Construction notes

I don’t claim to know a whole lot about boats, but here are a few things my friends or I have done so far.  Inspiration came from Joel’s Navigator page which has super helpful info for folks putting together a boat.  I’d be happy if mine is half as good:

Canvas Stuff:

My cover was made using my design with Andy Bike sewing and refining it.  The frame is made of ripped down 2×4’s and is untreated. The cover is made of Sunbrella fabric- spendy, but well worth it for breathability, durability, waterproofness, and sun protection. I cannot recommend this cloth highly enough. Weight my be the only slight downside.  I made the cover steep sided so water would not pool up. The seams are sealed with silicone.  Backpack buckles/cinches make it quick to tension the top.  The colors are goofy, but when you make something on the cheap out of scraps, you just hope for functionality and it works.

rigging - 17icy cover - 1

Andy Bike and I made some big, long bags for the spars.  I keep the sails lashed to the spars and just roll them up and slide them in the bags.


The boat rides on a slightly modified King KB910 trailer which I’m pretty happy with (good luck finding a used model).


Photos from Andy Boat who did all the woodwork.

Varnishing & Painting:

I used both nice bristle brushes and foam brushes.  Those foam brushes are good for the straightaways.  Brushes for anything round.   The foamies are cheap, but the quality varies: some are fine, some are much stiffer and more useful- buy carefully.  I used some weenie rollers on the outside of the hull, but found a regular brush was critical for tipping and smoothing the dreaded runny, stinky, and sticky Petit Easypoxy marine paint (which is very durable).

I did all my varnishing by hanging spars, knees, etc. with a combination of thick, bendable electric wires and wire coat hangers made into hooks.  Heavy fishing line and eyelets were used to suspend the spars.  This was cheap and easy.


Andy Bike was the lead sailmaker.  We sewed these in my living room.  And now a word from our sailmaker, “Andy Bike here. Bruce asked me to write up some nerdy details about making the sails for Row Bird. So here goes…   Like every good home sailmaking project, this one began by re-arranging furniture to clear a large enough space to lay out the main sail. Once we had a suitable space, we began rolling out and cutting fabric. Wait… I’m already ahead of myself. Lemme back up to the design process. From the get go I was pushing the idea that it wasn’t too late to put a motor mount on the back of Row Bird. Bruce wouldn’t succumb to even my best pro-motor argument, so we stuck our noses in the sail plan and with the help of my trusty scale-ruler and some SOA CAH TOA action, we were able to come up with the necessary measurements for laying out the sail full size. Now that we had a plan in hand we began cutting fabric. A traditional approach would have been to build the sail with vertical seams, but we went with a more modern cross cut style construction (cross cut= seams oriented perpendicular to the back edge of the sail). We used Challenge Sailcloth’s 3.8 ounce Performance Cruise fabric. The basic sail was sewn together and cut out. Up to this point we were probably 3 Saturdays into the sail making process and we had a full-size raw sail to show for it. But we weren’t even halfway done. The sewing doldrums don’t really set in until you start reinforcing the corners and reefs for grommets. Getting all those on took a couple more Saturdays. One helpful hint (if you’re reading this thinking to build your own sails): is to put the reef tie-downs… the ones in the middle of the sail… an inch or 2 lower than the Clew and Tack rings for that reef. That way when you reef you can tie the excess sail material to the boom without risking tearing the sail. Anyway, all the load bearing grommets are 14mm Inox rings and the intermediate grommets are #0 nickel plated brass spur grommets.”

Making a Mast Traveler:

close up mast traveler

I cut this tubular webbing open with scissors, slid in a thick piece of crate strapping salvaged from a stone tile store.
I cut the tubular webbing open with scissors, slid in a thick piece of crate strapping (salvaged from a stone tile store) to make the loop rigid.
I used a hot knife to seal the tubing back up.
I used a hot knife to seal the tubing back up.
I sewed a carabiner in place and sewed the webbing together to keep the loop from popping open when sailing.  The tape is there to stop the end of the webbing from rubbing.




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