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.

The Caledonia Yawl Project: mast steps and cleats

Before I start the aft bulkhead, I realized that I need to complete all the fittings that will be enclosed in there. That means that the mast step for the mizzen mast as well as the through bolts for the gudgeons that will hold the rudder pintles. 

cutting the mortise for the mast step

I used the same process I used for the bow brace for the forestay padeye.
A wedge that is shaped the match the curve of the inner stem with two cheeks make of marine ply scraps that will be epoxied to the inner stem.

Completed mizzen mast-step ready to be installed

I also threaded two bronze rods on either side of the step to prevent the wood from splitting. And screwed two weeping holes on either side should water make it down the mast. I think this little construction is pretty bomber.

All ready for final positioning

I then turned my attention to the main mast step. For this I took a piece of cherry that I had chainsawed into slabs from a local tree that was cut up and put out for free. It seasoned for two years under the boat.

Main mast step mortise

More to come on the main mast step as I am working on a solution for the drainage from the forward compartment.

Tracing the cleat outline with my helper

Since I had started to mill the cherry slabs for the mast step, I decided to keep on going and cut it up into appropriate sizes for cleats , chocks and other small rigging parts. We cut it on a table saw into slabs that were 1 1/8″ thick and started to trace the templates I got from the Curly Shavings blog who had created a PDF file with a nice sensible outline. By playing with the size of the printing I could create a template for a smaller and a larger cleat. 

Ready to be cut

I had access to a drill press so I did that part. I’ll borrow a band saw soon.

First cut, with a jigsaw to complete the proof of concept

Lots more shaping to do. The cherry is proving to be solid, easy to shape and fun to work with. Hopefully it will hold up well over time. My plan is to shape them all down and then have them well oiled. That should be easy to maintain if I keep on top of it.

Caledonia Yawl Project: Installing the knees to the thwart

My next step for the forward compartment was to glue in the perimeter batten to hold the edges of the deck. I used small ribbed copper nails to hold down the battens in place while the epoxy set.


I will leave the copper nails in as they won’t rust and won’t do any harm.

Then on to the knees that I had laminated a while ago, while I was in a laminating mode with the stems. I had enough off cuts of fir laminating stock to do the knees at that time. But since I’d just run the through the thickness planer when I had rented one for another task.


The knees were first smoothed with the 1/4 round over bit of the router. That all worked mostly well except on one outer corner of the curve where the wood likely under tension ripped out with the router. I had to then glue the ripped section back down and sand it smooth.  To fit the knees instead of doing a template, I first cut the base angle and then scribed the right angles cuts to fit it to the inner gunwhale. When I made that cut I was a little conservative and I had the plane it down a few times to get it to fit snugly. I then used one side as the template for the other side and it went much faster.


I’m now just going to do a touch more sanding before I get on to coating it all with Decks Olje. A two part oil finish that creates an fairly easy to refinish gloss coating. I like the rich clear finish it gives. Since I’m not planning on having too much material with a clear finish (Gunwhale, knees, thwart, Centreboard caps and bulkhead trim) I’m not too fussed about the cost. (nearly one third more than the cost of Cetol Natural Teak finish or most varnishes).  I have hesitated with my final choice for a while but ultimately decided to give Decks Olje a shot because of the penetrating oil of part 1 and the ease of touching up. In theory if you keep on top of it you could just touch up abrasions indefinitely without having to strip it all down as you would with varnish. Time will tell if I’m happy with it.

The Caledonia Yawl Project: gluing the forward bulkhead

Over the last few weeks I’ve been going in several directions at once. Playing around with the rudder straps and figuring out exactly how to place them parallel on a curved aft stem. Sourcing nice bronze rowlocks, small cleats and trying to find a reasonable amount of Sitka spruce for the masts and spars.

But the fitting of the hull was slightly stalled. Mostly because I was still a little stuck fitting the deck beams and the kingplank. But with some playing around I’ve finally fit it in a way that seems to work.

We cut out the holes in the bulkhead for two 12″ Armstrong hatches. My son is testing them out to see if he would be able to go into forward section for a nap.

I came up with a nice gusset for connecting the kingplank to the bow that will allow me to screw down the head stay to a very solidly fitted pad eye.

rough fit of the bow gusset

I also installed the bow eye that is bolted right through the stem.


Then when everything was fitting well, I took the plunge and glued it all together. I had a small scare when one pot of epoxy set off much faster than expected (I had maybe miscounted my hardener pumps?) but recovered and was able to make a fairly nice fillet along the whole length of the bulkhead.


The next stage is to figure out what kind of access hatch I’d like to put in the top. I don’t think the two access holes in the bulkhead are sufficient. The curved fore deck will however make it a more complex little hatch to create. Particularly if I want to keep the profile low and water tight.

Caledonia Yawl Project: Thwarts and bulkheads

This summer I’ve been working on getting the interior of the hull completed.

I started with the thwart and and thwart cleats.

Thwart cross-section

I glued up some 3/4″ reclaimed mahogany that I found on craigslist that had been pulled from hold Vancouver home window and door frames. It was not quite wide enough or thick enough. So I glued two pieces on edge and then onto a 1/2″ douglas fir boards. I then planed it down to 1″ thick which is just over the plan specifications of 7/8″.

The Thwart Cleats

The Thwart cleats were a complex piece to put together with a bevel on top of the curve of the hull to shape. It was also fun to figure out how to place it level and just in the right direction. But spending a little extra time on this I believe will bear fruit in the long run as it is such an important structural part.


The next step is to install the forward bulkhead and the deckbeams and kingplank. This part is also confounding me as the plans show the deck following the topmost lap between the sheer strake and the strake below. But this seems to create a curve that does not match the curve of the deckbeams specified in the plans. So essentially I have a choice of which path to take to reconcile the plans to the real world.

scribing the shape of the deckbeam on reclaimed wood.

For the deck beams I needed more wood, so I made a trip to Jack’s New and Used in Burnaby and found some good old Douglas Fir door frames that were 1 1/4″ thick. this gives me a nice dimension to work with to shape the deck beams.  The old Douglas Fir is now super hard and maybe a little brittle but also very solid. So I’m hoping it will result in a durable choice.


And again there are a lot of bevels to line up on this piece. But I’ve been taking my time making good templates first and then transferring the shape and angles to the final stock I want to use in the boat.


I’m close to getting it right, a little more trimming and it will soon be ready for gluing.


Caledonia Yawl project: gluing down the centreboard well

This Sunday for father’s day as a present I got four hours of uninterrupted time. Enough to do the final step that will make this hull finally water tight.  Glue the centerboard well to the keelson.  I set up a string down the centre line to help me line up the centreboard well and make sure it is square.


I then put the first layer of clear epoxy down on all the surfaces and then a nice thick layer of thickened epoxy.


It was a hot day and I had to make sure my sweat did not drip down into the epoxy as I was troweling it down. This was a critical step and I am now looking forward to completing the centreboard well trim and side braces.

then on the next projects:

forward and aft bulkheads

Thwarts and benches,

Knees and floorboards,

Engine well.

Paint and install the hardware.

Find a good trailer for the boat.


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