Projects: Stellar: a traditional boat for the modern family
Lucky enough to grow up on the Norfolk Broads, Tim Frary has boating in his blood. Keen to pass on his love of sailing to his young family, he’s built Stellar, a stunning 31.4ft traditional river cruiser. Here Tim explains how, with a lot of hard work – and PRO-SET® and WEST SYSTEM® epoxy – this ‘star’ was born.
“I always wanted a boat that I could sail with my wife and two sons,” says Tim Frary of TMF Boatbuilding in Horning. “Something that we could sail very easily and quickly, and have a lot of fun. It was this idea that just sort of grew and grew!”
Sailing was Tim’s childhood. “I did a lot of dinghy racing when I was younger on Lasers and 29ers, and my parents had a Broads river cruiser that we used to race. I then started racing myself on a Yare & Bure One Design at Norfolk Broads Yacht Club. I absolutely love racing.”
“I always wanted a boat that I could sail with my wife and two sons.”
What started as a hobby turned into a career. Fresh out of college, Tim spent the next decade expanding his knowledge at local shipyards. He worked with everything from traditional Broads sailing boats to privately-owned racing cruisers, before heading offshore to work in the oil industry.
When the opportunity came to build river cruiser Stellar, together with her sister Lyra, the timing couldn’t have been better. “By now, we had two young sons and I wanted to be at home more. So when I got the chance to build these boats, it all sort of fell into place really.” You could say the planets aligned!
A modern take on the Stephen Jones-designed Starlight Lady, Stellar is, quite simply, out of this world. At 31.4ft, she’s a shade longer than her 30ft muse, with a narrow entry and wide flared hull. With cedar strip-planking, painted plywood decks and gleaming mahogany and oak trimmings, Stellar shines.
“We’ve tried to build her to look as traditional as she can for a modern boat,” says Tim. But what makes her really special is her usability. “She handles like a topper which is testament to the design,” says Tim. “She’s so predictable and obedient – she’s just a quick and easy sail. Which is exactly what we wanted for family sailing.”
One man, a dream and WEST SYSTEM epoxy
While Stellar’s aesthetic may be traditional, her construction methods were anything but. “30 years ago, you’d build a boat out of nails and varnish,” says Tim. “Today, a boat is one bit of wood epoxied to the next – and that epoxy is almost stronger than the wood itself. Stellar is essentially epoxy with a wooden skeleton.”
“Stellar is essentially epoxy with a wooden skeleton.”
Tim used PRO-SET and WEST SYSTEM epoxy products throughout the entire build. “I’d used WEST SYSTEM epoxy before in general boat repair, so I knew the product and really didn’t consider anyone else. It was just the obvious choice.”
Construction began in 2013, in a small boatshed in Horning. “I was working on my own, so it was a slow process,” says Tim. “I’d never built a boat before, so it was all new to me. It was definitely a learning curve!”
Tim began by setting out the CAD-cut plywood bulkheads along the strongback, which had also been CAD-cut to the sheer line. “This provided the boat’s skeleton before the outer skin of the planking went on,” says Tim.
Tongue-and groove cedar strips made for quick and easy planking: Tim simply applied PRO-SET ADV-175 Resin® mixed with PRO-SET ADV-275 Medium Hardener® to the hollow groove by hand with an airgun. “PRO-SET epoxy is brilliant in a gun,” says Tim. “It’s really clean, there’s no waste and it’s incredibly strong. If you try to pull it apart, it’s the wood that fails – not the epoxy.”
The outside of the hull was then glassed with 600g/m2 Triaxial cloth wetted with and WEST SYSTEM 105/205 epoxy “Because Stellar has a very short, narrow keel, Stephen Jones was very specific about where he wanted strength and where he didn’t,” explains Tim. “So everything on the boat is laminated for strength – the plywood on the cabin roof, all the beams, the floors and even the tabernacle.”
Inside the boat, the cedar was sanded down before applying WEST SYSTEM 105 Epoxy Resin mixed with 207 Special Clear Hardener®. “We chose the clear hardener to allow the cedar to show through,” explains Tim. Five coats were applied to the bulkheads and the hull. “You need that barrier to waterproof the wood before you apply any varnish,” says Tim. ” WEST SYSTEM 105/207 epoxy also flattens off to a really nice finish if you leave it for long enough.”
All hands on deck
Tim finished Stellar in June 2016. “She’s everything you’d hope a modern boat to be. She’s a very fast, traditional racer and she handles amazingly well. She’s just so manoeuvrable for her size. Move the tiller a tiny amount and she’ll spin on the spot. I’ve honestly never sailed a boat like her.”
“This was the whole idea – to get us all sailing together.”
Sailing her is a real family affair: Tim steers while his wife does the jibs. His eight-year-old son winches the jibbing with mum and his seven-year-old son handles the control lines and the hatch. “This was the whole idea,” says Tim. “To get us all sailing together.”
Racing is Tim’s real passion and, in July, Stellar proved her star quality in her first race at Norfolk Broads Yacht Club. “We held back in the first race but in the second race she was first over the water,” says Tim. “We’ve entered other races since and she’s certainly up there with the fastest three!”
Stellar’s success continued up until August. “Unfortunately, we broke the mast,” admits Tim. “There was a lot of wind and we pushed her really hard.” Right now, she’s tucked up in Tim’s workshop while she waits for a new one. “When the 2017 season begins, she’ll be ready,” says Tim.
Read more about Stellar on the TMF Boatbuilding Facebook page.
Explore the full range of PRO-SET and WEST SYSTEM epoxy products on the West System International website.