All I ask is a tall ship…

I must go down to the seas again
to the lonely sea and sky
And all I ask is a tall ship
and a star to steer her by
And the wheel’s kick and the wind’s song
and the white sail’s shaking
And a gray mist on the sea’s face,
and a gray dawn breaking.

I must go down to the seas again
for the call of the running tide
Is a wild call and a clear call
That may not be denied
And all I ask is a windy day
with the white clouds flying
And the flung spray and the blown spume
and the sea-gulls crying.

I must go down to the seas again
to the vagrant gypsy life
To the gull’s way and the whale’s way
where the wind’s like a whetted knife
And all I ask is a merry yarn
from a laughing fellow-rover
And quiet sleep and a sweet dream
when the long trick’s over.

Sea Fever
By John Masefield

Mr. Masefield, I’m getting a bit squirrely myself. I think it’s in part because I’m getting so close to done. Today I finished the majority of the shaping of my mast, only to find the top 10-12″ of the beam had a split in the middle! After uttering a long string of words appropriate for a sailor, I glued and clamped it down. The hope is that it’ll hold strong. Worst case scenario: It splits, and I end up building a new one. (Or putting a hose clamp on it!)

Cleaned up a lot of the excess wood from the starboard airbox. It took a pass with the pull-saw to get the big stuff gone, then the block plane and surform tool. After being so productive, it seemed like a good time for ‘selfies’!

Dust mask? Check. Surform tool? Check. Sweet Vice City t-shirt? Check.  Yes, I rule.

Dust mask? Check. Surform tool? Check. Sweet Vice City t-shirt? Check.
Yes, I rule.

The block plane deserved recognition too…

Block plane and I totally getting photo-bombed by my mast hanging there.

Block plane and I totally getting photo-bombed by my mast hanging there.

A bunch of progress on the rudder! I liked this rudder Shorty had posted about here. It’s very similar to what my old Weekender 18′ had. Here’s a mock-up of the rudder and tiller.

It took a bit to find something to use as the bumper. After digging around the miscellaneous parts jars, the solution presented itself in the form of an old bicycle brake pad and a deadbolt latch plate. The plate was hammered into position, and screwed to the board. Then the brake was screwed to it. Moral of the story: Junk bins rule.

Using a piece of scrap as a tiller, it’s ready to be bolted on tomorrow (or Friday, whenever I get back to it), hooray!

Last but not least, the hull plate arrived. It seemed only right to support the Puddle Duck class. If buying a hull plate was a way to do that, I’d do it. I fired up the DYMO-MITE Tapewriter and made a fairly awesome hull plate.


One down, one to go.

Finally catching up on some photo updates tonight!

First: the rudder. Over the weekend I rigged up one of the most rickety melting stations ever using some garden patio blocks, a propane torch, and a steel soup can. In the future, I need a better set up and better quality lead or possibly better technique. (Anyone with experience in this: I welcome advice.)


It looks okay from a distance, but closer inspection shows the rough surface from the pour. I think there was some nasty slag, or maybe it wasn’t melted down all the way. (Again, anyone who can explain this, please do.)

Top pour.

Top pour.

Bottom side of the pour.

Bottom side of the pour.

So it needs work to make it smooth and ready for paint. Also, need to make the tiller/hiking stick and figure out the frame and mounting hardware for the rudder.

Next up: The leeboard! Aside from paint, it’s ready to go.
Reinforcements have been added to the starboard side of the hull.

Moar wood! Moar glue!

Moar wood! Moar glue!

The additional 1×2 in the middle, and the one directly under the chine will match up with the slots on the outside of the hull and the leeboard will slide into those. Most of tonight’s work was actually getting those cut and sanded down.

Added some stops to the top of the leeboard to prevent it from sliding down too far, as well as a handle.

I totally could have been a hand model.

I totally could have been a hand model.

And here’s the whole thing when it was still being clamped together.

I finally managed to get one of the airboxes sealed up today. I sure hope I made it water tight! It looks like it should be, but I won’t know until it’s in the water… (Yikes.)

Paint cans, etc. weighing it down while the glue cures.

Paint cans, etc. weighing it down while the glue cures.

I had a bit of overhang, which may have been by design. Or it could be a continuation of the sloppy job I’ve been doing so far. Here’s a shot from the rear to show off the overhang.
Less than 1/4". Nothing I can't take out with the planer or surform tool!

In unrelated news: Pandora was SUPER good to me, and tonight’s jam was Roisin Murphy’s “You Know Me Better”… BANGING tune. I got way more productive when it came on.

On that note, it’s half past midnight. Sweet dreams.

Getting ready to “go 3D”

The last couple days have found me researching sail design. I’ve decided to follow suit with what seems to be the most common for a Puddle Duck, and try a “Leg-o-Mutton” spirit sail. I have some concerns that I’ve shorted myself on the sail material, as the tarp is only 9′ x 12′. Most of the plans for what’s known as the Bolger 59 call for at least a 14 foot luff… So, that will be getting exchanged on the next trip to the big box hardware store.

Upon returning home from work and setting upon “SV Serenity” (as she’ll be named once the hull is registered), I realized that I was kind of stuck. So far the build had been progressing with the intention of making the airboxes first, and then attaching the hull. However after reading up on some other designs, it seemed that method would be less stable as the transoms would be adhered multiple smaller chines, rather than a solid piece running the entire width of the boat.

The up side of this meant I could get to attaching the bottom sooner. The down side was the incredibly strong airboxes would now need to be cut up. Lessons for the next build, right? Let’s start putting this together!

Beginning with measuring the width of the hull sides, and subtracting that figure from 48″, I cut several pieces for permanent and temporary supports. Then the supports were glued and screwed in place using the old screw holes from the chine was curved.


After installing most of the supports, I checked to see if it was square, and HOLY CRAP was it not! I couldn’t figure it out. I had used the holes on both side, but it was a good couple inches out of square. I finally figured out that the starboard side was not originally screwed in using the same intervals. Some of the supports were over 2 inches off. After measuring it out, and redrilling/screwing, it all lined up very nicely.


Before heading in for the night, I tossed the bottom hull section on the frame in the hopes that it would start to naturally fit that curve. I also tossed some windshield washer fluid bottles on the stern to help hold it down. (not pictured)


I’m very close to having a “3D” hull. While that’s exciting, Amazon still has not shipped over half of the gear that was ordered. Boo, Amazon!

To do:

  • Exchange the tarp. Go big or go home!
  • Look into fiberglass. From what I understand, glassing the seams makes a HUGE difference. It wouldn’t be bad for the mast and oars either. (I really like the oar design here: Cheap Oars
  • Continue reading up on sail design, and make more scale prototypes.
  • Start making plans for the kickup rudder, as well as the lee board.

More on the Puddle Duck

This weekend didn’t allow for as much productivity as I had hoped. Partly due to not having enough clamps, partly due to having a social life. Long story short: I ended up making a trip to Harbor Freight to buy out their entire inventory of 4″ clamps. (They were a buck each, how could I resist that?!)

I'm clampin', clampin', I'm stone cold clampin'!

I’m clampin’, clampin’, I’m stone cold clampin’!

And as of this writing, I am ONE chine away from having my hull pieces put together. With any luck, I am hoping for a floating wooden box by the end of the week.

Avast, me hearties! This be me starboard hull, Yargh!

In preparation for filling cracks, I realized I needed some sawdust to mix with my glue, but the stuff I had was mighty coarse. I’d read about people putting their sawdust in the blender and chopping it up there. Here’s confirmation that it actually works pretty well.



What’s next?
Well, I’m waiting on the inspection ports to get here from Amazon. And really, the hull shouldn’t be assembled until those are in place. Also in that package there’s supposed to be oarlocks. So there’s that.

Also, there’s a number of design issues that need to be figured out. The tiller and the lee-board shape and placement. I’m crafting my own oars as well. Then there’s the mast, sail, and rigging. If everything falls into place, it would be great to see a maiden voyage before August 10th…

We’ll see, eh?

Blades of Steel

Yesterday’s boat building adventures informed me that my circular saw blade was totally hosed. Rather than cutting through a 2×4, it was burning its way through… Not good.
That meant another trip to Home Depot. Of course, I can never just pick up exactly the one item I need and leave. It seems that the mental list gets longer while I’m at the store:

  • Circular saw blades
    • Framing
    • Plywood
  • Jigsaw blades (I didn’t trust the one that came with the jigsaw to be fine enough.)
  • More clamps!
  • A long thin strip of pine to mark the hull shape

This brings the total closer to $150, if we’re counting tool costs. Still fairly reasonable. I’ll be happy if it stays under $200, which gives me about $50 to spend on paint/finish.

Back to the building process; the station lines that give the shape of the hull had already been measured out. Since this design requires full length airboxes, I clamped two of the 1/4″ plywood pieces together, placed nails at the station marks and clamped the thin strip of pine to the nails and traced the curve. This method produces a nice rounded shape which was then jig-sawed out, producing 4 hull pieces. These are now ready to have the chines glued to them. The scrap from the middle of the boards will be used to make the top of each airbox.

This shows the shape of my hull. To the left of the pic is the bow, right is the stern.

This shows the shape of my hull. To the left of the pic is the bow, right is the stern.

Yesterday’s screw-up:
After deciding where to make the cuts for the airboxes, I had chalklined the planned cuts. Since it was an 8 foot long cut, I came up with the brilliant idea to take a strip of 1×2, clamp it to the sheet of plywood and use it as a guide. Pretty smart, eh? Only problem was I didn’t measure against the chalk line along the entire length. As it turned out after I made the cut, there was about a 1/4″ bow right in the middle. I didn’t even notice the curve until I set the piece on the ground and noticed it was rocking. Damn it.

Fortunately, there was plenty of scrap left. A couple of quick measurements, new chalk lines, and two cuts later, new and perfectly suitable airbox tops had been created. Hooray! Up next: gluing the chines to the hull pieces, and determining airbox size.

Knowing Great Enthusiasms

On occasions, I get ideas in my head and am unable to shake them. One of these ideas is sailing. A number of years ago, I had a sailboat. A beautiful 18′ Johnson Weekender that I got for a song. Unfortunately I hit a rough patch financially, and had to sell it. (At a profit! Almost unheard of in the boating world.) Ever since I saw her being hauled away, I’ve wanted to get back on the water in my own craft.

Fast forward a few years to the present, I’m still itching to sail. After trawling craigslist most of the summer looking for inexpensive boats and coming up with nothing, I had more or less given up on the idea this year. Then somehow I ended up looking at plans to build your own boat. I’m not entirely sure how I came across it, but I eventually ended up at the Puddle Duck Racer page.

Now this has potential. It appeals to my drive to make things. It’s fairly inexpensive (considering what boats usually cost). It’s small enough that I should be able to car-top it. Yes… I must build this boat. Last night I picked up the supplies I needed from the local big box: A jigsaw, 4 sheets of 1/4 plywood, a gallon of wood glue (it’s cheap, why not?), some construction adhesive, various clamps, a polytarp for my sail, and a 16′ 2×4 to shape my mast. Total cost so far with tools: $113

After spinning my wheels on the design of the boat, and bedtime drawing near I decided to just make a few initial measurements for the hull. As of this writing the basic hull shape has been plotted. When I get home tonight, I plan to take a few pictures to document progress so far and make that first cut.

More updates to follow!

Oh yes! I nearly forgot to mention this: The blog title comes from a passage in Theodore Roosevelt’s speech “Citizen in a Republic“. Commonly referred to as the “Man in the Arena“, it’s a paragraph that I use to remind myself that doing things is what counts. Even though that means failures, setbacks, mental and physical pain… Doing things is what ensures that I will not end up with “those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat”.