Sole Work for the Soul

The more I get into this build, the more I enjoy it.  There is something therapeutic about working small details out in your mind, and then seeing them come into form on the boat.  In a life where everything is digital, synthesized and virtual, we as humans are missing a very important part of life.  We are having a digital experience instead of having a physical, tangible, creative experience.  If everyone depressed or struggling with metal illness could have success in working with their hands, I believe many would be much better off.   DSC00003I chose to epoxy the sole doubler to the sole on my shop floor.  This will allow me to fit the hatches and fillet the edges on the bench.  I used a myriad of items to weigh down the sole doubler. DSC00004This was my initial thought on hatch layout.  I later rotated the two front hatches 90 degrees and moved them closer to the center line.  This will allow me to stow a crate or small duffel outboard of the front hatches, against the side panels of the boat.  DSC00010 I marked the exact location of each hatch.   DSC00012Once I was sure I had marked things right, I drilled a 3/8″ hole to allow access with my jig saw.  DSC00016This makes you a little nervous.  You definitely want to get these measurements right.  DSC00021I used a router bit to clean up both top and bottom edges.  DSC00015I was curious to inspect the edge of the cut outs.  I wondered if I could detect the seam where the two plys met.  As you see in the photo, there is no visible separation between the pieces.  DSC00008This is what things looked like prior to the sole doubler fillet.DSC00022 After applying the fillet, I spent another hour cleaning up the edges.DSC00025I have decided that applying a fillet is 20% skill and 80% patience.DSC01516 DSC01517I later added an additional coat of unthickened epoxy to the sole doubler edge and fillet.  I’m sure this area will see a lot of water and want it well sealed.

Working on this build is very therapeutic for me.

Sole & Sole Doubler Thoughts

After thinking things over, I’ve decided to install the floor before moving forward with plank #3.  This will allow me to work the fillets by reaching over the edge; not forcing me to climb inside the boat.

DSC00003I took the time to mark all existing bulkheads and cleating for the entire floor area.  I also marked all screw holes. DSC00004I then drilled all the holes for the entire floor area.DSC00006   It was easier for me to drill the holes before glueing on the forward sole piece.DSC00007 I’m using some of Shackleton’s fixed ballast to weight the panels.

My ideas on sole & sole doubler assembly are:  

  1. Mark all bulkhead and cleating locations on the top of the sole pieces.
  2. Mark all screw locations.  The periphery holes were drilled out using a counter sink bit.  The amidship holes were drilled out using a standard bit (the sole doubler will cover all amidship holes).
  3. Epoxy the forward and aft sole pieces together.
  4. Dry fit the sole into the boat.
  5. Epoxy the sole doubler to the sole (after rounding over all exposed edges).
  6. Flip the ensemble (sole & sole doubler) over.  Using the existing holes in the sole as a guide, drill through the sole doubler (all holes now line up nicely).
  7. Flip the ensemble right side up.  Use a counter sink on all the amidship holes you just drilled.
  8. Cut and fit hatches.
  9. Router and epoxy all hatch edges.
  10. Finish the ensemble on the bench.
  11. Install the hatches on the bench.
  12. Install the ensemble into the boat.

I’m enjoying this build very much.



Designing Outboard Bracket

I’ve made a decision:  Shackleton will have a motor. Sailing in Idaho has taught me a few things.  At times, the wind will just suddenly disappear or die down significantly.  Other times, it will build to gale force with no warning.  I don’t want to drive 2 hours to a mountain lake, only to find no wind.  With a motor, I can still cruise around the lake and look things over.  I believe it makes Scamp a more versatile boat.

Motor Criteria: I was looking for the following things in an outboard:

  1. Very small Displacement (2.3 – 2.5 h.p.)
  2. Lightweight (30 lb. dry weight or less if I could find it)
  3. Quiet (this was a struck against the Honda…said to be noisier than liquid cooled outboards)
  4. Reliable (I wanted a new outboard for Shackleton)
  5. Smooth Running (I prefer liquid cooled engines)

(Drum roll please)

Which motor did I choose? I selected the Suzuki 2.5 hp outboard.  According to manufacture specs, this motor is as light as the Honda 2.3 hp outboard (Suzuki 29 lb. vs Honda 29.5 lb.).  All other outboards I researched were significantly heavier than the Honda and Suzuki.  The liquid cooled Suzuki is said to be quieter than the Honda, and offers more torque at similar RPM (according to an internet article I read).   The quiet factor is a big deal to me.  I wanted the quietest motor possible, without going to electric (I already maintain far too many batteries in my life).  The Suzuki has a gear box, allowing me to warm-up the engine in neutral (without the prop turning) before shifting into forward.  This may prove handy for Spring and Fall cold weather sailing.  Online dealers offer free shipping; $709 put the motor on my doorstep. DSC00001Here you see my beautiful Suzuki outboard mounted to an adjustable Trac Aluminum outboard bracket (model #T10050).  As I mounted this motor to a scrap piece of plywood, I became immediately aware of several problems.   DSC00002 First, notice the bracket handle strikes the mock transom, preventing the bracket from being raising to it’s top most position.   DSC00004Second, notice the minimal off-set of the motor in the up position.  The high transom found on Scamp, prevents the motor from being tilted completely forward.  So, I can’t raise the motor all the way up and I can’t tilt the motor forward to get the prop out of the water when sailing.

What now?  After some thought, I had the perfect answer.  Build a shim, moving the outboard away from the transom, solving my problems.  First, I tried a 3″ shim, then 4″, then 5″.  Here’s what I learned:  5″ does provide good access to the motor handle and allows the bracket to easily raise all the way up but the motor still won’t tilt forward far enough to engage the motor tilt catch.  Very disappointing.  It’s also overly complicated for the requirements at hand.  This is a small motor.  This is a light motor.  The outboard bracket is beyond the needs of this motor.  And, it doesn’t work in this application.  I wanted a more practical, simpler solution.

Hum…this just isn’t working for me or Shackleton (the boat’s spirit whispers to me occasionally).   After staring at things for a few hours, I noticed that the Suzuki motor (given enough room) will tilt almost a full 90 degrees forward.  With this amount of forward tilt, a stationary bracket would allow me to raise the motor entirely out of the water for sailing.  A stationary bracket would also be much simpler.  No moving parts, no springs, no lubrication points to maintain.  Nothing to raise or lower.  I liked where this was going.  

In looking at online fixed brackets, however, none of them offer enough off-set to allow the motor to tilt forward.  In the end, I decided to design and build my own outboard bracket.DSC00001With paper and pen, I started playing with design ideas. DSC00012 I wanted the bracket to be strong, simple and light, while allowing full forward tilting movement of the motor.DSC00016DSC00008I also wanted to recess the motor mounting screws into the wood for a migration free clamping surface.  DSC00010DSC00014I tried to lighten up all the parts without compromising strength.  My Ridgid sander smoothed out all my rough cuts.  I also ran a 1/4″ round-over bit over all exposed edges. DSC00018One coat of epoxy on all the parts.

My outboard motor bracket parts (from Left to Right).  

  1. Back block (V.G. Douglas Fir).  This will be mounted directly to the transom.  The bracket sides will screw and glue to this block.  It measures 6 1/2″ wide, 10″ tall and 1 1/4″ thick.   I cut out the center to lighten it up.
  2. Front block (V.G. Douglas Fir.)  The back side of this block has the recessed motor screw holes.  It measures 6 1/2″ wide, 5 1/2″ tall and 1 3/4″ thick.
  3. Bracket sides (3/4″ Baltic Birch).  Centers cut out to reduce weight.  The measurements can be seen in a photo above.DSC00039 DSC00037 DSC00034 DSC00032The notch-out on the starboard side is to allow clearance for the motor choke knob.

 In mounting up the motor, things look really good.  A few observations:

  1. With the rudder down, the rudder is in front of the prop and cannot swing into the prop (I remember the sounds of chopping wood on my West Wight Potter 15).
  2. With the rudder up, the rudder is above the prop and can only swing into the motor shaft.
  3. With the motor tilted up, the prop will be completely out of the water.
  4. With the motor tilted up (and rudder fully up or down), the rudder can move freely without any contact whatsoever.
  5. The purchased motor bracket (that I will be returning) weighs 8.8 lb.
  6. The wooden motor mount I built weighs 6.25 lb.

I am very happy with this simple, wooden design.  I reduced weight aft (this may be offset, however, by the movement of the motor further aft), gained full tilting movement of the outboard, and prevented contact with the rudder. 

One step at a time, baby.

Glossy vs Satin Finish

Rethinking my finishDSC00004There was a time when I liked the high gloss look of beautifully finished wood.  My rudder was finished with high gloss marine varnish shown below.DSC00001Over the years, however, I’ve come to appreciate and even favor a more satin finish.  Even though my rudder was completely finished, I decided to apply a satin finish over the high gloss to tame things down a bit.  DSC00004To me, the satin finish is a softer, more appealing look…more hand rubbed in appearance.  I am much happier with this finish.  DSC00005I applied the satin finish directly over the high gloss (after lightly sanding).


  1. High gloss is a hard finish that is said to offer the best wear and UV protection amongst clear finishes.
  2. High gloss offers a show stopper look.
  3. High gloss shows every last spec of dust in the finish.
  4. High gloss shows hard water spots.
  5. High gloss magnifies imperfections.
  6. Satin finish looks more hand rubbed.
  7. Satin finish hides imperfections.
  8. Satin finish hides hard water spots.
  9. Satin finish applied over high gloss finish seems to offer the best of both worlds, if you like a more subtle look.


Installing Bow Eye

Before I get blocked out of this area, I decided it was time to install the stainless steel bow eye.  DSC00021DSC00020After marking the location, I drilled one of the required holes.  I then placed the bracket on (and used another bolt to hold its location) and drilled the second hole.  This helped ensure proper placement of the second hole.  DSC00003The holes are drilled through the cleating glued to both sides of the stem.  View from inside the boat.  I’ll now remove the bow eye for finishing.

Finishing Rudder Head Assembly

I chose to finish all inside areas of the rudder head assembly prior to glueing on the outer cheek panels.  DSC00001DSC00002DSC00006DSC00009I used small wooden blocks to keep from denting the wood with the clamps (even light pressure will dent this plywood).


DSC00012When cutting off the protruding dowels, I placed duck tape on my Japanese hand saw (just under the teeth of the saw).  This allows the saw to glide over the wood, cutting the dowel flush with the surrounding plywood, without skinning the plywood.DSC00013Preparing for final coat.DSC00001 I’m using Rust-oleum Gloss Hunter Green #7738.  I’ll now glue in the brass bushings.

Why build your own sailboat?  Because you can