Overcoming bewildering problems forges a man.

SHOP OWNER: Dale Hamilton
LOCATION: Murfreesboro, TN

    The concept behind Boomslang was a “personal” boat with a lot of performance that two people could spend a night on with reasonable accommodations and then trailer home. I found myself strongly influenced by the “retro” style of Hinchley and Nexus designs, which I thought looked the way a boat should look. A flying bridge was a must, and it wouldn’t hurt if it smacked of British sports cars from the 1950’s. I was also thinking “smooth”- nothing interrupting its slick profile. Above all, it had to be free of the drudgery of wooden boat maintenance.
    I selected a Clark Craft design called “Viking” because it was the right size and the hull represented a good compromise between stability, performance, and comfort. It had a good usable cockpit and I followed their plans faithfully up to the sheer line, and then followed my instincts for the deck, bridge, and house.
    Materials were to be a mahogany frame that supported a seamless epoxy and glass laminated cored skin with the cores consisting of plywood for the hull, MDO for the decks and house, and structural foam for the flying bridge. I preferred West System epoxy for structural bonds and System Three Clear Coat for the laminations.
    I built a rock-solid strong back by bolting two 26’ long 2x6’s to the concrete floor parallel to each other, 93” apart, and the 2x6’s were then fastened crosswise railroad track fashion at each frame station. Frames were from ¾” mahogany, fastened together with stainless square drive screws, and erected plumb and square on the strong back. The transom was especially beefed up to 2” of alternating layers of plywood and glass cloth laid in epoxy as it would bear a good deal of the engine weight. Ultimately, I epoxy laminated a fine mahogany veneer over the plywood using the vacuum bag technique. The oak stem was reinforced with ¼” steel plate for a backing plate and set into place.

    The keelson, chines, engine strakes, and other longitudinal members were cut from the best available oak or mahogany and fitted into the appropriate notches of the frames, again fastened with stainless. With the framing complete, these members were beveled to the frames with a hand plane. Finally, I liberally coated the whole structure with epoxy.
    The hull was skinned with scarf-joined plywood, 3/8” for the sides and ½” for the bottom, all inside surfaces coated with epoxy, allowed to dry, painted and fastened to the frames with stainless screws. The outside lamination schedule started with several layers of chopped strand mat laid up in epoxy to build thickness, a layer of 24 ounce E glass cloth on the bottom and over the chines and finally the whole structure wrapped in 12 ounce and then 8 ounce glass cloth.
    I established the sheer line pretty much by eyeball and then I lined the whole cabin with closed-cell foil insulation - the stuff the hot rod builders use. This material is cheap, and it is very effective in reducing radiant heat reflected from the water. I then installed floors, berths, a sink, and other furniture. Two 14-gallon plastic fuel cells were foamed in place under each berth and directly under the flying bridge along with a ventilating blower. The sheer shelves, forward deck stringers, and carlins were installed and decked over with ½” MDO which then received 8 ounce cloth and a fairing coat. The cabin sides were cut from ¾” MDO, fastened to the decks and glassed as a unit. The sliding Lexan cabin windows were custom made and I wisely delayed cutting the window openings out until they were here in the shop.
    The cabin roof was composed of 1/4” mahogany plywood (on the inside finished bright), covered with a layer of 12 ounce glass cloth and epoxy, topped with a ½” layer of MDO finished with the usual glass-epoxy laminate. With a slight camber, this created a very strong bridge deck that required no internal support. I completed the cabin by lining it with white fiberglass sheeting - wonderful stuff available in 4x8 sheets from Home Depot. I secured these with stainless screws with decorative trim washers for easy removal.

    The greatest challenge in building the bridge was space, or the lack of it. I had an area just about the size of a sports car cockpit to work with, and weight absolutely had to be controlled. Besides this, it had to look like an integral part of the boat - not an added on affair. I mocked up a plywood bridge by extending the line of the windscreen that looked about right. Then I erected a series of plywood stiffeners that defined that shape and offered support for a handrail.
    As a builder, I have experienced more personal growth during this project than any other single accomplishment of my life. Consistently overcoming seemingly bewildering problems forges a man - it make him less likely to accept failure and dead ends and more likely to carry on until it’s right. In this process, I learned many things. Chief among them is that anything can be fixed, albeit some fixes may be costly in terms of time and materials. Just as important, you have to maintain your standards or you enter upon a slippery slope. People will only see your last attempt and they will judge your craft from that. No one will ever see the first nine or ten dashboards I made for Boomslang!

. . . Dale Hamilton



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