The whole idea of “Bob the Boat” came about for a number of reasons.
The first was that when we bought our 28 ft Sirius sailboat, I put out a request amongst friends and family, for a good name to call her. We didn’t get any useful or appropriate names (other than “Passing Wind” but my wife objected to that for some reason), but my daughter thought we should call it Bob. No way I would ever call my boat Bob, but I did confess that it would be a great name for a dinghy.
The second reason was that we were planning a trip to the Thousand Islands and for that we needed a dinghy. As we didn’t have a dinghy, I obviously had to get one.
Finally, I had a pram type rowboat when I was a kid and spent hours upon hours rowing that boat all over the Northwest Arm in Halifax. I loved that little boat and was drawn towards having a similar type boat to compliment my fleet (my other boats are canoes) for nostalgic reasons.
Given, that I like to think of myself as handy with tools and wood and such (I have built 2 canoes), I figured I would build our dinghy rather than fork over more $$ and set about looking for a decent design. I settled on the Prameke at this site http://www.bateau.com/
proddetail.php?prod=PK78 and ordered the plans.
Next step was to pick up some plywood and get started! According to the directions that came with the plans, I could build the thing in a weekend. Each step was broken down into the time it would take…like 2 hours to lay out all the lines and cut the panels. Nothing to it. Except the garage was freezing, transposing the lines was complicated and had to be redone a couple of times when I found an error…and it took me two Saturdays to get all the panels cut! I discovered that the company selling the plans was not only overly optimistic about the time it would take, but on the amount of materials like epoxy (but more on that later).
Putting the panels together wasn’t easy either. The boat has big curves in it and the plywood was reluctant to bend that far (and there is a lot of spring to plywood resulting in the boat “exploding” a couple of times as I tried to piece it together with cable ties and propped up with old copies of National Geographic (I just knew they would come in handy sometime!).
Now that the boat was not in danger of exploding anymore, I had to wait for warmer temperatures to start the epoxy work. Of course, it was a cold spring and couldn’t get at that until May. Launch date was early July, so I figured I still had lots of time.
It took way more epoxy that the plans indicated! It seemed for a month, I was always running out of epoxy half way into critical jobs and going back to the store for more. Consequently the epoxy job was not nearly a neat as I would have hoped…but it worked and would just take way more sanding that I had planned.
A rule of thumb around boats though that I ignored, is to move slowly and thoughtfully. I had cut two strips of 3/16 and two strips of ¼ ply to make the gunwales. In my haste one evening I glued the gunwales on and left, only to discover the next day that I had glued the two 3/16 strips together on one side, and the two ¼ inch strips together on the other side! Epoxying a third strip of ¼ in on the thin side got me pretty close.
Now for the sanding. And I sanded and sanded and sanded. And still it was lumpy and potchy. I didn’t have any more epoxy (as usual), so picked up some auto body filler that seems to work well and filled up most of the really bad voids. By now though, I had one week to finish Bob so I was getting desperate!
Finally, enough was enough, and it would have to do. I had to get Bob painted and ready for our trip. First coat of primer went on and it didn’t look to bad. I had some white marine paint which covered the outside of the hull quite nicely and two coats later the outside was done. I now have 4 days left and the weather called for thunderstorms on all of those days. Not a problem if I was still working in the garage but I had taken it down to the boatyard to work on it outside at the sanding stage. Between thunderstorms and by flipping the boat over after each coat on the inside I managed to finish painting the inside by Thursday night. We were leaving first thing Saturday morning.
Friday night, I was busy, getting the sailboat ready and at 9 PM went over to get Bob. I plunked Bob in the water and to my delight, Bob floated and even floated level! I installed the oarlocks and rowed over to our sailboat. I still had not really resolved what I would use for a rubrail, so had picked up some pipe insulation which I installed over the gunwales on a temporary basis. A stupid idea because it wouldn’t cover the corners (which is the part that would inevitably bump into our sailboat at dock) and after one good session bumping against the dock in a strong wind proceeded to rapidly fall apart. As it turns out, I had the bright idea later on to use an old docking line screwed to the gunwale and this works beautifully! Looks very nautical as well.
Regardless, I finished at about 10 pm and Bob was bobbing nicely at our stern ready to go!
We left at 6 am the next morning and I was delighted with how Bob towed. Straight as an arrow and the bigger the waves the happier he was! Bob literally just skipped over anything put in his way without taking on a drop of water! In fact, at one point we had a 40 ft motor cruiser blast past us at 30 knots and only 20 ft away (idiot). The curling wake didn’t faze Bob at all! Being quite light and having only a small percentage of the hull displacing water, it has no impact on our cruising speed or the performance of our sailboat at all.
During our trip, Bob took on a personality all of his own and became personified in our many references to our dinghy. One evening, we rowed over to a friend’s boat for cocktails. I had left the oars in the oarlocks with the blades of the paddles sticking out over each side. After a while, we noticed that Bob had snuggled up to their dinghy and was wapping him with the paddle everytime a wave hit them. I pulled Bob back and put the offending paddle away and Bob returned to his original place next to our friends dinghy. 20 minutes later, we looked up and Bob had switched sides and was wapping our friend’s dinghy from the other side! We speculated that it was jealousy over our friend’s dinghy having a 5 hp motor.
Bob is on the dinghy rack now and while he may not be the prettiest dinghy out there, there is no doubt that he has the most personality!