15 Jan 21: 

Skipper grew up in a small town called Flour Bluff next to the Navy base near Corpus Christi. The folks there were dirt poor, and the Corpus Christ Elites called the residents Bluff Rats. So we'll name our new design BLUFF RATTY, which also has a nod to Rat and Mole from Kenneth Grahame's Wind In the Willows.

We have been toying with an idea for a punt, easy to build. The audience would be something Mom, Dad and the kids can build, throw in the back of a pickup and haul to the beach for a few hours of messing about. It could also serve as a work punt, I could have used it when I was repairing our pier. Propulsion is oar, paddle, double paddle, yuloh, quant and v2.0 could have square sail. We are incorporating some 1880s technology from BARBASHELA into the design and framing. We'll start with a 4x8 sheet of plywood, marine grade 1/4 inch (6mm) if you can find it local. Otherwise source the best grade you can find, with as many plies and as few inner voids as possible.

We had a 4x8 sheet of 1/4 inch marine grade ply and some 3/4 inch thick cypress in varied widths, so I thought we'd use that up first. We used several punt (flat-bottomed boat with a square-cut bow, designed for use in small rivers or other shallow water) plans to get an idea on what size pieces to cut, how long, how wide, how high. Our limiting factor on this BLUFF RATTY v1.0 Marine Construction Contract Design 1, Hull number 1 (MCC-101) is using only one sheet of 4x8 plywood. SUPER BLUFF RATTY (MCC-201), in design also, will use 2 sheets.  Marine grade plywood is nice, otherwise work with you local lumber store or cabinet shop to order the best grade plywood you can, with waterproof glue, higher grades are best, they have fewer voids in the plies, smoother and thicker veneer, and more internal plies. Pressure treated plywood might be considered as well. Southern Yellow Pine, white pine, douglas fir or spruce would work fine for the solid wood, white oak best, some woods will need more care and maintenance and some are easier to work with. Availability of materials will usually be the main issue.

Those are the basics for material selection, there are builder decisions to be made. A white pine boat with the cheapest grade plywood could have a very limited lifespan of one season unless it is pampered with excellent coatings and stored out of the weather. It will be inexpensive and fun to build. A white oak or cypress boat with high grade marine ply, excellent coatings and silicone bronze fasteners could be a family heirloom "100 Year Boat" with reasonable care and maintenance, and it will also be fun to build. Either way there is fun to be had building a boat that will easily carry an adult and a kid, or a couple of kids. Crew capacity and weight will be determined soon and posted here, we are shooting for 2-3 crew, 300-400 pounds total weight.

Insert Materials List here.

Insert Plans here.

Using numbers floating around in our head, we cut 8 inches off each side to become the 2 lower planks (garboard). Once this is done, Congratulations! You are building a boat.

(Editors Note: STOP: Don't do this, leave bottom at 32 inches. Our plan to flare the sides was not a good one unless we wanted to cut a rolling bevel on the chine and custom fit every frame.) The bottom is going to be one inch narrower on either side than the top (sheer), so we cut 2 inches off the length of one side of the bottom panel.

The lower planks have a rise of 5 1/2 inches starting 30 inches in, from each of each panel, so we made 2 marks on each side plank.

We cut out the 3/4 inch thick lumber next, to varied widths and lengths (see Materials List, once we develop it). One of the cuts is a 3/4" x 3/4" strip to make the chine, the strip that a side panel and bottom panel attach to. Today we used several #6 x 3/4 inch screws to temporarily attach the side panel to the chine out past the 30 inch mark, since we plan on screwing the sides in final construction, clamps could be used also. Then sprung the chine strip up 5 1/2 inches, measured to the top of the strip, to get the lower curve (rocker) of the bow and stern. Marked that rocker on the lower side of the chine strip, removed the chine and cut off the lower bit of panel with a jigsaw. You could cut 2 panels at the same time if desired. Save the lower cutoff(s) to mark the other end and for potential use later.

Next we cut the solid stock to varied widths and lengths per plan. These bits will make the bow, transom, seats, chine, upper plank (sheer plank), frames and other bits. If you ever thought about buying a portable table saw, now is the time :) 

Bow and transom.

Seats, bow and transom. Lower and upper planks. Bottom.

We work to Sharpie tolerances aka Galloping Horse Marine Construction. Some folks use sharp, sharp pencil. Measure twice, cut once. Cut a few extra pieces. We leave a tiny bit extra, and trim to fit during final construction. Keep a Moaning Chair handy to sit and ponder mess ups and future plans. Drink coffee.

16 Jan 21:

We plan to incorporate design elements from BARBASHELA into BLUFF RATTY, one of the first is to put a small rake on the bow and reverse on the stern, so we found the angle using our BARBASHELA bow porch table and our pocket bevel.  

After we cut the rocker on the garboards with a DeWALT 20V jigsaw, we clamped them together and sanded with 60 grit on a DeWALT random orbital sander to get the edges matched up. We'd like to have good fits where we can and plan to use thickened adhesives like THIXO or PL Premium to fill in any spots we miss, which will be a lot. (Note: All cuts could be made with a handsaw or jigsaw, and sanding could be done with sandpaper.)

2 side planks.

We used TotalBoat THIXO thickened adhesive to attach the chine strip to the side plank. 

If you have a lot of clamps, use 'em. Light pressure only, just enough to hold the chine in place, too much pressure can squeeze all of the adhesive out of the joint. We wiped off most of the excess that squeezed out to avoid later sanding, and used a gloved finger to make a little curve over the plank/chine joint, like you do with tub caulk, this ensures the joint is epoxied and will help shed water off of the joint.

No clamps for the other side? We predrilled pilot holes through the plank into the chine for #6 x 3/4" screws,  then fastened the plank with THIXO and the screws. Silicone bronze screws (Jamestown Distributors) are optimum, other options are marine grade stainless, stainless or exterior deck screws. Each step down in quality will shave years off of the boat's life. 

2 chine strips attached to 2 lower side planks (garboards).

Next we started fiddling with frames, the "elbows that will hold the planks to the bottom. You could make the side angle straight, but we wanted a little flare to the sides, like BARBASHELA has. And the frames could be rectangles, but we wanted the curved feet and used a salvaged bit from BARBASHELA to get the curve. The bottom of our boat will not be flat side to side either, we want some V, so that will be incorporated into the frame angle and truss that runs side to side to connect the frames. We're putting 1/8th" of V across 15 inches of the truss, you can see the truss poking its head into the photo top right. The V bottom will help the boat track straight.

Prototype frame laying on its side, with notch for chine strip cut out. Thoughts here are to not make this notch a tight fit along the chine, to allow water to drain to a low spot in the bilge. Those drains are referred to as limber holes.

18 Jan 21:

Before we attached the planks we sanded the seams to smooth out the THIXO. 60 grit did the job. Also tried out the new adapter for the shop vac hose, it works great, no more blue tape for me!

Used a 3/4 inch roundover bit on the router to ease the edge of the chine strip, hand sanding would also do the trick. This will also help keep water from sitting on the chine.

We might have little granddaughter fingers down there, we want all edges and seams in the boat to be eased and smooth. No place for hard edges in a small boat.

We are experimenting with different adhesives on this boat, used THIXO on one of the plank/bottom seams. Spolier Alert: THIXO was a lot more fun and agreeable to work with than the other methods we tried.

Back up a minute, it is good to scribe a nail/screw line along the bottom panel before dispensing adhesive.

We used #6 x 3/4 inch silicone bronze screws to attach the panel, pilot drilled and counter sunk. We plan for the screws to be puttied over and stay in place. Attached plank in the middle first and worked our way out to either end.

Used our Alcort nailing jig to get mostly uniform spacing for the screws, the same pattern used on wooden Sunfish and Sailfish, about 1 7/8 inch spacing. I forgot that it is also designed to mark the nailing line.

The slotted screw was a pain to work with, Frearson head would have made it easier, but all I had today were slotted. I shot a rambling video about how to look for the epoxy to squeeze out a little, that is all the pressure that is needed, as fastening any tighter may force all of the epoxy out of the joint. May or may not post the video...

In the other seam we wanted to try two different sealant methods, one is Old School, fabric saturated with oil based paint. Here is some Rustoleum soaked into terry cloth shop towel strips. The bottom plank is then nailed or screwed on, 1880s iron square nails if you have 'em. This method was very messy, lots of paint runs.

The other sealant we tried was Loctite PL Subfloor adhesive, bron blobs on the right. It tacked quick and started to harden, very hard to work with as I got to the last few screws. A lot of folks use PL Premium on their weekend boat but be advised you need to work fast.

Both garboards attached. The little 1 inch tuck athwartships that I put in both ends made it hard to pull in the sides, while simultaneously bending the bottom panel down, drilling pilot holes and driving slotted screws. Needed 5 hands, had 2 hands and a hip.

I burnt up 2-3 hours today trying to design in a little side flare, but there is not enough garboard there to flare, and I didn't put a bevel in the chine, as that would be a lot of work beyond most skills of first time builders and a lot of extra time for an 8 foot punt. Plus there would need to be beveled frames about every foot to keep the 1/4 inch plywood from getting humps and hard spots, and a more elaborate shape when cutting the plank. In the photo below I've cut my design time losses and moved on to making the sides plumb and attached the 3/4 inch thicker upper plank (sheer plank), which helped straighten out the 1/4 inch thick garboard.

Sheer plank dry fit.

Fiddling with seats and frames. There will be a seat riser underneath the seat, along the inner edge of the frame.

Pondering bow and stern rakes.

21 Jan 21:

I was going to put a little rake on the bow and transom, but those bevels got complicated fast. So I retreated back to plan, and made a plumb cut on the sheer and garboard down to the bottom panel. We'll need to fasten the sheer plank before we can trim the bow...or is it the transom...on both sides to fit.

Sounds simple, right. Above is the Reader's Digest version. I had already neatly trimmed 2 inches off of each end of the bottom panel and cut the rake on one end of the planking. That's when it dawned on me that the beveling and fitting would take forever to get one piece made to pattern, and to do the bevels consistently for the other 4 corners I'd need to pull out the sliding bevel radial arm saw, not something that a lot of folks have. And the boat will be 4 inches shorter now. So in retreating back to the original 12 Dollar Boat plan, I marked one corner plumb, hard to do when there is a big lap in the planking from sheer to garboard. I used a small circular saw to make the vertical cut, kind of hard to manipulate and cut straight, so I ended up with a not plumb cut. And I cut too far and cut through the bottom plank. And I didn't cut enough off for the 3/4 inch bow/transom to fit over the newly butchered bottom plank. 

Moaning Chair time. 
Definition: The "Moaning Chair" is described by Howard Chappelle as an essential tool to have, the place where you sit and ponder what you have either just screwed up or are about to screw up with all of your other tools. Moaning chairs come in all shapes and sizes and can be found next to favorite beverages. Moaning chairs should be available for all of the "usual visitors" as well so they can point out any mistakes the builder might have missed.

I don't know why the call it The Moaning Chair when it should be called The Swearing Chair...Our usual visitors are sometimes present in spirit, Capn Jack, my brother Kirk, Lt Hunter, Elta, Joe and Pierre, laughing at me usually and calling for others to "come watch, quick!"

This meant I needed to remark a new plumb line about a 1/4 inch in and trim to that line. I thought I'd be smart and pull out the super sharp Japanese pull saw and trim to line with that. While trying to stabilize the wiggly end piece I managed to lightly saw more of my middle finger than the boat. Wandered past The Swearing Chair to the Bandaid Chair, triaged with some Neosporin and a tiny BandAid. Skipper would've just rubbed some dirt on it. Maybe I should have been wearing some Bernie mittens.

Back to the boat, cut the line with the circulars saw, stopped shy of the bottom and trimmed the rest of the way with the oscillating multitool, with a bi metal blade, handy because it sawed through a silicone bronze fastener along the way. Then I did the final fitting, shaving the edge to good-enough-for-government-work straightness with a random orbital sander, THIXO can fill any gaps I may or may not have left behind.

24 Jan 21:

We have been all over the place design wise with the little punt we are building, there are elements for Popular Science's 1966 12 Dollar Boat and elements from other craft we have built or repaired. She's a BLUFF RATTY in spirit and we think her call sign will be SCUPPERS. The design changes wandered some more when I realized that I had cut off about 6 extra inches on the bow when I thought it would be a good idea to rake the bow. No time for the Moaning Chair, rain is coming, it was time to pull out the table saw and cut 2 new 8 foot planks for the sheer planks, 4 inches wide. I also cut a new bow and stern seat to be 10 inches wide instead of 8.

To add length back to the bow I joined scraps of 1/4 inch plywood to to the garboards with THIXO and butt plates. For the hull we cut a butt plate, fastened it with THIXO WOOD and clamped it while the THIXO dries. Once these pieces firm up we'll cut the new rocker and attach new chine strips. The old sheer planks, too short now, will be replaced with the new 8 foot planks.

R. D. "Pete" Culler once said "Boatbuilding is simply about correcting one mistake after another, with the first mistake being to have begun in the first place. But oh what fun!"

 25 Jan 21:

While we were watching paint dry on PHOENIX we fastened the correct length sheer planks to SCUPPERS with THIXO Wood and silicone bronze screws. We also attached the stern, and trimmed the small frames and seats to fit.

 28 Jan 21:

Main method of propulsion for the little punt SCUPPERS wil most likely be a punt pole. Secondary will be paddle, and we might try tiny oars. If so, we have some vintage Wilcox and Crittenden removable oar locks that we'd use. We only envision using SCUPPERS in water shallow enough for a punt, so that if we capsize we could just stand up and reboard the PV (Punting Vessel).

Okay we would attach them to the gunwale. Shown below on the hull just for size reference.

I had a dumb plan to rake the bow aft and cut too fast, that made the bow plank very deep. So I brought out the board stretcher and added 6 inches back, shown here stretching the hull.

31 Jan 21:

Wrapped up the night before pondering scantlings for the seat risers.

We settled on 1 3/8th inch height for the seat risers, a good size for kids to grip. We cut 2 small cove details with the table saw, and rounded the edges with a 3/4 inch roundover bit. Also rounded the seat edges and cut the cove.

 01 Feb 21:

Primed SCUPPERS with TotalBoat Topside Primer. Rolled TotalTread Non Skid in the bilge of SCUPPERS. Spilled primer.

Painted a Sunfish.

Rolled and tipped Interlux Brightside Medium Blue on the seats, risers, gunwale, bow and transom.

WALDO insisted on so Interlux.

02 Feb 21:

We applied more coats of TotalBoat WetEdge BlueGlo White and Interlux Brightside Medium Blue, First coat for the frames and interior, second coat for the seats and gunwale. Also cut a rub strip for the gunwal out of cypress and attached it with #6 x 3/4 inch Frearson Head silicone bronze screws.


03 Feb 21:

Installed the frames, seat risers and seats with #8 silicone bronze Frearson Head screws.

Also installed rub strips on the bottom, then faired over the screw holes with TotalFair.

 04 Feb 21:

Sanded the TotalFair then rolled and tipped final coats of Rust-Oleum Safety Yellow, TotalBoat WetEdge Blue GloWhite and brushed Interlux Brightside Medium Blue. 

We designed a foot for the punt pole modeled after a heron's foot.

The punt pole got red and white stripe paint scheme like the Army Air Corps Stearman trainer rudders.

11 Feb 21:

Launched SCUPPERS for Sea Trials. Watertight integrity was 100 percent, no leaks from any of the 3 different seams we tried, THIXO, PL Subfloor and RustOleum soaked cloth. One positive aspect of the punt design was the ability to step in directly from the shore and walk to towards the stern, which lifted the bow, and from there I was able to punt pole off of the beach.

Found out real fast that the lightweight punt, with her narrow beam, is very twitchy side to side when an adult is standing. Standing up for an extended period would be a workout, and also the punt pole was too long, it created an even higher moment arm above the lateral center of balance. So I switched over quickly to secondary propulsion mode of paddle. She floats well on her lines with about 6 inches of freeboard and was easy to control with a paddle. The punt pole could also be used as a double paddle, not very efficient but it did move the boat around.

I checked balance fore and aft, and with just one person and no cargo it would be possible to submerge a corner. Keeping a wide stance did help with lateral stability but it was hard to change positions unless I shuffled.  The punt also needs a skeg to help with directional control.

Overall SCUPPERS was an easy build with locally available materials, 4 weekends at a leisurely pace. She weighs in at 60 ponds and will fit in a pickup bed, so she'd be a fun little boat for kids to mess about in on the shoreline under adult supervision.  We envision she'd be tied to the shore and kids would spend most of the day dumping sand in her bilge.

One question we get asked is how we know which end is which? As it turned out, I didn't know, most of the Sea Trial was conducted stern first. The bow is tucked up just a little more than the stern and she would have beached even easier. In the photos above she is beached stern first.

We took steps to help identify bow and stern.

Looking for some short oars now, we have oarlocks standing by. She also needs some handling lines, maybe a cleat or two.

..to be continued

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