I work really hard building high-end decks for other people, so it's really gratifying for me to build something for me and my family. I'm constantly daydreaming of taking my son sail camping in the San Juans when he gets older, teaching him to sail his 8 footer while I'm in the 12 footer and even going on excursions by myself in the PNW. I will also admit that the recent election results have seriously bummed me out as an American, the worst since 9-11 actually. I need something fun, silly, unnecessary, gratuitous, etc. just for the fun of doing it. Also, as a father, you do things all day long that you "have" to do (yes, out of love, but still...), it's nice to do something you don't have to do, you just want to do...

Up next, a discussion on some of the building materials I've already gathered together over the years in order to defray the sticker shock of the build. Also, we'll talk about the gunter sloop rig and what kind of plywood I'll be using. I'll also be going over the notes I took from the defunct forum as a refresher course. I approach these builds with a two-pronged attach, one front is what I'm working on right now/next, the other is a long view towards steps/phases that I need to prepare for, either mentally or materials/tools wise. And at some point, we'll discuss the next boat...

In addition to this blog, I'm going to attempt to video the build for my YouTube channel at the same time, so wish me luck with that too.

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