Building the Princess 22 Sharpie

My friend Joe is very deep. As an example of how deep he is, here he is staring thoughtfully out a window:

Joe, staring thoughtfully out the window. He's a very intense fellow.

The other day, I told Joe that a person as deep as he would really enjoy going to sea. Joe thought about this for a long while (he always thinks about things for a long while—he's very deep), and finally he decided he should build a boat.

The next time I saw him, he had already ordered plans to build the Princess 22—a beautiful cat ketch rigged sharpie, designed by Graham Byrnes of B & B Yacht Designs. Ten minutes after the plans arrived, here is Joe already lofting the bulkheads and side panels:

Joe, lofting the bulkheads. Joe, transfering the shear line to plywood before cutting out the sides.

Most people need a large garage to build a boat like the Princess 22, but Joe decided to use his kitchen table. At first I laughed at him, but only because I didn't realize how big his kitchen table really is. As it turns out, there is plenty of room for boat building. To protect the table from getting damaged during the building process, Joe also put down an enormous cutting mat. (Seriously, where does he find all this oversized equipment?)

As for tools, the average boatbuilder would normally use an assortment of saws to cut out all of the pieces needed to build the hull. But Joe decided to use an obnoxiously big razor knife. Here he is showing off his tool:

The tool of the trade... or at least Joe thinks so.

Actually, the razor knife worked surprisingly well. It made short work of the plywood, and Joe was setting up the bulkheads before I knew it.

Joe, staring thoughtfully out the window. He's a very intense fellow.

Joe is a bit of a neat freak. "A clean workspace is a happy workspace," Joe always says. Here he is whistling while he moves a pile of stringers out of the way:

Joe is a bit of a neat freak. Here he is cleaning up his workspace.

With a clean workspace, the building went much faster. I went home for dinner, and by the time I came back, Joe had already set up the bulkheads and attached the sides! Normally, you would use epoxy for this, but Joe (ever the cheapskate) decided to use plain old Elmer's carpenter glue!

Joe, attaching the sides. Joe, attaching the sides.

Here, Joe checks the fit of each bulkhead before getting ready to cut and attach the bottom panels. If there's one thing to say about Joe, he's accurate. I stood around for an hour watching him meticulously "finesse" each panel into perfect alignment...

Joe, checking the fit of one of the bulkheads. He's nothing if not meticulous!

Then I went to use the restroom and when I came back five minutes later—Good God! Joe's already got the bottom panels attached! Man, can this guy build or what?! Look how smugly he surveys his accomplishments:

The bottom panels are attached.

The forward section of the Princess 22's hull is not your typical flat-bottomed sharpie design. It's V-shaped with a moderate amount of curvature to blend it into the chines. In order to get the plywood to bend more easily, Joe first lays stringers to determine the curve, then strip planks the area with two layers of thinner, more flexible wood.

Laying the keel stringer. Strip-planking the forward section of the hull.

Next, Joe planes off the corners of the planks to produce a nice, smooth hull. Notice that he's using a different razor knife now. It's important to use sharp tools for this part of the process, as it makes the work much easier and more accurate. (Not to mention Joe broke his other razor knife cutting out the bulkheads. I told him to use a saw instead, but Joe never listens to reason!).

Joe, planing the hull smooth.

Next Joe gets to work building the centerboard trunk. Here he is holding the trunk together while the glue sets:

Gluing the centerboard trunk.

And here he is proudly displaying the completed trunk, with the centerboard installed:

The centerboard assembly is complete!

Next, Joe needs a slot in the hull to allow the centerboard to swing through. After a lot of anxiety and a few deep breaths, he takes the razor knife to the hull and slices through! Wow! That's courageous! Good thing Joe has a very steady hand.

Cutting a slot in the hull for the centerboard.

A little while later, Joe has installed the centerboard trunk. It's a perfect fit!

The centerboard installation was a success! Look how relieved Joe looks!

At long last, Joe decides it is time to roll the boat over. I expected the boat to be very heavy by now, but Joe kept insisting he could pick it up by himself. I bet him twenty bucks he couldn't. Next thing I knew, he was taking off his shirt and starting to lift the boat.

Joe begins to turn the boat over.

Soon he had it up on its side!

It's starting to rise.

Whoa! As the boat goes over, it almost gets away from him, so Joe puts on the brakes and...

Almost over.

...lets it down gently

Letting it down gently.

Damn! Now I owe Joe twenty bucks! Oh well, for all his bragging about how strong he is, I did manage to snap this candid photo of him right after the big flip, panting to catch his breath. It doesn't quite make up for the twenty bucks I lost, but it makes me feel better.

Joe takes a moment to catch his breath.

Ten minutes later, Joe has caught his breath and hot glued the centerboard trunk in place. I told him to use epoxy and fiberglass, but Joe insists that hot glue will keep out water just as well as epoxy for a fraction of the cost. I would've bet against him, but hey, I'm already down twenty bucks!

The centerboard trunk is sealed with hot glue.

Over the next few months, Joe got really busy at work and didn't have time to keep working on his boat, so the Princess 22 sat unfinished on his kitchen table for most of the Winter. Then, just the other day, I heard that he had started building again, so I stopped over at his kitchen table to check out the progress.

By the time I arrived, Joe had finished most of the cockpit, and was busy fitting the deck panels. Here he is checking the fit where the deck panels meet the shearline.

Fitting the deck panels.

Next, Joe installs the seat backs. The seat backs not only provide a backrest for passengers, but act as siderails along the cockpit to help keep people in and waves out.

Installing the seat backs.

With the cockpit finished, Joe begins work on the cabin. Here, he is fitting the last cabin side panel into place. This is exciting! The final shape of the boat is beginning to appear!

Fitting the cabin sides.

And here Joe finishes tacking down the roof panels. Hooray! The cabin is finished! Joe plans to add windows later, after the boat has been sealed, primed, and painted.

Finishing the cabin roof. Standing in the newly-completed cabin.

Filled with a strong sense of accomplishment, Joe reclines on the starboard seat and stares off into space, dreaming of adventures on the high seas. I have to admit, seeing Joe's boat come together has really been inspiring. I'm starting to get the urge to build another boat myself!

A satisfied boat-builder.

An hour later, Joe and I decided to prep the boat for painting. I told Joe the paint should be applied outside, but he insisted it would dry quicker indoors. After debating the dangers of paint fumes for fifteen minutes, we settled on painting the boat on his bathroom floor, where the air vent would help dispel the fumes.

Here Joe is preparing to apply the first coat. I don't know why he bought such a large can of paint. Joe has a strange sense of humor, so I suppose he thinks it's funny. Well, this time his sense of humor got the best of him. See how he struggles to lift it? He asked for my help, but I told him he was on his own. It's bad enough he's using spray paint (I told him a proper marine paint would be better), but to buy such a big can? Honestly, sometimes I just don't know about Joe!

That's a huge paint can!

Well, after much struggling, Joe finally pulled it off. Here's the Princess 22 after the first coat of primer.

The first coat of paint.

After the first primer coat, I went home for lunch. When I came back later that night, Joe had pretty much completed the entire boat! The paintjob was finished, the cabin sides and cockpit rails were varnished brightly, and the masts and sprits were installed! I thought it would take weeks to have a proper set of sails sewn up at a sail loft, but Joe said he had decided to make them out of paper instead. By the time I stopped laughing and rolling around on the floor, he had hoisted a fine pair of paper sails and, to my astonishment, the boat took off like a rocket in a passing puff of wind! And that was just on his kitchen table! Imagine how fast his Princess 22 will be when he puts it on real water!

Anyway, here's a few shots of Joe racing "wing and wing" across the kitchen counter on his new cat ketch rig. I think Joe is delighted with his new sailboat because he just kept sailing away. I haven't seen him since these shots were taken!

The happy sailor smiling smugly as he sails away. The happy sailor standing proudly behind the mizzen. Joe sails away in his newly completed Princess 22 Sharpie.

Terms of Use

© 2008, Wesley Kisting


Return to the Table of Contents