RowCruiser Build Log from a Newbie

This forum is offered for discussion about the Colin Angus designed RowCruiser.

Moderator: Moderator

davea
New Contributor
Posts: 12
Joined: Mon Mar 16, 2015 9:58 am

RowCruiser Build Log from a Newbie

Post by davea »

Hi folks, I'm one of the participants in the RowCruiser workshop in Feb 2015. I went into the workshop having never built a boat, and not done any fancy woodworking or building outside of a few personal furniture projects and renos.

I'm starting a thread here as a way to share lessons learned (and help keep me motivated to finish) while completing my RC. I'm hoping my naivete, inexperience, and general clumsiness will serve to be a helpful tool for others who are not already experienced boatbuilders-- if you want to learn how to do it the right way, read the kit manual and look at Marty's build log on rowcruiser.com; if you want to learn how NOT to do it the wrong way, this may end up being a useful resource :lol:

My ambitions are to use the boat for weekend & longer trips in the PNW/BC Coast, and perhaps longer trips as I gain more experience and confidence. I've done a few bike touring trips and kayak trips before, which fills me with a probably unwarranted amount of confidence that I can pull off the kind of trips I have in mind... (Somewhat hilariously, however, I've never actually rowed a sliding seat boat)

---

The workshop was fantastic, and I never felt like I was in over my head, thanks to the helpful guidance of Marty and Colin, as well as the fact that they had all the appropriate tools and gear at the ready. Our progress was quick, and we ended up working together as one big group on each hull individually during the hull panel stitching process, which made things so so much easier than trying to do it with 1 or 2 people, and ended up with a lot less wasted time fighting to get boards in position. This is evidenced by our progress by the end of day 2:

Image

The CNC kit is super well put together and things like registration marks for placing bulkheads without having to measure makes things gobs easier. There were a couple recent changes to the design of the deck pieces which made some of the instructions redundant or required some adjustment to other parts (eg the curvature of the fore and aft hatches), but this should all be sorted out by the time the next batch of kits and updated manual are hammered out.

One of the most complex next steps (after filleting hull planks, glassing the inside of the hull, and filleting the bulkheads) was the flotation chambers. Things went together well, but it was quite fiddley work. After tacking on the chamber mini-bulkheads, here's what it looks like to epoxy 20 pieces of wood together at the same time:

Image
.. 27 clamps used (never have too many)

After gluing and filleting the flotation chamber panels, constructing the curved hatch covers, building a makeshift rack for the car, and cleaning up, that was the end of the workshop:

Image

Image

More photos from the workshop here: http://rowcruiser.com/RowCruiser%21/Row ... tos.html#0
User avatar
simeoniii
Recognized Old Salt
Posts: 664
Joined: Thu Oct 21, 2010 5:55 am
Location: Port Ludlow, Washington

Re: RowCruiser Build Log from a Newbie

Post by simeoniii »

Nice work Dave -

Thanks for sharing!
Simeon
Voyaging with Noddy, #11
davea
New Contributor
Posts: 12
Joined: Mon Mar 16, 2015 9:58 am

First Steps

Post by davea »

(Didn't realize the thread needed to be approved -- breaking up this first update into multiple parts to make it easier to read)

As I live in a marina with no back yard or workshop or room of any sort really, my original plan was to rent a 20' cargo container as a workshop, however it turns out there wasn't any room available in the marina dry storage lot, so I eventually ended up finding some space in a large boat garage. The space is tight and awkward and precarious, but it'll do and the price is right (free). Figuring this out, creating an area surrounded by plastic sheeting and getting supplies and materials took up the better part of a week after getting home.

First tasks:

Image

The most obvious is the thickened epoxy filleting on the skeg. This smooths the profile and adds strength. It was tricky to get the curve right and even on both side (used a 8" plastic wallpaper spatula thing with pressure to get it to curve), and to prevent sagging I used a thick consistency which caused pitting in the surface which had to be sanded down, and then filled in again with a second coat of less-thickened expoxy (not shown above). I'm not sure if there's an easier way to do this, other than perhaps using a less-thick mix to start with and laying the boat on its side (to reduce running/sagging) and do one side at a time.

The other thing visible is the sanding along the chines/hull plank joints. During the workshop with a lot going on, I neglected to do a final check on the edge alignment of the hull planks when doing the initial epoxy tacking. This caused the edges in some places to be slightly not-flush. There's 2 approaches to fix this, and I tried both -- one is to fill in the too-low side of the joint with thickened epoxy. This is a lot of work and requires careful sanding to get it faired out on the low side, but is the stronger option.

The other is to remove some material from the plank on the high side with a sander until it sits flush with the low side -- you can see that in the areas in the above photo where the clearcoat has been sanded away. To prevent uneveness, it's best to extend the sanding area away from the joint a few inches so that you don't get dips that will be obvious after painting. It's also tempting to just grind away at the joint area directly with a sander to get it flush, but doing so causes a flat spot on the joint which will also likely be obvious after painting. Anyway, you'll have to wait until I'm done glassing and fairing and painting to see whether removing material to make fair vs adding material to make fair is the better choice.

(Better yet, just make sure your joints are perfect before tacking them in place)

Before continuing I had to flip the boat back over. I found a way to do this by myself by lifting up the front, removing the front saw horse, then resting the bow on a soft surface (a roll of scrap carpet I'm using to protect the floor in the 'workshop'), then walk around to the stern and roll the boat over as its resting on the bow, then pick up the front and put it back on the sawhorse. Not sure how I'll do this once everything is decked, I might have to make a friend or something absurd like that.
davea
New Contributor
Posts: 12
Joined: Mon Mar 16, 2015 9:58 am

Removing Lower Sheer Clamp from Sleeping Cabin, Cleaning up

Post by davea »

First up was to remove the lower sheer clamps where they extend beyond the center bulkhead and into the sleeping cabin. The overlap is only there to ensure a smooth curve when forming the shape of the hull (so I was told). Once everything is sturdy, they can be removed to simplify the finishing of the interior of the compartment, making more room for shelves, etc. At the very least you need to notch them out to make room for the quarter-knees that will be installed to help support the deck.

Image

I realized that I'd made the job harder by filleting around these sheer clamps where they meet the main bulkhead at an earlier stage of the build, which would now need to be removed. I think if I were to do it again (and didn't have the time constraints of the workshop), I'd join and fillet the hull planks and bulkheads (leaving a small gap in the filleting around the sheer clamps), then remove the sheer clamps, then touch up the filleting, THEN lay the fiberglass -- this way the fiberglass would extend to the top of the compartment on the inside, and it wouldn't take as much effort to get the bulkhead filleting looking nice.

Anyway, here is the end of the sheer clamp with the bulkhead in the background (at left):

Image Image

Lured by the convenient orientation of the grain, I started trying to chunk out the clamps with a chisel before realizing (too late) that if the grain dips too low, it pulls up part of the underlying ply up with it. New plan:

Image

Dremel with an oscillating head and flush cut wood saw. Created segments to remove it bit by bit, then carefully took progressively lower cuts with the saw

Image

Worked great -- after only a few minutes, it was almost completely flush, leaving just a bit of sanding to get rid of the remaining bits:

Image

While I was messing with sheer clamps, I cleaned up the area aft of the main cabin bulkhead with a chisel to get everything square to make for an easier job later when I will eventually put in a filler piece of wood to match the curve of the outside.

Image

Next job was to start cleaning up the cockpit and sleeping compartment. This included sanding fillets smooth-ish, but rather than spend hours sanding fillets I opted to apply a second coat of lightly-thickened epoxy to the existing fillets to get a smoother surface and fill in any pinholes, gaps, waves, etc.

Image

This second layer would again be sanded flush with the surrounding panels once dry.

You can also see (barely) from the above photo that I routed the edge of the cockpit flotation chambers (as well as the underside of the sheer clamps/inwhales in the cockpit and sleeping cabin) with a 1/4" roundover bit and hand-held router, finishing off the edges of the boards where the router couldn't reach by hand with a sanding block (which was a bit tricky to get right). You could probably go up to a 1/2" radius corner, but I didn't want to buy a new bit, so this will do, and should be enough to prevent snags or any corners digging into legs, etc. It's a good idea to sand flush the vertical panel of the flotation compartments before routing to ensure any drips of epoxy don't mess up the path of the router bit's roller bearing/pilot.

I also cleaned up the edges of all the fiberglass where it met or overlapped the bulkheads, and sanded down a few unfortunate air bubbles on the interior fiberglass that I swore I had fixed when doing the glassing originally, but apparently didn't fix well enough.

I then added 2 more thin coats of epoxy to the fiberglassed areas of the sleeping compartment cockpit, let them dry, and started the process of sanding them down smooth. The air bubbles that I sanded out earlier left gaps in the fiberglass which I filled with slightly thickened epoxy. All this is probably overkill for these regions, but it allowed me to practice the process before I tried it on the more important exterior of the hull, and will ensure a smooth base for the paint that will go on later.

Image
davea
New Contributor
Posts: 12
Joined: Mon Mar 16, 2015 9:58 am

Sheer Clamp Beveling

Post by davea »

Next up beveling the top side of the sheer clamps so that the decking fits properly. If you leave the sheer clamps un-trimmed, the angle that the deck hits the sheer clamp will be off, which complicates attachment and would cause some strange and inconsistent curves at the edge of the deck.

I had a piece of 4'x4' 3mm thick hardboard sitting around and traced the profiles of the deck arches (the top of the arches which is the radius you want, and then extended it on either side to the edge of the MDF sheet), and then cut it out with a small dremel circular saw (~3" diameter blades) which were just small enough to follow the curve. A coping saw would work too but I didn't have one handy, plus who isn't a fan of using power tools.

Image

Here's one of the templates in place:

Image

You can see if you had the deck conforming to the deck arches, this is how the deck would meet the sheer clamps, which would be bad. The different templates traced from the different arches aren't that dramatically different at the edges, so I wasn't too concerned with being super precise. If you did want to be exact, you'd also want to trace out the profiles of the bulkheads, and use that as the beveling guide in the area of the bulkhead. I essentially used the first deck arch template as the guide from the bow to halfway between the 2 deck arches, and the second deck arch template as the guide from the center bulkhead to halfway between the 2 deck arches.

I was being cautious not to remove any material from the inboard edge of the top (which if done inconsistently could cause waviness in the deck), and so only removed from the outside corner at (approximately) the proper angle with long strokes of a block plane.

Here's my 'good enough' result, with a slight gap on the inside corner (which will be filled in by filleting anyway). I think it's mostly just important that you have an overall flat surface for nailing the deck into.

Image

One small issue I ran into was that the bulkheads were sitting slightly too high, in that there was about 4mm of bulkhead protruding above the inside edge of the sheer clamp. I planed down the bulkheads (as evenly as possible) so that their profile flows smoothly into the sheer clamp (sorry no photos of this).
Last edited by davea on Mon Mar 16, 2015 4:27 pm, edited 1 time in total.
davea
New Contributor
Posts: 12
Joined: Mon Mar 16, 2015 9:58 am

Re: RowCruiser Build Log from a Newbie

Post by davea »

Working on next:
  • Buy & install access ports to the cockpit flotation chambers (access via sleeping compartment)
  • do a bit of filling and sanding in the bow and stern storage compartments (where only fiberglass tape was used on the joints)
  • paint the inside of the compartments and the cockpit
  • and then of course flip the boat and fiberglass the outside (something I've been putting off for quite long enough already).
  • Then assemble decking and deck arch pieces, fit the deck arches, and then it's about ready for decking.
Sounds so easy when I list it out like that...
norseboater
Regular Contributor
Posts: 28
Joined: Thu Jun 06, 2013 10:57 am
Location: Nordland, WA
Contact:

Re: RowCruiser Build Log from a Newbie

Post by norseboater »

Great stuff, Dave…glad to see you're progressing with the build, and hope to see you on the water this summer!

Best,

Marty
davea
New Contributor
Posts: 12
Joined: Mon Mar 16, 2015 9:58 am

Re: RowCruiser Build Log from a Newbie

Post by davea »

Well I just wrote out a huge update, but when I hit submit, it asked me to log in again and all was lost. This time around might be a bit more brief.

I'm still working on this, but had a bit of a delay when I ran out of epoxy and then ran out of money to buy more for a month or so. But back on track now and been making progress for a while.

First up was deck arches. I had to trim most of them to width for whatever reason. Sadly when doing that I didn't account for how they'd sit on the sheer clamps when I made them narrower, so the curve of the arches ended up being proud of the sheer clamps, so that required going back with a block planer to fix.

Here's everything laid up with braces and clamps to hold things in position:

Image

I quickly filleted the easily accessible areas around the pieces and quarter knees, and then went back the next day to finish off the filleting. The hatch piece is only there as a guide for quarter knee location. All done and flush:

Image

Next big job was glassing the hull. Scary as a first-timer-- biggest single job of the build.

Image

All went well though thanks to instructions in the kit. I also bought some slow epoxy hardener which made things less stressful and increased working time for that initial pour-- I did the hull in 2 pours instead of 3. Two layers of overlapping glass, and then 3 layers of epoxy rolled on over that.

Instead of just reinforcing the bow with an extra strip, I bought and epoxied into place a strip of Kevlar down the entire length of the bottom of the boat. Here it is while the transom was getting glassed over top of it:

Image

It went on easily enough, conforming surprisingly well to sharp angles. However the problem with Kevlar is that you can't cut it on an angle-- the weave will just disintegrate all over the place. You can only cut straight across it, and even that is quite tricky (a fresh utility knife blade was needed for each cut). The other problem is that it's quite thick. These two things were the making of an issue on the bow, where I had to join two pieces together:

Image

The problem is that if you try to sand through the kevlar, it just turns into a fuzzy mess -- the sanding doesn't get rid of the kevlar like it does fiberglass, it just makes it stick up MORE. I eventually had to fair around this join and the edges of the kevlar strip with epoxy thickened with glass bubbles, trying to be careful as possible to not sand into the kevlar at all, so that it didn't fuzz the surface. Here's what that fuzz looks like (the white bits)

Image

Continuing this as a second post since this is long enough and I don't want to lose it again.
davea
New Contributor
Posts: 12
Joined: Mon Mar 16, 2015 9:58 am

Decking

Post by davea »

On to decking!

First is getting a couple things out of the way that'll be too hard to do once the decks are on. Painting the bow and rear storage compartments (used just a single thick coat of Interlux PreKote), and installing some 4" access ports to access the rear section of the flotation chambers (I figure this will be good for things like food and fuel bottles, etc).

Image

Pretty tight fit with those access ports, but it does work. I epoxied them in place out of concern of the sliced-off gasket/lip on the cut side not being very trustworthy.

Last glimpse of the rear compartment before the decks go on. Notice I didn't bother smoothing things out too much. The paint is to allow light to bounce around a bit, making finding things easier when digging around in a compartment. Plus it looks marginally better than filleted and taped plank seams.

Image

I ended up not going with the deck pieces included in the kit. They are provided in multiple pieces, so have seams running down them. If you're painting your deck, that's totally fine. For me, I want to varnish the decks, so I spent the extra money to go buy some fresh pieces of oukume ply and traced the kit deck shape onto it. The pieces I got have some interesting grain to them, so I think it'll be worth the extra expense.

However, the front deck is too large for a single 4x8 piece of ply, so you have to butt joint the tip on (instructions are detailed for this in the kit manual). However, when dry-fitting the deck, the deck didn't bend smoothly over the butt joint, so my helper for the day, a talented maker-type, got all artistic with the dremel saw (with hand depth gague):

Image

(Note the underside already sealed with epoxy before installing). This allowed it to bend smoothly while still providing a decent amount of joining strength. Worked great. Glad I had someone more talented than me to help! He also came in handy with laying the decks...

The rear deck went on easily enough. We pre-marked all the nail holes so that they'd be spaced evenly and end at the corners symmetrically. A bit OCD, but it looks great and was well worth the effort. We used the nailing guide as recommended by the manual to ensure all the nails were exactly centered in the sheer clamps. We used quite small copper nails found at the local hardware store -- the type used for affixing paneling. Quite a lucky find as the local marine supply shop (with its hundreds of bins of fasteners) didn't have anything suitable.

The front deck gave us a bit more trouble. 3/4 through, we noticed something was going very wrong, and an un-fixable wave in the deck had developed. Luckily, the small nails were easy enough to pry up without damaging the deck, and also luckily enough, I was still using the slow epoxy hardener, meaning nothing got stuck in place where it shouldn't have. After undoing the nails back to about the 1/2 point and triple checking nothing was at a strange angle, all went in fine on the 2nd try. We think what happened was that because the companionway hole was already cut out, the "wings" didn't provide much lateral rigidity, and allowed the sheet to get bent out of alignment. Bit of a head-scratcher though. Here's the result:

Image

After carefully trimming the decks and rounding the edge with a 1/4" roundover router bit, decks were glassed next. No issue there, but there were some pinholes/gaps where the weave of the fiberglass refused to get filled in with epoxy despite 3 coats with the roller. A final coat of an extra 12ox of epoxy applied with a brush cured all ills, but of course made for a bit more sanding work.

Image

Also note the sleeping compartment has now been painted as well (just the bottom).

One minor mess-up with the deck was that after the deck was laid, I went back the next day and epoxied it to the quarter knees. I did check to make sure all was level, but I guess by clamping the deck to the tip of the quarter knees, that was enough to bring it down too low and make it uneven:

Image

(Note the 2x 5" access ports holes cut to the bow compartment, I'm not putting in the bow hatch. They're small and separated so that I can upgrade to the sail kit in the future)

Luckily the deck problem was easily fixed by cutting the fillet back a few inches, spacing it out until it was level, then filleting it back in place. Always nice when a problem isn't as bad as you first think:

Image

Next step was initial hull and deck fairing. All done with the collection of sanding discs to prove it:

Image

That deck is looking sweeeeet. Can't wait till varnish time.

Before varnish though I need to finish the companionway, which is going to be a different design from the kit. I'm framing it with some gorgeous Sitka Spruce I bought for various other bits (rub rails, transom cover, etc). Here's how it looks in its infancy.

Image

I'll make a whole separate post on that though, once I get done, hopefully in a week or two.

Other than that, the hull is ready for the first coat of primer, the deck is ready for the first coat of varnish, and I've got my sliding seat kit just about ready to install. Finishing touches like rub rails and handles will be last on the list, and not all that necessary for first launch. Getting sorta close-- which is good because I'm missing out on great boating weather by the day...
swoody126
New Contributor
Posts: 17
Joined: Wed May 06, 2015 8:41 am
Location: between Ft Worth & the Red River

Re: RowCruiser Build Log from a Newbie

Post by swoody126 »

thanks for taking us along

you will enjoy the fruits of your labors for many years to come

sw
steve,

addicted to water and many of the activities that require or are enhanced by it

trailerable, wooden, fiberglass, aluminum & hard plastic

power, sail & paddle

hand crafted a/o commercially created
Post Reply