Ever thought about building your own boat but have been frightened off by the thought that you may not have the time , the ability or money? The odds are that you are terrified of the dreaded process of lofting out the plans from the complicated pile of papers and drawings that you normally get when you buy a set of boat plans!
Have you heard about the Eazy-build method of boatbuilding? It is a series of innovative small craft that have been named ‘The Dolphin Series’. They are cheap, robust, simple to build, with minimal plans that importantly, do not involve lofting and have no frames at all! They are simply constructed with the ‘stitch and glue’ methods. The design materials are NZ/Australian standard exterior ply, epoxy resin, glass tape and bi-axial glass cloth that ranges in weight from 200 gms to 600 gms, all materials are easily available everywhere in Australia and worldwide.
For the uninitiated, the stitch and glue methnod is a method of boatbuilding that allows a boatbuilder to build a boat very quickly at minimal expense. Boats up to forty feet long have been built using this method and are in use worldwide today.
The specs range from 12′ dinghy, the 16′ gaff sailing boat, the centre console 16′ for keen anglers. They then progressed progressed to the 19′ sailing yawl and that has two masts and is a camping/day/weekender that is easily trailerable.
The plans, involve a simple X/Y co-ordinate system that does away with the painful process of lofting… a nightmare for first timers and a pain generally for all concerned. The sheets of ply are drawn up into suitable size squares, the co-ordinates supplied with the plan copied to the squares and then the points joined together with a bendy batten.
This patented method is almost a ‘join the dots’ method of cutting out the shapes required from plywood that have been pre-glassed and faired whilst lying flat in the garage or workshop.
The United Nations, interestingly, during the crisis in East Timor, chose the design to be taken for the Timorese Fishermen to use as a blueprint for their new generation of fishing boats that their villages are supplied with. . A typical 16′ Dolphin can be assembled, stitched and glued and finished in approximately 40 hours work, a matter of 3 or 4 weekends. A 16′ Dolphin is cut out in a weekend. The fastest time we know of for a 12′ Dolphin build was in 24 hours by a team of lads from the Wooden Boat Club at a Brisbane ‘Down by the River’ expo some years ago, and it was presented to a lucky draw winner who actually rowed it up the river on Sunday!
The latest in the range , is a larger boat at some twenty five feet and is the first ever ‘stitch and glue’ power boat. It is well under construction in North Queensland and is expected to be completed in a month or two. During the next few months the website will publish progress on the D 25 as it is completed. An interesting aspect of it is that it has been adapted it for completion as either a really large motorised fishing boat (as is the prototype) but it will be equally at home as a yacht!
Technical Discussion on the D 25′
When, many years ago, the original Dolphin 12′ was drawn up to plans the designer did wonder just how large a boat could be manufactured by this method.He thought there was no real limit, and reasoned it’s just that the logistics get more involved. There is no doubt that the production and quality of ply wood has undertaken a quantum leap for the better and many well respected designers are now very happy to turn the clocks back and re-design and build boats from the new generation plywoods that boast new hi-tech glue lines and quality. you’ll be on the right track if you use plywood to ANZ/Australian standard 2270
These new plywoods in conjunction with the incredible adhesive qualities of epoxy and the monster strengths of the new glasses, carbons and aramids now allow inexperienced boatbuilders that were formally hesitant to build, to enjoy the immense pleasures of creating and self satisfaction of building their own boats. . The reasons are diverse. Self satisfaction, confidence building, financial. Don’t forget, a new 25-30 foot yacht today runs as close as dammit to two and a half grand per foot…. The financial incentives are high, certainly but nothing beats the feeling of launching a boat that is equally at home 40 miles out on the reef or sitting quietly in the creek.
The designer realised that easily, manageable, attainable stages would be paramount. Nothing must be complicated. and achieved a frameless boat in spite of its size. (although it must be said the 25′ D25 has one or two support frames in the rear section)
It cannot be emphasised too much how a framed boat complicates the process of boatbuilding. They take up much more time, effort, skill and weight and after months of work you still only have a frame. It is enough to seriously deter many would be builders and you cant blame them. The secret of all the Dolphin’s strength is epoxy composite resins and glass and the strength of the bulkheads and the longitudinals that stiffen the boat from end to end. The designer’s own yacht ‘The Nicky J Miller’ is a frameless boat and she is forty two feet long and weighs about seven tons. She performs well in three to four metre seas and 35 knots plus very well.. she is a a strip planker but withhindsight been able to turn back the clock she would have been constructed her from epoxy glass and plywood. The build time would have halved.
More considerations for builders
Eight years as a marine surveyor with the Small Ships Surveyors Association has given the designer of the Dolphins a unique chance to peek into pretty well most of the major makes of today’s yachts, workboats and so on. Many of them are clone like and cramped, a result of trying to squeeze a quart into a pint pot, trying for too much in one boat.
A good example of a few lessons learnt is the designer’s yacht ‘The Nicky J’, almost everyone visiting without exception, is impressed at the size of the galley. it is almost 30 per cent of the bow area and it’s where usually a toilet, sink or shower and two bunks plus storage goes. living onboard, almost without exception the two forward bunks in a boat are normally used for storage of everything that moves! The ‘forward bunks’ instead are found in the main cabin where the lounges slide sideways into a huge sleeping area for guests. It’s nicknamed ‘The Pacific Playpen’. There’s still the rear cabin so it can still sleep 4 to 6!
You can see how the development process can be manipulated at an early stage. Thus it was with the D25, having had the luxury of being able to choose front cabin size right from the start. Plenty of space, full standing headroom in the cabin, double bunks, cooking area, storage, walk in toilet, with a full 10 feet long forward cabin. This works equally for the yacht version and the fishing boat. Visitors to the site will see photos of the build to date.
The cabin has a full height bulkhead that divides the forward section from the rest of the boat in both versions. However, with the yacht version there is heaps of space for yet another cabin extension that combines the steering area if desired. The fishing version has a small cabin/windshield area that supports a full length sun cover and then gives a full open area at the rear for fishing space. The floors in both versions incorporate fully sealed flotation area that the cabin sole (floorboards) are supported on. The important part here was to have no unsealed or unprotected areas of timber to rot away under the floors.
The fishing version will also have an external pod to mount an outboard or two and this allows heaps of extra room and an unrestricted area in which to fish.
On the D25, the unprecedented step of joining the sides of the boat in one piece was taken ( 3 pieces of 8 x 4 ply) together in on one 24′ length and glassing and fairing each side as it was lying supported on the ‘building strongback’.
The ‘strongback’ for this boat is constructed in two separate sections, one 12′ long, the second, 8′ long, both 6′ wide. The idea of the strongbacks, constructed from cheap studding is to provide a support bench on which the components of the boat is constructed. Having 2 sections means that they can be easily moved around to support work both together or if you like, separately. The strongback is an integral part of Dolphin construction methodology.
Admittedly, having one 24′ length side is tricky to handle on your own but it was possibleto be moved around by one but help would be appreciated here! There will be a separate timber frame shown in the plans so that the 25 long sides can be ‘hung up’ next to the boat for easy working. The luxury of having the sides face up allows gravity assisted glassing and fairing. In fact, it takes only one day to scarph and glue one whole side, one day to glass, one day to apply fairing and one morning to fair! ‘The Nicky J’ took over 3 months…
When designing the D25 it was always taken for granted that this boat can be built single handed if needs be. Therefore careful planning about single handed operations were a primary consideration. For example, moving the completed floor section is a doddle with a handybilly, or even a couple of pulleys attached to the rear of the car and the assembly rolls on pieces of PVC pipe.
It’s estimated that the D25 will require 22 pieces of 1220 x 2440 (8 x 4) six mill plywood and a total list of materials for the basic hull, cabin. Floors, sides, deck including bulkheads and bunks will come to around $5000. That includes epoxy, glass glue and all fairing materials. You can begin to see what is meant about the financial bit, it makes sense. The good part about materials is you can buy ’em as you build. As for tools, the most you need is a planer, drill, a bench saw would be nice, a jigsaw, a skilsaw and a hand saw…not much else. There’s not a nail or screw yet in the completed hull and with luck there won’t be either at the finish.
How long to build a d25?
Aha, the million dollar question. So far, it has taken 2 months to complete the hull…it looks like a boat already. A further 8 weeks will see hull, cabin, floors, roof and new pod done. That’s sixteen weeks at about 20 hours per week single handed. ten days lost to real bad rain and humidity, but that’s normal. single handed, twenty hours per week, about six months. Full time, half that. More men (or women) helping, who knows? But, as usual, Dolphins are quick to build. However, whichever way you look at it, a 25′ brand new boat in under six months has to be a fast track method to owning a serious boat.
Plans as usual, will be available, when they are completely finalised in every detail. There will be a one off special licence issued for each set of plans. Cost? Not sure at present, but about AUD $250.00 but there will definitely be an introductory limited offer. You can see the progress build of the D25 by visiting the site .
Please remember, any questions regarding the boat can be addressed to the website.
Stitch and glue method is a build method that uses sheets of good quality ply (though not necessarily marine grade) that is stitched together using nylon electrical ties to hold the boat components together whilst they are glued, filleted and glassed.
Glassing and fairing hull sides and floor saves much waste of epoxy fairing material, difficult labour and countless hours of time. The epoxy fairing mixture will not crack when bent into shape.