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From a Bare Hull:  Striking the Waterline

I knew all along that the boat would probably not float at her originally-designed waterline.  Even stock Tritons rarely float properly at this line, tending to sag in the stern and, in general, riding much lower in the water than the original design intended.

Therefore, I questioned where, exactly, I would strike the new waterline on this heavily-modified boat.  While I had retained the most essential design elements--hull shape, ballast weight, and rig dimensions--everything else was different.  I felt that I had distributed the new structure and machinery quite evenly and symmetrically, but still, the actual waterline remained a mystery.  How would she float?

Eventually, I came to the conclusion that the only way to tell where the boat floated was to actually float her.  Of course, to do this accurately meant that the boat had to be in an advanced stage of completion before the test could occur.  The concept seemed silly:  haul the boat from the shop, launch her, mark the waterline, and return the boat to the shop, all in short order.  However, I could come up with no other feasible means of determining this.  Too many calculations, requiring too much information that was not at hand, were required--and, most importantly, these calculations would require design and engineering skills that I did not possess, and that I had no desire to ever possess.

By late April and early May, the boat was complete enough that I could make the decision to try and schedule a test launch.  The engine and systems were in, the interior was more or less finished, and the main structural work was all complete.  The through hulls and seacocks were in, and the boat was watertight--or at least she would be with the addition of a propeller shaft and stuffing box, or at least some sort of temporary plug in the stern tube hole.

After some phone tag, I eventually scheduled the test launch for Tuesday morning, May 31, with a pickup at 0700.  Since I did not yet have my shafting, I ended up sealing the shaft hole with a single layer of fiberglass that I slapped over from outside, purely as a temporary measure.  For further preparations, I removed excess tools and gear from the boat, and made sure everything was secure and ready to go.  Please note in the photos that the boat is incomplete and lacks toerails, deck paint, other wooden deck trim, cockpit coamings, and many final details.  Consider this a sneak peek.

On the appointed morning, my boat hauler picked the boat up at the shop.  It seemed strange to be moving the boat after so much time, and when not fully complete as well, but nonetheless it was nice to see her emerge from the shop and into daylight, where I could begin to get a real sense of her aesthetics.


At the launching ramp, Steve backed the boat into the water and then held her loosely in  the trailer's hydraulic arms to prevent her from moving away, though we also had two lines to the boat.  I could tie a bow line to the stem fitting, but with no deck hardware on board and nothing to tie to, I had to loop the stern line through the rudder tube and tie it around the side of the boat with a bowline. 

When the boat was floating free of the trailer, I took a few moments to take some photographs and check out how the boat looked.  I was quite pleased, and noted that she floated higher than I had expected.  Earlier, I had prepared a long stick with a black permanent marker taped to the end, and now I used this to mark the waterline at the centerline bow and stern--the two reference marks I would need later to strike an accurate and level waterline.  My little stick contraption worked well.


I took a few more minutes to eye the boat critically from all angles possible, to determine whether I thought the boat was in proper trim as is, or whether any trim ballast might be required.  I thought she looked good, and proportionately correct, but I took a series of photos that I could eye critically later on to confirm my initial impressions.

With that, the test launch was complete, and soon the boat was back on the trailer and free from the water once again.  I noted that the new marks were nearly 3" lower than the original molded scribe marks bow and stern, indicating that the boat was substantially lighter than before.  The new marks seemed to be equally below the originals, confirming my impression that the boat was floating visually level.

By 0830, the boat was back in the shop as if nothing had happened.

Next:  striking the actual waterline.  Click here to continue.>


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