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