The Shape of Things to Come


It is now October, 10 months into what is theoretically a 20 hour build (hah!). In my defense, I am like, really busy. The past month, for work related reasons I won’t go into, I traveled to the north of the South Island three times. The coast road from Christchurch to Blenheim was severely impacted by the 2016 earthquake and major road and earthworks are still in progress. Stopping for roadworks is not so bad when you get such great views (not shown, sleeping seals).


The gypsies visited Christchurch a couple of weeks ago. They travel in their richly decorated vans, tiny homes and converted buses stopping all around both the north and south island selling homemade wares, haircuts and fairy floss. Coincidentally, we saw them on our very first weekend in New Zealand and thought this sort of thing happened all the time, but they take a year to do the complete circuit.




Thankfully, boat progression has also been fruitful. After fitting skegs to both hulls, I began glassing the bottom of each boat. Making fibreglass involves the use of a heavy cloth tape, and a two-part epoxy resin soaked into the cloth and glued to the plywood. Once dry, the cloth gives structure and flexibility whilst the resin gives strength. Together, they make a very strong and lightweight structure (carbon fibre is made in the same way). Unfortunately, this was my first time and the initial results were mixed (too much resin on the first section, too little on the second). But, after a while I figured it out and hopefully the boats will be stronger as a result.

As well as the bottom of the hull, the place most likely to encounter rocks and rough shorelines, I glassed the edge and seams. Plywood is pretty good at resisting water, except on the ends, where the multiple layers act like a straw to suck up water. Hopefully, with a nice covering of protective fibreglass, they will remain sealed and dry.

The next stage was to install the watertight bulkheads on boat number two. You may recall that boat number one, with the cat hull configuration running fore and aft already has its compartments. Now the words, watertight, plywood and glue don’t really go together in my mind. But, a challenge is good for the soul and besides, what is the worst that can happen?

I was reluctant to drill more holes through the hull, which led to a lot of difficulties in fitting the bulkhead framing timber. It needs to be pressed tight for the glue to bond correctly, and there was a lot of choice words spoken as I experimented with timber wedges that never held when the slippery glue was applied. Eventually, I solved the problem by just placing lots of really heavy things on it.

Once the framing timbers were solidly in place, I cut and fit plywood to act as the bulkhead. In theory, the volume of the fore and aft compartments is enough to keep the boat afloat even if capsized! After both bulkheads were fitted, I applied sikaflex around all the edges in an attempt to keep everything sealed.



Then, more framing timber glued into place along the top. Unlike the bulkheads, which were screwed and glued into place, these were just clamped. The great thing about polyurethane based glue is it soaks into the timber, as well as expands to fill gaps. In theory, once cured, all screws in this boat are completely redundant and should actually be removed (I won’t be doing that!). Next time, I hope to have solved the thorny issue of paints, water based, oil based, acrylic, latex based, primers, undercoats. What does it all mean? Does it even matter? As long as you can swim, probably not!





  1. Hi Damo,

    Glad to read that you added the qualifying words of: “In Theory”. This means that you are probably going to be fine and the boat will perform much better than anticipated (just watch for large icebergs). The designers and manufacturers of the Titanic probably said the same thing without adding the qualifying words! Hehe!

    The boat is looking good.

    Bummer about having to work so hard. The photo looking down the east coast was amazing. Does that train track get used, it looks like a very narrow gauge but then I can’t get my head around the scale of the image? Dunno.




  2. Hi Chris,

    Thank you for the kind words, the proof will be in the pudding as they say. And as my first boat it is all a bit unknown beyond, water out = good, water in = bad 🙂

    The railway photo is from State Highway 1, north of Kaikora. The road is undergoing multi-billion dollar repairs after a large earthquake in 2016 (plenty of youtube videos show the scale of the damage). It is dramatic coastline, with the highway and railway perched between the cliffs and ocean. Not much room to put it anywhere else, hopefully it holds up on the next earthquake!



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