Tag Archives: row boat

Brian (left) sits back and enjoys his first ride in the newly completed Bolger designed dory while Bob (also one of the course students) rows.

Launch Day Finally Arrives

by David Skelhon

Five months has passed since we first started cutting plywood for the Bolger designed Gloucester Light Dory. As you might recall, much of the initial construction was done by five eager novices on the “Beginning Boat Building Course”. The half-built dory was then purchased by Brian and Carol Elliott back in March and finished by Brian.

I am delighted to report we finally launched her at the Cowichan Bay Maritime Centre on a fine but breezy spring morning and I managed to take her for a quick sea trial. She rows just as I hoped! She is easily driven, has enough skeg for directional stability, and during the brief workout seemed well mannered. A little “tender” for sure, but she was lightly loaded at the time. Weighed down for an expedition I’ve no doubt she would feel rock solid.

Knowing the Elliotts,  I’m suret they will use her to her full potential and I’ll keep you posted.

A dory of this type looks very simple to build and and the techniques involved transfer readily to bigger, more complex designs. Here are a few general tips and recommendations that new builders should take to heart.

 Measure Twice, Cut Once!

It’s been said many times before but it’s worth repeating again. Measure twice and cut once! Well, actually, if you are cutting a complex, 3D component then you are likely to be doing a lot more cutting and fitting than that. Skill and experience are important and there are few tricks and devices to speed things up, but when you are learning the basics it will be tedious and you will screw up from time to time. This boat may look simple but if you have never before fitted, for instance, a thwart, with its beveled and curved ends, you may find yourself scratching your head! Be patient, find a piece of scrap or cardboard to build a pattern first before you cut into that expensive piece of mahogany!

 Getting to Grips With Glues

If you are new to epoxy, read the instructions carefully before you start. With West System, for example, remember to use one pump of resin to one pump of hardener. The mix may be 5:1 for 105 Resin with 205 or 206 hardener, but the pumps are calibrated to deliver that ratio with one pump of each. 207 hardener, which is recommended when a bright finish is needed, has a 3:1 mix. Make sure you are using the correct pump for that hardener!

This may seem obvious but we did at one point have a sticky mess on the boat which was never, ever going to cure  because one pump of hardener had been added to five pumps of resin!

West System’s technical department had obviously heard this many times before and advised using a scraper to remove as much resin as we could and then washing the remainder off with acetone before applying fresh resin.

Please, please remember that uncured epoxy is toxic. I personally know half-a-dozen builders who have become sensitised to epoxy – so much so that they cannot walk into a building where there is uncured resin without experiencing a severe reaction. It is important to add that these users failed to protect themselves adequately, often working for months or years without basic skin protection.

Remember that there are alternatives to epoxy. We used Gorilla glue on most tight fitting joints and it worked like a charm. It’s so easy to use; there is no mixing and measuring, – just squirt it out of the bottle and spread it. Clean up couldn’t be easier, because excess glue foams and can be shaved off with a chisel or knife. It’s cheap compared with epoxy especially when bought in a large bottle. We used it in scarfs, butt straps, frames and the laminated stem and stern. We didn’t use it on the gunwale or chine logs because it was easy to work with slow curing epoxy when accurately clamping long pieces of lumber onto curved surfaces. We also used green painter’s tape on many epoxied joints, pulling it before the epoxy cured, avoiding a lot of difficult sanding later.

Finally, when protecting epoxy with varnish or paint, make sure the epoxy has had chance to fully cure and that any amine “blush” is removed from the surface (a little dilute ammonia solution does this quite well) and then lightly sand the surface. Failing to remove the waxy amine reaction by-product can result in paint or varnish drying very slowly or not at all.

  • Beginner’s Course Ends But Work Continues On The Bolger Designed Goucester Light Dory

  • By David Skelhon
  • Brian (left) and Bob (right) plane the chine logs ready to take the plywood bottom.

After 18 intensive hours we completed the frames and cut, butt-strapped and fitted the hull sides.  The course may have officially ended at this point but that hasn’t stopped Brian and Bob from putting in extra time to get the project completed, and in the process learn some other boat building skills like scarfing plywood for the bottom and using a router to shape the chine logs.

The main challenges came from fairing the frames, stem and stern posts to take the sides. With such a simple dory shape, the concept seems easy enough.  We used a substantial batten sprung across the frames to determine the bevel and then used a combination of planes, draw-knifes and the boat-builders “best friend” – a 5” grinder with a 60 grit disk – to create the bevels.  In practice there’s seemingly endless fitting and trimming otherwise there’s the risk of taking too much off, and we quickly learnt that’s far easier to take stuff off than put it back on!

Part of the learning process is figuring out when a fit is good enough. Sure, we could work towards perfection and although we don’t have serious commercial pressures we still have to keep things moving so that we can clear our limited space for other projects. To borrow a phrase I came across recently, “Perfection is the enemy of The Good.” The “good enough” line between the two will be different for everyone and where you place it ultimately depends on many factors.

We used painter’s tape on all the glue lines to speed clean-up. We used temporary screws, two per frame, to hold the sides in place and these were really important for locating the panels during the gluing. Epoxy with a slow hardener gave us enough time to complete the procedure in a leisurely fashion and would also fill any imperfections caused by over-enthusiastic fairing.

The external chine logs were a little tricky to glue in place because they are bent in 2 directions; we used a combination of clamps and strategically located stainless screws to stop them sliding about. Unfortunately, Gorilla Glue held the screws so well that most of the heads sheared off when trying to remove them, leaving us with permanent fastenings. Next time I would use bronze screws and either pull them out sooner or leave them permanently in place.

Right now, the bottom is about to be glued in place. We plan to sheath it, glue on the gunwales then we will be ready to turn her over. We will let you know how it goes!

The graceful lines of the Bolger designed 15' Gloucester Light Dory (Type V)

By David Skelhon

A rowing dory is a simple, honest boat with enough building challenges for a novice without being over demanding. That’s why we chose the Phil Bolger designed Gloucester Light Dory (Type V) for our beginner’s course as it’s just about as straight forward as it gets.  This model is a “double-ender”, and lacks the traditional dory “tombstone” transom, making construction even easier. Despite its vintage, it’s still a popular boat – no doubt in part due to its reputation for seaworthiness. Just the mention of “Gloucester Light Dory” caused many of our local “salts” eyes to sparkle in recognition.

With five students, we set out to achieve what we could in six, three-hour sessions. Obviously we weren’t going to have a boat on the water at the end of it but with some volunteer input it should be ready for a spring launching.

Victor, our most senior student, has been messing about in boats for years and has built a Bolger dory before.  He is currently building a wee Bolger “”Elegant Punt” as a tender to his sailboat.  The rest of the crew are novices – or at least they were when they started!

I had a couple of weeks head start with the drawings and having built an Iain Oughtred designed Black Fish Dory some 25 years ago as my first boat, I had a good idea how it would go together.

Tobias and Guy started cutting old boards down to size for the strong-back which was a project in itself. It was well done and we shall eventually dismantle it and keep it for the next one.

Bob and Victor started lofting the frames onto a piece of surplus plywood and Brian and I lofted the stem and stern posts. There was a lot of head scratching over the first two sessions; reading drawings is a skill in itself but everyone quickly grasped the principles.  The drawings are beautifully simple and at first sight it appeared improbable that every dimension needed would be there. Of course, from the drawing board of a veteran like Bolger, they were.

One objective was to use Gorilla Glue as much as possible and defer to epoxy whenever we had gaps to fill. Gorilla Glue is very economical to use and because any excess glue that oozes out of the joint rapidly turns to foam, so cleaning up with a chisel or other sharp implement after it has cured is a piece of cake. The boat would be epoxy coated at the end of building to keep it watertight.

We choose 6mm Mahogany marine plywood for the hull sides from our local Windsor Plywood outlet – a very nice 5 ply. To follow the plans and fit plywood seats, 3 sheets are required. We can get the bottom out of one sheet of 9mm ply.

We found enough off-cuts of quarter sawn first-growth Douglas Fir in the basement to make up the frames and purchased a clear 20 ‘ X 4 X 1” Douglas Fir board from Windsor Plywood for the gunwales.

We now have the frames in place and the hull-sides under construction. More details will be posted as the project progresses.

Setting up the stem-post; left to right, Victor, Brian, Bob, Tobias and Guy.