A week of shed.

Pathfinder project blog post May 2022.

Welcome to a new posting and blog format for early summer – Iv’e decided to change my post format and timing slightly because i’m working full time on the project, got lots going on and I was falling further and further behind in showing what’s being done. As I write I’m in week 10 of the project this year and it seems to have gone in a flash but there again Iv’e turned the hull back over after finishing the exterior paintwork for this stage, taken out the original kingplank and built a new one, experimented lots with the rig options, made patterns for and then dry-built the ‘shed’ and done more work on the steering gear : hell, if i posted a few pictures that would be it and you could go back to whatever else you were doing.

However, for those of you that take an interest I’ll quickly cover each job……

1.The big turnover day.

I finished the paintwork with one coat of topside gloss because it’s an easier finish to keep clean if (when) I spill any glue on it, left that to harden for 5 days and then set up and turned the hull over ; took about 5 hours including making a set of wooden cleats because the ones I ordered were a no-show. In brief – the hull had a pair of 2 x 4 beams bolted to frame no 2 forward and via risers to the small half frames aft, I also lashed and strapped the hull directly to those beams. Next – I set all the gear up which is the 2 roof support posts one side, 4 tayckles and a pair of safety straps, heaved the hull off the build frame and supported that with the straps while I pulled out the build frame. The build frame goes in the space next to the shelter and becomes my coating and painting bench now and the spar bench later.

Drop one side, heave the other.

My turnover technique was basically then to lower one side while heaving the other higher and then at top dead center start to pull the low edge across and under with extra lines – at one point I had to have all of the weight on the slings while I swapped the tackles over and lowered the hull incrementally fore and aft onto the low dolly which it now sits on. The dolly is too low for me to work on the paintwork later on but is ideal right now for the main dry-fit construction stage.

Top dead center….time to swap tackles over.
About to land.

2. Second job….sort out that kingplank.

In the second of the turnover pictures, the one where the hull is on it’s side , you can see one of my sub standard pieces of work – the kingplank : I think what happened is that I was making that right at the end of my working year, rushed the job, made a mistake early on and tried to push on with it rather than just taking it out and doing a proper job. So, , when I saw it again with the boat coming upright again and seeing sections of much better work I just thought that I needed to do a better job – plus that with my plans for a lug rig the kingplank was going to have to become the mast partners as well and that really needed a much stronger structure there.

My new work approach this year is partially just to allocate more time to jobs that appear small but which are crucially important – thus this time around I basically gave myself an entire day to first mess around with and then remove the old kingplank : the ‘mess around with time’ was because I also used the work session to work out how the mast for a Lugger would fit in the boat.

Standing lug placement.

Version 1 as above is where the mast placement would be with a west country/Breton style standing lug with a lot of the mast loads taken by the kingplank and frame no 1 – the mast foot in this plan would use the bow girder ; I think you can see why that plank had to go. Version 2, below is the position often used by John Welsford’s other builders to do a balanced Lug rig – here the mast is aft of frame no 1 and what I was messing around with here was a partially ‘walk-in’ option for stepping the rig ; that also affects the next job so……..


What this option seems to call for is some kind of 3 sided box from the underside of the deck, using the aft side of frame no 1 and finished on the bunk flat soleboard – one problem is that the obvious way of building that structure would then close off access into the bow compartment which would then need modifying.

Placement for balanced lug.

Job 3 make and fit a new kingplank.

As I said above I gave myself a morning session just to take out the old kingplank – the master-tool here was my DeWalt power multi-tool with the widest flat blade attached. So far that tool paid it’s way just with cutting the frame notches but is now in bonus time because it handled every part of releasing the king plank from both frames, the compression post and in the really bad section at the bow.

The new kingplank is both wider and deeper starting with an 8mm ply ‘plate’ to help bond the Douglas Fir lamells – they use some of the stock that I bought for the twin skegs ; I over estimated what I needed and had a couple of long lengths of 50mm x 30mm stock left over so I used that for the new plank. So, that’s now a 250mm wide plank and 40mm thick which sounds and looks heavy but remember that would now be getting either a 100mm hole bored through it or a 100mm slot for the balanced lug option. The compression post is staying in whatever because then I could just go with the standard Yawl option even in the future -in fact it’s looking more likely that the boat will get my second option which is a high aspect/short gaff ‘Dutch’ style rig in which case the narrow compression post will get side cheeks which join everything together.

New Kingplank…..wider, thicker, made to fit this time,


Job 4, build a shed !.

At the end of last year’s actual work on the boat I just managed to finish the interior epoxy coating and then priming of the bunk flat space – I stopped work then because I just couldn’t get the work space and substrates warm enough for long enough to work with epoxy and paint ; or at least not without using hours and hours worth of electricity. I gave myself several winter projects where I was just going to do ‘dry’ work , making patterns and parts for the cuddy and galley for example : what happened though is that by the time i finished the garden work it was December and suddenly very cold and wet and I just didn’t feel like working in the cold and damp workshop and it just seemed best to keep the hull covers on and take a break until starting again this March.

I did however make a pattern for the first part of the the cuddy – the critical forward face, and largely based on the pretty blue and white Pathfinder that finally inspired me to start my own project. As it happens my first attempt looked less like a cuddy and more like a brick sh*thouse and I even searched around for a roll of brick effect wallpaper just for giggles……as it was I left the whole project alone until this week and had 2 attempts to make a pattern for what I thought would be a better shape. The kind of thing I was shooting for was something akin to the stepped/chined shape that Cornish Crabbers used on their Cornish Yawl design – my thought being that a chined shape could be made to look like a continuation of the lapstrake hull : well, it was 2 good tries but I just couldn’t make it work – my suspicion being that it needs a much better eye that can ‘see’ how the chines have to work…..that or a CAD programme on the Mac.

As with the other work allocation I gave myself 2 full days just to mess around with making patterns out of cheap plywood from the builders merchant – working quite quickly and doing my thinking on the run. What worked in the end was going back to the ‘shed’ version and drawing a close approximation of the cabin on the pretty blue Pathfinder and then cutting to that shape .

Here’s the boat I keep referring back to (not my photograph)

And here’s what that comes out as in my shorter cuddy version – it’s slightly taller because I did a lot of testing of internal height to find the minimal height I needed for sitting just upright inside the cuddy. It’s not quite as nice as it’s inspiration boat but if falls somewhere between looks and function but with function winning out slightly – my main consideration here was our ability to sit comfortably (just) at the forward end of the bunk flat and it just achieves that.

Cuddy forward face and one side.

Jackie tests out the important coffee drinking under shelter position.

That’s about it for my work week so….

In blog time it’s now the first Sunday of May 2022, a cool and damp one after weeks and weeks of dry weather – i’m glad of the rain because it’s good for our garden and an even better excuse for a day off the project and get on with other stuff ; plus of course it means that I’ll go into next week’s work with a fresh eye. This morning so far Iv’e had a quick tour of the garden – the Tulips are going over but it’s now the time for my other woodland plants to strut their stuff ; the Bluebells have established well now that iv’e ripped out the mats of invasive Monbretia and the sulky Clematis is flowering….apple blossom is on as well.

Today i’m having the day off while doing some batch cooking and running in and out of the house to chuck some water around – raining yes but only ever so lightly such that the only plants that will benefit would be the plentiful surface weeds. Instead of physical work on the project i’m going to spend time today catching up on reading and writing – our good friends and great boatbuilders came for a look at the project yesterday and loaned me a copy of the recent James Wharram book so I’m making a start on that : we’ve both been owner-builders of James Wharram boats and once a part of the small Wharramite community down here in the south west – mostly gone now although the famous ‘Cooking Fat’ was last seen in the shed down at the yard with it’s new owner.

For the first time this year I have deliberately not unlocked the workshop door and not said to myself “I’ll just go and tidy the workshop”…..because as soon as I do so I find half a dozen things I want to do ; instead, today, I’m giving a lot of thought to what I want to do with the blog and a part of that is to come to it less often myself but produce better work. What iv’e found recently is that my posts viewed count is going down and down and I guess a large part of that is that my boatbuilding project, while occupying a lot of my mental space, isn’t that interesting or relevant to many people……it is after all a very small sub-genre of an already small and esoteric corner of the internet.

What I want to do is something that I tried to start doing and failed at a few years back, the reminder today being the Wharram book – I wanted to start interview articles and interviews with sailors and boatbuilders who did interesting things and/or built interestingly different boats : James Wharram came to mind first and at that time lived only 50 miles or so down the road. James was getting on a bit even then and I thought to try and capture what he thought about the world of small boat adventures from his lifetime – I wrote to them and got a nice answer from his design partner , Hanneke Boon, who I have met but they were basically away but could have answered questions…….what i really wanted was a face to face style talk though.

It’s left me with a whole slew of new ideas though and now that the Covid ‘crisis’ seems to be over I think it would be the right time to get out there once in a while and meet some interesting people and talk about them, their adventures and their boats…..I even have an idea of where to start.

For now…..best wishes Y’awl.

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