Shaping the Yard

I thought this was going to take a long time.

Truth is, 15 minutes per end and your done.  I used my block plane, wood rasp and finished off with some hand sanding.  These aren’t perfect, but good enough for a ‘ham ‘n egger’ (this is the phrase my dad always uses to describe his wood working skills).

DSC00001The block plane does the majority of the removal.


Yard end after using the rough side of the wooden rasp.


Yard end after using the fine side of the wooden rasp.

I’m now waiting to receive epoxy supplies so I can tackle the mast glue up.  This is going to be a little tricky, due to all the pieces and timing.  Not sure exactly how to do it, but I’m thinking on the subject.

Yard and Boom Rough Out

I decided to use 8/4 VG Douglas Fir for the Yard and Boom.  This allowed me to side step scarfing and additional laminations.  Once again, my Thule ski rack on my Subaru came in very handy to haul the 13′ stick home.  I’ve used my ski rack as much to haul lumber as I have skis.


This is what the two sticks looked like after planing to approximate thickness.


The plans call for a round Yard of 1,3/4″ diameter.  I planed my Yard to 1,5/8″ for the following reasons:

  1. I’m using Doug Fir which I believe is a little stronger than spruce.
  2. I’m not shaping to complete round, hence the 16 sided stick will have a little more material left in it than a round stick.
  3. I want to reduce weight aloft as much as possible.
  4. Finally, if it breaks, I’ll build another one (but I don’t think it will).


Here is the Yard after removing the corners on the table saw.  I then used a hand plane and took a small amount off each corner…just took the edge off.  I like the chiseled look, so I think I’ll leave it very close to this shape.


Finally, I took a few moments to cut out the Mast plugs.  In accordance to the wisdom of others, I will be drilling a hole in the bottom plugs of approximately 1/2″ for proper air circulation.  Then, I spent an hour cleaning my shop.  It’s amazing how good it can make you feel just to clean your shop.  After all that planing, it was very dusty.  All is well now.

Dry Fitting Mast

Ok, this was a blast.  You go from having 8 staves sprawled out on the floor to this beautifully symmetrical sphere of Godliness.  Once the staves go into position the heavenly choirs open up and you feel this rapture coming from all wooden boat builder of the past converging down on your wood shop.  Well, almost anyway.  This was definitely the most fun I’ve had in my shop for quite some time.  DSC00005

These simple holding jigs made all the difference.

 I got the idea from Craig Bryant’s build blog (you can link to his blog from my home page).


I didn’t even know what a Bird’s Mouth cut was last week, and now here they are in all their glory.


I’m using two additional supports to hold the ends.

Now that the dry run is complete, I’ll be preparing for the epoxy glue up.

Why Shackleton?

This adventurous little boat needed a proper name.  It’s lines smack of utilitarian as opposed to elegant, smart as opposed to sophisticated, and simple as opposed to complex.  This all sounds like the kind of boat Ernest Shackleton would have enjoyed and cherished.   I was deeply impressed by Shackleton after reading the book, The Endurance.  He loved adventure, like Scamp.  He loved simplicity, function and utility like the Scamp…just made sense to name my boat Shackleton (#268).

Starting the Mast

Bird’s mouth what?  This sounded a little intimidating.  After reading several articles on how to build a hollow wooden mast, I decided to give it a go.  If I can build the mast, maybe I can build the boat.  This is a minimal way to begin without committing all the way.  And, I don’t have enough money right now for the kit anyway, so I decided to start with the mast.  After spending $100.00 on two sticks of wood, I began.  We don’t have Spruce locally available, but we do have vertical grain Douglas Fir.  I was fortunate enough to find 20′ long boards, so I purchased two 1 x 6 x 20′ boards.  This will save me the effort of scarfing.  The plans call for 8 staves 16 x 30 mm before tapering.  I first edged the boards on my jointer to create one flat side, then planed the thickness down from four quarter to 5/8″, I then ripped the boards into 1, 3/16″ staves.  I then cut the birds mouth into one side.

DSC00060Here’s what they looked like before cutting the taper.

I was concerned about attempting to create uniform tapers on the staves.  My dad suggested I build a jig to ensure uniformity.  My jig looked like this.

DSC00062The jig to hold the staves.

The bottom board is a 1 x 6 x 10′ pine board.  It accepts the stave and is sacrificial (the circular saw slightly cuts down into this board.  The middle board is also a 1 x 6 x 10′ pine board that acts a the fence for the stave to rest against.  These two boards are set at equal offsets from each end.  The far right board is a small off cut from the VG Douglas Fir I am using for the mast.  It is nailed through the middle board while taking the curve of the desired stave.  It is offset the distance of the circular saw blade and the outer edge of it’s base.  It holds the circular saw the proper distance to create the stave taper.


The jig with the cut tapered stave.

Hopefully this clarifies.  Here you see the cut stave (upper, narrow end of the stave).  The circular say ran along on the top of the upper 1 x 6 x 10′ pine board and was held securely by the far right side edge board, creating uniform tapers on each of the staves.  I nailed each stave to the jig with small finish nails that were removed after the cut was made.  I can re-use all this pine as cleating later on the boat.  I’m now ready to build a jig to hold the loose staves during glue up.

The Begining

I read somewhere you need the courage to start and the determination to finish.

 I have thought long and hard about whether I possess either…but I’m in love with this little micro-cruiser and in the words of  REO Speedwagon…I can’t fight this feeling anymore.  

I believe in order to enjoy building your own sailboat, you have to love building as much or more than sailing.  Hour for hour, I’ll probably never spend as much time sailing as I do building.  But that’s almost too much honesty…let’s romance this a bit more.  I want to sail mine to Catalina Island off the California coast.  I also want to sail in the San Juan Islands.  If all that fails, how about the Rigby Lake, which is 1/2 mile from my house.  Hence, the Scamp fits my micro-adventure philosophy perfectly.  If you’ve got 2 hours, you can go.

With this as a backdrop, I called Josh at Small Craft Advisor and ordered the plans.  After reviewing the plans for several days, I’ve decided that with my skills (or lack thereof), I would be best suited to purchase the kit.  I admire those who move forward with plans only, but my best chance for success is to order the kit.

I wanted to tackle this project in stages.  I have identified 6 distinct build stages to this boat.

  1. Building the spars (mast, yard, boom)
  2. Building the foils (rudder w/ 2 lb. weight and centerboard w/ 22 lb. weight)
  3. Building the boat (probably the longest stage)
  4. Finishing the boats (glassing, painting and varnishing)
  5. Rigging the boat
  6. Buying trailer and outboard motor for the boat

My thoughts are to start simple and move to complex.  Hence, with $100 in my pocket, I purchase the wood to build the bird’s mouth mast.  Once that was complete, I bought another $100 worth of wood and built the boom and yard (with some solid stock left over which I’ll use later to extend the cockpit seats).  With this first stage complete, I ordered the foils kit and enough glass/epoxy to build the entire kit.  Once I have this stage complete, I’ll consider myself worthy to purchase the boat kit and move to stage 3.  With this slow beginning, I had a bail out plan if all went South.  It just felt right to me to proceed in this step wise fashion.  I have also built confidence with the coming build with these simple yet critical stages behind me.

The Background and Evolution

I’ve owned 5 sailboats ranging from 10-26′.  All have taught me something…all were fun and yet bothersome.  All had a few good points with multiple bad points.  I’ll discuss a few of the problems:

  1. First off, I live in Idaho…not the greatest place for a sailor at heart to live.  All lakes are gusty or totally calm with very little in between.
  2. The small boats were easily dumped and somewhat hard to right/drain (exception being the Hobby Bravo, but this boat was a little small for two adults)
  3. The McGregor 26M was highly acclaimed, yet totally dwarfed my shop and was anything but simple and quick to rig.  Not to mention the craftsmanship left me feeling cheated and betrayed.  I bought this boat new from the factory, it will go down as one of the biggest purchasing mistakes of my life…just saying.
  4. The West Wight Potter 15 came as close as any yet to satisfy my sailing desires, yet even this little boat was hard to rig.  Thats correct, by the time you untangle the shrouds, step the mast, crawl up front and pin the head stay (without dropping the mast), connect the boom to the mast, feed the main sail into the sail slot in the mast, connect the topping lift, go back up front and hank on the jib and connect the mainsheet to the traveler, then put the motor on the back and attached the rudder to the transom.  It also had a very small cockpit with a hard to reach center board.  But, I knew I was getting close to the gospel truth with this boat.

All these experiences left me feeling disillusioned and frustrated.   Couldn’t this somehow be simplified?  Does it all have to been this complex and time consuming.  In the end, I had decided to just let sailing go and focus on other things, simpler things.  But, in the back of my mind, I found myself continuing to study sailboat designs.  Sort of like looking for the true religion…I kept thinking somewhere out there someone else must feel like I did…desiring a simpler approach, cleaner approach, yet still within the size and weight requirements that I had settled on.  I knew from the Macgregor that the size needed to be small, almost ridiculously small, yet somehow very capable, utilitarian like.  What would a working man’s sailboat look like.  Not a commercial fiberglass boat designed for speed, but rather adventurous, practical, serviceable, working man’s sailboat.

 (Scamp sailboat enters stage left)

Let’s look at a few of the features of this little micro-cruiser:

  1. The rig is a balance lug, unstayed mast.  Ultra simple yet effective.  No shrouds to tangle, one sail, no jib.
  2. When you dump the boat, you can recover and sail away (albeit with some bailing).
  3. Boat, motor and trailer weigh around 800 lb.  Easily towed without brakes behind my Subaru.
  4. Overall boat length 12′ will fit just about anywhere.
  5. Multiple water tight hatches for gear stowage, and I mean a lot of gear in backpacking terms.
  6. 175 lb. of water ballast.  This adds a tremendous amount of stability to this little craft.  Makes the boat feel much bigger than its britches.
  7. Cockpit measures 6-1/2′ long.  That’s huge for a boat this size.  Very spacious for two full size adults sailing all day.
  8. Veranda provides protection from the cold spray coming off lakes/ocean.
  9. Accommodates a small outboard motor for when the wind fails you.
  10. Cockpit converts into an open sleeping berth for two stargazing adventurous souls.  Jennifer might even give it a go.

All these things ring true to me and from my personal experience, seem to make a lot of sense.  Will it be all that I have dreamed of, all that I’ve ever wanted?  probably not, but I think it will come as close to anything I’ve seen yet.  There appears to be a lot going for this little boat.