Monday, May 21, 2012

And so it begins...

Well, I have taken the leap and gone from cabinetmaker to boat builder. Give me strength...

 This blog will be a random document of my attempt to build a design by John Milgate called the "West Mersea Duck Punt." The Duck Punt is a sailboat just shy of 16' that you lie down in and sail with your feet kicked over the side in water as shallow as a few inches. No keel, no dagger board, no lee board, just a hard chine and a canoe paddle for steering and lateral resistance. Pure, simple, and fun! The boat uses an Optimist rig which is a basic sprit sail with surprising performance, especially in light air which is the limitation in a boat of this design.
I was first introduced to this boat by Dylan Winter's incredible website "Keep Turning Left" and if you have not been to his site, you should go right now and stop wasting time reading my ramblings. He has a whole section describing his experience building and sailing a Duck Punt with lots of videos and the actual plans to build one if you want to share my adventure. There is also a site devoted to these boats at which they describe as "Sailing so chilled the sailors lie down." Watching these guys cruise through the marshes in inches of water sealed it for me and I knew I had to build one. My experience with woodworking is much different and has centered around furniture and cabinet making ( so boat building is completely new and different, and so far really fun! I also have to thank Stan Richards in California for his encouragement and advice after building his own Punt recently.

Things began with needing to find a space to build a boat. After searching for a while, I finally decided to do it out in our courtyard. We live in a converted elementary school/artist community called "Artwood" so using space outside proved to be no problem. This is the space before converting to boat building.

Of course a boat builder needs tools to work and I like really nice tools, so...get out the wallet and empty it on the finest. Festool! A new jig saw and a new plunge/track saw. This boat is getting expensive and I haven't even bought any wood yet!!!

What is a sailboat without a sail? The Punt uses a common rig from an Optimist so I ordered one from Intensity Sails. The spars arrived right away as you can see, the sail is a 4 to 6 week wait. Probably fine since I imagine the Punt will take that long to build anyway.

Well, you can't build a boat without wood! I finally went to the big box store and bought 3 16' 2X4's. These will be used to make the jig the Punt is built upon.

Here is the space after cleaning things up enough to have room to work. The miter saw is not in following my "best tools" philosophy but I got it free so I will make do.

Wow, I finally built something! I made the disgusting discovery that 2X4's are not in the least bit straight, even after picking the best in the pile. Hmph! The things you have to learn to accept as a cabinet maker building a boat.
Woe is me.

Finally! I bought some material that is actually going to be part of the boat! And let me tell you...marine plywood is expen$ive! With the variety of choices available, I decided to use Hydratek. Middle of the price range, durable, and a little heavier. (We'll see if I regret that later.) Below you can see the layout for the frames the boat will be built on. I decided to use the same frames for the building jig as well as for inside the boat.

Let's cut some plywood and give these new tools some action! Roughing out the frames is the first step. That jig saw is just fantastic!

Now we trim them to final size with the track saw. If it is possible to fall in love with a saw, I did.

The next step after moving the jig onto saw horses is to level it with a laser level. Then, attach the frames to the jig, making sure they are dead level, square, and in perfect reference to each other. This is harder than it sounds with 2X4's that are not straight. Success was achieved with that laser which is turning out to be a very useful tool.

I am really having fun teaching myself how to be a boat builder. More to come, stay tuned!


  1. All right Randy, looking great! This will be fun to watch. I see you are a true craftsman with the purchase of the Festool tools. As you already know these are great tools.

  2. Looking good. I hope to build one soon here in East Tennessee.