Saturday, December 8, 2012

Adding Hull Panels to the Optimist Pram

Adding the hull side panels was pretty straight forward. We hand-planed the chine logs so that they would be level along the bottom of the boat. We used 3/4" stainless steel woods crews from Jamestown Distributors. I set the width for the screw holes by spreading my index and pinky fingers wide apart and making that distance on the chine and stringer attachment points. We used about 50 wood screws per side panel. Liberal amounts of PL Construction Adhesive were applied along the chine and stringers and things went well.

A video of the experience:

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Optimist Pram Project - Starting Back

After an exciting summer of sailing and sailboat racing, we are returning to the Optimist project. In the effort to make these boats as inexpensive as possible we have purchased luan plywood to sheath the hull of our boats.

Our decision to use luan was based on information given to us by John Bridges who has been building Optimists since the 1960s. He has built Optimists of luan and they have been in service for over 5 years. That is longer than we will probably need the boats.

We will also be stacking these hulls after sailing them - leaving no water in them to cause problems. Additionally, we will be priming our hulls with CPES (clear penetrating epoxy sealer) as a way to be sure that the absorption of water is slow.

Today, we worked on the hull sides.
  1. Working on three boats requires 5 sheets of plywood to complete all the hull skins. 
  2. We ripped two full sheets on 16 inches the long way. This gave us 6 strips to use as hull sides.
  3. Temporarily attaching one side to trace the contour, we removed the piece and cut a bit proud of the pencil line. 
  4. We checked to see if the template piece fit all three hulls - it did.
  5. Using Locktite PL Construction adhesive, we laid a bead of glue along the chine and bow/transom about half way down the hull.
  6. Starting at the transom we worked forward placing screws about 5 inches apart.
  7. We worked in a zig-zag pattern of top then bottom as we worked forward to be sure not to pucker or buckle the plywood.
Starting aft and working the plank forward.

One side of the hull secured and curing.

Three hulls with starboard sides attached.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Optimist Building in Virginia Beach

Al from Virginia Beach writes in and shares pictures of his project boat...


I'm building the boat for 3 and soon to be 4 grandkids. I sail and my 2 sons sail, so getting the little ones into it makes sense. The oldest is 8 but lives about 300 miles away, so when next summer comes and we get to our lake house hopefully the craft will be ready to use.

I'm using West System to coat and put this together but am not glassing the boat - extra weight that I don't want or need. My boat is Maranti plywood, 12mm for the transom etc and 6mm for bottom and sides. I'll make my own foils from 12mm also.  For the "solid" wood I have found some very nice and cheap spruce. I plan to use some mahogany for the rub rails - I have some nice pieces. Almost at the point of fastening things together since today I got the chine bent and straightened - that was fun and am glad I had as many clamps as I have, but one never has enough clamps!


I fished a piece of spruce out of my pond and tried again with bending a chine.  I figure that 24 hrs underwater with all the enzymes and slop in my lily pond should make it pretty bendable.

I clamped the stern and mid ship positions and placed the above type clamps to make it parallel.  Then I gently bent the end of the chine toward the forward bulkhead and did two things. First I used a long clamp around the chine and the nearer stringer. Then I hung my tool bag with saws, drills and assorted heavy items on the end of the chine. I never changed the weight but I applied the straightening clamps and gradually tightened the long clamp.

The whole process took no more than 45 minutes and I never heard a creak from the wood.  When the chine was finally in position I removed the long clamp and tool bag and attached the chine to the forward bulkhead with a clamp. Not a screw in it yet. I will let it dry for a few days before removing clamps and attaching with screws. Then I'll see how the skin fits.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Project on Hold for Summer

We received an email from David Palmer wondering what happened with our projects. Well, summer came along really fast after April 1st. The boats are sitting and waiting for us to pick up our tools again in September when sailboat racing, swimming, golfing, beekeeping, child-rearing, gardening, and goofing-off have slowed somewhat. Although, that child-rearing thing never lets up...

Until then we will continue to sail optis in our dreams.

Optimist News:

From the series Here Come the Optis, by Curt Crain as shown
in Nicholas Hayes' web page "Saving Sailing"


 Nicholas Hayes' book Saving Sailing was a very good read. He also has a web page devoted to the subject. In one of his articles titled, "Opti Haters" he mentions the merits of the Optimists, and he drew some comments, both positive and negative that are interesting to read.

"I am admittedly hard-pressed to say that there are flaws with prams. In fact, I have a hard time criticizing anything that uses foils to make motion from wind. And they’re classically cute" - Nick Hayes

"Why do we have kids learning on a 50 year old platform? Just imagine if you decided to have your kids learn downhill skiing on a pair of 1960 vintage skis." - Reply from Capt'n Ron

Excerpt from "Opti Haters"
Nicholas Hayes, July 12, 2012

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Optimist Pram - taking real shape

For quite some time we've just imagined the Optimist sitting on the strongback, but now the outline of the dinghies has been reveled. Ric Altfather, president of the Cleveland Amateur Boatbuilders and Boating Society, offered us some good advice when assembling our Optimists. The bend we had to make to instal the chine is a bit too severe for most 3/4 x 1 1/2 inch kiln dried lumber. Ric recommended we soak them prior to trying to bend them in place. We let them float on the pool cover for a few hours - this seemed to work well. They would have snapped like a twig if they had not been soaked.

We are now contemplating the next step. We need to fare all the edges with a hand plane and sander to prepare for the eventual plywood skin that will make these real boats.

Part 4:

The three frames looking really nice in the garage.

To take the twist out of the chine at the center bulkhead we clamped a board to the stringer and then screwed the bottom of the board to the frame leg. We let the wood dry and take the shape for a couple days before putting the screws through the chine. I'm not sure it is necessary to wait that long, but we had the time to let it dry and didn't rush it.

To mark the spot in the bow to let-in the chine, we used the paper pattern that was supplied with the CABBS' plans. With the chine stringer well soaked I was able to spring it into position to check my pencil line. I made some slight changes to the template line to adjust for a better fit after cutting the notch.

I found that it was pretty easy to put a pilot hole in the frame leg to make the final cut for the gunwale stringer. I drilled the hole to match the angle that the stringer would be let-in. I cut from the front and then moved to the back to check that the line was being followed on both sides. I would cut a little bit and then check about three or four times to be sure I wasn't straying from the lines on both sides.

Here I am checking to see if the bow is perfectly parallel to the center frame by laying a board on the bow and sighting across. There was a very slight twist that I was able to remove by weighing down the corner of the strongback with some stones (see bottom left) and shimming one of the back legs.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Optimist Pram - finishing the frames

With this third video we put the frames on the strongback and get ready for the keelson and stringers. The frames go together quickly after making sure the height is correct off the strongback. Following the CABBS' strongback plans to the letter would have made things a bit easier, but we were trying to save on wood and ended up reconfiguring just a bit. As you can tell from the video, we are using old, recycled wood whenever we can because most of the pieces will be painted and hidden from view.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Optimist Gunwale - looking for the perfect design

Thinking ahead to the time when we will add the gunwales (gunnels) has got my mind racing. I remember dinghies I sailed as a kid, and they always seemed to have some sizable gunwales to sit on. Some of the plywood Optimist Prams don't offer much surface area for the helmsman's backside. I know our kids will start out in light wind conditions, but it won't take long for them to want to sit on the high-side and hike while sailing.

In my searching for the best solution for this design I looked at the Club Racer by Bateau. They seem to have a comfy looking gunwale, so I looked into the way they created their version. A complete guide to the construction of the Club Racer is located at: It is a really nice looking Optimist that is the same as the epoxy/wood version of the Optimist as described by the IODA standards. Bateau claims that it differs in that it is much easier to build and will be more durable, and last longer.

They start their process with corner braces cut at angles to the sides and bows to create the width that will be the gunwale. Plywood is used for this process, but I think we could use hardwood to accomplish this same design using glues and screws to bypassing the need to encase the area in epoxy.
All photos - Youth Sailing Foundation of Indian River unless otherwise noted.

To build up the width of the gunwale on the sides of the boat, they employ the use of plywood spacers to hold off the inner strake that will define the inner side of the gunwale. The picture below shows a double piece of 12mm plywood used as a spacer along with an inner and outer strake and rubrail of 12mm plywood. I believe that makes a total width of 3 inches.

The bow and transom are finished of in less thick manner shown below:

With the substructure of the gunwale finished it looks pretty nice. I've been contemplating how well this design would look if we finished the gunwales without a cap piece of plywood. The plywood works well in the Club Racer because it will be sealed with epoxy. Our boats will not have epoxy, and this makes the finishing of the gunwale, perhaps a bit different.

The Club Racer is finished off with a plywood cap piece set in thickened epoxy, and then the edge is routed to 5mm radius for comfort and esthetics.

All this great information and pictures came from the Youth Sailing Foundation of Indian River Co. and their sister site Latitude 27/39 Sail Club.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Building the Optimist dinghy - frames

Winter is flying by, and we are diving into our three-boats-at-once project. We have spent some time getting to know the CABBS plans. It's helped to have found some pretty nice images of other folks working on their Optimists. Nothing like a picture to make things clearer.

Here is where we would like the project to be the next time we get to work on the Optimists:

Pictured below in red are the frame stations that we are working on in the accompanying video, and how they will support the other members. We have completed the bow frames (1) and attached the bows to the strongback. The bow must be angled back at 22 degrees as can be seen below. The rest of the frames (2 and 3) are perpendicular to the strongback.

If any readers happen to stop by and read this post and watch the accompanying video, feel free to leave a comment about the "real" way to build these prams. My brothers and I have sailed boats and fixed-up wooden boats, but we've never attempted to build any from plans. This has been a fun and challenging experience so far.

You may notice from the video that we have been using scrap lumber. We have a lot of odds and ends of wood lying around, so to save on cost we have used old lumber as much as possible. We need these boats to last about ten years - we will see...

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Great Pictures of Pram Building

Over at  they have created a wonderful place for kids to learn how to build the Optimist Prams. The pictures are very helpful to anyone planing on building an Optimist for the first time. They have some very detailed shots of the building process.

About the Inland Sea Education Association:
Inland Seas Education Association (ISEA) is a non-profit organization whose mission is to help people of all ages experience the science and spirit of the Great Lakes through shipboard and on-shore programs. The knowledge gained through these experiences will provide the leadership, understanding and commitment needed for the long-term stewardship of the Great Lakes.

Page links for ISEA: