"He Wears Black and Has a Beard"

HMS Plywood: The Testing

Toby Roworth

Sep 24, 2018

Since I saw a public boat ramp when I got slightly lost on the way to a viewing of my apartment, I've wanted to build a boat to take out of the lake. Of course this wasn't worth spending a lot of money on, so I aimed to build the whole thing out of a single sheet of plywood in a single day and pretty much succeeded.
Over the next couple of weeks I'll document the build and test of what my landlord christened the "HMS Plywood". But if you prefer, you can call it CrapBoat I.

Launching a boat for the the first time is a nerve-racking affair - there are many ways it can "not work", and most of these involve getting quite wet. In Florida waters there's also some chance of a 'gator attack. So I took everything out of my pockets, jumped in the truck with my neighbour and his son for moral support (and as camera operators) and drove over to the boat ramp, unsure if this post would be triumphant videos of me paddling a boat I built in a day for $70 or a video of me getting soggy.

Once on the ramp I put some emergency spray-foam and the state-mandated life jacket in the front, for if the test went very badly, along with some supplies, for if the test went very well, and tried to get in.

Straight away, I noticed there was a centre-of-gravity based issue. I'd put the seat far too high up (I'd gone for comfort here, rather than physics), and so the boat mostly tried to tip over. Not one to be dissuaded, I knelt on the floor, and took a cautious paddle past the end of the jetty.

As you'll see in the video, there were several moments where bowel-emptying became a distinct possibility. Thankfully this didn't happen, and I stayed dry.
Some may suggest that Torx-headed screws aren't ideal for field-revisions, unless one carries a Torx screwdriver around. Thanks to a bit kit for my Leatherman, I had such a device on hand, so could quickly remove the seat, to give myself a much lower seating position.
The second trip out went much better, to the point where I felt a celebratory beer was necessary. Also necessary, it turned out, was a cupholder. I had to paddle back one-handed, made harder by the current/wind across the lake.

After this, Scott and Remi went home, whilst I took it out of another spin. By this point I was confident in its lake-worthiness, so got more ambitious. However, it was on this trip I learned one should only paddle out until half tired, otherwise paddling back becomes very tricky. I just about made it back, but I'm clearly not as fit as I should be.
The next day I had another little trip out, and found the wet/dry cycle had made the sealing less effective. I went out about 25 meters, and then saw the water was coming in faster than I felt comfortable with, so made a hasty retreat to try out the spray foam. The can had the usual "don't get this on your hands" warning, but I had no gloves, so tried it anyway. The stuff went off very quickly and, due to it's moisture curing property, I gave it a try a few minutes later.

The spray foam worked a treat, with the paddle bringing in much more water than any leaks. It also held up for another week and now, each time I go out, I've been able to get more adventurous. I think next week I'll drive down to the next lake, and try some different scenery.
There is definitely room for some modifications, but these need careful consideration to keep the shoestring philosophy going: Despite some initial teething trouble, I'd deem the HMS Plywood a success - time to Set Sail and Conquer.