Search This Blog


In Greenland

Iron Bark

Iron Bark
Under full sail


At Russell Boating Club's Tall Ships Regatta

Annie Hill

Annie Hill
Photo credit: Alvah Simon

Blue Water Medal

Blue Water Medal
Blue Water Medal

Books By Annie Hill

  • Brazil and Beyond
  • Voyaging on a Small Income

About Me

10 July, 2016

Planked up!

It's about six weeks since I last wrote - time is a precious commodity when building a boat on your own, especially when you are as slow as I am.  If you want to see what's happening more regularly, I try to update weekly on the Junk Rig Association Technical Forum under various headings.  The latest info can be found here.

Anyway, here is a 'photo essay' of the past few week's work.

As time went by, it became increasingly difficult to find anything to clamp to.  The bilge board cases were a useful exception to this rule!

The plywood on the bilge panels, overlapped the bottom of the boat.  It was getting a bit difficult to line the next one up, as I got further forward, so I got out the power planer and trimmed the surplus wood back.  This machine scares the wits out of me - it's so easy to cause serious damage with it, but I'm getting a little more confident with it.

I decided to fit the panels outboard of the bilge board cases separately.  After all, it was framed all round, so they would be well secured.  Shaping a partial scarph was tricky, but I've been lent a beautiful chisel which helped me get it accurate.

Most of the bilge board case is now closed in.  Underneath the piece under the clamp there is a completely enclosed space, with, presently, no access.  In theory, there is no need ever to access this space: all the plywood and cedar are heavily coated with epoxy resin, but I will probably fit a small hatch, just so that I can check that nothing untoward is going on.

Towards the bow there is too much shape to plank up with 12mm panels.  The 6mm that I used are almost full sheets - 1200 x 2500mm - and a bit of a handful.  But at least they are not particularly heavy, unlike the 12mm, which are really at my limits for lugging about.  A sheet of plywood, on edge, comes up to my shoulders, so lifting them around can be a problem.  Even the 6mm was a real pain to fit - on, off, on, off - so it was a relief to find that I could use the piece from one side as a pattern for the other.  I'm actually rather proud of this because it means the hull is symmetrical.

This was a particularly tricky sheet to fit on my own.  I used Bruno's pegs to locate it along the bottom and put a couple of clamps on the bulkheads to rest it on, until I could climb up onto a saw horse and get a couple of screws in.

Here is the first sheet of 6mm plywood fitted.  It is notched about two-thirds of the way along.  This is because as the chine flattens, the scarph would end up excessively wide where it meets the side panel.  Marcus, from the SibLim Club - a qualified boatbuilder - helped me with this part of the job.  He did in 3 hours what would probably have taken me 3 weeks - and undoubtedly did it a lot better, too.

Here I am precoating the plywood, before fitting the next sheet of plywood.  You can clearly see the inside of the sleeping cabin here. 

This is the photo of the forward end of the sleeping cabin.  I love the appearance of the kauri panelling. 

Shaping the final piece of plywood to fit at the bow.  I have bought a couple of Japanese pull saws and find them a lot easier to use than Western style.  They are so fast that I often use one instead of a jigsaw.  The one in the photo has a wonderfully flexible blade which also allows me to use it along curves, too.  When I use a jigsaw, I invariably have to plane the wood afterwards, but not with one of these hand saws.

This photo is taken with the camera lying back down on the strong back, looking up into the bow.  This will, of course, be the bottom when the boat is right side up.  I cleaned it up as well as I could, but once the boat is turned over, I shall pour epoxy thickened with high-density filler, into the very bottom of the boat to seal any voids and leave a smooth surface.  This very forward section of the bow will be empty.  Again, I shall probably fit an access hatch so that I can check that there are no issues over the years.

I had hoped to staple the two layers of 6mm ply together, but when I attempted to fit them, the twist of the bow was forcing the middle of the sheet away from the one below.  In the end, I had to screw from the middle diagonally up and down to get it flat.  The boat looks like a sieve and, very disappointingly, the screw points have gone through the coating on the inside.  Once she's turned over, it will have to be sanded and coated again.  However, there was not alternative solution and at least I'm sure the two sheets of ply are securely joined.

For once the gods smiled and the offcut from the full sheet fitted - just - the triangle left at the top.  By now I'd given up worrying about holes through the inside layer!

I am getting a lot better about using my power plane: here I'm making the scarph on the final sheet of 6 mm plywood.  The trouble with being an apprentice boatbuilder is by the time you are comfortable with a new skill, you don't need it any more!  (Although I dare say there will be one or two scarphs in the deck.)

The two final bow pieces: one precoated.  Precoating the plywood before putting the thickened epoxy on it might seem painfully pedantic, but the okoume (gaboon) plywood sometimes soaks up epoxy like blotting paper.  I'd rather waste some from drips than spend the rest of my life worrying that there are areas where there was insufficient glue to make a good bond.

And there we are: one completely closed-in hull.  I am very proud of what I have achieved and very pleased that it looks so symmetrical.  I just love that junk bow!

One of the reasons that I wanted to avoid screws was because all those holes need filling.  When the plywood is horizontal, it's not too much of an issue: you can make a fairly soft mix and force it in to the hole, but on a steep slope it's more difficult.  Too soft and it will drain out, too thick and it may not get to the bottom of the holes.  In the end I decided to use wooden pegs - trunells - and found large matches to be ideal.  As they are square in section, air can escape while you tap them in.  Dip in a thin slurry of epoxy and microfibres and stick them in the holes.  One swipe of my little saw knocks them off once the glue is cured.  I intended to recycle them, but the bits of glue still stuck on got in the way and even I can afford another box of matches!!

This is a photo as at yesterday.  You can see that all the overhanging ply has been trimmed off and I am longboarding the chines to get them sharp and fair.  Then they will be rounded over, ready for bi-axial glass tape, before the whole hull is faired.

In the meantime, the keel has been taking shape.  It consists of three layers of 50mm steel.  It is a special alloy, used for bridges and decorative steelwork, with additives to reduce corrosion.  Supposedly it is guaranteed for 50 years!  Long enough for me.  Murray Wilkinson, who owns Norsand, where I'm building SibLim, arranged to purchase the steel and then, even more obligingly, organised getting them cut to shape. 

The pieces of steel returned from being cut.  One of them has a distinct twist in the tail.

My friend Marcus wanted to make the pattern for the forward end of the keel, having very strong opinions as to how it should be shaped!  He thicknessed pine to the same depth as the steel, glued it up and then screwed the three layers together.  He then carefully shaped it all as one piece.  Once he was happy with it, it was unscrewed and handed to Kevin and Anton as a pattern.  It will also be used for me to help shape the deadwood along the bottom of the boat, to which the keel will be attached.

Anton picked up the steel and drove it around to the half round workshop where it was to be shaped.

It was tacked together and then Anton went to work shaping the bow, with Kevin checking that all the details were to his satisfaction.

Anton applied heat about a metre away from the after end of the twisted piece and cajoled it into place.  I hate working with metal, myself, but have a huge amount of admiration for people who can get big chunks of the stuff to do their bidding!

As you can see, the three pieces are now in perfect alignment.

The forward end was shaped carefully and Anton came back and marked again for a final finish.  More careful work with the grinder produced a smooth and fair leading edge.

A big hollow in the middle layer of the side had been worked over: a bit of filling with weld and a lot of grinding removed it altogether.   

28 May, 2016

Another Update on SibLim

I thought it's about time I posted a few more photos of progress.  As usual, there are some pics on the Junk Rig Association website.  I've had lots of visitors to the boat shed, who all make very kind comments about how quickly the boat is progressing.  I wish!  However, I never expected it to be a fast process and am pleased with what I've achieved.  My friend Rob, was absolutely invaluable in helping with the bilge panels - sheets of 12mm plywood are a handful for a small person to handle, but has had to leave to go back to Europe. he has been a great member of the SibLim Club.

Another visitor was John Welsford, back from a trip to Chile.  He came to check up on progress and brought me a wonderful present: a Bailey No 3 plane, which he rebuilt from parts.  This is narrower than most planes, which reduces its weight and, as John pointed out, fits my small hand more readily.  It's a delightful tool, but apparently they are not made any more.  Sad.  Many thanks, John.

While I'm working away, particularly when doing rather monotonous tasks like sanding and scraping, my mind is occupied with all sorts of thoughts. One is that I still haven't found a good name for this boat: SibLim (Small Is Beautiful, Less Is More) is a great name for the design, but isn't what I want for my (I hope) beautiful boat.  I'm  afraid I'm a bit of a romantic when it comes to boat names, and don't really like 'clever' ones, or puns - unless they are particularly subtle.  I don't want to call her after an animal again; nor do I want a girl's name, nor a star, nor a character from mythology.  It's all very difficult.

Below is a photo progress report:

With the temporary bulkhead removed, I can see the saloon panelling.

The scarphs land where they land, although it would be nice if they ended up on the bulkhead!

Additional framing around the bilgeboard panels.  This area will be sealed off, so I need to ensure that all the wood is thoroughly coated.  I will undoubtedly fit an access hatch, however, so that I can be sure there is nothing untoward going on.

I'm rather pleased with this scarph!

09 April, 2016

SibLim update

Every week, I try to post new photographs in my 'albums' on the Junk Rig Association's website. The outfit that hosts our site seems to keep moving the goal posts and what works one month, doesn't work the next.  The last few times I've uploaded photos to said albums, they've appeared in a totally random fashion.  One of my fellow members has suggested a way round this, but the whole thing takes forever, anyway, and I'm simply not prepared to delete all the photos and reload them.  Life is too short - especially when you are building a boat!  So for those of you who have tried to follow progress via the JRA, my apologies.

I didn't write about the wonderful Russell Boating Club's Tall Ships Regatta, that has also become the major junket for the NZ 'chapter' of the JRA.  Suffice it to say that it was excellent.  I only attended for a couple of days - being a busy boatbuilder - and the weather on the evening that I arrived was dire, but I enjoyed the whole event tremendously.  The bad weather had prevented our newest member of the fleet, Blondie from sailing up there (I hope to have some photos of her to show you some time), and Fantail's new owner (did I mention that I'd sold her?) had yet to take her over; neither La Chica nor Shoestring could make it, but we had quite a fleet for all that: Arcadian and Footprints from NZ, Tystie and Zebedee, who despite wearing the red ensign are almost Kiwi boats and Lakatao and Grand PHA from France, each on an extended voyage.  The latter I've already mentioned - Bertrand is a member of the SibLim Club - but I fell madly in love with Lakatao, which, while a Western design (Le Forrestiere) has many characteristics of a Chinese junk:

Her owners, Bruno and Elise are wonderful people and there is always laughter on board.  I found her incredibly inspirational for my own build, although I will never attain the craftsmanship of Bruno.

Back to Whangarei and my boatbuilding.  Because not everyone will want to follow my JRA links, I thought I'd just post a few photos here, so that anyone interested can follow my (glacial) progress.  The good news is that the money is holding out and I always knew that this project would take a long time, regardless of the other people who reckoned I should be able to 'knock it over' in a year.  I'm really enjoying the process, and that's the main thing.

At the end of December, the Icebreakers came along and fitted the skegs, thus earning membership of the SibLim Club.

Because of the junk bow, which is flat rather than pointy, the planking is put on starting with the bottom and I got into this, early in January.  Aft, I could use 12 mm plywood, but forward, where the bottom rolls into the bow, I had to use 6 mm because of the extreme curve.  On this photo a piece is laid out, ready to fit.

Before any further planking could be done, however, it was necessary to install longitudinals: a chine log, stringer and sheer clamp on each side.  These were laminated where necessary, in order to bend the wood to the curves of the hull.  The Alaskan Yellow Cedar that I buy comes in lengths of around 4 m, so once these were sawn and planed, they had to be scarphed together, as in the photo above.   WEST epoxy is my glue of choice, largely because I know it and can anticipate how it works.  I've tried other brands in the past but never got on with them as well. A lot of February was spent joining and fitting all these pieces of wood.

Come March and planking was in sight, but first I had to fit the sheer clamps.  SibLim is going to have davits and David designed them to be part of the main structure of the boat, running out from the sheer clamp.  I felt that these needed to be made from hardwood, rather than Alaskan yellow cedar and my friend, Marcus, contributed a variety of boards that he had stored away.  They varied from iroko to purpleheart.  I would be almost tempted to varnish them, just for their interesting colours!

So here we are in April, and the boat is starting to take shape.  It's really exciting to see what she looks like.  My little camera has quite a wide angle lens, which somewhat distorts the appearance of the hull.  In fact it's rather less beamy aft than it looks in this photo: indeed it's rather 'cod's head, mackerel tail' in appearance, which I very much like.

I never thought I'd find myself building another boat.  I most certainly never thought I'd find myself building another boat on my own, although to be perfectly honest, without good friends lending me a hand at certain critical moments, I don't think I could.  However, in essence I'm building this boat by myself and I have to say it's an incredibly satisfying process.  I'm not a clever woodworker: indeed I'm barely competent, but thanks to wonderful epoxy (yes, I know it's very toxic), good advice and the tendency of 12 mm plywood to fair out any wobbles, my boat seems to be pretty sound so far.  Because I know I will remember every bodge, every short cut, every 'she'll be right' moment, I am doing the best work I can and, thus far, I think I will be able to trust it.  Oddly enough, my greatest (irrational) concern is that there are no fastenings.  Badger had no fastenings and relied entirely on glue, and to the best of my knowledge and belief is still in one piece, so I'm not sure where this worry comes from.  I can actually see myself, one dark night, rushing round with drill and screws, shoving in fastenings left, right and centre, just before I put the glass and epoxy on the hull!

13 December, 2015

The SibLim Club

As you can imagine, building a boat is a pretty time-consuming operation, so that I don't have much opportunity for blogging.  However, anyone who is interested can follow progress on the Junk Rig Association website.  Progress is not particularly fast, but is extremely enjoyable.

One of the very rewarding and rather unexpected aspects of this build, is how many people want to get involved in one way or another.  It really seems to have caught their imagination and I enjoy how people want to share in the progress of SibLim.  First of all, of course, was David Tyler, who was inspired by my ideas to create a wonderful design to my criteria.  Then came Marcus, who not only let me take over his shed, but has allowed me to make use of his machine tools, none of which I could have afforded to buy. Because he is so sensitised to epoxy, at this stage he can offer very little in the way of hands-on work, but his advice (he's a professional boatbuilder) and insights are invaluable, and he helps out in many other ways.

A week ago, the amazing Grand Pha sailed into the Hatea River and anchored off Norsand Boatyard, where I'm building SibLim.  In short order, Bertrand was changed into his old clothes and had taken on the exacting task of notching bulkheads for the chine log. 

At this time I decided that we now have quite a cohort, and so The SibLim Club was founded and now had three members.

A couple of days ago, I had a visit from my friend, the designer John Welsford, who is also very interested in the project - in spite of not having designed the boat!

He arrived with delicious bread and cheese (relieving me of the necessity of preparing lunch, and, having given me a (much-needed) lesson in how to handle a chisel became the fourth member of the Club.  I dare say I shall have to design and make burgees to give to all members at the end of the build!

I sometimes worry that I've bitten off more than I can chew, taking on this task: the fact that friends are there to help and encourage me makes me feel less daunted and more confident about the undertaking.  Thanks to the SibLim Club, I now don't think I'll ever be at a loss when an extra pair of hands is required, or I am in need of some sound advice.

02 November, 2015

Why Fantail won't be at this year's Tall Ships Regatta

A couple of days ago, this flyer came in the post:

For all the junkies in NZ, the Tall Ships Regatta has become part of our life and is our major junket.  It's the greatest fun and I'd make a huge effort not to miss it, but this year, Fantail won't be taking part.  Why?  Because in a moment of madness, I've decided to build myself a replacement boat.  It's a long story, and it will take far too long for me to write it all up here, but it's largely to do with shoal draught, simplicity and and abiding love of wooden boats.  The whole saga can be read here, on the Junk Rig Association website.

Suffice it to say, that she will be 26 ft long, shoal draught and, of course, junk rigged.

My friend David Tyler and I have combined forces on the design: he's done the clever bits on the computer and I have told him what I want and how I want it.  It's taken some thrashing out at times, but I'm very happy with what we've come up with.

David sailed down from Canada, in August, to help me get the project started.  After a lot more debating, we sorted out the details and then built a model to help finalise dimensions.  We are building the boat for me, so instead of postulating a crew of three or four 6ft people, we are working around one, 5ft 1in woman.  This has meant that some things, such as the cockpit, are non-standard.

I have made my photos on the JRA site available to non members, so if you want to see more, have a look here.

Building a boat is a very full-time job, especially with all the other chores that have to be carried out on a daily basis, so I won't get much time to post on this blog.

And of course, it means that poor little Fantail will need a new home.  Anyone with NZ$23,000 in their pocket who would like my lovely little floating home, please contact me!

05 September, 2015

'Mariposa' needs to go sailing!

My last post was about the difficulty of finding a junk-rigged boat when you wnat one.  This one is about the fact that there is a beautiful little Contessa 26 looking for a home.  She has been owned for short periods of time by several people in the recent past.  One decided that buying a boat in the UK when he lived in NZ was perhaps not the wisest of decisions.  The second one did heaps of good work on the boat, having found some structural defects; she is now apparently in great shape and probably better than new.  He was about ready to do the finishing touches when he was offered work now in China.  The most recent owner finished off all the little jobs needed to get the boat sailing and then realised that his money wasn't going to go as far as he hoped and that getting work in Europe was easier said than done, so had to go back home to Oz to earn some more money.  Poor wee boat - aspirational and competent owners, but no-one to take her sailing.

Of course, at 26ft, she isn't even considered 'entry level', for most people, and without an inboard engine, she is dismissed out of hand by nearly everyone.  But I keep hearing about young, adventurous people desperate for an opportunity to Achieve Something.  For £5,500 someone can buy an adventure ready to go: put some food on board, fill up the water, pull up the sail and there you are.  Come on - there must be somebody out there who will grab this opportunity!

28 June, 2015

Where can I buy a junk-rigged boat?

I recently had a comment from someone called James, in USA.  He asked "Where do I start looking for a small boat that is junk-rigged in the U.S.? Have searched the Internet and have found only one boat in the U.S. And it was 36'."

This reminded me of something that I've heard said so many times by people debating re-rigging their existing boat with junk rig.  "What happens if I want to sell the boat?  Won't putting a junk rig on it make it more difficult?"

My usual response is to ask them why they are fitting the junk rig in the first place and generally they say because they couldn't find a boat already converted that would suit them.  Well, doesn't that answer the question for them?  There are lots of people looking for junk-rigged boats and there aren't many for sale.  Of course, if you happen to be in a country with a very restricted market, with a boat that is unlikely to be easy to sell anyway, having a junk rig may not necessarily swing the deal, but most of the people I know who have wanted to sell a junk-rigged boat have moved them along pretty quickly.

And to James, and other people who would like to buy a junk-rigged boat, I recommend you visiting the Junk Rig Association website, where there is a Swop, Sell or Buy forum that members use to list (and look for) boats.  And if you are thinking you'd like to buy a boat to sail distant climes, why not make it easy for yourself and buy one that's overseas to start with?!

Just think of the joy of owning something as delightful as one of these: