Friday, 7 August 2009

A final comment and over due acknowledgements

August 2009 - and I've come to the end of the build blog. It remains to be seen if we start another blog to record the sailing adventures of Idle Fiddler and its crew.

However, I cannot let the opportunity pass without making sure that my 'build partner' Paul Lewis receives the recognition that is due to him. Yes, I wrote the blog, and consequently have received many kind comments on the quality of the build etc but virtually all of the items that evoked praise were down to Paul - they were his ideas and his craftsmanship.

We've greatly enjoyed the whole project and in all the 4 and half years we've never even had a cross word or disagreement. Thankfully too, we've had very understanding and supportive wives - so a big thanks to Anne and Sheila who have scraped, sanded, painted, shoved, lifted, listened, mopped brows, and provided endless tea , food and encouragement!

Modifications 2 - snotter to goosneck on the boom

The other major modification was to the sprit boom. We liked the idea of a loose footed sail, the idea of the boom being out of 'head-thwacking' range and the way in which the sprit could be used to help maintain the set of the sail. However, what we didn't like was the constant snagging of the jib sheets when tacking. So, more discussion on the best way forward! We didn't like the goosenecks on the market so we decided to make our own.

Paul, as usual, came up trumps with a design which he made himself using 25mm wide x 5mm thick stainless steel for the mast bracket and the boom straps. The 2 way pivoting 'knuckle' joint was made out of very hard purple heart. Again we used stainless dropnose pins to keep it all together.

A few modifications - the tabernacle

I mentioned previously that during the sailing trials it became apparent that we would have to do a few things to make life easier for pre-sail rigging and to correct what we felt was a tendency for the jib sheets to snag on the snotter arrangement every time we changed tack.

The first priority was to look at a tabernacle arrangement so that we could take away the 'struggle' (for us) of inserting the hollow wooden mast through the fore deck and into the step.

The advantages would be considerable by reducing the rigging time, take away the risk of a dangerous slip or fall whilst trying to locate the mast, and finally allowing us to use the mast when hinged down and at rest as a structural support to the boat cover.

Paul and I had lots of discussions on the best design and we did a lot of asking and web searches. We then produced a mock up to test the feasibility before taking the plunge and cutting the old round hollow wooden mast at a point above the foredeck. The old 'discarded' piece was replaced by two new solid pieces; the lower portion maintained the round section to go through the foredeck but had a rectangular section above the foredeck which fitted into the tabernace. The 'upper' section had the same rectangular section to fit the tabernacle but then tapered to fit the old round section of the mast. Paul made both of these new sections on his lathe. A few photographs are worth a thousand words!

Although we made most of the tabernacle ourselves we eventually took it to a local fabricator who welded a back plate on for us and polished it. The result was extremely pleasing and worked well using two 10mm x 80mm 316 stainless dropnose pins as pivot and locking devices. The design meant that all the compression forces were transferred to the keel via the mast and also via the tabernacle itself.

Saturday, 4 July 2009

Bits & Pieces

Just a few photos of details on the boat that might be of interest.
The trials went very well and we learnt a lot despite the trying wind conditions with frequent calms, complete changes of wind direction and speed. We measured gusts of up to 20 knots (apparent wind) and managed speeds of up to 7.6 knots.
We came to the conclusion that we needed to investigate changes to the sprit boom system (constant snagging of jib sheets), yet more alterations to the trailer (to make launch and retrieval easier) and finally to look at a tabernacle system for the mast (to cut down on rigging time and reduce the dangers of trying to step the mast in anything other than a dead calm!). Apart from that it was a roaring success and worth all the effort. It is a really beautiful boat, both to look at and to sail. We were surprised at how easy it was to row too, so it will be useful as a 'Raid' boat.

Sailing Trials, Llyn Tegid (Lake Bala), North Wales, 27 - 30 June 2009

Launch Day Friday 12 June 2009

The great day dawned at last when, a few days after my return from a month in France, we decided - almost on a whim - to get down to the river about 6 km away and launch her in the local marina. As the river is useless to sail on we just wanted to try out the oars and the outboard and at least to say we had launched the boat at long last (four and a half years of building!!). The champagne had been cooling in readiness for a month or so. Although we had at first thought of inviting all and sundry along we felt a 'private' affair was more appropriate. We all wanted to be IN the boat anyway and selfishly not talking to friends and neighbours on the bank instead.

After going out of the marina and onto the Severn an incredible thing happened. A canal narrow boat passed us and somebody shouted out "is that a John Welsford design? We're on holiday from New Zealand". What a one in a million chance! They took a photograph which us has just come back to us from John via Mike Austin of British Backyard Boatbuilding ( What a small world. We only know of one other 'Pathfinder' being built in the UK at the moment.

trailer, rigging and finishing off

Now that the boat was essentially finished, thoughts turned to designing a suitable trailer, getting the boat out of the workshop (walls to be knocked down and a wider opening needed) and final rigging before the launch. We had intended to launch in early spring but it took us much longer to find a suitable trailer design and to get the manufacturer to provide what we wanted.

We eventually settled on a 'Gullwing' aluminium trailer with keel and side wobble rollers. It took a lot of modifications post delivery to get it anything like usable and caused us a lot of angst. It is still not quite right in that launch and retrieval is not easy (impossible if single-handed).

1 April (an appropriate day) was the first time the boat saw the light of day and for the trailer deficiencies to come to real light as we struggled to transfer the boat from the build trolley in the workshop to the waiting trailer outside. Later came more problems in getting the boat off the trailer and onto blocks on the ground where it was to remain for another two months whilst modifications were sorted out. We were able to use some of the time in leathering spars, masts and oars, fixing and testing the wire stays and sorting out all manner of minor things such as cleats on the masts, rudder stock, sprit boom etc. Meanwhile Anne had sorted out boat cushions (we like comfort) and various useful bags for storage of things like rowlocks and belaying pins.
Paul's sister Sarah was commissioned (or was it inveigled) into painting a name plate for us and it really helped finish the boat off.

Masts, spars & oars

Whilst the plans suggested aluminium masts and spars we decided to try and maintain the boat's tradional look by making wooden spars and masts. Weight considerations meant hollow construction but we also wanted a tapered mast too. We decided on the 'birdsmouth' design using interlocking pieces of tapered douglas fir. Calculating the correct dimensions was made easy by using two little pieces of free software from the section on 'shareware for boat design' located on the web page of . Rounding the masts seemed to produce enough shavings to keep a pet shop in business for a year!

The spars (yard, sprit booms and boomkin) were made out of solid wood. We decided on rectangular cross section for the main sprit boom just for ease of construction and fixing of cleats.

Everything was finished off again with Deks Olje.

Paul made all four double handed oars (I think I was away at the time - again) and made a beautiful job of them especially with a decorative insert of purple heart into the blades. The picture shows Anne, his wife, putting the finishing touch to them.


Early on in the construction of the boat we had decided that we would have the tiller going over the transom rather than through it mainly because of concerns over possible fouling with the top of the outboard. Now was the time to start work on a design of the tiller using a simple mock up of scrap pieces of ply to get the general shape.
Once that was worked out we made a form that could be used to shape the glued laminates of ash and mahogany (decorative strips). After gluing, the final cutting to shape was done on the band saw, and then lots of work with plane, spokeshave and sandpaper to achieve the finished product. Paul used his wood turning skills to produce a button for the end of the tiller shaft.

Cockpit sole and other items

December 08
I mentioned before that we had been given just enough teak to complete the cockpit sole. Now came the 'sticky' job of caulking. After careful cleaning with degreasing agent we used SABA primer and caulk to do the job and the best masking tape we could find. It was messy, but effective. A week or so later the joints were ready for final sanding and then oiling (using Deks Olje again). We then started putting on some of the fixings such as hatches, cleats and fairleads, thinking about rigging and trailer design, sourcing rope, blocks and tackle and finally arranging for a marine surveyor to come and do a detailed survey for insurance and valuation purposes. Thankfully this last hurdle was passed with flying colours.