caledonia yawl project: spar building part III

This week we brought all the spars back to the shed to free up the loaned woodshop and start gluing.

I had to set up the cradle and cut the taper


Lots of planing with the jack plane to get each stave tapered.


But with a sharp blade it is a pleasure to work with quiet hand tools. I think it is my favourite part of the build when I am able to just get in the groove with the hand tools.

Caledonia Yawl Project: Spars part II

After a short hiatus in June due to a heavy workload with spar building partner, we took a couple days off to do a final big push in the workshop to cut all the staves for the hollow eight sided birdsmouth masts.

2×6 by 20′ sitka spruce we cut down to make the staves

Each stave was 15mm by 32mm for the Caledonia yawl mast. my friends’ masts are a little bit smaller and his were 14mm by 29mm.


All the Sitka Spruce stock was excellent in the pieces we used to cut the staves. Unfortunately with 15mm width, could not get eight pieces from the one good 2×6 I’d reserved for the mast. I had to scarf together the eight piece from other stock that had some knots or other imperfections. Fortunately small diameter Sitka Spruce was easy to plane into the scarfs with the long jointer plane.


The next step was to set up the router table with the birdsmouth 45 degree router bit. Since we are routing 20′ long sections we set up a feather board on each side of the router and a fence on top as well to hold it in place. Such long skinny pieces have a lot of flexibility and wobble if they are not held down against the fence.

Once we had it all set up we made quick work of it and produced quite a bit of sawdust. Fortunately the woodshop had an excellent dust collection system.


The final product looks great. The final step is to cut the taper in each one so that the mast can have it’s appropriate taper.

Caledonia Yawl Project: Un-shedding the boat

This weekend was the fathers day weekend and south of the border the Junteenth. Although not planned this way it was a good weekend to get the boat out of the shed.

After more than 800 hours of building on evenings and weekends in 2-4 hour blocks. I’d been waiting since October for the COVID restrictions to be relaxed to the point where I could invite 7 or 8 friends to help me lift the boat up and onto the trailer. An extra challenge was that in the intervening 5 years a fig tree had grown to block the way a little.

Un-sheding the Caledonia Yawl

Big thanks to all my friends and family who have helped me to get to this point. It is not without their support that I have the privilege of being able to take on a project like this.

After the big effort and onto the trailer
A view from the stern for the first time
On the trailer and ready to roll
In its new home at the sailing centre

Caledonia Yawl Project: Spars, Spars and more Spars

I am pleased to say that I’ve finally reached what I think is the final big project standing between making this boat ready to launch. My friend Patrice has a Penobscot 17 hull that he purchased a few years ago that had only been used for rowing and also needs spars to unlock it’s full potential. So we are teaming up to build all the spars at once. In his case it will be the schooner rig with standing lug sails. While in my case it is the Gunter Yawl rig. In the fall of 2019 I was able to have two 20′ long beams of sitka spruce milled down into rough sawn 2×12″ pieces in Maple Ridge. It is not an easy wood to procure and until I found this supply I was ready to use douglas fir or even consider using carbon fiber spars. But now that I have it I am pleased to have this beautiful wood.

lots of sitka spruce

What do we have to build? For the Caledonia Yawl:

  • 1 birdsmouth construction main mast
  • 1 main boom (solid)
  • 1 main yard (solid)
  • 1 mizzen mast (solid)
  • 1 boomkin (solid)
  • 1 sprit boom (solid)

For the Penobscot:

  • 2 masts (birdsmouth)
  • 2 yards (solid)
  • 2 booms (solid)
checking for checks in the wood and mapping around the knots that exist.

Fortunately we’ve been given access to Patrice’s friends wood shop for this step. So we have access to excellent equipment in particular a skookum table saw, thickness planer/jointer and solid router table.


More to come soon as we dive into all the cuts and glue up the spar. We are starting with all the solid spars first as they are easier glue ups and smaller pieces. Once those are done, we’ll then tackle cutting all the staves for the three birdsmouth spars we are building.

Caledonia Yawl Project: winter tinkering

My plan had been to un-shed the boat last October and get working on the spars through the winter. However just as I had a boat lifting party set up to carry it onto a trailer and down to the sailing centre the COVID protocols changed and in keeping with the prudence asked of us I delayed this to the spring when hopefully we will have some relaxations. Here in BC that is looking less like early spring and more like late spring now.

In my last post I shared how I’m getting all the rigging materials and systems ready in anticipation of the masts being completed. To that end I’ve also decided to try my hand at making a hybrid modern rope (dyneema) stropped blocks. I was inspired by the Robert Shetterly’s beautiful illustrations in Brion Toss’ “The Rigger’s apprentice” drawing on page 22 of the book.


I though why not do this but just a little smaller and lighter with modern ropes for a large dinghy like the Caledonia Yawl? My ambition is to do two fiddle blocks for the main sheet, a block for the jib halyard and possibly two blocks for the jib sheet leads and a block for the mizzen sheet.


My first activity was to make copper thimbles using 3/4″ copper pipe cut down to 15mm widths and then heated up with a blow torch and two ball peen hammers. Which I adapted from the blog post by Shady Island pirates

This technique using three successive sizes of ball bearings also looks great, it appears to be better to create a more even curve to the flare of the thimble:

So far it is going reasonably well.


I’ve also found a set of brass rods to use as the pivot for the delrin sheaves.


I then glued up the blocks out of 12mm thick reclaimed cherry wood I’ve been milling from pieced of a trunk I collected in the neighbourhood a few years ago.


Then drilling the 5/16 th hole for the axle.


Then cut and round out the edges of the blocks


And finally round over the edges with a 1/4 round router bit.


The final steps will be to further shape the blocks to allow the rope strop to be seated properly as well as removing a little more wood to make the block as light as possible.


I’m hopeful that once completed with the strop and thimble and all oiled up they will look really sharp and give the boat an even saltier look that is true to the hybrid nature of an epoxy plywood construction that blends the old and new of wooden boat building.

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.

Projects, images, and ideas for my little piece of the internet