Some years ago, as a project to ease my way from full-time work to retirement, I was inspired by my late friend and mentor Rob Ditterich to build a John Welsford designed Navigator. It was a demanding but ultimately fulfilling exercise which taught me much and reminded me that it’s as much about the journey as the product: a magnificently versatile and trailerable boat.
Fast forward to the July-September 2019 edition of this magazine and there on the cover was Welsford Sei, ‘a Norwegian Raider for the home boatbuilder’. How was I to resist this invitation to do it all again?
The plans and comprehensive construction notes arrived and were studied.
I picked up a trailer-load of MDF from a local cabinetmaker, (they receive it as protective packaging for fragile, costly panels and leapt at the opportunity to be rid of it).
The Gaboon plywood and Bote-Cote supplies were delivered by Warren Slater of Marine Timbers of Seaford shortly before Christmas and the patternmaking and cutting of the frames and planks got underway early in the New Year.
By the time the Covid restraints were upon us the build was well underway on its building frame in my dedicated boat-building shed.
Taking shape on the building frame.
Laminating the bow and stern outer stems.
By following John’s suggestion to halve and join the frames I used one less sheet of both 9mm and 6mm ply – worth noting when you’re ordering costly materials.
The pictures tell the construction story, but don’t reveal that, other than in the construction of the centreboard case and the mast-step box, I did not use the prescribed screws but relied on Bote-Cote epoxy to provide the bond. It’s worked before for me and so far Freya has held together, laminations and all!
Rather than adopting John’s specification of alloy spars, I went for aesthetically more pleasing, though more labour-intensive, spars of clear Oregon. To shape the spars from their initial square form, I used a jig which Peter Brown of our Geelong St Ayles Skiff building group, (we have built three), developed to shape the tapered looms of the skiff oars. Essentially the jig is reminiscent of a long-bed lathe. But instead of the material spinning under a shaping tool, it is turned incrementally by hand after each pass of a router mounted in a sliding carriage. This, though noisy and dusty, is a quick and reliable means of producing nicely rounded spars which, in the case of the mast, also is tapered, (as are the oar looms).
Our talented Geelong sailmaker, Tony Bull, made the traditional wine-dark Dacron sail, (loose footed for improved set), and I’ve been able to use bronze rowlocks which were a gift to me 66 years ago from a skilled metal-casting friend! The Navigator I named Felicity for my ‘understanding’ wife. I was keen to stick to the letter ‘F when naming the Sei, so when our grandchildren suggested Freya, the Norse goddess of love, there was no hesitation. We look forward to enjoying this quickly and simply rigged and launched boat for years to come.
Almost ready to turn.
You can never have too many clamps!
There’s no doubt about the appeal of the Welsford designs and there can have been no better lockdown project for a serial amateur boatbuilder.
What’s next? I have no idea, but I do know the fulfilment of engaging in creating something beautiful and useful from wood is what it’s all about.