This blog is devoted to my John Welsford designed 15' Navigator yawl Ellie. I built her in my garage over a period of 18 months and launched her in 2011. She sports a sliding gunter main, roller furled jib and sprit-boomed mizzen. Her construction is glued-lapstrake over permanent bulkheads and stringers. This blog is a record of her construction and her voyages here in the Puget Sound area and (hopefully) a useful resource for fellow Navigator builders.

Monday, February 28, 2011


I sometimes wonder how many people dream of building a boat, but never realize their dream because they are intimidated by various aspects of the project.  They may wonder if they will be able to acquire the necessary skills.  Or they may wonder if they have the perseverance to see the project through, or perhaps worry that the costs might escalate out of control.

I would venture to say that everyone has these doubts.  I certainly have.  But one of the many lessons I have learned is that boatbuilding is simply a series of small jobs, and each of these jobs is usually easier to accomplish than you think.  In fact most of them leave you wondering why you even fretted in the first place.

For example, let's consider the job of rolling a Navigator over.  This is one of those jobs that really intimidated me.  How many people would I need?  Four?  Six?  More? Do I need blocks and tackle? Should I build some sort of rolling cage?  What if we drop the boat?  Would someome get injured?

Let's find out...

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Hull Paint

The best way to finish a boat is to apply as many coats of paint as you can afford.  So far I have applied close to a half gallon of paint to the hull (5 coats).  I'm going to keep applying paint until I run out. That should be about 12 coats at this rate. That should suffice.

Religion, politics, and boat paint are the top three most controversial subjects in the known universe.  I spent months reading what everyone had to say on the subject. There are a dizzying array of paints available, all with their own sets of pro's and con's.  Every type of paint has its proponents and critics. In the end, I decided to go with Porch and Floor enamel. Porch and Floor enamel is the one paint that most people seem to agree, (more or less),  is a perfectly fine paint to use on a boat.

On my last build I used Interlux Brightside.  Brightside is terrific paint.  I was very pleased with the results. It goes on smooth, levels very nicely, covers well, dries hard, but it's somewhat expensive.
I read numerous times that Porch and Floor enamel is essentially the same thing as Brightside at a fraction of the cost.  John Welsford also recommends alkyd (oil-based) enamel paints.  So I decided to give it a go. Remember, the best way to finish a boat is to apply as many coats of paint as you can afford.

Interlux Brightside paint is a polyurethane alkyd enamel that costs about $110/gal at the local West Marine.
Ace Porch & Floor paint is a polyurethane alkyd enamel that costs $27/gal at the local Ace Hardware.

After using both, I honestly can't tell the difference.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Lovely Wooden Blocks

Quite a while ago I decided that I wanted Lovely Wooden Blocks on my Navigator.  I finally got around to estimating how many I would need.  The tally came to 4 single blocks and 12 double blocks (give or take). I spent many hours searching the web but couldn't find blocks that I liked.  The style of block that I really like were the ones I saw last fall at a Port Townsend chandlery.  Problem is the price was $80 & $100 each for the single and doubles.  I'll save you the trouble of doing the math. It's over $1,500.  Call me cheap if you like, but I'd rather make them myself for next to nothing, thank you very much.

The photo above is that of the first two prototypes. Total cost was under $2 each. The materials are scraps of mahogany, maple, plywood, and some brass.

They are still a work in progress. I will post plans, photos, and instructions on how to make them in a future post.  NEWSFLASH:  The guide is now available. Click here.

Progress report on the hull

The hull has been turned over, fiberglassed, has the stem and skeg installed, and has three coats of epoxy applied.

Unfortunately I didn't take any photos of the hull turning or fiberglassing. To turn the hull, we propped the boat up on some sawhorses, disassembled and removed the building jig, and lowered the boat to the floor. We laid some foam padding under the boat amidships, rolled her onto her side, slid her over and rolled her onto her back. Then propped her up onto sawhorses again.

After a bit of filling and sanding, the chines were glassed with two strips of fiberglass tape. Then 6oz fiberglass cloth was applied up to the first lap.

All of this work went quite smoothly.  The stem, however, didn't.

The stem

I choose to use white oak for the stem, centerboard guard & skeg combo (the keel).  The plans show the keel ending at the forefoot and the stem is simply rounded off and fiberglassed over. This would have been way too easy.  No, I choose to add a stem of white oak as well.  To do this I had to bend the oak 90 degrees at the forefoot.

Attempt #1

For my first attempt, I decided to rip the oak into 1/4" strips and laminate them directly on the boat. First, I covered the boat with packing tape to prevent the stem from sticking. I read somewhere that epoxy did not stick very well to white oak and that Gorilla Glue worked better, so I used that. I was able to bend the 1/4" oak strips without steaming. So I moistened the strips (both sides), applied the glue, bent them and screwed them in place.  I allowed it to dry for a couple days. When I attempted to remove the stem I discovered that I could not get the screws out. I broke the screws trying to remove them. Even worse, after I finally got the stem off, I was shocked to discover that the Gorilla Glue did not stick to the oak at all.  I was able to pull apart the laminations with my bare hands!  The glue dried to the consistency of styrofoam and was about as strong.  Stem #1 went into the firewood bin.

Attempt #2

For my second attempt, I thought I'd try building a jig and steam bending the oak in one piece so I wouldn't have to worry about the integrity of the glue laminations.  After steaming the 1x4x10' oak for an hour, I was able to bend it on the form fairly easily. I let it dry for a couple days but when I removed it from the form and fit it onto the boat, it did not fit very well. The oak was too thick and too stiff to follow the contours of the form closely enough. There were unacceptably large gaps between the stem and the hull.  I tried to re-steam and re-bend the piece twice more but it eventually broke in two.  Another stem went into the firewood bin.

Attempt #3

Having now learned three lessons the hard way I combined them. I cut the third stem into 1/4" strips for lamination, formed them on the boat, and used epoxy. Success at last!