I Bought the Plans

Decisions, Decisions

I first needed to select my construction methods and which plans I would use.  The original 1939 design was named SKUA (after a predatory seabird) and modified by the CCWBRA class association in 2008 to their current plans. It is a glue and stitch design that requires a jig and cradle to assemble.  Chesapeake Light Craft re-designed the plans and provides a true stitch-and-glue construction that is available as full size paper plans and manual or a kit with all of the wood pieces cut by CNC.

I purchased a set of the class association plans first.  The CLC methods looked stronger to me, had lots of built in flotation, and does not require much of a jig when building. The CLC might be a little heavier, but nothing significant.  I selected the Chesapeake Light Craft full size paper plans, opting out of purchasing the CNC-cut kit for several reasons:

  • Expense- Shipping of the kit.  I found a wooden boat building company with a good supply of okume and almost all the needed supplies in Vero Beach which was a short drive away.
  • The CNC cut kit has a split deck for shipping reasons.  I was able to eliminate the seam in the center with a one piece deck and avoid the splices required for some of the longer pieces.
  • The layout and cutting from patterns was time consuming, but was a good experience in learning boatbuilding.

Engine and Class

There wasn’t much debate on which class to race. The race class has two major divisions, 6 HP or 8 HP based on the weight of the driver.  Tipping the scales at 200+, I went with “go big or go home”.  Power is good.

I began my search on Craigslist finding a 1980 Evinrude that showed up in the remote Florida countryside. A little rough, but it runs.  When I looked it over a little closer, it had the serial number of an 8 HP but was really rated 7.5 HP, probably not a big deal.

We were spending some time in the Keys when I located a 1993 Johnson.  The owner had it apart to replace the water pump and found the drive shaft stuck in the flywheel.  He gave up on it and put it on Craigslist for about $400.  It was very clean and did not show much wear, so I upped my game by taking it home.  It took a little effort to build a tool to separate the drive shaft from the powerhead, but it seems to run good now.  We’ll see how it does on the water.

I heard from one of the more experienced drivers that it is easy to end up with more money in motors than you have in the boat.  He went on to say that when you are trying to get the most speed you can out of a 40 year old powerplant that you cannot modify, you should buy up every one that you can and sell the slow ones! I was happy with the second one, but soon found another one that suffered the same problem.  It is a 1998 Evinrude, and so far every single part is identical.  I think that I am set to go in the engine department.

Boat Name

I’ve spent a lot of time trying to dream up names, but none of them were sticking.  My wife, Terry does embroidery and spends most of her waking hours in a fabric store.  She found one of those Jimmy Buffet prints with the “Five O’clock Somewhere” logo on it.  That is it.  I have always admired Jimmy and his lifestyle, so it stuck. OK, I am retired and it doesn’t really make much difference what time it is, but I like it.  I checked with Kimberly, the CCWBRA secretary to see if 5 was taken.  She laughed.  But she did offer 500 and it’s mine.  Ok, it is not the name of a cocktail but it fits in with the theme.

Why I Wrote this Build Blog

As I started working on this project, I started wondering about how-to’s, making some of the pieces, where to get parts and materials, etc.  It quickly became apparent that there is not a lot of published resources to follow specifically.  I began documenting most of it with photographs and now have gotten around to putting it out there.  At the time of this writing, am now almost ready to put the deck in place, so I am trying to catch up a bit.



Let’s Get Started!

Materials and Supplies

After studying and completely digesting both build manuals, I went several steps further and studied about all I could find about stitch-and-glue epoxy construction. I did find a few details that vary, but it appeared very straightforward and similar to the polyester and fiberglass techniques that I am quite familiar with. There also seem to be some strong opinions of the best methods, supplies and techniques, but that is to be expected.

A very significant find was the discovery of a local boatbuilding shop located in Vero Beach. I packed up my manuals, lists of materials and lists of questions and spent an afternoon making a visit to the shop of Bateau.com at Boat Builder Central. I was pleased to find a small shop of very experienced boat builders that were able to answer all of my questions, supply me with almost everything I would need and provide me with the support that I might need in the future. The have a great forum with probably the answer to almost any question that has ever been asked about wooden boatbuilding. Now I was already a huge fan of Chesapeake Light Craft, but these guys are right here in Florida and they are definitely in the same class.

One of the areas that every builder seems to have an opinion is which epoxy products to select. I chose Marinepoxy, the general purpose epoxy product formulated for Bateau at Boat Builder. It is a 2:1 epoxy which effectively has no amine blush in our climate and is less expensive than the major named brands. I also purchased Silver Tip E-Z Fillet and GelMagic Structural Adhesive as an alternative for mixing wood flour. I did however end up using wood flour for operations where I would be applying continuous gluing operations without curing, such as most of the fillets inside around the bulkheads and bottom. After some experimentation, I found that I was able to minimize sanding by using Marinepoxy with wood flour for fillets and applying a second coat of epoxy immediately.

The only materials on the list that I was not able to purchase at Bateau was the dimension lumber. They provided me the contact of a supplier in Stuart where I purchased sapele wood for the keel, rails, combing, carlins and steering wheel mount. Sapele is an African mahogany with a beautiful grain and color. Maritime Wood Products is only another hour or so drive and they were able to cut the pieces to my specifications. This also means the rails were the correct length so I did not need to splice the pieces as required in the kit.

OK, Let’s Start Building

The tools are in order, the materials and supplies are all here, the shop is clean and ready.  Mmmm. The manual says to build some sawhorses. I have some sawhorses, but the ones they have are pretty sexy!  Did I say that?


Ok, it took a few hours, but now we LOOK like a boat building shop.

Laying Out the Patterns

Freehand transfer to wood using carbon paper and a tracing wheel.

The patterns for the 32 plywood piece parts were printed on full size paper sheets measuring 3′ x 8′. The plans called for cutting out and tracing the larger parts, or transferring the shape to the wood by punching through the paper with an awl. I devised a method using carbon paper and the dull back side of a razor knife as a scribe. This allowed me to very accurately mark the wood with the use of a ruler or a star wheel for the curves.  (Thank you, sewing lady.)

Using soft pack SCUBA weights to hold patterns in place

Transferring straight line with carbon paper using the back side of the knife blade.

For accuracy, I found that a small cut through the paper transfers a well placed mark on the wood below.

Transferring a long line with a slight curve using a straightedge to guide the blade.

Straightedge placed at ends of line, using ruler to guide blade away from the ruler to follow the arc.

Transferring freehand curves.

Freehand transfer using a tracing wheel.

Patterns transferred to wood, ready to cut.

Laminate trim router with 3/16″ dado bit.

I used my small laminate router with the bit set a few thousandths of an inch shy of cutting through the wood.  A razor knife was used to trim out the pieces from the sheet when all of the cutting was completed.

I was concerned that it would be difficult to control the close tolerance using a router, but this method proved to be incredibly accurate and very easy to control.

A LED reading light was attached to the router and a small table fan helped to keep the sawdust clear.

One of the roughest router cuts before sanding

It took very little planing and sanding to true the edges to the lines.

Note: the small block plane in the background is one of my favorite tools, a Japanese wood block plane. It is adjusted by tapping on the end of the blade or on the block, and costs less than $10.

I found this used Harbor Freight drum sander on Craigslist, a great tool for smoothing internal edges.

I used a hole saw to cut a notch in the bottom of the bulkhead.

The frames all have limber holes to allow water to flow to adjacent compartments above the boat bottom.  I used a drill press and hole saw to form the cuts, making them slightly larger that specified for quick easy drainage.

Stitch and Glue

Finally – Building a Boat

After a lot of reading, planning, laying out, cutting, sanding and sweating, I am still looking at a flat pile of wood.

The jig is ready, the materials are ready and we are finally ready to put the boat together.

The two bottom halves are first stitched together with one laid on top the other. The two pieces are then opened like a book and placed into the jig. The curved edges at the join give the bottom a nice shape.

The method of construction used is known as stitch and glue

Stitching refers to the use of copper wire, stainless wire or similar methods to hold the pieces in place. Small holes are drilled in the wood near a joint and a small loop of wire or a tie-wrap is tightened to hold the pieces in place.  The panels and frames are then glued with epoxy that is mixed with a thickener and allowed to cure.  The fastener is then cut and pulled out, or trimmed and left embedded in the wood.

A safety wire wrap tool from Harbor Freight is a handy tool for spinning .041″ stainless steel wire, also from Harbor Freight.  The bow section needed the stronger stainless steel wire  due to the added pressure of the curved panels.

I found the use of tie wraps were much quicker to place and did not cut into the wood panels.  They worked nicely for the bulkheads and straight panels that did not require much pressure.

Within just a few hours of fitting, the frames go together and it is suddenly looking a lot more like a boat.

Alignment is very important at this point. It is about to become one very solid piece.

The strength achieved in glue-and-stitch construction comes from the bond between the many thin components of wood, much like a cardboard box. 


We take a few ounces of epoxy with just the right amount of wood flour and hold it at a cool temperature to keep it from kicking too soon.  A pan of ice cubes can be used, and getting it spread out quickly lengthens pot life also.

Let’s Put Icing on the Cake

With all of the frames in place and everything stitched up, the glue was mixed up and thickened with wood flour. When properly mixed, it has the consistency and even looks like peanut butter.  

Fillets are applied to join the structure.

noun fil·​let | \ˈfi-lət

Although the spelling makes you think of steaks on the grill, here we are using the kind that mechanical engineers use to round an interior corner to add strength.  And it rhymes with what you do with an empty cocktail glass.  Fill it.

Tip: A piece of glass makes an excellent pallet for mixing, applying, and cleaning up epoxy. It is easy to clean with a razor blade after it kicks.

Cleanup with a putty knife

Just a few tips I learned about mixing Epoxy

Most suppliers offer nice graduated cups that really look nice.  I used the graduations a few times, mostly just to find that one pump of hardener and two pumps of resin provides somewhere around 3 ounces of mix.  That is the typical amount I used at one time. Beyond that, I found the pumps to be very accurate for mixing larger batches.  Even though the cups can be re-used after the resin is hardened, I found that cleaning the requires quite a bit of flexing and beating on them, they usually didn’t last more that 3 or 4 mixes. 

  • I started using a small 16 oz. cottage cheese container and the same one has lasted for almost the entire project.  It is flexible enough to pop the hardened epoxy out with minimal effort, yet there are no issues with it holding up. 
  • Mixing cups and trays that are left with a thin hardened layer of unthickened epoxy can easily be cleaned with compressed air, scratching the epoxy with the tip of the blowgun. The tip knocks it loose and the air peels it away nicely and blows it all over the shop.
  • When small batches were needed, the inexpensive plastic measuring spoons in the picture below gave very convenient and accurate results.  When using the Silver Tip E-Z Fillet and GelMagic Structural Adhesive I found it very difficult to judge the volume of a 2 to 1 mix that is not a liquid. The elongated spoon ends work very well with the tongue depressor sticks used for mixing.  I always use a specific color for resin and a different color for hardener to prevent cross-contamination.

Applying the Epoxy

Preparing the Fiberglass

The plans provide templates for cutting the fiberglass to the correct size.

The edge is trued by flattening the cloth on the table and pulling out strands one at a time to even the edge. The circular cutter is used to trim it true.

The patterns are used to cut the cloth panels to size.

The First Coat

The first coat of epoxy is applied with a disposable chip brush and a 4″ foam roller. It is important that every piece of wood is well coated to protect the wood.

The bottom of the boat will be reinforced with 6 ounce fiberglass cloth. The fiberglass is best applied before the first coat is cured for best chemical adhesion.

In order to achieve both a chemical and mechanical bond, the subsequent application should be done over the first while it has just barely hardened. If the brands are not from the same manufacturer there is a possibility of curing issues.

I began making the fillets from Magic Gel, an epoxy product that comes with a thickener ready to apply. I am using MarinEpoxy here to lay the fiberglass, so I had to let the fillets harden and sand them before the next layer. I quickly switched over to the wood flour and epoxy mix to avoid a lot of nasty sanding.

Now the entire bottom has at least one coat and the fiberglass is being applied.

After the floor was laid in and fillets completed, it was coated with 3 coats of epoxy.

Toe Rails

The transom knee was added and the fillets are being sanded down before the final coat.

This a major milestone. All of the necessary work is done on the interior under the deck and the boat is ready to flip over for the bottom work.

Bottoms Up

On the bottom side now. The frame tabs needed to be trimmed, there were seams and stitch holes that needed to be faired. Some trimming, and there always needs to be a little bit of sawdust made.

Nose Block

A block of Spanish Cedar was trimmed to a triangle with my favorite saw. Glued and screwed into place until the glue dries, it gets shaped in to the nose block.

Bottom Fiberglass

After a first coat of epoxy the 6 ounce fiberglass is laid out and smoothed out. Epoxy was poured on and smoothed out with a scraper and a roller. The excess was worked down to the sides and finished out.

I raised the transom up and the nose down and hung it from the garage door opener.

The cloth was placed and finished out with about 4 coats. All of the exposed wood is now sealed.

Keel and Toe Railings

Keel Preparation

This detail shows the 1″ x 1″ Sapele wood keel after gluing. The 5′ glued section is in the background and the split bow section is in the foreground. The bow section will be glued, shaped and screwed to conform to the shape of the hull.
The build manual calls for a solid keel to be split the forward 36″ with a bandsaw, but I do not have one. Otherwise, it would be difficult to bend the keel without steaming and a lot of effort.

I ripped the wood to 3 pieces, each 1″ x 1/3″. One screw was pre-drilled and placed at the aft end to index the pieces together for alignment after the glue is applied.

I glued 5′ of the strips together using GelMagic Structural Adhesive epoxy and used wax paper to mask the surfaces where the glue ends between the strips. The other 36″ did not have glue applied between the strips, using wax paper to mask the separated portion.

Because the strips the tend so slip after the epoxy is applied, some creative clamping was required to hold and align the pieces. I used clear shipping tape to protect the aluminum and wood blocks from sticking to the epoxy. The glue was applied, the alignment screw placed and the pieces were then clamped.

The aft end design of the keel was modified by the CCWBRA class association in recent years . It was shortened in length to improve the boat handling performance. The keel now ends 12″ forward of the transom and is tapered.

Attaching the Keel

The bottom surface of the boat was block sanded smooth and prepared for gluing.
Clear plastic shipping tape was applied to limit the glue edge distance from the keel which reduced the sanding.
Masking tap marks were applied for center alignment.

The keel is now glued, screwed and set. It took quite a bit of force to pull the keel into shape, so blocks were placed on the inside of the hull to help hold the temporary screws. It was necessary clamp the keel strips very close to the hull before drilling and screwing them down, working from the stern towards the bow. The hole center of the first strip changes from the one underneath it as each strip is drawn down to the hull.

Sapele wood has an interesting ribbon-like interwoven grain. It is a rather soft wood, so it does tend to splinter when planing or routing. The grain shows some occasional rotation patterns, and I found one such area to have a weakness when bending, causing it to crack slightly. I had no problem repairing the issue with some additional glue and screws.

Finishing the Keel

I trimmed the strip closest to the hull before gluing in order to simplify the shaping at the bow.

This is what the keel looks like later after trimming and tapering.

With some duct tape to protect the bottom, a lot of heavy sanding brought the keel into shape.

The keel is now looking very fast.

The bottom is looking good for now and we will be doing some serious leveling and additional epoxy later. Getting ready for another flip next.

Toe Railings

We have just glued two 1/4″ strips of Sapele wood to the Port side to form the toe rail. The Chesapeake Light Craft kit ships these rails in shorter pieces and requires joining them with a scarf joint before attaching. This was on of the advantages of sourcing them locally.

Even using most of the c-clamps in the county, I still needed a little pull to make the rear end of the rail pull in enough. Something like 30 clamps.

Prep for the Deck

Finishing Up Everything Inside

All of the wood inside the boat must be sealed with an epoxy coating. If moisture were to come in contact with bare wood, there would be serious issues. Even though we use a marine plywood, the wood itself doesn’t like to get wet. I masked the surfaces that will mate to the underside of the deck.

There is a strip of wood at centerline called a kingplank. It is required on the kit build to join the deck which ships the deck in two pieces. Although my deck is one piece, I retained the kingplank for added structural support.

Bow Handle Mounting

I fabricated stainless steel backing plates to attach the bow handle. The plates are drilled and tapped for a 10-24 stainless bolt.

The plates were sealed in place with an epoxy/wood flour mix.

I cut some bolts and ground a point on one end, installing them in the holes that will mount the bow handle. I positioned the deck for gluing and tapped on the top to make indentions on the underside of the deck. After drilling the holes, I had a guide to index the bow at the perfect position while gluing.

Wiring Conduits

I wanted to be able to run unexposed wiring from the engine to the accessories without compromising the integrity of the tanks and also providing flexibility and maintenance access. The kill switch conduit runs from the aft of the cockpit to the front cockpit frame. The second conduit provides a path from the engine to the bow flotation tank for a tachometer sensor wire.

I selected the forward port side for the kill switch location in order to keep clear of the throttle and shifter controls.

I used a small plastic bottle as a mold to form a chamber that will contain the kill switch. I added some backing blocks for the screws that will hold the switch in place

The kill switch is mounted on a fabricated stainless steel plate. It is waterproof, yet still serviceable.

This view from inside the starboard flotation tank shows some stainless steel backing plates for the throttle and shifter controls. The plates are drilled and tapped for either the classic or the newer aftermarket Evinrude controls. A vertical stiffener was also added.

Clamping the Deck

The area where the deck meets the cockpit sides needs some significant pressure to clamp down while gluing. The build manual called for placing screws screws with some small blocks with temporary screws into the carlins, a strip of wood below the joint area. I added a temporary strip of wood placed parallel the carlins and a long clamping block to run the screws through. After the deck is trimmed flush, the coaming will replace the lower temporary strip, so all the holes will be concealed.

The wood strips were taped with clear packing tape in order to remove them after the glue sets.

A wood screw was placed for alignment at the stern during the gluing. Epoxy gets very slippery and wants to move around as you get busy clamping. The heads were cut off and a slot cut for removal later. The coaming will completely cover this hole.

Another index screw was placed above the steering wheel mount. After trimming, there will be no holes showing.

Gluing the Deck

A huge moment! The deck is on, and it looks like it is pretty well secured.

It was a big day when it all came together. I was a little nervous about getting it all in place and clamped before the epoxy kicks, so I got some assistance from a local experienced hydroplane boat builder and driver. Pete Sushinsky built two small hydros which he raced extensively over the years. I was fortunate to have him help with the deck and have learned a lot from him.

As you can clearly see, anything that has a little weight comes in handy for holding it all down.

My Harbor Freight bandsaw made quick work out of cutting 10′ lengths of both 3″ and 4″ PVC schedule 40 pipe into 1 1/2″ pieces. I got about 32 pieces from each, but the just 4″ would have been enough. I was guessing about the optimal diameter and width, but the 4″ was a little easier to apply and seemed to be the right pressure. Too much pressure can push the epoxy out of the joint and create a weaker bond.

Trimming and Finishing the Deck and Cockpit

Flip the Boat and Finish UP the Top Side

While setting up the router with a laminate trimming blade, I realized that the curvature of the surface would not provide an even cut. I made a fixture to keep the router on the same plane as the gunwhales of the cockpit.

Lower view of the trim operation. The first coat of epoxy has been sanded for a good bond for the cockpit coaming.

The same fixture was used on the deck for trimming the deck to the toe rail.

Finished trim.

Cleaning up with one of my favorite tools again, the Japanese block plane.

Cockpit Coaming

The front corners of the cockpit coaming was joine with dowels. The side holes were drilled with a centering wood bit and dowel center transfer plugs placed in the hole. A light tap creates a perfectly aligned pilot divot for the dowel holes on the fore coaming.

The coaming is glued in place with several clamps and wood pieces.

Prep for Epoxy

Toe railing, block sanding 60 grit and finishing at 120

Fairing the coaming to deck joint with small brass tubing

Finished joint, ready for epoxy.

Laying Down the Epoxy on the Deck