The Online Magazine For Amateur Boat Builders














The first steps in a journey around the world
By Charles T. Whipple

The ancient Chinese said the longest journey begins with a single step. When I decided to sail alone around the world, the first step was to build the boat.

When the idea was young, I thought I’d use Swaggie, an 18-foot voyaging yacht designed by John Welsford. But I asked for so many changes that John finally wanted to know what I planned to do with the boat once it was finished.

“Sail it around the world,” I said.

The jig upon which the Sundowner/Resolution will be built.
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He answered, “I think you really need something different. Something more traditional. Something a little larger. Let me see what I can do.”

In July, John sent me the sail plan, accommodations, and deck layout of a 21-foot gaff cutter. He called it the Sundowner class, as sundowners are the carefree souls who show up at an Australian farmer’s gate at sunset looking for a place to stay the night, but are long gone before the day’s work begins in the morning. Nowadays, sundowner has taken on a romantic hue, and connotes those who go where and when they please, completely without ties. I named my boat Resolution. She’s a sundowner, and in a way, so am I.

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The Bukh engine graces the middle of John's office.

Now I’m in New Zealand, living in a small trailer house while I build Resolution at John’s workshop in Hamilton. The first thing I bought for the boat was its engine, a 7.5-horsepower Bukh that now acts as the centerpiece in John’s design office.

The second things I bought were five 2x12 planks of old-growth Oregon pine. We hauled them back from the demolition yard – right, demolition yard. These planks are ancient, rescued when an old building was demolished, and squirreled away against the day when a boatbuilder like me would arrive, willing to pay the exorbitant price – US$65 a plank. But it was worth it to know my spars would be made of air-dried old-growth timber.

The work table (which sits on the jig).
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With my arrival, John started making detail drawings for me to work from. In a way, Resolution is kind of a “design as you go” boat. We have the basics and the concept, but here I am, the building must go on, so John set the curve of the deck crown and drew plans for fourteen beams for me to laminate.

“But first you must have a jig and a work table,” he said, and swiftly proceeded to make the needed drawings for those items. The jig took me two days to make, and the table took another day. I painted the table light blue, and took a break to feed the shop cat, Cloudy, while the paint dried.

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Beams clamped in their forms.

The big table allowed me to make two beam jigs, one lengthwise and one crosswise. Ripping strips from Fijian Kauri, spreading urea formaldehyde glue, clamping the beams every 100 mm, and munching on the delicious New Zealand apples from the shop refrigerator, I found I could put two beams a day into the jigs. Giving the glue overnight to set, I pulled the beams off the jigs first thing in the morning and ran them through the planer. Now eleven beams lean against the wall, two are in the jigs, and the final beam is still a pile of 45 x 8 mm strips. I’ll glue and clamp it as soon as the others are out of the jigs.

Beams against the wall.
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This week (Sept 12) I start working with the Oregon pine, building first a boom, followed by a gaff, and then the bowsprit. The mast comes a little later.

The first steps toward completing my voyage around the world have begun; I’m building a blue-water voyaging yacht a – Sundowner. Her name is Resolution.

Charlie Whipple
Hamilton, New Zealand