Friday, December 8, 2017

Published in Small Boats Monthly

October 2017 Issue

I am frequently asked why I built a boat, and particularly, why I built a Glen-L Zip. The first part of the question is easy to answer: I love to build things and I can’t afford to go out and buy a new boat, so a set of plans was my preferred starting point. And why the Zip? I was initially drawn to it because it has style and character, more than I’d ever be able to find in any boat on the market, whether or not I could afford it. But I didn’t have much boatbuilding experience, other than a stitch-and-glue plywood kayak I had finished, so I was unsure if a Zip would be within my abilities. As I searched the Web and corresponded with other novices who had successfully built one, it quickly became clear that it was the obvious choice.
I am a Fire Chief in a small community in Michigan, and our Village Manager is my good friend Art Atkinson. One day Art walked into my office and said he was considering building a boat for himself. He had just returned from northern Michigan where old wooden boats are almost everywhere along the shores of Lake Michigan and Lake Huron. I told him I’d been considering building a boat for myself, too. He liked the idea, and we decided we would both build wooden boats while helping each other along the way. I ordered plans for the Zip, and Art settled on an equally classic-looking runabout, the Glen-L Squirt.  Both Art and I would be building our boats in our basements and so had limitations on the size of the boats we could build. The 14′ 4″ Zip was the largest boat I could build and still get it out of my walkout basement. The 10’ Squirt was small enough to be carried up the stairs from Art’s basement, and through the kitchen to get it outside.
 The 5' 9" beam provide the Zip with good stability and the flared sides help keep the occupants dry.photographs courtesy of the author
The 5’9″ beam provides the Zip with good stability and the flared sides help keep the occupants dry.
The plans for the Zip came from Glen-L with a step-by-step instruction manual and full-sized patterns for the transom, frames, gussets, stem, breasthook, and knees. Builders can shorten the boat by 10 percent if they reduce the frame spacing, but Glen-L recommends against lengthening the Zip. There is also an option to either set the boat up as a utility skiff with an open cockpit or as a runabout with decking surrounding two cockpits. I built my boat to the designed length as a runabout.
I bought rough-cut African mahogany from a local sawmill, brought it home, and milled it for the frames. The frame pieces are joined by plywood gussets at the corners. The stem is made of two layers of 3/4″ plywood, and the transom is a single thickness of 3/4″ plywood, framed and reinforced with mahogany. Mounted on a dual-beam strongback, the three completed frames, the transom, and the stem define the shape of the hull—there are no temporary forms. The keel, chines, and inwales then connect the transom, frames, and stem. The chines were the most difficult longitudinals to install. Each is a two-piece laminate, and each of those pieces required steaming to coax it into the needed bend and twist. Later it took a lot of clamps to tightly close the glue joints between the chine halvess.
The materials list specifies 1/4″ Douglas-fir exterior plywood for the hull, and while it’s an economical choice, I had a bright-finished boat in mind and so opted to use mahogany marine plywood. For the side panels, I cut two 4×8 sheets of plywood in half and joined the pieces to make a pair of 2×16 sheets, with the seams butted and ’glassed.
With a 45-hp outboard on the transom, the Zip gets on plane quickly.
With a 45-hp outboard on the transom, the Zip gets on plane quickly.
The side panels came under a bit of strain when I started to wrap them around the framework, so I applied towels and hot water to soften them up a bit. They then bent easily and held their new shape when dried, ready for epoxy and screws. The bottom went on in three pieces—one full-width piece aft and two half-width pieces forward. None required steaming to be applied to the framework. The hull, while still upside down, got a layer of 6-oz fiberglass, a skeg, and bottom paint.
Work on the interior started after the boat was flipped upright. Floorboards were not included in the plans, but I opted to add them to provide both a more finished look and a stable platform for my passengers to stand on when entering and exiting the boat. I was also worried about feet and gear getting wet, but water never seems to accumulate in the Zip. I used ash for the floorboards because of its strength and for the contrast of color.
The plans call for a deck of mahogany or fir plywood, and while that would be sufficient for a utilitarian boat, many builders of Glen-L runabouts opt to dress the plywood up with covering boards and deck planking. It makes a striking difference. I used mahogany for all of my decking. I bookmatched the broad covering boards to create a symmetrical pattern in the wood grain, then dyed them to create contrast with the deck planks. I added some decking beyond what was detailed in the plans to reduce the open area of the motorwell and provide a tidier appearance. Rather than use white caulk to accent the deck seams, I filled them with epoxy mixed with white pigment. When covered with varnish, the bright white took on a nice, aged golden color.
The plans for the Zip call for a plywood deck, but builders of Glen-L runabouts often lay deck planking over the plywood for a more classic and elegant look.
The plans for the Zip call for a plywood deck, but builders of Glen-L runabouts often lay deck planking over the plywood for a classic look.
Glen-L recommends powering the Zip with a short-shaft outboard of up to 40 hp, and I initially used a 1962 two-stroke 40-hp outboard on mine, but I didn’t care for the noise or the smell. I later equipped my Zip with a 1999, 45-hp four-stroke outboard. With the larger and heavier motor the Zip sits just a little lower at the stern, but when I’m riding alone or with one passenger and give full throttle to the Zip, it jumps out right on plane. With four adults aboard the boat does get up on plane quickly—it just does so a few moments after giving it the gas. I have had five people in my Zip many times, and I feel very safe in this boat with it fully loaded. I have no hesitation to go at full speed; I am just more aware of my weight and balance by always putting the heaviest passengers in the front. The only issue when it is fully loaded is that the bow will pitch up a little higher and the boat takes a few more seconds to get up on plane. The speed and handling characteristics do not seem to be affected by a full load.

Using a handheld GPS or the GPS app on my cell phone I have recorded a consistent top speed between 32 and 33 mph when I’m driving solo. The boat does well in light chop and begins to porpoise in moderate chop unless I apply full throttle and get up on plane. Once the waves get above 2′, I really need to cut the power back to quarter speed and just plow through the waves rather than subject the boat, and myself, to a lot of heavy pounding.
The boat handles like a dream, and I credit this part of the performance to the skeg; in calm water, I can race along at full throttle and make a sharp turn with little skidding. The Zip has bumper rails to protect the hull below the tumblehome at the stern; they also serve to deflect water away from the aft cockpit, but if there are passengers in the rear seats, I need to warn them they may get some spray in a sharp turn.
Builder Ted Gauthier has three young passengers aboard here, but has carried five in comfort. people.
Builder Ted Gauthier has three young passengers aboard here, but has carried four with him in comfort.
It took me 22 months of working on and off to build the Zip, and I could not be happier with its performance. I gladly recommend the design to others. It is a great first boat to build and an exciting boat to use. It is easy to trailer, and everyone who sees it gives it a thumbs-up. The design, drawn up in 1954, prompts many people to ask how old my boat is, and they’re surprised to hear that it hasn’t been around for decades. It is a great pleasure to own a boat you can proudly say you built yourself that has both classic design and modern features. If you’re thinking of getting an outboard boat that will last for years, that will handle well, that carries up to five people, takes up little space in the garage, and won’t break the bank to build or operate, you may want to consider a Glen-L Zip.
Ted Gauthier is the Deputy Fire Chief of Bloomfield Village, Michigan. His passion outside of his dream job as a fireman has always been boating and flying. Ted has built himself many things including an airplane, a hot-air balloon, a kayak, and a CNC machine. He grew up with his five brothers by a lake in lower Michigan where he learned to swim, water-ski, and handle boats. He spent almost all his free time as a child saving for gas so he could go out in small boats to enjoy the summer days. He always remembers his first ride in an old wooden boat and has promised himself that one day he will have his own.End of article
Ted documented his progress on the Zip in his blog. He would be happy to help or answer any questions readers may have about building a Glen-L Zip. Emails to Small Boats Monthly will be forwarded to him. His review of a rivet spacing fan appears in this issue. 
Zip Particulars
Length/14′ 4″
Beam/5′ 9″
Weigh/approx. 375 lbs

Plans and patterns for the Zip are available from Glen-L for $108.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Playing on the Water

Now this is what boat building is all on the water.  All the hard work, time and money was worth it.  What a great boat.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

New Wheel for the Boat

I found this wheel online at Speed and Marine for $132.00 and fell in love with it.  I installed it this week and was not on the water for more than 10 minutes when a guy saw my boat for the first time and the first thing he said to me was, "I love that wheel", I was really taken back because the first thing that most people say is, "Did you just restore that boat", or "I love your boat".

It feels and looks good.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

The Launch Day

Ted Gauthier's "Zip"
 The day has finally come when I launched my boat.  Things could have not been, friends, the newspaper and photographers were there to join in the fun.  In October 2009 a good friend walked into my office and said he had just returned from a trip up north (Michigan) and he was going to build a boat he saw on the lake and the plan was in popular mechanics.  I said, "that's funny...I have been wanting to build a boat for years, show me the boat".  After a short discussion, I told him (Art Atkinson) that I would build a Glen-L Zip and the boat he needed to build (because of building space requirements, design, performance and style) was the Glen-L Squirt.  He agreed and we both started are builds.  We never dreamed, nor did we try to both finish our boats on the same day but that is exactly what happened.  On July 20th, 2011 we launch both boats.  I am still smiling.

Years ago I built an airplane and the model is a Van's RV-6.  The people who go for a ride in an RV always get what we call.......the "RV Grin".  Well let me tell you first hand....I have the "Glen-L Grin" and I am sure that you will not be able to wipe that Grin off my face every time I jump into my Glen-L Zip.

Art Atkinson and wife Vicki  in their "Squirt"

Ted giving Thumbs Up to Art Atkinson's "Squirt"

Front cockpit of the "Zip"

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Tuesday, July 19, 2011

"It's Alive" - Stepping Up - Graphics

Last night was another milestone....I connected all the electronics and turned the key after connecting the water to the motor and she fired right up.  The Honda motor ran great, idle was good and I did not notice any problems.

I did have some electrical issues.  Everything electrical is working in the boat including the new Honda RPM gauge but the lights inside the gauges and the other two gauges ( volt, and fuel quantity) do not work.  I think this may be because I had them powered through the old key switch.  So, I will need to trace the wires back.  I think that they just need a power source.  Same issue with my courtesy lights, no power.  Everything else is working.  Running lights, horn, bilge pumps, stereo, oil level and temp lights are all OK.  I think I have the wiring issue resolved in my mind..I just need to get under the dash and sort it out.  I will also need to run to the nautical department at Auto Zone to pick up a couple of special connectors.

I picked up my graphic for the sides of the boat... "Zip"......This boat was designed by Glen-L and the model is a "Zip".
I also installed my birthday and Christmas present from my wife, Lynn.  She had bought me some step pads from Tender Craft out of Canada.  I am glad that I waited until I had my seats installed. I sat in the seats, I quickly realized that if I had mounted them right in the center of the cockpit areas the step pads would have been located right were you would rest your arm.  I think they are installed in a location that will not interfere with your arm resting on the boat and you can easily step into the boat and onto the floor.  I think they really look nice.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Honda Throttle - Radio - Glove Box - Seat supports

It has been a busy weekend.  I have a list of more than 15 items that I would like to get done before I launch my "Zip".  I was able to complete many of the big ones.

mount extinguisher - done
make and installed seat support brackets - done  (the back of the seats were falling off the seat bottom cushions, now these brackets hold the seat backs in position).
remove trailer bunk guides - done (need to buy a different style)
install transom stainless steel trim - done
build and mount a new am/fm radio box - done ( the old location was in the way of the new throttle)
build a glove box and install - - done ( removing the radio gave me this spot to store stuff, like my phone/keys)
install trailer plate - done
install hoist cable - done
mount horn - done
secure steering wheel - done

Things to do:

Confirm my boat insurance ( I have a quote but they will not bind the insurance until they have photos,  I have sent them in 3 times but they keep saying they don't have them...the funny part is they received my application).

install interior sides (mount with Velcro)
install step pads
make final electrical connections and test electrical system

hook up water to motor and test run in driveway

pick up graphics for side of boat and then install

take boat to canvas shop on Tuesday morning to have a mooring and trailer cover made

Things to Buy:

$$  - a new set of trailer guides that are adjustable (the old set were to wide for my boat)
$$  - stern light ( the one I have is 4' tall, I need to pick up a short light)
$$  - rear view mirror
$$  - a short ratcheting strap for the transom ( I lost one when I was coming home from picking up the engine,  I have two large straps that cross each other and keep the boat centered on the trailer.  The short straps are just another safety that keep the stern pulled straight down).


Launch - this Wednesday (if no major issues show up and the boat is back from the canvas shop..if not then Friday after work...Dawn and Mike will also be in town for the weekend..Jimmy Buffet at Pine Knob on Thursday night)  Forecast = 100 degrees on Thursday.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Windshield Installed

On Saturday my good friend and "Squirt" boat builder Art Atkinson cam over for at least 4 hours and we mounted the windshield and brackets.  It took a long time because it was important to get the correct angle on the brackets so the glass could fit into the grooves on the aluminum casted and chromed bracket.

I am very happy how it turned out.  It really was a two man job and thankful for Art's help.