Details and Thinking Outside The Box The Kit Came In: Chester Yawl Part 4

A boatbuilding project breaks down into many tasks varying in importance. Smaller components are completed and brought together with other sub-assemblies so that the sum of the parts will create something like the whole. One reaches a point where all the big chunks stuck together have become something that looks exactly like a boat even to the uninitiated. This is where the devil walks in and boldly displays his list of details. The Chester Yawl has reached that point. Dave and another friend, Bob Eastman, have been working on a variety of mundane tasks. Much time was dedicated to fiberglass on the bottom and stem area, filling the hundreds of small holes left by the stitch and glue process, and the interminable sanding that is a necessary part of woodworking.

I made a working visit to help with setting the stern seat and forward deck in place and applying the epoxy fillets. There is a bulkhead under the forward edge of the stern seat as this area is meant to be a closed space. A fitting was included that provides a sort of ventilation plug for the area. It required drilling a one inch hole in the bulkhead for installation. As it happens there was not a suitable hole saw in the shop to care of this. After working on the filleting for awhile we went to the local Walmart to see about buying an appropriate hole saw or paddle bit. As luck would have it hole saws came only as a large and expensive package and the individual paddle bits came in three sizes with the one inch size being sold out.

Thinking, if not entirely outside the box but rather peeking out from the slightly lifted lid, it occurred to us that the job might be done with a jigsaw. Back at the shop we prepared to drill an entry hole for the saw blade and further refined the process with the idea that we needed only drill a series of small holes around the circle, punch out the waste and sand the edge of the hole smooth. Such is the evolution of an idea that was ultimately successful although we did waste a little gas and time in the process.

The forward deck on the yawl is one of several modifications to the original design that Dave has made on this boat. He was not happy with the large platform-like bow deck on this boat and so decided to reduce it too a small vestigial deck extending less than a foot aft of the stem. There is now also a thwart style seat where the after edge of the seat was originally placed. The effect is a much more open bow area. By retaining the seat and the stretchers that support it there will be adequate strength to the forward portion of the hull.

Another major change was the addition of an inwale to create a classic open gunwale. It took a bit of thinking to work out a pleasing arrangement of spaces in relation to the frames and the oarlock blocks. About twenty small spacer blocks were made for each side of the boat. The inwale was sprung in place with the spacers in between inner and outer rails. Dave and Caleb glued up the assembly in fine style. This method will make for a very rigid hull.

On my last visit to the boat shed Dave and I hand sanded round-overs on inner and outer rails. We also relieved the hard edges in all the rectangular holes between the rails and spacer blocks. These rails will eventually be varnished. Varnish does not love a sharp edge but rather loses itself to chafe. The subsequent bare wood takes up moisture and soon causes problems. The work though tedious is necessary if one’s craft is to remain in Bristol fashion.

So a little bit has been taken away and a little bit added back on.  We will see on launching if  trim has been adversely affected. One of the beauties of small craft is that trim is such a fluid proposition that often we can adjust it by slight changes in rowing position or simply moving the cooler or tackle box. I wouldn’t suggest to anyone that they should make significant changes to a design or a kit. It is in the nature of guys with tools that they will act independently. My disclaimer offered to you for what it’s worth concerning modifications is don’t do it. If you are going to anyway consider everything carefully. Become familiar with traditional methods before trying out new ones, don’t hurt yourself and be sure to have fun.

This post was finished later than I had wanted. Life-stuff has been getting in the way lately. I hope to get on with more of this kit build coverage soon. The Wooden Boat Festival in Port Townsend is coming up in a few weeks. I will be chatting with John Harris of Chesapeake Light Craft and hope to have some interesting observations. If they have a Chester Yawl with them I should be able to get a chance to row it. I will have something to say about that. Probably something along the lines of, “I gotta get me one of these!”

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