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Georges  WaApa in South Carolina

Page history last edited by vectorges@... 12 years, 2 months ago

This is a story of a mostly Gary Dierking Wa'Apa proa using directions and dimensions from his book. It is going to be used as a paddler on the Waccamaw River around Conway, SC and a sailor on a variety of fresh water lakes. The boat has been in its gestation period for a few years as I watch the comments on the ProaFile group . Shunting scares me, and since there are few sailors around here (much less proa sailors) I will stick with what I know. I am a retired software engineer, and veteran scrounger. I have recently found a source for Baltic birch plywood scraps, some old Chris Craft factory teak from the 30's, and some aluminum beams from a salvage yard. I have stockpiled a small hoard of mahogany from various boat disasters and The Landing School dumpster.  If anyone has questions I can be emailed at VectorGES@aol.com. So let's see some construction:



This is one of the Siamese teak pieces from Holland, Michigan. It came from an employee who worked at the Chris Craft plant 60 years ago. It has been cut at the factory to look like individual slats when building the foreward decks on the beautiful wood Chris Crafts. I used the dado lines as guides and made individial strips out of it. The wood is about 5/8" thick.



Two copies Bulkhead number 2 were made and bolted together using the bolt holes that will later be used to assemble the boat. Sides were belt sanded to assure uniformity.



Sides were temporarily screwed together and trimmed with a block plane to insure uniformity. The second pair of sides were far enough off that I used a back saw to get them closer. Clamps along the edge helped keep the sides stiff while planing.




Teak gunwale glued on. I used Titebond III to see how it would work. You can never have too many clamps. Here is a variety. Metal clamps have higher pressure, so they have plywood backers on both sides.



Here is one side with its teak gunwale glued on and the pine chine on the back side. Chines were attached with glue and stainless steel screws. Probably overkill, but ... The first two sides were clamped together and trimmed with a block plane to insure uniformity. It was a pleasant surprise to rediscover the block plane after not using one for a while. I sharpened it prior to this project. The shavings were beautiful. The planes were my grandfather's (who is not Hawaiian). Since he died in 1972 they have been around for a while. Good tools are a joy to use. Harbor Freight tools are a constant reminder that you saved some money, and you won't feel as bad if you lose it.



It has come to my attention that there is a scholarly body of knowledge that asserts that this part of South Carolina was originally discovered by a group of ancient Hawaiians. I will attempt to pass on some of my findings as they occur. It is best if sections of text between the << and >> are read with the voice of Eric Idle (or your favorite Monte Python member) to totally appreciate this rich history. I am merely relating my research and do not vouch for its authenticity.  A group of hawaiian explorers under the direction of Hore Thyerdoll (sic) left Oahu during Spring Break in 1351. They headed east in search of a new land, preferable a new land with golf courses. They landed on the shores of what is now Myrtle Beach. Unable to find Myrtle they named the area for their leader; calling it Horry County. Coming from a region of volcanic mountain tops they appreciated the dead flat contours of this new land. They celebrated by mixing a batter of native grain to create a new breakfast food - the pancake.




4/6/2008  I had some time this afternoon to work on the boat while some glued dried on the bathroom project. I temporarily set up bulkhead 2, the inner stem, and the sides to check the fir of the inner stem. The production  process is evolving. I planned on building one hull half at a time, but I see that it will be handy to have old pieces to  compare to the new pieces. The chines need some work where the bow is formed. I penciled the saw line and made the incision. It is not very close, so out came the block plane again.  I clamped the sides together at the chine to make the two sides of the chine congruent:



The second side was cut with a Japanese back saw first, then finished off with a belt sander. Belt sanders are not usually thought of as a fine woodworking tool, but they do have their place. With care it removes wood quickly and with a flat surface.



The sides were attached to bulkhead 2 and set on top of the table saw. It was not set up for total symmetry, but merely to get an idea of how to trim the inner stem for a better glue joint. I know that Gary suggests a fillet as the joint, but I thought I would try for a better joint. I am not in a race to complete the project, so ... Here is the first attempt:


I penciled the camber on the sides of the stem and went back to the block plane. More nice shavings. The glue in the birch plywood does dull the edge quickly though. I didn't trim back the chine before gluing it to the side. This was probably a mistake. I will have to shorten  the stem to make it fit. This will probably make a stronger joint since the outer stem will overlap the chine/inner joint. I will still use fillets on the inside.



It is starting to look like a boat. I did a mockup of the hull half using some old panelling from the remodelling project. I was able to leave it in the carport for the "winter". ("Winter" is what South Carolinians call the time of year when the night temperatures dip into the 40's and locals wear coats. People from upstate New York refer to this same temperature pattern as "Summer"). I have a couple of modifications that I am considering. The seat will be a bit lower for ease of paddling. Compartments will be built under the seats for strength and practicality. Bulkhead 1 will be made with plywood perimeter and a large removable hatch to facilitate storage. I may never use it for this, but at least I can stick some sealable plastic bottles in it for flotation. I am thinking about removable floor pieces in the cockpits. This would be a teak grid. It seems better than having novices stepping direclty on the bottom.



I made a bulkhead 1 template from an old piece of plywood. The shape was penciled on the plywood and scrap plywood screwed to the borders. This will assure uniformity on the two bulkheads. The old tool will transfer the angle to the chopsaw so I can accurately duplicate it on later parts. I love hand wood working, but a metal working approach provides greater accuracy.



Not much new has emerged on the historical research front. I am still puzzled as to why a group of people from Hawaii would want to venture away in search of the New World. Obviously not a search for spices.  Maybe it was a deep yearning to find the perfect pancake house. Or good golf. Water slides? Archaeologists on Kannaapali have recently unearthed evidence that these early explorers sent back the latest in Outlet Center technology. My search continues.



Positive work has slowed down considerably. I seem to get caught in these philosophical design / construction dilemmas. I am building in some storage in the ends and under the forward seat. Several extra pieces of wood have been added to make it stronger. Some variation is based on the available materials. I realize that this will make the boat a bit heavier and move a bit slower, but that is okay. It is not a racer. I will be using it for excercise. If I have to paddle a but harder it means more excercise. I sawed a triangular piece of 3/4 plywood at the pointy end of each hull half and attached it to the chine. This will make the bottom of the hull stiffer.



May 17, 2008 - Sunday was a beautiful day here in South Carolina. I pulled the pieces out to see what it would look like. I got some 2" square tubing from the local salvage yard. It is run by an Asian woman (I believe she is descended from the original Hawaiian founders of the Carolina Colony).  They look strong enough for the akas. The ama was a gift from a builder in Connecticutt who lost his boat building area. It was part of a T2. The main hull was included, but my needs specificed a Wa'Apa, so I gifted the vaka to a builder in North Carolina. A lot of bartering and giving going on with this boat. Any way, at this point the boat looks like a boat. I can sit in my thinking chair and look at it and see some potential design conflicts.



Here is a close-up of the bow brace across the chines. More of the free Baltic birch. A little weight, a lot of stuffness.



In keeping with my storage mania I am building the seat in the front hull with a storage compartment underneath. Hardwood braces glued to the sides over triangular gussets in the corners. A plywood upright on the front end to support it. Thin plywood as a hatch under. The purple tape is painters tape as I am laying in the epoxy fillets.



May 21, 2008 - The two hulls standing up to facilitate epoxying. This was my first attempt at epoxying anything of size, so I am a bit cautious. As in welding, I will try to make all joints horizontally. This means there may be days between one set of joints and the next. Horizontal joints run less and make less mess. Carpenters tape also reduces mess. I am working on the fillets now so I can fabricate the hardwood bow inserts.  I can see about three rotations of the hulls before all of the fillets are done so I can apply the inserts. But it is fun. It is hot in SC this time of year. Yesterday was a tad above 90 F. I mixed up my first 3 oz batch of epoxy and was amazed how fast it heated up and how short the pot life. I am using Raka epoxy with a mix of fast and slow hardener. Next batch will have more slow in it.


<<While going to the Lowes for tile for the bathroom project I heard an NPR broadcast about Elizabeth Dole. At the same time I noticed a beautiful stone wall around one of the larger houses in the neighborhood. The columns each had a pineapple on top. Dole ... pineapple ... Hawaiian explorers? It is coming together.  More evidence. The early explorers brought pineapples to this area in search of greater  planting areas for their crops. It is warm here. We have Dole's here. It all makes sense. >>



I decided to build a bent shaft paddle as an experiment. I have a piece of laminated mahogony from a random boatbuilding school in Maine. It was in the dumpster as a reject. There were actually several of them. Two are now hand rails for a short set of steps in my house. This one will become a bent shaft paddle for the proa. If I don't like it I can always hang it on the wall.



Since this is a tacker (and mostly a paddler) there is a defined forward and aft. The forward seat is attached to the center bulkhead. I attached a triangular gusset between the side and bulkhead. A  seat support was attached to each side with glue and two SS screws. A vertical brace at the front edge of the brace is cut at 6 degrees at the top and bottom to support the front edge. A  horizontal brace runs across the front  edge of these supports and rests on a notch in the vertucal brace. I plan to build a removable seat with an S shape like an Adirondack chair. It will ride on the side braces. A piece of light weight plywood sits on top of the braces to seal the storage area under the seat. A removable plywood panel will fit under the front edge of the seat.


The rear seat will be built similarly, but will have two removable panels to allow access to the rear storage area.


Pointy end braces:

I want to put a piece of hardwood at each end to brace the bow and allow for connection of any deck hardware that may be desired. I found some cherry in my scrap box that should do the job. I will probably laminate a part to fit the multiple angles and simplify the cutting. I saw a boat that had a grab handle built into the bow, so I will incorporate that idea also. I will probably be using a stub mast of some sort so I may been an attachment point for a forward running stay. Dock lines would also be handy.


May 27, 2008

The pointy end is looking good! I found some cherry that Cousin Kirk was going to use as firewood. I put in my hardwood stash where it has been accumulating interest for the past five years. Since there are many angles in the pointy end (and none of them are right angles) some thought had to be given to the process. First I used the yard sale protractor to determine the angle of the side flare, about 7 degrees. I trimmed one edge of the cherry to this angle on the table saw. After checking for accuracy I clamped it to the port side. I have a cheap Craftsman laser that is becoming one of my favorite tools. I made a base that allows me to accurately center it on a bulkhead. Aiming at the center of the stem shows the cut line for the port side of the breasthook. The picture below shows the feint red laser beam. It is more impressive in person. This was cut freehand on the tablesaw and the process repeated on the starboard side. The forward edge of each piece was cut back at a 34 degree angle to closely fit the angle of the stem. A little  fine tuning with a belt sander and it looks good. These two pieces are glued togher, leaving a triangular notch at the rear. Geometry students will remember that the two triangles cut off in the first steps will be the proper shape to fill this opening. A little belt sanding, a little glue, and I have a rough breasthook. Clamping would be difficult so I also glued a piece of plywood to the underside and tacked it in place with my air nailer. Another traditional Hawaiin boat building tool.




Bike Week is coming to a close, so there will probably be more Segway tours to soak up my time. I hope to get at the other breasthook today. I also started looking at parts for the sailing rig. I found an aluminum framework that begged me to by it. I think it is a keyboard stand for some kind of mobile band. Two 5' legs on the ends, hinged at the top. Three keyboard holders with swivels running between them. Various castings for hinges, braces, etcc. All black anodized aluminum. One keyboard holder has already been turned into a tram to transport my sister's elegant punt across the beach. I am going to use two aluminum rods for paddles. One leg and some braces will be the stub mast for my sailing rig. I can even use the stabilizer rod and fixtures as a high tech forward stay for the stub mast. I love recycling.


Speaking of paddles, a little finishing has been done on the paddle for turning corners. The shaft is a laminating project from a boatbuilding school in Kennebunkport, Maine. I thought the bend in the shaft would be a natural for a bent blade paddle. Unfortunately the profile was uncomfortable in the hand. So I turned it 90 degrees and now have the world's first offset paddle.





I have been a little slow lately. Too many visitors, and too much time working at the Segway store. I decided on a removable rear seat to allow  for  access to storage. Here is a picture of the frames:



And a picture with a rough seat inserted:



I have some cherry leftovers laying around. It seems like a good choice for the boat. It is closed pore so it takes a finish nicely. And it looks good. Here is a mockup of the bow, followed by a picture of it under construction. The idea is a carrying handle and a place to tie off a line or attach a jib:




I had applied some epoxy to encase it, then had to sand some off to make the surface flat. It is glued and screwed to the breasthook below. Screws are plugged. The hulls have been mostly epoxied. It is looking good. The epoxy really brings out the grain.  I have now used the entire batch of Raka epoxy. This afternooon I used my first batch of West stuff. I like the Raka better. The new quart of hardener purchased at West Marine leaked. The can had tipped over and the inner cap was not secure, so it leaked into the bag in the shop. It also sets up a lot faster than the Raka. I lost more in the first 5 oz batch of West than in the entire two quarts of Raka. I was going to make an entry about always having a bunch of parts laying around that will be coated at some point. That way if you have some excess you have a place to use it rather than letting it set in the mixing cup.  With West this does not seem to be an issue. since it sets up faster than I can use it.



November 11, 2008

Time has flown. Summer was very busy and I had a bunch of engineering details to figure out. Mostly the aka attachments. I am using the Tamanu style attachments with lashings. I am getting dangerous with photoshop, but here are some photos of it under construction:





The bottom seems a bit flimsy for stepping on. I can envision someone going through the bottom of the boat. I built two floorboard inserts out of teak strips. They are fitted to sit on top of the chine. Glued and screwed from the bottom to keep water out. I will probably oil the a little for preservation.


The breasthooks came out nicely, but the epoxy coating is a bit rough. The photo exaggerates the lumpiness of the finish. The change from RAKA to West System takes some adjustment. It seems to set up faster and doesn't spread out as evenly. That just means more sanding.





This is a bit off topic, but ... The Hawaiian canoe pictures always show a paddle with a short wide blade. This would be helpful in shallow water, like the river I intend to beme paddling. Here are some pictures of a paddle built out of scrap pieces. The shaft is aluminum from the instrument stand. It has a piece of pine inserted through the center. This is glued to the transition blocks for the blade and grip. Blocks of Baltic birch plywood scraps are laminated and drilled with a 1 1/2" hole saw for the transition. Epoxy and cloth are used to strengthen the blade/block/shaft transition. The grip has more scrap cherry glued to the block. Aggressive sanding with a belt sander makes a very comfortable grip. The pieces gave been epoxied, but not yet sanded or varnished. If it doesn't work well for paddling it will make a mean pizza paddle.






February 08, 2009


Work on Wa'Apa has slowed down lately. The weather is getting a bit better so we can get back to it. The transoms looked a bit weak to me, so I am over building again. This got me close to the boat while I was debating the ama connection technique. Here is a closeup of the cherry transom braces with a coat of epoxy. I will be putting glass over it shortly. The cherry looks very nice and allows me to address a problem with the placement(misplacement ??)  of the gunwales.




I was given an ama that was headed for a T2. The original construction had very point ends; dangerously pointed. I cut off  the ends and intend to bond a softwood plug with a more rounded shape. Here is the ama with the cut-off and rough plug:



I have  cut a couple of pieces of plywood to the upper shape of the ama. These will be for a pair of Flaquita styled saddles  to connect the akas and amas. The donated ama had no internal hardwood spars to facilitate mounting, so I am ad-libbing it a little.




The saddles are 1x4 sitting abeam over the ama. More 1x4 extends from front to aft piece with plywood sides extending down onto the glassed foam ama for strength. Filler was used to fair in the edges, then cloth and epoxy over for extra strength. The softwood nose pieces have been faired in also. Semi circles are cut into the sides to accept the aluminum cross beams.



A bit of automotive technology here to adjust the ama for level. It is a standard screw jack with the top section removed. A piece of 4x4 was used in place of the original metal "frame grabber. Another piece of 1x that had been cut to the profile of the ama was screwed to the side. This allows infinite height adjustment. The vakas are bolted together and are rolling in and out of the car port on furniture caddies. A jack stand is used for the front ama adjustment. This system allows easy movement and adjustment as engineering decisions are made.



It looks more like a boat now. I am hoping to get it in the water soon as a paddler. I test paddled a canoe with the two home made paddles yesterday. The huge-blade Hawaiian styled paddle is harder to paddle, but gives a great workout. The grip is too big and needs to be redesigned. The Port side paddle will remain a conversation piece.


July 3,  2009

Trying to get it done for the opening of the Blue Water Trail ceremony. Didn't make it. One week late. Here are pictures from the first test float. It is currently a paddler. I painted the vaka and ama with two coats of bonding primer. Two coats of white semi gloss latex trim paint on the vaka. Two coats of Rustoleum oil based safety blue (you can never be too safe) on the ama and waterline. I think the top of the ama should probably be white to reflect some light and reduce heat. In the pictures below there are some shiny spots that are sun reflections. The paint job is not as blotchy as it appears. We took it down to river on a utility trailer and did the first real setup on the river bank. Five minutes tops. And we didn't really know what we were doing. I am using 1" nylon strapping to attach the ama/aka, with a tent rope tensioner between the fore and aft straps. Simple but effective.





I took a canoe out in the river last week so I would have a good comparison. My step daughter and I paddled upstream in a plastic 16' canoe with molded seats. Very comfy. The Wa'Apa is much faster for the same amount of paddling. Smaller bow wave. No stern wake at all. It just glides. There is about 6" of draft at the stern paddling position. I used the giant bladed "pizza paddle". Nice slow strokes for us more mature paddlers. It works very nicely. The next step is to get the sailing rig installed and working. I am very happy with the way it works.


August 15, 2009

I took the boat out for a paddle today with the Segway store owner. The freeboard measured 10" with two 200 pound paddlers, two small coolers, and some fishing gear. It is a bit lower in the stern since the front paddler is right at the midpoint of the boat. The port-side paddle developed a crack from an overly strenuous workout the last time and needed some additional fiberglass and epoxy to get it back in fighting shape. The pizza oven paddle developed a separation today along one edge.  I need to be more exact when applying epoxy. This one requires glassing the edges, I think.


We set him up with the ama to port. Eric used the port side paddle mostly on the port side. I alternated. We seemed to pull to port due to the ama. Nothing that couldn't be over come with a bit of extra work by the rear paddler. It would be nice of the akas were a bit further apart. Sometimes the large paddles get too close to the aluminum tubes. But the ama was a donation and works fine. I think the darkish blue paint on the ama was a bad idea. I see a couple of spots where the fiberglass has lifted away from the foam underneath. I'll do some slitting and filling to solve the problem.


We got lots of comments from the good old boys on the river bank. And no alligators harassed us. A very nice day.



November 11, 2010


After a year of using the boat as a paddler it still doesn't have a name, but it is about to have a sailing rig. I have been accumulating a bunch of parts, some of which will actually be used. Since I am not strictly following Gary's plan I need to build in some adjust-ability (at least for now). I am going to a pair of square aluminum  tubes to run across he akas as a mount for the leeboard and rudder.  I have some aluminum tubes, one of which will be used as the leading edge of the leeboard.  A wood frame will be built ala old airplane wings. Thin ply over the outside and sheathed in fiberglass. Here are the preliminaries:



I used a square drill bit to make leading edge holes for the carriage bolts:



The leeboard shape will approximate a NACA 0015 drawn from the Bulb Build program:



More progress when the sun comes up again. It is 70 degrees during the day, but there was frost on the windshield this morning.




--Current design dilemmas:

1. How to build the bulkhead 1's to allow for an opening hatch. I am thinking about a plywood hatch with a couple of vertical stringers for stiffness and to offer automatic alignment. A couple of half dowels to allow a piece of bungee cord to hold it tight. SOLVED - Bulkhead 1 is being made as a perimeter bulkhead from 3/4 plywood with a large opening. I scored some free birch plywood for the hatch. I am stockpiling a bunch of plastic beverage jugs to be used as flotation when the storage compartments are not full.


2. Deck / gunwale joint.  I think the gunwales should have been installed 1/4 proud of the side to allow the deck plywood to lay fush. I tried to bend a piece of 1/4" plywood for a rounded look. It cracked. But the piece had been epoxied on one side when I mixed up to much. I will try it with a raw piece later. Still a dilemma.


3. Aka / hull connection - I have some 2" square aluminum tubing with 1/8 inch walls. I want to use these for the akas. I am leaning toward a U shaped channel above the forward bullhead and behind the aft bulkhead.  The channel would extend past he end of gunwales. A piece of wood running fore and aft under the channel would allow for rope or tire tube fasteners. Probably a positioning block or two on the underside of the aka. SOLVED - It is modeled after Gary's Tamanu pictures. Positioning blocks vertically and a cross-hull cherry pieces. The akas have been replaced by 2 1/2 inch aluminum tubing from the scrap yard. Another good $10 purchase.


4. Ama / Aka connection - The ama had no internal braces for connection. I am leaning toward plywood saddles to capture the aka ends. Flaquita used these and the Everglades Challenge RAF UNC  team had a similar system. I have a couple fo aluminum square tubes for the akas. I think I will laminate a curved wooden extension from the end of the tube down to the ama. This will lessen the severely rectangular amas. - Solved - Flaquita style saddles glassed into the amas.



-- Thoughts to think of before starting a project like this

I met an old carpenter in upstate New York who was building a boat in the winter. He couldn't get out of his shop for much of the winter so making a boat seemed logical. Mosty he liked the challenge of non-perpendicularity. All of his cabinets were basically boxes. Almost all 90 degree joints. Maybe a 45 or a 30 / 60 here and there, but mostly 90's. On a boat there are very few 90 degree joints. When attaching things like bulkheads and braces to the sides remember that there are no 90 degree joints. I have a small machinist's protractor that  I got in a box of tools at a garage sale. It has been invaluable to precisely match angles like these. When I remember to use it. If you don't have one, make one out of two pieces of wood so you can duplicate angles.


Cleanliness. Epoxy loves cleanliness. I love cleanliness. It is always easier to find things when you put them away every time. The boat has come out of the shop into the carport. It has gotten too big. I am using a small carry-all tote to keep the most often used tools together. But it always goes back in the shop at night.


This is my first boat build, although I have done a ton of wooden boat maintenance. Some hints for you:


1. Check out free sources for parts - Craigslist, Freecycle, local paper etc.. I got a windsurfer mast and sail, and the outrigger this way. Several laminated beam pieces from a boat building school. I recently scored a garbage bag full of fiberglass scraps from a local surf board maker. It is perfect for all of the small pieces you need. It hurts to cut down a large piece of fabric for a four inch wide tape. While giving a Segway tour at a state park I found a bunch of Osage Orange cut offs with nice crooks and crotches. Perfect for the steering oar holder. Just keep your eyes open.


2. Check out local recycling centers, scrap yards, Habitat for Humanity, etc. I got some great aluminum tubes there. Our scrap yard occasionally gets marine parts, so shop early, shop often.


3. Don't be in a hurry. I have a chair on the carport so I can stop and sit down to contemplate reality. Sometimes solutions come when you aren't looking for them. Hasty work doesn't help if you have to re-do it.


4. Use lots of cardboard. I have a cheap compass with a pencil to trace profiles on cardboard. Making the cardboard fit is much easier than making the wood fit.


5. Use clear wood for the gunwales and chines. Knots change the way the wood bends. Don't ask me how I know. This will mess you up in two dimensions.  And the fourth dimension - time.




-Update 12-07-2011


I have fallen in love with an electric boat. Unfortunately the proa has to go before I can get the volt boat.; If anyone is interested in a mostly stock Wa'Apa let me know. It has a glassed bottom and seams. Teak floorboards, permanent seats. I have a windsurfer sail and fiberglass mast that has not been installed. I have prototyped the mast step, but have not yt sailed it. I am looking to get most of my building cost back, around $500. If you are interested let me know at vectorges at aol dot com.






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