Chris has always loved Lyle Hess designs- I mean how could you not? They are classic and sail like a dream, so it was no surprise that he chose to wait for a Lyle Hess dinghy. We had our hearts set on a Fatty Knees but unfortunately our wallets did not agree with our dreams, however our neighbor just so happened to have a dinghy that “looked like” a Fatty and gave it to us since he didn’t want it. Come to find out, it was actually a Dover Dory, a Lyle Hess design and the predecessor to the Fatty. I will now pass this blog off to Chris who can give you the details. ~ Marissa
Marissa wrote a great intro, but back to the Dover Dory. This little dinghy was in great shape for being over 40, but there was still work to be done- it is a boat after all. First thing first: washing all the scum off from however long she was sitting out upside down on a dock, exposed to the elements. I gave her a quick rinse with fresh water, dawn soap, and a hard bristled brush which made a huge difference. I followed up with a scotch bright pad and Bright Boy soap which I HIGHLY recommend for boat work since it not only works wonders on removing rust from metals, but it also removes stains from gel coats and paint. After her bath, I dried her off and got to work on the next project which happened to (of course) be much more than I anticipated.
Our dinghy needed handrails (or rub rails if you prefer) so I went to Home Depot to pick up some wood. After looking around for some flexible wood. My options where limited to pine, cedar, fur, some super expensive oak. So i picked up some cedar because I am familiar with it after working on the V-berth project. I had imagined getting the wood wet enough to bend but it turned out to be too brittle for the severe bend so I decided to return it. I decided to stop by my favorite lumber yard G&S Lumber Supply where I really respect their opinion and wanted to hear what they suggested, and I know they have hard woods for very reasonable prices. After asking if white oak was my best bet, they agreed that it would work very well. Part of why I love going to G&S because they rip and plane your lumber usually for no charge. While they where ripping this 12” board into 8 smaller 2” wide by 3/8” thick boards I went to go return the cedar to Home Depot.
On my way, s$!t hit the fan. My trusty truck of 290k miles decided to pitch a fit, lost all cooling and broke down. I have replaced every hose and connection in my cooling system except for (of course) the one hose connector for the back of the heater radiator which is of course, what blew. I had AAA give me a tow to NAPA where I replaced the part and continued on my way to return the wood head back to G&S for my new spiffy white oak.
The day after my misadventure, I stayed dockside all day to work on the dink. A lot of passerby’s were curious as to what I was doing, and how I was doing it and each time I told them they proceeded to let me know exactly how they would do it… just sailor things 😉 In all honesty I appreciate their input and always enjoy bouncing ideas off our neighbors. So, what was I doing? I was in the process of bending the white oak around the outside as well as the inside of the laminate to create a sandwich that I would fasten together. The outside plank bent perfectly using C-clamps and some good ol’ persuasion.
I tried to make the bend with the inside plank to mimic the outer plank, but the sheer of the boat was too steep which put too much tension on the wood and started to twist towards the aft. If I had access to a 9 ft steam box, it would have been a simple job but I had to make do with what I had so I decided to craft skarf joint which is a method of joining two members end to end. After one round of trial and error I figured out that around midship was the best place to start the skarf which turned out to be 20 inches long, which is good because the more surface area you have the stronger the skarf will be. I used my oscillating multitool to make the straightest cut I could since I don’t have room aboard for my table saw (haha) and I was lending my skill saw- once again making do with what I got. From there, I used the hand plane to make a flat surface to ensure a perfect fit. After that I just kept on dry fitting and shaving off bits here and there until I was happy with the result then I fastened both planks together using stainless screws with stainless washers moving from bow to aft, clamping and unclamping as I go. Before I had fastened this first handrail I traced them onto the two other pieces so the other side went together much faster.
After some light sanding using some 220 and Semco, I was super happy with the result. I cleaned up our finger and vacuumed up all the scraps before driving to one of my favorite places, Mikes Consignment, to see if I could find some oars. Mikes has everything, and I usually get lucky with finding bronze pieces and whatever else I need for refit projects so finding oars was no different, I walked in and found exactly what I needed. I chose collapsable wooden oars because they just have a classic look that fits the style I was going for, and they store easy. Marissa took pleasure in stripping varnish and revarnishing them to make them look good as new before I took the boat on a test row before permanently attaching the oar locks. Funny story: I used duct tape to soft attach the oar locks tentatively where I thought they should go which worked great for the first few minutes until the Santa Ana gusts started blowing me around the marina, causing the duct tape to rip off and send me floating into our neighbors boats! No damage done, but it was sure funny to watch (peep the whole video at the bottom for evidence of this mishap). As soon as I regained control (“more duct tape will do”) I paddled back to our slip to screw in the oar locks to the hand rail. Speaking of the hand rail, it’s amazing how building that hand rail up has significantly stiffened up the whole boat!
Last thing I did was buff the bottom of the boat using 3M Perfect – It to give her a glassy shine. After that, our boat was only missing one thing: a name. Marissa and I had gone back and forth trying to decide on a fitting name but finally landed on “Little Wing” to not only keep within the bird theme (Avocet and Little Wing… Get it?) but also because Little Wing is also my favorite song. We loaded her up onto our davits and adored how cute she looked. We can’t wait to get a sail kit! Stay tuned for more, thanks for reading! Signing off, ~Skipper Chris