The Devil’s STILL in the Details

Moving right along with the build list – it’s time to make a center line runner and skeg. There isn’t a whole lot of info on the skeg and center line runner in the plans or the build instructions so I kind of figured it out as I went along.

Runner 1

I started by continuing the outer stem to the center case. I used the same white oak that I had used to laminate the outer stem. You can see in this picture that the outer stem and the centerline runner do not quite line up. The boat was still in the build stand when I attached the outer stem and I had to guess where the center line was on the bottom. Looks like I got it wrong. Oh well. Once it’s faired and painted it’s going on the bottom never to be seen again. Hopefully.

skeg 4

The last of my Eco Relics white oak was milled up and put in the clamps for the skeg blank and while it set up I went to work figuring out what it should look like.

skeg 2

I picked up the overall height of the skeg from drawing 2. It looks to me to be about 150mm. Starting with a piece of plywood that approximated the curve of the bottom, I used a long piece of 80 grit sticky back sandpaper stuck to the bottom and a whole lot of elbow grease to perfectly match the ply to the boat. A long straight edge from the center case surround to my 150 mm mark on the plywood gave me a rough outline of the skeg. With that done I cleaned the skeg blank up in the power planer and then transferred the shape from the ply to the skeg.

skeg 3

Purely for decoration I cut an “S” curve into the skeg, glued it down, and called it good. Since I was in an “S” curve mode, it was time to make the trim pieces for the upper plank.

I am not sure what they are called but I approximated the shape from the plans and used my jigsaw and spindle sander to shape them. The screws are temporary. After the glue sets up I am going to pull them out and fill the holes with QuickFair.

This is the aft one.

finalie 2

And this is the forward one.

The shop foreman kept a close eye on my progress. So much so it wore him slap out.

Wore out


Devil is in the Details

So the boat is flipped, now what?

Flipped 2


With the beer drank and the help gone I was left to survey the job ahead. Screw holes, panel gaps, and miss aligned panels stared at me. From the bottom to the top I could see how my skills have progressed over the course of the build. The only problem is that I have to fix the mistakes I made in the early days.

Mr. Welsford suggests tacking a batten along the panel bottoms and using a rabbet plane to fair out the bumps in the panel. I was pretty proud of how well I had done on the panels until I tacked the batten up…

Batten 1

Looks good right?

Batten 2

Yeah there it is. It was like this over all of the planks. I sharpened up the iron of my plane and got to work. Do not skip this step. It makes all the difference in the world. I do not have the camera technology to show you how much this helped the overall appearance but trust me it is a must do. Time to get it ready for fiberglass.

System 3 Quickfair. Lots of it. You can see in the picture below how many screws I had to fill and panels fair.  That is all I have to say about that. On to fiberglass.

Fiberglassing was pretty straight forward. I ran two lines of 6″ bias ply tape over the junction between the bottom board and the first plank and then two layers of 6oz boat glass on top.

I picked up a cool trick from John Harris at CLC boats. In their video on the construction of the teardrop camper they used normal thumb tacks to hold up the glass on vertical surfaces. Good idea and  promptly stolen.


With a Little Help…

rub rail 3

It turns out that the day you flip your pathfinder is much more exciting than Christmas. Christmas comes once a year but it’s taken me two to get to this point! When I left you last I had finally installed the upper and lower rub rails and located the chain plates for the main mast rigging. Since then I had cobbed together a rolling stand to place the boat into after we flip it. You can see it sitting inside the cockpit above. I have seen a lot of complex rope and winch designs that folks use to flip their boats but I figured out a better way, I have really strong friends.


With the promise of lunch and cold beer afterwards, I lured a bunch of folks over to muscle her out. We hung out and got a feel for the task and, in short order, a plan was devised. Turns out it was super easy.


Six guys and some scrap wood got her out to the grass.

move 3

Then I hopped in to unscrew the boat from the build stand.

move 4

The build stand was removed and the boat gently rolled over in the semi soft grass.

And there it is.

flipped 1

Now that the pathfinder was upside down you could clearly see the learning curve I traveled during construction. I have to admit I was slightly embarrassed when all of my rookie mistakes were laid bare to my friends, but after a close examination they all pronounced it good. With that it was time for beer and barbeque!

Many thanks to my friends, Darrel, Mike, Nestor and son, Donald, Mark, Kevin, Gabby, and my lovely wife Cheryl. Couldn’t have done it without you.


Rub Rails

I am sure that you have picked up on this but finding quality building materials in my neck of the woods is difficult at best. With the outer stem bent I had used the last of the oak I had on hand and it was time to find some more. After scrounging the area for years trying to find a good supplier I have found my place, Eco Relics. They are an architectural salvage warehouse on the north side of Jacksonville and have all I need. Red oak, white oak, 1/4 sawn, live edge, Mahogany, Cherry, Babinga, you name it. With a little help I found the planks I needed and almost choked at the price. It was 1/3 the price I was used to paying at WoodCraft. Needless to say I loaded up way more than I needed and headed back to the shop. If you are in the North East Florida area look them up.

Joined, planed, and sawn the discount oak looks great.

rub rail 1

I started on the forward side to see if steam bending was in order. Fortunately the rails bent in with no problem at all. Before I mounted them permanently I had to locate the chain plates for the mast rigging.

I had to lift the measurements for the chain plates off of the master rigging drawing. Mr. Welsford gives a measurement off of bulkhead three and leaves it up to you to locate that on the upper planks.


I measured 500 mm off of the bulkhead and marked it on my stem. Then, with a straight stick and a plumb bob I transferred it to the planks.

Measurements to the nail on the bow evened them up. For the chain plates themselves I wimped out and bought the racelight plates. I didn’t feel like cutting stainless. The last order of business was to mount the rails on.

rub rail 2

rub rail 3

The rails went on in a normal way with little fight and just like that I was done with the build stand. You have no idea how happy I was to reach this point in the build. Two years of joy and frustrations all welled up together. It’s finally coming together.




Once again, I am a bad student that has fallen behind on my homework. Stuff has been piling up for weeks and weeks and I have been dutifully ignoring it hoping it would post itself. So much for that. It should take me around four posts to get caught up and hopefully nothing will distract me. Wish me luck.

I will start my makeup work with the story of my trailer. When I first started building the pathfinder my sailing buddy Jason contacted me and told me that he had a trailer waiting for me. Many years ago his wife’s grandmother had parked her sailboat, the Feline, at the families metal working shop in Savannah. Over the years the old catboat deteriorated and it was time to go. Fortunately the trailer was fairly new and in good shape, and, if I helped dispose of the old catboat I could have the trailer. That was an offer to good to pass up.

Feline 1

The boat was buried in the back corner against a fence. Twenty years of vines and stuff surrounded it. Fortunately Jason has a big ‘ol Ram truck with a winch that helped up clear a path. Slowly Feline emerged.

Feline 2

When we finally dug our way back to her I could see the remains of what was once a perfect day sailor. She was built of plywood and fiberglass with Mahogany trim. Back in the day she must have been beautiful. It was sad to send her out so unceremoniously.

feline 3

Turns out the trailer is in perfect shape. I put two new tires on and it rode home fine – the lights even still worked. How about that?

feline 4



If You’re Gonna be Dumb…


It’s Superbowl Sunday in south Georgia and this is how my Pathfinder looks. As you can tell there has been a lot of work done so I really need to catch up on my “homework” so here we go.

I set myself a punch list on the wall of all the things I had to do before I was able to lay the decking:

  1. Fiberglass, fair, and paint the anchorwell
  2. Floorboard supports
  3. Fillet and seal the interior
  4. Deck It

The deck edge supports were a pain in the rear but I got them done. It’s not my best work but I think they will do the job. If you want a picture let me know, otherwise I will let this part of the build be permanently hidden by the floorboards.

Fiberglassing and fairing the anchor well was pretty straight forward. I laid down two layers of glass to help protect from the pointy bits of the anchor and painted with interlux bilge coat. anchorwell

Checklist completed I headed on to decking.

Decking was a refreshing task. It was an easy task with each step leading to huge visual progress. I started by roughing out pieces of 1/4″ and tracing the underlying structure on to them.

Being an aircraft mechanic I really love the neat even rows of rivets on my planes so I duplicated that with boat nails on the decks. I laid out the “rivet pattern” with dividers and pilot drilled the ply. After that it was a simple matter of epoxy coating the bottom of the deck and gluing it on.


After the deck was on I trimmed the overhang with my router. I still have to shape the front with my belt sander and add the doublers called out in the prints but the deck is on! With that done there are two things preventing me from flipping and finishing the bottom of the boat – the outer stem and the rub rails.

I have been reading about traditional bent frame caravel construction so I wanted to try my hand again at steam bending wood. I made a pattern for the outer steam and busted out the “steam weasel”. outer-stem-one

I had enough oak laying around so I could try bending the stem in a single 1″x2″ piece and, if that failed laminate the outer stem with four 1/4″ strips. If you have been following this blog for any length of time you know how this one ends.


Lets try that again.

There was a video of the first attempt but it was deemed not suitable for younger audiences or those with weak hearts.


A little glue and screws and that task was done! After all that work it’s time for a break. naptime






The Ultimate Test Drive (Part III)

For me  day two was just a continuation of day one. Between the travel, the heat, and the change in food I was up every hour or so with what can best be called “intestinal distress”. As I returned from my final trip to the dunes I could see headlights bobbing back in camp and I knew it was time to get moving. I grabbed my shower kit and headed to some still water for a saltwater bath.

By the time Peter got up I had packed up but was a physical wreck. I think Peter could tell because he made a great big pot of his awesome coffee to get me going. A big mug of coffee and a good ol mountain house breakfast and I was finally ready to head out. It was just after sunrise and the wind was coming up fast. It was going to be another wild ride today.

One of the more annoying things about the 200 is you are always being judged. From how you back your trailer, to the knots you tie everyone is watching and everyone has an opinion. Fortunately for us we were a well oiled crew this morning and we executed a perfect departure under sail from the beach. Peter and I gave each other a smile as the “old salts” nodded in approval. We started back up the channel to in ICW passing and getting passed by the fleet. On day one I really was too overwhelmed by the event to really look but today I started to get a sense of whom we were sailing with. We had closed on Looney Toons, a wildly painted Michalac Toon 19 and, as we passed I realized that it was sailing on just one sail and they had breakfast going on a galley stove. As I watched them slide by I was amazed by the calmness and complete control they had. I dig it. We settled quickly into what was a repeat of day one high winds, following seas, and super hot temperatures. The land slowly closed in around us and we entered one of the most interesting landscapes I have ever seen.

For the next two days we would be cruising through the land cut. It’s a section of the intercoastal waterway that was dredged out of a marshy salt flat to make a 200 yard wide road for commerce. We slid through this alien landscape at a fast 7-8 miles per hour. The wildlife was abundant and all around us. Salt flats with mere inches of water on them ran as far as the eye could see. Fish jumping, dolphins swimming up the channel, and wading birds watching for lunch kept me mesmerized as the day went on. The only nod to civilization was the fishing shacks that dot the waterways in this part of Texas. Navigation on this section of the trip was easy – follow the land cut and look for a sign that says Happ’s Cut.

Happ’s Cut is the second stop for the 200 and famous for one thing, mud; thick, stinky, shoe stealing, disgusting mud. Words cannot describe how bad the mud is. I was nasty by the time I got everything to shore and had no desire to go back out. Peter stayed onshore for a while and then disappeared to the boat with no plans to fight his way back to shore. The payoff for Happs Cut is something that is rare and wonderful, trees and grass!

For the past two days the wind had been brutal in the afternoon so, after a good nights sleep on the grass, we decided to be one of the first ones out so we could be at camp before the wind got too bad.

Our start to day three was a foreshadow of things to come. Once again we executed a perfect departure under sail, and then promptly stuck it in the mud on the opposite bank. I had forgot to put the center board down so now we were pinned to the shore by the wind and looking like right fools.  After thrashing about in the mud and running the motor we headed out into the land cut with our tail between our legs.

Day three was scheduled to be a short day so most of the fleet had decided to stay behind for a leisurely morning and breakfast in the shade. For us it was a repeat of the first two days. Light winds in the morning building to 20+ in the afternoon. Our next camp was south of Corpus Christie just north of Bird Island. On paper the navigation could not have been easier. This was yet another camp just off of the intercoastal waterway so all we had to do was watch the numbers on the channel markers and turn when appropriate. Unfortunately that didn’t work out.

Peter was taking the afternoon shift and I was forward camped out on the beanbag monitoring the radio and watching the map. Now I could give a bunch of excuses for what happened next but I won’t. In the end the map, GPS, and marker buoys didn’t agree and before we realized where camp was we were a good five miles downwind. We had missed camp and there was no going back.


As we assessed our situation John and family in their wayfarer pulled along side. They were in the same situation as us so we teamed up to find a camp.

This is where the 200 got real for me. There was no more follow the leader. No designated camp. No fifty boats willing to lend a hand if things went wrong. This is what I came for. We poked and explored little spoil islands until we landed on one with an abandoned fishing shack. When I hopped off the bow I proudly exclaimed “I hereby name you Fuckup Island!”.

The rest of the day was wonderful, we got to know John and his kids, drank beer in the shade and planned our crossing of Corpus Christie bay. It was quite a relief for me to be away from the bulk of the fleet. For some reason there is a lot of posturing and “this is how I would do it” going on with the fleet. Anything you do is judged ad nauseum by the “old salts”.  Here it was just the five of us calm and quiet, each crew with their own plans and solely responsible for themselves.

In the wee hours of the morning I woke up with what I thought was a spotlight in my face. “Thank God John and the kids are here, they would never throw a family off the island in the middle of the night” I was thinking to myself. I unzipped the tent ready to make all sorts of excuses as to why I was trespassing on this little bit of land when I realized it wasn’t a spotlight but a full Texas moon. I walked around the island and enjoyed the scene laid out before me. The breeze was warmer, the stars bigger, and the lights of the city were more soothing than almost any time in my life. I took that moment and held it knowing it was a rare thing. I stayed out for an hour or so enjoying life before heading back to bed, and on to the next day.