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Building the Glen-L Yukon

by Wayne Milner

Editor’s Note: This project, undertaken by a Nova Scotia backyard builder, shows what can be done with a little cash, lots of ambition, and a good-sized backyard.

I got past the armchair-to-workshop barrier a long time ago. The Yukon project is my fifth backyard-built boat. After the first one, the urge to build bigger and better was irresistible. Before starting the first project (an 11-foot flat-bottom rowboat) I thought getting the hull shape right would be almost impossible for an amateur. Thoughts of expensive tools and materials, and the imagined need for expert craftsmanship were also daunting. Until I actually started Hull No. 1, I didn’t realize all of those fears and reservations were unwarranted. In relative terms, it is also not necessary to have a lot of money when starting one of these projects. I have found that, at the rate I work, I can usually pay for the material purchases as I need them out of the earnings from my job, and still eat regularly.

Choosing the Design

With retirement looming on the horizon, I decided to build a trawler-style motoryacht to use for extended cruising along the East Coast with my wife and possibly another couple from time to time. I bought a set of plans for the 36-foot Glen-L Yukon design (increased by 10 percent after consultation with the designer), which cost about $450 U.S. The layout of this boat provides reasonable degrees of space, comfort, and privacy by virtue of having a cabin at each end and common living space in the middle. I estimated that I could build this boat for approximately $30,000 Canadian, plus whatever I had to pay for an engine. A comparable production boat would cost several times as much, and not be nearly as much fun to acquire.

The Method

Plywood on sawn frame construction is an easy construction method for an amateur, and the only one with which I have any experience. Plywood used in conjunction with epoxy and fiberglass cloth is a dream come true for the amateur builder. Epoxy and fiberglass will fill and cover all those sloppy joints made by an amateur in trying to fit two pieces of wood together, and the joints will be as strong as the wood itself. And the final hull finish can be as good as that on any factory-built fiberglass boat.

The “Workshop”

I erected a temporary structure in a sunny part of my yard. In colder climates, the sun helps epoxy set up in a reasonable time. From past experience, I knew that the structure should be at least 6 feet longer and 6 feet wider than the boat I was going to build, and that the side walls should be about 2 feet higher than the maximum beam of the boat. Boats built by the method I use are built upside down. It is desirable to be able to turn the hull over inside the work space, without having to disturb the roof. I also wanted a floor area on which to lay out frames and on which to set up a work bench and a table saw.

Here the shelter framing is completed and ready for the tarp roof and polyethylene sides. At the back of the boat shelter can be seen the framing for the temporary workshop area. 

My structure is 48 feet long by 20 feet wide, with 14 foot sidewalls and a pitched roof. On one end, I built an extension 12 feet long by 20 feet wide with 8 foot sidewalls. This section was floored over with 1×6 tongue-and-groove lumber to make a work area. As a foundation for the structure, I used concrete deck blocks spaced at 8-foot intervals around the perimeter. I then ran 2×6 lumber on edge from deck block to deck block, leveled the 2x6s, and capped them with a 2×4 laid flat. On the ground, I made a series of frames out of 2×4 vertical studs and 2×4 roof rafters, with 1/2-inch plywood gussets and 1×3 bracing, and stood the frames up on the 2×4 caps.

Another view of the completed workshop structure with Yukon under construction.

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