All posts by Gwendal

caledonia yawl project: late fall tinkering

COVID has meant that the big move out of the boat is delayed. But I don’t want to lose momentum. So I’ve started to think about the rigging in anticipation of getting started on the spars in the spring.

I’ve decided that with the new Dyneema materials it is a nice way to simplify the rigging and keep it light and strong. So I ordered some materials and a splicing tool to start practising my splicing and work through what I want to do.


I started with 4mm per-stretched heat treated Marlow Dyneema line that I’ve made into a few soft shackles and a strop.


I was also inspired by the article in the latest issue of Wooden Boat magazine #277 by Harry Bryan on a more accurate spar guage.

Wooden Boat Magazine #277

as it turns out that is my next upcoming task. So I set to work with a few pieces of my reclaimed cherry wood and the prescribed parts for making the tool.

Spar guage with urban reclaimed cherry wood
3/8″ machine screws that are now heavily modified
Not yet quite as pretty as Harry’s example but with a litle finish work it will get there.

I’ve also ordered a few sheaves with the idea of making a modern composite wood rope stropped fiddle blocks for the mainsheet with Dyneema for the strops. If my idea succeeds they will be light and look at home on the Caledonia Yawl. This was inspired by the illustration for rope stropped blocks in Brion Toss’ Riggers Apprentice book.

Delrin sheaves on reclaimed urban cherry wood

The cheeks for the moment are 1/2″ reclaimed cherry wood that is hard and easy to work with. All I’m missing at the moment is the rod for the bearing of the sheaves. The strops will be made of 6mm Dyneema.

6mm Sampson Blue Dyneema for making the blocks

I’ve also have to make or find some thimbles to complete the block ends.

caledonia yawl project: fall projects

I was ready to push to have the boat out of the shed this fall. So September started well with the finis of the painting of the ruder, centreboard and hatches.


and the hull


I then tackled putting Deks Olje on the benches

six coats of Deks Olje

And similarly cover the floors as well with Deks Olje


Because I had it drying overnight outside I found out I had the visit of some raccoons while I was away.


Finally putting all of it back into the boat started to feel really good. Although it takes a bit longer than I imagined.


The rudder and the Norwegian tiller also looked nice all glossy with the Deks Olje.


Then as fall wore on and I felt I was getting close to being ready to transferring the boat to the trailer I started to finish the sunbrella storage cover.


I added shafing panels and instead of grommets along the periphery I used E-Z Lace Supreme Webbing which can be stitched on and is much simpler an more versatile than grommets.

I then built a frame to tent the cover and protect the boat from rain.


I also bedded the chocks and the cleats I made out of reclaimed cherry wood.


And set up all the toggles to hold down the floorboards that make them removable to access the plugs and possibly to store some water or sand balast below.


Finally I stitched together a dozen sand bags to weigh down the edges of the cover so that I don’t have to rely on straps as much to keep a constant tension when the boat is in storage.


And then just as I called a bunch of friends to help me lift the boat onto the trailer and make room for the spar making… New COVID-19 restrictions came into force and I had to call it off. I’ll have to wait a little longer to get it out closer to the water in the boat yard.

caledonia yawl project: summer detailing

I’ve been moving along motivated to complete the boat in 2020. As things are with projects like this the desire to call things “good enough” is tempered with the awareness is that a “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”. For example spending the time to drill the screw holes oversized and then fill them with thickened epoxy and then re-drill them to the appropriate size again.

We’ve tested the Norwegian tiller and report that it appears satisfactory

I also finished shaping the chocks out of reclaimed local cherry wood I’d been seasoning.


The next step was doing things I’ve been putting off as they are simply put dramatic. Cutting the hole in the motor well was one of those things I considered not doing until I actually bought a motor. But it would have then become a space that collects water and it would be harder to do well once out of the shop. So I made the call modelling my hole on the space needed for a Torqueedo 1003CL which is the motor I’d like to be able to use. The electric motor takes up much more room than the gas motors so I figure it will be plenty large if for some reason I decide to use a four-stroke engine instead of electric. I used a small drill bit to get started and then finished with a small keyhole pull saw which worked very well.


I was then ready to star pulling out the protective coverings. Starting with all the surfaces that will get the Deks Olje. The idea being that if I go over with paint later, It will be easier to wipe clean rather than when it seeps into the pores of fresh wood.


I also created the plug for the motor well that fits onto a backing plate and will keep the hull flush and fast when sailing.


I then tackled the interior of the hull. Removing all the floor boards, thwarts and benches.

Priming felt amazing, I really felt I was reaching a milestone.

Before painting the foils and the hatch covers, I did a final fitting of the centreboard in the boat. I had been satisfied the last time I tested it. But today I found that mostly due to the way I had finished the tip with a generous extra roundover of expoxy, it was a little too long. So I cut off the tip and removed a 7mm strip.

Small strip of centreboard removed. Shows good shape and construction method.

I then reglued the tip to the centreboard. This shortens it by just shy of a cm and also provides a protective water break in the centreboard. That way if by chance I nick the tip on a submerged object, it won’t wick up the cedar grain that is at the core of the centreboard and rot.

primer on the rudder head, hatch covers, centreboard and rudder

I had chosen the teal colour I used below the waterline to be used in the interior as well because I really like the contrast with the colour of varnished wood. Thought while applying the alkyd enamel up close I started to wonder if it is too punchy. I’ll finish applying the first coat to the whole boat and remind myself that the benches, thwarts and floorboards will obscure a lot of what is currently visible.

Caledonia Yawl Project: fitting out the interior

The fitting out of the interior to get it ready for painting continues. I’ve been adding all the fittings to make it possible to have removable floors.

Adding a cleat to the bulkhead to hold the bow floors down
all glued up.

Adding little wedges to finish the bow inner and outer stem pieces.


Cutting out the reclaimed cherry to make the boomkin brace


And then deciding whether to place it at the bulkhead or further back? to interfere less with the motor well.


Then I tackled the bow chocks out of pieces of cheery from the neighbourhood that I had been seasoning for a while.


This was a very satisfying sculpting of wood. The cherry is hard but quite nice to work with.


I’ve also built a backing plate for the motor well to have something to glue the piece of hull I will cut out to so that when sailing we can still have a nice smooth hull.


The next step that has been slow going but necessary work is creating the hold-down tabs for the floors.


I’m using leftover brass keel strip 1/2 rounds and small pieces of reclaimed mahogany as risers.


I had to glue a couple extra pieces to the floors to allow for the adequate spacing of the hold-down cleats.


I’ve also been spending extra time drilling oversized holes for the screws and then filling them with epoxy into which I will then set the screws. This will help prevent moisture entering the wood through the screw holes. I think this is especially important on all the horizontal surfaces where rain water might trickle down.


I’ve also shaped the tiller arm


And cut the mortise in the rudder head


It took a while but eventually it all fit nice and snugly.


I even did the little wedge out of a small piece of mahogany


The eye for the eventual reaching sail is now attached to the bow.


I’ve also started on a pair of chocks for the stern. They will allow for stern tying to the beach or a shoreline and to tie the boat to a dock.


Now i’m all caught up. with the last month and a half of work on the boat. I’m motivated to get done before summer gets underway. Once the floor cleat risers are glued. I’ll be ready to start prepping the hull for painting. I’ll start with doing all the parts that will have Decks Olje. The gunwhales, the mahogany trim and the cherry chocks. The rest will all be painted teal or white.

Caledonia yawl project: the floors, odds & ends

The cross country ski season has come to an abrupt stop with the closure of the local mountain trails due to the Covid-19 pandemic. It is unfortunate as March has seen considerable new snow and what I imagine is great conditions. That said it is imperative to self isolate and maintain physical distancing to control the spread of the virus.

My adaptation in Vancouver to stay active is to make a small investment in roller skis to keep the technique sharp and to do much more running. Now that we are working from home, I’ve replaced my bike commute time with morning runs. It helps to create a sense of separation from the home and the work even though they are take place in the same place now. In reality it is a struggle to discern what time is for what. Is it homeschooling hour? work hour? personal development and reading or the general tending to domestic needs?

With all that I’m endeavouring to find moments to return to the boat which is providing as always a place and time of quiet meditation, applied problem solving and creative output.

Here is a rundown of the discrete projects I’ve tackled on the boat.

Building the mizzen mast collar on the aft deck.

Collar cut out of two pieces of 9mm okoume plywood
Glued down with a groove between the two pieces to enable a mast boot to be connected.

The next item was the boomkin brace or hole that goes though the sheer strake. This is one of the scary items where positioning and aligning is important to that the boomkin end is aligned with the centerline to sheed the mizzen sail. The other consideration is the rudder head and making sure there is no impeding the rudder swing (a good reason to do the rudder earlier in the build process)

I got a 1′ long drill bit for the hole saw to help with alignment and cutting on an angle.

and away we go.


The angle is sharp enough that I had to cut from both sides.


I then cut the remaining tabs with a needle width pull saw. Then I reproduced the angle of the cut on a piece of 1″ thick mahogany board.


which I then cut out as a frame for the brace and cut that in half (delicate operation with a pull saw) to be able to have the frame on each side of the hole.


This was a challenging glue up shape the clamps just did not work. So in the end I used small 3/4″ copper ring nails to hold it down during the glue up. I like the look of it so they will remain in place.


I also took a leap and cut the shape of the bow and stern stems. I’d been holding off as I’d waffled on having a more flat profile or the curved profile Ian Oughtred also puts in the plans.


I’ve decided on the curved profile and I’ll add this bronze bow eye that will be used for as a secondary forestay location or to attached an eventual jennecker. The normal pad eye for the foresday will be just behind the the bow brace on the deck.


And the stern stem cut to rough shape


That is the first part of this COVID-19 boatshop isolation chronicle.

Caledonia yawl project: deck hatches

The winter has been full of distractions, but I’m trying to keep the momentum going. Since getting the Sitka spruce I’ve been focused on finishing the hatches on the bow and stern. It is one of the few things left before I can paint the inside of the hull.


I decided to give the deck a frame that is proud by just 1.5cm


I built up the hatch covers in three parts. An inner frame, a cover and an outer frame.








Caledonia yawl project: shopping for Sitka spruce

Sitka spruce is the preferred wood for spars, due to its excellent strength to weight ratio. Unfortunately there are fewer and fewer people and industries seeking out the wood. This means that even a place like Vancouver in close proximity to the forests that are home to the wood with legendary properties, it is hard to come by.

I’d almost resigned myself to the second choice of using good vertical grain Douglas fir for the spars. It is a bit heavier but just as strong.

Until this weekend when I found a small lot of 20′ beams for sale in Maple ridge.


These are very nice quarter sawn pieces from good sized trees.


But they are 6″x12″ so I’ll have them mill it into smaller pieces that I can handle on the table saw and prepare for the birsamouth construction for the main mast. The other spars will be made of two pieces laminated together to reduce the chance of warping.



This summer was spent with 3 weeks away in France visiting family and friends. I was lucky enough to be able to get my fix of beautiful wooden boats in the port of Douarnenez.

Gluing the rowlock riser out of small pieces of reclaimed mahogany

I’ve been lucky enough to have a few weeks where I was able to devote several weekends and evenings to the boat building. Although my progress has not been as quick as I’d hoped. My desire was to be finished for the labour day long weekend. But there is still so many things to do and I quickly realized that I was not in any position to keep to that desired deadline.

Shaping the knees for the forward bulkhead

I shaped the forward and aft deck plywood to shape. It was tricky to scribe and cut just right. I was also pleased to see that the deck beams aligned nicely with fair curves.


I then epoxied the underside as preparation for gluing them down.


These are parts that will be hard to get to in the future. So I coated them in epoxy and painted them.

Taped the deckbeam and kingplank for painting so that later I can glue the plywood to that unpainted surface.
Primer in the front
primer in the back
The interior is all painted white to make it easier to see in the confined space.
The underside of the decks are painted before gluing.
testing out the location of the cleat and the padeye.
Gluing down the decks and clamping with a mix of screws and clamps where possible
My assistant made sure they still fit inside.

I did a nice fillet around the edge of the deck. The next step is to make the hatch covers. I will have a frame that protrudes so that water can’t seep through and into the bulkhead compartment. But Ideally it will be as low profile as possible. I’m thinking a 1cm fence on which the cover will rest. I think this will be preferable to a flush deck hatch which relies on a gasket to keep the water out.

Looking forward to painting the rest of the interior soon

Caledonia Yawl Project: fitting out the hatches

The progress is now something that is not prescribed in the plans drawn up by Ian Oughtred. It is true that a flush and clean decking with a minimum amount of fittings would be more water tight. But already I can see that the bulkhead access ports won’t really be sufficient to get full use of the bow and stern compartments. So I’ve decided to add hatches to the deck in the bow and the stern. To make this as water tights as possible I’ve created frames before I start laying down the deck.

Adjusting the rise of the kingplank on the bow to match the sheer strake lap with strake 6.

I also started fitting the decking make sure the kingplank and the deckbeams are flowing right. I found that the straight kingplank at the bow did not match the upward flow of the sheer strake. At first this scared me as it introduces a compound curve for the plywood decking. But in trying it out because the plywood is in two pieces and gets quite narrow at the bow it won’t be too hard to torture it to follow the curve.


Then I got to the framing of the hatch framing. You will notice that they are intentionally trapezoids. It just looked too weird when I mocked it up as square.


I then turned to the fitting of hardware. With the arrival of 4″ 5/16″ bronze bolts for the chainplates I got to work drilling the holes in the beautiful bronze castings from Classic Marine. (I bought them a while ago and feel like it was as we say in french “un petit caprice” especially now that I see the price of bronze has gone up further)

Drilling the chainplates

Once complete they are now ready to have the hull and frame drilled too.

Chainplate all ready to be fastened

The stern hatch frame was completed and a few other beams added to support the plywood decking for good measure as I know I will have children running up onto all surfaces of the boat.


The next steps involve fastening all the benches, thwarts and knees and then removing them before priming and painting the whole interior.

I will also go get some 1×4 of 1×6 cedar planks to use for the floor. My plan is to leave it unfinished as a sacrificial surface that I plan to leave raw.

Caledonia yawl project: winter progress

The winter has been productive but still requires working around cold days where it gets tricky to create conditions to be able to get the epoxy to cure.  This winter was also an active year with every sunday dedicated to coaching nordic skiing with the Hollyburn cross country club with my children.

Here is a summary of the activity this winter :


I bought sunbrella fabric at Dressew for the boat cover.


And over the Christmas break, with my friend Patrice we did a lot of sewing on his Sailrite sewing machine.



I finished carving the first set of eight cleats made of the reclaimed backyard cherry tree from a couple blocks away. I also used Deks Olje D1 and D2. They came out looking great and I look forward to installing them.


More Deks Olje on the centreboard well capping. This wood is reclaimed mahogany from door and window framing in Vancouver. It must be quite old, but looks fantastic.


I installed the aft deck beams and king plank. After struggling a little with the geometry of the bow, I had an easier time in the back… except that this time the deck beams land between the laps and so tracing the fair line for the edge of the aft deck was still a little challenging.


More Deks Olje on the centre thart. Also made of reclaimed mahogany.


Adding the extra bracing to the king plank to allow for a hole to be drilled for the mizzen mast. It is glued to the aft stem and to the aft deck  beam.


I had the foresight of ordering the sails over the winter when the sail lofts are maybe a little less busy than in the spring. I ended having them made from the local loft of Evolution Sails in East Vancouver. The bonus is their loft is right above Andina Brewing.  So far I’m really pleased with the way that they turned out. The real test will come when the get laced up to the spars for the first time.


Then to complete the aft compartment I installed the motor well.


This was a somewhat tricky to glue up and in the end looks pretty solid.  The only thing I’ve not done yet is cut out the hole out the bottom. That is going to be the weirdest part. I might have to put the boat on its side to do that because I can’t fit the jig-saw in from above.


My trusty assistant came in on one weekend to help with the surface preparations and testing out all the dimensions.



Then I had fun with cardboard templates trying to get the shape and geometry of the bench braces just right. It is tricky because you need the benches in place to know where the edges of the bench as well as the height of the bench.


I then returned to a half finished project that I had started earlier and carved out the rowlock risers from more off cuts of reclaimed mahogany. These will look really nice with the Deks Olje soon.



I struggled with the drain plug installation. Since the garboard planks are just 9mm (1/2″) there is not much wood for the screws to bite into. I thought of through bolting the bronze drain plugs but that is also problematic. So I finally took a few ends of 9mm marine plywood and made these risers that I then glued onto the garboard on the inside of the hull. The drain plugs will then be bedded and screwed on with #6 bronze 1/2 or 5/8 screws.


Finally a good Craigslist find, a new set of bronze oarlocks and the not yet installed leather ready for my as of yet not yet made oars.

My plan is to make them 11′ long with a scarfed coupling as described in Wooden Boat 229 by Harry Bryan for a sculling oar. I think that if it works it will allow me to have oars long enough for a boat with this wide a beam. By being able to separate the oars into a 5′ and a 6′ section, they will me much easier to stow and lash down below the benches. I’ve got some pieced of 1/2″ and 3/8″ half round brass keel rub strip that I think I can use for this.