My name is Brian Graham and I'm 29 years old. First and foremost, I'd like to thank the Lord for the ability and talents He has blessed me with to build this boat and sail it. Secondly, I'd like to thank my family for sticking by me when I was stressed out or working late. And finally, all my sailor friends who have inspired me and supported me through it all. With that said, I like to mention that I've never built a boat before, although I've owned several. Here's my short account of building the Jim Michalak Mayfly 14 and sailing it.
I bought the plans from Ductwork's after looking through what I thought was at least a hundred designs. I choose the Mayfly14 for three reasons: First, it was relatively small and fits in the back of my F-150 truck, eliminating the need for a trailer. Second, it's technically 13.5' so there's no registration fee with the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. Third, it's a great fit for a solo-sailor on the Texas Coast and highly recommended by several of my friends.
When I bought the plans I thought, "What have I done!?" Then came the decision for the wood. Which kind, Marine or generic? Should I go ½" or ¼" on the bottom? All these questions raced inside my head as if I could mess this whole thing up. I can't speak for all boat builders but I feel pretty safe when I say, " I think everyone deviates a little from the plans". I started cutting, gluing, screwing and framing the bulkheads. I probably had 20 hours in framing alone.
The boat was framed and needed a bottom. Instead of gluing the bottom on one piece at a time, I glue the three pieces of ½" marine plywood sheets together with two 1 x 4's. After a couple three days, I took the boat frame outside and laid the bottom over it, traced a generous line and cut it out. I screwed it down with regular drywall screws and let it set for a couple days so it could assume the rocker of the frame. Long story short, the glue went on and the screws were replaced with stainless steel exterior wood screws. I was done with the bottom!
I was really excited because it was officially a boat! I mean, if I wanted to, I could take it to the lake to float it. But I kept moving and cutout the decks, hatches, hatch coamings, hatch covers and external stem. In no time at all, the boat took shape and looked great. I made different hatches than the plans showed. I copied the way Chuck Pierce built his because I liked the function and testimony of turtling without leaking.
I made the decision to add runners, skids whatever you like to call them. I went with 1 x 2", which worked out great in the long run. Then I built the rudder, leeboard, guards, rudder cheeks and tiller handle. I was nearing 75 hours at this point. One of the most difficult times for building was attaching the leeboard guard and pivot. I was so frustrated because I couldn't get it perfectly parallel with the centerline. I got it close, 3/8". Good enough for me. I mounted everything and sanded it all down, cleaned it and got ready for the fun stuff.
I epoxied the inside and out, painted on fours coats of Behr Premium Exterior Flat and called it a day. I was somewhere in the neighborhood of about 90 hours at this point.
I started looking on Duckwork's for pre-made sails and sail kits and decided to make my own. After all, if you can build a boat then you can probably make your own sail, if you know how to sew. I did fortunately! I bought a cheap $20 blue poly tarp from Lowe's and laid out my pattern. I will say this, buy the book Boat Building for Beginners, it was a great resource to me on sail making. I laid out the design on the tarp and cut it out. I had to read that section of the book about three times to figure out which way to swing the radius, but I got it. Everything marked, now I was ready to "adjust the pattern". I had no idea what a "round" or "hollow" was before this but I do now. I used a batten I cut off of a 2 x 4 x16 and it worked perfectly.
Next came the sewing machine I acquired from my grandpa who used it for sail making. Heavy duty #18 needle did the trick;, in fact, it punched through 6 ply at the corners without even budging. The most important thing I learned about sewing is to slow down and wind the bobbins evenly. But, all that aside, the sail got sewn in about 10 hours. I am still planning on adding one row of reef points about 4' from the foot. I sewed the darts and laid them over like the book showed. I added grommets and I was finished with my sail!
There's a picture above of the boat getting rigged for the first time. Everyone's rigging is a little different so there's really no need of explaining mine. I did it the way my dad showed me and it seems to work.
By this point I was beyond excited! I had everything ready to go, rigged, painted and all I needed was an excuse to go sailing. Well I found one! The 4th annual New Year's cruise hosted by Stan Roberts. It was a great little two-day trip to test out the boat. I called my dad and asked him if he wanted to keep me company on the maiden salt sail. We headed down to Ingleside by the bay and pulled her out of the truck and pushed her in the water.
We quickly rigged her and were off. We sailed out of the Ingleside Harbor and into the ICW, making a right to jump out in Corpus Christi Bay. We didn't have any fancy navigation (only an iPhone with Google Maps) but we managed to point the boat in Shamrock Islands' direction. We trolled lures past the old abandoned oil rigs in the bay and sailed smoothly at 3-4 knots.
In no time at all we were on the North side of Shamrock Island and looking for our friends. We landed and found Stan Roberts waving us over to the campsite. We didn't stay too long because I was anxious to sail so we took off into the backwater near fish pass. We did some shallow water sailing in about 1' of water and I was hooked. How could this boat point so well, sail so shallow and be so easy to build?. I was impressed! This little idea of building a boat had become a reality. All it took was make a decision in my mind that I could do it. Total labor was estimated around 120 hours in 2 months, mostly at night while my family was sleeping. Total cost was $600, give or take a couple bucks. I did use marine ABX from Roddis Lumber in San Antonio, so technically you can build the boat a little cheaper if you wanted to. I had a great time building Mayfly 14 and look forward to the next boat.