Do Not Deviate (Part 2)

If you have read this blog from the start, you know that I am a firm believer that if you want to get a project done on time and on budget then the best way to do this is not deviate from the designer’s plans.  As soon as you make a change to one little thing it causes a whirlwind of changes to the other things required to make the first thing work. I call it the Law of Compounding Changes. Another builder friend of mine calls it the Law of Compounding F&%$ups. Sometimes I think his is a more fitting description. In the end, after all the bugs are worked out of your system caused by your first “great idea” you have to ask yourself, was it worth it? More often than not the answer is no.  I believe this, but I am really bad at following it.

I’m lucky to have several friends in the area with sailboats with the vast majority of them being “trailer sailors”, West Wight Potter, Hobie Cat, McGregor etc. One thing you pick up pretty quickly when you are sweating on the ramp rigging your boat for launch is the faster you get in and out of the water, the more fun you have. My goal is to have the boat rigged and in the water in 15 minutes. To do this I had to make some changes. The original plans for the main mast on the pathfinder calls for a 5.4 meter (17.5 foot) aluminum main mast that is lifted up and inserted through a hole in the main deck and plugged into a mast step on the floorboards. I had already deviated by deciding to build a wooden mast, that adds weight.  Trying to maneuver a heavy 18 foot stick covered in sails and ropes on a windy ramp into a little hole in the deck does not sound like a fast or safe way to rig a boat. I had to figure something else out. I decided quite a while ago to build a birds mouth hollow spar (R&D August 2017) so I figured the problem would most likely work itself out as the main spar was built. Off to the table saw!

Table saw mast stave

The staves where milled out of douglas fir.

Main mast staves

The clamps held them tight while a whole bunch of glue was applied.

Main mast glued

The wiggly sticks were forced into shape

end shot

Straight enough!


With a power planer, block plane, and sanding tube it went from 8 sided to 16 sided, 32, and then finally round.

Main mast sleeve

A coat of glass later and the mast was done.  Now it was time to figure out how to rig it.

The traditional way to speed up rigging and striking the mast is to add a hinge at the deck line called a tabernacle. Here is a picture of a tabernacle on a CLC Pocketship I pulled from the web.


That looked like a decent place to start so it was off to the table saw to build a lower block for the hinge.

tabernacle block 1

I drew out the hinge and then cut a block of douglas fir to make a block to transition between the round mast and the square section tabernacle hinge.


Main mast on tree

The block was glued to the mast and wrapped in shrink wrap and staves to keep it straight. While this cured I set about designing the lower section of the tabernacle. It was during this time I came across something on the web that caused me to deviate from the deviation. I know, I’ll never get done at this rate.

So this is the final build.

Mast hinge

This is a mast hinge from Dwyer Mast ( It is the same part that my buddy Jason has on his West Wight Potter. I like this because it is low profile, easy to use, and I do not have to do any invasive modification to the structure of the boat. If this mod doesn’t pass sea trials all I have to do is make another mast, no harm will be done to the structure of the boat. I did make a white oak transition plate and glued it to the deck making sure it was level with the lines of the boat.

Mast hinge block

A compression post was necessary to transfer the load from the mast to the step block in the bottom of the boat.

Compression post

The result?

I attached the hinge plate to the bottom of the mast with 8″ stainless lag bolts installed wet with epoxy. I also reinforced the area with fiberglass to keep the wood from splitting out around the bolts. If this was a free standing mast I do not think it would work but since the mast is supported in three points by the stays I am hopeful the whole setup will last. I will report back once I get it out in the water. Until next time.




Raise the Mizzen!

Over the last several months, I’ve been working on multiple different parts of the boat at the same time. A lot of work has been accomplished but it makes it really hard to put out a readable blog post. I have finally arrived at a place where I can tell several complete stories about what has been happening since April. When I left you last, the floorboards were installed, the mizzen mast was round, and I had just chopped a giant hole in the back of the boat.

While this post is about completing the mizzen mast we are rapidly getting into the parts of the boat that were named by drunken sailors. Here is a quick guide for the odd and sometimes confusing language that sailors use to describe the parts of the boat. This is by no means a complete list, just a visual guide to get through the next several posts. Hope it helps!

Parts Explained

During my research on how to build a main mast I came across a video from Chuck from Duckworks Boat Building Supplies that shows how to coat wooden masts with fiberglass sleeves.  I really liked the idea of sleeving a mast so I gave it a try.


This is a poor picture of the fiberglass sleeve.


The sleeve grows and shrinks in length depending on the diameter that you are coating. I have a 1 7/8″ mizzen mast, I used 2″ fiberglass sleeve and I needed 1.5 times the length of the mast in fiberglass to completely cover the mast. Once the sleeve was on I wet out the glass with resin and wrapped the whole thing in shrink wrap to keep the glass tight against the wood. To let the excess resin out I made a little rotary poker tool and ran it down the mast.

Once the resin dried the shrink wrap came right off leaving an almost perfect surface for final sanding and varnish.


Sanding is fun; sanding is therapeutic (original quote taken from John Harris, CLC boats).

Mizzen fiberglassed and sanded


In trying to make a perfect surface for varnish I wound up sanding a little too much and cut into the fiberglass layers in a few spots. No harm done to the mast but I do have several white spots under the varnish. Fortunately you cannot see it from three feet away. Five coats of Total Boat spar varnish later:

Mizzen varnished

What do you do when you have a complete mast, boom, and sail?

Mizzen flying

Mizzen sail



For those that do not know I am an Aircraft Mechanic. Most of my life has been spent fixing motors and machines of one sort or another so it might surprise you to hear me say this: I hate gas engines. I especially hate small gas engines. Over the years I have been slowly ridding myself of anything resembling a motor under 600CC. The gasoline powered chainsaw, weedeater, leaf blower, and recently my lawnmower have all been slowly replaced by electric versions. Lets just say I have a lot of extension cords. I have been waiting for the day a truly usable electric motorcycle comes out. Did I mention my dream car is a Tesla? With the confessional out of the way lets talk about selecting a motor. torqeedo-travel-26-5760x3840


This was my first choice, a Torqueedo outboard.  The quiet, reliable, and efficient option lists for $2,499.00 US dollars (plus shipping and handling) on Torqueedo’s website. Because of the large tides and strong currents in my cruising grounds I would need a spare battery to feel comfortable, add $999.00. Even more comfort would come from the optional 50W solar charger that would let me charge while I sail, add $749.00. Grand total $4247.00 (plus shipping and handling).  On the other hand a five horsepower Tohatsu costs $1,349.99 from online outboards and is delivered to my door free of charge. That price includes a gas tank that will run the motor all day. I guess that’s why I drive a ten year old Nissan instead of a Tesla. Oh well, lets cut a giant hole in the boat I have spent three years building.

Tohatsu in box

A common feature of John Welsford’s designs is a motor well to hide the big ugly outboard. It was this feature that really set my mind on building the pathfinder. I have sailed boats with outboards hanging off the stern on a bracket and it was always a pain in the butt to use them. With the outboard well the motor is in the cockpit and fairly hidden so it doesn’t ruin the lines of the boat. The down side is eventually you have to chop a big scary hole in the hull. I spent a lot of time trying to measure and center the cuts but they layout finally came down to eyeballing it. I started by drilling a few reference holes so I could line my marks up outside.

I then found a hole saw that fit the shaft of the motor and drilled a “down” and “up” hole.

ops manager

As I got closer to making the cut my operations manager made an appearance. He looked a little worried.

Quality control stopped by and was promptly ran off.

With the holes drilled I could trace the outline and cut out the hole with a skill saw.

With a hole for the shaft to go through it was time to cut the deck to fit the motor. I started nibbling at the deck until the motor fit in the hole. With the motor cut out roughed in I started moving the motor around looking for interference and making both the cutout in the hull and the deck look good. Here is the result.

Little Man

IMG_0650 (1)

I am sitting in the shop tonight looking at a gaping hole and wondering how to fix it. If it was wood or fiberglass that would be ok but it isn’t. The hole is an empty blue-green dog bed in the corner of the shop, one that used to be filled by my ever present and always faithful dog Archie. His story has been tied to the Idle Hands Workshop from day one.

Archie and I first met at the construction site of the Idle Hands Workshop. The walls and trusses were up and I was sheathing the building in OSB in the summer heat. He was malnourished, dirty, and covered in fleas but curious as to what I was doing. He trotted right up to me and had the look of an abandoned dog. “You are going to need a bath if you’re going to stay here” I said. I bathed, flea sprayed, de-ticked, and fed the little dog and then settled into the house for a nap.

Dogs roaming free is a sad truth were I live so I pulled a piece of scrap plywood out front and spray painted a sign that said “Wiener Dog Found” for all to see. I wasn’t really expecting an owner to appear and I had already made up my mind to keep him so I figured it was time to name him. “You look like an Archibald, Archibald Wiener”. The other two wieners in the house didn’t look too enthused but Archie was happy. Cheryl was out of town so I sent her a grainy picture on my old flip phone to notify her of the new arrival. 0522001102

Unfortunately later the next day the owner showed up. Turns out he was a legitimate crack head from down the street. I did try to talk him out of the dog but he took him back anyway. Over the summer and into the fall Archie (whom the crack head named Rocker) was a regular guest at the workshop. He would escape from the porch were he was locked up and head over to his future home to come.

November 1st of that year we woke to our neighbor knocking on the door. “There is a wiener dog in the ditch hit by a car, is it yours?” Both of our dogs were accounted for so out we went and found Archie laying there. He had been hit by a car the night before, his back legs were limp and he couldn’t move. The poor thing had spent the cold night on the ground with fire ants biting his belly. I ran for a board to lay him on as Cheryl flicked the ants away. Archie looked up at Cheryl and wagged.

Once we had Archie safe and sound in the house we debated what to do with him. We went to crack heads door but he wasn’t home so we decided to take him to the vet. Dr. Nunn checked him and pronounced him fit minus multiple broken bones, all he needed was some cash to fix him up. Cheryl left a note on crack heads door and it was the next day before he showed up to claim the broken dog. “Who would spend that much on a nine year old dog! I am going to take him out back and shoot him.” said the crack head. “NO, YOU ARE NOT!” Said Cheryl. With those words she gave up her 40th birthday present, a luxury weekend at the Jekyll Island Club which we had been saving up for awhile, for a nine year old, broken and abused dog.

Much like Dr. Nunn had said Archie healed well. We took him to the Veterinary trauma center in Jacksonville where Dr. Ernie bolted him back together. Five titanium plates, several feet of wire holding his ribs together, a box and a half of screws, god only knows how many staples.  His x-ray looked like a classic comic book drawing of Wolverine, more metal than dog. Even with all of the extra hardware we were cautioned to not let him fall or bump into anything until the bones healed. Because of that we had to walk with him in the yard stooped over stabilizing his butt while he did his business. No fun at all. To keep an eye on our sizable investment, Archie was never out of our site for the first several months. Wherever we moved in the house we set him up in the corner so he could see us and we could see him.


From the start I was Archie’s man. He would look at me with the purest of love like I have never seen before.

He latched on to me hard and I to him. His two favorite places were in the shop with me, and laying on the couch by my side. A close third was sleeping. That dog liked to sleep! we had beds all around the house including the one I am crying over tonight.


The titanium plates had affected the way he walked giving him a rhythmic, slightly off beat sound to his steps. When I would be working in the shop I would hear the “do do doo da doo” sound of his steps and look up and see him standing there checking on me. Satisfied that I was still in place he would head off to do Archie stuff.

As I look through the pictures of the pathfinder build it was hard for me to find pictures that didn’t have him in the frame. Template 2

He would keep track of me during the day and, when it was time to quit working he would walk out and woof at me then start running back to the house with his rhythmic, slightly off beat walk. If I didn’t keep up he would turn around and give me a “hey it’s couch time Big Man!” bark.

Cheryl wasn’t immune to his charms either. His larger than life personality worked his way into her heart as well.


Over the years Cheryl nursed him back to health from malady after malady. When his old belly could no longer handle store bought food she made him fresh food (chicken, rice, and sweet potatoes). When he overheated and flopped over from playing in the sun she fed him fingerfuls of water until he felt better. The metal in his body made him cold so she made sure he was always in his jacket when it was cold outside.

Toward the end of his life he had so many close brushes with death that we started to joke about him having nine lives. He went through two abusive owners, he was hit by a truck, survived congestive heart failure, inability to eat, and heat exhaustion. So you can forgive me for thinking that even though his kidneys were failing that he might, just one last time, dodge the bullet. His last two days were spent the best way we could. He spent one full day on the couch with me. Cheryl tried her best to get him to eat little bites of food off her fingers. Then his last day was in the shop with me. Later at the vets office the blood test had confirmed what I had already knew. His kidneys were gone and there was no saving him. My little man no longer had the strength to stand up and the bright light of his personality was fading. I knew it was time. He went to sleep in my arms knowing he was a good boy and that I was sorry. Seventeen years and one day old my little man died.

All dogs go to heaven they say. I have heard my whole life about streets of gold and angels singing but tonight I realize that is too much for me. When I step into the clearing at the end of my path it isn’t the Pearly Gates I want to see. It is a little blue shop tucked back into the pines, a blue green bed, and the rhythmic, slightly off beat sound of paws on the concrete.





The Mizzen Mast

I have been avoiding this part of the build for quite a while. Time is up.

To get my self prepped up for the task ahead I logged onto my favorite educational website Off Center Harbor, They are a subscription based website that is about wooden boats in all forms and are worth checking out. They have one of the biggest libraries of professionally edited how-to videos on the web and tons of pictures and articles to keep you busy. Geoff Kerr has a whole series on building plywood lapstrake boats that includes a wonderful tutorial on solid and hollow spar making. Geoff takes you step by step through the whole process much better than I could ever do. I’ll take you through the rough steps but if you are building your own spar for the first time I would pay the money and check out Off Center Harbor, you will be glad you did.

The mizzen mast seemed the best place to start so pulled the douglas fir off of the lumber rack and built up my blank in the normal way.

I made the blank super long so I could find the section I liked the most and trim it to length. Fortunately it all came out pretty good with no voids or defect that I could see. Next step was measure twice and cut once.


Mr. Welsford calls out for aluminum tube masts in his plans, 3″ for the main and 2″ for the mizzen. These sizes make really skinny wooden masts but I wanted to keep them as close to designed diameter as I could. I cut the blank for the mizzen to 2 1/8″ to give myself a little wiggle room. A big difference between wooden masts and aluminum masts is a taper on the end. Woodend masts traditionally have a slight taper to them to replicate masts made from whole trees. Since the mizzen mast is already skinny I didn’t want to remove any more material than I had to. In the end I tapered the square section mast from 2 1/8″ to 1 1/2″ on the top third of the mast.

One tip that helps is marking out thick bands with a pencil at regular intervals on the mast.

Mizzen bandsThese bands help with the next step. Making 4 sides into 8.

Mizzen bands 2With the power planer I went around the mast cutting off the corners evenly from front to back until I had a reasonably eight sided mast. You can see from the picture above that the black bands really help you keep track of where and how much you have sanded. Once the mast was at eight sides I re-drew the bands and took the mast to 16 sides with the power planer.  At 16 sides I re-drew the bands and switched to the shoulder plane to get to 32 sides. I am sure a professional could continue with the plane to get the mast to 64 sides but I do not have the skill. From here I switched to a cardboard shipping tube with sandpaper inside. 36, 60, 80, and finally 120 grit.

Mast sander

Reasonably round and straight, not too shabby. In Geoff Kerr’s video he makes a point to say that fairing a mast is an aerobic activity. He isn’t kidding. My hands hurt for days.

Now that the mast was sort of done I had to fit it to the boat. The decking on the transom where the mast passes through gets built up quite a bit to take the load of the mast. I deviated just a little and built the whole area up with two extra layers of 1/4″ plywood. After it was built up I marked it and trimmed it to shape.

While that was setting up I made the mast step out of mahogany.

MIzzen step

I’ll cover the leveling and layout of all of the mast holes, coaming lines, etc. in the next post. It wasn’t hard but there is a lot to go into and this is turning out to be a long post so I’ll hit it later. Drilling the hole for the mast was pretty easy, I lined up the drill with a scrap of wood attached to the transom and rammed her home.

MIzzen hole

The last step of the process was lining up the mast step and securing it to the bottom of the boat. Since the mast has a little lean to it the best way to line it up was with a MK1 eyeball. I poked the stern out, mounted the mast, and then moved the mast step around until the lovely bride and Editor in Chief said it was straight up and down.

MIzzen mounted

Whoo hoo there it is! It was a ton of work but I think it was worth it. Because it was so skinny the mast has a little more flex to it than I would like so I plan on sleeving the whole thing in fiberglass to stiffen it up a little. I have to admit I am glad Cheryl talked me into the wooden mast.



OK to Close Part 2

Three years. I first convinced the lovely bride and editor in chief Cheryl three years ago that I should build a boat. If you have read this blog from the start you know that getting a sailboat fast was never my plan. I wanted a project, something to keep me entertained in my off time. Nights and weekends, vacations and sick days, I have plugged away learning how to build a boat bit by bit. Each step building on the other; every checked box a part of building a larger sub assembly. I would work on a part and set it aside knowing that down the line I would have time to fix this or tweak that until now! I have reached the point in the build where everything I am doing is completing an entire section of the boat.  I am now closing out sections of the boat that will never be seen again and let me tell you that feels great. My thoughts have turned from dreaming of building to dreaming of sailing, it’s a wonderful thing.

When we spoke last I had just finished fitting the seats/floorboards and painting below decks, now it’s time to close it for good.

Hatch Layout 1

I started out with playing with my hatches and deck plates until I got them where I wanted them. Yes I know they are not lined up. I put them where I wanted them, you put yours wherever you like!

You can see on the left hand picture that I traced out all of the underlying structure on top of the floorboards and cut the access holes. The plans call for a round hatch in the bay that contains the centerboard attach point (rectangular hole in the pictures above). I decided to go with a slightly larger hatch so I could work in the area and use it for storage later. Because of this change I had to take out part of the bunk flat stringer.

hatch doublers

Because I had taken so much material out with the install of the hatches I added some really strong doublers underneath to take the load. These also marry up with the bunk flat stringer I had to cut out of the way. The doublers for the round hatches also had to be notched to pass the underlying structure.

hatch layout 4With the hatches cut and underlying structure marked out I laid out my screw pattern, pre-drilled and countersunk.

Hatch FinalsA bunch of glue and a bunch of screws later there it is. I decided a while ago to go back to A/B marine fir for the floor boards and seats because it seems a little tougher than okoume to me and I can get it locally at Langs Building Supplies. The disadvantage of the fir plywood is a fairly healthy bow in all of the panels that I get. To prevent the epoxy from permanently setting the bow in the plywood, I simultaneously sealed the bottom of the plywood, glued the doublers on, and attached the boards to the boat. This was a ton of glue to be working at one time and the only way I was able to get away with it was the temperature.

Frozen BirdfeederThat isn’t something you see every day! Thanks to the ice storm that rolled into South Georgia I was able to work with full solo cups of epoxy without it overheating and kicking. It was a heck of a mess but it seemed to work out well. The last part was to make the doublers for the seats.

seat doublers

As of right now I have not final installed the right hand seat. The boomkin for the mizzen attaches to the seat top and there is a doubler to be installed for that. I think I am going to save that for a little later. Coming up on the list I think it is really time for me to get serious about the masts. Yet another job I have been putting off. Wish me luck.

All Hands on Deck

Now that the pathfinder is right side up, it’s time to finish the interior of the boat. The next step in the build for me (I have long since deviated from the build schedule provided with the plans) was to fit the bunk flats and seat tops. I had a few items below decks that needed attention first.

foot well

During this whole process I am incorporating a lot of the changes suggested/learned from Peter out in Texas. One of those is to glass all of the high wear areas on the bottom. Footwells and below deck areas all received a coat of glass.

Center case woopsie

I also corrected a few small mistakes that had cropped up during the build. I like to think of this mistake as “structural reinforcement”.

The last item on the below decks list was to beef up the mast step.

Mast step

This is the original mast step for the pathfinder. This point takes a big load, not because of the mast but because the hoist point for the center board attaches here. Unless the board is all the way down most of its 100 or so pounds will be yanking on the mast step that is screwed in to this block. Because of that I decided to give myself a little more to attach to.

Mast step reinforcement

I carved up a douglas fir 4X4 on the table saw and glued it up.

Mast step reinforcement 2

With all of my changes and reinforcements made, I returned to the most hated part of a build – sanding and painting. Two more coats of resin were rolled on below decks and then sanded to 120 grit. White BilgeKote enamel was slopped on top of that. I have spent enough time talking about sanding and painting, on to better things.


Like a Joggle Stick!

Joggle stick

This is my new best friend. Over the summer I spent a lot of time reading “How to Build a Wooden Boat” by Bud McIntosh (a little late I know) and it taught me the joys of this little tool. Like most good tools it is ridiculously simple and easy to use. I started with rough cutting some CDX plywood and laying it in place.

spiling with the stick

CDX plywood

At several points you place the stick where the edge of your floor plank will be and then trace the outline of the joggle stick. Once you have enough points you take the cheap plywood and lay it on the expensive ply.

Spiling point

Next you line up the stick with the tracings and mark the point on the marine ply. Once you get enough points the outline appears.

Layout line

A little fitting with the Shinto rasp and they fit like a glove. With the bunk flat boards in place it was time for a family test nap.

Test Nap

The real size of this boat is becoming more apparent every day. I am a big boy, 6’1″/230 and there is plenty of room for me and three wieners on the bunk flats. You can look at plans all day long and even make traces on the floor but until you see it in real life you cannot visualize just how big a Welsford Pathfinder is.

In the next post it’s on to seat tops and cutting access hatches. Until then stay warm and Merry Christmas.