Tumultuous Uproar

A cruising boat with a racing problem...

Velocette part 8, glassing the hull

23 November 2021
Russ Whitford
Frozen snot! That's what wooden boat folks call fiberglass. Doesn't matter, strip planked boats must be fiberglassed inside and out. The strips form the shape and provide a stiff core for the fiberglass skins. Without the fiberglass, the wood just isn't strong enough. Most builders don't even use waterproof glue to glue the strips together. Without fiberglass, the boat would just melt apart. But Titebond now makes a waterproof wood glue and I used it.

But first, the hull has to be planed and sanded perfectly smooth. This step is crucial to getting a smooth, fair shape. As stated before, extra care aligning the strips will lessen the work to fair the hull. I'll pay a bit more attention the next time. I started with a long plane taking paper thin shavings at 45 degree angles to the planks. The smell of the freshly cut cedar and walking barefoot among the carpet of shavings is a joy.

The fun is over when the long board comes out. I cut a 48” x 6”, 60 grit sanding belt into a long strip. This was glued to a piece of 1/4” plywood and two handles glued to the ends. The 1/4” plywood can flex a bit to conform to the hull shape. Again, the hull is sanded at angles to keep it fair and smooth. Some call the long board “torture board.” No question about it, this is hard work. I sanded by hand for 1 ½ days to fair the hull. It would have been so easy to just run a sander over the hull but this would not yield a perfectly smooth skin.

Again, “Building Strip Planked Boats” has great tips on how to fiberglass the hull. I used 6 oz fiberglass cloth and Mas Epoxy. The glass cloth has to be handled carefully, it is a loose weave and will distort and bunch up. Being loose weave, it will also conform to compound curves which is desirable. Lisa and I laid the cloth out carefully on the hull. Two pieces were necessary to span the width and they overlapped on the keel. Great for added strength where it is needed.

The cloth is smoothed out with a dry paintbrush. Resin is poured in a puddle in the center of the hull and a plastic squeege is used to spread it around. It is easy to tell when the cloth is soaked with resin, it turns transparent. But too much resin adds weight without strength. When the glass is saturated, the squeege is used to scrape off as much excess resin as possible.

After the resin cures, sand smooth and roll on a thin layer of resin to fill the weave of the cloth. I decided to add the mahogany rub rails while the hull was still on the mold. The rails would further stiffen the hull while it was held in shape.

Then came the moment of truth, We lifted the hull off the form. Looks like we now have a boat!

Velocette part 7, strip planking the hull

22 November 2021
Russ Whitford
Time to start butchering wood. Anyone who has seen a cedar strip canoe agrees they are a work of art. I wanted to use this construction technique not only for its beauty but to build a light, strong hull that could easily conform to the compound curves of the design. There is a lot of boat building these days using the stitch-and-glue method. Planks of plywood are literally stitched together with wire or zip ties and the joints are reinforced with epoxy putty and fiberglass. I call this the plywood and playdo method. It is not the type of woodworking I enjoy but there are some cool boats built with this technique.

Building Strip-Planked Boats by Nick Schade is an excellent book to describe the techniques I used and served as my reference.

Strips of cedar are stapled in place to the building form and edge glued together. That's pretty much all that is involved. As the boat curves, the square strip edges must be beveled so they fit tightly. But construction does not need to be perfect. The inside and outside of the hull are fiberglassed for strength and waterproofing.

The 1/4" thick cedar strips conform quite easily to the curved mold. But they can start to twist when forced to bend in two different directions. Then strips need to be tapered along the length to lay flat. All of this requires the use of a sharp plane. My 7th grade woodshop class prepared me for this. Mr Jones has us spend the first six weeks using a plane to make a flat, square board from a rough plank. My dad thought it was too much time spent on plane craft. No way, it taught useful woodworking basics that have served me well.

As strip edges butt against each other, it is very important to be sure they don't shift up or down. Any step in the joint must be smoothed out to the lowest spot to have a smooth hull. I would recommend using clamps or masking tape to hold the joints flush with each other while the glue dries. It will save a lot of work later on.

If one decides to build a strip-planked boat should give it a try. Canoe shapes, with their straighter lines, will be easier to build than Velocette. I would strongly suggest buying a CNC cut mold instead of making your own. It will eliminate a lot of work and ensure a smooth hull. Chesapeake Light Craft is a great source.

It only took a week to complete the strip planking.

Velocette part 6, the building jig with a little help from my friends

20 November 2021
Russ Whitford
It is amazing what one can find on the internet. I have been looking at reproduction, mahogany runabouts and race boat for years. The Crandall Flyer remains one of my favorite designs. I have even accumulated some mechanical parts to modify an Alfa Romeo engine for use in such a boat. My searches brought me to www.danleeboatbuilding.co.uk. Dan shows a similar design vintage race boat, Rocket, that he has built. Dan has a unique method of cutting the wood parts out with a CNC mill and using a CNC jig to accurately assemble frames. It got me to thinking about using these techniques to help build Velocette.

I discussed the project with Dan and he agreed to do the CAD design for the building jig. Dan took the CAD files for the boat and pulled off the sections, much like I did for the model. But Dan configured the sections and assembly rails to make an “egg crate” style building jig. It was designed to be CNC milled out of 1/2” MDF. All I needed was to find someone with a CNC router to cut the parts out.

A sailing friend mentioned his friend, Chris Freymuth, had a CNC router table. Yes, Chris would cut the parts out for me. I visited his shop in Grafton, WI with several sheets of MDF and 1/2” marine plywood on top of Showflake. Chris was recovering from knee surgery but still expertly cut out the parts. The bulkhead #6 where the boat splits would be two pieces of 1/2” marine plywood along with the transom. They would remain part of the boat when removed from the jig. Kind of hard to describe but pictures will help.

The only thing I needed to do was assemble the “puzzle” of MDF and plywood pieces on a straight, flat surface. Then I could build the boat. From Facebook Marketplace, I bought a section of that shuffleboard game often found in bars. This is an incredibly heavy hunk of hard maple, even heavier than a section of bowling alley. It provided the straight, flat surface needed. I used a laser level to check the assembled jig.

So far I didn't even have to lift a tool and I had a jig or mold set up to build the hull. Not only was it easy but the jig was perfectly fair and smooth. Computers get it right!

From Home Depot, I was able to find some Western Red Cedar that surprisingly had no knots! I bought a dozen boards and a bargain price. Lisa and I set up the table saw with a special, thin blade and cut it all into ¼” strips.

Now all I had to do was complete the bathroom remodeling project before I could start construction.

Velocette part 5, the model sails

19 November 2021
Russ Whitford
Christmas Eve Day, 2020, model Velocette was launched. Lisa and I were anchored on the east lagoon of Huahine. A group of guys were having some Christmas beer, song and were butchering a wild boar on the motu away from the main island. We asked if we could visit. “Mais oui.”

We brought Velocette ashore and floated her at the beach much to their puzzlement. Later they invited us to join them for some wild boar stew and local music. We returned later that afternoon for an unforgettable celebration.

It had been over six months since the Velocette design process began and the model was just completed. Paper sections from Caddie were glued to 1/8” balsa, cut out and fastened to a board. This would serve as a mold for the hull. As with the full size boat, section #6 was two pieces of thin plywood, screwed together.

Other sheets of balsa wood were cut into 1/4” strips. These were bent over the mold and edge glued together. The outside of the hull was sanded carefully and covered with a layer of thin fiberglass. The hull was then strong enough to remove from the mold. Centerboard trunk and forward deck were added and the inside was also fiberglassed.

I removed the screws from the double bulkhead #6. A thin razor saw sawed the hull in half. Yes, the forward half then nested perfectly into the stern half. The design concept was proven.

And she floated! I even added a heavy chunk of coral and Velocette floated high.

The initial plan to build the full size Velocette in New Zealand was thwarted by the Covid lockdown. We made the difficult decision to tack Uproar. Instead of continuing on west, we shipped Uproar back to Fort Lauderdale from Tahiti. That way, we would be in cruising grounds we knew we could visit and be less likely to be stuck somewhere without options.

This would also mean that I could now build Velocette in my home shop, a real bonus for the project.

Velocette part 4, Ocean Blue to the Rescue

18 November 2021
Russ Whitford
The design for Velocette was settled. Going from lines drawings to a boat is quite another project. Jean Francois created the 2D lines drawings and a friend of his converted these to full 3D DFX files. I'm not a CAD guy so this still presented a hurdle.

Ocean Blue to the rescue. Derek and Leslie on Ocean Blue own a CAD software company Caddie. We had been sailing with them for over a year in French Polynesia. Derek and Leslie graciously gave me the full version of their program. What's more, they spent countless hours teaching me how to use it. Some say you can't teach an old dog new tricks. But with Derek and Leslie's gentle efforts, I learned some CAD basics.

The next step in the Velocette process was to build a model. Initially, I expected to build Velocette in New Zealand during the cyclone season. But that was going to be awhile, building a model became the next step. I carry a supply of 3mm balsa wood and thin plywood on Uproar and previously built a model of the 1936 Crandall Flyer racing boat. I decided to build a 1/6th scale Velocette, about two feet long.

With Caddie, I was able to scale the design down to 1/6th scale, pull off the sections and print them on paper. I glued these printed sections to balsa wood and cut them out. With the sections properly spaced and squared on a stick, I now had a mold to build the Velocette model.

Velocette part 3, final design

13 November 2021
Russ Whitford
Jean Francois Masset developed his own software program for quick hull shape analysis, Gene-hull. You can find more about this open source, spreadsheet program online. When I discussed my parameters for Velocette, JF went right to work sending me analysis of the design.

The criteria of the design was that the boat should be 12 feet long, about 4 feet beam and designed for two people. The boat had to have a bulkhead forward of mid-length that could unbolt and store the bow half inside the stern half. This nesting dinghy concept is nothing new but I believe this is the first time it has been done for a performance dinghy vs a yacht tender.

A yacht tender is a dinghy that is used for transportation to shore. It must row well, take a small outboard motor and have a simple sailing rig. We had no intentions of getting rid of our 11 foot Highfield dinghy with 20 HP Mercury motor. Velocette was designed to be a sailing rocketship that would be easy to store on the cabin top. That criteria allowed it to be a minimalist design, not intended for rough water or heavy loads. The only cargo Velocette would carry would be a bottle of wine!

We discussed a hard chine design. A hard chine is a distinct corner or chine instead of a smooth-round hull shape. Hard chine allows more beam aft which helps the boat to plane. JF submitted several hard chine shapes but I didn't like the look of the hard chine going all the way to the bow. I wanted the hard chine to end at the mid-length with the bow shapes being smooth curves.

JF had to modify his Gene-hull program to make this work. He did!

Velocette design is not copyrighted in any way. Anyone should feel free to duplicate it. I can provide a lot of help if someone else wants to build one. I have the design sheets I will share with anyone interested. They are quite interesting to see but I can't post them to this blog. I'll try to attach to my FB page.
Vessel Name: Tumultuous Uproar
Vessel Make/Model: Beneteau 42s7
Hailing Port: Milwaukee, WI
Crew: Russ Whitford & Lisa Alberte plus Sophie our Jack Russell Terrier
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Uproar FULL ON in the North Channel! Picture by Rick Pask.
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