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by Garth Battista garth@breakawaybooks.com
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I recently built a Bolger "Gypsy," the featured boat in Harold Payson’s Build the New Instant Boats. The book is very thorough and helpful, and will take any beginner and turn him into a boat builder (an awesome feeling). Never able to leave well enough alone, though, I made a few modifications which might be of interest to future builders: adding longer seats, tilting a bulkhead for leaning back against, and adding flotation compartments and hatches. Gypsy is designed to be as simple as possible to build, and my changes definitely add some steps and some material (and thus weight) to the finished product, but they add to its comfort and sense of security, I hope.

gyp01.jpg (21726 bytes)SEAT LAYOUT: The seats as designed looked awfully cramped and limiting, so I decided to drop frame #9 entirely, run a 1X3 stringer for the seats from bulkhead #12 all the way up to #6, and double the gunwale thickness to insure adequate hull stiffness without that frame.

I measured off widths every six inches from the stringer edge to the side, and cut the seat tops from 1/4" luan (which is what I made the whole boat from). It was a bit of an inexact science, but the seats fit pretty well. When screwed to the top of the stringer on one side and epoxied and glassed to the boat side, they are perfectly strong and stiff -- the box effect. I also added a little 1X3 leg, just about in the middle of the long stringer, to support weight there. I screwed and glued it to the back of the stringer, then epoxied and glassed it to the floor of the boat. This way, too, the seat is rigid enough that you can dig your toes under it when heeling and lean back. Finally, before finally attaching the seat tops, I cut some 2" thick grayboard foam flotation to exactly fit under them, and stuck it in there. By the time I trimmed it to conform to the angle of the chine, there wasn’t really all that much grayboard left - but some is better than none. There’s still room under the seat to stuff in one of those FunNoodles for even more flotation, if desired.

I suppose Mr. Bolger wanted to keep the sailor's weight centered right in the spot where the original small seats are -- and small changes in position do make a big effect on this boat -- but I find there are plenty of occasions where you want to scoot forward or aft, or lay out for comfort.

THE ROWING THWART: The rowing thwart now gets hinged on the starboard stringer and lands on a 3/4" stop on the edge of the port stringer, so that I can still stow oars under the seat. It also lands on the projection of the centerboard case, which I cut to be perfectly level, rather than sloping downward as on the plans. This gives the seat a good solid foundation. Seat is made of 1/4" luan, too, with 2" wide strips of extra luan glued on the fore and aft edge, for extra strength. (Might be easier to just use 1/2" ply . . .)

I had to cut holes in form #6 to receive the blades of the oars. They’re a little bit in the way on the floor of the boat, but mostly stay pushed out to the sides, hovering just under the seats. I intend to hook up a little bungee cord loop under the seat to really hold them aside. I also intend to fashion a small latch for the rowing thwart, to keep it from opening when the boat is inverted on my cartop - hence keeping the oars stuck in the boat during transit, too.

THE TILTED BULKHEAD: I took out Bulkhead #12, and cut a new one, shaped to tilt back about 20 degrees, for general comfort. It’s good for sitting on the floor of the boat during runs, when the boat wants to roll and you want to scoot back to get the bow up a bit, and don’t want to be one side seat or the other. Also nice if you're just sitting on the seat and leaning back on it. Coming up with the right shape involved tracing a cardboard template and tweaking it a lot -- and still coming up a bit short in spots. Epoxy and glass tape fixed the errors. Is there a computer program that could calculate this shape exactly? Maybe hullforms? Or someone who hasn’t forgotten all his 9th-grade geometry?

gyp02.jpg (15159 bytes)Here's a shot of the finished boat showing the seats, etc.

Also note the handles on the transom for ease in cartopping.

A NOTE ON DOUBLING THE GUNWALE THICKNESS: I used a trick John Bell posted in the Bolger e-group files some time ago: ripping a 16' 2X4 on a table saw, first taking off about a 3/4" piece from either edge, then evenly dividing the remaining 2"-wide piece with an angled cut of 21 degrees (matching the flare of the sides) -- then placing that beveled piece on first (thick side downward) following with a straight-cut piece, so as to make a perfectly flush surface for screwing on decking. This is a great little system - you get gunwales that only look 1 " thick from the top, but viewed from beneath are a full 2".

FLOTATION COMPARTMENTS: I put an extra bulkhead in just forward of the mast step, epoxied and glassed into place, to create an airtight flotation compartment once it all got decked over. (I added an airtight hatch on deck after these pictures were taken, so it wouldn’t get damp and rot in there over the years.) I cut a big round hole in Bulkhead #3, for ventilation via the hatch, so everything from the bow back to the new bulkhead (at about 4 feet) is all flotation. For decking, " luan, sealed with a bead of silicone caulk all around the gunwale and across the mast step (I added a lower flange to the mast step to let the decking fall onto), then simply screwed down with galvanized sheetrock screws. Jim Michalak recommends this silicone sealing method - better than gluing it down, so you can pry it up if ever you need to get in there to fix anything.

I put foam flotation around the mast step in the area between Bulkhead #6 and the new bulkhead, just leaving room for the oar blades to get tucked up in there. This might sound like flotation overkill, but I wanted to be sure I could self-rescue in fairly rough water, so I worked in as much buoyancy as possible. (Still haven't had occasion to test self-rescue.)

gyp04.jpg (23070 bytes)This picture shows the boat as cartopped, single-handed, for our trip to Cape Cod. I added handles to the transom -- not terribly attractive, but helpful in maneuvering the boat up onto the rack.

THE HATCHES: If you haven’t made a hatch, it’s pretty easy. (On re-reading this description, I think I’ve made an easy thing pretty incomprehensible, but here it is: )

----Once your decking is on, draw a square or rectangle centered on the centerline of the boat. I made my holes 12" fore-and-aft by 16" wide. Use a circular saw and make plunge cuts carefully along each side. Finish cutting the corners with a hand saw. There you’ve got a perfect hole in your deck.

---Glue some " X " pieces of wood along each edge (in my case, two 17 -inchers and two 12-inchers, sitting on deck, flush to the edges of the opening, completely surrounding it.

----Then cut a piece of plywood for the top, in my case, it was 17 " X 13 " (the size of the hole plus the widths of the framing sticks around it).

----Glue similar sticks to the inside of the hatch-top, so that they’ll fall just snugly inside the opening (12"X16" minus an eighth or quarter inch each side).

----Add closed-cell weather stripping to the underside of the top, around the framing sticks - so the top seals down onto the frame around the hole.

----Bungee cords hold it down tight. I actually buy 32" bungee cords, pry off the metal hooks on each end, leaving the clamped little loop; then I screw straight into the loops to attach both ends of the cord to the outside of the framing around the hatch opening, at two adjacent corners. Then screws run in on the opposite side of the hatch opening, parallel to the decking, with " of screw left showing, provide the hooks on which to catch the bungee cord. I generally locate it so I can get access as easily as possible from the cockpit.

---Something I’d like to add but haven’t yet is a couple of nylon webs or leather straps to make hinges for the hatch opening, so it won’t get lost or blown away if opened on the water. Anyway, these hatches are good not only for ventilation of enclosed spaces, but also for stowing life vests and cushions and rain gear and other piles of junk that don’t fit in your car if you’re traveling a ways. And for keeping your picnic lunch dry once you’re sailing.

gyp03.jpg (15159 bytes)



Here is the finished boat.

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