Jamie’s Boat Building Blog – GIS in Walnut Creek, CA

Jamie Fessendon Goat Island Skiff: storerboatplans.com


When Jamie mentioned his goat island skiff building blog I went … oh yeah … another blog … but it is really rather a nice bit of writing.

He had a shot at getting one of the Lumber Yard Skiffs from Woodenboat Magazine underway first.

His experience was in line with my confustification about why that particular boat would be offered as a first “free plan” for someone to build. If you lived in a boatshed by the water it would make some sort of sense but a Rowboat that cannot be handled by two people on shore without a trailer or a jinker seems strange and the building of something that looks simple may not be as simple as expected by a first time builder with no reference points.

Really impressed that Jamie picked himself up and dusted himself off …

This is true of ALL boats in a way. The test, I think, is when lots of people build the same design that they tend to have different problems during the building.

ie their problems don’t match up.

If their problems match up – builders have the same problem – then there is something wrong with the plan.

Actually it is one of the really interesting things about plans. One person will build and say the build went fine but they had trouble marking out the bulkheads. Another will build and say it went fine but the section about allowing the clearances on the buttstraps was a problem.

I think that to understand that this is the “shape of the universe” has been useful for me as a designer (ie don’t try to fight the universe or get frustrated with its shape) and the best strategy seems to be to have a forum just like this one. In fact, I suspect it is the only time efficient way to deal with the normal problems of building. So here … I really have to thank the builders of my boats for their enormous contribution.

From Biting_Midge (who built the first Goat (actually it was a tie with Derek), then the first Eureka canoe and sponsored the PDRacers and did their websites) right through to Jamie with his first post yeserdayand his blog … I am really, really grateful to you all!!! I really never expected to have so many connections to other parts of the world … USA, Canada, Mexico, Argentina, Ecuador, UK, Senegal, Capetown, Romania, Denmark, Sweden, France, Hungary, Germany, France, Slovania, Slovakia, Poland, Russia, the Phillipines … all something I really did not expect.

Like following Bjarne (Maximuss’s) build, it is amazing the multinational nature of the help and advice. World Peace might be only one step away – providing those GIS sailors don’t get too aggressive with each other at the Big Lagoon Messabout!!!

ok … now that is off my chest .. have a look at some of the stuff written by Jamie.

Setting out to build a boat

I have been around boats my whole life. I still don’t know a whole lot about them, but not for lack of exposure. I had never contemplated building my own boat before; then I stumbled upon the Wooden Boat magazine series, “Getting Started in Boats”.

I was looking a way to get back on the water. The Lumber Yard Skiff (LYS) by Maynard Bray seemed like the perfect choice, inexpensive and challenging to a novice boat builder (or at least to me- is there a level below novice?). I excitedly described my intentions to my wife. She was skeptical. Still is. I bought the plans. I studied them intently. I picked up and read a few excellent references, two books from Greg Rossel, The Boatbuilders Apprentice, and Building a Smallboat.

Excitedly, and in retrospect, too hurriedly, I began building the LYS. Disaster stuck early and often. First, while trying to mate the hullsides to the inner stem, I repeatedly lost control of the hullsides and they continually toppled over to the pavement. Then one hullside broke. No problem. I quickly decided to press on, shortening the length from 14′ 8″ to 10′ 8″. I was also determined to keep the same beam, 48″.

I moved the second station (the location of the mold, and widest section of the boat) back to compensate for the shortened length. I set about mating up the sides the stem again.

Disaster struck again. While bending the sides around the mold, a plank broke at the mold. I shut things down on the LYS and went back to the drawings board.

I spent the next week or so considering different designs. The boats I intially considered were Herreshoff’s Biscayne Bay 14 and Coquina, Alden’s O Boat, and Joel White’s Marsh Cat and Haven 12 1/2. All of these boats are classics that would be a dream to build and sail; the problem is that they are all ambitious for my skill level. Undeterred, I continued to poke around and then stumbled across the Goat Island Skiff design by Michael Storer.

The more I read about the GIS, the more I came to like the design. Mr. Storer has designed an extremely capable boat with great lines. In addition, the detail of the plans, the method of construction, and personel support given by Mr. Storer lends the GIS to be a great first build. In the end the decision was easy. I am building a Goat Island Skiff.

I learned many things in failing to build the LYS – slow down, be patient, spend the time to make it right. As an example, I had a lot of trouble with the inner stem. In the end, I did not spend enough time with the plane getting it right. That lead to my problem fitting the sides to the stem, the bulk of my frustration, which lead to further problems down the line.

There is only one innaccuracy here … Mr Storer (haha)? You have a nice eye for boats Jamie, many of those are in my list of favourites too – but are all quite complex builds or quite long builds. Do one of them next time round maybe!

Small Steps Forward

Not much progress has been made when it comes to actually building the boat. I have cleaned out the garage and built shelves to create more floor space. I bought the okueme marine plywood and the epoxy kit from Duckworks.

The plans include a large step-by-step booklet, as well as enough detailed drawings to get a very good understanding of the build sequence and requirements.

Next steps are to finish the buy-out of wood (western red cedar, doug fir, and some hardwood), as well as begin the step-by-step building of the boat. I plan to lay out the bottom, sides, transom, and bulkhead as called for in the plans when I have a few hours to work uninterrupted.

I also plan on building a small cart to easily move the boat in and out of the garage.

For the rest … we will all just have to follow Jamie’s blog. I might steal some interesting bits from time to time.

As well as the blog, Jamie’s building thread on the OZ Woodwork Boatbuilding forum is there to look at too. I imagine he will post questions there.

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