A Great Adventure

This project started two years ago when we attended the Annual Mount Dora (FL) Classic Boat Festival. After seeing all of those beautiful mahogany boats, and hearing the stories about restoration, it was I that approached my husband with the idea of building a wooden boat. This would be something different from his past projects of airplanes, cars, RC models and such. This would be something that we could enjoy with family and friends. My idea was to build a boat with the characteristics of the old classics. I thought it was my idea, but Tom conveniently kept leaving brochures and pictures lying around. Perhaps there was some subliminal value to that. Anyway, we made a project of researching options and deciding what would be practical, affordable, and classic.

We found the Glen-L website and there we found several boats to our liking. We ordered the study plans for the Monaco. This was a beautiful boat, but we decided that the size and weight was a little ambitious, plus, when on a trailer, it would not fit in our garage. This was important to me as I wasn't prepared to give up my garage space for building or storage of a boat, even if it meant getting a new "Mini". We decided a small outboard boat would best serve our needs. Anything 15 feet long by 6 feet wide could be built in Tom's workshop and exited through the double doors at one end.

Tom downloaded the pictures and specifications of two boats that looked like something he could handle. One was the Squirt. The other was the Zip. Whatever we ended up with would have to carry two adults and a German Shepard. I liked the idea of the Zip because the picture showed the builder with his dog in the boat. Although we ordered the plans and frame kit mid-summer, it was to be several months before Tom could get started on building due to other in-progress projects.

During this time, Tom researched materials and we discussed potential cost. This is where the adventure gets interesting. At this time, I want to assure any wife that might read this article, that the end product has been well worth the actual cost albeit quite different from the initial estimates.

Somehow, the cause of various cost overruns seemed to flow back to me. It began with the purchase of the plywood. There was some discussion about 1088 something being better than normal marine plywood. When I was advised that, for economic reasons, the boat would be painted with mahogany used only on the deck, I became alarmed. The picture of Doug and his dog, on your website, indicated a pretty mahogany boat. Oh well, said Tom, if you insist, I'll get BS1088, Sapele plywood. He did not mention, that we just doubled the cost of the plywood.

From that point on, it just seemed like I was always brought into the major purchasing decisions when there was an issue of being just so-so or a much better grade. I did enjoy our discussions as it kept me in the project. Like most of the wives that might read this, I understood his methodology perfectly, but I had to give him his reins.

When the construction finally started, I enjoyed being that extra set of hands. It was fascinating just how much of that expensive wood wound up on the floor as shavings or sawdust. I was really impressed with how the plywood conformed to the beautiful curves. As the extra pair of hands, I actually learned to drill pilot holes and drive in screws. It was fun. After the plywood was finished, I had to draw the line at sanding. That was not for me. Unless someone has experienced this phase of construction, it would be hard to believe the number of hours spent sanding, then cleaning up the mess. I also stayed away from the messy task of fiberglassing.

When we turned the boat over (this is the beginning of the family and friends part), we were able to see the pretty lines of the boat. At this point, I thought the boat was nearly finished. Boy, was I wrong. The detail work was just beginning. However, each day started showing the boat's character develop and that I enjoyed. Once the varnish started, I could see our "Rose's" character really develop. With my Irish heritage, it seemed only natural to call her "Irish Rose", with the trim color being green.

I must say, building a boat quickly becomes an obsession. If Tom wasn't working in his shop, he would be talking boats to his friends. It was a proud moment when we launched her for the first time.

With only two test runs on "Irish Rose", it was time to head for Guntersville to attend the Gathering of Glen-L builders. At every stop, she drew attention. It was I who would proudly respond — "No, it is not a Chris Craft, but a Glen-L Marine design that was built by my husband to resemble a 50's era runabout." Since returning from the Gathering, he has received many calls from persons interested in building the Zip. It is very rewarding to him to work with these new enthusiast by sharing the experience learned from his own boat building experience.

I could go on and on with little side stories, but the substance of my experience is summed up by saying that this project not only provided us with our classic looking wooden boat, but it was a project that I truly enjoyed being part of. The experience was enhanced when we met the Glen-L family and the other boat builders at the Gathering this past October. If I were to title this story, it would have to be "A Great Adventure".

Tina Drake
Mount Dora, FL.

If you missed Tom's story of the Zip build, see WebLetter 94.