Vintage Race Boat Shop


Miss Bluelectric

A Gentleman's Racer

Owner/builder - Reto Andreoli

Zurich, Switzerland

For Bill John and his friends - the ones who gave me the inspiration with their Vintage Race Boat Shop.

Miss Bluelectric

The Swiss law

There are no fast powerboats in Switzerland. The handfull there are, run on foreign registrations for a short period of time as guests on Swiss lakes. The three owners of Swiss legal ones are legal only because owners are tweaking their engines, RPM meters and gear to make the boat as slow as possible when called for inspection. Transformation is achieved by missadjusting timing of ignition, mismatched props, restricted exhausts, added weight, enclosed air intakes, mechanically restricted throttle with matching mis-reading RPM meters, allowing only 2/3 of full RPM while showing full, and missaligned trimtabs. Inspection is called every two years, but powerboat owners are permanently suspicious and can be called within a week, every week for inspection.

 

I was one of the three undergoing this nightmare. Test for registration is given by mesuring the noise of the boat under full throttle, passing at a certain distance and passes in both directions to give one sided exhaust boats no chance either. There is no speedlimit, but a noise limit. The noise produced by the boat, plus the noise produced by the hull gliding over the water must not exceed 73 db. No wakes, wind blowing away from the microphone and a thumb over it usually help and result in a speed of around 60km/h maximum only. This is why we have lots of classic wooden pleasure boats with sundecks and sunbathing girls on the back of the boat instead of the driver and the riding mechanic, let alone a V12 Liberty in the front. In addition, hulls and engines must fully comply to EU – CE certification.

 

Importing from the US?

Out of a completely different project of building a guitar, I searched the Internet for mahogany suppliers and ended on the vintage race boat Websites. Boats of unknown beauty were revealed, and I was so deeply fascinated by the shapes and the stories around the boats of the golden era, that I wanted to have one, no matter how. Naturally, Switzerland does not allow registration of boats older than 2002, and newly constructed boats by StanCraft, VanDam and the like would not have CE certified hulls.

 

No way out?

I had to search for holes in the legislation and the only way I found was to build the boat by myself. In this case the boat would be inspected and could be certified as a one off unit. It naturally must pass noise figures and use a new engine complying to CE restrictions. Forgot to mention that for self built boats with length under 21 feet on the waterline, restrictions on the horsepower apply. Unfortunately, building space for a boat in Switzerland is as scarce as a notch in the legislation, and the working space I did find was 23 feet in length and 6 feet in width only.

 

Expanding available building space.

I decided on building the boat on a flat rolling cart. This would allow me to place the boat diagonally to make maximum lenght of the room available. The  boat could be rolled out and turned and pushed back. The flat cart would be the building table for laminations of long parts.

  

What boat to build

On the boat plans available, I was stunned by the Baby Bootlegger, but it was too big. But then the Garwood 16 foot Speedster was too short. I liked the looks of the double ended raceboats, but respected the advantages of the cut off transom boats. After months of mental depression, I saw the picture of the El Lagarto in an old magazine, with its rudder sticking out of he back rudder support. Sticking out rudders naturally don’t count in Switzerland for a prolongation of the waterline to avoid restrictions on hp. So a Speedster with this rudder support wouldn’t be a solution.

 

"Outbuilding“ the law

But then I had a dream that I would build a completely new boat, longer than 21 feet on the waterline, with a shorter, speedster like main hull with tweaking possibilities like adjustable cavitation plates plus an uplifted back which holds the rudder and rests in the water while docking for a prolonged waterline to avoid restrictions. While gliding, the back would be lifted out of the water for reduced drag, and the far back rudder would result in sensitive steering and low resistance force. The rudder then can be turned by a beautifull steering quadrant like in Miss Columbia. The uplifted back would screen any forbidden roostertail. The boat would have to have shingles for improved gliding for more speed and lower noise. I did not start shopping for a Swiss and CE registered Hispano Suiza or a Royes Royce Merlin. In addition, on some lakes catalythic converters are a must.

 

E-Power

So I thought about making the boat electrical powered, as no restrictions apply, simply because no one expects a raceboat to be electric powered. Currently, strongest water cooled electric motor for boats over here is 85kw, with max torque right from the start. A two engine boat would have 2 times 55kw with the smaller motors, and both versions would have a weight of 100kg plus the LiPo batteries of 260kg. This gives a minimum weight saving of over 300kg against a CE approved iron block with all needed gadgets and fluids. I then can move the batteries for best weight distribution, trim angle and low center of gravity to make up a bit for the powerloss against a gas powered engine. For inspection the voltage of the batteries can be switched in parallel for half the speed by a flick of a switch, to make everybody happy. Noise will be almost none.

 

The start

I have never built a boat before, so I had to implement construction techniques that would be convenient for a one man shop. As skiing in Switzerland is much more popular than boatbuilding, spruce, white oak and mahogany are not available, and when shipped must cut up at a saw mill. So solid wood, because of the handling, the drying processes and force within the wood planks to fight against, has not been a way for me to go. First quality mahogany marine plywood is readily available instead. So I decided to laminate all planks, motor stringers, shears, chines and keel. The boat would be dimensionally very stable that way with a higher working time on the downside. I decided on West System epoxy and used the VanDam documentation as a guideline.

 

Frames and motor stringers

I did stretch the length of the Garwood speedster by the factor of 1.16 while keeping the frame shapes. The frames were NC cut as the boat plan was provided with the numerical data. I then started with glueing the frames together and laminating the prolonged motor stringers. I wanted to use the motor stringers as the holding backbone for the boat, not the keel, as this would have to be cut out by following the plans, which would have resulting in a very unstable keel. The motor stringers instead could be perfectly flat alligned and allowed a very rigid mounting and a stable keel. I started keel up. The frames were set into the alligned stringers and additionally held by reinforcements. The weight of the boat rests on them instead of the hull while on the trailer.

 

 Keel and bow

The keel was laminated on a negative and set into the frames and the bow was mounted. While preparing for chine, I noticed that neither the chine, stringers, nor sheer would fit the first two frames, as they were too small. The prolongation had aggravated the problem, and it took me 2 months to accept that the fault was in the plans, and not in my construction. After that downtime I reconstructed the frames and stuck to my own plans. From there on, all went well.

 

Chine, stringers and sheer

The frames were cut out and the chine laminated. For the lamination, I fixed a first layer of ply to the frames. Second, I laminated this wobbly ply with the next layer of ply. The shape was built into the chine by mounting a 2 MDF on the outside for using its unilateral spring force while curing of the epoxy. In the next step the MDF was removed, the next layer glued and the MDF remounted for spring force until curing. The stringers and the sheers were made the same way. Though very labour intensive, the results with my method are very good – the shape is perfect and no force is built into the boat, so it stays very stable. The laminated parts are very strong.The method is handy to do on a small working space, but definitively not fast. I completed the rough frame together with all the drawings, arrangements and preparation for the project within one year, on Christmas 2007 as a pure hobby.

 


Miss Bluelectric - Year 2008

The right way up

Finding continous fluid lines for the back, I needed the boat turned the right way up. With many helping hands the frame was turned over and the stringers, sheer and chines were sanded and smoothed out for planking. The first layer of planking was completed, sanded, and the inside coated with 2 layers of epoxy.

 

The back

I made a jig out of MDF as a temporary bottom for the back. It allowed laminating the chines within, and served as the base for the keel and the rudder support until all dimensions were measured, made and glued together. For strength, the keel and the two supports protrude the transom and are fixed to the motor stringers, and the sheers of the back starts from the second last frame of the boat, just behind the drivers seat.

 

Frameless

The back uses two frames only, one at the transom and the second at the rudder support. The shapded form is built by interleaved layers of inside stringers and outside planks, starting from the sheers downwards until the full back was planked and sanded. The second layer of planking was layed. Planks were nailed down and pressed by small MDF blocks in place until the epoxy was cured. Blocke and nails were taken out. Then the tailpiece that surrounds the rudder armature was made and glued, and the inside of the back coated two times. The construction is very light and stiff.

 

Topless

The manufacturing of the tops of the back gave me headaches. Arched in two dimensions I  steamed the ply to preform them. Only weeks later I glued the 3 plywood layers together. Especially the cover of the trunk was well arched and as it has no strengtheners to keep it in shape, it took much steaming and drying before glueing the plys together. Cured it is perfect and the completion of the back was done.

 

Planks

The hull was planked with the second layer of plywood and sanded in and out. The inside will be epoxied with another two layers, when the boat is turned over again. Perfect sealing of plywood is much more important than on solid wood. I took the opportunity that all edges and holes and otherwise badly paintable locations can be covered with epoxy as the boat is turned over twice.

 

First roll out

Miss Bluelectric is rolled out of the working space by the end of 2008. It is turned over the wrong way again for making of the shingled bottom, vacuum baging the 3rd layer of solid mahogany planks plus…

Reto Andreoli


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