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Beginners Guide to Boat Building

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I'm pondering building a nesting dinghy to go on the cabin top of our yacht, to replace our inflatable that is nearing 20 yrs old, and showing it.


I've built a small dinghy in plywood, stitch and glue before, and really enjoyed it. But I get the impression there are better and more modern options available now.


My question is, what is involved with building a boat (any boat, tender, racing dinghy, small keeler) in exotics / foam / carbon etc?

What are the basics a beginner would need to understand?

1) What is peel ply?

2) Do I really need a vacuum pump to work with foam panels?

3) What basic gear do you need to make something out of carbon? (like Bad Kitty's heads, or a DIY trogear style bowsprit)

4) Could you build a dinghy / tender out of foam panels instead of ply?

5) Could you cover it with fibreglass instead of carbon, and if you did, would there be any point in doing that over doing a plywood stitch and glue?


Any thoughts and information on amateur boat building greatly appreciated.

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D5 dinghy I built. Free plans on Internet. I believe i was first to make a nester out of it, though others have since done so. http://bateau2.com/free/D5_free_m.PDF   I like it. Its actually a plea

The book "Gougeon Brothers on Boat Construction" is pretty comprehensive when it comes to boat building options, plenty of practical advice in there as well.  Did I mention it's free?   https://www

Sorry for the delay. There are no gaskets. The two faces of the mating bulkheads pull in flat to each other and there is no leakage i am aware of. Of course with beach landings , wet feet etc there

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Jeez Fish, how long have you got?

Unless you're paranoid about weight then e glass & epoxy is fine, carbon is lighter but you can get too clever on panels & they will suffer pressure damage from a knee or foot.

On lower tech things that us mere mortals sail, unlike foiling beasts etc. then carbon more comes into it's own when you get to beams, rudders & stuff that needs lots of layers of glass, or much lighter layups of carbon.

1 layer of carbon or 1 layer of e glass on a flat panel is hardly worth the difference. 

No, you can get by without a vacuum pump, but if you can scrounge one they keep resin weight down in the laminates, and do give a good finish. 


Peel ply is God's gift to composite building, goes on top of the glass or carbon reinforcement, and once you peel it off you have a great surface that can be laminated to without grinding or further surface prep, or finished & painted.

Seriously, don't build without it.


Probably plenty of stuff on youtube about composite building, and Adhesive Technologies is great for epoxy & fillers, and Gurit for glass or carbon.


Go create!

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D5 dinghy I built. Free plans on Internet. I believe i was first to make a nester out of it, though others have since done so.



I like it. Its actually a pleasure to row and i dont think anyone ever said that about an inflatable.

It fits on the fordeck of my Young 780 so will just about fit anything i guess.

It also tows really well and goes well with 3.6 hp motor.


Plywood is lighter than fibreglass in this application as the thickness you need for practical stiffness makes it so, although fibreglass is undoubtably stronger thickness for thickness.


I did the hull in 3 mm ply and put a single layer of glass on the bottom for abrasion protection.


Good luck.





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Abel Seaman, that is gold, that is fairly much exactly what I've got in mind.


How did you get on with the 3mm ply? I see this design, and every other one I've looked at calls for 6mm ply, then almost always with a glass skin. It sounds heavy and over built, hence why I was pondering composites, to reduce the weight a bit and make hauling onto deck and handling a bit easier.


And how do you find the stability of your dinghy? esp for hoping into and out of it from the mothership? Our old deflatable has the one advantage of being very stable for climbing up the side for the missus and kids. I'm assuming the single hard chine you have, optimist style, gives the best form stability for standing on the side / loading unloading etc.


I'm primary after something about 10 ft, 3 m so it is big enough to handle a family of 4 comfortably in one go.

I have been ponder the 9'6 nutshell pram, for looks and performance, and working out how to nest it myself. But the lapstrake construction is a tad more work.



The eastport nesting pram is gold, but a bit short for what I'm after, and the Passagemaker in the same range is too big.

There are a bunch of other options, some well known, some less so, but at the end of the day I can't see why I'd put a lot of work into making a complex shape when a good simple optimist style single chine pram / punt seems to work well as a load carrier, can be made to nest, and is simple to make.


PS is that Kaiteriteri you are launching at?

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At that size you are into a law of diminishing returns with exotic construction, the gains are marginal if any.


Abel Seaman is on the money, use 3mm marine Gaboon for the hull and glass the bottom to the waterline. Keep the use of solid timber to a  minimum and use something light like Kahikatea . Finally watch the painting , as that can add a surprising amount of weight too, often for no gain in durability.


You will struggle to build lighter and it wont cost much.


There is still a simple pleasure in rowing a well designed lightweight dinghy.

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