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Thursday, June 10, 2010

6/10/2010 - DUCK!

A few of you may know, although I suspect most don't, that a few years ago I actually thought I was going to build our retirement boat. The only boat I had ever built was a Glen-L designed "8-Ball" plywood pram. And, although I did take it out on the water once when we were moored at Pleasant Harbor Marina in Washington, I never really felt comfortable in it in the water. Why not? Well, because I knew where every mistake and cut corner was. It has since been relegated to life as a planter at the Shire (our old home [now Cody's] in the Silverton Hills for the uninitiated). So what the heck made me think I could build a boat capable of ocean cruising? Two words: George Beuhler. George is a naval architect living on Whidbey Island in Washington's Puget Sound. He wrote a very seductive book called "Beuhler's Backyard Boatbuilding". In it he proposed that anyone with a basic set of woodworking skills and tools can build a seaworthy little ship. Well I certainly possessed a modicum of woodworking skills and a nice shop and plenty of tools. I was convinced that I could get the boat done in 5 years (easy) and well within budget.

So what was I going to build? Well, George had designed a sweet little troller-based cruising boat called a Diesel Duck. This was not a sailboat. WHAT??? Well, silver-tongued George, in spite of designing many sailboats, made a hell of a case for cruising in an engine-driven boat designed to use a small, slow-turning diesel engine.

I bought a bunch of rough-hewn Douglas Fir lumber from the Yoder Mill (no relation that I know of), gallons of epoxy, and a set of plans. I expanded my shop so it would accommodate the project and then, realizing that it still wasn't big enough, started laying out the beginnings of a huge, tarped temporary structure. I bought a surface planer, a very heavy-duty Dewalt sawzall, a hand-held power plane, a new circular saw, and a moisture gauge. Lulu and I took the plans to Silver Crest School where we could use the gym floor to loft them (render them full-size).

So what happened? It took me forever to actually get started. Part of that time was waiting for my lumber to air-dry but a more significant part of it was procrastination due to fear. Fear that the project was too big. Fear that I'd screw it up. Fear that, 5 years after I retired I'd still be working on the boat. Fear that it would drive us into the poor house or, worse, that I'd have to keep working in order to pay for the darn thing. Fear that, if I did finish, I wouldn't be able to get it off the property. Fear that, if I did manage to finish it and launch it, I wouldn't trust my work enough to go to sea in it.

But, I finally sucked it up and got started. The keel was made up of something like 7 separate pieces of 2 x 8 lumber laminated in to large chunks. I built the first piece and then it hit home. This is the smallest piece in the entire keel and it was too large for me to be able to move around without mechanical aids. Suddenly all the trepidation I'd been feeling came flooding in. It WAS too large a project for me. There was NO WAY it would be done by the time I retired. And, as I investigated the costs of all the stuff required to turn it into a boat I knew that it would come in WAY over budget. And, of course, diesel prices kept rising making a motor vessel less and less attractive. And, as if that wasn't enough, I still had to finish the house remodel. WHAT WAS I THINKING???

I sheepishly approached Lulu and told her of my epiphany. She breathed a huge sigh of relief and said "I'm so glad to hear you say that". Who knew?

Anyway, I sold the epoxy to a guy in Albany, OR, sold the plans for about half-price to a guy in Ohio and ended up using every stick of that lumber on house projects so, although I'd wasted a lot of time and energy, at least it wasn't a complete waste of money.

Even after I decided to bag the boat-building project, I have continued to follow things on the Yahoo Backyard Boatbuilder Group. The moderator of the group is a fellow named Dan. Dan is from Texas and is building a Diesel Duck 44. The opening pictures on the Yahoo group are usually of some aspect of the boat he's building. This guy is smart! He thinks of stuff that would never dawn on me. Lulu and I were in Texas a few years ago to see some music and made a side trip down to Rockport to see Dan's Duck. At that time, the hull was done, engine and tanks were in but that was about it. Now, it's virtually finished. I'm not sure how much more Dan's going to do to her but I'm hoping to share an anchorage with him some day.

So, except in pictures, I had never seen a completed Diesel Duck. As far as I know they are still all being custom-built. I don't think anyone has put them into production. I think some entrepreneur is missing a bet because this is a cool boat, unlike anything else I've seen out there.

A couple days ago, it beng a beautiful evening, Lulu and I took a walk after dinner. As is our wont, we walked by the transient dock to see if anyone or anything interesting had come in. What should I spot this time but a boat that looked an awful lot like a Diesel Duck to me.

When we walked down and got a closer look, I was sure it was a DD. Looked like a steel DD48 to me.

The next day I ventured down again and, one thing and another, the owner, Bob, invited me aboard for a tour. It was originally a DD48 but due to a mix-up during construction she ended up closer to a DD50. What a beautiful ship. Since Beuhler's design just covers the basic structure, all of the systems and such are pretty much the result of the builder's/owner's ingenuity. And this Duck is a beautiful example of some really serious thought. I can't even begin to go in to all the stuff Bob showed me but suffice it to say she is one well-thought-out vessel. She is so over-built (1" thick tempered class portlights backed up by solid bronze storm covers as just one example) that a guy would feel safe in her anywhere in any kind of weather. Bob is not the builder but rather bought her from the original builder. He has added many of his own refinements to the boat. He also entertained the idea of building a boat at one time but, after pricing just a few of the accoutrements, realized that was probably not the way to go. Looks to me like he made the right decision considering the boat he ended up with.

Bob and his wife are headed south and we hope to see them at various anchorages along the way. Thanks, Bob, for stopping in Newport and giving me a chance to finally see a completed Diesel Duck up close.


Anonymous said...

What was the size of the DD that you were planning. God What a Job that would have been!

Steve & Lulu said...

I was going to build a DD38. What a job is right. Best advice I've heard since then about deciding to build a boat is to just lie down until the feeling passes.