The (Ply)Wooden Boat, Part V: Sailing The Sea

Now that the boat was built and waterproofed, the only things left to do before it’s maiden voyage were to take it to the lake, and determine how I would propel it. I, of course, decided to take it to the lake first, and fabricate its means of propulsion in the parking lot next to the beach.
Have boat, will travel.
While Eric used a single oar for his GardenFork.tv boat, I found that with the increased width of my boat it was too wide to use a single oar effectively. I made two (2) oars (like a traditional row boat) instead.
I built the oars in the parking lot at the beach.
I attached the U-shaped oar pivots on the dock.
The oars were cut to length on the dock too.


The finished oars.
Making the oars was as simple as cutting a rectangle of scrap ⅜” plywood, trimming the corners off and then screwing it to a 2”x2”. To act as oar pivots, I cut two U-shaped pieces of plywood and screwed them to the outside face of the batten with ran down the top of each side. The oars simply dropped in the opening, which was cut with enough room to allow the oars to move.
Finally, ready for the open sea.
Finally, the boat (dubbed the S.S. Sea Man) was ready to set sail.

My cousins, Doug and Robert, and I carried it passed the rocks (Lake George is beautiful, but lacks sandy beaches) and into the water. I gave it a brief moment to confirm it was watertight. Then I hopped in and I set off rowing.

Row like the wind.
The boat was in and out of the water for three (3) or four (4) days over the course of our vacation. It proved a stable craft. My kids (and cousin) enjoyed going out on the boat and it proved a stable platform for launching firecrackers. I was able to successfully carry two (2) adults and probably could have managed a third.
I did ultimately get the hand of steering it with the oars.
After the first day, I moved the cross batten further back to reduce the number of times I hit my knuckles on it while rowing. That made it better, but not great. In the end, what kept the boat’s use down were the unbearably uncomfortable square oar handles and the cramps I managed to get from the lack of a seat.
To move the batten back, I first added a new one, then removed the old one so the boat sides wouldn't spring  back together.

I managed to row a good ways into the lake. Had a had a destination, I may have gone further.


Come aboard, we're expecting you.
From the boat, I was able to get the usual great views of the lake and shore.

A panoramic taken with my phone from the boat.
Though it was my intention to scrap the boat after the vacation was over, my Dad seemed to have taken a liking to it and offered to store it at his barn in Greenwich, NY until next summer. That, of course, has me thinking. I already know how I’ll be adding seats and a better pivot mechanism for the oars next year.
The boat survives, to be sailed again next summer.
While there are inherent risks in boating of any kind, and this isn’t a project you should take on without considering those risks, I’d highly encourage building a plywood boat of your own if you get a chance. The one featured on GardenFork.tv is very straightforward to build (just leave out the bottom window) or embellish it as I did. Either way, there’s nothing like the feeling of sailing the open seas heading to Mexico in boat you crafted with your own hands.