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May 15, 2021, 04:29 PM
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Build Log

Tatty-byes, a Modern Pilot Cutter

Hi Everyone,

I was looking around for inspiration to get me started on my next modeling project, and I happened to come upon a boat called a Pilot Cutter. These boats were specialized sailing boats that were derived from bulkier fishing boats. They worked great in strong tides, winds, and they quickly became the boat of choice for maritime pilots to ferry them quickly to ships outside the port cities. Pilots would take charge of the large ships and guide them safely into port – albeit for a fee. The faster your Pilot Cutter, the sooner your pilot could get out to a ship, and the more choices you would have of which ships to bring into port.

A cutter is usually a medium sized vessel, gaff-rigged, with two or more headsails, and they often would have a fairly long bowsprit. These boats were designed for speed and the ability to be handy in most any wind. This sounded like a perfect modeling project for me.

If you look on the Internet, and look up Bristol Pilot Cutter, you will find many photographs of some absolutely beautiful boats. If you want to read up on modern Pilot Cutters, then you should get a hold of a copy of Luke Powell’s book, Working Sail: A life in Wooden Boats. You can also search YouTube, for videos on Pilot Cutters. One of my sailing buddies gave me a copy of Luke Powell’s book, and I was totally smitten with the design and its story. Thank you, Carl B., for your inspiration to make this build possible.

Having recently completed a scale model of a WWII Army Tugboat, I wanted to have a bit more freedom with this build, and not be totally constrained to build someone else’s design. Tatty-Byes is my interpretation of a modern Pilot Cutter. I liked various lines of many different Pilot Cutters, and incorporated them…along with my own ideas into what would make a good looking Pilot Cutter. This also goes for lines of boats that I didn’t find as appealing…those aspects were left out of the design purposely. I’m not a fan of the lute stern, so the back end of Tatty-byes is what I would want the stern of a Pilot Cutter to look like.

There are times when you can find the side view drawing of a boat that you like, or maybe a photo, or if you are lucky a frame shape. You can actually build a model boat from that information. True, it won’t be a perfectly scale model, but you can capture the essence of that style of boat based on information found in a newspaper, broker information for a particular boat, or copy the dimensions of an existing model that you have (something proven to work). This project is the sum of all sorts of different bits of information; full-scale pilot cutters, angles taken from photos, dimensions scaled down to model size, comparisons to similar models that work well, my own engineering for what I think would work as a model, and a good amount of trial and error.

The trial and error part of model building is sometimes difficult to deal with for me. As a kid, I saw the film, Chitty-Chitty-Bang-Bang. The big life lesson from that film is that “failure is nature’s way to tell you to try another way”. Basically, failure is most often not fatal either, so it is OK to fail. Which also means, that it is OK to try out an idea to see if it works. If you are OK with the idea that you can fail, then there is tremendous freedom in the concept and execution of the plan. My family members have often heard me say, “Well, that didn’t work!” From that point I move on to try something else, and eventually (like a chimp with a typewriter) I will come up with something that sounds or looks reasonable and might actually work. The more you fail, the more you learn, and if you can resist the temptation to quit, then you will succeed eventually.

The guiding principle behind this build: not only would this boat have to look good, but it would also have to be a joy to sail.
Early on in the design process, I had to follow some constraints to have this model work for me. A shopping list was created to make sure that I would end up with a boat that I would like to own and sail.

1) Full keel design.
2) Fit in the car.
3) Not be too heavy, but big enough so that she wouldn’t bob around (Bobs’ are sensitive to this kind of thing!).
4) Make my own sails.
5) Make as much of my own hardware for the boat as possible.
6) Power her with an electric auxiliary.
7) Colorful boat, but keep it from looking like it belonged in a circus.
8) Stay true to the spirit of what makes up a good looking Pilot Cutter.
9) Learn some new skills.
10) OK to sin on some issues relating to scale vs. model boat…to make the model boat easy to live with.

With measuring tape in hand, I measured the car to see how much boat I could build and still fit in the back of my SUV. Other measurements included taking down data related to two other full-keel sailboat models that I have. These two full-keel models work really well, so I figured that if I built the Pilot Cutter close to the dimensions of the other two full-keel boats, then I would have a pretty good chance of getting a good sailing model out of this building adventure.

This build runs the gamut between adventure and folly, and all one can do, is to do ones best and remain flexible throughout the process. Fix what is broken and move on. By the time you read this, Tatty-byes is already done and tested. The write-up on this build will be different from my usual daily updates, since this boat is already done. The entire write-up is one big piece.

Drawing the plans.

On day one, many sheets of printer paper were taped together so that I could draw the side view of Tatty-Byes. By the way, Tatty-Byes is a British slang way of saying good-bye, farewell, adios, etc. The term was coined or popularized by a 1970’s comedian named Ken Dodd. I first heard the term watching, The Great British Baking Show….and yes, I bake too - Model boat building and baking.

The waterline was drawn first, and then the endpoints were drawn as vertical lines to act as fences to reign in my design. Remember, it has to fit in the SUV! Measuring off the waterline from an existing full-keel model sailboat, I copied how much keel the boat had and marked the plans. Looking at the sideview drawings for a full-scale Pilot Cutter, the keel depth was very close to the model dimensions. I added a bit more keel and drew the keel line. This was a starting point, and the keel line would be redrawn again to follow the shape of a full-scale Pilot Cutter, whose lines were particularly attractive. If you are going to build a boat, you might as well build one that you like.

The bow angle of a full-scale Pilot Cutter was copied and drawn onto the model plan. You can get this angle from sideview photos of full-scale boats. The stern angle was also copied from a full-scale boat, but in the end, I drew up my own stern that I liked better. The motor, battery, winch servo, and rudder servo were laid out on the plans to make sure everything would fit. The curve of the deck from a full-scale Pilot Cutter was marked on the plans and modified to fit the constraints of housing all the electronics below deck. The house shape and size were drawn out next to make sure that I could get my hands inside the hull to do maintenance once the boat was complete. Grease tubes to the prop shaft and access to the rudder linkage were all engineered into the model while she was still in paper form. Line handling was also a consideration at this stage in the design. There would be blocks below deck to route the lines safely around frames and give as direct a path to the winch as possible.

I would also need to put about 17-18 pounds of lead into the keel of this boat (based on what my other full-keel models have in them), so the keel width would have to be built to accommodate for a bar that would be bolted to the wooden keel. Lead weighs .409 pounds per cubic inch. Since I’m not a Naval Architect, I am basing the design off of two working full-keel models that I have. If those boats work, then this boat should work as well. I keep the Pilot Cutter design close to the size of the other models.

Internal ballast needed to be considered as well, to fine tune the model. I let the side view drawing simmer for a while, while I decided if I was happy with it. Did it look reasonable?

After a couple of days of staring at lines and redrawing them, I finally decided on a side view plan that I thought was pleasing to my eye. Good thing the plan was drawn in pencil, as lots of subtle changes and tweaks took place.
To get the actual length of the curve of the deck, I used a piece of string to mark out the total length of the sub deck. That sub deck length was then drawn onto a flat plan and the overall width of the boat was determined based on full-scale boats and one of the full-keel model boats…again, they were pretty close in their scale dimensions when compared. The width of the transom was drawn and a flexible batten was used to strike the curve of the top view of the boat. Once I got a curve that I liked, I copied it over to the other side of the top view drawing. Frame locations were drawn next along the keel, spacing them about 2¾” on center.

The rudder was drawn next, sinning on the side of too big than too small. The hole for the prop in the rudder blade was “guess-timated” and would be fine-tuned once the boat was in 3D.
The shapes of the frames are always a mind bending part of the process for me. My strategy going in is to draw up the widest frame and get a shape that I like. Any further frames are based on the widest frame and modified to fit the width and height as determined by the side view and top view drawings for their particular place in the hull. Tweaking of individual frame shapes can happen during the layup of the hull, using a flexible batten to fine-tune the shape as needed. Foamboard is also a good medium to build with if you have a particularly difficult shape to create. Once the foamboard frame fits, you can commit to plywood. Tatty-byes is framed with 5mm Oak veneer plywood.

With the motor location and battery box drawn into the boat, it was time to commit to plywood. The keel would be made up of four laminations of 5mm oak veneer plywood and the outer laminations would be 1/16” birch plywood. The inner four laminations of the 5mm plywood would have a giant rectangle cut out for a place for the lead to reside. The 1/16” plywood would form an outer skin to the lead to make a nice surface that fiberglass would stick to. The area of the wood keel where the keel bolts would go through would be 1” thick and 1” tall. The two outer 5mm plywood keel shapes would have cutouts to allow for some ¼” balsa sheet to allow for some easier shaping to get a nice entry and exit for the keel as it slides through the water. The prop stuffing box and rudder tube were built and installed during lamination.

The sub deck, as per the top view drawing, was cut out and placed on blocks that were attached to the building board. The blocks are used to force the curve of the sub deck. The sub deck is screwed to the blocks in strategic places to allow for screw removal during the planking process. The boat keel and frames were dry fit together to make sure it all looks right. Once I was happy with the alignment, the frames were glued to the keel and sub deck (using 30 minute epoxy). The frames were sanded to a smooth contour using a long, sanding block. Any short areas along the frame shapes were filled in with 1/8” thick balsa and sanded to the correct shape. The motor, battery box, and winch were installed at this time. Once fitted, the motor was test run to check the alignment of the universal. All was good. The motor, universal, driveline, battery box, and winch were removed. The stuffing box ends were taped up to keep resin and building debris out.

The boat was removed from the building board and sanded. This would be a good time to install the deck, so some poplar was cut into 1/8”x ¼”x10” pieces to make the deck planks. Different colors of poplar were selected to give the deck a more interesting appearance. One half inch lengths of popsicle stick were used as permanent spacers on the deck. One eighth inch space was left between the ends of the planks. Square toothpicks were used as fasteners (with Titebond III glue) to hold each piece of plank in place. A layer of glue was applied to the sub deck and the planks were put in place, using a piece of toothpick hammered through a drilled hole to fix the plank in position.

I got a little fancy with the planking on this boat, by curving the outer three planks on each side of the deck. For curved deck planks, the poplar deck plank is soaked in hot water and then forced into a curved mold to set its shape before it is glued to the deck. My friend, Captain Larry, made me a curved plank bender out of some plywood. For more curve, you leave the planks in the bender overnight. For less curve, just leave the plank in the bender for a few minutes, and then apply the plank to the deck. Having the planks pre-curved makes laying the deck so much easier. Once the deck planks were installed, the entire deck was sanded down to 1/16” plank thickness. The deck mounted compass was also fitted at this time. Interior/exterior Spackle would be used as the filler between the planks. The deck got two coats of Spackle to fill the gaps (with drying time between coats). The deck was sanded and given three coats of Gloss Polyurethane.

While the interior of the boat was still accessible, I installed two blocks (pulleys) for line handling for the main and jib. The blocks are bolted to the frames, using some flat brass stock to elevate the block out of the bilge, giving the line a nice path from the winch to the through deck fitting.

Also, sub deck wooden blocks (not pulleys….pieces of plywood) were installed to allow for bracing for the through-bolts that would be used to hold the uprights for the bowsprit. Also blocks were installed where the shroud lines would go. There is an amazing amount of strain on the shroud lines, so the chain plates would also be through bolted.
Once I was happy with the hull shape, the boat was planked in 1/8” thick balsa planks. Be sure to remove your sub deck retaining screws before you plank over their access point. Don’t ask me how I know this….

Once planked, the boat was slathered in Interior/Exterior Spackle and left to dry. The boat was sanded and filled a couple of times to produce a pleasing hull shape. The hull was sealed up with a coat of West System Epoxy. The boat was glassed in two layers of 6oz. fiberglass below the waterline, and one layer of 6oz. fiberglass above the waterline….all set in West System Epoxy. The hull was sanded and any rough areas were filled with spot putty and then sanded. Another coat of West System Epoxy was applied to the hull.

The boat stand/cart was built at this time.

A paper template was made for the bulwarks, and once fitted, the template was converted to 1/16” plywood. The plywood bulwark actually overlaps the hull side by ¼”. The bulwarks were screwed in place and the scuppers were marked for cutting. The actual scupper opening is cut out with a router bit mounted in my drill press. The bulwark is held in a jig that allows the scupper to slide through the spinning router bit to cut the opening. The scuppers were glued in place and held with screws.

The screws were removed and replaced with square toothpicks, held in place my Titebond III. The toothpicks were sanded off to the same level as the bulwark surface. Two pieces of 1/8” spruce were glued to the top edge of the scupper to produce a larger gluing area for the hand rail. Vertical braces were glued on the inner bulwark to help support the handrail. The boat is then placed upside down on a piece of 5mm plywood and the handrail shape is drawn out. The outer dimension of the bulwark is drawn on the plywood and another 1/8” is added to the outside and another 3/8” is added to the inside to produce a hand rail center section that is ½” wide. On the outside edges of the hand rail center section, two lengths of split ¼” dowel are glued to produce a curved edge and finish off the raw edge of the plywood. The bulwark is made of two side sections and a stern section. The aft section of the plywood is kerfed to allow for the bend in the plywood vertically, so that ends of the plywood are lower than the middle. A section of the hand rail is left out for the bowsprit to recess into it the thickness of the handrail. The bowsprit was fitted to the boat at this time. There are ¼” bolts hidden in the verticals of the bowsprit braces. Holes were drilled through the deck and backer blocks to allow the bowsprit verticals to be securely mounted. The bowsprit is laminated from two pieces of poplar on either side of a 1/16” plywood core. I like having the plywood core because it makes a nice line down the spars, making it easier to shape them…since you know where center is.

The ¼” half round (for hand rail edge and rub rail) is created using a jig on a scroll saw that feeds ¼” dowels between two tubes that guide the dowel (the saw blade is between the two guide tubes). A key way block slides down a track to keep the dowel from turning while the cutting is taking place. It isn’t perfect, but with some practice you can produce 48” lengths of ¼” half round.
The rub rail is created using 1/8” x ¼” x 48” spruce. It is glued on the overlap section where the bulwark meets the hull. Screws hold the rub rail in place while the Titebond III dries. The screws are removed and replaced with square toothpicks and glue. The toothpicks are sanded down to the rub rail surface. More ¼” half round is then glued and screwed in place using Titebond III. The screws are replaced with square toothpicks and Titebond III. The toothpicks are then sanded down to the curve profile of the rub rail.

The inside of the hull was sealed in three coats of West System Epoxy.

The cabin ends are 5mm plywood, and the sides are 1/16” plywood. The parts were fitted to the opening in the deck and glued in place. An inner framework (upper lip) of the cabin is a square piece of 5mm plywood with the center cut out, leaving the width of the lip at ½”. The corners of the cabin are joined with some ¼”x1/4” spruce stock. The upper lip framework of the cabin is recessed to allow for the roof to slip down into the cabin 5mm. There is a matching upper lip framework that is part of the roof, creating a key for the cabin roof to slip inside the cabin sides. Rare earth magnets reside in the upper cabin lips to create the attachment force to keep the roof on. The cabin roof is curved. The bottom of the cabin roof is 1/16” plywood. Five mm ribs and ¼” balsa sheet created the curve of the roof. The top skin of the cabin roof is another piece of 1/16” plywood. The skylight and the companionway hatches were added at this time.

The keel of the boat is hollow and has a void where the 17-18 pounds of lead would go. The wooden part of the keel that was cut out during assembly was kept as a template for how big I needed to cast the lead keel. A vertical mold was created out of old pine shelving and a keel was cast. The thing that turned out differently than I was expecting was at the bottom of the mold, the lead shrunk as it cooled and left a void. The void was later filled with lead shot and resin. The keel is held in place with two stainless steel bolts and two long screws into the wooden keel. The entire block of lead is also glued in with an adhesive caulk. A wooden cap goes over the bottom of the keel slot and is glued in place with epoxy. Two layers of 6 oz. fiberglass also encapsulate the keel up to the waterline. This is part of the build that I didn’t enjoy doing….I don’t like to cast lead…scary stuff (respirator, lots of protective clothing, gloves, face shield, outside, etc.). Let’s put it this way, I’d rather be fiberglassing….and you know how I feel about that!

At some point, you have to bite the bullet and do some float testing. The boat was wrapped, non-ceremoniously, in a garbage bag and test floated in the domestic test tank facility (tub). All of the batteries, radio gear, boat hardware, unshaped spars, and anything else I had on had that would eventually go into the boat, was dumped down the hold. She floated! In fact, she had an inch to spare. She was also pretty stable. No issues, time to move on with the build.

The hull was painted with three coats of Rustoleum Clean Metal Primer, sanded out between coats. The bottom of the boat is Satin Red Rustoleum spray can, and the blue is Rustoleum brushed paint. The white is Rustoleum brushed paint as well. The blue and white got three coats of paint, each coat sanded with 320 grit between coats. The white was then polished using a buffing wheel and polishing compound. This style of finish gives a really nice brushed finish. You still see brush marks, but the finish is really good and gives the boat some “soul”. The paint job isn’t perfect, and it shouldn’t be, since the full-scale Pilot Cutters were probably brush painted.

Here is a little trick to keep the Rustoleum from sagging. Take a small office fan and blow it on the boat while the paint sets up. The moving air causes the paint to skin over and keeps it from sagging. You just have to make sure that your work area is clean so that you don’t blow debris onto your freshly painted surfaces.

While the hull was drying, all of the spars were laminated out of poplar and a core of 1/16” plywood. All of the spars/mast were laminated oversize to allow for shaping. The corners of the mast lamination were taken down with a block plane, and a power sander brought the mast to a round shape, and the spars to an oval shape. The base of the topmast was left square to make it easier to attach it to the mast. The topmast and mast were glued and pinned together using epoxy and 1/8” dowel sections.

The booms were left long to allow for trimming once the sails were made.

More boat hardware was built from brass stock and soldered together. The standing rigging was mocked up and paper templates were cut and installed to represent the sails. The main and jib are the only permanent sails that are on the boat. All of the other sails will come off to match wind conditions. If it is ever too windy to sail this boat with just the main and jib, then you probably shouldn’t take the boat out of the car…or should have left it home in the first place.

I don’t have a lot of experience making sails, but my ability to sew has been improving. My wife is a quilter, so I have access to a sewing machine and local expertise when needed. I practiced learning to sew by making a king sized quilt. The quilt has sailboats on the fabric, so that makes it manly enough. By the time you have sewn a quilt that big, you feel pretty comfortable behind a sewing machine. After the quilt, I made boat covers. I watched YouTube videos on how full-scale boat covers were made, and I made three padded model boat covers for some of my big sailboat models. The boat covers are three dimensional shapes and that adds a degree of difficulty to them. I figured that flat panel sails can’t be that much more difficult than a three dimensional boat cover. Enough practice, it is off to the fabric store.

Before we get too far along with sails, here are the names of the sails.

The sail with the “T” on it is the mainsail.
Just forward of the main in front of the mast, is the foresail.
The next sail forward is the jib.
The farthest sail forward is the flying jib.
The topsail lives above the mainsail.

The idea behind the sails was to produce a more scale looking suit of sails that would add a degree of realism to the model. I toyed with the idea of making red sails, but red fabric has a tendency to bleed and I knew that my sails would get wet someday, and I didn’t want to take the chance on getting red dye on my boat. There are treatments for fabric that you can use to further set the dye, and for my colored boat covers, I’ve done this technique effectively…at least for blue and green….not brave enough to do red…too risky for me. There were so many other risky variables in this Pilot Cutter concept, that I didn’t want to push my luck with red sails. Anyway, here is the technique to set fabric color.

Once you get your colored fabric, it is a good idea to set the color to make sure it doesn’t run on your boat. In a bucket, add ¼ cup of table salt, and one cup of white vinegar to about a gallon of water. Put your fabric in the bucket and let it soak overnight. After soaking, rinse the fabric in fresh water. Put the fabric in your washing machine (by itself…don’t want to “tick-off” the Captain of the House by transferring dye). Wash the fabric in laundry detergent and dry it in the dryer. Iron the fabric to remove any wrinkles, and you are ready to sew. If you buy plain muslin fabric, you can skip the color setting part of the job and go straight to sewing.

I liked the appearance and the feel of the plain muslin fabric. I thought it added a nice texture to the boat and would complete the look that I was going for. I laid out the fabric on a flat surface and put the sail template over the fabric and used a pencil to lightly mark the outlines of that particular sail. I added one inch for a seam on all edges. This one inch extra would be folded in half and then folded onto the sail to get it ready for sewing. With the pencil, I also drew the panel lines to mimic what the full-scale sail panels look like.

Some tools that will make your life easier are: a rotary cutting tool, a clear sewing ruler (it is 6” x 24” with yellow markings), a self-healing cutting board, and some pins to help hold the fabric in place as you sew. You probably might also want to buy a couple of rolls of Wonder Tape (see description below).

Here is a trick that will help you sew. There is a product called Wonder Tape. This stuff is probably available in your local sewing store and it is basically double stick tape that you can use to hold your seams together so that your sail is already to shape when you are ready to sew the seam.

The first things to sew are the panel lines. I chose brown thread and did row after row of panel lines every two inches.
The second part of the sewing process is to make up some reinforcements for the corners. On this boat, I cut a 24” by 4” piece of fabric and put in a seam (1” of fabric folded in half, and then folded onto the main surface of the fabric. I used a strip of Wonder Tape to hold the seam in place while I sewed the seam. The thread color was changed to an off-white color that more closely matched the muslin fabric. This piece of fabric (with the seam), would be cut into various size triangles to make the gussets on the corners of the sails. The gussets would show on the sail corners and the open cut fabric would be captured by the seam on the sails.

The gussets were cut for that particular sail and sewn in place with off-white thread. The seams on that particular sail would be folded over and creased. Wonder tape would be used to capture the seam and hold it in place while I sewed the seam in position. On the back edge of the main and jib, I did insert some kite line to help support the trailing edge of the sail. I did this to help maintain the shape of the sail, and to keep it from sagging over time. The main and jib would be hanging on the standing rigging for the life of this rig. The kite line was left long so that I could attach the line to the booms of the boat (tied off at the bottom and held in place with a cleat so I would have some adjustment). The corners of the sail seam would be cut at an angle and that edge sewn with a zigzag thread pattern.

Decorative items on the sail included reinforced patches where three rows of reef points would be located, and the decorative “T” on the sail. They are attached with a product called, Heat n Bond, Ultrahold. This is a double stick paper like material that bonds fabric together. The process works pretty easily, but requires an absolutely dry iron to put it in place. If you have a small heating iron for putting on model airplane covering material, that would work best. I couldn’t get my household steam iron to heat dry enough to successfully apply the Heat n Bond. There are two sides to the Heat n Bond. One side is a paper side that you put the iron to. The other side has a more plastic appearance (this is the stick side initially). You place a slightly oversized piece of the Heat n Bond on the backside of a piece of fabric that you would like to bond. Then you take our hot dry iron to the paper side of the Heat n Bond and stick in it place. You may have to play with the temperature of the iron to get it to stick. My model iron was set up to 3 (pretty hot). Then you cut your fabric to be bonded to the shape that you would like (3/4”x3/4” squares set on diamond point for the reef points….all 20 of them, and two letter T’s for the sail). The clear plastic ruler was put into service to line up all of the fabric to be bonded. The iron would be used to tack the corner of a bonded fabric piece in place, and the ruler was removed to allow for the iron full contact with the bonded fabric to stick it in place. The “T” is just bonded in place, while the reef points were sewn with a zigzag thread pattern to add to the look of the sails.

Other special items hidden within the sails include 1/8” dowels on the leading edge of the topsail to help hold its shape (where it touches the mast), a hidden boom in the lower seam of the jib, a batten hidden within the middle of the flying jib, and lots of grommets at the attachment points.

Size 3 dress hooks were used to attach the jibs to the metal shrouds. The dress hooks were held in place with tiny grommets (hammer and tiny anvil). The larger grommets were put in place with a special pair of pliers.

Sail making is a lot of work. Whatever your local model sail maker charges is probably worth it. On the flip side, you gain a lot of skill and confidence by making your own sails, and all of the tools you bought will pay for themselves in the first suit of sails that you make. Once the sails were sewn, I stretched out a drop cloth (outside) and sprayed the sails with a canvas and fabric waterproofing spray (both sides, allowing 1 day drying time per side). My local lake can get pretty green during summer, and I thought this step might help to preserve the clean muslin fabric. Time will tell.

Working below deck is never a fun prospect, so I wanted to make this build as easy as possible. The box that holds the winch servo also serves as the “electronics pod”. Most all of the electrics for this boat come out with this box. The box holds the speed control, an aluminum heat sink, a PC fan, terminal strip, two fuses, on/off switch, and the wiring harness. With two screws removed from the keel, this box comes out of the boat to service any electronics. The motor and the drive battery are separate.

Mounted to the top of the winch servo (below the arm), a sheet of clear report cover resides to keep the running rigging away from the turning bits (motor and fan). There are selective holes for turning on the electronics and for giving access to the battery for removal.

Boat Moving and Storage.

Another thing that I had to keep in mind was moving and storing the boat. She is 55 1/8” long and 14 inches wide. Including her cart, she is 58 ½” tall. She tips the scales at 30.9 pounds. This is not a boat that I want to carry for a long way, so she needs a cart. Normally, on a long boat, you can use the bow of the boat as the cart handle, but on this boat with a 22 inch bowsprit (14” of which is overhang), I didn’t want her lifted by her bowsprit. The cart has a retractable towing handle built into the base of the cart…very low tech with two formers that run across the cart, and the handle runs through them with a stopper at the end of the handle to keep it from extending too far. The handle is pretty much the length of the cart and retracts into a nub at the front.

The bowsprit on the boat is hinged on a bolt at the verticals. There is a pin and keeper that runs through the stem of the boat and the bowsprit, allowing the bowsprit to pivot back onto the deck, reducing the overall length of the boat to 41 inches. The chain and rigging for the bowsprit have been built with quick release turnbuckles. The rigging goes with the bowsprit when it is pivoted back on the deck, with the base of the turnbuckles staying with the hull. It turned out that the chain on the dolphin striker would not handle the shock loads of sailing. The chain looked pretty, but wasn’t tough enough.

The standing rigging will come down with nine J-Turnbuckles. You loosen the bow and one side (I default to left side) and the rest of the J-Turnbuckles will come out of their hoops and the mast will come out of its step. The Flying Jib, Jib, and topsail will come off by loosening the halyards. The lines on the bottom of these sails have a link of chain that has been opened up into a “J” shape. The halyards tie off onto belaying pins (short length of brass rod glued into a section of ¼” dowel…the dowel sections were turned down on a drill press to make them look like full-scale belaying pins).

To keep all of the rigging in order, there is a “U” shaped piece of wood that virtually stands in the deck of the boat when the rig is off the boat. The J-Turnbuckles attach to eye screws and keep the rigging from turning into spaghetti. The jib clips into a clothes pin, along with the forestay and forward shroud. The suit of sails can then hang from the tang at the top of the mast for storage.

The hull has a cover that is padded on the sides to keep me from damaging the boat while in transport or in storage. There are padded boat lines that go from the cart, over the boat, and back to the cart again to keep her from slipping out. When the boat is transported in the SUV, the cart is tied to the car tie-downs to keep her from moving during a panic stop.

Running Rigging.

The plan is to keep the running rigging (the lines that come from the winch) working as smoothly and easily as possible. Any connection to the lines that alters direction of the line will have a block (pulley) to make sure that there is as little drag on the line as possible. The deck fairleads also must keep the water out and let the line run smoothly. Adjustment to line length is handled at the booms, with a bowsie. A fishing clip is used to attach the winch line to the booms, using a small metal loop. From the metal loop to the boom, there is a length of adjustable line, controlled by the bowsie. For now, the foresail and the main (with the topsail going along for the ride) are the only sails controlled by the winch. The flying jib and the jib are manually set.

Navigation Lights.

Tatty-byes will have her display time as well. Working navigation lights will add some life to her while she is sitting on a table at a show. Her red and green lights have their own dedicated battery pack (2 AA batteries with switch) that resides underneath the cabin roof, just behind the skylight. The lights are LEDs and they run on three volts. For more on LEDs, you can have a look at my ST-9 Tugboat build (Scale Boats) that goes into greater detail. The all-around white light on the flag stand at the transom has its own 3V car remote battery in the sail bag. The all-around white light is a stand-alone, since we all know I will take it out with my elbow at some point in time. The base of the flag mast is mounted in fuel tubing to allow the mast to take a couple of hits before I break it.

Radio Gear and Wiring.

The radio wiring on Tatty-byes is a little on the “different” side, in that she has a speed control for the 12 volt drive motor and a winch servo (6 volts) that is wired using a “Y” harness so that the big winch servo can be powered directly from your 6 volt, 5-cell NiMH battery pack. The boat also carries a separate drive battery (Power Sonic PS-1230, 3.4 amp/Hr. gel battery).

On the radio gear side of the house….

Between the 2300 NiMH battery (for the radio) and the “y” harness, you place a switch harness, so that you can turn off the radio and easily charge the 2300 NiMH battery. The other leg of the “Y” plugs into the HS-815BB Winch Servo. The bottom of the “Y” connector then plugs into the channel on the receiver that you will be using to control the winch. In this case, that is channel 2 on my Futaba R617FS Receiver. For you airplane guys, that is the elevator channel.

This is where the radio installation takes on a Ginsu Knife Commercial...”but wait, there’s more”. Since we are now powering the winch directly, and using the “Y” harness to power the radio gear, you have to disconnect the red wire on the electronic speed control (ESC). We will no longer be powering the radio through the ESC.

The reason we have to do this “different” wiring, is that the winch servo draws 800mA unloaded, and the ESC can’t supply the demand. The ESC red wire has to be disconnected at the receiver lead so that it is no longer powering the radio gear, and we are leaving the “Y” harness and the separate 2300 NiMH battery to do that job.

The throttle on my Futaba 7C transmitter is on Channel 3, so the speed control is plugged in here.

The boat’s rudder servo is plugged into Channel 1 (ailerons for airplane folks).

The servo manufacturer recommends using a 6 volt, 5-cell NiMh or NiCd pack that can supply at least 1200 mA. I’ve opted to use a 2300 mA pack.

Normally on my sailboat radio installation, I assign the winch to channel 3 - throttle, but since Tatty-byes already has the boat’s motor throttle there, the channel 2 elevator position was my next best bet.

The Electronics Pod.

To make the wiring as easy and compact as possible, I’ve opted to use a small wooden box that houses the winch servo as the Electronics Pod. This box screws into the keel with two screws. The box also houses the winch servo, speed control, cooling fan, 2 fuses, and a terminal strip. Instead of having to work inside a cramp boat to do your electronics, you can easily remove the pod and do almost all of your wiring outside the boat. This is also beneficial if you have any electrical maintenance to do in the future, as the pod comes out of the boat and takes most of the boats wiring with it.

Running Rigging Line.

All of the running rigging on the boat is made of 1mm Braided White Fishing Line. The braided line is nice to use because it doesn’t snag easily and it wears really well. To avoid any issues, most of the knots on the boat are dotted with a bit of CA glue to make sure that they stay tied. The only knots on the boat that aren’t done this way are at the winch line termination points within the cabin. I want to be able to adjust the length of my winch lines (gross adjustments) and a short length of model airplane fuel tube goes over the knots to keep them in place. A bowsie on the boom is used for fine adjustments to the length of the winch lines. The halyards are cleated or tied off on belaying pins, allowing for adjustment.

She is Done.

There is a point in every build where you admit to yourself that the model is done – or done for now. In this case, the pandemic came on the scene and put a massive wrinkle in the plan. This boat sat on her stand for more than six months before she ever sailed. The good news, is that the paint had a long time to dry.
Launch day arrived after two shots of the vaccine.

The day of the launch found threats of small craft warnings, gusty winds, and thick low lying fog…..not your best day for sea trials. Winds were gusting to 22 mph and would drop to almost nothing. There would be a small window of opportunity in the morning, where winds would be around 10 mph….pretty good winds for an untested boat of this size. The plan would be to “get in and get out” before the real heavy winds would hit later in the day.

The SUV was loaded up and we were headed off to our local model boat lake. The lake looked pretty good upon arrival, so Tatty-byes was unloaded and rigged. Her radio was range tested and she was placed in the water. I applied some throttle to get her moving and pulled in her sails a bit and she healed over and took off. It has been so long (14 months in lockdown) that I really had to concentrate on the controls (powerboat controls on the left side of the transmitter and sailboat controls on the right). I am so conditioned to have the winch on the left stick, that it was a mental exercise to remember what it feels like to sail a motorsailer. With throttle in neutral, she continued on her way. With most new boats, I sail a pattern along the shoreline, walking along with the model to learn how she reacts to steering input, sail settings, and especially the gusty winds. Tatty-byes was flying her full suit of sails for photos and when she would get hit by a puff of 22 mph wind, she was a handful and her rudder control would be overwhelmed and she would just track straight. By letting out her sails and hitting a bump of throttle, she would then react again with her rudder. Once all the photos were taken of her launch, I started reducing sails, removing the flying jib and her jib. She was more manageable in the gusty winds and remained very balanced.

Her chain dolphin striker looked pretty, but wasn’t up to the shock loads and it broke. I repaired it once at the lake, and it broke again, so off it came for the rest of sea trials. The chain will be replaced by Monel wire….not as pretty, but strong. There is also a bad connection in the powerboat side of the boat’s wiring and the drive motor quit on me for a short time. It could be that the battery is going bad (old battery) or I’ve got a faulty connection. After fiddling around with the powerboat wiring, it worked again for the rest of the morning. This will take some investigation on the workbench to try and recreate the error and fix any issues.

Things that worked well:

1) Looking to full-scale boats to capture the essence of what a Pilot Cutter should look like.
2) Taking into consideration the dimensions of other full-keel models that work well.
3) Comparing the models to full-scale to see how they compare….pretty similar dimensions.
4) Being OK with the idea to sin on the design to make the model easy to live with (deeper/thicker keel, changes in sail plan, adjustable rigging to get you into the ballpark).
5) Taking the risk to fail.
6) Capturing the joy of looking at a beautiful full-scale boat and reducing it to a model.
7) Learning new skills (sewing, model engineering, and problem solving).

Things that need work:

1) Replacing the dolphin striker with wire.
2) Fixing the electronic gremlins.
3) Learning the new boat and knowing when to reduce sail to match wind conditions.
4) Don’t be afraid to mess with success in the search for more success. Work on tuning the rig.

These lists are far from complete as new issues and revelations will occur every time the boat goes out for a sail.

I have built many model boats and I still get nervous about taking a new boat out for the first time. Tatty-byes was no exception to the rule. If you see a boat that you like, then capture it in model form. You won’t always have plans or line drawings to work from. There are boats that exist in history that are captured in a single photo. Some boat factories have burned to the ground, taking the plans with them. As model builders, we have the opportunity to be designers, engineers, wood workers, electricians, captains and crew. We have the opportunity to capture the joy of boating and bring it to life….albeit in a smaller form, but the joy is still there.

I hope you have enjoyed going on this adventure with me, and I urge you to get into your workshop and make some joy of your own.

Bob SF
Last edited by Bob SF; May 25, 2021 at 07:57 PM.
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May 15, 2021, 05:50 PM
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nhk750's Avatar
She's a beauty!
May 15, 2021, 07:25 PM
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Tim B.'s Avatar
I dont know how I missed this update, what an Amazing one of a kind model ~

That protective cover is Nice !
May 16, 2021, 12:43 PM
Registered User
Bob SF's Avatar
Thread OP
Hi nhk750 and Tim,
Thank you. It will probably be a couple weeks before I get her out again to try a few fixes and see what works. This experiment is proving to be a lot of fun.
Bob SF
May 18, 2021, 03:55 PM
californiakid's Avatar


What a gorgeous sailboat Bob SF!! Looks cool on the water. Really colorful too. Nice custom made wheeled cart. Enjoyed reading your post. Please post some more pictures of it under sail when you get a chance to take it out again. Thanks, Californiakid.
May 18, 2021, 07:35 PM
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Bob SF's Avatar
Thread OP
Hi californiakid,
I'm glad you liked the build. I will be happy to show more photos of her next outing. That should be in about two weeks, weather permitting.
Take care,
Bob SF
May 18, 2021, 08:49 PM
redlite's Avatar
Beautiful boat, Bob, and I agree, you couldn't ask for more...

Jun 02, 2021, 03:06 PM
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Bob SF's Avatar
Thread OP
Hi Joe,
Thank you. On her next outing, I'm hoping for some more consistent winds and I will start to move her mast on the step to see if I can get a bit more weather helm in her.

Take care,
Bob SF
Jun 16, 2021, 04:46 PM
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Bob SF's Avatar
Thread OP

Sea Trials 2, Experimenting With Mast Location

Hi Everyone,
Tatty-byes got out for her second round of sea trials today. Wind and weather couldn't be more perfect, with a 10 mph wind from the West and a beautiful sunny San Francisco Day.

I've been moving the mast on her step and after about three tries, the correct mast step location has been found. She will gently round up into the wind when hit by a gust.

The mystery of the electrical gremlins with the motor might be my own fault. On the first round of experiments with the mast step location, the motor quit working properly. I sailed the boat in and reset the ESC and everything worked fine after that. I'm thinking that I'm not doing a very good job of keeping track of where the throttle is set and I actually may be overheating the ESC by having the boat in reverse (a little bit) while sailing. I could be overheating the ESC and it could be shutting down. Next time out, I will be very careful with throttle setting and see how things go. I could be my own worst enemy with this problem.

Tatty-byes sailed for about an hour today and she did fine. I think it is time to take a permanent marker to the deck and mark the mast location. No water was in the hull.

That's all for now. Take care,
Bob SF
Jun 20, 2021, 06:48 AM
californiakid's Avatar
Sounds like you found the best mast step location. Glad your happy with the way it is coming out. Again, really nice sailboat, looks great. Please keep us in the loop as to how the motor and esc react on next sea trial. Take care Bob.
Jun 22, 2021, 02:09 PM
Registered User
bboarder711's Avatar
Great work here too!

Have you happened to come across Sampson Boat Co on youtube? I suggest you check it out.
Jun 23, 2021, 04:44 PM
Registered User
Bob SF's Avatar
Thread OP
Hi bboarder711,
Yes, I am a long-time follower of Leo's adventures with Tally-ho. I tune in every week to see what he's up to. I have found his thoughts on restoration very interesting and practical. When rebuilding old models, it is sometimes tough to make the call to rebuild new or reuse the original. I side with Leo on many of his decisions...if it is a good part of the stays....if the boat's life depends on can be new, and I'm OK with that.

Bob SF
Jul 12, 2021, 08:08 PM
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Bob SF's Avatar
Thread OP

Change Order 2 & 3

Hi Everyone,
Tatty-byes went sailing again last week and I have a couple of change orders to put in....just in case anyone else is building a Pilot Cutter.....this might be good to know.

It was pretty windy and a big gust came in the middle of a jibe and I broke the attachment point of a block (pulley) at the winch arm. It could be that this block was just weak, or it could be that the block was pushed beyond its limits. I repaired the block by installing a much more stout attachment point to the block and we shall see if it survives. If it doesn't, I'll get a much stronger block for the next repair.

The other part of the change order for this build is to replace the ESC. It failed again. I've used this combination of ESC/motor/battery before and it works in a bunch of other boats, albeit not as heavy as Tatty-byes. The motor and ESC are also in line with a PC cooling fan which never lets them get hot. The plan is to change the ESC to a 25 amp version and see how that works. The motor and prop shaft spin over easily, so I don't think it is an issue of drag.

Other than these two issues, Tatty-byes sailed really well and she even got knocked down by a big gust of wind. I shortened sail by removing the Flying Jib and Jib, and she was much happier. Upon inspection, she had no water in her hull, even though her deck was awash. Her deck crew came home with wet pants....up to his knees.

We get a lot of visitors at our lake and they were very happy to take a selfie with the boat. I expect Tatty-byes to be on lots of Holiday Cards this year.

I'll check in again once the latest round of changes have been tested.

Take care,
Bob SF
Jul 13, 2021, 01:30 PM
If the winds blowin, I'm goin!
CashRC's Avatar
She’s a beauty Bob. Beautiful.
Jul 13, 2021, 02:02 PM
Registered User
Bob SF's Avatar
Thread OP
Hi CashRC,
Thank you. I'm hoping that I will get to doing an ESC swap a little later today and get her ready to go for next time.
Take care,
Bob SF

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