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UNION JACK / Scott A. Ochocki / north_atlantic@hotmail.com / 04-03-01: I spent about two months picking the Union Jack and plan the live aboard her on the Northeastern seaboard when completed. I spent probably 50 hours lofting the lines on the computer using the table of offsets. I have decided to simply have a printing company print out full size paper patterns and transfer them to sheet steel and use a plasma cutter at work to cut them out. Next to purchase 4 sheets of 3/16 sheet steel to cut out the stations and start looking for a welder and table saw. Continue (see Customer Photos)

UNION JACK / Patrick Walsh / Ireland / pat57@gofree.indigo.ie / 10-25-03: All the frames are made and currently fitting Bulwark Rail. I will send photos of project soon. 6-27-04: I am starting Sheeting this week, going well so far. 8-13-04: I am enclosing some photographs for you to see, as you can observe I am in the middle of the sheeting. Because I took special care with the frames and the longitudionals the sheeting is falling in nicely with the help of pullers and homemade clamps. I used a Jig Saw (Makita, Bosch) to cut out the frames, skeg and sheeting, it will shorten the life of a saw but it is excellent at cutting accurately and curving. The best quality blade must be used. I expect and hope i will be turning the hull by Christmas. (see Customer Photos)

UNION JACK / Bob May / Cyprus / themaze@cytanet.com.cy / 9-21-06: Cutting out the bulkhead shapes. Cyprus being a small island is not geared up for steel boat builders. Although they have nice glossy stock brochures they don’t stock all they advertise. Getting the right or near right size of flat bar is a huge problem. 3-7-07: Tried cutting out with jig saw, but it was very slow. I treated myself to a new plasma cutter, very small and compact, has an inverter rather than a transformer. Now finished cutting out the stem and keel in 12mm. Could not get 1/2 inch next size was 15mm.

UNION JACK / David Ainge / Townsville, Australia / davidainge@bigpond.com / 10-21-08: TOWNSVILLE, ON AUSTRALIA’S TROPICAL NORTH EAST COAST
I started building Union Jack Easter 2002. I was still earning a living until the end of 2005 so building was restricted to evenings and weekends. Fortunately we live on acreage so I was able to build at home, which was a great time-saver. I could do an hour or two at a time, without wasting time travelling to a building site (or having to go back home to fetch something). After I retired at the end of 2005 I was able to work more or less full-time on the project for part of the year. From start to finish I spent about 4000 hours on the boat. Thirty years ago I took 3000 hours to build a 37ft plywood yacht, so I knew what I was in for this time.

Steel was a new challenge. I had basic downhand arc welding skills, but had never done anything serious in the other positions. I took a few lessons from a pro, then relied on learning on the job. When in doubt I practiced on scrap steel until I felt competent to work on the boat. To this day I still find vertical corner welds the hardest. At the beginning I took some trouble to set up a strong and level steel support for the boat, and that was time and material very well spent. Contrary to the usual practice I built the hull the right way up. I live in tropical Australia and most of the year working in an upturned steel hull would be unbearable, and the discomfort and sweat in the eyes would wreck the concentration. I never had any trouble doing it right way up, and apart from the advantage of ventilation and light, it made handling the hull plates quite easy. Once the frames were set up and firmly in place I rigged a primitive hoist on top, and lifted the side hull plates into position. When doing this I was always inside the boat, so that if a plate fell I was safe. In this way I was able to manage large plates, and there are only three plates on each side between deck and chine. I used masonite (hardboard) for templates, and by taking trouble to get them right I managed to cut the plates very close, with only a little trimming needed here and there. I also used large plates on the bottom, because I didn’t have to lift them very far, and if one fell there was no harm done, unlike a large piece of steel slipping off an upturned hull.

I have often read that building in steel is fast. That was not my experience. Steel did seem quick in the early stages. It didn’t take too many weeks to make the frames, erect them, put in the stiffeners, and tack on the hull plates. Before long I was walking around in something that bore a strong resemblance to a boat. The progress seemed great. Then the serious welding started, and went on, and on… One of the hardest jobs was shaping the carling. I couldn’t roll it, so I shaped it with an oxy which took a long time. Nevertheless, eventually the hull was finished, and again living on acreage was helpful because I was able to have it blasted on site, rather than transport it to a yard and back, which was a big saving.

Building the ply superstructure was straightforward. I covered it with dynel-epoxy, being familiar with that system from my previous boat. Fitting out took about eighteen months full-time. I have to say that it was more enjoyable than the hull. I am basically a woodworker at heart, and on some of our hot, humid days the protective clothing for steelwork was very uncomfortable. I kept the general interior layout of Union Jack but made some modifications to suit our requirements. One example was that I did not make the settee berth-back into a second bunk which could be lifted up for use, because we do not anticipate any use for it. I also altered the wheelhouse sole so that at some future time the engine could be lifted up, and out through the door (not too often, I hope). I enlarged the cockpit a little (with corresponding additional drainage) and fitted a small table, because this climate demands a good deal of sitting outside, daytime and evening. I was uneasy about making the toilet holding tank a part of the hull, worrying about future corrosion in a hard-to-reach and nasty place, so I fitted a flexible tank instead. I could not see the point of having the rudder shaft emerge into the boat below the waterline, with the potential for leaks/drips so I raised the shaft tube, still using a stuffing box, of course.

I found the plans clear and accurate. They do require careful study at some stages, but the necessary information seems to be all there. Some additional measurements for setting up the stem would have made that job easier. I didn’t get back to Glen-L with many questions, but when I did, the responses were quick and helpful.

You will notice in the photos that I had a proper set of steps to the boat. In view of the hundreds of times I went up and down them, sometimes carrying large items, they were worth their weight in gold. A ladder would make the job much harder, with greater risk of a fall.

We launched “Tabitha Too” ( our first boat was “Tabitha”) nearly two weeks ago. It was a very nervous time, and it was hard to avoid some irrational worries. Building a boat is, after all, a very big investment in time and money, and we have all heard horror stories about amateur boats being launched. In spite of all that, the launch was uneventful. Tabitha Too sat about 1 inch above the designed waterline, and slightly high at the stern, but a full load of water should fix that. Our plan is to cruise the waters of the Great Barrier Reef for a year, so we moved on board on launch day. For the first twenty four hours I couldn’t stop looking into the bilge for leaks, but that compulsion gradually subsided when I didn’t find any. Speaking of water in the bilges, I had Tabitha Too surveyed during building, and the surveyor emphasized the importance of keeping seawater out of a steel boat. I have heard that they rust from the inside. He recommended one of the expensive prop shaft seals rather than a stuffing box, which needs a regular drip to lubricate it. Unfortunately, finances didn’t stretch that far, so I used a traditional stuffing box, but underneath I fitted a drip box made from left-over perspex. It is quite big, so emptying it won’t be a chore, and it keeps the bilge dry.

Our first boat was under-anchored, and we used to drag from time to time. We had a moderate size CQR with chain and rope, but even with a yacht which presented a fairly streamlined profile to the wind, it wasn’t up to the job. I was determined not to be in that situation again, especially as Union Jack presents a considerable area to the wind. This time around I fitted the biggest CQR I could buy, and 1/2 inch chain. The breaking strain of that size chain is over the top, but its weight helps to ensure that in moderate winds at least, the pull on the anchor is horizontal, not upwards. Time will tell, especially if we have to shelter from a cyclone which is always a possibility in the tropical summer.

We have had one short trip so far. To get from the launch site to the marina we had to go out to sea for a few miles. It was blowing 20-25 knots, with a short, choppy sea. Tabitha Too handled it very well. We had to motor parallel to the swell for a while, and Tabitha Too rolled a bit, but she handled the conditions well and we quickly developed confidence in her. I think she will prove to be a very seaworthy vessel. We are looking forward to some very happy times on her.

A final word. Before I built my first boat, others who had been through the experience tried to tell me how long such a project would take. I didn’t believe them. Looking at a 31 foot boat it doesn’t seem possible that it would take 3000-4000 hours to build. Professionals, of course, don’t take anywhere near that long, or they’d go broke. For the amateur, however, that is the reality if you are doing all the work yourself. If you want a boat of a similar size to Union Jack, and you can’t find that number of hours, buy one, or build a house instead. I have built two boats and one house, and the house was much quicker and easier.

I am very happy to discuss my experiences with anyone else who is building. (See Customer Photos)

UTILITY / Steve Barrett / barrett@digisys.net / 8-2-99: Recently completed and launched successfully.

UTILITY / Bruce Holley / gp4labooh@aol.com / 8-6-99: Frames on building form, installing chine logs. 5-24-03: My project is not doing so well as i got to the fairing part and wasnt very satisfied. I really want to finish this boat because I really like the way the frame looks and I want to fish from the little rascal!

UTILITY / Doug Schmidt / dschm4@aol.com / 5-15-00: Installing sheer clamps. 5-8-03: The Utility has been complete for almost 2 years now and can’t wait to get it out again this year. I had picked the Utility so I could take it with us when we go camping. I just put it on top of my popup camper and strap it down.

UTILITY / Jim Kos / kemco@cottonboll.com / Western Oklahoma / 12-26-02: Just started on the project December 23. 2002. Building it as a Father Day gift for my Father. Building it in the basement, too cold outside and in Garage. I would like to hear from anyone who has built the Utility. I will post pictures as I progress.

UTILITY / Lloyd Johnson / leadedge@greenhills.net / 9-11-04: I ordered the plans for the Utility on 8-30-04; received them on 9-3-04. I have built my frame and cut out full size patterns for all of the frames and the stem and transom. The wood is ordered and I am waiting to get it. I can’t wait to get this one done so I can start on a BIG one.

UTILITY / Steve Miller / Portland, OR / kg7pv@hevanet.com / 1-16-05: Have the frames, transom, stem, breasthook done.
4-17-08: I have finished the boat. In addition to the photos on the Glen-L.com website, there is a complete, step-by-step photo journal of the entire process from start to finish to speed testing at (link invalid) (See Customer Photos)

Editor’s Note: Steve is building the UtilityNOT the Flats Flyer. For some unknown reason some builders looking for information on the Flats Flyer are finding Steve, but he’s not a source for Flats Flyer information. Thank you.


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