by Andrew Jefferies

A year ago my mother was telling me of a friend of hers who built a 40' schooner using traditional methods and designs. I was fascinated. My wife shuddered when she saw the glint in my eye after hearing the story. She knew exactly what I was thinking. The thought of building a boat
overtook all others.

Fortunately for everyone I soon came to the realization that I have neither the funds, space nor skills for building a 40' schooner. I realized I needed a small starter project. Thus was born my obsession of building a row boat.

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I had assumed initially that I would end up building a dory since they are the common rowboat in this area. (I live in Fredericton, New Brunswick, Canada. On the St. John River.) Also, having never built anything that floated I had no preconceived idea of what building technique I would use. After considerable “work” researching various styles and building techniques I decided instead upon Jim Michalak's ROAR2.

There were two things that I really liked about the design. First, it looks amazing. It is really a sweet looking boat. It was quite light and the several accounts that I read described the boat as exceedingly fast. I also liked the sound of the Stitch & Glue, Instant Boat style construction. It sounded like something that I could handle.

Having never done anything like this before there were many details to be worked out. While I waited for the plans to arrive from Duckworks I undertook research into some stitch and glue building basics. There is a lot of information on the web about this technique but I found that there also seems to be a lot of gray areas in building methods and materials. Every article I read seemed to contradict the one before.

click to enlargeIn the end, for epoxy, I decided to heed the advice of several articles and avoid the cheap brands of epoxy and instead bought West Systems resin and hardener. This ended up being half of the entire cost of the boat. After reading a well written article about epoxy fillers I decided to use standard garden lime as a filler. This seemed kind of strange at first but seems to work really well while costing minimal. Since marine plywood was 3 times the price I decided to go with an exterior grade Meranti plywood for the hull. For the gunnels, cross braces and bow and stern pads it was Oak.

The plans that arrived were very good quality and included two good documents on the construction of the boat. There were a couple of areas that were vague including the stem construction and the skeg construction but a little bit of figuring later easily solved both of those.

Accounts that I had read on the building times of ROAR2 ranged from 30 to 40 hours. I estimate that my build time was closer to 50 hours. Now that I have a bit of a clue what I'm doing with some of the building techniques I think I could easily cut that down closer to the 30 hour mark.

Drafting out the pieces, cutting and initial assembly (stitching) of the pieces was straight forward and didn't take too much time. When the pieces were initially placed, there were a couple of spots where the plywood pieces didn't fit together properly Following the instructions I ran a saw down the joints to clear that up. Be warned though that although I was careful in my cuts they did add some small differences in the symmetry between the two sides that is still noticeable.

click to enlargeThe part of the construction that took the most time and patience was the actual epoxying. Applying the epoxy is much like crack filling drywall. I'm not very good at that either! To get a pretty good finish took many thin coats of epoxy with sanding in between.

Two tools that I found invaluable during the fairing process were a good belt sander (which I got because of the large amount of sanding I seemed to be doing) and the detail sander that let me get into the little corners.

An area of the boat that has proved troublesome are the gunnels. The instructions call for constructing them out of two laminated ¾ inch pieces stuck together with glue and screws. While this seemed to work during construction, after two outings the pieces delaminated around the oar locks. My theory is that they would have held better had I laminated using epoxy instead of the exterior wood glue but I'm not sure. My solution to this has been to put some lag bolts on either side of all four oar locks as well as regluing with epoxy where the delamination has occurred. We'll wait and see if this fixes the problem permanently.

click to enlargeWhile I had planned on using plain old exterior paint for finishing I found a great deal on marine paint that ended up being much cheaper. Three coats of primer and paint did wonders to cover up some of the imperfections in the hull.

She has been christened “Rowan”. That's one of the names that my wife had wanted for our daughter but I didn't like. It does seem to work for a row boat though.

She rows beautifully. I am very impressed at how fast this boat goes and with such little effort. I would certainly recommend ROAR2 for any builder whether beginner or pro.