Deck Beams and Blocking

90% of the deck beams are in place, and most of the blocking in between them. The deck is starting to take shape…



In the lower picture you can see that the handrails have been beefed up by adding an 18″ corner extension. Aft of this section will be the hayrack and gurdies, so the handrail can act as a safety stop to keep someone from falling on to the troll wire. The handrail is also used to get on and off the boat and needed to be reinforced at that location. The handrails at the stern were removed and a recessed “troll pit” will be cut into the rear deck of the boat. This lowers the fisherman closer to the water, and the handrails would be in the way of lifting a heavy fish onto the boat. When you get a big halibut it can be a real struggle, sometimes you have to wait for the right wave to pitch the boat and ‘float’ the fish onto the deck.

So the back deck looks different with the handrails removed.


The next big task will be to step the mast, which by the looks of it can step directly to the keel. Then on goes the decking, the fiberglass, and it’s off to the races…

I can almost see the mast and poles and fishing gear already aboard…


This week I also mounted the 42 gallon day tank on the cabin roof. I wanted to avoid doing this for aesthetic reasons, but it won’t look so bad once the mast and poles are up and the life raft is up there too. Gravity-feeding the stove is a pretty fool-proof solution, and I can set up the transfer pump to fill the tank.

But most importantly the stove is working again, which makes for a happy boat and crew.



Lost Trollers

One sleepless night I sat and made a list of all the boats that I fished around that would never go to sea again, or were lost at sea. Most wooden salmon trollers now fishing were built in the 1930’s and 40’s if USA built. The little Ruby that was a fixture on Dock 7 for years was built in 1919. And without constant maintenance and upgrades they eventually fall into disrepair. Others are victims of tough bar crossings, collisions at sea, or nautical weather.

I think I first came to Newport under the bridge in 2002, when I was fishing out of Ilwaco. It’s a bit sobering to read through this litany of boats lost in the intervening 16 seasons. I’m sure there are some I have forgotten. When I first had a boat tied up in Newport, it was dodgy if you could get a slip, visiting boats had to raft up on the outside float. Now there are as many empty slips as full ones on that same dock. How many will be left 16 more seasons into the future?

From my list there’s a few pictures:


Sea Princess cat jasper

The Seamaid was for years in Astoria. She was renamed the Sea Princess and suffered and explosion and sank in 2013. In the bottom picture you can see Jasper the cat sitting on the bow. The Daily Mail had an article about the ship’s cat, here:

The King (formerly West Wind) sank off the Oregon Coast on a flat calm summer day in the early 2000’s. I had made a halibut trip on her weeks before, and every time she went into a wave you could see a stream of water running through the bilge. All aboard were rescued.

The Clara B II was drifting off the California coast one night when she was hit by a another vessel, resulting in her sinking. The skipper had a kayak onboard and floated awaiting rescue. Luckily it was calm that night.

The Sea Star sank off Newport in 2011. The 3 crew aboard were rescued from their life raft.


The Havana was a grand old schooner. She burned and sank off Cannon Beach in 2012. All 3 crew were rescued.

The Sea Pup perished on the North Jetty in 2015. Her crew survived.


The Blazer rolled over and sank with a deck load of crab pots in 2014. The crew were rescued.


The Sound Leader sank on the run back to port in 2012. 3 crew were rescued, one was lost at sea.


The Chevelle ran up the coast from California and was within sight of Newport when she slammed into the north jetty after large swells met her at the bar. Everyone made it off but the boat was pounded into several pieces by the swells. March of 2012.


The Thor fished out of Newport for many years. She eventually fell into disrepair, was anchored and abandoned at the head of Yaquina Bay. There she sank in 2014.


The Double Eagle was a 56′ tuna troller which capsized on the Tillamook bar in October 2010. The whole thing was caught on some amazing video, and both crew were saved by the Coast Guard. I used to share a slip with her in Ilwaco, and she was as tall as a 2-story house. When the wave stands up behind her in the video she looks tiny, 15 foot swells and then one stands up to 30 feet and breaks right over them. Scary. The picture shows where she ended up, just south of the south jetty.

helen mccoll

The Helen McColl, seen here in an old photo in Maine, was originally a sardine carrier. She was a beautiful old girl who sank in November 2009 at 99 years old.

helen mccoll final voyage

When she sank they left her on the bottom for 4 months, and it was a grim February day when they lifted her and brought her ashore to meet the breakers.


The Surprise sank at the dock, was later refloated and towed to the shipyard in Toledo, where sadly she was broken up.

linron carcass

The Linron was the first troller I owned myself. I fished her for a few years then sold her up on the Columbia River. Years later I came across her being broken up at the shipyard in Astoria. Very sad.

The Dare was a small wood troller with an aluminum house, I think she was disposed of by the port.

The Saturn was a troller disposed of by the port.

The Saga Wind was a troller disposed of by the port.

The Silk Purse was taken up river and “Disappeared” one night.

The Atka was a troller that ended up getting a bad prognosis by the shipwright, so she was scrapped because the needed woodwork would have cost more than the vessel was worth.

The Sunwest, the Main, and Ample all went to Charleston and are awaiting disposal by the port.

The Dixie Lee tried to sink at the docks in Warrenton and I think was disposed of by the port.

The Don Mory was lost somewhere between here and Kodiak. Her skipper had fallen off her shortly after crossing the bar, but the autopilot kept her driving to sea. She passed, unmanned, through the offshore tuna fleet, and kept going until her fuel tanks gave out. Weeks later her emergency beacon activated far away from Newport. By then the skipper’s body had been found.

The Cathan drove ashore and was wrecked on the south jetty. Her captain had been crabbing alone and had fallen overboard. In what is regarded locally as a miracle, he was found alive two hours later by the Coast Guard. He stuffer crab bouys into his shirt to float. A few years later I attended a drill instructor course, and when the time had come to jump in the bay and swim to the life raft, he was my partner. It was his first time in the water since that legendary incident. It took some serious courage to jump off that dock and face those demons.

The Tillimac was driven by a fella called Tillimike. One day we were all out trolling the jobsite when a huge lump started rolling in. The forecast called for increasing dangerous swell, so most people headed in but some waited for the tide. The swells grew to 20 feet at high tide, and one broke over the Tillimac. Old Mike popped up to the surface of the water with the wooden wheel still in his hands, but the boat was gone. Witnesses said when the wave hit the boat exploded and disappeared in an instant.

The Norge was hauled out for repairs and ended up getting scrapped.

The Surf was a tiny troller, only about 9 feet wide, but it had a pot-bellied oil stove inside that I have never been able to forget. It was swamped by the wake of a dragger coming down river, and foundered in the Yaquina.

The Mop Squeezer was a tiny troller that legend had it was the retirement boat of a school janitor. She was disposed of by the port.

I know there’s some boats missing, I will add to the list when my brain starts firing again.





Finding the rot and beginning the rebuild


In October the painful work of tearing into the aft cabin began. We knew the three cabin sides were in poor shape, but fresh water had done its ugly work on some of the structure and overhead. So two days were spent slowly pulling the aft cabin completely off. In many cases dozens of screws had to be uncovered, cleaned, and removed by hand. Almost every screw in the boat was silica-bronze. The craftsmanship displayed when these boats were built is impressive. The trim pieces were removed and stored for later use, both because teak is as expensive as gold and I want the conversion to match the look of the rest of the boat.

Eventually the saws came out and wood started moving…

I framed in and shortened a repurposed door where the stairway to the former aft cabin was. The shower head will be moved and turned into a hot/cold water hose for the back deck. Then began the work of beginning to frame the new back deck space. That big pile of wood in the shop had to be trucked north and carried down the dock. I tried to match the frame size of the original construction, beefing it up as needed to carry the weight of commercial fishing operations.


Above you can see the first few deck beams going across, a mix of 5/4×5 golden balau and 2×4 tigerwood. The new section of deck is 10′ 10′ with a roughly 4×4 hatch combing in the center to access the fish hold. Soon the corner uprights for the hatch combing make the layout visible.


Luckily the rot confined itself to the plywood where the house met the deck. Every piece being added to the boat is treated in the end grain and all non-visible surfaces with 3-way mix of pine tar, turpentine, and linseed oil. Next week the work will be cutting out all the blocking pieces to place in between the deck beams, slow and time consuming work. But it is starting to take shape…


Preparing To Move North

Most of May and June were spent preparing the boat to go north. Before we moved to another marina, the hull needed to be painted above the waterline and the engine room needed to be gone through. Some lighting was added to the engine room, all wires, belts, and hose clamps inspected and tightened, batteries checked, and I spent some time looking through lockers and boxes to see what spare parts were onboard. The impellers were changed in all the water pumps, and fuel lines were all inspected.

Engine room on the Pokalong



Our dock neighbor Ernie is a marine electrician, and he rebuilt the starter and replaced the solenoid on the 8.5 KW generator which was a real help. Toward the middle of June it was time to do a sea trial, so the girls and I headed upriver for a day and got to test the autopilot and run the engines up to temperature for a while. All performed well, and we were happy to find a favorite local pizza chain had relocated near the boat harbor in Toledo. The picnic lunch Celeste had packed was moved to dinner so we could enjoy pizza for lunch, by unanimous vote.

My running partner Dan’s 100 year old seiner, Pheonix III


Pokalong tied up in Toledo, note the Bering Sea king crabber tied up in the background


Caomi and Mocha enjoying the boat ride



The sea trial was considered a success by all. Now we had to find a balance of days off work and weather window to move north and inland on the mighty Columbia River.

To be continued…


My name is Chris, and I have a problem…

There’s a place where people with a serious addiction stand around drinking coffee and smoking cigarettes, and none of them encourage the rest to confront their problem – quite the opposite. It’s any commercial fishing dock on the west coast, and for that matter, probably around the world. But beyond my wooden boat issues, I have a longing to return to salmon trolling, making a living tricking the majestic king salmon into coming aboard your boat. This longing is not based on common sense, certainly not on economic principles or good judgement. But salmon trolling for a living is a lifestyle, it’s a place in the world that you either belong in or you don’t. To put it simply, of all the things I’ve done in my life, the one thing I daydream about, miss, and would wish to do again is troll salmon for a living on the open ocean.

So in the spring of 2018 as I was tearing out rotten wood and replacing it with new on the Pokalong, all of my friends across the bay were painting and stocking and coaxing their boats back into life for the salmon season. I would sneak across the bay and look at two boats in particular, the Norma Jean and the Lone Eagle. Both needed serious work, but I formulated the grain of an idea that I could restore a salmon troller by the time I retire and then go back to fishing full time until I couldn’t do anything anymore.


The Norma Jean


The Lone Eagle

Both boats are ‘Tacoma Boats, built by the famous shipyard in Tacoma. The Norma Jean was built in the late 30’s, the smaller Lone Eagle was built in 1928. Both needed serious work with years of deferred maintenance. Both were rigged for salmon trolling and appealed to my salmon sickness in the worst way. I would walk over, look at them from every angle, then go back to the Pokalong and think about it. Back to the warm teak glow of the Pokalong, with the diesel stove and all the comforts of home. At some point it dawned on me, what I needed was to build what Dan and I refer to as a “geezer troller”. A carefully set up troller that is so well outfitted and designed that it can be fished into a ripe old age. We have both known fishermen who have trolled into their 80’s and 90’s.

Since I had to rebuild the aft deck house anyway, what if I just decked it over and added a door to the rear deck. The existing lazarette could easily be converted into a troll pit, the small recessed cockpit in the back that the fisherman works in. What had been a queen sized bedroom would make a large fish hold, and to avoid fiberglassing and insulating the entire thing you could store fish in insulated totes. Back to the line drawing:

Pokalong troller

Now there would be a fine “geezer troller”. A walk-out door straight to the back deck. Remove a couple of windows from the back half of the boat to reduce the greenhouse effect. Add a real mast with trolling poles, and install commercial fishing gear on the back deck. This is all doable.

So I explained my plans to the bride of the king salmon ride. She is so used to my hair-brained schemes by now that she nodded her approval, with one condition: you can fish on your off time, but don’t quit your job! Luckily for me during the spring of this year I had been moved to a rotating shift, working 48 hours on followed by 4 days off. This actually could work! We were in South Beach marina, where the weather severely limits the time you can do exterior boat work. The thick fog and steady 20-25 knot NW winds scream down the beach and through the marina all summer long. During the winter, up to 90 inches of rain falls and storms march through sporting 70-100 knot winds. The next step would be to move the boat from Newport to somewhere with better weather where I could work on her.


A rare calm evening. Under the bridge, the fog bank can been seen retreating to the 30-fathom curve.

To be continued…

The Pokalong


The Pokalong as she appeared before purchase.

Our new to us liveaboard, the Pokalong, is a 1973 Grand Banks 42 classic. She was loved and cared for (and fished hard) by a wonderful friend of mine. After retiring, for many years he took her up to Barclay Sound on the west side of Vancouver Island in BC for the summer. He was a meticulous mechanic, with spare parts for just about everything aboard. The engine room was famous in town for being ‘polished’, always bright and clean.

The woodwork, however needed some work. The mahogany hull is in excellent shape, but the flying bridge, bulwarks and wheelhouse were showing their age.

My lovely wife was happy aboard, our daughter thought it was a great adventure. Then the rains came. The stress of owning 2 boats came. I got grumpy being thoroughly soaked in drenching rain and 50 knot winds down the 2000 feet of our dock. That my wife remained married to me at this point is much more a mark of her stubbornness than it is my value as a husband.

So we ended up moving ashore, relocating to a much better school district and much better weather in December. I was working M-F at the time, and would stay a few nights a week on the boat to reduce the number of 100 mile round trip commutes.

Moving off the boat gave me a chance to start tearing into the boat and finding out the depth of the rot, which is more difficult when everyone is living aboard. It soon became apparent that 3/4 of the flying bridge needed to be replaced, about 20% of the wheelhouse walls, and 100% of the aft cabin walls. This would have to wait until better weather.

Come the spring, work could be started in small bursts then covered with a tarp between days of rain.

First to go was the flying bridge. The more I took apart, the more problems I found. During one of the rainy days I added up the cost of replacing the entire flying bridge, and it came to materials of about $1500 and a significant amount of time. Then I started toying around with the idea of removing it all together. I had seen pictures of this done on a handsome GB in Puget Sound called ‘Ebb Tide’. I modified the drawing:

I also considered what it would be like to extend the house aft on the main level, or remove the aft cabin all together. Something needed to be down because all 3 bulkheads in the aft stateroom were rotted out from window leaks, in various stages of disrepair.

First the flying bridge was removed, and the topside turned out pretty clean:

Pokalong 24 April 2018 side

Pokalong 24 April 2018 topside

To be continued…

Update on the Carlyle III

Let’s do a quick catch up of the past year. We sold our home in July of last year and moved onto the Carlyle when a couple of issues became apparent, the kind of things that don’t pop up when you are overnighting on the boat, but become readily apparent when you live aboard her. We talked about the problems and it became apparent that the galley and dining would need to be on the same level, and we needed an alternate way to get to the foc’sle without going through the engine room. After measuring, reviewing hundreds of old boat plans, re-measuring, and sleeping on it, I found that altering the original layout was not practical and would not improve the boat.

After about a week the girls went on a pre-planned month long trip oversees to visit big brother who moved over last summer to attend college. Just before they left I noticed a Grand Banks 42 was for sale again, needing some attention, in the same marina. I knew the decades-long owner and had been to sea on the boat a couple of times, and I had once owned and lived on a Grand Banks 36. The long term owner of this boat had done incredible work in the engine room and maintained detailed records. He had sold the boat a year earlier to someone who used it once then tied it up, not even leaving a window cracked for fresh air. The Central Oregon Coast experiences up to 90 inches of rain a year, and old Grand Banks have lots of windows. The combination of a few window leaks and the greenhouse effect had caused the boat to become covered in mold and mushrooms inside. I took the bride over to see the boat before she left, and I think largely because she was excited to go on vacation and see her baby boy, she seemed unfazed. She said ‘I’ve seen what you can do with a boat, I like the layout, if you get it and clean it up by the time we get back we can live aboard her’.

Challenge Accepted.

I tracked down the owner (actually his mother) and made a deal to purchase the boat. I then began a manic 4 week undertaking to make the boat inhabitable. First thing was to get the boat moved over to side tie to the Carlyle, so I didn’t have to keep walking and carrying things back and forth over half a mile in the marina.

After 4 weeks of work, the interior paint had been sanded and repainted, all carpets and cloth curtains had been removed, the master stateroom bed had been modified, and all systems aboard the boat were working. The around the clock work had kept me busy enough not to think about the inevitable question of owning two boats.

Summer turned to fall, school started, and the reality of 2 boats set in. We were paying over $900 a month in moorage, and the Port was getting ready to raise rates again. We reluctantly put the Carlyle up for sale, and quickly realized that although we had over 200 inquiries, the age of the boat and the remoteness of Newport to any major population centers was making it a very, very hard sell. The market for large 1930’s vessels is very small; the chances of selling a boat the size and age of the Carlyle so far away from Seattle, Portland, or San Francisco was remote. The price fell each week and disappointment came after each showing hearing ‘she’s just too much boat’ or ‘she’s just too old’. Eventually she was sold to a retired merchant mariner who entered the boat, stood in the wheelhouse, grabbed the wheel and gazed out the windows. “I’m home” he said quietly. He paid the now tiny asking price in cash which figured out to be about 1/10th of what we had spent on her. Such is the cost of loving old wooden boats.

To be continued…

Weather break yields some work…

A little over a week ago I enjoyed my first 2 dry days off in a row since July. Yes, you read that correctly. We have had some dry days this past week, but I worked six days in a row, most of them 12 hours.

So I was very glad to take advantage of the dry spell and fix a serious problem. The boat has a slight starboard list right now, and all of the water that landed on the boat was supposed to be draining off on the starboard rail amidships. Except there was some rotten and missing wood that allowed every drop of rain to run down inside the hull – the opposite of what we want to see. Here is the problem area:


The water is all supposed to drain off in the little cut scupper just to the right of the last bronze railing. The old steamed curved piece of wood was lost to history, and many years ago someone had placed a temporary plywood patch to keep the rain out. The plywood had long since failed too. So on the first day of a 2-day dry stretch I threw a couple of things in the wheelbarrow for the long trip down the dock and got to work.


The lighter wood is leftover plank ends of Norwegian larch. The darker wood is Philippine mahogany. My wife recently returned from the Philippines where she traveled to the southern Bicol province and sent me a picture of a mahogany tree farm. I’d never seen the actual trees before. Speaking of wood I started by removing the mulch formerly known as wood:


I spent a lot of time over the summer fretting that removing the gentle curve would alter the character of the boat. Then I realized squaring it up would be stronger and match the railing stanchions and stopping the water was more important at this point. The old material was removed and new short frames added to give strength.



All the existing wood was treated with chemo and the new wood was given the 3-way of pine tar, linseed oil and turpentine. Eventually two short planks were added, a section of marine-grade birch plywood on the inside (to reduce intrusion into the narrow side deck) and a caprail was cut and fitted from the mahogany.



Next every screw hole must be filled with a wooden plug, or bung, ideally cut from the same piece of wood as it is going into. These are cut with a plug-cutter on a drill. It’s best to use a drill press, but a) I don’t have one, and b)it’s 1/4 mile from the truck to the boat. That’s a long way to carry a drill press. So some time was taken up drilling dozens and dozens of plugs. I used mahogany for all of them.


I needed to figure out how I was going to cover the aft end of this new bulwark wall, where the plywood, frame, and outside planks were exposed. I have found that there is frequently a “sit and think about it” phase in boat projects. Skipping this phase can lead to financial ruin, public shaming, and in some cases – divorce. I have also learned over the years that this phase is often more productive if gently lubricated with English Harbor rum and a little (not too much!) coke.


So after an intensive planning phase and a trip home to sleep overnight, I decided to make a mahogany cap to cover the end pieces. I made liberal use of the table saw and a little chisel work and we had a working cap:



I needed to cut a new channel to let the water drain off the deck – that’s when the scope of work suddenly increased…


The rot in the cap rail had extended further than I had thought. With the rain just hours away I had to remove almost three more feet of this piece. Did I mention not to use modern fir on a boat?

The rush was now on and there was no time to take pictures. All of the rotten piece you see above was removed, and a new piece fit to join the deck and the hull. This piece is stepped underneath and took a while to cut. Finally the skies were darkening but the wind picked up and helped dry a coat of white paint and varnish.



The gap in the upright piece is to allow the handrail stanchion to fit in place. After the handrails are re-installed I will make a custom piece to fit and match the caprail. First I have to cut the bronze pipe handrail stanchion and take it somewhere to be threaded to meet the new lines of the boat. I have matching wood to be able to modify the other side to match later (next spring?) but for now the water that lands on the boat leaves the boat without going through a bilge pump! The paint and varnish survived the inch of rain that started about 4 hours after they were applied. I’ll add another photo when the handrails are modified and back in place.


Not much of a summer…


You see the flags flapping above? That was the normal state of affairs for the months of July through September this year. From about 10:00 on, almost every day, we experienced winds in the 20-30 knot range. I had forgotten how frustrating the wind is at South Beach Marina. I had exactly 1 day off from July through the end of September where is was dry enough and mild enough winds to be able to paint. I wish that were an exaggeration. That being said, I did have some help for the time I was able to spend aboard the boat:


My trusty little deckhand was going around the boat taking measurements. She has been a big help whenever we are working on the boat, always ready to pass a tool or board up or down the hatch. Always keeping me on track, under close supervision.


The other deckhand, the four-legger, takes a more relaxed approach to management. It usually involves taking lots of naps on deck and managing to step in any wet paint or epoxy that may be available.

We did manage to get the salon cleaned up a little bit, install Celeste’s television, and put up Caomi’s lantern fish painting for some color. The TV will get hidden behind a nautical painting on a panel that hinges up out of the way eventually. One has to make compromises when trying to convince one’s wife to eventually live on the boat.



The life rings were repainted, marked with the ship’s name and hailing port, and 12 fathoms of lifeline added.


A new(er) and working faucet was found onboard and installed so we now have cold running water at the galley sink. The plumbing overall looks good but I haven’t tested the hot water system – that’s on the winter project list. The water heater can be run off shore power, the engine’s heat exchanger, or the galley’s diesel stove.


Occasional breaks were taken at the noon hour, to stave off wind-driven depression and read about Admiral Lord Nelson’s battle tactics. Sometimes these breaks were followed by a safety nap, while the wind howled in the rigging outside…


A little work was done in the engine room, but all in all the summer was not that productive. After leaving the shipyard in June we started getting really busy at work, culminating in August with almost 350 hours on the clock. One of the few things I could accomplish on my windy days off was taking an inventory of the forward deck planks. The rear of the boat had been rebuilt several years ago, and the old deck planks were removed and replaced with plywood and fiberglass. I know. That offends my sensibilities too, but we get 80-90 inches of rain a year, and the decks were well done, and they don’t leak. Contrast that with the forward decks, which leak like Hillary’s email servers. So every inch of every forward deck plank was sounded. The results were not good.


Over 50% of the decks on the forward half of the boat need to be replaced. This is now the top priority on the boat work list. And it needs to be done this winter, preferably the first half of the winter, so I can complete my goal of overhauling the engine room over the winter as well.

I have spoken with the Harbormaster about getting a more protected spot so I can erect a partial shelter over the decks. There is a service dock next to the brewery warehouse which would offer great protection. My current slip at the and of “A” dock is directly exposed to the up to 100 knot winds we get from winter storms. No temporary shelter can hold up to that.

The other big decision is to redo the planking or be consistent with the rear decks and go plywood and fiberglass. Given our wet climate and the high cost of planking, I have voted to replicate the ply/glass method as on the rear decks. It will be built up to the 1.5″ thickness of the current planks, but will probably keep the inside of the boat dryer longer into the future.

But first – I must repair or replace the carburetor float on the 1939 gas pony motor, which recently failed and leaked gasoline into the engine compartment. Not for the weak of heart, this boat rebuilding…


Idiot’s Guide to Cutting and Fitting Planks

I had promised a separate post on planking. What shipwrights do is an ancient and mysterious art – there is a lot of well-written information in old musty books, and even some online – about spiling planks. This author will not be adding to that collection of information.

But there was a time when every small river along the northwest coast and the inlets of Puget Sound were dotted with fishermen and coastwise traders who would build their own boats and then work them. Some would build a boat and fish it for decades, others would build a boat, use it for a year or two, sell it, and then build a bigger one or one designed for a different fishery. These men were not shipwrights who built and repaired boats for other people – they simply gained the knowledge they needed to provide for themselves. What I am learning is more in the spirit of that. I have observed shipwrights in action over the years, and tried to learn what I can to be able to repair my own boat – if for no other reason than I can’t afford to pay somebody else $100.00 per hour to do it.

So the first step is to remove the old plank. In the picture below the old guard planks were removed (dark wood area) and the plank immediately below has been removed:


“Removing” planks from an 86 year old vessel is not as easy as it seems. She had been put together with iron square nails originally, and over the years silica bronze screws, stainless steel screws, and even galvanized lag bolts had been used. Here are some from the guard removal – and none of them wanted to come out easily:


Next, we cut some strips of 1/4″ plywood that are slightly undersize of the plank dimensions. These will be used for our patterns.


The plywood strips are tack-nailed into place where the missing plank is. If the plank is longer than the plywood, then two plywood strips are screwed together. Often they will have to be offset because the plank is not actually straight – that’s also why a 6 inch plank takes a 10 or 12 inch piece of wood to carve it out.

Once the plywood is tacked into place where the plank will be, I place white stickers just touching the planks above and below. I use one sticker for every frame, or rib, where the plank will be fastened. Then you carefully remove the pattern.


Set your plank stock out for measurement. Remember we went to Port Townsend to find this wood, which is Norwegian Larch that has been air-dried for over 20 years. Here you can also see that two pieces of plywood have been joined to form the proper length pattern. I place the pattern upside down so the white stickers are laying directly on the planking stock.


Once the pattern is tacked down, use a black magic marker to made a mark across the end of the sticker. This should now give you a sharp line exactly where the edge of the existing planks above and below are.


Once all the marks are made, you can remove the pattern. Then lightly set a nail in all the marks:


Then use a thin but sturdy strip of wood as a spiling batten, which you can use to trace the curve of the plank from nail to nail onto your planking stock:


Now we have a line for the saw to cut.



Always cut to the outside of the line, then use a planer to finish shaving down the plank edges for a tight fit. After it’s cut your straight piece of planking stock becomes a curved plank that fits just right (in theory).


The edges of the planks should fit tightly together, with the outer facing edges beveled in a V-shape to accept cotton and seam compound. It’s hard to see but in this picture the rear half of the planks are seated firmly together, the outward-facing half of the joint is beveled.


If you are going to remove more than one plank, as in the picture above, you mark the framed with the old plank edge before you remove the second plank. This mark can then be used when you make your pattern. The planks are then fastened (I use #14×3 stainless steel fasteners above the waterline and silica bronze below) and bent into place using clamps. It often takes some patience to keep shaving off bits here and there to get a tight fit. Then repeat and repeat until the bad wood is replaced by good wood:





While there are still planks that need to be replaced, half of the battle is making a realistic refit plan and prioritizing projects. Most of the bad planks are gone, but it was not realistic to tackle all of them this year. Also whenever a plank is removed, the frames behind it should be inspected and another frame added if warranted.


In the end we have a much safer and much stronger vessel. The real shipwrights, Reino and Ted, very kindly inspected my work and offered encouragement and advice. I feel like the boat and I are carrying on the maritime tradition of captains who take care of their own boats, learning just enough to be dangerous…