Moga (Summer 2018 - Spring 2019)

For a while I've wanted to get a sail and oar boat and after exhaustive research of small boat plans, I decided on Ross Lillistone's First Mate. It's a plywood stitch and glue design covered in fiberglass. From reading other people's adventures with this design (and its lapstrake sister Phoenix III), it will be quite a capable little boat. She's 15' long and weighs approximately 150 pounds. People have camp cruised these for weeks on the Great Lakes, or finished the Everglades Challenge and Texas 200. I've certainly got plans for some long range cruises.

This will be a gigantic undertaking, so I've split the photos up into sections. The pictures aren't always chronological as I sometimes jumped around between items.

Centerboard Case
Mast Partner

Moga Sailboat
The plans come with options for a few different rigs. Sprit, balanced lug, Bermuda, gunter, and standing lug with jib. The balanced lug is the most user friendly as it's one sail and only requires two lines. I'm going to go for the sprit sail though, since I love the gaff rig look it has. The sprit rig is also a surprisingly efficient and powerful sail, although it's not quite as user friendly as the lug in the reefing department. I'm definitely not going with the bermuda or gunter, since I want a free standing mast so I don't have to deal with stays.

Moga Sailboat
Six sheets of 1/4" and one sheet of 1/2" Okoume marine plywood. With careful cutting, I ended up with 1/2 a sheet of 1/4" and a number of offcuts worth keeping for future projects. I ordered the wood from Boulter Plywood who seemed to have the best prices even after including shipping.

Moga Sailboat
Originally I was going to have all the parts CNC cut on a buddy's router, but he was having trouble getting it all set up. I was anxious to get the project started, so I just drew everything out by hand. All you need is a square, straight edge, ruler, and flexible batten for curves. The plans were originally in metric, but Ross has converted them to imperial. There are a few places where the sub dimensions don't add up to the overall dimension, but that's due to rounding and is never more than 1/16".

Moga Sailboat
Some of the bulkheads have holes cut out for ventilation or hatches. I made a quick beam compass with two nails and a scrap of wood. It's important to cut limber holes so water can flow to where it needs to go. I used a quarter for the radius and seems about right.

Moga Sailboat
The first daunting challenge of the build was to scarf four 4'x8' pieces of plywood into two 4'x16' pieces. First I screwed the sheets together making an 1:8 set of stairs to set the correct slope. Some people do 1:12, although that eats up more length and I've had no trouble with 1:8.

Moga Sailboat
Once the slope is correct and the sheets are screwed together, I took a plane and knocked off the corners until I had a nice flat surface. This plane was absolutely not the best for the job, but my other planes were at my shop and I couldn't be bothered to go get them. It did work however.

Moga Sailboat
Frequently check with a straight edge to make sure all the humps are taken out.

Moga Sailboat
Next I epoxied two sheets together with thickened epoxy. First, put down plastic underneath so it doesn't stick to the floor. Then, saturate each face of the scarf joint with neat epoxy so it really wicks into the fibers. Then slather on some thickened epoxy and weight the joint down. I just sighted down one edge to get the sheets parallel.

Moga Sailboat
The edge wasn't perfectly straight to use as a datum, so I struck a chalk line. I measured from that to a number of different points along the hull plank where I then drove a nail. Then I used a piece of flexible shoe moulding as a batten to make the curves.

Moga Sailboat After a ton of work I had all the hull planks and bulkheads cut out. You can see how the hull planks will be forced to form a boat shape when their edges are brought together.

Here's the pile of parts on the left, and bulkheads/frames on the right. It's pretty cool that the pile on the right looks just like the body plan in a line drawing, other than the lack of bottom rocker.

These have been the heros of this part of the build. A jig saw to roughly cut out the parts, and a small plane to take the cut down to the line.

The beauty of stitch and glue boats is that there are no jigs or strong backs required to build the boat. You just stitch the panels together with zip ties and the shapes form the boat. This does require accurate panels though.

Adding the whisky plank! Somehow I think the whisky plank of the strip builders is more meaningful.

Once I got the hull formed I propped in the bulkheads just to see what it looks like.

The bulkheads required some 3/4" stiffeners in places that I epoxied on. Once those had cured, I stitched the bulkheads in place. In "real" boat building, the edges of parts that contact the hull are beveled so they sit flush. This bevel can change (rolling bevel) along the curve of the hull which can make it complicated. In stitch and glue, you just put your bulkhead fore or aft of the line and fill the resulting gap with thickened epoxy.

Next it was on to fiberglassing the seams. I "tack welded" between the zip ties with a little blob of thickened epoxy and once that had cured, I cut the zip ties in the area I was working. I put a coat of neat epoxy along the seam, a bead of thickened epoxy, a strip of 4" x 12oz tape, and then enough neat epoxy to make it go clear. Not too much, or the tape can float off of the wood.

I tried a few different ways to apply the thickened epoxy. Originally I used zip lock bags with the corner cut off, but I had trouble getting consistent fillets and the bags could rip. Plus there seemed to be a lot of waste. I later switched to spooning on the epoxy with a putty knife, and then using a plastic squeegee trimmed into a nice radius. This was a little slower, but I think it was more controlable.

Finally I had all of the seams taped. It was a long slog getting all of this done. Each section of the boat had to be done at once and it was hot which made the epoxy kick off quicker.

RIP brave zip ties! haha

At this point the hull is pretty floppy, but gunwales will stiffen it up considerably. In the original plans, Ross had a 1/2" thick board that gets planed down to match the bevel of the deck. In the plans I got, he showed an alternate method of making a wider gunwale out of two pieces. However, this leaves a large gap where the deck won't lay flat. I modified the angles a bit and produced this gunwale design that will fit at the bulkhead with the most acute angle. This insures there will be material to plane down at all the other bulkheads.

Next I ripped them out of a 16' yellow pine board. It took a bit of trial and error to get the blade angle and fence position correct.

No pickup truck? Just lash them onto the side of your car!

Epoxying the first layer onto the gunwale with thickened epoxy. It's best to spring both on a little bit at a time to prevent pulling the boat out of shape.

After the first layer cured, I epoxied on the second layer.

Then I trimmed the ends flush and cleaned up the epoxy runs. I've also added the king plank up at the bow, and made a small motor well for an outboard.

Here you can see how the gunwale is just slightly tall at the bulkhead with the most acute angle. All other bulkheads will have a little more to plane off, but that insures the deck will have a nice flat strip to land on.

Here's the hull basically completed. At this point it was quite stiff, although the bottom panels still have some flex. They will be stiffened up when I add the centerboard trunk and the keel.

While I was building the hull, I also fiberglassed the centerboard trunk. It's a good idea to try and keep smaller projects going that can use up leftover epoxy from bigger jobs.

Next I epoxied on the case logs to the side pieces.

And finally I epoxied the two sides together to make the centerboard case. I made a long spatula with a nice radius at the top so I could put a fillet of epoxy at the edges. Should make the joints stronger, but more importantly watertight. This is an item on the boat that I don't want to have to try and repair.

Cutting the hole for the centerboard case was the most nerve wracking step so far. My chalk line was still visible from when I made the bottom pannel, so I used that as the centerline of the boat. I marked out two squares along the centerline that will accept the protruding head ledges of the centerboard.

Then I cut the holes out with an oscillating saw. I had to use a grinding attachment to clean up the holes and bring them to size.

Success! The centerboard case fits in and appears to be parallel with the centerline as best I could measure.

Next I epoxied in the centerboard case and half bulkhead with some 4" 12oz tape. This really locks it in position and stiffens the bottom panel.

Then I built the seat framing for the main thwart. The thwart also helps stiffen the aft edge of the centerboard case.

I flipped the boat over and then used a straight edge to connect the two head ledges. This gives me the size of the slot to cut out.

I drilled a hole at either end and jig sawed out most of the waste.

Then I followed it up with a trim router and a flush cut bit to make a nice neat slot for the centerboard.

Next I built the mast partner out of two laminations of yellow pine with a strip of 6oz fiberglass in between. I'm not sure this was a good idea as it later cracked on me. I think a solid chunk of hardwood like the plans call for would have been better. Or possibly if I rotated the grain orientation it would have worked fine.

I epoxied the mast partner onto the bulkhead with generous fillets and some stainless screws. Getting the mast partner and mast step centered is critical so the mast doesn't lean to one side.

Starting on the decks! At this point I had one full sheet of 1/4" plywood left, but quite a lot of scraps left over. I picked out six that were wide enough and laid them on for the side decks.

I dished out the joint with an angle grinder to make a Payson butt joint.

Epoxying the butt joints and building up the thickened epoxy. I have trash bags under the joints to prevent gluing it to the boat.

Then I flipped the decks over, made another Payson butt joint, and put three coats of epoxy on what will be the underside.

Gluing on the starboard side deck! It was a bit hard to clamp since the bottom of the gunwales isn't parallel with the top of the deck. Fortunately I have some large pieces of steel to use as weights.

Glueing on the fore deck.

Here you can see how I notched the decks so each landed on of half the bulkhead. All of the decks hang over and will be trimmed down with the router later.

Gluing on the rear decks. These were the hardest as I didn't have much to clamp to in the middle.

The plans didn't call for a coaming, but I decided to build one anyway out of some 3/4" material. First I decided where I wanted the coaming to start and end. Then I used a piece of cardboard to capture the curve of the deck along those lines. Then I traced the curve onto the boards and jigsawed them to shape.

Next I tipped the coaming forward to an angle that looked good. I captured this angle with a bevel gauge so I could make the other one match. Next I set a pair of dividers to the width of the gap on the aft side and scribed a line along the forward side. Everything below this line has to be removed so the coaming will sit down flush on the deck.

Once I had the coaming pieces sitting at the right angle and flush, it was time to trim the ends so they meet up flush. Marking the bottom of the coamings was easy since I just marked where it crossed the centerline. Getting the line for the top was harder and I basically just eyeballed it with a square. Everything will get glued together with thickened epoxy, so filling gaps won't be too big a deal.

I taped the coaming together to see if I liked how it looked.

There's no way to clamp the coaming down for gluing, so I drove a screw up from underneath. Getting in there with a screwdriver was an absolute nightmare. I also tapered the top edge down and rounded the corner. I can plane off more once it's glued on if I think it needs it.

Here it is all glued down and filleted. Once the glue kicked off, I removed the screws from underneath. It was even more trouble getting them out than it was to get them in.

Getting a nice even fillet along the front of the coaming was a bit tough. But it looked fine after adding three coats of epoxy.

Finally the hull was finished and everything had three coats of epoxy.

Next I flipped it upside down and a friend helped me fiberglass the bottom with two strips of 6oz cloth. We put the seam down the centerline because it will be covered by the keel later on. The cloth was left a bit long at the bow so we could wrap two inches or so over to the other side, this gives the bow a double layer of cloth.

We squeegeed on three coats of epoxy in a day, adding the next layer about two hours after the previous went on. I later went through and scraped all the drips off with the side of an iron from a plane and added epoxy in a few low spots.

Next I epoxied a 3/4" keel to the bottom. It's a little nerve wracking getting this 15' long keel in place, centered, and straight all while it's trying to slither around. I followed up with some nice sized fillets along the sides.

Learning from my adventure with the keel, I added a temporary screw to the skeg to keep it from sliding off the back. Again, I added healthy sized fillets along the edge since there are no fasteners holding the skeg on.

Next I cut out the hole for the centerboard in the same way I did it through the hull. Jigsaw out the waste, and clean up the edge with a trim router.

With that she was done!

Adding the first coat of paint. I used Behr exterior latex which may be a mistake. This boat is just going to be trailer sailed, so we'll see how it stands up. I may be scraping all the paint off and redoing it later.

Here she is after the fifth coat.

I decided a plain white boat would be a little drab, so I decided to paint on a green sheer stripe. I've read sheer stripes should have a bit of a belly in the middle, otherwise they can look too skinny. I rigged up a batten so my stripe will be 4" at the front and back, and 6" in the middle.

Then I traced along the batten and stuck on a line of painters tape.

Next I painted on some Equestrian Green and removed the tape. It came out really nice!

Add Foils Folder

Next I started on the spars. I'll need to make a mast, sprit, and boom. The mast will be hollow while the sprit and boom will be solid since their diameters are small. Here's three pieces of 3/4" yellow pine laminated together. I did this on a bench and shimmed it as necessary to get it flat.

After striking a centerline and bandsawing the sides to the correct taper, I made a quick and dirty eight siding gauge to make it round. I used the bandsaw to cut of the majority of the waste.

An angle grinder with a 36 grit flap disc quickly removes wood as I took it down to close to 8 sided.

Then I followed up with a plane to make the 8 sides flat, then round them over.

The mast is just big enough to bother making it hollow via the birdsmouth method. From my calculations I'll only save about 4 pounds in weight, but it is a cool method to practice. Each of the eight staves is notched so they fit together with a large gluing surface.

Here's how they all fit together. Later the corners will get nocked off and the whole thing rounded up.

I made a plug for the top and bottom of the mast. The bottom plug is tapered to hopefully reduce any sudden change in stiffness. I've also made the boom and boom jaws.

To hold the staves for gluing, I plamsa cut out a pair of brackets. They are 1/8" bigger than the staves so there's a little wiggle room.

Testing the staves and plugs in the brackets to make sure they fit. Better to find out now than halfway through epoxying.

The brackets are placed at the Bessel points (22% from the ends) to minimise any bending. But with how little the mast weighs, it really didn't matter.

I didn't take any pictures of the epoxying since it was a giant mess. But basically I brushed on epoxy into the notches in the staves, and then stuck everything in the brackets. I zip tied every two feet or so and then wrapped electrical tape around. This could have gone better, but I think the mast will be ok.

Planing the mast to round.

Currently I'm still working on the foils and spars. I do have the sails sewn from a Sailrite kit, but I need to organize the pictures. I also have all the fittings but haven't installed them yet.