DAVID G. SELLARS ON THE WATERFRONT: Shipwright’s canoes all in the details
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Eric Bert begins the fiberglass and epoxy process on one of the three war canoes hes building in his new plant west of Port Angeles. -- Photo by David G. Sellars/for Peninsula Daily News
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David G. Sellars/for Peninsula Daily News
The red Arrow Launch boat, Brave Arrow, takes the 65-foot power catamaran to the haul-out dock for Platypus Marine Inc. in Port Angeles.
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David G. Sellars/for Peninsula Daily News
The two cats dwarf two pickup trucks in the Platypus yard. Barbara Gail is at right.
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David G. Sellars/for Peninsula Daily News
Echoes in the Port Angeles Boat Haven waters before she was hauled out at Platypus.
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Northwest Maritime Center
Stewart Pugh skippers an inflatable. He'll be the featured speaker at Wooden Boat Wednesday at Port Townsend’s Northwest Maritime Center and Wooden Boat Foundation — talking about inflatables.

By David G. Sellars
PDN Maritime Columnist

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Eric Bert, a well-known and highly regarded shipwright who operates his business, Modern Yacht Joinery, from a shop at the Port Angeles Boat Haven, recently acquired a substantially larger space in an industrial complex west of Port Angeles on U.S. Highway 101.

When I stopped to visit with him in his new facility, I fully expected to discuss the impending move of all of his specialized equipment into a more spacious building.

However, that was not the case.

Eric said he has no plans to move his shop off the waterfront, instead acquiring the additional space to give him the necessary room to begin building small wooden boats.

Eric’s first project in his new digs is the construction of three war canoes that are being built for a client who will use them for racing.

Prior to beginning construction, a war canoe that was a historically accurate replica of a dugout was brought into his shop.

Photographs and measurements taken of the canoe were used to formulate and assemble his own set of working drawings.

Each single-person racing canoe will be roughly 20 feet long, 19 inches wide amidships and 8 inches deep.

They will be strip-planked using quarter-inch western red cedar, then encased in 4-ounce fiberglass cloth and sealed in epoxy. There will be no fasteners in the finished canoes.

Eric built a mold for the racing canoe atop a strong-back.

Beaded and coved planks that are more than 20 feet long are interlocked onto the mold and temporarily affixed to it with push pins.

The accurate placement of the planks — which are predominantly 13/16 of an inch wide — on the mold is a painstaking process that is best done with no distractions — such as a newspaper columnist bending your ear.

Once all the strip planks are in place, the fiberglass cloth and epoxy will be applied, which will stabilize the canoes’ alignment and give each craft its strength and rigidity.

A primer and epoxy paint will be applied to the finished canoes that has been specifically formulated for composite racing hulls.

According to Eric, the sophisticated design for the canoes he is building has evolved over time.

His goal has always been to build a lighter and faster canoe.

I understand that the original single-person racing war canoes, which date back well more than 100 years, weighed close to 40 pounds.

Although Eric expects to peg the scale for these canoes right at 25 pounds, he’s certain he has figured out how to lower the weight even further.

The first canoe is now out of the mold and sitting on sawhorses, and the process of applying the fiberglass and resin has begun.

Eric said the final size for the current canoe is 19 feet, 3 inches long.

The owner has requested the finished size for the next canoe be 22 feet long to favor the skills of that canoe’s paddler.

As for the future, in addition to building more racing war canoes, Eric would like to build Radon-style boats and a George Calkins-designed 19-foot Bartender, which is a double-ender that was modeled after a surf dory that was first used by the Coast Guard more than 40 years ago.

Boatyard visitor

A couple of Sundays ago, Coastal Towing & Salvage of Ilwaco, using a former 44-foot Coast Guard boat that is now named Magic, came into Port Angeles Harbor towing a 65-foot power catamaran named Barbara Gail.

Magic picked up the cat in Astoria, Ore., and made the voyage to Port Angeles in 36 hours.

Barbara Gail spent the evening in the Port Angeles Boat Haven, then was picked up the morning of May 6 by Brave Arrow, a 65-foot work boat that is owned by Arrow Launch, and taken to Platypus Marine.

That’s where she was hauled out and is now sitting on the hard in Platypus’ yard.

According to Marty Marchant, director of sales and marketing for Platypus Marine, company crews are putting in the wiring and plumbing and installing windows in the vessel.

Additionally, they also will do some painting and perform other tasks at the owner’s direction.

Another visiting cat

Last Sunday, Coastal Towing & Salvage was back in Port Angeles towing another power cat from Astoria.

Deja vu: Last Monday, Brave Arrow again towed the catamaran to the haul-out dock, where Platypus Marine pulled her out of the water and set her on the hard.

Platypus also recently hauled Echoes out of the water. She is an 82-foot Northcoast that will be in the yard for another couple of weeks.

Marty said personnel will remove Echoes’ props and send them to a contractor to be balanced.

The yacht also will receive a new coat of bottom paint and a set of zincs.

Echoes was built in 1998 and refit in 2005. She is powered by twin 2,900-horsepower diesel engines and cruises at
26 knots.

She can comfortably accommodate its two crew members and eight guests in the master suite, VIP suite and one double berth and one twin berth.

All about inflatables

Inflatable boats are a relatively new entrant in the world of boating.

They have evolved from a canvas tube covered with vulcanized rubber to space-age plastic and rubber enveloped in modern fabrics.

However, by definition and despite the use of modern materials, inflatable boats are subject to — dare I say it? — deflation.

This week, Stewart Pugh will be the featured speaker at Wooden Boat Wednesday at Port Townsend’s Northwest Maritime Center and Wooden Boat Foundation.

His presentation will focus on the repair and maintenance of these craft, and he will discuss the different configurations of inflatable boats and how they are best used.

Conceptually, the repair of an inflatable boat is not all that difficult, but it is critical to have a solid understanding of the techniques and materials that are required.

A simple mistake can render one as useless as a popped balloon. Likewise, it is important to know when a repair should not be done or when an inflatable is at the end of its useful life.

Stewart is well-qualified to speak on the subject of inflatable boats. He has worked in the marine industry for more than 45 years.

For the past 12, he has maintained the fleet of small outboards used by the Northwest Maritime Center and the schooner Adventuress. He also has a shop in Port Townsend that repairs small outboards — and inflatable boats.

Wooden Boat Wednesday is a free event that begins promptly at noon and typically lasts for 90 minutes.

Wednesday’s program is limited to 24 participants and requires advance registration by phoning the Northwest Maritime Center, 431 Water St., Port Townsend, at 360-385-3628, ext. 101.

Or send an RSVP email to chandlery@nwmaritime.org.

Out in PA Harbor

Tesoro Petroleum on Wednesday refueled Pacific Logger, a 561-foot log ship that is flagged in Hong Kong.

On Saturday, Tesoro bunkered HTC Bravo, a 623-foot bulk cargo ship so new that there is precious little information available about her.


David G. Sellars is a Port Angeles resident and former Navy boatswain’s mate who enjoys boats and strolling the area waterfronts.

Items and questions involving boating, port activities and the North Olympic Peninsula waterfronts are always welcome. Email dgsellars@hotmail.com or phone him at 360-808-3202.

His column, On the Waterfront, appears every Sunday.

Last modified: May 18. 2013 6:42PM
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