It took me just over a year to build "Life's Gristle". (For the Monty Python fans, this comes from The Bright Side, of course.)
A bit about myself: —I have built numerous small craft in the past including canoes and a catamaran. All in wood and ply as this was my preferred choice. I loved it. Though retired as a 'cripple' about 4 years ago, I soon found that doing nothing was not a good choice. After starting the W17, I soon realized that as I couldn't bend down, that I needed help. Thank heavens for friends as a good mate cheerfully came to help.
To give you an idea of my style of work, I can only say that I am rough. I don't care, as to me, getting the bloody boat finished is my main goal. My friend was driven mad when every time he tried to use a chisel, I would make motor noises in his ear. The only tool in my vocabulary is electric powered ;-)
I initially found myself cursing the plans until I came up with the idea of just 'doing things my own way'. This is not said to knock Mike's plans as he's already done plenty of tweaking to help the builder. I well remember one 'headache' as I tried to figure out the hinges. So my #1 son (being a Fitter/Turner) was reluctantly sucked into sorting that one out. But to new builders, I say, go with your gut feeling—it is usually right. Another tip is to get the plans printed out in large format even if you have to get it done professionally. I did not do this and I wasted time because of that.
Mistakes - yeah, there were plenty and I'm pretty bloody minded when an idea comes to me. I was reading on the internet, compliments of a well known American writer, that 'Latex paint was duck guts'. So I painted the whole boat with it and it is soft. Though I ripped off a bunch of it on the cement launching ramp, I still wonder if any two pack paint would have fared much better. On the maiden voyage, with my building mate who had never sailed before, we had too many new things to handle, so jumping overboard to ease the landing was not one of them.
The other 'bloody minded' bit was my insistence of trying a Chinese Junk rig. Poor old Mike tried hard to convince me of the mismatch, but I just had to do it. Of course, I've really no idea how well the designed rig works, but though I have not properly tested my junk rig yet, it looks promising. The mast is an unstayed piece of aluminium tube 3 mm thick so I hope it stays up there. One thing I must warn all about, is the fact that a W17 seems to attract people like a moth to light!. The very first time out, a bloke ran from a passenger ferry to the boat ramp to ask what it was and raved on about the lines. I hope he will buy plans from Mike.
On finishing I would just like to say that Mike has tried to help me in every way. I am a hard headed bloke and tend to shoot from the hip, however, if all new builders get that level of help you can bet your butt you are getting a bloody good boat. I built a Trimaran only because I had not built one before. I prefer cats, but by the heavens, this is a very attractive alternative. To date I have only had one little run down the river and this already got the heart pumping. So maybe there is something about trimarans after all.
Just a warning though — please use gloves when using epoxy. After 30 years of mucking about with it I have developed an allergy to the stuff, so it does seem to get you in the end. The photos are from 'our maiden voyage'. I've a 90‑yr‑old mate of mine and when he finally comes aboard to make 3, our combined age with be 218 years ;-)
Chris Callister, Queensland, Australia
Note: Chris has chosen (at least for now) to not add the beam fairings, curved track, tramps, or spray deflectors. But I am sure he'll soon come to realize the great advantage of all when sailing in rougher water, even ignoring the aesthetic edge the fairings give. For me, the boat is not a real W17 without them ;)
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