Swallow – My first boat was a Phil Bolger design called the Tortise from his Instant Boats book. A colleague had started to build one for his son and I liked the idea so I put one together for my daughter. Not a very advanced design but with its tyvek sails and offset mast and lee board it certainly attracted attention. It was six feet long and although great for my daughter who was about seven at the time it was a bit of a cramped fit for me. However, it was good for a laugh for the veranda crew a the Charlottetown Yacht Club. If nothing else it did prove that I could build something that would float. The boat still sits in my garden shed but hasn’t been in the water for more than a dozen years.
Nymph – The next boat was for me. Again I went to Phil Bolger for the design and built a Nymph design. It was my introduction to tack and tape, epoxy and fibreglass and as a learning experience it was great. As a boat it left much to be desired. With a flat bottom and two side planks and a lee board that had to be manually shifted from side to side every tack it was treacherous to say the least. Of course I often sailed it when I should have stayed at the dock and not infrequently had to sail into the shore and get in the lee of the land before I could tack and sail back. It wasn’t even a particularly good tender design as it was very tender. It too has the benefit of a tyvek sail. As I noted to my colleagues I could blow a sail and be back on the water after spending $7.32 at the local hardware store. If they blew a sail it was one hundred times the cost! I later sold the boat for the cost of materials.
Keltie – By this time I was crewing at the yacht club and decided it was time for a “real boat”. I discovered the Selway-Fisher catalogue and had ordered the stitch and glue building manual. Keltie was a 12 foot Highlander design with a truncated stem that in retrospect looked from the bow as if it was a boat that had lost a fight with a chain saw. This boat had real 1/4″ marine plywood, a gift of my father-in-law. The earlier ones had been cheap exterior fir plywood and I must say that the good stuff was a pleasure to work with.This one had a proper daggerboard and real sails. I found a sail maker in the eastern end of the province who ran up the sprit main for me. After a year I had learned that the boat required a little more to get around the tacks and added a small but mighty jib. I dry-sailed Keltie from the Charlottetown Yacht Club for several years with great satisfaction but it was really too small to be comfortable with another person aboard unless they were an experienced sailor. It was Keltie that precipitated my diversion into larger fibreglass boats. I had been musing about a larger craft – perhaps a 16′ Petite Brise – when my wife announced that she was fed up with sawdust in the living room carpet and throughout the house and that if I wanted a bigger boat then I should just buy one….. so I did. Keltie was sold to help cover the cost of a Nordica 16.
Chaser – In 2010 I was browsing the internet for boat plans and found the free plans at the Portuguese Dinghy site. http://koti.kapsi.fi/hvartial/dinghy1/simboii.htm I liked the perky upturned bow and the fact that the boat could be built from 1 1/2 sheets of plywood. My brother was looking for a tender for his boat at the time and I proposed that I could build two boats from three sheets of wood. The Portuguese Dinghy came it two models – 6 foot and 8 foot. Since my 16 foot Nordica would look a little silly with an 8 foot tender I opted for the shorter length and built the larger model for my brother. The design was as simple as it can be and the biggest problem was bending the plywood and the gunwales around the rather extreme curves – especially in the 6 foot model. It took all my clamps to get things into place and I snapped a couple of gunwales in the process.
After completion we decided to move the boats to another site for painting. Nesting the boats into my brother’s pick-up I suggested tieing them down. No need, was the reply, we were only going a few miles. Half way there I looked out the back window and saw the smaller boat sailing off into the roadway. I imagined the worst but aside from a cracked gunwale there were only scratches and after a liberal application of epoxy and some aggressive re-clamping everything was back to where we had been at the beginning of the truck ride. Tough little boat. I finished the painting at home. In the spirit of nautical bad puns the boat was named “Chaser” to go with my Nordica 16 – Strait Rhumb with Chaser.
There was only one little problem with Chaser. It was a great boat if you were a double amputee. Try as I might the only way I could row the thing was to have my knees up above my ears because there just wasn’t enough leg room. If I slid forward the nose went down and although wide at the middle the taper to the bow was so sharp that stability forward was compromised. It would be a fun boat for kids but not for a 200 lb 6 foot man. Chaser will be on the market this spring.