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...