A Small Boat with a Large Background
(reprinted from "The Rudder")
THIS little ship is a love affair designed for the winter fireside and the spot by the laundry tub. You will dream of her by the fire. You can build her by the tub. She is wee and yare, and is presented here as the smallest inboard of the year.
You see, it's this way. A guy sees all kinds of designs in this spiffy family journal. Big yachts, medium yachts, yachts you'd love to own providing you were major stockholders in Coca-Cola.
They've got that very real sex appeal that comes from having quality in definite quantities and curves where curves belong. Once in a while you get aboard such a boat. And every now and then one of these floating saloons will have something in davits that more nearly hits the. spot—a little dinghy, built like a watch and powered by a jeweled internal combustion infant that does things to your heart.
But did you ever see plans for that kind of a dinghy? I hadn't either. Who designs 'em? Who builds 'em? Many a dinghy I've seen was a better building job than the parent ship. Just plain "cunnin', honey" But who does 'em? Where do they come from? What's their story?
I'd been puzzled by this phenomenon, the social relationship of the dinghy to the above questions, when of a sudden the answers were laid before me. It was at Elco, in Bayonne, when I learned the Life Cycle and Genesis of Legitimate Dinghies of the Upper Classes. If you can stay with a moderate dose of personal pronoun, I'll guarantee that by the end of this backwards yarn your muse will have been titillated. You will see that good dinghies are not brought by the stork.
The best thing about Bayonne is that it gets a guy away from Jersey City. Jersey City is a dump. You have to go through it, if on wheels and from any part of the United States you want to get to Bayonne. Now the nice thing about Eico is, or was, that working at Eico you could forget Bayonne. It was a sort of Tinkers to Evers to Chance escape from reality. Jersey City to Bayonne to Eico—all! The Cadillac ot the yacht building industry. There, for a portion ot the war years, I headed up the yacht design department, or what was left of it after the Old Standbys flocked to the PT boat department. In yachts, the "department" consisted of myself and Henry W. Uhle III. Hank Uhle was then on his first tenure as a naval artichoke. I was on my eighteenth. I sensed in Hank a very competent chaftsman, a likable disposition, and an art in the appreciation of boats that is given to only the gifted few. Hank was a kindred soul.
In the ten o'clock glare of an icy, uncomfortable February morning Hank and I were crawling with frozen hands and with pencils in chattering teeth through the bowels of an old lifeboat that had been converted into a yacht and which had been thoughtfully laid up where the morning's charming hurricane could blow through every seam. It was colder than charity, We were measuring the old pot's lazarette for a set of bunks.
"Bunk is the word for it," I said to Hank. "The hell with it. Let's play hookey and drop into the joiner shop for some coffes. C'mon, Mr. Uhle, one two three."
''G-j-j'-jeez !" chattered Hank. He always was a wordy cuss. "G-J-j-Jeez!"
Which found us in Jess' joiner shop—in the old original Eico building. There Ferris, C. G. Davis, Charley Lamont, lrwin Chase. Glen Tremaine, Bill Fleming" and other famous names had turned out some honeys —Alcatorda, Alerion—the pedigree of this shop was endless. No artist with an ounce of sensitiveness could have missed the romance shed by the shop that morning. The sun, the hiss of steam, the smell of cedar.
And Jess, the Joiner boss at Eico, made such swell coffee!
Then Hank and I both saw it at the same time. I knew where good dinghies got their pedigree. There in one corner of the joiner shop a midget set of stocks was set up. A Scotsman with more yards of cedar shavings behind him than I ever saw was giving birth to a little dinghy.
It was something to watch. He set up the stem and keel. The stem flowed in one of those curves that can come only from a workbench, not a drawing board, and the rabbet followed the grain of the hackmatack perfectly. The rabbet was hand cut, but looked machined. The molds went in, zip, zip, and out of the steam box came the garboards. While we sipped a cup of coffee the garboards and broads went on! The Scotsman was a conductor, and he was playing a symphony in wood.
These old country, men bring an integrity to their craft that is sadly lacking over here these days. Over there they have to earn their way to competence by serving four years at grueling tool work before they are journeymen. Their knowledge of wood and what it will do is unequaled. Watching this gent, I was glad I'd been through the same aipprenticeship, because I could appreciate his great skill.
She was such a prettv little dinghy! And Scotty had her planked that day, and had her framed the next morning, and took his own darned sweet time thereafter in "finishing"—breasthook, risers, wales and seats. His particular dinghy was not powered, but I spent endless hours "palming" her measurenients, vowing one day to bring such a little ship to printed page for posterity. And if possible to power her, so that ship to shore communications could be established without worrying about
a kicker in a seaway.
Which is what we have in Irreducible here. And now that you have learned that these Upper Clarse dinghies usually come from the hands of some obscure shipwright who has a feel for boats, and revels in his ability to wind wood where he wanteth, observe then these plans for the first powered dinghy that has appeared in a coon's age.
She is ten feet long. She is clinker planked, as all cedar dinghies should be, for they can be dunked and hauled at will without checking seams open. Irreducible has been designed as a pretty little power boat, not a hog waisted scow. Two people are about her maximum load, and one man can have endless hours of fun just running her. The scantlings are on the plan. and it is not in the province of this story to tell you how to build her.
I have designed her for low power. You can install an air cooled job for a motor if you want. As for me, this design is a labor of love, and in a boat I want a water cooled engine, with steam softened bark, and plenty of flywheel so I can think faster than the engine can. I show how one of Ole Evinrude's originals, which now are quoted at from one to ten bucks per carcass, can be rejuvenated for about ten bucks to make a good, easy starting, low pressure inboard. The secret is in a bigger flywheel, which is easy to cast, in getting plenty of grease to the main journals through the use of grease cups, and the use of a spark coil and hot shot for ignition. Just turn 'em until they run. That's all there is to it!
Suggestions for a motor (click for larger view)
I have converted two of Uncle Ole's own. The first one retained the knuckle buster crank and magneto. She was non-pareil at holding up the legend of being hard to start. So I heaved the magneto out and put on a stick timer (see drawing) and a cast iron flywheel.
The next one I added some more hunker to the flywheel, and cast the base legs out of aluimnum, also making an advance of aluminum for the mixing valve intake. This spool has the advantage that you can hacksaw and file the manifold largely where you want it, and after setting the engine in, can set the angle of the mixing valve, which should be set approximately level when running. Bear in mind that a two port engine such as this is flooded before you try to start her. Just turn
the ignition off, draw in a charge in the base, roll her more to get the charge into the cylinder, then turn on the juice. She'll start every time. And with a beefy flywheel, you can shut off the juice, let her roll nearly to rest, flip the timing, turn on the juice, and you are in reverse. Steamboating this way is fun.
In the right boat, with the right man running them, four cycle chunker-lunks are positively pluperfect. And with such a mill Irreducible will get you out to the anchorage every time on time if you know when to leave shore.