Building Tokyo express

The Beginning

Why a cat?

I don’t know what turned me onto reading about catamaran’s but once I did; they intrigued me. The more I read the more they made sense. It made me question the logic behind keel yachts.

Paying big money for the lightest of materials to build a traditional yacht, then pouring tonnes of the heaviest metal you could afford, into its keel, didn’t seem logical.  And leaning over when sailing, wasn’t the most comfortable way of going places.

The shed

Where it all started. I made the shed four years before, in preparation to build a 21ft boat. It didn’t cost much, using trees on the property, concreting them into the ground and putting a tin roof on top. But using the shed to build a cat I had to lengthen it, and I needed some walls too. The caravan was my home and office.

The plans

The plans for this yacht were from a local designer, Tony Grainger. There were no instructions inside, only drawings, dimensions and profile curves. How to put it all together was up to me. I’d read some books and looked briefly at other people building boats. I made a small dingy in strip cedar and fibreglass, the same method I would use with the cat, to get some hands-on experience before starting. I spent a lot of time thinking about the process!

Temporary frames

Full-size mylar profiles were laid onto the wood, so I could trace the shape onto chipboard. I then cut out the frames with a handheld electric jigsaw. It’s worth going a little slower and cutting as accurate as possible. Any irregularities in the curves here will show up in the final hull.

Scarfing the cedar strips

The cedar used for the hull had to be scarfed together so they were long enough to stretch the length of the hull. I made a jig for sawing the taper scarf and set up a “production line” for cutting and bonding them together.

Setting up the frames

I attached the chipboard frames, with pine legs, to the strongback — the ladder-like construction anchored to the ground. Accuracy is critical in this step too, even more so. The temporary frames need to be set up inline, with the correct height and spacing. The extra time spent here pays dividends later.

Building the hull’s wood core

Now with a rack full of correct length cedar strips, it was time to make the hull’s wooden core. The strips of cedar are screwed to the temporary frames.  Here is my Dad giving me a hand. The strips are edge-glued to each other with a peanut butter consistency mix of epoxy resin and cab-o-sil.

Creating the hull – in wood

Adding the cedar strips continued until the hull was formed. Around the tighter curves, I had to taper the end of the thinner planks, to fit together.

Fibreglassing the hull

Once the planking was finished and the hull had been sanded smooth, I started laminating the outside of the hull. Here the fibreglass is being rolled off the reel, over the boat.

Fairing the hull

This is the most laborious part of building the boat — fairing the boat. It’s all done by hand, sanding, sanding, sanding.

Turning the hull

After I finished fairing the hull, I sprayed it with primer and turned it over. Turning the hull is a milestone, building a boat.

Completing the interior

Once the inside of the hull had been fibreglass’d, I installed the pre-cut bulkheads. The decks were strip cedar, the same as the hull. All the external surfaces were bogged, faired and sprayed with primer before leaving the shed.

First hull out of the shed

I pulled the hull out of the shed on a trailer I’d made especially for the hull, ready for moving it later to place closer to the water, for assembly. It was now time to prepare the shed for building the next section — the bridge deck.

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