Friday, February 27, 2009

Winter Bateau

Well, I was waiting for this boat to be finished before unveiling it. But it's just taking too long! For anyone who's built a boat, you know what it means when I say I'm tired of looking at this thing!

At the right the boat side panels (a single plank) are laid out.

Other builders may disagree with me, I'm not the most scientific or mathematical builder. Most of the shape of the finished product is a subjective "how does it look?" process. (There is no substitute for the mathematical description from a plan, don't get me wrong - it can and will be internalised so it's not a conscious process, however.) Work for a couple days and take some pictures, pour yourself a drink and look hard. This view, that perspective. How will it sit in the water? Early on, the final paint scheme comes as an epiphany.
So, though this boat has been a process (the plans were discarded long ago), the actual boat has been visible for quite some time.

This bateau began as the Peace Canoe as detailed by John C. Harris (owner of Chesapeake Light Craft) in Wooden Boat magazine, "Getting Started in Boats", issues #195 and 196, March through June 2007.

So, what I want to describe here is how a new boat design evolves. Often a designer will sit down with a set of parameters from a client (if the client is yourself, so much the better!) and brainstorm about what boats that are built that may be similar.
In this case, the Peace Canoe was chosen for it's simplicity and functionality. It turned out that it was also an appealing and attractive vessel. (This may be a prototype for a boat show demonstration later this spring on beginning boat building techniques).
The design is ages old and adapted from the old hunting and fishing pirogues. These simple boats have been used for duck hunting, fishing in the old slough, and even harvesting rice in the Old South. Similar to a dory (what a surprise!) the flat bottom allows for exploration in shallow back waters unnavigable by other deeper draft boats. The difference between a bateau or a pirogue and the dory types is the low freeboard and nearly flat bottom (the dory has a substantial rocker suited for cresting breaking seas). Thus, the bateau is a calm water boat, though don't imagine that she can't handle a little weather!

John Harris has this to say about his design:
"Call it a canoe, a pirogue, a bateau, or whatever you like---the Peace Canoe is good basic transportation that you can build at home"

On the right, the side panels are attached to the stem and bent around a single "mold", it's that simple!

The plans for the Peace Canoe are for a double ended eighteen footer. I realized right away that I could save quite a bit of cash if the boat was made from two sheets of eight foot plywood, so the finished boat is 15'-8". In all, reducing the size saved a sheet and a half of marine grade mahogany plywood. All said, that translates to three and a half sheets instead of five. That's a thirty percent savings and with the price of marine grade material -- well, you get the idea!

So, the first design change is that instead of an eighteen foot boat, we have just under sixteen. All other dimensions need to be extrapolated to correspond to this new parameter.

The Peace Canoe was designed to use fir plywood and fir scantlings. With it's dramatic shear, the fir is bent to about it's maximum stress in the shear guards and chine logs. I decided early on that I would use mahogany plywood and I have some very nice Oboto mahogany from Africa that just begged to be used for shear guards, thwarts and chine logs. You might guess by now that the bateau will be finished bright.

The chine logs and shearguards are attached to the side panels or planks before they are stressed into shape. (In every other boat I've built those components are added to the boat in its formed shape).
I found that since the mahogany is less supple than the specified fir, bending the panels was very difficult, in fact two of my carefully made splices broke during this process (a very frustrating event as you might imagine), so the second design change is that my bateau is six inches narrower than the Peace Canoe and, as you can see from the pictures, (a third design change) the double ender now has a tombstone transom (see picture above). These changes were dictated by the material used, a very, very old, time tested method of design/ build. At this point the boat we are building bears a significant departure from the original plans and can almost qualify as a new design of it's own.

After installing the thwarts, the boat is then turned over and the bottom traced, cut and fitted. Note that the center thwart is a sealed flotation chamber, another design change. The original plan called for solid foam glued to the underside of the thwart, but I can't bring myself to buy that stuff, it's showing up on every beach in the world!

From here on out, all bets are off. With abandon (this is the fun part!), finish details are adopted on the spot. Maybe that's why a boat that is advertised as a weekend build has taken a month! Right now I can't tell if it's the success I want it to be. (Disclaimer: It's never good enough! But I've learned to live with my fussy nature.) It's a good looking boat and will suit my needs as a tender for Mistral, but as for it's seaworthiness, or whether it will turn heads at the boat shows, only time will tell.

And you will be the first to know.

The (mostly) finished bateau.
Thanks for visiting!


Mary said...

Almost done! Lookin' good! Can't wait to take her out for a row ;-)

Michael Bogoger said...

We'll put her in the water at the Depoe Bay Wooden Boat Show and see how she does. That gives me six weeks to get some varnish on 'er.