Category Archives: Boat Construction

Jan C. Gougeon's final project, STRINGS.

Strings Centerboard Adjustment

By Greg Bull — GBI Technical Advisor

Strings, as unique as the man who designed it, continues to be a work in progress for us at GBI. In Jan Gougeon’s first year of sailing Strings, he noticed the boat felt sticky at times. He thought it might be the centerboards jibing too much and the solution might be an adjustment to lock them straight. The centerboards work as jibing boards by having two high spots on each side of a centerboard head creating the pivot point to get the boards to change angle, or jibe. The actual pressure from the boat going through the water and wanting to slide sideways gets the centerboards to jibe. Continue reading

Strip Plank Canoe -SBCSA

Winter Boat Building in Bay City

By Bill Bauer

Twenty years ago, some local sailors established the Saginaw Bay Community Sailing Association to provide affordable sailing lessons in the Saginaw Bay Michigan area. Starting out with a few donated Optimist prams, the program quickly grew and additional boats were needed. Gougeon Brothers Inc. provided the SBCSA with floor space in the loft of the GBI Boat Shop and the SBCSA winter boat-building sessions began building 5 more prams for the school.  Continue reading

Fairing the Bottom of Adagio

By Greg Bull — GBI Technical Advisor

While fairing the bottom of your boat may seem beyond your reach, it is a project that novices and experienced boaters alike can accomplish with a few simple tools and a love of a little manual labor. Most seasoned sailors would agree that a clean bottom leads to faster sailing. Sometimes it may be necessary to do more than scrub away the algae and zebra mussels, though. In the case of Adagio, 44 years of sailing was starting to ripple the bottom of the boat. Simply put, it was time to fair the bottom.  Continue reading

Building the Dream

By Laura and Philip Harvey

We started building our dream boat, a DH550 55′ catamaran we christened Wild Vanilla. Our catamaran was built on a piece of land just behind Budget Marine in Trinidad, during a break in our long-term family cruise. Before we began, we had sold our boat building company, Harvey yachts in Cape Town South Africa, and set off on our 38-foot cruising cat. Onboard were our nine-month-old son and our cat, Velcro. Continue reading

Great Lakes Boatbuilding School

Keeping Our Maritime Heritage Alive

By Bruce Niederer — GBI Technical Advisor

On November 27, 2006, ground was broken on a perfect waterfront site overlooking the Les Cheneaux islands in Cedarville, Michigan in a ceremony that marked the end of a two-year fundraising effort and the beginning of The Great Lakes Boatbuilding School.

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26' North Canoe

Unconventional Adventure–Building North Canoes

…For an Unconventional Adventure

by Ron Frenette
Epoxyworks 37

Cover Photo: Modern voyagers traverse the water in a 26′ North Canoe.

Canadian Canoes has been building wood-strip epoxy canoes for some 35 years. We’ve produced many thousands of western red cedar canoe strips from clear planks which originated in British Columbia. Eventually, we realized that ripping the strips one at a time then adding on the bead and cove profiles was terribly inefficient. With valuable input from Peter Feindel from Taurus Craco Woodworking Machinery, we used a milling machine to produce consistently accurate canoe strips. What once consumed five hours of monotonous work producing the strips for one canoe now takes about four minutes on the milling machine. This huge increase in production allowed us to offer, along with Ted Moores and Joan Barrett from Bear Mountain Boat Shop, canoe and kayak building kits for home boat builders.

In February of 2011, a gentleman in Milan, Italy ordered our 17′ Nomad kit. He launched the boat on a beautiful lake near the Swiss border with towering mountains as a backdrop. Shortly after, he told me about a traditional trade route from Venice to Milan when the Venetians controlled the trade of goods, mainly spices, from the east and south. He asked if there was any possibility of some Canadian paddlers joining him in paddling the Ticino and Po Rivers from just below Milan to and through the Grand Canal of Venice itself.

Around that time, our friends and colleagues at Bear Mountain Boats were reporting that they had several inquiries about plans for a reproduction North Canoe, not in birch bark but in wood strip epoxy construction. It was not a great leap to the possibility of combining the suggested canoe route with the much larger North Canoes as the craft to be used on this paddling adventure.

Another friend and colleague, Glenn Fallis who operates Voyageur Canoes in Millbrook, Ontario, has been making similar canoes in a fiberglass and resin matrix for many years. In addition to the 26′ North Canoe, Glenn and his workers make a 36′ Montreal Canoe. When I outlined the trip and project to him, Glenn generously provided a significant amount of offset data which went into naval designer Steve Killing’s design program. Steve then produced image renderings and CNC files which would allow us to make the station molds.

Steve Killing’s station mold rendering.

I promoted this adventure to find a group of a dozen or so friends and colleagues to join my wife and me in building these canoes, providing training, shipping the canoes to Italy and paddling the 400 kilometers to Venezia. To our great delight, a group materialized. (Along with some of their hard earned spending money!) Fourteen people have signed on to the voyage.

Construction of North Canoes

Glenn Fallis produces North Canoes as a composite product. Because our background is in woodstrip construction and we wanted to offer these canoes as kits, we invited Bear Mountain Boat Shop to get involved. Bear Mountain helped popularize the construction of strip-built canoes sheathed in fiberglass cloth and epoxy, and are a resource to many home boatbuilders for boat building kits, plans, instructions, how-to videos and classes. Our version of these North Canoes employs woodstrip construction with epoxy.

In October 2102, Voyageur Canoes cut 12 sheets of 5/8”-thick high-density particleboard on a CNC machine to produce the station molds for this project. It took a long Saturday work session to assemble all the segments then attach them to a floor-mounted oval. We built three North Canoes in four different spaces (which is why the background scenery is inconsistent in the photos). The image below shows a black floor platform and a series of leveling bolts. The floor in this shop was not flat so we made and leveled this platform then assembled the floor oval and all the station molds.

High-density particle board ebing cut on a CNC machine to produce the station molds.

Station mold

Station assembled and leveled with leveling bolts (where indicated by white arrows).

Bending the stem pieces around the mold.

Strips being applied to the stem of the canoe.

One of the first tasks in woodstrip boat building is to use steam and muscle to bend the stem pieces around the stem stations. These canoes follow the same process, but there are many more laminations and heftier pieces.

Preparing the strips of wood turned out to be a lucky opportunity for us. Generally, we produce long, clear strips of red cedar as our customers are looking to have a handsome craft with all the graining and colors red cedar displays. In our case, the hull was going to be covered with 10 ounce cloth, WEST SYSTEM 105 Resin/207 Special Clear Hardener with 3% pigment added to simulate the inner bark of the white birch. Over the years, Ted and I had accumulated a good pile of shorter lengths of eastern white cedar which had limited applications in our shop processes. We had a substantial pile of 15′ planks. We ripped and planed these to ¼” x 7/8″ then we used our routers to add the bead and cove profiles to the edges.

profile gauges

Profile gauges for shaping the stem.

profile gauge

Profile gauge.

One of the real challenges was to create the somewhat triangular shape of the stems; this process creates a flat place for the canoe strips to connect to when they “land” on the stem. On all of our other watercraft, the stem is very accessible and the fairing process can be done mostly with the builder standing upright. But the North canoes have their stems tucked under and located about six inches above the floor. Our first canoe was shaped/faired using the conventional fairing batten and block plane. (After a mere seven visits to a chiropractor, my spinal column was realigned.) This was a valuable lesson. We asked Steve Killing to create some magic for us and he produced drawings which allowed us to cut a series of profile gauges, which made it possible to shape about 90% of the stem on the workbench. What a difference!

Adding the many rows of bead-and-cove strips progressed quickly with a team of four. On one occasion, we were able to attach 26 rows on each side of the molds. The hull of the second canoe was filled in and awaiting fairing with block planes followed by a machine sanding with 80-grit discs and a final hand sanding with 120-grit paper.

Adding the rows of bead-and-cove strips to a North canoe.

Adding the rows of bead-and-cove strips to a North canoe.

Once the hull was well cleaned, we ran full-length sheets of 60″-wide 10-ounce fiberglass cloth overlapped along the midline. We then began the long process of applying three coats of WEST SYSTEM 105/207 to saturate the cloth while bonding it to the hull and filling the weave. We were not going for a clear finish, and added white pigment at 3% by volume to each batch of epoxy and brushed this coat onto the cloth. With appropriate waiting periods between coats, it took about six hours to apply three coats of mixed epoxy with the pigment.

Painted with a birch bark pattern, the North canoe receives another coat of epoxy.

Painted with a birch bark pattern, the North canoe receives another coat of epoxy.

To simulate birch bark, we added slightly overlapping layers of 50″ wide 6-ounce cloth with Glenn Fallis’s cleverly painted bark pattern. We then wetted out the top layer with two coats of WEST SYSTEM 105/207 epoxy. That was one very long day.

Patiently applying the curved end sections to the North canoe.

Patiently applying the curved end sections to the North canoe.

Next, we lifted the hull free of the molds and turned it right side up for the first time. After scraping the interior with curved paint scrapers, we sanded it by machine and hand. All this was in preparation for laying in more 10-ounce cloth and then wetting it out with tinted epoxy.

Once the interior epoxy coats cured, the canoes became noticeably stiffer. It was ready for us to add the trim elements. Steve Squelch was a patient worker when it came to installing those sweeping curved end sections, which proved to be very challenging to complete. When those were in place, we attached the remaining sections of the inner and outer gunwales. This is one situation where the builder cannot have too many clamps.

testing flotation chambers

Testing the foam flotation chambers

By early spring 2013, the North canoes were fully constructed, with only some decorative features to be completed. The canoes were all decorated by mid-June and have been paddled regularly. We added pour-in-place foam chambers at both ends and submerged the canoes to test the efficiency of all the flotation.

As this article was being prepared in mid July 2013, the canoes were secured inside a steel container somewhere on the Atlantic Ocean, headed for the Port of Genoa and then on to Milan to await the arrival of the paddling teams in early September. The Ticino and Po Rivers and the Lagoon of Venice and finally the Grand Canal in Venice now await us. This is certain to be a most unconventional paddling adventure.

A traditional voyager salute in a successfully completed North canoe.

A traditional voyager salute in a successfully completed North Canoe.

SLIVER Project

At the Northwest School of Wooden Boat Building
By Don Gutzmer – GBI Technical Advisor

After attending the 2012 Port Townsend Wooden Boat Festival, I visited the Northwest School of Wooden Boat Building in Port Hadlock, Washington. School instructor Bruce Blatchley was excited to show off their one-of-a-kind boat project, Sliver. The 62-foot double-ended daysailer was designed by well-known yacht designer Robert Perry and commissioned by Kim Bottles of Bainbridge Island, Washington. The Northwest School students of the 2011 and 2012 contemporary boatbuilding classes worked on the project. For a school that teaches traditional wooden boat building, learning to build a hybrid of wood/composite construction using epoxy was a unique challenge. Continue reading

Improve Wooden Paddles with G/flex

By Tom Pawlak — Retired GBI Technical Advisor

Wooden paddles and boat oars are known for getting dented in service. While G/flex 650 is not optimized for use as a coating, we found it was worth the extra effort it takes to apply to wooden canoe paddles and boat oars to deflect impact and prevent cracking the wood beneath.

G/flex epoxies weren’t developed with coating in mind, but early on in applications testing, we discovered they were excellent at dealing with impact. This became evident when we used G/flex 650 (the unthickened version) as a coating and when we used G/flex 655 (the thickened version) as a protective buildup. Continue reading

he nearly finished masthead fitting with a duplicate of the foam mold. After the inside was cleaned out, additional fabric was applied to achieve the final exterior shape. The outside was faired and shaped before the topping lift and sheave were installed.

Building a Masthead Fitting

Using the Lost Foam Method

By Captain James R. Watson

Creating a masthead fitting is another use of the lost foam method to produce a custom part with a molded interior cavity. In this case, the part was a masthead fitting to hold an internal sheave and provide a route for the halyard to pass. This method can be adapted to a variety of other applications, as demonstrated in Fabricating an Air Scoop.

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River Dory PORTOLA

Historic Wooden Dories in the Grand Canyon

By Greg Hatten
Cover Photo: Greg Hatten battles white water on a trip through the Grand Canyon in his replica wooden dory, PORTOLA.

Cover Photo: Greg Hatten battles white water on a trip through the Grand Canyon in his replica wooden dory, PORTOLA.

On March 21, 2012, river runners from five western states, Canada, Japan and Chile launched five homemade wooden dories, replicas of important historical designs, in an attempt to complete a 24-day self-guided traverse of the Colorado River through Grand Canyon. The replica boats represented a snapshot of river running in Grand Canyon during the 1950s and 1960s, just before Glen Canyon Dam took control of the Colorado River through Grand Canyon. Continue reading