Taping the Seams

So, after a few days away with my wife celebrating our 22 year wedding anniversary, I’m back in the shop.  I was anxious to get moving forward, so I rolled up my sleeves and started in.




Aft corners are looking good after I filled them.


The steps I followed:

  1. Measured and cut all glass taping to it’s proper length.
  2. Rolled epoxy over all joint and seam areas.
  3. Rolled epoxy over all the glass tape.
  4. Applied the wet glass tape to all the seams and joints.
  5. Waited 6 hours.
  6. Rolled wet epoxy over all the seam and joints again (to fill the weave).
  7. Rolled wet epoxy over the chine and bottom panels.


I was pretty busy for several hours getting all this accomplished. The heat in my garage, during this time of year, is around 80 degrees.  So, you really need to keep things moving.  It feels great to be back building again after a few days away.  I’m still loving this project.  I would strongly encourage anyone thinking about building this boat to move forward.  I’m willing to visit with any of you over the phone about my experience, (208) 589-1222.



Does Versatility Jeopardize Safety?

I’ve had a couple of people ask me why I removed the rear flotation chambers in my Skiff America.  I thought I would create a blog post to better explain why I made this change.

I’ll start with a few questions I needed to answer in my own mind before I felt comfortable removing the chambers.

Isn’t the false transom structural?  Will this ruin my boat?

Yes, the false transom is structural.  No, it won’t ruin your boat.  It’s important, however, to create fillets on both sides of all 4 legs.  It may also be important to run the floor all the way aft.  With the double floor and all 4 legs being filleted, It feels absolutely solid.

Is the boat still safe?

That depends on who you ask.  Here’s how I answered this question in my mind.  If I took my skinny buddy who weighs 155 lb. (let’s call him the motor) and placed him on a lake with both arms wrapped around all the wooden parts of this boat, would he sink?  Assuredly, he would not.  He couldn’t get all this wood to sink to the bottom of the lake if he tried.  In fact, I don’t see how the boat would sink if you drilled a 6″ hole through the bottom.   The boat is wooden and wood floats.  In essence, the entire boat is flotation.  Would there be more to bail?  Yes, so I plan to have a bailling bucket on board at all times.

But aren’t you removing safety from the design?

Possibly yes, but here’s how I can have my cake and eat it too.  You can always tether dry bags or containers into these areas and create nearly the same amount of flotation as the chambers.  Yet, by removing the chambers, you have the choice to utilize the space for something else.  I wanted the ability to reclaim this area of my boat.

Are you recommending other do the same?

Absolutely not.  In fact, if reading this post makes your palms sweaty, you most definitely should not remove your flotation chambers.

What are you planning to do with these chambers?

I’ll show you.


Here’s (2) two gallon gas containers.  They can be purchased at Walmart for $10 each.


Notice how nicely they slip into the flotation chambers.  This allows me to take an extra 4 gallons of gas, if needed for a given extended trip.


Here’s both gas cans stacked 2 deep on one side of the boat.

Maybe you don’t need more fuel, but we all need lunch and a cold drink.


Meet (2) 12 quart coolers I purchased from Walmart.  They cost $15 each.  Their diminutive size prevents them from becoming too heavy.  They seem robust and well built. They’re the perfect size for sandwiches in one and cold drinks in the other.


If you throw the handles to the outside, they slip nicely into the flotation chambers.  This gets them off the floor for an uncluttered cockpit.


Versatility on any small boat is very important.  The more you open up the storage areas, the more versatility you gain, at least that’s my view.  Does this level of versatility jeopardize safety?  Maybe a whisker, but the advantages outweigh the risks in my mind.  The great thing about building your own boat is that you get to have it your way.   

I would love to hear your comments so please post any thoughts you might have.

False Transom Installed


I used one clamp to bring the 1/4″ panel tight against the slosh wells.  I also found a few nails and screws helpful to keep this tight and secure.  


I also installed a cleat to pick up the aft edge of the U-shaped seat, which will be installed later.  


All interior seams were filleted and glassed.



I placed a fillet behind each leg for extra strength.  


And here she is, in all her glory.  I love the subtle curve along the top edge.  You hardly notice it, but it looks and feels much better than a straight line.


This went together nicely.  The screws and nails held things tight and firm while the fillets and glass work cure.  I’m now thinking of flipping the boat, while it’s still lightweight, to finish the hull.  This will also give me time to think about the seat and hardware options. 

Rethinking the Interior Layout

OK, folks.  Here’s the dealio.  I never loved the interior layout of the Skiff America.  In fact, I can be found earlier on this blog to state I plan to change the interior in order to accommodate 2 additional sleeping areas.  I actually had a plan in my head  to accomplish this.  But, I’m again rethinking this area of my boat.

Here’s why:

  1. Overnighting with 4 people would happen quite rarely, less than 5% of the time.
  2. Overnighting in the cockpit has it’s own set of problems, like:  Mosquitoes, gnats, rain, privacy etc.
  3. I don’t want the complication of zip-in side panels.  Been there, done that.  Too much work setting up and taking down.  Too bulky to store.  Gnats get inside at night and can’t escape.  Two under the cabin will have to be sufficient.  I can always throw in a backpacking tent if necessary.
  4. Finally, why should I configure the cockpit of my boat for a function that represents less than 5% of its actual usage?

So, here’s my current thinking.  I’ll design the interior around how it will be used the majority of the time and what makes sense from a visual and functional stand point.  I’m sure Kilburn will not agree with me here, but he knows I’m a free bird.

So, what makes sense to me?  Ok, here goes.  I’m going to design the interior seating much like that of a ski boat.  I’ll have 2 captains chairs up front and U shaped seating in the back.  The front seats will be on adjustable pedestals (that will swivel, raise up and down and adjust fore and aft).  These pedestals will be mounted into the floor with a secure base.  The front pedestals will allow ultimate flexibility.  I can swivel the seat around and rest my legs on the aft side bench, visit and have a cold drink.  It will also allow adjustability for my kids to captain the boat.  It also allows me to tuck my feet under the seat for multiple leg positions.  And, finally, I can mount the seat exactly where I want it irrespective of the placement of the back bench.  So, both captain and navigator will have adjustable pedestal seats.

Now for the back portion of the cockpit.

I’ll run a continuous U-shaped seat (starting aft of the pedestal seats) and joining across the back of the boat.   The U-shaped seat will afford flexible seating.  Someone sitting in the aft corner of the boat can put their feet up and run them across the back of the boat, or forward toward the cabin along the side of the boat.  Also, boarding from a dock will be easier by allowing you to step onto the bench before stepping onto the floor (remember the sides are sloping inward).  This is very similar to how you would board when entering from the lake.

False Transom.

This all dictates how my false transom will be designed.  Hence, I made some changes here too.

DSC00029This is the stock false transom fit to the boat.  The first thing I noticed was the straight line across the top of the transom.  To me, it looks too straight, too flat, too proper.

DSC00030I milled down a stick of sapelli to create a stick 3/8″ x  1,5/8″.  I knew I could easily bend such a stick.

DSC00032I glued this stick to the top line of the false transom, but held the ends down 1″.

DSC00037Here’s the new transom.  I love the subtle arch to the top line.  It mirrors the arch from the true transom of the boat.  And yes, I’m opening up the lower portion of this area to improve access.  All the openings measure 13″ heigh.  These open area will not be trimmed in solid wood, as they will be behind the U-seating area (this also saves weight, more on this latter).

DSC00038Now I’ll add 2 layers of epoxy to both sides prior to installation.

Thoughts on Weight:

 I understand and respect the importance of not adding unnecessary weight to this design.  As I’ve made changes to this boat, I’ve always tried to keep the weight concept in check.  Kilburn has done a great job of shedding weight, so let’s not screw it up.

However, In a conversation with Kilburn, he kindly expressed a concern that by running my floor doubler all the way to the back of the boat, I’dd added too much uneccessary weight to his elegant design.  In fact, he felt I had already added the equivalent of a cooler of food to the back of my boat.  This put a zap on my head for a few hours after our conversation, so I thought deeper about his concern.  Here’s my take:  A full 4 x 8 sheet of 1/2″ plywood weights 40 lb.  By running my floor doubler all the way aft, I added an additional 20″ x 38″ or 16% or 6.40 lb. to the back of the stock plan.  Let’s call it 8 lb. with epoxy.  That’s a pretty light weight cooler.  I weighted all the parts I removed from the false transom on my digital scale and got 1.92 lb., let’s call this 2 pounds after epoxy.  Hence, I’m currently sitting about 6 lb. over what might be called stock boat weight.  Now, if you added a thicker top piece than mine to the false transom, the weight will be even closer.  Then if you consider I’m not running an interior gunwale, solid wood around my false transom areas and thinner than stock gunwales, bow and cockpit coamings, I dare say I’m actually under stock weight for this boat.  Not that the exact number actually matters, but it is important to keep these boats light.  I’m resting better now after actually calculating some of these weights.  Yes, my boat is light.



My U-shaped rear seating arrangement will make more sense in the coming posts.  I believe it will increase access to hidden storage areas, improve boarding ergonomics and provide flexible seating options.  And, I’ll continue to keep it light. 

This is a very beautiful design and it gets more beautiful to me each and every day.  

Additional Transom Work


This morning I added fillets and glass to the underside of the slosh and motor wells.  Access is good if you don’t mind crawling on your back while balancing wet epoxy on a popsicle stick.  Just have a few paper towels handy for the drips.







After sanding all the new glassed areas, I can begin working on the false transom and edging materials.  

If you work on your boat daily, it seems like the boat just sort of builds itself.  You can’t get in a hurry.  Think tortoise not hare.  Completing small tasks daily seems to be the secret.  

Fixing Problems

 No matter how hard we try not to make mistakes, they happen.  My father always said, “the difference between a good carpenter and a bad carpenter, is a good carpenter knows how to cover his mistakes”.  Well, today, I got some experience learning how to covering my mistakes.   DSC00029I cut the Starboard slosh well floor too short on the outboard side.  So, I added a strip of pine to the edge.  I then added a strip of glass to the under side seam for extra strength.  

DSC00030DSC00033I then tacked the slosh well floors down to keep them from shifting.  This was very helpful when trying to keep things straight.

DSC00034You might notice the slosh well floors are sitting 1/2″ too heigh.  I didn’t notice this at first, but finally figured out what was happening.  Remember the 1/2″ floor doubler I added?  Well, that threw off my measurements by 1/2″.  So, I simply rounded off the corners and called it good.

DSC00035Then, I noticed the motor well sloping toward the Port side.  Though not severe, it bothered me.  So, I called my dad and asked him how to be a good carpenter.  Dads always have the answers.  “Cut a dato son and level it out”.  Brilliant!  I cut 2 uneven datos in the motor well floor where it rests on the cleats.  This accomplished  2 things:  1-it allowed me to level up the floor and 2-it lowered the floor almost back to it’s proper placement. DSC00029 (1) The glass conceals the datos in this photo, so you can’t see them.  I also added the 3/4″ oak motor mount pad and glued it into position.


DSC00042I laid 2″ tape over all the joints for extra strength. DSC00039


DSC00043Here’s the final product.  It’s now getting harder and harder while I cook brats on the deck for dinner.




Transom Work

With family reunions and work commitments, I’ve had little time this last week to work on my boat.  But, I did get a few things accomplished.  And, here’s the proof.

DSC00031This first thing I did was add cleating to the inboard sides of the tank wells.  This is not called for in the plans but I wanted a stable platform for the motor well floor.

DSC00032 (1)

DSC00029 (1)

DSC00032I then placed the motor well floor into position to determine the proper location of the drain hole.  I drilled one hole (inline with the motor to conceal it’s presents) for drainage.

DSC00035To prevent split-out, I clamped a sacrificial board against the outside of the transom.

DSC00039I then added cleating to the side panels.  This again will provide a secure, stable platform on which to lay the slosh well floors.  Could I have just used nails or screws to hold the slosh well floors in position while applying the fillets?  Yes, but I like this method much better for 4 reasons:

  1. It’s more secure.
  2. They ensures proper alignment, position and slope.
  3. It’s easier to apply fillets to a board resting on a cleat than one resting on a screw.
  4. There’s nothing physically in the way when you lay in your fillet and tape.

They do require a bit more time, but who’s in a hurry?  After all, boat building is fun.  Take the time to do a nice job and you’ll sleep better at night and be more proud of your finished product.   Finally, the cleats weigh virtually nothing if you use pine or fir.


I positioned my side wall cleats for a 1″ slope as opposed to the 2″ slope in the plans.  I’m going to be stepping on this slosh well panel with wet feet as I climb into the boat and felt a 1″ slope was safer and still adequate for proper drainage.   

It’s a lot of fun to watch the transom area come into shape.  


Locked and Loaded

Once all the panels look fair and delightsome, I locked things into place.


DSC00475DSC00476After the epoxy has set up for several hours, I’ll come back and trim off the ends of the fiberglass tape and cut around the washers.  These are rather large fillets and it took time to lay in enough material to create a large smooth radius.

Steps I followed:

  1. I used a brush to wet all edges with unthickened epoxy.
  2. I rolled a 3″ strip of unthickened epoxy along all joining areas.
  3. I then applied thickened epoxy to all joining areas.  This was accomplished in several steps.  Many areas took three applications (all while the epoxy is still wet) to ensure a sufficiently large fillet. If you try to add it all in one step, the fillet has a tendency to sag.
  4. I worked the fillets by using a squeegee cut in a radius.  I made several different sizes, but really only used one large size.
  5. I then cleaned up all the jet stream trails (epoxy squeeze out).
  6. I cut 4″ glass tape into proper lengths.
  7. Using a squeegee, I wet out the glass strips on the bench over wax paper.
  8. I then laid the strips onto the wet fillets, using my gloved fingers to smooth the tape and remove any air bubbles in the glass tape.


Wait until you have an uninterrupted amount of time for these steps.  Once the fillet is wet, you want to have sufficient time to work the fillet and apply the glass tape.  It took me about 4 hours to accomplish these steps.  Now, I can wait for things to set up a bit before I trim the glass ends.  I’ll then roll on another layer of epoxy to fill the weave of the glass.  


Transom Work

In looking over the transom, I realized I made a mistake.  I glued the transom doubler flush with the bottom of the transom.  But, remember, I added the 1/2″ floor to the hull in the cockpit.  This means I should’ve held the transom doubler up 1/2″.

DSC00470I took a router and removed the extra material.  But, then I made a second mistake and took 3/4″ instead of 1/2″ off.    So, I made a small 1/4″ piece to glue into position to create the right sizing.

DSC00471This now is what I wanted things to look like.  The transom will sit directly onto the hull and the transom doubler will rest on the subfloor.  I’ll remove the screws once the epoxy sets up.


One thing I love about wood and epoxy is that you can always fix a mistake.  Don’t get discouraged, just fix it.  

Moving the Football Forward

First off, the rear bulkhead.  After everything received 2 coats of epoxy, I was finally ready to install all the parts.

DSC00473DSC00475The assembly was mostly accomplished with screws, but a few C-clamps were needed to set the larger pieces.  After screwing/clamping all the pieces, I spent nearly an hour cleaning up all the squeeze out.  The clean up can save hours of sanding later.

DSC00472Next up came the transom and doubler.  8 C-clamps did the job.

DSC00470And then I epoxied the bow and cabin panels.

DSC00471And finally, I rolled epoxy over all the holes that had been previously filled with thickened epoxy.  This might be unnecessary, but I want the floor very well sealed from rain.


A boat is built one piece at a time.  If you work on your boat daily, it will get built right before your eyes.  It also helps me to blog about my progress.  Strangely, this seems to keep me motivated as well.  Plus, you’ll have a cool record of the building process for your family and friends to see.