The BIG Sailboat Project: Boat Building Video Series



A video series by Sandra Sims
Running time:4 hours 25 minutes
Ten years in the making, The BIG Sailboat Project tracks the gritty effort of two gals as they pursue their dream of building and cruising a 43 foot steel sailboat. Located a 1000 miles from the coast in rural Alberta, Canada, the duo decide on steel as their building material, which they shape into a Bruce Roberts designed 43 MKII Long Keel Cutter.

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The BIG Sailboat Project: Boat Building

A video series by Sandra Sims
Running time:4 hours 25 minutes
Ten years in the making, The BIG Sailboat Project tracks the gritty boat building effort of two gals as they pursue their dream of cruising a 43 foot steel sailboat. Located a 1000 miles from the coast in rural Alberta, Canada, the duo decide on steel as their building material, which they shape into a Bruce Roberts designed 43 MKII Long Keel Cutter.

About The BIG Sailboat Project

Volume I contains five episodes covering steel construction from keel to fully enclosed vessel.
Volume II contains five episodes covering finishing and rigging the vessel through launch and sea trials.
Each episode is approximately 23 minutes long, and includes documentary footage of hull construction artfully edited and interspersed with incredible 3-D animation illustrating boat building techniques.


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Getting Started Episode 1Sandra and Gina visit France and decide they want to sail the world on their own large sailboat. After extensive research, they decide to build their own 43 foot sailboat out of steel. They find a house in rural Alberta, Canada to serve as their boat building site. After acquiring the necessary tools, they finally begin construction on their boat. The first step is to trace plans for the webbing frames on a steel sheet then cut them out using a plasma saw. By the end of the episode, they have a skeleton structure that’s starting to look like a boat.

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Frames and Plate Episode 2Sandra and Gina build a gantry for the chain hoist they’ll need to lift steel plates, then start serving up radius curved stringers, bottom and side plate, and more plate to cover the keel. Learning as they go, they discover new tricks to keep welds straight and bend heavy steel into the graceful curves befitting their dream yacht. By the end of the episode they’ve finished plating the hull and primed it red just as winter snows stop work until Spring.

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Roll-Over Episode 3Sandra and Gina start welding up the hull, learning more tricks to keep the hull shape fare. They check all the welds and grind them smooth, fighting off spring rains. With the hull plate finished, it’s finally time to roll the hull over. After fabricating their own boat stands, they secure a giant crane for the big day. With the hull right-side up, they cut out deck stringers and frames, and install and fare the forward decks. Then they cut and fit the poop deck frames, fabricate and fit the transom, and discover just how big their boat really is.

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Closing the Hull Episode 4With the poop deck frames inplace, Sandra and Gina secure the deck plate, and cut out and install the metal aft bulkhead. Taking advantage of a rare winter warm spell they attach the cabin side plates and install the pilot house frames, cabin rooftop and cockpit frames. When spring finally arrives, they pull back the tarp and add split pipe to round off the pilot house and cabin side edges. Then they proceed with the cabin top and pilot house roof, decide on the best design for steps up to the poop deck, and use more split pipe to round off the cockpit coaming–no sharp lines for this yacht! The episode concludes with adjusting the transom to fit an unplanned curved swim platform and remembering to lower the engine below before closing up the hull.

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Ready for Finishing Episode 5Sandra and Gina take a break from boat building for a week-long CYA cruise and learn course in Vancouver. The experience motivates them to get their boat in the water. On their return, they tackle fabricating the swim platform not included in the plans. All the skills they’ve acquired pay off in a beautiful, seamless addition to the transom. Next, they finish up the rounded cockpit combing and attach the coaming plate. Then they add windows in the pilot house, fabricate port lights in the hull, and get creative with casting lead for the keel. The episode concludes with installing the shaft tube. Sandra and Gina now have a vessel ready for finishing.

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Finishing Begins Episode 6Sandra builds winch mounts out of scrap steel pipe for the large, Lewmar 55 main winches and finishes off the back of the pilot house. Sandra builds and installs the fuel tanks, and makes chain plates. They weld up a metal door frame for the forward sail locker bulkhead and install two more cabin bulkheads. And they finalize and test the experimental internal engine keel cooler system.

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Finishing 2 Episode 7Down below, Sandra and Gina start the first woodworking project-a large wooden bulkhead in the center of the boat, add stand pipes through the hull bottom for the main cockpit drains, test and install hull transducers confined inside a watertight box, add fittings to the waste holding tank and start spraying foam insulation onto the interior. On deck they tie in cockpit seat and coaming locker drains to the stand pipes, bend in a bulwark to smooth out the edge of the deck, box in the bow, finalize the design for the anchor rollers, and cut out openings for the nine deck hatches.

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Finishing 3 Episode 8On deck, Sandra builds the hatch frames, hinges, and dogs to batten them down, then adds the Lexan lenses. She builds and installs several mushroom vents into the deck for ventilation, attaches safety hooks for harnesses in foul weather, cuts out the hole for the mast and adds parallel bung rails to support a crew member when hoisting the main, and adds aft port lights in the transom to let light and air into the rear cabin. Below decks Sandra and Gina install white vinyl paneling to the forward cabin then spray foam insulation in the rear cabin. Next they tackle the most complex boat building project yet: fabricating and installing the steering system. This includes the rudder post and support, the rudder itself, the steering ram with its hydraulic pumps and lines for two steering stations, one in the cockpit and one in the pilot house. Finally, Sandra settles on the design for cockpit steering binnacle and begins fabrication.

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Finishing 4 Episode 9Sandra builds the cockpit steering station and adds more deck vents including a chimney for the diesel cabin heater. Next she and Gina fabricate the transom radar arch from steel tubing, add mounts for hand rail and life line stanchions, and hawse holes for mooring lines. Next Sandra starts building the bow pulpit while Gina works on the diesel engine’s exhaust system. With welding completed on the boat exterior, they sandblast the topsides then apply a two-part epoxy paint and a non-skid coating to the decks then mount covers, hatches. fittings, handrails, and the electric anchor windlass. Next, they sandblast, fare and paint the hull. Then its onto installing the Lexan pilot house windows and port lights, deck sail tracks, finishing up the radar arch, attaching the deck stanchions, and completing the bowsprit. For the arch, Sandra engineers an adjustable radar mount, adds companion way doors to the pilothouse and helps Gina install the water tanks, spray foam insulation and panel the pilothouse interior, and install four 8-D batteries. The episode concludes with Sandra completing her first carpentry project, cabin exit ladders.

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Finishing 5 Episode 10, Pt. 1In part 1, Sandra starts off by designing and building her desk workstation to accommodate her computer and audio equipment. Gina frames in the seat area in the main saloon, covers the settee cushions, and builds the dinette table. Sandra adds additional storage racks and cubbies then builds all the various doors for the many cabinets and companionways. Next, Gina and Sandra finish off the head, adding toilet, vanity, and bathtub/shower enclosure. Then then construct the queen size rear birth, all the built-in furniture for the rear stateroom, and additional births and cabinetry forward. The next big projects are the galley, which incorporates both a food preparation area and a media center, and Gina’s workstation. Next, Sandra trims out the pilot house woodwork, and designs and builds the instrument dash and a tilt steering mechanism for the interior steering station while Gina runs miles of electrical wiring throughout the boat.

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Final Finish and Launch Episode 10, Pt. 2Part 2 begins with finishing up the wiring including a computer program designed by Sandra that labels and traces circuits throughout the boat. Gina installs three separate electrical panels then tackles the engine hookup. The next big project is the potable water system for the galley and head plus a custom built reverse osmosis water maker. With the carpentry completed, Sandra fabricates the pilot house seats and stow-away seating for the two workstations. Next, she designs foldable dinghy davits that attach to the stern arch and a variety of mounts for other equipment. She even designs and fabricates the mainsheet traveller. With 300 feet of anchor chain stowed, its time for the boat move from Alberta’s interior, across the Rocky mountains, then to Vancouver and the Pacific. While waiting to sell the house, Gina and Sandra work with riggers to fabricate the mast and rig the boat for sea. With the sale of their house, launch day finally arrives followed by sea trials that vindicate their ten years of effort with a truly grand sailing vessel. Part 2 ends with a section on what worked and what didn’t, and Sandra and Gina’s epilogue of the project.

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