Posted by: Mike Randall | May 9, 2010

When is boat building not fun?

The answer I’ve decided is on a cold wet Wednesday night at about 11:30pm! When you know every sane person is curled up in front of a warm crackling fire or tucked under the doonna reading a good book.

I on the other hand was crouched in a range of uncomfortable strangely yoga type positions sanding epoxy fillets in a big lonely cold warehouse in an industrial estate. Its times like these when you seriously question your sanity and your resolve.

Yes the excitement of turnover has faded and the reality of the tasks ahead is hitting home.

No one has this picture in mind when they think boat building

Enough whining from me, I think I just had a particularly crappy week.

First task after turnover was to fit the floors, This was quiet a fiddly and at times frustrating job and one I hadn’t really worked out how to do in advance. There are no dimensions for these floors in the plans, the only info I had was their longitudaul position and their heights to be taken from under floor battens I had already fitted on the bulkheads.

The shape of two rear floors was easy to establish as they were to be positioned in the same place as their equivalent temporary station moulds. The longitudal positions I had marked on the hull before removing the moulds. This gave me a location and hull shape template to work from, so I made these two first.

Stern floor shaped, glued and clamped in place

Under cockpit floor

Once these two floors were in place it was time to tackle the three floors under the cabin sole.

A lot of swearing ensued from this point, it was very difficult to get the tops all level as well as have them fit the hull neatly. I’m sure I got in and out of the boat about 50 times in about 2hrs till I was finally happy with the fit. I made rough patterns out of MDF that I then used as guides to cut my marine ply.

It was about this point when I realised the second floor was about 100mm to far forward of its proper position. Considering the mast stanchion will be connected to this floor it was something I had to get right. So knees complaining and resolve weakening in and out of the hull I went till it was sorted and I was wholly sick of this floor business!

Cabin sole floors bracing extravaganza

If that’s not crappy enough the whole business is followed up with sanding filleting, fibreglass taping more filling and sanding.

Forward bulkhead, fillet taped and peel ply

I’ve done these fillets and taping as a wet on wet process, John Welsford gives a rundown on the process on his website. Francois recommends using peel ply to get a good finish and reduce sanding. I’ve done this technique on the first bulkhead, but it was very difficult to get all the air bubbles out of the peel ply.

During the week I’ll pull it off and see how everything looks and decide if I’ll continue with the peel ply. I’ve only had limited success with peel ply in the past because of the air bubble issue, but I’m willing to give anything a go at the moment.


  1. Dear Mike,

    You are engaged in the hardest part of it now. I won’t even tell you how long it took me to do all of what you are doing, but if it makes you feel better, at least you are doing it faster than I was. And I had full scale patterns of the floors! As you have probably discovered, the biggest trick to it all is timing: the epoxy filleting mixture goes through several phases as it cures, and woe unto the poor sod who tries to shape the fillets too soon, or sand too late, and so on. Perhaps you have learned the trick of laying in the fillet, letting it cure until it is exactly like modeling clay, then molding it in place with wet gloved fingers. Also, I found that a plywood disc mounted on a handle (i.e. a thin roller) is useful for those bubbles in peel-ply work. Hang tuff.

    • Hey Walt,

      Thanks for the words of encouragement and the tips. Waiting till the fillets are like modeling clay is definitely the go. I’ve found that If you think your mixture is not thick enough it probably isn’t! Nothing like saggy runny fillets to make you think long and hard about the consistency of your next brew.

      I’ll try the ply disk for the air bubbles, I’m having reasonable success with small high density foam rollers from the paint store (gloss rollers).

      The deceptive bit about this whole step in the build is that it is covered off in about two sentences in the instructions thereby being easily glossed over by the unsuspecting builder.
      Cheers I stay on it and probably even be really good at it by the last one!!

  2. Oooooh… just when I was thinking that one day I might have a crack at something as mad as this. You’ve managed to put it all into perspective. Hang on… what am I saying. Cold nights coated in dust and balancing in yoga positions… who’d swap them for ‘The Biggest Loser’ (ie the people watching it) and the assorted crap on telly. You know you’re happiest in your life when you drive away from that lonely industrial estate. That kind of satisfaction ain’t found on any channel on the crystal bucket.

    One thought did occur to me after I left that other night when you were trying to find the level… bean bag polystyrene balls. Empty them in and let them settle. Then I tried to work out how you’d get in to mark the levels and it all became too hard. You’ve done a might job anyway.

    • Polystyrene bean bag balls!!! I’d probably make less mess if I just filled the whole thing up with water. Ahh the fertile mind of Jamsey the mad professor.

      Anyway don’t let my one crappy week colour any future decisions to embark on such a crazy project. Somehow I think it would be fun if we had two Stir Vens to sail down to Quarantines!

  3. Looking good Mike – the boat that is – you look shagged! Would a cheap laser level (or two) help with setting the levels of the floors?

    • Hey Matt,

      You found the blog! Things have improved a little since the last post, I’ll do an update pretty soon on the world of hurt that was filleting and taping all the bulkheads.

      Cheers mate stay posted.

  4. I’ve enjoyed your blog mike.
    She’s a sweet looking hull. I am about to embark on my own build. Had decided on a Pilgrim from John Welsford and then I saw this Vivier boat. nice.
    I live in Darwin and hope to sail it down to the Kimberleys. How did you go selecting this design, did you sail this yacht or did you just take a punt? no pun intended. Keep it up mate.

    • Hi Brett,
      Hi Brett
      Glad you’ve been enjoying the blog. Are you going to build a Pilgrim or a Stirven now?

      With my boat choice I took an informed punt on this design, I haven’t sailed one, but by all accounts the Stirven is a fast seaworthy coastal cruiser. My design choice was guided by a desire for the biggest open trailerable boat that I could find. I wasn’t that fussed about making the cabin accommodation a priority and camp cruising and day sailing are my priorities. I also like racing and will use this boat in mixed fleet around the cans club racing.

      I like John Welsford’s boats and his design philosophy, but when I saw the Stirven I kept coming back to it as I loved the look of it and it pretty well ticked all the boxes for what I was after, in the end that was enough for me, I bought the plans and here I am.

      Let me know how you go with whatever design you’re going with.


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