Boat Design Quarterly No. 42 May 2013
From the Drawing Table
In this issue we talk about the Chesapeake deadrise. This shallow, and
relatively narrow, V-bottomed boat has evolved to live in the Bay’s
A typical builder on the shores of that fine estuary cross-planks the
bottom of his deadrise hull. Up forward, he “staves” the bottom: short
planks, which approach vertical near the stem, get worked to shape.
Almost fifty years ago, as a young apprentice in a Chesapeake yard,
I scraped and painted many a deadrise hull…tough work, always given
to the new guy. Then one day, my teacher asked me to replace a stave
at the forefoot of an exhausted 36' deadrise, which rested on the railway.
My big chance! It soon became apparent that I was to go it alone, as
Roy moved to the other end of the boat to fuss with something.
Roughing out the stave proved easy because its decayed predecessor
offered a handy pattern. I pushed the new stave into place. It fit well
enough, yet stood significantly proud of its neighbors. Time for fairing.
What to use? Well, an old adze resided behind a bench up in the
shop. It resembled an axe, but with a slightly arched cutting edge
turned at 90° to the handle. Although I had read about these tools,
I’d never actually used one. Grabbing the dusty thing, I jumped back
down into the trench beside the railway. After taking a few tentative
swipes at the stave, I swung hard at it. Bad idea. The heavy adze
glanced off the hull, and nearly took out my left knee on its way to the
ground. Its working edge was dull, and aren’t we most often cut by dull
tools? In any case, I had little idea how to handle this antique.
My teacher, who had taken notice, came forward carrying his electric
sander loaded with a 36-grit disc. Within three minutes, through a
thick cloud of coarse dust, a perfectly faired stave appeared. The man
could work quick miracles with that machine.
Some time later, when I knew enough to let the mass of the adze do
much of the work and had sharpened it, the old tool became one of my
favorites. No matter that Roy might accomplish the job at hand faster
with his Black & Decker.
Lessons learned: (1) We can be artists with power tools as well as
hand tools. (2) Just because I’ve read about a tool in a book doesn’t
mean I know how to use it.
As I neared the halfway point of the second-side layup, a warm and sloppy blanket of resin-saturated fiberglass cloth from the hull’s first side, which now hung overhead, pulled loose without warning and silently draped down over my head. “A big green Casper the ghost!” That’s how one of my friends in the shop described the result. Still, I believe this idea has merit, if we’re careful about cure times.
In this issue --
Point Comfort 18
Chesapeake Bay outboard skiff
by Doug Hylan
Traditional 15' Cape Cod catboat
from Fred Goeller
Striking 22' faering for sail and oar
by John C. Harris
Outer Banks 20
Comfortable outboard cruiser
by Graham Byrnes
Trailer Sailer 24
Shoal-draft leeboard cruising yawl
from Karl Stambaugh