Tag Archives: stitch and glue

A boat for winter’s dreaming

Over the last few years I have indulged in a semi-annual winter project of building a dinghy in my basement.  Lacking a garage I have been limited to what I can get up the basement stairs and so my builds have been modest in scale. Those who have followed this site have seen my step-by-step adventures with constructing a 7 1/2 foot Greenshank pram as a tender for my Halman 20, Ebony, and an 11 foot Medway skiff for rowing.  Both were from plans from Paul Fisher of Selway-Fisher design whose website of boat plans is a delight for dreamers.   His boats are both buildable and sailable for those of us with modest skills in both areas.


Westray 9 – Selway-Fisher Design

He has recently posted a new plan for a 9 foot sailing dinghy which I like very much.  The plan is actually an old one as he drew it some years ago for a boat-building company which is no longer with us and he has just added the plan to his extensive catalogue.

It is called the Westray 9 and has a 4-plank stitch and glue construction and a very “boaty” shape. At the same width, and about 1 1/2 feet longer than my Greenshank pram, it probably has about the same carrying capacity but with a pointed stem which would make for easier rowing.

What is of more interest to me is the fact that the increased length leaves lots of room for an un-stayed gaff rig mounted in the bow in the catboat style.  The plans also give the sail plan for a balanced lug sail. The idea of a “gaffer” is quite appealing as it would give me a few extra strings to pull and is a very traditional rig not usually associated with a boat this small. Paul has also indicated he could supply design for a gunter rig if desired. The design has variations for either a drop centre board (as shown in the sketch) or a dagger board.


Sailing Today April 1998 p.18

The design was produced commercially in fibreglass for a few years in the late 1990s and received a very  favourable review in the English yachting magazine Sailing Today.  The review gave the sailing dinghy its highest marks 5/5 and noted “she sails well and rows exceptionable well.”

Much as I like rowing, the idea of having a small sail to set when the wind is right is very appealing. There are a number of rivers on the Island blocked from access by sailboats owing to low bridges and the idea of having to row the 15 or so miles up the Hillsborough River is a challenge for me. But to be able to set a sail for the same day-trip has merit.  Add to the fact that I can throw it on a trailer and take it to places difficult to access with the Halman 20.


Photo courtesy Paul Fisher

Although unlikely to be built this spring (I would have to dispose of at least one of the boats in the existing fleet first) the Westray 9 is my current dream dinghy.  Today, with snow up to the window sills and one dinghy buried beneath the snow and another tucked up a shed dreaming is about all that can be done.

Winter is a dangerous time for sailors and it has become even more so since the internet made it easy to find “things.” It used to be that the greatest danger was the boat show where vendors would prey on the vulnerable water-starved yachtsmen to provide all sorts of “essentials” which would render the upcoming season both easier and more pleasurable. Now the assault on our spirits and wallets is unrelenting. For builders, web sites with boat plans hold the same threat.   However there are no drawbacks to dreaming. Even if I never build a Westray I have already spent profitable hours aboard her gazing up as the gentle breeze tugs on the sail and imagining a summer’s day on the West River.

Adding colour to the mix

I have had a litre of Interlux Brightside Sea Green paint sitting on the shelf for a couple of weeks now and have resisted the temptation to crack the tin open. Yesterday the wait was over. I had given up on any hope of perfection in the sanding and fairing. The perfect is the enemy of the good and good is the enemy of the good enough! A couple of coats of primer or pre-coat and a final sanding and I was ready. Taping off the gunwales to protect from the guaranteed drips I approached the hull.

IMG_3704 What a pleasure it is to get a glimpse of what the boat will finally look like. After mucking about with ratty old brushes which leave bits of foam or stray bristles that have to be picked off the surface (and are not infrequently missed until the next coat is applied) I dusted off my 4 inch roller and laid a thin coat on. Good paint is a pleasure to work with. It goes on smooth, doesn’t run, covers well dries in the time advertised. By this morning the finish, mottled and un-even, was ready for the second coat. A matter of minutes and the true colour emerges. Yes there are imperfections but no-one is going to look as closely as I do. I know where the bodies are buried: the little dimple of the filled stitching hole not quite flush, the little bubble in the epoxy, the stray fibreglass filament which escaped sanding. The second coat will be allowed to dry for two days and then a 220 grit sanding and the final coat of Sea Green. By then I hope that the interior paint (not Interlux) will have finally dried – after a week!



Rowers may now be seated


A lot has come together in the last day or so. Most of the egregious bumps and holes and spatters of epoxy have been sanded to a low-level of irritation and have been rendered less noticeable with several coats of primer paint (left-over house paint). Because I am slapping on the paint at this time I have used those cheap foam disposable brushes and you certainly get what you pay for. Each one is good for about one coat before it starts leaving little bits of foam all through the finish and has to be disposed of.

I have trial fitted the seat but not yet epoxied it in place. The plan suggests a plywood seat well braced beneath but I like the feel of a solid plank. It is a little wider than called for in the plan but I think it will fit me quite nicely. The rower’s seat will probably be the only one but I am considering a stern seat that can be slid in and out when needed and otherwise left ashore.

IMG_3690The bigger job was the sealing down of the compartments by fitting the deck. As can be seen from the number of clamps used the plywood did not take kindly to being wrapped around the curved bulkheads. As I noted earlier the foredeck had to be fabricated from two scrap pieces as I had previously snapped the last large bit of plywood in the shop. I have been generous, to say the least, with the epoxy and have probably marred the finish with a number of screw-holes but I have a fear that when I release the clamps tomorrow the decks will re-assume their natural flat shape with a loud twang.

Next tasks – epoxy the seat in place, a final sanding of the primer coats to remove the residue of foam brush and then the first of the interior painting. I have chosen a nice cream colour which should work well with the sea green of the hull.