Chebacco News 32

Chebacco News 32 – November 2000


Roll Call!

I don’t know about you guys, but while I know there are a fair few Chebaccos out there I have only the vaguest idea where most of them are.

If you own a Chebacco – whether on the water or at any stage of construction, why not drop me an email or a line telling me what type you’ve got (sheet-ply, lapstrake, long, ‘glasshouse’, cruising . . .), when it was launched (or is due to be launched), its name (if any), name of builder, and location. I’ll publish the list once you’ve been in touch, and it can be updated as and when new Chebaccos are launched. Of course, I’ll respect anyone’s privacy if they’d rather not be included.

Completed Chebaccos I know about are:







Apologies to folks I’ve forgotten. Anyway, complete details on all (including the above) will be most welcome!

Hollow Masts

John O’Neill writes:

Dear Bill,

Regarding ‘bird’s mouth’ masts. First, my understanding is that hollow spars should be about 10% fatter than the same spar that’s solid. Second, as I discovered, you can use more than 8 staves. If you do, you get a more even cross sectional thickness. That is, if you look at it on end, the hollow space won’t have the outline of a stop sign, but more of a true circle. I used 12 staves on the 16′ masts of my two Bolger Cartoppers, mostly as a way to more efficiently use the nearly pristine 3/4″ Dour Fir stock I had on hand, and that I didn’t want to search out and buy any more of. (Despite the added kirf waste, i.e. sawdust, I got better use of the wood). But I think the more even cross section using 12 staves provides a real strength/weight advantage, and might be worth it regardless. The width of the staves (given a perfect ‘bird’s mouth’ cut) solely determines the maximum thickness of the finished spar. To determine the width figure the circumference of the mast, and divide that by the number of staves you want. My 2 1/2″ mast worked out to 0.65″. Then divide 360 by the number of staves to get the angle for the bird’s mouth cut. For 12 staves it works out to 30 degrees. I’d recommend making a short section of test mast just to be sure of your numbers. I had my first crude one rubber-banded together in about an hour (altogether I made three!). Plus they’re fun to show off to friends of an engineering bent.I used a carbide wobble blade on a table saw for the bird’s mouth cut. It worked perfectly (with a lot of featherboards and support for the work piece, and a lot of test cuts. Make extra staves!). I used epoxy for glue-up, but instead of hose clamps I used waxed twine (epoxy won’t stick to wax) in a hand-tight spiral wrap down the length of the spar. It kept good, even pressure on the joints, with no risk of squeezing any joints dry, and as an added benefit it was easier to sight down to see if the spar was straight, without hose clamps in the way.
After a host of frustrating attempts at dry fitting my even dozen of staves (fitting the last one was always the kicker!) I finally hit on rolling them up around a core. It works like this. Arrange the staves in the order you want them, with the outside face down. Place a thick dowel a foot or more long, or a stiff cardboard roll, almost anything with the approximate diameter of the hollow interior, on top, and roll the staves up around it. It’s a ridiculously easy, one-person operation, even with a dozen slippery, slithery, epoxy coated staves. I felt like an idiot when I figured it out, that I hadn’t figured it out sooner! Just rubber band it up and pull out the roll (make sure you leave some of it protruding, I learned that too) and the base is assembled. The rest of the assembly almost falls into place. I used a plug from the base, up past the partner to where the fittings where screwed in. I drilled a fat hole clear through to avoid turning the mast’s interior into a moisture trap. Then I coated the hole walls with epoxy to minimize moisture induced dimensional changes, which I figured might sooner or later cause splits in the mast. To deal with the ‘hard spot’ at the top of the plug, I drilled down into it using two big Forstner bits. The first bit was barely smaller than the plug, and was drilled about 2 inches into the top. The second was a bit smaller than the first and drilled in as far as it would go. Not the best but I think it will do. It does add weight but it’s low where it doesn’t count.

Another plug option I’ve seen, much better for interior halyards, is to make what is essentially a tiny, hollow, second mast, to fit inside the first as a plug. The staves of this ‘second mast’–towards the top–are tapered, but not glued together, such that the plug is of constant thickness top to bottom, but ends at the top in stiff, individual, tapered fingers, almost like one side of a tall finger joint. I don’t know that I’d run interior halyards on a mast where any thickened epoxy was used during glue-up. There might be some protruding dried bits that could cause chafe.
Great newsletter by the way! You and your contributors almost have me talked into a Chebacco as my next project. Probably hard chine. But Bolger has so many great boats! I’m really torn . . .

John O’Neill, Fairfield,


Meanwhile, Gil Fitzhugh has completed his hollow spars:


I’ve built the masts, boom and gaff using the birdsmouth method, with the mast modified in way of the partners as described in Chebacco News #31. I wrapped the whole mast with a layer of 6oz glass, with the weave running straight up the mast. Then I spiral wrapped the lower 4.5 feet (enough to get above the boom jaws) with another layer, with diagonal weave. The overlaps, loose strands and whatnot were as ugly as sin. I sanded everything smooth with 40 grit and then progressively sanded it down to 22o grit. And it looks damn good! It’s roundish, straightish and strongish. I’m now epoxy coating and sanding off the mizzen, boom and gaff, which won’t be glassed. Then I’ll add the fittings. Next spring I’ll varnish them.


I’ve built almost everything on this boat myself, but Joan was invaluable putting the masts together. I’d mix up about 3 squirts of epoxy at a time, stir, put in Cab-o-Sil, stir some more and then give the can to Joan. She’d paint the birdsmouths while I mixed the next batch. It must have taken half an hour, working fast, using WEST with slow hardener. Then we rolled up the spar and got about 25 automotive hose clamps around it and tightened them up. Being careful, of course, to keep shoving everything back toward straightish as it tried to sag, until we had it really tight. The guy at the auto parts store looked at me pop-eyed when I bought 20 5-inch and 20 4-inch hose clamps. I cleaned out his whole supply.


Drawing a Waterline? Try Pete’s “Poor Man’s Laser Level”


Pete Respess’s beautiful Chebacco hull

Pete Respess writes:

Dear Bill,

I have been reading your newsletter for about a year now (have been building 11 months) and finally have something that may be of use to your readers. It has to do with striking the waterline – a nebulous, scary task which all boat building books seem to brush casually by. In one place in the newsletter I read that I was “on my own” when it came to doing this. That made me ask a friend who proposed, “Hey just launch it and get down there with a magic marker and draw it in”. My pride did not let me opt for that idea though. Instead I decided upon the “poor man’s laser level”. What I did was run two parallel strings (about ten inches apart) along the boat’s length close to whre the water line should be. The strings and the boat should both be level before beginning. Then at night fall, use a flashlight to cast the “two” string’s shadows against the hull, making sure they hit the correct place on the stem and near the stern according to the plans. When the shadows of the two strings coincide, there’s your line to be drawn.
Actually, you just mark tick marks every few inches at this point and wait for daylight to fill in the actual tape line with a batten. That’s it. Of course I have not launched the boat yet to prove this theory. You will have to judge whether or not to wait for that test before you decide to include this technique. I just liked how marvelously simple and “cheap” this
method was. No laser to buy or other complicated stuff. I got the idea from building my privacy fence around the back yard. When three sticks line up “by eye” along your property, then that is your “true”fence line.

I am including the most recent picture of my boat in it’s primer coat (Epoxy Barrier-Kote). It now has a coat of Interthane Plus on it which I have just finished wet sanding with 220 and 400 grit paper (second coat this weekend). I was fortunate to have met a guy a couple of miles from me who retores wooden runabouts professionally. The things he told me about his painting and finishing techniques are priceless. I coupled his ideas with a few things from your newsletter – the results are beautiful. I am told a slight orange peel is acceptable, at least it is with me. You only see that when you get real close anyway.

Pete Respess
Hopewell, VA

For the technical thinkers out there, I have thought of the following geometric stuff. The two lines act as a horizontal plane which slices the boat in the same way the water does. When that plane lines up with the two points, fore and aft on the hull according to the plans, you have a water line. And “figures don’t lie”. Plus it kind has the ring of common sense too.


The Poor Man’s Laser Level in action


“Wayward Lass” continues her adventures . . .

Jamie Orr writes:

I had a great sail on the weekend, drove to Nanaimo and went over to Sechelt to see Jim Slakov. This was the only weekend I could do it, but we’ve had a lot of gales and stormy winds over the last week or two, and prospects didn’t look good. The forecast said things would improve, but on Saturday it still predicting up to 40 knots of wind. I was getting antsy sitting around home, so I drove up in the afternoon to have a look — yup, lots of
wind. Spent a couple of hours rigging up and fiddling with the new reefing stuff I’ve added, then launched late in the day. The Nanaimo launch site is very well sheltered, behind Newcastle Island, so I thought I’d stick my nose out and see what it was like on the open water. Even with 2 reefs it was more than I liked, so I tacked and let the sail out to reach back. I was immediately startled by a loud Whoossh! and water frothing by at high speed — we were surfing — with 2 reefs! That’s the quickest acceleration I’ve ever had sailing — really got the heart started!

Spent a not very restful night at anchor at Newcastle Island marine park, lots of slapping and noise, but at least no sailing around the anchor with the mizzen up. After breakfast on Sunday I thought I’d go for a bit of a sail around Snake Island before I packed up and went home. However, once I got out there it wasn’t bad, things were much quieter — then the radio weather report predicted good conditions (only up to 15 knots) for the nest 48 hours, so I just kept on going. Sailed for 2 hours, then the wind backed until it was right in my face (sound familiar?) so down came the sail and Honda came to the rescue. Took another 3 hours to finish the 16 or 17 odd miles across Georgia Strait (Sechelt is on the mainland).

Spent the night at Jim Slakov’s. Unfortunately, when I didn’t arrive on Saturday, they ate the dinner I would have had (Greek, one of my favourites!) but I was very well looked after anyway by Jim and his wife, Rose. Had a good look at Jim’s boat — beautiful. He put up the mast to show me the system he has worked out for raising and stowing everything, very smooth and well thought out. I stole a few ideas for later
consideration, but I’ll never touch the quality of Jim’s work.

We called at Gary Foxall’s but missed him. Had a look at his boat though, looking good and could be ready for next September, with luck — maybe a fleet of Chebacco’s in Port Townsend yet!

Got a good start Monday morning, left the dock about 3 minutes before 8:00, with the sails already hoisted. Caught the wind as I passed between the breakwaters, killed the engine right then and didn’t use it again for the whole trip home! Felt like I’d found the grail! Had a fairly steady wind 3/4 of the way, before it started to fade. After 4 hours I was within maybe 2 miles of the dock, but it took another hour to cover those 2 miles. Got a bit of breeze that took me nicely through the ferry channel, then it went back to a whisper that let me sail right up to the dock and just step off with the mooring line.

So I had a good time. My dad couldn’t make this trip, as he had an old friend visiting, and the pair of them are gallivanting off in Prince Rupert. I had a few difficulties single handing, but have some better ideas now on how to manage. Upside was that I had his Cruiser suit, and stayed warm and comfortable.


P.S. Jim and Rose are great hosts, but take care when he offers you a hot
toddy — a generous man….

That’s all for this issue

. . . but if you have any news, questions or stories, please drop me a line:

Bill Samson,

88 Grove Road,

Broughty Ferry,

Dundee DD5 1LB,


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