OK, before you get all over me about being in the "real" world, just give me a minute to explain ;-)

I bought a set of plans for the Joli boat from Philip Thiel. Unfortunately, this is not the right "season" in my life to really start building a boat. So, should I just wait and dream, or should I make some kind of forward progress?

My intent here is to keep a journal of my progress. I'll be using Google Sketchup to build my virtual boat. I'm sure that along the way I'll run across problems that need solving, trouble keeping on task, and moments of inspiration.

I'll include pictures and video as I progress. Click on any picture if you'd like to see it larger.

Maybe I'm crazy, but follow along and see what you think

Friday, February 27, 2009

Goin’ 3D and a Twin Bed

I’ve been working on my flat 2D plan in Sketchup and have started moving into that 3rd dimension. It has been fun to see my Joli start to take shape.

This process confirmed my suspicion that there is no good way to put single bunks in the rear of the boat. There would only be 12 1/4” of clearance from the top of the bed to the bottom of the frame, and this is with a bunk that is only 4 1/2” above the floor. If I add a cushion to the bunk, it gets tighter yet. Clearly this is not going to work.

If I go back to Phillip’s original design for the rear bunk, I can have 22” of space. This should allow plenty of vertical room even with a nice cushion on the bed.

As an added benefit, the twin bed could be 10 3/4” above the floor. This will probably be more comfortable to get in or out of. The twin bed also allows a dinette that can be full width rather than cut at an angle to help with traffic flow.

I am concerned about the width of the twin bed. Since my Joli is 6” narrower than the original and mine tapers to a tight radius towards the rear, there isn’t much width available.

We have a vintage camp trailer that I took some key dimensions from. Our twin bed in the trailer is 48” wide. It’s only 38 7/8” in the boat. I don’t think there is any good way to increase this without compromising the hatchway width.

Here are a few other dimensions from our trailer. These certainly aren’t set in stone but they are dimensions that we’ve lived with while camping in our trailer.

I’ll end this entry with a video tour of my boat. The first half of the video shows the single bunks in the rear. It then transitions to the twin bed configuration. There’s so much more to do, but I’m sure pleased with this chance to explore ideas and solve problems without wasting wood.

Larger Video

I may feature some web sites and books in my next journal entry. Keep an eye out ;-)

“Two weeks on the river and I was only fifty miles upstream. My wake, had it been recorded, would have revealed a slow, wandering track of curiosity – islands explored, old townsites discovered, and unnamed channels followed. I had left footprints on sandbars, and on mudbanks I had left the imprint of the boat’s keel. These things, the small unexpected adventures, are the best part of a journey.”

Sam McKinney,

from Reach of Tide, Ring of History

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

The Joli Wee Spark

I’ve worked a little with the floor plan of the Joli to see if I could make it look a little more like a nautical boat. I’m using the basic hull shape from the Wee Spark that I introduced to you during our last visit. 

I tried to work within the confines of my revised frame locations based on my extended length version of the Joli. I left the original width on as many frames as possible and only the ones on the end get modified.

It looks like the rounded transom will work fine as it still hides the outboard motor. The rear bunks get narrower right towards the foot end, but that should be fine.

The bunks in the front are more severely affected by this hull shape change. The forward bunks are now a modified V berth. I did lose some overall width but I think they’re still within reason. It looks like they will tuck under the front ladder. 

Larger Video

I may be exceeding the abilities of Sketchup with this modified shape so I’ve downloaded the newest free version of DELFTship and may try again to learn this software. It really is a better tool for boat designing. We’ll see. Here’s a version of the Clyde Puffer done with DELFTship. The Puffer is the original ship that the Wee Spark is based on.

Here’s another example of what is possible in DELFTship.

I haven’t given up on Sketchup yet. Look at how complex this hull shape is. I guess I need a little more practice ;-)

Now let me complicate the options a little further. There is also a program called FREE!ship. This software is produced by the original developer of DELFTship, Martijn Van Engeland. There is a nice tutorial at the Wooden Boat Forum if you’re interested in pursuing this further. Here is another tutorial for FREE!ship.

It also seems that models built in DELFTship or FREE!ship can be exported and used in Sketchup. See an example here

Wow, so much to learn!

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Hull Shape

The Joli is shaped like a barge or a scow. This has at least two great advantages. It’s easier to build with flat sides and a flat bottom as well as providing enormous interior space. Ok, maybe enormous is a bit of an exaggeration, but compared to lets say a sailboat, the Joli has much more room in the same 23 feet.

I am concerned however, about two things that I see as a disadvantage. A flat bottom hull doesn’t move through the water but rather over the water. This tends to create a slapping sound when encountering waves. Now I know that Philip designed the Joli boat for calm waters so this may not be an issue. I plan to use the boat for camping at our many mountain lakes here in Central Oregon. I also intend to do some cruising on our larger rivers in Oregon, However; even on lakes and rivers, I’ll encounter waves from wind, tides, current, and other boaters. This slapping sound may interfere with an otherwise relaxing weekend. Secondly, and perhaps less important, has something to do with vanity. I want people to admire my “Yacht”. I think it should look like a “real” boat. Now this may not be fair to Mr. Thiel at all and it might reveal a character flaw on my part, but there it is, out in the open.

So what! Do I try to do something about this? Why make it harder to build? Why take away precious interior space? Because of this wonderful boat that Bryan Lowe found for me:

I just love how this boat looks. It makes me smile inside and out. I can just imagine how wonderful it would be to motor around in the Wee Spark. Could I modify the Joli hull somewhat to resemble this scale replica of an old canal workboat? Maybe I should start with Philip’s newest design, the Friend-Ship.

Larger Video

Maybe the bottom of the Joli can be left fairly flat but the sides could taper in to the bow. And maybe the transom could have a tight curve that would hide the outboard motor. Dick Mitsch built a wonderful mini tug using an idea like this. There was a great article in the Mar/Apr 2008 issue of Small Craft Advisor about Dick’s tug Sea-Weed.


Dick designed this boat himself based on, “how she should look”. He sketched it out on a piece of brown wrapping paper and then started building. She looks great in the water and she’s winning the hearts of her admirers. Now I’m not proposing that we can all go out and design our own boat, but in this case it worked out great. It turns out the boat is pretty seaworthy. Dick found this out one day while cruising on the Columbia River. A big 45 foot yacht went by at full speed which left Dick in its three-foot wakes. The tug handled it just fine.

Looks like I better get back to the drawing board. Let’s see what I can come up with for a hull modification on the Joli.

Just a quick note of thanks to the people that have taken such wonderful pictures for us to enjoy on the internet. It really is amazing and we owe them a debt of gratitude. Thanks!

Monday, February 9, 2009

A Floor Plan in Sketchup

I decided to work at this boat idea from a different angle this time. I’m going to start working on a floor plan in Sketchup. This will make it easier to place 3 dimensional items later on. It will also give me a chance to work on the single beds in the back.

It turns out that the dinette in Philip’s original drawing is about 44 inches wide. I checked in our Vintage Camp Trailer, and found out ours is only 36 inches wide. I think this might help in making the rear bunks into singles. Also, If I cut the rear dinette bench at an angle, It makes it even easier. A narrower table also opens up the walkway in the kitchen/dinette area. This will help with traffic flow through the center of the boat.

Larger Video

Unfortunately, if I make single bunks in the rear, I will lose the rear closet. This may be a problem since storage is at a premium in a boat. Who knows?

Larger Video

The video above shows how I can start placing frames using the floor plan in Sketchup.

Stay Tuned!

Saturday, February 7, 2009

A Little More Room and a Twin Bed

It's interesting to me how I have to see something before I figure it out. Maybe that is why this whole virtual build works for me. I can’t imagine how much time and wood I would waste while I tried things that I thought would work.

First example today is my thoughts for two single bunks instead of a twin bed in the rear of the boat. We have a twin bed in the back of our vintage camp trailer. I don’t like the idea that the person on the far side of the bed, the side against the wall, has to climb over the other person to get out of bed. There’s no good way to do this without waking up your partner.

I also felt that four single bunks and a dining table that converts to a bed would be more versatile for guests. Maybe three of my buddies and I want to go on a fishing trip. Who is going to end up sleeping together on a narrow 3 foot 6 inch twin bed? Not a pretty picture ;-)

It wasn’t until I played around with the Joli floor plan sketch that I realized the single beds wouldn’t work. The companionway ends up with a tight, narrow jog. It’s almost like Philip knew what he was doing. Big Grin!

I haven’t given up on the four single beds idea, I just need to work on it some more, but there may not be a good fix.

The next area of concern for me was the exterior cockpit length. It seemed really short, especially the way I have the outboard configured. My last entry gave a little hint of how I want to do the outboard. I’m hoping it will end up with a wooden cover over it to further hide the source of propulsion.

I figure that at a minimum, I want two people to be able to sit comfortably side by side on the cockpit benches, or one person should be able to recline with their back against the cabin wall with legs stretched out on the bench. It turns out that I’m closer to that size than I thought. I measured the love seat in our living room and came up with 4 feet of length. I won’t need to add much to the overall length of the boat at all, certainly within the 10% that many people have discussed as the safe range of modification.

Well, I’m guessing a little on the space that is required for the outboard, but it looks like the boat would be 25.5 feet long. This would end up being 6 inches longer than the 10% increase that people say is a safe margin. Can we live with 6 inches over? We’ll see.

More to come.

Friday, February 6, 2009

A Study in Shape

I’ve been having fun putting some shape to my ideas. It’s exciting to start to see some of the things I’ve been dreaming about.

The videos speak for themselves really. I won’t have much to say for this entry.

I haven’t worked in any detail yet, but I wanted to have some general shapes to start working with.

Larger Video

I’ve had some concern about the exterior space available on the Joli. The front and rear cockpits are only about 3 feet long. This seems somewhat crowded and I believe it needs to be revisited. I’m just not sure where to gain space. I like the dimensions available inside so I don’t think I can gain much there, and yet I’m not sure that I want the boat to be longer than about 23 feet. This will need some more thought.

Larger Video

I’m going to continue sketching out some general ideas to start seeing how things fit together overall. I’ll be able to come back to these drawings when I start building my virtual frames.

See you soon.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

A Joli Sketch

It’s time to step back and start sketching a few Joli ideas with dimensions. I need to have something I can refer back to as I start building my virtual frames.

This is also the chance for me to share some of the design ideas I’ve been thinking about for my Joli build.

Here’s a frame drawing from Philip’s Joli plans. You can see that he has simplified the roof structure by eliminating the curved top. This is frame number 2, or the back wall of the cabin looking out towards the back of the boat. You can also see that the Joli has the companionway hatch offset to the right. This allows room for a double bed in the left rear of the boat.

I really want that curved roof. Any Escargot pictures I’ve seen look really good with the curve, so I’m adding it back in. I’m not sure about the double bunk in the rear. I may prefer single bunks on each side of the hatch like they are in the front of the Joli. I’ll be able to try both configurations in my virtual build.

So let’s talk about some general dimensions. I’m using an 8 foot square jig and assembly table. This table has a 2x4 frame around the outside bottom edge of the melamine. I’m using alignment pins to help define the frame locations. The way I have this drawn is a 2x4 vertical pin attached to the inside of the 2x4 frame around the edge of the table. This initial pin holds tight against the outside of the Joli frames; so, the widest my Joli could be is 7 feet, 6 inches. (8 foot table minus 1.5 inches on each side for the 2x4 frame, minus 1.5 inches on each side for the alignment pins.)

I want the sides of the cabin to curve in towards the top, so I’ve drawn this as 6 inches narrower at the top of the side walls.

I intend to have standing headroom in the inside of the center of my Joli. My son is tall, so in our family, this means 6 feet four inches between the top of the floor boards and the bottom of the ceiling beams. My frames will be 2x4 boards on edge plus 2x4 boards lying flat for the floor boards; so the highest point of the frame on the inside will be 6 feet 4 inches plus 7 inches for frames and 1.5 inches for floor boards for a total outside height of 7 feet ½ inch.

The length of the boat seems just fine as designed. 8 frames spaced evenly apart, 3 feet 3 inches on center for a total boat length of 22 feet nine inches.

Here’s my idea of how frame number 2 might look. You can see that I’m a little narrower than the original plans and slightly taller.

My logic for boat dimensions may not be correct, but it’s a starting point. I’m going to continue with these sketches to confirm some ideas before I start building some frames. Even if they are just virtual ;-)