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© 2019 St Francis Marine cc

Early Boat Building

Early Boat Building

Living in Ramsgate on the SE coast of South Africa close to the sea and rivers, it was natural to have a close association with sea & water. I built a few canoes from discarded corrugated iron sheets and would with friends explore a nearby lagoon.

 

I say a few, as these primitive craft having no built-in buoyancy would sink when flooded and if this happened in deep water were beyond our means of recovery. This was probably the catalyst that prompted my father to build us 3 sons a kayak from marine plywood. Being the oldest I initially got the most usage. Later dad added a sail and lee boards. Going windward took forever, but many happy hours were spent.

 

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DAD'S KAYAK BEING ENJOYED BY 2ND GENERATION OF KIDS

 

Later my brothers & I all attended Kings College, a boarding school in Nottingham Road Inland with good views of the Drakensberg Mountains Being a very English traditional school we were only known by our surnames, hence we were one of the few boys known as Lethbridge-major, L-minor, and L-minimous.

 

During one of these school holidays I built my first proper canoe, a skeletal structure with keel, frames & dozens of Spruce stringers, which were then covered with canvas and painted. This state of the art canoe was very light in comparison to dad's plywood, easy to carry and popular. Unfortunately it had a comparatively short life, as on one camping holiday some guest reversed over it.

 

After schooling I spent 18 months as "Official learner" on gold field's mines. An interesting period, as you are trained as future mine managers and as such you spend time on every mining activity, surveying, blasting stopes & drives, pipes & tracks, ventilation & proto teams, etc. Then you qualify as a "shift boss'. The first rung up the ladder to becoming a mine manager. Life becomes routine, I resigned, went back to the sea diving Oysters, Abalone, Lobster, salvage, etc.

 

On father's advice I was told it's time to settle down, so I joined him in the property business developing townships. My first association with St Francis Bay. Doing fairly well in property sales, I was authorised to collect a cheque for my new car from the chief accountant downstairs. Mrs Bernstein being out I asked her very pretty assistant to make out the cheque. She blushingly gave me a receipt instead. Error corrected, this started a romance, much to dad's disdain, as he said "you don't fraternise with the staff".

 

We married in Scotland after becoming a resident for the compulsory 21 days and settled in St Francis Bay.

 

While designing and in the early build of our new boat the intention was for a one off just for our family, this meant that the most economic build process was different in that the plug become the boat i.e. a skeletal frame was built and covered with 15mm Airex Foam, which was stitched to the bent stringers, then tied off before applying the glass fibre. In those days just alternating layers of chop strand matt and woven roving, until the required strength had been obtained. Once done we faired again. A slow process with up to six labourers working on a flexible spruce plank to which was attached sand paper.

 

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STARTING FRAME WORK OF OUR 43' HOME

 

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INSPECTION BY WIFE & MOTHER IN-LAW

 

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SLOW TASK OF FAIRING

 

This was a time consuming process in order to obtain a perfect finish and even then after applying the undercoat more fairing. Finally the Awlgrip finish paint coats. At this point the original plan was to turn the hull over, strip out all the wood framing and glass the underside of the Airex foam; however I had at least 4 prospective buyers made up of friends and inquisitive yacht club members. All of which meant that if I were to entertain their wishes the most economical way of duplicating my boat would be to build a mould.

 

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CATHY AND FINISHED HULLS BEFORE MOULD MAKING

 

After consulting with Angelo, who was most impressed with our workmanship, the decision was made.

 

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FIRST INSPECTION BY DESIGNER ANGELO LAVRANOS

 

We left the beautiful polished upside down hulls in position, painted them with blue release agent and then added a brown gellcoat onto which we built the glass fibre mould.

 

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APPLYING GELCOAT TO PLUG FOR MOULD

 

The mould after the careful application gelcoat, tissue coat & 300 CSM. The rest was built up of alternative layer of WR & CSM to approximately 2000 gram/m². To this we added 3 layers of 5mm core mat to add bulk and stiffness and then 1000 gram of CSM & WR.

 

The mould now had to have a rigid frame. This was made of pine scaffold planks, cut to fit and glassed in using pollylite powder additive to the Resin. The purpose of this is to avoid any shrinkage around the pine frame, as this would cause a rib like effect in the mould.

 

Now the problem was to turn the mould and plug over, so we could start the deck.

 

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TURNING MOULD & PLUG OVER

 

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TURNING MOULD ALMOST COMPLETE

 

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TURNING MOULD & PLUG OVER

 

After turning the mould & plug, we fitted heavy duty caster wheels enabling us to man handle the moulds.

 

It was decided to leave the plug in the mould, while we build the deck. This ensuring a perfect fit.

 

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STARTING DECK, WHILE HULLS RESTING INSIDE FINISHED MOULD

 

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DECK & FOAM

 

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READY FOR PAINTING

 

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DECK PAINTED

 

Once the deck was completed, painted & polished, we followed the same procedure as described and made the deck mould. Only then did we do the separation and finish off the inside of the hull & deck, while they were still in their respective moulds.

 

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SEPARATING HULL & DECK MOULDS WITH THEIR PARTS

 

In building the moulds we had placed hose nozzles at strategic points and just injected water at household pressure while lifting the hull & deck. The release agent is water soluble and the parts easily separated.

 

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REMOVING HULL NUMBER 1 FROM NEW MOULD

 

Problems can occur if the mould and part are not completely cured. You can get styrene migration through the release agent, between the two, which causes the resin to crosslink and become one. This is why when you do a lay-up, particularly large areas such as hulls & deck you want each layer to be applied no more than 12 hours behind the last, to ensure cross linking and a quality product unlikely to delaminate.

 

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BONDED AND READY FOR FITTINGS