I've been looking for a design for a small boat that will fit in the back of my 4WD when I go travelling. Inside the vehicle so I don't have to drag a trailer everywhere. Stable enough so I don't get tipped in too often.

A friend pointed me towards a boat called the "Water Rat". The original design and prototype were by Doug Laver. The plans were drawn by Ross Lillistone and are available from Duckworks Boatbuilders Supply.

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Saturday, 31 January 2015

All Finished But Not Wet Yet

The painting is done - it seemed to take forever. Not a lot of work involved but a lot of waiting for paint to dry. The paintwork will pass the 10 foot test but doesn't bear close examination! Nor runs or sags but there are brush marks due to the hot weather - the paint is drying as you put it on,

The last job, after the bottom paint had dried overnight and the decks for 48 hours I fitted a bow eye and the 2 inspection hatches then took some photos. Here she is:

The photos in the sun have got the colour wrong. Her name is "Rakali" the Aboriginal name for a water rat. I painted the name myself, my first attempt at sign writing; it is something that needs years of practice!
Rakali weighs in somewhere between 17 and 17.5 Kg. I'm happy with that, I will be able to carry her short distances to the water with a rope or webbing loop over my shoulder or simply drag her by the bow.
What is still to be done: sort out something to sit on, lean back on and brace feet against. My plan is to use high density foam blocks fixed on somehow so they don't float away when there is a capsize. Need a double ended paddle, I have a really scruffy one that I found floating in the Brisbane River that will do for a first paddle, After that, I could make one or splash out and buy one (cheap $90, middling $120 and carbon fibre $180).
When's the launch, sometime next week after the paint has hardened a bit in the Brisbane sun, 
This has been an interesting project. I learned about the stitch and glue technique and decided I don't like it. It is certainly a quick way of putting the basic hull together (3 days, 1 full day and 2 part days). Then the seams have to be taped (another day) and the outside fibre glassed (several days unless you are brave/clever enough to do it in one go). After that the filling and sanding cycle seems to go on forever. I don't think I did as much sanding on my bigger glued lapstrake boats. Overall, my diary shows 79 hours work spread over 24 days between December 22nd and January 31st.
Another thing I learned (should have known better) is not to use cheap plywood. The saving in money isn't worth it when compared to the overall cost.
What did it cost? quite a lot of paint, glue and timber were already in the shed but a rough estimate would look like:
Plywood                       $60
Epoxy (a 3 litre kit)      $100
Glass cloth and tape      $80
Paint (about 3 litres)      $150
Boweye and Hatches     $50
Miscellaneous                $50                (sandpaper, Sikaflex for hatches, thinners, etc.)
Total                              $490

Thursday, 22 January 2015

Painting Started

It is difficult to take interesting photos of something in the process of being painted. All that happems is that it changes colour, slowly. Even more slowly if you are the painter, waiting for each layer of paint to dry before sanding and moving on to the next. So this photo is simply the evidence that I have begun! What you see is a Water Rat with 2 coats of white undercoat.

Next step is to paint the inside from the gunwales down. When that is done I will try to work out a way of supporting the boat so that I can paint the rest in one go rather than painting the topsides and bottom separately.

Monday, 19 January 2015

Skegs Fitted

The Water Rat has 2 skegs to give it some directional stability on the water and to allow it to be dragged more easily across land by the bow. I experimented with a scrap plywood mock up to see how big they could be. Starting with this:

This is the biggest a skeg could be without projecting below the lowest point of the hull. It just looks way too big and, if there were 2 of them. they would look silly! So I cut a strip off and tried it again. After several trimmings I settled on a skeg that is slightly larger than those shown on the plan (without any dimensions). Here are the skegs glued in place with fillets done.

The next step is to lay some fibreglass cloth over them to give additional strength and to protect them when being dragged over grass and sand.

Tuesday, 13 January 2015


The firbreglassing is finished, the seams and overlaps are filled and the sanding is done, at least for the time being.

I've fitted some 12 mm square gunwales to stiffen up the top edge of the side plank. I will add some strips across the decks to stop water running into the down into the boat.

Here's what it looks like now.

You can see some pink patches. This is epoxy bog with some red paint tint added so that I can see where the last lot of bog was applied and where I need to sand.

Friday, 9 January 2015

Fibreglass on Bottom Panels

With the decks in place there was no longer any excuse for not starting the fibreglass covering on the outside of the boat. After a final sanding and a thorough vacuuming and a wipe over with a cloth dampened with acetone and several deep breaths I began.

I mixed batches of epoxy as I went along using Boat Cote resin and the "tropical" hardener to gain a longer working time. The epoxy was poured into a paint tray and rolled onto the boat with a 75 mm roller. Draping the cloth over the boat was difficult because it sticks as soon as it touches and pulling it up to rearrange it tend to stretch it out of shape. However, I managed to get it on. I rolled it with a serrated roller to get the air bubbles out and rolled more epoxy on to make sure the glass cloth was saturated. It's a tricky process needing just enough epoxy to saturate the cloth because any excess will tend to run or sag.

That's what it looked like after I had finished. Pretty good I thought as I closed the shed and left it to dry out but while the epoxy is wet and shiny it is hard to see the runs!

Even on this small boat I learned several things about laying fibreglass cloth. Not in any sort of order:
You need good scissors to cut the cloth cleanly.
It would be a good idea to cut the cloth to shape before starting with the epoxy.
You need scalpels or razor blades to cut the cloth in places where it refuses to lie flat, eg on curving corners. The cloth stretches within limits but I needed to make cuts so it could overlap in a few places.
Cutting the wet cloth with scissors is the end of the scissors, I could not clean them. Fortunately I discovered this on cheap scissors!
You need at least one helper because you are working against the clock. A helper can keep up the supply of epoxy to avoid pauses on the application. A helper can help with the rolling on of the epoxy, a priming coat which will soak in pretty quickly and a second coat so the surface is wet. Two people can more easily position the cloth, roll it out and roll on more epoxy to fill the cloth.
The foam rollers can't be cleaned - I put one in acetone to reuse on the next stage but the acetone destroyed to plastic tube.

Tuesday, 6 January 2015

Decks Fitted

Today I fitted both decks. I gave the underside of both deck panels a priming coat of epoxy and left them for a while until the epoxy started to go off. Then coated the inside of the compartments with epoxy and gave the underside of the deck panels a second coat. Thickened epoxy was applied to the glue line between decks and hull (plenty of epoxy to make sure that the joint was full of glue) and the panels put in place with temporary staples to hold them down. With them stapled down I cleaned up the excess epoxy, easy on the outside and messy on the inside where it had to be done by feel. Here are the decks in place.

Thursday, 1 January 2015

Fore and Aft Decks

I've tidied up the supporting shelves for the decks and cut the ply panels to fit. I added a block under the forward deck so that a cleat can be fixed to something more substantial that the 4 mm thick ply.  It is clearly visible in the photo.

As I glue these panels in place I will give the underside of the deck a couple of coats of epoxy. When the first of these is tacky and ready for the second coat I will put another coat of epoxy on the inside of the compartment and finally, put the deck in place on a bed of thickened epoxy. This should ensure that the inside of the compartment is completely sealed.